QUAERITUR: Can bishops forbid people from going to SSPX chapels?

From a reader:

A little over a year ago, the bishop of the Diocese of Calgary issued a statement banning Catholics in Calgary from attending the SSPX church stating that:

“1. According to Canon 300 – No association may call itself catholic except with the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority…. St. Dennis Church does not have canonical status within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary.”
– See more HERE

A number of members of our FSSP Latin Mass Community state that the bishop is wrong and that he has no authority to ban Catholics from attending their church, and see no problem attending their Masses and going to confession to their priests (they have been told SSPX cannot validly absolve, but they disagree).

Has the bishop over-stepped his authority, or is this perfectly legitimate?

The text of Bishop Henry’s letter (for the Diocese of Calgary) seems reasonable and in keeping with canon law.

He correctly sums up the situation regarding the SSPX and their canonical situation. He says, clearly, that Catholics should not attend the SSPX chapel, and he provides direction to a local parish where access to the Traditional Mass (and presumably, the other sacraments) is available in full and unambiguous communion with the Holy See.

One might quibble with Bishop Henry’s unfortunate expression where he invites the faithful to “celebrate (sic) the Traditional Latin Mass”.  We must presume he means something like attend, participate in, hear, worship at, etc.  But let that pass.

Notice that Bp. Henry does not indicate a penalty against Catholics who do, against his advice and his pastoral guidance as their pastor, attend the SSPX chapel.

Thus, it is wrong to say Bishop Henry is “banning” anything.

He is correcting, warning, illuminating – shepherding – his flock.  He is advising them of the spiritual danger of flirting with those who flaunt (or flout – see below) legitimate ecclesiastical authority. The letter indicates his pastoral solicitude.  Instead of just saying, “You shouldn’t go there,” he provides an alternative, “Why not go here, instead?”

Members of the faithful who “disagree” are free to do so.  They should, however, remember that all actions have consequences. Christ and the long tradition of the Church make it clear that obedience to the shepherds that have been placed in authority over us, when they are exercising their legitimate authority, is the path to paradise. Engendering a spirit of disobedience to them places souls on a perilous path.

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  1. “.. those who flaunt legitimate ecclesiastical authority.”
    Father dear, you do mean flout, don’t you?

    [Stoopid spel czek. Yes, of course, flout is more recognizable here, though flaunt can work too. They are much the same. Although, … I am conjuring what “flaunting” might look like in this case. It might involve the sorts of things Francis doesn’t like.]

  2. mimicaterina says:

    If it is true that members of the FSSP community are saying that SSPX priests can validly absolve the faithful in confession, they are giving false advice as SSPX priests don’t have faculties from the local ordinary. I hope that it is not the FSSP priests who are saying this, but rather the laity who attend their Masses who are saying this out of ignorance.

  3. acardnal says:

    I was unable to open the link above to Bp. Henry’s document. After a search, I was able to read it here:

  4. Long-Skirts says:

    Fr. Z said:

    “But let that pass.”


    Brer bishops
    Brer priests
    And brer people of god
    Celebrate the new Rite –
    To sacrifice just seems odd.

    Brer mother of ten cried,
    “I assist tried and trued.”
    Brer people of god cried,
    “Chill out
    Take a lude.”

    Brer priest said,
    “Ms. Brer come on smile,
    Serve with me
    Celebrate, let that pass,
    Make a mess-harmony!”

    With these words
    Brer mother got sick
    And threw up
    So brer priest urged her, “Go,
    If you can’t drink our cup.”

    “So you’re urgin’ I go?”
    And her head she did scratch,
    “Jus’ please don’t throw me
    In no Pius the
    Tenth Patch!!”

    But brer priest
    Flung brer mother
    Out the door shut the latch
    And forced her to land
    In a Pius the Tenth Patch.

    So mostly the
    New Rite is given the nod
    By brer bishops
    Brer priests
    And brer people of god.

    But high on a hill
    Brer mother of ten
    Is singin’ and kickin’
    Her heels
    Up again…

    “I was born and raised
    In a Pius the Tenth Patch
    Known as Catholic Church
    And there still ain’t
    No match!!!”

  5. Palladio says:

    “This immediate erection of the Fraternity [i. e., FSSP] by the Holy See, without all the preliminaries of time and formality usually required of time, was a tremendous charity by the Pope toward the former members of the SSPX, who have returned it with loyalty and faithfulness, as well as the devotion to the Tridentine rites which is their proper charism.” Good to see a Bishop so roundly endorse the history and success of FSSP–which celebrated its 25 years yesterday in Rome. FSSP, by their very foundation, constitution, and charism, are one with the Pope. I must say that, as a member of C. S. P., I am very troubled by such language as “our FSSP Latin Mass Community,” which is separatist in tone if not in tenor. Attend what Form you will, you are Catholics in the same Rite, as Benedict XVI clearly taught. It is also very important to distinguish between FSSP and the schismatics, attendance at whose church the good Bishop plainly forbids. Why the question is raised of ‘attaching a penalty’ is above my pay grade, but if the Bishop forbids something, going so far as to disclaim the catholicity of SSPX, might a penalty be clearly implied if not explicitly stated?

  6. APX says:

    I hope that it is not the FSSP priests who are saying this, but rather the laity who attend their Masses who are saying this out of ignorance.

    Re-read the post. It’s the Latin Mass community members who are saying so, NOT the FSSP.

  7. inexcels says:


    Flaunt is an appropriate word to use in the context.


    Definition 4: “to ignore or treat with disdain”

  8. This is my diocese, so this post is of interest to me. We are very blessed to have a very well established traditional Mass here, with a vibrant community. I have wondered sometimes if I would attend the SSPX Mass if this Mass were not available to me. I’m glad I do not have to make that choice.

  9. mimicaterina says:

    APX: the article says “FSSP Latin Mass Community” and priests are part of the community. So my question stands.

  10. APX says:

    It is not the priests stating that the SSPX can validly absolve sins under regular circumstances.

  11. Cantor says:

    I’m pleased to see a Diocesan Bishop provide a clear explanation about the situation. Hopefully it might be better clarified by Rome someday soon, in order to get things running more smoothly.

    Our bishop is quite direct about things. In our diocesan directory, he simply lists the seven “establishments” not in union with the Holy See and the Roman Catholic Bishop of this Diocese, explicitly declares that they are therefore in schism, and properly instructs us that attendance at Sunday Mass there does not fulfill a Catholic’s obligation.

  12. Elizabeth R says:

    APX, if an FSSP priest hears confessions, under normal circumstances, surely he is at least implying their validity? Perhaps only spiritual counseling is taking place, but then it is not, and should not be called, a confession.

  13. acardnal says:

    Elizabeth R,
    FSSP priests confessions are valid.
    SSPX priests confessions are not valid.

  14. acardnal says:

    sic: should read priests’ above. Those darn apostrophes.

  15. Elizium23 says:

    inexcels: Please read all of the dictionary entry, namely the USAGE NOTE:

    4. The use of flaunt to mean “to ignore or treat with disdain” ( He flaunts community standards with his behavior ) is strongly objected to by many usage guides, which insist that only flout can properly express this meaning. From its earliest appearance in English in the 16th century, flaunt has had the meanings “to display oneself conspicuously, defiantly, or boldly” in public and “to parade or display ostentatiously.” These senses approach those of flout, which dates from about the same period: “to treat with disdain, scorn, or contempt; scoff at; mock.” A sentence like Once secure in his new social position, he was able to flaunt his lower-class origins can thus be ambiguous in current English.

    The definition of flaunt in question is descriptive of widespread usage rather than prescriptive, and is probably best avoided altogether just by using flout correctly in its traditional sense.

  16. liquidpaw says:

    Given the sad state of affairs in most diocese, most Catholics who are orthodox and have any idea of Tradition will start going to SSPX chapels in ever increasing numbers if most of the Bishops of these diocese don’t start teaching the Truth.

  17. Palladio says:

    If a Catholic, liquidpaw, is orthodox, he is not in SSPX, which is schismatic, and he cannot be in SSPX for the very same reason. SSPX solves no problems. It creates them. SSPX is no answer. It is lost. I hope that, along with other puritanical sects, it is found. Until then, Catholics can and should pray for them and all our lost brethren in Christ, such as Lutherans, Methodists, etc.

    I have an idea of Tradition, and I’d rather cut out my own heart than attend one of the illicit Masses it has. Why? It’s ILLICIT.

    Support FSSP.

  18. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Palladio,
    1. the SSPX is not schismatic (a reading of the definition of “schismatic” in the Catholic Encyclopedia makes that abundantly clear).
    2. I’ll be charitable, but it is above your (or my) paygrade to determine whether or not adherents of the SSPX are, quote, “lost”.
    3. The SSPX is certainly no puritanical sect. The spirit of Puritanism is rather found on the other side of the spectrum (where they laxed their rules on thr 6th commandment, but explicitly the rules, not their insistence on rules in general).
    4. It it honorable of you that you refuse to attend illicit masses for the reason that they are illicit. Nevertheless, if one does (as I sometimes do), it is – under very little conditions – no sin, see the treatment of the “tolerated suspended cleric” in the works of St. Alphonsus.

    I’ll agree to
    Support FSSP,

  19. Joshua Mincher says:

    It’s true that SSPX priests have no faculties to give absolution or to marry.

    But Pope Benedict did say that they are not in schism, only that they exercise no legitimate ministry, i.e. have no faculties.

    If Rome (Ecclesia Dei Commission) has said that attending an SSPX mass fulfills your obligation, then how can a local bishop say otherwise? I’m not saying he can’t, I’d just like to know the law on the matter.

    I know Bishop Bruskewitz excommunicated the SSPX in Lincoln, Ne. back in the 1990’s. I don’t think that included lay people who attended their masses. I also don’t know if that excommunication was lifted later when Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication on their bishops.

    I’m interested in learning more.

  20. Gallia Albanensis says:

    What you say about the perils of disobedience is true … but on the more joyful side, profound graces can flow from listening to one’s spiritual fathers.

    My most successful religious endeavors have always started with a request or blessing from an authority figure.

    It’s entirely possible that listening to the bishop here will grace you, the FSSP, and the whole traditional movement on a deep unseen level.

  21. Glen M says:

    After Human Vitae, the Canadian Bishops Conference issued “The Winnipeg Statement” which basically disagreed with the pope’s infallible teachings. So it’s a bit too much to swallow seeing the head of the conference appealing to obedience. It’s similar to the SSPX banning Bishop Williamson. There’s a credibility gap when those who disobey their superior insist on obedience from their flock.

  22. Long-Skirts says:

    liquidpaw says:

    “Given the sad state of affairs in most diocese, most Catholics who are orthodox and have any idea of Tradition will start going to SSPX chapels in ever increasing numbers if most of the Bishops of these diocese don’t start teaching the Truth.”

    …and help our children save their souls in good Catholic Schools. We have that obligation!


    And where are the schools
    The daily Mass
    Lines to confess
    A uniformed lass?

    And where are the schools
    The Latin class
    Cassocked priest
    Candles in brass?

    And where are the schools
    To strengthen souls
    Shape their wills
    Set the goals?

    And where are the schools
    The altar boy
    Assisting priest
    Like Christ, their joy?

    And where are the schools
    Oh, time you lied
    A generation
    Has gone and died.

    And where are the schools
    Which don’t derive
    That two plus two
    Are sometimes five?

    The Fraternity –
    They’re found in large
    Where struggling families
    Let priest take charge

    For the good of the whole
    Priests’ lives are laid
    So many may come
    Not be afraid

    And win the Faith
    From Christ-like hand…
    St. Pie the Tenth
    Two and two are grand!!

  23. Palladio says:

    Thanks to you both for your corrections, albeit not for the bullet points, which I could do without. I am in no position to say — least of all against my most beloved Benedict XVI — who is who is not, according to the Church, schismatic. Since I know I cannot speak ex cathedra, I had no intention of doing so, and I was speaking more broadly. As for puritanical, a less technical matter, that is obvious to me given my scholarly fields, but I am happy to call it a matter of judgment or opinion, too.

    SSPX is transparently disobedient to, how to put it? Rome. To the Chair of Saint Peter. They are indeed fairly consistently so, for the few decades of their existence, and in public. They are ideologues of the Mass, Mass worshippers, just as any number of protestant sects are Bible cults. Their own website and documents show this, but there are other sources every bit as solid.

    Anybody who so willfully and publicly disobeys the Pope is broken from the Church, de facto schismatic in the broad non-technical sense I intend. For that reason, too, they are lost. Not to pray for them to be rejoined with the Church strikes me as just plain weird. You do not need to belong to the prelature to see that. Their puritanical, more Catholic than the Pope rhetoric, however understandable, like their idolizing the Mass, is not only disgusting, it is as uttered from the lips of their leaders sinful. Their leaders are not and cannot be our leaders, it also occurs to me.

    The discourse about faculties and validity is, in some hands, diversionary. There is no talk, ever, about the implications of a valid Mass that is also illicit by its very existence because, I expect, of the utter disgusting novelty of it. More fun to envisage a circle of hell in Dante, since he already depicts it.

    So long as the Mass is illicit, you should stay a million miles away from it, perhaps after reflecting on the unavoidable sense the word illicit has. These are folks–whose church, by the way, is not, according to the Bishop quoted above, entitled to be called Catholic–on the brink, by any number of reports, of “formal schism.”

    So, can’t call their Church Catholic, can’t make any Sacramental use apart from one of their “priests,” cannot attend a licit Mass, cannot imagine their leaders are our leaders: I will settle for describing it as schismatic, broken off from the Church, in the world of common sense I think I still inhabit.

    I am not “honorable” for preferring to cut out my own heart before attending one of their illicit Masses. I am Catholic. Nor do I “refuse” to attend their illicit Mass since nobody can seriously offer it me as Catholic. That would be like the Watchtower folks appearing on our porch. Thanks, we’re Catholic. Take this rosary. We have a Pope. Etc.

    Oh, and did I say that I would prefer to cut out my own heart before attending one one of their illicit Masses?

    Support FSSP.

  24. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Palladio,

    well, I prefer attend an SSPX Mass to cutting out my own heart, and, you know, I am Catholic too.

    de facto schismatic in the broad non-technical sense I intend.

    In other words, disobedient. I wonder why it be necessary to throw a word like “schismatic” into it when “disobedient” says all you intend to say.

    As for puritanical, that is obvious to me given my scholarly fields, but I am happy to call it a matter of judgment or opinion, too.
    Fine, but where, precisely, do you see puritanism here? For I am still under the opinion that puritanism does not mean desire for non-compromise. It means, in broadest terms, a confusion of the Grace-Nature and Grace-Sin distinctions. One of the usual indications is the attitude on wine, and the SSPX does not favor teetotalism.

    So long as the Mass is illicit, you should stay a million miles away from it, perhaps after reflecting on the unavoidable sense the word illicit has.
    By decree of the Council of Constance, a Catholic is allowed to attend an (illicit) Mass of an excommunicate or suspended priest as long as the priest is not vitandus in his penalty, and as long as the prospective attendant does so for any reason not in itself unjust (necessity or great advantageousness explicitly not necessary). The authors go on to say that by implication, neither does the priest sin in offering it, for then the decree of the Council would be void which cannot be. See St. Alphonsus, Moral Theology, at the respective places.

    I never objected to praying for their reunion. I did object to calling them fallen, which in my world usually means the state of the soul.

  25. LadyMarchmain says:

    Longskirts, Thank you for your wonderful poetry!

    Palladio: In terms of what or who is to be called Catholic, my godfather used to say that there are only three kinds of Catholic: Catholic, lapsed Catholics, and future Catholics (in which he included the entire world). Surely the SSPX fit into these categories, even if their juridical situation is unclear at this hour. I cannot help but think about St. Athanasius, who was expelled and exiled. We are in the middle of a very confusing chapter of history and cannot be certain of the conclusion.

    Also, Palladio, if we must ask about liceity, this refers to the state of impaired relations between the SSPX and the hierarchy, not to any aspect of their masses or to any actual doctrine imparted.

    It is interesting to me that in previous pontificates, we were encouraged to attend the Eastern Orthodox Rites, although in terms of attitude towards, the official, doctrinal stance of the EO church is to reject the claims of the papacy and any convert from Catholicism must repudiate the Roman Catholic church as a satanic enterprise.

    We must pray for the day when Christians cease from attacking one another with these hurtful labels. I admit to outright nostalgia for our Holy Father Emeritus, our Pope of Christian Unity!

  26. Priam1184 says:

    Just a random thought: if the writer is a member of a ‘FSSP Latin Mass Community’ then why do they want to go to an SSPX chapel?

  27. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Lady Marchmain:

    I don’t think the SSPX are suffering from a “confusion of history.” They know clearly what the Pope wants them to do. They just refuse to do it. And unlike Athanasius, who never attacked Pope Liberius for being weak after imprisonment, the SSPX have attacked the Pope as a modernist and encouraged the rest of the Church to disobey him and not attend the Mass which he promulgates as the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

    As far as the questions of sacraments which are licit and valid, illicit but valid, or just invalid, there is a principle from Patristic times that bishops, and only bishops, can regulate the validity of sacraments in their dioceses. St. Irenaeus said that even Mass without the permission of the diocesan bishop was invalid. The Church has loosened up, to where only confessions and marriages are invalid without jurisdiction and faculties. If Catholics now wish to grant validity to all SSPX sacraments because of a “state of emergency” they should also be very honest with themselves and admit that this goes against Tradition, if the teaching of the ancient Fathers is to be taken as a serious part of Tradition.

    I’m not aware of any Catholic teaching which says that Catholics were encouraged to receive Orthodox sacraments. Perhaps you could cite a source. The Vatican II Ecumenical Directory allowed for that only in the case where a Catholic could not communicate with Catholic sacraments–an extreme situation given that there is much more availability of Catholic sacraments than Eastern Orthodox sacraments.

  28. Sixupman says:

    For the record, I hear Mass at an Oratory church.

    With regard to SSPX, I take the edict of the Bishop of Calgary with an element of amusement. Here in England & Wales the bishops’ conference issued an edict, circa 2003, that, in the circumstances of my residing, I could fulfil my Sunday and Holyday Duty by attendance at the Cof E some 500M distant, or a Methodist or Free Church chapel. From the pulpit of my actual parish church was preaching against both the papacy and the Magisterium of Mother Church. [I discussed the latter with my ‘Diocesan’ confessor and he was aware of the problem – he told me to use it as a penance.]

    The Prior at SSPX Calgary, Fr. Leo Boyle a large down to earth Irishman, is held in the highest esteem by the laity who come into contact with him – be it America,the UK and Canada. Were the more clergy like him in the parishes of the UK.

  29. Palladio says:

    Ladymarchmain, another point to add to what Fr_Sotelo writes, would be what the Church, albeit not wielding the authority of your godfather, has written about the “illicit Mass.” Here is one bit, from Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal:”
    “The Masses they [SSPX] celebrate are also valid, but it is considered morally illicit for the faithful to participate in these Masses unless they are physically or morally impeded from participating in a Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest in good standing (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 844.2). The fact of not being able to assist at the celebration of the so-called “Tridentine” Mass is not considered a sufficient motive for attending such Masses.”

    Those are pretty big impediments, hard to imagine as being very common. I see no encouragement whatever to attend an SSPX Mass here or anywhere from the Catholic Church. I do see that, apparently, it is a misnomer to speak of an illicit Mass. “Morally illicit” is of course a way to describe sin. Again, no encouragement to attend SSPX. The letter goes on to warn of Catholic faithful endangering themselves in the grave matter of schism–on the assumption SSPX was, as of the writing, in its leadership schismatic.

    Again, imrahil, like lady m’s godfather, in quoting a Council you seem to know more than the good great Cardinal, later Pope. Naturally, I am no authority.

    I suspect we should listen very carefully to what our Catholic pastors say to us. All of mine have constantly preached in unity with the Pope. It is a singular blessing, perhaps, but it is the normal condition of Christ’s Church, that all be one.

  30. incredulous says:

    Does anybody know what’s going on with these guys in FL and why Our Lady of Victory didn’t have their 6 pm Friday mass?

  31. boko fittleworth says:

    The SSPX is operating in the bishop’s diocese without canonical status or faculties? So give them status and faculties.

    Bishop: “Welcome to the Diocese! Here’s a letter memorializing my grant to you of the faculty to hear Confessions in my diocese. Please send me a letter from your ordaining bishop for our files, and double check the info printed below. It’s going in the Diocesan Directory. Do we have your name and address right? And hey, could you do me a favor? Most of priests of the diocese will be concelebrating Holy Thursday with me at the cathedral. Could you offer a public TLM that evening for those attached to the Extraordinary Form? Let me know if you think you need the use of one of our bigger, more centrally-located churches for that. Thanks!”

    [That is probably what Bp. Zuhlsdorf of Black Duck would do, or something very similar. There would have to be something about obedience attached. But there will never be a Bp. Zuhlsdorf.]

  32. Imrahil says:

    Dear @palladio,

    there was, also, a response to a dubium cited by our reverend host saying explicitly that it is not even a sin to attend an SSPV Mass.

    Of course also, if it really were sinful, we’d have to prefer to stay at home to it even on a Sunday in the absence of a priest in good standing.

  33. Palladio says:

    Dear imrahil,
    But unless something has changed drastically since the letter I quote from, it IS a sin, under certain conditions, to attend an SSPX Mass, for what else could “morally illicit” mean and why else would those certain and clear conditions be set for DISCOURAGING Catholics from attending it? As I said, I am no authority, but I fail to see how breaking from and willfully denying the authority of tradition–i. e., the Pope, the Magisterium, Vat. II–constitutes any positive reason for Catholics to attend an SSPX Mass.
    The bright side, if there is one, is that SSPX members have Eucharist. The dark side that they have no sacraments of confession or marriage. Can one really have Eucharist without Confession?

    The other conclusions I’d be inclined to draw are too much to consider.
    God bless.

  34. Joshua Mincher says:

    The Ecclesia Dei Commission has said that attending an SSPX mass fulfills your Sunday obligation.

  35. Joshua Mincher says:

    The SSPX has always fulfilled a pastoral need, though that pastoral need has changed greatly since Summorum Pontificum.

    For the decades when the Gregorian/Tridentine Mass was practically illegal, the faithful had to go to the SSPX in most places in order to exercise what John Paul II and Benedict later acknowledged to be their ‘right’ to pray the Mass in the ancient usage.

    Once the Fraternity of St. Peter and other societies in union with Rome were formed after 1988, it became easier to found traditional parishes, but it was by no means easier to find them. So even then the SSPX fulfilled a pastoral need.

    After Summorum Pontificum it has become vastly easier, but by no means easy, to found and find traditional and tradition-friendly parishes. So the pastoral need for the SSPX is greatly diminished, in my mind.

    However there are a great deal of places still where only the SSPX is providing the usage of the Mass to which every Catholic has a right.

    More importantly, there are still a large number, though a relative minority, of Christians who are deeply scandalized by the post-conciliar era and, rightly or wrongly, cannot in good conscience reunite with their diocese. The SSPX, I would argue, today fills their pastoral need.

    Based on their many statements on the matter, and their basic patience and open-mindedness towards them, it would seem that Pope Benedict XVI and Ecclesia Dei agree that the SSPX fills a pastoral need, and that for the time being no definitions (declaring a ‘schism’ for example) are needed that would alienate either side.

  36. Joshua Mincher says:

    When Bishop Bruskewitz (may his name be praised!) excommunicated the SSPX in his diocese, he also excommunicated various apostate modernist groups such as Call to Action, Catholics who work at Planned Parenthood, and Catholics who are Masons, among others.

    Does the Bishop of Calgary wish to similarly clarify the standing of the modernists in his diocese? Who is the greatest threat to communion in his diocese? He is providing a traditional parish in his diocese, and I don’t mean to cast doubts on his judgement, I’m just suggesting that the SSPX is treated with an odd lack of ecumenism and patience in today’s Church.

    As the great John Senior is supposed to have said (if he didn’t he should have): “If Archbishop Weakland is in, who is out?”

  37. Palladio says:

    That’s an interesting take, Joshua Mincher. At the same time, the “alienation” seems to come from the tail, if it is a tail any more, not the dog. So generous Pope Benedict, in 2009, feared not a bit engaging with the sad fact emerging from SSPX leadership–you know, the ones who can confect Eucharist, but cannot hear confessions: “An episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate raises the danger of a schism, since it jeopardizes the unity of the College of Bishops with the Pope. Consequently the Church must react by employing her most severe punishment – excommunication – with the aim of calling those thus punished to repent and to return to unity. Twenty years after the ordinations, this goal has sadly not yet been attained. ” By the “danger of schism,” I take it he meant “formal schism.” That does not mean SSPX is not, de facto, schismatic, in which its leadership rather seems to glory. We know what the reaction was to the generosity of the Pope subsequent to the above, but on the basis not only of what he, first as Cardinal, then as Pope, has written, I cannot at all accept your view that unspecified “writings” endorse SSPX Mass as, except in highly restricted circumstances, viable to Catholics.

    I am also unpersuaded by the “pastoral need” claims you make. If the conscience is improperly formed–as by anti-semitic prejudice or paranoid fear of Vatican II–the burden for the priest at the coal face would presumably be to reform the conscience, not create a bizarre compound for it wherein you get Eucharist but no confession and no marriage. (Right, there is the seemingly perpetual right to thumbing your nose at the Pope and the Magisterium, but that seems to be a positive pleasure for at least some in SSPX.) No Confession, but Eucharist.

    Nor are there, really, sides to be taken. There is the Catholic Church, the one led by the man chosen by the Holy Spirit and founded by Christ. I do hope SSPX rejoins it. It seems more and more a fond hope, but I do hope it.

  38. acardnal says:

    “But there will never be a Bp. Zuhlsdorf.”

    Monsignor would be nice though. :-)

  39. Boko fittleworth,

    You just described my very happiest daydream.

  40. Joshua Mincher says:

    That approach sounds like ideology, Palladio…

  41. LadyMarchmain says:

    Palladio, Thank you for posting the quotation from Holy Father Emeritus, given when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. I agree that the step of attending an SSPX mass is not a light one and may be dangerous. However, it is my understanding that it is not a sin to attend an SSPX mass unless with schismatic intent. The SSPX does assert that they are faithful to the Pope, however, I agree that lately they have become openly critical and the gulf is widening. However, in terms of the Pope being chosen by the Holy Spirit, even Holy Father Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI indicated in 1997, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, this is not the case, rather, the Holy Spirit may prompt the members of the Conclave, but they have free will and can be motivated by other promptings as well. In answer to this question, he responded on Bavarian television: “I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined. There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!”

    Fr_Stoleto: Thank you for going more deeply into this. I was very interested by what you wrote about traditions of jurisdiction in the church. First, I must apologize for my statement which must have been misleading, as I don’t believe I said that there was magisterial teaching encouraging Catholics to receive Eastern Orthodox sacraments; I did mean to indicate that there was pastoral encouragement to attend Eastern Orthodox masses. There were several points during the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II where I frequently heard homilies encouraging Catholics to visit the Eastern Orthodox churches in a spirit of ecumenism. Here is an example of the very embracing viewpoint espoused, taken from the USCCB:
    “Members of the Orthodox churches and the Polish National Catholic Churches share a more intimate bond with us, however. They may receive the Eucharist when they ask for it and they are properly disposed (cf. Canon 844). Again, I would refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
    ‘The Eastern churches that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church celebrate the Eucharist with great love. “These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments, above all – by apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy.” A certain communion in sacris…is not merely possible but is encouraged.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 1399).”‘”

  42. Joe in Canada says:

    Boko Fittleworth: The Bishop would invite the SSPX to do as you say, and he would pop over and give a homily about the role of the priesthood in the sanctification of the whole world including the Hindus, and the SSPX would walk out.

    P.s. Canada specializes in “disobedience to the one above, obedience required by those below.” I don’t know how many times I talked to people who had been told by their priest from the altar not to kneel (before the new GIRM). Now it’s “no kneeling after Communion” despite the clear document from the CDW in 2003.

  43. cajuncath says:

    Lady Marchmain,

    If we’re going to deal with the Eastern Orthodox, how about we draw from the Catechism of Trent, which is more closely rooted in the Tradition of the ages:

    “And just as this one Church cannot err in faith or morals, since it is guided by the Holy Ghost; so, on the contrary, all other societies arrogating to themselves the name of church, must necessarily, because guided by the spirit of the devil, be sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral.”

  44. Magash says:

    This is really very simple. If Father Joe, without permission from his legitimate Ordinary entered the diocese under the control of another Ordinary and set up shop, the Ordinary would be well within his rights to tell the people under his care not to attend Mass at Fr. Joe’s chapel. No reasonable person familiar with Canon Law would dispute that.
    In most of the West we like to think that we have a right to expect those appointed over us to be fair and even and consistent in their administration and that we have a “right” to ignore them if they are not. This is not, however, the way it works in the Church. There is many a Saint, Saint Pius of Pietrelcina comes to mind as a recent example, who spent years persecuted by a series of individuals appointed over them who did not understand their particular call to holiness. In every case it was met on the part of the Saint with obedience and patient trust in God, not rebellious talks of “rights” and complaints of inconsistent rules.
    As for punishment the bishop does indeed have the right to impose punishment, as did Bishop Bruskewitz, and he has the right to determine not to impose punishment. That’s part of his personal right to bind and loose. As for confession, Peter has already made that call. A confession made to a SSPX priest is not valid under most circumstances. That means that those who make use of them and then receive validly, but illicitly consecrated hosts at a SSPX Mass, are receiving the Body of Christ while in the state of mortal sin, which is itself another mortal sin.
    It makes me wonder if the decisions made by the SSPX and the laity that support them might not primarily be connected to the fact that they likely have not had a valid confession for years. I believe much of the problems in the Catholic Church can be traced to the fact that most Catholics no longer go to confession, or limit their confession to once a year, during Lent (or Advent.) Likewise perhaps many of the problems and actions of the SSPX stems from the fact that because they do not have valid confession their members are as seeped in sin as the most liberal cafeteria Catholic who never avails themselves of personal Reconciliation.

  45. cajuncath says:

    Magash, it’s not that simple, and your analysis seems rather flawed.

    Obedience, important as it is and grace-filled as it can be, is not a prime theological virtue. Faith is one of them. The theological virtues take precedence over the cardinal virtues in case of conflict. If our adherence to the faith, to the Holy Tradition bestowed upon us by Christ via the Holy Spirit is jeopardized and attacked, even by those with rightful authority over us, we retain the right, subject to judgment, to take the necessary steps to secure our adherence to the faith, including disobedience as a licit option.

  46. APX says:


    I mean this in as nicest way possible… Your reasoning is the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time.

    I’m with Magash, especially about the confession thing. I often wonder what would happen if every member of the SSPX and their followers made a
    Good thorough general confession to a priest who actually had faultines to absolve sin.

  47. LadyMarchmain says:

    cajuncath: Of course. The Council of Trent is very clear. The Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and the Chair of Peter was ordained by Our Lord Jesus Christ with the unique power to bind and loose and therefore determines doctrine and proclaims anathema definitively. No other earthly authority is competent to do this. Therefore, I am actually uncertain what your point is in citing the Council of Trent.

    The SSPX have not stated they are a separate church, and neither have we been instructed (yet) that they are heretical or in schism. Their future status is unclear; let us pray very hard. My point in posting that section of the Catechism was to show the strong ecumenical outreach towards a church that is clearly schismatic and most definitely not Roman Catholic (Eastern Orthodox), and that is nonetheless defined as possessing valid Eucharistic rites and validly ordained priests, just as the SSPX have. If the Eastern Orthodox are (quoting the Catechism) “still joined to us in closest intimacy”, how much more the SSPX, who have always maintained their allegiance to the Pope and preserved the traditional Catholic rites?

    My aim in posting what I did is to support those of the faithful who, for particular and unique reasons (and not for schismatic intent), may need to have recourse to an SSPX mass. They are at this time permitted to do so.

  48. cajuncath says:


    You do not produce any evidence of any problem in what I said, only name calling. What I said is grounded in Thomist thought, and is related to what has been upheld in the thinking of our pre-VII saints and doctors: A pope can error and if and when he does so, we do not follow him in his error.

    If you’d like a contemporary non-SSPX source of piety, Fr. Chad Ripperger who has been with FSSP until relatively recently, has stated that if a pope conveys something that appears to contradict tradition, or is ambiguous, we stay with tradition and follow it, and pray for him. The remote rule reigns over even the slightest issue with the proximate rule.

    By the way, I said nothing about the confession issue itself. And I don’t go to SSPX for confession, or anything else for that matter.

  49. Brian2 says:

    I’ve often wondered why a sympathetic diocesan bishop (assuming there was one) could not just give faculties to hear confessions/marriages to SSPX priests within their diocese. At first, I chalked it up to marking territory and what not.

    But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I, if I were an ordinary, would never do it. Giving a priest faculties encourages (implicitly at least) people to go to them for confession, marriage and so on. But how could one do that for a total stranger. Bishop X doesn’t know the hypothetical SSPX priest . He didn’t meet with X’s vocation director, nor did X go to his seminary, he never met him on a vocations retreat or whatever; he doesn’t even have access to his personnel file or background check. Is the SSPX priest ‘safe environment cleared”? Until SSPX is integrated into the church, and is capable of giving the bishop answers to these questions, no sane bishop, no matter how sympathetic he may be could give faculties to an SSPX priest. Likewise, for precisely those reasons, Bishop X might warn people off of an SSPX chapel. The bishop literally has no idea what goes on there, and no say in what goes on there. How could he not recommend people stay away? Not for theological, doctrinal or even churchy-political matters, but for downright mundane ones: Bishop X doesn’t know him and can’t vouch for him.

    At least, that is my thinking now.

  50. JaneC says:

    The argument about Catholics being able to attend an SSPX parish just because they have a right to the Traditional Mass seems to be a bit of a stretch. Catholics of Eastern Churches such as the Ruthenian or Ukrainian Churches have a right to the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, but if a Catholic parish in their own rite is not available, they may NOT fulfill their obligation at an Orthodox parish unless there is no Catholic parish of any sort available to them. If there isn’t an Eastern Catholic parish, they must attend the local Roman one on Sunday. So, how is it that Romans, in what seems a similar situation, get to have their own set of rules?

    (Reference: EWTN Catholic Q&A)

  51. Palladio says:

    Actually, JaneC, it is more than a stretch: while Cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI excluded preference to the TLM as a legitimate reason for attendance.

    Only, according to the competent authorities — links to whom appear here from people who, heedless of Fr. Z’s own warnings, blithely contradict or distort those authorities — (I say again only) under extremely unlikely conditions are Catholics permitted, and only then for a vanishingly short time, to attend an SSPX Mass. Every single Cardinal and Pope in a position to exercise some competence in public has argued this and warned of perilous dangers of associating with that sect since at least 1988: their documents are largely on the Vatican website.

    The now insurmountable problem for the faithful of priest who can confect Eucharist yet not hear Confession should be obvious enough to Catholics, but there is the gross disobedience of SSPX leadership, too, their betrayal of Catholic tradition in the Pope (three, to be exact), the Council, and the Magisterium. What Magash and APX say on the matter is germane. Talk about a nightmare: Eucharist without Confession. No sacramental marriage. No participation in the life of the Church.

    To me, an ideology would be reflected by the mantra I hear repeated on this thread: “it fulfills Sunday obligation.” It does no such thing.

  52. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Palladio,

    if I remember correctly, the very same letter where this “morally illicit” expression stems from contains the assertion that fulfilment of the Sunday obligation is in itself possible, and other such like things.

    Three points to consider.
    1. The said letters are not technically binding on anyone else but the recipient.
    2. The expression “morally illicit” is rather unheard of in moral theology.
    3. There has been kind of a change of the situation – no, maybe not a legal change, but do you mind me to say “moral chance” – in January 2009.
    4. If there are two opposing laws (a fortiori letters who have no force of law) contradicting each other, what counts is either the most recent or the most benevolent one. You seem to assume that what counts is the most demanding one, even if newer ones say the contrary.

  53. Imrahil says:

    with “either or” I mean: I do not wish to determine here generally which of them, but I’m sure it’s either… or … . I do not intend to say that this is for, in this case, the law’s subject to decide.

  54. Imrahil says:

    And, of course, the three points turned out to be four points. Sorry.

  55. Joshua Mincher says:

    It seems to me that while Magash, APX, and Palladio make good points, they all contradict what Cardinal Hoyos and the PCED state in their letters to the faithful, and in their interviews, as linked above.

    I’m not saying people should go to the SSPX. I’m simply pointing out that the PCED has said that praying Mass at an SSPX chapel fulfills the Sunday obligation.

    Speculation about whether or not people are committing mortal sins by receiving communion at an SSPX chapel is insane, and is nowhere substantiated in PCED or papal statements.

    Systematizing the internal forum of other people is the essence of ideology.

    It’s enough to say, as the PCED has said, that we’d rather you didn’t regularly attend the SSPX because you might become schismatic-minded. Speculating on the state of their souls is insane and ideological.

    Why do you suppose Benedict, Hoyos, et aliter did not make the statements you are making? Why do you think they consider the SSPX to part of the Catholic Church, and thus an internal matter? Because they don’t want to alienate them, because, as Ratzinger stated clearly to the Argentinean bishops, they are not entirely to blame for seeking out traditional liturgy and doctrine in the SSPX.

    Why try to define a schism where Rome has resolutely refused to do so? Why do you so badly want these people to be outside the Church?

  56. Palladio says:

    “if I remember correctly, the very same letter where this “morally illicit” expression stems from contains the assertion that fulfilment of the Sunday obligation is in itself possible, and other such like things.”

    No. But “possible” is no concession. It is obviously a discouragement. There is no Sunday obligation possible, for the vast majority of Catholics, who are obviously NOT constrained by the published conditions against attendance at SSPX Masses–which have not been rescinded or remove and which stand to reason–since Sunday obligation is constant, except for further obvious exceptions such as illness.

    The rest of what you write strikes me, for one, at unpersuasive, albeit I am, of course, no authority whatsoever. On the other hand, the constant retreat to this or that reference is a diversion, and I can read. The competent authorities (freely available online) have not only spoken, but spoken clearly and consistently, to belie what you claim. For one thing, “morally illicit” is from the pen of Cardinal Ratzinger: are you accusing him, in effect, of being wrong, incorrect, or unclear? What competence do you possess to find fault with him?

    Your point 3 I happen to disagree with, since that is the year the Pope wrote of the painful truth of the situation. Not for an instant did he relax the strictures. Did even a year go by before SSPX thumbed its nose at him again?

    SSPX will go the way of all sects, unless it rejoins the Church.

    Catholics have the Church of Christ. If that is not enough for them, are they really Catholics any more?

  57. Joshua Mincher says:

    I’ve never been to the SSPX chapels, and haven’t been tempted to. Intellectually, I am not very sympathetic to their argument. But I know people who have grown up attending their chapels, or who do so now because their families remain scandalized by the post-conciliar Church.

    These people are not serial mortal sinners, and they do alot of good for the Church. I hope their situation is regularized, as Ratzinger would put it. And their being scandalized by the last 40 years is hardly due to a mal-formed conscience. Such an assertion is laughable. Anyone not scandalized by the apostasy by bishops in the last 40 years suffers from a either an unformed conscience or is blessed by a life of total eremiticism.

    If their consciences ARE mal-formed, perhaps we should ask whose job it is to form our consciences? It is the task of the bishops. Have they been forming our consciences well in the past 40 years.

    To say that the SSPX need to return to commuion with the Pope is true. To suggest that the situation is due to their sinfulness is entirely lacking in Charity, pastoral wisdom, and any wisdom at all.

    It is highly ideological to condemn those understandably scandalized and to suggest they are mortal sinners. That is not the approach of the Church, thank God.

  58. Palladio says:

    I’ll pass over in silence the absurd name calling (“insane”) and base and baseless claims of “ideology,” the latter of which being a bit more than a little ironic given the SSPX leadership turning the Mass into an idol, just as protestant sects do the Bible.

    “the PCED has said that praying Mass at an SSPX chapel fulfills the Sunday obligation.” No, it has not. Anybody can read the links to see that. It may require that, like some here do, they think a little bit, too. Sunday obligation is weekly, obviously, and weekly attendance is what every competent authority in public asserts Catholics CANNOT do at SSPX, unless, as I have said over and again, they have no other possibility. Where that possibility is so slim, the conclusion is even more obvious.

    It is also obvious why competent authorities (including the Bishop in Canada) warn against it, since SSPX cannot provide confession, hence cannot offer the life the Church offers in the unmerited gifts Christ instituted and gives to us. To encourage Catholics toward SSPX is to send them at their peril to a ruined museum only reunion with Christ’s Church can rebuild.

    This is my last post on the subject, since the links are so patently clear.

    Support FSSP!

  59. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Palladio, I never denied the discouragement.

    That said, maybe our Pope emeritus once cited the expression, I do not know that, but the phrase “morally illicit” comes from a response to a dubium, and not directly from the response but an attached commentary, issued by the PCED in the 90s and then independent from the CDF. The intent, to me, is clear. “In itself, you can go there, but we discourage you to do so.” Kind-of simple.

    On an aside, coming to think of it, while I do not consider our Pope emeritus wrong, incorrect or unclear, it would be no shame if I did. First, Popes are, when they are not infallible, fallible. Second, he was not then Pope. Third, a man may legitimately make other forms of speech than the highly systematized and checked-for-correctness ones. As a matter of fact, I can point to one page in Introduction to Christianity which is unclear. Are you shocked? (That, by the way just to not create a false impression, does not change my view that this is an absolutely wonderful book.)

  60. Imrahil says:

    You give no links, and there were once citations by our generous host who say the contrary of what you said. They, too, are, if I remember correctly, abounding. But I have no time to look them up now.

  61. APX says:

    perhaps we should ask whose job it is to form our consciences? It is the task of the bishops. Have they been forming our consciences well in the past 40 years.

    According to Fr. Heribert Jone’s manual, Moral Theology, the onus to form a practically certain conscience lies on the the person whose conscience needs to be formed.

  62. liquidpaw says:

    Palladio, with all due respect, I do support the FSSP. However, they are forced to tread lightly, as they are welcomed by very few bishops and higher ranking Roman officials. As the only order producing priests in significant numbers, most bishops still want nothing to do with them in their diocese. There are certainly none to be found in my diocese anywhere, and a traditional parish would thrive where I am. While SP produced some availability of Mass in the EF in my diocese, most parishes offering the Mass are roughly an hour or more away in smaller population centers at late afternoon times, making it difficult to attend for families. It is hard to get home at 9pm, still have to eat, and get the kids ready for school. Think it is only a coincidence things are set up this way? I also beg to differ that the SSPX make the Mass an “ideology.” They offer Mass with the maximum reverence humanly possible, the way it should be done. They also teach orthodox Catholic Faith, or what was considered orthodox Catholic Faith prior to VII. Thank goodness for them, as they more than likely saved Tradition from extinction at the hands of the VII wrecking crews. The FSSP came from the pressure put on Roman authorities by their very existence. I’m also glad there is still a voice (SSPX) heard to charitably point out the errors of bishops who visit mosques and encourage Muslims to “keep the faith”, turn a blind eye to liturgical abuses, and allow those in mortal sin to receive our Lord. Is there really any wonder as to why so many Catholics are indifferent or falling away from the Church? We better understand our Faith, because blind obedience to what many are teaching is a very unsafe position.

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