From a reader…
Was the excommunication of Archbishop LeFebvre lifted? Is it possible to do so posthumously?
The excommunication imposed on Archbp. Lefebvre by the law itself (latae sententiae) and also declared by the Congregation for Bishops was not lifted before he died.
There are those who claim that Lefebvre was not ever really excommunicated because there were attenuating circumstances as described in can. 1323, §4, that is, if a person commits an act that incurs the censure was acting out of fear or out of necessity. Lefebvre clearly feared that his work and vision would end with his death because there were no other bishops to carry on and he clearly thought it was necessary to consecrate bishops. Others would argue that those weren’t adequate. But it seems that it’s what Lefebvre was thinking that matters and canon law has to be interpreted in a way that favors the person in question.
In any event, the Congregation for Bishops issued a decree stating that all the bishops involved in the 1988 consecration had incurred the excommunication that results from consecrating bishops without the mandate of the Holy See.
Is it possible to lift the excommunication posthumously?
As a matter of fact, a modern example of this occurred in 1965. At the time of the Great Schism back in 1054, in super complicated circumstances, there were mutual excommunications between Westerners and Easterners, Latins and Byzantines. At the time of Vatican II, the Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople and Paul VI mutually lifted the excommunications.
If Paul VI could lift the excommunications from the time of the 11th century, then a Pope could lift Lefebvre’s excommunication posthumously. It could be a good, healing gesture as a matter of fact.