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The SSPX is Transgressing Divine Law – Reply to Xavier

Editor’s note: especially in light of the most recent news, we will present a number of installments in this debate as a means to help form the conscience of faithful souls as we face this moment of decision. Let us beseech the Holy Ghost for the gift of Counsel, which guides us in decisions such as this. 

Recently, Mr. Nishant Xavier, who describes himself as a “Pro-SSPX Indult Traditionalist,” wrote a reply to my article entitled “Does the SSPX Have an Extraordinary Mission?” My article was in response to Fr. Jonathan Loop’s podcast (Crisis series, Episode 44 – “How Can the SSPX Justify its Ministry in the Church?”). The purpose of Fr. Loop’s podcast was to explain how the SSPX can carry out its ministry without having a canonical mission from the Church (which, as explained below, is a self-defeating inquiry as a matter of divine law).

Mr. Xavier’s Primary Argument:
He Appeals to the Sanctity of Archbishop Lefebvre

Before addressing Mr. Xavier’s errors on canonical mission and the nature of the Church, I note that Xavier’s primary argument for why the SSPX can operate without mission is because of the alleged sanctity (as he claims) of Archbishop Lefebvre, the SSPX’s founder. To that end, before even pretending to address my article, Xavier spends nearly three quarters of his piece “in praise of Archbishop Lefebvre,” recounting the good works he did, particularly as a missionary in Africa (a period in which Lefebvre was a bishop in good standing, with canonical mission from the Church).

While I acknowledge (and have never denied) that Archbishop Lefebvre did many good things for the Church before he retired, none of this has anything to do with the issue of how the SSPX can operate without canonical mission today. In seeming deference to his cult of personality, Xavier refuses to impute any material faults to Archbishop Lefebvre, claiming rather that Lefebvre should have received “the Crown of Canonization by now.”

The Necessity of Juridical Mission
is a Matter of Divine Positive Law

In his reply, Mr. Xavier advances three “Facts” which he says prove the SSPX can circumvent the divine law and operate without a canonical mission in the Church. In this reply to Mr. Xavier, I will directly address Xavier’s three arguments and show why they are completely fallacious. Before doing so, however, I will provide a brief overview on the absolute necessity for clergy to have a juridical mission in order to lawfully minister in the Church.

The error of Mr. Xavier and many like-minded Traditionalists is an error in ecclesiology: they fail to understand that it is absolutely necessary, as a matter of divine positive law, that clergy must be part of the juridical structure of the Church, with a juridical mission from the Church, in order to be legitimate Catholic ministers of the Church. This is because the juridical mission of the Church is concomitant with the juridical structure of the Church, according to that same divine law. That is, the juridical structure of the Church exists to carry out the juridical mission of the Church, as willed by Christ.

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. In an exact parallel to that of the early Protestants, this ecclesiology maintains that the “visible Catholic Church” consists of all the baptized who profess the true faith, and partake of the true sacraments, regardless of whether they are united in government, and subject to the legitimate authorities.  In this Protestant ecclesiology, the juridical reality is replaced by a greater spiritual reality.

According to Catholic ecclesiology, just as being within the Church’s juridical structure (united and subject to the legitimate authority of the Pope and bishops) is a necessary to be a legal member of the Church, so, too, is having a juridical mission from the legitimate authority necessary to be a lawful minister of the Church. Again, the juridical structure of the Church exists to carry out the juridical mission of the Church.

Now, the Society acknowledges that it is not part of the juridical structure of the Church (they concede they do not have a canonical status in the Church, which was extinguished with their suppression in 1975). Earlier this year, Cardinal Burke confirmed the same, stating: “they [the SSPX] are not part of the one Roman Catholic Church throughout the world.” The Society also concedes that it does not have a juridical mission from the Church (which has been affirmed by Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Burke and Archbishop Pozzo, among many others).

Notwithstanding these requirements of the divine law, the Society still claims that its clergy are legitimate Catholic ministers, who can freely exercise their ministry, as if they were part of, and sent by, the Church. Again, this is because, according to the Society’s ecclesiology, and contrary to the juridical requirements of divine law, it is not required that a priest be part of the Catholic Church (the structure) or sent by lawful authority (the mission), in order to lawfully exercise the priesthood. It only requires one to be baptized and “profess the true faith” which, for clergy, as we said, would be considered those who say the Old Mass and reject the New Mass and Vatican II.

Accordingly, the Society does not view belonging to the juridical structure of the Church (with juridical mission) an absolute necessity for clergy as a matter of divine law, but only a relative necessity in the practical order. For the Society, merely professing that the Catholic Church is a “visible, hierarchical institution” is sufficient in itself to make one part of the Church. Ironically, it could be said that the Society embraces the “error” that it claims Lumen Gentium teaches, namely, that the Church of Christ subsists in “ecclesiastical communities,” that are separated, in government, from the Catholic Church and from each other.

The Teaching of the Church on Juridical Mission

While Mr. Xavier claims that juridical mission is only needed for the Society to have “Practical Advantages and Benefits and Blessings,” the Catholic Church teaches something quite different. The requirement that bishops (and the priests who serve under them) have canonical mission in the Church is a matter of divine law. While the Church’s canon law regulates mission, the necessity for a cleric to be “sent” by legitimate authority is part of the divine positive law of Christ, revealed in both Scripture and Tradition. Christ conferred the divine mission upon the Apostles by sending them into the world (Mt. 28:19), and commanded them to confer mission upon others, and so on, until the end of the world.

Pope Pius XII teaches: “For in virtue of the juridical mission by which our Divine Redeemer sent His Apostles into the world, as He had been sent by the Father, it is He who through the Church baptizes, teaches, rules, looses, binds, offers sacrifices.”[1] Because the requirement for a cleric to have “juridical mission” in the Church is a matter of divine positive law, it does not exist merely to provide “practical advantages and benefits” to the clergy, as Mr. Xavier maintains. Rather, it is absolutely necessary to make their ministry Catholic.

Pope Pius XII underscored the divinely revealed foundation of the Church’s juridical mission, by harshly condemning those validly consecrated bishops who exercise the power of Holy Orders without being sent by legitimate authority, likening them, in the words of Our Lord, to “thieves and robbers”:

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.’[2]

This is why the Council of Trent anathematizes anyone who would call such bishops lawful ministers: “If anyone saith that bishops…who have neither been rightly ordained, nor sent by ecclesiastical and canonical power, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments; let him be anathema.”[3] To hold such bishops as lawful ministers, as Mr. Xavier does, is anathema because the necessity of mission (being sent by lawful authority) is a requirement of divine law and a matter of faith.

This is also why the Church requires that anyone who claims to act in the name of Christ, without having been canonically sent, prove that they have been sent directly by Christ (extraordinary mission) by miracles, which serves as a divine testimony to what comes from divine law – his mission. As I quoted in my first article, Innocent III and Benedict XIV clearly teach that miracles (or at least an explicit prophecy from Holy Scripture) is necessary to justify an extraordinary mission.

Mr. Xavier’s root error is that he currently fails to understand that the juridical nature and mission of the Church are inseparable, according to the divine law of Jesus Christ. The latter (the mission of the Church) cannot be disregarded without setting aside the former (the nature of the Church). Her juridical structure, by divine constitution, exists to carry out her juridical mission, as Christ willed it. Ministries carried on outside this juridical structure are not Catholic. Canonical mission has the testimony of the Church, who sends clergy by the command of Christ, while extraordinary mission has the divine testimony of Christ Himself (through miracles). In either case, the bishops, and the priests who serve them, belong to the Church and are sent by the Church, according to divine law, lest their ministry be “criminal” (due to theft) and “sacrilegious,” since they would be usurping the very authority of Christ and those upon whom His Church has conferred mission.

Thus, juridical mission is not mere window-dressing or a perfunctory stamp of approval of what is already legitimate, as Mr. Xavier imagines. Mission is not merely “accidental” or what simply ornaments a legitimate ministry, with “Practical Advantages and Benefits and Blessings,” in the words of Mr. Xavier. Canonical mission “is not something notarial, it is essential!,” as Archbishop Pozzo said in connection with his efforts to bring the Society back into the Church (which we will discuss below). Indeed, juridical mission is part and parcel of the juridical structure of the Church (i.e., her legal, hierarchical structure), by which she is formally known as the true Church of Christ.

While the Society claims that it can operate without juridical mission because the current crisis in the Church is not foreseen in canon law, divine law foresees all things. Thus, any appeal of the Society to canon law (e.g., supplied jurisdiction) or principles of law (e.g., canonical equity, necessity), cannot be used to circumvent the divine law, which is what the Society does (and my opponent condones) when attempting to justify its ministry without juridical mission.

Mr. Xavier’s Three “Proofs”

Let us now look at the three “proofs” that Mr. Xavier advances in the last quarter of his article to support his claim that the SSPX can circumvent the divine law and operate without a juridical mission. Also, I note that none of Xavier’s three proofs are responsive to any of the points I made in my article on Extraordinary Mission. He first posits the following:

“Fact I: His Holiness Pope Francis has authorized the SSPX to continue legally and licitly ordaining Priests, even without requiring permission from local Bishops.”

A Reply to Mr. Xavier’s Alleged “Fact” No. 1

There are a number of problems with this alleged statement of “fact,” but, most importantly, even if true, does not prove that the SSPX has or can operate without a juridical mission.

To begin, let’s read what Mr. Xavier bases his papal “fact” on, namely, a statement that Bishop Fellay (not Pope Francis) gave in an interview in April 2017. As quoted by Xavier: “Last year [2016], I received a letter from Rome, telling me you can freely ordain your priests without the permission of the local ordinary,” Bishop Fellay reported. He said that the move indicated that although the status of the SSPX remains irregular, “the ordination is recognized by the Church not just as valid but in order.”

Now, based on Bishop Fellay’s brief and general statement, which doesn’t mention either “Pope Francis” or “legal” and “licit” ordinations, Mr. Xavier long-jumps to the conclusion that Pope Francis has “authorized” the SSPX to “continue” to “legally and licitly” ordain priests. Moreover, Xavier tells us his statement is a “fact.” My opponent is quite confused about what constitutes a fact, versus what constitutes an interpretation (of person A) of a statement (by person B) about a letter (from person C).

Mr. Xavier’s statement about the Pope is not a public fact, but an unproven assertion of Xavier, based on a chain of double hearsay evidence: (1) an unproduced letter from Rome; and, (2) a statement from the recipient of the letter (Bishop Fellay) interpreting the letter. While Xavier gratuitously asserts that the Pope has “authorized” that the SSPX can “continue” to “legally and licitly” ordain priests based on Bishop Fellay’s statement, Fellay himself says no such thing. To repeat, the bishop does not even say the letter was from the Pope, nor does he say the letter addresses prior ordinations which can now “continue,” nor does he use the terms “legally” and “licitly” to describe the ordinations. My opponent would not fare well in a cross-examination of his assertion which he claims is a fact.

In a finding of fact, a lawyer would also question why Bishop Fellay didn’t publish the “letter from Rome” that allegedly gives the SSPX permission to ordain priests (and Fellay’s statement would also be inadmissible hearsay in court unless the letter were produced for the court). The publication of such news would immediately silence the Society’s critics who rightly claim that the SSPX ordinations (without canonical permission) are illicit and forbidden by the Church. Wouldn’t Fellay want to silence the Society’s critics? Why wouldn’t the bishop publish such wonderful, encouraging and groundbreaking news? Hopefully, even my opponent would have the same questions. Surely, a reluctance to publish the letter suggests that the letter proves too much for the Society’s position, meaning the letter states something different than what might be gleaned from the bishop’s comments, and certainly what Mr. Xavier would have us believe is a “fact.”

That is indeed the case. While Bishop Fellay said he received a letter from Rome in 2016 granting him permission to ordain priests, the Italian Press La Stampa reported in February 2017 that SSPX ordinations continued to be illicit, according to Archbishop Pozzo, the Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission responsible for the Society’s reconciliation (meaning that Fellay did not have “legal” and “lawful” permission to ordain priests). As reported in 2017 by La Stampa: “The Holy See – the Secretary of Ecclesia Dei explained – permits and tolerates the priestly ordinations of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, even while continuing to consider them valid but not licit, subject to communication of the names of the ordinands to the bishop of the place.”[4]

While we are not accusing Bishop Fellay of bearing false witness in his interview, one cannot reconcile Fellay’s statement relating to a letter he received from Rome in 2016, with that of Archbishop Pozzo of 2017, who as the head of the Ecclesia Dei Commission in Rome, was responsible for working with Bishop Fellay as he attempted to bring the Society back into the Church. This is why it is so important for Bishop Fellay to publish the letter – so that we can see for ourselves what the letter actually says, and canonists can evaluate whether and to what extent a faculty for SSPX ordinations may have been granted (For which year? For which seminary? Etc.).

It is also curious why Bishop Fellay said the Society’s ordinations are not just valid (which was never in dispute) but “in order.” One questions why Bishop Fellay did not use the canonical term “licit” if, in fact, Rome said his ordinations were licit (“in order” is not a canonical term). Presumably, if Rome said his ordinations were “licit,” Fellay would have published that statement to the world, for the good of the Church and the traditional movement. As it stands, not only did Fellay not claim in 2016 that Rome said the Society’s ordinations were licit, but Archbishop Pozzo, who was Fellay’s point man in the negotiations in 2016, denied that his ordinations were licit (stating they were illicit) the following year, as reported by La Stampa in 2017.

Finally, it should be noted that even if Rome said in 2016 that the Society’s ordinations were licit (which it evidently did not), it would not mean that the SSPX’s newly ordained priests have a legitimate mission in the Church (they would not, because they are not incardinated as required by canon 265). It would only mean that the bishops and ordinands of the Society would not incur canonical censures for illicit ordinations (but they would incur a censure each time they celebrate Mass). In the words of Archbishop Pozzo, that the Church “tolerates” the Society’s ordinations does not make them lawful or provide the Society mission. The Society makes the same false extrapolation of liceity when it appeals to canon 1335 to justify its ministry. However, canon 1335 only suspends a canonical penalty which prevents a sacrament from being licit; it does not provide mission – which the Society priests did not have before incurring the censure – to make the sacrament licit.

Thus, Mr. Nishant Xavier’s first proof in no way supports the argument that the SSPX can, contrary to the divine law, operate without a juridical mission. Now, to his second proof.

A Reply to Mr. Xavier’s Alleged “Fact” No. 2

“Fact II: His Holiness Pope Francis clearly declared, during his Holy Year of Divine Mercy, that SSPX Priests are granted the faculty to absolve validly and licitly, and then, in a generous and gracious gesture, indefinitely extended these faculties after the Holy Year was concluded.”

In my article on Extraordinary Mission, I not only acknowledge that Pope Francis has granted the SSPX clergy the faculty to hear confessions, but I express my gratitude to the Pope for doing so. This development has nothing to do with my article which Mr. Xavier is claiming to reply to, nor does it support his argument that the Society can perform all acts of teaching, sanctifying and governing, without a canonical mission. The granting of jurisdiction for confessions is not the same thing as granting mission for priestly ministry. As I have said, these are different privileges granted by ecclesiastical authority, both of which (in addition to validity) every priest must have to be Catholic. In other words, the Sacrament of Confession celebrated by an SSPX priest has jurisdiction and thus entirely valid and licit. However, the celebration of Holy Mass by an SSPX priest (or the ordinations of priests by an SSPX bishop) is valid but lacks mission and is thus illicit.

Thus Mr. Xavier’s second “fact” is not responsive to my arguments demonstrating the SSPX does not have a canonical mission; rather, it underscores that the permissions the SSPX clergy have are limited, and that is because they don’t have a canonical mission. Xavier does not make the necessary distinctions here between mission and jurisdiction.

Also, while Xavier quotes Bishop Fellay to claim the Society now has “ordinary jurisdiction” for confessions and marriages, this is not true, canonically speaking. The Society has received delegated faculties for confessions and marriages (and the faculty for marriage is conditional), which comes by way of a grantor (here, the Pope), and not ordinary jurisdiction, which is permanently attached to an office in the Church (and SSPX clergy neither hold, nor claim to hold, offices in the Church). That the Society priests have been granted delegated faculties (and not ordinary jurisdiction) is demonstrated by the words Pope Francis uses his Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera, in which he refers to the “faculty” that he “granted” to SSPX clergy, and further by stating “I personally have decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year, until further provisions are made…”[5]

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). 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. 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.

Most importantly, as previously noted, that SSPX clergy now have delegated faculties for two sacraments does not mean they have a canonical mission to perform all acts of the priestly ministry. For example, they do not have permission to baptize, preach, or offer Mass (faculties which come to priests by universal law through incardination). Thus, the acts they perform outside the scope of their delegated faculties remain illicit. 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. But Pope Francis stated that he wanted to make a “mess” during his pontificate, and his delegation of faculties to priests without canonical mission certainly qualifies.

Archbishop Pozzo was clear that the Pope’s concern was for the eternal salvation of those who frequent SSPX chapels, and not to legitimize the Society’s illicit ministry. When asked whether he thought the Pope’s decision could “be seen as a way to encourage the faithful to go to SSPX priests for other sacraments,” Pozzo said: “No, I do not think it can be interpreted in that way; it is not an encouragement to go see the Society priests. The pope gave his motives in the decree. He is concerned for the spiritual salvation of the SSPX faithful.” After confirming that the faculties were delegated “for the good of souls, and certainly in view of a reconciliation,” Archbishop Pozzo explicitly refuted Mr. Xavier’s argument that the faculties legitimize their entire ministry. Said Pozzo: “The priests and bishops of the Society of St. Pius X nonetheless exercise their ministry illicitly and illegitimately.” Archbishop Pozzo’s statement directly refutes Mr. Xavier’s gratuitous claim that “The SSPX’s sacramental actions are clearly already recognized as valid and licit.”

Pozzo went on to explain, as I have done in this article, that canonical mission is indispensably tied to the visible structure of the Church (thus highlighting the “knowledge-gap” I mentioned that exists among many Traditional Catholics):

…insofar as they do not have a canonical recognition, they do not exercise their ministry legitimately, except for confessions and marriages, as granted by the pope. We must be very clear about this. The necessity of a canonical recognition is not just a notarial, formal act. The Church is a visible structure and it is essential for the clergy to have a canonical recognition from the Holy See. And this is another truth of the reality of the Church and they should admit it.

This “visible structure” is essential to the nature of the Church. It is in opposition to the Protestant notion of an invisible Church as I have said, which unfortunately the SSPX promotes by their refusal to abide by this divine law of mission. Mr. Xavier does not address these things, nor make the proper distinctions, therefore his second proof in no way supports the argument that the SSPX can, contrary to the divine law, operate without a juridical mission. Now, let’s go to his third proof.

A Reply to Mr. Xavier’s Alleged “Fact” No. 3

“Fact III: Pope Francis, while still Cardinal Jorge Mario, clearly said to the SSPX Priests, in Argentina: ‘You are Catholic. That is evident. I will help you.’”

This is Mr. Xavier’s third and final “proof” which he claims proves the Society can licitly operate without a canonical mission. Frankly, he should be embarrassed about advancing this argument, but it underscores that his defense of the Society is based primarily on his emotional ties, and not on theology or canon law. What does an alleged statement that Jorge Bergoglio made about the SSPX while a Cardinal in Argentina have to do with whether or not the SSPX has a canonical mission from the Church? Nothing, of course. And I think it is safe to say that Cardinal Bergoglio was not known for his orthodoxy or clarity in matters of doctrine.

Actually, Fr. Michael Goldade of the Society made a similar argument recently, to justify attendance at Society Masses. 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). According to Fr. Goldade and Mr. Xavier, if a cleric who holds an office in the Church simply calls the SSPX “Catholic,” this makes their illicit ministry legitimate. The argument, of course, is absurd.

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)? And what about the official statements made by Pope Benedict XVI on the status of the Society, and who, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was the point man in the negotiations with Archbishop Lefebvre (and thus knows the doctrinal and canonical issues as well as anyone in the Church)?

We have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating again at this point. This is what Pope Benedict XVI, who held the highest office in the Church, stated about the SSPX:

As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church…In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.[6]

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?

It goes without saying that Mr. Xavier’s third proof in no way supports the argument that the SSPX can, contrary to the divine law, operate without a juridical mission.

Closing Remarks

In his effort to defend the SSPX’s ministry without canonical (or extraordinary) mission, Mr. Xavier’s arguments are strong on emotion but devoid of any real legal or theological merit. Nevertheless, I commend his efforts for jumping into the debate and acknowledge his honest search for answers to the crisis. Frankly, a Society bishop or priest, and not a former SSPX seminarian, should be explaining how their organization can licitly function without a canonical mission (although Xavier did effectively parrot the arguments of SSPX clergy). In the end, my opponent and I want the same thing – for the Society of St. Pius X to be reconciled with the Church and given a juridical mission, so that its bishops and priests can lawfully perform all the acts of teaching, sanctifying and governing.

Being a Traditional Catholic does not mean we oppose only the liberal errors on the Left (e.g., false ecumenism, anti-death penalty, banal liturgies, salvation outside the Church, etc.). We must also confront the errors on the Right, which have included falsely accusing the Church of teaching error (e.g., Collegiality, refusing religious submission to non-definitive teachings) and giving dubious sacraments (based on the error of sacramental intention), 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. As St. Paul revealed, “For all have sinned, and need the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Unfortunately, most of these errors of the Right have been promoted by Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society he founded. And the major schisms currently afflicting the Church (Bishop Williamson/the Resistance and its various offshoots and illicitly consecrated bishops, Sedevacantists, Avrille Dominicans) also sprung from Lefebvre (we will prove these things in future articles to come).

In closing, I remind the faithful that the measure of a man’s love for truth is his hatred for error. It is in this spirit that I call out the errors of the SSPX, while also hoping for their reintegration back into the Church, and further, according to the motto of their patron, St. Pius X, for a ”restoration of all things in Christ.” May God’s will be done.


[1] Mystici Corporis Christi, June 29, 1943, No. 54, emphasis mine. Notice that Pope Pius XII describes the purpose of the “juridical mission” (Christ’s sending of the Apostles and their successors) to include not only acts which require the power of jurisdiction (or governance) (teaching, ruling, loosing, binding), but also acts which do not require jurisdiction, but only mission (baptizing, offering the Mass). That is because divine mission is the foundation of all priestly ministry, lawfully exercised, in the Church.

[2] Ibid., Nos 41-42 (emphasis added). In addition to “juridical mission,” Pius XII also teaches that the power of jurisdiction, similarly regulated by positive law, is also rooted in divine law: “But the power of jurisdiction, which is conferred upon the Supreme Pontiff directly by divine rights, flows to the Bishops by the same right, but only through the Successor of St. Peter.” Ad Sinarum Gentem, October 7, 1954, No. 12, emphasis mine.

[3] Council of Trent, On the Sacrament of Orders, Session 23, Canon VI (July 15, 1563), emphasis mine.

[4], February 2, 2017, emphasis mine: “La Santa Sede – spiega il segretario di Ecclesia Dei – permette e tollera le ordinazioni sacerdotali della Fraternità San Pio X, pur continuando a ritenerle valide ma non lecite, previa comunicazione dei nomi degli ordinandi al vescovo del luogo.”

[5] Pope Francis, Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera (November 20, 2016), emphasis mine.

[6] Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre (March 10, 2009) | Benedict XVI ( By “no canonical status,” Pope Benedict was referring to the fact that the SSPX was lawfully suppressed by Pope Paul VI in 1975, at which time it was legally extinguished (lost its “juridic personality”). See, for example, canons 120 §1; 373; 584.

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