Vatican and the Traditionalists: Chronology of Events
1976- Vatican charter of Archbishop
Marcel Lefebvre's Seminary of St. Pius X is withdrawn. Archbishop Lefebvre is
suspended by Pope Paul VI, who subjects him to an emotional outburst-to which
Archbishop Lefebvre responds in kind.
1978- A new pope-John Paul
II-initiates contact with Archbishop Lefebvre and receives him warmly at the
Vatican, expressing the desire to reconcile the French archbishop and his
Society of St. Pius X.
1981- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
becomes prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
1984- A papal indult, Quattor Abhinc Annos, is issued to all the bishops of the
world, authorizing them to re-introduce the Latin Mass according to the 1962
Missal at will.
1986- Pope appoints a blue-ribbon advisory commission of cardinals-including the
Secretary of State, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli-to examine the question of the
Latin Mass; they conclude unanimously that the old ritual was never abrogated
and priests have a right to use it. Informal talks (never absent) are
intensified with Archbishop Lefebvre.
1986- Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Lefebvre reach a deal to regularize the
burgeoning Society of St. Pius X-allowing the SSPX to maintain its own schools,
seminaries, and convents, and to solemnize marriages. But Archbishop Lefebvre
quickly retracts his agreement and expresses new mistrust of Rome. He is
declared excommunicated latae sententiae, but the Pope also issues Ecclesia Dei
Adflicta, a motu proprio recognizing the “rightful aspirations” of the faithful
who wish to attend Mass in the old rite and encouraging bishops to accommodate
1988- The Fraternity of St. Peter is established by the Pope to train priests in
the old rite and minister to traditionalist flocks worldwide. He also
establishes a papal commission, Ecclesia Dei, to safeguard the right of
Catholics to attend Mass using the Missal of 1962.
1988-98- The Fraternity of St. Peter's small army of priests, when combined with
various other traditionalist orders, grows to serve close to 1 million faithful,
by Vatican estimate (which includes the Society of St. Pius X's communities as
1998- Pope John Paul II convenes a special audience for thousands of
traditionalist priests and faithful at St.Peter's, anticipating his Jubilee Year
efforts to reconcile Archbishop Lefebvre's order through a new round of
negotiations with Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos
2002- Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos consecrates the first bishop since Vatican II
exclusively for a traditionalist community in Campos, Brazil, serving more than
30,000 faithful in that diocese alone. The traditionalist bishop answers
directly to Rome and not to the diocesan ordinary-a situation virtually unique
in the history of the Church.
2003- Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos celebrates the Old Mass in St. Mary Major, one
of Rome's major basilicas, and delivers a rousing sermon insisting that Catholic
traditionalists cannot be treated as if they were “second class citizens.”
2005- Pope Benedict XVI is elected, with known sympathy for lifting all
restrictions on the old Mass.