Society of Saint Pius X

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The Society of Saint Pius X
Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X
Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Pii X
Héraldique meuble Coeur vendéen.svg
Abbreviation SSPX
Motto Christus vincit!
Christus regnat!
Christus imperat!

(Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!)
Formation 1970
Type Society of Apostolic Life
Legal status Canonically irregular; delegated jurisdiction for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Matrimony
Headquarters Menzingen, Switzerland
935 (612 priests)
Superior General
Bishop Bernard Fellay
Key people
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre – founder, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta

The Society of Saint Pius X (Latin: Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Pii X; also known as the SSPX or the FSSPX) is an international priestly fraternity founded in 1970 by the French Roman Catholic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The society is known for rejecting many of the ecclesiastical reforms both influenced or institutionalized by the Second Vatican Council with the claim of maintaining orthodoxy and doctrinal purity among its followers. The present Superior General of the Society is Bishop Bernard Fellay.

Tensions between the society and the Holy See reached their height in 1988, when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II, resulting in a declaration of excommunication against the bishops who consecrated or were consecrated. However, the excommunication was removed in January 2009[1] with a hope expressed that all members of the society would quickly return to full communion.[2]

In recent years, the Society has seen a growing recognition of its sacramental and pastoral activities by the Holy See. The Holy See extended, on 20 November 2016, permanent canonical recognition to confessions heard by Society priests (Misericordia et Misera, 12)[3] and later, on 4 April 2017, also recognized marriages witnessed by priests of the Society.[4] The significance of these recognitions is that, unique among the sacraments of the Catholic Church, both confession and marriage require canonical jurisdiction for their validity (it was a long-standing contention by the Society's critics that neither of these sacraments could be received by a Society priest, due to defect-of-form).[5] In addition, the Vatican named Bishop Fellay judge in a canonical trial against one of the Society's priests.[6]

Foundation and early history[edit]

Lefebvre, the society's founder, celebrating Tridentine Mass.

Like the Traditionalist Catholic movement in general, the SSPX was born out of opposition to changes in the Catholic Church that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). The founder and central figure of the society was the French prelate Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who had previously served the Catholic Church as apostolic delegate to French-speaking Africa, Archbishop of Dakar, and superior general of the Holy Ghost Fathers, a missionary order of priests. In May 1970, shortly after his retirement as Vicar General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, Lefebvre was approached by 11 French seminarians in Rome, who were criticized for their adherence to the traditional doctrines of the Catholic Church. They sought Lefebvre's advice on a conservative seminary where they could complete their studies.[7] He directed them to the still conservative University of Fribourg, in Switzerland. But soon, the University had become as liberal as anywhere else.

In late 1970, at age 65, urged by the Abbot of the Abbey of Hauterive and Dominican theologian Father Marie-Dominique Philippe to teach the seminarians personally, Lefebvre, feeling too old to undertake such a large project, told them he would visit François Charrière, Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, with a request to set up a religious society. He told them, if he said to go through with it, he would see in it a sign of Divine Providence. Charrière granted Lefebvre's request and, with a document predated by six days to 1 November 1970, he established the Society of St. Pius X as a pia unio (Latin, for "pious, or holy, union") on a provisional (ad experimentum) basis for six years. Pia unio status was the first stage through which a Catholic organisation passed prior to gaining official recognition as a religious institute or society of apostolic life. (Since 1983, the term "association of the faithful" has replaced "pia unio".) The Society of Saint Pius X was formally founded, adhering to all canonical norms, and receiving the episcopal blessing and encouragement of the local ordinary. Some Swiss laymen offered the seminary at Ecône to the newly formed group, and in 1971 the first 24 candidates entered, followed by a further 32 in October 1972.[8]

Normally, after a suitable period of experience and consultation with the Holy See, a bishop would raise a pia unio to official status at diocesan level. Lefebvre attempted to bypass this stage, and contacted three different Vatican departments in order to secure early recognition for his society. He succeeded in obtaining a letter of encouragement from Cardinal John Joseph Wright, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, but there was no approval from the Vatican congregation responsible for raising an association to the level desired by Lefebvre. Cardinal Wright's letter, dated 18 February 1971, said with regard to the field of competence of Cardinal Wright's own Congregation, that the association "will be able to contribute much to accomplishing the plan drawn up by this Congregation for worldwide sharing of clergy". Cardinal Wright was still recommending prospective seminarians to apply to Écône as late as 1973.[9]

The establishment of the SSPX was unwelcome to a number of churchmen, most notably to the French bishops, whose theological outlook was quite different from that of Lefebvre and who had important connections with the Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State, Jean-Marie Villot. Much of the tension between Lefebvre and his critics must be seen in the context of long-term theological, cultural and political divisions between opposing elements of French society. According to Michael Davies, a defender of Lefebvre, at the meeting of the French episcopal conference at Lourdes in 1972, the seminary at Écône acquired the nickname "le séminaire sauvage" – the "wildcat seminary",[9] and by November 1974 the French episcopate had indicated that they would not incardinate any of Lefebvre's priests in their dioceses. They also publicly criticised Catholics who remained attached to the Tridentine Mass.[10] By this time, the SSPX had opened additional seminaries in Armada, Michigan, (1973) and in Rome (1974).

The Society's first seminary, in Écône, Switzerland.

The first sign of intervention by curial authorities was a meeting held in the Vatican on 26 March 1974. By June 1974, a commission of cardinals had been formed to inquire into the SSPX. The cardinals decided that a canonical visitation of the seminary should be undertaken and, from 11–13 November 1974, two Belgian priests carried out a visitation. Franz Schmidberger, later superior general of the Society in 1990, said that their report was favourable.[11] However, the seminarians and staff at Écône judged some theological opinions that the two priests expressed there to be excessively liberal and greatly shocking. In what he later described as a mood of "doubtlessly excessive indignation", Lefebvre wrote a "Declaration" in which he strongly attacked what he considered to be liberal trends apparent in the contemporary Church, which (he said) were "clearly evident" in the Council and in the reforms that had followed.[12] This document was leaked and published in January 1975, in the French Traditionalist Catholic journal Itinéraires.

By now, Lefebvre was in serious difficulties.[8] In January 1975, Monsignor Pierre Mamie, the Bishop of Fribourg, wrote to Rome stating his intention to withdraw the pia unio status that his predecessor had granted. In the same month, Lefebvre was asked by the cardinals to come to the Vatican. He met with them twice, on 13 February and 3 March. To Lefebvre's declared surprise, the meetings were hostile in tone: at one point a French cardinal, Gabriel-Marie Garrone, reportedly called him a "fool".[8]

On 6 May 1975, with the approval of the cardinals, Bishop Mamie withdrew the SSPX's pia unio status. Lefebvre instructed his lawyer to lodge appeals and he ultimately petitioned the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court of the Catholic Church, which turned down the complaint. From this point onwards, the SSPX was no longer recognised as an organisation within the Catholic Church.

An SSPX Priest and altar server. Pictured are a red-veiled tabernacle[13] and the priest's black biretta,[14] features of the pre-1965 pious devotional practice for hundreds of years.[15]

Lefebvre and the leadership of the society have always maintained that he was treated unfairly by the Roman Curia, that the suppression of the SSPX was unjust and also that the procedures followed in its suppression violated the provisions of the Code of Canon Law.

The SSPX continued to operate in spite of its dissolution. In the consistory of 24 May 1976, Pope Paul VI rebuked Archbishop Lefebvre by name – reportedly the first time in 200 years that a pope had publicly reprimanded a Catholic bishop – and appealed to him and his followers to change their minds.[16]

Lefebvre announced that he intended to confer ordination on some of his students at the end of June 1976. On 12 June 1976, the Nuncio in Switzerland was given instructions to inform Lefebvre that, by special order of Pope Paul VI, he was forbidden to do so.[17][18] On 25 June 1976, Archbishop Giovanni Benelli, the deputy Secretary of State, wrote directly to Lefebvre, confirming, by special mandate of the Pope, the prohibition to administer the holy orders, and warning him of the canonical penalties for Lefebvre himself and those whom he would ordain.[17][19] Lefebvre ignored the warnings, and went ahead with the ordinations on 29 June 1976.

In the sermon that he delivered on that occasion, Lefebvre explicitly recognized the possibility that he himself would be struck with suspension and the new priests with an irregularity that should theoretically prevent them from saying Mass.[20] On the next day, 1 July 1976, the Press Office of the Holy See declared that in accordance with canon 2373 of the then Code of Canon Law, Lefebvre was automatically suspended for one year from conferring ordination, and that those whom he had ordained were automatically suspended from the exercise of the order received. It was also announced that the Holy See was examining Lefebvre's disobedience to the orders of the Pope that were communicated by the above-mentioned letters of the Secretariat of State dated 12 and 15 June 1976.[17][21]

On 11 July 1976, Lefebvre signed a certificate of receipt of a letter from Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, intimating to him a canonical warning that further penalties would be inflicted on him in accordance with canon 2331 §1 of the then Code of Canon Law concerning obstinate disobedience to legitimate precepts or prohibitions of the Roman Pontiff, unless within ten days of receipt of the letter he took steps "to repair the scandal caused". In a letter of 17 July to Pope Paul VI, Lefebvre declared that he judged his action of 29 June to be legitimate. The Pope considered this response inadequate and on his instructions the Congregation for Bishops, on 22 July 1976, suspended Lefebvre for an indefinite time from all exercise of holy orders- he could not confer any of the Sacraments, save Reconciliation or Baptism in a dire emergency (suspension "a divinis").[22]

1988 Écône consecrations[edit]

A central controversy surrounding the SSPX concerns the consecration by Archbishop Lefebvre and a Brazilian bishop, Antônio de Castro Mayer, of four SSPX priests as bishops in 1988 in violation of the orders of Pope John Paul II.

By 1987, Archbishop Lefebvre was 81. At that point, if Lefebvre had died, the SSPX would have become dependent upon non-SSPX bishops to ordain future priests – and Lefebvre did not regard them as properly reliable and orthodox. In June 1987, Lefebvre announced his intention to consecrate a successor to the episcopacy. He implied that he intended to do this with or without the approval of the Holy See.[23] Under canons 1013 and 1382 of the Catholic Code of Canon Law, the consecration of a bishop requires papal approval. Consecration of bishops without papal approval had been condemned by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Ad Apostolorum principis, which described the sacramental activity of bishops who had been consecrated without such approval as "gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious".[24] The Roman authorities were unhappy with Lefebvre's plan, but they began discussions with him and the SSPX which led to the signing on 5 May 1988, of a skeleton agreement between Lefebvre and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the future Pope Benedict XVI.

On Pope John Paul II's instructions, Cardinal Ratzinger replied to Lefebvre on 30 May, insisting on observance of the agreement of 5 May and adding that, if Lefebvre carried out unauthorized consecrations on 30 June, the promised authorization for the ordination to the episcopacy would not be granted.

On 3 June, Lefebvre wrote from Écône, stating that he intended to proceed. On 9 June, the Pope replied with a personal letter, appealing to him not to proceed with a design that "would be seen as nothing other than a schismatic act, the theological and canonical consequences of which are known to you". Lefebvre did not reply and the letter was made public on 16 June. For the first time the Holy See stated publicly that Lefebvre was in danger of being excommunicated.

On 30 June 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre proceeded to ordain to the episcopate four priests of the SSPX. Monsignor Antônio de Castro Mayer, the retired Bishop of Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil, assisted in the ceremony. Those consecrated as Bishops were: Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Alfonso de Galarreta, and Richard Williamson.

The following day, the Congregation for Bishops issued a decree declaring that Archbishop Lefebvre and the four newly ordained bishops had incurred the automatic canonical penalty of excommunication reserved to the Holy See.[25] On the following day, 2 July, Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter known as Ecclesia Dei in which he condemned the Archbishop's action.[26] The Pope stated that, since schism is defined in the Code of Canon Law as "withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him" (canon 751),[27] the consecration "constitute[d] a schismatic act", and that, by virtue of canon 1382 of the Code,[28] it entailed ipso facto excommunication for all the bishops involved.

Lefebvre argued that his actions had been necessary because the traditional form of the Catholic faith and sacraments would become extinct without traditionalist clergy to pass them on to the next generation. He called the ordinations "opération survie" ("Operation Survival"), citing in his defense canons 1323 and 1324 of the Code of Canon Law, the first of which says that "a person who acted coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or due to necessity or grave inconvenience unless the act is intrinsically evil or tends to the harm of souls" is not subject to penalty for violating a law or precept, while the other says "the perpetrator of a violation is not exempt from a penalty, but the penalty established by law or precept must be tempered or a penance employed in its place if the delict was committed ... by a person who thought in culpable error that one of the circumstances mentioned in can. 1323, nn. 4 or 5 was present".[29]

Some members of the SSPX disassociated themselves from the Society as a result of Lefebvre's actions and, with the approval of the Holy See, formed a separate society called the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

Canonical situation[edit]

The canonical situation of the SSPX and of its clergy has been the subject of controversy since the 1988 Écône consecrations.

The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei stated in 2008: "The priests of the Society of St. Pius X are validly ordained, but suspended, that is prohibited from exercising their priestly functions [...] Concretely, this means that the Masses offered by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X are valid, but illicit, i.e., contrary to Canon Law. The Sacraments of Penance and Matrimony, however, require that the priest enjoys the faculties of the diocese or has proper delegation. Since that is not the case with these priests, these sacraments are invalid. It remains true, however, that, if the faithful are genuinely ignorant that the priests of the Society of St. Pius X do not have proper faculty to absolve, the Church supplies these faculties so that the sacrament is valid (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 144)."[30]

On 10 March 2009, Pope Benedict XVI stated: "The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society [of St Pius X] does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries within the Church. [...] In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church."[31]

In 2011, Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university in Rome, said that, for Catholics, assistance at Mass celebrated by priests of the Society is not necessarily a sin: "It would only become so if a person attended this Mass with the deliberate intention of separating himself from communion with the Pope and those in communion with him." However, he concluded: "Only if there is objectively no alternative should one attend the Mass celebrated by a priest from the Society of St. Pius X. If one has to do so, then I would say that one may go in good conscience." He added: "At the same time, it is our ardent prayer and desire, as it should be for all Catholics, that the doctrinal issues with the Society of St. Pius X will be resolved as soon as possible so that these priests may return to full communion and canonical good standing within the Church."[30]

On 1 September 2015, while saying nothing of the canonical status of the Society itself, Pope Francis "establish[ed] that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach [its priests] to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins."[32][33] He thus granted them the faculty, which can be given by the law itself or by the competent authority, needed for exercising validly in this sacrament the power of orders.[34] On the conclusion of the Holy Year of Mercy, on 20 November 2016, Pope Francis, again without saying anything of the Society as such, but "trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with< God's help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church", extended for them this faculty "until further provisions are made".[35]

On 27 March 2017, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicated that Pope Francis had decided to grant local ordinaries the right to give to a priest in good standing the faculty to preside at the marriage of followers of the Society, immediately after which they will participate in a Mass celebrated by an SSPX priest, or, if no priest in good standing can receive the consent of the couple, to give the faculty instead to an SSPX priest. This document explicitly states that the Society itself remains irregular.[36]

In connection with these two sacraments, priests of the Society are thus granted faculties through an act of delegation by the competent authority:[37] by Pope Francis for the valid exercise of the sacrament of orders in the sacrament of penance; by the local bishop for canonical assistance (which does not always require holy orders)[38] at the sacrament of marriage, of which the couple themselves are the ministers.[39]


When told by a journalist of InfoVaticana, a provider of religious information founded in Madrid in October 2013,[40] that what Pope Francis had decided in March 2017 was instead that, "from now on, the weddings celebrated by the priests from the FSSPX are going to be recognised", Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who had not seen the actual document, remarked: "That is a very significant action of the Holy Father, and it also indicates that in some way there must be a reconciliation of the FSSPX because basically what the Pope is saying is that the priests in this society, when they witness marriages, are exercising jurisdiction in the Roman Catholic Church."[41] In reality, it is local ordinaries, not the Society, that in the document are authorized, if they wish, to delegate jurisdiction to SSPX priests to assist canonically at some marriages.

The Society's view is that, before Pope Francis's authorizations, their priests held "supplied" jurisdiction (power of governance) for confessions and marriages. They received this supplied jurisdiction by law and not "by delegation or by mandate of the Sovereign Pontiff or the diocesan bishops or of regularly appointed parish priests".[42][43][44]

Since the grants by Pope Francis, the Society says, its priests have or can have ordinary jurisdiction for the sacraments of confession and marriage. It adds that, in cases where a diocesan bishop refuses to grant delegation for a marriage, SSPX priests can still use extraordinary jurisdiction.[45]

SSPX today[edit]

As of March 2017,[46] the Society has 612 priests present in 37 countries and active in 35 more, 772 Mass centers, 165 priories, 116 religious brothers, 195 religious sisters, 79 oblates, 204 seminarians in six seminaries, 36 pre-seminarians, more than 100 schools, 7 nursing homes, 4 Carmelite convents, 17 Missionary Sisters of Kenya, and 2 university-level institutes.

The Society is divided into two classes of territorial units called districts and autonomous houses, each headed by a superior. An autonomous house may become a district after three priories have been established within its jurisdiction.[47] The most recent organizational addition of the Society is the Autonomous House of Brazil, formed from territory taken from the District of South America, erected on 19 March 2017.[48] Over 120 of the Society's priests are stationed in the District of France.[49] If the Society's canonical situation were to be regularized, it would be the Church's 4th largest society of apostolic life (similar to a religious order, but without vows), according to the three criteria published annually in Annuario Pontificio: Number of erected houses (median 31; SSPX 165), number of members in the society (median 229; SSPX 945), and number of priests in the society (median 149; SSPX 613).[50]

The Society is currently sub-divided into 14 districts, and 4 autonomous houses:[51]

District or Autonomous House Priories Chapels Schools Retreat
District of Africa 7 23 2
District of Asia 6 39 2
District of Australia
(also Oceania)
7 38 4
District of Austria 4 16
District of Belgium-Netherlands 3 8 1
District of Canada 6 30 3 1
District of France 44 109 47 4
District of Germany 13 29 4 1
District of Great Britain
(also Scandinavia)
7 31 1
District of Italy 4 16 1
District of Mexico-Guatemala
(also El Salvador)
6 20 2
District of South America

(Except Brazil)[52]

8 30 3
District of Switzerland 10 17 6 1
District of United States 20 103 26 3
Autonomous House of Brazil[53] 3 12
Autonomous House of Eastern Europe
4 15 3 1
Autonomous House of Ireland 2 5
Autonomous House of Spain
(also Portugal)
1 17

The first seminary founded by the Society (St. Pius X Seminary) is located in Écône, Switzerland. Its largest,[54] however, is located in the United States (St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary: Buckingham County, Virginia). The seminary, having outgrown its previous facilities, recently relocated from Winona, Minnesota; the former seminary complex continues to house the novitiate of the religious brothers.[55] Other seminaries are located in France (Flavigny-sur-Ozerain), Germany (Zaitzkofen), Australia (Goulburn), and Argentina (La Reja). The Society also runs pre-seminaries for prospective priestly vocations in Italy (Albano Laziale), and the Philippines (Santa Barbara).

The SSPX has received explicit support from the following diocesan bishops:

Bishop Mayer resigned canonically on 20 August 1981; he later participated in the 1988 Écône consecrations. After his retirement, he founded the Priestly Union of St Jean-Marie Vianney,[56] which remained closely associated with the SSPX until 2001, when it reconciled with the Holy See.

The Society now has close links with the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat, led by Father Basil Kovpak, a priest formerly of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who was definitively excommunicated from the Catholic Church in November 2007[57] after having Bishop Richard Williamson, then of the SSPX but expelled from the Society five years later,[58] illicitly ordain two priests and seven deacons for his society in violation of canons 1015 §1 and 1017 of the Code of Canon Law.

Several religious institutes, mostly based in France, are associated with the Society. A specific article, SSPX-affiliated religious orders, is devoted to them.

Discussions with the Holy See[edit]

Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX

Discussions between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X towards an eventual reconciliation have been ongoing. For years after the 1988 consecrations, there was little if any dialogue between the SSPX and the Holy See. This state of affairs ended when the Society led a large pilgrimage to Rome for the Jubilee in the year 2000.

Nine years later, on January 21, 2009 the Holy See remitted the excommunications of the Society's bishops that it had declared at the time of the 1988 consecrations and expressed the hope that all members of the society would follow this up by speedily returning to full communion with the Church.

Discussions since then have been complex, stemming from the Society's insistence that the teachings of the Second Vatican Council on ecumenism, religious liberty, and collegiality are inconsistent with Catholic teaching and doctrine, a claim that the Holy See views as unacceptable, but recent discussions have indicated the possibility of an understanding. In an interview on 4 March 2017 with DICI, the official news organ of the Society, Bishop Bernard Fellay stated "Whether it is a question of religious liberty, collegiality, ecumenism, the new Mass, or even the new rites of the sacraments…. all of a sudden, on these points that have been stumbling blocks, the emissaries from Rome tell us that they are open questions."[59] In the same month of March 2017, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the prelate in charge of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the Roman Curia's organ for traditionalist societies, stated that the Holy See and the Society were close to an agreement regularizing the Society's status.[60] And in a letter of the same month it was announced that Pope Francis authorized diocesan bishops to grant to SSPX priests faculties to officiate at a marriage valid in the Catholic Church in cases where no priest in good standing could do so.[61]

Political controversies[edit]

On the basis of statements made by Bishop Williamson, the Anti-Defamation League has accused the Society of being "mired in anti-Semitism".[62]

It was in an SSPX priory, where he had been granted asylum as "an act of charity to a homeless man",[63] that French Nazi collaborator and war criminal Paul Touvier was arrested. On his death, in 1996, a priest of the society publicly offered Requiem Mass for him.[64][65]

On 16 October 2013, the Society offered to perform a funeral for Nazi war-criminal Erich Priebke, but the ceremony did not take place due to protests by some 500 people outside the Society's Italian district house in Albano, near Rome. The local authorities of the Catholic Church had refused him a public funeral, citing a rule of canon law that, unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, a public funeral must be refused to manifest sinners to whom it cannot be granted without public scandal of the faithful.[66][67] The society issued a statement on its website saying, "A Christian who was baptized and received the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist, no matter what his faults and sins were, to the extent that he dies reconciled with God and the church, has a right to the celebration of the holy Mass and a funeral."

For its part, the Society does univocally condemn Nazism, confirming the principles in Pope Pius XI's 1937 encyclical Mit brennender Sorge which explicitly denounces the Nazis. The Society also points out that Archbishop Lefebvre's own father, Renè Lefebvre, met his death in the concentration camp at Sonnenburg in February, 1944, three years after his arrest by the Gestapo; he died, "his rosary in hand, a victim of Nazi insanity."[68] Bishop Williamson, the subject of the complain of the Anti-Defamation League, was ordered by the Superior General to cease his holocaust denial,[69] and was later expelled from the Society.[70]

Prominent members of the SSPX, including Lefebvre himself, have, at various times, expressed approval or support for a restoration of an absolutist French monarchy; the Vichy government (1940–1944); and the party of Jean-Marie le Pen.

Notable groups that have split from the SSPX[edit]

There have been two major kinds of splits from the SSPX. Two notable splits of the first kind involved priests who viewed the SSPX as too liberal and who use the form that the Mass had before Pope John XXIII. The other kind involved groups who have reconciled with the Holy See and who, like the SSPX, use the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal.

Groups which broke with the SSPX and are not recognized by the Holy See include:

  • Society of St. Pius V — In 1983, nine U.S. SSPX priests broke with or were forced to leave the SSPX's Northeast USA District partly because they were opposed to Lefebvre's instructions that Mass be celebrated according to the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal issued by Pope John XXIII. Those in SSPX circles refer to these priests as "the nine". They began their organization by refusing to complete a transaction of a church that the SSPX was attempting to purchase, using one of the nine priests as the buyer. The founding priests took the money intended for the purchase of the church and kept the church for themselves.[citation needed] A number of the SSPV's priests and the lay people who go to their Masses are openly sedevacantist, a thesis rejected by the SSPX. Other issues occasioning the split were: Lefebvre's order that Society priests must accept the decrees of nullity handed down by diocesan marriage tribunals; the insistence that all Society Masses be celebrated according to the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal; the acceptance of new members into the group who had been ordained to the priesthood according to the revised sacramental rites of Pope Paul VI.[71]
  • Istituto Mater Boni Consilii — (English: "Institute of the Mother of Good Counsel") is a traditionalist congregation of priests that follows the Sedeprivationist school of thought. The founders of the institute seceded in 1985 from the Society of St. Pius X under the leadership of Fr. Francesco Ricossa, onetime faculty member of the seminary at Écône. In contrast to the North American-based SSPV, this Institute is based in Europe.
  • SSPX Resistance — Concern that the discussions with the Holy See that began in 2009 were leading the Society towards acceptance of the Second Vatican Council as the price of obtaining recognition led to the defection not only of Bishop Williamson but also of several priest members, in both North America and France. These referred to themselves variously as "the Resistance", the Society of St. Pius X Marian Corps (SSPX-MC), or l'Union Sacerdotale Marcel Lefebvre (USML, French).

Groups which broke with the SSPX and reconciled with Rome include:

  • Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter – The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter was established in 1988 after the Ecône consecrations. Responding to the Holy See's declaration that these constituted a schismatic act and that those involved were thereby automatically excommunicated, twelve priests left the Society and established the Fraternity, in full communion with the Holy See.
  • Institute of the Good Shepherd – The Institute of the Good Shepherd (Institut du Bon-Pasteur, IBP) was established as a papally recognised society of apostolic life on 8 September 2006 for a group of SSPX members who maintained it was time for the Society to accept reconciliation with Pope Benedict XVI.

Allegations of Abuse Cover-Up[edit]

On April 5, 2017, Uppdrag Granskning, a Swedish television program focused on investigative journalism, alleged that four different clerics of the SSPX—three priests and a former seminarian—had molested at least a dozen young people in several countries.[72] The program also stated that evidence of abuse was kept secret by the SSPX and that the priests were allowed to continue in ministry.[72] [73]

Kevin Gerard Sloniker, the former seminarian and the only person accused by name in the program, was expelled from the Society's St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in 2005, and began serving a life-sentence in 2015.[74][75] The remaining three accusations regard priests whose names have been withheld (referred to in the program as Fathers P, S, and M); their accusers have likewise remained anonymous. Nonetheless, P was the subject of a canonical trial presided over by Bishop Fellay, authorized by the Vatican in 2013; he was found guilty, and subsequently ordered to retire to a monastery. Crux reports "P refused to go and, according to officials of the SSPX, joined [Bishop] Williamson's Resistance."[76] He along with "Father S" were expelled from the Society, and are now affiliated with Williamson's group. "Father M" is currently serving in France, though no criminal charges have been brought against him and the Society denies that they are aware of any credible accusations of abuse against the priest.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Office of Congregation for Bishops - Excommunication". Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  2. ^ "Pope Benedict lifts excommunication of bishops ordained by Lefebvre". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera (20 November 2016) | Francis". Retrieved 2017-04-04. 
  4. ^ "New pastoral provisions for Sacrament of Marriage for SSPX". Retrieved 2017-04-04. 
  5. ^ "Warning: An SSPX Priest Is Incapable of Absolving You from Sin". Retrieved 2017-04-04. 
  6. ^ "Vatican names Bishop Fellay to hear canonical charge against SSPX priest, despite bishop's suspension : News Headlines". Retrieved 2017-04-04. 
  7. ^ The Wanderer Interviews Fr. Aulagnier, SSPX, Luc Gagnon, September 18, 2003
  8. ^ a b c "Short History Of The Society Of Saint Pius X". Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  9. ^ a b " Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre: chp 2: A New Apostolate". Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  10. ^ " Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre: Chapter 4: The Campaign Against Econe". Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  11. ^ "Archbishop Lefebvre was told that this examination was very positive and that he just had to come to Rome and clarify some questions."Conference of Father Franz Schmidberger, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X at Rockdale, Sydney, Australia, October 16, 1990, by Father Gerard Hogan and Father François Laisney
  12. ^ The 1974 Declaration of Archbishop Lefebvre,November 21, 1974
  13. ^ Herbermann, Charles George (1913). The Catholic Encyclopedia. p. 135. 
  14. ^ "In their quest to reform the liturgy, some Catholics hope to remake the culture". 5 June 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  15. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Biretta". Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  16. ^ Nos igitur iterum adhortamur hos Nostros fratres ac filios, eosque exoramus, ut conscii fiant gravium vulnerum quae secus Ecclesiae illaturi sunt. Invitationem ipsis iteramus, ut secum recogitent gravia Christi monita de Ecclesiae unitate (Cfr. Io. 17, 21 ss.) ac de oboedientia erga legitimum Pastorem, ab Ipso universo gregi praepositum, cum signum oboedientiae sit quae Patri ac Filio debetur (Cfr. Luc. 10, 16). Nos eos aperto corde exspectamus apertisque bracchiis ad eos prompte amplectendos: utinam humilitatis exemplum praebentes, ad gaudium Populi Dei rursus viam unitatis et amoris ingredi valeant! (Consistory for the creation of twenty new cardinals, 24 May 1976)
  17. ^ a b c The suspension ab ordinum collatione of Archbishop Lefebvre
  18. ^ Text given in English translation in M. Davies, Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, p. 194
  19. ^ English translation in M. Davies, Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, p. 197-199
  20. ^ "The Ordinations of 29 June 1976". Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  21. ^ English translation of the statement in M. Davies, Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, pp. 215-216
  22. ^ The suspension a divinis of Archbishop Lefebvre
  23. ^ "The situation is such, the work placed in our hands by the good Lord is such, that faced with this darkness in Rome, faced with the Roman authorities' pertinacity in error, faced with this refusal to return to truth or tradition on the part of those who occupy the seats of authority in Rome, faced with all these things, it seems to us that the good Lord is asking for the Church to continue. This is why it is likely that before I give account of my life to the good Lord, I shall have to consecrate some bishops" (Sermon on 29 June 1987)
  24. ^ (Encyclical Ad Apostolorum Principis, 41)
  25. ^ "Decree of excommunication on Marcel Lefebvre". Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  26. ^ Ecclesia Dei Archived January 29, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ Canon 751 Archived February 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ "Code of Canon Law - IntraText". Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  29. ^ Canon 1323 Archived December 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ a b Father Edward McNamara, Mass with the Society of St Pius X
  31. ^ Pope Benedict XVI, Letter of 10 March 2009 to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre).
  32. ^ Pope Francis, Letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, 1 September 2015
  33. ^ Akin, Jimmy (1 September 2015). "Holy Year Gestures on Abortion and the SSPX: 12 Things to Know and Share". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  34. ^ "Code of Canon Law, canon 966". Retrieved 2017-04-09. 
  35. ^ "Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera (20 November 2016) | Francis". Retrieved 2017-04-09. 
  36. ^ Vatican Radio, "New pastoral provisions for Sacrament of Marriage for SSPX" |access-date=2017-04-21
  37. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 131 §1
  38. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 1112
  39. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1623
  40. ^ Business directory Infocif
  41. ^ "Burke: 'There is a very dangerous confusion and also with the confusion come divisions'". Infovaticana. 2017-04-10. Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  42. ^ de Mallerais, Tissier. "Supplied jurisdiction & traditional priests". Society of Saint Pius X, United States District. Retrieved 2017-04-21. 
  43. ^ SSPX. "Do SSPX Priests Have Jurisdiction". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  44. ^ Fr Ramon Angles. "Validity of SSPX Confessions and Marriages". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  45. ^ "SSPX Marriages are Incontestable - District of the USA". Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  46. ^ FSSPX, District de France. "Fraternité Sacerdotale Saint-Pie X - FSSPX - SSPX - La Porte Latine - Catholiques de Tradition - Mgr Lefebvre - Mgr Fellay - Quelques statistiques au sujet de la Fraternité Sacerdotale Saint-Pie X". Retrieved 2017-04-28. 
  47. ^ "Autonomous Houses - General House". Retrieved 2017-03-25. 
  48. ^ "SSPX: Brazil Becomes an Autonomous House - District of the USA". Retrieved 2017-03-25. 
  49. ^ Figure given by the SSPX's French District.
  50. ^ Annuario Pontificio, 2016. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2016. pp. 1467–1476. 
  51. ^ "The districts of the SSPX worldwide". Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  52. ^ "Capillas - Distrito de América del Sur". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-03-26. 
  53. ^ "Priorados, missões e comunidades amigas". Fraternidade Sacerdotal São Pio X no Brasil (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2017-03-25. 
  54. ^ Catholic, New. "RORATE CÆLI: SSPX Exclusive - Bp. Fellay speaks to Rorate on Rome negotiations as world's largest traditional seminary is blessed in Virginia". RORATE CÆLI. Retrieved 2017-03-25. 
  55. ^ "A New Future for Winona & Moving Day! - St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary". Retrieved 2017-03-25. 
  56. ^ Nossa pequena história dentro da história da Igreja Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  57. ^ "Catholic News". Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  58. ^ Cindy Wooden, "SSPX expels Bishop Williamson, who opposed talks with Vatican" in Catholic News Service, 24 October 2012
  59. ^ "Interview with Bp. Bernard Fellay". 
  60. ^ "Vatican official confirms: agreement with SSPX is close : News Headlines". Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  61. ^ "New pastoral provisions for Sacrament of Marriage for SSPX". Retrieved 2017-04-22. 
  62. ^ The Society of St. Pius X: Mired in Anti-Semitism, Anti-Defamation League, 26 January 2009
  63. ^ AngelusOnline Page 831
  64. ^ "Vade retro Soutanas", ("Get Thee Behind me, Satan"), Libération, 11 October 2006
  65. ^ "Lefebvre movement: long, troubled history with Judaism", National Catholic Reporter, 26 January 2009
  66. ^ "Nazi war criminal's SSPX funeral stopped by protests" by Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service,16 October 2013,
  67. ^ "Code of Canon Law - IntraText". Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  68. ^ "Founder: Priest and Missionary". 
  69. ^ "Bishop Fellay to Expel Bishop Williamson if He Denies Holocaust Again". 
  70. ^ "Bishop Williamson Ousted from SSPX". 
  71. ^ Additional objections can be found at the "anti-Vatican II" Traditional Mass Organisation's website
  72. ^ a b
  73. ^
  74. ^ "Former Seminarian for Anti-Semitic Church Charged with Sexual Abuse of Boys". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2017-04-08. 
  75. ^ "Trucker who molested boys from his church will spend at least 35 years in prison". Retrieved 2017-04-08. 
  76. ^

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