Rorate Caeli

A Stunning Mea Culpa Regarding the SSPX

We recently brought you the not-so-ecumenical words (post here) of the Diocese of Richmond in regards to the status of the SSPX -- a society the diocese declared "schismatic."

Now, a clarification from the diocese:

Diocesan statement regarding article on the Society of St. Pius X

recent article in the Catholic Virginian on the Society of St. Pius X and the seminary it is constructing in Buckingham County contained inaccuracies.The article correctly stated that the society was founded in 1970 by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary is one of several seminaries operated by the society. The society is not in regular communion with the Holy See (or the Bishop of Richmond).

These points need to be clarified:

  • • The seminary is currently located in Winona, Minnesota and is relocating to Buckingham County. Mass is not regularly offered at the Buckingham location at present. 
  • • Our former Holy Father, Benedict XVI, never personally declared that doctrinal differences stand in the way of regularizing the canonical status of the society; nonetheless, the regularization has yet to take place.
  • • The Masses offered by priests of the society are valid. Other Sacraments celebrated in the chapels of the society are considered valid, with the exception of Penance and Matrimony, which are, at best, doubtfully valid.
  • • It is not clear that the society is in schism, and it is not properly called a “sect.” In recent years the Holy See has recognized the society’s expressed desire for regular communion with the Roman Pontiff and the Church he shepherds, and the Holy See’s dialogue with the society since 2009 demonstrates the Church’s commitment to unity.

Several additional points should be made when discussing the Society of St. Pius X:

  • • It is necessary to distinguish between the priests, brothers, and sisters of the society, on the one hand; and the lay faithful who attend Mass at society chapels, on the other hand. The former are clearly in an irregular status. In regard to the lay faithful who attend Mass at society chapels, there has never been a statement by the Holy See that these people are in schism. In fact, the Holy See acts toward them as it does toward all the Catholic lay faithful.
  • • It’s also necessary to distinguish between acts that are invalid and those that are illicit. Acts are illicit when they go against the Church’s law. Still, acts that are canonically illicit may be valid, and, in the case of the society, the ministerial acts of their priests may be illicit and still be considered valid by the Church.
  • • Finally, a comment should be made regarding the Sunday Mass obligation of Catholics. The faithful do not properly fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation in chapels of the society, as the celebration of the Eucharist presupposes not only communion with the Lord, but also communion with the Church He founded, and the hierarchy who govern the Church by Divine mandate. [Rorate note: the Vatican, especially the PCED, has been nothing less than schizophrenic on this issue over the years, with letters answering questions on whether the obligation is met with "affirmative," other letters answering "negative" (for "Friends of the SSPX" chapels) and yet other letters completely punting on this issue. Then there's that pesky Canon 1248.] 

The Church’s unity is best served when the whole truth is communicated. We regret the errors in the article. Let us pray for restoration of the unity of all Christians in Christ, and that the Society of St. Pius X will be reconciled with ecclesiastical authority.


  1. Very Impressive!!!!

  2. I sincerely fail to see why this is stunning.

    The Diocese of Richmond is clearly not on the same page as Rome and current Canon Law, when they say:

    "Finally, a comment should be made regarding the Sunday Mass obligation of Catholics. The faithful do not properly fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation in chapels of the society"

    One either fulfills the Holyday obligation, or not.

    There is no Church law or precept that state's one fulfills the obligation "properly".

    There is nothing substantially new here in this statement by Richmond.

    Both, current Canon Law of the Latin Rite and the "Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei" acknowledge that SSPX Mass, "in the strict sense", fulfills the Holyday obligation.

  3. Anonymous1:30 PM

    Dan, there is much that is stunning, overall that a diocese would completely reverse nearly everything it said publicly at the SSPX.

    And, no, the PCED has not recently said in a "strict sense" it fulfills the Sunday obligation, which is why we said they have been schizophrenic on the issue.

    See our post here, where they answered in the negative whether it fulfilled the obligation:

  4. "Dan, there is much that is stunning, overall that a diocese would completely reverse nearly everything it said publicly at the SSPX.

    And, no, the PCED has not recently said in a "strict sense" it fulfills the Sunday obligation, which is why we said they have been schizophrenic on the issue."


    The whole point of that original "Richmond Catholic" article was to the point that SSPX Mass do not fulfill the Holyday obligation.

    All other statements they made were to bolster that incorrect point.

    The reason why I put "in the strictest sense" in quotations is precisely because it is a quote from a letter I received from the PCED in answer to my query on SSPX Mass fulfilling the Holyday obligation.

  5. Anonymous1:43 PM

    Dan, whether you believe that was the "whole point" of the letter or not doesn't matter. The fact is they made other claims that were false, then admitted they were false. And that, we believe, is stunning in many ways.

    And, again, you have a letter that says one thing from the PCED, others received letters that said the exact opposite. We're not making a statement on whose letters are more right or hold more weight -- we're simply saying there are varying views from the same office depending on what day it is.

  6. It is truly a blessing for the Diocese of Richmond, generally very hostile to the SSPX, to acknowledge and clarify the writing on this issue. I'm praying that a more friendly relationship will ensue.

  7. Amen, great article & correction. Let us pray that the Truth will be preached Truthfully.

  8. The diocese conceded the "stuffing" but did not give up the "turkey".

    As to your second point, Adfero, agreed.

    The only "consistency" coming out of the PCED these days, is inconsistency.

    The juridic confusion continues.

  9. It also needs noting that significant sections of the modern church are in de facto schism in not handing on The Faith as given to us by The Apostles and guaranteed by Sacred Tradition, prefering rather to teach contrary to The Roman Catholic Faith.

  10. I really fail to see how this is good when the Diocese of Richmond continues to deny the right of Catholics, who have the right, under Canon Law, to fulfill the obligation at SSPX Masses.

    There is nothing new of this major import that Richmond concedes.

    Another fruit of the wrong implementation of "collegiality".

  11. Lord, how I wish the SSPX would come to Steubenville!

  12. I am fairly certain that the affirmative opinion of fulfilling one's Sunday obligation signed by Msgr. Perl many years ago has never been rescinded or supplanted by the PCED, and was the last statement released by Rome.

    There have been many statements since then, but none, including the documents related to lifting the excommunications in 2009, states that one cannot fulfill your Sunday obligation IF THERE IS NO CANONICALLY APPROVED TLM WITHIN A REASONABLE DISTANCE OF YOU.

    That said, unless you drive to the FSSP parish in Richmond, there are few or no "approved" TLM locations in the entire western half of the Richmond diocese... one of the reasons I don't live there anymore.

  13. True humility and fantastic

  14. Anonymous2:39 PM

    Glendon, again, that's not true. See our post. This came out last year:

  15. True Humility would be the Bishops of the world providing Traditional Latin Masses [not the misnomer "Extraordinary Form or MEF"] to every Vicarate in every diocese so EVERYONE would have access to the Mass of almost all canonized saints.

    Then there would be much less of a need for unauthorized Masses.

  16. Anonymous2:44 PM

    Well done to the souls who barraged the Diocesan offices to get it corrected.

    However more work is to be done...

    Other Sacraments celebrated in the chapels of the society are considered valid, with the exception of Penance and Matrimony, which are, at best, doubtfully valid.

    This is completely unacceptable, doubtfully valid?!? The Consecrations were valid (four Bishops were consecrated), therefore any ordinations made by these Bishops are valid, therefore the Sacraments offered by the Priests are valid. It's all valid, there is no doubt about the validity of the Tridentine liturgical rites. None of them are licit (legal) in the eyes of the Vatican, and so the lay faithful are called to believe that too.

    The same can be said of the Matrimonies, which are strictly speaking celebrated by the spouses, and only overseen by the clergy. The Traditional Form of Matrimony (as in the Rituale Romanum) is still valid, they are validly married, just not licitly. The Old Rites are valid today, yesterday and tomorrow. All of them!

    This Diocese needs to get it's Theology together!

    I suppose the Diocese would think that this Mass offered at World Youth Day Rio this morning is valid, with lay people elevating the Chalice during a "concelebrated" Mass... Right. The Horror Begins, World Youth Day Rio

  17. Pray for the SSPX and the Bishop of Richmond. Without Charity there will not be peace.

    The Devil loves it when Catholic's bicker, its so good for him when we are not focused on Holiness

  18. Adfero,

    That letter refers to non-SSPX indie Masses.

    Not SSPX Masses themselves.

    On a side note: does Canon Law trump what an Papal Commission says?

    In other words how can Canon 1248 say one thing and the PCED say another and it be valid?

    Wouldn't the Pope have to change Canon Law if the PCED stated otherwise?

  19. I wish the SSPX would come to Tucson. All we have is the Inst. of Christ the King.

  20. Anonymous2:56 PM

    Catholicscout, there's a difference with the sacraments.

    For matrimony and penance, those traditionally required communion with the local ordinary. The SSPX now says they have supplied jurisdiction because of the current crisis of the Church.

    That's where the debate lies, and the Vatican has never officially weighed in on this.

  21. Anonymous2:59 PM

    Dan, we explained that nuance in the original post. There is also the complete punting of the issue of whether SSPX chapels fulfill the obligation.

    As we said, the PCED is all over the place on this issue.

  22. For those who may think that validity is enough and liceity an added bonus, but not really all that important, take to heart what the Missale Romanum (1962) says:

    Si quis in peccato mortali aut aliqua pœna ecclesiastica impeditus, celebret, conficit quidem Sacramentum, sed gravissime peccat.
    -- De Defectibus dispositionis animae.

    "Aliqua poena" includes suspension. Note also "gravissime," which is decidedly stronger than "graviter."

    Anyone guilty of formal cooperation in grave sin (by approval, by consent, by defense of the evil done, etc.) likewise incurs grave sin.

    The hierarchical and magisterial structure of the Church is as much of divine institution as the institution of the sacraments. To deny this would be Modernism.

  23. Anonymous3:16 PM

    J.: "Anyone guilty of formal cooperation in grave sin (by approval, by consent, by defense of the evil done, etc.) likewise incurs grave sin."

    The PCED letter also said one does not sin by going to Mass at one of these chapels. Again, not saying what we believe is right or wrong, just restating what one of the letters say.

  24. "I wish the SSPX would come to Tucson. All we have is the Inst. of Christ the King."


    Why would you want an unauthorized Mass when you already have an authorized one?

  25. Anonymous3:29 PM

    Dan, I tried making the update on the "friends" point earlier, and had technical difficulties. It's Blogger, what more must I say.

    It's done now.

  26. Anonymous3:34 PM

    As far as fulfilling one's Sunday obligation at the SSPX - maybe the Catholic Virginian will make a correction to their correction!

    On a side note: It has been my experience that the SSPX reviews carefully a couple's intention to marry within their chapels to ensure the validity of the sacrament. The couple must in good conscience feel that they have no other option (AKA state of emergency).

  27. Anonymous3:35 PM

    Thank you for the feedback.
    I appreciate the requirement of communion with the local Ordinary(and please don't get me wrong I am firmly Ecclesia Dei, Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae, and have never attended an SSPX Mass - we need communion with the See of Peter and therefore the local Ordinary).
    But, I believe that you are incorrect.
    For validity, as St Thomas Aquinas points out, two things are needed, Form and Matter. The Form is the words (Ergo te Absolvo), the matter is the validly-ordained Priest. That is all that is needed to confect the Sacrament.
    We can see this in extremis, the validly-ordained, but laicised Priest can and indeed has the moral obligation to hear confessions (say on a burning down plane - Rituale Romanum - titulus II caput I - Sed in periculo mortis omnes Sacerdos, licet ad confessiones non apprebati, valide et licite absolvunt... [my emphasis]).
    Communion with the local Ordinary, is only a legal issue. Not a Sacramental one.
    Just to pick up another issue, being an Englishman, I live in a country where historically the local Ordinaries (bar the one that was Martyred) were not in communion with Rome. So it is not communion with local Ordinaries which is the fundamental legal requirement, rather it is communion with the See of Peter, through Ordinaries who are in communion with the same See.
    If the See of Peter says, the Traditional rites are not abrogated, but the local Ordinary forbays the Traditional rites (including Confession), is that Ordinary in communion with the See of Peter? It begs the question, what exactly is "Communion with the See of Peter" - if communion is just recognising that the Pope is the Pope, then why do we continue to consider the SSPX not in communion with the See of Peter, at least they acknowledge the Pope is the Pope!
    If it is a matter of obeying everything the See of Peter promulgates, then we condemn most of the Bishops of the world for disobeying the See of Peter! (Surely I need not cite examples...)
    God bless you sir.

  28. "Properly" is being used as a weasel word here. As in, "Technically it fulfills your Sunday obligation, but we don't think it's proper for you to fulfill it in that manner." But it seems to convey the statement, "It doesn't fulfill your Sunday obligation in the proper sense."

    Much mental reservation seems to be working through that one word.

  29. Anonymous3:40 PM

    Catholicscout, as I said, it's a debate, and Rorate takes no position on the matter. But you would be hard-pressed to find an FSSP priest who will tell you the SSPX absolutions or marriages are valid. Many FSSP priests' first duty with a married couple who were married in an SSPX chapel is to ensure their marriage is valid.

    Again, we take no position on this. Just relaying the facts of the debate and the Church has never officially weighed in on this.

  30. Regarding the validity of the Society's dispensation of the sacraments of penance and matrimony, it must be remembered that Church law requires a priest to have faculties (in addition to being validly ordained).

    Specifically, Canon 966 sec. 1 provides, "The valid absolution of sins requires that the minister have, in addition to the power of orders, the faculty of exercising it for the faithful to whom he imparts absolution."

    Canon 1108 requires the same (faculties from the ordinary or pastor) for a valid marriage.

    Thus, a priest who is validly ordained (i.e., priests of the SSPX), cannot dispense penance and validly witness matrimony without faculties from the local ordinary.

    In its statement, the diocese should have expressly noted that the invalidity of penance and matrimony in these circumstances is not because of invalid ordination, but due to a lack of proper faculties.

    The PCED has spoken on this issue, but I'm not sue how much weight can be attributed to these letters given previous inconsistencies. Fr. Z posted a 2008 response to inquiries about the Society's status and the validity of their sacraments here:

    1. Aye . . .faculties. ......

      Priests with their "faculties" intact join gay pride parades. .....go figure....

      Priests in diocese where some priests join gay pride parades say the novus ordo with all the ambiguities one day and say the "Extraordinary" form the next.....with not a hint of criticism to their "Pink Pals"......go figure that one as well. ....

      Better by far to support the SSPX.

  31. Poeta,

    Your statement makes sense.
    I understand more now.

    Its the typical doublespeak of some Church officials.


    I personally know of several FSSP priests who in turn know several couples married by the SSPX, and these FSSP priests have told me that they will not tell the couples to remarry as it will cause more harm than good.

    The couples have 6-10 children.

  32. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Causing more harm than good isn't a great answe to validly, neither is the number of children indicative of validity. That said, they could be valid. We take no position on a matter the Church must decide.

  33. It sounds seriously like someone has been told off by either the Ecclesia Dei Commission or by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    Regarding the final point, as I understand things *some* SSPX Sunday Masses provide fulfillment of Sunday Obligation, and *some* do not. I believe this depends mostly on each individual situation of each individual priest, those ordained prior to the excommunications and those providing Mass with the explicit permission of their diocesan Ordinary being in a different situation to others. But yes, the various pieces of advice given over the years from the Holy See are nothing if not confusing.

  34. Anonymous5:30 PM

    Wow. Major mea culpa--sort of! We wonder what cockroach got into his bathroom to make so suddenly such a clarification.

    As far as the Sunday obligations are concerned, he's still mistaken. Rome CDF/Ecclesia Dei already said fulfillment occurs, so any nay-saying on the part of this bishop is tossed to the wind as much of what most bishops say.

  35. Anonymous5:37 PM

    Bwangi Kilonzo said, Pray for the SSPX and the Bishop of Richmond. Without Charity there will not be peace.

    Yes, actual fraternal correction of the bishop(s) is also required in true charity. We're not idiots to think all of this kissy-nice stuff modern Catholics like to play off as being "charitable." Much of how Catholics conduct themselves nowadays is false charity.


  36. Anonymous5:50 PM

    Is this Bishop of Richmond suddenly feeling threatened? He evidently sees the number of vocations the SSPX has as opposed to his own. Bishops usually get defensive because in the backs of their minds they know the reason but are so inept at being able to reverse their decline or too obtuse to see of their way of thinking is vocation-killers.

    As our Governor used to say, "We don't want the girly-men."


  37. Anonymous5:59 PM

    JabbaPapa said, Regarding the final point, as I understand things *some* SSPX Sunday Masses provide fulfillment of Sunday Obligation, and *some* do not. I believe this depends mostly on each individual situation of each individual priest, those ordained prior to the excommunications and those providing Mass with the explicit permission of their diocesan Ordinary being in a different situation to others.

    Oh, please! No. Rome never split hairs over that point nor is the Faithful able to discern the individual priest's circumstances. Post a code in the vestibule? Father A is out of whack. Nobody go to his Mass. Father B, ok. Everybody go to his. Really?


  38. catholicscout,

    If form and matter were the only factors that can affect the validity of a sacrament, then there would be absolutely no ability to affect it by canon law. The Church has long claimed that sacraments supposedly celebrated contrary to certain canon laws are invalid. Marriage is the biggest one, and the automatic invalidity of a Catholic attempting to contract a marriage outside of the Church is pretty ancient. Either the Church has long been wrong about its power to affect sacramental validity through its laws, or we need to pay serious heed to canon law.

  39. You know, I am sick and tired of these ongoing debates as to whether SSPX Masses and other sacraments are valid or not. I really don't care as I will continue to go to SSPX Chapels because going there helps me lead a better life. I wish those "holier than thou" people would please leave us alone and use their excess energy saving their own souls.


  40. As was observed in other posts, even the issuance of such a statement by a diocese is remarkable. Any chance of trading Bishop DiLorenzo for Archbishop Myers, Newark, NJ and two Extraordinary Ministers to be named later?!

  41. How could marriages performed in an SSPX chapel be invalid, especially when at least one of the parties consistently went to Mass there, provided that both the bride and groom are baptized and have no canonical impediments? How could an SSPX priest not have the authority to absolve someone from their sins when traditional priests are actually ordained to forgive sins?

    As far as I am concerned, this notice from the diocese is a typical official notice of the hatred and persecution of the Traditional Latin Mass and Sacraments by the Bishop and most of the diocesan curia.


  42. "Better by far to support the SSPX"

    Even though they possess no faculties to absolve sins and witness marriage validly?

    They are good priests some extremely holy, but the validity of these two sacraments does not depend on personal holiness.

    Rather it depend on the Churches granting of the jurisdiction by Ordinaries or Roman authority, to absolve and witness marriages.

    Under perennial Church Law, Bishop Weakland can absolve my sins.

    Bishop Fellay can not unless I am dyng.

    Guess who is more faithful to the Churches teaching?


    It does not matter insofar as jurisdiction goes.

    Odd, but the way it is.

  43. Anonymous7:43 PM

    Chris, please read the numerous comments about jurisdiction for marriage and penance. You don't have to agree of course but the arguments are laid out clearly above.

  44. Oh my…..
    With respect to the validity of the EF Masses in NO parishes, this is what appears on the SSPX website:
    Certainly we cannot counsel our faithful to regularly participate in the Masses celebrated by priests of dubious doctrinal orthodoxy, even when offered reverentially. We must also warn them to not receive Holy Communion from a ciborium consecrated in the Novus Ordo Missae – for this is the Sacrament of unity and we cannot be in union with a theologically-deficient rite! There is also the constant danger of a strange confusion of rite and improper behavior which is so common in the mainstream churches and their accompanying irreverent rites.

  45. Dan Hunter and Adfero,

    Regarding the FSSP priests who think that it would do more harm than good to tell couples who married in SSPX chapels that they should "remarry" before a priest who has faculties/jurisdiction/delegation: These FSSP priests have in the past probably sought a sanatio in radice (CIC canons 1161-1165), which would retroactively validate the marriage by a decree of the local ordinary, even without the knowledge of the couple. In other words, the couple's marriage would be validated by decree while they are left in good faith. This is one proper solution.

  46. I must return to comment. I must! This statement obviously reflects a correction emanating from Rome. First of all, notice the formulation at the end regarding the fulfilment of the Sunday obligation. It does not say that one may not fulfil the Sunday obligation at a Society Mass. it says that one does not *properly* do so. Note the qualifying adverb! Note it well! The admission of Msgr. Perl had been positive: one fulfils the Sunday obligation there provided that one has no schismatic intent. Without denying this, once Müller arrived on the scene, the tune changed to this: we limit ourselves on this question and only say that one should not attend Society Masses. All readers note well: the use of that slippery English 'should'. What does it mean? It means that one ought not to do something but is not strictly forbidden from doing it; however, it looks more restrictive than it really is, almost implying a command.

    Secondly, note the new formulation about communion with the Church. First of all, as I've asserted many times before, all this talk about 'communion with Rome' is Protestant, specifically Anglican, terminology. Before the Council, The Church rarely used this formula and, when she did, one was either in communion or not. One was either Catholic or not, just as one was either pregnant or dead or not. There was no 'partial communion' except in the confused souls of Protestants. The concept of 'partial Communion' came from Anglican œcumenism and the liberals in NewChurch took off and ran with it after the Council, along with 'dialogue', 'discernment', 'outreach', 'Reconciliation' for Penance or confession and 'the People of God' for 'God's People'. Revolutions absolutely must have their own new terminology so that they can replace one perspective with another.

    What is fascinating about this statement is that it avoids the de rigeur nonsense-term 'partial communion' and instead uses the interesting new term 'regular communion'. Fascinating! What is regular communion? It can only mean full communion in regular, as opposed to irregular, authority and circumstances. This is close to an affirmation of the Society's claim that 'the Church supplies' when conditions are not regular.

    This interpretation is affirmed by the claim about Penance (which may never, under any circumstances, be called 'Reconciliation') and Matrimony. Notice this new statement! This is the first time ever, as far as I know, that Rome (ahem!) has ever admitted, even indirectly, as here, that Society confessions and marriages might be valid.

    Georg Ratzinger said that there were two things which his brother regretted not having finished before the abdication (not 'resignation': Popes abdicate). The first was the now-completed encyclical on the Faith. The Pope, being an intellectual, naturally wanted to get that right, even if few, sadly, will read it. The second is the resolution of the S.S.P.X problem. Then we see Bishop Fellay's opening to Rome in Paragraph Eleven of his recent statement, which is otherwise negative. It had to be otherwise negative to minimise growing divisions in the S.S.P.X.

    This is a smoke-signal from a hill. Bishop Ratzinger (his correct title and not some 'Emeritus' nonsense) is no longer German. He has abandoned his German nationality and has now decided to become a Cree or a Blackfoot. He has his blanket in hand and he is signalling over a fire at the top of the hill: the Society members are Catholic and this issue is not over.

    To be continued:


  47. Part II, P.K.T.P.:

    The problem is that any deal between Bishops Ratzinger and Fellay, ratified by Pope Francis while Müller plays bad cop, will widen the split in the S.S.P.X. I suspect that Bishop Tissier de Mallerais will decamp to Bishop Williamson. Bishop Fellay was attempting to get approved a flawed agreement and Rome did not even accept that. I can't see how there can be a resolution on doctrine. It's back to postponing doctrinal disputes and reaching an agreement on jurisdiction. If Bishop Fellay agrees to a personal prelature without an exemption from Canon 297, the S.S.P.X is finished as an crucial force in the traditionalist cause. There absolutely must not be a right of local bishops to prevent implantatiions of Society apostolates in the respective territories of their sees. There must be an international diocese or ordinariate or personal apostolic administration, or else an apostolic delegature at Rome. It's back to Square One. If Bishop Fellay makes any attempt to accept to accept a p.p., I will scream my head off on every blog and site on the internet: I would attack him ferociously. It must be a diocese or its equivalent.

    The problem with all of this is that a postponement of doctrinal disputes can only be achieved, according to Bishop Fellay, if the Society be granted the right openly to question Vatican Two non-infallible doctrinal claims and those who advance those claims. I can imagine Bishop Ratzinger agreeing to this provided that such criticism be made in a respectful way, 'avoiding all polemics', to use the standard terminology. Terminology is important. As I've asserted here before, except for the professional theologians involved in fundamental issues, expression is prior to content and not the other way around: how we express the terms of an issue largely determines our essential beliefs in that issue. That's why God's people should never, in our minds or mouths, become 'the people of God', inverting the proper order between God and man.

    Anyway, the problem will be that this sort of a deal will not meet with approval by a goodly portion of the S.S.P.X. I'm not sure how numerous might be the dissenters but two parties will want the resistance to be large: first, the dissenters themselves, of course; and secondly, the liberals. The liberals are sitting on the side-lines and praying for a huge split in the Society that will neutralise it.


  48. Added Point:

    Bishop Ratzinger is not dead; the peritus of Vatican II is not dead and sleepeth not. This letter, a reversal of the earlier statement of the chancery dimwits at Richmond, must have come from Rome, likely from the pen of a certain Archbishop in the P.C.E.D. and perhaps at the direction of someone else, higher up, but I don't mean Müller. He's the bad theologian in a good theologian - bad theologian game.


  49. Anonymous9:03 PM


    Thanks but I don't think anyone should be waiting for Pervert Weakland to do any emergency absolutions. He's got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, so he won't be out and about to lend a hand. ++Fellay, on the other hand, gets around far more and the chances are greater for a holy encounter.

    There's an SSPX chapel not far from my place, so if I was dying, would my family call our parish priest or the SSPX?

    Hmmm... parish, SSPX? Parish, SSPX...?


  50. Matt,

    If you were dying any validly ordained priest can absolve you.

    I would go to an SSPX priest if that were the choice.

  51. It is striking, as Adfero says, to see such a complete reversal by a diocese on questions like this.

    The question of attendance at SSPX Masses, and whether they fulfill the holy day obligation - which is what occasioned all this affair in the first place - is not as clear in this statement as it could be. It seems to me that Msgr. Perl's January 19, 2003 letter remains the best sense of Rome's position on official (not independent affiliated) SSPX Masses and whether lay Catholics may attend them, and under what conditions:

    "Can I fulfill my Sunday obligation by attending a Pius X Mass" and our response was:

    "1. In the strict sense you may fulfill your Sunday obligation by attending a Mass celebrated by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X."

    His second question was "Is it a sin for me to attend a Pius X Mass" and we responded stating:

    "2. We have already told you that we cannot recommend your attendance at such a Mass and have explained the reason why. If your primary reason for attending were to manifest your desire to separate yourself from communion with the Roman Pontiff and those in communion with him, it would be a sin. If your intention is simply to participate in a Mass according to the 1962 Missal for the sake of devotion, this would not be a sin."

    Nothing that Ecclesia Dei has said since really contradicts this, to the best of my knowledge.

    Adfero adds: We're not making a statement on whose letters are more right or hold more weight -- we're simply saying there are varying views from the same office depending on what day it is.

    True enough, but this is not because anyone is changing their mind, but because there are differing factions in the Holy See, jockeying back and forth to make their views predominate.

  52. P.K.T.P. said:

    "This letter, a reversal of the earlier statement of the chancery dimwits at Richmond, must have come from Rome, likely from the pen of a certain Archbishop in the P.C.E.D. and perhaps at the direction of someone else, higher up,"

    I do hope you're right.

  53. The letter states that:
    Our former Holy Father, Benedict XVI, never personally declared that doctrinal differences stand in the way of regularizing the canonical status of the society; nonetheless, the regularization has yet to take place.

    Pope Benedict XVI wrote in July 2009 in Ecclesiae Unitatem:

    "However it is clear that the doctrinal questions remain, and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church."

    So was Pope Benedict saying that there did not need to be agreement on doctrine but simply clarity on the questions/differences ???? How can you differ in doctrine and claim communion?

  54. Can I just note that the Diocese of Richmond has TWO (yes, two) parishes given to the FSSP, and that there are a few diocesan priests who are favorably disposed towards the traditional form of Mass? My guess is that the correction for the original diocesan statement on the SSPX seminary came not from Rome, but from the FSSP or one of the other diocesan priests who are a little better informed on the subject.

  55. Dear Mr. Gerardi:

    Why on earth would the F.S.S.P. want to clarify that attendance at Society Masses fulfils the Sunday obligation? If it does not "properly fulfil" it, then it improperly fulfils it; therefore, it fulfils it. The careful distinctions we see here suggests the hand of Archbishop Di Noia. We have 'regular communion' in place of full communion and we have 'does not properly fulfil" in place of fulfils or does not fulfil. We have the evasion about the state of schism. This likely emanates from Rome.

    I don't think that Bishop Ratzinger is just settling in to permanent retirement now to listen to Mozart. The hot Roman summer is not a place for retirement, and he prefers Heaven to Tahiti.


  56. Great to hear from you again Mr.Perkins and in great form!

    Don't stay away ... for too long....

    "I don't think that Bishop Ratzinger is just settling in to permanent retirement now to listen to Mozart.The hot Roman summer is not a place for retirement, and he prefers Heaven to Tahiti."

    Priceless!Yes -I' sure you are right...

  57. Anonymous11:25 AM

    Paul, who is your grammar comment addressed to?

  58. The whole question of the "validity" of SSPX confession is idiotic. It has not only been adjudicated by Rome in favor of the SSPX on numerous occasions, but the Code of Canon Law makes it explicit that the faithful may receive the sacrament of penance whenever it is physically or morally necessary (or simply "spiritually advantageous") for them to do so. I quote:

    Canon 844.2 "Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ's faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid."

    The bottom line is this: if you are a serious Catholic living in a diocese where you are scandalized (i.e. your priests support gay marriage, your bishop supports pro-abort politicians, you find the liturgy revolting, etc, etc, etc... which probably includes 90% of all serious Catholics today!) you may approach the Society any time you wish. This isn't MY interpretation; this is ROME'S interpretation. There have been numerous cases of Catholics "excommunicated" by the local bishop for their allegiance to the SSPX, and those faithful who have cared to appeal such declarations to Rome have been vindicated in EACH AND EVERY CASE.

    What is true for the sacrament of confession is also true for the sacrament of marriage.

    For seven years, I lived near St. Mary's, Kansas, and I knew of many cases where couples married by SSPX priests received validation documents from Rome FASTER than than couples who were married outside the Church, and then later by a diocesan priest, or who had gone through an annulment and marriage process, or had some other irregularity to amend. SSPX sacraments were, and have always been, simply "rubber-stamp approved" by various Church commissions and offices.

    Even as far back as the early 1980s, nobody with any knowledge or authority in Rome EVER considered the SSPX to be outside the Church, or any SSPX sacraments to be invalid.

    The ultimate irony here is that Archbishop Lefebvre strongly objected to Canon 844, and yet it has become the greatest protection for the faithful in SSPX parishes.

  59. "...the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid."


    The problem here is confessions and marriages are NOT valid in SSPX churches.
    So how can you approach these Catholic ministers?

  60. A priest in my Dioocese, Erie, PA confirmed at Mass that there are priests in this Diocese who DO NOT believe in the real presence! How many Catholics in my city attend Mass on Sunday and DO NOT receive a valid Eucharist?

    It is clear, the Church hierarchy will have no common sense thinking going on by their sheep. Just believe their lies until the bitter end.

  61. "opere operato is a Latin phrase meaning "from the work done" referring to the efficacy of the Sacraments deriving from the action of the Sacrament as opposed to the merits or holiness of the priest, minister, or participant.

    In modern usage, the phrase often refers to the idea that sacraments are efficacious in and of themselves rather than depending on the attitude either of the minister or the recipient. For example, Confirmation might be held to bestow the Holy Spirit regardless of the attitude of both the bishop and the person being confirmed."

    1. Dan, ex opere operato pertains to the reception of grace after one receives a valid sacrament from a minister in a grave state of sin or similar circumstance. That does not wave the necessity that there be proper matter, form, and intention for validity. Without intent, which is logically deficient in a non-believing priest, the sacrament is invalid.

    2. Anonymous3:21 AM

      No. "Intention" means the intention, at least implicit, to do what the church does, in confecting a sacrament. The validity of a sacrament does not depend on the subjective faith of the minister which may waver. If we had to rely on the priest's personal orthodoxy for a sacrament to be valid, we could never be sure of any sacrament's validity. There is a presumption that, if the church's rite is followed, the priest "intend(ed) to do what the church does", unless he actually manifests a "postive contrary intention".

  62. "The bottom line is this: if you are a serious Catholic living in a diocese where you are scandalized (i.e. your priests support gay marriage, your bishop supports pro-abort politicians, you find the liturgy revolting, etc, etc, etc... which probably includes 90% of all serious Catholics today!) you may approach the Society any time you wish."

    How true. In addition, with this recent mea culpa from the Richmond Diocese it puts the SSPX in a completely new light for me. The mass offered at SSPX chapels are valid, and I find no stronger defenders of Catholicism than the SSPX priests.

  63. Can. 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.

    §2. If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families.

  64. So, Dan Hunter, despite what Rome says, you must maintain that the sacraments are valid in the schismatic Orthodox Church (and Canon 844 was clearly intended to reassure Catholics to the contrary) but NOT valid among the merely irregular SSPX? Strange...

  65. Anonymous4:30 PM

    A word of caution: however wonderful the SSPX is made to be (and in some respects there are), a bitter cultishness and schismatic spirit is in evidence at least in *my* part of the world (Southern Africa District). When conservative local priests responded generously to Summorum Pontificum, we were instructed officially by the SSPX to boycott these, even if it meant missing Sunday Mass (as in my city it did). Not just no attendance at novus ordo, but even non-sspx TLM's were "out of bounds" at all costs.
    Other examples:
    1. We were instructed ONLY to confess to a non-sspx priest in danger of death. If we were conscious of mortal sin even, we were to make an act of perfect sorrow and await the visit of the sspx priest a couple of weeks later - this a matter of POLICY and in a diocese with many conservative priests.

    2. Marriages between SSPX and non-SSPX Catholics are classified as "mixed marriages" and to take place in the sacristy.

    3. A couple had their baby baptised in the old rite by the old rite-saying, "diocesan" non-sspx priest uncle. The sspx vocally supported the grandparents in boycotting the baptism as "a terrible betrayal" - granted, this was an isolated incident.

    I would be unsurprised if a similar "extra sspx nulla salus" mentality is widespread. By all means find the TLM and solid preaching there - but don't forget you will also find a very bitter "them and us" mentality that sees themselves as the only true Catholics, who see the FSSP et al as the most wicked of beings, not to mention other predilictions characteristic of sects with a messias complex.
    To be sure, all too often, the sspx is ones best bet in heretical or rotten dioceses. But the islands of sanity and orthodoxy and orthopraxis that exist quite apart fron the sspx milieu are usually scorned and rejected by the milieu.
    Do you yearn for the sspx? I sympathise. But you will quickly find they will try to wean you off your sympathy and admiration for anything or anyone else other than themselves.

  66. Anonymous4:38 PM

    By all means admire the SSPX and the good it admittedly does. But be warned: a sectarian, even cultish spirit is commonplace.
    In South Africa attendance at non-sspx TLM's is verboten - even if it means missing Sunday Mass. SSPX and non-SSPX marriages are classifed as "mixed" and blessed in the sacristy. Conscious of mortal sin? Act of perfect sorrow and await the SSPX visit 2 weeks hence, despite the presence of TLM-saying, ultra-orthodox priests on ones doorstep. Non-sspx priests are allowed only in case of danger of death. These are official policy. Down on the ground, the situation is worse - SSPX grandparent and relations, with the vocal support of their priests, boycotted the old rite baptism of their grandchild/nephew by the child's diocesan but TLM-saying priest-uncle because he was non-sspx, the parents derided as "traitors".
    These are merely examples. I am convinced similar examples can be cited across the globe.
    By all means admire the sspx and seek the TLM and sound preaching from them - but also expect them to wring any kind of admiration you have for anyone or anything other than them - out of you! "Extra Sspx nulla salus!"

  67. Dr,

    The SSPX are Catholic, therefore they have to abide by the laws of the Catholic Church.

    The laws of the Catholic Church in the case of absolution and marriage require that the minister of these two sacraments be given the juridical power to administer them, ALONG with the power of Orders they possess.

    This jurisdiction is not needed for a priest to validly administer the other sacraments.

    The laws of the Latin Rite Catholic Church do not apply to the schismatic Churches.

  68. Dr. Williams,

    Why do you want the SSPX to go to Steubenville? I assume it's because you want it to open some chapels there. Years ago, I enrolled in theFranciscan University of Steubenville's MA program in Theology. Then, a few weeks later, I withdrew from it partly because my ecclesiology professor assigned two Neo-modernist books, The Splendor of the Church by de Lubac and von Balthasar's Razing the Bastions, along with T.S. Eliot's Protestant book called "Christianity and Culture." Those titles troubled me deeply then as they still do because de Lubac and the other priest believed that New Theology, the one that Pius XII condemns in Humani generis or in Mystici corporis Christi.

  69. To James: I too have experienced the cultish attitude you describe among some SSPX priests. I do not know how widespread the problem is, but I have reason to believe it is more widespread among anglophone priests and faithful of the SSPX than among the French speakers. I say this from personal experience, but it is only anecdotal. I can tell you that I have not hesitated to inform an SSPX priest he was flat out wrong when behaving in this manner. The SSPX cannot have it both ways: claiming to be "inside the Church" and at the same time pretending to have some superior authority to tell Catholics where they should or should not go to Mass. If I have to make a prudential judgement about where I should take my family to Holy Mass, I am not going to allow my local bishop to overrule me, and I certainly will not tolerate a lecture from an SSPX priest.

    To Bill: I would just like to have a reliable, unchanging, foolproof place to go to Mass, without having to deal with the whims of diocesan authorities. We have good options at the moment in Steubenville, but who knows how long they will be available? As for the university, they have never endorsed the TLM, and wasted no time upon the election of Francis to cut the Mass from weekly to monthly. Besides it is at the bizarre, marginalized time of 4:00 PM, in one of the world's most hideous chapels, so it really isn't much of an alternative.

    As for the "neo-modernist" readings you are concerned about, please remember that a professor doesn't necessarily endorse the views expressed in every book he assigns. As Mortimer Adler used to say, even the "Great Books" contain only a small amount of truth, and a great deal of error. I would imagine that even in a theology course, a professor presents many ideas that he does not endorse but of which students must be made aware. I seem to recall a few beautiful phrases in de Lubac and Balthasar, a few gems hidden in the midst of all the gibberish. But that's pretty normal for our state of confusion!

  70. The first thing Rome will do when SSPX is canonically regularized is an audit of its human and material wealth. How many traditional churches and chapels do they own? How many priests? How many seminaries? How many seminarians? How many parishioners? And what is the monetary value of these and all the other holy objects they possess (chalices, relics, vestments...)?

    Oops! Sorry about that! Really, I'm sure the audit has already been done (behind the scenes), and plans have been toyed with regarding what to do with the estate when it officially belongs to Rome. Apparently, the dowry (a mere drop in the bucket when it comes to the Vatican's financial mess) is not big enough for the marriage, and may even be dwindling. With a new seminary on the horizon, official interest has been piqued again, and many have an unfavorable attitude regarding what Rome will do.

    After canonical status is reached, Francis, in his humility (he has announced to the media that there is too much opulence surrounding traditional objects - and especially the beautiful churches in Rome) will put SSPX possessions up for sale as part of his world-wide sweep to pay off legal debts for unrepentant crimes against (whoever) by his perverted priests. Deciding that SSPX is improperly using its economic wealth and therefore threatens the common good, abandoning Traditionalists to worship in cement-block buildings would serve them right, eh? Forcing SSPX seminaries to worship and study the heresies of VII (as if they were Truth) is another progressive jewel renting the wedding garment.

    Yet, SSPX and other traditional Catholics will continue to be relentlessly portrayed as backward spinsters and demented, mean-spirited, aged, stupid, no-counts until all opinions of them have fallen to the lowest level. At which time the Holy Catholic Church will exist only in the eye of God, and not as any institution or corporation on earth: its members will live separately, only to reinstitute it once the last vestiges of the Vatican II heresies and perversion are destroyed. In the end, God wins.

  71. Dear Mr. Hunter,

    This article explains why the SSPX has suppled jurisdiction.



  72. Linda,

    I realize your comment has a bit of tongue in cheek in it, however:

    I don't think you understand how things work financially in the Church. Rome doesn't "own" much--most schools are incorporated entities, and dioceses are independently financed, as are parishes. That's why--I have heard--a pastor once found out that his parish owned valuable land, and he could sell it, and use it to restore the parish Church. The money stays in the parish. I am sure the SSPX is smart enough to protect their assets similarly, from civil and ecclesiastical authorities. It's somewhat standard procedure.

  73. Things must be clarified as to the function of the Church being a Teacher, Priest and Pastor. The situation calls for the application of the last two functions, being a Priest and a Pastor.

    Of course the problem goes back to Vatican II, when at the bottom end of a 700-year slide the Conciliar churchmen by abandoning Church doctrine split Catholic Truth from Catholic Authority, and by so doing discredited official Church authority that souls like those mentioned above no longer see the need for it. But central Church authority, given the natural diversity and original sin of all mankind, is absolutely necessary to ensure Church unity (and therewith survival) not only in the Truth but also in the sacraments and in Church government.(Bishop Williamson)

    That is why a bishop or priest needs not only the sacramental power of his Orders, power he can never lose for all eternity, but also the power of jurisdiction, which is the power of saying (dictio) what goes, or what is right (ius, iuris). This second power does not go with his Orders, and he cannot give it to himself, he can only receive it from on high, from a Church Superior, ultimately from the Pope, and the Pope from God. (Bishop Williamson)

    As to being a Priest, the ordination to Priesthood under the 1962 ritual carries with it the power administer the sacraments which include among others the power to forgive sins and bind marriage. The delegation or what they call faculties given by the local ordinary is not an indispensable requirement. On the contrary, under the Novus Ordo ritual, the ordination to priesthood does not carry with it their power to forgive sins and the power to bind marriage. Therefore, their priests must receive such power from the local ordinary to confer these two sacraments.

    However, as to its being a pastor, both the 1962 and Novus Ordo ritual, the power to govern must be received from the local ordinary for the Parish Priests; and from the Pope for the Bishops of dioceses.Therefore a Priest will rule his parish if the power is given to him by the local ordinary while the Bishop will rule a diocese if given to him by the Pope. This is the reason why SSPX Priests has no parishes and its Bishops has no dioceses since they have no power to confer among themselves jurisdiction over the faithful on specific canonical territories. Otherwise, they will be in schism just like the Patriotic Church in China, Aglipayan Church in the Philippines, the Orthodox Churches, and Anglican Churches (in their early years).

    The principles embraced during post Vatican II as to the faculties in the administration of sacraments will not apply to SSPX since the SSPX uses the 1962 ritual while the Conciliar Priests uses the GIRM of Post Vatican II and other Vatican II documents which lead to the promulgation of the 1983 Code of canon Law.

    Administration of sacraments is one thing, governance is another. The two must not be confused in judging the SSPX.

  74. James, I agree, but we should note that a positive contrary intention need not be overtly manifest. In fact, merely an internal intention on the part of the minister to not confect the sacrament would be sufficient to render it invalid. The theologian Msgr. J.M Hervé wrote: "For indeed, if there be any such, they are extremely rarely found, who have such malice that, while they perform the sacrament with serious exterior, they internally withhold the intention." To believe that administration of the external rite is sufficient for validity would be to fall into the error of Catharinus. Interesting read on the subject can be found here:

  75. I'm impressed that the diocese made the corrections. Can you image how embarresing it is for the Bishop of Richmond to have a huge SSPX seminary set up in his dioceses when he is probable struggling greatly to have adequate vocations to cover the needs of his diocese. I think this is a great move by the Society to show the strength of the vocations it has. In the Society the families are typically more open to life hence larger families which are typically raised very devotely and young men look to altar service as an honor the altar boys are taught great reverence in the TLM are more open to a call to vocations. That's my experence anyways. One small TLM parish in my dioceses had more men going to seminary than all the other Novus Ordo parishes put together. The thing is these young men did not want to have anything to do with the dioceses. You will know them by their fruits.

  76. The Mass of Tradition is the Mass of Christian Unity. The Mass of Tradition is the Mass of the future!

  77. I often wonder if back in the 3rd and 4th century during the Arian Heresy when the majority of Bishops were preaching heresy if you these types of conversations occured? I think these types of things have been going on from the beginning of the Church, it will be interesting to see how this eventually turns out. When our great grandchildren look back at what side of this debate we were on and who eventaully was right and who was wrong. I think Archbishop Lefebvre will one day be canonized, we shall see. He reminds me of Athenasius to some degree, I wonder who will be the Arias in this drama? Voltare vs. Erasmus anyone? Will the Vatican II Popes be looked upon as the Renaissance Popes? That would be sadly ironic in the case of John XXIII wouldn't it?


  78. @Michael Ortiz : Unfortunately, I'm deadly serious. When Obama told Snowden's Russian captors they would not seek the death penalty, they did not fulfill S's demands: request to be free from torture and death. Believing VII is a BIG MISTAKE, and anyone who falls for their "offers" is a fool. SSPX included.

  79. The Church has been schizophrenic since the close of Vatican II. It is unfair and disorienting to the lay Faithful. The contradictions are sickening at this point. Many, many speak out of both sides of their mouths. No wonder so many walk away from the Church.

  80. It is inaccurate to claim that Sunday mass at an sspx chapel does not fulfill Sunday obligation. This matter has been studies by the Vatican and they affirm its fulfillment of obligation. This presupposes a simple question, sspx not valid but schismatic Eastern Orthodox are? Silly, SSPX works within canon law which mandates such action when the church as a whole falls into general apostasy.

  81. Personally speaking, I can understand the trepidation over the status of the SSPX.

    If you're the kind of person like me who, growing up, attended the Novus Ordo but found they preferred a different form of the Mass, I can sympathise with the desire to attend the Extraordinary Form.

    However, it is my experience that it is a very short jump from very traditional to bordering on schismatic, or even downright heretical.

    Tradition is a good thing- but I have known those who took it too far, declaring the entire post-Vatican II Church a "heretical V-2 cult" deprived of a Pope, priests, or any valid sacraments, and all its members automatically bound for Hell.

    The number of people I have found within the context of Traditional Catholicism is not negligible, and their reasons.. compelling for those on the particularly staunch side of Tradition.

    In general, my opinion of the Society is less than favourable, due to likelihood of strolling towards sedevacantism and a more unsavoury kind of Feeneyism.

    Personally, I would rather attend the Novus Ordo when I can't go to Liturgy, if only because of the tendency of some Latin Traditionalists to adopt a condescending attitude towards Easterners like myself.

    But mainly, I highly advise treading carefully when dealing with organisations like the Society- whether it is true or not, I cannot deny that I fear the SSPX leans too close to sedevacantism for comfort.


Comment boxes are debate forums for readers and contributors of RORATE CÆLI.

Please, DO NOT assume that RORATE CÆLI contributors or moderators necessarily agree with or otherwise endorse any particular comment just because they let it stand.


(1) This is our living room, in a deeply Catholic house, and you are our guest. Please, behave accordingly. Any comment may be blocked or deleted, at any time, whenever we perceive anything that is not up to our standards, not conducive to a healthy conversation or a healthy Catholic environment, or simply not to our liking.

(2) By clicking on the "publish your comment" button, please remain aware that you are choosing to make your comment public - that is, the comment box is not to be used for private and confidential correspondence with contributors and moderators.

(3) Any name/ pseudonym/ denomination may be freely used simply by choosing the third option, "Name/URL" (the URL box may be left empty), when posting your comment - therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to simply post as "Anonymous", making debate unnecessarily harder to follow. Any comment signed simply as "Anonymous" will be blocked.

Thank you!