An Open Letter to Confused Catholics

His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre

9. The New Theology

The ravages caused by the new catechism are already visible in the generation which has been exposed to it.  As required by the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities since 1970, I had included in the plan of studies for my seminaries one year's spirituality at the beginning of the course. Spirituality includes the study of asceticism, mysticism, training in meditation and prayer, deepening the notions of virtue, supernatural grace, the presence of the Holy Ghost.  Very soon we had to think again.  We realized that these young men, who had come with a strong desire to become true priests, and having an interior life deeper than many of their contemporaries, and accustomed to prayer, were lacking the fundamental ideas of our Faith.  They had never learned them.  During the year of spirituality, we had to teach them the catechism!

I have many times told the story of the birth of Ecône. In this house situated in the Valais in Switzerland, between Sion and Martigny, it was originally intended that the future priests would complete only their first year (of spirituality).  Then they would follow the university course at Fribourg. A complete seminary (at Ecône) took shape as soon as it did because the University at Fribourg could not provide a truly Catholic education. The Church has always considered the university chairs of theology, canon law, liturgy and Church law as organs of her magisterium or at least of her preaching.  Now it is quite certain that at present in all, or nearly all of the Catholic universities, the orthodox Catholic faith is no longer being taught. I have not found one doing so, either in free Europe, or in the United States, or in South America. There are always some professors who, under the pretext of theological research, express opinions which are contradictory to our faith, and not only on points of secondary importance.

I have already spoken of the Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Strasbourg, for whom the presence of Our Lord in the Mass can be compared to that of  Wagner at the Bayreuth Festival. It is no longer a question of the Novus Ordo for him. The world is evolving so rapidly that these things are quickly left behind. He considers that we must foresee a Eucharist which will emerge from the group itself. What does he mean by this? He is not sure himself. But in his book, Contemporary Thought and Expression of Eucharistic Faith, he prophesies that members of that group gathered together will create the feeling of communion in Christ who will be present amongst them, but above all under the species of bread and wine. He scoffs at calling the Eucharist “an efficacious sign” (a definition common to all the sacraments).  “That is ridiculous,” he says, “we can no longer say that sort of thing, in our day it no longer makes sense.”

The young students who hear these things from their professors and moreover from the dean of the faculty, and young seminarians who attend the classes, are little by little infected with the error.  They receive a training which is no longer Catholic. It is the same for those who not long ago heard a Dominican professor at Fribourg assuring them that premarital relations are both normal and desirable.

My own seminarians knew another Dominican who taught them to compose new versions of the Canon of the Mass. “It isn’t difficult; here are a few principles you can easily use when you are priests.” We could go on with examples like this.  Smulders, at the Theological Faculty in Amsterdam, suspects that St. Paul and St. John invented the concept of Jesus as Son of God, and thus he rejects the dogma of the Incarnation. Schillebeeckx, at the University of Nimjaegen, comes out with the most outrageous ideas; he has invented “trans-signification,” subjecting the dogma (of transubstantiation) to the conditions of each period of history; and he assigns a social and temporal definition to the doctrine of salvation. Küng, at Tübingen, before he was forbidden to teach in a chair of Catholic theology, questioned the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, of the Virgin Mary, and the sacraments, and described Jesus as a public story-teller lacking “all theological training.” Snackenburg, at the University of Würtzburg, accuses St. Matthew of having forged the confession, “Thou art the Christ,” in order to authenticate the primacy of Peter. Rahner, who died recently, minimized Tradition in his lectures at the University of Münich, virtually denying the Incarnation by always speaking of Our Lord as a man “naturally conceived,” denying original sin and the Immaculate Conception and recommending theological plurality.

  All these people are praised to the skies by the leading spokesmen of neo-modernism.  They have the support of the press, in such a way that their theories assume importance in the eyes of the public and their names are known to all.  They thus appear to represent the entirety of theology and gain support for the idea that the Church has changed.  They have been able to continue their subversive teaching for many years, interrupted sometimes by mild sanctions.  The popes issue regular reminders of the limits of the theologian's competence. Pope John Paul ll said quite recently, “It is not possible to turn away and detach oneself from those fundamental reference points, the defined dogmas, without losing one's Catholic identity.” Schillebeeckx, Küng and Pohier have been reprimanded but have not suffered sanctions, the last-named for a book in which he denies the bodily resurrection of Christ.  And who would have imagined that at the Roman Universities, including the Gregorian, under the pretext of theological research the most incredible theories are allowed, regarding the relationship of Church and State, divorce, and other fundamental questions?

There is no doubt that abolishing the Holy Office, which had always been seen by the Church as the tribunal of the Faith, has favored these abuses. Until then anyone--lay man, priest or a fortiori a bishop--could submit to the Holy Office any text, any article and ask whether the Church thought the writing was in conformity or not with Catholic doctrine. A month or six weeks later, the Holy Office would reply: “This is correct, this is false, that must be made clear; one part is true and one part false...”

Every document was thus examined and judged definitively.  Does it shock you to learn that the writings of another person could be submitted to a tribunal? But what  happens in civil society? Is there not a Constitutional Council to decide what is and what is not in conformity with the Constitution? Are there not tribunals to deal with cases affecting private individuals and groups? We can even ask a  judge to intervene in cases of public morality, against an offensive poster or against a magazine sold openly,  if the cover consititutes an outrage against public morals, although the limits of what is permitted have widened considerably in recent times in many countries.

But in the Church, a tribunal was no longer acceptable; we could no longer judge or condemn. The modernists, like the Protestants, have singled out from the gospels their favorite phrase “Thou shalt not judge.” But they ignore the fact that immediately after, Our Lord said: “Beware of false prophets... by their fruits you shall know them.” A Catholic must not make ill-considered judgments on the faults and personal actions of his brethren, but Christ has commanded him to preserve his faith, and how can he do this without casting a critical eye upon what he is given to read or to hear? Any dubious opinion could be submitted to the magisterium; that was the purpose of the Holy Office. But since the reform, the Holy Office has defined itself as “the Office for Theological Research.” A considerable difference.

I remember asking Cardinal Browne, former Superior General of the Dominicans,  who had long been at the Holy Office,  “Your Eminence, do you have the impression that this is a radical change, or merely superficial and outward?” “Oh no,” he replied, “the change is fundamental”.

This is why we must not be surprised if little or nothing is condemned, if the Tribunal for the Faith of the Church no longer fulfills its duty toward theologians and all those who  write on religious topics. It follows from this that errors are everywhere.  They spread from the university chairs to the catechisms and to the remotest parish presbyteries.  The poison of heresy ends by contaminating the whole Church.  The ecclesiastical magisterium is in a very serious crisis.

The most absurd reasoning is used to support the activity of these soit disant theologians. We have seen a certain Father Duquoc, professor at Lyons, travelling all over France giving lectures on the advisibillity of conferring temporary priesthood on certain of the faithful, including women. A good number of the faithful have protested here and there, and one bishop in the South of France has taken a firm stand against this controversial preacher. This happens occasionally. But at Laval the scandalized laity received this reply from their bishop: “It is our absolute duty in this case to preserve freedom of speech within the Church.” This is astonishing. Where did he get this idea of freedom of speech? It is completely alien to the law of the Church; yet he considers the defence of it to be a bishop's absolute duty! It amounts to a complete inversion of episcopal responsibility, which should consist of defending the Faith and preserving the people entrusted to him from heresy.

It is necessary to cite examples from the public sphere. I would ask the reader to believe that I am not writing this book to criticize personalities. That, too, was always the attitude of the Holy Office. It did not examine persons, but only writings. A theologian might complain that they had condemned one of his books without giving him a hearing. But precisely--the Holy Office condemned particular writings and not authors. It would say, “This book contains statements which are at variance with the traditional doctrine of the Church.” Just that! Why go back to the person who had written them? His intentions and his culpability are the concern of another tribunal, that of penance.



To Chapter 8

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