Wasn't Archbishop Lefebvre suspended?
(from performing all sacred functions along
with the priests he
This topic is In direct
connection with the illegal suppression of the SSPX (cf.
SSPX Q. 3
Short History of the SSPX).
November 21, 1974
Following an apostolic visitation
made at the Society's seminary in Econe on November 11, during which the
apostolic visitors expressed scandalous opinions (e.g., married clergy,
evolution of dogma, etc.), Archbishop Lefebvre writes his famous
declaring his adherence to Eternal Rome and rejecting the neo-Modernist Rome.
February 13 - March 3, 1975
The Archbishop meets with three
cardinals, ostensibly to discuss the apostolic visitation, but which in fact, turns into a
tribunal attacking and condemning his
Declaration as “unacceptable on all points.” Unaware of what the true nature of
these “trials” would be, he did not have a lawyer present, and though promised,
never received even a copy of the recorded meetings.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
during the 1976 priestly ordinations at Econe
|May 6, 1975
This irregular commission then writes Bishop Mamie (successor of Bishop Charriere at
Fribourg) telling him to withdraw his predecessor’s approval of the Society,
something which is quite beyond his jurisdiction (as once a bishop
has approved a religious congregation, only the pope can
suppress it; cf., 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 493
and 1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 616)
Meanwhile, Cardinal Villot, the
Secretary of State, forces (under the threat of being dismissed) Cardinal Staffa,
Prefect of the Supreme Apostolic Signature (the highest ecclesiastical tribunal)
to refuse the Archbishop’s rightful canonical appeal for an ecclesiastical trial
of his case.
October 27, 1975
Cardinal Villot writes to the hierarchies of the world
informing them to no longer
incardinate* any priests from the SSPX, as it has been
suppressed (cf. Michael Davies,
Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, vol.
I, p. 136).
*After Cardinal Wright wrote
his letter of praise on February 18, 1971, giving Rome's
permission to the foundation of the Society, the Archbishop
wrote to the Congregation for the Clergy seeking permission
to directly incardinate religious priests into the Society. This was granted and furthermore, Bishop Adam (of Sion,
considering that the Society was of international status, generalized
this procedure (cf. The Angelus, April 1987, p. 3 and Fideliter,
no. 55, p. 3ff.).
June 12, 1976
Archbishop Benelli writes
Archbishop Lefebvre, telling him not to ordain priests without their local
June 29, 1976
Archbishop Lefebvre goes ahead with the foreseen ordinations.
July 1, 1976
The illegal suspension of Archbishop Lefebvre and his
newly ordained priests is declared.
The Church, by approving the SSPX, approved also that it live,
i.e., that it have all the ordinary means to lead its religious life and fulfill its aim. This is a
fundamental consideration when taking into consideration the nullity of its suppression
Also, a brief examination into the
legality of the actions (retracting the ability to incardinate members and the
declared suspensions) taken against Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society
will show that these proceedings were not canonical (i.e., not lawful),
had no foundation which thereby made them unjust, and therefore had no validity
the Mass of All Time during the 1985
priestly ordinations at Ridgefield, CT
this was primarily an attack on the traditional Roman Mass:
canonical issues which were woven into the events, nevertheless, it was clear
that the heart of the matter rested with the issue of the Mass.
three weeks before the ordinations to be held on June 29, 1976, Archbishop
Lefebvre was approached by Rome as many as six times with the request that he
establish normal relations with the Vatican and that he give proof of this by
saying a Mass according to the new rite. He was told that if the
ordination Mass on the 29th would be with the Missal of Pope Paul VI, then all
opposition would be smoothed over.
This offer despite
the recent illegal actions that had been taken by Cardinal Villot
and Archbishop Benelli regarding the Society's right to
This offer was brought to
the Archbishop on the vigil of the feast. One Novus Ordo Missae
and all would be well.
So, herein we see most clearly the one
fundamental reason for the campaign against Archbishop Lefebvre and his
Society: exclusive adhesion to the old Mass and refusal to say the new.
even if these censures were unjust, shouldn't they be observed?
If only the one incurring them were to suffer, then
yes, that is the more perfect way to act.
however there is a question of depriving innumerable souls of the graces they need for salvation, then
So, before such an unjust campaign of suppression, the
Archbishop and his Society could only continue.
Further proving that the actions
mentioned above were indeed invalid, Rome has always tacitly recognized the SSPX’s legitimate continuation and the nullity of the suspensions;
in December 1987,
Cardinal Gagnon did not hesitate to attend as a prelate the Pontifical Mass of “suspended” Archbishop
and in May 1988, Cardinal Ratzinger
agreed to the principle of having a bishop consecrated from among the Society’s
negotiations in 2001-2002, held between Cardinal Castrillion-Hoyos of the
Ecclesia Dei Commission (at the behest of the pope) with Bishop Fellay, Superior
General of the Society et al.