The SSPX Rejects All
Church-Approved Traditional Groups

John F. Salza, Esq.
November A.D. 2021


          In Episode 46 of the Society’s Crisis in the Church series, called “What About the Other Traditional Mass Communities?,” SSPX priest Fr. John McFarland put the SSPX’s schismatic mentality on full display by stating that the Society, in principle, rejects all traditional groups in communion with the Church (e.g., the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King). Fr. McFarland says that Catholics should avoid these groups, which are Societies of Apostolic Life, unlike the SSPX which “is not part of the Roman Catholic Church” (Cardinal Burke), because they were founded upon Pope John Paul II’s motu proprio Ecclesia Dei Adflicta. Fr. McFarland went on to claim that because this document contains errors against the Faith, and these “Ecclesia Dei” groups were founded upon this document and therefore allegedly adhere to these errors, they must be rejected. He also says “the Society’s response to the crisis in the Church is the only consistent and coherent one.” Fr. McFarland’s reasoning is fallacious for the following reasons. 

          First, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta does not contain errors against the Faith. Fr. McFarland specifically claimed the Pope’s statement that Vatican II “contains points of doctrine which, perhaps BECAUSE THEY ARE NEW”[1] is an error (describing the Pope’s words as “an impossibility”). John Paul’s statement (which the Pope carefully qualifies with “perhaps”) is not erroneous; the Church has drawn out “new points (or ‘aspects’) of doctrine” throughout her history. For example, when the Council of Trent defined transubstantiation, it was explaining a new point or aspect of the doctrine of the Eucharist, which did not exist in the early centuries. When the First Vatican Council defined the parameters of papal infallibility, these were new points of doctrine. 

Fr. McFarland mistakenly interprets the Pope’s words to contradict Vatican I’s prohibition of a “recession of meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding.” But John Paul does not advocate for a “recession” of meaning; rather, he promotes a “growth in insight” of meaning, which is the same thing Vatican I taught (“let the understanding [of doctrine] grow and progress strongly with the passage of the ages”).[2] While it is certainly true that Modernists have abused the concept of “living tradition,” the motu proprio does not contain errors against the Faith. Thus, the document cannot be used to marginalize the apostolates of the “Ecclesia Dei” organizations as Fr. McFarland attempts to do. 

Second, while Pope John Paul II did commit errors against the Faith (e.g., Assisi, false ecumenism), the same can be said for Archbishop Lefebvre. Many traditional Catholics have been led to believe Lefebvre was a champion of sound doctrine, but this is not true. For example, Lefebvre accused the Church of heresy for its doctrine on collegiality, but the doctrine (that the College of Bishops in union with the Pope is also a subject of supreme authority) is perfectly traditional and was taught long before Vatican II.[3] Lefebvre also erred on the sacramental intention. He claimed that even if a Novus Ordo priest used proper matter and form, his sacraments could be invalid because of not intending the sacramental effect, due to his loss of faith (he taught there must be “evident intention of doing what the Church intends[4] rather than simply “doing what the Church does”). This error is contrary to the perennial sacramental theology of the Church, which says interior faith or not intending the sacramental effect does not invalidate the sacrament (see two rulings of the Holy Office in 1872 and 1877).[5] 

Lefebvre also erred in his understanding of supplied jurisdiction, which he used to justify his illicit ministry in toto (as does the SSPX today), including acts which do not even require jurisdiction, but only canonical mission. He failed to understand that the Church supplies jurisdiction on the basis of common error only when the Catholic community in union with the local bishop believes that their priest has ordinary faculties from said bishop, which is not applicable to nor possible in SSPX communities.[6] This error resulted in decades of invalid confessions and marriages in Society chapels, until Pope Francis conferred delegated faculties upon SSPX priests. 

In fact, Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX reject the Catholic Church’s Profession of Faith.[7] Lefebvre claimed that the third category, which requires “religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, was “very bad,” “dangerous,” “ridiculous” and “false.”[8] However, the third article of faith is completely traditional and was taught by many pre-Vatican II theologians, such as Salaverri who said: “An internal and religious assent of the mind is due to the doctrinal decrees of the Holy See which have been authentically approved by the Roman Pontiff.”[9] Lefebvre and the SSPX falsely claimed “a person is supposed to adhere with Faith to teachings that are not definitive,”[10] but this third category of the Professio only requires an assent of respect or deference (a religious assent of intellect and will), not the assent of faith. Even the Commentary on the 1983 Code acknowledges the Church leaves room for dissent on non-definitive teachings based on preponderant evidence.[11] 

Third, Fr. McFarland failed to address why the Pope issued Ecclesia Dei Adflicta in the first place: to declare that Lefebvre’s schismatic consecrations were rooted in his erroneous understanding of Tradition. Lefebvre erroneously believed he and his clergy could operate licitly without a canonical mission, and that “supplied jurisdiction” actually provided them with what amounts to an “extraordinary mission” due to a state of necessity. This error, quite astonishingly, led him to reject John Paul II’s offer for Lefebvre to consecrate an SSPX bishop on August 15, 1988 (which Lefebrve had originally agreed to) and instead consecrate four bishops six weeks earlier, reneging on his oral and written promise to the Pope while also directly defying the Pope’s will. Of course, Lefebvre had already withdrawn submission from the Pope 13 years earlier, when he continued to ordain priests and run his ministry after the SSPX was lawfully suppressed. 

While John Paul II may have committed errors on the Left, Archbishop Lefebvre no doubt committed errors on the Right, and which have had devastating consequences for the Church (error and schisms, illicit Masses, invalid absolutions and marriages, etc.). 


 In Episode 28 of its Crisis series, SSPX priest Fr. Robinson admitted that it would be a “schismatic mentality” to tell someone not to attend a Mass offered by the FSSP or the ICK. Well, Fr. McFarland exhibited this “schismatic mentality” by doing exactly that, in Episode 46. In fact, at the end of his podcast, Fr. McFarland claims “every Catholic” should be with the SSPX and states that “we can’t unite (with Church-approved communities) unless they change or we change” (hence, the SSPX refuses communion with those subject to the Holy Father, which is the definition of schism). He also rhetorically asks whether the “Ecclesia Dei” communities “are more on the side of the Society of St. Pius X [who is not part of the Catholic Church[12]], or more on the side of the modern hierarchy?” In other words, Fr. McFarland tells us to choose between the Society of St. Pius X and the Roman Catholic Church. According to Fr. McFarland, any and every person or group in union with the Roman Catholic Church is in grave error, which he says “risks damning them.” 

This is what the SSPX thinks of the Church-approved traditional communities.












[1] Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, (1988), No. 5(b)(capitalization applied by the SSPX podcast).

[2] Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Filius, (1870), Chapter 4.

[3] See Robert Siscoe’s article “Collegiality in Light of Tradition,” November 2021,

[4] Lefebvre, Open Letter to Confused Catholics, Angelus Press (1986), pp. 48, 50. Lefebvre erroneously taught that the priest’s interior faith was necessary, at least “indirectly,” for valid sacraments. He also falsely equated Novus Ordo priests with Anglican priests who lost the faith as a basis for questioning the validity of their sacraments and wrongly attributed his position to Leo XIII’s declaration that Anglican orders were invalid (however, Leo XIII’s ruling was based principally on the defect of form, and not intention, as Lefebvre claims). Ibid., p. 48. 

[5] Response to a dubium from the Bishop of Oceana, http://www.trueorfalse

[6] For more on this topic, see John Salza, “Do Sedevacantist and other Independent Clergy Receive Supplied Jurisdiction?,”

[7] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Profession of Faith, 1989.

[9] Quote taken from Fr. Fenton, “Infallibility in the Encyclicals,” AER (1953). Fenton taught the same as did Billot, Jung, Tanqueray, Nau and many others.

[10] Cor Jesu,

[11] John Beal, James Coriden, and Thomas Green, A New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), p. 917.

[12] Cardinal Burke, May 10, 2021.