By Jean Madiran1
Respectfully, patiently, after the visit of Pope John Paul II to France, we renew our case : in spite of all the official declarations over the marvelous results of the Council, the Church Militant today is in decay. She will recover herself in sanctity; and by the path of authority. This authority will show up in a practical way by beginning again to forbid what should be forbidden; and to stop forbidding what should never have forbidden in the first place. It should never have been forbidden to priests to say the Mass they were ordained to celebrate: this prohibition, without any legal or moral value, exists only by virtue of the sociological weight of arbitrary administrative decision. The Catechism of the Council of Trent and the Catechism of St. Pius X should never have been banned, blocking the handing down of the three things that must be known in order to be saved: this prohibition is null and void. Neither the person of Archbishop Lefebvre, nor the re-birth of the missionary Church,should ever have been struck by prohibition.Because the missionary church is the means by which people are converted from the modern world to the Christian Faith. It is the opposite of a Church exposed to all influences, leading souls to despair of the traditional Faith and let themselves be debased by modern democracy.
Patiently, respectfully, we say by way of reminder and petition: Archbishop Lefebvre is not a rebel! All the condemnations lodged against him rest on a single foundation, on the initial fact that he has not accepted the first condemnation, that of 1975.2 Everything flows from that: not to have submitted and to have complicated his case by persisting in not submitting. Now this first condemnation has no legal or moral right to exist. Even today, five years later, we do know by whom it was lodged, we do not know who is responsible for it : there is no mention of it in any document. There is strong suspicion that it was Paul VI himself, but secretly. This initial condemnation arose from the unbelievable scheme of inviting Archbishop Lefebvre to two friendly talks, concealing from him the fact that in reality he was being summoned as a defendant with the object of conducting an investigation against him. Thus Archbishop Lefebvre was not given to understand what was happening before he was condemned; and he was condemned anonymously, by someone whose identity cannot be discovered in the official texts of the verdict which was made known to him. And it is this legal non-entity that is the basis for all that has subsequently been viciously built up, and comprising the so-called sanctions and suspension. If it had been a question of simply disciplinary cruelty touching only his personal convenience, Archbishop Lefebvre would have been able to bow to the injustice. But it was a question of a major administrative move against the handing down of the knowledge necessary for salvation and against the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is why Archbishop Lefebvre has continued to view his missionary activity according to the powers, rights, and abilities which were his after the foundation of his Society and which have not validly been forbidden him. The result has been a sad and confused situation. The only way out is to declare the nullity of the arbitrary prohibitions and to return to fundamental norms.
What fundamental norms? First, the principle that it is not true that one can be validly excluded from the Catholic communion simply for having formulated an opinion – however bold or reckless – on the pastoral orientation and modern spirit of Vatican II and Pope Paul VI. It is not true that one can continue to belong to the Catholic communion when one no longer adheres to the dogmatic decisions of Nicea or Trent. By an anomaly which amounts to treason, too many of those in the present-day apostolic succession admit to their communion those who water down or brush aside the dogmatic decisions of Nicea or of Trent, so that they may profess adherence, at least general or verbal, to non-dogmatic orientations of Vatican II; and they drive from their communion those who question the modern orientations of Vatican II but profess all defined dogmas. It is a “communion” of a new type, suggested by Teilhard, a humanist communion, ecumenical, philanthropic, democratic, or whatever, but no longer a Catholic communion. The prohibitions designed to set up, defend and impose the new communion have no validity in the Church.
We said so at the end of the reign of Paul VI, when he declared in the spring of 1978: My pontificate is completed. We recalled that Pius XI at the end of his reign was convinced that he should lift the unjust ban lodged against Action Française: by putting it off, he ran out of time. The lifting of the ban, virtually without conditions, was one of the first acts of his successor, Pius XII. Though fundamentally different in many ways, the so-called “Lefebvre case” and that of the “traditionalists,” is analagous in this: there is no other way out. The longer we wait, the deeper will be the wounds to the Church, and the more advanced the decay of the Catholic fabric. Doubtless there will remain a number of unanswered questions: but they will begin to be manageable about the moment we recognize the nullity of the prohibitions against the Mass, against the catechism, against the person of Archbishop Lefebvre and against the priests whom he has formed and ordained, waiting for the Second Spring of the Church.
While we wait, we repeat with Alexis Curvers: May it please God to make of Pope John Paul II the instrument of salvation, granting to him the triple grace of a faith as trusting as that of Jairus, as profound as that of the widow of Niam, as passionate as that of Martha, in a word, all-powerful against death.
1. Jean Madiran is the Editor of Itinéraires. This article is a translation of his editorial for the July/August 1980 issue.
2. The reasons for the Archbishop not accepting his initial condemnation in 1975 are explained on pages 122-123 of Apologia I.