Holy Cross Seminary

Most Asked Questions About the Society of Saint Pius X


Question 4: Wasn't Archbishop Lefebvre suspended from performing all sacred functions along with all the priests he ordained?


Oct. 27, 1975:

Cardinal Villot writes to the hierarchies of the world to tell them no longer to incardinate1 any priests from the Society of Saint Pius X, as it has been suppressed.2

June 12, 1976:

Mgr. Benelli writes Archbishop Lefebvre, telling him  not to  ordain priests without their local Bishops' permission.

June 29, 1976:

Archbishop Lefebvre goes ahead with the foreseen ordinations.

July 1, 1976:

The "suspension" of Archbishop Lefebvre and his newly ordained priests is declared.

 

A FIRST OBSERVATION

     The Church, by approving the Society of Saint Pius X, 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 (QUESTION 3).Moreover:

  • Then again, the Society of Saint Pius X not being lawfully suppressed, it was unjust to try to stop candidates from joining it.
  • After Cardinal Wright s letter of praise, the Congregation for the Clergy allowing religious priests transferring to the Society to be directly incardinated into it and Bishop Adam (of Sion) judging that the society, being inter-diocesan, could generalize this procedure, Archbishop Lefebvre could reasonably presume this right of incardination.3 So the real problem was more than canonical.

 

BUT, PRIMARILY, IT IS AN ATTACK ON THE TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS

     In the 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 was brought to the Archbishop on the vigil of the Feast. One Novus Ordo Missae and all would be well. 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.

But:

  • the Novus Ordo Missae cannot be said (cf. QUESTION 5)
  • and the Old always can (Principle 20).

Therefore, the suspensions are null:

  • canonically, because unjust,
  • fundamentally, because engineered to do away with the traditional Latin Mass.

But even if unjust, shouldn't censures be observed?

  • If only the one incurring them were to suffer, then YES, that is the more perfect way to act.
  • If there is a question of depriving innumerable souls of the graces they need for salvation, then NO, one cannot.

     Before such an unjust campaign of suppression, the Society could only continue.

     Rome, moreover, has always tacitly recognized the Society of Saint Pius X's legitimate continuation (for example, in May, 1988, when Cardinal Ratzinger agreed to the principle of having a bishop consecrated from among the Society's priests) and the nullity of the suspensions (for example, when in Dec. 1987, Cardinal Gagnon did not hesitate to attend as a prelate the Mass of the "suspended" Archbishop).

 


1. cf. Question 2, n.2

2. cf. Michael Davies, Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, vol. I, p. 136.

3. The Angelus, Apr. 1987, p.3 (Fideliter, No. 55, p. 3ff.).

 


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