The Vatican has confirmed receipt of a positive response from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to the “doctrinal preamble” that could form the basis for reconciliation between the traditionalist group and the Holy See.
The Ecclesia Dei commission, which is responsible for relations with traditionalist Catholics, announced on April 18 that it had received a response from Bishop Bernard Fellay, the SSPX leader. That response will be reviewed by the Ecclesia Dei commission, and by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and then forwarded to Pope Benedict XVI for a final decision that could result in the lifting of suspensions of SSPX bishops.
|The Post Vatican II Mass, created in 1969,|
is the only Mass known by millions of Catholics
|An SSPX Mass at Lourdes|
The Society of St. Pius X credits Pope Benedict XVI for the motu proprio, and for the lifting of the “excommunications”. Indeed it is probably true that no other cardinal elected to the Papacy in 2005 would have both freed the old Mass and removed the unjust stigma laid upon the SSPX bishops.
But the SSPX primarily credits Our Blessed Mother. The Society organized two Rosary Crusades to which SSPX supporters worldwide responded with generous enthusiasm.
Two and a half million Rosaries were prayed in the first Rosary Crusade for the freeing of the Tridentine Mass. In the second, SSPX supporters offered one million, seven-hundred-three thousand Rosaries in less than two months. These are impressive numbers for those who are a minority in the Church.
The SSPX’s Father David Hewko, in his February 1 homily at Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel in South Buffalo, New York, told the congregation, “Look what Our Lady did through the Rosary in only two years!”
|The Lefebvre Family|
Here is a very brief biography of this most holy man from cfnews.org:
Marcel Lefebvre's (1905-91) career saw him make a meteoric rise through the ranks. At age 42, this missionary priest was appointed bishop in Senegal by Pope Pius XII. One year later, he was named as the Holy See's Apostolic Delegate for French-speaking Africa. In 1962 he was elected Superior General of the 5,000-member Holy Ghost Fathers. Pope John XXIII made him an Assistant to the Papal Throne and a member of the Preparatory Commission for the Second Vatican Council.
Archbishop Lefebvre in Africa
In 1968 he felt obliged to resign from his post as Superior General, and on November 1, 1970, he founded the Society of St. Pius X in Econe, Switzerland with canonical approval. He gradually became well-known throughout the world because of his adherence to the "Latin Mass," his opposition to some of the innovations of Vatican II (1962-65), and his disagreements with Pope Paul VI.
After the Vatican sanctioned him and the Society, he celebrated a "forbidden Mass" in Lille, France (1976), before 10,000 Catholics and 400 journalists, an event that brought him and his convictions international status. In 1988 he made headlines again when he consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II.
All Catholics, particularly those attached to the Tridentine Mass, owe a huge debt of gratitude to this man who was so extraordinarily sure of himself only because he was absolutely sure of God.
|Archbishop LeFebvre and Padre Pio|
Now, let’s look at the canonical issues regarding the excommunication of Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishops (Williamson, de Galarreta,Tissier de Mallerais and Fellay). Lefebvre consecrated the bishops on June 30, 1988, and on July 1, 1988 Cardinal Gantin sent a decree of excommunication to Lefebvre and the other bishops. Lefebvre was accused of consecrating bishops without pontifical mandate in violation of canon 1382, as well as being a schismatic under canon 1364,1 – both of which impose a latae sententiae excommunication for those violations. This means the perpetrator excommunicates himself by virtue of the act; the Church does not excommunicate the offender.
Above: "Operation Survival" on June 30th 1988.From left to right: Bishops de Galarreta, Tissier de Mallerais, de Castro Mayer, Archbishop Lefebvre, and Bishops Williamson and Fellay
It is true that Archbishop Lefebvre disobeyed Pope John Paul II by consecrating bishops without pontifical mandate in violation of canon 1382. It is also true that John Paul II said that the archbishop excommunicated himself. Because John Paul II was the supreme legislator of the Church, we must presume that his interpretation of the law was accurate and binding. However, that is not the end of the story. First, we know from history that a pope may abuse his authority in excommunicating a Catholic, for example, by making an error in judgment, as was the case with Pope Victor’s excommunication of the Asiatic churches, or being pressured or succumbing to weakness, as was the case of Pope Liberius’ wrongful excommunication of Athanasius, who became a great saint and doctor of the Church. This is not common, but it does happen. The pope’s authority must always be at the service of Tradition.
Second, canon law mitigates or eliminates canonical penalties under certain circumstances. For example, canon 1323,4 provides that one is not liable to a penalty who, when violating a law, “acted under the compulsion of grave fear, even if only relative, or by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience, unless, however, the act is intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls.” As applied here, the Archbishop made it clear in his sermon on June 30, 1988 that he believed he was acting out of necessity in consecrating the bishops to retain the traditional priesthood and Mass which was all but abandoned by the bishops at that time.
The archbishop was concerned about the Modernism that had ravaged the Church (remember these consecrations took place shortly after the scandalous Assisi prayer meeting) and was genuinely worried that, without traditional bishops, he would have orphaned his seminarians. When one reads his sermon, it is clear that the last thing the archbishop wanted to do was separate himself from Eternal Rome. Of course, the act of consecrating a bishop is not intrinsically evil, nor is it harmful to souls (especially when Lefebvre wasn’t purporting to grant the bishops jurisdiction or set up an ecclesial structure in opposition to the Church).
As we have said, the pope is the supreme legislator of the Church. We also conclude that the pope disagreed with Lefebvre about there being a “reason of necessity” to go forward with the consecrations. Those opposed to Lefebvre’s actions argue that the pope’s judgment that there was no necessity settles the matter. However, canon law regards what is in the mind of the offender, not the pope. Canon 1323,7 says that no one is liable to a penalty who, when violating a law or precept, “thought, through no person fault, that one of the circumstances mentioned (i.e., necessity) existed..” In other words, if Lefebvre (not the pope) “thought, through no personal fault,” that a “reason of necessity” existed to consecrate the four bishops, then he would not incur excommunication under canon 1382.
Can anyone credibly argue that Archbishop Lefebvre did not really think there was a “reason of necessity” or “grave inconvenience” which motivated his consecrations? I don’t think so. I think any honest Catholic would conclude that the archbishop truly believed, “through no personal fault,” that he had a case of necessity or grave inconvenience. But even if one wants to accuse the archbishop of being culpably erroneous in his assessments, canon 1324,1 says that the penalty is diminished for one who (8) “erroneously, but culpably, thought that one of the circumstances [necessity] existed,” and (3) where the penalty is diminished, “the offender is not bound by latae sententiae penalty.” Thus, even if the archbishop was culpably wrong in his assessments, canon 1324 would diminish his canonical penalty to something less than excommunication.
Thus, on a purely canonical basis, I don’t see how the excommunications stick. With this analysis, I mean no disrespect to Pope John Paul II. I am simply applying the law to the facts. Many reputable canon lawyers and theologians have reached this same conclusion. The canon law enacted by John Paul II looks to the mind of the perpetrator in determining whether a “reason of necessity” or “grave inconvenience” mitigates or eliminates a canonical penalty. Archbishop Lefebvre knew canon law. He based his decision to consecrate the four bishops on this law providing for “reason of necessity” and “grave inconvenience.” If Catholics cannot rely upon canon law to govern their actions, then we have an absolute monarchy and not the Catholic Church.
* * *The Church needs the Society of St. Pius X, and they need to be reunified with the rest of the Church. Since becoming pope, Pope Benedict XVI has worked very hard to bring the Society back into union with the rest of the Catholic Church. It seems that we are now very close to that actually becoming a reality. There are many enemies of the Church, both inside and outside, who will try very hard to stop this reunification. We must pray that they are not successful. We need each other more than ever as the world descends into an evil abyss.
|The Society of St. Pius X|