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Lifting the excommunications of June 1988

January 24, 2009

I have just seen the news stories about the lifting of the excommunications imposed on the four surviving bishops illicitly ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

Based on what is public so far (in what are obviously only quick translations), it seems that Pope Benedict sees something like the “withdrawal from contumacy” required by 1983 CIC 1358 for the lifting of censures (Light of the Law, 3 feb. 2006). That would be cause for rejoicing, to be sure, healing another wound on the mystical Body of Christ. Having said that, however, I confess that I’m having a hard time seeing in Bp. Bernard Fellay’s January 24th letter to the faithful, at least, any withdrawal from contumacy for the actual canonical crimes he and the others committed (receiving episcopal orders without pontifical mandate, 1983 CIC 1382), or for that matter, much of a retreat from anything else he has said for the last 20+ years.

A fuller explanation of the reasons for withdrawing the excommunications is apparently coming in L’Osservatore Romano so, until we all get a chance to read those remarks, it’s probably better to refrain from further comment.

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