Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Search the Remnant Newspaper
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Limits to Ecumenical Outreach: Bishop Zubik and the SSPX

Rate this item
(43 votes)
Bishop David Zubik Bishop David Zubik

Bishop David Zubik is a good man, reportedly one of the better bishops in the country in fact. He has been an outspoken opponent of homosexual “marriage”; he has prayed the rosary in front of abortion clinics; he’s even gone on the record opposing Common Core.

Because he’s a good man we’re confident he must be concerned when members of the Catholic faithful become confused and scandalized by something his chancery office has done.

A bit of background: Last week we reported that Bishop Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh encouraged the Catholic faithful of Pittsburgh to join him in joining hands with Billy Graham's son, Franklin, for the recent 3-day praise and song festival in Pittsburgh—the Three Rivers Festival of Hope at which “altar calls” and “forgiveness of sins” by Protestant ministers were reportedly part of the program.


We posted video of the Bishop in attendance at the gathering and in fact praying with the Protestant attendees (though electing not to make the Sign of the Cross onstage), asking God to bless them but saying nothing about any need for them to convert to the Catholic Church.

We also reported that a few days later Bishop Zubik’s office released a sternly-worded letter of warning against any association on the part of Pittsburgh’s faithful with the Society of St. Pius X, which had recently purchased an old Catholic church in downtown Pittsburgh with the intention of restoring it and reopening it for use by Catholics rather than Muslims, for a change.

Bishop Zubik let it be known that he was not happy that the old church had been spared the wrecking ball or worse in this manner, and instead determined to admonish the faithful to stay away from the SSPX and their recently acquired building because the Society is “separated from the Catholic Church.”

Conspicuous by their absence from the diocesan letter of warning, however, were any expressions of love, hoped for reconciliation, willingness to dialogue, or words of kindness or solidarity with the souls attached to the SSPX. Nothing! Just: “SSPX, BAD! Stay away!”

And this is part of a bizarre pattern on the part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In an earlier “official statement” regarding the status of the SSPX’s Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in Collier Township, the faithful were informed that the SSPX Masses do not fulfill Sunday obligation (a contention that contradicts several statements from the Vatican, including not a few issued by the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission), that participation at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel implies “separation from the Catholic Church” and results in “ex-communication from the Catholic Church” and the “subsequent denial of Christian burial from the Catholic Church.”

Now, isn’t this the intolerant attitude of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition (at least the Inquisition about which the revisionists like to tell their lies) for which the modern Catholic Church never ceases to apologize? How peculiar, then, that at a time when “getting along” and “understanding differences” and celebrating “diversity” mean everything, Pittsburgh’s bishop does not think to reach out to members of his flock in the SSPX in a more sensitive and caring manner. Where is the compassion? Could it possibly be that the only group not worthy of compassion and ecumenical outreach in Pittsburgh are traditional Catholics who have questioned not one jot or tittle of Catholic dogma but who still find themselves suffering under a temporary interdict for holding fast to tradition and the Latin liturgy?

Even if the SSPX is wrong to do what it is doing—proceeding without the proper paperwork, as it were—are the priests and faithful really less deserving of Catholic outreach and compassion than Protestants, Muslims and Jews? After all, even non-Catholics and those who’ve committed suicide are offered Christian burial in the modern Catholic Church these days…. But not the folks in the SSPX? No Christian burial for them, even though they are all baptized Catholics, accept the pontificate of Pope Francis and question not a single dogma of the Catholic Faith? This seems a bit over the top, no?

Special Offer. . . Right now The Remnant's E-edition (comes out every two weeks and is exactly the same as our print edition) is available for just $25!   

Order your e-subscription today and see what everyone is talking about!


As an outside observer—I’m neither from Pittsburgh nor affiliated with the SSPX in any way—I fail to understand how Catholics with a temporary irregular canonical status (an in-house dispute that “does not rise to the level of schism and will be resolved in good time”

; they pray for the Pope at every Mass; they question not a single dogma of the Faith; one of their priests offered Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome last month (with permission); and this month the Superior General of the SSPX was invited to visit the head of the CDF in Rome to discuss the doctrinal issues that form the bone of contention between the SSPX and the Vatican. Bishop Fellay accepted the invitation without hesitation. Say what you will about the SSPX but if this is "schism" it's the weirdest one in history.

One would think, given all these facts about the SSPX, that the Diocese of Pittsburgh might see the prudence of curbing its enthusiasm when it comes to issuing melodramatic condemnations worthy of Tomas de Torquemada. One need not be a partisan of the SSPX to recognize how bizarre it is that the only religious group in Pittsburgh still deserving of the anathema sit (discarded for use with everyone else back in 1983) are Roman Catholics who recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday morning and mean every word of it.

At the end of the day, treating our own in this manner, even if and when they are misguided or mistaken, seems eminently counterproductive. There must be a way for the Pittsburgh Diocese to reach out to the SSPX without coming off like ecclesial bullies with an axe to grind. Besides, if this is the way we publicly treat our own is it any wonder the Orthodox seem less than enthusiastic about rebuilding the eastern bridge over the Tiber?

A bridge-building church leader such as Bishop Zubik can do better than this, and we’re asking him to re-evaluate the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s intolerant position against Catholics associated with the Society of St. Pius X.

Photo 1

Bishop David Zubik and Rabbi Aaron Bisno pray together in Jerusalem during a pilgrimage that brought 28 local Catholics and Jews to Rome and Israel.


Photo 2

Via Della Conciliazione, Start of the Procession to enter St Peter's Basilica: Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General leads the SSPX Pilgrimage to Rome in 2000.








Last modified on Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Michael J. Matt | Editor

Michael J. Matt has been an editor of The Remnant since 1990. Since 1994, he has been the newspaper's editor. A graduate of Christendom College, Michael Matt has written hundreds of articles on the state of the Church and the modern world. He is the host of The Remnant Underground and Remnant TV's The Remnant Forum. He's been U.S. Coordinator for Notre Dame de Chrétienté in Paris--the organization responsible for the Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres, France--since 2000.  Mr. Matt has led the U.S. contingent on the Pilgrimage to Chartres for the last 24 years. He is a lecturer for the Roman Forum's Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera, Italy. He is the author of Christian Fables, Legends of Christmas and Gods of Wasteland (Fifty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and regularly delivers addresses and conferences to Catholic groups about the Mass, home-schooling, and the culture question. Together with his wife, Carol Lynn and their seven children, Mr. Matt currently resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.