From theSmall logoarchives - Published from 1982-96, Fidelity magazine was the predecessor of  Culture Wars.

Fidelity logosThe Vanishing Schism Revisited: Will The Real Cardinal Lara Please Stand Up (Again)?

By John Beaumont

From the November 1996 issue of Fidelity magazine

As politicians have found out down the ages, if you go on repeating an untruth for long enough it will eventually lodge in the social consciousness and become accepted as the truth. No matter how many times the untruth is corrected, say by letters to the press or other action, it will reappear. Catholics, of all people, should be aware of this phenomenon, because they have frequently suffered as a result of it. The old allegations about "Pope Joan" and about the walling up of nuns have been rebutted on countless occasions, but they are repeated still.

Well, now one can add another such case to the list. If the first cry in most rebellions is "kill all the lawyers," it would now seem to be, in addition, "libel, them as well." Or so the experience of a leading Roman canonist with a traditionalist group would seem to suggest.

Cardinal Castillo Lara: the story so far

In 1994, the present writer, together with a colleague, published an article in Fidelity (see John Beaumont and John Walsh, "The Story of the Vanishing Schism: The Strange Case of Cardinal Lara." The article focused on propaganda put out by the Society of St. Pius X shortly after its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was excommunicated and declared by the Church to be a schismatic, after he consecrated four bishops without a papal mandate, in June 1988. The article concentrated on the fact that the Society of St. Pius X was quoting several canon lawyers, most notably the eminent Roman canonist, Cardinal Rosalio Jose Castillo Lara, as stating that Archbishop Lefebvre was not, in fact, in schism. (Note that in the previous article, the Cardinal was referred to as Cardinal Lara. This was incorrect. As an Hispanic, his principal surname is Castillo. Thus, he should be referred to as Cardinal Castillo Lara, or, if only one name is desired, Cardinal Castillo. Lara, being his mother's name, is a secondary name)

It seemed to us to be most unlikely that a figure of such high standing within the Vatican as Cardinal Castillo Lara should be lending his support to a Lefebvrist group. So we wrote to him and discovered that, contrary to what the Society of St. Pius X was saying, the Cardinal had consistently maintained that Archbishop Lefebvre was in fact under two excommunications, one for the offense of schism, the other for the offense of consecrating a bishop without a pontifical mandate. Far from supporting the Lefebvrist case, he supported 100 percent the judgement of the Church.

The Society of St. Pius X goes quiet

Having discovered these facts, we then endeavored to persuade those individuals who had libeled Cardinal Castillo Lara to publish corrections of their statements. After all, this claim of the Cardinal's so-called support for Archbishop Lefebvre had become part of traditionalist mythology and had been circulated widely. The main culprits were the "hierarchy" of the Society of St. Pius X: Fr. Franz Schmidberger, then the Superior General; Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four bishops consecrated by Lefebvre, and, of course, the SSPX's house apologist, Michael Davies. We wrote to these men, only to find that their so called zeal for the truth, did not extend to putting right what they had said falsely about Cardinal Castillo Lara. Their responses ranged from a complete disavowal of their being any problem to a grudging concession that perhaps they had not got it totally right (for details, see "The Vanishing Schism" op cit. pp. 38-40). In no case was a correction published by any of them.

We also wrote to the editors of certain traditionalist journals. Obviously, we included The Angelus, house journal of the Society of St. Pius X. We also asked other journals with a reputation of being traditionalist, or at least conservative in orientation, namely The Remnant and The Wanderer, if they could help us in our objective of setting out the truth. However, we were not even afforded the courtesy of an acknowledgment by any of these. In addition, we wrote to Fr. Paul Crane S.J.,, editor of Christian Order, the most influential of the conservative Catholic journals in the United Kingdom, asking him to bring the true facts to the attention of his readers. Fr. Crane did reply, which put him one up over the others, but sadly refused to accede to our request. One of the reasons he gave was that his readers would not be able to understand the complexities of the question at issue. Now, this definitely smacks of special pleading, since those supporters of the Society of St. Pius X who read Christian Order, like their traditionalist confreres in other countries, seem to have no hesitation in deciding, if only to their own satisfaction, questions which would probably have tested the great St. Thomas Aquinas himself. These include such issues as the detailed application of such concepts as epikeia in relation to confessions heard by SSPX priests. Furthermore Christian Order itself had recently published articles on matters as complex as Dignitatis Humanae, the Decree on Religious Liberty, and on the philosophy of Teilhard de Chardin. Surely the straightforward statement by Cardinal Castillo Lara that there is a schism should be a piece of cake for Christian Order readers by comparison with these other matters!

Those other individuals who had either written of this matter or had re-circulated the words of those already referred to did not respond to our efforts to persuade them to issue corrections. One notable exception to this arose after our original article was published. This related to a local variation of the Castillo Lara affair which took place in Ireland, under which a booklet containing the usual SSPX propaganda in defense of its actions was said to have been given the approbation of - yes, you guessed it - Cardinal Castillo Lara. To his credit, the SSPX priest in Ireland, Fr. Andre Lemieux, when informed by us of the response of the Cardinal to this claim (namely that he had never given his approval for the publications of those associated with the Lefebvre movement, nor had he any intention of doing so), issued a correction in his monthly bulletin to SSPX supporters. So one minor success was registered for the Beaumont-Walsh alliance, amidst this catalogue of failure (and expended postage).

It should be stated that the article, which eventually appeared in Fidelity was submitted by us only because we believed that the truth had to be brought into the public domain in order that innocent people might no longer be misled in this matter. If our efforts in private to persuade those responsible for misleading the faithful to issue corrections had borne fruit, there would have been no need for an article.

In addition, in a certain sense, the figure of Cardinal Castillo Lara is secondary to the main issue, which is whether, in fact, Archbishop Lefebvre committed the offense of schism. It does not require canonists to set out what the position is in order to know that there is a schism. It is the Church that has the authority to decide these matters, and here we know that already the Church has decided the question. Once one appreciates the authentic Catholic teaching on papal primacy, and compares this with the false version put out by the Society of St. Pius X (in which all papal decisions are up for review), one realizes that the opinions of a canonist cannot stand against a clear decision by the Vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter. Catholic tradition enjoins the faithful to obey the latter. Furthermore, there is no higher decision making body:

"[A] decision of the Apostolic See, whose authority has no superior, may be revised by no one, nor may anyone examine. judicially, its decision" (Vatican I, Constitution on the Church, Pastor Aeternus, Ch. III). "[T]here is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff" (Code of Canon Law, canon 333(3)).

All of this we considered in "The Vanishing Schism" article referred to earlier. We have also examined in detail the nature of the Roman primacy in a previous article (see "Schism, Obedience and the Society of St. Pius X," Fidelity, October 1993).

Nevertheless, the details concerning the matter of this notable Roman canonist are of importance. They indicate the way in which the Society of St. Pius X is prepared to distort evidence so as to make it appear to support its own case. They also show that organizations which detach themselves from Roman authority soon find themselves having to put forward dubious claims in order to defend their crumbling position. Unfortunately, truth tends to be a potential casualty in circumstances such as this.

By April 1994, we were reasonably confident that we would be able to sit back in the knowledge, even if no public retractions of the Castillo Lara myth had been made by the Society of St. Pius X. that surely the story by now was dead. The superiors of the SSPX, knowing that they were likely to be caught out on this one, now that some publicity had been given to it, would have issued, or so we thought, a directive to the troops on the lines of "Don't play the Lara card any more." We were sure that the notion of Cardinal Castillo Lara as a supporter of the Society of St. Pius X (perhaps furtively reading the three volumes of Michael Davies's Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre in plain brown wrappers), was one that could be consigned to the past. How naive we were.

The schism vanishes again

Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz is the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska. It seems that in his diocese, the bishop is plagued with a number of unorthodox groupings. In March of this year (1996), he decided to act. The issue of the Southern Nebraska Register for 22nd March, 1996 contained a formal canonical warning of interdict and excommunication issued by Bishop Bruskewitz against a number of organizations. The organizations referred to included Planned Parenthood, the Hemlock Society, Call to Action, Freemasons, and the Society of St. Pius X. The bishop characterized such groups as "always perilous to the Catholic Faith and most often totally in compatible with the Catholic Faith." Seemingly outraged by the inclusion of the Society of St. Pius X in this list, the SSPX leaders sprang into action. Fr. Peter Scott, District Superior of the Society of St. Pius X in the United States, fired off a response. Fr. Scott expressed himself dismayed and shocked that the Society of St. Pius X should be included on a list containing such group. In fact, that this should be the case is not all that surprising. It has been remarked before how the Society of St. Pius X's selective acceptance of the documents of the magisterium bring it close to the pick-and-choose liberalism of such groups as Catholics for a Free Choice and other organizations close in their mindset to some of those on Bishop Bruskewitz's list (see, for example, the opening speech by E. Michael Jones in his debate with Michael Davies over the Society of St. Pius X, Fidelity, October 1993).

In his letter to Bishop Bruskewitz, Fr. Scott proceeds to issue a number of "challenges" to the bishop: to go ahead with his threat, to justify his position etc., etc. In fact, there are so many challenges that we fully expected that the letter would conclude with Fr. Scott challenging the bishop to a duel with pistols at dawn.

Incidentally, there is something of an anomaly in the way in which Fr. Scott challenges the bishop to excommunicate the priests of the Society of St. Pius X and its supporters as if the penalty would be a gross slur upon those excommunicated; but then goes on to say that an excommunication from what he calls the "conciliar Church" would, in fact, be welcome since he has never wished to belong to it. Is this "conciliar Church" part of the Catholic Church? If not, then why have any communications with it? If it is, then why does he not obey it when it acts, as here, within the sphere of its authority?

However, what is of particular interest in the present context is the following statement by Fr. Scott: "Archbishop Lefebvre, supposedly declared excommunicated for schism in 1988, was never, in fact, excommunicated, for he never committed a schismatic act. This is the opinion of the majority of reputable canonists, notably Cardinal Lara...."

A reference is then given to the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, of 7th October, 1988. This is presumably a reference to the interview with Cardinal Castillo Lara after the episcopal consecrations by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988. The reference to the newspaper report should in fact be to the 10th July, 1988 issue, but this is a minor error when set in the context of the rest of the SSPX literature on this matter.

The real Cardinal Castillo Lara stands up again

By now we had spent some considerable time in trying to nail the Lara myth. However, ever the optimists, we set out on the road again. Money for postage was no problem. Raiding the piggy banks of the Beaumont juniors, we soon had ample funds. It was relatively easy to draft a letter to Fr. Scott in which we enclosed the correspondence which we had with the Cardinal, and requested that, in view of these facts, Fr. Scott should make the true position known. We then sat back and waited for Fr. Scott not to reply, such being our general experience last time round. However, to his credit, Fr. Scott did reply. Before considering what he said, perhaps it would be best to set out, for reference purposes, the response which we had received from Cardinal Castillo Lara on the last occasion and which was published in "The Vanishing Schism."  " It will be useful for comparative purposes when looking at Fr. Scott's response.

"You bring to my attention a matter of importance," Cardinal Castillo Lara responded. "You asked if I could tell you what exactly I said in the interview of 10th July, 1988. The substance of what I said is as follows: 'In the case of Lefebvre and the four priests consecrated bishops by him, there are two offenses, canonically speaking, that they have committed. The fundamental offense is that of schism: that is, refusing submission to the Roman Pontiff and breaking communion with the Church. This offense they had already previously committed. Only that, now, the second offence, that of consecrating bishops, formalizes, in a certain sense, and concretizes the first and makes it explicit. Schism is a delict which can be personal. It does not require having a number of people. Individuals can do it on their own. Lefebvre and his followers, inasmuch as they refused submission to the Pope, were already, by that fact itself, in schism. The intent of the act of consecrating bishops is already to create a church with its own hierarchy. In this sense, the consecration of bishops becomes an act of schism. One should keep in mind, however, that the act of consecrating bishops is not in itself a schismatic act. In fact, in the Code, where offenses are treated, these two are treated in two distinct headings. There are delicts against religion and the unity of the Church. And these are apostasy (i.e. renouncing the faith), schism, and heresy. Consecrating a bishop without pontifical mandate is, on the other hand, an offense against the proper exercise of one's ministry. For example, there was an excommunication of the Vietnamese Archbishop, Ngo Dinh Thuc in '76 and '83, for an episcopal consecration, but it was not considered a schismatic act because there was no intent to break with the Church. Ngo Dinh Thuc represents a pitiable situation, as there is some mental imbalance.

With regard to Econe, Lefebvre and the four priests, they are under two excommunications: one for the offense of schism; the other, reserved to the Apostolic See, for the offense of consecrating a bishop without a pontifical mandate. I hope that this is helpful to you" (letter to John Beaumont, dated 26th May 1993).

Fr. Scott on schism

We shall examine the points made by Fr. Scott in the order in which he made them. In addition, the whole of his letter to us will be quoted (with the exception of the formal remarks at the beginning and end). This is done in order to avoid any allegation that his comments are being quoted selectively. This accusation was made by Michael Davies after the previous article on this question appeared. Mr. Davies claimed that he had been quoted out of context. This is quite untrue. The original copies of the correspondence are available for examination. When we quoted from Michael Davies' letters to us we did so quite extensively and also gave a summary of his position. In reality Michael Davies allegation smacked somewhat of the pot calling the kettle black since in our article we showed categorically that Mr. Davies had omitted two absolutely explicit passages from Cardinal Castillo Lara's statement which were completely contrary to the Davies thesis.

Turning now to Fr. Scott's response he begins by acknowledging the value of Cardinal Castillo Lara's statement. A good sign one might think since what the Cardinal says is indeed valuable. It sets out in no uncertain terms the schismatic nature of Archbishop Lefebvre's behavior which led to the excommunication being incurred. However, it turns out that this is not what Fr. Scott is referring to. The relevant paragraph is set out in full: "The value of Cardinal Lara's statement is that he affirms 'that the act of consecrating a bishop is not in itself a schismatic act,' and makes a comparison with the episcopal consecrations performed by Archbishop Thuc, stating that although Archbishop Thuc had incurred an excommunication 'it was not considered a schismatic act because there was no intent to break with the Church. We do not agree with his conclusion concerning this sede vacantist Vietnamese bishop (who did intend to break with the Pope) any more than we agree with his personal feelings about Archbishop Lefebvre. However, the principle behind his argumentation is correct. What he says of Archbishop Thuc must be said with much greater veracity of Archbishop Lefebvre: Archbishop Lefebvre is not a schismatic on account of the episcopal consecrations (emphasis as in the original).

Essentially, when Fr. Scott writes that Cardinal Castillo Lara's statement is of value, he Is referring to two points made by the Cardinal. The first of these is said to be that the Cardinal "affirms that the act of consecrating a bishop is not, in itself, a schismatic act." The second is that the Cardinal states "that, although Archbishop Thuc had incurred an excommunication, it was not considered a schismatic act because there was no intent to break with the Church." Let us take these two points in turn.

It is quite common to hear supporters of the Society of St. Pius X trying to make a great deal out of the statement that consecrating a bishop without a papal mandate is not in itself a schismatic act. Michael Davies did exactly the same in his correspondence with us, as did Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. Such statements are based on a fundamental misunderstanding. The nature of this we set out in our previous article. All that need be done here is to reiterate the response which we made then, since it is just as relevant now.

Cardinal [Castillo] Lara is not saying (nor does the Church) that consecrating a bishop without a papal mandate can never be an act of schism. All that he is saying is that such a consecration is not automatically always a schismatic act. As is clear schism is, inter alia (among other things) the refusal of submission to the Pope on a matter relating to the unity of the Church. Theologians have shown that consecrations without a papal mandate may be performed in certain very narrowly defined emergencies without attacking the unity of the Church (witness the attempt by apologists for the SSPX in 1988 to use these cases until it became clear that none of them applied). However, as the Holy Father pointed out in Ecclesia Dei the consecration of bishops, whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentallv perpetuated, is a matter of supreme importance for the unity of the Church. As a result, then, consecration without a papal mandate will usually amount to a schismatic act. Such an action is evidence of schism, and it is especially strong evidence where, as in the case of Archbishop Lefebvre, the consecrations were not just in the absence of a papal mandate, but also against the express will of the Pope as conveyed to Archbishop Lefebvre in the most formal and serious terms ("The Story of the Vanishing Schism," op cit. pp.38-39).

In the context of this specific question it does seem at times that apologists for the Society of St. Pius X are obsessed with the question of the perceived distinction between schism and consecrating a bishop without a papal mandate, believing that the two can never meet. This is linked to another common fallacy to which the Society of St. Pius X and its supporters are particularly prone. This is their failure to appreciate that schism is not something which always switches off and on at a particular instant in time. Schism is something which grows and develops within an individual and organization over a period of time. The point about a particular act, such as the consecration of bishops without a papal mandate, is that this, as it were, concretizes and makes explicit what was implicit before. This is what Cardinal Castillo Lara explained in his letter to us. It is something which the Society of St. Pius X seems unable, or unwilling, to understand. This point is considered further later.

As to the point regarding Archbishop Thuc, there are two responses to be made to Fr. Scott here. First of all, the reason why Archbishop Thuc was held not to have the necessary intention for schism was that, as Cardinal Castillo Lara points out, his mental imbalance was thought to be such that it was difficult to say what his actual intention was, or even whether he was able to form the intention in question.

The second and more important point here, however, relates to the whole question of the nature of schism. Fr. Scott states that although he disagrees with the cardinal on the question of whether Archbishop Thuc intended to break with the Pope he does agree that the key issue in deciding whether someone is schismatic is whether that person intends such a break. By drawing a comparison with Archbishop Thuc, Fr. Scott clearly implies that a schism is confined to the case where a person denies that the pope has authority to rule at all, which would, of course, be the position of a sede vacantist, which is how Fr. Scott characterizes Archbishop Thuc. Archbishop Lefebvre, however, is, by implication, again not thought by Fr. Scott to be a schismatic since he does not deny that the pope has authority. But, if Fr. Scott does believe that only a person who denies that the pope has authority can be in schism, then he fails to understand the true nature of schism, since this is not what the Church teaches.

Now, let us be clear what is not being said here. It is not being alleged that Fr. Scott himself is a sede vacantist. The Society of St. Pius X is somewhat touchy about such matters, even though its policy has been favorable to sede vacantist fellow travelers, who wish, say, to receive communion at the hands of SSPX priests. That is an issue which would form an interesting subject for analysis, but it is not one which it is intended to pursue here. The issue of sede vacantism is being mentioned only as it bears upon Fr. Scott's approach to the question of schism.

The true nature of schism has been analyzed in a previous article (see John Beaumont and John Walsh, "Schism, Obedience and the Society of St. Pius X," op cit. pp.34-36). What was shown there by reference to the traditional teaching of the Church, was that it is not necessary for a schismatic to deny that the Pope has authority over him. Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff (Canon 753, emphasis added). A person who refuses to submit to the authority of the pope, whilst believing him to possess authority in the matter in dispute, is a schismatic if his refusal of submission constitutes an attack on the unity of the Church. It is this matter of an attack on the unity of the Church which is the real key to the idea of schism. In fact, if one looks at schismatics throughout the history of the Church, one finds that they generally do not have the direct intention of breaking with the Church. What they want to do is see the Church come to their point of view, which they believe to represent the Catholic tradition. Witness for example, the Jansenists and the Old Roman Catholics. In a case of schism, then, what is required in terms of the actor's intention is the intention to attack the unity of the Church, or of acting in a way which he knows will lead to a break in unity. Archbishop Lefebvre knew that what he was doing was against the express wishes of the pope and yet he continued with his actions. He therefore had the necessary intention.

Fr. Scott grades the Pope

Fr. Scott next goes on to consider the pope's Apostolic Letter, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta issued after the 1988 episcopal consecrations. This is what he says: "The reason why this principle is important is that it is denied by Pope John Paul II in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta. By a totally illogical deduction he concludes from the fact that Archbishop Lefebvre went against the Pope's order not to consecrate bishops, that he is schismatic. We are grateful to Cardinal Lara for making it clear that this conclusion does not follow (although he himself personally thinks that Archbishop Lefebvre and all those associated with him were already 'schismatic' long before the consecrations, for the simple reason that we refused the spirit of Vatican II), for it is on the basis of this false reasoning that the Pope's whole recommendation to the faithful, not to be associated with the Society of St. Pius X, depends."

There are several errors here. Little more need be said about the relationship between episcopal consecrations without pontifical mandate and the question of schism. What has been said so far shows that it is neither the Pope nor Cardinal Castillo Lara who is being illogical here, but rather Fr. Scott himself. The true nature of the relationship in question is spelled out by the Pope himself in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta itself: "[T]his act [the unlawful episcopal consecrations] 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 consecration 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 (para. 3)

However, what does call for further comment is the whole question of when exactly the schism of Lefebvre took place. Fr. Scott claims that Cardinal Castillo Lara was of the opinion that Archbishop Lefebvre was already in schism "long before the consecrations." Here again Fr. Scott seems to be confused. Let us leave to one side the fact that the Cardinal actually says nothing about how long before the consecrations there was a state of schism. As to the question of the date of the schism, we have already seen that schism is something which can suffuse an organization and develop over a period of time. What can be shown quite clearly is how Rome treated Archbishop Lefebvre and his organization as having schismatic tendencies from a very early date. Consider the following statements issued between 1976 and 1978 by the Pope and by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

"What is indeed at issue is the question which must truly be called fundamental - of your clearly proclaimed refusal to recognize, in its whole, the authority of the Second Vatican Council and that of the Pope. This refusal is accompanied by an action that is oriented towards propagating and organizing what must indeed, unfortunately, be called a rebellion." (letter of Pope Paul VI to Archbishop Lefebvre, 11th October 1976)

"We cannot therefore, take your requests into consideration, because it is a question of facts which have already been committed in rebellion against the one, true Church of God." (ibid)

"Pray to the Holy Spirit, dear Brother. He will show you the necessary renunciations to help you to re enter in the path of a full communion with the Church and with the successor of Peter." (letter of Pope Paul VI to Archbishop Lefebvre, 8th September 1975)

"It is so painful to take note of this but how can we not see in such an attitude - whatever may be these people's intentions - the placing of themselves outside obedience and communion with the Successor of St Peter and therefore outside the Church." (Consistory Allocution by Pope Paul VI, 24th May 1976)

"If your words are taken in their full meaning, is there not justification for saying that you refuse, or are ready to refuse communion with the members of the Church subject to the Pope?" (annex to letter of Cardinal Seper to Archbishop Lefebvre, 28th January 1978)

"[T]he Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considers that, by your declarations about submission to the Council and to the post-conciliar reforms of Paul VI - declarations with which your whole behavior and especially your illicit ordinations of priests are in accord - you have fallen into rave disobedience, and that all these declarations and acts, by their own logic, lead to schism" (ibid).

What can be seen, in addition, from these statements by the Roman authorities, is that the actions of the Society of St. Pius X involved a rejection not only of what Fr. Scott refers to as the "spirit of Vatican II" (something to which, in fact, Cardinal Castillo Lara does not refer), but of the actual Vatican II documents themselves (see in particular the first and the last of the above statements). As has been noted before, the Society of St. Pius X has its own alternative magisterium, under which the papal writings are sifted and given a grade. Curiously, this almost always seems to result in the pope flunking the test. A strange type of Catholic tradition this, in which the papacy is generally found wanting.

Fr. Scott on submission and obedience

The final point of substance made by Fr. Scott relates to the issue of Archbishop Lefebvre and the question of obedience to the Pope: "Since it is manifestly obvious for all to see that Archbishop Lefebvre did not incur the excommunication for episcopal consecrations, on account of the circumstances, then the only way to maintain that he incurred excommunication was for schism. However, as Cardinal Lara points out, this is another delict. Moreover, the refusal of submission to the Sovereign Pontiff is in no way proven by the consecration of bishops, especially given Archbishop Lefebvre's repeated profession of legitimate submission and true obedience to the Vicar of Christ."

The issue of excommunication for episcopal consecration has already been dealt with. This should suffice to refute Fr. Scott's thesis. The one issue that does remain to be considered relates to the question of Archbishop Lefebvre's refusal of submission to the Sovereign Pontiff. As was stated earlier, what Archbishop Lefebvre did was to manifest, from an early date, a schismatic mentality and practice. What the consecrations did was to bring out into the open what was previously implicit and, thereby, to concretize and formalize the schism.

There is, however, another important distinction to make. Fr. Scott makes much of Archbishop Lefebvre's supposed "profession of legitimate submission and true obedience to the Vicar of Christ." Yet, is this, in fact, an accurate characterization of the behavior of Lefebvre and his organization? It most certainly is not. Here are some of the acts of disobedience to the Pope, or to those under him, perpetrated by this organization, to which many more could be added:

1) The SSPX establishes seminaries, churches, chapels and priories throughout the world, without any reference to the local ordinaries in whose dioceses it carries out these acts.

2) It ordains priests without the dismissorial letters required by canon law.

3) It hears confessions and celebrates marriages without jurisdiction.

4) It gives holy communion to persons who are well known sede vacantists.

5) It refused Pope Paul VI's command to close the seminary at Econe and to wind up the SSPX.

6) It carries out confirmations in other bishops' dioceses contrary to the Council of Trent.

7) It purports to accept John Paul II as Pope, and yet rejects parts of the 1983 Code of Canon Law promulgated by him in his capacity as supreme legislator.

8) Finally in 1988, the SSPX consecrated four bishops, knowing that this was against the express will of the Pope and then, in 1991, proceeded to consecrate a further bishop in a diocese (Campos in Brazil) where, as the SSPX itself recognizes, there is already a valid bishop.

The conclusion which was drawn in the article "Schism, Obedience and the Society of St. Pius X is just as relevant today: [H]ere is an organization which pays no regard whatsoever to the commands and laws of legitimate authority in the Church and which refuses to do the express will of the Supreme Pontiff in matters of great importance for the visible unity of the Church. Put all of these things together, and what we have is an autonomous organization, a petite eglise, an independent church. If this does not constitute schism, what does? (op cit, p.37).


So there we have it. It is all very sad, since good people are being led astray by the Society of St. Pius X at a time when the Catholic Church needs all the helpers in the vineyard that it can muster. Also, what sort of light does it shed upon the behavior of the bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre. When we first wrote to Bishop Williamson informing him of the truth concerning Cardinal Castillo Lara, the response we received was a postcard with the scrawled message on it that our letter had received "some attention before being filed for future reference." Well, one piece of attention that it clearly did not receive was transmission to the District Superior for the United States. So the process by the Society of St. Pius X in disseminating the truth in this matter did not go very far.

One particularly disappointing aspect of this particular correspondence is that Fr. Scott makes no promise to make known to the SSPX supporters the truth of what Cardinal Castillo Lara believes. This is the very least that should be done. After all, Fr. Scott does concede that the cardinal does not agree with the SSPX stance. Even Michael Davies, in his correspondence with us, did make some concession on the lines that, if he had been writing after seeing the text of the Cardinal's letter, he would have re-phrased what he wrote. It wasn't much of a concession, and still would have misled SSPX supporters, as we pointed out in "The Vanishing Schism." But, it was something. There was nothing of this kind from Fr. Scott. He finished off by hoping that what he had written answered our question! He added that, just in case we had any lingering doubts as to Archbishop Lefebvre's innocence of both offenses charged against him, we should read Charles Nemeth's book, The Case of Archbishop Lefebvre. Unfortunately for Fr. Scott, it is exceedingly unlikely that we shall defer to the SSPX magisterium. This article has commented on the "teaching" of Fr. Scott already. As to that of Charles Nemeth, his book has been subjected to a powerful critique by Andrew Tardiff in Fidelity (March 1995). What Mr. Tardiff shows there is that not only does Charles Nemeth not understand the true nature of schism, but also that, like so many apologists for the Society of St. Pius X, he is well versed in the school of selective quotations.

To end on a positive note, the one thing that should be emphasized in this whole sorry affair is the extent of the real evidence for the Lefebvrist schism. All in all we have the following items of evidence:

(a) The decision of the Pope that there is a schism.

(b) The decision of the Catholic Church to the same effect.

(c) The teaching of Cardinal Castillo Lara former President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, again, that there is a schism.

(d) The teaching of Pope Pius XII that an episcopal consecration against the will of the Pope is an offense against divine law as well as against human law (Apostolorum Principis [1958]).

As a matter of canon law the act of 30th June 1988 fits the definition of schism contained in the Code of Canon Law. It is not any of us who decide this. The Church in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta does so. Canon law can only be interpreted by the law-maker (Canon 16).

(f) Vatican I in Pastor Aeternus requires Catholics to obey decisions of the Holy See in matters of this kind.

(g) The Society of St. Pius X is unable to cite from 2000 years of Tradition any pope, doctor or council, to justify episcopal consecration against the express will of the Pope.

(h) The Society of St. Pius X and its apologists have to misquote a canonist in order to defend their case. In addition as we have shown in "Schism, Obedience and the Society of St. Pius X, the SSPX even has to rewrite the Catholic definitions of schism and obedience to justify its position.

What more evidence do these people want? Our own experience has shown us that even an ex cathedra definition by the Pope, or a direct revelation from Our Lord Himself, would not move some of them. Some would no doubt say, "But, Cardinal Lara says. . . " Has it now come to such a stage that, for traditionalists, a schism is decided by the authoritative voice of a Davies, a Scott, or a Williamson? Heaven preserve us from such a break with Tradition. Whatever qualities and merits these people have, it is obvious that not one of them knows what the primacy of Peter is all about.Fidelity

Index of SSPX articles

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