The Society of St Pius X is a religious institute affiliated with the Catholic Church because it has been canonically erected according to the laws of the Catholic Church and approved by Rome. It was legally erected in the diocese of Geneva - Lausanne & Fribourg by His Lordship Bishop François Charrière on November 1 1970. It was approved for 6 years ad experimentum. However: "A congregation founded by a Bishop is and remains a diocesan congregation... until such time as it receives pontifical approbation, or at least the decree of praise (can. 492 # 2)"
This is precisely what happened. On February 18 1971 a "decree of praise" from His Eminence John Cardinal Wright gave the SSPX Roman approval thus removing the SSPX from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Geneva - Lausanne & Fribourg. Further proof of Roman approbation is the fact that in 1972, the Vatican allowed 3 members of religious orders having pronounced their perpetual vows to be transferred from their orders into the SSPX. Thus de facto Rome recognised and approved the existence of the SSPX. A Dominican religious who, even after the said suspensio a divinis of 1976, asked and obtained from Rome permission to leave the Dominican Order to join the SSPX. If the SSPX was really suppressed why would Rome allow a Dominican religious to leave the Dominicans to join a suppressed Society?
It is said that the approval given to the Society was retracted by Mgr Mamie, successor of Mgr Charrière, by a decree of May 1975. That may be so but once a religious order has been approved by a Bishop it can only be suppressed by the Holy See (can. 493 in 1917 code applicable at the time of the Mgr Mamie and can. 584 in the code of 1983). Further it is clear from Mgr Mamie's letter that his decree (like the suspensio a divinis of which we shall speak later) came because of the Archbishop's refusal of the orientations of Vatican II and the new liturgy. The SSPX was therefore illegally suppressed by Mgr Mamie, successor of Mgr Charrière, not by the Holy See.


A suspension like an excommunication is a medicinal pain inflicted on someone who has committed a crime in order to bring him to repentance. Where there is no crime there is no need for repentance and punishment is unjust as for example in the case of Mother Mary of the Cross (Mackillop).
It is very simple to see why the suspension pronounced against the Archbishop in 1976 was null and void. Archbishop Lefebvre committed the following "crimes": 1) he categorically refused the new liturgy and more important; 2) he made a clear declaration of Faith November 21 1974 following the scandalous visit of the two Roman apostolic visitors who publicly denied articles of Faith:
"We hold firmly with all our heart and with our mind to Catholic Rome, Guardian of the Catholic Faith and of the traditions necessary to the maintenance of this Faith... We refuse... and have always refused to follow the Rome of Neo-Modernist and Neo-Protestant tendencies which became clearly manifested during the Second Vatican Council and after the Council, in the reforms which issued from it...".
These two things very much irritated and could not be tolerated by modernist Rome. These are what brought about the persecution against him and his Society and the subsequent orders to close the seminary, not ordain priests and the illegal suppression by Mgr Mamie, and the suspensio a divinis. Appeals to the decisions were unjustly denied through the influence of Cardinal Villot and pressure from the French bishops. If he would have adopted the new liturgy the Archbishop could have continued his seminary with the approval of Rome.
In the case of the refusal of the new liturgy and adherence to the Traditional Mass the suspension and any canonical pain are invalid in virtue of the Bull Quo Primum of St Pius V which give to all priest the perpetual right to celebrate the Mass of "St Pius V" and declares null and void any censures against a priest who celebrates this Mass". This Bull was never abolished therefore it remains in full force. As to #2 obviously one cannot be suspended or excommunicated for professing and keeping the Faith. This is why the Archbishop has paid no attention to this censures. Since the censure against the Archbishop was null and void so was the censure against his priests. Even the Pope has to respect the virtue of justice. When in 1988 Cardinal Gagnon officially visited the Society he said publicly, to his credit, that Ecône would serve as the model for the renewal of the Church. Is it a wonder he has not been heard of since!


Like it or not, the code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983 provides for the valid administration of the sacraments of confession, marriage and confirmation by any validly ordained priest. Canon 966 # 2 states that there are two (2) ways for a priest to receive jurisdiction: "A priest can be given this faculty (for valid absolution) either by the law itself or by a concession granted by competent authority in accord with the norm of Canon 969." This concession by the competent authority is what is called "ordinary jurisdiction". The SSPX has never denied its priest do not have ordinary jurisdiction ie. received from the local ordinary.
However canon 144 explains how the law itself gives the necessary faculties when it says: "In common error about fact or about law and also in positive and probable doubt about law or fact, the Church supplies executive power of governance (jurisdiction) both for the external and internal forum. #2: "This same norm applies to the faculties mentioned in can. 883 (confirmation), can. 966 (confession) and can. 1111#1 (marriage).
So Church Law itself can and does give a validly ordained priest the power to hear confessions, bless marriages and administer confirmations even without the permission of the local bishop.


Common error is a false judgement of the mind; and the error with which we are here concerned is error regarding the existence of jurisdiction. The priest is erroneously believed to have jurisdiction, whereas he has not. Common error is presumed to exist in all cases where there exists a public circumstance or set of circumstances from which all reasonable persons would naturally conclude that jurisdiction existed. Thus a priest sitting publicly in a confessional in a public parish church may be presumed to have received general faculties for confession. If the fact is that he has not, yet the public circumstance would be a sufficient reasonable foundation for interpretative common error; and the Church would supply the jurisdiction for each and every confession heard in these circumstances, regardless of the number of persons who are in the church, and still more regardless of the number who actually went to that priest, or were preparing to do so.
In common error a priest who does not have jurisdiction does something to make people think he does ie. goes to sit in the confessional. It is as simple as that. Ecclesia supplet! Even if no one is fooled by the "public circumstance... Ecclesia supplet!
Is there any doubt with regard to the application of common error? As long as the doubt is positive and probable then the Church will supply in virtue of what follows.


Positive and Probable Doubt. Doubt means a state of mind in which the mind suspends assent or remains undecided between assent and denial. Doubt is positive if there is a serious reason for assenting to a proposition; yet the prudent fear of error is not entirely excluded. A merely negative doubt exists if there is no reason, or at least no really serious reason for assent. A doubt is probable if there is a solid and probable reason in favour of a proposition, which, however, is not certain. A doubt of law means a doubt concerning the existence or meaning of the law; a doubt of fact is a doubt concerning the existence of any concrete fact other than the existence of the law.
I concede there is no doubt concerning ordinary jurisdiction. But who can say the priests of the Society do not receive it from the law itself as stated in Canon 966? The doubt is not the doubt found in the minds of the people but in the mind of the priest. The case of common error does not involve doubt but error, the priest poses an action capable of leading the faithful into error. In the case of positive and probable doubt it is the priest, not the faithful, who doubts whether in this particular case he has jurisdiction to absolve validly and licitly.
But wait there is even better. According to can. 1335 of the New Code of 1983: "If a censure prohibits the celebration of the sacraments or sacramentals or the placing of an act of governance (needing jurisdiction), the prohibition is suspended whenever it is necessary to take care of the faithful who are in danger of death; and if an automatic censure (latæ sententiæ) is not a declared one, the prohibition is also suspended whenever a member of the faithful requests a sacrament, a sacramental, or an act of governance; this request can be made for any just cause whatsoever." The New Code of 1983 is even more generous than canon 2261 of the Code of 1917.
Let us suppose, for argument sake, that the SSPX priests are suspended or even excommunicated, since the censure has not been declared the faithful can still "for any just cause whatsoever," ask the sacraments from them, even those requiring jurisdiction!
So there is at least a doubt. For the priest there is a strong presumption in favour of supplied jurisdiction. Ecclesia supplet!
The cases of common error and positive and probable doubt of law or fact are not inventions of the SSPX but are Catholic exceptions to the normal disciplinary rule which have exited long before the SSPX because the supreme aim of the Church is the salvation of souls.
Important to note that the case of common error and positive and probable doubt do not require the case of necessity nor danger of death. Nor does canon 1335 which outside the case of someone who has been nominally excommunicated, requires only "any just cause whatsoever". But even here the canon is not as clear as can. 2261 in the old code. In dubio Ecclesia supplet!


The best answer to this very misunderstood question is given in the work "Neither Schismatics Nor Excommunicated" of the Italian magazine "Si Si No No". I will simply quote from it. I just want to add that the translation is not mine. Before giving the quote, it is important to remember that: "the Holy Ghost was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth." So the Pope is assisted by the Holy Ghost only when he guards sacredly the revelation transmitted and sets it forth faithfully. This is when we owe obedience because it is obedience to the Holy Ghost himself. The Pope is not assisted by the Holy Ghost otherwise especially if he discloses new doctrines. Vatican II and its innovations are new doctrines. We can respectfully refuse to obey.
The modernists and conservatives object: "When the Pope commands the faithful can be sure that he is expressing the will of God". Catholics owe obedience to the Pope as head of the Church but not to the personal orientations of the Pope. Did Catholics owe obedience to the personal orientations of Honorious I while he was favouring heresy? Were they bound to be "in communion" with him? Obviously not. Why then should today's Catholics owe obedience to the personal orientations of Paul VI who openly favoured the modernism, liberalism, ecumenism condemned by his predecessors and invented a "dialogue" unheard of before him and which is a denial of the dogma "Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation"? Why should they obey the personal orientations of John Paul II who continues and even goes farther in the same direction worsening the disasters of the pontificate of Paul VI? For example can Catholics agree with John Paul II when he says that Catholics and Muslims adore the same God? Absolutely not!
This is nothing else than blasphemy! What would the thousands of martyrs who died at the hands of the Muslims precisely because we do not worship the same God think of such blasphemy? The Pope is the vicar of Christ not His successor, he is the supreme authority of the Church but not the absolute authority. In other words the Church does not belong to the Pope's but to Jesus Christ. The Pope is limited by Tradition which is the deposit of the Faith which he cannot change. He is not free to do whatever he wants.
Of course a Catholic has to obey the lawful commands of the Pope. But are commands of the Pope which are scandalous, endanger the faith and destroy the Church (such are the new orientations of Vatican II ecumenism, collegiality, liberalism and the new liturgy) lawful command? If a Pope contradicts his predecessors who have all spoken a long the same lines, (which is a big case in favour of the infallibility of what thye taught even if it is not all defined) whom do we obey? It is really the new heresy spoken of by Fr. Le Floch the then Rector of the French seminary in Rome in 1926: "The heresy which is now being born will become the most dangerous of all; the exaggeration of the respect due to the Pope and the illegitimate extension of his infallibility." It is what Archbishop Lefebvre called the "master stroke of satan: to bring about disobedience to Tradition in the name of obedience."
Now "it seems that since Vatican II, a Catholic is constantly compelled, by necessity, to have to choose between the truth and "obedience", or, in other words, between being a heretic or a schismatic. Thus, to take a few examples, he has had to choose between Saint Pius X's encyclical Pascendi which condemns modernism as a "synthesis of all heresies" and the present ecclesiastical orientation, openly, modernist, which, through the voice of the Holy See, never ceases to laud modernists and modernism and to disparage Saint Pius X whose encyclical was described on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of his death as "a disclosure... without respect to historical points of view" .
He has had to choose between the monitum from the Holy Office in 1962, condemning the works of the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin in that they "are alive with such ambiguities and even errors so serious that they offend Catholic doctrines", and the present ecclesiastical trend which does not hesitate to quote these works even in papal speeches and which, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the "apostate" Jesuit (R. Vaineve) has in a letter from Cardinal Cassaroli, Secretary of State of His Holiness, praised the "wealth of his thought" and "the unequalled religious fervour" , thus giving rise to the reaction of a group of Cardinals.
He has had to choose between the already defined invalidity of Anglican ordinations and the present day ecclesiastical orientation in pursuance of which, in 1982, a Roman Pontiff has, for the first time, taken part in an Anglican rite. In the Cathedral of Canterbury, he jointly blessed the crowd with the lay primate of this heretical and schismatic sect, a primate, who, in his welcoming speech, revindicated for himself, without being contradicted, the title of successor of St Augustine of Canterbury, the Catholic evangelist of Catholic England.
He has had to choose between the ex cathedra condemnation of Martin Luther and the present ecclesiastical trend which, "celebrating" the fifth centenary of the birth of the German heretic, declared, in a letter signed by his Holiness John Paul II, that to-day, thanks to the "common researches made by Catholic and Protestant scholars ... has appeared the deep religiosity of Luther".
He has had to choose between the historical truths of the Gospels which "Holy Mother Church has affirmed and is affirming in a definite and absolutely constant manner ... and certifies without hesitation", and the present ecclesiastical orientation which denies loudly these historical truths in the document published on June 24th 1985 by the Pontifical Commission on Religious Relations with Judaism.
He has had to choose between the Holy Scripture which declares the Jews unbelievers" by hatred of God" according to the Gospel and the present ecclesiastical orientation which, in the speech of the first Pope to visit the synagogue in Rome, discovers in the Jews, still unbelievers, "the older brothers" of ignorant Catholics.
He has had to choose between the first Commandment: "Thou shall not have strange gods before Me", matched with the duty, which, since the Redemption, obliges all men to render to God the worship it owes Him "in spirit and in truth", and the present day ecclesiastical orientation according to which. at the invitation of the Roman Pontiff, were practised in the Catholic churches of Assisi, all the forms, even the worst, of superstition: the false worship of the Jews, which in this era of grace, pretend to worship God while denying His Christ; the idolatry of the Buddhists adoring their living idol who sat with his back to the tabernacle, where the flickering light attested to the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
He has had to choose between the Catholic dogma "Outside the Church there is no salvation" and the present ecclesiastical orientation which sees in non-Christian religions "channels to God" and declares that even polytheist religions "are also venerable".
He has had to choose between the immemorial teachings of the Church according to which heretics and/or schismatics are "outside the Catholic Church", and the present ecclesiastical orientation whereby between the "various Christian denominations" exists only a difference... in depth" and "fullness of communion" and for which consequently the different heretical and/or schismatic sects must be "respected as Churches and Ecclesiastical communities".
Let us stop there as it would be materially impossible to enumerate all the choices that have been imposed and are still being imposed all the time on Catholics. Our newsletter ('Si Si No No) has pointed them all out for the last 14 years, and Romano Amero has made an incomplete list in the 636 pages of his book "Iota Unum: A Study of the Changes in the Catholic Church in the XX Century" .
"But could it be possible that he whom Christ has joined to Himself as Head of the Church and as Peter would allow, favour, or want in the Church an orientation different from that wanted by Christ or opposed to it? The Holy Scripture, as well as Catholic theology, tells us that, except in cases when the authority of the Pope is covered by infallibility , it is possible. Peter confesses the Divinity of Christ and Jesus tells him: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee (To you who have confessed that I am the Son of God) that thou art Peter, and upon tills rock I will build my Church" .
The same Peter tries to divert Christ from His Passion and Jesus retorts to him: "Go behind me, Satan, thou art an obstacle unto Me (that is the exact meaning of the word "scandal") because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men" .
And, in order that we must not think that this "scandal" happened because the primacy had in that point in time only been promised, but not yet conferred, here is the famous episode of Antioch.
The Risen Jesus conferred on Peter the primacy which he exercised with the veneration of the first Christian community. In Antioch, however, Paul realises that Peter was "reprehensibilis" because he, and others led by his example, "did not walk uprightly unto the truth of the Gospel" . Though inferior and subordinate to Peter, he reproved him "coram omnibus", in front of everyone. St Thomas comments: "The occasion of the reproach was not minor but just and useful: it was the risk run by evangelical truth; the manner in which it was made was suitable because it was public and evident... given that this lapse constituted a peril for everyone".
Therefore Holy Scripture teaches that, with the exception of the case of infallibility, Peter is fallible and can become "reprehensible".
Identical is the teaching of the best Catholic theology, which makes a distinction between the "person" of the Pope and his "function". "Persona papae potest renuere subesse officio papae": "the person of the Pope could refuse to comply with his duty as Pope", writes Cajetan, who adds that persistence in such behaviour would make the Pope a schismatic "per separationem sui ab unitate Capitis": "from his separation from union with the Head" of the Church, who is Christ (41). Cajetan specifies that the axiom "where the Pope is, there is the Church" is valid inasmuch as the Pope behaves as Pope and as Head of the Church; otherwise "the Church is not in him nor is he in the Church".
Cardinal Journet deals also with the case of a "bad Pope but still a believer" , of the possibility accepted by "major theologians" of an "heretical Pope", and that of a "schismatic Pope" . He writes on this account that the Pope "can also sin in two ways against the ecclesiastical communion". The second way consists of the fact of "breaking the unity of direction, which could happen, according to the penetrating analysis of Cajetan, if he rebelled, as a private individual, against the duties of his responsibilities, and refused to the Church by trying to excommunicate it as a whole or simply by trying to live solely as a secular prince, the spiritual direction which She has the right to expect from him in the name of one greater than be, that of Christ Himself and of God". And he adds: "the possibility of a schismatic Pope reveals to us furthermore, in underlining a tragic day, the mystery of the holiness of this unity of aims which is necessary for the Church; and it might, perhaps help a historian of t he Church - or rather a theologian of the history, of the Kingdom of God - to throw a divine light on the dark periods of the annals of the papacy, by allowing him to show it was betrayed by some of its trustees".
It is obvious that if Catholic theology studies the problems set by a bad, schismatic or even heretical Pope, it is precisely because, as Cajetan says, "persona papae potest renuere subesse officio papae": the person of the Pope, outside the occasions when his infallibility is involved, could refuse to accept the functions of his position as Pope. One last remark: because they had made the distinction between the "papacy" and its "trustees", between the "person" and the "function" of the Pope, many theologians were personally told to get in line during the dark periods of the papacy.
As for ourselves, to whom these dark periods had seemed resolved forever, we have lost the habit of such distinctions, and after the First Vatican Council, we ended up by mistaking infallibility and infallibilism, as if the Pope were infallible always in everything, and not in very precise circumstances and under well determined conditions."


The Society is not regarded as schismatic by some of the highest prelates in the Vatican. As proof the letter from the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in the United States in the name of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (1), Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a letter from Cardinal Edward Cassidy (2), President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
(1) In Hawaii in May 1991 Bishop Ferrario decided to excommunicate some followers of the Society of St.Pius X for supporting the Society and attending its Masses. Rome declared that the decision "lacks foundation and hence validity". The excommunication was overturned by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on June 28, 1993.
"From the examination of the case, conducted on the basis of the Law of the Church, it did not result that the facts referred to in the above-mentioned Decreee, are formal schismatic acts in the strict sense, as they do not constitute the offence of schism; and therefore the Congregation holds that the Decree of May 1, 1991, lacks foundation and hence validity" (Apostolic Nunciature, Washington DC)
(2) Extract from a reply written on May 3,1994 by Cardinal Edward Casssidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity,to an inquiry about the status of the Society of St.Pius X
"... Regarding your inquiry (March 25, 1994) I would point out at once that the Directory on Ecumenism is not concerned with the Society of St. Pius X. The situation of the members of this Society is an internal matter of the Catholic Church. The Society is not another Church or Ecclesial Community in the meaning used in the Directory. Of course the Mass and Sacraments administered by the priests of the Society are valid. The Bishops are validly, but not lawfully, consecrated.... I hope this answers your letter satisfactorily."