QUAERITUR: Mortal sin to join SSPX third order?

From a reader:

I have a question about becoming a 3rd Order member with the SSPX. Would it put me into mortal sin to become a member? I have not attended their Mass on general orders from Pope Benedict XVI though I pray for full communion for them. They are also not in my area but I’d still be able to become part of the 3rd Order.

Would you commit a mortal sin by joining?  I think that would depend in part on why you wanted to join.  If you are doing so as a protest against the Holy Father Pope Benedict, against “Rome”, then I think you might be on shaky ground.

Also, if there should be a problem down the line with members of the SSPX (which is clerical) incurring the excommunication that comes from being formally in schism (they seem not to be now and I hope they never are), that might make the situation of lay people in an associated third order a bit less secure.  We know that priests of the SSPX belong to the group, because they are ordained in their ranks, take pay checks and assignments, etc .  We don’t know right now what it means, canonically, for lay people to follow such priests.  If the SSPX eventually is determined to be in schism and that is declared by the Holy See clearly, then would laypeople following them be adhering to schism too?  That is less clear.  Lay people fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation if they go to an SSPX chapel for Mass.  They can even give some money when they go for the upkeep of the chapel.  While I don’t recommend receiving Communion at their Masses, there are conditions under which it would be okay to do so.  So, we have a harder time determining how the status of a layperson might change, than we do with those who accept Holy Orders.  We could use the help of a canonist.

I can see why a traditionally-minded person might want to be associated with a group of manifestly traditional priests such as the SSPX.  Most of the SSPX priests I have met or had dealings with have been upstanding guys.

However, you would not have the benefit of indulgences and so forth which members of approved groups can gain.   The SSPX can do great things for the intellectual formation of laypeople, but they have no authority whatsoever to grant indulgences.   This is one of the principle reasons why people join confraternities and third orders: spiritual benefits.

The Confraternity of St. Peter, associated with the FSSP, Fraternity of St. Peter, has the grant of indulgences for its members:

The Apostolic Penitentiary, by virtue of the faculties granted to it by Pope Benedict XVI, has kindly willed to grant (by decree of June 7, 2008, for 7 years ad experimentum as is customary) to the members of the Confraternity of Saint Peter at the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer at the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff):
1.  A plenary indulgence:

a)  On the day of their admission into the Confraternity;
b)  On February 22nd, Feast of the Chair of St Peter and anniversary of the foundation of the Confraternity;
c)  On June 29th, Feast of Saints Peter and Paul;

2.  A partial indulgence:

Whenever they partake in pious or charitable activities as members of the Confraternity.

This group in in manifest union with Rome and provides the possibility of spiritual benefits such as indulgences.

Something to consider.

I look forward to the day when this is all resolved and these questions never have to be raised again!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Once again, WDTPRS is a source of clear, balanced, and objective commentary on the SSPX question. Thank you.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    I am member of the ‘Confraternitas Sancti Petri’. I highly recommend it!

  3. danphunter1 says:


  4. jbalza007 says:

    Another alternative would be to join the Society of the Sacred Heart, the lay association under the Institute of Christ the King (ICRSS). Members of the Society place themselves under the spiritual direction of the priests of the Institute. There are also organized spiritual retreats and gatherings. One is held nationally at the Institute’s headquarters in Chicago every June ( the month of the Sacred Heart). At our local apostolate, we have monthly meetings which include dinner, some instruction and then end with Compline.

    More info can be found on: http://www.institute-christ-king.org/sacred-heart-society/

  5. czemike says:

    Just once I want to see Father’s response to a question like this be:


    Sent from my iPhone

  6. traditionalorganist says:

    The way I look at it is: If you have to ask if it’s a mortal sin to join, then, perhaps you shouldn’t join…especially if there are other options out there.

  7. Daniel Latinus says:

    Until the SSPX is fully reconciled to the Church, it is probably best to not get too involved with them.

    I still remember March and April of 1988, when reconciliation between the SSPX and the Holy See seemed both imminient and certain. The agreements would be signed, the SSPX clergy and chapels would be regularized, and the reform of the Church would begin. Then came the repudiation of the agreement by Abp. Lefebvre, the consecrations of June 30, the excommunications, and all that followed. The disappointment and disillusionment stemming from those events haunts me still.

    It struck me that in the years that followed the consecrations, and later the death of Abp. Lefebvre, there was a steady stream of departures from the SSPX. It seemed that most, if not all, of the moderate, pro-reconciliation elements were leaving the Society. The SSPX’s own positions seemed to become more extreme and more hardened. Some of the SSPX’s demands seemed like a “poison pill” to preclude the possibility of any kind of reconciliation.

    I am glad to see that, especially since the election Pope Benedict, the SSPX leadership seems to be really interested in reconciliation with Rome. But from where I’m sitting, it looks like the fulfillment of that hope is still some ways off, and until that blessed event happens, all any of us can do is watch, and wait, and hope, and pray.

    So until this situation is happily resolved, it’s best not to become entangled with the SSPX.

  8. kallman says:

    I am in the FSSP confraternity. More members are needed to pray for the success of the priests of the fraternity

  9. Sedgwick says:

    Exactly what is this “general order” from Pope Benedict that prohibits anyone from attending an SSPX Mass?

  10. susanna says:

    I belong to the Opus Sanctorum Angelorum. In the crusade for priests we offer prayer every Thursday for them.

  11. danphunter1 says:

    “Exactly what is this “general order” from Pope Benedict that prohibits anyone from attending an SSPX Mass”
    There is no such order.

  12. Pete says:

    Someone, who doesn’t attend SSPX Masses because of Pope Benedict XVI “general orders” not to, is contemplating joining the SSPX’s Third Order??? How Bizarre.

    This question would appear to be a query to elicit certain answers. A rather provocative question. In fact there have been several questions over the past few days relating to the SSPX. Why?

Comments are closed.