I write to you with a heavy heart. Over the past several months, new revelations of sexual abuse and coverups have been reported by ecclesiastical, legal, and media sources the world over. The resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick over credible allegations he abused minors and seminarians for decades was soon followed by the stunning testimony of Archbishop Carlo Viganò which implicates the Holy Father himself in covering-up McCarrick’s unspeakable crimes. Additionally, judicial and independent inquiries continue to turn-up further evidence that the sex-abuse crisis which rocked the Catholic Church over a decade ago is far from over.
It is against this sorrowful backdrop that I wish to reiterate that the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) takes any and all reports of illicit and illegal behavior on the part of its clergy, religious, employees and volunteers with utmost seriousness. Every report is submitted to a thoroughgoing investigation by the appropriate authorities within the Society and full cooperation is given to all law enforcement and official investigative agencies concerned, particularly when reports involve minor children. Moreover, any priest or religious of the SSPX found guilty of immorality is subject to sanctions under canon law, including removal from active ministry and laicization.
In an effort to forestall the spread of sin within its ranks, the SSPX abides by the Church’s longstanding and prudent prohibition on admitting men harboring same-sex or other unnatural sexual attractions to any of its seminaries, including St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Virginia. If, after admission to either seminary or holy orders, credible evidence is found of immoral inclinations or acts by an individual, said individual is immediately expelled from the seminary and/or the Society. And, if the evidence warrants, the matter is immediately referred to the ecclesiastical and secular authorities.
I understand that in this time of confusion and crisis, there is a temptation to look for easy answers and a simple causal chain to explain away the corruption in the Church. Be careful. While we cannot discount the adverse effect the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath has had on the Mystical Body of Christ, I fear that the roots of the sexual-abuse crisis run much deeper. For now, we must do everything we can to uphold the tenets of divine and natural law in our daily lives while working to re-spread the Gospel in a world that has forgotten that what it needs most above all is God.
I ask that you beseech the Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all of the saints, especially St. Michael the Archangel, in lending us here below the spiritual assistance we need to weather this storm. Pray, too, for the priests, religious, and seminarians of the SSPX, along with those charged with their formation. Pray that we have the wisdom and discernment to form holy clerics dedicated to serving Jesus Christ through the administration of the traditional sacramental rites and the promulgation of sound catechesis.
In response to the Pope’s silence, but also unjust accusations against him, Archbishop Vigano continues to speak the truth, at great cost. The truth will prevail in the end. Like Archbishop Lefebvre in his day standing alone for the Catholic Faith, Archbishop Vigano stands alone implicating the Pope & his henchmen publicly on his evil deeds. May God protect him always!
Compare these two statements from +Vigano & +Lefebvre. What similarities indeed.
“I am 78 years old and I am at the end of my life. The judgment of men does not interest me. The one judgment that counts is that of the good God. He will ask me what I have done for the Church of Christ, and I want to be able to respond to him that I defended her and served her even to the end.” ~Archbishop Vigano
“At the hour of my death, when Our Lord asks me: ‘what have you done with your episcopate, what you done with your episcopal and priestly grace? ‘ I do not want to hear from His lips the terrible words, ‘You have helped to destroy the Church along with the rest of them.'” ~Archbishop Lefebvre
Before starting my writing, I would first of all like to give thanks and glory to God the Father for every situation and trial that He has prepared and will prepare for me during my life. As a priest and bishop of the holy Church, spouse of Christ, I am called like every baptized person to bear witness to the truth. By the gift of the Spirit who sustains me with joy on the path that I am called to travel, I intend to do so until the end of my days. Our only Lord has addressed also to me the invitation, “Follow me!”, and I intend to follow him with the help of his grace until the end of my days.
“As long as I have life, I will sing to the Lord, I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my song be pleasing to him; For I rejoice in the Lord.”
It has been a month since I offered my testimony, solely for the good of the Church, regarding what occurred at the audience with Pope Francis on June 23, 2013 and regarding certain matters I was given to know in the assignments entrusted to me at the Secretariat of State and in Washington, in relation to those who bear responsibility for covering up the crimes committed by the former archbishop of that capital.
My decision to reveal those grave facts was for me the most painful and serious decision that I have ever made in my life. I made it after long reflection and prayer, during months of profound suffering and anguish, during a crescendo of continual news of terrible events, with thousands of innocent victims destroyed and the vocations and lives of young priests and religious disturbed. The silence of the pastors who could have provided a remedy and prevented new victims became increasingly indefensible, a devastating crime for the Church. Well aware of the enormous consequences that my testimony could have, because what I was about to reveal involved the successor of Peter himself, I nonetheless chose to speak in order to protect the Church, and I declare with a clear conscience before God that my testimony is true. Christ died for the Church, and Peter, Servus servorum Dei, is the first one called to serve the spouse of Christ.
Certainly, some of the facts that I was to reveal were covered by the pontifical secret that I had promised to observe and that I had faithfully observed from the beginning of my service to the Holy See. But the purpose of any secret, including the pontifical secret, is to protect the Church from her enemies, not to cover up and become complicit in crimes committed by some of her members. I was a witness, not by my choice, of shocking facts and, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (par. 2491), the seal of secrecy is not binding when very grave harm can be avoided only by divulging the truth. Only the seal of confession could have justified my silence.
Neither the pope, nor any of the cardinals in Rome have denied the facts I asserted in my testimony. “Qui tacet consentit” surely applies here, for if they deny my testimony, they have only to say so, and provide documentation to support that denial. How can one avoid concluding that the reason they do not provide the documentation is that they know it confirms my testimony?
The center of my testimony was that since at least June 23, 2013, the pope knew from me how perverse and evil McCarrick was in his intentions and actions, and instead of taking the measures that every good pastor would have taken, the pope made McCarrick one of his principal agents in governing the Church, in regard to the United States, the Curia, and even China, as we are seeing these days with great concern and anxiety for that martyr Church.
Now, the pope’s reply to my testimony was: “I will not say a word!” But then, contradicting himself, he has compared his silence to that of Jesus in Nazareth and before Pilate, and compared me to the great accuser, Satan, who sows scandal and division in the Church — though without ever uttering my name. If he had said: “Viganò lied,” he would have challenged my credibility while trying to affirm his own. In so doing he would have intensified the demand of the people of God and the world for the documentation needed to determine who has told the truth. Instead, he put in place a subtle slander against me — slander being an offense he has often compared to the gravity of murder. Indeed, he did it repeatedly, in the context of the celebration of the most Holy Sacrament, the Eucharist, where he runs no risk of being challenged by journalists. When he did speak to journalists, he asked them to exercise their professional maturity and draw their own conclusions. But how can journalists discover and know the truth if those directly involved with a matter refuse to answer any questions or to release any documents? The pope’s unwillingness to respond to my charges and his deafness to the appeals by the faithful for accountability are hardly consistent with his calls for transparency and bridge building.
Moreover, the pope’s cover-up of McCarrick was clearly not an isolated mistake. Many more instances have recently been documented in the press, showing that Pope Francis has defended homosexual clergy who committed serious sexual abuses against minors or adults. These include his role in the case of Fr. Julio Grassi in Buenos Aires, his reinstatement of Fr. Mauro Inzoli after Pope Benedict had removed him from ministry (until he went to prison, at which point Pope Francis laicized him), and his halting of the investigation of sex abuse allegations against Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor.
In the meantime, a delegation of the USCCB, headed by its president Cardinal DiNardo, went to Rome asking for a Vatican investigation into McCarrick. Cardinal DiNardo and the other prelates should tell the Church in America and in the world: did the pope refuse to carry out a Vatican investigation into McCarrick’s crimes and of those responsible for covering them up? The faithful deserve to know.
I would like to make a special appeal to Cardinal Ouellet, because as nuncio I always worked in great harmony with him, and I have always had great esteem and affection towards him. He will remember when, at the end of my mission in Washington, he received me at his apartment in Rome in the evening for a long conversation. At the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate, he had maintained his dignity, as he had shown with courage when he was Archbishop of Québec. Later, however, when his work as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops was being undermined because recommendations for episcopal appointments were being passed directly to Pope Francis by two homosexual “friends” of his dicastery, bypassing the Cardinal, he gave up. His long article in L’Osservatore Romano, in which he came out in favor of the more controversial aspects of Amoris Laetitia, represents his surrender. Your Eminence, before I left for Washington, you were the one who told me of Pope Benedict’s sanctions on McCarrick. You have at your complete disposal key documents incriminating McCarrick and many in the curia for their cover-ups. Your Eminence, I urge you to bear witness to the truth.
Finally, I wish to encourage you, dear faithful, my brothers and sisters in Christ: never be despondent! Make your own the act of faith and complete confidence in Christ Jesus, our Savior, of Saint Paul in his second Letter to Timothy, Scio cui credidi, which I choose as my episcopal motto. This is a time of repentance, of conversion, of prayers, of grace, to prepare the Church, the bride of the Lamb, ready to fight and win with Mary the battle against the old dragon.
“Scio Cui credidi” (2 Tim 1:12)
In you, Jesus, my only Lord, I place all my trust. “Diligentibus Deum omnia cooperantur in bonum” (Rom 8:28).
To commemorate my episcopal ordination on April 26, 1992, conferred on me by St. John Paul II, I chose this image taken from a mosaic of the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice. It represents the miracle of the calming of the storm. I was struck by the fact that in the boat of Peter, tossed by the water, the figure of Jesus is portrayed twice. Jesus is sound asleep in the bow, while Peter tries to wake him up: “Master, do you not care that we are about to die?” Meanwhile the apostles, terrified, look each in a different direction and do not realize that Jesus is standing behind them, blessing them and assuredly in command of the boat: “He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still,’ … then he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mk 4:38-40).
The scene is very timely in portraying the tremendous storm the Church is passing through in this moment, but with a substantial difference: the successor of Peter not only fails to see the Lord in full control of the boat, it seems he does not even intend to awaken Jesus asleep in the bow.
Has Christ perhaps become invisible to his vicar? Perhaps is he being tempted to try to act as a substitute of our only Master and Lord?
The Lord is in full control of the boat!
May Christ, the Truth, always be the light on our way!
+ Carlo Maria Viganò
Titular Archbishop of Ulpiana
The three S’s reign supreme in the Church today: Sacrilege, Sin & Scandal.
The overwhelming amount of evil that we witness on a day to day basis is unlike any other time in the Church’s history, I believe. What makes this current crisis particularly horrid is that immoral activity leads & has lead to doctrinal corruption. You can’t preach what you don’t believe.
A couple quotes that demonstrate the enormous evil of sacrilege:
“The sin of sacrilege consists in the irreverent treatment of a sacred thing. Now reverence is due to a sacred thing by reason of its holiness: and consequently the species of sacrilege must needs be distinguished according to the different aspects of sanctity in the sacred things which are treated irreverently: for the greater the holiness ascribed to the sacred thing that is sinned against, the more grievous the sacrilege. Now holiness is ascribed, not only to sacred persons, namely, those who are consecrated to the divine worship, but also to sacred places and to certain other sacred things. And the holiness of a place is directed to the holiness of man, who worships God in a holy place. For it is written (2 Maccabees 5:19): ‘God did not choose the people for the place’s sake, but the place for the people’s sake.’ Hence sacrilege committed against a sacred person is a graver sin than that which is committed against a sacred place. Yet in either species there are various degrees of sacrilege, according to differences of sacred persons and places. In like manner the third species of sacrilege, which is committed against other sacred things, has various degrees, according to the differences of sacred things. Among these the highest place belongs to the sacraments whereby man is sanctified: chief of which is the sacrament of the Eucharist, for it contains Christ Himself. Wherefore the sacrilege that is committed against this sacrament is the gravest of all. The second place, after the sacraments, belongs to the vessels consecrated for the administration of the sacraments; also sacred images, and the relics of the saints, wherein the very persons of the saints, so to speak, are reverenced and honored. After these come things connected with the apparel of the Church and its ministers; and those things, whether movable or immovable, that are deputed to the upkeep of the ministers. And whoever sins against any one of the aforesaid incurs the crime of sacrilege.” ~St. Thomas Aquinas
“A sacrilege is the profanation of a place, of a person, or of a thing consecrated to God and set apart for his worship.” ~Catechism of Pope St. Pius X)
“Can. 2325 Whoever excites superstition or perpetrates a sacrilege is to be punished by the Ordinary according to the gravity of the fault, with due regard for the penalties established by law against such superstitious or sacrilegious acts.” ~1917 Code of Canon Law
The third article in the series about the battle between the Holy Ghost Fathers & Archbishop Lefebvre.
The Year of All Dangers
On March 7, 1968, the weekly Rivarol published an article by Archbishop Lefebvre entitled: “Some Light on the Present Crisis in the Church.” This public stance caused quite a stir among the members of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost. The Superior General denounced the “doctrines that question the truths considered until now to be the immutable foundations of the Catholic Faith” and expressed his dismay at seeing them spread inside the Church by the action of her ministers. He recalled the divine foundation of the institution of the Church and the assistance of the Holy Ghost, promised to the Magisterium in order to reject error and heresy. He lashed out at the “joint efforts of the Communists and Freemasons to modify both the Magisterium and the hierarchical structure of the Church.” In their eyes, collegiality and the spirit of democracy are the perfect means to “ruin the Faith by corrupting the Magisterium of the Church, to stifle personal authority by making it depend upon multiple organisms that it is far easier to infiltrate and influence.”
Archbishop Lefebvre recalled how Christ asked persons, the Apostles, and not a collective group, to feed his flock. The Magisterium can never be made subject to a majority. In both teaching and governing, collegiality paralyzes authority and makes the salt of the Gospel lose its savor:
Only in our times has there begun to be talk of the Church in a permanent state of Council, of the Church in continuous collegiality. The results have not taken long to appear. Everything is upside down: the Faith, morals, discipline.” The consequences could already be seen: “The Church’s power of resistance to Communism, heresy and immorality has considerably diminished.
Lucid and clearsighted as it was, the article was bitterly discussed in the congregation and earned its author and the Provincial of France several letters of protest. At the seminary of Chevilly, the director, professors and students voiced their unease and their refusal. Fr. Hirtz, General Councilor, wrote to Fr. Morvan, the Provincial of France, on April 12 to tell him just how well he understood and shared the various reactions. He believed that the Superior General’s declarations, publicly expressed in a “classified” journal, “cause a serious prejudice, sow division and disarray among the members of the Congregation and, alas, compromise the success of our upcoming General Chapter” (Béguerie, p. 405).
The Opening of the Chapter
This was the atmosphere when the General Chapter began in Rome on Sunday, September 8, 1968.
In his report, Archbishop Lefebvre proposed several reforms, such as entrusting the General Assistants and Councilors with more responsibilities, reorganizing the provinces, postponing the date of religious professions, accepting non-religious missionary candidates, etc. He also presented the resignation of the General Council, but this did not mean that the congregation was without a head.
In fact, the Chapter was supposed to be purely administrative, since the superiors had been elected in 1962 for a twelve-year term. Archbishop Lefebvre intended to go to the end of his term, but in 1967, he began to consider resigning. After an interview with Cardinal Antoniutti, prefect of the Congregation for Religious, on March 14, 1968, he wrote to tell him on May 7 of his decision to resign from his charge. Indeed, it would have been difficult for him to remain, as his Assistants had announced to him their intention of resigning as soon as the Chapter opened, “no matter what” (Perrin, p. 167).
During the first work session, on Monday, September 9, the chapter members neutralized the powers of the Superior General in the direction of the Chapter. In order to do so, they abolished the two-thirds majority rule prescribed in the Constitutions. A simple majority was then enough to adopt the following motion to relegate the Superior General to the role of an honorary president and hand the direction over to an elected central committee. Archbishop Lefebvre protested, asking that the Superior General be president by right of this Committee in charge of directing the Chapter’s work. In the end, his request was refused by a vote of 63 to 40 on Wednesday, September 11. What a humiliation!
The chapter members did, however, accept the presence of the Secretary General with a vote of 54 to 52. Whatever denials were later made, it is clear that the Chapter was organized democratically in order to “make a profound reform by returning to the Gospels, to the founders, and by adequately adapting to today’s world” (Fr. Morvan’s report on the departure of Archbishop Lefebvre).
At 11:30 a.m., the First Assistant announced that he would preside over the session, and Archbishop Lefebvre left the Chapter. The work continued in a peculiar atmosphere. The rules in effect were suspended, the secrecy on the deliberations was abolished, the novitiate was replaced by periods of spiritual formation and internships, obedience gave way to co-responsibility, dialogue, team work, and group dynamics, and the missions became a “dialogue of salvation” in the ecumenical spirit of the times. Some students and young fathers appealed to the Chapter as “experts on the mentality of young people” and this appeal was voted in (Béguerie, p. 442).
On September 30, at the 4:00 p.m. general assembly, Archbishop Lefebvre reappeared and read a text he had prepared during his stay in Assisi, where he had gone to reflect and pray. He exhorted his brethren to remain faithful to the spirit of Fr. Libermann and to strive for holiness, which is essentially apostolic. The means to do so are “the religious life and community life which bring about the life of self-denial, the life of prayer, and the life of fraternal charity…”. He lamented the state of mind that was spreading and leading to the rejection of these means:
Their individualism, their selfishness, and their thirst for freedom and independence have prevailed against the religious life, community life, the life of obedience, and prudence with respect to the world, the life of real detachment from the goods and comforts of this world. They have prevailed against the realities of life in community which is our mortification and compels us to practice charity and live the life of prayer.
On October 4, the freshly resigned Superior General went to the Sacred Congregation for Religious. In the absence of the prefect, Cardinal Antoniutti, he was received by Archbishop Mauro the new secretary. Archbishop Lefebvre explained to him that he was no longer a member of any committee and that he was no more than a simple spectator of the revolution in progress. The secretary responded:
You understand, after the Council, you have to understand…I am going to give you some advice that I have just given to another Superior General who came to see me about the same thing. ‘Go on,’ I said to him, ‘take a little trip to the United States. It will do you good.’ As for the chapter and even for the congregation’s present business, leave it to your assistants! (Bishop Tissier, p. 373).
The authority of the Superior General collapsed because it was not supported. There was nothing left but to throw in the towel. The final word had been spoken!
For the Honor of Archbishop Lefebvre
During the Chapter, very few defended Archbishop Lefebvre and the authority of the Superior General. Luc Perrin quotes the beautiful declaration of the Brazilian Fr. Cristovao Arnaud Freire on September 20:
The goal of the Chapter is to adapt, not to destroy… It is surprising to hear criticism of the Pope, the bishops and the Superiors from priests who are among us but who are really enemies of the Church and who let their passions lead them. From the very beginning, the Chapter has been dominated by a pressure group moved by personal grievances against Archbishop Lefebvre and incapable of distinguishing between his person and the Superior General… This Chapter is really a confabulation. That is why he has decided to withdraw from it and to return to the bush, contenting himself with praying to Our Lady of Fatima for the authors of all this evil.
Archbishop Lefebvre continued to take care of the day-to-day business and strived to maintain cordial relations with all. He even made suggestions to the Chapter as to the nature and end of the institute. In the end, Fr. Joseph Lecuyer was elected Superior General on October 28. On November 1, Archbishop Lefebvre left the General House and took refuge at the Institute of the Holy Ghost, on Via Machiavelli. Thus ended his mandate as superior, reduced to naught by the conciliar torment.
The last public act of Archbishop Lefebvre was to appear at an audience granted by Pope Paul VI to the members of the Chapter on November 11, 1968. After that, he withdrew for good. Providence had its plans. One day, he had confided to Fr. Michael O’Carroll: “If ever I have to leave the congregation, I will found a traditional seminary and in three years I will have 150 seminarians” (Bishop Tissier, p. 375).
A new chapter was about to begin. It would be written in Ecône.
As member of the Coetus Internationalis Patrum, the group of conservative conciliar Fathers who tried to counteract the progressivist schemes and resist the imprecision and erroneous opinions expressed in the aula, Archbishop Lefebvre did not have the unanimous support of his congregation. Many were disappointed to see the Superior General of their congregation take sides against the innovators. Especially since he was not the only Spiritan bishop participating in the Council.
Forty-six Spiritan bishops participated in the sessions. Eleven of them, all French-speaking, expressed their growing unease as their superior’s position as a discordant voice became more and more pronounced. They drew up a document in which they mentioned the “disobliging remarks” from French bishops and cardinals in Rome, many of whom stayed at the French Seminary. On November 30, 1963, these eleven bishops presented their grievance to Archbishop Lefebvre, reproaching him for supporting Verbe, the journal of the CitéCatholique, for criticizing the newspaper LaCroix, the press organ of the bishops of France, for his letter on wearing the cassock, that was not in keeping with the spirit of the times since it went against the dispositions of the French episcopate allowing clergyman suits, for Fr. Lecuyer’s departure from the Roman Seminary, and for his choice of the Canon Berto, who was not a Spiritan, as theological adviser to assist him at the Council. They also reproached him for taking a public stance at the Council (see Philippe Béguerie, Vers Ecône, Desclée de Brouwer, 2010, p. 255-257).
His calls to order on the priestly spirit, the necessity of prayer, the religious and apostolic life, and his warnings against Communism, secularism, and materialism were scarcely in keeping with the spirit of the conciliar aggiornamento either.
The time had come for a general reassessment of the methods of apostolate and the organization of missions. Besides the liturgical novelties and the unconditional openness to any and all experiments, the religious were quite taken with psychology and psychoanalysis. The magic word was seeking personal fulfillment, as Luc Perrin explains in his study (“Mgr Lefebvre, d’une élection à une demission”, in Histoire, monde et cultures religieuses, #10, June 2009, p. 165). The Spiritan province in Holland experienced an emblematic crisis: in a few years’ time, the scholasticates, novitiates and seminaries were emptied. The habit, the rules, the community prayers, the liturgy, the taking of and fidelity to the vows, everything was abandoned or transformed (see Côme de Prévigny, “Mgr Lefebvre: d’un chapitre à l’autre” in Fideliter, #244, p. 74).
A revolutionary wind had blown in.
For a True Aggiornamento
For the time being, after the promulgation of the decree Perfectae Caritatis on October 28, 1965, Archbishop Lefebvre loyally undertook to reform his Congregation. The letter he signed on January 6, 1966 ordered the local superiors to have their communities study the conciliar texts and collect the suggestions they inspired in preparation for an administrative General Chapter. To this end, he created four commissions to prepare the reforms of the legislation, the formation, the religious discipline and the apostolate. But he intended to conduct all these reforms in such a way as to bring about a “true aggiornamento of the congregation regarding the religious virtues.”
Amidst all the talk of “independent learning and independent training”, Archbishop Lefebvre spoke up forcefully against this “abdication of authority in what is its essential role,” and against “the lack of realism which ends up causing chaos and indiscipline, represents a bonus to those who are daring and strong-headed, and leads to good, humble, and submissive religious being scorned.”
“Let us have our aggiornamento not in the spirit of a destructive neo-Protestantism that ruins the sources of sanctity” but “driven by the holy desires that have inspired all saints who were involved in reform. They were reformers because they loved our Lord on the Cross, and practiced obedience, poverty, and chastity. There, they acquired the spirit of sacrifice, oblation, and prayer which made them into apostles.” (Bp. Tissier, p. 364).
Despite his efforts to limit the effects of the conciliar reforms, a general slackness was spreading in the congregation. The first thing to go was the discipline of the religious life, but there were also many departures and a lack of perseverance among the candidates, and the life of prayer and contemplation was depreciated, giving way to activism in the accomplishment of the congregation’s works. To remedy this situation, Archbishop Lefebvre drew up an ambitious project in the beginning of 1967, hoping to implement a better formation for members and a better preparation to the priesthood and the missionary religious life.
In the meantime, the preparations for the Chapter were well under way. He entrusted it to the prayers of Padre Pio, whom he visited on Easter Monday, 1967. The holy Capuchin took a very dim view of the changes that would soon lead his own religious family to write up new constitutions. On September 12, 1968, he would write to Pope Paul VI these revealing lines:
I pray to our Lord that the Capuchin order continue its traditions of serious religious austerity, evangelical poverty, and observance of the rule and constitutions, while renewing its vitality and interior spirit according to the directives of the Second Vatican Council.
One might as well try to make a circle square… This attitude reveals the torment so many Catholics experienced during those years.
The Society is publishing a series on the battle between the Holy Ghost Fathers & Archbishop Lefebvre, over the doctrine & morality crisis that began to attack the Church in full force during the days of the Council. Archbishop Lefebvre, saintly man that he was, handled his Congregation with such love & care, addressing the problem head on. The following is the first article:
Fifty years ago, in the midst of the raging upheaval caused by the Council, one man found himself faced with the weighty task of assembling a Chapter to update his religious congregation and adapt it to the times. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers at the time, and in the midst of the dilapidating chaos, the experimental activities, the contestation and the upheaval, he chose to withdraw.
The story of the forced resignation of the Superior of one of the Church’s most important religious congregations is a page of history that reveals much about the crisis the Church is living through.
Elected by a Large Majority Six Years Earlier
In 1968, Archbishop Lefebvre had been superior of his congregation for six years. He was elected by his fellow religious with a large majority on July 26, 1962, in the second round of votes, and Pope John XIII approved the election two days later. The former archbishop of Dakar who had become bishop of Tulle six months earlier, left his diocese in Corrèze and moved to Paris, rue Lhomond, to the General House of the Spiritan Fathers. Assistant to the papal throne and member of the Preparatory Commission for Vatican Council II, his election as head of his congregation coincided with the opening of this assembly. All throughout the Council’s five sessions, he kept the members of his religious family updated on the debates, the texts adopted, and the decision made.
This study does not intend to present everything Archbishop Lefebvre said during the Council. Readers can find all his speeches in I Accuse the Council. The idea is rather to show how, over a period of six years, the situation became inextricably untenable. When he was elected in 1962, Archbishop Lefebvre inherited a delicate situation that can give readers an idea of the great difficulties involved in governing an institution that had fallen prey to the indecision and questioning of the period that followed World Wars.
A Headwind Mandate
Divisions and a harmful atmosphere were developing above all in France and particularly in Chevilly-Larue, the congregation’s main scholasticate. Authors with modern tendencies and experiments in self-management and self-formation were developing dangerously. Archbishop Lefebvre undertook to put an end to this. He demanded that the library containing the condemned works of Fr. Congar and Fr. Chenu be purged.
He transferred Fr. Fourmond, who was trying to eliminate apologetics and the treatise on the Blessed Virgin Mary from his theology class. In the spring of 1963, he sent precise directives to the superiors of the major scholasticates, ordering them “to remove all those imbued with Modernist ideas from teaching positions.” He exhorted them to show discernment in their choice of preachers for retreats and conferences, and authors for journals.
We must avoid everything that is likely to undermine respect for the Church and the Pope, and everything that minimizes the historical truth of the Scriptures, the value of Tradition, the fundamental notions of morality and sin, and personal responsibility. We must prevent the invasion of the spirit of the world in religious communities.
Archbishop Lefebvre renewed the teaching staff in the scholasticates, especially the deans of studies. In philosophy, he denounced the “great evils of our time, idealism and subjectivism. Thomistic philosophy alone gives us knowledge of the real.” In theology, he insisted upon “the importance of the Magisterium, and on Tradition and its relations with the ministry of sacraments and sacrifice”. He prescribed refectory readings of the main encyclicals and papal documents from Pius IX to the present, especially the acts of St. Pius X.
As for the liturgy, his orders were to follow the prescriptions from Rome, “avoid everything that comes from the personal initiatives of so-called liturgists”, keep the language of the Church, never fuse the para-liturgy with the liturgy, not to celebrate Mass facing the people, and not to receive Communion standing up.
The Reformation Turns into a Tornado
At the end of the year 1963, he insisted yet again on the very alarming situation in some of the Spiritan houses. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais describes the prelate’s appalling description:
Ruin of authority, unbridled freedom, the right to judge and criticize everything, the absence of humility. The loss of respect for colleagues, authority, and for themselves. The loss of modesty in dress, in looks, in reading and television. (…) Scorn for traditions, giving up Latin and Gregorian chant, and abandoning scholastic philosophy and theology.
Unfortunately, although Archbishop Lefebvre was lucid, he lacked decisive men capable of implementing the much-needed reforms. In Chevilly, he accepted the resignation of the rector and the replacement of three professors, but the new rector nominated in 1964 later admitted that he had betrayed his trust: “I pulled the wool over his eyes and used methods that were not to his liking. The students were my brothers, not my inferiors!” This attitude reveals an inability to practice “a truly fatherly authority that was both strong, capable of training priests, and able to withstand the craze for the new theology and for revolutionary teaching methods.” (Bp. Tissier, p. 348)
During the years of the Council, the direction Archbishop Lefebvre wished to give was more and more openly contested even within his congregation and under pressure from the other bishops, especially French bishops.
Fr. Jurgen Wedgner, US District Superior for the SSPX, speaks on the North American martyrs, the importance of the sign of the cross, the youth & purity. Having met this man recently, I can definitely say he is a very gracious, holy priest.
“We begged God to accept our lives and our blood and unite them to His life and His blood for the salvation of these tribes.” ~ St. Isaac Jogues