You are perhaps, perplexed readers,
among those who observe the course of events with sadness and
anguish but are nevertheless afraid to attend a true Mass, in
spite of the desire to do so, because they have been persuaded
that this Mass is forbidden. You may be one of those who no longer
follow the priests in anoraks but who view with some distrust
the priests in cassocks as if they were under some kind of censure;
is not the bishop who ordained them suspended a divinis?
You are afraid of putting yourself out of the Church; this fear
is of praiseworthy origin but it is uninformed. I want to tell
you what the position is about these sanctions which have been
given such prominence and caused such loud rejoicing among the
Freemasons and the Marxists. To understand it properly a little
history is needed.
When I was sent to Gabon as a missionary,
my bishop immediately appointed me as Professor at the Seminary
of Libreville, where for six years I formed seminarians, of whom
some later received the grace of the episcopate. When I became
a bishop in my turn, at Dakar, it seemed to me that my principal
concern should be to look for vocations, to form the young men
who responded to the call of God and to lead them to the priesthood.
I had the joy of conferring the priesthood on one destined to
be my successor at Dakar, Mgr. Thiandoum, and on Mgr. Dionne,
the present Archbishop of Thiès in Senegal.
Returning to Europe to take up the
position of Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, I tried
to maintain the essential values of priestly formation. I have
to admit that already by then at the beginning of the Sixties,
the pressure was such and the difficulties so considerable that
I could not achieve the results I wanted. I could not keep the
French Seminary in Rome, which was placed under the authority
of our Congregation, on the same right lines as when we were there
ourselves between 1920 and 1930. I resigned in 1968 in order not
to endorse the reform undertaken by the General Chapter in a direction
contrary to Catholic tradition. Already before that date I was
getting numerous calls from families and from priests asking me
where to send young men desiring to enter the priesthood. I admit
that I was very hesitant. Freed from my responsibilities, and
at a time when I was thinking of retirement, my mind turned to
the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, still orientated toward
Thomist doctrine. The Bishop, Mgr. Charrière, received me with
open arms. I rented a house and we received nine seminarians who
followed the University course and the rest of the time led the
life of a real seminary. They very soon showed the desire to work
together in the future and, after thinking it over, I went to
ask Mgr. Charrière if he would agree to sign a decree for the
foundation of a “Fraternity.” He approved its statutes and thus
was born on November 1, 1970 the “Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius
X.” We were canonically instituted in the Diocese of Fribourg.
These details are important as you
will see. A bishop has the right, canonically, to establish in
his diocese associations which Rome recognizes ipso facto.
It follows from this that if a succeeding bishop wishes to suppress
an association or fraternity, he cannot do so without recourse
to Rome. The authority of Rome protects what the first bishop
has created so that associations are not subjected to an insecurity
harmful to their development. This is how it is willed by the
Law of the Church.16
The Priestly Society of St. Pius
X is consequently recognized by Rome in a perfectly legal manner,
although this is by diocesan and not by pontifical decree, the
latter not being absolutely necessary. There exist hundreds of
religious congregations founded on diocesan decrees which have
houses throughout the world.
When the Church recognizes a foundation
or diocesan association, she accepts that it will train its own
members; if it is a religious congregation she accepts that there
will be a noviciate or house of formation. For us, this means
our seminaries. On February 18, 1971, Cardinal Wright, Prefect
of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, sent me a letter of
encouragement in which he expressed confidence that the Fraternity
“would be well able to fit in with the objective sought by the
Council in this holy Dicastery with a view to supplying clergy
for the world.” However, in November 1972 at the Plenary Assembly
of the French bishops at Lourdes, it was called a “rebel seminary”17
without protest from any bishops present, although they must certainly
have known the juridical situation of the Ecône seminary.
Why did they consider us rebels?
Because we did not give the key of the house to seminarians to
go out in the evenings when they felt like it, because we did
not let them watch television from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., because
they did not wear polo-necks and went to Mass every morning instead
of staying in bed until the first lecture.
On the other hand Cardinal Garrone,18
whom I met at that time, said to me: “You are not directly answerable
to me and I have only one thing to say to you; follow the ratio
fundamentalis that I have laid down for the foundation of seminaries,
which all seminaries must follow.” The ratio fundamentalis
provides that Latin should still be taught in a seminary and that
the studies should be pursued according to the doctrine of St.
Thomas. I allowed myself to reply: “Your Eminence, I believe we
are one of the few who do follow it.” This is even more true today
and the ratio fundamentalis is still in force. So what
are they reproaching us with?
When it became necessary to open
a real seminary and I had rented the house at Ecône, a former
rest house of the Great St. Bernard monks, I went to see Mgr.
Adam, Bishop of Sion, who gave me his consent. This establishment
was not the result of a long thought-out plan that I had made,
it thrust itself upon me providentially. I had said: “If the
work expands world-wide, that will be the sign that God is with
it.” From year to year the number of seminarians increased; in
1970 there were eleven entrants and in 1974, forty. The innovators
became increasingly worried. It was obvious that if we were training
seminarians it was to ordain them, and that the future priests
would be faithful to the Mass of the Church, the Mass of Tradition,
the Mass of all time. There is no need to look any further for
reasons for the attacks on us; one would not find any others.
Ecône appeared as a danger for the Neo-modernist church and it
was important to guard against it before it was too late.
So it was on November 11, 1974 there
arrived at the seminary with the first snows two Apostolic Visitors
sent by a commission appointed by Paul VI and consisting of three
Cardinals, Garrone, Wright and Tabera, this last being Prefect
of the Sacred Congregation for Religious. They (the Apostolic
Visitors) questioned ten professors and twenty of the 104 students
present, as well as myself, and departed two days later leaving
a disagreeable impression behind them. They had made some scandalous
remarks to the seminarians, considering the ordination of married
men to be normal, declaring that they did not acknowledge an immutable
Truth and expressed doubts about the traditional conception of
Our Lord’s Resurrection. Of the seminary they said nothing and
they left no formal statement. After which, angry at the remarks
they had made, I published a declaration which began with these
“We adhere with all our heart and all our
soul to Catholic Rome, guardian of the Catholic Faith and
the traditions necessary to maintain it, and to Eternal
Rome, mistress of wisdom and truth. On the other hand we
refuse and have always refused to follow the Rome of the
neo-Modernist and the new Protestant trend which was clearly
evident in the Second Vatican Council and, after the Council
in all the reforms which flowed from it.”
The words were no doubt rather sharp
but they expressed and still express my thinking. It was on account
of this text that the Commission of Cardinals decided to bring
about our downfall, because they could not do so on account of
the way the seminary was run. The Cardinals were to tell me two
months later that the Apostolic Visitors had gained a good impression
from their inquiry.
On the following February 13, I was
invited (by the Commission) to a “discussion” in Rome to clarify
certain points and I went there without suspecting that it was
a trap. The discussion turned itself from the start into a close
cross-examination of a judicial type. It was followed by a second
on the 3rd March and two months later the Commission
informed me, “with the complete approval of His Holiness,” of
the decisions it had taken: Mgr. Mamie, the new Bishop of Fribourg,
was acknowledged to have the right to withdraw the approval given
to the Fraternity by his predecessor. Thereby the Fraternity
and also the foundations, notably the Seminary of Ecône, lost
the “right to exist.”
Without waiting for notification
of these decisions, Mgr. Mamie wrote to me: “I hereby inform you
that I withdraw the acts and concessions effected by my predecessor
with regard to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Plus X, in particular
the decree of foundation dated November 1, 1970. This decision
takes effect immediately.”
If you have followed me closely,
you will be able to see that this suppression was made by the
Bishop of Fribourg and not by the Holy See. By virtue of Canon
493, it is therefore completely void in law for lack of competence.
Added to that there is a lack of sufficient cause. The decision
can only be based on my declaration of November 21, 1974, judged
by the Commission to be “unacceptable on all points,” because
of the Commission’s own admission the results of the Apostolic
Visitation were favorable. Yet my declaration has never been
the subject of a condemnation by the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith (the former Holy Office) which alone is competent
to judge whether it is opposed to the Catholic Faith. It has only
been deemed “unacceptable on all points” by three cardinals in
the course of what remains officially a discussion.
The juridical existence of the Commission
itself has never been proved. By what pontifical act was it instituted?
On what date? What form did it take? Who was notified of it? The
fact that the Roman authorities refuse to produce any such act
permits us to doubt its existence. If there is doubt about its
validity a law is not binding, says the Code of Canon Law. Even
less so when there is doubt about the competence or even the existence
of the authority. The words “with the complete approval of His
Holiness” are not legally sufficient; they cannot take the place
of the decree which should have constituted the Commission of
Cardinals and defined its powers.
There are procedural irregularities
which render the suppression of the Fraternity a nullity. Nor
must we forget that the Church is not a totalitarian society of
the Nazi or Marxist type, and that the law even when it is properly
observed--which was not the case in this instance is not an absolute.
It has to be related to faith, truth and life. Canon Law is designed
to make us live spiritually and thus to lead us to Eternal Life.
If this law is used to prevent us from attaining it, or as it
were to abort our spiritual life, we are obliged to disobey exactly
in the same way that citizens are obliged to disobey the abortion
laws of the State.
To return to the juridical aspect,
I entered two successive appeals before the Apostolic Signatura,
which is more or less the equivalent of a court of appeal in civil
law. The Cardinal Secretary of State, Mgr. Villot, forbade this
supreme tribunal of the Church to entertain them, which amounts
to an interference by the executive in the judiciary.
In French, “Séminaire sauvage”--ed.
Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.