30 March 2016


I am reassured to be told that SSPX priests whom readers know do indeed follow the rules laid down by the Society. Furthermore, I would accept that the presence in the Sacristy of a picture of Papa Bergoglio, or the customary NOMEN SUMMI PONTIFICIS FRANCISCUS NOMEN EPISCOPI VINCENTIUS, would be a sufficient indication that all is well. I can only say that I wished to offend no-one but had heard that there were clergy who ... I will say no more.

Also, I know of a European city where the Bishop himself suddenly provided an EF Mass at exactly the same time as a very long-established SSPX Mass ... instead of providing people with a second EF Mass at a different time for their potential convenience. I cannot convince myself that this was an initiative likely to build up the People of God in a unity of sincere affection and trust.

I'm not a canonist; but I'll take the risk of answering two recent queries about attendance at SSPX chapels.

(1) Different vibes have come from different Roman authorities about this question at different times; my own pastoral and moral praxis has always been what the old manualists called Probabilist; so I would say that there is certainly sufficient doubt about this to make the liberty of doing it at least a probabilis opinio, which, accordingly, you are at liberty for sufficient reasons to follow. But ...
(2) Practically if there is a diocesan Traditional Mass reasonably handy, I think it is by far the best to go to that, not least so as to encourage the flourishing of Tradition within the mainstream. And ...
(3) Theologically I think one should be extremely careful about the rumoured risk that some SSPX clergy might not be entirely in line with the very proper course which has been steered by their Superior H E Bishop Fellay. It seems to me that a crucial question is whether a celebrant is really a Sedevacantist either quoad papam or quoad episcopum. How to find out? I would be inclined to ask "Father, I have a rather impertinent and personal question to ask you ... I hope you don't mind ... but it's important to me ... in the Canon of the Mass do you Name Pope Francis and Bishop X [the diocesan]?"

Actually, it's not personal or impertinent for you to ask this, because, although the Canon of the Mass is said secreto, it is a very important public Prayer of the Church, and the Naming of the Vicar of Christ and of the local Ordinary is a desperately significant marker of Communio (or the lack of it). So you really have every right to ask and to be told and to know ... but it is best to be diplomatic!

Remember: Communion with Rome is what the martyrs and confessors suffered for under Elizabeth Tudor! In 1558/9, the surviving primate, Archbishop Hethe of York, risked the royal wrath by delivering a courageous speech in the Lords in which he did not conceal his immense dislike of the Pope, Caraffa, whose malicious Westpolitik (he hated Spain, and England was allied with Spain) had led him intentionally to weaken and humiliate the English Church. But, good pope or bad pope, Hethe made clear the duty of being in communion with the See of S Peter. As did every single English diocesan bishop, large numbers of the Upper Clergy, and most senior academics at this University.

If a celebrant cannot say Yes, or declines to answer, then I wouldn't attend his Masses. I would, if necessary, go to a poorly celebrated Novus Ordo rather than to the Mass of a priest who, every time he says Mass, formally and deliberately sets himself before God out of Communion either with the Successor of S Peter or with the lawful bishop of the place. Remember that the Te igitur is not a prayer for the Pope or the Ordinary; it is a prayer expressing Communio with them ... or not. That is its function. This is important! Do you want to become, in effect, a non-Catholic?

If, happily, Father's answer is satisfactory, then your subsequent decisions should reflect prudent consideration of the good and/or harm that the various options open to you might have on yourself and your family and on the other worshiping Catholic communities nearby. No man (or family) is an island!

Never forget that there are loads of keen young diocesan priests out there just longing to discover enough well-instructed laity around for it to be possible for them to start an Old Mass! Have you ... delicately ... tactfully ... tried any of them out? Never forget that there are Catholic churches in which you may find the Melkite or Ukrainian or Ordinariate liturgies.

And if you attend the SSPX chapel, don't share in a lot of cheap schismatic chatter. It's not good for you and it's not good for those who hear you.


Tarquinius said...

Well, dear Father, does one slip into schism by something that could be, well, a liturgical lapsus linguae? Yes and no, I'd think, and St. Thomas (and his commentator Cajetan as well as the manualists, who all teach the same in the matter) sheds some light on the issue in Sth II-II, q. 39, a. 1. If one refuses communion with the Pope as Pope, then surely on is in the sorry state of being schismatic ... but if one doesn't recognize the man in white as the legitimate Roman Pontiff ... then not so much.
This is why Bouix and others said that the Great Western Schism was, in fact, not a true schism at all. (Can you imagine?!) Nobody wanted to withdraw submission to the true Pope, which means that nobody was in schism! Of course, besides those who really were in schism, but that is a matter altogether different ... Then of course there is the matter of pertinacity, but we don't won't to make it too difficult right now.

Patrick Sheridan said...

The great Mgr Gilbey never mentioned pope John Paul II in the Canon. Nor, when the collect was permitted, did he ever say Pro Papa, opting instead for Ecclesiae. The one time he DID say the collect Pro Papa (by accident) he conspicuously declined to mention the name of the reigning pope. I know this because a friend of mine, who knew Mgr Gilbey better than some, was present when this happened.

John L said...

Pope Francis is mentioned in the canon of the mass at every SSPX mass, and his picture is normally displayed in SSPX chapels (it is in mine). Sedevacantism was rejected by Abp. Lefebvre and it is not tolerated at all in the Society. If any signs of it are manifested by a SSPX priest, the superior of the local district would be glad to hear about it.

Mountain Man said...

Just to emphasize what John L said.... Having attended mass at SSPX for my entire life, every priest I have come into contact with acknowledge the current Pontiff. The Pope and the local ordinary are said in the canon of the mass (I have personally heard this on many many occasions as an alter server). I think most of the sedevecantism that is rumored comes from laity that float in and out of SSPX chapels.

Thomas said...

@Tarquinius - If someone does not recognise the current "man in white" as the legitimate Pope, there are two other options: 1) they recognise someone else as the real Pope, in which case who? 2) they think that there is no authentic Pope just now, in other words they are a sedevacantist. Apart from a couple of extremely dodgy and plainly unhinged individuals, I don't know of anti-Popes currently. The "emeritus" Benedict XVI very firmly and clearly does not make that claim for himself, so he can't be invoked. That only leaves the sedevacantist option. Anything else is sophistry it seems to me.

Mgr Andrew Wadsworth said...

I think the suggestion that Mgr Gilbey was a sedevacantist is outrageous and totally without substance. I knew Mgr Gilbey well enough to confidently dismiss this as scurrilous. I was often present at his celebration of Mass, he was present at my first Mass and he was also regularly present in the sanctuary at many many Masses at which the celebrant certainly named the reigning pontiff.

Colin said...

In addition to John L's comments, above, may I add that having been (in the past) a regular Master of Ceremonies at sung masses celebrated by SSPX priests and bishops, I had never once had an occasion to think that the reigning Pope's name, nor that of the local bishop, had been deliberately omitted from their place in the Canon.

As many of your readers will know, the MC at a Missa Cantata stands right next to the celebrant. The MC's proximity means that he can just about hear the words of the Canon, as well as observe the priest's actions. I have even, occasionally, had visiting priests stab their finger at the words "et, antístite nostro N." in the Missal - a gesture requesting the MC to remind the celebrant of the name of the local Bishop, so that it can be included in the prayer.

Every SSPX sacristy I have entered has the traditional sign on display near the vesting table which gives the name of both the reigning pontiff, and the local bishop - a handy memory aid for the priest who is about to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

Tony V said...

I'm lucky to live just a short walk away from a SSPX chapel.
I always attend my parish church on Sundays (with the family), but time permitting I'm not averse to attending the SSPX chapel as well. Likewise on the odd non-Sunday Mass they might have (eg, St Joseph's day, or whatever).

Although the homily may refer to 'the crisis in the church' (crisis? what crisis?), I never hear any 'schismatic chatter', and as far as I can tell both pope and bishop are included in the canon (though I have to strain my ears--they take that sotto voce stuff seriously).

I've come to realise I owe the SSPX a huge debt of gratitude. This morning I went to an EF Mass at the parish church in Ramsgate...but if it weren't for the SSPX, such parish masses wouldn't be happening. Thank you, Marcel Lefebvre.

ansgerus said...

On Feria VI in Parasceve, on occasion of the (post 1955) Missa Praesanctificatorum, at the chapel here in Germany where I usually attend the Holy Mass (together with my entire family, by the way) the priest clara voce mentioned Francisco and our local diocesan bishop in the respective intercessional prayer, and I guess also at any other FSSPX chapel in any country both names were clearly audible. If not, Gods attending local People immediately would have noticed, and at least someone would have reported this to the respective superior. Maybe, already the next day, the priest would have been expelled from the society, as they are very strict in this regards, at least since 1983/84, when the American Group of 9 Priest was expelled (eventhough one of them, Fr. Anthony Cekada, recently claimed, that they were not expelled due to sedevacantism, which acc. to him still was a tolerated opinion at Econe in the 1970 and early 1980-times)

Stephen said...

One must ask; attachment to the visible Church incarnate is the hallmark. I believe Orthodox priests can only conduct the Divine Liturgy if they have, as it were, their "papers", i.e.proof for other clerics review and for us hoi polloi as well to review, identifying who ordained them and thus their operative level of incardination and attachment to A particular hierarch (all that is needed is one, and I do not believe a priest can be attached to more than one).

It is via this physical and provable link to a hierarch by which the priest has the right and indeed the power and capability to serve in his role at a Divine Liturgy, i.e. he can only serve in the person/place of Christ only as an extension of the bishop. It is only by operating under the bishop's halo, as it were, that the Eucharistic enterprise can occur without the bishop being physically present.

So why not, then, ask for a priest's "papers" by asking if he publicly commits to his allegiance to his line of authority?? Seems reasonable.

Why is it said secretly in the Canon of Rome, I wonder? A vestige of the days in the catacombs perhaps, or a call to remember those frightful times?

William Tighe said...

"Why is it said secretly in the Canon of Rome, I wonder? A vestige of the days in the catacombs perhaps, or a call to remember those frightful times?"

I doubt it has anything to do with the catacombs, or recalling those times. Rather, it seems one aspect of the question of why and when the whole Roman Canon came to be said silently, or, rather, sotto voce. I don't have time this morning to glance at Willis, or Jungmann, or Dix - but IIRC it was around the Eighth Century (which was later than comparable developments in the Greek and Syriac east).

William said...

There is a story of Bishop Amigo of Southwark being stopped in the street by a high-church Anglican priest, who said "My Lord, I pray for you every day at Mass, I believe you are my rightful bishop, and in my parish we obey all your rulings and read your pastoral letters (etc.)". To which Amigo replied, "In that case, I hereby suspend you. Good day, sir."

Can someone please explain to me what the point is of commemorating the Diocesan Bishop in the Canon, if one does not subject oneself to his authority, if one celebrates the Sacraments other than as he permits, and does not accept his right to determine who shall and who shall not minister within his diocese?

Long-Skirts said...

Tony V said:

"as far as I can tell both pope and bishop are included in the canon"

The same here in the U.S. where I have been assisting at SSPX Masses since 1991.


Such names they call us
That's not what we are
We are Roman Catholics
At the front of the war.

Some just go AWOL
Others defect
Copying our stance
Then say we’re a sect.

A lot like in England
Saint John Fisher's day
When his brothers said, "yes"
This Saint replied, "nay".

All alone in the Fort
St. John Fisher stood
Preserving, defending
For the whole all that's good.

Not just for himself
Those attached to what's old
Or reformers, reforming
Pretending they're bold.

We're simply preserving,
Once again the True Fort
While those with new orders
Relinquish support.

And with promises made
To men hungry for power
They mock, stand and point
At us in the tower

Hoping for all
Diverse democracy -
When in fact their new fort’s
A kleptocracy.

Merci Marcel!

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear William

I, too, have often laughed at that neat old story about Archbishop Amigo. But I do wonder who, logically, gets the last laugh. A bishop cannot suspend someone who is not one of his clergy. So a logical prerequisite to his act of suspension must have been acceptance both of the validity of that priest's ordination and of his possession of a missio canonica in the Archdiocese!

It is true that Amigo got very angry about Anglican churches within his archdiocese in which everything ... even use of the Latin language ... was exactly as in a RC church.

mark wauck said...

Highly relevant, via Sandro Magister:

“Francis alarms us enormously, and not only us. And yet we like him”

The surprising analysis of the Francis enigma, made by the superior general by the Society of Saint Pius X, Bernard Fellay. With the account of the visits of one cardinal and three bishops, sent secretly from Rome

mark wauck said...

The Magister article I just linked has a link to Benedict's Remission of the Excommunication of the Four Bishops of SSPX. Benedict's letter is really most interesting reading, and raises a host of questions. For example:

1. "An episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate raises the danger of a schism, since it jeopardizes the unity of the College of Bishops with the Pope. Consequently the Church must react by employing her most severe punishment – excommunication ..."

Is this really true, and is excommunication really the appropriate action--especially in the given circumstances, which we all know were factually quite complicated? Could considerations such as this have been an unspoken factor behind the remission?

2. "... the problems now to be addressed are 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. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life."

Beyond the welcome balance in this statement, is there yet an unwillingness to admit that there have been and continue to be grave problems with the Magisterium? Is it really possible to limit the Magisterium to documents of certain categories? Does not the old saw that "actions (as well as inaction) speak louder than words" also have some relevance when we speak of Magisterium? And, if that is the case--as I think it must be, with due allowance for necessary distinctions--then I think there can be no doubt but that SSPX as well as "ordinary" Catholics have grave reasons for concern regarding the Magisterium. Further, one can understand how Benedict's statement here, viewed in this light--the light of conscience--might appear as a virtual magisterial blank check. And a very unreasonable demand.

mark wauck said...

In Bishop Fellay's statement there are two passages that, IMO, shed quite a bit of light.

1. "Msgr. Pozzo explained how this full communion can come about: by the acceptance of the canonical form, which is rather surprising: the idea that a canonical form would resolve all the problems with communion!"

2. "... he says that this full communion consists of accepting the major Catholic principles, in other words the three levels of unity in the Church, which are the faith, the sacraments and the government. In speaking about faith, he speaks here instead of the magisterium."

Fellay goes on to point out that there is "much confusion" in the Church--precisely concerning what is to be believed. And he makes the further, quite just, observation that it is for Rome to clarify these matters.

In all this I think we can see several things. The eagerness to use a canonical form to resolve the situation certainly appears to be a carrot for SSPX--communion! Who knew it could be so easily accomplished! And yet, there appears to also be a stick, and that stick is the preference for referring to "Magisterium"--an inherently ambiguous term when substituted for the term "faith". Rome appears to wish SSPX to basically resign itself to the the currently confused state, to resign itself to being a niche or "boutique" entity within the Church, and to leave "magisterial" issues, i.e., matters of the faith, to Rome. But, I ask, is that truly reasonable position, in the present circumstances?

Paul Goings said...

Surely it cannot be sedevacantism per se to hold the belief that Francis (Bergoglio) is not the true pope, and that Benedict (Ratzinger) remains the true pope? Assuming, arguendo, that his abdication was the result of duress exerted by others, then it was certainly invalid, and hence, etc., etc. He denies that any such distress was involved. However, we are all well aware of examples from other areas of life demonstrating that duress is frequently denied by the victim, even when its existence is obvious to outsiders (e.g. abused spouses). Since this position has a logical foundation (even if it is not widely held) then it cannot constitute sedevacantism.

Matthew Roth said...

Yes, the question of the Nine’s sedevacantism is a bit of an aside as I now realize. It was about the liturgy, with which I fully sympathize, and about control of the SSPX. The inage Fr. Cekada paints is very unlike the one given by others who knew the archbishop. I’m not even sure they are sedevacantists properly speaking, but at any rate all nine definitively turned against the papacy after their expulsion.

Mary Kay said...

My SSPX chapel in Portland, OR, has a photo of Pope Francis prominently placed at both the main entrance and the side entrance which is used a lot. When our current archbishop, Alexander Sample, was named, my young pastor immediately sought an audience to welcome him, and was received. The locally sanctioned EF Mass was quickly moved up by the archbishop a couple of hours, perhaps to coincide with the SSPX chapel's main Mass(since Abp Sample is very favorable to it), forcing their NO back to the 8 AM time slot which the traditional Mass had been grudgingly given since I was an attendee there (as a young girl a million years ago). Now the Latin Mass holds pride of place. AMDG. Better yet, it has not decreased attendance at our SSPX chapel, which has actually increased, although that may not have been the desired effect of all at the archdiocese.

Oh, BTW, we always pray for our HF and our ABP, in the Masses, and in parish vocal prayers. That is the norm in SSPX chapels, even if there are some who desire to hold back.

Rubricarius said...

Things have clearly changed from the time I frequented the $$PX (Septuagesima Sunday 1988 to Wednesday in Holy Week 1991). The Superior then was Fr. Black. In the Litany at the XL Hours etc Fr. Black would sing John Paul's name in the appointed place. I cannot recall the occasion or the celebrant but in one Office the bishop had to be named and the name used was Marcel not Basil. Two of the clergy based in London at the time held views different to the Superior. One, who had been dispensed by the Archbishop himself from taking the 'post-1984 oath', was quietly open about his sedevacantism and didn't name John Paul II in any audible prayer just saying Pontifici nostro and leaving the name blank. The other was more subtle and nuanced in his views but, more liturgically 'direct' so missed out Pontifici nostro completely and omitted the petition in the Litany Ut Domnum Apostolicum etc.

As to the comment about Mgr. Gilbey above I was present in St. Wilfrid's chapel the day he said the collect Deus, omnium. It was a first as he invariably always said the other option Eccelsiae. Mgr. Gilbey paused, obviously realising what he had done, then resumed the collect without naming John Paul and then said Ecclesiae with a conclusion. Such a wonderful man I still remain humble at being told off for my poor Latin when I asked why he only had a single altar card in his private chapels. He was a man never to miss even a single prescribed minor bow.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I'm getting a little confused: at a time when S John Paul II was the only claimant to the See of S Peter, anyone who prayed for "pontifex noster" or for "Famulus tuus quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti" can, surely, only have thought he was praying for the Polish gentleman, even though he might not have mentioned a name.

I think it says a lot for the Travellers that they keep that little closet just as the Monsignor left it.

Perhaps this thread has gone on for long enough.

John L said...

A late comment that might be useful; a book attacking sedevacantism was recently put out with the endorsement of Bp. Fellay and a nuber of other SSPX clerics (see here: http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/p/endorsements.html). You might find it useful in dealing with sedevacantists.

Aldo Alfaro said...

I completely agree!!!