Much has been made of the 'excommunication' of Archbishop Lefebvre by the 'Miberals & Loderists' within the Church. For example the repeated accusation that Pope St. John Paul II excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre.
That isn't what really happened:
In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.(4) sourceWhat a moderately careful reader will notice is that the participants in the consecration have simply incurred the penalty due to the law. The Pope did not actually excommunicate him, he is saying that the participants excommunicated themselves.
Of course the accusation then will follow that they committed the sin of schism. Well that wasn't contained in the canonical warning.
June 17, 1988
Congregation for Bishops to His Excellency Archbishop
Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Tulle
Since on June 15, 198874 you stated that you intended to ordain four priests to the episcopate without having obtained the mandate of the Supreme Pontiff as required by Canon 1013 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, I myself convey to you this public canonical warning, confirming that if you should carry out your intention as stated above, you yourself and also the bishops ordained by you shall incur ipso facto excommunication latæ sententiæ reserved to the Apostolic See in accordance with Canon 1382. I therefore entreat and beseech you in the name of Jesus Christ to weigh carefully what you are about to undertake against the laws of sacred discipline, and the very grave consequences resulting therefrom for the communion of the Catholic Church, of which you are a bishop. Given at Rome, from the Office of the Congregation for Bishops, June 17, 1988.
By Mandate of the Supreme Pontiff,
Bernardin Card. Gantin
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
What is absent here are the canons that refer to the act of schism.
The accusation of the consecrations being a schismatic act are clearly an after thought either of the Pope's mind or on the suggestion of one of his advisers.
I was surprised to find that this was not the first time that the threat of excommunication menaced Archbishop Lefebvre. Attached below is an article that adds perspective to the events of 1988.
Courtesy of The Remnant