LEFEBVRE and the
May 6, 1988
Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre
to Cardinal Ratzinger
On the very evening the Protocol was signed, May
5, 1988, after mature reflection and, he says, by a grace of the
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Archbishop Lefebvre clearly perceived that,
in spite of the principle recognized by Rome that the episcopate
was to be conferred on a member of the Society, this Accord was
not satisfactory; thus the very next day, May 6, he wrote to Cardinal
Ratzinger to express his misgivings, on the grounds that Rome
was not willing to fix a date for the episcopal consecration.
Yesterday it was with real
satisfaction that I put my signature on the Protocol drafted during
the preceding days. However, you yourself have witnessed
my deep disappointment upon the reading of the letter which you
bringing the Holy Father’s answer concerning the episcopal consecrations.
Practically, to postpone
the episcopal consecrations to a later undetermined date would be
the fourth time that it would have been postponed.56
The date of
June 30 was clearly indicated in my previous letters as the latest
I have already
given you a file concerning the candidates. There
are still two months to make the mandate.
particular circumstances of this proposal, the Holy Father can very
well shorten the procedure so that the mandate be communicated to
us around mid-June.
In case the
answer will be negative, I would find myself in conscience obliged
to proceed with the consecrations, relying upon the agreement given
by the Holy See in the Protocol for the consecration of one bishop
member of the Society.
expressed on the subject of the episcopal consecration of a member
of the Society, either by writing or by word of mouth, gives me
reason to fear delays. Everything is now prepared
for the ceremony of June 30: hotel reservations, transportation,
rental of a huge tent to house the ceremony.
of our priests and faithful would be extreme. All
of them hope that this consecration will be realized with the agreement
of the Holy See; but being already disappointed by previous delays
they will not understand that I would accept a further delay.
They are aware and desirous above all of having truly Catholic
bishops, transmitting the true Faith to them, and communicating
to them in a way that is certain the graces of salvation to which
they aspire for themselves and for their children.
In the hope
that this request shall not be an insurmountable obstacle to the
reconciliation in process, please, Eminence, accept my respectful
and fraternal sentiments in Christo et Maria.
evening of May 5 to a reporter for 30 Days magazine,57the
Archbishop himself described how he came to write the preceding
I signed the accord, but with extreme distrust. The
same distrust I had when I came to Rome. I had made
an effort in order to see whether something had changed in Rome,
if they had decided to return to Tradition.
all the disillusionments of these years kept coming back into my
mind. The climate of distrust that characterized the
meetings first with Cardinal Seper, then with Cardinal Ratzinger.
The immense, laborious exchange of correspondence, and then
all the things that happened against Tradition, in France and elsewhere.
And the tricks that were played on us: Fr. Augustine at
Flavigny forced to celebrate the Mass of Paul VI after he had returned
to communion with Rome, the two seminaries set up in Rome for the
deserters from Ecône over the years. Both were closed,
and the seminarians sent back to those bishops from whom they had
fled. And the last attempt, the Mater Ecclesiæ,
will close down next year. The letter that I received
from the Abbé Carlo58
is proof to me of the ill-will of Rome. And the apostolic
visit of Cardinal Gagnon about which they obstinately refused to
tell me anything. “These meetings are the result of
that visit,” Ratzinger’s secretary said to me. But
not a word about the report presented to the Pope. Just
as it happened in 1974 after the visit of the two Belgian visitors.
Still today I know nothing about the report they made.
the visit to the Synagogue,59
the Cardinals who a few days before had gone to genuflect in front
of Gorbachev. And now they were deceiving us again.
the night between May 5 and May 6, I said to myself: “All this is
impossible. I cannot accept Ratzinger’s answer, which
avoids fixing the date of the ordination.” Then I
thought that I should write a letter to the Pope and to Ratzinger:
if they would not grant me the ordination on June 30, I would do
it anyway. On the morning of May 6, I wrote the letter
and I sent it to them.
this letter the cause of the cessation of the negotiations?
May 5 Protocol had several flaws. In the present letter His Grace
highlights one, the most urgent one, i.e., the vagueness
of the Protocol concerning the consecrations of bishops: No date
was fixed, no candidate agreed upon.
accused Archbishop Lefebvre of having reneged on the Protocol
by this letter. However, a careful reading of both cannot show
any opposition between them. No date was mentioned in the Protocol,
therefore he asked for a date. This was not to oppose the protocol,
but rather to take steps to put it in practice. Archbishop Lefebvre
did threaten in this letter, because, as he said, every step forward
in the negotiation had only been obtained upon the pressure of
a threat did achieve its purpose, as Cardinal Ratzinger did give
a date in his letter of May 30, 1988.
that letter of May 30, 1988, by asking for “a greater number of
dossiers on possible candidates,” Cardinal Ratzinger practically
rejected all the candidates proposed by Archbishop Lefebvre. That
was the real cause of the break of negotiations. Indeed what guarantee
that the new names His Grace would have proposed, would be accepted
by August 15? By rejecting the candidates proposed by Archbishop
Lefebvre, Cardinal Ratzinger made clear that the Vatican was not
sincere in fulfilling its promises for a Bishop.
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109