Friday, September 23, 2011

Traditional Catholicism: Vatican Hands SSPX a Choice, it Seems ... Part I: SSPX History

Hello. Sorry if this is a little late but when you work a part time job at all hours and you try to catch up on sleep and trying to exercise, that's reasion "1 of 25" (not literally) why I don't write every day. Better yet, try to take an hour long jog running on concrete when you are fat and haven't done an outside run in weeks and ask your legs, "How yo doin boys". Yeah ...... No. They won't like you and you body will scream "I need a rest!".

Well, this is a #2 and a #3 today from my main topics to be covered: 2, which was popular items on the blogosphere, and 3 for Traditional Catholicism (TPs). Well, this is still popular as the topic of discussion is currenly ongoing, even though the big event happened last week. And yes, some later on may say I should have started with a nice easy piece like basic catechesis, but bloggers gotta jomp on those current event topics while they are popular in that moment in time.

For those of you who don't know, the Vatican has been in talks since last year with a traditional Catholicism society called the Society of St. Pius X. This group is devoted to TPs as well as traditional Catholic lifestyle amongst its adherents, that is the kind of social, educational, and religious atmosphere your grandparents has before the world went for a wrong turn in the 60's and Vatican II. Err what do I mean by traditional Catholic lifestyle? Well pictorally in their liturgies and community celebrations, I'll let that speak for itself here. SSPX is not the only TC society, institution, or prelate, devoted to TPs as there are others such as: The Oratorians of St. Phillip Neri (Toronto, Quebec, and elsewhere), Fraternal Society of St. Peter (Formerly Toronto but mainly the USA and Ottawa), The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (USA), the Institute of the Good Sheperd (France) and the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius (Specific states in the USA). However, SSPX is the most notorious/well known organization for TCs and TPs, also becuase of their interesting non-canonical status in the Church (Catholic but non canonically in line with Rome, yet not schismatic in itself. Rather the acts of its superiors were schismatic).

Seeing as I'm gearing this blog towards a more basic level, and new people interested in basic Catholicism, I say that to understand any significance of this event, we need to take a brief look at the history of SSPX in the Church. This will be brief as I'd rather spend the time getting to the main event of yesterday, and you can use your spare time to see a more in depth history via books from both pro-SSPX and anti-SSPX sides as well as Wikipedia.

So flashback to the 1970's-1980's post Vatican II. The "Spirit of Vatican II" (or in my opinion the gross misapplication of V-II's meaning and 16 major documents) was taking effect on Catholicism worldwide, combined with the social and political factors sweeping countries (e.g. the anti-war protests of the 60's in the USA with people being hippies, increased sexual deviancy disguised as normalcy thanks to Kinsey, increasing secularism and theological dissent, etc.) In France, a bishop who has been well noted in several Vatican II analyses and accounts, Bishop Marcel Lefebre, was not pleased at the spiritual and moral devastation occuring at the time. As generally noted after the "New Mass" or Novus Ordo came to creation and existience in 1969x, the Extraordinary Form(EF)/Tridentine Latin Mass (TLM) was disappearing at an alarming rate and many "changes were a'happening" that made him unsettled.

After some missionary efforts in Africa, He approached the bishop of Geneva and Fribourg, in France, in the 70's to start the SSPX. While the Society was growing and developing in the 70's, a number of times Church chergy at various levels were intervening, mainly becuase of the difference in theology of French bishops (that is they were with the new V-II theology and didn't take kindly to what was the "Old" mass). Eventually this all came to a head in 1988 in Econe, Switzerland, when without the permission of the Pope at that time, John Paul II (though different accounts will say that there was a lack of communication or obstinancy on part of the Vatican to grant that permission to ordain a bishop, or provide or a bishop for the Society), Lefebre consecrated (along with another bishop) 4 new bishops for the society. (1) This move however, violated the laws of the Church, also knows as Canon law in the following sections:
Can. 1013 No bishop is permitted to consecrate anyone a bishop unless it is first evident that there is a pontifical mandate. (2)

Can. 1382 A bishop who consecrates some one a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See. (3)
 Furthermore in the encyclical Ad Apostolum Principis by Pope Pius XII in paragraphs 40 and 41:
40. The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by divine right on the Supreme Pontiff comes to bishops by that same right, but only through the successor of Peter, to whom not only the faithful but also all bishops are bound to be constantly subject and to adhere both by the reverence of obedience and by the bond of unity."[14]
41. Acts requiring the power of Holy Orders which are performed by ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious. (4)

So guess what Levebre just did? Yep, he incured upon himself as well as the 4 bishops (and the other one accompanying him in that act) an excommunication. This led to Pope John Paul II not only establishing the Ecclesia Dei committee just from this sole matter, but he also created the Fraternal Society of St. Peter as a personal prelature to propose a canonically valid Extraordinary Form instituion in communion with Rome.

In terms of the priests and others in the society, this posed an odd conundrum. When consecrated by these bishops, because they were validly ordained prior to the excommunications, they still have a valid priesthood (you never stop being a priest when you are promoted to the order of the Bishop). This priesthood also extends to the priests they consecrate. However their preisthood, bishop positions, and any priests they consecrate, are illicit (as in they do things illegaly in the Church). Worse, what happened affects their sacraments also. Since they have a valid priesthood, they can consecrate they Eucharist illicitly though they say Mass properly with the correct form, matter, and intentions, but as for the rest of their sacraments, these are illicit because they are not done under the permission of the local ordinary in the Church: the diocesan bishop. There might by a few exceptions though. Catholic Answers forums at in the traditional section has yielded comments from 1-2 people saying their SSPX priest got permission from their bishop for their Sacraments, though this is extremely rare so as cannot be verified.

What about the common layman/woman in the Church? Well regardless of what happened in the 80's, a number of people flocked over to the SSPX in the wake of the "Spirit of Vatican II" because of artrocious liturgies done wrong in the Novus Ordo, confusion at learning the new mass, and the longing for the TLM. As for their masses, there has been clarification by the Vatican on this issue from a representative on Ecclesia Dei for the Pope, Cardinal Hoyos, with the latest response being from 2008 in a reply to a letter by Catholic Commentator Brian Mershon of

 "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 .... the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" cannot recommend that members of the faithful frequent their chapels .... We deeply ... pray ... reconciliation ... may come about, but until such time the explanations which we have given remain in force."
Q: Do lay Catholics who frequent Society of St. Pius X chapels, either more less frequently, incur any sin or canonical delict by doing so, if done solely out of devotion to the Church's Latin liturgical tradition and not to separate one's self from communion with one's diocesan Ordinary or local pastor?

PCED: "Catholics who frequent the chapels of the Society of St. Pius X do not incur any sin or canonical delict by doing so. However, we further refer you to what we have already stated ... above." (5)

Mershon Summarizes Hoyos' responses quite well as to the situation of laity who frequent SSPX chapels here:
5. Catholic laymen may attend Mass at a Society of St. Pius X chapel without committing any sin nor incurring any canonical penalty. However, the PCED guidance is that it "cannot recommend" attendance at the Society of St. Pius X chapels due to the danger of imbibing a "schismatic mentality." In other words, someone might find some Society priests fomenting division from full communion with the Church, their local Ordinary and/or the Holy Father in their sermons. The PCED's recommendation is not to attend their chapels habitually, but they acknowledge there is no sin committed nor canonical penalty incurred resulting from attending Mass at SSPX chapels solely out of the desire to worship according to the 1962 missal and in order to fulfill their Sunday obligation. (5)
 However, as you can see there is a severe warning attached. You can fulfill your SUNDAY OBLIGATION by going to the chapel, but it must not be done in a mentality/spirit of schism and by obligation, it is meant the requirement of going to Mass on Sunday. Furthermore, Catholic Answers through their apologetics magazine, This Rock (now self-titled), clarifies this issue in its question and answer section:

Q: Are the bishops and priests of the Society of St. Pius X validly ordained? If so, can someone fulfill the Sunday Mass obligation at an SSPX chapel?
A: Although ordained illicitly, the bishops and priests of the Society of St. Pius X are valid bishops and priests ....
The SSPX Mass, though gravely illicit, is valid and thus theoretically could fulfill the Sunday obligation when no valid, licit Catholic Mass is available. But because of the SSPX’s freshly schismatic state, it would be extremely imprudent to attend an SSPX liturgy, and it could cause scandal. When no valid, licit Catholic Mass is available, one is exempted from the Sunday obligation, so there is no need to try to fulfill that obligation at an SSPX chapel .... (6)

So to end the history part, what about the now? What about this last decade? The SSPX still has a a few seminaries in the world and also has a number of mission chapels or parishes/communities in the world, but especially the United States of America and Canada. But things have taken an interesting turn with the SSPX, much thanks to our Holy Father, Papa Benedict XVI (B16)!

- The Society was constantly saying they'd only consider communicating with the Vatican on few key conditions, with the two biggest ones being the liberation and promotion of the EF/TLM as well as  lifting the excommunications imposed on the Society's bishops.
- In 2000, when JPII was in charge, a number of SSPX priests went on a pilgrimage to Rome as part of the Jubilee, to show that they were willing to consider re-unification with Rome
- In 2007, B16 released a Motu Proprio document, Summorum Pontificum, which allowed for free use of the EF/TLM by all priests, regardless of their bishops permissions or intentions.
- In 2009, B16 lifted the excommunications of the remaining four bishops under that censure (Lefebre died in ...), however controversy surrounded this event as one bishop, Williamson, made anti-semitic statements denying gas chambers in the Holocaust and lowering the estimate of Jews killed in the massacre.
- With the two big conditions filled, as of Fall 2010, B16 set up a committee to engage in talks with the SSPX via representatives of the Holy See (the head being Cardinal Hoyos) to discuss the doctrinal issues surrounding the Society's reluctance to enter into full communion with Rome. These talks ended April of this year.

And that leads us to the main event that happened on Sept 14, 2011: The doctrinal preamble. I will discuss this with my positive commentary and my critican concerns of the matter in another post, Part II. YCRCM

Sources Cited (According to MLA Stule Guide, 5th Ed).:
(1) "Society of St Pius X," Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 15 Sept 2011 <>.

(2) Code of Canon Law, Catholic Church. 15 Sept 2011 <>

(3) Ibid., 15 Sept 2011 <>

(4) "Ad Apostolum Principis," Pius XII, 29 June 1958, Vatican, Italy, 15 Sept 2011. <>

(5) "PCED confirms officially: Society of St. Pius X within the Church, not in formal schism; Catholics commit no sin nor incur any canonical penalty for Mass attendance." Hoyos in Brian C. Mershon. Online blog. 23 Sept 2011. <>

(6) "Quick Questions" This Rock. 15.7 (2004).

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