An Open Letter to Confused Catholics

His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre


8. The New Catechisms

Among Catholics, I have often heard, and continue to hear the remark, “They want to impose a new religion on us.” Is this an exaggeration? The modernists, who have infiltrated themselves everywhere in the Church and lead the dance, sought at first to reassure us: “Oh no, you have got the impression because old obsolete ways have been changed, for compelling reasons: we cannot pray now exactly as people used to pray,  we have had to sweep away the dust,  adopt a language that can be understood by our contemporaries and open ourselves up to our separated brethren... but nothing is changed, of course.

Then they began to take fewer precautions, and the bolder ones among them began to make admissions, in little groups of like-minded people and even publicly.  One Father Cardonnel went round preaching a new Christianity in which “that precious transcendence that makes God into a Universal Monarch” would be challenged.  He openly adopted Loisy's modernism: “If you were born into a Christian family, the catechisms you learnt are mere skeletons of the faith.” And, “Our Christianity would seem to be neo-Capitalist at best.” And Cardinal Suenens, after reconstructing the Church to his own liking, called for “an opening up to the widest theological pluralism” and for the setting up of a hierarchy of truths, with some that must be strongly believed, others that must be believed a little, and others of no importance.

In 1973, on the premises of the Archbishop's house at Paris,  Fr. Bernard Feillet gave a course of lectures of a thoroughly official kind, under the banner of “Adult Christian Formation.” In it he repeatedly affirmed, “Christ did not conquer death. He was put to death by death.  On the level of life, Christ was conquered, and we shall all be conquered: the fact is that faith is not justified by anything; it must be a cry of protest against the universe which ends, as we said just now, in the perception of absurdity, in the consciousness of damnation, and in the reality of nothingness.”

I could quote an impressive number of cases of this  kind, which caused various degrees of scandal and were repudiated more or less --some of them not at all.  But it passed over the heads of the Catholic people as a whole.  If they learnt of these things in the newspapers they thought of them as abuses that were exceptional and did not affect their own faith. But they began to be worried when they  found in their children's hands catechisms which no longer set out Catholic doctrine as it had been taught from time immemorial.

All the new catechisms that draw their inspiration to a greater or lesser degree from the Dutch Catechism published in 1966 were so spurious that the Pope appointed a commission of cardinals to examine it.  They met in April 1967 at Gazzada in Lombardy. Now this commission raised ten points regarding which it advised the Holy See to demand modifications. It was a way of saying, in conformity with the post-conciliar style, that on these points there was disagreement with the teaching of the Church. A few years earlier they would have been forthrighty condemned and the Dutch Catechism put on the Index.  The errors or omissions concerned did, in fact, touch upon essentials of the faith.

What do we find in it? The Dutch Catechism ignores the angels, and does not treat human souls as being directly created by God. It insinuates that original sin was not transmitted by our first parents to all their descendants but is contracted by men through their living in the human community, where evil reigns, as though it were a sort of epidemic. There is no affirmation of the virginity of Mary.  Nor does it say that Our Lord died for our sins, being sent for this purpose by His Father, and that this was the price by which divine Grace was restored to us. Consequently, the Mass is presented not as a sacrifice but as a banquet. Neither the Real Presence or the reality of Transubstantiation are clearly affirmed.

The Church's infallibility and the fact that she is the possessor of the truth have vanished from this teaching, likewise the possibility for the human intellect to “declare and attain to revealed mysteries”: thereby one arrives at agnosticism and relativism. The ministerial priesthood is minimized. The office of the bishops is considered as a mandate entrusted to them by the “people of God,” and their teaching authority is seen as a sanctioning of the belief held by the community of the faithful. And the Pope no longer has his full, supreme and universal authority.

Neither is the Holy Trinity, the mystery of the three divine Persons, presented in a satisfactory manner. The commission also criticized the explanation given of the efficacity of the sacraments, of the definition of a miracle, and of the fate of the souls of the just after death.  It found a great deal of vagueness in the exposition of the laws of morality, and the “solutions to cases of conscience” put a low price on the indissolubility of marriage.

Even if all the rest of the book is “good and praise-worthy”--which is not surprising, since Modernists, as St. Pius X firmly pointed out, have always mixed truth and falsehood together--nevertheless, we have seen enough to be able to describe it as a perverse production particularly dangerous to faith. Yet without waiting for the commission's report, on the contrary going full tilt ahead, the promoters of the operation had the book published in several languages. And the text has never since been altered. Sometimes the commission's statement is annexed to the list of contents, sometimes not.  I shall refer later on to the problem of obedience.  Who is being disobedient in this affair? And who denounces this “catechism”?

The Dutch set the pace.  We have quickly caught them up. I shall not relate the history of the French catechism, but will pause to consider its latest manifestation, the “Catholic collection of key documents of the Faith” entitled Pierres Vivantes (Living Stones), and the accompanying flood of “catechetical studies.” These works ought, out of respect for the word “catechesis” used in all of them, to proceed on a question-and-answer method. However, they have abandoned this form, which allowed the content of the faith to be studied systematically, and they hardly ever give answers. Pierres Vivantes avoids affirming anything, except new and unusual propositions that have nothing to do with Tradition.

When dogmas are mentioned, they are spoken of as the particular beliefs of a section of mankind which this book calls “the Christians,” putting them on a level with the Jews, the Protestants, the Buddhists, and even the agnostics and atheists.  In several courses the catechists are invited to ask the child to choose a religion, no matter which. It will also be for his good to listen to unbelievers, who have much to teach him.  What matters is to “belong to the team,” to help one another as classmates and to prepare for the social struggles of tomorrow in which one will have to take part, even alongside communists, as is seen in the edifying story of Madeleine Delbrel.  Her story is sketched in Pierres Vivantes and told at length in other courses.  Another “saint” put forward as an example to children is Martin Luther King, while Marx and Proudhon are vaunted as “great defenders of the working class” who “appear to come from outside the Church.” The Church, you see, would have liked to have taken up this fight, but did not know how to set about it. She contented herself with “denouncing injustice.” This is what children are being taught.

But still more serious is the discredit that is being cast upon the Scriptures, the work of the Holy Ghost. Whereas one would have expected to see the selection of Biblical texts begin with the creation of the world and of man, Pierres Vivantes begins with the book of Exodus, under the title of “God creates His people.” Catholics must surely be not only confused but disconcerted and disgusted by such a misuse of words.

We have to arrive at the First Book of Samuel before returning to Genesis to learn that God did not create the world. I am not inventing anything here, either.  We read: “the author of the story of creation, like many people, is wondering how the world began. Believers have given thought to it.  One of them wrote a poem...”  Then, at the court of Solomon, other wise men reflected on the problem of evil.  To explain it they wrote a “picture-story,” and we have the temptation by the serpent and the fall of Adam and Eve.  But not the chastisement.  The story is cut at that point. God does not punish, just as the Church no longer condemns, except those who stay faithful to Tradition. Orignal sin (printed between quotation marks) is “an illness from birth,” “an infirmity going back to the origins of humanity,” something very vague and inexplicable.

Of course, the whole of religion crumbles. If we can no longer give an explanation of the problem of evil, there is no further point in preaching, saying Mass or hearing confessions.  Who will listen to us?

The New Testament opens with Pentecost.  The emphasis is laid on that first community uttering its cry of faith. Next, these Christians “remember,” and the story of Our Lord emerges little by little from the clouds of their memory, beginning with the end: the Last Supper, or Calvary.  Then comes the public life, and finally the infancy under the ambiguous heading “The first disciples tell the story of Jesus' childhood.”

On such foundations these courses have no difficulty in giving the impression that the Gospel accounts of the infancy of Christ are pious legends of the sort that ancient peoples were accustomed to invent when they recorded the lives of their great men. Pierres Vivantes also gives a late dating of the Gospels which diminishes their credibility and tendentiously portrays the Apostles and their successors as preaching, celebrating the Mysteries and teaching before “presenting their own reading of the life of Jesus on the basis of their experience.” The facts are turned upside down: the Apostles' personal experience becomes the origin of revelation shaping their thoughts and their lives.

When it comes to the “four last things,” Pierres Vivantes  is confusing and disquieting. What is the soul? Reply: “We need breath if we are to run; when someone dies, we say ‘he has breathed his last.’ The breath is the life, the intimate  life of a person.  We also say, ‘the soul.’” In another chapter the soul is likened to the heart, the heart which beats,  and  loves.  The heart is also the seat of the conscience. What can we make of this? And death: what is that? The authors  come to no conclusion. “For some, death is the final ceasing of life. Others think we can live after death, but do not know for sure. Finally there are others who have a firm assurance about this:  Christians are among them.” It is up to the child to choose: death is a matter of opinion. But is not the one who is being taught the Catechism a Christian? In that case, why speak to him of Christians in the third person instead of stating firmly, “We Christians know that  eternal life exists and that the soul does not die?”

Paradise also is a subject treated equivocally: “Christians sometimes speak of Paradise to describe the perfect joy of being with God forever after death; it is Heaven, the Kingdom of God, Eternal Life, the Reign of Peace.” This is a very hypothetical explanation. It would seem that one is dealing with a figure of speech, a reassuring metaphor used by Christians. But Our Lord has promised us Heaven, if we keep His commandments; and the Church has always defined that as “a place of perfect happiness where the angels and the elect see God and possess Him for ever.” This catechesis shows a definite going-back on what the catechisms used to affirm.  The only result will be a lack of confidence in the truths taught and in a spiritual disarmament: what is the good of resisting our instincts and following the narrow way if we are not very sure of what awaits a Christian after death?

A Catholic does not go to the priests or his bishop asking for suggestions to enable him to form his own idea about God, or the world, or the last things. He asks them he must believe and what he must do. If they reply a whole range of propositions and patterns for living, it only remains for him to make up his own personal religion: he becomes a Protestant. This catechesis is turning children into little Protestants. 

The keynote of the reform is the drive against certainties.  Catholics who have them are branded as misers guarding their treasures, as greedy egotists who should be ashamed of themselves.  The important thing is to be open to contrary opinions, to admit diversity, to respect the ideas of Freemasons, Marxists, Muslims, even animists.  The mark of a holy life is to join in dialogue with error.

Thenceforth everything is permitted. I have already spoken of the consequences of the new definition of marriage. These are not the remote consequences which would follow if Christians took this definition literally: on the contrary, they have not been slow to appear, as we can judge by the moral permissiveness which is becoming daily more widespread. But what is still more shocking is that the catechesis is aiding this process. Let us take an example from some “catechetical material” as they call it, published with the episcopal imprimatur about 1972 at Lyons, and intended for teachers. The title: “Behold the Man.” In the section dealing with morals we read: “Jesus did not intend to leave to posterity a moral system, either political, sexual, or what you will. His only permanent insistence is love for one another. Beyond that, you are free; it is for you to choose what in every instance is the best way to express this love which you bear to your fellow-men.”

The section on “purity” draws consequences from this general principle.  After explaining, at the expense of the book of Genesis, that clothing only appeared later “as a sign of social rank or dignity” and to serve “a purpose of dissimulation,” purity is defined as follows:  “To be pure is to be in order,  to be faithful to nature...  To be pure means being in harmony, at peace with men and with the earth; it means being in accord with the great forces of nature without either resistance or violence.” Next we find a question and an answer: “Is a purity of this sort compatible with the purity of Christians? --Not only is it compatible, it is necessary to a truly human and Christian purity.  Jesus Christ neither denied or rejected any of the discoveries and acquisitions that are the fruit of the long searching of the peoples. Quite the contrary; He came to give them an extraordinary extension: ‘I came not to destroy but to fulfill.’”

In support of their claims the authors give the example of Mary Magdalen: “In that gathering it is she who is pure, because she has loved much, loved deeply.” This is their manner of falsifying the Gospel: of Mary Magdalen they retain only the sin, the dissolute life. The pardon that Our Lord granted her is presented as an approval of her past, and no notice is taken of the exhortation “Go, and sin no more,” nor the firm resolution that led the former sinner to Calvary, faithful to her Master for the rest of her days.  This revolting book knows no limits: “Can one have relations with a girl,” the authors ask, “even if one knows that it is for pleasure or to see what a woman is like?” And they reply “To put the problem of the laws of purity in this way is unworthy of a true man, a loving man, a Christian. Wouldn’t that mean imposing a strait-jacket, an intolerable yoke? When Christ came precisely to free us from the heavy burdens of laws: ‘My yoke is easy and My burden light.’” You see how the holiest words are interpreted so as to pervert souls! From Saint Augustine they have remembered only one sentence, “Love, and do as you will!”

I have been sent some contemptible books published in Canada. They speak only of sex and always in capital letters: “sexuality lived in faith,” “sexual promotion,” etc.  These pictures are absolutely disgusting.  It seems that they wish at all costs to give children a desire for and an obsession with sex; to make them think it is the only thing in life. Many Christian parents have protested, but nothing has been done about it, for a good reason: on the back page we read that these catechisms have been approved by the Catechetical Commission. The permission to print has been given by the President of the Episcopal Commission for Religious Teaching of Quebec!

Another catechism approved by the Canadian episcopate calls upon children to break with everything so as to rediscover their personality that all these ties have smothered, and free themselves from the complexes that come from society or from the family. Always looking for justification in the Gospel, those who give this sort of advice claim that Christ made similar breaks and thereby revealed Himself to be the Son of God.  So it is His wish that we should do likewise.

How can one accept an idea so contrary to the Catholic religion on the pretext that it is covered by episcopal authority? Instead of talking about breaks we need to cherish the bonds that make up our life. What is the love of God if not a link with God and obedience to Him and His commandments? And the bond with our parents, our love for them, is a bond for life, not of death. But they are now presented to children as something constraining and repressing which diminishes their personality, and from which they must free themselves!

No, there can be no question of your allowing your children to be corrupted in this manner. I say frankly, you cannot send them to these catechism classes that make them lose their faith.



To Chapter 7

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