Marcel Lefebvre (29 November 1905 – 25 March 1991) was a French Roman Catholic archbishop. Ordained a diocesan priest in 1929, he joined the Holy Ghost Fathers for missionary work, first as a professor at a seminary in Gabon, then as the Archbishop of Dakar, Lefebvre spent most of the period from the 1930s to the early 1960s in colonial west Africa. Even at a distance from Europe, he enthusiastically endorsed Marshall Pétain’s Vichy regime for what he termed its “Catholic order”. Indeed, until his death, Lefebvre offered his support to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front Nationale, and voiced approval of the repressive military dictatorship of General Franco in Spain, António Salazar in Portugal, Jorge Videla in Argentina and Augusto Pinochet in Chile. In 1970, in reaction against Pope John XXIII’s Vatican II reforms, Lefebvre established the SSPX order and its seminary in Ecône, Switzerland. He was especially angered by the Pope’s conciliatory gestures towards Judaism, which he saw as a violation of Catholicism’s unique relationship with God.
In 1975, after a flare of tensions with the Holy See, Lefebvre was ordered to disband the society, but ignored the decision. In 1988, against the expressed prohibition of Pope John Paul II, he consecrated four bishops to continue his work with the SSPX. The Holy See immediately declared that he and the other bishops who had participated in the ceremony had incurred automatic excommunication under Catholic canon law, a status Lefebvre refused to acknowledge to his death three years later.
The Society is known for rejecting many of the ecclesiastical reforms both influenced or institutionalized by the Second Vatican Council, and maintaining the Tridentine Mass among its followers.