The Society of St. Pius X is a religious institution founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in the 1970’s. The Society of St. Pius X refuses to say the Novus Ordo Mass, ie, the currently widely used Mass celebrated in most Catholic Churches in the Diocese of Gaylord. Due to his ordination of successor bishops without the approval of the Vatican in 1978, Archbishop Lefebvre and some the bishops ordained by him were excommunicated by Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications. Since that time, the Society of St. Pius X has been officially in a state of schism with the Vatican. Nonetheless, the Vatican considers Masses of the Society of St. Pius X to be valid. In 2004, the Vatican also declared that attending a Mass provided by the Society of St. Pius X was not sinful and could fulfill one’s Sunday obligation. Pope Francis has also decreed their confessions to be valid confessions. The Society of St. Pius X attracts those who strongly identify with the Traditional Latin Mass. It has, like the Diocese of Gaylord, had its share of sexual abuse allegations/coverups. It has a dedicated and staunch following.
Although a very small part of Catholics, the Society of St. Pius X has grown and continues to grow, with over 700 priests worldwide. Their new seminary complex in Virginia is huge and their vocations are abundant. Since they are not aligned with the current Church bureaucracy, their ability to establish new parishes or expand new parishes can be done with relative ease.
This is being seen in Michigan. During the COVID-19 pandemic (scare-demic), Catholic Churches were closed for months. Priests were prohibited from having even outdoor Masses in the Diocese of Gaylord and across the United States. The Society of St. Pius X did not fall prey to this. In most areas, they continued to say Mass on a regular basis. Often these Masses were done outside, but the work of providing sacraments to the faithful did not stop.
Due to this reality, as well as actions by the Vatican to curtail the Traditional Latin Mass, the Society of St. Pius X is growing. In Allendale (just west of Grand Rapids), the Society of St. Pius X has added a Sunday Mass over the past year to address the increased size of the parish. Bay City now has a regular Sunday Mass (previously once a month). The parish in Mancelona continues to function despite the depressed economy around Mancelona and a small parish community. The Society of St. Pius X also offered Mass in Cheboygan in part to celebrate the work of Bill Price to restore the Church building. We reported on this last year.
Many faithful Catholics have strong views for or against the Society of St. Pius X. But regardless of this, the Society has been and continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Also, their continued strong growth should be analyzed and studied by dioceses and religious orders for learning how they may be able to flourish and not flounder. The unfortunate tragedy of denying the sacraments to Catholics in this Diocese due to a virus should never occur again. Also, the growth and interest in reverent, traditional Catholic forms of worship should not be discouraged but should be maintained and promoted.