The Letter to Our Brother Priests which is sent quarterly by the Society of Saint Pius X to diocesan priests, in letter no. 87 of September 2020 presents an editorial by Fr. Benoît de Jorna, District Superior of France, on the spirit in which Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the Society 50 years ago.
On November 1, 2020, the Society of Saint Pius X celebrated its fifty years of existence. As everyone knows, it was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991), a Spiritan missionary, former Apostolic Delegate for French-speaking Africa, former Archbishop of Dakar, former Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle, former Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, former member of the General Congregation in preparation for the Second Vatican Council.
This foundation took place at the confluence of three movements in which Archbishop Lefebvre was involved. First, on a concrete and immediate level, young men wishing to prepare for the priesthood contacted him seeking to be able to realize their vocations in a truly traditional setting at a time when European and American seminaries were literally exploding. Then, Marcel Lefebvre had been reflecting and meditating for a very long time on priestly formation as desired by the Church, in particular because the origin of his own congregation was the Holy Ghost Seminary, founded by Fr. Claude Poullart des Places (1679 -1709), the latter having participated in the great renewal of priestly formation which, in France, followed the Council of Trent.
Last but not least, Archbishop Lefebvre, who lived Vatican II from the inside and was already seeing its fruits, five years after its closure, had the supernatural intuition that the crisis would principally focus on the priest, and therefore the remedy should above all be directed at the priest. Dying nine years earlier, he obviously could not read, for example, this article in L'Express magazine of February 3, 2000, which states: “The Vatican officially recognizes the departure, since 1964, of around 60,000 priests throughout the world. Unofficially, it is estimated that the numbers are actually 90,000 to 100,000 (over 10,000 in France), 40% of them not having requested an exemption from celibacy.” But Marcel Lefebvre saw enough to understand what was happening, and above all to act in the urgent and necessary direction of a deep spiritual renewal of the clergy.
Archbishop Lefebvre noted that the “recipes” used in seminaries and in priestly life during the 1950s were by no means sufficient, since they failed to prevent this terrible debacle. He proposed getting back to basics, to what is fundamentally the priest for all men of all times and all places, “the minister of the redemptive sacrifice.”