Neo-Catholics are often obsessed with the SSPX (If you need a definition of “neo-Catholic” you can do no better than follow this LINK). A certain Mr Robert William’s personal obsession with the SSPX has assumed the nature of the sort of vendetta against them that was condemned so forcefully by Benedict XVI in his letter of the 7 July 2007 (which accompanied his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum), but nevertheless the Catholic Herald regularly publish his letters on the subject.
Mr Williams never misses an opportunity to work the word “excommunicated” into any sentence containing Archbishop Lefebvre’s name. However, when Benedict XVI lifted the censure of the four SSPX bishops on 21st Jan. 2009, his document giving it juridical force, finished by pronouncing the censure of excommunication promulgated on 1st July, 1988 to be “void of juridical effects …” Perhaps one of our many amateur canon lawyers can explain how one can be excommunicated by a decree that has been declared “void of juridical effects” by the highest authority in the Church?
Neo-Catholics naturally object to the similarity between Archbishop Lefebvre and St Athanasius being pointed out. To counter this rather obvious comparison, Mr Williams asserts that the Church and the papacy “remained resolute” throughout the Arian crisis. He further claims that this novel view is proved by some unnamed “19th century disputants.”
St Jerome writing at the time of the Arian crisis (admittedly without the benefit of unnamed "19th century disputants" to draw upon) famously lamented, "The whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian". One of the popes at the time, Liberius, whose instincts were undoubtedly orthodox, was plucky at first, but torn from his see and banished to Thrace, signed a Semi-Arian creed and, under pressure from the Arians, renounced the champion of the orthodox party, St Athanasius. If that is an example of “remaining resolute”, it is somewhat difficult to imagine what Mr Williams would regard as “irresolute.”
Can anyone explain why St Paul is a saint when, in his own words, “… when Cephas [i.e. the Pope] was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed,” (Galatians 2:11), whilst Archbishop Lefebvre is a villain for doing the same (and with much greater cause) vis-à-vis Cephas’s successor? I have no doubt that Robert William with his forte for legalistic hair-splitting will be able to explain away these episcopal double standards - leastways to his own satisfaction and that of his fellow neo-Catholics.