Thursday, May 3, 2012


“We hold fast, with all our heart and with all our soul, to Catholic Rome, Guardian of the Catholic faith and of the traditions necessary to preserve this faith, to Eternal Rome, Mistress of wisdom and truth.”

“We refuse, on the other hand, and have always refused to follow the Rome of neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies which were clearly evident in the Second Vatican Council and, after the Council, in all the reforms which issued from it.”

In this statement of Abp. Marcel Lefebvre of his epochal declaration of 21 November 1974 are contained two inseparable fundamental principles: on one hand, the rejection of the spirit of the Council, of some of the declarations of the council and of some of the reforms that arose from the Council.

My comments: I had not read these comments from Archbishop Lefebvre as to his angst with what was happening to his beloved Church in 1974. But 1974 it was a terrible time for the world wide Church and confusion reigned supreme(and btw, the John Jay Study of sexual abuse in the Church targeted 1974 as the worst year in which priests were sexually abusing minors in this country--Pandora's Box was wide open and creating havoc in all areas of Church life!).

You cannot read Archbishop Lefebvre's remarks through the lens of the Church of today for reform has occurred since Pope John Paul II became pope in 1978 and with the advent of Cardinal Ratzinger as the head of the CDF and then assuming the Papacy.

The Holy Father I suspect in 1974 would have agreed with Archbishop Lefebvre's dire critique of what was happening in the Church of that period and placing blame on the "spirit" of Vatican II and on some actual elements of Vatican II.

Today, though, I would think the Holy Father views those statements quite differently and through a different set of lens and a new paradigm for reform.


Henry said...

"The Holy Father I suspect in 1974 would have agreed with Archbishop Lefebvre's dire critique of what was happening"

I think this is clear from our Holy Father's memoirs of those early years, and likewise is suggested of Paul VI by his "smoke of Satan" sermon. Indeed, Joseph Ratzinger realized by the end of the Council that it had made some mistakes. From the account of the end of the council by the rather liberal but well-informed observer and Vatican II insider Fr. Ralph Wiltgen (p. 285 of "The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber"):

"Almost no one in the vast assembly, after the pope, had been more influential in the passage of Council legislation than Cardinal Frings. . . . He had leaned heavily on the theologian Father Rahner; but by the end of the Council, he had come to be more cautious in accepting his proposals. Father Ratzinger, the personal theologian of Cardinal Frings and former student of Father Rahner, had seemed to given an almost unquestioning support to the views of his former teacher during the Council. But as it was drawing to a close, he admitted that he had disagreed in various points, and said he would begin to assert himself more after the Council was over."

It is clear from the context that Fr. Wiltgen had spoken with those mentioned. That was in 1965, and as Pope Benedict he is still finding it difficult to correct the mistakes made during the Council.

Bill Meyer said...

When I read the vitriol from some of Abp Lefebvre's critics, I must wonder whether they ever read his Open Letter.... I did, and what impressed me was his humility and his clearly sincere suffering over what was being done to the Church.

Templar said...

Father, I am very grateful that you have taken the time to dig deeper into the SSPX and see them in light of their words, and not the words that others have writen about them. It was not too long ago that you, I and others debated the application of the word Schism to the Society. Where ever one falls in regards to their like of dislike of the SSPX I never wish it to be said of them that they are not Catholic through and through.

Anonymous said...

I hope there is far more to this situation than this letter. I do know they are at odds over some more profound issues, e.g. salvation of the Jews. That is much more important and it would be a shame to discover that the method of Liturgical exercise they preferred was acceptable all this time and was the primary basis for their excommunication.

There was recently, on another blog, a look back at the excommunication of segregationists in Louisiana in the 1960s. I am disturbed that this would be grounds for excommunication in itself. Compared to the case of the parish in Wisconsin where the people actively sought to harm the Church and associated school over a similar difference. If the segregationists were actively harming the Church, and the reason is immaterial, then they should be excommunicated. Similarly, the doofusses (doofi?) in Wisconsin.

I am hopeful this SSPX issue will be resolved and in a manner that it is clear where they stand. Likewise the contrast of the active gnawing of the LCWR should be also dealt with above board and with clear lines to toe.


John Nolan said...

In the mid-1970s Abp Lefebvre visited London. Despite the fact that he was then in full communion with Rome, no church would allow him to celebrate Mass. I attended his Mass in a function room of the Great Western Hotel at Paddington railway station. His sermon caused a few double-takes when he referred to "nos autels et nos foyers"! My great uncle (d.1965) was a Holy Ghost father and Marcel Lefebvre had been his superior.

Since then I have attended SSPX Masses only four times (twice in Paris, once in Strasbourg and once in Brussels). As far as I can see it is straight-down-the-road, mainstream Catholicism, in some ways less self-consciously 'traditionalist'than (say) Brompton Oratory and the homilies are orthodox and scriptually based; I heard no-one railing against modernism or the Vatican.

What I did notice in Brussels four years ago was that the confessionals were all manned (five languages being offered) whereas in the other historic churches they had not been used in years, nor did I notice much sign of liturgical life in any of the other churches I visited.

Jacob said...

I remember attending the SSPX mass in the Atlanta Diocese in 1988, and I remember well the sermon. The priest said that Archbishop Lefebvre would consecrate the Bishops and that Rome was going to excommunicate them and that we the Faithful had to decide if we would stay or leave. It was a horrible time. I can't belive that the break is close to being repaired. The SSPX has asked for a novena of prayers for the Holy Ghost to go to the Pope and to Bishop Felay. Please God hear our prayers and heal this rift

ytc said...

I just wanted to say, Pope Benedict is not a traditionalist. He is a realist who doesn't lie to himself.

I think it is clear that at least a large part of the SSPX is gearing up for a reunion.

BY THE WAY: Doesn't Abp. Lefebvre look quite dapper in those vestments? I think that is one of the least talked about but nevertheless very important things we've lost: clerical dress. A Roman chasuble over a dalmatic with a Baroque mitre makes a bishop look extremely powerful and authoritative. Contrast that to our hideous polyester sleeping bags that priests now wear. They call them "Gothic" vestments but they are nothing of the sort. They are trashbags with holes in the middle. Nowadays most bishops look like regular priests in their horrible mitre-matches-chasuble vestments.