Is the SSPX in “schism”?

Some people in the media, especially liberals, when the mention the SSPX, bray that they are “schismatic”.   No matter how many times this is clarified, they bray that the SSPX is “schismatic”.


When I was at the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“, we knew the situation. It hasn’t changed.  Now I see that at the end of March the former President of the PCED, His Eminence Darío Card. Castrillón Hoyos told Rome Reports about the situation of the SSPX:

“We always agreed on one thing: they never entered down the path of heresy. They had moments when they were away, but technically they never made any complete schism or heresy. For example, they did not create a separate jurisdiction, because to create a jurisdiction outside the jurisdiction of the Church, that means you want to separate.” [NB: The SSPXers don’t have any jurisdiction to (for example) establish parishes, witness marriages, grant dimissorial letters for ordinations, give dispensations, give faculties to priests, etc.]



Within the last couple years progress has been made.  Pope Francis, in a round about way, granted them faculties validly to absolve sins in regular confessions.  He has more recently taken steps to remove problems with marriages witnessed in their chapels.  This is all very positive.

I sincerely look forward to the moment when all these issues are resolved in clear, canonically unambiguous, manifest, undisputable unity.  The SSPX has a great deal to offer.


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  1. Mike says:

    Eventually, one prays, it will be realized that no matter how much Catholics faithful to the Church’s Tradition and Her perpetual Magisterium are hectored and persecuted, neither that Tradition or that Magisterium will ever be invalidated. One also prays that the brayers of ‘schism’, whether Modernist heretics or their neo-Catholic enablers, will bear their share of responsibility for the apostasy that caught hold in the “Spirit of Vatican II” and is attacking the Church now at Her very roots.

  2. surritter says:

    If the SSPX is unable to “give faculties to priests,” then how are they permitted to ordain priests and allow priests to administer the sacraments in their houses of worship?
    It would seem that they either have the ability to give faculties to priests, or they are disobedient in attempting to give those faculties when the Church says they cannot.

  3. jskelley says:

    surritter: Their ordinations are valid because they have the proper Apostolic Succession, the valid form (the rites) and matter (laying on of hands.) Validity and liceity, as Fr. loves to point out, are two completely different things. Again, permission to perform the sacraments, which has been granted in the case of Penance and Matrimony, and the validity of these sacraments in the forms set down by Christ and Holy Mother Church must be differentiated.
    Finally, I don’t think anyone would argue that the SSPX aren’t in many ways disobedience, but disobedience of clergy and hierarchs is many times no reason to deny faithful, properly disposed, parishioners access to the sacraments.

  4. jskelley says:

    Correction: *disobedient

  5. Liam says:

    For the longest time, SSPX ordinations were regarded canonically as being valid but illicit since the Society lacked any sort of munus (and still lacks a munus) and the necessary dimissorial letters were absent. Under those conditions, Society ordinands incurred ipso facto suspens a divinis. [They still do.]

    Of recent years however, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has directly intervened on the matter the SSPX ordinations. The PCED will tacitly acknowledge the liceity of SSPX ordinations asking the Society notify the local ordinary of the names of those who are ordained in that ordinary’s jurisdiction. [Heresay.] However, the SSPX clergy still lacked faculties for confession and matrimony which the Holy Father has subsequently supplied, directly for the Sacrament of Penance and through the local ordinary for the Sacrament of Matrimony.

    At this point in seems that the only thing lacking in the SSPX is a formal canonical structure through which they can exercise a munus in the Church.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    How are we to reconcile this with Saint John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei, wherein he refers to “schism” three times? [The SSPX is NOT in formal schism.]

    – “Hence such disobedience—which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy—constitutes a schismatic act” (Ecclesia Dei, n. 3). [The SSPX is NOT in formal schism.]

    – “The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition” (Ecclesia Dei, n. 4). [The SSPX is NOT in formal schism.]

    – “Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church’s law” (Ecclesia Dei, 5c). [The SSPX is NOT in formal schism.]
    And the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (n. 2089). [The SSPX is NOT in formal schism.]

    The late Archbishop Lefebvre and the priests he consecrated bishops refused to submit to the Roman Pontiff and were excommunicated for doing so. The late archbishop died in this sad state of excommunication. For reasons I’ve never really understood, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of the living SSPX bishops, who have never publicly repented of their disobedience. [The SSPX is NOT in formal schism.]

    I’m not trying to arguing. I just don’t get it… [The SSPX is NOT in formal schism.]

  7. Nicholas1978 says:

    Sadly there exists among some, even many, SSPX adherents a schismatic mentality. In our city, for example, many SSPXers prefer to skip Sunday Mass altogether than attend the Traditional Mass offered in a “regular” parish. I have also found that many younger generation SSPX Catholics who have grown up with the SSPX have zero interest or connection or investment in the rest of the Church and like their elders are extremely suspicious not only of “the Novus Ordo” but traditional communities such as the FSSP and ICKSP. Granted, by no means all are like this and these are personal observations; also, one can sympathise to a degree with their bitterness and very convincingly argue that far worse tendencies exist within the official boundaries of the church at the opposite end of the spectrum. Hopefully developments will lead to a reconciliation which will heal this sectarian mindset and ameliorate the bitterness which does exist. The true schismatics can then go their way to Williamson and his ilk.

  8. jflare says:

    For 28 years, SSPX has ordained priests, heard confessions, offered Mass, officiated at weddings, and so on. Illicitly. They have gone about their business, insisting they are Catholic all the while. In all this, they have repeatedly refused to be accountable to the authority of the pope. For all that SSPX offers some poignant concerns to discuss, for all that Bishop Fellay speaks of warmer relations, the fact remains that the Society does not hold itself accountable to the pope’s authority.

    In all the discussions I have encountered these past 10 years, I have yet to hear a competent explanation for how this behavior can considered any way besides inherently schismatic.
    However friendly may be the discussions between PCED and senior SSPX leadership, even if the SSPX is not in formal schism, they do appear to be materially schismatic.

    I do wish PCED would be admit to this plainly. SSPX could be a voice for routine recognition of the Church’s actual teaching, but they can’t offer that voice if they refuse to follow that teaching themselves.

  9. I am an Latin Mass Society Representative in England and, as you can imagine, I don’t disagree with a single thing that you have said in this article.

    However, the problem is that there are a myriad of articles like this one which state that everything is A-OK, but the problem is that it is not the Society who are in schism, but a growing number of their new attendees. These new attendees are now going to SSPX Masses in the UK because they either what to separate themselves from the mainstream Church, or want to separate themselves from the New Mass i.e. they are not just going because they ‘want to go to a 1962 Tridentine Mass’. PCED clearly has stated on at least three occasions that this is not allowed.

    I didn’t realise this was happening until my closest friend started attending to the SSPX to avoid what they call the ‘counterfeit church’ (i.e. they have a schismatic mindset in attending the SSPX). You only have to check out the growing number of ‘toxic trad’ FB pages to see that this is now a growing phenomena.

    I think that I have made a valid point, and if you check the online pages, hardly any respected Catholic sources are warning of this danger.

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