ASK FATHER: Is it okay now to go to SSPX chapels?

From a reader:

I believe that you advise against attending SSPX Chapels even when that is your only EF option. But, has anything changed since the Pope offered permission to SSPX to forgive abortion in the Confessional and that Italian Bishop had asked them to say EF mass on a certain Sunday a month or something along those lines? If he is giving permission to SSPX to supply the Sacrament of Reconciliation then a parishioner partaking of that Sacrament would not incur automatic excommunication?

You probably can tell I really want to attend an SSPX Chapel but I would not want to be excommunicated.

First, you would not be excommunicated for attending an SSPX chapel.

Next, yes, the Pope has in effect extended faculties to SSPX priests ONLY for the Year of Mercy validly to absolve sins in regular confession.

Still, I think that be regular attendance at an SSPX chapel you might run the risk of weakening your sense of unity with the local bishop and the Vicar of Rome.  This may depend on which chapel you could attend and who the priests are.  It will also depend on the general attitude prevailing among the people with whom you might be talking as such a chapel.

If an Italian bishop has worked something out with some SSPX priest, fine… for the people in that diocese and that priest.  In those places where such an agreement has not been made, then I don’t recommend frequenting an SSPX chapel.

That said, depending on local conditions (I know that in some places you can’t find a decent sermon or reverent Mass to save your life) exercising great prudence a person could go to SSPX Masses on occasion.  A person can also fulfill her Sunday obligation at such a parish.  Canon law is clear about that.  Canon 1248 § 1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states:

The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.

The SSPX is clearly using a Catholic Rite and again and again the Holy See’s Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has clarified that one fulfill’s the obligation.

All things being equal (there are decent, reverent Masses and opportunities for confession) you don’t have a compelling enough reason to frequent SSPX chapels.

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  1. robtbrown says:

    Which raises a problem:

    Someone wants to attend a Sunday EF. An FSSP chapel is over an hour away, and an SSPX chapel is 10 minutes away. Given those two choices, is someone obligated to the longer drive to the FSSP mass?

    [That would depend on various other circumstances.]

  2. zama202 says:

    And on the other side – I am sure that there are many SSPX priests waiting for the day they can step in to help their local ordinaries rebuild their dioceses.


  3. Siculum says:

    They are not parishes.

  4. nzcatholic says:

    If I have reason to attend a SPPX mass and had no alternative could I receive communion? [It is hard to imagine a case in which one had “no alternative”. That said, I would respond, off the top of my head with another hypothetical: “Once a year.”]

  5. robtbrown says:

    It is not relevant whether they are parishes.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    Father, one problem is this.
    Some people go to SSPX chapels when there are valid and beautiful TLMs available in their areas and even in the same town or city where they live. They choose the SSPX because of reasons like these, which have been told to me to personally:
    1) If the parish is run by the FSSPs, these certain people do not want to risk the chance of receiving a Host consecrated at an NO Mass. These people will get up and leave the communion rail if the priest goes to the tabernacle to get more Consecrated Hosts.
    2) They think the NO is invalid, and therefore do not want anything to do with a building or priest who celebrates both the NO and the EF.
    3) They only want the 1962 Mass as said by the SSPX and not EFs in other traditions, such as the Benedictine tradition
    4) They do not trust the absolution of priests in the EF because they doubt the “new” rite of ordination in the Catholic Church
    5) They think the present pope was not elected validly.

    And so on…of course, these are divisive views and recently, I have bumped up against these yet again among certain trads. Also, some trads refuse to admit that the marriages are not valid and have to be regularized. One couple I know who did this are to be commended for going through the arduous process.

    In all the SSPX groups which I know, not many, however, these ideas are prominent.

  7. Imrahil says:

    There may, of course, be a couple of prudential points to consider…

    however as to the general principle, the SSPX consists of Catholic priests that are suspended, but no priest of theirs that I’m aware of has been suspended personally, with his name mentioned and all, by the Holy See, stating expressly that they must be avoided.

    Which, to fall back into good old manualist terminology, fits them into the category of “suspensi tolerati”, which under the legislation of the Council of Constance, expounded upon e. g. by St. Alphonsus, leaves us Catholics a surprisingly big liberty of going to them.

  8. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Supertradmum,

    The circumstances and incidents you relate are truly heartbreaking. It underscores the reason why Bishop Morlino issued the ban against attendence at SSPX chapels for the Diocese of Madison. [Bp. Morlino did not issue a ban against attending SSPX chapels. He warmly recommended that people not go to them.]

    To begin, the belief that the Mass of Bl. Paul VI is somehow invalid by its very nature is an act that invites schism. The Church teaches that both forms are valid. We are bound to obey.

    To hold a belief that the Blessed Sacrament is not confected at a Mass celebrated in the Ordinary Form borders on heresy, as it denies a central teaching of the Catholic Church and questions the authority of the hierarchy in this matter.

    Equally troubling is the belief that Pope Francis is not validly elected.

    If these attitudes are present in an SSPX community, then attendance there constitues a danger to the soul as a near occasion of sin.

    These fruits are the truly tragic consequence of Archbishop Lefebvre’s act of disobedience and call us to pray that those who hold these mistaken beliefs may have their hearts softened and be reconciled to the Catholic Church.

  9. RobertK says:

    What is interesting about this whole thing is how is Rome going to tell it’s faithful to stop going to SSPX chapels “after” the year of mercy. [Ummm…. Rome is NOT telling people to go to SSPX chapels during the Year of Mercy. Rome is saying only that, if they go to confession to an SSPX priest during the Year of Mercy their sins will be validly absolved … during the Year of Mercy. That is not an endorsement of the SSPX.] Especially if someone begins going to an SSPX chapel (parish) and becomes a regular parishioner [You can only become a parishioner at a parish. The SSPX does not have parishes.] and develops a close bond with their priest. Seems like Rome will have no other choice “after” the year of mercy to give them full and permanent faculties, or face out right separation, not just from priests in the SSPX, but the faithful as well. [“No other choice”? That’s not how things work.]

  10. Gabriel Syme says:


    I obviously do not know what experiences / encounters you have had, but just to clarify having read your list above – the official SSPX positions are that the NO is valid (but deficient) and that they are strictly against sedevacantism (i.e. so the Pope is the Pope).

    And so it would seem strange for someone who disagreed with these positions (i.e. these realities) to seek out the SSPX. I know the SSPX had a (now purged) lunatic fringe, but in my experience no-one would ever get a schismatic mentality from attending an SSPX Church. To compare, the mainstream German Church has a schismatic mentality – “we are not a subsiduary of Rome” (Cardinal Marx). The SSPX would never deny Papal authority like that. They will disagree with the Pope (as is sometimes needed, today and historically) but never deny him. Where is the concern over Marx and the German Church?

    I myself started going to the SSPX in search of authentic Catholicism – in liturgy, doctrine and practice. I am very glad I did, but I understand why some people still have reservations (thanks to misinformation)- especially if there are canonically regular options nearby as well.

    My former Parish Priest (pre-SSPX) was a great guy, whom I love dearly, but he was strongly against authentic Catholic liturgy, which he considered to be “the past”. And so, while I do owe him much in various ways, with him I sadly could not access the beautiful liturgy which is my religious heritage and indeed my right.

    Additionally, he didn’t have much time for Catholic doctrine – he would rubbish / undermine it in front of my non-Catholic wife, which has made it all the harder for me to defend these positions. On homosexuality it was “what harm does it do?” etc and as my wife has a “gay” relative, she now thinks the Church teaches rubbish – after all, even the clergy say it – and I look stupid / hard hearted to say otherwise.

    And he was of the “we are all Christians” outlook, and “Catholic” didn’t mean anything in particular, which was essentially to encourage my wife not to convert. Great, huh?

    This is the kind of stuff I was fleeing when I found the SSPX. Stuff I could really do without.

    And the response of my Diocese to Summorum Pontificum was essentially to put two fingers up and blow a raspberry at Pope Benedict. Some 8 years later, there is one (grudgingly provided) sunday latin mass, and only then to try to compete with the SSPX. There are 3 midweek latin masses (one during office hours) provided by one excellent Diocesan Priest. (he also does Holy Days, as the parish which does the latin Sunday mass will not do so). And soon a first Saturday mass is starting elsewhere. That’s it – its not much, but its slowly improving.

    To contrast, at the SSPX, we get four regular masses a week, followed/preceded by rosaries and benediction, every Holy Day of Obligation, and special events such as a Mass for the patron Saint of our country. They also do confessions before *every* mass, (arguments about validity notwithstanding), whereas in the typical diocesan Church (outwith the City centre) there is perhaps 15-20 minutes scheduled once per week, though you can request it anytime.

    I ask people – where would you go?

    Our SSPX priests are heroes. Our Diocese is looking at closing Churches for lack of priests but, every Sunday, a single SSPX priest says mass in our city, then drives 50 miles and says mass in that city, and then drives another 120 miles (to a different country within the UK) and says mass in that city. Heroes. If the Diocesan guys could match even a fraction of that, then there would be no need to close any Church. Apparently there are statistics showing an unusually high number of SSPX priests die in car crashes because they are on the road so much.

    In my view, people of traditional or conservative outlook need to get rid of our divisions and band together. Liberals / wreckers are often strong because they can work together, while “the good guys” (that’s us) are arguing among themselves about rules and regulations.

    Rules and regulations are important, but nothing is so important as the authentic, 2000 year old Catholic Faith.

    For the record – yes – there is more to the Church than just the SSPX. There are excellent Diocesan priests, and there are other traditional orders. I support those guys too, in various ways, even though I consider myself to be aligned with the SSPX. In my experience those guys praise the SSPX.

    We are brothers and sisters, not enemies or rivals. We are Catholics.

  11. Papabile says:

    While I have never attended an SSPX chapel, I have followed their travails since 1985 when I was 15.

    Accepting that the Holy Father did not give them faculties, but allows that their confessions will be valid for the faithful from 6 December 2016 through 2017, [There is no other way to see what Francis did than as a grant of faculties. Otherwise,… they don’t have faculties. And if they don’t have faculties…] it is hard for me to reconcile why they should be avoided. Since this grant seems to be for the Faithful, and that Rome seems disinterested in the “law” in any case, I am no longer inclined to avoid them.

    In fact, I am scheduled for go to a Men’s retreat in Ridgefield.

    Would I get married by them? No, but that’s not a problem for me.

    I am not saying I will only associate myself with them. I attend my local parish, and plan to continue to do so. But I won’t avoid the SSPX priests any longer.

    Rome would have me believe that I am somehow in full Communion with someone like HE Kasper, when I consider him a literal heretic at this point. I’m sorry, Pope Francis says “Make a mess.” Well, I don’t know if I am, but I will no longer ignore th e SSPX as an option.

    I would reconsider avoiding them if Rome were willing to restate that Catholics should avoid them, but I doubt they would. If they intended to go down that path,I doubt they would have facilitated valid confessions.

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  13. JabbaPapa says:

    It’s a difficult question to give a definitive answer to, as only the Pope, or the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the Pope’s assent, could provide one — so that unless and until that happens, the people to ask in any particular circumstance, with some exceptions, are one’s Ordinary or, for more particular clarity, the Ecclesia Dei Commission (I’m not sure that the Commission could overrule a Bishop in ordinary circumstances, though they do tend to provide more precise reasoning).

    Even so, individual circumstances are not irrelevant, which further complicates the prospect of a clear yes/no answer.

    Roughly, I’d say the “correct” answer would be that such Masses should generally be avoided, except when they needn’t be.

    But those in more urgent need for individual and personal clarity on the question should certainly ask their Bishop — he has the Authority to provide a rightful answer to them, whereas these or those interweb Catholics scattered around the globe do not, whether we be lay, religious, or clergy.

    An unequivocal “yes” could only exist after full reconciliation of the SSPX ; an unequivocal “no” would contrariwise require a formal declaration and condemnation for schism. Neither answer is therefore correct, as neither of those two events has occurred.

  14. Papabile says:

    Father, I originally thought that the holy father had granted faculties to the priests of the society. However, I found your argument in the following link interesting. My reference to them not having faculties, was a nod to what you said in the following link.

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