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Does the SSPX Have an Extraordinary Mission?

Editor’s note: as we announced last week, this is the beginning of an ongoing series presenting both sides of the SSPX debate. A response to this critique from Mr. Salza will appear later today. Contributions to this debate on either side can be sent to editor [at]


In Episode 44 of the Society of St. Pius X’s Crisis in the Church series, Fr. Jonathan Loop, SSPX, gave a podcast entitled “How Can the SSPX Justify its Ministry in the Church?” The purpose of Fr. Loop’s video was to explain how the SSPX clergy can justify the exercise of their priestly ministry when they have no permission from the Church to do so.[1] After all, while the bishops of the SSPX have valid episcopal ordinations, they do not have a canonical mission given by hierarchical authority, which is required for such functions to become active and lawful.[2] Further, the priests of the SSPX are not incardinated (attached or “hinged” to a particular Church or religious institute in communion with Rome), which is contrary to canon law (“Every cleric must be incardinated…unattached or transient clerics are not allowed at all”).[3]

The necessity of “mission” (from the Latin missio, “sending”) in the Church is regulated by canon law, but rooted in divine law. Just as God the Father sends Christ, so Christ sends the Apostles in His Great “Commission” (Mt 28:18-20). And just as Christ sends the Apostles, so the Vicar of Christ sends the successors of the Apostles (who send their priests), so that Christ’s mission (of teaching, sanctifying and governing) can be carried out through the sacred priesthood, according to His will.

In his presentation, Fr. Loop admitted that the SSPX “does not have a normal, canonical mission.”[4] He also referred to Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the bishops in which the Pope stated the SSPX does not have “any canonical status” or “legitimate ministry” in the Church. He also admitted that the Society does in fact operate “contrary to the known intentions, the known will of those successors of the Apostles, the Princes of the Church.”[5]

Nevertheless, Fr. Loop claimed the SSPX’s ministry is justified due to “the exceptional crisis in which the Church finds herself,” which he explained to mean the Pope and most of the bishops are destroying the faith, and the SSPX needs to intervene to save the faith. However, according to the teaching of Popes and Saints, the existence of a crisis in the Church is not relevant to the question of “How Can the SSPX Justify its Ministry in the Church?”

When clergy like Fr. Loop concede that they do not have a “normal canonical mission” and are even working “contrary to the will” of the local bishops, the Church requires them to prove they have an extraordinary mission (which means they were sent directly by Christ). And for a minister to prove he has an extraordinary mission, the Church has always required him to have miracles. Otherwise, the Church instructs the faithful to reject him.

As Pope Pius XII taught about bishops who minister without canonical mission: “Acts requiring the power of Holy Orders which are performed by ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious. To such conduct the warning words of the Divine Teacher fittingly apply: ‘He who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber.’”[6]

In his book on Canonizations and Beatifications, Pope Benedict XIV writes that “no credit is to be publicly given to him [a priest] who says he has invisibly received a mission from God unless he confirms it by a miracle or a special testimony of Holy Scripture.’”[7] In Cum Ex Injuncto, Pope Innocent III taught:

…it does not suffice for anyone to assert so boldly that he is sent by God, since any heretic may profess this: but it is necessary that he proves that invisible mission by the working of miracles or by special testimony of the Scriptures…[8]

St. Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church, refuted the Protestant claim of extraordinary mission based on the allegation that the Church’s ordinary mission had become corrupt:

These reasons are so strong that the most solid of your party have taken ground elsewhere than in the ordinary mission, and have said that they were sent extraordinarily by God because the ordinary mission had been ruined and abolished within the true Church itself, under the tyranny of Antichrist. This is their most safe refuge, which, since it is common to all sorts of heretics…I say then that no one should allege an extraordinary mission unless he proves it by miracles… He then who would be so rash as to boast of extraordinary mission without immediately producing miracles, deserves to be taken for an imposter.[9]

Van Noort also addresses the Protestant claim of extraordinary mission his Dogmatic Manual, Christ’s Church:

Since the original Protestants obviously lacked apostolicity of government, they took refuge in an appeal to the theory of “extraordinary mission.” … It is clear, however, if any such extraordinary mission were ever to be granted by God, it would have to be proven by miracles or other clearly divine trademarks.[10]

Therefore, the question is not whether there is a crisis in the Church, but whether the Society of St. Pius X has extraordinary mission due to the crisis in the Church. While this is no judgment of the intentions of the SSPX clergy, this is how the Catholic Church judges clerics who claim to have a right to exercise the priesthood without a canonical mission from the Church.[11] If the SSPX does not have an extraordinary mission, then they are condemned by the words of SSPX priest Fr. Angles,

If they [the priests of the SSPX] have no faculties, all the priestly work they perform every day is illegitimate and therefore evil. If this is so, it would be a sin to receive their services, maybe even to ask for them. If such is the case, the Society is deceiving the good traditional Catholic faithful!

If the current ecclesial crisis necessitated the intervention of the SSPX without a canonical mission, then Christ would have personally given them an extraordinary mission and backed it up with the miracles that the Church requires to confirm it. After all, it has been during times of great crisis that Christ has given extraordinary mission (for example, St. Vincent Ferrer received extraordinary mission from Christ, and he had the miracles to prove it. During his canonization, the Church stopped counting at 800). What privilege is the SSPX claiming for themselves over St. Vincent Ferrer, not to mention Our Lord, or the Apostles, or Moses – all of whom proved their divine mission with miracles?

Neither Archbishop Lefebvre nor any of his bishops and priests have produced a single miracle to justify their ministry without a canonical mission, even though they claim we are suffering perhaps the greatest crisis in Church history.[12] That is because Christ did not send the bishops and priests of the SSPX. Rather, they have sent themselves, and thus, in the words of Fr. Angles (SSPX), “have been deceiving good traditional Catholic faithful.”[13]


This article has been abbreviated by the author from its original version.

[1] Pope Francis has given the SSPX clergy permission to hear confessions and, with the approval of the local bishop, witness marriages. We can only hope that these concessions finally lead to a canonical mission for the SSPX.

[2] See canon 381, §2. See, also, for example, John Beal, James Coriden, and Thomas Green, A New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), p. 512.

[3] Canon 265. For purposes of simplicity, and consonant with traditional terminology, I will use the word “mission” in this article to refer to the lawful exercise of both the offices of bishop and priest.

[4] SSPX Crisis in the Church Series, Episode 44 – “How Can the SSPX Justify its Ministry in the Church?,” https://www. watch?v=pUvM W_W z JRs, at 3.50.

[5] It must be noted that extraordinary mission always works together with the ordinary authority, not in opposition to it. Thus, on that basis alone, the SSPX could not have an extraordinary mission.

[6] Ibid., Nos 41-42 (emphasis added).

[7] Pope Benedict XIV, Beatification and Canonization, “On Heroic Virtue”, Chapter viii; quoted in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) Vol. XII, p. 474-475.

[8] Pope Innocent III, Cum ex injuncto, 1199. The “special testimony of Scripture” means the cleric is personally referred to in Scripture.

[9] St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy (Rockford, IL, Tan Books and Publishers, 1989), pp. 18-22.

[10] Christ’s Church, p. 154.

[11] It must be noted that Pope Francis has delegated faculties to the SSPX to hear confessions and, with the approval of the local ordinary, witness marriages. We pray that these concessions lead to a reconciliation of the SSPX with the Church.

[12] Apart from delegated faculties granted by Pope Francis to hear confessions and, with the approval of the local ordinary, witness marriages, the SSPX does not exercise a legitimate ministry in the Church. We can only hope that these concessions of Pope Francis finally lead to a canonical mission for the SSPX.

[13] The SSPX also wrongly appeals to “supplied jurisdiction” (not “mission”) to justify their ministry, even though supplied jurisdiction is not relevant to those priestly acts which do not require the power of governance (such as baptizing or saying Mass for example, which require mission only). Hence, the SSPX is claiming an extraordinary mission, whether they realize it or not.

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