Recently, I wrote an article regarding the Society of St. Pius X, or SSPX. The response was mixed, as I expected, with some support and some… do not support…
I myself am not a Facebook user, therefore I do not keep a close eye on the comments, but every once in a while I will check the comment section through my wife’s Facebook account. I will not be engaging with the commenters on Facebook, frankly, I am too busy, but instead I will offer a general response to some of the more pronounced objections to the SSPX.
Once again, it is not my intention to be an SSPX apologist on this blog. That said, it is difficult for me to leave certain untruths unanswered when I am in a position to do so.
In full disclosure, my family and I have begun to attend an SSPX Chapel, and I cannot see us going back to the Novus Ordo, unless necessity requires for our Sunday Obligation. We have no criticisms of our local clergy or fellow parishioners, but after witnessing the beauty and grandeur of the Mass of All Time, it is clear that the Latin Mass and the surrounding community is truly the breeding ground of Saints. I want nothing more than to be a man of God, a saintly father to my children, and a leader in faith to my wife, and this is why the SSPX exists. In a world where our Church seeks new ways to evangelize, more modern forms of worship and constantly debases itself in search of “dialogue”; it is the Traditionalist orders who seek to form the faithful in the manner that every Saint in history has been formed. If the Latin Mass was good enough for St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Athanasius, and St. Joan of Arc, then it is how my family and I will serve the Lord.
Now, onto the objections to the Society as per my last article. The two main themes of objections can be boiled down to two types. First, that Vatican II was completely infallible, and any objection or dissent means you are no longer Catholic. And second, that the SSPX is in schism, and therefore not Catholic.
I will answer the second objection first, as it is the easiest. It must be noted that there is a mountain of literature on this subject, and once again, I recommend visiting www.sspx.ca to see for yourself. Here you will find refreshingly objective information and publications that explain the Society and their place in the Church. At the end of this post, I will also add other helpful links to explain in more detail the things I may mention in this piece. At any rate, we do not have to be Canon Lawyers, or Archbishops to easily see that the priests of SSPX are Roman Catholic. The Vatican has never said that the priests themselves were excommunicated, even when the bishops were (controversial ruling aside), which means they were never outside the Church, which meant they have always offered Catholic sacraments. Furthermore, the Ecclesia Dei, a department of the Church that handles Traditional orders, has said on multiple occasions that attendance at an SSPX chapel fulfills Sunday obligation. In addition, Pope Francis has given jurisdiction to the Priests of the Society to hear confessions validly, and to celebrate weddings validly. Tell me, how could the Vicar of Christ give jurisdiction (permission) to a group of priests to confer Catholic sacraments if they were not already Catholic Priests? Could he give the same permission to the Orthodox priests? I think not, because they are in schism, because they do not recognize the primacy of Rome, which the Society of St Pius X clearly does, hence their valid and licit hearing of confessions and celebration of marriages. Now, you may be wondering why they haven’t been given the same permission to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the same jurisdiction. Well, jurisdiction is not needed for a priest celebrate Mass validly, but it is for the mass to be licit. However, a priest never needs jurisdiction from a Bishop to offer mass to the faithful when they request the sacraments. When the faithful request that a priest confer his faculties to aid in their salvation, he is given de jure (by law) Supplied Jurisdiction in order to do so. Furthermore, Canon Law makes it very clear that in a time of Crisis, priests are given de jure Supplied Jurisdiction in order to aid the faithful.
Have you witnessed constant liturgical abuse in your diocese? Have you witnessed scandal? Are their Latin Masses offered that are reasonably accessible to the faithful, as was mandated in Pope Emeritus Benedict’s Motu Proprio in 2007? Do you hear strong preaching from the pulpit on a regular basis that helps to form the faithful in a way that aids in their salvation? Are the RCIA classes in you parish free of heresy? Are the parishioners at your parish approaching Communion in an obvious state of Mortal Sin? Unfortunately, I think many of us could answer all these questions in a way that is most regrettable. To be clear, I am not putting undue blame on the parish priests, as they too are pressured at times by certain Bishops and the contradictory craziness that is still rippling from the misinterpretation and misapplication of the Vatican II recommendations. Perhaps we are in a Crisis, and perhaps the SSPX is offering the faithful a reprieve from the damage done to the parishioners who seek true Catholic formation and a life of Sacrament. As much as it is our duty to be faithful as lay people, it is also the duty of the Church to form good and holy priests, and for the clergy to ensure that the flock is properly aided in their salvation. A friend of mine attended a Diocesan Seminary for a number of years, and he recounts stories of seminarians being reprimanded for their devotion to the Rosary. This may sound insane, but it is true. Unfortunately, we are in a messy time, and as a result, many of us have been forced to make the decision to take certain steps to ensure that our families are formed properly.
Now, to deal with the idea that Vatican II was a completely infallible council, and that we must yield to every word that came out of the council. Someone in a comment wrote something like “If you don’t believe that the Holy Spirit guided the council, than you aren’t Catholic”. This statement was used to ascribe a level of inerrancy to the council, which would mean that all the words in all the documents would be as binding as the Holy Bible, and in turn, one would have to bow to the authority of every written page. Well… I guess that means Pope Francis, like me, is also “not Catholic”…
Moreover, the pope [Pope Francis] himself told the SSPX [Society of St. Pius X] that they did not—and Pope Francis acted quite rightly in this—have to subscribe to all non-dogmatic documents of the Second Vatican Council in order to be fully reintegrated in the Church. [emphasis added]
And perhaps Archbishop Pozzo, when he referred to Nostra Aetate, Unitatis Redintegratio and Dignitatis Humanae (all Vatican II documents), also demonstrated that he too is not Catholic…
They are not about doctrines or definitive statements, but, rather, about instructions and orienting guides for pastoral practice. One can continue to discuss these pastoral aspects after the canonical approval [of the SSPX], in order to lead us to further clarifications. [emphasis added]
Moreover, maybe Bishop Athanasius Schneider has revoked his Catholicism as well by making the following statement about the SSPX and their reasoned objection to certain aspects of the Vatican II documents…
If the Society [of St. Pius X] has difficulties in accepting certain documents of Vatican II, one has to place that into the context of the pastoral objective of the Council. The Dogma has not changed. We have the same Faith. Thus, there is no problem to integrate canonically the Society of St. Pius X. [emphasis added]
When asked about the Second Vatican Council, Schneider showed that “the Council was primarily – as repeatedly stated even by Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI – a pastoral council; not a doctrinal or dogmatic council;” and he added “so it was the intention of the Church not to give with its documents a definitive teaching.” Schneider continues: “And so when there is no definitive teaching, there can be some development of these issues still, or even some corrections. And this is normal.” [my emphasis]
For sure, there have been councils in the past from which the documents have been universally infallible. Trent comes to mind, but this is because they repeat and restate the truth of Tradition that was given in its entirety through the Deposit of Faith to the Apostles. Trent was a response to the Protestant Heresy, and therefore it clearly stated infallible truths, and when necessary offered definitions to help with the dogmatic understanding. Vatican II, for this reason is more or less 95% infallible, in that the majority of its many large documents simply repeat, albeit at times in cryptically modernist language, the infallible truths of Sacred Tradition. The three disputed documents of the Second Vatican Council offer novelty, and therefore only qualify as Authentic Magisterium, and because of this they are rightly subject to criticism and disputation by the faithful, until it can be demonstrated that they fit perfectly in with Sacred Tradition. This does not mean that they should not be met with great respect, and for this reason, it was correct for the Church to do her best to try to implement the pastoral recommendations of these documents. The SSPX has always held that the Council contained many infallible truths, but that certain documents were disputable, and as a result, they could not in good conscience submit to them. There were many unfortunate actions on behalf of the Society and the Vatican over the last 40 years, but at no time as the SSPX ever denied the Pope, his authority, or the nature of infallibility where properly applied.
Just for a moment, ask yourself a question about the nature of Nostra Aetate, which deals with interreligious dialogue, namely with Islam and Judaism. In this document, there is mention of Islam and its belief in the one true God. Now, of course, Islam proclaims to believe in the one true God, and this may be true, but St. Paul also says the following:
But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils. 1 Corinthians 10:20
Now, I am not here making a statement on the correct interpretation of Islam with regards to St. Paul’s statement. But, I am suggesting that it isn’t clear that this document has the mark of Infallibility because of its apparent contrast with Tradition and Scripture. Of course, this document offers great pastoral recommendation as interreligious dialogue is in principle a good thing, and clearly, if Islam professes belief in the one true God, than we need to start with that in mind when we seek peaceful communication. That said, we cannot disregard the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture.
In conclusion, there is nothing about either the SSPX or a disputation of Council documents that are not Infallible that renders one “un-Catholic” or in Schism. The history of the relations between the SSPX and the Vatican is in many ways a high-octane roller coaster. But then again, this would not be the first time that an individual or small group of faithful held fast to the Traditions during a time of crisis in the Church at large, only to be vindicated when the fog of uncertainty had lifted.
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.