This Sunday (September 21st) marks the 85th anniversary of the day a young Marcel Lefebvre was ordained to the priesthood, while this Thursday (September 18th) is the 67th anniversary of the day he was Consecrated a Bishop.
As many of you are aware, his ordination has unfortunately been the subject of much wrongful speculation, doubt, and controversy over the years. Some people assert that his ordination and Consecration were “invalid” because the person administering them, Cardinal Leinart, was (supposedly) a Freemason seeking to infiltrate the Church, and because he was a Freemason with malign intentions, he could not have possibly intended to ordain Marcel Lefebvre or anyone else, thus meaning Archbishop Lefebvre was never a legitimate priest.
I have briefly addressed this before, but I feel it is necessary to devote an entire article to debunking this madness.
It is, firstly, worth noting that most of the proponents of this theory do not like Archbishop Lefebvre; most adherents to this position are dogmatic sedevacantists who have some sort of axe to grind with the Archbishop. Their intense disdain (if not outright hatred) towards him can be attributed largely to the fact that he was not a sedevacantist. Because these dogmatic sedevacantists I am speaking of cannot stand to see this “recognize and resister” portrayed by Traditionalists as a hero, they will go to extreme lengths to tarnish his image.
One of the most outspoken critics of the Archbishop and the SSPX is Hutton Gibson, the father of the Traditional Catholic celebrity Mel Gibson. Hutton is one of the people I speak of whom cannot stand the Archbishop, and, like others, is simply using this absurd argument against the validity of his orders to persuade people to distance themselves from the Archbishop and the Society of St. Pius X. He’s using it to fuel his own hatred for him and determination to damage his reputation. Hutton’s hatred for the Archbishop is quite evident from reading his book The Enemy is Still Here, in which he not only claims the Archbishop wasn’t a valid priest, but goes as far as to accuse him of “Masonic entanglement”, while even admitting he couldn’t provide any proof. It is an incredibly scandalous book, and one which should be avoided.
The problem with this theory about the Archbishop’s “invalid” ordination held by Hutton and others is that it is contrary to both logic and Church teaching.
First of all, it has never been proven that Cardinal Leinart was a Mason. And even if he was, would that mean he couldn’t have had the proper intention, and therefore all of his Sacraments were invalid? The answer is no.
Here is what St. Thomas Aquinas says:
“In the words uttered by (the minister), the intention of the Church is expressed; and this suffices for the validity of the sacrament, EXCEPT THE CONTRARY BE EXPRESSED EXTERIORLY on the part of the minister”.
Pope Leo XIII echoes this:
“Concerning the mind or intention, inasmuch as it is in itself something internal, the Church does not pass judgment; but in so far as it is externally manifested, she is bound to judge of it. Now, if in order to effect and confer a Sacrament a person has seriously and correctly used the due matter and form, he is for that very reason presumed to have intended to do what the Church does. It is on this principle that the doctrine is solidly founded which holds as a true Sacrament that which is conferred by the ministry of a heretic or of a non-baptized person, as long as it is conferred in the Catholic rite.“
In other words, the intention of the Church is expressed when the minister utters the proper words, and it is ONLY when he exteriorly expresses otherwise that the validity of his Sacraments become suspect.
Furthermore, even if, hypothetically-speaking, Leinart was a Mason and really did withhold the proper intent, meaning the ordination in 1929 was not valid, +Lefebvre would have undoubtedly become a priest in 1947. Here is what Bishop Williamson wrote on the matter in 1992:
“But again, fourthly, let us assume that Lienart was a Mason and let us assume that he deliberately invalidated the Orders he conferred on Marcel Lefebvre. The Anti-Lefebvrists have still not won their point, because, as Michael Davies quite correctly argues, Marcel Lefebvre would still have become bishop and priest in 1947 at the hands of either or both of the two bishops co-consecrating him then with Cardinal Lienart: he would have become bishop, because out of the three bishops performing the rite of his consecration, one alone needs to have had the correct intention for the sacrament to have been valid, and the odds against all three having secretly withheld their intention are simply astronomical; he would have become a priest because as the greater contains the lesser, so bishopric contains priesthood.”
His Excellency is correct, only one of the three Consecrating Bishops must have the proper intention in order for the Consecration to be valid. This is precisely what Pope Pius XII stated:
“In accordance with the most ancient tradition of the Church, a new bishop is always consecrated by THREE other bishops. The Pontificale Romanum refers them as assistentes, but since, as the rubrics prescribe, all three bishops impose hands on the bishop-elect (the matter of the sacrament), and recite the form of consecration, Pope Pius XII (Episcopalis consecrationis, Nov. 30, 1944) insists that they are to be referred to as co-consecrators. Thus, as this was already obvious, all three concur in the consecration (where only one would suffice for validity), and, therefore, even in the unimaginable case where two of the three bishops would lack the necessary intention, the remaining bishop would still validly consecrate the elect.” (Cf. also Pius XII, Allocution to the International Congress of Pastoral Liturgy, Sep. 22, 1956.)
It is, then, ridiculous to argue that the Archbishop was not a valid priest. Again, even if, by some chance, Leinart withheld his intention to ordain Marcel Lefebvre in 1929 – which we cannot prove – then +Lefebvre would still have become a priest in 1947, for Consecration is the “fullness of orders”, and it is valid if only one of three Consecrators has the proper intention.
So let us put these nonsensical arguments to rest once and for all. Hutton Gibson – along with those who share his views on the issue – are WRONG. Period. Their stance is not supported by the teachings of the Church.
However many may not approve of him, because he was “schismatic” (an absurd accusation) or “wasn’t a sede”, we should ignore what others think and continue to thank God for blessing us with such a true Catholic hero and loyal defender of the true Faith, who fought endlessly until his death to preserve the Faith and Mass of all-time.