QUAERITUR: Confession at regular parish but Sunday Mass at SSPX?

From a reader:

Howdy Fr. Z [Fine, thanks!]

I had a question about fulfilling my Sunday Obligation at an SSPX chapel. First let me say, I am 100% with the bishops and the pope. I prefer the Latin Mass. I am about 50-60 minutes away from the closest and only diocesan TLM in Dallas, and being a college student I cannot really afford to drive there every week. However, there is an SSPX chapel about 10 minutes from where I go to school. Since I have seen you write where SSPX confession are not valid, but their Eucharist is, could I go to confession at a diocesan parish and go to Mass at the SSPX chapel, would this fulfill my obligation? Please keep in mind this is strictly due to my preference of the TLM, not disobedience to the pope or bishops. Any help would be great.

In short order:

Yes and Yes.

You can go to confession at a regular parish (which is where you will find a confessor, that is, a priest with faculties and who absolves validly – unlike the SSPX priests except in danger of death when the law and situation give them faculties for that moment).

You can fulfill your Sunday obligation at a chapel of the SSPX. The Mass they say is valid (for valid celebration of Mass faculties are not needed – Mass is valid but illicit). The Mass is in a Catholic rite. That’s what canon law requires.

That said, some time ago there was a statement from the Holy See that attending Mass at chapels that were loosely associated with the SSPX did NOT fulfill the Sunday obligation. So, make sure it is truly an SSPX chapel.

Also, given the way the SSPX is going on these days, it may happen that the Holy See will adjust its approach.  I hope that will not be the case, but one of these days I suspect that Rome will confirm in an official way what the SSPX seems to want (for one reason or another): to be separate.

Finally, it grieves me that you don’t have better access to TLMs there.  How very sad that priests don’t care about the pastoral care of so many of the faithful, especially in a time when being “pastoral” (usually pronounced by liberals as “pastOral” or even – and I shudder – “pastO-ree-al”) is all the rage.  They are really only concerned with those who think like they do.

And since I haven’t said it for a while: Benedict XVI was the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Of course, as of now you may attend the SSPX Mass, but as a former North Texan, may I make a quick suggestion?

    I am guessing that the chapel of which you speak is the one in North Richland Hills; I once had some roommates who attended it. If that’s the case, would you consider driving to Fort Worth? It’s not terribly well-publicized, but the priests from the FSSP parish in Dallas say the EF at St. Mary of the Assumption in Fort Worth on Sundays at 5:30 PM. The priests also hear confessions there for an hour or hour and a half before Masses and as long as it takes to hear confessions after Mass. Also, you mentioned a “diocesan” EF Mass. I’m not sure to which church you’re referring, but on the offhand chance you aren’t talking about the FSSP parish, Mater Dei Catholic Church, it is in Irving just off of Loop 12 and 356. Their parish’s website has their Mass schedule. They have three Sunday morning Masses with accompanying confessions and 1-2 daily Masses.

    Naturally, all the FSSP Masses are approved by the respective dioceses.

    Just in case it might help… :)

  2. Palladio says:

    Ma Padre, ma Padre…
    That tricky word “could” raises a question or two, in my opinion. Should not the case determine the answer? It sounds like convenience is the matter, and personal preference. I, too, prefer the TLM, but it is not offered in my parish, or anywhere nearby, but how can that matter? What difference does inconvenience make to being able to go to an illicit Mass of either Form when a licit and valid Mass is available?

    Nor can I parse a Catholic who is “100 percent with the Pope and Bishops” but inclined to attend a Mass in a sect broken from the Pope.

    Last, does illicit have a technical meaning contradicting the common sense meaning?

  3. Sword40 says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z for this clarification. So far I have been able to afford to drive to our closest FSSP satellite Mass (75 miles each way) but I’m sure there will come a time when finances will limit my ability to travel as far. Our Archbishop is relatively generous to tradition but seems to be in a “holding pattern” as far as allowing expansion of the TLM. That’s right he has put a hold on more TLM’s. Every priest I talk with is scared to make a move.

    Please pray for us.

    [People keep falling back into the pre-Summorum trap. With Summorum Pontificum, the local bishop is NOT the reference point for obtaining more TLMs. The parish priest is. Build up those parish priests. Support the younger priests and assistants. They will be pastors soon. Encourage, cajole, plead, bribe, inveigle, coax. Get to work. It can be done, with grace and elbow grease.]

  4. msc says:

    My archdiocese has approximately 120,000 Catholics and as far as I know there is one TLM per month (in one parish). I don’t think there’s much chance we’ll get more. [Do something about that.]

  5. Montenegro says:

    I greatly appreciate the detail and clarity of this answer, Fr. Z. I wonder if I might ask 2 related questions for your consideration, though they are about SSPX more specifically:

    1. I know some SSPX people locally. They attend Mass in their chapel, but do not attend the diocesan TLM in the same diocese, about a 15-20 minute drive from their chapel. Why?
    2. Same SSPX folks recently attended the funeral of a beloved elderly great aunt who was a professed nun and had insisted upon wearing her habit for decades after her other sisters had cast it aside, being essentially the only one in her congregation/order to do so. She was very holy. Her funeral Mass was in Novus Ordo. These SSPX folks in attendance (and their kids) did not receive Holy Communion at the funeral Mass. Why would SSPX folks not receive Eucharist at a NO Mass they were obligated to attend, like the funeral Mass of a beloved relative?

    Many thanks and God bless.

  6. pledbet424 says:

    I used to attend an FSSP chapel and we had several SSPX people that would come over Saturdays for confession. Seems they didn’t think they could get valid absolution from their priests, but thought they could from the FSSP priest . But they would not attend Sunday Mass at the FSSP chapel. The FSSP priest was not amused.

  7. CGPearson says:

    Interesting. I was always under the impression that SSPX Masses, while valid, did NOT fulfill one’s Sunday obligation (extraordinary circumstances notwithstanding) due to the fact that the Society holds no canonical status within the Church. [Nope. They do fulfill the obligation.]

  8. If this person is 50-60 minutes east of Dallas, they should consider St. William the Confessor Parish in Greenville, TX, Diocese of Dallas.

  9. Former Altar Boy says:

    So much for the lie that the TLM is only for old people. Here is a young man, the future of the Church, who is loyal to Rome and can’t find a valid AND licit TLM to attend. And the bishops call themselves shepherds! ha

  10. Elizabeth D says:

    I think this is an interesting issue, and there is a possibility of someone who attends Sunday Mass at an SSPX chapel but confesses to a priest with faculties (and makes that known) giving food for thought to others to also consider confessing to a priest with faculties who can absolve.

    If I somehow found myself at an SSPX Mass and was not in danger of death, I personally would make a spiritual Communion. I made a related inquiry one time to my bishop (who does celebrate the TLM himself) who seemed alarmed that I was asking about the SSPX chapel, and advised me one should not receive Communion because their Masses are valid but illicit. I have never been to the SSPX chapel since my bishop didn’t seem to want me to. I have been to the local former-LCWR-sisters chapel that left the Church, but it was to take them (and Sister Simone Campbell) testimonies of why Catholics should not support that. If Sister Simone went to the SSPX chapel to give a homily I would definitely want to go to the SSPX chapel for that and make sure I got pictures to put on my blog. But I suspect the women might force a chapel veil on her, or maybe a wimple and nun veil, as a sign of the headship of her Divine Spouse. I don’t condone it, but I’m just saying that might happen if Sister Simone showed up at the wrong place. They are sort of on the same side of town. But fortunately at least she could attend Mass there, which she could not at the former LCWR place.

  11. MaryL says:

    So what happens with the SSPX mass in the Canon when “We Pray for the Church?” and the Priest says: “…..we offer You for Your Holy Catholic Church, that You would deign to give her peace and protection, to unite and guard her the whole world over, together with Your servant N…, our Pope, and N…., our Bishop; and all true believers who cherish the Catholic and Apostolic Faith”. How is the SSPX mass able to fulfil our obligation if they are not offering it up in union with the Pope and Bishops? [Saying the Pope’s and the bishop’s name in the Canon is not nothing, but it doesn’t mean much if they have no intention to respect and obey them.]

  12. EXCHIEF says:

    Try living in a diocese that covers 67,000 square miles and has no, zero, nada TLM masses. I do

  13. Mike_in_Kenner says:

    Trying to figure out travel times to possible TLMs in Texas is a reminder of just how big Texas is. The travel difficulties of a college student make it even more complicated. I know that when I travel away from home and I can’t find a Latin Mass near where I’m going to be, I look online for possible Eastern Rite Catholic liturgies, which are often more agreeable than Mass at the average Roman Rite parish. Since the student asking the question mentioned the Dallas area, it might be helpful to consider St. Sophia Ukrainian Catholic Church in The Colony, Texas. It might be close enough to be an option sometimes. I have no personal experience of that parish, so I cannot offer a personal recommendation, but I’m estimating that it might be close to the area mentioned.

  14. JacobWall says:

    How do non-liberals say “pastoral”? I’m not by any means a liberal, but I’ve never heard “pastoral” said in a different way. (Perhaps it’s Canada; we’re a brood of liberals up here!)

  15. JabbaPapa says:


    Your reader is in the exact circumstances wherein Sunday attendance of his nearby SSPX Mass would fulfill his Sunday obligation.

    Chapels affiliated or associated with the SSPX whilst not served by SSPX clergy are to be handled with more care, but whether one may or may not licitly attend Mass there is actually determined on a case-by-case basis. Masses provided by Williamson’s splitter group, for example, most likely continue to be valid.

    Of course, in case of doubt, prudence should prevail, and such chapels be avoided.

  16. James C says:


    The only practicing Catholics left in my family under 80 (besides me) are some SSPX cousins, so I can answer your two questions:

    1) Re: why SSPXers don’t go to a nearby diocesan TLM. Diocesan TLMs are often just one Mass on Sunday, often in the afternoon, without any other features of traditional parish life. That’s exactly the case of my SSPX cousins in their diocese. The SSPX church is a half-mile away from the “indult” TLM (that’s how the bishop approaches it), at 4pm in a typical Novus Ordo parish with the usual shenanigans. The celebrant is an old priest brought in to do the Mass and that’s it. At their SSPX chapel, my cousins get a full traditional parish life (even if it isn’t technically a parish) and a solidly Catholic school for their many children too. And it’s only a matter of time before the parish with the “indult” closes, as the diocese is imploding rapidly.

    2) Why the SSPXers you spoke of did not receive communion at the Novus Ordo funeral. Well, there could be a number of reasons for this. Were there lots of abuses at this Mass? But the charitable and understandable interpretation to give is that perhaps they weren’t in a great disposition to receive. Not being accustomed to the typical Novus Ordo celebration, they might have been distracted. I go to the Novus Ordo often myself out of necessity, and I try hard to get to a reasonably reverent one, but if I’m traveling and find myself at a real circus, you bet I may refrain from communion because the shenanigans have distracted me so.

    It’s actually okay not to receive communion all the time.

    But anyway, rightly or wrongly, what I have said is the typical SSPXer understanding behind your questions.

  17. Ambrose Jnr says:


    I don’t go often at all to SSPX masses, however, as far as I remember, they always mention the pope by name and I thought even the local bishop during the part you mentioned of Holy Mass…re: local bishop, I’d be glad for confirmation of that from other wdtprs’ers…

  18. StWinefride says:

    Elizabeth D. I made a related inquiry one time to my bishop (who does celebrate the TLM himself) who seemed alarmed that I was asking about the SSPX chapel, and advised me one should not receive Communion because their Masses are valid but illicit.

    This is similar to what happened to me. I attended an SSPX Chapel for about 6 months a few years ago (I knew many of the families there) but when a traditionally-minded Priest I know heard this, he advised me to not receive Holy Communion there. As stated above their Masses are valid but illicit and the priests are suspended a divinis. I decided to leave and attend the Diocesan TLM.

  19. FranzJosf says:


    I wonder if the the SSPXers were following the old custom? An FSSP priest told me that according to the old discipline only the priest received Holy Communion at a Requiem; none of the faithful did. I had never heard that before, and I don’t know the rubrics on the matter.

  20. APX says:

    As a student who used to drive 400 kms round trip to attend the EF in another city on Sundays, I empathize with the person in this situation, but I strongly discourage attending an SSPX chapel merely because of preferences for the EF. What’s going to happen when Rome declares one can’t attend Masses at SSPX chapels? Are people going to be quick to say no to their preferences and avoid such chapels, or are they going to use faulty reasoning to reason themselves to believe its ok to attend such Masses?

    I strongly recommend going through your budget and looking for where you can cut costs in order to afford attending the EF that is in full communion with Rome. For me it worked to cut down on food costs and unnecessary spending.

    If it is God’s will that you attend the EF, He will make it possible for you to attend one that is completely licit.

  21. mamajen says:

    Regarding why SSPXers won’t attend a diocesan TLM…they’re advised not to. Here’s this from the FAQs on SSPX.org:

    Here is a summary of the dangers to which the faithful might easily be exposed by imprudently attending the traditional Mass celebrated today under said circumstances:

    – the teaching of the Faith can still be defective,
    – the priest might be ill-prepared for the pre-conciliar liturgy,
    – the risk of a mixing of the new and old rite remains,
    – and there is the danger of a confusion which could be very misleading.


    Incidentally, I think the first and last points are very good reasons for staying out of an SSPX chapel.

  22. LadyMarchmain says:

    Montenegro: There may be many reasons why someone does not receive communion, including having already received that day, having just eaten, or not being properly disposed to receive. In many TLM communities I have attended (diocesan), it is unusual to see everyone come forward to receive, and common to see quite a few people remaining in the pews.

    APX, Palladio: I believe it would be safe to say that this is not a matter of light preference, or consumerism. The Catholic Catechism provides for attending mass outside one’s own parish for spiritual reasons.

    Palladio: The SSPX is not a sect, nor is it heretical. I myself am not affiliated with an SSPX chapel nor do I attend SSPX masses, just to be clear about this. However, I do understand that faithful Catholics meet their Sunday mass obligation by attending a Catholic mass at an SSPX chapel. Therefore, there should be no difficulty in “parsing” a devout Catholic who attends this mass after considerable thought and prayer, and consulting a wise priest on the internet.

  23. Brian2 says:

    Returning to the student in question: my bet is that he or she lives in Denton, attending either TWU or UNT. While Denton is technically in the Ft Worth diocese, it is in the orbit of Dallas in most matters. In any case, up the road from Denton is the town of Sanger, where SSPX has a chapel, Our Lady of Fatima (naturally). From Denton, it would be over an hour to either the FSSP in Irving, or to Ft. Worth.

    But there are a few option, in Lewisville, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church has proved a refuge to latins in Lewisville and surrounding areas. Well, actually, that is the only option right now, and while OL of Lebanon is great, it wont bethe liturgy you want. But, There are two possible project I would suggest. First, talk to the catholic chaplain for TWU and UNT (it is the same priest, I forgot his name). Maybe he would be willing to offer TLM. The little chapel in the woods at TWU, architecturally speaking would be perfect (how a non-denominational chapel at a state university ends up with altar rails and an ad orientem altar while most nearby RC churches have neither….). Ft. worth diocese is planning a new university parish, JP II (naturally), by getting involved in offering the TLM there, one may be ale to decisively influence the liturgical life of the parish for years to come. The point of university chaplaincy is to get young adults involved in the faith, so I would hope that that would incline him to hear you out, even if otherwise he isn’t interested.

    Why don’t I do these things? I’m not in college and pretty happy with my current parish.

  24. APX says:


    The Catholic Catechism provides for attending mass outside one’s own parish for spiritual reasons.

    It’s one thing to attend a different parish than one’s territorial parish for spiritual reasons, it’s a completely different thing to attend the chapel of a group that is currently in an canonically irregular state with the Church, and is NOT a “parish”. The term “parish” is a canonical term. It isn’t a blanket word that can be applied to all churches/chapels that offer a Mass in a Catholic rite. The SSPX seem to be adopting more and more, a schismatic attitude.

    Proverbs states, “You are the company you keep”. While someone may associate with a group of people for a legitimate reason, there is still a great risk of unintentionally adopting the same mindset and characteristics of that group of people.

    While attending one Mass at an SSPX chapel may pose little risk, over time the “imbibing schismatic attitude” that permeates these places put a person’s soul in grave danger to adopt the same attitude. It dulls the intellect and the person begins to convince himself that these attitudes are reasonable and correct.

  25. Montenegro says:

    Thanks all for your responses to my questions. Re the diocesan indult: in this particular diocese, the former indult (now TLM) is far from closing. Quite the opposite. There is daily TLM, an active community with lots of young families, and the diocese is thriving under a new bishop. However, for decades, this diocese was a real wasteland.

  26. MarkG says:

    If they want to stick with FSSP, Mater Dei in Irving might have a carpool, or be willing to put a line in the bulletin asking to start one from Denton.
    Based on the description, I’m assuming this student is at the University of North Texas in Denton, which is about 40 miles north of Dallas.
    I assume they are referring to the SSPX Chapel, Our Lady of Fatima, in Sanger which is 10 miles north of Denton. The other SSPX Chapel, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, is in North Richland Hills, between Dallas and Fort Worth, about 60 miles from Denton.
    The FSSP has a Chapel in Irving, between Dallas and DFW airport, near the old Cowboys stadium, 40 miles from Denton with daily Masses.
    The FSSP has a chaplain at Fisher Moore College in Fort Worth near TCU (long way) with daily Masses.
    The FSSP serves a TLM on Sunday nights in downtown Forth Worth at Assumption (long way)
    The FSSP serves Masses in Plano, which is closer from Denton, but not on a regular basis.
    There are still 2 priest left who say TLMs at private homes since the 1960s, but those are in the Arlington area (long way)
    As others mentioned, there is an Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Colony, which is also closer to Denton. There is a Byzantine Catholic Church near the FSSP in Irving.

    I really like the SSPX Chapel in Sanger as it has the best TLMs in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It’s one of the original SSPX Chapels from the 1970s. Most of the people who go there have never been to a new Mass, and in some cases are third generation members of the parish. That parish is a “time warp” of sorts, very much authentic to pre-Vatican II, with no influence from post Vatican II changes. I really liked the priest there, Fr Richard Boyle, but he got re-assigned a couple of months ago. He gave really good homilies.

  27. AdhucTecumSum says:

    I got the impression that the writer was in Denton and talking about the Sanger chapel, but I second Fort Worth as a more convenient alternative to Irving for that part of the Metroplex. There is also Our Lady of Lebanon, a Maronite Church in Lewisville, which is right off 35 and probably not much farther away time-wise than the SSPX chapel.

  28. LadyMarchmain says:

    APX, your point is very well taken. In particular, I do agree with this:

    “While someone may associate with a group of people for a legitimate reason, there is still a great risk of unintentionally adopting the same mindset and characteristics of that group of people.”

    Sadly, this risk may also apply to parishes within one’s diocese. Considerable prayer and discernment are required of us.

  29. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Re: the SSPX and the FSSP. There are many Lefebvrist priests who regard the FSSP as traitors. The Fraternity is seen as having “sold out to Rome” for their “scraps at the table.” Also, because FSSP priests have been ordained by bishops consecrated in the Novus Ordo, some look suspiciously at the validity of their Holy Orders.

    And on the subject of suspicion, although it is the official position of the SSPX that the Novus Ordo sacraments are valid when celebrated with proper matter, form, intention, and minister, there is practically speaking much doubt among both the SSPX priests and faithful. It is openly asked, since so much of the “Novus Ordo church is in heresy/modernism,” whether it is wise to receive Communion at any Novus Ordo parish. Many SSPX parishioners will not accept even their own priests who “crossed over from the Novus Ordo” unless they were re-ordained by one of the SSPX priests.

    In other words, practically speaking, much of the SSPX regards the Novus Ordo as simply invalid, although publicly the position is expressed as “doubtful sacraments” because the Novus Ordo has, in their minds, corrupted into Protestant theology of the sacraments.

  30. joan ellen says:

    Father Z writes of Christian Unity…most especially Pope Benedict XVI’s efforts with the SSPX.

    SSPX friendships I formed when with them in 2008 I keep. They are great friends. SSPX Masses I attend when my soul is in need especially, even with a TLM available which I usually attend. (I pray that your Diocese will have a TLM soon, EX CHIEF.) This past Sunday a seminarian delivered the best homily/sermon I ever heard on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Margaret Mary. He said the Sacred Heart is the Eucharist. This caused me to think of the Miracle at Lanciano.

    YET, some of the reservations noted above are…well noted…and good to keep in mind with our individual efforts at ‘helping’ this Christian unity to proceed at the micro/individual level. It can be easy to fall into some of the thinking that is off balance. On the other hand, the SSPX chapel I am familiar with will have a hard time becoming formal schismatics. Why? The chapel has adopted too many of the Vatican II norms. For, example, the midnight fast for receiving Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist is now the 3 hour fast of Vatican II. Even their priests, who are so well formed in the Catholic Tradition, are still men of the Church at large. They are part, though not as yet formally, of the Church of Rome… How can it not be? The priests are validly ordained, (the ones who jump over the fence and join Rome formally do not get re-ordained, they become regularized priests of the Roman Catholic Church), the SSPX Mass is valid, the Eucharist is valid, though illegal. The Church of Rome being all over the media…thanks to the Popes, especially Pope Francis, includes these validly ordained priests of the Church of Rome. The SSPX priests stick to the TLM and the Traditions of the Church. The TLM and the Traditions of the Church alone necessitate a certain proximity to Rome which includes Modernist Rome. Whether the SSPX priests like it or not. I would prefer they not only acknowledge that they are part of Rome, which includes tradition and modernism, but then acted to formally make that happen. (Though I suspect that some are doing just that.) They would not have to give up anything. Rome is still Traditional. No Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, priest, nun, nor lay person can change that. When enough of us act as Traditionalists, modernism will fade. That’s a law of physics. Why are some Catholics and the SSPX trying to keep Modernist Rome alive by enabling it?

    Some of our local SSPXers, usually young men, also attend the available Diocesan TLM. One or two of them began a ‘talking table’ at a nearby restaurant. The table is/has young-middle-old, male-female, Traditional-Novus Ordo, and this week a young man who joined us who is interested in learning about the Catholic faith. The ‘talk’ ranges from this topic to relationships, including economy in the relationships, language, especially Latin, etc.
    Point: Some of us are acting as if the SSPX were already in canonical status in so far as our spiritual, intellectual, emotional lives are concerned. At this table, YET, we realize the formality has not occurred. So to honor and respect Holy Mother the Church, we refrain from Confession, possibly the Eucharist…which is valid, though illicit, and occasionally attend Mass at the SSPX chapel hoping other SSPXers will also attend the TLM available on occasion as a unifying practice. We will please Our Blessed Lord (and our Blessed Mother) by keeping these friendships alive, and living out Roman Catholic unity. imho.

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