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The SSPX and the 'official' Church

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 08, 2012

How ironic it is that Bishop Bernard Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) refers to the Vatican as “the official Church.”

Did you notice? “So the attitude of the official Church is what changed; we did not.” And again: “The official authorities do not want to acknowledge the errors of the Council.”

The irony is that in China, the “official Church” is the term used for the Catholic congregations operating with the approval of the government, whereas those who remain loyal to the Holy See constitute the “underground” or “unofficial” Church.

The comparison is far from exact, since in China the “official” Church resists the authority of Rome, whereas the SSPX resists the authority of the “official Church.” Yet there are valid points of comparison as well:

  • In each case, a group resisting the authority of the Vatican is led by bishops who have been illicitly ordained.
  • In each case the breakaway group claims that the authority of the Vatican must be subordinated to another authority. In China, that “higher” authority is the Communist Party; in Écone it is Tradition, as interpreted by the SSPX.
  • In each case Pope Benedict is working valiantly to bridge the divide, and bring all Catholics together into the one undivided Church.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jun. 09, 2012 9:45 AM ET USA

    The question remains, do we really desire unity, and if we do..., how much are we really willing to sacrafice for it? The SSPX gives a discerning Catholic any number of stones to throw at them... The question again, is that we want to do? "O Father grant that I may never seek, so much to be understood as to understand..." The Prayer of St Francis Let us, like Francis, seek the impossible, and not be satisfied with "justice.." JP

  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Jun. 08, 2012 10:04 PM ET USA

    The comparison doesn't fly Contrary1995. The LCWR are still in good standing, still "in full communion" with Rome while the SSPX, according to the Holy Father, "have no legitimate ministry within the Church" even though they deny no dogma of the Catholic faith. Strange times we live in...

  • Posted by: Contrary1995 - Jun. 08, 2012 5:30 PM ET USA

    The members of the SSPX have willingly separated themselves from Rome without any intimidation by an authoritarian state. The members of the SSPX, like the LCWR, inhabit a fantasy world of their own making: that is Augustine's very definition of the state of sin.