H.E. Archbishop Lefebvre would, of course, have rebutted vigorously any suggestion that he was or could be the exponent of any other -ism than Catholicism or Traditionalism. At the Econe episcopal Consecrations, the Consecrator asked the prescribed question "Habetis Mandatum Apostolicum?" Some members of the vast congregation must have been bemused when he received the answer "Habemus". Had Pope John Paul capitulated overnight? "Legatur!". But No ... "We have this mandate from the Roman Church, ever faithful to the holy traditions received from the Apostles. This Holy Tradition is the Deposit of Faith which the Church orders us faithfully to transmit to all men for the salvation of their souls. Since the Second Vatican Council until this day, the authorities of the Roman Church are animated by the spirit of Modernism. ... It is by this mandate of the Holy Roman Church, semper fidelis, then, that we elect to the rank of Bishop in the Holy Roman Church, the priests here present as auxiliaries of the Priestly Society ..."
A critic might observe that the Archbishop appeared to be appealing from the actual and actualised hierarchs in a real city called Rome to a Platonic idea of the Holy Roman Church. But it is more useful to observe what he did not do. Archbishop Lefebvre did not purport to assign jurisdiction, far less sees in partibus, to the new bishops. Nor did he commit the administration of the Society to them; Fr Schmidberger, a presbyter, discharged the role of Superior after the death of the Archbishop. Lefebvre was clearly making the sort of limited provision that sometimes has to be made in episcopally ordered bodies in times of ecclesiastical crisis: provision for the transmission of valid orders to secure valid sacraments. One presumes that this is why he consecrated four; when one died, there would still be the preferred number of three bishops to consecrate a successor. Anglicans may remember the crisis which struck England and Scotland after the Dutch Invasion of 1688; my Traditionalist Anglican readers will probably have a profound veneration for those priests and bishops, learned and saintly, including the great Bishop Ken, who were unwilling to disregard their oaths of allegiance to the Catholic King James II, and who were ejected from their churches and sees. They had no legal means to perpetuate their ministry; so some of them took matters into their own hands and ordained what were sometimes called 'College Bishops', who lacked jurisdiction but could confer and preserve the Sacrament of Order. For the Non-Jurors, this was intended to enable their Church to survive until the restoration of the lawful King ended the crisis. For Lefebvre, his four consecrands would enable 'Operation Survival' to endure until Rome returned to Orthopraxy, when the bishops would place their episcopate in the hands of the Holy Father. The Archbishop was determined not to be a schismatic; and had he purported to assign jurisdiction to the Four, he would have been just another new schismatic setting up his own new 'church'.
Thus the entire logic of Archbishop Lefebvre's dispositions rested and rests upon the premise that the Pope is the Pope and diocesan Bishops are the Bishops, however poorly they may be thought to behave. It is the Roman Pontiff, and the local Ordinary, that SSPX priests name in the Te igitur. If there is such a thing as Lefebvrianism, it cannot rationally be categorised as a call to schism. To the principles that the Pope is the Pope and the Bishop is the Bishop, and that all the de Fide pronouncements of all the Councils and all the Popes are still completely binding, a 'Lefebvrianism' would only add the proposition that in exceptional circumstances exceptional methods might be called for. More on that, DV, tomorrow.
To be continued.