Society of St. Pius X

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The Society of St. Pius X [1] is an international society made up of traditional Roman Catholic clergy. Founded with canonical approval in 1970[2] by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, it is the largest Traditional Catholic organization in operation and currently administers the Sacraments in over 27 countries. There is much dispute regarding accusations of schism due to Archbishop Lefebvre's decision to consecrate 4 Bishops in 1988, disregarding the command of Pope John Paul II.

Creation and Beginnings

The Society of St. Pius X [3] originated as a reaction to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council within the Catholic Church. In 1968, a group of French seminarians grew concerned with the orthodoxy of their priestly training due to the New Left ideology which had infiltrated their seminaries.[4] As a result, they sought out the recently retired Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, with the request that he adopt the task of overseeing their priestly formation. Originally reluctant to get involved, Archbishop Lefebvre was persuaded to relent, and later said that it would have been an abandonment of Church Tradition if he had ignored them. Thus, International Priestly Society of St. Pius X was unofficially created.

In 1970, the Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, His Excellency Bishop Charriere, officially recognized the canonical validity of the new Society.[5] At the same time, a group of Swiss laymen offered their property in Econe to the Archbishop as a seminary for future priests.

The canonical status was confirmed on February 18, 1971 by the prefect for the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal,[6] who praised the society's statutes and recognized it as an international Catholic society with the power to incardinate its clergy. Thus, the Society became legally recognized as a legitimate Catholic society, unable to be suppressed without a genuine reason or following strict canonical procedures.

Strained Relations with Rome

On June 10, 1971, Archbishop Lefebvre formally announces that he will not accept nor celebrate Pope Paul VI's Novus Ordo Mass, accusing it of being Protestant, based on the fact that six Protestant ministers collaborated in its creation,[7] and the fabrication of known Freemason Archbishop Annibal [8] Archbishop Lefebvre would continue to voice these sentiments in denouncing the Novus Ordo Mass throughout the remainder of his life, often accusing it of being a 'bastard rite'.[9] In response to Lefebvre's traditional Catholic stance, the French Episcopal Council denounced Econe as 'the wildcat seminary'.[10]

In November 1974, two apostolic visitors from Rome arrive at Econe. Whilst speaking to the seminarians and teaching staff, they scandalise the faithful by giving support to contraception and ordination of married men. In response to this, Archbishop Lefebvre pens his Declaration, condemning Rome as 'neo-Modernist' and 'neo-Protestant', and pledging his allegiance to the traditional Catholic faith, regardless of what innovations Rome may espouse.[11]

Econe Consecrations

His health failing, and fearing that his death may mark the end of the traditional Sacraments, Archbishop Lefebvre declared on February 2, 1988 that he intended to consecrate three Bishops, in order to keep the Sacraments of Confirmation and Ordination available to all Catholics. On hearing this news, Rome took the step of renewing negations with the Society and an agreement is reached on the May 5th, allowing the Society to become an approved Society of Apostolic Life and agreeing that one Society priest would be consecrated a Bishop at a time stated by Pope John Paul II. However, the Archbishop realised that no time limit was placed on Rome's assurances and, fearing that the agreement was a ploy to distract him until his death, announced that he would proceed with the Episcopal Consecrations on June 30, 1988.

On June 29, Rome made a last attempt to persuade the Archbishop not to continue with his intentions. A driver is sent to Econe and a promise is made that, if he returns to Rome with the driver, the Pope will personally speak to him and attempt to find another solution. The Archbishop refused.[12]

On June 30, 1988, Archbishop Lefebre, alongside Brazilian Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, consecrated four Bishops in the traditional rite of Consecration. The four priests consecrated were: Father Bernard Fellay, Father Richard Williamson, Father Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, and Father Alfonso de Galarreta. Before consecrating the men, Archbishop Lefebvre made it clear that he was not breaking with Rome, nor was he renouncing the Papacy of John Paul II. But he insisted that the Catholic Faith was not being voiced by Rome and, as a Bishop, he had a duty to preserve the Faith, whatever the cost. .[13]

On the 2nd July 1988, Pope John Paul II issued his Apostolic Letter 'Ecclesia Dei' in which he condemned the consecrations as 'unlawful', an act of 'disobedience' and, therefore, a 'schismatic act'.[14] As a result, the Pope claimed that the Archbishop and four new Bishops had automatically incurred the penalty of excommunication. However, the Pope did not formally excommunicate the five men, nor was he speaking ex cathedra but only as a private theologian.

The Society of St. Pius X Today

The Society of St. Pius X is governed by the Superior General , who resides with his assistants, the Secretary General and the General Bursar, in the General House situated in Menzingen, Switzerland. SSPX is Organized into 14 districts worldwide similar to dioceses, each of which is entrusted to a local superior. Auxiliary bishops assist the districts. The USA is under one district a list of its churches can be found via this link [15]

See also