Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 2, Chapter X

Predictions of Excommunication

July 1977


The 29 July 1977 edition of the National Catholic Reporter carried the news of the reconsecration of Queen of Angels Church in Dickinson, Texas. The local bishop had sold the building in the belief that it would be demolished to make way for a parking lot. He was extremely indignant when he learned that it was to be used as a church again. Built in the Spanish Colonial style, it had been restored fully to its former beauty, and was reconsecrated by the Archbishop on 10 July 1977. It now forms the center of one of the most successful traditionalist "parishes" in the world, and is also the location of The Angelus Press-the official English-language Publishers and Editor for Archbishop Lefebvre and the International Society of St. Pius X. Hundreds of thousands of books and pamphlets explaining the traditionalist Catholic caused have been printed in Dickinson and distributed throughout the world.

The Reporter article mentioned that: "Lefebvre told his supporters in Dickinson, Texas, that 'they must be careful adopt not to adopt positions of being schismatic-carrying resistance of Vatican policy to the point of denying the jurisdiction o f the Pope over the Church’.”

It then referred to the fact that the Archbishop had been refused entry to Mexico. This incident is not without some ironic humor. According to the Vatican II  Declaration on Religious Liberty the State should not prevent any individual expressing his religious views in public. Indeed, State interference is condemned by this document (see Volume I, Appendix IV). But, according to the Reporter: " A spokesman for Mexico's Interior Ministry said the government consulted on Lefebvre's visit 'with several sectors, especially the Mexican bishops,' according to wire service reports." This report seems to confirm a long article in the 20 July 1977 issue of the French daily L 'Aurore, claiming that the Vatican had launched a massive diplomatic effort to minimize the effect of the Archbishop's visit to South America. It stated that furnished with messages from Cardinal Villot, the Apostolic Nuncios in South America visited governments and national hierarchies demanding that the Archbishop should not be allowed to pass ("Mot d'ordre: Mgr. Lefebvre ne doit pas passer"). The same article also reported a second Vatican campaign, emissaries of the Pope pretending to be sympathetic to the traditionalist cause, had visited Econe, obtained details of seminarians and their families, and then pressured the families into persuading the seminarians to leave.1 It claimed that a dozen had done so.

Mexico was the only country which actually prevented the Archbishop from entering, but difficulties were placed in his way in other countries by the State authorities, and he was subjected to a veritable tirade of abuse from spokesmen for national hierarchies. Some idea of this invective can be gained from a report in The Citizen (Ottawa), 16 August 1977:

Before, during, and after his visit Lefebvre was the target of a hostile barrage from Roman Catholic prelates in Latin America. The friendliest comment came from Argentine Archbishop of Parana, Adolfo Tortolo – a conservative-who said: "Not everything is negative in the demands of Monsignor Lefebvre. But his way of going about things is completely negative."

Other Church leaders were less inhibited. Chilean Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez said Lefebvre was "a traitor to the Church and to the Pope, a Judas.” Colombian Cardinal Anibal Munoz pronounced: “Those who are loyal to Monsignor Lefebvre are disloyal to the Pope.” The Archbishop of Buenos Aires threatened any priest who let Lefebvre use church facilities with punishment according to Canon Law. A Patagonian bishop said he prayed daily to "God and the Holy Mother to preserve me from such attitudes” as Lefebvre's.

As Lefebvre sailed for home Church authorities prepared the faithful at ports of call. Montevideo Archbishop Carlos Parteli drew up a pastoral letter in which he said Lefebvre was “scandalizing the faithful” with his behavior. Parteli also denounced the use of Latin in the Mass saying: “The Church cannot go on using an archaic language which nobody understands any more.”

In Rio de Janeiro, bishops' conference president, Monsignor Aloisio Lorscheider, himself something of a conservative, fired a parting volley by saying that anyone who takes part in a Mass given by Lefebvre is committing a mortal sin.

It is, then, hardly surprising that many of those who would like to have heard what the Archbishop had to say were browbeaten into staying away.


After visiting Colombia and Brazil, the Archbishop arrived in Chile. The following report appeared in The Times (London) on 19 July 1977:

Santiago, July 18: About 800 people defied the Chilean Roman Catholic hierarchy here last night to hear Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre, the rebel archbishop, celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in the reception room of a luxury hotel.

It ended with shouts of "long live the faithful archbishop" and the singing of the Chilean national anthem.

During the service Mgr. Lefebvre declared: "We cannot change religion. For the last 15 years we have been well aware that there are those who wish change. The heart of the Church remains the same."

The Pope has accused him of provoking a schism in the Church after his refusal to accept reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The local hierarchy had advised Catholics not to attend any ceremonies he might perform.

When he flew in from Colombia, 500 people greeted him at the airport.

There were no moves to ban his visit here as happened in Mexico last week when he was refused an entry visa. But apparently there are plans to prevent his arrival in Argentina which he plans to visit later this week.

The Argentine Ambassador in Bogota informed his French counterpart yesterday that the Argentine government would consider such a visit inappropriate. - Reuter.


The Archbishop next went to Argentina.

Unfortunately, among those supporting him during his visit to Argentina were members of fascist and anti-semitic organizations. It was explained in Volume I that the Archbishop has never been associated with any right-wing political movement, and that if members of such movements give him public support or distribute literature outside buildings in which he is present there is nothing he can do about it. Not surprisingly, the Archbishop's enemies used the support of these fascists as an excuse to brand him with their opinions. The report in The Citizen (Ottawa), which was very hostile to the Archbishop, admitted that he and his permanent entourage were appalled by some of the views expressed by the fascist groups. The committee which had sponsored his visit issued a statement saying that the Archbishop "is not an ex-Nazi, is not anti-Semitic nor anti anything else. He is only preaching the traditional doctrine of the Church."

The following report on his visit to Argentina appeared in the 7 August 1977 issue of The National Catholic Register:

Buenos Aires (NC): Police prevented Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre from saying Mass at a makeshift altar in a suburban barracks and told some 300 of his followers there that security laws did not allow any public demonstrations.

About 200 persons had welcomed him at Ezeiza International Airport July 20, but only one priest responded to repeated invitations by an organizing committee to greet the French churchman.

Archbishop Lefebvre had been warned that his presence would not be welcomed in Argentina. Argentine diplomats in Switzerland, where he has his headquarters, and in Colombia, where he visited a sister, had said that the government was supporting the Vatican's stand in suspending the archbishop, and did not want to allow further public display of disobedience.

After learning of the ban on the Mass at the barracks, the archbishop’s followers angrily called police “Communists.”

Archbishop Lefebvre has repeatedly denounced the Church renewal that followed the Second Vatican Council and said it has opened the Church to Communist infiltration. Under Argentina's rightist military regime, police and security forces have been repressing leftist groups under state of siege, allegedly to protect national security. In this context, observers said, calling police "communists" makes little sense.

Archbishop Lefebvre's followers are identified in Argentina as members of several conservative organizations: Phalanx for Faith, the Knights of Queen Mary, and groups affiliated with the Defense of Family, Fatherland and Property organization.

Sponsors of the rightist magazine Roma also joined Faith Forever, the umbrella organization that made preparations for the visit of the Archbishop.

About 30 persons attended a Latin Mass Archbishop Lefebvre said at a private home in Buenos Aires a few hours after his arrival. Newsman and photographers in large numbers gave coverage to every move by the archbishop. Spokesmen for Faith Forever said he was to spend six days in Buenos Aires but did not plan to visit other places in Argentina.

Foreign Minister Oscar Antonio Montes said that Archbishop Lefebvre had been admitted into the country under "freedom of worship laws.”

Cardinal Juan Carlos Aramburu of Buenos Aires issued a warning to all pastors, reminding them that "no place of Catholic worship should be made available to the archbishop for any religious services, under pain of canonical sanctions."

Catholics must also abstain from participating in any Mass offered by the archbishop, the warning said. Instead, they "should pray so that the Lord will touch his heart and Archbishop Lefebvre will renounce his rebellious attitude," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Raul Primatesta of Cordoba, who chairs the Argentine Bishops' Conference, said the French prelate's visit should not be magnified and reminded Catholics they can identify the true Church by the time-proven formula: "Where Peter is, where his successor the Pope is, there is the Church."

Traditionalists announced plans to open a seminary in Argentina under Archbishop Lefebvre's Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, from which the Vatican has withdrawn recognition. The archbishop was suspended of all priestly functions a year ago after performing illicit ordinations.

Later, at a stormy press conference, Archbishop Lefebvre said he does not have "bellicose intentions" in his opposition to Church renewal and the Vatican.

About 150 local followers of the suspended French archbishop entered the hall of a downtown hotel where the press conference took place and booed 50 newsmen every time the followers disapproved of the questions.

The bitterest reaction came when a newsman asked whether a book written by Archbishop Lefebvre, A Bishop Speaks, did not raise the issue of disobedience and arrogance.

Once calm was restored, Archbishop Lefebvre replied that obedience is a relative obligation. He stated:

"As soon as authority fails its mandate, it also loses its right to obedience. When the Pope by his policies leads us into contacts with Protestants and other religions, in such a way that we lose our faith, in that case the Pope forfeits the right to obedience by his subordinates."

At another point the followers of the Archbishop requested that photographers leave the hall. After vigorous protests from the press, organizers said they could stay.

Asked how he felt about his suspension from priestly ministry by the Vatican a year ago, Archbishop Lefebvre commented:

“I have no awareness of committing a grave sin by keeping my Catholic Faith.”

He said that, in his view, the post-conciliar liturgical changes “are leading the faithful, almost unconsciously, to a conversion into Protestantism.”

To another question the archbishop replied that he did not seek to form “another church.”

“I hold no bellicose intentions, I do not wish to fight anyone. I am not opposing the Pope, I am just asking him to be the Pope, the successor of Peter. I am perhaps the son who loves the Pope most, but I pray to God that he may show a constant concern to preserve the Catholic faith in every place and at each opportunity,” he said.


1. The relevant section of the article reads, in French; "La seconde offensive, plus secèrte encore, se déroule à Ecône même. Des émissaires du pape, envoyés en observateurs, et qui se montrent au début plutôt bienveillants à I'égard de I'exérience 'traditionaliste,' passent en revue les séminaristes, contactent leurs familles, et, progressivement, s'efforcent de les ramener dans le 'droit chemin' de I'Eglise."


Chapter 9

Courtesy of the Angelus Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109

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