25 March 2023

Archbishop Lefebvre, the man who believed in Truth, the Apostle and Saint of PARRHESIA.

 Today, as well as being the day when the Theotokos by her fiat became Co-Redemptrix, is the obitus of Marcel Lefebvre. I was once quite critical of this French Archbishop.

As the years have passed, it has become increasingly clear to me what a very great man he was ... I should say is.

Why? Not because he got every detail right. I am not convinced that he was right to make the 1962 rite normative in his foundations. And I note that he changed the Rite he used whenever the Vatican changed. He adopted the ritual changes made in the mid-1960s. There is evidence that he concelebrated versus populum.

Nor did he refuse to subscribe to the Decrees of Vatican II. He signed them all. Without exception.

The fine biography of him by Bishop Tissier evidentially establishes all these points.

So how should we estimate his greatness?

He was a man of the Church. And this meant that he was not quick to realise it when other churchmen told him lies. Honest himself, he was slow to recognise the warm, if synthetic, sincerity on the face of a crook who is just about to tell you a pack of lies.

Gradually, however, he did come to understand the mendacity which characterised the post-Conciliar years. And, discovering this, he reacted accordingly. Realising the fact that he was surrounded by liars had the effect, I believe, of putting him in a place of glorious liberty in which he was free to live in his life the Biblical duty of PARRHESIA.

Parrhesia is his message and his sacred bequest.

We, too, have lived through a time of lies and of liars. A liturgical and then a doctrinal example: we have been constantly told that the post-Conciliar liturgical revolution as it emerged was mandated by the Council. It wasn't. In important respects, it contradicted the Council.

People have asserted that we ought to consider ourselves obliged to refrain from preaching Christ to Jews, because Nostra Aetate condemned Supersessionism and declared them still to have their own separate and saving dispensation. This is not true. The Council did nothing remotely of this sort.

And we are still living in a time of lies: lies galore; lies proliferating; lies shameless; lies Roman. A document from the Prefect of the Worship dicastery assured us that the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite was "abrogated by S Paul VI". In fact, it has never been abrogated. But the convenient but blatant lie is now made the basis of a world-wide campaign of persecution.

Lefebvre learned by his own lived experience about the generous mendacity of the ecclesial culture that surrounded him; and he reacted courageously.

This is God's message to us, also. It is our duty ... quite a simple obligation ... to declare THAT IS A LIE, when pompous and elevated bullies summon us to submit to their untruths.


Paul in Melbourne, Australia said...

Thank you, Father. It was so kind of you to remember him today. So much of what he wrote now seems prophetic

David Innocent said...

This is one of your best comments. It cheers me up even whilst reminding me of the circumambient horrors.

Matthew F Kluk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
coradcorloquitur said...

The early (with reference to Vatican Council II) liturgical concessions the great Lefebvre may have made only point, as your entry makes clear, to his being a thoroughly obedient and true son of the Church: it was early still before the Great Tsunami of modernism hit with full force and drowned most of the millenial accomplishments of the Church of God. A cruel epiphany does not normally come suddenly but gradually---and Lefebvre tried to be obedient to the maximum---until the impudence and Satanic drive of the heretics totally opened his eyes. To his eternal credit, that epiphany came early in the post VCII revolutionary years---and unlike myriad traditionalists today, he ACTED early on to protect the Faith, the Mass, and souls. John Paul II's sacrilegious (as in the impious use of a holy thing or ecclesial measure) "excommunication" alone should have been an impediment in a Church not occupied by Her enemies to his canonization. We have today a thriving traditionalist movement (and possibly the glorious ordinariates of former Anglicans as well)---with valid sacraments, sound doctrine, and bourgeoning vocations---thanks to this good and humble bishop, one who through his life served the Church impeccably well and courageously. I, for one, since exactly the year 1975 recognized this (no merit of my own except for a strong nose for identifying con men and liars) and will forever profess my gratitude to the "Sacerdos Magnus" who put the Faith before a servile, cowardly, and shameful blind obedience. Thank you, Excellency, for being a bishop after the Heart of the Savior---and shame to those who condemned and still condemn him. Marcel Lefebvre: pray for the Church, pray for us in this time of raging apostasy.

Eric said...


He wasn't excommunicated because of his attachment the authentic Catholic Church nor to its authentic Liturgy. He was excommunicated because he chose to go on his own path and ordain those men as bishops against the express command of those God had placed in authority over him. Maybe JPII's decision was wrong. Maybe it was just plain bad but I would just ask that if one peruses the lives of the saints, especially those of the clerical or religious state, how many times were they given commands by religious superiors that were not good and oftentimes expressly contradicted what God was telling them to do via interior inspiration?

And yet they were obedient and did as they were instructed because they had taken a vow of obedience before God to those same very flawed authorities.

And as to his supposed attachment to traditional liturgical practices: I believe his descendants are the only ones still praying that ridiculous Psalter that Pius XII created out of whole cloth in 1945 to replace that which had been the treasure of the saints for almost fifteen centuries.

Mary Kay said...

Eric, have you read the biography that Fr. Hunwicke mentioned? Your post sounds as if you read all of the arguments of the archbishops detractors, and adopted them. For the sake of playing devil's advocate, why not look at the history with a fresh view? Study his writings. Perhaps pray about them. Then decide if your comments are correct.

Moritz Gruber said...

To what the dear Matthew F Kluk said:

Well, sainthood maybe, though the process of raising the servants of God to the Altar does have, let's face it, its natural elements, and canonizing someone who (I am using the word in plain meaning and not as an accusation of a sin) was disobedient would be politically... momentous.

Doctor of the Church, no, because he in my view should not be one. He was not a great theologian. He did not claim to be a great theologian. He sometimes made mistakes of rashness (a thing he quite acknowledged); his distinction of "the eternal Rome vs. the Rome that is" is not sound theology, for instance, nor was it quite prudent. He himself acknowledged as much ("my declaration which was, it is true, drawn up in a spirit of doubtlessly excessive indignation").

What he understood himself to be was a missionary. His position was "let's go to teach the truths the Church always taught speaking the language she spoke for the last centuries, because that is what will help save souls the best." That is quite possibly saintly; and it may well be that his very lack of really original theology was what needed in God's plan. A greater theologian might have chosen to work within the system; as a matter of fact, then-Prof. Joseph Ratzinger really was a great theologian and did, with some success, to work within the system. (Not that there weren't modern things about Prof. Ratzinger; but then not everything modern was simply bad). There is no such thing as a standard article "God's vocation", with the saint being the one who was very good at it and the doctor of the Church the one who was very very good at it. So, Archbishop Lefebvre's way may well have been saintly; but it simply was not doctor-of-the-Church-y.

I do not intend this as disrespect. Noone would ever thing of making St. Jeanmarie Vianney and St. Pio of Pietrelcina doctors of the Church, either, in spite of the fact there are fine sermons by the former that are still quoted.

Dear Eric,

it is precisely his obedience that makes his family still pray "that ridiculous Psalter that Pius XII created out of whole cloth in 1945". He thought he could and should claim a case of conscience against the liturgy reform, but only against the liturgy reform; so that all the changes from 1945 or when that was until 1962 are a case of "of course we don't like them, or most of them, but here we do have to obey".

Moritz Gruber said...

Dear coradcorloquitur,

Pope St. John Paul II never excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre. He declared he had incurred one automatically by the provision of can. 1380 "episcopal consecrations without mandate". It is even notable that while the Congregation for Bishops (which is no tribunal) had expressly said Archbishop Lefebvre was not only excommunicated by can. 1380 but also by can. 1364 "schism", which Pope St. John Paul II quietly left out of his own motu proprio.

It was not good that he, in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, found it necessary to throw the phrase "schismatic act" into play, which anyone, even those who think there ordinations were inexcusable, should see was not the case, not in intention and thereby not at all. Apparently, to St. John Paul II, "schismatic act" is less than "actual schism", because he did leave can. 1364 out of footnote 4. He only has it in footnote 8 as a warning for the future.

Be that as it may: Saints can be wrong, and saints can be at odds with each other. Blessed Charles of Austria-Hungary and Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Defender of Faith, fought (in a sense; the former as formal head of the military but probably not too engaged in actual combat, the latter as a propagandist and journalist) on either side of World War I, and St. Vincent Ferrer chose the wrong Pope to obey.

Childermass said...

I used to be critical of Lefebvre's episcopal consecrations, but outside of one oversight (Williamson), his decision to consecrate looks providential today. Imagine the pope attempting to abrogate the Authentic Rite completely and the Synod on Synodality unleashing hell on what is left of the Church. Yes, I can imagine these things. And I'm glad Fellay, Mallerais and Gallareta exist in these dangerous times.

coradcorloquitur said...

It seems clear that possibly the most insidious distortion of Catholic teaching in modern times---and one that has been a tailor-made tool for Modernist heretics in their occupation of both the Church and the minds of countless Catholics---is the notion of obedience as an absolute virtue. It is not, and the Church has ever taught that, however, important, it is a qualified, conditional virtue. And this is because the Church is not a cult. The absurd notion of the great St. Ignatius of Loyola that he would agree that black is white if the pope so declared, notwithstanding---an unintended blasphemy (one that would gladden Protestant apologists against the papacy as a pagan oracle), as if the Vicar of Christ could, would, or should contradict the reality created by God Himself: black remains black, no matter what the pope says, because God created that particular pigmentation as well as our sensory capacity to grasp it. Canonizations do not confer or imply infallibility, as the examples offered here of saints contradicting each other show. So, yes Archbishop Lefebvre disobeyed a rule of the Church regarding episcopal consecrations---but in obedience to the sacred mission of the Church, which is the salvation of souls and the preservation of the True Faith in a time of apostasy. After all, the ancient raison d'etre for the Church ostensibly remains: "salus animarum suprema lex esto." Only arid legalists, pharisees, or ideologues would find fault with that. In an ecclesiastical environment in which Pope John Paul II invites heretics, schismatics, pagans, and infidels to a great, public gathering in Assis that de facto put the True Faith on a polite, equal level with false religions, in which a pagan idol is placed on top of a Catholic tabernacle housing the Real Presence---the decision of Lefebvre to provide the remnant faithful with bishops who will not compromise the Faith or the integrity of the sacraments seems not only reasonable but admirably courageous. And Catholic hearts should rejoice. It may be apropos to remember the solemn admonition of Our Lady of La Salette (duly approved by the Church) that Rome would lose the Faith. Such an ominous warning should provide important context.

Arthur Gallagher said...

The whole excommunication thing was a load of nonsense- and has not been in effect for years- if, indeed, it ever was. Personally, I could never get worked up over it, since my own grandad was excommunicated for opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, and he went to mass every day.

Lefebvre did what he had to do, at great personal cost, and in the face of duplicity on the part of JPII, among others.

Although Lefebvre was something of a fringe personality to most Americans, I believe that history will judge that he and Mother Angelica, acting separately, were God's instruments in saving the Church in America from collapsing into a leftist appendage of the Democratic Party, and fought for true religion against a heretical establishment.

Arthur Gallagher said...

Dear Moritz:

Charles was commander of an Army Group during the war:


Moritz Gruber said...

Dear Arthur, thank yoU!

Michael Ortiz said...

From the pews in America, near Washington DC, the good archbishop was prophetically right, even if he got some of the details wrong. I can't believe that the good God, never mind the Fathers of Vatican II, wanted me, in 2023, to receive Holy Communion from a lay person wearing jeans or a low-cut blouse or whatever. The desacralization has cut us down, cut us down, O Lord. How long, O just One?