Bishops of Panama: Catholics Must Not Attend SSPX Masses
Archbishop Lefebvre died in a state of excommunication in 1991 for consecrating four bishops without the approval of Pope John Paul II.
The Panamanian Bishops’ Conference has published a communiqué stating that the Catholic faithful should not attend the services of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (FSSPX or SSPX), whose members are known as Lefebvrists.
In the Sept. 14 statement, posted on X Sept. 16 by the Archdiocese of Panama, the bishops wrote: “We notify the people of God that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre is not in full communion with the Catholic Church, so the Catholic faithful must refrain from attending its services.”
“As for the sacraments administered at their services, the faithful are reminded that to administer sacraments the approval of the bishop or the ecclesial authority is required; and by not having it, these are illicit,” the conference added.
Archbishop Lefebvre died in a state of excommunication in 1991 for consecrating four bishops without the approval of Pope John Paul II. Lefebvre founded the FSSPX as a response to what he considered to be errors that had infiltrated the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council.
In the context of the dialogue between the Vatican and the Lefebvrists, in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Lefebvre in 1988: Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta.
Despite the Holy See’s efforts at dialogue and the society’s refusal to recognize ecclesiastical documents — especially from the Second Vatican Council — the Lefebvrists do not have a recognized status in the Catholic Church.
Traditionis Custodes and the Traditional Latin Mass
The Panamanian bishops clarified: “As for the celebration of the Mass in Latin, we communicate that it is not prohibited in the Catholic Church, but it must be approved by the bishops (Traditiones Custodes, 2) and the use of the Vetus Ordo [Mass in Latin that was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council] can only be authorized by the Holy See.”
The Vatican published the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (“Guardians of Tradition”) by Pope Francis on July 16, 2021. The text almost completely restricts the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (extraordinary form) or Tridentine rite of the 1962 Missal.
With this document, the Holy Father changed the provisions given by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in 2007, which led to the Traditional Latin Mass becoming more widely available.
Traditionis Custodes establishes that the local bishop is the one who authorizes the celebration of the Eucharist with the 1962 Missal. If the priest asking for permission was ordained after the publication of the motu proprio, then it is the Vatican that must give authorization.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was Benedict XVI’s personal secretary beginning in 2003, stated in his memoirs that for the late pontiff, Traditionis Custodes was “a mistake” and that he read the text “with pain in his heart.”
In their statement, the bishops of Panama also reminded that “the celebration of sacraments in places not authorized by the bishop is prohibited.”
The prelates also called on “all the Catholic faithful to value the richness of the current liturgy, enriched by the expression of the people of God, through their own language, as requested by the Council Fathers at the Second Vatican Council and as the universal Church celebrates every day around the world.”