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Scott P. Richert

Will the SSPX Return to Full Union With Rome?

By June 23, 2008

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Twenty years ago, on June 30, 1988, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ordained four men as bishops. His action, taken in defiance of the will of Pope John Paul II, ended months of negotiations between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which Archbishop Lefebvre had founded in 1970 to train young men for the priesthood in traditional Catholic doctrine and to teach them to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. (The Novus Ordo had just been promulgated.)

On July 2, 1988, Pope John Paul II released an apostolic letter, Ecclesia Dei, in which he declared that the ordination "constitutes a schismatic act," which meant that, under canon law (the governing law of the Catholic Church), Archbishop Lefebvre and the four newly consecrated bishops had incurred automatic excommunication.

Over the past 20 years, many efforts have been made to reconcile the SSPX to Rome, and Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, restoring the Traditional Latin Mass as one of the two approved forms of the Mass, was undoubtedly motivated in part by the Holy Father's desire to end the schism.

And now it appears that the negotiations may soon come to an end. Andrea Tornielli, one of the most respected Catholic journalists in Italy, is reporting in the Italian daily Il Giornale that the Vatican has made the SSPX a "one time offer," in the translation provided by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf on his blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say?

That offer consists of five points, of which two are apparently that the SSPX "must accept the Second Vatican Council and the full validity of the post-Conciliar liturgical rite" (the new Mass). If the SSPX agrees, it would be set up as a personal prelature, much like Opus Dei.

The offer, however, is said to expire this Saturday, June 28. If so, the symbolism is clear: Pope Benedict would like a reconciliation to occur before the SSPX marks the 20th anniversary of the illicit ordinations. As Christ prayed that we might all be one, as He and His Father are one, so, too, we should pray fervently for unity in the Church.

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June 24, 2008 at 12:49 am
(1) Gandalf says:

I do not know Scott Richert or Andrea Tornielli, but they take the usual and by now extremely moldy argument that the Society is in schism and that this–at this particular juncture, through this historical event without precedence–will be the last chance we have to heal the schism. If they knew how long we have had to endure such condescending offal, they might think twice before writing it.

If indeed Rome has offered Bishop Fellay anything really “new,” we shall of course hear about it in due course. But I doubt–as all the faithful who stay with the Church through the Society should doubt–that there is anything new under the sun. No, I don’t think so. Rome is probably offering again a prelature (as Richert relates), and that all the Society need do is accept Vatican II and the validity of the New Mass to enter into “full communion” which is the Pearl of Great Price (!). What right-thinking person could turn down such an agreement?

Well, this traditional Roman Catholic (and I hardly think I am alone) will certainly NOT take the offer. It is poison. All we need to do is accept Vatican II? Vatican II will be interpreted in the light of Catholic Tradition–not this new “living tradition.” This will happen at some future date when Rome has condemned again the tenets of modernism and the Holy Office can sift the decrees of Vatican II–probably during Vatican III. Do not give me bread infested with bubonic plague when I ask for the Blessed Sacrament. And do not tell me your Ordinary Rite is at all Ordinary in my Church. It was heretically composed and illegally imposed, and it will die as all purely human things will die. It is possibly valid (depending on circumstances), but certainly not Catholic.

No, the Society of St. Pius X cannot and will not accept an agreement of this kind when there is no agreement whatsoever in doctrine. When Rome is again preaching the Roman Catholic faith, then the Society will submit to Rome.


June 24, 2008 at 3:40 am
(2) BrandNewDay says:

Gandalf’s comment has been very illuminating and he has perfectly illustrated why I don’t think a real reconciliation will be possible. At the very least, however, after the 28th, the lay person should be able to decide with a more informed conscience if they can attend a Mass at their local SSPX chapel.

June 24, 2008 at 5:33 am
(3) Greg says:

Bishop Fellay gave a talk last Friday.


33 minutes and 22 seconds in (just over halfway) he comments on it. Seems like zero chance of a deal to me. Question now is what will Rome do about it if the SSPX says thanks but no thanks.

June 24, 2008 at 6:49 am
(4) Bruno says:

Why are we still fighting this Civil War, we won, we have the Mass. With the Mass, that defeated for 1,500 years every enemy and heresy and it will now in time, defeat the errors of Vatican 2, which are legion. Pope Benedict XVI has given us the ideal weapon of choice and instead of being grateful for this we say we still want more. The only way the errors of Vatican 2 will be corrected will be generationally, meaning, with the youth that Benedict XVI has targeted and is now exposing for the first time with the Latin Mass by wanting it in every Parish and with eventually dying out of this generation of Bishops and Cardinals.

There was a revolution started last July and hardly a whimper of real analysis has been done on this subject.

To many inside the SSPX and many observers, they are still fighting the Civil War when in fact Rome is not the enemy, radical islam is. There are over 1.84 billion Muslims that are at play here. Take a look at this:http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JF17Ak01.html

Hope it helps clarify the real war going on here,

June 24, 2008 at 7:05 am
(5) Scott P. Richert says:

Both Greg and BrandNewDay at least understand the importance of this story. Gandalf, despite believing that he is both acting on principle and is a realist, doesn’t get it at all. The third-ranking prelate in the SSPX has confirmed the story, and the SSPX chapter meeting is taking place this week. By Sunday, we will know what will happen.

As for the “extremely moldy argument” regarding the SSPX’s schismatic state, well, let me predict that, if a reconciliation occurs, it will include the SSPX asking for the lifting of the excommunication. I know and understand the arguments on both sides (I knew Michael Davies, and had the pleasure of introducing him twice), and, as a traditional Catholic myself (I attend an oratory under the care of the Institute of Christ the King), I’ve followed this quite closely.

What Gandalf perhaps forgets is that this reconciliation is near and dear to Pope Benedict’s heart. He, after all, was the one who personally negotiated the agreement with Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988–the agreement that the archbishop broke. He has made repeated efforts over the course of his short pontificate to heal the schism. And he, who asked upon his election, that we pray that he may be kept safe from the wolves, understands far better than Gandalf that this may, indeed, be the last chance for the SSPX to reconcile with the successor of Peter.

All of which makes me think that, if Saturday comes and goes and the SSPX has not made its decision, the Holy Father might well be ready to release his own apostolic letter on the 20th anniversary of Ecclesia Dei.

But we shall see. And I trust that Gandalf will join the rest of us in praying for the reconciliation that must come.

June 24, 2008 at 7:26 am
(6) Scott P. Richert says:

Bruno, Andrea Tornielli made a similar point. After the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass, many traditional Catholics no longer understand the SSPX’s reluctance to reconcile with Rome. Both Pope Benedict and Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos have made it clear that the SSPX will be better able to engage in doctrinal discussions once they are in full communion with the successor of Peter.

June 24, 2008 at 10:07 am
(7) SM says:

I hope the SSPX will come back to the church. Pope Benedict will soon lift the excommunications?

USA: the demographic winter is coming.

Aging workforce.

P.S. Also new website prowomanprolife(dot)org

June 24, 2008 at 11:01 am
(8) Mary Teresa says:

Thank God Rome is putting some greater clarity into this very muddy area. When my eight year old God daughter, raised in the SSPX, was about to receive her First Holy Communion from a holy, conservative Catholic priest in a Novus Ordo Mass, she explained to me that, according to what an SSPX priest had taught her, the “Novus Ordo Mass” was “invalid” (the words of an eight year old)and so she would not really be receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. I told her that the Holy Father had said this Mass was valid, and she immediately countered with, “Well, Father X (SSPX) says that the Pope can make mistakes, and he made a mistake when he said that.” Generations of children are being exposed to these teachings. In my experience, SSPX members are hostile and filled with animosity, even downright hatred, for Rome and the mainstream Roman Catholic Church. They may try to cloak it, but it is omnipresent and, to me, it is very spiritually disturbing. Make the barest suggestion that the SSPX is in schism or separated from the Church and just watch the venom fly. The SSPX awaits a chastisment to punish sinners and even talk regularly and openly about it in the presence of children. They will be mightily disappointed if it does not happen. In my humble opinion, these folks are in the grip of something really evil, and they are blinded by their hatred – and it is hatred – and anger. This should help them, as much as it will help those Catholics who are attracted to the Traditional Latin Mass and disturbed by the modernist trends that have entered the Church since Vatican II. We need to repair and restore the Church from the pews of our respective parishes, and support the struggling priests among us who look to the laity for prayers and sustenance in so many ways. The SSPX took many souls that were predestined for holiness and removed them from the pews, allowing the modernists free and unobstructed reign. Now, the Internet allows us access to the documents we need to support our positions, and direct communication with Rome. The tide has turned. Members of the SSPX have a difficult decision to make. Let’s all pray that they make the right one – particularly their priests.

June 24, 2008 at 3:50 pm
(9) dustiam says:

“After the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass, many traditional Catholics no longer understand the SSPXs reluctance to reconcile with Rome.”

The reasons are explained in many comments between different groups on http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/ that has been in the forefront of news on this subject.

June 24, 2008 at 5:00 pm
(10) Ryan Sullivan says:

Reconcilication is not necessary because SSPX is not outside the Church and never was. Cardinal Hoyos confirmed this statement in his prior interviews, because Canon law is clear on the matter. The Archbishop performed the ordainations in 1988 in response to an emergency in the Church and under those conditions it was not schismatic. period.
The Vatican should recognize this and apologize to SSPX for all the false information they have propagated about them.

June 25, 2008 at 3:35 am
(11) Turtle says:

Benedict XVI says that the SSPX is in schism, not part of the Church he heads. And if the SSPX accepts his deal, accepts Vatican II and all the vile matter it has evolved into,they may join his Church.But will they be Catholic any longer and how many SSPX churches will be sold for lawsuit cash? Sadly some in the SSPX have been banging their heads against the wall too long…

June 25, 2008 at 7:47 am
(12) Scott P. Richert says:

Ryan Sullivan is misrepresenting what Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos has said, or at least passing on others misrepresentations. The cardinal has never said that the ordinations were justified under “emergency conditions”; in fact, just the opposite. In an interview with a German publication on February 8, 2007, he said: “It is Archbishop Lefebrve who has undertaken an illicit Episcopal consecration and therefore performed a schismatic act. It is for this reason that the Bishops consecrated by him have been suspended and excommunicated.”

This goes to the question of what the cardinal has meant when he has discussed the canonical situation of the SSPX. He has stated that “”The Fraternity of St. Pius X is not a consolidated schism per se, but its history has included some schismatic actions…” He has also explained that “The priests and faithful of the Society have not been excommunicated.”

But Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishops he ordained incurred automatic excommunication by their actions, as Pope John Paul II pointed out in Ecclesia Dei. As we can see from the first quotation I cited from Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, the cardinal has not contradicted the Holy Father. The bishops of the SSPX are currently in schism; the priests and faithful are not necessarily so.

June 25, 2008 at 7:52 am
(13) Scott P. Richert says:

Turtle’s comments prove the importance of healing this division immediately. Too many within the SSPX have come to believe in non-Catholic theories of the “Eternal” or “True” Rome as opposed to the literal one. Thus, in their eyes, it is not enough that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict are the successors of Peter, the Rock upon whom Christ built His Church, because (they believe) both men have departed from the “True” or “Eternal” Rome. According to this idea, it is the Pope who must submit to the True Rome (in, of course, the form of the teachings of the SSPX), and not the SSPX who need, in obedience to Christ, to submit to the literal Rome, headed by His Vicar on earth.

June 25, 2008 at 3:04 pm
(14) ToeJam says:

The SSPX cannot accept the validity of the New Mass as it is always in a state of flux. What ever they agree to today, be it valid or not, may change tomorrow. Over the last 20 years I have attended the Novus Order Mass every couple of years for either a wedding ,funeral , baptism ect.. every time it had changed significantly from the time before. The new rite as I have seen it is actually further from post-Conciliar liturgical rite than the Traditional Rite. Vatican II never permitted the canon of the mass to be translated into the vernacular , that was something ICEL did on there own. Neither did it alow for communion in the hand , or lay people distributing communion, Alter girls … I could go on. SSPX must stand firm , God does not deceive and will not be deceived.

June 26, 2008 at 3:04 pm
(15) Mary Teresa says:

On the matter of schism, I advise all to re-read Ecclesia Dei. The Holy Father was very clear in this document. Membership in the SSPX means that you adhere to the schism. And if anyone needs further evidence: the moment the SSPX began granting marriage annulments, they necessarily declared jurisdiction. This is action is undebatably a schismatic one. By the way, the Sacrament of Penance also requires jurisdiction, which is why the Church maintains that Confessions by SSPX priests are invalid.

June 26, 2008 at 3:15 pm
(16) Skulldugger says:

As a person raised protestant methodist and in the process of converting to Catholicism, I must say I’m confused. Why would the SSPX split from the church when it would be better to remain within the fold and work to propagate their beliefs internally? Granted, Vatican II was a huge change, but to deliberately defy the pope smacks of narcissism and power-hunger, rather than a genuine interest in bringing the church back to more conservative roots.

June 27, 2008 at 12:54 pm
(17) Kieron Wood says:

What an erudite bunch of comments! My children, too, were brought up attending Mass with the SSPX. My eldest daughter received her First Holy Communion from Archbishop Lefebvre. Yet we all left the SSPX parish the day after the illicit consecrations. Today we have a growing traditional chaplaincy in Dublin, Ireland. This Sunday, Archbishop Martin of Dublin will confirm children in the extraordinary rite. It’s time for the SSPX to come in from the cold and work with us, from the inside.

June 28, 2008 at 11:18 am
(18) Jon Meyer says:

Another opinion, from a new (less than 1 yr old baptized) Catholic. I’m in the middle of this fight for my own personal reasons, and as such have researched it a LOT. Let me be brief (I’m gonna sound like I’m judging, but it’s just a humble Catholic’s opinion, don’t get angry with the truth):

Skulldugger – the original charter of SSPX seemed innocent enough in the first 5 years, but it changed in 1988. Bishops excommunicated, lay people not necessarily, but having an attitude of us-vs-them.

Mary Teresa is right. SSPX DOES teach that the new Mass is invalid. It’s not going to happen to my kids, I tell you that much.
Scott is also right.
Turle will be happier as a sedevecantist.
Ryan, Gandalf and ToeJam sound like they’ve been fed the usual SSPX arguments.

At the end of the day, the devil is loving this. How much time are we spending arguing over this babble instead of saving people outside of the Church. To call yourself any more than simply Catholic sounds like naming denominations of Christianity, SSPX or not. There’s no difference between a ‘traditional’ Catholic and a ‘novus ordo’ Catholic. To say so creates division within the Church. Shame on you, stop it.

Now, every group has extremists (probably even the RC Church – I refuse to call it the ‘conciliar Church’), and the SSPX is not immune to that statement. I think we should all pray for SSPX members who live in St. Mary’s, Kansas, and for Bishop Williamson to stop being such an antisemite. How can the SSPX reconcile with Rome when one of their Bishops openly claims that 9/11 was an inside job, and that the holocaust was a fake? Uhh, what about those saints who took the place of people in the concentration camps? Another lie by Rome? Or, is B.W. just a loose cannon that has little to do with the society’s attitude.

SSPX supporters who justify their position by interpreting canons to fit their situation should remember the canon that states the Pope is the supreme legislator of the Church, and when there’s doubt about how a Canon should be interpreted, it’s the Pope that is charged with doing that, not a lay person or even an ArchBishop.

So lets stop the bickering, the divisive labeling, and all just be Catholic again, and spend some extra time praying about it this week. I don’t care what side you’re on, pray for removing your pre-conceived notions of the Truth so that it may be revealed to you. God knows I do. Who knows, maybe next week we’ll all be on the same side. For now, I’ll go to confession about being judgemental, and see you all next week -

June 28, 2008 at 1:52 pm
(19) Michael Gaydos says:

To say the least we have not won anything in regards to tradition. It is the highest offense to God that the Vatican insists the Masonic Novus Ordo is of same value with Catholicisms Tridentine Roman Rite. We will have only won when God restores the Roman Rite.

We will have only won when a future Pope condemns the Second Vatican Council as Heresy, and abolishes the protestant Novus Ordo once and for all.

Maybe then the modernists will beg and receive an “INDULT” to celebrate a Novus Ordo, once a month on the first Monday of never at 12 midnight by a Bishop who could care less about their salvation, to understand what traditionalists went through all these years.

A bi-ritual parish further blurs the lines between what is truly proper worship and what is offensive to God.


June 28, 2008 at 6:15 pm
(20) Jon Meyer says:


How do you know what is offensive to God? Did he send you a personal letter, or are you imposting your ideas of what is “offsensive to God” to make your point stronger, because people think “ooh, I don’t want to offend God”.

I wouldn’t say that I know what offends God any better than you, but I’m struggling to see how the opposite is true. Please tell me, through quoting Canon Law, some dogmas of the Church, or comments from past Popes, how the NO is offensive to God. You’re going to have to be a little more concrete than “I just know”.

I could easily argue that many of the traditions of the Church, that are based on pagan rites, are also offensive to God, but nobody seems to mind. Next time you color Easter eggs, consider that, or do you also boycott Easter eggs based on their pagan beginnings…

June 29, 2008 at 11:52 pm
(21) Anne says:

It is obvious that there is a crisis in our beloved Church, as the posts are all from Catholics, but they differ in opinion. We should shudder at this state and help each other see what has been lost.

What is Card. Hoyos offering to SSPX, what is he saying to SSPX?These conditions are defined and given, and then considered in two different lights. An ultimatum sure, but for agreement, the matter must be considered in the same light and defined the same way.

Reconcilation is possible, but not likely. In my view, only until the Magisterium takes responsibility and makes further steps forward from declaring that the Tridentine Mass was never abrogated, we will continue to witness SSPX stand their ground.

The salvation of souls – the true mission of our One Holy and Apostolic Church, our gifts of faith are to precious for vagueness. These conditions are not the expression of true Charity.

Conditions resulting from the 4 june 2008 meeting between Dario Card. Castrillon Hoyos and Bishop Bernard Fellay:

1. A commitment to a proportioned response to the generosity of the Pope.

2. A commitment to avoid any public speech which does not respect the person of the Holy Father and which can be negative for ecclesial charity.

3. A commitment to avoid the pretense of a Magisterium superior to the Holy Father and to not put forward the Fraternity [SSPX] in opposition to the Church.

4. A commitment to demonstrate the will to behave honestly in full ecclesial charity and in respect to the authority of the Vicar of Christ.

5. A commitment to respect the date fixed at the end of the month of June to respond positively. This will be a required and necessary condition for the immediate preparation for adhesion to have full communion.

June 30, 2008 at 7:03 am
(22) Scott P. Richert says:

Anne writes: “These conditions are not the expression of true Charity.”

I find it perplexing that many supporters of the SSPX believe that charity must flow in one direction only: from Rome toward the SSPX. What the conditions ask for is simply the charity and filial piety toward the successor of Peter that all Catholics must have–and which, to be frank, many in the SSPX, including at least one bishop, have been sorely lacking.

I belong to an oratory run by the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, a traditionalist (non-schismatic) institute whose motto is Veritatem Facientes in Caritate: “Furthering Truth Through Charity.” The motto puts the proper emphasis: We cannot speak the truth unless we already have love in our hearts.

The conditions laid down by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos should be completely acceptable to anyone who has proper filial love for the successor of Peter.

July 1, 2008 at 4:46 pm
(23) John Pat says:

Recent situation (Ontario) Canada, Novus Ordo Bishop refuses ExtraOrdinary Mass to group of 130 people. Priest in question asked Bishop for Permission to Celebrate. Bishops interpetation: Bishop decides, NOT Pope on local issue. You cannot expect SSPX Bishops to fall into well planned Vatican traps! If Novus Ordo Bishops can tell the Supreme Pontiff to take a leap…how will the SSPX fair under Political Correct Vaticanises?

August 20, 2008 at 3:37 pm
(24) omcfitzpatrick says:

The Society will never compromise on the true mass. We simply won’t condone or say the Novus Ordo mass. We are not Indult and we will not be, we are part of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church is in a time of crisis and, like St Athanasius during the Arian heresy, we won’t except false teachings.

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