A Bishop cautions the Faithful about the SSPX

bp morlino

UPDATE 14 SEPT: Since this was posted there was a development.  Bp. Morlino appeared on EWTN and made a clarification about one statement  in the letter, below.  HERE


ORIGINAL  Published on: Aug 7, 2015 @ 08:59:

His Excellency Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison (aka The Extraordinary Ordinary) published a column in the diocesan newspaper and website about the Society of St. Pius X.  HERE

Here it is with my emphases:

A word of caution about the Society of Saint Pius X

Bishop’s Column
Written by Robert C. Molrino, Bishop of Madison

The 50 years since the close of the Second Vatican Council have been tumultuous for the Church. Forces both inside and outside of the Church tried to distort and exploit the council and the post-conciliar liturgical reforms to create a new Church after their own image.

Too many of us endured years of sloppy or irreverent liturgy and mushy or even unorthodox preaching and catechesis. Too often when we voiced our concerns we were ignored.

Most of the faithful Catholics who saw this happening fought hard for a “reform of the reform.” Sadly, others decided that the only way forward was to work outside of — and sometimes against — the hierarchical Church and its structures.

This was the choice made by the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a worldwide society of priests best known for its strong opposition to the post-conciliar reform of the Mass. The Masses that they celebrate in their own chapels according to the 1962 Missal have attracted sizeable communities of the lay faithful, even here in the Diocese of Madison.

I want to be cautious and fair about the SSPX. Many of their concerns are legitimate. Many of their values and aspirations are admirable, and their zeal is impressive. Their priests wish to serve the Lord and His people. The people who attend their chapels are fervent.

We should always be cordial, respectful, and welcoming to them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, their relationship with the Church is complex and developing. Moreover, the situation of SSPX bishops, of SSPX priests, of the faithful who formally align themselves with the SSPX, and of the faithful who occasionally or informally attend Mass with the SSPX, are all different in important ways. It would be inaccurate to call it a schismatic group in a strict sense, and we should all pray that it may someday be fully reconciled with the Church.

Having said that, all is not well with the SSPX, and my advice, my plea to the traditionally-minded faithful of the diocese is to have nothing to do with them. As Pope Benedict XVI made clear, the SSPX “does not possess a canonical status in the Church” and its ministers “do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church” (March 10, 2009, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church).

The priests of the SSPX are validly ordained priests, but because for the most part they were ordained illicitly (i.e., by a bishop who had no jurisdiction over them and no permission to ordain), they are suspended ipso facto from the moment of their ordination (c. 1383); that is to say, even though they are ordained, they have no permission from the Church, which is necessary, to exercise priestly ministry.

Their Masses are valid but are illegitimately celebrated. The same is true, in most cases, with their baptisms, their conferral of the anointing of the sick, and provided it is administered by a bishop, their confirmations. Thus, Catholics should not frequent SSPX chapels or seek sacraments from the priests of the SSPX.

But there are two other, serious, sacramental problems that must be understood by everyone who may wish to attend SSPX chapels. If you take nothing else away from this letter, at least hear this — the SSPX’s marriages and absolutions are invalid because their priests lack the necessary faculties.

The SSPX argues for the validity of their marriages and absolutions based on the canonical principle that the Church supplies the faculty in cases of doubt or common error. In certain rare and exceptional cases that might apply to their situation, especially with regard to confession, but for the most part their arguments are not persuasive.

Part of their argument hinges on the faithful erroneously believing that the SSPX priests have the requisite faculty; well, if you were in error about that up until now, you are not in error anymore.

The SSPX also makes the argument that they have permission because the Church is in a state of “emergency.” However, 1) the Legislator (the Pope) and the bishops with him don’t think there is a state of emergency, and 2) the sacraments offered by the SSPX are already widely available at legitimate parishes and chapels, i.e., no one is being denied the sacraments.

This is not the place for a discourse on the technical points of canon law, but the point is: do you want to take that kind of a risk with your marriage or even with your soul? Apart from legal and sacramental concerns, there is also the danger that affiliating with the SSPX can gradually cause one to absorb a schismatic mentality.

You might attend your first Mass at an SSPX chapel for good and noble reasons, e.g., such a strong initial desire for a reverently celebrated liturgy that you are willing to tolerate the SSPX’s irregular status. But as you attend more and more, it ceases to become something you tolerate and starts to become a mark of identity, even a badge of pride. You adopt a fixed posture of separation from the Church. That is a perilous position for any soul to be in.

The larger question is why put yourself in that position in the first place? The Traditional Latin Mass (also called the Tridentine Mass, the Usus Antiquior, or the Extraordinary Form of the Mass) is celebrated regularly in parishes throughout the Diocese of Madison, both on Sundays and on weekdays. These Masses are beautifully and reverently celebrated by vibrant, faithful priests. I myself celebrate it frequently.

As interest in the Traditional Latin Mass grows, these opportunities will increase. Already, there are very few people in the Diocese of Madison who could get to an SSPX chapel on Sunday without passing by a legitimate parish in which the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated. If you’re knowingly doing that, it’s time to take a good hard look at your motives.

In closing, I want to stress that the need for a reform of the reform is real, and it is underway in our diocese. If you see that the Church needs fixing, work with your bishop, your pastors, and your fellow lay faithful to fix it. Share your needs and your concerns. Leaving is the last thing to do; leaving just doesn’t make sense! Communion with the Church is something to be cherished, safeguarded, and nourished.

Always looking at our Blessed Mother’s fidelity to Her Son, let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith.

Click here for a list of Traditional Latin Masses celebrated in the Diocese of Madison.

Keeping in mind that one cannot say everything that must be said in a short column, this is comprehensive and it strikes the right tone.

The comment moderation queue is ON.  I’ll let comments pile up before releasing them so that people can express things without being jumped on by other participants. Please think before posting.


Some good comments stacking up so far.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I really needed an explanation for why the faithful should have caution when dealing with the SSPX. And, it warms my heart to see a Bishop acknowledge that the SSPX has valid concerns. Too often the SSPX is summarily dismissed, along with their concerns, which makes me dismiss the dismissal.

  2. Eliane says:

    I think Bishop Morlino needs to reconsider his position that access to the Tridentine Mass is the key issue separating the SSPX from the post-VII church. As the bishop notes, those who desire a restoration of the 1962 Missal have it. A more important dividing point is the notion of “ecumenism” which holds that Catholicism is just one expression of Christianity among a host of equals, or even stands on equal footing with non-Christian religions as well. This twisted and untrue view has led to church prelates, including popes, to bow and scrape over the very existence of Catholicism while they apologize for supposed Catholic misconduct that has not occurred. Just this week our pope told the world the outrageous lie that divorced Catholics are maltreated or even shunned when they attempt to attend Mass. This is the kind of evil that the SSPX will not accept. I am sorry for their irregular status in the church, but their living rebuke to the Spirit of Vatican II is necessary if the church is to survive, and now more than ever. [Again, it is not possible to cover every point in a brief column. Try it yourself sometime with the same word count.]

  3. CradleRevert says:

    Wow, that was perfect. Charitable, yet clear as glass.

  4. Gerard Plourde says:

    A wise and well-crafted explanation of the main issues concerning the SSPX from one deserving of the title “extraordinary Ordinary”.

  5. Akita says:

    If I were living in the diocese of Madison, I’d be clinging to the good shepherd Morlino like white on rice. However, I live in a diocese wallowing in Vatican II novelty. Unfortunately there is no SSPX presence here. I would attend if there was, being careful never to receive the sacrament of penance from their priests, however. We are living in times dangerous to the soul to attend Novus Ordo liturgy! My children, I’m sure have been damaged by hearing pro-sodomite marriage sermons at our Novus Ordo parish. I wrote the bishop on several occasions to no avail.
    I do believe in the fullness of time archbishop Lefebre will be sainted.

  6. roma247 says:

    This is so beautifully, lovingly and correctly done. Kudos to His Excellency! This article is especially touching to me, as it was when I moved to Madison, WI from rural Ohio that I ended up losing my faith and stopped going to Mass–because I couldn’t bear the attitude I found in the churches there. They were so proud of their unorthodoxy (is that a word?) that it felt as though we were there to worship ourselves for being so avant-garde, rather than worshipping God. I thought I’d try to find another denomination that worshipped God in truth, but never did. I just stayed away. I ended up coming back to the Church after college, but only out of obedience. Attending Mass was something I offered up as a mortification. It wasn’t until I finally discovered the Latin Mass 6 years later that I realized this was what I had been missing all along.

  7. cregduff says:

    This letter from Bishop Morlino is a model of pastoral solicitude. Would that every diocese in these United States could have the Ordinary extend the same letter to believers, offering the generous application of Pope Benedict’s wish for access to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and an alternative to SSPX. Beautiful, shepherdly written. May Our Lord continue to bless the Diocese of Madison richly with good holy priests through the example of Bishop Morlino.

  8. wolfeken says:

    It should be noted that this bishop’s argument only works in a diocese with loads of TLM options. [It should also be noted that the bishop is addressing the faithful of Madison.] Most of the country does not have this luxury. [It is not, to my mind, a luxury. It is a necessary and pastors of souls who neglect this are morally culpable.] If the SSPX is closeby, it is completely legitimate to frequent their chapels for Mass provided one does not hold a schismatic view of the situation.

  9. dbonneville says:

    “If you see that the Church needs fixing, work with your bishop, your pastors, and your fellow lay faithful to fix it. Share your needs and your concerns. Leaving is the last thing to do; leaving just doesn’t make sense! ”

    Non-SSPX person here.

    This is the very crux of the matter. Most priests and bishops do not want to acknowledge nevermind fix any problems. Sharing of needs and concerns in many, many, many cases results in nothing, which leads to discouragement. Letters to bishops ignored. Meetings with priests brushed aside.

    The complexity of the apparatus to effectively raise attention is overwhelming, confusing, and is ipso facto a non-starter. Many people wanting to see the changes called for in VII feel powerless, voiceless, and a sense of futility, because the pragmatic reality of how things are effectively silences them.

    It should not be nearly impossible for average non-polarized Catholics to raise their voice to the point of being heard.

    How can this be remedied?

    If you sound a little angry, you are effectively sidelined as “extremist” with “the wrong tone”, and your voice is ignored.

    How can we use “acceptable tone” to make a point that gets heard and is unable to be ignored? Do we have to start praying the rosary on parish sidewalks?

    We have the internet. We need some kind of national, maybe global, platform for the laity to shed light on the abuses in a way that can’t be shut down, shut off, sidelined, minimized, etc. We need a tool to communicate that operates outside of the “apparatus”, yet has the attention of the bishops. We need momentum. We need facts. We need to be as clever as serpents, but gentle like doves. But we also need to punch heretics likes Santa did.

    Does a tool like this exist yet? Do we need to invent it?

    Anyone want to explore some ideas offline? A chat never hurts.

  10. FL_Catholic says:

    This is a well reasoned and well written summary of the points I have been trying to make with my SSPX family members for years. I fear though, that this letter by this wonderful Bishop will fall on deaf ears for the most part. Those who have adopted the SSPX have indeed made it part of their identity, and they are unwilling to tolerate the notion that they might be wrong. I’ve even been told by them that the FSSP isn’t suitable as an alternative to the SSPX because the FSSP have to be willing to celebrate the new Mass and are thus compromised. There is no negotiation with that kind of a viewpoint. No matter how bad things get inside the Church, it is always better to be fully and completly and VISIBLY within the Church than outside of it. The SSPX try to dance in the doorway, half-way in and half-way out, but it cannot remain that way forever. I fear how many souls would be lost if the Pope ever completly closed the door on the SSPX, because so many of their faithful would refuse to come home to the fullness of unity.

  11. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I greatly appreciate the comments of this excellent bishop. The observation about gradually becoming a point of identity is especially valuable. (Many people who begin to search for the Traditional forms do so because they are fleeing chaos and silliness elsewhere, but they come to identify themselves as Traditional Catholics, so even when schism isn’t involved (or a potentially schismatic situation) the bishop’s observation rings true.

    I have only one question: how can His Holiness and the bishops in union with him NOT see an emergency? To put the same question in a different way: What is the technical definition which applies in this case?

    In a broader sense, what can faithful Catholics do when there is no serious attempt in their diocese to reform the liturgy and abolish the silliness? For these Catholics (whose bishops don’t see anything needing to be reformed) is there a state of emergency? Can a sacrament be both valid and spiritually injurious at the same time?

  12. GypsyMom says:

    Wow!! That has to be the best, clearest, and yet most charitable and pastoral explanation of the SSPX I have ever seen! Kudos and prayers to Bishop Morlino, and prayers for many more of our bishops to follow his example.

  13. Mike says:

    . . . the need for a reform of the reform is real, and it is underway in our diocese.

    The faithful of the Diocese of Madison are fortunate in having a faithful shepherd. By the blessing of Almighty God and the intercession of His saints, may the example of Bishop Morlino and of kindred zealous souls inspire all shepherds, pastors, and Catholic laity to such fidelity.

  14. tzard says:

    “…if you were in error about that up until now, you are not in error anymore.”

    This made me chuckle. Such a fatherly statement.

    It’s important to note this was pastorly directed at his flock. It makes reference to the realities in his diocese. But I can see the wisdom in his overall teaching. This could be profitably read by people in other dioceses who don’t have as good (or any) access to a legitimate EF mass.

  15. templariidvm says:

    Wow! Were more people in our Church and our government so clear, reasoned and straightforward! It would be a different world. Pray for more holy men like this who truly guide their flocks, rather than trying to follow behind the flock wherever they go.

  16. Clinton R. says:

    A very fair and nuanced article by His Excellency. The appeal of the SSPX for many of the faithful in the post Vatican II years has been the opportunity to assist at the TLM and for the SSPX’s adherence to the timeless teachings of the Catholic faith, while the faithful “endured years of sloppy or irreverent liturgy and mushy or even unorthodox preaching and catechesis.”

    The Council has created division within the Church. Ask 10 different people what the documents mean, and you might get 10 different answers. Many of the faithful in the years ensuing the Councils’s conclusion feared the Church had lost the faith, especially when the Mass of Paul VI was propagated. Doctrine has not been enforced, heretical teaching celebrated, clerical garb discarded, and discipline lost. So the SSPX has been and continues to be seen by some as the true Church, the remnant of the Faith.

    But my hope, and I am sure the hope of many Catholics is the growth of the TLM in more and more parishes, to have good and faithful pastors, such as Bp. Morlino. We pray for strong men to heed the Lord’s call to His priesthood. We pray fervently future generations will see the errors of modernism, and the fruitlessness of the attempts to adapt the Church to the ways of the world, and instead embrace the beautiful traditions of the Holy Church, especially the Mass of All Time, that has lead so many souls to Christ.

    I agree with Bp. Morlino, let us pray to Our Blessed Mother, that what has been lost may be restored for the good of men’s souls. +JMJ+

  17. GCC Catholic says:

    Bishop Morlino has provided an excellent case for why the faithful should avoid SSPX chapels. His position is very frank, and some who he is addressing might find it hard to accept.

    I have seen these arguments made against SSPX before. However, Bishop Morlino is able to give one that many others cannot — In the Diocese of Madison there are plenty of locations where one might attend a Sunday Mass in the EF, and even a few where one might attend a Daily Mass. He is forming his seminarians to know the older rites, and to be sensitive toward those who request them. I would imagine that those who desire to receive other Sacraments in the EF can also receive them with relative ease, because there are clergy who are capable and open to it. For those clergy, the ability and desire to celebrate in utroque usu is a strength, not a stigma.

    The key argument, in short, is “I have provided for your pastoral needs, so there is hardly an excuse to seek illicit (and sometimes invalid) Sacraments elsewhere.” Bishop Morlino’s generosity with both the old and the new has demonstrated him a wise householder, and other bishops who wish to reduce the influence of “fringe elements” among traditional-minded faithful would do well to take note.

  18. TomG says:

    Whatever burdens the faithful of Madison WI must endure, they clearly aren’t “Ordinary.”

  19. Mjay says:

    I think the SSPX will grow to a much larger number IF Pope Francis changes the practice of allowing divorced/remarried and receiving communion. I’m praying that he follows Christ’s words and the Church’s tradition, but if he does, I believe many faithful will leave in droves.

  20. Woody79 says:

    What a great letter it is. For the first time, a bishop tells the whole truth about the SSPX. And in a tone that indicates that this bishop truly is “pastoral.” How fortunate the people of the diocese of Madison are to have such a bishop. I wish there were more priests, bishops, cardinals and popes like him. God bless him always.

  21. Catherine says:

    Being a Traditional Catholic is about so much more than having access to and attending Latin Mass. There is whole lifestyle that goes hand in hand, and in order to live that lifestyle most families need a lot of support and !!education!! which may or may not be offered at the local parish that agrees to do a regular or occasional Latin Mass. I think what many on the outside of the SSPX fail to see is that support for traditional catholic CULTURE offered by the SSPX— camps and schools, Eucharistic crusades for the children, pilgrimages and extensive catechism education for parents. It is probably a big part of what keeps people coming. I went to local Latin Masses with homeschooling girlfriends for years but didn’t really understand any of it until I started attending my SSPX chapel. At the time I really didn’t care what language the Mass was in, I just wanted to be around others who actually practiced their faith (ha ha) I got a wonderful Catholic education at our SSPX chapel and I am so grateful for it, as well as the support my children have received. Would I drive past a great FSSP parish to go to the SSPX? No way. But for me, there is no FSSP parish, only a local parish that supports homosexuality and contraception from the pulpit while my children are sitting there soaking up every word. Our family goes to confession 4x a year with a traveling FSSP priest who comes to town to visit his mother (a blessing for us, to be sure!) and we absolutely love our little SSPX chapel the rest of the year, not just because of the Mass offered but also the support of an authentically Catholic family life and education for my kids. I think these posts often throw doubt on sincere Catholics that are trying to do the best they can where they are with the options available to them. It’s (usually) not so cut and dry for most of us.

  22. acardnal says:

    It should be noted that some – probably many – dioceses do not have the TLM/EF Mass available AT ALL and, unfortunately, this is by intention.

  23. Arcgap says:

    An unsurprising feedback from a Pius X “parishioner” was that “we are in a state of emergency” which is very much like someone in the USA complaining of starvation because the drive through line is long at the burger place.

  24. Chatto says:

    Excellent. I do have a genuine question for the better informed amongst us – how are the marriages celebrated in their chapels ‘invalid’, as opposed to ‘illicit’? It’s my (limited) understanding that the ministers of that sacrament (in the Latin Rite) are the bride and groom, and so the liceity of the priest’s ordination shouldn’t affect validity, right? Thanks in advance for enlightening me.

    [For marriage between Catholics to be valid, it has to be celebrated with the proper form. Part of the proper form is a witness/minister who stands for the Church. The SSPX priests cannot officially witness for the Church because they are suspended from exercising ministry. They do not have faculties, permission, from the Church to officiate at marriages. Thus, the marriages are invalid because of lack of proper form.]

  25. Gerard Plourde says:

    It seems to me that Bishop Morlino’s column also gently but firmly addresses the central issue of the SSPX – the fact that their founder and his successors directly disobeyed the Vicar of Chrst and successor to St. Peter over the ordination of bishops. This denial of Papal primacy and authority in many ways resembles the acts of Martin Luther and Henry VIII. Luther certainly recognized abuses in the Church. His solution divided the Church and entertained heresy. Henry sought dynastic certainty, usurped control of the Church and destroyed the autonomy of the English Church in the process, also resulting in the eventual spread of heresy. The responsibility rests with the SSPX to submit to the legitimate authority of the Holy See and to seek to share its gifts with the Universal Church.

  26. spock says:

    If we had more Bishops like him, the Church would be much better off. That being said, I have great difficulty visualizing a time line where the SSPX never existed and we would have a similar level of a return to Tradition in the Church. Their positions have been pretty consistent as far as I can tell and we should not treat them as the good guys for yesterday and bad guys today. At the level of the practical, my options are go to Byzantine liturgy because I don’t want one red cent of my hard earned money going to someone like HE Bishop Cupich or go to an SSPX chapel for Mass and go to confession at a diocesan church when offered outside of Sunday Mass. Another issue is that the traditional orders are running very very few if any Catholic schools for children. So I can either home school which I may or may not be capable of or send them to a SSPX school. If there are any other practical options, please let me know.

  27. paterscotus says:

    I am not a member of the Society but, perhaps unlike many commentators, have known their priests and seen their fruitful work first hand.
    It seems clear to me that the Church is, indeed, in a state of crisis and has been since Vatican II. All objective measurements (e.g., precipitous decline in Mass attendance, vocations; etc.) along with the sex abuse scandals, support the proposition of “the smoke of Satan” entering the temple, and the “auto-demolition” of and the “mass apostasy” from the Church, about which the conciliar popes themselves spoke. It seems likewise clear that the only reason we have the traditional Mass in the mainstream Church is thanks to one man: Archbishop Lefebvre; and, further, that the resistance that the Society has provided to the many novelties of VII – including ecumenism, religious liberty, collegiality, and the liturgical abuses, is nothing but a service to the Mystical Body of Christ.
    The men of the Society and there adherents are simply trying to hand on and live the faith handed down by the apostles – the very thing that many of the successors to the apostles seem bent on tossing out in favor of modern, humanistic notions. Is it any surprise that the liberal elements now in control are seeking their destruction?

  28. RichR says:

    Honestly, I feel cheated of my heritage. My 9 year old turned to me at Sunday Mass while some campfire-worthy hymn was being strummed on the guitar and ask, “Dad, why can’t we go to a Latin Mass?” My heart broke because the nearest one is over an hour away in another county.

    [Ex ore infantium, perfecisti laudem! Kudos to him. If you send me your street address via email I will send him some Fr. Z swag.]

  29. ncstevem says:

    I agree with Catherine’s comments – it’s about more than just the TLM. I assisted at a Mass celebrated at the SSPX chapel in my city for years when I was single and it was the only TLM around.

    Shortly after I married, a wonderful and holy diocesan priest was made pastor of a parish known for its Spirit of Vatican II bent and began slowly introducing more traditional practices into the Masses celebrated there. Within a few years he oversaw the building of a new church with traditional architecture and details (altar rails, numerous statues of saints, elimination of altar tom-boys, etc.) and began celebrating a weekly TLM on Wed nights and then a weekly Sunday Mass as well.

    The problem as I see it is that this parish lacks the Catholic culture mindset and support among parishioners that I found at the SSPX chapel. It was all encompassing at the chapel and the thing that impressed me the most was the children who attended Mass there – from their demeanor and the way they conducted themselves with other children and with the adults. It was quite impressive. My wife even noted it several times after we were married and I began taking her there.

    One story I heard during my time at the chapel was about a two week road trip through several states that some mothers took with the teenage women at the chapel. One of the stops was at a Catholic shrine which happened to be closed to the public at the time of the visit. The group engaged the woman who maintained upkeep of the shrine in conversation and she was so impressed with the young ladies and the questions they asked, she opened the shrine to them and gave them a 1 hour tour of the grounds. Her comment was something to the effect that she had never encountered a more well behaved group of Catholic young adults who were knowledgeable about their Faith in her time caring for the shrine.

    That’s my experience of the support young families can expect at a SSPX chapel.

  30. Mike says:

    . . . very much like someone in the USA complaining of starvation because the drive through line is long at the burger place.

    A more apposite analogy might be to a fresh-fruit market that has been converted to a purveyor of deep-fried Spam slathered in Cheez Wiz and served on Wonder Bread while Milli Vanilli is piped in overhead. [No, I don’t think so. As a matter of fact that’s pretty insulting to the priests who have tried their best to shift their parishes to a reverent and careful offering of Holy Mass even with the Novus Ordo. The young priests I know are doing great work in bringing the liturgical worship in their parishes into line with the Roman Tradition. The newly ordained are more and more choosing to say use the Extraordinary Form for their 1st Mass.]

  31. Chiara says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Fr. Z. And thanks to Bishop Morlino.

    In my diocese (Cleveland), we have a great many SSPX chapels. My husband and I were sternly warned by our former pastor to stay away from them, because their celebration of the sacraments and the Mass are invalid, [No! Their Masses are valid!] and their priests are not legitimately ordained by the Roman Catholic Church.

    Unfortunately, one of the practices the SSPX parishes in our area employs is to name their chapels with the same name as legitimate, local parishes. For instance, in a suburb of Akron, there is a large Catholic parish named Immaculate Heart of Mary, and less than 10 miles away there is an SSPX parish with the same name. In the city limits of Akron, we had a Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic parish, while less than 5 miles away there is an SSPX parish with the same name. With the multitude of good patron saints for whom a parish could name themselves after, it seems the SSPX chapels in our area are intentionally misleading and purposefully confusing faithful Catholics. Visitors to the area or faithful Catholics who have not been warned may not be aware of the difference, and thus attend Mass at one of these chapels, thinking they are fulfilling their Sunday duty.

    Also, many, if not all, of the SSPX priests and parishioners believe that all popes after Pius XII are not legitimate Vicars of Christ. [I find that unusual. Most SSPX priests don’t deny the legitimacy of these pontificates. They include the Pope’s name in the Canon.] They do not place themselves under the leadership and are not obedient to Pope Francis. Even if we do not admire a pope and compare him unfavorably to previous popes, he is still our pope, and we must obey and follow his leadership.

    I am very blessed to belong to a parish in which the Novus Ordo Mass is celebrated with exceptional beauty and reverence, in a stunning 110 year-old church. I must admit, with respect, I am not comfortable with the Latin Mass I love the Novus Ordo Mass at my parish.

    But for those who yearn for the TLM, please follow the good advice of Bishop Morlino. Seek out a faithful, truly Catholic parish, which places itself under the umbrella and leadership of the local Bishop, the Pope, and the Holy Roman Catholic Church, which celebrates a legitimate TLM, even if you have to travel a long distance. Otherwise, find a good parish where the Novus Ordo is celebrated well and reverently.

    As pointed out in the article and by the good priest who advised me and my husband, it is not worth putting your immortal soul in danger. When you must Confess, receive the true Body and Blood of Christ, marry, baptize your children, and ultimately place your soul in the hands of God and receive the Anointing of the Sick, you will surely want a faithful, validly ordained Catholic priest to do so.

    Again, thank you, Fr. Z, for printing this. There is a great deal of confusion among the laity on this subject. [Yes, there is.]

  32. Ben Kenobi says:

    This is a fantastic letter. I myself was shocked when I realized that none of the SSPX ‘bishops’ have been licitly ordained let alone consecrated. As a convert, we are to schism as liquor is to an alcoholic. Prudence dictates that we should stay away, far away, from this temptation.

  33. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    This has been a good and irenic discussion. [Which is why I use the moderation queue and eliminate the unnecessarily inflammatory as well as those which have some glaring errors so as to avoid rabbit holes.] I think one issue has been omitted. The SSPX does not accept the dogma of The Paschal Mystery — a dogma central to the New Testament and indeed central to the whole Bible. The SSPX can hardly be blamed for this. There is enormous confusion about the dogma of the redemption in general. Count me among the Christus Victor position.

  34. djc says:

    The liturgical climate in the majority (maybe vast majority) of the country is abysmal. While there is a resurgence of reverent masses in many areas, both TLM and the Novus Ordo, many people just have to suffer in silence thru abuse after abuse. Hence mass attendance suffers and the church continues its decline.

    As someone who actually prefers the Novus Ordo it pains me to see how mass is sometimes celebrated.

    What if Morlino is eventually replaced by someone like Cupich? Things would change in a heartbeat.

    [Stop suffering in silence. GET TO WORK!]

  35. Chiara says:

    Father –

    Thank you for your comments to what I wrote above.

    But with regard to the SSPX Masses being valid: How can they possibly be valid if the SSPX priest was ordained by a bishop who was not consecrated by the pope?

    I really need to know. We have a lot of SSPX activity in my area, and I was advised by my former pastor to stay clear of anything to do with them.

    Thank you for any help you can give me.

    [This is pretty old ground and I have written on this many times, so I won’t be elaborate here. First, bishops don’t have to be consecrated by the Pope. Bishops must have permission from the Pope to consecrate a bishop, otherwise the consecration is valid but illicit/illegal. The priests of the SSPX were validly ordained by validly consecrated bishops. When they say Mass, they confect the Eucharist validly, but without the permission of the Church. They do so validly but illegally.]

  36. andyandely says:

    Even though I have never been to a SSPX chapel and only 2 Tridentine Masses, I agree with Catherine’s statement as well. It is the lack of Catholic identity within the Catholic Parishes. So even if there is a Tridentine Mass, that is not the end all with regards to the Catholic faith. Also, the closest Tridentine Mass for myself is over 2 hours away. We have a good priest in our parish, but even he is afraid of making any changes and confronting the culture head on in the homilies. Once I found out he enjoyed celebrating the Tridentine Mass at his last assignment at the Bishop’s cathedral in Fargo, ND, I talked with him about helping him start the Tridentine Mass in our parish. But even he is reluctant to start it, so I will start to seek out other parishioners who might have interest as well. I told our priest if he started a Tridentine Mass in our parish and promoted it within a 30-60 mile radius, I believe people would attend it. There is only 1 Tridentine Mass available in the entire state of North Dakota to my knowledge. Coming back to Catherine’s statement, I believe it is an emergency in some parishes where the liberal agenda is pushed and Catholic doctrine ignored. Even if a parish is not pushing a liberal agenda, an indifferent parish who does not confront the world is almost as bad, as it lets souls drift away from the one truth of Jesus Christ and his Church. Catherine is correct when she says it is not so cut and dry when it comes to the SSPX, as again, it is not only the Tridentine Mass, but the Catholic identity and support which is desperately needed for Catholic families in our hedonistic society.

  37. Mike says:

    No, I don’t think so. As a matter of fact that’s pretty insulting . . .

    Respectfully, reverend sir, that comment redirects the intent of mine to a place it was never intended to go. As one appreciative and supportive of faithful liturgy, I regret having drawn an analogy capable of being reframed in that way.

  38. roma247 says:

    Many commenters have spoken highly of the community and the education for their children that is available in SSPX parishes; ironically, it is exactly this that caused me to stay away from the nearest SSPX chapel.

    When I first began attending Mass, it was at an SSPX chapel because I didn’t know any difference. I fell in love with the Mass, but was terribly confused and conflicted by what the priest there was telling me about what was and was not sinful. I was told I must not go to confession elsewhere, as it wasn’t valid, and that if I attended a Novus Ordo Mass, I would have to confess that as a MORTAL SIN. I had been a cantor at my previous parish and asked if there were any opportunity to participate in singing and was told that the proper place for a woman in the Church was as a member of the Altar Sodality. I began frequenting traditional Catholic forums to try to understand more about this faith that I had been deprived of from birth and encountered the most radically hateful community I had ever seen; I was shocked at some of the unreasonable (and profoundly prideful) positions held by these people, who spend more time reading Papal Encyclicals and Conspiracy Theories about the Church than they do the Gospels. I would rebut their positions 10 times over using Christ’s own unambiguous words, and they would accuse me of being a heretic for disagreeing with them.

    This was not the sort of support that would be conducive to a well-balanced church community. More and more, we were made to feel unwelcome at the SSPX chapel, partially because we had 4 VERY young children who, sadly, had only ever experienced McChurch, and one of whom was mildly autistic. We were trying really, really hard, and few had any patience or compassion for us.

    It might be inferred from the above that I didn’t fit in because I was expecting the sort of loosey-goosey attitudes of Novus Ordo spirituality. Far from it. I spent well over two years immersing myself in this culture because of my deep desire to become authentically Catholic for the first time in 35 years. But I eventually turned away because the culture was nothing short of Poisonous. The thought of bringing my children to catechism classes there terrified me.

    So I fully understand when Bishop Morlino warns us “But as you attend more and more, it ceases to become something you tolerate and starts to become a mark of identity, even a badge of pride. You adopt a fixed posture of separation from the Church. That is a perilous position for any soul to be in.” In this phrase, he is perfectly describing my own experience with this SSPX chapel. They either teetered on the razor edge of schism or had zoomed right past it into sedevacantism and all that comes with it. I consider an environment like that every bit as dangerous to the soul as being around relatives who no longer believe in the Divinity of Our Lord and want to talk about it all the time.

  39. Knittycat says:

    This message is very timely for my family and me. We just came back from a trip to Dallas and we visited Our Lady of Guadalupe down town. The building was beautiful, the mass was reverent, the singing was traditional (if not chant, it was at least not christian pop), the novus ordo was fairly reverently celebrated, and it was all sugar to wash down the poison.
    The crucifix had been moved from it’s place behind the alter to behind the pulpit, and the tabernacle had been moved off to the side. In it’s place was a large print of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. When people (and the clergy!!!) approached the sanctuary, the bows were not directed at the tabernacle, or even mistakenly at the crucifix. No, they bowed in worship to the print or Our Lady. When genuflecting, they were directed to Our Lady.
    The sermon highlighted wasting food as one of the worst possible sins as the message of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, as apposed to viewing the Eucharist as the real presence.
    This was the church we’d been sending our daughter to when she went up to visit her Baptist grandmother.
    We were mortified. No wonder so many protestants view us as worshiping graven images. This was the type of message our daughter’s grandmother had been exposed to as her only view of Catholicism?
    On our drive back to our home, we discussed the SSPX. The only TLM available within an hours drive of our home is an SSPX chapel 50 mins from us. The next closest was an hour and 40 minutes. On the fringes, over 2 hours away, and through the nightmare, take-your-life-in-your-hands traffic of Houston is an FSSP chapel.
    Bishop Morlino’s message touched on every concern we had about the SSPX. We will not be attending the ‘local’ chapel as desperately as I would like to attend a regular TLM. We will continue going to our moderately reverent, if extremely banal (i swear, sitting through the weekly rendition of ‘on eagles wings’ should count as penance) and insufficient, novus ordo. There is, sadly, zero interest in TLM around here.
    I’m a convert, my husband was a CINO from childhood, and we frankly have no clue how to ‘live’ Catholic. The traditions, the movement of time by the liturgical calendar, the community…we have no clue. I’d been hoping to look to the SSPX for those cues. But no more.
    I will just continue to do my best with what I have.

  40. Knittycat says:

    (I forgot to add, at Our Lady, there were also no alter boys, only girls, and a woman who was dressed as, and seemed to be acting as deacon along with the deacon)

  41. Lepidus says:

    I popped over to the link for the Masses in the Extraordinary Form in Madison and was sort of surprised by what I saw. At first, it was “wow, there are a lot of parishes behind this”, but a more careful reading is more disappointing. There are only three regularly scheduled Sunday Masses listed. [We’re working on it. It also helps to know something of the geography of the diocese, the location of the SSPX place and other churches.]

  42. Mike says:

    Knittycat: If you ever happen to be anywhere near the Hill Country, the Mission of Divine Mercy in Canyon Lake is well worth a visit. Their chapel is simple and soothing, and Holy Mass and the Divine Office are celebrated with reverence.

    Also, next time in Dallas, you might run over to the FSSP parish in Irving, Mater Dei, on 356 right off Loop 12.

  43. Ann Malley says:

    Knittycat – Bishop Morlino’s letter is directed to those in his diocese. He provides for his sheep. It would seem, sadly, that the Bishop in your diocese does not. You may want to check with the FSSP in Houston you mentioned and ask what you should do.

    Sounds like you really need and would benefit from getting a basic foundation. Attending an SSPX mass for the purpose of meeting one’s Sunday obligation is not forbidden. But perhaps the FSSP Houston pastor could get you in touch with others in your area that could lend you the support you need. Attempting to navigate the nonsense is hard enough when one is a solidly formed Catholic, but to ask that of a convert and a CINO is pretty much leaving you alone in the woods. Making the decision ‘alone’ without solid, pastoral input on the ground can be isolating and leave you more drained than you are now.

  44. Murphy says:

    RichR’s comment reminded me of my own childhood back in the 1980s and early 90s, when traditional Masses were fewer and farther between. The closest one to us was an hour and a half away—and started at 8 am— but our parents drove us there every Sunday, weather permitting.

    I’m not sure they could have done anything better to impress on us that Mass is a Really Big Deal.

    It was a sacrifice, getting up that early and driving that far; and of course we now realize that it was more of a sacrifice for our hardworking parents that it was for us. But my brothers and sisters have often said that some of our best memories are of the “Mass commute” and the picnics and excursions we often went on after Mass. And attending—and serving—the traditional Mass at an early age imparts a sense of the liturgy that just doesn’t go away.

    RichR–please think about making the drive! It might make a huge difference for years to come: it might help your grandchildren keep the Faith.

    About Bishop Morlino: if there were more bishops like him, willing not just to try to reform the reform in his own diocese, but also to speak in a way that actually engages the SSPX’s concerns, it would go a long way towards alleviating the SSPX’s worries and suspicions about a full reconciliation with the hierarchical Church.

  45. AlexanderAerarius says:

    I’m sure the SSPX would have no scruples about warning faithful Catholics to avoid communion with their legitimate bishop.

  46. Ann Malley says:


    That’s a great zinger, but it hits a hollow tune as the reality that too many a ‘legitimate’ bishop does not meet or even acknowledge the legitimate need of his flock. Knittycat is one story among too many.

    Give thanks for Bishop Morlino, but slighting others for feeding often starving sheep doesn’t follow.

    Would that there was no need to look so hard for the true shepherd. Methinks that is why His Excellency took such a measured tone that is far more accurate than most.

  47. John Nolan says:

    I have only ever attended SSPX Masses in continental Europe, except when I attended one in 1976 celebrated by Abp Lefebvre in the Great Western Hotel, Paddington, all the London churches having closed the doors to him. In Paris in 1992 St-Nicholas-du-Chardonnet was the only church in Paris to offer the traditional Mass. In Brussels in 2007 the only liturgical life I could find was in the SSPX church of St Joseph which also happens to be the Belgian national shrine. I could not tell you where the nearest SSPX ‘chapel’ is to me here in England – the Masses I attend are all celebrated by diocesan priests.

    I have to admit that the preaching I have heard on the occasions I have attended SSPX Masses in France and Belgium, and the literature I have picked up and read have been entirely orthodox and do not rail against Vatican II and the modern Church. Perhaps the situation in North America is different and the SSPX is veering towards sedevacantism. But in Europe the Society is an accepted part of the wider traditional movement which is growing slowly but steadily, its growth highlighted by the concomitant decline in post-V2 Catholicism.

  48. Liam says:

    Chiara has made some understandable blunders in her comments!

    There are not many SSPX chapels in the Cleveland Diocese, rather only one. However, there are many unauthorized traditionalist chapels in the diocese.

    Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Akron area is an independent chapel staffed by a priest who left the Scranton Diocese in the early 1970s and was involved with Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement in those early years of traditionalism. This chapel has long been friendly towards the SSPX but wholly independent. I suspect that it leans towards Bishop Williamson and the SSPX Resistance. Perhaps someone knows for certain.

    The other Akron area chapel, Sacred Heart of Jesus, is operated by the sedevacantist Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen.

    A third chapel in the Cleveland Diocese is St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Parma. The Society of St. Pius V staffs this chapel. The congregation tends towards sedevacantism but not all. This is congruent with the SSPV since they consider the matter an open question. The chapel is noted for its rigidity and coldness towards outsiders.

    Finally, there is St. Peregrine in Westlake, staffed by the Society of St. Pius X. Like many SSPX chapels the laity tend to be more intransigent than the clergy. This chapel was originally established as an independent alternative to St. Therese when the SSPV split from Msgr. Lefebvre in 1983. The chapel was originally staffed by a Picpus Father. It has always used the 62 Missal (with some earlier additions) and was progressive for a trad chapel in its early years since all Low Masses were Dialogue Masses. I think this was curbed gradually after the SSPX took over in 1991.

    The diocesan parishes with regular Sunday TLMs are: Immaculate Conception, Cleveland; St. Stephen, Cleveland; St. Rocco, Cleveland; and St. Sebastian, Akron. Other parishes have one-off TLMs at various times.

  49. This column on the SSPX by Bishop Morlino is wonderful. Clear. Succinct. Accurate.

    For those who cannot find a reverent Novus Ordo parish, perhaps there is a Byzantine parish in driving distance? I don’t mean Orthodox, but Eastern Rite Catholic. This is what we did for years when a licit Tridentine Mass was not available.

  50. Chiara says:

    Liam –

    Thank you for your charity and clarification. These various parishes have made for a great deal of confusion in the Akron area, not the least of which is their insistence on using the same name as local parishes under the Cleveland Diocese. Perhaps that is why my former pastor advised us to stay away from them.

    I do recall the recent letter Bishop Lennon addressed to all of us on the subject of the priest at Immaculate Heart of Mary who is from Scranton (for those of you outside the Cleveland Diocese, this was printed for all parish bulletins in the Diocese and reinforced from the pulpit by my pastor). As I recall His Excellency warned us that the priest in question is not permitted to administer the Sacraments or say Mass in the Diocese, and we are not to be misled into thinking we were performing our Sunday duty by attending Mass at that particular chapel.

    I am aware of the TLM at St. Sebastian – thank you! I have attended that Mass, but I am much more at home with the Novus Ordo Mass which is beautifully and reverently prayed by my pastor, his vicar and the priest in residence at St. Bernard.

    Also, Fr. Z, if these are valid but illegal priests, why would any of us want to attend a Mass at which they officiate? It seems we put our souls in danger to do so. Sorry to be thick-headed about this, but I think it is an important point. Surely if the priest is illegal, it is better to attend Mass at a legitimate Diocesan parish. [Yes, indeed. On the other hand, some people live in a liturgical wasteland. They suffer.]

    Thank you again, Liam and Fr. Z, for your charity and patience with my ignorance.

  51. Johannes Quinque says:

    So what is preventing the SSPX from reconciliation with Rome? Having to say a NO Mass on Sunday? What is the big deal there, really? They could still use the Latin, chant, and face the altar. Certainly at some point a compromise on “little t” issues should seem more prudent to SSPX leaders than ensnaring souls in invalid sacraments and possibly scandal. At this point, what have they got to lose???

  52. Gabriel Syme says:

    Johannes Quinque,

    You ask what is preventing the SSPX wholly reconciling with Rome:

    The answer till recently has been obstinate forces* in the Vatican (and elsewhere) who refuse to recognise the Society unless they sell out and agree to pretend that the erroneous practices and teachings spread in the aftermath of Vatican II represent an integral part of Catholic Tradition (they do not).

    (*I dont include Pope Francis in that, who in fact has been helpful and generous towards the Society. As shown by developments in Buenos Airies and his former dealings with Fr Christian Bouchacort SSPX etc.)

    But now the pretence that the SSPX are schismatic or otherwise troublesome is threadbare and Bishops (eg +Schneider) are starting to say they should be accepted just as they are, lest the Church lose credibility.

    The SSPX recognise the validity of the Novus Ordo, but reject its use and insist upon using the Mass of All Time. They are wholly within their rights to do this. They always have been. (I am am glad – having found the traditional mass a few years ago, aged 34, I cant say I miss the Novus Ordo one bit. On the rare occasions today when I find myself a a “new mass” I look upon it as a form of pennance).

    The Novus Ordo brings nothing to the table and has often reduced our Holy Faith to the level of a child’s birthday party. The fuss made over it today comes chiefly from those who cant accept that the Church got it wrong with the Novus Ordo – badly wrong. For the amount of times we hear the word “humility” thrown about these days, there isnt actually very much of it about!

    I look forward with serenity and confidence to the regularisation of the SSPX.

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