Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

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.

After 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,

His Eminence 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 his visit.

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 profound gratitude.

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 solution.

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.

Since the 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 right.”

Three particular 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 Tradition.20 This office would be charged with regulating all the canonical problems of Tradition, and would conduct relations with the Holy See, the dicasteries,21and the bishops.

The bishops 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.

2. The consecration of bishops succeeding me in my apostolate appears indispensable and urgent.

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.

This second 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 this year.

These bishops 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 of Tradition.

3. The exemption vis-à-vis the local Ordinaries

The works 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.

After examining these diverse points, I think that Your Holiness will recognize that the problem of Tradition can find a rapid and satisfactory solution.

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.

Marcel Lefebvre
February 20, 1988


19. Not granted in the May 5 Protocol.

20.Not granted in the May 5 Protocol.

21. A dicastery is an organ of the Roman Curia, such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

22. Not granted in the May 5 Protocol.

23. .Not granted in the May 5 Protocol.

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

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