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SSPX and the Charge of Schism

Liberal "Catholics" and Neo-Catholics from Novusordodom take a cruel delight in charging the SSPX with schism

Catholic Archbishop Levebvre

A "prejudice" has been described as an opinion wandering abroad without any visible means of support. The opinion that the SSPX are schismatic clearly falls into this category. 

As the SSPX was canonically established, being founded by a Catholic Archbishop, Msgr Marcel Lefebvre, canonically approved by a local ordinary, Bishop Charrière, opened its first seminary in Ecône with the approval of Bishop Adams, and even obtained a letter of praise from Cardinal Wright.

Further, it has never been canonically suppressed; there was an attempt by Bishop Mamie to illegally suppress it in violation of canon law.   It was after this failed attempt to illegally suppress the SSPX that the unjust persecution of the Society began, which ended in its current irregular canonical situation.  But only those who inhabit the Alice in Wonderland world of Novusordodom would equate an irregular canonical situation with schism.

If unjust treatment by some members of the hierarchy made one a schismatic, then St Joan of Arc was a schismatic, as was the Australian saint, St Mary of the Cross, who was solemnly excommunicated by the Bishop of Adelaide, only to be canonised by Pope Benedict XVI.

When you try and debate the issue with liberals and neo-Catholics they go round and round in circles.  The real reason they spread the calumny of the SSPX being in schism is simple: they don't like the SSPX - period.  My father, having fought in two world wars, was fond of saying, "The only good German is a dead German."  It is a similar sort of blind, malicious, senseless prejudice that we are confronting here, and one that it is equally hopeless to try to rationally argue with.

Catholic Archbishop LevebvreLetter from the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, dated 3 May 1994

"The situation of the members of this Society [SSPX] is an internal matter of the Catholic Church.  The Society is not another Church or Ecclesial Community in the meaning used in the Directory.  Of course, the Mass and Sacraments administered by the priests of the Society are valid."

The first thing to note above is the statement that the SSPX is an internal [our emphasis] matter.  If it is an internal matter it cannot be a schism.  A schism is by definition an external matter, someone has broken away from the Church and is thus external to it.  The second thing to note is that Cardinal Cassidy states emphatically ("of course") that their Mass and sacraments (i.e. baptism, confession, marriage, confirmation, extreem unction, ordinations and the Holy Communion) are valid.

Catholic Archbishop LevebvreLetter from The President of the Sacred Congregation For The Clergy, Silvio Cardinal Oddi, 17 March 1984 [In answer to a family attending Mass at an SSPX chapel as to whether such attendance fulfilled their obligation for Sunday Mass]

"According to the New Code of Canon Law, 'The obligation of assisting at Mass is satisfied wherever Mass is celebrated in a Catholic rite....  I hope that settles your doubts."

What we have here is someone who was going to Mass in a SSPX chapel, but was having scruples about it - perhaps they had been listening to the chatter of liberals and neo-Catholics - so they had written to Rome for clarification.  Cardinal Oddi has taken the trouble to research their question and has kindly come back with the assurance that attending Mass in a SSPX chapel fulfils their Sunday obligation.

Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPXThe "Honolulu Decision" (Protocol No. 14428, 4 June, 1993)

Decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (The Holy Office) under signature of the Prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (the current Pope)

Background: six traditionalist Catholics in Honolulu invited a bishop from the SSPX to the island to confirm their children.  The Bishop of Honolulu responded by excommunicating all six.  One of the six appealed to Rome.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ruled as follows:

"This Congregation has examined carefully all the available documentation and has ascertained that the activities engaged in by the Petitioner ... are not sufficient to constitute the crime of schism.  Since [the Petitioner] did not, in fact, commit the crime of schism and thus did not incur the 'latae  sententiae' penalty, it is clear that the Decree of the Bishop lacks the precondition on which it is founded.  This Congregation, noting all of the above, is obliged to declare null and void the aforesaid Decree of the Ordinary of Honolulu"

What should be noted here is that Rome has actually overruled the local bishop. The local bishop subsequently appealed this ruling and asked that, if he could not excommunicate the six, he be allowed to impose a lesser penalty.  Cardinal Ratzinger would not even permit this face saving exercise, and responded firmly in the negative.  Thus confirming that as far as Rome is concerned the six had not committed any offence meriting even the mildest penalty

Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPXLetter from Count Neri Capponi D.CN.L. - Lateran (Doctor of Canon Law), LL.D. - Florence (Doctor of Laws) and Professor Emeritus of Canon Law at the University of Florence

Note: Count Neri Capponi is an Accredited Advocate of the Holy Roman Rota and Accredited Advocate of the Apostolic Signatura  (the Holy See's highest appeals tribunal),

"The fact is that Msgr. Lefebvre simply said: 'I am creating bishops in order that my priestly order can continue.  They do not take the place of other bishops.  I am not creating a parallel church.'  Therefore, this act was not, per se, schismatic."

Count Neri Capponi is one of the world leading canon lawyers, and although we must concede that his opinion does not carry the weight of a Cardinal Prefect of a Roman Congregation, it surely carries more weight than the likes of the massed ranks of amateur lay canon lawyers who are queuing up to assure us that the SSPX are in schism.

Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX(Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre), 10 March 2009

"The excommunication affects individuals, not institutions ...  An episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate raises the danger of a schism"  

By writing "The excommunication affects individuals, not institutions" the Pope is underscoring the fact that the original excommunication applied to the four bishops, not to the priests or the faithful of the SSPX.

Obviously the Pope does not considered that they are in schism, because writing it "raises the danger of schism" would be nonsense if he did.  If you were dying of cancer, you don't expect your surgeon to say, "If you are not careful, you will catch cancer!"


There you have it: three heads of Roman Congregations, one the most senior canon lawyers on the planet and the Pope himself have told us that "A" the SSPX are not in schism, "B" one can fulfil one's Sunday Mass obligation in their chapels and "C" all their sacraments are valid

The Lifting of the Aledged Excummunications

Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPXThe Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, wrote on the 21 January 2009,

"Based on the faculties expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present Decree, I remit from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of latae sententiae excommunication declared by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, which I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date ... " 

Note: if it is "deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date," that must mean that the late great Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is no longer considered excommunicated by Rome.  Whilst I suspect that liberals and neo-Catholics are generally too cerebrally challenged to get the point, it should be clear to most that one cannot be excommunicated by a decree that has been "deprived of any judicial effect" by the highest authority in the Church.


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Copyright: Cathud 2012 - Are Archbishop Lefebvre and the Catholic priesthood of the SSPX schismatic?