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.