of Archbishop Lefebvre
to Pope John Paul II
After the previous letters, Cardinal Ratzinger went on retreat and the Pope went on a pastoral journey. After their return, Archbishop Lefebvre wrote the following letter to the Pope, insisting on the date of June 30, 1988, and more than one bishop to be consecrated.
May 20, 1988
Most Holy Father,
While a certain hope was raised regarding a possible solution to the problem of the Society after the signing of the Protocol, a grave difficulty now arises with respect to the episcopacy granted to the Society, to succeed me in my episcopal function.
It clearly appears that this conferring of the episcopacy is a source of apprehensions and concern to the Holy See, for the following reasons:
- in the first place this episcopacy is superfluous. After the legal recognition of the Society as one of pontifical right, the Superior General can give dimissorial letters to a bishop of his choice.
- in the second place, this granting of the episcopacy might seem to be a distinct mark of disapproval of the bishops now in office, and might turn the bishops against the Holy See.
- finally, this episcopacy could eventually create difficulties in the dioceses, occasioned by the apostolate among the faithful.
No doubt these apprehensions are what provoke the delays, the evasive responses of the Holy See for over a year and which morally oblige me to put an end to this waiting, after having insisted several times on the urgent necessity of having several bishops, for the continuation and development of the work.
June 30 now appears to me as the final date to bring about this succession. Providence seems to have prepared this date. The accords have been signed, the names of the candidates have been proposed. If Cardinal Ratzinger is overworked and does not have time to prepare the mandates, perhaps Cardinal Gagnon could be entrusted with it.
Most Holy Father, deign to put an end to this sorrowful problem of priests, the faithful and your servant, who in keeping Tradition have had no other desire than to serve the Church, the Pope, and to save souls.
Permit me to add some considerations on the renewal of the Church, obtained by means of the Society and the episcopacy which would be granted to it.
In reporting the instances of Vienna in Austria, and Coire in Switzerland, regarding episcopal appointments, the press has alluded to a change of orientation on the part of the Holy See in the choice of bishops. This is a good sign, but the reactions show that these bishops will have enormous difficulties in the realization of their apostolate, and they will be forced to manifest their adherence to the modern spirit by ecumenism, as well as the charismatic movement, to calm people down.
Even if they observe a certain discipline and a greater piety, their seminaries will be imbued with this modern spirit, and only with difficulty will they contribute to the true renewal of the Church.
Henceforth this renewal can only be brought about by bishops who are free to revive Christian Faith and virtue by the means Our Lord entrusted to the Church for the sanctification of priests and the faithful.
Only an atmosphere entirely detached from modern errors and modern ways will permit this renewal. This atmosphere is the one encountered by Cardinal Gagnon and Msgr. Perl, an atmosphere made up of profoundly Christian families having many children, and from which come numerous and excellent vocations.
The development of this renewed atmosphere, encouraged by your decisions, Most Holy Father, will restore the dioceses through contacts with the bishops and the clergy. Certain bishops will entrust to us the formation of their seminarians and thus, by the grace of God, the Church will find a new youthfulness—and transform pagan society into Christian society.
You will easily understand why only one bishop will not suffice for such a vast field of the apostolate.
If I allow myself to submit these considerations to your judgment, it is in the most profound desire of coming to your aid in solving these grave problems which you are striving to resolve in the course of your apostolic journeys.
Deign to accept, Most Holy Father, the expression of my most respectful and filial sentiments in Jesus and Mary.
† Marcel Lefebvre