QUAERITUR: SSPX and fulfilling Sunday Mass obligation

From a reader:

I have heard from a solid priest-friend that attending an SSPX Mass is perfectly permissible for a Catholic in good standing, and such a one can even there receive communion. Today I was to go to an EF Mass at a Catholic church, but due to unforeseen train delays this was not possible. I was with friends, as I am in a new environment, and they suggested we go to the SSPX church. Even though I felt uneasy, I went along, thinking that it was probably all right (indeed, they did not seem worried, even though I was). Does this suffice to fulfill my Sunday obligation?

The Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church says:

can. 1248 1. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.

This means that if you go to a chapel of the SSPX on the day of precept or the evening before and attend Holy Mass, you fulfill your obligation.  The SSPX celebrate in a Catholic Rite.

However, I do not recommend that people do this frequently, because frequency can undermine their unity with the Roman Pontiff.  The risk of this erosion of unity could in part depend on the manner of preaching and many other factors.

Also, I will not recommend reception of Holy Communion at an SSPX chapel at this time, unless the conditions of your life are such that it would be very difficult to get to another church or parish actually in union with the local diocese and Rome.  The obstacles must be serious, but they cannot be easily spelled out because the circumstances of people’s lives differ so much.

So, yes, you all fulfilled your Mass obligation.  However, I will not go so far as to say that attendance at a SSPX chapel is “perfectly” permissible.  It is permissible under certain circumstances.

If it were “perfectly” permissible, then the Holy Father would not be so concerned about bringing them back into clear unity with him and his successors.

Thank you for being concerned enough to ask.  This question comes up fairly often and it bears review.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Tina in Ashburn says:

    “The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day” does not apply to St Athanasius in the Arlington Diocese. The Arlington Diocese official policy is that attendance there does NOT satisfy the Sunday obligation. Although the pastor is very nice and the Tridentine Mass is said, this church is not under any bishop of Rome.

    Which Church Father said “where the bishop is, there is the Church”?

  2. cpaulitz says:

    Tina, St. Athanasius certainly does fulfill your obligation, and Loverde has no authority to trump Canon Law. [Right.]

  3. “Also, I will not recommend reception of Holy Communion at an SSPX chapel at this time, unless the conditions of your life are such that it would be very difficult to get to another church or parish actually in union with the local diocese and Rome.”

    Fr Z, this is actually something I’ve been wondering about and haven’t found a 100% yes or no answer on. Is their Holy Communion actually sacramentally valid (but illicit)? In otherwords, once the consecration occurs at their masses, has the altar bread transubstantiated into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord? Or is everyone there just consuming flat unleavened wheat breads?

  4. Jack Hughes says:

    I wish that the SSPX would hurry up and be regualirised so that I could go the Traditional Mass every day

  5. cpaulitz says:

    Young Canadian, even the orthodox have valid sacraments. If a balloon Mass still brings Jesus down how can you question the validity of the SSPX’s Eucharist?

  6. levi1991 says:

    Perhaps Father Pope Benedict XVI is concerned with them because he wants more good holy priests in the church

  7. Cause cpaulitz, I haven’t found a document or declaration of any sort from the Magisterium or a trustworthy second hand source (e.g. Fr. Z) that says without a doubt whether it’s ok for a Roman Catholic in full canonical communion like me to consume it. They have been clear on attending Masses (via Ecclesia) that the Mass is valid but they haven’t answered the Eucharist as a sacrament question outright.

  8. If I were in the situation described, I would respectfully decline the invitation if an ordinary form Mass were reasonably available, and I would tell my friends that I would meet them outside after their SSPX Mass. Only if no other ordinary or extraordinary form Mass were available would I consider the SSPX Mass, which being valid is certainly better than not attending Mass at all. I would even consider waiting until the end of the day for a Mass in communion with the Pope if I knew that I could reasonably expect to attend one. But as Fr. Z suggests, attending an SSPX Mass needs to be the exception rather than the rule. I definitely would not receive Holy Communion at an SSPX Mass.

  9. cpaulitz says:

    Young Canadian, let’s do some deduction.

    The Holy See, as far back as 10 years ago, wrote to the Hawaii Six that they can: 1) Attend SSPX Masses; and, 2) Give a donation at Mass

    Do you really need someone to tell you that you can also go to Communion? Do you think they’d send you to Mass thinking you wouldn’t receive Christ?

    A valid Mass means valid transubstantiation. You can’t seperate the two. Even sedevacanist Masses are valid.

  10. Fr. W says:

    A person is allowed to go to an Orthodox Church if he has no reasonable access to the sacraments in the Catholic Church. It seems that the SSPX is in a similar category. I don’t see that it is acceptable to go to a Church which is not in union with Rome, when a person has access to a Catholic parish. To choose an illicit Mass needlessly would involve sin, no? I grant that it might be painful to go to the tambourine Mass.

  11. cpaulitz says:

    Fr. W., no, Msgr. Perl also answered that question in 2003 that it is NOT a sin to go to an SSPX Mass. And it’s not just if there’s a “Catholic parish.” No one who attends an SSPX — or an FSSP, for that matter — parish is going to the local Novus Ordo anytime soon. And when there’s no FSSP, or diocean TLM, that’s when no one can be blamed for going to an SSPX chapel. [However… people should be careful that, by their more frequent participation at SSPX chapels, they are not weakening their unity with the Roman Pontiff.]

  12. Federico says:

    I respectfully disagree with Fr. Z.

    What is a “rite?” The problem is that there are two definitions. One definition (see e.g. c. 2) involves the definition of the liturgical actions. This definition is not satisfactory in this context. The Greek Orthodox, after all, share the Divine Liturgy with our Byzantine Catholic brothers, but this does not meet the definition of “rite” in parallel places in the code (see e.g. c. 844 and 923: members of Eastern Churches not in full communion).

    Another definition, that seems to hit the spot in this context, is found in the CCEO (parallel place). Canon 28 of CCEO states that “A rite is the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstances of history of a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested in each Church sui iuris.” This is straight out of Orientalium ecclesiarium. There, a rite is defined as “liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and spiritual heritage.”

    I’m willing to concede that the liturgy at an SSPX chapel is Catholic, and that we share a common theological and spiritual patrimony or heritage. However, the mere fact that SSPX priests are suspended a divinis means that they are not acting subject to a common ecclesiastical discipline and we have a break in the continuity of the “disciplinary patrimony.” The SSPX is not a Catholic rite.

    So, all things considered, I think that one does not fulfill one’s obligation by attending Mass at an SSPX chapel. If one has no choice, one is not held to the impossible and attending Mass at an SSPX chapel is a pious act (the Mass is valid). I would be cautious, however, and remember that such Masses are illicit and they are an act of disobedience to the Holy Father by the SSPX priests who are suspended a divinis.

    Finally, it’s worth repeating that the validity of confession and marriage in SSPX chapels is doubtful at best (there’s a lack of proper faculties).

    [Thanks for chiming in … courteously. Not everyone chimes in… courteously. Your position, however, could be more convincing if the Holy See agreed with you. The position of the Holy See has been, consistently, that people do in fact fulfill their obligation on days of precept when they attend Mass at chapels of the SSPX. This has been the Holy See’s position ever since I worked in the Pont. Comm. “Ecclesia Dei”. And thanks for the reminder to be cautious about SSPX confessions and marriages.]

  13. cpaulitz says:

    Federico, you are arguing not with Fr. Z, but with the Vatican, who has already ruled on this matter:


  14. Tim Ferguson says:

    with due respect to the honorable Bishop of Arlington, a bishop does not have the capacity for making a law that forbids what the universal legislator permits. Canon 381 tells us, “A diocesan bishop in the diocese entrusted to him has all ordinary, proper and immediate power which is required for the exercise of his pastoral funcion, except for cases which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme authority or to another ecclesiastical authority.

    Canon 1248, which provides that Catholics must assist at a Mass celebrated “anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day,” is universal legislation. Where there is doubt about a law, we turn to canon 17 on interpreting laws, and there, we find, “If the meaning remains doubtful and obscure, recourse must be made to parallel places, if there are such, to the purpose and circumstances of the law, and to the mind of the legislator.” Here, the legislator is Peter, therefore the mind of the legislator is the mind of Peter.

    The Pope expresses his intention, usually, through the appropriate dicasteries of the Roman Curia. From these dicasteries, we have heard that canon 1248 can be fulfilled (though not optimally) by hearing Holy Mass as celebrated by priests of the SSPX (which, indeed, are valid celebrations of the Holy Mass, and the Blessed Sacrament is truly confected). We should not receive the Eucharist at such Masses, unless there is serious danger, since the SSPX is in a state of impaired communion with the Holy Father. We should, of course, pray strongly for the restoration of full communion.

    A bishop may have an opinion contrary to that of the Roman Curia. He may express that opinion, and he may seek to have his opinion prevail. He may not, however, restrict the free exercise of the rights of the faithful that have been laid down by the Supreme Legislator. He certainly may not do so by issuing some “policy” (policies have no real standing in the law, and seem to be regularly used to muddy the issues – if a bishop wants to legislate, let him legislate; if he wants to recommend, let him recommend. What does he intend by introducing a “policy” or a “guideline”? It’s unclear.).

  15. Jucken says:

    Not really no. Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei stated in 1995:

    “The Masses they celebrate are also valid, but it is considered morally illicit for the faithful to participate in these Masses unless they are physically or morally impeded from participating in a Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest in good standing (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 844.2). The fact of not being able to assist at the celebration of the so-called “Tridentine” Mass is not considered a sufficient motive for attending such Masses.”

    Morally illicit equals mortal sin.

  16. In this particular case, however, the party had missed their train, and thus was presumably in something of a desperate case in regards to getting to any Sunday Mass whatsoever. That’s a lot different from just setting out with a mind to go to SSPX Masses.

  17. David2 says:

    Young Canadian RC Male, Jucken,

    Here’s a July 2008 letter from Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos at the PCED [significantly more recent than the response quoted by Juchen, and post-Summorum Pontificum, but before the lifting of the excommunications];


    Bottom line:

    1. SSPX Consecrations are valid.

    2. “PCED: “Catholics who frequent the chapels of the Society of St. Pius X do not incur any sin or canonical delict by doing so”

    3. Catholic laymen may attend Mass at a Society of St. Pius X chapel without committing any sin nor incurring any canonical penalty. However, the PCED guidance is that it “cannot recommend” attendance at the Society of St. Pius X chapels due to the danger of imbibing a “schismatic mentality.” In other words, someone might find some Society priests fomenting division from full communion with the Church, their local Ordinary and/or the Holy Father in their sermons. The PCED’s recommendation is not to attend their chapels habitually, but they acknowledge there is no sin committed nor canonical penalty incurred resulting from attending Mass at SSPX chapels solely out of the desire to worship according to the 1962 missal and in order to fulfill their Sunday obligation.

  18. Mitchell NY says:

    David2, Thank you for that. I was also under the impression that one could occasionally attend an SSPX Mass as long as the intention is not to do so in defiance of the Holy Father or the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass. Cardinal Hoyos’ letter appears to reflect the changes in discussion, attitude, and behavior towards the SSPX in general and would supercede the letter from 1995. If I am incorrect I stand to be corrected humbly. Over the years there has been a softening of positions on both sides to allow for full communion which one can pray is almost at hand. Paying mind and not making it habitual until full communion is achieved seems like following the letter and advisements of both the Cardinal and Holy See and would seem to allow for attendance without incurring sin or being morally illicit as was the opinion and position previously in 1995. Much has changed since then.

  19. There is not and has never been a problem with receiving Sacraments at the SSPX. Blog posts like these only cause problems for unity between the SSPX and Novus Ordo ordained priests. Regularization is not necessary. What is necessary is for new catechesis for NO priests. The SSPX have the Faith and yet people are thought by seemingly orthodox NO priests that they are disobedient to go the SSPX Sacraments regularly.

    As for me I’ll stay with the SSPX no matter what this blog, my bishop, or any Roman official says. The Faith is the Faith is the Faith. The Mass is the Mass and valid Communion is (you guessed it) valid Communion.

  20. SimonDodd says:

    Acatholiclife said…
    “Regularization [of SSPX] is not necessary. What is necessary is for new catechesis for NO priests. ”

    Ah, the Charlie Sheen defense: “I’m not the one with the problem, it’s everyone else who has the problem!”

    “There is not and has never been a problem with receiving Sacraments at the SSPX. Blog posts like these only cause problems for unity between the SSPX and Novus Ordo ordained priests. ”

    It appears to me that the major cause of problems for unity between the SSPX and the Catholic Church—not “Novus Ordo ordained priests,” that’s risible; you’re talking about the Catholic Church and should have the candor to say so—is the SSPX.

  21. Jucken says:

    As for me I’ll stay with the SSPX no matter what this blog, my bishop, or any Roman official says.

    I for one am going to stay with the Holy Church no matter what anybody says. If the Holy Father tells me to attend Holy Mass at a Fraternité chapel, I ask which. If he tells me to go to China, I ask when.

    Obedience is not a matter of convenience and full communion is not an invention of Vatican II. These things have been around since the beginning of the Church, and everyone has heard about them, except the Fraternité.

    Your message just goes to show how the Fraternité brainwashes the faithful.

  22. Jucken says:

    @David2: I stand corrected. Thank you very much.

  23. @Jucken, you say, “I for one am going to stay with the Holy Church no matter what anybody says. ” Yet this is the common rhetoric of those who claim allegiance to Rome. What if Rome is not Catholic? What if Rome has lost the Faith and the SSPX are the ones closest to the Holy Church? You certainly won’t ever admit it as a legitimate option but is legitimate for those who seek the Truth.

    Rome has lost the Faith.

  24. Fr. W says:

    When you leave Rome, you have become a Protestant.

  25. SimonDodd says:

    Fr. W says:
    “When you leave Rome, you have become a Protestant.”

    A—men! The sheer arrogance of SSPX, perfectly represented by “acatholiclife” is amazing!

    acatholiclife says:
    “What if Rome has lost the Faith and the SSPX are the ones closest to the Holy Church?”

    It hasn’t, it doesn’t, and they aren’t. This was essentially the position of the Orthodox in the great schism; even before there was a new testament, there was consensus that Rome was the measure of orthodoxy, as Cardinal Ratzinger noted on one of his books, and “Rome has erred!” thus became the rallying cry of every schism and heresy from Marcion to LeFebvre. Get behind Him or get behind Him!

  26. everett says:

    If you believe that “Rome” is no longer Catholic, then you are officially in schism with Rome (and so far as I know, also in schism with the official beliefs of SSPX, though there may be many who unofficially agree with you).

    At best, you are schismatic, at worst you are both schismatic and sedevacantist.

  27. Andrew says:

    I have a number of friends who attend SSPX chapels. Because one of them is quite old, it is possible a funeral might not be long in happening. Would it be OK to receive Holy Communion, at one of their chapels for a Requiem Mass, if it was not a situation where you attend there regularly? I don’t, as while I am sympathetic to the group’s concerns, I believe it is important to frequent the sacraments, in union with Holy Mother Church.

  28. Jucken says:

    Yet this is the common rhetoric of those who claim allegiance to Rome. What if Rome is not Catholic? What if Rome has lost the Faith and the SSPX are the ones closest to the Holy Church?

    Wow, this is wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin!

    Actually I’d better just let Pastor Aeternus and the Catechism of St. Pius X speak for themselves:

    “Therefore, if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the lord himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.” (Pastor Aeternus)

    “This See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Pastor Aeternus)

    “Those who do not acknowledge the Roman Pontiff as their Head do not belong to the Church of Jesus Christ.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)

    “He who refuses to accept the solemn definitions of the Pope, or who even doubts them, sins against faith; and should he remain obstinate in this unbelief, he would no longer be a Catholic, but a heretic.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)

    “Every Catholic must acknowledge the Pope as Father, Pastor, and Universal Teacher, and be united with him in mind and heart.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)

    “All the faithful, ecclesiastic and lay, should be united heart and soul with their Bishop, who is in favour and communion with the Apostolic See.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)

    There you go. The Fraternité should stop being lukewarm: you either believe His Holiness Benedict XVI is the Pope or you don’t. If you do, you follow him. If you don’t, you await the next conclave. Period. “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.”

    Rome has lost the Faith.

    Sola fide anyone?

  29. MJ says:

    acatholiclife – please be careful…you are treading upon sedevacantist ground…

  30. The letter from Cardinal Hoyos, as I recall from previously reading it (over and over again) basically said two things; 1) that there are circumstances under which one COULD fulfill one’s obligation by attending Mass at an SSPX chapel, and 2) having said that, they really don’t recommend it. Why would they not recommend it, you ask? Probably because one cannot use an unlawful means to accomplish a lawful end. If there are no alternatives, that is one thing, but if there are …

    Another issue remaining unresolved in this forum (and I would beg the good Father to give it his kind attention), is how the Byzantine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and/or St Basil the Great can be a “Catholic rite” when celebrated by a church in communion with Rome, but not one that is not (that is, an Orthodox church). It would appear from such analysis, that fullness of communion is not a requirement with the use of the Roman liturgy, but is required with the use of the Byzantine liturgy.

    And so, the plot thickens.

  31. Imrahil says:

    Dear @acatholiclife,

    please give a definition of the word “Rome”. We have a problem if fascicles of rhethoricism which, unfortunately, also were present in the sermons of Abp Lefebvre &al., are mistaken for scholastic sentences.

    And if you think that the present politics of the Roman Curia, perhaps including tendencies or also decisions of our Holy Father himself, serve objectively or even maliciously to lead away from the Faith, then please please say so. You’d be incorrect, but that is very much better than if you allow the interpretation “the Roman Catholic Church has lost the Faith” which would be not only incorrect, but also a contradiction in terms, and schismatic.

  32. Hidden One says:

    acatholiclife: Are you a theologian of sufficient calibre to act as a censor (of books)? If not, is it wise for you to act as a censor of the Church? Are you of a Protestant mentality in this regard? (I ask as an ex-Protestant.)

    Cave, frater.

  33. Earlier I mentioned a letter from Cardinal Hoyos, when I meant to attribute it to Msgr Perl. I regret the error (if it was an error). Whew!

  34. An interesting twist….

    Some time ago one of the great canonists and probably the leading Traditionalist of our time, Cardinal Burke, noted that mere attendance at a Mass said by a priest who is excommunicated is gravely sinful. It make me wonder how attendance at a Mass said by a suspended priest is then A-OK. I wonder what His Eminence would say?

    We should probably not forget that when an excommunicated or suspended priest says Mass, he commits an objective mortal sin. I think we should not take that lightly. Even if that priest escapes culpability, the objective mortal sin is still there. And it still does damage to the soul. Do we really want to be a part of that?

  35. Boniface says:

    If Pope Benedict XVI theoretically were to, on some day during his vacation, disguise himself as a layman, walk down the hill from Castel Gandolfo, and attend mass to see things “from the other side,” would he attend an SSPX chapel and receive communion, or would he rather attend an OF mass at a church in complete communion with the rest of the universal Church? I have no doubt that the latter would be the case.

  36. Imrahil says:

    With all due respect to Cardinal Burke, the problem with Masses at the SSPX is underminance of one’s union with the Holy Father, as @Fr Z rightly said. And while the SSPX sins*, objectively to the least, by not submitting themself to the Pope and the Church’s Law, an SSPX priest does for strange reasons not sin in saying Mass, itself, not even objectively, except of course he makes an intention to do this precisely as a sign of disobeying Rome. [*They might have been able to claim in their conscience “we wait till the matter is settled with the CDF, a procedure accepted by the Pope”. They are in any case obliged to answer, affirmatively, in the “reasonable time” Rome has given them.]

    And here’s why. (I assume that attendance is at least no schismatic act. If it were, things might very much look different. – I also assume attendance has not been forbidden by positive law.) St. Alphonsus teaches Theologia moralis VII Nr. 138f. that

    It is doubtful if it is allowed to the faithful to communicate in Divinis with tolerated excommunicates, and tolerated the SSPX are, without necessity? I said in Divinis, for in temporal things it is always allowed; likewise I said without necessity, for in case of necessity, or special utility i. e. if something else just as useful is not found [!] one can licitly demand the sacraments from an excommunicate. So also say […]. Quaeritur therefore if it is allowed to communicate in Divinis with a tolerated excommunicate without necessity or utility? This deny […] because, though the one communicating does not act against the precept of the censure, he still acts contrary to charity in inducing the excommunicate to an illicit act, except if (as they except) he were anyway prepared to administer the sacraments [!] […]. But more probably […] altogether affirm. The reason is that if an excommunicate is asked for and then communicates i. e. administers the sacraments, he does not sin himself[!], for if he sinned then still, the concession made to the faithful at the Council [of Constance] would evade as useless if communication with them were at least indirectly still forbidden. Hence […] this is indirectly an indult to the excommunicates themselves to communicate with the faithful. But […] there is required a just cause, which is less than even a utility according to what has been said.

    He goes on to say that this is also true for one suspended and tolerated.

  37. 1987 says:

    I spoke on this topic with a Vatican official whose name I would not like to reveal (but I am sure most of you know him). He told me it is perfectly licit to go to the FSSPX Masses, with no “but” or “although”, except for one – if your intention doing it is to manifest your disobedience to the Holy Father. He did not say a word about any problems with receiving Communion.

    And from now on my own thoughts. Is it really better to go to an “unordinary form” Mass where the celebrating priest disobeys all the Ecclesiastical laws by “performing” liturgy as he wants to, or rather to go to the FSSPX Mass, where the priest obeys to the Church by complying to all the prescribed liturgical rubrics (in the Extraordinary form)?

    Still, I have to admit, I have never been at FSSPX Mass. But I think it’s rather because of some kind of psychologic difficulty with this than any rational arguments.

  38. Centristian says:

    “I have heard from a solid priest-friend that attending an SSPX Mass is perfectly permissible for a Catholic in good standing, and such a one can even there receive communion.”

    Which is far more generous, incidentally, than what the SSPX will grant Catholic laity who express a desire to attend Mass in the Ordinary Form. The SSPX will not permit that faithful Catholics should ever attend Mass in the Ordinary Form, even if that is the only option available to them. From the SSPX point of view, attendance at Mass in the Ordinary Form not only does not fulfil one’s Sunday obligation, it actually violates it because attendance at the “Novus Ordo” Mass is considered an occasion of sin.

  39. Jucken says:

    @Centristian: They won’t let you attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form as well if celebrated by a priest in good standing (they call this the “motu mass”).

  40. MJ says:

    Jucken, just wanted to comment on the page you linked to — specifically this —

    “Here is a summary of the dangers to which the faithful might easily be exposed by imprudently attending the traditional Mass celebrated today under said circumstances:
    -the teaching of the Faith can still be defective,
    -the priest might be ill-prepared for the pre-conciliar liturgy,
    -the risk of a mixing of the new and old rite remains,
    -and there is the danger of a confusion which could be very misleading.”

    Argh….that makes me SO_MAD. What group(s) are they talking about, the FSSP? In my experience at least, people who label themselves SSPX have no_clue what the FSSP are really, truly like. I attend an FSSP parish, and all the women wear skirts and veils, the guys wear suits (and actually go to college), the choir sings polyphony, the confession lines are practically wrapped around the church every Sunday (the priests hear at least 5 hours of confessions every Sunday), everyone is nice and welcoming and they don’t constantly talk about Vatican II.

    Ok. Thus endeth my rant. Hope I didn’t open a can o’ worms. It just makes me mad that the SSPX can say stuff like that about groups who are actually celebrating the EF within the rules while their own situation is so precarious.

    Ok. Now I’m going to go make a cup of Mystic Monk.

  41. MJ says:

    One other comment…

    The last sentence of the page you provided, Jucken, says this:

    “In doubt, the faithful should ask their pastors for advice.”

    I just wanted to say that I find that sort of ironic. The SSPX do not have “parishes” therefore they cannot have “pastors”. Soooo…they’re directing laity to their diocesan or FSSP pastors for advice…but they advise not to attend the Masses offered by their diocesan or FSSP pastors. Oookaaay….

    Well, I’m off. Hello, Mystic Monk.

  42. Jucken says:

    @MJ: They’re basically talking about every priest not member/friend of the Fraternité (including Fr. Z for that matter), but mostly about the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and the Apostolic Administration of St. Jean-Marie Vianney.

    They act like they don’t have their own share of heresies – e.g. both Abp. Lefebvre and Bp. Fellay have asserted many times that they believe in the novel doctrine of “baptism by implicity”, i.e. a person can be in a state of grace even without knowing the Church, notwithstanding the Catechism of St. Pius X clearly stating that, in order to belong to the Church of Christ, you must at least desire (even if implicitly) to be baptised (but you can’t desire to be baptised if you don’t know the Church).

  43. danphunter1 says:

    “The SSPX will not permit that faithful Catholics should ever attend Mass in the Ordinary Form, even if that is the only option available to them. From the SSPX point of view, attendance at Mass in the Ordinary Form not only does not fulfil one’s Sunday obligation”

    This apparently differs from SSPX priest to priest.
    I have told the priest at the SSPX that I go to that I go to the NO to fulfill my obligation on occasion and he just nodded and said nothing.
    He has never told the faithful from the pulpit to not assist at the NO and if he thought it was a sin he would most likely be obliged to tell me and or not give me Holy Communion, both of which things he has never done.
    The previous priest at this chapel was of the same mindset as him.

  44. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Jucken,

    for an implicit desire of Baptism, there is no need to know what Baptism is; it is even possible in theory (I’ll say nothing either hopeful or concerned as to the probability) to implicitly desire Baptism while explicitly reject Baptism-as-appearing.

  45. Jucken says:

    @Imrahil: I think there is need to know what Baptism is, but that’s not the point. The point is you need to know the Church, because you can’t desire to belong to something if you don’t know that it exists.

    With ‘baptism by implicity’, there can be no meaningful argument against ecumenism or religious freedom. After all, if the Holy Ghost dwells within the souls of many pagans, infidels, heretics, Jews, Muslims, even atheists and agnostics who are secretly in the state of grace and secret members of the Church, why should we refuse to pray with them?

  46. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Wowee, what a discussion. This is why I love Fr Z and his blog – Interesting comments and wonderful sources!

    No bishop can trump Canon Law. Of course.
    Not being the Magisterium, neither of us have the competency to define when that is. We might ask, we might suspect, but we can not state the case definitively.

    Let’s not misinterpret the statement “celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite”. Doesn’t the term “Catholic” presuppose obedience to a bishop of Rome?

    The allowances for SSPX, whatever they actually are, may not apply to all other cases, as Rome is straining not to scare off the large number of SSPX followers. One-off chapels, breakaways, schismatics, or any group calling themselves Catholic aren’t necessarily Catholic.

    I admit confusion here as I have the understanding that one must be attached to a bishop to be part of the visible Roman Catholic Church.

    RE: St Athansius in Arlington.
    Just to clarify, the lack of satisfying Sunday obligation dates back to the previous good Bishop Keating [R.I.P.]. Probably Bp Loverde is merely extending the standing prohibition, considered ‘breakaway’ by the Diocese since the 70s. [How cool would it be if this chapel would reconcile!] Do you suppose any attendees have actually called the Arlington Chancery for clarification on the St Athanasius standing and faculties? I would not counsel anyone to ignore the teaching of the local bishop on such a long-standing, deadly serious matter.

  47. Centristian says:


    “This apparently differs from SSPX priest to priest.”

    Perhaps, but this is what actually appears on the SSPX’s US website as of this moment:

    “If the Novus Ordo Missae is not truly Catholic, then it cannot oblige for one’s Sunday obligation. Many Catholics who do assist at it are unaware of its all pervasive degree of serious innovation and are exempt from guilt. However, any Catholic who is aware of its harm, does not have the right to participate. He could only then assist at it by a mere physical presence without positively taking part in it, and then and for major family reasons (weddings, funerals, etc).”


  48. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I have been corrected!! I was misinformed by third-hand information. We stopped attending St Athanasius years ago when Bishop Keating declared the St Athanasius Mass did not satisfy the Sunday obligation back in the 70s. I was recently told that this was still the case.

    There are parallels between the St A’s story and the SSPX.

    I finally got hold of the Director of Sacred Liturgy for the Arlington Diocese and spoke with Father D directly.
    -Fr D says that attending a valid, even though illicit, Catholic Mass anywhere can satisfy the Sunday obligation, such as with the SSPX. Just as Fr Z says, don’t make a habit of it, as that could become an occasion of sin to disobedience to the Pope, or the Church’s teachings. Generally, one might do this deep in Russia where you can’t get to a uniate Mass. This is acceptable in emergencies. If it is a habit, then consider confession.

    -RE: St Athanasius is considered “independent and breakaway”, and not recognized by the Arlington Diocese. The priest there is from the Baltimore Diocese, and is assumed to have lost his faculties. Although a Mass there can satisfy the Sunday obligation, Fr D repeatedly said that it is not a good idea to go there.

    -If one attends St A’s regularly, do you have to go to confession before receiving the Sacraments from a regular parish? To this, Father said [paraphrased] if you are a long-standing regular attendee at such a parish, you probably should go to confession. But it depends on your intentions, if you didn’t know any better, you are not culpable. However if you are a regular member because of discrepancies with beliefs in Catholic teaching, practice, or credence in the Pope’s authority or teaching, go to confession. [I assume that intentions concerning the SSPX also applies].

    I did not get a clear answer on ‘does “Catholic” mean being attached to a bishop?’, or how that works.

  49. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Jucken,

    this is an argument from undesirable outcome (in missionary activity) which I will not accept. And while with explicit desire it is different, it is sufficient for implicit desire that if we would know that there was a Church and that it is the means of salvation, we would want to belong to it. And if the Holy Ghost dwells in a heck lot of atheists, agnostics, infidels, pagans, Muslims, Jews and separated-brethren, some of whom I have the honor of befriending, and the may be saved in the end, I’d be confoundedly rejoicing, to be sure.

    That there can’t be no meaningful argument against ecumenism is untrue. Or is it not meaningful to you that Catholic Christianity is right, while what is not Catholic Christianity is at the very least in this respect, but regrettable also in so many others, wrong? As a matter of fact, the prospect of a missionary who depends on success for the eternal survival of his hearers would rather hold me back in shudder from doing such. Plus, if a missionary has nothing else to tell that “if you don’t follow me you go to hell”, then I’d think him (without disregard of his good will) a hell of a missionary, if dear @Fr. Z allow the word for the sake of the pun. If, as it appears to have taken place, the simple statement that an infidel may be saved puts missionary activity into question, something has obviously gone wrong.

    However, this is for sure something to be expounded upon. I consider it clear that among other things, from becoming Christian or Catholic there follows a better chance of salvation.

  50. Imrahil says:

    If you allow me to speculate on probabilites I know nothing of: I consider that the main problem for the infidels is not their sin of being infidels, but their other sins, among which subjective sins, for which they lack medicine. I mean they do not entirely lack medicine, there is such a thing as contrition, but they have never been preached that God forgives to a contrite heart.

  51. Jucken says:

    The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life […]” (Cantate Domino, Council of Florence)

    There you have it, the bull Cantate Domino explicitly and infallibly states that the Holy Spirit definitely does not dwell within pagans, Jews and heretics. That means that not even one of them is secretly a member of the Church.

  52. “That means that not even one of them is secretly a member of the Church.”

    To say that one is “outside the Catholic Church” can and does allow for what Pius XII called “invincible ignorance.” A man who has never heard the Gospel, living in a part of the world that the Catholic faith has never reached, may spend his life living in the pursuit of truth and virtue, and in death, be entrusted to the judgment and mercy of God. Only a cruel and perverse god would condemn a man on account of that for which the man cannot be at fault.

    Many card-carrying Catholics may not fare so well, especially if they die in a state of mortal sin, whereby they are as “outside the Church” as any committed pagan who has heard the Gospel and rejected it.

    All this can be reconciled with the teaching of the Council of Florence.

  53. Hah, silly me, it wasn’t Pius XII but “Pio Nino” himself, Pius IX. [If “Pio Nono” had been a ventriloguist, I suppose “Pio Nino” could have been his side-kick.] From his 1863 encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore (On Promotion Of False Doctrines):

    “There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all …”

  54. ikseret says:

    Fr. Z,
    What does it mean that the SSPX priests are suspended “a divinis?”
    Can we go to confession to them?
    Can we be married by them?
    One friend says no and that it would be invalid. Another says there is an emergency situation that allows it.
    And is there a difference between “formal” and “material” schism that might apply to the SSPX?
    Thank you.

    [1. They don’t have permission from the Church to function as priests.
    2. No, not under normal circumstances. Only in danger of death.
    3. No, they are not proper witnesses of marriages, which is required for the proper form of marriage.
    4. I don’t know. Perhaps. That is above my pay grade.]

  55. Jucken says:

    How can that be reconciled with Pope Innocent XI’s Errores doctrinae moralis laxioris, which anathematized the following assertion: “A faith indicated from the testimony of creation, or from a similar motive, suffices for justification.“?

  56. dspecht says:

    I am wonderning that some persons here still state that the SSPX were not in unity with the Church, Rome or the Pope.

    But there is a differnce between not having a canonical structure and beeing suspended a divinis and on the other hand not beeing in union with the Pope and the Church.

    The SSPX is in union with the Pope and the Church – and btw., it is the Vatican himselfe that says so!

    Another question is their canonical standing and the legitimacy of their services.

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