Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 1, Chapter 16

The End of a Momentous Year


November 1976
Manifesto of the Catholic Academics

The undersigned Catholic members of university faculties wish to give public expression to their personal convictions, and to affirm the communion of thought which unites them with Mgr. Lefebvre. Like him they hold not to “one” tradition amongst others but to Catholic Tradition, to the truth of which so many martyrs have borne and are still today bearing witness. They deeply regret that many priests and most of the bishops no longer teach Christians what they must believe to be saved. They deplore the decadence of ecclesiastical studies, and the ignorance of Christian philosophy, the history of the Church, and the ways of spiritual perfection in which future priests are left. They are angered by the contempt shown by so many clerics for Greco-Latin culture; for that culture is not simply a garment: the Church is embodied in it. They hope for a renaissance of the Church, in which justice will be done to intelligence and to holiness, in which the worship of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar will be restored, the reign of Jesus Christ over the Nations will be proclaimed. Devoted to the unity of the Church, strong in their faith, animated with that hope, they salute the brave bishop who has dared to stand up, to break the conspiracy of silence, and to appeal to the Pope for full justice for the faithful people.1

The names of the first signatories to the appeal, thirty university teachers, were appended.

16 November 1976
Extracts from an Interview with Michael Davies

Mgr. Lefebvre granted an interview to Michael Oavies at the Great Western Hotel, Paddington, London, on 16 November 1976. This interview was published in The Remnant on 17 February 1977. Before publication it was sent to the Archbishop with a request that he should study it carefully and confirm that it was an accurate account of what he had said and represented his thinking on the points raised. It was returned with a handwritten note from the Archbishop stating: "Qui, ces reponses correspondent bien a mes pensees."

Michael Davies: Monseigneur, it is alleged that the stand you are taking is based on political rather than doctrinal considerations.

Mgr. Lefebvre: This is completely untrue.

Michael Davies: The Catholic Information Office (of England and Wales) has initiated a publicity campaign intended to link you with Action francaise. Have you ever been associated with this movement?

Mgr. Lefebvre: Never.

Michael Davies: It is frequently alleged that you "refuse" Vatican II, that you claim any sincere Catholic must "reject" the Council. These allegations are very vague. I presume that you accept that Vatican II was an Ecumenical Council properly convoked by the reigning Pontiff according to the accepted norms.

Mgr. Lefebvre: That is correct.

Michael Davies: I presume that you accept that its official documents were voted for by a majority of the Council Fathers and validly promulgated by the reigning Pontiff.

Mgr. Lefebvre: Certainly.

Michael Davies: In a letter published in The Times on 18 August this year (1976) I stated that your position vis-a-vis the Council was as follows. Would you please read this passage carefully and tell me whether it does state your position accurately?

The reforms claiming to implement the Council were intended to initiate an unprecedented renewal but, since the Council, the history of the Church throughout the West has been one of stagnation and decline; the seeds of this decline can be traced back to the Council itself as those holding Neo-Modernist and Neo-Protestant views were able to influence the formation of some of the official documents by the inclusion of ambiguous terminology which has been used to justify the abuses which are now apparent at all. Thus, while accepting the Council documents as official statements of the Magisterium, we have the right and duty to treat them with prudence and to interpret them in the light of Tradition.

Mgr. Lefebvre: That is precisely my position.

Michael Davies: It is frequently alleged that you believe the New Mass per se to be invalid or heretical. Is this true?

Mgr. Lefebvre: Not at all. But I believe an increasing number of celebrations of the New Mass to be invalid due to the defective intention of the celebrant.2

Michael Davies: It is alleged that you intend to consecrate one or more bishops to continue your work. Is this true?

Mgr. Lefebvre: It is totally untrue.

Michael Davies: It has been alleged both in Britain and the U.S.A. that in an interview with Der Spiegel you announced plans for establishing "a Church independent of Rome." Did you, in fact, make such a statement and have you any such plans?

Mgr. Lefebvre: I most certainly did not make such a statement and I most definitely do not intend to set up a Church independent of Rome.

Footnote to this Interview

As regards Action francaise, in a lengthy press conference given at Econe on 15 September 1976, Mgr. Lefebvre stated that he had not known the late Charles Maurras (founder of the movement); he had not even read his books; he is not linked with Action francaise in any way; he does not read its journal Aspects de la France; he does not know those who edit it; he regretted the fact that it was being sold outside the hall in which his Mass at Lille was celebrated.

As regards the Documents of Vatican 11, Mgr. Lefebvre signed fourteen of the sixteen documents and only refused to sign the ones on The Church in the Modern World and on Religious Liberty. On 18 June 1977, in an attempt to achieve a conciliation with the Vatican, a memorandum from Mgr. Lefebvre was delivered to the Secretariat of State offering, inter alia, to "accept all the texts of Vatican II, either in their obvious meaning or in an official interpretation which insures their full concordance with the authentic tradition of the Church.” The Archbishop's proposals for a reconciliation were rejected by the Pope as unacceptable. A detailed account of these proposals was printed in The Remnant of 31 July 1977, pp. 9-10.

As regards the validity of the New Mass, in his book, A Bishop Speaks, Mgr. Lefebvre writes (p. 159): "I shall never say that the new Ordo Missae is heretical, I shall never say that it cannot be a sacrifice. I believe that many priests-above all those priests who have known the old Ordo-certainly have very good intentions in saying their Mass. Far be it from me to say everything is wrong with the new Ordo. I do say, however, that this new Ordo opens the door to very many choices and divisions.”

29 November 1976
Letter of Pope Paul VI to Mgr. Lefebvre

To Our Brother in the episcopate Marcel Lefebvre,
formerly Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle.

Once more We address Ourselves directly to you, dear brother, after having prayed for a long time and asked Our Lord to inspire Us with words able to touch you. We do not understand your attitude. Can you have decided to attach no importance to the word of the Pope? Before rejecting the appeal of the Church, your Mother, have you at least taken time to reflect and pray?

As for Us, it seems that silence would have been becoming the day after your visit in September and after Our letter of 11 October. But We continue to hear of new initiatives which lead to a deepening of the ditch you are digging: the ordination on 31 October, your book,3 your declarations, your many journeys on which you take no account of local bishops.

This very day, therefore, We resolve, with regret, to authorize publication of Our last letter. God grant that knowledge of the exact text of that admonition may put an end to the calumnious interpretations of it that have been spread and may help the Christian people to see clearly and to strengthen its unity.

The "calumnious interpretations" refer to the claim that the Pope had required Mgr. Lefebvre to hand over to the Holy See all the assets of the Society of St. Pius X. As this is exactly what he did demand (see p. 341), interpretations which are perfectly exact cannot possibly be calumnious.

Conscious of the gravity of the moment We adjure you at the same time, with very special solemnity and insistence, to change the attitude which sets you in opposition to the Church, to return to the true Tradition and to full communion with Us.

From the Vatican, 29 November 1976.

Paulus PP. VI.

3 December 1976

Letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI

Holy Father,

His Excellency, Monseigneur the Nuncio in Berne, has just delivered to me Your Holiness's last letter. Dare I say that every one of these letters is like a sword going through me, for I am so desirous of being in full accord with and full submission to the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Peter, as I think I have been, the whole of my life.

But that submission can be made only in the unity of the faith and in the "true Tradition," as Y our Holiness says in your letter.

Tradition, being, according to the teaching of the Church, Christian doctrine defined for ever by the solemn Magisterium of the Church, it carries a character of immutability which obliges, to the assent of faith, not only the present generation but future generations as well. The sovereign pontiffs, the Councils, can make the deposit explicit, but they must transmit it faithfully and exactly, without changing it.

But how can the statements in the Declaration on Religious Liberty be reconciled with the teaching of the Council of Trent and with Tradition? How reconcile the working out of ecumenism with the Magisterium of the

Church and Canon Law concerning the relations of the Church with heretics, schismatics, atheists, unbelievers,

The new departures of the Church in these domains imply principles contrary to that “true Tradition” to which Your Holiness alludes, Tradition which is unchangeable because defined solemnly by the authority of your predecessors and preserved intact by all the successors of Peter.

To apple the notion of life to the Magisterium, to the Church, and also to tradition, does not allow of a minimizing of the concept of the immutability of defined faith, because faith in that case borrows its character of immutability from God Himself, immotus in se permaners while being the source of life, as are the Church and Tradition.

Saint Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis has clearly shown the danger of false interpretations of the terms “living faith,” “living tradition.”

It is this sad proof of the incompatibility of the principles of the new orientations with Tradition or the Magisterium that we come up against.

Could it, please, be explained to us how man can have a natural right to error? How can there be a natural right to cause scandal? How can the Protestants who took part in the liturgical reform state that the reform allows them from now on to celebrate the Eucharist according to the new Rite? How, then, is that reform compatible with the affirmations and the canons of the Council of Trent? And, finally, what are we to think of reception of the Eucharist by persons not of our faith, the lifting of excommunication from those belonging to sects and organizations which openly profess contempt for Our Lord Jesus Christ and our holy religion, that being contrary to the truth of the Church and to all Her Tradition?

Is there, since Vatican Council II, a new conception of the Church, of Her truth, of Her Sacrifice, of Her priesthood? It is on those points that we seek enlightenment. The faithful are beginning to be disturbed and to understand that it is no longer a question of details but of what constitutes their faith and therefore of the foundations of Christian civilization.

There, in brief, is our deep concern, compared with which the whole operation of the canonical or administrative system is nothing. As it is a question of our faith, it is a question of eternal life.

That said, I accept everything that, in the Council and the reforms, is in full conformity with Tradition; and the Society I have founded is ample proof of that. Our seminary is perfectly in accordance with the wishes expressed in the Council and in the Ratio fundamentalis of the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education.

Our apostolate corresponds fully with the desire for a better distribution of the clergy and with the concern expressed by the Council on the subject of the sanctification of clerics and their life in community.

The success of our seminaries with the young is clear proof that we are not incurably immobilized but are perfectly adapted to the needs of the apostolate of our times. That is why we beg Your Holiness to consider above all the great spiritual benefit that souls can draw from our priestly and missionary apostolate which, in collaboration with diocesan bishops, can bring about a true spiritual renewal.

To seek to force our Society into accepting a new orientation which is having disastrous effects on the whole Church is to compel it to disappear, like so many other seminaries.

Hoping that Your Holiness will understand, on reading these lines, that we have but one purpose, to serve Our Lord Jesus Christ, His glory and His Vicar, and to bring about the salvation of souls, we beg you to accept our respectful and filial wishes in Christ and Mary.

+ Marcel Lefebvre
 Former Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle
on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier
3 December 1976.

1. The text of this manifesto appeared in Itineraires, No. 209, January 1977.

2. The Archbishop confirmed that this is his opinion in a handwritten letter to me dated 17 October 1978.

3. The book referred to here is entitled I Accuse the Council. It contains Mgr. Lefebvre’s conciliar interventions ant other relevant source material and is indispensable for every serious student of Vatican II and the present crisis. It is available in French only at present but an English translation will be produced in Spring 1980 by the Angelus Press

Chapter 15

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