Timothy Flanders, editor in chief of OnePeterFive, had proposed a “debate” on the SSPX. But the debate has ended. Flanders has sided with the SSPX, and against the authority of the Catholic Church. Flanders published this article: The SSPX Debate: Update. The “update” is essentially that the debate is over. The main person siding against the SSPX, and defending Church authority, at OnePeterFive was John Salza:
* Does the SSPX Have an Extraordinary Mission?
* The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier
* The Failed Defense of the SSPX – Reply to Bocca
But with his “update” article, Flanders has ended this debate. On the topic of the SSPX, I find John Salza’s articles to be generally correct and also insightful. Salza has done good work arguing against sedevacantism. However, he takes a position called “Recognize and Resist”, which is itself schismatic. I will also mention again that he false accuses me of taking the position that Popes are infallible in everything they teach, whereas I have asserted innumerable times that non-infallible teachings and decisions of discipline are subject to a limited possibility of error.
Regarding the SSPX, though, Salza is clearly correct and Flanders badly misrepresents the official position of the Apostolic See. Here is that position:
Letter by Msgr. Camille Perl Regarding Society of St. Pius X Masses, Jan. 18, 2003:
Msgr. Perl: “The priests of the Society of St. Pius X are validly ordained, but they are suspended from exercising their priestly functions. To the extent that they adhere to the schism of the late Archbishop Lefebvre, they are also excommunicated.”
Under the eternal moral law as well as Canon Law, anyone who commits the sins of apostasy, or formal heresy, or formal schism is automatically excommunicated by the very nature of the act (and by canon law). The sinner in this case cuts himself off from the Church (latae sententiae), and so no juridical judgment (ferendae sententiae) is needed, though one can also be issued. Thus, anyone who commits formal schism by rejecting the authority of the Roman Pontiff or the body of Bishops or the Church Herself is excommunicated.
All persons, whether Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, or laity, who adhere “to the schism of the late Archbishop Lefebvre” are excommunicated latae sententiae. Those Catholics who reject or resist the authority of Pope Francis, who reject Vatican II, who possibly reject other Popes and Councils, are schismatics. They are in a state of formal schism, since they are Catholics who know that the Church is one and has Her authority from Christ, and they know the requirement to submit to that authority. Praising Lefebvre and maligning Pope Francis does not excuse this sin.
Perl: “Concretely this means that the Masses offered by these priests are valid, but illicit i.e., contrary to the law of the Church.”
The SSPX priests are validly ordained, as are the priests of the Orthodox Christian Churches. But these SSPX priests are not incardinated in a diocese, and do not submit their minds and hearts to the Roman Pontiff, nor to the body of Bishops. The entire SSPX keeps itself apart from the Apostolic College and its head, the Pope. Thus, these priests are not offering Mass licitly, though the Mass is valid and the consecration of the Eucharist is valid.
In answer to the question “Is it a sin for me to attend a Pius X Mass”, Msgr. Perl states: “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.”
So it is possible to attend an SSPX Mass without sin, as for example when a Catholic does not have access to a Mass that is licit and valid, celebrated by a priest with proper faculties, who is in communion with the Roman Pontiff. However, many who attend SSPX Masses are knowingly and willingly following Lefebvre in his schism. They oppose the Second Vatican Council and they oppose the Popes since that Council, especially Pope Francis. Such persons are attending an SSPX Mass as part of their opposition to the Pope and the other Bishops.
I say a video with Timothy Gordon and “Catholic Boss” (which I can’t find off-hand). These two men had just attended Mass the previous weekend with their families. They are each strong proponents of the traditional Latin Mass. (And Gordon’s position on Pope Francis is not entirely orthodox.) But since the TLM was not available to them that weekend, they attended a Novus Ordo Mass. This is the correct position for faithful Catholic adherents of the TLM. If you prefer the TLM and it is available, attend. If it is not available, show your communion with the rest of the Church and attend a Novus Ordo Mass. It is licit and valid. The SSPX Latin Mass is valid but illicit. The faithful should prefer the Novus Ordo Mass over an illicit Latin Mass. Those who reject the Novus Ordo Mass utterly are schismatics. The Church is indefectible. She cannot be leading the faithful astray by means of this “new” form of the Mass, a forma approved by all the Popes since Vatican II.
Msgr. Perl: “You also state in your letter that the Holy Father has given you a ‘right’ to the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal. This is not correct. It is true that he has asked his brother Bishops to be generous in providing for the celebration of this Mass, but he has not stated that it is a ‘right’. Presently it constitutes an exception to the Church’s law and may be granted when the local Bishop judges it to be a valid pastoral service and when he has the priests who are available to celebrate it. Every Catholic has a right to the sacraments (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 843), but he does not have a right to them according to the rite of his choice.”
So says the then-Secretary, later Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED). The Latin Mass is not a right. The Church has the authority to decide the form of the liturgical rites.
Rev. Msgr. Camille Perl, Vice President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED), responded with a letter dated May 23, 2008, to an inquiry by Brian Mershon on the status of the SSPX. Here is an article explaining these communications.
Asked about statements that the SSPX is not in formal schism, Msgr. Perl clarifies: “Statements made by Cardinal Castrillón need to be understood in a technical, canonical sense. Stating that the Society of St. Pius X ‘is not in formal schism’ is to say that there has been no official declaration on the part of the Holy See that the Society of St. Pius X is in schism. Up to now, the Church has sought to show the maximum charity, courtesy and consideration to all those involved with the hope that such a declaration will not eventually be necessary.”
The clarification is that the SSPX does not have a sentence of formal schism official declared against them. Note that Pope Saint John Paul II excommunicated (ferendae sententiae) the four schismatic Bishops who were ordained by Lefebvre, and Pope Benedict XVI lifted the formal excommunication. However, they remain in schism by their own choice, and so they remain under a sentence of automatic excommunication (latae sententiae). The lack of a juridical sentence of excommunication does not excuse or justify their continued refusal to submit to the authority of the Second Vatican Council, the recent Popes, and Pope Francis. Such deliberate knowing acts of refusal of subjection to the authority of the Church are per se schismatic and carry the penalty of automatic excommunication latae sententiae.
Perl: “The bishops of the Society of St. Pius X are excommunicated according to the prescription of canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law which states that ‘A bishop who consecrates someone a bishop without pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.’ ”
Perl: “The priests of the Society of St. Pius X are validly ordained, but suspended, that is prohibited from exercising their priestly functions because they are not properly incardinated in a diocese of religious institute in full communion with the Holy See (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 265) and also because those ordained after the schismatic Episcopal ordinations were ordained by an excommunicated bishop. Concretely, this means that the Masses offered by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X are valid, but illicit, i.e., contrary to Canon Law.”
And now here is the 2008 statement by Perl regarding attendance at an SSPX Mass, which clarifies or updates his earlier 2003 statements:
Perl: “While it is true that participation in the Mass at chapels of the Society of St. Pius X does not of itself constitute “formal adherence to the schism” (cf. Ecclesia Dei 5, c), such adherence can come about over a period of time as one slowly imbibes a schismatic mentality which separates itself from the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff and the entire Catholic Church. While we hope and pray for a reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” cannot recommend that members of the faithful frequent their chapels for the reasons which we have outlined above. We deeply regret this situation and pray that soon a reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X with the Church may come about, but until such time the explanations which we have given remain in force.”
The SSPX is not in full communion with the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, nor with the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops. Refusing to attend Mass at one’s own parish and in one’s own diocese, either because one resists Pope Francis or one does not accept the Novus Ordo Mass, is schismatic. Pope Francis has the authority of the Vicar of Christ, as do all the successors of Peter. The Novus Ordo Mass is licit and valid. Fleeing from the one Church to the SSPX simply because the Latin Mass is unavailable in your diocese is schismatic. It is a rejection of the licit and valid Mass called Novus Ordo Mass. Regular attendance at an SSPX Mass is a near occasion of sin, as one could “slowly imbibes a schismatic mentality which separates itself from the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff and the entire Catholic Church.”
The mere attendance at an individual Latin Mass of the SSPX is not itself a sin. But those who praise Lefebvre and follow him, in opposition to the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis are per se schismatics who are automatically excommunicated.
The Letter of Pope Benedict XVI makes it clear that the SSPX are not in communion with the Pope or the Church. Benedict speaks about his prior decision to lift the ferendae sententiae excommunication against the four Bishops ordained by Lefebvre. But he also states that these Bishops are called to return to communion, and that they have not yet done so. The reason for this lack of communion is “essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes…. The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society.”
And here is the final assessment of the status of the SSPX by Pope Benedict XVI: “The remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline: the individuals were freed from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level. The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”
The debate about the SSPX at OnePeterFive was never a real debate, as the editorial board and the editor in chief had already sided with the SSPX against Pope Francis and the Church Herself. OnePeterFive permitted some articles by John Salza, and in my view he clearly won that debate. And so Flanders, in response, has ended the debate and declared in favor of the SSPX — contrary to the official decisions of the Apostolic See.
The claim by Flanders that 1P5 is siding with PCED is false. Flanders says that the editorial board “considers the stance of the formerly-named Ecclesia Dei commission to give authoritative answer in this regard. Namely, any Catholic can commune at an SSPX chapel with no sin whatsoever.” From the above quoted texts, it is clear that what Flanders says is not true. Some who attend Mass at the SSPX sin gravely by schism and by formal cooperation with that schism. Some sin by near occasion of those sins, through repeated attendance. Some sin by their interior disposition while attending an SSPX chapel, as they attend in rejection of the Novus Ordo Mass and the authority of Vatican II and Pope Francis.
Pope Francis has granted to the SSPX the faculty to hear confessions and, in limited cases with permission of the local ordinary, to witness at a marriage or to say Mass at a marriage (2017 Letter). However, it was also made clear that these concessions are made to a group that is not in full communion with the Church.
Flanders badly misrepresents the position of the Apostolic See on the SSPX.
Flanders says: “In this case we cannot find grounds to dissuading any soul from communing at the SSPX, according to the competent authorities in this matter.”
Clear and compelling grounds are stated above.
Flanders: “But Mr. Salza’s assertions about canonical mission have a direct bearing on whether one can fulfill one’s Sunday obligation at an SSPX chapel. This is ultimately the most important bottom line, as many faithful are faced with difficult decisions as their Latin Mass is shut down in various places. Ultimately the editorial board at OnePeterFive remains unconvinced by Mr. Salza’s arguments….”
Flanders and his board have ended their always-fake debate on the SSPX. Flanders, Kwasniewski, and others at OnePeterFive are schismatics themselves. Flanders rejects the indefectibility of the Church, and accuses the Church of three periods of “pornocracy” including the current period from Vatican II to Pope Francis! His position is worse than that of the SSPX, which explains why he thinks they are not so bad. Kwasniewski has rejected Vatican I, II, and Lateran V, and Lyons I, and has accused many different Popes of grave failings of faith and grave errors, contrary to dogma. Flanders previously boasted that his board includes an avowed Lefebvrist: “we must unite the clans in a common effort for Tradition. At OnePeterFive, we support this effort and do not scruple to have an avowed Lefebvrist on our editorial board. All confess the dogmas of the Catholic faith, and all seek to restore Tradition, even when we disagree on difficult and doubtful matters.”
Schismatics do not confess all the dogmas of the faith, for these dogmas include the indefectibility of the Church, the charism of truth and never-failing faith of the Roman Pontiff, and the unblemished Apostolic See. So the schismatics at OnePeterFive and SSPX are also heretics. The authority of the Church is dogma. The clans that Flanders seeks to unite are heretics, schismatics, and various dissenting Catholics, who are united not by faith but by their complaints against the Church.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.
Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.
Well done. Thanks for providing the quotes from the original key documents which shine a bright light on these matters.