What is the Status of the Society of Pope Saint Pius X (SSPX)

Bishop Athanasius Schneider claims that the SSPX are not schismatic. He points out that Pope Benedict XVI lifted the canonical excommunication imposed formerly by Pope Saint John Paul II. And then Pope Francis gave the SSPX priests full ordinary faculties for Confession, and the faculties for some of the Sacraments in some cases (marriages and Mass). Bp. Schneider also notes that, in the past, Bishops did not need to consult the Holy See in order to ordain a new Bishop. So he does not see it as a schismatic act that SSPX Bishops ordain new Bishops without permission from the Holy See.

Here is the video. It’s an interview of Bishop Athanasius Schneider by Taylor Marshall.

My reply is that a Bishop or priest in the Latin Rite, who is a part of a diocese in the Catholic Church, and who has all the faculties of a Bishop or priest, and who is not canonically excommunicated, can nevertheless by heretical and/or schismatic. And this includes a Bishop who ordains with the permission of Rome.

If any Catholic commits the sin of formal heresy or the sin of formal schism, or both, he is automatically excommunicated. And this is true for Cardinals, Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, theologians, scholars more generally, and everyone else. The SSPX continues to commit both of those sins, and so they continue to be automatically excommunicated for heresy and schism. If a Pope were to forgive them and restore them to unity, they would, in the next instant, be automatically excommunicated again for continuing in those sins. For as long as the members of the SSPX hold to heresy and refuse submission to the Pope and refuse communion with the body of Bishops submissive to the Pope, so long shall they be excommunicated.

The schism of the SSPX consists in refusing to accept the authority of the Popes from John 23 to Pope Francis, and refusing to accept the authority of the Second Vatican Council. The Council and the six Popes have the authority of Christ over doctrine and discipline. The SSPX refuses to accept their teachings and their decisions of discipline. That is schism. It is also schism that they have separated themselves from the body of Bishops.

The heresies of the SSPX include the rejection of the indefectibility of the Church. They think that the Popes and the body of Bishops have defected, that the Church led by the Pope and which includes most Bishops has gone astray in doctrine and discipline. And since the true Church is none other than the Church led by each Roman Pontiff with the body of Bishops, the SSPX is in fact claiming that the true Church has gone astray.

They think to avoid this sin of heresy against the dogma of the indefectibility by claiming that the true Church remains indefectible in them. But they have no Roman Pontiff. They do not include the body of Bishops. It is absurd for them to claim that the Church’s indefectibility is preserved in them. So what is left is the conclusion that their accusations (against the six Popes and the Council and the body of Bishops who accept the Council and the Popes) are against the true Church. They are contradicting the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church (as well as the dogma of the never failing faith of the Pope).

And as happens to all schismatics, especially those separated for a long time from the Magisterium, they fall into many heresies, as they no longer have the Pope and the body of Bishops to guide them.

An article by Rev. Fr. Benedict Hughes, CMRI lists some of the theological errors of the SSPX, as follows:
“* that the ordinary universal magisterium of the Church is not safeguarded by infallibility;
“* that the supreme authority of the Church can promulgate laws that are injurious to souls;
“* that the supreme authority of the Church can err in canonizations;
“* that the faithful must disobey the authority of the Church when they are convinced that it is in their best interests spiritually;
“* that the faithful must determine when they can obey and when they cannot obey the Church’s authority;
“* that it is up to the faithful to instruct and reform the authority of the Church, when it has gone astray;
“* that it is permissible to set up an authority different from and opposed to the Church’s authority for the guidance of the faithful (namely, the superiors of the SSPX);

Which of those errors are heretical? Rejection of the infallibility of the ordinary and universal Magisterium; rejection of the indefectibility of the Church, which includes that both her doctrine and her discipline cannot err gravely; and that the faithful should instruct and reform the authority of the Church when it goes astray. The latter error is also schismatic, as it allows the faithful to rebel against the Church’s authority by their own judgment. The alleged moral obligation to disobey the Church and set up a separate group, as SSPX has done, is a grave error but perhaps not heresy.

Archbishop Lefebvre, Sermon, Aug. 29, 1976: “The new rite of Mass is an illegitimate rite, the sacraments are illegitimate sacraments, the priests who come from the seminaries are illegitimate priests…”

The SSPX still holds this view, taught by Lefebvre, that all these things are illegitimate. That is schismatic, in that the Sacraments and priests are rejected, thereby forcing a separation due to this rejection of the Mass, the Sacraments, and the priests of the true Church.

And we don’t really know what all the heresies are that are taught in SSPX seminaries, as they are still very much a closed society. But as they remain in manifest obstinate grave sins of schism and heresy, they are automatically excommunicated.

Can we say that their heresy and schism is merely material? No. They deliberately and knowingly remain separate from the Pope and the body of Bishops. They know what the Council and the recent Popes teach, and they refuse to accept it. Neither will they accept any teaching of the Pope and the body of Bishops, under the ordinary and universal Magisterium, if it contradicts their own ideas. These are deliberate knowing rejections of Church teachings and Church authority. Hence, the acts are formal schism and formal heresy.

Will A New SSPX develop out of the current Schism?

Who said these words? —
“We are faced with a serious dilemma which, I believe, has never existed in the Church: the one seated on the chair of Peter takes part in the worship of false gods. What conclusions will we have to draw, perhaps in a few months’ time, faced with these repeated acts of taking part in the worship of false religions, I do not know. But I do wonder. It is possible that we might be forced to believe that the pope is not the pope.”

It sounds like a papal critic, accusing Pope Francis of idolatry or arguing against the document Human Fraternity. But instead it was Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the SSPX, speaking about Pope Saint John Paul II. In particular, he was upset about the ecumenical gathering in Assisi on October 27, 1986. And this gathering has become one of the accusations made by the Francis critics. See this OnePeterFive article, for example. The current papal critics are taking the same path, almost exactly, as the SSPX took.

And it will lead to the same destination, a separation where the papal accusers depart from union with the Holy See and the body of Bishops. They will then set up their own little group, or groups, each with their own few Bishops leading them.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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3 Responses to What is the Status of the Society of Pope Saint Pius X (SSPX)

  1. Rob says:

    The CMRI are sedevacantists. I would not consult them for ideas on what is and is not schismatic or heretical.

  2. walter boroski says:

    the church verses the sspx…why are we afraid of the society..They teach is the old truth of our church teaching..I seen how the 2 nd vatican councel stripped our church of icons, tabernacle placed out of view. made it into a Presbyterian looking church. I Attend the latin mass all the time. with our diocese having latin mass and 400 attending, and we have a sspx church also having 200 at 2 masses on sunday….young and older people…their is a need for this teaching…amen

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