Archbishop Lefebvre a Conciliarist?

Recently, I came across yet another charge that Archbishop Lefebvre was guilty of the heresy of “conciliarism”. It seems that we traditionalists cannot ever get past this sort of wrangling, which appears to indicate the persistence of the diabolical disorientation Sister Lucia warned of.

To be precise, in the article at issue the quote came at the end of a discussion on the heresy of conciliarism, In the discussion, the author rightly condemned conciliarism:

“It is equally important to understand that when we confront such proposals as the superiority of a General Council over the Pope, or as having the power to judge a Pope or declare him deposed, we are in reality dealing with the same democratic principle in regard to the affairs of the Church – in the words of Pope Pius X, “power ascending from below, rather than from above”. In other words, Concilliarism is simply another form of thinly-disguised democracy in application to the Divine Constitution of the Church.”

Then, speaking of the Great Western Schism and the scandals of the anti-popes, we read,

“All during this time, however, the heresy of Concilliarism (and worse) cultured and grew in the minds and hearts of Catholics. In 1381, a work was published by Heinrich von Langenstein titled Proposition of Peace for the Union and Reformation of the Church by a General Council. Its proposals are summarized by (Dr. Ludwig) Von Pastor:

“. . .Henceforward this most dangerous doctrine of the natural right of necessity was the instrument used in all efforts to put an end to the Schism.” (Dr. Ludwig Von Pastor, p. 183-185).

So far, so good. But then the author inserts the following:

“It is worth noting, in regard to recent Church history, that it was precisely this principle – “necessity breaks the law” – which, in Archbishop Lefebvre’s mind, provided the justification for his ordaining four bishops expressly against a Papal mandate not to do so.”

This insertion is followed immediately by the author’s continued remarks on conciliarism:

“During this period leading up to the Council of Constance, these sort of tracts proliferated. The celebrated Canonist Zabarella, who afterwards became a Cardinal, wrote a treatise which, according to Von Pastor brought to fullness the Concilliarist heresy. In regard to the Pope, Zabarella wrote, “Should he err, the Church must set him right; should he fall into heresy, or be an obstinate schismatic, or commit a notorious crime, the Council may depose him.” (p. 187).”

I am not qualified to debate such respected commentators as the author we are discussing, who has chosen anonymity as I also have. I am, by my own account not particularly adept at the sort of intellectual disputation that makes the traditional Catholic commentariat such a contentious place. But as I have read of this conciliarist heresy, it appears to me to be, as quoted above, and in the words of Canonist, then Cardinal Zabarella, that should the pope err, “the Church must set him right, should he fall into heresy, or be an obstinate schismatic or commit a notorious crime, the Council may depose him.” ”

In none of that do I recognise anything ever espoused by Archbishop Lefebvre. In fact, here are some excerpts from Archbishop Lefebvre’s “Guide to Confused Catholics”

Obedience is a serious matter; to remain united to the Church’s Magisterium and particularly to the Supreme Pontiff is one of the conditions of salvation. We are deeply aware of this and nobody is more attached to the present reigning successor of Peter, or has been more attached to his predecessors, than we are. I am speaking here of myself and of the many faithful driven out of the churches, and also of the priests who are obliged to celebrate Mass in barns as in the French Revolution, and to organize alternative catechism classes in town and country.

We are attached to the Pope for as long as he echoes the apostolic traditions and the teachings of all his predecessors. It is the very definition of the successor of Peter that he is the keeper of this deposit. Pius IX teaches us in Pastor Aeternus: “The Holy Ghost has not in fact been promised to the successors of Peter to permit them to proclaim new doctrine according to His revelations, but to keep strictly and to expound faithfully, with His help, the revelations transmitted by the Apostles, in other words the Deposit of Faith.”

The authority delegated by Our Lord to the Pope, the Bishops and the priesthood in general is for the service of faith. To make use of law, institutions and authority to annihilate the Catholic Faith and no longer to transmit life, is to practise spiritual abortion or contraception.

This is why we are submissive and ready to accept everything that is in conformity with our Catholic Faith, as it has been taught for two thousand years, but we reject everything that is opposed to it.

For the fact is that a grave problem confronted the conscience and the faith of all Catholics during the pontificate of Paul VI. How could a Pope, true successor of Peter, assured of the assistance of the Holy Ghost, preside over the most vast and extensive destruction of the Church in her history within so short a space of time, something that no heresiarch has ever succeeded in doing? One day this question will have to be answered.

In the first half of the Fifth Century, St. Vincent of Lérins, who was a soldier before consecrating himself to God and acknowledged having been “tossed for a long time on the sea of the world before finding shelter in the harbor of faith,” spoke thus about the development of dogma: “Will there be no religious advances in Christ’s Church? Yes, certainly, there will be some very important ones, of such a sort as to constitute progress in the faith and not change. What matters is that in the course of ages knowledge, understanding and wisdom grow in abundance and in depth, in each and every individual as in the churches; provided always that there is identity of dogma and continuity of thought.” Vincent, who had experienced the shock of heresies, gives a rule of conduct which still holds good after fifteen hundred years: “What should the Catholic Christian therefore do if some part of the Church arrives at the point of detaching itself from the universal communion and the universal faith? What else can he do but prefer the general body which is healthy to the gangrenous and corrupted limb? And if some new contagion strives to poison, not just a small part of the Church but the whole Church at once, then again his great concern will be to attach himself to Antiquity which obviously cannot any more be seduced by any deceptive novelty.” (. . .)

“What is suggested to us, what we are expressly invited to do, what we are persecuted for not doing, is to choose an appearance of obedience. But even the Holy Father cannot ask us to abandon our faith.

We therefore choose to keep it and we cannot be mistaken in clinging to what the Church has taught for two thousand years. The crisis is profound, cleverly organized and directed, and by this token one can truly believe that the master mind is not a man but Satan himself. For it is a master-stroke of Satan to get Catholics to disobey the whole of Tradition in the name of obedience.

A typical example is furnished by the “aggiornamento” of the religious societies. By obedience, monks and nuns are made to disobey the laws and constitutions of their founders, which they swore to observe when they made their profession. Obedience in this case should have been a categorical refusal. Even legitimate authority cannot command a reprehensible and evil act. Nobody can oblige anyone to change his monastic vows into simple promises, just as nobody can make us become Protestants or modernists. St. Thomas Aquinas, to whom we must always refer, goes so far in the Summa Theologica as to ask whether the “fraternal correction” prescribed by Our Lord can be exercised towards our superiors. After having made all the appropriate distinctions he replies: “One can exercise fraternal correction towards superiors when it is a matter of faith.”

The entirety of Archbishop Lefebvre’s article is to be found in our sidebar; just click on his picture.

In summary, Archbishop Lefebvre, as I have said on several occasions, was attempting to preserve the sacred priesthood and the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is nothing less than the immense channel of God’s grace to this poor, satanically oppressed world. I am ashamed to be so poor a defender of him! But if you are in doubt on this, please do these two important things: First, pray Our Lady’s rosary for her guidance; she will never fail you! Second, please read his own writings, his own words, prayerfully. At one time, I too, sided with his detractors, but then, I read his works and was drawn to the Society’s Masses. The very first Mass I attended began with a sublimely beautiful benediction service, followed by a high Mass. I began sobbing during Benediction of the most Blessed Sacrament and occasionally sobbed silently through Mass, overwhelmed by the feelings of devotion flooding back after over forty years of horrid liturgical abuses that had left me spiritually numb. I have never looked back and thank God every day and throughout every day for so generously renewing the great gift of faith.

So many today are really caught up in disputations, and more intent on making divisive distinctions than finding ways to work together to obey Our Lady of Fatima’s Message. They are no longer willing to simply let themselves be led by the Immaculata, as Father Stehlin so aptly recommends. For the Society founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is under her protection. Their priests are her devoted children and know that a Mother such as she will not allow her sons to go astray.

For those who doubt the Society, pray the Rosary and let yourselves be led by the Immaculate Mother of God!

The above article is only my attempt to defend Archbishop Lefebvre from yet another attack on him. I do wish that those who cast aspersions on him would simply note the beautiful fruits yielded by his works! Indeed, I am certain that the restored Church, after the evil ones are cast out, will promptly and unanimously recognize the holy Archbishop for his sanctity and valor in defense of the Faith.

†  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.

†  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!

~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.

Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!