Frequently Asked Questions
Papal bull of St. Pius V
July 14, 1570
The Society of St. Pius X is an international priestly society of common life without vows, whose purpose is to train, support, and encourage holy priests so that they may effectively spread the Catholic Faith throughout the world.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was the founder of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).
A brief history: 1905-1991
November 29, 1905
Birth of Marcel Lefebvre to Rene and Gabrielle Lefebvre.
September 21, 1929
Marcel Lefebvre is ordained a priest.
Having become a Holy Ghost Father, he becomes a missionary in Gabon, Africa.
September 18, 1947
He is consecrated a bishop and appointed Apostolic Vicar of Dakar, Senegal.
The pope has never suppressed the SSPX: only the pope, not a local bishop, has the authority to suppress a religious order (1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 493 and 1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 616).
Timeline of the suppression
November 1, 1970
The SSPX is canonically founded.
Was Archbishop Lefebvre legitimately suspended from exercising his ministry as a bishop and superior general of the SSPX?
Rome has always, at least tacitly recognized the SSPX’s legitimate continuation and the nullity of these suspensions: for example, in December 1987, Cardinal Gagnon did not hesitate to attend as a prelate the Pontifical Mass of “suspended” Archbishop Lefebvre.
The Second Vatican Council was a meeting of the world’s bishops for four sessions between October 11, 1962 and December 8, 1965.
Pope John XXIII, in his opening speech to the Council (November 11, 1962), declared its aims to be the following:
Second Vatican Council in session:
The question of our attitude towards the pope is a delicate one, especially since there is much confusion amongst Catholics concerning this question.
The last 50 years have made this question more important than usual since we have witnessed the introduction of various theories and practices, often by the popes themselves, that run counter to the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church.
It behooves us then to look at the principles involved in this case:
A code is a collection of laws, each one being an order of the competent authority: each canon in the 1917 Code of Canon Law was a law of Benedict XV, and each canon in the 1983 Code of Canon Law (commonly called the "New Code") is a law of Pope John Paul II.
Do the priests of the Society of St. Pius X possess faculties to validly and licitly administer the sacraments? How does supplied jurisdiction apply to them in the context of the post-conciliar crisis?
Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, has changed the juridical situation of the Mass. Until recently, the traditional Mass was presented as being prohibited and allowed only under an indult, that is, a special, exceptional permission joined with special conditions.
Confusion often arises about Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's 1988 consecration of four bishops without papal permission, which action Pope John Paul II pointed out carried with it the latae sententiae (automatic) penalty of excommunication.
However, according to canon law, a person who believes, like Archbishop Lefebvre did, that there is a moral necessity to break a law (i.e., for the salvation of souls) would not incur any automatic penalties, even if that person were to be incorrect in that assessment.
The Society of St. Pius X has always recognized and adhered to the authority of the pope, and, as noted by prominent Roman authorities (e.g., Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos), the SSPX is not schismatic.
Since the introduction of the new sacramental rites, Rome had allowed no religious society or congregation exclusive use of the older rites. Then on June 30, 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops to ensure the survival of the traditional priesthood and sacraments, and especially of the traditional Roman Mass.
This question illustrates the fundamental differences between the SSPX and the Conciliar “traditionalists” or conservatives. These latter are often seen defending both the traditional Roman Mass and the “new” Catechism but not openly attacking either the Novus Ordo Missae or Vatican II.
Due to the unorthodox actions and statements of several recent popes, some have been led to believe that these popes have separated themselves from the Church by heresy, ipso facto vacating the seat of the papacy (sedes vacans, literally, empty seat). However, the fact is that formal (obstinate, or willful) heresy, the only heresy bearing with it the effect of excommunication, cannot be claimed, much less proven in the case of the pope, as there is no higher ecclesiastical authority which may censure or reprimand him.
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The Novus Ordo Missae was introduced in April 1969 by Pope Paul VI. From the start, this new rite was intended to have an ecumenical nature as declared by its chief architect, Fr. Annibale Bugnini in 1965:
We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren—that is, for the Protestants.”
A. Preliminary remarks