The Society of St Pius X (SSPX) was born in an act of schism stemming from a loss of faith and trust in God and his Church. Their founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, thought the gates of hell were overwhelming the Church, and went and did his own thing, in disobedience to the pope. Courageous acts have helped preserve the Church in the past, but the saints to whom these are attributed never turned against the pope and fell into the sort of disobedience demonstrated by Lefebvre and his followers. That lack of faith is not a sign of a holy man. It shows no fidelity. This is the core of the schism.
The Cape Town SSPX behaviour during the COVID pandemic suggests to me the same lack of faith. It also hints at a selfish consumer mentality, where the needs of others and respect for the common good are dismissed in favour of their own wants. Much like a cult, they seemed to view themselves as special and above the rules (just like their founder, Lefebvre) … but lacking faith in God to get them through it (like their founder). Consumerism is one thing, but sacramental consumerism is a very sad state to sink to. The world was in a crisis, heading into a pandemic with an unknown outcome. The SSPX treated the sacraments like a consumer item that they were being denied. That was sacrilegious. They stamped their feet, threw their tantrum, tried to have fake funerals, and acted like entitled loudmouthed American consumers. (Sorry for the caricature, Americans, but it’s out there and I’d like to use it here.) They didn’t trust God, and instead trusted themselves and whatever conspiracy theories they found nice. Knowing full well what the risks were, they put the lives and safety of others at risk. Not just themselves. Others.
Sadly, this consumer mentality became a problem in the real Catholic Church too, especially in the Latin Mass community. I was told very often that “we’re part of the Latin Mass community so we don’t need to wear masks at church“. In other words, “we’re the Latin Mass community, we don’t care about our neighbour, just give us our sacraments in Latin“. Certainly, that doesn’t apply to the entire community, but the entire community needs to take responsibility for that attitude, and police the vocal elements expressing and encouraging it.
A moral test
This quote, from Where Peter Is, reflects Pope Francis’ thinking on this matter:
2. The pandemic provided a moral test for humanity.
Fratelli Tutti was written during Covid-19, and Pope Francis wants us to emerge into a better world. He believes that the pandemic momentarily revived the sense that we are part of a global community, in the same boat, whereby one person’s problems are the problems of all. It helped us to see that faith in the market was not enough to keep us safe. But if we shift back into egoism and consumerism, jettisoning this newfound sense of fraternity, we will have learned nothing.
— Ten Takeaways From Fratelli Tutti
The SSPX failed the moral test and learnt nothing. The Latin Mass community failed the moral test and learnt nothing. The Latin Mass community has failed more than the moral test. Traditionis Custodes was sad but necessary because of the Latin Mass community’s attitude to the Church and to the pope. But like selfish consumers, they just blame the pope for their situation. In reality, the Latin Mass community should be repenting in sackcloth and ashes, going on their knees to the pope to promise to reform themselves, and request to be reevaluated in 5 years from now. But no. That isn’t what happened.
But I digress.
People should be aware that the SSPX is not an authentic Catholic group in communion with the Catholic Church. They are a renegade group masquerading as authentic Catholicism. They have taken part of the message and discarded part, and turned it into something they think is the original, but which is really not authentic Catholic tradition. They’re the Catholic version of fundamentalists. They are not in step with the Church. Their confessions are now valid, thanks to Pope Francis granting them faculties indefinitely. Similarly, their marriages are now potentially valid, if they cooperate with the local bishop, which they seldom do. Their Masses remain valid but illicit.
Reasons to go to an illicit Mass
When you have a licit Mass available to you, there needs to be a very good reason why you choose to attend an illicit Mass instead. Imbibing the schismatic attitude is a problem, and not a valid reason.
If you go there, have a very good reason.
Sacramental consumerism – please don’t.
Become absorbed into the schism – please don’t.
It is best to avoid them. Like the, perhaps too literal, plague.