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Volume 3, Chapter LX
Letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to Cardinal Ratzinger and the Cardinal's Response
11 January 1982
Cardinal Seper has recently died. Now as you doubtless know, he had been appointed in a personal capacity (not as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Faith) as the intermediary between the Pope and myself, in the course of the audience which the Pope had graciously granted me on 18 November 1978, at the conclusion of which he summoned Cardinal Seper to inform him of his appointment.
It is on account of the interest which you have shown under various circumstances in bringing to an end the situation in which I and the Society find ourselves that I take the liberty of submitting these few lines to you.
Furthermore, if this problem concerned only myself and the Society it would be of little importance, but it concerns very many priests and hundreds of thousands of the faithful. It cannot be denied that these priests and these faithful have chosen to protect at all costs their Catholic Faith, and accordingly the survival of the Catholic Church, despite the difficulties that their attitude causes with respect to the majority of members of the hierarchy who consider that they are obliged in conscience to accept all the novelties that were introduced into the Church following upon the Second Vatican Council.
There is, then, a grave problem here, even if it is that of a minority in the Church. The persecution of which this minority, and especially the Society of St. Pius X, is the object, and the suspension illegally imposed upon me, are the more odious because at the same time ecumenism is practiced towards all heresies and errors, and religious liberty -no longer merely tolerance is being proclaimed. We, however, are not even entitled to toleration.
Nothing was resolved by Cardinal Seper, not even the appointment of an apostolic visitor who could have given the Holy Father a truthful report upon the situation of traditionalist groups and of the Society of St. Pius X. Cardinal Knox's inquiry, the results of which were published in the Notitiae of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, served to veil the Pope's eyes to the actual situation. No attention is paid to all the opinion polls and inquiries that have been made. The bishops themselves are very often unaware of how extensive these groups are, for they are not in touch with them.
Even if this minority only included a small number of priests and faithful, it would be significant because of its vitality, its vocations to the priestly and religious life, and the way it bears witness to the Faith, to piety and to generosity in doing its duty; in fact, many families are involved, and there are flourishing groups of young people. How can we ignore this vibrant Catholicism at a time when the opposite is to be noted in every diocese?
Such a deliberate wish to discredit those who are manifesting the vitality of the Church cannot but call down God's curse upon those who are wilfully blind, those who refuse at any price to recognize the errors that have been committed and who continue to defend them and to accept their terrible consequences.
Let us be permitted the freedom to continue, and to extend our experiment, and, in a little while from now, the seminaries will be full, convents and monasteries will multiply; we shall see, by God's grace, abandoned buildings come back to life. We should be able to provide as an example an international Seminary/University in Rome, where the Latin tongue would be honored once more, with the curriculum recommended by the Popes and by the Second Vatican Council.
Your Eminence, if your presence in Rome, in the most important Congregation, obtains this for us from the Holy Father, despite all the obstacles which will arise in your path, the Church will be in your debt.
If you wish to meet me, either in Munich or in Rome, I remain at your disposition and assure you, Your Eminence, of my most respectful devotion and my unceasing prayers.
+ Marcel Lefebvre
Reply of Cardinal Ratzinger
9 February 1982
I acknowledge receipt of your kind letter of 11 January and thank you for it. You will doubtless understand that I cannot yet reach any decisions on questions which concern the contents of your letter, as I have scarcely taken office. Nevertheless, I have informed the Holy Father that I have received your letter. His Holiness will probably entrust me with continuing the mission concerning your case which was previously dealt with by Cardinal Seper. You may take it for granted that I shall be most painstaking in so important a mission.
My Lord, please accept my sincerest regards, yours in Christo,
Joseph Card. Ratzinger