Bp. Schneider of Kazakhstan on Archbp. Lefebvre of the SSPX

The best English language vaticanista today is Edward Pentin.  He has an interview with Bp. Athanasius Schneider today at the National Catholic Register (that’s the good one that begins with “National”).  HERE

The whole thing is worth reading. However, I want to emphasize one part which caught my eye for two reasons.

First, it is Patristic.  Bp. Schneider is a student of the Fathers of the Church, as am I.  We need to return to the Fathers.  It is amazing how many things they treated in their day which apply to our own.

Next, because it concerns a figure I’ve long been interested in, the late Archbp. Marcel Lefebvre.  He was a great churchman and missionary in Africa who went on to found the SSPX.  Since I once worked for the PCED I remain interested – and hopeful – for a wonderful result.

Here is Schneider on Lefebvre:


What are your views on the Society of St. Pius X? Do you have sympathy for their position? 


Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis on various occasions spoke with understanding towards the SSPX. It was particularly at his time, as Cardinal of Buenos Aires, that Pope Francis helped the SSPX in some administrative issues. Pope Benedict XVI once said about Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre: “He was a great bishop of the Catholic Church.” Pope Francis considers the SSPX as Catholic, and has expressed this publicly several times. Therefore, he seeks a pastoral solution, and he made the generous pastoral provisions of granting to the priests of the SSPX the ordinary faculty to hear confessions and conditional faculties to celebrate canonically marriage. The more the doctrinal, moral and liturgical confusion grows in the life of the Church, the more one will understand the prophetic mission of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in an extraordinary dark time of a generalized crisis of the Church.

Maybe one day History will apply the following words of Saint Augustine to him:

“Often, too, divine providence permits even good men to be driven from the congregation of Christ by the turbulent seditions of carnal men. When for the sake of the peace of the Church they patiently endure that insult or injury, and attempt no novelties in the way of heresy or schism, they will teach men how God is to be served with a true disposition and with great and sincere charity. The intention of such men is to return when the tumult has subsided. But if that is not permitted because the storm continues or because a fiercer one might be stirred up by their return, they hold fast to their purpose to look to the good even of those responsible for the tumults and commotions that drove them out. They form no separate conventicles of their own, but defend to the death and assist by their testimony the faith which they know is preached in the Catholic Church” (De vera religione 6, 11).

Thus, St. Augustine.

It is interesting to note that Bp. Schneider’s baptismal name is “Athanasius”.

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  1. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    I think, Father, that Bishop Schneider was baptised “Anton” and chose “Athanasius” for himself on entering religious life.

  2. VexillaRegis says:

    Actually his baptismal name is Anton – Athanasius is his religious name.

  3. arga says:

    Only during the Francis pontificate, i.e., because of it, did I begin to revise my view of Archbishop Lefebvre. Because of Francis, I see Lefebvre entirely differently today. A heroic figure? Quite possible. Canonizable? I wouldn’t be surprised, though I know I won’t live long enough to see it. Thank you, Lord, for Abp. Lefebvre.

  4. SenexCalvus says:

    Before the promulgation of Amoris Laetitia, I had scrupulously avoided reading about Archbishop Lefebvre. Now I’m curious. Reading this post made me look him up online, and what I found was photos of a man with a joyous smile. I look forward to learning more about him.

  5. Mario Bird says:

    St. Augustine’s description of “good men driven from the congregation of Christ by the turbulent seditions of carnal men” reminds me of Shakespeare’s Kent from King Lear:

    Kent, sir, the banish’d Kent; who in disguise
    Follow’d his enemy king, and did him service
    Improper for a slave.

  6. jaykay says:

    SenexCalvus: No need to have avoided reading about him. We should read everything, especially what seems contrary to our comfort-zone. Otherwise, we’d be in a self-referential ghetto. Anyway, every picture of Abp. Lefebre that I’ve seen seems to have him, if not actually smiling, at least with a happy, amused, expression. He was a missionary Bishop, very much in touch with the “smell of the sheep” (in French North Africa, God help us). And a respected Father of the Council. A man with a chest. Unlike too many of the other Fathers of that… event.

  7. kat says:


    If you enjoy reading, then I recommend: https://angeluspress.org/products/marcel-lefebvre-biography

    If you would rather see a video, then I recommend: https://angeluspress.org/products/lefebvre-documentary

    Both are excellent means of learning about a prelate of the Church who loved Her dearly.

  8. GordonB says:

    I had heard (by a priest who would have been to seminary while the E.F. was the norm) it said that without the N.O., the Church could not have been able to reach out internationally and grow in Africa (eg African Cardinals etc) but ironically Archbishop Lefebvre, this stalwart of the Traditional Latin Mass was a long time missionary in Africa and thus could see and experience first hand how the Sacred Liturgy worked in converting pagans to the faith and obviously stood firm against the N.O. in light of his experiences. Further for people to say SSPX have a bunker mentality– while perhaps some do –I would have to say that is counter to the man who founded SSPX. He who engaged face to face and converted (as a long time Missionary) members of the African pagan culture from their polygamy, wichcraft and other unchristian activities. He is, in that sense, a great model pf how to come out face to face and engage with and convert neoPagan culture in the formerly Christian West.

    [Card. Sarah was formed in that milieu. The CHINESE BISHOPS who resisted were formed in that milieu.]

  9. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Bishop Schneider speaks about his mother in this interview. She must be proud of him.

    Incidentally, are there two interviews? The one linked to doesn’t refer to Archbishop Lefebvre, and I couldn’t find one that did.

  10. Benedict Joseph says:

    Like others have mentioned I too have scrupulously avoided Archbishop Lefebvre — and the SSPX. It is becoming quite clear that as things continue to devolve this might no longer be possible. Even as I write that I wince. But it is the truth. We are off the track. The Way has been abandoned.
    Saint Augustine’s words provide depth consolation.
    Who is to rouse the sleeping episcopate?
    The concerned, mindful laity, attempting to be faithful are mocked and abandoned.
    Each concerned, mindful, faithful priest and religious lives with a bulls eye on their back.
    Who with a voice that cannot — will not — be ignored has the courage to declare boldly, publically, to the attention of all that we are in the middle of a conflagration?
    Souls are at stake.
    If only we had a Saint Teresa of Jesus among us: “I would give my life to save a single soul.”

  11. Eric says:

    For those interested I second the recommendations for books noted above. First I would read the Open Letter to Confused Catholics, I would then read his biography, and then the multivolume Pro Apologia Marcel Lefebvre. I too became interested during this pontificate, and luckily knew someone who attends an SSPX chapel. He recommended the first two then I was off and running. I too avoided reading anything about the SSPX and had dismissed them as a fringe schismatic group akin to the Donatists. I now attend the SSPX chapel. All of these books can be purchased at Angelus Press. You will be amazed how prophetic he was.

  12. Sword40 says:

    I had the great good fortune of meeting His Excellency back in the spring of 1980 when he gave First Communion to one of my sons and Confirmation to three others. I have NEVER met a more Holy, gentle man in all of my 77 years.

  13. TonyO says:

    I sympathize tremendously with the terrible position Lefebvre was put in. And with the great good he had as his objective. I hope that he reaches heaven.

    But does he correspond to the picture St. Augustine paints? Well, I have to say this: doesn’t there have to be fault on either one side or the other (or both, of course)? St. Augustine says “driven from the congregation of Christ by the turbulent seditions of carnal men.” But who are the seditious and carnal men at work on Lefebvre’s case, driving him out?

    In the case of Athanasius, we know who was the immediate cause of his excommunication: Pope Liberius. The same one who is the first pope not canonized a saint, because he FAILED his duty to stand up to Arian pressure. In the case of Lefebvre, who was the immediate cause of his excommunication? Pope John Paul II. That is, SAINT Pope John Paul II. We know who was behind Athanasius being persecuted and excommunicated: it was heretics, Arians, who finally gained the muffled and possibly tortured permission of the insufficiently strong Pope Liberius. We also know (broadly) who was behind Lefebvre being persecuted, it was mainly those of Annibale Bugnini’s party who could not stand to have the old Mass continue in constant accusation of the Novus Ordo… BUT they did it with the not muffled but quite explicit consent of JPII.

    What was Athanasius excommunicated for? It was for upholding the true and ancient faith. The faith that had already been stated by more than one council in his favor, and the Pope should have had sufficient reason to know was the truth. What was Lefebvre excommunicated for? For consecrating 4 bishops, against the direct orders of the Pope.

    However true it is that Lefebvre’s cause was mal-treated by Pope JPII and his underlings (and, in my opinion, JPII horribly bungled the mess, horribly and without need), however true it is that Lefebvre’s love of the old Mass was upright and noble, however true it is that Lefebvre’s actions may have eventually brought about some truly important to the life of the Church, however true it is that I personally benefit from his having resisted the running-dogs of the NO, this cannot undo the wrong of disobeying what he had an obligation to obey. I pray to God that I never be put in such a bind as he was. But I pray also that if I am, I follow Him.

    I don’t wish to claim to judge Archbishop Lefebvre. I know nothing about the state of his soul, for one thing, and I am in no position to anyway. Maybe he found a way to be repent of all of his sins (whatever they were) and be in God’s holy grace at death. But I don’t think that we are free to equate his action in defiance of Pope JPII’s direct orders, and St. Athanasius’s position. However pressured he was by the desire (even, in some sense, “need”) to preserve the old Mass, he chose disobedience to do it. Maybe God would have, a few days or weeks later, move JPII to something much more generous, that Lefebvre’s action forestalled. Who can ever say? How could there have been the same kind of binding moral necessity to *consecrate bishops* as to remain true to the true teaching of the Church?

    I hope that Pope Francis will soon completely regularize the SSPX as a personal prelature or something similar. Or just a regular order, I guess. Can’t be too soon, it should have been ages ago, for my money. I just don’t see how we can equate Lefebvre’s action with those of the men like Athanasius that St. Augustine speaks of.

  14. abdiesus says:

    Though not SSPX myself – I have never even been to one of their Masses – I am firmly convinced that the present chastisement under Pope Francis will be allowed by God to continue and to increase in intensity until we reach the point when no faithful Catholic will be able in good conscience condemn Abp Lefebvre or the SSPX, and indeed until all faithful Catholics find themselves driven to recognize Abp Lefebvre and the SSPX as nothing other than fellow faithful Catholics, full stop.

    What will bring this about? I believe we are going to see the present crisis increase to the point that the National Conferences of Bishops, with the approval of the Vatican, will join with secular governments around the world to persecute all and any faithful Catholics who insist on fidelity to the Catholic faith once delivered. We can see the beginnings of this going on around the world already, and it will only continue to get worse. In this scenario, every faithful Catholic who insists upon fidelity to the Catholic faith once delivered will be called “Protestant” and “more Catholic than the pope” and every other insult that has up till now been reserved for Abp Lefebvre and the SSPX.

    Ultimately I believe we will have to endure being excommunicated by faithless Bishops who are in communion with Rome and turned over to the State for “rehabilitation”. In this sense, if we retain our fidelity to the Catholic faith, even unto death, we will be conformed more closely to the image of Christ who also was condemned by the Chief Priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees, and turned over to the State for torture and execution.

    The only thing I can see that could interrupt this would be a complete collapse such as would happen if the U.S. and/or Europe, including Rome, is over-run by the forces of Islam, and conquered and/or destroyed. However, in such a case, the persecution of whatever faithful Christians remain would be similar to the way Christians are today persecuted in countries governed according to Islamic principles. Either way, there will be plenty of opportunities for us to gain the martyrs’ crown if we persevere to the end!

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

  15. Geoffrey says:

    “He was a great bishop of the Catholic Church.”

    I have great trouble with that one. How can a “great” bishop willingly disobey the Roman Pontiff by consecrating bishops without papal mandate? Everyone seems to gloss over this most serious of offenses…

    [No. What everyone “glosses over” are his stupendous contributions in Africa.]

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  17. Gabriel Syme says:

    The biography recommended by Kat above is very good. Bishop Fellay has stated that Pope Francis has read the biography himself, more than once, and enjoyed it.

    Here is a good website about +Lefebvre, created by the SSPX as both a tribute to him and a source of info for the faithful to learn about him:


    I think he is an often misunderstood figure, but I also think that his motivation – as well as his importance and courage – is becoming ever clearer. Today it is obvious that he had great foresight.

    I would warn people that there is a lot of misinformation about him too. I have seen him portrayed as a fascist or anti-semite, which is dreadful calumny. Often enemies of Catholic tradition spread such lies, but at times even well meaning people – themselves deceived – may repeat it.

    +Lefebvre’s father, Rene, worked for British Intelligence (that famous oxymoron again!) during WW1. He did so again in WW2 under German occupation and was arrested by the Gestapo. He died in a German concentration camp in 1944. So you can see how absurd it is to claim that Marcel Lefebvre came from a fascist background, or had sympathy with totalitarian regimes.

  18. ServusChristi says:

    One would think where the status of the TLM and traditional Catholicism would be without Abp Lefebvre. I think that we, in general should read what the man preached and taught instead of shouting “schismatic!” until the cows come home – I find his books especially ‘A Letter to confused Catholics’ to bring up questions that so few Catholics ask themselves these days.. On another, I just don’t see the SSPX gaining canonical status under this pontificate.

  19. SenexCalvus says:

    Thank you for the recommendations, kat.

    I see that Archbishop Lefebvre’s father was condemned by the Nazis and died in a concentration camp for his participation in the Resistance. The acorn didn’t fall far from the tree, did it?

  20. Lefebvre stood up for many good things, but didn’t he die impenitent and outside the Church?

    [We don’t know about the state of his soul when he died. The censure of excommunication had not been lifted when he died. However, in danger of death the law provides for a great deal. Also, people who are excommunicated are not “outside the Church”. They are not permitted to receive sacraments or hold offices.]

  21. Amerikaner says:

    Archbishop Lefebrve chose to do what he did under St. Pope John Paul II, not Pope Francis. Just because things seem wonkier today does not lessen his culpability or lessen the gravity of his action back then. The end does not justify the means.

    But just as groups in the past have returned to full union of the Church in the past, I pray and hope for the same for the SSPX. I believe they have much to offer but within the fullness of the Church.

  22. Malta says:

    GordonB, I have often thought the same thing: “Would conversions to the faith be as plenteous if the TLM were the norm still? Would we keep the iPhone generation X, Y, and Z in the fold if mass were said in Latin?”

    The great irony is that liturgically beautiful masses (whether Novus or Vetus Ordo) are full of vibrant youth and young families, whereas banal masses are filled with the now elderly faithful of the hippie generation.

    The human heart longs for something transcendental and awe-inspiring. Trust me, there are dance clubs with more talent appealing to youth than liturgical dance, and that wanna-be-coolness that the youth see right through. Moreover, think of the Americas largely converted when the TLM was still in play, and the droves of people in those countries now leaving the faith of their forebears–sometimes for protestantism.

  23. Unwilling says:

    Clarity. Isn’t this what PF calls for against fake news?

    Division. “They form no separate conventicles (cliques?) of their own….”

  24. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Thank you, Magdalen.

  25. Imrahil says:

    Dear Amerikaner,

    well, but in so far as the circumstances do have a rule to play in morality, their evaluation is the job of the Christian individual conscience.

    In this case, many get the idea now under Pope Francis that things are principally possible which Abp Lefebvre did accuse Pope St. John Paul II of. And if they are principally possible, it is a wholly different situation than if “a Pope can never do this”.

    Also, water has flown down the Tiber since, but Assisi was a big deal (though well-intentioned on the Pope’s part).

    That said, the particular haut-gout of Abp Lefebvre’s action is not his resistance to the New Mass and perhaps not even his demanding a bishop “to make tradition survive”, but that, after Rome had acquiesced to regularize the SSPX and grant the SSPX a bishop – an agreement he himself declared to be quite fine as far as its letter went – he backed down on the stated reason, not that he had thought better of it, but that he suspected Rome of trickery. (He feared Rome would delay delaying consecration until he would have died. To accuse Pope St. John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger of suchlike is quite an accusation.)

  26. Imrahil says:

    Dear Tina in Ashburn,

    as far as I know, he did receive the Last Rites. Of course, he refused to repent about his episcopal consecrations; but if he did think they were the right thing to do, then to repent of them would be a wrong thing to do, unless he had changed his opinion.

    He may have repented (but not publicly) not of the consecrations themselves but of things connected with them. I’m thinking specifically of a certain rashness, in the heat of the fight (as it were), in choosing the bishops. It seems two priests (one, I suppose, Fr. Schmidberger), got off the list, in the case of Fr. Schmidberger because he was to remain general superior and he wanted to insist that he wasn’t setting up a schismatic counter-Church. Two priests then were rather quick-quick added to the list, one of them being then-Fr. Williamson. This is not how you pick bishops, even if you are allowed to; and it has, alas, backfired. But we do not know what he told his Confessor in his last hour or before.

  27. Thorfinn says:

    TonyO lays significant weight on the fact that Archbishop Lefebvre’s excommunication was pronounced by SAINT John Paul II.

    Unfortunately it is tragically incontestable that the holy pontiff did not always have the best judgment in handling certain cases that came before him (cf. Maciel Degollado, Marcial).

    Saintliness does not guarantee freedom from even serious error in serious matters.

  28. Matt R says:

    Wikipedia doesn’t have a source for that. Is there a source which shows that? (I don’t question it, but Wikipedia is the only place to make the claim.)

  29. JesusFreak84 says:

    In reply to the priest mentioned above who said only the OF could convert Africa, I would also offer as contrary evidence the fact that the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, was first incardated {sp?} in Africa.

  30. SenexCalvus says:

    As I work my way through the documentary on the life of Archbishop Lefebvre, I can’t help but notice the repeated reference of one of the contributors to the French Revolution and its rallying cry: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. Have y’all read Dr. Feser’s post on that slogan? If not, hurry on over. Three Stooges await you.

  31. SenexCalvus says:

    One of the assertions in the video is that the reforms to the Mass were made in concession to the expressed demands of Protestants. Is this true? Surely they weren’t consulted in the composition of the new texts?

  32. taylorhall95 says:

    A lot of people automatically judge Archbishop Lefebvre as a schismatic without a sufficient study of his life or what lead him to consecrate bishops in 1988. I think a lot of this has to do with relying on Church Militant TV or EWTN (both organizations that I respect) as a quasi-magisterium for what is and isn’t “orthodox” in the post Vatican II Church. What many people don’t know is that Archbishop Lefebvre signed a protocol agreement with the Vatican, but was concerned by the fact that he was in poor health in 1988, and that his attempts to get the Vatican to find a bishop (as per the protocol) were being stonewalled, with the typical “we’ll do that later” delay tactic. Furthermore, he was concerned over Pope John Paul II’s appearance at the Assisi gathering in 1986, when he appeared to place Catholicism on an equal footing with false religions in a ceremonial prayer service “for peace.” At the same time, he made it clear that the bishops he ordained did NOT have ordinary jurisdiction, but had supplied jurisdiction to ordain priests and administer the sacrament of confirmation (among other duties). Perhaps he was mistaken in his judgments, or perhaps St. John Paul II was mistaken in his judgments. Let’s remember that during the Western Schism in the 14th century, canonized saints disagreed on who was the true pope. Saints can be in disagreement with one another, make false judgments, and make mistakes. I encourage people to at least read Archbishop Lefebvre’s biography, read about his family (especially his mother), then make a judgment about his actions. (Note – my comment is not meant to be an apology for everything the SSPX does – I find that at times that some of their priests shoot themselves in the foot by constantly accusing Ecclesia Dei communities of compromise).

  33. SenexCalvus says:

    As I reach the end of the video, I ask myself, “How could I have been so wrong about Archbishop Lefebvre?” May God have mercy on me!

  34. kat says:

    Yes there WERE a group of Protestants consulted in forming the New Mass. The idea was to remove things that bothered Protestants, in hopes they would return to the fold if the things they didn’t believe were not so blatant in the Mass. In the 80’s my Lutheran boss told me the new Mass was very much like his own service.

  35. Antonin says:

    I have not major problem with regularizing the SSPX, my father back in the day was a supporter of his (but only because he longed for the older mass). But if they are regularized it does not mean that their position on the Declaration on Religious Freedom and ecumenism are correct. I think that they are dead wrong in their objections for a multiplicity of reasons that I needn’t get into now. There is plenty of discussion online.

    On these points it is THEY who have to accept that VII’s teaching are not some kind of departure from tradition – tradition predates 1563!

    Enclaves, ghettos, and siege mentalities are not healthy for the mind or spirt. So regularized them but it is fair to ask that they accept these teachings of the Council

  36. revueltos67 says:

    SenexCalvus said: “One of the assertions in the video is that the reforms to the Mass were made in concession to the expressed demands of Protestants. Is this true? Surely they weren’t consulted in the composition of the new texts?”

    The protestant ministers consulted by the Consilium, the body charged with creating the new mass, were:

    1. A. Raymond George (Methodist)
    2. Ronald Jaspar (Anglican)
    3. Massey Shepherd (Episcopalian)
    4. Friedrich Künneth (Lutheran)
    5. Eugene Brand (Lutheran)[5]
    6. Max Thurian (Calvinist-community of Taize).

    There is a famous photograph of them, published in L’Osservatore Romano in 1970, taken during an audience with Pope Paul VI during which he thanked them for their contributions. You can easily find the photo online.

    You might consider looking into Michael Davies great “Mass Trilogy”: Cranmer’s Godly Order, Pope John’s Council, and Pope Paul’s New Mass.

  37. JuliB says:

    I was delighted to read in Card. Sarah’s book that he decided to become a priest due to his experiences with the Holy Ghost Fathers, which was created/instituted/lead by (whatever the correct terminology) by Archbishop Lefebvre. I can only imagine that the good Cardinal has the good Archbishop in his prayers and thoughts…

  38. SenexCalvus says:

    Thank you, kat and revueltos67, for answering my question. It may take me some time to work through the implications of what you’ve told me. It was wholly inconceivable to me.

  39. Eric says:

    I second the Davies trilogy noted above as well. It will open your eyes, it is scary how much Cranmer’destruction by omission of the Mass preceded exactly what the Novus Ordo did. Then read The Ottaviani Intervention: Short Critical Study of the New Order of Mass, published by Cardinal Ottaviani and other cardinals after the publication of the Novus Ordo.

    [Ahhh… the late Michael Davies – RIP]

  40. Ben Kenobi says:

    “his attempts to get the Vatican to find a bishop (as per the protocol) were being stonewalled, with the typical “we’ll do that later” delay tactic.”

    And thus lead to the creation of a whole new order of bishops, followed up by priests and the eventual loss of an entire Island from the faith, and a division that persists today. It resulted in the destruction of countless relics. I don’t doubt that Archbishop Lefebvre meant well, but the parallels between them and the Church of England are striking. No sooner did the pope grant Cranmer his facilities, did he excommunicate Cranmer all the while Cranmer simply got on going on with the process of building a new church from the ground up.

    Communion with Rome is important. Obedience to Rome is important. Waiting and being patient for the papal confirmations is essential in order to remain with Rome. Now, in the case of Henry I would argue that the appointments were not made in good faith, and that he consistently chose men of a particular bent regarding Erasmus. From there he was able to build his own church in his own image. I don’t think that’s the case with the Lefebvrists, but things are harder to see in the here and now without the benefit of a half-millennium perspective.

    I don’t want another schism. I have attended a wonderful house sanctuary a year ago with a visiting priest and a family that only does the Anglican rite. I got the distinct sense that the reason they did not attend with the larger parish is because they preferred their own rite and their own company. Was the rite reverent? Absolutely. But to me it bodes ill. The catholicity of the Church is that it is universal, not that we have English, Spanish, Portuguese and so on and so forth. I am happy as a slave to Rome and forever will I remain with Rome.

  41. SenexCalvus says:

    Dear Ben Kenobi,

    We are no longer slaves, whether to Rome or any other master of this world. We are friends of the Lord. In other words, we’re free — finally free.

    Your friend,


  42. Thorfinn says:

    “For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ.”

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