ASK FATHER: Is it a sin to contribute for a side altar at an SSPX chapel?

From a reader…


Is making a sponsorship to an SSPX church a sin, if one doesn’t support being in Schism.  I have a deep love for Our Lady of Guadalupe for example and would like to support the side altar in her honor.

I assume that the SSPX chapel has a plan to create or renovate a side altar and a collection is being taken up.

A couple things.

First, we cannot accept the premise.  The SSPX, the claims of dilettantes notwithstanding, is not in schism.  When proper authority issues a proper decree properly composed and promulgated, we can review this.  Until then, charity dictates that people should back off and attend to their own affairs.

Second, is it a sin to give material support to an SSPX chapel?  If it is from devotion to Our Lady, I cannot see how it would be sinful.  Also, if one is receiving services from that chapel, then it is a matter of justice also to give it support.  If you go to any regular parish that is not your local or personal parish, you should – if you can – give it commensurate support, even if you are a one time visitor.  The same applies to an SSPX chapel.

I, and you, touch on the motive.  Love of Our Lady is a good motive.  However, it might be that some who attend an SSPX chapel or a certain kind of diocesan parish are doing so out of spite or a less than Christian reason, unlikely as that might be.  In that case, the problem runs deeper than a moral quandary about giving material support.  That sort of thing should be confronted in a serious examination of conscience and then brought to a confessor for guidance.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. redneckpride4ever says:

    After sporadic attendance for a couple years at my state’s only SSPX chapel, it became like praying the Mass with family. As much as I love hearing stories about a Traditional Church packed to the brim, there is something serene about moderate turnout with mostly people you know. That and it’s on a wooded backroad, adding to the serenity.

    Given my screen name one should not be surprised of my preference for secluded rural areas and having kinfolk.

    I didn’t start going to spite the Diocese or the like. I offer prayers of support for the FSSP and IBP parishes in our state from within the SSPX church because, in spite of some spotty history among those groups, we are all Catholics together trying to do the right thing.

    Truth be told I had 2 equidistant options for TLM, but the SSPX doesn’t have Mass until 2PM, making a 90 minute trek each way far more manageable, especially as a parent.

  2. dallenl says:

    I would assume that a donation to a SSPX chapel would be much like a donation that the Catholic Near East Welfare Assn makes to Eastern Churches, not in union with Rome. That being the case, absent some visible promotion of disunity, a donation to a church we hope will return to full Church discipline one day would not seem out of order.

  3. cmfzed says:

    Father, thank you for your thoughts on this. I have found your posts about the SSPX supremely helpful as someone new to the old Mass. One hears things in places and it’s hard to know whether the pitchforks and torches are real or imagined. When we travel we check to see if the Society has a chapel or priory nearby. We have found their “Crisis In the Church” podcast series most illuminating.

  4. JustaSinner says:

    What’s the difference from donating to catholic charities that siphon some off to Planned Parenthood (baby killing since 1974!tm)

  5. campello says:

    This was very helpful, and educational. Thank you Fr Z.

  6. eamonob says:

    Father, would you ever consider doing a dialogue about the status of the SSPX on Pints With Aquinas, Reason and Theology, or the Logos Project?

  7. redneckpride4ever says:


    I hate to say it, but after Cassman thumped Bartel in a debate all thise guys started making damage control videos. Sorry if this sounds uncharitable, but I truly believe they’d pull the same stunt of Fr. Z.

  8. eamonob: I’ve said what was necessary to say about it here. If they can’t get it from that, they are unwilling to get it.

  9. Gabriel Syme says:

    In January 2003, the then ‘Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei’ (PCED) was asked whether it was a sin to contribute to an SSPX collection at Sunday Mass.

    The response was that making a contribution “could be justified” and so was not a sin.

    In the same response, PCED also clarified that attending an SSPX Mass fulfilled a Catholic obligations in that regard.

    At the time (20 years ago) PCED also said they “did not recommend” attending an SSPX Mass. But they clarified it was not a sin and it would only become so if you were purposely attempting to separate yourself from the Church by doing so.

    (The notion of attending the SSPX to escape from the Church is hilarious in retrospect, its like going to a bar to get sober!)

    Obviously, in those 20 years, the wider perception of the SSPX has changed considerably for the better, although they still have not received a formal canonical recognition. This is despite having over 700 priests and having most recently accepted a record 79 new seminary entrants. The canonical recognition issue is, I believe, pure politics – just like the Church’s absurd flip-flopping on the Traditional Mass.

    Despite this unsatisfactory point, we can look to:

    (i) regular meetings with Popes Benedict and Francis, involving SSPX Superior Generals Bishop Fellay and later Father Pagliarani

    (ii) Summorum Pontificum (while it lasted) and the notable growth of tradition in the wider Church

    (iii) Francis’ positive moves regarding SSPX confession and marriage

    (iv) Increased recognition and interaction with Prelates from the wider Church. +Vitus Huonder in Switzerland retired from his diocese to an SSPX Seminary. +Phillip Egan in England made a formal visit to an SSPX school in his diocese. Cardinal Brandmuller and Bishop Schneider made visits to SSPX seminaries in Germany and the USA. +Schneider has often highly praised the SSPX, saying there is “no weighty reason” why they should not have a formal canonical recognition.

    And so while Catholics should be aware of the canonical recognition point, I think that attending an SSPX Chapel should be of little concern otherwise (especially compared to 20 years ago).

  10. eamonob says:

    @Gabriel Syme

    John Salza looked into that letter and said it was, as all letters like that are, addressed to a specific person’s situation, not to the faithful at large. That person had no Catholic church near them and were told they could attend the SSPX chapel in that circumstance. He said he reviewed dozens of other letters that stated it does not fulfill the Sunday obligation.

    I pray for the reunion of the SSPX, but they still hold some very problematic views. Most concerning is their official stance that the Novus Ordo, a universally promulgated and accepted missal, is intrinsically harmful to souls. They even had a post on their website calling its validity into question. They advise their parishioners to not even attend diocesan TLMs or FSSP and ICKSP.

  11. Gabriel Syme says:

    @ eamonob

    I do not know John Salza, but I am very skeptical that the Church authorities would give different advice to different people regarding the same matter.

    The situation has evolved slowly over many years and we must be careful to always consider the most recent advice / development and not out-of-date information.

    Nevertheless, I understand and respect your caution on the matter, which is warranted. I too was very cautious around the SSPX, until I took the plunge. Thanks to them, I now go to confession often, I learned to pray the rosary, I learned about Fatima, I experienced beautiful and moving liturgy, I learned what it was like to feel inspired or challenged by what I heard from the pulpit, and many more positive things.

    I have attended the SSPX (and diocesan TLMs) for 10 years and to date have visited them in four different Countries. I have never heard them criticise other traditional orders. In my experience, they work with diocesan priests and una voce behind the scenes, for example teaching the 1962 liturgy and lending items.

    In my experience, all the SSPX talk about is Jesus Christ and what we need to do to get to Heaven. It really is wonderful and such a breath of fresh air from “dialogue”, ecumenism, “accompanyment”, synodality, “listening Church” and all the rest of the empty buzz-words of the modern Church.

    Ultimately, Canon Law only requires that one “attends Mass in a Catholic rite” in order to fulfil their obligation. The SSPX satisfy that requirement. (NB – I am not a Canon Law expert and would always bow to those who are). Its a pretty easy bar to clear and so it should be – Canon Law exists for the benefit of Catholics, not to “catch us out”.

    I do not think the SSPX is wrong to hold those views on the Novus Ordo Missae. It is clearly not what Vatican II envisioned and – in my opinion – represents a “bait and switch” where, under cover of Vatican II, the Catholic Mass was jettisoned and replaced with a direct import of protestant worship.

    Its usage has devastated the Church in many places and those people who do still attend Mass are often found (like protestants) to have wholly secular values. No better examples than Biden and Pelosi, two so-called Catholic abortion-Mad LGBT advocates.

    I acknowledge, of course, that people of good will still attend the modern Mass and good priests still offer it. However, looking at hard data, it is not credible to view its introduction and subsequent results as anything other than a total failure and complete disaster for the Church. And so, to consider it harmful is not so outlandish.

    The TLM aims to catechise us and reinforce our beliefs. The Novus Ordo aims to “be like the protestants”.

    The architecht of the Novus Ordo, +Annibale Bugnini famously said we must remove from our prayers any part which is a stumbling block to protestants. When you think about it, you realise its Catholicism which is a problem for protestants. I suggest this is a deeply unhealthy and misguided starting point for anything pupporting to be a Catholic liturgy.

  12. eamonob says:

    The reason PCED gave different answers to different people was because that letter in particular, as I have seen it explained, was from a Catholic who did not have access to a Catholic church in his area and inquired if he could attend SSPX on Sunday. The response was yes, he could fulfill divine law by attending SSPX in that case. So the question didn’t pertain to attending SSPX in place of an available diocesan Mass. There are other letters that do say one cannot attend in place of a diocesan Mass.

    The problem with the SSPX and the NO is the position that the missal itself, even when celebrated reverently in Latin, ad orientem, etc is harmful to souls. That position necessarily attacks the indefectability of the Church since it claims the Church can officially promulgated a missal accepted by all the world’s bishops that is harmful to souls (the society even goes so far as to call it “evil”). They even question whether it is a valid Mass. I don’t believe this is a position that falls within Catholic orthodoxy.

  13. redneckpride4ever says:


    Wow, sounds like Salza has really amped up damage control.

Think, proof read, preview BEFORE posting!