Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

August/September 1988

Tragedy at Ecône

Fr. Crane analyzes the status of Archbishop Lefebvre with Rome, concluding that the crisis in the Church requires not more experts, but courage. Archbishop Lefebvre had the courage “to stand firm in the face of neo-modernist attack, defending the Faith and confounding its enemies.” Is this not an excellent justification for the consecration of bishops by Archbishop Lefebvre and against his unjust excommunication?

Christian Order, edited by Paul Crane, S.J.,
vol.29, Aug./Sept., No.8/9, 1988.

I found myself wondering as I read in The Daily Telegraph (Nov. 7, 1988):

The battle for the hearts and minds of Archbishop Lefebvre’s followers has opened in earnest with the Pope appointing a senior cardinal to seek ways to keep them within the mainstream Roman Catholic Church.

Cardinal Paul Mayer, a 77-year-old West German, will lead a Vatican Commission of eight Church experts who have the task of persuading the traditionalists to remain loyal to Rome, while making allowance for their “spiritual and liturgical” needs.

There you have it. The lines apparently are drawn. With great respect, I would suggest that, in fact, they were drawn long ago; the gulf that now separates what we may call the New Church from the True136 saw its first beginnings as no more than a somewhat turbulent stream, when the New Mass was thrust on the faithful, overnight as it were, in the immediate wake of the Second Vatican Council. The effect was traumatic where vast numbers of the faithful were concerned. At one stroke, you might say, the lynch-pin of their faith was destroyed. This they sensed; knew to be so. They knew it within themselves without being able clearly to express it. Which is not to be wondered at. The dearest things in life are loved beyond words. The whole of their faith was in the Old Mass. This the faithful knew. Now they see it as gone; not only from the New Mass, but everywhere within the Church.137

The New Mass in their eyes, valid though it is, where they are concerned—and increasingly in practice—is little more than a community gathering, protestantized to the point where it is increasingly man-centered; drifting away from God. And, with it, naturally enough, what practice there remains of the Catholic Faith drifts away as well. Over the years, doctrine has tended to follow suit. There is no need to enlarge on this point. It has been covered again and again in the pages of Christian Order.Small wonder that the split which came with the overnight imposition of the New Mass has widened beyond words into the abyss which today divides the Old Church from the New, as it divided originally the Old Mass from the New.

Working on that original rupture, which was largely their own creation, the neo-modernist establishment, from its position of power at all levels within the Church,138 has worked away at its task of diverting the Church’s doctrinal and evangelizing thrust to suit no more than man’s momentary needs, as distinct from holding out to him the eternal truths of God. Those in opposition to this trend, who stand by the faith of their fathers, have been, in so many cases I know of, rebuffed, marginalized, isolated. The marvel is that they now stand at all. The onslaught on all they hold dear has, in so many cases, been pitiless in its insensitivity. Does Rome know anything of this—the plight of its marooned faithful?—If it does, I have to say with respect that, in practice, it appears to so many, not only as having done nothing about it; but as incapable now of doing anything in the future to save what is an increasingly desperate situation. The hungry sheep are not merely not being fed; they are being left to die; and, with them, the Faith they have refused to surrender to the predators within the Church they love, who are busier now than ever shredding that Faith to pieces.

I am not a Lefebvrist. I never have been, But I can understand completely why so many have turned to him. It is simply because they find once more within Archbishop Lefebvre’s Society of Saint Pius X and its ministrations—above all, the Old Mass—everything that has been taken from them in the wake of the Council and in the name of that which was claimed so fraudulently to be within its spirit. Now, most tragically, the break has come. I regret it more deeply than I can say; but, without excusing it, I do understand it. In what way? Simply this. For more than twenty years now, as it appears, High authority in the Church has received complaint after complaint from faithful Catholics shocked at what is going on in the Church they love. And what has come of their complaints? So far as they can see, nothing; absolutely nothing at all. In the eyes of so many, Church authority has stripped itself of credibility in their eyes. There have been words. There have been no deeds. They have found and still find themselves with nowhere to go. I am in no way surprised that, under these sad circumstances, so many have taken the road to Ecône. I do not commend them for doing it; but I do understand why they have done it. Sheep without a shepherd; “Lord to whom shall we go?” As has appeared so tragically to so many, there was only one road left and they took it. Now Rome, as it seems to them, has blocked that road. They stand up-ended. One might ask the question: Who, in the last analysis, is responsible not only for the tragedy that has brought schism to the Catholic Church, but for the countless thousands of broken-hearted Catholics who have never taken the road to Ecône, but whose lives have been shattered by the neo-modernist wave that has engulfed the Church and deprived them of the Mass they prized and loved beyond anything they had on this earth?

Let us realize straightforwardly, but with no rancor of bitterness, the reason why the Church is beset with the disintegration that has brought sadness and sorrow to so many. It is so beset because it is beset with neo-modernism and the reason for this can only be the failure, in practice, of the Church’s bishops, priests and religious to stand firm in the face of neo-modernist attack; defending the Faith and confounding its enemies. This they have not done. This is a fact. Those who have watched, with mounting sorrow and frustration, the progressive ruination of the Catholic Church at the hands of its neo-modernist enemies know that this is so. The faithful have been betrayed by their pastors. If the faithful are to be brought back, whether they are in the family of Ecône or outside it, and peace restored to the Church once more, there is one thing that has to be done by way of a beginning. The Old Mass must be restored to the whole Church now, unconditionally and, at least, on a basis of parity of esteem with the New. The Holy Father must do this and bishops and religious superiors be placed under the most severe injunction to see that this is done. There is no other way. With all respect, at this twenty-fourth hour it is not experts who are needed to rescue the Church from disaster. What is needed is courage. Under God, no more and no less than that.


136. This implicitly says that Archbishop Lefebvre represents the True Church.

137. The modernists changed the rites of every one of the seven Sacraments, the Catechism, Canon Law, the rules of all the religious orders. They introduced a new curricula in seminaries, and a new morality where personal conscience is the rule of conduct rather than that of the Ten Commandments.

138. Cardinal Ratzinger himself acknowledges that all the bishops appointed in the wake of the Council were chosen from the most liberal candidates: “In the first years after Vat¬ican II, the candidate for the episcopate seemed to be a priest who above all was ‘open to the world’. At any rate this criterion came entirely into the foreground” (The Ratz¬inger Report, p.65).

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