The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) adheres to a form of Traditionalism that undermines the authority of the church hierarchy. Many of their adherents reject Vatican II and some teachings of recent popes.
In many ways, it’s easy to be sympathetic to the SSPX. They rightly decry the liberalism and liturgical abuses that have infiltrated many parishes in the past half-century or so. They defend the enduring value of so much of our great Catholic tradition.
Some of these are doctrinal, which is ironic since the SSPX always talks about how faithful they are to Church’s Tradition.
Here is why the SSPX is not as doctrinally sound as you may think.
They reject certain required teachings.
Pope St. John Paul II’s 1989 Profession of Faith includes propositions that we must accept as Catholics. It includes the three categories of official Church teaching:
- Dogma — That which the Church teaches as revealed truth, which must be believed by a divine and catholic faith.
- Other definitive teachings — These are teachings that must be definitively held (Both this and dogma are considered infallible teachings).
- Nondefinitive, authoritative teachings — These are doctrines that aren’t infallibly defined. As we said in an earlier blog, elements of these teachings may change over time. But they are still authoritatively taught by the Church and require our religious assent of intellect and will.
The SSPX has no issue with the first two categories, but it rejects the third. This is odd since many of the pre-Vatican II popes the SSPX admires also taught that nondefinitive doctrines authoritatively taught by the pope must be accepted by Catholics.
Again, elements of these teachings may change over time, but when they are being taught, we are bound to accept them. Period. This includes the teachings of Vatican II. These teachings may not be infallibly defined, but they are still authoritatively taught.
Many adherents of the SSPX reject Vatican II and the 1989 Profession of Faith, both of which the Church requires us to accept. This makes them doctrinally deficient.
They undermine the legitimate authority of the papacy.
The SSPX is perhaps most infamous for selecting their own bishops contrary to the will of the pope. This behavior goes against divine law. Bishops receive their mission from the pope, not a society acting contrary to him.
The SSPX tries to excuse itself by saying it has an extraordinary mission. It admits that it doesn’t have a canonical or juridical mission. One of its priests even said that the SSPX operates contrary to the will of the princes of the Church.
But in order to have an extraordinary mission, you have to prove it by canonically approved miracles. Plus, extraordinary missions always need to act in consonance with the ordinary mission to be legitimate.
Again, there are many members of the SSPX who have understandable grievances with so many of the abuses we see in the Church today. But this is not an excuse for attacking the lawful authority of the Church established by Christ Himself.
Don’t fall for the claim that the SSPX is merely defending “Tradition.” Few things are as anti-Tradition as rejecting authoritative teachings the Church requires you to submit to.