ASK FATHER: Not AGAIN! “Does attending an SSPX Mass fulfill one’s Sunday obligation?”

From a reader…


Does attending an SSPX Mass fulfill one’s Sunday obligation? I’m asking because I ran across the linked article below written by John Salza in November of this year arguing that attending an SSPX Mass does NOT fulfill the Sunday obligation to assist at Mass. The article threw me for a loop, as I’ve heard about the 9/27/2002 letter from Msgr. Perl, but not his 4/15/2002 letter; nor had I heard about the 2012 and 2015 letters from Ecclesia Dei, which seem to cast doubt on such attendance fulfilling the Sunday obligation.

This keeps coming up.  Some people who ought to know better simply want to rehash it and rehash it, and they get it wrong.

When I worked for the Holy See’s dicastery which had competence in the matter, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, it was the position that, yes, you could fulfill your obligation on a day of precept at a Mass celebrated with the 1962 Missale Romanum by a priest of the SSPX.   By 2002 some new dynamics entered into question, creating some doubts and contradictions.  However, when there doubts about laws, in the absence of anything absolutely authoritative, the more benign way of interpreting law should prevail.  People’s freedoms are to be expanded and their obligations restricted.

Canon law was and is clear and it has not changed:

Canon 1248, §1 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.

There is no question that the Mass celebrated is in a Catholic Rite. The priests of the SSPX are Catholic priests and not some other kind of priests.  Regardless of their unique and somewhat thorny canonical status, they are priests of the Catholic Church and not some other Church.  They are even able to receive faculties from competent authority. They validly absolve sins even when there is no danger of death. They witness marriages and say the nuptial Masses.

The aforementioned Pontifical Commission on various occasions wrote that, yes, you can fulfill the obligation at an SSPX chapel. Not only that, you can, out of justice, give money in the collection for having received a service.

Those responses from the Commission concerned the SSPX, and not spin off groups from the SSPX.

If there are conflicting letters, it just goes to show that it is an evolving situation and one that people should get overly worked up about it.

Let’s just get over this and relax.

Look.  The anomalous and slowly evolving SSPX situation is complicated.  When things are really complicated in the Church, we are charity bound to cut people some slack and interpret restrictive laws as strictly as possible so as to give people maximum latitude.

I am convinced that the Enemy knows that he cannot win if we succeed in renewing the life of the Church through a recovery of our traditional liturgical rites.   Therefore, the Devil is going to fuel feuds, create strife and prompt the hardening of hearts.

Moreover, Old Scratch and demons are the ultimate lawyers.   If they can keep us quibbling and mired in the details, we are rendered ineffective.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Pingback: ASK FATHER: Not AGAIN! “Does attending an SSPX Mass fulfill one’s Sunday obligation?” – Via Nova Media

  2. Archicantator says:

    “If they can keep us quibbling and mired in the details, we are rendered ineffective.”

    Quite so, Father. Their goal is that we should have nothing better to hope for than the end of Dickens’s “Bleak House,” where a family legal dispute over a large inheritance that has lasted many years is finally concluded when “the whole estate is found to have been absorbed in costs.” With this realization on the part of the lawyers, “the suit melts and lapses away.”

    So with us, if we heed not the Lord’s admonition: “Nolite prohibere: qui enim non est adversum vos, pro vobis est.”

    [Bleak House! Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. Excellent reference. And there is the Circumlocution Office in Little Dorrit.]

  3. James C says:

    Really, in the post-Pachamama era, the time for canonical nitpicking (if there ever was one) is over..

  4. Pingback: ASK FATHER: Not AGAIN! “Does attending an SSPX Mass fulfill one’s Sunday obligation?” | Fr. Z’s Blog – The Old Roman

  5. hilltop says:

    Attend an SSPX Mass. You will KNOW it to be true.

  6. Sobieski says:

    So if the Ordinary Form is the “unique” expression of the Latin Church, what happens to the Sarum, Dominican, Toledo, Zaire, Braga, Algonquian rites?

    If they are not suppressed, then the OF cannot be described as “unique.”

    And if EF mass is suppressed, then the OF, in Latin, Roman Canon, no altar girls, epistle/gospel sides, kneeling to receive, Benedict altar arrangement, prayer to St Michael will have to serve as a safe space

    After all, as Fr Z has said, the EF can enrich the OF. The proving time is here.

  7. Rod Halvorsen says:

    Tho as you suggest, somewhat redundant, nevertheless, with so much renewed interest spawned by “Tradition in Custody” and the more recent “Roche Reproach”, quite likely to provide well-appreciated assurance for many who may just want to peek in and see what’s going on.

    Prediction: For many of those peekers today like so many of us in the past, peeking in will result in a deep sigh of relief, a sense of clarity and joy, and a new home where they, too, as with many of us, can await the return of common sense, sanity, orthodoxy and CCC 1697-style clarity to the Church at-large.

    Thanks for posting this up, Father Z.

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