Friday, February 1, 2013

Clarifying a Clarification: The SSPX are NOT Schismatic

Greetings one and all.  I know it has been quite some time since I've had a chance to post here, but something has just come across my desk, that I think deserves a comment.  Recently, here in this very diocese, the Superior of the Society of St. Pius X, made a comment that "the Jews" are the "enemies of the Church".  This is obviously not in keeping with the teaching of the Catholic Church, and is rather a disturbing comment, particularly from the head of a group that has been trying to distance itself from accuasations of anti-semitism.  The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has rightly condemned the comment, making the following statement:
Questions and concerns have been raised following recent media reports about a statement that had been made in Canada by the Superior of the Society of Saint Pius X that “the Jews” are the "enemies of the Church". The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that such remarks are not in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. As the spokesperson for the Holy See, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., has said when commenting on the statement, “It is absolutely unacceptable, impossible, to define the Jews as enemies of the Church.”
The Second Vatican Council taught in Nostra Aetate, its Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (no. 4): “God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; he does not repent of the gifts he makes or of the calls he issues – such is the witness of the Apostle [Paul].... [T]he Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone." This teaching has been reiterated time and time again by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops denounces all forms of anti-Semitism, and rejects assertions such as those reported to have been made by the Superior of the Society of Saint Pius X, which is a schismatic group not in communion with the Catholic Church.
Today the Diocese of Hamilton reiterated this statement with a few modifications:
During a talk on December 28, 2012 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, made a statement that “the Jews” are“enemies of the Church.” The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that such remarks are not in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. As the spokesperson for the Holy See, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., has said when commenting on the statement, “It is absolutely unacceptable, impossible, to define the Jews as enemies of the Church.” The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops denounces all forms of anti-Semitism, and rejects assertions such as those reported to have been made by the Superior of the Society of Saint Pius X.
Please note that the Society of St. Pius X is a schismatic group not in communion with the Catholic Church. Therefore, with the exception of Baptism, all Sacraments celebrated by Priests of the Society of St. Pius X at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg are not valid.
Pastors may wish to include the above information in their parish bulletins for the purpose of clarifying the status of the community which celebrates Mass and the sacraments at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg.
The Canadian Bishops have rightly condemned the very inappropriate comment made by Bishop Fellay, unfortunately the commentary did not stop there.  The statement made by the CCCB indicated that the SSPX is a schismatic group, and the statment published here in Hamilton also stated that other than Baptism, all of their sacraments are invalid.  Here is where the problem lies, and here is where the clarification is needed.  The SSPX is not now, nor has it ever been a schismatic group, as it does not meet the canonical requirements for such a definition.  This matter was clarified by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a matter known as the "Case of the Hawaii Six", and further clarified by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which stated that while Archbishop Lefebvre's actions were schismatic, the SSPX itself never went into schism.  Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos stated this explicitly when he said:
The Bishops, Priests and Faithful of the Society of St Pius X are not schismatics. It is Archbishop Lefebrve who has undertaken an illicit Episcopal consecration and therefore performed a schismatic act. It is for this reason that the Bishops consecrated by him have been suspended and excommunicated. The priests and faithful of the Society have not been excommunicated. They are not heretics.  (see the full text here)
To state that the SSPX and all of its memebers are in schism, is to accuse them of a canonical crime of which they are not guilty, to damage their reputations, and to mislead others as to their canonical status.  As to the second charge, that only the Sacrament of Baptism is valid, it must be remembered that while priests in the SSPX do not exercise a legitimate ministry, as they do not fall under legitimate Church authority, nevertheless, they are validly ordained priests.  Thus, any Mass celebrated by a priest of the SSPX is illicit, but VALID.  Again, to state otherwise is to mislead.  Now it must be stated, that even though an SSPX Mass is valid, Catholics should not approach any SSPX chapel to receive Sacraments as they would be doing so illicitly.  Furthermore, as the Sacraments of Confession and Marriage require that the priest have proper faculties from a legitimate authority, something priests of the SSPX do not possess, these Sacraments would be INVALID.

I am quite certain that these statement were made in an effort to protect the good of the faithful, and to educate on the status of the SSPX, and I sincerely hope that the accusation of schism and of the invalidity of Sacraments were simply made in error.  Nonetheless, there is an error of fact, which does, I think, need to be clarified.  We continue to pray that one day soon the members of the SSPX may be brought fully back into communion with the Church, that all may be one (cf. John 21:17).