A ‘traditionalist periodical’ Chiesa Viva had launched this topic in 1976.
Another 'source' is a propagator of the so-called hidden pope "Gregory XVII" who had ‘restarted’ this topic in around 2005 or 2006. That man launched this provocative issue through his websites in order to take revenge on the priests ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, because they refused to accept his absurd thesis about the 'hidden pope'. A few people joined him later, and their group is now known as the ‘new Siri theorists’.
It is commonly known fact that on January 23, 1962 Cardinal Achille Liénart was awarded the French order of the Legion of Honor (La Légion d'honneur) by the President Charles de Gaulle.
The Legion of Honor is the highest French order of merit for military and civilians, established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and later retained by all French governments and régimes.
One legend states that Napoleon himself had been a Mason, but comments he made on the Island of Saint Helena seem clear proof of the opposite:
“[Freemasonry is] a pile of imbeciles who assemble for good cheer and for the execution of many ridiculous follies. Nevertheless, they carried out good actions from time to time.” (Wikipedia)
A minimum of 20 years of activity is required to enter into the Order of the Legion of Honour. Some exceptional achievements can warrant an exception to the rule of 20 years of service. Foreigners can be awarded this honour, but, unlike French nationals, they are not members of the Legion of Honour.
During World War I (1914-1918) Fr. Achille Liénart served as a chaplain to the French Army.
It goes without saying that neither his ministry as a chaplain in the French Army during World War I, nor the national award given him in 1962 did invalidate his Priesthood and Episcopacy in any way.
The new Siri theorists are spreading the idea (via a group of websites*), that Cardinal Achille Liénart ‘was a Freemason’. They are trying to justify this by the ’double evidence' of: a) ‘Testimony’ by a mysterious confessor of the Cardinal and b) A List of Masons in the Vatican/Italian “Church” on which after ‘some updates’, the name of Cardinal Achille Liénart had appeared:
“Fr. Achille Liénart, confessed in the last moments on his deathbed (in early 1973), that he was a Freemason and instructed his confessor to reveal to the world his deathbed confession, that as a Freemason, he participated in Freemasonry’s plot for the destruction of the Catholic Church.”
"The following is a list of Masons reprinted with some updates from the Bulletin de l'Occident Chrétien Nr.12, July, 1976, (Directeur Pierre Fautrad a Fye - 72490 Bourg Le Roi.) All of the men on this list, if they in fact be Masons, are excommunicated by Canon Law 2338. Each man's name is followed by his position, if known; the date he was initiated into Masonry, his code #; and his code name, if known:
58. Levi, Virgillio (alias Levine), Monsignor. Assistant Director of Official Vatican Newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. Manages Vatican Radio Station. 7-4-58; # 241-3. "VILE."
59. Lozza, Lino. Chancellor of Rome Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas of Catholic Religion. 7-23-69; # 12-768. "LOLI."
60. Lienart, Achille. Cardinal. Grand Master top Mason. Bishop of Lille, France. Recruits Masons. Was leader of progressive forces at Vatican II Council."
This ‘evidence’ cannot be used to prove that Cardinal Achille Liénart was definitely a Freemason, because these statements are of non-Catholic origin, and there is no guarantee that they are truthful.
The only things widely known about Cardinal Liénart are that he was a modernist and one of the key figures at Vatican 2. He promoted liberalism, modernism and other heresies and fought against the conservatives at the 'Council'. By these facts he incurred the penalty of ipso facto excommunication. However, that fact did not affect the validity of his Holy Orders or the validity of priests and bishops, ordained and consecrated by him.
Externally Cardinal Liénart used valid Matter and Form. Neither, do we have any proof that he did not intend to do what the Church does.
There are many articles about the validity of the Holy Orders of Cardinal Liénart. One of them is a very informative article "Cracks in the Masonry" by Rama Coomaraswamy, from which I quote a brief excerpt:
"Another source cited is Archbishop Lefebvre himself. In a talk given in Montreal, Canada on May 27, 1976, he stated: “Two months ago in Rome, the traditionalist periodical Chiesa Viva, published - I have seen it in Rome with my own eyes - on the back side of the cover, the photograph of Cardinal Liénart with all his Masonic paraphernalia, the day of the date of his in¬scription in Masonry..., then the date at which he rose to the 20th, then to the 30th degree of Masonry, attached to this lodge, to that lodge, at this place, at that place. Mean¬while, about two or three months after this publication was made, I heard nothing about any reaction, or any contradiction. Now, un¬fortunately, I must say to you that this Cardinal Liénart is my bishop, it is he who or¬dained me a priest, it is he who consecrated me a bishop. I cannot help it... Fortunately, the orders are valid... But, in spite of it, it was very painful for me to be informed of it.”
The issue of Chiesa Viva was No. 51, March, 1976. In it there is an article entitled "Il Cardinale Achille Liénart era Massone."
However, the Archbishop's memory was faulty, for the photograph involved was a picture of Cardinal Liénart in ordinary ecclesiastical attire, and below this a drawing which shows a monumental entrance door to a building around which Freemasonic sym¬bols are grouped. This second picture carried the designation: "Entrance door to a Freemasonic temple.""
Based on these excerpts, I will not write much about the validity of the Holy Orders of Cardinal Liénart and Archbishop Lefebvre, because this topic has already been thoroughly explained by many learned Traditional Catholic priests.
For example, the article “Sacramental Intention and Masonic Bishops” by Rev. Anthony Cekada (this treats of the general theological principles to be applied):
1. General Presumption of Validity. Sacraments conferred by a Catholic minister, including Holy Orders, must be presumed valid until invalidity is proved. This is:
“the queen of presumptions, which holds the act or contract as valid, until invalidity is proved.” (F. Wanenmacher, Canonical Evidence in Marriage Cases, [Philadelphia: Dolphin 1935], 408.)
“When the fact of ordination is duly established, the validity of the orders conferred is naturally to be presumed.” (W. Doheny, Canonical Procedure in Matrimonial Cases [Milwaukee: Bruce 1942] 2:72.)
2. Intention and Holy Orders. When a bishop confers Holy Orders using correct matter and form, he must be presumed to have had a sacramental intention sufficient to confect the sacrament — that is, at least “to have intended to do what the Church does.”
This is the teaching of Pope Leo XIII in his pronouncement on Anglican orders:
“Now, if a person has seriously and duly used the proper matter and form for performing or administering a sacrament, he is by that very fact presumed to have intended to do what the Church does.” (Bull Apostolicae Curae, 13 September 1896.)
The theologian Leeming says this passage recapitulates the teachings of previous theologians who
“all agreed that the outward decorous performance of the rites sets up a presumption that the right intention exists.… The minister of a sacrament is presumed to intend what the rite means… This principle is affirmed as certain theological doctrine, taught by the Church, to deny which would be at least theologically rash.” (B. Leeming, Principles of Sacramental Theology [Westminster MD: Newman 1956], 476, 482.)
3. Heresy or Apostasy and Intention. Heresy, or even total apostasy from the faith on the part of the ordaining bishop, does not harm this sufficient intention, because intention is an act of the will.
“Error in faith, or even total disbelief, does not harm this intention; for concepts of the intellect have nothing in common with an act of the will.” (S. Many, Praelectiones de Sacra Ordinatione [Paris: Letouzey 1905], 586.)
4. When Intention Invalidates. An ordination otherwise correctly performed becomes invalid only if the bishop makes an act of the will not “to do what the Church does” or not “to ordain this person.”
“An ordination is invalid if the minister… as he confers it on someone, makes an act of the will not to ordain that person, because by that very fact he does not have at least the intention of doing what the Church does — indeed, he has a contrary intention.” (P. Gasparri, Tractatus de Sacra Ordinatione [Paris: Delhomme 1893], 1:970.)
5. Invalid Intention Never Presumed. A bishop who confers Holy Orders, however, is never presumed to have such an intention not to ordain, until the contrary is proved.
“In performing an ordination the minister is never presumed to have such an intention of not ordaining, as long as the contrary would not be proved. For no one is presumed evil unless he is proven as such, and an act — especially one as solemn as an ordination — must be regarded as valid, as long as invalidity would not be clearly demonstrated.” (Gasparri, 1:970.)
Nevertheless, I would like to look into the question: "Was Cardinal Liénart a Freemason or not?"
I will base this brief study upon the Law of the New Testament, the principles of Canon Law, Catholic Moral Theology, right reason and logical thinking. Only in the light of these principles must every action be weighed subjectively and objectively.
Careful study of this question reveals that the object of the new Siri theorists’ attack is not only Cardinal Achille Liénart, but also Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was ordained in 1929, and then consecrated by Cardinal Liénart in 1947:
“Lefebvre had never been validly ordained in 1929 by Liénart because Liénart was a Freemason prior to his 1928 episcopal elevation, and therefore Liénart was never a valid bishop.” – The new Siri theorists state.
It is also important to note that the other objects of attack and slander by the new Siri theorists are the priests and the bishops ordained and consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre.
According to the catholic-hierarchy.org website Cardinal Achille Liénart consecrated the following bishops:
Archbishop Henri-Édouard Dutoit † (1931)
Bishop Louis Liagre † (1938)
Archbishop Armand-Etienne M. Blanquet du Chayla, O.C.D. † (1939)
Bishop Edmond Vansteenberghe † (1939)
Bishop Henri-Marie-Joseph Pinson † (1943)
Bishop Pietro Dib † (1946)
Bishop Pierre Marie Alphonse Bonneau, C.S.Sp. † (1947)
Bishop Albert-Paul Droulers † (1947)
Archbishop Marcel-François Lefebvre, C.S.Sp. † (1947)
Bishop Henri-Charles Dupont † (1951)
Bishop Émile Élie Verhille, C.S.Sp. † (1951)
Alexandre-Charles-Albert-Joseph Cardinal Renard † (1953)
Bishop Jean-Marie-Gaëtan Ogez, M. Afr. † (1957)
Bishop Gérard-Maurice-Eugène Huyghe † (1962)
Bishop Jean-Baptiste-Étienne Sauvage † (1962)
Bishop Adrien-Edmond-Maurice Gand † (1964)
Also he was the Principal Co-Consecrator of:
Bishop Gustave-Joseph Deswazières, M.E.P. † (1929)
Bishop Jules-Louis-Paul Harlé † (1970)
The total number of the bishops consecrated by Cardinal A. Liénart is eighteen, but only Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is the object of the new Siri theorists’ aggressive attack.
They are not even interested in the last person on the list who perhaps was installed in the new rite. Their ‘target’ is Abp. Marcel Lefebvre and everything and everyone connected to him.
Do they really have a reason to state that Cardinal A. Liénart was a Freemason?
No, they have not one reason, and my argumentation is the following:
- Since the new Siri theorists are maintaining a high level of trust in Masonic sources, it’s looking like they themselves belong to one of the Masonic groups.
- A ‘testimony’ by Cardinal Liénart’s confessor should be rejected:
a) because we don’t know who the confessor was,
b) even if the confessor was known, he could not be trusted as a person whose ‘testimony’ can be proven by no one, because The New Testament forbids to receive an accusation against a priest by one witness “Against a priest receive not an accusation, but under two or three witnesses.” (1 EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO TIMOTHY 5:19).
- According to Moral Theology, the ‘testimony’ of such confessor would be a direct violation of the Seal of Confession.
- After his death Cardinal Liénart was not in a position to confirm or deny that he really instructed his confessor to reveal to the world his deathbed confession.
- We are not obliged to believe in that ‘deathbed confession’, because we are not sure if such confession took place at all.
- Cardinal Liénart did not make public statements about his unconfirmed membership in a Masonic lodge; therefore, we have no right to state the opposite.
- According to the new Siri theorists, “A List of Masons in the Vatican/Italian ‘Church’” is of Masonic origin; therefore, we are not obliged to believe in the ‘testimony’ by a source hostile to the Catholic Church.
- Cardinal Achille Liénart’s ‘code #’ or ‘code name’ are absent in “A List of Masons in the Vatican/Italian ‘Church’”; therefore, we have a right to treat the absence of a ‘code #’ and ‘code name’ as an evidence that Cardinal Liénart did not belong to a Masonic lodge.
- The Masons knew that Cardinal Achille Liénart was a ‘member’ of their lodge, but they did not know his ‘code #’ or ‘code name’ – that seems to be very odd.
- The date of Cardinal Liénart’s ‘initiation’ into Masonry is absent in the ‘List’, and that seems to be very odd as well.
- On October 6, 1928 Fr. Achille Liénart was appointed Bishop of Lille by Pope Pius XI.
- Fr. Liénart received his Episcopal Consecration on the December 8, 1929 from Bishop Charles-Albert-Joseph Lecomte of Amiens, with Bishops Palmyre Jasoone and Maurice Feltin serving as Co-Consecrators.
- Bishop Achille Liénart was created Cardinal Priest of the Basilica of San Sisto Vecchio by Pius XI in the consistory of June 30, 1930.
- Cardinal Achille Liénart participated in the 1939 Papal Conclave at which Pope Pius XII was elected.
- It is commonly known by obvious historical facts that two Popes, Pius XI and Pius XII recognized Cardinal Achille Liénart to be a valid Catholic Bishop in good standing in their times. All Holy Orders conferred by Cardinal Liénart were approved by both of these Popes. They said nothing about his ‘membership’ in a Masonic lodge, nor did they excommunicate him. Both Popes acted in full accordance with Canon Law; therefore, we have no other choice but to obey the Papal canonical decisions regarding Cardinal Achille Liénart.
- In the ‘consistory’ of May 24, 1976, ‘Paul VI’ criticized Lefebvre by name and appealed to him and his followers to change their minds.
- On June 29, 1976, Archbishop Lefebvre went ahead with planned priestly ordinations without the approval of the local bishop and despite receiving letters from Rome forbidding them.
- Information about ‘membership’ of Cardinal Achille Liénart in the Freemasonry had been released in the Masonic Bulletin in July, 1976, immediately after Archbishop Lefebvre had ordained priests in the Latin Rite despite prohibitive letters from the Vatican II ‘church’ authorities.
- It seems to be very suspicious that the ‘traditionalist periodical’ Chiesa Viva had launched that theme even earlier than the Freemasons. If they themselves were not Freemasons or, at least, were not in touch with Freemasons, how did they know that?
All these points based on firm theological and logical arguments, should be considered seriously in favor of the version according to which Cardinal Achille Liénart could not be a Freemason.
These arguments also lead to the logical conclusion that the ‘evidence’ by the new Siri theorists is a baseless accusation used by them, in order to try to challenge the validity of the Episcopacies of Cardinal Achille Liénart and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
Although Cardinal Liénart and Archbishop Lefebvre participated in the ‘Vatican 2 Council’, each in his own manner, that is nevertheless a completely different story, which by no means invalidated their valid Holy Orders.
There are two options. The idea of an imaginary membership of Cardinal Achille Liénart in a Masonic lodge 1. Could be accepted; 2. Should be ignored.
- Could be accepted: by ignorant people, who prefer to blindly believe in ‘evidence’ proposed by non-Catholics hostile to the Catholic Church.
- Should be ignored: by Catholics, because this idea rests on gossip and baseless accusations proposed by the non-Catholics whose goals are:
a) to make it more difficult for Traditional Catholics to access valid Sacraments,
b) to cause disgust toward the Catholic Faith in sincere souls.
P.S. An excerpt from the article “Sacramental Intention and Masonic Bishops” by Rev. Anthony Cekada had been added on July 28, 2019.
* A group of websites designed by a non-Catholic intended for readers suffering from a superficial knowledge of the Catholic Faith, or from a lack of logical Catholic thinking.