Lefebvre's Letter to Eight Cardinals About Assisi I986
with events taking place in the Church that have John
Paul II as their author and faced with those he intends
carrying out at Taizé and Assisi in October, I cannot
refrain from addressing you and begging you in the name
of numerous priests and faithful to save the honor of
the Church never before humiliated to such an extent in
the course of her history.
speeches and actions of John Paul II in Togo,
the Indies cause a righteous indignation to rise up in
our heart. What do the Saints, the holy men and women
of the Old and New Testaments make of this? What would
the Holy Inquisition do if it were still in existence?
who now sits upon the Throne of Peter mocks publicly the
first article of the Creed and the first Commandment of
scandal given to Catholic souls cannot be measured. The
Church is shaken to its very foundations. If faith in
the Church, the only ark of salvation, disappears, then
the Church herself disappears.
John Paul II to continue ruining the Church, in particular
at Assisi, with the planned procession of religions in
the streets of the town of St. Francis and the sharing
out of religions in the chapels of the basilica with a
view to practicing their worship in favor of peace as
conceived by the United Nations?
is what Cardinal Etchegaray, in charge of this abominable
congress, has announced.
it conceivable that no authoritative voice has been raised
in the Church to condemn these public sins? Where are
for the honor of the one true God and of our Lord Jesus
Christ, make a public protest, come to the help of the
still faithful bishops, priests and Catholics.
if I took the step of contacting you it is because I do
not doubt your sentiments in this matter.
am also addressing this appeal to those Cardinals named
below so that eventually you may be able to work together.
the Holy Ghost come to your aid, and please accept, Eminence,
my devoted and fraternal greetings in Christ and Mary.
Lefebvre, Emeritus Bishop-Archbishop of Tulle
August 27, 1986
is a truism that men come to accept anything if they see
it often enough; hence it is good to recall the theological
criteria by which to judge this kind of undertaking. The
review SISINONO published an excellent study
in 1986 which is reprinted here because of its timeliness.
Should We Make of Assisi?
has been said, with undoubtedly unintended exactness, that
the "prayer meeting" at Assisi is a "personal
initiative" of Pope John Paul II. In so far as it is
only a "personal" initiative, it does not engage
his mandate as "pastor and teacher of all Christians"
(Vatican I). By
conforming itself to the political theme set by the United
Nations, which proclaimed the year 1986 an "international
year of peace," neither does it concern doctrine.
Assisi, next October 27, not only will the Catholics gather
at Assisi, but also "the representatives of the world's
other religions" will join them in an assembly for
whom Pope John Paul II has called "the representatives
of the other religions" the Church has always more
appropriately called infidels. "Broadly speaking, infidels
are those who do not possess the true faith; in the strict
sense infidels are the unbaptized. They are divided into
monotheists (Jews and Moslems), polytheists (Hindus, Buddhists,
etc.), and atheists."2
What Pope John Paul II has called the "other"
religions, the Church has more properly called the false
religions. A false religion is any non-Christian religion
"in so far as it is not the religion that God revealed
and wants to see practiced. Moreover, every non-Catholic
Christian sect is false in so far as it neither accepts
nor faithfully practices the entire content of Revelation."3
This having been said, in light of the Catholic Faith, the
prayer meeting of religions at Assisi can be considered
tantamount to: 1) an insult to God; 2)
a denial of the universal necessity of Redemption; 3)
a lack of justice and charity towards the infidels; 4)
a danger and a scandal to Catholics; and 5)
a betrayal of the Church's and Peter's mission.
An Insult to God
prayer, including petition, is an act of worship.4
As such, it must be addressed to Whom it is due, and in
the right way. To whom it is due: The one true God, Creator
and Lord of all men, the one to whom the Lord Jesus Christ
has brought them back (I Jn. )
by confirming the first commandment of the Law. "I
am the Lord thy God ...Thou shalt not have strange gods
before me ....Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them..."
the right way: Thus, it must be prayer that corresponds
to the fullness of Revelation without admixture of error:
"But the hour cometh and now is, when the true adorers
shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father
also seeketh such to adore him" Jn. ).
which is addressed to false gods or inspired by religious
opinions differing in whole or in part from divine Revelation,
is not an act of worship, but of superstition. It does not
honor God; it offends Him. At least, objectively, it is
a sin against the first commandment.6
To whom are the persons to gather at Assisi going to pray,
and in what way? Invited in their capacity as "representatives
of the other religions," "everyone will pray in
his own way and customary style." This was explained
by Cardinal Willebrands, President of the Secretariat for
This was confirmed last June 27 by Cardinal Etchegaray at
a press conference published by Documentation Catholique
of September 7-21, 1986, under the rubric "Acts
of the Holy See": "It involves respecting each
one's prayer, and allowing everyone to express himself in
the fullness of his faith, of his belief."
October 27 at Assisi, superstition will be widely practiced
in its most serious forms, from the "false worship"
of Jews who, during the era of grace, pretend to honor God
by denying His Christ,8
to the idolatry of Hindus and Buddhists who offer a cult
to creatures instead of to God.9
Catholic hierarchy's apparent approbation of this is especially
insulting to God, for it supposes and allows it to be supposed
that He looks with equal complacency upon acts of true worship
and acts of superstition, upon manifestations of faith and
manifestations of incredulity, upon the true religion and
upon the false religions; in short, upon truth and upon
Denial of the
Universal Necessity of Redemption
is but one Mediator between God and men: the Lord Jesus
Christ, Son of God and true man (I Tim. 2:5). By nature,
men are "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3); by Him,
they have been reconciled with the Father (Col. 1:20), and
it is only by faith in Him that they can have the boldness
to approach God with entire confidence (Eph. 3:12). To Him
was given all power in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18),
and at His name every knee must bend, in heaven, on earth,
and under the earth (Phil. ,11).
No one goes to the Father save by Him (Jn. 14:6), and there
is no other name under heaven given to man by which he must
be saved (Acts ). He is the Light that enlightens every man who comes
into the world (Jn.1:9), and whoever does not follow Him
wanders in darkness (Jn. ). Who is not with Him is against Him (Mt.
), and who
does not honor Him also dishonors His Father who sent Him
(as the Jews do) (Jn. ).
To Him has the Father given the judgment of men, but he
who refuses belief has already been judged, because he has
not believed in the name of the Only Son of God (Jn. 3:18),
nor in the Father who sent Him (Jn. 17:3). He is, moreover,
the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6),11
for divisions, conflicts, and wars are the bitter fruit
of sin from which man cannot free himself by his own virtue,
but only in virtue of the Redeemer's blood.
place will the Lord Jesus Christ have at Assisi in the prayer
of the "representatives of the other religions"?
None, for to them He remains either unknown, or a stumbling
block, or a sign of contradiction. The invitation that was
addressed to them to pray for peace in the world supposes,
and inevitably allows it to be supposed, that there are
people - the Christians - who must approach
God by the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His
name, and others - the rest of the human race -
who can approach God directly and in their own name, without
regard to the Mediator; that there are some men who must
bend the knee before the Lord Jesus Christ, and some who
are exempt; some men who must seek peace in the reign of
the Lord Jesus Christ, and others who can obtain peace outside
His reign and even in opposing it.
is the idea that comes from the declarations of the two
cardinals quoted above: "While for us Christians Christ
is our peace, for all believers peace is a gift of God"
Christians, prayer goes through Christ."13
"prayer meeting" of Assisi, then, is the public
negation of the universal necessity of Redemption.
A Lack of Justice
and Charity Towards the Infidels
Christ is not optional," said Cardinal Pie. There are
not some men who are justified by faith in Him, and others
who are justified without regard to Him: Every man is either
saved by Christ or is lost without Him. Nor are there any
purely natural ends for which a man can opt instead of his
unique supernatural end. If, gone astray in sin, he finds
himself out of Christ, the unique Way (Jn. 4:6) by which
to attain the end for which he was created, all that is
left him is everlasting ruin.
faith, and not mere "good faith," is the subjective
condition for salvation for everyone, even for the pagans.
Since it is a necessity of means, "if it is lacking
(even involuntarily) it is absolutely impossible to effect
Voluntary infidelity, St. Thomas explains, is a fault and
involuntary infidelity is a punishment. In fact, the infidels
who are not lost because of the sin of incredulity, that
is, by the sin of not having believed in Christ about whom
they never knew anything, are lost by their other sins,
the remission of which cannot be given to anyone without
the true faith."15
then, is more important for man than to accept the Redeemer
and union with the Mediator: it is a matter of eternal death
or life. This is what the infidels have a right to hear
announced by the Catholic Church, in conformity to the divine
And this is what the Catholic Church has always announced
to the infidels by praying, not with them, but for them.
will happen at Assisi? They certainly won't pray for the
infidels, thus presuming implicitly and publicly that they
no longer need the true faith. Instead of that, they will
pray in union with them, or rather, according to the rabbinical
subtlety of Radio Vatican,
they will pray near them, presuming thus implicitly and
publicly that prayer dictated by error is received by God
as much as prayer made "in spirit and in truth."
"It involves respecting each one's prayer," Cardinal
Etchegaray explained in his brief declaration. That means
that the infidels who will gather at Assisi, who, let us
be clear, are not "savages brought up in the forest"
who have "never known anything about the faith,"
as the theologians hypothesize when discussing the problem
of the salvation of infidels,17
will be "respectfully" left "in the darkness
and in the shadow of death" (Lk. 1:79).
to pray in their distinctive costumes as "representatives
of the other religions" and in conformity with their
erroneous religious beliefs, they are even encouraged to
persevere in sins, at least material, against the faith:
infidelity, heresy, etc… Invited to pray for peace
in the world, defined as a "fundamental" and "supreme"
are turned away from the eternal goods towards a temporal
good, towards a secondary natural end, as if they didn't
need to procure their supernatural last end, which really
is fundamental and supreme: "Seek first the kingdom
of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added
unto you" (Mt. 6:33). For all these reasons, the "prayer
meeting" of Assisi is, at least viewed from the outside,
a lack of justice and charity towards the infidels.
A Danger and
a Scandal to Catholics
faith is indispensable for salvation. Catholics are thus
obliged to avoid every proximate danger to their faith.
Among the exterior dangers is contact with infidels when
it is not the result of genuine necessity. This contact
is illicit in virtue of divine and natural law even without
considering ecclesiastical law, and even in the case where
ecclesiastical law does not prohibit it, for example in
social relations: Haereticum hominem devita (Avoid
the heretic) (Tit. 3:10).
out of maternal concern, the Church has always forbidden
not only what might be a danger to the faith but also an
occasion of scandal.19
As for the false religions, the Church has always refused
them the right to public worship. She has tolerated it when
it was necessary, but tolerance always means "in relation
to an evil to be allowed for a proportionate reason."20
In any case, she has always avoided and forbidden any apparent
approval of non-Catholic rites.
is going to happen at Assisi? Catholics and infidels "will
gather to pray" (even though it will not be "to
pray together"...). That simply means that they will
pray together at Assisi, first simultaneously in their own
residences, and then, by turns when united at the closing
ceremony before the basilica of St. Francis. And this is
not being done in order to protect the faith of Catholics
or to at least avoid scandalizing them. Rather, it is to
allow all to pray "according to their own manner and
style," and to "respect each one's prayer"
and to "allow everyone to express himself in the fullness
of his faith, of his belief."21
All this constitutes at least an exterior approbation of:
1)false religions, to which the Church
as always denied any right; 2)religious
subjectivism, which she has always condemned under the names
of indifferentism or latitudinarianism, and which "seeks
to justify itself under the pretended claims of liberty,
failing to recognize the rights of objective truth which
are made manifest either by the lights of reason or by Revelation.22
indifferentism, which is "one of the most deleterious
heresies" and which "places all religions on an
equal footing," inevitably leads one to consider the
truth of religious belief as merely a matter of utility
for a well-regulated life .... "One ends by considering
religion as an entirely individual thing which can be adapted
to the dispositions of each one, letting everyone form his
own personal religion, and by concluding that all the religions
are good even though they contradict each other."23 But with this
point of view we are outside the Catholic act of faith,
and have reached something ...like an act of incredulity
towards divine Revelation.
is a reality, a fact, a truth accredited by God by sure
signs, because error in this domain would have had disastrous
consequences for men.24
the presence of an undeniable fact or of an evident truth,
one cannot be tolerant to the point of approving the attitude
of those who consider them to be non-existent or false.
That would suppose that we do not really believe or are
not fully convinced of the truth of our position, or that
we are (or deem ourselves to be) dealing with a matter that
is absolutely banal or indifferent, or that we would consider
truth and error to be purely relative positions.25
since the "prayer meeting" is characterized by
all of that, it is an occasion of scandal for Catholics
and of grave danger to their faith. Because of ecumenism,
they find themselves united to the infidels, but in their
Betrayal of the
Mission Confided to Peter and to the Church
Church's mission is to announce to all nations that 1)
there is one true God, who revealed Himself for the benefit
of all men in our Lord Jesus Christ; 2)that there is only one true religion, the only one by
which God wishes to be honored, because He is Truth, and
everything in the false religions which goes against the
truth is repugnant to Him: doctrinal errors, immoral laws,
unseemly rites; 3)that there is only
one Mediator between God and men, by whom men can hope to
be saved, because all are sinners and remain in their sin
if they are deprived of the Blood of Christ; 4)
that there is one true Church, the perpetual guardian of
this Blood, and that "it is necessary to believe that
no one can be saved outside the apostolic Roman Church,
which is the unique ark of salvation, and those who do not
enter it will perish in the deluge27;
moreover, among their moral dispositions must be the desire,
explicit or implicit, to fully accomplish the will of God,
if their ignorance is truly invincible.28
Church's proper mission is to announce all this: "Going
therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching
them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you"
(Mt. 28:19-20). "He that believeth and is baptized
shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned"
that the Church could accomplish with assurance this mission
throughout the centuries, our Lord Jesus Christ conferred
on St. Peter and his successors the mission of visibly representing
Him (Mt. 16, 17-19; Jn. 21:15-17)
Vicar of Jesus Christ is not charged with establishing a
new doctrine with the help of new revelations, nor of creating
a new order of things, nor of instituting new sacraments:
such is not his function. He represents Jesus Christ at
the head of His Church, whose constitution has been finalized.
This essential constitution, that is to say, the creation
of the Church, was Jesus Christ's proper task which He,
Himself, had to conclude, and of which He said to the Father:
"I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do"
(Jn. 17:4). Nothing more needs to be added; it only remains
to maintain this creation, to assure the Church's work and
preside over the functioning of its organs. Two things are
necessary for this: govern it, and perpetuate the teaching
of the truth. Vatican Council I reduced to these two points
the supreme function of the Vicar of Jesus Christ. Peter
represents Jesus Christ under these two aspects.29
is no power in the Church like Peter's, but it is power
as vicar, and as such, is no wise absolute, but limited
by the divine right of Him whom he represents. "The
Lord confided to Peter, not Peter's sheep, but His own in
order to pasture them, not in his own interest, but God's."30
It is not within Peter's power, therefore, to promote initiatives
in disaccord with the mission of the Church and of the Roman
Pontiff, as clearly is the "prayer meeting" of
Assisi. The Vicar of Him who said: "Begone, Satan,
for it is written, ‘The Lord thy God thou shalt adore, and
him only shalt thou serve’" (Mt. ;
cannot invite "the representatives" of the false
religions to pray to their false gods in places consecrated
to the faith in the true God. The Successor of him who obtained
the primacy by his act of faith when he said, "Thou
art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt. ; cf. Jn. 6:69-70), cannot authorize
anyone to treat Jesus Christ as irrelevant. The Successor
of him who received the commission to confirm his brethren
in the faith (Lk. ), has no right to be a stumbling block
for their faith.Ω