The Present Crisis in the Church

(Is it time for the SSPX to sign a deal?)

By His Excellency Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre

(Introduction by Michael J. Matt)

( Editor’s Note: As things go from bad to worse to worse still in the Church, it seems apropos to revisit the  predictions of universal ecclesial crisis that Archbishop Lefebvre was warning against some 35 years ago. 

As it becomes increasingly obvious that a reprieve for Catholics longing for an end to this 40-year nightmare is not in the offing and that the theological mayhem is to continue unabated, isn’t the post-conciliar anomaly of the ever-smiling pope beginning to wear a wee bit thin?  Certainly, the grace of Our Lord can inspire joy even in the hearts of martyrs ascending the scaffold but this seems to be something else.  One is neither comforted nor inspired by the sight of authority figures smiling broadly at the scene of a bloody massacre.  How our shepherd can face his decimated flock without becoming visibly overcome by the devastation he sees before him is well beyond us.  How can he refrain from crying out in alarm over the ongoing sodomization of the Catholic priesthood, for example? How can he hold back tears at the grotesque spectacle of Catholic countries legalizing “gay marriage”, abuse-ridden Catholic Masses barely retaining the basic requirements for validity, the Catholic Philippines mulling over laws that would prohibit families from having more than two children, Muslims taking over “Catholic” Europe, militant homosexuals winning victory after victory in their quest for total social acceptance, and  Catholic churches being sold off by the dozen to offset the skyrocketing costs of  legal defense in the wake of the pederast priest scandals? Where is the papal outrage?  Where are Peter’s tears? A smiling Peter standing in the shadow of the Cross is becoming perplexing beyond words.

The rapidly deteriorating situation would, then, seem to require Catholics to take a closer look at the case of Archbishop Lefebvre. As the Protestantization of the Church forges ahead, Lefebvre’s 1988 act of resistance against the new Church begins to take on historic significance, and his prophetic warnings are well worth recalling.  He predicted that the situation would worsen to such an extent that widespread loss of Faith even among the clergy would become par for the course. Thirty-five years later it’s quite clear that the Archbishop was spot on. So much so, in fact, that it becomes difficult for many to comprehend how a SSPX agreement with the current Vatican could be perceived as anything other than a monumental mistake on the one hand and a stinging indictment of the Archbishop’s resistance on the other, especially now when even high-ranking cardinals (e.g., the head of the Vatican’s own Ecclesia Dei Commission) have joined the chorus of voices who’ve argued since 1988 that the SSPX’s “irregular standing” had never risen to the level of formal schism. 

In the meantime, the question we might all ask ourselves is this: Given that the auto-demolition of the Catholic Church shows no signs of letting up anywhere in the world, and given that the Vatican’s opposition to Archbishop Lefebvre’s resistance has taken the form of thousands of approved Tridentine Masses as well as dozens of approved traditional priestly societies, Mass centers and monasteries throughout the world, would we— “indulters,” “independents” and “SSPX-ers”—really sleep better tonight if today’s headlines had read: “SSPX Signs Deal: Vatican Wins Over Largest Counterrevolutionary Enclave”? Once that significant counterweight has been removed, what will motivate the Vatican’s “generosity” on behalf of traditionalists? 

 Perhaps it would be wise not to lose sight of a certain notable cardinal’s stated plan to resist this traditionalist counterrevolution: “Among the more obvious phenomena of the last years must be counted the increasing number of integralist groups in which the desire for piety, for the sense of the mystery, is finding satisfaction. We must be on our guard against minimizing these movements. Without a doubt, they represent a sectarian zealotry that is the antithesis of Catholicity. We cannot resist them too firmly…. [Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, p. 389]

Given the desperate state of affairs, we’d better be careful what we wish for... it just might come to pass. Let’s now take a moment to recall some prophetic words of Archbishop Lefebvre, who, as Michael Davies noted shortly before his death, will surely be viewed by history as a champion of orthodoxy who stood up and at least tried to stop the madness of Vatican II. MJM

In order to show clearly the manner and the extent to which the priesthood has been affected by the crisis through which the Church is passing today, it will not be inappropriate to describe this crisis briefly.  We will do so by pointing to some aspects of this tragic situation.

In the first place, we are witnessing the constant attacks made upon the integrity of our Catholic faith.  Two powerful means have been used to corrupt that truth which has been faithfully handed down to us.  These are:  a new catechism, and the so-called theological research which has been permitted in Catholic teaching.  As a result of these the faithful, especially the young, will be ignorant of Catholic truth, and soon a generation of priests will appear with a falsified and erroneous knowledge of both philosophy and theology.

These two facts are undeniable.  All the new catechisms are more or less inspired by the Dutch Catechism.  The Commission of Cardinals set up by the Pope condemned ten fundamental points in this catechism, and yet the text has never been altered.  This same falsified catechism has been translated into other languages without any modifications.  In a few cases the findings of the Commission have been included in the contents.

It is, therefore, evident that this Catechism, riddled as it is with modernist ideas, must at all costs be rejected.  To put it into the hands of children is a real crime and an attack on their faith.

The danger which lies in ‘theological research’ is also apparent.  These theologians, or so-called theologians, allow themselves to teach heresy openly.  They are the ones who destroy the resolve of those who would aspire to the priesthood, and who, moreover, draw up the material presented to the diocesan or national Synods.  Much of this material is in open contradiction to what the Magisterium of the Church has always taught.  Examples abound in all the Catholic universities.

Subversion is also widespread in the liturgy.  The CNPL in France (Centre national de Pastoral Liturgique), in its January publication, acknowledges the failure of the reform.  However, it only draws attention to the unmistakable decrease in religious observance, and the distress which the new liturgy has caused the faithful.  But it does not touch on the most serious aspect, namely, the loss of faith among so many of the faithful, including priests.  The essential dogmas of our Holy Religion are no longer expressed with the same clarity; the faith of the faithful is no longer safeguarded by worship.  Protestant errors are spreading rapidly, not only among rank-and-file Catholics, but even among priests.

One cannot make inroads into an ancient and living tradition in such a radical manner without endangering the very dogmas which are embodied in it.

Yet another aspect which is being attacked by those whose aim it is to destroy the Church is the institution and the constitution of the Church.

The necessity of the Catholic Church as the only ark of salvation, outside of which no one can be saved, is now questioned, if not openly denied.  The preoccupation with an erroneous ‘ecumenism’ has shaken the true nature of the Church, and this in turn has had disastrous consequences both upon vocations for missionary work and upon the aims themselves which underlie this work.

The divine constitution of the Church as conceived and desired by Our Savior has also become the object of subversion.  Whereas the entire structure of the Church has been based upon the personal authority of individuals consecrated through holy orders and given a mandate from the competent authority, the new theology would wish to introduce a democratic system of collegiality which is entirely in opposition to the will of Our Lord.  The new synods are an example of the penetration of Masonic ideas in the Church.  Every question is submitted to a vote or an election.  Personal authority has been replaced by councils.

Examples of this are so numerous that to list them would be an endless task.

From these painful facts one can see how deep-rooted is this crisis and how cleverly it has been organized and directed.  One may indeed believe that the master of this scheme can be no one but Satan himself.

We will conclude this brief survey by pointing out that the master stroke achieved by Satan is to have thrown everyone into disobedience by virtue of obedience.  The most typical example of this fact is that of the ‘aggiornamento’ of religious orders.  Through obedience the religious are made to disobey the very laws and constitutions of their founders which they pledged to observe when they took their vows.  This is the cause of the profound confusion which has spread throughout these committees and in the heart of the Church.

In this case, obedience should be refused categorically.  Even legitimate authority cannot demand the execution of evil or dishonorable acts.  No one can oblige us to transform our vows into simple promises.  No one can force us to become Protestants or Modernists.

The consequences of this blindness are evident and tragic.

* * *

Let us now turn to the main subject of this short article:  the priesthood and the priest faced by this crisis.  We must admit that the priest is at the very heart of this crisis and that he is its greatest victim, because everything that affects the Church affects above all the priesthood.

It is not easy to follow up in detail the evolution of the idea of priesthood and of its consequences.  Perhaps one should go back thirty years and record the manner in which subversive ideas about the function of the priest and of his relationship with the world were then infiltrating into the seminaries.  However, we are limiting ourselves to the last ten years, those during the Council and following upon the Council.

As with everything which has taken place during this period, people have based their style of thought on ideas of the evolution of the world to convince priests that they must also change their way of life.  It was easy to give the priests a complex of being isolated, of being frustrated, of being a stranger to society.  It was necessary for him to get involved in the world, to open himself to it.  What was blamed was his poor training, his unusual style of dress and of life.  The slogan which has been instrumental in lowering the status of the priest to the level of the world was not hard to find:  “The priest is a man like all others” provided that he dresses like everyone else, that he has a profession, is free to express his political preferences and above all is able to marry.

The seminaries had no choice but to adapt themselves to this “new type of priest”.

Unfortunately, these words were to be found not only on the lips of traditional enemies of the Church, but even among priests and bishops.

The results have quickly become apparent:  the abandonment of any distinctive mark of office, the pursuit of a profession, the change in religious observances in order to please the world; and, after only a few years, the loss of faith which results in the fact that thousands of priests become guilty of perjury to their vows.

Without doubt, this is the saddest mark of these reforms: the loss of faith among the priests.  Because they are basically THE men of faith.  If they no longer know their own identity, they lose their own faith and with it their faith in the priesthood.

The definition of the priesthood as given by St. Paul and by the Council of Trent has been radically modified.  The priest is no longer he who ascends to the altar and offers the sacrifice of praise to God for the remission of sins.  The order of importance has been inverted.  The primary aim of priests should be to offer the Sacrifice and the secondary aim is to preach the Gospel, but preaching the Gospel has taken precedence over the Sacrifice and the Sacraments.  This has become an end in itself.  This grave error has tragic consequences.  In reality the priestly ministry, having lost it aim, will become completely disorientated and motives will be sought which will be popular to the world.  These include false social justice, false liberty – which will take on new names like ‘development,’ ‘progress’, and the ‘building of the world’.  We are using that same language which leads to all revolutions.  The priest takes on a leading role in the world-wide revolution against institutions, against all structures, whether these be political, social, ecclesiastical, parochial or those based on the family.  Nothing more remains.  Communism has never found more effective agents than these priests.  The priests have lost their faith, a very sad state of affairs, if this is indeed the case, which one considers that the priest is a man of faith.

Everything in this new concept of the priest can be logically deduced:  the giving up of the habit, the desire to take on a job, the acceptance of marriage as a possibility.

In the same way as the Sacrifice of the Altar is no longer the most important aspect of the priesthood, so too are all the other sacraments at stake.  The priest will now call upon the services of the lay people, since he will be too occupied with politics or government.  Baptism will be administered by lay people or by married deacons, and they will also distribute the Eucharist and take it to the sick. Since confession is too time-consuming, every attempt will be made to discredit it and replace it by common penitential ceremonies.  On this score, considerable effort has been made by Modernist theologians to obtain from the Episcopal conferences documents throwing doubt on individual confession and approving experiments on an ever larger scale.  This will culminate in the day when the faithful will completely give up the practice of individual confession and, together with it, their Faith.  Since the Sacrament of Penance is a judgment, it is impossible to judge without presenting the evidence.  General absolutions can lead to contrition for our sins, but as such they are not binding.  In all countries increasing efforts are being made to force the hands of the authorities on this issue.

Thus, gradually, one proceeds with the destruction of the Sacraments, having started with the destruction of the Mass.  This is an obvious outcome, since the devil is busy counting his gains and leading millions of souls to damnation. 

The false definition of the priesthood can be compared with the false definition of marriage:  the method employed is the same.  At the Council, Cardinal Suenens had already suggested placing marital love and procreation on equal terms.  After a violent intervention from Cardinal Brown, he was obliged to withdraw this latter proposition on the following day, and yet he succeeded in leaving the door ajar and so involve many theologians and bishops.  We have seen this in connection with the encyclical “Humanae Vitae.”  The danger of inaccurate definition is manifest there.  In fact, the primary aim of marriage is procreation, and conjugal love is secondary and auxiliary to the first.  To change this relationship means to authorize all practices contrary to holiness and the stability of the family.

The same thing happened with the definition of the Mass.  To change the definition of the Mass, as found in Article Seven of the Introduction to the Novus Ordo, is to arrive at the Protestant ‘supper’.  And although the definition has been revised or at least modified, the text of the Ordo drawn up in terms of the false definition has remained the same.  This is a new proof of the importance of exact definitions when dealing with the doctrines and the Faith of the Church.

Since the priest has a false notion of the Priesthood and believes himself to be a “man like others”, he loses the sense of priestly dignity.  He should not be surprised if the world no longer has any respect for him.  The outcome of this disorientation can only lead to contempt both on the part of the enemies of the Church and on the part of those who still retain an accurate idea of the priesthood.

The seminaries, which have agreed to base the training of their seminaries on this false concept of the priesthood, have failed in their duty.  The serious seminarians rightly refuse this training as being dangerous both for their faith and their morals.  Those who have welcomed these reforms and have requested them, very quickly come to the conclusion that, as militants, they will have more freedom to devote themselves to social, political, and religious revolution outside the institution of the Church.  It is thus that the seminaries are emptying at a slower or quicker rate, depending on the individual country.  But the possibility of establishing true seminaries exists, because good vocations are numerous.

This, therefore, should be the main concern of Bishops and priests conscious of the danger in which the Church finds herself.  The Holy Ghost dwells in His Church and is always ready to enter into the hearts of men, especially into the hearts of priests.  May we succeed in restoring orthodox centers, therefore, for the training of priests – centers such as the Church has always worked and prayed for.  We need not have any fears as far as vocations, finance or teachers are concerned.  God gives in abundance to those who believe in Him and remain faithful to Him.