1, Chapter 12
at a Press Conference
Romeo Panciroli, spokesman of the Press Bureau of the Holy See,
made the following declaration on 1 July 1976, which was published
on 8 July in the diocesan bulletin of Mgr. Mamie and reproduced
in La Documentation Catholique of 1 August:
to information from Switzerland, Mgr. Lefebvre has actually
gone ahead with the ordination of a certain number of priests
and deacons. According to the same information, the candidates
were not provided with dimissorial letters from their Ordinary
or with a valid canonical title.
case, the following rules of the Code of Canon Law apply:
Lefebvre has automatically incurred suspension for a year from
the conferring of orders, a suspension reserved to the Apostolic
See. The same is true of earlier ordinations which may have
taken place under the same conditions, with the aggravating
circumstance, in this case, of irregularity linked with repetition
of the offense. This suspension is in addition to the prohibition
of conferring orders pronounced by the Holy Father and transgressed
by Mgr. Lefebvre, but which obviously is still valid and operative.
who have been ordained are ipso facto (automatically)
suspended from the order received, and, if they were to exercise
it, they would be in an irregular and criminal situation. The
priests who may have been already suspended for a preceding
irregular promotion to the diaconate could be punished with
severe penalties according to the circumstances, in addition
to the fact that they have put them- selves in an irregular
Holy See is examining the special case of the formal disobedience
of Mgr. Lefebvre to the instructions of the Holy Father who,
by the documents of 12 and 25 June 1976, expressly forbade him
to proceed with the ordinations. Even fraternal interventions
these last days, started by the Holy Father to get Mgr. Lefebvre
to abandon his project, could not prevent the interdiction being
The Mass in Geneva
4 July 1976, Mgr. Lefebvre preached at a Solemn High Mass celebrated
in Geneva by Father Denis Roch, a convert from Calvinism who had
been ordained on 29 June. This Mass is of particular interest for
two reasons. Firstly, it provided an opportunity of assessing the
reaction of the ordinary faithful to the Archbishop's decision to
ordain his seminarians in defiance of the Vatican. The importance
of this reaction was heightened by the fact that Mgr. Mamie, Bishop
of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg went to exceptional lengths to
make use of this Mass as a trial of strength between himself and
Mgr. Lefebvre. Father Roch was denied access to all the Catholic
churches in Geneva, he was forbidden to celebrate Mass in Geneva,
and Mgr. Lefebvre was forbidden to preach. Furthermore, Mgr. Mamie
commanded, in a statement published in the Nouvelliste on 2 July,
Catholics of this diocese, and those who are visiting it, must
be warned: no Catholic is authorized to take part in the first
Mass (of Father Roch) to be celebrated on 4 July.
Tribune de Geneve (a secular Swiss paper) gave considerable
coverage to the Mass in its 5 July 1976 issue. The paper noted that
the Mass was celebrated in the Palais des Expositions:
than 2,000 people assembled in this vast hall despite the interdiction
of Mgr. Mamie. ...The congregation manifested great fervor. Hundreds
of the faithful received Holy Communion. Men, women, adolescents
and young children knelt and prayed with devotion... no Catholic
church in Geneva would have been large enough to welcome such
a vast number of believers.
Masses celebrated by the Archbishop in France and elsewhere proved
that, despite the Vatican sanctions, a Mass celebrated by him will
attract a congregation of several thousand almost anywhere in Catholic
Europe. In most dioceses he can certainly attract a larger congregation
than the diocesan bishop-particularly in France. It is not intended
to suggest that the rightness or wrongness of Mgr. Lefebvre's, or
any other, case can be assessed by the extent of support for it.
If rightness depended on numbers, the persecuted Catholics of Elizabethan
England would have had a very poor case. But as the Archbishop's
enemies are trying continually to minimize the extent of support
for him it is worth taking note of the attendance at these Masses.
The support for Mgr. Lefebvre is an excellent example of the true
second reason for the significance of this Mass is the very fine
sermon preached by the Archbishop. He does go over some points made
in other sermons but, as it has not been published in English, it
is included here as a useful exposition of Mgr. Lefebvre's attitude
immediately following the ordinations of 29 June, a period during
which he certainly underwent great emotional and physical strain.
Sermon by Mgr. Lefebvre at Geneva
Dear Monsieur l'Abbé,
is not in this Exhibition Hall that your first Mass should have
taken place, you being a child of this city. It is in a large and
beautiful church of the City of Geneva that you should have celebrated
this ceremony so dear to the hearts of all the Catholics of Geneva.
But, as Providence has decided otherwise, here you are before the
crowd of your friends, of your relatives, of those who want to share
your joy and the honor which God has done you of being His priest,
a priest forever.
history of your vocation is the implementation of a plan.
I shall say what our plan is.
were born of Protestant parents in this City of Geneva, and in childhood
and youth you followed the teaching of the Protestant religion.
You were well educated, and you had a profession which gave you
all the world can hope for here below. Then, all of a sudden, touched
by the grace of God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, you abruptly decided, under the influence of that grace, to
direct: yourself to the true Church, the Catholic Church; and you
desired not only to become a Catholic but also to become a priest.
I can still see you arriving for the first time at Econe; and I
confess that it was not without a certain apprehension that I received
you, asking myself if so rapid a passage from Protestantism to the
desire of becoming a Catholic priest was not an inspiration with
no future. That is the reason why you stayed some time at Econe
reflecting more deeply on the desire within you, your aspiration
to the priesthood. We all admired your perseverance, your will to
reach that goal, despite your age, despite a certain weariness of
ecclesiastical studies, of the study of philosophy, theology, Scripture,
Canon Law -for you were a scientist. And now, by God's grace, after
those years of study at Econe you have received the grace of sacerdotal
ordination. It seems to me to be difficult for anyone who has not
received that grace to realize what the grace of priesthood is.
As I said to you a few days ago at the time of the ordination: You
can no longer say that you are a man like other men; that is not
true. You are no longer a man like other men: henceforward you are
marked with the sacerdotal character which is something ontological,
which marks your soul and puts it above the faithful. Yes, whether
you are a saint, or, which God forbid, whether you are like priests
who are, perhaps, alas, in hell: they still have the sacerdotal
character. This sacerdotal character unites you to Our Lord Jesus
Christ, to the priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in a very special
way, a participation which the faithful cannot have; and that is
what permits you, which will permit you in a few moments, to pronounce
the words of consecration of Holy Mass, and in a way to make God
obey your order, your words. At your words Jesus Christ will come
personally, physically, substantially under the species of the bread
and wine; He will be present on the altar, and you will adore Him;
you will kneel to adore Him, to adore the presence of Our Lord Jesus
Christ. That is what the priest is. What an extraordinary reality!
We need to be in heaven-and even in heaven shall we understand what
the priest is? Is it not St. Augustine who says: "Were I to
find myself before a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest
first, before the angel"?
then, here you are, become a priest. I said that the history of
your vocation is a whole plan, it is our plan. That is profoundly
true, because we have the Catholic Faith and are not afraid to affirm
our faith; and I know that our Protestant friends, who are perhaps
here in this assembly, approve of us. They approve of us: they need
to feel the presence amongst them of Catholics who are Catholics,
and not Catholics who appear to be in full accord with them on points
of faith. One does not deceive one's friends; we cannot deceive
our Protestant friends. We are Catholics; we affirm our faith in
the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we affirm our faith in the
divinity of the Holy Catholic Church, we think that Jesus Christ
is the sole way, the sole truth, the sole life, and that one cannot
be saved outside Our Lord Jesus Christ and consequently outside
His Mystical Spouse, the Holy Catholic Church. No doubt, the graces
of God are distributed outside the Catholic Church; but those who
are saved, even outside the Catholic Church, are saved by the Catholic
Church, by Our Lord Jesus Christ, even if they do not know it, even
if they are not aware of it, for it is Our Lord Jesus Christ Him-
self who has said it: "You can do nothing without me -nihil
potestis facere sine me." You cannot come to the Father
without going by me, so you cannot come to God without going by
me. "When I shall be lifted up from the earth, " says
Our Lord Jesus Christ, meaning He will be on His cross, "I
shall draw all souls to me." Only Our Lord Jesus Christ, being
God, could say such things: no man here below can speak as Our Lord
Jesus Christ has spoken, because He alone is the Son of God, He
is our God- Tu solus altissimus, tu solus Dominus. He is
Our Lord, He is the Most High, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
is for that that Ecône remains in being, it is for that that Econe
exists, because we believe that what the Catholics have taught,
what the Popes have taught, what the Councils have taught for twenty
centuries, we cannot possibly abandon. We cannot possibly change
our faith: we have our Credo, and we will keep it till we die. We
cannot change our Credo, we cannot change the Holy Sacrifice of
the Mass, we cannot change our Sacraments, changing them into human
works, purely human, which no longer carry the grace of Our Lord
Jesus Christ. It is because, in fact, we feel and are convinced
that in the last fifteen years something has happened in the Church,
something has happened in the Church which has introduced into the
highest summits of the Church, and into those who ought to defend
our faith, a poison, a virus, which makes them adore the golden
calf of this age, adore, in some sense, the errors of this age.
To adopt the world, they wish to adopt also the errors of the world;
by opening on to the world, they wish also to open themselves to
the errors of the world, those errors which say, for example, that
all religions are of equal worth. We cannot accept that, those errors
which say that the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is now
an impossibility and should no longer be sought. We do not accept
that. Even if the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is difficult, we
want it, we seek it, we say every day in the Our Father: "Thy
kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
If His will were done here below as it is done in heaven-imagine
what it would be like if God's will were really done here below
as it is done in heaven: it would be paradise on earth! That is
the reign of Our Lord which we seek, which we desire with all our
strength, even if we never achieve it; and, because God has asked
that from us, even if we have to shed our blood for that kingdom
we are ready. And that is what the priests are whom we form at Econe,
priests who have the Catholic faith, priests such as have always
you not think there is something inconceivable, unbelievable? Take
my example, which is like yours. I have now been a priest for fifty
years and a bishop for thirty. That means I was a bishop before
the Council, a priest before the Council. In my career as priest
and bishop I was made responsible for the formation of priests.
In the beginning when I went as a missionary to Gabon I was appointed
to the seminary of Gabon in Equatorial Africa. I formed priests,
one of whom became a bishop. I was recalled to France, and again
I was appointed to form seminarians in the seminary of Mortain with
the Holy Ghost Fathers. I then went back as bishop of Dakar, in
Senegal. I set myself again to form good priests of whom two are
bishops and one has just been named Cardinal; and when I was at
Mortain in France I formed seminarians, one of whom is now Bishop
of Cayenne; so amongst my pupils I have four bishops, one of them
a cardinal. I form my seminarians at Econe exactly as I have always
formed my seminarians for thirty years; and now, all of a sudden,
we are condemned, almost excommunicated, thrown out of the Catholic
Church, in disobedience to the Catholic Church, because I have done
the same thing that I have done for thirty years. Something has
happened in Holy Church. It is not possible! I have changed not
one iota in my formation of seminarians, on the contrary I have
added a deeper and stronger spirituality, because it seemed to me
a certain spiritual formation was lacking in young priests, as,
in fact, many have abandoned the priesthood, many, alas, have given
the world appalling scandal in their leaving of the priesthood.
So it seemed to me necessary to give these priests a deeper , stronger,
more courageous spiritual formation to enable them to face difficulties...
something has happened in the Church: the Church since the Council,
already some time before the Council, during the Council, and throughout
the reforms, has chosen to take a new direction, to have Her new
priests, Her new priesthood, a new type of priest as has been said;
She has chosen to have a new sacrifice of the Mass, or rather let
us say a new eucharist; She has chosen to have a new catechism,
She has chosen to have new seminaries, She has chosen to reform
Her religious congregations. And what have we now come to? A few
days ago I read in a German paper that in the last few years there
are three million fewer practicing Catholics in Germany. Cardinal
Marty himself, he who also condemns us, Cardinal Marty, Archbishop
of Paris, has said that Mass attendance is down fifty per cent in
his diocese since the Council.
will say that the fruits of that Council are marvelous fruits of
holiness, fervor, and growth of the Catholic Church?
have chosen to embrace the errors of the world, they have chosen
to embrace the errors which come to us from Liberalism, and which
come to us -alas, it must be said -from those who lived here four
centuries ago, from those reformers who have spread Liberal ideas
throughout the world; and those ideas have at last penetrated to
the interior of the Church. This monster which is at the interior
of the Church must disappear, so that the Church may find Her own
nature again, Her own authenticity, Her own identity. That is what
we are trying to do, and it is why we continue: we do not want to
be destroyers of the Church. If we stop, we shall be certain, convinced,
that we are destroying the Church, as those are engaged in destroying
Her who are steeped in that false idea. And so we wish to go on
with the construction of the Church; and we cannot do better to
get the Church built than to make these priests, these young priests
-showing always the example of a deep Catholic faith, of an immense
charity. I think I can say that it is we who have a true charity
towards Protestants, towards all those who do not have our faith.
If we believe our Catholic faith, if we are convinced that God has
really given His graces to the Catholic Church, we have the desire
of sharing our riches with our friends, giving them to our friends.
If we are convinced that we have the truth, we should exert ourselves
to make it known that that truth can benefit our friends as well.
It is a failure in charity to hide one's truth, to hide one's personal
riches and not let those profit from them who do not have their
own. Why have missions, why set off to distant countries to convert
souls, if not because one is certain of having the truth and desirous
of sharing the graces received with those who have not yet received
them? It is indeed Our Saviour who said: "Go and teach all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Ghost. He that believeth shall be saved, he that
believeth not shall be condemned." That is what Our Saviour
said. Strengthened by these words, we continue our apostolate, trusting
in Providence: it is not possible that this condition of the Church
should remain indefinitely.
morning, in the lessons which Holy Church has us read, we read the
story of David and Goliath, and I thought to myself: Should we not
be the young David with his sling and a few stones which he found
in the stream to strike down Goliath clad in special armour and
with a sword capable of splitting his enemy in two? Well, who knows
if Econe is not the little stone which will finish by destroying
Goliath? Goliath believed in himself; David believed in God and
invoked God before attacking Goliath. That is what we are doing.
We are full of confidence in God, and we pray God to help us to
strike down this giant who believes in himself, who believes in
his armour, his muscles, and his weapons. That means the men who
believe in themselves, who believe in their science, who believe
that by human means we shall succeed in converting the world. As
for us, we put our trust in God, and we hope that this Goliath who
has penetrated into the interior of the Church will one day be struck
down, and that the Church will truly discover Her authenticity,
Her truth such as She has always had. Oh, the Church always has
it; She does not will to perish; and we hope, precisely, to cooperate
with that vitality of the Church and that continuity of the Church.
I am convinced that these young priests will continue the Church.
That is what we ask them to do, and we are sure that with the grace
of God and the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Priesthood,
they will succeed.
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Letter of Cardinal Baggio to Mgr. Lefebvre
Sebastiano Baggio wrote this official letter (numbered 514/7 6)
in his capacity as Prefect of the Roman Congregation responsible
for bishops and by order of Pope Paul.
It is the
Holy Father who desires me to send you this letter. It is intended
above all, on the part of His Holiness and in the name of Jesus
Christ, to be a new expression of the most earnest desire, and
of the ardent hope felt for a long time, of seeing you finally,
after a renewal of your espiscopal and ecclesial conscience, retrace
your steps and reestablish that communion which, by your attitude,
you have again broken more openly, and in fact on the Feast of
the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
I do not
wish to touch here on the question of the non-observance of the
conditions to which a bishop should keep who is proceeding to
the ordination of subjects not his own, non-observance for which
the Code of Canon Law itself provides, in canons 2373,2374 and
985 n. 7, appropriate sanctions.
On the other
hand, it is incumbent on me, in execution of a duty coming to
me from above, to state that, in ignoring the express prohibition
by the Holy Father, clearly and lawfully manifested in the documents
of 12 and 23 June last, and with fraternal interventions by qualified
persons, you have publicly disobeyed the prohibition by proceeding
to the ordination of several priests and of some "subdeacons.”
writes subdeacons within quotation marks because the subdiaconate
has been suppressed in the "conciliar Church."
this present monition, I implore you to change your attitude,
to ask pardon humbly of the Holy Father, and to repair the spiritual
damage inflicted on the young men ordained and the scandal caused
to the people of God.
the hope that you will not refuse to take the hand which His Holiness
holds out to you yet again.
When the Vatican
gives notice of a new threat or a new sanction it describes this
as "holding out a hand yet again "!
the invitation were to prove vain, and if a proof of recognition
of error did not arrive at this Congregation within ten days of
your receipt of my letter,2
you must know that, basing itself on a special mandate of the
Sovereign Pontiff, it will be the duty of this Congregation to
proceed against you by inflicting the necessary penalties, in
conformity with canon 2331, para. 1. 3
I beg you
to believe that it is with great pain that I have written this
letter to a confrere in the episcopate, and I assure you, Monseigneur,
of my respectful devotion in Our Lord.
8 July 1976
Chronicle of Father Bruckberger
Henri Bruckberger is one of the leading men of letters among the
French clergy today. He was a chaplain to the Resistance during
the war and was forced to escape to the U.S.A. in order to evade
the Gestapo. He writes a weekly column in the French daily L
'Aurore which is awaited with bated breath by both traditionalists
and Liberals-the latter waiting with trepidation to discover what
new aspect of the Conciliar Church " he will expose
as tyranny, heresy or hypocrisy. He has come to be looked upon as
the voice of the ordinary French Catholic, and because he refused
to silence that voice he has been subjected to severe pressure from
his superior in the Dominican Order. No comment needs to be made
regarding the parallel between the persecution he suffered for his
resistance to the Nazi tyranny and that which he now suffers for
his resistance to the tyranny of the "Conciliar Church."
his column in L 'Aurore dated 8 July 1976 he gave vent an
impassioned cri du coeur in protest at the coldness and hostility
shown by the French Bishops to the newly ordained priests from Econe.
Had they been Muslims, Communists, Protestant ministers, or Buddhist
monks they would have been received with open arms; churches would
have been placed at their disposal. But they were traditionalist
Catholic priests -so the doors of the "Conciliar Church "
were slammed in their faces. Father Bruckberger's article follows.
Order of Melchisedech
again we return to the subject of Econe and to the priests ordained
there by Mgr. Lefebvre. One knows that they were ordained illicitly,
that is to say without the permission and against the wishes of
the Pope, but nobody denies that they are true, validly ordained
priests; nobody casts doubts on their fervor or on their priestly
after ordination, these young men return to their home parishes.
In former days, I well remember, such a newly ordained priest was
the pride of the entire parish. Everyone flocked to his first Mass,
which was celebrated in an atmosphere of joyous devotion and reverence;
of gratitude for the precious gift which God had bestowed upon the
entire Christian people. Bells pealed, and the sweet smell of incense
filled the church. When the Mass was ended, even the old men knelt
to receive the blessing of this young, newly ordained priest.
was the reception the new priests from Econe were given by their
relatives and friends; not so by the official clergy, whose behaviour
was crude in the extreme. By "official clergy" I mean
those now in charge of our churches and cathedrals. We know that
discord exists among bishops; was it really necessary to extend
the burden of discord to those young men, at the very moment when
they had so joyfully given their entire youth to God?
was Cardinal Marty who initiated this contemptible ostracism; at
last he has shown himself in his true colors. While all types of
liturgical abuses are tolerated in our churches; while one church
in Paris is used for Moslem services, it is these young priests
alone who find the doors of their parish churches closed in their
faces; young priests of Jesus Christ, the anointing oils of the
ordination still fresh upon their hands; young priests who bring
no threat, but solely their new powers of Consecration. Ousted from
their parish churches, they are forced to celebrate Mass in secret
as during the Reign of Terror. One blushes with shame at the very
severe the Church may have been during my childhood, showing at
times the austere face of Jansenism, never did She show the implacable,
cold cruelty which in France today She shows to those of Her sons
whose sole aim is to preserve the purity of their Faith and of their
vocation. Is this what is called a "Pastoral Church"?
Is this the Church of the Good Shepherd, carrying the lamb upon
His shoulders? Is it even, as Cardinal Marty claims, " A church
which wishes to obey its Lord in the service of contemporary man"?
He Who has the words of eternal life for our salvation, is He not
also a "present day" man?
Eminence, I am going to tell you what horrifies me in you. Christianity
has taught us that in the depths of man there exists something impenetrable,
something which could well be called his spiritual "heart."
This "heart" does not beat to the rhythm of time: it beats
secretly to the rhythm of eternal life. When confined within the
limits of time, it ceases to beat, as it always does. It is when
this "heart-beat" is on the point of stopping that the
priest of Jesus Christ brings the spiritual oxygen cylinder. Your
Eminence, you are condemning these young priests in the name of
"your time " of which, in any case, you know little. Fear,
yes, fear the sentence which will be pronounced, not by them, not
by me, but by Another Who is above us all in eternity:
Your Eminence, the surprising part of your declaration, your trump
card, so to speak, was: "Allow me to tell you once again, that
in our present difficulties it is not merely a matter of Latin or
of the cassock. Far more is at stake: the unity of the Church is
threatened, the Eucharistic Mystery in its fullness of truth is
threatened." Your Eminence, your words are indeed true, they
are indeed frank; they are terribly frank; they are terribly true.
They re-affirm what I have been constantly repeating in this chronicle.
They are the very words used by Mgr. Lefebvre. So, for once, we
are in agreement and the door is now open for discussion.
Return of the Pharisees
could be more legitimate, nothing more traditional than to base
the unity of the Church on the truth of the Eucharist. The Eucharist
is the sacrament of that unity , for the Body of Christ is the common
heritage of the Church. It is around this Body that the members
of the Church gather. The Mystical Body of Christ is sanctified
by participating in the Eucharistic Body of Christ, either by receiving
Holy Communion or by making a Spriritual Communion. One calls to
mind the words found in St.Matthew: "wheresoever the body shall
be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together." The
Eucharist is not a meal for the unlettered; still less is it a banquet
for the intellectual; it is, as it were, the prey of the eagle,
a bird which is not given to relinquishing its prey for its shadow.
That is the heart of the matter. Who best safeguards the unity of
the Church: those who keep the reality of the Eucharistic Body of
Christ, or those who lightly relinquish the substance for the shadow?
is the religion of the Incarnation. God lifts us up to Himself through
the Humanity of Jesus Christ, made present throughout the centuries
and throughout the world by outward signs known as sacraments. To
betray those rites is to betray Jesus Christ in His reality; it
is to endanger the salvation of man for whom these rites were instituted
by Jesus Christ Himself, rites which have been carefully fostered
by the Church since Her foundation. Herein lies the cause of the
turmoil within the Church; the crisis of Econe is but a symptom
of the turmoil.
Eminence, when, as you say, the unity of the Church and the mystery
of the Eucharist in the fullness of its truth are at stake, we find
it extremely worrying, not to say distasteful, to find you reducing
the affair of Econe to a mere disciplinary matter, to find you donning
the cap of a Doctor in Canon Law, when, in fact, the very Church
is at stake.
former days the Pharisees posed as groping defenders of the Law
against One Who was both the Consummation and Supreme Justification
of the Law."
the Supplement-Voltigeur to ltine'raires (No.40 of July 1976),
Jean Madiran made it quite clear why these young priests had been
treated in the manner described by Father Bruckberger.
the days preceding the ordinations to the priesthood at Econe on
29 June, messages and envoys from the Vatican thronged about Mgr.
Lefebvre, promising him that all would be well if he accepted the
new missal, imposed it on his priests, and himself concelebrated
the New Mass publicly with a representative of Paul VI. The promise
was no doubt false, but it was significant -it showed that the assurance
given to Mgr. Lefebvre all through 1975 by the official inquisitors,
that in the proceedings against him liturgy was not in question,
was a trick: the truth was that it was liturgy alone, or liturgy
above all, that was in question -it was a question of the Mass of
Article 7 which was to take the place of the traditional Mass.
similar trickery had pretended in 1970 to correct Article 7 promulgated
in 1969. The same trick, in the Council, had put forward the nota
praevia explicativa on collegiality. In all these similar cases
the sequel showed and the facts proved that it was an imposture
designed to lull Catholic resistance with illusory, merely verbal,
guarantees, destined to remain dead letters. The trick was used
often enough for it to be exposed.
is indeed the Mass of Article 7 that the holders of ecclesiastical
power wish to impose on the Church; and it is indeed the Catholic
Mass which they intend shall disappear progressively and which in
fact is progressively disappearing.
it becomes more serious, the situation becomes daily clearer. Mgr.
Lefebvre has perceived that in reality whatever is undertaken against
him on a variety of pretexts has one principal purpose: to stop
priests being ordained to say the Catholic Mass. The present holders
-real holders, but unworthy -of the apostolic succession will not
tolerate the Mass unless in one form or another it is the Mass of
Article 7. The real battle is there.
young priests ordained at Econe on 29 June are beginning in their
priestly life opposed, scorned, insulted; calumniated, and abused
in the press; subjected to administrative persecution. They are
thus already in the likeness of Our Lord.
young priests have been validly ordained to say the Catholic Mass.
By them, for our salvation, the Catholic Mass will continue. We
kneel before them, we kiss their consecrated hands, and we thank
Preliminary Note by Mgr. Lefebvre
12 July 1976, Mgr. Lefebvre makes public, by communicating it to
the Agence France-Presse, his third letter to Paul VI, that
of 22 June 1976. He precedes this communication with a preliminary
which follows (Letter to Paul VI of 22 June 1976) is the third
of the same kind addressed to the Holy Father within the last
year. It was forwarded to him by the mediation of the Berne Nunciature
to which it had been sent on 22 June in answer to the letter of
H.E. Mgr. BeneIli which the Nuncio in Beme communicated to me
on 17 June (and which was dated 12 June). This letter of 17 June
forbade me to proceed with the ordinations on 29 June.
27 June, a special envoy of the Secretariat of State came join
me at Flavigny-surozerain in France, when I was preaching the
retreat to the ordinands. The letter he brought me from H.E. Mgr.
Benelli (of 2S June) made out that it was an answer to the annexed
the prohibition of the ordinations and the threat of, but it makes
no allusion to the possibility of a dialogue even with a mediator.
It thus appears
impossible to approach the basic problem, which the agreement
of the Conciliar Church, as H. E. Mgr. Benelli himself
calls it in his last letter, and the Catholic Church.
be no mistake. It is not a question of a difference between. Mgr.
Lefebvre and Pope Paul VI. It is a question of the radical incompatibility
between the Catholic Church and the Conciliar Church,
the Mass of Paul VI being the symbol and the program of the Conciliar
letter of 22 June 1976
has been included under this date.
Letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI
is the fourth letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI. It is the
first in which Mgr. Lefebvre "approaches the basic problem,"
the three preceding letters doing no more, essentially, than asking
to be heard.
letter is extremely compact in substance: it says, in summary, all
that Mgr. Lefebvre would have said to Pope Paul VI if this pope
had not, for years, systematically refused to see him and to hear
access permitting me to reach Your Holiness being forbidden me,
may God grant that this letter reaches you to express to you my
feelings of profound veneration, and at the same time to state
to you, with an urgent prayer, the object of our most ardent desires,
which seem, alas!, to be a subject of dispute between the Holy
See and numerous faithful Catholics.
Holy Father, deign to manifest your will to see the Kingdom of
Our Lord Jesus Christ extended in this world,
- by restoring
the Public Law of the Church,
- by giving
the liturgy all its dogmatic value and its hierarchical expression
according to the Latin Roman rite consecrated by so many centuries
- by restoring
the Vulgate to honor,
- by giving
back to catechisms their true model, that of the Council of
these steps Your Holiness will restore the Catholic priesthood
and the Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ over persons, families,
and civil societies.
give back their correct concept to falsified ideas which have
become the idols of modern man: liberty, equality, fraternity
and democracy - like your Predecessors.
Holiness abandon that ill-omened undertaking of compromise with
the ideas of modern man, an undertaking which originates in a
secret understanding between high dignitaries in the Church and
those of Masonic lodges, since before the Council.
in that direction is to pursue the destruction of the Church.
Your Holiness will easily understand that we cannot collaborate
in so calamitous a purpose, which we should do were we to close
May the Holy
Ghost deign to give Your Holiness the grace of the gift of fortitude,
so that you may show in unequivocal acts that you are truly and
authentically the Successor of Peter, proclaiming that there is
no salvation except in Jesus Christ and in His Mystical Spouse,
the Holy Church, Catholic and Roman.
And may God...
Notification of Suspension a Divinis
from the Secretariat of the Congregation for Bishops, with the reference
6 July 1976 (Prot. N. 514/76) Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio sent you
a formal monition, according to the terms of which you were made
aware of the canonical penalties which would be inflicted on you
if proof of resipiscence did not reach the Congregation of Bishops
within ten days of the receipt of the monition.
the one hand, Mgr. the Apostolic Nuncio in Switzerland attests that
you received, on 11 J July ,the formal monition from the Cardinal
Prefect of this Congregation, and that you signed a certificate
of reception as evidence of the fact ;
that, on the other hand, the interval of ten days has passed without
the hoped-for proof of resipiscence reaching the offices of this
execution of the instructions left by Cardinal Baggio, at present
absent from Rome, I have referred to His Holiness.
Holy Father has informed me that he has received from you a letter
dated 17 July .In his eyes, it could not unhappily be considered
satisfactory -on the contrary .I may even tell you that he is very
distressed by the attitude to him shown in that document.
consequence the Sovereign Pontiff Paul VI, on 22 July 1976, in conformity
with canon 2227, in virtue of which the penalties that can be applied
to a bishop are expressly reserved to him, has inflicted on you
suspension a divinis provided for in canon 2279, 2, 2°, and
has ordered that it take immediate effect.
undersigned Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops has been commissioned
to inform you of this in the present letter.
as you may well think, it is with great sorrow that the Holy Father
resolved to take this disciplinary measure, because of the scandal
caused to the Christian people by your obstinacy, after so many
fraternal attempts to turn you from the blind alley in which you
are proceeding. His Holiness cherishes the hope that you will again
reflect on this, and he begs Our Lord to inspire you with the resolve
to re-establish as soon as possible your communion with him.
at Rome, in the offices of the Congregation of Bishops, 22 July
Given to the Nouvelliste of Sion, Valais, Switzerland,
at Econe on 3 August 1976 and Printed on 4 August 1976
Aren't you heading towards schism?
Lefebvre: When someone says to me, "You are going to cause
a schism," I answer that it is not I who am causing a schism;
I am remaining in a completely traditional line. So I remain united
to the Church of two thousand years, and I am doing nothing other
than what has been done for two thousand years, than what I was
congratulated for doing, for the same thing, I am condemned! It
is as if I am expelled, I am almost excommunicated; finally I am
suspended, whereas I am doing exactly the same thing as I did for
thirty years of my life, during which time I was given every possible
and imaginable honor.
one will take from me my conviction that something has happened
in the Church. A new direction was taken at the Council, under the
direction of Liberal Cardinals who had contacts with Freemasonry,
and who desired that openness to the world that is so pleasing to
the Freemasons; an openness to the world that resulted in the Declaration
on Religious Liberty which is practically, in fact, the equality
of all religions. So no more Catholic State, no more affirmation
that the Church alone possesses the truth, and so many other things
that obviously oppose us to the Council. The whole problem is there,
the whole "drama of Econe," if it can be called that,
is there. Personally, therefore, I think that it is not I who am
causing a schism. Let me be shown in what I am causing a schism,
let me be tried. I asked to be tried before the Congregation of
the Faith, if I am truly opposed to the Catholic faith, if I am
truly against the discipline of the Church.
claim that now, since the Council, the authority in the Church -I
do not say the Pope, for I do not know what the influence of the
Pope is on the orders that are given. But those who hold power,
at least the Roman Congregations, are in the process of leading
the Church into schism.
is schism? It is a break, a break with the Church. But a break with
the Church can also be a break with the Church of the past. If someone
breaks with the Church of two thousand years, he is in schism. There
has already been a council which was declared schismatic. Well,
it is possible that one day, in twenty years, in thirty, in fifty
years - I don't know- the Second Vatican Council could be declared
schismatic, because it professed things which are opposed to the
Tradition of the Church, and which have caused a break with the
The Petition of the Eight
of the most distinguished Catholics in France sent the following
communication to the Press:
certain number of personages of the literary and artistic world
communicate this letter which they are sending to the Pope on the
subject of Mgr. Lefebvre.
sanctions that have just been taken against Mgr. Lefebvre and his
Seminary at Econe have aroused great emotion in France. Quite apart
from traditionalists strictly so-called, it is the majority of French
Catholics who feel themselves affected. For years they have been
disturbed about the evolution of religion. They say nothing because
they are not qualified to speak. They simply withdraw. It is Cardinal
Marty himself who recently revealed to us that, between 1962 and
1975, Sunday Mass-going has fallen in the Paris parishes by 54 per
cent. Why? Because the faithful no longer recognize their religion
in the new liturgy and methods of evangelization.
do they recognize it in the catechism. that is now taught to their
children, in the contempt for basic morality, in the heresies professed
by accepted theologians, in the political character given to the
welcomed the Council with joy, because they saw in it the announcement
of a rejuvenation, a certain suppleness brought to structures and
rules which time had little by little hardened, a more fraternal
welcome to those seeking truth and justice without yet having the
benefit of the great heritage of the Church. But what has happened
did not meet their expectation. They have the impression now of
being present at the sack of Rome. Was it not yourself, Holy Father,
who spoke of the self-destruction of the Church? The fact is that
in France that self-destruction is at its height -and we are witnessing
Monseigneur Lefebvre and the Seminary at Econe these rank and file
Catholics know very little. But what they have been learning about
them little by little from newspapers, radio, and television rather
evokes their sympathy. Monseigneur Lefebvre spent the best years
of his life in missionary activity .He was Apostolic Delegate in
Africa. Your predecessor, Pope John XXIII, who esteemed him greatly
and loved him, nominated him to the Central Commission for the preparation
of the Council. 4
He formed generations
of seminarians. Of the priests from his seminaries, four became
bishops, and it was yourself who made one of them, Monseigneur Thiandoum,
a Cardinal. How could such a bishop who, all his life, has served
the Church in a signal manner, suddenly become a stranger? Is he
not rather the bishop whose portrait Vatican II seems to have painted:
a bishop strong in faith, turned towards the mission, open to the
world to be evangelized? Grieved at the ruin of the French seminaries,
and convinced that vocations were not lacking amongst the young,
he opened a seminary which, strictly faithful to the norms of Vatican
II itself and of the congregation for Catholic Education, offered
to those who wished to enter there a life of prayer, study, and
discipline. At once candidates flocked in, and the seminary was
filled. The great majority of "rank and file Catholics"
of whom we speak know all that now.
unity of the Church is the argument which we see put forward everywhere
to justify the severe measures taken against Econe. But, Holy Father,
if the little nucleus of Econe is crushed, division will be made
much worse! For the division is not between Monseigneur Lefebvre
and the other French bishops. It is in the very heart of the hierarchical
Church, which lets so many rites, practices and opinions develop
with impunity that there is a risk that we shall soon have as many
of them as there are priests and communities. It is the swarming
of these little inner schisms, it is this proliferation of individual
religions, which is the mark of the Church in France-for we are
speaking only for France. And there is an explosion of disobedience
to Rome, to the Pope, to the Council, in all that concerns the liturgy,
the priesthood, the formation of seminarians, and the faith itself.
Strange Masses -sometimes ecumenical -and which have nothing to
do with the Mass of Paul VI are celebrated with the greatest impunity.
Is every "Eucharistic celebration" permitted except the
traditional Mass? Can every church be open to Moslems, Israelites,
Buddhists, but closed only to priests in soutanes? Is every dialogue
to be welcomed with Freemasons, communists, atheists, but condemned
with traditionalists? Is the hierarchy in France more prone to imposing
a certain new spirit than to announcing and defending the truths
of the faith?
Holy Father, you have what the basic stratum of the Christian people,
whom we are here evoking, end by asking themselves. Every day brings
us the echoes-ever stronger , ever more numerous-of their stupefaction
and their anguish and that is why we turn to you, for to whom should
a Catholic turn if not the Pope, Successor of Peter, Vicar of Jesus
Christ? We lay our petition at your feet. What petition? That for
love and pardon. It is, rather, a lamentation, a groan, that we
hope will rise to you. We are not versed in Canon Law, and we do
not doubt that Roman condemnations have juridical foundation. But
it is precisely excessive juridicism, legalism, and formalism which
seemed to us to have been banished by Vatican II. Could not this
serious legal action taken against Monseigneur Lefebvre and his
seminary be reconsidered? Could not the love you feel for the Christian
people of France prevail over a rigor which, striking the most famous
of our defenders of Tradition, will finish in inflicting an incurable
wound on that people? Could not charity inspire the restoration
of unity in the unique Truth? It seems to us that the traditional
Mass and the priesthood of all time could be capable of finding
their place in the consolidation and extension of a Church that
has never ceased to keep Her essential dogmas and forms, through
Her successive adaptations to the vicissitudes of history. What
would become of a Church without priests and without Mass?
is by this act of confidence, Holy Father, that we wish to bear
witness to our loyalty to the Roman Pontiff, sure, as we are, of
being heard by the Father of all Catholics, holder of the powers
given to him from the beginning by the Founder to lead the Church
to the end of the world.
de Saint Pierre
Letter of Pope Paul VI to Mgr. Lefebvre
our venerated Brother Marcel Lefebvre.
On this Feast
of the Assumption of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, We desire to assure
you of Our remembrance, accompanied with a special prayer for
a positive and speedy solution of the question which concerns
your person and your actions with regard to Holy Church.
is expressed in this fraternal and paternal wish:
words "fraternal" and "paternal" do not make
us forget the reality. Pope Paul VI refused to hear Mgr. Lefebvre
before condemning him. And, in his discourse to the consistory on
24 May 1976, he publicly denounced Mgr. Lefebvre and those who follow
him as being without feeling, without sincerity, and without good
would carefully consider, before the Lord and before the Church,
in the silence and the responsibility of your conscience as a
bishop, the insupportable irregularity of your present position.
was an additional irregularity, the cause of all the subsequent
irregularities: the irregularity of the procedure by which Mgr.
Lefebvre was clandestinely judged and unjustly condemned.
It is not
in conformity with truth and with justice. It arrogates to itself
the right to declare that Our apostolic ministry deviates from
the rule of faith, and to judge as unacceptable the teaching of
an Ecumenical Council held with a perfect observance of the ecclesiastical
norms: those are extremely serious accusations.
Paul VI rejects the accusations as serious and not as false. In
accord with the constant attitude of the Holy See in this affair,
he does not deny the Liberal and Modernist tendencies of his pontificate,
he denies that there is a right to challenge them; he does not claim
that the Council was faultless, he affirms that the ecclesiastical
norms were observed. It is the argument from authority, hypertrophied
to the point of becoming the sole criterion of the just and the
true. Once again, it is unconditional obedience to the Pope and
the Council -what is demanded is servile submission.
is not in accordance with the Gospel and in accordance with the
Lefebvre's position would not, in fact, be "in accordance with
the Gospel and in accordance with the faith " if he were opposed
to the principle of pontifical and conciliar authority. But that
is not so. He is opposed to the manner, accidental (and faulty),
with which that authority has been exercised for some fifteen years.
Faced with that, Paul VI does again what he had already done in
his consistorial discourse of 24 May: he confuses the challenging
(in principle) of an authority with the challenging (in fact) of
its exercise; in other words, he answers as though Mgr. Lefebvre
were demanding a Church without Pope and without Council, which
would, in fact, be out of conformity with Gospel and faith. The
question raised by Mgr. Lefebvre, in this regard, is whether the
authority itself is exercised "in conformity with Gospel and
faith " in the way it conducts conciliar evolution. By reason
of the circumstances, this question is neither gratuitous, nor trivial,
nor temerarious. It cannot be put aside indefinitely without examination.
in this course would do great harm to your consecrated person
and to those who follow you, in disobedience to Canon Law. Instead
of providing a remedy for the abuses which it is desired to correct,
that would add another, of incalculable gravity.
humility, Brother, and the courage, to break the illogical bond
which makes you a stranger, hostile to the Church, the Church
to which you have been of such service and which you desire still
to love and edify. How many souls are expecting from you this
example of heroic and simple faithfulness!
is not stated what bond and what illogicality are meant.
the Holy Spirit, and trusting to the Most Holy Virgin Mary this
hour which is, for you and for Us, decisive and bitter, We pray
and We hope.
An Appeal by Twenty-eight French Priests to Pope Paul VI
a spiritual conference on 27 August 1976, a group of twenty-eight
French priests, mostly parish clergy, in no way involved in the
traditionalist movement, addressed a plea to His Holiness Pope Paul
VI to take the appropriate measures to calm the emotion created
in France by the affair of the Seminary at Econe. Protesting their
total loyalty to the Holy See, these priests point out at length
to the Holy Father the disorders which the exercise of their ministry
has brought to their notice in France, particularly in catechetics,
in the liturgy, and in the workings of the episcopal commissions
for collegiality. 6
In the midst
of the drama which has caused such disquiet among French Catholics
for nearly two months, it is towards Your Holiness that we turn
with filial respect to present this plea on behalf of His Grace
Monseigneur Lefebvre and the young men who have gone to him to
ask him to form them and lead them to the priesthood. Many voices
have already been raised to make known the consternation experienced
by the faithful when they heard of the severe sanctions imposed
upon the founder of Econe and the priests ordained by him. Many
of these expressed themselves with a dignity and a concern for
the Church which must be recognized. But these were the voices
of lay people. All honor to them. It is as priests and fully cognizant
of the responsibilities of our priestly ministry that we wish
to address Your Holiness, protesting loudly our fidelity and our
submission to the Holy See.
conducted by a reputable public opinion poll has made clear the
extent of the popular feeling: 28 per cent of French Catholics
gave their spontaneous support to Mgr. Lefebvre. Such a number
calls for reflection, but in our pastoral experience, as priests
in direct contact with the Christian people, it is neither exaggerated
nor surprising. It is because of the extent and the depth of the
distress that has been revealed that we beg Your Holiness to relent.
these lay people, admitting perhaps their understandable ignorance
of Canon Law, may have revealed their anguish to Your Holiness
with a freedom and frankness which did not diminish by an iota
the respect with which they venerate the successor of St. Peter,
quite the contrary, we as priests cannot ignore the law of the
Church in the matter of ecclesiastical incardination. Although
we cannot fail to recognize the very real and very serious questions
which the decisions and actions of His Grace Monseigneur Lefebvre
pose from the canonical standpoint, neither can we hide from ourselves
the fact that this legal standpoint is only one aspect of the
problem. What is most essential, and also relative to the very
purpose of Canon Law, is the defense of the Faith and its promotion
for the growth of the Church and the extension of the Kingdom
truth, far from favoring a typically subversive opposition between
law and life, between the letter of the law and justice which
the law must serve, recalls on the contrary the existence of higher
principles and the ultimate purposes in the light of which positive
law, which is necessarily limited and relative, must be used in
the interests of justice and the vitality of the Church in order
to avoid juridicism, that rightly denounced evil. Summum jus,
maxima injuria, as the ancients used to say. Justice should
always (in the Church) be at the service of Christ's charity and
the salvation of souls: Salus animarum, lex suprema.
It is thus
appealing to these higher principles, which we know are held most
dear to the heart of Your Holiness, that we submit our plea that
Your Holiness may find, as you alone have the power, a solution
which will save Catholics and the Church from the terrible damage
which must inevitably follow the present division if a remedy
is not swiftly found.
is primarily the law which is in question, what reply can one
make to those who voice their deep anxiety at the fact that in
the events leading up to the actual drama there is no indication
of normal legal procedures having been observed, procedures demanded
by the gravity of the affair in question and that of the measures
finally taken? To stress a single point among many which have
cropped up, one can only be very surprised to learn that the report
of the canonical visitation of the Seminary at Econe in November
1974 was never sent to its superior; and this at a time when the
Seminary's canonical status had been termed "vague,"
that is uncanonical, even by voices in authority. And why, one
must also ask, was this visitation and its report not taken into
consideration when the decision to suppress the Priestly Fraternity
of St. Pius X was taken in May 1975?
We beg Your
Holiness to forgive us for returning to these sad events. We believe
that it is our duty to recall them, as these events, and others
like them, explain the perplexity of the faithful, and the hardening
of attitudes, in a manner which would normally be incomprehensible,
even among genuine servants of God and of the Church.
reaction can the faithful and the clergy themselves manifest when,
while these events are taking place, they witness the freedom
and impunity enjoyed by almost all the "assassins of the
faith," as His Eminence Cardinal Danielou designated them?
The brutal force of such an expression may shock, but it only
reflects the truth of the situation. It is hardly necessary to
recall the facts that lie at the basis of this situation. Cardinal
Seper and Cardinal Wright have for years been in possession of
many dossiers concerning the new catechism which the official
commissions of episcopal collegiality impose on the dioceses of
France. These obligatory courses contain neither the "truths"
nor the "means" necessary for salvation and yet years
have passed without any action being taken against the authors
or the propagators of this catechesis. They thus pursue their
work of destroying the faith under cover of the Bishops' authority
which they have usurped.
concerning the liturgy is similar. With the uncertainty of the
law, the innovators are no longer few in number but many. A religious
was able to list more than one hundred and fifty "Eucharistic
Prayers" put officially at the disposal of priests, not to
mention the directions given by official bodies for the free composition
of the eucharistic liturgy .All these directions have but one
point in common, the rejection of Catholic truth -particularly
where it concerns the sacramental function of the priest, the
Real Presence of Christ, and the fact that the Mass is the true
Sacrifice of the Cross. In this area also, most Holy Father, the
Vatican Congregations were informed according to the prescribed
forms, but the sanctions demanded by these blasphemous violations
of divine law have never been taken. The result is that the innovators
continue their work with an ever greater audacity. One bishop
even tolerates those concelebrations, if such a word can be used,
which for months have been taking place involving a priest of
his diocese and a Protestant pastor, causing as much scandal to
sincere Protestants as to faithful Catholics. Other prelates preside
over meetings where the agenda of the JOC (Young Catholic Workers)
is a cover-up for action which is more trade-unionist and political
than apostolic, and where the official "eucharistic celebration
" is an open denial of the Gospel. And what can be said about
the establishment of General Absolution as the norm, an innovation
which tends in practice to suppress the Sacrament of Penance,
and which in many places has already supplanted it?
facts, Most Holy Father, are no longer exceptional. They are daily
occurrences. And it is this which explains why millions of
French people, Catholics and even unbelievers, have made manifest
their sympathy for the person and the actions of Mgr. Lefebvre.
Catholics and large sections of the general public have recognized
that he was reacting against the "self-destruction of the
Church " which Your Holiness has denounced personally. It
is to this reaction that they have said "Yes." It would
be tragic to ignore the appeal contained in this massive popular
3. As to
the very serious basic questions concerning the conciliar and
post-conciliar situation taken as a whole and in its reality:
a certain manner of referring to the "Conciliar Church "
cannot effectively be accepted; nor is it possible to deny the
destruction of the Faith, or its large-scale abandonment by the
faithful which, in spite of happily large exceptions, is obvious
to any attentive observer. We recall the insistence with which,
on two occasions in 1974, Your Holiness personally declared the
need to "re-examine" what has been done for "the
last ten years": firstly in the Bull announcing the Holy
Year on 23 May, and secondly a month later in your discourse to
the Cardinals on 22 June.
is immense, certainly ,but if twenty-eight per cent of Catholics
reacted immediately by approving Mgr. Lefebvre whom they recognize
quite simply as a pastor who is openly fighting the ills which
afflict them all: if forty-eight per cent of these feel that the
Church has gone "too far," if fifty-two per cent of
practicing Catholics declare they are anxious and troubled by
the current evolution of the Church, and if -and it is the Archbishop
of Paris himself who has told us this - from 1962 to 1975, fifty-four
percent of Catholics in Paris have ceased attending Mass, it shows
that there is something seriously wrong, and that appropriate
measures should be taken as a matter of urgency.
It is these
measures which the Christian people are asking for today, and
we believe that it is our duty as priests to confirm this in our
small way to Your Holiness. We can bear witness that these statistics,
revealed in the daily press, do in fact reflect exactly what our
daily parish experience teaches us. Certainly, there are still
generous souls whose devotion is often admirable, and their spirit
of prayer and sacrifice some- times attains to heroism. It is
nevertheless a fact that these are only a very few, while the
numbers abandoning the Church are growing; thousands leave the
Church and the seminaries continue to empty, although vocations
exist. Where can we send them, these young men who ask where they
can go to receive a priestly formation? There is not a single
seminary in France (and voices more authoritative than ours can
confirm this) where the norms of Catholic priestly formation,
such as they have recently been formulated once again by the competent
authority, are truly observed.
Most Holy Father, it seems that the cause of the malaise is not
to be found among persons -you are aware of the difficulties of
our Bishops -under the burden of the structures and orientations
which have followed the Council. Is not Collegiality, as it is
exercised in practice by the commissions in which its authority
is invested, one of the prime causes of the present situation
in the seminaries of France, as it is in catechetics and the liturgy?
Stemming from this, among a very great number of priests, among
the young aspiring to the priesthood, and among the faithful,
there is a temptation to discouragement and to disgust and to
revolt. There is a grave risk of this feeling growing and aggravating
the harm already done unless these grievances are dealt with;
and to achieve this words will not suffice, adequate measures
must be taken at once.
4. What measures?
It is not for us to point them out to Your Holiness. It is, however,
permitted for us to indicate to your paternal heart two areas
where your personal intervention seems to us most urgent.
(a) The first
is that of the Econe affair: a revision of the procedure
which has resulted in the present drama appears necessary .We
think particularly of the young priests, of their debt of gratitude
to the Seminary at Econe and to its founder and to the faithful
who have supported them. If a certain hardening of attitudes has
already become apparent this is a matter not only of immediate
gravity but has even more serious implications for the future.
The factors which have contributed to this situation must not
be forgotten, and we have already cited the principal ones. The
Church in France is already short of priests. The salvation of
souls demands that a solution conforming to justice and charity
(b) The second
area is that of the Liturgy. Numerous questions arise,
as much from the point of view of the law as that of practice.
Contrary to the view of Father Congar, we do not believe that
the books he cites (in La Croix of 20 August 1976) reply
to these questions. In fact, they only cite and analyze parts
of the dossier. The situation is, in fact, one of almost unrestricted
pluralism, as long as the "fruits of creativity" go
in the direction of evolution. The absolute rights of creativity
and research are proclaimed as the supreme law. This claim has
been made and it would be hard to deny that it describes the current
situation accurately. In such a situation it must be recognized
that there is a permanent provocation even for those who, without
denying the validity of the Ordo Missae instituted in 1969,
see that in practice no one is concerned but those priests and
faithful who, in opposition to the aberrations to which this evolution
leads, attached themselves from the introduction of the Novus
Ordo to an Ordo with a tradition of more than one thousand
In the name
of what do they forbid this Ordo which the law promulgated
by Your Holiness has not abrogated? We are in the midst of total
pluralism and it is precisely because the faithful see that everything
is, in fact, tolerated (even what is manifestly unlawful), that
they are deeply shocked to find that the only victims of intolerance
are those who in the present drama appeal to tradition in liturgical
the unity of Catholic liturgy has been shattered (we are speaking
of France where we are the witnesses of unbelievable division),
it is not by proscribing the only rite with a thousand years of
tradition in the Roman Church that we shall find the means of
achieving unity. On the contrary, it is clear that the recognition
of the established position of the old Roman rite within the Catholic
Church would be an act of conciliation capable of contributing
in no small way to calming troubled spirits and healing wounds,
not to mention all the other benefits which could be expected
It is with
full confidence that we send this request to Your Holiness. We
well remember the words of your Profession of Faith (Credo
of the People of God) of 30 June 1968: "Within the body
of this Church the rich variety of liturgical rites and legitimate
diversity in theological and spiritual heritage and particular
custom, far from detracting from this unity demonstrates it yet
more vividly." On 14 December last did not Your Holiness
recall again, when addressing the Patriarch Dimitrios, all the
benefits which can and do derive from "the respect of a legitimate
liturgical diversity, at once spiritual, disciplinary, and theological"?
Such words are a great encouragement to us, particularly as they
seem to echo the Council which declared that: "Holy Mother
Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right
and dignity: that She wishes to preserve them in the future and
foster them in every way" (Liturgy Constitution, No.4). Certainly
the Council goes on to say that there is need for "revisions,"
but when these end up by creating a new rite, are we not conforming
to the sovereign law of the Church in this matter by suggesting
that the wish manifested by the Council to preserve and favor
all manner of rites legitimately recognized, especially the oldest
and most venerable, applies in a very particular way to the rite
of the Roman Church, the most venerable of them all?
Father, as respectful and submissive sons, we place this supplication
in your hands, but it is also as priests and pastors conscious
of their positions of responsibility which the Church has conferred
upon them in the care of souls. Love of Christ's unique Church,
so sadly torn apart from within, is the motive which has inspired
us. It is the love of Christ and the love of our brothers which
Our Saviour Himself has confided to you His Vicar here below.
It is the love of Our Lady so gloriously proclaimed by you "Mother
of the Church."
Your Holiness, to accept together with our supplication the homage
of our most profound and filial respect, and to grant us the grace
of your Apostolic Benediction. 7
are missing on the tape recording
days from Sunday.11 July 1976.
mentioned does not specify the penalties: congruis poenis, censuris
non exclusis, pro gravitate culpae puniantur
even more than John XXIII, loved and esteemed Mgr. Lefebvre.
is possibly the most distinguished living hero of the French Resistance.
of this appeal was published in the Courrier de Rome, No.161, September
was signed by twenty-eight diocesan priests, parish priests and
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109