Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

May 30, 1988

Letter of Cardinal Ratzinger
to Archbishop Lefebvre

The Pope’s reply to the previous letter came in a letter of Cardinal Ratzinger. The Holy Father granted the date of August 15, but refused a majority for Catholic Tradition on the Commission, and kept silence on the number of bishops. Moreover the names already presented by Archbishop Lefebvre were deemed insufficient, and other names are requested. There was no guarantee that any name would be accepted by August 15, 1988.


After having been received in audience by the Holy Father on Friday, May 27, as I had indicated to you during our conversation on the 24th, I am in a position to respond to the letter you had given to me the same day, concerning the problems of a majority of members of the Society on the Roman Commission, and the consecration of bishops.

Concerning the first point, the Holy Father deems it proper to adhere to the principles fixed in part II, section 2 of the Protocol (see p.74) which you accepted. This Commission is an organism of the Holy See in the service of the Society and the diverse instances which will have to be handled to establish and consolidate the work of reconciliation. Moreover, it is not the Commission, but the Holy Father who in the final analysis will make the decisions; thus the question of a majority does not arise; the interests of the Society are guaranteed by its representation within the Commission, and the fears which you have expressed with respect to the other members are groundless, since the choice of members will be done by the Holy Father himself.69

Regarding the second point, the Holy Father confirms what I had already indicated to you in his behalf, namely that he is disposed to appoint a member of the Society as a bishop (in the sense of part II, section 5, para. 2 of the Protocol [see pp.76, 77]),70 and to accelerate the usual process of nomination, so that the consecration could take place on the closing of the Marian Year, this coming August 15.

From the practical point of view this requires that you present without delay to the Holy See a greater number of dossiers on possible candidates, to allow him to freely choose a candidate who corresponds to the profile envisaged in the accords and at the same time the general criteria of aptitude which the Church maintains for the appointment of bishops.

Finally, you know that the Holy Father awaits from you a letter containing essentially the points which we spoke of more particularly in our conversation of May 24. But, since you have recently once again announced your intention of ordaining three bishops with or without the permission of Rome on June 30, it is necessary that in this letter (cf. part II, section 4 of the Protocol, [see p.76]), you state clearly that you renounce the idea, and that you place yourself in full obedience to the decision of the Holy Father.

With this final step, accomplished in as little time as possible, the process of reconciliation will have been completed, and a public announcement of this fact can be given.

Excellency, as I conclude this I can only repeat to you as I did last Tuesday, and with still more gravity if possible: when one considers the positive content of the accord which the benevolence of Pope John Paul II has allowed us to reach, there is no proportion between the last few difficulties you have expressed and the damage which would be caused now by a break, a rupture with the Apostolic See on your part, for these motives only. You must have confidence in the Holy Father, whose goodness and understanding he has shown in your regard and with regard to the Society, and which constitutes the best guarantee for the future. Finally, you must—as must we all—have confidence in the Lord, who has allowed the way of reconciliation to be opened as it is open today, the conclusion of which is now in sight.

Deign to accept, Excellency, the expression of my fraternal and respectfully devoted sentiments in the Lord.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger


69. The book, Peter, Lovest Thou Me? (available from Angelus Press) offers the evidence that this was no sufficient guarantee the members of the Commission would be dedi¬cated to upholding the Tradition of the Church.

70. i.e., a powerless bishop.

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

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