Frequently Asked Questions

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.

1932-1946
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.

Was Archbishop Lefebvre legitimately suspended from exercising his ministry as a bishop and superior general of the SSPX?

Was Archbishop Lefebvre legitimately suspended from exercising his ministry as a bishop and superior general of the SSPX?

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.

A brief chronology

1969

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.

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.

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.

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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).

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).

The question of jurisdiction

In virtue of his ordination, a priest can bless all things and even consecrate bread and wine in such wise that they become the very Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But whenever in his ministry he has to deal authoritatively with people, he needs, over and above the power of Holy Orders, that of Jurisdiction, which empowers him to judge and rule his flock. Jurisdiction is, moreover, necessary for the validity itself of the sacraments of penance and matrimony. 

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 fifty 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:

For a complete list of the chapels of the Society in the United States, please look at: SSPX Chapels.

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.

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:

This question illustrates the fundamental differences between the SSPX and the Conciliar “traditionalists” or conservatives. These latter are often seen defending both the traditional Latin Mass and the “new” Catechism but not openly attacking either the Novus Ordo Missae or Vatican II.

The SSPX on the other hand defends the traditional catechisms and therefore the traditional Mass, and so attacks the Novus Ordo Missae, Vatican II and the “new” Catechism, all of which more or less undermine our unchangeable Catholic faith.

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.

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 Latin Mass.

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 (sede 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.

The Society also has seminaries in France, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, and Australia. Please see this page for more information.

The Society, as of 2013, has 575 priests in 65 countries, 119 brothers, and 215 seminarians in six international seminaries.

There are many traditional religious orders for men and women: Benedictines, Capuchin Franciscans, and Dominicans for men, and Carmelites, Benedictines, Franciscans, and Dominicans for women, to name just a few. Please contact the U.S. District of the SSPX for more information.

The Society has its own congregation of sisters, which has its U.S. novitiate in Browerville, MN. For more information, please visit the Vocations Index.

These are hours of the Divine Office. The Office is the daily prayer of priests and is sometimes referred to as "The Liturgy of the Hours." Lauds and Vespers are sung at the Seminary on Sundays; while Prime, Sext, and Compline are sung every day.

Of course. We are Roman Catholics and firmly adhere to the Primacy of the Successor of Peter. In accordance with the rules of the Roman Missal, we pray for him by name, along with the local Ordinary, in the Canon of every Mass said at the Seminary.

Put simply, the Tridentine Mass is the Latin Mass that was being said in every Catholic Church of the Roman Rite before Vatican II (1962-65). It is the Mass that has nourished the piety of countless saints throughout the ages. It was “canonized” or set in stone by Pope St. Pius V in 1571, but is not essentially different from the oldest recorded liturgies that history has left us.

The Society is a priestly fraternity founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre for the preservation of the traditional Catholic priesthood. For more information, please see our section on the Society.

It is located just outside of Winona, Minnesota, about two miles west of the intersection of Highway 14 and 61. See our Contact page.

For those interested in pursuing a vocation, the best time to visit is when classes are in session, i.e. from the middle of October until the middle of June, excluding the two weeks following Christmas and Easter. If possible, a prospective seminarian should visit for a week in order to get a well-rounded view of seminary life.

For those who are not visiting to discern a vocation, the ideal times to visit are at the various ordinations that take place during the year:

1) Reception of the cassock and the Clerical Tonsure – February 2

No, even if one knows all about the Catholic Faith and knows all the prayers of the Mass. The course of life at the Seminary is far more than the classes and the Mass. The whole body of liturgy, courses, work, and prayer, all in a sacred environment and under the watchful eye of experienced spiritual directors, contributes to form the heart and mind of the candidate for priesthood. Whether or not he is aware of it, the Seminary changes a man and forms Christ in him, as long as he maintains a docile, humble attitude.

It is extremely difficult to discern a vocation in the midst of the distractions and bustle of everyday life. A man needs silence, prayer, and reflection if he really wants to find out what God wants him to do. If you are attracted to the priesthood or the religious life and think that you have a vocation, take the following steps, remembering that your salvation might depend on your answering God's call:

The General Superior of the SSPX decides where to assign each priest of the Society, posting them to priories on every continent (excepting Antarctica), to say Mass in one or more of the 60 countries in which we maintain chapels. After ordination in June, the new priest has a couple of months of vacation to rest and prepare for his new assignment. Then, in the middle of August, he reports to his new home, which could be in his home state or on the other side of the world.

Failing to pass a test or two doesn’t necessarily mean dismissal. The Seminary works with all its students to help them acquire the knowledge necessary to carry out their priestly duties. Seminarians may take an extra year or two to complete their studies. Nonetheless, consistent failure to meet a minimum academic standard could be taken as a sign of no vocation.

No. Most seminarians do not receive a sufficient Latin formation in high school or college to make this feasible, so classes are taught in English.

The first year, the year of Humanities, gives the seminarian a natural foundation for the supernatural formation ahead, through courses in Catholic Doctrine, Latin, Literature, English, and Music. The year of Spirituality follows, wherein seminarians learn about the spiritual life in Ascetical and Mystical Theology, and take introductory courses on Scripture, Liturgy, and the Acts of the Magisterium (major Church documents setting forth important points of doctrine).

It lasts seven years. The Seminary formation is designed to develop in the seminarian a love for souls and an ardent thirst for holiness, along with sufficient knowledge to guide the faithful entrusted to him and feed their souls. To reach such a lofty goal, seven years is a very short time.

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary forms priests absolutely faithful to the 2,000-year-old traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. The formation that the seminarians receive is traditional in every aspect: doctrine, liturgy, spirituality, the curriculum, and even the daily schedule. The philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas forms the core of the seven-year program of studies. Unfortunately, few other seminaries provide this kind of total formation today.

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary is a house of studies of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), established in the United States in 1973, for the formation of Roman Catholic priests according to the traditional teaching of the Church.

The word “seminary” comes from the Latin word “seminarium” meaning “seed bed.” A seminary is a place where a vocation to the priesthood develops, from the original call that led the young man to enter the seminary, to its full growth at his priestly ordination.