Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

May 5, 1988

Protocol of Accord

This protocol contains a doctrinal declaration which Archbishop Lefebvre judged barely acceptable. Only two of the seven members of the proposed Roman Commission were to be upholders of Tradition, which was a grave handicap. Nevertheless, at that moment, His Grace saw fit to sign this Accord. In the Protocol Rome recognizes, in principle, that the episcopate is to be conferred on a member of the Society of Saint Pius X. Note how vague is left the date of an eventual consecration. Note also, that since the jurisdiction would come from the local bishop, the bishop proposed by Rome for the Society would be a powerless bishop, not able to protect the priests and faithful from modernist influences.


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

a)   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 as head of the body of bishops.

b)   We declare our acceptance of the doctrine contained in §2541 of the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of Vatican Council II on the ecclesiastical magisterium and the adherence which is due to it.

c)    Regarding certain points taught by Vatican Council II or concerning later reforms of the liturgy and law, and 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.

d)    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.

e)    Finally, we promise to respect the common discipline of the Church and 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— the canonical form most suitable is that of a society of apostolic life.

1. Society of Apostolic Life

This solution is canonically possible, and has 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 inventive possibility with respect to 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 and diocesan bishops, as well as to resolve eventual problems and disputes, 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).

This commission will be composed of a president, a vice-president, and five members, of which two shall be from the Society.42

Among other things it 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.

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, 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.

5)   The priests who, on an individual basis, are morally connected with the Society, will receive a personal statute taking into account their aspirations and at the same time the obligations flowing from their incardination. The other particular cases of the same nature will be examined and resolved by the Roman Commission.43

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 the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage,44 the usual notifications must still be given to their proper parish; cf. Canons 878, 896, 1122).

Note: There is room to consider 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, and in the judgment of the Superior General, the normal way is to be followed: to send dimissorial letters to a bishop who agrees to ordain members of the Society.

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

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, for practical and psychological45 reasons, the consecration of a member of the Society as a bishop appears useful. This is why, in the framework of the doctrinal and canonical solution of reconciliation, we suggest to the Holy Father that he name a bishop chosen from within the Society, presented by Archbishop Lefebvre. In consequence of the principle indicated above (1), this bishop normally is not the Superior General of the Society, but it appears opportune that he be a member of 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.

For the convenience of our readers, we put here the text of §25 of Lumen Gentium (including footnotes found in the original), oftentimes referred to in these documents [Taken from, Flannery, Austin, O.P., Vatican Council II, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1975), pp.379-381]. The passage to which Archbishop Lefebvre refers in his conference of May 10 and which condemns all the modernist bishops is the following: “This infallibility, however, with which the divine redeemer wished to endow his Church in defining doctrine pertaining to faith and morals, is co-extensive with the deposit of revelation, which must be religiously guarded and loyally and courageously expounded.” How many bishops in our days are “religiously guarding and faithfully expounding” the Deposit of Revelation?

Lumen Gentium, §25

25. Among the more important duties of bishops that of preaching the Gospel has pride of place.46 For the bishops are heralds of the faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people assigned to them, the faith which is destined to inform their thinking and direct their conduct; and under the light of the Holy Spirit they make that faith shine forth, drawing from the storehouse of revelation new things and old (cf. Mt. 13:52); they make it bear fruit and with watchfulness they ward off whatever errors threaten their flock (cf. II Tim. 4:14). Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops’ decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated.

Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter's successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely.47 This is still more clearly the case when, assembled in an ecumenical council, they are, for the universal Church, teachers of and judges in matters of faith and morals, whose decisions must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith.48

This infallibility, however, with which the divine redeemer wished to endow his Church in defining doctrine pertaining to faith and morals, is co-extensive with the deposit of revelation, which must be religiously guarded and loyally and courageously expounded. The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk. 22:32)—he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.49 For that reason his definitions are rightly said to be irreformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church, in as much as they were made with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in the person of blessed Peter himself; and as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal. For in such a case the Roman Pontiff does not utter a pronouncement as a private person, but rather does he expound and defend the teaching of the Catholic faith as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the Church’s charism of infallibility is present in a singular way.50 The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme teaching office. Now, the assent of the Church can never be lacking to such definitions on account of the same Holy Spirit’s influence, through which Christ's whole flock is maintained in the unity of the faith and makes progress in it.51

Furthermore, when the Roman Pontiff, or the body of bishops together with him, define a doctrine, they make the definition in conformity with revelation itself, to which all are bound to adhere and to which they are obliged to submit; and this revelation is transmitted integrally either in written form or in oral tradition through the legitimate succession of bishops and above all through the watchful concern of the Roman Pontiff himself; and through the light of the Spirit of truth it is scrupulously preserved in the Church and unerringly explained.52The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, by reason of their office and the seriousness of the matter, apply themselves with zeal to the work of enquiring by every suitable means into this revelation and of giving apt expression to its contents;53 they do not, however, admit any new public revelation as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith.54

41. Complete text of §25 found at the end of this chapter, pp.77-79.

42. This paragraph replaces the notes in the April 15 minutes. See how this does not correspond to the suggestions of the representatives of the Society, but rather gives full majority to the members from outside Catholic Tradition. This is perhaps the major point of failure in this whole Protocol.

43. This whole paragraph is new. See again how it separates these priests from the moral support they were getting from their connection with the Society.

44. Here they allow the possibility to give these Sacraments.

45. Please note the choice of words! As if the need for a bishop from among Tradition would not be, first of all, for a reason of Faith: to have an authority without any compromise with the errors of the day.

46. Cf. Council of Trent, Deer. de reform., Session V, can. 2, n. 9, and Session XXIV, can. 4; Conc. Oecr. pp.645, 739.

47. Cf. Vatican Council I, Const. Dogm. Dei Filius, 3: Denzinger, 1712 (3011). Cf. the note added to schema I de Eccl. (taken from St. Rob. Bellarmine): Mansi 51, 579C; also the revised schema of Const. II de Ecclesia Christi, with Kleutgen's commentary: Mansi 53, 313 AB. Pius IX, Letter Tuas libenter: Denzinger, 1683 (2879).

48. Code of Canon Law, Canons 1322-1323.

49. Cf. Vatican Council I, Const. Dogm. Pastor aeternus: Denzinger, 1839 (3074).

50. Cf. Gasser's explanation of Vatican Council I: Mansi 52, 1213 AC.

51. Gasser, ibid.: Mansi 1214 A

52.Gasser, ibid.: Mansi 1215 CD, 1216-1217 A.

53.Gasser, ibid.: Mansi 1213

54. Vatican Council II Const. Dogm. Pastor Aeternus, 4: Denzinger, 1836 (3070).

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