Another week of blogging failure, thick with work and short on free thinking time. There is more to come. Tomorrow I head up to Durham for a conference where I will give a paper the preparation of which has filled up this last week. Hey ho.
But I could not let the 25 March pass by without calling to your attention the twentieth anniversary of the death of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Here we must tread lightly for we tread upon graves. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.
I wonder now what his reputation is within the wider Church. One hears him mentioned so little in point of fact. The SSPX seems much more readily associated these days with his successors and their accompanying baggage. Perhaps it is only a trick of the light.
In some ways of course they are faithful to his fight, a fight which his occasionally intemperate and inaccurate theological language has unintentionally skewed. In other ways, I wonder whether Archbishop Lefebvre, as an old diplomatic operator, would have known more readily when to cut his losses and sign an accord with Rome. There is such a thing as the habit of union; it is not just a mark of the Church.
In other words, just as we can ask whether, if he were alive, Saint Thomas would be a Thomist, we can also ask whether, if he were alive, Archbishop Lefebvre would be a Lefebvrist. Still, thereby we are questioning the hegemony of his succession and are likely to be chased off the territory with a broomstick!
One thing is certain: whatever his faults, I don't think he would have ever discouraged anyone from becoming a Roman Catholic. I'm not about to push Archbishop Mennini into the dock. It's not as if he has hijacked the Apostolic Succession after all. But if his idea of preventing the Orthodox from thinking he is an ecclesial gerrymanderer consists in discouraging young men from reconciling themselves with the Bishop of Rome, then I think - to use an now defunct canonical category - that it's simply a bloody disgrace. I pray we have misunderstood him.
There are many kind of sins, and we are all guilty of them, even Archbishops Lefebvre and Mennini. Archbishop Lefebvre's, however, were sins of enthusiasm and commitment (like those of the Sons of Thunder); not sins of timidity and ingratiation (like the those of the Rock). They both, on this anniversary, deserve our prayers.