The article, which follows, is a response to an attack made upon Archbishop Lefebvre by a diocesan bishop. Like many other similar attacks, it is so unjust and so inaccurate that it hardly merits an answer. However, 1983 was an extremely successful year for our magazine and we have gained a large number of new readers. Some, at least, will not be familiar with the Archbishop's story, and the background to his dispute with the Vatican. We thought that an answer to this particular attack could be the means of providing them with this information. Much of the material in this article will be familiar to our longstanding readers, but we hope that nonetheless they will find it useful to lend to friends who might be interested in the Society. We also hope that it will inspire those of our readers who have not yet acquired a copy of Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre to do so. Volume II of this important study will, we promise, be ready soon.'


Archbishop Lefebvre The Case for the Defence

by Michael Davies

In this article I shall be re-producing and commenting upon a pastoral letter by a Catholic bishop. The letter warns the faithful of his diocese about something, which puts their faith at risk.

There are all too many such dangers pervading our society today, so the bishop in question had a wide choice from which to select the most serious. He might have chosen to denounce the abortion holocaust, he might have condemned the tidal wave of pornography, he might have associated himself with the present holy Father and Pope Paul VI in making it clear that contraception is intrinsically evil. He could have taken a firm stand on religious education - his first duty, as a bishop is to guard the Deposit of Faith and hand it on intact.

He has a particular obligation to protect the faith of Catholic children in schools under his jurisdiction. Unless his diocese is an exception to the general rule in the western world today, unless it is an island of orthodoxy in a sea of Modernism, what the children in his schools will be learning will be at least an inadequate version of the faith.

The February 1983 issue of Christian Order contains an article by Mgr. Eugene Kevane, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Rome. He asked a very pertinent question: "How have we Catholics come to produce a generation of religious illiterates?"

The answer is simple: it is because so many bishops have been willing to devote themselves to anything but their primary duty of preserving and handing on intact the Deposit of Faith. If you want an instant comment on any topic from trade union rights, injustice in South America (or anywhere outside Communist countries), to sexist language in the liturgy, you can ask almost any bishop in the West today. But it would hardly be worth your making the effort, as his answer will usually be predictable, simply an echo of whatever the trendy liberal press is saying on the subject at the time. Yet, if you go to him to complain of priests propagating heresy, liturgical abuses, or inadequate instruction in Catholic schools, you would be exceptionally fortunate if he took effective action.

It is a sad fact of contemporary Catholicism that the loyalty of most Western dioceses to the Holy See is only nominal. The Pope no longer exercises effective control over the Church in a number of countries. I had a long interview with Cardinal Seper, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 1980.

He admitted to me that the Vatican was ignored with impunity by the American bishops, and was, for the time being at least, unable to rectify this deplorable situation. This state of de facto schism had first become apparent in Holland, and spread swiftly to other countries. It became manifest to a scandalous degree in the failure of so many bishops to uphold the teaching of Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, reaffirming the consistent teaching of the Church that contraception is intrinsically evil.

It would be the understatement of the century to note that the response to Humanae Vitae of the author of the pastoral letter reproduced in this article was hardly one of loyal and enthusiastic support. It will, therefore, be necessary to take rather more than a pinch of salt when reading his effusive protestations of the need for full communion with the Pope.


The Contemporary Bishop

Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand is undoubtedly one of the greatest Catholic thinkers of this century, and received a papal decoration from Pope Paul VI for his courageous defense of Humanae Vitae. He was an academic of integrity who chose to uphold Catholic truth rather than win the applause of the media. In his last book, The Devastated Vineyard, Professor von Hildebrand spoke out against bishops who:

...make no use whatever of their authority when it comes to intervening against heretical theologians or priests, or against blasphemous performances of public worship. They either close their eyes and try, ostrich-style, to ignore the grievous abuses as well as appeals to their duty to intervene, or they fear to be attacked by the press or the mass media and defamed as reactionary, narrow-minded, or medieval. They fear men more than God.

The extent of episcopal responsibility for the accelerating decomposition of Catholicism was highlighted by Msgr. George Kelly in his latest book, The Crisis of Authority.1 Msgr. Kelly is the author of twenty-seven books, and currently Professor in Contemporary Catholic Problems and Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies at St. John's University, New York. In earlier books Msgr. Kelly had tended to place responsibility for the present crisis upon dissident theologians, but now accepts that this thesis is no longer tenable. Commenting upon Msgr. Kelly's latest book in The Homiletic and Pastoral Review, the Editor, Father Kenneth Baker, S.J., remarked:

In his Battle for the American Church Kelly has argued that the main problem of the Church in the U.S.A. was located in the dissident theologians, priests and religious. In Crisis he moves a step further and argues that the main problem now is the refusal of most bishops to be bishops, i.e., to guard the faith, rebuke those in error, to teach with the authority of Christ and, if necessary, to cut off heretics and schismatics from the body of the Church.


The ICEL Connection

Father Baker's words could be applied to Archbishop Hurley. As well as his failure to give loyal public support to Humanae Vitae, he is now chairman of ICEL, the International Commission for English in the Liturgy .The deficiencies of this translation are a primary cause of the degeneration of the liturgy in English speaking countries.

One Archbishop castigated it as "inept, puerile, semi-literate" and claimed that it has "done immeasurable harm to the entire English speaking world. " It is marked, he added, "by an almost complete lack of literary sense, a crass insensitivity to the poetry of language, and even worse by a most unscholarly freedom in the rendering of the texts, amounting at times to actual misrepresentation." These are very strong words, and they were not made by Archbishop Lefebvre, but the late Archbishop Robert J. Dwyer of Portland, Oregon - probably the most erudite bishop in the U.S.A.



Let us go even further - there is no sin more grave than sacrilege involving the Blessed Sacrament. It. certainly constitutes sacrilege to allow non-Catholics to receive Holy Communion on a totally indiscriminate basis - and yet this happens in the Archdiocese of Durban. Charismatic Masses take place at which both Catholics and Protestants receive Holy Communion. The Archbishop is aware that this has happened, and yet he has not ordered such Masses to cease - far from it, for he sometimes presides at them personally. One orthodox priest in Durban refused to give Holy Communion to a Protestant lady who reacted, with no little indignation, by informing him that she had twice received Holy Communion from Archbishop Hurley! The Archbishop might well claim that he cannot tell whether an individual presenting himself for Holy Communion is a Catholic or a Protestant. All the more reason for forbidding these ecumenical Masses where the abuse takes place.

What has been written so far is not intended as a personal attack upon Archbishop Hurley. Its purpose is to alert the reader to the fact that, contrary to the impression given by his pastoral letter, Archbishop Hurley is not a zealous defender of Catholic orthodoxy. He is not a prelate prompt to remove schism and heresy no matter where, when and from whom it emanates.


Archbishop Hurley's Pastoral Letter

Number 18lb
(Supplement to the October bulletin)

Archdiocese of Durban



(to be read at Mass on the earliest possible occasion)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

1. With a sad heart I write to you about an organization recently established in Durban. It is known as the Association of St. Pius X and consists of the followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who practice their religion independently of Church authority and in disobedience to it.

2. Unfortunately, they have priests to minister to them in contravention of the solemn promises made at their ordination, or in virtue of their ordination at the hands of Archbishop Lefebvre.

3. Archbishop Lefebvre was suspended from his priestly and episcopal functions by Pope Paul VI on 11 July 1976 and he has never been reinstated. He has disregarded that suspension and continues to celebrate the sacraments and perform other functions in flagrant disobedience to the Pope. Suspension renders the celebration of a sacrament unlawful but not invalid except in the cases mentioned later in this letter. Archbishop Lefebvre has recently resigned from the leadership of the Association of St. Pius X.

4. The rebellious attitude of Archbishop Lefebvre and the Association that he founded stems from their unwillingness to accept the Order of Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council and also other conclusions and decisions of the Council, for example' on ecumenism and religious liberty. Many members of the Association maintain that the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders celebrated according to the rites promulgated by the Pope after the Council are invalid.

5. Recently, a priest of the Association of St. Pius X, by name Father J. Brady, set himself up in Durban. He resides in Clifford Court, Park Street, Durban, and celebrates Mass and conducts other religious services both there and at 473 Musgrave Road, Durban, the home of Mr. and Mrs. T. J. LeBreton. According to the newsletter of the Association, Father Brady ministers to the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre from the Cape to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and spends one week each month in Johannesburg.

6. Disregarding the law of the Church, he has not presented himself to me, and is performing his acts of ministry in the same spirit of disobedience as Archbishop Lefebvre. His celebration of the sacraments is unlawful and therefore in itself sinful. However, the sacraments celebrated by him are valid except in the case of confession. He cannot validly absolve because this requires a special authorization from the bishop over and above priestly ordination. This authorization is also required for a priest to assist at marriages. Without it a marriage is not valid in the eyes of the Church.

7. A rebellion against the unity and authority of the Church is a very serious matter. Any Catholic who knowingly and willfully participates in services conducted by Father Brady or supports him in any way is guilty of gravely sinful conduct. This is not a matter of choice. Those who join in Father Brady's services, even if just occasionally, share in his grave disobedience.

8. These are strong words. I have made them so intentionally in order to leave no doubt in the minds of people about the Church's attitude to Archbishop Lefebvre and his Association.

9. A situation like this calls for prayer and penance that those who separate themselves from the Body of Christ may realize the harm that they are doing and the scandal that they are causing and that they may return in love and humility to full communion with the Church, the Pope and the bishops and all their brothers and sisters in the faith. In begging our heavenly Father that this may come about let us remember the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper.

"May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realize that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you loved me." (In.17: 21-23)

Associating myself and all of you in this prayer of Jesus, I remain,

Your devoted and affectionate pastor in his service,

Denis E. Hurley, O.M.I.

Denis E. Hurley, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Durban



The Arian Connection

The first and most obvious re-action of a traditional Catholic to this letter will be that it could have been an attack made upon St. Athanasius by an Arian bishop. In his opening paragraph, Archbishop Hurley condemns "the followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who practice their religion independently of Church authority and in disobedience to it. " Under normal circumstances such behavior would be condemned, and rightly so. But we are not living under normal circumstances.

 The Church is, as Pope Paul VI lamented, undergoing a process of self-destruction.2

During the Arian crisis in the fourth century almost all the bishops either espoused the heresy with enthusiasm or refrained from any active opposition through cowardice. (The English bishops behaved in exactly the same way during the reign of Henry VIII.) Commenting on the behavior of the episcopate in the year 360, St. Gregory Nazianzen remarked:

All temporized, only differing from each other in this, that some succumbed earlier, and others later; some were foremost champions and leaders in the impiety, and others joined the second rank of battle, being overcome by fear, or by interest, or by flattery, or, what was the most excusable, by their own ignorance.

The small remnant of faithful Catholics had to worship outside the churches of their diocese - practicing their religion "independently of Church authority and in disobedience to it." The Pope himself had been browbeaten into compromising with the heretics, and even into excommunicating the outstanding defender of orthodoxy, the bishop to whom the persecuted remnant looked for inspiration and guidance - St. Athanasius. The crisis grew so severe that eventually the heroic bishop had to ordain priests in the dioceses of other bishops in order to ensure that a true Catholic priesthood would survive. What the history of this period proves is that, during a time of general apostasy, Christians who remain faithful to the traditional faith may have to worship outside the official churches, the churches of priests in communion with their lawfully appointed diocesan bishop, in order not to compromise that traditional faith; and that such Christians may have to look for truly Catholic teaching, leadership, and inspiration not to the bishops of their country as a body, not to the bishops of the world, not even to the Roman Pontiff, but to one heroic confessor whom the other bishops and the Roman Pontiff might have repudiated or even excommunicated. And how would they recognize that this solitary confessor was right and the Roman Pontiff and the body of the episcopate (not teaching infallibly) were wrong?

 The answer is that they would recognize in the teaching of this confessor what the faithful of the fourth century recognized in the teaching of St. Athanaius: the one true faith into which they had been baptized, in which they had been catechized, and which their confirmation gave them the obligation of upholding. In no sense whatsoever can such fidelity to tradition be compared with the Protestant practice of private judgment. The fourth-century Catholic traditionalists upheld Athanasius in his defense of the faith that had been handed down; the Protestant uses his private judgment to justify a breach with the traditional faith.

The truth of doctrinal teaching must be judged by its conformity to Tradition and not by the number or authority of those propagating it. Falsehood cannot become truth, no matter how many accept it. Writing in 371, St. Basil lamented the fact that:

The heresy long ago disseminated by that enemy of truth. Arius grew to a shameless height and like a bitter root it is bearing its pernicious fruit and already gaining the upper hand since the standard-bearers of the true doctrine have been driven from the churches by defamation and insult and the authority they were vested with has been handed over to such as captivate the hearts of the simple in mind.

But there will never be a time when the faithful who wholeheartedly wish to remain true to the Faith of their Fathers have any doubt as to what that faith is. In the year 340 St. Athanasius wrote a letter to his brother bishops throughout the world, exhorting them to rise up and defend the faith against those he did not hesitate to stigmatize as "the evil-doers." What he wrote to them will apply until the end of time when God the Son comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead:

The Church has not just recently been given order and statutes. They were faithfully and soundly be- stowed on it by the Fathers. Nor has the faith only just been established, but it has come to us from the Lord through His disciples. May what has been preserved in the Churches from the beginning to the present day not be abandoned in our time; may what has been entrusted to our keeping not be embezzled by us. Brethren, as custodians of God's mysteries, let yourselves be roused into action on seeing all this despoiled by others.3

Is it an exaggeration to claim that we are seeing a repetition of the Arian crisis in the Church today? Here is the opinion of Bishop Graber of Regensburg, in Germany:

What happened over 1,600 years ago is repeating itself today, but with two or three differences: Alexandria is today the whole Universal Church, the stability of which is being shaken, and what was undertaken at that time by means of physical force and cruelty is now being transferred to a different level. Exile is replaced by banishment into the silence of being ignored; killing, by assassination of character.4

No prelate has suffered such assassination as Archbishop Lefebvre, simply because he has remained faithful to Tradition. He is as much a reproach to his fellow bishops as was St. Athanasius to the bishops of his time; or St. John Fisher to the compromising hierarchy during the reign of Henry VIII.


The Limits of Obedience

In his second paragraph Archbishop Hurley expresses the opinion that it is unfortunate that Catholics who are faithful to tradition have priests to minister to them. Arius could have made an identical statement, simply using the name of St. Athanasius instead of Archbishop Lefebvre. Archbishop Hurley must be well aware that when a priest promises obedience to his bishop at ordination, this is under the assumption that the bishop will be faith to Tradition. If one is going to raise the subject of oaths it might be pertinent to remind Archbishop Hurley that he once took the Anti-Modernist Oath. I wonder how well he feels he is upholding it?



In paragraphs three and four, Archbishop Hurley displays a grave disregard for truth. It is possible to be guilty of calumny and detraction, not simply by stating something, which is false, but by suppressing an important fact. Thus one might say: "Did you know that John Smith was arrested for burglary?" - causing serious damage to John Smith's reputation - while failing to point out that he had been found not guilty. No direct lie would have been told, but such a statement by a person aware of John Smith's acquittal would constitute a serious violation of the eighth commandment. The technique of character assassination by suppressing the truth is known as suppressio veri. Archbishop Hurley's pastoral letter may come to be looked upon as a classic example of this contemptible device.

What is the impression given by paragraphs three and four? It is that an Archbishop with a rebellious attitude refused to accept the New Order of Mass and other conclusions and decisions of the Council, including ecumenism and religious liberty; that he founded an " Association " consisting of people with similarly rebellious views, many of whom maintain that the new rites of Mass and ordination are invalid; that he was suspended in 1976 (presumably for these offences); has never been reinstated and that the celebration of sacraments by himself or members of his association are acts of flagrant disobedience to the Pope.


Archbishop Lefebvre - The Truth

The only effective way to answer such a travesty of the truth is to print the whole truth, something which cannot possibly be done within the scope of an article. Fortunately, those who are willing to make a serious effort to discover the truth can find all the relevant facts in my book, Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre. Volume I consists of 480 pages, taking the story of the Archbishop up to the end of 1976. Volume II. which is over 400 pages long, should be available by the time this article appears. It takes the story up to the end of 1979. Volume III is under preparation at the moment.

This work was undertaken in order to refute an attack on the Archbishop published by the so-called Catholic Truth Society in England. It was once both Catholic and truthful; it does not merit either title today. Much to my surprise, over ten thousand copies of Volume I have already been sold, and even critics hostile to the Archbishop have commended its comprehensive documentation. The book gives a very different impression of the Archbishop to that given in the pastoral letter. I will attempt to give a very brief outline of the information it contains.

Marcel Lefebvre was born in Tourcoing in northern France on 29 November 1905. His parents were exemplary Catholics - five of their eight children became priests or nuns. It is far from impossible that his mother may be canonized one day. His father worked for the French intelligence service during the First World War, undertaking dangerous missions into German-occupied territory, and organizing the escape of allied prisoners. He was arrested by the Germans when they occupied France during World War II, and died in prison - an inspiration to his fellow captives.

Marcel Lefebvre was ordained to the priesthood in 1929. He obtained doctorates in philosophy and theology. After parish work in France he left for the African missions in 1932 to begin a career, which certainly puts him among the greatest missionaries of the century. So successful was he in everything he undertook in the service of Our Lord that he was eventually appointed Apostolic Delegate for the whole of French-speaking Africa. He was one of the most important personages in the Church at the end of the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

Pope John XXIII shared his predecessor 's admiration for Archbishop Lefebvre, and appointed him to the bishopric of Tulle when he resigned as Archbishop of Dakar in favor of a native African, now Cardinal Thiandoum. This cardinal has shown great personal loyalty to Archbishop Lefebvre during his present persecution, and looks upon him as his spiritual father.

In the same year, 1962, the Archbishop was elected Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, the largest missionary order in the world. Pope John XXIII also insisted upon his becoming a member of the Central Preparatory Commission for the Second Vatican Council. During the Council the Archbishop was an active leader of the conservative bishops who did all in their power to oppose the efforts of the progressive bishops to present the teaching of the Council in a diluted or ambiguous manner.

The Council had hardly closed when the rot set in, the self-destruction of the Church, or, as Father Louis Bouyer, the French theologian, expressed it, "the decomposition of Catholicism. "

It soon became evident to Archbishop Lefebvre that many priests of his own order had become affected by tendencies which he could not tolerate. He is not a man who seeks conflict and so he retired, living in a small apartment in Rome on a very modest pension. He regretted what was taking place in the Church, but had not the least thought of rebelling, or, to be more accurate, establishing a movement concerned with upholding orthodoxy. He had declined to sign the conciliar document on religious liberty as he found in incompatible with previous papal teaching. He also declined to sign the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes).

He had every right to take this action. However, he did sign the document on ecumenism, contrary to Archbishop Hurley's allegation. Declining to sign ambiguous conciliar documents to which he had an informed objection does not constitute a "rebellious attitude. " Such an accusation is particularly inappropriate coming from a bishop who failed to make it clear to his flock that no Catholic can, in good conscience, repudiate the teaching of the Church on contraception.


The Founding of the Society of Saint Pius X

How, then, did the Society of St. Pius X originate? As I have already stated, the Archbishop made no attempt to initiate a movement to combat the resurgence of the Modernist heresy throughout the Church in the West.

A number of seminarians in Rome were very dissatisfied with the spiritual formation they were receiving. They were advised to seek out Archbishop Lefebvre and ask if he could supplement their seminary education with some spiritual direction. He was eventually induced to agree. As the weeks passed he realized that the formation they were receiving was Catholic in name only. He felt that if he was going to help them he should do so properly, and arranged for them to study at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, at the suggestion of the diocesan bishop, Mgr. Charriere, a good friend of Archbishop Lefebvre.

To his profound sadness, the Archbishop soon discovered that this university was also infected with Modernism. It became clear that the only solution to the problem was to found a new religious society to train truly Catholic priests. The name of the society was The Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (in the English-speaking provinces the term "Society" is used in preference to "Fraternity").

It was established with all the necessary canonical formalities, and was approved by the diocesan bishop and the Vatican. In 1971 a letter praising the Fraternity was received from Cardinal Wright, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who, to my certain knowledge, recommended a young American who asked his advice on a truly Catholic seminary to go to Econe where the Fraternity's first house had been established.

As the Tridentine Mass has never been formally abrogated, the Archbishop exercised his right to continue utilizing it within his Fraternity. In no sense did this constitute a "rebellious attitude. " At no time during the events preceding the decision of the Vatican to suppress the Fraternity was its use of the Tridentine Mass mentioned, nor was this mentioned in the letter ordering the suppression. If the Vatican had considered the Archbishop to be breaking any law in this matter it would not have allowed members of other religious orders to join the Society with the full approval of the Sacred Congregation for Religious (I have documentary evidence that this was done).


The Suppression of the Society of Saint Pius X

Why then was the Society suppressed? The answer is simple: because it was so successful. In France there was an 83% decline in the number of seminarians between 1963 and 1973. During this period the French bishops had totally transformed the manner in which seminarians were trained, claiming that the old methods could not attract or form priests for the end of the twentieth century. They were more than embarrassed when their new style seminaries proved to be a fiasco, while Archbishop Lefebvre's traditional seminary was becoming famous throughout the world, and, in particular, attracting scores of fine young men from France.

Briefly, the French bishops then brought pressure to bear upon Pope Paul VI to suppress the Fraternity, chiefly through the French Secretary of State to the Vatican, Cardinal Villot. Pope Paul VI was not a particularly strong pontiff, and he succumbed to this pressure. Those with even a rudimentary knowledge of Church history will know that it is far from unprecedented for a pope to react in this way.

Two representatives of the Vatican were sent to inspect Econe (something which would not have happened had it not been an official establishment). They were honest men, and, in their report, gave no grounds for closing it. Anew ploy had to be devised.


A Travesty of Justice

What I am about to relate may seem so incredible to those who know nothing of the background to the suppression of Econe that they may refuse to believe it.

Everything I am about to relate is set out in detail in my book, with full and irrefutable documentation. In 1975 the Archbishop was invited to Rome for a discussion with three cardinals concerning the Fraternity. After the discussion he was informed by letter that it had not been a discussion at all, but a trial - and that he had been found guilty, although he was not told what he had been found guilty of nor the name of the judge who had pronounced the sentence. He was told that the Fraternity was suppressed and that the seminary must be closed. Naturally, the astonished Archbishop appealed  - but his Canon Lawyer was refused leave to register the appeal. That was that!

Naturally, the Archbishop protested that this was an offense against Canon Law and Natural Justice. Furthermore, he pointed out that if he was guilty of some doctrinal deviation only the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was competent to judge him, and that it was unprecedented to order the suppression of an entire religious order simply because of some offense on the part of its superior. He stated that if he was granted a proper canonical hearing he would accept the suppression of the Society, even if he felt it to be unjustified, but until this was done he would not do so as it would be manifestly unjust to the professors and seminarians and the thousands of faithful Catholics whose sacrificial contributions had made Econe perhaps the largest and best designed modern seminary in Europe in the space of a few years.

This, then, is the reason that he "has disregarded the suspension "- and the subsequent actions taken against him by the Vatican. One may disagree with the stand he has taken, but the logic of his decision must be accepted. If he does not accept the legality of the original suppression, then, logically, he would not admit the legality of the suspension inflicted upon him for not accepting it.


Events Since the Suspension

Having been pressured into condoning the suppression of the Society of St. Pius X, Pope Paul VI appears to have taken the Archbishop's refusal to submit as a personal affront to himself. Those who read the full correspondence between the Pope and the Archbishop, which is contained in the Apologia, will, notice an unmistakable undercurrent of bad feeling. But with the accession of Pope John Paul II there was a definite change of atmosphere.

Clearly, the personal prestige of the Polish Pope was not involved, and soon after his election he had a most amicable meeting with Archbishop Lefebvre. He has never uttered one public word of criticism concerning the Archbishop or the Society. The Archbishop's case is at present being considered by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as he had originally demanded. Unfortunately, the discussions appear to be endless, and although the points of disagreement have been reduced there is no sign of an impending solution. In the meantime, the Society has expanded at an astonishing rate: there are now seminaries in Germany, the U.S.A., and Argentina as well as in Switzerland.

The number of "parishes " directed by Society priests throughout the world must be numbered in thousands, and the stream of new seminarians, brothers, and religious sisters shows no sign of abating.

Archbishop Hurley alleges that "many members of the Association " deny the validity of the new rites of Mass and Ordination. There is no " Association of St. Pius X" over which the Archbishop exercises control. Membership of the Fraternity is confined to priests, brothers and religious sisters.

The Archbishop will not tolerate those under his control denying the validity of these sacraments, or, for that matter, the fact that John Paul II is the lawfully reigning Pope. Not surprisingly, in the face of the self-destruction of the Church and widespread abuses, some traditionalists have tended to over react. When they see outrageous celebrations of Mass they sometimes concluded that the New Mass itself is invalid; when they wait, year after year, for the Pope to remove the perpetrators of the abuses, and he does not, some conclude that he cannot be truly pope. They do not, of course, admit that their reaction is emotional, but devise bizarre theological theories to justify their position.

Many of them have turned against Archbishop Lefebvre, condemning him as a traitor and Vatican agent! This is all very sad, and such people are to be pitied rather than condemned. They are victims of the post-conciliar revolution. But such a reaction is almost inevitable in view of the breakdown of authority in the Church. When such a breakdown occurs in any organization, fragmentation and polarization always occur.

Archbishop Lefebvre must be given credit for his leadership which has ensured that tens of thousands of traditional Catholics who might have gone into schism or simply lost their faith have remained in the Church. He has not hesitated to expel priests from the Society of St. Pius X if they have adopted untenable positions.


A Letter to the Pope

Archbishop Lefebvre's attitude was made very clear in a letter to the Sovereign Pontiff dated 8 March 1980. It reads as follows:


Most Holy Father,

To put an end to some rumors which are now spreading both in Rome and certain traditionalist circles in Europe, and even in America, concerning my attitude and my way of thinking with respect to the Pope, the Council, and the Novus Ordo Mass, and fearing lest these rumors should reach Your Holiness, I may make so bold as to reaffirm my consistent position.

1. I have no reservation whatsoever concerning the legitimacy and validity of your election, and consequently I cannot tolerate there not being addressed to God the prayers prescribed by Holy Church for Your Holiness. I have already had to act with severity, and continue to do so, with regard to some seminarians and priests who have allowed themselves to be influenced by certain clerics who do not belong to the Society.

2. I am fully in agreement with the judgment that Your Holiness gave on the Second Vatican Council, on 6 November 1978, at a meeting of the Sacred College: "that the Council must be understood in the light of the whole of holy Tradition, and on the basis of the unvarying Magisterium of Holy Mother Church.

3. As for the Novus Ordo Mass, despite the reservations, which must be shown in its respect, I have never affirmed that it is in itself invalid or heretical.

I would be grateful to God and to Your Holiness if these clear declarations could hasten the free use of the traditional liturgy, and the recognition of the Society of St. Pius X by the Church, and likewise of all those who, subscribing to these declarations, have striven to save the Church by perpetuating its Tradition.

I beg Your Holiness to accept my profound and filial respect in Christo et Maria.

+ Marcel Lefebvre



The Association of St. Pius X to which Archbishop Hurley refers does not come under the Archbishop's control. If some of its members hold untenable positions it is most unjust of Archbishop Hurley to give the impression that this is with the approval of Archbishop Lefebvre. It is hard to imagine why individuals holding opinions, which the Archbishop has condemned, would wish to belong to an Association which supports his work.


God Bless Father Brady!

Regarding paragraph five, Fr. Brady is an English priest of very high repute and in good standing. It would have been pointless for him to appeal to Archbishop Hurley for faculties to minister to traditional Catholics, as it would have been for St. Athanasius to make a similar appeal to an Arian bishop. The point at issue is this: the Catholic faithful have the right to lead a Catholic life nourished by Mass and by sacraments which raise their minds and hearts to God rather than alienate them from the Church. It is a fact that there are Catholics in Archbishop Hurley's diocese who experience such an alienation. God bless Father Brady for coming to minister to their needs when their own shepherd has treated them with such unpastoral indifference.


Valid Sacraments

As regards paragraph six, Archbishop Hurley is in error in his claim that confessions heard by priests of the Society are invalid. The Homiletic and Pastoral Review is the leading journal for priests in the English-speaking world. It carries an authoritative question and answer column each month on matters of pastoral concern, the answers being provided by Father Joseph Farraher, S.J., a professor of moral and pastoral theology for twenty-five years and a contributor to the New Catholic Encyclopedia. In the October 1983 issue Father Farraher dealt with the question of absolution given by priests of the Society of St. Pius X. He stated that the supreme authority of the Church supplies jurisdiction to these priests so that those who approach them in good faith will not suffer lack of valid absolution. He cites the 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 209, and the new Code, canon 144, in support of this opinion.

Where the question of marriages arises, it is the teaching of the Church that where an authorized priest is not available to witness a marriage, the presence of two witnesses is adequate for validity. I have consulted a learned priest on this point, and he gave as his opinion that the absence of an authorized priest need not only be physical; for some Catholics, to be married in the new rite with a New Mass could be a moral impossibility, something they would find so offensive that they simply could not be expected to submit to it. In such a case there seems no reason to suppose that their marriage before a priest of the Society could be anything but valid.


A Plea for Consistency

A regards paragraphs seven, eight and nine, there is little that needs to be said. If Archbishop Hurley, or any of the other bishops who delight in attacking Archbishop Lefebvre, were seen to uphold the entire doctrinal and moral teaching of the Church, and its current liturgical discipline, in an equally forthright manner, their denigration of this great and heroic defender of tradition would have a little more credibility.

They would also be more deserving of a hearing if they behaved a little more like shepherds rather than tyrants, and showed the same compassion to Catholics whose spiritual lives have been devastated by the post-conciliar revolution that they extend to those who defy the authoritative and probably infallible moral teaching of the Popes.

In recent months Pope John Paul II has reiterated the traditional teaching that contraception is intrinsically evil and can never be resorted to by a Catholic in good conscience. Let Archbishop Hurly repeat this teaching with his unqualified and unambiguous support, then perhaps traditional Catholics might be willing to regard his condemnation of them with some seriousness.



Finally, we must all remember to pray for Archbishop Hurley and Archbishop Lefebvre. Both prelates need our prayers for differing reasons. We should pray in particular that Pope John Paul II will be given the grace and courage necessary to incur the great and widespread hostility by restoring normal relations between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X. The Pope and the Archbishop can then work together to restore the traditional faith. Let there be no mistake, it is the Archbishop's loyalty to tradition, and this alone, which prompted him to found his Fraternity, and to undergo the agony of being censured by the Holy See rather than allow it to be dissolved without good reason. Such a decision was not an easy one for a bishop whose entire priestly life has been marked by outstanding loyalty to the reigning Pope. Let the Archbishop state the principles which animate him in his own words:

We are not rebels, we are not schismatics, we are not heretics. We resist. We resist this wave of Modernism which has invaded the Church, this wave of laicism, of progressivism, which has invaded the Church in a wholly unwarranted and unjust manner, and which has tried to erase in the Church all that was sacred in it, all that was supernatural and divine, in order to reduce it to the dimension of man. So we resist and we will resist, not in a spirit of rebellion, but in the spirit of fidelity to the Church, the spirit of fidelity to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of fidelity to all who have taught us our holy religion, the spirit of fidelity to all the Popes who have maintained Tradition. That is why we have decided simply to keep going, to persevere in Tradition, to persevere in that which has sanctified the saints who are in heaven. Doing so, we are persuaded that we are rendering a great service to the Church, to all the faithful who wish to keep the Faith, all the faithful who wish to receive truly the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.



of all the faithful, look down favorably upon Thy
Servant, John Paul II, whom Thou hast been pleased to
appoint pastor over Thy Church. Grant, we beseech
Thee that he may benefit both by word and example
those over whom he is set, and thus attain unto eternal
life, together with the flock committed to his care.

1. Available from The Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 86 Riverside Drive, New York, New York 10024.

2. L'Osservatore Romano, 8 December 1968.

3. A detailed and documented account of the Arian heresy will be found in Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, Vol. I, Appendix I.

4. Athanasisus and the Church of Our Times, page 23

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

Vol. VII, No.4, July 1984

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