Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

May 17, 1988

Note of Cardinal Ratzinger
to Archbishop Lefebvre


Through the good services of Fr. du Chalard, I submit again to you the project of a final letter to the Holy Father more in conformity with requirements of the style of the Roman Curia. Your first letter was well received by the Holy Father who is now waiting with a paternal confidence for your final letter.

United in prayer with you I am very devotedly yours in Our Lord,

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

This “first letter” of May 5 must not have been as “well received” as Cardinal Ratzinger implied. Another was demanded of Archbishop Lefebvre.

Suggestions for a Definitive Letter to be Written
by Archbishop Lefebvre to the Roman Pontiff

I. General Considerations

  1)  It would be most convenient that this letter be such as to remove the barriers and allow the Holy Father not to ask for a solution of the problem other than the first one,66 and to publish this solution in the first half of June, as planned.

  2)  To this end, apart from being accompanied by the Doctrinal Declaration (since it has already been sent to the Pope, it is not necessary to repeat it), this letter should have the following general characteristics:

      a)   It must be a humble request for the canonical regularization of the whole vicissitude, without entering into the details of the accord: this one remaining totally in force but being presented as a solution given by the Pope. In fact, it is not logical that the solution appear as the fruit of an agreement between two parties, in order to avoid as much as possible a negative reception from the other part of the Church. On the other hand, this letter shall be published simultaneously with the answer from the Pope, in which explicit reference to the concrete solution already stated would be made.
      b)   In the right way, which does not hurt the sensibilities of anyone, it would be most opportune that Archbishop Lefebvre—while reaffirming that he has always acted in good faith and pursuing the glory of God and the good of the Church—asks for pardon for anything in his actions which may have displeased the Holy Father.
      c)   Given the last letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Cardinal Ratzinger in which he affirms his will to consecrate a bishop at the end of June, no matter what, in this new letter to the Pope it would be opportune to make a reference to this, but in a more humble tone, as a prayer or suggestion, without requesting a definite date.67

  3) Summarizing: it is important to take into account the fact that the more humble and unconditional the letter shall be, the easier it will be for the Pope to accept it publicly, and to grant to Archbishop Lefebvre what he desires (as, after all, this is also the desire of the Roman Pontiff).

II. Suggestions for the Text of the Letter

Most Holy Father,

As I had the occasion to manifest to Your Holiness in one of my previous letters, the Apostolic Visit to the Society of Saint Pius X performed by His Eminence Cardinal Gagnon has raised in me and in all the members of the Society a great hope for a solution to the problem concerning the full union of the Society with the Holy See, being aware that such a union is a vital condition for all members of the Church.

This hope of ours has been further reinforced by the public letter of Your Holiness to His Eminence Cardinal Ratzinger of April 8 last, and was increased and made concrete after the recent intense meetings which were held with Cardinal Ratzinger.

It is with great confidence that I write this new letter to humbly ask Your Holiness to deign to provide the full canonical regularization of all the diverse aspects regarding my person and the entire Society of Saint Pius X. To this end, I delivered to Your Holiness, with my previous letter a formal declaration, signed in my own name and in the name of the Society, in which I express our full adhesion to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff.

Most Holy Father, through all the past years, through much suffering, I have always acted following my conscience in the sight of God, searching for the good of the Church. Nevertheless, I am aware that even in good faith, one can make mistakes. Yet, for this, I put in your hands all the questions and humbly ask pardon for all that, notwithstanding my good faith, may have caused displeasure to the Vicar of Christ.

Lastly, I would like to share with Your Holiness a special preoccupation of mine, which refers to my advanced age. Indeed, the canonical regularization of the Society does not provide for the consecration of a bishop who would take my place because it is not necessary, per se. However, paying attention above all to the practical need of one who would perform the pontifical functions according to the rite anterior to the liturgical reform, I would be most happy for Your Holiness to nominate a bishop who could, in a certain sense, succeed me.

Deign to accept, Most Holy Father, my most respectful homage and filial respects in Jesus and Mary.


66. i.e., not to negotiate another Protocol.

67. Please note that the vagueness of the date is intentional, not a “mistake.”

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

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