Pope Saint Paul VI’s rebuke of Marcel Lefebvre

Give this blog “If I might interject” a read. It is the source of the letter below, and it has other good material for defending Pope Francis.

Pope Paul VI’s Letter to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre — please read the entirety at the webpage linked.

The Letter reads like a letter from any Pope to any dissidents on the right in the Church. It reads as if it were written for today, to reply to the accusers of Pope Francis. Pope Paul’s letter reads as if it were written to archbishop Carlo “Marcel” Vigano or Athanasius Schneider or other dissident leaders. Select excerpts follow:

Pope Saint Paul VI:

“In practice you put yourself forward as the defender and spokesman of the faithful and of priests “torn apart by what is happening in the church,” thus giving the sad impression that the Catholic faith and the essential values of tradition are not sufficiently respected and lived in a portion of the people of God, at least in certain countries. But in your interpretations of the facts and in the particular role that you assign yourself, as well as in the way in which you accomplish this role, there is something that misleads the people of God and deceives souls of good will who are justly desirous of fidelity and of spiritual and apostolic progress.”

“But it remains true that some priests and members of the faithful mask with the name “conciliar” those personal interpretations and erroneous practices that are injurious, even scandalous, and at times sacrilegious. But these abuses cannot be attributed either to the Council itself or to the reforms that have legitimately issued therefrom, but rather to a lack of authentic fidelity in their regard. You want to convince the faithful that the proximate cause of the crisis is more than a wrong interpretation of the Council and that it flows from the Council itself.”

“Moreover, you act as if you had a particular role in this regard. But the mission of discerning and remedying the abuses is first of all Ours; it is the mission of all the bishops who work together with Us.”

“Finally, your behavior is contradictory. You want, so you say, to remedy the abuses that disfigure the church; you regret that authority in the church is not sufficiently respected; you wish to safeguard authentic faith, esteem for the ministerial priesthood and fervor for the eucharist in its sacrificial and sacramental fullness. Such zeal would, in itself, merit our encouragement, since it is a question of exigencies which, together with evangelization and the unity of Christians, remain at the heart of Our preoccupations and of Our mission.”

“But how can you at the same time, in order to fulfill this role, claim that you are obliged to act contrary to the recent Council in opposition to your brethren in the episcopate, to distrust the Holy See itself—which you call the “Rome of the neo-modernist and neo-Protestant tendency”—and to set yourself up in open disobedience to Us? If you truly want to work “under Our authority,” as you affirm in your last private letter, it is immediately necessary to put an end to these ambiguities and contradictions.”

“What is indeed at issue is the question—which must truly be called fundamental—of your clearly proclaimed refusal to recognize in its whole, the authority of the Second Vatican Council and that of the pope. This refusal is accompanied by an action that is oriented towards propagating and organizing what must indeed, unfortunately, be called a rebellion. This is the essential issue, and it is truly untenable.”

“a single bishop without a canonical mission does not have…the faculty of deciding in general what the rule of faith is or of determining what tradition is. In practice you are claiming that you alone are the judge of what tradition embraces. You say that you are subject to the Church and faithful to tradition by the sole fact that you obey certain norms of the past that were decreed by the predecessor of him to whom God has today conferred the powers given to Peter. That is to say, on this point also, the concept of “tradition” that you invoke is distorted.”

“Tradition is not a rigid and dead notion, a fact of a certain static sort which at a given moment of history blocks the life of this active organism which is the Church, that is, the mystical body of Christ. It is up to the pope and to councils to exercise judgment in order to discern in the traditions of the Church that which cannot be renounced without infidelity to the Lord and to the Holy Spirit—the deposit of faith—and that which, on the contrary, can and must be adapted to facilitate the prayer and the mission of the Church throughout a variety of times and places, in order better to translate the divine message into the language of today and better to communicate it, without an unwarranted surrender of principles. Hence tradition is inseparable from the living magisterium of the Church, just as it is inseparable from sacred scripture.”

“Nothing that was decreed in this Council, or in the reforms that we enacted in order to put the Council into effect, is opposed to what the 2,000 year-old tradition of the Church considers as fundamental and immutable. We are the guarantor of this, not in virtue of Our personal qualities but in virtue of the charge which the Lord has conferred upon Us as legitimate successor of Peter, and in virtue of the special assistance that He has promised to Us as well as to Peter: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Lk. 22:32). The universal episcopate is guarantor with us of this.”

“Again, you cannot appeal to the distinction between what is dogmatic and what is pastoral to accept certain texts of this Council and to refuse others. Indeed, not everything in the Council requires an assent of the same nature: only what is affirmed by definitive acts as an object of faith or as a truth related to faith requires an assent of faith. But the rest also forms part of the solemn magisterium of the Church to which each member of the faithful owes a confident acceptance and a sincere application.”

~ My comments: Pope Saint Paul VI held that not everything in the Council was non-infallible! Some teachings were definitive and therefore require the assent of faith due to infallible teachings. Other teachings were non-infallible but still require acceptance and application.

“But how can an interior personal difficulty — a spiritual drama which We respect — permit you to set yourself up publicly as a judge of what has been legitimately adopted, practically with unanimity, and knowingly to lead a portion of the faithful into your refusal? If justifications are useful in order to facilitate intellectual acceptance — and We hope that the troubled or reticent faithful will have the wisdom, honesty and humanity to accept those justifications that are widely placed at their disposal — they are not in themselves necessary for the assent of obedience that is due to the Ecumenical Council and to the decisions of the pope.

“In effect you and those who are following you are endeavoring to come to a standstill at a given moment in the life of the Church. By the same token you refuse to accept the living Church, which is the Church that has always been: you break with the Church’s legitimate pastors and scorn the legitimate exercise of their charge. And so you claim not even to be affected by the orders of the pope, or by the suspension a divinis, as you lament “subversion” in the Church.”

“This is why, with the full consciousness of Our duties, We say to you, brother, that you are in error. And with the full ardor of Our fraternal love, as also with all the weight of Our authority as the successor of Peter, We invite you to retract, to correct yourself and to cease from inflicting wounds upon the Church of Christ.”

3. Specifically, what do We ask of you?

“This declaration will therefore have to affirm that you sincerely adhere to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and to all its documents—sensu obvio—which were adopted by the Council fathers and approved and promulgated by Our authority. For such an adherence has always been the rule, in the Church, since the beginning, in the matter of ecumenical councils.”

“It must be clear that you equally accept the decisions that We have made since the Council in order to put it into effect, with the help of the departments of the Holy See; among other things, you must explicitly recognize the legitimacy of the reformed liturgy, notably of the Ordo Missae, and our right to require its adoption by the entirety of the Christian people.”

“As far as concerns Our person, you will make a point of desisting from and retracting the grave accusations or insinuations which you have publicly leveled against Us, against the orthodoxy of Our faith and Our fidelity to Our charge as the successor of Peter, and against Our immediate collaborators.”

“It will then remain to solve the problem of your activity, of your works, and notably of your seminaries. You will appreciate, brother, that in view of the past and present irregularities and ambiguities affecting these works, We cannot go back on the juridical suppression of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X. This has inculcated a spirit of opposition to the Council and to its implementation such as the Vicar of Christ was endeavoring to promote.”

“As regards the foundations, houses of formation, “priories” and various other institutions set up on your initiative or with your encouragement, We likewise ask you to hand them over to the Holy See, which will study their position, in its various aspects, with the local episcopate. Their survival, organization and apostolate will be subordinated, as is normal throughout the Catholic Church, to an agreement which will have to be reached, in each case, with the local bishop—nihil sine Episcopo—and in a spirit which respects the declaration mentioned above.”

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2 Responses to Pope Saint Paul VI’s rebuke of Marcel Lefebvre

  1. Alex says:

    Selected quotes from St Paul VI:
    “In practice you put yourself forward as the defender and spokesman of the faithful and of priests “torn apart by what is happening in the church,…”
    “Moreover, you act as if you had a particular role in this regard…”
    “Tradition is not a rigid and dead notion, a fact of a certain static sort which at a given moment of history blocks the life of this active organism which is the Church, that is, the mystical body of Christ. It is up to the pope and to councils to exercise judgment in order to discern in the traditions of the Church… ”

    In my recent comment I said that the tradition is not beyond the pope and the current teaching of the Church, the tradition by itself alone is not a dogma (of course the dogmas could have a part of traditional belief).
    What strikes me is the profound understanding of pope St Paul VI of the situation that goes many decades later.

    The warrior conservatives are not the judges, they are not the prosecutors either. They are on the same level as all of us, be it conservative, liberal or moderate Catholics. They should be humble members of the same Church who obey and by their own example set forth the higher moral and other norms they want to preach to others. The vast majority of God’s people are not saints on earth, but if they want to be living saints, rather they must learn humility and suffering for salvation of sinners, not condemning them. None of the canonized saints have done what they are doing now. They indeed keep one or two Commandments (most often the 6th) and boast themselves as all righteous and all understanding the Church teaching up to the point be able to correct their brethren, the bishops, and even the pope himself. While at the same time they have serious shortcomings and even grave faults on the other Commandments, mostly the Fifth (by morally killing the public image of their brethren who do not think like them, the bishops, and even the pope). We may also add the First commandment since the Church established by Jesus Christ represents the power and love of God through both the Sacraments and her teachings. The conservatives in their extreme form behave as if they own the Sacraments AND the teaching authority of the Church. They do not. Nobody appointed them to that position. Neither God, nor Peter, nor any valid apparitions of Our Lady. As we may notice the true seers always call for obedience to the Church teachings.

    The ultra conservatives put themselves, their families, communities, parishes, and ironically the (otherwise positive) conservative views in the Church in a grave danger altogether. They act against God and will be punished by God himself rather soon. They do not know what awaits them. My view on that punishment expressed many times under different forms is: they will not be saved during the Chastisement, the great number of them will be left to die in whatever cataclysm comes. First because they draw upon themselves God’s anger by deliberately going against the Fifth and First Commandments and tear apart the Church today (the sin of schism that the Holy Fathers determine as a very grave one). And second because if their dangerous views survive beyond the Chastisement there never will be a worldwide community of believers based on Love, understanding, mutual help, and peace. The Era of Peace cannot have inquisitorial minds among God’s people who pretend to be teachers and true followers while trampling and bulldozing the others on their way. Because simply Jesus never ever taught what those totally deluded souls dream in their day nightmares. Their minds are hell on earth or at best the deepest purgatory. If their souls are saved it will be through fire, as St Paul teaches.

    The fault of the ultra conservatives has consequences much farther in time. As St Paul VI foresaw it with that prophetic letter to Lefebvre. And they really cannot clean their hands and souls with the sins of others, as they judge them, as of the German bishops for example. What the ultra conservatives do for a very long time has its own consequences for the life of the Church beyond the Chastisement if they are allowed to continue.

  2. Alex says:

    P.S. The notion of some ultra conservatives that they somehow mystically “communicate” with God and speak what the Holy Spirit inspires them, is absurd. No worse could the liberals or anyone sincere believer hear God in the Holy Communion, in prayerful meditation in a peaceful place and mind. Conservatives are not better Catholics per say, sure not the only Catholics or Christians. In fact the pope could excommunicate officially many times their fallen leaders and thus making them choose between the Church and their delusion. He preferred to be patient so far not because they are right but to give them the last chance before the chastisement, the dates of which he knows from at least several credible apparitions’ secrets. The ultra conservatives grossly overestimated their own knowledge of apparitions, Scripture and tradition, and super grossly underestimated the pope’s, nearly demonizing him and his predecessors holy popes, in the extreme examples of Vigano. Woe to those who miss that fast shrinking time of grace!

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