An editorial by Fr. Carl Pulvermacher, originally printed in the February 1978 issue of The Angelus.
This issue of The Angelus presents an excellent article, "The Validity of Holy Orders" by Fr. Douglas Laudenschlager. It follows exactly the teachings of the Church on the subject of the validity of [holy] orders, which is in essence the requirement for the validity of all Sacraments.
This article was written for the benefit of those who have been misled by rumors directed against Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre from sources which are by all means disreputable.
The question arises:
Why should these sources spend so much of their time attacking Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the man who through his unselfish efforts founded the Society that for more than a quarter of a century has been publicly defending the Holy Mother Church?"
Catholics have over and again heard the rumor that Cardinal Lienart was a Mason, and this rumor is presented to them as a fact. However, there is not even one piece of evidence which will back such assertion.
Some cardinals of the period were Freemasons, among them Archbishop Bugnini, whose liaison to Freemasonry has been proved and documented, and Archbishop Dearden, whose Vatican bureau openly admitted that he was a Freemason.
These two cases were the nucleus of a number of Roman Catholic Church leaders who either gave personal acceptance to the fact or did not care to leave around them documented evidence of their Masonic commitments.
Such is not the case of Cardinal Lienart. The rumors started in the United Sates and in Europe, and can be traced to personal foes of Archbishop Lefebvre and of the Church.
The most likely beginning is probably a "List of Masons in the Vatican" which first appeared in Italy and France. The early issues of this List do not have Cardinal Lienart’s name.
He was added much later, after Archbishop Lefebvre had firmly opposed the pleas of churchmen, who dissatisfied with Vatican policies had approached Archbishop Lefebvre with the surprising request that the archbishop should proclaim himself to be the pope, becoming thus the tool of their private vendettas. This kind of pressure took place both in Europe and in the United States.
One by one, this group of churchmen made the trek to Econe or sought-after the archbishop on his visits to America, each presenting him his own peculiar requests:
Declare yourself pope
Proclaim Paul VI as the Anti-Christ
Set the date of the end of the world
And such ad infinitem..."
In one particular case, an American churchman who later became one of the leaders of the anti-Lefebvre movement, approached the archbishop and demanded that he declared himself pope. This demand was preceded by half an hour of glowing tribute, addressing Archbishop Lefebvre as "Defender of the Faith", "Hope of the Church", "Second Athanasius", and more.
When the archbishop answered that he had no such intentions, that he had quite enough to do with his duties as director of his religious order and with the formation of the young seminarians who would become priests at Econe, his interlocutor replied:
Oh, Your Grace will have nothing to do! As his Secretary of State, I will take care of everything..."
Not surprisingly, after a final "No!" from the archbishop, the same churchman took his leave and made haste to start writing in a fit of anger words of intense hostility, of obscure hatred against the same archbishop he had proclaimed to be a second Athanasius. In a matter of hours, the "Defender of the Faith" had become a loathsome "Persecutor of the Faith".
It was not by accident that the attacks of a handful of self-proclaimed "defenders of the Church", among which men and women were equally represented, were simultaneously thrown, using the same verbiage, the same phrases, the same deceptive reasoning and argumentation.
Every move was prepared, aimed at their goal: Archbishop Lefebvre. Efforts were coordinated. The archbishop had firmly dismissed them. The archbishop had destroyed their vain hopes. Alas, now they will destroy his name, his reputation. The archbishop had unveiled the evil under their flattering messages. The archbishop had discovered their manipulative moves, their plots... Therefore, Archbishop Lefebvre was now the target of the wrath of these obtuse and self-proclaimed "leaders of the Church".
How far would they go? Each one had cut his or her niche deep. All of them had set their pedestals high. Their aim was not to save the Church but to usurp the authority of the Church for their own unconfessable purposes: personal aggrandizement and an overpowering desire of enrichment.
It is easy to see why the humility, the selflessness, the complete and total, unreserved dedication to God an to the Church of a man like Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre should be so abhorrent to them. Indeed, the archbishop had seen the only course leading to the salvation of the Holy Mother Church, and this according to canon law and sound theology.
Canon law and sound theology? Well, his detractors would also cite canon law and conveniently quote theology and philosophy too, appointing themselves experts in these fields.
Thus, their own words put them in jeopardy. Their lack of a basic knowledge of these challenging, difficult subjects came to light. Their writings are frequently plagued with errors and contradictions, some of these so blatant that the reader puts into question whether or not the authors have even the basic, rudimentary knowledge of the Catholic Faith.
The fact is that this group of detractors is attempting to do something they are neither prepared nor qualified to do. Somehow they are certainly aware of this, and when it suits their purposes they do not hesitate to mention the good name of the archbishop in laudatory approaches. They may even go farther, and associate their self-given name to the name of the Society founded by Archbishop Lefebvre. Do they thus hope to add some halo of respectability to their own irregular origins?
One of their tactics has been aimed at the goal of obtaining a response to their attacks. During the life time of the archbishop, they hoped that either the same archbishop or his priests would answer their violent but ridiculous charges. During the lifetime of His Grace, they cried over and again: "Why doesn’t the Archbishop answer these charges? Why?"
The idea was to lend an air of credibility to their deceitful words. But then every righteous man knows that the best way to deal with liars and detractors is to ignore them and let them drink the bitter juice of their ignored false judgments.
Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the example when He stood silent before the Sanhedrin and Pilate. He knew the evil of their hearts and the intention of their minds. And because He knew, He refused to give an answer.
Archbishop Lefebvre also knew that his detractors were moving in the hopes that if repeated often enough their falsities as unbelievable as they were would finally gain terrain, that their false statements would be believed to be true.
Nothing would be gained by giving an answer to his detractors. Can one really relish or take comfort from the fact that in the course of a disputation he obtains victory upon an unworthy adversary? Detractors have no interest in the truth. They will not look for facts, unless they can accommodate those facts to their purposes. As a rule, they follow double standards.
At the time of their early accusations, their reasoning was: "Oh, after all, the charges we did make up against Archbishop Lefebvre must be true, because he is afraid to refute them". Nonetheless, if those accusations had been answered, they would have replied: "There must be some truth to our charges; else, he would have ignored them altogether and do not bothered to give us an answer!"
Constant repetition of false rumors is an old trick, perhaps the oldest trick, to destroy the good name and reputation of an adversary.
Was Cardinal Lienart a Mason? Nobody knows for sure. However, while it would be interesting to clear this issue for the sake of history, whatever could be disclosed would have no effect on the validity of Archbishop Lefebvre sacred orders, nor would make any difference regarding the falsehood of the accusations.
The attack of the detractors was aimed not at Cardinal Lienart but at Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
If one falsehood against His Grace failed, they would come with a new one, at their convenience. How far they will go? Will they dare to spread the rumor that His Excellency himself was a Mason?
Were they ever aware that the same rumors could be spread against them? What if someone let the world know that in fact the detractors themselves were not even Catholics because the priest who had baptized them was a secret member of a Masonic Lodge? And what about those married by the same priest? Were they living in sin?
How could they prove otherwise if as in the case of Cardinal Lienart the priest was already deceased?
The cunningness of the Devil knows no boundaries! Catholics, true Catholics, must flee from rumors. Nonetheless, the accusers should come forward with concrete proof, if they had any: signed documents; veritable witnesses that might back their charges.
At the right moment, they were asked to do this, and then they either refused or failed to do so.
On the other hand, there is evidence to proof the mischievousness, the falsehood of their rumors. One concrete example of this is a much-talked photo published in Veritas. In this fake photo Archbishop Lefebvre appears kneeling at the feet of Pope Paul VI. However, the testimony of expert, professional photographers has explained beyond doubt how this photo was made superimposing two different photos to achieve the calumnious result.
The journalist wording accompanying the photo as well as other articles printed by Veritas have been equally proven to be mere wishful thinking of whomever was the writer. Thus, this publication has entirely lost credibility.
Some members of this peculiar group have muttered, recognizing their serious errs against the archbishop; but none of them has ever come into the open to correct slurs, to publicly admit the slanders of the group. They give the impression that, disregarding the claims of the conscience of at least some of them, as a group they have chosen to follow commitments of falsehood.
Looking for sensationalism at all costs, some European "gossip-newspapers" of disreputable credibility had taken their information from this source. Europe fears this kind of shoddy press, which lacks ethics. Is it that it is a kind of journalism that knowingly perpetrates evil?
Let us leave all of them, source and newspapers, alone. And let us take now more than ever sides with those who rightly defend the saint memory of Archbishop Lefebvre, true Son of the Church, who devoted his life to the greater honor and glory of God.