Archbishop Lefebvre and Canons 1323 & 1324

Archbishop Lefebvre and Canons 1323:4â and 1324 ▀1:5â
A Canonical Study
By Peter John Vere

 

As both a Catholic Traditionalist and a student presently pursuing a licentiate of canon law at a pontifical institution, I am often approached by fellow Traditionalists. Very frequently, I am asked to defend the Faith against partisans of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) who claim to be Catholic, but refuse to submit themselves to Pope John Paul II. Having examined their literature, the SSPX obviously seek to attack the sacred unity of the Church; and in my experience, more often than not, the substance of these attacks against the unity of the Church is canonical.

I. THE FACTS

[Please note: Except for some minor changes and editing, I have quoted verbatim this first section presenting the facts of the case from an excellent summary of the controversy presently circulating among Traditional Catholic circles on the Internet, entitled "An Introduction to the SSPX Schism." At the author of the introduction's identity is presently unknown to me, I am unable to give him proper credit.]

1. On May 5, 1988, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, head of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), signed a protocol agreement with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was acting as the Vatican's representative in the matter. Archbishop Lefebvre, a Frenchman, had been Archbishop of Dakar (Senegal), Bishop of Tulle (France), and Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers before he retired. He then founded the Society of St. Pius X in 1968 in the diocese of Fribourg, Switzerland.

2. The purpose of the agreement was to bring the SSPX out of the disobedient state it had been in for some time with respect to the Church. The protocol was also to lay the groundwork for the appointment of a new bishop to provide for the ordination of priests, and, secondarily, to provide confirmation for the laity.

3. On June 16, 1988, Lefebvre withdrew his signature from the protocol, choosing to remain in a state of direct disobedience. To further compound the disobedience, he announced he would consecrate four bishops, against direct papal orders not to do so, come June 30, 1988.

4. On June 17, 1988, Cardinal Gantin, head of the College of Bishops, sent Lefebvre a formal canonical warning that if he went ahead with the planned episcopal consecrations, against the specific instructions of the pope, he would incur the grave penalty of excommunication under canon law (CIC 1364 ▀1, 1382). In addition to the formal canonical warning, repeated informal appeals were made to Lefebvre to honor the original agreement, right up until the end.

5. Come June 30, 1988, Lefebvre followed through with his threat and, along with Msgr. Antonio de Castro Mayer, Bishop emeritus of Campos, Brazil, he consecrated the following four priests of the SSPX as bishops: Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta.

6. The following day, July 1, 1988, Cardinal Gantin issued a formal decree of excommunication announcing that Lefebvre, Castro Mayer, and the four new bishops had performed a schismatic act and excommunicated themselves in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Canon Law. The following day, July 2, 1988, Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei" in which he solemnly confirmed both the excommunications and the existence of the schism.

7. Many followers of the Lefebvre schism have since argued, both in print and in public debate, that the excommunication did not apply to Archbishop Lefebvre because he was acting under the compulsion of grave fear in a state of emergency, as provided for under canons 1323:4â and 1324 ▀1:5â.

 II. THE LAW

8. Canon 1013 states, "No Bishop is permitted to consecrate anyone as Bishop, unless it is first established that a pontifical mandate has been issued." The meaning of this canon is self-evident, in that a bishop needs permission from the Holy See before consecrating another to the episcopate. The penalty for one who violates this canon is also clearly stated in the Code of Canon Law as follows: Canon 1383 "Both the Bishop who, without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae [automatic] excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See." As one can see, the penalty of excommunication for one who violates the aforementioned canon is automatic, and can only be removed by the Apostolic See (can. 1355).

9. Of similar clarity in the Code of Canon Law is the law surrounding schism. Canon 751 defines schism as "the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him." One must note that schism not only occurs when one refuses or withdraws communion with members of the Roman Catholic Church, but also when one refuses or withdraws submission to the Holy Father personally. The action through which one refuses or withdraws one's submission need neither be perpetual, nor pertaining to all judgments of the Roman Pontiff; insofar as one has not repented of one's act of disobedience, thus persisting in placing one's personal judgment above that of the Church, a single act of refusal to submit to judgment of the Holy Father within a single controversy constitutes schism. As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, "The essence of schism consists in rebelliously disobeying the commandments: and I say rebelliously, since a schismatic both obstinately scorns the commandments of the Church, and refuses to subject to her judgment" (Summa Theologica, IIa IIae Q.39 Art. 1. Dominican Fathers translation).

Regarding the penalty for schism, canon 1364 ▀1 states: "An apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication, without prejudice to the provision of can. 194 ▀1, n. 2; a cleric, moreover, may be punished with the penalties mentioned in can. 1336 ▀1, nn. 1, 2 and 3." Canon 194 ▀1 simply states that "one who has publicly defected from the catholic faith or from communion with the Church" is also "removed from ecclesiastical office by virtue of the law itself," meaning he automatically ceases to minister in the name of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, paragraph 2 of canon 194 specifies the removal from office "can be insisted upon only if it is established by a declaration of the competent authority." As it applies to Archbishop Lefebvre, this simply means that his removal from office can only be enforced if the Holy Father or one delegated by him formally declares that Archbishop Lefebvre had, indeed, incurred schism. As for the penalties outlined in canon 1336, as they are additional penalties not directly applicable to the present case, they will not be addressed in the present canonical study.

Regarding the justice of the penalty of excommunication for schismatics, the Angelic Doctor notes: "Now a schismatic, as shown above (Art. 1), commits a twofold sin: first by separating himself from communion with the members of the Church, and in this respect the fitting punishment for schismatics is that they be excommunicated. Secondly, they refuse submission to the head of the Church, wherefore, they are unwilling to be controlled by the Church's spiritual power..." (Summa Theologica, IIa IIae Q.39 Art. 4). In essence, excommunication of a schismatic is a just penalty because the Church cannot hold communion with an individual who refuses communion with the Church. Furthermore, one who refuses to submit himself to the judgment of the visible head of Christ's Mystical Body acts in disunion with rest of this Body, and hense poses a grave danger to Mystical Body of Christ as a whole. For as our Lord teaches in the Gospel of St. Matthew, "Every kingdom divided against itself shall be made desolate: and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (Matt. 12:25). Hence, excommunication is a just penalty for those who refuse to submit to the Roman Pontiff, for as Sacred Scripture teaches: "Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinances of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation" (Rom. 13:1-2).

10. Yet in defense of Lefebvre, his followers maintain he was not excommunicated because of canon 1323:4â which states: "No one is liable to a penalty who, when violating a law or precept: 4â acted under the compulsion of grave fear, even if only relative, or by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience, unless, however, the act is intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls." Simply put, those who adhere to the Lefebvre schism are claiming that because Lefebvre felt a state of necessity existed in the Church, he acted under grave fear in illicitly consecrating bishops without papal mandate and thus did not incur the automatic excommunications imposed by canons 1364 ▀1 and 1382. Furthermore, some of Lefebvre's followers also claim canon 1324 ▀1:5â in their defense against the automatic excommunication imposed upon Lefebvre by the law. This canon is similar to the previous one, simply stating: "The perpetrator of a violation is not exempted from penalty, but the penalty prescribed in the law or precept must be diminished, or a penance substituted in its place, if the offense was committed by: 5â one who was compelled by grave fear, even if only relative, or by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience, if the act is intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls." There are two subtle difference between the present canon and the previous canon, the first being that in canon 1323:4â the penalty is completely excused, whereas in canon 1324 ▀1:5â the penalty is merely diminished. The second difference is that canon 1323:4â does not apply if the violation which incurred the penalty is intrinsically evil or harmful to souls, whereas canon 1324 ▀1:5â can still apply in such instances.

11 Because canon law, like all other legal systems, is open to interpretation, the Church offers various norms for interpreting canon law as well as for resolving disputes over interpretation that may arise between canonists. One such norm is canon 16 ▀1 that states: ▀1 "Laws are authentically interpreted by the legislator and by that person to whom the legislator entrusts the power of authentic interpretation." This simply means that laws are to be interpreted according to the mind of the person who made (legislated) the law, as well as his successor and those who either he or his successor have delegated in an official capacity to interpret the law. In the case of the Code of Canon Law, the legislator is Pope John Paul II, and the persons entrusted to interpret the law as it applies to the Lefebvre schism are both Cardinal Gantin as the Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, and the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. The weight of their canonical interpretation is outlined in the following paragraph, canon 16 A72 which states: "An authentic interpretation which is presented by way of a law has the same force as the law itself, and must be promulgated. If it simply declares the sense of words that are certain in themselves, it has retroactive force. In other words, when a question arises as to how to interpret a law, and the legislator offers an authentic interpretation, the legislator's interpretation is just as binding as the law itself."

12. Along with recourse to the legislator, the Code of Canon Law also offers another method of interpretation in order to resolve canonical controversy where the meaning of the law is not clear, which is reference to parallel legislation as well as canonical tradition. Regarding the former, canon 17 states: "Ecclesiastical laws are to be understood according to the proper meaning of the words considered in their text and context. If the meaning remains doubtful or obscure, there must be recourse to parallel places, if there be any, to the purpose and circumstances of the law, and to the mind of the legislator." The important points to note here are that when in doubt, one must seek to follow what was intended by the legislator of the law, which in the case of the Code of Canon Law is Pope John Paul II. Similarly, when the law is not clear or one is not sure of its applicability, one must also follow canon 6 A72 which states "To the extent that the canons of this Code [CIC 1983] reproduce the former law, they are to be assessed in the light of canonical tradition." In short, as a canonical controversy has arisen between the Vatican and the SSPX over the applicability of canons 1323:4â and 1324 ▀1:5â, one must seek to resolve this controversy according to both the mind of John Paul II as legislator, as well as the accepted principles of canonical tradition.

13. Finally, against the decision of the Holy See, one must keep in mind the canonical absolute of canon 1629 which states: "No appeal is possible against: 1â a judgment of the Supreme Pontiff himself, or a judgment of the Apostolic Signatura;" as well as canon 1404 which states: "The First See is judged by no one." In short, there is no higher visible authority in the Church than the Pope, and his judgments within the Church are final. He can neither by judged by any authority within the Church, nor can his decisions be appealed to a higher authority within the Church since such an authority does not exist. All of these points are summarized in the Code of Canon Law as follows:

Can. 333 ▀1 By virtue of his office, the Roman Pontiff not only has power over the universal Church, but also has pre-eminent ordinary power over all particular Churches and their groupings. This reinforces and defends the proper, ordinary and immediate power which the Bishops have in the particular Churches entrusted to their care. A72 The Roman Pontiff, in fulfilling his office as supreme Pastor of the Church, is always joined in full communion with the other Bishops, and indeed with the whole Church. He has the right, however, to determine, according to the needs of the Church, whether this office is to be exercised in a personal or in a collegial manner. A73 There is neither appeal not recourse against a judgment or a decree of the Roman Pontiff.

Thus from the above canon three things are established within canonical jurisprudence. First of all, the Roman Pontiff's supreme power is not merely restricted to those matters which affect the Church as a whole, but rather he enjoys supreme power -- legislative, executive and juridical -- within particular and local churches as well. Secondly, the Roman Pontiff as the Church's supreme Pastor is always in communion with all other Catholic bishops, as well as the Church. In effect, the pope cannot be in schism, nor can he fall outside communion with the Church. Thirdly, the Roman Pontiff's judgment is final, authoritative and binding. One can neither appeal, nor have canonical recourse against the decision of the Roman Pontiff.

 III. THE LAW APPLIED TO THE FACTS

14. The first question that arises is whether or not Lefebvre performed the acts of which led to the automatic excommunication of himself and his followers, namely did he illicitly consecrate bishops without papal mandate and refuse submission to the Holy Father? First of all, that Lefebvre publicly proceeded with episcopal consecrations without papal mandate on June 30, 1988 is a public fact admitted by both Catholics and Lefebvrites, hence it cannot reasonably be disputed. Yet one must also take into account Cardinal Gantin's formal canonical warning to Lefebvre dated June 17, 1988, which stated that Lefebvre's planned episcopal consecrations were against the specific instructions of the pope, and should Lefebvre proceed anyway he would incur the grave penalty of excommunication for both illicitly consecrating bishops (can. 1382) and schism (1364 ▀1). Thus one must conclude Lefebvre acted not only without papal mandate, but against papal mandate in obstinately refusing to submit to the specific instructions of the Holy Father not to proceed with the episcopal consecrations. Therefore, Lefebvre is guilty of both consecrating bishops without papal mandate and schism.

15. The next question that arises is whether or not Lefebvre incurred the penalty of excommunication for schism and the illicit consecration of bishops without papal mandate. As the penalty of excommunication for both schism and the consecration of bishops without papal mandate are latae sententiae, or imposed automatically by virtue of the law, it thus follows that in consecrating bishops against the papal mandate and formal canonical warnings, Lefebvre incurred the penalty of excommunication twice. Furthermore, the automatic excommunication against Lefebvre was declared by Cardinal Gantin in a letter from the Congregation for Bishops dated July 1, 1988, the day after the illicit consecrations. Acting in his official capacity on behalf of the pope, Cardinal Gantin solemnly declares:

Monsignor 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.

Moreover, I declare that Monsignor Antonio de Castro Mayer, Bishop emeritus of Campos, since he took part directly in the liturgical celebration as co-consecrator and adhered publicly to the schismatic act, has incurred excommunication latae sententiae as envisaged by canon 1364, paragraph 1.

Therefore, not only was the penalty excommunication incurred by Archbishop Lefebvre for his act of schism in consecrating bishops against papal mandate, but the penalty was formally declared by the Holy See as well. Furthermore, the penalty of excommunication for schism and the illicit consecration of bishops was solemnly confirmed by Pope John Paul II personally in his apostolic letter "Ecclesia Dei" given Motu Proprio (i.e. of the Pope's own private initiative.) In this letter, John Paul II clearly states:

3. In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience -- which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy -- constitutes a schismatic act. In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alphonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.

Hence, Lefebvre was validly excommunicated for his actions, an excommunication declared by the highest authority in the Church against whom no recourse is possible.

16. Nevertheless, the question arises whether canons 1323:4â and 1324 ▀1:5â excuse Lefebvre because he acted out of grave fear in what he perceived to be a state of necessity? No, these canons do not excuse Lefebvre from the penalties of excommunication because when faced with the conflict of law, Lefebvre had recourse to both the legislator and to parallel places. The first example of how Lefebvre had recourse to the mind of legislator regarding this issue is demonstrated by the fact he signed a protocol with Cardinal Ratzinger on May 5, 1988, less than two months before proceeding with his schismatic consecration of bishops. Secondly, the mind of the legislator, Pope John Paul II, was made abundantly clear to Lefebvre before his illicit episcopal consecrations in a personal letter written to Lefebvre from the Vatican June 9, 1988, in which the Holy Father gently warns:

Dans la lettre que vous m'avez adress╚e, vous semblez rejeter tout l'acquis des pr╚c╚dents colloques, puisque vous y manifestez clairement votre intention de "vous donner vous-m═me les moyens de poursuivre votre Oeuvre," notamment en proc╚dant sous peu et sans mandat apostolique ř une ou plusieurs ordinations ╚piscopales, ceci en contradiction flagrante non seulement avec les prescriptions du droit canonique, mais aussi avec le protocole sign╚ le 5 mai et les indications relatives ř ce probl╦me contenues dans la lettre que le cardinal Ratzinger vous a ╚crite ř ma demande le 30 mai.

D'un coeur paternel, mais avec toute la gravit╚ que requi╦rent les circonstances pr╚sentes, je vous exhorte, v╚n╚rable fr╦re, ř renoncer ř votre projet qui, s'il est r╚alis╚, ne pourra apparaËtre que comme un acte schismatique dont les cons╚quences th╚ologiques et canoniques in╚vitables vous sont connues.  Je vous invite ardemment au retour, dans l'humilit╚, ř la pleine ob╚issance au vicaire du Christ.

Non seulement je vous invite ř cela, mais je vous le demande, par les plaies du Christ notre r╚dempteur, au nom du Christ qui, la veille de sa passion, a pri╚ pour ses disciples, "afin que tous soient un." (Jn 17, 21)

[As quoted from "Enchiridion Vaticanum -- Documenti Ufficiali Della Santa Sede, vol. 11, 1988-1989. An unofficial English translation is as follows:]

In the letter that you sent me, you seem to reject all acquisition of previous discussions, since you clearly manifest your intention of "giving yourself the means of pursuing your Work," notably in proceeding under little and without apostolic mandate to one or many episcopal ordinations, this in flagrant contradiction not only of the prescriptions of canon law, but also with the protocol signed May 5th and the instructions relative to this problem contained in the letter that Cardinal Ratzinger sent you at my request May 30th.

With a paternal heart, but with all the gravity the present circumstances require, I exhort you, venerable brother, to renounce your project which, if it is realized, could not but appear as a schismatic act of which the inevitable theological and canonical consequences are known to you. I ardently invite you to return, in humility, to full obedience towards the Vicar of Christ.

Not only do I invite you to this, but I ask it of you by the wounds of Christ our Redeemer, in the name of Christ who, on the eve of His passion, prayed for his disciples, "that they may be one" (John 17:21).

That the mind of the legislator of the Code of Canon Law, in this case Pope John Paul II, was known to Lefebvre prior to the consecration of bishops without papal mandate is must be kept in mind when examining the situation from a canonical perspective. For if one recalls the principle stated in canon 16 ▀1, "laws are authentically interpreted by the legislator and by that person to whom the legislator entrusts the power of authentic interpretation." Hence, it is left to the Roman Pontiff and those designated by him, rather than Lefebvre, to interpret the canons legislated within the present Code.

Moreover, Lefebvre received a formal canonical warning from Cardinal Gantin on June 17, 1988. Thus one can only conclude that Lefebvre had recourse to the mind of the legislator, and hence his perception of a state of necessity had been removed by such recourse. For as the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts recently explains in its Protocol. Number 5233/96:

However doubt cannot reasonably be cast upon the validity of the excommunication of the Bishops declared in the Motu Proprio [Ecclesia Dei] and the Decree [of excommunication against Lefebvre]. In particular it does not seem that one may be able to find, as far as the imputability of the penalty is concerned, any exempting or lessening circumstances (cf. CIC, canons 1323 and 1324) As far as the state of necessity in which Mons. Lefebvre thought to find himself, one must keep before one that such a state must be verified objectively, and there is never a necessity to ordain Bishops contrary to the will of the Roman Pontiff., Head of the College of Bishops. This would, in fact, imply the possibility of "serving" the Church by means of an attempt against its unity in an area connected with the very foundations of this unity.

Therefore, one sees that a state of emergency cannot be invoked against the expressed judgment of the Holy Father, especially on such an important issue as the consecration of bishops. One also sees that the mind of the legislator does not favor the Lefebvrite argument. Furthermore, because this interpretation comes from the Pontifical Council entrusted by the Holy Father for the interpretation of canon law, it is binding in its interpretation of how canons 1323 and 1324 apply to the excommunication declared against Lefebvre.

Finally, because this interpretation was simply declaring what was already known through canonical tradition, thus ruling that the Lefebvrite movement has not raised any legitimate doubt of law, the above enjoys retroactive force. Hence, in having recourse to the mind of the legislator, Pope John Paul II and those entrusted by him to interpret the Code of Canon Law, one sees that canons 1323 and 1324 cannot legitimately be invoked by Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers to avoid the automatic penalties of excommunication incurred by his act of schism in consecrating bishops against papal mandate.

17. Nevertheless, in interpreting canons 1323 and 1324 one might ask whether or not Lefebvre and his followers had recourse to parallel places from canonical tradition? In short, the answer is "yes." Had Lefebvre any legitimate doubt entering the illicit episcopal consecrations as to the applicability of canons 1323 and 1324, canon 6 A72 states that "To the extent that the canons of this [1983] Code reproduce the former law, they are to be assessed in the light also of canonical tradition." Under Pope Pius XII, the Canonical Tradition was clearly stated that the pressure of grave fear did not excuse bishops who illicitly consecrated or illicitly received consecration from the latae sententiae penalty of excommunication. For as the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office decreed April 9, 1999, "Episcopus, cuiusvis ritus vel dignitatis, aliquem, neque ab Apostolica Sede nominatum neque ab Eadem expresse confirmaum, consecraus in Episcopum, et qui consecrationem recipit, etsi metu gravi coacti (c. 2229 A73:3â [CIC 1917]), incurrunt ipso facto in excommunicationem Apostolicae Sedi specialissimo modo reservatam" (AAS 43 [1951] 217-218). In short, canonical tradition dictates that grave fear does not mitigate from the penalty of excommunication when one consecrates bishops without papal mandate.

Nevertheless, Lefebvre's apologists might have argued that the decree of the Sacred Congregation has been abrogated in the recent Code of Canon Law by Canon 6 ▀1, nn. 3 and 4 which state: "When this Code comes into force, the following are abrogated: 3â all penal laws enacted by the Apostolic See, whether universal or particular, unless they are resumed in this Code itself; 4â any universal disciplinary laws concerning matters which are integrally reordered by this Code." For whereas the decree from the Holy Office specifically denies coercion from grave fear as a mitigating circumstance in the automatic excommunication of those who administer or receive episcopal consecration without papal mandate, canon 1382, while essentially repeating every other particular of the aforementioned decree, is silent about coercion due to grave fear. Therefore, in spite of the fact that the penalty of excommunication for the consecration of bishops without papal mandate is resumed in the present Code of Canon Law, and despite the fact the disciplinary law on this issue does not appear to have been integrally reordered, the Lefebvrite might argue that Lefebvre was justified in his non-observance of canon 1382 because "laws, even invalidating and incapacitating ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt of law" (Can. 14) and "laws which prescribe a penalty, or restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception to the law, are to be interpreted strictly" (Can. 16). However, such a doubt of law cannot be maintained because the presumption of law upholds the previous legislation, for as Canon 21 explicitly states, "in doubt, the revocation of a previous law is not presumed; rather, later laws are to be related to earlier ones and, as far as possible, harmonized with them."

Thus in pursuing his illicit episcopal consecrations, Archbishop Lefebvre violated the very Tradition he claimed to uphold, as defined by the very last pope who's orthodoxy Lefebvre recognized. In so doing, Lefebvre not only refused submission to Pope John Paul II as expressed through the Holy Father's Monitums, but Pope Pius XII as well as expressed through his definition of canonical tradition, and thus it should also be self-evident as to how Lefebvre refused to submit to the Holy Pontiff, thus incurring schism as defined by Canon 751.

18. The last question that arises is whether or not Lefebvre can appeal the decision of the Holy See declaring him schismatic and excommunicated. In short, the answer is no because the Papal Throne is the supreme visible authority within the Church, established by Christ Himself to govern the Church in His name. The very fact the SSPX refuse to submit to an authoritative judgment of the Roman Pontiff against them, but rather choose to obfuscate various canonical issues in appealing to the masses, visibly testifies to the truth of their schism from communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

In conclusion, having exhausted the issue from a canonical perspective, despite the Lefebvrite Movement's attempts to argue canons 1323 and 1324, there can be no doubt Archbishop Lefebvre incurred the latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Holy See due his act of schism in consecrating bishops illicitly against the expressed instructions of the Roman Pontiff.

You may contact the author at pete_vere@yahoo.com

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