2. This affliction was particularly felt by the Successor Peter to whom in the first place pertains the guardianship of the unity of the Church,(2) even though the number of persons directly involved in these events might be few. For every person is loved by God on his own account and has been redeemed by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross for the salvation of all.
The particular circumstances, both objective and subjective in which Archbishop Lefebvre acted, provide everyone with an occasion for profound reflection and for a renewed pledge of fidelity to Christ and to his Church.
3. In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience - which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy - constitutes a schismatic act.(3) In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.(4)
4. The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, "comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".(5)
But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal Magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the Body of Bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in His Church.(6)
5. Faced with the situation that has arisen I deem it my duty to inform all the Catholic faithful of some aspects which this sad event has highlighted.
To the bishops especially it pertains, by reason of their pastoral mission, to exercise the important duty of a clear-sighted vigilance full of charity and firmness, so that this fidelity may be everywhere safeguarded.(7)
However, it is necessary that all the Pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety: of that blended "harmony" which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.
b) Moreover, I should like to remind theologians and other experts in the ecclesiastical sciences that they should feel themselves called upon to answer in the present circumstances. Indeed, the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the Council's continuity with Tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the Church.
c) In the present circumstances I wish especially to make an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfil the grave duty of remaining united to the Vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church, and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church's law.(8)
To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.
6. Taking account of the importance and complexity of the problems referred to in this document, by virtue of my Apostolic Authority I decree the following:
b) this Commission is composed of a Cardinal President and other members of the Roman Curia, in a number that will be deemed opportune according to circumstances;
c) moreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.(9)
7. As this year specially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin is now drawing to a close, I wish to exhort all to join in unceasing prayer that the Vicar of Christ, through the intercession of the Mother of the Church, addresses to the Father in the very words of the Son: "That they all may be one!".
Joannes Paulus PP. II
(2)Cf. Vatican Council I, Const. Pastor Ęternus, cap. 3: DS 3060.
(3)Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 751.
(4)Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1382.
(5)Vatican Council II. Const. Dei Verbum, n. 8. Cf. Vatican Council I, Const. Dei Filius, cap. 4: DS 3020.
(6)Cf. Mt. 16:18; Lk. 10:16; Vatican Council I, Const. Pastor Ęternus, cap. 3: DS 3060.
(7)Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 386; Paul VI. Apost. Exhort. Quinque iam anni, 8 Dec. 1970: AAS 63 (1971) pp. 97-106.
(8)Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1364.
(9)Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship, Letter Quattuor abhinc annos. 3 Oct. 1984: AAS 76 (1984) pp. 1088-1089.
In spite of corruption and persecution, in spite of the combined forces of error and evil, the Catholic Church has continued to live and carry out its purpose, as its Founder promised through passing down the truths and the apostolic succession of bishops who, together, comprise the Magisterium of the Church. The indestructability of the Church, as has been proved by history, is alone enough to mark it as divine. God alone could have preserved it so long. The Church is the only institution which has proved itself an exception to the law of decay and death! It has watched the birth and decay of every government on earth for almost 2,000 years. After every attack against it, it rises, the Bride of Christ, ever fresh and fair through the unbroken apostolic line.
The chief marks of the Church are four. We have covered ONE, HOLY and CATHOLIC so far, today we cover APOSTOLIC.
Christ intended His Church to be propagated by His Apostles; and therefore the True Church must be Apostolic. It must be the Church propagated by the Apostles. Its rulers must derive their office and authority by the lawful succession from the Apostles. It must hold intact the doctrine and traditions of the Apostles, to whom Christ gave authority to teach.
It was Christ Himself, and no one else, Who chose His Apostles and disciples, and commanded them to teach His doctrines to all the world. To Simon Peter He said: "And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16: 18).
Saint Paul says to the Galatians in Chapter 1, verse 8: "Even if we or an angel from Heaven should preach a Gospel to you other than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema." The Apostle Paul also refers to the Church in Ephesians 2: 20 as "built upon the foundation of the Apostles."
Thus, we can prove that the only true Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, because: Only the Catholic Church possesses the marks of the Church established by Christ: that is unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. As a matter of fact, only the Catholic Church claims to have all these four marks of the True Church, the marks so evidently set by Christ.
Other than the Catholic Church, no other heretical Christian denomination is apostolic. The Protestant churches came some 1500 years later than the Church founded on the Rock of Peter. Their ministers cannot trace their succession from the Apostles. Not one teaches all the doctrines of the Apostles. How then could they be the Church founded by Christ? Truth and error are not the same and all other churches have errors in their doctrines because of the absence of all four marks. God is not divided. He revealed only one religion. We either believe that religion, or do not believe it. There is no middle way as Jesus says in Matthew 12: 30, "He who is not with Me is against Me." No one will assert that glass or zirconium is as valuable as diamonds nor that brass is as good as gold. No one claims that an imitation is just as good as the authentic thing. Why then would it be reasonable for a church to claim that a religion established by a man is as good as that founded by the Incarnate God?
From the very beginning of mankind there has been one true religion. From Adam to the coming of Christ this religion was preserved by the patriarchs, prophets and others chosen by God to keep the knowledge of the promised Redeemer intact. The Old Covenant was kept by the Jews, the "chosen people." All other nations had degenerated and worshipped idols and false gods. In spite of the imperfections of the old religion, it was always the true religion, the one true religion. It foreshadowed the coming of the perfect religion, that established by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who then abrogated the Jewish Faith, the Old Law, in favor of the New Faith, the New Law.
It would be absurd to suppose that God does not care whether men denounce His Son as an imposter and blasphemer. The Father does care if they worship His Son as God; He does care that His chosen people, as a whole, have rejected His Son, treating Jesus merely as a prophet. And Christ and His Apostles cared too. Why else would Christ, and after Him the Apostles and after them a long line of believers, have suffered so much and resisted persecution so firmly, if it were of no importance what a man believed? Saint Luke puts it in focus in Acts 4: 12, "There is no other name under Heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved."
The mark of Apostolicity is easily proved by the facts of history. If a church cannot trace back its history lawfully in an unbroken line step by step to the Apostles, it is not the True Church. The Catholic Church can. Pope John Paul II is the direct successor of St. Peter. He is the lawful successor of the Pope who preceded him; and thus each Pope lawfully succeeded the one before him, until we reach St. Peter, the first Pope, chosen by Christ Himself. All the Sees founded by the Apostles perished or were interrupted, except the See of Peter alone. Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesiam "Where Peter is, there is the Church" founded by the Son of God.
Those denominations that broke away from the Church thus lost their connection with the Apostles. They were all begun by individuals who could never have had any authority from either Christ or the Apostles. Non-Catholic denominations may claim that they did not begin new churches, but merely "reformed" the old one. But to that must be asked, Did the True Church exist at the time of the founding of these new churches or not? If it did not, then Christ's promise to be with His Church always had failed; His Church had died, and no human reform could possibly have resurrected it. That would also mean that Christ, Who is all-knowing, would have made a mistake. God doesn't make mistakes! Because of that the Church still exists. Therefore, those who invented new doctrines were not reforming it, but founding new churches, turning their backs on God's Will and, in effect, saying to God that they were more important than their Creator. They won't last long that way!
The Catholic Church derives all its holy orders, doctrines, and mission from the Apostles. It is "built on the foundation of the Apostles," of which Christ is the corner-stone (cf. Ephesians 2: 20). It holds intact the doctrine and traditions of the Apostles, to whom Christ gave authority to teach. A church which at any time denies an apostolic doctrine, discards the sacrament of Holy Orders, or breaks away from obedience to the Pope, ceases to be apostolic. It becomes a dead branch broken off from the parent vine which is Christ Himself: "I am the vine; you are the branches" (John 15: 5).
After serving as professor of moral theology at the Lateran University and various offices within the Roman Curia during the papacy of Pope Pius XII, in 1958 he was selected by Pope John XXIII as Secretary of the Holy Congregation of the Council which was renamed the Congregation for the Clergy on August 15, 1967 by Pope Paul VI. Palazzini was named Consultor for the Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law in 1961 and on August 28, 1962 John XXIII made him Titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappodocia where he was installed on September 21, 1962. He was the author of numerous works on moral theology and Canon Law, and took part in the Second Vatican Council, writing several articles for L'Osservatore Romano. He also founded the magazine Studi Cattolici in 1958 and served as it editor until being elevated to the cardinalate during Paul VI's Consistory of March 7, 1973. He received the titular church of St. Jerome and seven years later John Paul II chose him to head the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1980. In 1983 the Holy Father restructured the Congregation, revising canonization procedures with his Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister. In 1988, at the age of 76 he retired, choosing to stay in Rome residing at Via Proba Petronia 83.
Election of Pope Lucius III as 171st successor of Peter. By means of a hurriedly put-together constitution Lucius exhorted all those in authority to suppress heresy by force of arms, having himself been forced to take refuge in Verona because of the riots which had broken out in his own territories.
Cardinal Francis Della Chiesa of Genoa is chosen as the 258th successor of Peter, taking the name Pope Benedict XV and succeeding the popular Pope Saint Pius X. Benedict ruled for eight years. He beatified Joan of Arc and increased the number of countries diplomatically accredited to the Vatican from 14 to 27 including England which had been without representation since Henry VIII had revolted.