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Wednesday, February 7, 2024

How Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre Fought the Vatican’s Ongoing Assault on Catholic Truth

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How Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre Fought the Vatican’s Ongoing Assault on Catholic Truth

When thinking about how best to resist Francis (and any heretic the next conclave might elect), we should recognize that God has given us the example of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who fought these same battles long before the world had heard of Jorge Bergoglio.

One of the most evil aspects of Francis’s occupation of the papacy is his unabashed assault on Catholic truth. Most of us have seen several indications of this over the past ten years, but it is worthwhile to summarize some of the primary weapons Francis uses to attack the Faith he purports to represent:

  • Questioning (or Rejecting) Settled Church Teaching. Francis has publicly questioned numerous Church teachings, such as the existence of hell, the permissibility of the death penalty, the need for the Church to convert sinners, and the necessary conditions for receiving Holy Communion, among others.
  • Endorsing Religions Fundamentally Opposed to Catholicism. From his Abu Dhabi Declaration to the Synod on Synodality, Francis has repeatedly endorsed false religions and even suggested that God positively wills them.
  • Honoring the Church’s Enemies. Francis routinely partners with the Church’s avowed globalist enemies and also promotes outspoken heretics to positions of honor in the Church.
  • Persecuting Traditional Catholics. From Traditionis Custodes and targeting bishops who support Traditional Catholicism, to frequently denouncing Traditional Catholics as rigid and backwards, Francis openly persecutes Traditional Catholics.
  • Attacking the Church’s History. On several occasions, Francis has criticized the Catholic Church’s history, such as his 2022 “apology tour” in Canada.

Each of these practices is vile even when considered in isolation, but considered together they paint a picture as unmistakable as it is disturbing: the defining characteristic of Francis’s hostile occupation of the papacy is his unmistakable desire to abolish Catholic truth. We can see this more clearly by considering the profound hypocrisy involved with these practices:

  • He is open-minded about the religious beliefs that all the saints have rejected, but close-minded about the Faith they all held dearly.
  • He has nothing but bad things to say about those who love the Church enough to fight for it, but nothing but good things to say about so many who hate the Church enough to try to destroy it.
  • He works to make Catholics despise and doubt Catholicism, but encourages non-Catholics to cherish their false religions.
  • He freely attacks the Church’s history and its saints, but becomes a vengeful tyrant when one dares criticize the heretics he has appointed to destroy the Church.

For these reasons, it is tedious to debate whether Francis has fallen into “formal heresy” or “manifest heresy” — he is as openly opposed to Catholic truth as a person claiming to be Catholic could possibly be. If he has somehow technically avoided taking a step that would convince all faithful bishops to declare that he has fallen into formal or manifest heresy, it is only so that he can inflict more damage on the Church by remaining in power. By all appearances, he has been guided by a truly devious conception of how far he can go without prompting the remaining faithful cardinals and bishops to declare him an anti-pope and elect a new pope.

In this battle we face, there is something liberating in following the example of Archbishop Lefebvre by resolving that we will never support even the slightest semblance of error, no matter who tells us that we must absolutely obey.

What happens, then, if the cardinals and bishops never act? As described in a previous article, St. Robert Bellarmine wrote that Catholics should “resist a Pope destroying the Church” if the Church was unable to remove him:

“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.”

Simply calling Francis an anti-pope does not remove him, much less provide a process by which the Church will elect another to replace him. So if the Church cannot remove (and replace) a destroyer pope, it must resist him and “beg the Lord that He would apply the remedy."

When thinking about how best to resist Francis (and any heretic the next conclave might elect), we should recognize that God has given us the example of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who fought these same battles long before the world had heard of Jorge Bergoglio. Many sincere Catholics imagine that the Church’s current troubles began when Benedict XVI announced his resignation, but we can see that Archbishop Lefebvre had to address the same evils considered above:

  • Questioning (or Rejecting) Settled Church Teaching. As discussed in a previous article, John Paul II promoted the anti-Catholic errors of a potentially empty hell and universal salvation. And, although it is a far less significant heresy than universal salvation, we should also acknowledge that John Paul II set the precedent for Francis’s beliefs about the death penalty.
  • Endorsing Religions Fundamentally Opposed to Catholicism. John Paul II’s infamous Prayer Meeting as Assisi sent the erroneous message to the world that the Catholic Church approved of false religions.
  • Honoring the Church’s Enemies. John Paul II’s appointed as cardinals numerous perverts and/or heretics such as: Joseph Bernadin, Godfried Danneels, Henri de Lubac, Carlo Maria Martini, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Yves Congar, Walter Kasper, Theodore McCarrick, and Jorge Mario Bergoglio, among others.
  • Persecuting Traditional Catholics. Even before John Paul II excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre for consecrating four bishops in 1988, John Paul II and Paul VI had devoted considerable efforts to stopping Archbishop Lefebvre’s defense of Catholic Tradition.
  • Attacking the Church’s History. There is actually a Wiki page for the “List of apologies made by Pope John Paul II.” The entry begins with this synopsis: “Pope John Paul II made many apologies. During his long reign as Pope, he apologized to Jews, women, people convicted by the Inquisition, Muslims killed by the Crusaders and almost everyone who had suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church over the years.”

Based on these realities, how can we honestly avoid reaching the same conclusions about John Paul II that we reached about Francis above? Were John Paul II’s efforts to abolish Catholic truth less problematic than Francis’s? If anything, John Paul II’s efforts were much more lethal because he commanded infinitely more respect from Catholics than does Francis.

All those today who preach the gospel of false ecumenism are anathema. All those who preach the gospel of living tradition that evolves to fit the times are anathema.

Astonishingly, though, we must also see that John Paul II was far worse in one absolutely crucial respect: instead of simply excommunicating Archbishop Lefebvre for the 1988 consecrations, John Paul II used that episode to divide Traditional Catholics on the errors of Vatican II, as we can see from the following statement from his apostolic letter regarding the the excommunication, Ecclesia Dei:

“The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, ‘comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience.’”

According to John Paul II, Archbishop Lefebvre was “schismatic” because he acted upon a “mistaken” belief that immutable Catholic truth cannot evolve to become something that contradicts what it once was.

So, whereas John Paul II could have simply condemned the consecrations of the four bishops, he instead used the opportunity to attempt to silence opposition to the ongoing assaults on Catholic truth. This fostered the development of a dangerous mindset that tolerates some errors opposed to the Faith (such as false ecumenism) in order to maintain favor with the pope. However, as Pope Leo XIII wrote in Satis Cognitum, we cannot reject even a single truth of the Faith without thereby rejecting the entire religion:

“For such is the nature of faith that nothing can be more absurd than to accept some things and reject others. Faith, as the Church teaches, is ‘that supernatural virtue by which, through the help of God and through the assistance of His grace, we believe what he has revealed to be true, not on account of the intrinsic truth perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, the Revealer, who can neither deceive nor be deceived’ (Conc. Vat., Sess. iii., cap. 3). If then it be certain that anything is revealed by God, and this is not believed, then nothing whatever is believed by divine Faith: for what the Apostle St. James judges to be the effect of a moral deliquency, the same is to be said of an erroneous opinion in the matter of faith.”

By calling into question hell, and the need for souls to be Catholic if they want to do as much as they can to please God and save their souls, John Paul II led countless Catholics to question the entire basis for the Faith. He led them away from the Faith. He led them to hell.

Truth liberates, unites, and empowers those who are willing to die for it. Conversely, those who are willing to cling to the slightest bit of error will be the agents of slavery to the devil, disunity, and emasculation.

How did Archbishop Lefebvre respond to the post-Conciliar attacks on the Faith? When forced to choose between loyalty to the popes and loyalty to the immutable Catholic Faith, Archbishop Lefebvre chose both, as we can read in his famous 1974 Declaration:

“It is impossible to modify profoundly the lex orandi without modifying the lex credendi. To the Novus Ordo Missae correspond a new catechism, a new priesthood, new seminaries, a charismatic Pentecostal Church—all things opposed to orthodoxy and the perennial teaching of the Church. This Reformation, born of Liberalism and Modernism, is poisoned through and through; it derives from heresy and ends in heresy, even if all its acts are not formally heretical. It is therefore impossible for any conscientious and faithful Catholic to espouse this Reformation or to submit to it in any way whatsoever. The only attitude of faithfulness to the Church and Catholic doctrine, in view of our salvation, is a categorical refusal to accept this Reformation. That is why, without any spirit of rebellion, bitterness or resentment, we pursue our work of forming priests, with the timeless Magisterium as our guide. We are persuaded that we can render no greater service to the Holy Catholic Church, to the Sovereign Pontiff and to posterity.”

He wrote these words during Paul VI’s disastrous reign and he would almost certainly say the same thing today under Francis’s disastrous reign. A categorical refusal to accept the “Reformation” is the only way to be loyal to the Church and the papacy. Acceptance of error, however slight as it may seem, is ultimately disloyal to both.

To make this analysis more concrete, we can simply consider opposition to the Synod on Synodality. Yes, it is important to fight against the headline evils from the Synod, such as discussions of ordaining women, and a focus “accompanying” those in inherently sinful relationships. But Archbishop Lefebvre would tell us that the entire process is “poisoned through and through” because it reexamines settled matters of the Faith, involves the laity in a blasphemous “democratic process” to redefine the Faith, and relies entirely on the heretical assertion that all baptized souls — even those who reject the Church’s teaching — are members of the Catholic Church, whose anti-Catholic views must be accommodated.

In this battle we face, there is something liberating in following the example of Archbishop Lefebvre by resolving that we will never support even the slightest semblance of error, no matter who tells us that we must absolutely obey. Otherwise we are mired in the dilemma of trying to serve two masters, when we know that one of them happens to be representing Satan’s interests. It is far better to have the determination expressed so well by Archbishop Lefebvre in his 1974 Declaration:

“No authority, not even the highest in the hierarchy, can force us to abandon or diminish our Catholic Faith, so clearly expressed and professed by the Church’s Magisterium for nineteen centuries. ‘But though we,’ says St. Paul, ‘or an angel from heaven preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema’ (Gal. 1:8).”

All those today who preach the gospel of false ecumenism are anathema. All those who preach the gospel of living tradition that evolves to fit the times are anathema. And, because so many have accepted those false gospels for five decades since Archbishop Lefebvre’s 1974 Declaration, it is very fitting that we now have Francis occupying the papacy.

So, going back to St. Robert Bellarmine, how do we effectively “beg the Lord that He would apply the remedy” to the crisis in the Church and world perpetuated by Francis today? We cannot do it by picking and choosing which heresies we find most offensive. Because every error opposed to the Faith makes a mockery of God’s truth, there is something truly offensive to Him about saying, for instance, that we will condone John Paul II’s false ecumenism but decry Francis’s blessings for same-sex unions. If we want to petition God’s grace, we must reject all error.

Truth liberates, unites, and empowers those who are willing to die for it. Conversely, those who are willing to cling to the slightest bit of error will be the agents of slavery to the devil, disunity, and emasculation. We need to trust and love God enough to choose the path Archbishop Lefebvre was on in 1974 and never left. Otherwise we are practically begging God to permit the crisis to grow worse. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

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Last modified on Wednesday, February 7, 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.