By Edward Feser:
In 1988, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) consecrated four bishops against the express orders of Pope John Paul II. The Vatican declared that the archbishop and the new bishops had, by virtue of this act, incurred a latae sententiae (or automatic) excommunication. This brought to a head years of tension between the Society and the Vatican, occasioned by the Society’s disagreement with liturgical and doctrinal changes following Vatican II. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the chief doctrinal officer of the Church and later to become Pope Benedict XVI, had worked strenuously, if in vain, for a reconciliation.
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