Can Pope Francis grant schismatics faculties?

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Continued from part 2.

Cape Town SSPX COVID drama series
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I believe the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) is in schism from the Catholic Church, as I explained in part 1 and part 2 of this series. The schism was initiated by a schismatic act on the part of their founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, and the bishops he illicitly consecrated; the schism was acknowledged with excommunication by Pope John Paul II; the schism continues in the form of their refusal to submit to legitimate authority in the form of the Pope and their local bishops.

I don’t believe that the withdrawal of their excommunication by Pope Benedict XVI resolved the schism. Their excommunication was formal recognition of their schism, but more than just rescinding the excommunication is required; it’s just a first step, as was the case with the rescinding of the excommunication that resulted in the East/West schism (that didn’t end the East/West schism either). Further steps are needed to complete the healing and establish the full communion Popes Benedict XVI and Francis has called for.

When Popes John Paul II and Francis called the SSPX situation a schism, I trust their use of terminology. Some sympathetic bishops may say otherwise, but I’ll stick with the popes.

What about faculties?

An important point been raised by sympathisers suggesting that schism doesn’t exist: the granting of faculties to SSPX priests for valid confession. This is unusual, unheard of, and suspended priests and schismatic priests do not have faculties, and therefore they cannot be suspended and/or schismatic.

Another is that the SSPX priests pray for the Pope at Mass.

Both are cases of fallacious reasoning. The latter assumes that schismatics will not pray for the Pope at Mass, but there is no rule that forbids this, and prayer for the pope at Mass is not a sufficient cause of or criterion for full communion – more is needed, such as obedience. The former assumes that suspended priests cannot be granted limited faculties, and that not even the Pope can grant anything to a schismatic. There is no rule that forbids or prevents this either. Both of these assumptions are the starting point of the logical argument, and both of these assumptions are faulty.

  • A is a sufficient criterion/cause/action/requirement for avoiding schism ← this is the part that is faulty
  • SSPX has / does A
  • Therefore the SSPX is not in schism

I’ll try to explain how and why Pope Francis could supply faculties for valid absolution in the case of the SSPX priests by writing an imaginary letter that he could have written, in other words more bluntly paraphrasing the important bits of Misericordia et misera, paragraph 12.


Pope Francis
Pope Francis

You are in schism (I will use that word 5 years from now to describe your status). For you to absolve validly, you require faculties from local ordinaries, and, for the most part, you lack this. (I know you don’t acknowledge Church authority and therefore don’t believe this, but bear with me.) All your priests are suspended, and I am not revoking this suspension. Never before has a pope granted faculties for absolution to heretics or schismatics. But I am pope, and there is a first time for everything, and this is not an unreasonable gift of mercy.

Therefore, I am doing away with the requirement of your cooperation with local ordinaries (whom you won’t cooperate with anyway, for the most part), and unilaterally granting you faculties to provide valid absolution (which you believe you magically got elsewhere). None of the other consequences of your suspension are revoked (apart from the ability to marry validly, but only if you cooperate with your local ordinary). The reason for this gift of mercy is for the benefit of the Catholic souls attending your illicit chapels and receiving your illicit sacraments. God’s mercy is infinite, and he has not likely abandoned to hell the repentant souls who died after invalid SSPX absolutions, but with this visible extension of God’s mercy in the form of this provision of faculties, many souls may be comforted.

Your loving pope,

Pope Francis never rescinded their suspension; he just granted limited faculties. Unless something in canon law or divine revelation, binding even on popes, prevents the granting of such limited faculties to suspended priests, he can do so, and has done so.

To resolve the schism, the SSPX and its adherents need to stop ignoring it and take it seriously. Otherwise it will just continue.

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    • Phil on November 15, 2022 at 9:06 pm


    I believe your opinion is incorrect. The reason is that Canon Law exists for the saving of souls, ultimately – and this is over and above even adhering the wishes of a given Pope. It is not just simply cudgel for hierarchy to wield as they please.

    Also, at the very least B16 removing excommunications severely undercuts the interpretation of JP2 since he had the authority as the next pope to reverse if not the letter than the spirit of the excommunication.

    Further, if there is grave necessity for the actions of prelate, such as in the case of Archbishop Lefebvre, then it makes this all the more important to highlight. Lefebvre didn’t just decide this to be defiant against the Church just to be. He loved the Church. In fact, he sought to defend it. Anyone who knows the story of his life would realize this. So much more could be said about this

    Finally (and briefly), many of the causes cited by Lefebvre are now clearly and objectively justified, if not in part than in full, based on the current state of the church and the world. This current Pontiff is joining with the current cultural zeitgeist, not fighting against it’s evil. Surely, you must see that.

    There is a good deal more I could say. But for time’s sake, I hope you consider my words.



    1. Pope Benedict XVI removing the excommunications doesn’t undercut Pope John Paul II. It a) shows hope for return to full communion by the SSPX, and b) confirms that Pope Benedict XVI believed that the excommunications were real.

      Lefebvre wasn’t defiant just for the sake of defiance. But nor what Martin Luther. They both saw what they thought was a crisis in the Church, and they both responded to it with disobedience and defiance. Both ended up separated from the Church, and both continued down the path of disobedience and defiance.

      • sam on January 20, 2023 at 9:07 pm

      You might remember too that the council never called for a new mass which Paul vi went directly against the wishes of said council. Paul 6 invented this novus ordo but not all the church went along. Lefebvre used the proper channels to keep the TLM in use. In a sense , he was agreeing with the council’s decision to not produce a new mass against tradition.

      The author’s comparison of Lefebvre to Luther is laughable since the new mass is patterned right after Luther’s mass.

      1. The pope has the authority and the right to legislate the liturgy of the Church. He did so. It’s over and done. Lefebvre is very much like Luther. He lacked faith in the Church; he opted for disobedience to the pope; he saw himself as the saviour. Today, things are worse – we have many Luthers around, like Taylor Marshall, for example. Explicit and open disobedience, and encouraging resistance. In the past crises in the Church, the faithful looked to the pope and to Rome for the answer – from Arianism down to the Reformation. The Luthers, the Lefebvres, the Marshalls – they look to themselves, and actively resist the pope, and encourage resistance to the pope. They have become their own popes.

          • sam on January 21, 2023 at 3:50 pm

          So your belief is this new mass , the invention that is a departure from tradition, the mass of Martin Luther and Calvin, the beginners of the great reformation, the two most prominent heretics the church has seen, will be the saving grace for the church? Are you serious that the pope can send the church into decline even to the destruction of the church? The forecast is the novus ordo will be gone, no more in 10-15 years. Ths new invented mass of luther/calvin will save the church? Or will obedience to the one leading the charge of destruction of the church will save the church? The problem is not sspx, taylor marshall, Lefebvre, or even sedevacantism. The problem is the evil within… the very ones you would defend because they are the ones being ‘obedient’. One can resist when any pope is destroying the church. We have the right to avoid and resist that which is harmful to the church.

          1. So you’re Protestant, at least in principle. At least you could admit it.

              • sam on January 21, 2023 at 5:09 pm

              You are being led to destruction stephen. If you can’t see that there will be no hope for you. You will accept protestantism in the veiled manner in which it presents itself without a clue as to how it got there. It’s laughable that you accuse me of being a protestant but ignore your own logic. You chuck tradition for the sake of this so called ‘unity’ francis strives for?

              The unprecedented manner in which Paul VI imposed the Novus Ordo created tragic consequences for the Church, so says Cardinal Ratzinger.

              Not only did the banning of the old Mass represent a severe departure from tradition, but the revolutionary manner in which the new Mass was imposed has created the impression that liturgy is something each community creates on its own, not something which “is given.”

              Rather than being a force for unity in the Church, the new Mass has been the source of liturgical anarchy, dividing Catholics “into opposing party positions” and creating a situation in which the Church is “lacerating herself.”

              Do you then accept Ratzinger as an anti conciliar renegade?

              1. You’re wrong on several points there.
                1. History shows otherwise – it will be the sedevacantists, and after them groups like the SSPX, who follow the road to Protestantism (they’re already on it). Schism leads to heresy, and heresy leaves the group, whatever group it is, making up its own teachings. Look at the Palmarians. Look at the Old Catholics. That is where the SSPX will be in 200 years. After every council, there are those who leave, claiming to be the true Catholics. Where are they today? The Church lives on, but not in their imagined way. It’s still with Peter. Choose wisely where you decide to go.
                2. The new Mass was not something that was created by each community. It was given by the Church and by the Pope, and improved on the old form. Just like the Latin Mass before it.
                3. It’s not the new Mass that is the cause of division in the Church. It’s the attitude of those who attack the pope and the Church, more noticeably the supporters of the Latin Mass. They’re a minority, but they’re doing a lot of harm. And they’re behaving more and more like Protestant reformers all the time.

                  • sam on January 21, 2023 at 7:47 pm

                  Schismatics, sppx etc. are the smallest of groups which is not the point. The point is catholics will be protestant without knowing it. That proves you wrong.

                  You are defying Ratzinger’s words stephen. Those are Ratzingers. The new mass has had TONS of abuse since its inception. It was CREATED and copied from heretics Luther and Calvin, obviously ignored by you. No denying that. Ratzinger’s words rang true before ascending the pontificate. The sacrificial nature is dumbed down IF even brought up at all in the novus ordo,hence Ratzinger’s condemnation.

                  The Latin community is the future of the church. Without them the church will be obliterated. Would protestants follow the TLM? Apparently that is what you believe prior to the council. This was Ratzinger’s point. You look upon VCII as THE supercouncil that surpasses all previous ones because your Novus ordo tradition began then.

                  Your point 2 is without truth. The NO was not an improvement on the old form BUT a departure from it. It was NEVER approved by the vcii. The TLM was organically and minutely changed over centuries , NOT a couple years.

                  1. Catholics will be Catholic under the pope. You seem to lack faith in Christ’s promise to preserve the Church. I don’t, and I don’t make up my own Catholicism. I will follow Peter, not Marcel, not Clemente, not Luther. Protestants don’t follow the TLM, no, but many “Catholics” with that same Protestant mindset do. I don’t subscribe to your snippets, out of context, of Pope Benedict’s views, and I don’t subscribe to your imaginary history. Thanks for the discussion. God bless.

    • Ian on November 16, 2022 at 2:24 am

    Instead of attacking faithful Catholics who are canonically irregular with your bias that have been resolved by the Holy See. Why don’t you attack Seventh-Day Adventists who are attacking the Church? Your posts concerning the SSPX are nauseating and disgusting.

    1. Both are groups that Catholics need to be warned about. Both are groups that attack the Church.

  1. Thank you for sharing this profound article! God bless your ministry work for His cause!
    SDA Hymnal

    1. All the way from India, a link to Adventist hymns. Thanks.

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