Asked Questions About the Society of Saint Pius X
12: Isn't the Society of Saint
Pius X schismatic?
Was Archbishop Lefebvre (along with
his co-consecrator and the four bishops whom he consecrated) excommunicated
also for having done a "schismatic act"?1
A first argument is that already given (QUESTION
moreover, constitutes a schismatic act?ŚNot the mere deed of consecrating
bishops without pontifical mandate. The 1983 Code of Canon Law
itself lists this offense under Title 3 (abuse of ecclesiastical
powers) and not under Title 1 (offenses against religion and the
unity of the Church) of its penal section (Book 6).
would it be a "schismatic act" to consecrate against the
express wish of the Holy Father. That could amount to disobedience
at most.2 But disobedience
does not amount to schism; Schism requires that one not recognize
the authority of the pope to command; disobedience consists in not
obeying a command, whilst still acknowledging the authority of the
one commanding. "The child who says 'I won't!' to his mother
does not deny that she is his mother."3
Archbishop Lefebvre always recognized the Pope's authority (proved
by his consultations with Rome for a solution to the current problems)
and so does the Society of Saint Pius X. (See, for example, its
support for Pope John Paul's Ordinatio Sa-cerdotalis against
a bishop without pontifical mandate would be a schismatic act if
one pretended to confer not just the fullness of the priesthood
but also jurisdiction, a governing power over a particular flock.
Only the Pope, who has universal jurisdiction over the whole Church,
can appoint a pastor to a flock and empower him to govern it. But
Archbishop Lefebvre never presumed to confer anything but the full
priestly powers of Orders, and in no way did he grant any jurisdiction
(which he himself did not have personally to give).
for the Faithful, threatened by Pope John Paul II himself with excommunication
if they adhere formally to the schism (Ecclesia Dei Afflicta,
July 2, 1988), do they indeed incur any excommunication for
going to Society of Saint Pius X priests for the sacraments?
Not at all.
The Society of Saint Pius X priests are neither excommunicated nor
This being so, how could any of the faithful who approach them incur
these penalties? Besides:
is a penalty for those who commit certain crimes with full moral
guilt, not a contagious disease!5
On May 1, 1991,
Bishop Ferrario of Hawaii "excommunicated" certain Catholics
of his diocese for attending Masses celebrated by priests of the
Society of Saint Pius X, and receiving a bishop of the Society of
Saint Pius X to confer the sacrament of Confirmation. Cardinal Ratzinger,
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, overturned
From the examination
of the case...it did not result that the facts referred to in
the above-mentioned decree, are formal schismatic acts in the
strict sense, as they do not constitute the offense of schism;
and therefore the Congregation holds that the Decree of May 1,
1991, lacks foundation and hence validity (June 28, 1993).
well as for consecrating without a pontifical mandate, QUESTION
But there is no disobedience, cf. An Open Letter to Confused
Catholics, pp. 129-136, (Appendix II). Cf., "The act of
consecrating a bishop (without the Pope's permission) is not in
itself a schismatic act," Cardinal Lara, President of the Pontifical
Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of Canon Law, in La
Repubblica, Oct. 7, 1988.
Fr. Glover, in Is Tradition Excommunicated? p. 99 (Appendix
Is Tradition Excommunicated? pp. 1-39 (Appendix
Fr. Glover ibid., p. 100.
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