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Monday, July 1, 2024

Lefebvre, Viganò and the Post-Conciliar Struggle Against the Catholic Church’s Enemies

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Lefebvre, Viganò and the Post-Conciliar Struggle Against the Catholic Church’s Enemies

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò began his recent statement (responding to accusations of schism) by quoting Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre from 1979:

“‘When I think that we are in the palace of the Holy Office, which is the exceptional witness of the Tradition and of the defense of the Catholic Faith, I cannot stop myself from thinking that I am at home, and that it is me, whom you call ‘the traditionalist,’ who should judge you.’ So spoke Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1979, when he was summoned to the former Holy Office, in the presence of the Prefect, Cardinal Franjo Šeper, and two other Prelates.” (June 28, 2024)

 

eblast promptAlthough Archbishop Viganò chose these words in part to draw the comparison between his situation and that of Archbishop Lefebvre, they also show that the present enmity between the anti-Catholic revolutionaries in Rome and Catholicism was already apparent in the 1970s. As we know from Bishop Tissier de Mallerais’s biography of Archbishop Lefebvre, this was not the first encounter between Archbishop Lefebvre and Cardinal Seper:

“On November 18, [1978,] through an initiative of Cardinal Siri, the new Pope received the Archbishop, who said he was ready ‘to accept the Council in the light of Tradition,’ an expression used by Pope John Paul himself on November 6: ‘The Council must be understood in the light of all holy Tradition and on the basis of the constant Magisterium of the holy Church.’ The Pope said he was happy and saw the problem of celebrating the old Mass only as a disciplinary question. Then Cardinal Franjo Seper, whom the Pope had summoned, exclaimed: ‘Be careful, Holy Father, they make a banner out of this Mass!’”

Both Archbishop Lefebvre and Cardinal Seper understood that the Traditional Latin Mass and defense of the unadulterated Catholic Faith are naturally intertwined, and we can describe that relationship in various ways:

  • Love for the Traditional Latin Mass generally leads souls to want to defend the unadulterated Catholic Faith from errors contrary to it.
  • Wanting to disfigure or reject the Traditional Latin Mass goes hand-in-hand with wanting to disfigure or reject the unadulterated Catholic Faith
  • Abolishing, or radically changing, the Traditional Latin Mass tends to drive a wedge between Catholics and the unadulterated Catholic Faith.
  • Failing to defend the unadulterated Catholic Faith — by accepting errors contrary to it — will eventually lead to attacks on the Traditional Latin Mass.

The Church’s enemies have even been willing to barter access to the Traditional Latin Mass in exchange for silence about the doctrinal and disciplinary aberrations flowing from the Council. By all appearances, this strategy has been successful with some Traditional Catholics because many people have the Mass and feel no need to join the battle until it begins to harm them.

As we know from the warnings of the pre-Vatican II popes, the Catholic Church has enemies who have sought to destroy the unadulterated Catholic Faith from within the Church. Archbishop Viganò referred to some of these enemies in his recent statement:

“As Romano Amerio pointed out in his seminal essay Iota Unum, this cowardly and culpable surrender began with the convocation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and with the underground and highly organized action of clergymen and laity linked to the Masonic sects, aimed at slowly but surely subverting the structure of government and magisterium of the Church in order to demolish Her from within.”

Given the connection between the Traditional Latin Mass and the unadulterated Catholic Faith, it should not surprise us that these enemies have also worked to undermine the Mass. As we know, it was a Freemason, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who oversaw the design of the Novus Ordo Missae, which eliminated so much of the content of the Mass that offended non-Catholics that the New Mass bears almost no resemblance to the Traditional Latin Mass. Again, wanting to disfigure the Traditional Latin Mass goes hand-in-hand with wanting to disfigure the unadulterated Catholic Faith.

Knowing that the enemies of the Catholic Church want to destroy both the unadulterated Faith and the Traditional Latin Mass, we might naturally ask why they have taken so long to completely ban the Mass and introduce more overt heresy? Why has the process been gradual? The enemies who have overseen the Vatican II revolution do not mind if their innovations have caused many Catholics to lose the Faith — this was indeed desirable —  but they have always needed to maintain a sufficient number of Catholics who go along with the revolution. To accomplish this, they have introduced their poisons gradually. Those who credibly identify as Catholics, and yet go along with the revolution, provide the necessary cover for our enemies seeking to gradually dismantle the Church. For this reason, the most valuable assets of the Vatican II revolutionaries have been those otherwise good Catholics who defend the Council and denounce men like Archbishop Lefebvre.

Even though men like Archbishop Lefebvre saw the battle clearly several decades ago, many more Catholics have awakened only with Francis because his over-the-top attacks on Catholicism are inescapable, especially when he threatens the Traditional Latin Mass. 

In their cynical hatred for Catholicism, the Church’s enemies have even been willing to barter access to the Traditional Latin Mass in exchange for silence about the doctrinal and disciplinary aberrations flowing from the Council. By all appearances, this strategy has been successful with some Traditional Catholics because many people have the Mass and feel no need to join the battle until it begins to harm them, and we generally do not suffer the direct consequences of anti-Catholic errors flowing freely in the Church. Thus, even though men like Archbishop Lefebvre saw the battle clearly several decades ago, many more Catholics have awakened only with Francis because his over-the-top attacks on Catholicism are inescapable, especially when he threatens the Traditional Latin Mass. 

Where does Archbishop Viganò fit into this analysis? Whether or not one agrees with his fiery rhetoric about Francis, the fact remains that he generally responds to the ongoing crisis like a man who sees the big picture and has no qualms about telling the truth in a manner that is capable of alerting others to the nature and severity of the ordeal we face. Worse for the revolutionaries, he is a Successor of the Apostles who places the blame where it belongs, as we see in his recent statement:

“Since the Council, the Church has thus become the bearer of the revolutionary principles of 1789, as some of the proponents of Vatican II have admitted, and as is confirmed by the appreciation on the part of the Lodges for all the Popes of the Council and of the post-conciliar period, precisely because of the implementation of changes that the Freemasons had long called for. Change – or better still, aggiornamento – has been so much at the center of the conciliar narrative that it has been the hallmark of Vatican II and has posited this assembly as the terminus post quem that sanctions the end of the ancien régime – the regime of the ‘old religion,’ of the ‘old Mass,’ of the ‘pre-council’ – and the beginning of the ‘conciliar church,’ with its ‘new mass’ and the substantial relativization of all dogma.”

Many critics of Francis have a vested interest in protecting Vatican II, and so they cannot bring themselves to speak the entire truth on these matters. Archbishop Viganò apparently has no such vested interests, so his words ring true in a way that pose a unique threat to the revolutionaries today.

Many appear to misinterpret his words to imagine that Archbishop Viganò is saying that the crisis can be solved merely by saying that Francis is an anti-pope, which is a position that Archbishop Viganò has clearly rejected.

Unfortunately, many who champion Archbishop Viganò today appear to care far less about his assessment of the entire crisis than his opposition to its most prominent fruit, Francis. Many, in fact, appear to misinterpret his words to imagine that Archbishop Viganò is saying that the crisis can be solved merely by saying that Francis is an anti-pope, which is a position that Archbishop Viganò has clearly rejected:

“What we cannot do, because we do not have the authority, is to officially declare that Jorge Mario Bergoglio is not Pope. The terrible impasse in which we find ourselves makes any human solution impossible.” (Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, December 9, 2023 intervention)

We can also see from his recent statement that he acknowledges that Francis must be “removed from the Throne,” which would make no sense if he was not somehow occupying it:

“Before my Brothers in the Episcopate and the entire ecclesial body, I accuse Jorge Mario Bergoglio of heresy and schism, and I ask that he be judged as a heretic and schismatic and removed from the Throne which he has unworthily occupied for over eleven years.”

This statement essentially echoes the ultimate “call for action” of the “Major Statement” published by Rorate Caeli in May, in which several prominent Catholics accused Francis of numerous crimes, and called on bishops and cardinals to effectively “remove him” if he refused to resign:

“If Pope Francis refuses to resign, the duty of the bishops and cardinals is to proceed to declare that he has lost the papal office for heresy.”

As described in a previous article, these approaches resemble that which St. Robert Bellarmine presented in his defense of the Church against Protestants who argued that Catholics had no recourse against a pope who would try to destroy the Church:

“I respond: No wonder, if the Church remains without an efficacious human remedy, seeing that its safety does not rest principally upon human industry, but divine protection, since God is its king. Therefore, even if the Church could not depose a Pope, still, it may and must beg the Lord that He would apply the remedy, and it is certain that God has care for its safety, that He would either convert the Pope or abolish him from their midst before he destroys the Church. Nevertheless, it does not follow from here that it is not lawful to resist a Pope destroying the Church; for it is lawful to admonish him while preserving all reverence, and to modestly correct him, even to oppose him with force and arms if he means to destroy the Church.” (De Controversiis, On the Church: On Councils, On the Church Militant, On the Marks of the Church, p. 220)

So St. Robert Bellarmine (a) acknowledged the possibility of a pope who should be deposed, (b) recognized that the Church may not actually be able to remove such a pope, and (c) confirmed that the proper response in that case would be to resist his efforts to destroy the Church, even with “force of arms” if necessary. One may quibble over terminology (i.e., “pope” vs. “anti-pope,” and “remove” vs. “declare to be anti-pope”) but the fundamental realities do not change.

Our Lord’s promise that the Church would never fail is not a litmus test by which we need to evaluate whether Jesus was telling the truth. Moreover, He would not have had any real reason to tell us the Church would not fail if there would not be times (such as the Arian crisis and the current one) in which it might seem that the Church had defected.

From St. Robert Bellarmine’s position, we can see the problems with two opposing errors found today among sincere Catholics:

  • The error of those who think that individual Catholics can declare Francis to be an anti-pope and that there is no real need for the faithful bishops and cardinals to attempt to remove and replace him.
  • The error that there could never be a situation in which faithful bishops and cardinals should at least consider removing a pope who was clearly attempting to destroy the Church.

Among those who sincerely hold either of these positions, the most common reason (among those who actually think about the matter) is the same: that the Church’s indefectibility would be compromised if we entertained a different view.

However, Our Lord’s promise that the Church would never fail is not a litmus test by which we need to evaluate whether Jesus was telling the truth: we know that He established the Catholic Church, and that it will not fail because He told us it would not. Moreover, He would not have had any real reason to tell us the Church would not fail if there would not be times (such as the Arian crisis and the current one) in which it might seem that the Church had defected.

In such times, our fidelity to the Church certainly demands our adherence to the unadulterated Faith and unwavering trust in God; but it also calls for our humble acknowledgment that His Providence may lead us to paths that we never would have considered in ordinary times — this indeed was a constant theme of Archbishop Lefebvre’s life from the time of the Council until his death in 1991. Now, for example, it is scarcely worthy of our Catholic Faith to assume that the realities presented by the Pachamama, Fiducia Supplicans, Traditiones Custodes, and the newly created Synodal Church are not signs that our shepherds may need to at least prayerfully consider if it is God’s will that faithful bishops and cardinals take steps to discern whether Francis should be removed and replaced.

Why would God allow us to escape the crisis without repudiating the errors of the Council? It seems, rather, that He would allow the crisis to grow progressively worse until we finally overcome our blindness and lethargy to fight for Catholic truth, which truly means choosing Him over the sinful world, with which Vatican II made peace. 

Conversely, this consideration of God’s will in responding to the current crisis highlights why it is such a debilitating mistake to concentrate on removing Francis — or worse, simply branding him an “anti-pope” — while ignoring everything else that Archbishop Viganò has to say about the crisis. If we assume, for the sake of argument, that Archbishop Lefebvre and Archbishop Viganò correctly identified the role of Vatican II in fostering this crisis, why would God allow us to escape the crisis without repudiating the errors of the Council? It seems, rather, that He would allow the crisis to grow progressively worse until we finally overcome our blindness and lethargy to fight for Catholic truth, which truly means choosing Him over the sinful world, with which Vatican II made peace. 

This is not the first time God has had to demonstrate to us the staggering evil of choosing the sinful world over Him. Just as God willed that Our Lord suffered and died on the Cross to show us the enormous evil of sin, so too it seems that He is allowing the Mystical Body of Christ to undergo such an excruciating Passion to show us the gravity of Vatican II’s abandonment of objective, immutable truth. Archbishop Viganò put it this way in his recent statement:

“This happens when the absolute is removed from the Truth and relativized by adapting it to the spirit of the world.”

If we want to cooperate with God’s grace to help resolve this crisis, then it seems clear that we must reject and counteract the Council’s sin of abandoning unadulterated Catholic Truth. Along with this, according to Archbishop Viganò’s exhortation to end his recent statement, we should fight with the spiritual weapons Our Lord has given us:

“To the Catholic faithful, who today are scandalized and disoriented by the winds of novelty and the false doctrines that are promoted and imposed by a Hierarchy rebellious against the Divine Master, I ask you to pray and offer your sacrifices and fasts pro libertate et exaltatione Sanctæ Matris Ecclesiæ, so that Holy Mother Church may find Her freedom and triumph with Christ, after this time of passion.”

God will triumph over those who today subject the Mystical Body of Christ to this tremendous Passion. And just as the Blessed Virgin Mary helped St. John stand faithfully beneath the Cross during Our Lord’s Crucifixion, Our Lady will help us remain faithful if we turn to her, even if Providence leads us to paths that we never would have considered in ordinary times. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

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Last modified on Monday, July 1, 2024
Robert Morrison | Remnant Columnist

Robert Morrison is a Catholic, husband and father. He is the author of A Tale Told Softly: Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Hidden Catholic England.