Archbishop Lefebvre's reply
to Cardinal Ottaviani
after the Council
In response to a
query made by Cardinal Ottaviani, Prefect of the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith (the Holy Office), Archbishop Lefebvre,
then Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, made these
comments about the immediate and disastrous effects of the Second
December, 20 1966
Your letter of July 24, concerning the
questioning of certain truths was communicated through the good
offices of our secretariat to all our major superiors.
Few replies have reached us. Those which have
come to us from Africa do not deny that there is great confusion
of mind at the present time. Even if these truths do not appear to
be called in question, we are witnessing in practice a diminution
of fervor and of regularity in receiving the sacraments, above all
the Sacrament of Penance. A greatly diminished respect for the
Holy Eucharist is found, above all on the part of priests, and a
scarcity of priestly vocations in French-speaking missions:
vocations in the English and Portuguese-speaking missions are less
affected by the new spirit, but already the magazines and
newspapers are spreading the most advanced theories.
It would seem that the reason for the small
number of replies received is due to the difficulty in grasping
these errors which are diffused everywhere. The seat of the evil
lies chiefly in a literature which sows confusion in the mind by
descriptions which are ambiguous and equivocal, but under the
cloak of which one discovers a new religion.
I believe it my duty to put before you fully
and clearly what is evident from my conversations with numerous
bishops, priests and laymen in Europe and in Africa and which
emerges also from what I have read in English and French
I would willingly follow the order of the
truths listed in your letter, but I venture to say that the
present evil appears to be much more serious than the denial or
calling in question of some truth of our faith. In these times it
shows itself in an extreme confusion of ideas, in the breaking up
of the Church's institutions, religious foundations, seminaries,
Catholic schools - in short, of what has been the permanent support
of the Church. It is nothing less than the logical continuation of
the heresies and errors which have been undermining the Church in
recent centuries, especially since the Liberalism of the last
century which has striven at all costs to reconcile the Church
with the ideas that led to the French Revolution.
To the measure in which the Church has opposed
these ideas, which run counter to sound philosophy and theology,
she has made progress. On the other hand, any compromise with
these subversive ideas has brought about an alignment of the
Church with civil law with the attendant danger of enslaving her
to civil society.
Moreover, every time that groups of Catholics
have allowed themselves to be attracted by these myths, the Popes
have courageously called them to order, enlightening, and if
necessary condemning them. Catholic Liberalism was condemned by
Pope Pius IX, Modernism by Pope Leo XIII, the Sillon Movement by
Pope St. Pius X, Communism by Pope Pius XI and Neo-Modernism by
Pope Pius XII.
Thanks to this admirable vigilance, the Church
grew firm and spread; conversions of pagans and Protestants were
very numerous; heresy was completely routed; states accepted a
more Catholic legislation.
Groups of religious imbued with these false
ideas, however, succeeded in infiltrating them into Catholic
Action and into the seminaries, thanks to a certain indulgence on
the part of the bishops and the tolerance of certain Roman
authorities. Soon it would be among such priests that the bishops
would be chosen. This was the point at which the Council found
itself while preparing, by preliminary commissions, to proclaim
the truth in the face of such errors in order to banish them from
the midst of the Church for a long time to come. This would have
been the end of Protestantism and the beginning of a new and
fruitful era for the Church.
Now this preparation was odiously rejected in
order to make way for the gravest tragedy the Church has ever
suffered. We have lived to see the marriage of the Catholic Church
with Liberal ideas. It would be to deny the evidence, to be
willfully blind, not to state courageously that the Council has
allowed those who profess the errors and tendencies condemned by
the Popes named above, legitimately to believe that their
doctrines were approved and sanctioned.
Whereas the Council was preparing itself to be
a shining light in today's world (if those pre-conciliar documents
in which we find a solemn profession of safe doctrine with regard
to today's problems, had been accepted), we can and we must
unfortunately state that:
In a more or less general way, when the Council
has introduced innovations, it has unsettled the certainty of
truths taught by the authentic Magisterium of the Church as
unquestionably belonging to the treasure of Tradition.
The transmission of the jurisdiction of the
bishops, the two sources of Revelation, the inspiration of
Scripture, the necessity of grace for justification, the necessity
of Catholic baptism, the life of grace among heretics, schismatics
and pagans, the ends of marriage, religious liberty, the last
ends, etc. On all these fundamental points the traditional
doctrine was clear and unanimously taught in Catholic
universities. Now, numerous texts of the Council on these truths
will henceforward permit doubt to be cast upon them.
The consequences of this have rapidly been
drawn and applied in the life of the Church:
- doubts about the necessity of the Church and the sacraments
lead to the disappearance of priestly vocations,
- doubts on the necessity for and nature of the "conversion"
of every soul involve the disappearance of religious vocations,
the destruction of traditional spirituality in the novitiates,
and the uselessness of the missions,
- doubts on the lawfulness of authority and the need for
obedience, caused by the exaltation of human dignity, the
autonomy of conscience and liberty, are unsettling all societies
beginning with the Church - religious societies, dioceses, secular
society, the family.
Pride has as its normal consequence the
concupiscence of the eyes and the flesh. It is perhaps one of the
most appalling signs of our age to see to what moral decadence the
majority of Catholic publications have fallen. They speak without
any restraint of sexuality, of birth control by every method, of
the lawfulness of divorce, of mixed education, of flirtation, of
dances as a necessary means of Christian upbringing, of the
celibacy of the clergy, etc.
Doubts on the necessity of grace in order to be
saved cause baptism to be held in low esteem, so that for the
future it is to be put off until later, and occasion the neglect
of the sacrament of Penance. Moreover, this is particularly an
attitude of the clergy and not the faithful. It is the same with
regard to the Real Presence: it is the clergy who act as though
they no longer believe by hiding away the Blessed Sacrament, by
suppressing all marks of respect towards the Sacred Species and
all ceremonies in Its honor.
Doubts on the necessity of the Church, the sole
source of salvation, on the Catholic Church as the only true
religion, emanating from the declarations on ecumenism and
religious liberty are destroying the authority of the Church's
Magisterium. In fact, Rome is no longer the unique and necessary
Thus, driven to this by the facts, we are
forced to conclude that the Council has encouraged, in an
inconceivable manner, the spreading of Liberal errors. Faith,
morals and ecclesiastical discipline are shaken to their
foundations, fulfilling the predictions of all the Popes.
The destruction of the Church is advancing at a
rapid pace. By giving an exaggerated authority to the episcopal
conferences, the Sovereign Pontiff has rendered himself powerless.
What painful lessons in one single year! Yet the Successor of
Peter and he alone can save the Church.
Let the Holy Father surround himself with
strong defenders of the faith: let him appoint them to the
important dioceses. Let him by documents of outstanding importance
proclaim the truth, search out error without fear of
contradictions, without fear of schisms, without fear of calling
in question the pastoral dispositions of the Council.
Let the Holy Father deign: to encourage the
bishops to correct faith and morals, each individually in his
respective diocese as it behooves every good pastor to uphold the
courageous bishops, to urge them to reform their seminaries and to
restore them to the study of St. Thomas; to encourage Superiors
General to maintain in novitiates and communities the fundamental
principles of all Christian asceticism, and above all, obedience;
to encourage the development of Catholic schools, a press informed
by sound doctrine, associations of Christian families; and
finally, to rebuke the instigators of errors and reduce them to
silence. The Wednesday allocutions cannot replace encyclicals,
decrees and letters to the bishops.
Doubtless I am reckless in expressing myself in
this manner! But it is with ardent love that I compose these
lines, love of God's glory, love of Jesus, love of Mary, of the
Church, of the Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus
May the Holy Ghost, to Whom our Congregation is
dedicated, deign to come to the assistance of the Pastor of the
Universal Church. May Your Eminence deign to accept the assurance
of my most respectful devotion in Our Lord.
Titular Archbishop of Synnada in Phrygia,
Superior General of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost