"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Feast of St. Pius X
September 3, 1975

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

It seems to me that the moment has come to bring to your knowledge the latest events concerning Econe, and the attitude which in conscience before God we believe we must take in these grave circumstances.

As far as the appeal to the Apostolic Signatura is concerned, the last attempt on the part of my lawyer to find out from the Cardinals forming the Supreme Court exactly how the Pope intervened in the proceedings being brought against us was blocked by a handwritten letter from Cardinal Villot to Cardinal Staffa, President of the Supreme Court, ordering him to forbid any appeal.

As for my audience with the Holy Father, that too has been refused by Cardinal Villot. I shall obtain an audience only when my work has disappeared and when I have conformed my way of thinking to that which reigns supreme in today’s reformed Church. However, the most important event is undoubtedly the signed letter from the Holy Father, presented by the Papal Nuncio in Berne, as the Pope’s own writing, but in fact typewritten, which takes up in a new form the arguments, or rather the statements, of the Cardinals’ letter. This I received on July 10 last. It calls on me to make a public act of submission “to the Council, the postconciliar reforms and the directives binding the Pope himself.”

A second letter from the Pope which I received on September 1oth urgently required an answer to the first. This time, through no desire of my own, my only aim being to serve the Church in the humble and very consoling task of giving her true priests devoted to her service, we found ourselves confronted with the Church authorities at their topmost level on earth, the pope. I therefore, sent a reply to the Holy Father, expressing our submission to the successor of Peter in his essential function, that of faithfully transmitting to us the deposit of the faith.

If we consider the facts from a purely material point of View, it is a trifling matter: the suppression of a Society which has barely come into existence, with no more than a few dozen members, the closing down of a seminary-how little it really is, hardly worth anyone’s attention.

On the other hand, if for a moment we heed the reactions stirred up in Catholic and even Protestant, Orthodox, and atheist circles, and that throughout the entire world, the countless articles in the world press, reactions of enthusiasm and true hope, reactions of spleen and opposition, reactions of mere curiosity, we cannot but think, however we may regret it, that Econe is posing a problem reaching far beyond the modest confines of the Society and its seminary, a deep and unavoidable problem that cannot be brushed aside or solved by any formal order, from whatever authority it may come. For the problem of Econe is the problem of thousands and millions of Christian consciences, distressed, divided and torn for the past ten years by the agonizing dilemma-whether to obey and risk losing one’s faith, or disobey and keep one’s faith intact; whether to obey and join in the destroying of the Church, or to disobey and work for her preservation and continuation; whether to accept the reformed liberal Church, or to remain a member of the Catholic Church.

It is because Econe is at the heart of this crucial problem, one rarely confronting Catholic consciences in so extensive and grave a form, that many have turned to this house, which has steadfastly chosen membership of the eternal Church and refused to join the reformed liberal Church.

Now the Church, through her official representatives, is ranging herself against Econe’s choice, thus publicly condemning the traditional training of priests in the name of the Second Vatican Council, in the name of postconciliar reforms and in the name of the postconciliar directives binding on the pope himself. How can such opposition to Tradition in the name of a Council and its practical application be explained? Can and should one reasonably oppose a Council and its reforms? What is more, can one and should one oppose the orders of a hierarchy commanding one to follow
the Council and all the official postconciliar changes? That is the grave problem today, after ten postconciliar years, confronting our conscience as a result of the condemnation of Econe.

It is not possible to give a prudent answer to these questions without making a rapid survey of the history of liberalism and Catholic liberalism over the last centuries. The present can only be explained by the past.


Let us begin by defining in a few words the liberalism of which the most typical historical example is Protestantism. Liberalism claims to free man from every constraint not wished or accepted by himself.

The first liberation frees the intelligence from every objective truth imposed on it. The Truth must be accepted as differing according to the individual or group of individuals, so it is necessarily divided. The making of the Truth and the search for it go on all the time. None can claim to have exclusive or complete possession of it. It is obvious how contrary that is to our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.

The second liberation frees the faith from any definitively formulated dogmas imposed on us, to which the intelligence and will must submit. Dogmas, according to the liberal, must be regularly submitted to the filter of reason and science, because science is constantly progressing. Hence it is impossible to admit that any revealed truth has been defined once and for all. The opposition between such a principle and the Revelation of our Lord and His divine authority must be obvious.

Lastly, the third liberation frees us from the law. The law, according to the liberal, limits freedom and imposes on it a restraint first moral and then physical. The law and its restraints are an affront to human dignity and human conscience. Conscience is the supreme law. The liberal confuses liberty with licence. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the living law, as He is the Word of God; we may measure yet again the depth of the opposition between the liberal and our Lord.


The result of liberal principles is the destruction of the philosophy of being and the refusal to define essences, thus taking refuge in nominalism, or existentialism...evolutionism. All things are subject to mutation and change.

A second consequence, as grave as the first, if not more so, is the denial of the supernatural, and hence of original sin, of justification by grace, of the true reason for the Incarnation, the sacrifice of the Cross, the Church, and the priesthood. All of our Lord’s work is falsified; in practical terms this is translated into a Protestant view of the liturgy of the sacrifice of the Mass and of the sacraments; their purpose is no longer to apply the merits of the Redemption to souls, to every single soul, in order to impart to it the grace of divine life and to prepare it for eternal life through membership of the Mystical Body of our Lord; from now on its central purpose is to form part of a human community of a religious character. The whole liturgical reform reflects this change of direction.

Another consequence is the denying of all personal authority as sharing in the authority of God. Human dignity demands that man submit only to what he agrees to accept. Since, however, no society can live without authority, man will accept only authority approved by the majority, because that represents the delegation of authority by the majority of individuals to a designated person or group of persons, such authority being never other than delegated.

Now, these principles and their consequences, requiring freedom of thought, freedom of teaching, freedom of conscience, freedom to choose one’s own religion-these false freedoms which presuppose the secular State, the separation of Church and State, have, since the Council of Trent, been steadily condemned by the successors of Peter, beginning with the Council of Trent itself.


It is the Church’s opposition to Protestant liberalism which gave rise to the Council of Trent, whence derives the considerable importance of that dogmatic Council in the struggle against liberal errors, in the defense of the truth and the faith, in particular in the codifying of the liturgy of the Mass and the sacraments, and in the definitions concerning justification by grace.

Let us list a few of the most important documents completing and confirming the doctrine of the Council of Trent:

The Bull Auctorem Fidei of Pius VI against the Council of Pistoia.

The Encyclical Mirari Vos of Gregory XVI against Lamennais.

The Encyclical Quanta Cura and the Syllabus of Pius IX.

The Encyclical Immortale Dei of Leo XIII condemning the new law on the secularization of States.

The Papal Acts of St. Pius X against the Sillon and modernism, especially the Decree Lamentabili and the Anti-modernist Oath.

The Encyclical Divini Redemptoris of Pius XI against Communism.

The Encyclical Humani Generis of Pius XII.

Thus liberalism and liberal Catholicism have always been condemned by Peter’s successors in the name of the Gospel and of apostolic Tradition. The obvious conclusion is of capital importance in deciding what attitude to adopt in order to show that we are indefectibly at one with the Church’s magisterium and with Peter’s successors. None is more attached than we to Peter’s successor reigning today when he echoes the apostolic Traditions and all his predecessors’ teachings. For it is the very definition of Peter’s successor that he shall guard the deposit of faith and faithfully hand it down. Here is what Pope Pius IX proclaimed on the subject in his Encyclical Pastor Aeternus:

For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter, that by this revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might strictly keep and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith delivered through the Apostles.


We now come to the question which so concerns us: How is it possible that anyone can, in the name of the Second Vatican Council, oppose the age-old apostolic Traditions and so bring into question the Catholic priesthood itself and its essential act, the holy sacrifice of the Mass? A grave and tragic ambiguity hangs over the Second Vatican Council, one presented by the Popes themselves in terms making for that ambiguity: for instance, the Council of the aggiornamento, the “bringing up to date” of the Church, the pastoral non-dogmatic Council, as the Pope again called it just a month ago.

This way of presenting the Council, in the situation of the Church and the world as they were in 1962, ran very grave risks, which the Council did not succeed in avoiding. It was easy to interpret those words in such a way that the Council was laid wide open to the errors of liberalism. A liberal minority among the Council Fathers, above all among the cardinals, was very active, very well organized, and fully supported by a constellation of modernist theologians and numerous secretariats. Take for example the enormous flow of printed matter from the I.D.O.C., subsidized by the Bishops’ Conferences of Germany and Holland.

Everything played into their hands in demanding the instant adaptation of the Church to modern man, in other words to man eager to be freed of all shackles, in their presenting the Church as out of touch and impotent, in their confessing to the sins of their predecessors. The Church is presented as being as guilty as the Protestants and Orthodox for the divisions of old. She should ask forgiveness of present-day Protestants. The traditional Church is guilty in her wealth, in her triumphalism; the Council Fathers feel guilty at being out of the world rather than of the world. They are already blushing for their episcopal insignia; soon they will be ashamed of their cassocks.

This atmosphere of liberation will soon spread to all fields, and will show in the spirit of collegiality, which will veil the shame felt at exercising a personal authority so opposed to the spirit of modern man, let us say liberal man. The pope and bishops will exercise their authority collegially in Synods, Bishops’ Conferences, Priests’ Councils. Finally, the Church is opened wide to the principles of the modern world. The liturgy too will be liberalized, adapted, subjected to experiments by Bishops’ Conferences.

Religious liberty, ecumenism, theological research, the revision of canon law will all attenuate the triumphalism of a Church that once proclaimed herself the only ark of salvation! The Truth is to be found divided among all religions, communal research will carry the worldwide religious community forward around the Church.

Geneva Protestants, Marsaudon in his book Ecumenism as Seen by a Freemason, and liberals such as Fesquet are triumphant. At last the era of Catholic States will disappear. All religions equal before the law! “The Church free in the free State,” in Lamennais’s formula! Now the Church is in touch with the modern world! The Church’s privileged status before the law and all the documents cited above turn into museum pieces for an age that has out-grown them! Read the beginning of the Schema on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), the description of the way in which modern times are changing; read the conclusions, they are pure liberalism. Read the Declaration on Religious Freedom and compare it with the Encyclical Mirari Vos of Gregory XVI, or with Quanta Cura of Pius IX, and you can observe the contradiction almost word for word.

To say that liberal ideas had no influence on the Second Vatican Council is to fly in the face of the evidence. The internal and external evidence both make that influence abundantly clear.


If we pass on from the Council to the “reforms” and “directives” since the Council, the proof is so clear as to be blinding. Now, let us note carefully that in the letters from Rome calling upon us to make a public act of submission, the three things-the Council, its reforms, and the directives following from it-are presented as indissolubly linked. Hence those who speak of a mistaken interpretation of the Council, as if the Council were perfect in itself and could not be interpreted in the light of the reforms and directives, are grievously mistaken. Clearer than any written account of the Council, they show how the Council officially intended them to be interpreted.

Now, on this point we need not elaborate: the facts speak for themselves and they are eloquent, alas! all too sadly eloquent. What still remains intact of the preconciliar Church? Where has the self-destruction (as Pope Paul called it) not been at work? Catechetics, seminaries, religious congregations, the liturgy of the Mass and the sacraments, the constitution of the Church, the concept of the priesthood: liberal ideas have wrought havoc all round and are carrying the Church far beyond Protestant ideas, to the amazement of Protestants and to the reproach of the Orthodox. One of the most horrifying practical applications of these liberal principles is the laying of the Church open to all errors, particularly the most monstrous error ever thought up by Satan-Communism. Communism now has official access to the Vatican, and its world revolution is made markedly easier by the official non-resistance of the Church, nay, by her regular support of the revolution, despite the despairing warnings of cardinals who have been through Communist jails.

The refusal by this pastoral Council to issue any official condemnation of Communism alone suffices to disgrace it for all time, when one remembers the tens of millions of martyrs, of people having their personalities scientifically destroyed in psychiatric hospitals, serving as guinea-pigs for all sorts of experiments. And the pastoral Council which brought together 2,350 bishops said not a word, in spite of the 450 signatures of Fathers demanding a condemnation, which I myself took to Bishop Felici, Secretary of the Council, together with Bishop Sigaud, Archbishop of Diamantina.

Need the analysis be pushed any further to reach its conclusion? These lines seem to me to be enough to justify a refusal to follow this Council, these reforms, and these trends in all their liberalism and neo-modernism.

We should like to reply to the objection that will certainly be levied against it in the matter of obedience, and of the jurisdiction held by those who seek to impose this liberalization on us. Our reply is-in the Church, law and jurisdiction are at the service of the faith, the chief end of the Church. There is no law, no jurisdiction, which can impose on us a lessening of our faith.

We accept this jurisdiction and this law when they are at the service of the faith. But who can be the judge of that? The Tradition, the faith taught for two thousand years. Every Catholic can and must resist anyone in the Church who lays hands on his faith, the faith of the eternal Church, upheld by his childhood catechism. The defense of his faith is the first duty of every Christian, more especially of every priest and bishop. Wherever an order carries with it the danger of corrupting faith and morals, “disobedience” becomes a grave duty.

It is because we believe that our whole faith is endangered by the postconciliar reforms and changes that it is our duty to “disobey” and to maintain the traditions. The greatest service we can render the Catholic Church, the successor of Peter, the salvation of souls and of our own, is to say no to the reformed liberal Church, because we believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God made man, who is neither liberal nor reformable.

One last objection: The Council is a council as were the others. In its ecumenicity and the manner of its summoning it resembles them. In its object, and that is the essential, it does not. A nondogmatic Council may not be infallible; it is so only in so far as it reaffirms traditional dogmatic truths.

How do you justify your attitude towards the Pope? We are the keenest defenders of his authority as the successor of Peter, but our attitude is governed by the words of Pope Pius IX quoted above. We applaud the Pope when he echoes Tradition and is faithful to his mission of handing down the deposit of faith. We accept innovations in close conformity with Tradition and the Faith. We do not feel bound by any obedience to accept innovations not in accordance with Tradition which threaten our faith. In that case, we take our stand on the papal documents quoted above.

We do not see how, in conscience, a Catholic layman, priest, or bishop can adopt any other attitude towards the grievous crisis the Church is going through. “Nihil innovetur nisi quod traditum est-innovate nothing, but hand down Tradition.

May Jesus and Mary help us to remain faithful to our episcopal promises! “Call not true what is false, call not good what is evil.” That is what we were told at our consecration.

Marcel Lefebvre

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. A BISHOP SPEAKS. 2ND ed. KANSAS CITY: ANGELUS PRESS, 2007. pp. 225-233