National Catholic Register


Lefebvre’s Undoing

BY Jim Cosgrove

August 30-September 5, 1998 Issue | Posted 8/30/98 at 1:00 PM


I found the article on “New Latin Mass Orders Making Pa. Diocese a ‘Spiritual Powerhouse’” (Aug. 9-15) both informative and inspiring, in that the more traditional movement is creatively inspiring vocations at the same time that the new theology can only propose the non-Catholic notions of priestesses and the suppression of celibacy as solutions to the vocations crisis it itself created.

However, certain statements made about the Society of St. Pius X and its founder, Archbishop Lefebvre were not entirely accurate. As anyone who has read Pope John Paul's apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei knows, Lefebvre was excommunicated for the “schismatic act” of disobeying a “formal canonical warning” not to consecrate bishops against the Pope's wishes (No. 3), not at all for a “lack of support for changes brought by the Second Vatican Council.”

Many loyal groups, such as Father Joseph Fessio's Adoremus, point out that the liturgical innovations of our day were not so much as mentioned in any Vatican II documents. Even Lefebvre, in his 1976 book A Bishop Speaks, supported much of the Council's liturgical agenda, saying, “Some reform and renewal was needed…. Let the priest draw near the faithful, communicate with them, pray and sing with them, stand at the lectern to give the readings from the Epistle and Gospel in their tongue…. All these are happy reforms restoring to this part of the Mass its true purpose.”

On the other hand, Pope John Paul has, in his concern for “those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition” and to “facilitate their ecclesial communion” and “rightful aspirations” (Ecclesia Dei, No. 5c) provided the indult “for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962” (6c). The article failed to mention that not only the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but all of the sacraments are licitly administered in their traditional, pre-Vatican II form by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Therefore, it seems inaccurate to say that the schismatic group's problems relate to “lack of support” for Vatican II changes, when the Pope himself has explicitly given the indult for just that: all of the sacraments and minor orders in their 1962 form with no Vatican II changes.

Eugene Mafi

Seal Beach, California

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