26 September 2022

Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre - The War of Attrition

By Michael Davies

Under the heading "Official Information of the Conference of Swiss Bishops concerning Mgr. Lefebvre's Foundations," the 12 December 1975 issue of the Nouvelliste (of Sion, Switzerland) reproduced a Dossier concerning Ecône which had just been released for publication by the Swiss Bishops' Conference.

This Dossier comprised the following documents:

1. A letter from Cardinal Villot dated 27 October 1975 addressed to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences.

2. The text of a typewritten letter signed by His Holiness Pope Paul VI dated 29 June 1975 addressed to Mgr. Lefebvre.

3. The text of an entirely handwritten letter dated 8 September 1975, from His Holiness Pope Paul VI to Mgr. Lefebvre.

4. The text of the handwritten reply from Mgr. Lefebvre to His Holiness Pope Paul VI dated 24 September 1975.

5. In addition to these documents the Nouvelliste also published a commentary on them by Mgr. Pierre Mamie, the Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg.

These documents are included here in their chronological order, with the exception of the papal letter of 29 June, which has already been included under that date.

8 September 1975 - Letter of Pope Paul VI to Archbishop Lefebvre

To Our Brother in the Episcopate, Marcel Lefebvre
Former Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle

Awareness of the mission with which the Lord has entrusted Us led Us on 29 June last to address to you an exhortation that was both urgent and fraternal.

Since that date, We have waited each day for a sign on your part expressing your submission - or better than that, your attachment and unreserved fidelity - to the Vicar of Christ. Nothing has yet come. It seems that you have not renounced any of your activities and, even that you are developing new projects.

Do you perhaps consider that your intentions have been badly understood? Do you perhaps believe the Pope to be badly informed, or subject to pressure? Dear Brother, your attitude in Our eyes is so serious that - We tell you again - We have Ourselves attentively examined it in all aspects, Our primary concern being for the good of the Church and a particular concern for persons. The decision which We confirmed to you in Our previous letter was taken after mature reflection and before the Lord.

The time has now come for you to declare yourself clearly. Despite the grief We feel in making public Our interventions, We can no longer delay doing so if you do not soon declare your complete submission. We implore you to force us neither to take such a step nor afterwards take sanctions against a refusal of obedience.

Pray to the Holy Spirit, dear Brother. He will show you the necessary renunciations and help you to re-enter in the path of a full communion with the Church and with the successor of Peter. We Ourselves invoke Him on your behalf while telling you once more of Our affection and Our affliction.

8 September 1975

Paul PP VI

24 September 1975 - Letter of Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI

Dear Holy Father,

If my reply to the letter of Your Holiness is belated, it is that it was repugnant to me to make a public act that could have led people to think that I had the pretension of treating the successor of Peter on a footing of equality.

On the other hand, on the advice of the Nunciature, I hasten to write these few lines to Your Holiness in order to express my unreserved attachment to the Holy See and to the Vicar of Christ. I very much regret that my feelings in this regard could have been called in question and that certain of my expressions may have been wrongly interpreted.

It is to His Vicar that Jesus Christ confided the responsibilities of confirming his brethren in the faith and whom He asked to watch that each Bishop should faithfully guard the deposit of faith, in accordance with the words of Paul to Timothy.

It is this conviction which guides me and has always guided me throughout the whole of  my priestly and apostolic life. It is this faith which I endeavour with God's help to inculcate in the youth who are preparing themselves for the priesthood.

This faith is the soul of Catholicism affirmed by the Gospels: "on this I shall build my Church."

With all my heart, I renew my devotion towards the Successor of Peter, "The Master of Truth" for the whole Church, "columna et firmamentum Veritatis."

†Marcel Lefebvre

27 October 1975 - Letter from Cardinal Villot to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences

Your Eminence, Your Excellency,

On 6 May last, in full agreement with the Holy See, Mgr. Pierre Mamie, Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg withdrew canonical approval from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, directed by Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre, former Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle.

The foundations of this Fraternity, and particularly the Seminary of Ecône, by this same action lost the right to exist. Thus a particularly complex sad affair was settled from the juridical point of view.

What point have we reached in this matter six months afterwards? Mgr. Lefebvre has not yet accepted in deeds the decision of the competent authority. His activities continue, his projects tend to assume concrete form in various countries, his writings and talks continue to lead astray a certain number of confused Catholics. It is alleged here and there that the Holy Father has allowed himself to be influenced or that the development of the procedure has been vitiated by formal defects.

It is not simply alleged "here and there" that there were formal defects in the legal proceedings against Mgr. Lefebvre, it is Mgr. Lefebvre himself who makes the claim, and his advocate was prepared to prove it if granted a proper legal hearing. The fact that the Archbishop was denied the right to appeal certainly gives credence to his allegation.

Fidelity to the Church of yesterday is invoked in order to disassociate oneself from the Church of today as though the Church of the Lord could change in nature or in form.

In view of the harm done to Christian people by the continuation of such a situation and only after having utilized all the resources of charity, the Sovereign Pontiff has ordered that the following information, which should contribute towards dispelling remaining doubts, be communicated to all Episcopal Conferences.

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X was instituted on 1 November 1970 by Mgr. Francis Charrière, the then Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. A diocesan pious union, it was destined in the mind of Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre to be subsequently transformed into a Religious Community without vows. Until its recognition as such - which recognition moreover was not given - it consequently continued to be subject jurisdiction of the Bishop of Fribourg and to the vigilance of the dioceses in which it carried on its activities. Such is the position according to law.

However, it became apparent soon enough that those responsible refused all control by the legitimate authorities...

This is a straightforward calumny. The letter from Cardinal Wright cited under the date 18 February 1971 proves that Archbishop Lefebvre was keeping the appropriate Vatican departments acquainted with the progress of the Fraternity - and that this progress was regarded with warm approbation by Cardinal Wright. The only attempt by "legitimate authority" to exercise "control" was the Apostolic Visitation of November 1974. In his letter of 25 January 1975 (cited in under that date), Cardinal Garrone thanked Mgr. Lefebvre for the total cooperation which he had given to the Apostolic Visitor. "We are grateful to you for having given him every facility to accomplish the mission on behalf of the See."

...remaining deaf to their warnings...

This is another calumny. As no such warnings from "the legitimate authorities" were received by Mgr. Lefebvre (and not even one is cited by Cardinal Villot), the Archbishop can hardly be accused of remaining deaf to them!

...persevering against the whole world in their chosen direction: systematic opposition to the Second Vatican Council and to post-conciliar reform.

This is a very vague and sweeping allegation. It should be noted that opposition to the Council itself and to the reforms claiming to implement it are bracketed together. Throughout the entire campaign against the Archbishop he is invariably ordered to accept the Council and the Reforms - it is never conceded that a distinction can be made between them. In this respect I must ask readers to refer to my book Pope John's Council, where I provide ample documentation to prove that a good number of the reforms claiming to implement the Council cannot possibly be justified by specific reference to a Council document. I also demonstrate that there are, as Mgr. Lefebvre claims, some badly worded passages in the actual documents which have been utilized by the Liberals in their efforts to undermine the Church. Now either these ambiguous passages exist or they do not. If they do exist, then Mgr. Lefebvre clearly has a duty to draw attention to them; if his criticisms are unfounded, then this should be pointed out. At the moment his opponents are not prepared to discuss, let alone attempt to refute, his criticisms. Their invariable attitude is that anyone who criticizes the documents of Vatican II is ipso facto in the wrong.

It was not acceptable that candidates for the priesthood should be trained in a spirit of hostility towards the living Church, towards the Pope, towards the Bishops, and towards the priests with whom they were asked to collaborate.

Not one word is adduced to prove that the seminarians were trained in this spirit. Quite clearly, the testimony of the Apostolic Visitors gave no such impression or it would have been used against the Archbishop.

It became urgent to help the seminarists who had thus been trained. Finally, it appeared necessary to remedy the increasing trouble in several dioceses in Switzerland and other nations.

In view of the gravity of this matter and anxious that the inquiry should be conducted quite dispassionately, the Holy Father therefore set up a Commission of Cardinals composed of three members: Cardinal Gabriel-Marie Garrone, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (who was President of the Commission); Cardinal John Wright, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; and Cardinal Arturo Tabera, Prefect of the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes. This Commission had as its task, first to collect the fullest possible information and to proceed to an examination of all aspects of the problem, and then to propose its findings to the Sovereign Pontiff.

The first phase of its work lasted approximately a year. That is to say that, contrary to certain allegations, it was done without any haste and time was taken for profound reflection. The evidence of a very large number of the witnesses was received. An Apostolic Visitation of the Fraternity was effected at Ecône (11-13 November 1974) by Mgr. Albert Descamps, Rector Emeritus of the University of Louvain, and Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, assisted by Mgr. Guillaume Onclin, in the capacity of canonical adviser. Mgr. Mamie and Mgr. Adam, Bishop of Sion (the diocese in which Ecône is situated), were heard on several occasions and Mgr. Lefebvre was twice called to Rome, in February and March 1975. The Pope himself was frequently and scrupulously kept informed of the development of the inquiry and its results, which he had to confirm in the course of the summer to Mgr. Lefebvre (cf. the two Pontifical letters which will be referred to later).

The second phase resulted in the decision which is known, a decision made public by order of His Holiness communicated to the Cardinals' Commission, and a decision without right of appeal since each of its points was approved in forma specifica by the Supreme Authority.

Once again it must be stated that not one shred of document evidence of the Pope's approval in foma specifica can be produced dated earlier than his letter of 29 June 1975. It is reasonable to presume that Cardinal Villot forbade Cardinal Staffa to examine the Archbishop's second appeal in order to prevent this serious irregularity from being brought to light.

I shall not deal any further with the history of what happened. If you consider it useful, you can in effect ask for details from the Pontifical Representative in your country. He has been instructed to give you such information should it be needed.

It is therefore now clear that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X has ceased to exist, that those who still claim to be members of it cannot pretend - a fortiori - to escape the jurisdiction of the diocesan Ordinaries, and, finally, that these same Ordinaries are gravely requested not to accord incardination in their dioceses to the young men who declare themselves to be engaged in the service of the Fraternity.

This paragraph makes clear the true purpose of Cardinal Villot's letter. In order to be ordained, a priest must be accepted (incardinated) into either a diocese or a religious order. By instructing the world's bishops to refuse to incardinate the students from Ecône, Cardinal Villot imagined that he had signed the death-warrant of Ecône, since students would not go there to study for the priesthood when there was no possibility of their being ordained. Up to this point the priests ordained at Ecône had all been regularly incardinated into dioceses in accordance with the requirements of Canon Law.

It remains for me to present to you the enclosed documents, two letters addressed by the Holy Father to Mgr. Lefebvre, and a reply from the latter. Their publication had been delayed until now: the Gospel teaches that fraternal correction must first be attempted with discretion. This is also the reason why the Holy See has abstained from all kinds of polemic from the beginning of this affair and has never sought to react to the insinuations, lying manipulation of the facts, and personal accusations so liberally diffused in the press. But there sometimes comes a moment when silence can no longer be kept and when it is necessary for the Church to know (cf. Mt. 18: 15-17).1

There had indeed been a press campaign based on "insinuations, lying manipulation of the facts, and personal accusations" - but it was in operation against Mgr. Lefebvre rather than on his behalf. As the entry for 8 May 1975 makes clear, a lead was given in this campaign by an article in L'Osservatore Romano, probably written by Cardinal Villot himself.

The first letter dated 29 June 1975 had been taken to Ecône on 8 July. It has never been answered. You will read in it, as in the second (8 September) the grief of the Common Father and the hope he still entertains, even if no sign of real good will has yet been given him. You will see that his dearest wish is to receive his Brother in the Episcopate whenever he submits.

The letter from Mgr. Lefebvre certainly shows evidence of personal devotion with regard to the Pontiff, but unfortunately nothing authorizes one to think that the author is resolved to obey. It cannot therefore itself alone be considered a satisfactory reply.

Your Eminence/Your Excellency, if circumstances are such that the problem affects you in one way or another, you yourself or other Bishops of your country, you will have it at heart in this Holy Year to work for peace and reconciliation. The hour is not one for polemics, it is rather one for charity and for examination of conscience. Excesses often call forth other excesses. Vigilance in doctrinal and liturgical matters, clear-sightedness in discerning the reforms which require to be undertaken, patience and tact in the guidance of the People of God, solicitude for priestly vocations and an exacting preparation for the tasks of the ministry, all that is undoubtedly the most effective manner in which a Pastor can bear witness.

I am sure you will understand this appeal and, with you, I desire that the unity of the members of the Church may shine forth still more in the future.

†Jean Cardinal Villot

3 September 1975 - Letter to Friends and Benefactors2 (no.9)

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

It seems to me that the moment has come to bring to your knowledge the latest events concerning Ecône, and the attitude which in conscience before God we believe we must take in these grave circumstances.

As far as the appeal to the Apostolic Signature is concerned: the last attempt on the part of my lawyer, to find out from the Cardinals forming the Supreme Court exactly how the Pope intervened in the proceedings being brought against us, was stopped in its tracks by a hand-written letter from Cardinal Villot to Cardinal Staffa, President of the Supreme Court, ordering him to forbid any appeal.

As for my audience with the Holy Father, it has likewise been refused by Cardinal Villot. I shall obtain an audience only when my work has disappeared and when I have conformed my way of thinking to that which reigns supreme in today's reformed Church.

However, the most important event is undoubtedly the signed letter from the Holy Father (of 29 June) presented as the Pope's own handwriting by the Papal Nuncio in Bern, but in fact typewritten, and which takes up again in a new form the arguments or rather the statements of the Cardinal's letter. This I received on 10 July last. It calls on me to make a public act of submission "to the Council, to the post-conciliar reforms, and to the orientations to which the Pope himself is committed (orientations qui engagent le pape lui-même)."

A second letter from the Pope which I received on 10 September urgently required an answer to the first letter.

This time, through no desire of my own, my only aim being to serve the Church in the humble and very consoling task of giving Her true priests devoted to Her service, I found myself confronted with the Church authorities at their top-most level on earth, the Pope. So I wrote an answer to the Holy Father, stating my submission to the successor of Peter in his essential function, that of faithfully transmitting to us the deposit of the faith.

If we consider the facts from a purely material point of view, it is a trifling matter: the suppression of a Society which has barely come into existence, with no more than a few dozen members, the closing down of a Seminary - how little it is in reality, hardly worth anyone's attention.

On the other hand if for a moment we heed the reactions stirred up in Catholic and even Protestant, Orthodox and atheist circles, moreover throughout the entire world, the countless articles in the world press, reactions of enthusiasm and true hope, reactions of spite and opposition, reactions of mere curiosity, we cannot help thinking, even against our will, that Ecône is posing a problem reaching far beyond the modest confines of the Society and its Seminary, a deep and unavoidable problem that cannot be pushed to one side with a sweep of the hand, nor solved by any formal order, from whatever authority it may come. For the problem of Ecône is the problem of thousands and millions of Christian consciences, distressed, divided and torn for the past ten years by the agonizing dilemma: whether to obey and risk losing one's faith, or disobey and keep one's faith intact; whether to obey and join in the destruction of the Church, whether to accept the reformed Liberal Church, or to go on belonging to the Catholic Church.

It is because Ecône is at the heart of this crucial problem, seldom till now posed with such fullness or gravity, that so many people are looking to this house which has resolutely made its choice of belonging to the eternal Church and of refusing to belong to the reformed Liberal Church.

And now the Church, through her official representatives, is taking up a position against Ecône's choice, thus condemning in public the traditional training of priests, in the name of the Second Vatican Council, in the name of post-conciliar reforms, and in the name of post-conciliar orientations to which the Pope himself is committed.

How can such opposition to Tradition in the name of a Council and its practical application be explained? Can one reasonably oppose, should one in reality oppose, a Council and its reforms? What is more, can one and should one oppose the orders of a hierarchy commanding one to follow the Council and all the official post-conciliar changes?

That is the grave problem, today, after ten post-conciliar years, confronting our conscience, as a result of the condemnation of Ecône.

One cannot give a prudent answer to these questions without making a rapid survey of the history of Liberalism and Catholic Liberalism over the last centuries. The present can only be explained by the past.

Principles of Liberalism

Let us first define in a few words the Liberalism of which the most typical historical example is Protestantism. Liberalism pretends to free man from any constraint not wished or accepted by himself.

First liberation: frees the intelligence from any objective truth imposed on it. The Truth must be accepted as differing according to the individual or group of individuals, so it is necessarily divided up. The making of the Truth and the search for it go on all the time. Nobody can claim to have exclusive or complete possession of it. It is obvious how contrary that is to Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.

Second liberation: frees the faith from any dogmas imposed on us, formulated in a definitive fashion, and which the intelligence and will must submit to. Dogmas, according to the Liberal, must be submitted to the test of reason and science, constantly, because science is constantly progressing. Hence it is impossible to admit any revealed truth defined once and for all. It will be noticed how opposed such a principle is to the Revelation of Our Lord and His divine authority.

Lastly, Third liberation: frees us from the law. The law, according, to the Liberal, limits freedom and imposes on it a restraint first moral and then physical. The law and its restraint are an affront to human dignity and human conscience. Conscience is the supreme law. The Liberal confuses liberty with license. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the living Law, as He is the Word of God; it will be realized once more how deep runs the opposition between the Liberal and Our Lord.

Consequences of Liberalism

The consequences of Liberal principles are to destroy the philosophy of being and to refuse all definition of things, so as to shut oneself into nominalism or existentialism and evolutionism. Everything is subject to mutation and change.

A second consequence, as grave as the first, if not more so, is to deny the supernatural, and hence original sin, justification by grace, the true reason for the Incarnation, the Sacrifice of the Cross, the Church, the Priesthood. Everything Our Lord accomplished gets falsified; which works out in practical terms as a Protestant view of the Liturgy of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments whose object is no longer to apply the merits of the Redemption to souls, to each single soul, in order to impart to it the grace of divine life and to prepare it for eternal life through its belonging to the Mystical Body of Our Lord, but whose central purpose from now on is the belonging to a human community of a religious character. The whole liturgical Reform reflects this change of direction.

Another consequence: the denying of all personal authority as sharing in the authority of God. Human dignity demands that man submit only to what he agrees to submit to. Since, however, no society can live without authority, man will accept only authority approved by the majority, because that represents authority being delegated by the largest number of individuals to a designated person or group of persons, such authority being never more than delegated.

Now these principles and their consequences, requiring freedom of thought, freedom of teaching, freedom of conscience, freedom to choose one's own religion, these false freedoms which presuppose the secular state, the separation of Church and State, have been, ever since the Council of Trent, steadily condemned by the successors of Peter, starting with the Council of Trent itself.

Condemnation of Liberalism by the Magisterium of the Church

It is the Church’s opposition to Protestant Liberalism which gave rise to the Council of Trent, and hence the considerable importance of this dogmatic Council in the struggle against Liberal errors, in the defense of the Truth and the Faith, in particular in the codifying of the Liturgy of the Mass and the Sacraments, in the definitions concerning justification by grace.

Let us list a few of the most important documents, completing and confirming the Council of Trent's doctrine:

- The Bull Auctorem fidei of Pius VI against the Council of Pistoia.

- The Encyclical Mirari vos of Gregory XVI against Lamennais.

- The Encyclical Quanta cura and the Syllabus of Pius IX.

- The Encyclical Immortale Dei of Leo XIII condemning the secularization of states.

The Papal Acts of Saint Pius X against the Sillon and Modernism, and especially the Decree Lamentabili and the Anti-Modernist Oath.

- The Encyclical Divini Redemptoris of Pius XI against Communism.

- The Encyclical Humani generis of Pius XII.

Thus Liberalism and Liberal Catholicism have always been condemned by Peter's successors in the name of the Gospel and apostolic Tradition.

This obvious conclusion is of capital importance in deciding what attitude to adopt in order to show that we are unfailingly at one with the Church's Magisterium and with Peter’s successors. Nobody is more attached than we are to Peter’s successor reigning today when he echoes the apostolic Traditions and all his predecessors' teachings. For it is the very definition of Peter's successor to guard the deposit of Faith and hand it faithfully down. Here is what Pope Pius IX proclaimed on the subject in Pastor aeternus:

For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter, that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might individually keep and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith delivered through the Apostles.

Influence of Liberalism on Vatican II

Now we come to the question which so concerns us: How is it possible that anyone can, in the name of the Second Vatican Council, oppose the centuries-old apostolic traditions, and so bring into question the Catholic Priesthood itself, and its essential act, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

A grave and tragic ambiguity hangs over the Second Vatican Council which is presented by the Popes themselves3 in terms favoring that ambiguity: for instance, the Council of the aggiornamento, the "bringing up-to-date" of the Church, the pastoral non-dogmatic Council, as the Pope again called it just a month ago.

This way of presenting the Council, in the Church and the world as they were in 1962, ran very grave risks which the Council did not succeed in avoiding. It was easy to interpret these words in such a way that the Council was opened wide to the errors of Liberalism. A Liberal minority among the Council Fathers, and above all among the Cardinals, was very active, very well organized and fully supported by a constellation of Modernist theologians and numerous secretariats. Take for example the enormous flow of printed matter from the I.D.O.C., subsidized by the Bishops' Conferences of Germany and Holland.

Everything was in their favor, for their demanding the instant adaptation of the Church to modern man, in other words man who wishes to be freed from all shackles, for their presenting the Church as out of touch and impotent, for their saying "mea culpa" on behalf of their predecessors. The Church is presented as being as guilty as the Protestants and Orthodox for the divisions of old. She must ask present-day Protestants for forgiveness.

The Traditional Church is guilty in Her wealth, in her triumphalism; the Council Fathers feel guilty at being out of the world, at not belonging to the world; they are already blushing at their episcopal insignia, soon they will be ashamed of their cassocks.

Soon this atmosphere of liberation will spread to all fields and it will show in the spirit of collegiality which will veil the shame felt at exercising a personal authority so opposed to the spirit of modern man, let us say Liberal man. The Pope and Bishops will exercise their authority collegially in Synods, Bishops' Conferences, Priests' Councils. Finally the Church is opened wide to the principles of the modern world.

The Liturgy too will be Liberalized, adapted, subjected to experiments by the Bishops' Conferences.

Religious liberty, ecumenism, theological research, the revision of Canon Law will all soften down the triumphalism of a Church which used to proclaim herself the only ark of salvation! The Truth is to be found divided up among all religions, joint research will carry the universal religious community forward around the Church.

Geneva Protestants, Marsaudon in his book Ecumenism as Seen by a Freemason, Liberals like Fesquet, are triumphant. At last the era of Catholic states will disappear. All religions equal before the Law! "The Church free in the free State," Lamennais' formula! Now the Church is in touch with the modern world! The Church's privileged status before the Law and all the documents cited above turn into museum pieces for an age that has out-grown them! Read the beginning of the Schema on The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), the description of how modern times are changing; read the conclusions, they are pure Liberalism. Read the Declaration on Religious Freedom and compare it with the Encyclical Mirari vos of Gregory XVI, or with Quanta cura of Pius IX, and you can recognize the contradiction almost word for word.4

To say that Liberal ideas had no influence on the Second Vatican Council is to fly in the face of the evidence. The internal and external evidence both make that influence abundantly clear.

Influence of Liberalism on the post-conciliar reforms and trends

And if we pass on from the Council to the reforms and changes of direction since the Council the proof is so clear as to be blinding. Now, let us take careful note that in the letters from Rome calling upon us to make a public act of submission, the Council and its subsequent reforms and orientations are always presented as being three parts of one whole. Hence all those people are gravely mistaken who talk of a wrong interpretation of the Council, as though the Council in itself was perfect and could not be interpreted along the lines of the subsequent reforms and changes.

Clearer than any written account of the Council, the official reforms and changes that have followed in its wake show how the Council is officially meant to be interpreted.

Now on this point we need not elaborate: the facts speak for themselves, alas all too eloquently.

What still remains intact of the pre-conciliar Church? Where has the self-destruction (as Pope Paul called it) not been at work? Catechetics - seminaries - religious congregations - liturgy of the Mass and the Sacraments - constitution of the Church - concept of the Priesthood. Liberal ideas have wrought havoc all round and are taking the Church far beyond Protestant ideas, to the amazement of the Protestants and to the disgust of the Orthodox.

One of the most horrifying practical applications of these Liberal principles is the opening wide of the Church to embrace all errors and in particular the most monstrous error ever devised by Satan: Communism. Communism now has official access to the Vatican, and its world revolution is made markedly easier by the official non-resistance of the Church, nay, by her regular support of the revolution, in spite of the despairing warnings by cardinals who have been through Communist jails.

The refusal of this pastoral Council to issue any official condemnation of Communism alone suffices to disgrace it for all time, when one thinks of the tens of millions of martyrs, of people having their personalities scientifically destroyed in the psychiatric hospitals, serving as guinea-pigs for all sorts of experiments. And the pastoral Council which brought together 2,350 Bishops said not a word, in spite of the 450 signatures of Fathers demanding a condemnation, which I myself took to Mgr. Felici, Secretary of the Council, together with Mgr. Sigaud, Archbishop of Diamantina.

Need the analysis be pushed any further to reach its conclusion? These lines seem to me to be enough to justify one's refusing to follow this Council, these reforms, these changes in all their Liberalism and Neo-modernism.

We should like to reply to the objection that will no doubt be raised under the heading of obedience, and of the jurisdiction held by those who seek to impose this Liberalization. Our reply is: In the Church, law and jurisdiction are at the service of the Faith, the primary reason for the Church. There is no law, no jurisdiction which can impose on us a lessening of our Faith.

We accept this jurisdiction and this law when they are at the service of the Faith. But on what basis can they be judged? Tradition, the Faith taught for 2,000 years. Every Catholic can and must resist anyone in the Church who lays hands on his Faith, the Faith of the eternal Church, relying on his childhood catechism.

Defending his Faith is the prime duty of every Christian, all the more of every priest and bishop. Wherever an order carries with it a danger of corrupting Faith and morals, it becomes a grave duty not to obey it.

It is because we believe that our whole Faith is endangered by the post-Conciliar reforms and changes that it is our duty to disobey, and to maintain the traditions of our Faith. The greatest service we can render to the Catholic Church, to Peter's successor, to the salvation of souls and of our own, is to say "No" to the reformed Liberal Church, because we believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God made Man, Who is neither Liberal nor reformable.

One final objection: the Council is a Council like the others, therefore it should be followed like the others. It is like them in its ecumenicity and in the manner of its being called, yes; like them in its object, which is what is essential, no. A non-dogmatic Council need not be infallible; it is only infallible when it repeats traditional dogmatic truths.

How do you justify your attitude towards the Pope?

We are the keenest defenders of his authority as Peter's successor, but our attitude is governed by the words of Pius IX quoted above. We applaud the Pope when he echoes Tradition and is faithful to his mission of handing down the deposit of the Faith. We accept changes in close conformity with Tradition and the Faith. We do not feel bound by any obedience to accept changes going against Tradition and threatening our Faith. In that case, we take up position behind the papal documents listed above.

We do not see how, in conscience, a Catholic layman, priest or bishop can adopt any other attitude towards the grievous crisis the Church is going through. Nihil innovetur nisi quod traditum est - innovate nothing outside Tradition.

May Jesus and Mary help us to remain faithful to our episcopal promises! "Call not true what is false, call not good what is evil." That is what we were told at our consecration.

On the Feast of Saint Pius X, 1975
†Marcel Lefebvre

A few lines added to the above document will inform you of how our work is progressing.

A dozen seminarians left us at the end of the academic year, some of them because of the repeated attacks on us by the hierarchy. Ten more have been called up for military service. On the other hand, we have 25 new seminarians entering at Ecône, 5 at Weissbad in the Appenzell Canton, and 6 at Armada in the USA.

Moreover, we have five postulant brothers and eight postulant sisters. You can see that young people, by their sense of the Faith, know where to find the sources of the graces necessary for their vocation. We are preparing for the future: in the United States by building a chapel at Armada with 18 rooms for seminarians; in England by buying a larger house for the four priests now dispensing true doctrine, the true Sacrifice and the Sacraments. In France, we have acquired our first Priory, at St. Michel-en-Brenne. These priories, including one house for priests and brothers, another for sisters and a house of 25 to 30 rooms for the spiritual exercises, will be sources of prayer-life and sanctification for lay-folk and priests, and centres of missionary activity. In Switzerland at Weissbad, a Society of St. Charles Borromeo is putting rooms at our disposal in a rented building in which private lessons are being organized for German-speaking students.

That is why we are counting on the support of your prayers and generosity in order to continue, despite the trials, this training of priests indispensable to the life of the Church. We are being attacked neither by the Church nor by the Successor of Peter, but by churchmen steeped in the errors of Liberalism and occupying high positions, who are making use of their power to make the Church of the past disappear, and to install in its place a new Church which no longer has anything to do with Catholicism.

Therefore we must save the true Church and Peter's successor from this diabolical assault which calls to mind the prophecies of the Book of Revelation.

Let us pray unceasingly to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the Holy Angels, St. Pius X, to come to our help so that the Catholic Faith may triumph over errors. Let us remain united in this Faith, let us avoid disputations, let us love one another, let us pray for those who persecute us and let us render good for evil.

And may God bless you.
†Marcel Lefebvre


A Commentary by Mgr. Mamie, published in the Nouvelliste of Sion of 12 December 1975

In a letter to friends and benefactors of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (No.9, dated the Feast of St. Pius X, 1975) - which has been widely diffused - Mgr. Lefebvre writes:

"It seems to me that the moment has come to bring to your knowledge the latest events concerning Ecône, and the attitude which in conscience before God we believe we must take in these grave circumstances."

In the same letter he also states:

"It is because we believe that our whole Faith is endangered by the post-conciliar reforms and changes that it is our duty to disobey, and to maintain the traditions of our Faith. The greatest service we can render to the Catholic Church, to Peter's successor, to the salvation of souls and of our own, is to say "No" to the reformed Liberal Church, because we believe in Our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God made Man, Who is neither Liberal nor reformable."

On November 6 last, on Swiss Television there was a program dealing with intégrisme.5 In this program prominence was given to liturgical initiatives in the form of Masses celebrated according to the rite of St. Pius V.

The journal Le Monde, in its issue of 27 November 1975, gives some information on the same question and in particular publishes a letter from the Superior General of the Holy Ghost Congregation which publicly disowns the positions taken by Mgr. Lefebvre.

The journal La Croix, in its issue of 27 November 1975, also informs its readers in an article entitled "Mgr. Lefebvre Refuses Obedience to Paul VI."

In accord with the Conference of Swiss Bishops, we have on our part decided to publish the letters which compose this new dossier. Some comments are necessary:

1. It is surprising that Mgr. Lefebvre had not replied to the first clear and paternal letter from the Sovereign Pontiff.

2. It was therefore necessary for the Pope to write a new letter in his own hand in order that Mgr. Lefebvre could acknowledge the authenticity of the first letter.

3. In his reply, Mgr. Lefebvre expresses his "unreserved attachment to the Holy See and to the Vicar of Christ."

4. However, as I see it, there is a contradiction between this affirmation on the one hand, and on the other the continued activities of the Ecône Seminary, the establishment of new institutions, certain positions taken against the Second Vatican Council and the Letter to Friends and Benefactors we have already cited, for this letter speaks of a "right to disobey."

It is with great sorrow that we communicate this information. We were so hopeful that Mgr. Lefebvre would have accepted the demands of the Sovereign Pontiff. It is more urgent than ever to intensify our prayers that the faithful, priests, and bishops remain attached by their actions to the Successor of Peter, for without attachment and submission to the Pope there is no longer a Catholic Church.

We recall:

a. That His Holiness Pope Paul wrote to Mgr. Lefebvre (in his letter of 29 June 1975): "Certainly, problems of another order entirely preoccupy Us equally - the superficiality of certain interpretations of conciliar documents, of individual or collective initiatives deriving sometimes rather from arbitrary wilfulness (libre arbitre) than from confident adhesion to the teaching of Scripture and Tradition, of initiatives which arbitrarily evoke the faith to justify them. We know them, We suffer because of them, and, for Our part, We strive in season and out of season to remedy them.

But how can one use things such as these to justify oneself in committing excesses which are gravely harmful? Such is not the right way to do things, since it makes use of ways comparable to those which are denounced."

b. That His Eminence Cardinal Villot, Secretary of State, wrote to us (in his letter of 27 October 1975):

"Vigilance in doctrinal and liturgical matters, clear-sightedness in discerning the reforms which require to be undertaken, patience and tact in the guidance of the People of God, solicitude for priestly vocations and an exacting preparation for the tasks of the ministry, all that is undoubtedly the most effective manner in which a Pastor can bear witness."

c. That we wrote (on 7 June last):

"However, we remain sad (but confident) because we have had to speak publicly of dissensions in the family of the children of God and of the sons of the Church. We should have loved to resolve our problems among ourselves in discretion and silence. We did not succeed in doing so. Let us pray very much that peace and confidence may be restored."

May God enable us to remain faithful to the Truth with constant Charity.

Fribourg, 6 December 1975
†Pierre Mamie

13 February 1976 - Report of an interview granted by Mgr. Lefebvre to Louis Salleron and published in La France Catbolique-Ecclesia

Louis Salleron: Monseigneur, not only in France, but throughout the entire world, there is an immense number of Catholics who have placed their trust in you because the Seminary of Ecône seems to them the rampart of their faith during what Father Bouyer has described as "the decomposition of Catholicism." However, many today are troubled because the information they read in the newspapers presents you as disobedient to the Pope.

Mgr. Lefebvre: It seems to me that, on the contrary, my seminary is the clearest expression of an attitude of obedience to the Pope, successor of Peter and Vicar of Jesus Christ.

L. Salleron: You have however spoken of the "duty to disobey."

Mgr. Lefebvre: Undoubtedly. It is a duty to disobey the prescriptions of those who themselves constitute disobedience to the doctrine of the Church. You have a family. If your children receive in the catechism an official teaching, authorized or imposed, which either distorts or is silent with regard to the truths one must believe, your duty is to disobey those who presume to teach this new catechism to your children. In so doing, you obey the Church.

L. Salleron: Cardinal Villot has stated in writing that you refused to accept control by the competent ecclesiastical authorities. Is that true?

Mgr. Lefebvre: It is absolutely false. Besides, I have several times had the pleasure of a visit from Mgr. Adam (Bishop of Sion) and I have explicitly invited Mgr. Mamie (Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg) who has always refused to come, because he considered my Seminary illegal, although he declared in his letter suppressing it that the Seminary had (as from that moment only) lost its legal status.

L. Salleron: Cardinal Villot also says that you are systematically opposed to the Council. Is that true?

Mgr. Lefebvre: It is equally false (to say) that I am systematically opposed to the Second Vatican Council. But I am convinced that a Liberal spirit was active at the Council and became apparent frequently in conciliar texts, particularly in certain declarations such as that on religious freedom, the one on non-Christian religions and on the Church in the world. That is why it seems to me very legitimate to have considerable reservations concerning these texts.

Since authorized theological research calls in question veritable dogmas of our faith, I cannot understand why I should be condemned for discussing certain texts of a council which even the Pope himself has recently affirmed to be non-dogmatic. I am accused of infidelity to the Church while none of these theologians engaged in research is condemned. There are truly two weights and two measures.

L. Salleron: However, it is the Pope himself who seems to think that you do not obey the Church.

Mgr. Lefebvre: Then there has been a misunderstanding. My thoughts and my will in this matter have always been entirely free from any ambiguity. One day I had occasion to write to the Abbé de Nantes: "I want you to know that if a Bishop breaks with Rome, it will not be me."

L. Salleron: Have you had some discussion with the Pope about this question?

Mgr. Lefebvre: No. It is precisely that which I deplore.

L. Salleron: He has not summoned you in order to let you know his mind on this question?

Mgr. Lefebvre: Not only have I not been invited, but I have never been able to obtain an audience with him, and for that reason I have been wondering if my request for an audience had been presented to him. Recently a Bishop whom I very much esteem has seen the Holy Father in order to tell him of the upset in his diocese caused by all measures taken against me which seems to represent a condemnation of my work. And he asked him to receive me. The Holy Father begged him to discuss this with Cardinal Villot, who told him: "There can be no question of this. The Pope could change his mind and there would be confusion." You see therefore that there is a screen between the Holy Father and me.

L. Salleron: In his second letter, the Pope told you that he is perfectly well informed concerning you.

Mgr. Lefebvre: Since I cannot have an audience with him I have a right to think that he is not "well informed."

L. Salleron: He is probably basing this on the Report of the two Apostolic Visitors who had been to Ecône and on the Report of the three Cardinals who interviewed you by express command of the Holy Father.

Mgr. Lefebvre: I don't know what was in these documents. As for the Report of the two Apostolic Visitors, it was not communicated to me...

L, Salleron: It is said to have been favorable to the Seminary at Ecône.

Mgr. Lefebvre: So they say, and I am happy because of that. But in fact I know nothing, since this report was not communicated to me. As for my discussions with Cardinals Garrone, Wright and Tabera, I can tell you the following fact: Cardinal Garrone most courteously asked me if I had any objection to the discussion being recorded. I willingly agreed and after the discussion I asked for a copy of the recording to be given to me. Cardinal Garrone agreed, saying it was my right. When I came to ask for the promised recording I was told that it would only be a typed transcript. That wasn't the same thing because there could be suppressions and modifications on the typed copy.

I was in Rome for several days. The promised copy should have been delivered to me. Seeing no sign of it, I telephoned to speed things up - only to be told that it wasn't possible for me to be given this copy but that I could come and see it on such and such a day at such and such an hour. I refused to be a party to this farce. And consequently, just as I don't know what was in the Apostolic Visitors' Report, neither do I know what was contained in the Report of the Cardinals' Commission. If the recording has been neither destroyed nor cut, I can assure you that it would be interesting to listen to. But, obviously, the Holy Father has been given only such reports as were prepared for him, and of which I am totally ignorant.

L. Salleron: In short, you have been condemned in a trial without your having been given the evidence.

Mgr. Lefebvre: It wasn't even a trial, for the Cardinals' Commission wasn't a tribunal and had never been presented to me as such. I have been condemned, as you say, in so irregular a manner that I can't see what the word "condemnation" can mean.

And this, be it noted, at a moment when we are told that the Church no longer condemns, and without having been able to be heard by the Holy Father, who has made dialogue the mark of his government. That is why I think that all this has been contrived behind his back.

L. Salleron: But what difficulty do you find in making the public act of submission that is being asked of you: i. e. "to the Council, to the post-conciliar reforms and to the orientations to which the Pope himself is committed"?

Mgr. Lefebvre: I find a difficulty in the equivocation which borders on falsehood. From the "Council" one proceeds to "post-conciliar reforms" and from there to the "orientations to which the Pope himself is committed." One no longer knows what precisely is involved. What is to be understood by the "orientations to which the Pope himself is committed"? Must we understand it to mean such of the orientations as involve the Pope personally (and what are these?), or the actual orientations of the Church, to all of which the Pope is committed?

When one sees what is happening in France - to speak only of our own country - am I to think that, in its collegiality, the episcopate has submitted "to the Council, to post-conciliar reforms, and to the orientations to which the Pope himself is committed"?

Logically, I must think so, since no public act of submission has been asked of the French Episcopate by Cardinal Villot or the Sovereign Pontiff. Is it therefore to the destruction of the priesthood, to the changing or the negation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to the abandonment of moral values, to the politicization of the Gospel, and to the constitution of a national Church centered on the episcopal conference and the secretariat of the episcopate that I must subscribe to bear witness to my communion with the Catholic Church and the Vicar of Christ? It is absurd. My Catholic faith and my duty as a bishop forbid me to do so.

L. Salleron: I believe that what you are being asked to do is simply to close the Seminary of Ecône.

Mgr. Lefebvre: But why? It is perhaps the only one that corresponds not only to the tradition of the Church but also to the Decree of Vatican II concerning the training of priests. Moreover, I had occasion one day to say so to Cardinal Garrone, who did not deny it.

L. Salleron: If, instead of asking you to make a badly defined act of submission, the Pope were to give you an express order by a new letter, to close the Seminary of Ecône, would you close it?

Mgr. Lefebvre: After a trial carried out in a proper way according to the elementary norms of natural law and ecclesiastical law, yes, I would agree to close my Seminary.

Let me be told in an explicit and concrete manner what I am being reproached with in my activities and in my writings, and let me be given the elementary right to defend myself with the help of an advocate.

L. Salleron: Despite everything, then, you are an optimist?

Mgr. Lefebvre: It isn't a question of optimism. I don't know what will happen, and sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. But I have confidence however because, being supported by the millenary tradition of the Church, which cannot possibly have been mistaken, I cannot see how, this being so, I can be the subject of condemnation.

The ordeal which the Church is undergoing can be ended only by a return to the principles which make her continuous and everlasting.

21 February 1976 - Letter from Pope Paul VI to Cardinal Villot

(The following is a translation of the text of an entirely hand-written letter, dated 21 February 1976, from Pope Paul to Cardinal Villot. It was reproduced photographically in La France Catholique-Ecclesia of 5 May 1976.)

To: Jean Villot, Our Secretary of State

We have taken notice of an interview requested of Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre by the weekly France Catholique-Ecclesia (No. 1322, of 13 February 1976).

Among the errors contained in this interview there is one which We wish to rectify Ourself: you would seem to be a screen placed between the Pope and Mgr. Lefebvre, an obstacle to the meeting which he wishes Us. That is not true.

It is particularly significant that although the Holy Father does not say what other "errors" are contained in the interview, concerning the only one he does refer to specifically he confines himself to denying that Cardinal Villot acts as a screen between him and Mgr. Lefebvre. He does not deny that, having been begged to see Mgr. Lefebvre by an African Bishop-friend of Mgr. Lefebvre, he urged the Bishop to see Cardinal Villot, who promptly told him that this was out of the question since it might induce the Holy Father to change his mind.

If this is not "screening" the Holy Father it is only in the sense that to use the word "screen " in that context constitutes understatement.

We consider that before being received in audience Mgr. Lefebvre must renounce his inadmissible position concerning the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council and measures which We have promulgated or approved in matters liturgical and disciplinary (and by consequence, also doctrinal).

It has hitherto always been generally understood, and taught, that, far from being synonymous, the two terms were clearly distinguished. It would have been different had it been a case of insisting that what was essentially doctrinal was therefore also a matter of discipline. But to state the contrary; particularly with reference to post-conciliar reforms, is ominous indeed since it has hitherto been insisted with wearying monotony that these were of exclusively pastoral significance and did not imply any doctrinal change.

This position alas! he does not cease to affirm by words and deeds. A real change of attitude is therefore necessary, in order that the desired interview may take place in the spirit of fraternity and ecclesial unity which We have desired so much since the beginning of this painful affair, and above all since We have personally and on two occasions written to Mgr. Lefebvre.

In Itinéraires of April 1976, Jean Madiran adds this footnote:

"One asks why...it is only of Mgr. Lefebvre that these conditions are demanded: Paul in effect receives all kinds of people (abortionists, libertines, stars in immoral shows, freemasons, communists, terrorists, etc.) whose attitude is quite unsatisfactory, without 'a real change of attitude' being demanded of them before being received in audience....It seems increasingly obvious that this inequality of treatment is neither accidental nor arbitrary; it is an inevitable practical consequence of the axiom according to which Vatican II has more importance than the Council of Nicea.6

The theoretical prior importance accorded Vatican II...has given rise to a new form of communion. Those who approve or at least applaud the Council belong to this new communion and are fraternally received by Paul VI, even if they reject or know nothing of the preceding 20 Councils and the defined dogmas.

By contrast, those who remain faithful to the defined dogmas and to the entire apostolic tradition, but have reservations concerning the Council and the circumstantial reforms deriving from it, they alas! are considered as out of communion and find the door shut against them so long as they have not changed their attitude.

Thus the Council has the ambition of summarizing and the function of replacing everything that preceded it. It becomes the principal criterion of true and false, of good and evil.

It is only conciliar evolution which in turn has as much authority as and more importance than the Council itself.

One has a right to be more conciliar than the Council; one has no right to be less. It is only in this perspective that the official attitude with regard to Mgr. Lefebvre finds coherence, and explanation. But what a frightening coherence, a terrible explanation."

Pope Paul's letter continues:

We continue to hope that he will soon give Us, in deeds, the concrete proof of his fidelity to the Church and to the Holy See, from which he has received so many marks of esteem and confidence.

We know that you share this hope; that is why We authorize you to make this letter public, in accordance with the good wishes and affection which We feel for you, Our collaborator in the apostolic charge.

With Our personal benediction.

Paulus PP VI
The Vatican, 21 February 1976.


7 March 1976 - Letter to Friends and Benefactors (no. 10)

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

Amidst trials and opposition our Work goes serenely ahead, trusting in God and based on the Faith which does not change and cannot be shaken.

On April 3rd there will be 11 more deacons at Ecône, and many seminarians will on the same day be receiving Minor Orders. Together with the dozen seminarians doing military service, Ecône now counts 110 seminarians. We already have some 40 applications for next October.

In Weissbad, as in Armada in the United States, applications are so numerous that both houses will soon be filled.

Our Sisters in Albano include four Novices and five Postulants. The latter will receive the habit on Easter Sunday, and if one counts the four Americans who will be joining them soon, plus the ten or so applicants for October, then the House where they train will already be gathering together some 23 aspirants to the religious life.

They will be moving to France in October because the house at Albano, originally intended for young priests, will be occupied by the newly ordained sixth-year students.

Our Brothers have two Novices and seven Postulants. They will be gladly received in our various houses, increasing in number: four in the USA (Armada, New York, San José and Houston); two in England (Highclere and Sanderstead); one in Brussels; five in France, one in Germany (Munich); three in Switzerland; one in Italy (Albano).

It is thanks to your prayers and your generosity that in a year's time we shall be able, please God, to have 26 priests at your disposal: 13 are already at work training students or ministering to souls.

How does it come about that a Work thus resembling all those of its kind existing before the Second Vatican Council should be harshly and pitilessly hounded down by the Roman Authorities, unjustly and illegally suppressed, accused of breaking off communion with Rome, etc.?

The reason is precisely that we are continuing to believe and act as the Church always has believed and acted. Hence the truth is that modern Rome has changed. And yet it was clear to see where the novelties already repeatedly condemned by the Magisterium of the Church would lead.

The balance-sheet for the ten years following the Council is catastrophic in all departments. Churchmen, herein following numerous bad examples, thought that they could replace what Our Lord instituted with institutions better suited to the modern world, forgetting that Jesus Christ is God "yesterday, today and for ever" (Heb. 13:8), and that His Work is suited to all times and to all men.

Saint Pius X condemned them in his masterly Encyclical Pascendi. Such innovators pervert the faith, bring supernatural means down to the level of man and destroy the hierarchical constitution of the Church.

For a long time now we have been warned by the Popes. Pius IX had the Documents of the Alta Vendita of the Carbonari published in which we read: "In a hundred years' time...bishops and priests will think they are marching behind the banner of the keys of Peter when in fact they will be following our flag." (Masonic Infiltrations in the Church, Barbier.) Fogazzaro at the beginning of the century, founder of the Modernist lodge of Milan, used to say: "The Reform will have to be brought about in the name of obedience." (The Church under Occupation, Ploncard d' Assac.)7

Now, when we hear in Rome that he who was the heart and soul of the liturgical reform is a Freemason, we may think that he is not the only one. The veil covering over the greatest hoax ever to have mystified the clergy and baffled the faithful is doubtless beginning to be torn asunder.

Now is the time then to hold more faithfully than ever to Tradition and the unchanging Church, and to pray to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to St. Michael the Archangel to free the Church from the scandalous occupation of which She is victim.

"This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith." (I John 5:4.)

May God bless you through the intercession of His Holy Mother, and I wish you all a Holy Eastertide!

†Marcel Lefebvre

21 April 1976 - Letter from Archbishop Benelli to Archbishop Lefebvre

This letter is important because it states precisely, in writing, for the first time the real conditions of the submission demanded of Mgr. Lefebvre. The author of the letter, Mgr. Benelli, who has the title of "Substitute"8 in the Vatican Secretariat of State, was its most notable personage after Cardinal Villot until he was created a Cardinal and appointed Archbishop of Florence in May 1977.


It is now a month since we met. As I offer you my best wishes for the Easter feast, I should like to repeat how happy I am that our meeting was so frank, and also how, every day, the expectation grows keener that you will return to that effective communion with Pope Paul VI which the celebration of the Resurrection required and of which our conversation had given hope.

The meeting took place in Rome, on 19 March 1976, on Mgr. Benelli's initiative (he was reviving a request for an audience by Mgr. Lefebvre which, the year before, had been left unanswered).

Indeed, you certainly remember the step envisaged as most suitable for arriving at that happy result.

"Envisaged"? Not at all; imposed in the name of the Pope by Mgr. Benelli, but he had sent Mgr. Lefebvre nothing in writing.

After reflecting, alone and before God, you will write to the Holy Father informing him of your acceptance of the Council and of all its documents, affirming your full attachment to the person of His Holiness Pope Paul VI and to the totality of his teaching...

A Pope who thus wishes to impose a full attachment to the totality of his own teaching - that makes a double difficulty. 1° As is known, or as should be known, the totality of the teaching of a Pope (especially of a modern Pope, speaking much and often) does not involve papal authority in the same degree in all its parts; it can often happen that that authority is not involved at all, when he speaks as a private doctor. Full attachment to the totality of the teaching is an exorbitant demand; it is a form of unconditional submission. That is the first anomaly, and it is serious. 2° The second anomaly, no less serious; the question is of the teaching of Paul VI, by itself; of his personal teaching. The head of a school can so speak. A Pope does not speak in that way. All pontifical documents prior to Paul VI attest the fact: they refer constantly to the teachings of predecessors, and they confirm, repeat, develop and apply them, and they never seek to distinguish themselves from them as individuals. Shall we suppose that this is a stupidity of Mgr. Benelli's? Not at all. He is faithfully reproducing the thought of Paul VI. For it is the same thought which Paul VI himself expresses in his consistorial discourse of 24 May 1976, showing plainly that his own teaching has a distinct individuality: "We think that no one can be in doubt of the meaning of the orientations and the encouragements that, in the course of our pontificate, we have given to pastors and to the people of God, and even the whole world. We are grateful to those who have made a program of the teaching given with a purpose which was always sustained with a lively hope, etc". Where his predecessors used to speak of the teaching of the Popes, of the Holy See, or of the Church, Paul VI speaks of his personal teaching. Just as Vatican II is presented to us as the Council, abstracting from previous councils, so Paul VI presents his teaching as something separate and particular, so that in isolation it can be taken as a program, and he expresses his gratitude to those who have so taken it. On those who have not taken it so, he will impose it: Mgr. Benelli's phrase about full attachment to the totality of the teaching of Paul VI is perfectly consistent with the passage quoted from the Consistorial allocution.

...and undertaking, as concrete proof of your submission to the Successor of Peter, to adopt and to get adopted in the houses dependent on you, the Missal which he himself promulgated in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority.

Enter the new Missal! Until this date, nothing had been said to Mgr. Lefebvre of this obligatory adoption. It constitutes the real condition. This new Mass of which not a word had been whispered in the whole business during a year - the silence on the subject was trickery. Now the veil is removed from it, and it is indeed the essential. More than that, it is not at all a matter of a simple "step that has been envisaged." It might have been that, in the form of a hypothesis, in an explanatory conversation and a fraternal dialogue; but, as indicated on p. 169, the matter is the notifications of conditions imposed by the Pope: that will be confirmed in Mgr. Benelli's letter of 12 June 1976.

I can fully understand how costly such a step must be. That, perhaps, is why you hesitate to take it. Yet, can there be any other way? I address myself to you as a brother, with hope and confidence: this step is possible; it must be taken for the good of the whole Church and for those outside it who are looking at us; and I desire to do everything to help you take it.

A few days ago we celebrated Easter. Christ the Saviour points the way. To be united with Him there is no other road than to put everything into His hands. I pray with all my heart that you may reach Him, and thus give to His Vicar on earth the profound joy that he awaits with impatience.

Be assured, Monseigneur, of my devoted fraternal feelings.

+ J. Benelli.


1. If thy brother does thee wrong, go at once and tax him with it, as a private matter between thee and him; and so, if he will listen to thee, thou has won thy brother. If he will not listen to thee, take with thee one or two more, that the whole matter may be certified by the voice of two or three witnesses. If he will not listen to them, then speak of it to the Church; and if he will not even listen to the Church, then count him all one with the heathen and the publican." The scriptural text is not given in Cardinal Villot's letter, which includes merely the scriptural reference.

2. The Ecône Newsletter No.9 has been included at this point (not in chronological order) because it was referred to by Mgr. Mamie in a commentary published in the Nouvelliste of 12 December 1975. Readers would not have been able to form a balanced judgment of Mgr. Mamie's commentary without reading the Newsletter first. The commentary follows immediately after Newsletter No. 9.

3. Popes John XXIII and Paul IV.

4. See Appendix IV for a discussion of the Declaration on Religious Freedom.

5. Intégrisme is a very much misused word. However by intégrisme properly so called is meant the spirit of those who refuse to accept any changes whatsoever. It is not to be confused with Tradition which is the handing on of essential values, not accretions which have long since ceased to be relevant. Mgr. Mamie implicitly suggests that the traditional Mass exemplifies intégrisme - in other words, that it was so overburdened with historical accretions as to be no longer a vehicle of Tradition.

6. See Appendix III.

7. The full text of the Documents of the Alta Vendita, and much other useful information on the Carbonari, is published in Grand Orient Freemasonry Unmasked by Mgr. G. Dillon. (Augustine Publishing Company)

8. Assistant to the Secretary of State.

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