Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 2, Chapter XXXIII

Further Correspondence with the Vatican


12 January 1979

Letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to the Sovereign Pontiff

Holy Father,

Acting on the desire expressed during the audience that Your Holiness kindly granted me, I responded to Cardinal Seper’s invitation after asking him for information about the way the interviews would be conducted.

I was hoping that there would be private interviews, and not a procedure like a regular trial. But, to my surprise, I was not allowed to have a witness, though I was faced with six persons, five of them interrogators. I was told it was just a question of finding facts, but I learned from the statements of the Director of the Vatican Press Office that the facts were be submitted to Cardinals who would pass judgment and come to a decision which would be submitted to you for approval.

All that seems to me to be on the lines of what was done to me before, all the more as the Cardinals who condemned me are once more to be the judges.

For that reason I appeal to You, Holy Father, to study the procés-verbal signed by His Eminence Cardinal Seper and myself and make your own judgment on it.

I cannot doubt that a solution is possible, with the grace of God; but I am afraid that the decision of the Cardinals who have already condemned me would make any solution impossible.

I do not know if the letter I sent Your Holiness on Christmas Eve reached you, so I enclose a copy of it, and also a copy of the letter I sent to His Eminence Cardinal Seper.

I beg Your Holiness to accept the homage of my filial devotion in Christ and Mary.

Marcel Lefebvre
formerly Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle


13 January 1979

Letter of Cardinal Seper to Mgr. Lefebvre

Your Excellency,

I deeply regret that your state of fatigue did not allow you to return this morning to the Congregation for the conclusion of our exchanges. I send you best wishes for your health.

I enclose the introductory text which I read to you, in the presence of H. E. Mgr. Hamer, on the 11th of this month at the start of our meetings, and also the Ratio agendi from which I quoted three articles. It seems to me that these documents made the object of our talks quite clear, within the framework of the procedure in our Congregation, that is, the examination of the results of the Conference by the Ordinary Congregation of Cardinals, before their being sent for the definitive decision of the Holy Father.

According to your wish, I am sending you also the procés- verbal of these interviews, consisting, as I have informed you (point n. 4), of the questions put to you and the answers you gave to them, which were read to you at the end of each session. I enclose also, as parts of the acts, the written reply to question n. XVI b, which you sent to me. You will thus have the opportunity to study the acts at your leisure, and to add the corrections you consider necessary according to the oral responses you gave me in the course of the conference. I thank you for your readiness to return them within eight days, as you proposed, through the Apostolic Nuncio in Switzerland.

Finally, I take notice of the fact that you will ask the Holy Father to make the judgment himself, after studying this document. Like you, I hope a satisfactory solution can be found.

With warm and respectful devotion in the Lord,

Franc. Card. Seper


14 January 1979

Letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to Cardinal Seper

Your Eminence,

Please excuse my writing to you again to explain the reasons for my misgivings and my surprise.

The letter you kindly sent me yesterday, 13 January, says: “It seems to me that these documents made the object of our talks quite clear, within the framework of the procedure in our Congregation, that is, the examination of the results of the Conference by the Ordinary Congregation of Cardinals, before their being sent for the definitive decision of the Holy Father.”

But it appears from the regulation that it is a question not just of examination but of decision and therefore of judgment N. 18), and that is what was stated by the Director of the Vatican Press Office.

That is what I could not deduce from the exposition made before the conference. For that changes the whole character of the talks.

I had two reasons for thinking that the only judge was the Holy Father: first, your exposition insisting on the informative character of the talks and the examination of them, and secondly the express desire of the Holy Father that this business be entrusted personally to you as a trusted friend of the Holy Father.

There was no question of submitting this business to judges other than the Holy Father – certainly not to judges who have already judged and condemned.

I therefore reject in advance the decisions which will be taken by judges who have already taken part in my condemnation such as Cardinals Villot, Garrone, Baggio and Wright.

That is why I am writing to the friend of the Holy Father, asking you to take direct to the Holy Father himself the documents of the inquiry after we have signed them.

I hope to be back in ten days with the documents and in the hope of meeting you, thus helping forward a solution of this business, with the consent of the Holy Father and the grace of God.

With respect and cordial devotion in Christ and Mary.
Marcel Lefebvre


29 January 1979

Letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to Cardinal Seper

Your Eminence,

At the moment for putting my signature to the documents resulting from the interviews of 11 and 12 January, I have the feeling that I am cooperating in a procedure which it is impossible for me to admit, for the reasons given in my letters of 12 and 14 January.

I had hoped that the Holy Father’s desire to entrust the problem to you personally would have led you to avoid throwing me back into the hands of those who have already condemned me.

That is why I entrust everything to the judgment of the Holy Father.

With respect and devotion in Our Lord and Our Lady,

Marcel Lefebvre
formerly Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle


28 January 1979

Letter of Cardinal Seper Archbishop Lefebvre

Your Excellency,

In the course of two conversations on 11 and 12 January last, you answered the questions put by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A copy of the transcript of this discussion has been sent to you for your approval. It is anticipated that the procés-verbal of the conversations will be endorsed with two signatures, yours and mine.

As you have not yet sent me such approval, I have presented the Holy Father with a copy of the transcript as it was drawn up during the conversations. The Holy Father is aware of the request you made to him in your letters of 24 December, and particularly 12 January,1 and wished to read this procés-verbal personally.

Now the Holy Father has authorized me to resume contact with you with the object of considering the procedure which should be followed henceforth, and, amongst other things, of shedding light upon some problems concerning the answers you gave in the course of the conversations. Obviously, it is' essential that you should have the procés-verbal sent to Rome as soon as possible, having signed it and included any amendments or additions you may wish to make. You are evidently entitled to send this document either directly to the Holy Father or to me.

I should be grateful, furthermore, if you could let me know at what time you would like to resume contact with me.

While awaiting your reply to this act of good will on the Holy Father's part, I ask you, Your Excellency, to accept my fraternal greetings.

Franc. Card. Seper


25 April 1979

Letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to the Sovereign Pontiff

Most Holy Father,

At the request of His Eminence Cardinal Seper, I send you together with this letter the questionnaire and

corrected answers, a summing up of my conversations of 11-12 January with the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In these few lines I should like to draw Your Holiness's attention to the extreme gravity of the situation affecting the faithful, and above all of young people, in the so-called Catholic countries of the free world.

The majority of Catholics find themselves either without priests or directed by priests who no longer have the Catholic faith. Indeed, where priests are less than forty years old, and there are few of these, they have been badly trained in groups of formation that have a Modernist, Protestant, even Marxist spirit. If priests are older, they are using catechisms replete with errors, even heresies, and they use ecumenical Bibles to instruct their parishioners.

The extent of the disaster is enormous. We rejoice at your insistence that the priest must be holy. But who will give him holiness if the seminaries have bad teachers? If the Church is to be renewed the priesthood must be renewed at all costs, and so, accordingly, must the seminaries. But true seminaries cannot be established without restoring the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the spirit defined by the Council of Trent, and at the same time restoring the Sacraments and the entire Liturgy in this same spirit.

Our own experience proves this conclusively, and would do so even more had we been encouraged rather than persecuted.

Today our five seminaries could be ten or twenty, our 170 seminarians 1,000, if we had been granted even provisional approval. We could render a great service to the bishops by preparing true priests for them, as did St. John Eudes, St. Vincent de Paul and the Blessed Olier.2

In order to achieve this result it would only be necessary to declare a general approval, granted to our priests who are in demand everywhere, in all Catholic countries. Many are the members of the clergy who encourage us.

Would it not be possible to grant us the statute which is already in force in prelatures nullius, such as the Canons of St. Maurice in Switzerland who have a bishop, Mgr. Salina, at their head, a statute which is also that of the Mission de France, of which the superior is also a bishop?

My successor, elected according to the statutes of the Society, would receive consecration as a bishop. It is a very ancient custom in the Church, which as given proof of its value.

I wish so much that you would ask His Eminence Cardinal Palazzini to be the Visitor to our houses, and to give you a report on them. Cardinal Siri and Cardinal Seper are very busy and could not take on this burden.

Please believe, most Holy Father, that we have but one goal, to serve the Church, the Pope, and souls by forming holy priests for them, priests to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

I beg Your Holiness to accept my respectful homage and my filial sentiments in Christo et Maria.

I beg Your Holiness to accept my respectful homage and my filial sentiments in Christo et Maria.

Marcel Lefebvre


9 May 1979

Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Cardinal Seper

Your Eminence,

Fully aware of what you told me yesterday, during the very fraternal meeting which you accorded me, concerning the procedural changes accepted by the Holy Father, I entrust to you with this letter the documents summarizing the discussions of II and 12 January, duly signed.

You have asked me insistently what procedure I would like to see adopted to solve our problem: in brief, all that we are asking for is recognition of the legality which was ours for five years from 1970 to 1975, and to extend legal recognition to what we have continued since then, assuring us that we can retain in priestly formation and the apostolate the means which the Church has always used, particularly the liturgy, the catechism and the Vulgate in the form in which they were prescribed for use in the Latin Rite of the Roman Church for more that ten centuries.

We are convinced that in a little while the Holy See will find amongst these young priests the most valuable helpers and firmest bulwarks of the Roman Church and the successor of Peter. I say in a little while, for they are still young! But they wish to be such at once.

Allow me, Your Eminence, to express my deep respect and profound devotion in Christo et Maria.

Marcel Lefebvre


1 June 1979

Letter of Cardinal Seper to Archbishop Lefebvre

Your Excellency,

During the most recent audience which he granted me, the Holy Father, who has read with great attention the procés-verbal of the discussion last January, signed by you, instructed me to writes to you again.

The Holy Father believes that a further meeting with Your Excellency on my part is indispensable to clarify certain points in this document, and he would like it to take place as soon as possible, preferably during the present month of June. For my part, I am available throughout the month except for the 13th, 29th and 30th.

During the present phase, which has the object of reaching a definite solution, the Holy Father expects that on your part you should, more than ever, refrain from carrying out ordinations and suspend your pastoral activity. He counts on your discretion during the discussions.

I should be grateful if you would let me know as soon as you can what date you would prefer for the discussion with me.

Please permit me, Your Excellency, to express my devout and fraternal respect in the Lord.

Franc. Card. Seper


9 June 1979

Letter to Archbishop Lefebvre to Cardinal Seper

Your Eminence,

Your letter of I June reached me yesterday, that is 8 June, the eve of my departure to the U.S.A. for a fortnight.

On my return the deacons will be in retreat prior to the ordinations of 29 June. Their parents and friends have already reserved all the hotels of the Valais, arranged for transportation, and sent out invitations both for the ordinations and the first Masses.

It would have been necessary for you to ask me to do this when I alluded to such a possibility during the course of our conversations of II and 12 January, as I had already done for those of  2 February two years ago, without any result.

I am very happy concerning what Your Eminence said to me on the subject of an eventual solution. I long for one with all my heart, and believe that I have proved the sincerity of this desire during the past five years by my willingness to accept all the interrogations, all the discussions, all the requests to go to Rome. And I will remain willing still.

I am sorry that I cannot cancel my journey to the U.S.A., and I am at your disposal during the first fortnight of July.

Your Eminence must be well aware of the fact that right till today I have not had the least idea of what this eventual solution could be. How could I penalize the seminarians and the faithful without being able to explain this solution to them? They all live in the hope that they will be permitted to enjoy the treasures of tradition, for it is there that they find for their faith and the Christian life. Their hearts are with me when I go to the Eternal City. But, alas, up to this point they have received no consolation from those who should bless and encourage them.

Accordingly, I can visit Your Eminence on 4-5 or 11-12 July.

I beg Your Eminence to excuse this delay, and in no way to consider my activities as constituting a sign of contumaciousness, but, rather, in the sad situation of the Church, as a contribution to its supernatural vitality, in the hope that this contribution will be blessed and encouraged without delay by the diocesan bishops.

Allow me, Your Eminence, to express my respectful and brotherly sentiments in Jesus and Mary.

Marcel Lefebvre


23 June 1979

Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Cardinal Seper

Your Eminence,

Upon my return from the conversation which we had this morning I am, as I promised you, summing up the conclusions in the lines that follow.

Insofar as the ordinations to the priesthood next Friday are concerned, it seems to me that from every point of view it is preferable for me to go through with them. Not to mention the deacons themselves, their families and their friends who have made all their arrangements for this ordination ceremony, it seems to me that a postponement would provoke in public opinion an expectation of a reciprocal gesture on the part of the Holy Father.

This exception, which would be exploited by the press, would place the Holy Father in an invidious position, whether or not there was a delay. Any gesture in favor of tradition would be interpreted as a victory for Ecône, something for which I neither wish nor seek in any way.

On the other hand, proceeding with the ordinations, even if interpreted unfavorably for Ecône, would have the advantage of allowing the Holy Father to act freely in favor of a 1: broadening of the liturgy, without allowing anyone to draw conclusions as to an advantage obtained by Ecône. It is the entire Church which would be concerned, and would benefit, through this.

While waiting, the problem of Ecône would stay out of the limelight. It could be resolved easily once the liturgical problem had been solved for the best (in this respect I will take the liberty of begging the Holy Father not to limit such freedom solely to the Liturgy of the Mass, but to extend it to the Liturgy of the Sacraments, above all that of orders). So as to assist towards this end I promise not to carry out any more confirmations and to postpone the October ordinations to the diaconate.

I make bold, then, to hope that the faithful will have the satisfaction of being able to have the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation given according to the old rite, and to receive the Sacraments of Marriage, Extreme Unction, and Penance in the same fashion, and that clerics will be ordained according to the old rite, if they ask.

Your Eminence, so happy am I at the thought that the Holy Father is preparing to issue this decree3 that I should not be able to thank him enough, and to thank God and the Virgin Mary for inspiring him to take this salutary step.

Allow me, Your Eminence, to express my respectful and cordially devout sentiments in Jesus and Mary.

Marcel Lefebvre

1. i.e., that the Pope should study the procés-verbal personally and make his own judgment on it, see page 298.

2. Jean Jacques Olier (1608-57), founder of the Society and Seminary of St. Sulpice. The Society was not so much a religious congregation as a community of secular priests following a common life. Ordained priest in 1633, under the influence of St. Vincent de Paul, he took charge of the parish of Saint-Sulpice in Paris in 1642. It was in a degraded condition, but he evangelized it, establishing a seminary and catechetical center to educate the ignorant and combat Jansenism and Calvinism. He also founded homes for women, did much to relieve distress among the poor, and led a movement against duelling among the rich. (Note by Michael Davies.)

3. The Archbishop was referring to a document which Cardinal Seper had made known to him several times during their discussions. It would have removed any restrictions on priests using the liturgy as it was in 1969. More details of this decree are provided in a letter of the Archbishop to Cardinal Seper dated 15 December 1980. This letter will be available in Volume III.


Chapter 32

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