The Kingship of Christ Since Vatican II


Michael Davies

This is the text of a public lecture delivered by Mr. Davies at Preston, Lancashire, England, on 26 October 1980, the Feast of Christ the King. Preston is the most Catholic part of England and a good number of martyrs are associated with this locality. Though much of the lecture is related specifically to the British situation, it is equally applicable to America. For example, the criticisms he makes of the National Pastoral Congress held in Liverpool this past year could just as well be applied to our own notorious Detroit Congress. If anything, his indictment of the British bishops for their failure to pay more than lip-service to the Kingship of Christ could even more appropriately be directed at the bishops of the Untied States of America.

In penal times, when the Catholics of this country were the victims of persecution and discrimination, there was a saying: "It's the Mass that matters." There was another saying, a greeting among Catholics, "Keep the Faith." In this country keeping the Faith and fidelity to the Mass were synonymous. Almost providentially, Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece, Edmund Campion, has been reprinted.1 I can think of no book more relevant to the time we live in. It is consoling, inspiring and revealing. Those who read it some years ago should read it again today. They will find passage after passage, page after page, which appear to have been written specifically to enlighten Catholics in the post-conciliar era. One of the most interesting revelations it makes is that the persecution of Catholics in England was relatively mild until Doctor—later Cardinal—Allen, a Lancashire man, as you all know, founded the English College at Douai in 1568. The Elizabethan government had presumed that, as priests could not be ordained in England, when the Marian priests died out, "the old Church would quietly expire without them....So long as the Church seemed to be on her death-bed, Cecil was content to cut off the necessaries of her life and leave her to die in peace. Deprived of the sacraments, England would be lost to the Faith in a generation. But as soon as the young priests, now patiently conning their textbooks abroad, began to appeal to the old loyalties that lay deep in the heart of the people, to infuse their own zeal into the passive conservatism over which the innovators had won a victory too bloodless to be decisive, the character of the government would change."

Well, the young priests did come. They brought the Mass to the people, and the Mass kept the Faith of a Catholic Remnant alive throughout centuries when it appeared that Catholicism in this country could never flourish again. I am told that it is here in Preston that fidelity to the Church and the Mass was greater than anywhere else in Britain. When I was asked to come here and speak I decided, not surprisingly, that the only appropriate topic would be the Mass—the Mass for which our martyr priests died. The Douai priests who brought the Mass to the faithful Remnant brought the Mass codified in the Missal of St. Pius V, promulgated by this great saint in obedience to the Council of Trent. Obviously, when we say that it is "the Mass that matters" we mean the Mass itself, the making present of the Sacrifice of Calvary when an ordained priest brings Our Lord down upon the altar through the power of the words of consecration, ex vi verborum, as the theologians put it. There are a good number of rites recognized by the Church which make this sacrifice present, but the rite of Mass found in the Missal of St. Pius V should clearly occupy a special place in the hearts of British Catholics as it is the very rite of Mass which sustained our fathers in the faith, the very rite of Mass for which our martyr priests died. They also died for their fidelity to the Holy See, for the belief that no one can be fully a Christian who is not in communion with the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of the Church on earth. It is not simply the Mass that matters; it must be a Mass offered by a priest who is in communion with the Pope.

Having decided to speak to you about the Mass, I noticed that I would be here upon the Feast of Christ the King and decided that, in view of the date, it would be more appropriate to discuss the Kingship of Christ. As you will see, despite this I shall also be talking to you about the Mass—which isn't so surprising when we consider how intimately the Sacrifice of Christ the Priest is linked with the prerogatives of Christ the King. Obviously, there will be people here who are saying to themselves: "But today is not the Feast of Christ the King. The Feast doesn't occur for another month." In the Missal of Pope Paul VI the Feast of Christ the King has indeed been moved to the end of the Liturgical Year, and this is a change of considerable significance, as I hope to show you later. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church in Western countries has suffered a decline that ranges from the serious to the catastrophic. Officially, of course, this is not the case. Officially we are supposed to be euphoric about an unprecedented renewal which is taking place throughout the Church. There is, for example, the renewal in the liturgy. The fact is that there have been declines in Mass attendance of fifty per cent or more in France, Holland, and Italy, thirty per cent in the U.S.A., and about twenty per cent in England and Wales. There has been a decline in seminary enrollment of ninety-seven per cent in Holland, eighty-three per cent in France, sixty-four per cent in America, forty-five per cent in Italy, and twenty-five per cent in England and Wales. In this week's Universe (the Catholic weekly with the largest circulation in Britain) a report on the back page is entitled: "Parishes With No Priests." It reads as follows:

By 1990 one third of the parish clergy in the Birmingham Diocese will be aged over 70 and up to a third of the 231 parishes could be without a resident priest.

Archbishop Dwyer of Birmingham quotes these figures in an ad clerum to his clergy. During the next ten years only about three ordinations are expected annually in the diocese. Birmingham clergy are considering how the diocese is to remain viable in the face of the priest shortage at deanery meetings.

Then there is the renewal in the religious life—the number of nuns in the U.S.A. has declined by 50,000 since 1966, and during the same period 10,000 priests have abandoned the priesthood.

Those of you with children attending Catholic schools will have experienced the catechetical renewal. This consists of children being taught that they must love pussy cats, the friendly postman, Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy.

Canon George Telford was Vice-Chairman and Secretary to the Catechetical Commission of the Bishops of England and Wales until he resigned in 1977, because it was quite clear that the bishops had no intention whatsoever of taking any effective steps to ensure that Catholic children were taught the Catholic Faith. He stated in an article printed in the October 1975 issue of Christian Order that:

Today, vast numbers of the truly faithful are suffering anguish of heart at what is being done to the Catholicism they love. What would our martyrs have thought of the "faith" which is preached and practiced by many ardent "renewalists" today? A faith in which "leading catechists" tell parents to instruct their children that the Mass is "Jesus' jolly tea-party"? A faith in which "leading liturgists" invite an adult congregation to hop, skip and jump around the altar as a "meaningful thanksgiving" at the end of Mass? A faith in which "leading theologians" reject solemn declarations of the Holy Father, because, "the matter is still under discussion"? All these aberrations I have personally witnessed—and many more.

In his letter of resignation to the Bishops, published in the April 1977 issue of Christian Order, he stated that he wished to sever every connection with the catechetical establishment in this country because "modern catechetics is theologically corrupt and spiritually bankrupt. Its strictures and innovations are irrelevant and unmeaningful for Catholic faith, and can achieve nothing but its gradual dilution."

"Theologically corrupt, spiritually bankrupt, irrelevant"—this is the description of the religious instruction being given in many if not most Catholic schools today by a witness of the most impeccable credentials speaking from within the catechetical establishment—not some ill-informed parent who has been unable to grasp the insights which are supposed to make the stirring tales his children are told of pussy cats, postmen, Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy so much more meaningful and relevant than the religious instruction given before Vatican II.

In his letter of resignation, Canon Telford described the principle characteristic of modern catechetics as follows:

Ambiguity is also an important part of the technique: if applied skillfully it becomes possible to talk and write about essential doctrines in a manner quite unrelated, or even contradictory, to anything taught by the Church. The golden rule is to avoid all clear and explicit statements.

This claim corresponds very closely to a similar observation made by Archbishop Lefebvre concerning the Second Vatican Council:

I shall stress the fact that the Council steadily refused to give exact definitions of the matters under discussion. It is this rejection of definitions, this refusal to examine philosophically and theologically the questions under discussion which meant that we could do no more than describe them, not define them. Not only were they not defined,but very often in the course of discussions on the subjects, the traditional definition was falsified. I believe that we are now confronted with a whole system which we cannot accept, manage to grasp and can keep in check only with because the traditional definitions, the true definitions, are no longer accepted.2

Canon Telford and Archbishop Lefebvre have both discerned the basis of the present malaise of the Church, a malaise which the French theologian, Fr. Louis Bouyer, has described as "the decomposition of Catholicism." This malaise is a lack of concern for Catholic Truth which amounts in practice to its implicit rejection. Writing of the Anglican Church in the nineteenth century, Cardinal Newman complained:

We are over-tender in dealing with sin and sinners. We are deficient in jealous custody of the revealed Truths which Christ has left us. We allow men to speak against the Church, its ordinances, or its teaching, without remonstrating with them. We do not separate from heretics, nay, we object to the word as if uncharitable.3

The situation has been repeated within the Catholic Church in the latter part of the twentieth century. As I have just remarked, the lack of concern for Catholic Truth manifested throughout the West today amounts to its implicit rejection. Our attitude to the present crisis must be determined both by what we believe to be true, and the consequences which follow from that truth. There are few if any British bishops who would openly deny a dogma of the Faith, but there are also few if any British bishops who will accept the consequences deriving from the dogmas which they do not openly deny. As Catholics we believe that we were created by God with an eternal destiny in heaven made possible because God the Son became incarnate and died to atone for our sins. He offers all men the graces necessary for salvation, but these graces can be culpably rejected. It was Christ's will that men should be saved by being incorporated into His Mystical Body, a visible Church upon earth. The Church teaches us what we must believe, what we must do to be saved, and mediates the graces necessary for our salvation through the seven divinely instituted sacraments.

The Catholic Church is, then, the only body with a mandate from Our Lord to preach the Gospel, to administer the Sacraments, and to offer public worship. The unique prerogatives of the Catholic Church were well summarized by no less a person than Bishop B. C. Butler in an article in The Tablet on 6 April 1968:

Ours is the one, true Church; the only body in the world which has a mandate to preach the Gospel. Outside this Church there is no salvation. According to the divine intention there are, outside the full visible Catholic Communion, only individual human beings (I exclude from consideration those who are not yet morally adult), for each of whom entry into the guaranteed sphere of salvation is by the unique door of personal adhesion to the one Catholic Communion. Moreover, the only authorized form of public worship is that of the Catholic Church, performed under her mandate. Her claims are not of her own making; they are an expression of immutable divine law. She cannot compromise.

The claims of the Catholic Church, the bishop tells us, are an expression of immutable divine law. They cannot be changed. If we accept the claims of the Catholic Church, it follows that any other body claiming to preach the Gospel or offer public worship outside the visible unity of the Church is acting contrary to the will of God, and the very thought of acting contrary to the divine will should make us tremble with fear for our eternal salvation. Looked at in the most objective and dispassionate manner possible, it is clearly unthinkable that any Catholic could ever take part in the services of a sect which offers public worship to God in opposition to the Church. Father John Gerard was one of the seminary priests who came to this country to bring the Mass to the faithful Remnant. He had hardly landed in England about four hundred years ago, in November 1588, when he was arrested on suspicion of being a priest and told that he must appear before the Constable and Officer of the Watch who happened, as Father Gerard expressed it, "at that moment to be in church attending their heretical worship." His presence was reported to them and he was ordered to come inside the church where he would be interrogated at the end of the service. But Father Gerard refused absolutely to do this, despite considerable pressure. Imagine the reasons he could have put forward to justify doing so—he has just finished a long course of seminary training; the faithful were starved of priests; if his refusal resulted in his arrest and execution the immense good that he could do in England would be forfeited. But no, he would not even be present in a building where heretics were conducting public worship, because to conduct worship in opposition to the one, true Church is contrary to the will of Jesus Christ. The two officers took Father Gerard before a Justice of the Peace who, in an almost miraculous manner, eventually released him and told him to continue his journey in God's name. Perhaps this Justice was a Catholic who had compromised his faith by conforming to the new religion outwardly, but keeping the old faith in his heart. Such men were known as "schismatics" to the true Catholics.

Similarly, Thomas Colton, a teen-aged boy, who had endured terrible sufferings for his faith, refused to mitigate those sufferings by so much as setting foot inside a Protestant church:

If I should go inside your church, I should sin against God and the peace and unity of the whole Catholic Church, exclude myself from all the holy sacraments, and be in danger to die in my sins like a heathen. But although I am but a poor lad, I have a soul to save as well as any other Catholic.

Now let us travel forward 400 years into our own time. In the year of Our Lord 1980, a married Anglican layman by the name of Runcie vested himself in episcopal attire in Canterbury Cathedral, and went through a ceremony purporting to make him Archbishop of Canterbury. At the end of the service he remained what he was before it—a lay member of a heretical sect. Perhaps putting this so bluntly seems not simply uncharitable but even offensive—it is not intended to be so, and I have not the least intention of impugning Dr. Runcie's good faith. What scandalized me, and scandalized so many other faithful Catholics, was that Cardinal Hume not only attended this ceremony but took an active part in it by reading a lesson! The Tablet claimed jubilantly that this amounted to de facto recognition of Anglican Orders, and I am sure that The Tablet is right. Cardinal Hume has made no secret of the fact that he does not accept Pope Leo XIII's verdict on the invalidity of Anglican Orders as final—just as during the Synod in Rome this month he called into question the teaching of Humanae Vitae.

Now what explanation can there be for the radically different attitude towards heretical worship evinced by Father Gerard and Cardinal Hume? There has certainly been no gradual development in doctrine or practice since the sixteenth century, beyond permission for very occasional attendance at particular Protestant services for personal reasons, e.g., baptisms, marriages, or funerals of relatives or very close friends. Such attendance had to be entirely passive. No Catholic was permitted to take any active part in the service by so much as joining in a single hymn or prayer. I have before me a Catholic Truth Society pamphlet published in 1961 entitled "Attending Non-Catholic Services." It states on page three:

It is absolutely forbidden for a Catholic, whatever his social standing may be, to take part in or even be merely present at the religious rites of non-Catholics . . . The fundamental reason behind this prohibition is that for a Catholic to take part in, or even be present at, the religious rites of non-Catholics whilst at the same time giving internal voluntary approval, would be tantamount to denying that the Catholic religion is the one true religion, the only form of religious belief and practice which as a religion has been revealed and is here and now willed by God.

This example should have made clear what I meant by saying that few if any of our bishops would openly deny a dogma of the Faith while refusing to accept the consequences imposed by acceptance of these dogmas. In theory, I am sure, Cardinal Hume would accept that ours is the one true Church, if placed in a situation where he could not evade giving an answer. But in practice he is prepared to behave in a manner which, to quote the C.T.S. pamphlet I have just cited, is tantamount to a denial "that the Catholic religion is the one true religion." This form of aberrant ecumenism to which Cardinal Hume is so addicted is taken to even greater lengths in the U.S.A. A number of American Catholic bishops have actually loaned their cathedrals for Episcopalian ordination ceremonies. In October 1979 Archbishop Whealon, of Hartford, Connecticut, did so in particularly scandalous circumstances as the celebrant of the Eucharist was to be a priestess, and other priestesses and female deacons were given prominent roles in the ordination rite. Ironically, conservative Episcopalian clergy boycotted the ceremony in protest at the role given to these priestesses. This incident can form a profitable subject for meditation at a time when a priest who celebrates the Mass for which our martyrs died is told that he is a rebel or a schismatic. Just think carefully about what took place in Hartford—a priestess of an heretical sect was allowed to use the altar of a Catholic cathedral to celebrate an invalid Eucharist as part of an invalid ordination ceremony. What would the martyrs have thought about that?

It should hardly be necessary for me to point out how relevant this is to the Kingship of Christ. What merit can there be in giving notional assent to the Kingship of Christ, while denying it in practice by flagrantly contradicting the manifest will of our Divine Sovereign?

I have described the actions of Cardinal Hume and Archbishop Whealon as an implicit denial of the Catholic religion and the Kingship of Christ—perhaps I am being too charitable and their denial could more accurately be described as explicit. There is no doubt at all that Bishop Butler has denied the Catholic religion and the Kingship of Christ in a manner that could not have been more open. I have already quoted him to the effect that no religion but ours has a mandate to preach the Gospel or offer public worship, and that these principles "are an expression of immutable divine law." He also assured us that the Church "cannot compromise." In this, at least, he is correct. But although the Church cannot compromise individual bishops can, and frequently do (witness the English hierarchy during the Protestant Reformation). In 1974 a joint evangelistic campaign took place in Hertfordshire. The text of the joint appeal included the following:

God is calling you through us, to be open to his Spirit's power and joyous conviction, so that the people of your area may see, hear and understand that the one Church of Jesus Christ has good news indeed to share with you all. (My emphasis.)

This appeal was signed by the leaders of ten Protestant denominations and two Catholic bishops—Bishop Charles Grant and Bishop Christopher Butler. Clearly, Saint Margaret Clitherow would not have received much sympathy from Bishop Butler. How embarrassed he would have been before his many Anglican friends at her response to the suggestion that she should pray with some Protestant ministers before her execution: "I will not pray with you, nor shall you pray with me: neither will I say Amen to your prayers, nor shall you to mine."

False ecumenism, then, is one factor undermining the Kingship of Christ, where it has not completely undermined it. There are now a number of shared churches in England, another was announced in this week's Universe. Where this happens there is not even a pretense made of upholding belief in a divinely founded visible Church. An equally dangerous phenomenon is the tendency to treat the Church as a democracy. Those of you who have read Ten Sixty-Six and All That, a wonderfully comic account of British history, will know that it classifies historical events into good and bad things. Most English-speaking Catholics would unhesitatingly classify democracy as a good thing, probably being unaware of the fact that in its fundamental sense the concept has been repeatedly condemned by the popes. Democracy, in the condemned sense, is the belief that authority emanates from the people, and that those exercising authority in society do so as delegates of the people. They are thus bound to ensure that legislation conforms to what the people desire. In his Encyclical, Quod Apostolici Muneris, "Concerning Modern Errors," Pope Leo XIII wrote:

Hence, by a fresh act of impiety, unknown even to the very pagans, governments have been organized without God and the order established by Him being taken at all into account. It has even been contended that public authority, with its dignity and its power of ruling, originates not from God but from the mass of the people, which considering itself unfettered by all divine sanction, refuses to submit to any laws that it has not itself passed of its own free will.

Catholic teaching is that all authority emanates from God and that the rulers of a country govern as his legates and not as delegates of the people. Thus no government has the right to pass legislation which does not conform to the natural law no matter what the proportion of those within a state desiring such legislation. Thus no state has the right to permit divorce, abortion, or pornography. In his larged ignored Encyclical Quas Primas, on "The Kingship of Christ," Pope Pius XI teaches:

Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether individually or collectively, are under the dominion of Christ. In Him is the salvation of the individual, in Him is the salvation of society.

However, the Church is not opposed to democracy in the sense that those exercising authority within the state are chosen by a vote based on universal suffrage. She is not concerned with the manner in which a ruler is selected, only with the principle that rulers, however chosen, govern as legates of God. Once this principal has been grasped it can be seen how completely untenable is the position of such a politician as Edward Kennedy in the U.S.A., who claims to oppose abortion as a Catholic but accept it as a politician.

If this false principal of democracy is not acceptable in a secular government, it is even less acceptable in the Church. The Church is a monarchy in which Christ is King. The pope and the bishops are the successors of St. Peter and the Apostles, who were given the mandate of preaching His Gospel to the world. Those who heard them, He said, heard Him. Those who refused His Apostles refused Him. In this country we have just had a spectacle that is both scandalous and heartbreaking. At a time when there is virtually no dogmatic truth or moral precept of the Faith that is not under attack, firm and unequivocal guidance was called upon from our pastors. Instead of giving this guidance, instead of standing up among the flock as true shepherds and proclaiming the teaching of Christ our King, the bishops succumbed to the pressure of a handful of self-styled renewalists and decided to hold a National Pastoral Congress to sound out the opinions of their flock. Such a procedure is almost blasphemous, given the nature of the Church, i.e., that of an absolute monarchy. As Christians we must submit ourselves to the sweet yoke of Christ. What our Divine King commands we must do and what He forbids we must not do. If we reached a point where everyone decided that adultery was not sinful it would still be a sin. Sin is an offense against God, it remains an offense no matter how many people deny its sinful nature.

Anyone who is familiar with the preparation for the National Pastoral Congress or the Congress itself will be aware that it was not, in fact, democratic in any sense of the word. Ninety-five per cent of the delegates came from the miniscule but vociferous clique of renewalists to which I have referred—and the Congress resolutions represented their thinking in almost every respect, and will be made clear when the full texts are published shortly. But having succumbed to pressure to call the Congress, the bishops' prestige was linked with its being an unqualified success—and they have assured us that it was an unqualified success in their official response, The Easter People. It is true that they have not been able to concede everything the resolutions demanded—in the liturgical sector almost every demand of the Congress was forbidden by the recent Instruction Inaestimabile Donum—but they have given way on the two demands most dear to the hearts of renewalists, progressives, liberals—or whatever you choose to call them. These were a revision of the teaching of contraception and the admission of divorced Catholics to Holy Communion. Both these demands received sympathetic treatment in The Easter People and were duly presented to the bishops at the Rome Synod this October by Cardinal Hume and Archbishop Warloch. Cardinal Hume even told the assembled bishops and the Pope, who has forcefully reiterated the consistent papal condemnation of contraception, that those who ignore this law, which is a law of Christ the King, are "often good, conscientious and faithful sons and daughters of the Church." We are thus presented with a spectacle that is not simply scandalous but grotesque. Cardinal Hume, far from exercising his mandate as a successor of the Apostles to teach Catholic truth in season and out of season, has relegated himself to the role of a delegate of the National Pastoral Congress. The Congress was in favor of contraception, and so its eminent delegate dutifully put forwards its views to the Synod. This democratizing the Church to the point of absurdity!

Clearly, if our prelates do not even have sufficient heart to command the Faithful to observe the rule of Christ the King there is no hope whatsoever of their mobilizing the faithful to combat civil legislation which is contrary to the Divine will. This was manifestly the case throughout the West well before the Second World War. Little pretense was made by any Western hierarchy at implementing the teaching of Quas Primas. In practice, Catholics accepted a role as a contented minority within a pluralistic society. It was not for them to try to impose Catholic teaching on the whole of society. Obviously, no such obligation exists where ecclesiastical law is concerned. It is not the function of the Church to campaign for legislation compelling every citizen to observe Friday abstinence or assist at Mass on Sunday. But such questions as divorce, abortion, contraception, and pornography transcend ecclesiastical boundaries. They are condemned by the law of Christ the King which applies to the whole of mankind.

ONE OF THE MOST DEPRESSING aspects of the documents of Vatican II is the implicit or explicit acceptance of the relegation of Catholicism to a body of opinion within a pluralistic society, a body more concerned in dialogue and cooperation than with condemnation or conversion. The ultimate betrayal of the traditional Catholic position is found in the Declaration on Religious Liberty, where it is stated that no one must be prevented from following his conscience in private or in public unless his doing so would threaten public order.

If, then, Christ is not to be King, who is? The only possible answer is man. Since the Renaissance there has been an increasingly powerful current of opinion working for the replacement of the theocentric basis of society with one that is anthropocentric. Society must be based not on what God commands but what man demands. This tendency was resisted uncompromisingly by a succession of great popes. It was admitted into the Church via Vatican II. It is reflected very clearly in the new rite of Mass. The rite of Mass codified by St. Pius V, which dates back in all essentials to the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great, is clearly a theocentric ritual. It is concerned with offering a solemn sacrifice to God with the greatest possible dignity and reverence. The prayers of the Mass reflect its nature, they are solemn, they are beautiful, and they are replete with explicit reference to its sacrificial nature. The New Mass is clearly concerned less with God than with the congregation. Will they understand it, will they enjoy it, will it be meaningful? Perhaps the most dramatic symbol of the change of ethos is the transformation of a sacrificial altar into a table over which priest and people gaze at each other. Previously, priest and people had stood together on the same side of the altar, offering their sacrifice in the direction of the East, symbol of the Resurrection and the Second Coming. Now they have turned in upon themselves, an apt symbol of the man-centered, inward-looking nature of the new rite. Gone too are almost all the explicitly sacrificial prayers which gave such clear expression to the nature of the Mass, conforming to the principle lex orandi, lex credendi, as the Church prays, so she believes. What, I wonder, would a Hindu conclude that the Catholic Church believed if he visited some of our churches during Mass today?

The more one studies the changes in the liturgy the more clear it becomes that every change has a particular significance. I shall conclude by examining certain changes made with regard to today's feast, that of Christ the King. The changes made in the Ordinary of the Mass, and even more so in the Breviary Office, reflect the acceptance by the Conciliar Church that, contrary to the teaching of Quas Primas, Christ the King does not rule over nations, only over those individuals who voluntarily choose to submit themselves to Him. This is an explicit rejection of the intention of Pope Pius XI, who has instituted the feast as a solemn affirmation of Our Lord's Kingship over every human society. Thus the second half of the original Collect reads:

Grant in Thy mercy that all the families of nations, rent asunder by the wound of sin, may be subjected to Thy most gentle rule.

The same passage in the revised Collect reads:

May all in heaven and earth acclaim your glory and never cease to praise you. (ICEL translation)

A number of verses have been omitted from the Breviary hymn Te saeculorum Principem of First Vespers. They include the following which, in the best tradition of Nineteen Eighty-Four, have been consigned to the "memory-hole" for the crime of professing the Kingship of Christ in unambiguous terms:

May the rulers of the world publicly honour and extol Thee

May teachers and judges reverence Thee;

May the laws express Thine order and the arts reflect Thy beauty.

May kings find renown in their submission and dedication to Thee.

Bring under Thy gentle rule our country and our homes.

Glory be to Thee, Jesus, supreme over all secular authorities

And glory be to the Father and the loving Spirit through endless ages.

The hymn Aeterna Imago Altissimi has been transferred from First Vespers to Lauds, and the last two lines of the second verse, which state that the Father has entrusted to Christ, as His right, "absolute dominion over peoples," have been replaced by the statement that we, i.e., as individuals, should willingly submit ourselves to Christ. The following verse has, understandably, been omitted completely:

To Thee, Who by right claim rule over all men,
we willingly submit ourselves;

to be subject to Thy laws means happiness for a state
and its peoples.

A version of the Vexilla Regis, which has been suppressed, contains the following verses:

Christ triumphantly unfurls His glorious banners

Come, nations of the world, and on bended knee
acclaim the King of Kings.

How great is the happiness of a country that rightly owns
the rule of Christ

And zealously carries out the commands God gave to men.
The plighted word keeps marriage unbroken,
The children grow up with virtue intact
and homes where purity is found,
abound also in the other virtues of home life.

A number of readings from Quas Primas were included as lessons in the office. These made the traditional teaching on Church and State extremely clear. They have been removed.

There is, as I have said, a reason behind all the changes made in the traditional liturgy to accommodate it to the policies of the Conciliar Church. This is most certainly true of the transfer of the Feast of Christ the King from the last Sunday in October to the end of November, the very end of the liturgical year. Archbishop Lefebvre explains:

During October the liturgical year is not yet over and three or four Sundays remain. This signifies the reign of Our Lord over our time, over all peoples, over all nations. The feast has been transferred to the end of the liturgical year. What does this signify? That Our Lord will reign—certainly He will, oh yes! certainly... He will reign—but at the end of time. Not now. Now, it is not possible.

I will be accused of exaggerating. No; I do not exaggerate. I'm sorry to have to say this. Why? Because I heard it directly from the mouth of a papal nuncio to whom I had said: "You are in the process of suppressing all the Catholic states. You have collaborated in their suppression." Then I asked the nuncio: "And what will you do about the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ?" He replied: "That is no longer possible today." That is what a nuncio told me, the representative of our Holy Father the Pope. "The social reign of Christ the King is no longer possible today."

Archbishop Lefebvre is not alone in reading this meaning into the transferrence of the Feast. Professor J. P. M. van der Ploeg, O. P., one of the most distinguished theologians in Europe, commented in the October 1978 issue of Christian Order:

Formerly, it was celebrated on the last Sunday of October, close to the Feast of All Saints; now it is celebrated at the end of the ecclesiastical year, to make the "eschatalogical"4 meaning of the feast. Christ will be King of the World at the end of time."

I hope that now, after following so patiently for so long, you will be able to put Archbishop Lefebvre's work into its proper perspective. He is not a prelate motivated by nostalgia who wishes to keep everything in the Church just as it was. He is a bishop with a burning zeal for the honor and Kingship of Christ—he is perhaps the only bishop in the West willing to accept all the consequences involved in Christ's Kingship. He believes that every Catholic, from the Pope to the most humble layman, has a duty to work for the social reign of Christ the King, because both nations and individuals are obliged to submit themselves to His rule. The Archbishop will not be deflected from this purpose even if it means a temporary conflict with authority. Thus today, as did all the priests of the Society of St. Pius X, he celebrated the Mass of Christ the King. Thus today, as did all his priests, he read the Breviary Office which contained the words:

To Thee, Who by right claim rule over all men,
We willingly submit ourselves;
To be subject to Thy law means happiness
for a state and its people.

The question we must put to ourselves is this, who is more devoted to the cause of Christ the King—Archbishop Lefebvre and his priests who said this prayer, and accept its implications, or the thousands of bishops and tens of thousands of priests who did not say it, and most certainly do not accept its implications?


1. Available from The Angelus Press for $7.50 post paid, and from the Augustine Publishing Company in Great Britain. (1981 price)

2. A Bishop Speaks (Writings and Addresses of Archbishop Lefebvre, 1963-1975), available from the Angelus Press, $5.50 post paid. (1981 price)

3. Newman  Against the Liberals, available from the Angelus Press, $11.00 postpaid. (1981 price)

4. Eschatology, the theological doctrine of the last things.