Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 2, Chapter IX

Predictions of Excommunication

3 July 1977


A number of journals predicted with confidence the impending excommunication of the Archbishop. The 30 June issue of the International Herald Tribune claimed that: "Most observers believe that the Pope must now respond sharply to Mgr. Lefebvre’s challenge, either by excommunicating him or defrocking him as a priest, to preserve papal authority." A similar report was carried in the 30 June edition of the Tribune de Genève. In England The Times had already published an editorial (28 June) predicting somewhat pompously: "It is now evident that the Pope is moving with great reluctance towards the excommunication of Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre, the former Archbishop of Dakar." The Paris correspondent of The Daily Telegraph had written in a report published on 27 June: “A warning by the Vatican last week makes it appear that this will be the last straw for Pope Paul. He is expected to excommunicate Monsignor Lefebvre, thereby creating or acknowledging the existence of a schism inside the Church of Rome.”

Subsequent events proved these suggestions to be groundless, nevertheless, it is far from impossible that the threat of excommunication was floated unofficially by the Vatican in an attempt to intimidate the Archbishop into cancelling the ordinations at the last minute.


Mass in a Casino

Volume I of the Apologia included a memorable cri de coeur by Father Henri Bruckberger, 0. P., contrasting the welcome traditionally reserved for newly ordained priests with that accorded to those from Ecône.1 He commented:

It was Cardinal Marty who initiated this contemptible ostracism; at last he has shown himself in his true colors. While all types of liturgical abuses are tolerated in our churches; while one church in Paris is used for Moslem services, it is these young priests alone who find the doors of their parish churches closed in their faces; young priests of Jesus Christ, the anointing oils of the ordination still fresh upon their hands; young priests who bring no threat, but solely their new powers of Consecration. Ousted from their parish churches, they are forced to celebrate Mass in secret as during the Reign of Terror. One blushes with shame at the very thought.

Father Bruckberger's indignation could hardly have been justified more dramatically than when, on 3 July 1977, one of the priests ordained five days previously, had no option but to celebrate his "First Mass" in a casino. Here is the account given in the 4 July 1977 issue of the International Herald Tribune.


Nice, July 3

The Most Rev. Marcel Lefebvre, who is in danger of being excommunicated by the Catholic Church, helped celebrate Mass today before an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 persons in one of the biggest casinos on the Riviera.

“We are a little like the Church of the catacombs,” Archbishop Lefebvre said when asked if he was upset that the Mass was being celebrated in the Palais de la Mediterranée. "We are hunted everywhere. So we are forced to do as the priests during the (French) Revolution who had to hide to say the Mass. We call to our friends. Look at this room. It is almost as beautiful as a cathedral."

The Mass, held five days after the Archbishop ordained fourteen priests in his seminary in Ecône, Switzerland, and celebrated by one of them, the Rev. Jacques Seuillot, took place on the landing at the top of a great staircase in the main hall leading to the gambling rooms.

A closed-circuit television system was installed to allow those in the back of the hall to see the ceremony. Observers said the traditionalists chose the casino, on the Promenade des Anglais, because they wanted to attract a large crowd.

In a 30-minute homily, the Archbishop repeated his attacks on Vatican reforms, ecumenism, and socialism.

“How can one still know the difference between truth and error?" he asked. "It is by questioning and denouncing ecumencial conferences, where one mixes religions and gives the impression that there is no difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.

“We are in total confusion. The holy Catholic Church alone possesses the truth. We are accused of wanting to separate from Rome. This is not true. We are Romans. We ask only of the Pope to be the successor of Peter."


Rightist Tracts

At the conclusion of the Mass, rightist militants, apparently sympathetic with the Archbishop's movement, distributed tracts in the casino.2

The Pope has suspended Archbishop Lefebvre from priestly functions. On his arrival in Nice yesterday, the Archbishop, 71, said he did not think "that the rupture was consummated with Rome. But if that does happen, I will take no account of a decision of excommunication. I don't think the Pope explicitly said that he would excommunicate me. If ever that happens, I'll take no account of it."


15 July 1977


Report in the Catholic Telegraph (U. S. A.)

Anglican bishop 3 and theologian Dr. Arthur Michael Ramsey, former archbishop of Canterbury, has been given an honorary doctorate by the Pontifical University of Salamanca, Spain, in recognition of his theological work and quest for Christian unity. At the recent ceremonies, Dr. Ramsey cited the historic meeting between him and Pope Paul VI in 1966 as the occasion which launched the Anglican- Roman Catholic study commission.


1. pp. 227-231.

2. The Archbishop’s enemies have continually attempted to discredit him by associating him with extreme right wing political movements. This tactic was examined in detail in Vol. I, pp. 256-8. It will suffice to state here that if right-wing groups distribute literature outside buildings in which the Archbishop is celebrating Mass or giving a lecture he is powerless to prevent it. This does not prove that he is fascist any more than the fact that my own bishop took part in an antiracialist protest march with communists and homosexuals proves that he is a communist homosexual.

3. It should not be necessary to point out that Dr. Ramsey was not a bishop, simply a heretical layman-and yet he was awarded an honorary degree by a pontifical university which would certainly not have permitted Mgr. Lefebvre, who is a bishop and a Catholic, to set foot on its campus. This is the Conciliar Church with a vengeance!


Chapter 8

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