The Society of St. Pius X is a work of the Church. It was born providentially in the Church and for the Church. It received official approval from the Bishop of Fribourg on November 1, 1970. On February 18, 1971, Archbishop Lefebvre received a laudatory approbation from the Congregation for the Clergy from Cardinal Wright, Prefect of that dicastery, and signed by the Secretary of that same Congregation, Archbishop Palazzini.
In 1974, two apostolic visitors, Bishop Albert Descamps, Secretary of the Biblical Commission, and Msgr. Guillaume Onclin, Undersecretary of the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law, traveled to Econe. The prelates scandalized the seminarians and the seminary professors by their attitude and especially by their theological opinions.
Following that visit, Archbishop Lefebvre composed a statement dated November 21, 1974, which manifested his decision to remain faithful to what the Church has always done and professed:
We adhere, with all our heart, with all our soul to Catholic Rome, guardian of the Catholic Faith and of the traditions necessary for the preservation of that faith, to Eternal Rome, teacher of wisdom and truth.
On the other hand we refuse and have always refused to follow the Rome of the neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendency that clearly manifested itself in the Second Vatican Council and after the Council in all the reforms that resulted from it.”
“Without any rebellion, any bitterness or any resentment,” Archbishop Lefebvre continued his work of priestly formation. But in 1976, because of his refusal to accept the New Mass and the conciliar reforms, Archbishop Lefebvre was disciplined with a suspension a divinis.
From 1976 to 1988, despite the canonical difficulties and the debacle of the “Conciliar Church”, the Society continued to develop and to extend its work in the world.
In 1988, seeing that the situation of the Church was only worsening, and scandalized by the ecumenical meeting in Assisi in 1986, Archbishop Lefebvre decided to consecrate bishops so as to ensure that his work would be perpetuated.
After several months of exchange with the Roman authorities and despite a hope of reaching an understanding, Archbishop Lefebvre understood that they had taken advantage of him with their deceitful promise that he would have a successor. Assisted by Bishop de Castro Mayer, who came for that express purpose from Brazil, he consecrated four bishops on June 30, 1988.
On July 1, 1988, a decree of excommunication was published. Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society considered that decree of excommunication invalid, particularly because of the state of necessity in which the Church found itself. On January 21, 2009, the decree of excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre was withdrawn by another decree at the order of Pope Benedict XVI.
Since 2000 and the pilgrimage of the Society of St. Pius X to Rome during the Jubilee Year, contacts between Rome and the SSPX were resumed. Essential doctrinal but also canonical discussions took place. Nevertheless, the New Mass of Paul VI and the liturgical and theological reforms of Vatican II are still a major obstacle.
Hidden behind the question of the Society’s canonical status is the real problem throughout the Church today. Indeed, since the Second Vatican Council a revolutionary wind has been blowing that corrupts the faith, worship and morality. Only the return of men of the Church to the bi-millennial teaching and to the Mass of All Time can dispel the “smoke of Satan” that was introduced even into the sanctuary.
Declaration of November 21, 1974 - Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre