From Vatican II to the present: a brief chronology

During the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, took an active part in the various sessions and played an important role in the resistance to the revolution that was under way, especially as a member of the Cœtus Internationalis Patrum, an important group of several hundred Council Fathers who were opposed to the progressivist tendencies in the Church.

In 1968, in order to avoid having to implement the aggiornamento in his congregation, he submitted his resignation and retired to an apartment in Rome. Soon, in response to repeated requests from young men who wanted to enter the priesthood and to receive a genuinely Catholic formation, he founded the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X in Fribourg (Switzerland).

The Society of Saint Pius X was approved by the diocesan bishop in 1970 and soon afterward purchased the property of Ecône, in the Canton of Valais, so as to open an international seminary, to which vocations flocked from all over the world.

Promptly ostracized, especially by the French bishops, who did not look kindly on this seminary, which continued to train young men according to the traditional spirit and discipline, the Society was threatened in 1974, and again in 1976. During that year Ecône hardened its opposition to the modern Church, refusing the new Mass and defending the traditional Mass, and denouncing doctrinal novelties such as religious liberty, false ecumenism, and collegiality, which however had already been condemned by the earlier Roman Magisterium.

In 1988, to ensure the continuance of the Catholic priesthood and to come to the help of the faithful who were appealing to him, given the state of emergency provoked by the intention of the conciliar Church to carry out its destructive reforms, Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops so as to continue fighting the good fight for the faith.

As the Society kept growing and developing, Rome modified its approach after the pilgrimage for the Jubilee Year 2000, during which an international pilgrimage assembled in the Eternal City a multitude of priests and faithful who are devoted to Tradition.

Bishop Fellay, Superior General of the Society, was received in a private audience by John Paul II in 2003, then by Benedict XVI on August 29, 2005.

On July 7, 2007, the pope declared that the traditional Mass, for which Archbishop Lefebvre had fought and been condemned, had never been abrogated.

On January 21, 2009, the pope annulled the effects of the decree condemning the episcopal consecrations in 1988.

From October 26, 2009, to April 11, 2011, a series of doctrinal discussions took place between the experts of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and those of the Society of Saint Pius X.  During the eight sessions, which were held in the palace of the Holy Office, the following topics were addressed :  the liturgical reform of Paul VI ;  the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council ;  the new doctrine of religious liberty ;  questions of ecclesiology (unity of the Church ;  collegiality) ;  the Magisterium and Catholic Tradition.

On September 14, 2011, Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, delivered to Bishop Fellay for his signature a Doctrinal Preamble that was to serve as the basis for canonical regularization.

On December 1, 2011, the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X sent his response, which was later clarified in a second letter dated January 12, 2012.  

On March 16 Cardinal Levada insisted that the Doctrinal Preamble be accepted.  Bishop Fellay stated the fundamental Catholic principles that would allow the Society of Saint Pius X to work officially for the renewal of the Church and for the restoration of the Catholic priesthood.