Journey out of the Lefebvre Schism
All Tradition Leads to Rome
JCL/M (Canon Law)
If you’re a Catholic
who’s faithful to the Church’s teaching Magisterium, you’ve probably met up
with followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s 1988 schism, known as the
Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). They’re filled with devotion to the Blessed
Mother, extremely conservative with regard to most moral issues afflicting
the Western world today, and quite reverent before the Blessed Sacrament
during their old Latin liturgies. In short, on the surface, adherents to
Archbishop Lefebvre’s schism appear to be devout Catholics
It’s easy to sympathize with these
folks since most of them have joined the SSPX after being scandalized by
contemporary abuses in doctrine and liturgy in some of our Catholic churches in
North America. In fact, it was precisely because of such sympathies, as well as
the beauty of the Tridentine Mass, that I found myself frequenting SSPX chapels
about eight years ago. Like most SSPX adherents, at the time I thought that my
separation from Rome was merely temporary.
I failed to realize, however, that at the root of every schism, as the present
Code of Canon Law explains, “is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme
Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (Can.
751). Such ruptures from communion with the Church, the Catechism of the
Catholic Church points out, “wound the unity of Christ’s Body” (CCC 817). For
that reason, at the heart of my journey back to full communion with Rome lay
many questions about the unity of the Church as an institution founded by
What follows is a practical reflection on questions concerning Catholic
Tradition that troubled my conscience during my sojourn in the SSPX schism. The
answers to these questions eventually led me to conclude that Sacred Tradition
can only be fully actualized in communion with Rome. My conclusions draw upon
eight years of personal experience within the Traditionalist Movement — the last
five after being reconciled to Rome. In addition, during the last two years I’ve
pursued a licentiate in canon law from the Church, studies that have culminated
in the publication of a major research paper entitled “A Canonical History of
Archbishop Lefebvre’s Schism.” Here’s a brief account of what I learned that led
to my reconciliation with Rome.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was ordained a Spiritan Missionary and later became
the first Archbishop of Dakar, Africa. In this capacity he founded many
missionary dioceses in Africa, and in fact under Pope Pius XII he was appointed
the papal legate to French-speaking Africa.
Before retiring in Rome just after the Second Vatican Council, he also served as
Superior General of Spiritan Missionaries.
Certain problems, however, began to arise in the French seminaries during this
time, and many young seminarians became disenchanted by the confusion that had
arisen within their program of formation. Thus they approached Archbishop
Lefebvre in 1970 and coaxed him out of retirement in Rome. Concerned with the
lack of discipline that had overtaken many French seminaries and the many
doctrinal weaknesses in the formation program of seminarians, in 1969 Lefebvre
founded a House of Studies, which soon evolved into both a seminary and his
Priestly Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).
Both these institutions received canonical approval on an experimental basis
near Econe, Switzerland. However, Lefebvre’s continued use of the Tridentine
Mass eventually became an issue with the Vatican. By 1974 the controversy had
become so heated that Lefebvre made a famous declaration within Traditionalist
circles calling into question the validity and orthodoxy of the Second Vatican
Finding this declaration problematical, Pope Paul VI canonically suppressed the
SSPX and its seminary in 1975. Yet Lefebvre ignored the canonical suppression
and began illicitly ordaining his seminarians to holy orders, an action which
led to the suspension of his faculties later on in the same year. Over the next
thirteen years, Lefebvre continued to operate illicitly and expand the SSPX,
while negotiations continued on and off again with Rome.
Relations between Rome and the SSPX remained rather static until May 5, 1988. On
this day, agreement was finally reached between the SSPX and Rome, reconciling
the SSPX to the Church. The protocol agreement was signed by both Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Lefebvre. Neverthless, a few days afterwards,
Archbishop Lefebvre retracted his signature and announced his intention to
consecrate bishops without Rome’s permission.
On June 30, 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre proceeded with this intention in violation
of canon law, incurring an automatic excommunication under the law. The
following day, Cardinal Bernadin Gantin of the Congregation of Bishops declared
Lefebvre’s excommunication. In a papal motu proprio on July 2, 1988, the Holy
Father John Paul II also confirmed Lefebvre’s excommunication for schism and for
having consecrated bishops despite the Holy See’s warnings not to do so.
Sadly, Lefebvre passed away in Econe in March of 1991, without having formally
reconciled with the Church. Today, the SSPX includes approximately four hundred
priests in over twenty-seven countries representing all five continents. Most
estimates place the number of adherents to Archbishop Lefebvre’s schism at the
one million mark.
Pope St. Pius
V and Quo Primum Tempore
The first argument I ever encountered by an SSPX apologist, in fact the very
argument that led me into their schism, was a citation of Pope St. Pius V’s
sixteenth-century papal bull Quo Primum Tempore. In a nutshell, the SSPX
proponent claimed that St. Pius V promulgated the Tridentine Mass in perpetuity,
meaning for all time. The SSPX claimed — and I found the claim convincing at the
time — that every priest has the right to use the Roman Missal codified by St.
Pius V in Quo Primum Tempore, and that this right cannot be taken away from him.
As I later discovered, however, the problem with the Quo Primum Tempore argument
is a failure to take into account canonical Tradition. First, this argument does
not distinguish between the doctrine and the discipline of the Catholic Church.
Yet that distinction is critical.
Briefly put, a dogma is a doctrine the Church declares with certitude to be
infallible. Take, for example, the dogma of the Blessed Mother’s assumption into
heaven. Pope Pius XII didn’t suddenly declare it as a new truth in 1950 that
Mary was assumed into heaven; this truth, after all, had come into existence
nearly two millennia before when Mary was assumed. Rather, the pope declared
this dogma because the Church had come to know for certain Mary that was assumed
At the root of
every schism, as the present Code of Canon Law explains, “is the
withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion
with the members of the Church
subject to him” (Can. 751). Such ruptures from communion with the
Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, “wound the
unity of Christ’s Body.”
At that point,
our Lady’s assumption was thus no longer a matter of theological speculation for
Catholics. Once declared, a dogma must be believed by the Catholic faithful, and
cannot be reneged upon — although the Church may always clarify her
understanding of a dogma.
A mere discipline of the Faith, on the other hand, is a law, a custom or
practice originating from the Church as a means of safeguarding the good order
of the Church. To establish ecclesiastical discipline, the Church must ask
herself: What is the most practical way of protecting the doctrine of the Church
here and now?
Consequently, discipline is subject to change depending upon the present needs
of the Church. Furthermore, mere disciplines of the Faith need not be applied in
the same manner throughout the entire Church, and they may always be dispensed
from, since the pastoral needs of one particular grouping of the faithful may
differ from the pastoral needs of another. For example, the discipline of
celibacy is imposed upon Catholic priests in the Latin Church, whereas this
discipline is optional for Catholic priests in the Eastern Catholic churches.
Through this insight I first came to see the weakness of the SSPX’s claims. If
Quo Primum Tempore had indeed been promulgated as a dogmatic declaration, then
the SSPX would be correct in stating that every priest and bishop has a right in
perpetuity to use the Tridentine Missal codified by St. Pius V. Nevertheless,
within the very text of Quo Primum Tempore stood a clause by St. Pius V granting
an exception to the declaration: All priests and bishops who said Mass using
liturgical missals more than two hundred years old were not obliged to use this
codified version of the Roman Missal. So even from the beginning of its
promulgation, Quo Primum Tempore never applied to every Catholic priest.
From this fact alone I was able to draw the conclusion that Quo Primum Tempore
was merely disciplinary rather than dogmatic in nature. For a dogmatic
definition, by its very nature, binds the entire Church, while Quo Primum
Tempore contains exceptions among the Catholic faithful in its application. Thus
I was forced to conclude that the document could be legally changed or revoked
by a future Roman Pontiff such as Pope Paul VI.
Yet even if this were not the case, and future Roman Pontiffs were forbidden
from reforming the Missal codified by St. Pius V, I couldn’t deny that this
papal bull merely granted the right to celebrate Mass according to the
Tridentine Missal. Quo Primum Tempore did not extend the right to bishops — upon
their own authority and against the expressed wishes of the Roman Pontiff — to
ordain priests and consecrate bishops as Archbishop Lefebvre had done. In other
words, using a certain liturgical Missal to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
is not the same action as consecrating bishops without permission of the Roman
Pontiff; even if one consecrates bishops in order to provide a source of
ordination for priests who will say the Tridentine liturgy.
A State of
The second point raised by the SSPX in defense of their schism that initially
convinced me of their position was based upon canons 1323:4° and 1324 §1:5° of
the present Code of Canon Law — the canons pertaining to state of necessity.
According to these canons, in an emergency situation, certain laws of the Church
that normally apply cease to do so. Under such conditions, a penalty that can be
attached to the transgression of the law will either be lessened or cease to
For example, normally a priest must be in good standing with the Church and have
permission from his bishop before hearing confessions. However, if an
excommunicated priest came across a car accident on the side of the road, and
found a seriously injured Catholic party, the Catholic Church would
automatically provide the excommunicated priest with the power of hearing the
injured person’s confession, as long as a serious danger of death existed. In
other words, the Church does not punish, because of the crime of a priest, an
injured person in desperate need of absolution; for it’s more important that the
Church absolve the penitent’s sin in danger of death than it is to enforce the
priest’s punishment. Therefore, under the state of necessity canons mentioned
above, the Church allows exceptions to many of her laws in certain unforeseen
Archbishop Lefebvre insisted that his irregular consecration of bishops without
Rome’s permission was carried out in a state of necessity. However, the Holy See
foresaw the situation in which the archbishop found himself before he
consecrated the bishops, yet still denied him permission to proceed with such an
action. As Cardinal Gantin, on behalf of the Holy See, wrote in a letter to
Lefebvre dated June 17, 1988: “Since . . . you stated that you intended to
ordain four priests to the episcopate without having obtained the mandate of the
Supreme Pontiff as required by canon 1013 of the Code of Canon Law, I myself
convey to you this public canonical warning, confirming that if you should carry
out your intention as stated above, you yourself and also the bishops ordained
by you shall incur ipso facto [by that very fact] excommunication latae
sententiae [imposed automatically] reserved to the Apostolic See in accordance
with canon 1382.”
discipline of the Faith, is a law, a custom or practice originating
from the Church as a means of safeguarding the good order of the
To establish ecclesiastical
discipline, the Church must ask herself: What is the most practical
way of protecting the doctrine of the Church
here and now?
In essence, the Holy See did not agree with Lefebvre’s analysis of the situation
in the Catholic Church, namely that a sufficient emergency existed to warrant
the consecration of bishops without Rome’s approval. This is an important point
in resolving the dispute between Archbishop Lefebvre and Pope John Paul II, for
where there exists a difference in interpreting the application of canon law,
canon 16 states clearly: “Laws are authentically interpreted by the legislator
and by that person to whom the legislator entrusts the power of authentic
In Lefebvre’s situation, he knew in advance that his interpretation of canon law
in this case was not acceptable to the Roman Pontiff, who is the highest
legislator. So even though Lefebvre disagreed with the Roman Pontiff’s
interpretation of canon law, it nevertheless remained up to Pope John Paul II to
interpret that law authoritatively. Therefore, because the idea of a state of
necessity in Lefebvre’s circumstances was rejected by Pope John Paul II, I came
to realize that I could not legitimately invoke the state of necessity canons in
defense of Lefebvre’s consecration of bishops without Rome’s permission.
Ordo Missae: Intrinsically Evil?
A common argument now put forward by the SSPX is that the revised liturgy of
Pope Paul VI is intrinsically evil, or at the least poses a proximate danger to
the Catholic faith. This would mean that the post-Vatican II liturgy is in and
of itself contrary to the law of God. How individual Lefebvrites approach this
issue will often vary, but they typically insist that the new Mass contains
heresy, blasphemy or ambiguity. In resolving this question, I came to the
personal conclusion that Christ has a sense of humor, since the same text from
Catholic Tradition the SSPX quotes in defense of this claim is the very text
that refutes it.
A preliminary observation is in order. The Mass has not changed since Christ
instituted this sacrament on the night before His crucifixion. In essence, there
is neither an “old” Mass nor a “new” Mass, but only the Mass. In fact what
changed after the Second Vatican Council was not the Mass, but the liturgy.
This means that while the “accidents” (to use a classical theological term)
differ somewhat between the pre-Vatican II liturgy and the reformed liturgy of
Pope Paul VI, their essence remains the same: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity
of Jesus Christ transubstantiated into the Eucharist. This central mystery of
the Mass takes place regardless of whether the priest celebrates according to
the liturgical books in use before the Second Vatican Council or according to
the liturgical books revised by Pope Paul VI. In fact, both sets of liturgical
books are usages of the same Roman liturgical rite.
When I was associated with the SSPX, to defend the claim that the reformed
liturgy is intrinsically evil I used to quote the seventh canon on the Sacrifice
of the Mass from the Council of Trent. This canon states: “If anyone says that
the ceremonies, vestments and outward signs which the Catholic Church makes use
of in the celebration of Masses are incentives to impiety, rather than offices
of piety; let him be anathema.”
Let’s look at this more closely. Since the definition of intrinsic evil is
“something which in and of itself is evil,” we see from the Council of Trent
that an approved liturgy of the Church cannot be such. For something that is
intrinsically evil is naturally an incentive to impiety, while the Council of
Trent declares dogmatically that the approved liturgical ceremonies of the
Catholic Church cannot be incentives to impiety.
But wait a second: Wasn’t the revised liturgy of Pope Paul VI an approved
liturgy of the Church? Of course! So according to the Tradition of the Church as
dogmatically defined at the Ecumenical Council of Trent, I could only conclude
that the reformed liturgy of Pope Paul VI cannot be an incentive to impiety. It
necessarily follows, then, that neither could it be intrinsically evil. Thus in
my defense of the schismatic position I stood refuted by the very Catholic
Tradition from the Council of Trent that I was seeking to preserve through
adherence to the SSPX schism.
Consecration of Bishops: An Act of Schism? One argument commonly presented within SSPX circles is that the act of
consecrating bishops without papal permission is an act of disobedience, but not
an act of schism. Although I didn’t give much thought to this argument, either
before or after my involvement in the SSPX, nevertheless it should be addressed
because it’s frequently made among schismatic ranks. The SSPX folks generally
claim that they have not withdrawn subjection to the Roman Pontiff. Rather, they
refuse obedience in some matters.
We should reiterate here that canon 752 defines schism as “the withdrawal of
submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the
Church subject to him.” Notice that the canon does not distinguish between
degrees of withdrawal of submission to the Roman Pontiff. In other words, a
person need not completely withdraw submission to the Roman Pontiff to enter
into a state of schism. Rather, partial withdrawal of obedience in certain
matters — and consecrating bishops without papal mandate is a serious matter —
remains an act through which a person withdraws submission to the Roman Pontiff.
In short, the Holy Father told Archbishop Lefebvre not to consecrate bishops
without Rome’s permission, and Archbishop Lefebvre refused to submit.
I never paid this argument much attention during my time in the SSPX chapels.
But afterward I realized that the SSPX claim — that they haven’t withdrawn
submission to the Roman Pontiff, but rather have merely temporarily suspended
their obedience to him in certain matters — could not be sustained by Catholic
Tradition. For such an act of disobedience in a serious matter remains at least
a temporary withdrawal of submission to the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, with
sufficient moral certitude I could only conclude that Archbishop Lefebvre’s act
of consecrating bishops against Pope John Paul II’s stated wishes was an act of
schism according to canon law.
A person need
not completely withdraw submission to the Roman Pontiff to enter
into a state of schism. Rather, partial withdrawal of obedience in
certain matters - and consecrating bishops without papal mandate is
a serious matter - remains anact through which a person withdraws
submission to the Roman Pontiff. In short, the Holy Father told
Archbishop Lefebvre not to consecrate bishops without Rome’s
permission, and Archbishop Lefebvre refused to submit.
Probably the most common claim I came across within SSPX circles was the claim
that Pope Liberius (reigned A.D. 352-366) was a heretic, sympathetic to
Arianism, who falsely excommunicated St. Athanasius. For this reason, the SSPX
claims, Pope Liberius became the first pope in the history of the Church not be
recognized as a saint. Of course, by analogy the SSPX considers Archbishop
Lefebvre a modern St. Athanasius and Pope John Paul II a modern Pope Liberius.
Their argument is that if it happened once, it can happen again. And yet, as our
Lord showed me in a rather amusing fashion, such claims have little basis in
Convinced the SSPX claims pertaining to this situation were true, I was reading
my copy of Henri Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma one day when I noticed
that Denzinger listed Pope Liberius as “St. Liberius.” To say I was surprised
would be an understatement — ironically enough, the SSPX had sold me the
particular edition of Denzinger I was reading, since they held all subsequent
editions as suspect. Yet this portion of Denzinger clearly did not accord with
what was being preached from our local SSPX pulpit. So I simply dismissed this
listing as a probable typesetting error and continued reading.
A mere ten pages later, I came across a papal epistle authored by Pope St.
Anastasius subtitled “The Orthodoxy of Pope Liberius.” In it, Pope St.
Anastasius clearly states: “The heretical African faction [of the Arian heresy]
was not able by any deception to introduce its baseness because, as we believe,
our God provided that that holy and untarnished faith be not contaminated
through any vicious blasphemy of slanderous men — that faith which had been
discussed and defended at the meeting of the synod of Nicea by the holy men and
bishops now placed in the resting place of the saints” (see art. 93 of the
So far, so good; God had clearly preserved the Church from Arianism through the
actions and prayer of holy men. But who were these holy men, and how does this
relate to Pope Liberius? I wondered. To my surprise, Pope St. Anastasius
answered the question in the subsequent paragraph this way: “For this faith
those who were then esteemed as holy bishops gladly endured exile, that is . . .
Liberius, bishop of the Roman Church.”
I was stunned by this pope’s answer, for clearly there was a contradiction here:
Was I to believe Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers as the authentic teaching
from Catholic Tradition? Or was I to believe the teaching of Anastasius in his
papal epistle Dat mihi plurimum — the claim of one who was a saint, a pope, and
a writer much closer to the time the Arian heresy took place? When my local SSPX
priest failed to provide an adequate solution for this quandary, I could only
accept the claim of Pope St. Anastasius as the authentic voice of Catholic
Traditional Rome vs. Modernist Rome The question of Rome eventually weighed
in on my conscience, as it should for anyone who leaves the Church. Given what
Catholic Tradition consistently teaches concerning faithfulness to Rome, how
could I justify my separation from the Roman Pontiff? In fact, even five years
after reconciling myself to Rome, the question of communion with Rome and the
local Bishop remains the catalyst for much of my theological and canonical
While I was with the SSPX, however, I accepted their solution to this problem.
The SSPX claimed that the questionable behavior of the post-Vatican II popes had
divided the faithful into two camps. One camp, the institutional Church, was
faithful to contemporary Rome, which the SSPX claims has been infiltrated by
modernists and liberals. In the other camp rests the SSPX, who naturally are
faithful to Traditional Rome.
Nevertheless, I was unable to deceive my conscience. So I kept wondering whether
Catholic Tradition actually sustained the argument that a Catholic could be
faithful to Traditional Rome, without remaining faithful to temporal Rome.
“Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in You,” remarks St. Augustine
at the opening of his Confessions. My heart was spiritually restless because it
didn’t rest in full communion with Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. Yet
Christ also promises us in the Gospels that if we seek the truth, we will find
it (see Matt. 7:7).
In my case, the truth lay in the back room of my parents’ basement. There I
found an abandoned box full of old papal encyclicals left over from my father’s
college days. At the bottom of this box was Pope Pius XII’s masterful papal
encyclical Mystici Corporis.
Curious as to the content, I immediately opened this work to the following
passage: “We think, how grievously they err who arbitrarily claim that the
Church is something hidden and invisible, as they also do who look upon her as a
mere human institution possessing a certain disciplinary code and external
ritual, but lacking power to communicate supernatural life” (par. 64). This
theological discovery from Catholic Tradition as expressed by the pre-Vatican II
popes astounded me even more than my previous St. Anastasius discovery in
Here, from the Church’s Tradition, was the teaching that we cannot separate the
Church into a mere spiritual communion as opposed to a mere human institution.
In short, the Rome of Tradition and the Rome of Today were the same Rome.
Everything suddenly made sense to me about Catholic ecclesiology. Just as at the
Incarnation Christ was fully human and fully divine, without sacrificing either
nature, so too must the Church, as Christ’s Mystical Body, be a perfect union of
the visible and the invisible.
that St. Paul had asked somewhere in his epistles the question “Is Christ
divided?” (see 1 Cor. 1:13). Of course, the answer was no. Therefore, why in the
name of Catholic Tradition was I dividing Christ’s Mystical Body into a
spiritual communion and a human communion?
Furthermore, in frequenting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass outside the visible
communion of the Church, why was I dividing Christ’s Sacramental Body (Body,
Soul and Divinity) in the Eucharist from Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church? For
didn’t expressions such as “Body of Christ” and “Communion” carry this double
meaning: the first sacramental, meaning the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, and
the second ecclesiological, meaning the sacred unity of the Church?
Captivated by these questions forming in my conscience, I kept reading Mystici
Corporis and came across the following section:
But we must
not think that He rules only in a hidden or extraordinary manner. On the
contrary, our Redeemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible and
normal way through His Vicar on earth. . . . Since He was all-wise He could
not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a
visible head. . . . That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head is
the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in
the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; and his successors have never ceased to
repeat the same (par. 40).
Of course, I
said to myself; the Roman Pontiff and Jesus Christ form but one head of the
Catholic Church. The word “tradition,” which I recalled from so many homilies in
SSPX chapels, comes from the Latin verb tradere, which means “to hand down.”
Ultimately, I reasoned, there must be a source from which Tradition was first
passed down, and that source is Jesus Christ. In the end I realized that
Tradition is a Person — the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who incarnated
Himself in the womb of an immaculately conceived Virgin.
As Christ and His vicar constitute but one Head of the Church, then the voice of
Tradition must speak through St. Peter and his lawful successors in the Roman
Primacy. Therefore, I had to make a choice to follow Catholic Tradition and
embrace the Rock upon whom Christ founded His Mystical Body here and now.
Like the prodigal son, I realized my error in following Archbishop Lefebvre into
schism, and I was now making my way home to Holy Mother Church. Through his
generous papal indult in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, John Paul II was exactly like
the father in Christ’s parable: He was living up to his title “Pope,” which
means “Father,” by welcoming into the Church his Traditionalist sons and
daughters who in 1988 had followed Archbishop Lefebvre out of the vineyard of
authentic Catholic Tradition.
Archbishop Lefebvre Excommunicated? The last argument I consistently came across within SSPX circles is more of
a technical one that never affected my decision to reconcile with the Church. In
fact, I myself never thought about researching an answer to this question, but
rather stumbled across the answer accidentally while researching my thesis. Even
so, the argument is made often enough to deserve mention. It’s the claim that
the Church never actually excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre, but rather
informed him that he was automatically excommunicated by virtue of canon law
The Church can excommunicate an individual in two ways. The first is by means of
latae sententiae excommunication. This means that the offender is automatically
excommunicated by virtue of the law itself, and thus the sentence need not be
imposed by a judge within the Church. However, in order for such an
excommunication to be enforced by canon law, a legitimate Church authority must
still declare that the excommunication has taken place.
The second method of imposing an excommunication is by ferendae sententiae. This
refers to the decision of a judge in a Church tribunal.
Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated by virtue of the law, and not by any
penalty imposed by a judge. However, Lefebvre’s apologists fail to note in
making this argument that his excommunication was subsequently declared by the
Church. Cardinal Gantin, in a decree from the Congregation for Bishops dated
July 1, 1988, declared on behalf of the Church the excommunication of Archbishop
Lefebvre as follows:
Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Tulle, notwithstanding the
formal canonical warning of 17 June last and the repeated appeals to desist
from his intention, has performed a schismatic act by the episcopal
consecration of four priests, without pontifical mandate and contrary to the
will of the Supreme Pontiff, and has therefore incurred the penalty
envisaged by Canon 1364, paragraph 1, and canon 1382 of the Code of Canon
Law. . . . Having taken account of all the juridical effects, I declare that
the above-mentioned Archbishop Lefebvre, and Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier
de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta have incurred ipso
facto excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See.
into all the canonical particulars, we can nevertheless clearly establish in
this statement that the Church has excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre. Rome has
clearly spoken as the voice of Catholic Tradition, and thus the case is now
of Catholic Tradition
In my journey back to the Church, through the grace of God I’ve been led from
the mere “accidents” of Catholic Tradition to the substance of Catholic
Tradition. Although I enjoy the reformed liturgy of Pope Paul VI, which I now
recognize as the normative liturgy of the Latin Church, I’m as firmly committed
to preservation of the 1962 liturgical missal today as I was during my time in
the Lefebvre movement. However, I realize that our liturgical tradition as
Catholics cannot be preserved apart from John Paul II and all the other
legitimate successors of St. Peter. For his voice is the voice of Catholic
Tradition in the Church today — a Tradition that has been passed down to him by
Christ and the Apostles.