Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter XVIII

Thirty Pieces of Silver


This chapter includes three documents, two of which have been taken out of their chronological sequence in order to put the third into its correct context. This third document is a condemnation by Archbishop May, in the name of loyalty to the Pope, of a visit to St. Louis by Mgr. Lefebvre. Archbishop May's protestations of fidelity to the Holy See must be examined in the context of his refusal to forbid a public lecture by Charles Curran within his diocese. His excuse was that no judgment could be made concerning Curran until the Holy See had pronounced upon his orthodoxy. This claim is cowardly, nonsensical and hypocritical. The incompatibility of Curran's theories with Catholic moral teaching is obvious enough for a reasonably instructed high school student to discern. This is made clear in the courageous editorial by Father Paul Crane, which begins this chapter, by the refusal of Bishop Sullivan of Baton Rouge to allow Fr. Curran to preach in his diocese, by the condemnation of the book Human Sexuality, to which Curran contributed as a consultant, and by his eventual condemnation by the Hole See in 1987.

Jesuit Editor Condemns Curran Visit to Great Britain

Christian Order – August 1981

With the approval of a considerable number of the English bishops, Father Charles Curran was invited to give “in service” (i.e., brain-washing) course for priests. In the August 1981 issue of Christian Order, the Edition, Father Paul Crane, S.J., condemned the invitation extended to Father Curran as an act of betrayal. He commented:

Most readers will know about Father Curran anyway; or, at least I imagine they will. What they may not know is that Father Curran was scheduled – to my personal knowledge, at least as long ago as March – to give an "in service" (O blessed word!) course for priests on "Contemporary Moral Theology" at the Upholland Northern Institute from August 24-28 of this year. He was described in the language of contemporary clerical double-speak as:

"A famous moral theologian from the Catholic University, Washington, (who) will lead an examination into current developments in this important area of Church teaching. It will be an opportunity to discuss and study with this theologian who has made such an enormous contribution to the pastoral as well as the theoretical side of moral theology."

"An enormous contribution"? Is this how the sponsors of this series of short courses, those who have graciously lent their patronage to this effort, view Father Curran's dissent from Humanæ Vitæ, his advocacy of stable relationships between homosexuals, his insolent criticism of Pope John Paul? Patrons of this series of nineteen short courses, which included Father Curran's, were the bishops of the Northern Provinces of England and Wales, and of Shrewsbury. And so, I would ask you, My Lords, by what authority do you lend your patronage to such a course? That of the Holy Father whom you are pledged to serve and whose teaching Father Curran has so insolently attacked? Do you claim his authority for placing his attacker under your patronage? By what authority then? I leave the answer to yourselves. Our Lord said: "He who is not with Me is against Me." His words apply equally to His Vicar on earth.

I notice that the fee for Father Curran's course was £45. I suggest it would have been more appropriate had it been thirty pieces of silver.

Charles Curran

A Clarification by Archbishop May
St. Louise Review – March 1980

A number of you have asked my opinion about the lectures to be given some months hence by Father Charles Curran at St. Louis University. I will try to answer your questions fully and clearly. This will be my policy whenever there is need for explanation about any matter whatever. Please do not reply on hearsay or conjecture. Just ask for the facts by writing to the St. Louis Review. I will be glad to answer.

Father Charles Curran is a tenured professor on the theology faculty of the Catholic University in Washington, D. C. As such, he was invited to give some guest lectures in an academic setting here at St. Louis University. This is what I learned on my arrival in St. Louis.

St. Louis University is within its rights in tendering this invitation of course. Some local Catholics have, however, questioned the judgment of the University authorities in this regard because Father Curran has taken some controversial theological positions in recent years. In fact, he has himself allegedly revealed that Rome has requested some explanations of his teachings. Presumably there will be some decision forthcoming as to his position as an accepted theologian at our Catholic University. Meanwhile, it is just perennial Catholic and American tradition not to condemn a man until a decision is rendered.

Personally, I question rather definitely some positions taken by Father Curran although I know he is a rather able theologian. Accordingly, I would prefer not to invite him to speak as a Catholic theologian before a general convocation of our people. That is my opinion as a bishop.

It is my considered conviction that it would be best for the Catholic people of St. Louis to entrust the judgment of Father Curran’s orthodoxy to Rome. I would hope that our people would not interfere with Father Curran’s lectures to the academic community who want to hear him at the University. It would seem best not to stir up a controversy over his appearance here. (I wonder how many Catholics here have ever read any of Father Curran's books or heard any of his lectures.) Those who object to his coming to St Louis might best completely ignore his presence here rather than make it the event of the year with the inevitable attendance of thousands.

That is my position. I hope it is clear.

* * * *

Archbishop May's expression of hope that his people would not interfere with Father Curran's lectures is reminiscent of a police chief allowing a burglar to rob homes within his jurisdiction and expressing the hope that the citizens would not interfere with the activities of the criminal in question.

* * * *

Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre

A Clarification by Archbishop May
The St. Louis Review – May 1980

Just a few days back in the daily papers I learned that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre will be visiting our city soon. Allegedly he will be dedicating a chapel in a converted school building. I believe it necessary for me to make the following statement.

Some years ago Pope Paul VI was forced to suspend this French prelate from his episcopal functions. The Pope' s action was taken only after years of fruitless effort to reconcile the Archbishop to the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II has made similar efforts in a series of personal meetings with Archbishop Lefebvre. The suspension remains in effect even though both Popes have mercifully not excommunicated this aging Archbishop who has caused so much misunderstanding in the Catholic Church.

Let no one tell you that the issue is the Latin Mass. As I mentioned recently in this column, Mass may be offered in Latin wherever it will be pastorally helpful. The issue is simply the authority of the Pope. Archbishop Lefebvre will not accept it.

Accordingly, no Catholic may support in any way this tragic movement headed by Archbishop Lefebvre. I regret very much his coming to St. Louis because of the disunity he represents. I call upon all Catholics at this time to reaffirm our loyalty and allegiance to our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, by ignoring this visit and this chapel. Let us show all who would come to this archdiocese to divide us that we stand strong with the Pope as one flock and one shepherd.

* * * *

The refusal of this cowardly prelate to take any action when Charles Curran came to lecture in St. Louis, despite many protests from outraged members of his flock, certainly constituted a case of a shepherd allowing the wolf to enter the shepherd with impunity. When the shepherd becomes a wolf the flock has every right to defend itself.1 It is hardly surprising that with such a shepherd faithful Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis were anxious to have a true Catholic bishop come to minister to them, just as St. Athanasius had come to the assistance of pockets of faithful Catholics in the dioceses of Arian bishops. The arguments put forward by Archbishop May are similar to those expressed by Mgr. Elchinger of Strasbourg, though expressed in a far less courteous manner (see page 73).

Archbishop May who had tolerated the manifestly unorthodox views of Charles Curran within his diocese has the effrontery to suggest that Archbishop Lefebvre needed to be reconciled to the official teaching of the Catholic Church, a teaching from which Mgr. Lefebvre has never deviated on any occasion. His suspension was solely the result of his ordaining priests contrary to the prohibition of Pope Paul VI.

Archbishop May accuses his brother in the episcopate of causing disunity. What, one wonders, did he consider would be the effect of the visit of Charles Curran? Archbishop May's appeals for loyalty and allegiance to the Pope must be considered as one of the most repellent examples of hypocrisy to come from an American bishop in the years following the Council.

1. See Apologia I, page 394.

Chapter 17

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