Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter XXX

The National Pastoral Congress

The Remnant – 31 May 1980

The NC News Service reporter Robert Nowell reported last week from London that the conclusion of the National Pastoral Congress there raises the question: “Are Catholics in England and Wales going Dutch?” The same report stated that the Congress (May 2 to 6), raised “enormous difficulties for the bishops of England and Wales” inasmuch as “British Catholics, like their Dutch counterparts before them, have formed new opinions based on their interpretation of Vatican II.” They believe that Vatican II showed that “the Christian faith and its demands are something that could be open to free discussion among members of the Church, with decisions being defensible through reasoned arguments.” Thus the Congress held in May discussed contraception and concluded that because of the present confusion, uncertainty and disagreement over the issue, the Church’s teaching on marriage had reached an impasse and should be given “a fundamental re-examination of the teaching on marriage, sexuality and contraception that would leave the door open to change and development.”

The Congress asked that careful consideration be given to ordaining married men to the priesthood, and raised the question whether women priests might become foreseeable in the future. The Congress also discussed the question of general absolution, Communion under both species, etc., etc., all of which issues have been negatively dealt with by the Vatican.

The bishops will meet July 14 to 16 to consider response to the Congress' recommendations.


The National Pastoral Congress was the English and Welsh version of the notorious Dutch Pastoral Council which ended in 1970 and the American "Call to Action” Congress in Detroit in 1976. The virtual identity of the resolutions passed by these three notorious conventions demonstrate with terrifying clarity what is at stake in the struggle for the soul of the Church which has been taking place since the Second Vatican Council. Mgr. Lefebvre is not an elderly nostalgic who is unable to adapt! He is a successor of the Apostles who has appreciated that the Church is not undergoing a process of legitimate cultural adaptation to the twentieth century, but is in the midst of a revolution which, if it succeeded, would destroy her identity as the Mystical Body of Christ, prolonging the Incarnation throughout the centuries. A revolution can be defined as the forcible overthrowing of an established system. No-one who reads the accounts of the three conventions objectively could possibly dispute that this was precisely their intention. The virtual identity of the resolutions and demands of all three conventions is perhaps what is most alarming.

Nero is reputed to have played the lyre while Rome burned. The authorities in the Vatican appear to be concerned more with the rite of Mass which Archbishop Lefebvre celebrates than with the fact that the Church established by Our Lord Jesus Christ is being systematically destroyed in country after country, with pastoral consequences involving the salvation of millions of souls that are terrifying to contemplate. At the risk of appearing tedious, it must be stressed yet again that the alleged disobedience of Mgr. Lefebvre must be set within the context of a Church that is disintegrating, and that, in reality, this disobedience is obedience to the fundamental axiom upon which the Church is built, and for which she exists: Salus animarum suprema lex –“The salvation of souls is the supreme law.”

In the December 1980 issue of Christian Order, the Editor, Father Paul Crane, S.J., commented: "In a Joint Pastoral Letter, read in all churches on Sunday, 27 July, the Archbishops and Bishops of England and Wales spoke of the National Pastoral Congress as 'a great grace given to the Church in England and Wales.' I am afraid this view is shared be fewer that they think.”

Father Crane went on to cite the opinion of Gregory Macdonald, a distinguished layman who had been head of the BBC Central European Service and had been decorated by the Queen. Mr. Macdonald commented, after a meeting during which Congress delegates from his deanery made known their views, that he had seen Democratic Centralism at work, that is: "Leninism, the creed of revolutionary change, a manipulation of confused majorities by determined minorities, posing as a renewal of Catholicism in a parish hall.”


The National Pastoral Congress
By Rev. C.A. Howrath, S.M.

One need not comment on the praiseworthy aspects of the Congress, and of the Sector Reports and Recommendations, which speak for themselves. In my conviction there are also grave defects, in particular :

1. The recommendation that the church should change her teaching on contraception.

2. The request that those in irregular conjugal unions should be admitted to the Sacraments.

3. That grounds for General Absolution should be extended.

4. The desire expressed for multiplication of group Masses in all sorts of circumstances, with the involvement of as many as possible in liturgical-ministerial functions.

5. The desire for admission of women to Holy Orders.1

6. Recommendations for what amounts to proliferation of bureaucracy : all sorts of bodies and officials at every level, with in-service training and various kinds of national, diocesan, deanery and parish institutions. (There is enough of this kind of organization already, and we should make better use of what exists before we increase it.)

7. Recommendations for what would amount to indiscriminate increase of ecumenical activity, with increase of inter-Communion ("Eucharistic hospitality"), and membership strongly urged of the British Council of Churches.

8. The regrettable failure of the Sector on Evangelism to state in any adequate fashion the Church’s fundamental mission: to proclaim God's glory and bring souls to Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation.

9. The report of the Sector on Education and Formation said much that was good. But it proved impossible to persuade group, topic, and sector meetings to adopt a simple statement that all catechesis at every level must be in conformity with the Church's magisterium; or to endorse the principle that memorization should be restored as an important element in religious education. A request that the hierarchy should provide a fully orthodox catechism or "core curriculum" as they are required to do by the General Catechetical Directory and by the Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendæ was rejected.

10. The Sector on Religious Education did not seem to advert to one great fundamental defect that has plagued us for years: neglect of the content of catechesis, resulting in bad and inadequate teaching. There were one or two references in the report to a "core curriculum"; and there was a commendable statement put forward by the young people of our sector (appearing at the end of the report), but even here no express reference to the final criterion of true Catholic teaching.

11. Failure to state unambiguously this criterion: viz., fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium in its dogmatic and moral teaching, “in all its rigor and vigor" (to quote the Pope’s words in Catechesi tradendæ), vitiated the whole work of the Congress. It is true that there were a few general references to our unity with the Holy See in Cardinal Hume’s and Archbishop Worlock’s addresses, but there was no adequate response in any of the sector reports to the clear words of the Pope on the matter; which, especially in his Second Message to the Congress, were so emphatic. On the contrary, some of the recommendations were in confrontation with the magisterium.


Are British Catholics Going Dutch?

This is a slightly abbreviated version of an article I wrote for the 30 June 1980 Remnant. By a fortunate coincidence, as the article explains, Mgr. Lefebvre had just paid a visit to London, and the Mass he celebrated could hardly have provided a greater contrast to the one which concluded the Liverpool Congress.

The 31 May 1980 issue of The Remnant carried a headline on page 15 asking: "British Catholics going Dutch?" The answer is that during the National Pastoral Congress for England and Wales, the deplorable examples of the notorious Dutch Pastoral Council and America's equally deplorable Detroit conference were followed. This was totally predictable but does not necessarily indicate that the generality of British Catholics are going Dutch. All that it proves is that ninety-five per cent of the delegates to the Congress were totally indoctrinated card-carrying trendies. The story behind the Congress is simple. For several years this Liberal clique had been demanding a congress so that “grass roots” feeling could be heard. The bishops of England and Wales lacked, as a body, the moral fiber to resist this demand. A few individuals were strongly opposed to it, but they were caught in the trap of collegiality.

The Congress then became an initiative of the hierarchy, and the prestige of the hierarchy was involved. Therefore, it had to be a "success." If the delegates had unanimously recommended that Judge Rutherford should be canonized, and that the Catholic Church should affiliate with the Watchtower Society, droves of grinning inane bishops would have proclaimed that this was the clear voice of the Spirit There was, of course, no likelihood of this happening, as Jehovah's Witnesses are primarily concerned with theology, grossly defective theology, but theology nonetheless. The one thing which characterized this Congress was the complete absence of any interest in any world beyond the one we live in.

However, as the bishops' credibility became bound up with the Congress it meant that the Catholic press had no viable alternative but to proclaim it a success; and the secular media would, of course, base its reporting on the reaction of the bishops and the Catholic press. Thus, the reality of the Congress had already been effaced from the record. It has been proclaimed a triumphant success and the bishops are officially "euphoric." Newman's “Second Spring" is officially blossoming all around us – though not in the sense that Newman had anticipated. If the resolutions of this Congress are acted upon it means that the Catholic Church as he understood it has been repudiated in favor of some vague form of pan-Christian movement dedicated to the propagation of diluted Marxism. One of the most consistent themes of the resolutions is that everything must be done ecumenically. Virtually all the resolutions regarding the liturgy contradict the latest Vatican document condemning abuses,2 and all the standard Liberal demands to open the way to contraception, married priests, women priests, etc., etc., etc., were passed with hardly a dissenting vote.3

In theory, every parish was a hive of enthusiastic activity, with packed meetings earnestly and prayerfully discussing the carefully selected resolutions designed to ensure that only topics which the Liberals wished to have discussed would be discussed. The reality of the Congress is that the interest of perhaps ninety-five per cent of British Catholics was nil. In my own area some parishes had no meetings at all, others managed to press-gang half a dozen people for a few sessions. The bishops pressured parish priests into holding meetings when the low level of interest became so apparent that it was impossible to hide the farcical nature of the consultation process. In one large parish in London a friend of mine decided to go to oppose any Liberal proposals, and found that she was the only person there! Anyway, two thousand delegates appeared at Liverpool – frequently because they had been nominated or selected because of their known Liberal views, or because they were eager to go and no one else wished to, and such people are almost invariably Liberal activists. As always, they profited from the apathy of the silent majority – a majority which is normally silent not because it is silenced but because it is apathetic. Thus, an abuse such as Communion in the hand will initially be desired by as few as one per cent of Catholics, but will not be actively opposed be even that number. The success of a revolution depends not on widespread support but on minimal opposition.

There were a few delegates at the Congress who were recognizably Catholic, but, just as was the case at Detroit, they were swamped when it came to votes. One of these delegates has told me that she was surprised not so much at the uncatholic ethos of the Congress, which she had expected, but at the open hostility, verging at times upon hatred, manifested towards anyone who displayed even a vestigial attachment to Catholicism. The Congress organizers had shown considerable acumen in inviting delegates from traditionally oriented organizations such as Pro Fide (the British equivalent to Catholics United for the Faith), and the Latin Mass Society. Thus the Latin Mass Society was allowed to organize a Tridentine Mass as an official Congress event, and to have a stand in the Congress exhibition. Right to life organizations also took part. This will help to establish the myth that the Congress was truly representative.

Its culminating event could not have been symbolic of the ethos of the Conciliar Church. This was a con-celebrated Mass in Liverpool Cathedral at which, under the approving and mawkish smiles of the entire hierarchy, the Congress resolutions, almost all of which included propositions incompatible with Catholic doctrinal or moral teaching, or which were in conflict with Tradition, were carried up to the altar in the Offertory Procession. The prelate behind the Congress, Archbishop Derek Worlock, later proclaimed that the Church in Britain had been transformed, and that he is euphoric. He ought to be, as for many years he has not given the least indication that he so much as remembers what the Catholic Faith is.

A Refreshing Contrast

A most refreshing contrast was provided in a visit to London by Archbishop Lefebvre. He arrived here after visits to Spain and Ireland and then went straight from London to France before visiting the United States. His Grace celebrated a most moving and beautiful Pontifical High mass in the Chelsea Old Town Hall and gave great boost to the morale of British traditionalists, as his visits always do. In his sermon he stressed the fact that the greatest enemies of our faith are now found within the Church, as St. Pius X had warned. The National Pastoral Congress might have been held just to prove his point. His Grace urged traditionalists to be true to the Faith they had received, and to hand on that same Faith to their children. He also stressed the apostolate of the written word and urged Catholics to study and to circulate sound Catholic literature. I had long private interview with him and was pleased to learn of the vigorous measures he is taking to ensure that the Society of St. Pius X remains firmly within the Church. The state of the Church in most Western countries is now so bad that it is easy to understand why so many Catholics reject it immediately. It is surprising that more do not. The problem facing traditionalists at present is to uphold tradition within the Church without becoming schismatic. Many traditionalists in France now deny that Pope John Paul II is a true Pope and insist that the New Mass is intrinsically invalid. The Archbishop has stated that no priest belonging to the Society of St. Pius X will be permitted to hold either theses and is insisting that they either accept his ruling or leaves the Society.

1. Father Howrath might also have mentioned the demand for married priests.

2. Inæstimabile donum, see pp. 127-128.

3. See The Tablet, 12 May 1980.

Chapter 29

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