March 1979 - Superior General's Letter #16

In this letter there is a transcript of the letter which Archbishop Lefebvre sent to the Pope on Christmas Eve in which he clearly explains the Society's position and in which he asks that the Society be autonomous and allowed to foster Tradition. This would benefit the Church in general and in particular. The Society's expansion continues.

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

Text of Archbishop Lefebvre addressed to the Pope on December 24, 1978

In response to your expectations concerning the relations between our Society and Rome. I think it is fitting to make known to you the text of the following letter which I addressed to the Pope on Christmas Eve.

Most Holy Father,

Our meeting was the will of God

It is impossible that the audience which you granted me was not the will of God. For myself it was a great comfort to be able to explain quite openly the circumstances and motives surrounding the existence of the Society of St. Pius X, and its seminaries, and the reasons which led me to continue the work in spite of the decisions coming from Fribourg and Rome.

There is a crisis in the Church

The flood of changes in the Church, accepted and encouraged by the bishops, a flood devastating everything in its path – faith, morals, the institutions of the Church – could tolerate no obstacle, no resistance.

The Society acts to protect the Faith and the Priesthood

We had, therefore, the choice either to let ourselves be swept away by this stream of havoc, thereby adding to the disaster, or to resist (against wind and tide) to safeguard our Catholic Faith and Catholic priesthood. We were not slow to decide.

Since May 5, 1975, the date of our decision to stand firm whatever the cost, three and a half years have passed and have shown us to be right. The ruins of the Church pile up: atheism, immorality, abandoned churches, the disappearance of religion and priestly vocations are now such that the bishops have begun to be worried and the success of Ecône is constantly brought to mind. Opinion polls show that a large number of the faithful, sometimes even a majority, are in favor of the attitude adopted by Ecône.

The Society is doing what the Church has always done

It is obvious to any impartial observer that our work is a seed-bed of priests such as the Church has always wished for and the true faithful have always desired. And one is entitled to think that if Rome would admit the fact and give it the legality to which it has a right, vocations would be even more abundant.

We ask the Holy Father to grant autonomy to the Society

Most Holy Father, for the honor of Jesus Christ, for the greater good of the Church and for the salvation of souls, we entreat you to say one word, a single word as the Successor of Peter and as Pastor of the Universal Church, to the bishops of the entire world: “Laissez faire” — “Let them be”; “We authorize the free practice of what many centuries’ Tradition has made use of for the sanctification of souls”.

The experience of Tradition would renew the Church

What difficulty would such an attitude create? None. The bishops would decide the places, the times reserved for this Tradition. Unity would immediately be restored at the level of the local bishop. On the other hand, how advantageous it would be for the Church: the renewal of seminaries, and monasteries; great fervor in the parishes — the bishops would be amazed in a few years to rediscover an outburst of devotion and holiness they thought had disappeared forever.

This autonomy would regularize the Society's situation

For Ecône, its seminaries and its priories, the situation would be made normal, as happened with the Congregations of Lazarists and Redemptorists. The priories would serve the diocese by the preaching of parish Missions, Ignatian retreats and by helping in the parishes, in complete submission to the local Ordinary.

This autonomy would improve the Church's situation

The situation of the Church would be greatly improved by this very simple method which is so consistent with the maternal Spirit of the Church, not refusing those who come to the aid of souls, not extinguishing the wick which is still smoking, but rejoicing to see that the vitality of Tradition is full of life and hope!

We cannot compromise our Faith

This is what I believed I had to write to Your Holiness before appearing before His Eminence Cardinal Seper. I fear that long and detailed discussions will not lead to a satisfactory result and will merely prolong a situation which, I am convinced, must seem urgent to you.

A solution cannot, in fact, be found in any compromise which would in practice cause our work to vanish, thereby adding yet another contribution to the destruction.

Remaining at the entire disposition of Your Holiness, I beg you to accept my profound and filial respect in Jesus and Mary.

†Marcel Lefebvre

This letter calls upon the Holy See to take a position

This letter and the replies given in the discussions at Rome form a dossier which calls the Holy See to take up a position. Let us pray with fervor that this position will be consistent with the good of the Church and the salvation of souls.

The Society's expansion

Thanks to the blessings God has bestowed and to your generosity, you can be sure that the list of foundations increases without pause; and that the ordinations and religious professions are constantly growing in number. This year especially, if God wishes, 37 new priests will be ordained, 29 of which for the Society. The reviews and periodicals in each district will keep you informed of these ceremonies.

It is indeed fitting that you rejoice to see that your gifts are truly being used for the renovation of the Church by the means she has always used for her growth and vitality.

We count a great deal on the prayers of our religious — brothers, sisters and oblates — but also on the prayers of the hundreds of nuns, whole convents who support and encourage us in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany, the United States, Mexico, and Argentina. They rely on our priests, because their vocations are multiplying; several of these communities have already established daughter-houses. This demonstration of holiness is a source of great hope for the Church. For all of them, their renovation is founded upon the continuation and a deeper understanding of the unchanged Sacrifice of the Mass, wherein lies the mystery of our faith.

Dear Friends and Benefactors, we know of your anxieties, your sufferings, your distress in this crisis without precedent in history; be assured of our prayers and our entire dedication. Holy Christian families will always remain the seed-beds of vocations. This is why we entreat you to remain strong in faith and sanctity amidst the corruptions of this world.

May God bless you by the intercession of Mary and Joseph.

†Marcel Lefebvre

Feast of St. Joseph

March 19, 1979