Definition: Society of Saint Pius X, an organization promoting traditional Roman Catholic liturgy and practices. Many Catholics were unhappy with the liturgical and ecumenical changes brought about by Vatican II. In 1970, French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the SSPX in order to provide traditional Catholic seminarians an organization to support their traditional beliefs. Originally set up as a valid group, the Vatican later revoked the group’s charter and eventually suspended Lefebvre from his priestly activities in 1976. Fearful that upon his death the SSPX would not be able to ordain any priests, Lefebvre performed a consecration of four bishops in 1988, which led to the excommunication of Lefebvre and his followers. In 2009, Benedict XVI removed the excommunications – which led to even greater controversy when one of the SSPX bishops confirmed publicly that he denied the holocaust.
Discussion: Several lessons can be learned from the SSPX. First, Catholics often use the fact that there are so many Protestant denominations to show that the only true Church is Rome based on its unity. In reality, there has historically been true unity of essential doctrine in Protestantism, and a false unity of beliefs under the papal hierarchy. Second, the treatment of SSPX demonstrates the “my way or the highway” power that is held by the pope – a lesson made evident in the many persecutions of true Christians during the history of the papacy.
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