Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 1, Chapter 4

The Campaign Against Econe


The campaign against Ecône is documented here in chronological order. The source of most of the information in this chapter is La Documentation Catholique No.1679 but Mgr. Lefebvre's account of his "trial" is taken from Itinéraires of July 1975.

On 26 March 1974 a meeting was convened in Rome to discuss the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (which will be referred to hereafter simply as the Society of St. Pius X) and its principal foundation, the Seminary at Ecône.

Present at this meeting were Cardinal Garrone, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Cardinal Wright, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; Mgr. Mayer, Secretary of the Congregation for Religious; Mgr. Mamie, Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg - the diocese in which the Society first obtained canonical authorization; Mgr. Adam, Bishop of Sion – the diocese in which Ecône is located. It was decided that a report on the Society and Seminary should be compiled.

With surprising speed the requested report was dispatched within four days, on 30 March 1974. It had been compiled by Mgr. Perroud, Vicar-General of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. This report, accompanied by a letter from Bishop Mamie, was sent to Cardinal Garrone.

On 30 April 1974 Mgr. Lefebvre and Mgr. Mamie met at Fribourg.

At some time in June 1974, Pope Paul is alleged to have convoked the ad hoc Commission of Cardinals. While it cannot be claimed with certainty that this is untrue, it is certain that the document convoking the Commission has never been produced. As will be shown later, this document was one of the items which Mgr. Lefebvre's advocate would have demanded to see had not the Archbishop's appeal been blocked. It is not unreasonable to presume that one reason why the Archbishop was denied due legal process was that a number of serious irregularities would have been brought to light. It can hardly be a coincidence, in view of the criticisms aroused by the doubtful legality of the proceedings against Mgr. Lefebvre, that when a Commission of Cardinals was convoked to examine the case of Fr. Louis Coache, a traditionalist priest who had been deprived of his parish for his defense of the traditional Mass and catechism, great care was taken to leave no legal loopholes. The text of this document will be cited under the date of 10 June 1975. It will also be made clear that not one shred of evidence proving that the Pope had approved of the action taken against the Archbishop and his Seminary was produced until 29 June 1975. Pope Paul stated in a letter of this date, which is included in its chronological order, that he had approved of the action taken against the Archbishop in forma specifica (this term will also be explained under the same date). It is not unreasonable to conclude that this was an attempt to give retrospective legality to what must certainly be one of the greatest travesties of justice in the history of the Church.

On 23 June 1974 the Commission of Cardinals met and decided upon a canonical visitation of the Seminary.

The Apostolic Visitation of the Seminary at Ecône took place from 11-13 November 1974. The two Visitors were both Belgians: Mgr. Descamps, a biblical scholar, and Mgr. Onclin, a canonist. The Apostolic Visitation was carried out with great thoroughness. Professors and students were subjected to searching and detailed questions concerning every aspect of life in the Seminary. However, considerable scandal was occasioned by opinions which the two Roman Visitors expressed in the presence of the students and staff. For, according to Mgr. Lefebvre, these two Visitors considered it normal and indeed inevitable that there should be a married clergy; they did not believe there was an immutable Truth; and they also had doubts concerning the traditional concept of our Lord 's Resurrection.1

On 21 November 1974, in reaction to the scandal occasioned by these opinions of the Apostolic Visitors, Mgr. Lefebvre considered it necessary to make clear where he stood in relation to the Rome represented by this attitude of mind. "This," he said, "was the origin of my Declaration which was, it is true, drawn up in a spirit of doubtlessly excessive indignation.”

In this Declaration he rejected the views expressed by the Visitors, even if they were currently acceptable in the Rome which the Visitors represented in an official capacity.

In this Declaration, he stated:

...we refuse...and have always refused to follow the Rome of Neo-Modernist and Neo-Protestant tendencies...

No authority, not even the highest in the hierarchy, can compel us to abandon or diminish our Catholic faith, so clearly expressed and professed by the Church's Magisterium for nineteen centuries.

It is difficult to see how any orthodox Catholic could possibly disagree with Mgr. Lefebvre concerning this. It is all the more significant, therefore, that the Commission of Cardinals subsequently stated that the Declaration "seemed unacceptable to them on all points."

It is also important to note that this Declaration was not intended as a public statement, let alone as a Manifesto defying the Holy See. It was intended to be a private statement solely for the benefit of the members of the Society of Saint Pius X.

However, the Declaration was leaked without Mgr. Lefebvre's permission, and because the text, or extracts from it, were being used in a manner which he could not condone, he authorized Itinéraires to publish the full and authentic French text in January 1975. An English translation of this Declaration was published in Approaches 42-3 and The Remnant of 6 February 1975.

It is particularly significant that the Commission of Cardinals persistently refused to view this Declaration in the context of its origin: as a private reaction of righteous indignation to the scandal occasioned by the views propagated by the two Apostolic Visitors who had been sent to Ecône by the Commission of Cardinals.

The full text of the Declaration follows.


The Declaration of 21 November 1974

We hold firmly with all our heart and with all our mind to Catholic Rome, Guardian of the Catholic Faith and of the traditions necessary to the maintenance of this faith, to the eternal Rome, mistress of wisdom and truth.

We refuse on the other hand, and have always refused, to follow the Rome of Neo-Modernist and Neo-Protestant tendencies which became clearly manifest during the Second Vatican Council, and after the Council, in all the reforms which issued from it.

In effect, all these reforms have contributed and continue to contribute to the destruction of the Church, to the ruin of the priesthood, to the abolition of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments, to the disappearance of the religious life, and to a naturalistic and Teilhardian education in the universities, in the seminaries, in catechetics: an education deriving from Liberalism and Protestantism which had been condemned many times by the solemn Magisterium of the Church.

No authority, not even the highest in the hierarchy, can compel us to abandon or to diminish our Catholic Faith, so clearly expressed and professed by the Church's Magisterium for nineteen centuries.

"Friends," said St. Paul, "though it were we ourselves, though it were an angel from heaven that should preach to you a gospel other than the gospel we have preached to you, a curse upon him" (Gal. 1:8).

Is it not this that the Holy Father is repeating to us today? And if there is a certain contradiction manifest in his words and deeds as well as in the acts of the dicasteries,2 then we cleave to what has always been taught and we turn a deaf ear to the novelties which destroy the Church.

It is impossible to profoundly modify the Lex Orandi without modifying the Lex Credendi. To the New Mass there corresponds the new catechism, the new priesthood, the new seminaries, the new universities, the "Charismatic" Church, Pentecostalism: all of them opposed to orthodoxy and the never-changing Magisterium.

This reformation, deriving as it does from Liberalism and Modernism, is entirely corrupted; it derives from heresy and results in heresy, even if all its acts are not formally heretical.

It is therefore impossible for any conscientious and faithful Catholic to espouse this reformation and to submit to it in any way whatsoever.

The only attitude of fidelity to the Church and to Catholic doctrine appropriate for our salvation is a categorical refusal to accept this reformation.

That is why, without any rebellion, bitterness, or resentment, we pursue our work of priestly formation under the guidance of the never-changing Magisterium, convinced as we are that we cannot possibly render a greater service to the Holy Catholic Church, to the Sovereign Pontiff, and to posterity.

That is why we hold firmly to everything that has been consistently taught and practiced by the Church (and codified in books published before the Modernist influence of the Council) concerning faith, morals, divine worship, catechetics, priestly formation, and the institution of the Church, until such time as the true light of tradition dissipates the gloom which obscures the sky of the eternal Rome.

Doing this, with the grace of God, the help of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Pius X, we are certain that we are being faithful to the Catholic and Roman Church, to all of Peter's successors, and of being the Fideles Dispensatores Mysteriorum Domini Nostri Jesu Christi In Spiritu Sancto.

†Marcel Lefebvre


Public Defamation

A statement condemning those who adhere to the Old Mass made by the French episcopate on 14 November 1974 was certainly aimed against Ecône, for at the same time the bishops let it be known that they would not accept any priests from Ecône in their dioceses.3

A campaign against the Seminary was then launched laying great stress on the Archbishop's refusal to use the New Mass. He, on the other hand, is adamant that no legal obligation to do so exists.

Examples of this preparatory stage of the offensive can be found in La Croix of 17, 18, 21,and 22 January and 1 February 1975. A change of tactics can be discerned from 8 February onwards, clearly resulting from a realization that proving the Archbishop wrong with regard to the legal position of the Mass would not be easy. From 8 February 1975, the charge against Ecône was one of a "Refusal of the Council and the Pope." Mgr. Lefebvre's Declaration of 21 November 1974 was cited in order to try to justify this charge.

The Commission of Cardinals met on 21 January 1975 to discuss the Report of the Apostolic Visitors.

However, the Report of the Visitors (who seem to have been honest men though far from impeccably orthodox) was not only favorable to the Seminary but even flattering. It was therefore quite unusable as a basis for the condemnation of Ecône.

In the words of Mgr. Lefebvre:

After telling me of the favorable impression the Seminary had made on the Apostolic Visitors no further reference was made to the Society or to the Seminary either on 13 February or 3 March. It was exclusively a question of my Declaration of 21 November 1974, which had been made as a result of the Apostolic Visitation.

The Commission of Cardinals therefore seized upon the only supposed evidence to hand - the Declaration of 21 November 1974.

In this connection, it is important to repeat that, in the opinion of most well-informed commentators, the action taken against Ecône by the Swiss bishops, in conjunction with Rome, had been instigated by the French hierarchy, with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Villot, acting as its instrument.4

As Mgr. Lefebvre points out, the Apostolic Visitation was the first step towards the suppression of the Seminary. And this action was taken only after a prolonged press campaign in which the Seminary had been subjected to the most odious calumnies, which had been taken up first by the French bishops and then by the Swiss episcopate. One French Archbishop had indeed been reported as stating that he would have "the scalp of the Seminary" before 1975 was out.5

But the most convincing evidence that the Commission of Cardinals was determined at all costs to close the Seminary was the fact that nothing more was heard of the Apostolic Visitation after its report was found to be favorable.

In a letter dated 21 May 1975, accompanying his appeal which was lodged at the Apostolic Signature on 5 June, Mgr. Lefebvre demanded that, if there was anything in his Declaration which should be condemned, the Commission of Cardinals should condemn him personally rather than suppress the Society of St. Pius X, the Seminary, and the other houses which had been founded by the Society.

The Archbishop has yet to be given one word from the Commission specifying anything in the Declaration which is alleged to deviate from orthodoxy. He insists that should such an allegation be made he must be tried by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the only tribunal competent to decide in such a matter.

Certainly to close down the most flourishing and the most orthodox seminary in the West on the basis of alleged but unspecified unorthodoxy found in a single document is an unprecedented enormity. It is all the more outrageous, given the total inactivity (if not the connivance) of the Vatican concerning the travesty of the Catholic Faith and priestly formation that has for long been perpetrated in so many other seminaries, above all in French seminaries.

Indeed, one would have to go to Soviet Russia to discover a comparable caricature of justice. But concerning even the worst travesties of justice behind the Iron Curtain, it can at least be said that they are not perpetrated in the name of Christ's Church, let alone during a Holy Year of Reconciliation!

On 24 January 1975, Mgr. Mamie, Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, wrote to Cardinal Tabera, Prefect of the Congregation for Religious. In this letter he stated that, following the meeting of 21 January and having made a careful study of Mgr. Lefebvre's Declaration, he considered it a sad but urgent necessity to withdraw the approval given by his predecessor to the Society of St. Pius X. More and more people, he said, were refusing the Mass of Paul VI throughout French and German Switzerland and it had even been alleged that Mgr. Adam (Bishop of Sion) was mistaken in claiming that Pope Paul had abrogated the Missal of Pius V. In such a situation the Seminary could do no good.

At the same time he felt bound to admit the existence of certain unlawful aberrations instigated by those who used the Council as an excuse for withdrawing themselves from the Hierarchy, the Magisterium, and the Truth. This problem was preoccupying the Swiss bishops as gravely as the question of Ecône. They were working daily to rectify what needed rectifying. They also encouraged those who needed encouraging.

There are several points in this letter to which attention should be drawn.

Firstly, its date, 24 January 1975, and Mgr. Mamie's admission that he had been present at the meeting on 21 January when the Cardinals decided to invite Mgr. Lefebvre to Rome. It is quite clear that Mgr. Mamie's letter of 24 January had been decided upon during the 21 January meeting. In other words, the suppression of Ecône was agreed upon on 21 January 1975, more than three weeks before the discussion with Mgr. Lefebvre took place.

Secondly, however sincere Mgr. Adam and Mgr. Mamie might be in their belief that the Pope had abrogated the Old Mass with all the necessary legal formalities, they both refrain from stating when and in what terms this abrogation was made public.

Thirdly, while Mgr. Mamie concedes that, in Switzerland as elsewhere, many of those responsible for grave aberrations use the Council to justify their defiance of the Magisterium, documented evidence of sanctions being taken against such people by the Swiss (or any other) Hierarchy is very hard to come by. The frequent references to the existence of such abuses and the insistence that steps are being taken to correct them, included (even by Pope Paul VI himself) in public attacks upon Mgr. Lefebvre, indicate the unease felt by the Archbishop's critics in the face of their evident observance of double standards. There are in the Church today two weights, two measures - one for Mgr. Lefebvre and other traditionalists who wish to uphold the Faith and one for the Liberals who wish to destroy it.

On 25 January 1975, Cardinal Garrone, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, sent the following letter to Mgr. Lefebvre - on behalf of the Commission of Cardinals. All three signed the letter. A close study of this letter reveals how carefully the Cardinals have concealed the fact that Archbishop Lefebvre is being convoked before a tribunal which, it would be claimed later, had been constituted by express mandate of the Holy Father. Nor does the letter give the least indication that it is the Declaration of 21 November 1974 which is in question. It is simply a request for a discussion with the Archbishop - "Nous voudrions maintenant nous entretenir avec vous..." The text of the letter follows:

Your Excellency,

Their Excellencies Cardinal Wright, Cardinal Tabera and I have studied the result of the visit to the Ecône Seminary by His Excellency Mgr. Descamps. We are grateful to you for having given him every facility to accomplish the mission on behalf of the Holy See.

We would now like to discuss with you some points which leave us somewhat bewildered following his visit, and concerning which, among others, we must report to the Holy Father.

Can you arrange to be free for this meeting at 10:00 a.m.6 on the morning of 13 February next in the premises of our Congregation?

Thanking you in anticipation in the name of the three Cardinals entrusted with this question and assuring you of my respectful and fraternal sentiments.

On 13 February, Mgr. Lefebvre met the Commission of Cardinals as arranged. There was a further session on 3 March.

The following is Mgr. Lefebvre's own account of the methods adopted by the Commission of Cardinals in their search for an excuse to suppress the Society of St. Pius X and its various establishments including the Ecône Seminary. This statement was published in Itinéraires No. 195, July-August 1975.


The Statement of Mgr. Lefebvre

It should be remembered that even before the proceedings opened, the Seminary of the Society, from the moment of its very foundation, had been the victim of a campaign of denigration in the press, more especially when its attraction for the young and its world-wide reputation became evident. This campaign of denigration included the odious calumny that Ecône was a wild-cat seminary.7

Calumnies such as these were re-echoed first by the French episcopate, in spite of the fact that the Bishop of Fribourg knew perfectly well that they had no foundation in fact.

It was obvious that steps had been taken in Rome to obtain our suppression. On 9 November we received a letter from a Nunciature of Berne, informing us that a Commission, nominated by the Pope, and consisting of three Cardinal Prefects of the Congregations involved - Religious, Catholic Education, Clergy - was sending us two Apostolic Visitors: His Excellency Mgr. Descamps and Mgr. Onclin.

The two Visitors arrived at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, 11 November. For three days they questioned 10 professors, 20 of the 104 students, and myself. They left at 6:00 p.m. on 13 November without having signed any Protocol of Visit. We have never been given any information concerning the contents of their Report.

Convinced that this was the first step towards the suppression of our Seminary, which for long had been the aim of the progressives, and realizing that the Visitors had come with the aim of bringing us into line with the changes that had taken place within the Church since the Council, I decided to make my position clear to the entire Seminary.

I could not adhere to the Rome represented by Apostolic Delegates who considered the ordination of married men both normal and inevitable; who could not accept the idea of immutable Truth, and who expressed doubts concerning the traditional concept of Our Lord's Resurrection.

This was the origin of my Declaration, which was, it is true, drawn up in a spirit of doubtless excessive indignation.

Two and a half months passed without any news. Then on 30 January 1975, I received a letter, signed by the members of the Commission, inviting me to Rome "to discuss" with them "some points which leave us somewhat bewildered."

Accepting this invitation, I went to Rome, to the Congregation for Catholic Education, on 13 February 1975. Their Eminences Cardinals Garrone, Wright, and Tabera, accompanied by a secretary, invited me to join them at a conference table. His Eminence Cardinal Garrone asked me whether I had any objection to the discussion being recorded and the secretary proceeded to install a recording machine.

After telling me of the favorable impression received by the Apostolic Visitors, no further reference was made either to the Society or to the Seminary either on 13 February or on 3 March. It was exclusively a question of my Declaration of 21 November 1974, which had been made as a consequence of the Apostolic Visit.

Cardinal Garrone vehemently reproached me on account of this, even going so far as to imply that I was a "lunatic," that I imagined myself to be an Athanasius.8 This tirade lasted for some 25 minutes. Cardinal Tabera, going one better, said: "What you are doing is worse than what is being done by all the progressives." He also said that I had severed communion with the Church, etc.

Was I taking part in a discussion? Or was I rather facing judges? What was the competence of this Commission? I had merely been told that it had been mandated by the Holy Father and that it was he who would judge. But it was clear that judgment had already been passed.

I tried in vain to formulate arguments or explanations giving the true meaning of my Declaration. I made it clear that I respected and would always respect the Pope and the Bishops but added that to me it was not an evident fact that to criticize certain texts of the Council and the Reforms which derived therefrom was equivalent to breaking with the Church. I said that I was making every effort to discover the deeply rooted causes of the present crisis in the Church and that everything I had done proved that my desire was to build the Church, not to destroy it. But not one of my arguments was taken into consideration. Cardinal Garrone insisted that the cause of the crisis lay in the media of social communications.

At the end of the meeting of 13 February as at the end of that of 3 March, my impression was that I had been deceived. Whereas I had been invited to a discussion, in fact I was facing a tribunal which had already decided to condemn me. Nothing was done to help me towards a compromise or towards an amicable solution. Nothing in writing was given to me specifying the accusations; no written monition. Nothing but the argument of authority, accompanied by invective and threats, was presented to me in the course of five hours of discussion.

After the end of the second session, I asked for a copy of the recording. Cardinal Garrone replied that it was only right that I should have a copy, that I had a right to it, and he informed his secretary accordingly.

That very evening I sent a man with all the necessary equipment to make a recording from the original tape. But the secretary stated that there was no question of my having more than a transcription. I went myself next day to ask for a copy (of the recording). The secretary went to consult the Cardinal and returned to inform me that it was indeed a transcription I was to get. This was promised for the following evening. To be certain that it would be ready I telephoned the following morning. The secretary then told me that there was no question of my being given a transcription, but that I could call between 5:00 p. m. and 8:00 p.m. to see it. Faced with this kind of behavior I let the matter drop.

So then, after this mockery of a trial concerning a supposedly favorable Visitation about which there were only some slight reservations, and after two sessions which concentrated exclusively on my Declaration in order to condemn it totally, without reservation or nuance whatsoever, without its being concretely examined and without my being given anything in writing, one after the other I received first a letter from His Excellency Mgr. Mamie suppressing the Society and the Seminary with the approval of the Commission of Cardinals, and then a letter from the Commission confirming Mgr. Mamie's letter. All this without the formulation of a formal and precise accusation concerning what had been discussed. And this decision, declared Mgr. Mamie, came into effect immediately ("immédiatement executive").

I was therefore expected immediately to dismiss from the Seminary 104 seminarians, 13 professors, and other personnel. And this, two months before the end of the scholastic year! One requires only to write all this down in order to know the reactions of anyone who still retains a little common sense and honesty. And all this on 8 May of the Year of Reconciliation !

Does the Holy Father really know of these things? We find it difficult to believe he does.

†Marcel Lefebvre

On 15 April 1975, through the medium of Itinéraires, Mgr. Lefebvre published the text of his reply to the Abbé de Nantes concerning two articles in the February and March issues of the Abbé de Nantes' newsletter, La Contre-Réforme Catholique, which appeared to implicate him.9 All traditionalists would do well to emulate Mgr. Lefebvre's exemplary restraint and his respectful attitude to the Holy Father, as well as his uncompromising fidelity to the Eternal Rome, as expressed not only in the following letter but also in his Declaration of 21 November 1974.

Dear Father,

You will admit, I think, that it is not I who wished that our correspondence should become public. I have already told you so in writing. Controversy such as this cannot but weaken the spiritual forces which we require to combat error and heresy.

The indelicacy of your action is such that I would have kept silent if you had not written most insidious articles prejudicing me personally in your last two issues (of La Contre-Réforme Catholique).

The first concerned a Bishop's breaking with Rome - which you deemed to be desirable. Undoubtedly, no explicit allusion was made. However, in the next few lines you mentioned my name in connection with the Credo Pilgrimage (to Rome), and uninformed readers automatically linked the person named with the preceding lines. This kind of thing is odious. I would have you know that if a Bishop breaks with Rome it will not be me. My Declaration (of 21 November) stated this explicitly and emphatically enough.

And it is in this connection that I must also tell you of my utter disagreement with the commentaries further to this in your last issue, which say what you wish, what you would like to see, but not what is.

We think that when the Apostle Paul reproached Peter he kept and even showed towards the head of the Church the affection and respect due to him. St. Paul was at one and the same time with Peter, head of the Church, who at the Council of Jerusalem had given clear directions, and against Peter, who in practice acted contrary to his own instructions. Are we not sometimes tempted to feel similarly today? But this does not authorize us to despise the successor of Peter. It must make us pray for him with ever increasing fervor.

With Pope Paul VI, we denounce Neo-Modernism, the self-destruction of the Church, Satan's smoke in the Church, and consequently we refuse to cooperate in the destruction of the Church by the propagation of Modernism and Protestantism, by involvement in the reforms which are inspired by these errors, even if they come to us from Rome.

As I had occasion to say recently in Rome concerning the Second Vatican Council: Liberalism has been condemned by the Church for a century and a half. It has found its way into the Church via the Council. The Church is dying of the practical consequences of this Liberalism. We must therefore do everything to help the Church and those who govern it to free themselves from this Satanic influence.

That is the significance of my Declaration.

As for your illogicalities and the fact of your not having met me at Ecône, I shall not speak of these. They are trifles compared with the main problem to which I have just referred.

Please accept, dear Father, my respectful and cordially devoted greetings in Christ and Mary .

†Marcel Lefebvre

19 March 1975

The Feast of Saint Joseph.

In a letter to Mgr. Mamie dated 25 April 1975 , Cardinal Tabera stated that the Commission of Cardinals not only agreed with the request made by Mgr. Mamie in his letter of 24 January (to withdraw canonical approval from the Society of St. Pius X), but also urged him to do so without further delay. Mgr. Mamie was assured by Cardinal Tabera that his invaluable collaboration in the service of the Lord and His Church was greatly appreciated.

On 6 May 1975 Mgr. Mamie wrote to Mgr. Lefebvre stating that after long months of prayer and reflection he had reached the sad but necessary decision that he must withdraw all the acts and concessions granted by his predecessor to the Society of St. Pius X. He also stated that Mgr. Lefebvre would soon receive a letter from the ad hoc Commission of Cardinals confirming that this action had been taken in full agreement with the Holy See. It was the Declaration of 21 November 1974, he said, which had finally confirmed him in this course of action. Mgr. Mamie considered the Archbishop to be manifestly opposed not only to Vatican II but also to the person and the acts of the successor of St. Peter , His Holiness Pope Paul VI, and he therefore could not allow him to continue to claim that the Society had the support of the Bishop of Fribourg. He therefore could no longer allow the authority of the Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg to continue to provide the canonical basis of Mgr. Lefebvre's institutions.

This decision (he said) took effect immediately and he had informed the relevant Roman Congregations of his action by the same post, as well as the Apostolic Delegate and Mgr. Adam, President of the Swiss Episcopal conference.

The two concluding paragraphs of his letter read as follows:

As for us, we shall continue to demand that the faithful as well as the clergy accept and apply all the orientations and decisions of the Second Vatican Council, all the teachings of John XXIII and of Paul VI, all the directives of the secretariats instituted by the Council, including the new liturgy. This we have done and this we shall continue to do, even in the most difficult of days and with the grace of God, because for us it is the only way to edify the Church.

It is therefore with great sadness, Monseigneur, that I assure you of my prayers and most fraternal sentiments, in union with Christ Jesus, His Church, and the one who has received the divine powers of confirming his brothers, the Sovereign Pontiff, the Successor of Peter.

The penultimate paragraph of this letter merits particularly careful study.

Why this exclusive preoccupation only with all of the orientations and decisions of Vatican II and the teachings of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI?

Does Mgr. Mamie have no interest in previous Councils? After all, they were of far greater status than Vatican II. For whereas they were dogmatic, Vatican II was merely pastoral - whatever pastoral may mean.10

And what about Pope Pius XII? Is he already forgotten in Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg?

It is not difficult to understand why Mgr. Mamie prefers not to remember Pope Pius XII, who would certainly not have permitted a Roman Congregation to issue directives permitting laywomen to give Communion in the hand to standing communicants. In fairness to Pope John, it must be stressed that neither would he have tolerated such practices. Did he not dismiss Mgr. Bugnini, who, more than anyone else, has been responsible for stage-managing the liturgical revolution which the Congregation for Divine Worship proceeded to impose on the Church?

It is also not difficult to see why Mgr. Mamie is so determined to condemn Mgr. Lefebvre's Declaration, which insists that the only attitude which a faithful Catholic can possibly have to this kind of Reformation is to refuse categorically to accept it.

It is true that not even the most ardent Liberal would dare to suggest that any previous Pope would have tolerated the kind of directives now being issued by some of the secretariats instituted in the wake of Vatican II. It is interesting to note that in the very year when the New Order of the Mass was foisted on the Church in the name of the Pope by the Congregation for Divine Worship, even Cardinal Gut, the then Prefect of that Congregation, admitted that the Holy Father had frequently yielded against his own better judgment in sanctioning various kinds of unlawful liturgical initiatives undertaken by priests determined to impose their will on the Church.11

It is also relevant to note that Mgr. Bugnini is reported to have told one of his friends that  "he had all the difficulty in the world" in getting Pope Paul to authorize the New Mass.12 It must also be noted that a mere two months after Cardinal Villot had successfully contrived to have Ecône suppressed, Pope Paul VI at long last dismissed Archbishop Bugnini, the moving spirit behind the New Mass, by suppressing the Congregation for Divine Worship, merging it with the Congregation for the Sacraments, and excluding Mgr. Bugnini from any position in the new Congregation.13

As for Mgr. Mamie's much vaunted loyalty to Pope John and Pope Paul, this is, to say the least, of a very selective nature.

Mgr. Mamie has no right whatsoever to claim that he implements all the teachings of John XXIII and Paul VI. For example, in his encyclical Veterum Sapientia (1962) on the importance and value of Latin in the life of the Church, Pope John stated, inter alia, that the major sacred sciences must be taught through the medium of Latin in Catholic universities and seminaries.

Pope John insisted that bishops and superiors-general of religious orders "shall studiously observe the Apostolic See's decision in this matter and obey these our prescriptions most carefully", and added:

In the exercise of their paternal care they shall be on their guard lest anyone under their jurisdiction, being eager for innovation, writes against the use of Latin in the teaching of the higher sacred studies or in the liturgy, or through prejudice makes light of the Holy See's will in this regard or interprets it falsely.

Needless to say, Mgr. Mamie's zeal to crush the Seminary at Ecône, where Latin textbooks are still used, is not matched by an equivalent zeal to insure that this particular teaching of Pope John is observed in the seminaries of which he approves.

As for Mgr. Mamie's obedience to Pope Paul, although it was made clear in Memoriale Domini that the Holy Father wished the traditional method of receiving Communion to be maintained, Communion in the hand is now widespread throughout Switzerland, not excluding the Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg.

The liturgy provides yet another example of Mgr. Mamie's selective obedience. In 1974, the Holy Father sent a copy of Jubilate Deo, a book containing all the more common Latin chants, as a personal gift to every bishop in the world. He did so in the hope that this would impress upon them his concern that the specific teaching of Vatican II concerning the liturgical use of Latin should be implemented. At the same time he made it clear that he wanted all the faithful to be familiar with these Latin chants. Yet despite Mgr. Mamie's professed loyalty to the teaching of Paul VI, it would be difficult to find many parishes in his diocese where the Holy Father's wishes have been respected.

Clearly, it is to Mgr. Mamie rather than to Mgr. Lefebvre that the Commission of Cardinals should have addressed the words: "It is inadmissible that each individual should be invited to submit papal directions to his private judgment and decide for himself whether to accept or reject them."

As for the specific teachings of the promulgated documents of Vatican II - which must not be confused with the innumerable orientations imposed on the Church in the name of Vatican II, as has already been pointed out - these are more faithfully observed at Ecône than any other seminary in the Western world.

1. Hanu, pp. 206-207

2. i.e. the Roman Congregations (Departments) presided over by cardinals which govern the life of the Church, e.g. the Congregation for the Clergy.

3. Courrier de Rome, No. 140, February 1975, p. 4.

4. Vide Mgr. Lefebvre's letter of 15 July 1975 to the editor of Approaches. It is reproduced below under this date.

5. Courrier de Rome, no. 146, p. 1.

6. The time of the meeting was later changed to 9:00 a.m.

7. This was also the description used in the headline above a most misleading and slanted report in the English Catholic weekly The Universe of 6 June 1975. This report would have disgraced any newspaper, let alone a "Catholic" paper which boasts on its masthead of Pope Paul's prayerful concern for its efficacy as an instrument of truth. Moreover, even when the false nature of the entire report was drawn to the editor's attention, The Universe refused to print any correction.

8. Mgr. Lefebvre has never, at any time, compared himself with St. Athanasius. The fact that a sound basis for such a comparison exists is made clear in Appendix I.

9. "Abbé" is a common title given to the clergy in France. Father Georges de Nantes is one of the best known figures in the French traditionalist movement. He has been much criticized by other traditionalists in recent years due to his public criticism of Mgr. Lefebvre. He is mentioned in Pope John's Council, (pp. 187-188). He is referred to incorrectly in Vatican Encounter as "the abbot of Nantes."

10. The authority of the documents of Vatican II is explained in Chapter 14 of Pope John's Council.

11. La Documentation Catholique, No.1551, (16 November 1969), p. 1048.

12. Rev. L. M. Barielle, La Messe Catholique, Est-Elle Encore Permise? (Editions Saint-Gabriel).

13. The background to Archbishop Bugnini's dismissal is explained in Pope John's Council, Chapter XII. A more detailed treatment will appear in Pope Paul's New Mass.


Chapter 3

Courtesy of the Angelus Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109

Home | Newsletters | Library | Vocations | History | Links | Search | Contact