The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to train priests to preserve "Catholic traditions," primarily the Tridentine Rite of the Mass which had been swept away in the wake of Vatican II. But is this an organization with which anyone should become involved? Is it under Rome? Is it truly Catholic in its teachings and operations? What do we really know about the Society of St. Pius the Tenth?
The Society was established as a "pious union of the faithful" (not a priestly fraternity as the SSPX claims) ad experimentum (as an experiment), by Bishop Charriere, Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, Switzerland, for a period of six years. Click here for more on this. Without permission, Lefebvre established his first seminary in Econe, Switzerland.
Also known is that:In the mid-70's, the Society was suppressed after an investigation by Rome, and, Lefebvre was forbidden to perform his priestly functions (also see the section Double-talk and Confusion below);
as the six year period was not extended, the Society has been operating without a legal mandate since the mid 1970's;
- without permission Lefebvre continued to ordain priests;
- without permission Lefebvre created additional seminaries;
- over the years the Society has established many missions, chapels, and schools for the children of the laity all without papal mandate or approval;
- the Society has accumulated much property over the years and this has continued since Lefebvre's death;
- in May of 1988 Lefebvre signed a protocol to allow for the consecration of a bishop - the day after the signing Lefebvre unexpectedly rejects the protocol he signed;
- in June of 1988 and in defiance of Rome, Lefebvre consecrates four bishops - these four plus Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer (both now deceased) formerly of the diocese of Campos, Brazil, and co-consecrator with Lefebvre, all incurred excommunication;
- the Society, after the consecrations, is now clearly in schism and its patrons can no longer pretend it isn't;
- the Society, especially after Lefebvre's death, drifts more and more toward various heresies such as Jansenism, Manichaeism, and Gallicanism, in its actions and policies;
- the Society adopts rigorous and unwarranted positions with respect to women wearing trousers or pants and has required men at its retreat center in Ridgefield to wear long-sleeved shirts even in summer time;
- at one of the Society schools, girls were told that it was a mortal sin to have any lace on their underwear;
- a student at the Society high school in St. Mary's, Kansas, was kicked out of school simply because he had the picture of a girl, also a student, in his wallet although the two had only written to each other;
- in a sermon, people were told not to vote in elections and that it was wrong for women to drive cars;
- the Society tells people that a television set is a proximate occasion of mortal sin that can never be used without harm to the faith, morals, or a person's mental development;
- the Society condemns natural family planning which the Church has approved;
- the Vice-Rector (Fr. Wolfgang Goettler) of the Society's US seminary has said no one can hold public office in the U. S. and be a good Catholic;
- about 1987 the Society began to openly display an anti-American attitude - condemning the nature and form of our government;
- Masses said under the 1984 Indult, for the use of the Tridentine Rite of Mass, have been called satanic;
- children are told, without distinction, to always obey priests and nuns even if it conflicts with the proper wishes of their parents;
- Society bishops have consecrated a bishop for the diocese of Campos, Brazil without the permission of Rome - another schismatic act;
- the Society, at least since 1993, has been issuing Decrees of Nullity - annulments - in violation of Canon Law;
- the Society leadership has seen fit to associate themselves with the members of the Tridentine Rite Conference (TRC) - organizations and individuals as far ranging as the Feeneyites, who virtually deny the Church's teaching about baptism of desire, to the sede vacantists (chair is vacant), who believe, for a number of reasons, that there is no legitimate pope occupying the chair of Peter, to just plain schismatics who have rejected the authority of the Holy Father;
- many, many priests have left the Society because, as a former Society priest put it, "there's something dysfunctional there"
To further show the anti-Catholic nature of the Society, one example should suffice. In a letter written by a Fr. Terence Finnegan, one of the many priests who have left the Society, to Fr. Franz Schmidberger, then Superior General of the SSPX, he made comments which show the un-Catholic and outlandish dispositions of Bishop Williamson, the rector of the Society's seminary at Winona, Minnesota. These comments centered on the 1991 Tridentine Rite Conference (TRC) sponsored by a Fr. LeBlanc, of Arizona, and a Fr. Wickens of New Jersey.
Under this umbrella (the TRC) many individuals, groups and organizations gathered, ostensibly, for the purpose of promoting the Tridentine Rite of the Mass. Besides the Old Catholics and the Feeneyites, this odd assortment included the (Vietnamese Archbishop) Thuc priests, the Father (now Bishop) Kelly priests (this last group originally consisted of nine priests who had been expelled from the SSPX by Lefebvre in 1983) and members of the spurious Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem (OSJ).
It was the intention of the conference leadership to bestow a recognition, or award, posthumously on Lefebvre and they wanted Bishop Williamson to come and accept it. Williamson apparently agreed to attend for this purpose.
According to Fr. Finnegan, he has a letter in which Archbishop Lefebvre told "Fr. Laisney (the then U. S. District superior) not to have anything to do with Fr. LeBlanc and his organization, that Fr. LeBlanc was a two-faced man; he used the words literally, 'un homme de double visage.' Yet Bishop Williamson, has been in contact with Fr. Leblanc frequently...as he himself admitted that Fr. Leblanc telephones him frequently, this Fr. LeBlanc who is a source of much evil!" Outraged at the scandal that would be given, objections from priests and laity forced Williamson to back down.
Of Fr. Scott, Fr. Finnegan, had this to say in another letter to Fr. Schmidberger. "The fact is that after this recent crisis of Faith here in America (the TRC), I have lost all confidence in Fr. Scott (District Superior after Fr. Laisney): as a Catholic, as a priest and consequently 'a fortiori' (for a stronger reason) as a District Superior."
This is the same Fr. Scott who is forever throwing out the phrase the "Social Reign of Christ the King." Yet this Fr. Scott was the one who, when the chips were down, failed to call to account Bishop Williamson for wanting to attend this ignominious conference. Fr. Finnegan makes the point well when he says that Fr. Scott "was not concerned that Our Lord Jesus Christ's rights were being violated" in this gathering of "Catholics." This is the same Fr. Scott who had accused this author of lacking fidelity to Archbishop Lefebvre because he had brought to Fr. Scott's attention, in a series of letters, Fr. Scott's own anti-Catholic attitude and that of the Society with respect to the United States and our form of government. Yet Fr. Scott hypocritically sided with the bishop in the matter of attending the TRC. When he was confronted by Fr. Finnegan, Fr. Scott told him it was none of his business.
It is also interesting to note that the leadership of the Society, i.e., Williamson and Scott, will preach against what they call the "false ecumenism" of the "conciliar church," yet they had no hesitancy, until confronted, to practice their own form of "false ecumenism" with those taking shelter under the umbrella of the TRC. The Society leadership continually exhibits a shocking tendency toward hypocrisy.
"Fr. Wickens," according to Fr. Finnegan, "is a priest who is in entire agreement with the Feeneyite error (denying baptism of desire). I have him saying this in his own handwriting. He not only accepts the Feeneyite error, he promotes it himself. Fr. Wickens is also a promoter of the false OSJ in link with the Messineos. Father Wickens is treated as an example for the seminarians (at Winona, MN) to follow."
If, by now, you are thinking that the SSPX is a group reminiscent of a Jim Jones cult, you're right. Those who have been associated with the SSPX for some time (in my case, over ten years) have reached the same conclusion. Two books, Understanding the Cults by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart and Heavenly Deception by Chris Elkins, give us the following characteristics of cults, all of which have been observed in the Society of St. Pius the Tenth to greater or lesser degrees.
Specialized Group This consists of a polarization of people around an ideal which is considered out of the main stream. For the Society, this embodies a historically false notion of 13th century Catholicism and the Tridentine Rite of the Mass. They consider this period a purer time for the Church in its relations with the "state." Comparing apples and oranges, the Society pushes this supposed ideal without explaining just how, politically, they will accomplish it.
The Only Answer Society priests have been heard to say things such as outside of the Society one is outside of the Church. They consider using any rite but the Tridentine, essentially, as the work of the devil - that "their" thoughts and ideals are the only way to be followed for a person to save his soul.
Omnipotent The Society considers itself to have knowledge others do not have and presumes to speak for God and without the blessing of the Church. The Society alone, one is told, has all the answers and is the final determiner of what is or is not morally correct.
Emotional Cult members are generally emotional, hence the SSPX plays to the natural feeling of many people for a more edifying and uplifting rite and its associated liturgies. They play to the emotional appeal the more venerable Tridentine Rite inspires in people.
Exterior Orientation As viewed by many on the outside it appears the Society is performing a worthy function for Catholic faithful - typical of cults. But the lie is put to this by the many priests and laity who have fled from the Society before and since the 1988 episcopal consecrations and even more so since Archbishop Lefebvre died.
Control It is said that within cults many tests are run to see how much control can be exerted on followers. Even small changes will be made for no apparent reason, just to see how well the leadership can control the followers. One means the Society uses is to restrict the reading material of its patrons to the point of telling them that they cannot read from patently Catholic reading material unless the Society has previously given it their blessing.
Godmen The Society's authority is self-contrived, and, as such, they presume to speak for God. They've attempted to build a facade of legitimacy through articles and sermons about what they call supplied jurisdiction. Using this ruse they twist Canon Law to the point where everything they wish to do can be done without permission of the local ordinaries or Rome because it is a matter of "necessity." Necessity - in true liberal/modernist fashion they reserve unto themselves the right to determine, finally, what is right and wrong, what is Catholic or un-Catholic.
Double-talk and Confusion The Society leadership does not shrink from saying one thing while meaning another. They speak of obedience, unity, submission, and authority to their patrons, but they would never consider placing the SSPX under obedience to Rome. We have but to remember that at another time of crisis in the Church, Pope Clement XIV, in 1773, unjustly suppressed the Jesuits. It wasn't until forty-one years later (1814) that the order was reestablished. But did the Jesuits go off and start their own seminaries and chapels? Did they refuse obedience to the Pope? As good sons of the Church, they showed their confidence in the promises of Christ, to be with His Church until the end of time, by faithfully and obediently submitting to the authority of the Pope and closing up shop.
Always Changing In cults it will usually be found that their values, precepts, rules, methods, ideas, plans, and even mores can change over time - characteristics noted by those who have fled the Society.
Strong Leadership Central leaders consider themselves unique and with a special relationship to God. We know this is true of the Society because on October 18th, 1992 Fr. Scott, SSPX District Superior in the U.S., told a meeting in Chicago that they, the Society clergy, are an elite.
Dependence Development Cult followers have it pounded into them that they must pursue and live up to cult beliefs, lifestyle and behavior - so much so is this inculcated, that, for the follower, leaving the cult becomes virtually unthinkable.
Fear of the Future Because of this dependence and the fact that the followers now believe that only the SSPX has the answers, as in other cults, followers fear being separated from the cult to the extent that they will change their own beliefs to stay with the cult. Cult members will even fight vigorously to defend their abandoning of formerly, strongly held beliefs. Those who patronize the Society know that where Peter is, there is the Church. Nevertheless, they obey the Society rather than Rome.
Spy Network That the Society uses its followers to spy on one another is now irrefutable. This was seen in the Chicago mission of the Society after the District Superior, Fr. Scott, forced out the majority of the laymen who were most instrumental in developing and maintaining this mission since 1982. Fr. Scott's replacements kept watch on, and, even followed people around the church to see what they were doing (getting a drink of water, going to the bathroom, checking the bulletin board, etc.). People have testified to the same use of informants at the Society's College and Academy (grade school/high school) in the town of St. Mary's, Kansas. As with other cults, the Society does not discourage such spying, but, rather, uses it to maintain a "Big Brother" element of fear lest someone deviate from cult thinking.
The SSPX - Catholic? Hardly! Out of loyalty to Holy Mother Church and the Papacy, Catholics have a duty to avoid this group as best they can. Anything less is an insult to Our Lord.