Volume 1, Chapter 16
of the Catholic Academics
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
names of the first signatories to the appeal, thirty university
teachers, were appended.
from an Interview with Michael Davies
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."
Davies: Monseigneur, it is alleged that
the stand you are taking is based on political rather than doctrinal
Lefebvre: This is completely untrue.
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?
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
Lefebvre: That is correct.
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.
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
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.
Lefebvre: That is precisely my position.
Davies: It is frequently alleged that
you believe the New Mass per se to be invalid or heretical. Is this
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
Davies: It is alleged that you intend
to consecrate one or more bishops to continue your work. Is this
Lefebvre: It is totally untrue.
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?
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.
to this Interview
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.
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,
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.”
of Pope Paul VI to Mgr. Lefebvre
Our Brother in the episcopate Marcel Lefebvre,
Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle.
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?
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
your declarations, your many journeys on which you take no account
of local bishops.
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.
"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.
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.
the Vatican, 29 November 1976.
of Mgr. Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI
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.
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.
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
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
and Canon Law concerning the relations of the Church with heretics,
schismatics, atheists, unbelievers,
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
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
Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis has clearly
shown the danger of false interpretations of the terms “living faith,”
is this sad proof of the incompatibility of the principles of the
new orientations with Tradition or the Magisterium that we come
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle
the Feast of St. Francis Xavier
text of this manifesto appeared in Itineraires, No. 209, January
Archbishop confirmed that this is his opinion in a handwritten letter
to me dated 17 October 1978.
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
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109