The SSPX, as part of the Catholic Church, embraces an organized hierarchy.
The Society of St. Pius X humbly submits to the authority of the pope, supreme guardian of the faith, and pays him all the reverence due to the chosen head of God’s Church.
If and when the time-honored teachings of the Church are obscured or perhaps even seemingly contradicted by the authorities in Rome, however, the SSPX stands firm for tradition.
The founder of the SSPX, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, added,
“The day when God will allow light to replace the darkness that now reigns over Rome will be the day that Tradition will return. There will no longer be any problems. The bishops of the SSPX will entrust their episcopal charges into the pope’s hands and say: ‘now we will live like simple priests, and, if you wish it, use us’.”
The superior general commands the highest authority within the SSPX. Every twelve years the SSPX holds a general chapter to elect a new (or reelect the current) superior general. He is aided in his many undertakings by two elected assistants.
Beneath the superior general are the district superiors. These district superiors are chosen by the superior general and appointed for six years. They are in charge of missionary efforts for a certain region of the world. They live in district headquarters, directing and encouraging the efforts of their local fellow priests.
The priests of the SSPX live together in small communities; ideally these consist of at least three priests. Several times a day the community gathers for prayer, meals, and other functions; thus the priests share their lives and apostolate with one another. The superior of each community is the prior. He is in charge of the missionary work of the priory and the dependent chapels, much like a parish priest administering his parish. The various priories are spread throughout the district and form the backbone of the SSPX’s world-wide organization.
Separate from the district superiors are the seminary rectors whose primary goal is the education of future priests. The rectors, with their staff of seminary professors, carefully form promising young men into new priests, filling the SSPX priories across the globe.
In 1988 Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four assistant bishops. They are specially appointed to aid the priests and faithful of the SSPX by conferring the sacraments of Holy Orders and Confirmation; they answer directly to the superior general.
Priests and bishops are not the only official members of the SSPX; religious brothers and oblate sisters also generously assist in its missionary efforts. The primary goal of these religious is to support, comfort, and encourage the priests amidst the many difficulties of their apostolate; they also devote themselves to prayer, imploring God to send down abundant graces. Without the efforts of these noble but often hidden brothers and sisters, the work of the SSPX would quickly fail.
The faithful, too, are an important part of the SSPX. Though not official members, all Catholics who come to the SSPX for the Mass and other sacraments are joined to its spiritual family and share in its mission. These faithful often do a great deal to help spread the Catholic faith, and it is a great consolation for the priests and religious to see them grow day-to-day in God’s love.