Pont. Comm. “Ecclesia Dei” on going to SSPX Masses and “straw subdeacons”

Our friends at Rorate, who are often on top of this sort of thing, reveal a letter sent by the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” to a questioner.  The letter is unsigned, though it has the stamp of the Commission.

Here, as they report, are the questions:

1. Is it possible to fulfill the Sunday obligation by participating in a Mass celebrated by a priest from Society of St. Pius X, if the participant is not “against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church” and this is the only opportunity in the local area to participate in the Mass in forma extraordinaria (which the participant is highly devoted to)?


In response to your first question this Dicastery would limit itself to referring you to the letter of 10 March 2009 written by Pope Benedict XVI to his brother Bishops in which he stated:

As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church. (Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefevbre, 10 March 2009).

Frankly, I would not have quoted a text which, because someone didn’t do much homework, raised so much controversy.   The word “ministry” must always raise doctrinal questions.  There is an important 1997 document, Ecclesiae de mysterio, “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests”, often ignored or read selectively by liberals who blur the ministry of the ordained and the participation by lay people in the ministry of the ordained.

Of course what is going on above is a round about way of saying that when an SSPX priest says Mass, the Mass is valid, but it is celebrated without the permission of the Church and, in a sense, not quite with or for the Church.  That makes participating in those Masses problematic.  However, that was written by the Pope, who is Legislator.  Another Pope Legislator issued the 1983 Code of Canon Law in which we read can. 1248: “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.” That means Masses of the SSPX. A fly in that ointment is a response from the PCED about chapels that are not SSPX but are only associated with the SSPX. HERE. At what point of remove will the Church say that a Mass is still “Catholic”? Tough question, no?

That said, doesn’t this raise some interesting points about what liberals call “ministry” when it comes to lay people?

2. Do the decree of Sacred Congregation of Rites (no. 4184) and the decision of Pontifical Comission ‘Ecclesia Dei’ (no. 24/92), concerning the possibility of serving as a subdeacon during the Mass in forma extraordinaria, apply also to diocesan seminarians (who are not seminarians of the institutes erected by Pontifcial Commision ‘Ecclesia Dei’) who wear clerical clothing?

Answer: Affirmative.

Yes, diocesan seminarians who are acolytes may act as “straw-subdeacons”.

According to a letter sent by the PCED to the Australian Ecclesia Dei Society, 7 June 1993, diocesan seminarians who are officially installed acolytes can take the role of the subdeacon in a Solemn Mass if a cleric isn’t there to take the role. In 2009 I opined that I was sure that the PCED would still take that position were a dubium offered to that Dicastery.  Read more details about what the “straw subdeacon does” in Reid’s reworking of Fortescue/O’Connell.

The letter, above, does not say anything new.  This is good. It is a dodge, but sometimes a dodge is good.  Maintain the status quo… for now.


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  1. Imrahil says:

    And I always had thought that the virtue of the dubia procedure is getting clear answers to precise questions.

    That said, according to the good old principle that in the absence of an order to the contrary there is freedom to do as you please, by not saying no the Congregation said yes to the first question.

  2. I don’t have the two documents mentioned in the second dubium at hand, but the dubium itself makes no reference to a necessity for the person being instituted as acolyte in order to stand in as a sub-deacon…

  3. Jack Orlando says:

    As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.

    Sounds like Negative to me. Not legitimate = illegitimate = not permitted = may not attend. No Canonical status = against Canon Law = can. 1248 means a legitimate Catholic Rite”. I grant that I may be wrong.

    I agree that ED could have been less ambiguous. I would like to believe that Rome continues to wish the regularization of the SSPX, doesn’t want to slam the door with an unequivocal Negative, and therefore adopts a more diplomatic and charitable reply. Let the SSPX, in turn, respond with an “Affirmative” to Rome’s offer.

    Yet if anyone thinks Rome is going to back off the requirement of assent to V2’s documents, then he lives in a fantasy world. It ain’t gonna happen. What can happen is an interpretation of V2 in harmony with tradition. The Society should accept Rome’s terms and, within the Church, press for such an interpretation. Ratzinger told this to Lefevere in 1988. Müller has said the same in 2012. Sounds like a consistent teaching to me.

  4. Federico says:

    The question turns on what is a Catholic Rite and I think the PCED is confirming, once again, that until SSPX ministers are authorized, any liturgy they celebrate is not Catholic.

    Validity and rubrical compliance are red herrings. If validity and rubrical compliance were the standard, then it could be argued, mutatis mutandis, that the Divine Liturgy offered at any of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches whose liturgy is indistinguishable from that of Catholic Churches sui iuris is also Catholic. This is clearly not the case.

    Catholicity implies full ecclesial union. Suspension a divinis breaks that union.

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Whilst I, around some other pressing things, try to figure just what authority unsigned letters to private persons carry in the first place, I pause only to add a caution to Fr. Z’s line: “Another Pope Legislator issued the 1983 Code of Canon Law in which we read can. 1248: ‘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.’ That means Masses of the SSPX.” That is an interpretation, and it has good arguments behind it. [That was always the position of the PCED from the time I worked there.] But it is also a disputed one, with good arguments, too. See, e.g., CLSA Advis. Op. 2009-121 Glendinning. Arguments for and against satisfaction of obligation at SSPX Masses; CLSA Advis. Op. 1991-109 Provost. Sunday obligation is not satisfied at schismatic Tridentine liturgy; and CLSA Advis. Op. 1991-106 Cuneo. Sunday obligation is satisfied at schismatic Tridentine liturgy. [Schismatic? Auctores scinduntur.]

  6. Imrahil says:

    Doesn’t sound like Negative to me.

    It is repeating a well-known fact (the SSPX have no legitimate ministry) in “answer” to a question dealing with a quite different thing. One thing is: even though the ministry is illegitimate we may attend; previous PCED answers (including the one about the chapels disattached even from the SSPX) and also the good old casuistry regarding Masses by (tolerated) suspended priests cannot allow of another answer than that we may attend for any good reason (which is less than a high usefulness, to be silent of a necessity). Nor does this PCED statement say anything different.

    The question which indeed raised a difficulty is whether in attending we may fulfil the Sunday obligation. The PCED statement simply contains nothing in answer to this question.

  7. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Federico, it has been argued and with good arguments that the Orthodox liturgy is Catholic… I believe there was however once a authentic-interpretation that did away with that, but still… the thing is far from as clear as you suppose.

    And suspended a divinis precisely means that you are Catholic. By popular understanding (pace dear @Dr Peters and other canonists) it is excommunication that throws you out of Church. This is, for “normal excommunications” or so, canonically incorrect (if I’m rightly informed). But be that as it may, a mere suspension at least has nothing to do with not being Catholic. It means that you are a Catholic under a penalty.

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    A long comment I made in the AA-penance post went into moderation. It won’t even let me say it went into moderation on that post. That comment also got moderated. Maybe the comment wasn’t worth reading or maybe the filtering software has gone berserk. Just mentioning it, here.

    The Chicken

  9. Hidden One says:

    Precisely what diocesan seminarians (A) are (technically) supposed to be wearing clerical clothing or (B) are (technically) able to wear it?

    I’m familiar with places that compel seminarians not to wear clerical clothing until they have been ordained deacons; at the other extreme, I’ve seen seminarians in their first year of philosophy studies who are compelled to wear cassocks and collars by their seminary.

  10. Inigo says:

    I thought that a straw-subdeacon is the term for an uninsituted lay man, standing in as sub-deacon. Since Paul VI. decreed, that the lector and acolyte inherit all the subdeacon’s functions, and instituted acolyte wouldn’t be a straw-subdeacon, but a real one.

    The main difference between a straw-subdeacon and a real one is, that the former can’t really thouch or do anything sacred, for example: wiping the chalice clean after the purification.

    I personally think it would be really silly, if an insitituted acolyte were not allowed to wipe the chalice clean after the purification in the EF… for crying out loud, he can purify the vessels at a NO mass! … again, that would be just plain silly.

    I think an instituted acolyte should function as a full-subdeacon. Why not even wear the maniple?

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    The answer was to a specific, limited question: Is it possible to fulfill the Sunday obligation by participating in a Mass celebrated by a priest from Society of St. Pius X? This is a question of obligation, only, not validity. Everyone, here, agrees that the Mass is valid. The more interesting question is: if only an SSPX mass is available, is one, by this document, dispensed from attending Mass on that Sunday?

    The Chicken

  12. Federico says:


    No, Orthodox Churches are not Catholic. cf. c. 844, particularly §2 and §3.

    On the other topic, you’re confusing Catholic as applied to an individual versus a Rite. A Catholic individual remains Catholic even if excommunicated. Even a defection through a formal act only affects the practice of matrimony.

    A liturgical act, on the other hand, is public and requires full communion with (and authorization by) the Church to be canonically Catholic (cf. c. 834, particularly § 2).


  13. RJHighland says:

    All of the legalese makes me sick. Is the sky blue, is the grass green. Is it truly my Lord present in the mass? If the Lord is present that is all I am concerned with. He is there or he isn’t. The rest is all the weakness of man. The only parish near me that offers the TLM and a traditional catechizes for my children is an SSPX chapel. There is not even a reverent Novus Ordo with-in a hundred miles of my home. It is beautiful that our Holy Father has written three books about the life of our Lord. It would be nice if he would spend the time clearing up the questions many people have with statements made in the documents of Vatican II. He is the Theologian Pope right. That always seems to be put on the back burner. How about simply releasing what Sister Lucy said Our Lady of Fatima said about what was going to happen to the Church, that would be nice. I pray our Lady gives us a sign no one can deny we as a Church need it. Our Lord established One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church I just wish it would get its act together. Just as my Lord will forgive me 70 x 7 we must forgive the leaders of our Church. The fear of clearity is it causes division, the fear of division is it can cause financial collapse. What was that saying about the things of this world?

  14. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Federico,

    The question (which really is or at least was a question) is not whether the Orthodox are Catholic, but whether the Orthodox rites are Catholic rites.

    Besides that a formal defection, since 2010 or so, does no longer have effects even to matrimony… still I do not think that just because some act done by Catholics is public, it must fulfill all requirements of Catholic law to be called (not legal, that would be true, but) Catholic. In fact that’d be opening a can of worms since some priests make some, in part not really important, alterations and chances to the Rite. This, also, is illegal. Are their Holy Masses Catholic? Of course they are. (After having clearly established that, we might go on about what they conscience says or should say about their actions).

  15. Fr.WTC says:

    Jack Orlando wrote above: “Sounds like Negative to me. Not legitimate = illegitimate = not permitted = may not attend. No Canonical status = against Canon Law = can. 1248 means a legitimate Catholic Rite”. I grant that I may be wrong.”

    Jack, what I came away with after reading the response from E.D.C. Is that priest of the society should not say public Mass. The question was, though, can a member of the faithful under certain condition fulfill the Sunday obligation by attending said illegitimately celebrations. We know that the faithful may attend orthodox liturgies if catholic mass is not available. The Orthodox, like the SSPX also do not exercise legitimate ministry in the Catholic church, so the same principle must apply. The irregular priest should not celebrate, but the faithful may attend his celebration to satisfy their obligation, because the sacraments are not the priest’s but the Church’s.

  16. ocalatrad says:

    As we say in the insurance business, any ambiguity in the contract is ruled in favor of the insured. The same seems to apply in this case. I have heard such an incredible amount of gobbledygook about the status of the SSPX that it nauseates me. This isn’t the kind of clarity that we ought to expect from those reigning in the Church. I go to an FSSP Mass so this is not a direct concern of mine, nonetheless, it is on my mind as on those of many others.

    Are they in “full communion”, half-communion, three-quarters communion, seven-eighths communion? Are they legitimate, licit, valid, authorized, approbated, etc? Honestly, what is one to make of all this? I see a hundred times more legitimate Catholicism in the SSPX than I do in the ridiculous Neo-Catechemunates, Life-Teeners, charismatics and clown Masses that are performed by those in “full communion”. This is obvious to many.

  17. Supertradmum says:

    Hidden One, it is off the subject of this post, but both bishops and boards of seminaries, which include bishops, priests, including the president of the college, maybe monks-priests, if the seminaries are run at monasteries, nuns, and lay people. decide these things. In some seminaries, the bishop of the diocese wherein the seminary resides, unless under an abbot, decides. That is why the discrepancies.

  18. anilwang says:

    I think the answer is nuanced because the situation with the SSPX is nuanced.

    It appears to say that the SSPX mass is valid and one can attend an SSPX mass, however, it does *not* fulfill ones Sunday obligation (see “do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church”/”the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers”). I have trouble seeing how it can be read any other way.

    It seems to mirror the response of the 1993 Ecumenical Directory:
    “115. Since the celebration of the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day is the foundation and centre of the whole liturgical year, Catholics—but those of Eastern Churches according to their own Law—are obliged to attend Mass on that day and on days of precept. It is not advisable therefore to organize ecumenical services on Sundays, and it must be remembered that even when Catholics participate in ecumenical services or in services of other Churches and ecclesial Communities, the obligation of participating at Mass on these days remains.”

  19. pmullane says:

    ocalatrad, if I can charitably and respectfully answer you:

    “Are they in “full communion”, half-communion, three-quarters communion, seven-eighths communion? Are they legitimate, licit, valid, authorized, approbated, etc?”

    For the purposes of we laity, all we need to know is this: the leadership of the SSPX consecrated bishops against the will of the Pope. This was a grave offense against the Church and caused the consecrating Bishop (and founder of the Society) and those bishops consecrated to be excommunicated, and that since then the Church, in her wisdom, charity and just judgement, have attempted to heal the wounds that were caused by the Societies actions. This has not played out yet, and the situation is still dynamic. God willing, the Society will soon be reconciled to Holy Mother Church, and we laity can make use of their work as freely as we please. On the other hand, it may be that they cannot submit to Holy Mother Church and at some point in the future she will have to formally exclude the society. In that case, and with regret, faithful Catholics will not be able to avail themselves of the works of the society. Your decision should be what is best for your soul, and the souls of those for whom you are responsible. My decision is that, whilst I have a great deal of sympathy for the way in which many of the members of the Society have been treated, I would not attend a SSPX parish until and unless they were visibly and finally unified with Holy Mother Church. You say:

    “I see a hundred times more legitimate Catholicism in the SSPX than I do in the ridiculous Neo-Catechemunates, Life-Teeners, charismatics and clown Masses that are performed by those in “full communion”. This is obvious to many.”

    The Neo-Catechemunates, Life-Teeners, charismatics and clown Masses have not tried to consecrate bishops without permission of the Holy Father, so no comparison can be drawn. There may be problems with these communities (although I would not lump them all together as you have) and that is for Holy Mother Church to adjudicate on, and any bishop who fails to do what is necessary to correct those under his authority will answer for it, but not to me or you. Its not my decision or your decision what constitutes ‘legitimate Catholicism’, ultimately that is up to the Church, and we must stand with Peter. Unfortunately the problem with the Society is that they preferred what they felt was ‘legitimate Catholicism’ than the true legitimacy of the Rock upon which Legitimate Catholicism is built.

    God Bless

  20. Sixupman says:

    I have been to one SSPX Mass [All Saints] in the last two years – my conscience untroubled! Why?

    Because the English & Welsh Bishops’ Conference issued a document, which I think I e-mailed you a copy [apologies if my memory is in error] stating that if I lived in a rural area, or whatever, I could fullfil my Sunday/Holyday Obligation by attending the local Cof E or Methodist or Free Church Chapel.

    Therefore, I treat all questions relative to the validity of SSPX Masses as pure nonsense.

  21. dominic1955 says:

    As to the straw subdeacon thing, I think the main issue comes into canonical issues which are largely non-issues now since the 1917 CIC was replaced with the 1983 CIC, i.e. the conferal of the order of subdeacon does not impose any canonical requirements on the man. Back in the day, that’s when the obligation to say the Breviary would start as well as celibacy. This is simply not the canonical case today, even if traditionalist orders make a private vow to do those things when they get ordained subdeacons. Any men ordained to the minor orders and subdiaconate receive, I certainly think, a sacramental but not a canonical character, i.e. they are not clerics per Canon Law until ordained deacons.

    Since this is the case, I do not see why any man that has been instituted an acolyte cannot vest as a subdeacon and fulfill the role of subdeacon at Mass-seminarian or not. I also do not see why they just didn’t open up all the minor orders and subdiaconate and diaconate to qualified men that are not seeking priestly ordination. We could have also removed the canonical protections for the minor clerical state and left it open to more of a volunteer state since that was probably an issue. Now its pretty much a dead issue as the NO doesn’t have much in the way of ceremony and all sorts of laypeople are doing all sorts of “ministry” but I think the Church could have benefited from having an increased cadre of sacramental non-canonical clerics fulfilling various liturgical and minor ministerial roles under the frame of the traditional arrangement.

  22. Papabile says:

    I found this statement to be the most interesting of the bunch:

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

    We have been generally speaking about the Bishops in relation to the lifting of the excommunications. But this letter references “its ministers” – all of them – being freed of ecclesiastical penalty. Could it be that the Suspension a divinis on the Priests has subsequently been lifted? That is an ecclesiatical penalty.

    Highly unlikely (particularly since the PCED made the point the suspension still obtained after Summorum Pontificum), but sometimes there are mass solutions to things that are not advertised – like the rumoured mass radical sanation of marriages in Campos when the Bishop down there returned to full Communion. I have only heard rumours, but from those in Rome who have suggested to me that it was done as an act of the Holy Father and filed sub secreto. (Of course, if this is true – someone violated pontifical secret.)

    In any case, if not true, very sloppy writing by the PCED.

    I would also flush the letter straight down the toilet as it is unsigned, when we have a signed letter which says it does fulfill obligation. Signed letters, particularly letters signed by two of three in a congregation, trump an unsigned one.

  23. Yea me too. I’m tired of the ambiguity around the nature of the SSPX. The ambiguity around slamming the door on progressives is just as irritating.

    I occasionally read old Encyclicals from the 1700s and the 1800s. The Church used to write in succinct and clear terms. Where is that Church? Why is she silent? We now live in the ruins – those ruins about which we were assiduously warned by countless admonitions of the Church. Now we are living the mess, and the Church goes silent. I don’t understand.

    This letter here sounds negatory to me as well, but being unsigned is odd…How does that help us?

    The Church desperately wants the return of the laity from the SSPX [and the progressives for that matter], so the caution is understandable. Don’t make ’em mad! Don’t let them run off! Don’t tell them they are already out of the Church! But at what cost? The SSPXers could have a wonderful effect if they could rejoin all the parishes in every diocese. If the progressives were brought up short, their murderous effect could be mitigated. And what about dangerous apparitions, to which millions flock in direct disobedience to the local ordinaries? Here we are left to ‘individual interpretation’ in so many cases – [a convert friend of mine alerted me to the fact that Catholics are Calvinists and don’t even know it]. Are we really being given a free pass to interpret Church law and not be reminded about the safety of Authority?

    I do appreciate the efforts of Fr Z and all good clergy who do their best, amidst great anguish and sacrifice. What our dear Pope Benedict endures in secret won’t likely be revealed until the end of Time. Its very clear, to me at least, that those who want to speak up and do their job have insurmountable obstacles.

    In short, about the SSPX, yes it is a valid Mass, just as the Orthodox Mass is valid. Whether it is pleasing to God for us to attend is another matter.
    A prelate explained to me that repeated attendance is not pleasing to God and can be an occasion of sin.
    Don’t be like the liberals who take the exceptions and make it the rule: being allowed to attend the SSPX Mass sometimes does not mean you can go all the time, and there is a definite prohibition to joining their parishes/groups and being influenced by the sectarian attitude.
    In addition, using the ’emergency’ excuse as the rule is exactly what liberals do too.

    Many of us sympathize with those who want a good environment for their children where no reverent/faithful parishes exist. In China, Catholics lasted for a hundred years without priests, it can be done. Yet, don’t make personal interpretations of the worthiness of a local parish, that is the downside of the SSPXer – they become their own expert untethered to Mother Church.

  24. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Tina,

    maybe the SSPX is not told they are already out of the Church because it is not.

    Besides: It is a principle of morality not to follow the multitude into sin or act against one’s conscience. It was, last time I looked, no principle of morality to not do as the liberals do.

  25. Imrahil:

    Excommunication does not “throw someone out of the Church.” It is a medicinal penalty that bars one from participation in the sacraments and fulfilling an ecclesiastical office. Baptism cannot be “erased” or “voided.”

  26. Hidden One says:


    That’s exactly what I thought, which is why I don’t understand all of this hullabaloo about acolytes, who I’m pretty sure everyone already knew could be subdeacons in the usus antiquior. [The problem is that the new Code of Canon Law supersedes Ministeria quaedam. Therefore, we needed the clarification.] The real importance of this matter (in regard to subdeacons) is that, as worded, you can plunk a new seminarian doing his first of, say, four years of philosophy studies in a tunicle. This is similar to an ancient privilege I’ve been told of (that I have not myself verified) given to Oratorians even in the novitiate if they were on track to become priests, namely, that they could function as subdeacons during Mass.

  27. wolfeken says:

    On the subdeacon issue, there is news here — that any man in any Catholic seminary wearing clerical clothing may act as a “straw” subdeacon. Some have raised the question as to what the heck that means (first year versus second year versus fifth year seminarians), but at least there is a starting point.

    What this also implies (declared?) is that a regular layman who is NOT a seminarian may NOT act as a “straw” subdeacon. I do not know why there are non-seminarians serving as subdeacons at traditional Latin Solemn High Masses. Just have a Missa Cantata with incense until you’re staffed for the big leagues. You wouldn’t play a Gregorian chant CD if you were unable to find men to sing the ordinary and propers, right? Sometimes it takes picking up the phone and emailing the right people to get the necessary manpower for a Solemn High Mass. The roles should not be made up due to poor planning.

  28. onosurf says:

    Deliver us from this disorientation! All the SSPX wants is to slap down the VII lines that went against 1900+ years of Tradition. SSPX won’t compromise with a document that is destroying the church from the inside. Seen the fruits? lukewarm (against dogma/apostasy) and “fallen away” catholics far outnumber faithful catholics. Not even close — may 10-1 in the last 50 years.

    If catholicism were a business, they would’ve punted on the VII changes long ago because they are losing customers like crazy. The stakes are greater than profits…souls.

    +JMJ, pray for us.

  29. Imrahil says:

    Rev’d dear @Fr Thompson,

    thank you for the correction… Indeed I happen to have known that, which is why I alluded to it shortly and said “pace canonists”… It was the a-fortiori in comparison with suspension that I wanted to focus on.

  30. kgurries says:

    It seems to me a clear negative answer to the first question in the words of the Pope. How can one have an “obligation” to participate in an illegitimate action? If we believe the Pope that the SSPX has no legitimate ministry — then it seems absurd to affirm that the Church would obligate the faithful to that which it has declared to also be illegitimate. Consider the scenario if SSPX masses did fulfill the Sunday obligation. For example, if a given Catholic could only make it to a Sunday Mass offered by an SSPX priest — then he would be obligated to participate in that which the Church declares to be illegitimate.

  31. happyhockeymom says:

    Can anyone post a link to the original PCED letter that said we can fulfill our obligation at an SSPX Mass? I have searched on line and cannot find it.

    More and more confusion and it is certainly frustrating. We have a local EF community and that is where I go 99% of the time. But the preaching and teaching is tepid at best and the priests rotate – we don’t have a permanent pastor for our EF community.

    The local SSPX chapel has First Fridays & Saturdays as well as a mother’s group after Mass on Sundays, catechism, parish potlucks and feast days. None of this at our EF community – which is barely tolerated by our diocese. To top it all off, the local SSPX priest gives excellent homilies – meaty, straight and to the point, with explicit ways to apply Church teaching to your life. Now out of obedience, I stay at the local EF community, but I would be at the SSPX chapel in a heart beat if I could be SURE it was permitted to fulfill my obligation there.

    I have also never heard anything by this priest against the Holy Father or anything that deviates from Church teaching. I have gotten great advice from him in the pastor on certain questions and would love to have him as a spiritual director, but I want to be able to have my director be my confessor as well and I am just not sure about the jurisdiction issue.

    I wish the Church would hurry up and figure this all out for all of the other souls like me.


    Please, please post a link to the PCED letter stating we may fulfill our obligation at an SSPX chapel, if you have it please!

  32. @wolfeken:

    No, there is nothing “implied” by this response at all. The person submitting the dubium asked a very particular question (can a non-instituted seminarian who wears clerics stand in as a sub-deacon), to which the PCED gave a very specific response: affirmative.

    So, the PCED affirms the specific question, but that does not place any sort of other restriction upon who can or cannot serve as a straw sub-deacon, only whether the particular type of person mentioned can.

    I would here note that a non-instituted (as well as an instituted one, for that matter) seminarian is, strictly speaking, a lay man. Further, as has been discussed here before, the proper attire for any altar boy (man) is clerical attire. There seem to me to be only two remaining differences between the seminarian in question and Joe LayMan. The first is philosophical and theological formation; the second, an intention on the part of the seminarian to aspire toward holy orders. We could note on this second one, that a seminarian in clerics need not even have an affirmation by his bishop that he in fact will be ordained, and a great many things happen prior to candidacy or ordination.

    So now we are in fact left with only one real difference, at least from the text given, and that is theological formation, which seems an odd criterion of exclusivity to seminarians, especially given the prevelance of male lay theology students who serve at the altar.

    So it seems to me, this actually reinforces my original supposition that perhaps a straw sub-deacon is actually that, a straw sub-deacon filled by any capable man, and not simply an instituted acolyte filling the liturgical role that was formerly divided into the orders of sub-deacon and acolyte.

    (And, strictly an aside, as Ministeria Quaedam opens up the role of Institute Acolyte to all lay men not on the road to ordination, it seems reasonable that lay men might also stand in as straw sub-deacons)

  33. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Folks, could I, again, counsel some restraint here? Most of you are talking about this doc as if it were some sort of authentic interpretation of Canon 1248. It’s not.

  34. Papabile says:

    I hate this. There is too much history here, and custom contra legem over hundreds of years not to get a positive authentic interpretation of this.

    I faxed a dubium to PCILT regarding 1248 on Mass obligation and the straw subdeacon issue.

    I have little expectation that it will be answered by them — because Rome probably wants this to be unanswered.

    But at least we can now say that Rome will have refused to provide an authentic interpretation. If Rome does provide one, all the better.

  35. Papabile says:

    My reference to contra legem was the straw subdeacon issue — obviously not SSPX Mass attendence for obligation.

  36. Alan Aversa says:

    What about lay, non-seminarian “straw subdeacons”?

  37. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    dominic1955, I do not understand your use of the word “sacramental.” Although in the older world the subdiaconate was a “major order,” and a subdeacon was obliged to say the Divine Office, and having been ordained subdeacon was an impediment to marriage, the SACRAMENT of Holy Orders, I believe, existed or occurred only at the “level” of ordination to the diaconate or higher.

    To ask a more general question, in the postconciliar world is there, as I have previously thought, simply no such thing as a subdeacon, or does the subdiaconate remain as a minor or quasi-minor order just above the order of acolyte?

    Please forgive any error or ignorance underlying this question. I am by no means a person who knows canon law or the sacramental theology of Holy Orders.

  38. sirlouis says:

    The question about fulfilling the precept is conditioned by “this is the only opportunity in the local area to participate in the Mass in forma extraordinaria (which the participant is highly devoted to)”. I can’t get up much sympathy for a person who values the form of Mass above union with other Catholics under the supreme pontiff.

  39. dominic1955 says:


    I am making the distinction between the minor and major orders. All of the Minor Orders are sacramentals like holy water or scapulars, they are blessings basically. The major orders are sacramental in the other sense, that the man who is ordained to the diaconate and priesthood and consecrated to the episcopacy receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders. So, one is like getting a special blessing or special blessed medal and the other is one of the seven Sacraments.

    The issue of the subdiaconate is distressing because when a bishop confers minor or major orders according to the old Pontificale Romanum, he isn’t just shooting blanks, obviously. However, the distinction between maintaining the fact that men are given these proper blessings in the minor orders and the subdiaconate obviously do something. Since they are not actually the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the fact that canonically one is only a cleric once they get ordained a deacon would say to me that these men get a sacramental from the ceremony but are no longer constituted and raised to the clerical state per the CIC.

    P.S.-I think the abolition of the minor orders was one of the most profoundly silly Vatican II moments. It really puts the lie to the idea that these “reformers” were just trying to restore the Church to its more primitive and ancient vigor with things long lost like communion in the hand and such. The minor orders were around at least since the 3rd Century-how much older does something need to be to not be a “medieval accretion”?

  40. Peter Rother says:

    Please. Do you let your children get away with such parsing of words? “In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers . . . do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.” I will not permit my children to assist at an SSPX service (note, I do not call it a Holy Mass). You may call it valid, but illicit. I do not care. My job is to get my kids to heaven (to the extent I am able). I cannot teach them obedience to me, but disobedience to the Holy Father.

  41. RJHighland says:

    I thought this quote of the day was very fitting for this conversation.

    “If the faith is in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public.” —- St. Thomas Aquinas

    No wonder most of the priests in the Church today have not been required to study St. Thomas Aquinas. In the SSPX preists and religious still are greatly influenced by this saint of the Church. Wonder which mass he would prefer? Could you imagine his reaction to having lay persons distributing the body of our Lord? No Gregorian Chant! Oh what 43 yrs. can do to the Church. Sadly they have seen it deteriorate before their very eyes. We humbily ask for his prayers to restore the faith and traditions of the Church.

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