SSPX and automatic excommunication

I read the news about the statement issued by the Bishop of Albano (near Rome) stating that the faithful who receive the sacraments in SSPX chapels risk excommunication. I also read the original statement.

Does anyone here know about this? Does this statement only apply to the diocese of Albano? I attended an SSPX mass (not in Albano) one time, took Communion and went to Confession and had a conditional baptism…this was two or three years ago. I’ve never been back to an SSPX chapel and have no plans to, unless they regularise their situation with the Church.

I actually ended up at the SSPX chapel because I was looking for a priest to hear my confession…I had had some “unusual” experiences in my parish and was confused about things. I knew a lot less about the faith than I do now, and was really worried that I was not getting valid confessions in my parish.

A couple of people that I believed to be faithful Catholics suggested that I try an SSPX chapel, and I did. I told one of them that I had heard that SSPX confessions were not valid, but she said that the SSPX priests used the traditional formula for absolution, and she said something along the lines that we were in an emergency situation in the church so we were justified in going to an SSPX priest for confession, despite their lack of faculties. (I can’t remember exactly how she said it, but it was something along those lines…) So believing that everything was fine, I went to the SSPX chapel.

I had heard some things about the problems between SSPX and Rome, but I did not really understand the details. I certainly had no intention of separating myself from the Church by doing this. I certainly had no idea that receiving the sacraments in an SSPX chapel would put me at risk of automatic excommunication. I didn’t think that I was putting myself in schism, or anything like that.

I haven’t somehow managed to excommunicate myself, have I?

I don’t live in Albano, so I’m not subject to that bishop. I just want to make sure that I’m not automatically excommunicated!


I don’t know much about what that bishop has done. It’s irrelevant to you and what you did. As you said, you are not his subject and what you did predated whatever it is he has done. There are quite a few reasons why you are **not **excommunicated and it is hard to list them all. Don’t worry about it.


I am quite sure that you were not excommunicated simply by attending an SSPX Mass and taking communion. Whether your conditional baptism and/or your confession there were valid is something that you should discuss with a pastor in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Thank you for the responses. I later re-confessed all of those sins. After further research, I came to understand that that confession was invalid, and not just because the SSPX priest lacked faculties.

I’m not worried about the conditional baptism, since the original baptism that I received as a baby was deemed acceptable by my parish priest as well as the diocese when I converted.

Without going into too many details, the SSPX priest told me that he could not hear my confession without a conditional baptism, despite the fact that I had already converted to Catholicism, as I was originally baptised in a non-Catholic church. I figured that a conditional baptism couldn’t hurt anything, so I went ahead with it…

I don’t think you are excommunicated but as SSPX priests have no faculties (they are all suspended) they may not hear Confession so absolutions given by them are invalid.

Don’t get confused. Any sacrament administered by presbyters or bishops with the apostolic succession is totally valid. You were forgiven of your sins. On the other hand, the administration of any sacrament by any of the SSPX ministers is totally illegitimate too. The minister could face serious sanctions and censures. It’s like the consecration of bishops without the papal mandate, for example the bishops of the Chinese Patriotic Church. They are true bishops, but they have no power over his subjects as they aren’t in communion with the pope.

When bishops make official statements, we need to read them carefully. I haven’t seen it myself, but the words you used are “risk excommunication.” That’s a far cry from automatic excommunication.

What you describe does not meet the criteria for automatic excommunication.

The members of the SSPX have no ministry in the Church. Do not believe what the members of the SSPX say: they have mastered the art of manipulating words and using untruths and half-truths to mislead people.

That’s not true.

The valid absolution of sinners requires both priestly ordination and faculties to absolve. Without faculties, an attempt at absolution is an invalid attempt.

I know. I already supposed those faculties conceded by the ordinant (bishop). Although an excommunicated bishop cannot do that… You’d be right on the sacrament of Penance.

And taking advantage of the fear and confusion of some Catholics.

That is not correct.

The faculties of ALL SSPX clergy have been suspended. That means SSPX priests are not allowed to hear Confession because they have no faculties. The absolution given to anyone by an SSPX priest is not valid. The exception would be in a case of imminent death and a penitent had no access to a priest with faculties.

Lack of faculties is really the point to be made here and it isn’t just about invalid confesions.

There is a difference between not knowing they lack faculties or not understanding vs. a mindset which disregards lack of faculties and goes anyway. Anyone who disregards lack of faculties has rebelled against the Church’s legitimate, God given authority to grant or take away faculties.

You can’t really say that you are in communion with Rome and the local Bishop and then disregard what Rome and the local Bishop have said about a priest’s faculties to exercise his ministry. This has been called not “Schism” but a “Schismatic mindset” by people much more educated in ecclesiology than I.


Right. Schism means you run a parallel church with your own Apostolic Succession. Dangerous grounds, especially when you don’t have faculties from Rome.

But aren’t Orthodox confessions valid to its members? Anyone?

I guess the correct term is not valid but licit.


Yes. Orthodox absolutions are valid (at least when they occur within the discipline of the Orthodox Churches, same as Catholics).

No Successor to Peter has ever withdrawn the ability of Orthodox priests to absolve sinners.

The SSPX are in an entirely different situation. It’s completely different, but that subject really belongs in another thread, so I’ll leave it at that.

I’m not sure what you mean but…

Attempts at absolution by the SSPX are both illicit and invalid. Absolution is a juridic act of the Church. The SSPX priests have no ministry in the Church, and therefore cannot attempt absolution. In danger of death, the Church gives them the faculties to absolve, but absent that situation, their attempts are not just illicit, but invalid.

Thank you for the correction Father. I do appreciate learning from people who are in a position to instruct.

I thought the absolution was valid but your explanation re. juridic makes helps me.



Think of it this way, in the Ordinary Form, closing words of absolution are:

…through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace, and I absolve you…

Those words are key. “Through the ministry of the Church.” A priest (even a validly ordained one) who has no ministry in the Church cannot say those words with any effect.

Now, the Ordinary Form uses words that clearly indicate this, but as we know, the SSPX would use the Extraordinary Form:
May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you. And I by His authority release you from every bond of excommunication (suspension) and interdict, in so far as I am empowered and you have need…

So we look at those words “in so far as I am empowered.” Again, the SSPX has no ministry in the Church, and therefore are not empowered to absolve from sins–precisely because the Church does not grant them this power, which is another way of saying that they do not have faculties.

Even without looking to canon law itself, but just looking at the very words used in absolution, we can tell from the words themselves that what the SSPX priests speak cannot have any effect.

All I’m trying to do is explain it so that readers here understand what happens (better to say does not happen) when an SSPX priest attempts absolution: it’s both illicit and invalid.

These two articles by a Canon Lawyer, Cathy Caridi, J.C.L., explain the issues:

Orthodox sacraments involving jurisdiction - matrimony and penance - appear to be in the same situation as those sacraments in the Society of Pius X. Orthodox churches are in a non-canonical position relative to the Catholic Church, in many places there are Catholic jurisdictions in the same territory as a putative Orthodox jurisdiction, and both the Orthodox and the SSPX have had their excommunications removed. They both possess valid orders.

The answer is found in Canon 144:

  1. In factual or legal common error and in positive and probable doubt of law or of fact, the Church supplies executive power of governance for both the external and internal forum.

  2. The same norm is applied to the faculties mentioned in cann. 882, 883, 966, and 1111, 1.

an explanation of which could take a few dozen pages.

Canon 144 does not apply to the SSPX.

Their attempted recourse to canon 144 is one of the ways that they manipulate Catholic laws and practice and mislead people into thinking that they have faculties. Just the way they mislead the author of that article.

The SSPX priests have no ministry in the Church. None.

What the author states in that article with regard to canon 144 is flat out wrong.

Canon 144 does not apply to the SSPX because they have no ministry in the Church. They do not have the status of Catholic priests, therefore they have no recourse to canon 144.

Canon 144 applies to error or doubt of either fact or law. By the very words of the canon it does not apply to the SSPX. There is no error (not as the word is used in that canon), nor is there any doubt.

The SSPX are certainly in error. The canon is not talking about theological error as a means of obtaining faculties. It’s a different use of the word.

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