Fidelity to the Holy Tradition in the face of the storm of modernism
"Bishop of wool. Bishop of iron."
When we talk about the Second Vatican Council and its fruits, it becomes almost impossible not to comment on the role of some bishops in the repudiation of the New Theology that had taken root in the Holy See. One of the main names among these resistant bishops is that of D. Marcel Lefebvre, the "Bishop of Wool" and the "Bishop of Iron", in the words of Tissier de Mallerais.
Marcel Lefebvre (Tourcoing, 29 November 1905 - Martigny, 25 March 1991) was born in France, from a large family, with six brothers, most of them, as well as Marcel himself, graduates of religious life. Despite the disturbing moment that World War I represented in his life, with the early death of his father, René Lefebvre, and the dispersion of his brothers (narrated in A Pequena História de Minha Longa História ), early on, on October 25, 1923, enters the French Seminary in Rome. The fame of this seminary in Europe was that it provided excellent training to its seminarians and his father knew this, to the point of giving valuable assistance in the decision of young Marcel. Tutored by Rev. Fr. Henri Le Floch, an anti-modernist of the highest caliber, he carried out his studies with priority, advancing in theology and philosophy courses and, later, in the late 1920s, receiving the title of Doctor of Theology and Philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University. On September 21, 1929, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Liénart, in the chapel of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Lille, France.
While wandering for two years, in 1931, observing his parish life and the path taken by his brother priest, who was religious in Africa, the young Fr. Marcel Lefebvre asked to join the Spiritans (Congregation of the Fathers of the Holy Spirit), doing a short period of novitiate and religious profession. His sincere desire was to help the indigenous populations of the African continent, especially the people of Gabon (his first mission on this continent), to achieve conversion and salvation by the Catholic Church.
In Africa, little by little, he acquires knowledge about the continent, migrating internally on several occasions in order to respond to the insistent calls of the faithful and bishops who request the invaluable help of the White Fathers (reference to the missionary habit of the Congregation). Fr. Marcel helps in the creation of seminaries, in the management of dioceses, in the most exhausting missionary work, acquiring from an early age a reputation as a great worker for the cause of God. Called back to France in 1945, at the end of World War II and shortly after the death of his father and mother, there he was appointed director of the Mortain Philosophy Seminary, notable before the Holy See in virtue of the results he reaps in his work.
Tradidi quod et accepi ".
I Cor. 11, 23
“I transmitted what I received”.
It was from Rome that the request came for Fr. Marcel to assume the Apostolic Vicariate of Dakar, Africa, receiving this charge from Pope Pius XII in 1947. For this purpose, the subsequent episcopal consecration for the high position he would occupy came to him on September 18, 1947, taking place in his native parish of Our Lady of Tourcoing at the hands of Cardinal Liénart, Bishop of Lille. Bishop Marcel Lefebvre took up his post in Dakar on November 16, 1947, having under his care a growing influx of faithful. The greatest surprise, as he will report in his writings, is when the task comes to him, a year later, to be Apostolic Delegate for the whole of French Africa, which at the time encompassed 18 African countries. A mysterious action of Providence. Still on the Dakar, he received the papal election letter to be the first Archbishop of Dakar, where Dom Marcel is led by Cardinal Tisserant in the year 1955.
In all these rises of office, the dual character of D. Marcel remained: a wool bishop, sensitive to the weakness of men, and an iron bishop, bent on bringing out the truth about the myriad of errors always faced. But today, above all, we can say that his main note was charity, seeking to respond to all the spiritual and material appeals that came to him, always in the best possible way. And it was through charity that his path of prudence will take on new breadth and depth with the events that will come later.
A second chapter in the life of D. Marcel begins with his call to the Preparatory Commission of the Second Vatican Council, on June 5, 1960. At the same time, appointed Bishop of Tulle, France, in 1962, D. Lefebvre accepts the charge, which represents his lowering of function, in the joy of being able to work more for the new diocesans, who were already living an intense spiritual crisis in the French countryside. Dozens of dioceses had been opened in French Africa for his action. Even before completing six months in diocesan office, he was called in Rome after being elected Superior General of the Fathers of the Holy Spirit, also receiving the symbolic charge of the Archdiocese of Synnada, in Frigia (present-day Turkey). Turning to the Council in the meantime, together with numerous bishops, he works diligently in all sessions, little by little noticing disturbing events in the course of it, especially a modernist/liberal wave that is not only tolerated but diffused by very advanced means of propaganda.
Also within the Council, Archbishop Lefebvre, Archbishop Proença de Sigaud, Archbishop Castro Mayer and other bishops belonging to the Coetus Internationalis Patrum organized themselves in the best possible way in order to stop the so-called Rhine Current, which was a powerful organization of bishops headed by Germans, Dutch and Belgians in propagating a new modernist doctrine. It allowed, however, Providence that the CVII was taken over and numerous dubious or liberal documents were published. At first, for the bishops of Coetus , the extent of the problem is not clear, but only as the years go by, when countless scandals and an organized demolition work put the Church in permanent agony.
Little by little, from 1970 onwards, Bishop Lefebvre began the work that would later be called SSPX, or, in Portuguese, SSPX - Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X. His intention was to welcome an initial group of seminarians who were looking for good formation and they asked him for help because they could no longer find seminars that did so at that time. And what was at first a small house of formation begins to take shape, leaving Freiburg (Switzerland) for Écône (Switzerland), obtaining the approval of Bishop François Charrière, Bishop of Freiburg and being ratified by the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy , Cardinal Wright. The seminary, then, grew steadily and gradually attracted the disgust of European bishops, who saw in the institution a solid resistance against the new Roman doctrine.
On May 6, 1975, the new bishop of Fribourg withdraws the authorization to operate the seminary and, in another coup, in 1976 Bishop Lefebvre is suspended from divinis by Pope Paul VI due to the continuity of the ordination of priests despite the diocese's vetoes of Freiburg. Over the years, Archbishop Lefebvre continues to expand his seminary, counting year after year with the entry of dozens of seminarians, while consolidating his friendship with Archbishop Castro Mayer, who also leads his diocese in Brazil. spirit of conservation of the Sacred Deposit of Faith. During this period, he hopes to receive from HH John Paul II, the new pontiff, help in the mission of safeguarding Tradition, which he does not achieve, especially due to the impediments placed by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (no longer Holy Office), Cardinal Ratzinger.
The event of the Ecumenical Meeting in Assisi, in 1986, fully demonstrates that Rome not only disregards its divine mission to proclaim the Truth, but continues to encourage liberal error, which makes Bishop Lefebvre insist with greater determination in guaranteeing continuity of Tradition through conversations with the Holy See, which in turn grants him no guarantee of immunity from the SSPX. In this purpose, in order to ensure the conservation of Catholic doctrine in its entirety, Archbishop Lefebvre sagra, with the support of Bishop Castro Mayer, four bishops on June 30, 1988, in the city of Écône.
Aware of his responsibilities and happy for the good deed, Bishop Lefebvre, suffering from a serious illness, died on March 25, 1991 at the Hospital de Martigny, being veiled and buried in the SSPX seminary. He left behind a myriad of priests, male and female religious houses, churches, chapels, colleges, schools, missions, seminaries and pre-seminars, but, above all, thanks to his valiant work we have today, indisputably, the survival of the Catholic Tradition, that would have been totally eclipsed had it not been for the slow and silent work of D. Lefebvre and D. Castro Mayer in recent decades.