In a few weeks we shall have the great joy of celebrating the centenary of the birth of our venerated founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. What an extraordinary figure this tireless missionary presents, missionary first of all in Africa to bring the Gospel, and then missionary in Europe and the whole world so that the Catholic Faith might be preserved whole and entire.
We would like to dwell upon his magnificent stature and the profound virtues that characterized him throughout his life, but in light of the audience we had at the end of August with Pope Benedict XVI, we shall be content to reproduce a document that sheds light both on the wisdom and perspicacity of our founder, as well as upon the rule which guided him and which we, too, wholly espouse.
In 1966, thus just a year after the Council's close, Archbishop Lefebvre responded to questions posed by the Prefect of the Holy Office, Cardinal Ottaviani, on the situation in the Church in the following letter :
I dare say that the present evil seems to me something very much more serious than the negation or placing in doubt of any one truth of our faith. It manifests itself in our day by an extreme confusion of ideas, by the disaggregation of the Church's institutions, religious institutes, seminaries, Catholic schools, and, finally, of what had been the Church's permanent support; but it is nothing other than the logical continuation of the heresies and errors which have been sapping the Church for the last several centuries, especially since the liberalism of the 19th century, which has done its utmost, no matter the cost, to reconcile the Church and the ideas that culminated in the French Revolution. In the measure that the Church has opposed these ideas, which are contrary to sane philosophy and theology, it has advanced; on the contrary, the least compromise with these subversive ideas has provoked an alignment of the Church with civil law and risked making it a slave to civil society.
Moreover, each time groups of Catholics let themselves be attracted by these myths, the Popes courageously corrected them, instructed them, and, if need by, condemned them. Catholic liberalism was condemned by Pius IX, modernism by Leo XIII, Sillonism by St. Pius X, communism by Pius XI, and neo-modernism by Pius XII. Thanks to this admirable vigilance, the Church was strengthened and developed. Conversions of pagans and Protestants were very numerous, heresy was completely routed, and the States accepted legislation in keeping with Catholic doctrine.
Nevertheless, groups of religious imbued with these false ideas succeeded in spreading them through Catholic Action, and in the seminaries thanks to a certain indulgence on the part of bishops and the toleration of certain Roman dicasteries. It was from among these priests that bishops were soon to be chosen.
It is in this context that we must situate the Council, which, through the work of the Preparatory Commission, was preparing to proclaim the truth in the face of these errors in order to make them disappear for a long time from the Church's midst. It would have spelled the end of Protestantism and the beginning of a new, fruitful era of the Church.
But this preparation was odiously rejected in order to make way for the worst tragedy the Church has ever suffered. We have witnessed the marriage of the Church with liberal ideas. It would be to deny the evidence and to shut one's eyes not to affirm courageously that the Council allowed those who profess the errors and tendencies condemned by the Popes named above to legitimately believe that their doctrines were henceforth approved.
One can and one unfortunately must affirm that, in a general way, when the Council innovated, it shook the certitude of the truths taught by the authentic magisterium of the Church as belonging definitively to the treasure of Tradition.
Whether it be the transmission of the bishops' jurisdiction, the two sources of Revelation, the inspiration of Scripture, the necessity of grace for justification, the necessity of Catholic baptism, the life of grace among heretics, schismatics and pagans, the ends of marriage, religious liberty, the last things, etc.: on all these fundamental points, the traditional doctrine was clear and unanimously taught in Catholic universities. Now, numerous Conciliar texts on these truths henceforth allow doubts.
The consequences have been rapidly drawn and applied to the life of the Church :
- Doubts about the necessity of the Church and the sacraments lead to the disappearance of priestly vocations.
Doubts about the necessity and the nature of the "conversion" of every soul lead to the disappearance of religious vocations, the ruin of traditional spirituality in the novitiates, and the futility of the missions.
Doubts about the legitimacy of authority and the duty of obedience provoked by the exaltation of human dignity, the autonomy of conscience, and of freedom shake all societies starting with the Church, religious societies, the dioceses, civil society, and the family.
The normal result of pride is the burgeoning of the concupiscence of the eyes and of the flesh. Perhaps one of the most frightful observations to be made about our epoch is to note to what a level of moral degradation most Catholic publications have descended. They speak without the least reticence about sexuality, birth control by any means, the legitimacy of divorce, of co-education of dating, of dances as a necessary part of Christian education, of priestly celibacy, etc.
- Doubts about the necessity of grace in order to be saved provoke the undervaluing of baptism and its postponement, and the abandonment of the sacrament of penance. Moreover, this especially involves an attitude of priests and not of the faithful. The same goes for the Real Presence : it is the priests who act as if they no longer believed by hiding the Sacred Host, by suppressing all marks of respect towards the Blessed Sacrament and all the ceremonies in Its honor.
- Doubts about the necessity of the Church as the unique source of salvation and about the Catholic Church as the only true religion originating in the declaration on ecumenism and religious liberty, destroy the authority of the Church's magisterium. Indeed, Rome is no longer the unique and necessary "Magistra Veritatis".
Compelled by the facts, it is necessary to conclude that the Council has favored, inconceivably, the diffusion of liberal errors. Faith, morals, and ecclesiastical discipline have been shaken in their foundation according to the predictions of all the Popes.
The destruction of the Church is rapidly advancing. By an exaggerated authority given to the episcopal conferences, the Sovereign Pontiff has rendered himself ineffectual. In a single year how many painful examples of this have we witnessed! Still, the Successor of Peter, and he alone, can save the Church.
Here are the solutions recommended by Archbishop Lefebvre :
Let the Holy Father surround himself with vigorous defenders of the Faith; let him designate them in the important dioceses. Let him deign, by important documents, to proclaim truth, pursue error without fear of contradictions, without fear of schisms, without fear of questioning the pastoral dispositions of the Council.
May the Holy Father deign: to encourage the bishops to uphold faith and morals, each in his respective diocese, as befits every good pastor; to support the courageous bishops, encouraging them to reform their seminaries and to restore studies according to St. Thomas; to encourage the general superiors to uphold in the novitiates and communities the fundamental principles of Christian asceticism, especially obedience; to encourage the development of Catholic schools, a doctrinally sound Catholic press, associations of Catholic families; and, finally, to reprimand the instigators of errors and reduce them to silence. The Wednesday allocutions cannot replace encyclical letters, mandates, and letters to bishops.
Undoubtedly, it is bold of me to express myself in this way! But it is from a burning love that I write these lines, love of God's glory, love of Jesus, love of Mary, love of the Church and of the Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ....
Everything has been said, and even today there is nothing to add or remove from this remarkable analysis of the logical consequences of the Council, replaced in its historical context, and of the reforms that were then on the horizon, and even of the depth of the crisis which had struck the Church and from which she has still not escaped, held fast by the principles with which the Council and the popes have bound her.
We think quite frankly that the solution to the problem that the Society creates for Rome is intimately linked to the resolution of the crisis which has struck the Church. The day that the authorities again look with a benevolent eye and with hope upon the Church's past and her Tradition, they will be able to get beyond the rupture caused by the Council and to be reconciled with the eternal principles on which the Church has been built for twenty centuries; they will be able to draw strength and to find the solution to the crisis. And then there will no longer be a Society of Saint Pius X "problem".
That is the reason for our discussions with the Holy See. That is the fundamental problem. The new Mass and the Council are just the tip of the iceberg that has struck the barque of the Church; the spirit of the Council proceeds from liberalism, from Protestantism, and, ultimately, from the revolt against God which will mark the history of men until the end of time. What would be the point of an accord that would consist in letting oneself be sunk by the iceberg.
We heartily thank you for all your prayers and generous sacrifices. All of that is very precious to us. In our visits to Rome and in all our activities, we rely very much upon them. Please be assured in return of the seminarians' prayers and ours at the foot of the altar in thanksgiving for your unceasing generosity.
May Our Lord's sacrifice be your daily support! May the Immaculate Heart of Mary be your protection and refuge. With all my gratitude, I bless you.
On the Feast of St. Michael September 29, 2005 + Bernard Fellay
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