There is some confusion in the Catholic world about various groups that have expressed concerns about the Second Vatican Council and some of the fruits of that council and therefore exist in a greater or lesser degree of separation from the Catholic Church.
Before starting let us state what “schismatic” actually means. It means an individual or group that separates themselves from the Church, the mystical body of Christ. This is different from a Heretic which is a person or group that diverges on one or more of the principal church teachings, for example the Arians that did not believe that Jesus had a divine nature, as taught by the Church. Schismatics on the other hand, follow all of the Church’s dogmatic teachings but do not accept the authority of the Holy See.
One such group is the Society of St. Pius X or SSPX. I have often heard it referred to as a “schismatic” group on radio shows and diocesan news articles. In fact its situation is somewhat more complicated. It is a group of priests and bishops that disagree on certain teachings of Vatican II particularly those on religious freedom, and also have issues with the reform of the Mass by Pope Paul VI and instead continue to offer the traditional Mass, often referred to as the Tridentine Mass.
The SSPX are not in fact in schism, which has been reiterated both by the Vatican and by the group themselves. However, their priests though validly ordained do not currently have faculties under Canon law to offer the sacraments. There are differing opinions as to whether attendance at a Mass offered by a SSPX priest satisfies one’s Sunday obligation. Admittedly this is somewhat a moot point here in Lewiston Maine as the nearest SSPX chapel is in Boston at least 3 hours away. As someone with an attachment to the older form of the Mass I find easier opportunities to fulfill this through the Latin Masses offered by the St. Gregory the Great Chaplaincy here in Lewiston and feel no need to attend an SSPX chapel. Not sure what I would do if I were living somewhere where it was the only option for the traditional Mass though.
There are other organizations that should definitely be avoided by faithful Catholics though. The Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI), the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV), and Holy Family Monastery are three that I am aware of. These groups are schismatic as their web sites declare that the Catholic Church is currently Sede Vacante i.e that there is currently no valid Pope, the last one they consider valid being Pope Pius XII, due to the popes starting with John XXII having promulgated or supported the teachings of Vatican II which they consider heretical.
The group CMRI currently advertises in the local paper under the name of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Mission and offers Masses in Hallowell near Augusta. The parish has put notices in the bulletins and on the web site that these masses do not satisfy one’s Sunday obligation and should therefore not be attended with that goal in mind.
It is unfortunate that this situation exists, as well as the longer running division between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox. I hope that the Church moves to clear up confusion over the disputed sections of the Vatican II documents, continues reforms to the Mass of Paul VI began by Pope Benedict XVI with the more accurate translations, and increases availability of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Traditional Latin Mass) and that these efforts will bring the Church back “on course” and will encourage those that have separated themselves to rejoin so that “we all may be one”. (John 17:11)