Whether or not one agrees with Abp. Lefebvre’s course of action – there is room, in my view, for a legitimate difference of opinion here – it cannot be denied that he was faced with an almost impossible dilemma. Those who argue against the 1988 consecrations and the continuing resistance of the SSPX, if they want to be credible, need to demonstrate an informed understanding of the scope and magnitude of the crisis. A good start might be Abp. Lefebvre’s “Open Letter to Confused Catholics” (the entire book can be read online here), published in 1985:
When I was a child the Church everywhere had the same faith, the same sacraments and the same Sacrifice of the Mass. If anyone had told me then that it would be changed, I would not have believed him. Throughout the breadth of Christendom we prayed to God in the same way. The new liberal and modernist religion has sown division.
Christians are divided within the same family because of this confusion which has established itself; they no longer go to the same Mass and they no longer read the same books. Priests no longer know what to do; either they obey blindly what their superiors impose on them, and lose to some degree the faith of their childhood and youth, renouncing the promises they made when they took the Anti-Modernist Oath at the moment of their ordination; or on the other
hand they resist, but with the feeling of separating themselves from the Pope, who is our father and the Vicar of Christ. In both cases, what a heartbreak! Many priests have died of sorrow before their time.
What a heartbreak, indeed. We face the same difficulties today. Something important has to “give” no matter the choice we make. It might seem that the archbishop sacrificed the principle of obedience to the Holy Father in order to preserve orthodox doctrine and liturgy. But did he really sacrifice obedience? Is the Holy Father truly served by obedience that so radically undermines the Catholic Faith? The “obedience” required of everyone at the time looked more like wild rebellion and infidelity. In most places it still does. It has been said that cloaking rebellion under the disguise of “obedience” was the devil’s masterstroke. Would-be critics of the archbishop and his actions first need to struggle with this reality before passing judgment.