What is the veracity of the accusations that the SSPX is "excommunicated" or in "schism"? Is it true that the Society's priests lack faculties to administer the sacraments?
A triplet of public accusations about the SSPX's canonical situation were recently made, first from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania diocese, then from the Italian Albano-Laziale diocese, and finally from the Argentine diocese of Zarate-Campana diocese.
These "decrees" announced the Society of St. Pius X was "not in full communion" with the Catholic Church and that its priests lack the faculties to administer the sacraments not only licitly, but even validly. Furthermore, the faithful should not attend Mass offered by an SSPX priest since they could eventually become schismatic.
Such declarations have been ably refuted in the past, particularly the last accusation via the Hawaii Six Case which out rightly ruled that a local ordinary's attempt to personally excommunicate some faithful for attending Mass at the SSPX's mission in Honolulu, was null and void. Of course, there was also Pope Benedict XVI's declaration in 2009 concerning the "lifting of the excommunications" of the SSPX's bishops.
However, such continuing false accusations do not merely impute the Society of St. Pius X, but also cast a shadow across the legitimacy of the entire movement of Catholic Tradition, even against those who merely manifest traditionalist views. Thus the collection of studies, Is Tradition Excommunicated? can be considered aptly named. For if Archbishop Lefebvre and his priestly society are excommunicated and in state of schism for upholding and preserving the Catholic Faith against Modernism in the midst of the post-conciliar crisis, then all those attached to Tradition are likewise culpable.
For the first time at SSPX.ORG, we are offering some texts from this book (available from Angelus Press), to help clarify the Society of St. Pius X's status in the Church; namely, the priestly society is neither excommunicated, nor schismatic, but Roman Catholic:
- Neither schismatic nor excommunicated
- The case of the imaginary schism
- Schism and Archbishop Lefebvre
- The Episcopal Consecrations: a canonical study
- Disposition of law for case of necessity in Church
- Bishop de Castro Mayer's 1988 declaration at Econe
However, before the canonical argument, one must consider the doctrinal one of fidelity to the Catholic Faith. It is this premise in the light of the Modernist crisis that has given rise to a state of necessity and thus reliance on the Church's laws concerning the application of supplied jurisdiction (and so the lawful and valid administration of the sacraments outside the canonical norm). Unfortunately this crucial distinction is often lost upon our opponents who ignore the application of canon law in an unabated state of necessity.
The fact that the canonical issue must be judged in the context of the post-conciliar crisis—thus the underlying theological case—is shown by Archbishop Lefebvre's reaction to the punitive and unjust measures often leveled against his own person as well as his priests. For while seeking the justice that was due, nevertheless he recognized that these things were not of the first importance, but rather the first law of the Church: the salvation of souls. In this, the archbishop was not deterred and in imitation of St. Athanasius continued to transmit the Catholic Faith, whole and entire.
In addition to the extracts from Is Tradition Excommunicated, our readers might also be interested in these related articles and books:
- What is the canonical status of the SSPX?
- A theological and canonical study of the 1988 consecrations
- Trial by Canon Law: the Case of Archbishop Lefebvre
- Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican
- Apologia Pro Lefebvre
In conclusion, we offer below the introduction from Is Tradition Excommunicated and hope that our readers will benefit from the extracts we have provided.
Could it have been that Archbishop Lefebvre was right in doing what he felt he had to do (i.e., Episcopal Consecrations of June 30, 1988)? If he was right, could it be that he did not incur an excommunication according to the very letter of the law itself? If he was not excommunicated, could he possibly not be the schismatic he is viciously accused of being? If he really is not schismatic, could it be that his concept of Tradition is not as arbitrary as he was told? Could it be that the notion of Tradition as the simple transmission of the deposit of Faith is not so incomplete and contradictory after all? ...
The purpose of this collection of essays is to address each one of these questions from a profoundly theological perspective. It is no longer the time for facile arguments or for slogans. We must now examine the doctrinal and canonical reasons behind Archbishop Lefebvre's "Operation Survival" to see how much it really was conformed to the mind of the Church.
One cannot be more accurate or clear in elucidating by the light of the Faith, the decisions I have had to take in the last 15 years, and very especially the last one, the consecration of bishops.
How much I wish that these pages be translated in every language, that they be published in all our magazines, and that they be put in the hands of all our faithful.
...(Ask) all our superiors and all those in charge of traditionalist groups that they spread these luminous pages which ought to be read by all those who follow us and all those who are confused.
It isn't possible to solve in a better and stronger way the actual problems. It is a masterpiece of pastoral work and theology."
Extract of Archbishop Lefebvre's letter of August 23, 1988 to the editor of SiSNoNo concerning the July 1988 Issue (which contained the article "Neither Schismatic Nor Excommunicated" herein translated and published).