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Society of St. Pius X
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Society of St. Pius X

The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is an international Catholic society of Roman Catholic priests founded on November 1, 1970. The Society is managed by a Superior General and District Superiors in various countries. The Official Name of the organization is the: Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Pii X or Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X.

See also traditional Catholicism.

Table of contents
1 The inception of the SSPX
2 The 1988 consecrations
3 The SSPX today
4 Present Day Dealings with the Pope and Curia
5 Controversies
6 External links

The inception of the SSPX

The SSPX was founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, formerly Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, a Father of the Second Vatican Council, and perhaps one of the most celebrated modern prelates in Africa, where he spent much of his early career. The Archibishop had been approached by French seminarians whom he said were being persecuted for their adherence to traditional (pre-Vatican II) beliefs and doctrines. They were critical of what they perceived as the Modernism being taught in their seminaries, and were looking for the guidance of a seminary where they believed they would receive the traditional Catholic doctrines. The Society was setup in EcŰne, Switzerland as an international training ground for priests, to maintain the true doctrines of the Church which they believed were being ignored or suppressed in other seminaries. The Society was approved by the Vatican on February 18, 1971.

The SSPX has chapters throughout the world. Its main seminary remains in Econe, Switzerland, and has others in the United States, France (Flavigny-sur-Ozerain), Germany, the Philippines, Australia, and Argentina.

The 1988 consecrations

The largest controversy surrounding the SSPX concerns the consecration of 4 SSPX priests as bishops in June 1988, despite papal disapproval of such an action.

Archbishop Lefebvre, after a number of years of heavy travelling to confer sacraments and holy orders, declared that he intended to consecrate a successor to himself, to ensure seminarians could be ordained and Sacraments such as Confirmation could be conferred. As an Archbishop, Lefebvre could licitly consecrate a bishop by himself, however for a simple bishop to licitly consecrate another bishop two assistant bishops are required. For such a reason 4 bishops were consecrated (to ensure upon the death of one, three remained to consecrate another replacement): (Richard Williamson, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Alfonso de Galarreta and Bernard Fellay).

Bishop emeritus Antonio de Castro Mayer of Campos, Brazil, also assisted Lefebvre in these 1988 consecrations.

Roman hierarchs refused to approve the consecrations and viewed the act as "schismatic," even though the Bishops ordained by Lefebvre do not claim ordinary jurisdiction, do not withdraw submission to the Pope, or deny the right of the Pope to rule. Lefebvre cited Canon 1323 which states, in part, that no one is liable for penalty if he acts by reason of necessity, but Cardinal Bernardin Gantin issued a decree which stated the Vatican considered the act "schismatic." The next day Pope John Paul II issued a Motu Proprio letter Ecclesia Dei Adflicta concerning the consecrations. Officially the Holy See views the bishops consecrated as valid bishops, but due to the allegedly "schismatic" act, excommunicated along with Lefebvre and de Castro Mayer. No excommunication decree has been issued against the priests or other religious of the SSPX, or against laymen who attend SSPX chapels.

In recent letters from the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Rome has officially recognized that while the Masses of the SSPX may be attended by the Catholic faithful without constituting "formal adherence to the schism", letters from the Pontifical Commission [1] [1] do not recommend participation in SSPX Masses.

The SSPX considers itself faithful to the Catholic Church and all its infallible teachings, recognises Pope John Paul II as Pope , and does not claim ordinary jurisdiction but only the juridsiction supplied by the Church in extraordinary circumstances.

The SSPX today

The SSPX has 454 priests in its worldwide ranks as of May 2004 and commonly associates with independent priests. It collaborated for a number of years with the late Bishop Salvador Lazo of San Fernando de La Union, Philippines and currently is in collaboration with Bishop John Bosco Manat of Thailand. The SSPX has been in on-and-off discussions with the Vatican about regularizing their relationship.

Activities of the SSPX include the training of priests in seminaries, and establishing what they call "missions" in different locations to provide the Mass, sacraments, and the teaching of faith to people. The main locations, called "priories" usually try to have a Chapel and a school, and house extra Priests who travel to different areas at different times to offer Mass for smaller groups of people. The SSPX's larger goal however, has been to assemble people to live closer together to form traditional catholic communities and neighborhoods (where a fully traditional catholic lifestyle, from living arrangements to work, can be maintained). So far the main centers in the United States that have been developing include Saint Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, Post Falls, Idaho, Dickinson, Texas and Saint Mary's, Kansas. The largest SSPX center has been in Africa where Archbishop Levebre once presided, in Gabon.

The SSPX is affiliated with many independent Priests and traditional religious orders that share its same traditional Catholic philosophy and outlook. Recently it has been making large gains in popularity in Eastern Europe with its affiliates in non-Roman rites.

Present Day Dealings with the Pope and Curia

After the 1988 episcopal consecrations the SSPX and the Holy See had few, if any dialog or direct dealings. This ended after the SSPX led a large pilgrimage to Rome for the year 2000. A magazine quipped "for the first time ever, thousands of schismatics filled St. Peters to pray for the pope". Following the pilgrimage, Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos approached the SSPX about regularizing relations. He said that the Pope would grant them a personal prelature over the entire world (essentially a diocese which would cover the entire world, like that the Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei created by Pope John Paul II in 1982 for an organization founded in 1928 by Blessed Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer). The arrangement would be similar to what traditional priests in Campos, Brazil -- the Priestly Union of St. Jean-Marie Vianney -- later accepted, though their prelature is only for the Campos diocese.

SSPX leadership indicated their distrust, citing Vatican dealings with the Fratenity of Saint Peter and with the SSPX surrounding the epsicopal consecrations. The leaderships also said Castrillon was vague as to their reasonings and intentions.

The SSPX asked two conditions be met before negotiating: That the Vatican publicly declare that every Catholic priest may celebrate the "Tridentine" Mass and cannot be forbidden from doing so and secondly, that the Vatican declare null the excommunication decree following the 1988 consecrations.

Dialogue subsequently ceased.


While traditional catholicism, per se, is not a political position, there are social teachings of the Church that have been discarded by many post-conciliar Catholics, but which traditional Catholics maintain. These center around the principle of subdiarity, recognizing the evils of Communism, honoring the social Kingship of Christ, respecting Natural Law, eradicating the modern radical separation of Church and State, reversing false ideas of "religious freedom" while recognizing the goodness of tolerance and charity for all men, the use of the law to support the institution of the family, etc., all of which are controversial nowadays.

There is an ongoing controversy with respect to the Society of St Pius X occupying illegally the church of St Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris, from 1977 on. The owner of the church is the city of Paris, which, according to the 1905 French law of separation of Church and State, grants to the Catholic Church a free usage right. In 1978, the Cour de Cassation confirmed that the occupation of St Nicolas du Chardonnet by the society of St Pius X was illegal. However, the Society was never expelled. [1] On February 20, 1987, the Conseil d'…tat ruled that the trouble to public order resulting from an expulsion would be greater than the trouble resulting from the illegal occupation. In 2002, several executives of the Society of St Pius X were convicted of disseminating antisemitic propaganda at St Nicolas. On June 22, 2002, the municipal council of Paris voted a wish that the Society of St Pius X should be expelled from St Nicolas du Chardonnet against the opinion of mayor Bertrand DelanoŽ, who considers the matter internal to the Catholic Church and remarks that the Archbishop of Paris has not asked for expulsion.

External links