Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican by Fr. François Laisney [1988]
July 2, 1988

Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II Ecclesia Dei

With great affliction the Church has learned of the unlawful episcopal ordination conferred on June 30 last by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which has frustrated all the efforts made during the previous years to ensure the full communion with the Church of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X founded by the same Archbishop Lefebvre. These efforts, especially intense during recent months, in which the Apostolic See has shown comprehension to the limits of the possible, were all to no avail.79

This affliction was particularly felt by the Successor of Peter to whom in the first place pertains the guardianship of the unity of the Church, even though the number of persons directly involved in these events might be few, since every person is loved by God on his own account and has been redeemed by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross for the salvation of all.

The particular circumstances, both objective and subjective in which Archbishop Lefebvre acted, provide everyone with an occasion for profound reflection and for a renewed pledge of fidelity to Christ and to His Church.

In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience—which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy—constitutes a schismatic act. In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on June 17 last, Archbishop Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.

The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into the account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, “comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charisma of truth.”

But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the body of bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in His Church.80

Faced with the situation that has arisen I deem it my duty to inform all the Catholic faithful of some aspects which this sad event has highlighted.

a) The outcome of the movement promoted by Archbishop Lefebvre can and must be, for all the Catholic faithful, a motive for sincere reflection concerning their own fidelity to the Church’s Tradition, authentically interpreted by the ecclesiastical magisterium, ordinary and extraordinary, especially in the ecumenical councils from Nicæa to Vatican II. >From this reflection all should draw a renewed and efficacious conviction of the necessity of strengthening still more their fidelity by rejecting erroneous interpretations and arbitrary and unauthorized applications in matters of doctrine, liturgy and discipline.

To the bishops especially it pertains, by reason of their pastoral mission, to exercise the important duty of a clear-sighted vigilance full of charity and firmness, so that this fidelity may be everywhere safeguarded.

However, it is necessary that all the pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness of the Church of a diversity of charisma, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety: of that blended “harmony” which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.

b) Moreover, I should like to remind theologians and other experts in the ecclesiastical sciences that they should feel called upon to answer in the present circumstances. Indeed, the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the Council’s continuity with Tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the Church.81

c) In the present circumstances I wish especially to make an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfil the grave duty of remaining united to the Vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church, and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church’s law.

To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.

Taking account of the importance and complexity of the problems referred to in this document, by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, I decree the following:

a) A Commission is instituted whose task it will be to collaborate with the bishops, with the departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Society founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on May 5 last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Lefebvre;

b) this Commission is composed of a Cardinal President and other members of the Roman Curia, in a number that will be deemed opportune according to the circumstances;

c) moreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See, for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.

As this year specially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin is now drawing to a close, I wish to exhort all to join in unceasing prayer which the Vicar of Christ, through the intercession of the Mother of the Church, addresses to the Father in the very words of the Son: “That they all may be one!”

Joannes Paulus II
Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, July 2, 1988,
in the tenth year of the pontificate.

In this letter the Pope makes three objections against Archbishop Lefebvre: disobedience, an incomplete, and a contradictory notion of Tradition.

Disobedience? No!

Firstly, he accuses him of disobedience. However, obedience is the response in the subject to the proper use of authority in a superior. The Pope received his authority “unto edification and not unto destruction” (II Cor. 13:10). The Pope received his power to eradicate evil and promote the good of the Church. Archbishop Lefebvre asked from him nothing other than the means necessary to promote the good of the Church and, thus, deserved his support, not his opposition.

We have included in Part II a sermon delivered by Archbishop Lefebvre on September 3, 1977, on the subject of obedience which explains very well real and apparent disobedience.

But one would say: “Archbishop Lefebvre could keep Tradition without consecrating a bishop.” The duty of the faithful is different from the duty of a bishop; the faithful must keep the Faith for themselves and pass it on to their children; a bishop has not only the duty to keep the Faith for himself, but also to assure its transmission to future generations. The Pope received his power “to feed the Lord’s sheep,” not to let them starve. At a time when so many bishops not only let the good faithful starve but are poisoning them by their bad doctrine and example, it is a strict duty of charity to provide the faithful with the spiritual food, with the doctrine, with the Sacraments, and with the priests to administer these Sacraments. St. Thomas teaches that obedience cannot forbid us to fulfil a necessary duty.[82]

The true life of Tradition

The second objection is that of an incomplete notion of Tradition. As if Archbishop Lefebvre’s notion of Tradition did “not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition.” The fallacy of this objection comes from an ambiguity on “life”: what is the true life of Tradition?

In his book, The Reshaping of Catholicism83 (p.78), Fr. Avery Dulles makes a similar criticism of Archbishop Lefebvre’s notion of Tradition: “It is evident that the conflicting evaluations of Vatican II turn upon different concepts of Tradition. For Imbelli, Tradition is not so much content as process—a process that is, in his own words, living, creative and community based. What Lefebvre dismisses as ‘Modernist influence’ can therefore be defended by Imbelli as a rediscovery of an ancient and precious heritage—The objectivist authoritarian concept still dominant in contemporary traditionalism is widely criticized in our days.” Thus, there are two conflicting notions of Tradition: on the one hand, you have a living, creative and community based process; but what process? A transmission of a changing personal religious experience empty of content? Unrelated to the objective truth? On the other hand, you have the authentic notion of Tradition as the faithful transmission of the Deposit of Faith by the popes and bishops. The first concept is living of a human life; the second concept is living of the Divine Life! The life of Tradition is the life of the Church, which is the life of Christ, the Divine Life communicated to men.

Tradition is, first of all, related to an Object: the Immutable, Divine Truth. To lose sight of this is certainly an incomplete notion of Tradition. In my editorial in The Angelus, July 1988, I wrote:

“What is the life of Tradition? It is not a life of change. It is not a life such as that of a plant or an animal, which changes constantly. No! It is a sharing in the Life of God, Who is Immutable. For minds accustomed to the modern, materialistic atmosphere, it is hard to understand a life without any change. Yet it is clear that what is proper to life is not movement alone: when one pushes with one’s foot the body of a dead animal, one gives it movement…but not life. What is proper to life is rather the immanence of the movement; when Our Lord said: “Lazarus, come out!” the dead came out without anyone pushing him. His movement was from within: he had come back to life.

“As for the life of the Church, one must first of all distinguish the life of each one of the faithful, and the life of the Church as a whole. Each one of the faithful passes from the ignorance of the Faith (before he became faithful) to the knowledge of it, and must always deepen his Faith. But the object of this Faith is One, Immutable; it is the Eternal Truth: Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.

“Each faithful passes from the state of sin (before he became faithful) to the state of grace. He must constantly fight against temptation and the residue of sin; he must purify his soul more and more in the Blood of the Lamb; he must become closer and closer to God in Our Lord Jesus Christ, “walking in charity”: this is spiritual progress. Thus it is clear that there is movement in the life of the faithful. But this is a spiritual movement: the deepening of the knowledge of the Truth and the strengthening of virtues. It is not the abandonment of what he believed and strove to practice yesterday!

“Now for the Church there is even less movement. Christ has given to His Church the complete Deposit of Faith. Each individual may deepen his knowledge of this Deposit, but the Church had it all since its beginning. The Church may teach it, explain it and defend it more and more explicitly against the negators and the heresies,84 but neither adds to it, nor loses any parcel of this Eternal Truth.

“Concerning the life of virtue, the Church possesses from her Divine Founder the Seven Sacraments—seven fountains of the life of holiness. The Church cannot add a new one (as some Pentecostals would like to do), nor subtract another (some would like to take away Confession, or Confirmation). The Church possesses, from the beginning, the Perfect Example of Virtue: the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. All the saints have imitated Him; we have to follow in their footsteps. The way to heaven is not to be invented; there is one, and only one; it is Our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.’

“Therefore there can be no change in the Church’s morals, which are all summed up in these words of Our Lord: ‘Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt. 5:48). The Divine Perfection is eternal and immutable. In heaven the saints ‘rest’ in God, thus without changes, sharing divine eternity.85 On the contrary, in hell the damned will be tormented by unrest: But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace for the ungodly, saith the Lord God;86 by the unceasing succession and changes of torments, one worse than the other. Folly of those who love change for the sake of change! They might have an eternity of changes—in hell!

“If there is some change in the Church as such, it is her wonderful capability of putting into practice her eternal principles to meet the needs of each era.87 This is particularly manifested in the many religious orders which have sprung up throughout the whole history of the Church. All of them follow the same Model: Jesus Christ, and the same principles of Faith and morals, but adapt them to their particular circumstances. In this regard, one can see Tradition living in the work of Archbishop Lefebvre and all the other traditional foundations. They have all come to the Eternal Principles to receive Eternal Life from them.

“In one word, the life of Tradition is a life of contemplation of the Eternal Truth and love of the Eternal Good—not constant change!”

We might add that this life is manifested in its fruitfulness: in the many vocations, and also in the large families resolutely Catholic which abound among the faithful attached to Tradition.

One can also see the fruits of death in the departure from Tradition: seminaries and novitiates closed, almost no more religious teachers in schools, or nurses in hospitals, churches closed for lack of priest, thousands of priests and nuns who abandoned their holy vocation, millions of faithful who abandoned the Faith, such as in South America.

In the Liturgy too, one can see the difference of concepts of “life.” The modernist concept leads to constant changes in the Liturgy, as the last 30 years have witnessed. The core of the Liturgical reform has been to remove from the Liturgy [almost] all the profession of Faith on the points which displeased the modern world, and the Protestants in particular. Thus many genuflections, mention of sin, penance, punishments, sacrifice, detachment from the things of this world, the Devil, etc...have been greatly removed. Now one of the important purposes of the Liturgy is to feed the Faith by professing it; the new Liturgy makes the faithful starve, when it does not poison them by some personal innovation of the celebrant. This is not to foster the true spiritual life of the faithful! On the contrary, the Traditional Liturgy, living the truth, loving the Truth, professes it and thus feeds the soul of the faithful with the food of true spiritual life.

In the light of the above considerations, does Archbishop Lefebvre “not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition”? Or does he rather defend the true life of Tradition by keeping its most solemn expression which is the Traditional Liturgy?

Contradictory notion of Tradition?

The third objection to Archbishop Lefebvre was that of a “contradictory notion of Tradition, which opposes the universal magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the body of bishops.” Here, again, one must not forget that the magisterium of the Church is essentially related to the Deposit of Faith. Pope Pius IX and the Fathers of the First Vatican Council said: “For the Holy Ghost was not promised to the Successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the Apostles and the Deposit of Faith, and might faithfully set it forth.”88

Archbishop Lefebvre received this Deposit of Faith from the Popes. Fr. Le Floch89 explained the Popes’ encyclicals to all his students, a practice which Archbishop Lefebvre has introduced in his seminaries. He even taught the course on the “Acts of the Magisterium” by himself when there was a lack of teachers for two years at Ecône.

Archbishop Lefebvre’s fidelity to the constant teaching of the previous Popes, far from undermining the authority of the Pope, is its best guarantee. Remember that Fr. Avery Dulles linked the “objectivist” notion of Tradition with the “authoritarian” notion, and rejected both as “traditional” notion. Without the pejorative endings, it is true that the traditional notion of Tradition insists on its object, the Deposit of Faith, to be religiously handed down by those who have received authority from Our Lord for this end: to insist on the unchangeable object of Tradition is to defend the “authoritarian” notion of Tradition, thus the authority of the Pope. He holds the place of authority to keep the Tradition, which notion of authority is rejected by the modernist, not by Archbishop Lefebvre! If authority is only there to approve any new modern “study of believer,” then it destroys itself, it is exactly what St. Pius X describes in Pascendi,90 as the modernist notion of authority. If, on the contrary, authority is to keep the Deposit of Faith, which is “complete with the Apostles,”91 and unchangeable, then this notion of authority in Tradition is fully accepted by Archbishop Lefebvre.

St. Pius X asked every priest and bishop to swear the following: “I accept sincerely the doctrine of faith transmitted from the Apostles through the orthodox fathers, always in the same sense and interpretation, even to us; and so I reject the heretical invention of the evolution of dogmas, passing from one meaning to another, different from that which the Church first had…”92

If there is any opposition between Archbishop Lefebvre and today’s teaching of “the Bishop of Rome and the body of Bishops,” it is because they are no longer teaching what their predecessors have taught, they are no longer teaching the Syllabus, the Anti-modernist Oath, the social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, etc....They are trying to teach a NEW doctrine (otherwise there would be no such opposition) and to impose it with an authority that is made “not to teach a new Revelation, but to keep entirely and expose faithfully the Deposit of Faith.”

The present crisis of the Church comes from a crisis of authority: those who have the authority foster a new doctrine.93]

Every novelty introduced or approved by the Pope tends to undermine his authority. Indeed if yesterday altar girls were forbidden and today they are permitted, today women priests are forbidden but why not tomorrow permitted? Once one accepts the principle of changes in doctrine94 there is no limit to it, and no doctrinal authority can stand it.

Thus it appears that these three criticisms of Archbishop Lefebvre are not justified. If the reasons for a censure are false or undeserved, then the censure is void.

The Pope’s letter finishes with beautiful promises which have been received with joy and extensively quoted by many conservatives. I wish these promises were reliable, but how can we trust them when they come with the refusal to grant to the best representative of Tradition the means he deemed necessary for its continuation? Without bishops dedicated to Tradition, how can the faithful trust such promises? Shall the sheep expect good food from the wolves?

The two most important points of the Protocol were the granting of a bishop and of two members in the Commission. These two points so necessary for the defense of Tradition have never been granted.

79. This paragraph would give the impression that the Vatican has been as generous and sincere in their “efforts” as possible. This impression was not at all shared by Archbishop Lefebvre, who said in an interview with 30 Days: “It was necessary to threaten continually in order to obtain something. No collaboration was any longer possible” (30 Days, July 1988, pp.13-14).
80. Unity in the Church is first of all a unity of Faith: One Faith, one Lord, one Baptism. Peter has the ministry of unity first of all because he has the duty to safeguard this One Faith intact, undefiled. Keeping the Tradition certainly does not oppose this unity of the Church; on the contrary, introducing novelties undermines the unity of the Church.
81. Note the acknowledgment that these doctrines are “new.”
82. Summa Theologica, IIa IIæ Q.104, A.3, ad.3.
83. Dulles, Avery, The Reshaping of Catholicism: Current Challenges in the Theology of Church (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988).
84. In this way some truths may be put in greater light, and more explicitly and precisely defined, such as the Immaculate Conception, but these are not “new” truths. Moreover, in order to show the conciliation of some points of doctrine that may appear to conflict, the Church may develop the doctrine: thus the notion of sacramental character was developed as a solution in the conflict between on the one hand St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, holding the Dogma Outside the Church no salvation and thus rebaptizing those baptized outside the church, and on the other hand St. Stephen, Pope, holding that nothing should be innovated except that which is in conformity with Tradition and thus refusing to rebaptize because it was a novelty. This is called the homogenous evolution of the dogma, which is not a change but rather a drawing of conclusion from unchangeable principles of Faith.
85. This is life everlasting.
86. Is. 57:20-21.
87. Pope Pius XII gave a great example in applying the eternal principles to the new challenges of our times in his teaching. This is true “progress.”
88. Vat. I, Sess. IV, chap. 4.
89. Rector of the French Seminary in Rome where Archbishop Lefebvre received his priestly training.
90. Pascendi Gregis. (See, Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 2093.)
91. Lamentabili, July 3, 1907, §21.
92. The Oath Against Modernism, Sept. 1, 1910, which was sworn by Karol Wojtyla before he received the priesthood and, later, the episcopacy in 1958.
93. See The Ratzinger Report in Part II, pp.211-217.
94. The practice of employing “altar girls” is connected with doctrine since the service at the altar is the proper act of the Acolyte, one of the Minor Orders, which is soley reserved to males since it is a step culminating in ordination to the priesthood.
"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
July 6, 1988

Open Letter to Cardinal Gantin Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

Ecône, July 6, 1988


Gathered around our Superior General, the Superiors of the Districts, Seminaries and autonomous houses of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X think it good to respectfully express to you the following reflections.

You thought it good, by your letter of July 1st, to inform Their Excellencies Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, and the four Bishops whom they consecrated on June 30, at Ecône, of the excommunication latæ sententiæ.We let you judge for yourself the value of such a declaration, coming from an authority who, in its exercise, breaks with all its predecessors down to Pope Pius XII, in worship, teaching and government of the Church.

As for us, we are in full communion with all the Popes and Bishops before the Second Vatican Council, celebrating precisely the Mass which they codified and celebrated, teaching the Catechism which they drew up, standing up against the errors which they have many times condemned in their encyclicals and pastoral letters. We let you judge on which side the rupture is to be found. We are extremely saddened by the blindness of spirit and the hardening of heart of the Roman authorities.

On the other hand, we have never wished to belong to this system which calls itself the Conciliar Church, and defines itself with the Novus Ordo Missæ, an ecumenism which leads to indifferentism and the laicization of all society. Yes, we have no part, nullam partem habemus, with the pantheon of the religions of Assisi; our own excommunication by a decree of Your Eminence or of another Roman Congregation would only be the irrefutable proof of this. We ask for nothing better than to be declared out of communion with this adulterous spirit which has been blowing in the Church for the last 25 years; we ask for nothing better than to be declared outside of this impious communion of the ungodly. We believe in the One God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and we will always remain faithful to His unique Spouse, the One Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church.

To be publicly associated with this sanction which is inflicted upon the six Catholic Bishops, Defenders of the Faith in its integrity and wholeness, would be for us a mark of honor and a sign of orthodoxy before the faithful. They have indeed a strict right to know that the priests who serve them are not in communion with a counterfeit church, promoting evolution, pentecostalism and syncretism. In union with these faithful, we make ours the words of the Prophet: “Præparate corda vestra Domino et servite Illi soli: et liberabit vos de manibus inimicorum vestrorum. Convertimini ad Eum in toto corde vestro, et auferte deos alienos de medio vestri—Open your hearts to the Lord and serve Him only: and He will free you from the hands of your enemies. With all your heart return to Him, and take away from your midst any strange gods” (I Kings 7:3).95

Confident in the protection of Her who has crushed all the heresies in the world, we assure Your Eminence of our dedication to Him Who is the only Way of salvation.

Fr. Franz Schmidberger, Superior General
Fr. Paul Aulagnier, District Superior, France
Fr. Franz-Josef Maessen, District Superior, Germany
Fr. Edward Black, District Superior, Great Britain
Fr. Anthony Esposito, District Superior of Italy
Fr. François Laisney, District Superior, United States
Fr. Jacques Emily, District Superior of Canada
Fr. Jean Michel Faure, District Superior of Mexico
Fr. Gerard Hogan, District Superior of Australasia
Fr. Alain Lorans, Superior, Seminary of Ecône
Fr. Jean Paul André, Superior, Seminary of France
Fr. Paul Natterer, Superior, Seminary of Germany
Fr. Andrès Morello, Superior, Seminary of Argentina
Fr. William Welsh, Superior, Seminary of Australia
Fr. Michel Simoulin, Rector, St. Pius X University
Fr. Patrice Laroche, Vice-Rector, Seminary of Ecône
Fr. Philippe François, Superior, Belgium
Fr. Roland de Mérode, Superior, Netherlands
Fr. Georg Pflüger, Superior, Austria
Fr. Guillaume Devillers, Superior, Spain
Fr. Philippe Pazat, Superior, Portugal
Fr. Daniel Couture, Superior, Ireland
Fr. Patrick Groche, Superior, Gabon
Fr. Frank Peek, Superior, Southern Africa

No answer was received.

95. Antiphon at Matins, read in the beginning of July.
"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

Extract from Two Conferences Preached by Cardinal Wojtyla to Pope Paul VI in 1976

Important milestones on the theological journey of John Paul II to Assisi are the retreat conferences which Karol Wojtyla, in 1976, preached to Pope Paul VI and a few of his most intimate colleagues in the Vatican. They were published under the title of the original Italian work: Segno di contradizzione, Meditazoni (Milan, 1977). The English translation: Sign of Contradiction appeared in 1979 from the Seaburg Press,96 thus after the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope. A commentary by Fr. Johannes Dörmann on these conferences in particular and the thinking of Pope John Paul II in general is available in English.97 The recommendation for the book makes an accurate observation: “Here one gets to know [the new Pope] most intimately.” Theology and spirituality are so mutually related that they make up a unified body.

The retreat conferences are no mere pious exhortations, but an extensive theological and spiritual meditation which opens with the very essence of religion, the encounter between God and man, and then strives to realize this encounter or, as the Cardinal puts it: “to get as close as possible to God and to be penetrated by his Spirit.”

I. A Natural Theology of Religions

“The itinerarium mentis in Deum (journey of the human spirit to God) emerges from the depths of created things and from a man's inmost being. The modern mentality as it makes its way finds its support in human experience, and in affirmation of the transcendence of the human person. Man goes beyond himself, man must go beyond himself. The tragedy of atheistic humanism—so brilliantly analyzed by Fr. de Lubac (Atheisme et sens de l'homme, Paris, 1969) is that it strips man of his transcendental character, destroying his ultimate significance as a person. Man goes beyond himself by reaching out towards God, and thus progresses beyond the limits imposed on him by created things, by space and time, by his own contingency. The transcendence of the person is closely bound up with responsiveness to the one who himself is the touchstone for all our judgments concerning being, goodness, truth and beauty. It is bound up with responsiveness to the one who is nevertheless totally Other, because He is infinite.

“The concept of infinity is not unknown to man. He makes use of it in his scientific work, in mathematics, for instance. So there certainly is room in him, in his intellectual understanding, for Him Who is infinite, the God of boundless majesty, the one to Whom Holy Scripture and the Church bear witness saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, God of the universe, heaven and earth are full of your glory.’ This God is professed in His silence by the Trappist or the Camaldolite. It is to him that the desert Bedouin turns at his hour for prayer. And perhaps the Buddhist, too, rapt in contemplation as he purifies his thought, preparing the way to Nirvana. God in His absolute transcendence, God who transcends absolutely the whole of creation, all that is visible and comprehensible.”98

Rev. Fr. Joannes Dörmann comments: “This is a natural theology of all religions in a nutshell.” This is a way of immanence which neglects the theodicy [i.e., that part of metaphysics by which through the natural light of human reason we can know with certitude attributes of God] recommended by the Church (Vatican I, Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 1806), which starts from the mirror of the creatures to reach up to the Creator. It is akin to the vital immanence condemned by St. Pius X (Pascendi Gregis, Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 2074). It presents itself as a common denominator between the revealed Faith and human false religions which are concocted by human minds.

II. The Theology of Redemption of Cardinal Wojtyla

Teaching of the Council on Redemption and the Interpretation of the Cardinal

From the Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes, of Vatican II, Cardinal Wojtyla chooses a key text on Christ (§10) to base his thesis of universal redemption.

The conciliar text says: “The Church believes that Christ, who died and was risen for the sake of all (II Cor. 5:15), can show man the way and strengthen him through the Spirit in order to be worthy of his destiny:.…”

Cardinal Wojtyla says: “Thus the birth of the Church at the time of the messianic and redemptive death of Christ coincided with the birth of ‘the new man’—whether or not man was aware of such a rebirth and whether or not he accepted it. At that moment, man’s existence acquired a new dimension, very simply expressed by St. Paul as ‘in Christ’” (cf. Rom. 6:23; 8:39; 12:5; 15:17; 16:7 et al.).

“Man exists ‘in Christ,’ and he had so existed from the beginning in God's eternal plan; but it is by virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection that this ‘existence in Christ’ became historical fact, with roots in time and space” (p.91ff.).99

Fr. Dörmann comments: “Everything speaks in favor of the fact that the Cardinal teaches the objective and subjective universality of Redemption.”100] Does the Cardinal formulate a thesis of the objective and subjective universality of redemption?...that is, by the Cross of Christ all men are not only objectively redeemed101 but also subjectively justified.102

The answer to this question is found in the following passage from Cardinal Woytyla’s retreat to Pope Paul VI in which he dealt with the realization of the divine plan of salvation in history:

“This is the point of history when all men are, so to speak, ‘conceived’ afresh and follow a new course within God’s plan—the plan prepared by the Father in the truth of the Word and in the gift of Love. It is the point at which the history of mankind makes a fresh start, no longer dependent on human conditioning—if one may put it like that. This fresh starting point belongs in the divine order of things, in the divine perspective on man and the world. The finite, human categories of time and space are almost completely secondary. All men, from the beginning of the world until its end, have been redeemed and justified (giustificati) by Christ and His cross.”103

In the above passages, and in the talks on the meeting at Assisi, there is a confusion between the goal to which every man is called, and the actual realization of this goal. Our Lord taught this difference very clearly: “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt. 22:14). At the beginning of his Gospel, St. John makes a clear distinction between souls which receive Christ and those which don’t. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in His name” (Jn. 1:11,12). One becomes a child of God by the grace of Christ. The human nature common to men is absolutely unable to give us such a dignity.

96. Karol Wojtyla, Sign of Contradiction (New York: The Seaburg Press, 1979), p.2.
97. Available from Angelus Press, currently in three volumes (Pope John Paul II’s Theologi¬cal Journey to the Prayer Meeting of Religions in Assisi).
98. Pope John Paul II’s Theological Journey to the Prayer Meeting of Religions in Assisi, Part I, pp.49-50.
99. Ibid., p.60.
100. Ibid., p.63.
101. Objectively, the sins of men are sufficiently paid for. Our Lord paid sufficiently for everyone.
102. Subjectively, the sins of men are cleansed by the infusion of grace, but not everyone accepts the grace of Our Lord so they remain uncleansed.
103. Ibid., p.64-65.
"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
September 3, 1977

Real and Apparent Disobedience

Sermon delivered by Archbishop Lefebvre at Poitiers, France on the occasion of the first Mass of a newly ordained priest.104

Dear Father,

You have the joy today of celebrating Holy Mass in the midst of your dear ones, surrounded by your family, by your friends, and it is with great satisfaction that I find myself near to you today to tell you also of my joy and prayers for your future apostolate, for the good which you will do for souls.

We will pray especially to St. Pius X, our patron, whose feast it is today and who has been present during all your studies and your formation. We will ask him to give you the heart of an apostle, the heart of a saintly priest like him. And since we are right here in the city of St. Hilary, of St. Radegonde and the great Cardinal Pie, we shall ask of all those protectors of the city of Poitiers to come and aid you so that you may follow their example, so that you may defend, as they did in difficult times, the Catholic Faith.

You could have coveted an easy and comfortable life in the world. You had already begun the study of medicine. You could have gone in that direction. But no, you had the courage, even in times like these, to come and ask to be made a priest at Ecône. And why Ecône? Because there you found Tradition; you found that which corresponded to your faith. It was an act of courage that does you honor.

And that is why I would like, in a few words, to answer the accusations which have appeared in the local papers following the publication of the letter of Msgr. Rozier, Bishop of Poitiers. Oh, not in order to polemicize. I carefully avoid doing that. Generally, I do not answer these letters and I prefer to keep silent. However, since you as well as I are called into question it seems to me well to justify you here. We are not called into question because of our persons, but because of the choice we have made. We are incriminated because we have chosen the so-called way of disobedience. But we must understand clearly what this way of disobedience consists of. I think we may truthfully say that if we have chosen the way of apparent disobedience, we have chosen the way of true obedience.

Then I think that those who accuse us have perhaps chosen the way of apparent obedience which, in reality, is disobedience, because those who follow the new way, who follow the novelties, who attach themselves to new principles contrary to those taught us by Tradition, by all the popes, by all the Councils—they are the ones who have chosen the way of disobedience.

One cannot say that one obeys authority today while disobeying all Tradition. Following Tradition is precisely the sign of our obedience. Jesus Christus heri, hodie et in sæcula—Jesus Christ yesterday, today and forever.105

One cannot separate Our Lord Jesus Christ. One cannot say that one obeys the Church of today but not the Christ of yesterday because then one does not obey the Christ of tomorrow. This is of vital importance. This is why we cannot say that we disobey the pope of today and that, for that reason, we cannot disobey the pope of yesterday. We obey the pope of yesterday, consequently, we obey the one of today; consequently, we obey the one of tomorrow. For it is not possible that the popes teach different things; it is not possible that the popes gainsay each other, that they contradict each other.

And this is why we are convinced that in being faithful to all the popes of yesterday, to all the Councils of yesterday, we are faithful to the pope of today, to the Council of today and to the Council of tomorrow. Again: “Jesus Christus heri, hodie et in sæcula:” and if today, by a mystery of Providence, a mystery which for us is unfathomable, incomprehensible, we are in apparent disobedience, in reality we are not disobedient but obedient.

How are we obedient? In believing in our catechism and because we always keep the same Credo, the same Ten Commandments, the same Mass, the same Sacraments, the same prayer—the Pater Noster of yesterday, today and tomorrow. This is why we are obedient and not disobedient.

On the other hand, if we study what is taught nowadays in the new religion we realize that it is not the same Faith, the same Creed, the same Ten Commandments, the same Sacraments, the same Our Father. It is sufficient to open the catechisms of today to realize that. It is sufficient to read the speeches which are made in our times to realize that those who accuse us of disobedience are those who do not follow the Popes, who do not follow the Councils, who, in reality, disobey. They do not have the right to change our Creed, to say today that the angels do not exist, to change the notion of original sin, to say that the Holy Virgin was not always a Virgin, and so on.

They do not have the right to replace the Ten Commandments with the Rights of Man. Nowadays one speaks of nothing but the rights of man and no one speaks of his duties, which are in the Ten Commandments. We don’t see that it is necessary to replace the Ten Commandments in our catechisms with the Rights of Man. And this is very grave. The Commandments of God are attacked and thus those laws defending the family disappear.

The most Holy Mass, for example, which is the synthesis of our Faith, which is precisely our living catechism, the Holy Mass has been deprived of its nature, it has become confused and ambiguous. Protestants can say it, Catholics can say it. Concerning this I have never said, and I have never followed those who say, that all the New Masses are invalid. I have never said anything of the sort but I believe that it is in fact very dangerous to make a habit of attending the New Mass because it no longer is representative of our Faith, because Protestant notions have been incorporated into the New Mass.

All the Sacraments have, to some extent, been deprived of their nature and have become similar to an invitation to a religious assembly. These are not Sacraments. The Sacraments give us grace and take away our sins. They give us divine and supernatural life. We are not simply part of a purely natural, purely human, religious collectivity.

This is why we keep to the Holy Mass. We keep to it also because it is the living catechism. It is not just lifeless words written and printed on pages which can disappear. Rather, it is our living catechism, our living Credo. This Credo is essentially this history, as it were, the “song” of the redemption of our souls by Our Lord Jesus Christ. We sing the praises of God, Our Lord, Our Redeemer, Our Savior who became man to shed His Blood for us and thus to give birth to His Church and the priesthood so that the Redemption might continue, so that our souls might be bathed in the Blood of Jesus Christ through Baptism, through all the Sacraments, in order that we might participate in the nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in His divine nature by means of His human nature and so that we might be admitted eternally into the family of the Most Holy Trinity.

This is our Christian life. This is our Faith. If the Mass is not the continuation of the Cross of Our Lord, the sign of His Redemption, is no longer the reality of His Redemption, then it is not our Credo. If the Mass is nothing but a meal, a eucharist, a “sharing,” if one can sit around a table and simply pronounce the words of the Consecration in the midst of a meal, it is no longer our Sacrifice of the Mass. And if it is no longer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ is no longer accomplished.

We need the Redemption of Our Lord. We need the Blood of Our Lord. We cannot live without the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He came on earth to give us His Blood, to communicate to us His life. We have been created for this and it is the Holy Mass that gives His Blood to us. This sacrifice continues in all reality. Our Lord is really present in His Body, in His Soul, and in His Divinity.

That is why He created the priesthood and this is why there must be new priests. This is why we wish to make priests who can continue the Redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ. All the greatness, the sublimity of the priesthood, the beauty of the priesthood, is the celebration of the Holy Mass, in the saving words of the Consecration. It is in the making Our Lord Jesus Christ descend upon the altar, continuing the Sacrifice of the Cross, shedding His Blood on souls through Baptism, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance. Oh, the beauty, the greatness of the priesthood! A greatness of which we are not worthy, of which no man is worthy. Our Lord Jesus Christ wanted it. What greatness, what sublimity!

And our young priests have understood this. You can be certain they have understood. Throughout their seminary days they loved the Holy Mass. They will never penetrate the mystery perfectly even if God gives them a long life on earth. But they love their Mass and I think they have understood and will understand even better that the Mass is the sun of their life, the raison d’être of their priestly life so that they may give Our Lord Jesus Christ to the souls of the people and not simply so that they may break bread in friendship while Our Lord is absent. Because grace is absent from these new Masses which are purely a eucharist, a mere symbol of a sign and a symbol of a sort of charity among human beings.

This is why we are attached to the Holy Mass. And the Holy Mass is the expression of the Ten Commandments. And what are the Ten Commandments if not the way of love of God and of our neighbor? How better is this love fulfilled than in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? God receives all the glory through Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Sacrifice. There can be no greater act of charity for man than this Sacrifice. And, is there any act of charity greater than that of giving one’s life for those whom one loves? Our Lord Himself asked that.

Consequently the Ten Commandments are fulfilled in the Mass, the greatest act of love which God could have from man, the greatest act of love that we could have from God. Here are the Ten Commandments. Here is our living catechism. All the Sacraments take their radiance from the Eucharist. All the Sacraments, in a certain sense, are like satellites of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. >From Baptism right through to Extreme Unction, the Sacraments are only reflections of the Eucharist since all grace comes from Jesus Christ, present in the Holy Eucharist.

Now sacrament and sacrifice are intimately united in the Mass. One cannot separate sacrifice from sacrament. The Catechism of the Council of Trent explains this magnificently. There are two great realities in the Sacrifice of the Mass: the sacrifice and the sacrament deriving from the sacrifice, the fruit of the sacrifice. This is our holy religion and this is why we hold to the Mass. You will understand now, perhaps better than you understood before, why we defend this Mass and the reality of the Sacrifice. It is the life of the Church and the reason for the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is the union with Our Lord in the Mass. Therefore, we cry out if they try to take away the nature of the Mass, to deprive us in any way of this Sacrifice! We are wounded. We will not have them separate us from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

This is why we hold firmly to the Sacrifice of the Mass. And we are convinced that our Holy Father, the pope, has not forbidden it and that no one can ever forbid the celebration of the Mass of All Time. Moreover, Pope St. Pius V proclaimed in a solemn and definitive manner that, whatever might happen in the future, no one might ever prevent a priest from celebrating the Sacrifice of the Mass; and that all excommunications, all suspensions, all the punishments which a priest might undergo because he celebrated this Mass would be utterly null and void, in futuro, in perpetuum—in the future and forever.

Consequently, we have a clear conscience whatever may happen to us. If we are apparently disobedient, we are really obedient. This is our situation. And it is right for us to tell this, to explain it, because it is we who continue the Church. Really disobedient are those who corrupt the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments and our prayers, those who put the Rights of Man in the place of the Ten Commandments, those who transform our Credo. Because that is what the new catechisms do.

We feel deep pain at not being in perfect communion with the authors of those reforms. Indeed, we regret it infinitely. I would like to go at this very minute to Msgr. Rozier and tell him that I am in perfect communion with him, but it is impossible for me. If Msgr. Rozier condemns this Mass which we say, it is impossible. Those who refuse this Mass are no longer in communion with the Church of All Time.

It is inconceivable that bishops and priests, ordained for this Mass and by this Mass, men who have celebrated it for perhaps 20 or 30 years of their priestly lives, persecute it with an implacable hatred—that they hound us from the churches, that they oblige us to say Mass here, in the open air, when the Mass is meant to be said in the churches constructed for that purpose. And was it not Msgr. Rozier himself who told one of you that if we were heretics and schismatics he would give us churches in which to celebrate our Masses? This is something beyond belief. If we were no longer in communion with the Church but heretics or schismatics we could have the churches. It is quite evident that we are still in communion with the Church. There is a contradiction in their attitude which condemns them. They know perfectly well that we are in the right because we cannot be outside of truth when we simply continue to do what has been done for 2,000 years, believing what has been believed for 2,000 years. This is not possible.

Once again, we must repeat this sentence and continue to repeat it: Jesus Christus heri, hodie et in sæcula. If I am with the Jesus Christ of yesterday. I am with the Jesus Christ of today and of tomorrow. I cannot be with the Jesus Christ of yesterday without being with the Jesus Christ of tomorrow. And that is because our Faith is that of the past and that of the future. If we are not with the Faith of the past, we are not with the Faith of the present, nor yet of the future. This is what we must always believe. This is what we must hold to at any price—our salvation depends upon it. Let us ask this today of the guardian saints of Poitiers, ask it especially for these dear priests, for this new priest. Let us ask it of St. Hilary, of St. Radegonde who so loved the Cross—it was she who brought to this land of France the first relic of the True Cross and so loved the Sacrifice of the Mass; and finally, of Cardinal Pie, who was an admirable defender of the Catholic Faith during the last century. Let us ask these protectors of Poitiers to give us the grace of fighting without hatred, without rancor.

Let us never be among those who try to polemicise, to disrupt, to be unjust to their neighbors. Let us love them with all our hearts but let us hold to the Faith. At all costs let us keep our faith in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us ask this of the most Holy Virgin Mary. She can only have had a perfect faith in the divinity of her Divine Son. She was present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Cross. Let us ask of Him the faith that she had.

104. Printed in The Angelus, July 1979, pp.2 4 (available from Angelus Press).
105. Heb. 13:8.
"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
January 25, 1983

The 1983 Code of Canon Law

Canon 844 (on Eucharistic Hospitality)

This canon is the most scandalous of the whole 1983 Code of Canon Law. It is the open door to active communicatio in sacris, i.e., active religious participation with non-Catholics. Canon 1258 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law very strictly prohibited such participation. Rev. Fr. Dominicus M. Prümmer, O.P., a Swiss professor at the University of Fribourg, gives the very simple reason: “It is indeed nothing else than the negation of the Catholic Faith and the acknowledgment of a heterodox worship.” Participation in the Sacraments is the most important part of the worship, especially for Holy Communion. Now Christ has founded and espoused only one Church, and only the voice of the Bride is agreeable to the Bridegroom. Only the voice of the Son is agreeable to the Father. The active participation in non-Catholic worship is the practical denial of the nature of the Church.

§1 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to Catholic members of Christ’s faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from Catholic ministers, except as provided in §§2, 3, and 4 of this canon and in Canon 861, §2.

§2 Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ’s faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, may lawfully receive the Sacraments of Penance, the Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick from non-catholic ministers in whose churches these Sacraments are valid.

§3 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the Sacraments of Penance, the Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick to members of the eastern churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church, if they spontaneously ask for them and are properly disposed. The same applies to members of other churches which the Apostolic See judges to be in the same position as the aforesaid eastern churches so far as the Sacraments are concerned.

§4 If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or of the episcopal conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, Catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same Sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the Catholic Faith in respect of these Sacraments and are properly disposed.

§5 In respect of the cases dealt with in §§2, 3 and 4, the diocesan bishop or the episcopal conference is not to issue general norms except after consultation with the competent authority, at least at the local level, of the non-Catholic church or community concerned.

The only sacraments which the Church allows to be given by non-Catholic ministers are those which are absolutely required for salvation, that is, Baptism and Penance. In danger of death and in the absence of a Catholic capable of baptizing, one should ask for this Sacrament even from a non-Catholic. In danger of death, a Catholic who has fallen into mortal sin after his Baptism, in the absence of a Catholic priest, should ask even a non-Catholic priest for the sacrament of Penance.

For the sacraments not necessary for salvation, the Church never allowed the faithful to go to a non-Catholic minister.

This is particularly required for the sacrament of Holy Eucharist, which is the Sacrament of the unity of the Church. To participate in this Holy Sacrament with someone who does not belong to this unity is to introduce “a lie” in the sacrament, depriving it of its signification. One wonders what “genuine spiritual advantage” can be obtained at such a price! Everyone can see on the contrary the havoc wrought by these so-called “inter-celebrations.”

A Catholic priest cannot give the Sacraments to a non-Catholic, for he is outside the unity of the Church, with the sole exception of the Sacraments of Penance or Baptism, given precisely that he might become a Catholic.

The condition put here: “provided that they demonstrate the Catholic Faith in respect of these Sacraments and are properly disposed,” does not render this Canon acceptable. Indeed, either one requires in them the real Catholic Faith, therefore the repudiation of their errors and their return to the Unity of the Church, and thus there is no more need of such a Canon, or one requires only that they agree with the Catholic Church on the one particular point of Faith in question. But this latter alternative is insufficient, since the Faith is not divisible, it is one theological virtue. One cannot accept it on one point and reject it on another point.

106. The Code of Canon Law (London: Collins Liturgical Publishers, 1983) pp.156-157.
"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
August 15, 1984

Excerpts from The Ratzinger Report

In 1984, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, granted an interview to journalist Vittorio Messori on the state of the Catholic Church. The interview was published in English in 1985 as The Ratzinger Report. In it, Cardinal Ratzinger forcefully reaffirms his opinion of the immense and positive work of Vatican II, whose genuine fruits he provides a guideline for achieving. He speaks specifically of Archbishop Lefebvre. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter Two, “A Council to Be Rediscovered.”107

Two Counterposed Errors

In order to get to the heart of the matter we must, almost of necessity, begin with the extraordinary event of Vatican Council II, the 20th anniversary of whose close will be celebrated in 1985. Twenty years which by far have brought about more changes in the Catholic Church than were wrought over the span of two centuries.

Today no one who is and wishes to remain Catholic nourishes any doubts—nor can he nourish them—that the great documents of Vatican Council II are important, rich, opportune and indispensable. Least of all, naturally, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To remind him of this would not only be superfluous but ridiculous. Oddly enough, nevertheless, some commentators have obviously considered it necessary to advance doubts on this matter.

Yet, not only were the statements in which Cardinal Ratzinger defended Vatican II and its decisions eminently clear, but he repeatedly corroborated them at every opportunity.

Among countless examples, I shall cite an article he wrote in 1975 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the close of the Council. I reread the text of that article to him in Brixen, and he confirmed to me that he still wholly recognized himself therein.

Thus ten years before our conversation, he had already written: “Vatican II today stands in a twilight. For a long time it has been regarded by the so-called progressive wing as completely surpassed and, consequently, as a thing of the past, no longer relevant to the present. By the opposite side, the ‘conservative’ wing, it is, conversely, viewed as the cause of the present decadence of the Catholic Church and even judged as an apostasy from Vatican I and from the Council of Trent. Consequently demands have been made for its retraction or for a revision that would be tantamount to a retraction.”

Thereupon he continued: “Over against both tendencies, before all else, it must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points.”

From this Ratzinger drew two conclusions. First: “It is impossible (‘for a Catholic’) to take a position for or against Trent or Vatican I. Whoever accepts Vatican II, as it has clearly expressed and understood itself, at the same time accepts the whole binding tradition of the Catholic Church, particularly also the two previous councils. And that also applies to the so-called 'progressivism,’ at least in its extreme forms.” Second: “It is likewise impossible to decide in favor of Trent and Vatican I, but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upholds the other two councils and thereby detaches them from their foundation. And this applies to the so-called ‘traditionalism,’ also in its extreme forms.” “Every partisan choice destroys the whole (the very history of the Church) which can exist only as an indivisible unity.”

Let Us Rediscover the True Vatican II

Hence it is not Vatican II and its documents (it is hardly necessary to recall this) that are problematic. At all events, many see the problem—and Joseph Ratzinger is among them, and not just since yesterday—to lie in the manifold interpretations of those documents which have led to many abuses in the post-conciliar period.

Ratzinger’s judgment on this period has been clearly formulated for a long time: “It is incontestable that the last ten years have been decidedly unfavorable for the Catholic Church.” “Developments since the Council seem to be in striking contrast to the expectations of all, beginning with those of John XXIII and Paul VI. Christians are once again a minority, more than they have ever been since the end of antiquity.”

He explains his stark remark (which he also repeated during the interview—but that should not cause any surprise, whatever judgment we might make of it, for he confirmed it many times) as follows: “What the Popes and the Council Fathers were expecting was a new Catholic unity, and instead one has encountered a dissension which—to use the words of Paul VI—seems to have passed over from self-criticism to self-destruction. There had been the expectation of a new enthusiasm, and instead too often it has ended in boredom and discouragement. There had been the expectation of a step forward, and instead one found oneself facing a progressive process of decadence that to a large measure has been unfolding under the sign of a summons to a presumed ‘spirit of the Council’ and by so doing has actually and increasingly discredited it.”

Thus, already ten years ago, he had arrived at the following conclusion: “It must be clearly stated that a real reform of the Church presupposes an unequivocal turning away from the erroneous paths whose catastrophic consequences are already incontestable.”

On one occasion he also wrote: “Cardinal Julius Döpfner once remarked that the Church of the post-conciliar period is a huge construction site. But a critical spirit later added that it was a construction site where the blueprint had been lost and everyone continues to build according to his taste. The result is evident.”

Nevertheless, the Cardinal constantly takes pains to repeat, with equal clarity, that “Vatican II in its official promulgations, in its authentic documents, cannot be held responsible for this development which, on the contrary, radically contradicts both the letter and the spirit of the Council Fathers.”

He says: “I am convinced that the damage that we have incurred in these twenty years is due, not to the ‘true’ Council, but to the unleashing within the Church of latent polemical and centrifugal forces; and outside the Church it is due to the confrontation with a cultural revolution in the West: the success of the upper middle class, the new tertiary bourgeoisie,’ with its liberal-radical ideology of individualistic, rationalistic and hedonistic stamp.”

Hence his message, his exhortation to all Catholics who wish to remain such, is certainly not to “turn back” but, rather, “to return to the authentic texts of the original Vatican II.”

For him, he repeats to me, “to defend the true tradition of the Church today means to defend the Council. It is also our fault if we have at times provided a pretext (to the ‘right’ and ‘left’ alike) to view Vatican II as a ‘break’ and an abandonment of the tradition. There is, instead, a continuity that allows neither a return to the past nor a flight forward, neither anachronistic longings nor unjustified impatience. We must remain faithful to the today of the Church, not the yesterday or tomorrow. And this today of the Church is the documents of Vatican II, without reservations that amputate them and without arbitrariness that distorts them.”

A Prescription Against Anachronism

Although critical of the “left,” Ratzinger also exhibits an unmistakable severity toward the “right,” toward that integralist traditionalism quintessentially symbolized by the old Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. In a reference to it, he told me: “I see no future for a position that, out of principle, stubbornly renounces Vatican II. In fact in itself it is an illogical position. The point of departure for this tendency is, in fact, the strictest fidelity to the teaching particularly of Pius IX and Pius X and, still more fundamentally, of Vatican I and its definition of papal primacy. But why only the popes up to Pius XII and not beyond? Is perhaps obedience to the Holy See divisible according to years or according to the nearness of a teaching to one’s own already-established convictions?”

The fact remains, I observe, that if Rome has intervened with respect to the “left,” it has not yet intervened with respect to the “right” with the same vigor.

In reply, he states: “The followers of Archbishop Lefebvre assert the very opposite. They contend that whereas there was an immediate intervention in the case of the respected retired Archbishop with the harsh punishment of suspension, there is an incomprehensible toleration of every kind of deviation from the other side. I don’t wish to get involved in a polemic on the greater or lesser severity toward the one or the other side. Besides, both types of opposition present entirely different features. The deviation toward the ‘left’ no doubt represents a broad current of the contemporary thought and action of the Church, but hardly anywhere have they found a juridically definable common form. On the other hand, Archbishop Lefebvre’s movement is probably much less broad numerically, but it has a well-defined juridical organization, seminaries, religious houses, etc. Clearly everything possible must be done to prevent this movement from giving rise to a schism peculiar to it that would come into being whenever Archbishop Lefebvre should decide to consecrate a bishop, which, thank God, in the hope of a reconciliation he has not yet done. In the ecumenical sphere today one deplores that not enough was done in the past to prevent incipient divisions through a greater openness to reconciliation and to an understanding of the different groups. Well, that should apply as a behavioral maxim for us too in the present time. We must commit ourselves to reconciliation, so long and so far as it is possible, and we must utilize all the opportunities granted to us for this purpose.”

But Lefebvre, I object, has ordained priests and continues to do so.

“Canon law speaks of ordinations that are illicit but not invalid. We must also consider the human aspect of these young men who, in the eyes of the Church, are ‘true’ priests, albeit in an irregular situation. The point of departure and the orientation of individuals are certainly different. Some are strongly influenced by their family situations and have accepted the latter’s decision. In others, disillusionment with the present-day Church has driven them to bitterness and to negation. Others still would like to collaborate fully in the normal pastoral activity of the Church. Nevertheless they have let themselves be driven to their choice by the unsatisfactory situation that has arisen in the seminaries in some countries. So just as there are some who in some way have put up with the division, there are also many who hope for reconciliation and remain in Archbishop Lefebvre’s priestly community only in this hope.”

His prescription for cutting the ground from under the Lefebvre case and other anachronistic resistances seems to re-echo that of the last popes, from Paul VI to today: “Similar absurd situations have been able to endure up to now precisely by nourishing themselves on the arbitrariness and thoughtlessness of many post-conciliar interpretations. This places a further obligation upon us to show the true face of the Council: thus one will be able to cut the ground from under these false protests....”

In these passages Cardinal Ratzinger stresses his view of the importance of the Council, stating that it is upheld by the same authority as Vatican Council I and the Council of Trent. This is a false premise. The Cardinal fails to distinguish between persons and their actions. The persons possess the same authority, but they do not always engage their full authority in every one of their actions. By refusing to be a dogmatic council, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did not invest this Council with the same authority as all the previous ecumenical Councils.

It is highly doubtful that Cardinal Ratzinger sees those who uphold Tradition to be on “the erroneous path whose catastrophic consequences are already incontestable.” He blames havoc of this kind only on the so-called false interpretation of the Council. However, he is not able to show where the Council has been properly implemented. Can he cite one diocese in which a proper implementation has brought about good fruits?

Cardinal Ratzinger insinuates that Archbishop Lefebvre is dividing obedience to the Holy See “according to the nearness of the teaching to one’s own already established convictions.” The convictions of Archbishop Lefebvre are not his own. He recalls that he had to change some of his conceptions when he arrived at the Seminary in Rome, realizing that they were not in conformity with the teachings of the Popes. From that day on he has remained attached to these convictions which the constant teachings of the Pope had built in his soul.

The problem springs forth from the desire of the present authorities to give a place in the Church to values which are foreign to her. Cardinal Ratzinger admits:

“Vatican II was right in its desire for a revision of the relations between the Church and the world. There are in fact values, which, even though they originated outside the Church, can find their place—provided that they are clarified and corrected—in her perspective. This task has been accomplished in these years. But whoever thinks that these two realities can meet each other without conflict or even be identical would betray that he understands neither the Church nor the world.”108

To try to clarify and correct the false principles of the French Revolution is to try to convert the devil!

The fact that this new doctrine is incompatible with the past is manifested by the Cardinal himself when he refuses any return to the past, opposing it to the present. “We must remain faithful to the today of the Church, not to the yesterday or tomorrow. And this today of the Church is the documents of Vatican II, without reservations that amputate them and without arbitrariness that distorts them.”109

There should be no opposition between the today of the Church, its past or its future: “Jesus Christ yesterday, today and the same forever” (Heb. 13:8). This opposition which, according to Ratzinger, is in the documents of Vatican II, is, in itself, the strongest condemnation of these documents.

107. The Ratzinger Report (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), pp.27-33.
108. The Ratzinger Report, p.36.
109. ibid., p.31.
"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
Four Non-Catholic “Episcopal Consecrations”

It is permissible to have heretic Lutheran or Methodist “episcopal consecrations” in Catholic churches, as these news stories prove, yet the consecration of traditional Catholic bishops are disallowed. In the mentality of the Conciliar Church ecumenism has come to have more value than the continuation of Catholic Tradition.


“Lutherans to Use New Cathedral”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (May 28, 1987)

In a highly symbolic ecumenical step, Lutherans here will use the Roman Catholic St. Louis Cathedral this fall for a worship service to mark the merger of three Lutheran denominations.

The Rev. Vincent Heier, the Catholic priest in charge of ecumenical relations for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, described the Lutherans’ choice of the cathedral, at Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue, as “a watershed” in Catholic-Lutheran relations here.

“This shows how far we have come,” Heier said.

The Rev. Samuel Roth, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Ferguson and chairman of the event, said the service, scheduled for Nov. 22, will be a major celebration sponsored by 45 Lutheran congregations. Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom, recently elected head of the new 5.3 million member Lutheran church, will preside over the service...

Many ecumenical leaders here recall when relations between Catholics and Lutherans were strained and on occasion marked by deep hostility. The tensions date as far back as the 16th century Reformation in Europe, but they have gradually diminished since the mid-1960’s after the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Catholic Church.

Lutherans trace their roots to Martin Luther, a Catholic monk whose conflicts with Church leaders led to his excommunication from the Catholic Church and the birth of Protestantism. Historic barriers between Catholics and Lutherans began to erode with the Second Vatican Council’s exhortations to Catholics to work for Christian unity.

Roth said he hopes the service will be “quite spectacular. We think it speaks volumes that we’re holding the service at the cathedral and that they have been open to our being there.”

The Rev. Martin Rafanan, pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church, said the symbolism of the event extends beyond Lutheran-Catholic relations.

“We are doing the service at the cathedral as a sign that our new church is going to be more open to a variety of ecumenical endeavors in the future,” he said.

The Rev. Robert Betram, a participant in recent dialogues between Lutherans and Catholics in the United States, said the choice of the cathedral is “doubly significant” because the service is to be a Eucharist.

“For Lutherans to conduct a service in a sanctuary consecrated for eucharistic services of the Roman Catholic communion, that can’t help but mean a lot to Lutherans and Catholics alike.”

Bertram, of University City, is a professor at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

Ecumenical leaders, including Roman Catholic Archbishop John L. May, will be invited to participate.

Heier said the cathedral has been used by the United Church of Christ for a prayer service about 15 years ago. But that was not a communion service, he said.

“Lutherans in Our Cathedral”
by Archbishop May
St. Louis Review (June 12, 1987)

It was my intention to announce to you that the new Evangelical Lutheran Church in America would celebrate its birth in their first solemn liturgy in our Cathedral, but another local paper beat me to it. It will not occur until Nov. 22, so I was a bit surprised to have them break the news. Perhaps some background will help.

In January of 1988 one church body to be known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will come into being officially. It is being created from three church bodies which were formerly independent. They were the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America. There are 47 congregations in the St. Louis area who will be part of this one new church body. We thank God for this step toward the day when we will be “one body, one spirit in Christ.” We pray, too, that this one step will be one of many prompted by the Holy Spirit so that the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper will be realized: “That all may be one.”

When representatives of those who are involved in this church reconciliation began to meet to plan their celebration of their new unity in Christ, they wrote to me asking if it might be possible for them to gather in our Cathedral for this occasion. Among other reasons that they cited for their request one stands out. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is committed to seeking further unity with all brothers and sisters in Christ. Furthermore, they were seeking an appropriate setting with adequate seating capacity. They hoped to avoid a convention hall or sports arena.

We have agreed to extend the hospitality of our Cathedral to the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the St. Louis area for their celebration of unity and thanksgiving on the Feast of Christ the King, Sunday, Nov. 22, 1987. The newly elected Bishop of their church will preside at their eucharistic celebration and preach on that occasion. I plan to be present as a gesture of good will to give a word of welcome and congratulations.

In coming to this decision I was mindful of the commitment to Christian ecumenism in the teaching of Vatican Council II. More recently the example of our Holy Father was persuasive—especially in his approaches to Lutherans in his sermon in their church in Rome and during his two visits to Germany. In our country very fruitful Catholic-Lutheran theological dialogues have been going on over recent years thanks to our bishops’ conference. The new emphasis on Eucharist in Lutheran worship has been noted in this dialogue and it is something we greet with joy.

This is not the first time for a gathering like this in our Cathedral. The United Church of Christ gathered in our Cathedral some years ago for a worship service. More recently the Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. gathered in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception there for a Eucharistic Celebration and the ordination of deacons for service in their church. Years ago in Springfield, IL, Bishop McNicholas hosted the installation liturgy of the new Episcopal bishop in Immaculate Conception Cathedral there. So this is really nothing so new or controversial.

Someone has said that this is a nice gesture, but 400 years too late. We may be latecomers in ecumenism but I hope we can make up for lost time.


“Methodists Make History at St. Louis Cathedral”
The Times Picayune (July 16, 1988)

For the first time in the long history of the St. Louis Cathedral—the most notable Catholic landmark in New Orleans—three Protestant ministers knelt at the altar Friday and were consecrated as bishops of the United Methodist Church.

As the cathedral’s bells tolled at 10am and the Munholland United Methodist Church Choir of Metairie sang, a procession of twenty United Methodist bishops marched down the main aisle to the altar for the ecumenical ceremony.

The cathedral was packed, with some people standing in the back of the church.

Archbishop Philip M. Hannan and the cathedral pastor, the Rev. Gerard Barrett marched in the procession and took seats on the altar among the bishops, but didn’t participate in the service. The Revs. William B. Oden of Enid, OK; Bruce P. Blake of Winfield, KS; and Dan E. Solomon of Corpus Christi, TX, knelt at the altar to be made bishops. Each of the participating bishops, about half of whom are retired, laid their hands on the heads of each for the consecration blessing.

“This is a historic event,” said Mildred Koschel, a member of the Lake Vista United Methodist Church. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world...”

In 1985, the late Bishop Walter L. Underwood, the United Methodist Bishop for Louisiana, asked Hannan for permission for the next consecration of United Methodist bishops to take place at the cathedral. Underwood wanted an ecumenical service at the cathedral because of its beauty and history, said Marian Eggerton, a local United Methodist official.

Hannan happily accommodated the request, but Underwood died in April 1987.

“I know that Walter Underwood is smiling on us today,” said Bishop Benjamin Oliphint of Houston, interim bishop of Louisiana since Underwood’s death.

The consecration service was the climax of a conference of the United Methodists of the South Central Jurisdiction that opened Tuesday at the Marriott Hotel. Many of the people who packed the cathedral were delegates to the conference.


The Catholic Standard and Journal
(Sept. 29, 1988)

Archbishop Bevilacqua who will be in Rome at the time of Bishop Turner’s consecration will appoint someone to give an official greeting on behalf of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, according to Fr. Diamond.

The Philadelphia Inquirer
(Sept. 8, 1988)

The consecration of Bishop Turner was the second protestant celebration in the Catholic cathedral in recent months. Lawrence L. Hand was inaugurated as the first bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, at a ceremony in the cathedral in April.

Auxiliary Bishop Martin N. Lohmuller welcomed the Episcopalians to the cathedral on behalf of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

He said, Catholics were “complemented” that the Episcopal Diocese had asked to use the cathedral and extended “our congratulations, our very best wishes” to Bishop Turner.
"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
May 13, 1988

Archbishop May to Join in Hindu Jubilee

That Archbishop May considers that these Hindus with their vague search for God will avoid hell, while they are still ignorant of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Savior, is tantamount to a practical denial of the Catholic Faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and is a reminder to them that seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). St. Augustine explains very well that, though ignorance excuses from an additional sin against Faith, it is incapable of cleansing the original sin and other sins with which one’s soul is burdened. Baptism of desire only applies to those who, by a special grace of the Holy Ghost, have received the virtues of the Catholic Faith, Hope and Charity. (See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, IIIa, Q.66, A.11.) How Archbishop May can apply this doctrine to Hindus “in search of God” is a mystery of iniquity (II Thess. 2:7).


The St. Louis Review (May 13, 1988)

Archbishop John L. May will take part in a golden jubilee celebration of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis on Sunday, May 22, at the Hindu Temple of Universal Philosophy and Religion, 205 S. Skinner Blvd. The program will begin at 8pm.

Archbishop May and Swami Chetanananda will speak on “Our Common Search for God.” Fr. Vincent Heier, director for the Archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious affairs, will give the introduction.

Letter of Fr. Vincent Heier to The Wanderer110

Your >From the Mail column of the latest issue of The Wanderer included erroneous information on Archbishop John May’s participation at the Hindu Vedanta Society in St. Louis. To clarify the facts, the Archbishop was approached, through my office, by Swami Chetanananda to speak at the Vedanta Society on the occasion of their golden jubilee. It was patterned after a similar visit by Cardinal Manning to the Vedanta Society in Los Angeles a few years ago.

After much discussion, we decided to use the theme, “Our Common Search for God.” This was to express Vatican II’s teachings regarding non-Christian religions as they reflect, even imperfectly, the human longing for God. Certainly this was shown in the Holy Father’s meeting on peace with world religious leaders (including the Vedanta Society) in Assisi in October 1986.

Unfortunately, after The St. Louis Review publicity, Archbishop May was called to Rome on urgent business and asked Auxiliary Bishop Terry Steib to speak in his place. I was asked to introduce Bishop Steib and then he gave a short talk on the subject mentioned above. The swami then gave a response, and after some music by their choir, including Ave Maria, the evening concluded.

The biased tone of your article, and especially the quotation by your unnamed correspondent that, “Archbishop May has not yet found God in the Catholic Church,” reflect once again that your paper does not seek to publish the truth but innuendo. A simple phone call to the Archbishop’s office, or mine, could have provided you with the facts. While I seldom see any retractions in your “infallible” paper, it would seem that one is called for in this regard

Fr. Vincent A. Heier, Director
Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Archdiocese of St. Louis

Letter of Archbishop May to Mr. Eugene St. Pierre

19 May 1988
Mr. Eugene J. St. Pierre
Depository of Sacred Music
Box 33046
St. Louis, Missouri 63119
Dear Mr. St. Pierre:

In reply to your recent letter I assure you that there is no violation of Canon Law in my attendance at the gold jubilee celebration of the Vedanta Society. Perhaps you have a specific canon in mind and I would appreciate your identifying it for me.

You may be sure that my address at this jubilee will be faithful to Catholic doctrine as taught by the magisterium. There is certainly no teaching of the Catholic Church that says that all the people in the world who are not Roman Catholics are automatically going to hell. You must remember your Baltimore Catechism which taught you of baptism by desire. That has always been part of our faith.

I just wonder how much you know about the Vedanta Society and what it teaches. You are wrong in saying that I am breaking one of God’s commandments. I recall that our Holy Father joined in a celebration in which he prayed with people from the same Hindu background and with many other representatives of various world religions at the meeting in Assisi last year.

The bad example comes from the top! I know that the followers of the Lefebvre movement, whose bulletin you sent me, also oppose our Holy Father and consider him heretical in the same way.

Thank you for your prayers and I assure you also of mine.

Cordially in Christ,

Most Reverend John L. May
Archbishop of St. Louis

In the words of Archbishop May himself, the 1983 Code of Canon Law does not forbid such practical denial of the Catholic Faith. The 1917 Code of Canon Law clearly forbade any active participation in any non-Catholic “celebration” and held those who would participate to be suspect of heresy (Canons 1258, 2316).

In view of the different treatment of Archbishop May and Archbishop Lefebvre, there is only one conclusion: there is a double standard in the Church today!

The column of the same Fr. Vincent Heier in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch(July 15, 1988), which follows, manifests clearly that for Archbishop May, ecumenism is more important than upholding Catholic Tradition.

Religious Rifts

In a July 6 article on the Episcopalian compromise on women bishops, Bishop Michael Marshall of the Anglican Institute compared the situation with the recent schism of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre from the Roman Catholic Church. He asked his fellow bishops, “Do we want to go down the road of Roman Catholicism? That’s another way to handle conflict—cast it out of the body!”

How wrong Marshall is! If one read the correspondence between Rome and Lefebvre, one would note that the Vatican went out of its way to prevent a schism by the so-called traditionalists.

In the end, it was Lefebvre and his followers who would not bend. The theological conflict came not over the use of the Latin Tridentine Mass but over the ecumenical openness of Vatican II. Because that ecumenical openness has led to greater unity between Anglican and Roman Catholic Christians, it is unfortunate that a bishop of the Anglican Church could so misrepresent this latest wound within the body of Christ.

The Rev. Vincent A. Heier
Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Archdiocese of St. Louis

110. The Wanderer, Sept. 8, 1988, pp.7,8 (published weekly from St. Paul, Minnesota).
"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
June 2, 1988

Rome and the “Reconciliation”

“Could Rome have not been trusted?...Had not Rome given enough signs of goodwill, and of a sincere desire for reconciliation?” Such are the questions that many asked on the occasion of the episcopal consecrations of June 30, 1988.

It is not for us to judge men’s intentions, so rather than question the goodwill of the Roman authorities we prefer to state the facts for which they are responsible.

That is why we are giving here below the extracts from a letter written by a seminarian who left Ecône to join the seminary
Mater Ecclesiæ, at Rome, an establishment desired by the Holy Father and opened by him on Oct. 15, 1986, and protected by a commission of cardinals. Mater Ecclesiæ was designed to be a seminary to receive seminarians who left Ecône and any others with similar feelings.

How sorry I am! Yes! I have everything, absolutely everything to be sorry about in this “enterprise” of Mater Ecclesiæ. Firstly, my being sent away for having made insistent requests in favor, for example, of more frequent Tridentine Masses, the wearing of ecclesiastical dress, the correction within the seminary of the errors of the courses being taught us at the Angelicum University...

The reply to these requests, repeated many times, was silence, and above all, the steady and by now complete realigning of the house and of each of the seminarians on Modernist Rome. The whole enterprise is the laughing-stock of the Progressives, with the French bishops at their head, including some of the most traditional!

Day by day, we saw the situation growing worse: the seminarians taking off their habit, seminarians getting themselves accepted by the bishops by renouncing everything, being ready for anything—Then there came the time of sanctions when all those who had been given the task of helping us were ordered by the authorities to look after us no longer— Henceforth for anyone who wanted nothing to do with the bishops of France or anywhere else, there is absolutely no further solution...Vagus— Nomad....We are from now on wandering clerics, left hanging in the void.

And the Pope did nothing, and no doubt next year the house Mater Ecclesiæ will be closed, which may well be no bad thing.

Several times I had the occasion to say either to Cardinal Ratzinger or to certain monsignori of the Curia that, alas, we were forced to admit that Archbishop Lefebvre was right on most questions and that I was wrong.

It causes me much suffering to write you these lines as I think of my idiocy in having abandoned Ecône despite your advice, the cowardice of the authorities (I am weighing my words) when it comes to Tradition and their similar cowardice when it comes to “ecumenism” towards the others, the abandoning and denial on the part of almost all those who had undertaken never to let go—everything, yes, absolutely everything fills me with regret!

An ex-Seminarian
"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
June 1988

Reports from the Media

During the months of June and July (1988) many newspapers and magazines carried articles on Archbishop Lefebvre. The two which are excerpted here are especially notable.

30 Days (June 1988)

Cardinal Gagnon was interviewed by 30 Days at the beginning of June. For him, many of the faithful who follow Archbishop Lefebvre were scandalized because:

Cardinal Gagnon: …[M]any things have been done too fast and without taking time to explain to the people what was happening....I think there was a lack of patience and prudence as a result.

Interviewer: So you think that the implementation of the vernacular Mass was too swift...

Cardinal Gagnon: Oh, yes, sure. It was too swift. When we were in the Seminary, we were taught that changing a word in the Canon of the Mass was a mortal sin. And then, all of a sudden, all that is changed.

Thus, for Cardinal Gagnon, the only problem was the rapidity of the change. He does not see the Protestant spirit which permeates the new liturgy. The purpose of the “reconciliation” in his eyes was to give the time to traditional faithful to make the change at their own pace. This is unacceptable.

America (June 18, 1988)

William D. Dinges, Professor in the Department of Religion at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., acknowledges that the faithful attached to Tradition are not slow-minded faithful, incapable of changing fast enough. He sees the problem at its proper level, the doctrinal level:

“Catholic traditionalism—is not a form of naivete. It does not arise unaware of a new intellectual or theological order; it stands in opposition to it, defending a world view and governing assumptions of religious experience that have lost much of their credibility and legitimacy in the wake of Vatican II. Traditionalism, especially among its intellectual and clerical elite, is a repudiation of the historical consciousness, the “anthropocentric turn” toward the subjective, and other hermeneutical, relativising and praxis tendencies that characterize contemporary consciousness and much modern theology, and that are reflected in one fashion or another in key documents of the Council.”

The first characteristic of modern theology is its incomprehensibility! We have here a great concession. Modern theology is characterized by this “anthropocentric turn toward the subjective.” What does that mean? It means that everything is centered on man ([i]anthropos) rather than God, rather than Jesus Christ. Indeed, we do reject this anthropocentric turn! Modern theology subjectivizes everything. Faith is no longer the adherence to the objective Truths; it is the subjective expression of religious feelings. This is the Modernist faith condemned by St. Pius X. Professor William D. Dinges, who wrote the America article, witnesses that these new characteristics of modern theology “are reflected in one fashion or another in key documents of the Council.” The Professor continues[/i]:

“Traditionalism manifests the classic tendency to absolutise the cognitive aspects of religions and to reify111 the constituent symbols of religious identity....[It is] a strongly rationalistic (orientation) in which religion is based on a standardized objective knowledge of God...the emphasis on “correct belief” as the primary datum of religion and norm for all other forms of religious self-understanding animates all of Archbishop Lefebvre’s writings and public pronouncements and is his real casus belli112with the Vatican....

“The causes of Catholic traditionalism lie in…the logical development and extension of anti-modernist theological trends; the reaction against new epistemological and hermeneutical frames of reference that decisively penetrated Catholicism—and that were legitimated within Vatican particular, the de-objectification of the liturgy brought about by the reforms following Vatican II, like the de-objectification of Scripture accompanying Protestantism’s earlier embrace of historical-critical methods...”

Definitely, modern theology is incomprehensible, but when one begins to understand this jargon one is horrified to find nothing less than the pure Modernism condemned by St. Pius X. The Professor does not acknowledge any objective Truth, especially in religious matters. Faith is just the expression of a religious feeling, there is no objective “correct belief...” Yes! Archbishop Lefebvre and all true Catholics reject this Modernism “that was legitimated within Vatican II” and this is the real casus belli with the Vatican.

111. i.e., to consider as real, e.g., to consider God as a real being, not just a symbol.
112. i.e., the cause of the war.
"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

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