Saturday, 20 July 2013

The SSPX and Summorum Pontificum

I am highly sympathetic to the Society of St. Pius X and have a great deal of respect for them. I think they are a voice in the Church that needs to be heard; they are saying the things that need to be said. I wish that the Church would pay more attention to them. I have defended them against the accusations of schism (not on this blog though). I occasionally attend an SSPX chapel myself. 

That said, there are certain things on which I do not agree with them. Leaving the whole issue of obedience aside, there is the question of whether traditional Catholics ought to attend a Tridentine mass celebrated under the provisions of Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum. The SSPX says (here) that we should not do so. They even say that we should not receive Holy communion from a ciborium consecrated in the Novus Ordo, even if it is being distributed in the tridentine. I take issue with this for the following reason:

We distinguish between the sacrament in itself and the extrinsic rite by which it is administered, the intrinsic and extrinsic merit of the mass. The problem with the Novus Ordo is a problem with the rite, the extrinsic part, and not with the sacrament itself. We say that it is deficient in its external merit, but not in its internal merit. A theologically deficient rite is indeed problematic - I would be among the first to point this out about the Novus Ordo - but even a theologically deficient rite does not in the least affect the actual sacrament of the Eucharist and the presence of the sacrifice of Christ. In other words, the deficiency in the external merit of the new mass does not affect its intrinsic merit. Christ is not "less present" in the Eucharist as consecrated in the Novus Ordo than He is in the Tridentine. The efficacy of the sacrament in and of itself is not decreased in the slightest degree in the Novus Ordo; it remains absolutely untouched. So in a Tridentine mass which uses hosts consecrated by the Novus Ordo, there is absolutely no decrease in the efficacy of the sacrament. It is the same.

To say that we shouldn't receive the Eucharist, even in a Tridentine mass, simply because it was consecrated by a liturgically deficient rite - as if that would in any way decrease the efficacy and holiness of the sacrament itself - seems to me to be a theologically problematic position to hold. Such a position itself seems to stem from a theologically deficient understanding of the Real Presence. For the presence of Christ is equally real, equally holy, and equally meritorious for every valid rite, even if one rite is less perfect than another.

I would be able to understand this particular position of the SSPX if it was founded on a concern about the validity of the Novus Ordo; for an invalid rite could never bring about the true sacrament. But assuming that the Novus Ordo is at least valid in principle, even if seriously deficient, then it seems to me that the sacrament itself must necessarily be preserved in all its integrity, dignity, and efficacy.

And so I think that Catholics should generally be able to attend a diocesan Tridentine mass in good conscience. That's my two-pence. 


  1. what about the question of jurisdiction as regards confession? If sspx do not have this, can one in good conscience go for confession?

  2. I haven't studied that question much, but there have been some recent articles published over at The Remnant Newspaper about that very topic. See the following links:

  3. it seems to me to be far more complicated than a simple yes or no. I think the position of the person going to confession comes into play. This position is influenced by how much error they imbibe in a setting that can/does lead many souls to believe the 'true' church consists solely of their organization and therefore cease to pray for their fellow Catholics and the hierarchy. And This is only looking at it from the perspective of the laity.