Recently, Archbishop Vigano and Bishop Athanasius Schneider opined that the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) is not in schism. Vigano claimed that Archbishop Lefebvre, the SSPX founder, was a holy man who demonstrated great fidelity to the Church.
I beg to differ.
Three popes disagree with them. Pope St John Paul II referred to their disobedience as a schismatic act, and stated that formal adherence to this schism was an offense to God. Pope Benedict XVI stated that they had no canonical status in the Church, and didn’t legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church. Pope Francis, who granted SSPX priests long-needed faculties to hear confessions validly, hopes for their return to full communion with the Church, and refers to the break between the SSPX and the Church as a schism. References here.
Unlike the Hermits of Westray, who formally declared their schism, the SSPX has not, from their side, formally declared schism, and can therefore claim to, in their opinion, retain communion with the Church. The Hermits claimed to have severed communion with Rome without going into schism – bizarre, but yes! It appears that nobody really wants to be called schismatic. It’s a nasty term. It has nasty connotations to someone who takes it seriously. And they should take it seriously, or else they can’t remedy the situation.
There is no denying that the particular nature of the SSPX schism is unique. It is not the same as the schism between the East and West, where mutual excommunications were issued, resulting in schism, then withdrawn without removing the fact of schism. It’s not the same as the Hermits of Westray who formally withdrew from communion with Rome. That doesn’t mean the SSPX schism isn’t a true schism.
The following video from the Catholic Truth YouTube channel presents the evidence clearly, where the host interviews Andrew Bartel, an ex-SSPX member. It’s about 90 minutes long, but really an excellent resource.
The section on the schism has been edited to a 15 minute video here:
Yes But …
- “Yes, but we don’t think so”
- “Yes, but the pope got it wrong”
- “Yes, but we’re special and the rules don’t apply to us”
- “Yes, but we’re the true remnant and the gates of hell have prevailed over everyone except us”
There are lots of “yes, but” responses out there. The above video presents the evidence for the SSPX’s status of schism very well, explains the facts as they are, and it’s really that simple. People can put their own spin on things, and explain away the facts to their own satisfaction. People do it all the time. It’s not nice to hear that someone thinks you’re not a real Catholic, so naturally there will be reaction instead of reflection. CINO – “Catholic In Name Only” – is a slur usually used to describe those on the liberal spectrum. But it applies here to the SSPX … almost, because they’re in schism and have no claim on the name “Catholic“.
As Pope St John Paul II pointed out, the SSPX has a distorted understanding of what tradition is. They’ve taken parts and presented them as the whole, ignoring the rest. Some of the parts they retained have been distorted by them. Tradition isn’t simply what Grandpa thought and did. The SSPX have misunderstood Catholicism and are teaching a distorted version they think Grandpa believed.