At the close of a long life, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-91) laid stress on the importance of the Third World War which was the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).1 The unprecedented disasters heaped up by this war are still before our eyes. Indeed, Vatican II was and still is a disaster, because the Council consecrated the triumph of modernism and liberalism in the Church. It was “the letting loose of the forces of evil for the ruin of the Church.”2
More fascinated by the glory of the modern world than by the glory of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, the members of the clergy have changed the ship’s course to arrive at all costs at being well received by the modern world….This is the mortal sin of modernism, which abandons the exigencies of the faith, and even of reason, in order to enter into a world of ambiguities and equivocations, which stray from dogma and truth and relish the indeterminate, the haziness, the vagueness of a language purported to be adapted to the modern world, which declines to define anything, permits any and all interpretations, and thus allows free rein to heresies, errors , and moral laxity. The very foundations of the Church, Revelation, and philosophy are shaken, challenged. There is no more truth, nor objectivity; everything becomes subjective, subject to the individual conscience, subject to evolution. This is what St. Pius X described and condemned in his encyclical Pascendi. That is why the Council was intended to be “pastoral,” the council of aggiornamento…So it was that Vatican II justified religious freedom, collegiality, and ecumenism.3
The conciliar war was already well under way when the liturgical reform of 1969 occurred. The New Mass was only one of the consequences, one of the principal poisoned fruits of the Council. But the Council was already baneful in itself, New Mass or not. In the beginning of that year in which, for a few months more, the traditional rite of the Mass of St. Pius V had the force of universal law and benefited from unfettered freedom throughout holy Church, Archbishop Lefebvre was already denouncing the veritable seeds of dissolution. These were the errors of Vatican II, errors which had succeeded in breaching the faith.
The disorder is very serious throughout the Roman Curia. They condemn the effects and support their cause. Rome is locked in a contradiction from which they do not wish to escape because it would disclose scandalous responsibilities while the Council was in progress.4
Archbishop Lefebvre maintained the same assessment at the end of his life:
We are not up against a little thing. It is not enough for them to tell us: “You may say the old Mass, but you have to accept it [the Council].” No, it is not only that [the Mass] which divides us, it’s doctrine. That’s clear. That is what is so serious about Dom Gerard’s [choice], and that’s what did him in. Dom Gerard never saw anything but the liturgy and monastic life. He does not see clearly the theological problems with the Council, with religious freedom. He does not see the malice of these errors.5
The malice of these errors led the former Archbishop of Dakar to oppose the Council, then to refuse all the reforms that issued from it. Far from being disobedience or the sign of a schismatic mind set, this opposition and this refusal were in Archbishop Lefebvre the principal manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the expression of a purely supernatural lucidity and strength, such as can be observed in the great defenders of the Faith. For everything depends on faith: the hierarchy of the Church, the sacred functions of the magisterium and of ecclesiastical government, and even the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, have no other meaning or reality than for the transmission and defense of the deposit of faith. The desire to make a clean sweep of, or even to barter with, apostolic doctrine in order to impose a new theology previously condemned by the Popes St. Pius X,6 Pius XI,7 and Pius XII,8 is to divest oneself of any authority, for it is the betrayal of Christ’s teaching. No pope, no council–not even an ecumenical council–can shake off the yoke of the sacred deposit of divine revelation.
He who believes will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. This is the primary law of laws, a divine law. The human laws, which are canon law, penalties, and so on, are all very good, we desire to be subject to all these laws, but only insofar as they uphold the principal law for which they were made. Canon law is made to safeguard our faith, to uphold our faith–that is why canon law was made. The Church’s positive law was made to support and defend natural and positive divine law. There is, after all, a hierarchy among laws….That is why, even were I to receive a letter from the pope telling me that you are excommunicated, you are under interdict, you are suspended, etc.; even if they laid upon me all the penalties of canon law, it would mean nothing. I would continue as if nothing had happened, because they cannot, by the pressure of ecclesiastical law, make us disobey divine law.9
Such is in summary the reply given by Archbishop Lefebvre to the question raised by the authority of the Second Vatican Council. This answer is self-evident to a mind enlightened by faith, for it is the transmission of the Faith which constitutes the reason why the Church exists. If this truth is out of sight, the Church ceases to be the government of the Vicar of Christ; it is no more than the government of a man; it becomes a human society. Since Vatican II, we find “in the very bosom and heart of the Church,” to appropriate the expression used by Pope St. Pius X in speaking of modernism, the society of men who have seized power in the Church in order to impose their own theology. And the obedience one should wish to lend to these men would be false and blind, because it would be bereft of the indispensable light. Such obedience to men, contrary to obedience to God, is no longer rooted in the supernatural virtue of faith.
Blind obedience is an oxymoron, and no one is exempt from responsibility for having obeyed men rather than God. It is too easy to say, “As for me, I’m obeying. If he’s mistaken, then I’ll be mistaken with him. I prefer to be wrong with the pope than to be right against the pope!” This should be construed as “I prefer to be against our Lord Jesus Christ with the pope than to be with our Lord Jesus Christ against the pope!” Incredible! We are for our Lord Jesus Christ and, consequently, insofar as the pope is truly the Vicar of Christ and acts as the Vicar of Christ and gives us the light of Christ, we are, of course, ready to close our eyes and follow him everywhere. But since this light is no longer that of our Lord Jesus Christ and they are leading us towards new horizons explicitly called new–they do not make a secret of it; everything is new: new code of canon law, new missal…new ecclesiology–that’s no longer any good at all….The resistance must be public if the evil is public and an object of scandal, according to St. Thomas.10
In the following pages you will read the text of the main interventions by which the founder of the Society of St. Pius X did his utmost to explain to his priests and seminarians the real reasons for his attitude. These reasons have not changed, and the current successor of Archbishop Lefebvre reiterated it again during the last priests’ retreat at Ecône: “As long as Vatican II and the New Mass remain the norm, an agreement with Rome is suicide.”11
Today it is indispensable to read, or reread, and to ponder over these lines. In spite of sometimes subtly traditional appearances, the declarations and initiatives of men of the Church will remain unacceptable so long as they remain the unaltered expression of the same conciliar errors. “I accuse the Council”: forty years later, this is still the essential motive of our battle in fidelity to the holy Roman Catholic Church of all time and to its chief defender in these times of silent apostasy, our venerated founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
(To be continued.)
1 Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Spiritual Journey (1990; Angelus Press, 1991), p. v.
2 Lefebvre, “The Council or the Triumph of Liberalism” [French], Fideliter, No. 59 (Sept.-Oct. 1987), p.33.
3 Lefebvre, Pourquoi le changement profond intervenu à l’intérieur de l’Eglise à partir de Jean XXIII, Paul VI et Jean-Paul II? Manuscript notes conserved in the Ecône Seminary archives.
4 Lefebvre, Letter of 28 January 1969 to Msgr. Sigaud, conserved in the Ecône Seminary archives.
5 Lefebvre, “Je poserai mes conditions à une reprise éventuelle des colloques avec Rome,” Fideliter, No. 66 (Sept.-Oct. 1988), pp.12-14.
6 In the motu proprio Lamentabili of July 3, 1907, and in the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis of September 8, 1907.
7 In the encyclical Mortalium Animos of January 6, 1928.
8 In the encyclical Humani Generis of August 12, 1950.
9 Lefebvre, Spiritual Conference at Ecône, September 14, 1975.
10 Lefebvre, ibid., December 19, 1983.
11 Bishop Bernard Fellay, Conference during the Priests’ Retreat at Ecône, September 8, 2006.
Why is it important to consider this Council? Do we not risk drifting into a systematically negative criticism that is itself non-Catholic?
Obviously, we cannot define ourselves as against the Second Vatican Council. We have no need to define ourselves in function of something else. It is sufficient for us to be Catholics–Catholics whose ideal is to fight as soldiers of Christ to bring about His kingdom, and especially His social kingdom on earth. But a soldier can only fight effectively if he is armed and trained to fight; if he has received an adequate training and knows his enemy. That is why it is important to meditate on this fateful Council.
We must not fear to say it: the present situation is revolutionary. From the first session of the Council, with a shocking lack of even the most elementary respect for the rules of propriety, a commando force took over the command posts in the Council, thanks to a long-prepared infiltration, and indelibly marked it with Liberalism. Afterwards, strengthened by the influence acquired within the Council and thanks to its efficacious technique of infiltration, that commando force worked from within for the destruction of the Church.
The danger for us would be to forget this and think that the present situation is only a simple crisis that will pass away by itself. Let us not be deceived: the enemies of the Church have sworn Her destruction–and that of our souls–and they will keep fighting to the very end. They will seem to be ready to make some concessions and grant some permissions. They will give way nimbly, hoping that we will take the bait, but they will never agree to give up their goal–the complete destruction of Holy Mother Church.
They already have claimed victory. They are mistaken. Their battle is lost in advance and their momentary triumph resembles that of the enemies of Christ on Good Friday. Let’s not fool ourselves: error will not win. Christ permits this success as a chastisement, to purify His Church and to bring Her to His side on the cross. We must look beyond external appearances, and find within our souls the peaceful certainty that God permits the present humiliation of His Church in order to assimilate Her more completely to His Son. He will share with Her the triumph of His Resurrection. We must wait for that hour, while remaining always vigilant, as the temptation to seek peace by compromising will be great.
We must also be attentive to see that the error of Liberalism–that error that makes a religion out of human freedom and whose poisons we daily drink, even unwittingly–does not furtively enter into our souls. Let us remember St. Augustine’s warning: “By seeing everything, we end enduring everything, and by enduring everything, we are ready to accept anything.” That is to say that what at the beginning justly scandalizes us, little by little becomes so habitual that we take part in it, and thus, unconsciously, we drink the poison. If we are not on our guard, we will be so filled up with this mortal error of Liberalism that, in turn, we will also fall and contribute to the destruction of the Church.
This is the time to be vigilant. We must pray and be formed at the source of the true doctrine, so that error will not contaminate us.
After forty years of seeing the application of the decrees of the Council, we can follow the advice of Our Lord and judge the tree by its fruits. Certain advocates of the Council challenge this evangelical judgment and try to separate the Council from its aftermath. But it is not so! The reforms that followed are, in fact, the natural outcome of the Council. Without the Council, these disastrous reforms would never have seen the light of day.
What more can we say about this delirium? May God have pity on us–the children of God ask for the bread of doctrine, but they have received only stones for food!
Our reaction ought to be a reaction prompted by Faith, and only by Faith. We must not reduce the mystery of the Passion of the Church to an intellectual problem, or worse, to a sentimental one. It is not for us to understand this mystery of the identification of the Church with Christ crucified, but to acknowledge that it is a providential design of God and then adore Him.
In concrete, we must remain faithful to this adoration due to God, following the advice of St. Vincent of Lerins, who teaches us to hold fast to what the Church has always and everywhere taught. That is to say, our attachment to Tradition is not a question of custom or preference, but a question of Faith and of fidelity to this Faith. This is also why we cannot sign some practical agreement with “neo-modernist Rome,” because we would be drawn into a slippery slope of compromise and would, slowly but surely, lose the Faith.
Our duty is clear–we cannot let the insult pass without desiring to make reparation for it. Our reparation consists of living in a way that renders homage to God, and not in enjoying the sinful pleasures that the world proposes. We will make reparation by loyally fulfilling the duties of our state in life. This fidelity to duty rests on two pillars–prayer and penance. A soul that desires to offer reparation is essentially a soul of prayer and sacrifice.
We pray simply to ask pardon for all those who have introduced novelties in the Church, prayers that repeat for them the words of Our Crucified Lord: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Let us not forget also to pray for those who follow these mercenaries and are lost.
Our times are critical. The Immaculate Spouse of Christ, our Holy Mother the Church, agonizes, insulted and mocked. Her children no longer know what it is to be Christians or no longer dare to affirm it loudly and forcefully. Vocations are diminishing, and we fear that tomorrow, deprived of pastors, men will fall into idolatry, as a great number of them already have, alas! The Second Vatican Council promised us a new springtime in the Church, but has left behind it only rubble piling up.
Our times are critical. It is not, however, a time for despair. It is the hour of the Cross. It is also, mysteriously, the hour of victory. It is the time when we need to go to Mary, who stood strong in Her unwavering Faith, praying and uniting Her sorrows with the sufferings of Her Son. She is our Mother and She will protect us, so that we will keep the Faith by prayer and mortification.
And if Our Lord hears us, who could succeed against us? Let us pray. We are the youthfulness of God and of Holy Mother Church. We belong to the youth full of faith, of the faith that vanquishes the world, ready to live and to die defending the honor of God, repairing thus the offenses committed against Him.
In Christo Sacerdote et Maria.
Fr. Yves le Roux