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Italian bishop: faithful who attend SSPX services incur excommunication

November 03, 2014

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Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, has warned that Catholics who attend Mass at chapels staffed by the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) incur excommunication.

The bishop explained that the bishops and priests of the SSPX are suspended from priestly ministry, and therefore when the faithful receive the sacraments from SSPX ministers, they “break communion with the Catholic Church.” The faithful who incur excommunication may be received back into the Church only after a penitential process, the bishop said.

Bishop Semeraro said that in making this announcement, he was only reiterating the policy established by his predecessor, Bishop Dante Bernini, who retired in 1999. Bishop Semeraro acknowledged that in 1999, Pope Benedict XVI had lifted the excommunication of the SSPX bishops. But he observed that their suspension from ministry remains in force.

Bishop Semeraro is the secretary to the Council of Cardinals. His diocese, just outside Rome, encompasses the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.


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  • Posted by: Nuage - Nov. 06, 2014 8:01 AM ET USA

    If a group of Catholic faithful desire the Traditional Latin Mass in any diocese, they have the right to have it, with or without the permission of their bishop. Summorum Pontificum gives all Roman Catholics this right.

  • Posted by: Deo Vindice - Nov. 04, 2014 11:13 AM ET USA

    There is much condemnation towards SSPX with, on some instances, the occasional threat of excommunication. There is also some support, though very little for SSPX in the Church. However, 2 things amaze me in regards to all these threats. 1st, the Vatican is open to and currently moving forward with discussions with SSPX, therefore, there is Vatican show of support for SSPX. 2nd; Pope Francis has not made any decrees in regards to excommunication of SSPX nor has he shown support of it.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Nov. 04, 2014 10:57 AM ET USA

    I suppose most bishops don't have a problem with Protestant groups like the Baptists and Lutherans, except when they claim to be Catholic, like the SSPX does.

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Nov. 04, 2014 10:39 AM ET USA

    The question of the SSPX is a difficult one for me. I think they are unlikely to reconcile with Rome, and would never myself be involved with them. But if the SSPX bishops have been un-excommunicated, it does not seem to make sense to excommunicate the lay folk who attend their services. At the same time, since their confessions and weddings are invalid due to lack of jurisdiction, it is necessary to be clear that faithful Catholics should not partake in these things, short of excommunication.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Nov. 03, 2014 6:50 PM ET USA

    Is there no concern on the part of prelates for that fact that SSPX vocations are growing and new communities are forming within their dioceses? Are parishes closing? Are Catholic souls doing well in the main? Did the pope's worldwide survey provide encouragement? Are Catholics professing and living as Catholics? Can Bishop Semeraro expect even 50% attendance at Sunday Mass? Do those in attendance know the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Is the SSPX a priority in all this? You betcha.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 03, 2014 5:57 PM ET USA

    if the SSPX themselves are not excommunicated in performing the priestly functions that they are not entitled to perform what sense does it make to excommunicate those who merely attend those functions?

  • Posted by: Jason C. - Nov. 03, 2014 5:25 PM ET USA

    Nuage: one example suffices to show how mistaken you are: in **the very diocese this news article is about,** there is not a single Latin Mass other than those offered by the SSPX.

  • Posted by: Nuage - Nov. 03, 2014 3:56 PM ET USA

    Koinonia: There are traditionalist communities and apostolates in every single diocese now, and most Catholic dioceses have multiple trad communities. Catholics NEED NOT separate themselves from the Church to worship in the way you describe. You make a critical point: SSPX parents and clergy are leading their children out of the Church. The penalties for doing so are among the most severe. His Excellency Bishop Semeraro is defending innocent souls. He is to be commended.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Nov. 03, 2014 3:54 PM ET USA

    There can be no question the bishop is right to caution the faithful in this manner. My only disappointment is to know that other seriously in disaccord with the Church, e.g. Catholic pols whose every public act is a searing scandal, continue on their way with nary a word of discouragement from their ordinaries. At times, in fact, we glimpse the prelates glad handing these wayward officials, chatting amiably with them and smiling at their comments, great photo ops that discourage the faithful.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Nov. 03, 2014 3:18 PM ET USA

    The extent of penalty includes minors as well. Very interesting in the context of toleration. These people attend Mass on proscribed dates, they kneel at Mass and family Rosaries, and they reverence the Blessed Sacrament. They (as a rule) confess regularly, dress modestly and oppose the spirit of the world and secularism. They contrast with most Catholics in that they oppose the contraceptive mentality and have large families. They profess the Nicene Creed. Clearly, a disciplinary priority.