Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter VII

Is Sunday Mass to be Suppressed?

By Michel de Saint Pierre
L'Aurore – 1 November 1979

My parish in Normandy was recently visited by the “priest in charge of the region." He had been sent by the diocese. What was the purpose of his visit? To instill in our minds and to put into effect the famous "Sunday assemblies without a priest.”

We were told, in a most official manner, that our parish priest could not serve his three parishes, and that we must therefore, at regular intervals, manage without him. But how? Simply by learning to celebrate a Sunday “service” without a priest.

The “priest in charge of the region" was, needless to say, dressed in civilian clothes. He explained that the shortage of priests in France was posing problems, and the solution of the problem was being offered to us: the laity must take turns to officiate. To begin with, on one Sunday out of two we would recite the prayers of the Mass under the direction of one of the parishioners – and we could even receive Communion at the hands of the laity present, as “sufficient number of consecrated Hosts would be provided for us.”

Now in our part of Normandy the parishes are small and not far apart, and until now our priests, each of whom has a car, had no difficulty in serving each Sunday the two or three churches in their charge. Moreover, each farming family has a car: the majority of the younger generation has either a motorcycle or a motor scooter. So, in a case of necessity, nothing could be easier than to attend a neighboring church to hear Mass. I pointed this out to the "priest in charge of the region," who merely shook his head.

"It is a question of knowing," he told me, "whether you want to be scattered in various churches or whether you want to retain your identity as a parish."

"No," I replied. "It is a question of whether Rome has decided, yes or no, that assisting at Sunday Mass is no longer obligatory. What you are offering us is merely a prayer meeting of the laity. Will you therefore kindly tell those listening to us that Sunday observance at a prayer meeting without a priest does not absolve us from the obligation of attending Mass in a neighboring parish?"

Not only did the "priest in charge of the region" refuse to do this, but he began extolling the necessity of a truly parochial community, etc. In other words, I heard with my own ears a diocesan priest inviting a group of rural laity to cease celebrating the Lord's Day by their presence and by their participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

However, the following Sunday the first attempt was made in our parish: we had our little gatherings without a priest, but I categorically refused to attend. But good sense and loyalty prevailed and these Sunday gatherings soon stopped: they have never re-started. Nevertheless, doubt had been sown in innocent souls who no longer quite understand what the Curé d' Ars had so accurately described as the "Sublime Mass."

An enquiry I later made among the members of the Credo Society indicated that this was no isolated case, nor an attempt which would not be followed up. Is this practice, of members of the laity replacing the priest, not, in fact, an excellent pretext for the French Episcopate to cover up the decline in the number of seminaries, and the growing lack, in France, of vocations to the priesthood? I now know that in many dioceses attempts had been made to introduce these pitiful celebrations without a priest – thus making our churches more and more like Protestant temples: heaven grant that these attempts may fail! For my part, I beg all those reading this article to refuse to attend these so-called Masses, these ceremonies lacking both meaning and substance – ceremonies without the anointed hands of the priest, which alone have the power to transform the bread and the wine, each day and in every church, throughout the world, into the Body and Blood of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

But this is not the end of the affair. Today, at the Jean-Bart Centre, the pastoral, sacramental and liturgical center of the Archdiocese of Paris, a most strange booklet was published entitled "The Sunday of Yesterday and the Sunday of Today." While insisting that Sunday Mass remains obligatory, the content of this brochure is admirably summarized by Father Auvray:

• To be able to replace the obligation of personally attending Mass by sending a representative.

• To disassociate Sunday from the Lord's Day, which must become a moveable feast during the week.

• To disassociate Mass from Sunday and invent another type of celebration, not solely the Mass.

So much ought to be quoted but only one passage will have to suffice: "To be a practicing Catholic would no longer necessarily mean attending Mass each Sunday, but being always most careful to attend, either in person or by representative, each weekly religious assembly.”

Thus the bonds of solidarity and representations would replace loyalty and culpability.

In the customary jargon used for such commentaries and with the customary pretentious verbal diarrhea, the Jean-Bart Center presents us with sixty-five pages of the same style, causing mental confusion and casting doubt on teachings which Rome never ceases to re-affirm. Rome, whose traditional loyalty the Center would appear to doubt: "The present rigidity," the brochure informs us, “permits nothing whatsoever.”

In my view, nothing could be added to this admission – if not this: that this terrifying document produced by Jean-Bart Center be brought without delay to the notice of His Holiness Pope John Paul II.


Chapter 6

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

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