1 July 1976
Declaration at a Press Conference
Father Romeo Panciroli, spokesman of the Press Bureau of the Holy See, made the following declaration on 1 July 1976, which was published on 8 July in the diocesan bulletin of Mgr. Mamie and reproduced in La Documentation Catholique of 1 August:
According to information from Switzerland, Mgr. Lefebvre has actually gone ahead with the ordination of a certain number of priests and deacons. According to the same information, the candidates were not provided with dimissorial letters from their Ordinary or with a valid canonical title.
In that case, the following rules of the Code of Canon Law apply:
1° Mgr. Lefebvre has automatically incurred suspension for a year from the conferring of orders, a suspension reserved to the Apostolic See. The same is true of earlier ordinations which may have taken place under the same conditions, with the aggravating circumstance, in this case, of irregularity linked with repetition of the offense. This suspension is in addition to the prohibition of conferring orders pronounced by the Holy Father and transgressed by Mgr. Lefebvre, but which obviously is still valid and operative.
2° Those who have been ordained are ipso facto (automatically) suspended from the order received, and, if they were to exercise it, they would be in an irregular and criminal situation. The priests who may have been already suspended for a preceding irregular promotion to the diaconate could be punished with severe penalties according to the circumstances, in addition to the fact that they have put them- selves in an irregular situation.
3° The Holy See is examining the special case of the formal disobedience of Mgr. Lefebvre to the instructions of the Holy Father who, by the documents of 12 and 25 June 1976, expressly forbade him to proceed with the ordinations. Even fraternal interventions these last days, started by the Holy Father to get Mgr. Lefebvre to abandon his project, could not prevent the interdiction being violated.
4 July 1976
The Mass in Geneva
On 4 July 1976, Mgr. Lefebvre preached at a Solemn High Mass celebrated in Geneva by Father Denis Roch, a convert from Calvinism who had been ordained on 29 June. This Mass is of particular interest for two reasons. Firstly, it provided an opportunity of assessing the reaction of the ordinary faithful to the Archbishop's decision to ordain his seminarians in defiance of the Vatican. The importance of this reaction was heightened by the fact that Mgr. Mamie, Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg went to exceptional lengths to make use of this Mass as a trial of strength between himself and Mgr. Lefebvre. Father Roch was denied access to all the Catholic churches in Geneva, he was forbidden to celebrate Mass in Geneva, and Mgr. Lefebvre was forbidden to preach. Furthermore, Mgr. Mamie commanded, in a statement published in the Nouvelliste on 2 July, that:
The Catholics of this diocese, and those who are visiting it, must be warned: no Catholic is authorized to take part in the first Mass (of Father Roch) to be celebrated on 4 July.
The Tribune de Geneve (a secular Swiss paper) gave considerable coverage to the Mass in its 5 July 1976 issue. The paper noted that the Mass was celebrated in the Palais des Expositions:
More than 2,000 people assembled in this vast hall despite the interdiction of Mgr. Mamie. ...The congregation manifested great fervor. Hundreds of the faithful received Holy Communion. Men, women, adolescents and young children knelt and prayed with devotion... no Catholic church in Geneva would have been large enough to welcome such a vast number of believers.
Subsequent Masses celebrated by the Archbishop in France and elsewhere proved that, despite the Vatican sanctions, a Mass celebrated by him will attract a congregation of several thousand almost anywhere in Catholic Europe. In most dioceses he can certainly attract a larger congregation than the diocesan bishop-particularly in France. It is not intended to suggest that the rightness or wrongness of Mgr. Lefebvre's, or any other, case can be assessed by the extent of support for it. If rightness depended on numbers, the persecuted Catholics of Elizabethan England would have had a very poor case. But as the Archbishop's enemies are trying continually to minimize the extent of support for him it is worth taking note of the attendance at these Masses. The support for Mgr. Lefebvre is an excellent example of the true sensus fidelium.
The second reason for the significance of this Mass is the very fine sermon preached by the Archbishop. He does go over some points made in other sermons but, as it has not been published in English, it is included here as a useful exposition of Mgr. Lefebvre's attitude immediately following the ordinations of 29 June, a period during which he certainly underwent great emotional and physical strain.
4 July 1976
Sermon by Mgr. Lefebvre at Geneva
My Dear Monsieur l'Abbé,
My Dear Friends,
My Dear Brothers,
It is not in this Exhibition Hall that your first Mass should have taken place, you being a child of this city. It is in a large and beautiful church of the City of Geneva that you should have celebrated this ceremony so dear to the hearts of all the Catholics of Geneva. But, as Providence has decided otherwise, here you are before the crowd of your friends, of your relatives, of those who want to share your joy and the honor which God has done you of being His priest, a priest forever.
This history of your vocation is the implementation of a plan.
And I shall say what our plan is.
You were born of Protestant parents in this City of Geneva, and in childhood and youth you followed the teaching of the Protestant religion. You were well educated, and you had a profession which gave you all the world can hope for here below. Then, all of a sudden, touched by the grace of God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, you abruptly decided, under the influence of that grace, to direct: yourself to the true Church, the Catholic Church; and you desired not only to become a Catholic but also to become a priest. I can still see you arriving for the first time at Econe; and I confess that it was not without a certain apprehension that I received you, asking myself if so rapid a passage from Protestantism to the desire of becoming a Catholic priest was not an inspiration with no future. That is the reason why you stayed some time at Econe reflecting more deeply on the desire within you, your aspiration to the priesthood. We all admired your perseverance, your will to reach that goal, despite your age, despite a certain weariness of ecclesiastical studies, of the study of philosophy, theology, Scripture, Canon Law -for you were a scientist. And now, by God's grace, after those years of study at Econe you have received the grace of sacerdotal ordination. It seems to me to be difficult for anyone who has not received that grace to realize what the grace of priesthood is. As I said to you a few days ago at the time of the ordination: You can no longer say that you are a man like other men; that is not true. You are no longer a man like other men: henceforward you are marked with the sacerdotal character which is something ontological, which marks your soul and puts it above the faithful. Yes, whether you are a saint, or, which God forbid, whether you are like priests who are, perhaps, alas, in hell: they still have the sacerdotal character. This sacerdotal character unites you to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in a very special way, a participation which the faithful cannot have; and that is what permits you, which will permit you in a few moments, to pronounce the words of consecration of Holy Mass, and in a way to make God obey your order, your words. At your words Jesus Christ will come personally, physically, substantially under the species of the bread and wine; He will be present on the altar, and you will adore Him; you will kneel to adore Him, to adore the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ. That is what the priest is. What an extraordinary reality! We need to be in heaven-and even in heaven shall we understand what the priest is? Is it not St. Augustine who says: "Were I to find myself before a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest first, before the angel"?
So, then, here you are, become a priest. I said that the history of your vocation is a whole plan, it is our plan. That is profoundly true, because we have the Catholic Faith and are not afraid to affirm our faith; and I know that our Protestant friends, who are perhaps here in this assembly, approve of us. They approve of us: they need to feel the presence amongst them of Catholics who are Catholics, and not Catholics who appear to be in full accord with them on points of faith. One does not deceive one's friends; we cannot deceive our Protestant friends. We are Catholics; we affirm our faith in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we affirm our faith in the divinity of the Holy Catholic Church, we think that Jesus Christ is the sole way, the sole truth, the sole life, and that one cannot be saved outside Our Lord Jesus Christ and consequently outside His Mystical Spouse, the Holy Catholic Church. No doubt, the graces of God are distributed outside the Catholic Church; but those who are saved, even outside the Catholic Church, are saved by the Catholic Church, by Our Lord Jesus Christ, even if they do not know it, even if they are not aware of it, for it is Our Lord Jesus Christ Him- self who has said it: "You can do nothing without me -nihil potestis facere sine me." You cannot come to the Father without going by me, so you cannot come to God without going by me. "When I shall be lifted up from the earth, " says Our Lord Jesus Christ, meaning He will be on His cross, "I shall draw all souls to me." Only Our Lord Jesus Christ, being God, could say such things: no man here below can speak as Our Lord Jesus Christ has spoken, because He alone is the Son of God, He is our God- Tu solus altissimus, tu solus Dominus. He is Our Lord, He is the Most High, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is for that that Ecône remains in being, it is for that that Econe exists, because we believe that what the Catholics have taught, what the Popes have taught, what the Councils have taught for twenty centuries, we cannot possibly abandon. We cannot possibly change our faith: we have our Credo, and we will keep it till we die. We cannot change our Credo, we cannot change the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we cannot change our Sacraments, changing them into human works, purely human, which no longer carry the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is because, in fact, we feel and are convinced that in the last fifteen years something has happened in the Church, something has happened in the Church which has introduced into the highest summits of the Church, and into those who ought to defend our faith, a poison, a virus, which makes them adore the golden calf of this age, adore, in some sense, the errors of this age. To adopt the world, they wish to adopt also the errors of the world; by opening on to the world, they wish also to open themselves to the errors of the world, those errors which say, for example, that all religions are of equal worth. We cannot accept that, those errors which say that the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is now an impossibility and should no longer be sought. We do not accept that. Even if the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is difficult, we want it, we seek it, we say every day in the Our Father: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." If His will were done here below as it is done in heaven-imagine what it would be like if God's will were really done here below as it is done in heaven: it would be paradise on earth! That is the reign of Our Lord which we seek, which we desire with all our strength, even if we never achieve it; and, because God has asked that from us, even if we have to shed our blood for that kingdom we are ready. And that is what the priests are whom we form at Econe, priests who have the Catholic faith, priests such as have always been formed.
Do you not think there is something inconceivable, unbelievable? Take my example, which is like yours. I have now been a priest for fifty years and a bishop for thirty. That means I was a bishop before the Council, a priest before the Council. In my career as priest and bishop I was made responsible for the formation of priests. In the beginning when I went as a missionary to Gabon I was appointed to the seminary of Gabon in Equatorial Africa. I formed priests, one of whom became a bishop. I was recalled to France, and again I was appointed to form seminarians in the seminary of Mortain with the Holy Ghost Fathers. I then went back as bishop of Dakar, in Senegal. I set myself again to form good priests of whom two are bishops and one has just been named Cardinal; and when I was at Mortain in France I formed seminarians, one of whom is now Bishop of Cayenne; so amongst my pupils I have four bishops, one of them a cardinal. I form my seminarians at Econe exactly as I have always formed my seminarians for thirty years; and now, all of a sudden, we are condemned, almost excommunicated, thrown out of the Catholic Church, in disobedience to the Catholic Church, because I have done the same thing that I have done for thirty years. Something has happened in Holy Church. It is not possible! I have changed not one iota in my formation of seminarians, on the contrary I have added a deeper and stronger spirituality, because it seemed to me a certain spiritual formation was lacking in young priests, as, in fact, many have abandoned the priesthood, many, alas, have given the world appalling scandal in their leaving of the priesthood. So it seemed to me necessary to give these priests a deeper , stronger, more courageous spiritual formation to enable them to face difficulties... 1
So, something has happened in the Church: the Church since the Council, already some time before the Council, during the Council, and throughout the reforms, has chosen to take a new direction, to have Her new priests, Her new priesthood, a new type of priest as has been said; She has chosen to have a new sacrifice of the Mass, or rather let us say a new eucharist; She has chosen to have a new catechism, She has chosen to have new seminaries, She has chosen to reform Her religious congregations. And what have we now come to? A few days ago I read in a German paper that in the last few years there are three million fewer practicing Catholics in Germany. Cardinal Marty himself, he who also condemns us, Cardinal Marty, Archbishop of Paris, has said that Mass attendance is down fifty per cent in his diocese since the Council.
Who will say that the fruits of that Council are marvelous fruits of holiness, fervor, and growth of the Catholic Church?
They have chosen to embrace the errors of the world, they have chosen to embrace the errors which come to us from Liberalism, and which come to us -alas, it must be said -from those who lived here four centuries ago, from those reformers who have spread Liberal ideas throughout the world; and those ideas have at last penetrated to the interior of the Church. This monster which is at the interior of the Church must disappear, so that the Church may find Her own nature again, Her own authenticity, Her own identity. That is what we are trying to do, and it is why we continue: we do not want to be destroyers of the Church. If we stop, we shall be certain, convinced, that we are destroying the Church, as those are engaged in destroying Her who are steeped in that false idea. And so we wish to go on with the construction of the Church; and we cannot do better to get the Church built than to make these priests, these young priests -showing always the example of a deep Catholic faith, of an immense charity. I think I can say that it is we who have a true charity towards Protestants, towards all those who do not have our faith. If we believe our Catholic faith, if we are convinced that God has really given His graces to the Catholic Church, we have the desire of sharing our riches with our friends, giving them to our friends. If we are convinced that we have the truth, we should exert ourselves to make it known that that truth can benefit our friends as well. It is a failure in charity to hide one's truth, to hide one's personal riches and not let those profit from them who do not have their own. Why have missions, why set off to distant countries to convert souls, if not because one is certain of having the truth and desirous of sharing the graces received with those who have not yet received them? It is indeed Our Saviour who said: "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. He that believeth shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be condemned." That is what Our Saviour said. Strengthened by these words, we continue our apostolate, trusting in Providence: it is not possible that this condition of the Church should remain indefinitely.
This morning, in the lessons which Holy Church has us read, we read the story of David and Goliath, and I thought to myself: Should we not be the young David with his sling and a few stones which he found in the stream to strike down Goliath clad in special armour and with a sword capable of splitting his enemy in two? Well, who knows if Econe is not the little stone which will finish by destroying Goliath? Goliath believed in himself; David believed in God and invoked God before attacking Goliath. That is what we are doing. We are full of confidence in God, and we pray God to help us to strike down this giant who believes in himself, who believes in his armour, his muscles, and his weapons. That means the men who believe in themselves, who believe in their science, who believe that by human means we shall succeed in converting the world. As for us, we put our trust in God, and we hope that this Goliath who has penetrated into the interior of the Church will one day be struck down, and that the Church will truly discover Her authenticity, Her truth such as She has always had. Oh, the Church always has it; She does not will to perish; and we hope, precisely, to cooperate with that vitality of the Church and that continuity of the Church. I am convinced that these young priests will continue the Church. That is what we ask them to do, and we are sure that with the grace of God and the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Priesthood, they will succeed.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
6 July 1976
Letter of Cardinal Baggio to Mgr. Lefebvre
Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio wrote this official letter (numbered 514/7 6) in his capacity as Prefect of the Roman Congregation responsible for bishops and by order of Pope Paul.
It is the Holy Father who desires me to send you this letter. It is intended above all, on the part of His Holiness and in the name of Jesus Christ, to be a new expression of the most earnest desire, and of the ardent hope felt for a long time, of seeing you finally, after a renewal of your espiscopal and ecclesial conscience, retrace your steps and reestablish that communion which, by your attitude, you have again broken more openly, and in fact on the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
I do not wish to touch here on the question of the non-observance of the conditions to which a bishop should keep who is proceeding to the ordination of subjects not his own, non-observance for which the Code of Canon Law itself provides, in canons 2373,2374 and 985 n. 7, appropriate sanctions.
On the other hand, it is incumbent on me, in execution of a duty coming to me from above, to state that, in ignoring the express prohibition by the Holy Father, clearly and lawfully manifested in the documents of 12 and 23 June last, and with fraternal interventions by qualified persons, you have publicly disobeyed the prohibition by proceeding to the ordination of several priests and of some "subdeacons.”
Cardinal Baggio writes subdeacons within quotation marks because the subdiaconate has been suppressed in the "conciliar Church."
Also, by this present monition, I implore you to change your attitude, to ask pardon humbly of the Holy Father, and to repair the spiritual damage inflicted on the young men ordained and the scandal caused to the people of God.
I cherish the hope that you will not refuse to take the hand which His Holiness holds out to you yet again.
When the Vatican gives notice of a new threat or a new sanction it describes this as "holding out a hand yet again "!
If, however, the invitation were to prove vain, and if a proof of recognition of error did not arrive at this Congregation within ten days of your receipt of my letter,2 you must know that, basing itself on a special mandate of the Sovereign Pontiff, it will be the duty of this Congregation to proceed against you by inflicting the necessary penalties, in conformity with canon 2331, para. 1. 3
I beg you to believe that it is with great pain that I have written this letter to a confrere in the episcopate, and I assure you, Monseigneur, of my respectful devotion in Our Lord.Sebastiano Card. Baggio
8 July 1976
Chronicle of Father Bruckberger
The Father Henri Bruckberger is one of the leading men of letters among the French clergy today. He was a chaplain to the Resistance during the war and was forced to escape to the U.S.A. in order to evade the Gestapo. He writes a weekly column in the French daily L 'Aurore which is awaited with bated breath by both traditionalists and Liberals-the latter waiting with trepidation to discover what new aspect of the Conciliar Church " he will expose as tyranny, heresy or hypocrisy. He has come to be looked upon as the voice of the ordinary French Catholic, and because he refused to silence that voice he has been subjected to severe pressure from his superior in the Dominican Order. No comment needs to be made regarding the parallel between the persecution he suffered for his resistance to the Nazi tyranny and that which he now suffers for his resistance to the tyranny of the "Conciliar Church."
In his column in L 'Aurore dated 8 July 1976 he gave vent an impassioned cri du coeur in protest at the coldness and hostility shown by the French Bishops to the newly ordained priests from Econe. Had they been Muslims, Communists, Protestant ministers, or Buddhist monks they would have been received with open arms; churches would have been placed at their disposal. But they were traditionalist Catholic priests -so the doors of the "Conciliar Church " were slammed in their faces. Father Bruckberger's article follows.
The Order of Melchisedech
“Once again we return to the subject of Econe and to the priests ordained there by Mgr. Lefebvre. One knows that they were ordained illicitly, that is to say without the permission and against the wishes of the Pope, but nobody denies that they are true, validly ordained priests; nobody casts doubts on their fervor or on their priestly zeal.
Immediately after ordination, these young men return to their home parishes. In former days, I well remember, such a newly ordained priest was the pride of the entire parish. Everyone flocked to his first Mass, which was celebrated in an atmosphere of joyous devotion and reverence; of gratitude for the precious gift which God had bestowed upon the entire Christian people. Bells pealed, and the sweet smell of incense filled the church. When the Mass was ended, even the old men knelt to receive the blessing of this young, newly ordained priest.
This was the reception the new priests from Econe were given by their relatives and friends; not so by the official clergy, whose behaviour was crude in the extreme. By "official clergy" I mean those now in charge of our churches and cathedrals. We know that discord exists among bishops; was it really necessary to extend the burden of discord to those young men, at the very moment when they had so joyfully given their entire youth to God?
It was Cardinal Marty who initiated this contemptible ostracism; at last he has shown himself in his true colors. While all types of liturgical abuses are tolerated in our churches; while one church in Paris is used for Moslem services, it is these young priests alone who find the doors of their parish churches closed in their faces; young priests of Jesus Christ, the anointing oils of the ordination still fresh upon their hands; young priests who bring no threat, but solely their new powers of Consecration. Ousted from their parish churches, they are forced to celebrate Mass in secret as during the Reign of Terror. One blushes with shame at the very thought.
However severe the Church may have been during my childhood, showing at times the austere face of Jansenism, never did She show the implacable, cold cruelty which in France today She shows to those of Her sons whose sole aim is to preserve the purity of their Faith and of their vocation. Is this what is called a "Pastoral Church"? Is this the Church of the Good Shepherd, carrying the lamb upon His shoulders? Is it even, as Cardinal Marty claims, " A church which wishes to obey its Lord in the service of contemporary man"? He Who has the words of eternal life for our salvation, is He not also a "present day" man?
Your Eminence, I am going to tell you what horrifies me in you. Christianity has taught us that in the depths of man there exists something impenetrable, something which could well be called his spiritual "heart." This "heart" does not beat to the rhythm of time: it beats secretly to the rhythm of eternal life. When confined within the limits of time, it ceases to beat, as it always does. It is when this "heart-beat" is on the point of stopping that the priest of Jesus Christ brings the spiritual oxygen cylinder. Your Eminence, you are condemning these young priests in the name of "your time " of which, in any case, you know little. Fear, yes, fear the sentence which will be pronounced, not by them, not by me, but by Another Who is above us all in eternity:
But, Your Eminence, the surprising part of your declaration, your trump card, so to speak, was: "Allow me to tell you once again, that in our present difficulties it is not merely a matter of Latin or of the cassock. Far more is at stake: the unity of the Church is threatened, the Eucharistic Mystery in its fullness of truth is threatened." Your Eminence, your words are indeed true, they are indeed frank; they are terribly frank; they are terribly true. They re-affirm what I have been constantly repeating in this chronicle. They are the very words used by Mgr. Lefebvre. So, for once, we are in agreement and the door is now open for discussion.
The Return of the Pharisees
Nothing could be more legitimate, nothing more traditional than to base the unity of the Church on the truth of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the sacrament of that unity , for the Body of Christ is the common heritage of the Church. It is around this Body that the members of the Church gather. The Mystical Body of Christ is sanctified by participating in the Eucharistic Body of Christ, either by receiving Holy Communion or by making a Spriritual Communion. One calls to mind the words found in St.Matthew: "wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together." The Eucharist is not a meal for the unlettered; still less is it a banquet for the intellectual; it is, as it were, the prey of the eagle, a bird which is not given to relinquishing its prey for its shadow. That is the heart of the matter. Who best safeguards the unity of the Church: those who keep the reality of the Eucharistic Body of Christ, or those who lightly relinquish the substance for the shadow?
Catholicism is the religion of the Incarnation. God lifts us up to Himself through the Humanity of Jesus Christ, made present throughout the centuries and throughout the world by outward signs known as sacraments. To betray those rites is to betray Jesus Christ in His reality; it is to endanger the salvation of man for whom these rites were instituted by Jesus Christ Himself, rites which have been carefully fostered by the Church since Her foundation. Herein lies the cause of the turmoil within the Church; the crisis of Econe is but a symptom of the turmoil.
Your Eminence, when, as you say, the unity of the Church and the mystery of the Eucharist in the fullness of its truth are at stake, we find it extremely worrying, not to say distasteful, to find you reducing the affair of Econe to a mere disciplinary matter, to find you donning the cap of a Doctor in Canon Law, when, in fact, the very Church is at stake.
In former days the Pharisees posed as groping defenders of the Law against One Who was both the Consummation and Supreme Justification of the Law."
THE CATHOLIC MASS
In the Supplement-Voltigeur to ltine'raires (No.40 of July 1976), Jean Madiran made it quite clear why these young priests had been treated in the manner described by Father Bruckberger.
"During the days preceding the ordinations to the priesthood at Econe on 29 June, messages and envoys from the Vatican thronged about Mgr. Lefebvre, promising him that all would be well if he accepted the new missal, imposed it on his priests, and himself concelebrated the New Mass publicly with a representative of Paul VI. The promise was no doubt false, but it was significant -it showed that the assurance given to Mgr. Lefebvre all through 1975 by the official inquisitors, that in the proceedings against him liturgy was not in question, was a trick: the truth was that it was liturgy alone, or liturgy above all, that was in question -it was a question of the Mass of Article 7 which was to take the place of the traditional Mass.
A similar trickery had pretended in 1970 to correct Article 7 promulgated in 1969. The same trick, in the Council, had put forward the nota praevia explicativa on collegiality. In all these similar cases the sequel showed and the facts proved that it was an imposture designed to lull Catholic resistance with illusory, merely verbal, guarantees, destined to remain dead letters. The trick was used often enough for it to be exposed.
It is indeed the Mass of Article 7 that the holders of ecclesiastical power wish to impose on the Church; and it is indeed the Catholic Mass which they intend shall disappear progressively and which in fact is progressively disappearing.
As it becomes more serious, the situation becomes daily clearer. Mgr. Lefebvre has perceived that in reality whatever is undertaken against him on a variety of pretexts has one principal purpose: to stop priests being ordained to say the Catholic Mass. The present holders -real holders, but unworthy -of the apostolic succession will not tolerate the Mass unless in one form or another it is the Mass of Article 7. The real battle is there.
The young priests ordained at Econe on 29 June are beginning in their priestly life opposed, scorned, insulted; calumniated, and abused in the press; subjected to administrative persecution. They are thus already in the likeness of Our Lord.
These young priests have been validly ordained to say the Catholic Mass. By them, for our salvation, the Catholic Mass will continue. We kneel before them, we kiss their consecrated hands, and we thank God."
12 July 1976
Preliminary Note by Mgr. Lefebvre
On 12 July 1976, Mgr. Lefebvre makes public, by communicating it to the Agence France-Presse, his third letter to Paul VI, that of 22 June 1976. He precedes this communication with a preliminary note:
The letter which follows (Letter to Paul VI of 22 June 1976) is the third of the same kind addressed to the Holy Father within the last year. It was forwarded to him by the mediation of the Berne Nunciature to which it had been sent on 22 June in answer to the letter of H.E. Mgr. BeneIli which the Nuncio in Beme communicated to me on 17 June (and which was dated 12 June). This letter of 17 June forbade me to proceed with the ordinations on 29 June.
On Sunday 27 June, a special envoy of the Secretariat of State came join me at Flavigny-surozerain in France, when I was preaching the retreat to the ordinands. The letter he brought me from H.E. Mgr. Benelli (of 2S June) made out that it was an answer to the annexed letter.
It confirms the prohibition of the ordinations and the threat of, but it makes no allusion to the possibility of a dialogue even with a mediator.
It thus appears impossible to approach the basic problem, which the agreement of the Conciliar Church, as H. E. Mgr. Benelli himself calls it in his last letter, and the Catholic Church.
Let there be no mistake. It is not a question of a difference between. Mgr. Lefebvre and Pope Paul VI. It is a question of the radical incompatibility between the Catholic Church and the Conciliar Church, the Mass of Paul VI being the symbol and the program of the Conciliar Church.
+ Marcel Lefebvre
The letter of 22 June 1976 has been included under this date.
17 July 1976
Letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI
This is the fourth letter of Mgr. Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI. It is the first in which Mgr. Lefebvre "approaches the basic problem," the three preceding letters doing no more, essentially, than asking to be heard.
This letter is extremely compact in substance: it says, in summary, all that Mgr. Lefebvre would have said to Pope Paul VI if this pope had not, for years, systematically refused to see him and to hear him.
Most Holy Father,
All access permitting me to reach Your Holiness being forbidden me, may God grant that this letter reaches you to express to you my feelings of profound veneration, and at the same time to state to you, with an urgent prayer, the object of our most ardent desires, which seem, alas!, to be a subject of dispute between the Holy See and numerous faithful Catholics.
Most Holy Father, deign to manifest your will to see the Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ extended in this world,
- by restoring the Public Law of the Church,
- by giving the liturgy all its dogmatic value and its hierarchical expression according to the Latin Roman rite consecrated by so many centuries of use,
- by restoring the Vulgate to honor,
- by giving back to catechisms their true model, that of the Council of Trent.
By taking these steps Your Holiness will restore the Catholic priesthood and the Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ over persons, families, and civil societies.
You will give back their correct concept to falsified ideas which have become the idols of modern man: liberty, equality, fraternity and democracy - like your Predecessors.
Let Your Holiness abandon that ill-omened undertaking of compromise with the ideas of modern man, an undertaking which originates in a secret understanding between high dignitaries in the Church and those of Masonic lodges, since before the Council.
To persevere in that direction is to pursue the destruction of the Church. Your Holiness will easily understand that we cannot collaborate in so calamitous a purpose, which we should do were we to close our seminaries.
May the Holy Ghost deign to give Your Holiness the grace of the gift of fortitude, so that you may show in unequivocal acts that you are truly and authentically the Successor of Peter, proclaiming that there is no salvation except in Jesus Christ and in His Mystical Spouse, the Holy Church, Catholic and Roman.
And may God...
+ Marcel Lefebvre
22 July 1976
Notification of Suspension a Divinis
Letter from the Secretariat of the Congregation for Bishops, with the reference 514/76.
On 6 July 1976 (Prot. N. 514/76) Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio sent you a formal monition, according to the terms of which you were made aware of the canonical penalties which would be inflicted on you if proof of resipiscence did not reach the Congregation of Bishops within ten days of the receipt of the monition.
- on the one hand, Mgr. the Apostolic Nuncio in Switzerland attests that you received, on 11 J July ,the formal monition from the Cardinal Prefect of this Congregation, and that you signed a certificate of reception as evidence of the fact ;
- and that, on the other hand, the interval of ten days has passed without the hoped-for proof of resipiscence reaching the offices of this same Congregation;
- in execution of the instructions left by Cardinal Baggio, at present absent from Rome, I have referred to His Holiness.
The Holy Father has informed me that he has received from you a letter dated 17 July .In his eyes, it could not unhappily be considered satisfactory -on the contrary .I may even tell you that he is very distressed by the attitude to him shown in that document.
In consequence the Sovereign Pontiff Paul VI, on 22 July 1976, in conformity with canon 2227, in virtue of which the penalties that can be applied to a bishop are expressly reserved to him, has inflicted on you suspension a divinis provided for in canon 2279, 2, 2°, and has ordered that it take immediate effect.
The undersigned Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops has been commissioned to inform you of this in the present letter.
But, as you may well think, it is with great sorrow that the Holy Father resolved to take this disciplinary measure, because of the scandal caused to the Christian people by your obstinacy, after so many fraternal attempts to turn you from the blind alley in which you are proceeding. His Holiness cherishes the hope that you will again reflect on this, and he begs Our Lord to inspire you with the resolve to re-establish as soon as possible your communion with him.
Given at Rome, in the offices of the Congregation of Bishops, 22 July 1976.
Interview Given to the Nouvelliste of Sion, Valais, Switzerland,
at Econe on 3 August 1976 and Printed on 4 August 1976
Journalist: Aren't you heading towards schism?
Mgr. Lefebvre: When someone says to me, "You are going to cause a schism," I answer that it is not I who am causing a schism; I am remaining in a completely traditional line. So I remain united to the Church of two thousand years, and I am doing nothing other than what has been done for two thousand years, than what I was congratulated for doing, for the same thing, I am condemned! It is as if I am expelled, I am almost excommunicated; finally I am suspended, whereas I am doing exactly the same thing as I did for thirty years of my life, during which time I was given every possible and imaginable honor.
No one will take from me my conviction that something has happened in the Church. A new direction was taken at the Council, under the direction of Liberal Cardinals who had contacts with Freemasonry, and who desired that openness to the world that is so pleasing to the Freemasons; an openness to the world that resulted in the Declaration on Religious Liberty which is practically, in fact, the equality of all religions. So no more Catholic State, no more affirmation that the Church alone possesses the truth, and so many other things that obviously oppose us to the Council. The whole problem is there, the whole "drama of Econe," if it can be called that, is there. Personally, therefore, I think that it is not I who am causing a schism. Let me be shown in what I am causing a schism, let me be tried. I asked to be tried before the Congregation of the Faith, if I am truly opposed to the Catholic faith, if I am truly against the discipline of the Church.
I claim that now, since the Council, the authority in the Church -I do not say the Pope, for I do not know what the influence of the Pope is on the orders that are given. But those who hold power, at least the Roman Congregations, are in the process of leading the Church into schism.
What is schism? It is a break, a break with the Church. But a break with the Church can also be a break with the Church of the past. If someone breaks with the Church of two thousand years, he is in schism. There has already been a council which was declared schismatic. Well, it is possible that one day, in twenty years, in thirty, in fifty years - I don't know- the Second Vatican Council could be declared schismatic, because it professed things which are opposed to the Tradition of the Church, and which have caused a break with the Church.
8 August 1976
The Petition of the Eight
Eight of the most distinguished Catholics in France sent the following communication to the Press:
"A certain number of personages of the literary and artistic world communicate this letter which they are sending to the Pope on the subject of Mgr. Lefebvre.
8 August 1976
Most Holy Father,
The sanctions that have just been taken against Mgr. Lefebvre and his Seminary at Econe have aroused great emotion in France. Quite apart from traditionalists strictly so-called, it is the majority of French Catholics who feel themselves affected. For years they have been disturbed about the evolution of religion. They say nothing because they are not qualified to speak. They simply withdraw. It is Cardinal Marty himself who recently revealed to us that, between 1962 and 1975, Sunday Mass-going has fallen in the Paris parishes by 54 per cent. Why? Because the faithful no longer recognize their religion in the new liturgy and methods of evangelization.
Nor do they recognize it in the catechism. that is now taught to their children, in the contempt for basic morality, in the heresies professed by accepted theologians, in the political character given to the Gospel.
They welcomed the Council with joy, because they saw in it the announcement of a rejuvenation, a certain suppleness brought to structures and rules which time had little by little hardened, a more fraternal welcome to those seeking truth and justice without yet having the benefit of the great heritage of the Church. But what has happened did not meet their expectation. They have the impression now of being present at the sack of Rome. Was it not yourself, Holy Father, who spoke of the self-destruction of the Church? The fact is that in France that self-destruction is at its height -and we are witnessing it.
About Monseigneur Lefebvre and the Seminary at Econe these rank and file Catholics know very little. But what they have been learning about them little by little from newspapers, radio, and television rather evokes their sympathy. Monseigneur Lefebvre spent the best years of his life in missionary activity .He was Apostolic Delegate in Africa. Your predecessor, Pope John XXIII, who esteemed him greatly and loved him, nominated him to the Central Commission for the preparation of the Council. 4 He formed generations of seminarians. Of the priests from his seminaries, four became bishops, and it was yourself who made one of them, Monseigneur Thiandoum, a Cardinal. How could such a bishop who, all his life, has served the Church in a signal manner, suddenly become a stranger? Is he not rather the bishop whose portrait Vatican II seems to have painted: a bishop strong in faith, turned towards the mission, open to the world to be evangelized? Grieved at the ruin of the French seminaries, and convinced that vocations were not lacking amongst the young, he opened a seminary which, strictly faithful to the norms of Vatican II itself and of the congregation for Catholic Education, offered to those who wished to enter there a life of prayer, study, and discipline. At once candidates flocked in, and the seminary was filled. The great majority of "rank and file Catholics" of whom we speak know all that now.
The unity of the Church is the argument which we see put forward everywhere to justify the severe measures taken against Econe. But, Holy Father, if the little nucleus of Econe is crushed, division will be made much worse! For the division is not between Monseigneur Lefebvre and the other French bishops. It is in the very heart of the hierarchical Church, which lets so many rites, practices and opinions develop with impunity that there is a risk that we shall soon have as many of them as there are priests and communities. It is the swarming of these little inner schisms, it is this proliferation of individual religions, which is the mark of the Church in France-for we are speaking only for France. And there is an explosion of disobedience to Rome, to the Pope, to the Council, in all that concerns the liturgy, the priesthood, the formation of seminarians, and the faith itself. Strange Masses -sometimes ecumenical -and which have nothing to do with the Mass of Paul VI are celebrated with the greatest impunity. Is every "Eucharistic celebration" permitted except the traditional Mass? Can every church be open to Moslems, Israelites, Buddhists, but closed only to priests in soutanes? Is every dialogue to be welcomed with Freemasons, communists, atheists, but condemned with traditionalists? Is the hierarchy in France more prone to imposing a certain new spirit than to announcing and defending the truths of the faith?
There, Holy Father, you have what the basic stratum of the Christian people, whom we are here evoking, end by asking themselves. Every day brings us the echoes-ever stronger , ever more numerous-of their stupefaction and their anguish and that is why we turn to you, for to whom should a Catholic turn if not the Pope, Successor of Peter, Vicar of Jesus Christ? We lay our petition at your feet. What petition? That for love and pardon. It is, rather, a lamentation, a groan, that we hope will rise to you. We are not versed in Canon Law, and we do not doubt that Roman condemnations have juridical foundation. But it is precisely excessive juridicism, legalism, and formalism which seemed to us to have been banished by Vatican II. Could not this serious legal action taken against Monseigneur Lefebvre and his seminary be reconsidered? Could not the love you feel for the Christian people of France prevail over a rigor which, striking the most famous of our defenders of Tradition, will finish in inflicting an incurable wound on that people? Could not charity inspire the restoration of unity in the unique Truth? It seems to us that the traditional Mass and the priesthood of all time could be capable of finding their place in the consolidation and extension of a Church that has never ceased to keep Her essential dogmas and forms, through Her successive adaptations to the vicissitudes of history. What would become of a Church without priests and without Mass?
It is by this act of confidence, Holy Father, that we wish to bear witness to our loyalty to the Roman Pontiff, sure, as we are, of being heard by the Father of all Catholics, holder of the powers given to him from the beginning by the Founder to lead the Church to the end of the world.
Jean Dutourd Remy5
Michel de Saint Pierre
15 August 1976
Letter of Pope Paul VI to Mgr. Lefebvre
To our venerated Brother Marcel Lefebvre.
On this Feast of the Assumption of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, We desire to assure you of Our remembrance, accompanied with a special prayer for a positive and speedy solution of the question which concerns your person and your actions with regard to Holy Church.
Our remembrance is expressed in this fraternal and paternal wish:
The words "fraternal" and "paternal" do not make us forget the reality. Pope Paul VI refused to hear Mgr. Lefebvre before condemning him. And, in his discourse to the consistory on 24 May 1976, he publicly denounced Mgr. Lefebvre and those who follow him as being without feeling, without sincerity, and without good faith.
...that you would carefully consider, before the Lord and before the Church, in the silence and the responsibility of your conscience as a bishop, the insupportable irregularity of your present position.
There was an additional irregularity, the cause of all the subsequent irregularities: the irregularity of the procedure by which Mgr. Lefebvre was clandestinely judged and unjustly condemned.
It is not in conformity with truth and with justice. It arrogates to itself the right to declare that Our apostolic ministry deviates from the rule of faith, and to judge as unacceptable the teaching of an Ecumenical Council held with a perfect observance of the ecclesiastical norms: those are extremely serious accusations.
So Paul VI rejects the accusations as serious and not as false. In accord with the constant attitude of the Holy See in this affair, he does not deny the Liberal and Modernist tendencies of his pontificate, he denies that there is a right to challenge them; he does not claim that the Council was faultless, he affirms that the ecclesiastical norms were observed. It is the argument from authority, hypertrophied to the point of becoming the sole criterion of the just and the true. Once again, it is unconditional obedience to the Pope and the Council -what is demanded is servile submission.
Your position is not in accordance with the Gospel and in accordance with the faith.
Mgr. Lefebvre's position would not, in fact, be "in accordance with the Gospel and in accordance with the faith " if he were opposed to the principle of pontifical and conciliar authority. But that is not so. He is opposed to the manner, accidental (and faulty), with which that authority has been exercised for some fifteen years. Faced with that, Paul VI does again what he had already done in his consistorial discourse of 24 May: he confuses the challenging (in principle) of an authority with the challenging (in fact) of its exercise; in other words, he answers as though Mgr. Lefebvre were demanding a Church without Pope and without Council, which would, in fact, be out of conformity with Gospel and faith. The question raised by Mgr. Lefebvre, in this regard, is whether the authority itself is exercised "in conformity with Gospel and faith " in the way it conducts conciliar evolution. By reason of the circumstances, this question is neither gratuitous, nor trivial, nor temerarious. It cannot be put aside indefinitely without examination.
To persist in this course would do great harm to your consecrated person and to those who follow you, in disobedience to Canon Law. Instead of providing a remedy for the abuses which it is desired to correct, that would add another, of incalculable gravity.
Have the humility, Brother, and the courage, to break the illogical bond which makes you a stranger, hostile to the Church, the Church to which you have been of such service and which you desire still to love and edify. How many souls are expecting from you this example of heroic and simple faithfulness!
It is not stated what bond and what illogicality are meant.
Invoking the Holy Spirit, and trusting to the Most Holy Virgin Mary this hour which is, for you and for Us, decisive and bitter, We pray and We hope.
Paul, PP VI.
27 August 1976
An Appeal by Twenty-eight French Priests to Pope Paul VI
During a spiritual conference on 27 August 1976, a group of twenty-eight French priests, mostly parish clergy, in no way involved in the traditionalist movement, addressed a plea to His Holiness Pope Paul VI to take the appropriate measures to calm the emotion created in France by the affair of the Seminary at Econe. Protesting their total loyalty to the Holy See, these priests point out at length to the Holy Father the disorders which the exercise of their ministry has brought to their notice in France, particularly in catechetics, in the liturgy, and in the workings of the episcopal commissions for collegiality. 6
27 August 1976
Most Holy Father,
In the midst of the drama which has caused such disquiet among French Catholics for nearly two months, it is towards Your Holiness that we turn with filial respect to present this plea on behalf of His Grace Monseigneur Lefebvre and the young men who have gone to him to ask him to form them and lead them to the priesthood. Many voices have already been raised to make known the consternation experienced by the faithful when they heard of the severe sanctions imposed upon the founder of Econe and the priests ordained by him. Many of these expressed themselves with a dignity and a concern for the Church which must be recognized. But these were the voices of lay people. All honor to them. It is as priests and fully cognizant of the responsibilities of our priestly ministry that we wish to address Your Holiness, protesting loudly our fidelity and our submission to the Holy See.
An inquiry conducted by a reputable public opinion poll has made clear the extent of the popular feeling: 28 per cent of French Catholics gave their spontaneous support to Mgr. Lefebvre. Such a number calls for reflection, but in our pastoral experience, as priests in direct contact with the Christian people, it is neither exaggerated nor surprising. It is because of the extent and the depth of the distress that has been revealed that we beg Your Holiness to relent.
Although these lay people, admitting perhaps their understandable ignorance of Canon Law, may have revealed their anguish to Your Holiness with a freedom and frankness which did not diminish by an iota the respect with which they venerate the successor of St. Peter, quite the contrary, we as priests cannot ignore the law of the Church in the matter of ecclesiastical incardination. Although we cannot fail to recognize the very real and very serious questions which the decisions and actions of His Grace Monseigneur Lefebvre pose from the canonical standpoint, neither can we hide from ourselves the fact that this legal standpoint is only one aspect of the problem. What is most essential, and also relative to the very purpose of Canon Law, is the defense of the Faith and its promotion for the growth of the Church and the extension of the Kingdom of God.
This fundamental truth, far from favoring a typically subversive opposition between law and life, between the letter of the law and justice which the law must serve, recalls on the contrary the existence of higher principles and the ultimate purposes in the light of which positive law, which is necessarily limited and relative, must be used in the interests of justice and the vitality of the Church in order to avoid juridicism, that rightly denounced evil. Summum jus, maxima injuria, as the ancients used to say. Justice should always (in the Church) be at the service of Christ's charity and the salvation of souls: Salus animarum, lex suprema.
It is thus appealing to these higher principles, which we know are held most dear to the heart of Your Holiness, that we submit our plea that Your Holiness may find, as you alone have the power, a solution which will save Catholics and the Church from the terrible damage which must inevitably follow the present division if a remedy is not swiftly found.
1.Since it is primarily the law which is in question, what reply can one make to those who voice their deep anxiety at the fact that in the events leading up to the actual drama there is no indication of normal legal procedures having been observed, procedures demanded by the gravity of the affair in question and that of the measures finally taken? To stress a single point among many which have cropped up, one can only be very surprised to learn that the report of the canonical visitation of the Seminary at Econe in November 1974 was never sent to its superior; and this at a time when the Seminary's canonical status had been termed "vague," that is uncanonical, even by voices in authority. And why, one must also ask, was this visitation and its report not taken into consideration when the decision to suppress the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X was taken in May 1975?
We beg Your Holiness to forgive us for returning to these sad events. We believe that it is our duty to recall them, as these events, and others like them, explain the perplexity of the faithful, and the hardening of attitudes, in a manner which would normally be incomprehensible, even among genuine servants of God and of the Church.
2.What other reaction can the faithful and the clergy themselves manifest when, while these events are taking place, they witness the freedom and impunity enjoyed by almost all the "assassins of the faith," as His Eminence Cardinal Danielou designated them? The brutal force of such an expression may shock, but it only reflects the truth of the situation. It is hardly necessary to recall the facts that lie at the basis of this situation. Cardinal Seper and Cardinal Wright have for years been in possession of many dossiers concerning the new catechism which the official commissions of episcopal collegiality impose on the dioceses of France. These obligatory courses contain neither the "truths" nor the "means" necessary for salvation and yet years have passed without any action being taken against the authors or the propagators of this catechesis. They thus pursue their work of destroying the faith under cover of the Bishops' authority which they have usurped.
The situation concerning the liturgy is similar. With the uncertainty of the law, the innovators are no longer few in number but many. A religious was able to list more than one hundred and fifty "Eucharistic Prayers" put officially at the disposal of priests, not to mention the directions given by official bodies for the free composition of the eucharistic liturgy .All these directions have but one point in common, the rejection of Catholic truth -particularly where it concerns the sacramental function of the priest, the Real Presence of Christ, and the fact that the Mass is the true Sacrifice of the Cross. In this area also, most Holy Father, the Vatican Congregations were informed according to the prescribed forms, but the sanctions demanded by these blasphemous violations of divine law have never been taken. The result is that the innovators continue their work with an ever greater audacity. One bishop even tolerates those concelebrations, if such a word can be used, which for months have been taking place involving a priest of his diocese and a Protestant pastor, causing as much scandal to sincere Protestants as to faithful Catholics. Other prelates preside over meetings where the agenda of the JOC (Young Catholic Workers) is a cover-up for action which is more trade-unionist and political than apostolic, and where the official "eucharistic celebration " is an open denial of the Gospel. And what can be said about the establishment of General Absolution as the norm, an innovation which tends in practice to suppress the Sacrament of Penance, and which in many places has already supplanted it?
These facts, Most Holy Father, are no longer exceptional. They are daily occurrences. And it is this which explains why millions of French people, Catholics and even unbelievers, have made manifest their sympathy for the person and the actions of Mgr. Lefebvre. Catholics and large sections of the general public have recognized that he was reacting against the "self-destruction of the Church " which Your Holiness has denounced personally. It is to this reaction that they have said "Yes." It would be tragic to ignore the appeal contained in this massive popular manifestation.
3. As to the very serious basic questions concerning the conciliar and post-conciliar situation taken as a whole and in its reality: a certain manner of referring to the "Conciliar Church " cannot effectively be accepted; nor is it possible to deny the destruction of the Faith, or its large-scale abandonment by the faithful which, in spite of happily large exceptions, is obvious to any attentive observer. We recall the insistence with which, on two occasions in 1974, Your Holiness personally declared the need to "re-examine" what has been done for "the last ten years": firstly in the Bull announcing the Holy Year on 23 May, and secondly a month later in your discourse to the Cardinals on 22 June.
The task is immense, certainly ,but if twenty-eight per cent of Catholics reacted immediately by approving Mgr. Lefebvre whom they recognize quite simply as a pastor who is openly fighting the ills which afflict them all: if forty-eight per cent of these feel that the Church has gone "too far," if fifty-two per cent of practicing Catholics declare they are anxious and troubled by the current evolution of the Church, and if -and it is the Archbishop of Paris himself who has told us this - from 1962 to 1975, fifty-four percent of Catholics in Paris have ceased attending Mass, it shows that there is something seriously wrong, and that appropriate measures should be taken as a matter of urgency.
It is these measures which the Christian people are asking for today, and we believe that it is our duty as priests to confirm this in our small way to Your Holiness. We can bear witness that these statistics, revealed in the daily press, do in fact reflect exactly what our daily parish experience teaches us. Certainly, there are still generous souls whose devotion is often admirable, and their spirit of prayer and sacrifice some- times attains to heroism. It is nevertheless a fact that these are only a very few, while the numbers abandoning the Church are growing; thousands leave the Church and the seminaries continue to empty, although vocations exist. Where can we send them, these young men who ask where they can go to receive a priestly formation? There is not a single seminary in France (and voices more authoritative than ours can confirm this) where the norms of Catholic priestly formation, such as they have recently been formulated once again by the competent authority, are truly observed.
There again, Most Holy Father, it seems that the cause of the malaise is not to be found among persons -you are aware of the difficulties of our Bishops -under the burden of the structures and orientations which have followed the Council. Is not Collegiality, as it is exercised in practice by the commissions in which its authority is invested, one of the prime causes of the present situation in the seminaries of France, as it is in catechetics and the liturgy? Stemming from this, among a very great number of priests, among the young aspiring to the priesthood, and among the faithful, there is a temptation to discouragement and to disgust and to revolt. There is a grave risk of this feeling growing and aggravating the harm already done unless these grievances are dealt with; and to achieve this words will not suffice, adequate measures must be taken at once.
4. What measures? It is not for us to point them out to Your Holiness. It is, however, permitted for us to indicate to your paternal heart two areas where your personal intervention seems to us most urgent.
(a) The first is that of the Econe affair: a revision of the procedure which has resulted in the present drama appears necessary .We think particularly of the young priests, of their debt of gratitude to the Seminary at Econe and to its founder and to the faithful who have supported them. If a certain hardening of attitudes has already become apparent this is a matter not only of immediate gravity but has even more serious implications for the future. The factors which have contributed to this situation must not be forgotten, and we have already cited the principal ones. The Church in France is already short of priests. The salvation of souls demands that a solution conforming to justice and charity be found.
(b) The second area is that of the Liturgy. Numerous questions arise, as much from the point of view of the law as that of practice. Contrary to the view of Father Congar, we do not believe that the books he cites (in La Croix of 20 August 1976) reply to these questions. In fact, they only cite and analyze parts of the dossier. The situation is, in fact, one of almost unrestricted pluralism, as long as the "fruits of creativity" go in the direction of evolution. The absolute rights of creativity and research are proclaimed as the supreme law. This claim has been made and it would be hard to deny that it describes the current situation accurately. In such a situation it must be recognized that there is a permanent provocation even for those who, without denying the validity of the Ordo Missae instituted in 1969, see that in practice no one is concerned but those priests and faithful who, in opposition to the aberrations to which this evolution leads, attached themselves from the introduction of the Novus Ordo to an Ordo with a tradition of more than one thousand years.
In the name of what do they forbid this Ordo which the law promulgated by Your Holiness has not abrogated? We are in the midst of total pluralism and it is precisely because the faithful see that everything is, in fact, tolerated (even what is manifestly unlawful), that they are deeply shocked to find that the only victims of intolerance are those who in the present drama appeal to tradition in liturgical matters.
Now that the unity of Catholic liturgy has been shattered (we are speaking of France where we are the witnesses of unbelievable division), it is not by proscribing the only rite with a thousand years of tradition in the Roman Church that we shall find the means of achieving unity. On the contrary, it is clear that the recognition of the established position of the old Roman rite within the Catholic Church would be an act of conciliation capable of contributing in no small way to calming troubled spirits and healing wounds, not to mention all the other benefits which could be expected to accrue.
It is with full confidence that we send this request to Your Holiness. We well remember the words of your Profession of Faith (Credo of the People of God) of 30 June 1968: "Within the body of this Church the rich variety of liturgical rites and legitimate diversity in theological and spiritual heritage and particular custom, far from detracting from this unity demonstrates it yet more vividly." On 14 December last did not Your Holiness recall again, when addressing the Patriarch Dimitrios, all the benefits which can and do derive from "the respect of a legitimate liturgical diversity, at once spiritual, disciplinary, and theological"? Such words are a great encouragement to us, particularly as they seem to echo the Council which declared that: "Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity: that She wishes to preserve them in the future and foster them in every way" (Liturgy Constitution, No.4). Certainly the Council goes on to say that there is need for "revisions," but when these end up by creating a new rite, are we not conforming to the sovereign law of the Church in this matter by suggesting that the wish manifested by the Council to preserve and favor all manner of rites legitimately recognized, especially the oldest and most venerable, applies in a very particular way to the rite of the Roman Church, the most venerable of them all?
Most Holy Father, as respectful and submissive sons, we place this supplication in your hands, but it is also as priests and pastors conscious of their positions of responsibility which the Church has conferred upon them in the care of souls. Love of Christ's unique Church, so sadly torn apart from within, is the motive which has inspired us. It is the love of Christ and the love of our brothers which Our Saviour Himself has confided to you His Vicar here below. It is the love of Our Lady so gloriously proclaimed by you "Mother of the Church."
Be pleased, Your Holiness, to accept together with our supplication the homage of our most profound and filial respect, and to grant us the grace of your Apostolic Benediction. 7
1. Some words are missing on the tape recording
2. I.e. ten days from Sunday.11 July 1976.
3. The canon mentioned does not specify the penalties: congruis poenis, censuris non exclusis, pro gravitate culpae puniantur
4. Pius XII, even more than John XXIII, loved and esteemed Mgr. Lefebvre.
5. Colonel Remy is possibly the most distinguished living hero of the French Resistance.
6. The text of this appeal was published in the Courrier de Rome, No.161, September 1976.
7. The letter was signed by twenty-eight diocesan priests, parish priests and chaplains.