September 1988 Print

To Rebel... or to Preserve?

To Rebel... or to Preserve?
The following letter was sent to us by one of our long-time subscribers, Mr. Frank Denke. We share it with you...

9 August 1988

Mr. Walter Matt, Editor
The Remnant

Dear Mr. Matt,

Over many years, since the very beginning of The Remnant, my family and I have been your faithful subscribers. We have also admired your efforts to heal differences among those of us who desire nothing more than to preserve the Faith of our Fathers. For these many years we have looked to you as an outstanding Catholic publisher. While you could not provide us with the sacramental means of sustaining our Faith (the Mass and Sacraments), nor the priests to bring them to us, you did bring us the balm of understanding things held deeply within our hearts. Each issue of The Remnant was looked forward to with an anticipation similar to that of our teenage daughters when awaiting a bouquet from their beau.

As a father of nine children who has had to wrestle with the aftermath of Vatican II within my once-Catholic diocese, I have had to learn some things the hard way. At first, I felt we could sustain the faith of our children by submitting them to the local churches for the New Mass, and to the local "Catholic" schools for their education. We'd look for a "reverent" Novus Ordo, offered by a "conservative" priest and tell our children to kneel and receive on the tongue when no one else did. Our attempts to instill reverence were always overshadowed by the pervasive irreverence around them. Priests who merely tried to be "conservative" (not traditional) were soon transferred. The local "Catholic" high school had its share of atheist and non-Catholic teachers plus a priest-teacher who ok'd pre-marital sex. After speaking with the head of the high school, it was evident that he could do nothing because his hands were tied by the bishop. In short, by submitting to the above for some years, we tried to remain traditionally Catholic in spirit but not in practice. I shall always carry a certain regret that, even for awhile, I subjected my family to this foolishness.

Thank heavens that a "stubborn" Archbishop and his Society, his priests and his schools came to our rescue. While we follow no man (and hence the term "Lefebvrists" has no meaning for us), but follow only the longings of our Faith, it is him that I thank for the Catholic St. Mary's Academy in Kansas. (Incidentally, both of our married children met their spouses there.) It is his priests that I thank for that bit of heaven called the Latin Mass, the Ignatian Retreats we attend, and for the sermons that have helped us see each of our beloved children grow in their Catholic Faith over the years. The older ones have married in the Faith (and therefore in the Church). All still pray for the Holy Father. However, it was not the Holy Father who preserved the traditional Faith for my family during all these trying years... it was Archbishop Lefebvre.

The result of our earlier experience is that years ago we chose to keep our Catholic heritage both in spirit and in practice. To the reasons mentioned above, time has added one more. Let me call it "caution." I say "caution" because we have watched Catholics who, over the years, have submitted themselves and their children to the novelties and false religious thoughts and practices that have ravished the Bride of Christ. One often sees the Faith drained by irreverence out of their children. Young ones cannot drink from a poisoned well without being poisoned. Yet I know these parents are Catholic in their hearts. These parents long, as I long, for the day when the Faith will be restored. They seem not to grasp that preserving the Faith of our children is more important than even Canon Laws that may be used to deny them the practice of their Faith, and that one cannot be separated from the Holy Father (even a weak one who allows harm to the Faith) by keeping the Faith!

And so, Mr. Matt, through the years you wrote for those of us who have drunk the muddy waters of the "new faith" and may unwillingly continue to do so, as well as for those who have found a spring that refreshes the souls of their children with the purity of the true Faith. This has seemed to change this last year. Let me tell you why.

It seems that The Remnant has now become like The Wanderer. Both publications continue to publish volumes about those bishops and religious who are attacking the Catholic Faith, and about the inability of Rome to deal with them (e.g., Hunthausen restored; disciplinary actions against the nuns who signed the abortion ad now dropped). Both publications now urge us to look to these same authorities (Rome and the bishops) for the preservation of our Catholic Faith—in a word, to submit and to trust with scarcely a word of caution. Neither publication has published a full (fair?) account of Archbishop Lefebvre's position, which is essential for one to have a complete understanding of the current situation. Both papers rejoice in an "agreement" that resulted from years of effort on the part of the Archbishop to continue and protect the traditional Catholic Faith. (Let's give credit where due. While our many petitions to Rome received polite responses and helped produce an ineffective Indult, it was the Society, with its 200 priests, 200 seminarians, its truly Catholic seminaries and schools that brought Rome to the bargaining table.) At the same time, in both papers, the Archbishop and his wisdom, his experience from dealing with the reality of today's Rome, and his continuing love of the Church and our Faith are all treated as if they no longer exist.

So what has been missing? To begin with, most papers did not mention that another Bishop, Antonio Castro-Mayer of Brazil, had joined the Archbishop to assist at the episcopal consecrations. Bishop Castro-Mayer, now retired, has seen the traditional Faith he had left to his diocese destroyed, and his priests literally torn from their parishes to make room for Modernism—all with the tacit approval of Rome. We are now being asked to believe that this same Rome is eager to take care of our traditional Faith. Would that we could now trust this Rome of silence and our local bishops in the face of so much past and continuing destruction! I hope I'm wrong, but I cannot suppress a feeling that after the current euphoria over the papal promises has worn off and reality has set in, we will again be reading of continual abuses and unfulfilled expectations in both publications.

Your article in The Remnant said that the Archbishop had rejected the pleas of the Holy Father "for reasons not yet entirely clear to us." You also mentioned that the Archbishop, "at the very moment of his final rebellion had already won most of the concessions which he himself had asked for." Thus, you infer that his final decision was one of "rebellion." Could it have been preservation? How can your readers judge for themselves unless they read the whole story? As the Society had distributed a newsletter prior to the episcopal consecrations that explained the Archbishop's final decision, let me at least give a brief overview of its contents for your readers.

There were several requests of utmost importance to the Archbishop which were refused him by Cardinal Ratzinger's committee (not by the Holy Father). For example, the Archbishop had requested that the Society not be placed under the control of local bishops but directly under the Holy Father as a military bishopric. (Who can call this desire of the Archbishop "schismatic"?) This request, a matter of survival for the work of the Society, was denied. Cardinal Ratzinger's goal was to place the priests pf the Society into the hands of the very bishops who have, in many cases, been for years the very enemy of the Society, its schools, its priests and of the traditional Catholic Faith the Society helped preserve for us. How could the Archbishop pass the final work of his long and faithful devotion to the Church into the hands not of the Holy Father, but into the hands of those who, for years, have sought to suppress, if not destroy, it?

Other requests were denied him. The Archbishop had desired that the papal commission for traditionalists have as members a majority of traditional prelates (not necessarily of the Society), in order to protect the traditional religious orders and faithful from Modernist control. This was denied. The Archbishop had asked that Cardinal Gagnon, the most supportive Cardinal of traditional Catholics, be placed in charge of the papal commission. This was denied. In short, I find it hard to agree with you that the Archbishop won "most of the concessions he himself had asked for."

To bring this home, would you submit The Remnant to a governing committee composed of members from The Wanderer, The National Catholic Register, and The National Catholic Reporter—with The Remnant having, at best, merely a minority representation on the committee? Under such conditions, might not the Faith again suffer, as it has so often in the past, at the hands of yet another loaded "democratic" committee? The Archbishop thus saw the papal commission (governing committee), established to "preserve the [traditionalists'] spiritual and liturgical traditions," as being more open to wolves than shepherds.

In your last issue of The Remnant, of the eight members appointed to the commission, you define several as being "perceived to have been sympathetic to the traditionalists' cause." While I hope that they and the others would be truly sympathetic, prudence demands caution. What does the Archbishop, for example, say about the members of this new commission, or does his opinion no longer count?

You said that the Archbishop had "rejected the Holy Father's insistent pleas." The full story should note that all during the months that the Archbishop was in Rome negotiating, not once did the Holy Father, who has traveled to Africa, to the Americas, India, England and Assisi, participating in a variety of non-Catholic ecumenical services for the sake of "unity," not once did the Holy Father seek out this Archbishop and defender of the Faith to speak with him personally.

I have listed only a few of the reported reasons that motivated the Archbishop to refuse handing over his Society to a Roman commission at this time. The Archbishop has, however, promised to submit his entire priestly society to Rome when it shows itself again capable of defending the traditional Catholic Faith. I understand that. I, too, will submit my entire family to the local bishop and to his schools and churches when they are capable of defending and sustaining the Faith. Is it "rebellion" not to submit under the current circumstances? I think not. It is simply fulfilling my parental obligation to protect my family. In the same way, the Archbishop must protect the Faith of those entrusted to his care.

If I recall correctly, you started a Catholic school for your family and did not place it under the control of your local bishop. In fact, this was probably done against his wishes. This was not rebellion. It was an act of preservation. You did this because not even a pope can require us to do something that would harm our Faith or the Faith of those for whom we are responsible. It appears, however, that you expect the Archbishop to do something at his level that you, in essence, were unwilling to do at your level, namely for him to submit the faith of our families to the local bishops (who have already been "under Rome" all these years) before they have demonstrated a willingness to protect our spiritual heritage.

Actions speak louder than words. If Rome is serious about, and capable of protecting the Faith, why is there no decisive action taken against the Küngs, the Currans, and the nuns that support abortion? To do so would at least make Rome (by Rome, I mean all the various bodies and committees that govern the Church) look less hypocritical. Whatever the personal feelings of the Holy Father are, Rome's actions over the years (not words) have signaled its willingness to accept or tolerate much that is destroying the Faith I learned as a child, and all but the one shepherd who has helped me to keep it.

The Remnant has published articles that show the ecumenical weakness of our Holy Father. It is these articles that have reported that all is well between Rome and Archbishop Hunthausen. It is from the pages of The Remnant that we learn of a Rome that seems to tolerate heretics such as Hans Küng (who writes against the physical resurrection of Christ), and Curran who is a moral heretic. It is on the pages of The Remnant where we read of the kisses of peace that flow between the Holy Father and Runcie, or the schismatic Orthodox Patriarch. (We can attend an Orthodox Mass without excommunication, according to the same Canon Law which was used to excommunicate Archbishop Lefebvre!) It is in your paper that we read Rome will take no disciplinary action against the nuns who signed the "free choice" ad supporting abortion.

In spite of all this, The Remnant concludes that this new commission in Rome and our local bishops are now suddenly ready and able to defend our traditional Faith. The Archbishop, based upon his experience, concludes otherwise. How sad that you label his conclusion a "rebellion," as if one who has protected the Faith for so long has suddenly lost touch with the realities of today's Rome as well as with his obligation to defend the Faith he loves for those who depend upon him! Time will ultimately tell who has lost touch with the realities of today's hierarchy.

Then there is the whole issue of the Archbishop's "excommunication." Common sense would indicate that for any excommunication to be valid, it must be free of bias and pressure and meet all the requirements of justice. Let's look at the issue at hand, the Archbishop's request to preserve the work of his Society by giving to the Church, betrayed by Modernists from within, four traditional Catholic bishops. Was this not a just request for the good of the Church? Realizing that there are already thousands of bishops, would four anti-Modernist, Catholic bishops constitute such a "threat" to the Church, as to justify their "excommunication"? What else but a Roman Goliath infected by Modernism would fear the David of four anti-Modernist bishops?

All this is accented by Rome's silence against the evils of Communism and Modernism since Vatican II. This silence speaks volumes. The bias in Rome is clear for all to see.

It cautions me to read that while the Holy Father was refusing the Archbishop's request for bishops to protect the traditional faith, the Pope was willing to grant the singular privilege to Fr. Urs von Balthasar of making him a cardinal. While Cardinal Gagnon reportedly thanked the Archbishop recently for his work of preserving the traditional Faith for the Church over these turbulent years, you reported that Fr. Urs von Balthasar has said, "Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers were not true Catholics." Is either this apparent bias of the Holy See in favor of one who calls traditionalists "non-Catholics" and against the presence of four new traditional bishops in the Church sufficient cause to excommunicate the Archbishop?

If the Holy Father was pressured into this action against the Archbishop by the Modernist French Bishops (who have destroyed the Church in France), an order of excommunication based upon such pressure would have no validity in justice. Popes have been taken to task in the past for bowing to pressure and not defending the Faith. It is not without precedent that an excommunicated bishop was more vigorous in upholding the Faith than the pope who excommunicated him.

Then there are the arguments from Canon Law, as presented by Bishop Castro-Mayer's theologians (not Archbishop Lefebvre's). If one accepts the fact that there is a crisis of Faith in the Church, these theologians tell us that Canon Law itself supports the episcopal consecrations performed by Archbishop Lefebvre.

Father Ringrose, a solid Catholic and well-educated priest not of the Society, supports the view that the Archbishop cannot be called a "schismatic" because he fulfills none of the three requirements for true schism.

While these sources of information are available to you should you want to present the arguments in detail to your readers, I mention them here only because you have not let your readers even know they exist!

In his letter to the Holy Father on June 2nd, the Archbishop wrote, "We shall continue to pray for modern Rome, infested with Modernism, to become once more Catholic Rome and to rediscover its 2000-year-old Tradition. Then the problem of our reconciliation will have no further reason to exist and the Church will experience a new youth." In August of last year, when the Archbishop announced his desire to consecrate four new bishops, he told the candidates, "I beseech you to remain attached to the See of Peter, to the Roman Church, Mother and Mistress of all Churches, in the integral Catholic Truth, expressed in the various creeds of our Catholic Faith, in the Catechism of the Council of Trent..." On another occasion he said, "The day when the Vatican will be delivered from its occupation by Modernists and will come back to the path followed down to Vatican II, our new bishops will put themselves entirely in the hands of our Sovereign Pontiff, to the point of desisting if he so wishes from the exercise of their episcopal functions."

It's impossible for me to believe that the above quotations are the words of a true schismatic. The question we must all ask ourselves is, "Has he done what he has done to rebel—or to preserve?" If to preserve the Faith, then how, in true justice, can he, or any of us who find no other way to preserve our Faith, be separated from the Church, in short—excommunicated?

It can only be because the issue of Archbishop Lefebvre's "excommunication" is debatable that John Senior, a man above reproach as a Catholic scholar, can write, "Meanwhile the hungry sheep demand their food and someone, in pious 'disobedience,' must carry out that office in the teeth of unlawful commands and sanctions. There will be saints on both sides of the issue..." How sad that you merely refer to the Archbishop as an excommunicated rebel. Does that include us also?

Cardinal Gagnon found that those served by the Society of St. Pius X do not want to be separated from Catholic Rome. I really do recognize John Paul II as the reigning pontiff. I see in him, however, a person who is willing to accept the Küngs and Currans within the Church, but not the Archbishop; a man who practices a personal ecumenism (e.g., Assisi) that portrays the Church in the eyes of believers and unbelievers alike as merely one of many religions capable of obtaining man's salvation.

Cardinal Gagnon made a personal statement that was passed on to me to the effect that no other society (than the Pius X Society) prays more for the Pope. I know that before each Sunday Mass said by a Society priest we pray for the Pope during the Rosary and we say the beautiful prayer for the Holy Father, that he and the faithful entrusted to him will all attain eternal life. We do this to fulfill the request made to us years ago by the Society priests to continue our prayers for the Holy Father.

In the meantime we have the needs of today to meet. While we long and pray with the Archbishop that some day Rome and the local bishops will fully defend the traditional Faith for our children, that our schools and seminaries will once again become Catholic, I have to give my child a Catholic education this year. I want to attend a Tridentine Mass this Sunday, offered by a priest who loves and understands my Catholic Faith. I need for myself an Ignatian retreat this year. And no one, I repeat no one, but the Society of St. Pius X can yet meet these spiritual needs in my diocese. I have no fear of "excommunication," for I merely follow the Faith and practice of my fathers and seek a shepherd, bound to Catholic Rome by his Faith, to feed me. And so it is, while longing for some formal, visible union with today's Rome and with our current local bishop, that I shall keep in my heart a union with Catholic Rome, with our Holy Father for whom I daily offer prayers, and, above all with the Faith and practice of my fathers.

The first duty of a shepherd is to protect those who depend upon him. The Pope should protect the Church, the bishop his flock, and a father his family. Each of us must be the shepherd of the Faith.

God bless you. You and your fine family remain in my prayers. May Our Queen in Heaven, the Mother of God, protect our Faith.


Frank Denke
Boise, Idaho