The Society of St Pius X (SSPX) was founded on 7 November 1970, with the official document’s signatures predated to 1 November. It was established as a “pia unio”, a “pious union”, aka “an association of the faithful”, for a provisional/probationary period of 6 years.
On 6 May 1975, 4 years and 5 months later, that status was withdrawn. In the eyes of the Church, the SSPX no longer had any canonical status.
The following also have no canonical status:
- A parish bulletin
- A parish rosary group
- A local Catholic’s newsletter subscription list
- The average Catholic blog (including mine)
Since 6 May 1975, the SSPX existed as an entity with as much authority a parish newsletter.
Suspended clergy, with a mix of illicit and invalid sacraments
On 1 July 1976, their founding bishop, Archbishop Lefebvre, had all his faculties suspended by Pope Paul VI.
Since then, the SSPX was run by bishops who were incapable of even validly hearing someone’s confession. Priests he ordained were subsequently illicitly ordained and could not licitly or validaly (depending on the sacrament) perform Catholic sacraments, such as saying Mass (illicit) or hearing confessions (invalid).
From 30 June 1988 until 21 January 2009, their bishops were in fact in an excommunicated state.
As we say in South Africa: Eish! What a state to be in.
As an association of the faithful (supposedly), they exist in name, and they have a leadership structure. But as an association of the faithful (supposedly), they are not canonically recognised as such by the Church. They may have a name, but so does Grandma Bettie’s “Catholic Corner” newsletter she emails out each Friday. As such, having a name, they can be addressed by that name. It doesn’t raise them to the level of an official entity within the Church. The pope can then call them by that name, but that doesn’t suddenly grant them canonical status.
As a canonically approved entity, the SSPX ceased to exist on 6 May 1975, and was reduced to the same status as Aunty Sue’s rosary group. With one very important difference – Aunty Sue’s rosary group exists in full communion with the Catholic Church. As Pope Francis and others have clearly stated, as I have discussed elsewhere, the SSPX is not in full communion with the Church.
So the next time someone says that the SSPX is recognised by the Church, know that their existence as an entity is acknowledged by the Church simply because they have a name and structure, and in the same way that Grandma Bettie’s “Catholic Corner” newsletter’s could be acknowledged by the Church as such an entity.
An association of the faithful, or a society of priests?
Their official Latin name: Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Pii X
Translated directly into English: Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X
So, are they an association of the faithful, or a society of priests?
Officially, in the eyes of the Church, their priests and bishops are the only members of their unofficial little club. Those attending their Masses are Catholics under the jurisdiction of their local bishop, and officially belong to the parish in whose territory they reside. Laity are not members of the SSPX club. They might sign up on the SSPX’s register as members of the local congregation, but that’s the same as signing up for Grandma Bettie’s “Catholic Corner” newsletter or being on the mailing list of Aunty Sue’s rosary group.
Pay little attention to them. They make up their own Church laws, and are above the laws of both country and Church, and they don’t give a flying rat’s arse about the safety of others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I hope this is the end …