Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

May 13, 1988

Archbishop May
to Join in Hindu Jubilee

That Archbishop May considers that these Hindus with their vague search for God will avoid hell, while they are still ignorant of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Savior, is tantamount to a practical denial of the Catholic Faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and is a reminder to them that seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). St. Augustine explains very well that, though ignorance excuses from an additional sin against Faith, it is incapable of cleansing the original sin and other sins with which one’s soul is burdened. Baptism of desire only applies to those who, by a special grace of the Holy Ghost, have received the virtues of the Catholic Faith, Hope and Charity. (See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, IIIa, Q.66, A.11.) How Archbishop May can apply this doctrine to Hindus “in search of God” is a mystery of iniquity (II Thess. 2:7).


The St. Louis Review (May 13, 1988)

Archbishop John L. May will take part in a golden jubilee celebration of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis on Sunday, May 22, at the Hindu Temple of Universal Philosophy and Religion, 205 S. Skinner Blvd. The program will begin at 8pm.

Archbishop May and Swami Chetanananda will speak on “Our Common Search for God.” Fr. Vincent Heier, director for the Archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious affairs, will give the introduction.

Letter of Fr. Vincent Heier to The Wanderer110

Your >From the Mail column of the latest issue of The Wanderer included erroneous information on Archbishop John May’s participation at the Hindu Vedanta Society in St. Louis. To clarify the facts, the Archbishop was approached, through my office, by Swami Chetanananda to speak at the Vedanta Society on the occasion of their golden jubilee. It was patterned after a similar visit by Cardinal Manning to the Vedanta Society in Los Angeles a few years ago.

After much discussion, we decided to use the theme, “Our Common Search for God.” This was to express Vatican II’s teachings regarding non-Christian religions as they reflect, even imperfectly, the human longing for God. Certainly this was shown in the Holy Father’s meeting on peace with world religious leaders (including the Vedanta Society) in Assisi in October 1986.

Unfortunately, after The St. Louis Review publicity, Archbishop May was called to Rome on urgent business and asked Auxiliary Bishop Terry Steib to speak in his place. I was asked to introduce Bishop Steib and then he gave a short talk on the subject mentioned above. The swami then gave a response, and after some music by their choir, including Ave Maria, the evening concluded.

The biased tone of your article, and especially the quotation by your unnamed correspondent that, “Archbishop May has not yet found God in the Catholic Church,” reflect once again that your paper does not seek to publish the truth but innuendo. A simple phone call to the Archbishop’s office, or mine, could have provided you with the facts. While I seldom see any retractions in your “infallible” paper, it would seem that one is called for in this regard

Fr. Vincent A. Heier, Director
Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Archdiocese of St. Louis

Letter of Archbishop May to Mr. Eugene St. Pierre

19 May 1988
Mr. Eugene J. St. Pierre
Depository of Sacred Music
Box 33046
St. Louis, Missouri 63119
Dear Mr. St. Pierre:

In reply to your recent letter I assure you that there is no violation of Canon Law in my attendance at the gold jubilee celebration of the Vedanta Society. Perhaps you have a specific canon in mind and I would appreciate your identifying it for me.

You may be sure that my address at this jubilee will be faithful to Catholic doctrine as taught by the magisterium. There is certainly no teaching of the Catholic Church that says that all the people in the world who are not Roman Catholics are automatically going to hell. You must remember your Baltimore Catechism which taught you of baptism by desire. That has always been part of our faith.

I just wonder how much you know about the Vedanta Society and what it teaches. You are wrong in saying that I am breaking one of God’s commandments. I recall that our Holy Father joined in a celebration in which he prayed with people from the same Hindu background and with many other representatives of various world religions at the meeting in Assisi last year.

The bad example comes from the top! I know that the followers of the Lefebvre movement, whose bulletin you sent me, also oppose our Holy Father and consider him heretical in the same way.

Thank you for your prayers and I assure you also of mine.

Cordially in Christ,

Most Reverend John L. May
Archbishop of St. Louis

In the words of Archbishop May himself, the 1983 Code of Canon Law does not forbid such practical denial of the Catholic Faith. The 1917 Code of Canon Law clearly forbade any active participation in any non-Catholic “celebration” and held those who would participate to be suspect of heresy (Canons 1258, 2316).

In view of the different treatment of Archbishop May and Archbishop Lefebvre, there is only one conclusion: there is a double standard in the Church today!

The column of the same Fr. Vincent Heier in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 15, 1988), which follows, manifests clearly that for Archbishop May, ecumenism is more important than upholding Catholic Tradition.

Religious Rifts

In a July 6 article on the Episcopalian compromise on women bishops, Bishop Michael Marshall of the Anglican Institute compared the situation with the recent schism of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre from the Roman Catholic Church. He asked his fellow bishops, “Do we want to go down the road of Roman Catholicism? That’s another way to handle conflict—cast it out of the body!”

How wrong Marshall is! If one read the correspondence between Rome and Lefebvre, one would note that the Vatican went out of its way to prevent a schism by the so-called traditionalists.

In the end, it was Lefebvre and his followers who would not bend. The theological conflict came not over the use of the Latin Tridentine Mass but over the ecumenical openness of Vatican II. Because that ecumenical openness has led to greater unity between Anglican and Roman Catholic Christians, it is unfortunate that a bishop of the Anglican Church could so misrepresent this latest wound within the body of Christ.

The Rev. Vincent A. Heier
Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Archdiocese of St. Louis


110. The Wanderer, Sept. 8, 1988, pp.7,8 (published weekly from St. Paul, Minnesota).

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

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