SSPX and automatic excommunication

Readers here should be aware of the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Unitatem of Pope Benedict XVI given in July 2009.

In that Motu Proprio (which, by the very nature of the document is the law of the Church) the Holy Father clarified that the SSPX clergy "its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry."

Those are clear, unambiguous, and not need of any interpretation. The words speak for themselves. No ministry means no ministry. It does not mean that they can invoke canon 144. It does not mean that someone’s opinion, expressed on an internet blog, can over-rule the law personally written by the Pope himself. It means exactly what the Holy Father said. The SSPX clergy have no ministry in the Church.

Pope Benedict, no doubt, was aware of canon 144 and the principle of ecclesia supplet. There is also no doubt that His Holiness knew full well that claims to canon 144 are a typical technique used by the SSPX to mislead people. He wrote in his Motu Proprio that the SSPX priests “cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.” That is the law of the Church.

Thank you for this.

Why would they have required a conditional baptism? Do they not recognize Catholic baptisms? Do they have a different Creed (“one baptism”)?

As I understand it, the Church previously required all converts to receive conditional baptism to verify that their previous baptism as a protestant was valid. SSPX generally ties itself to all Church disciplines and practices prior to Vatican II. So, they probably require converts to have conditional baptism because the Church used to required it.


I have always found it “interesting” when this subject comes up that almost invariably an analogy with the Orthodox is attempted. Rome has stated that the Orthodox have the fullness of Apostolic succession, and yet, based on historical Roman Catholic ecclesiology, in order to have the fullness ofApostolic succession, one must possess jurisdiction. Very problematic for Rome to reconcile this modern day understanding with pre Vatican II ecclesiology.

There is no problem because there is no conflict between pre- and post-Vatican II ecclesiology.

Whatever it is you read, you somehow misunderstand it.

What you claim to be Catholic ecclesiology is completely contradicted by genuine Catholic ecclesiology; the Summa of St. Thomas, for example. It’s also contradicted by more than 1,000 years of history. You are misunderstanding something.

If you say so.

“This communion exists especially with the Eastern Orthodox Churches which, though separated from the See of Peter, remain united to the Catholic Church by means of very close bonds, such as the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, and therefore merit the title of particular Churches.”(CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH. Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion.

“Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.”(Dominus Iesus)

Now, compare the above with the these quotes:

[Encyclical Amantissimus, April 18, 1862]
“He who leaves this [Roman] See cannot hope to remain within the Church; he who eats of the lamb outside of it has no part with God.”

[Letter Jam vos omnes, September 13, 1868]
“Now, anyone who wishes to examine with care and to meditate on the condition of the different religious societies divided among themselves and separated from the Catholic Church…will easily be convinced that no one of these societies nor all of them together in any way constitute or are that one Catholic Church which Our Lord founded and established and which He willed to create. Nor is it possible, either, to say that these societies are either a member or part of this same Church, since they are visibly separated from Catholic unity.”

[Encyclical Quartus supra, January 6, 1873, to the
“He who abandons the Chair of Peter on which the Church is founded, is falsely persuaded that he is in the Church, since he is already a sinner and a schismatic who raises up a chair against the one Chair of Peter, from which flow to all others the sacred rights of communion.”

This one is particularly interesting:

[Encyclical Etsi multa, November 21, 1873]
The very first elements of Catholic doctrine teach that no one can be considered a legitimate bishop if he is not united by the communion of faith and charity with the Rock on which the Church of Christ is built, if he does not adhere to the Supreme Pastor to whom are confided all the sheep so that he may feed them, and if he is not bound to him who has the office of confirming his brethren who are in the world.

Just these few quotes (and there are many more) clearly demonstrate a marked difference in how the West views the East pre and post Vatican II.

None of those texts support what you claimed earlier, which is that the Church held this: “in order to have the fullness of Apostolic succession, one must possess jurisdiction.”

It’s quite obvious that you’re merely trying to present a false caricature of the Church by using words and concepts that you do not understand.

According to Roman Catholic ecclesiology, any bishop not in union with the Roman Pontiff has no authority over the faithful.

One is not and cannot be a “successor of the Apostles” if one has no authority over the Faithful.

From one of the most referred to Theology manuals before Vatican II.

Here is Van Noort, from his volume, “Christ’s Church,” p. 152.

“It has already been established … that bishops succeeded to the position in the Church originally filled by the apostles. But as was pointed out, this succession does not mean that a particular bishop succeeded to the job of a particular apostle — say that the bishop of Bridgeport has taken over the job of St. Bartholomew. Rather, it means that the college of bishops, viewed collectively, succeeded the apostolic college, viewed collectively. It may be asked then: “How can you be sure that this or that bishop should be counted as a legitimate successor of the apostles?” Obviously a man does not become a genuine successor to the apostles merely by arrogating to himself the title of “bishop,” or by carrying on in some fashion a function once performed by the apostles. Neither is it enough for a man merely to possess some one, individual power, say for example, the power of orders. — The power of orders can be acquired even illicitly, and once acquired can never be lost. — What is required for genuine apostolic succession is that a man enjoy the complete powers (i.e., ordinary powers, not extraordinary) of an apostle. He must, then, in addition to the power of orders, possess also the power of jurisdiction. Jurisdiction means the power to teach and govern. — This power is conferred only by a legitimate authorization and, even though once received, can be lost again by being revoked.”

I can provide plenty more straight forward and unambiguous quotes that support what I’m saying.

You’ve just proven that you don’t understand what you’re writing.

In order to be “any bishop” he must have apostolic succession.

According to what your wrote there, the very words “any bishop” would not apply to one who lacks jurisdiction. Of course, what you wrote was incorrect.

You are now contradicting yourself.

There isn’t any contradiction coming from me.

Look, it’s very simple. Do the Orthodox have jurisdiction?

Titular bishops and retired bishops do not enjoy the fullness of Apostolic succession. They do not have governance, which is a required mark as taught by Rome. Their Holy Orders are valid of course and they provide sacraments, but any “supplied jurisdiction” comes from the Roman pontiff.

You obviously have no idea whatsoever what you’re writing. None.

Do the Orthodox have jurisdiction?

Of course. It applies in favor of the faithful who attend in good faith and error in the Church’s solicitude for the salvation of souls for the common good. *1

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

Neither do the Orthodox bishops, priests, and deacons.

The SSPX are certainly in error.

No one has defended the SSPX either in their schism or in their rejection of Catholic doctrine.

*1 - “144 According to doctrine, this norm does not provide, strictly speaking, a sanitation “a iure” of an invalid act, but, rather, a delegation “a iure” of power for those cases - always singular and specific in which the common good, which requires certainty in the application of jurisdiction, is at stake in some way. The content of this norm covers the whole area of executive power, whether ordinary or delegated, consequently it is also applicable to habitual faculties (cf. c. 132, 1) both in the intemal and in the external forum, but it does not apply to judicial or legislative power.”

““Common error” presumes that the one subject to a power has an erroneous opinion of whether a particular individual has been granted this power. Common error of law refers in some way to the interpretation of the juridical norms governing the exercise of the power; common error of fact arises from the inexact assessment of a set of factual circumstances and the resulting inference that the individual in question possesses a power in accordance with the juridical norms. In order for power to be supplied in either case, the error must always be based on a solid and constant public fact, i.e., capable of causing error; in addition, this supply of power must be of general benefit and interest.”

“In contrast to common error, “doubt” is a situation pertaining to the individual who exercises the power. Doubt is said to be positive and probable when this individual, despite his doubt, has sound reasons to believe he possesses the power and that, if he exercises it, he will very probably do it according to the ordinary discipline of the Church. Positive motives are always required in order for c. 144 to supply the power; consequently, it is not sufficient for the doubt to be based on negative reasons, such as the negligence of the person performing the act. As with error, doubt may stem from an assessment either of the law itself (doubt of “law”) or of the law’s applicability to the case in question (doubt of “fact”).”

“As 2 indicates, all this has a particular application in the habitual faculties (cf. c. 132, 1) granted for hearing confessions (c. 966) and for assisting at marriages (c. 1111, 1; cf. commentary), as well as in the cases given in c. 883 concerning the minister of confirmation.”

  • “CODE OF CANON LAW ANNOTATED” - Latin-English edition of the Code of Canon Law and English-language translation of the 5th Spanish-language edition of the commentary prepared under the responsibility of the Institute Martin de Azpilcueta, edited by E. CAPARROS, M. THERIAULT, J. THORN of the UNIVERSITY OF NAVARRA Faculty of Canon Law and the SAINT PAUL UNIVERSITY Faculty of Canon Law, Wilson & Lafleur Limited, Montreal, 1993

Just to be accurate, jurisdiction and “the fullness of Apostolic succession” are different things. The first deals with governance, the second with validity of orders.

Thirty years ago I had a long, and unfortunately eventually heated, discussion with our then archdiocesan ecumenical officer. He was at the time doing public handstands with the local Episcopalians and an “Old Catholic” sect. I pointed out that we had much more in common with the SSPX than either of them, and that the hard attitude being exhibited was going to assure that as they go into the second and third generations of the schism reconciliation was going to become impossible. A hundred years hence his successor would be doing public handstands with the local Episcopalians, an “Old Catholic” sect, AND the SSPX.

There is very bad blood on both sides. With few exceptions North American dioceses made the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” a dead letter. There is no desire in much of the Church to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the faithful who continue to be attached to the earlier liturgical forms, even after Pope John Paul II issued the special Indult Quattuor Abhinc Annos, and again in 1988 the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei. The SSPX reciprocates the contempt.

The faithful in the SSPX in their mid-40s and younger were either minors or not yet born when the schism began, and many of them have never attended a Catholic Mass in a parish in communion with the Holy See. The Church is in the process of losing these people forever by, except for the Holy Fathers, focusing on squabbles instead of focusing on the good of the faithful who attend the SSPX chapels.

It is a very sad situation.

Since the excommunication of the SSPX was lifted, the adherents to this schism appear to be in the same situation as members of the Polish National Catholics, the Orthodox Churches, and the Assyrian Church of the East as to the reception of Communion, Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick under canon 844 3.

Similarly the provisions of canon 844 2 would also appear to apply.

None of that is relevant.

Canon 144 does not apply to the SSPX because they have no ministry in the Church.

Let’s be accurate here.

The “excommunication of the SSPX” was never lifted. The Society itself was never excommunicated for the simple fact that excommunication is a penalty that applies to individuals (whether singular or plural). Individual persons were excommunicated. The excommunications of certain individual persons were lifted.

Those whose excommunications were not lifted remain excommunicated.

The members of the SSPX have no ministry in the Church. None.

Still waiting on an answer on whether the Orthodox have jurisdiction. …

I thought just the 4 bishops were excommunicated, then later it was rescinded. Who else in the SSPX is still excommunicated?

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