Open Letter to Confused Catholics
His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
Religous Liberty, Collegial Equality, Ecumenical Fraternity
How does it happen that the gates
of hell are now causing us so much trouble? The Church has always
been disturbed by persecution and heresies, by conflicts with
temporal powers, sometimes by immoral conduct of the clergy, sometimes
even of popes. But this time the crisis seems to go much deeper,
since it affects the Faith itself. The Modernism we face is not
a heresy like the others: it is the main drain of all heresies.
Persecution now comes not only from outside but from within the
Church. The scandal of dissolute living, or just giving up, has
become endemic among the clergy, while the mercenaries who abandon
the sheep to the wolves are encouraged and honored. I
am sometimes accused of painting too black a picture of the situation,
of viewing it too disapprovingly, of taking pleasure at being
disgruntled over changes which are perfectly logical and necessary.
Yet the same Pope who was the heart and soul of Vatican II commented
several times on the decomposition on which I have commented so
sadly. On December 7, 1969 Paul VI said, “The Church finds herself
in a period of anxiety, of self-criticism, one could say of self-destruction.
It is like an internal upheaval, serious and complex--as if the
Church were flagellating herself.”
The following year he added, “In many
areas the Council has not so far given us peace but rather stirred
up troubles and problems that in no way serve to strengthen the
the Kingdom of God within the Church or within its souls.” Then,
going on to raise a cry of alarm, on June 29, 1972 (Feast of St.
Peter and St. Paul), “The smoke of Satan has entered by some crack
into the temple of God; doubt, uncertainty, problems, restlessness,
dissatisfaction and confrontation have come to the surface... doubt
has entered our consciences.”
Where is the crack? We can pinpoint
the time with precision. It was 1789, and its name, the Revolution.
The Masonic and anti-Catholic principles of the French Revolution
have taken two hundred years to enter tonsured and mitred heads.
Today this is an accomplished fact. Such is the reality and the
cause of your perplexities, my confused Catholic readers. The facts
had to be before our eyes for us to believe them, because we thought
a priori that an undertaking of this sort was impossible and incompatible
with the very nature of the Church, assisted as it is by the Spirit
In a well known article written in
1877, Bishop Gaume gave us a personification of the Revolution.
“I am not what you think I am. Many speak of me but few know me.
I am not Freemasonry, nor rioting, nor the changing of the monarchy
into a republic, not the substitution of one dynasty for another,
not temporary disturbance of public order. I am not the shouts of
Jacobins, nor the fury of the Montagne, nor the fighting on the
barricades, nor pillage, nor arson, nor the agricultural law, nor
the guillotine, nor the drownings. I am neither Marat nor Robespierre,
nor Babeuf nor Mazzini nor Kossuth. These men are my sons but they
are not me. These things are my works but they are not me. These
men and these things are passing objects but I am a permanent state...
I am the hatred of all order not established by man and in which
he himself is not both king and god.”
Here is the key to the “changes” in
the Church; replacing a divine institution with one set up by man,
in which man takes precedence over God. Man ruling over everything,
everything having its beginning and its ending in him; to him we
Paul VI described this turnabout in
his speech at the end of the Council: “Profane and secular humanism
has shown itself in its own terrible stature and has in a sense
defied the Council. The religion of God made Man has come up against
the religion of man who makes himself God.” He immediately added
that in spite of this terrible challenge, there has been no clash,
no anathema. Alas! By making a display of a “boundless sympathy
for all men” the Council failed in its duty to point out clearly
that no compromise is possible between the two attitudes. Even the
closing speech seemed to give an impetus to what we are seeing put
into daily practice. “You can be grateful to it (the Council) for
this merit at least, you modern humanists who deny the transcendence
of the supreme things, and learn to recognize our new humanism:
we too, we more than anyone else, subscribe to the cult of man.”
Afterwards we heard coming from the
same lips statements developing this theme. “Men are basically good
and incline towards reason, towards order and the common good” (Peace
Day Message, November 14, 1970). “Both Christianity and democracy
have a basic principle in common; respect for the dignity and for
the value of the human person... the advancement of the complete
man” (Manila, November 20, 1970). How can we not be dismayed by
this comparison when democracy, which is a specifically secular
system, ignores in man his characteristic as a redeemed child of
God, the only quality which grants him dignity? The advancement
of man is certainly not the same thing when seen by a Christian
and by an unbeliever.
The pontifical message becomes more
secularized on each occasion. At Sydney on December 3, 1970, we
were startled to hear, “Isolation is no longer permissible; the
time has come for a great solidarity amongst mankind and the establishment
of a worldwide united and brotherly community.” Peace amongst all
men, certainly, but Catholics are no longer acknowledging the words
of Christ, “My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, give
I unto you.” The bond which unites earth to heaven seems to be broken.
“Ah well, we live in a democracy! That means the people are in charge;
power comes from numbers, from the people” (Paul VI, January 1,
1970). Jesus said to Pilate, “You would have no power over me if
it had not been given to you from above.” Power comes from God and
not from numbers, even if the choice of the leader has been made
by an elective process. Pilate was the representative of a pagan
nation and yet he could do nothing without the permission of the
And now we have democracy entering
into the Church. The new Canon Law teaches that power resides in
the “People of God.” This tendency towards bringing what they call
the base into sharing the exercise of power can be found all through
present structures-synod, episcopal conferences, priests’ councils,
pastoral councils, Roman commissions, national commissions, etc.;
and there are equiva- lents in the religious orders.
This democratization of the Magisterium
represents a mortal danger for millions of bewildered and infected
souls to whom the spiritual doctors bring no relief because it has
ruined the efficacy with which the personal Magisterium of the Pope
and bishops was formerly endowed. A question concerning faith or
morals is submitted to numerous theological commissions, who never
come up with an answer because their members are divided both in
their opinions and in their methods. We need only read the procedural
accounts of the assemblies at all levels to realize that collegiality
of the Magisterium is equivalent to paralysis of the magisterium.
Our Lord instructed individuals, not
a collectivity, to tend His sheep. The Apostles obeyed Our Lord's
orders, and until the twentieth century it was thus. These days
we hear of the Church being in a state of permanent council, continual
collegiality. The results have become apparent. Everything is upside
down, the faithfull no longer know which way to turn.
The democratization of government was
followed quite naturally by the democratization of the Magisterium
which took place under the impulse of the famous slogan “collegiality,”
spread abroad by the communist, Protestant and progressive press.
They have collegialized the pope's
government and that of the bishops with a presbyterial college,
that of the parish priest with a lay council, the whole broken down
into innumerable commissions, councils, sessions, etc. The new Code
of Canon Law is completely permeated with this concept. The pope
is described as the head of the College of Bishops. We find this
doctrine already suggested in the Council document Lumen Gentium,
according to which the College of Bishops, together with the pope,
exercises supreme power in the Church in habitual and constant manner.
This is not a change for the better; this doctrine of double supremacy
is contrary to the teaching and Magisterium of the Church. It is
contrary to the definitions of Vatican Council I and to Pope Leo
XIII's encyclical Satis Cognitum. The Pope alone has supreme
power; he communicates it only to the degree he considers advisable,
and only in exceptional circumstances. The pope alone has power
of jurisdiction over the whole world.
We are witnessing therefore a restriction
on the freedom of the Supreme Pontiff. Yes, this is a real revolution!
The facts demonstrate that what we have here is not a change without
practical consequences. John Paul II is the first pope to be really
affected by the reform. We can quote several precise instances where
he has reconsidered a decision under pressure from a bishops’ conference.
The Dutch Catechism received the imprimatur from the Archbishop
of Milan without the modifications requested by the Commission of
Cardinals. It was the same with the Canadian Catechism. In that
connection I heard someone in authority in Rome say, “What can we
do when faced with a bishops’ conference?” The independence assumed
by the conferences has also been illustrated in France with regard
to the catechisms. The new books are contrary in almost every respect
to the Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae. The ad
limina visit by the bishops of the Paris area in 1982 consisted
in their getting the Pope to ratify a catechism which he openly
disapproved. The allocution delivered by John Paul II at the end
of the visit had all the signs of a compromise, thanks to which
the bishops were able to return in triumph to their own country
and continue with their pernicious practices. Cardinal Ratzinger's
lectures in Paris and Lyons indicate clearly that Rome has not endorsed
the reasons given by the French bishops for installing a new doctrine
and orientation, but the Holy See has been reduced by this kind
of pressure to proceeding by suggestions and advice, instead of
issuing the orders needed to put things on the right track, and
when necessary to condemn, as the popes have hitherto always done,
as guardians of the deposit of faith.
The bishops, whose authority would
thereby seem to be increased, are the victims of a collegiality
which paralyzes the running of their dioceses. So many complaints
are made on this subject by the bishops themselves, complaints which
are very instructive! In theory the bishop can in a number of cases
act against the wishes of the assembly. Sometimes even against the
majority, if the voting has not been submitted to the Holy See for
approval; but in practice this has proved impossible. Immediately
after the end of the meeting its decisions are published by the
secretary. They are thus known to all priests and faithful; the
news media divulge all the essentials. What bishop could in fact
oppose these decisions without showing his disagreement with the
assembly and then immediately finding himself confronted with a
number of revolutionary spirits who would appeal against him to
The bishop has become the prisoner
of collegiality, which should have been limited to a consultative
group, not a decision-making body. Even for the simplest things
he is no longer master of his own house.
Soon after the Council, while I was
on a visitation of our communities, the bishop of a diocese in Brazil
came very obligingly to meet me at the railway station. “I can't
put you up at the bishop's house,” he said, “but I have had a room
prepared for you at the minor seminary.” He took me there himself;
the place was in an uproar--young men and girls everywhere, in the
corridors and on the stairs. “These young men, are they seminarians?”
I asked. “Alas, no. Believe me, I am not at all happy at having
these young people at my seminary, but the Bishops' Conference has
decided that we must from now on hold Catholic Action meetings in
our houses. These you see are here for a week. What can I do?
I can only do the same as the others.”
The powers conferred upon persons by
divine right, whether pope or bishops, have been confiscated for
the benefit of a group whose ascendency continues to grow. Bishops’
conferences, some will say, are not a recent thing. Pius X gave
them his approval at the beginning of this century. That is correct,
but that holy pope gave them a definition which justified them.
“We are persuaded that these bishops’ assemblies are of the greatest
importance for the maintenance and development of God’s kingdom
in all regions and all provinces. Whenever the bishops, the guardians
of holy things, thereby bring their lights together, the result
is that not only do they better perceive their people's needs and
choose the most suitable remedies, but they thereby also tighten
the bonds uniting them.”
Consequently, they were bodies that
did not make decisions binding on their members in an authoritarian
manner, any more than do congresses of scientists decide the way
in which experiments must be carried out in this or that laboratory.
The bishops’ conference, however, now
works like a parliament; the permanent council of the French episcopate
is its executive body. The bishop is more like a prefect or a commissioner
of the Republic (to use the fashionable terminology) than a successor
of the Apostles charged by the pope to govern a diocese.
In these assemblies they vote; the
ballots are so numerous that at Lourdes they have had to install
an electronic voting system. This results inevitably in the creation
of parties. The two things do not happen one without the other.
Parties mean divisions. When the regular government is subjected
to the consultative vote in its normal functioning, then it is rendered
ineffective. Consequently the whole body suffers.
The introduction of collegiality has
led to a considerable weakening in efficacy, in that the Holy Ghost
is more easily impeded and saddened by an assembly than by an individual.
When persons are responsible, they act, they speak, even if some
say nothing. At meetings, it is the majority who decide. Yet numbers
do not make for the truth. Nor do they make for efficiency, as we
have learnt after twenty years of collegiality and as we might have
presupposed without making the experiment. The fable-writer spoke
long ago of the “many chapters which have been held for nothing.”
Was it necessary to copy the political systems in which decisions
are justified by voting (since they no longer have sovereign heads)?
The Church possesses the immense advantage of knowing what she must
do to further the Kingdom of God. Her leaders are appointed. So
much time is wasted in elaborate joint statements, which are never
satisfactory, because they have to take everyone’s opinion into
account! So much travelling to take part in commissions and sub-commissions,
in select committees and preparatory meetings! Bishop Etchegaray
said at Lourdes at the close of the 1978 Assembly, “We no longer
know which way to turn.”
The result is that the Church’s powers
of resistance to Communism, heresy, immorality, have been considerably
weakened. This is what its opponents have been hoping for and that
is why they made such efforts, at the time of the Council and after
it, to urge her into the ways of democracy.
If we look carefully, it is by means
of its slogan that the Revolution has penetrated the Church. “Liberty”--this
is the religious liberty we spoke of earlier, which confers rights
on error. “Equality”--collegiality and the destruction of personal
authority, the authority of God, of the pope, of the bishops; in
a word, majority rule. Finally, “Fraternity” is represented by ecumenism.
By these three words, the revolutionary
ideology of 1789 has become the Law and the Prophets. The Modernists
have achieved what they wanted.