Archbishop Lefebvre: Open Letter to Confused Catholics
Chapter 19. The Seminary of Ecône and Rome

You are perhaps, perplexed readers, among those who observe the course of events with sadness and anguish but are nevertheless afraid to attend a true Mass, in spite of the desire to do so, because they have been persuaded that this Mass is forbidden. You may be one of those who no longer follow the priests in anoraks but who view with some distrust the priests in cassocks as if they were under some kind of censure; is not the bishop who ordained them suspended a divinis? You are afraid of putting yourself out of the Church; this fear is of praiseworthy origin but it is uninformed. I want to tell you what the position is about these sanctions which have been given such prominence and caused such loud rejoicing among the Freemasons and the Marxists. To understand it properly a little history is needed.

When I was sent to Gabon as a missionary, my bishop immediately appointed me as Professor at the Seminary of Libreville, where for six years I formed seminarians, of whom some later received the grace of the episcopate. When I became a bishop in my turn, at Dakar, it seemed to me that my principal concern should be to look for vocations, to form the young men who responded to the call of God and to lead them to the priesthood. I had the joy of conferring the priesthood on one destined to be my successor at Dakar, Mgr. Thiandoum, and on Mgr. Dionne, the present Archbishop of Thiès in Senegal.

Returning to Europe to take up the position of Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, I tried to maintain the essential values of priestly formation. I have to admit that already by then at the beginning of the Sixties, the pressure was such and the difficulties so considerable that I could not achieve the results I wanted. I could not keep the French Seminary in Rome, which was placed under the authority of our Congregation, on the same right lines as when we were there ourselves between 1920 and 1930. I resigned in 1968 in order not to endorse the reform undertaken by the General Chapter in a direction contrary to Catholic tradition. Already before that date I was getting numerous calls from families and from priests asking me where to send young men desiring to enter the priesthood. I admit that I was very hesitant. Freed from my responsibilities, and at a time when I was thinking of retirement, my mind turned to the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, still orientated toward Thomist doctrine. The Bishop, Mgr. Charrière, received me with open arms. I rented a house and we received nine seminarians who followed the University course and the rest of the time led the life of a real seminary. They very soon showed the desire to work together in the future and, after thinking it over, I went to ask Mgr. Charrière if he would agree to sign a decree for the foundation of a “Fraternity.” He approved its statutes and thus was born on November 1, 1970 the “Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.” We were canonically instituted in the Diocese of Fribourg.

These details are important as you will see. A bishop has the right, canonically, to establish in his diocese associations which Rome recognizes ipso facto. It follows from this that if a succeeding bishop wishes to suppress an association or fraternity, he cannot do so without recourse to Rome. The authority of Rome protects what the first bishop has created so that associations are not subjected to an insecurity harmful to their development. This is how it is willed by the Law of the Church.16

The Priestly Society of St. Pius X is consequently recognized by Rome in a perfectly legal manner, although this is by diocesan and not by pontifical decree, the latter not being absolutely necessary. There exist hundreds of religious congregations founded on diocesan decrees which have houses throughout the world.

When the Church recognizes a foundation or diocesan association, she accepts that it will train its own members; if it is a religious congregation she accepts that there will be a noviciate or house of formation. For us, this means our seminaries. On February 18, 1971, Cardinal Wright, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, sent me a letter of encouragement in which he expressed confidence that the Fraternity “would be well able to fit in with the objective sought by the Council in this holy Dicastery with a view to supplying clergy for the world.” However, in November 1972 at the Plenary Assembly of the French bishops at Lourdes, it was called a “rebel seminary”17 without protest from any bishops present, although they must certainly have known the juridical situation of the Ecône seminary.

Why did they consider us rebels? Because we did not give the key of the house to seminarians to go out in the evenings when they felt like it, because we did not let them watch television from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., because they did not wear polo-necks and went to Mass every morning instead of staying in bed until the first lecture.

On the other hand Cardinal Garrone,18 whom I met at that time, said to me:
Quote:“You are not directly answerable to me and I have only one thing to say to you; follow the ratio fundamentalis that I have laid down for the foundation of seminaries, which all seminaries must follow.”

The ratio fundamentalis provides that Latin should still be taught in a seminary and that the studies should be pursued according to the doctrine of St. Thomas. I allowed myself to reply: “Your Eminence, I believe we are one of the few who do follow it.” This is even more true today and the ratio fundamentalis is still in force. So what are they reproaching us with?

When it became necessary to open a real seminary and I had rented the house at Ecône, a former rest house of the Great St. Bernard monks, I went to see Mgr. Adam, Bishop of Sion, who gave me his consent. This establishment was not the result of a long thought-out plan that I had made, it thrust itself upon me providentially. I had said:
Quote:“If the work expands world-wide, that will be the sign that God is with it.”

From year to year the number of seminarians increased; in 1970 there were eleven entrants and in 1974, forty. The innovators became increasingly worried. It was obvious that if we were training seminarians it was to ordain them, and that the future priests would be faithful to the Mass of the Church, the Mass of Tradition, the Mass of all time. There is no need to look any further for reasons for the attacks on us; one would not find any others. Ecône appeared as a danger for the Neo-modernist church and it was important to guard against it before it was too late.

So it was on November 11, 1974 there arrived at the seminary with the first snows two Apostolic Visitors sent by a commission appointed by Paul VI and consisting of three Cardinals, Garrone, Wright and Tabera, this last being Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Religious. They (the Apostolic Visitors) questioned ten professors and twenty of the 104 students present, as well as myself, and departed two days later leaving a disagreeable impression behind them. They had made some scandalous remarks to the seminarians, considering the ordination of married men to be normal, declaring that they did not acknowledge an immutable Truth and expressed doubts about the traditional conception of Our Lord’s Resurrection. Of the seminary they said nothing and they left no formal statement. After which, angry at the remarks they had made, I published a declaration which began with these phrases:
Quote:“We adhere with all our heart and all our soul to Catholic Rome, guardian of the Catholic Faith and the traditions necessary to maintain it, and to Eternal Rome, mistress of wisdom and truth. On the other hand we refuse and have always refused to follow the Rome of the neo-Modernist and the new Protestant trend which was clearly evident in the Second Vatican Council and, after the Council in all the reforms which flowed from it.”

The words were no doubt rather sharp but they expressed and still express my thinking. It was on account of this text that the Commission of Cardinals decided to bring about our downfall, because they could not do so on account of the way the seminary was run. The Cardinals were to tell me two months later that the Apostolic Visitors had gained a good impression from their inquiry.

On the following February 13, I was invited (by the Commission) to a “discussion” in Rome to clarify certain points and I went there without suspecting that it was a trap. The discussion turned itself from the start into a close cross-examination of a judicial type. It was followed by a second on the 3rd March and two months later the Commission informed me, “with the complete approval of His Holiness,” of the decisions it had taken: Mgr. Mamie, the new Bishop of Fribourg, was acknowledged to have the right to withdraw the approval given to the Fraternity by his predecessor. Thereby the Fraternity and also the foundations, notably the Seminary of Ecône, lost the “right to exist.”

Without waiting for notification of these decisions, Mgr. Mamie wrote to me:
Quote:“I hereby inform you that I withdraw the acts and concessions effected by my predecessor with regard to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Plus X, in particular the decree of foundation dated November 1, 1970. This decision takes effect immediately.”

If you have followed me closely, you will be able to see that this suppression was made by the Bishop of Fribourg and not by the Holy See. By virtue of Canon 493, it is therefore completely void in law for lack of competence. Added to that there is a lack of sufficient cause. The decision can only be based on my declaration of November 21, 1974, judged by the Commission to be “unacceptable on all points,” because of the Commission’s own admission the results of the Apostolic Visitation were favorable. Yet my declaration has never been the subject of a condemnation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the former Holy Office) which alone is competent to judge whether it is opposed to the Catholic Faith. It has only been deemed “unacceptable on all points” by three cardinals in the course of what remains officially a discussion.

The juridical existence of the Commission itself has never been proved. By what pontifical act was it instituted? On what date? What form did it take? Who was notified of it? The fact that the Roman authorities refuse to produce any such act permits us to doubt its existence. If there is doubt about its validity a law is not binding, says the Code of Canon Law. Even less so when there is doubt about the competence or even the existence of the authority. The words “with the complete approval of His Holiness” are not legally sufficient; they cannot take the place of the decree which should have constituted the Commission of Cardinals and defined its powers.

There are procedural irregularities which render the suppression of the Fraternity a nullity. Nor must we forget that the Church is not a totalitarian society of the Nazi or Marxist type, and that the law even when it is properly observed--which was not the case in this instance is not an absolute. It has to be related to faith, truth and life. Canon Law is designed to make us live spiritually and thus to lead us to Eternal Life. If this law is used to prevent us from attaining it, or as it were to abort our spiritual life, we are obliged to disobey exactly in the same way that citizens are obliged to disobey the abortion laws of the State.

To return to the juridical aspect, I entered two successive appeals before the Apostolic Signatura, which is more or less the equivalent of a court of appeal in civil law. The Cardinal Secretary of State, Mgr. Villot, forbade this supreme tribunal of the Church to entertain them, which amounts to an interference by the executive in the judiciary.

16 Canon 493.

17 In French, “Séminaire sauvage”--ed.

18 Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

Messages In This Thread
RE: Archbishop Lefebvre: Open Letter to Confused Catholics - by Stone - 12-03-2020, 09:42 PM

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)