The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is an ultra-conservative group within the Catholic Church. It was named after Pope Pius X, who vigorously opposed the Modernist approach to theology, which had begun in the nineteenth century to view traditional Christian teachings in their historical perspective.
In 1969, Marcel Lefebvre founded the Society. Although Lefebvre was appointed to the central planning commission for the Second Vatican Council in 1960, he and his Society later distanced themselves from Rome and the Council. Points at issue were liturgy, freedom of religion and the ecumenical movement. Under Pope Benedict XVI the relationship improved slightly. But for many members of the SSPX, Pope Francis and his pastoral approach are like a red rag to a bull: They condemn his actions as “Modernist,” which in their terms means “heretical”.
Critics accuse some of the Society’s members of being dangerously close to the political far-right and of anti-Semitism. The biggest scandal erupted in 2009, when Bishop Richard Williamson publicly denied that Holocaust had ever happened. The Society procrastinated for three years before expelling him.
The SSPX has six seminaries, two universities and more than a hundred primary and secondary schools around the world. Aside from its bishops (Bernard Fellay, Alfonso de Galarreta and Bernard Tissier de Mallerais), the fraternity boasts more than 550 priests and 200 seminarians. Most of its adherents are French, like its founder, Marcel Lefebvre.