ASK FATHER: We want our children to have reverent Masses. Can we go to the SSPX chapel?

From a reader…


We are in a desperate situation. We have looked very deeply into the matter, and feel very strongly that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is the most reverent. We are morally accountable to bring our four beautiful children to the most reverent Mass possible. We live in a rural area, and the only Novus Ordo Masses within an hour driving distance are not reverent — they have liturgical abuses and other irreverent practices. There is a SSPX chapel 45 min. from our home which offers the Latin Mass twice per month. Is it permissible and prudent to go there twice per month? We have pleaded with our bishop and after years, have only been able to get the Latin Mass offered once per month in our diocese.

I have great respect and sympathy for parents who are trying to raise their children in today’s secular and today’s ecclesiastical environments.  What challenges you face, both from outside and – woe to us! – within the Church.  God is offering you great graces as you face the mounting trials of your state in life.

You have pretty much equal distances to drive, it seems.  You have to haul your family a hour each way, which is not insignificant.

The irreverence and abuses at the Novus Ordo Masses you mention, and your sense of responsibility to your children, could constitute a moral impossibility to go to that Novus Ordo only parish for Sunday Mass when there is an decent alternative.

The decent alternative presents itself twice a month in the SSPX chapel.

There is a great deal I don’t know about your situation.  For example, if the preaching at the Novus Ordo parish is sound, or if the preaching at the SSPX chapel is harsh or aimed with hostility against legitimate ecclesial authorities, etc.

All things being equal, however, I think that you can in good conscience go to the SSPX when Mass is offered there.  You fulfill your Sunday obligation in doing so.  You may receive Communion if you wish.  You can, in justice, contribute to the collection, since you are receiving a service from them.  You can go to confession to SSPX priests…. now.

That said, remember that even though step by step we all seem to be coming towards greater formal unity, you should not weaken your own unity with your local pastors, including your parish priest and your bishop.

When Mass is not offered at the SSPX chapel, you should go to your local parish.  All things being equal, your local parish is your default choice.

The SSPX chapel may present excellent Masses, preaching and catechesis, but you are still within the bounds of the official parish, which is something that an SSPX chapel cannot, by law, be.  The parish priest has the faculties and duties assigned by the local bishop.  Do not forget this when making choices about where to go for sacraments, etc.

I would double-down on your prayers and even fasting for the local pastor and for the bishop.

Continue respectfully to make your concerns known.  Keep every scrap of correspondence.

If there are serious abuses in the Mass in the official, Novus Ordo parish, then make them know to the bishop and, beyond him, the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome.   You would need to send proofs of what you claim is happening, of course.  Also, having more than one person sending information to the bishop or to Rome is helpful.  You have the right to make your concerns know.  Review the whole of the document Redemptionis Sacramentum, especially the very end, where your rights and obligations are described.

Meanwhile, perhaps all those couples who are also raising children out there, and perhaps in a similar situation, might chime in with their own experiences… together with a promise of reciprocal prayers.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SSPX, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. competent says:

    I thought official parish boundaries were abolished… at least in some places. Am I wrong? This whole issue of confusion is so terribly wrong! I can’t understand how competent authority lets this happen.

    [No. Parishes have – in law – boundaries. Even “national” or “personal” parishes ultimately have boundaries. If they have boundaries in law, in fact… it’s another matter. People are voting with their highly mobile feet these days. However, remember that “registering” in a parish does not make you a member of that parish (with the possible exception of national parishes, etc.).]

  2. Akita says:

    Dear Father,

    First, God Bless you for your apostolate. You are an extraordinary priest and blogger.

    I admit to fantasizing about you “defecting” to the SSPX and encouraging all your readers to support them. I’m sure Bishop Fellay would embrace you. [I doubt it.]

    We are living through terrible times in the Church. Many good Catholics are beginning to figure out why this is happening and it has much to do with the years 1962-1965 (approx).

    Attending the SSPX mission chapel is my default. I plan to leave a lot of money to the society upon my death. I hope my requiem is said by a Society priest. The Litugy is proper, the preaching impeccable. (It’s NOT rocket science to preach faithfully, but you would think so by all the terrible, horrid, wretched, heretical things I’ve heard preached in Novus Ordo parishes these past 40 years). By the way, I have no FFSP, etc in my geographic areas.

    Attending the Novus Ordo is sometimes required of me as I split my time between two diocese. I always whisper a prayer that nothing squalid is preached when I go because I feel my children have been irreparably damaged by hearing that “gay marriage is a matter of equal rights” or that “Islam is a religion of peace” or how wonderful and insightful Rahner is, etc.

    I do put money in the collection basket at the Novus Ordo parish but I do not support the diocese via the DDD. Why should I enable the preaching of the Dominican Radcliffe as has been sponsored by the diocese? He has preached that sodomy is Eucharistic. (Not in so many words of course but he does say gay love is Eucharistic). Why should I give money to promote the Islamic invasion of the USA and the completely satanic Democratic agenda our bishops embrace? I will support the poor in other ways even if it by Protestants or secularists with seemingly pure intent.

    The problems in the Church are so huge it may take divine intervention to clean up the mess. For now, I thank God for all faithful Catholic priests wherever they reside. I pray that the scales will fall off the eyes of all who are suffering because the Faith is being gutted and cannot decipher the root cause.

    Thank you.

    [A sincere cri de coeur.]

  3. JSzczuka says:

    Dear Father,
    I am in a situation somewhat similar to “competent” above. My local parish is 4 minutes away. I have been there for 11 years and I. cannot. stand. it. anymore. Thirty minutes away from me is a diocesan parish that offers a Latin Rite mass, weekly and almost daily during Lent and Advent! I began going sporadically last Lent and slowly got “hooked”. I tried to go to both for a while and support both, but that had to cut down on what I could give to each. Just last month I sent a letter in writing to my local church to “de-register”, and registered in my “new” parish. I introduced myself formally to the priests and said where I was from (the city). My local parish had many abuses liturgically. Depending on the celebrant, the theological abuses were mild to severe. The other parish has dedicated, reverent, orthodox, priests who are slowly changing the Novus Ordo masses as well, going more and more ad orientem. They are still using the front pew rails, moved up, but I hear that they are planning altar rails this year. The mass has grown. I cannot imagine going back. I thought what I did was legitimate, am sad to hear it was not. I have to say for what it’s worth I did pray about it a lot for a few months and felt when I made the move that I was in God’s will. I know that counts for not much if I was not. Sigh….

    [Whoa! Hang on. Who said that what you did wasn’t “legitimate”? I sure didn’t. You can go to which ever parish you desire. You belong to your territorial parish by the fact that you live in the boundaries of your territorial parish. “Registering” at another parish doesn’t mean that you stopped belonging to the other, territorial parish. You registered at your non-territorial parish so that it is easier to receive services from that parish. By calling your territorial parish and “de-registering” you were kind enough to let them know that, for example, they could change what they mail to you. However, “de-registering” does not mean that you do not belong to that parish. Don’t worry. You did not do anything wrong.]

  4. TonyO says:

    You may receive Communion if you wish. You can, in justice, contribute to the collection, since you are receiving a service from them. You can go to confession to SSPX priests…. now.

    Father Z, can you explain that last point in more detail, please? I thought that Pope Francis gave SSPX priests a kind of “faculties” for hearing confessions, for one year, which is now past. I admit I could be wrong about how that worked, so I am asking for clarification.

    And by the way, thank you for all the good work you do. As an example: my kids all pushed on whether we could eat meat on the Friday after Christmas, and I could readily say “No; and it’s not just my understanding of Church law, Father Z said the same thing…”

    [At the end of the Year of Mercy, the Pope extended his permission indefinitely.]

  5. Gabriel Syme says:

    While some places are blessed with brilliant, tradition-orientated Bishops – such as Bishop Morlino – others are not.

    In places which are not, supporting the SSPX can be one way of helping ensure that the Diocese becomes more favourable to tradition, as the Diocese may respond to an SSPX presence by recognising it is born of a desire for tradition among the lay people.

    The Diocese of Lancaster, England, is a good example. The SSPX has a long-standing Church in Preston there. As the Diocese has experienced it’s modern congregations shrinking etc, the Bishop in recent years decided to “try tradition” given the local SSPX success.

    Now, in addition to the SSPX, the Diocese has 2 Churches run by ICKSP, (meaning unused Churches were saved from sale), a traditional Catholic school, and an establishment of traditional nuns associated with the ICKSP (Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest).

    What lucky people!

  6. JabbaPapa says:

    TonyO :

    I thought that Pope Francis gave SSPX priests a kind of “faculties” for hearing confessions

    Technically, he gave penitents the possibility to validly give Confession to SSPX priests.

  7. MrsAnchor says:

    We’ve had to drive around 1hr and a half each way for a good parish. Either NO or Latin… we always choose TLM now that our Bishop has permanently installed it into the program. When we first moved and had only one child, it was not uncommon to drive the 3 hrs for the FSSP and spent the night with friends!

    Since then, we’ve had 4 (& 1 coming soon) the drives prove to be sometimes be unreasonable ..why should we ask that of our kids.. but then, we have left so sorrowing because of some local Priest! It was all fine enough when young ears couldn’t hear or perceive the horrible displays of irreverence. Now that our oldest is 5 and needs more solid formation and friends. Well it’s become non negotiable. For reasons or another we’ve had go local sometimes my Husband going in the morning and I in the evening just to fulfill our duties and avoid the scandal to our kids.

    Recently a new Priest has come into our local parish who is great in all his views so we made the easiest choice and went there to support him. Even through the backlash of hate from many of the laity there because of his reforms to nearly everything they were doing incorrectly in the first place! There’s a petition to oust him underway and we’ve heard the Bishop has made a friend we know well (unable to afford traveling to a better parish) a spy to clear the mess up. Just yesterday a counter task force met to strategize… amidst this we’ve had to make the decision to not be involved. As much as we’d like to be Church Militant, we have one responsibility first. Our Children.

    The last straw was in supporting him & giving excellent homilies on behavior at Mass …a few parishioners still treat service as a football game attendance. A young girl came in with her parents with pillows and bags of coloring books, stickers so on… plopped down and tried to be “present” but it was clear who ruled that family structure. Girl proceeds to fling off flip flops and lay down in pew doing all sorts of rambunctious things… distracting all our kids 5, 3, 2 yr olds from their focus of participation. She does not have a mental disability….
    that’s just one of the many stories … we’re done having to explain this stuff to our kids. We just want to teach our kids the basics. Come on! That’s too much to ask now isn’t it? I too have toyed with the idea of the accessibility of SSPX as another option… but it’s just hit us in the face. No kind of income can make us Truely happy, we’re at a point we’ll gladly take a 40,000k pay cut/job switch to be alive in Christ and function in such a way just for Him. Even if it means a completely poor lifestyle for our family. What’s success mean if God isnt present in all our lives? My Husbands not happy not having daily mass nor am I … or even a good Sunday mass. We lose 3 hrs to driving and in some ways that brings a family closer singing and talking to each other..but sheesh. Going to a faith community like the FSSP we come as soon as we can sell of our place after Winter!

  8. Grant M says:

    I just remember that I had to make contact with the SSPX in order to find out the location of our local approved TLM. When I first arrived in the city where I am now living, I searched in vain for the TLM. But the local TLM Society kept such a low profile (it seems the bishop is not the biggest fan of the EF) that even Google gave me no useful information. Of course the SSPX made no secret of their presence. After some thought I decided that I could attend their monthly Mass. Then others attending the SSPX Mass cheerfully informed me of the location and date of upcoming TLM Society Masses (twice-monthly.

  9. alnleash says:

    There is no TLM in our diocese . FSSP is less than an hour’s drive away in another city. But I dont want to give up on my parish.

    We are fortunate to be parishioners of the most traditional NO mass in our diocese. Yet there are still abuses and a lot to be cleaned up. I decided to run for a seat on the Pastoral Council, and as God would have it, I was elected. [THAT’s how it’s done! Get involved.] I attended my first meeting last week and did not hesitate to charitably get started with sharing my thoughts when cued by the Holy Spirit.

    Our mission statement says that our parish is deeply rooted in the Eucharist. If we can truly get back to being Eucharist- centered, I’m optimistic that the abuses will slowly go away . You will all be in my prayers, as well as Father Z.

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