Superior General's Letters

Sermon of Bishop Fellay
June 29, 2001

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Dear confreres in the priesthood,
Dear ordinands,
Dear seminarians
Dear Sisters,
Dear Brethren,

Here we are once again on this magnificent feast of St Peter and Paul, birthday of Catholic Rome, born of the blood of these two martyrs who gave their lives, a life all for Our Lord Jesus Christ, to fulfill to the end what Our Lord asked of them: save souls.  Yes.  Again on this day and for the twenty-fifth time, on this same spot, it is given to us to confer the grace of the priestly ordination.

Twenty-five years, it is already history and for us, it must be said, what a history!

It seems to me appropriate on this day, especially after the events of recent months, to take a look at our situation.

Why are we here on this spot?  What are we doing?  Well we are trying to be faithful to the word of the Apostle in his epistle, a word we received it as did Mgr Lefebvre “depositum custodi” “keep the deposit”.  We have received an inheritance from a Catholic bishop, this inheritance we must keep it, transmit it.  It is not ours and at the same time it is ours.  It is not ours in the sense that we do not have exclusive rights to it but it is ours because it is our very being.  We are here because we are Catholics and want to remain so.

To take this look allow me to quote from the last letter we sent to cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in answer to his letter dated May 7.

The Jesuit, Mgr Pierre Henrici, then secretary of Communio in a conference on the maturing of the Council, said that at the Second Vatican Council two theological traditions, which fundamentally cannot be reconciled, collided.  Your letter of May 7 has caused a similar feeling of misunderstanding and deception.  We have the impression of being faced with a dilemma: either we enter into full communion but then we must be silent on the great evils which afflict the Church; instead of a golden cage we are offered a muzzle; either we remain “outside”.

We refuse this dilemma.  For on the one hand we have never left the Church, and on the other hand our present situation, unpleasant as it is, is not our doing but the result of the disastrous situation in the Church against which we have tried to protect ourselves.  The different decisions taken by Mgr Lefebvre were dictated by the will not to lose the Catholic faith and to survive in the midst of the general debacle to which Rome is no stranger.  This is what we call a state of necessity.

For your Eminence,

1.      We are not in communion

2.      The reasons advanced to justify our actions, the episcopal consecrations amongst others, are totally insufficient.  The Church being holy and the magisterium always assisted by the Holy Ghost the failings we complain about do not exist or are only limited abuses.  Our problem would come from a fixed and narrow view of the Church’s history and its crisis which prevent us from understanding the homogeneous and justified evolution of the different adaptations to today’s world done by the Council and the subsequent magisterium.

3.      Rome is good enough to offer us the proposed structure.  To ask for anything more would be an abuse, and probably an insult to the Holy See since Rome has made the first step.  No pre-conditions will granted.  Especially concerning the Mass as this would cause trouble in the Church.

On our side, following popes Pius XII and even Paul VI, it seems we can affirm that the Church finds herself in an apocalyptic situation.  It is undeniable that the break down of the Catholic hierarchy – cardinal Seper said “the crisis of the Church is a crisis of bishops” – the deficiencies, silences, inductions, tolerance of error and even positive acts of destruction are to be found all the way up to the Curia and unfortunately even in Christ’s Vicar.  These are public facts visible to the common of mortals.

           To affirm these facts is not contradictory with faith in the holiness of the Church or in the assistance of the Holy Ghost. In the declaration of the infallibility of the Sovereign Pontiff, the First Vatican Council has explicitly given a limit to the assistance of the Holy Ghost: “the Holy Ghost was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth.”

     But it is precisely here that we arrive at the heart of the present mystery.  It is precisely the novelties of the new theology, condemned by the Church under Pius XII which have entered at Vatican II.  How is it that all the great tenors of the Council, the expert theologians were all censured under Pius XII? De Lubac, Congar, Rahner, Courtney-Murray, Dom Beaudoin, and to go a little farther back Blondel, Teilhard de Chardin.

     Today they would have us believe that these novelties are a development in harmony with the past?  They were condemned at least in their principle.  Cardinal Ratzinger himself calls “Gaudium et spes” a counter-Syllabus.

     The fact that these doctrine be afterwards sanctioned by a Council which was not dogmatic does not suffice to make them acceptable.  The vote count does not transform an error into an infallible truth; to witness the answer of Mgr Felici to the Council when asked about its infallibility. (Notification of November 16 1964, DH 4350-4351)

     In his letter the cardinal blames us for attacking the Council on the basis on individual interpretations without following the authentic interpretations of the magisterium.  If we follow its interpretations (of the Holy See regarding the Council) we arrive at Assisi, in the Synagogue, in the sacred forests of Togo.  How can we explain in the light of the Catholic faith statements from the Pope which is are key statements and which enlightens many, many passages which would otherwise remain extremely confused, incomprehensible, statements like “the way of the Church is man” or regarding the Incarnation “Our Lord reveals man to man” (Gaudium et spes, 22).

     But we find the explanation, the light to understand these statements in a 1981 papal statement: “In the Holy Ghost each person, each people have become by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, children of God, participants in the divine nature, heirs of eternal life.”

     A magisterium which contradicts past teaching (for example present day ecumenism and Mortalium animos), a magisterium which contradicts itself (for example in the condemnation and praise of the term “sister Churches”; like the condemnation in the note of cardinal Cassidy and afterwards his signature and approval of the text of the joint declaration on Justification.)  Yes a magisterium which contradicts itself, there is the haunting problem.  This nightmare extends from the Curia to the bishops, to residential bishops.

           Two recent examples from the Curia: the substitute Secretary of State, Mgr Tauran, who declares that it would be abnormal to consider the faithful of other religions as someone to be converted and who assigns to the different religions this role: religions must not enter into competition with one another but must rather be like brothers and sisters walking hand in hand building fraternity, building a beautiful world in which it will be possible to live and work.  This is not Catholic.

           And cardinal Kasper speaking of the Jews:  the Church believes that Judaism, that is the faithful response of the Jewish nation to God’s irrevocable alliance brings salvation for them because God is always faithful to his promises.

           We are here in full contradiction with Our Lord, St John, St Paul, the entire gospel, and everything the Church has always taught.  It is impossible to be in communion with them.  They do not have the faith.  And we could quote dozen upon dozen of Episcopal declaration along the same lines.

           What are we to do when the guardians of the faith fail?  Follow them blindly? Is this obedience?  Are they not rather deserving of the qualifications St Catherine of Siena addressed to certain princes of the Church in her time?

           To say this will not put us in the good graces of the Holy See.  But we have greater worries.  The millions and millions of Catholics who fall from the faith and go to hell because for the failures of Rome, this is our worry.

           We then quote the beginning of the Creed of St Athanasius: “Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without doubt perish in eternity.”

           The words of Pius XII, then Secretary of State of Pius XI resound in our ears: “Imagine, dear friend, that communism be only the most visible of the means of subversion against the Church and against the tradition of divine revelation, then we will assist at the invasion of all that is spiritual, philosophy, science, law, teaching, the arts, the press, literature, the theatre and religion.  I am obsessed by the confidences of the Virgin to the little Lucy of Fatima.  This obstinacy of the good Lady in front of the dangers which threaten the Church is a divine warning against the suicide represented by the alteration of the faith in its liturgy, its theology, in its soul.  I hear all around me innovators who want to dismantle the Holy Chapel, destroy the universal flame of the Church, throw away her ornaments, give her a remorse of her historical past.  Well my dear friend, I have the conviction that the Church of Peter must assume her past or she will dig her own grave.  A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt like Peter doubted.  She will be tempted to believe that man has become God, that his Son is a mere symbol, a philosophy like many others and in the churches Christians will seek in vain the red light where God waits for them.”

           To his friend Jean Guitton, Paul VI said in substance that there is in the Church a non-Catholic belief.  It may prevail but it will never be the Catholic Church.

           Faced with his catastrophe what are the faithful to do?  Are they allowed to react? We simply follow the advise of St Vincent of Lerins in his Commonitorium (No 3): “What will the Catholic Christian do if part of the Church detaches itself from the communion with the universal faith? What other alternative but to prefer the whole healthy body to he gangrened and corrupt member?  And if a new contagion tries to poison not only a part of the Church but the entire Church?  Then again his greatest worry will be to attach himself to antiquity that is to the past, which obviously can no longer be seduced by lying novelties.”

           I told him, this is the state of the question from whence we will need start to find a solution.   We are but a signpost in the terrible crisis the Church is undergoing, perhaps the must terrible up to now, where not only a dogma but all the dogmas are attacked from the pontifical universities down to kindergarten.

           We cannot ignore the gigantic problem.  With our whole heart and our whole soul we want to work for the restoration of the Church, but we cannot simply act as if everything was fine, as if it were only a matter of details.

           We are ready to render an account of our faith to Rome, but we cannot call evil good.

           Here my dear brethren is the answer we made to the cardinal.  We are living a tragedy; we are not allowed to let things go on without reacting.  He who wants to follow the general flow will perish.  In every era and we see it today in this feast of Sts Peter & Paul, Christians have had in their faith tried.

Our trial is more difficult because we have to say no, not to a hostile temporal enemy, but precisely to those who should confirm us in the faith.  This is the mystery in which we live, but we see throughout our little history how God has sustained us.  How God is present.  How He does not abandon those who turn to Him, those who do not want to abandon Him.

           This word is not new.  Our Lord said it to his apostles and we can repeat it today to you dear ordinands: “We send you as sheep amongst wolves”.  It is truly so and it is impressive to see especially for the deacons how the Church speaks and insists on fortitude.  In the form of the sacrament, she speaks of the Holy Ghost just before, during the imposition of the hands of the bishop who says: “accipe”, receive the Holy Ghost “ad robur” to be fortified.  And you need this fortitude to speak in a world which would like you to keep quiet.  To say and be convinced with St Paul, that the name of God, “Verbum Dei”, the word of God “non est alligatum” it is not bound, it is not tied down. Today by the duty of preaching it is entrusted to you.  Today you receive a great treasure because the gospel is what saves souls “fides ex auditu”.  And the efficaciousness of your preaching will depend more on your example than on your words.  Of this the Church reminds us also.  She want you to be the gospel, that others may read the gospel by seeing you, and this type of preaching converts more souls than the Scripture on its own.  You receive today a title.  The Church gives it to you to remind you if need be of the great state in which you are established today: “co-ministri et co-operators corporis et sanguinis domini”.  The co-operators and co-ministers of the Body and Blood of Christ.

           Yes, you so closely approach Our Lord, that to you who receive today a first part of the priestly character, and you, on rare occasions, as extraordinary ministers of the Holy Eucharist, will be allowed to touch Our Lord, the sacred Body of Our Lord.

           And you my dear friends who in few moments will receive the priesthood, not only will you touch Our Lord, you will become “sacerdos alter Christus”.  At the altar you are no longer you, you are Jesus being able to say: “This is by body” and on the altar there will be the body of Jesus.  To your voice, to your word Our Lord has given this power which is found in God alone, omnipotence.  Because there is only the omnipotence of God who can do this.  By a word from a piece of bread you make Jesus.  And this is not all; you renew his sacrifice, the reason why he became man, the reason why he annihilated himself, and the reason why he sacrificed himself.  Yes the sacrifice of the cross in all its greatness in all its worth.  This sacrifice you renew it, you perpetuate it at the altar “imitamini quod tractatis”.

           This is the invitation of the Church “imitate, imitate, reproduce in your life what you do at the altar”.  Before anything else the priest must believe, believe in his priesthood.  It is so great.  He is in contact with what Our Lord himself calls the “mysterium fidei”, the mystery of faith and more than anyone he is in contact with it.  Every day you must nourish this faith, this faith which saves and the principal food to nourish this faith is your union with the sacrifice.  I tell you nothing new; I am not a prophet in telling you that God will make you participate one way or another to his cross.  This is part of the program.  You will have the cross in your priestly life, one way or another and more than anyone else. It is by this union to the sacrifice of Jesus that you will bring your part.  There is something mysterious here.  On the one hand the sacraments, the Mass works “ex opere operato” and thank God for it, independently from the qualities and merits of the minister but on the other hand in the mystery of the communion of saints, we know it and the Church teaches us for example by Pius XII, that the salvation of a certain number of souls, only God knows how many, rests in our hands, in the hands of the priest and his answer is personal.

           Let us ask today of Our Lady, Mother of the Priest that she make you grow in this mystery, in this faith, in the answer of love which is asked of you today.