Some light on Archbishop Lefebvre’s attitude regarding Rome and his indefectible love of Rome.
Fr. Michel Simoulin was rector of the SSPX seminary at Écône from 1988 to 1993. At this time, he was very close to Archbishop Lefebvre, whom he assisted until his death. He here shines some light on Archbishop Lefebvre’s attitude regarding Rome and gives justice to the Archbishop's indefectible love of Rome.
I promised you some objections, and the responses we could make.
Here is the first objection, which is perhaps the only serious one, that of Archbishop Lefebvre’s statements, chiefly made after 1988, to the effect that he wished to await the “conversion” of Rome before again taking steps towards reconciliation. This position is usually presented in this way: no practical agreement until there is a doctrinal agreement.
This is true and well-known, but the Archbishop himself recognized that this would take time, much time, and that it would be necessary to wait for Providence to signal the right moment. And in this he relied entirely upon the superiors of the Society. He never stopped telling us:
For me, it’s finished… you have your bishops, your superiors, your seminaries, your priories; I gave you everything I had received… it is now for you to continue without me!”
Moreover, and those who were the Archbishop’s first companions should not forget it, beyond his sometimes thunderous statements, even in the most stressful moments with Rome, Archbishop Lefebvre always acted and reacted as a servant of the Church and the Pope and as a son of Rome. His heart was more Roman than many of ours, and even in his strongest interventions, those who knew him always sensed beneath them a genuine sadness: the same sadness as that of Jesus Christ weeping over Jerusalem but still filled with the desire to save the holy city, sadness for the state of the Church, sadness at having to act against the authorities of the Church, sadness at being neither heard nor understood.
He would never have taken the first step towards rupture with Rome, and it was always “conciliar Rome” who took the initiative in the measures of “separation,” which would only end in separating him a little more from “conciliar Rome” and in pushing him to take refuge ever more in the heart of “Roman Rome!” Roman he was and Roman he remained until his last breath. “Romanitas” is not a vain word; these were practically the last words of his Spiritual Journey.
History of the Society of St. Pius X
But let us review history briefly. Firstly the SSPX--which was not founded to oppose the Council or Rome, but rather to give a structure in the Church for priests trained in the seminary of Fribourg-Econe--was recognized and established by and in the “conciliar Church.” Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Charriere met in Dakar when the bishop of Fribourg came for a fortnight’s visit to the Swiss established in Senegal. They found each other sympathetic and Archbishop Lefebvre had always maintained relations, but no more… Bishop Charriere was in reality a true conciliar spirit, even before Vatican II, representing before its time what Bishop Benelli called “the conciliar Church.” Yet it was he who established the institute of diocesan right called “Priestly Society of St. Pius X.” Between November 1, 1970, and May 6, 1975, the Society was therefore indeed a work of the “conciliar Church,” and this embarrassed our founder not at all!
It was during this period that the two “foundational” acts of his immutable position took place, acts that reveal his inner dispositions: the declaration of November 21, 1974--”Yes to eternal Rome, no to modernist Rome!” He recognized himself that this declaration was strong, and he interpreted it for us several times: not the refusal of everything that comes from Rome, but the refusal of what was coming from it under the inspiration of the modernist spirit, foreign to Catholic tradition.
I will not break with Rome!
And there also was his proud response to the editorial of the Abbe de Nantes in which he was incited to break with Rome. in February of 1975. It is in Archbishop Lefebre’s letter to the Abbe de Nantes that he told him: “Know that if a bishop breaks with Rome, it will not be I. My “Declaration” says it clearly and strongly enough.” This letter is dated 19 March, 1975!
The independent bishops of the “Catholic Church” are free to carry out this rupture, but let them not claim a so-called fidelity to the thought of Archbishop Lefebvre for this reason, and let them stop making us laugh sourly by talking of “the current treason of the actual authorities of the SSPX towards the thought and work of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.” What did our superiors accept of the things Archbishop Lefebvre refused: the New Mass? The conciliar theories? Religious liberty? The cult of Man? Indifferentist ecumenism? Or have they lost this Romanitas so dear to the Archbishop? Instead of criticizing and condemning Bishop Fellay, let these men make positive and constructive suggestions. What do they suggest as a solution? Nothing but denial and rupture!
Fr. Williamson's statement
May I recall in passing this beautiful statement of Fr. Williamson, then director of the American seminary of Ridgefield, and actual leader of the Resistance, on December 8, 1987,after the “Assisi scandal.”
Let us pray for the Society! Let us pray especially for Cardinal Gagnon who is coming today from the SSPX seminary in Switzerland, after having spent a one-month visit in the houses of the SSPX in Switzerland, France and Germany. Let us pray for him, that when he makes his report to the Holy Father, that he may do so in a way that will gain the Pope’s approbation. Let us pray for the Pope that he may do what he clearly ought to do, give jurisdiction and a statute to the Society, which fully deserves it."
He is human, and I reproach no one for sometimes changing their opinion, but it does not seem right to me to accuse those who have not changed of treason! And all the same, if they would not have changed position because of the new circustances, can they not be granted the same goodwill as Bishop Williamson?
And there are also these words of the Archbishop to the future bishops: “I adjure you to remain attached to the See of Peter, the Roman Church, Mother and Mistress of all Churches, in the integrity of the Catholic Faith.”
We need a link with Rome
And we can conclude with the words of the Archbishop himself, faithful to his first position unti the end, from his address to the deacons on retreat in Montalenghe in June 1989, after the episcopal consecrations. He gave them once more the meaning of the declaration of 1974:
I think that we have nonetheless need of a link with Rome… It is in Rome that we find the succession of Peter, the apostolic succession, of Peter the Apostle, of the primacy of Peter and the Church; if this link is cut, we are really like a boat tossed at the whim of the waves, no longer knowing to what place we are attached or to whom we are attached. I think it is possible to see in the person who succeeds to all the preceding popes, since he occupies the see, and he has been received as Bishop of Rome at St. John Lateran, and it is the bishop of Rome who is the successor of St. Peter, he is recognized as the successor of Peter by all the bishops in the world. So! What would you have, we can think he is truly the successor of Peter! In this sense we attach ourselves to him and through him to his predecessors, ontologically if I may say so. It is a great sorrow for the Catholic Church and for us,that we are obliged to observe such a thing. But I think it is the solution that corresponds to reality.”
(N.B. this is the faithful written transcript of a spoken text, which expresses the thought well, but cannot always respect grammar!)
Love of Rome
These truths, already well known by well-wishers, can help us to see clearly and to hold fast, without being seduced by these lugubrious and sad sirens of evil who forget the treasures hidden in the soul of Archbishop Lefebvre, who was nonetheless their father: the love of Rome where we find and will find until the end of time the succession of Peter, the succession of the apostles, of the primacy of Peter and of the Church!
Source: Le Seignadou, October 2016