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Isn't the SSPX schismatic?

Was Archbishop Lefebvre (along with his co-consecrator and the four bishops whom he consecrated) excommunicated also for having done a “schismatic act” (as well as for consecrating without a pontifical mandate, question 11)?

No. A first argument to that is already given (question 11,1).

What, moreover, constitutes a schismatic act?  Not 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).

Nor would it be a “schismatic act” to consecrate against the express wish of the Holy Father. That could amount to disobedience at most.*  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” (Fr. Glover, in Is Tradition Excommunicated? p. 99 [appendix 2]).

*(But there is no disobedience, cf. An Open Letter to Confused Catholics, pp. 129-136. Cf. "The act of consecrating a bishop (without the pope's permission) is not itself a schismatic act," Cardinal Lara, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of Canon Law, in La Repubblica, October 7, 1988)

Now, 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 SSPX. (See, for example, its support for Pope John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis against women priests.)

Consecrating 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 holy orders, and in no way did he grant any jurisdiction (which he himself did not have personally to give).

As 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 SSPX priests for the sacraments?

Not at all. The priests of the Society are neither excommunicated nor schismatics (Is Tradition Excommunicated? pp. 1-39). This being so, how could any of the faithful who approach them incur these penalties? Besides:

Excommunication is a penalty for those who commit certain crimes with full moral guilt, not a contagious disease!  (Fr. Glover ibid., p. 100)

On May 1, 1991, Bishop Ferrario of Hawaii “excommunicated” certain Catholics of his diocese for attending Masses celebrated by priests of the SSPX, and receiving a bishop of the Society to confer the sacrament of Confirmation. Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, overturned this decision: 

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)

More on this topic

SSPX PDF media brochure: click to open

Bishop Fellay's press release on withdrawal of excommunications
The excommunication of the bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988... and which we had always contested, has been withdrawn by another decree...

Bishop Fellay on the withdrawal of the 1988 excommunications
Thanks to this gesture, Catholics attached to Tradition throughout the world will no longer be unjustly stigmatized and condemned for having kept the Faith of their fathers. Catholic Tradition is no longer excommunicated...

Get the full picture
about the SSPX with this select group of informative conferences and articles

The Hawaii Six: In Memoriam
Twenty years ago in January 1991, a canonical decree of excommunication was issued in Honolulu, Hawaii against six lay persons by the local bishop of that diocese...

The 1988 Episcopal Consecrations:

A two-part comprehensive study of "Operational Survival" undertaken by Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Castro de Mayer

A Canonical Study
German canonist Fr. Rudolph Kaschewsky briefly explains in this July 1988 article how the 1988 Consecrations did not incur excommunication, nor were they a schismatic act

Two Years After the Consecrations
A conference given by Archbishop Lefebvre on in 1990 summarizing the SSPX's position and status of Catholic Tradition in light of the 1988 Episcopal Consecrations

One Year After the Consecrations
An interview with Archbishop Lefebvre about the SSPX, Church and Catholic Tradition one year after the 1988 Consecrations

June 1988 Letter to Pope John Paul II from the SSPX's Superiors
Summarizes the causes of the failure of the 1987-88 discussions with Rome and that the papal mandate for consecrating a bishop was implicitly given © 2013                    home                    contact