September 1975 - Superior General's Letter #9
Machinations of Cardinal Villot stopping the appeal of Archbishop Lefebvre. The principles of Liberalism and its consequenties in practical church life. Condemnations of Liberalism by the popes and its influence on the teachings of Vatican II. Collegiality, reformed liturgy, religious liberty and ecumenism are the fruits of Liberalism.
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.
Cardinal Villot stops appeal and refuses audience with the Holy Father
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.
Letter from the Holy Father
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.
Reactions of true hope, spite and opposition
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.
Can one oppose to the Council and its reforms?
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.
The Magisterium of the Church and Liberalism
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 themselves 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.
Liberation will show in the spirit of collegiality, new liturgy, religious liberty and ecumenism
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.
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.
Reforms show how to interpret the Council
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.
Refusal to issue condemnation of Communism
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.
True spirit of Obedience
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.
† Marcel Lefebvre
On the Feast of Saint Pius X,
3 September 1975
A few lines to inform you over our work
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