Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

July 18, 1988

Declaration of the German-speaking Superiors
of the Society of Saint Pius X
Regarding the Treatment of Archbishop Lefebvre

On July 1, 1988, the Roman Congregation for Bishops declared Archbishop Lefebvre, Bishop de Castro Mayer and the bishops consecrated by them on June 30, excommunicated for lack of the required pontifical mandate. Many people, Catholic or not, are speaking of schism. The Society of Saint Pius X rejects this inexact presentation of the facts. It recalls the canon law which presupposes, for the validity of an ecclesiastical penalty such as excommunication, a grievous fault (delictum) which does not exist when, among other circumstances, the person considers himself bound in conscience not to follow the letter of the law in order to safeguard a greater good. (Case of necessity: see Canon 2205, §2, §3 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law; Canon 1323, §4 and Canon 1324, §1, 5 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.)

Now the Universal Church finds herself today—to our greater sorrow—in a case of necessity that far surpasses all the precedent vicissitudes of her history, because of the falsehood of the official fundamental orientation of the pontificate of John Paul II. His guiding light is the doctrine of Assisi—which dissolves the First Commandment of God—a mixture of all religions, in its ideological conception as well as its socio-political realization. This doctrine fulfils in this end of the century the Modernist program condemned by St. Pius X under the name of “Organized Apostasy” in his Apostolic Letter Notre charge apostolique of August 25, 1910.

A good example of this extreme situation among the bishops is the “final report of the mixed ecumenical commission for the revision of the anathema of the 16th century” in which the German Episcopal Conference falls eleven times into heresy and thereby ipso facto into excommunication (1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 2314). Indeed, contrary to the dogmatic condemnation by the Council of Trent of eleven heresies in the Protestant doctrine on the Last Supper, they declare that “it must not be automatically considered as heretical.” The German Episcopal Conference has thereby separated itself from the Church because the integral Catholic Faith is the first and decisive condition of belonging to the Church. Given similar situations in all the episcopal conferences of the West, the future Cardinal Gagnon acknowledged on August 27, 1983, the existence of “a schism in the United States and European countries.”

Numerous statistics and polls show that due to twenty-five years of Modernist domination over theology and in the hierarchy, between 90-95% of the Catholic population is now separated from the Church by heresy or apostasy; 93% of German Catholics no longer go to confession, according to Cardinal Höffner; 86% of religion teachers (priests or laymen) in the Diocese of Trèves challenges the duty to accept the totality of the Deposit of Faith according to a 1977 poll; 94% of the population in the strongly Catholic area of Tyrol have, in 45 years, rejected the Catholic teaching on the prohibition of contraception (Loewit-Studie, Herderkorrespondenz, Mar. 1984).

This data and these official facts illustrate the rapid and almost total destruction of the authentic life of faith, reduced to a small number of priests and laymen attached to the Faith who address themselves to Archbishop Lefebvre. In the face of the present situation they find in the Society of Saint Pius X and its environment the only means of serving the Church and the Pope according to the Catholic Faith. They are strengthened in this conviction by “the very positive report” of the Apostolic Visit of November-December 1987, re-affirming that “the Church must be re-built on this basis.”

The present extreme necessity imposes upon Archbishop Lefebvre (and upon Bishop de Castro Mayer), the only bishop recognizable as fully Catholic, some special duties. Indeed, he is, “as successor of the Apostles, jointly responsible for the common good of the Church” (Pius XII, Encyclical Fidei Donum, Apr. 21, 1957). This joint responsibility in regard to the whole Church was fulfilled by Archbishop Lefebvre by the episcopal consecrations of June 30, performed in closest union with the Church and her law. Indeed, “the ultimate end, the supreme principal and the superior unity of the juridical life and of all juridical function in the Church is the solicitude for souls” (Pius XII, Oct. 2, 1944, Allocution to the Roman Rota).

Lastly, the immediate reason for the by-passing of the rule of the apostolic mandate on the consecrations of June 30 consists in the fact that the negotiations with Rome throughout the first half of 1988, in spite of a few concessions, demonstrated more and more strongly the following: Rome, because of its false modernist orientation, is not ready to guarantee in the long term, the freedom and vitality of Catholic Tradition.

Given all this, Archbishop Lefebvre has never wanted a schism, i.e., a fundamental rupture with the papacy, but he acted according to the guidelines of Catholic theology, according to which “it is legitimate not to obey the orders of a pope and even to prevent the execution of his will if he puts souls in danger, especially if he strove to destroy the Church” (St. Robert Bellarmine, de Romano Pontifice, 2, 29). Archbishop Lefebvre, since June 30, follows the same path as the holy bishop and confessor Athanasius, who, in times of similar general blindness in heresy (Arianism), was one of the few bishops to refuse with vigor to take any part in the politics of Pope Liberius, who was favoring heresy: for this motive he was excommunicated by this Pope in 357 AD, a penalty as invalid as the excommunication of July 1, 1988.

† Bishop Bernard Fellay
Fr. Franz Joseph Maessen
Fr. Paul Natterer
Fr. Georg Pflüger

Stuttgart, Germany
July 18, 1988

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

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