When comparing the sermons and statements of Bishop Williamson (and Faure's) to Archbishop Lefebvre's, are their motives for episcopal consecration the same?
Following up on our recent news piece, This one is not like the others: Faure, we offer a commentary from DICI about Bishop Williamson's episcopal consecration of Fr. Faure.
The DICI clarification continues with a compilation of extracts from Archbishop Lefebvre's "Operation Survival" sermon, which clearly show that the motives of the "Standard Bearer of Tradition" differ profoundly from the justifications offered by Bishops Williamson and Faure.
About the consecration of Fr. Faure by Bishop Williamson
Nova Friburgo, March 19, 2015
After the consecration of Fr. Jean-Michel Faure by Bishop Richard Williamson on March 19, 2015 in Nova Friburgo (Brazil), several websites favorable to them have published various statements by the consecrator and the newly consecrated bishop setting forth the particular circumstances of this episcopal consecration, which was announced only two days in advance, and to which only a restricted number of priests and faithful were invited. These statements also brought to light some of the reasons that motivated this ceremony. (In the following excerpts, emphasis in italics is by the editors of DICI.)
In his sermon during the ceremony, Bishop Williamson declared:
I apologize for not having tried to publicize the announcement of this event before, but we wanted to secure the ceremony and protect it from some obstacles that could have arisen: for this ceremony is not to everyone’s taste, obviously!”
Shortly afterward, Bishop Faure explained in an interview:
The consecration had to be carried out this way so as not to be obstructed, since Bishop Williamson’s situation remains delicate. We chose this monastery which is rather difficult to reach, which allowed for some security measures.”
This is an allusion to the fact that Bishop Williamson might be disturbed in his travels, as a result of his statements about the gas chambers during the Second World War.
In the same sermon, Bishop Williamson declared:
We could have prayed, asked, hoped for a sign from Providence, as Archbishop Lefebvre did in 1988, but I think that the Church cannot continue to exist without bishops who can ordain priests and confirm children and adults…. In the current political situation, a Third World War can explode at any moment; a recent news report from my country, England, informs us that some atomic weapons have been prepared so as to be dispatched against Russia preemptively…. It is madness, it is madness, but men are mad and have a suicidal instinct, like the liberals, and the Third World War will be a product of this suicidal instinct. This will happen and then it is impossible to say how events will unfold. This is why remaining alone to confirm or ordain… it seems to me that that is irresponsibility; the world is not calm, it is very unstable. We do not know what will happen.”
In a later interview, Bishop Williamson explained his thought while answering the question:
What made you decide to perform the consecration now?
Each day it became more reasonable, with the threat of war, which is nearly upon us now, and has already been twice avoided with Syria and Ukraine, and the criminal West continues to provoke the Russians. The moment may arise when Putin will say enough is enough and decide to attack.”
Concerning the need to replace the Society of St. Pius X which, according to him, betrayed its founder, Bishop Faure declares in an interview granted to Rivarol on April 2:
Humanly speaking, Bishop Fellay gives many signs of his firm intention to join the conciliar Church…. Menzingen is losing its authority because it is no longer faithful to the truth.”
“We wanted to secure the ceremony and protect it from some obstacles that could have arisen,” “We could have prayed, asked, hoped for a sign from Providence, as Archbishop Lefebvre did in 1988, but I think that…,” “It is impossible to say how events will unfold,” “humanly speaking”: these personal motivations may indeed seem too human, and so they are accompanied by statements of supernatural intention concerning “the defense of truth” and the need to be humble repairers of “Archbishop Lefebvre’s emergency lighting” (sermon on March 19). Nevertheless these reasons are in stark contrast with the reason for the 1988 consecrations.
Econe, June 30, 1988
Relying on extensive excerpts from the sermon of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre during the ceremony on June 30, 1988, Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, professor of ecclesiology at the seminary in Econe, recalls why and how the founder of the Society of St. Pius X performed this important act.
- In a letter dated July 8, 1987, Arcbishop Lefebvre wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger: “The permanent will to annihilate Tradition is a suicidal will, which justifies, by its very existence, true and faithful Catholics when they make the decisions necessary for the survival of the Church and the salvation of souls.” And on the day of the consecrations, June 30, 1988, His Excellency repeated this observation, so as to conclude that it was legitimate to consecrate bishops: “This ceremony, which is apparently done against the will of Rome, is in no way a schism…. 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 the 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…. [W]e are in a case of necessity.”
- A distinction is made here between the principle itself of authority in the Church and the exercise thereof in particular circumstances. By definition, the pope has the mission of providing souls with the means to be saved, in other words, with bishops and priests who preach the true Catholic Faith and administer true sacraments according to the Church’s rite. Unfortunately, though, since Vatican II, the popes who have succeeded Pius XII have made it, if not impossible, then at least difficult to make normal use of these ordinary means of salvation. One may legitimately fear that, unless they react, the faithful of the Catholic Church might no longer be able to benefit from the preaching of true doctrine or to receive the grace of the true sacraments. There is therefore a state of necessity, which not only makes legitimate but demands the episcopal consecrations on June 30, 1988, as the necessary means for the salvation of souls. Archbishop Lefebvre explains it quite well: “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 preaching, with the Catholic Faith? Are you going to abandon it? Are you going to let it disappear from this earth? Please, please, continue to keep this treasure which we have given you. Do not abandon the faithful, do not abandon the Church! Continue 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.’”
- Indeed, in the Church every ecclesiastical law is ordered to the salvation of souls. If the usual application of this law makes this essential purpose of the law difficult, or even impossible, we are dealing with what the law of the Church calls a state of necessity. This authorizes any member of the Church to act for the salvation of souls, according to his abilities and according to the graces that he receives, even despite the obstacle posed by the unjust application of ecclesiastical law by the authority. In fact the Code of Canon Law says, “Christ’s faithful have the right to be assisted by their pastors from the spiritual riches of the Church, especially by the word of God and the sacraments.” This means in particular that every bishop is obliged to exercise his episcopate with a view to the salvation of souls and the common good of the Church, which may involve the transmission of the priesthood and of the episcopate, even if the supreme authority of the Church were to oppose it unjustly.
- The explanation for the attitude of Archbishop Lefebvre and of the Society of St. Pius X is therefore not a personal attachment to the particular good of a personal work. Rather, it is their concern for the salvation of souls, for the unity of faith and worship, which are equivalent to the common good of the Church. Normally it is the responsibility of the successor of Peter to assure, together with the bishops, the ordinary preservation of this common good. The initiative on June 30, 1988, although necessary to the highest degree, assures only the extraordinary survival of that common good in a very particular context, in which the successor of Peter no longer acts as the true successor of Peter. This explains why, even though he performed this act of consecrating bishops, apparently against the will of the pope, Archbishop Lefebvre never refused to continue to have contacts with representatives of the hierarchy, so as to make Rome hear the pure and integral voice of Catholic Tradition, and so that it could thus regain its rights throughout the Church. “This is why I sent a letter to the pope, saying to him very clearly: ‘We simply cannot [accept this spirit and proposals], despite all the desires which we have to be in full union with you. Given this new spirit which now rules in Rome and which you wish to communicate to us, we prefer to continue in Tradition; to keep Tradition while waiting for Tradition to reassume its place [among] the Roman authorities, in their minds.’ This will last for as long as the Good Lord has foreseen. 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 [what] I shall call ‘Operation Survival,’ operation survival for Tradition…. In several years—I do not know how many, only the Good Lord knows how many years it will take for Tradition to find its rights in Rome—we will be embraced by the Roman authorities, who will thanks 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.”
- The consecrations on June 30, 1988, were therefore an act of prudence, an act prompted both by right reason and by the Holy Ghost. To repeat this act, arguing that the Society of St. Pius X failed in its providential role, presupposes that the Society no longer gives souls the means of salvation, in particular because it no longer preaches the genuine doctrine, by the simple fact that it no longer opposes the no less genuine errors of the Council. And the proofs of this must be all the more solid, given that the alleged fact is more serious. This means that a mere doubt, much less a suspicion, could not be sufficient cause. A simple doubt could justify only foolish haste, but not real prudence.
(DICI no. 313, 4-3-2015)
1 “Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Cardinal Ratzinger (July 8, 1987)”, in: Fr. Francois Laisney, editor, Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican (Kansas City, MO: Angelus Press, 1999 revised edition), pp. 21-23; citation at p. 22.
2 Consecration Sermon of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (June 30, 1988):, in: ibid., 116-122; citation at p. 117.
3 Ibid., p. 118.
4 Code of Canon Law (1917), canon 682, and the new Code of Canon Law (1983), canon 213.
5 Ibid; Consecration Sermon of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (June 30, 1988), pp. 119, 122.