Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter VI

The Role of the Pope

21 October 1979

IN his 21 October lecture, cited on page 27, Dr. May made some very perceptive comments concerning Pope John Paul II. The beginning of his pontificate has given traditional Catholics grounds for considerable optimism, and this explains why 1979 could be termed legitimately a year of hope. But in his lecture Dr. May sounded a note of caution, a warning which proved to be only too prophetic. Dr. May warned that words must be matched by deeds, and before the end of the year the condemnation of Hans Kung and news of the forthcoming "Dutch Synod" in Rome gave the impression that this was precisely what was about to happen. But throughout the West entire national hierarchies ignored the Pope, and failed to implement his directives. In his turn, the Pope was unwilling to risk a confrontation with any national hierarchy, perhaps through a fear of provoking a formal schism. This has meant that his instructions in such matters as religious education or the liturgy have had little if any impact at the parish level. Dr. May's comments concerning Pope John Paul II are as follows:

The Role of the Pope

I turn, then, in first place to the Pope. I need not mention that we allow no one to surpass us in loyalty to the papacy. For us the Pope is always the Vicar of Christ, who possesses primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church. We love the Pope and are devoted to him. We wish to do everything that facilitates his office and helps him attain his desired ends. But our devotion to the successors of Peter is not bovine servility, but responsible service. We feel ourselves duty-bound to serve him not only with our lips and in our heart, but also with our thought and actions.

The pontificate of Paul VI was, as a whole and aside from a few decisions and deeds, disastrous for the Catholic Church. He brought about and saw to it that there advanced in the Church and succeeded to positions of power those forces which paralyzed and undermined it. In all of history I know of no Pope in whose reign such an unheard-of collapse from purely internal causes was to be seen as under the pontificate of Montini. Paul VI left his successors a frightful legacy: a Church in ruins.

The successor of Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, was received with a wave of enthusiasm. The hopes of innumerable Catholics rose that he might end the increasingly untenable conditions and usher in a turning point. These expectations were not without foundation. Much could be expected of a Pope who had subscribed to a newspaper such as Der Fels, who read it regularly, agreed with most of what was contained in it and even cited some of it. Whether Luciani would have been in a position to fulfill all the expectations placed in him is, of course, difficult to judge. He did not have to undergo the test; God determined it otherwise.

His successor is Pope John Paul 11, for the first time in the history of the Church a Pole and, for the first time in over 450 years, a non-Italian. He, too, has been received with broad agreement in the Church and in society. A comprehensive judgment of his tenure is not yet possible. Immediately after his election he spoke words which disappointed the supporters of a genuine renewal in the Church; I refer to the three catchwords: New Rites, Collegiality, and Ecumenism. For the supporters of a real renewal see the mischief in the Church as proceeding from the things these words signify. Meanwhile, John Paul 11 has said much, too, that is welcome. We are grateful for the defense which he has made of the great heritage and values of the Church, and we rejoice over the courage with which he stood up for Catholic sexual morality and the celibate form of life for priests. But these are for the time being only words. Paul VI spoke out too, but all too seldom were the words followed by deeds. We all know that the Church is no longer to be helped by speeches and appeals. What we need today are deeds, decisive deeds proceeding from an iron will, to save the Church.


Chapter 5

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