Correspondence between Archbishop Lefebvre, Ratzinger and John Paul II, leading up to and after the May 5, 1988 Protocol.

Letter of Pope John Paul II to Cardinal Ratzinger, April 8, 1988

To my Venerable Brother Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

In this liturgical period, when we have relived through the Holy Week celebrations the events of Easter, Christ’s words by which He promised the Apostles the coming of the Holy Spirit take on for us a special relevance: “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth—whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn. 14:16; 17:26).

The Church at all times has been guided by faith in these words of her Teacher and Lord, in the certainty that thanks to the help and assistance of the Holy Spirit she will remain forever in the divine Truth, preserving the apostolic succession through the College of Bishops united with their Head, the Successor of Peter.

Reinforcing the teaching of the Church as inherited from Tradition

The Church manifested this conviction of Faith also at the last Council, which met to reconfirm and reinforce the teaching of the Church inherited from Tradition already existing for almost 20 centuries, as a living reality which progresses vis-a-vis the problems and needs of every age and deepens our understanding of what is already contained in the Faith transmitted once and for all (cf. Jude 3). We are profoundly convinced that the Spirit of Truth who speaks to the Church (cf. Apoc. 2:7, 11, 17, et al.) has spoken—in a particularly solemn and authoritative manner—through the Second Vatican Council preparing the Church to enter the third millennium after Christ.

Given that the work of the Council taken as a whole constitutes a reconfirmation of the same truth lived by the Church from the beginning, it is likewise a “renewal” of that truth (an aggiornamento according to the well-known expression of Pope John XXIII), in order to bring closer to the great human family in the modern world both the way of teaching faith and morals and also the whole apostolic and pastoral work of the Church. And it is obvious how diversified and indeed divided this world is.

Through the doctrinal and pastoral service of the whole College of Bishops in union with the pope, the Church took up the tasks connected with the implementation of everything which became the specific heritage of Vatican II. The meetings of the synods of bishops are one of the ways in which this collegial solicitude finds expression. In this context the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod in 1985, held on the 20th anniversary of the end of the Council, deserves special mention. It emphasized the most important tasks connected with the implementation of Vatican II, and it stated that the teaching of that council remains the path which the Church must take into the future, entrusting her efforts to the Spirit of Truth. In reference to these efforts, particular relevance attaches to the duties of the Holy See on behalf of the universal Church, both through the ministerium petrinum of the Bishop of Rome and also through the departments of the Roman Curia which he makes use of for the carrying out of his universal ministry. Among the latter the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith led by Your Eminence is of particularly special importance.

“Progressivism” breaks with the past

In the period since the Council we are witnessing a great effort on the part of the Church to ensure that this novum [new thing] constituted by Vatican II correctly penetrates the mind and conduct of the individual communities of the People of God. However, side by side with this effort there have appeared tendencies which create a certain difficulty in putting the Council into practice. One of these tendencies is characterized by a desire for changes which are not always in harmony with the teaching and spirit of Vatican II, even though they seek to appeal to the Council. These changes claim to express progress, and so this tendency is given the name “progressivism.” In this case progress consists in an aspiration toward the future which breaks with the past, without taking into account the function of Tradition, which is fundamental to the Church’s mission in order that she may continue in the Truth which was transmitted to her by Christ the Lord and by the Apostles and which is diligently safeguarded by the magisterium.

The opposite tendency, which is usually called “conservatism” or “integralism,” stops at the past itself, without taking into account the correct aspiration towards the future which manifested itself precisely in the work of Vatican II. While the former tendency seems to recognize the correctness of what is new, the latter sees correctness only in what is “old,” considering it synonymous with Tradition. But it is not what is “old” as such, or what is “new” per se, which corresponds to the correct idea of Tradition in the life of the Church. Rather that idea means that the Church’s remaining faithful to the truth received from God throughout the changing circumstances of history. The Church, like that householder in the Gospel, wisely brings “from the storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt. 13:52), while remaining absolutely obedient to the Spirit of Truth whom Christ has given to the Church as her divine Guide. And the Church performs this delicate task of discernment through her authentic magisterium (cf. Lumen Gentium, §25).

The position taken up by individuals, groups or circles connected with one or the other tendency is to a certain extent understandable, especially after an event as important in the history of the Church as the last Council. Although, on the one hand, that event unleashed an aspiration for renewal (this also contains an element of “novelty”), on the other hand certain abuses in the realization of this aspiration, in so far as they forget essential values of Catholic doctrine on faith and morals and in other areas of ecclesial life, for example in that of the Liturgy, can and indeed must cause justified objection. Nevertheless, if by reason of these excesses every healthy kind of “renewal” conforming to the teaching and spirit of the Council is rejected, such an attitude can lead to another deviation which itself is in opposition to the principle of the living Tradition of the Church obedient to the Spirit of Truth.

The duties which in this concrete situation face the Apostolic See require a special perspicacity, prudence and farsightedness. The need to distinguish what authentically “builds up” the Church from what destroys her is becoming in the present period a particular demand of our service to the whole community of believers.

Concern for Church unity

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is of key importance in the context of this ministry, as is shown by the documents which your dicastery has published in this matter of faith and morals during the last few years. Among the subjects which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has recently had to deal with, the problems connected with the “Society of St. Pius X,” founded and led by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, also figure prominently.

Your Eminence knows very well how many efforts have been made by the Apostolic See since the beginning of the Society’s existence, in order to ensure ecclesial unity in relation to its activity. The latest such effort was the canonical visit made by Cardinal Edward Gagnon. Your Eminence is concerned with this case in a special way, as was your predecessor of venerable memory, Cardinal Franjo Seper. Everything done by the Apostolic See, which is in continual contact with the bishops and episcopal conferences concerned, has the same purpose: that in this case too the words of the Lord in His priestly prayer for the unity of all His disciples and followers may be fulfilled. All the bishops of the Catholic Church, inasmuch as by divine command they are solicitous for the unity of the universal Church, are bound to collaborate with the Apostolic See for the welfare of the whole Mystical Body, which is also the body of the Church (cf. Lumen gentium, 23).

For all these reasons I would assure Your Eminence once more of my desire that these efforts should continue. We do not cease to hope that—under the protection of the Mother of the Church—they will bear fruit for the glory of God and the salvation of men.

From the Vatican, on April 8, in the year 1988, the tenth of my pontificate.

In fraternal charity,

Joannes Paulus PP.II


Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Cardinal Ratzinger, April 15, 1988


Via Trilussa 35 – Tel 932.03.44
00041 Albano Laziale (Roma)

+ Albano, April 15, 1988

Your Eminence,

Having had the opportunity to follow the works of the Commission in charge of preparing an acceptable solution to the problem which preoccupies us, it seems that with the grace of God we are coming closer to an agreement, which makes us very happy.

With this letter I attach the doctrinal declaration, modified slightly in such a way that I believe that I can sign it; I hope it will be agreeable to you.

No doubt, there will be more clarifications to add to the canonical document on the Roman Commission; at least at the beginning, I would like to be able to play a part in it so as to facilitate the solutions of the various cases of those who have been at our side during these last few years, and who also wish a happy outcome of their problems.

On this occasion, wouldn’t it be desirable that the option to use the liturgical books of John XXIII be granted to all bishops and all priests?

The prospect of having a successor in the episcopate gives me great joy, and I thank the Holy Father and yourself for it. Only one bishop will hardly suffice for the heavy work load; wouldn’t it be possible to have two, or at the least, couldn’t provisions be made for the possibility of raising its number in the next six months or a year?

Please, Your Eminence, express to the Holy Father my deep gratitude on my behalf and on behalf of all those whom I represent. Please be assured of my respectful and fraternal sentiments, in Christo et Maria.

+ Marcel Lefebvre
Archbishop Emeritus of Tulle

To His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,
Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican


Protocol of Agreement, May 5, 1988


I, Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Tulle, as well as the members of the Society of St. Pius X founded by me:

1.     Promise always to be faithful to the Catholic Church and the Roman Pontiff, its Supreme Pastor, Vicar of Christ, Successor of Blessed Peter in his primacy as head of the body of bishops.

2.     We declare our acceptance of the doctrine contained in §25 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium of Vatican Council II on the ecclesiastical Magisterium and the adherence which is due to it.

3.     Regarding certain points taught by Vatican Council II or concerning later reforms of the liturgy and law, and which do not appear to us easily reconcilable with Tradition, we pledge that we will have a positive attitude of study and communication with the Apostolic See, avoiding all polemics.

4.     Moreover, we declare that we recognize the validity of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments celebrated with the intention of doing what the Church does, and according to the rites indicated in the typical editions of the Roman Missal and the Rituals of the Sacraments promulgated by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.

5.     Finally, we promise to respect the common discipline of the Church and the ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II, without prejudice to the special discipline granted to the Society by particular law.


Considering the fact that for 18 years now the Society of St. Pius X has been understood to be a society of common life—and after studying the proposals formulated by His Excellency Marcel Lefebvre and the conclusions of the Apostolic Visitation conducted by His Eminence Cardinal Gagnon—the canonical form most suitable is that of a society of apostolic life.

1.     Society of Apostolic Life

This solution is canonically possible and has the advantage of possibly incorporating lay people as well (for example, coadjutor brothers) into the clerical Society of Apostolic Life.

According to the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983, Canons 731-746, this Society enjoys full autonomy, can form its members, can incardinate clerics, and provides for the common life of its members.

In the proper Statutes, with flexibility and room for creativity in comparison with the known models of such Societies of apostolic life, some exemption is foreseen with respect to the diocesan bishops (cf. canon 591) in matters concerning public worship, the cura animarum [pastoral care of souls], and other apostolic activities, taking into account canons 679-683. As for jurisdiction with regard to the faithful who have recourse to the priests of the Society, it will be conferred on these priests either by the local Ordinaries or by the Apostolic See.

2.                 Roman Commission

A commission to coordinate relations with the different dicasteries and diocesan bishops, and also to resolve problems and disputes that may arise, will be established through the good offices of the Holy See, and will be endowed with the necessary faculties to deal with the abovementioned questions (for example, at the request of the faithful, the establishment of a house of worship where there is no house of the Society, ad mentem [in keeping with] canon 683, §2).

This commission will be composed of a president, a vice-president, and five members, two of which shall be from the Society.

Among other things it would have the function of supervising and offering assistance to consolidate the work of reconciliation, and to settle questions related to the religious communities having a juridical or moral bond with the Society.

3.                 Condition of Persons Affiliated with the Society

3.1. The members of the clerical Society of Apostolic Life (priests and lay coadjutor brothers) are governed by the Statutes of the Society of Pontifical Right.

3.2. The oblates, both male and female, whether or not they have taken private vows, and the members of the Third Order affiliated with the Society, all belong to an association of the faithful affiliated with the Society according to the terms of canon 303, and collaborate with it.

3.3. The Sisters (i.e. the Congregation founded by Archbishop Lefebvre) who take public vows constitute a true institute of consecrated life, with its own structure and proper autonomy, even though a certain kind of bond with the Superior of the Society may be envisaged for the unity of its spirituality. This Congregation—at least at the beginning—would be dependent on the Roman Commission, instead of the Congregation for Religious.

3.4. To members of the communities living according to the rule of various religious institutes (Carmelites, Benedictines, Dominicans, etc.) who have a moral bond with the Society, a particular status should be granted regulating their relations with their respective Order.

3.5. Priests who, individually, are morally connected with the Society will receive a personal status taking into account their aspirations and at the same time the obligations resulting from their incardination. Other particular cases of the same nature will be examined and resolved by the Roman Commission.

As for the lay people who ask for pastoral assistance from the communities of the Society: they remain under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop, but—in particular because of the liturgical rites of the Society’s communities—they can go to them for the administration of the sacraments (for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and matrimony, the usual notifications must still be given to their proper parish; cf. canons 878, 896, 1122).

Note: There is good reason to consider the particular complexity:

1.     of the question of the reception of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and matrimony by the laity in the communities of the Society;

2.     of the question of communities practicing the rule of such and such a religious institute, without belonging to it.

The Roman Commission will have the responsibility for resolving these problems.

4.                 Ordinations

As for the ordinations, two phases must be distinguished:

1.     In the immediate future: For the ordinations scheduled to take place in the immediate future, Archbishop Lefebvre would be authorized to confer them or, if he were unable, another bishop accepted by him.

2.     Once the Society of Apostolic Life is erected:

As far as possible, and in the judgment of the Superior General, the normal way is to be followed: to send dimissorial letters to a bishop who agrees to ordain members of the Society.
In view of the particular situation of the Society (see above): the ordination of a member of the Society as a bishop, who, among other duties, would also be able to proceed with ordinations.

5.                 The Problem of a Bishop

1. At the doctrinal (ecclesiological) level, the guarantee of stability and maintenance of the life and activity of the Society is assured by its erection as a Society of Apostolic Life of pontifical right, and by the approval of its Statutes by the Holy Father.

2. However, for practical and psychological reasons, the consecration of a member of the Society as a bishop appears useful. This is why, in the framework of the doctrinal and canonical solution of reconciliation, we suggest to the Holy Father that he name a bishop chosen from within the Society, upon the presentation [of a terna of candidates] by Archbishop Lefebvre. It follows from the above-cited principle (5.1) that this bishop normally is not the Superior General of the Society, but it appears opportune that he should be a member of the Roman Commission.

6.                 Particular Problems to be Resolved (by Decree or Declaration)

1. Lifting of the suspensio a divinis on Archbishop Lefebvre and dispensation from the irregularities incurred by the fact of the ordinations.

2. Sanatio in radice, at least ad cautelam (as a precaution), of the marriages already celebrated by the priests of the Society without the required delegation.

3. Provision for an “amnesty” and an agreement for the houses and places of worship erected—or used—by the Society until now without the authorization of the [local] bishops.

[SIGNED] Joseph Card. Ratzinger.   Marcel Lefebvre.

Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Cardinal Ratzinger, May 6, 1988

Your Eminence,

Yesterday it was with real satisfaction that I put my signature on the Protocol drafted during the preceding days. However, you yourself have witnessed my deep disappointment upon reading the letter that you gave me informing me of the Holy Father’s answer concerning episcopal consecrations.

Practically speaking, a postponement of the episcopal consecrations to a later undetermined date would be the fourth time that I had postponed the date of the ceremony. June 30 was clearly indicated in my previous letters as the latest possible date.

I have already given you a file concerning the candidates. There are still two months to establish the mandate.

Given the particular circumstances of this proposal, the Holy Father can very easily simplify the procedure so that the mandate can be communicated to us around mid-June.

If the answer was no, I would find myself in conscience obliged to proceed with the consecrations, relying on the agreement given by the Holy See in the Protocol for the consecration of one bishop who is a member of the Society.

The hesitations expressed on the subject of the episcopal consecration of a member of the Society, either by writing or by word of mouth, give me reason to fear delays. Everything is now prepared for the ceremony on June 30: hotel reservations, transportation, rental of huge tents to shelter the ceremony.

The disappointment of our priests and lay faithful would be extreme. All of them hope that this consecration will be performed with the agreement of the Holy See; but having been disappointed already by previous delays they would not understand it if I accepted a new delay. They are aware and desirous above all of having true Catholic bishops transmitting the true Faith to them and communicating to them in a sure way the graces of salvation to which they aspire for themselves and for their children.

In the hope that this request shall not be an insurmountable obstacle to the reconciliation in process, please, Your Eminence, accept my respectful and fraternal sentiments in Christo et Maria.

+ Marcel Lefebvre
Former Archbishop-Bishop of Tulle

Letter of Cardinal Ratzinger to Archbishop Lefebvre, May 6, 1988

Your Excellency,

I have carefully read the letter which you just sent me, in which you tell me of your intentions concerning the episcopal consecration of a member of the Society on June 30 of this year.

Since these intentions are in sharp contrast with what you agreed to during our conversation on May 4 and signed your name to in the Protocol yesterday, I wish to inform you that the release of the press communique has to be deferred.

I earnestly hope that you would reconsider your position in keeping with the results of the dialogue, so that the communique might be released.

In this hope, I ask you, Your Excellency, ...

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Cardinal Ratzinger, May 24, 1988

Albano, May 24, 1988

To His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Your Eminence,

It seems to me necessary to clarify what I wrote to you on May 6 of this year.

Upon reflection, it appears plain to us that the purpose of these dialogues is to reabsorb us into the Conciliar Church, the only Church that you mentioned to us in your catechetical instructions.

We hoped that you would give us the means to continue and develop the works of Tradition, especially by giving us some coadjutors, at least three, and by giving a majority to Tradition on the Roman Commission.

Now, on these two points which we deem necessary to maintain our works outside of all progressivist and conciliar influence, we are not satisfied.

Therefore, with much regret, we consider ourselves obliged to ask you, before June 1, to indicate clearly to us what the intentions of the Holy See are on these two points: consecration of three bishops requested for June 30, and a majority of members from Tradition on the Roman Commission.

If I receive no answer to this request, I shall proceed with the publication of the names of the candidates to the episcopacy whom I will consecrate on June 30 with the collaboration of His Excellency Bishop de Castro Mayer.

My health and the apostolic needs for the growth of our works do not allow any further delay.

In the hope that these requests will be taken into consideration, please accept, Your Eminence, my respectful and fraternally devoted sentiments in Jesus and Mary.

+ Marcel Lefebvre

Letter of Cardinal Ratzinger to Archbishop Lefebvre, May 30, 1988

May 30, 1988

Your Excellency,

After being received in audience by the Holy Father on Friday, May 27, as I had indicated to you during our conversation on the 24th, I am in a position to respond to the letter you had given to me the same day, concerning the problems of a majority of the members of the Society on the Roman Commission, and the consecration of bishops.

Concerning the first point, the Holy Father deems it proper to adhere to the principles decided on in Part III, section 2 of the Protocol which you accepted. This Commission is an organization of the Holy See in the service of the Society and of the various authorities with which it will have to deal in order to establish and consolidate the work of reconciliation. Moreover, it is not the Commission, but the Holy Father who in the final analysis will make the decisions; thus the question of a majority does not arise; the interests of the Society are guaranteed by its representation within the Commission, and the fears which you have expressed with respect to the other members are groundless, since the choice of members will be made by the Holy Father himself.

Regarding the second point, the Holy Father confirms what I had already indicated to you in his behalf, namely that he is willing to appoint a member of the Society as a bishop (as described in Part II, section 5, paragraph 2 of the Protocol), and to accelerate the usual process of nomination, so that the consecration could take place on the concluding day of this Marian Year, on August 15.

From the practical point of view this requires that you present without delay to His Holiness a greater number of dossiers on possible candidates, so as to allow him to choose freely a candidate who corresponds to the profile envisaged in the agreements and at the same time the general criteria of aptitude which the Church maintains for the appointment of bishops.

Finally, you know that the Holy Father awaits from you a letter containing essentially the points which we have spoken about, particularly in our conversation of May 24. However, since you recently announced again your intention to ordain three bishops on June 30 with or without Rome’s approval, it is necessary that in this letter (cf. Part II, section 4 of the Protocol), you state clearly that you renounce the idea, and that you place yourself in full obedience to the decision of the Holy Father.

With this final step, accomplished as soon as possible, the process of reconciliation would reach its conclusion, and a public announcement of this fact could be given.

Your Excellency, as I conclude this letter, I can only repeat to you as I did last Tuesday, and with yet more gravity, if that is possible: when one considers the positive content of the agreement which the benevolence of Pope John Paul II has allowed us to reach, there is no proportion between the last few difficulties that you expressed and the damage that would be caused now by a break, a rupture with the Apostolic See on your part, merely for these reasons. You must have confidence in the Holy Father: he has shown his goodness and understanding toward you and toward the Society, and it is the best guarantee of the future. Finally, you must—as we all must—have confidence in the Lord, who has allowed the path of reconciliation to be opened as it is today, and enabled the goal to appear so close now.

Kindly accept, Your Excellency, the expression of my fraternal and respectfully devoted sentiments in the Lord.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger

Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to Pope John Paul II, June 2, 1988

Econe, June 2, 1988

Most Holy Father,

The conversations and meetings with Cardinal Ratzinger and his collaborators, although they took place in an atmosphere of courtesy and charity, persuaded us that the moment for a frank and efficacious collaboration between us has not yet arrived.

For indeed, if the ordinary Christian is authorized to ask the competent Church authorities to preserve for him the Faith of his baptism, how much more true is that for priests, religious, and nuns?

It is to keep the Faith of our baptism intact that we have had to resist the spirit of Vatican II and the reforms inspired by it.

The false ecumenism, which is at the origin of all the Council’s innovations, in the liturgy, in the new relationship between the Church and the world, in the conception of the Church itself, is leading the Church to its ruin and Catholics to apostasy.

Being radically opposed to this destruction of our Faith and determined to remain within the traditional doctrine and discipline of the Church, especially as far as the formation of priests and religious life is concerned, we find ourselves in the absolute necessity of having ecclesiastical authorities who embrace our concerns and will help us to protect ourselves against the spirit of Vatican II and the spirit of Assisi.

That is why we are asking for several bishops chosen from within Catholic Tradition, and for a majority of the members on the projected Roman Commission for Tradition, in order to protect ourselves against all compromise.

Given the refusal to consider our requests, and it being evident that the purpose of this reconciliation is not at all the same in the eyes of the Holy See as it is in our eyes, we believe it preferable to wait for times more propitious for the return of Rome to Tradition.

That is why we shall give ourselves the means to carry on the work which Providence has entrusted to us, being assured by His Eminence Cardinal Ratzinger's letter of May 30th that the episcopal consecration is not contrary to the will of the Holy See, since it was granted [was not granted] for August 15.

We shall continue to pray that modern Rome, infested with Modernism, may once again become Catholic Rome and rediscover its 2,000 year-old tradition. Then the problem of our reconciliation will have no further reason to exist and the Church will experience a new youth.

Be so good, Most Holy Father, as to accept the expression of my most respectful and filially devoted sentiments in Jesus and Mary.

+ Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Tulle,
Founder of the Society of St. Pius X

Letter of Pope John Paul II to Archbishop Lefebvre, June 9, 1988

To His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Tulle


It is with intense and profound affliction that I read your letter dated June 2.

Guided solely by concern for the unity of the Church in fidelity to revealed Truth—an imperative duty imposed on the Successor of the Apostle Peter—I had arranged last year an Apostolic Visitation of the Society of St. Pius X and its work, which was carried out by Edward Cardinal Gagnon. Conversations followed, first with the experts of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then between yourself and Cardinal Ratzinger. In the course of these meetings solutions had been drawn up, accepted, and signed by you on May 5, 1988. They permitted the Society of St. Pius X to exist and to work in the Church in full communion with the Supreme Pontiff, the guardian of unity in the Truth. For its part, the Apostolic See pursued only one end in these conversations with you: to promote and safeguard this unity in obedience to Divine Revelation, as translated and interpreted by the Church’s Magisterium, notably in the 21 Ecumenical Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II.

In the letter you sent me you appear to reject all that was agreed on in the previous conversations, since you clearly manifest your intention to “provide for yourself the means to continue your work,” particularly by proceeding shortly without apostolic mandate to one or several episcopal ordinations, and this in flagrant contradiction not only with the norms of Canon Law, but also with the Protocol signed on May 5 and the directions relevant to this problem contained in the letter which Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to you on my instructions on May 30.

With a paternal heart, but with all the gravity required by the present circumstances, I exhort you, Reverend Brother, not to embark on a course which, if persisted in, can only appear as a schismatic act whose inevitable theological and canonical consequences are known to you. I earnestly invite you to return, in humility, to full obedience to Christ’s Vicar.

Not only do I invite you to do so, but I ask it of you through the wounds of Christ our Redeemer, in the name of Christ who, on the eve of His Passion, prayed for His disciples “that they may all be one” (Jn. 17:20).

To this request and to this invitation I unite my daily prayer to Mary, Mother of Christ.

Dear Brother, do not permit that the year dedicated in a very special way to the Mother of God should bring another wound to her Mother’s Heart!

Joannes Paulus PP.II

From the Vatican,
June 9, 1988

Statement by Archbishop Lefebvre on the “cessation of negotiations”, June 19, 1988

Indeed it is difficult to understand why the talks ceased unless we put them into their historical context.

Although we never wanted to have a break in relations with Conciliar Rome, even after the first visitation from Rome on November 11, 1974, was followed by measures that were sectarian and null—the suppression of our work on May 6, 1975, and the “suspension” in July 1976—these relations could only take place in a climate of mistrust.

Louis Veuillot says that there is no one more sectarian than a Liberal; indeed, having made a compromise between error and Revelation, he feels condemned by those who remain in the Truth, and thus if he is in power, he persecutes them fiercely. This is the case with us and with all those who are opposed to the liberal documents [that Lefebvre himself signed] and liberal reforms of the Council.

They absolutely want us to have a “guilt complex” with regard to them, but they are the ones who are guilty of duplicity.

Thus it was always in a tense albeit polite atmosphere that relations took place with Cardinal Seper and Cardinal Ratzinger between 1976 and 1987, but also with some hope that as the self-destruction of the Church accelerated, they would finally regard us with benevolence.

Until that time, the goal of the contacts for Rome was to make us accept the Council and its reforms, and to make us acknowledge our error. The logic of events necessarily led me to ask for a successor, if not two or three, to assure our ordinations and confirmations. Given the persistent refusal of Rome, on June 29, 1987, I announced my decision to consecrate bishops.

On July 28, Cardinal Ratzinger opened up some new horizons which legitimately gave us reason to think that finally Rome was looking more favorably on us. No longer was there any question of a doctrinal document to be signed, or of asking for forgiveness; instead an Apostolic Visitor was finally announced, the Society could be recognized, the Liturgy would be as before the Council, the seminarians would remain in the same frame of mind!

Thus we agreed to enter into this new dialogue, but on the condition that our identity would be well protected against liberal influences by means of bishops taken from within Tradition, and by a majority of members in the Roman Commission for Tradition. Now, after the visit of Cardinal Gagnon, of which we still know nothing, the disappointments have accumulated.

The talks that followed in April and May were a distinct disappointment to us. They sent us a doctrinal document, they added the new Canon Law to it, Rome reserved for itself five out of seven members on the Roman Commission, among them a President (who will be Cardinal Ratzinger) and the Vice-President.

The question of a bishop was resolved after much hemming and hawing; they insisted on proving to us that we did not need one [On the contrary, the Pope agreed ”to accelerate the usual process of nomination, so that the consecration could take place … on August 15.”  Lefebvre later appealed to that to justify the consecrations].

The cardinal informed us that we would now have to allow one New Mass to be celebrated [weekly] at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet. He insisted on the one and only Church, that of Vatican II.

Despite these disappointments, I signed the Protocol on May 5. But already the date of the episcopal consecration caused a problem. Then a draft letter asking the pope for forgiveness was put into my hands.

I considered myself obliged to write a letter threatening to perform the episcopal consecrations in order to manage to get the date of August 15 for the episcopal consecration.

The atmosphere is no longer one of fraternal collaboration and pure and simple recognition of the Society—not at all. For Rome the goal of the talks is reconciliation, as Cardinal Gagnon says in an interview granted to the Italian newspaper L’Avvenire, meaning the return of the lost sheep to the flock. That is what I say in my letter to the pope dated June 2: “The purpose of the talks has not been the same for you as for us.”

And when we think of the history of relations of Rome with the traditionalists from 1965 to this day, we are compelled to observe that there has been an unceasing and cruel persecution to force us to submit to the Council [every document of which Lefebvre signed]. The most recent example is that of the Mater Ecclesiae Seminary for drop-outs from Econe, who in less than two years have been made to serve the conciliar revolution, contrary to all promises!

The present conciliar and Modernist Rome can never tolerate the existence of a vigorous branch of the Catholic Church [branch theory?] which condemns it by its very vitality.

No doubt we shall have to wait yet another few years, therefore, for Rome to recover her bi-millennial Tradition. As for us, we continue to show, with the grace of God, that this Tradition is the only source of sanctification and salvation for souls, and the only possibility of renewal for the Church.

+ Marcel Lefebvre

June 19, 1988