LEFEBVRE and the
Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre
to Cardinal Gagnon
During the Visitation of the Society and of traditional institutions
by Cardinal Gagnon, Archbishop Lefebvre wrote a letter to him
to explain in what spirit he conceives of a normalization of the
Society’s relationship with Rome.
of the Presentation of the Most Holy Virgin Mary
been able to see and listen to the members of the Society, examine
their formation, be present with them in their ministry, and listen
to the faithful who rely on them for their sanctification.
conversed likewise with religious and with nuns who find in the
Society either their origin, or their spiritual assistance, or the
graces of their ordination and religious expression.
you may have noticed here and there some exaggeration, a little
bitterness. But I cannot doubt that you have found
a climate of Faith, of devotion, of zeal for truth and sanctity,
which you once knew. This climate of Catholic Tradition
is producing extraordinary fruits whose value you must recognize.
we are forming a great family, living in this Catholic ambience
and atmosphere, attached to the Roman Church, attached to Peter
and his successors, but absolutely and radically allergic to the
conciliar spirit of religious liberty, ecumenism, collegiality,
and the spirit of Assisi—the fruits of Modernism and Liberalism
condemned so many times by the Holy See.
of this spirit are disastrous, and we flee from them as from a disease
pestilential to our minds and hearts; we are doing everything we
can to protect ourselves from it, and protect also the young people
of our Catholic households.
us to Israel in the midst of the perverse nations, to the Maccabees,
and again to all these holy reformers of the clergy: St. Charles
Borromeo, St. Vincent de Paul, St. John Eudes, Monsieur Olier.
is the reality: we are forming an army intent on remaining Catholic
no matter what the price, as we witness the de-Christianisation
taking place both outside and inside the Church.
agree to being recognized by the Pope such as we are, and to having
a seat in the Eternal City, to adding our collaboration in the renewal
of the Church; we have never desired to break with the Successor
of Peter, nor to consider the Holy See as vacant, in spite of the
trials this has caused for us.
to you a project of reintegration and normalization of our relations
with Rome. Considering what you now know of us and
our works, you will not be surprised at our demands, which are founded
solely on zeal for the good of the Church, and the salvation of
souls, for the glory of God. Only in this spirit and
taking into account these considerations can a solution be valid
these conditions, a solution is impossible, then we will continue
on our way as at present, “persevering in prayer and the preaching
of the word,” as we wait for more favorable circumstances.
what happens, however, we will continue to have a profound gratitude
for you, for your charity and kindness, your understanding and your
patience. At this hour we pray Our Lady of Fatima
to repay you in blessings for what you have done for us.
to accept, Eminence, my respectful and fraternal salutations in
Jesus and Mary.
Emeritus of Tulle
of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X
for an Arrangement Creating a Solution
to the Problem of Institutions Favoring the
Traditional Liturgy in the Church
Archbishop Lefebvre established this project to present it to
Cardinal Gagnon. Noteworthy are the two demands made by His Grace
for the unity and identity of the works of Tradition, in which
their power lies: on the one hand, aside from the Cardinal President,
the members of the Roman Secretariat will all be members of the
Society, or at least presented by it; and, on the other hand,
three members of the Society will be enabled to receive episcopal
comparison of this proposal with the Protocol of May 5 is very
interesting. In his letter of May 24 to Cardinal Ratzinger, Archbishop
Lefebvre did not ask for anything other than what was already
asked for in this proposal to Cardinal Gagnon.
Referring ourselves to the suggestion of the Council in the text
Presbyteriorum Ordinis, §10, which says the following:
a real apostolic spirit requires it, not only should a better
distribution of priests be brought about but there should also
be favored such particular pastoral works as are necessary in
any region or nation anywhere on earth. To accomplish
this purpose there should be set up international seminaries,
special personal dioceses or prelatures (vicariates), and so forth,
by means of which, and according to their particular statutes
and always with respect for the rights of local Ordinaries.
referring also to the proposition of Cardinal Ratzinger in the letter
of July 28, 1987, it appears that a solution can be found to the
problem which preoccupies us.
In conformity with the proposition of Cardinal Ratzinger in the
letter already quoted, a Visitor-Cardinal Gagnon accomplished a
prolonged visit of the works of the Society from November 11 to
Without prejudging the conclusions of the Visit, but in the hope
that they will be positive, it seems indispensable to us, before
proceeding further in the talks with the Holy See, to express a
condition sine qua non, in the name of all the priests and
faithful attached to Tradition.
If the Holy See sincerely desires that we officially become efficacious
collaborators for the renewal of the Church, under its authority,
it is utterly necessary that we be received as we are, that we not
be asked to modify our teaching or means of sanctification, which
are those of the Church of all time.
Thus it seems absolutely necessary to us, if good relations are
to be restored with the Holy See, that these relations be entrusted
to persons who are respectful of and attached to the Holy See, but
who are also convinced of the urgent necessity for the Church of
favoring initiatives which maintain Tradition, and of doing nothing
which would alienate them again.
Thus the Cardinal, the Secretary and the minutanti of the
Roman Secretariat, if it is accepted, will have to be chosen according
to the criteria expressed above, otherwise it will stifle the efforts
of several months for an agreement.14
The Necessity of a Permanent Roman Organization
The rapid worldwide extension of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius
X and the multiplication of similar works calls for an organization
having its seat at Rome, patterned after a Secretariat or a Commission,
for the maintenance and development of the Latin liturgy according
to the prescriptions of John XXIII.
Composition of The Secretariat
Modeled after other secretariats and commissions of this nature,
Cardinal Prefect, named by the Pope with the consent of the Superior
General of the Society of Saint Pius X.
Archbishop or Bishop serving as secretary and president, and some
minutanti, presented by the Superior General of the Society
of Saint Pius X.
The Powers of This Secretariat
They would be similar to those of the Congregation of the Propagation
of the Faith vis-à-vis mission territories, and the Congregation
for the Eastern Church vis-à-vis the Eastern Rites.
Goal of These Powers
These powers would exist to normalize the works and initiatives
in favor of Tradition and help them to fulfil their role in the
Church in present circumstances, especially for the Priestly Society
of Saint Pius X:
see to their continuation by granting the episcopate to several
to see to their harmonious development, remaining at peace with
the diocesan bishops
to get the local Ordinaries to see the advantage of collaboration,
for example, with their seminaries.
Determination of Work and Initiatives by The Secretariat
Those which have always exclusively used the liturgical editions
of John XXIII and prayed for the Pope, according to the public formulas
of the Liturgy.
those which are in accordance with the spirit of the Law of the
Church, in their constitutions, spirit of the founders and original
constitutions, for the choice of subjects, preparation, spirituality,
doctrine, habit, community life, etc….
Before proceeding to the study and normalization of all these societies
and persons devoted to Tradition, which can take place over time,
it is urgent to:
i. Lift suspensions or condemnations.
ii. Recognize again the statutes of the Priestly
Society of Saint Pius X, as was done before 1975.
Modify some articles of its statutes to provide for the
episcopal succession of Archbishop Lefebvre.
iv. Canonically it seems that one could refer to
what was decided on April 21, 1986, on the subject of Military
The detailed application of these points could be left to a precise
study undertaken by the Secretariat or the Cardinal Visitor and
different stages to be followed might be the following:
1.To consider the Society as the support of the Ordinariate
for the Latin liturgy, stating in its Constitutions that the Superior
General, if he is accepted by Rome through the Secretariat, will
receive episcopal consecration, and will be able to designate two
auxiliaries to assist him in his functions, and who could become
By way of exception, however, for the first designation or presentation
of names of those who are to become bishops, it will be done by
Archbishop Lefebvre in accord with the Cardinal Visitor.
2.Once this first stage is completed, a deeper study of the
application of the general principles will be made, using the example
of the Military Ordinariate in relation to the situation of the
Society of Saint Pius X. Thus the application of cumulative
jurisdiction seems very realistic and solves many problems.
3. It does not seem that there is any disadvantage
in the Superior General being a bishop; if he is not re-elected,
he can become an auxiliary or be put in charge of a diocese, or
be employed in other functions by the Roman Secretariat.
4.The relations between the different works and initiatives
on the one hand and the Society on the other would remain as they
are now for ordinations, confirmations and other assistance: blessings,
retreats, ceremonies of profession, etc…but, everything which
concerns the canonical statute and the dispensations to be submitted
to Rome would go directly to the Roman Secretariat.
NORMS OF THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION SPIRITUALI MILITUM CURÆ16,
ON THE SUBJECT OF INCARDINATION CAN EASILY BE APPLIED TO THE PRIESTLY
SOCIETY OF SAINT PIUS X, WHICH HAS BEEN ENTRUSTED WITH THE SPIRITUAL
CARE OF A SMALL ARMY OF THOSE WHO MAINTAIN LITURGICAL TRADITION.
SERVATIS SERVANDIS, IN THE FUTURE THE POSSIBILITY OF INCARDINATION
WILL APPLY TO INTERESTED RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES.
• JURISDICTION OVER THE FAITHFUL IS CONFIRMED BY ROME,
MEANING THAT THE PRIESTS OF THE SOCIETY RECEIVE JURISDICTION FROM
ROME THROUGH THE SUPERIOR GENERAL, WHILE THE OTHERS RECEIVE IT
DIRECTLY FROM THE SECRETARIAT IN ROME, AT THE REQUEST OF THE DIFFERENT
IT IS OBVIOUS
THAT THESE PRIESTS MUST OBSERVE THE PRESCRIPTIONS OF LAW TO CONFER
THE SACRAMENTS ACCORDING TO THE INDICATIONS OF THE RITUAL OF 1962.
seem to be no major difficulties from the canonical point of view,
or from the standpoint of those faithful to Tradition, if the above
stipulations are followed exactly.
episcopal consecrations, we wish that they not be delayed past Good
Shepherd Sunday, April 17, 1988.
Please note that this condition was put at the very beginning of
the negotiations with Rome. On May 24, 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre
will stress it again. On May 31, Cardinal Ratzinger refused to grant
Canon Law requires that each cleric in major orders be attached
to a diocese or congregation; this is referred to as incardination.
Thus Church forbids a cleric vagus, i.e., not attached to any legitimate
superior (1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 111 and 1983 Code of Canon
Law, Canon 265).
On the Spiritual Care of the Soldiers, Constitution of April 21,
1986 concerning Military Chaplains, incardinated in the Military
Ordinariates; see L’Osservatore Romano, May 5-6, 1986.
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