Asked Questions About the Society of Saint Pius X
3: Wasn't the Society of Saint Pius
X lawfully suppressed?
Society is lawfully and canonically founded (QUESTION
the French bishops, balking at Ecône’s pre-Vatican II ways,
and notably at its non-acceptance of the Novus Ordo Missae
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
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
Mar. 3, 1975:
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
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
Lefebvre submits an appeal to the Apostolic Signature
in Rome in substance:
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
And if I be at fault, of course I can be censured, but not
the Society which was founded in due canonical form.
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
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
whole process, Archbishop Lefebvre observes:
have been condemned, without trial, without opportunity
to defend ourselves, without due warning or written process
and without appeal.5
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?
Archbishop Lefebvre, Fideliter, No.59, pp.68-70.
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!
Vatican Encounter, pp.185 and 191 (Appendix
Open Letter to Confused Catholics, p. 150 (Appendix
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