That’s right, SSPX Masses don’t fulfill one’s Sunday obligation except in extreme circumstances.
First of all, the Ecclesia Dei Commission said this in protocol N. 117/95:
- The Masses [the SSPX] celebrate are also valid, but it is considered morally illicit for the faithful to participate in these Masses unless they are physically or morally impeded from participating in a Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest in good standing (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 844.2). The fact of not being able to assist at the celebration of the so-called “Tridentine” Mass is not considered a sufficient motive for attending such Masses.
Now I’d like to address a couple statements that Msgr. Perl made in his previous letter.
*1. In the strict sense you may fulfill your Sunday obligation by attending a Mass celebrated by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X.
This last comment applies to whatever specific circumstances this person wrote to Rome about – as Msgr. Perl said above. It cannot be construed that Msgr. Perl is saying that anyone can fulfill his obligation through the SSPX, for that is taking the comment out of context of the original communications.
Msgr. Perl said that an SSPX Mass could, “in the strict sense,” fulfill one’s Sunday obligation. In the same way, a Greek Orthodox Divine Liturgy could, in the strict sense, fulfill one’s Sunday obligation. But that would only be the case if there was no possible way for a person to attend a Catholic Mass, for example, if they were in Greece and it was impossible for them to find a Catholic church, whereas Greek Orthodox churches abound. However, at the same time, the person wouldn’t be bound by the Sunday obligation. In the same way, the Church has said that Catholics may only attend SSPX Masses for truly grave reasons (e.g. the nearest Catholic parish in union with Rome is a really long distance away and one couldn’t drive there without extreme difficulty).
*2. We have already told you that we cannot recommend your attendance at such a Mass and have explained the reason why. If your primary reason for attending were to manifest your desire to separate yourself from communion with the Roman Pontiff and those in communion with him, it would be a sin. If your intention is simply to participate in a Mass according to the 1962 Missal for the sake of devotion, this would not be a sin.
Again, this comment has to be put in the context of the original messages which weren’t made available to us (Msgr. Perl had said that the original correspondence was meant to be private correspondence to someone in a particular situation and that there was more stuff that had been said that wasn’t released to the public). So we do not know why Msgr. Perl has made the statements which he did and, again, this cannot be taken as a blanket endorsement of attendance at Society Masses nor of any kind of support for the SSPX. The Church has warned the faithful that they cannot support the schism of the SSPX. This was specifically stated by the Holy Father in his motu proprio Ecclesia Dei (point 5C) when he said,
“In the present circumstances I wish especially to make an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfill the grave duty of remaining united to the Vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church, and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church’s law.
It is clear that those who patronize the Society stand to incur the penalty of excommunication - so says the supreme interpreter of Church law, an appeal from whose authority is not possible.”