Lefebvre was an archbishop in France who resisted many things about the post-Vatican II religion, recognizing them to be departures from traditional Catholicism. He recognized the New Mass to be Protestant and opposed to Tradition. He also opposed the heresies of "ecumenism" and religious liberty, which were taught at Vatican II. He began seminaries for the formation of priests who would be offering exclusively the traditional Mass, and he ordained them in the traditional rite of ordination. In order to do this, he had to remain independent of the Vatican II antipopes, even though he continued to take the position that they were legitimate popes who held the office of the Papacy. He was also independent of the working communion of the "bishops" who had gone along with the new religion. On June 30, 1988, Lefebvre decided (independently of the Vatican II antipopes) to consecrate four bishops in the traditional rite of Episcopal Consecration, so that these bishops could continue to ordain priests for the traditional rites. He was "excommunicated" by John Paul II within 72 hours, even though no prominent pro-abortion politician has yet been excommunicated by any of the Vatican II antipopes.
Archbishop Lefebvre made numerous statements which demonstrated that he was on the verge of the sedevacantist position back in the 1970's and 1980's. These quotations may be known by many members of the Society of St. Pius X.
Archbishop Lefebvre, Aug. 4, 1976: "The Council [Vatican II] turned its back on Tradition and broke with the Church of the past. It is a schismatic council… If we are certain that the Faith taught by the Church for twenty centuries can contain no error, we are much less certain that the pope is truly pope. Heresy, schism, excommunication ipso facto, or invalid election are all causes that can possibly mean the pope was never pope, or is no longer pope… Because ultimately, since the beginning of Paul VI's pontificate, the conscience and faith of all Catholics have been faced with a serious problem. How is it that the pope, the true successor of Peter, who is assured of the help of the Holy Ghost, can officiate at the destruction of the Church – the most radical, rapid, and widespread in her history – something that no heresiarch has ever managed to achieve?"
Archbishop Lefebvre, Sermon, Aug. 29, 1976: "The new rite of Mass is an illegitimate rite, the sacraments are illegitimate sacraments, the priests who come from the seminaries are illegitimate priests…"
Archbishop Lefebvre, Meeting with Paul VI, Sept. 11, 1976: "[The document of Vatican II on religious liberty] contains passages that are word for word contrary to what was taught by Gregory XVI, and Pius IX."
Archbishop Lefebvre, Sermon, Feb. 22, 1979: "Insofar as it is opposed to Tradition, we reject the Council [Vatican II]."
Archbishop Lefebvre, Sermon, Easter, 1986: "This is the situation in which we find ourselves. I have not created it. I would die to make it go away! We are faced with a serious dilemma which, I believe, has never existed in the Church: the one seated on the chair of Peter takes part in the worship of false gods. What conclusions will we have to draw, perhaps in a few months' time, faced with these repeated acts of taking part in the worship of false religions, I do not know. But I do wonder. It is possible that we might be forced to believe that the pope is not the pope. Because it seems to me initially – I do not yet want to say it solemnly and publicly – that it is impossible for a pope to be publicly and formally heretical."
Archbishop Lefebvre, Sermon, Aug. 27, 1986: "He who now sits upon the Throne of Peter mocks publicly the first article of the Creed and the first Commandment of the Decalogue [The Ten Commandments]. The scandal given to Catholics cannot be measured. The Church is shaken to its very foundations."
Archbishop Lefebvre, Sermon, Oct. 28, 1986: "John Paul II has encouraged false religions to pray to their false gods: it is an unprecedented and intolerable humiliation to those who remain Catholic…"
Archbishop Lefebvre, Meeting with "Cardinal" Ratzinger, July 14, 1987: "If there is a schism, it is because of what the Vatican did at Assisi… being excommunicated by a liberal, ecumenical, and revolutionary Church is a matter of indifference to us."
Archbishop Lefebvre, Meeting with "Cardinal" Ratzinger, July 14, 1987: "Rome has lost the Faith. Rome is in apostasy."
Archbishop Lefebvre, Aug. 29, 1987: "The See of Peter and the posts of authority in Rome being occupied by anti-Christs, the destruction of the Kingdom of our Lord is being rapidly carried out… This is what has brought down upon our heads persecution by the Rome of the anti-Christs."
Archbishop Lefebvre, Declaration given to the Press before 1988 Episcopal Consecrations: "The Church holds all communion with false religions and heresy… in horror... To safeguard the Catholic priesthood which perpetuates the Church and not an adulterous Church, there must be Catholic bishops."
Archbishop Lefebvre, Speaking of the leaders of the Vatican II sect: "We cannot work together with these enemies of our Lord's reign."
Archbishop Lefebvre, Speaking of the leaders of the Vatican II sect: "We cannot follow these people. They're in apostasy, they do not believe in the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ who must reign. What is the use in waiting? Let's do the consecration!"
We want to emphasize that the SSPX and Lefebvre has done many good things; it has been an avenue by which many have been introduced, and come back, to the traditional Catholic Faith. However, in various areas the SSPX's positions are unfortunately heretical and contrary to the Catholic Faith. First, the SSPX as well as their founder holds and teaches that souls can be saved in non-Catholic religions, which is heretical.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Against the Heresies, p. 216: "Evidently, certain distinctions must be made. Souls can be saved in a religion other than the Catholic religion (Protestantism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.), but not by this religion. There may be souls who, not knowing Our Lord, have by the grace of the good Lord, good interior dispositions, who submit to God... But some of these persons make an act of love which implicitly is equivalent to baptism of desire. It is uniquely by this means that they are able to be saved."
Notice the "etc." The word "etc." means "and the rest, and so on"! Bishop Lefebvre is saying that there are many other religions in which people can be saved. This is heresy. Bishop Lefebvre believed that men can be saved while worshipping false gods and many gods (Buddhism, Hinduism).
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Against the Heresies, p. 217: "One cannot say, then, that no one is saved in these religions…"
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Against the Heresies, Pages 217-218: "This is then what Pius IX said and what he condemned. It is necessary to understand the formulation that was so often employed by the Fathers of the Church: 'Outside the Church there is no salvation.' When we say that, it is incorrectly believed that we think that all the Protestants, all the Moslems, all the Buddhists, all those who do not publicly belong to the Catholic Church go to hell. Now, I repeat, it is possible for someone to be saved in these religions, but they are saved by the Church, and so the formulation is true: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. This must be preached."
What we see here from the founder of the Society of St. Pius X is blatant heresy. He directly contradicts the solemnly defined dogma that Outside the Catholic Church There is No Salvation. Some adherents of the Society of St. Pius X have tried to defend these heretical words of Archbishop Lefebvre by pointing out that, although he did say that men can be saved in other religions, he emphasized that it is by the Catholic Church.
This response is a pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible. In fact, those who attempt to defend Lefebvre in this way actually mock God. I could say that all men go to heaven (universal salvation), but all men go to heaven "by the Catholic Church." Does this change the heresy? No, of course not. Thus, it doesn't matter how Lefebvre tried to explain away or justify his heresy; he was still teaching that souls can be saved in non-Catholic religions, which is heresy!
The dogma of the Catholic Church does not merely affirm that "no one is saved except by the Catholic Church"; it states that no one is saved outside the Catholic Church and that no one is saved without the Catholic Faith. This means that no one can be saved inside non-Catholic religions. The defenders of the SSPX need to get that through their heads. The dogma of the Catholic Church excludes the idea that anyone is saved in another religion.
But this simply illustrates that all those who believe that salvation is possible for members of non-Christian religions without the principal mysteries of the Catholic Faith (the Trinity and Incarnation) are admitting that a soul can be saved in any religion whatsoever: Islam, Buddhism, etc. It shows how those who reject the true meaning of Outside the Church There is No Salvation and the necessity of faith in Christ and the Trinity reject all faith and actually have no faith.
Pope Gregory XVI, Summo Iugiter Studio (# 2), May 27, 1832: "Finally some of these misguided people attempt to persuade themselves and others that men are not saved only in the Catholic religion, but that even heretics may attain eternal life."
Since he was teaching that people can be saved in another religion, Lefebvre's emphasis that everyone is saved by the Catholic Church has no relevance. The words of Pope Gregory XVI in Summo Iugiter Studio cited above could have been addressed specifically to Bishop Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X.
Bishop Lefebvre, Sermon at first Mass of a newly ordained priest (Geneva: 1976): "We are Catholics; we affirm our faith in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ; we affirm our faith in the divinity of the Holy Catholic Church; we think that Jesus Christ is the sole way, the sole truth, the sole life, and that one cannot be saved outside Our Lord Jesus Christ and consequently outside His Mystical Spouse, the Holy Catholic Church. No doubt, the graces of God are distributed outside the Catholic Church, but those who are saved, even outside the Catholic Church, are saved by the Catholic Church, by Our Lord Jesus Christ, even if they do not know it, even if they are unaware of it..."
Here Lefebvre denies the dogma word for word.
Bishop Lefebvre, Address given at Rennes, France: "If men are saved in Protestantism, Buddhism or Islam, they are saved by the Catholic Church, by the grace of Our Lord, by the prayers of those in the Church, by the blood of Our Lord as individuals, perhaps through the practice of their religion, perhaps of what they understand in their religion, but not by their religion…"
Notice again, in fact, how Bishop Lefebvre stated that men can be saved by the practice of false religions.
Pope Pius IX, Qui Pluribus (# 15), Nov. 9, 1846: "Also perverse is that shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial."
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Open Letter to Confused Catholics, Pages 73-74: "Does this mean that no Protestant, no Muslim, no Buddhist or animist will be saved? No, it would be a second error to think that. Those who cry for intolerance in interpreting St. Cyprian's formula Outside the Church there is no salvation, also reject the Creed, "I accept one baptism for the remission of sins," and are insufficiently instructed as to what baptism is. There are three ways of receiving it: the baptism of water; the baptism of blood (that of martyrs who confessed their faith while still catechumens); and baptism of desire. Baptism can be explicit. Many times in Africa I heard one of our catechumens say to me, "Father, baptize me straightaway because if I die before you come again, I shall go to hell." I told him, "No, if you have no mortal sin on your conscience and if you desire baptism, then you already have the grace in you..."