ASK FATHER: What’s the truth about the SSPX?

I was informed that some prominent internet wonks were/are having a spat about the SSPX.

I looked around and found all manner of strange, useless and confusion-riddled comments about the status of the SSPX, their objectives and holiness, and blah blah.  Various sections of the addled peanut gallery got involved in the online feud.   As inevitably happens.   Thus, we are again presented with a concrete demonstration that in many of these dust ups a heck of a lot of people don’t know what they don’t know.

Let’s aim for some clarity and charity about the SSPX.

I write this now, why?

Firstly, because of the aforementioned online and thoroughly unedifying dust up.  Also, because someone wrote to complain that in some of my daily 5 minute podcasts I read paragraphs from a spiritual book by a priest of the SSPX, Fr. Patrick Troadec’s work Toward Easter.  [US HERE]   Imagine such a thing!  Third, because of the whole COVID lockdown thing, many emails have come in asking a) if it is sinful to go to Masses at still open chapels of the SSPX and b) is it sinful – I am not making this up – to watch their live-streamed services on the internet.  No, and no.

I’ll dig into some issues about the SSPX in a moment.   From the onset, however, I warmly urge people who don’t know what they are talking about not to leap in with unhelpful notions about law, theology, etc., and stick to discussing something more fruitful, such as the evils of the designated hitter or of changing the rules about intentional walks.  O… the humanity.

Ad ramos!

I preface this with my observation, from personal experience, of some of the priests of the SSPX.  They are mostly terrific guys, dedicated, zealous for souls, hard workers and determined priests.   Better formed in history, philosophy, liturgy and theology than a great many of garden variety priests I know.  (Not that we think clergy should be well educated.  Sheesh.) I would be, will be I hope, honored to have them working alongside me in this diocese or wherever God takes me.

Here are a few facts.

The SSPX (technically Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Santi Pii X) is a priestly Fraternity or Society of priests.  The SSPX does not have formal canonical status other than they are exercising a canonical right to associate with each other.  Their “association of the faithful” does not now have canonical recognition.  Hopefully one day they will be set up and recognized formally as a, say, Personal Prelature or some variant.  However, can. 299 §1 says that by private agreement among themselves, the faithful have the right to constitute associations for the purposes mentioned in can. 298 §1, which are, for example, when clerics or laity want to strive with common effort for foster a more perfect life, promote public worship, etc.   The SSPX is an association of the faithful.  No question.  Could it have higher status?  Sure.  It doesn’t have no status.

On 8 December 2015, Francis told the Catholic faithful that for the Holy Year of Mercy they could go to priests of the SSPX for the Sacrament of Penance and that they could be validly absolved.  That provision was extended beyond the “Year of Mercy” in the 2016 Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera.  It stands today.  This is a little odd, because it was not really a formal grant of faculties in the usual and expected way to the priests of the SSPX, as when a bishop grants faculties to a priest to receive sacramental confessions.  Those faculties are demonstrable with a document saying that Fr. Soandso has the faculty, etc.  In this case there is no document that I’m aware of that explicitly grants faculties to the priests of the SSPX to hear confessions and to absolve.  However, Popes can do what they want in this regard.  It’s better when they do things in a way that make things clear, with all the i’s dotted.  In this case, Francis said that people can be absolved by SSPX priests and that, as they say, is that.  Popes can do that sort of thing, whereas other entities such as dicasteries of the Holy See (e.g., the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” (PCED) of old and now CDF, and diocesan bishops) have to use another procedure.    So, SSPX priests can validly absolve sins even when there is no danger of death.   You can go to confession to them not just because there are no other priests around.  You can go to them because you want to.  No question.

On 27 March 2017 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which had absorbed my old office, the PCED) informed all the bishops of the world that they could give faculties to SSPX priests to witness marriages.   As in the case of hearing confessions, marriages require that a priest have the appropriate faculty.    There had been considerable debate about the validity of SSPX witnessed marriages.  What Francis did removed doubt.  The priests can now have the faculty themselves and they can work with a local diocesan priest.  Since then, I think most, not all, diocesan bishops have worked with local SSPX priests in this regard and simply given the SSPX priests the faculty.

Something important to note about this is that that letter of the CDF did NOT say that, “Up until now, the marriages witnessed by the SSPX priests were invalid.”  The Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera did NOT say that, “Until now, the absolutions given by priests of the SSPX were invalid.”  That’s food for thought.  That moves the goal posts significantly.  We can’t just think of the SSPX priests and confession and marriages in the same way that we did before those grants.

Furthermore – AND PAY ATTENTION because this is really important – suspended priests cannot receive faculties.  If the SSPX priests can receive faculties, and they have, all over the place, then they are not suspended!

Another point, and one that touches close to home with many lay people who love our Catholic tradition: attendance at SSPX Masses.

The Masses celebrated by SSPX priests are celebrated in a Catholic rite.  No question.   As I have written a zillion times on this blog about fulfilling Sunday and Holy Day obligations, in can. 1248 §1 we read that a person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.    Again, the SSPX priests use a Catholic rite, the Missale Romanum and other liturgical books of the Latin Church.    So, yes, you can choose to go to a Mass of the SSPX, not just because there is no other Mass, but because you want to.  No question.

As to the question: “Is it sinful to go to an SSPX Mass?”  Answer: It depends on why you are going there.

Frankly, yes, it would be sinful to go to their Masses out of sheer desire to hurt local parishes or priests or because you hate the local bishop, or Pope, or some aspect of the Church, blah blah blah.  Frankly, yes, it would be sinful to attend a parish where there are liturgical abuses that you happen to know are abuses but you like those abuses and you don’t care about authority.   Frankly, no, it is not sinful to attend an SSPX Mass if you are seeking sound liturgy and preaching and other good people who desire the same.  No question.

As a matter of fact, you can contribute money to their collections: it is a matter of justice.  If you receive services from them, you can contribute.

Sometimes I hear the claim that the SSPX is “not in communion” with the Catholic Church.  I have heard that they are “not Catholic”.  These claims are absurd on the face of it.  No reasonable and even half-informed mind can conclude that they are not “Catholic”.   They are clearly not Protestant, who are heretics.  They are clearly not Orthodox, who are schismatics.   And I am not sure that there is such as thing as “imperfect communion”.  What would that be, exactly?   You are either in communion or you aren’t.  In the past, sometimes we have seen statements, for example in the decree issued by the Congregation for Bishops in 2009 which lifted the excommunications of the SSPX bishops, that such a gesture aimed at “full communion” and as well as “proof of visible unity”.  It doesn’t say that there wasn’t/isn’t communion or unity.  It aims at making both more apparent, which is not the same as bringing either one about.

Moreover, the three bishop members of the SSPX – excluding the fourth, a separate case –  are NOT excommunicated.  Benedict XVI lifted that excommunication incurred in 1988 – probably with retroactive effect – in 2009.  And the priests are not excommunicated.

Also, it is claimed that the SSPX has been in schism since 1988 because the illicit consecration of bishops by Archbp. Lefevbre was a “schismatic act” (cf. Ecclesia Dei adflicta 3).  However, it takes more than “an act” to create a real schism.

It was obviously, manifestly, NOT Archbp. Lefevbre’s intention to set up a separate or rival Church, or to make himself or someone else an anti-Pope, or to create other aspects of a true schism.  The SSPX priests quite openly have used the names of the Popes in the Roman Canon during Mass.  They have recourse to diocesan tribunals in marriage and other matters.  They follow the decrees of the Sacra Penitentieria Apostolica in the matter of indulgences.  They accept faculties for marriages etc. from local bishops.  Recently, they communicated to their followers the dispensations and provisions given by local bishops in this time of Coronavirus lockdown.  These are not the acts of schismatics.

The SSPX has common and shared faith, sacrament and governance.  Protestants have some shared faith, a couple sacraments, and no governance.  Orthodox have shared faith and sacraments but not shared governance.  The SSPX has all three, as it clear by the fact that Francis acted in their regard about the Sacraments of Penance and Matrimony in way that would be impossible with, say, heretics or schismatics.  They are not “separated brethren”.  No question.

Some don’t like the SSPX because they say that people should attend the Traditional Latin Mass and not the Novus Ordo.  How shocking that they should say that people would do better to come to their Masses rather than someone else’s, particularly when they sincerely believe that the Novus Ordo is flawed and inadequate.  They do NOT believe that it is invalid!  They think it is flawed and, in some respects, possibly harmful to the faith.  It could be argued that after several decades of the Novus Ordo a large percentage of Catholics have a flawed understanding of a great deal of Catholic teaching.  But I digress.  The SSPX doesn’t say that Novus Ordo is invalid.

The SSPXers are often said to be against or critical the Second Vatican Council.  However, they acknowledge that Vatican II was, in fact, the 21st Ecumenical Council.   What they say about the Council is what the Council said about itself: it was intended to be pastoral Council (which is itself a historical departure) rather than a Council that would issue dogmatic statements.   Paul VI took the documents and he promulgated them.  That doesn’t mean that everything in every document is beyond criticism.  Some things are crystal clear and others are as clear as mud.  Libs say that everything in the mud is dogmatic according to their own interpretations.   It is legitimate to debate about the debatable things. We can by convinced one way or another by clarifications made by legitimate authority (e.g., CDF) or by the force of the arguments.   For example, the “Dogmatic Constitution” Lumen gentium had a point about the possibility of salvation outside the church (there’s a dogma about that). It was not clear.  Many debated about it.  Hence, in 2000 the CDF issued Dominus Iesus.  It is possible to be confused by things in Council documents, debate them, make arguments and then have them clarified, over time, by subsequent authoritative declarations.   BTW… one might read the commentary on Gaudium et spes by young Fr. Ratzinger in the book edited by Herbert Vorgrimler (HINT: deep reservations about its drafting, structure and anthropocentrism).

So, the SSPX is in a strange state, but not really the state that some (most?) think they are in.  Their chapels are not parishes; a parish is a formal canonical structure.  They don’t have a clear ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as dioceses or a personal prelature or religious order does.  Their priests are not incardinated anywhere, which make them odd ducks in a way, but not less priests than priests who are incardinated in a diocese or in a religious group.   They can and do receive faculties from legitimate authority and, hence, they are not suspended.

Let’s bring this to the bottom line.

When it comes to critics of the SSPX, clerical and lay, it seems to me that a little more charity, thoughtfulness and prudence might be adopted.   There is a rigidity running through some conservative or tradition-leaning Catholics which reminds me a little of the attitude of the Pharisees.   Libs remind me of Pharisees all the time, by the way.

Within the very heart of how the Church applies and interprets her laws there is a beautiful and gentle principle the spirit of which we can learn from when talking about the SSPX:  odiosa restringi et favores convenit ampliari, or else odiosa sunt restringenda et favoribilia amplianda/ampliantur.  That is to say, laws that place burdens or restrictions on people must be interpreted strictly so that they don’t put onto people what the laws don’t say. On the other hand, laws which grant favors or freedoms to people should be interpreted as generously as possible so that people can enjoy favors and freedoms. Be narrow and picky with laws that restrict and wide and generous with laws that grant things.

The SSPX is an association of the faithful.  They don’t yet have canonical recognition.  But they could and, I think, will.  Until then they are still a real thing in the Church.   Their sacraments are valid.  The priests can receive faculties, so they are not suspended.  Their bishop members are not excommunicated.  They have shared faith, sacraments and governance, which is borne out everyday in practice by their recourse to tribunals, reference to the decrees of the Penitentieria, etc.  They aren’t a separate Church.  They aren’t heretics.  They aren’t a schism. You can satisfy your Mass attendance obligations at their chapels.  You can be validly absolved by them.  They can witness your marriages.

Is their situation complicated.  Heck, yeah it is!  Especially in regard to the question of incardination of the priests.  That’s really the most difficult canonical issue.

Also, the situation of the SSPX and of the wider Church is evolving, especially in light of the concession of faculties.  As it evolves, we have to step back, cool down and reevaluate.

We probably have a whole bunch of living to do before the trumpet sounds.  I think our views can evolve in a constructive way.  I sure hope so.

Meanwhile, quite a few people would do well to stick a sock in it when it comes to the SSPX.  Carping at them, or parroting inaccuracies, does no one any good and it confuses people.  This is a really complicated situation that is not helpfully characterized by glib cliches or reduced to simplistic conclusions.  Having a gentler attitude, even in regard to their lawful status, as suggested by the Latin dictum I quoted above, seems to me to be the better and the more Catholic approach.  We might apply a little mercy.

Speaking of mercy, during the Year of Mercy convoked by Francis – which the SSPX observed! – the leadership, 250 priests and 5500 followers of the SSPX had their pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Basilica, where they were welcomed.  Then-Superior Bp. Fellay gave a sermon and they prayed for Francis.

I have on my wall a reproduction of a painting in London’s National Gallery by Salvatore Rosa called “The Philosopher”, possibly a self-portrait.  The stern, somberly garbed figure holds a sign with the words: AUT TACE AUT LOQUERE MELIORA SILENTIO.

“Either shut up or say something better than silence would be.”

I want to keep the knucklehead stuff out of the combox, so I will turn on moderation.

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64 Responses to ASK FATHER: What’s the truth about the SSPX?

  1. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    As the situation with the SSPX continues to develop, I commend you, Father, for also developing your outlook concerning the SSPX. I have a feeling seven years into this pontificate has only helped with that development. [Seven years into this pontificate we have seen concession of faculties to the priests of the SSPX which is a HUGE and new interpretive lens for their situation.]

    In addition to the points made, I would add the SSPX seminaries have had official visitations commissioned by the Vatican (conducted by Cardinal Walter Brandmuller and Bishop Athanasius Schneider) in recent years. Certainly the Vatican would not be sending a cardinal and bishop to visit a schismatic sect.

    [That point about the visitation is really good. Also. I recall that my old friend Card. Gagnon was once asked to make a visitation. It is important to get the right people to look into the situation.]

  2. MikeRogers says:

    Thank you Father for that clear exposition of the status of the SSPX.

  3. Hidden One says:

    Thank you very much for this, Father. I think I will be linking confused folks to this post for some time.

  4. sibnao says:

    This is such a helpful article, which answers many of my questions. The one question still remaining deals with Abp. LeFebvre himself: What are we to think of him? I’ve heard some (e.g. Martin Mosebach) publicly extol his courage and love for tradition, calling him a hero. On the other hand, he did directly disobey his superior in what seems to me (catechized but by no means expert) a serious matter, the ordaining of bishops. He died excommunicated. It is very good to know that the SSPX isn’t schismatic. But how are we to think of its founder? As a former member of Regnum Christi, I am very wary these days saying, “Well, the founder… OK, but look at the fruits!” Any guidance here would be much appreciated.

    [Archbp. Lefevbre was truly a great man of the Church. He loved the Church and her mission dearly and clearly. He should be honored for everything he did in Africa. He was was a great man. I have a “requiem card” from his death near me altar among my relics and I pray for him.]

  5. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Fantastic, clear, and reasonable commentary of a confusing subject, Padre.

  6. srose says:

    I think I understand all you have stated. However, my experience with followers of 2 different SSPX parishes thousands of miles (and years) from each other, has left a bitter taste in my mouth. Members of the first group, several years ago, vehemently declared that they would NEVER attend a Novus Ordo Mass, even if there were no Traditional Latin Mass available. So, they basically implied that they will commit a mortal sin on those occasions. Recently, some close friends began going to SSPX. This SSPX sends a priest to a mission town several hours away twice a month. At the time, there were no other Traditional Latin Masses available. But for the last 4 months these Masses are now available – much closer to them than the SSPX mission – and still my friends refuse to attend the diocesan WEEKLY Traditional Latin Masses. So every other week, they and their children are committing mortal sin. And some members of this group actually say that any priest who celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass and also the Novus Ordo is somehow tainted by Satan, and similar garbage. Where are they getting these ideas? My friend told me that the SSPX priest said that it’s OK to miss Mass when they can’t attend their Masses. So the leaders of SSPX must be saying things that cause their followers to rationalize many things in strange ways. I realize that church followers of any stripe can be extreme and miss the point completely, but sometimes it feels as if the SSPX is an entirely different religion.

  7. The Astronomer says:

    Thank you, Father, for the clarity.

    While I served with an Other Government Agency (OGA) at Sandia Nt’l Laboratory at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque in the early 1990’s for several months, I tried the local NO parishes under the aegis of Archbishop Sanchez while in Albuquerque on TDY. They were sorely lacking in liturgy, preaching, and homiletic catechesis, with many sermons guilting the upper middle-class Anglo Norte Americano congregants with their ‘sins’ against illegal immigrants and homosexuals with HIV/AIDS.

    I found out about the local SSPX Chapel from a fellow member of Christians In Action whom I worked with at the Lab and went to the SSPX chapel Queen of the Rosary Catholic Mission, Inc. at 333 58th Street NW. It was in a poor, decidedly ‘sketchy’ part of Albuquerque, but the Mass was holy, dignified, and the preaching was rock solid, centered around a passage from St. Louis Grignon de Montfort about the glories of Our Lady.

    There was no anti-V2 invective and at the end of the Mass, we all prayed for the intentions of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II (now Saint John Paul II). The congregation was 99% poor ethnic Indians and outside of the priest, I was the only ‘Anglo,’ but was welcomed all the same.

    These days, a happy, holy, memory.

  8. yychay says:

    I discovered through personal experience that teachings in the spirit of Vatican ii are indeed a different religion from Catholicism. the faithful are permitted to seek sound teaching, not just smells and bells. and sound teaching requires rejection of interfaith and free religion nonsense

  9. CanukFrank says:

    Thank you for the succinct and measured outline, Fr.Z. I have always felt ever-so-slightly guilty in attending SSPX mass and Confession primarily because I was unclear about their standing but now know, in future I have nothing to feel guilty about.

  10. I never realized until a couple of months ago that the SSPX is so small, with fewer than 700 priests; yet, because they work so hard to reach as many places as they can (combined with the graces that come with Holy Orders), they seem to have an influence out of all proportion to their numbers. I am very impressed by the fact that, despite having so few priests, the Society responded to the coronavirus scare by doubling down on Masses. These are priests who have to travel hundreds of miles every week, yet they increased the number of Masses at their chapels so that as many people as possible could still attend Mass without violating social distancing rules. And they continue to make Mass available to the faithful in places where the civil authorities have not issued stay-at-home orders.

    I have had to re-think my whole stance on the SSPX during the last several months and am sorry for every bad thing I have ever said about them, based on my faulty understanding of who they are and what they are all about. Archbishop Lefebvre now seems to me a very holy man who tried to do the best he could to make the right decisions amid very trying and agonizing circumstances. Hopefully, one effect of the coronamadness is that the SSPX will really come into its own as a reward for its unflagging service in these stern days.

  11. Fr_Andrew says:

    Father, I think this is one of the most clear, honest and fair and intelligent presentations of the SSPX I have ever read. Your presentation very much mirrors the good and late Msgr Morlino’s attitude, which I was always impressed to see. I think he found a beautiful approach after a rough start to relations with the SSPX.

    Some SSPX priests are good friends, and from them I learned the Extraordinary Form, so I’m a bit biased. I’ve found most of their priests (of course in a group of 700 there are some odd balls) nothing but an example for what I ought to be as a priest.

    Thank you, Father.

  12. andromedaregina says:

    Thank you Fr. Z! This is like a breath of sound air after witnessing that absurd circus that exploded on Twitter. After leaving active discernment with a religious community, I had to move to a new location which meant I couldn’t just go back to my FSSP Parish. My new Archdiocese didn’t have FSSP/ICK etc, but had an SSPX just 5 mins away, so I went. What I found was a glowing beacon of Catholic life.

    Another thing I found was that the parishioners completely steer clear of all the panic and anxiety over scandals in the Church and especially in Rome. They’re aware of what’s going on and pray for the Church. The superiors of the society addresses issues with calls to penance and prayer. And that’s it. No hand wringing, no Bishop bashing, no feigned shock. We focus on the business of becoming Saints and doing our duty in our station in life. It’s very simple and pure.

    I’ll be praying for you!

  13. Tominellay says:

    This was a great read, articulate and thorough. Thanks, Father.

  14. arga says:

    Someday, Archbishop LeFebvre will be canonized for saving the liturgy, and thus the Church. To whom other do we ultimately owe Summorum Pontificum, besides Pope Benedict XVI?

  15. Gabriel Syme says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for this excellent, accurate and charitable review of the situation.

  16. KateD says:

    This explanation is really helpful.

    Could their situation be compared to the early stages of many major movements within the Church? Such as the Franciscans, before they were formally approved by the Pope?

    We are in an area where there is no EF available for hundreds of miles. Luckily we have a wonderful and wise diocesesn priest, and I am grateful to have the Mass, any Mass available, even when there is no widespread panic… Still our souls thirst for the more substantial form.

    I know of an SSPX chapel a few hours away that may be easier to get to. Knowing they are an option opens up more opportunities for nourishment. Thank you! It’s like learning of additional springs in a desert.

    [A new “movement” in the Church. Yes, I think it is precisely along those lines. I am pretty sure that Ratzinger/Benedict foresaw this, which is one reason why he lifted the excommunications and issued both Anglicanorum coetibus and Summorum Pontificum. I have often written about his vision as being like a “Marshall Plan” against the dictatorship of relativism. His comments about the Church becoming a “creative minority” suggest that he was realistic about the future shift in demographics which we are now entering. Even before COVID I was ranting about the demographic sink hole that will open under the Church. I think that will now accelerate. I also strongly believe that, once the demographic disaster really takes hold, two groups will find each other: traditionalists and the more charismatic types along with converts from evangelical backgrounds.]

  17. jaykay says:

    Thank you for this, Father. It removed whatever (small) doubts I might have had. By coincidence, I’ve just finished re-reading HJA Sire’s “Phoenix from the Ashes” and its final part, which I read only last night, gives a very good account of the origin of the SSPX, its purpose and growth, of the deceit and very underhand dealings in the opposition to it by the highest in the Curia, and of Abp. Lefebvre himself. What you say of him above chimes exactly with the description in the book. So, this post was really timely. God bless.

    [Archbp. Lefebvre was one of the great churchmen of the 20th century. His missionary work in Africa is quite simply astonishing. He deserves respect for that if for nothing else. And, in a time when libs crow about the exaltation of their own conscience (poorly formed as it is) they would deny the same right of following his conscience to Archbp. Lefebvre. Agree or disagree with his decision in 1988 or not, it is clear that he wasn’t trying to start a new church.]

  18. catholictrad says:

    Thank you for clarifying in charity! Considering the near night-and-day differences that frequently exist between a very liberal NO parish and a SSPX chapel, vigorous disagreements are inevitable.

    I hoped while reading this article that you would address the odd ducks who look like a duck, walk like a duck, quack like a duck, but reject Momma Duck. Future article?

  19. Dave H says:

    Concerning the SSPX’s caution regarding attendance of the Novus Ordo: little children think very concretely rather than abstractly and are visual learners (80% of their learning is visual; Reference: https://www.vlca.com/visionlearning.php). CCD begins age 6 or 7 at most parishes; so before this age small children will see our Eucharistic Lord handled like their common bread/food/snack thousands of times (300 parishioners receiving in the hand x 52 weeks/year x 5 years) before the Church teaches them (hopefully) that the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ. Also, in reciting the responsorial Mystery of Faith, they will deny Christ’s presence and actually say that He is dead hundreds of times: “When we eat this bread (it is not bread after transsubstantiation!) and drink this cup (it is not sipping any drink from a cup, it is Christ’s Precious Blood), we proclaim your Death (He is not dead now) until you come again (as if He weren’t actually present!). How can this not but form the wrong impression in the mind of small children, who reason very concretely, when reciting it week-after-week? It is true that these are St Paul’s words, however they were NOT placed at this point in the Mass and highlighted by the Apostles, by St Gregory the Great, by St John Chrysostom, by St Ambrose, by St Dominic, or by St Pius V. They were placed at that point IN THE VERNACULAR and highlighted by BUGNINI. Visually witnessing communion in the hand and having the response to the Mystery of Faith placed in their mouth while their rational intellect is developing might well (!!!) damage their faith in the Real Presence. Again, these ambiguities will roll off a Catholic child’s lips (while they are in the direct, true presence of our Eucharistic Lord) 52 times/year x 20 years = 1,040 times by the time they are in college.

    Denying the dogma of the Real Presence is exceedingly dangerous. We now know that 70% of Catholics raised in the current era in which the normative Mass is the Novus Ordo don’t recognize Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. Please consider: would a parent knowingly placing their children in such a spiritually dangerous situation be failing in their duty as a parent and committing a sin considering their state in life?

  20. KnitFoole says:

    From my Bishop:
    “According to Canon 844 paragraph 1 of the Code of Canon Law, “Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone…” Because the Society of St. Pius X and its members do not enjoy any canonical status or recognition in the Church, then no conscientious Roman Catholic should receive Holy Communion at a Mass celebrated by a member of the Society. Furthermore, attendance at it does not fulfill one’s obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation.”

    So, you can go to an SSPX Mass, but don’t receive the Eucharist there? Also, you would not fulfill your Sunday Obligation, according to this letter. He doesn’t quite say it’s a sin to do this, but that no “conscientious” Catholic should do so. So, if I decide, as a matter of curiosity, to see what an SSPX Mass is about, am I committing a sin by going against what my Bishop says to do? The nearest one is quite far from me, but I was thinking of taking a day trip to attend one of their Masses because I had heard some good things about them. But then I saw the letter my Bishop promulgated. I should also note that nowhere in this letter or decree does it say anything about going to confession to an SSPX priest. He doesn’t say whether you should or shouldn’t, he just avoids that matter entirely.

    [It is a strong probability that that bishop, God bless him, is barely half informed about the SSPX, its history, charism, and activities. It is possible that he depends on someone else to write things like this. It is also possible that whoever wrote that is also not so rigid when it comes to doctrinal aberrations from the pulpits of the diocese in his care or regular and deeply rooted liturgical abuses that go on. It is possible that he turns a blind eye toward both abuse as well as – and this could be worse – tepidity and indifference while taking a stern and spiritually stingy stance towards those who have, as St. John Paul called them, “legitimate aspirations” when it comes to Tradition. I think that there are quite a few clerics out there who fall into spiritual stinginess without realizing it.]

  21. Daddio says:

    In other words: Twitter is dumb.
    When you need to have a real conversation, sound bites and pot shots are never helpful.

  22. mysticalrose says:

    Excellent, Fr. Z. This is the most thorough and clearest treatment that I have seen. I am sending it around to many friends.

    On another note, I find this interesting: “Frankly, yes, it would be sinful to attend a parish where there are liturgical abuses that you happen to know are abuses but you like those abuses and you don’t care about authority.” From my experience, there are an awful lot of people and an awful lot of N.O. parishes that fit this bill (rainbows, women in albs, priests reduced to sitting in the front pew instead of the altar, etc.), yet I have never heard anyone who gets the vapors over the SSPX (including bishops) ever say a thing about these other parishes!

  23. Lusp says:

    I have reservations about the SSPX, having known them for 40 years and seen a lot, but I don’t think they are the bad guys in today’s world. But can we not also agree that maybe it’s not such a good idea to announce to the whole world that you went there for Communion, knowing full well that it’s going to incite an Easter Sunday twitterstorm in some circles. I know of a case where the diocese gave permission for a priest to say Mass with the family of alter servers and someone bragged about it on facebook, causing future such Masses to be cancelled. Discretion has to be the better part of valor here.

    [To the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote: “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Cor 11:28). If someone goes to the SSPX chapel for Mass and Communion so that later he can spike the ball in someone else’s face, brag about it, it is possible that he has not, in fact, examined himself at all and, in receiving Communion in that chapel, “eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” Exactly the same thing applies to those who, knowing that at their church of preference there are liturgical abuses and heterodox teaching, approach Communion with an attitude of defiance about the “institutional Church” or are also affirming themselves and their own agenda to remake the Church in their image.]

  24. Pingback: What is the True “Status” of the SSPX? | Catholicism Pure & Simple

  25. bcloetta says:

    Thank you for all of the clarifications. And as usual, you are CORRECT especially about that dumb intentional walk rules change :)

  26. CasaSanBruno says:

    JMJ

    Thanks for this. Actually, you reiterated what the CDF communicated to me 20 years ago when I was living in Germany. A beautiful young Catholic family with lots of kids was in a bind. The parents were dutifully raising their children in the Faith, but the local pastor was a lunatic. His Masses were a reunion tour of every wacky liturgical abuse you’ve ever head of. These people lived in the country and far from other parishes; but the SSPX oratory was close by. They asked me my thoughts, so I consulted. I was told, as long as they are going there for the building up of their faith as Catholics and not as an intentional act against unity with Rome, and given the liturgical situation situation, this was a better choice.

    [Exactly. People have to be honest about their motives.]

  27. KandM6416 says:

    Any thoughts on whether the freedom to choose an SSPX mass to meet a Sunday obligation ever becomes an obligation to go if no other Mass is available? I am thinking of a case where a bishop does not suspend the obligation but simply says none exists in the case of impossibility. Well, it is technically not impossible if the SSPX chapel still has them and it is within driving distance. Do one then have an obligation to go?

  28. Fuerza says:

    Thanks for the in-depth clarification. Many still believe that SSPX Masses do not fulfill the obligation. I have long been of the mind that the fact that Pope Francis granted the people the right to be absolved by SSPX clergy strongly implied that their Masses did in fact do so. The Pope clearly knew that SSPX attendees were likely the majority of those who would be taking advantage of these faculties, and I’d imagine he also knew that they would in fact continue to attend SSPX Masses exclusively. If SSPX Masses did not fulfill the obligation, then these people would be in continuous mortal sin, and therefore unable to benefit from confession. I seems clear to me that Pope Francis did not grant such faculties with the intention of opening an avenue of mass sacrilege, so to me this could only mean that he views SSPX Masses as a licit fulfillment of the Sunday obligation.

    [When Bergoglio was still in Argentina, he actively helped the SSPX attain status with the government. Food for thought.]

  29. Kate M says:

    For those who have any question about Archbishop Lefebvre, the Biography by Bernard Tissier de Mallerais is a must-read and will lead you to the same conclusions as those reached by Fr. Z. You will also reach the same conclusions by the criteria that our Lord gave us, that you judge a tree by its fruits.
    On a pragmatic note, some of the best live-streamed Masses are those coming from the SSPX chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows in Phoenix. Easy to see and here, and great for newbies that the moderator is answering questions about the Mass in the chat section.

  30. rcg says:

    My mind is not theological, but mathematical. I see ‘populations’ where the SSPX is on one ‘tail’ of the obedient population curve and the German (Honduran, etc.) bishops on the other. If Vatican II is not dogmatic it certainly carried the effect as if it were a secular common law ruling. How wide can our population curve become and hold these groups? I agree with your summary of the SSPX view of the NO as my own thoughts. Does that make me apostate? I think not, but there are some who want it so. Modern Protestantism seems to want not to leave the Church in an adolescent fury, but to stay in the house and move the parents to extended care.

    [Interesting analogy. I have often used the analogy of separate water fountains in the 50’s, the back of the bus for some of us, or separate entrances. How wide can the curve be? We are talking about a divinely instituted Church. Pretty wide. However, there are limits. It seems to me that those who literally defy and contradict the Church in matters of faith and morals are risking placing themselves outside the curve far more than those who resist juridical decisions or questionable claims about continuity of clear innovations.]

  31. zeremoniar says:

    Thank you very much, Father! And what about Holy Communion? Somehow it would be strange to go to their Masses but not receive Communion, but are the permissions from the Vatican only for Confession and Marriage?

    [Remember that no one is obliged to receive Communion at any Mass. That said, if you can have your sins absolved or get married at an SSPX chapel, it seems reasonable that you can receive Communion if you wish. Again, as with any occasion for Eucharistic Communion, one needs to make a good examination of conscience, testing one’s self with honesty about one’s state.]

  32. Kate says:

    Okay, so let’s take this a step further… what if a bishop fails to provide a Latin Mass for a stable community of people when he has the ability to do so (meaning he has priests that knows or is willing to learn the TLM but does not place them in that parish)? May they then ask the SSPX to provide Mass for them without incurring sin? Let’s put this in a scenario where the stable community has already has a TLM but the priest is moved…

    [What if… what if… what if… this game can go on forever. Let’s stick to the points I made for now. I think you can find the answer within them.]

  33. EtDeumPrimus says:

    srose,

    I think that is a legitimate concern and you can’t ignore that attitude does exist.

    However, the pastor does have the right to dispense the faithful from their Sunday obligation. While a lay person refusing to attend an NO of their own accord is wrong (except in rare cases), their pastor can dispense them from doing so, even for reasons we may disagree with.

  34. Joe in Canada says:

    Thank you Father, good job.
    Regarding the idea of fulfilling one’s obligation with a Catholic rite, the Byzantine rite is a Catholic rite, mainly (sheer numbers) celebrated by the Orthodox. But attending an Orthodox service by choice does not fulfill my Sunday obligation. Or am I wrong? [Canon law is clear on that. I cited the canon, above. We fulfill our obligation by attending Mass in a Catholic rite, that is a Mass in a Latin Church or a Divine Liturgy in an Eastern CATHOLIC Church.]

  35. gsk says:

    I didn’t assume attending Holy Mass meant receiving the Eucharist as a matter of course. I have understood that in a pinch an Orthodox service will fulfill the Sunday obligation [No. Not quite. If there is no Catholic church and Mass available, you don’t have an obligation to fulfill.] but Catholics are not to receive (for lack of communion between East and West). Father, it seems that you make no distinction in this case. [It seems you are a little too far out over your skis.]

  36. Joe says:

    The matter of the SSPX has been on my mind for the reasons you identified. What a blessing it is to have you, Father. Praised be Jesus Christ !

  37. mparks says:

    In the early years, Catholics were warned that we should not participate in the schismatic act. Not sure why JPIi was so harsh…a great tragedy. Just think,Athanasius consecrated bishops without permission, but I Think allbishops did. When did we get so centralized!?

  38. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Extremely useful Fr Z and all the more valuable as it comes from you. I wonder if there is significance in the Pope’s phrase in Misericordia et Misera: “ faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X.”

    Here, the Pope acknowledges that people who are faithful go to SSPX masses for various reasons. It is clear to me (or am I reading too much?) from his wording that he does not regard them as being sinful in so doing.

  39. This sorting out is very helpful, thanks Father.

    There is a Latin term, sui generis; I hesitate to cite Latin in the (virtual) presence of our genial host, but I will press on: it means something that is in a class of its own; or we might say, it’s own sort of thing. This is a very helpful term, and idea, because sometimes we try to jam a uniquely shaped object into a familiarly shaped hole, and it’s a bad fit. Such is the case with the SSPX and the present context in which it came into existence. The SSPX object doesn’t easily cram into the slots we are accustomed to dealing with, and lots of people are puzzled about how exactly to regard it.

    Well, it’s a sign of problems that still need to be resolved, that’s one way.

    Also, it is fair to point out that the situation of the SSPX needs to be further regularized, because even if there is no schism, that doesn’t mean something unhealthy couldn’t develop.

  40. Maureen M says:

    Thanks again, Father, for this clear and concise explanation. I have been so confused by the remarks going back and forth on Twitter! People should think twice before they hit the “send” key.

  41. Thank you, Father. I read some of the tweets involved in all of that nonsense, and turned away shaking my head: I found it very difficult to admit that ignorance might’ve been involved (as opposed to malice etc) but I suppose it was.

    The local FSSPX church in the nearby little town has been offering seven or eight Masses on Sundays, the priest, server, and 23 of the faithful. The pastor discussed what they were proposing to do with the local police and came to a mutual understanding; people are being reminded a couple of times a week about maintaining the requisite distances, sitting in every other pew, and so forth. Which raises the question, if Saint N. can do this, why can’t the churches of the archdiocese? If I lived out there I’d have no qualms about attending, given the circumstances. (In the same little town there is also a parish of the archdiocese, where the Traditional Mass is celebrated: when I can get out there I go to it rather than the FSSPX church. But of course it is closed. I speculate that the Mass at the one is a consequence of the Masses at the other but I don’t know, of course.)

  42. Rod Halvorsen says:

    Excellent assessment Father Z!
    One additional point. Technically, a priest can be subject to limited suspensions. Canon 1333 makes this clear.
    “Can. 1333 §1. Suspension, which can affect only clerics, prohibits: 1/ either all or some acts of the power of orders; 2/ either all or some acts of the power of governance; 3/ the exercise of either all or some of the rights or functions attached to an office.
    The relevant point here is the question whether a priest can possess unrestricted faculties {direct from the Pope, no less!} to absolve and then not possess faculties to say Mass afterwards in what is the natural and well-known process common to the Catholic faith practice since the beginning, especially when the Pope has granted specific permission for SSPX priests to say the nuptial Mass. Can anyone conceive of a requirement to receive absolution and then…vacate the premises and run down to the nearest NO parish to receive? Bishop Schneider has called this notion “absurd” and the thinking that fosters it “of the Scribes and Pharisees”.
    As w/ so many things SSPX…it would be nice to have some more clarity…for those who haven’t taken the time to investigate the details, but in the meantime, your assessment should provide sufficient clarity to all those who are both concerned about the canonical situation and possess charity and reason to make sense of the situation as it is.
    As for Archbishop Lefebvre, I highly recommend his biography written by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais.

  43. ncfddmartinez says:

    Interesting what you said about marriages in the SSPX. Vagueness doesn’t mean retroactive permission. I have a friend who married his wife in the SSPX and years later, she divorced and petioned for an annulment based on lack of form because it was performed by an SSPX priest. He appealed to the Roman Rota and it was upheld. So clearly there is case precedent that goes against the claim of vagueness or lack of statement.

  44. mjgrayny says:

    This is so edifying. Thank you father!

    I wish that you would comment on “srose’s” remarks above (“…my experience with followers of 2 different SSPX parishes thousands of miles (and years) from each other, has left a bitter taste in my mouth…”)

    We have been “attending Latin Mass”, vagabond style, for many years, but only in the past 5 years have we made the TLM our standard Sunday Mass. For the past 2 years, we are blessed to be members of a parish where we have an every-Sunday TLM and numerous other Liturgies in accordance with the Traditional Missal for various feasts throughout the year
    We certainly don’t deny validity of the Norvus Ordo. In fact, I personally maintain a daily Mass practice with NO until we get our daily TLM up-and-running. We hold the belief that while the NO certainly is valid and in possession of the Real Presence, that Real Presence simply deserves a better Liturgy. Strangely enough, we found that It seemed to have had one for centuries.

    We have come to believe that what NO is lacking is not just a result of the extremes of NO gone wild, which are sadly many, but what it’s lacking is a function of the conceptual structure of the Liturgy itself, as evidenced by the fullness of the history of its development along with other changes to the Breviary, priestly ordination, etc. Validity makes all valid Masses beautiful, but not necessarily as “pretty” as possible. Structural flaws – arguably intentional – severely handicap the ability of NO to be “pretty” enough, no matter how much “Conservatives” try.

    This is why I hope that you might comment in response to “srose” (“…my experience with followers of 2 different SSPX parishes thousands of miles (and years) from each other, has left a bitter taste in my mouth…”). While we haven’t had this experience in any SSPX Chapel, we certainly have met such people – outside of SSPX – since our commitment to the TLM and our entrance into “Traditionalism”.

    Maybe thinking like that observed by “srose” is self-evidently in error and not needing a response, but as a relative new-comer to the TLM, I can say that as one enters the world of Traditionalism, the overwhelming beauty of the Mass stimulates the emotions as well as the soul, and can lead one zealously down a path to schismatic thinking.

    We labored under many of the concerns relative to SSPX which you address in the article. This had slowed our journey because we were tentative to avail ourselves of SSPX Liturgies. What if we had overcome our uncertainty 5 or so years ago and boldly jumped in with SSPX, only to run into the folks “srose” is referring to? We may have either been intimidated and run back to NO with a permanently bad impression of Traditionalism, or, worse, been swept along into a denial of NO’s validity.

    Perceiving this emotional pitfall early-on, my wife and I spent years wading-in slowly, allowing the emotions to flare then settle while the soul became increasingly fervent. All the while making sure that we were guided by orthodox, loving spiritual guides – consecrated and lay. This was a grace. I imagine that for many however, that emotional response can lead them to the place which “srose” is recounting.

    I think it would be good if you would speak to that because part of making people understand SSPX fully is to make them understand what they are NOT, which is one of the groups past the sedevacantist threshold of the Traditionalist spectrum, for example.

  45. Rigid Catholic says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for writing this post: it seems that in our strange circumstances today, the topic of the SSPX has come up with even greater fervor as traditional-leaning Catholics acknowledge the possibility of attending their Masses during this pandemic, and the detractors have increased their spiteful rhetoric to compensate. I myself have been attending an SSPX chapel for a little over two years; although I sympathized with their positions long before that, it took time to sort through the various canonical issues involved. This is why the canonical situation of the SSPX is of particular interest to me; with this in mind, allow me to present a few remarks.

    First, it is quite possible that Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications with retroactive effect: after all, he did not demand that the bishops make “suitable reparation for damages and scandal” or to have “withdrawn from contumacy” (c. 1347.2) before lifting the censures. The bishops still maintain that the original censures were unjust and invalid, and there was nothing that changed in this view after the censures were lifted. This, even from a purely canonical standpoint, casts doubt upon the validity of the excommunications. Although as an SSPX supporter I would argue that Abp. Lefebvre’s actions in 1988 were licit and justified, a person who does not share my view could possibly also conclude that the censures were invalid from the beginning.

    Second, the observation that “Misericordia et misera” and the CDF letter did not say that the SSPX’s absolutions and marriages from prior years were invalid raises a good point. This, along with the fact that suspended priests cannot receive faculties, seems to indicate that not only was the SSPX correct in asserting that their faculties were supplied in previous years (and still are for the other five sacraments), Rome itself has recognized this fact, even if only implicitly.

    Without supplied faculties, SSPX priests would not have been able to impart sacramental absolution validly before “Misericordia et misera” was promulgated: if they had attempted to do so, they would have incurred a latae sententiae suspension (c. 1378.2). Yet Pope Francis was not lifting suspensions in 2016, and since the SSPX has been granted (ordinary) faculties, the priests are definitely not suspended. So if canon 1378.2 did not apply to SSPX priests, then it can only be concluded that their absolutions in prior years were most certainly NOT invalid, indicating that they did, in fact, have supplied faculties.

    If this argument is applied to the other sacraments administered by the SSPX, then this could potentially lead to a “regularization” that consists of simply declaring explicitly what is already implicitly recognized. Though the question regarding the incardination of priests is an interesting one (I, for one, do not believe that the SSPX is simply an association of the faithful and maintain that the 1975 suppression was invalid), that complex issue is probably better saved for future discussion.

  46. JGavin says:

    I sometimes have a wish that Bergolio would just up and say here is your status, (personal prelature, association whichever works..) and be done with it. There are bishops, priests, faithful and a significant number of the curia who will have a “spittle flecked nutty” if he did this, but then it would be over. This slow erosion recognition is mind numbing. I personally would think of getting a chilled bottle of the Widow, [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] flowers and a ring on the door of the local SSPX establishment to say congratulations for your hard work, in a sense welcome back (although by this post, they never really left) and I wish great spiritual success in reclaiming souls. I hope you guys really get to work.

  47. ARS says:

    I’m grateful to Fr. Z for this well elaborated analysis. This is my first time posting on here – glad to be part of the group!

    Fr. Z (or anyone else so inclined to comment): I think my one big confusion about the SPPX is how they can justifiably assert that it is better NOT to attend ANY Mass at all on a Sunday or a holy day than to attend a Novus Ordo Mass. Unless I am misunderstanding them, that is what they are saying in this video from what appears to be one of their official online channels. You can skip to the 2:49 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hZrRGMs6CY&t=131s

    Thoughts? Is it that their priests dispense the faithful from ever having to attend a non-traditional liturgy? Is it within their authority to do so?

    For those who don’t have the interest or patience to see the video, here is the relevant excerpt from it (caps emphases are mine):

    “The Church cannot ask her members to endanger their faith. THIS IS THE REASON WHY CATHOLICS ARE NOT OBLIGED TO ATTEND THE NEW MASS TO FULFIL THE SUNDAY PRECEPT. In fact, for those who have knowledge of its inherent problems, THE NEW MASS IS TO BE COMPLETELY AVOIDED, AS THEY UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS ALSO AN OFFENSE TO GOD. WHEN A TRADITIONAL MASS IS NOT AVAILABLE, or when the faith is endangered by the preaching or opinions of the priest, ONE IS DISPENSED FROM ATTENDING MASS ON A SUNDAY OR A HOLY DAY.”

  48. Antonin says:

    Pope Francis’ move in this regard demonstrates PERFECTLY how pastoral accommodations can go much much farther in facilitating unity than doctrinal committees, and discussions. Think of how many over the years the Vatican has held on all of the grievances the SSPX had with respect to VII.

    I was never persuaded by their arguments and still think VII was overall prophetic and accurately assessed the situation of the contemporary world and how the Church can better respond (although I agree Gaudium et Spes was naive and overly optimistic).

    But basically these issues can be resolved down the road but they can’t be resolved with one party outside of “the family”- and the blame game can go on forever about who is at fault

    Instead the Pope circumvents all this by providing wide pastoral accommodation and basically for all practical purpose opening them up to the faithful if they wish.

    That will soften the hearts, ease tensions, and rancour and THEN all can be in a better space to work through the various doctrinal issues in a dispassionate manner without being fixated or rigid…only calmness and serenity can facilitate that process.

    So pastoral accommodations IS an important aspect of the Church’s ministry as is clear doctrine.

    I know many critics of Francis here (and I have my own as well). Still he does have his strengths, wisdom, and charism that we can learn from.

  49. Richard McNally says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for your clear presentation of the status of the SSPX. I echo your personal experience of some of the SSPX priests. I have friends among the SSPX. They are outstanding priests. The society recently released a video about the ministry of one of them and the travel he does each weekend to minister to the faithful. I was able to cooperate with one of them on a marriage between one of my parishioners and one of their faithful. Last May it was announced that Bishop Vitus Huonder, the emeritus of Chur, Switzerland, had retired to the SSPX house in Econe with the blessing of Pope Francis. The Bishop and Fr. Pagliarani, SSPX Superior General, released a statement saying “May this example be followed by others.”. As you note, there are canonical anomalies in status of the SSPX, e.g. the Pope granting faculties for confession and not the local bishop. I’m sure this will all continue to evolve. I believe it very positive that the SSPX make their contribution to the Church. I value that. The Church has no vibrant future without the Tradition being lived, taught and the liturgy being celebrated. The SSPX will be there with the FSSP, the Institute of Christ the King, other societies of apostolic life and religious communities and so many of us, who believe that the Tradition’s flourishing is of vital importance.. Thanks once again for an excellent piece.

  50. Ann Malley says:

    @Fr.Fox

    “Also, it is fair to point out that the situation of the SSPX needs to be further regularized, because even if there is no schism, that doesn’t mean something unhealthy couldn’t develop.”

    Like the unhealthy practice of those who are supposedly in full communion with the Catholic Church and should know better calumniating their neighbor?

    Let’s do be fair. Telling the truth without hyperbole and scare mongering is where its at. The truth will set us free. And, God willing, get all the sheep, to include shepherds, back on board with seeking Him instead of jockeying for a perceived fuller communion. Whatever that means in these demonstrable days of ongoing crisis.

  51. RunsOnDecaf says:

    “…and stick to discussing something more fruitful, such as the evils of the designated hitter or of changing the rules about intentional walks. O… the humanity.“
    I knew I liked you.

  52. Ann Malley says:

    @ARS

    Father Z covered your concern in the blog:

    “Some don’t like the SSPX because they say that people should attend the Traditional Latin Mass and not the Novus Ordo. How shocking that they should say that people would do better to come to their Masses rather than someone else’s, particularly when they sincerely believe that the Novus Ordo is flawed and inadequate. They do NOT believe that it is invalid! They think it is flawed and, in some respects, possibly harmful to the faith. It could be argued that after several decades of the Novus Ordo a large percentage of Catholics have a flawed understanding of a great deal of Catholic teaching. But I digress. The SSPX doesn’t say that Novus Ordo is invalid.”

    The excerpt you provided from the Society video is the answer to your question. No, its not a matter of dispensing, but rather avoiding that which is potentially damaging and displeasing to God.

  53. Pingback: Another point about the SSPX. They are not a small, fringe group. | Fr. Z's Blog

  54. GC2012 says:

    Great explanation and overview – thx Fr. Z.

    Some years back when I discovered the Traditional Mass was even an option, I’d drive a good distance each Sunday to attend, as I was never satisfied with what I learned was “Novus Ordo.” All I knew was that for me, the Traditional Mass provided a far greater sense of reverence and worship. I discovered the SSPX and that there was an SSPX chapel nearer, so I’ve attended there ever since. At both the Traditional service I first began attending and now the SSPX, the priests are holy, devout, serious-minded men. As for political issues, schism and other such things, the way I see it is the SSPX faithfully holds to the liturgy and teachings the church professed for 2000+ years — whereas the trappings of the NO parish I attended for 10+ years as well as two other NO parishes in the area just didn’t seem like worship to me.

    Now, with the incredible-to-believe things that have occurred in the Vatican of late – gay orgies, idols and whatever else I don’t even want to know about – and it looks to me like the “smoke of Satan” is pretty thick in there. So I pray for the Church, the Clergy and all us sheep, and thank Jesus for leading me to a chapel with devout clergy and traditional liturgy.

  55. Diana says:

    This is FANTASTIC, Father! Thank you! I saw that mess going on online, and stayed away, but remained curious about what the truth is. I am grateful for your knowledge and for sharing it with us in such a loving and patient manner.

  56. BNeal says:

    I really appreciate all that you do here on your blog Fr. You are very educating and have the best sense of humor! Now to my question. You say that all of the SSPX Sacraments are valid. Are all of the SSPX Sacraments licit? Will you please explain the difference between valid and licit? Thank you.

  57. ARS says:

    @ Ann Malley

    Thanks, Ann.

    I had carefully read that paragraph from Fr. Z’s analysis before I posted, and I think what Fr. Z writes there does not quite address the point I’m seeking clarification on.

    I agree with Fr. Z that it is logical for them to want people to come to their Masses and not the NO.

    My question, especially as pertains to that excerpt I shared from the SSPX video, is about the defensibility of saying that a Catholic who has no reasonable access to a TLM but DOES have access to a NO Mass should just pray at home on a Sunday (or holy day) rather than attend the NO.

    And again, in that video, the SSPX priest says “WHEN A TRADITIONAL MASS IS NOT AVAILABLE… ONE IS DISPENSED FROM ATTENDING MASS ON A SUNDAY OR A HOLY DAY.”

    I’m not questioning the validity of the SSPX’s Masses or sacraments, nor do I mean to detract from the holiness of their obviously earnest priests.

    I simply cannot see how that particular statement of theirs is defensible. Absence of a TLM cannot, to my knowledge, de facto dispense one’s obligation to participate in a valid Sunday Mass.

    Blessings to you. Thanks for the discourse.

  58. Dave H says:

    Dear ARS, please see my post above. No one can lead you into sin if you won’t follow. One possible scenario where some people should not attend a new Mass is if they have young, impressionable children. Communion in the hand while standing and the response to the Mystery of Faith are so deforming to developing minds, that parents might prudentially be convinced that the new Mass is a spiritual danger to their children. In the era of the new Mass, retention rate of the Catholic Faith is 60% for non-Hispanics and 70% for Hispanic Catholics (reference: https://cara.georgetown.edu/staff/webpages/Hispanic%20Catholic%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf). Assuming a generation is 20 years, in the 60 years from 1960 to 2020, a 60% retention rate for 3 generations is 0.6 x 0.6 x 0.6 = 21% retention rate in non-Hispanic Catholics for the faith (as Fr P. Wolfe says—the only cure for hell!) over 60 years. A 70% retention rate over 3 generations is 0.7 x 0.7 x 0.7 = 34% retention rate for Hispanic Catholics over 60 years. Then, approximately 70% of the remaining Catholics deny the dogma asserting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I have never seen any survey data regarding belief in the Mass as a true sacrifice, but the numbers must be worse than for the Real Presence. Denying the Real Presence and denying that the Mass is a true sacrifice are both anathematized positions according to Trent—at the very least, extremely dangerous spiritual positions.

    The most holy family that I know are life long Novus Ordo Catholics. So, it can be done; however parents that choose to attend the new Mass must be extremely purposeful in catechism of their children. Based on the numbers, the new Mass is not safe for everyone. In the end, this is all about souls, not preferences.

  59. ALL: I’ll be closing down comments here very soon. There is no point in straying around into various rabbit holes.

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  61. HvonBlumenthal says:

    I hope it is not greedy to make a second comment on the same post. It concerns the humility and dedication of the SSPX priests. Take the SSPX district of Benelux. The headquarters is the Belgian National Shrine of St Joseph’s Church, which the diocese sold off. After years of neglect the SSPX has fully restored the building which looks more like a basilica or small cathedral. Priests of the SSPX were to be seen every day in working cassocks (never without a cassock!), armed with screwdrivers or spirit levels, doing much of the work with their own hands.
    In Luxembourg, the chapel is a building on loan from a local resident. Interior walls had to be knocked down, the whole place made suitable. Again tge work was done by one priest and his uncle. On his own hands and knees the priest made the altar steps out of salvaged wood, built a small sacristy and installed a lavatory outside the chapel, and plumbed it in.
    The Sunday Mass in Luxembourg is at 17:30. Why? Because the priest lives in Brussels and every Sunday morning drives 2 hours to Namur to say Mass there, before driving another two hours over tge border to Luxembourg, fasting for 3 hours in between. Yet not a single Sunday or feast of obligation was missed.

    And as for material reward, I learned by chance that the priests here are paid 50 euro per week (say 60 dollars. There is practically no hope of career advancement – no nice sinecures, no diplomatic postings, no jobs in the Curia. It’s all done for love.

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  63. magdallena says:

    Thank you for Father for an excellent article. One line that particularly stuck with me, as an aside, was “Libs remind me of Pharisees all the time”….since I had just previously been subjected to a Trump bashing/conservative scolding by a family member. I would love to see an article on that as well.

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