SSPX reacts to Pope Francis concession for the Year of Mercy

For the Year of Mercy Pope Francis has (in an indirect way) granted to the priests of the SSPX the faculty validly to absolve penitents in routine sacramental confession.   HERE

Under normal circumstances, the priests of the SSPX do not have this faculty, without which they cannot validly absolve. They can in case of danger of death, as even “laicized” priests can, of course.

The SSPX Superior, Bp. Fellay, has at their US website, a series of Q & A during which he speaks of Pope Francis’ concession. HERE

Q: On September 1st, Pope Francis, on his own initiative, decided to allow all the faithful to make confessions to priests of the Society of St. Pius X during the Holy Year. How do you interpret this gesture? What does it mean for the Society?

FELLAY: We were in fact surprised by this action of the Holy Father on the occasion of the Holy Year because we, like everyone else, learned about it through the press. How do we understand this gesture? Allow me to make use of an image. When a fire is raging, everyone understands that those who have the means to do so must endeavor to put it out, especially if there is a shortage of firefighters. So it is that through all fifty years of this terrible crisis that has shaken the Church, particularly the tragic lack of confessors, our priests have devoted themselves to the souls of penitents, invoking the case of emergency foreseen by the Code of Canon Law.

As a result of the Pope’s act, during the Holy Year, we will have ordinary jurisdiction. In the image I mentioned, this has the effect of giving us the official insignia of firefighters, whereas such a status was denied us for decades. In itself, it adds nothing new for the Society, its members, or its faithful. Yet this ordinary jurisdiction will perhaps reassure people who are uneasy or others who until now did not dare to approach us. For, as we said in the communiqué thanking the Pope, the priests of the Society wish for one thing only: “To perform with renewed generosity their ministry in the confessional, following the example of untiring devotion that the saintly Curé of Ars gave to all priests.”

Bp. Fellay has taken the usual line that they don’t really need faculties from Holy Church.  They, of course, do… just like every other priest.

Of course it is hard to know when the Year of Mercy actually begins.  The year is supposed to begin on 8 December.  That’s when Francis is to open the Holy Door in Rome.  However, Pope Francis opened a door during his trip to Africa.  So, I guess it’s underway there.  The rest of the world is supposed to get things started on 13 December.

So, do SSPX priests in the Africa where Pope Francis opened the door have faculties now?  Will any who are in Rome have them on 8 December?  And do priests in the rest of the world have to wait until the local diocese starts things up?

In any event, everyone… GO TO CONFESSION!

Bp. Fellay also makes some comments about the Synod of Bishops, including: ” I will not conceal from you the fact that to me the sorry spectacle that the Synod presented seems particularly shameful and scandalous on more than one count.”


How I look forward to the full reconciliation of the SSPX.  Hopefully Pope Francis is the man who can get it done.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I echo your wish Father to see the full reconciliation of the whole of the SSPX.

  2. NBW says:

    I hope the reconciliation happens.

  3. zama202 says:

    Yes, seeing the Society of St. Pius X get official recognition and praise for their outstanding service to the Church is going to be very gratifying to them…and all Catholics.


  4. Gerard Plourde says:

    I’m saddened but not surprised to see Bp. Fellay assert that Pope Francis’ action merely confirms that the illicit members of the SSPX possess faculties to absolve sin (and implicitly, to officiate at the Sacrament of Matrimony). [They cannot witness marriages.] This is not the case as Bishop Morlino has pointed out to the Diocese of Madison (and as Fr. Z has stated on this site). This attitude of denial does not bode well for an effective and complete reconciliation with the Catholic Church on the part of the Society. Whatever their concerns are about the documents of the Second Vatican Council (documents assented to by Archbishop Lefebvre during the Council), the fact remains that the disobedience of the Society to the Supreme Pontiff must be acknowledged in some way for reconciliation to occur. Without this, the liklihood of actual schism is inevitible.

  5. I too look forward to reconciliation, but when I read things like this …

    “Bp Fellay has taken the usual line that they don’t really need faculties from Holy Church. They, of course, do … just like every other priest.”

    … I realize this could take a while.

  6. organistjason says:

    Francis and the SSPX…….this is NOT Francis’s “Nixon goes to China” moment. If reconciliation could not happen under Pope Benedict XVI, it will not happen, anytime soon. Sadly. [We don’t know that.] When Bishop Fellay made comments about the Synod of Bishops, that included: ” I will not conceal from you the fact that to me the sorry spectacle that the Synod presented seems particularly shameful and scandalous on more than one count.” What does that tell us? It shows clearly, that the SSPX and Bishop Fellay, can see clearly, what so many in the Church, can not see.

  7. HighMass says:

    I echo all of your posts, we pray full communion happens soon as the church needs the Society of St. Pius X

  8. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear organistjason,

    I don’t see Bp. Fellay’s comments to be particularly prescient. In every age there have been churchmen (even in the hierarchy) who have sought to alter doctrine. Given the fact that the Society will not even go so far as its founder in accepting the documents produced by the Second Vatican Council, while hoping and praying for their reconciliation with the Holy See, I see their contribution to the life of the Church to be a supplementary one rather than one of leadership should they recant the act of disobeience that brought about their illicit status and fully rejoin the Catholic Church.

  9. Ann Malley says:


    “….recant their act of disobedience?”

    Good grief, Gerard, but there have been those who rise up in opposition of those within the Church who seek to destroy it. Often those who rise up are castigated and mislabeled and marginalized just as you are seeking to do with the Society right now.

    The leadership is in taking a definitive stand to call attention to the problem. Judging with right judgement, not skewed logic that would have a Society devoted to the purity of Catholic doctrine submit to ambiguity so that they can get a full approval stamp wherein they are ‘vowed’ to no longer speak with clarity, but rather with ambiguity – or no at all.

    The Society is part of the Catholic Church, just a society with an irregular canonical status. And there are reasons for that, friend. Because there are many who work against orthodox Catholic teaching within the Church.

  10. thomas777 says:

    Ann Malley What is an irregular canonical status? What does that really mean? As far as I can tell Catholics can’t go to mass there for their obligation. They can only go to confession there this year.

    I don’t mean to push or pull, but really that seems like one of those vague fuzzy phrases. What does it mean?
    In the end, they either have faculties or they do not have faculties. If they have faculties then, for us in the pew, there is no difference in their mass or the regular mass. It becomes a matter of preference and piety, not efficacy.
    If they don’t have faculties, THEY don’t have faculties full stop. So which is it does anyone actually know?

  11. MAJ Tony says:

    Thomas, I’m pretty sure the Pope gave them faculties for ONE thing and ONE thing alone: confession. That’s it, that’s all. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200. Go straight to the confessional.

  12. zama202 says:

    It is good to know objectively what issues you face if one wishes to attend a SSPX chapel.

    Unfortunately there is no similar objective standard at the typical parish.


  13. Rosary Rose says:

    You do realize we are in a battle. A battle for souls.

    It is a very exciting time to be a part of this battle and God has put you here, in this World, at this very moment, for a reason. Perhaps part of that reason is that you will be part of the restoration of the Holy Catholic Church and the reconcilliation with the SSPX , and through YOUR prayers many souls will be saved. (I believe you’ll know the efficacy of your prayers in Heaven – when these souls thank you)

    Pray daily for a reconcilliation with the SSPX. Can you imagine? When we are reunited, meaning – when our differences are hammered out – there will be a tremendous increase in beautiful Catholic churches with reverent Latin Masses and divinely inspired chant, aka, a tremendous increase in strong Catholic identity. All over the World, Catholic priests will be preaching solid Catholic Cathecism on Sundays. Talk about a shot in the arm (almost like the U.S. joining the Allies in WWII – Germany and Japan had large militaries, the Allies had much smaller numbers)

    To help us in battle, pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially understanding, wisdom, and fortitude. When I pray for understanding of a particular topic, I am amazed at how clearly God puts something in my life that helps my understanding (something I read, or see, or hear). On the day of Pentecost, after the Apostles received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, St. Peter baptized 3,000 people. The same Holy Spirit has gifts for us, we just have to ask. Ask the Holy Spirit to send His gifts to our Leaders, too.

    Pray the rosary every day as our Lady of Fatima asked. You will be amazed at the graces you will receive. Graces we need in this battle.

    Pray for reconcilliation with the SSPX. We are in a battle for souls. We need to join forces. With the faith of a mustard seed, we can move that diabolical mountain of doubt, the sinister chaos and confusion. We are a people of hope. All things are possible with God.

  14. Ann Malley says:


    An irregular canonical status is precisely that, Thomas. You’ll have to ask the Vatican to define the novel terminology, much like the novel concepts that are being promoted at parishes that have the full legal stamp of approval.

    Your summation outlining what you decree to be nothing more than preference is misguided, friend. It is more than that and the fruits are increasingly telling.

    As for meeting your mass obligation, yes, attending a Society mass for the purpose of fulfilling one’s Sunday duty is permissible. The sophistry promoted by those like CMTV will have you believe that the Pope has given untoward faculties to absolve while perpetuating the myth that a Society mass is sinful.

    You’d do well to refer to Bishop Athanasius Scheider in his observations that, in his view, there really is no meaty issue for which the Society should be denied jurisdiction. They are Catholic. But to those who want to cast Catholic as mere preference, that poses the only insurmountable obstacle.

    God bless.

  15. Ann Malley says:

    @MAJ Tony

    So, Tony, should one confess the sin of attending an SSPX to an SSPX priest?

    That’s the logic you’re proposing which is no logic at all. Unfortunately, many have been running on those kind of answers for quite some time. And that is precisely how we’ve landed in the mess of Synods where in Cardinal is against Cardinal and Bishop is against Bishop – on matters of doctrine.

    The year of mercy needs to be an era of mercy based solely in begging forgiveness for giving up the graces and intelligence and common sense plan of life given us by God. What children we all are. The rebellious, snarky kind.

  16. thomas777 says:

    I was hoping for the straight answer on this one and I have not gotten it yet. Maybe nobody knows it? Either, they have faculties in which case we can discuss what is great about the TLM which I have no objection to, or they don’t in which case they cannot bring the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ present to me at mass no matter how they say mass. [NO! NO! NO! A priest without faculties can still validly confect the Eucharist! This doesn’t involve jurisdiction or exercise of the Power of the Keys. A priest needs the faculty to absolve sins validly.]
    If you want to argue there are abuses by the Ordinary form priests you won’t get an argument from me. I have been having this argument with my bishop for some time. BUT they do have faculties. They are heretics in many cases I personally know of. That is they would be heretics if I could prove that they ever really believed the Catholic faith in the first place. But they have faculties which makes their abuses a serious matter. If they were protestants nobody would care they can do what they like.
    I was under the impression from the Fr. Z blog that they were material schismatics over the consecration of bishops issue. [?!? You did?] Does that mean they do not have faculties? Is a mass said by SSPX priests said with the power to make Christ present or not, that is the question. [No. It is NOT the question. In no way is that the question. It never has been the question and it never will be the question.]
    Yes, Christ is very merciful and caring, but demons are strict legalists. We are fighting demons with the power and authority of God. If we have no authority we have big problems so somebody please answer this question for me. [That is not relevant to this discussion.]
    The only straight answer I have seen here was they only have faculties to forgive sins for a year. [That is the case. What’s so hard about that?] We can agree that whatever the Pope did in his decree was to obscure the essential point. Regardless of his current writing, which was unclear in the most charitable possible interpretation, this fundamental question is authority. A double standard was mentioned. There is ALWAYS a double standard for those trying to be holy. Because saints obey even when they don’t like it. God wins in the end. Saints know this and obey to stay in the church. None of this changes the only fundamental question. Do they have authority? The answer is not maybe. Its yes or no full stop.

  17. thomas777 says:

    first, THANK YOU, you have just given me a piece of information I did not have that was vital to this conversation. If I understand you correctly, you are telling me that an SSPX priest can bring you The Christ on Sunday, and therefore, fulfill your Sunday obligation. The entire rest of the discussion hinged on this point which you have just cleared up. I was confused and now I am only slightly less confused.

    If what you just told me is true, and I have no reason to believe it is not, then what is the argument about for us in the pew. I mean if what you are saying is true I can go to a valid mass as long as I don’t listen to things that are heretical which is what I am doing now only with less reverence. I am in a position now where my kids don’t hear the Catholic faith from anyone but me. That’s crazy, I should not be in this position, but I am. This is life as I have known it for the last decade in Australia. If the SSPX can say valid masses this solves a problem for me so please understand if I am excited and stressed about this all at the same time.

    I believe what you are saying. It just does not make logical sense given the rest of the conversation around the SSPX. Can you elaborate a little on this point? Consider it a work of mercy as you explain it to me like I’m a ten year old.

  18. AlexanderAerarius says:

    Um… what emergency is Fr. Fellay talking about? Does the Vatican II, Novus Ordo Church no longer offer the sacrament of confession? Is that what requires the formation of a schismatic para-church, offering invalid confessions and forbidding faithful Catholics to receive sacraments from their actual bishop? They sound more like the Lutherans (paraphrase: “we would have suffered the Catholic bishops to ordain our ministers if they did not tyranically prohibit us to teach the Gospel) than Catholics. St. Augustine, pray for us.

  19. robtbrown says:

    NB: Msgr Fellay referred to the SSPX now having “Ordinary Jurisdiction”, from which we can infer that his position is that previously the Society had Extraordinary Jurisdiction. Both would come from Holy Mother the Church, the latter not from someone holding an Ecclesiastical Office (e.g., diocesan bishop).

  20. Imrahil says:

    What is an irregular canonical status?

    The fact that there is an organism of Catholics (both the “organism” and the “of Catholics” is undeniable) which, though it used to be formally established as a “pious union” in the Catholic Church, has been dissolved by Pope Paul VI in 1975 [*] and thus no canonical existence. This brings with itself that their priests are unincardinated, and their bishops have no diocese, not even a titular one.

    [* Previously the local bishop and then, I think, the Secretariate of State. I think the SSPX is right when they say that these measures failed to have legal effect, on formal grounds – but I won’t argue that position here -; in any case, there is no appeal against the Pope in person, however unjust his decision may be, and he assented to the dissolution later in forma specifica.]

    (Note: the fact that within the SSPX structure, a certain heavily punished canonical crime was once committed that has now been forgiven and forgotten – that is of no importance here.)

  21. thomas777 says:

    Please help me understand this. How can the SSPX be priests if they don’t have bishops? IF the bishops were ordained invalidly when this started how can priests ordained by those bishops have any Catholic ecclesial status. Language fails me here. There is vocabulary to say what I wish but I have no degree in theology. The have some ability to say mass even though they don’t have the ability to give valid confession (except for this year). I don’t understand how this works. Can some intelligent person explain it to me.

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