SSPX. As I was saying….

I read something familiar at LifeSite in a piece about Bp. Athanasius Schneider’s remarks about the SSPX.

I have often explained in these electronic pages that…

  • 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.
  • If they can receive faculties they are not suspended.

The LifeSite piece said …

Pope Francis already granted SSPX priests faculties to hear Confessions during the Year of Mercy and continued that permission when the year ended. He then gave local bishops the ability to allow Catholics to be married by SSPX priests, in what was seen at the time as a path toward possible closer links with the Vatican.

Bishop Schneider referenced these permissions, saying, “How can a pope give to priests who are outside the Church canonical ordinary faculties? How can a bishop grant such faculties to a priest who is outside the Church?

Several other points in that piece can be underscored.

  • First, the SSPX isn’t doing anything other than what was done before the Council.
  • Next, “the society is not in “schism” nor is there an “excommunication” on members of the SSPX, he said, and thus “they are not outside the Church.”
  • Next, “when there is an emergency of faith, the canonical legal aspect is secondary and the first [priority] is the faith, the truth, and the liturgy and all this which the Church always kept, as it was in the fourth century during the Arian crisis.”

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.

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  1. Permission to grant absolution, and to seek the bishop’s approval to officiate marriages, are different from a licit celebration of Mass to satisfy an obligation. One might interpret this as using an unlawful means to accomplish a lawful end. That being said, and depending on the part of the country, there may be a genuine “state of emergency” with abuses against the sacred going unhindered, for which the Traditional Mass was up to now a remedy. Some canonists will argue (and already have) that the current restrictions change the situation, to the point where one can use such means to fulfill an obligation. However, the danger of a “schismatic mentality” is still very much there. [And I very much doubt that.]

    The Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, is an example of where restrictions have been applied, where up to now the TLM has been very popular, and where the SSPX is attempting to establish a mission. However, sufficient provision has been made (if not ideal) to provide for the TLM on days of obligation, and they have so far been very well attended.

  2. summorumpontificum777 says:

    I could be wrong, but the impression I get is that this pontificate’s war on the TLM is not really directed at the SSPX nor at the FSSP nor even the ICKSP (despite them being collateral damage in Chicago). The real target is the diocesan TLM. [EXACTLY RIGHT! As I wrote here for YEARS, the real renewal will begin when diocesan priests start to implement Summorum Pontificum in parishes. The FSSP and ICK are great, but it’s the DIOCESAN priests who are the key. They know this. Hence, they will even though the devilry of imposing moral injury on priests, try to snuff it out in parishes.] The powers that be in sunny Roma can tolerate a “trad ghetto” here or there. But the diocesan TLM in an ordinary parish church attended by ordinary parishioners is a bridge too far for them. Why? Clearly, they fear the “normalization” of the old rite. The diocesan TLM is dangerous to them because it’s accessible and convenient and constitutes a sort of “trad starter kit.” I’ve used this analogy before, but the TLM opponent sees the Vetus Ordo as the liturgical equivalent of cigarette smoking, a noxious habit of the past, yet one that inexplicably remains seductive and addictive. It’s tolerable if a few old codgers, weirdos and mental patients continue to light up their Lucky Strikes behind the retirement home or the psych ward. But they’ve got to keep this stuff away from polite society and especially the youth.

  3. HvonBlumenthal says:

    The Pope himself said that people who go to the SSPX Masses are “faithful” Catholics when he wrote:

    “Those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X” (Misericordia et Misera, para 12)

  4. JesusFreak84 says:

    One of Detroit’s SSPX priests has witnessed marriages in both that See and in Grand Rapids, he always submits all of the requisite paperwork to those Sees; never once since he’s been a priest has either See rejected those marriages. (Granted Detroit and GR are relatively lukewarm, if not always enthusiastic, about the VO. I doubt the SSPX priests in the Chicagoland chapel would get the same result out of Cardinal Cupich…) The GR Diocese TLM parish website’s language on marriages as of late has me wondering if VO marriages are still on the table; it seems like everything except the Mass is subject to utter and complete suppression if Certain People High Atop The Thing have their way of it =-\

  5. Cornelius says:

    As someone who has assisted at SSPX Mass for the last year or so I’ve never had any doubt that they were doing what the Church has always done and were 100% Catholic.

    That said, I think this whole “inside” and “outside” the Church thing has gotten horribly confused. One can be “inside” the Church in the external forum (like Bergoglio) but “outside” the Church in the internal forum (by not possessing the Catholic faith).

    The Church is jam-packed with inside/outside Catholics – those who are nominally Catholic externally, but faithless wolves internally (which eventually surfaces externally). MANY of the clergy are inside/outside Catholics. The “Pope”, for instance.

    So, to be “inside” the Church means holding the Catholic faith, not being in communion with “inside/outside” Catholics. I want NO communion with “inside/outside” Catholics.

  6. communio says:

    As for the Diocese of Arlington, is there an “emergency of faith” for most Catholics here? In Front Royal, the SSPX has a local Chapel. However, the local diocesan parish—and might I add, extremely faithful and extraordinarily Catholic—is offering TLM three times on Sunday and every weekday.

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  8. Gabriel Syme says:

    A great piece Father, thank you!

    Some great points made in the comments too, especially about how its chiefly the Diocesan TLMs which the current authorities are trying to snuff out.

    I have been attending an SSPX Chapel now for 10 years (how the time flies!). I also got married in my then parish, the same month (September 2012) I first visited the Society – so, two great decisions and two happy anniversaries this month in 2022.

    Before visiting, I read everything possible about the Society’s status – from Ecclesia Dei statements, to pronouncements of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos (then head of ED), the SSPX’s own arguments – in order to reassure myself against the cries of schism etc.

    What ultimately provided the most reassurance, however, was the huge flow of grace which comes from *the* Mass as well as the obvious Catholicity of the proceedings, environment and those present.

    At first, I tried every weekend to attend the novus ordo ‘vigil’ Mass at my then parish, then the SSPX TLM on Sundays. I didn’t want to leave the parish behind. However, that soon proved untenable – much like trying to enjoy glasses of fine wine and ditch water alternately.

    The TLM shows the average novus ordo up for what it is. And this one reason why “they” hate it so much, it gives the lie about the modern Church.

    I am sure not all Dioceses are as superficial and wishy-washy as the one I live in, and I am sure not every novus ordo Mass is a sham, but equally I am sure the modern expression of Catholicism (wherever it abounds) is greatly inferior to that expressed by our 2,000 year heritage.

    Thanks to the SSPX I learned to pray the rosary. I learned about the stations of the cross. I learned about Fatima. I learned about going to confession regularly and about indulgences. I learned that the Mass is a sacrifice and I learned that what I thought was elaborate wall paneling in Churches is actually the Altar of God.

    I learned a whole bunch of prayers I did not know before, which my grandmother could have sung out as a child. I learned that I was weak, selfish and feeble. I learned that God would never allow me to face trials I could not handle and that I could beat sin – if I really wanted to. I learned that I am in a battle for my soul.

    Contrast to what I learned in the mainstream Church / school – the rudiments of the nativity story, Our Father, Hail Mary, about the endless virtues of Protestants and about Bar Mitzvahs. I learned nothing, essentially. No wonder most people drift away as youngsters.

    There is no contrast. I would not take my kids anywhere other than the TLM – at both SSPX and Diocesan venues. Its important to support the good priests in the Dioceses – fight on both fronts! That is how we will win.

    Important to say that, in these 10 years, I have never experienced the slightest controversial thing at the SSPX – from clergy or lay people. Just pure Catholicism.

    Contrast to the mainstream Church, with (e.g.) Paglia defending abortion law in Italy, Francis explicitly denying the existence of Hell, Cupich giving Communion to non-Catholics, Fr Martin Etth Jay promoting homosexuality, the Germans trying to reinvent the faith (again) etc etc. Its never ending and its all going to hell in a handcart.

    People need to open their eyes – and hearts – and vote with their feet and wallets. Support good faithful priests, wherever they are found, and shun superficial “roman protestants” of which there are very many.

  9. Imrahil says:

    “Outside the Church” has, actually, always been absurd.

    It is an interesting theoretical question whether, technically, the state of suspension still applies or has been implicitly removed by the Holy Father’s grant of faculties. Even the latter might be the case. But in any case, the question is not much more than theoretical, given can. 1334:

    If a latae sententiae censure has not been declared which would either mean that the priests are individually sentenced by Church courts (and that does not happen), or else require a “lex SSPX” to say specifically that the suspension of SSPX priests be to be treated as a declared one (and there is no such law), the prohibition is also suspended whenever a member of the faithful requests a sacrament or sacramental or an act of governance; a person is permitted to request this for any just cause.

    Note that, in canonistic parlance, “just cause” does not mean what it might mean in the mouths of motivational speakers, and might perhaps be better rendered “not in itself unjust cause”. When the Church law means “in cases of grave necessity”, it says so. Going to the SSPX because you’d like to see the bunch of people that you know from there, or because the Mass is one hour later and you’d like to sleep in, or because they have a patronal feast, or because their music is better, or as a visit of solidarity “keep up the good work”, and the like: all these are quite just causes, and the list is not exhaustive.

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