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Articles: SSPX: Society of St. Pius X

Letter to Ten-Year-Olds Who Just Want to Be Confirmed
Rev. Anthony Cekada

INTRODUCTORY NOTE: In the 1980s, the District Superior of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) in the U.S., Fr. François Laisney,  laid down the rule that if a child coming from a chapel operated by ex-SSPX clergy wished to wished to receive confirmation, the child would have to sign a lengthy "Declaration."

Dear Children:

      You know how hard it is to be a good Catholic and to do what Jesus wants. You have to work a lot to learn your catechism. You have to stand up for your faith when other children your age want to do something bad. You have to get up very early every Sunday and ride a long way with Mom and Dad to get to Mass.

      Now you'd like to be confirmed, so you can be "a strong and perfect Christian, and soldier of Jesus Christ." Since you can't receive Confirmation at the chapel where I say Mass, Mom and Dad took you over to another chapel where a bishop will come to confirm. The priest there, and the bishop who will confirm you, belong to an organization called "The Society of St. Pius X."

      All the Catholic Church requires for Confirmation is that you know your catechism. But the Society of St. Pius X is different. Since you usually come to church where I say Mass, the Society of St. Pius X wants you to sign a special "Declaration" before they will let you be confirmed. The Declaration is two pages long, typed and single-spaced - a lot to read if you're ten!  It contains some long Latin phrases and many things which are hard for you to figure out. Don't feel bad, though! I studied for twelve years to be a priest, and I can't figure out a lot of things in the Declaration either!

      Let's look at some of the things in the Declaration the Society of St. Pius X asked you to sign and see if we can figure them out together! Here's how it begins:

I, _________, the undersigned, wholeheartedly agree and adhere to all and each of the following catholic principles (and historical facts):

      Hard to understand, right? Not even I know how someone can "agree and adhere" to a "historical fact"! Facts are just there - whether a person wants to "agree and adhere" to them or not! And I'll bet you're wondering about the word "historical," too. You've only studied a year or two of history in grade school so far, and think, "Gee, how can I know what's historical? I'm only a kid!"

To depart from these moral virtues under the pretext of fidelity to the Faith when Faith is not at stake, is in fact a departure from Catholic Tradition.

      Sort of confusing!  Makes a person think he can "depart from these moral virtues" when fidelity to the faith is at stake. But even a very young Catholic knows you can't do that!

Among the evangelical counsels, which the religious make profession to practice, the most important is that of obedience. Humility is an essential virtue of capital importance to the religious life.

      No, you haven't forgotten something. There was nothing in your confirmation catechism about how members of religious orders (nuns and brothers) take vows. Bet you're surprised you have to know that to get confirmed!

So the Tradition of the Church is the transmission of the spirit of Faith "in eodem sensu et eadem sententia".

      Hard to know if you "adhere and agree" to that or not, since it's Latin and you won't be studying Latin till you're in junior high! (Maybe, though, if you're an altar boy, you can at least learn how to pronounce it.)

Popes and bishops introduced many things in the Liturgy in the first thousand years. Almost ALL the Popes after Pope St. Pius V have used this power, either to introduce new propers. to change propers, . to add to the common of the Mass such as the prayers after low Mass..

      You're thinking: What question was this in my catechism? Will it be on the test?  And if you're one of my altar boys, you're wondering: What's the common of the Mass? Is it like the Ordinary or the Proper? Is there a new part I don't know about?

. St. Pius X . made even more drastic changes in the Breviary, which is an essential part of the Catholic Liturgy, in which he cut more than 40 psalms in more than 120 pieces!

      Very confusing if you're ten! What's a Breviary? Why do I have to agree that St. Pius X changed it if I want to get confirmed? What's a Psalm?  Are Psalms in the Liturgy or the Breviary? Was each Psalm cut up "in more than 120 pieces"?

The rubrics prepared by Pope Pius XII and promulgated by Pope John XXIII, in which no one word of the Proper of the Mass has been changed, are in perfect conformity with the Catholic faith.

      Father is confused by this too! Rubrics "prepared" by one pope and "promulgated" by another? What does that mean? Did Pope Pius prepare the "rubrics" all by himself? And those who are not altar boys wonder: What are "rubrics"? Were they in the confirmation catechism? 

The spirit of "independence" is not a catholic spirit; faithful must be subject to a priest; priests must be subject to a bishop, and the bishops must be subject to the Pope.

      Mom and Dad probably wonder about this too, since this doesn't sound like the Society of St. Pius X they  know - where priests are superiors to bishops, and where bishops, instead of being "subject to the Pope," are excommunicated by him. The Society of St. Pius X sounds pretty independent, doesn't it?

The (1917) Canon Law explicitly says: quemlibet clericum oportet esse vel alicui diocesi vel alicui religioni adscriptum, ita ut clerici vagi nullatenus admittantur. (Can 111) "independent priests (who do not belong to any diocese nor any religious society) are absolutely not admissible". Prima Sedes a nemine judicatur (Can 1556). The pope is judged by no-one (here below). No one is entitled to set himself as judge of the Pope.. In case of doubt, the benefit of doubt should be given to the authority. Prayers for him are more useful than criticisms.

      Still more Latin! (I'll bet Mom and Dad didn't have to sign declarations with Latin and Canon Law quotes when they were confirmed.) And still more confusion: Does this mean that when the Society of St. Pius X called the pope "an antichrist," it wasn't judging him? Was it giving him "the benefit of the doubt"? Was this really a prayer for him, instead of a criticism? What do you think?

Under the Pope. the Bishops in good standing are the successors of the Apostles; they are the Ecclesia Docens (Teaching Church) while priests and faithful are Ecclesia Discens  (Taught Church).

      And again more Latin! Is the bishop who will confirm you "under the Pope . . . in good standing"? If you wrote to the Vatican, what would they say?

.   .   .   .   .

      So, I guess you're wondering: If the Declaration is so confusing, why does the Society of St. Pius X want me, a ten-year-old, to sign it before I get confirmed? As you get older, I think, you will understand.

      The Catholic Church is in very bad shape. Only a handful of priests and laymen have remained faithful to the Church's teachings and traditions, but no bishop, priest or group of priests has any real authority (authority from a pope) to guide all these people and to make decisions which all Catholics have to follow. So Catholics just have to try to do the best they can.

      Sometimes, though, someone will come up with a theory or opinion which he thinks every Catholic must accept as true, or part of the faith - even though it's just his own idea. He then wants to force every other Catholic in the world to do or believe exactly what he says. He may even believe that his idea, or his group, is the only hope for the Catholic Church in these difficult times.

      I call this the "Follow me or die!" approach to our faith. It says: If you don't follow the idea of Father X or Bishop Y or the Society of Z exactly (on the pope or the Mass or canon law, for example) you can't even think you're a Catholic, much less expect them to give you the sacraments.

      The two-page Declaration the Society of St. Pius X wants you to sign would have been a lot easier for you and your parents to understand (and a lot more honest), if it had read simply: "Follow us or die!" (The Society could have even put it in Latin: Aut sequi, aut mori!)  In other words: "Accept all our opinions, even if they make no sense, or even if you can't understand them, and sign on the dotted line, because we've  got it all figured out! Reject them and forget about getting the sacraments from us."  Sad to say, the Society isn't the only group that works this way.

      But don't worry too much about all this now. By praying hard and studying your faith, God will help you to understand things better one day, and He will grant you the grace to be a faithful soldier of His Son.

God bless you!

- Father Cekada

(March 1990)

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