A note about the SSPX and their status in the Church (or not!)

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I have been getting email from fans of the SSPX who object to my saying that the SSPX needs to be reconciled with the Roman Pontiff.  They object to my claim that they do not have a clear status in the Church, that their unity with the Roman Pontiff needs to be clarified.

I respond with what Benedict XVI wrote in July 2009 in Ecclesiae Unitatem (my emphases and comments):

4. In the same spirit, and with the same commitment to favouring the repair of all fractures and divisions within the Church, and to healing a wound that is ever more painfully felt within the ecclesiastical structure, [They are, in the Pope’s mind, not clearly in union.] I decided to remit the excommunication of the four bishops illicitly ordained by Msgr. Lefebvre. In making that decision my intention was to remove an impediment that could hinder the opening of a door to dialogue and thus invite the four bishops and the Society of Saint Pius X to rediscover the path to full communion with the Church. [Again, they are, in the Pope’s mind, not clearly in union.] As I explained in my Letter to Catholic bishops of 10 March this year, the remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline, to free individuals from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. [That means that they are free to go to confession.] However it is clear that the doctrinal questions remain, and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

I deeply desire and pray that the priests and bishops of the SSPX will be reconciled with the Roman Pontiff and, in so doing, obtain a clear canonical status and be able legitimately to exercise ministry within the Church.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Thank you Father Z. If I’m reading the vocabulary correctly and using it correctly then this tells me their masses and sacraments are valid but remain illicit (?). Which would make it a serious matter for me to discern association with the SSPX. However the SSPX has a different view on their licitness; I owe the “full submission of my will and intellect [thats the part that catches me up- intellect) to the Pope and Official Magisteruim. Here comes the quandary … If the SSPX Bishops had always given that same assent would the fullness of the faith be returning? Would the smoke of Satan be dissipating? I have read much SSPX material, use their books to teach the faith, pray for them. I’ve been to 1 Mass and felt it was not where I should go again. I almost sent my son on a visit to their seminary; I cancelled because if the questions that surround them. But I continue to cheer for them in my heart. I continue to feel concerned for the future for Carholic souls if their reunion with Rome was realized with their acquiescence on any of their positions. I’m concerned ABp Muller seems to think it is a question only of language in the Mass.
    In obedience; these are my circles. I have repeatedly come very close to such confusion that I’m not sure where is the Church. Then I force myself by will to quiet my mind and go to the Diocescan TLM and leave the rest for greater minds. But it isn’t easy.

  2. Father,

    Can the phrase “not in full communion” equate to “partial communion”? While I can understand that there is regularization to take place, and canonical status to be resolved — how can one be in a “between state” of in the Church, and outside the Church? Are they partial Catholics?

  3. mamajen says:

    Just because we like what they do doesn’t make it right. I think it’s very dangerous for Catholics to be in the mindset that splitting from Rome is okay. I’ll leave it at that. I do think that SSPX and its supporters have the best of intentions, though, and I’m optimistic that this will be resolved.

  4. AnnAsher says:

    I want add that this blog and one old friend and priest who shows up once a year and celebrated the NO in such love reverence and grace – have been my saving grace.

  5. HighMass says:

    We pray for complete communion with The Holy Father

  6. AnnAsher says:

    @ Timothy Ephesus – its that canonical vocabulary again! ;)

  7. ceolfrid says:

    While I understand all the arguments for and against the SSPX’s current status, and I admit that the Pope is the final authority on what that status is as it concerns the discipline of the Church, I have trouble understanding why the SSPX is treated with such contempt while, say, the Jesuits are considered to be completely orthodox in their Catholicism.

  8. ray from mn says:

    It seems to me that what we have here is a bunch of protestants whose personal opinions are more important than the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. If and when a settlement is reached, many of them will continue to be very unhappy because they love the status of being rebels and being, in their own heads, the sole arbiters as to what Jesus really intended.

    No doubt if that settlement is reached, some parishes may refuse to accept it.

  9. ceolfrid says:

    Hello ray from mn,

    Would those teachings of the Catholic Church include, for instance, denying the real transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ (as per Abp. Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in his book “Die Messe – Quelle christlichen Lebens” [The Mass – Source of Christian life])?

  10. Finarfin says:

    Thank you for posting this Fr. Z! I was unaware of this Apostolic Letter, and I’m glad to hear a pretty clear stance on the status of the SSPX from a (very) authoritative source.

  11. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I wish the Holy Father would clarify for us exactly what doctrinal positions taken by the SSPX are heterodox enough to keep them out of the canonical structures of the Church.

    I think we can all take a guess that it is the same position that led the SSPX to criticize the Assisi hootenannies and similar shenanigans. As Joseph Ratzinger, the pope was free to question those events and even could criticize certain documents of Vatican II as using “Pelagian” language. But now it seems that such opinions coming from the SSPX are so much more serious than any deviations from, say, the Jesuits or Maryknoll or the Paulists, that the SSPX are denied an official ministry in the Church and the others are permitted free reign.

    In the face of this depressing situation, I can only pray.

  12. LouiseA says:

    In as much as the Holy Father is not in full communion with the Catholic Church’s Tradition, then to that extent no faithful Catholic can follow him. The Catholic Church does not teach that the Pope cannot err. If refusing to follow the Pope into error means that a Catholic loses visible union with the Pope, well, that simply can’t be helped. The fault lies not with the faithful Catholic, but with the Pope.

  13. LadyMarchmain says:

    Thank you, Father Z. for this post and your earlier post clarifying the murkiness of Sunday obligation and reception of the eucharist in an SSPX Chapel. The Church, like Our Lord on the road to Calvary, is almost unrecognizable, so lacerated, bruised and wounded has she been in the past 50 years. Had it not been for the SSPX, the traditional form of the Catholic faith in its devotional and liturgical expression might have vanished completely. Even FSSP was established by SSPX priests who accepted the 1988 protocol. It truly is not just a matter of the language of the liturgy that has been preserved, but of an entire devotional life of faith and consecration; a sense of the sacred and the holy. We need that desperately. Both Rome and the SSPX recognize this and it is a leading motivation behind the talks.

    The irregularity of the SSPX situation as I understand it, is that they do not have faculties granted by the local bishops. [Or another competent authority.] I am not an expert at all in these matters but from everything I have read on this blog and elsewhere (rorate caeli, etc.) it seems that lack of faculties in no way invalidates their orders or renders them “quasi-Catholic”. The phrase about “full communion” seems misleading, when what is really meant is a “regularized canonical situation”. The SSPX have not introduced any theological novelties, or put any bizarre spins on Church doctrine, but have only sought to adhere to the faith as taught through the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church for two centuries. I find it very hard to understand why they are punished and others holding openly heretical doctrines and lacking in charity are rewarded and elevated within the church structure. Many souls are lost over this scandal.

    We must pray, pray, pray without ceasing.

  14. Peter Rother says:

    “. . . its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.” Perhaps some day, but not now. Got it. Thanks.

  15. Joseph-Mary says:

    LouiseA wrote the SSPX viewpoint which is one shared by the sspxers I know. They hate the ‘conciliar church’ and some call the Vicar of Christ a heretic. They also call many others heretics and define themselves as the true church, faithful to tradition. They do not seem to think that schism is a sin and most of the ones I know will remain outside the Roman Catholic church in their own delusions of righteousness.

    I do wish for reconciliation but there are hard hard hearts on both sides.

  16. mamajen says:


    “In as much as the Holy Father is not in full communion with the Catholic Church’s Tradition, then to that extent no faithful Catholic can follow him. The Catholic Church does not teach that the Pope cannot err. If refusing to follow the Pope into error means that a Catholic loses visible union with the Pope, well, that simply can’t be helped. The fault lies not with the faithful Catholic, but with the Pope.”

    I can’t imagine ever feeling confident enough to make those kinds of determinations. Egads. The Church is almost 2,000 years old, has evolved during that time, and will continue to. We can’t cherry-pick our favorite “Tradition” and decide the Pope is wrong if he isn’t in lockstep.

  17. Tom Piatak says:

    Unfortunately, the citation to Benedict XVI will not convince any of the adherents of the SSPX, because, in practice, the SSPX does not recognize the authority of any of the post-conciliar Popes, just as they do not recognize the authority of any of the bishops appointed by the Pope. The SSPX does what it wants to do, and it does not answer to the Pope, much less to any of the bishops appointed by him.

    This, of course, is what distinguishes the situation of the SSPX from the dissidents on the left. If the Pope removes a bishop from office, for example, that judgment is accepted as binding, and the see is vacant until the Pope appoints a new bishop. That is exactly what happened in the diocese of Toowoomba in Australia. Does anyone think the SSPX would obey an order from the Pope removing Richard Williamson from office?

  18. thefeds says:

    “Where Peter is, there is the Church!”

  19. LouiseA says:

    It is not self-confident feelings or anything of the sort. It is simply a confident Faith and trust in Catholic Tradition. By Catholic Tradition, I am not referring to Catholic traditions. Catholic Tradition is not anything I came up with, or that I can change, or that I can pick and choose. In fact, the Pope himself can’t change it.

  20. FrJLP says:

    @LouiseA: Were your assertion true…the Church ceases to exist and the whole matter of Christ and Christianity is but a sham. Do you not even trust the Lord’s promise to Peter in Matthew 16??? And where you not aware that Peter’s mantle has never rested upon your shoulders nor that of Lefebvre, Fellay, Tissier de Mallerais, Williamson, and de Gallareta??? Does your sense of Tradition end JUST BEFORE the publication of Pastor Aeternus (18 July 1870)??? Enough is enough! Really, people! Please, God…may this thing end in unity. And, if not…at least in clarity!

    @thefeds: Amen! Te es Petrus; tecum sto!

  21. FrJLP says:

    *Tu es Petrus; tecum sto!

  22. BaedaBenedictus: “I wish the Holy Father would clarify for us exactly what doctrinal positions taken by the SSPX are heterodox enough to keep them out of the canonical structures of the Church. “

    Perhaps the situation is that the doctrinal positions of the SSPX are all orthodox, but nevertheless they have not yet submitted to the authority of the Pope in canonical matters. (Perhaps because they fear being subject to an institutional structure that they regard as tolerant of heterodoxy.)

    Whereas various religious orders appear to tolerate widespread heterodoxy among their members, but have not formally rejected the authority of the Pope (even if they ignore it in practice).

  23. LouiseA says:

    FrJLP, So the Pope can never err?! That is a novel teaching!

  24. BaedaBenedictus says:


    Yet, as the Pope writes:

    “However it is clear that the doctrinal questions remain, and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church”

    Also consider that the CDF is insisting on their signing of a “Doctrinal Preamble” as a necessary condition for being allowed back.

  25. dspecht says:

    FrJLP, mamajen et al.:

    No, even if the Pope errs and if his teaching is/were not sound, the Church would not have ceased to exist.

    And Mt 16, 18 etc. do not apply here: because we are not speaking of infallibility.

    Of course, in his infallible assertions the Pope can not err and the Church would cease to exist if he would. But we are dealing not with infallible pronouncements. So here there is a real possibility of error or at least temerarious teachings. As well at Vat. II.

    NB. Many of us do not seem to grasp the differences between a) the solemn, extraordinary mag. [that is infallible], b) the ordinary universal mag. [that is infallible] and c) the authentic (or not universal ordinary mag.) [that is notinfallible!].

    Even if the last deserves “theologiacal submission of intellect and will” there can be situations were this is justly withhold, because error is not excluded automatically here. (cf. Ott, manual of dogamitcs, introduction).

    So the Catholic faith does not teach such an absolute, unconditioned trust in the persons that hold Church-offices and duty to obey them in things that are not infallible. Otherwise all the theologians and Catholics would have followed Pope Leo XXII in his heresy and not have rejected it. But they knew that it is compatible with Chruch-doctrine that in non-infallible pronouncements bishops and even Popes can err and derivate from faith.
    (And doctors or theologians as Bellarmin or Suarez go as far as that they say: it were possible that a Pope would try to destroy the Church and rule in a really tyrannical way, harmfull to the faith and the faithful…)

    So non-sequiturs.

  26. LadyMarchmain says:

    Henry Edwards, Well said!

  27. LadyMarchmain says:

    Henry Edwards, I would also add, not only “tolerant of heterodoxy” but intolerant in many places of tradition.

  28. FrJLP says:

    @dspecht and LouiseA: Of course the Pope can err in matters not connected with infallibility. But, does not Pastor Aeternus use Matt. 16:16ff to not JUST speak of papal infallibility but about his “universal, ordinary jurisdiction”. The Supreme Lawgiver and Chief Shepherd and the one in whom plenary jurisdiction has been entrusted has not given jurisdiction or delegation for the SSPX to carry out sacramental ministry in the Church. Yet, they persist! Not only to they make claims of, in “good conscience”, not following the ordinary magisterium of post-conciliar pontiffs, but also of not submitting to his rightful jurisdiction! If I stretch my mind, I can understand the first…but the second really baffles me! “Where there is Peter, there is the Church.”

  29. Allan S. says:

    I share the Society’s concern that, while orthodox faithful Catholics are constantly singled out and punished as “not in full communion”, open heretics continue to enjoy “full communion” and all the faculties and trappings of ecclesiastical office. It is this inconsistency in application of the “stick” that leads well-intentioned Catholics into the Society’s fold, and causes Rome’s credibility in such matters to be seriously undermined in the eyes of the faithful. This double standard is – and ought to be – infuriating!!!

    Pots & kettles, etc.

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  31. Tom Piatak says:

    Allan S.,

    With respect, there is no double standard. If any leftist group began consecrating bishops without approval of the Holy See, canonical penalties would follow. Just today, the Holy See announced the imposition of canonical penalties on a bishop ordained in China without the approval of the Pope. Women who claim to be ordained as Catholic priests are also routinely excommunicated.

  32. anilwang says:

    @Timothy Ephesus
    Yes. We’re dealing with relationships, so yes it is possible to have varying degrees of communion. This continues in the life to come with people in purgatory who are temporarily in less communion than those in heaven, and even in heaven itself with some saints being closer to God than others.

    That being said, regardless of the state of individual SSPX members, Catholics believe in the Visible Church, so the SSPX as an ecclesial structure must either be in or out of the Visible Church.

    Are they? Is the SSPX inside the Visible Church or outside? Can priests in the SSPX be selected as cardinals and attend ecumenical councils? Do SSPX priests and bishops work with the local bishop and do SSPX apostolates appear on the bulletines of Catholic Churches? Can you tell your archbishop and local Catholic school that you will fulfill your sunday obligations, have your wedding and funeral and your children’s baptism, first communion, and confirmation at an SSPX parish? I’m willing to bet that for most diocese, the answer to all these questions is no. So it’s pretty clear that the SSPX is not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

  33. FrJLP says:

    @Tom Piatak: Thank you for a reasoned response. You are correct. It isn’t just about disagreements with dogma…

  34. Cavaliere says:

    @Tom P.
    This, of course, is what distinguishes the situation of the SSPX from the dissidents on the left. If the Pope removes a bishop from office, for example, that judgment is accepted as binding, and the see is vacant until the Pope appoints a new bishop. That is exactly what happened in the diocese of Toowoomba in Australia. Does anyone think the SSPX would obey an order from the Pope removing Richard Williamson from office?

    Absolutely not. Thanks Tom, that is a perfect example of how I have tried to explain the situation.

  35. petrus69 says:

    Whether the SSPX is inside or outside the church, they must be doing something right. Their seminaries are full and are ordaining more men to the priesthood than Rome, [Not sure about that.] their churches are full [Are they?] and have ultimate [?] respect for the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. None of this “willy nilly” liturgies ie. beach masses, clown masses, puppet masses, Easter bunny masses, women dancing in the sanctuaries, priest riding a tractor into the church, the list goes on. [On the other hand, the entire Mass could be said to be a liturgical abuse, because they have no permission from the Church to say Mass.] They maybe serious minded people but thats because of years of being very defensive towards the faith. The battle continues. “By the fruits of their labor, you will know them”
    And dare I mention that last year Rome intervene between SSPX and the German Bishop who is now the Prefect of CDF because the seminary was planning ordinations for their canidates and the bishop didn’t like it. Rome asked if the ordinations can take place somewhere else so as to pacify the German Bishop and the;y complied. I heard of no squabbles this year. I wonder why???? [Probably because of the change in Bp. Fellay’s attitude and what he has been doing.]

  36. Allan S. says:

    Tom wrote:

    If any leftist group began consecrating bishops without approval of the Holy See…

    That would be redundant. Bad example.

  37. Allan S. says:

    Cavaliere asked:

    Does anyone think the SSPX would obey an order from the Pope removing Richard Williamson from office?

    What office would that be? He does not have a see, titular, emiritis or otherwise. But hey, by all means, strip him of his “office” – and leave +Weakland* etc. as Bishops on the Church’s payroll. That certainly sends a message all right. If Rome really wants to know why faithful attend SSPX masses, it just needs to find a mirror.

    *Yes, My Lord Bishop Weakland, Bishop Emiritis of Milwaukee, is still a Bishop living on the Diocesian payroll. See? Unlike +Williamson, he has a see.

  38. Tom Piatak says:

    Allan S.,

    The situations are precisely analogous. The SSPX, as a practical matter, rejects the authority of the post-conciliar Popes to teach, but it also completely rejects the authority of the Pope to govern the Church. It can be argued that, as a practical matter, many leftists reject the authority of the Pope to teach, but they at least accept, however grudgingly, his authority to appoint bishops and govern the Church. The leftists who have followed the SSPX’s example and tried to set up their own church independent of Rome, such as the women priests Fr. Zuhlsdorf writes about, are swiftly excommunicated.

  39. St. Rafael says:

    With respect, there is no double standard. If any leftist group began consecrating bishops without approval of the Holy See, canonical penalties would follow.

    The problem is that the current penalty of excommunication is excessive, unfair, and cruel. Excommunication for consecrating bishops without approval is a very recent law and chage. Under the 1917 code of Canon law, a bishop was suspended for consecrating without approval, not excommunicated. It is only with the new 1983 code, that the penalty was changed from suspension to excommunication. Excommunication is an excessive penalty that does not take into account states of emergencies or other urgent situations.

    Fr. Malachi Martin once said that consecrating bishops without aprroval was the only time Rome would bring the hammer down and excommunicate. The only time excomunication would be used. You can be a heretic, apostate, and deny any dogma; yet that does not touch their power. Consecrating a bishop without their approval, touches their power. Insecurity is the hallmark of the Modernist.

    You can be a cleric who denies the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, or a Homosexual priest raping children for years and nothing happens, but consecrate a bishop without approval, and they swiftly excommunicate you.

  40. Supertradmum says:

    The SSPX removed themselves from the Church when Archbishop Lefebvre disobeyed the Pope and ordained bishops. It is that simple. That the excommunications existed and were lifted is a fact. The intentions of the persons involved does not matter in obedience to Rome. Intentions rarely matter in disobedience.

    One is either obedient or disobedient. I might agree 100% with the problems which the SSPX have defined in the Church. I might agree 100% that the Church has overlooked liberality and modernism too long. But, I would not leave to join a group which has been declared schismatic.

    To love the Church is sometimes to love the Whore of Babylon–not at Christ intended, but as humans create through sin and corruption. Only the Protestants believe in a Church so pure that only one small group can belong to it–remember Roger Williams sent in disgrace by his community to Rhode Island. He thought that the only person holy enough to pray with him was his wife. He was excommunicated. He ended up very far away from Christianity, as an Unitarian. Not all in the Church are saints.

    Perfection only exists on the other side of the grave, but the Church has never erred in doctrine or dogma. That is the infallibility doctrine. The Church is the one, true, holy and apostolic Church, created by Christ and shepherded by Peter and his successors. Any other group claiming such, when separated from Rome, is self-deceived. We have had excellent, though not perfect, Popes. What would some of our commentators say if they lived in the time of the Avignon Papacy?

    What if Lefebvre had been patient? What if he had not ordained those bishops? We would have had a renewal in the Church of the TLM years ago, and good leaders teaching in the seminaries.
    We would have had years of growth and less liberals…I believe this. God always blesses obedience.

  41. Allan S. says:

    Folks, the SSPX is nothing more than a reaction to an intolerable situation. Cracking down on faithful who want to live according to the fullness of Catholic tradition and history – and not just this church some priests think was newly invented in the sixties – really shouldn’t be the most pressing priority for Holy Mother Church now, don’t ya think? I mean really now – the SSPX is not your biggest problem here. They’re just keeping the faith warm and safe for when you’re ready to take it back. Just say thanks, OK?

    A while ago I went to my parish priest and asked to be invested with the brown scapular. Father refused, saying that “prostitutes use those”. So I asked another priest – who also refused to enrol me. So, I dropped by the SSPX chapel and guess what? I was enrolled. I also got my Rosary and St. Benedict medals blessed too. And I never left. Now tell me…which experience was more authentically Catholic? Exactly…a reaction to an intolerable situation.

  42. St. Rafael says:

    The term “full communion” is Modernist terminology. It was part of the jargon, terminology, language, and theology invented in the 40’s and 50’s by progressive theologians and clerics of the Nouvelle Théologie or New Theology movement of the mid 20th century. I think I am safe in pinning the blame of “full communion” and “partial communion” on Karl Rahner. The fault is the whole wretched theology of Karl Rahner, who was one of the fathers of Vatican II, and his followers were legion reaching all levels of the Church and even the curia.

    Traditionally, you were Catholic or not Catholic. Inside the Church, or outside the Church. In schism and a schismatic, or in no state of schism. Then came the progressive theology of the “anonymous Christian”, churches and individuals being in full or partial communion with the Catholic Church. There is no such thing as partial communion. As if a woman could be partially pregnant. There is no partial pregnancy, or partial Catholic. Either you are pregant or not pregnant. Catholic or not a Catholic.

  43. albizzi says:

    In a speech he gave in October 2011, while quoting the Second Vatican Council’s document on ecumenism, Mgr Mueller said that “the Catholic Magisterium is far from denying an ecclesial character or an ecclesial existence to ‘the separated Churches and ecclesial Communities of the West'”

    The question is: As head of the CDF, will Mgr Mueller apply his quote to the SSPX in the pending negotiations with the Vatican?

  44. anilwang says:

    Supertradmum asked “What if Lefebvre had been patient? What if he had not ordained those bishops?”

    My understanding is that Lefebvre was eventually given permission for one bishop to be ordained, not three, and permission was given to alleviate Lefebvre’s fear that if he died the SSPX would die also. Had Lefebvre been patient, the SSPX would still be in the Church as you pointed out (and strengthened by Pope Benedict XVI), but there is another side effect, all the sedavecantist splinter groups that came out of the SSPX would never have been formed. All those splinter groups might have been forced to fight to keep TLM within the Church rather than letting “polka clown mass” masses to be common in some diocese.

  45. FrJLP says:

    @St. Rafael: Well, then. If you want it so black and white…. A body that illicitly consecrates four bishops without papal mandate (regardless of now “new” that “rule” is), who celebrates the sacraments without faculties to do so, who witnesses marriages without delegations, and who withhold themselves from juridic union with the Successor of St. Peter….it seems clear, in your scenario, what body is NOT Catholic.

    Thank God that things aren’t black and white, and that we can acknowledges a partial communion of the SSPX with the Catholic Church and we can work and deliberate towards a full juridic, canonical solution!

  46. St. Rafael says:

    The sedevacantist splinter groups had already formed before the ’88 consecrations. The SSPX split in ’83 over sedevacantism.

    Sedevacantism was getting started in the ’70s. Eventually it grew until the famous “the nine” case of ’83. Nine SSPX priests including rector of the US seminary bolted over that issue and eventually started the SSPV. The SSPV split amonng themselves with some of the original SSPVpriests being consecrated through the Thuc line or by retired Novus Ordo diocene bishops.

    Sedevacantism itself is a dangerous and growing movement that is directly the fault of the negligence of the hierarchy in running the Church. They have done nothing to remedy the situation and the ongoing apostasy in Modernism rampant in the entire Church is not helping in bringing an end to the error of Sedevacantism.

  47. Supertradmum says:

    St. Rafael, you said,” Sedevacantism itself is a dangerous and growing movement that is directly the fault of the negligence of the hierarchy in running the Church.”

    I am responsible for my own sin, not the Vatican.

  48. BaedaBenedictus says:

    “The leftists who have followed the SSPX’s example and tried to set up their own church independent of Rome”

    The SSPX have never done this. Recall that they were an approved priestly fraternity set up by Archbishop Lefebvre as a refuge from the “smoke of Satan” in the early 70s. Progressivist bishops moved to shut them down for not according with the “spirit of Vatican II”, and a weakened, demoralized Paul VI was unable to stand up for them. The rest is history, and still what holds up the regularization is the inexplicably fierce hostility of many bishops to this pariah fraternity, this irritating reminder of pre-revolutionary, “pre-conciliar” Catholicism.

    Like I said, the recalcitrant Williamsons are like dogs who have been kicked too much and are now mean and untrusting. They will have to decide where they truly stand. I pray their hearts soften. But the Fellay contingent (the true heirs of Lefebvre) do not like the current situation and wish very much to have a regular canonical relationship with the Holy Father they recognize at every Mass. All they require is adequate protections from the progressivist wolves within the canonical confines, still so powerful in many places, still working tirelessly against the Holy Father’s will and intentions, even under his very nose.

    The ironic thing in all of this is that once regularized, the Fellayan SSPX would be one of the strongest forces backing up the Holy Father in his great project of Catholic restoration. The wolves are everywhere, and the Fellays are Benedict’s natural allies in this battle. There’s no reason to keep them out. If it were me, I’d only require them to affirm the Creed and take the Oath against Modernism, and that’s it.

    But this is above all of our paygrades, so all I can do is pray. I have a personal stake in this, since the only practicing Catholics left under 75 in my entire extended family are some SSPX-attending second cousins. The 60s and 70s witnessed the silent apostasy of almost my entire family, and I only became a Catholic after a conversion experience in college.

    So I hope you can consider my background and begrudge my somewhat sympathetic attitude towards Lefebvre’s fraternity and fervent desire that they be regularized speedily. Pray pray pray.

  49. St. Rafael says:

    The Holy Father has stated that the SSPX are not schismatic. Cardinal Hoyos during his tenure at Ecclesia Dei, stated on at least a dozen times that the SSPX are not in schism and are not schismatic. So Pope Benedict believes they are not in schism, yet they are not in “full communion.” Whatever that means. Who knows what full communion even means?

    So the SSPX are not in schism, but are also not in union with the Pope, according to Rome. Confused yet? The Pope along with the Vatican are stuck in contracdiction. Which is not surprising. There is contradiction and misleading all over the place in Church when it comes to doctrine and the liturgy.

  50. Gulielmus says:

    Supertradmum said–

    What if Lefebvre had been patient? What if he had not ordained those bishops? We would have had a renewal in the Church of the TLM years ago, and good leaders teaching in the seminaries. We would have had years of growth and less liberals…I believe this. God always blesses obedience.

    I could not agree more, and think that it applies to his earlier actions as well. Lefebvre’s disobedience is now bearing the bad fruit he sowed. We are told again and again that without his rebellion we would have no TLM, there would be no tradition, etc. But he lured many Catholics away from the “mainstream” Church, many priests and laity who might have fought within for tradition and who instead became marginalized and now, on the verge of irrelevancy if the disobedience isn’t corrected. Those who insist that only through his actions was the traditional Mass saved show little faith in God’s will.

  51. Rushintuit says:

    Let’s face it, Rome is infected with Modernism. The Second Vatican Council was the event that opened the door and the progressives took charge. The best explanation that I can think of comes from Scripture, “Until he who restrains is taken away”. The Church is being punished for not establishing devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary throughout the world. The amazing thing is that, the disobedience of the SSPX has resulted in so many flourishing Latin Mass Communities that are in full communion!

  52. Tom Piatak says:


    Yes, prayer is in order, which is whyFr. Zuhlsdorf has asked us all to pray for reconciliation, just as Archbishop DiNoia asked his Dominican colleagues to pray.

  53. acardnal says:

    @St. Rafael: that was an interesting post you made at July 2012 at 3:05 pm. That hadn’t occurred to me

    Gulielmus says:“on the verge of irrelevancy”???

    I don’t think so. They are not dying out but have continued to grow in numbers and ordinations with over 600 priests and four seminaries and one million followers. Just this year alone eighteen priests were ordained in June and July; in the Archdiocese of New York with over one million Catholics, only one priest was ordained! (AND guess what, his first Mass was a TLM/EF Mass. )

    Without the SSPX, the TLM/EF would have been sadly moribund by now. And the “protestant” sympathizers in the Council who wanted reform of the Mass would have gotten what they wanted. The results of the modernist reforms are obvious from the facts:
    – before the Novus Ordo Mass and V2, 80 percent of US Catholics went to Mass every Sunday; now it’s about 30 percent.
    – before NO/V2, about 180,000 Sisters in US; now about 60,000.
    – before NO/V2, tens of thousands of seminarians in US; now less than a thousand.
    – before NO/V2, over 100,000 priests in US; now about 50,000.

    Whether or not the SSPX is disobedient is debatable, but the SSPX certainly is not heretical. What the SSPX believes and teaches is in accord with what the Church has taught and believed always and everywhere for centuries. And this is one reason – along with their devotion to the TLM/EF – that the Holy Father wants them canonically recognized. On the other hand, what the LCWR and some priests and nuns believe and teach in a number of Catholic parishes and educational institutions IS heretical. Which brings me back to St. Rafael’s post at 3:05 pm. . . .

  54. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Father JLP,

    Re: Vatican I’s Pastor Aeternus

    The sad thing about all of this is that if the Pope’s authority hadn’t collapsed in the aftermath of Vatican II, I have no doubt that Lefebvre’s fraternity wouldn’t have ended up in the canonical limbo it still is in. The same bishops who quietly or openly (see: Winnipeg Statement) undermined Humanae Vitae, among countless other teachings, laws and directives from the Supreme Pontiff, were fiercely insistent that Lefebvre’s fraternity be given no quarter.

    Thank God for Blessed John Paul II’s work in slowly re-establishing the Holy See’s authority. But so much work remains to be done. Witness John Paul’s stymied effort to reform the Jesuits 30 years ago, the altar girls rebellion and capitulation, the dead letter of so many of his directives (like his Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and his intention (on recommendation of a 1986 commission of 9 cardinals, Ratzinger included) to liberate the traditional Roman rite, withdrawn after a number of episcopal conferences pressured him against it. This last example is most instructive. The traditional rite, forbidden by progressivist bishops (and one of the main causes for their move to kill Lefebvre’s fraternity), “never abrogated” by Pope Paul, blocked by the same bishops from being liberated by his successor!

    Now can you think of a greater sign that the ultramontane era of Pastor Aeternus had ended with a sudden and catastrophic collapse?

    Papal authority still hasn’t fully recovered, and what the SSPX’s enemies fear is that once they are brought in from the canonical cold, Fellay and his followers will bolster the effort to free the Holy Father from the constraints placed on him from modernists within and without the Church to boldly and unapologetically promote Catholic tradition.

    Would a regularized SSPX pressure the Pope to hold another scandalous Assisi gathering or back the LCWR (like the USA OFM Franciscans did) in their dispute with the CDF, or would they compel him to celebrate funky Novus Ordo Masses* when he or his legate makes a pastoral visit? Not likely.

    *(for example, see: Benedict’s 2008 stadium mass in Washington DC, or last month’s bizarre Eucharistic Congress mass in Dublin).

  55. acardnal says:

    Rabbit hole . . . but I saw some of the Eucharistic Congress in Ireland on EWTN and I was not happy. I thought I was attending Mass back in the 70s and 80s all over again!

  56. mamajen says:


    You said that so well! (and Supertradmum also.) I guess I am lucky in that my diocese has always had at least one very traditional priest as long as I’ve been alive. Likewise, there are quite a few very traditional parishioners who live here, and quite a few who travel from other cities for the more traditional mass. And while I will admit that the priests have at times been given a tough time for their traditionalism by the higher-ups, they have not, and I don’t think ever would, abandon ship. SSPXer’s could to a lot of good in the Church. I guess that’s why we’re trying so hard to get them back rather than just cutting them loose entirely. I hope it works. I’m tired of the modern stuff, too.

  57. Cavaliere says:

    @Supertradmum God always blesses obedience.

    Well said.

  58. heway says:

    All these supposed ordinations, seminarians, etc., is that proof of obedience. After reading all these comments, I’m not sure I want to waste my prayers on people who think because I attend the NO and love it, that we have clown Masses, etc. I have never seen or attended such nonsense.
    If you would concentrate on your own relationship with Jesus Christ, you wouldn’t have time to chastise the Pope. And I don’t feel that you have any business doing so. The Lord is merciful but also just…make sure you are worthy of that mercy because you lack justice.

  59. jm says:

    Yes, I too desire unity. I also desire straight talk, doctrinal preambles that have no need of secrecy, a clergy that will speak truth to power, and a prefect of the CDF that will not express key Catholic doctrines like Mary’s virginity and transubstantiation in a manner that confuses well-meaning Catholic laity. I guess I will have to keep desiring… What a hall of mirrors we have here.

  60. Jack007 says:

    heway: I truly feel your frustration! I’m sure that’s why you worded it so harshly.
    Prayers are never wasted, right? :-)
    And while I’m no fan of the NO and haven’t been to one by choice since 1978, I’m glad you’ve found a good and faithful Mass to attend. They’re out there even though they can be hard to find in some places.

    Personally I’m hoping and praying for that “Marshall Plan” to exert its “gravitational pull”…sooner than later.

    Jack in KC

  61. dans0622 says:

    @St. Rafael, you are mistaken about the origin of the penalty of automatic excommunication, reserved to the Holy See, for ordaining/consecrating a bishop without the permission of the Pope. This penalty was instituted by Pius XII (the Holy Office, specifically) on April 9, 1951. I never knew Pius XII was such a modernist.

  62. irishgirl says:

    I keep praying for the reconciliation of the SSPX with the Holy See.
    We definitely need them to be in full communion!

  63. Gulielmus says:

    acardnal, you quoted only one part of my statement. I said that Archbishop Lefebvre’s rebellion marginalized many tradition-minded Catholics who now are on the verge of irrelevancy if the disobedience is not corrected. It is why we must pray for this reconciliation. If it is rejected who knows when, or if, these men and women, who instead of isolating themselves for decades might have been advocating for tradition where it was most needed, can finally do so?

    Can anyone identify a source of the often-cited number of followers of the SSPX? The internet is filled with claims of “a million” adherents, and yet I can find no statistical support for that number. Since even the most dedicated apologist of the Society claims fewer than 600 priests, and I doubt that each priest is regularly ministering to over 1600 people, I am curious as to whom the figure refers. Anyone who ever attended an SSPX Mass?

  64. acardnal says:

    They currently have 569 priests according to their own website.

    I think if it wasn’t for the SSPX, we would not now have the EF/TLM in the Roman Catholic Church. The progressives/modernists wanted it to die. The SSPX was a thorn to the Holy See, and because it was and because it was growing in adherents, it had to be addressed which eventually led to the promulgation of Ecclesia Dei by JPII and Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI.

  65. Gulielmus says:

    So should I assume the “million followers” assertion remains anecdotal?

    Certainly the specific turns of events leading to ED/SP are due to the SSPX. What is not a defensible argument is that that is the only way it could have happened. There’s no way to know how all those tradition-minded Catholics would have affected their home parishes, because the SSPX lured them out of the fight.

  66. kat says:


    My parents fought long and hard in their home parish; Mom even joined the new “parish council” just to fight what was going on. In the end, it was a losing battle, so we moved on to another parish, where that old priest also ended up having to leave, and so did we. You think the people who left when the changes first happened didn’t fight? It’s precisely because they WERE so stubborn that they finally had to leave, because they refused to change with the rest. My mother said it was the SENIOR CITIZENS who ripped out the communion rails in our parish!!! Not a bunch of young hippies. This idea that people just quit and ran away from a fight is wrong, from the experiences I grew up watching.

  67. Gulielmus says:


    I’m probably of much the same vintage as your parents, a young adult when the changes came. I sympathize with all they went through, because I did as well. But no one “had to leave,” ever. When early battles were lost– and they usually were– some regrouped and stayed, and others, yes, quit and ran away. I understand that decision, I came close to that decision many times. But I, and many others, did not do it. We did not abandon the Church even when we could rightly say we felt it had abandoned us. I do not condemn anyone for the choices they made, but it’s untrue so say that they had no choice. And to avoid too much of a rabbit hole, it was Archbishop Lefebvre’s disobedience and the rebellion of the SSPX that encouraged the defection from parishes and dioceses people like your parents, who were the very ones most needed. It would have been hard for your parents and others like them to stay. But they should have.

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