The SSPX has extra cause to rejoice on November 1st, the Feast of All Saints. For on that day in 1970, the priestly society was canonically founded, which the Holy See formally approved just four months later.
The year is 1971 and the date is February 18th. Cardinal John Wright, Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy has just written a letter praising and approving the Society of St. Pius X in his curial office at Rome.
This letter came in response to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's request to have the Holy See officially approve the priestly society. Just a few months earlier of the previous year—on November 1st—the founding of the priestly society (also known as the Disciples of Jesus and Mary) had been sanctioned by the local ordinary of Fribourg, Bishop Francois Charriere; the same prelate who had strongly urged the archbishop to undertake the formation of priests.
This request to the Congregation of the Clergy by the former Apostolic Delegate in Africa (but destined to become better-known as the "Standard Bearer of Tradition") was in fact the normal procedure for the recognition of a religious institutive body. What is rather extraordinary though (and thus revealing the Providence of God even in the midst of the post-conciliar crisis) is how quickly it was given: a mere four months after the Society's foundation on November 1, 1970.
Another outstanding feature within the letter of approval is Cardinal Wright's accolade for the new priestly society joined in ink alongside praise and approval rendered by other "Ordinaries in different parts of the world".
The full implication of Providence "rushing" this procedure of canonical recognition (a process that often took considerably longer), while simultaneously providing the praise to justify the curial office's action, became plain to see as the Modernist crisis continued to deepen in the Church. For only a few years later, the previously praiseworthy SSPX's seminary at Econe was being charged by the liberal French Episcopacy as a "renegade seminary" that lacked ecclesiastical approval.
This false charge—which conveniently forgot that the Society of St. Pius X had Rome's approval and was a living branch of the Catholic Church—touched off a wave of liberal persecution against the priestly society, culiminating in an illegitimate attempt to canonically suppress it, to which Archbishop Lefebvre responded:
...we have been condemned, without trial, without opportunity to defend ourselves, without due warning or written process and without appeal." (Open Letter to Confused Catholics)
Yet despite the unjust persecution of the Society of St. Pius X and of himself, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre nevertheless joyfully—"without bitterness or resentment"—continued to carry out the apostolic mission that God had willed for him to do in the providence of time through the Catholic Church for the priesthood and the salvation of souls.
February 18, 1971
Exc. me Domine,
With great joy I received your letter, in which your Excellency informs me of your news and especially of the Statutes of the Priestly Society.
As Your Excellency explains, this Association, which by your action, received on 1 November 1970, the approbation of His Excellency Francois Charriere, Bishop of Fribourg, has already exceeded the frontiers of Switzerland, and several Ordinaries in different parts of the world praise and approve it. All of this and especially the wisdom of the norms which direct and govern this Association give much reason to hope for its success.
As for the Sacred Congregation, the Priestly Society will certainly be able to conform to the end proposed by the Council [for the formation of seminarians], for the distribution of the clergy in the world.
I am respectfully, Your Excellency,
Yours in the Lord.
addictissimus in Domino,
J Card. Wright, Praef.
See in image gallery below: SSPX's founding documents