Lefebvre: love the Church, not controversy

February 13, 2014
Source: District of the USA

As defined by Archbishop Lefebvre, the Society of St. Pius X's resistance to Modernism is not based on the spirit of rebellion or controversy, but upon a love for Holy Mother Church.

We present this editorial of Fr. Michel Simoulin from the February 2014 issue of Le Seignadou, the newsletter of the SSPX's priory of St. Joseph-des-Carmes in Montreal de l'Aude, France.

The Association of Fr. de Chivre has just published its 39th paper on the topic of “the Church”. These sermons by Fr. de Chivre date back to the time before, during and after the last Council. It seems to me that meditating on them can help us to “remain level-headed”.

For several months now actually, it has seemed that a wind of madness is blowing in our circles, and this wind is so violent and irrational that it has caused some priests or laypeople to fall—too many, but fortunately not as many as they would like you to think. Some fall to the left, finding Bishop Fellay too strict, the others fall to the right, finding him too lax or liberal. Thank God, the great majority continues to walk straight ahead, faithful to the spirit of Archbishop Lefebvre.

But you have to admit that the air sometimes becomes stifling: if you publicly declare your fidelity to and confidence in the Superior General, they will say that you are sowing disorder and making trouble. But if you speak publicly against Bishop Fellay, accusing him of liberalism and of secret maneuvers to bring about a reconciliation, you will have the reputation of being a valiant defender of the Faith and of the spirit of Archbishop Lefebvre. So it is, strange to say!

This has been said and written so many times already that you hesitate to say it once again, but Archbishop Lefebvre never made any claim to “converting” Rome or the pope. At the very most, he used to say to those who rebuked him for going to Rome: “Who knows? I may do them a little good!” He never rejected contacts or discussions with Rome, in the hope of gaining freedom for his work and for Tradition. He fought and condemned the modern errors, those from before the Council, those of the Council and those after the Council, but he never fought or condemned Rome or the pope.

And history, in its objective truth—quite apart from all the interpretations that we can give to the facts—tells us that his work was approved and recognized by Bishop Charriere, a thoroughly conciliar bishop, who never bothered His Excellency; and history also tells us that the protocol agreement that he had signed on May 5, 1988 went much further than Bishop Fellay’s proposals of last year. And Archbishop Lefebvre was not the one who put an end to the meetings; it was none other than Cardinal Ratzinger, by refusing what His Excellency requested in his letter dated May 6, 1988 (the consecration of one bishop, as provided in the protocol agreement). These are things that should not be forgotten [as well as the fact that all of this transpired two weeks later and after the Archbishop had made some visits to Rome—so he did not reject the Protocol the next day as has been falsely claimed—Ed].

Some may disagree with Archbishop Lefebvre’s stance (but then they should have said so during his lifetime!), or Bishop Fellay’s (but then they should have said so at the time of the first contacts in 2000!), but it is strange that this reawakening of consciences is occurring only now that nothing was accomplished and nothing is foreseen; and it is untrue to accuse Bishop Fellay of being unfaithful to Archbishop Lefebvre. Aside from differences in temperament or personal experience, the line has remained the same, and there are no indications that it is about to change; quite the contrary.

In all this controversy, what many people lack is quite simply the sensus Ecclesiae, the mind of the Church. I do not claim to be better than those who abandon us, but I wonder: toward what Church are they venturing? The Church of Pius XII? Of St. Pius X? Of St. Pius V? But these “Churches” do not exist, any more than the “conciliar Church” or “modernist Rome” exist—these are merely expressions to describe the state of the Church or of Rome since the last Council, since they have been infested with a “non-Catholic sort of thinking” that tries to give them a more “worldly” face. There is only the Holy Catholic Church and Eternal Rome, to which Archbishop Lefebvre paid a vivid homage at the conclusion of his book Spiritual Journey, and that we desire to serve with all the grace received by the Church on the Feast of All Saints in 1970. They simply forget that the Church is not a “mental object”, as the philosophers say.

To speak about the “Mystical” Body does not mean to speak about an exclusively spiritual reality, but rather about a society that conceals a mystery within itself, which is the presence of its Founder, who is still alive and at work in it. The Mystical Body of Jesus Christ which is the Church is a real, incarnate being that lives in time, with which one can enter into a communion of grace and truth and life only in its present reality, as it lives under the pontificate of Pope Francis. This Pope may be a sinner like each one of us, he may adhere to the same errors as his immediate predecessors, and even to other errors... he may even be unfaithful to the duties of his office, yet he is and remains the Vicar of Christ, and, as Fr. Calmel put it so beautifully:

The Church is not the Mystical Body of the Pope; the Church together with the Pope is the Mystical Body of Christ."

Unless one is a “sedevacantist”, no one can reject or deny the fact that Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ.

An excellent theologian[1] called attention to this point not long ago:

Simon, son of John,” said the Lord, “feed My sheep.” He did not say “your sheep”. They will always belong to Him. They will not change their Master. He also said: “I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me. He calls them by name, they hear His voice, and He leads them out” (John 10). They are therefore Christ’s sheep; they are not the sheep of Simon Peter who will feed them. He will lead them out in Christ’s name and not in his own name.

We should recall all this when we say that Peter is the Vicar of Jesus Christ, since it is generally agreed that authority exercised in someone else’s name is called vicarious authority. Peter is the Vicar of Christ; he is not the vicar of the Church and of the Christian multitude. Jurisdiction does not ascend from the Church to him; it descends from him to the Church. Christ gave it to him directly and immediately; He does not give it to the Church first with instructions to transmit it to him. Furthermore, he gives it to him prior to any choice by the Church of a constitution."

The First Vatican Council denounces, as contrary to Scripture and Tradition, the error of those who claim “that the primacy of jurisdiction was given immediately and directly not to Peter, but to the Church, and through her to Peter, her minister”.

Therefore it is not possible to think that one is in communion with the Church independently of the Pope, acting as though he did not exist, refusing all contact and all dealings with him, and not seeking to establish relations that enable us to accept his jurisdiction while refusing to compromise with his errors. All this is difficult, delicate, risky, and whatever else you want to call it—granted. But not to desire this, or even to reject it a priori, is to reject communion with the Church as she was constituted by Jesus Christ and as she lives in 2014.

There is no Church of St. Pius V, or St. Pius X, of Pius XII or of Francis; there is the Church of Jesus Christ, which has nothing idyllic about it and is entrusted today to His Vicar, Pope Francis. Not to love this Church, as she lives today, is not to love the Church. To refuse to seek to reestablish canonical ties with the Church, in the state in which she exists today, as she lives and suffers today, whatever pretext may be given, is quite simply to reject the Church, which is not a Catholic thing to do.

Then too, is it not appropriate to recognize at the basis of all these controversies the presence of a very pernicious spiritual evil: the spirit of contradiction? I could speak about defiance, but I prefer to mention this mindset that loves to quarrel, not out of a desire to arrive at the truth, but simply out of a desire to be right. Ernest Hello wrote a whole chapter about this subject, reflections that are too long to cite here. I will quote just a few excerpts:

Since I have been on earth I see men quarreling, and you too, no doubt. The universal face is a universal contradiction. 'For I have seen iniquity and contradiction in the city,' Scripture says (Ps 54:10). The juxtaposition of these two words contains a profound teaching.

Iniquity, that is, injustice is the daughter of contradiction. Division covers the earth. Enemies are not the ones who are most deeply divided; friends are. Where unity seems to exist, division exists, more radically and more intimately....

Peter and Paul do not help each other or supplement each other’s views; instead, each one stubbornly denies what he himself does not see.... They were two intelligent men, made to understand each other. Now they are two enemies, stupidly, stubbornly blinded, because the serpent of contradiction raised his ugly head between the two.

This is the spirit of contradiction that shuts eyes and emitters the heart, that blinds and separates souls.... Kind-heartedness would play an immense role in the reconciliation of minds. If you are annoyed at your enemy, who is perhaps your friend, you will never convince him! Let us never forget the profound lessons contained in the human language, in the science of words: to hate, in Latin, is invidere, 'in-videre': not to see. There is perhaps no single truth with a more universal application than this very simple truth: if you want to show someone what he does not see, start by seeing what he sees, and tell him.

However the contrary happens: we start by saying no to each other, and we arrive at that frightful confusion of intellects. The evil that I observe is a terrible, universal evil from which all humanity is suffering horribly. Peter imagines that if he granted to Paul all that he can grant him without lying, Paul would take advantage of that admission. That is diametrically opposite to the truth. Paul will see what Peter sees, when Peter has seen what Paul sees and has proclaimed it."

Now more than ever is the time for prayer and unity of hearts. No doubt we will experience some difficult, painful months. The Society has experienced others in the past, and it has always emerged stronger and more united, to continue to serve the Tradition of the Church and therefore the Church herself. Certainly this service requires the utmost prudence on our part, both human and supernatural prudence, but prudence never meant rejecting the other, refusing to listen to him, to understand him so as better to convince him; nor finally does it mean refusing to love him.

May Our Lady preserve us from that!

(Source: Le Seignadou, 2-2014)


1 Cardinal Charles Journet in L'Eglise du Verbe Incarne (1955), Tome I, p. 541-142.

2 From the chapter, "L'Esprit de Contradiction" of Plateaux de la Balance. Hello (1828-1885) was a French philosopher and essayist who was mentored by Bishop Baudry (when he was a professor at St. Sulpice). Hello founded Le Croise, a daily that was devoted to defending the Catholic cause which included such collaborators as Louis Veuillot. His literary contributions were printed not only in his native country of France, but even in the United States. His expert grasp of philosophical principles made him an exceptional author of which his most famous work perhaps was the posthumously published, Philosophie et atheisme, though he may be more familiar to English audiences through his translated work, Studies in Saintship (London, 1903) and some essays from Plateaux de la balance printed in The Catholic Review (St. Louis, MO).