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John Salza Replies to John Salza

Editor’s note: in line with our editorial stance to “unite the clans” and our efforts to provide charitable debate on the SSPX issue among traditionalists, we publish this critique of John Salza compiled by a concerned writer who is not affiliated with the SSPX. This piece is not intended to attack Mr. Salza. On the contrary, we direct readers to his and Mr. Siscoe’s website for any responses to this present article. This article, rather, illustrates the complexity of the issue, wherein pious and erudite Catholics like Mr. Salza have come to different conclusions according to different circumstances. Due to its complexity, as Fr. Zulsdorf notes, the interpretive canonical principle is one of charity, not canonical rigour.[1] We direct readers to our editorial note on Mr. Salza’s contentions previously published. Ultimately, especially when pious and erudite canonical opinions differ, the Church authority must be the final judge. Therefore we cannot burden any Catholic conscience beyond what the competent ecclesiastical authorities have adjudicated, namely, that any Catholic can commune at an SSPX chapel for their Sunday obligation with no sin whatsoever.[2] OnePeterFive defers to the competent ecclesiastical authority to adjudicate any further canonical opinions. We invite other authors to make their own contributions to this debate on other issues besides those already covered. 

On the Question of the SSPX

John Salza in 2017 and earlier:

While the SSPX’s canonical status is irregular and thus their priests operate under supplied and not ordinary jurisdiction, the SSPX is not and never has been in schism (schismatics don’t have “irregular” canonical situations because they are not subject to the Church’s canon law at all). However, given the rash way in which the Holy See originally handled Archbishop Lefebvre’s 1988 episcopal consecrations, we can understand why ignorant Catholics would hold this erroneous opinion.[3]

We must… remember that canon law is not the only law of the Church that applies to situations like this. There are traditional, ecclesiastical and hierarchical laws, and even the general principles of law (virtue of equity, epikeia), that are fundamental and divine, even if not written down (see canon 19). All these laws are ordered to the supreme law: salus animarum suprema lex. Man has an obligation to save his soul, and thus has a right to receive the means of salvation. While the law of receiving jurisdiction from the hierarchy is a divine law, it is subordinated to the superior law of exercising the priestly ministry. When there is a conflict, the superior law must prevail over the inferior law, which is why ecclesia supplet exists. A man’s right to receive the means of salvation should never be limited by positive law, for in such cases, “the letter killeth” (2 Cor 3:6). This is why the Church can fulfill what the hierarchy does not do through supplied jurisdiction. Mother Church does not abandon her children, even when the hierarchy does.[4]

Let’s take a brief look at the Church’s law and the facts of the case to provide some clarity to the question.[5] 

On Jurisdiction

Salza in 2021

Xavier quotes Bishop Fellay to claim the Society now has “ordinary jurisdiction” for confessions and marriages, this is not true, canonically speaking.[6]

Salza in 2015

The S.S.P.X. priests have been granted ordinary jurisdiction to hear confessions directly by the Pope during the Year of Mercy, etc.[7]

Salza 2021

While the Pope’s delegation of faculties for the two sacraments was a great act of mercy, it also indicates the SSPX clergy needed these faculties, because their previous absolutions were invalid (since they did not receive supplied jurisdiction).[8]

Salza 2017

As I have demonstrated, it is not hard to build a case for ecclesia supplet under the Church’s divine and canon laws. That the Church allows Catholics to fulfill their Sunday obligation at SSPX chapels is also favorable to the position of supplied jurisdiction. I don’t believe we can be as definitive as Mr. Akin is against supplied jurisdiction, especially since Rome has not definitively resolved it. The question is too complicated and many souls are affected. Based on the foregoing, in my opinion, the law favors supplied jurisdiction for SSPX priests.[9]

On Common Error

Salza 2021

Indeed, as I explain in my article responding to Fr. Tranquillo’s podcast, common error that would trigger supplied jurisdiction does not apply to SSPX communities. The Church supplies jurisdiction on the basis of common error only when the Catholic community would conclude that the priest in question has habitual jurisdiction authorized by the local ordinary.[10]

Salza 2017

As applied here, there are arguments supporting the idea that a community of reasonable persons (average Catholics) would believe an SSPX priest had faculties, leading to factual common error. There may also be arguments supporting the idea that a community of reasonable persons (well-informed Catholics?) would not believe an SSPX priest had faculties so that there is no factual common error (however, it seems that these arguments would not be as strong since it is not what the community actually believes, but only what a community of reasonable persons would be induced to believe).[11]

Salza 2021

As applied to the Sedevacantist argument, their communities would not err in believing their clergy have ordinary jurisdiction. In fact, practically all Sedevacantists know their clergy do not have ordinary faculties, since they readily admit it… Therefore, contrary to John Lane’s confident assertions, “common error” can never exist in Sedevacantist chapels.[12]

Salza 2017

The fact that a community is capable of common error is precisely what triggers supplied jurisdiction. If a fact could induce Catholics to believe that a priest has faculties, the Church supplies jurisdiction under Canon 144 on the grounds of factual common error.[13]

Salza 2021

Many Sedevacantist and independent priests who appeal to supplied jurisdiction for their illicit ministries wrongly analyze common error in a theological vacuum by overgeneralizing its application, hypothesizing that common error applies to any community that sees a priest put on a stole and go into a confessional and would believe the priest has faculties. That is a gross misapplication of common error.[14]

Salza 2017

Would a community of average Catholics be induced to believe that a priest has faculties if they saw that priest celebrating Mass and hearing confessions in a Catholic chapel?… I believe the answer to this question is “Yes.” This is why the community of believers is “capable of having a common error.” It is not much different than seeing a priest sitting in a chair on a remote beach vested with a stole and hearing confessions.[15]

On Probable and Positive Doubt

Salza 2021

Also, positive and probable doubt, which also triggers supplied jurisdiction, does not apply to Society priests. The Church supplies jurisdiction on the basis of probable and positive doubt only when a priest has a real and objective doubt about whether he has the faculty from the local bishop or other legitimate authority, which is not applicable to SSPX clergy.[16]

Salza 2017

Thus, there is “positive doubt” concerning whether the law of factual common error applies to SSPX priests (“doubt of law” can deal with the law’s meaning, application, existence, extension, force or cessation). The doubt also appears to be probable because there are strong arguments in favor of the conclusion that a community of reasonable persons (average Catholics) could be induced to believe a priest celebrating Mass in an SSPX chapel has faculties. Thus, it seems to me that there is “positive and probable doubt of law” which leads the Church to supply jurisdiction to SSPX priests to hear confessions. This is consistent with the Church’s supreme law: The salvation of souls.[17]

On Collegiality

Salza 2021

We must also confront the errors on the Right, which have included falsely accusing the Church of teaching error (e.g., Collegiality…) along with attacking the Pope and bishops indiscriminately, inciting contempt for the hierarchy, disregarding legitimate authority, assisting at illicit Masses, condemning those who celebrate the New Mass, among other things.[18]

Salza 2015

The bishops collectively do not constitute a second supreme authority in the Church (which is the error of “collegiality”), but only participate in the authority that belongs properly to the Pope when gathered at an ecumenical council.[19]

On State of Necessity

Salza 2021

A Generalized “State of Necessity” does not Supply Jurisdiction. The Church uses the word “necessity” (Latin, necessitate) 41 times in its Code of Canon Law, and it never once applies it to supplied jurisdiction… As it stands, the Church’s canonical tradition has not worked out a generalized and ongoing state of necessity that would trigger supplied jurisdiction, even though some allege such a condition exists now or has existed in the past.[20]

Salza 2015

Church law teaches that in cases of necessity, clergy who do not possess faculties (i.e., ordinary jurisdiction delegated by a bishop), can still validly administer the sacraments that require jurisdiction (hearing confessions, witnessing Holy Matrimony). This is known as supplied jurisdiction, or ecclesia supplet (“the Church provides”).[21]

Some sacraments (Penance and Matrimony) also require that the minister be invested with jurisdiction by the Church (ordinary, or supplied based on necessity) for the sacrament to be valid.[22]

On Canon 1335

Salza 2021

But does canon 1335 really allow a priest without faculties to hear confessions validly and licitly, so long as the faithful asks for the sacraments for any just cause (and not just danger of death)? …The critical point is that the canon is not suppletory, that is, it does not provide to the priest what is lacking in order to administer a sacrament licitly and validly. It doesn’t supply the faculties needed to licitly offer Mass, baptize, or preach, nor does it supply the jurisdiction needed to validly absolve.[23]

Salza 2015

Further, Canon 1335 provides that where a latae sententiae censure has not been declared, the prohibition on celebrating the sacraments is suspended whenever a member of the faithful requests a sacrament or sacramental or an act of governance “for any just cause.” As applied here, John Paul II did not declare a latae sententiae excommunication against SSPX priests. Thus, assuming SSPX priests are suspended, they are nevertheless allowed to celebrate the sacraments licitly if a member of the faithful so requests for any just cause. A desire to attend the Traditional Mass, which right was secured by Pope Saint Pius V and recognized by Pope John Paul II, is certainly a just cause. Sound, spiritual direction in the confessional for the welfare of one’s soul is also a just cause. The salvation of souls is the supreme law of the Church.[24]

On Separation from the Church

Salza 2021

When traditionalists like Mr. Xavier think that so long as one is validly ordained, says the Old Mass, and “rejects Vatican II and the New Mass,” he is a legitimate Catholic minister, they embrace an erroneous ecclesiology. This false ecclesiology distorts the nature of the Church, by extending it beyond her juridical structure, to include individual sects that are separated from her, and from each other, in government.[25]

Salza 2015

But it is important to make a distinction between a material separation and a formal separation. A formal separation would occur if a subject rejected his lawful superior and declared that the superior has no authority over him. A material separation occurs when a legitimate authority must be avoided for reasons of necessity…

As applied here, to the extent that the Modernist prelates of our day (including the Pope) have posed a spiritual danger to the faithful (e.g., through ecumenism, liturgical abuses, novel doctrines, etc.), Catholics are justified and, at times, even compelled to materially separate from them to avoid the danger, while not rejecting their authority.[26]

On Bishops Operating
Without Canonical Mission in the Church

Salza 2021

…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. 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”).[27]

Salza 2015

During the Arian crisis, it was certainly possible to save one’s soul by attending the Mass of a priest infected with the heresy, but it was dangerous to do so since the faithful usually end by believing what their priest teaches. For this reason, the faithful avoided the local churches and assembled in the desert, receiving the sacraments from Athanasius, an “excommunicated” priest who was apparently in schism (without ordinary jurisdiction).[28] 

On Assistance at SSPX Masses and Sunday Obligation

Salza 2021

This is why Cardinal Burke characterized the Pope’s delegation to them of limited faculties an “anomaly,” since the Society’s Masses remain illicit (and don’t meet the Sunday obligation requirement of canon 1248), and yet their confessions are valid…

In his podcast entitled “Am I Allowed to Attend an SSPX Mass?” (Episode 47, Crisis series), Fr. Goldade claimed that because Msgr. Perl, Bishop Schneider and Cardinal Ladaria have referred to the SSPX as “Catholic” over the years, Catholics are thus allowed to attend their illicit Masses and, presumably, fulfill their Sunday and Holy Day obligations (a position that I disprove in my rebuttal article on canon 1248).[29]

Salza 2013

In fact, the Ecclesia Dei commission has made it clear that the SSPX is not in schism. The commission declared that Catholics can fulfill their Sunday obligation by attending Masses offered by SSPX priests – and this was before the excommunications were lifted! (see letter from Monsignor Perl dated September 27, 2002). If the priests of the SSPX were in schism, the Ecclesia Dei commission would not allow Catholics to assist at their Masses, since in doing so they would be allowing Catholics to worship outside the Church (and thus permitting them to break the Third Commandment). This proves that SSPX bishops and priests are not in fact in schism (for example, Catholics could not fulfill their Sunday obligation by attending liturgies offered by the schismatic priests of the Eastern Orthodox sects). The same commission has said that, so long as Catholics attend SSPX chapels out of their devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass (and not because they want to separate themselves from the Roman Pontiff – of course they don’t!), such conduct is also not sinful.[30] 

On Whether the SSPX is Catholic or Outside the Church

Salza 2021

What about the many officeholders in the Church who unequivocally declare that the SSPX is not Catholic? According to my opponent’s thesis, do we need to take a survey or tally votes? What about what Archbishop Pozzo recently said (that the Society’s ministry is “illicit” and “illegitimate”), who is a high-ranking officeholder in the Church (and who was charged with the Society’s reconciliation)?…

Cardinal Burke, formerly the head of the Apostolic Signatura and one of the top canon lawyers in the Church, also recently affirmed the same (in May 2021) as we quoted above, that the SSPX is “not part of the one Roman Catholic Church throughout the world.” What about the statements of these officeholders?[31]

Salza 2013

The Holy See has stated that the SSPX situation is an internal matter of the Catholic Church and that the SSPX is not a counter-diocese or separate ecclesial structure. That the Church regards the SSPX situation as an “internal matter” also proves that SSPX bishops and priests are not in schism. Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in five separate interviews has stated that the SSPX is not in formal schism (what Moynihan calls “official schism”), without any rebuke from the Holy See. The case of the Hawaii six also bears this out. Those excommunications would not have been lifted if the six Catholics were attending Masses offered by schismatic priests. And for those who insist that the SSPX priests are “suspended” (even though the Holy See has never issued a decree of suspension against them!), they would be admitting that SSPX priests are still subject to the Church’s disciplinary laws. In such case, the SSPX priests cannot be schismatics who are outside the Church because, as previously stated, one cannot be outside the Church and still be subject to her canon law. This is a legal impossibility.[32]

On Orthodox Confessions

Salza 2021

Canon law uses “necessity” only three times in the context of sacramental confession, and each time it applies to clergy with ordinary jurisdiction, and not as a basis for triggering supplied jurisdiction: Canon 844, §2 (applies to priests of the Orthodox Churches—those with legitimate Apostolic Sees—who have been conceded habitual jurisdiction by the Pope, to minister to Catholics who are physically or morally impeded from approaching a Catholic minister)…[33]

Salza 2017

Further, it makes no sense to me that a Catholic can receive the sacraments from a non-Catholic minister but not from a Catholic (SSPX) priest. Canon 844 demonstrates that the Church wants the faithful to have the broadest access possible to the sacraments of Jesus Christ. Why? Because the supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls. SSPX priests do what they do for that very reason.[34]

On Sacramental Intention

Salza 2021

Lefebvre also erred on the sacramental intention. He claimed that even if a Novus Ordo priest used proper matter and form, his sacraments could be invalid because of not intending the sacramental effect, due to his loss of faith (he taught there must be “evident intention of doing what the Church intends” rather than simply “doing what the Church does”).[35]

Salza 2017

Unfortunately, in many Novus Ordo parishes, Catholics in good conscience believe that it is morally impossible to approach their priests for the sacraments, due to their questionable intentions in celebrating the sacraments (e.g., whether they intend to offer the Sacrifice; because they deny mortal sin, etc.), grave disregard for liturgical rubrics, abuses of the Eucharist, modernist theology, immodest dress, and anything else that endangers their souls and the souls of their children. The faithful have a right to be certain of the doctrine and the sacraments that they receive.[36]


Salza 2015

What is most puzzling is that these lay preachers don’t seem at all concerned that their private opinion (which they publicly proclaim to be “the truth”) has continuously changed over the years (today directly contradicting what they taught yesterday). This realization does not seem to hinder them in their efforts, nor does it cause them to think that if what they are preaching today is true, it means they were leading souls into error, schism, and heresy yesterday. But if, according to their own standard, they were leading souls into error, heresy and schism yesterday, how can they be sure they are not doing the same today? Perhaps those who have spent nearly their entire adult life leading people astray were not cut out to be lay preachers of the Gospel, as they imagine themselves to be, but should instead keep their continuously changing position to themselves to avoid further harming souls. But, evidently, intellectual pride is not easily swayed by such thoughts.[37]


[1] “The anomalous and slowly evolving SSPX situation is complicated.  When things are really complicated in the Church, we are charity bound to cut people some slack and interpret restrictive laws as strictly as possible so as to give people maximum latitude.” Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, “ASK FATHER: Not AGAIN! “Does attending an SSPX Mass fulfill one’s Sunday obligation?

[2] For evidence of this point, we direct the reader to the article by Dr. Kwasniewski in which he references this PCED response. The PCED was the competent ecclesiastical authority to adjudicate the question (this body has now been subsumed into the Holy Office). More recently we have Fr. Z’s comments on this matter as a competent clerical authority who worked with the PCED.

[3] John Salza, “Is the SSPX in Schism? John Salza, J.D. v. Robert Moynihan, Ph.D,” The Remnant <>, accessed Oct 31, 2013.

[4] John Salza, “Can an SSPX Priest Validly Hear Confessions?” (created on June 7, 2009, published on website as late as May 9, 2017), <>, accessed July 29, 2022.

[5] Salza, “Is the SSPX in Schism? John Salza, J.D. v. Robert Moynihan, Ph.D.”

[6] John Salza, “The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier,” OnePeterFive (Dec. 20, 2021).

[7] John Salza and Robert Siscoe, True or False Pope?: Refuting Sedevacantism and Other Modern Errors (STAS Editions, 2015), 410.

[8] Salza, “The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier.”

[9] Salza, “Can an SSPX Priest Validly Hear Confessions?”

[10] Salza, “The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier.”

[11] Salza, “Can an SSPX Priest Validly Hear Confessions?”

[12] John Salza, “Against Sedevacantism: Errors Concerning Supplied Jurisdiction,” OnePeterFive (Sep. 2, 2021).

[13] Salza, “Can an SSPX Priest Validly Hear Confessions?”

[14] Salza, “Against Sedevacantism: Errors Concerning Supplied Jurisdiction.”

[15] Salza, “Can an SSPX Priest Validly Hear Confessions?”

[16] Salza, “The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier.”

[17] Salza, “Can an SSPX Priest Validly Hear Confessions?”

[18] Salza, “The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier.”

[19] Salza and Siscoe, op. cit., 59.

[20] Salza, “Against Sedevacantism: Errors Concerning Supplied Jurisdiction.”

[21] Salza and Siscoe, op. cit., 75.

[22] Ibid., 556.

[23] Salza, “Against Sedevacantism: Errors Concerning Supplied Jurisdiction.”

[24] Salza, “Can an SSPX Priest Validly Hear Confessions?”

[25] Salza, “The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier.”

[26] Salza and Siscoe, op. cit., 635.

[27] Salza, “The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier.”

[28] Salza and Siscoe, op. cit., 77.

[29] Salza, “The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier.”

[30] Salza, “Is the SSPX in Schism? John Salza, J.D. v. Robert Moynihan, Ph.D.”

[31] Salza, “The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier.”

[32] Salza, “Is the SSPX in Schism? John Salza, J.D. v. Robert Moynihan, Ph.D.”

[33] Salza, “Against Sedevacantism: Errors Concerning Supplied Jurisdiction.”

[34] Salza, “Can an SSPX Priest Validly Hear Confessions?”

[35] John Salza, “The SSPX Rejects All Church-Approved Traditional Groups,” (Nov. 2021), <>, accessed July 29, 2022.

[36] Salza, “Can an SSPX Priest Validly Hear Confessions?”

[37] Salza and Siscoe, op. cit., 78.

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