When you listen to a sermon, and the priest tells you something historical, you expect it to be true. Not something he just made up for the sermon.
When you read a church’s website that says they’re celebrating 1700 years of something, you expect that the event being celebrated is a historical one.
With the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) that is unfortunately not the case, as I’ve discovered. What follows here is over and above the fake funerals they tried to con the police into letting them have.
The SSPX has fallen for Adventist propaganda and linked Constantine to the use of Sunday as a day of worship. Maybe they just got a bad Catholic source, but I can’t find the German reference, so I’ll leave it for the SSPX to fix. Maybe they have been duped, maybe they used a source that had been duped; either way they are wrong. Catholics have fallen for this before. But the relationship between the SSPX and truth is an unstable one at best, so I am not that surprised. Very disappointed, however.
“The year 2021 marks the 1,700th anniversary of the consecration of Sunday as a weekly day of rest.”
– SSPX News, 9 April 2021
This refers to Constantine, and 321 AD. 1700 years before 2021 AD is 321 AD. Related to this is Pope Sylvester I and a council (Laodicea) that he may not even have been at (it being held 30 years after his death making it a bit inconvenient for him to attend), which commented on Sunday. See the end of this article for a reading list on the anti-Catholic claims about Pope Sylvester I and Constantine and the sabbath.
The Constantine myth has been repeated over and over and over by anti-Catholic Saturday observers for more than 200 years, and the idea was derived from earlier anti-Catholic propaganda. The idea that Constantine was the first pope and started the Catholic Church goes along with all that. At least the SSPX haven’t agreed to that much – yet.
Sunday had been the topic of councils before, and the Council of Elvira in Spain had legislated on Sunday attendance at Mass in 305 AD. Which means Constantine wasn’t the first to legislate on it, at least not at local or regional church level.
But the early Christians certainly put to rest any idea that Constantine was the first.
Early Christian writers
The Epistle of Barnabas, ca 80 AD, ch 15 … Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.
Didache, pre-90 AD, ch 14 … But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.
St Ignatius of Antioch (disciple of the Apostle John), died 107 AD, Epistle to the Magnesians, ch 9 … If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him …
St Justin Martyr, ca 150 AD, First Apology, ch 68 … But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our saviour on the same day rose from the dead.
The Didache is the first document that can be considered some sort of instruction in the form of a catechism. THAT, not Constantine, is the first codification of Sunday observance. Sunday observance began prior to that, and the Didache is the oldest surviving catechetical instruction regarding Sunday.
Cape Town SSPX botching history lessons
The local SSPX chapter has a history of being wrong about history too. Making it up to suit the sermon, in fact, to titillate the itching ears – a bit of the old flannel always does the trick. Like when the Cape Town SSPX priest made up the history of the early popes, who supposedly had an average papacy length of about 6 months for the first two centuries.
“All of the popes who preceded Pope Sylvester, almost without exception, died martyrs. In fact there were over 160 martyrs of the first popes. So the lifetime of a pope was around 6 months for that time before Constantine.”
– SSPX priest, 31 December 2020, sermon, Pinelands, Cape Town, South Africa
Did he actually believe the drivel that was coming out of his mouth? How did he arrive at those numbers without doing an actual count? Is there a book of fake history that SSPX gets their clergy to read? Or did he know he was spouting nonsense and was happy to do so for the “feel good” effect? Did the congregation obediently lap it up, thinking it was great wisdom being imparted? Or did they check his “facts” somewhere like the Catholic Encyclopedia? Is the SSPX really on a planet that far away from reality?
- Pope St Sylvester I was pope from 314-335 AD, and he was the 33rd pope.
- The 160th pope was Pope Paschal II, reigning from 1099-1118 AD.
- Of the 32 popes prior to Pope Sylvester I, the FIRST and ONLY pope with a reign under 6 months was Pope Anterus (235-236 AD, 43 days).
- There were another three popes who lasted between 6 months and 1 year. That’s FOUR who reigned for less than 1 year. Not 160, not 80, not 400.
- There was not an average reign of 6 months either. The average was more than 8 years.
- More than 200 years of 6 month papacies prior to the reign of Pope Sylvester I (which began in 314 AD) would mean that there were more than 400 popes in that time.
- Pope Francis is number 266.
- Martyrs, giving the benefit of the doubt to the SSPX when the history of martyrdom is questionable:
- 1st century – 5/5
- 2nd century – 7/10
- 3rd century – 10/14
- 4th century till Sylvester – 0/3
- Total – 22/32 – hardly “all … almost without exception”
Clearly the “truth” was made up, either by the SSPX priest or whatever fake history textbook the SSPX uses.
The SSPX has now added to the ammunition of the anti-Catholic world, particularly the anti-Sunday world of paranoid Adventists and other Saturday observers.
If the SSPX are that careless in propagating fake history about the Catholic Church, and are displaying a truly disturbing sense of morality during the COVID-19 pandemic, it isn’t surprising that they take the same liberties with their theology and understanding of Catholic tradition.
It’s as if the truth is considered relative by them. They’re above the truth the same way they’re above the law. They completely lack credibility now. They are harming society and they are harming the Church. Mainstream Catholics need to realise this about them. Do not trust what they say, including “and” and “the”.
Further reading (on this blog)
SSPX, Pinelands, Cape Town, 36 Central Avenue, 33 Central Square, 19 St Stephens Road, Latin Mass