Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

April 15, 1988

Minutes of Meetings held April 12-14, 1988,
at the Vatican Concerning the Society of Saint Pius X

The conversations took place at Rome, April 12-14. Present were Frs. Bernard Tissier de Mallerais and Patrice Laroche, named by Archbishop Lefebvre as the theologian and canonist representing the Society, and Frs. Bertone, Salesian, and Ocariz, of Opus Dei, under the direction of Fr. Benoît Duroux, O.P., moderator, as consultors of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Subsequent to these discussions a preliminary protocol of accord was signed on April 15, 1988. These meetings took place in a discreet manner in order to avoid the insatiable curiosity of the journalists, thanks to Fr. du Chalard, priest of the Society of Saint Pius X in Rome.


The Commission has studied three possibilities for a formula of communion in the Faith.

1) The Profession of Faith (Appendix I, p.55), plus the Oath of Fidelity (Appendix II, p.56), plus a text on the acceptance of Vatican II (Appendix III, p.57).

2) The Oath of Fidelity (Appendix II), plus the text of Appendix III. The reason for not having the Profession of Faith comes from the fact that there is no doubt that H.E. Archbishop Lefebvre professes the Catholic Creed, and that the request of making this profession could be offensive.

3) A unique formula as brief and clear as possible, and corresponding to the concrete position of Archbishop Lefebvre and of the Society of Saint Pius X (see Appendix IV, p.57). This formula would contain:

a)   the points of the Oath of Fidelity concerning the position of Archbishop Lefebvre in particular,

b)   an adhesion to the magisterium of the Church, given as an acceptance of §25 of Lumen Gentium,

c)   the attitude which must be taken on the points of Vatican II which are not of Faith and which make difficulties for Archbishop Lefebvre,

d)   the recognition of the validity of the new liturgy.

The Commission favors this third solution:

  • because it is reduced to the essential, in one document, and avoids the repetition of doctrinal points already admitted by Archbishop Lefebvre;
  • because it signifies by itself an important doctrine of Vatican II in the Constitution Lumen Gentium.


This formula should be used instead of the Profession of Faith of the Council of Trent and of the Anti-Modernist Oath, in the cases in which the Law prescribes a Profession of Faith.

I, N., believe with a firm faith and profess each and every point that is contained in the Symbol of Faith:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God. Born of the Father before all ages. God of God; Light of Light, true God of true God. Begotten not made; consubstantial with the Father; by Whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down form heaven. And was made Flesh by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary: and was made Man.He was also crucified for us, suffered under Pontius Pilate and was buried. And on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascending into heaven, He sits at the right hand of the Father. And He shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and of His kingdom there shall be no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, Lord and Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who together with the Father and the Son is no less adored, and glorified: Who spoke by the Prophets. And I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead. And the life of the world to come. Amen.

I firmly embrace and retain each and every point on the doctrine on Faith and Morals which have been either defined by the Church, through a solemn judgment or affirmed and declared through the Ordinary magisterium, as they have been proposed, especially what regards the mystery of the Church of Christ, her Sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.


I, N., promoted at the See of _____, shall always be faithful to the Catholic Church and to the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Shepherd, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Blessed Apostle Peter in the primacy and headship of the College of Bishops.

I shall submit to the free exercise of the power of primacy of the Supreme Pontiff in the Universal Church, and I shall take care to defend and promote his rights and authority. I shall acknowledge and observe the prerogatives and rights of the legates of the Roman Pontiff who act in the name of the Supreme Shepherd.

I shall be careful to fulfil with the utmost diligence the apostolic responsibilities entrusted to the bishops, viz., to teach, sanctify and to rule the people of God within the hierarchical communion with the head and members of the College of Bishops.

I shall support the unity of the Universal Church, therefore I shall work studiously so that the Deposit of Faith transmitted from the Apostles be kept in its purity and integrity, and that the truth to be held and applied in morals, as they are proposed by the magisterium of the Church, be given to all and illustrated. I shall show a fatherly affection to those who err in the Faith, and strive with all means possible that they reach the fullness of Catholic Truth.

Looking upon the Model of Christ, the Supreme and Eternal Priest, I shall act in a pious and holy manner, and fulfil the ministry entrusted to me in such a way that, being made a pattern of the flock from the heart, I may be able to confirm the faithful so that they reach Christian perfection.

I shall foster the common discipline of the whole Church, and the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, insisting especially on those that are contained in the Code of Canon Law, always vigilant lest evil practices creep in especially concerning the Ministry of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments.

I shall show proper diligence in the administration of the temporal goods of the Church, especially those that have been given for the exercise of divine worship, for the honorable support of the clergy and the other ministers, and for the sacred apostolate and the works of charity.

I shall pursue with a special predilection all the priests and deacons, who are collaborators of the episcopal order for the fulfillment of the mandate given to me, and also the religious monks and nuns who participate in the one and same work. Also, I shall take the greatest care to promote holy vocations, in order to fittingly provide for the spiritual necessities of the whole Church.

I shall acknowledge and promote the dignity of the laity and their proper place in the mission of the Church. I shall care, with a particular solicitude, to foster the missionary works for the evangelization of the nations.

When called for councils or other legitimate collegial actions, I shall be personally present, unless I have impediments, and I shall respond in an opportune way.

At the set time, when there will be a good occasion, I shall give an account to the Holy See of my pastoral work, and I shall receive its comments and counsels with respect and fulfil them with the greatest efforts.

May God and these holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand, help me.

[This is composed §§ 1, 3, 4, 5 of Appendix IV below.]


                  I, Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Tulle, as well as the members of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X founded by me:

1) Promise to be always faithful to the Catholic Church and the Roman Pontiff, its Supreme Pastor, Vicar of Christ, Successor of Blessed Peter in his primacy and headship of the College28 of bishops. (See Oath of Fidelity, Appendix II.)

2) We declare our acceptance of the doctrine contained in §2529 of the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of Vatican Council II on the ecclesiastical magisterium and the adherence which is due to it.

3) Regarding certain points taught by Vatican Council II or concerning later reforms of the liturgy and law, which do not appear to us easily reconcilable with Tradition, we pledge that we will have a positive attitude of study and communication with the Apostolic See, avoiding all polemics.

4) Moreover, we declare that we recognize the validity of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments celebrated with the intention of doing what the Church does, and according to the rites indicated in the typical editions of the Roman Missal and the Rituals of the Sacraments promulgated by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.

5) Finally, we promise to respect the common discipline of the Church and all30 the ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II, without prejudice to the special discipline granted to the Society by particular law.


Considering the fact that the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X has been conceived for 18 years as a society of common life—and after studying the propositions formulated by H. E. Marcel Lefebvre and the conclusions of the Apostolic Visitation conducted by His Eminence Cardinal Gagnon— it seems that31 the canonical form most suitable is that of a Society of apostolic life.

1. Society of Apostolic Life

This solution is canonically possible and suitable to the nature of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, with the advantage of eventually inserting into the clerical Society of apostolic life lay people as well (for example, coadjutor Brothers).

According to the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983, Canons 731-746, this Society enjoys full autonomy, can form its members, can incardinate clerics, and can insure the common life of its members.

In the proper Statutes, with flexibility and inventive32 possibility in respect of the known models of these Societies of apostolic life, a certain exemption is foreseen with respect to the diocesan bishops (cf. Canon 591) for what concerns public worship, the cura animarum, and other apostolic activities, taking into account Canons 679-683. As for jurisdiction with regards to the faithful who have recourse to the priests of the Society, it will be conferred on these priests either by the Ordinaries of the place or by the Apostolic See.

2. Roman Commission

A commission to coordinate relations with the different dicasteries of the Roman Curia and diocesan bishops, as well as to resolve eventual problems and contentions, will be constituted through the care of the Holy See, and will be empowered with the necessary faculties to deal with the questions indicated above (for example, implantation at the request of the faithful of a house of worship where there is no house of the Society, ad mentem, Canon 683, §2).

Among other things this commission would have the function of exercising vigilance and lending assistance to consolidate the work of reconciliation, and to regulate questions relative to the religious communities having a juridical or moral bond with the Society.

a) The delegates of the Society recall here the requests presented to the Holy Father by Archbishop Lefebvre in his letter of February 20, 1988, viz., that “this Commission be headed by a Cardinal, inasmuch as possible, Cardinal Gagnon, helped by a Secretary and one or two collaborators, all chosen from Tradition.”

       1)  For the relations with Roman dicasteries and the Cardinal President, the Holy Father could nominate one member not from Tradition, added to the other members of the Society.

       2)  In any case, the contacts and relations with traditional religious communities would be assured by the members of the Commission taken from Tradition.

b) The members of the Commission nominated by the Holy Father make the following observations:

       1) Concerning the nomination of a Cardinal as President, it would be preferable that the Roman Commission depend upon Cardinal Ratzinger as Chairman, and guarantor of the works, especially by reason of the authority which he possesses as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (see recent letter of the Holy Father to Cardinal Ratzinger).

       2) Concerning the composition of the Roman Commission, it would be opportune to widen the number of its members, taking them also from outside the Society or of persons linked with it, in order to foster the reconciliation with the whole Church.

3. Condition of Persons Connected to the Society:

       1) The members of the clerical Society of apostolic life (priests and lay coadjutor brothers) are governed by the Statutes of the Society of Pontifical Right.

       2) The oblates, both male and female, whether they have taken private vows or not, and the members of the Third Order connected with the Society, all belong to an association of the faithful connected with the Society according to the terms of Canon 303, and collaborate with it.

       3) The Sisters (meaning the congregation founded by Archbishop Lefebvre) who make public vows: they constitute a true institute of consecrated life, with its own structure and proper autonomy,33 even if a certain type of bond is envisaged for the unity of its spirituality with the Superior of the Society. This Congregation—at least at the beginning— would be dependent on the Roman Commission, instead of the Congregation for Religious.

       4)  The members of the communities living according to the rule of various religious institutes (Carmelites, Benedictines, Dominicans, etc.) and who have a moral bond with the Society. These are to be given, case by case, a particular statute regulating their relations with the respective Order.

Regarding the lay people who ask for pastoral assistance from the communities of the Society: they remain under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop, but—notably by reason of the liturgical rites of the communities of the Society—they can go to them for the administration of the sacraments (for which the usual notifications must still be given to their proper parish; cf. Canons 878, 896, 1122). The Commission draws attention to the particular complexity:

       1) Of the question of reception by the laity of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, in the communities of the Society.

       2) Of the question of communities practicing the rule of such and such a religious institute, without belonging to it.

The Roman Commission will have the responsibility of resolving these problems.

4. Ordinations

For the ordinations, two phases must be distinguished:

1)    In the immediate future. For the ordinations scheduled to take place in the immediate future, Archbishop Lefebvre would be authorized to confer them or, if he were unable, another bishop accepted by himself.

2)    Once the Society of apostolic life is erected. As far as possible, the normal way is to be followed, that is, to send dimissorial letters to a bishop who agrees to ordain members of the Society.

In view of the particular situation of the Society, the ordination of a member of the Society as a bishop, who, among other duties, would also be able to proceed with ordinations.

N.B.: For the admission to the ordinations, especially in the first phase, given the judgement of fitness and the regular admission from the competent superiors of the Society, the candidates should make a promise of fidelity, which shall later be elaborated in the light of the formula presented above in the doctrinal part.

5. Problem of a Bishop

1) At the doctrinal (ecclesiological) level, the guarantee of stability and maintenance of the life and activity of the Society is assured by its erection as a Society of apostolic life of pontifical right, and the approval of its statutes by the Holy Father.

2) But, at the practical and psychological level, the utility of the consecration of a member of the Society as a bishop is considered. In this case, two hypothesis may be foreseen:

a)   In the framework of the doctrinal and canonical solution of the project of reconciliation, the Holy Father would name a bishop chosen from within the Society, presented by Archbishop Lefebvre.

b)   It would belong to the Roman Commission to propose to the Holy Father this nomination of a Bishop belonging to the Society.

This solution would solve the practical problems of the use of the Rite of St. Pius V, and in the celebration of the Mass of Ordination and in other circumstances (e.g., Confirmations). Moreover, this bishop could represent the Society within the Roman Commission.

6. Particular Problems to be Resolved (By Decree or Declaration)

1)    Lifting of the suspensio a divinis on Archbishop Lefebvre and dispensation from the irregularities incurred by the fact of the ordinations.

2)    Sanatio in radice, at least ad cautelam, of the marriages already celebrated by the priests of the Society without the required delegation.

3)    Provision for an “amnesty” and an accord for the houses and places of worship erected—or used—by the Society, until now without the authorization of the bishops.

Fr. Benoît Duroux, O.P.,
Don Tarcisius Bertone
Dom Fernando Ocariz
Fr. Bernard Tissier de Mallerais
Fr. Patrice Laroche

At the Vatican
April 15, 1988


Referring themselves in particular to the letter addressed by Archbishop Lefebvre to the Holy Father on February 20, 1988, the delegates of the Society present insist on the fact that Archbishop Lefebvre sees in this point a very important element for the realization of the ecclesial communion. Here are the principal reasons:

a)   necessity of bishops chosen from the Society:

  • these episcopal consecrations are awaited by the seminarians who count upon being ordained by a bishop belonging to the same spiritual family.
  • It will be psychologically difficult now to ask our faithful and seminarians to ask for the Sacraments of Confirmation and Order from bishops who did not cease to warn them against the Society, who approve catechisms such as Pierres Vivantes34or who have professed highly suspicious theological opinions.
  • It is very difficult in the present circumstances to find bishops knowing how to celebrate in the traditional rite the long ceremonies of the Roman Pontifical.
  • These episcopal consecrations would be favorable to keep in the unity of the Church the faithful of Tradition, practically reducing to nought the inference of the many small sedevacantist groups, each one having its own “bishop.”
  • Moreover, there would be for Archbishop Lefebvre, the priests and the faithful of Tradition, the unequivocal sign of the sincerity of the Roman authorities, and of their will to give back an honorable place in the Church to the traditional rite.

>From thence flows the following point:

b)    Urgency of the nomination of a bishop from the Society within a very short space of time.35

  • The great age of Archbishop Lefebvre and the physical exhaustion which he has been feeling for the past months do not allow him to continue to travel throughout the world.
  • The good will of Archbishop Lefebvre which would have led to the normalization of the situation of the Society and of the works of tradition, would deserve that the Prelate sees while still living his episcopal ministry continued by one of his sons.
  • Do the good fruits borne by the works of Tradition and which Cardinal Gagnon has witnessed during the course of his apostolic visit not merit such a gesture of acknowledgment from the Holy See at the very time of this agreement?
  • the reception, within a short space of time, by Archbishop Lefebvre of the pontifical mandate enabling him to proceed to an episcopal consecration would be a delicate way to erase, in effect, the injustices endured by the Prelate for the past 15 years.

c)    Necessity of several bishops taken from the bosom of Tradition.

  • The development of the works of Tradition mean already from now at least 25 ceremonies of ordination per year throughout the whole world.
  • The faithful addressing themselves to the Society for Confirmation in the traditional rite are more and more numerous.

    1)  In 1987, Archbishop Lefebvre gave 2,500 Confirmations in France alone. This represents ceremonies three or four days per week for a whole month, often gathering children from great distances.

    2)  In 1984, in Chile, Archbishop Lefebvre had to give, in one ceremony, the Sacrament of Confirmation to 1,527 faithful.

    3)  In 1982, in Mexico, during one week’s travel alone, he performed 2,500 Confirmations.

  • The Society alone has opened, at the request of the faithful, 530 places of worship on five continents. The faithful would like to receive the visit of Archbishop Lefebvre, or of a bishop representing their spiritual family.
  • Moreover, many ceremonies, blessings and consecrations,36 must be accomplished by a bishop. One alone could not suffice for this work.


28. This word has been corrected in the May 5 Protocol to, “body.”

29. See p.77-79 for complete text of §25 of Lumen Gentium.

30. This word “all” has been suppressed in the Protocol, since Canons such as Canon 844 (of the 1983 Code of Canon Law) are unacceptable.

31. These three words have been suppressed, too.

32. Please note the adjective.

33. Note the desire to separate the unity that exists between traditional foundations.

34. The current modernist French catechism. See Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, Vol. III, available from the Angelus Press.

33. Note the desire to separate the unity that exists between traditional foundations.

35. See the letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to the Holy Father on February 20, 1988, p.42.

36. Blessing of a church; consecration of an altar; of a chalice, etc.

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

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