QUAERITUR: How many priests are in the SSPX?

The SSPX says that they now have 569 priests.

Remember that the SSPX, or FSSPX, is a “priestly fraternity”, a “society of priests”.  Lay people don’t belong to the SSPX, though there are some associated groups.

Meanwhile, Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I thought it interesting that the graph didn’t show a significant spike in the late 80s…seems like the numbers are steadily climbing, but not exponentially climbing.

  2. acardnal says:

    I saw this earlier. I think it is worthwhile noting the upward trajectory for the last 40 years! Nothing but consistent growth, no declines. Must be something there . . . . “By their fruits, you shall know them.”

    In contrast, according the the Index of Leading Catholic Indicators Religious seminarians declined 95 percent in the US from 1965 to 2002. Diocesan seminarians declined 88 percent from 1965 to 2002. At the end of V2 in 1965 there were 28,762 seminarians in the US and from that date onward the decline was drastic to the point where in 2002 there were only 3359 seminarians. Coincidence???? I think not. FYI, last year there were 3,608 in US seminaries.

  3. acardnal says:

    Post Vatican 2 reforms were harmful and the fruit is there for all to see. “Save the Liturgy, Save the World.”

  4. Clinton R. says:

    acardnal: Post Vatican 2 reforms were harmful and the fruit is there for all to see. “Save the Liturgy, Save the World.”

    And yet it is the very same Vatican 2 the SSPX is supposed to fall down before on their knees like it was handed down from the Apostles. Following sound Catholic doctrine and teaching has resulted in the above upward trend in priestly ordinations. Modernism has produced the reverse in most of the Church. As much as some hard sell the positive aspects of Vatican II, the facts cannot be ignored: drastic reduction in priests, liberal innovations, heterodoxy that has lead to a widespread loss of Catholic faith worldwide and perhaps worst of all, the Protestant inspired Bugnini Mass. How is the Novus Ordo Mass a hermeneutic of continuity? How much is the fault of the actual documents of Vatican II and how much of the bad fruit is the result of the modernists’ agenda? I really don’t know. Maybe, as some have suggested, a syllabus of errors regarding Vatican II would be helpful as to what exactly are we to believe and not believe. I very much pray for the canonical status of the SSPX to be resolved, though Archbishop Muller’s stance seems on the surface, to be that of a hardliner. Hopefully he will be equally zealous to have all within the Church toe the line.

  5. Former Altar Boy says:

    Just goes to show, even if an order is not in full communion with Rome, that keeping faith with the traditional Latin Mass will attract vocations.
    Pray that they will be reconciled to the Church.

  6. Gulielmus says:

    The Index of Leading Catholic Indicators is a textbook example of the dangers of doing research with a desired result instead of to discover the facts. Yes, the declines are real, but some of them began, precipitately even, before 1965. You’d never know that from Jones’ biased scholarship. Mass attendance, for example, experienced the largest decline recorded between 1957 and 1964. The decline slowed after the Council, and amazingly, leveled off for a few years after the promulgation of the Novus Ordo. The facts don’t fit what we want to prove so we omit them.

    On the other hand, I don’t doubt that the number of SSPX priests is correct. I’m still waiting for someone to confirm the Society’s claim of “a million” followers.

  7. Dismas says:

    “By their fruits, you shall know them.” ???

    I haven’t seen any evidence but I understand medj is turning out a similar number of priestly vocations as well. Anyone have any medj vocation statistics?

  8. Tradster says:

    1957 to 1964? Isn’t 1957 when the Dialogue Mass was introduced as the deliberate forerunner to the VII liturgical changes? Could it possibly be that many of the faithful were able to read the handwriting on the wall and voted with their feet before the storms hit?

  9. Gulielmus says:


    Perhaps. But allow me to submit that anyone who abandons ship because of a forecast can hardly complain about what happens to it in the storm.

  10. acardnal says:

    Gulielmus: the author of the Index of Leading Catholic Indicators didn’t fabricate his data. They are sourced to the Official Catholic Directory published by the bishops’ conference. The number of seminarians increased as measured every five years up to1965. They were not declining. (page 28-30)

  11. jhayes says:

    For comparison, there are about 2,000 Opus Dei priests.

    Some questions that I havn’t heard discussed yet:

    Will laypersons be able to attach themselves to the SSPX prelature rather than to a diocesan bishop – as the 90,000 or so numeraries and supernumeraries of Opus Dei do?

    Will diocesan priests be able to be members of an equivalent to Opus Dei’s “Priestly Society of the Holy Cross” while remaining subject to their diocesan bishop? The membership of that group is about 50/50 Opus Dei priests and diocesan priests.

  12. acardnal says:

    Regarding US Mass attendance, it has leveled off at a very alarmingly low level. Studies vary but show Sunday Mass attendance prior to Vatican II at anywhere between 65 – 80 percent. Now it hovers between 28-35 percent. Coincidence?? I think not. Things went very badly at V2 and afterwards that resulted in these declines.




  13. Wait a second – no bobble in the late 1980s reflecting the secession of the founders of the FSSP and their seminarians (the departure of whom would have shown up for several years of shorter ordination numbers)?

    I really dislike self-reported statistics.

    Generally, diocesan and order numbers are hard to simply believe (I speak as a long-time user of the Kenedy Official Catholic Directory). No one shares figures about how many men don’t finish seminary, how many priests get kicked out (something that has also happened in the SSPX — I noted the secession of the FSSP men – what about the SSPV guys?), how many are in treatment.

  14. TheAcolyte says:

    Laymen can join the SSPX as Third Order members (so can non-SSPX clergy as many have done).

    The Dialog Mass was restored to existence in 1909 – the format is actually the *traditional method* of participating at publicly offered Low Masses as attested by several historical sources. It is not a 20th century novelty as some have ignorantly claimed. See articles here for details: http://www.romanitaspress.com/articles/dialog_mass.htm.

  15. JLCG says:

    @ Mary Jane:
    Your comment shines like a beacon of rational light on the ashen plain of this commentariat.

  16. RJHighland says:

    I think something that is often over looked is the effect of being members of the Alter Society in the TLM. Boys only and structured to developing holiness, reverence and understanding. Something that the new mass does not do. The Alter Society is the grooming ground for priests and good Catholic men. With the majority of Catholics being told that the Society is schismatic and excommunicated for the majority of the last forty years it is amazing to see steady growth. I didn’t start going until after the excommunications were lifted so I could only imagine. The Benedictine Monestary in my region is what got my attention, the average age was 28 for a monastic population of 32-34 men. Our Diocesean seminary has 11 men in cycle for a population of over 1 million. The new co-ed alter servers club just doesn’t seam create vocations like the old Alter Society. Just a personnel observation. It also seems that the more traditional Catholics are having more children which tends to lead to more vocations. If you want more priests, first they have to be born, then raised in the faith properly, then be called and then say yes. I think most Novus Ordo parishishes fail on all counts. Just saying. Just look at Austria, they are now advertising on bill boards, I think that was tried here a few years back it didn’t go so well. But we are not far behind Austria, that will be us soon. No priests. The lay people in my Dioceses are already calling for married priests and women priests, I think we have plenty of homosexual priests already about 50-60% thanks to the recruiting of our last Bishop. This all was the plan from the beginning of Vatican II when the original directives were replaced, destroy the preisthood destroy the Church. Thank God for priests like Fr. Z standing and making a good fight of it, the priests in the SSPX are just waiting at the edge of the ring for the tag to truly get into the fight to save the Church. But that is exactly what the progressives and may I say the Evil One does not want to happen. The SSPX brings clarity to doctrine where as Vatican II has only brought ambiguety and confussion. Just the rantings of a 15 yr convert from the Baptist faith. God Bless, and praying for the Pope of Unity.

  17. Horatius says:

    I do not believe for an instant SSPX brings clarity, as if it were bursting with budding doctors of the Church. That’s just a quasi-Protestant stance always used to bash a Church which celebrates mysterious and is guided by the Holy Spirit.

    The graph is misleading for saying nothing in particular about the history of the group: it is not exactly a glorious one, a founder who signed on to V II only wobble on and disavow it later, no coherent outlook on or training in the Mass in its first days, priests defecting to sects even more extreme and fractious, turning the Holy Mass into a cult as the Christadelphians have done with the Bible, a huge puritanical streak, membership abusive of the Pope and prelature (even on this website), and just plain crazy talk (as in the post from RJH “all the original directives were replaced”).

    Besides, Mormon membership is growing, too: numbers alone tell us nothing.

  18. jhayes says:

    Just a personnel observation. It also seems that the more traditional Catholics are having more children

    Does the SSPX preach against Natural Family Planning? Following TheAcolyte’s comment on laypersons being able to join the third order of the SSPX, I looked that up and found that the Rule of the Third Order says:

    “To observe, in a spirit of submission to Our Lord, the laws of marriage toward the goal of having a large family.To renounce absolutely all positive action toward the goal of not having children.”


    P.S. regarding the recent discussion between the CDF and the SSPX on acknowledging the liceity as well as the validity of the Novus Ordo Missae, I noticed this in the SSPX Third Order Rule:

    “attendance at the Immemorial Mass (and not the Novus Ordo Missae, because of the danger of acquiring a Protestant spirit).”

  19. GregH says:

    The most interesting statistic is the number of semanarians…The United States has almost as many as France and far more than any other country. The SSPX has really become a French/USA centered fraternity.

  20. Andrew_81 says:

    MichaelTinkler wrote:

    Wait a second – no bobble in the late 1980s reflecting the secession of the founders of the FSSP and their seminarians (the departure of whom would have shown up for several years of shorter ordination numbers)?

    I really dislike self-reported statistics.

    The FSSP started with 12 priests and a few seminarians. The day before the episcopal consecrations, June 29, 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre ordained 17 priests (16 for the SSPX), hence even with the departure of 12, numbers increased.

    In the following years, the departure of a few seminarians made the ordination classes smaller, but still increased the numbers. Class sizes were down to single digits instead of the 20 or so usually ordained. By the early 1990s one sees a return to larger classes.

    The only year that saw a net decrease (after the early 1970s) was 1996-1997, when several priest and seminarians left to found the later scandal-ridden Society of St. John in PA.

    So the number seem reasonable, given the history of the SSPX.

    As to the other part, for the SSPX, on average about one-third to one-half of an entering class will be ordained. At Winona, for example, a typical entering class is about 20-25, of which between five and 10 are a normally-sized ordination class. Some years have seen as many as 12 priestly ordinands and some one or zero.

    If I remember correctly about 25-35 priests of the Society have passed away since its founding.

    There are also non-SSPX priests who have joined the Society. In the U.S. there have been several diocesan or religious priests who have made an engagement to the SSPX.

    As regards priests leaving, it is said (hardly rigorous statistics), that between Archbishop Lefebvre, the other bishops in the SSPX, they have ordained for the SSPX and other societies (ex. SJMV, Campos) and religious institutes over 1,000 men to the priesthood. And at least one-quarter have left their society or congregation, or left the priesthood.

  21. Legisperitus says:

    TheAcolyte: I would not rely on Mr. Tofari’s scholarship on the historicity of the Dialogue Mass, which has been refuted earlier this year in the pages of The Remnant as resting excessively upon the tendentious work The Mass of the Future by Fr. Gerald Ellard, about which even Mr. Tofari expresses “reservations.”

  22. jhayes says:

    Interview with Archbishop Müller in today’s OR:

    Q: What do you think of the discussions with the Lefebvrists and with the religious sisters of the United States?

    Archbishop Müller: It is important for the future of the Church to overcome ideological clashes no matter where they come from. There is only one revelation of God in Jesus Christ which was entrusted to the whole Church. This is why there are no negotiations on the Word of God and one cannot believe and not believe at the same time. One cannot pronounce the three religious vows and then not take them seriously. I cannot make reference to the tradition of the Church and then accept it only in some of its parts. The path of the Church leads ahead and all are invited not to enclose themselves in a self-referential way of thinking, but rather to accept the full life and the full faith of the Church. 


  23. acardnal says:

    I would still like to know if AB Mueller (sorry, don’t know who to make an umlaut) celebrates the TLM/EF. That would convey a lot.

  24. Imrahil says:

    Dear @acardnal, he does not. At least if he does, he keeps it quite secret.

  25. Joseph-Mary says:

    I have known of people who say they are in the “third order” with the SSPX and I have to scratch my head over that because the SSPX is NOT an order and has no canonical standing at all.

  26. Horatius says:

    Amen, Joseph-Mary! The generosity of our Holy Father is wonderful.

  27. jhayes says:

    Joseph-Mary, the Rule of the Third Order of he SSPX was established by +Lefebvre in 1980

    I have heard of it only in the past few days.

    The SSPX website says:

    “The SSPX came into being after the Second Vatican Council, at the request of seminarians desiring to be true priests according to the Tradition of the Church. Then, in view of the fact that it would be impossible to remain an authentic priest when subjected to the ecclesiastical milieu of the dioceses, the idea of a priestly society was seen to be the best solution in order to be accepted by the bishops (i.e., to be incardinated into a diocese) and protect their priesthood, while fulfilling a ministry much the same as secular priests….

    The SSPX is a society of common life without vows (meaning the vows of religion, as the SSPX is a secular religious congregation and not a regular, or monastic order), like the Sulpicians, the White Fathers, etc.

    Composed mainly of priests, the SSPX also has religious members who are brothers, sisters, and oblates, and by affiliation, Third Order members.”


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