The Case of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
Trial by Canon Law by Charles Nemeth
"When the history of the contemporary crisis comes to be written there is one name which will stand out above all the heroes of the Catholic resistance, that of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre." - Michael Davies, God Bless Archbishop Lefebvre, The Angelus November, 1985
The Following are only a summary of the points made by Mr. Charles Nemeth
*note* The author includes 1917's Code of Canon Law for
reference purposes only. Since it has been suspended, its authority is not
"Legal Issue #1: Whether imputability (culpability) can be discerned of determined solely from the action of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre?
Legal Holding 1.1: That imputability cannot be discerned or determined by a sole or singular examination of the action of Archbishop
Marcel Lefebvre. Imputability has both subjective and objective elements under the 1917 and 1983 Codes.
Legal Holding 1.2: That the act of consecration requires a simple dolus, an errant belief that justifies the wrong, making proof of intent an
easier burden under both the 1917 and 1983 Codes.
Legal Holding 1.3: That under the Code of 1917, it might be argued successfully that the Archbishop was imputable under a Culpa theory, that
is, acted negligently in carrying out the consecration.
Legal Holding 1.4: That under the 1983 Code the external violation alone will not suffice, even under simple dolus, if the Archbishop can
explain conditions that "nisi aliud appereat" (is otherwise evident).
Legal Issue #2: Could a finding of initial imputability on the part of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, be excused, exempted, or excepted by extenuating
circumstances or conditions?
Legal Holding 2.1: Therefore, given the express restriction of contempt of ecclesiastical authority cases under Canon 2229 sec. 3, and Canon 2205 as a means of excuse, exemption or mitigation of the act of consecration makes the Archbishop imputable under the 1917 Code of Canon Law.
Legal Holding 2.2: Any contempt of ecclesiastical authority denies the defense of grave fear or necessity making the Archbishop imputable under
the 1917 Code, at Canon 2229 sec. 3.
Legal Holding 2.3: Grave fear and necessity could remove imputability if the action of the Archbishop did not "animarum dammum vergat" (work to the ruination of souls) under the 1983 Code, at Canon 1323, 4th degree.
Legal Holding 2.4: That the Archbishop's demonstration of fear, either grave or slight, could mitigate and diminish his imputability according to Canon 1324, 4th degree (1983).
Legal Holding 2.5: That the Archbishop's demonstration that his belief, as to fear and necessity of action, was held in good faith, even if erroneously, is a basis for diminished imputability under Canon 1324, 4th degree and 5th degree.
Legal Holding 2.6: That the Archbishop's proof of mitigating factors, such as fear, grave hardship, necessity, as an impetus to the consecration, will result in diminished imputability as provided in Canon 1324 at 2nd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 10th, and 12th degrees.
Legal Holding 2.7: That the Archbishop's demonstration of any of Canon 1324's factors diminishing responsibility, will mitigate a latae sententiae penalty under Canon 1324 at 2nd, 4th, 5th, 8th, and 10th degrees.
Legal Issue #3: Whether the Archbishop's act of consecration, without papal mandate, can be excused on account of fear, or in the alternative, be a
means to diminish imputability.
Legal Holding 3.1: That under the Code of 1917, fear, whether grave or slight, will neither remove nor diminish the act of consecration by Arc Arcneither remohbishop Marcel Lefebvre was listed as a damaging to the salvation of souls at Canon 2205 and 2229.
Legal Holding 3.2: That under the Code of 1983 grave fear, and even relative fear, as manifested by his action and word, will remove
imputability for his actions, if they do no harm to souls as enunciated at Canon 1323, 4th degree.
Legal Holding 3.3: That under the Code of 1983, at Canon 1324, 5th, 8th, and 10th degrees, the latae sententiae excommunication if declared
valid, would be diminished or mitigated by the existence of fear.
Legal Issue #4: Whether necessity can excuse or mitigate the Archbishop's imputability for the unauthorized act of consecration.
Legal Holding 4.1: That under the Code of 1917, the Archbishop's action of consecration would not be justified by necessity since his action
was in contempt of Church authorities and listed as an offense causing damage to souls under Canons 2205 and 2229.
Legal Holding 4.2: That under the Code of 1983, the act of consecration would be justified by necessity given the state of the Church
and remove all imputability since his action did not "verge on harm to souls" under Canon 1323, 4th degree.
Legal Holding 4.3: That under the Code of 1983, the act of consecration would not result in full imputability since the agent believed
he was justified by the current state of the Church under Canon 1324, 4th, 5th, and 10th degrees.
Legal Issue #5: Whether the Archbishop's act of consecration, without papal mandate, is an act of formal schism.
Legal Holding 5.1: That under the Code of 1917 the acts of consecration were not self-evident proof of the Archbishop's refusal to
accept the authority of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff. Under Canon 1325.
Legal Holding 5.2: That an act of disobedience cannot be equated to schism under either the 1917 or 1983 Code.
Legal Holding 5.3: That under the Code of 1983, Canon 751 and 1364, the act of consecration should not be construed as an act of schism.
Legal Holding 5.4: That under the Code of 1983, the penalty for schism, being latae sententiae excommunication is invalid and has no effect
under Canons 751 and 1364.
Legal Issue #6: Whether those who follow, give "allegiance" to, or attend traditional Mass and Sacraments offered by any member of the Society of St. Pius X are by extension and implication automatically excommunicated and properly declared as schismatic?
Legal Holding 6.1: That, under the spirit of the 1983 Code, sanctions are to be used as a last resort, and in the case of Marcel Lefebvre, latae sententiae excommunication for schism was used to readily against him and even more so against his followers.
Legal Holding 6.2: Due to excuse, extenuating circumstances or other mitigating cause, no schism or schismatic act and its attached latae
sententiae excommunication would be imputable to the Archbishop and thus, by extension, to his followers.
Legal Holding 6.3: That followers of Marcel Lefebvre are neither accomplices nor conspirators in the act of consecration, and as a result
have no penalty imposed even assuming the Archbishop's penalties were legitimate."