ASK FATHER: Can we go to an SSPX Mass and receive Communion?

first communion card 01From a reader…


We prefer to attend Ascension Day Mass on Ascension Day whenever possible. This year, we have 2 options – drive 2 hours later in the evening with 4 young children), or attend an SSPX chapel about 30 min away.

If we were to attend the SSPX chapel, would it be correct to receive communion?

There are several factors to consider here.

First, it was clearly the will of Sovereign Pontiffs that people should have generous access to Holy Mass also celebrated in what has come to be called the Extraordinary Form, the traditional form of the Roman Rite.  John Paul II, in Ecclesia Dei adflicta, literally commanded by his Apostolic Authority that bishops be generous.  They defied him and people suffered.  Benedict XVI provided with Summorum Pontificum a juridical solution to both that defiance and the fracturing of Catholic identity in the Church that resulted from the precipitous imposition of an artificially created rite on the Church.  Many bishops still defy this legislation.  Francis has been signaling to the world his desire to put people at their ease when frequenting chapels of the SSPX by, in indirect ways, granting faculties to otherwise irregular SSPX priests validly to absolve sins.  More recently he has provided a way to make sure that marriages witnessed by SSPX priests do not lack proper form.

Also, in her desire that people be able to receive the sacraments in a timely manner and without undue burden, the Church allows that people can go even to non-Catholic ministers with valid sacraments when there is a moral or physical difficulty in accessing a regular Catholic priest.  The SSPX is Catholic, not non-Catholic.

The Holy See (Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“) has said that people fulfill their Sunday and Holy Day obligations by participating at Masses of the SSPX.

The Holy See (PCED) has also stated that, in justice, one can give them donations at collection since they have received services from them.

If there were an opportunity to go to Mass in the Extraordinary Form close to you, I think you should always give it preference.

Catholics are obliged by law to receive Communion once a year.  There is no obligation to receive Communion at every Mass.  We aspire to, of course.

In the past I have not recommended to people that they regularly receive Communion at SSPX Masses. Depending on the priest and the chapel, the tone of the teaching and preaching, one could be in an environment which purposely and openly attempts to undermine unity with the local bishops and with the Pope.  One should avoid such places.

Similarly, we acknowledge, one could argue that a regular parish with horrid abuses and with horrid teaching should be avoided, if possible.

However, my recollection is that the PCED has allowed that people could receive occasionally.

So, weigh together these factors and make your decision.  If, occasionally, you go to an SSPX chapel 30 minutes away rather than a couple hours with several children in tow, I think you are on pretty solid ground.  If, after due consideration, you should receive Communion I don’t think you would automatically err.

The moderation queue is ON, and I will be picky.  I don’t want the same old same old.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The delightful paradox that in the liberal bastion that is the Twin Cities in Minnesota, we have 4 wonderful churches that offer the extraordinary form on regular basis, is pleasantly baffling.

  2. Boniface says:

    I have a feeling St Pius X would not attend. Not at the moment, anyhow. [A “feeling”?]

  3. Sorry (I genuinely am, and I don’t normally question priests)… but they can not receive Communion there if that person has made a decision to attend the SSPX Mass (with a fully informed conscience), and they have rejected aspects of the Roman Rite Church…. [That’s NOT the case with this questioner.]

    PCED has said (though we don’t really need this statement to know that this is true)… [I know it’s true because, when I worked in the PCED, I wrote that response many times.]

    “The Masses the SSPX celebrate are also valid, but it is considered morally illicit for the faithful to participate in these Masses unless they are physically or morally impeded from participating in a Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest in good standing” [That was in 1995. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, including Benedict lifting the excommunications of the SSPX bishops, Summorum Pontificum, ongoing serious dialogue with Rome, Francis giving the priests faculties validly to absolve, Francis working out a way to witness marriages with manifestly proper form, etc.]

    We have Nigerian N.O. priests in extremely good standing with the Church. [“Extremely” good standing? What is that?] If a person is internally in schism, [I don’t know what that means.] and avoids these priests, and then attends the SSPX, then there are problems. [There are? Automatically? No.] However we don’t need PCED to tell us this fact, it is obvious. [It isn’t obvious at all.] You are talking about the SSPX priests creating a schismatic mindset in individuals, but I am talking about people who already have a schismatic mindset when they first arrive at the SSPX. [Your earth’s yellow sun doesn’t give me psychic powers. These matters are best left to individuals and their consciences and their confessors, rather than broad brushstrokes from someone who can’t possibly know their minds until their minds are voluntarily revealed.]


  4. Rod Halvorsen says:

    Father Z: I believe that no mention was made by the Pope about all of those who had their marriages witnessed in SSPX chapels prior to the most recent ruling. Meaning, that at least by implication, since future marriages MAY be witnessed {though frankly, the actual ruling seems a bit unclear to me} and are thus potentially valid, those witnessed BEFORE the recent ruling appear not to have been covered by the extension of authority and are, thus…not valid?

    Do you care to comment on the status of those marriages?

    [I am not sure what to say about how Pope Francis does this stuff. He says that, from now on, people who go to SSPXer for confession are validly absolved, but there is no document that gives them faculties. It’s amorphous but its … well… reality now. I get it, but I don’t get it. As for the previous marriages, those can be dealt with my any tribunal… and must be. Each case should be submitted for review, through the intermediary of the SSPX priest himself or a parish priest or with the tribunal. In most cases I suspect that a simple validation will be needed. BUT… each case should be properly looked at. Remember: marriages are assumed to be valid until it is demonstrated that they are not. Only a tribunal makes that determination based on information submitted.]

  5. My best friend now states that most Roman Catholic priests are part of the ‘counterfeit church’, and has outright rejected the N.O. Mass, and refuses to attend it if she can’t get to a TLM. [“IF” she can go to a TLM! So, if she can’t, she goes to the NO. Okay. That’s legit. Some people refuse to go to NO Masses that don’t have altar girls and liturgical dance.] There may have been floods of water gone under the bridge since 1995, but in what way does that statement suddenly become irrelevant in this particular circumstance? [Because we are CATHOLICS and not rigid liberals or Protestants. We have flexible built into our DNA.] Outright rejection, is outright rejection… we can’t suddenly say that this is OK. [Who said “suddenly”? And what does “outright rejection” mean? If I am a parent of children whose little brains are like vacuum cleaners, I don’t want them exposed to the rubbish that comes from some pulpits. I don’t want them influenced by bad abuses. That’s just an example.]

    This one incidence is far from isolated, as you know. [“Far from” isolated? I don’t know that… and I know a lot about this topic.]

    Pax (and apologies)

  6. un-ionized says:

    Ora Pro Nobis, I am sorry your friend won’t go to Mass unless it’s a traditional Latin Mass. I know a few people like that. I invite them to my parish that has the Novus Ordo Mass done very well but they won’t come. I will keep trying.

  7. GordonB says:

    I am long time Novus Ordo mass attendee who recently began exploring the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (though I have alway always been sympathetic to Tradition, as it was Tradition when I explored the Truths of the Catholic Faith that proved it to be the one, holy and true Church of God) after tiring of the noise and distraction of the N.O. I have nearby E.F. options in addition to the SSPX, but I decided to look into the SSPX and have attended several masses, received communion a few times, and talked to priests. I have yet to hear anything, that sows discontent toward the Church hierarchy, in fact, I have seen the opposite in my short exposure (kids praying for the Pope after the school mass, prayers on Good Friday for the Pope) — and certainly, more often than not, Mass is about the Sacrifice of the Mass, not a homily (if there even is one, other than on a Sunday).

    I am not against Pope Francis, in fact, I believe in some Machiavellian way, he is doing what he is for the restoration of the Church, a smoke screen of liberalism that allows Tradition to RISE. This is evident with the contrary-to-liberalism visual thawing of relations with SSPX: the certain ability for SSPX priests (who are amazing confessors) to give absolution, and to witness marriages.SSPX are not the boogy man. One must not believe the meme. Sure there may be some borderline schismatics in the society, but there are also those on the left who exercise a so-called “legitimate ministry” within the Church who are schismatic heretics!

    As a final point, I strongly STRONGLY encourage everyone to watch the recent youtube videos (there are about five) of Bishop Fellay giving interviews, or homilies, or talks, from the past two or so years. His tone and his insights are very very interesting and very insightful of the situation in the Church and the relationship with Rome. In particular that there really are actors IN THE CURIA and IN THE VATICAN — NOT THE POPE — who are interfering with a clear union with the SSPX. I think after watching those interviews, you can agree that there is an ALL BUT IN FACT union that has formed (recall Pope Francis’s effort to make sure SSPX gets State recognition in Argentina), the problem is navigating the corrupt parts of the Church leadership and the media which will do all they can to discredit and destroy efforts at unity with the SSPX. Bishop Fellay has also noted that Pope Francis claimed to have read Archbishop Lefebvre’s book TWICE —–.

  8. MichelleP12 says:

    I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable with SSPX. When JP2 formed FSSP, why don’t they join that? I live in a smaller city. In fact we are deep in the Bible belt. Only 2 Catholic Churches in the entire county. Both vernacular. If I wish to go to a Latin Mass, I can drive about 50 miles to the Cathedral, where FSSP Priests have a weekly one. Some things are just worth the sacrifice. ?

    My Grandma and Grandad were SSPX. I understand they had their reasons for standing their ground. (She once told me I wasn’t “Catholic enough” because I was vernacular. I converted from Baptist at age 21. Now an 50).

    But at Grandma’s funeral last May was held in a SSPX chapel, the officiant (do I call them priests or just reverends since they don’t have incardinizations by the local Bishop?) used the homily,NOT to talk about Grandma, who had been a part of their group for decades, but he reamed on the whole SSPX vs. ROME issue and why SSPX was in the right. (In my opinion, it has always been ROME that reaches out to them, trying to mend the rift.)

    I was in the pew fuming at him.

    Sometimes when I am back there (I am from that area… pop about 1 mil areawide, 500k city) I do go to FSSP and I love the reverence and how slow things are, nobody leaves early, St. Michael prayer after Mass. I just don’t have a clue where I am during the Mass. No one helps me. I love being able to confess even while Mass is going on. A kind young man did help me there when I thought it was over as Mass was beginning. He told me “go on in. It’s okay.”

    At the vernacular, things are too fast. No quiet time. But I live in a tourist town and folks have sights and events to get to. God knows.

  9. MichelleP12 says:

    Hi, isn’t the Mass on EWTN sort of “novus ordo” as in the Priest is facing the people? Parts are in Latin and the readings are in the vernacular. Just wondering. ?

  10. JesusFreak84 says:

    Here’s a question I have based on a point Father makes: yes, *ROME* has said it’s technically valid [?] to fulfill one’s obligation at an SSPX chapel, but what if your local Ordinary as explicitly forbidden it? The late Cardinal George (God rest his soul) did few things I disagree with, but right after SP was promulgated, he posted a notice in the Archdiocese newspaper in which he explicitly banned the faithful from attending the SSPX chapel in Oak Lawn. I unfortunately forget the precise language used. He seemed to be invoking precisely the sort of obedience a lay Catholic does owe her Ordinary under normal circumstances, and so even though I was curious, I’ve stayed away. (It does help we have other EF and Eastern Catholic options in Chicago =-p )

    TL; DR: CAN a Bishop ban the faithful in his See from attending an SSPX chapel in his territory? (I presume that, if the SSPX is given a prelature, the Bishop would have no more right to ban the faithful from there than he does to ban us from attending a UGCC parish?)

  11. JesusFreak84 says: CAN a Bishop ban the faithful in his See from attending an SSPX chapel in his territory?

    Many of these questions involve the bishop’s role as “moderator of the liturgy”.

    If the bishop wishes, in light of local circumstances, to alter universal norms in a significant way, he can do so only with the permission of the Holy See. For example, if Bishop Fatty McButterpants of the Diocese of Libville, having tasted a wonderful bowl of lobster bisque, decides that abstinence from meat, to be truly penitential, should also exclude abstinence from lobster, he could make that law in his diocese only with the permission of the Holy See.

    The Holy See is, generally, unwilling to allow a local bishop to make a universal norm more restrictive.

    In the situation described (a bishop forbids his flock to go to an SSPX chapel), the Holy See has determined that hearing the Holy Mass offered by a priest of the SSPX does in fact fuflfill one’s Sunday obligation.

    A local bishop could petition the Holy See to consider a restriction in that case.

    To comment more on the situation in Chicago, we would have to know the exact words Cardinal George used. Did he outright “ban” the faithful from attending this particular chapel? Or did he exhort, discourage, warn, caution, remonstrate, or admonish the faithful not to go?

    In sum, can a bishop ban the faithful from attending an SSPX chapel within his territory? Yes, but only with the permission of the Holy See. Can he do it on his own? No, he cannot.

    And now the faithful can go to these chapels for confession and, under certain circumstances, to be married. Just sayin’

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