SSPX – Schism or not?

Recently there has been some slightly turbulent discussion in the blogosphere about the canonical status of the Society of St. Pius X, that is, whether or not the SSPX is in “schism”. Some people refer to them as “schismatic”.

That isn’t quite accurate.

First, remember that the the full name of the SSPX is “Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Pii X… the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X”. So, the true membership of the SSPX are the bishops, priests and, I suppose in a tangential way, the seminarians and religious. Lay people who frequent their chapels aren’t really members.

When I worked for the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” we avoided using the word “schism”. There hasn’t been any official determination that they are in schism.

That said, it must be admitted that Pope John Paul II wrote of the 1988 illicit consecration of bishops as a “schismatic act”. The 1983 Code in can. 751 describes schism as “withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him”. And I think that the “duck argument” could apply, at least as a warning of what could come in the future.

Moreover, in 2013 Card. Mueller of the CDF – also the President of the PCED – referred to them as being is schism. That said, there hasn’t ever been any official ruling and declaration that the SSPX is, formally, in schism.

In any case, I think it is not helpful refer to the SSPX as being schismatic until such time as that Holy See comes down on that side openly.  Surely is isn’t a good idea to come to digital blows about it.

Folks… we have far bigger problems. We need to close ranks rather than bicker about this sort of thing.

I, for one, pray for a reconciliation. And soon.  If things remain the way they are for much longer, I don’t see how reconciliation will come.  After all, there is now a whole generation raised up in their chapels who have never known clear and unambiguous unity and harmony with the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him.  That’s not good.

The moderation queue is ON.  I’ll probably let a lot of comments pile up and release them at once, after some filtering.  So, review and think before posting.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. St. Rafael says:

    I think it is high time that Catholics put an end to the accusation that the SSPX is in schism. Fr. rightly points out there is no official declaration that they are in schim. They lack ordinary jurisdiction and faculties. That is a problem, [HUGE!] but they are in the Church, and this irregular situation will resolved as an internal matter in the Church.

  2. jflare says:

    “After all, there is now a whole generation raised up in their chapels who have never known clear and unambiguous unity and harmony with the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him. That’s not good.”

    Because the bishops and priests of the SSPX are not openly in communion with the Holy Father, the laity who attend Mass at SSPX chapels also do not have creedence either in the Church or the world. We don’t have the benefit of SSPX-inspired lay voices to help remember what all the Church teaches or why. Nor the practical example that those lay persons might give.
    That’s not good either.

  3. JonPatrick says:

    I was surprised to hear Michael Voris refer to the SSPX as being in schism the other day during a “Mic’ed Up” program. I thought he would know better. Although I agree their current state is murky at best. [Cut him some slack. This is a murky question, fraught with difficulties.]

  4. CatholicSwede says:

    Forgive me, but I simply don’t get the witch hunt and accusations of the four (FOUR!!!) SSPX-bishops for being “in schism”. In schism with Christ? In schism with the Blessed Virgin and the Saints? In schism with Catholic doctrine? The Apostolic Faith and Tradition? Devout faithful Catholic church attenders? Rebellious modernists and liberals within the hierarchy fighting hard since the 60’s aiming to change the unchangeable Faith?…..sure! I have to admit that I don’t know any SSPX priests or laity and I have never visited their chapels but I cannot find anything truly schismatic on their sites. On the other hand, listen to ANYTHING coming from many bishops “in good standing” these days. You’d for sure find a LOT more schismatics (though undercover) visiting various Bishops’ Conferences around the world. Without the SSPX I’m also 100% sure there wouldn’t be any FSSP or ICKSP OR any Tridentine Masses around today. They have something thr Church desperately needs.

  5. anilwang says:

    The key difficulty with defining the status of the SSPX is that there situation is without precedent. The priests of the SSPX are not in schism since their excommunication has been revoked. But the Vatican has made it clear that the priests of the SSPX are without faculties, namely Catholics may not go to confession, get married, or fulfill their Sunday obligations at an SSPX parish. The priests of the SSPX are effectively laicized…except that no penalties have been layed on the priests of the SSPX because they are in discussions with the Vatican to resolve their dispute.

    It is, however more clear that Catholics who attend SSPX exclusively and know the Vatican’s stance are in de facto schism. Understandably, the situation is extremely unfair since in some regions (e.g. Germany) there are few if any parishes that are not in de facto schism to a far greater degree than the SSPX and is not only not punished, it’s given honours (e.g. being part of the G8 Cardinals). But right or wrong, we must stick with the Vatican’s rulings when it comes to the sacraments and pray that the upside down situation within the Church is resolved.

  6. Joseph-Mary says:

    Would love to see an official reconciling and a canonical position for the SSPX. As it is now, and as I understand it, we can assist at the Holy Sacrifice at one of their chapels to fulfill our Sunday obligation. The way things are in some places, even more faithful will find they need to attend an SSPX chapel to find Catholicism!

  7. Matt Robare says:

    I think that personal ordinariates are going to be the right tool for the job.

  8. Sonshine135 says:

    I have a soft spot for the SSPX, and I have never been to one of their chapels. I am convinced that he SSPX’s original split from Rome was based on their very grave concerns over the changes to the Mass. Seeing how these changes have proven in many way to be detrimental to the flock, can we not get anyone in Rome to acknowledge that they were right, and that their questions and concerns in many cases were justified? I am often surprised that the SSPX is thought of as schismatic when the opposite end of the ideological spectrum is filled with open heresy. Groups like the LCWR are in open rebellion, non-scriptural, and get a pass. The SSPX and others that are in union with the Holy See like the FFI are treated as outcasts. All of this because of the questionable and soft-serve language of Vatican II and especially, the changes to the Mass. Is this not something that we Catholics should zealously defend? The heavy hand of Rome seems only to fall on those who protect and defend the faith. As a Catholic who is aligned with the Holy See, I cannot help but to remain confused and dismayed. I have to believe these persecutions hold a greater purpose that has not been yet revealed.

  9. Andrew says:

    schisma, atis, n. scissura; dissensio; discordia

    Schismaticos non fides diversa facit sed communionis disrupta societas. (S. Augustinus: Quaest. XVII in Matth. q. XI, 2)

    Quod unus electus est qui caeteris praeponeretur, in schismatis remedium factum est: ne unusquisque ad se trahens Christi Ecclesiam rumperet. (S. Hieronymus: ep. 146 ad Evangelum)

    Haereses non minus ab unitate divellunt quam schismata et dissensiones. (Tertulliani Liber De Praescriptione Haereticorum)

    Consultus quaenam secta foret melior / respondit: “fugite, oh miseri, execranda schismata / catholicis reddite vos populis!” / una fides vigeat, prisco quae condita templo est / quam Paulus retinet quamque cathedra Petri. (Prudentius: Liber Peristephanon, Carmen XI)

    Plus valet obedientia cum fide, quam facultas humani ingenii. Haec autem … dicta sunt propter eos, qui, cum in superficie Christiani videantur … Ecclesiam suis schismatibus scindere non metuunt. (Ep. 149)

  10. acardnal says:

    EWTN’s “Vaticano” series recently did a short four minute video on the SSPX Dominican sisters who visited the Vatican on pilgrimage with their young students. The video includes interviews with the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Msgr. Arrieto, the sisters, and the Vicar General of the SSPX. Kudos to EWTN.

  11. iPadre says:

    I would think a number of theologians as being schismatic in their public and scandalous rejection of the Church’s authoritative teaching on ordination of men, sexual morality and a whole list of issues. These theologians have led countless people out of the Church and destroyed the innocent faith of untold souls. They are the most troublesome to me, although they both have their issues.

  12. steve51b31 says:

    There seems to be the essence in this of “the cream rising to the top” as it were, post V-II in the form resembling the rising of the monastic tradition where the preservation of the fullness of the sacred, the total holiness and sanctity of True Catholicism and the mass is preserved and lived.
    It will be this “experience” which will continue keep the novus ordo connected to the EF where we may be more totally aware of what the mass is intended to be. The Church dare not loose this living link.
    Let this prosper and be carried into the local church so as to inoculate it from the ills of the world.

  13. Imrahil says:

    I quoted it before, but here it is, again:

    Not every disobedience is a schism; in order to possess this character it must include besides the transgression of the commands of superiors, denial of their Divine right to command. (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Schism”)

    And yes… they are to be treated, in the public sphere, according to the attitude they say they hold, not the attitude someone suspects they hold in their heart of hearts.

  14. Gerard Plourde says:

    Sadly, I’m not optimistic regarding the chances of a full, formal reconciliation. My pessimism stems from the fact that Pope Benedict’s generous and heartfelt efforts could not induce the Society’s leadership to resubmit to Papal authority. To be fully part of Christ’s Church requires acceptance of the authority of His Vicar, the Pope, and the Universal Church the Pope leads.

  15. little women says:

    Msgr. Juan Ignacio Arrieta recently gave an interview that said the SSPX has “only a problem of trust.” I really believe that he has hit the nail squarely on the head for a change. [It’s not merely trust. The problems are also theological. However, trust looms large. The SPPX leadership has long worried that, were they to submit to Rome’s legitimate authority, they would quickly be abused through the imposition of unsympathetic superiors. I can’t think that the situation of the Franciscan Friars has helped engender trust.] Given the situations in the Church today many of us have trust issues, and it is but by the grace of God that we have somehow remained in “unambiguous unity and harmony with the Roman Pontiff.” How often have I felt the urge to jump ship!

  16. The Egyptian says:

    I hope and pray they reconcile. if the Pope and the Curia expects them to become “modern and progressive it won’t happen, there needs to be softening on all parties.
    On one hand the idea of priests up here in the northern wasteland of the archdiocese of Cincinnati wearing cassocks and biretta to functions would cause several priestly heads to explode. On the other hand I always did like fireworks ;>) [THAT’s your reason for wanting them to be reconciled?!?]

  17. Servant says:

    The older I get and the more I learn about the history, traditions, teachings, liturgy, (etc…) of the Church, the more I tend to agree with the SSPX in many areas. I’ve never attended Mass at an SSPX chapel, but that is probably only because I’ve not found myself in a situation where the SSPX Mass was the only option. It is no longer just the SSPX types who think the Chruch is in crisis and that there are issues with the texts of Vatican II (e. g., Bishop Athanasius Schneider et al) or that there are problems with the Novus Ordo itself and not just in the way it has been celebrated (e. g., Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Burke et al). I know it is easy for me to say this since I am not a bishop (the layman that I am), but if I were a bishop I would meet with the local SSPX and their superior with the aim of granting faculties to the priests. As Cardinal Burke has stated…”They are Catholic” so why not be “Pastoral” dear bishops and work with the local SSPX affiliates to ensure they are given the faculties they lack? As a faithful Catholic (not affiliated with the SSPX) it boggles my mind that, for the sake of souls, this is not happening now. The Bishops can begin a grassroots campaign to begin the healing rather than wait for Rome to do all the work. In the words of our beloved GKC…”SUBSIDIARITY!” Pax Christ.

  18. Woody79 says:

    The excommunications were lifted. Doesn’t that remove indicia of any sort of schism? [No. Different matter.] Heck, we all know of bishops who disobey the Pope; [Wrongs multiplied do not make a right.] just look at the those who refuse to obey Summorum Pontificum. Too big a difference for some as one involves consecrating bishops and the other not. But still disobeying direct instructions. Frankly, I think very highly of Archbishop Lefebvre for his courageous act. He is the one that saved the TLM.

  19. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Reverend Father Zuhlsdorf,

    Is it Kosher to attend the FSSPX for the Triduum?

    Summorum pontificum seems to rule out the EF for the Triduum:

    “Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary. [If there is call for the Triduum in the Extraordinary Form, it may be celebrated. But, remember, the SSPX doesn’t have any legitimate faculties to say any Mass (or Good Friday service) on any day of the year.]

    “Art. 2. In Missis sine populo celebratis, quilibet sacerdos catholicus ritus latini, sive saecularis sive religiosus, uti potest aut Missali Romano a beato Papa Ioanne XXIII anno 1962 edito, aut Missali Romano a Summo Pontifice Paulo VI anno 1970 promulgato, et quidem qualibet die, excepto Triduo Sacro. Ad talem celebrationem secundum unum alterumve Missale, sacerdos nulla eget licentia, nec Sedis Apostolicae nec Ordinarii sui.”
    (emphasis added)

    Nor are most of us close to a FSSP church or parish that offers the EF for the Triduum because the majority of its Masses are EF.

    There is a need for the EF Triduum. While it is possible to attend a reverent OF Triduum in my area, I’ve been some to some appalling Triduums:

    1. On Holy Thursday I’ve seen an illicit foot washing rite (washing women’s feet), or pastors, as a protest, simple omit this rite, and thus losing the deep symbolism that this rite expresses. (To be fair, some pastors have trouble finding 12 men, and for this reason omit the rite).

    2. On Good Friday, by and large I’ve seen a reverent rite in the OF, yet I have heard music fit for a cocktail bar or a soap opera.

    3. And I’ve seen the Easter Vigil – the most important Mass of the year and the Christian Eleusinian Mysteries – turned into a circus, and an interminable circus. In 2003 I attended an OF Easter Vigil in Maryland (I’ll omit the location, the arrangment of the seating resembling a theater), which became not just a circus, but a farce. It was clear that the pastor otherwise never used incense, because the fire alarm sounded, and rang for at least 15 to 20 minutes, no one seeming to know how to turn it off. Not only were all the readings used (good enough), but also the Psalms were taken not from the Missal but from a missalette which had longer psalms, and sung with the usual insipid melodies used at OF Masses. The Baptism was done by having the baptized go to the restroom, undress and put on a white robe, return and stand then in a tub, and the pastor poured water over them from a plastic juice jug; then the Baptized returned to the restrooms, dryed off, and redressed – all taking far too much time. After the Confirmation, the confirmed went around the congregation and shook everyone’s hands. In all four hours.

    I attended, on the other hand, a fine and reverent OF Easter Vigil in Mount Airy, NC, in 2011 where all the readings were used, the (shorter) psalms from the missal were chanted, and the whole service lasted on 2hrs and 15 minutes. The pastor in now pastor at Our Lady of Grace, Greensboro.

    In 2008 I attended the Triduum at the FSSPX church in Mt. Holly, North Carolina. Everything very reverent. I was unhappy only that the Society rejected the use of the new prayer for the Jews on Good Friday. I attended a local diocesan EF on Sunday afternoon.

    In the meantime I have attend the EF Triduum three times in Rome at the FSSP church, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini (twice with the Tenebrae), – an option most folks can’t afford, and perhaps not the best time to visit Rome, at least for the first time.

    So your counsel most welcome. Is it Kosher to attend an FSSPX Triduum? [Attend? I won’t say no. However, I also won’t suggest that it is good to receive Communion if one does.]

  20. Iacobus M says:

    The SSPX and its adherents seem to be people who truly want to be as faithful as possible to Christ and His Church, but are following the wrong path. We would all benefit by having them back in full communion with the rest of the Church, but it would even more benefit them to be obedient in fact and not just in theory to the Successor of Peter.

  21. Georgemartyrfan says:

    “After all, there is now a whole generation raised up in their chapels who have never known clear and unambiguous unity and harmony with the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him. That’s not good.”

    It is dreadfully sad. At the same time, there is a whole generation raised in our churches who have never been taught clear and unambiguous doctrine despite unambiguous communion, diocesan schools, etc. I hope and pray reconciliation will foster and signal a renewal of the love and appreciation for traditional catechesis and reverent Mass, perhaps anchoring our understanding of Vatican 2.

    Thank you, Father, for your work. Prayers for you.

  22. Nicholas says:

    It will be a happy day when they come home.

    As far as their official status, I will trust Father Z’s thoughts on the matter.

  23. Sixupman says:

    “Folks ………. we have far bigger problems ……………….. .”

    An undersattment indeed, Father

  24. JesusFreak84 says:

    Regardless of what the Vatican’s said, for the faithful of the Archdiocese of Chicago, at any rate, the matter is more or less settled. Cardinal George, soon after Summorum Pontificum, stated clearly and unequivocally that attendance at the SSPX chapel in our See is NOT permitted, does NOT fulfill ANY obligation. IIRC, their Sacraments are recognized more or less on the same level as the Orthodox or Protestants. I have zero expectation that ++Cupich would rule any differently on the matter. (Nor should he. Even I’ll give him that one.)

  25. dans0622 says:

    Cardinal Mueller’s comment is notable. I do agree, though, that it was not an authoritative or declarative remark. Further, while we can generally refer to this or that group as “schismatic”, schism is an act, and crime, of the individual. Only individuals would be declared to be in schism. That’s where the “schismatic mentality” comes into the picture–if you associate with those who are schismatic, to the point of belonging to the same association, you are apparently comfortable with schism and support those in schism…even if you are not personally guilty of it.

  26. JMody says:

    As I understand it, they are walking a very fine line between disobedience of ALL instructions that can be deemed “pastoral” and denying that the Pope is the head of the Church. To accept one’s leadership in principle while refusing to obey most or all of his instructions leaves one with very little room to stand. The Curia says essentially that the de facto result of the intransigence is “schism”, while the Society says that they are loyal to the Church and not to any one cult of personality.

    I think we have to pray that they can continue to exert the influence which they have. When there can be an open debate about the Vatican II documents as well as practice as well as “spirit”, then their purpose will have been served. It seems that biology will make that possible in the next 50 or so years.

  27. vandalia says:

    A question for Fr Z and/or Dr. Peters:

    Canon 1364 states that “a schismatic incurs latae sententiae excommunication.” However, to be in schism, must this be formally declared by a competent authority?

    If so, it seems a bit strange to consider the resulting excommunication latae sententiae. However, I suppose canon law consists of many strange things…

    If not, it would seem that it belongs to the prudent judgement of a priest to determine if an individual is in schism and is therefore excommunicated. This would also mean that it is not relevant whether SSPX has been formally declared to be in schism.

    Granted, I think it is very unlikely that a SSPX priest would present himself for communion in my parish, but it may very well happen that a parishioner might publicly state that he “withdrawals submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him” and still presents himself for communion – or finance council membership – even though he would apparently be excommunicated.

    One can add this to the problems caused by latae sententiae excommunication and the dilemma it creates for the parish priest.

  28. Priam1184 says:

    It has been so long now that I can’t remember: what is the specific issue that the SSPX has with Rome, that led to the issue with the bishops? Is it all of the chaos and disorder and heterodoxy and out and out heresy that has been the public (I say public because all of that was lurking in the background in dark corners for several generations prior to Vatican II) face of the Church since the 1960s? If that is the case it will take at least another generation to sort it all out. Or is there a specific issue that they point to and say: “if we settle this then we will come back in?” Thank you.

  29. St Donatus says:

    I was Catholic when the Bishops were ordering priests to stop saying the Latin Mass, tear out the statues, tear out the high altar, stop the use of the Rosary in their parish, teach that divorce, living together, and contraception were okay. Yet if a priest refused, they were in schism.

    Thus, I have a hard time thinking of the SSPX as being in schism when they are more obedient to the traditions and teachings of the Church than 80% or more of the non-SSPX Catholics and clergy out there. When a Catholic openly rejects Catholic teaching, does everything in their power to bring down the Church in America, uses and supports the use of contraception, divorced and remarries without the nullifying of the first marriage, I would say that Catholic is in schism. Yet we are to believe that these folks are in good standing in the Church while priests who say Mass at SSPX chapels are in schism. I toured an SSPX chapel in Denver and on the wall in the nave was a large picture of Pope Francis.

    By the way, I do not go to a SSPX chapel or any sedecavantist group. I serve in a Novus Ordo mass weekly and do what I can support the Church. But like Father Z says, we have more important things to worry about than if someone goes to an SSPX chapel or not.[That’s not quite what I said.] How about we worry about the many CINO Catholic Parishes, Schools, and Colleges that are turning our kids into atheists or protestants.

  30. Janol says:

    A bit tangentially….

    Though one would think all Catholics know this, I think it would be helpful to devote a post to setting forth the status of the Masses celebrated by priests who are officially declared to be either: heretics, schismatic, excommunicated, or apostate, as well as (I came across this yesterday) by “those who choose to be separated from Rome”.

    It is my understanding that all of the above would celebrate a valid (given the proper intention) but illicit Mass and that the faithful should not, of course, receive from them or assist at their Masses. I thought that was general Catholic knowledge but yesterday I came across a Catholic blog where it was stated that those who “choose to separate themselves from Rome”, e.g. regarding ssm, could not validly consecrate the Eucharist — nor could any of the others mentioned above.

    It would be good if everyone could be clear in their head about who may validly confect the Eucharist and who may not — quite apart from liceity, and when, if ever, one may have recourse to such priests.

    [Masses of SSPX priests are valid but illicit.]

  31. Henry Belton says:

    I’ve learned that there are divisions within the society. If Fellay was to come to an arrangement with Rome tomorrow, there are some (maybe a minority) who would be happy to hear of the reconciliation and follow him. It seems to me though, there are many who would remain separated, barring an arrangement which abrogrates the ordinary form and abolishes all conciliar documents. And there are still others who are seemingly barely hanging with the society, in that they have such trouble acknowledging that the Church has a valid papacy currently.

    A pew poll of SSPX parishioners would be awesome. [The SSPX can’t have parishes. A parish must be erected by legitimate authority. The bishops and priests of the SSPX have no authority to do so.]

  32. Marc M says:

    I just had this debate with someone on facebook. I am hoping that my friend remains firmly in the Church. My fear for the SSPX is that later generations, having rejected their foundation, are blown by the wind… the Old Catholics considered themselves traditionalist too, and rejected what they saw as “novel doctrine” at Vatican I. Today they are the very picture of liberal Christianity, even while many superficially retain the Tridentine Mass as the shape of their services.

    If you reject Peter… and reject communion with Rome, and with the bishops in union with Rome… at some point, you’re simply Protestant. Between the FSSP and Summorum Pontificum, I cannot wrap my head around remaining separated. I don’t see what is left to fight. Remaining separated today gives the appearance that it’s not about liturgy or tradition after all, but about a group saying to Rome, “we don’t need you.” And that’s what Luther said, that’s what Henry VIII said, that’s what they said at Utrecht… this path has already been well explored, and it’s clearly fraught with danger.

  33. JBS says:

    “When I worked for the Pontifical Commission ‘Ecclesia Dei’ we avoided using the word ‘schism’. There hasn’t been any official determination that they are in schism.”

    This is the first time I have seen a clear answer to this question by someone with the background to provide the answer.

  34. Hank Igitur says:

    SSPX are not in schism.
    The excommunications have been lifted. [The excommunications of the four bishops. And that censure was because of illicit consecration. So, that doesn’t apply.]
    Crunch time for them is when they need new bishops…………..
    a “reconciliation” could go either way for them and they are aware of all the possibilities.

  35. I may be mistaken but the last official decree (or whatever it would be called — Annexe to Prot.N. 5233/96) on the subject seems to be in 1996 published by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. It makes it quite clear that the official stance of the situation is one of schism.

    “As long as there are no changes which may lead to the re-establishment of this necessary communion, the whole Lefebvrian movement is to be held schismatic”

    “As the Motu Proprio declares in no. 5 c) the excommunication latae sententiae for schism regards those who “adhere formally” to the said schismatic movement. Even if the question of the exact import of the notion of “formal adherence to the schism” would be a matter for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it seems to this pontifical Council that such formal adherence would have to imply two complementary elements:

    a) one of internal nature, consisting in a free and informed agreement with the substance of the schism, in other words, in the choice made in such a way of the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre which puts such an option above obedience to the Pope (at the root of this attitude there will usually be positions contrary to the magisterium of the Church),
    b) the other of an external character, consisting in the externalising of this option, the most manifest sign of which will be the exclusive participation in Lefebvrian “ecclesial” acts, without taking part in the acts of the Catholic Church (one is dealing however with a sign that is not univocal, since there is the possibility that a member of the faithful may take part in the liturgical functions of the followers of Lefebvre but without going along with their schismatic spirit).

    in the case of the Lefebvrian deacons and priests there seems no doubt that their ministerial activity in the ambit of the schismatic movement is a more than evident sign of the fact that the two requirements mentioned above (n.5) are met, and thus that there is a formal adherence. ”

    If there is no schism, I’m not sure why they would write about “formal adherence.” Formal adherence to what?

    Of course, there is great diplomatic value in not using the word “schism.” Better to talk of healing a separation, achieving full communion, etc. But it does seem that official Church decrees identify it as a schismatic movement.

    Hopefully all will be reconciled soon.

  36. Mike says:

    In my mind it comes down to the question of what constitutes a “loyal opposition.” It is difficult to characterize illicit consecration of bishops and administration of the Sacraments as “loyal.” But it is also difficult honestly to dismiss the dedication of the Society and its votaries to holiness of life and liturgy without engaging in the very Pharisaical finger-pointing of which traditionalists are so frequently accused, often on specious grounds.

    Sadly for the cause of unity, it seems certain that Tradition in the Church would be even more endangered than it is at present were the Society not to remain a distinct entity. Prayers for repair of the damnable ruptures wrought by Modernism are as urgently needed now as ever.

  37. harrythepilgrim says:

    I attend the weekday Masses.
    For the first time in fifty years I can leave Mass without anger.
    God bless them and the people in Rome who are dealing with them.

  38. Stephen Matthew says:

    Am I wrong in thinking that formally declaring a schism might actually be the most helpful thing in reconciling this division? [Censures have a remedial function.]

    The SSPX folk are old style, black and white, law and order, clear truth types at least in theory. It seems a clear set of instructions from the Roman Pontiff on how to concretely and specifically submit to his authority should be issued as a matter of religious obedience. Those who obey should be considered canonically regular again and given the most generous arrangements possible. Those who fail to obey should be given proper canonical warnings and censures, and given to know they shall be held in to be formally in schism if they continue, and then such judgement should shortly follow. Let there be a clear choice to be hot or cold and put an end to the uncertainty. These aren’t muddle headed liberals, they will understand the choice and its eternal consequences, and most will choose rightly.

    At least that is one idea.

  39. BCSWowbagger says:

    I respectfully disagree. Since it is very rare for me to disagree with Fr. Z, I registered especially for the occasion.

    Many Catholics who are sympathetic with SSPX (but not yet members) would not join a group that they believe to be schismatic. SSPX insists, loudly, that it is not in schism — yet operates illicitly, encouraging its adherents to attend their illicit Masses rather than licit ones (indeed, asserting in their literature that only an SSPX Mass is assuredly valid!) and offering completely invalid confessions. Participation in SSPX, therefore, imperils souls, often gravely. By failing to counter SSPX’s claims and identify them, clearly, as schismatics, as Cardinal Mueller has, we fail to protect our fellow Catholics from the scandalous assertions, and even more scandalous sacraments, of the SSPX. Faithful who would be protected from SSPX by clear teaching stumble into their fold.

    We have nothing to fear from the truth: by calling SSPX what it is — a schismatic organization — [It isn’t yet identified as such by the Holy See.] we would save souls at risk of joining them. [“We…”. Sorry, do have have curl animarum?] We would, admittedly, also undermine efforts toward long-term reconciliation with the organization. But those who already follow SSPX have made their choice, and it is up to them when they will unmake it; I believe we have a duty to do everything possible to prevent our friends and acquaintances from falling into their errors in the meantime.

    Incidentally, if you replace “SSPX” with “Catholics For Choice” in the paragraph just above, the argument is exactly as correct, [No. It is decidedly NOT the same. The members of the SSPX are bishops and priests.] but draws cheers and jeers from exactly the opposite constituencies. To my knowledge, the Holy See has not formally declared Catholics For Choice a schismatic organization, either, yet clearly they are in schism, and you and I rightly refer to them as such. [No. They are not a group in schism. Look up “schism”.] You’re right that there are bigger problems from in the Church and outside it than SSPX, but I suspect you are allowing your sympathy with some of SSPX’s teachings and practices (a sympathy I share!) color your judgement. [No. I’m not. I’ve been at this with the SSPX and other groups since the late ’80s.]

    SSPX have “ruptured the bond of subordination” to their legitimate ecclesial superiors, and, worse, they are actively encouraging all Catholic lay faithful to do the same. They are in schism. [Okay… that’s enough.] Ecclesia Dei avoided the term, but, from your account, it sounds like a diplomatic concern peculiar to that commission (most appropriate, given that commission’s competencies), not a substantial concern that the word “schism” was inapplicable. Cardinal Mueller and St. John Paul both publicly admitted to the schism. [No. Please present as proof the official document declaring that members of the SSPX are in schism.] For the good of the faithful, we should, as well — and redouble our prayers for reconciliation with our wayward brethren.

    [Thanks for registering. However, I believe you are out of your depth with this.]

  40. James C says:

    The SSPX position is that their lack of canonical regularity is NOT ideal, but the Church is in an existential crisis, and while She remains in such a chaotic state, all they can do is what they’ve been doing: preach the traditional Faith and celebrate the traditional Mass. Considering what’s happened to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and the upcoming October synod and the still-massive “silent apostasy” (St John Paul II’s words) taking place in dioceses across the world, one must admit they do make a plausible case—whether justified or not.

    Fellay is willing to regularise as long as they don’t have to sign something affirming every jot and tittle of Vatican II. But Rome requires exactly that from them, which is why we are at an impasse. Ironic, though, that they affirm more of Vatican II’s actual teachings than (I daresay) most priests “in good standing”. But they aren’t going away—they have booming vocations.

  41. St. Rafael says:

    Regardless of what the Vatican’s said, for the faithful of the Archdiocese of Chicago, at any rate, the matter is more or less settled. Cardinal George, soon after Summorum Pontificum, stated clearly and unequivocally that attendance at the SSPX chapel in our See is NOT permitted, does NOT fulfill ANY obligation.

    Cardinal George was flat out wrong and was in opposition to what the PCED has said over the years. Another example of a bishop inventing his own rules in rebellion to Rome.

    From the PCED:
    Points 1 and 3 in our letter of 27 September 2002 to this correspondent are accurately reported. His first question was “Can I fulfill my Sunday obligation by attending a Pius X Mass” and our response was:
    “1. In the strict sense you may fulfill your Sunday obligation by attending a Mass celebrated by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X.”
    “…If your primary reason for attending were to manifest your desire to separate yourself from communion with the Roman Pontiff and those in communion with him, it would be a sin. If your intention is simply to participate in a Mass according to the 1962 Missal for the sake of devotion, this would not be a sin…”
    “…3. It would seem that a modest contribution to the collection at Mass could be justified…”

  42. Deacon Augustine says:

    Funny how terms associated with traditional Catholic ecclesiology are only used with reference to the SSPX these days.

    What does “schism” mean in the post-conciliar ecclesiology where even Protestant and Eastern Orthodox heretics are said to be in “real but imperfect communion” and our German bishops dish out Holy Communion to them like they were Catholics in a state of grace? What significance would “being in schism” have if nearly everybody is going to heaven anyway (a la Fr Barron) and even atheists earn their way to heaven (a la Pope Francis) by following their consciences? Aren’t Catholics allowed to have consciences too?

    Whatever insignificant technicality pertains to the situation of the SSPX, I can guarantee that if the Pope decides to give Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried and those living in same-sex unions, I will be in schism – because I will refuse obedience to such perversions of Catholic doctrine. If he remains faithful (as I hope and pray that he will), then it will be pot-luck for every Catholic on the planet as to whether your bishop will be schismatic or not. Most of the Germans have already said that they are going their own way, no matter what. We are about to face a situation which will make the SSPX question a mere pootling trifle by comparison. Get real, people – contemplate the potential reality of you being in schism.

  43. The Egyptian says:

    [THAT’s your reason for wanting them to be reconciled?!?]

    of course not Father Z, however I tend to see the humorous side at times.

    mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

  44. Former Altar Boy says:

    JMody wrote, “… the Society says that they are loyal to the Church and not to any one cult of personality.”

    The Society may say that but I can tell you many SSPX adherents are more loyal to the Society than to Rome. One guy even told me he was “more Catholic than the Pope.” And the was Benedict!!

  45. AlexanderAerarius says:

    Okay, I have sympathies with the SSPX, recognize that they were unjustly treated, and have historically had many legitimate concerns. Yet the SSPX counsels Catholics to avoid legitimate masses said by priests who actually have canonical authority, says that attending the Novus Ordo mass is intrinsically sinful (not to mention probably invalid), and that one also must avoid the TLM said by priests who also celebrate the Novus Ordo. When someone tells Catholics to disregard the authority of their legitimate bishop (even one who celebrates the mass reverently and teaches no error in doctrine) and erects an illegitimate para-Church, it’s hard for me to see that as anything but schism.

    I understand that the sort of view above does not characterize all who attend SSPX masses, but this is the opinion expressed in their official publications, print and electronic.

  46. Derek Brown says:

    In schism or not, it would appear that the SSPX linger in a state where they “cannot participate fully in the life of the Church” due to some decisions made in their past. I hope that soon, the Church will be able to reach out to them in “the peripheries”. [That was my argument a while back. Some libs reacted with a spittle-flecked nutty.] Perhaps a “pastoral approach of tolerance, clemency, and indulgence” could be applied to them out of the abundance of God’s mercy. I believe that the Church is capable of “accepting” and “valuing” their orientation toward the traditional liturgy because the SSPX has “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community”. I hope they are not left on the periphery because we fear the “mess” they may make in the Church.

    I go to a diocesan parish with the extraordinary form and I know a guy in the FSSP seminary. I have never been involved with the SSPX, but I believe the Church needs them as much as they need the Church. I pray for unity.

  47. jacobi says:

    Two things if I may, Father.

    I agree that the word schism should be avoided. It is simply not appropriate. When I look around and see the degree of ignorance, of malpractice, of confusion and, lets face it, schism, within, yes I stress within the Church at present, the SSPX can seem angelic in comparison

    And secondly given this mess within the Church, we are now faced with a collapse in vocations. How many young intelligent young men looking at this shambles within the “orthodox” Church would want to dedicate their whole life to this?

    My own diocese is going through an exercise of parish closures which has provoked the predictable outrage. But that exercise looks only 20 years ahead. Add another 10 and this usual lot will be in a completely flat spin, if they are still around that is..

    In these circumstances, i.e., plus thirty years or I suspect a lot less, the One True Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church may well be, no WILL be, very glad to turn to the SSPX.

    That is my prediction!

  48. Filumene says:

    AlexanderAerarius , you are incorrect on stating they don’t believe in the validity of the NO mass.

    I do not have a direct link to this video, but it’s included in this post.

    Just scroll down and you will see Fr. Tom Rosica interviewing Bernard Fellay. It’s worth a watch. Fellay addresses at least one thing you mentioned above. Anyway, I learned something watching it.

  49. Long-Skirts says:


    Such names they call us
    That’s not what we are
    We are Roman Catholics
    At the front of the war.

    Some just go AWOL
    Others defect
    Copying our stance
    Then say we’re a sect.

    A lot like in England
    Saint John Fisher’s day
    When his brothers said, “yes”
    This Saint replied, “nay”.

    All alone in the Fort
    St. John Fisher stood
    Preserving, defending
    For the whole all that’s good.

    Not just for himself
    Those attached to what’s old
    Or reformers, reforming
    Pretending they’re bold.

    We’re simply preserving,
    Once again the True Fort
    While those with new orders
    Relinquish support.

    And with promises made
    To men hungry for power
    They mock, stand and point
    At us in the tower

    Hoping for all
    Diverse democracy –
    When in fact their new fort’s
    A catastrophic kleptocracy.

  50. phlogiston says:

    Certain commneters might want to take a page out of Fr. Z’s book when it comes to the SSPX and be more measured in their comments. Post-October, you may find yourselves in a very similar position as the SSPX.

  51. Gabriel Syme says:


    I would like to point out that everything you have said about the SSPX in your post above (6th March) is incorrect, as follows:

    1) You state that the excommunication of the SSPX priests has been revoked. In fact, the SSPX priests have never been excommunicated, only the Bishops were – and it is these excommunications which were revoked by Pope Benedict. Note that the excommunications had a dubious standing in canon law and the SSPX never accepted their validity.

    2) You state that the priests of the SSPX are effectively laicized. In fact, the SSPX priests are not laicized but their official status is “suspended”. This is as per Ecclesia Dei Protcol n.55/2005, signed by the then Secretary of the PCED, Mgr Camille Perl. The reason for the priests’ suspended status is because they are being ordained by an organisation which has no canonical status (SSPX). This lack of canonical status is the only “issue” with the SSPX.

    3) You state that “the Vatican has made it clear” that Catholics may not go to confession, get married, or fulfill their Sunday obligations at an SSPX parish. In fact, On 27th September 2002, quoted and reaffirmed on 18th January 2003, the Holy See, through the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, stated that ‘In the strict sense you may fulfil your Sunday obligation by attending a Mass celebrated by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X.’ (Letters signed by Mgr Camille Perl). [Ehem… yes, that is true about fulfilling the obligations on days of precept. However, since they lack faculties to receive sacramental confessions, they do not impart valid absolution except in danger of death and they have no authority to witness marriages, so matrimony lacks canonical form.]

    Additionally, Canon 1335 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, states that even priests who are excommunicated or suspended may legitimately administer sacraments, if a lay person asks them to. Accordingly, a lay person may legitimately receive all the sacraments from an SSPX priest, if s/he requests them of him. [Ummm… no. It is more complicated than that.]

    4) You go on to refer to something called a “de facto schism”. In fact, there is no such thing as a de factor schism. As per Canon 1321, from Canon law, a schism only exists where there is a schismatic intention and an external act to demonstrate this. There is no schismatic intentions within the SSPX. “de facto schism” is a meaningless term, in the light of Canon Law. I am aware that +++Mueller used the term in the recent past, but the term is still meaningless without any legal standing.

    As you can see, you have made a number of erroneous, misleading statements and have contradicted not only Vatican officials, but also Canon law. I think most likely the problem is that your information is significantly out of date.

    When discussing these matters it is extremely important to make sure what we are saying is up-to-date and accurate – with the greatest of respect, I am afraid you badly fail in this regard. [Okay…now you are getting preachy. I suggest a change of tone in future comments.]

    Please see this helpful summary of the situation, created by the excellent Dr Joseph Shaw of the (English) Latin Mass Society (LMS). Note that neither Dr Shaw or the LMS is affiliated with the SSPX.

  52. Gabriel Syme says:

    The SSPX is not schismatic. its very tiring and disappointing that this nonsense is still doing the rounds, [It isn’t nonsense. This is a serious issue that has many difficult angles.] especially after Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, then head of the Ecclesia Dei commission, stated “they are not schismatic” five times in a single interview.

    Being schismatic is something people choose to do themselves, via having a schismatic intention and demonstrating this via external action, as per canon law. It is not a label which is unilaterally applied by a 3rd party. [Ummm… no. Proper authority makes the call about who is in schism and who isn’t.]

    There is no schismatic intention within the SSPX. The Bishops have never declared themselves head of separate body, nor claimed any territory of the Catholic Church for themselves (they are auxiliary, not Diocesan or Titular, Bishops). No-one within the SSPX has ever rejected the authority of the Pope, or refused to recognise him as head of the Church on earth. [Uh huh… they just refuse to obey him.] I attend an SSPX chapel, and we pray for Pope Francis and the local ordinary at every mass. There is a picture of Pope Francis mounted in the sacristy.

    Looking at some posts above, people have unwittingly made all kinds of errors and unjust condemnations because they speak from a position of ignorance. This is not malicious, but comes from them being misinformed or via referring to out of date info.

    I advise everyone to make use of this helpful and up-to-date summary of the situation, compiled by the English Latin mass Society (which is not affiliated with the SSPX). It is very clear and demonstrates that Catholics may indeed practice their faith fully at an SSPX Chapel, including being able to receive all the sacraments. [NO! That is not the case. The priests of the SSPX have no ability to witness marriages. Matrimony lacks canonical form. Also, they have no faculties to receive sacramental confessions which is necessary for validity of the absolution except in the case of danger of death.] Everything is fully referenced to Canon law and/or Ecclesia Dei protocols.

    In my opinion, the SSPX continues to be attacked by otherwise well-meaning Catholics (eg Voris) because such Catholics recognise the crisis in the Church, but cant bring themselves to send criticism for this where it belongs (ie the higher echelons of the Church). Accordingly the SSPX presents an easy target and convenient scapegoat.

    There are many parts of the mainstream Church which seem rather schismatic – for example, the Bishops Conference of Germany (which recently was quoted as saying it was not subservient to Rome) and the American LCWR. I would suggest people be more concerned about these groups, that laying false accusations on the good Catholics of the SSPX.

    Most novus ordo Catholics I know are schismatic – in that they are all the head of their own, personal, one-person Church. [But let’s not lay an false accusations on anyone who attends an SSPX chapel…. right?] They all reject the teaching authority of the Church in various areas, ignore doctrine (if they even know what it says) and instead make up their own, new doctrines – which are inevitably just secular sensibilities presented as a “non-judgemental” outlook, or which take precedence over “old fashioned” Christianity.

    There are s0me people in the world who will still be claiming the SSPX is schismatic when the last diocesan parish goes under. Such people cannot see the wood for the trees.

    I went to the mainstream Church for many years and it gave me nothing. No teaching, no understanding, no doctrine, no identity, no clue. Nothing. [Nothing except valid sacraments.] It just asked me to hold hands with the people next to me. Looking back, I didn’t even know the basic of Christianity and I was not even remotely equipped to be able to save my soul This despite 13 years of supposedly Catholic schooling.

    This morning, a Saturday, I was at mass at my SSPX chapel, and after mass we said the Rosary together. If you had asked me to use my Saturday morning in such fashion, while I was still at the mainstream Church, I would have laughed at you. I would have snorted in your face with derision. But when you learn of the fullness of the Catholic faith, then suddenly its very appealing to go to mass on Saturday morning – and indeed every morning so far as possible.

    I strongly encourage everyone to see the truth that SSPX Catholics are your Catholics brothers and sisters. [Yes.] And note that we will still be here, when the Post-Conciliar Church has long-since passed into the dustbin of history (the only place trends suggest it is headed).

    I encourage everyone to support the traditional priestly orders, including the SSPX, and also those good Diocesan priests who lovingly nurture their flocks with the mass of all time.

  53. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I think we have to pray that they can continue to exert the influence which they have. When there can be an open debate about the Vatican II documents as well as practice as well as “spirit”, then their purpose will have been served. It seems that biology will make that possible in the next 50 or so years.”

    What about the truly poor souls who have had to endure the murkiness for their entire lifetime. The biological solution might be good for the Church in the long run, but I cry for the poor, innocent, misguided souls who have had to live with such unclarity. What will they say when they stand before God: “…but, that’s what my pastor said to do…” There have been few (but a few) Councils where the language has to be massively clarified, after the fact. Why bother even having a Council if it isn’t going to be clear and authoritative? One can almost believe the rumor that St. Pope John XIII, on his deathbed, wanted to shut down the Council.

    If I live long enough (two, maybe three hundred years – I’m not greedy), I would love to publish a paper on the mathematics of theology. Apparently, violating 80% of the documents of a Council 60% of the time still makes one a loyal member of the Church, but violating 10% of the documents 100% of the time puts one close to or into schism. I suppose it is a bit like playing with a stick of dynamite: one can heat nearly the entire stick to within 10 degrees of its ignition point without a catastrophe, but if one heats only 10% above the ignition point, the thing blows up in your face.

    The Chicken

  54. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think that in discussing this admittedly difficult (in reality, tragic) situation we must be careful to recognize that at the root lies the act of disobedience of Archbishop Lefebvre in defiance of St. John Paul. For this he was excommunicated and that excommunication was not rescinded when those of the illicitly consecrated bishops were. [The Archbishop was dead by then.]

    Additionally, the June 27, 2013 statement of the three remaining bishops heading the Society explicitly accuses the Church itself of abandoning the magisterium, in essence, accusing the Catholic Church of heresy.

    The Society further rejects the licity of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, claiming it to be void of sacrificial action. [If if were void of sacrificial action it would be invalid. So, since they don’t claim that it is invalid, they don’t say that it is void of sacrificial action.] While it is undeniable that Masses are offered in both forms that lack precision or may contain mistakes (verbal slips, for example – I’m not going to defend clown Masses) so long as they are performed with the intent to do what the Church does, i.e. join the unbloody sacrifice of Our Lord in the present Eucharistic Act to His Sacrifice at Calvary, they are effective and Christ is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the transubstantiated Elements.

    It is difficult to find a place at the peripheries where the Society and the Church could work when such a basic doctrinal disagreement exists.

  55. paterscotus says:

    Though not a member of the Society I have spent time with their priests and faithful (all of whom I admire greatly) and studied their writings, conferences, etc. I cannot comment on the issue of schism but do think it important to reconcile some unwarranted assumptions that seem to be widespread.

    For one, the SSPX priests do NOT say that the Novus Ordo Missae is in all cases invalid, but rather it lacks the due good that it should have by failing to transmit as it should true Catholic doctrine. I think that they see the changes in the Mass as being motivated by an unwarranted impetus toward the lowest common denominator of ecumenism (as is fairly evident from the first paragraph of Sacrosanctum Concilium). This, then, comes at the expense of sublimating the truths of the Real Presence, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, and the unique role of the ministerial priest.

    For another, it is not just the Mass, but Sacred Tradition as a whole that, in their view, was shunted aside by Vatican II. The innovations in the areas of freedom of religion, collegiality, and ecumenism, they see (rightly, I think) not only as echoes of the French Revolution (“Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity”) but, more to it, as starkly in contrast to the constant teaching of the Magisterium. (And don’t we see its disastrous consequences day by day – for instance, the “collegial” threat of the German bishops’ conference to set its own agenda on marriage and the family.)

    Neither is this a group that intentionally set itself up in opposition to the Church, having been duly, canonically erected in 1970. They (and all traditional Catholics, I think it fair to say) simply strive to believe as the Church has always believed and worship as she has always worshiped, while the wider Church – in may areas, at least – seems to be rushing toward apostasy. Meanwhile, the Society recognizes the authority of the pope and local bishop and pray for them at each Mass, and never refuse to meet with the Holy Father or his designees when called, with the hopes of ending the division. Nevertheless, they are in a position where they feel (I think) that they cannot compromise the enduring dogmas of the faith.

    I admire them for this and pray they are soon reconciled and regularized in the Church, because they have much to offer us.

  56. Sword40 says:

    Good post. I am fascinated by the diverse opinions of some of the posters.
    Fr. Z has it “nailed”. I am speaking from experience. I first ran across a group that had a church of their own. They found an old retired priest that was willing to say the TLM and had permission from his Bishop to do so. He started out in his basement chapel. But the group soon became so large that they moved to the church that had been purchased by a local businessman. So from about 1974 until 1980 we went to Mass there. Then the priest told us he found a group that would provide us with priests for years to come. And they had a Bishop. Thats when I first heard of SSPX. No one knew anything about them. We continued to attend until 1988 when the Consecrations occurred. We left and stuggled with the Novus Ordo until 2008 when we found the FSSP, which we have adhered to ever since.

    Local SSPX chapels rarely discuss anything except Catholic doctrines, except maybe among laity at coffee. All the priests I have ever met are pretty straight.

    I am praying for normalization.

  57. Agathon says:

    I pray for their reconciliation to the Church. The society needs it, desperately.

    And I have to believe that the Church can and will accept them and make room for them without attempting to neuter their identity. They could do a lot of good working within the Church in full communion with Rome. We would all stand to gain from their influence.

    But I know very little of what’s really happening and am out of my depth analyzing it, so I mostly just stick to doing what I can do, which is pray.

  58. jflare says:

    Two other thoughts come to mind:
    1. I understood that when Bishop Lefebvre had consecrated the four bishops against the wishes of John Paul II, they had incurred excommunication. Did that constitute a state of schism by carrying on with what they’d been doing?
    2. I wish Pope Francis would make up our minds. Where they’re no longer excommunicated, but have no canonical status to do anything; where they’re not officially in schism, but not part of the recognized Church either; I find it very difficult to make sense of what that means.

    Does it really take the Church 27 years or more (since 1988) to resolve a problem that technically never existed in the first place? Does it really take 60 years (since the close of Vatican II) to offer clarity about where we all stand?
    Evidently it does, but I find it immensely frustrating!

  59. Sword40 says:

    As mentioned in an earlier post to this one; Rome has not engendered “Trust” in the Traditional community. FFI for example.

  60. Giuseppe says:

    My suggestion
    1) Pope Francis turn SSPX into a personal ordinariate and restore all faculties – no questions asked
    2) Place Cardinal Burke in charge of this ordinariate
    3) Prayers after mass for the intention of the Pope and for the intercession of St. Pius X, Venerable Pius XII, St. John XXIII, Bl. Paul VI, and St. John Paul II, for the conversion of all unbelievers.


  61. Dcduo says:

    As far as I can see, and what is even shown on these comments, is that a large part (if not the originator) of the problem is down to the one particular part of Archbishop Lefebvre’s legacy that has been carried on the most: his reactionary attitude.

    I mean yes, these times are very bad. And it is very encouraging to hear people stand up against evil. It’s very good. But, all the same, it is possible to put too much focus on the abuses around the world to the effect that the anger becomes addictive and effectively impairs proper thought processes. Yes, there are other bishops that are in schism too, but this is no excuse to act or think in the same way.

    “I’m doing wrong? Oh yea? Well look at them over there!”

    I suppose it’s much like a warrior in a battlefield. Eventually, someone might kick so much mud over themselves during battle that they just need to go and bathe the mud off before they get stuck and can’t move. We need to be hooked on devotion!

  62. RJHighland says:

    [It’s not merely trust. The problems are also theological. However, trust looms large. The SPPX leadership has long worried that, were they to submit to Rome’s legitimate authority, they would quickly be abused through the imposition of unsympathetic superiors. I can’t think that the situation of the Franciscan Friars has helped engender trust.]

    Amen, Amen, Amen Father! That is truly the crux of the matter.

  63. SimonDodd says:

    I am not a canonist. Canon 751 lists only a single element for schism: “Refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.” There is no secondary element that the Holy See must “declare” that schism. So that leads me to wonder: Is there a background principle of canon law that where a situation is defined in an objective way, and is met in an objective way, it nevertheless doesn’t exist until formally adjudicated and declared? That would help me out a great deal given my anxieties that Francis may have driven me into schism. If schism doesn’t exist until formally declared, that’s a huge weight off of my mind.

  64. BCSWowbagger says:

    Father, thanks for your reply. You suggest that I “please present as proof the official document declaring that members of the SSPX are in schism.”

    IANACL, so perhaps I have missed some essential element of schism, but my layman’s understanding of Canon 751 is that any person or entity subject to canon law who “refus[es] submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” is in schism. To my knowledge, a Vatican investigation, formal verdict, and official pronouncement are not necessary — and are not even ordinary — for a faithful Catholic to recognize and name a schism.

    If the Vatican has made a formal pronouncement that SSPX is not in schism, and that pronouncement is still applicable, and was rendered by a competent authority, then that would of course require our full assent, and I’d shut right the heck up. But, to my knowledge, there has been no such document. In the absence of such a pronouncement, I look at the fact that, as you put it above, “They [the SSPX] just refuse to obey him [the Pope],” and conclude that the SSPX is in schism, as both a matter of fact and a matter of law, just as surely as Nancy Pelosi is in violation of Canon 915. I don’t see that judgment as a repudiation of PCED or anyone else involved in the reconciliation efforts, whom I greatly respect. (Now that I’m registered, it’s only a matter of time until I tell the story about the time Father — now Bishop — Morerod pranked me… and pranked me good.)

    You are likely right that I am out of my depth here, but I’d like to understand — where am I going wrong here? If you’re right that Catholics can’t call a schism a schism until the Vatican formally rules it’s a schism, are we to conclude that Cardinal Mueller acted improperly in labeling SSPX schismatic? Must I condemn G.K. Chesterton’s delightful little book, Heretics, which branded all manner of Englishmen heretics without the benefit of a decree of the Holy Office?

    Thanks again for a wonderful blog.

  65. DavidSaw says:

    “If things remain the way they are for much longer, I don’t see how reconciliation will come. After all, there is now a whole generation raised up in their chapels who have never known clear and unambiguous unity and harmony with the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him. That’s not good.”

    As someone who regularly attends an SSPX chapel, I could not disagree more. The VAST majority of SSPX priests and fellow SSPX chapel attendees I think, are painfully aware of the situation, and want nothing more than to resolve it. In fact, our district superior recently wrote an article specifically stating how it is imperative for the faithful not to become accustomed to this current situation of canonical irregularity, but to hope, pray, and look forward to the day when we can end this situation. It is primarily the fringe elements of the society (most of whom have already broken away) who seem content with the current situation of not being canonically recognized.

  66. Gabriel Syme says:

    Dear Fr Z,

    Thanks for posting my comments above – my apologies to you and to all, if my tone became combatative / “preachy” in places, I didn’t intend for that – its just a very frustrating scenario. I will be careful to avoid this in future and thank you for highlighting it to me.

    You make some interesting points and I would be interested and grateful to hear you expand on these, perhaps in a future article.

    1) I take your point that declarations from proper authority are how we identify schism. But as there has been no such declaration regarding the SSPX, why isn’t this enough (in some eyes) to put the matter to bed? Why isnt it enough for a Cardinal (Castrillon Hoyos) to state “not schismatic” repeatedly? Surely the onus is on accusers to demonstrate there is a schism, rather than on the accused to demonstrate there is not? Surely, if there had been a schism in 1988, the Holy See – if acting responsibly, with the good of the faithful in mind – should have declared such by now? It would be callous to leave people in a state of ignorance about their legal status, if there was some serious problem with it.

    The Ecclesia Dei commission seemed to indicate that it is down to an individual persons intention for attending SSPX, which is the decider of schism or not. But I dont know of anyone who goes to the SSPX to demonstrate a detachment or alienation from the Supreme Pontiff; rather its because they seek authentic liturgy and solid teaching (and – of course – solid teaching and good liturgy is not exclusive to the SSPX, by any means, but there are very many Dioceses where the SSPX is the ‘only show in town’).

    In my experience the SSPX do not tolerate sede vacantist views in their congregations – they condemn it and respond strongly to even a whiff of a rumour of such.

    2) I would be interested in hearing your take on Canon 1335 and its application to the SSPX scenario (I admit I am no expert on Canon Law, nor even have any real knowledge of it – other than what I read from reputable sources and then try to verify).

    3) Given that it has now been clarified that the TLM was never abrogated, what areas are there where people perceive the SSPX “disobey” the Pope? I do not see any, other than the ongoing dispute over aspects of Vatican II and the associated authority of these contentious aspects. (And as time goes on, I think the SSPX case about ecumenism and the like grows ever stronger, and obviously so. )

    It is interesting to reflect that modern mainstream liturgy is essentially a compendium of disobedience (such as the illicitly introduced communion-in-the-hand) and rule bending (such as the legions of lay eucharistic ministers, which are de-rigeur but are only supposed to be used when absolutely necessary). Indeed, a review of the modern mass shows that such liturgy is not even in the same universe as the liturgical documents which cam out of Vatican II.

    So I do think it is somewhat amusing to hear of SSPX ‘disobedience’, when we can see that many Bishops have been ignoring the Pope and making things up as they go, in recent decades.

    But enough from me for now!

    Keep up the good work with the blog Fr – I think your new initiative, regarding breastplates for the Swiss Guardsmen, is absolutely fantastic.

    Best regards
    Gabriel Syme

  67. SimonDodd says:

    Suppose Father Smith exercises his authority under canon 915 and denies communion to John Doe on the grounds that he is “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin….” Or suppose that Jones, a columnist, writes a piece demanding that Smith do so. Does Doe have a claim against Smith or Jones on the grounds that the Church has never officially stated that he is “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin”? Or do we think that the canon sets out a reasonably-objective criterion by which any priest (and, indeed, layman) might judge Doe’s behavior?

    I had always thought that it was the latter. How many times have people here and elsewhere said or implied that Nancy Pelosi, for example, should be denied communion under canon 915? Well, has there “ever been any official ruling and declaration that” she is obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin”? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that it matters. And if it doesn’t matter vis-a-vis Pelosi, why does it matter vis-a-vis SSPX?

  68. vandalia says:

    @Gabriel Syme

    The problem is that issues of submission and obedience are not determined in a theoretical sense, but rather with respect to concrete details.

    Does the SSPX follow the guidelines and regulations of the Congregation for Catholic Education with respect so seminary formation?

    Does the SSPX follow the guidance and directives of the local ordinary with respect to liturgy?

    Does the SSPX follow the financial norms in effect for the diocese in which every SSPX activity is located?

    IF – and this is a big if – SSPX was organized as an institute of Pontifical Right (although that term is not used in a technical sense) then it would have a certain amount of independence from the authority of the Bishop and pastor of the territory where it operates. However, as soon as the public becomes involved – i.e., attends liturgy, receives sacraments – then the territorial bishop and pastor have a certain amount of authority over these activities.

    A wise old seminary professor told us that it is impossible to be obedient – in the context of the promise made at ordination – only in a theoretical sense. The same can be said by analogy with respect to submission to the Supreme Pontiff. The question of whether one is obedient or not is conclusively determined by how one responds to these types of demands in actual practice.

    Also, the argument that “other people are doing it” is rarely a valid defense under civil, canon, or parental law.

  69. Gerard Plourde says:

    My concerns regarding the status of the SSPX and its view of the validity of the Ordinary Form Mass stem from the following paragraph contained in the June 27, 2013 statement of the three bishops commemorating the 25 anniversary of their consecration. This is taken directly from the Society’s international web site.

    “9- The New Mass, promulgated in 1969, diminishes the affirmation of the reign of Christ by the Cross (“regnavit a ligno Deus”). Indeed, the rite itself curtails and obscures the sacrificial and propitiatory nature of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Underpinning this new rite is the new and false theology of the paschal mystery. Both one and the other destroy Catholic spirituality as founded upon the sacrifice of Our Lord on Calvary. This Mass is penetrated with an ecumenical and Protestant spirit, democratic and humanist, which empties out the sacrifice of the Cross. It illustrates the new concept of ‘the common priesthood of the baptised’ which undermines the sacramental priesthood of the priest.”

    This belief (which I think is an erroneous interpretation of the teachings of the Church as set forth in the Catechism) is a huge stumbling doctrinal stumbling block. If it underpins the teaching and preaching in SSPX chapels, it represents a danger to the faithful and would explain the admonition by Cardinal George and, more recently, by the Diocese of Pittsburgh that the faithful are not to attend SSPX Masses even though they are valid.

  70. DJAR says:

    [NO! That is not the case. The priests of the SSPX have no ability to witness marriages. Matrimony lacks canonical form. Also, they have no faculties to receive sacramental confessions which is necessary for validity of the absolution except in the case of danger of death.]

    If the above statement is true, doesn’t that come down on one side of the question and answer it by stating that the SSPX is not in schism? [No.]

    If the SSPX were in schism, wouldn’t the marriages witnessed and the confessions heard be in the same category as the Orthodox? [No. They belong to the Latin Church. They are Catholics.]
    And don’t Catholics consider Orthodox marriages and confessions valid? And the reason we do so is because the Orthodox are in schism, no? [No. SSPXers belong to the Latin Church. They are subject to the law of the Latin Church.]

    It can’t be both ways, can it? The reason why the marriages and confessions are not considered valid is because the SSPX is NOT in schism; [NO.] if they are in schism, the marriages and confessions are valid, the same as the Orthodox. [No.]

    [No. Priests of the Latin Church must… MUST… have the faculty to receive sacramental confessions. In the case of danger of death, the law itself gives any priest of the Latin church (even those who were “laicized”) the faculty in that moment. If the priest does not have the faculty to receive sacramental confessions, under normal circumstances, the absolution is invalid. This has nothing to do with schism. In the Latin Church proper canonical form for matrimony must be observed. Part of the proper canonical form is that the one who witnesses the marriage for the Church (priest, deacon, in rare circumstances a lay person duly appointed) must be officially designated as such a witness. What the Orthodox do in their Church is… whatever. We of the Latin Church follow our Latin Church Law.]

  71. Tradster says:

    In light of all that’s been said in this thread I need to ask about a certain elephant in the room regarding SSPX confessions. Bishop Fellay often relates that there are certain sins whose absolution requires review and approval from the Vatican. He states that the Vatican has always approved the validity of the absolution, never questioning nor rejecting any of them submitted by an SSPX priest. Bishop Fellay insists this demonstrates tacit admissions from Rome that the SSPX Penances are licit and valid. It is admittedly a strong argument for their position. [I like Bp. Fellay for many reason. However, that is not a strong argument at all for their position. When I see a document from the Holy See saying that the SSPX priests have faculties to receive sacramental confessions regularly, then I will shout it all over the internet. Until then… nope. They don’t have faculties. Tacit admissions in this matter… validity of sacraments… doesn’t cut it. That said, it could be that certain difficult cases have been handled through the intermediary of the Sacra Penitezieria Apostolica. Those would be internal forum cases. In those cases, and in matters of certain censures, the same SPA could grant the faculty ad hoc. But occasional instances do not demonstrate anything as far as regular circumstances are concerned.]

  72. Pingback: Russian Orthodoxy and the SSPX | Opus Publicum

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