In the February issue of the SSPX newsletter Fr Morgan wrote an article on page 26 entitled ‘News from Orkney’ where, speaking of what I wrote in the Catholic (Jan. Feb. March 2009), he says:
“The same editorial denies ‘that the SSPX and its supporters are outside the Church,’ and instead maintains that faithful may attend our Masses in good conscience but ‘without adhering to any schismatic mentality.’ However, in a signed Christmas letter (22/12/08) to the faithful on Stronsay, who, with Fr Nicholas remain committed to the cause of Catholic Tradition and the position of the Society of Saint Pius X, Fr Michael Mary declared that:
-these latter were ‘refusing union with the Roman Pontiff,’ in a state of ‘practical schism,’ and consequently deserving of excommunication’
-that Fr Nicholas’ suspension was valid and binding; and that his regular Confessions were invalid.
-that SSPX sacraments of Confession and Matrimony are invalid.”
To which I reply,
Firstly we want to have good relations if at all possible. It does not help for us to be accused of things that we do not hold; quite simply. Now to take my clarification (which was a reply to an earlier accusation from Fr Morgan) and turn it on me again is simply unhelpful. If traditional priests cannot reach clarity of thought how can it work in the wider Church?
This is what I said in the Editorial and which I maintain as a true expression of my thoughts:
2. Fr Morgan also reports that I openly claim “that the SSPX and its supporters are outside the Catholic Church and in danger of losing their souls.” This is false.
a. I believe that the SSPX as a group of priests are outside the structures of the Church. This is clear. SSPX priests are not submitted to the Holy See, nor to Local Ordinaries or Ordinaries. Objectively this is dangerous to salvation. Subjectively it is another matter.
b. I do not hold any opinion about SSPX supporters (as a group or as individuals) being inside or outside the Church. I have no set opinion about their salvation.
c. I hold that a person may attend Mass in a SSPX chapel in good conscience if he does it without adhering to any schismatic mentality.
In private letters of 22 December, 2008, given to certain Catholics living on Stronsay, I wrote:
It would be of no use to have the Mass without the teachings of the traditional Catholic faith. Remember that one of those teachings is that all Catholics are bound to have true submission to the Roman Pontiff.
Now this is clearly not your case. Our community maintains the traditional Mass and also the full Magisterium of the Church. I and Father Anthony have been given faculties for the administration of the Sacrament of Penance and the public celebration of the Mass both in Papa Stronsay and in our chapel on Stronsay. Therefore, the only reason for the split between you and us is union with the Roman Pontiff.
You have not split because of the traditional Mass. We offer only the traditional Mass.
You have not split because of the traditional teaching of the Church since we preach those truths here, in the Catholic Chapel, on Stronsay.
Be very clear of this, you have split only because you refuse union with the Pope. There can be no other reason.
... Your split is not a formal schism; but it is practical schism; it has torn apart the Catholics in Stronsay. Your group refuses Communion with us; the priests authorised by the Church as well as from the Catholic faithful who receive the sacraments from us. Only the word ‘schism’ accurately describes the external reality and sinfulness of the division that you support...
There is no excuse that could make your division less than schism, because the traditional Mass is offered here every day, so is valid confession and there is no danger to the faith...
There could still be a case for the argument of ‘necessity’ that justifies members of the faithful attending the Mass of a suspended priest. Such a case of necessity is not here on Stronsay ...
In April and May 1996 Bishop Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, excommunicated Catholics who attended the SSPX chapel in his diocese because there was no ‘case of necessity’ since the traditional Mass was freely available to the faithful through his priests and the FSSP. Rome upheld the excommunication. Therefore the SSPX left the diocese because they knew that since there was no ‘necessity’ the excommunication was justified and their ministry was sinful. Be clear that the same lack of necessity applies in Stronsay and the continuation of this division under the same circumstances is gravely sinful and similarly worthy of excommunication because of the unjustifiable damage you are doing to the unity of the Church here.
Dear ......... please return to Mass and the sacraments at Our Lady’s chapel. Surely you will not wound Our Lord by supporting a practical schism that so needlessly deeply divides our Catholic community.
These two statements are compatible since the first is an expression of a general opinion and the second is an assessment of a particular situation which I think is precisely as I state in (c.) above ‘adhering to a schismatic mentality.’
There is a vast difference between our situation in Stronsay and the situation of most SSPX chapels. Stronsay is a small island with less than 20 adults attending Mass on Sunday.
In the Catholic chapel daily Mass is available according to the 1962 Missal exclusively, and Confessions are readily available there by priests who have received faculties from the Local Ordinary. This being the case, there is no legitimate reason for setting up an opposing altar 200 meters away at the island Post Office. This is unjustifiable and makes a mockery of any application of the State of Necessity principle invoked by the SSPX.
This situation is not similar, for example, to the Taunton Mass centre or the Herne chapel where scattered people from near and far attend the SSPX Mass on Sunday because they have no traditional Mass available anywhere else.
The people who have left the Catholic chapel on Stronsay have not done so because they have had ‘liturgical abuses’ imposed upon them, nor because of sermons of any type at all, since they made their departure last November without waiting for the Holy Mass to be offered even once.
As to the statement about the invalidity of SSPX marriages and confessions: it is a judgment of the Holy See; our reference is the Mershon article which can be easily found on the internet.
We hope for a reconciliation between the Society and the Holy See as soon as possible for the good of us all. I take this opportunity to say that I do not want to be involved in an ongoing debate with members of the Society. We have been good friends. We want what has been good in that friendship to continue; - Father, let’s really work at something more constructive.
Fr. Michael Mary, F.SS.R.