Clarification from Diocese of Richmond on SP X Seminary

In this week’s Catholic VirginianSeminary:

Diocesan statement regarding article on the Society of St. Pius X

A recent article in the Catholic Virginian on the Society of St. Pius X and the seminary it is constructing in Buckingham County contained inaccuracies.

The article correctly stated that the society was founded in 1970 by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary is one of several seminaries operated by the society. The society is not in regular communion with the Holy See (or the Bishop of Richmond).

These points need to be clarified:
◾The seminary is currently located in Winona, Minnesota and is relocating to Buckingham County. Mass is not regularly offered at the Buckingham location at present.
◾Our former Holy Father, Benedict XVI, never personally declared that doctrinal differences stand in the way of regularizing the canonical status of the society; nonetheless, the regularization has yet to take place.
◾ The Masses offered by priests of the society are valid. Other Sacraments celebrated in the chapels of the society are considered valid, with the exception of Penance and Matrimony, which are, at best, doubtfully valid.
◾ It is not clear that the society is in schism, and it is not properly called a “sect.” In recent years the Holy See has recognized the society’s expressed desire for regular communion with the Roman Pontiff and the Church he shepherds, and the Holy See’s dialogue with the society since 2009 demonstrates the Church’s commitment to unity.

Several additional points should be made when discussing the Society of St. Pius X:
◾ It is necessary to distinguish between the priests, brothers, and sisters of the society, on the one hand; and the lay faithful who attend Mass at society chapels, on the other hand. The former are clearly in an irregular status. In regard to the lay faithful who attend Mass at society chapels, there has never been a statement by the Holy See that these people are in schism. In fact, the Holy See acts toward them as it does toward all the Catholic lay faithful.
◾ It’s also necessary to distinguish between acts that are invalid and those that are illicit. Acts are illicit when they go against the Church’s law. Still, acts that are canonically illicit may be valid, and, in the case of the society, the ministerial acts of their priests may be illicit and still be considered valid by the Church.
◾ Finally, a comment should be made regarding the Sunday Mass obligation of Catholics. The faithful do not properly fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation in chapels of the society, as the celebration of the Eucharist presupposes not only communion with the Lord, but also communion with the Church He founded, and the hierarchy who govern the Church by Divine mandate.

The Church’s unity is best served when the whole truth is communicated. We regret the errors in the article. Let us pray for restoration of the unity of all Christians in Christ, and that the Society of St. Pius X will be reconciled with ecclesiastical authority.



  1. Refreshing — this corrective shows a pastoral approach and being willing to make the corrective shows courage.

  2. German weekly FOCUS reports this Sunday that Archbishop Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wants to break contact with the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). A statement to that effect is about to be published, according to a source of FOCUS within the CDF.

    The reason for ending contacts with the SSPX is the recent declaration of the three SSPX Bishops, in which they not only criticize the texts of Vatican II, but also the Magisterium, “a magisterium resolved to reconcile Catholic doctrine with liberal ideas”. Furthermore, they state that the church is “imbued with this liberal spirit which manifests itself especially in religious liberty, ecumenism, collegiality and the New Mass.”

    According to FOCUS’s source, the reaction of Archbishop Müller was: “That’s it!” (“Jetzt reicht’s!”, i.e., “enough!”)

  3. Perhaps the Diocese did not know about the sspx oficial statement not knowing of their (the sspx) schismatic and indeed heretical statements they made as expressed above and can be officilly found in the sspx own web site:

    Concerning their own statements how can the sspx not only be considered as schismatic but also heretical as well. It is importante to remamber that all their clergy are subject to suspension meaning that they cannot exercise any oficial ministry within the Church and their bishops do not possess any canonical mission in the Church whatsoever meaning that their celebrations of the sacrament of penance and marriage are invalid because they do not have any jurisdiction whatsoever. See:

  4. Vatican II’s concept of the Church clearly would include the chapels of the SSPX because their priests have valid orders. They have more in common with us than do the Eastern Orthodox. I’d suggest that we have more doctrinal and disciplinary agreement with the SSPX than we do with some progressive communities..

  5. Edson,
    The diocese of Friburg is not the whole Church nor is it the last word since the bishop of Gap (France) does seem to allow the use of his diocesan churches by the SSPX when the situation warrants it. They’ve also celebrated Mass publicly at Catholic pilgrimage sites, e.g. Lisieux. They are given permission to do so by local bishops.

  6. In May, 2011, Vatican Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi reaffirmed the March 2009 statement made by Pope Benedict XVI: “As long as the Society [of St. Pius X] does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church…Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers…do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

  7. The SSPX now has close links with the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat, led by Father Basil Kovpak, a priest formerly of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church who was definitively excommunicated from the Catholic Church in November 2007[34] after having Bishop Richard Williamson of the SSPX illicitly ordain two priests and seven deacons for his society in violation of canons 1015 §1 and 1017 of the Code of Canon Law.


  8. I hope my posting clered the canonical situation up for you all and including for the Dicoese of Richmond who no doubt was unaware of them.

  9. This retraction by the Diocese of Richmond intrigued me enough to worship at the SSPX Our Lady of Fatima Chapel (OLFC) in the East End of Richmond on Sunday. As a political radical who collects monographs, it was refreshing to see a well stocked book store at OLFC. It was a low mass, which I didn’t expect; that was a recent change for the last weekend of each month. I wonder how the new seminary in Buckingham will affect OLFC. Father Christopher Pieroni, SSPX flys in from Saint Loius weekly.

    • It wasn’t a ‘retraction’ by the Diocese of Richmond, Brady as you suggest. Far from it. It was merely a clarification of the facts and ‘facts’ they needed have had ‘clarified’ too !

  10. A question for the community:

    Is there a summary of how His Excellency Bishop Sullivan, a Jadot Bishop, came to allow Saint Joseph in Bon Aire to offer the Tridentine Mass as early as 1992, well before Summorum Pontificum? One wouldn’t think a modernist bishop would grant a traditionalist request like this.

    • At the time, it was suggested that Bishop Sullivan’s intent was to gather all the cranks in one box.

    • The church in Bon Air was bought specifically for or by the group of traditionalists who broke off from the sspx (Fatima chapel) and returned to the diocese. I don’t see a problem with a modernist bishop to allow this Mass… After all, he’s a bishop for all his parishioners. Right?

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