A Look Back - Cardinal Lara and the SSPX


It has been a while, but this article (quoted below) gives an idea of how a confirmation bias can lead to a false conclusion.

What did the SSPX say that Cardinal Lara said?
"The act of consecrating a bishop (without the pope's permission) is not itself a schismatic act," Cardinal Lara, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of Canon Law, in La Repubblica, October 7, 1988) (Courtesy of SSPX.org)

This created a problem for the narrative on the excommunication of Archbishop Lefebvre et al.  Hence, someone had to put their finger in the hole in the dam.
...It seemed to us to be most unlikely that a figure of such high standing within the Vatican as Cardinal Castillo Lara should be lending his support to a Lefebvrist group. So we wrote to him and discovered that, contrary to what the Society of St. Pius X was saying, the Cardinal had consistently maintained that Archbishop Lefebvre was in fact under two excommunications, one for the offense of schism, the other for the offense of consecrating a bishop without a pontifical mandate. Far from supporting the Lefebvrist case, he supported 100 percent the judgment of the Church.
Source: Library Catholic Culture
They bring up other issues, but I'd like to focus on one aspect (accuse me of a confirmation bias if you like): the author of the Catholic Culture article is claiming that Cardinal Lara said that there were two excommunications: one for Schism, the other for consecrating a bishop without pontifical mandate.

Keep in mind that this means that Cardinal Lara is not retracting his previous words, but stating that there is a 'second' excommunication.

Context usually helps to clarify things.

First the Canonical Warning:

Canonical Warning 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
Courtesy of SSPXasia
Key points: The canonical warning cites Canons 1013, and 1382.  The last paragraph only hints at 'grave consequences ... for the communion of the Catholic Church'.  No other canon was cited.
Can.  1013 No bishop is permitted to consecrate anyone a bishop unless it is first evident that there is a pontifical mandate.
After the consecrations the now defunct Decree was issued.

The following is the Decree of Excommunication.

From the Office of the Congregation for Bishops, 1 July 1988.
Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Tulle, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning of 17 June last and the repeated appeals to desist from his intention, has performed a schismatical act by the episcopal consecration of four priests, without pontifical mandate and contrary to the will of the Supreme Pontiff, and has therefore incurred the penalty envisaged by Canon 1364, paragraph 1, and canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law.
Having taken account of all the juridical effects, I declare that the above-mentioned Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre, and Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta have incurred <ipso facto> excommunication <latae sententiae> reserved to the Apostolic See.
Moreover, I declare that Monsignor Antonio de Castro Mayer, Bishop emeritus of Campos, since he took part directly in the liturgical celebration as co-consecrator and adhered publicly to the schismatical act, has incurred excommunication <latae sententiae> as envisaged by canon 1364, paragraph 1.
The priests and faithful are warned not to support the schism of Monsignor Lefebvre, otherwise they shall incur <ipso facto> the very grave penalty of excommunication.
From the Office of the Congregation for Bishops, 1 July 1988.
Bernardinus Card. Gantin Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
What do we have?  The inclusion of the Canon 1364 in addition 1382

Can. 1364 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in ⇒ can. 1336, §1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.
Can. 1382 A bishop who consecrates some one a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
Most would just stop at this point and say: Oops, Archbishop Lefebvre was schismatic and incurred Canon 1364.

The only problem is the logic within the decree itself does not support the conclusion.
  1. Archbishop Lefebvre, notwithstanding the Canonical warning of June 17th
  2. Performed a schismatical act by
    1. the episcopal consecration of four priests, without pontifical mandate and contrary to the will of the Supreme Pontiff, 
    2. and has therefore incurred the penalty envisaged by 
    3. Canon 1364, paragraph 1 (schism)
    4. Canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law (consecration without pontifical mandate)
First, we know that performing a consecration without pontifical mandate is not a schismatic act as it is not in the right section (ie the section containing Canon 1364).  We also know this from Cardinal Lara.

Second, we know that disobedience to the Pope is likewise not a schismatic act.

So if the performance of a consecration without pontifical mandate is not an act of schism, then how was Canon 1364 incurred?  Has it occurred because the Pope issued an after-the-fact statement saying that it had occurred without any sort of trial and the Pope basically saying it was incurred as the law foresees?

Personally (hey maybe a Canon Lawyer will chime in) I don't find that very convincing when the canonical warning did not include canon 1364.  I thought that the purpose of a canonical warning was to warn the person of the laws that they were about to transgress.

What the author of the article continues with is that Cardinal Lara also stated that he believed the schismatic act has occurred earlier.
 The fundamental offense is that of schism: that is, refusing submission to the Roman Pontiff and breaking communion with the Church. This offense they had already previously committed. Only that, now, the second offence, that of consecrating bishops, formalizes, in a certain sense, and concretizes the first and makes it explicit.
However, this still is inconsistent with the decree of excommunication, because it is quite clear that the act of schism was the consecration against the will of the Pope not some earlier event.  So does this mean that if the Pope didn't know about it and didn't have time to issue a canonical warning, they wouldn't have been excommunicated?

So either the consecration of bishops without pontifical mandate is a schismatic act or it isn't.

Cardinal Lara says that it isn't, but in order to be consistent with the narrative at that time, claims that the schism happened at an earlier time and that the consecration was just a 'concretizing' of the schism.

Ok, so why was it not included in the canonical warning if it had happened before?

So indeed, the vanishing schism was a legitimate conclusion following the sequential events of the canonical warning (only canon 1382), the identification of the schismatic act (focused on canon 1382) and the add-on offense of schism (canon 1364).



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