History of the Traditional Catholic Movement: Is Sedevacantism Something Recent?

Over the History of the Traditional Catholic Movement (1960-1990): this movement of opposition against the Second Vatican Council has considered since the beginning the possibility of the Holy See being vacant; the sedevacantist position, therefore, is not something of recent appearance. Rather, it is the SSPX position which appeared rather late, turning the “traditionalist” movement towards itself and marginalising the defenders of the vacancy. Read these lines over and over: they speak for History and Truth. Let the younger generations also read them, and all those who have forgotten these first years of struggle for the Faith. “History is the directress of life” [1]!

The following lines are an extract from the article “Response to the special edition of La Tradizione Cattolica over sedevacantism,” by Father Francesco Ricossa, from Sodalitium #55 of November 2003, initially published in Italian and translated into French. This is only an extract: if you wish to further understand the topic, the entire article is available here (in French). Even though most readers are likely to never read the Traditizione Cattolica study (hereafter referred to as TC), the arguments contained in the response are interesting to all Traditional Catholics, so it appeared useful to publish it.

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Historical Flaws and Errors spread within the SSPX

“Undertaking our study of sedevacantism, we would like to address the historical nature of the topic, as simply as possible, in order that the readers understand the core issue in its most practical and immediate aspects,” says the TC (p.7) [2]. I will follow the author’s intentions. His “brief history of sedevacantism” (pp.7-8) has a very specific purpose: to demonstrate that the “sedevacantist thesis” is of recent appearance (with a first “incomplete statement” in Mexico in 1973, followed by a more structured and clear statement in 1976 in France) (cf. p.8). From this historical data, the author draws two conclusions. First, that sedevacantism is doctrinally false, because it would be impossible — because of indefectibility of the Church — that between 1965 and 1973-76 no one realised that the See was vacant (cf. pp. 28-34, 40-41, 50-60). Second, in the practical order, that sedevacantism would have broken the original unity of Traditional Catholics under Archbishop Lefebvre: “It would be advisable – concludes the author – that sedevacantism had the humility and courage to draw the ultimate conclusions from the constatation of this necessity [3], in order that the Traditional Catholic Movement goes back to this initial unity, lacerated by the proclamation of the Apostolic See vacancy” (p.60).

I will demonstrate that — be it only from an historical point of view — these conclusions are “absolutely false” (cf. p. 29), to repeat the words used by him against me.

Sedevacantism did not appear recently, but rather in a “preventive” manner. Statements about the Pope issue since 1962

The author of the TC special edition is young, and never knew anything other than the SSPX: this surely explains his ignorance about the Traditional Catholic movement’s history, despite his “diligent research” (cf. p. 29, note 7). Had he himself asked us to (ibidem), we would have given him some information about it. We will prove that, in a certain sense, sedevacantism existed far before 1965, and that the Pope issue was at the centre of “Traditional Catholics'” discussions (be they sedevacantist or not) since the beginning, whereas the “prudential solution” (consisting of being disinterested in the issue, considered as secondary if not vain and dangerous) is unique to the SSPX.

(I—EARLY TESTIMONIES OF SEDEVACANTISM)

1/ Mexican Catholics. Father Saenz y Arriaga (1962-65)[4]

In the preceding paragraphs, I explained that the appearance of “sedevacantism” was not recent, but rather “preventive.” I am alluding to the book The Plot Against the Church, published under the pseudonym of Maurice Pinay; the first Italian print dates back to 1962, and the book was passed on to all of the Council Fathers in October of the same year, after 14 months of work by the authors [5]. We could not expect more regarding earliness and publicity (it was in Rome, in the very aula of Saint Peter) of sedevacantism.

The aforementioned book denounced the negotiations occurring between Cardinal Bea (representative of John XXIII) and the Jewish authorities (especially the B’naï B’rith) in order to obtain from the just-summoned Council a declaration in favour of Judaism. Such a declaration had the purpose to contradict the Gospel, with the unanimous consensus of the Fathers and 19 centuries of infallible magisterium of the Church.

The Jews wanted that in doing so “the Holy Church contradicts itself and loses its authority over the faithful, because they would obviously proclaim that an institution that contradicts itself cannot be divine” (p. XIX). In the introduction of the Austrian edition (January 1963), we can read: “the audacity of Communism, of Masonry and of the Jews is such that they are already talking about controlling the election of the next Pope, with the intention to put on the throne of Saint Peter one of their accomplices within the respectable college of Cardinals” (p.3). According to the authors, this plot is nothing new: “as we shall demonstrate later in this work, with indisputably authentic documents, the powers of the infernal Dragon succeeded in placing on the pontifical throne a Cardinal manoeuvered by the forces of Satan, forces which will momentarily appear to reign over the Holy Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who never gave up on her, inspired the action of pious and brave men such as Saint Bernard, Saint Norbert, Cardinal Aymeric (…) who did not recognise as Pope Cardinal Pierleoni, a wolf in sheep’s clothing who during numerous years tried to usurp the throne of Saint Peter, they excommunicated him and relegated him to the quality of Antipope that he deserved” (p.4).

And indeed, all of chapter XXV (A crypto-jew cardinal usurps the papacy) is dedicated to the case of Antipope Anaclet II Pierleoni. As one can see, for the authors of The Plot Against the Church (laymen and clergy linked to the Guadalajara University and the Catholic Union of Trento), only an antipope like Pierleoni could have promulgated the Nostra Aetate document that Cardinal Bea was elaborating during the Council; and it was Paul VI, elected in June 1963.

After The Plot Against the Church, numerous interventions on this topic occurred during the Council [6]. Notwithstanding this, in spite of the opposition of the conciliar minority led by the Bishop of Segni Luigi Maria Carli (backed by the Arab bishops), and of numerous troubles which might have led to a setting aside of the scheme, the eve of the final vote of the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate finally came. The Catholics who opposed the Council and Nostra Aetate made a final attempt to block the way to the Declaration. Henri Fesquet, envoy of the French journal Le Monde, wrote in an article dated October 16, 1965: “But should be mentioned above all the four-page libel received by the bishops. It is preceded by this long and equally odd title: ‘No Council nor any Pope can condemn Jesus, the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church, its most illustrious Councils and Pontiffs. Yet, this declaration about the Jews implies such condemnation, and for this eminent reason must be rejected.’ In the text are to be found these staggering words: ‘The Jews now desire to lead the Church to condemn herself and to retract in face of the entire world. It is obvious that only an antipope or a false Council could approve such a declaration. And this is what a growing number of Catholics around the world think with us, who are determined to act in the way now necessary to save the Church from such an ignominy (…)” [7].

The Tradizione Cattolica historians must then admit that “sedevacantism” was not born in the years 1973-1976, but rather when it was stated in front of all the Conciliar Fathers from 1962-1965, that is to say from the beginning to the end of Vatican II. They also must admit that these Catholics condemned the Nostra Aetate declaration, while Archbishop Lefebvre (though he had urged the Conciliar Fathers to refuse it along with Bishop Carli and Bishop Proença Sigaud, in a letter distributed on October 11 into the aula) [8] was not part — according to his own declarations [9] — of the 88 Fathers who did not vote in favour of the conciliar document on October 28, 1965 [10]. These historical facts alone completely destroy the thesis of La Tradizione Cattolica about the recent arrival of sedevacantism. In addition to this, I will bring other testimonies of the existence of “sedevacantism” before the years 1973-1976, birthdate of this position according to the “diligent” historians of La Tradizione Cattolica.

2/ French priests. Father Guérard des Lauriers, Father Coache (1969)

It is well known that the “Traditional Catholic Movement” appeared as something widely visible when the 1969 new missal was promulgated. We can prove that at this point, the chief advocates of the Traditional Latin Mass in France were sedevacantists. Father de Nantes recounts (in his own way) the meeting that was held at his Maison Saint-Joseph at Saint-Parres-lès-Vaudes (Aube), on July 21, 1969 (before the promulgation of the new missal in November the same year). Among those who came to Father de Nantes were Father Philippe Rousseau, the Mexican Fathers Saenz y Arriaga [11] and Charles Marquette, Father Coache and Father M.-L. Guérard des Lauriers, and a layman from Versailles (Alain Tilloy); Father Barbara was already here as a host of Father de Nantes, independently from this group. According to the testimony of Father de Nantes and his religious brothers, the priests who visited him were holding that the new mass was invalid and that the See was vacant. This testimony is confirmed by a letter from Father Guérard des Lauriers to Father de Nantes, dated August 8 of the same year, in which he makes reference to the July 21 meeting, and holds that the approbation of the new missal is a demonstration that “Cardinal Montini'' was not the Pope [12]. 

3/ Argentina, United States, Germany (1967-1969)

The influence of Father de Nantes (which was tremendous at the time, because he opposed Vatican II from the very beginning) led to hesitation from some people such as Father Barbara or, in Argentina, Professor Disandro, even though he too had been raising the question of the vacancy of the See since May 1969 [13]. In the United States, very soon sedevacantists emerged, from at least 1967 if not sooner, as testified in the letter from Dr. Kellner to Cardinal Browne dated April 28 of the same year [14]. In Germany, where had been found in 1966 the Una Voce-Gruppe Maria, since 1969 Pr. Reinhard Lauth, from Munich University, declared himself in favour of the vacancy of the Apostolic See [15]. Therefore, the TC thesis (no trace of sedevacantism before 1973-1976) is false, and even universally false.

(II – POSITIONS OTHER THAN LEFEBVRISM)

Finally, we find it worthwhile to examine other positions that — even if not necessarily sedevacantist — had nothing to do with the “prudential position” of Archbishop Lefebvre. During the Second Vatican Council, besides the above-mentioned Mexican Catholics, noticeable opposition came from the French around Father de Nantes, and the Brazilians united around the bishops of Campos (de Castro Mayer) and Diamantina (Proença Sigaud, who nevertheless fully accepted the reforms later). In addition, we will discuss the position of the most important French review directed by Catholic laymen, Itinéraires. What was their position on this issue?

1/ Father de Nantes: Paul VI as a Heretical Pope to be deposed

Father de Nantes, formerly parish priest of Villemaur-sur-Vanne (Aube), refused from the beginning all the conciliar documents in his Lettres à mes amis: as such, he was considered until 1969 as the “reference point” of the Traditional Catholic movement [16]. In December 1967 (CRC #3), Father de Nantes investigated thoroughly the heretical Pope issue, according to the opinion of Cardinal Journet. The faithful could not dispute the validity of Paul VI’s election, because of the unchallenged acceptance of the universal Church (it is the TC argument) [17].

Father de Nantes shared the thesis of Cardinal Journet (heretical Pope is not deposed ipso facto, but must be declared so by the Church) and estimated that Paul VI, apostate, heretical, scandalous and schismatic, had to be declared deposed by the Roman Clergy (the Cardinals): “it is their duty [of whoever notices the errors of Paul VI] to bring this accusation before the Church. First by warning the Pope himself, then by appealing to (…) the infallible Magisterium of this same Pope [18] or, otherwise, of the Council. ‘Formally’, it pertains to the clergy of Rome, especially to the Cardinal-Bishops, suffragans of the Bishop of Rome, to carry out this mission so perilous yet so urgent for the salvation of the Church.” “Such an action (…) takes precedence over any other care and constitutes the highest charity, because the Fish – ICTHUS – would rot from the head if the Supreme Function was not taken away from a man already dead” [19].

From this point of view, he saw in the Ottaviani Intervention (1969) the beginning of the canonical process against Paul VI. For this purpose, on April 10, 1973, he sent to Paul VI a Liber accusationis in which Giovanni Battista Montini is accused of apostasy, heresy and schism. He therefore asked the bishops (and especially, while not naming him, Archbishop Lefebvre) to break communion with Paul VI. “Then remains this last remedy, most heroic, the only one feared by the one who has knowingly and obstinately inverted the meaning of his divine and apostolic mission. It is necessary that a bishop, he also successor of the Apostles, member of the teaching Church, fellow of the Bishop of Rome and like him ordered to the common good of the Church, breaks communion with him until he proves that he is faithful to the duties of his supreme pontificate” [20]. “Father Georges de Nantes obviously wanted Archbishop Lefebvre to retract as soon as possible his obedience to Paul VI, by breaking communion with him, according to the antique formulas of Saint Basil [quoted as early as 1965] or Saint Columba” [21].

The proposition felt worrisome to Paul VI. In 1969 already, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked Father de Nantes to “disavow the accusation of heresy brought against Pope Paul VI and the absurd conclusion (…) about the timeliness of his deposition by Cardinals” (such is the formula of retractation); facing his refusal, they limited themselves to notify him of the following: “Father Georges de Nantes discredits all of its writings and activities” (Notification of August 9, 1969) [22].

After Archbishop Lefebvre’s declaration of November 1974, the bishop was summoned to Rome by a commission of Cardinals instituted by Paul VI. During their interrogations of March 1975, Cardinals Garrone and Tabera manifested to Archbishop Lefebvre their fear that he might follow the call of Father de Nantes. Not only did Archbishop Lefebvre not follow the call (he even wrote to Father de Nantes in March 19, 1975: “if a bishop breaks with Rome, it will not be me”), but he also disavowed before the Cardinals his own manifesto (“I have written these things in a moment of indignation”) [23]. Unnecessarily, the SSPX was suppressed even so (May 6, 1975). Archbishop Lefebvre finally broke up with Rome, but for disciplinary reasons…

2/ Bishop de Castro Mayer: a need to further study the “Heretical Pope” topic

The bishop of Campos, at this time still linked with the Brazilian society Tradition, Family, Property (TFP) sent to Paul VI a study of Arnaldo Xavier Vidigal da Silveira, founding member of the TFP, about the new missal and the hypothesis of a heretical Pope [24]. The connection between the two topics was obvious. The author, who contrary to Cardinal Journet inclines to think that the heretical Pope is deposed ipso facto (an opinion he considers certain), however wanted to have the topic reexamined in order to find an agreement between theologians, such an agreement allowing to draw practical applications of this conclusion (p. 281; cf. pp. 214-216). [25] The position of Vidigal da Silveira and Bishop de Castro Mayer was still not openly sedevacantist; yet they warned against neglecting this issue: “let us assume that one holds for certain the opinion” according to which a heretical Pope is still Pope before being deposed: “he should logically accept as dogma any solemn declaration made by a heretical Pope before the declaration of heresy [against him]. Such an acceptance would be inconsiderate, because according to very prominent doctors such a Pope could have already lost the pontificate, and could then define as a dogma a false proposition” (p. 215). Therefore, Bishop de Castro Mayer never marginalised the sedevacantists (in contrast to Archbishop Lefebvre), he adhered to the “Guerardian” initiative of the Lettre à quelques évêques (Letter to Some Bishops, written in January 1983), and even stated, at Écône before the episcopal consecrations, that the See was vacant (regardless of the “peaceful acceptance of the Church”). If Bishop de Castro Mayer never was outspoken about his convinced sedevacantist position, it was so as not to compromise his relations with Archbishop Lefebvre, as the latter stated: “Had it not been for me, Bishop de Castro Mayer would have been sedevacantist. He refrains from sedevacantism in order not to disunite us” (Bishop Williamson, “Campos. What went wrong?”, pastoral letter of June 2002). Result: Bishops Rangel and Rifan, successors of Castro Mayer, concluded an agreement with the modernists…

3/ Itinéraires and Jean Madiran: Paul VI may be a heretical Pope

The journal Itinéraires, managed by Jean Madiran, was the most prestigious French journal among those which took a stand against the new catechisms and the new mass. While advocating a more moderate position than, for example, the one of Father Guérard des Lauriers (who was also a contributor to the journal), he did not hesitate to address in front of his readers the “heretical pope” topic, and the various positions of theologians with regard to the loss of the supreme pontificate in this case [26]. At least the topic was publicly addressed.

(III – THERE WAS NO “ORIGINAL UNITY” AROUND ABP. LEFEBVRE)

It would be advisable — concludes the TC — that sedevacantism had the humility and courage to draw the ultimate conclusions from the constatation of this necessity, in order that the Traditional Catholic Movement goes back to this initial unity, lacerated by the proclamation of the Apostolic See vacancy” (p. 60). But is it true that the “original unity” was founded around Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX? (cf. p. 8). Is it also true that sedevacantists are the ones to blame for the laceration of this “original unity”? Let us answer these two questions with absolute peace of mind: no.

The role of Archbishop Lefebvre, during the Council already as president of the Cœtus internationalis Patrum, is well-known and unquestionable; we will never be grateful enough to him, for all he has done for the Church. Yet it should be noted, and no one is going to contradict us, that from the end of the Council to the declaration of November 21, 1974, and even until the end of 1975, Archbishop Lefebvre always publicly wanted to separate himself and his works from the “traditionalists” and so-called Traditional Catholic Movement. Publicly, he never advocated the first opponents to the Council nor the first opponents to the new mass.

1/ Abp. Lefebvre and the Council (1964-1969)

From 1965 to 1969, the Traditional Catholic movement engaged in the battle against Vatican II; in France, the main character was L'abbé de Nantes. What was then the position of Abp. Lefebvre? Let us ask his biographer, Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. Abp. Lefebvre gave his placet to all documents except two (Gaudium et Spes, Dignitatis Humanæ); finally, even these two documents were subscribed to by the archbishop despite his statements to the contrary [27] and promulgated with Paul VI (pp. 332-334): “once a schema was promulgated by the pope — explains Bp. Tissier in order to justify this acceptance of Vatican II — it was no longer a schema but an act of the Magisterium, which is a complete change of nature (p. 333). In 1968, Abp. Lefebvre declared (the conference is reported in Un évêque parle): “the texts of the Council, especially Gaudium et Spes and the one about religious liberty, were signed by the pope and by the bishops, therefore we cannot doubt about their content” (p. 399). During the same year — in the Itinéraires review – the archbishop declared himself optimistic because of Paul VI (p. 402). “No one among the main leaders of Catholic resistance in France (and elsewhere) — says Tissier — showed the slightest inclination to question the Council’s decisions: neither Abp. Lefebvre in his commentaries, neither eminent laymen such as Jean Madiran (…) Jean Ousset (…) or Marcel Clément” (p. 403): obviously, the biographer ignores Father de Nantes, who was on trial precisely in this year 1968, or Father Saenz… To summarise it: Abp. Lefebvre’s praiseworthy activity was already occurring between 1965 and 1969, but within the framework of accepting Vatican II, while the critique of the Council was already opened [28].

2/ Abp. Lefebvre after the “promulgation” of the new missal (1969-1974 and 1975)

In 1969, the Traditional Catholic movement gained momentum with the promulgation of the new missal. There is no doubt that, behind the scenes, the archbishop was supporting and helping those who opposed the Novus Ordo. However, Abp. Lefebvre (who opened his own seminary in 1969, and had the SSPX approved by the Novus Ordo Bishop of Fribourg in November 1970) did not publicly take up that position, until he was compelled to come out into the open by the apostolic visit of Ecône seminary (1974) and the following punishments (1975-1976).

Nobody would deny what Alexandre Moncriff wrote in the French journal of the SSPX, Fideliter, at the occasion of Father Coache’s death: “The Society of Saint Pius X, in particular, was only founded in November 1970 by Abp. Lefebvre, and was then busy training its first seminarians: it was far from having reached the level of development it experienced especially from 1976. An unpublished letter of Abp. Lefebvre to Fr. Coache, dated February 25, 1972, shows that Abp. Lefebvre, dealing with the difficult foundation of his Society, was still apart from the others: ‘Dear Father (…) please understand that for the subsistence of the work I am pursuing, God knows in how many difficulties! I am not allowed to do anything public or solemn in a diocese without the placet of the bishop (…) I am already facing complaints against the seminary. I succeed in demonstrating the falsehood of these accusations and slowly I take root and I progress. But all doors will be closed to me for any new installations, for the incardinations, if I publicly put myself in the wrong, canonically speaking. What applies to me, because of the survival and progress of my work, does not necessarily apply to you (…) You will think I am too cautious. But I am so for the sake of this clerical youth. I need to expand and try to obtain the Pontifical Right’ [Author’s note: that is to say: recognition for the SSPX not only by the bishop – diocesan right – but also by the Holy See – pontifical right]” [29].

This explains all the silences and all the absences of Abp. Lefebvre and his Society until the end of 1974. This also explains the “prudential” attitude towards attending the Novus Ordo, of which we have already talked about. Also, it explains why Abp. Lefebvre, contrary to Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci, did not subscribe to the Short Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae (Ottaviani intervention) [30]. As well, it explains why, despite the impassioned call of Jean Madiran in the journal Itinéraires [31], and despite the example of other priests [32], he refused to publicly take a stance against the new mass [33].

This explains, still, why neither the archbishop nor the SSPX took participation in the Roman walks (Marches romaines) on Pentecost in 1970 (gathering up to 1500 people), in 1971 (5000 people) and in 1973 (with people from 22 different countries, and 700 pilgrims for France alone), walks organised by Father Coache with Father Barbara, Father Saenz, Elisabeth Gerstner, Franco Antico; the archbishop even made this initiative collapse in 1975 [34]. It explains again why during the years 1968 to 1972, he did not support the Corpus Christi processions of Montjavoult (parish of Father Coache), annual meeting of all the French “traditionalists'' which gathered up to 5000 people, or why he did not support, in 1973, Father Coache’s project to establish a minor seminary at Flavigny [35] (it can also be added that in 1977, the occupation of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet church in Paris had nothing to do with the SSPX, and Ecône’s seminary director even publicly disavowed it!). Bp. Tissier, in his biography of Abp. Lefebvre (p. 523), sets to the end of 1975 the date at which the traditionalist archbishop started to question the Council and Paul VI (“until 1975, Abp. Lefebvre refrained from attacking the Council and the pope. In May 30, 1975, in a conference, he declared to the seminarians: ‘Above all, never say: His Excellency is against the pope, against the Council. This is not true!’”).

We could bring many other examples, yet this is enough to destroy the historical claims of the TC. The public resistance against the new missal, as well as resistance against the Council, was born without Abp. Lefebvre; however, among the earliest fighters we already find sedevacantist priests, or priests who later became sedevacantists (with various positions): Fr. Guérard, Fr. Barbara, Fr. Coache, Fr. Saenz. So sedevacantism, rather than dividing an already existing movement, contributed to fortifying it.

3/ Abp. Lefebvre and sedevacantists. Who made the breakup, and why (1977-1979)

Notwithstanding this, the TC alleges that the sedevacantists are responsible for dividing the movement of opposition to the Council and the liturgical reform. History rather demonstrates that the one responsible for this division is the SSPX, and not the sedevacantists. Indeed, the sedevacantists, while their opposition was very different from that of Abp. Lefebvre, always stood by his side: until 1974, encouraging him to publicly take a position about the new mass and the Council, and from 1974 to 1977, encouraging him to take a position over the papacy.

Indeed, on May 6, 1975, Bishop Mamie of Lausanne-Genève-Fribourg canonically suppressed the SSPX with the agreement of Paul VI[36]. Even if in June 22, 1976 Abp. Lefebvre was still declaring himself “in full communion of thought and faith” with Paul VI [37], the suspension a divinis inflicted on July 22 after the ordinations of June 29 urged the archbishop to proclaim in July that the “conciliar church” was a schismatic church [38], and to publicly assume that the Apostolic See may be vacant [39]. It is obvious that, in such a context, the sedevacantists could but only be in the first line of Abp. Lefebvre’s supporters, whose popularity was “skyrocketing” at this time (Tissier, p. 515). Fr. Guérard, then teacher at Ecône, Fr. Barbara in his review Forts dans la Foi, up to the Mexican sedevacantists [40], were supporting Abp. Lefebvre, to the point that a parish priest of Acapulco, Fr. Carmona (consecrated bishop in 1981 by Abp. Thuc) had been excommunicated by his bishop for having celebrated a Mass in support of Abp. Lefebvre, on December 8, 1976 [41].

The collaboration between the sedevacantists and the SSPX of Abp. Lefebvre was compromised by the negotiations between the latter and Paul VI and John Paul II. Already at the Mass of August 29, 1976 at Lille, though he pronounced there very tough words against the reformers (speaking of “bastard priests” and a “bastard mass”), Abp. Lefebvre called for an audience with Paul VI, in order to obtain the liberty of “experiencing Tradition” (Tissier, pp. 517-518). The audience was granted on September 11, 1976, and in the following month of May began the conversations between Cardinal Seper, mandated by Paul VI, and the traditionalist bishop.

During this period (February 1977) the position about the pope was the one later published in the book Le coup de maître de Satan (The Master Stroke of Satan): the vacancy of the See was a possible hypothesis, over which was preferred the opinion of Paul VI being a legitimate but liberal pope [42]. And it is precisely in 1977 that the main two French supporters of sedevacantism were discreetly moved away from Ecône: Fr. Barbara (of whose review Forts dans la Foi (Strong in Faith) had been prohibited in the seminary after the publication of #51 of November 1977) [43] and Fr. Guérard des Lauriers, who had no longer been invited to give lessons at Ecône after having preached spiritual exercises for the seminarians in September 1977 [44].

In spite of this, both Fr. Barbara in his review and Fr. Guérard kept supporting Abp. Lefebvre (Fr. Guérard even sent to Ecône, in 1978, his young Dominicans, cf. Tissier p. 549). The definitive break happened after the death of Paul VI (August 6, 1978) and the audience granted to Abp. Lefebvre by John Paul II (November 18, 1978) where the formula “le Concile à la lumière de la Tradition,” “the Council in the light of Tradition” (J.-P. II, November 6, 1978) was found as the lowest common denominator. On December 24, 1978, Abp. Lefebvre wrote to John Paul II a letter, released by the Lettre aux amis et bienfaiteurs (Letter to friends and benefactors) #16 (March 19, 1979) in which he demanded freedom for the traditional Mass: “The bishops would then decide the places and times reserved for this Tradition. The unity would immediately be founded again around the local bishop.”

It is then that Fr. Guérard des Lauriers, the first one to have done such a thing, publicly condemned the deal proposed by Abp. Lefebvre (with his famous words: “Monseigneur, nous ne voulons pas de cette paix” – “Your Excellency, we do not want such a peace”). In this context, Abp. Lefebvre took the decision to break up with the sedevacantists by his declaration of November 8, 1979 (“Position of Abp. Lefebvre on the New Mass and the Pope”), published in the internal review Cor Unum (#4, Nov. 1979)[45] and spread among the faithful by the Fideliter review, in which this last paragraph had however been omitted: “Consequently, the Society of Saint Pius X of fathers, brothers, sisters and oblates, cannot tolerate within itself members who refuse to pray for the Pope [Author’s note: to pray for him as such] and state that all the Novus Ordo masses are invalid” (Cor Unum, #4, p. 8).

Only after this public declaration did Fr. Barbara (Forts dans la Foi #1, new series, first trimester of 1980) and the other sedevacantists publicly disassociate with Abp. Lefebvre. Then followed evictions or departures from the SSPX of priests who adhered to the thesis of Fr. Guérard or the one of Fr. Barbara: Frs. Lucien and Seuillot in 1979 (Cassiciacum thesis – materialiter/formaliter), Frs. Guépin and Belmont in 1980 (thesis), Fr. Barthe in 1980 (totalism), Egrégyi in 1981 (totalism), 12 American priests in 1983, 4 Italians in 1985 (thesis), 2 South-Americans with 21 seminarians in 1989, etc.

A letter from Abp. Lefebvre to John Paul II dated March 8, 1980 (Sodalitium #17, p. 22: “Une histoire à écrire” — “A story yet to be written”) clearly sums up the motives that led Abp. Lefebvre to this breakup with sedevacantists:

“Most Holy Father, in order to put an end to some doubts that are spreading (…) regarding my attitude and thought towards the Pope, the Council and the Novus Ordo Mass, and fearing these doubts may reach Your Holiness, I allow myself to affirm once again what I have always said:

  1.   That I have no hesitation [46] about the legitimacy and validity of your election, and as so I cannot tolerate that the prayers prescribed by the Church to the intention of Your Holiness be not offered to God.
  2.   That I personally agree with the judgment Your Holiness expressed over the Vatican II Council on November 6, 1978 at the meeting of the Sacred College: ‘That the Council must be understood in the light of Tradition and on the basis of the constant magisterium of the Church.’
  3.   As to the Novus Ordo Mass, despite all the reservations that must be made about it, I never affirmed that it was in itself invalid or heretical.

I thank God and Your Holiness if these clear declarations could hasten the free use of Traditional Liturgy and the recognition by the Church of the SSPX, as well as the recognition of all those who, subscribing to these declarations, tried to save the Church by perpetuating its Tradition.

May Your Holiness agree with my most profound and filial feelings of respect in Christo et Maria.”

From what we have said so far, it is obvious that the sedevacantists did not initiate the breakup with Abp. Lefebvre: the archbishop rather sacrificed the sedevacantists in order to pursue with John Paul II the negotiations aimed at obtaining the recognition of the SSPX. Therefore, the Tradizione Cattolica’s version of facts is false and likely to mislead the readers who did not personally experience the aforementioned events.

Fr. Francesco Ricossa

[1] Historia Magistra Vitae, a Latin expression from Cicero, De Oratore, II, 36.

[2] The sentence continues: “we wish to avoid as much as possible an overly technical and academic turn of phrase and vocabulary, as they often make this topic inaccessible to people who, in spite of this, were forced to make choices over this sensible topic, or forced to face him anyway.” But again, the author’s intention failed. The TC will find “a turn of phrase and a vocabulary” that may not be “overly technical” (that is to say: theological), but nonetheless “inaccessible to the general public.” The author declares to love simplicity: couldn’t he have avoided Greek terms such as “aporia” (pp. 38 & passim) or “meiosis” (p.36)?

[3] The Tradizione Cattolica makes an allusion to the alleged necessity, for sedevacantists, to “call out for the position currently held by SSPX” (p.60). The authors refers to Fr. Lucien’s idea that the refusal of Traditional Catholics to accept the teachings of Paul VI and John Paul II and to recognise them as proximate rule of Faith is against the principle of universal recognition of these pontiffs by the entire Church.

[4] A short French biography of Fr. Joaquin Saenz y Arriaga was published by Rev. Mr. Zins in his review Sub tuum praesidium (#74, April 2003, pp. 21-57).

[5] MAURICE PINAY, Complot contro la Iglesia, traduccion espanola del dr. Luis Gonzales, ed. Mundo libre, Mexico, 1968, published with the Imprimatur (of April 18, 1968) of the Archbishop of Hermosillo, Juan Navarrete. The book was printed in Italian at Rome (August 31, 1962) and distributed to all the Conciliar Fathers in October. Austrian print is from January 20, 1963, the Venezuelan one December 15, 1963, the Mexican one from 1968 and 1969 (I will only use the 1969 edition). The book was prepared during the 14 preceding months. The book of Maurice Pinay (it’s a pseudonym) was presented to the Italian public in Sodalitium #37 Oct-Nov. 1994, pp. 29, “The Judeo-Masonic Plot Against the Roman Church”; this article corresponds to chapter XX of Fr. Nitoglia’s book “Per padre il diavolo. Un introduzione al problema ebraico secondo la tradizione Cattolica” (Of Your Father the Devil. An Introduction to the Jewish Issue According to the Catholic Tradition), SEB, Milano 2002.

[6] JOAQUIN SAENZ Y ARRIAGA, El antisemitismo y el Concilio Ecumenico Y que es el progresismo, La hoja de roble, Mexico (sine loco et data, but after the beginning of the second session of the Council); LEON DE PONCINS, Il problema dei giudei in Concilio (The Jewish Question Facing the Council), Tipografia Operaia Romana, Rome – In England, at The Britons, London (after the third session): Judeo-Masonic Action at the Council (sent to all bishops, cf. Fresquet, p. 504, September 29 1964).

[7] The Journal du Concile held by Henri Fesquet, special envoy of Le monde, printed by ROBERT MOREL, Le Jas par Forcalquier 1966, p. 988. Besides Le Monde (October 17-18, pp. 1 and 8; October 19; October 20; October 21) the news was spread by Laurentin in Le Figaro (October 16-17; October 21), La Croix (October 21), Il Messagero and La Stampa of October 15. The monumental Storia del Concilio Vaticano II led by GIUSEPPE ALBERIGO (Peeters/Il Mulino, 2001, vol. V, p. 226) speaks about this fact (“the bishops willing to vote the declaration are defined as heretics, and the Council is deprived of any power to change the antisemitic attitude of Church magisterium”) and points out that the text is available in the Moeller fonds, 2546. In principle, the text against Nostra Aetate had been signed by 31 Catholic movements of France, United States, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Italy, Portugal, Chile, Austria, Brazil, Germany, Ecuador, Venezuela and Jordan. These subscriptions can be doubtful, because among the alleged subscribers figures the review Itinéraires, who vehemently protested against the veracity of this support, and even proposed the hypothesis of a “provocation” of progressivists in order to “let the Traditional Catholics be declared schismatics” (cf. JEAN MADIRAN, Un schisme pour décembre, in Itinéraires #95, July-August 1965, interesting for this context and Madiran’s position about the Council; JEAN MADIRAN, Mesures de sécurité et Analyse d’une provocation, in Itinéraires #98, December 1965, pp. 1-32). When Madiran speaks about a fake from the progressives, he is wrong; the origin of this writing is Mexican, as the precedent booklets.

[8] ALBERIGO, op. cit., pp. 224-226 (according to him, the critics were not particularly against the No. 4 about Jews); FESQUET, op. cit., pp. 980-981. The document (the letter of the three conciliar Fathers and the critique of Nostra Aetate on behalf of the Cœtus Internationalis Patrum can be found in  the Carraro fonds, 39. I cannot understand why Archbishop Lefebvre never published it in J’accuse le Concile (“I blame the Council” —Ed. St Gabriel, Martigny 1976), where are recorded his interventions at Vatican II, and that Bishop Tissier never mentions it in his biography of Archbishop Lefebvre. Another thing surprises me: the critique of the Council speaks very little about the doctrine contained in Nostra Aetate No. 4.

[9] TISSIER, op.cit., pp. 332-334.

[10] In the last vote taking place on October 15, the non placet were as high as 250.

[11] About Father Saenz the TC writes: “the fact that the Mexican Jesuit – also known for his capacity to write a book in only a few weeks – does not assume his sedevacantist positions in his book La Nueva Iglesia Montiniana, who comes shortly before Sede vacante, leads us to assume definitely that his first public statement of position dates back to 1973. Again for the review, La Nueva Iglesia Montiniana had two prints: a first one in 1971 at ‘The Christian Book Club of America,’ in California, and a second one in 1972 at ‘Editores Asociados,’ Mexico D.F.” (p.29). – We respond to the TC: Father Saenz, doctor in philosophy and theology, who was a member of the group who printed Plot Against the Church, showing a “preventive sedevacantism.” In 1969, he was a member of the “sedevacantist” group who visited Father de Nantes. Furthermore, in La Nueva Iglesia Montiniana of August 15, 1971, he affirms that Paul VI is not the Pope (contrary to what the TC states) from p. 322 to p.326, and from p. 422 to p.430. In January 9, 1972, at the “Assembly of the defenders of Tradition” held at Rome, he even stated that Paul VI was a Jew (as was antipope Anacletus II; cf. ANTONIO RIUS FACIUS, Excomulgado, pp. 136-137). On January 25, 1972, he published: Porqué me excomulgaron? Cisma o Fé [Why Have They Excommunicated Me? Schism or Faith]. In this book (pp. 235-254) he writes, commenting on a letter from Father Rayssiguier to Paul VI: “This extremely serious situation, that no one denies now, brings up – as I said in my book La Nueva Iglesia Montiniana — a practical and theological issue of the greatest importance: Is Giovanni Battista Montini truly the Pope? I have already exposed the various opinions published in several parts of the world by clergymen and laymen deeply worried about this demolition of the Church, of which Paul VI is undoubtedly mainly responsible. The author of this letter adheres to the opinion of Father Georges de Nantes, Father Barbara and other noteworthy authors who keep thinking that, despite his deviations regarding Faith and Morals, Giovanni Battista Montini is still a/the true and legitimate Pope, while being a misguided and heretical Pope. I personally think contrariwise: he is Pope de jure, but not de facto. That is to say: according to law, he is Pope, but before God he is not Pope. His election, apparently lawful, was spoiled at the root. That is my theological opinion.” But an opinion based on Faith: “otherwise, we should admit unexplainable consequences” that would question the words expressed by Christ in the Tu es Petrus. This position (Pope de jure but not de facto, so similar to the materialiter/formaliter position of Father Guérard des Lauriers) was expressed again in the book Sede vacante of March 1973 (p. 23). Rev. Mr. ZINS (op. cit., p. 42) quotes another extract of Sede vacante (p. 118) in which Father Saenz makes a distinction: “We can legitimately think, and this is what I think, that before this formal declaration, intrinsically invalid acts of a Pope who is not anymore or never was Pope before God, for having lost the Faith and ceased being a member of the Church, nonetheless maintain a juridical value in what is rightful therein, according to this general principle of law: in errore communi supplet Ecclesia.” I don’t think the principle “Ecclesia supplet” can apply here (“Ecclesia” is the Pope) but in any case, we can see that Fr. Saenz too conceded a certain juridical value to acts produced by one who was not (anymore) the Pope, before the formal declaration of an Imperfect Council. The Thesis of Cassiciacum restricts this only to the providing of Sees, essential to the subsistence of the Church and in itself independent from the power of jurisdiction. Totalists should then understand the arguments of the Thesis in this regard, instead of condemning them with such animosity!

[12] BROTHER FRANCOIS MARIE DES ANGES, Pour l’Eglise. Quarante ans de Contre-Réforme catholique. Tome III (1969-1978) Contre la dérive schismatique, Ed. Contre-Réforme Catholique, Saint-Parres-lès-Vaudes 1996, pp. 10-15, 110ss. Father COACHE delivers his version of the facts in Les batailles du Combat de la Foi, Chiré 1993, pp. 77-81.

[13] CARLOS A. DISANDRO, Iglesia y pontificato. Una breve quaestio teologica, Hosteria volante, La Plata 1988 (reprint of the May 2, 1969 booklet).

[14] “As early as 1967, Father de Nantes was worried about some Traditional Catholics, even though not numerous, questioning the authority and legitimacy of Paul VI; thus Dr. Hugo Kellner, in the United States, was declaring him deposed, de facto, from the Supreme Pontificate” (FRANCOIS MARIE DES ANGES, op. cit., p. 107). This was confirmed by the writer Patrick H. Omlor in a letter to Father Anthony Cekada dated April 5, 2003, which informed us of the letter from doctor Kellner to Cardinal Browne about the illegitimacy of Paul VI and the Vatican II Council (pages 6-8). 

[15] I owe this information to Pr. Lauth himself (in a phone call of April 9, 2003). About him: cf. TISSIER, op. cit., p. 476; Un combat pour l’Eglise. La Fraternité Saint-Pie X (1970-1995), by. B. TISSIER DE MALLERAIS, Fraternité Saint-Pie-X, Menzingen 1997, pp. 8 and 99 ; R. LAUTH, Die verstoßene Kirche, Christian Jerrentrup Verlag, Munich 2003, 2 volumes. 

[16] In Italy also, as shown by the publication of Father Georges de Nantes’ Letters by Volpe editor in 1969. In the preface signed by Hilarius we can read: “a Pope heretical, or even unbeliever, who attacks the purity of revealed doctrine, is ipso facto deposed from his primatial authority.”

[17] Let us notice nonetheless to the TC that this same argument was used by Father de Nantes (and more recently by Dom Gérard O.S.B.) to accept the legitimacy of the new missal (cf. BROTHER RANÇOIS, op. cit., vol. III, 59 ss, and CRC #30, March 1970, pp. 92 ss). One has to be coherent!

[18] Here is the weak point of Father de Nantes’ argumentation. In minimising infallible magisterium, he thought that the conciliar acts were not, in principle, guaranteed by infallibility, so they could be in the same time erroneous and subscribed by a legitimate Pope. It is identical to the SSPX position: maybe an influence of the Action Française thought?

[19] BROTHER FRANÇOIS, op. cit., p. 109.

[20] CRC #89, February 1975, Frappe à la Tête.

[21] BROTHER FRANÇOIS, op. cit., pp. 396-397

[22] BROTHER FRANÇOIS, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 345-350.

[23] BROTHER FRANÇOIS, op. cit., vol. III pp. 400-410.

[24] The text, written in Portuguese, is from 1970. A French translation was published in 1975 by the Diffusion de la Pensée française under the title: “La nouvelle messe de Paul VI. Qu’en penser ?” (The New Mass of Paul VI. What Should We Think of it?). Yet the selling to French audience had been long delayed upon the request of TFP.

[25] We owe these new theological studies – as Father Vinson pointed out in his time – to Father Guérard des Lauriers.

[26] Précisions théologiques sur quelques questions actuellement controversées (Theological Clarification About Some Currently Controversial Issues), editorial of Itinéraires #137, November 1969, pp. 1-17.

[27] Brother François (op. cit., vol. III, p.391, note 1) faithfully reports the controversy on this topic between, on the one side, Abp. Lefebvre and the SSPX (who denied that the archbishop had subscribed to Dignitatis humanæ and Gaudium et spes), and on the other side Father de Blignières and Father de Nantes (who published documents proving the contrary).

[28] The attitude of Abp. Lefebvre during this time is described by the 2nd volume of Brother François’ already quoted book (p. 138, 146, 149-150; 160-161, 212-214, 291-292, 335-336). The private opinion of Abp. Lefebvre towards Paul VI was actually very different from the public one…

[29] ALEXANDRE MONCRIFF, Le combattant de la Foi, in Fideliter #102, Nov.-Dec. 1994, pp. 69-70.

[30]Abp. Lefebvre encouraged us, quite from a distance; he even filled us with hope: ‘We will have 600 bishops to subscribe to it!’ - Alas! There was not even him” (preface of BISHOP GUERARD DES LAURIERS to the reprint of the Short Critical Study, published by the Editions Sainte Jeanne d’Arc, Villegnon, 1983, p. 6)

[31] JEAN MADIRAN published in Itinéraires (#139, January 1970, pp.19-25) a “letter to a bishop,” written by himself to Abp. Lefebvre on November 28, 1969. Here are a few extracts: “you tell me a great number of bishops from all around the world are aware of the situation: very well, but where are they? You may recall, Your Excellency, that in other circumstances, and up to and including the case of the catechism, I directly and indirectly advised clergymen (…) to keep quiet: that is to say not to discover themselves unnecessarily by public statements, not to let themselves expose unnecessarily to persecution (…). I recall this only to further emphasise how different my opinion is now with regard to the Mass. It is by the way less an advice than a call: an urgent call, a cry for help; not for me, but for the Christian people. For the Mass, the bishops need to talk publicly. I am obviously not asking them to attack the person [of Paul VI]: let them put this person aside: but let them stand up against the Novus Ordo Missae, and against the doctrine it implies (or sometimes openly states). So far, only a French priest, Father Georges de Nantes, and in the entire world only two cardinals have spoken openly [Author’s note: by subscribing to Father Guérard’s Short Critical Study]. The long note given by a ‘group of theologians’ in La pensée catholique is of very useful content: but it remains anonymous [Author’s note: it was also written by Father Guérard]. For the Mass, we need open and named witnesses, who engage their person in the battle and even, if required, their life. Let them speak! (…) It is not really about taking an initiative: Cardinal Ottaviani has already started, it is only about following him, testify with him, not letting him alone (…)”.

[32] The first to answer the call of Madiran in Itinéraires were Fr. Calmel O.P. (in #139, the very one in which was published the call to Abp. Lefebvre), Fr. Dulac (#140, February 1970, p. 31) and Fr. Guérard des Lauriers O.P. (#142, April 1970, pp. 48-50), who will also show himself the author of the Short Critical Study and of the article published in La pensée catholique. The three declarations were printed again in the special edition of Itinéraires about the Mass of September-October 1970 (#146). Father Calmel spoke. Father Guérard spoke. Father Calmel spoke. Archbishop Lefebvre did not speak.

[33] ABP MARCEL LEFEBVRE, Un évêque parle [A Bishop Speaks], Dominique Martin Morin, Jarzé 1974. The Italian print (ed. Rusconi, Milan) was published in 1975. Leafing through the book, one can notice that among the speeches of Abp. Lefebvre for the year 1969, there is not a single evocation of the Novus Ordo … so a Bishop did not speak...

[34] Cf. COACHE, op. cit., chapter XIV. Father Coache writes: “But in 1975, there was no ‘Marche romaine’. It was planned, we had already started to organise it, when the traditionalist movement CREDO, with Michel de Saint Pierre, announced the setting up of a great Pilgrimage to Rome for this year 1975, under the leading of His Excellency Bishop Marcel Lefebvre; we could but only retract and give way to it” (p. 210). [Actually, they could have protested, as did Father Vinson in his Simple lettre]. Bishop Tissier partly explains what happened: after the suppression of SSPX by the bishop of Fribourg (May 6, 1975), “The reply of Abp. Lefebvre was threefold: the magnificent pilgrimage to Rome organised by the Credo association at the Pentecost of this holy year and led by Abp. Lefebvre surrounded by all his seminarians, thus showing their commitment to the Rome of the Ages; then a letter of submission to the successor of Saint Peter, written in Albano on May 31 and containing a plea for the revision of his trial; and finally, an appeal to the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura against the decision of Bishop Mamie, deposed on June 5” (p.509).

[35] Cf. COACHE, op. cit, Chapter X. The Maison Lacordaire of Flavigny was acquired in 1971: there gathered Fr. Coache, Fr. Barbara and Fr. Guérard des Lauriers (p. 129). In 1973 was also acquired the minor seminary of Flavigny, still intended for this use. Bp. TISSIER writes that the project failed, but he does not say why (op. cit., p. 502, #5). But we know it thanks to a letter from Fr. Coache to Fr. Barbara, dated February 21, 1974, in which Fr. Coache shows his discouragement consecutively to Abp. Lefevre’s refusal to support his initiative: “Despite his kind and affectionate words, it is clear that Abp. Lefebvre refuses to collaborate with the seminary business (…) When I asked him to advertise our foundation in his small newsletter, and show the support he said he would bring to us, he refused! (…) he has an intense fear of the bishops’ reaction, and also a fear that other traditionalists will accuse him of identifying with the ‘Fight for the Faith’” (Ecône point final, #10/1982 of Forts dans la Foi, p.11, note 8). Later, in 1986, Abp. Lefebvre asked Fr. Coache to give him the Maison Lacordaire of Flavigny in order to establish his own first years seminarians. Fr. Coache was one of these sedevacantists (not the only one indeed) privately sedevacantist and always faithful to Abp. Lefebvre.    

[36] The SSPX always pretended this suppression decree was canonically invalid, while Abp. Lefebvre was trying – in vain – to plead for his cause before the Apostolic Signatura. In his biography of Abp. Lefebvre, Bp. TISSIER finally courageously admits for the first time that the suppression decree was canonically valid (op. cit., pp. 508-509).

[37] Letter from Abp. Lefebvre to Paul VI in June 22, 1976, cf. BROTHER FRANÇOIS, op. cit., vol. III, p. 242

[38]This conciliar church is a schismatic church, because it breaks with the Catholic Church of Ages” (Quelques réflexions à propos de la suspension a divinis (A Few Thoughts over the suspension a divinis), July 29 1976, cf. TISSIER, op. cit., p. 514).

[39] “The Council, turning its  back to Tradition and breaking with the Church of the past, is a schismatic council. (…) While it is certain to us that the faith taught by the Church during twenty centuries cannot contain an error, we have much less of a certitude regarding whether the pope is truly the pope. Heresy, schism, ipso facto excommunication, invalidity of election are things that can possibly cause that a pope no longer be a pope, or never has been. In such a case, obviously very unusual, the Church would find itself in a similar situation to the one in which a Pope just died. For there is indeed a serious problem arising in  the conscience and faith of all Catholics since the beginning of Paul VI’s pontificate. How could a Pope, true successor of Saint Peter, assured of the Holy Ghost’s assistance, be leading the destruction of the Church, the deepest and widest of its history, in such a short time frame, what no heresiarch has ever been able to do? This question will have to be answered one day.” Declaration of Abp. Lefebvre to the journal Le Figaro, August 4, 1976, reprinted in Monde et vie #264, of August 27, 1976; cf. TISSIER, op. cit., pp. 514-515; BROTHER FRANÇOIS, op. cit., vol. III, p. 433, note 4).

[40] cf. ZINS, op. cit., pp. 53-57.

[41] Forts dans la Foi #49, pp. 11 ss.

[42] Cf. TISSIER, p. 530 ; BROTHER FRANÇOIS, op. cit., vol. III, p. 434-436; ABP. LEFEBVRE, Le coup de maître de Satan, ed. Saint-Gabriel, 1977, p. 42 ss.

[43] The decision was taken after an attack of Fr. Barbara against a woman called Eliane Gaille, nicknamed “the seer of Fribourg,” who was object of the devotion of laymen of the entourage of Abp. Lefebvre.

[44] Regarding the circumstances of this fact, see Sodalitium #18, pp. 14-19, FR. GIUSEPPE MURRO, Vie de Mgr Guérard des Lauriers (Life of Bishop Guérard des Lauriers).

[45] In Cor Unum #4, p. 3, the declaration of Abp. Lefebvre is preceded by a “preliminary note” which explains the context. It refers to a conference of January 1979: “it was especially about the Pope issue” and “responded to those who blamed me for having been to Rome, in order to be interrogated by the Sacred Congregation for the [Doctrine of the] Faith.” This declaration against sedevacantism was thus caused by the negotiations initiated with John Paul II in 1979, and among other things by the negative reaction of Fr. Guérard des Lauriers. 

[46] Yet Abp. Lefebvre said to Fr. Guérard about the illegitimacy of Paul VI “personally, I have a serious doubt (…) but not absolute evidence” (Abp. Lefebvre to Fr. Guérard, letter of the beginning of 1979, cf. Sodalitium #18, p. 16). 

 

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