A reader reacts about the SSPX “emergency powers” argument

Under another entry, a reader posted a comment about the whole SSPX "emergency powers" argument, by which the same SSPX justifies its lack of obedience to the Bishop of Rome and continues to act without any kind of permission or jurisdiction.

Here it is, edited slightly, and with my emphases and comments.

Father, it so hard for me not to be sympathetic to the SSPX’s "state of necessity" position.

The situation in my home diocese is absolutely wretched. A third of the parishes have been closed in the last 10 years, and those that remain are mostly in a deplorable state.

The Cathedral has been wrecked, with the "altar" now in the middle of the nave and other renovations to promote a heterodox understanding of the Mass.

Even worse, prominently displayed in the Cathedral bookshop (located at the entrance of the nave) are books by Joan Chittister (in good standing), Charles Curran (in good standing), Richard McBrien (in good standing), and John Shelby Spong.

Father Z, my bishop is selling books by JOHN SHELBY SPONG in our Cathedral!

My family’s old parish has LGBT rainbow flags in the vestibule. You can imagine how the rest of it is. Yet this scandalous priest and others operate with the support of my bishop.

I say it is my family’s OLD parish because almost my entire family has fallen out of the Catholic Church.

Gone. My father and I are the only practicing Christians in my immediate family—he’s a Baptist. He left after his world (the Church) imploded with chaos and novelty. He decided that the Church was obviously just a man-made institution, and a sick one at that.

Most of the rest of my family has simply fallen away.

I did not grow up a Catholic and was (by the miraculous grace of God) a convert in college. My family, before the 1970s, was Catholic for probably a millennium and a half going back to Italy.

The only other Catholics left in my family are several second cousins—and they (and their children) go to the SSPX chapel in my diocese (which is booming with young families).

Father, I never go to SSPX chapels (out of obedience). But I can’t begrudge my second cousins—I fear for their children’s prospects if they were elsewhere.


While it is necessary to interject at this point that "two wrongs don’t… er um… well… a whole bunch of wrongs don’t make a right", it is indeed hard to begrudge people their search for something which seems simply "normal" instead of the Salvador Dali landscape they find themselves in when they go to church.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Vetdoctor says:

    In the situation described the actions of the bishop are not in the mind of the Church.

    It’s impotant to remember that outside of the superficial differeces the two groups- the liberals and traditionalists- are wove of one cloth. Both reject the Church. Actually with a tiny nod to the liberal since they have valid faculties and the SPPX KNOW that they do not. The SPPX are concious of their state of sin.

    A man might find he must marry one of two women- a slattern or a frigid prude. Either woman is lacking in virtue. I might sympathise with the man who marries the ice berg. she at least is not so blatent on her public sin but I would not hold her up as a paragon of virtue as the SPPX do.

  2. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Document. The current bishop won’t be bishop forever. If you have documentation — even cell phone photos of the rainbow flags, the books, copies of bulletins and homilies with objectionable material — you’ll be in a better position to inform any incoming bishop on the state of affairs at these churches, and hopefully get action.

  3. Dr. Eric says:

    I sympathize with the SSPX and the people who frequent their chapels, there was a time when I didn’t.

    Today at Mass, we sang 3 songs (the final 4th was Now Thank We All Our God) which were terrible “…we become what we eat…” In place of the homily, the youth group gave a terrible presentation, which they didn’t rehearse, on their mission trip to Kentucky to work for Habitat for Humanity. This included ten minutes in which one grown man and 2 teen-agers didn’t know how to set up the screen for the slide show. Also included in the slide show were some of our girls in their bikinis at the waterpark. It all ended with the usual applause and patting on the back.

    Then there’s the ad libbing during the offertory and the Eucharistic Prayers, the hand holding at the altar during the Our Father. (These are usual occurrences.)

    I don’t want to turn this into a rant about our little rural parish. The closest EF is in St. Louis which is over an hour away. I just want to state that I know what drives people to the SSPX. I have never described myself as a Rad Trad or whatever, but how many more abuses can a person stand, when the priest should know better.

    I leave it up to Fr. Z’s judgment (obviously) to edit this.

  4. Hidden One says:

    May the SSPX be fully reconciled posthaste.

  5. paulbailes says:

    Dear Father,

    Thanks for this sympathetic treatment of the SSPX and its supporters.

    From my perspective (as one of the latter), the fundamental issue in one’s attiude towards “Rome” is that the current troubles in the Church seem inseparable from the corruption of the liturgy, and that this (corruption) originated from “Rome”. After all, it was the then-Pope who inflicted upon us the NO Mass, and it was he and his immediate successors (though JPI can be excused on grounds of short term in office) who maintained the untruth that the TLM was forbidden (unless exceptionally).

    So, those who would want the SSPX right now to cease in effect to function without “Rome’s” say-so seem to be asking for the perpetrator of the offence to be the judge of the victim’s right to self-defence! After all that’s emanated from there during and since VII, it’s not unreasonable for the onus to be on “Rome” to show that it can be trusted. SP was great progress (Deo gratias, and God bless BXVI), but IMHO there’s a lot more purgative action required. In case anyone’s interested, some of the things that “Rome”, or people who look like they’re working for “Rome”, do or say that keep me anxious include:
    (i) toleration in positions of authority of apparent anti-traditionalists;
    (ii) nasty unsympathetic remarks about the SSPX that are so unfair in view of the sacrifices they make
    (iii) insistence on acceptance (whatever that means) of the NO. I accept that the NO is not in intself invalid, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t find it reprehensible nonetheless. I appreciate that suppression of the NO may not be a reasonable wish for immediate fulfilment, but I don’t trust someone who insists that I have to agree that it’s anything other than “Satan’s smoke”.

    God Bless,

  6. Childermass says:

    I currently do not live in my home diocese. My shattering discovery in the Cathedral bookshop (the destruction of the sanctuary and other depressing abuses, I was long aware of) was several weeks ago, when I came home to visit.

    I’ll be back in a couple of weeks—I could try to sneak a photo or two in the shop, but I worry about confrontation. The lady running the shop has already questioned me about my opinions on women priests and other choice topics (like if I agreed with her and others in her Voice of the Faithful chapter that the Vatican’s homophobic policies are victimizing “gay” priests like the late Fr. Henri Nouwen).

    She seemed to implore me to agree with her that if we ordained some of her elderly sister friends as priests, it would solve the vocations crisis in the diocese (1 ordination last year, a man from Poland). After all, she says, the sisters are already leading “communion services” in many of the surviving parishes now.

    I was still in shock at seeing books by apostates like Spong, Karen Armstrong, Hans Kung and McBrien on display and did my best to be diplomatic.

    I might have let the cat out of the bag, though, by telling her what parish I frequented in my current diocese—she seemed to be aware that it is a well-known “conservative” Novus Ordo church.

    Unfortunately, my second cousins (one has 10 children, the other has 11) are not able to pack up and seek greener pastures elsewhere like I did. Incidentally, one of them once studied to be a priest in a diocesan seminary about 20 years ago, but he was driven out by the homosexual subculture there (I need not rehearse the sordid details of this).

    I pray for the full regularization of the SSPX so my cousins won’t have to make such a difficult choice as they now have to make.

    And, as Fr. Z always says, renewal is especially important among simple diocesan priests, the good that traditional religious priests do notwithstanding. The restoration needs to be “mainstreamed,” so to speak.

    I’m seriously contemplating a priestly vocation and am weighing that consideration myself.

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    paulbailes and Dr Eric

    You hit the nail on the head.

  8. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Childermas, I feel deeply grieved for you and your family. But don’t be afraid of confrontation.
    It’s not much of a martyrdom to preach the Gospel to a trendy lady behind a
    counter in a bookshop. The more of us (especially the younger of us) who speak truth to power, the better. Nothing rattles an aging hippy like “young fogies”.

    I’m a woman who has led “communion services” myself, and I made darn sure the
    congregants knew that I did not think I was a substitute priest, and that I did not want to be a
    priest. If I used the services as a “teaching moment” it was to point out that we
    need more men to step up to the plate to become priests. I asked the
    congregants if they had even asked their sons to consider a vocation to the
    priesthood. (One told me afterwards that she had.)

    I am appalled that Spong’s books are being sold in your Cathedral bookshop. Ugh.

  9. deaconjeff says:

    Greetings all
    I think that is important to clarify and make a clear distinction that the EF being offered in Saint Louis, Missouri is celebrated at an Oratory; staffed by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Being such it is not affiliated with the SSPX. Thanks

  10. Here is some good news. What do you think the Church would be like if there were no SSPX? The Church is in the dock and It is certainly a discredited witness. Think of the bishops moving priest predators from parish to parish who were protected by the bishops (popes?) Think of JPII feting Fr. Marcel Macial in St. Peter’s Square and within months CDF Cdl. Ratzinger alerting Macial that the Vatican is reopening a FIFTY YEAR old investigation into his life as well as the Legionaries. The books in the Cathedral? Throw them into the street. Get the press involved. Hire a lawyer friend to bring an action against the diocese. They can’t stand notoriety. Give them gallons of it. DO SOMETHING. I did in my “Catholic” high school 20 years ago and I WON!

  11. Jack Hughes says:

    “If there were no SSPX” ? The modernists wouldn’t have any serious opposition within the Church, there would be no Latin Mass celebrated by the FSSP/ICKSP/IGS, no SP. We would truely be in a “Lord of the World” situation

  12. Dr. Eric @ 7:02 pm: Drive for your life!

  13. Greg Smisek says:

    From the current Code of Canon Law (1983):

    Canon 826 §4. Books or other writings dealing with questions of religion or morals cannot be exhibited, sold, or distributed in churches or oratories unless they have been published with the permission of competent ecclesiastical authority or approved by it subsequently.

    You could check for the Imprimaturs, and write the cathedral pastor to ask whether the books without Imprimaturs have been approved by competent ecclesiastical authority, or write the bishop and ask if he has approved the books without Imprimaturs.

    Or you could write the pastor or bishop and simply express your concern that certain books being sold at the cathedral bookshop (list a few titles) distort the Faith and could lead Catholics astray regarding religion and the moral life.

  14. THREEHEARTS says:

    Let me put a different spin on the SPPX problem. I do not like the word, spin, as I see in all my years in the Church there is little welcome for the old good solid dogma and doctrine we were taught. Today it is all spin theology, using the dreadful sin of rationalization for changes to suit personal opinions which after all are a form of private revelations.
    Let me first write this. In my arguments with one of the SSPX leaders locally I expressed my strong annoyance with his group for two things, One they cut and ran and left so few of us to fight an extremely lonely fight. Second, many of them when I talk to them actually reek of superstition.
    Now in reality what is there to talk about over Vatican Two?. There are two articles you may be interested in one is Moyra Doorly’s article at http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/features/f0000435.shtml at the bottom Moyra quotes Alcuin Reed.
    According to the Dr Alcuin Reid: “The Second Vatican Council made no new doctrinal definitions. Nor did it change the traditional teaching of the Church. It proposed new ways of presenting the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church in the modern world. These approaches – ‘policies’ if you will – are not doctrines, but applications of doctrines. They must be taken seriously and their purpose must be respected, but they may be discussed, even disagreed with, in good faith.” This is a later quote than these earlier ones which you should all research and read.I mean the opening homily of Vat 2, the closing homily of Vatican 2 and there are the words of every pope since that Vat. 2 was a pastoral council and church doctrine could not change. Then the same group that propagated this ignored their own words and changed what they wanted. If doctrine could not be changed then where is the authority to change it. Fr Aidan Nichols answers her article see http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/features/f0000435b.shtml. I feel you will find the usual spin and justification, the usual confusion to change what the writer himself seems to call revelation. Sacramental theology and its fulfillment which took place over years and yet the promoters of Vatican 2 changed Church sacramental theology overnight. Is that revelation? Of course if you are a hierarch, claimed authority says you can, even though revelation takes years to solidify. Consider how long the pre-vatican revelations took to evolve? Look at the Old Testament how many years it took to establish the Community of God, its laws The revelations of the prophets and the most momentous event since Genesis was dreamt by two prophets. I meant the Advent of Jesus Christ Messiah and Savior. The fulfillment of the sacrifice. Thirty years that took and it was the active participation by God Himself. The bishops took upon themselves without consultation and rearranged it all in four years with Vatican 2. It will never change back and good men will loose their faith. It is a time Arianism all over again, except the music of Vatican 2 does not even compare with Arian’s ditties..

  15. JuliB says:

    Just a comment on Salvador Dali…. I never liked him but was told by many people to go to his museum while in FL. I had no idea that he had done Christian art, and it was magnificent! I even bought a print of his Discovery of America by Christopher COlumbus and have it hanging by my door.

    His Christian landscapes would be an improvement over some of what we have now…

  16. JuliB says:

    I just googled it, and it turns out that Dali was a convert to Catholicism!

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