THE BISHOPS OF MARCEL LEFEBVRE AND ANTONIO DE CASTRO MAYER
On June 29, 1987, while Abp. Lefebvre was ordaining some priests he had trained in his seminaries, he gave a sermon which got Catholics up in arms all around the world. In it he said:
What will become of souls if no one any more proclaims the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ? What will come of them if we do not give them the real grace which they need for their salvation?
It is a question of obvious necessity. We must be convinced of this. This is why it is likely that I will give myself successors in order to be able to continue the work, because Rome is in darkness. Rome can no longer now listen to the voice of Truth.
What echo have our appeals received?
There you have twenty years that I have been going to Rome, writing, speaking, sending documents to say: "Follow Tradition. Come back to Tradition, or else the Church is going to her ruin. You who have been placed into the succession of those who have built up the Church, you must continue to build her up, and not demolish her." They are deaf to our appeals!
The last document that we have received proves this fully; they are closing themselves up in their errors. They are locking themselves into darkness. And they are going to lead souls into apostasy, very simply, to the ruin of the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the destruction of the Catholic and Christian Faith.
This is why, if God asks it of us, we will not hesitate to give ourselves auxiliaries in order to continue this work; for we cannot think that God wants it to be destroyed, that He wills that it not continue, that souls be abandoned, and that by this fact itself the Church have no more pastors. We are living in an age completely exceptional. We must realize this. The situation is no longer normal, quite particularly in Rome.
Read the newspaper, Si, Si, No, No, put out by the dear sisters who have come to see Ecône and to find here an encouragement to pursue the work that they are accomplishing. This newspaper gives some very precise indications about the Roman situation. A situation that is hard to believe, such that history has never known one like it. Never has history seen the Pope turning himself into some kind of guardian of the pantheon of all religions, as I have brought it to mind, making himself the pontiff of liberalism.
Let anyone tell me whether such a situation has ever existed in the Church. What should we do in the face of such a reality? Weep, without a doubt. Oh, we mourn and our heart is broken and sorrowful. We would give our life, our blood, for the situation to change. But the situation is such, the work which the Good Lord has put into our hands is such, that in the face of this darkness of Rome, this stubbornness of the Roman authorities in their error, this refusal to return to the Truth and to Tradition, it seems to me that the Good Lord is asking that the Church continue. This is why it is likely that I should, before rendering an account of my life to the Good Lord, perform some episcopal consecrations.
By saying that, he was promising to provide the SSPX with at least one bishop to succeed him, regardless of whether the Vatican establishment wishes to accept it or not!
In July, Abp. Lefebvre wrote a letter to Cardinal Ratzinger explaining what he meant and what he intended to do. The SSPX, which had long been ignored or just sent an occasional letter or two along the way, suddenly received top priority in Vatican circles. Many thought this would almost certainly be a schismatic act, unaware that the "schismatic act" happened back at Vatican II when practically the entire hierarchy of the Church mandated that She would henceforth be divided between those who are inside the Vatican institution and those who are outside.
The Vatican establishment, once aware of this promise (being so completely out of touch with reality, they actually regarded it as a "threat") to do his part to continue the Church through making bishops, they at once began trying to placate him. Cardinal Ratzinger responded by proposing that an Apostolic visitor would be sent to Ecône in order to inspect the SSPX and see what is required to establish normal relations with the Vatican. Perhaps this might include allowing the priests of the SSPX the use of the 1962 liturgical books and the training and formation of priests using the traditional methods. On the other hand, Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out, if relations between Rome and Ecône were to break down after these negotiations, he would do whatever he could to make it look as if the break was all Lefebvre's fault. After quite some deliberation Lefebvre wrote back requesting that the Apostolic visitor be Cardinal Edouard Gagnon. That request was granted.
From November 11 through December 9, 1987, Cardinal Gagnon did visit the seminaries and various parishes of the SSPX in Europe and on December 8 even concelebrated Mass with Abp. Lefebvre. Perhaps without realizing it, this concelebration of the Mass constituted an acknowledgment on the part of Rome that Lefebvre had never been suspended nor had any lawful penalties applied against him. Since that time the law has been changed to read that such a concelebration lifts all previous penalties, but alas for the Vatican institution, the law on the books at that time read that such a concelebration could only take place on the condition that there are no existing penalties. On the basis of what he saw, Cardinal Gagnon wrote a report (which again almost no one ever saw just as no one ever saw the report of the 1974 visitors) which appears to have been quite favorable towards the SSPX, and which landed on the Pope's desk on January 5, 1988.
In the months of February through April of 1988, negotiations took place between Lefebvre and Ratzinger on the basis of the favorable report Cardinal Gagnon had written. Cardinal Gagnon himself however, was permitted no further role in the negotiations. Lefebvre would ask for at least one bishop, or better yet several, to continue his work and Ratzinger would respond by saying that once the SSPX was regularized, their priests could be ordained by any of the thousands of bishops all around the world, so there is no need for any bishop.
Ratzinger seemed to have been unaware that many of these "bishops" he was suggesting could be used for ordinations of the SSPX priests once the SSPX is regularized were not really validly consecrated bishops at all, and furthermore most would undoubtedly use the new ordination rite which was also of doubtful validity even in the case where the bishop doing it was validly consecrated. This put Lefebvre in a tight spot. He did not dare voice his suspicions regarding the validity of the new rites since that would have brought the whole set of negotiations to a grinding halt. It was a very delicate situation for Lefebvre to find a way to request a bishop to succeed him without admitting to his belief regarding the doubtful validity of the new rites.
Another thing which would have taken place had the SSPX been regularized would have been the setting up of a secretariat or commission to oversee the relationship between the SSPX and the Vatican. This secretariat or commission would exercise tremendous authority over the SSPX, but would also have considerable pull with John Paul II and his successors. Lefebvre was greatly concerned that a clear majority of its voting members be taken from Tradition, whether as members of his society or as sympathetic persons (such as Cardinal Gagnon) within the Vatican. Ratzinger was just as determined to see to it that the secretariat or commission (towards the end of the negotiations they settled on having it be a commission) would have at most only a minority of voting members taken from, or sympathetic to, Tradition. This is the one area they never agreed upon.
The problem was this: Lefebvre wanted to insure that Tradition could continue indefinitely, which having a majority of voting members of this commission be traditional would greatly increase the odds of. Ratzinger (representing modernist Rome here more than his own private opinion) was trying to insure that once Lefebvre was gone it would be a simple matter to shut down Tradition and be done with it once and for all. It is this one point which made it impossible from the very start that Rome and the SSPX would have ever made their peace so long as Rome adheres to Vatican II. How does one compromise between life and death?
Finally, there came the infamous "May 5th Protocol." This one document, which in the opinion of this writer has been greatly overrated in its importance, was really just one more minor step in the doomed negotiations between Lefebvre and Ratzinger, between the Catholic Church and the Vatican institution. For the first time, Rome formally acknowledged Lefebvre's need for a bishop to succeed him, even if only "for practical and psychological reasons." In other words "if we allow Lefebvre his bishop which he seems to want so much, although he doesn't explain why, then he may be easier to control." Feeling that getting one out of the two things he needed (a bishop but no majority on the commission) might be the best he could get, he signed the Protocol on May 5.
Immediately after that, Fr. Klemens, Cardinal Ratzinger's secretary, gave a draft of a letter to Lefebvre which was supposed to be the sort of letter Lefebvre was being expected to write to John Paul II. This letter to John Paul II would have had Lefebvre apologizing for his "mistake" in defending tradition. This gave Lefebvre cause to question what was going on. He thought about the Protocol he had just signed. Not only did it not place a majority of traditional Catholic voting members on the commission, it was uncommonly vague about the promise of a bishop to succeed him. No mention or commitment had been made regarding who this bishop would be, what authority he would have, or even when, where, how, and by whom, he would be consecrated.
Only then did it sink in: He'd been had! The Vatican leadership was not turning from their errors by taking a small step back towards Catholic Tradition; they were just treating him with kid gloves. They never intended to give him that bishop, not while he was alive anyway, and certainly not consecrated by a reliable sacramental form, or by a reliably consecrated bishop! From the very beginning of the negotiations the sole interest of the Vatican in all of this had been to prevent Lefebvre from consecrating any bishops at all. They were hoping that he would just die off soon, thereby abandoning the flock of God that had been so long entrusted to his care. For that reason he wrote back informing of his intention to consecrate bishops on June 30 no matter what. If the Vatican wanted to grant those bishops official recognition, great. If they wanted to grant that recognition on the condition that a candidate more to their liking was chosen, Lefebvre was still quite willing to work with them on that, but if not he already had his candidates picked out.
Cardinal Ratzinger's response unmasked the Vatican's true aim to these negotiations when he wrote, "I have attentively read the letter which you just addressed to me, in which you tell me your intentions concerning the episcopal consecration of a member of the Society on June 30th next. Since these intentions are in sharp contrast with what has been accepted during our dialogue on May 4th, and which have been signed in the Protocol yesterday, I wish to inform you that the release of the press communiqué has to be deferred." The press communiqué spoken of was yet another carrot the Vatican was dangling in front of Lefebvre, which was basically a public statement to the effect that an agreement has been reached, and that Lefebvre was going to be recognized by "the Church." If the Protocol contains an agreement to permit Lefebvre a bishop, how can Lefebvre's stated intention to consecrate one be "in sharp contrast" to that same Protocol? Do you smell a rat?
While one might reasonably concede that technically this last break was Lefebvre's doing, those who would fault him for that lack a true understanding of what was really going on then. For a clearer picture, imagine Lefebvre standing firmly on the rock of St. Peter, utterly solid and immovable because he is precisely where God wants him (and all bishops including John Paul II). The remainder of the Vatican hierarchy, including John Paul II and represented here by him, is sinking in a nearby pool of quicksand. John Paul II reaches out a hand, apparently asking for help.
As Lefebvre reaches out to take John Paul II by the hand, the sedevacantists who are also standing on the rock are saying, "don't do it, Your Excellency, it's a trick!" But Lefebvre, being more generous in his appraisal of John Paul II than they, ignores them and takes his hand and starts trying to pull him up out of the quicksand. Suddenly, John Paul II seems a great deal heavier than he should be, so Lefebvre starts pulling harder. Just as it starts looking as if Lefebvre might succeed in pulling John Paul II out of the quicksand, John Paul II's other hand is seen reaching for and grabbing something under the quicksand so as to keep Lefebvre from pulling him out. In a horrifying moment of truth, Lefebvre realizes that John Paul II wasn't trying to get rescued from the quicksand but trying to pull Lefebvre off the rock and into the quicksand. In what was almost as much a reflex as a carefully considered act, Lefebvre let him go.
Cardinal Ratzinger then offered the date of August 15 as the date to consecrate the bishop, but soon it came out that none of the candidates were considered acceptable by John Paul II, and so more dossiers on other candidates were requested of Lefebvre. It was quite obvious that that was only a dodge since that date could come and they would say, "we were all set to have an episcopal consecration today, but regrettably none of your candidates meet with our approval, so I guess we will just have to reschedule and try again some time." They were just stringing Lefebvre along and would have continued doing so until he died, which everyone knew wasn't very far in the future. Meanwhile, the SSPX continued its expansion by moving its American seminary from Ridgefield to Winona, Minnesota, and by opening a new seminary in Australia.
Allow me to dispel a certain myth which began to be circulated at about this time. Many say that John Paul II actually forbade Lefebvre to consecrate those bishops. Having inspected in detail all correspondence which took place between Rome and Ecône during this crucial period June, 1987, to June, 1988, this writer has not found anything from either the mouth or the pen of John Paul II actually forbidding Lefebvre to consecrate bishops. He begs, he pleads, he suggests alternatives, and others, presuming to speak on his behalf, come quite close to forbidding it, but nowhere is the man himself ever on record saying to Lefebvre, "By virtue of my authority as a successor of St. Peter, I hereby forbid you to consecrate these bishops!" or words to that effect.
Is that merely an accident, or could it be that he as yet had at least some vestigial claim to the papacy? Any legitimate claim to the papacy on the part of John Paul II would have required the Holy Spirit to prevent him from saying the exact opposite of what the Holy Spirit wanted the pope to say, namely "I hereby grant you the mandate to consecrate those bishops." Being unwilling to say what the Holy Spirit wanted him to say, and being unable to say what the Holy Spirit prevented him from saying, he said nothing, apart from a lot of vacuous begging, pleading, and cajolery. In his only known demonstration of malice, John Paul II refused to grant the desired papal mandate. Lefebvre, knowing that John Paul II would later regret not having granted that mandate (if not in this life then certainly in the next), proceeded precisely as if John Paul II had said what the Holy Spirit wanted him to say.
On June 29, 1988, Lefebvre ordained a large group of seminarians to the holy priesthood. He was joined by Bp. Antonio de Castro Mayer who had come from Brazil in support of his friend and of the true Faith and the Church. Then on June 30, 1988, Abp. Marcel Lefebvre, with Antonio de Castro Mayer as co-consecrator, consecrated four men to the episcopacy. At the time he said:
... this ceremony, which is apparently done against the will of Rome, is in no way a schism. We are not schismatics! If an excommunication was pronounced against the bishops of China, who separated themselves from Rome and put themselves under the Chinese government, one very easily understands why Pope Pius XII excommunicated them. There is no question of us separating ourselves from Rome, nor of putting ourselves under a foreign government, nor of establishing a sort of parallel church as the Bishops of Palmar de Troya have done in Spain. They have even elected a pope, formed a college of cardinals ... It is out of the question for us to do such things. Far from us be this miserable thought to separate ourselves from Rome!
On the contrary, it is in order to manifest our attachment to Rome that we are performing this ceremony. It is in order to manifest our attachment to Eternal Rome, to the Pope, and to all those who have preceded these last Popes who, unfortunately since the Second Vatican Council, have thought it their duty to adhere to grievous errors which are demolishing the Church and the Catholic Priesthood. ...
You need this Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ to go to Heaven. This Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ is disappearing everywhere in the Conciliar Church. They are following roads which are not Catholic roads: they simply lead to apostasy.
This is why we do this ceremony. Far be it from me to set myself up as pope! I am simply a bishop of the Catholic Church who is continuing to transmit Catholic doctrine. I think, and this will certainly not be too far off, that you will be able to engrave on my tombstone these words of St. Paul: "Tradidi quod et accepi - - I have transmitted to you what I have received," nothing else ...
It seems to me, my dear brethren, that I am hearing the voices of all these Popes - - since Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII - - telling us: "Please, we beseech you, what are you going to do with our teachings, with our predications, with the Catholic Faith? Are you going to abandon it? Are you going to let it disappear from the earth? Please, please, continue to keep this treasure which we have given you. Do not abandon the faithful, do not abandon the Church! Indeed, since the Council, what we condemned in the past the present Roman authorities have embraced and are professing. ... We have condemned them: Liberalism, Communism, Socialism, Modernism, Sillonism. All the errors which we have condemned are now professed, adopted and supported by the authorities of the Church. ... Unless you do something to continue this Tradition of the Church which we have given to you, all of it shall disappear. Souls shall be lost." ...
It is not for me to know when Tradition will regain its rights at Rome, but I think it is my duty to provide the means of doing that which I shall call "Operation Survival," operation survival for Tradition. Today, this day, is Operation Survival. If I had made this deal with Rome, by continuing with the agreements we had signed, and by putting them into practice, I would have performed "Operation Suicide." There was no choice, we must live! That is why today, by consecrating these bishops, I am convinced that I am continuing to keep Tradition alive, that is to say, the Catholic Church. ...
Unfortunately the media will not assist us in the good sense. The headlines will, of course, be "Schism," "Excommunication!" as much as they want to - - and, yet, we are convinced that all these accusations of which we are the object, are null, absolutely null and void, and of which we will take no account. Just as I took no account of the suspension, and ended up being congratulated by the Church and by progressive churchmen, so likewise in several years, ... we will be embraced by the Roman authorities, who will thank us for having maintained the Faith in our seminaries, in our families, in civil societies, in our countries, and in our monasteries and our religious houses, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.
His Excellency Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, who had kept his diocese of Campos, Brazil totally Catholic until his forced retirement in 1981, and who continued providing inspiration and leadership to the more than a couple dozen priests of that diocese in the time of their exile during the time of bishop Navarro, also had something to say:
My presence here at this ceremony is a matter of conscience: It is the duty of a profession of the Catholic Faith before the entire Church and, more particularly before His Excellency Archbishop Lefebvre, before all the priests, religious, seminarians and faithful here present.
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that there is no obligation to make a public Profession of Faith in every circumstance, but when the Faith is in danger it is urgent to profess it, even at the risk of one's life. ...
Because of this, since the conservation of the priesthood and of the Holy Mass is at stake, and in spite of the requests and the pressure brought to bear by many, I am here to accomplish my duty: to make a public Profession of Faith. ...
I wish to manifest here my sincere and profound adherence to the position of His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which is dictated by his fidelity to the Church of all centuries. The two of us have drunk at the same source, which is that of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church.
The four new bishops consecrated by Abp. Lefebvre and Bp. de Castro Mayer were: Bernard Fellay, a Swiss born in 1958, ordained by Abp. Lefebvre in 1982, and at the time of his consecration the Bursar General of the Society of St. Pius X; Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, a Frenchman born in 1945, ordained by Abp. Lefebvre in 1975, and at the time of his consecration the Secretary General of the Society; Richard Williamson, an Englishman born in 1939 to Anglican parents, converted to Catholicism in 1970, ordained by Abp. Lefebvre in 1976, and serving as the Rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in the United States; and Alfonso de Galarreta, an Argentine born in 1957, ordained by Abp. Lefebvre in 1980, and at the time of his consecration the Superior of the South American District.
Fr. Franz Schmidberger, the Superior General of the Society, was not consecrated a bishop, in order to emphasize that the bishops being consecrated were not to be considered as having regular (territorial) jurisdiction which Fr. Schmidberger had enjoyed a measure of over the Society. As one Society priest once crudely put it, the new bishops were merely "sacrament-machines." Their primary job, apart from the offices they already held, was to ordain priests, perform other functions normally reserved to bishops, and preserve an unquestionably valid apostolic succession. It was felt at the time that having a Superior General who was not a bishop might help with any further negotiations with Rome. As it turned out, it never made any difference, so they later dropped that policy.
There was a rich variety of reactions to these consecrations on the part of many different people. The secular press loved it. "A new Church was born at Ecône today," NBC said. Just as Lefebvre had indicated at the consecration homily, they all said "Schism," "Excommunication," and all the rest of that nonsense.
The Vatican establishment wasted no time in exhuming such long-forgotten concepts as "schism," and "excommunication," which apart from attacks on traditional Catholics, are no longer in use. John Paul II, obviously writing in very hot blood, composed his Motu Proprio which is ironically named Ecclesia Dei. In this very strange and choppy document he attempts to condemn that portion of the Catholic Church which subsists outside the Vatican institution. However, that portion of the Church is not under his jurisdiction. For that reason his condemnation of it makes no sense at all. He even managed to display an astonishing ignorance of his own Code of Canon law which he himself promulgated a scant five years previous, and in so doing ended up using this "official document" of his church to calumniate a private individual, Marcel Lefebvre, by name, which marks the first time such a document has ever been used for such a purpose. Yet also within this same document is a great broadening and strengthening of the permission given to those Catholics subsisting within the Vatican institution to obtain Catholic sacraments and teaching. Truly, this is a case of foul water and fresh emerging from the same spring!
Since this is the only known document of the post-Vatican II Vatican institution which deals with the entire Catholic Church both inside and outside the Vatican institution (albeit with serious flaws regarding the portions of the Church subsisting outside the Vatican institution), and with nothing else, there is an almost providential appropriateness in the fact that it was named Ecclesia Dei, the Church of God. The traditional Catholics who celebrate the tridentine Mass, both those who do so within the Vatican institution with their blessing and those who do so outside its confines with their cursing, together constitute the entirety of the Roman Catholic Church, the "Ecclesia Dei." Even sedevacantists, though not explicitly named, are implicitly included in its vacuous condemnations, for they too are part of the "Ecclesia Dei."
Another point of interest is the fact that Abp. Lefebvre is never actually excommunicated within this document or any other, but merely spoken of as having incurred an automatic excommunication according to various Canons. When the Canonists later examined the Lefebvre case closely, what they found is that Abp. Lefebvre had NOT incurred an automatic excommunication by the standards of Canon Law. If certain Canons are quoted out of context they can be made to sound as if the Archbishop managed to excommunicate himself. However, other Canons in that same Code of Canon Law make it quite clear that an emergency, even if imagined and not real, can make it licit to perform certain actions (including such actions as episcopal consecrations without a Papal Mandate) which would otherwise not be licit.
In this case, the emergency is very real, and the old Code of Canon Law (which sedevacantists abide by) differs from the new Code of Canon Law on this point by requiring the emergency to be proven real. Abp. Lefebvre would have had no difficulty doing that. The Canonical issues are explored in detail in the volume, Is Tradition Excommunicated? (See Bibliography). The key point of all of that canonical analysis is that Their Excellencies Marcel Lefebvre and Antonio de Castro Mayer are not schismatic and have never been excommunicated, even if one would have to grant that relations between the SSPX (and Bp. de Castro Mayer's order of priests, the St. John Vianney Society as well), and the Vatican establishment became quite strained and somewhat distant. Any claim to the contrary can be, and ought to be, properly dismissed as nothing more than idle, vicious gossip, of no substance whatsoever. Pay it no mind.
The response of a clear majority of those adhering to the SSPX was one of great rejoicing, whether as the formal members, the priests, or affiliated, as in the case of many religious houses of men and women around the world, or as those laypeople who regularly attended the totally Roman Catholic Masses of the SSPX and often sent their children to any one of their many schools. Since they had been following these events closely they knew the issues and knew that Abp. Lefebvre spoke for all true Catholics and all reliable popes of the Church when he argued for a bishop to succeed him and for a clear majority on the commission. Many, not only in the SSPX but even in the various sedevacantist groups, had been afraid that the membership of the SSPX and their Faithful would get swallowed up by Modernist Rome.
All said and told, about 15 percent of their priests, religious orders and houses, and lay parishioners left off following Abp. Lefebvre and the SSPX, some directly returning to the Novus Ordo religion, but most returning to the Vatican institution on the condition of some Indult being granted to them to keep the Catholic Faith and worship. The first of such returns to the Vatican institution was Dom Gérard Calvet, the Superior of a Benedictine monastery in Le Barroux, France, known as the community of St. Madeleine. Where the previous shakeup from 1983 through 1985 had gotten rid of the hardliners within their ranks, the episcopal consecrations of 1988 got rid of the softliners in one fell swoop. More will be said of those returning to the Vatican institution in the next chapter.
As for Marcel Lefebvre himself, having the consecrations behind him was a monumental relief. Where before there had always been the possibility of a reconciliation with the Vatican which would have had to have been dealt with, perhaps by consecrating someone who would be bad for his order, or at least not being able to consecrate four new bishops, now there was the fait accompli of the four bishops of his choosing already consecrated. The stress of trying to make those negotiations weighed on him so heavily that anyone looking at him wouldn't have given him six months to live. Afterwards, he was so serene and lighthearted over the sure knowledge that he had done the right thing that his health improved and he went on to live for almost another three years. During that time, he wrote and published a couple more books, They Have Uncrowned Him, and Spiritual Journey (See Bibliography). When interviewed one year later, he admitted that his name no longer appeared in the Annuario Pontifico, a directory of all "approved" bishops, but being so close to the grave he was quite serene in the knowledge that his name was still on "the Annuario of the good Lord, ... and that is what matters."
The fears of those who thought he would compromise with the Vatican and hand all of his priests, religious, seminarians, and lay supporters over to the Modernists, had proven to be unfounded. Indeed, Abp. Lefebvre's own policy on this was really quite simple and straightforward. The policy he set for the SSPX to consider any future negotiations with the Vatican institution was, "Do you agree with the great encyclicals of all the popes who preceded you? Do you agree with Quanta cura of Pius IX, Immortale Dei and Libertas of Leo XIII, Pascendi of Pius X, Quas Primas of Pius XI, Humani Generis of Pius XII? Are you in full communion with these popes and their teachings? Do you still accept the entire Anti-Modernist Oath? Are you in favor of the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ? If you do not accept the doctrine of your predecessors, it is useless to talk! As long as you do not accept the correction of the Council, in consideration of the doctrine of these popes, your predecessors, no dialogue is possible. It is useless." So there it is. Until such time (if any) as the Vatican leadership should decide to embrace the teaching of the above listed popes and papal encyclicals (which would constitute a total rejection of Vatican II), there can be no talk of the SSPX returning to the Vatican institution.
This resolve on the part of Abp. Lefebvre surprised many within the sedevacantist camp since they were sure (some had joined the sedevacantists on this belief) that Lefebvre would return the SSPX to the Vatican institution, lock, stock, and barrel. They might indeed do that someday, but not without making the Vatican institution totally Catholic and Anti-Modernistic first. The Lefebvre consecrations substantially altered the playing field. When he went ahead and consecrated those bishops, the SSPV had very high praise for that action, if not for the reasons given by Lefebvre to justify it. The fear that Abp. Lefebvre might yet cut a deal with the Modernists was again voiced. The CMRI took a somewhat dimmer view of Abp. Lefebvre's action stating that he should either obey his pope or become a sedevacantist. Ironically, it was the SSPV which was much more adversely effected by the Lefebvre consecrations than the CMRI.
By this point, most sedevacantist priests had some bishop to whom they could turn to for Confirmations of their children, and seminaries and Holy Orders to train and ordain their young men interested in the priesthood. For example, the CMRI had the services of Bp. McKenna, and only a couple months later, of Bp. Oravec (consecrated by Bp. McKenna) as well. The SSPX in going from one bishop to five gained very little against the CMRI. The CMRI on the other hand continued its own rehabilitation, now knowing that they had a rival in one of the largest SSPX priories on the West coast, Immaculate Conception Church in Post Falls, Idaho, only thirty miles away from Spokane. Further events, most notably the consecration of Fr. Mark Tarcisius Pivarunas to the episcopacy by Bp. Carmona of Mexico (one of the three original Catholic Thuc bishops) in September of 1991, were already helping to bring the CMRI through the last lap of its rehabilitation.
The SSPV, on the other hand, was at last having its share of hard times. Unlike the SSPX which had just gained four new bishops, and the other sedevacantists who had the services of the Catholic Thuc bishops, the SSPV had no bishops and this began to weigh heavily on their lay faithful who desired the sacrament of Confirmation for their children. Some of these families began turning to Bp. Williamson of the SSPX who, in response to that, soon began requiring those about to be confirmed to sign a document, written mostly in Latin and well beyond the reach of the typical ten-year-old being asked to sign it, which stated that they were not sedevacantists. This cost the SSPV many of their lay faithful families. Others were getting their children confirmed by Bps. McKenna and Oravec and other Thuc bishops.
Fr. Kelly was adamant in his refusal to have anything to do with the Thuc bishops. He felt that the scandals which so many of them had been involved in (he was counting the Palmar de Troya and other non-Catholic Thuc bishops as well) made their reputation hopelessly irretrievable. To many, it seemed as if he were willing to let the SSPV pass into oblivion with the death of its last priest some time in the future rather than have anything to do with any known traditional bishops. In reality he was merely holding out for a Thuc-like consecration without any scandal. While that was the main source of tension within the SSPV, and which was greatly exacerbated by the Lefebvre consecrations, there were a couple others brewing. Not all of the SSPV priests felt that he was running the SSPV in the best manner possible, and in particular, some of them were coming to feel that the SSPV should be less critical of the CMRI in view of the great strides they were making towards becoming a respectable Catholic organization.
It started in April of 1985 when Fr. Sanborn of the SSPV paid a visit to Bp. de Castro Mayer in Brazil to see about the ordination of priests, or at least some helpful advice. Bp. de Castro Mayer advised Fr. Sanborn to "go to Guérard (des Lauriers)!" Fr. Sanborn objected, stating his (and the entire SSPV's) doubts concerning the validity of the Thuc consecrations. It was at this point that Bp. de Castro Mayer stated that "if it's valid for Guérard, it's valid for me." This put Fr. Sanborn, assisted by Fr. Cekada, on a search to discover the truth of the Thuc consecrations.
As they studied, they began to realize that a) the ceremonies took place, as proven by not only the two lay witnesses present (Drs. Kurt Hiller and Eberhard Heller), but also Thuc himself who never wavered from his claim of having validly consecrated them, and those consecrated themselves who were all entirely satisfied as to the validity of the sacrament they received, and that b) validity of a sacrament performed in accordance to the traditional rites must be presumed until proven otherwise. As early as 1987, Fr. Sanborn felt willing to recommend the recently made Thuc bishop, Franco Munari (who was one of the four Italian priests who left the SSPX at the end of 1985), to a prospective seminarian.
In February of 1988, Frs. Kelly, Sanborn, and Jenkins went to Germany to talk to Drs. Hiller and Heller so as to gain first hand testimony (under oath) as to exactly what happened at the Thuc consecrations. They don't appear to have paid a visit to Bp. des Lauriers himself who was in the last few days of his earthly life. Frs. Kelly and Jenkins had gone along rather grudgingly, hoping that the testimony would discourage any further involvement with the Thuc bishops, but Fr. Sanborn was secretly hoping to affirm their validity. The Doctors were adamant as to the actual performance of the ceremonies in accordance with the book, but their ignorance as to whether that book had been a Missal (which contains the Mass, but no episcopal consecration ceremony) or the Roman Pontifical (which contains the episcopal consecration ceremony) alarmed Fr. Sanborn who came away from that interview visibly shaken, much to the reassurance of Frs. Kelly and Jenkins.
Over the next few months it dawned on Fr. Sanborn that even if Drs. Hiller and Heller could not tell a Roman Missal from the Roman Pontifical (1908 edition, Rome), des Lauriers himself would have noticed immediately, as would Carmona, Zamora, and Thuc. In September of 1988, the results of the study, now completed, were presented to the fathers of the SSPV. Fr. Kelly still wanted nothing to do with them on account of their bad reputation, and he was the Superior of the SSPV. Therefore, nothing was said to the religious and lay supporters of the SSPV at that time, but further troubles were on their way for the SSPV.
In July, 1989, shortly after writing the article "Feed Him a Guilt Cookie" in defense of Fr. Kelly and the SSPV after a recent lambasting by Michael Jones of Fidelity magazine, Fr. Cekada left the SSPV along with Fr. Dolan, one of the others of the original nine priests. What followed over the next four years was not so much a schism as a brain drain as various fathers, more or less one-by-one, departed from the SSPV, starting with Frs. Cekada and Dolan in 1989 and ending with Fr. Zapp in 1993. Dr. Coomaraswamy also left, somewhere in the summer of 1990.
In late 1988, the SSPV started a television show called "What Catholics Believe" which featured the various priests of the SSPV discussing aspects of the Catholic Faith and current events and issues. The show, despite its limited airings, garnered very positive reviews and soon gained such famous guest speakers as Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. It was Fr. Sanborn's heavy involvement with this television show along with his close friendship with Fr. Kelly which motivated him to stay in the SSPV and sit tight on what he knew about the Thuc consecrations clear until some time late in 1991.
Meanwhile, Fr. Cekada began taking a good hard look at the CMRI and MSM since some of their parishioners were attending his parish in Ohio, and he hadn't felt right about carrying out Fr. Kelly's policy of refusing them the sacraments. On getting to know these parishioners personally, he found them to be devout, sincere, zealous, even quite doctrinaire Catholics, not at all what he had been led to believe about them. Finally in 1991 he wrote a ground breaking article entitled "The First Stone," in which he defended the CMRI and MSM. While admitting the sordid past they had had under Shuckardt, he had to concede (and showed that others are morally obliged to concede) that the problems had been cleaned out and the CMRI was fully worthy to take its place among respectable traditional Catholic organizations.
There were some who claimed that Fr. Cekada had merely defended MSM with the hopes of obtaining for himself or his friend Fr. Dolan a chance at being consecrated a bishop. That claim is nonsense for the simple reason that if any of Frs. Cekada, Dolan, or Sanborn had wanted to avail themselves of the then current MSM bishop, Robert McKenna, they could have approached Bp. McKenna directly. There was no need to involve MSM in any way. Or else they could have approached Bp. Carmona in Mexico. Fr. Cekada defended MSM simply on account of its own merits.
Most of the priests who left the SSPV over the 1989 to 1993 period, along with Dr. Coomaraswamy, then coalesced into a loose knit association known as Instauratio Catholica, or Catholic Restoration. In late 1991, Fr. Sanborn began publishing his own magazine, Catholic Restoration, and soon after, its companion for priests, Sacerdotium. Many of the priests of this association have worked with the priests of MSM on certain projects of mutual interest. Two of Fr. Cekada's articles were published in The Reign of Mary, but the most important project was the consecration of Fr. Dolan to the episcopacy on November 30, 1993. Bp. Dolan served by ordaining the seminary graduates from Fr. Sanborn's seminary, Most Holy Trinity, in Warren, Michigan Dr. Coomaraswamy continued to be frequently seen at various MSM functions including their Fatima conferences which they hold every October.
In 1994, Fr. Ahern (one of the three priests who joined the SSPV in 1984) published in both Catholic Restoration and Sacerdotium a very long article in which he examined the canonical status of the CMRI and MSM in great detail. His conclusions were:
So well researched was his article that it is generally accepted by most traditional priests and bishops of the sedevacantist position. The one exception this writer takes to Fr. Ahern's conclusions is the issue of scandal. There really is no scandal which can be rightly derived from the CMRI having retained its name and the blue habits for its nuns, even though those details are of Shuckardt's invention. That is because those details stem from an early period in his career as leader of the CMRI which came well in advance of the later weirdness.
Meanwhile, the SSPV, having passed through its great brain drain and the hard times it had faced being the only sedevacantist group without a bishop, finally got its own problems sorted out. This was made possible by a bishop by the name of Alfred Francis Mendez y Gonzalez. Bp. Mendez was born on June 3, 1907, ordained on June 24, 1935, and served as a priest in Austin, Texas where he got to know many of the Mexican Catholics who were escaping to the United States as refugees from the persecutions they were having in Mexico at that time. Fr. Mendez worked side-by-side with the Mexican immigrants building churches and ever since harbored a great love for the Mexican people. He helped form the diocese of Austin, Texas and in 1948 was promoted to an administrative post at Notre Dame and in 1956 named Director of Province Development for the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
On October 28, 1960, he was consecrated bishop and set over the newly created diocese of Arecibo in Puerto Rico. In February of 1974 he found himself obliged to retire, due to ill health. In his retirement he began to study the issues which were tearing up the Church. In time he came to repudiate the liberal ways he had learned from the ultra-liberal Holy Cross Fathers and began to do what little he could to foster tradition. He wrote letters to the Vatican and to Lefebvre recommending some sort of Tridentine Ordinariate, but lacking Lefebvre's clout and visibility the Vatican merely wrote back saying in effect, "You better stay out of this!" Lefebvre at least wrote him a kindly letter thanking him for his support. Shortly after that, in 1988, two seminarians approached him in order to see about being ordained.
After two years of attempts to negotiate a regular ordination for these seminarians with some as yet active bishop, Bp. Mendez came to realize that the only way these two men could be ordained was for him to do it himself. Being retired, this meant doing it without the usual authorization and incardination, just as Thục, Lefebvre, and de Castro Mayer had done before him. On September 3, 1990, Bp. Mendez ordained Joseph Greenwell and Paul Baumberger to the priesthood in order to serve the SSPV. For the first time in over six years, the SSPV finally had newly ordained priests of its own. Thereafter, Bp. Mendez took a more active role in the support of the SSPV. He supported them not only with his prayers, but also provided quite generous financial support which covered many of the costs of producing the television show, "What Catholics Believe."
Finally, in late 1993, he voluntarily made the offer to Fr. Kelly to consecrate him to be a bishop. He was at that time still concerned about being excommunicated on account of the rule in the Code of Canon Law about that. To put his mind at ease, he was shown an article in The Latin Mass magazine, in which Canon lawyer Count Neri Capponi was interviewed and expressed his view that Lefebvre was not really excommunicated after all. After another month of thinking it over and also enduring a bout of chronic illness, he recovered and made specific plans for the consecration. On October 19, 1993, Bp. Mendez consecrated Fr. Clarence Kelly to the episcopacy in the presence of the five other remaining priests of the SSPV. That was the last of the unofficial consecrations by official bishops of the Church.
At his request, this consecration was kept secret from the world until his death. All five priests and Bp. Kelly kept quiet about it, saying only that "God will Provide," to any who expressed concern over the future of the SSPV. Being a private ceremony, this very much resembled the Thục consecrations, but with one important difference: where Abp. Thục had been the one blazing all the trails and making all the mistakes, Bp. Mendez had been laying in the sick bed doing a whole lot of nothing. This at least had kept him out of trouble. Such a life of having done nothing was sufficiently free of scandal so as even to satisfy Fr. Kelly.
While there were some questions raised as to his sanity and clarity of mind, these questions have been raised only by those who stood to gain from casting doubt on Bp. Mendez' last wishes and episcopal consecration. There was the Novus Ordo group who wanted to win his corpse in the courts by deceiving the judge into thinking that his last request had not been made with a sound mind, and there were those at the CMRI and Instauratio Catholica who had had enough of Fr. Kelly's criticism against them and were not about to put up with Bp. Kelly's criticism. However, under closer investigation, the claims against the sanity and soundness of mind on the part of Bp. Mendez fall flat on their face. Those who knew the bishop in his last days knew him to be alert and quite sound in his mind.
On July 9, 1994, Bishop Mendez wrote this message of encouragement to traditional Catholics:
Vatican Council II and the changes that followed from it have proven a disaster for our dear Roman Catholic Church. I fell ill during the first session of Vatican II and did not return until the closing days of the council. I was surprised and saddened by what I saw when I returned.
Since the conclusion of Vatican II, there has been an epidemic of marriage annulments. The liturgy has become a kind of show rather than the true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Once-Catholic institutions, such as colleges and universities, have lost their Catholic character altogether. The number of religious sisters fell away sharply, and many of those remaining no longer lived like religious. Many priests left the priesthood. The number of seminarians fell drastically and many of those who remained hardly lived like seminarians.
As first bishop of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, I had to send my seminarians away to study at various diocesan seminaries on the continental U. S. After visiting them later, I pulled them all out of those seminaries because their training was so liberal and so contrary to what a Catholic seminarian and Catholic priest should be.
The constant change has confused the Catholic faithful. Some have held firmly to the traditional Roman Catholic faith in these troubled times. I encourage them and I long for the restoration of the traditional Catholic faith, the traditional Latin Mass and the sacraments.
On January 28, 1995, Bishop Mendez died, leaving behind his legacy, Immaculate Heart Seminary, for the priests of the Society of Saint Pius V which was made possible by his generous financial gifts towards the purchase of the seminary grounds at Round Top and by the episcopal consecration he performed in 1993. Even having done this, an ugly court battle ensued over the question of who should bury his body and what sort of funeral there should be. The judge, in rank defiance of the bishop's own formal and written request, although perhaps also in deference to members of the bishop's immediate family who were all in the Novus Ordo, gave the body over to the Novus Ordo clergy.
On March 25, 1991, His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre died somewhat unexpectedly in a hospital. Exactly one month later, on the 25th of April, His Excellency Antonio de Castro Mayer also died in Brazil. The Lefebvre bishops, in carrying out a promise made by Abp. Lefebvre to de Castro Mayer and the priests of the Brazilian Society of Saint John Vianney, consecrated a bishop for those priests. On July 28, 1991, Bp. Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, with Bps. Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta as co-consecrators, consecrated Licínio Rangel, one of the priests of the Saint John Vianney Society and Rector of the Seminary in Campos, to the episcopacy.
So, despite some unpleasant events along the way, everything turned out quite well. In the period from 1987 to 1993, Lefebvre got his bishops without actually consummating any "schism" and yet also without compromising with the Modernists, the CMRI up at MSM completed their journey back to respectability and even got their own bishop, the priests who stayed with the SSPV got their bishop, and that without turning to the Thục line, and the priests who left the SSPV also got their own bishop. In time, even Fr. Sanborn would also come to be raised to the episcopacy, by Bp. McKenna on June 19, 2002. Finally, as will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter, the Indult also got a tremendous shot in the arm with the promulgation of Ecclesia Dei and would even come to have a traditional bishop of their own. None of the fears each group had regarding the future of the others proved to have any substance to them. Since delegated jurisdiction was given to all priests and bishops who hold and teach the Catholic Faith, all have been protected from error and from oblivion. It is the indefectibility of the Church which has kept all of these traditional priests and bishops on the straight path as they labor under the One Lord Jesus Christ, in union with all the reliable popes, and ultimately in union with the next reliable pope.
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