February A.D. 2022
In light of the indefensible abuse of authority that is called Traditionis Custodes and the potential suppression of the Immemorial Mass, Mr. Chris Jackson recently authored a two-part feature called “What if All Traditional Priests are Suspended?” In Part II of the series, Mr. Jackson concludes that, if traditional priests are banned from saying the Old Mass, Catholics would still be able to fulfill their Sunday obligation under canon 1248 by assisting at their traditional Masses. To quote Jackson: “Latin Masses said by ‘Suspended’ Traditional Priests will Fulfill the Sunday Obligation.”
I commend Mr. Jackson for attempting to tackle the question at this time of angst and uncertainty for traditional Catholics. Certainly, the question has weighed heavily on my mind. Mr. Jackson is also correct to say that this is a legal question under canon 1248. But, at the end of the day, truth must prevail over sentiment. The problem with Mr. Jackson’s position is that he misinterprets the term “Catholic rite” in canon 1248 to refer exclusively to the Missal that the priest celebrates (e.g., the 1962 Missal), without regard to the Church in which it is celebrated. This faulty interpretation leads Mr. Jackson to conclude that even Masses offered by priests who are not juridically part of, or sent with canonical mission, by the Catholic Church, fulfill the Sunday obligation, so long as the priest (suspended or not) uses a valid Missal (e.g., says the traditional Mass).
As we will see, Mr. Jackson’s principal error is that he does not understand that the “Catholic rite” of canon 1248 must be a liturgical rite that is celebrated in a Catholic church sui iuris (that is, a church lawfully erected by the supreme authority) and in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and not just an approved Missal. Therefore, Mr. Jackson’s conclusion that traditional Masses offered by “all traditional priests under suspension,” no matter what the context, fulfill the Sunday obligation, so long as a Catholic liturgical rite is used, is erroneous.
Mr. Jackson’s misinterpretation of a Catholic rite to merely mean an approved liturgical rite, causes him to qualify traditional Masses that actually do not qualify under canon 1248. In doing so, he focuses on (and gets tripped up by) the irrelevance of whether the Mass being offered is licit, but fails to concern himself with the Church in which the Mass is offered, as the canon requires. This is why Jackson highlights that the Preparatory Committee on canon 1248 noted the following: “It has been suggested that the word ‘legitimately’ be deleted. All the consultants, with one exception, approve of such a suggestion, because often the cause of illegitimacy resides in the sacred minister, and the Christian faithful should not be punished for such a fault of the sacred minister.”
Indeed, the necessity of meeting the requirements of canon 1248 do not depend upon the “legitimacy” of the Mass as regards the minister (i.e., whether the individual priest has the faculty to say Mass), because that is something the faithful will likely never know, and do not have the obligation to know. Rather, satisfying canon 1248 depends upon whether the Mass is offered in a Catholic church sui iuris, and which is in full communion with the Catholic Church, which is something a Catholic does have the obligation to know.
By focusing on the irrelevance of an individual minister’s faculty to offer a licit Mass to meet canon 1248, Mr. Jackson understandably wants to come to the defense of traditional priests who may end up being suspended under the diabolical measures of Traditionis Custodes. However, whether such priests are eventually suspended by Modernist bishops or not, is not relevant to the legal requirements of canon 1248. Canon 1248 is tied to the Church, not the minister (and this might be good news in light of what may befall us in the future). The legitimacy (liceity) of the Mass is a red herring, intentional or not.
In addition to the Preparatory Committee’s statement above, which explained its exclusion of “legitimately” from canon 1248, Mr. Jackson also refers to a statement from canonist Rev. Brian Dunn, who said “the faithful should not be punished for the fault of the minister.” This statement is also true. Again, it is not the liceity of the Missal or the faculties (or lack thereof) of the minister, but rather the Church in which the minister offers the approved liturgical rite, that determines whether the Mass satisfies the obligation under canon 1248. While the faithful are not penalized for the deficiencies of the minister, they are responsible for assisting at Masses offered in lawfully established churches, in union with their local bishop and the Roman Pontiff.
Let us now take a look at this issue in greater depth.
Canon 1248 Requires More Than a Valid Missal
A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.
The Commentary to the Code of Canon Law explicitly provides that a “Catholic rite” in canon 1248 does not merely refer to a valid Missal, but to a Mass celebrated in a “Catholic church sui iuris”:
The 24 Catholic churches sui iuris are self-governing churches established by the supreme authority of the universal Church (the Pope). They are also known as autonomous particular churches, because they have distinct theological, liturgical, spiritual and canonical traditions (the largest church sui iuris is the Latin church, which is the only such church in the West; the 23 other churches sui iuris exist in the East). Finally, the 24 churches sui iuris are made up of local particular churches throughout the world, each of which is headed by a bishop, and called a diocese in the Latin Church and an eparchy in the Eastern Churches.
Thus, a “Catholic rite” in canon 1248 means a Mass offered in one of the 24 churches sui iuris (including their local particular churches) throughout the world, in union with the Pope, and not a mere liturgical rite without regard to the Church in which it is celebrated. Moreover, as we have already noted, canon 1248 does not regard the faculties of the individual priest or the liceity of the Mass, but only the Church in which the approved liturgical rite is celebrated (Catholics who assist at Masses in their dioceses generally have no idea, and no reason to know, what faculties their priests have or do not have). Because there is only one Rite (Church) in the West, it is common for “Latin Rite” Catholics to understand and use the word “rite” to refer exclusively to the liturgical rite or expression of any church. This is what leads them to wrongly interpret the meaning of “rite” in canon 1248.
As with canon 1248, the 1983 Code uses the word “rite” elsewhere to describe the Eastern Churches, and not mere liturgical rites (see canons 450, §1 and 1015, §2). In fact, canon 28 of the Eastern Code of Canon Law defines rite as follows: “A rite is the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstances of history of a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested in each church sui iuris.”
We thus see that the purpose of canon 1248 is to affirm that a Latin Rite Catholic may fulfill his Sunday obligation by also assisting at a Mass offered in any one of the 23 Eastern churches sui iuris, which are in communion with the Catholic Church, but not at a “church” (e.g., an independent chapel not lawfully erected by the supreme authority) and which is not full communion with the Catholic Church (not even a separated Eastern Church), even if it uses an approved Catholic liturgical rite. Of course, there would be little need for a law regulating where Catholics could attend Mass to satisfy the obligation if they could assist at Masses offered by any priest who used a valid Missal. Thus, the ability to legally satisfy the Sunday obligation under canon 1248 is tied to the Church in which the Mass is celebrated, and not merely to the Missal he uses, and also without regard to his faculties to offer Mass.
Churches Sui Iuris vs. Independent “Churches”
This is why, even after lifting the excommunications of the Society’s bishops, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 officially stated that “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.” This is also why Cardinal Burke recently (May 2021) stated: “At the present moment, they [the SSPX] are not part of the one Roman Catholic Church throughout the world.”
Because the Society of St. Pius X is “not part of the one Roman Catholic Church” (neither part of her juridical structure nor with a juridical mission), the Masses offered in Society chapels by SSPX priests do not fulfill the requirements of canon 1248, for the same reason that Masses offered by priests who belong to the Old Catholic church, or to Sedevacantist sects, do not fulfill the requirements of 1248. A Society Mass is not offered in a Church sui iuris and which is in full communion with the Catholic Church. Said differently, because the SSPX is not a legally recognized Church, it’s Masses cannot legally fulfill the obligations imposed by canons 1247 and 1248.
Note also that this would be the case even if the Society were not lawfully suppressed, as it was, in 1975. This is because the Society is not, and never has been, a juridic person recognized as a particular church, or a personal prelature, or institute of consecrated life or other society endowed with such faculty, in which priests must be incardinated in order to offer Masses that fulfill the Sunday obligation. Again, a canonical status that would recognize the Society as a particular Church (or equivalent) of the Roman Rite has been the aim of the Society’s discussions with the Roman Catholic Church for decades.
In light of the foregoing, it would have been more accurate, canonically speaking, for Mr. Jackson to classify Masses offered by SSPX priests in the same category as those of the Old Catholics, the Sedevacantists, and other “Independent” clergy, whose chapels are also not part of the Catholic Church and whose priests are not incardinated (“unattached clerics are not allowed at all” under canon 265), rather than Masses offered by the clergy of the ICK and FSSP, whose societies are part of the Catholic Church, and whose priests are incardinated in dioceses governed by bishops with ordinary jurisdiction.
Improper Use of Canon 1335 and Related Commentaries
Equally irrelevant to the Sunday obligation requirement is Mr. Jackson’s reference to canon 1335, which momentarily suspends a priest’s undeclared censures when the faithful request a sacrament, sacramental act of governance for any just cause. This canon has absolutely nothing to do with what is necessary to fulfill the Sunday obligation; those requirements are set forth in canon 1248.
Moreover, Mr. Jackson interprets canon 1335 to mean that the otherwise illicit acts of an SSPX priest (due to lack of canonical status and mission) become licit upon the just request of the faithful. Mr. Jackson states that canon 1335 “applies to the clergy of the SSPX as their latae sententiae suspensions are undeclared.” He further states that, upon request of the faithful for any just cause, “Canon 1335 lifts the suspension for these requested sacraments and sacramentals. This has the effect of making these acts licit on behalf of the priest performing them and for the faithful receiving them.”
Mr. Jackson’s conclusions here are also incorrect. Canon 1335 is not suppletory, that is, it does not provide to the priest what is lacking in order to administer a sacrament licitly and validly. It doesn’t supply the faculties needed to licitly offer Mass, baptize, or preach, nor does it supply the jurisdiction needed to validly absolve. Rather, the canon operates to remove that which currently prevents a sacrament from being licit or valid (i.e., a censure), which places the cleric in the state he was before incurring it. In other words, canon 1335 functions to put the cleric back to his pre-censured state.
Thus, if a priest (e.g., from the ICK or FSSP) had the faculty to celebrate Mass and give Holy Communion to the faithful before he was censured, canon 1335 momentarily suspends the censure so that the priest can exercise his faculty upon a faithful’s just request, as he would have done before, without scruple. However, if the priest did not have the faculties to say Mass, or baptize, or preach, prior to the censure (e.g., Old Catholic, SSPX and Sedevacantist clergy), canon 1335 does not provide him with what is necessary for liceity (canonical mission) or validity (jurisdiction, which is necessary for the validity of confessions and marriages), unless it is while administering to someone in danger of death. Thus, for the priestly acts of clergy who are not part of, nor sent by, the Roman Catholic Church, canon 1335 does not have “the effect of making these acts licit” upon the just request of the faithful, as Mr. Jackson claims, since they never had the requisite faculties in the first place.
Improper Appeal to Supplied Jurisdiction
In fact, Mr. Jackson short-changes traditional priests who are incardinated with canonical mission, when he says: “Any Traditional priests who are ‘suspended’ under Traditionis Custodes would most likely be in the same canonical situation as the SSPX priests were before Francis granted them faculties.” This statement is also incorrect. Actually, such priests would be in a better canonical situation than Society priests before (and even after) Pope Francis delegated them faculties for confessions (and, conditionally, for marriages). That is because supplied jurisdiction, as Mr. Jackson notes, is triggered in cases of “common error” or “positive and probable doubt” under canon 144. But these conditions do not apply to SSPX clergy, like they would to clergy of the ICK and FSSP. Why?
Because common error exists only when the majority of the Catholic community subject to the local ordinary (not the SSPX community) would conclude that the priest in question has habitual jurisdiction authorized by the same local ordinary, which SSPX clergy admit they do not have (even after the delegated faculties). As Fr. Miaskiewicz explains, “the error must be concerning the habitual power of jurisdiction of someone.” He also explains: “That common peril does not exist except when the people of a community fall into error about some qualification or power which a priest is believed habitually to possess and which he might use to their common detriment.”
Of course, the Catholic community (the local diocese or territorial parish in which the SSPX priest operates) would not be subject to common error because it would not believe that a priest who sets up shop in a diocese in opposition to the will of the local bishop would have habitual jurisdiction from that bishop. The Catholic community would certainly not reach the same conclusion with respect to incardinated priests who serve diocesan parishes under the authority of the local bishops, such as those of the ICK and FSSP. Hence, suspended priests of Ecclesia Dei communities would not “be in the same canonical condition as the SSPX priests were before Francis granted them faculties” as it relates to supplied jurisdiction, as Mr. Jackson claims.
In addition, positive and probable doubt of fact or law as a basis for supplied jurisdiction would also not apply to SSPX clergy. This condition is prima facie inapplicable to an SSPX priest because he will not have any doubt, much less positive and probable doubt, about whether he, legally or factually, has ordinary faculties from the bishop of the diocese in which he illicitly functions. Of course, all Society priests are absolutely certain that they have no jurisdiction from the local bishop, and they openly admit it. They have no doubt of fact regarding whether the local bishop has granted them jurisdiction, and they have no doubt of law regarding whether a priest who operates without the bishop’s permission has jurisdiction from that bishop.
Again, Mr. Jackson errs by claiming that traditional priests who are incardinated and serve diocesan parishes would be in the “same canonical condition” as SSPX priests, if they were suspended (as the SSPX priests currently are). Jackson’s conclusion is incorrect because the conditions of common error and positive and probable doubt under canon 144 could apply, respectively, to the communities and priests of the ICK and FSSP, but do not apply to SSPX communities or clergy.
In summary, while I commend Mr. Jackson for attempting to resolve a difficult question in favor of traditional Catholics, his misinterpretation of canon 1248 (including his failure to distinguish between Churches sui iuris vs. independent chapels, and incardinated clergy with canonical status and mission in the Roman Catholic Church vs. vagus clergy who are not part of or sent by the Catholic Church), along with his errors on canon 1335 and supplied jurisdiction, lead him to overgeneralizations and erroneous conclusions.
In concluding this article, and to also anticipate the ad hominem objections that some might have to what I have presented, let me be clear that I don’t rejoice in my conclusions, which I find inescapable. I wish the Society of St. Pius X had a canonical status in the Church, and its priests a canonical mission from the Church, so that we could fulfill our Sunday obligation by assisting at their Masses. I also pray for this end. But I also recognize the reality of the situation. I’ve been a traditional Catholic, fighting in the traditional movement, long enough (20 years, in fact) to realize that errors from both the Liberal Left and the Extreme Right have contributed to the current crisis in the Church. The fact is, the Society has refused the Catholic Church’s offer of a personal prelature due, in part, to its own doctrinal errors and overreaction to the crisis, which is outside the scope of this article, but addressed in detail in many articles at www.trueorfalsepope.com.
While the Society is correct to question and even object to the non-doctrinal statements of Vatican II (e.g., religious liberty, ecumenism), it refuses to accept, inter alia, the Catholic Church’s Profession of Faith, promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1989 (which is necessary to be Catholic and hold offices in the Church), as well as Vatican II’s teaching on Collegiality (even accusing the Church of heresy for teaching it, which is itself a grave error), even though both are completely traditional, as we have proven in other articles. These are serious errors of the Extreme Right, and they originated with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, as an overreaction to the crisis. That is a fact.
As Archbishop Pozzo (former Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission who has been responsible for attempting to bring the SSPX back into the Church), has publicly stated, the more contentious documents of Vatican II to which the Society objects (e.g. Nostra Aetate on interreligious dialogue; Unitatis Redintegratio on ecumenism; Dignitatis Humanae on religious liberty) are not doctrinal or definitive teachings and hence are not binding on Catholics. In fact, Pozzo even went on to say that the SSPX could continue to discuss the non-doctrinal aspects of the documents, even after such time that it would receive a canonical mission from the Church:
They are not about doctrines or definitive statements, but, rather, about instructions and orienting guides for pastoral practice. On can continue to discuss these pastoral aspects after the canonical approval [of the SSPX], in order to lead us to further clarifications.
While Archbishop Pozzo acknowledged that the SSPX could continue to question the orthodoxy of certain Vatican II documents, he at the same time also rightly affirmed that the Society must accept the Church’s Profession of Faith as a condition for being made part of the Catholic Church. Said Pozzo: “What is essential, what we cannot give up, is the adherence to the Professio fidei, and to the principle that the Lord entrusted to the Church’s Magisterium alone the faculty to interpret authentically, that is, with the authority of Christ, the written and transmitted Word of God.”
Pozzo has also noted that the Society must accept “the teaching on the sacramentality of the Episcopal office and its consecrations as the fullness of Holy Orders; or the teaching on the primacy of the pope and of the college of bishops in union with its head [sic], as presented in the Dogmatic Constitution , and as interpreted by the which had been requested by the highest authority.” In addition, Pozzo has noted the Society’s error in refusing to be part of the Church’s juridical structure, which has been divinely established by Christ Himself, in order to carry out the Church’s juridical mission: “The necessity of a canonical recognition is not just a notarial, formal act. The Church is a visible structure and it is essential for the clergy to have a canonical recognition from the Holy See. And this is another truth of the reality of the Church and they should admit it.”
While the Liberal errors of the Left can often be easy to detect, that is not the case with the Extreme errors of the Right. Catholics who take their faith seriously can often spot doctrinal and liturgical aberrations when they see them, even if they are not traditional Catholics (e.g., unbridled promotion of religious liberty, dialogue with false religions without evangelization, praying with pagans, guitar and clown Masses, sacrilegious reception of Communion in the hand, and all the rest of it). The same cannot be said for errors concerning juridical mission, supplied jurisdiction, the double subject of supreme authority, sacramental intention, and the like, especially when these errors are coming from priests who wear traditional cassocks and say reverent traditional Masses.
The danger is that, while both the errors on the Left and Right are grave, the errors on the Right often lead Catholics right out of the Catholic Church, the only ark of salvation. For many, this process begins by assisting at Masses outside the Church, which do not satisfy the Sunday and holy days obligation (thus, resulting in objective mortal sin). The process frequently ends by them joining a non-Catholic sect, thereby completely severing their juridical bonds with the Catholic Church (which we see, for example, with the Old Catholics and the Sedevacantists).
This danger is particularly clear and present at this moment in history, when Catholics are being tempted like never before to leave the Crucified Church during Her Passion, just as they did during the Passion of Our Lord. Traditionis Custodes is no doubt an instrument that the Enemy is using to suck souls out of the Church. But the solution to this crisis will only be found inside the Catholic Church, by remaining within her, at the foot of her Cross, like Our Lady, Who will ultimately bring about her restoration. It will not be found outside of her, no matter how tempting the solution might seem, since outside the Church “there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins” (Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam).
 Mr. Jackson’s argument is certainly not new. Mr. Jimmy Akin made this same argument in 1999.
 1983 Code of Canon Law; Latin “… ubicumque celebrator ritu catholico…” (emphasis added).
 John Beal, James Coriden, and Thomas Green, A New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), p. 1445.
 The modern Catechism (para. 1203) lists them as seven rites: Latin, Byzantine, Alexandrian (Coptic), Syriac, Armenian (West Syria), Maronite (West Syria) and Chaldean (East Syria).
 Also known as Constantinopolitan.
 Also known as Antiochene.
 While the Latin Rite is the only Rite (or Church) in the West, the Latin Rite has a number of liturgical rites including the Roman rite, the Ambrosian rite, the Mozarabic rite, the Dominican rite, etc. (underscoring the distinction between “Rite” as Church and “rite” as liturgical expression).
 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 this fact that the SSPX was lawfully suppressed by Pope Paul VI in 1975, at which time it was legally extinguished. See, for example, canons 120 §1; 373; 584. 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.”
 For an in-depth treatment of this subject, along with a thorough analysis of the applicable Ecclesia Dei replies regarding SSPX Masses, please see my article “Do SSPX Masses Fulfill the Sunday Obligation?,” at www.trueorfalsepope.com.
 See canon 265. Note that the Society was not founded to be a juridic person capable of receiving priests by incardination, according to excerpts of the original statutes that the Society has chosen to publish. According to these statutes, the Society’s primary purpose is the formation of priests, and its secondary purpose is to assist priests in their sanctification (through retreats, recollections, etc.). The purpose of the Society’s “negotiations with Rome” is to obtain the requisite juridic status to incardinate its priests.
 Miaskiewicz, “Supplied Jurisdiction According to Canon 209, “p. 168.
 Ibid. p. 278 (emphasis added).
 For a thorough treatment of this subject matter, please see my two-part article “Do Sedevacantist Priests Receive Supplied Jurisdiction for Confessions?,” at www.trueorfalsepope.com.
 Maike Hickson, “Abp. Pozzo on SSPX: Disputed Vatican II Documents are Non-Doctrinal,” August 9, 2016, www.onepeterfive.com.
 “No Capitulation but what Unity? Pozzo Interview,” www.sspx.org.
 Maike Hickson, “Abp. Pozzo on SSPX: Disputed Vatican II Documents are Non-Doctrinal,” August 9, 2016, www.onepeterfive.com.