What's the theological difference in relationship status to Rome between the schism of the SSPX and the schism of the Eastern Orthodox?

Is there a significant theological difference between these two who are in schism with Rome? I mean the respective relationship status of each to Rome.

The SSPX are not in schism. Their words and deeds are schismatic, but they are not yet in schism.

The people who currently belong to the EO, with few exceptions, never belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. They were baptized into an Orthodox church. No one gets baptized into the SSPX - technically no lay people belong to it at all, just clergy and religious.

It is possible to have ecumenical dialogue with those who recognize they belong to a different church from you - the Orthodox, or others. It is not possible to have ecumenical dialogue with those who claim that they, themselves, are the true Catholic Church.

The Orthodox recognize the authority of the Pope, and Vatican II, for Catholics. They would say they themselves hold to the ancient Catholic faith, but through a somewhat different pattern of apostolic succession from Rome, which they also recognize. They pastor their own flocks - EO laity with EO clergy, bishop, patriarch.

The SSPX don’t have an apostle they can trace succession through, to Christ. They claim they have the fullness of the truth of Roman Catholicism. They don’t really have their own flocks, the people who frequent their chapels are drawn away from Catholic parishes.

The EO are in relationship to Rome in that Rome recognizes their patriarchs, bishops, and pastors in relationship to their people - even if separate from the Catholic Church itself. The EO have recognized parishes and dioceses. The SSPX relationship to Rome is problematic - they are just individuals, not a church. The lack of a patriarch, bishop-ordinary, or even a recognized (by Rome) pastor in SSPX creates pastoral problems for the local Catholic pastor, and bishop of the diocese, who still have some responsibility for SSPX Catholics, as they do for all Catholics in their region. (Rome can recognize the ordination of a bishop or priest in SSPX, but does not recognize any pastoral or episcopal assignments, as they do for EO). From Rome’s point of view, the SSPX consists of Catholic lay individuals and various unassigned priests and bishops. To my knowledge, the SSPX has no dioceses or parishes that would be recognized by Rome. I don’t think the SSPX itself even claims to have parishes or dioceses, which the EO of course does.

CDF prefect says SSPX in schism, suspended from sacraments

The leaders of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) are in schism, and remain suspended from the sacraments, says the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Archbishop Gerhard Müller said that although Pope Benedict XVI lifted the canonical excommunication of SSPX prelates, they remain suspended from the sacraments because “by their schism they have broken away from communion with the Church.”

Archbishop Müller said that while talks with the SSPX have reach an impasse, the Vatican will not close the door to reconciliation. However, he said, a restoration of full communion would require the SSPX to accept the authority of the Church and of the Pope.

With the failure of discussions, what is the position of the Lefebvrians?

”The canonical excommunication due to the illicit [episcopal] ordination was lifted from the bishops, but the sacramental one remains, de facto, for the schism; because they have removed themselves away from communion with the Church. That being said, we do not close the door, ever, and we invite them to reconcile. But they also must change their approach and accept the conditions of the Catholic Church and the Supreme Pontiff as the ultimate criterion of belonging.”

One side says one thing and the other something else. I don’t read or understand italian. :shrug:

This right here highlights the Theological Difference.

To the Orthodox Mind, this statement is nonsense. How can one act like they are in schism, say schismatic things and not be in Schism?

Mr. Book, how can one act like they are in heresy, say heretical things and not be a heretic. Nevertheless, Blessed Augustine writes,

The Apostle Paul has said: A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sins, being condemned of himself. But though the doctrine which men hold be false and perverse, if they do not maintain it with passionate obstinacy, especially when they have not devised it by the rashness of their own presumption, but have accepted it from parents who had been misguided and had fallen into error, and if they are with anxiety seeking the truth, and are prepared to be set right when they have found it, such men are not to be counted heretics.

Blessed Augustine said a lot of things, some of which he retracted later in life as he grew in the Faith.

Even so, We do acknowledge the difference between say Arius and someone who struggles in private with heretical teachings or leanings.

The SSPX certainly are not prepared to be “set right.”


While it is true that the Society has never been declared to be in schism, it has been guilty of schismatic acts and schismatic thinking. At some point, they’re going to reach a point of no return in which they will be considered to be in schism, because there is more that they resist and reject than what they accept. In other words, the scales will have been tipped to the other side.

At this point, the scale is still in their favor. A schismatic act here and a schismatic statement there does not a schismatic make. However, if you make this your normal behavior, then you have effectively placed yourself in schism. No one needs to send you a letter or issue a press release.

Generally, each group has their own issues. For example, we have our issues with the SSPX; the Orthodox have their issues with Old Calendarists. (Not that an exact parallel can be drawn, but it just goes to show that we each have our own splits/divisions/schisms/ or whatever we want to call them.) Of course, the Anglicans have their divisions over WO etc, but those are more serious (IMO).

From our resident religious, Brother Jay (JrEducation):

Schisms don’t have theological definitions; therefore, you cannot compare them that way.
Schisms are the result of doctrinal differences or disciplinary differences. When they result from doctrinal differences, then we say that there are theological differences.

Let’s compare the SSPX and the Orthodox.


Is not in schism. While there are unresolved doctrinal issues between the SSPX and Rome, the SSPX has not stated that it is leaving the Church, nor has Rome jettisoned it. They are are in an imperfect communion with Rome. Imperfect in that what they want from Rome, Rome can’t give them at this time.


Are in schism. There are some unresolved doctrinal and disciplinary problems: Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, Papal Infallibility, Papal Supremacy, Economy of Salvation


While the SSPX claims to be Roman Catholic, Canon Law of the Latin Church applies to the Society. This is a two-sided chip. On the one side it says, “United with Rome.” However, on the other side it says, “Non compliant with Canon Law; therefore, suspended.”


Because the Orthodox Churches are not claiming to be Catholic, Catholic Church laws do not apply to them, unless they are entering the Church, which is usually individually.


Because the bishops and priests of the Society are all suspended, they have no faculties. Confession and marriage is invalid. All other sacraments are illicit o illegal.


Because they are not subject to Canon Law, they are not suspended. All of their sacraments are valid and licit. They get their faculties from their own ordinaries, not from our ordinaries.


A Catholic may attend mass at the SSPX chapel to fulfill a Sunday obligation or for a special occasion: wedding, funeral, First Communion, etc. He may also receive the Eucharist.

He may not got to confession to an SSPX priest. The absolution is invalid and it is encouraging the priest to act contrary to the Church and the sacrament.

In case of emergency, the absolution is valid. The Church supplies. By emergency it is meant that there is no time to find another priest. In such case, even a priest who has turned murderer, atheist, heretic, married or simply left for a good reason can validly and licitly absolve as long as he intends to do what the Church intends to do through the sacrament.


We cannot fulfill our Sunday obligation by attending an Orthodox Divine Liturgy (mass). Although the mass is perfectly valid and licit, we are not members of that Church. It is disrespectful to the Orthodox Church to behave as if we are in full communion. It is disrespectful to the Catholic Church to behave as if any valid mass is as good to us as the other.

An absolution by an Orthodox priest is always valid. It is illicit for a Roman Catholic to go to confession to an Orthodox priest. In that case, the person violating Canon Law is the Catholic. The priest may be violating the Canons of his Church, if he knows that you’re Catholic. But you know that you’re Catholic. However, the absolution is valid.

In an emergency, the same rules apply.

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