ASK FATHER: Should I go to an SSPX chapel for the sake of my family or stick with a parish where things aren’t as good?

Say someone is convinced that the Vetus Ordo is a better channel for living our Catholic identity in this vale of tears.

While not doubting that the Novus Ordo is a valid rite and not wholly ineffective, just not as good, and as one contemplates the parallel courses now charting between the world and the Church, one could be prompted to scratch one’s head.

After all, Vatican II was supposed to bring about a new springtime of Catholic life.  That hasn’t happened, and not because some people who decided to remain Catholic fought it.

No. The world and the smoke of Satan entered through those opened windows.

What do we all see now?  We see the highest of church officials consorting with one world government advocates and population reductionists and climate panic fomenters and homosexualists and disease terrorists.  Even lauding abortionists.

Powerful people are trying to control the food supply and force us to eat insects, which they are sneaking into prepared foods.  Others are trying to stomp out the Vetus Ordo and force everyone into the Novus Ordo.

Can we survive on crickets?  Sure.   Consider it fast food.  Ever try to catch a cricket?  I think we’d rather fast.  Can we survive on the Novus Ordo?  Sure.  But… in most cases it’s sort of like fast food.

I wonder if it is a coincidence that Andrea Grillo (“cricket”, hence “Mr. Cricket”) is one of the chief enemies of the Vetus Ordo.   Crunchy food for thought.

From a reader…


There is a lot of content available online about confessions, marriages and fulfilling one’s Sunday Mass obligations at an SSPX chapel.  To our spiritual benefit, my family and I have made use of these permissions that Rome has generously seen fit to extend to the faithful. Nonetheless, I still feel a slight hesitation in going “all-in”, as it were, and making our local Society chapel our exclusive “parish” which serves as the focal point of our family life (inclusive of baptisms, confirmations, CCD, altar serving, social clubs, general involvement, etc.).

Is this hesitation justified?

A few clarifications, which most already know.

Firstly, as great as they are, SSPX chapels are not parishes.  That’s a technical term.

However, it is a term that is losing meaning.  Parishes are being combined or merged.  People leave territorial parishes and drive across entire counties to go to another church where they “register”, which does not one jot change their canonical status (unless it is a national or personal parish).  And there are, indeed, personal parishes without boundaries.  What the heck is a parish?  A parish is a portion of the people of God, sometimes circumscribed by territory, sometimes not.  It seems that the only reason parishes are important anymore is for the reception of old bequests and for determining which pastor, parish priest, has the right to marry, or can delegate, and where marriages, etc., are to be recorded in the official books.

So… what is a parish?  The way diocesan bishops treat them in this time of priestly drought, who knows?  It seems as if the only solution they have is to shut them down or merge them.  They absolutely AVOID trying anything like… tradition.  They’d rather see a smoking crater filled with bleach and salt than a happy community of young families who thrive on the Vetus Ordo.   To be fair, occasionally a wise bishops gives a dying church to a group like the FSSP.  Then interesting things happen.  But FORFEND that they should be given TWO parishes!

That said, as a father of a family you have responsibilities that surpasses your obligations toward a territorial parish.  You, not the parish or the bishop, are chiefly responsible for the spiritual, religious upbringing of your children.  You have a vocation to help your wife get to heaven.  You are obliged to find the best means to accomplish these goals.

All things being equal, it would be better to be involved in a diocesan parish where you can find all the good things you need.

Are things “equal” where you are?  That’s the big question.  Thus, your “hesitation”.

Bishops are making all things very unequal, because many of them are crushing out the Vetus Ordo from parishes.

Hence, if you stick to the purely diocesan route, if you are genuinely not able to go to a parish for the Vetus Ordo, you might have to go to a chapel with none of the things you want from a parish.   If there is such a chapel.

So, a dilemma.

  • Go to an SSPX chapel which functions pretty much like a normal parish ought to, with all the activities that a parish would provide (and the Vetus Ordo).
  • Go to a diocesan approved chapel for the Vetus Ordo, but have little or nothing of the parish life you want.
  • Go to a regular Novus Ordo parish and, probably, also not have the regular things of parish life that you want (sound preaching, frequent confession, activities with other strong identity Catholics).

Sure there are exceptions, but we need to be reductive to make a point.

I understand that you hesitate.  You should not have to make such a choice!   This has been inflicted on you by those who ought to be helping you.

You have to make the call, friend.

What I find execrable is that bishops are putting people into this quandary when they don’t have to.

If you leave the gate open on purpose, and the cow gets out, then you wanted the cow to get out.

If a bishop takes away the Vetus Ordo (or make it really hard to people to travel to one) such that their only alternative is to go to the SSPX, and then they go to the SSPX, he wanted them to go to the SSPX.

Or he wanted to break their hearts.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. rhig090v says:

    I will be praying for the writer of this question. I can personally empathize 100% as I have found myself in this same position a couple of times.

  2. Grant M says:

    I had the same trilemma pre-covid:

    1. Parish Novus Ordo. Good music, good choir, mix of old, young and babes in arms, and the overflow sitting in the courtyard, but the inevitable versus-populum orientation of the the priest, and communion in the hand from numerous EM’s.

    2. Diocesan TLM. Various locations, but always within one hour’s travel by bus.

    3. Monthly SSPX.

    Then came Covid, and for eighteen months from April 2020 to October 2021 the only Masses I had were virtual ones courtesy of YouTube. Post covid my parish church reopened- but not for people my age. The diocesan TLM seemed to have fallen victim to TC, so that left only the monthly SSPX Mass, at which attendance has risen from about 20 people on average pre-covid to about 80 now.

    It’s ironic that I was initially so hesitant about attending an SSPX Mass back in 2016, and now it is my only option!

  3. WVC says:

    While I respect the SSPX, I continue to look for any excuse to not move my family to one of their chapels. For one thing, I sold my house and moved so that I could be close to my current parish, and that’s where my wife is buried. For another, I hate the idea of giving up any ground to the enemy without making him work very hard to take it. While I fully expect my diocese to completely abolish the TLM after this current 2 year window of partial reprieve is over, I don’t want to make their job easier by vacating the TLM in the diocese before then. The contrarian in me also resists the idea of going to the SSPX since that’s exactly what they want me to do.

    That being said, eventually I will need to have some of the younger kids Confirmed, and I feel that it is unjust to treat the SSPX like a Sacrament-a-la-carte shop. If I expect them to be there to provide the sacraments we need, to some degree we owe them our prayers and support. So, within the next 3 or 4 years, I think justice will compel me to make the switch.

    However, when that day comes, I plan to stand by my wife’s grave with my children to swear a blood oath that we will take back our parish church. I don’t care if it takes 3 or 4 or 5 generations, or if by then there’s little left but a hollow wreck. May my great-great-grandsons take it back, fix it up, and once again offer the Vetus Ordo. Deus Vult.

  4. Lurker 59 says:

    The only way things are going to get better in the NO is through the laity changing the life of the diocesan parishes. Conservatives/Traditionalists, by the very nature of being such, tend to want to leave others alone and be left alone themselves. There can be an unfortunate expectation that those above them will do things right and all they have to do is to receive. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to become activists but they do need, to repurpose a phrase, become the change that they can believe in.

    So I would add two additional points of consideration:

    1.) In regards to what is lacking at your local NO: Can you fix anything there? Do you have any talents that you can use to make things better for others?

    2.) In regards to the SSPX: What are you going to give there and not just consume?

    And a request: Do not forget to pray for your local NO parish. Pray for Pope Francis by name (he needs it). Even if you attend the SSPX chapel, you can still do things at your local NO parish to make things better for those left behind. (Pope Francis is trying to build a wall that separates orthodox Catholics from the spiritually abused post VII Church — the laity will have to be the bridge builders between the groups (since the pontifex maximus is choosing not to be one).)

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  6. B says:

    Going to a SSPX chapel is the easy way out. Gather other like-minded Catholics and apply pressure. Do things to establish the Mass again in the Diocese first.

  7. Tradster says:

    Speaking from the perspective of one who has been nearly exclusively affiliated with the SSPX (with a handful of unavoidable exceptions) for the past fifteen years, our small chapel is literally bursting with all of the new individuals and families who have arrived since the Covid stuff began. I can honestly attest that I have never heard even a single negative word against the new arrivals from anyone here – not our priests, seminarians, or laity. Everyone is happily welcomed. That said, though, we now find ourselves in desperate need of new construction for expansion. The point I am leading to is that, happily, most of the new arrivals are contributing their fair share and more but many are not. If you choose to attend SSPX services then please consider also donating whatever money and/or time and talents you can spare towards maintenance and improvements. Any free labors from the lay folk are blessed by God and reduces the amount of funds necessary to make our facilities better for you and your family.

  8. khouri says:

    I know that most TLM folks want the older Roman Rite but you can get everything mentioned (except in the vernacular) in an Eastern Catholic parish. Beautiful Liturgy, solid catechesis, and sometimes very friendly people. If one is nearby try that parish. Remember though that they have their own practice of Tradition and the Roman ways cannot be expected to be practiced there.

  9. makreitzer says:

    My husband and I only occasionally attended the TLM until COVID. When the diocese cancelled all Masses (They never locked the churches.), the only option was an SSPX-offered Mass at the fairgrounds in Winchester, VA. The priests traveled five hours round trip to serve us. When the churches reopened for Mass we prayed about whether we should stay with the SSPX mission. (We are now a chapel.) We decided we owed them a debt of gratitude we could never repay, so we stayed. The community is tight-knit, despite having only Sunday and First Friday and. Saturday Mass with occasional daily Masses from priests visiting in the area. There is a potluck every Sunday after the high Mass. There is a St. Martha’s Guild with division of labor for all the different needs: custodial, care of vestments and altar linens, social events, etc. The community is growing, but is still small enough for most of us to know each other at least by sight. We are still connected to our N.O. parish and recently attended the picnic. I had to laugh because there were as many or more at the SSPX chapel picnic and many more children. Since children are the future, I’d say the SSPX is in good shape.

  10. Athelstan says:

    If a bishop takes away the Vetus Ordo (or make it really hard to people to travel to one) such that their only alternative is to go to the SSPX, and then they go to the SSPX, [1] he wanted them to go to the SSPX. Or [2] he wanted to break their hearts.

    I believe there is a third possibility here: the bishop simply DOES NOT CARE.

    And I have good reason to believe that is the case with my own ordinary, Cardinal Gregory. There are…perhaps 1500-2000 people attending a TLM in the Archdiocese of Washington on a typical Sunday. During the the whole leadup to the decree in July, it had become apparent, including to key clergy, that he could care less if every one of these Catholics was lost to the Archdiocese, for good. That every single one could decamp to the SSPX chapel in Upper Marlboro. Or the FSSP in Baltimore. Or some TLM in Arlington. The fact is, notwithstanding its present red ink on the account books, the Archdiocese can survive without us. The cardinal’s pension will survive without us. What matters to him is that he keeps the approval of his managerial class betters, in Rome and the US episcopate as much as secular sorts in DC. He’s not really vicious, in the way that, say, the ordinary of Chicago is; he just doesn’t care what we do or what becomes of us. He’s a middle manager obeying HQ’s decision to phase out a product line.

    And perhaps, in a way, that’s the worst alternative of all.

  11. APX says:

    Wouldn’t going to an Eastern Rite parish be preferable above the SSPX if it’s available?

  12. APX: I get where you are coming from. I also deeply appreciate the Eastern Rites, which are beautiful.

    However, why should a Latin Rite, Roman Catholic be forced to go to another Rite simply to have a reverent Mass (aka Divine Liturgy)?

    What a sad situation people have been forced into. So unnecessary. So cruel.

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