An Open Letter to Confused Catholics

His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre


13. 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 of God.

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 bow down.

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 Heavenly Father.

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 assembly?

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.


To Chapter 12

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