LEFEBVRE and the
February 20, 1988
Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre
to Pope John Paul II
On January 5, 1988, Cardinal Gagnon submitted the report of his
Apostolic Visitation to the Pope. In spite of the Cardinal’s
promises, Archbishop Lefebvre never received a copy of it.
It happened exactly as after the Visitation in 1974.
the Pope had read this detailed report Archbishop Lefebvre expected
to hear soon from the Vatican. After a long wait he wrote
to the Holy Father to express once again the requirements necessary
for a happy solution: a Roman Secretariat composed exclusively
of members chosen from within Tradition; consecration of several
bishops to be decided on before June 30, 1988; exemption vis-à-vis
the local Ordinaries.
Most Holy Father,
Cardinal Gagnon has just sent me a letter in which he informs me
of an audience he had with you, after he gave you the report of
In this regard,
permit me to express the profound satisfaction this Visit caused
for everybody who was the object of it, and to inform you of our
It would be
regrettable if the hopes raised by this Visit turned into disappointment,
observing the continual delays in the application of even a temporary
May I permit
myself to propose some suggestions on the subject of this solution:
In the first
place, to take up again the doctrinal problems right away seems
to be excluded, since this would be returning to the point of departure,
and would renew the difficulties which have endured for 15 years.
The idea of a Commission intervening after the juridical
arrangement appears the most suitable one if we really want to find
a practical solution.
Priestly Society of Saint Pius X had been recognized for five years
by the diocese of Fribourg and by the Sacred Congregation for the
Clergy from 1970 to 1975, there should be no difficulty in recognizing
it once again; it would then be recognized as being “of pontifical
points seem necessary for a happy solution:
1. To establish
at Rome an Office, a Commission—the term is not very important—which
would have the same role vis-à-vis all the initiatives of
Tradition, as the Congregation for the Missions has. This
commission would be headed by a Cardinal, if at all possible Cardinal
Gagnon,19 aided by
a secretary general and one or two collaborators, all chosen from
office would be charged with regulating all the canonical problems
of Tradition, and would conduct relations with the Holy See, the
exercising their ministry within Tradition would depend on this
organism for their ministry.
It does not
seem that the erection of this Roman organism would offer difficulties.
consecration of bishops succeeding me in my apostolate appears indispensable
For the first
designation, and while waiting for the Roman office to assume its
functions, it seems to me that you can entrust it to me, as is done
with the Eastern patriarchs.
If this is
agreed to in principle, I will present the names to Cardinal Gagnon.
point is the most urgent one to be resolved, given my age and my
fatigue. It is now two years that I have not done
any ordinations at the seminary in the United States. The
seminarians ardently aspire to be ordained, but I no longer have
the health to be crossing oceans.
This is why
I entreat Your Holiness to resolve this point before June 30 of
would be in the same situation vis-à-vis Rome and vis-à-vis
their Society that the missionary bishops were vis-à-vis
the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith and their own
Society. Instead of a territorial jurisdiction, they
would have a jurisdiction over individuals.22
It goes without
saying that the bishops would always be chosen from among the priests
exemption vis-à-vis the local Ordinaries
and initiatives of Tradition would be exempt from the jurisdiction
of the local Ordinaries.23
For the resumption
of good relations however, the superiors of traditional works would
make a report on the houses existing in the dioceses and communicate
it to the local Ordinaries; similarly, before founding a new center,
they will submit a report to the Ordinary, but are not required
to ask for authorization.
these diverse points, I think that Your Holiness will recognize
that the problem of Tradition can find a rapid and satisfactory
We would be
happy to renew normal relations with the Holy See, but without changing
in any way what we are; for it is in this way that we are assured
of remaining children of God and the Roman Church.
Deign to accept,
Most Holy Father, the expression of my most respectful and filial
devotion in Jesus and Mary.
Not granted in the May 5 Protocol.
granted in the May 5 Protocol.
A dicastery is an organ of the Roman Curia,
such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Not granted in the May
granted in the May 5 Protocol.
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