John F. Salza, Esq.
October 2021

 

In Episode 44 of the Society of St. Pius X’s Crisis in the Church series, Fr. Jonathan Loop, SSPX, gave a podcast entitled “How Can the SSPX Justify its Ministry in the Church?” The purpose of Fr. Loop’s video was to explain how the SSPX clergy can justify the exercise of their priestly ministry when they have no permission from the Church to do so.[1] After all, while the bishops of the SSPX have valid episcopal ordinations, they do not have a canonical mission given by hierarchical authority, which is required for such functions to become active and lawful.[2] Further, the priests of the SSPX are not incardinated (attached or “hinged” to a particular Church or religious institute in communion with Rome), which is contrary to canon law (“Every cleric must be incardinated…unattached or transient clerics are not allowed at all”).[3]

The necessity of “mission” (from the Latin missio, “sending”) in the Church is regulated by canon law, but rooted in divine law. Just as God the Father sends Christ, so Christ sends the Apostles in His Great “Commission” (Mt 28:18-20). And just as Christ sends the Apostles, so the Vicar of Christ sends the successors of the Apostles (who send their priests), so that Christ’s mission (of teaching, sanctifying and governing) can be carried out through the sacred priesthood, according to His will. Pope Pius XII teaches that bishops without canonical mission have no authority to even teach in the Church, much less administer the sacraments or exercise powers of governance:

 

Granted this exception, it follows that bishops who have been neither named nor confirmed by the Apostolic See, but who, on the contrary, have been elected and consecrated in defiance of its express orders, enjoy no powers of teaching or of jurisdiction since jurisdiction passes to bishops only through the Roman Pontiff as We admonished in the Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis[4]

        Pope Pius XII went on to harshly condemn those validly consecrated bishops who exercise the power of Holy Orders without a canonical mission, likening them to “thieves and robbers” in the words of Our Lord: “Acts requiring the power of Holy Orders which are performed by ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious. To such conduct the warning words of the Divine Teacher fittingly apply: ‘He who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber.’”[5]

          Canon law makes a clear distinction between episcopal consecration and canonical mission. Like Pius XII, the new code of canon law provides that a bishop’s power to teach, sanctify and govern can only be exercised in union with the Pope, who is the head of the bishops, and from whom the requisite jurisdiction comes. Canon 375, §2 provides:

 

Through episcopal consecration itself, bishops receive with the function of sanctifying also the functions of teaching and governing; by their nature, however, these can only be exercised in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college.

        The New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law also highlights the critical distinction between episcopal consecration and canonical mission, which can only be carried out in communion with the Pope and the college of bishops, and never in an autonomous way. Without a mission from the Pope, the bishop’s powers received at consecration remain inactive (in potency) and cannot be lawfully exercised. The Commentary says:

Two moments must be distinguished: episcopal ordination and canonical mission. By reason of ordination, the bishop receives an ontological share in the sacred functions of Christ (teaching, sanctifying, governing). By canonical mission, given through hierarchical authority and required for such functions to become active, he is appointed to a particular office or assigned to certain persons for whom he performs these functions…The power of bishops “cannot be exercised in an entirely autonomous or independent manner. Rather they must act in accord with the communio structures given by Christ to the Church, that is, in communion with the whole of the episcopal body, and in submission to the one who is its head[6].”[7]

         Being a member of the “episcopal body,”[8] a bishop’s life-blood is indeed jurisdiction, which flows to him from the head and renders “active” his ontological powers, by which he gives life to other members of the body. If a bishop attempts to exercise these sacred powers outside of communion with the body, he truly is a “thief and robber,” because he appropriates something to himself that does not belong to him. We are reminded of the Seventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.” Thus, bishops who operate without canonical mission are not considered legitimate successors of the Apostles. To the contrary, the Council of Trent anathematizes anyone who would call such bishops lawful ministers, since they engage in unlawful (or, as Pius XII said, “criminal and sacrilegious”) activity: “If anyone saith that bishops…who have neither been rightly ordained, nor sent by ecclesiastical and canonical power, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments; let him be anathema.”[9]

The bishops and clergy of the SSPX do not have a canonical mission, and hence have not been “sent” by the Church. Accordingly, apart from the recent exceptions granted by Pope Francis of hearing confessions and witnessing marriages (upon approval of the local ordinary), they are forbidden from exercising any ministry in the Church.[10] As Pope Benedict XVI (in 2009) made clear: “As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church…In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”[11] Cardinal Burke also recently affirmed the same (in May 2021) when he said: “At the present moment, they [the SSPX] are not part of the one Roman Catholic Church throughout the world.”[12] Thus, the short answer to the question posed by Fr. Loop’s podcast “How Can the SSPX Justify its Ministry in the Church?” is that “It can’t.” And that becomes quite evident when one watches the podcast.

 

The State of the Question
Regarding Extraordinary Mission

 

Now, in his presentation, Fr. Loop admitted that the SSPX “does not have a normal, canonical mission.”[13] He also referred to Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the bishops in which the Pope stated the SSPX does not have any canonical status or legitimate ministry in the Church. To his credit, Fr. Loop also admitted that the Society does in fact operate “contrary to the known intentions, the known will of those successors of the Apostles, the Princes of the Church.”[14] He further admitted the Society’s ministry which opposes the local bishops is an “exceedingly exceptional circumstance” and “profoundly not normal.”

In spite the foregoing, Fr. Loop claimed the SSPX’s ministry is justified due to “the exceptional crisis in which the Church finds herself,” which he effectively explained to mean the institutional Church (i.e., the Pope and most of the bishops) are destroying the faith, and the SSPX needs to intervene to save the faith (Fr. Loop frequently quoted Archbishop Lefebvre as his primary authority and also used the analogy of a man who trespasses on another man’s property to save his house from burning down). Fr. Loop also made fallacious appeals to epikeia,[15] supplied jurisdiction,[16] canon 1335,[17] canon 19[18] and the backstop argument, the salvation of souls.[19] Fr. Loop further said that unless one understands the gravity of the crisis, he will not understand the Society’s position (which is an ad hominem argument that ascribes a deficiency to one’s opponent before he responds to his position).

Now, we don’t deny that there is a crisis of faith in the Church as Fr. Loop correctly maintains, and certainly do not downplay its gravity. Indeed, the crisis of Modernism that has infected certain members of the Church hierarchy has resulted in damage to faith, morals, liturgy and discipline. There is no question about it (and, hence, we take issue with Fr. Loop’s claim that those who oppose the SSPX don’t understand the gravity of the crisis). However, according to the teaching of Popes and Saints, as well as the historical precedent of the Church, the existence of a crisis in the Church is not relevant to the question of “How Can the SSPX Justify its Ministry in the Church?” When clergy like Fr. Loop concede that they do not have a “normal canonical mission” from the Church and are even working “contrary to the will” of the local bishops, and nevertheless claim to have a right to exercise their priesthood, the Church does not ask them whether there is a crisis that justifies their ministry.

Rather, the Church requires them to prove they have an extraordinary mission (which means they have been sent directly by Christ). And, as we will see below, for a minister to prove he has an extraordinary mission, the Church has always required him to have miracles (that is, canonically approved miracles). Thus, a cleric lawfully functions as a priest if he either has ordinary mission (sent by Church authority) or an extraordinary mission (sent by Christ directly) proven by miracles. If he has no miracles, his acts (except hearing a confession of one in danger of death) are illicit (illegal) and the Church holds him to be an antichrist and to be shunned by the faithful. Those who receive his sacraments participate in his sin and are guilty of sacrilege. A cleric’s subjective assessment of a crisis is not relevant to the objective question of whether he has miracles to prove he has an extraordinary mission. As Cardinal Billot wrote about those clergy who administer the sacraments without canonical mission:

 

 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.”; “But the sacraments are the property of Christ. Hence they can be legitimately dispensed only by those who have a mission from Christ, i.e. those to whom the apostolic mission has been transmitted.[20]

 

It goes without saying that clerics almost invariably operate by virtue of ordinary mission. While there have been cases of extraordinary mission in Church history (e.g., St. Vincent Ferrer, to whom Christ appeared and then sent, performed countless hundreds of Church-approved miracles during the Great Western Schism), these cases are extremely rare. Nevertheless, cases are possible and have occurred, but only if Christ deems it necessary. If Christ judges it necessary to send ministers with extraordinary mission, we can be sure He will do so, as He has in the past. In such cases, Christ alone (not the Church or her ministers) judges if there is a state of necessity that warrants extraordinary mission (and which is carried out with the Church’s ecclesiastical approval and ordinary mission, and not “contrary to the will and intentions” of the successors of the Apostles). And we can also be sure that if Christ sends a minister with extraordinary mission, He will prove He has done so through miracles (again, authenticated by the Church), so that the Church will know the minister was sent by Christ and outside the normal channel of authority, to be received rather than rejected.  

Now, extraordinary missions have historically happened only in cases of “necessity” (like the Great Western Schism), and, as we have seen, a “state of necessity” is precisely what Fr. Loop and the SSPX appeal to when attempting to justify their non-canonical ministry. But if the current crisis in the Church (which we no doubt acknowledge) actually justified the SSPX from operating without a canonical mission, then the SSPX would have miracles to back up their claims, since they do everything that clergy with actual canonical mission do.

Said differently, if Christ judged that the crisis in the Church necessitated the ministry of the SSPX, He would have granted Archbishop Lefebvre and the priests of the Society miracles. After all, the Society claims that the current crisis is perhaps the worst crisis in Church history (so now would be the time for Christ to give them an extraordinary mission and the miracles the Church requires to authenticate it, if He deemed their ministry necessary). However, if the SSPX does not have miracles, then all the priestly acts they perform which require ecclesiastical permission (called “faculties”) are illicit (unlawful) and sinful. Fr. Angles, an SSPX priest no less, summarized the issue very clearly and correctly:

 

If they [the priests of the SSPX] have no faculties, all the priestly work they perform every day is illegitimate and therefore evil. If this is so, it would be a sin to receive their services, maybe even to ask for them. If such is the case, the Society is deceiving the good traditional Catholic faithful![21]

 

         While Fr. Angles framed the question correctly (Does the SSPX have the Church’s permission, or “faculties,” to operate? If not, their work is unlawful and sinful), he, along with Fr. Loop and the rest of the SSPX, has failed to meet the Church’s burden of proof which requires miracles to justify operating without canonical mission. In fact, both Frs. Angles and Loop never even address the Church’s teaching on extraordinary mission and miracles in defense of the SSPX’s position. Further, they (and others within the SSPX) also wrongly appeal to “supplied jurisdiction” (not “mission”) to justify their ministry, even though supplied jurisdiction is not relevant to those priestly acts which do not require the power of governance (such as baptizing or saying Mass for example, which require mission only).[22] Thus, when the SSPX appeals to supplied jurisdiction to defend those acts they perform which do not require jurisdiction, they are actually appealing to extraordinary mission, whether they know it or not. The fact that Pope Francis has delegated jurisdiction to the SSPX for confessions and marriages (with local ordinary approval for the latter) also renders the SSPX’s appeal to supplied jurisdiction superfluous. The SSPX is actually claiming they have an extraordinary mission.

         Therefore, the question is not whether there is a crisis in the Church, but whether the Society of St. Pius X has extraordinary mission due to the crisis in the Church. This is how the Catholic Church judges the matter. If the SSPX does not have an extraordinary mission, then, in the words of Fr. Angles of the SSPX, “they are deceiving the faithful.” Given that many Catholics at this time are being tempted to leave the institutional Church for “independent” chapels and “canceled” priests, it is critical that they understand the importance of being served by bishops and priests with canonical mission in the Church.

 

More on Extraordinary Mission
and the Requirement for Miracles

 

          Throughout the history of the Church, those without canonical mission have regularly appealed to “extraordinary mission” to justify their unlawful ministries which are set up in opposition to the Church’s legitimate authorities; and the response of the Church has always been the same: any claim of extraordinary mission must be confirmed by miracles or by special testimony of Scripture.

        In his book on Canonizations and Beatifications, Pope Benedict XIV writes: “Human actions are of two kinds, one of which relates to public duties, and especially ecclesiastical duties, such as preaching, celebrating Mass, pronouncing judicial decisions and the like; with respect to these, the question is settled in Canon Law (Cap. cum ex injuncto, cit. de haereticis) where it is said that ‘no credit is to be publicly given to him who says he has invisibly received a mission from God unless he confirms it by a miracle or a special testimony of Holy Scripture.’”[23] 

       The Church never accepts a claim of extraordinary mission unless it is accompanied by miracles. In Cum Ex Injuncto, which Benedict XIV referred to above, Pope Innocent III wrote the following to the Bishop of Metz concerning the Waldensian and Cathar heretics:

[N]o one should indifferently usurp the duty of preaching for himself. For, according to the Apostle: “And how shall they preach unless they be sent?” (Romans 10:5). …

If anyone perhaps responds shrewdly to this that such men are sent invisibly by God, even if they are not visibly sent by man … it can and should certainly be answered reasonably that when that inner mission is hidden, it does not suffice for anyone to assert so boldly that he is sent by God, since any heretic may profess this: but it is necessary that he proves that invisible mission by the working of miracles or by special testimony of the Scriptures. From which, when the Lord wanted to send Moses into Egypt to the sons of Israel, he gave him a sign, that he might change a staff into a snake, and change the snake back again into a staff, so that they would believe that he was sent by God. John the Baptist also offered a special testimony of his mission from Scripture, responding to the priests and Levites … "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias” (John 1:23).

Therefore, he who says that he is sent by God should not be believed, since he has not been sent by man, unless he personally offers special testimony from Scripture, or he shows an obvious miracle.[24]

         So, where does this leave the claim of Fr. Loop and the SSPX that they can lawfully operate due to the “state of necessity” and “crisis in the Church”? Well, since the SSPX hasn’t pointed to any passage of Scripture that speaks of Archbishop Lefebvre and each priest and bishop of the SSPX personally, and since no SSPX cleric has performed any miracles, then according to Pope Benedict XIV, “no credit is to be publicly given to them,” and according to Pope Innocent III, their claim of being “sent by God should not be believed.” It also means, in the words of Fr. Angles, that they are “deceiving the good traditional Catholic faithful.” While this is no judgment of the intentions of the SSPX clergy, it is the way the Church judges the lawfulness of their ministry.

       Because the first Protestants also lacked apostolicity of government (as do the SSPX), they too appealed to extraordinary mission to justify their ministries. Van Noort discusses this in his Dogmatic Manual, Christ’s Church, and proves that their claim was fraudulent by noting that they did not back it up with the required miracles. He explains:

 

Since the original Protestants obviously lacked apostolicity of government, they took refuge in an appeal to the theory of “extraordinary mission.” To put it briefly, they maintained God could at some time raise up a group of men by an extraordinary vocation and confer on them apostolic functions if the current apostolic pastors should become viciously corrupt. This was the case, they asserted, with Luther and the other reformers.

 

It is clear, however, if any such extraordinary mission were ever to be granted by God, it would have to be proven by miracles or other clearly divine trademarks. The plain truth is, however, that Christ’s own promises completely rule out the possibility of any such extraordinary mission. Understand now, we are talking about a mission by which a man absolutely apart from and utterly independent of apostolic succession would receive from God the power to rule (or reform) the Church. [25]

 

       What Van Noort means by saying Christ’s promises “completely rule out” extraordinary mission, is that the promise of the Church’s indefectibility (Mt. 16:18), and His promise to remain with the legitimate successors of the Apostles until the consummation of the age (Mt. 28:20), precludes the possibility that the hierarchy will cease to exist or completely lose its ordinary mission, or will ever become so corrupt and unable to minister to the faithful that Christ is forced to confer an extraordinary mission on anyone who is separated from the legitimate successors of the Apostles. In other words, Van Noort is saying Christ will never do precisely what Fr. Loop claims Christ has done for the Society of St. Pius X today (in Loop’s words, granting those who are acting “contrary to the known intentions, the known will of those successors of the Apostles, the Princes of the Church” because they are too corrupt or too compromised to do the job themselves).

       Also notice the distinction Van Noort makes between the mission to rule and the mission to reform.  In a footnote, he clarifies that Christ does sometimes confer upon chosen souls the extraordinary mission of reformer, “to reinvigorate the moral life of Catholics.” But he says whenever Christ has done so, those chosen souls have always carried it out “in a spirit of perfect obedience to the Church’s legitimate pastors.”[26]

      

Another Strike Against the SSPX:
their “Canonical Commission”

 

Van Noort continues by further explaining why Christ will never confer the extraordinary mission to rule (e.g., the power of governance which requires obedience in the external forum) on anyone apart from the legitimate successors of the Apostles:

 

Christ conferred sacred powers on His apostles and their successors until the end of the world. Further, He promised them His perpetual and unfailing assistance. Consequently, Christ would be contradicting Himself were He ever to deprive the legitimate successors of the apostles of their authority.

 

Granted that fact, it would be a further contradiction for God to confer the same power or a similar power on other men who were not in union with the ordinary successors. In that hypothesis there would be two separate and independent sources of authority, both demanding, by divine right, obedience from the same subjects. The only thing that could result in such an hypothesis would be confusion and schism in Christ’s Church. And in that event, one would imply that God Himself, who willed His Church to be unified, was Himself sowing the seeds of necessary division.  …  God has no need of extraordinary legates, in the sense claimed above, to preserve His Church from corruption.[27]

 

         Unfortunately, at the present time, the bishops and priests of the SSPX are not “in union with the ordinary successors” of the Apostles. And yet, they not only unlawfully preach and sanctify without canonical mission, but also engage in acts of governance in the external forum, at least ostensibly, over their flock. For example, in 1991 the SSPX erected its own canonical tribunal of sorts (which it calls the “St. Charles Borromeo Canonical Commission”), which investigates and renders judgments on matters reserved to the local ordinaries or the Holy See (e.g., relating to marriage impediments and annulments; lifting of ecclesiastical censures including excommunications “reserved to the Holy See,” dispensing of religious vows).

         They claim to do so by means of “true jurisdiction” (albeit supplied and not habitual) which they believe allows them to hand down “true verdicts which have the power of binding and loosing” (potestatem ligandi vet solvendi).[28] In fact, for marriage cases, they require their “subjects” (who are actually the subjects of the local ordinary and not the SSPX) to “swear on the Gospels” that they will abide by the Commission’s decisions, and not approach a “post-Conciliar ecclesiastical tribunal”- that is, a true ecclesiastical tribunal of the Catholic Church, with legitimate authority.

         Following is what their petitioners (rather, victims) are required to sign (from the SSPX’s website):

 

“I, ............................................., desirous of obtaining a decision in conformity with traditional Catholic principles, freely submit my marriage with ........................... to the tribunals of the Society of St. Pius X, and I promise:

 

1)    That I will not attempt to enter any marriage, religious or civil, until such time as the tribunals of the Society have rendered a final judgment concerning my freedom to marry.

 

2)    That I will accept the tribunals’ decision, whatever it is, and that, if it decides against the nullity of my marriage, I will not marry again or, if already remarried, I will no longer consider my second partner as a spouse.

 

3)    That I will not request a judgment or reexamination of my case by a post-Conciliar ecclesiastical tribunal.

 

All this I promise and I swear on the Holy Gospels, which I now touch with my hand.”[29] 

 

The SSPX attempts to justify its “Canonical Commission” by claiming it is based on the impossibility of recourse to the Ordinary and to the Holy See.”[30] Indeed, the SSPX’s founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, assumed the authority to rule and govern through his Canonical Commission due to his practical rejection of the Church’s legitimate authority. Said Lefebvre:

 

Inasmuch as the present Roman authorities are imbued with ecumenism and modernism, and as their decisions and the new laws are in their ensemble influenced by these false principles, it will be necessary to establish substitute authorities to supply for these defects, which authorities will adhere to Catholic principles of Catholic Tradition and of Catholic law. This is the only way to remain faithful to Our Lord Jesus Christ... (January 15, 1991).[31]

 

Of course, Christ would be contradicting Himself if He were to “deprive the legitimate successors of the Apostles of their authority” in favor of a consortium of priests and bishops with no canonical mission, like those of the SSPX. As Van Noort says, “such an hypothesis” would only result in “confusion and schism in Christ’s Church,” which we have unfortunately seen in the SSPX, and its Resistance and Sedevacantist offshoots.

       Indeed, as Van Noort further says, “God has no need of extraordinary legates to preserve His Church from corruption,” for this He has entrusted her to “the legitimate successors of the Apostles.” As the history of the Church shows, some of these successors may not always fulfill their duties as Christ wills, and indeed may even be responsible for corruption in the Church (which we rightfully acknowledge has been the case for many modern bishops). But Christ will be their Judge, for He has promised to these men alone “His perpetual and unfailing assistance,” and not those who attempt to usurp their authority under the false pretext of extraordinary mission, or an entirely erroneous misapplication of supplied jurisdiction. Hence, it is not surprising that none of the Society of St. Pius X’s priests or bishops have been able to make a case for extraordinary mission “by miracles or other clearly divine trademarks.”

 

St. Francis de Sales Condemns Protestants
Who Claim Extraordinary Mission
with No Miracles

 

       St. Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church, refuted the Protestant claim of extraordinary mission based on the allegation that the “ordinary mission had been ruined” by corruption. He did this at length in multiple tracts that he wrote and distributed to the Calvinists in the Chablais region of France. The saint had been sent by Bishop Granier of Geneva, to evangelize the region which had succumbed to Protestantism 60 years earlier. When his initial efforts met with little success, due to the people refusing to listen to him preach, he began writing short tracts and sliding them under their doors at night.  It worked!  In a matter of four years, the saint brought 72,000 Calvinists back into the Church.

       In one of the tracts, he rebukes the people for following the pseudo ministers: “Tell me,” he writes, “what business had you to hear them and believe them without having any assurance of their commission and of the approval of Our Lord, whose legates they call themselves? … you cannot be ignorant that they neither had, nor have, in any way at all, this mission.”[32] After explaining that “the Church is monarchical, and therefore the right of sending belongs to the chief pastor,” and then further proving that their ministers lack ordinary mission, he goes on to address their claim of extraordinary mission:

 

These reasons are so strong that the most solid of your party have taken ground elsewhere than in the ordinary mission, and have said that they were sent extraordinarily by God because the ordinary mission had been ruined and abolished within the true Church itself, under the tyranny of Antichrist. This is their most safe refuge, which, since it is common to all sorts of heretics, is worth attacking in good earnest and overthrowing completely. Let us then place our argument in order, to see if we can force this their last barricade.

 

First, I say then that no one should allege an extraordinary mission unless he proves it by miracles: for, I pray you, where should we be if this pretext of extraordinary mission was to be accepted without proof? Would it not be a cloak for all sorts of reveries? Arius, Marcion, Montanus, Messalius — could they not be received into this dignity of reformers, by swearing the same oath?

 

       After explaining that it is common to all sorts of heretics to appeal to an extraordinary mission to justify their unlawful ministries, St. Francis reminds the faithful that the burden of proof is on these so-called “reformers” to prove it by miracles, otherwise they should be rejected. He writes:

 

Never was any one extraordinarily sent unless he brought this letter of credit from the divine Majesty. Moses was sent immediately by God to govern the people of Israel. He wished to know his name who sent him; when he had learnt the admirable name of God, he asked for signs and patents of his commission: God so far found this request good that he gave him the grace of three sorts of prodigies and marvels, (…). If then they allege extraordinary mission, let them show us some extraordinary works, otherwise we are not obliged to believe them. (…) But as to the Apostles, — who does not know the miracles they did and the great number of them? Their handkerchiefs, their shadow, served for the prompt healing of the sick and driving away of the devils: by the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done amongst the people (Acts xix. V.); and that this was in confirmation of their preaching S. Mark declares quite explicitly in the last words of his Gospel, and S. Paul to the Hebrews (ii. 4).

 

      The Doctor of the Church goes on to ask a series of questions that pertain directly to those who exercise the priesthood without canonical mission:

 

How then shall those in our age who would allege an extraordinary mission excuse and relieve themselves of this proof of their mission? What privilege have they greater than an Apostolic, a Mosaic? What shall I say more? If our sovereign Master, consubstantial with the Father, having a mission so authentic that it comprises the communication of the same essence, if he himself, I say, who is the living source of all Ecclesiastical mission, has not chosen to dispense himself from this proof of miracles, what reason is there that these new ministers should be believed on their mere word? Our Lord very often alleges his mission to give credit to his words: — As my Father hath sent me I also send you (John xx. 21); … to give authority to his mission, he brings forward his miracles, and attests that if he had not done among the Jews works which no other man had done, they would not have sinned in not believing him. And elsewhere he says to them: Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? Otherwise believe for the works themselves (ibid. xiv. 11, 12). He then who would be so rash as to boast of extraordinary mission without immediately producing miracles, deserves to be taken for an impostor.[33]

              

         Thus, with St. Francis de Sales, we must ask Fr. Loop (and the entire SSPX) on what ground “has he dispensed himself from this proof of miracles” when Our Lord Himself, the Source of all canonical mission, chose not to? What privilege is Fr. Loop, Fr. Tranquillo, Fr. Angles, and the rest of the SSPX clergy claiming for themselves over Our Lord, or the Apostles, or Moses? Or, are they and the rest who operate without mission being “so rash as to boast of extraordinary mission without immediately producing miracles” such that they “deserve to be taken for an imposter”? To ask the question is to answer it.  

 

Extraordinary Mission is Always Subject
to the Ordinary Mission of the Local Bishop

 

       There’s another very significant problem for Fr. Loop and the SSPX who claim, in Fr. Loop’s words, a right to minister “contrary to the will and intentions of the successors of the Apostles, the Princes of the Church.” As St. Francis de Sales further explains, extraordinary mission must always be subject to the ordinary mission of the legitimate pastors, and can never destroy or replace it:  He writes:

 

Where will you ever show me a legitimate extraordinary vocation which has not been received by the ordinary authority? St. Paul was extraordinarily called, - but was he not approved and authorized by the ordinary once and again? (Acts. Ix. Xiii).  … And this is what St. Paul teaches when he will have no man to take the pastoral honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was (Heb. V. 4.).  … if we consider the words of St. Paul, we shall further learn that the vocation of pastors and Church rulers must be made visible; (…)

 

I saw, thirdly, that the authority of the extraordinary mission never destroys the ordinary, and is never given to overthrow it. Witness all the Prophets, who never set up altar against altar, never overthrew the priesthood of Aaron never abolished the constitutions of the Synagogue. Witness our Lord, who declares that every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and a house upon a house shall fall. (Luke xi. 17)

 

       The Saint and Doctor continues:

 

And indeed, if the extraordinary ought to abolish the ordinary, how should it be know when, and how, and to whom, to give our obedience?  No, no, the ordinary is immortal for such time as the Church is here below in the world. The pastors and teachers whom he has once given to the Church are to have a perpetual succession ‘for the perfection of the saints’ … if the ordinary pastors and doctors had not perpetual succession, and were liable to have their authority abrogated by the extraordinary  … we should be liable to be seduced by men, who on every occasion would boast of having an extraordinary vocation. … if the extraordinary may take away the ordinary ministration, to which shall we give the guardianship of it – to Calvin or to Luther; to Luther or to Paciomontanus; to Paciomontanus or to Brandratus; to Brandratus or to Brentius; to Brentius or to the Queen of England? – for each will draw to his or her side this pretext of extraordinary mission.[34]

 

      These are most revealing questions indeed. As applied here, the Society of St. Pius X was lawfully suppressed by Pope Paul VI in 1975.[35] At that point, the Society was legally extinguished (lost its “juridic personality” according to canon law). Since then, the SSPX has not been received by ordinary authority (other than the recent cases of some diocesan bishops accepting their marriages, as was encouraged by Pope Francis). To the contrary, the SSPX has effectively “taken away the ordinary ministration” by erecting churches and chapels, establishing schools and seminaries, conferring Confirmations, and all the rest of it, throughout the world, without the approval of the local bishops. Thus, their “mission” has always functioned in opposition to the ordinary mission of the Church, as Fr. Loop himself admitted in his podcast. Thus, even if the Society were to claim to have miracles (which it does not), they would not be canonically approved by the bishops whose authority they have effectively usurped and “overthrown.”

 

Archbishop Lefebvre Made the Same Arguments
as the Protestants to Justify His Ministry

 

       Like the Protestants of yesteryear, neither Archbishop Lefebvre nor any of his bishops and priests have produced a single miracle to justify their ministry without a canonical mission in the Church. And like the Protestants, Lefebvre accused the Catholic Church of promoting a “new religion” to justify his unlawful ministry. The Protestants did this quite regularly.

       For example, the eighteenth-century book titled, The Genius of Protestantism, says “Romanism … has set up as a brand-new religion. The Council of Trent, for example, added no less than twelve new articles of faith to the Nicene Creed.”[36] And later: “The Church of Rome” has “built up out of the ruins of ancient Christianity an absolutely new religion, and entered upon a career of innovation.”[37] The same accusation is found throughout the Anglican book, Preservation Against Popery. For example: “Rome gained the delicious Point, and has made it a fundamental Article of her new Religion.”[38] Later we read that what the Catholic Church has taught since the Council of Trent, “must be called and esteemed a New Faith: And it makes that to be a New Church; which falsely calls itself the ancient Catholick Apostolick Church of Christ.”[39] Many more similar quotations could be provided.

          In fact, the Sedevacantists (whose priests the SSPX erroneously claim receive supplied jurisdiction for confessions,[40] and whose Masses the SSPX says are less dangerous than the Masses of the Resistance who, unlike the Sedevacantists, accept the Pope[41]) have also accused the Roman Catholic Church of becoming a “new Church” that has adopted a “new religion.” For example, Sedevacantist apologist John Lane (who attends SSPX Masses with the evident blessing of the SSPX) wrote: “From our perspective, the Roman clergy appear to a man to have adopted a whole new religion.”[42] In his book The Robber Church, Patrick Henry Omlor wrote “the new Church is not held to be monarchical like the Catholic Church,” and then asked: “in what respect, pray tell, is this new church the same as the Catholic Church?”[43]  In his article defending extraordinary mission, Fr. Cekada (who was trained in the SSPX seminary) said that the reason Christ allegedly “endows traditional Catholic bishops and priests with legitimate deputation or an apostolic mission,” is because after Vatican II “the bishops and priests with the cura animarum (care of souls) defected to the new religion … Since the pastors invested with jurisdiction for the cura animarum have all defected to the modernist religion, their obligation now devolves to us, the few faithful priests who remain.”[44] 

          Archbishop Lefebvre made these same arguments to justify his illegal operations and separation from the Church (the Sedevacantists like Fr. Cekada probably got their arguments from him). Here is just a sampling of statements from the founder of the SSPX:

 

I am not of that religion, I do not accept that new religion. It is a liberal, modernist religion. Christians are divided… priests no longer know what to do; either they obey blindly what their superiors impose on them, and lose to some degree the faith, or they resist, but with the feeling of separating themselves from the Pope. Two religions confront each other; we are in a dramatic situation, it is impossible to avoid a choice.[45]

 

We are not of this new religion! We do not accept this new religion! We are of the religion of all time; we are of the Catholic religion. We are not of this “universal religion” as they call it today – this is not the Catholic religion any more. We are not of this liberal, modernist religion which has its own worship, its own priests, its own faith, its own catechisms, its own “ecumenical” Bible. We cannot accept these things.[46]

 

Now they are guided by other principles, by what is a truly other religion, absolutely.  And that is much more grave, again because, there where the faith diminishes, one can hope to be able to revive it, to restore life, but when one replaces one religion with another religion, then it is much worse:  in that case there are considerable consequences.[47]

 

This is why Catholics in this latter part of the twentieth century have a duty to be more vigilant than their fathers were. They must not let just any idea be imposed upon them, in the name of the new theology or the new religion: for what this new religion wants is not what the Church wills.[48]

 

Let us take up where we left off. Christian common sense is offended in every way by this new religion. Catholics are exposed to desacralisation on all sides; everything has been changed.[49]

 

The current Pope and bishops no longer hand down Our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather a sentimental, superficial, charismatic religiosity, through which, as a general rule, the true grace of the Holy Ghost no longer passes. This new religion is not the Catholic religion; it is sterile, incapable of sanctifying society and the family.[50]

 

Conclusion

 

        The purpose of this article is not to judge the intentions of the SSPX clergy, which we can even assume are good (the Church does not judge internals). Rather, it is to explain how the Church tells us to judge those who seek to minister to her children without a legitimate mission from her. This is especially important in today’s crisis of faith, which we clearly acknowledge, and which is driving some misled Catholics out of the Church and into non-Catholic sects, or to bishops and priests who have not been sent by the Church, where they are receiving illicit and even invalid sacraments from transient clergy. In doing so, they participate in the sin of the clergy and receive the sacraments sacrilegiously.

       As we stated, if the current ecclesial crisis necessitated the intervention of the SSPX without a canonical mission (or any canonical standing in the Church), then Christ Himself would have personally sent them, and proved it by providing the Society with the miracles that the Church demands to confirm an extraordinary mission. After all, it has been during times of great crisis that Christ has given extraordinary mission. If the crisis in the Church necessitates that the priests of the SSPX operate without a canonical mission, as they claim, Christ would have personally given them an extraordinary mission and proven it with the requisite miracles. (As we mentioned, St. Vincent Ferrer received extraordinary mission from Christ, and he had the miracles to back it up. During his canonization, they stopped counting at 800.)

No, Christ did not send the bishops and priests of the SSPX. Rather, they have sent themselves, and have thus “deceived” traditional Catholics. Given that many doctrinal errors (e.g., on collegiality, sacramental intention, supplied jurisdiction, etc.) and schisms (Sedevacantism, Resistance, Avrille Dominicans) have sprung from Archbishop Lefebvre raises the question of how much better off the Church might have been had he obeyed Pope John Paul II.

      It is fitting to close this article with the wisdom and instruction of Fr. Dom Gueranger:

 

We, then, both priests and people, have a right to know whence our pastors have received their power. From whose hand have they received the keys? If their mission come from the apostolic see, let us honour and obey them, for they are sent to us by Jesus Christ, who has invested them, through Peter, with His own authority. If they claim our obedience without having been sent by the bishop of Rome, we must refuse to receive them, for they are not acknowledged by Christ as His ministers. The holy anointing may have conferred on them the sacred character of the episcopate: it matters not; they must be as aliens to us, for they have not been sent, they are not pastors.

 

Thus, it is that the divine Founder of the Church, who willed that she should be a city seated on a mountain, gave her visibility; it was an essential requisite; for since all were called to enter her pale, all must be able to see her. But He was not satisīŦed with this. He moreover willed that the spiritual power exercised by her pastors should come from a visible source, so that the faithful might have a sure means of verifying the claims of those who were to guide them in His name. Our Lord (we say it reverently) owed this to us; for, on the last day, He will not receive us as His children, unless we shall have been members of His Church, and have lived in union with Him by the ministry of pastors lawfully constituted.[51]

 

 

 



[1] As noted below, Pope Francis has given the SSPX clergy permission to hear confessions and, with the approval of the local bishop, witness marriages. We can only hope that these concessions finally lead to a canonical mission for the SSPX.

[2] See canon 381, §2. See, also, for example, John Beal, James Coriden, and Thomas Green, A New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), p. 512.

[3] Canon 265. For purposes of simplicity, and consonant with traditional terminology, I will use the word “mission” in this article to refer to the lawful exercise of both the offices of bishop and priest.

[4] Pius XII, Ad Apostolorum Principis, No. 39 (June 29, 1958).

[5] Ibid., Nos 41-42 (emphasis added).

[6] J. Herranz, “The Pastoral Power of Governance of the Diocesan Bishop,” CLSAP (1987) 20.

[7] John Beal, James Coriden, and Thomas Green, A New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), p. 512

[8] When a bishop, through canonical mission, becomes a member of the episcopal college of bishops, he is given the power to share in the universal jurisdiction of the Pope (which takes place, for example, at an ecumenical council, where the bishops sit as judges over the universal Church). Theologians call this the “collegiate power,” whereby the Pope together with the bishops become a second subject of universal jurisdiction (the Pope alone being the first subject). This is the true, traditional meaning of “collegiality” which, incidentally, the SSPX falsely calls heretical. For more on this topic, see Robert Siscoe’s article “Collegiality in Light of Tradition,” November 2021, www.trueorfalsepope.com.

[9] Council of Trent, On the Sacrament of Orders, Session 23, Canon VII (July 15, 1563).

[10] As noted above, Pope Francis has mercifully delegated the faculty to validly and licitly hear confessions directly to the clergy of the Society of St. Pius X. Pope Francis conferred the faculties during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016). In his Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera (November 20, 2016), the Pope extended this privilege to the SSPX clergy indefinitely. Nevertheless, Pope Francis did not grant a canonical mission to the SSPX (outside of the noted confessions and marriages) and thus the rest of their ministry remains forbidden. We pray that the SSPX is fully reconciled to the Church as soon as practicable.  

[11] Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre (March 10, 2009) | Benedict XVI (vatican.va). By “no canonical status,” Pope Benedict was referring to the fact that the SSPX was lawfully suppressed by Pope Paul VI in 1975, at which time it was legally extinguished (lost its “juridic personality”). See, for example, canons 120 §1; 373; 584. It’s founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, then went into schism, by contumaciously refusing, for the next 15 years, to submit to the Pope’s authority and refusal of communion with members of the Church subject to him (his contumacy included refusing the Pope’s suppression of the SSPX, the decisions of the Pope’s competent Dicasteries and the local bishops, the censure of suspension, the prohibition on ordaining priests without dimissorial letters, etc.). For more details, see, for example, Fr. John Lessard-Thibodeau’s 2018 canonical study “Arriving at the Juridic Status of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.”

[12]www.splendorofthechurch.com/2021/05/10/cardinal-burke-sspx-not-part-of-roman-catholic-church-has-schismatic-position.

[13] SSPX Crisis in the Church Series, Episode 44 – “How Can the SSPX Justify its Ministry in the Church?,” https://www. youtube.com/ watch?v=pUvM W_W z JRs, at 3.50.

[14] As we will further see, extraordinary mission is always accepted by and works together with the ordinary authority, not in opposition to it. Thus, on that basis alone, according to Fr. Loop’s admission, the SSPX could not have an extraordinary mission.

[15] Fr. Loop claims that epikeia allows the SSPX to go against canon law to fulfill the will of the supreme legislator (the Pope). This is fallacious because the will of Pope John Paul II and the canon law he promulgated is for the SSPX to have a canonical mission to lawfully operate; thus, the SSPX’s ministry is against the will of the supreme legislator (and the entire tradition of the Church). Moreover, John Paul II made his will and intentions clear with regard to the episcopal consecrations: Archbishop Lefebvre was to consecrate one bishop (on August 15, 1988), and not four bishops (on June 30, 1988). The SSPX cannot appeal to epikeia to claim it is trying to fulfill the will of the Pope when the Pope made his will and intentions clear to Lefebvre (which was for the common good of the entire Church), which Lefebvre rejected (in favor of his own perceived particular good). Further, as addressed below, it is the will of the supreme legislator (e.g, Popes Innocent III, Benedict XIV) for clerics without canonical mission to prove they have extraordinary mission through miracles.

[16] Fr. Loop’s appeal to supplied jurisdiction is fallacious because supplied jurisdiction does not give the SSPX canonical mission which is required in order exercise the priesthood licitly (and the SSPX has delegated – not supplied - jurisdiction for confessions and marriages). The Church does not “supply” mission in order for the SSPX to licitly baptize, preach, or say Mass, for example. Moreover, supplied jurisdiction – which is triggered in cases of common error and positive and probable doubt – do not apply to the SSPX because the error or doubt required must be about whether the SSPX has ordinary jurisdiction from the local bishop, and, further, because canon law (15 §2) presumes knowledge of canonical penalties (the SSPX’s suspension a divinis) in the external forum, which legally prevents the application of supplied jurisdiction to their priests.

[17] Fr. Loop’s appeal to canon 1335 is fallacious because this canon is not suppletory; that is, it does not provide mission or liceity to a priest without canonical mission. It only serves to remove ecclesiastical censures which puts the priest back to his pre-censured state. If the priest didn’t have canonical mission before incurring the censure (e.g., suspension) – which is the case with all SSPX bishops and priests – then his priestly acts remain illicit (unlawful).

[18] Fr. Loop’s appeal to the “analogy of law” and canon 19 on the ground that “the faithful find themselves in grave spiritual necessity, akin to danger of death” is fallacious because the extreme pastoral case of periculum mortis (where the dying person may not have recourse to a priest with faculties to hear his confession, and hence even an excommunicated priest would absolve him licitly and validly) has no parallel to cases where a person is not in danger of death and thus has recourse to priests with the proper faculties. In fact, Fr. Angles, SSPX disagrees with Fr. Loop when he says “Danger of death is not here to be understood as ‘danger of spiritual death,’ as some erroneously affirm.” Moreover, to establish an analogy of law to parallel situations (cf. canon 19), the Church’s jurisprudence also requires one to look to decisions of the Roman Curia and opinions of the doctors. There is no case in the Church’s jurisprudence which analogizes situations of periculum mortis to situations where there is no danger of death, as a basis for granting mission or liceity to priests without canonical mission.

[19] Similar to his appeal to epikeia, Fr. Loop claims that if something in canon law hinders “the salvation of souls,” then “it’s application…can be legitimately suspended.” Fr. Loop’s appeal to this principle is fallacious because he does not show how the Church’s requirement for the SSPX (along with every other cleric in the Church) to have a canonical mission hinders the salvation of souls which, of course, is absurd (as with his other appeals, he simply makes the claim without proving it). Fr. Loop also does not explain how Pope John Paul II’s requirement of Archbishop Lefebvre to consecrate one bishop rather than four bishops hindered the salvation of souls.

[20] Billot on Sacraments and Mission, https://archive.org/details /DeMembris Ecclesiae.

[21] https://sspx.org/validity-sspxs-confessions-marriages.

[22] In fact, supplied jurisdiction does not apply to SSPX clergy outside of hearing confessions of those in danger of death. See my article “Do Sedevacantist and Other ‘Independent’ Clergy Receive Supplied Jurisdiction for Confessions? John Salza Responds to Fr. Tranquillo, SSPX, August 2021, www.trueorfalsepope.com.

[23] Pope Benedict XIV, Beatification and Canonization, “On Heroic Virtue”, Chapter viii; quoted in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) Vol. XII, p. 474-475. In the cited quotation, Pope Benedict is paraphrasing the teaching of Cardinal Cajetan.

[24] Pope Innocent III, Cum ex injuncto, 1199.

[25] Christ’s Church, p. 154.

[26] The footnote reads: “Many saints have arisen from time to time to reinvigorate the moral life of Catholics (a Bernard, a Francis of Assisi, a Catherine of Sienna, a Charles Borromeo, etc.), but they have always done so in a spirit of perfect obedience to the Church’s legitimate pastors.”

[27] Christ’s Church, pp. 154-155.

[28] http://thetraditionalcatholicfaithblogspot.com/2010/12/canonical-tribunals-of-sspx.html.

[29] https://sspx.org/en/approach-declarations-nullity

[30] https://sspx.org/en/questions-about-our-canonical-commission.

[31] Ibid.

[32] St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy (Rockford, IL, Tan Books and Publishers, 1989).

[33] St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy (Rockford, IL, Tan Books and Publishers, 1989), pp. 18-21.

[34] Ibid., pp. 22-25.

[35] Archbishop Lefebvre claimed the suppression, which was unanimously authorized and directed by a commission of Cardinals appointed by Pope Paul VI and implemented by the local bishop (Bishop Pierre Mamie), was unlawful because his subsequent appeal to the Apostolic Signatura was denied. However, Pope Paul VI approved the suppression in forma specifica, making the suppression his own by express approbation, and thus Lefebvre’s appeal was inadmissible. On June 29, 1975, Paul VI confirmed the same to Lefebvre by writing: “We made all and each of them Ours, and We personally ordered that they be immediately put into force.” Davies, Apologia, Part I pp. 112-113.

[36] The Genius of Protestantism, p. ix.

[37] Ibid. 288-289.

[38] Preservative Against Popery, p. 223.

[39] Ibid., Tit IV, p. 90.

[40] John Salza, “Do Sedevacantist and other ‘Independent’ Clergy Receive Supplied Jurisdiction for Confessions? John Salza Responds to Fr. Tranquillo, SSPX, August 2021, www.trueorfalsepope.com.

[41] John Salza, “The SSPX Says Sedevacantist Masses are Less Dangerous than Resistance Masses, John Salza Responds to Fr. Robinson, SSPX,” September 2021, www.trueorfalsepope.com.

[43] The Robber Church.

[44] Fr. Cekada, Traditional Priests, Legitimate Sacraments, (2003).

[45] Lefebvre, 1986, “Open Letter to Confused Catholics”

[46] Lefebvre, Ordination Sermon, June 29, 1976.

[47] Lefebvre, Before the last spiritual conference for the seminarians at Econe before his death, February 11, 1991.

[48] “Open Letter to Confused Catholics.”

[49] Ibid.

[50] Lefebvre, Spiritual Journey, p.9.

No comments: