Could someone explain what "SSPX" is?

I’m a Protestant considering conversion to Catholicism, and I was wondering if someone could explain what SSPX is? I’ve heard references to them on Catholic radio and online, but I’m still unsure exactly who they are and what their relationship with the CC and Vatican is.


SSPX stands for the Society of St. Pius X. It is a religious order of Traditional Catholic Priests.

The Society of Saint Pius X is a Catholic priestly society (not a religious order or a separate Church), but it has no canonical status in the Catholic Church because of its members’ disobedience and their views on a number of topics, particularly the liturgy and the teachings of Vatican II. It has (I think) around 500 members (priests) who run a variety of parishes in the United States and around the world. It had four (validly ordained Catholic) bishops, but the most extreme of the four (Bp. Williamson) is either out of the society or on very thin ice with it, so now there are basically three.

The society and its members are not in schism from the Catholic Church, strictly speaking (after all, the society is not a separate Church). Nor are they sedevacantists; it is the official position of the SSPX that Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis were all legitimate popes. Nevertheless, the members of the SSPX believe that they are justified in being systematically disobedient to their local bishops and to Rome, because the Church is in the midst of a major crisis arising from the heresy of modernism.

SSPX priests celebrate Mass using the missal of John XXIII (the last version of the traditional Latin Mass or Tridentine Mass). SSPX priests generally believe that Mass under the missal of Paul VI (the novus ordo Mass or ordinary form) is valid but seriously problematic (to the point where it is a mortal sin to attend one). They also generally hold that Vatican II taught error on topics like ecumenism, religious liberty, and so on. Because of their unique position, their Masses are probably valid, but their confessions are probably not.

I think I’ve done a decent job here of describing the SSPX objectively and accurately. If I’ve made a mistake, I’m sure someone will correct me.

SSPX is the abbreviation for the Society of Saint Pius X. They were formed in 1970 (?) in reaction to the changes that came out of the Second Vatican Council. Since 1975 or so their status has been a roller coaster ride. The only other thing I will mention is that members of the society split off in 1988 to form the FSSP (Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri, aka Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter). I won’t go into too much beyond that because it often gets contentious when talking about the SSPX.

Thanks for the replies! So can Catholics attend an SSPX parish’s Mass, receive Communion or other sacraments from a member priest, etc. Or is that considered sinful?

They consider attending a OF Mass is a mortal sin??:eek:

Officially it’s the FSSPX Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Pii X (Latin: The Priestly Society/Fraternity of Saint Pius X; ) legitimately founded in 1970.

Thanks for the replies! So can Catholics attend an SSPX parish’s Mass, receive Communion or other sacraments from a member priest, etc. Or is that considered sinful?

It is my understanding that Catholic laypeople are not specifically prohibited from attending Mass at an SSPX chapel, and that such Masses do fulfill a Catholic’s Sunday obligation to attend Mass. The Catholic must not participate in the SSPX’s “schismatic attitude,” or intend to support dissent from Church teaching, or anything like that. If the layperson’s intentions are pure (e…g., she just really wants to attend a traditional Latin Mass and the SSPX are the only people offering one nearby), she is not specifically prohibited from attending.

Of course, that is not to say that it is morally right to attend SSPX Masses.It is just to say that it is left up to individual Catholics’ prudential judgment whether it is right or not to attend an SSPX Mass. I would not attend an SSPX Mass, because I would not want to give any level of support to Catholics who are systematically disobedient to the Church despite being exactly the sort of Catholics who should know better. Nevertheless, your prudential judgment might be different.

They consider attending a OF Mass is a mortal sin??

That particular claim I myself found on what I thought was the SSPX’s official website. I’ll see if I can dig it up again. Of course, the claim (as I remember it) is that it is grave matter to attend an OF Mass, but only a mortal sin if the Catholic in question has a sufficient understanding (full knowledge) of what he’s doing.

EDIT: Upon reflection, I withdrawal my claim that the SSPX generally holds it is a mortal sin to attend the novus ordo, on account of I can’t find the article I was thinking of. I think it may have been this archived thing:

But it does not seem to say exactly what I thought it said.

Since SSPX Masses are few and far between, what do they suggest we do, stay home on Sundays? Also, how can they be in good standing when they are saying that the Church’s most common form of the Mass is sinful to attend? I truly do not understand this whole situation. I mean, I know that many people don’t like some of the changes in the Mass, but to call it sinful? Sorry, I can’t get on board with that.

I believe that attending a SSPX Mass does NOT fulfill your Sunday obligation. I would double check before trying to meet your obligation there.

Oh, the actual priests of the SSPX are not in good standing. It is a very bad thing that their society has no canonical status in the Church. There is a different between the actual members of the SSPX (all of whom are priests) and laypeople who hang around the SSPX and attend Mass at their chapels.

Also, please note my retraction; I was unable to substantiate my claim that the SSPX thing it is a mortal sin to attend the novus ordo, so I might be wrong about that.

As for whether the SSPX expect you to just stay home on Sunday if there is no traditional Latin Mass near you, I think the answer is yes, they do. From the SSPX article linked above:

E. Considering what has been said, are we obliged in conscience to attend the Novus Ordo Missae?

If the Novus Ordo Missae is not truly Catholic, then it cannot oblige for one’s Sunday obligation. Many Catholics who do assist at it are unaware of its all pervasive degree of serious innovation and are exempt from guilt. However, any Catholic who is aware of its harm, does not have the right to participate. He could only then assist at it by a mere physical presence without positively taking part in it, and then and for major family reasons (weddings, funerals, etc).

Thanks for the insight. I don’t like some of things about the OF too, I just don’t believe that open rebellion against the Church is the proper route to bring about change.

Googling the topic reveals a few Fr. Z posts, of which the above is the most recent. It suggests that Mass at a true SSPX chapel does fulfill one’s Sunday obligation. Most other sources I’ve read say the same; that strictly speaking, it is a Catholic Mass, and fulfills one’s obligation as it’s laid out in Canon 1248 § 1. Admittedly, it seems that the question is somewhat more muddled than I originally thought, but unless I’m missing something more recent, I think it does strictly fulfill the Sunday obligation.

This is my understanding. Attending a SSPX chapel for Sunday Mass, strictly speaking ,fulfills ones obligation. It could still be sinful if one does so out of disobedience.

That is correct.

See Fr Serpa’s answer in Ask An Apologist.

May a Catholic attend a SSPX Mass regularly?

It is sometimes said that one can attend an SSPX Mass if no other Mass is available, however in such circumstances one’s Sunday Obligation is abrogated anyway. It is certainly not permitted to attend just because no other Latin Mass is available.

Just to add to the above Bishop Williamson was expelled from the SSPX in Oct 2012.

I habitually steer clear of SSPX threads and so don’t want to get into this fray, but I’m curious as to what the bolded means? Canonical juridical irregularities notwithstanding, how does one assist at Mass out of disobedience? :confused:

The priests in the Society as well as the Bishops are objectively disobedient. That is the whole crux of the SSPX not having canonical status. If a person were to attach themselves to the SSPX out of solidarity with the priests and their disobedience, that **could **be sinful. The CDW has previously said that if one attends SSPX Masses solely out of attachment to the traditional form of the Mass, that’s acceptable. It’s the middle area that becomes problematic.

Yes, OK, thanks. I see what you mean. :slight_smile: It’s what I thought in the first place: where the average “Joe and Jill in the pew” are concerned, the “middle area” and the technicalities of canonical status, don’t really come into play. :wink:

You cannot attend Confession from an SSPX priest as he hasn’t been granted faculties. You can attend Mass, but it doesn’t fulfill your Sunday obligation if there is another church that you can attend that is in full communion with Rome (the SSPX are not in full communion with Rome). You can receive Communion at an SSPX Mass, but not if you are doing so out of a position of disobedience to Rome or disapproval of the Pope.

If you are considering becoming a Catholic, stick to a mainstream Catholic church (either OF or EF parish). I don’t think that SSPX would be able to initiate you into the Catholic Church anyway.

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