Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 1, Chapter 14

The Audience with Pope Paul VI


11 September 1976
Communiqué from the Vatican Press Office

His Excellency Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre came yesterday to Castelgandolfo to ask the Holy Father for an audience.

He was received this morning at 10:30.

His Holiness, after pointing out that the problems raised had been and were always followed by the Pope with the keenest and most constant attention, invited him, in words especially and intensely paternal, to reflect on the situation he had created, a situation gravely damaging to the Church, as well as on his personal responsibility with regard to group of the faithful who follow him and to the whole ecclesial community, and before God.

11 September 1976
Archbishop Lefebvre is Received in Audience by His Holiness Pope Paul VI

The following account of Mgr. Lefebvre's audience with Paul VI is entirely in the Archbishop's own words. The part is taken from a press conference given at Ecône on 15 September, the full text of which was published in Itineraires No.208, pp. 100-116. The second part is taken from a conference given to the seminarians at Ecône on 18 September. The full text is included in Itineraires No. 208, pp. 136-154. In neither case was the Archbishop speaking from a prepared text, which explains a somewhat disjointed style in places.



I tell you quite sincerely that this meeting with the Pope was for me altogether unexpected. Certainly I had been wanting it for several years. I had asked to meet the Holy Father, to talk to him about my seminary, my work - I might say to give him joy because I was still able, in spite of the circumstances, to manage to form some priests, to help the Church in the formation of priests. But I never succeeded. I was always told that the Pope had not time to receive me. Then, little by little, when the seminary was penalized, the difficulties were obviously greater, with the result that I was never able to get through the bronze door. But after those events (the suppression of the seminary and the suppression of the Fraternity) the condition set for my seeing the Holy Father was that I submit to the Council, the post-conciliar reforms, and the post-conciliar orientations desired by the Holy Father - that is, practically, the closure of my seminary. That I did not accept. I could not accept the closure of my seminary or the cessation of ordinations in the seminary, because I consider that I am doing constructive work, I am building the Church, not pulling it down, though the demolition is going on all around me. I consider that I cannot in conscience collaborate in the destruction of the Church. That brought us to a complete deadlock: on the one side the Holy See was imposing conditions which meant the closure of the seminary, and on the other side I would not have the seminary closed. It seemed, therefore, that dialogue was impossible. Then, as you know, that penalty of suspension a divinis was imposed, which is very serious in the Church, especially for a bishop: it means that I am forbidden to perform acts corresponding to my episcopal ordination - no Mass, no sacraments, no administering of sacraments. Very serious. That shocked public opinion, and it so happened that a current of opinion was formed in my favor. It was not I who sought it: it was the Holy See itself which gave tremendous publicity to the suspension and to the seminary. You represent all the means for the diffusion of news, and it was your job to give people what they wanted by speaking of this event. That set moving a wave of opinion which, to say the least, was unexpected by the Vatican.

So the Vatican found itself in a rather delicate and tiresome situation in face of public opinion, and that, I think or least imagine, is why the Pope wanted to see me after all, but not officially through the usual channels: I did not see Mgr. Martin, who usually arranges audiences, nor did I meet Cardinal Villot - I met no one. It so happened that I was at Besançon preparing for Mass when I was told: "There is a priest come from Rome who would like to see you after Mass. It is very urgent and very important." I said: "I'll see him after Mass."

So after Mass we retired to a corner of the room where we happened to be, and this priest, Don Domenico La Bellarte I think - I did not know him, having never in my life set eyes on him - said to me: "The Archbishop of Chieti, my superior, saw the Holy Father recently, and the Holy Father expressed a desire to see you." I said to him: "Look, I've been wanting to see the Holy Father for five years. They always impose conditions, and they will impose the same conditions again. I do not see why I should go to Rome now." He insisted, saying: "There has been a change. Something has changed at Rome in the situation with regard to you." "Very well. If you can assure me that the Archbishop of Chieti will accompany me to the Holy Father, I have never refused to see the Holy Father and I am willing to go."

I then promised him that I would go to Rome as soon as possible. I had the ceremony at Fanjeaux, so I went to Fanjeaux, so I went to Fanjeux and afterwards went direct by car to Rome. I tried to get in touch with that priest, and I met him in Rome, where he said to me: "You had better, all the same, write a bit of a letter to the Holy Father which I can give to Mgr. Macchi, his secretary, and then you will be able to see the Holy Father." I said: "But what sort of letter? There is no question of my asking pardon or saying that I accept beforehand whatever will be imposed on me. I will not accept that." Then he said to me: "Write anything. Put something on paper and I'll take it at once to Castelgandolfo." I wrote expressing my deep respect for the person of the Holy Father and saying that if there were, in the expressions I had used in speeches and writings, anything displeasing to the Holy Father, I regretted them; that I was always ready to be received, and hope to be received, by the Holy Father. I signed the letter, and that was that.1 The priest did not even read the little note I had written but put it in an envelope. I addressed the envelope to the Holy Father and we set off for Castel-gandolfo. He went in to the palace. We remained a while outside. He went to see Mgr. Macchi, who said to him: "I cannot give you an answer at once. I will let you know about seven this evening." That was last Thursday evening. And in fact at seven I got a telephone call in my house at Albano. I was told: "You will have an audience with the Holy Father tomorrow at ten-thirty."



So, the next day, Saturday, at quarter past ten, I went to Castelgandolfo, and there I really believe the Holy Angels had driven out the Vatican employees because I had come back there: there were two Swiss Guards at the entrance, and after that I encountered only Mgr X (not Mgr. Y: their names are very alike). Mgr. X, the Canadian, conducted me to the lift. Only the lift man was there, that is all, and I went up. The three of us went up to the first floor, and there, accompanied by Mgr. X, I went through all the rooms: there are at least seven or eight before you come to the Holy Father's office. Not a living soul! Usually - I have often been to private audience in the days of Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, and even Pope Paul VI - there is always at least one Swiss Guard, always a gendarme, always several people: a private chamberlain, a monseigneur who is present if only to keep an eye on things and prevent incidents. But the rooms were empty - nothing, absolutely nothing. So I went to the Holy Father's office, where I found the Holy Father with Mgr. Benelli at his side. I greeted the Holy Father and I greeted Mgr. Benelli. We seated ourselves at once, and the audience began.

The Holy Father was lively enough at the beginning - one could almost call it somewhat violent in a way: one could feel that he was deeply wounded and rather provoked by what we are doing. He said to me:

"You condemn me, you condemn me. I am a Modernist. I am a Protestant. It cannot be allowed, you are doing an evil work, you ought not to continue, you are causing scandal in the Church, etc..." with nervous irritability.

I kept quiet, you may be sure. After that he said to me:

"Well, speak now, speak. What have you to say?"

I said to him:

"Holy Father, I come here, but not as the head of the traditionalists. You have said I am head of the traditionalists. I deny flatly that I am head of the traditionalists. I am only a Catholic, a priest, a bishop, among millions of Catholics, thousands of priests and other bishops who are torn and pulled apart in conscience, in mind, in heart. On the one side we desire to submit to you entirely, to follow you in everything, to have no reserves about your person, and on the other side we are aware that the lines taken by the Holy See since the Council, and the whole new orientation, turn us away from your predecessors. What then are we to do? We find ourselves obliged either to attach ourselves to your predecessors or to attach ourselves to your person and separate ourselves from your predecessors. For Catholics to be torn like that is unheard of, unbelievable. And it is not I who have provoked that, it is not a movement made by me, it is a feeling that comes from the hearts of the faithful, millions of the faithful whom I do not know. I have no idea how many there are. They are all over the world, everywhere. Everybody is uneasy about this upset that has happened in the Church in the last ten years, about the ruins accumulating in the Church. Here are examples: there is a basic attitude in people, an interior attitude which makes them now unchangeable. They will not change because they have chosen: they have made their choice for Tradition and for those who maintain Tradition. There are examples like that of the religious Sisters I saw two days ago, good religious who wish to keep their religious life, who teach children as their parents want them to be taught - many parents bring their children to them because they will receive a Catholic education from these religious. So, here are religious keeping their religious habit; and just because they wish to preserve the old prayer and to keep the old catechism they are excommunicated. The Superior General has been dismissed. The bishop has been five times, requiring them to abandon their religious habit because they have been reduced to the lay state. People who see that do not understand. And, side by side with that, nuns who discard their habit, return to all the worldly vanities, no longer have a religious rule, no longer pray - they are officially approved by bishops, and no one says a word against them! The man in the street, the poor Christian, seeing these things cannot accept them. That is impossible. Then it is the same for priests. Good priests who say their Mass well, who pray, who are to be found in the confessional, who preach true doctrine, who visit the sick, who wear their soutane, who are true priests loved by their people because they keep the Old Mass, the Mass of their ordination, who keep the old catechism, are thrown on the street as worthless creatures, all but excommunicated. And then priests go into factories, never dress as priests so that there is no knowing what they are, preach revolution - and they are officially accepted, and nobody says anything to them. As for me, I am in the same case. I try to make priests, good priests as they were made formerly; there are many vocations, the young men are admired by the people who see them in trains, on the underground; they are greeted, admired, congratulated on their dress and bearing; and I am suspended a divinis! And the bishops who have no more seminarians, no young priests, nothing, and whose seminaries no longer make good priests - nothing is said to them! You understand; the poor average Christian sees it clearly. He has chosen and he will not budge. He has reached his limit. It is impossible."

"That is not true. You do not train good priests," he said to me, "because you make them take an oath against the Pope."

"What!" I answered. "An oath against the Pope? I who, on the contrary, try to give them respect for the Pope, respect for the successor of Peter! On the contrary, we pray for the Holy Father, and you will never be able to show me this oath which they take against the Pope. Can you give me a copy of it?"

And now, officially, the Vatican spokesmen have published in today's paper, where you can read it, the Vatican denial, saying that it is not true, that the Holy Father did not say that to me: the Holy Father did not say to me that I made my seminarians and young priests take an oath against the Pope. But how could I have invented that? How invent anything of the kind? It is unthinkable. But now they deny it: the Holy Father did not say it. It is incredible. And obviously I have no tape recording. I did not write out the whole conversation, so I cannot prove the contrary materially. But my very reaction! I cannot forget how I reacted to that assertion by the Holy Father. I can still see myself gesturing and saying: "But how, Holy Father, can you possibly say such a thing! Can you show me a copy of the oath?" And now they are saying it is not true. It is extraordinary!

Then the Holy Father said to me, further:

"It is true, is it not, that you condemn me?"

I had the strong impression that it all came back rather to his person, that he was personally hurt:

"You condemn me, so what ought I to do? Must I hand in my resignation and let you take my place?"

"Oh!" I put my head in my hands.

"Holy Father, do not say such things. No, no, no, no!" I then said:

"Holy Father, let me continue. You have the solution of the problem in your hands. You need say only one word to the bishops: receive fraternally, with understanding and charity all those groups of traditionalists, all those who wish to keep the prayer of former days, the sacraments as before, the catechism as before. Receive them, give them places of worship, settle with them so that they can pray and remain in relation with you, in intimate relation with their bishops. You need say only one word to the bishops and everything will return to order and at that moment we shall have no more problems. Things will return to order. As for the seminary, I myself shall have no difficulty in going to the bishops and asking them to implant my priests in their dioceses: things will be done normally. I myself am very willing to renew relations with a commission you could name from the Congregation of Religious to come to the seminary. But clearly we shall keep and wish to continue the practice of Tradition. We should be allowed to maintain that practice. But I want to return to normal and official relations with the Holy See and with the Congregations. Beyond that I want nothing.”

He then said to me:

“I must reflect, I must pray, I must consult the Consistory, I must consult the Curia. I cannot give you an answer. We shall see.”

After that he said to me: "We will pray together."

I said: "Most willingly, Holy Father."

We then said the Pater Noster, Veni Creator, and an Ave Maria, and he then led me back very pleasantly, but with difficulty - his walk was painful, and he dragged his legs a little. In the room to the side he waited until Domenico came for me; and he had a small medal given to Don Domenico. We then left. Mgr. Benelli did not open his mouth; he did nothing but write all the time, like a secretary. He did not bother me at all. It was as though Mgr. Benelli were not present. I think it did not trouble the Holy Father, just as it did not trouble me, because he did not open his mouth, and gave no sign. I then said twice again that he had the solution of the problem in his hands. He then showed his satisfaction at having had this interview, this dialogue. I said I was always at his disposal. We then left.

Since then, they are now relating what they like in the newspapers, the most fantastic inventions - that I accepted everything, that I made a complete submission; then they said it was all to the contrary - that I had accepted nothing and conceded nothing. Now they are telling me, in effect, that I lied, that I am inventing things in the conversation I had with the Holy Father. My impression is that they are so furious that this audience took place unforeseen, without going through the usual channels, that they are trying in every way to discredit it, and to discredit me as well. Clearly they are afraid that this audience puts me back in favor with many people, who are saying: Now, if Monseigneur has seen the Holy Father, there are no more problems: he is back again with the Holy Father. In fact, we have never been against the Holy Father and have always wanted to be with the Holy Father.

Moreover, I have just written to him again because Cardinal Thiandoum was so insistent on that2 so that he could have a short note from me to take to the Holy Father. I said to him: "Good. I am ready to write a short letter to the Holy Father (though I am beginning to think that this correspondence is endless), 1 want to thank the Holy Father for granting me this audience." I did that, and thanked the Holy Father..

The Holy Father had said in the course of the conversation: "Well, at least we have a point in common: we both want to stop all these abuses that exist at present in the Church, so as to give back to the Church Her true countenance, etc...

I answered: "Yes, absolutely."

So I put in my letter that I was ready to collaborate with him, he having said in the course of the audience that at least we had a point in common, to give the Church back Her true countenance and to suppress all the abuses in the Church. In that, I was quite ready to collaborate, and indeed under his authority. I said nothing, I think, which would promise too much, as giving back Her true countenance to the Church is what we are doing.

When I also said to him that I was, in fact, basing myself on “pluralism,” I said:

“But, after all, with the present pluralism how would it be to let those also who want to keep Tradition be on the same footing as the others? It is the least that could be granted us." I said: "1 do not know, Holy Father, if you know that there are twenty-three official eucharistic prayers in France.”

He raised his arms to heaven and said: "Many more, Monseigneur, many more!"

So then I said to him:

“But, if there are many more, if, even so, you add another, I do not see how that can harm the Church. Is it a mortal sin to keep up Tradition and do what the Church has always done?”

You see, the Pope seems well-informed.

So now I think we must pray and hold firm. There may be some among you who were shocked at the suspension a divinis and, I should say, by my rejection of the suspension a divinis. Of course. I understand. But that rejection is part, and I say it should be seen as part, of our refusal to accept the judgment that came to us from Rome. All that is the same thing. It is part of the same context; it is all linked together. It that not so? So I do not see why I should accept this suspension since I did not accept the prohibition of ordaining, nor accept the closing of the seminary and the closing and destruction of the Fraternity. That would mean that I should have accepted from the moment of the first sentence, of the first condemnation: I should have said Yes, we are condemned, we close the seminary and end the Fraternity .Why did I not accept that? Because it was done illegally, because it is based on no proof and no judgment. I do not know if you have had occasion to read what Cardinal Garrone himself said in an interview : our meeting with Mgr. Lefebvre in Rome with the three Cardinals was not a tribunal. He said that openly. It is what I have always said myself. It was a conversation. I have never found myself before a tribunal. The Visitation was not a tribunal; it was an enquiry, not a judgment. So there was no tribunal, no judgment, nothing: I have been condemned like that without being able to defend myself, with no monition, nothing in writing, nothing. No! It is not possible. All the same, justice exists. So I rejected that condemnation, because it was illegal and because I was not able to make my appeal. The way that happened is absolutely inadmissible. We have been given no valid reasons for our condemnation. Once that sentence has been rejected, there is no valid reason for not rejecting the others, for the others always rest on that one. Why have I been forbidden to ordain? Because the Fraternity was "suppressed" and the seminary should have been closed. So I have no right to ordain. I reject that because it is based on a judgment that is false. Why am I suspended a divinis? Because I ordained when I had been forbidden to do so. But I do not accept that sentence about ordinations precisely because I do not accept the judgment that was pronounced. It is a chain. I do not accept the chain because I do not accept the first link on which the entire condemnation was built. I cannot accept it.

Moreover, the Holy Father himself did not speak to me of the suspension, he did not speak to me of the seminary , of anything. On that subject, nothing, nothing at all.

That is the situation as it is at present. I think that for you, clearly - and I understand - it is a drama, as it is for me; and I think we desire from our heart that normal relations will be resumed with the Holy See. But who was it who broke off normal relations? They were broken at the Council. It was at the Council that normal relations with the Church were broken, it was at the Council that the Church, separating Herself from Tradition, departing from Tradition, took up an abnormal attitude to Tradition. It is that which we cannot accept; we cannot accept a separation from Tradition.

As I said to the Holy Father: "In so far as you deviate from your predecessors, we can no longer follow you." That is plain. It is not we who deviate from his predecessors.

When I said to him: "But look again at the texts on religious liberty , two texts which formally contradict one another, word for word (important dogmatic texts, that of Gregory XVI and that of Pius IX, Quanta Cura, and then that on religious liberty, they contradict one another, word for word); which are we to choose?"

He answered: "Oh, leave those things. Let us not start discussions.” 3

Yes, but the whole problem is there. In so far as the new Church separates itself from the old Church we cannot follow it. That is the position, and that is why we maintain Tradition, we keep firmly to Tradition; and I am sure we are being of immense service to the Church. I should say that the Econe seminary is basic to the battle we are waging. It is the Church’s battle, and it is with that idea that we should position ourselves.

Unhappily, I must say that this conversation with the Holy Father has left me with a painful impression. I had precisely the impression that what he was defending was himself personally:

"You are against me!"

"I am not against you, I am against what separates us from Tradition; I am against what draws us towards Protestantism, towards Modernism.”

I had the impression that he was considering the whole problem as personal. It is not the person, it is not Mgr. Montini: we regard him as the successor of Peter, and as successor of Peter he should pass on to us the faith of his predecessors. In so far as he does not pass on the faith of his predecessors he is no longer the successor of Peter. He becomes a person separated from his duty, denying his duty, not doing his duty. There is nothing I can do: I am not to blame. When Fesquet of Le Monde-he was there in the second row two or three days ago-said: "But in fact you are alone. Alone against all the bishops. What on earth can you do? What sense is there in combat of that sort?"

I answered: "What do you mean? I am not alone, I have the whole of Tradition with me. Besides, even here I am not alone. I know that many bishops privately think as we do. We have many priests with us, and there are the seminary and the seminarians and all those who come our way."

And Truth is not made by numbers: numbers do not make Truth. Even if I am alone, and even if all my seminarians leave me, even if I am abandoned by the whole of public opinion, it is all the same to me. I am attached to my catechism, attached to my Credo, attached to the Tradition which sanctified all the saints in heaven. I am not concerned about others: they do as they wish; but I want to save my soul. Public opinion I know too well: it was public opinion which condemned Our Lord after acclaiming Him a few days before. First, Palm Sunday: then, Good Friday. We know that. Public opinion is not to be trusted at all. Today it is for me, tomorrow it is against me. What matters is fidelity to our faith. We should have that conviction and stay calm.

When the Holy Father said to me:

“But, after all, do you not feel within you something which reproaches you for what you are doing? You are making a huge scandal in the Church. Is there not something which reproaches you?"

I replied: "No, Holy Father, not at all!"

He answered: "Oh! Then you are irresponsible."

“Perhaps," I said. I could not say otherwise. If I had anything to reproach myself with I should stop at once.

Pray well during your retreat, because I think things are going to happen - they have been happening for a long time, but the further we go the more often we come to critical point. All the same, the fact that God has allowed me to meet the Holy Father, to tell him what we think, and to leave the whole responsibility for the situation, now, in his hand - that is something willed by God. It remains for us to pray, begging the Holy Ghost to enlighten him and to give him courage to act in a manner which could clearly be very hard for him. I see no other solution. God has all the solutions. I could die tomorrow. We should pray also for the faithful who maintain Tradition that they may always preserve a strong, firm attitude, but not an attitude of contempt for persons, insult to persons, insult to bishops. We have the advantage of possessing the Truth-we are not at fault - just as the Church has the superiority over error of having the Truth: that superiority is Hers.

Because we have the conviction that we are upholding the Truth, Truth must plot our course, Truth must convince. It is not our person, it is not outbursts of anger, or insult of people, which will give added weight to Truth. On the contrary, that could cast doubt upon our possession of the Truth. Becoming angry and insulting shows that we do not completely trust in the weight of Truth, which is the weight of God Himself. It is in God that we trust, in Truth which is God, which is Our Lord Jesus Christ. What can be surer than that? Nothing. And little by little that Truth makes, and will make, its way. It must. So let us resolve that in our expressions and attitudes we shall not despise and insult people, but be firm against error. Absolute firmness, without compromise, without relaxation, because we are with Our Lord-it is a question of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory of the Blessed Trinity is at stake-not the infinite glory in heaven, but the glory here below on earth. It is Truth; and we defend it at any cost, whatever happens.

I thank you all for praying for these intentions, as I believe you did during the vacation, and I thank all those who had the kindness to write me a few words during the vacation to say and show their sympathy and affection during these times, which are always something of a trial. God certainly helps us in this fight: that is absolutely certain. But, all the same, it is trying. It would be such happiness to work with all those who have responsibility in the Church and who ought to work with us for the kingdom of Our Lord.

We remain united. Make a good retreat so that you will be able to undertake a profitable year of studies.

14 September 1976
Declarations by the Director of the Press Office

Fr. Panciroli, Director of the Vatican Press Office, read the following declarations on 14 September. They were reproduced in Italian in L'Osservatore Romano of 15 September. This translation is from the French version published in La Documentation Catholique and reproduced in Itineraires, No.207, pp. 190-191.

To the question put to me by a journalist I am authorized to answer: It is not true that Mgr. Lefebvre signed a document of submission before being received by the Holy Father. Before being received, he himself brought to Castelgandolfo a short letter in which he asked the Holy Father for an audience, in courteous terms which gave room for hope of a possible and always desirable submission on his part.
To another journalist who asked if the Abbe La Bellarte or other persons had been instrumental, in agreement with the Holy See, in preparing this audience, I am authorized to answer:
Neither the Abbe La Bellarte nor anyone else was given such a mission. There was no previous understanding, either direct or indirect. Mgr. Lefebvre presented himself unexpectedly at the papal residence in Castelgandolfo and asked for an audience by the letter mentioned above. The Holy Father decided to receive him, above all because, though he was suspended a divinis, he was still a bishop who had come in person to the house of the common Father, in very special circumstances, and also because, as we have already said, his request for an audience was so formulated as to allow the Holy Father hope of a repentance.

I take this opportunity to put you on your guard against news-stories which, in different countries, are unjustifiable embellishments of this sad episode.4

16 September 1976
Letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI

The occasion and the reason for this courtesy letter are explained by Mgr. Lefebvre in his conference to his seminarians. Cardinal Thiandoum had been spending a few days at Econe with Mgr. Lefebvre: "Cardinal Thiandoum was so insistent on having a bit of writing from me to bring to the Holy Father” etc.

The text was published in Itineraires, No.208, p. 131.

Most Holy Father:

Taking advantage of His Eminence Cardinal Thiandoum's meeting with Your Holiness, I am anxious to thank you for your kindness in granting me an interview at Castelgandolfo.

As Your Holiness said: we are united by a point in common-the ardent desire to see the end of all the abuses which are disfiguring the Church.

How I long to collaborate in that salutary work with Your Holiness and under your authority, so that the Church may recover her true countenance.

Hoping that the interview Your Holiness granted me will bear fruit pleasing to God and salutary for souls, I beg you to accept my respectful and filial wishes in Christ and Mary.

+ Marcel Lefebvre

17 September 1976
Letter from Mgr . Lefebvre to Dr. Eric de Saventhem

In its issue number 217 of November 1977, Itineraries published the Saventbem Dossier. This consisted of fourteen documents taking up 52 pages of the issue. The documents consist of a correspondence (concerning the illegal prohibition of the traditional Mass) conducted by Dr. de Saventhem with Cardinal Knox, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Cardinal Villot, the Secretary of State; and Archbishop Benelli, then Substitute (deputy) to the Secretary of State. This correspondence is of considerable historical importance and it is to be hoped that it will be made available in English. ** Firstly, the fact that the prohibition of the traditional rite is an abuse of power is proved in the clearest possible terms by one of Europe's foremost lay-men who is also a lawyer. He makes his case, in his capacity as President of the international federation Una Voce, in the politest and most respectful terms possible; he is answered sometimes curtly, sometimes rudely, but most often with a stony silence. It is the almost invariable experience of anyone who was corresponded with members of the hierarchy in the “Conciliar Church " that the correspondence will be brought to an abrupt conclusion the moment that the person writing produces evidence to prove his point. This has been particularly true with parents, priests, and teachers who have worked to restore orthodoxy in catechetics.

In the March 1978 issue of Approaches, Hamish Fraser comments on the Saventhem Dossier in the light of the Vatican II Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) which states (No.37), after quoting Canon 682, that the laity have the right: "to disclose (to their pastors) their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God and brothers of Christ." It goes on:

“By reason of the knowledge, competence, or pre-eminence they have, the laity are sometimes empowered- indeed sometimes obliged-to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church. If the occasion should arise this should be done through the instiutions established by the Church for that purpose and always with truth, courage, and prudence; and with reverence towards those who, by reason of their office, represents the person of Christ.”

Thus the theory -but the Saventhem Dossier shows the reality. Hamish Fraser comments:

“It cannot be denied that Dr. de Saventhem is one of the most distinguished, erudite, and responsible laymen in the whole Catholic Europe. Yet when, after going through the prescribed channels, he most respectfully requests no more than satisfactory answers or explanations concerning certain question which have for years been causing intense anguish to loyal Catholics throughout the Universal Church, in the person of Cardinals Villot and Knox he meets with stony silence, and is denounced as disobedient for even daring to ask such questions."

Archbishop Lefebvre has a good number of critics who, far from being Liberal, are every bit as orthodox as he is but insist that he should work within the establishment and make respectful representations through the proper channels. Such people failed to understand (or did not want to understand) the manner -in which the Church was administered during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI. The Saventhem Dossier exposes what became a standard procedure, a procedure which had already long been evident to anyone who really wanted to know. 6 It is quite obvious that some of the Archbishop's orthodox critics did not really want to accept the truth. They made their private; representations, which were ignored, and then sat back claiming they had done their duty. The fact that Mgr. Lefebvre was actually taking practical steps to salvage something of the Catholic faith from the wreckage of the Latin Church made them feel uneasy and caused resentment rather than admiration.

In his letter to Cardinal Villot dated 15 August 1976, Dr. de Saventhem had concluded with three requests, which are referred to in the letter from Mgr. Lefebvre which follows. These requests were:

That Rome should revise its recent liturgical legislation in the near future and accord the pre-conciliar rites the right of peaceful co-existence alongside the revised rites.

That as a provisional measure with effect from Advent of that year any priest should be free to celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V for groups who desired it providing they were submissive to the Magisterium of Pope Paul VI.

From the same date the restriction should be lifted which only allowed aged or infirm priests to utilize the traditional rite if there were no people present (sine populo).

Having received a copy of this letter, Mgr. Lefebvre wrote to Dr. de Saventhem on 17 September 1976.

Monsieur le President,

I have read with great interest the extract from your last letter to His Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State, with the three requests you submitted to him. I congratulate you on this initiative, and I wish with all my heart that it will be received in Rome with understanding.

The fact is, it was necessary for me to denounce the new rites as “bastard” rites and to say that the new rite of Mass is “the symbol of a new faith, a Modernist faith”; and one of the chief reasons for that was the rigor of the attempt to proscribe the old rites. That rigor can be explained only on the hypothesis that the purpose was to drive out of the Church, along with those venerable rites, the doctrines of which they are the expression.

If the proscription of our old rites were lifted, that could be taken as a sign that Rome does not wish to impose on us, by means of a completely altered lex orandi, a new law of faith. And if, thenceforward, those venerable rites recovered, in the lived liturgy of the Church, the rights and honors due to them, that would be striking evidence that the Church called “Conciliar” allows us to profess the same faith, and to draw from the same sacramental sources, as the Church of all time.

True, the renewed rites present problems even if they are proposed to the Church as merely experimental. Yet, however serious these problems, we should be able to discuss them calmly with the competent authorities, without finding ourselves accused at every turn of failing in authentic loyalty to the Church.

As to the work of priestly formation which I undertake in my seminaries, it is centered wholly, as you know, on the inexhaustible mystery of the Holy Mass. That is why, for the celebration of Mass, we keep the old Missal which seems to me to enable both the celebrant and the congregation to have a more intense participation in that mystery .The same would be true for the other sacramental rites: I am sure that in their old form they give expression, better than in the new forms, to the riches of their dogmatic content, and that they therefore have a greater evangelical and pastoral effectiveness.

For the universal Church I hope, as you do, for the peaceful co-existence of the pre-and post-conciliar rites. Priests and people could then choose to which "rite-family" they would belong. Time would then let us know God's judgment on their comparative values for truth and for their salutary effect on the Catholic Church and on the whole of Christendom.

With my respectful and cordially devoted wishes in Christ and Mary.

+ Marcel Lefebvre

17 September 1976
Statement by the Vatican Press Office

In its issue of 18 September 1976, L 'Osservatore Romano published the following statement made on 17 September by Father Panciroli, Director of the Vatican Press Office. It concerns the revelation made by the Archbishop that the Pope had accused him of making his seminarians take an oath against the Pope. Mgr. Lefebvre answered Father Panciroli on 18 September, and his reply will be included under that date. Father Panciroli also alleged that the Pope had offered to receive Mgr. Lefebvre on five occasions which are listed in his statement. Readers have only to refer to the instances quoted by Father Panciroli which are recorded in this book under the appropriate dates to note that it was made clear to the Archbishop that he must make a total surrender to the “Conciliar Church " before the Holy Father would receive him. To quote an instance not cited by Father Panciroli, in the handwritten letter to Cardinal Villot included under the date 21 February 1976, Pope Paul states: "We consider that before being received in audience Mgr. Lefebvre must renounce his inadmissible position concerning the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council and measures which We have promulgated or approved in matters liturgical and disciplinary.”

Mgr. Lefebvre most certainly did not renounce his position it was quite clearly as a result of the unfavorable light in which the Mass and the sermon at Lille had placed the Vatican that it was decided to back down on this frequently reiterated pre-condition for an audience.

Father Panciroli's statement reads as follows:

Mgr. Lefebvre has said during his audience with the Holy Father he learned that he was being falsely accused of demanding from his seminarians an oath against the Pope. Yesterday evening; speaking on “Antenne 2" of French Television, he said the same thing in even greater detail, asserting that the Holy Father said to him: "You require from your seminarians an oath against the Pope." According to the ex-Archbishop of Tulle this would prove that the Pope is ill-informed, and even roused against by calumnies, "no doubt to stop him receiving him.” Mgr. Lefebvre, according to the story, challenged the Pope to show him the text of the oath.

Well. I can assure you that during the course of the audience with the Pope there was never any question of an oath against the Pope which Mgr. Lefebvre was alleged to demand from his seminarians. This is news to the Holy See, which has heard of it only from the mouth of Mgr. Lefebvre in the interview in question and in the press conference the next day. It had never been heard of before, even as a theory.

The Pope has never said anything of the kind. Mgr. Lefebvre has never asked the Pope to let him have the text of the oath.

As for the insinuation that this "calumny" of the "oath" was invented to prevent the Pope receiving Mgr. Lefebvre, it seems to me that we have sufficient proof to the contrary in the fact that the Holy Father has five times let Mgr. Lefebvre know he would be happy to receive him, requiring nothing from him beforehand but a sign of repentance or at least of good will.

In the autograph letter of 29 June 1975 we read: "He (the Pope) awaits with impatience the day when he will have the happiness of opening his arms to you, to manifest a re-found communion, when you have responded to the demands he has just formulated. Now he trusts this intention to the Lord, who rejects no prayer."

At his meeting with Mgr. Lefebvre on 19 March 1976, Monseigneur the Substitute (Archbishop Benelli) spoke to him in the same sense.

In the consistorial discourse on 24 May 1976 the Holy Father said: "We await them (Mgr. Lefebvre and his collaborators) with open heart, our arms ready to embrace them."

In the letter addressed on 9 June 1976 by Monseigneur the Substitute to the Nuncio in Switzerland, which he brought to the knowledge of Mgr. Lefebvre, it says: "He (the Pope) has said, and he says again today, that he is ready to welcome him (Mgr. Lefebvre) as soon as he has given public testimony of obedience to the present successor of Saint Peter and of his acceptance of Vatican Council II.

P. Dhanis repeated the same thing to Mgr. Lefebvre when he met him on 27 June 1976. And in a Press Office answer to a question, published in L 'Osservatore Romano of 28 August, 1976, it was said: "The arms of the Pope are open."

18 September 1976
Communique from Mgr. Lefebvre

The Director of the Vatican Press Office alleges that in the audience I had with the Holy Father on Saturday, 11 September, the Pope did not accuse me of making my seminarians take an oath against the Pope. I am ready to swear on the Crucifix that that accusation was made by the Pope.

Staggered by that accusation I asked him if he could get me the text of the oath.

How otherwise could I have thought of putting that statement in the mouth of the Holy Father? For the oath never existed, either in fact or in my mind.

It is incredible that the Director should tell such outright lies.

Econe, 18 September 1976.

This statement was published in Itineraires, No. 208, p. 135.

7 October 1976
Letter to Friends and Benefactors (N0. 11)

Dear Friends and Benefactors:

Since the appearance of our last letter, at Eastertime, so many more events have marked out of the history of our work which has since become a center of universal interest: yet another proof, if such was needed, that the people of our time can still be stirred by religious problems and that these problems have a much more important impact on our society than is generally believed.

At the beginning of these events a great many among you have shared their sorrow, their sympathy, and sometimes their worries with us. All have assured us of their fervent prayers. We have received thousands of letters and telegrams and it has been impossible for us to reply to each individually. You will find, therefore, in these lines the expression of our profound gratitude. May they also be a source of encouragement and hope for you.

To help you make those persons who know little about us understand the reasons for our attitude, we insist on two things which seem to us to be very important: the disciplinary aspect and the theological aspect, or the aspect of Faith.

One does not condemn without judgment and one cannot judge if the cause cannot be given a hearing in the forms which assure its perfect and free defense before a tribunal. But we have been condemned without judgment, without being able to plead our cause, and without appearing before any tribunal. From this arbitrary and tyrannical condemnation of the Society of Saint Pius X and its Seminary follow the interdiction of Ordinations and the suspension which concerns us personally. Considering the evident nullity of the first sentence, we do not see how the sentences which are its follow-up can be valid. That is why we are not taking any account of the decisions of an authority which abuses its power.

If it was only a question of a juridical problem and if the unjust sentences only concerned us personally, we would submit in a penitential spirit. However, to this juridical aspect is attached a much more serious motive, that of the safe-guard of our Faith.

In fact, these decisions constrain us to submit ourselves to a new orientation in the Church, an orientation which is the result of an "historic compromise" between Truth and Error.

This "historic compromise" was brought about in the Church by the acceptance of Liberal ideas which were put into operation after the Council by the men of the Liberal Church who succeeded in taking the reins of power in the Church.

It is put into concrete form by the dialogue with the Protestants which has led to the liturgical reform and to the decrees concerning inter-communion and mixed marriages. Dialogue with Communists has resulted in the giving over of entire nations to Socialism or to Marxism, such as Cuba, Viet Nam, and Portugal. Soon it will be Spain, if not Italy. Dialogue with Freemasons has concluded in liberty of worship, liberty of conscience, and freedom of thought which means the suffocation of Truth and morality by error and immorality.

It is in this betrayal of the Church that they would like us to collaborate by bringing us into line with this orientation which has so often been condemned by the Successors of Peter, and by preceding Councils.

We refuse this compromise in order to be faithful to our Faith, our Baptism, and our unique King, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is why we will continue to ordain those whom Providence leads to our Seminary, after having given them a formation which is completely in conformity with the doctrine of the Church, and faithful to the Magisterium of the Successors of Peter.

This year we should have fourteen new priests and we are accepting thirty-five new seminarians, of whom four will be postulants to the brotherhood. We have the great pleasure of welcoming several Italians and Belgians. All of these candidates are on the retreat which starts the academic year.

During this time our priories are being slowly fitted out. Three of these will become active during 1977. We are being asked for everywhere. The groups of faithful Catholics are growing considerably and the priests are not yet numerous enough.

We are greatly counting on your spiritual and material support to permit us to continue the most necessary work for the renovation of souls, the formation of true priests, not to mention that of brothers and nuns.

On 26 September last, two brothers made their profession and two received the habit, while on 29 September we had the pleasure of receiving the profession of Sister Mary Michael, who is of Australian origin and is the first nun of the Society, as well as the blessing of the habit of three American postulants. Eight new women presented themselves to the postulancy on 20 September last.

Fortunately, we are not alone in maintaining the holy  Tradition of the Church in this domain. The novitiates of men and women multiply in spite of the trials which they are suffering from those who should rather bless them.

With the help of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph we hope that the end of this persecution that we are unjustly suffering is forth-coming. God will not abandon His Church even if he allows Her to suffer the Passion of Her Divine Founder.

That in every domain we may make Our Lord Jesus Christ to reign!

This is our aim.

May God bless you by the mediation of Our Lady of the Rosary.

+ Marcel Lefebvre

7 October 1976

1. Regarding the precise text of the letter, the following note was printed in Itinéraries, No.207, November 1976, p.188: "Mgr. Lefebvre's Request to Pope Paul VI for an Audience," The text of this letter has not been published. We asked Mgr. Lefebvre about the matter, and this is his answer:

That request for an audience was composed very quickly; I have no copy of it, but, as far as I remember, this is an exact reproduction of its substance:
"Most Holy Father,
Will Your Holiness be pleased to accept the assurance of my respectful veneration? If in my words or my writings certain expressions have displeased Your Holiness, I am exceedingly sorry. I am still hoping that Your Holiness will kindly grant me an audience, and I assure you of my respectful and filial feelings.
+ Marcel Lefebvre
Rome, 10 September 1976."

2. The Cardinal had been spending some days with Mgr. Lefebvre

3. See Appendix IV.

4. The episode which Fr. Pancirolo calls “sad” cannot be other than the reception of Mgr. Lefebvre by Pope Paul VI. Fr. Panciroli was perhaps “authorized” to express such a judgment – but by whom, exactly?

5. Substantial extracts were translated in Approaches, No.60, March 1978.

6. One of the most dramatic pieces of evidence to show the futility of attempting to work through the established channels in the "Conciliar Church" was provided when Canon George Telford resigned as Vice-Chairman and Secretary to the Department for Catechetics of the Education Commission of the National Conference of Bishops of England and Wales. Together with his letter of resignation he sent a statement of the reasons for his decision, namely that he had come to see the futility of lighting for orthodox catechetics without any effective episcopal support. The entire catechetical establishment of England and Wales is in the hands of Liberals who are using their position to destroy the faith. Some bishops regret this privately-none are prepared to take effective steps to prevent it. Canon Telford's statement was published in Christian Order in April 1977. It was not even mentioned in the "official" Catholic press.

Chapter 13

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