Holy Cross Seminary

Most Asked Questions About the Society of Saint Pius X

Question 3: Wasn't the Society of Saint Pius X lawfully suppressed?

Nov. 1, 1970:

The Society is lawfully and canonically founded (QUESTION 2).


Nevertheless, the French bishops, balking at Ecône’s pre-Vatican II ways, and notably at its non-acceptance of the Novus Ordo Missae      (QUESTION 5 ), calumniate it as sauvage (outlaw, wildcat). One of them, Pope Paul VI's Secretary of State, Cardinal Villot, deceives the Holy Father into believing Archbishop Lefebvre had his priests sign a declaration against the Pope.1

Nov. 11-13, 1974:

An Apostolic Visitation of the seminary at Ecône takes place. This is in itself normal procedure; its conclusions, though never published, were "very favorable," according to Cardinal Garonne, "except that you don't use the new liturgy, and there's a somewhat anti-conciliar spirit there."2 The Visitors, however, scandalized everyone by their unorthodox views, prompting Archbishop Lefebvre's so-called Declaration (see Appendix I).

Feb. 13 and
Mar. 3, 1975:

Archbishop Lefebvre meets with an improvised Commission of three Cardinals, nominally to discuss the Apostolic Visitation but in fact as a lone defendant before a tribunal attacking his Declaration. Having been given no warning as to the nature of these "trials," he has no lawyer and is never allowed a copy of the recorded meetings, though that at least is promised him.

May 6, 1975:

The irregular Commission of Cardinals condemns Archbishop Lefebvre, finding his Declaration "unacceptable on all points." They write to Bishop Mamie (successor of Bishop Charrière at Fribourg) telling him to withdraw his predecessor's approval of the Society of Saint Pius X— something quite beyond his power. (Once a Bishop has approved a Society, only the Pope can suppress it.—cf., 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 493)

June 5, 1975:

Archbishop Lefebvre submits an appeal to the Apostolic Signature in Rome— in substance:

...it would be for the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to determine whether my Declaration were at fault. Please provide evidence that this Commission of Cardinals had been expressly mandated by the Pope (who by his own authority can bypass the Congregations) to decide as has been done.3 And if I be at fault, of course I can be censured, but not the Society which was founded in due canonical form.

Cardinal Villot arranges that the appeal is not accepted. Cardinal Staffa is threatened with dismissal if he dare to accept an appeal from Archbishop Lefebvre.4

June 29, 1975:

Pope Paul VI is convinced to write to Archbishop Lefebvre that he approved of all the actions of the Commission of Cardinals. (It is impossible that mere papal approbation in June could empower this Commission which had met the previous February [Principle l0b].)

On this whole process, Archbishop Lefebvre observes:

...we have been condemned, without trial, without opportunity to defend ourselves, without due warning or written process and without appeal.5

Over and above the canonical question, there remains that of natural law. Must one observe a censure when no crime can be pointed out or when the very authority not to mention the identity of the judge is unsure?


1. Archbishop Lefebvre, Fideliter, No.59, pp.68-70.

2. Ibid., p.67.

3. This evidence was never produced. A doubt about the validity of a law excuses from observing it (Principle l0a). How much the more does doubt about the authority of the legislator!

4. Vatican Encounter, pp.185 and 191 (Appendix II).

5. Open Letter to Confused Catholics, p. 150 (Appendix II).


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Holy Cross Seminary, Goulburn, Australia