Asked Questions About the Society of Saint Pius X
Wasn't Archbishop Lefebvre excommunicated for consecrating
Lefebvre, experiencing failing health and seeing no other
way of assuring the continued ordination of truly Catholic
priests, decided to consecrate Bishops and announced that,
if necessary, he will do so even without the Pope's permission.
Gantin, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, officially
warned the Archbishop that, in virtue of canon 1382 (1983
Code of Canon Law), he and the bishops consecrated by
him would be excommunicated for proceeding without pontifical
mandate and thereby infringing the laws of sacred discipline.
Lefebvre, together with Bishop de Castro Mayer, consecrated
Gantin declared the threatened excommunication (according
to canon 1382) to have been incurred. He also called the consecrations
a schismatic act and declared the corresponding excommunication
(canon 1364 §1), as well as threatening anyone supporting
the consecrations with excommunication because of "schism."
Ecclesia Dei Afflicta, the Pope repeated Cardinal Gantin's
accusation of schismatic mentality and threatened generalized
excommunications. (See QUESTION
the excommunication warned of on June 17, for abuse of episcopal
powers (canon 1382), was not incurred because:
1) A person
who violates a law out of necessity1
is not subject to a penalty (1983 Code of Canon Law, canon
1323, §4), even if there is no state of necessity2
- if one
inculpably thought there was, he would not incur the penalty
(canon 1323, 7°),
- and if
one culpably thought there was, he would still incur no automatic
1324, §3; §1,8°).
2) No penalty
is ever incurred without committing a subjective mortal sin (canons
1321 §1, 1323 7°). Now, Archbishop Le-febvre made it amply clear
that he was bound in conscience to do what he could do to continue
the Catholic priesthood and that he was obeying God in going ahead
with the consecrations.4
Hence, even if he had been wrong, there would be no subjective
3) Most importantly,
positive law is at the service of the natural and eternal law
and ecclesiastical law is at that of the divine law (Principle
8). No "authority,"5
can force a bishop to compromise in his teaching of Catholic faith
or administering of Catholic sacraments. No "law," can
force him to cooperate in the destruction of the Church. With
Rome giving no guarantee of preserving Catholic Tradition, Archbishop
Lefebvre had to do what he could with his God-given episcopal
powers to guarantee its preservation. It was his duty as a bishop.
4) The Church's
approving the Society of Saint Pius X (QUESTION
2)allow it what it needs for its own preservation.
This includes the service of bishops who will guarantee to maintain
state of necessity, as it is explained by jurists, is a state in
which the necessary goods for natural or supernatural life are so
threatened that one is morally compelled to break the law in order
to save them. "Is Tradition Excommunicated? p.26 (Appendix
And yet objectively there is. Cf. Is Tradition Excommunicated?
Excommunication for unlawful consecrations (canon 1382) or schism
(canon 1364) are of this kind.
Cf. The Sermon of June 30, 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre and the
Vatican p. 136 (Appendix
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