Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 1, Chapter 15

The October Condemnation


11 October 1976
Letter of Pope Paul VI to Archbishop Lefebvre

This letter was not published by the Vatican until December and the translation given here was published by the Catholic  Information Office of England and Wales on 11 December 1976 in its official journal, Infoform. In a prefatory to the Pope's letter, the CIO claims that:

Until now the Holy See refused to publish this firm but fraternal letter, in order to give Archbishop Lefebvre all the time he needed for reflection. But the Archbishop has failed to give the reply that the Pope was waiting for. Instead, he has allowed a distorted interpretation of the Pope’s intervention to be spread, and has continued his own activities.... In these circumstances, His Holiness has to think, as a pastor, not only of bringing one of his brethren back to full ecclesial communion but also of preventing advantage being taken of the good faith of a part of the Christian people through accusations that sin seriously against truth and the unity of the Church.

The full text of Pope Paul's letter follows and it is not necessary to be an expert in the techniques of public relations to realize at once that it is a straightforward propaganda exercise designed for public consumption.

The "distorted interpretation" referred to concerns a complaint made by the Archbishop that one of the conditions laid down as a prerequisite for a reconciliation between himself and the Holy See was that he should hand over all the assets of the Society of St. Pius X to the Vatican. This complaint is described by the CIO as "a sin against truth." As the text of the letter makes clear, the demand was made and therefore in making his protest the Archbishop was doing no more than stating the truth.

There is no little irony in the English Catholic Information Office, of all institutions, accusing anyone of at- tempting to take advantage of the good faith of the Christian people by sinning against the truth. As one priest commented to me, regarding the manner in which the CIO had distorted the facts in another instance, it ought really to be entitled "the Catholic Misinformation Office.” Unfortunately, the secular media in England tend to confine their reporting of Catholic events to an uncritical reproduction of CIO hand- outs. The BBC is particularly notable in this respect. As far as its reporting of Catholic affairs is concerned it might be a branch of the CIO.

On 11 September 1976, the CIO issued a disgraceful attack upon Archbishop Lefebvre in which advantage was certainly "taken of the good faith of a part of the Christian people through accusations that sin seriously against truth." The substance of this attack was later reproduced in a pamphlet issued by the Catholic Truth Society under the name of Monsignor George Leonard, Chief Information Officer of the CIO. Despite repeated letters which I wrote to him, he refused either to substantiate or withdraw these accusation which I subsequently exposed as totally false in article which was published in Christian Order of January 1977 and subsequently in a pamphlet entitled Archbishop Lefebvre - The Truth, which had to be reprinted three times within six months.1

The Text of the Pope’s Letter



To Our Brothers in the Episcopate

Marcel Lefebvre, Former Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle

When We received you in audience on 11 September last at Castelgandolfo, We let you freely express your position and your desires, even though the various aspects of your case were already well known to Us personally. The memory that We still have of your zeal for the faith and the apostolate, as well as of the good you have accomplished in the past at the service of the Church, made Us and still makes Us hope that you will once again become an edifying subject in full ecclesial communion. After the particularly serious actions that you have performed, We have once more asked you to reflect before God concerning your duty.

We have waited a month. The attitude to which your words and acts publicly testify does not seem to have changed. It is true that We have before Us your letter of 16 September in which you affirm: "A common point unites us: the ardent desire to see the cessation of all the abuses that disfigure the Church. How I wish to collaborate in this salutary work, with Your Holiness and under your authority, so that the Church recover Her True countenance.” How must these few words to which your response is limited – and which in themselves are positive – be interpreted? You speak as if you have forgotten your scandalous words and gesture against ecclesial communion – words and gestures that you have never retracted.

As these "scandalous words and gestures" are not specified it is hard to decide to what the Holy Father can be referring. Is it scandalous to reiterate the traditional teaching of the Church; to protest against abuses; to demand that Catholic children should be taught their faith; to celebrate Mass in the manner utilized by so many popes and holy priests for five centuries-and in all essentials for 1,000 years? No, if we are to look for scandal we should look to those bishops who cooperate in the devastation of the Lord 's vineyard or, if they do not actively cooperate, make not the least effort to intervene in the interests of orthodoxy. Dietrich von Hildebrand writes:

"One of the most horrifying and widespread diseases of the Church today is the lethargy of the guardians of the Faith of the Church. I am not thinking here of those bishops who are members of the 'fifth column,' who wish to destroy the Church from within, or to transform it into something completely different. I am thinking of the far more numerous bishops who have no such intentions, but who make no use whatever of their authority when it comes to intervening against heretical theologians or priests, or against blasphemous performances of public worship. They either close their eyes and try, ostrich-style, to ignore the grievous abuses as well as appeals to their duty to intervene, or they fear to be attacked by the press or the mass media and defamed as reactionary, narrow-minded, or medieval. They fear men more than God. The words of St. John Bosco apply to them: 'The power of evil men lives on the cowardice of the good.' One is forced to think of the hireling who abandons his flocks to the wolves when one reflects on the lethargy of so many bishops and superiors who, though still orthodox themselves, do not have the courage to intervene against the most flagrant heresies and abuses in their dioceses or in their orders.

But it is most especially infuriating when certain bishops, who themselves show this lethargy towards heretics, assume a rigorously authoritarian attitude toward those believers who are fighting for orthodoxy, and who are thus doing what the bishops ought to be doing themselves! The drivel of heretics, both priests and laymen, is tolerated; the bishops tacitly acquiesce in the poisoning of the faithful. But they want to silence the faithful believers who take up the cause of orthodoxy  the very people who should by rights be the joy of the bishops’ hearts, their consolation, a source of strength for overcoming their own lethargy. Instead, these people are regarded as disturbers of the peace... The failure to use holy to protect the holy Faith leads necessarily to the disintegration of the Church."2

If we are looking for scandal we need only look as far as the campaign to destroy the Society of St. Pius X. It is in perfect conformity with the spirit of the “Conciliar Church” that legitimate resistance to an abuse of power should be termed scandalous, and not the abuse of power itself.

You do not manifest repentance, even for the cause of your suspension a divinis.

It is precisely the Archbishop’s refusal to submit to an abuse of power that caused his suspension. It is those guilty of the abuse of power who should repent.

You do not explicitly express your acceptance of the authority of the Second Vatican Council and of the Holy See – and this constitutes the basis of your problem – and you continue in those personal works of yours which the legitimate Authority has expressly ordered you to suspend.

The Acts of the Second Vatican Council are only Acts of the Ordinary Magisterium. The Council Fathers deliberately chose not to invest even one conciliar document with that infallible status which demands immediate and total acceptance. Mgr. Lefebvre's attitude is the correct attitude of a Catholic towards documents of the Ordinary Magisterium- to receive them with respect and to accept them where they conform with Tradition but to exercise a prudent reserve where they do not -for in such cases the possibility of error does exist.3  What Pope Paul demanded was that the Archbishop must accept the fallible Acts of Vatican II as if they were infallible. Not only was the Archbishop required to accept all the Acts of the Council itself -as has been shown in this book on several occasions, he was required to accept the post-conciliar orientations. Where the Acts of the Council themselves are concerned, there is no bishop in the world who, comes closer to implementing them than Mgr. Lefebvre. The only documents he refused to sign were those on The Church in the Modern World and Religious Liberty. His reasons for doing so are set out in Appendix IV.

Ambiguity results from the duplicity of your language.

Yes, it is quite true. Pope Paul VI is accusing Mgr. Lefebvre of ambiguity and duplicity after approving in forma specifica all the devious actions taken against the Archbishop -and this must include an invitation to a discussion which turned out to be a trial (see p. 45).

On Our part, as We promised you, We are herewith sending you the conclusions of Our reflections.

1. In practice you put yourself forward as the defender and spokes- man of the faithful and of priests "torn apart by what is happening in the Church,” thus giving the sad impression that the Catholic Faith and the essential values of Tradition are not sufficiently respected and lived in a portion of the People of God, at least in certain countries.

As Mgr. Lefebvre made clear during his sermon at Lille, he has never put himself forward as the leader of the traditionalists (as Chapter XIII). The Vatican thus invests him with a title to which he has never laid claim, and then attacks him for laying claim to it! Another example of the “Conciliar Church” in action!

If Mgr. Lefebvre has given the impression that the essential values of Tradition are not respected in certain countries, he is doing no more than state a fact which has been so obvious for so long that it is something which truly faithful Catholics now take for granted. The fact that there is not a single hierarchy in the West prepared to uphold and teach the truths and traditions of our faith is now accepted as quite normal rather than a cause of scandal. Organizations such as Pro Fide in Great Britain of Catholic United for the Faith in the U.S.A.., which have never been connected with Mgr. Lefebvre, have produced thousands of pages of ducumented evidence detailing liturgical, doctrinal, and catechetical abuses which almost invariably remain uncorrected. This is a charge which I would not have the least difficulty in proving where Great Britain is concerned. When they are presented with irrefutable proof that their catechetical directors are preventing Catholic children from learning their faith, the reaction of British bishops is to ignore the interests of the children and leap to the defense of their “experts.” I repeat, this is something I can prove if challenged.

In a message to the People of God issued on 11 October 1977, the Synod of Bishops included the following:

“…the vitality and strength of the entire catechetical activity of the Church is clearly felt almost everywhere. This has produced excellent results for the renewal of the entire  community of the Church. ...Despite some areas which cause concern, the number of present initiatives in this field, visible almost everywhere, is striking. Over the past ten years, in all parts of the world, catechesis has become a primary source of vitality leading to a fruitful renewal of the entire community of the Church."

There is only one possible comment regarding this statement-it is quite untrue. As a result of the initiatives taken over the past ten years the results are indeed striking -the accelerating decomposition of the Church throughout the West. To paraphrase once more a statement by Tacitus with which I concluded my book Pope John's Council: "When they create a wilderness they call it a renewal."

But in your interpretation of the facts and in the particular role that you assign yourself, as well as in the way in which you accomplish this role, there is something which misleads the People of God and deceives souls of good will who are justly desirous of fidelity and of spiritual and apostolic progress.

When the Synod of Bishops met to vote upon the document just cited it was approved almost unanimously. If the Pope had wished to accuse bishops of misleading the People of God and of deceiving souls of good will, there was clearly no lack of suitable candidates for such a reproach-the fact that he reserved it for one of the very few bishops to whom it is not applicable is another example of the Conciliar Church in action.

Deviations in the faith or in sacramental practice are certainly very grave, wherever they occur. For a long period of time they have been the object of Our full doctrinal and pastoral attention.

What exactly did Pope Paul mean by his "full doctrinal and pastoral attention"? The manner in which he exercised his authority was well described by Hamish Fraser in the July 1977 issue of Approaches. He comments:

"Having promulgated the New Mass, which was intended by its authors to initiate a permanent liturgical revolution, Pope Paul undoubtedly bears a terrifying responsibility for the consequent liturgical (as well as doctrinal) chaos. Similarly, he bears grave responsibility for the subversion of catholic education. On the one hand, although details concerning catechetical subversion have been reported to the Holy See time and again, nothing has been done to discipline the bishops guilty of imposing heretical catechisms on the schools under their control. On the other hand, by sanctioning the continued use of the New (Dutch) Catechism (subject only to its carrying an Appendix adverting to its most egregious error, which Appendix is simply ignored by those who use this compendium of Neo-Modemist heresies), he gave great comfort to the New Catechists responsible for catechetical subversion… Pope Paul must bear responsibility for the breakdown of Law within the Church and the consequent abuse of power at all levels. His pontificate, probably the most disastrous in history , has been characterized less by 'a suspense of the functions of the ecclesia docens' (teaching Church - Cardinal Newman's description of the state of affairs in the fourth century), than by a suspense of the ecclesia sanctificans  (the sanctifying Church) and of the ecclesia gubernans (the governing Church) It is undoubtedly true that, but for this partial suspense of the functions of the ecclesia docens, and the near total chaos concerning the functions of the ecclesia sanctificans and the ecclesia gubernans there would have been no need for Mgr. Lefebvre to found the Econe seminary and there would certainly have been no danger whatsoever of his coming into conflict with the Holy See."

Mr. Fraser's allegations concerning the total inactivity of the Holy See in the face of liturgical, doctrinal, and catechetical abuses are fully corroborated by the letter sent to Pope Paul by twenty-eight French priests on 27 August 1976 and included in this book under that date.

Certainly one must not forget the positive signs of spiritual renewal or of increased responsibility in a good number of Catholics...

With all due respect to the late Holy Father, there is not one indication of renewal anywhere in the Church which can be ascribed to Vatican II. There are, it is true, fruitful and inspiring apostolates such as that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta; however, this was not inspired by Vatican II but pre-dated it. An indication of the true nature of the fruits of Vatican II is provided in Appendix VIII to my book Pope John's Council.

...or the complexity of the cause of the crisis: the immense change: in today's world affects believers at the depth of their being, and renders ever more necessary apostolic concern for those "who are far away." But it remains true that some priests and members of the faithful mask with the name "conciliar" those personal interpretations and erroneous practices that are injurious, even scandalous, and at times sacrilegious.

Take careful note: sacrilege is being committed; the Council is used to justify sacrilege; and it is the Pope him- self who testifies to this fact. It is quite clear that any fault Mgr. Lefebvre might be guilty of would pale into insignificance beside a single act of sacrilege-but it was against Mgr . Lefebvre alone that the Pope took positive action.

But these abuses cannot be attributed either to the Council itself or to the reforms that have legitimately issued therefrom, but rather to a lack of authentic fidelity in their regard. You want to convince the faithful that the proximate cause of the crisis is more than a wrong interpretation of the Council, and that it flows from the Council itself.

Pope Paul was correct in stating that Archbishop Lefebvre claims that the Council is the cause of the crisis but the Pope contradicted all the available evidence in claiming that neither the Council nor the official reforms could, in fact, be blamed for the erroneous, scandalous, and indeed, sacrilegious practices which exist. It must be clearly understood that in making such a statement the Pope was expressing his opinion on a question of fact-i.e.: Have or have not the official reforms helped to create the atmosphere which engendered the abuses? Pope Paul said "No"; Mgr. Lefebvre said "Yes.” In a dispute concerning a matter of fact we must base our decision upon the available evidence and not upon the status of the parties concerned. In his diary giving the background to the encyclical Apostolicae Curae, Cardinal Gasquet relates how, in January 1895, Pope Leo XIII explained to Cardinal Vaughan that a small concession on the part of the Holy See would bring the majority of Englishmen into communion with Rome. He asked for the Cardinal's help in achieving this objective. The Cardinal felt bound to tell the Pope bluntly that his opinion had no "foundation in fact." Subsequent events proved the Cardinal to be right and the Pope to have been completely mistaken -he had put too much faith in the opinions of ecumenically-minded French priests who were totally ignorant of the situation in England. No one in authority likes to admit making an error of judgment and there is a natural tendency among subordinates never to suggest that their superiors have erred. A prelate of lesser character than Cardinal Vaughan would not have spoken so bluntly; the same can be said of St. Paul, Bishop Grosseteste, and St. Catherine of Siena -to name but three of those who have rightly rebuked the Pope of their day for pursuing policies which harmed the Church (See Appendix II). Pope Paul's personal prestige had become inextricably linked with the Council and the post-conciliar reforms and orientations to which he was committed. It is an incontestable fact that never in the history of the Church had there been so sudden and so widespread a decomposition of Catholicism. Historians will certainly record that the Pontificate of Pope Paul VI proved to be the most disastrous during the history of the Church. There is, however, considerable scope for a difference of opinion on the reason for this collapse.

One version, and it is a version which deserves consideration, is that a series of sincere but misguided pontiffs failed to keep pace with an unprecedented advance in human progress, that they failed to adapt the Gospel to the profound developments manifest in every other branch of society and contented themselves with repeating archaic and stereotyped formulae that were meaningless to a mankind which had "come of age." The capital fault of these pontiffs had been to fail to "read the signs of the times." These particular signs were, through the intervention of the Holy Ghost, made manifest to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, who at last undertook the urgently needed task of adaptation. It is argued that due to the short-sighted policies of pontiffs prior to Pope John XXIII, the Church was totally unprepared for this process of adaptation and that, to a large extent, it had come too late. Thus, this school of thought argues, the decomposition of the Church would have come anyway; Pope Paul and his policies are in no way to blame (except where he tried to uphold the traditional positions as in the case of Humanae Vitae); and if it had not been for the post-conciliar orientations the disaster would have been even greater.

Archbishop Lefebvre's view is that it is precisely the post-conciliar reforms and orientations to which Pope Paul himself was committed, and the virtual carte blanche which this Pope had given to Modernists to undermine the faith in any way that suited them (rarely opposing them with anything more than pious exhortations), to which the present crisis is due. Humanly speaking, it would have been almost impossible for Pope Paul VI to admit this -even to himself. He would have thus admitted not simply that his pontificate had been the most disastrous in the history of the Church but that his policies had been responsible for the disaster. When someone in authority initiates a policy which does not succeed, the almost invariable reaction is to find some explanation other than that the policy itself was wrong. When an education official introduces a new system of teaching reading which results in illiterate children, he will blame the teachers, their methods, lack of parental cooperation -anything and anyone but his own judgment. The history of the papacy makes it clear that the popes themselves are only too human. We should not be surprised that Pope Paul attempted to justify the orientations to which he was committed -it would have been a miracle of grace if he had not. If we read the history of the papacy we shall find many occasions when we could wish miracles of grace had occurred but didn't!

This has been a long comment on a short passage in the Pope's letter -but it involves what is perhaps the most crucial issue for faithful Catholics in the whole controversy between the Archbishop and Pope Paul VI. The faithful Catholic tends to presume that anyone who disagrees with the Pope on any topic whatsoever must certainly be wrong -and he cannot be condemned for this attitude as it has been one that has been inculcated for centuries, particularly in Protestant countries. “Keep the faith " has been equated with "Give uncritical support to every papal act and opinion." Now that it has come to the point that there can be a contradiction between keeping the faith and supporting the Pope, few orthodox Catholics are able to make the necessary distinction. I am arguing here that the Pope's interpretation of the reasons for the crisis is incorrect and that of Archbishop Lefebvre correct, simply that the Pope could be mistaken. I will leave readers to examine the evidence presented in my book Pope John's Council and decide for themselves whether or not it establishes that the Council and the official reforms and orientations are responsible for the present crisis.

I will content myself here with citing just one specific example. I am sure that every orthodox Catholic, whatever his views about Mgr. Lefebvre, would agree that there has been a great decline in reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament, particularly among children. Pope Paul VI insisted that this has nothing to do with the official reform, Mgr. Lefebvre insists that it does. Before the reform children knelt to receive Holy Communion on the tongue from the consecrated hands of a priest. Now it is quite common for them to receive it standing, in the hand, from one of their teachers or even from a fellow pupil. How can it be argued that these revolutionary changes have not contributed to the decline in reverence? Yet these revolutionary changes were official orientations to which the Pope himself was committed.

Moreover, you act as if you had a particular role in this regard. But the mission of discerning and remedying the abuses is first of all Ours; it is the mission of all the bishops who work together with Us. Indeed, We do not cease to raise Our voice against these excesses: Our discourse to the Consistory of 24 May last repeated this in clear terms. More than anyone else We hear the suffering of distressed Christians, and We respond to the cry of the faithful longing for faith and the spiritual life. This is not the place to remind you, Brother, of all the acts of Our Pontificate that testify to Our constant concern to insure for the Church fidelity to the true Tradition, and to enable Her with God's grace to face the present and the future.

Pope Paul was quite correct in stating that the Pope and the Bishops have a mission to discern and remedy abuses -but having a mission is not the same as discharging it faithfully.

The "acts " to which the Pope referred consisted in the main only of words, and even here he made only generalized condemnations. The legion of Modernists which proliferated throughout the Church, often in official positions, could rest assured that its members would remain exempt from specific papal condemnation; this was reserved for Mgr. Lefebvre. Cardinal Heenan remarked as early as 1968 that the Pope: "...constantly returns to the theme of the erroneous teaching of theology. Unfortunately, his condemnations are made in general terms. Since nobody knows which theologians are being condemned it is impossible for bishops to take any action.”4 As for the response of the bishops to "the suffering of distressed Christians"-as many distressed Christians can confirm, appeals to bishops frequently remain unanswered, a convenient way of avoiding responsibility. And when an answer is received, that given to the People of God by the Synod of Bishops regarding catechetics is only too typical – a great renewal, we are told, is taking place in every country!

Finally, your behavior is contradictory .You want, so you say, to remedy the abuses that disfigure the Church; you regret that authority in the Church is not sufficiently respected; you wish to safeguard authentic faith, esteem for the ministerial priesthood and fervor for the Eucharist in its sacrificial and sacramental fullness. Such zeal would, in itself, merit Our encouragement, since it is a question of exigencies which, together with evangelization and the unity of Christians, remain at the heart of Our preoccupations and of Our mission. But how can you at the same time, in order to fulfil this role claim that you are obliged to act contrary to the recent Council, in opposition to your brethren in the Episcopate, to distrust the Holy See itself -which you call the "Rome of the Neo-Modernist and Neo-Protestant tendency"-and to set yourself up in open disobedience to Us? If you truly want to work "under Our authority, " as you affirm in your last private letter, it is immediately necessary to put an end to these ambiguities and contradictions.

Mgr. Lefebvre's behavior is not in the least contradictory. Respect for authority does not involve an obligation to submit to an abuse of power. True respect for authority means that where it is abused it must be resisted -witness the case of Bishop Grosseteste (see Appendix 11).

2. Let us come now to the more precise requests which you formulated during the audience of 11 September. You would like to see recognized the right to celebrate Mass in various places of worship according to the Tridentine rite. You wish also to continue to train candidates for the priesthood according to your criteria, ''as before the Council," in seminaries apart, as at Econe. But behind these questions and other similar ones, which we shall examine later on in detail, it is truly necessary to see the intricacy of the problem: and the problem is theological. For these questions have become concrete ways of expressing an ecclesiology that is warped in essential points.

All that Mgr. Lefebvre wishes to do is to uphold the teachings and traditions which he upheld as a bishop during the pontificates of Popes Pius XII and John XXIII. Pope Paul's response can only mean that he considered the ecclesiology of the pre-conciliar Church to be warped. Well, it's a point of view!

What is indeed at issue is the question-which must truly be called fundamental -of your clearly proclaimed refusal to recognize, in its whole, the authority of the Second Vatican Council and that of the Pope. This refusal is accompanied by an action that is orientated towards propagating and organizing what must indeed, unfortunately, be called a rebellion. This is the essential issue, and it is untenable.

To repeat a point which has been made already, the Archbishop does not refuse to recognize the authority of the Second Vatican Council -he refuses to accord its documents with the status of infallible Acts of the Extraordinary Magisterium when, as Pope Paul himself admitted, they are only Acts of the Ordinary Magisterium which, although infallible on occasions, can be fallible and even contain error. And the action described by the Pope as a "rebellion " is no more than a refusal -to submit to an abuse of power. It is not the position of Mgr. Lefebvre which is untenable.

Is it necessary to remind you that you are Our brother in the Episcopate and moreover -a fact that obliges you to remain even more closely united to the See of Peter -that you have been named an assistant to the Papal Throne? Christ has given the supreme authority in His Church to Peter and to the Apostolic College, that is, to the Pope and to the college of Bishops una cum Capite. In regard to the Pope, every Catholic admits that the words of Jesus to Peter determine also the charge of Peter's legitimate successors: " ...whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven" (Mt 16:19); " ...feed my sheep"(Jn 21:17); “confirm your brethren" (Lk 22:32).

There is no little irony in the fact that whereas Archbishop Lefebvre would accept what the Pope has written here in its totality, it is stated in the Agreement on Authority, produced by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission in 1976, that:

“Claims on behalf of the Roman See as commonly presented in the past have put a greater weight on the Petrine texts (Matt. 16. 18. 19; Luke 22. 31, 32; John 21. 15-17) than they are generally thought to be able to bear. However, many Roman Catholic scholars do not now feel it necessary to stand by the former exegesis of these texts in every respect (para. 23a).”

Thus the interpretation which the Pope has placed upon these texts is challenged by Catholic bishops appointed to this Commission by the Vatican in an Agreement published with the approval of the Vatican. It is true that the three Agreed Statements have not been approved by the Vatican, only approval to publish them has been given; and that they only represent the personal opinions of the signatories. But up to this point not one of these three betrayals of the faith has been denounced by the Vatican, nor has any action been taken to discipline the bishops concerned. Unlike Mgr. Lefebvre, they could count on an effusive welcome from Pope Paul whenever they cared to visit the Vatican. This is something which Bishop C. Butler, one of the Catholic signatories, pointed out with considerable relish in a broadcast on B.B.C. Radio on 9 October 1977, when he stated:

"The Roman Catholic members of this Commission didn't choose themselves, they were chosen by the authorities at Rome, the authorities at Rome didn't presumably intend to choose either inefficient people or people whose loyalty to the Church and her traditions was in doubt, that these members have been able unanimously to sign each of these statements as they came along, that the statements were communicated to Rome and, of course, on the Anglican side to the Archbishop of Canterbury, before they were published, that the first of these statements has now been before the world for six years, and if we have seriously compromised the Catholic faith or shown intentional or unintentional disloyalty to it, all I can say is that it is about time the Church authorities stepped in and either sacked us or showed that they disapproved.”

Bishop Butler is, of course, speaking with his tongue in his cheek here. He knows very well that in the "Conciliar Church" no one will be disciplined for betraying the faith, only for upholding it.

And the First Vatican Council specified in these terms the assent due to the Sovereign Pontiff: "The pastors of every rank and of every rite and the faithful, each separately and all together, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and of true obedience, not only in questions of faith and morals, but also in those that touch upon discipline and the government of the Church throughout the entire world. Thus, by preserving the unity of communion and profession of faith with the Roman Pontiff, the Church is a single flock under one Pastor. Such is the doctrine of Catholic truth, from which no one can separate himself without danger for his faith and his salvation " (Dogmatic Constitution, Pastor Aetemus, ch. 3, DZ 3060). Concerning bishops united with the Sovereign Pontiff, their power with regard to the universal Church is solemnly exercised in the Ecumenical Councils, according to the words of Jesus to the body of the Apostles: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven"(Mt. 16:19). And now in your conduct you refuse to recognize, as must be done, these two ways in which supreme authority is exercised.

An important distinction must be made here between a refusal to recognize the existence of an authority and a refusal to submit to it in a particular instance. Those who refuse to accept the existence of the papal prerogatives as such are guilty of schism and heresy. Those who refuse to submit to the exercise of papal authority in a particular instance are only guilty of disobedience; if the instance in question involves an abuse of power this disobedience involves not guilt but merit. This distinction between schism and disobedience is explained in the Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique by less an authority than Father Yves Congar, a virulent opponent of Mgr. Lefebvre.

Pope Paul continues:

Each bishop is indeed an authentic teacher for preaching to the people entrusted to him that faith which must guide their thoughts and conduct and dispel the errors that menace the flock. But, by their nature, "the charge of teaching and governing… cannot be exercised except in hierarchical communion with the head of the College and with its members” (Constitution Lumen Gentium, 21; cf. Also 25). A fortiori, a single bishop without a canonical mission does not have, in actu expedito ad agendum, the faculty of deciding in general what the rule of faith is or of determining what Tradition is. In practice you are claiming that you alone are the judge of what Tradition embraces.

Needless to say, Mgr. Lefebvre has never made any such claim. All that he is doing is what every Catholic – bishop, or layman – has not simply the right but the duty to do, and that is to speak up in defense of the faith when it is endangered no matter by whom. Thus when Pope John XXII claimed in 1331 that the souls of the just do not enjoy the Beatific Vision immediately after death, but must await the final judgment of God on the Last Day, he was rightly denounced by some Franciscan theologians who demanded that he be brought before a council for trial and condemnation. The Pope appointed a commission of theologians to examine the question; the commission convicted him of error; he made a public retraction on 3 December 1334 and died the next day.

Similarly, the General Instruction (Institutio Generalis) to the New Order of the Mass was approved by Pope Paul VI. Certain articles, notably Article 7, provoked such outrage among the faithful that the Pope felt himself bound to order their correction. Had the faithful waited for those with a canonical mandate to denounce these articles they would still be waiting!

You say that you are subject to the Church and faithful to Tradition, by the sole fact that you obey certain norms of the past that were decreed by the predecessor of Him to whom God has today conferred the powers given to Peter. That is to say, on this point also, the concept of “Tradition” that you invoke is distorted. Tradition is not a rigid and dead notion, a fact of a certain static sort which at a given moment of history blocks the life of this active organism which is the Church, that is, the Mystical Body of Christ.

On the contrary, particularly where the liturgy is concerned, it is Mgr. Lefebvre who is the defender of that salutary development expounded by Cardinal Newman. It is the proponents of the New Mass who wish to fly in the face of history and impose a rigid, dead, static notion of liturgical development by reverting to more primitive liturgical forms on the grounds that what is earlier must be better. This is an attitude that was condemned most forcefully by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei (paras. 64-69).

It is up to the Pope and to Councils to exercise judgment in order to discern in the traditions of the Church that which cannot be renounced without infidelity to the Lord and to the Holy Spirit – the adapted to facilitate the prayer and the mission of the Church throughout a variety of times and places, in order better to communicate it, without an unwarranted surrender of principles. Hence Tradition is inseparable from the living Magisterium of the Church, just as it is inseparable from Sacred Scripture. “Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church... are so linked and joined together that one of these realities cannot exist without the others, and under the action of the Holy Spirit to the salvation of souls” (Constitution Dei Verbum, 10).

This is all true, but it does not follow that every decision of ecclesiastical authority is automatically infallible and could not constitute an abuse of power.

With the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, the Popes and the Ecumenical Councils have acted in this common way. And it is precisely this that the Second Vatican Council did.

Quite the contrary. Vatican II, in contrast with preceding Councils, took the unprecedented step of declaring that it had not availed itself of the special assistance of the Holy Ghost given to Ecumenical Councils when it stated specifically that none of its teaching was to be considered infallible. In an address delivered on 12 January 1966, Pope Paul himself stated explicitly:

"Some ask what authority -what theological qualification -the Council has attached to its teachings, knowing that it has avoided solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the Church's infallible teaching authority .The answer is familiar to those who remember the conciliar declaration of 6 March 1964, repeated on 16 November 1964. In view of the pastoral character of the Council, it has avoided pronouncing in an extraordinary way dogmas carrying the note of infallibility. Nevertheless its teachings carry the weight of the supreme ordinary teaching authority."

Pope Paul thus contradicted himself in claiming that Vatican II acted precisely as previous councils had done. This is precisely what it did not do!

Nothing that was decreed in this Council, or in the reforms that We enacted in order to put the Council into effect, is opposed to what the two-thousand-year-old Tradition of the Church considers as fundamental and immutable. We are the guarantor of this, not in virtue of Our personal qualities but in virtue of the charge which the Lord has conferred upon Us as legitimate Successor of Peter, and in virtue of the special assistance that He has promised to Us as well as to Peter: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail" (Lk 22:32). The universal episcopate is guarantor with Us of this.

As Appendix IV will show, some teaching in the Declaration on Religious Liberty is opposed to what a series of popes has taught consistently with the authority of the Supreme Ordinary Magisterium, possibly even in an extraordinary and infallible manner in the encyclical Quanta Cura. It has also been the consistent teaching of the Magisterium that Catholics should not take part in the services of heretical or schismatic bodies, yet this is now encouraged. This prohibition derives from the very nature of the Church founded by Christ. Those who organize religious services outside and in opposition to the one, true Church are in opposition to Christ Himself, Whose Mystical Body the Church is. To permit Catholics to take part in services organized by, say, Protestants must be, and is, taken to imply that these bodies are legitimate branches of the Church.

Now if it is conceded that previous teaching on Religious Liberty and common worship was erroneous, or at least not immutable, why should we have any confidence that the teaching of Vatican II is correct? We are reduced to the situation that it is only teaching which has been solemnly declared as infallible to which we can give our wholehearted acceptance! The great French bishop Bossuet recognized the importance of the continuity of teaching in a pastoral letter to the new Catholics of his diocese:

"We never disparage the faith of our fathers but hand it on exactly as we have received it. God willed that the truth should not come down to us without any evident novelties, it is in this way that we recognize what has always been believed and, accordingly, what must always be believed. It is, so to speak, from this word always that the truth and the promise derive their authority, an authority which would vanish completely the moment an interruption was discovered anywhere.”

The example concerning common worship illustrates this point perfectly. Unless the Vatican expects the faithful to behave like robots, programmed to change direction at the whim of their controller, what reaction does it expect of us when in 1963 (in accord with a 2,000-year tradition) we are taught that it is wrong to worship with heretics and then in 1964 (Decree on Ecumenism) we are taught that it is not wrong?

Again, you cannot appeal to the distinction between what is dogmatic and what is pastoral, to accept certain texts of this Council and to refuse others. Indeed, not everything in the Council requires an assent of the same nature: only what is affirmed by definitive acts as an object of faith or as a truth related to faith requires an assent of faith.

And there is not a single document of the entire Council which demands the assent of faith.

But the rest also forms part of the solemn Magisterium of the Church, to which each member of the faithful owes a confident acceptance and a sincere application.

This is quite true, but in the accepted sense of the assent to be given to the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium, particularly with regard to novelties. Once again, Dorn Nau's study which was referred to on page 178 should clarify the nature of this assent for those in any doubt concerning the difference between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Magisterium. It should be added that this study is intended to reinforce the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium and not to diminish it in any way.

It must also be noted with respect to this passage from the Pope's letter that he most certainly does not require each and every member of the faithful to accept and apply the teaching of the Council. The Council ordered (Liturgy Constitution, para. 116) that Gregorian Chant be given pride of place in liturgical services. Apart from those institutes controlled by Mgr. Lefebvre, this instruction is almost universally ignored -and ignored with impunity.

You say moreover that you do not always see how to reconcile certain texts of the Council, or certain dispositions which We have enacted in order to put the Council into practice, with the wholesome Tradition of the Church and in particular with the Council of Trent or the affirmations of Our predecessors. These are for example: the responsibility of the College of Bishops united with the Sovereign Pontiff, the new Ordo Missae, ecumenism, religious freedom, the attitude of dialogue, evangelization in the modern world. ...It is not the place, in this letter, to deal with each of these problems. The precise tenor of the documents, with the totality of its nuances and its context, the authorized explanations, the detailed and objective commentaries which have been made, are of such a nature to enable you to overcome these personal difficulties. Absolutely secure counsellors, theologians, and spiritual directors would be able to help you even more with God's enlightenment, and We are ready to facilitate this fraternal assistance for you.

On 18 June 1977 the Secretariat of State received an offer from the Archbishop to "accept all the texts of Vatican II either in their obvious meaning or in an official interpretation which ensures their full concordance with the authentic teaching of the Church." His offer, together with other proposals aimed at healing the breach with the Vatican, was rejected as unacceptable by Pope Paul in a letter dated 20 June 1977. These documents will be dealt with under their respective dates.

But how can an interior personal difficulty – a spiritual drama which We respect – permit you to set yourself up publicly as a judge of what has been legitimately adopted, practically with unanimity, and knowingly to lead a portion of the faithful into your refusal?

This is a far from subtle attempt to insinuate that the Archbishop is the instigator of resistance to the reforms of the “Conciliar Church.” On the contrary, this resistance long predated the emergence of the Archbishop and his seminary as focal points of inspiration and encouragement to Catholics wishing to remain true to the traditional faith. For example, the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales sent every priest in the country a copy of the Critical Study of the New Mass sent to the Pope by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci in 1969. The name of the Archbishop was hardly known in Britain at that time. I support the Archbishop because he upholds the beliefs and traditions which I already upheld when I first came to know of him.

If justifications are useful in order to facilitate intellectual acceptance -and We hope that the troubled or reticent faithful will have the wisdom, honesty, and humility to accept those justifications -that are widely placed at their disposal-they are not in themselves necessary for the assent of obedience that is due to the Ecumenical Council and to the decisions of the Pope. It is the ecclesial sense that is at issue.

The type of justification given to the faithful has already been indicated in the response of the 19?7 Synod of Bishops to documented complaints concerning the "New Catechetics" -that we are in the presence of an almost universal and fruitful catechetical renewal!

In effect you and those who are following you are endeavoring to come to a standstill at a given moment in the life of the Church. By the same token you refuse to accept the living Church, which is the Church that always has been: you break with the Church's legitimate pastors and scorn the legitimate exercise of their charge.

The term "the living Church " is yet another novelty. The Pope says that it is the Church that always has been, but the use of the term "living" only makes sense in opposition to "dead "-just as the term "Conciliar Church ': only makes sense in opposition to the "Preconciliar Church." As has already been stated, where the liturgy is concerned it is the "living Church " which wishes to reverse a process of development lasting almost 2,000 years under the guidance of the Holy Ghost by reverting to what it terms more "primitive forms "-precisely the argument used by the Protestant Reformers when they made similar changes to destroy the sacrificial nature of the Mass. The term "living Church" is also a useful example of the manner in which the language used in the "Conciliar Church " is approximating more and more closely to the Newspeak of Nineteen Eighty-Four. In Newspeak words frequently imply the opposite of their apparent meaning, and we now have the term "living Church " used to describe a Church which has not been closer to dying since the Arian crisis – when a weak Pope confirmed the excommunication of the great champion of orthodoxy, St. Athanasius. There are no signs of new vitality anywhere in the Church today – whatever is vital and fruitful is a survival from the “Preconciliar (dead?) Church.” The frenetic hysteria of the Pentecostal movement - so often cited as a sign of renewal – is one of the clearest indications of approaching death, the final paroxysms of the dying body. But the Body of Christ cannot die – the Church has been written off on many occasions but has always survived – just as She will survive the present crisis – if only as a remnant. It is far from fanciful to see Econe as a source of the antibodies which are already emerging to fight the contagion and restore the Mystical Body to health.

And so you claim not even to be affected by the orders of the Pope, or by the suspension a divinis, as you lament "subversion' in the Church.

Is it not clear proof of the extent of the subversion in the Church during the Pontificate of Pope Paul VI that Her most courageous and orthodox bishop was suspended a divinis the crime of forming orthodox priests? As has already been made clear in this book on several occasions, the refusal of the Archbishop to accept any of the sanctions following his refusal to close his seminary is not more than the logical corollary of his contention that the order to do this was unjust.

Is it not in this state of mind that you have ordained priests without dimissorial letters and against Our explicit command, thus creating a group of priests who are in an irregular situation in the Church and who are under grave ecclesiastical penalties? Moreover, you hold that the suspension you have incurred applies only to the celebration of the sacraments according to the new rite, as if they were something improperly introduced into the Church, which you go so far as to call schismatic, and you think that you evade this sanction when you ad- minister the formulas of the past and against the established forms (cf: 1 Cor 14:40).

Mgr .Lefebvre has indeed referred to the "Conciliar Church " being in schism, but in a light-hearted manner. He has a highly-developed sense of humor and can be provocative at times. When charged with being in schism he has replied that in so far as it has broken with the Traditional Church it is the "Conciliar Church " which is in schism. However, he has always made it clear that he recognizes the authority of the Pope, a fact proved by all his letters to Pope Paul. They are not the letters of a bishop who is seriously maintaining that the Pope is in schism!

From the same erroneous conception springs your abuse of celebrating the Mass called that of St. Pius V.

So it is now an abuse to celebrate a form of Mass dating back in all essentials over 1,000 years and which, during that time, has been a source of sanctification for countless millions of the faithful. Well, it's a point of view!

You know full well that this rite had itself been the result of successive changes, and that the Roman Canon remains the first of the Eucharistic Prayers authorized today. 

Yes, but the Roman Mass had developed by gradual and natural process for over 1,000 years until it was finally codified by St. Pius V. I have provided its history in some detail in my pamphlet  The Tridentine Mass.5 Surely the Holy Father, or whoever wrote this letter for him, cannot expect any Catholic with a rudimentary knowledge of Church history to take seriously a comparison between the evolution of the traditional Mass and the concoction of a new Mass (something the Council did not order) within the space of a few years and with the cooperation of heretics. Leaving aside the fact that the New Mass has been constructed in such a fashion that it can be celebrated in a form containing hardly a reference to the sacrificial nature of the Mass, in which form it is entirely acceptance to some Protestants. The New Mass has also proved to be a disaster pastorally and aesthetically. No layman was better qualified to comment on the liturgy than Dietrich von Hildebrand. He wrote:

“The new liturgy was simply not formed by saints, homines religiosi, and artistically gifted men, but has been worked out by so-called experts, who are not at all aware that in our time there is a lack of talent for such things. Today is a time of incredible talent for technology and medical research, but not for the organic shaping of the expression of the religious world. We live in a world without poetry, and this means that one should approach the treasures handed in from more fortunate times with twice as much reverence, and not with the illusion that we can do it better ourselves.”6

The present reform derived its raison d’être and its guidelines from the Council and from the historical sources of the Liturgy.

In my pamphlet  The Roman Rite Destroyed I have quoted from such irreproachable authorities as Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop R. J. Dwyer, and Father Louis Bouyer to the effect that the liturgical reform is far more radical than that envisaged by the Council Fathers (who were given the opportunity of discussing only general principles). It is actually a contradiction of both what the Fathers intended and the entire papally-approved liturgical movement of the present century.

It enables the laity to draw greater nourishment from the word of God.

In this case it seems permissible to wonder why millions of Catholics who attended the Old Mass have ceased attending since the imposition of the New.

Their more effective participation leaves intact the unique role of the priest acting in the person of Christ.

This statement is quite true in that only the priest can consecrate, but in practice many of the changes have served to obscure the nature of the unique priestly role. This minimization has occurred by allowing the laity to perform functions which had been reserved to the celebrant in the Tridentine Mass. Sacred vessels which only he could touch are now handled by all and sundry; laymen and women can now read the lessons or preach the sermons; only his consecrated hands had been allowed to touch the host -now it can be distributed by teenaged girls into the hands of standing communicants. No distinction is made in the new Eucharistic Prayers between the role of the celebrant and that of the congregation. With Eucharistic Prayer II in particular, the priest can appear to be no more than the spokesman for a concelebrating congregation.

We have sanctioned this reform by Our authority, requiring that it be adopted by all Catholics.

The original General Instruction (lnstitutio Generalis) to the New Mass and the new rite of Baptism were also sanctioned by the Pope's authority -but they subsequently required modifications in the interests of orthodoxy. It is not correct to state that the Pope has required all Catholics to adopt it - the Instruction applies only to Catholics of the Roman Rite and does not affect the Eastern Churches. Nor has it ever been made clear whether such variants of the Roman Rite as the Dominican Rite are affected. Nor is it certain that the Pope has imposed the New Mass with the required legal forms necessary to make it mandatory even for the Roman Rite. But this is a very complex question which will be examined in detail in my book Pope Paul's New Mass.

If, in general, We have not judged it good to permit any further delays or exceptions to this adoption, it is with a view to the spiritual good and the unity of the entire ecclesial community, because for Catholics of the Roman Rite, the Ordo Missae is a privileged sign of their unity.

With all due respect to the late Holy Father, such a claim constitutes a mockery of the faithful. Where in the Roman Rite is that unity which was once its most precious characteristics? There are now so many permutations officially permitted that it is possible for every priest in any diocese to celebrate the Mass in a different manner-not to mention the countless unofficial and even sacrilegious variations which are perpetrated throughout the West with total impunity. In their book Les Fumees de Satan, Andre Mignot and Michel de Saint-Pierre have presented nearly 300 pages of documented instances of catechetical and liturgical abuses -selected from 4,000 cases which they had investigated. All the examples they give can be substantiated with names, dates, and places. Every Catholic who reads French should obtain a copy. It will have a place in history as perhaps the most terrifying indictment of the "Living Church " yet assembled. And what was the reaction of the French bishops? Without making the least attempt to deny the factual nature of the documentation in the book they issued the most vicious public denunciation of the authors. No less a person than Father Henri Bruckberger sprang to their defense. Father Bruckberger is a hero of the French Resistance and the most distinguished man of letters among the French clergy today. As for the French bishops, he wrote:

"They knew Michel de Saint-Pierre and Andre Mignot only too well; they knew that the authors had such respect for the sacred character of the episcopacy that, in formulating so outrageous a communiqué the bishops knew that they risked neither a beating nor a summons before the courts, which they fully deserved. Thus our bishops are transformed into men without fear for the simple reason that they are not putting themselves at risk. ...They have the sudden temerity of men overcome with terror who try to cover up facts which accuse them personally. This episcopal communiqué constitutes the most terrible admission. Our bishops have acknowledged publicly not only that they are aware of the abuses brought to light in Les Fumees de Satan, but that they are the knowing and willing accomplices. Here and now the object of the book has been achieved. It is the hour when Tartuffe's mask has been torn away completely.”7

The type of abuse cited in Les Fumees de Satan is common to all the countries of the West-as is the complicity of all the Western hierarchies whose members, if they don't actually approve of the abuses, tolerate them. The only form of Mass which they will not tolerate is the one they were ordained to offer. So much for the New Mass as "a privileged sign " of the unity of the Catholics of the Roman Rite.

It is also because, in your case, the old rite is in fact the expression of a warped ecclesiology, ...

It is quite true that the Tridentine Mass is the most fitting expression of the traditional Faith, the Faith expressed with such clarity by the Council of Trent. The Tridentine Mass expresses clearly the concept of a Church with Her eyes fixed firmly on heaven; a solemn sacrifice offered to a transcendent, omnipotent God; the exalted role of the priest at the altar as mediator between God and man. A warped ecclesiology? Well, it's a point of view!

...and a ground for dispute with the Council and its reforms, under the pretext that in the old rite alone are preserved, without their meaning being obscured, the true sacrifice of the Mass and the ministerial priesthood. We cannot accept this erroneous judgment, this unjustified accusation, nor can We tolerate that the Lord's Eucharist, the sacrament of unity, should be the object of such division (cf. 1 Cor 11:18), and that it should even be an instrument and sign of rebellion.

The issue here is whether the Archbishop's judgment is correct or erroneous. I have already provided ample evidence in my pamphlet The Roman Rite Destroyed to prove that the doctrine of "the true sacrifice of the Mass and the ministerial priesthood" are, at the very least, expressed far less clearly in the new rite than the old, particularly where Eucharistic Prayer II is used. The most conclusive proof of this is the fact that a number of Protestants are cited in the pamphlet as stating that they are happy with the new prayers and recognize a Protestant theology in them. This is the most striking corroboration there could be of Mgr. Lefebvre's allegation -which is, of course, that put forward in the Critical Study sent to Pope Paul by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci. It is also only necessary for anyone conversant with Protestant eucharistic theology to examine the traditional Mass carefully and make a note of any prayers he considers incompatible with Protestant belief. He will find at once that almost all such prayers have been eliminated from the new rite.

Of course there is room in the Church for a certain pluralism, but in licit matters and in obedience. This is not understood by those who refuse the sum total of the liturgical reform; nor indeed on the other hand by those who imperil the holiness of the real presence of the Lord and of His Sacrifice.

What we are witnessing in the Church today is not pluralism but anarchy-anarchy in which anything is tolerated but the traditional Mass. Those guilty of irreverence and sacrilege are (occasionally) rebuked in general terms-but their excesses are tolerated.

In the same way there can be no question of a priestly formation which ignores the Council.

As was shown on pages 69-70, there can be no doubt that Econe comes closer to the norms laid down by the Council and subsequent instructions than almost any other seminary in the West.

We cannot therefore take your requests into consideration because it is a question of acts which have already been committed in rebellion against the one true Church of God. Be assured that this severity is not dictated by a refusal to make a concession on such and such a point of discipline or liturgy, but, given the meaning and the extent of your acts in the present context, to act thus would be on Our part to accept the introduction of a seriously erroneous concept of the Church and of Tradition. This is why, with the full consciousness of Our duties, We say to you, Brother, that you are in error. And with the full ardour of Our fraternal love, as also with all the weight of Our authority as the Successor of Peter, We invite you to retract, to correct yourself and to cease from inflicting wounds upon the Church of Christ.

3. Specifically, what do We ask of you?

(a) First and foremost a Declaration that will rectify matters, for Ourself and also for the People of God who have a right to clarity and who can no longer bear without damage such equivocations.

This Declaration will therefore have to affirm that you sincerely adhere to the Second Vatican Council and all its documents- sensu obvio -which were adopted by the Council Fathers and approved and promulgated by Our authority. For such an adherence has always been the rule, in the Church, since the beginning in the matter of Ecumenical Councils.

It is not a question of the Archbishop's accepting all the documents, there are only two that he didn't sign. And, as has been pointed out already, when he offered to accept these in June 1977, on the understanding that they would be interpreted in the light of the traditional teaching, his offer was rejected. And once again, the Pope is referring to Vatican II as if it did not differ from preceding Ecumenical Councils. He is asking the Archbishop to give the assent due to the Extraordinary Magisterium to documents of the Ordinary Magisterium.

It must be clear that you equally accept the decisions that We have made since the Council in order to put it into effect, with the help of the Departments of the Holy See; among other things, you must explicitly recognize the legitimacy of the reformed liturgy, notably of the Ordo Missae, and Our right to require its adoption by the entirety of the Christian people.

In his letter delivered to the Vatican on 18 June 1977, the Archbishop asked for co-existence of the old and new rites, which makes it quite clear that he accepts the legitimacy of the new. In the Archbishop's letter to Dr. Eric M. de Saventhem dated 17 September 1976 he had already made this point, stating that he would be prepared to accept the peaceful co-existence of the two rites with the faithful -being given the choice of which "family" of rites they preferred to adhere to. The text of this letter is included under the date given.

You must also accept the binding character of the rules of Canon Law now in force which, for the greater part, still correspond with the content of the Code of Canon Law of Benedict XV, without excepting the part which deals with canonical penalties.

As far as concerns Our person, you will make a point of desisting from and retracting the grave accusations or insinuations which you have publicly levelled against Us, against the orthodoxy of Our faith and Our fidelity to Our charge as the Successor of Peter, and against Our immediate collaborators.

It is significant that the Pope gives no details of these alleged accusations. Those who have read this far will have noted the profound respect of the Archbishop towards the person of the Pope, either when writing to him or speaking of him. This respect is also manifest throughout Mgr. Lefebvre's book, A Bishop Speaks. The Archbishop explained his own attitude to the person of Pope Paul VI and to other bishops in an address delivered in Montreal on 31 May 1978.

"Pray for the Pope; pray that God will guide him to abandon the path along which he has allowed himself to be led, a path which is not the way of the good God. Ecumenism is not God's way. Pray for the Bishops, do not insult them. I do not think that a single expression of disrespect towards the Holy Father can be found anywhere in my writings. I do not insult the Bishops. I consider them to be my brothers and I pray for them that they will return to the way of the Tradition of the Church. I am sure that this will happen one day. We must have confidence. We are passing through a tornado; the only anchor to which we can attach ourselves is the tradition of the Church because it cannot err; our Catholic faith has been, is, and will always be the same."8

With regard to the Bishops, you must recognize their authority in respective dioceses, by abstaining from preaching in those dioceses and administering the sacraments there: the Eucharist, Confirmation, Holy Orders, etc., when these Bishops expressly object to your doing so.

Finally, you must undertake to abstain from all activities (such as Conferences, publications, etc.) contrary to this Declaration, and formally to reprove all those initiatives which make use of your name in the face of this Declaration.

It is a question here of the minimum to which every Catholic Bishop must subscribe: this adherence can tolerate no compromise. As soon as you show Us that you accept its principle, we will propose the practical manner of presenting this Declaration. This is the first condition in order that the suspension a divinis be lifted.

(b) It will then remain to solve the problem of your activity, of your works, and notably of your seminaries. You will appreciate, Brother, that in view of the past and present irregularities affecting these works, We cannot go back on the juridical suppression of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.

What cruel irony! Has there ever been an instance in the History of the Church involving more irregularities, more disregard for the most elementary demands of justice than in the suppression of the Society of St. Pius X?

This has inculcated a spirit of opposition to the Council and to its implementation such as the Vicar of Christ was endeavoring to promote. Your Declaration of 21 November 1974 bears witness to this spirit; and upon such a foundation, as Our Commission of Cardinals rightly judged, on 6 May 1975, one cannot build an institution or a priestly formation in conformity with the requirements of the Church of Christ.

So once more the Declaration is the only evidence that can be cited against the Archbishop and the "spirit" of his Fraternity. Remember the origin of this Declaration, remember the manner in which the Cardinals conducted their inquiry, and then the case against the Archbishop can be evaluated at its true worth. As for the spirit that permeates certain "approved" seminaries, a young friend of mine, who is totally orthodox and a student at an English seminary, told me that when the Vatican issued its recent Declaration on Sexual Ethics it was not simply rejected but ridiculed by staff and students alike. He added that such is the unanimity among staff and students in their rejection of papal teaching that he sometimes has to fight off serious doubts as to whether they could be right and he could be wrong for accepting it.

This in no way invalidates the good element in your seminaries, but one must also take into consideration the ecclesiological deficiencies of which We have spoken and the capacity of exercising a pastoral ministry in the Church of today.

The ecclesiological difficulties cited consist of the Archbishop's Declaration! And now we have yet another neologism -the "Church of today." One fact to which any seminarian from Econe could testify is that wherever they go it is made abundantly clear to them that they are precisely what "the Church of today" wants -the Church, of course, being the faithful. The seminarians are approached wherever they go, on public transport, in the streets, by ordinary Catholics, who say to them, "How wonderful to see a real priest again!"

If by his reference to the "Church of today" the Holy Father is implying that the so-called "modern man" needs a new type of priest, then he has been effectively answered by Dietrich von Hildebrand, who has made it clear that this so-called "modem man" does not exist -he is a myth.

"As long as one only refers to the immense change in the external conditions of life brought about by the enormous technological development which has taken place, then one is referring to an indubitable fact. But this outward change has had no fundamental influence on man -on his essential nature, on the sources of his happiness, on the meaning of his life, on the metaphysical nature of man. And yet only some such fundamental change in man would have any bearing at all on his ability to understand the language in which the Church has been announcing the Gospel of Christ to mankind for thousands of years.

A knowledge of modern history and an unprejudiced view of it could not fail to convince anyone that the 'modern man’ who is radically different from the men of all other periods is a pure invention, or rather, a typical myth.9

Faced with these unfortunate mixed realities, We shall take care not to destroy but to correct and save as far as possible. This is why, as supreme guarantor of the faith and of the formation of the clergy, We require of you first of all to hand over to Us the responsibility of your work, and particularly for your seminaries. This is undoubtedly a heavy sacrifice for you, but it is also a test of your trust, of your obedience, and it is a necessary condition in order that these seminaries, which have no canonical existence in the Church, may in the future take their place therein.

The Archbishop is thus asked to hand over the responsibility for his work as a test of his trust. Cardinal Mindszenty had also been asked to put his trust in Pope Paul VI. We learn from his memoirs that he was given a solemn promise by the Pope's personal envoy that his "titles of archbishop and primate" would not be affected if he agreed to leave Hungary (p. 223). After he had arrived in Rome he was told by the Pope: "You are and remain Archbishop of Esztergom and primate of Hungary. Continue working, and if you have difficulties, always turn trustfully to Us" (p. 239). And then, "exactly on the twenty-fifth anniversary of my arrest, I was pained to receive a letter from the Holy Father dated 18 December 1973, in which His Holiness informed me with expressions of great appreciation and gratitude that he was declaring the archiepiscopal See of Esztergom vacant" (p. 246). The Cardinal begged Pope Paul to rescind this decision not because he desired to cling to office but to avoid sowing confusion in the minds of the Hungarian faithful. Despite this plea, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Cardinal's show trial the news of his removal from his see was published as if he had resigned voluntarily. He issued the following statement:

"A number of news agencies have transmitted the Vatican decision in such a way as to imply that Jozef Cardinal Mindszenty has voluntarily retired. ...In the interests of truth Cardinal Mindszenty has authorized his office to issue the following statement:

Cardinal Mindszenty has not abdicated his office as Archbishop nor his dignity as Primate of Hungary .The decision was taken by the Holy See alone" (p. 246).

It is only after you have accepted the principle, that We shall be able to provide in the best possible way for the good of all the persons involved, with the concern for promoting authentic priestly vocations and with respect for the doctrinal, disciplinary and pastoral requirements of the Church. At that stage We shall be in a position to listen with benevolence to your requests and your wishes, and, together with Our Departments, to take in conscience the right and opportune measures.

As for the illicitly ordained seminarians, the sanctions which they have incurred in conformity with Canons 985, 7 and 2374 can be lifted, if they give proof of a return to a better frame of mind, notably by accepting to subscribe to the Declaration which We have asked of you. We count upon your sense of the Church in order to make this easy for them.

This makes it clear that the formation given at Econe must be regarded as satisfactory if the only condition required to regularize the position of those ordained there is to a declaration.

As regards the foundations, houses of formation, "priories, " and various other institutions set up on your initiative or with your encouragement, We likewise ask you to hand them over to the Holy See, which will study their position, in its various aspects with the local episcopate. Their survival, organization, and apostolate will be subordinated, as is normal throughout the Catholic Church, to an agreement which will have to be reached, in each case, with the local bishop – nihil sine Episcopo-and in a spirit which respects the Declaration mentioned above.

This constitutes a straightforward demand that the assets of the Society of St. Pius X be handed over to the Vatican- and simply for protesting against this demand the Archbishop is accused of spreading "a distorted interpretation of the Pope’s intervention." The buildings belonging to the Society, and which constitute its assets, have been purchased with the contributions of tens of thousands of Catholics specifically because they wished their money to be used to preserve the traditional Church and not to finance the "Conciliar Church," the "Living Church," the "Church of today."

It would be an offense against justice to put buildings purchased with these donations at the service of the "Conciliar Church.”

All these points which figure in this letter, and to which We have given mature consideration,- in consultation with the Heads of Departments concerned, have been adopted by Us only out of regard for the greater good of the Church. You said to Us during our conversation of 11 September: "I am ready for anything, for the good of the Church." The response now lies in your hands.

If you refused-quod Deus avertat-to make the Declaration which is asked of you, you would remain suspended a divinis.' On the other hand, Our pardon and the lifting of the suspension will be assured you to the extent to which you sincerely and without ambiguity undertake to fulfil the conditions of this letter and to repair the scandal caused. The obedience and the trust of which you will give proof will also make it possible for Us to study serenely with you your personal problems.

May the Holy Spirit enlighten you and guide you towards the only solution that would enable you on the one hand to rediscover the peace of your momentarily misguided conscience but also to insure the good of souls, to contribute to the unity of the Church which the Lord has entrusted to Our charge, and to avoid the danger of a schism. In the psychological state in which you find yourself, We realize that it is difficult for you to see clearly and very hard for you humbly to change your line of conduct: is it not therefore urgent, as in all such cases, for you to arrange a time and place of recollection which will enable you to consider the matter with the necessary objectivity? Fraternally, We put you on your guard against the pressures to which you could be exposed from those who wish to keep you in an untenable position, while We Ourself, all your Brothers in the Episcopate, and the vast majority of the faithful await finally from you that ecclesial attitude which would be to your honor.

In order to root out the abuses which we all deplore and to guarantee a true spiritual renewal, as well as the courageous evangelization to which the Holy Spirit bids Us, there is needed more than ever the help and commitment of the entire ecclesial community around the Pope and the Bishops. Now the revolt of one side finally reaches and risks accentuating the insubordination of what you have called the “subversion” of the other side: while, without your own insubordination, you would have been able, Brother, as you expressed the wish in your last letter, to help Us, in fidelity and under Our authority, to work for the advancement of the Church.

Therefore, dear Brother, do not delay any longer in considering before God, with the keenest religious attention, this solemn adjuration of the humble but legitimate Successor of Peter. May you measure the gravity of the hour and take the only decision that befits a son of the Church. This is Our hope, this is Our prayer.

From the Vatican, 11 October 1976.

Paulus PP. VI.


1. Available from Augustine Publishing Co. and the Angelus Press

2. The Devastated Vineyard (Franciscan Herald Press, 1973), pp. 3-6. (Now out of print.)

3. See The Ordinary Magisterium of the Church Theologically Considered by Dom Paul Nau, O.S.B., p. 26. Available from Approaches, 1 Waverley Place, Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland, KA21 5AX.

4. The Tablet, 18 May 1968, p. 488.

5. Available from Augustine Publishing Company and the Angelus Press

6. The Devastated Vineyard (Franciscan Herald Press, 1973), P. 70. For full documentation concerning the participation of Protestant observers in the compilation of the New Mass see my pamphlet The Roman Rite Destroyed.

7. Toute L 'Eglise En Clameurs (Paris, 1977), p. 195. Tartuffe is a religious hypocrite, the principal character in a play by Moliere with the same title.

8.Le Doctrinaire, July/August 1978, p.8.

9.The Devastated Vineyard, p.9.

Chapter 14

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2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109

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