Dear Traditional Catholics: Don’t Trust the Writings of the SSPX Like I Did


Dear Traditional Catholics:
Don’t Trust the Writings of the SSPX Like I Did

John Salza Responds to One Peter Five
and also Exposes its Error on the Sunday Obligation 

John F. Salza
31 July A.D. 2022


Yesterday, One Peter Five released an article called “John Salza Replies to John Salza.” The article pits my former positions on the SSPX (dating back to over ten years ago) with my current position, which I reached after digging much more deeply into the issues over the past few years. In fact, one could substitute “SSPX” for “Salza 2013” etc., because all my former positions that the One Peter Five piece presents, were simply SSPX talking points, which I gleaned from Society writings during the time I was attending the SSPX chapel and adopted as my own. The One Peter Five “article,” if you want to call it that, is really a presentation of the Society’s arguments vs. the position I currently hold (it is really a “SSPX vs. Salza 2022” comparison).

Hence, I titled this present article Don’t Trust the Writings of the SSPX Like I Did, because I want those who are currently investigating or supportive of the Society’s position to not just take their word for it like I originally did, but actually go beyond the SSPX’s mere talking points (e.g., necessity justifies everything they do), and dig more deeply into the theological and canonical arguments which they claim justifies their operating without being part of, or sent by, the Roman Catholic Church. I believe my many articles will help sincere Catholics do that.

 Indeed, after actually researching the SSPX’s positions which I had initially (and superficially) adopted, I discovered grave inconsistencies and errors in the Society’s reasoning. But more than that, I also discovered that the Society consistently misrepresents the teachings of Vatican II, and also the teachings of the Church prior to Vatican II, both in her theology and canonical tradition, as well as Catholic authors who explain traditional teaching (and I prove this in my articles, for example, the SSPX’s misrepresentations of the Church’s teaching on Collegiality, supplied jurisdiction, canons 844 and 1335, the historical case of St. Eusebius, Grea’s treatise on the episcopacy, just to name a few examples). I also came face to face with the hard reality that Archbishop Lefebvre held many errors, and even heresies, and was not this great champion of Catholic orthodoxy that most traditional Catholics have been conditioned to believe.

Lefebvre’s heresies are too numerous to mention here, but include his heretical position that jurisdiction comes from the people who confer it upon their bishops (which Pope St. Pius X himself called heresy); that clergy do not have to be sent by canonical power to licitly operate their ministry (contrary to Trent); that clergy do not have to be one in government with the Church to be Catholic (contrary to Vatican I); that ecclesiastical judges are not required for annulments (contrary to Trent); that a priest must intend the sacramental effect to have a valid sacrament (contrary to the teaching of the Holy Office under Pope Pius IX); that one can reject the Church’s universal Profession of Faith and remain Catholic; that the body of bishops in union with the Pope are not a permanent subject of supreme authority (Vatican II), etc. The details of these heresies and other errors are laid out in my many articles, and those of Robert Siscoe, at

Needless to say, changing my mind on the SSPX was not easy for me to do; after all, I attended an SSPX chapel for 15 years and originally looked up to Archbishop Lefebvre. I also developed friendships with many clergy in the SSPX. It took a lot for me to admit that I had erred, that I had gone too far to the Right, in my fight for traditional Catholicism. But I have come full circle to the position I held some 20 years ago, evidenced by a letter I wrote and signed, to a Mr. Ralph Sharafinski, around the year 2000, warning him not to attend the Society chapel due to the risk of schism (Mr. Sharafinski is free to share the letter publicly if he wishes).

Unfortunately, a few years later, after relocating close to a Society chapel, I began reading the articles on the SSPX website and became deceived by all their talking points, which led to my frequenting their chapels on the weekends (while still attending the diocesan Traditional Mass during the week). Thus, the first goal of this article is to persuade traditional Catholics to do their homework, to not rely entirely upon the Society’s “canonical studies,” and to not be deceived by their talking points.

Now, most of my supporters view this latest “article” from One Peter Five as a hit piece and a cheap shot intended to discredit me. But I don’t look at it that way; in fact, I thank One Peter Five for doing the homework for me, since the article is not a rebuttal of my positions; it is my refutation of the Society’s positions. Again, my former positions, as the article lays out, are all the talking points of the SSPX. If One Peter Five is not intending to attack my credibility with this article (and I don’t presume malice), then it must mean that One Peter Five believes I am my best opponent, and I take that as a compliment.

Indeed, after Mr. Flanders (Editor-in-Chief) published the so-called rebuttals (from Kennedy Hall, Joe Bocca, Nishant Xavier and Brian McCall) to my SSPX article titled “Does the SSPX have an Extraordinary Mission?,” and my counter-replies, it became evident to those involved that the debate was not going in the favor of the Society’s apologists. After my replies to Messrs. Xavier and Hall, One Peter Five chose not to publish my replies to Messrs. Bocca and McCall (the reply to McCall was the most substantive and illustrative of my opponents’ errors), nor would it include all of my refutations in the articles it did choose to publish, evidently in an effort to “even out” the debate.

I was also blind-copied on emails to Mr. Flanders from One Peter Five patrons expressing their concern for how One Peter Five was handling the debate in a one-sided manner, and even asking them to end the debate by declaring victory for the winner of the debate. One Peter Five also made commitments to publish future articles (for example, they committed to publishing articles from Mr. Siscoe and me on Collegiality, after Easter 2022), but then reneged. Perhaps donor influence was also involved. We also know One Peter Five contacted the Society to see if any of their priests would enter into the debate, and they refused to do so.  

Mr. Siscoe and I concluded that we were not going to be given a fair shake by One Peter Five. They had already adopted a pro-SSPX position prior to publishing our articles, and we believed was using its platform in the hopes that we would be refuted (in fact, in my first article on supplied jurisdiction, as a condition for publication, One Peter Five required me to remove all references to the SSPX and Fr. Tranquillo, and replace them with “Sedevacantists,” even though the article was principally about Fr. Tranquillo’s erroneous statements on supplied jurisdiction in Episode 34 of the Society’s Crisis series of podcasts). But we believe the plan backfired. Our opponents were soundly refuted, and SSPX priests chose not to defend their positions. Hence, I am not at all surprised by One Peter Five closing the loop with the “Salza vs. Salza” article, which they presumably hope gives the appearance of the Society having the upper hand, as they bring the debate to an end on their platform. Me vs. Me is all that One Peter Five has left.  

Of course, almost every traditional Catholic, including the patrons and editors of One Peter Five, have changed their mind on positions which have led them to the positions they currently hold today. Hence, publishing a piece which highlights a change in one’s position, based on one’s diligent research and scholarship, says more about One Peter Five than me, if the piece was intended to discredit me.

I should remind One Peter Five that Archbishop Lefebvre, who they tout as a great champion Catholic traditionalism (he was not), is a poster-cleric for changing his mind. After all, Lefebvre changed his mind on Vatican II and the New Mass, having signed all the documents of the council and celebrated the New Mass, but then later called them evil. There was no nuance in these complete reversals; they were wholesale, 180-degree changes of position, and no less concerning an ecumenical council and a rite of Mass of the Catholic Church. Of course, the biggest change of mind for Lefebvre led to his excommunication for schism and illicit consecrations, when he, in a matter of hours, reneged on his oral and written agreement with the Roman Pontiff himself. If changing one’s mind is grounds for discrediting one’s credibility, then Lefebvre has no credibility.

The ultimate difference between Lefebvre and me is that Lefebvre changed his mind and that change led him out of the Catholic Church; I changed my mind to remain in the Catholic Church. 

One Peter Five’s Grave Error on the Sunday Obligation 

            My reply to One Peter Five would not be complete without addressing a statement it makes in the preface to its “article.” After assuring its readers that its piece “is not intended to attack Mr. Salza,” One Peter Five gratuitously asserts, in bold, thatany Catholic can commune at an SSPX chapel for their Sunday obligation with no sin whatsoever.[2]” Now, addressing this statement is critical, not only because the assertion is false, but also because it raises the question of whether the editors of One Peter Five truly comprehend the subject matter in question. According to the footnote “2” you see cited after their statement, One Peter Five claims that the “evidence” for its conclusion that SSPX Masses fulfill the Sunday obligation is found in an article written by Peter Kwasniewski in 2019, which refers to an article by Brian Mershon on July 11, 2008, which provides answers to questions Mershon posed to the PCED on the canonical status of the SSPX, which he received from Msgr. Perl on May 23, 2008 (yes, I will untangle this).

Evidently, the editors of One Peter Five have a loose understanding of “evidence,” because Msgr. Perl’s May 23, 2008 response does not say SSPX Masses fulfill the Sunday obligation. In fact, Perl’s letter does not even address the Sunday obligation, and that is because Mr. Mershon in his initial July letter never asked the PCED to address the question! Rather, Msgr. Perl states the following, which anyone can verify by reading his letter:


·         Confirms the SSPX bishops have been declared excommunicated in the external forum (this censure was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009);

·         SSPX priests are suspended;

·         SSPX priests exercise their ministry illicitly because they are not incardinated;

·         SSPX Masses are “illicit, i.e., contrary to Canon Law”;

·         Those who adhere to the SSPX risk “imbibing a schismatic mentality which separates itself from the Supreme Pontiff and the entire Catholic Church”;

·         Members of the PCED “cannot recommend that members of the faithful frequent their [SSPX] chapels; and,

·         Catholics who frequent SSPX chapels do not incur “any sin or canonical delict by doing so.”


As one can see, in the May 23, 2008 letter One Peter Five ultimately relies upon, Msgr. Perl never addresses the question of whether the SSPX Masses fulfill the Sunday obligation under canon 1248, and that is because Mr. Mershon in his letter did not ask the PCED the question of whether SSPX Masses fulfill the Sunday obligation. In its statement, One Peter Five conveniently slips in the phrase “for their Sunday obligation” into its conclusion, but Perl’s reply to Mershon states no such thing, because the question was not posed. Thus, the letter provides no “evidence” for One Peter Five’s conclusion that a Catholic can satisfy his Sunday obligation at SSPX Masses. Frankly, this is sloppy research for professional writers and editors.

If One Peter Five is truly interested in the evidence on this question, then it should look to Msgr. Perl’s earlier statement to the universal Church on the question, namely, that SSPX Masses do not fulfill the Sunday obligation. On April 15, 2002, Msgr. Perl expressly stated that the SSPX Mass does not fulfill the Sunday obligation, and canon 844 cannot be used to justify any SSPX Mass attendance. Specifically, he issued a negative reply to the question of whether a Catholic “could attend a Mass celebrated by an SSPX priest or a priest from a community close to this Society and receive Holy Communion on a Sunday?” Perl’s reply: “No. Holy Mass must be offered in communion with the Church, the Pope and the local Bishop.

The questioner also asked: “May we lean upon canon 844 to justify participation in the sacraments in the chapels and houses of the Society St. Pius X,” since there was no Indult Mass in their vicinity. Perl’s reply: “No. The canon referred to speaks of ‘the physical and moral impossibility to have recourse to a Catholic minister’ and not of the absence of a Mass in one rite rather than in another.” (Note: although Perl failed to recognize that canon 844 does not apply to the SSPX because it is not a “Church,” he held that the “impossibility” elements of canon 844 do not apply to the SSPX.) Perl also stated if one must attend an SSPX Mass, he “must abstain from receiving Holy Communion” and “it is a sin to depart from the discipline of the Church regarding the Sunday obligation.”

Msgr. Perl’s statement that SSPX Masses do not fulfill the Sunday obligation is perfectly consistent with canon 1248 of the Church’s canon law, which requires the Sunday Mass to be celebrated in a Catholic Church sui iuris and in full communion with the Roman Pontiff and local bishop (neither of which SSPX chapels satisfy), in addition to using a valid liturgical rite. As the commentary to the Code explains, a “Catholic rite” in canon 1248 does not merely refer to a valid Missal, but to a Mass celebrated in a lawfully established Catholic church: 

The Mass must be celebrated in a Catholic rite, i.e., in the liturgical rite of any Catholic church sui iuris, but not in a church which is not in full communion with the Catholic Church, although using a Catholic liturgical rite.[1]


 As Editor-in-Chief of One Peter Five, Mr. Tim Flanders has a grave duty to publicly retract its statement that “Catholics can commune at an SSPX chapel for their Sunday obligation.” This is false, in the words of One Peter Five, “according to the competent ecclesiastical authority” which has adjudicated the matter.

Attending Illicit Mass vs. Illicit Mass to Fulfill Obligation


Now, with regard to Msgr. Perl’s statement that one does not commit sin by frequenting an SSPX chapel, there are critical distinctions which One Peter Five has overlooked. First, it has failed to make the distinction between attending an illicit Mass, attending an illicit Mass to fulfill one’s Sunday obligation, and receiving communion at an illicit Mass celebrated by a priest who is not incardinated.

On March 28, 2012, the Ecclesia Dei Commission issued another reply to a letter (dated February 19, 2012) that presented two dubia concerning the Masses of a “Friends of the Society of St. Pius X,” which was another “independent” chapel (not under the ordinary jurisdiction of a bishop) and hence in the same canonical condition as the Society of St. Pius X. Signed by Msgr. Guido Pozzo, the responses were consistent with Perl’s April 15, 2002 letter and, more importantly, judged that the Masses in question do not fulfill the Sunday obligation under canon 1248 and which results in sin (at a minimum, when such Masses are attended for Sundays and Holy Days): 

Strictly considering the aforementioned canon [1248§1], would a Catholic be able to fulfill his Mass obligation by assisting at Holy Mass at this ‘Friends of the Society of St. Pius X’ chapel, called…Roman Catholic Church in…?


Response: Negative.


Upon the condition that the answer to the first question is in the negative, does a Catholic sin by assisting at Holy Mass at the aforementioned chapel?


Response: Negative, unless the Catholic substitutes it for his Sunday obligation.


Note well: This is an official statement from the Church that “independent” Masses (offered by priests who are not incardinate) not only do not fulfill the Sunday obligation under canon 1248, since an illegal Mass cannot fulfill the legal requirement to assist at Mass, but also incurs sin if the Catholic substitutes the illicit Mass for his Sunday obligation. 

Again, Mr. Flanders has the grave duty to publicly retract One Peter Five’s position that Catholics can substitute an illicit Mass for his Sunday obligation “with no sin whatsoever.” This statement is also false, according to the competent ecclesiastical authority” which has adjudicated the matter. 

       Attending Illicit Mass vs. Receiving Communion 

Second, One Peter Five fails to distinguish between merely attending an illicit Mass, and receiving Holy Communion at an illicit Mass. As we saw above, Msgr. Perl, in the same April 15, 2002 letter, states that if a Catholic attends an SSPX Mass, he must abstain from receiving Holy Communion” and “it is a sin to depart from the discipline of the Church regarding the Sunday obligation.” Perl’s requirement that Catholics must refrain from receiving Communion in SSPX and other “independent” chapels reflects the perennial teaching of the Church that receiving illicit sacraments results in the sin of sacrilege. As Cardinal Billot teaches:


This introduction shows, first, that legitimate dispensation of the sacraments can only come from the Catholic Church, so that anyone who does not have a mission from her, by that very fact administers illicitly, and anyone who by receiving the sacrament communicates with the sin of the minister receives sacrilegiously.”[2]


The foregoing points, based on the distinctions noted, can be summarized as follows:


·         A Catholic cannot attend an SSPX Mass to fulfill the Sunday obligation;

·         If a Catholic attends an SSPX Mass to fulfill the Sunday obligation, he commits sin;

·         If a Catholic receives Holy Communion at an SSPX Mass, he commits sin;

·         If a Catholic merely attends an SSPX Mass but does not receive Holy Communion at that Mass (i.e., on a weekday), he does not commit sin.


To anticipate the banal objection, this is not “legal positivism,” which is a typical rebuttal of the SSPX. No, these conclusions are taken directly from the PCED replies, and are consistent with how the Church has always treated illicit Masses offered by priests with no faculties to say Mass.

I actually provided the foregoing information to Mr. Flanders back in March 2022, in my article “Does Attending an SSPX Mass Fulfill the Sunday Obligation?” I asked Mr. Flanders to publish the article, as well as any rebuttals to the article, or at least to read the article so that One Peter Five would not give misleading information to his viewership on the question of SSPX Masses and the Sunday obligation. Unfortunately, Mr. Flanders chose not to publish my article on canon 1248 and, based upon this latest, presumably did not even read it, at least not carefully.

I earnestly hope that the distinctions I have made in this, my reply, which are all supported by the replies of the PCED, help Mr. Flanders and the other editors at One Peter Five to see the problems with their public position on SSPX Masses and the Sunday obligation, and to revise them accordingly, for the good of souls and the unity of the Catholic Church.

For more information on this topic, please see my articles:


·         “Does Attending an SSPX Mass Fulfill the Sunday Obligation?” – John Salza, November 2021.


·         “John Salza Replies to Fr. Zuhlsdorf on SSPX Masses” – January 2022


·         “What if Traditional Priests are Suspended? – John Salza Replies to Chris Jackson” – February 2022


[1] John Beal, James Coriden, and Thomas Green, A New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), p. 1445.

[2] Billot on Sacraments and Mission, /DeMembris Ecclesiae.