Most Eminent Lord,
It is with my eyes fixed on the Sacred Heart, whose feast we celebrate today, that I implore, according to his own desire, of His mercy, that it might deign to impregnate the lines that follow with his light and his charity.
The Jesuit, Bishop Pierre Henrici, at the time secretary of Communio, said in a conference on the development of the Council that at Vatican II two theological traditions, that are deep down incomprehensible to one another, entered into collision.
Your letter of May 7 caused me similar sentiments of incomprehension and of disappointment.
We have the impression that you are trying to force us to make a choice: either we are to enter into full communion, and then we must be silent concerning the great evils that afflict the Church, that is in the absence of a golden cage, we must accept a muzzle; or we are to stay "outside".
We refuse to be forced to chose between each of these alternatives. On the one hand, we have never left the Church. On the other hand, our present situation that is, without a doubt, uncomfortable, is not the effect of any culpable action on our part, but the consequence of a disastrous situation in the Church, against which we have striven, as far as we could, to protect ourselves. The various decisions made by Archbishop Lefebvre were dictated by the determination to not lose the Catholic Faith and to survive in the midst of a universal rout that involves even Rome. We call this a "state of necessity".
If we desire to advance beyond the deadlock to which your letter leads, we must change rather profoundly the perspectives, the questions to be asked.
In effect, for Your Eminence:
It seems to me possible to affirm, from our point of view, that, following Popes Pius XII and Paul VI, the Church is presently in a literally apocalyptic condition. It cannot be denied that the dysfunction of the Catholic hierarchy –Cardinal Seper said "the crisis of the Church is a crisis of bishops" –omissions, silences, deceptions, tolerance of errors, and even of positively destructive acts even in the Curia, and unfortunately even in the Vicar of Christ. These are public facts that can be seen by ordinary men.
- We have broken communion.
- The reasons that we give to justify our actions, and in particular the episcopal consecrations, are entirely insufficient. For since the Church is holy and the Magisterium is always assisted by the Holy Ghost, the deficiencies that we complain about either do not exist or are simply limited abuses. Our problem comes from the fact that our vision of the Church’s history and crises is much too fixed and limited, preventing us from understanding the homogenous evolution brought about by the Council and the subsequent Magisterium, necessitated by different adaptations to today’s world.
- Rome has been exceedingly generous in offering us the structure that was proposed to us. It would be abusive for us to ask for more, and even perhaps injurious towards the Holy See in these circumstances in which Rome took the initiative. No preliminary can be granted, and especially not the Mass, for it would cause trouble in the Church.
The affirmation of the existence of these facts is not in contradiction with the Faith in the holiness of the Church, nor in the assistance of the Holy Ghost. But here we draw near to the mystery of the Church, of the joining together and coordination of the divine and human elements in the Mystical Body. In order to remain with the truth of the reality we must hold just as much to the affirmations of Faith as to the acknowledgement of the facts.
The First Vatican Council, in the affirmation of the infallibility of the Sovereign Pontiff, explicitly gave the limits to the assistance of the Holy Ghost:
"The Holy Ghost was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of Faith, and might faithfully set it forth." (Db 1836 in The Sources of Catholic Dogma, p. 456).
Obviously, we adhere with our whole heart to the paragraphs of Pastor Aeternus [Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ; Ed.] that follow, as well as to Dei filius [Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith; Ed.].
But it is precisely here that we draw closest to the heart of the present mystery. For it is in this regard that can be found the novelties of the new theology, that were condemned by the Church under Pius XII, and that were introduced into Vatican II. How can we explain that the Council’s great names, its expert theologians, were all sanctioned under Pius XII? De Lubac, Congar, Rahner, Courtney-Murray, Dom Beaudoin (who died just before the Council), and to go back a little further Blondel, Teilhard de Chardin...
They would have us believe today that these novelties are but a development in conformity with the past. They were already condemned, at least in their principles. Cardinal Ratzinger himself called Gaudium et spes a counter-Syllabus. (Theologishce Prinzipienlehre, p. 398, Erich Wewel Verlag, Muchen, 1982). We have therefore necessarily to make a choice.
To make these doctrines acceptable, it is not enough that they were afterwards approved by a Council that chose not to be dogmatic. The seal of a vote does not transform an error into infallible truth. In fact we have only to read Msgr. Felici’s response to the Council on the question of its own infallibility (Notification of November 16, 1964, DH 4350 – 4351).
Furthermore, the problem of the Council is not primarily one of individual interpretations. It comes as well from its lack of precision in the use of terms, and its willful ambiguities (as one of the Council’s experts said), that make several differing interpretations possible. It also comes from certain interpretations given by the Holy See itself. If one were to follow the Holy See’s own directions, one would end up with Assisi, in the synagogue or the sacred forests of Togo (Pope John Paul II, Audience of August 22, 1986: "Seeing Assisi in the light of the Council").
How does one explain in the light of the Catholic Faith this key phrase of John Paul II’s theology, that clarifies many passages that would otherwise have been incomprehensible: "man is the path of the Church" (in the light of which this passage from Gaudium et spes §22 can be understood: "For, by his incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man" Cf. Flannery, Vatican Council II, p. 953; Ed.)
"In the Holy Ghost each person and each people have become, by the cross and the resurrection of Christ, children of God, participating in the divine nature, and heirs of everlasting life" (John Paul II, Message to the peoples of Asia, February 21, 1981, DOC 1894, March 15, 1981, 281).
A Magisterium that contradicts the teaching of the past (for example, between today’s ecumenism and Mortalium animos) is a Magisterium that contradicts itself (See the Joint Declaration on Justification and the preceding note from Cardinal Cassidy, where is to be found the condemnation and the praise of the term "sister churches") – here lies the painful problem.
This crisis in the Magisterium constitutes a problem that it is practically impossible to resolve practically.
How are we supposed to have the discernment necessary to distinguish between that which truly belongs to the Magisterium and that which only gives the appearance of doing so?
Moreover, the nightmare concerns also the Curia and the residential bishops. Here are two very recent examples, taken from a thousand.
Was Bishop Tauran faithful to the Catholic Faith when he declared in the Philippines on June 4, 2001:
"It would be erroneous to consider the faithful believer of another religion as someone to be converted. He is rather someone to be understood, leaving to God the role of enlightening his conscience. Different religions ought not to enter into competition with one another, but should rather be like brothers and sisters who walk hand in hand to construct the channels of brotherhood, building up a good world in which it is possible to live and to work."?
Did Cardinal Kasper express the Catholic Faith, and was he faithful to Saint John, to Saint Paul, and to Our Lord Himself, when he declared in New York:
"The old theory of substitution is no longer relevant since the Second Vatican Council. For we, today’s christians, the alliance with the Jewish people is a living heritage…There cannot be a simple coexistence between two testaments. Jews and christians, by their respective specific identities, are intimately bound to one another. The Church believes that Judaism, that is to say the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, has the effect of saving them, for God is faithful to his promises"?
However, the first of these is a close collaborator of the Pope, and the second a prince of the Church, recently honored by receiving the purple Cardinal’s biretta, becoming an elector of the future Vicar of Christ. It is impossible to be in communion with them. They no longer have the Faith.
We could quote dozens and dozens of statements of bishops that are equally shocking. What are we to do when the guardians of the Faith fail? Are we to follow them blindly? Do they not merit the same descriptions that Saint Catherine of Sienna used for certain prince of the Church of her time?
Such declarations do not place us in the good graces of the Holy See. However, we have much more serious concerns. Thousands and millions of Catholic faithful are losing the Faith and damning themselves on account of Rome’s failures, this is our concern.
"Quicumque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem: nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, absque dubio in aeternum peribit. – Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic Faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity." (Athanasian Creed, Ds 75; The Sources of Catholic Dogma, p. 15).
A distinction must be made between Rome and Rome. This is what we strive to do.
Pius XII’s words, while yet Secretary of State for Pius IX, ring loud in our ears:
"Suppose, my dear friend, that communism is only the most visible of the organs of subversion against the Church and against the Tradition of divine Revelation. Then, we are going to see the invasion of everything that is spiritual: philosophy, science, law, teaching, the arts, the press, literature, the theater and religion. I am obsessed by the Virgin’s words, that she entrusted to the little Lucia of Fatima. Our Heavenly Mother’s standing up against the danger that threatens the Church is a divine warning against the suicide that an alteration of the Faith would mean to its liturgy, its theology and its soul…
I hear around me those fascinated with novelties who would like to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the Church’s universal flame, reject its vestments, and make it regret its historical past. Well, my dear friend, it is my conviction that the Church of Peter must assume its past, or it will dig its tomb.
…the day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. It will be tempted to believe that man has become God, that His Son is only a symbol, a philosophy as so many others, and in the Churches Catholics will seek in vain for the red lamp where God wait for them." (Mgr. Roche and P. Saint Germain; Pie XII devant l’histoire, pp. 52 & 53). [Note: editor's bold for emphasis].
Paul VI said, in effect, to his friend Jean Guitton, that there is in the Church a type of thinking that is non-Catholic, and that although it is possible that it may become prevalent, it will never be the Catholic Church (Jean Guitton, Paul VI secret).
Faced with this catastrophe, how are the faithful supposed to react? Is it permissible for them to react? We follow quite simply the counsel given by Saint Vincent of Lérins in his Commonitorium (N3):
What will the Catholic Christian do if some part of the Church happens to separate itself from the communion of the universal Faith? What other position could he hold than to prefer the body as a whole, which is healthy, to the gangrenous and putrid member. And if some new contagion were to try to poison not only a small part of the Church, but the entire Church at the same time? Then still, his great concerns will be to attach himself to antiquity, which, quite obviously cannot be seduced by any lying novelty."
These are the questions that are to be considered if we are to try and find a solution. We are but a clear sign of the terrible tragedy that the Church is presently suffering, perhaps the most terrible of all until now, for it is not just one dogma, but all dogmas that are attacked, and this from the pontifical universities themselves down to the desks of elementary schools.
The liturgical problem is rather similar. The furthermore, the faithful are obliged to take it upon themselves to find an appropriate liturgy. They can no longer simply go to the parish. This is a fact that does not just affect traditional Catholics.
Hence the great transformation in the Catholic world, at least in the old world. Parish life has fallen apart. The growth of ecclesial movements is due in large part to the fact that the faithful no longer find in their parishes the nourishment of which they are in need to live the life of Faith and of grace. The New Mass is not without responsibility in this phenomenon.
We cannot sweep this gigantic problem under the carpet. We desire to work without our whole heart and our whole soul for the restoration of the Church. However, we cannot simply pretend that all is well, and that these are but questions of detail.
We are ready to explain our Faith to Rome, but we cannot call that which is evil good, nor that which is good evil.
May Your Eminence deign to excuse the length of this letter, and the generality of certain statements that ought to have been much better back up. We are entirely willing to continue this work, if Rome desires it…
We desire to remain Catholic, we desire to conserve our entire Faith, without abandoning anything. This is the cause of our combat, of our sufferings, and of the opposition that we meet with. We are convinced that we cause no evil to the Church by doing this, even if appearances speak against us.
May Your Eminence kindly accept the expression of our devout and religious affection in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
June 22, 2001