What is the Society of St. Pius X?

FAQ #1

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


A “retired” prelate, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, agrees to help a handful of young seminarians who are disconcerted by the direction being taken in post-Vatican II seminaries in their priestly formation. He does this, not only by undertaking their training, but also by founding a Society aiming at fostering a priestly life according to the wise norms and customs of the Church of previous days.

November 1, 1970
The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is officially recognized by the local ordinary of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, Bishop Charriere.

February 18, 1971

Cardinal Wright, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, issues a decree praising the wisdom of the Society’s statutes.

June 10, 1971

Archbishop Lefebvre announces, together with the staff of the International Seminary of St. Pius X at Econe (Switzerland), the refusal to adopt the Novus Ordo Missae.


Following on Cardinal Wright’s letter are other sure signs of Rome’s full acceptance of the SSPX:

  • Allowing its houses to be erected canonically in one Italian and two Swiss dioceses.
  • Allowing three outside priests to join the Society and to be incardinated directly into it.

During the same years the French Episcopal Conference was maneuvering to have the Society and its seminary suppressed (cf. question 3).

November 1, 1980
By its 10th anniversary, the SSPX has 40 houses on two continents.

November 1, 1995
By its 25th anniversary, the SSPX numbers 4 bishops, over 360 priests, 50 brothers, 120 sisters and 53 oblate sisters, all living in 140 houses in 27 countries. Together they seek the goal of the priesthood: the glorification of God, the continuation of Our Lord’s redemptive work, the salvation of souls. They accomplish this by fidelity to Christ’s testament, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Impressed by the SSPX's Pilgrimage of Tradition made in Rome for the Jubilee Year (2000), the Holy See invites the Society to discuss a possible regularization.

The SSPX's Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, requests and obtains two signs of good will on the part of Rome: the liberalization of the traditional Roman Mass (July 7, 2007) and the withdrawal of the "excommunications" of the Society's bishops (January 29, 2009).

In October 2009, the Holy See also grants Bishop Fellay's request for a theological commission to enable the SSPX to present its position concerning the errors of the Second Vatican Council and the New Mass.

After the meetings of the theological commission, Pope Benedict XVI begins proceedings in an attempt to provide a canonical solution to the SSPX's situation. Throughout all of this, Bishop Fellay continually upheld Archbishop Lefevre's uncompromising position to the Modernist errors of the Second Vatican Council. Based upon this principle of the Faith, Bishop Fellay had to refuse signing a flawed Doctrinal Declaration that the Holy See placed before him in June 2012.

Since the election of Pope Francis in March 2013, the Holy See has not engaged in any official discussions with the SSPX.

Meanwhile, as indicated by the general statistics of the SSPX, the priestly society has continued to steadily grow throughout the world and in the United States.

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