Conference Given by His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
a Priestly Retreat at Ecône
of St. Pius X was founded seventeen years ago. On June 6, 1969, Archbishop Charriere wrote a letter
authorizing the foundation of a seminary and on November
1st, 1970, he approved the foundation of the Society of St. Pius
X in his diocese of Fribourg. For those who do not know well its
history it will be good to record its principal steps, especially
at a time and in the present circumstances in which we strive to
continue and develop what Divine Providence gave us to do.
If events would
bring a change towards a return to Tradition within the Church,
of course, our situation would be simplified. We would certainly
be welcomed by the hierarchy as we were at our beginning and those
problems of our relations with the Bishops and Rome would no longer
the present time we must keep the authenticity of the Society which
has been founded during very particular circumstances, but in a
way that could have been during normal times. It was occasioned
by the degradation of seminaries. But there were similar societies,
such as that of St. Vincent de Paul or of St. John Eudes which were
founded with a similar goal, which was and still is to give a good
priestly formation to future priests, and to enable them to exercise
their ministry for a true restoration in the Church.
was founded, first of all, to make good priests and thus to open
seminaries. This is in perfect conformity with the Tradition of
the Church, to continue the traditional priestly formation for the
good of the Church.
We have no
other goal nor have we ever innovated except in the sense of tradition,
by restoring some elements which were lacking in the formation given
to seminarians, especially at the spiritual level. This is the reason
why we have added to the studies of philosophy and theology one
year of spirituality. This year of spirituality completes the preparation
of the seminarians to the priesthood by putting them in a truly
spiritual atmosphere. It is certainly not an innovation in the modernist
direction but rather in the direction of the tradition of the Church.
Thus our foundation
took care to add to the studies a deep spiritual formation by this
additional year, which constitutes a kind of novitiate, and which
leads to the knowledge of what spirituality is and to the practice
of the interior life ‑ purgative, illuminative and mystical
life which requires a true conversion of heart.
has not been founded on the model of a religious congregation. Why?
Because in practice it happens too frequently that there are too
many difficulties encountered by religious to exercise an apostolate
in the world and still respecting truly the strict poverty as it
is requested in the religious congregations, where one cannot own
anything and cannot use anything without asking the authorization
of a Superior. In all things one must depend on the Superior. It
was thus preferable not to be bound by such a vow of poverty which
could not be put into practice. It was better to found a Society
of common life without vows but with engagements.
Providence had decided that our Society would be on the model of
the Societies of common life without vows. This has proved
to be a good decision. And there is no reason not to continue as
SOCIETY OFFICIALLY APPROVED BY ROME
It is with
this Constitution that the Priestly Society of St. Pius X was approved
and erected in his diocese by Monsigneur Charriére, Bishop of Fribourg,
and it is with this same Constitiution that it has been approved
is very important and even fundamental, and one must not hesitate
to remind those who do not know well the history of our Society.
This Roman document is indeed capital, because it is absolutely
official. It is dated February 18th, 1971, with the stamp of the
Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, and it is signed by its Prefect
Cardinal Wright, and sub-signed by Msgr. Palazzini, who was at that
time his Secretary, and who is today a Cardinal. This official document
coming from a Roman Congregation approving and praising "the
wisdom of the rules" of the statutes of the Society, cannot
be considered except as "a decree of praise" and thus
authorized our Society to be considered as of Pontifical right,
with capability to incardinate.
acts made by the Congregation for the Religious with Prefect Cardinal
Antoniutti came to complete and confirm this official approbation,
since they allowed Father Snyder and another American religious
to be duly incardinated into the Society. These were truly official
acts of Rome.
documents necessarily lead to the following observation: the Congregation
for the Clergy considered de facto our Society competent
to incardinate regularly and validly.
however, I did not feel the need to resort to this possibility,
until we had been officially but illegally suppressed. Until then
I had always taken pains to have Bishops give the incardinations.
I turned to Mgr. de Castro Mayer of Brazil, to Mgr. Castan Lacoma
in Spain and to Mgr. Guibert in La Reunion. These three Bishops
would accept to provide dimissorial letters to priests of
our Society who would thereby find themselves incardinated in their
respective diocese. As for Father Aulagnier, he was incardinated
in his own diocese of Clermont‑Ferrand, by Mgr. de la Chanonie.
At that time we were doubly in order. Mgr. Adam told me explicitly:
"Why do you not incardinate in your Society?" I answered:
"It appears to me that it is only diocesan." I was therefore
following the canonical regulations more strictly than necessary.
documents from the Congregation for the Clergy concerning the incardination
of these two American clerics into our Society, are even more important
than the letter signed by Cardinal Wright. That was incidentally
the answer that I gave to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith when I was interrogated about these incardinations. I was
told: "You do not have the right to incardinate in your Society."
"I do not have the right? In that case the Congregation for
the Clergy should be informed that it was mistaken in incardinating
in our Society!"
from Cardinal Wright, if one studies it closely, is not only a letter
but a 'decree of praise,' since it effectively praises the statutes
of the Fraternity. It is a thoroughly official document. It is
in no way a private letter. In this fashion, and for five years,
we enjoyed the total approbation of the diocesan church and of Rome.
We were rooted in the Church as a good branch in a tree. This is
fundamental to the providential action accomplished by the Fraternity,
and reinforces us in our existence and in our activities in general.
Being truly of the Church, officially recognized by the Church,
we have been persecuted.
ARE WE PERSECUTED?
We are persecuted
only because we maintain Tradition and in particular the liturgical
as always the facts in their chronological order it is also of the
greatest interest to reread the letter addressed to me by Mgr. Mamie
on May 6, 1975, to thoroughly absorb the true reasons which motivated
the Bishop of Lausanne, Geneve and Fribourg to withdraw illegally
the documents effected by his predecessor and particularly the
decree establishing the Fraternity as of the November 1, 1970. This
is a testimony of Mgr. Mamie in which he admits, in his own writing,
that the Fraternity having a seat at Fribourg was the object of
a decree of establishment titled 'Pia Unio' and signed by his predecessor
which "approve and confirm the statutes of the said Fraternity."
He did not
have the right to act in this manner and to withdraw of his own
authority this canonical recognition. It is explicitly contrary
to Canon Law (Can. 493).
Now, on two
occasions Mgr. Mamie in his letter refers to the liturgy: "I
reminded you of your refusal with regard to the celebration of Holy
Mass according to the rite established by His Holiness Paul VI,"
and, "As far as we are concerned, we continue to request of
the Catholic faithful and of Catholic priests to accept and to apply
all of the orientations or decisions of the II Vatican Council,
all of the teachings of John XXIII and of Paul V1, all of the directives
of the secretariats instituted by the Council including those
related to the new liturgy. This we have done, and we will continue
to do even in the most difficult of days with the grace of God,
because if it is the only path to edify the Church."
Such were the
writings of Mgr. Mamie at that time.
in his letter he refers to the liturgy. "Because you oppose
the liturgy." This then is indeed the principal and essential
motive for taking these indescribable and illegal measures against
us. It is necessary to remember this fact. The matter of the priestly
ordinations was a later development. In reality, the true reason
we have been and are persecuted ‑ illegally once again ‑
by Mgr. Mamie, by the cardinals of Rome and the bishops of France,
is our attachment to the Immemorial Mass. "Since you continue
with this liturgy, you are against the Vatican Council. Since you
are against the Council, you are against the Pope. It is inadmissable.
Therefore we suppress your Order." The reasoning was simple.
And so they
exhibited the Ordo of Mgr. Bugnini and created out of thin air the
obligation of the new mass, which was imposed by the services of
the Vatican and by the bishops of France. It was unfortunately in
this manner that the old Mass was abandoned by communities such
as the Abbey of Fontgombault, under the pretext that it was necessary
to obey the bishops. All of this was imposed by force, by coercion.
We also were to be coerced at all costs into abandoning this liturgy
and by the same token to close our seminary.
with this imposture and the illegality with which all of this was
accomplished and above all confronted with the spirit in which this
persecution was orchestrated, a modernist, progressivist and masonic
spirit, we felt duty bound to continue. One cannot accept something
which was done illegally, with a bad spirit, against Tradition and
against the Church, and for the destruction of the Church.
HAVE ALWAYS REFUSED TO COLLABORATE IN THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CHURCH
This we have
always refused to do. Since we refused this, it is obvious that
we placed ourselves in opposition to those who appear to be the
legal Church. We were the outlaws of the Church and they appeared
to respect the law. We believe this appearance to be in exact sense.
In fact it is they who have distanced themselves from the legality
of the Church and we, on the contrary, who have remained within
the legality and validity. Since their actions considered objectively
are carried out in a spirit of destruction of the Church, we found
ourselves practically speaking under the obligation to act in a
manner which appears contrary to the legality of the Church. This
is true. It is a strange state of affairs indeed to appear illegal
simply by continuing to celebrate the Immemorial Mass and by continuing
to ordain priests according to what was the legality up until the
Council. And yet this was the reason why I was struck with suspension
and why the priests who accepted to be ordained suffered interdiction.
But we did
not stop there with our apparently illegal actions with regards
to the particulars of the law, such as the hearing of confessions,
the blessing of marriages performed in our presence in the dioceses.
Many of the things which we have accomplished are of themselves
and strictly speaking against the letter of the law, but why did
we do these things? Quite simply because we believed that that which
was undertaken against us was illegal and that they did not have
the right to suppress our Order.
FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF THE CHURCH IS THE SALVATION OF SOULS
In view of
this, we have acted according to the fundamental laws of the Church
to save souls, to save the Priesthood, and to continue the Church.
It is effectively these fundamental laws which are at stake.
We oppose certain particular laws of the Church in order to save
these fundamental laws. By using some of these particular laws against
us, the fundamental laws are destroyed. It is contrary to the welfare
of souls, contrary to the mission of the Church.
The new Code
of Canon Law contains articles which are contrary to the mission
of the Church. When it is permitted to give Holy Communion to a
Protestant, it cannot be denied that is contrary to the mission
of the Church. When the affirmation is made that there are two supreme
authorities in the Church, it cannot be denied that this is contrary
to the mission of the Church. This definition of the Church as the
People of God in which all of the ministries basically can be found
and in which there is no longer any distinction between the clergy
and the lay people, is contrary to the dogma. All of this is contrary
to the mission of the Church. The fundamental principles of the
Code of Canon Law are being destroyed! How are we expected to submit
In order to
save the fundamental laws of the Church, we are forced not to observe
certain particular laws. In all of this who is right, who is wrong?
Clearly right are those who pursue the mission of the Church. The
particular laws are made to support the fundamental laws, which
is the salvation of souls, for the glory of God, for the continuation
of the Church. It is perfectly clear.
We are reminded
at every opportunity: Mgr Lefebvre is suspended and his priests
are suspended, they are not authorized to accomplish their ministry.
This is to invoke in this case the particular laws. But they would
do well to remember that they are destroying the Church, not the
particular laws but the fundamental laws through this new Code of
Canon Law which is thoroughly inspired by this bad spirit of modernism
which has been expressed in the Council and after the Council.
What we hope
for, of course, is that everything would be normal, that we should
find ourselves no longer in this apparently illegal situation. But
we cannot be accused of having changed anything in the Church. We
must always reflect upon and spiritually situate ourselves in the
fact that we are of the Church and that we continue the Church.
And why do we continue? Because we pursue the goals of the Church.
If we can be accused of failing in the application of certain practical
laws, no one can say that the Fraternity does not act according
to the goals of the Church. No one can deny this.
Now, even in
its particular laws, the Church has had the wisdom to always include
an open door for the salvation of souls. The Church has foreseen
cases which could be extraordinary. This applies to the question
of jurisdiction for confessions. Practically, it is the individual
who seeks out the priest in order to receive the Sacrament of Penance
who gives the priest the jurisdiction through the intermediary of
the Code of Canoe Law. Even if an individual were to seek out an
excommunicated priest to hear his confession, this priest would
receive the necessary jurisdiction (Canon 2261).
Canon Law has provided an exception: those who cannot find a properly
delegated priest who would rnarry them according to the spirit of
the Church, as their parents were married ‑ and it is obviously
a basic right for young men and women to be married in the same
rite as their parents and not in a rite that is not only often disgusting
and in an atmosphere that is far from devotional and fitting for
such an important a sacred act as the Sacrament of Matrimony. If
the engaged young man and woman do not find a priest for a whole
month, then they may marry. They are the ministers of the sacrament,
and in such a case they are exempt from the canonical form (Can.
1098 and 209). They can marry in front of witnesses. If there is
a priest, he must be present. This priest would not have a special
delegation, but he would be present at their marriage, as Canon
Law requires, and he will give the Nuptial Blessing to them.
There is also
an exception for the Sacrament of Confirmation. The priest has the
right to give Confirmation in certain cases. This is also in the
Code of Canon Law. The priest must give the sacrament to someone
who is in danger of death if he has not already received it.
A priest can
give Confirmation in other exceptional cases. In the Missions, this
possibility was extended to cases relating to marriage. The priests
had the right before the marriage, if the couple had not yet received
I have never
said that all modern confirmations were invalid, but one is entitled
to raise questions as to the wording which is employed and certainly
as regards the oil which is used. This is important after all. I
have received many reports from persons who have formally
informed me of the expression used by the bishop. These are invalid
expressions. Simply "Receive the Holy Spirit," or,
"I send you in mission." This may not be frequent, but
it has occurred and it is invalid. In any case, there are numerous
bishops who feel that Confirmation is a useless Sacrament, that
the Holy Ghost has already been given at Baptism, that it is a supplementary
ceremony to recall that which was accomplished at baptism. The former
archbishop of Chambery explicitly wrote this in his diocesan magazine:
"Confirmation does not give the Holy Spirit which we have received
at baptism." I showed this magazine to Cardinal Ratzinger and
said: "You object to my giving Confirmations, look at what
the bishops think of Confirmation." The archbishop in question
is now retired but was at the time seventy‑two, seventy‑three
years old and was therefore trained in the old school. He had known
the Sacrament of Confirmation as it had been taught previously.
No doubt the faith of the bishop has no influence on Confirmation,
but is it possible to treat the Sacrament in this fashion? It is
the same reasoning as that of the Protestants, and it is legitimate
to ask if the intention of these bishops is to do that which the
Church wants to do.
If we wish
to survive and for the blessings of God to continue to descend on
the Fraternity, we must remain faithful to these fundamental laws
of the Church.
THE MASS EVERYTHING COLLAPSES
If our priests
came to abandon the true liturgy, the true Holy Sacrifice of the
Mass, the true sacraments, then it would be no longer worth while
to continue. It would be suicide!
When Rome asked:
"But surely you can adopt the new liturgy and continue your
seminaries, that won't make them disappear," I answered: "Yes,
it will make our seminaries disappear. They would not be able to
accept the new liturgy, it would amount to introducing the poison
of the conciliar spirit into the community. If others were unable
to hold on, it is because they adopted this new liturgy, all of
these reforms and this new spirit. As for us, if we accept the same
things, we will have the same results."
This is why
we must absolutely maintain our traditional line, in spite of the
appearance of disobedience and the persecutions of those who use
their authority in an unjust and often illegal manner.
We are driven
more and more by continually worsening circumstances. If only things
seemed to be improving, if we could see tangible signs of a return
to Tradition, then everything would be different. But, unfortunately,
the situation is worse. The bishops who replace those who retire
or who die, have received less theological training. They are imbued
with the spirit of the Council, with this Protestant, modernist
spirit and it is increasingly serious. Confronted with this continuous
worsening of the situation, are we not obliged to take measures
which are obviously extraordinary? Our attitude is justified by
all of these events. After all, the progressive priests challenge
us whenever they can, saying: "You do not have the jurisdiction,
you do not have the right to hear confessions." Soon everything
that we do would be invalid according to them. It is almost as if
to say that our Mass would not be accused of being invalid. This
is the state of mind among those fanatical progressives who oppose
and insult us. We must not hesitate in responding that it is necessary
to take advantage of the laws of the Church which the Church permits
in exceptional circumstances of extreme gravity.
God knows that
we are confronted with those circumstances!
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