Protocol of Agreement, May 5, 1988


I, Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Tulle, as well as the members of the Society of St. Pius X founded by me:

  1. Promise always to be faithful to the Catholic Church and the Roman Pontiff, its Supreme Pastor, Vicar of Christ, Successor of Blessed Peter in his primacy as head of the body of bishops.
  2. We declare our acceptance of the doctrine contained in §25 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium of Vatican Council II on the ecclesiastical Magisterium and the adherence which is due to it.
  3. Regarding certain points taught by Vatican Council II or concerning later reforms of the liturgy and law, and which do not appear to us easily reconcilable with Tradition, we pledge that we will have a positive attitude of study and communication with the Apostolic See, avoiding all polemics.
  4. Moreover, we declare that we recognize the validity of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments celebrated with the intention of doing what the Church does, and according to the rites indicated in the typical editions of the Roman Missal and the Rituals of the Sacraments promulgated by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.
  5. Finally, we promise to respect the common discipline of the Church and the ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II, without prejudice to the special discipline granted to the Society by particular law.


Considering the fact that for 18 years now the Society of St. Pius X has been understood to be a society of common life—and after studying the proposals formulated by His Excellency Marcel Lefebvre and the conclusions of the Apostolic Visitation conducted by His Eminence Cardinal Gagnon—the canonical form most suitable is that of a society of apostolic life.

  1. Society of Apostolic Life

This solution is canonically possible and has the advantage of possibly incorporating lay people as well (for example, coadjutor brothers) into the clerical Society of Apostolic Life.

According to the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983, Canons 731-746, this Society enjoys full autonomy, can form its members, can incardinate clerics, and provides for the common life of its members.

In the proper Statutes, with flexibility and room for creativity in comparison with the known models of such Societies of apostolic life, some exemption is foreseen with respect to the diocesan bishops (cf. canon 591) in matters concerning public worship, the cura animarum [pastoral care of souls], and other apostolic activities, taking into account canons 679-683. As for jurisdiction with regard to the faithful who have recourse to the priests of the Society, it will be conferred on these priests either by the local Ordinaries or by the Apostolic See.

  1. Roman Commission

A commission to coordinate relations with the different dicasteries and diocesan bishops, and also to resolve problems and disputes that may arise, will be established through the good offices of the Holy See, and will be endowed with the necessary faculties to deal with the abovementioned questions (for example, at the request of the faithful, the establishment of a house of worship where there is no house of the Society, ad mentem [in keeping with] canon 683, §2).

This commission will be composed of a president, a vice-president, and five members, two of which shall be from the Society.

Among other things it would have the function of supervising and offering assistance to consolidate the work of reconciliation, and to settle questions related to the religious communities having a juridical or moral bond with the Society.

  1. Condition of Persons Affiliated with the Society

3.1. The members of the clerical Society of Apostolic Life (priests and lay coadjutor brothers) are governed by the Statutes of the Society of Pontifical Right.

3.2. The oblates, both male and female, whether or not they have taken private vows, and the members of the Third Order affiliated with the Society, all belong to an association of the faithful affiliated with the Society according to the terms of canon 303, and collaborate with it.

3.3. The Sisters (i.e. the Congregation founded by Archbishop Lefebvre) who take public vows constitute a true institute of consecrated life, with its own structure and proper autonomy, even though a certain kind of bond with the Superior of the Society may be envisaged for the unity of its spirituality. This Congregation—at least at the beginning—would be dependent on the Roman Commission, instead of the Congregation for Religious.

3.4. To members of the communities living according to the rule of various religious institutes (Carmelites, Benedictines, Dominicans, etc.) who have a moral bond with the Society, a particular status should be granted regulating their relations with their respective Order.

3.5. Priests who, individually, are morally connected with the Society will receive a personal status taking into account their aspirations and at the same time the obligations resulting from their incardination. Other particular cases of the same nature will be examined and resolved by the Roman Commission.

As for the lay people who ask for pastoral assistance from the communities of the Society: they remain under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop, but—in particular because of the liturgical rites of the Society’s communities—they can go to them for the administration of the sacraments (for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and matrimony, the usual notifications must still be given to their proper parish; cf. canons 878, 896, 1122).

Note: There is good reason to consider the particular complexity:

  1. of the question of the reception of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and matrimony by the laity in the communities of the Society;
  2. of the question of communities practicing the rule of such and such a religious institute, without belonging to it.

The Roman Commission will have the responsibility for resolving these problems.

  1. Ordinations

As for the ordinations, two phases must be distinguished:

  1. In the immediate future: For the ordinations scheduled to take place in the immediate future, Archbishop Lefebvre would be authorized to confer them or, if he were unable, another bishop accepted by him.
  2. Once the Society of Apostolic Life is erected:

As far as possible, and in the judgment of the Superior General, the normal way is to be followed: to send dimissorial letters to a bishop who agrees to ordain members of the Society.
In view of the particular situation of the Society (see above): the ordination of a member of the Society as a bishop, who, among other duties, would also be able to proceed with ordinations.

  1. The Problem of a Bishop

1. At the doctrinal (ecclesiological) level, the guarantee of stability and maintenance of the life and activity of the Society is assured by its erection as a Society of Apostolic Life of pontifical right, and by the approval of its Statutes by the Holy Father.

2. However, for practical and psychological reasons, the consecration of a member of the Society as a bishop appears useful. This is why, in the framework of the doctrinal and canonical solution of reconciliation, we suggest to the Holy Father that he name a bishop chosen from within the Society, upon the presentation [of a terna of candidates] by Archbishop Lefebvre. It follows from the above-cited principle (5.1) that this bishop normally is not the Superior General of the Society, but it appears opportune that he should be a member of the Roman Commission.

  1. Particular Problems to be Resolved (by Decree or Declaration)

1. Lifting of the suspensio a divinis on Archbishop Lefebvre and dispensation from the irregularities incurred by the fact of the ordinations.

2. Sanatio in radice, at least ad cautelam (as a precaution), of the marriages already celebrated by the priests of the Society without the required delegation.

3. Provision for an “amnesty” and an agreement for the houses and places of worship erected—or used—by the Society until now without the authorization of the [local] bishops.

[SIGNED] Joseph Card. Ratzinger.   Marcel Lefebvre.

Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Cardinal Ratzinger, May 6, 1988

Your Eminence,

Yesterday it was with real satisfaction that I put my signature on the Protocol drafted during the preceding days. However, you yourself have witnessed my deep disappointment upon reading the letter that you gave me informing me of the Holy Father’s answer concerning episcopal consecrations.

Practically speaking, a postponement of the episcopal consecrations to a later undetermined date would be the fourth time that I had postponed the date of the ceremony. June 30 was clearly indicated in my previous letters as the latest possible date.

I have already given you a file concerning the candidates. There are still two months to establish the mandate.

Given the particular circumstances of this proposal, the Holy Father can very easily simplify the procedure so that the mandate can be communicated to us around mid-June.

If the answer was no, I would find myself in conscience obliged to proceed with the consecrations, relying on the agreement given by the Holy See in the Protocol for the consecration of one bishop who is a member of the Society.

The hesitations expressed on the subject of the episcopal consecration of a member of the Society, either by writing or by word of mouth, give me reason to fear delays. Everything is now prepared for the ceremony on June 30: hotel reservations, transportation, rental of huge tents to shelter the ceremony.

The disappointment of our priests and lay faithful would be extreme. All of them hope that this consecration will be performed with the agreement of the Holy See; but having been disappointed already by previous delays they would not understand it if I accepted a new delay. They are aware and desirous above all of having true Catholic bishops transmitting the true Faith to them and communicating to them in a sure way the graces of salvation to which they aspire for themselves and for their children.

In the hope that this request shall not be an insurmountable obstacle to the reconciliation in process, please, Your Eminence, accept my respectful and fraternal sentiments in Christo et Maria.

+ Marcel Lefebvre
Former Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle