The Society of St Pius X is an extremist sect of the Roman Catholic Church, and is a splinter group of the Catholic Traditionalist movement.
The Catholic Traditionalist movement is not a monolithic body, organisationally or doctrinally. Nor is it that big: of America’s 63 million Catholics, estimates of the number of Traditionalists vary between a low of 50,000 and a high of 100,000. They worship in some 600 chapels across the States, many of which are independent congregations. Traditionalists also refrain from eating meat on Fridays and women wear hats in church. Leaving aside the X-Files lunatic fringe, most Traditionalists are just ultra-orthodox Catholics. They vary between those who see the Vatican reforms as the work of foolish liberals who will eventually see the error of their ways, and a more conservative wing which sees the Vatican as genuine heretics.
Some of the Traditionalist breakaway groups have ordained their own bishops, which makes them schismatics in the eyes of Rome. One tiny group in Kansas has even elected its own Pope Michael. But most Traditionalists say they still “respect” the Pontiff in Rome and only disobey him because he leads a Church that has strayed from revealed truth. In return, the Vatican has tried to keep open the door to Traditionalists by relenting and allowing the Latin Mass to be used if the local bishop agrees.
The biggest of all the splinter Traditionalist groups is the Society of St Pius X, formed as far back as 1970. Its original aim was to train seminarians to keep alive the Tridentine Mass after it was replaced by the new liturgy after Vatican II. Originally the Society was unofficially tolerated by the Vatican. Only when the Society’s founder, the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained his own bishops without papal permission in 1988, did the Vatican declare that he had committed a schismatic act incurring automatic excommunication. However, in the wake of numerous sex scandals in the mainstream Catholic Church, the Society of St Pius has attracted a growing number of adherents – it claims 20,000 members in the US. The Society is an ultra-orthodox Catholic movement which rejects ecumenism.
– Source: The extreme religious sect which fuelled the passion of Mel Gibson, The Scotsman, UK, Mar. 20, 2004 [Note: Mel Gibson is not a member of the Society of St Pius X]