July 2021 Print

The Passion of the Church: The 1982 Ordination Sermon

The 1982 Ordination Sermon

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre

Briefly, I would like to try to explain what it seems to me our course of action should be in the face of these sad developments taking place in the Church. It seems to me that we can compare this agony the Church is suffering today to the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. You see how astonished the Apostles themselves were when Our Lord was taken and bound after the kiss of Judas. He is taken away. He is clothed in a scarlet robe, mocked, beaten, weighed down with the Cross. And the Apostles run away; they are scandalized. It is not possible that He Whom Peter proclaimed: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of God”—can be reduced to this plight, this humiliation, this destruction. It cannot be. They run away.

Only the Virgin Mary, with St. John and some women remain with Our Lord and keep the faith. They will not abandon Him. They know that Our Lord is truly God, but they also know that He is man. It is precisely this union of the divinity with the humanity of Our Lord that poses extraordinary difficulties. Our Lord in fact did not want to be merely man; He wanted to be a man like us, with all the results of sin yet without sin, apart from sin; but He wanted to accept all the consequences: sadness, fatigue, suffering, thirst, hunger, death. Yes, right up to His death, Our Lord embodied this extraordinary thing that so scandalized the Apostles, as it indeed scandalized many others who turned their backs on Our Lord and did not believe in the divinity of Our Lord.

Throughout the history of the Church, one comes across these people who are so surprised at the weakness of Our Lord that they cannot believe He is God. This was the case with Arius. Arius said no, it won’t do, that man cannot be God, because He said He was less than His Father, that His Father was greater than He. He is therefore less than His Father. He is therefore not God. And then Our Lord said that astonishing thing, “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death.” How could He, with the Beatific Vision, seeing God in His human soul, and thus far more glorious than weak, far more eternal than temporal, His soul already in eternity and blessed, yet here He is, saying, “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death,” and goes on to utter those astonishing words we could never imagine on the lips of Our Lord, “My God, my God, why hast Thou abandoned Me?” Hence the scandal, alas, which spreads among weak souls. Arius takes practically the entire Church with him in saying this Man is not God.

Others, on the other hand, go the other way and say that perhaps everything Our Lord endured, spilling blood, the wounds, the Cross, all that was imaginary. They were external phenomena but not real. Rather like the archangel Raphael, when he went with Tobias and later revealed to him, “‘You thought I was eating when I had dinner with you, but I am nourished with a spiritual nourishment.” The archangel Raphael did not have a body like that of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He was not born of an earthly mother, as our Lord was born of the Virgin Mary. Was Our Lord an illusion like that and only appeared to eat, but did not really eat, or appear to suffer but did not really suffer? There were those who denied the human nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ: the Monophysites, the Monothelites, who denied the human nature and the human will of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything about Him was God (they claimed), and everything that seemed to happen was only an illusion.

So you see what happens to those who are scandalized by reality and truth. Let me make a comparison with the Church of today. We thought the Church was truly divine, that she could never deceive herself or deceive us.

Well, it is true, the Church is divine; she cannot lose the truth. The Church will always be the guardian of truth. But she is also human. The Church is human and indeed more human than Our Lord Jesus Christ was. Our Lord could not sin. He is the Holy One, the Just One par excellence.

The Church, if she is divine and truly divine, transmits to us all the things of God especially the Holy Eucharist—eternal things which can never change and which will be the glory of our souls in heaven. Yes, the Church is divine, but she is human too. She is made up of men who may be sinners, indeed, who are sinners, and yet who share somehow in the divinity of the Church, to a certain extent like the pope, for example, by his infallibility; by the charism of infallibility he shares in the divinity of the Church and yet remains human. They all remain sinners. Except in those instances where the pope makes use of his charism of infallibility, he can err, he can sin.

Why be scandalized and say, like some people following the example of Arius, that he is not pope? He is not pope, as Arius said Christ was not God, it cannot be, Our Lord cannot be God. We ourselves may be tempted to say that it cannot be, he cannot be pope and do what he is doing.

On the other hand, others would divinize the Church to the point that everything in it becomes perfect. So everything in the Church being perfect, we could say there is no question of our doing anything whatever to oppose anything coming out of Rome; we must accept everything coming out of Rome. Those who talk this way are like those who say that Our Lord was God to such an extent that He could not suffer, that He gave only the illusion of suffering, but in reality did not suffer; in reality it was not His blood that flowed. Those around Him had only illusions in their eyes not reality. There are some of these today who go on saying there can be nothing human, nothing imperfect in the Church. They too are mistaken. They do not see the reality of things. How far can imperfection in the Church go, how high can sin go, if I may say it, in the Church, sin in the intellect, sin in the soul, sin in the heart and in the will? The facts tell us.

As I said a moment ago, we would never have dared to put on the lips of Our Lord the words, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” So too, we would never have thought that evil and error could penetrate so deeply into the Church. But we are living in this age; we cannot shut our eyes. The facts are there; it is not merely a subjective impression. We are witnesses of what is happening in the Church, of the terrible things that have happened since the Council, the ruins piling up day after day, year after year, in Holy Church. The more we go on, the more the errors spread and the more the faithful lose the Catholic Faith. A recent study in France shows that hardly more than two million French Catholics are still really Catholic.

We are nearing the end. Everyone will fall into heresy. Everyone will fall into error because wicked clergy, as St. Pius X predicted, have found their way into the Church and occupied it. They have spread errors from the positions of authority they occupy in the Church.

Are we then required to follow error because it comes from someone in authority? No more than we should obey parents who are unworthy and ask us to do unworthy things, no more should we obey those who ask us to abandon our Faith and to abandon all Tradition. This is out of the question. Oh, of course, all this is a mystery, a great mystery, this union of the divine with the human.

The Church is divine, and the Church is human. How far can human weakness, how shall I say, overshadow the divinity of the Church? Only God knows. It is a great mystery. We see the facts; we must put ourselves in full view of the facts and never abandon the Church, the Roman Catholic Church, never abandon her, never abandon the successor of Peter, because through him we are united to Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter. But if, by some misfortune, under the influence of some spirit or other, or some weakness or pressure, or through neglect, he abandons his duty and leads us along roads which make us lose our faith, well, we must not follow, although at the same time we recognize that he is Peter and if he speaks with the charism of infallibility, we must accept his teaching, but when he does not speak with the charism of infallibility, he may very well be mistaken. Alas! It is not the first time that something like this has happened in history.

We are deeply troubled, deeply anguished, we who love the Church so much and venerate her and have always venerated her. This is why this seminary exists, for love of the Church Catholic and Roman. This is why all seminaries exist. Our love of the Church has been badly bruised to think that her servants, alas, are not her servants any longer and render her no service at all. We must pray, we must sacrifice and, we must, like Mary, stay at the foot of the Cross and not abandon Our Lord Jesus Christ, even if He seems, as the Scriptures, say, “as it were accursed” on the Cross. Well, the Virgin Mary had the faith and she saw beyond the wounds, beyond the pierced Heart. She saw God in her Son, her Divine Son.

We too, in spite of the wounds in the Church, in spite of the difficulties, the persecution which we are enduring, even from those in authority in the Church, let us not abandon the Church, let us love the Holy Church our mother, let us serve her always in spite of the authorities, if necessary. In spite of these authorities who wrongly persecute us, let us stay on the same road, let us keep to the same path: we want to support the Holy Roman Catholic Church, we want to keep it going and we will keep it going by means of the priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the true sacraments of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the true catechism.