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District Superior's
Letter to Friends & Benefactors

April 2010

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

In the February 2010 issue of the Regina Coeli Report, after recalling the very beginning of the Society of St. Pius X, I concluded by saying “we see in Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, not only our founder, but also one given us by Divine Providence to lead us in these times of crisis when all authority has been shaken.”

I would like, in this letter to develop this point, which is essential in understanding the crisis in the Church as well as the positions of the Society of St. Pius X.

First of all, the history of the Catholic Church shows that God, in His infinite mercy, has always provided a leader, a saint, whenever the good of the Church required it. In different crises or difficulties, when problems arose within or around the Church, God has sent a special guide to bring the answer and eventually make the desired reformation.

St. Benedict, the founder of Western Catholic monasticism, is the first example that comes to my mind. His role in the Christianization of Europe is undeniable. It is through the monasteries that the Christian world was established, converting souls, educating them, and being models of the perfect Christian life. God fostered St. Benedict and his monastic order to convert the decadent Roman world invaded by barbarians into a Christian one.

St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order, was sent at a time when the Church was attacked by heresies, especially Catharism. He brought to the Church an order that dedicated itself to studying theology and which responded to all manner of heresies. St. Thomas Aquinas was a product of this great order, who brought to the Church an age of great clarity in doctrine.

St. Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscans, who were dedicated to the evangelic counsel of poverty. Church history shows at that time a real need for a return to the spirit of poverty and the true practice of this virtue. Up to the pinnacle of the Church, a worldly spirit had diluted the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Once again, God sent a remedy to that difficulty—a saint, to bring about the needed reformation.

To cite another example, which took place earlier in the history of the Church, but which might be closer to the situation we are in today: St. Athanasius arose to stop the Arian heresy that affected the Church up to the highest authority, the pope himself.

These are just a few examples amongst so many. Church history is full of their names; those who came forth to enlighten their times by pursuing their unique vocation and mission according to the special graces God gave them.

To try to apply this standard to the history of the past 40 years, we cannot but ask ourselves who God has given to our times to enlighten us. The Church is going through a crisis that has no precedent, a crisis, which is worse than all previous crises. Could we have been left without a leader? Without someone to enlighten us, and give us the sound principles that would guide us? This is difficult, even impossible to conceive.

Without forestalling the decision that the Church will one day ascertain, knowing that only the Church can and will, in the future affirm—we recognize and avow that Archbishop Lefebvre was given to the Church and to the world to enlighten us and to give us the line of action we need to follow in these days of crisis. This becomes more evident as time goes on.

Those who received the grace to know the Archbishop, even if only for a short time, know the example of holiness that he gave; a life resigned to the will of God, guided by Providence.

Providence truly drew us along. But I was sluggish, I assure you; I followed with leaden footsteps. But I was pulled along, pulled along, pulled along, always a little more, a little more, until I was taken.  And now you know the story of the Society.

 

So you see, I cannot say that it was really I who said, “I want to do this… it will be this way… and I think that… and I want that...” It was not at all like that. I realize, and you have likewise noticed, that it has been the same throughout my entire life. It has always been Providence which decided everything. On my part, I rather resisted, I did not really agree, I was not very eager. But it pulled me on anyway, “Ah no, you must come!” Then afterwards… well… I now see that God has, in fact, blessed, blessed everything, and that it has all worked out fine. Deo Gratias! Let us hope that it will continue like that… (The Little Story of My Long Life, Epilogue, p. 119)

Archbishop Lefebvre not only showed us an example of submission to God’s will, but he also handed down to us what he had received: the Catholic Faith, the Mass, the priesthood (by giving both priests and bishops)… All that he had received, he passed on; and with that, he gave us the doctrinal and practical principles to follow in order to enable us to remain faithful to the Church and to God.

That is why I iterate that the Archbishop’s mission, in this time of crisis, was to enlighten us and give us the necessary standards of action. He also entrusted to us a mission that we must continue.

What were Archbishop Lefebvre’s main doctrinal, as well as practical decisions?

Firstly: his refusal of the New Mass, because “the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it is formulated in Session XXIII of the Council of Trent.” (Cardinals Ottaviani’s and Bacci’s Preface to “A Short Critical Study of the New Ordo of Mass”) He refused the New Mass, and instructed his priests to celebrate according to the rubrics of 1962. The Archbishop was, in this practical instruction, a leader in times of confusion; a leader that some refused to follow, but nevertheless, the most able as evinced by his past and by his role in the present.

Archbishop Lefebvre refused and even called to account, the novelties, the new teaching of Vatican II—I Accuse the Council and many of his other writings, express his views on the main errors of Vatican II, which he had denounced during the Council itself. “We refuse and have always refused to follow the Rome of neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies, such as were clearly manifested during the Second Vatican Council and after the council in all the resulting reforms.” (Declaration of November 21, 1974)

One of the main positions of the Archbishop concerns the Holy See. The Archbishop explicitly conveyed his love of Eternal Rome, his deep respect for the papacy, his firm intent not to break away from Rome, the seat of the Catholic Church. Recall the letter that His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre wrote to the future bishops in August of 1987: “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 Faith, expressed in the various creeds of our Catholic Faith, in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, in conformity with what you were taught in your seminary. Remain faithful in the handing down of this Faith so that the Kingdom of Our Lord may come.”

Attachment to the See of Peter, to the Roman Catholic Church, and attachment to the Faith—Archbishop Lefebvre taught us to maintain these principles, making an act of Faith in the mystery of the Church, Divine and human.

A final point, among so many that I would like to bring up is Archbishop Lefebvre’s clear vision of the hierarchy of laws within the Church. On many occasions he reminded us that the first law of the Church is the salvation of souls. The canonical laws are to assist in the salvation of souls. But, extraordinary situations or states of necessity may arise, which do not allow the following of the letter of the law, although it is certainly possible to respect the spirit of the law by obeying higher laws.  In such situations exceptional measures are called for. It was definitely not, nor is it now, in the mind or formation given to the priests of the Society of St. Pius X to disrespect or disregard canon law, but rather to find a solution to the unprecedented crisis in the Church. 

The Archbishop followed the laws of the Church in everything, except when it would adversely affect the defense of the Catholic Faith. This is the reason he refused in 1976 to yield to the order to say the New Mass, and submitted to being unjustly suspended. To safeguard the Catholic priesthood, he deliberately consecrated four bishops in 1988, taking the risk of being excommunicated in the eyes of the world, a consequence which he always recognized as invalid.

Finally; he bequeathed a priestly society, the Society of St. Pius X, which he wanted to establish for the restoration of the Catholic priesthood: “I beseech you to remain attached to the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, to remain profoundly united amongst yourselves, in submission to the Society’s Superior General, in the Catholic Faith of all time…” This he wrote to the future bishops in 1987, but any priest, and even faithful, should take this at least as an appeal, a profound desire and wish of the Archbishop.

All these illustrations, lead us to acknowledge our dear founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, as a light in these times of darkness, a leader in these days of confusion, a harbor in this age of perdition. They also illustrate how he remains, for everyone one of us, a model of holiness to imitate.

Therefore, we pray and must continually petition, for this is a grace, that we remain faithful to his directions in order that in time Rome will find itself restored to its Divine Traditions.

Let us beg the Immaculate Heart of Mary to keep us faithful, today and tomorrow, as we were yesterday.

With my prayers and blessing

In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

Fr. Arnaud Rostand

 
 

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