Thursday, 5 January 2012

On The SSPX And The Tridentine Mass

Society of St Pius X - May 2009 - Ordination Mass

Letter from a reader:

           Good Day Mark,

Please could you assist me in answering the following.

I would just like to know what is the Church’s official position on the Society of Saint Pius X and are the sacraments (in particular that of holy Eucharist) celebrated by the Society valid?

On a similar issue, could you please advise what the position of the bishops of Southern Africa are with regards to the Tridentine Mass and the Vatican Instruction of Summorum Pontificum. Based on this, would it be possible to advise where one could find parishes in the country that perform the Extraordinary form of the Mass?

Your assistance will be greatly appreciated.

To answer your questions.

1. In respect of the Society of St Pius X and the sacraments I would refer you to the letter by Pope Benedict XVI, dated 10 March 2009, and specifically to Pope Benedict XVI's words: “As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.

A little later, in the same paragraph, Pope Benedict XVI again emphasises this point when he writes: “In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, 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 the link to the entire letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church.) 

To my knowledge, there has been no change to this status as of today's date. In fact, Catholic Culture reported, in December 2011, that the Society of St Pius X had failed to accept the Doctrinal Preamble that the Holy See had presented to them. The Holy See has made it clear that the group would need to accept the essence of the Doctrinal Preamble if the group's canonical status is to be changed.

2. I am not able to offer any comment regarding the position of the South African bishops with regards to the Tridentine Mass and Summorum Pontificum. This is because I honestly have absolutely no idea whatsoever. What I have done however is include the link to the website of the South African Catholic Bishops Conference and also their email address - - so you can contact them directly in this regard.

3. I am aware of the Tridentine Mass being celebrated at the Johannesburg Cathedral of Christ the King. Other parishes may also do so. Here is a link to the Mass Times Schedule of the Cathedral of Christ the King, which includes details of when the Tridentine Mass is celebrated.

Want a copy of the Roman Missal - Summorum Pontificum Edition

Link to Kalahari (Not Available)
Link to Amazon


  1. Thank you very much Mark for this information, it is truly helpful. I was seriously considering attending a mass at a SSPX church here in Johannesburg but needed to find out for sure if I could indeed receive the sacrament of the Eucharist from them without committing a sin.

    I am very pleased to find out that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is indeed celebrated at our Cathedral, based on this one could therefore conclude that the bishops of South Africa do look favorably on our Holy Father’s instruction of Summorum Pontificum. I am only 25 years of age (soon to be 26) and have never attended a Holy Mass of the Extraordinary Form. On what I have read about this Form of the Mass it is truly something I need to attend.

    Thanks once again.

  2. Mark, and to the reader:

    You may attend SSPX masses. There is not, and never has been, canonical penalty for those who wish to attend the Tridentine Masses offered by the SSPX. What the Church has said, however, is that one should not attend these Masses regularly and with a schismatic attitude. Take that as you wish - but if you are lucky enough to have Tridentine Masses easily available rather go there unless they are awful. There are 2-3 SSPX chapels in the country.

    Note well, that you may receive the Eucharist at their Masses of course, and it fulfills your Sunday obligation. Rome has communicated as much.

    However, do not go to confession with them because without faculties their confessions are not valid.

    I ask that we all pray that they may finally receive canonical status within the Church.

    As for Tridentine Masses in the country - as far as I am aware there is a Diocesan Tridentine Mass said somewhere in PMB; as well as regular Tridentine Masses said in Port Elizabeth by an Oratorian and another Priest.

    The Tridentine Latin Mass is the Mass which gives more glory and honour to God; and it is much more reverent and overall objectively better (especially in South Africa where the Novus Ordo Masses have reached mostly near-sacrilegious levels in most parishes).

    Summorum Pontificum has been dreadfully received in this part of the world. Most other countries have many, many Tridentine Masses available. Not here - there are less than 5 approved in the entire country. England alone, which is an eighth of our size, has around 35 regular parishes. I suspect that a few Bishops are hostile to the Tridentine Mass. What this means is that we must write letters and pray pray pray!

    God bless you! I humbly suggest that for your first 5-6 times at the Tridentine Mass that you don't try to do too much regarding following in a Missal. Just place yourself in the presence of God and prayerfully follow along.