In SSPX news today…

First, we learn that SSPX Bp. Williamson, convicted in absentia in a German court for denying the WWII “Holocaust” (a crime in Germany), has appealed his conviction and fine of €10,000.

Next, we learn that the Holy See’s spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, commented on recent SSPX priesthood ordinations, I assume both at Winona, MN, and Econe, Switzerland.  Lombardi said that the SSPX doesn’t have canonical status in the Church and that their ministers don’t legitimately exercise ministry in the Church.  The press release says that Fr. Lombardi was reaffirming Benedict XVI’s letter of 10 March 2009.

UPDATE: I heard this also on the broadcast of the English news on Vatican Radio.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Henry Belton says:

    Bad day for the society.

    Laws limiting freedom of speech are difficult and can be dangerous. At the same time, Bp. Williamson is troubled, ignorant, and loud – kind of the Fr. Fleger of the SSPX.

    Too bad about the ordination comments. Wondering if Benedict XVI would have had different comments if asked directly.

  2. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Well, it’s okay. We do already have plenty of fine, faithful priests exercising “legitimate ministry” in Austria, don’t we?

  3. Mundabor says:

    For once, Lombardi merely repeats the words of the Holy Father:

    “In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church”.


  4. Elizabeth D says:

    FSSPX come home! Don’t they see the value not only to themselves but to the Church, of clearing the obstacles to regularizing their status? If any of them they really understood would they not begin to refrain from illicit Masses and Ordinations and invalid celebrations of Penance and Matrimony? This would be suffering for them, it seems to run right counter to their identity and mission as priests, but doesn’t it have to come to that step of accepting the real situation? Then everything could be given to them and they could be restored to the bosom of the Church. Let there be an ordinariate now for those who are willing! Never can they be obliged to assent to any heresy, on the contrary! FSSPX come home!

  5. Baeda Benedictus:

    So that makes illicit ordinations perfectly okay, doesn’t it? No, it does not. The misbehavior of others is no excuse. If anything, such actions may serve to encourage them.

    When two parties negotiate in good faith, it is assumed that their subsequent and public actions, when not engaged in the discussion, are consistent with the spirit and letter of those negotiations. This being the case, what do these ordinations say about the Society’s intentions towards good faith?

  6. Pachomius says:

    I’m slighlty concerned by the quote marks around Holocaust, Fr. I’m sure you don’t mean anything untoward by them, but given the context, I fear they could be misconstrued.

    On the topic of the SSPX: It’s funny how they go on and on about the need for some old-time authoritarian behaviour in Rome, but when they feel that old-time back-of-the-hand themselves they squeal about how unfair it is… There is only one matter in question with the SSPX, and that is the authority of the Bishop of Rome. Either they accept it, or they don’t.

  7. Jucken says:

    They are not interested, Elizabeth. They are not a religious organization, they’re a political organization. They are not catholic, they are just trying to push a political agenda.

  8. jmvm says:

    I can, unfortunately, predict the response from SSPX apologists. They are going to say that Fr. Lombardi’s comments do not reflect the thoughts of the Holy Father (despite Pope Benedict XVI having written on this issue specifically.) Interestingly, the reaction is quite similar to those who claim that the Pope John Paul II ‘s statement regarding the impossibility of women’s ordination should not be taken infallibly despite then Cardinal Ratzinger’s further clarification (approved by the Pope.) Certainly, Bishop Fellay’s comments that try to portray Pope Benedict as completely isolated among enemies in the curia encourages this type of mentality. I am sure that there are those in the curia that oppose some of the Pope’s plans, but let us assume, at least some of the time, when the papal spokesman reiterates what the Pope has previously stated and the Pope does not seem to clarify, that the Pope may actually agree with his spokesman’s comments! Yes, I think that we need to be clear that just praying for the Pope does not make you obedient to the Vicar of Christ.

  9. Ezra says:

    Fr Lombardi’s comments bring nothing to the table, since everyone involved in the discussions already knows that Rome does not consider the Society to have a regular canonical status. The Society doesn’t consider itself to have a regular canonical status; its argument for the legitimacy of its priests’ ministries is based on a perceived state of emergency.

    Have the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (FSSR, Papa Stronsay) been afforded canonical status yet?

  10. heway says:

    Have to agree with JMVM. Let us presume that the Pope does not live in a closet and is aware of what is going on. would he not speak out if he disagreed?
    The road to wisdom begins with obedience, then humility. These seem to be missing from SSPX.

  11. BaedaBenedictus says:

    “So that makes illicit ordinations perfectly okay, doesn’t it? No, it does not. The misbehavior of others is no excuse. If anything, such actions may serve to encourage them.”

    Oh, I hardly think so. They can do what they like with impunity. They are “in good standing.” They can crow about how the SSPX is “in schism.”

    The fact is, yes, the SSPX is conducting illegitimate ordinations, but they are only getting vocations because things are so bad in the “legitimate” places. People go to them as a refuge because bishops and priests in the dioceses are failing them terribly. If Rome wants to neutralize the SSPX (and I’m sure many in the Curia would like t0), the easiest way to do it is to appoint Catholic bishops and restore Catholicism to the seminaries. My God, what a difference that would make in my diocese, which is a black hole. The gates of hell may prevail against it. Meanwhile, the SSPX church and school are booming here. My God, how easily the diocese could change this situation if it only knew Catholicism (not Catholicism-and-sewage) was the way to do it.

    Since Rome does little to quell the doctrinal and moral crisis, much of it perpetuated by bishops and priests who hurt countless souls with their heterodoxy and heteropraxy, the SSPX will always remain a refuge for beleaguered Catholic families, and these illegitimate ordinations will continue.

    I’m not a supporter of the SSPX by any means, but I think God is using them as an impetus to the Church hierarchy to get its act together so groups like the SSPX don’t have to exist.

  12. MichaelJ says:

    For the record, Bishop Williomson did not “deny the WWII Holocaust”. Instead, he specifically denied that 6 million Jews were killed in the concentration camps, saying instead that “only” 200 thousand to 300 thousand were killed.

    Now, I am not defending what he said, and fail to see what his speculation about an historical event has to do with Catholicism, but in Germany, if an individual questions the official number of 6 million, that individula can be convicted of “inciting racial hatred”.

  13. Alan Aversa says:

    Bp. Williamson is not a “Holocaust denier”! He merely questions the method the Nazis used to kill and the number of people killed, all of whom weren’t Jews.

  14. Centristian says:

    I’m actually a bit torn on the Williamson issue.

    On the one hand, the whole world knows that there is plenty of evidence that the Nazis murdered millions of Jews during the Second World War. That horrific episode is known, of course, as “The Holocaust” and for a man to deny that it ever happened is cause enough for one to imagine that such a man ought to have his head examined. Obviously, Williamson is a man who relies, not upon historical evidence and known truths, but upon the disinformation supplied by conspiracy theorists. He treats that disinformation as if it were gospel.

    His blind reliance upon conspiratorial disinformation, only, and his mistrust of (disdain for) historical facts and universally acknowledged truths, is characteristic of Williamson’s entire approach to the universe. Everything commonly known or understood is a lie. The truth lies buried beneath a layer of fiction that the rest of us have been duped into believing. Hitler killed no Jews; the Jews just made that up to get compensatory money. Man did not land on the Moon; that was all staged in Hollywood. The US Government (which controls the weather) is run by a cabal that meets annually at the Bohemian Grove (where they cremate live infants). Islamic terrorists did not bring down the World Trade Center on 9/11. &c, &c, &c.

    That is an alternate reality in which some people dwell, unfortunately. It is a weird and scary world that men like Alex Jones claim to have discovered and explored. That is the world in which Richard Williamson dwells and the world which he demands that his students and followers recognize as authentic. So it is good that he’s been shut up in London, no longer in charge of forming aspirant rebel clergy or of pulling the strings of influence within an international organization claiming to be Roman Catholic. Not that he’s alone amongst SSPX clergy in his odd world view, by any means. It’s merely a matter of “one down”.

    That’s on the one hand. On the other hand…so what? So what if Williamson believes every cockamamie piece of foolishness under the Sun and hasn’t got enough shame to keep his bizarre notions to himself? Is that any reason for the state to levy a fine of 10,000 Euros upon someone? For flaunting one’s own ignorance? Is this how Germany intends to go about eradicating her Nazi past? By acting like Nazis, now? Something tells me the Germans just don’t get it.

    I don’t think a man who wears a miter and carries a crozier ought to believe the things that Richard Williamson believes (and what any of those strange beliefs has to do with the Catholic faith or the old Mass is beyond me), but I also don’t think the state should be telling such a man that he may not believe what he believes (no matter how idiotic or unsavory his beliefs). I find the German law, to be honest, every bit as bizarre as Williamson’s “facts”. I hope, therefore, that Williamson succeeds in his appeal.

    I cringe, however, whenever media headlines or news articles describe Richard Williamson (or any of the SSPX’s purpled grandees) as “Catholic Bishop”, as in, for example, “Catholic Bishop Denies Holocaust”. It makes matters seem such that Williamson is a legitimate authority within the official Catholic hierarchy; that a REAL bishop of the REAL Church is saying such things. A reader has to dig in to the article much further to discover that Williamson is part of a “breakaway” group, that he was excommunicated, &c.

    I wonder, honestly, that the Vatican should even concede to Williamson and to the other purpled princes of the SSPX the style “bishop”. Sure, they have the sacramental fullness of the priesthood, but they received it illicitly by a man who bestowed it illicitly. Is that really enough for a man to become a successor of the Apostles, I wonder? Is that an honor that can be so easily stolen from Peter’s gift? These men have no mandate from Peter, they enjoyed no union with Peter at the time they stole their orders, and today enjoy but a loose, apparently indefinable communion with him. What are these four men the bishops of? They have no sees, not even titular sees. Hasn’t a bishop got to be bishop OF something, after all? They haven’t even got any priestly faculties.

    Call Williamson and the others “bishops” if need be; I suppose there isn’t any other term for what they are (perhaps there ought to be). But to refer to any of them in a news headline as “Catholic Bishop” is, in my opinion, entirely wide of the mark.

  15. jmvm says:


    Perhaps we should not begrudge calling them “Catholic bishops”, since there really is no other type. After all, like “Catholic baptism” is redundant (since the only type of baptism is Catholic), the only type of bishop has to be Catholic. Certainly, we should add that these SSPX bishops are not in full communion with Peter. There is certain a word that starts with “s” for that, but I hesitate to use it.

  16. From today’s second reading in the Liturgy of the Hours, by St. Augustine, with the heading “Those who are outside the fold are still our brothers, whether they like it or not.“:

    My brothers, we appeal to you to show charity, not only towards one another, but also to those who are outside the fold . . . . . Whether they like it or not, they are our brothers, and they will only cease to be our brothers if they cease to say Our Father. . . . . . They celebrate the same sacraments, though not with us, but still the same; they reply with the same Amen, though not with us, but it is still the same. Pour out all your love to God on their behalf.

  17. Oleksander says:

    of my living relatives my great-aunt witnessed the holocaust firsthand when the Germans liquidated the jews from our city (there were a lot too, about 1/4 of the city was jewish) and later during the retreat from the communists while on the trains she saw, heard the moans and smelled the cattle cars. and my (unrelated to my aunt) great-uncle was a collaborator who helped execute the holocaust, so yes it happened (!) amazing I know, cant trust the the gypsy and jew victims who survived can we. not all had the mercy of the chambers, gypsys were subjected to live vivisection with no pain killers and twins sewn together alive as medical experiments

    no sympathy for williamson from me

  18. Henry, they aren’t outside the fold. No one is excommunicated to my knowledge. Do you all know something the rest of us don’t? jmvm, exactly how they are not in full communion? Did you declare them as such? What is partial or full communion, anyway? Is that kind of like being a full human or a full citizen?

  19. Centristian,

    Yes, but, of course, you wouldn’t have a problem calling Anglicans “bishop”, would you?

  20. Pachomius says:

    jmvm, there are, in fact, several other kinds of bishop in the ‘real’ sense (i.e., those with valid orders) – Orthodox bishops spring to mind, but also, unfortunately, likely a large proportion of episcopi vagantes.

  21. Centristian says:

    David Werling:


    Yes, but, of course, you wouldn’t have a problem calling Anglicans ‘bishop’, would you?”

    Yes. Yes, I would, since they aren’t. They’re laymen. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the same of the four men consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, but I’m not entirely sure what those four men are, to be honest.

    What are they bishops of? Themselves? Who is bound to obey them? Anyone? Those who choose to obey them, perhaps? What happens when those who choose to obey them choose not to obey them? Who can these men excommunicate? Can they excommunicate? Excommunicate from what? Who is their flock? Who owes them deference? With whom are they in communion?

    The answers are clear with respect to the laymen running the man-made Church of England (and its affiliates). They aren’t bishops at all and no Christian owes them any measure of obedience, nor to call any of them ‘bishop’. But the Church seems to teach that the four men ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre are, at least, strictly speaking, bishops. They are bishops who cannot teach, who may not rule, who may not pontificate, who may not transmit the Sacraments, who hold no sees, who are owed no obedience, who may not discipline dissenters, who aren’t part of the episcopal hierarchy, &c. So…what does that leave, really?

    There are many more things that they aren’t than are. It’s an odd, odd situation.

  22. shane says:

    Sincere apologies for going slightly off-topic but the SSPX has just put most of Iota Unum online for free:

  23. ContraMundum says:

    I assume the reason Fr. Z put quotes around “holocaust” was for the same reason I might: the term means “burnt offering”, as in the Temple worship, and it’s hard to see how that is an appropriate term for the genocide that took place. This brings up questions:
    (1) Who was the priest? At Golgotha, Christ was both the Victim and the Priest; the Gospels make it clear that He went willingly. The multitudes of Jews who were murdered, however, were no more willing to be murdered than you or I would be. So they can’t be the priests. The only other alternative is that the Nazis were the priests, which is completely unacceptable, unless you mean “priests of the Devil”.
    (2) To whom was the burnt offering made? If to anyone, the best fit would be that it was an offering by the Nazis to the Devil. Even though this attaches no blame to the innocent victims, their families would no doubt find this suggestion offensive.

    Personally, I think the term Shoah fits better.

  24. MichaelJ says:

    I don’t pretend to have the answers, but you seem to be leaning toward the opinion that a Bishop is defined soley by what he has the authority to do. I had not considered it in this light, but a reasonable conclusion to this line of thought would be that there can be such a thing as a Lay Bishop. This, of course, opens the possiblity that aglican bishops are truly Bishops.

  25. David Werling,
    It was not me, but St. Augustine’s translator, who used the phrase “outside the fold”. I myself feel that both they and we would be much better off, if they were inside the tent with us, facing together those who oppose both us and them.

  26. Imrahil says:

    Whatever there is to be said about the German law, Bp Williamson is indeed a denier of the of Genocide of the European Jews, inappropriately called the Holocaust. And Joachim Fest, in his Hitler biography, was (yes) critizised but not in any way troubled after writing about “more than five million”. But “300000 and these not in gas chambers” is Holocaust denial if there ever was one.

    So. Now what about this German law? What it defends is the truth. Plus, there is much of the “slap fascists where you can get them” (Tucholsky, if I remember correctly) attitude. And then, it was likewise introduced because survivors pretty much took this conspiracy theory as an offense to the honor of the dead (a crime in Germany), as someone is offended if you tell him he does not even exist; although it didn’t juristically fulfil the penal law for offense to the honor of the dead, hence the need of a new paragraph.

    Neonazis attack it as inquisitorial. Well; the Inquisiton (or rather, its use of secular power) as such should not have been, but somewhat it makes me feel that at least some measure from the thought at its behind is, this way, acknowledged: that truth, and consequently some particular truth, is objectively attainable. After all, we would quite much persecute even a new religion, as yet (as I perceive) non-existant, which aimed at murdering our neighbours. That is, those who don’t fabulate that religion by definition cannot act contrary to public laws (which seem to dominate political discussion).

  27. Random Friar says:

    Re: the quote marks.

    I’ve noticed that after reading the BBC news a fair bit, they also use quotes in ways we don’t normally here, at least not in common usage, almost as a kind of way of setting apart the subject or highlighting the crime or problem.

    Just a random thought from a random friar.

  28. Centristian says:


    I don’t lean in that direction. I don’t believe that the SSPX bishops are laymen, as I say, but priests. I certainly acknowledge they are all priests. And if Rome acknowledges them as bishops, too, so do I, even though I may not be able to see it.

    It seems to me that in order to truly lay claim to the style “bishop”, however, one would have to offer evidence, not only of sacramental ordination, but also of possession of the episcopal office. The bishops of the SSPX can offer proof of sacramental ordination, but only a show of pretense to the episcopal office, not actual evidence of possession of it. Yes, they can pretend to adopt for themselves the social/diplomatic style “Excellency” and the ecclesiastical style “Most Reverend” and they can dress like bishops and illicitly pontificate. That’s not evidence, however; that’s make-believe and dress-up. Anybody can do that.

    But whence their mandate to govern a flock? And, incidentally, what flock? How are their four flocks identifiable? By voluntary submission of individuals, perhaps? Do not their ‘jurisdictions’ overlap, in that case? What can they be said to be the bishops of? Of whom are they bishops? Who do they shepherd? Who do they rule? Who can they discipline? For the bishops of the SSPX, there are no answers to such questions because there can’t be. While they can offer evidence of episcopal ordination, they can offer no evidence of the possession of any semblance of what constitutes the episcopal office in the Roman Catholic Church. None.

    Is a bishop simply a priest who can make other priests, sacramentally speaking, or is there more to it than that? Isn’t a bishop the shepherd of a flock, at least in name? Hasn’t a bishop got to be the bishop of something; the center of some Church? And hasn’t he got to have that charism and office and authority bestowed upon him in Christ’s name with the consent of the Church, through Peter? Who else can legitimately bestow anything upon anyone in Christ’s name but Christ’s Church? Mustn’t he be in obvious communion with Peter and with the college of the successors of the Apostles? Although Rome seems comfortable enough referring to these four men as “bishops”, how comfortable would Rome be insisting that Richard Williamson is a “successor of the Apostles”? Show me his flock, in that case. And show me how his flock differs from Fellay’s or Tissier’s or DeGalleretta’s.

    If a priest isn’t the bishop of anything or of anyone, however, not even in name, and isn’t considered a member of the episcopal hierarchy, then, well…it seems tough to argue that such a man is really a bishop at all. Maybe he’s just a “super-priest” who can sacramentally ordain other priests. Yes, a bishop does that, but a bishop is and does and means much, much more than just that. The SSPX bishops only have the ability to do that one thing that a bishop does (that a mere priest cannot), and no ability to be or to do or to mean any of the rest of the things that a bishop is or does or means. Is a house with only a foundation but without rooms, or walls, or a roof actually a house?

    With regard to the matter of external episcopal trappings, if these men genuinely respected the authority of Rome and of the local bishops, they would recognize what they are and the limits of what they are, and they would eschew, not flaunt, all the external trappings of the episcopacy: mitres, croziers, rings, pectoral crosses, purpled costumes, all of it. They would do the bare minimum of what they feel they need to do in this alleged time of crisis that allegedly gave them the right to accept episcopal ordination illicitly, but they would respect the official Church enough, at least, not to assume for themselves the pretended mantle of jurisdictional episcopacy.

    When they presume for themselves the styles and costumes of licit and proper bishops, sitting upon thrones before dossal curtains embroidered with their pretend coats of arms (issued by no ecclesiastical heraldic authority but themselves), parading about in pontificals, purple ferraiolos, birettas, zucchettos, sashes, and all the rest, then I have no ability to take their claim that “we’re only doing this because of a crisis” at all seriously. A crisis of what? Episcopal couture?

    If the SSPX claims that its bishops exist only to transmit the “traditional” Catholic priesthood and Sacraments in a time of “crisis” wherein that is no longer being done by the Catholic episcopacy, then just do that. Just transmit the “traditional” priesthood and Sacraments, using correct matter, form, and intention. That’s all you need. You don’t need “Excellency” or “Most Rev.” or even “Bishop”; you don’t need purple costumes or miters or croziers or thrones or illegitimate coats of arms. You just need two hands and some holy oil.

    And that’s what they should limit themselves to. For all the rest, there is no justification.

  29. randomcatholic says:

    I would humbly recommend Father that you remove the quotation marks around holocaust in this post. I am SURE you meant nothing by it, but it really doesn’t look good.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    Williamson never, never helps the cause of the SSPX. He should be quiet! As to the status of the SSPX, I am saddened by the lack of real effort on the part of the SSPX bishops to moderate their actions in order to re-join the Church. We need the good lovers of the EF in our midst. But, the groups seem more separated than ever. Words on their part do not convince me that they really want unity.

  31. muckemdanno says:

    It’s truly amazing that the anti-SSPX crowd here continues the accusations of SSPX being “outside” the Church, “not in communion” with the Church, “less than full” communion…yadda yadda yadda. Same old, same old! [The lifting of the excommunication (by the Pope himself) apparantly has no bearing on these people’s statements.]

    Fr Lombardi’s statement says no such thing. He only says that SSPX priests exercise no legitimate ministry in the Church. (Neither do I, or most of the people who post here!!!) Nothing about not being in communion with the Church. The SSPX priests and faithful are Catholics the same as you and me and Father Z. Just admit it!

    If you must accuse these Catholics of a sin (disobedience), then please make sure that you first remove whatever beams you have in your own eye so that you may see clearly.

  32. brianvzn says:

    Lots of terms are being thrown around such as “in communion”, “legitimate”, “illicit”, etc. The bottom line is that the Masses offered by the SSPX are valid and the consecration is valid.

    Vatican II contains statements that are in direct contradiction to Church Teaching. If we ever have a Pope that admits this and corrects it, thats when the SSPX will be “in communion”.

  33. Random Friar says:

    The above statement, sadly, is a perfect example of what the doctrinal difficulty is. As long as this is a viable opinion within SSPX, there will be no reconciliation.

    And first rule of moral law, from way, way back: you cannot do an evil to bring about good. I consider the informed decision of SSPX back in the day to begin the excommunication (by ordaining illicitly the bishops), which some say made FSSP possible. You cannot “break the Body of Christ” in order to build it back up. That said, I think culpability has lessened as time passes for many.

    The door to dialogue has been thrown wide open. You have a listening ear in the Holy Father. The lifting of excommunications was a welcome mat. And still, the prodigal son is not ready to come home. That saddens me to no end.

  34. muckemdanno says:

    Random Friar,

    Why is it that you still hold the episcopal ordination against the SSPX??? The Holy Father has forgiven this, and lifted the excommunication. Maybe you should!

  35. jmvm says:

    David Werling and muckemdanno,

    I do think that we need to have the ability to “declare” someone as in communion or not without having to use our judgement. I think that we should resist the urge to declare as many in modern society would like to that we “should not judge.” Rather, I think that it is important we use our God given intellingence to make judgements. In my judgement (though certainly not infallible), someone who fails to recognize the Holy Father (not just in words, but in actions) is not in full communion with the Holy Father. Being a member of an Eastern Church whose grandparents joined the other members of the church in returning to full communion in the early part of the last century, I consider the issue of full communion to be quite important. With regards to SSPX, ordaining priests illicitly certainly suggests a lack of obedience. I worry that these word games get to become very Clintonesque (“depends what the definition of the word is is.”) SSPX is not obedient to the Holy Father and hence, by logic not declaration, is not in full communion. Also, I suspect that random friar is bringing up the illicit episcopal ordination since though Pope Benedict has removed the excommunication, there is still a need for the bishops to apologize for the error that harmed the Body of Christ and make amends.

  36. Jack Hughes says:

    Open questions

    In the past week we have seen evidence on this blog (blog entry: Pastor threatened by bishop after making liturgical changes) of Bishops who are not adhering to the wishes of the Holy Father and are persecting Priests who are. I myself have heard (1st hand) Traditional Priests relay similar horror stories, we also know of situations where a concerted attempt was made to bar/expel orthodox men from seminary (see “Goodbye Good Men”) a situation that Father Z can relate to.

    Q1) as the the situation was far worse in the 1980’s could it be said that ++Leferbve and the men he concecrated did NOT incur Automatic Excommunication? as I understand the cannon following canon 1382 does include situations where 1382 does not apply.

    Q2) given the continual madman actions of certain Bishops could it be said that the State of emergency the SSPX claims exist DOES infact exist ? when a Priest is threatened with suspension merely for saying the black and doing the red surely you can’t get fussy over wheter the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed?

    I claim no special insight into cannon law but given the mad world where the heads of Bishop’s conferences routinely flout Church teachings in public e.g. london’s soho Mass’s, the head of the German Bishop’s conference denying the redemption I feel that these questions must be asked.

    In Dommino


    PS Father Z could you please stop my comments being automatically moderated? after nearly 6 months, can I be put on parol?

  37. jmvm says:


    I also wanted to make one additional clarification. I may be wrong, but you seem to be confusing Pope Benedict’s lifting of the excommunications with the issue of full communion. The excommunication of the Patriarch of Constantinople was lifted by Blessed John Paul II, but the Patriarch of Constantinople is, sadly, not in communion with the Bishop of the Rome. Also, I hope that you realize that the implication that the Pope (“what ever you bind on earth . . .) needs to change his teaching in order to become in “full communion” with SSPX to be quite unusual to say the least with Catholic theology. Finally, SSPX priests are not the same as me. I have not been illicitly ordained contrary to the wishes of the Vicar of Christ.

  38. St. Rafael says:

    Will Catholics please stop using the term “full communion” and “communion”. They have no clue what they are talking about when they use Modernist terminology. Do they even know where these words originated and what they actually mean or why they use them?

    “full communion” has absolutely no basis in the tradition and history of the Catholic Church and Catholic theology. This term was invented in the 60’s and became popular after Vatican II. “full communion” and “partial communion” were invented by the heretic Karl Rahner ans is part of Rhaner’s heretical theology. It was born out of Rahner’s theology over the “anonymous Christian.” Rahner stated there was degrees of unity with the Catholic Church, which believed was broader than the actual institution and the Church herself.

    Traditional Catholic theology and Church teaching has always been clear. You are either inside the Church or you are not. You are either Catholic or not. You are inside the Church or you are schismatic. There is no such thing as the ludicrious nonsense of being partially Catholic in “partial communion” or being in “full communion”.
    What kind of garbage, nonsense, and giberish is “full communion” anyway? It is made up giberish from a radical heretic that was the Modernist Karl Rahner.

    All Catholics should cease using the tired, dated, and heretical words and terms that came from the Modernists who hijacked the Church in the 50’s and 60’s and have done so much damage and have left a wreck. You have average laymen on the net and all types of low, middle, and high level Vatican bureaucrats who were deformed in the seminary were Rahner reigned was shoved down their throats using the erroneous “full communion”.

  39. moon1234 says:

    ^^ what he said!

    I am also troubled by the notion that a Bishop must be assigned somewhere or he is not a Bishop. What happens when a Bishop retires? Many no longer have an assignment. Do they cease to be a Bishop?

    Whether we like it or not, all that is required to validly elevate a priest to Bishop is the proper form, matter and intent. If those three exist, then a new Bishop is consecrated. If he be consecrated without Papal mandate then he may have no OFFICIAL assignment in the Church, however he remains a Bishop.

    This is why there was such a backlash from Rome when the four initial Bishops of the SSPX were consecrated. Rome thought that they would just wait out the SSPX unitl Lefebvre died. Once he had died, there would be no one to consecrate new priests for the Society. When four new Bishops were consecrated this option disappeared.

    If one thing is clear it is that the Society is still growing. Vocations don’t come from just anywhere. The SSPX are Catholic. Disobediant, maybe, but still Catholic. They wish to do what the Church has done for time immemorial.

    Any action that would be seen as capitulation by Rome, even if they agree, makes the current prelates look bad. If this is not resolved in the next ten years, it will be interesting to see what happens to the society. What does Rome do when there are 1 million, 10 million or more members of the SSPX? Do they continue to deny them any official stance in the Church?

    This whole scenerio is just strange. We have many rites in the Catholic Church. Some smaller than the SSPX today that have virtually nothing to do with Rome, yet they are fully recognized. The syrian Catholics come to mind. What about the Coptic Catholics. They were essentially breakaways from the Orthodox Church.

    It is so sad that we now have an Anglican use of the Roman Rite (which is really a made up book by the Church of England), with a fast track to the priesthood and potentially the epispocate for those who never went to or were formed in traditional Catholic theology,. yet those men who are devoted to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church are scorned, reviled and rebuked by the very Church they are devoted to.

    Our Lady of Akita
    “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres (other priests). Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.”

    I think that many in the SSPX and traditional circles view themselves as the ones being Chastised. They see themselves as holding on to what is “right” and rebuking what they see as changes to Catholic doctrine over the last 50 years.

  40. Sixupman says:

    Ezra: a most pertinent point, FSSR were not afforded fulll facalties by the local ordinary, or at least that was the position.

    +Williamson, unfortunately is a Catholic Bishop, he is also a very erudite and educated ‘nut-case’, and is not unlike self-styled prophets who appear to be attractive to an element of the American psyche. He was Msgr. Lefebvre’s one mistale. Just like a great number of UK rectors of seminaries, he was able to push his own proclivities, hidden within proper Catholic teaching, to impressionable students.

    I emphatically challenge the thread of argument related to BXVI as Supreme Pastor of Mother Church [which I believe]. The Bishops’ Conferences see BXVI merely as being ‘First among Equals’ and that they are not subject to him in the strict sense, but are their own ‘popes’ as to the conduct of their jurisdictions. Such is borne out both by statements and evidence on the ground and the angst concerning SSPX arises from guilty conscience on the part of Prelates who have abandoned their vows to Mother Church.

  41. MichaelJ says:

    You really are. I do not say this to criticize, but you have identified the criteria by which a man can be considered a Bishop (as distinguished from a Priest) , and all center upon what he has the authority to do. Since the SSPX Bishops cannot do the things that a Bishop does, you say, they cannot be Bishops but must be something else.
    If, as you state, the only difference between a Priest and a Bishop is what the latter has been granted the authority to do, then the possibility exists that at some future time, Holy Mother Church could bestow the Episcopate on a layman

  42. Ezra says:

    “full communion” and “partial communion” were invented by the heretic Karl Rahner ans [sic] is part of Rhaner’s [sic] heretical theology.

    This is incorrect. As someone pointed out in a discussion on a rather fierce traditionalist discussion board not long ago,

    The expression appears in many pre-conciliar texts – and not just suspect ones. Three examples from a Google Books search (titles and authors of journal articles inaccessible):

    …when Soloviev for the last time confessed his sins, he retracted none of his theological judgments. He died in full communion with Rome. After his death the Russian authorities removed the ban from his works…

    Catholic World vol. 105 (1917), 336.

    …the Mass and the sacraments are lawful, for those who use these various rites are in full communion with Christ’s Vicar on earth.

    J.F. Sullivan, The Externals of the Catholic Church: Her Government, Ceremonies, Festivals, Sacramentals, and Devotions (P.J. Kennedy, 1917), 371.

    The Liturgy at Westminster will bring home to us that there is now in Russia a group formed of native-born Russians, who cling to their Russian race and nationality and who are in full communion with the Holy See, whilst at the same time retaining their hold on the glorious inheritance…

    The Catholic Historical Review vol. 6 (1927), 760.

    We find the expression “partial communion” used in a number of magisterial documents. To take one example: in Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II wrote that “ecumenism is directed precisely to making the partial communion existing between Christians grow towards full communion in truth and charity”.

  43. MichaelJ says:

    It seems to me that the phrase “full communion” in the documents you cite has a different meaning than the phrase as used today. In the “many” pre-conciliar texts above, there is no hint that it is used in a way that indicates that there is such a thing as “partial communion”.

    Are there any Magisterial documents in which the phrase appears from around the same time period or before?

  44. Centristian says:


    “It’s truly amazing that the anti-SSPX crowd here continues the accusations of SSPX being ‘outside’ the Church, ‘not in communion’ with the Church, ‘less than full’ communion…yadda yadda yadda. Same old, same old! [The lifting of the excommunication (by the Pope himself) apparantly has no bearing on these people’s statements.]”

    It needn’t have any bearing because, excommunicated or no, the SSPX bishops have no right to excercise episcopal (or even priestly) ministry but they do it anyway. They are unrepentant in their rebellion against the Holy See. So, they aren’t considered excommunicated any longer (as they used to be)…with all due respect, big deal. Neither is the Devil. Neither is a box of doughnuts. “Not excommunicated” is something that every Catholic should be, at the very least. It isn’t a badge of honor.

    I am persuaded that the bishops of the SSPX are no longer excommunicated. That doesn’t make them legitimate in the excercise of episcopal (or priestly) ministry, however. That doesn’t even make them good Catholics. They need to be much more than merely “not excommunicated”. They need to publicly repent of their disobedience and submit, fully, to Peter. They may do that as a group, all at once; they may do it individually.

    Not one of of them has, however; these men have repented of nothing, which is why the lifting of the excommunications so baffles me. To this very day each of them continues–all of them continue–to spite the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff and of their local bishops, pretending to excercise priestly and episcopal ministry, as they do, in spite of their complete lack of episcopal mandate or even of priestly faculties. The fact that the SSPX bishops continue to thumb their noses at Rome and at local episcopal jurisdictions in this fashion even after the Holy Father consented to nullify the excommunications is a scandal and a shame.

    Excommunicated or not, therefore, I say, “book ’em, Danno.”

    “The SSPX priests and faithful are Catholics the same as you and me and Father Z. Just admit it!”

    If the SSPX actually had their own “faithful” (as such), then they would, indeed, be schismatic, I think. If they were to formally term themselves, say, “Lefebvrists” or “Traditionalist Catholics” as opposed to “Roman Catholics”, then, it seems to me, you’d have a schismatic church on your hands. As it happens, however, the SSPX claims (I hope) no “faithful” as such (although Bernard Tissier de Mallerais skates very close to the edge when he argues, as he has, that the Catholics who submit to the ministrations of the clergy of the SSPX owe them their obedience, also).

    We speak not of SSPX “faithful” then, but of Catholic laity whose faithfulness to the official Church may be questionable, since they support clergy who are in open rebellion by their chronic disobedience to the lawful authorities of the Church. They receive from SSPX clergy the Sacraments. They offer their financial contributions. They turn to them even for annulments.

    They are Catholic laity, therefore, but not necessarily “faithful” laity (a determination to be made, not be me, but by lawful authority on a case-by-case basis, of course). So they are not necessarily the same as me or as Father Z (who is clergy, in any case). What makes a Catholic “faithful” after all, if not fidelity?

  45. Ezra says:

    It seems to me that the phrase “full communion” in the documents you cite has a different meaning than the phrase as used today.

    Really? How so?

    Are there any Magisterial documents in which the phrase appears from around the same time period or before?

    Not that I’m aware of. That said, the reality to which the term “partial communion” refers does come up in pre-conciliar theology – i.e. that there are Christian bodies which possess elements of the true Church, and so enjoy a relationship with the true Church which cannot be attributed to, e.g., Muslims or Jews. Thus Sylvester Berry writes in The Church of Christ (1927) that

    most of the Orthodox churches of the East have valid Orders, and to that extent may be called Apostolic; they have Apostolic succession of the powers of Orders. In some cases they may also have a material succession of bishops from Apostolic times… In no case do they have legitimate succession; there is no transmission of jurisdiction because they have withdrawn from communion with Rome, the centre and source of all jurisdiction.

    …and similarly, in his letter to the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople (1867), Bl. Pius IX wrote of how

    although this schism separated from the centre of unity almost all of the Eastern Churches, it did not, for all that, obscure in the Church, this Catholic truth, or at least, it could not entirely eradicate it from the soul of the faithful of the East… the Eastern Churches themselves, each time they have reformed themselves under the impulse of divine grace, have solemnly recognised not only a primacy of honour but also of jurisdiction conferred by Our Lord Jesus Christ on Saint Peter and his successors in the Roman See.

  46. MichaelJ says:

    Really? How so?

    In the excepts from the books you cited, the phrase “full communion” sounds to me like a journalistic redundancy to emphasize both the importance of communion and the fact that the subject of the phrase had no reservations. It was not used, as it is today and was in Ut Unum Sint to distinguish between “full” and “partial” communion. Even in the latter documents you cite that could theoretically refer to the concept behind the phrase “partial communion” there is no mistaking that the authors are not admitting degrees of communion. They are simply restating that God’s Grace does act upon individuals who are not in communion with the One True Church. That is, it is despite a lack of communion not because of “partial communion”.

  47. Pachomius says:

    “I am also troubled by the notion that a Bishop must be assigned somewhere or he is not a Bishop.”

    Then take it up with the Church Fathers and with the Apostolic Tradition. To say otherwise is modernism par excellance.

    “This is why there was such a backlash from Rome when the four initial Bishops of the SSPX were consecrated.”

    There was no backlash from Rome. Those four men excommunicated themselves from the Universal Church by their own actions and knowing full well what they were doing.

    “What does Rome do when there are 1 million, 10 million or more members of the SSPX?”

    The SSPX already claims it has 1 million followers. I doubt there are 1 million priests in the Church proper at the moment.

    “Some smaller than the SSPX today that have virtually nothing to do with Rome, yet they are fully recognized. The syrian Catholics come to mind. What about the Coptic Catholics. They were essentially breakaways from the Orthodox Church.”

    And they all accept the authority of the Roman Pontiff and the Councils of the Church. The SSPX refuses to do either, setting up its own alternative magisterium every bit as disobedient as the liberal modernists who do it off the other side of the boat.

    “It is so sad that we now have an Anglican use of the Roman Rite (which is really a made up book by the Church of England), with a fast track to the priesthood and potentially the epispocate for those who never went to or were formed in traditional Catholic theology,. yet those men who are devoted to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church are scorned, reviled and rebuked by the very Church they are devoted to.”

    You clearly know very little about the Ordinariate.

    “He was Msgr. Lefebvre’s one mistale.”
    Sadly, I must disagree. +Tissier appears to be every bit as bonkers as Williamson.

    Not in the future. It happened on several occasions in the Early Church that a man was consecrated bishop who had not previously been a priest. Just look at St Ambrose. In fact, more properly speaking, the priest is the odd one out of the threefold ministry in that it’s the one which evolved later. In the very early Church there seems to have been only a twofold ministry of bishops and deacons, as I recall.

    ” That doesn’t make them legitimate in the excercise of episcopal (or priestly) ministry, however.”
    Indeed not. In fact, the entire SSPX is still suspended a divinis, and shouldn’t be administering any of the sacraments at all.

  48. FranzJosf says:

    If the SSPX bishops, as they well-know, claimed official ‘authority’ by virtue of their office, they would indeed be schismatic because they would be setting up a hierarchy parallel to that of the Church. There are not and do not. None of their bishops excercises authority within the Society by virtue of episcopal consecration. They function as auxiliary bishops, confirming and ordaining. For instance, Bishop Fellay governs because he has been elected as Superior not because he is a bishop; a priest could be elected superior next, according to their statutes.

    The SSPX are Catholic by virtue of baptism and belief and are in communion with the Roman Pontiff, but they do lack canonical status as an officially recognized society of apostolic life or some other structure. (It is important to remember that laymen are not ‘members’ of the SSPX, only people in some sort of clerical or religious state can be members of their institute.) Terms such as ‘partial communion’ are merely shorthand for that actual situtation.

    As to the ‘illicit’ priestly ordinations: Anyone who has read Dickens or Shakespeare or Balzac or Vergil, and understands them to be true revealers of human nature and its influence on the course of human events, knows what Rome knows, viz., that if they stopped ordaining it would have catastrophic implications for the future of the Society. It is my belief that our learned Holy Father knows this well and does not intend to hurt but to, eventually, give them a canonical status for their survival, even for their flourishing, which will be a great good for the whole Church. In the meantime, official statements according to the law of the Church must be made. Very human.

  49. MichaelJ says:

    Pachomius ,
    St. Ambrose does not fit the criteria of a “Lay Bishop”
    According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    The Saint finally acquiesced, received baptism at the hands of a Catholic bishop, and eight day later, 7 December 374, the day on which East and West annually honour his memory, after the necessary preliminary degrees was consecrated bishop.

    Perhaps, “necessary preliminary degrees ” does not include Ordination to the Priesthood, but he was not a layman who was simply granted the authority to act as a Bishop.

    As to yout latter points, I for one am glad that “the SSPX” does not take your advice and risk my salvation. The fact remains, whether you like it or not, that there are 1 million or so faithful Catholics who depend upon the SSPX for the Sacraments. This dependence may be due to ignorance (willful or otherwise) or malice, but it is there nonetheless.

    Frankly, I am a bit disturbed that you would so cavalierly dismiss so many souls.

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