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Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre:

"The Visibility of the Church"


Extracts from a conference given at a priests’ retreat

Écône, September 9, 1988

(The original text, in French, first appeared in Fideliter 66, November-December 1988)


My dear friends, you continue to represent the true Church, the Catholic Church. I think you need to be convinced of this: you really represent the Catholic Church! I don’t say there is no Church outside of us, it’s not about that. But recently, they’ve been telling us that Tradition has to “enter the visible Church.” I think that that is a very, very serious mistake.



The Visible Church


Where is the visible church? The visible church is recognised by the marks that she has always given to be visible: One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic. I ask you: Where are the true marks of the Church? Are they more evident in the official Church (this is not the visible Church, it is the official church) or in us, in what we represent, what we are? Clearly we are the ones who preserve the Unity of the Faith, which has disappeared from the official church. One bishop believes in this, another does not, their beliefs are varied, their catechisms contain abominable heresies. Where is the unity of the Faith in Rome?


Where is the unity of Faith in the world? It is in us, we who have kept it. The unity of the Faith made real in the whole world is the Catholicity. And yet this unity of Faith around the world no longer exists, there is practically no more Catholicity left. There will soon be as many ‘Catholic Churches’ as bishops and dioceses. Everyone has their way of seeing, thinking, preaching, making his catechism. There is no Catholicity anymore.


And Apostolicity? They broke with the past. If they’ve done anything, that’s what they’ve done. They do not want anything more to do with what happened before Vatican II. Look at the Pope’s Motu Proprio [Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, 1988] that condemns us, he says there: “The living tradition is Vatican II.” ‘No need to refer to before Vatican II, that is meaningless. The Church carries Tradition with her from century to century. What is past is past, it’s gone. All of Tradition is to be found in the Church of today.’ What is this Tradition? What is it linked to? How is it linked with the past?


That is what allows them to say the opposite of what was said before, intending, all the while pretending that they alone keep Tradition. This is what the Pope [John Paul II] asks of us: “To submit to the living tradition.” We would have a “wrong” concept of Tradition, because for them, Tradition is “living” and therefore “evolutionary.” But this is a modernist error: Pope Saint Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi condemns these terms of “living tradition,” “living Church,” “living faith,” etc. in the sense that the modernists understand it, that is, of the evolution which depends on historical circumstances. Otherwise the truth of Revelation, the explanation of Revelation, would depend on historical circumstances.


Apostolicity: We are united to the Apostles by authority. My priesthood comes to me from the Apostles; your priesthood will come from the Apostles. We are the children of those who gave us the Episcopate. My episcopate descends from Pope St. Pius V and from him, back to the Apostles. As for the Apostolicity of the Faith, we believe the same Faith as the Apostles. We have not changed anything and we do not want to change anything.


Then the Holiness: We are not going to compliment or praise ourselves. If we don’t want to consider ourselves, let’s consider others and let’s consider the fruits of our apostolate, the fruits of vocations, of our religious and also within Catholic families. Good and holy Catholic families are coming into being, thanks to your apostolate. It is a fact, nobody denies it. Even our progressive visitors from Rome noted the good quality of our work. When Mgr. Perl said to the Sisters of Saint Pré (Brignoles) and of Fanjeaux that it is upon foundations like these that the Church must be rebuilt, that is not a small compliment.


All this shows that we are the ones who have the marks of the visible Church. If there is still a visibility of the Church today it is thanks to you. One can no longer find these signs with the others. They no longer have the unity of the Faith, and yet it is the Faith which is the basis of all the Church’s visibility.


Catholicity is the one Faith throughout space. Apostolicity is the one Faith throughout time and holiness is the fruit of the Faith which becomes real in the soul by the grace of God, by the grace of the Sacraments. It is completely false to consider us as not being part of the visible Church. That’s just not credible! It is the official Church that rejects us, but not we who reject the Church, far from it. On the contrary, we are still united to the Roman Church and even to the Pope of course, the successor of Peter. I think we must have this conviction to avoid falling into the errors that are now spreading.



Leaving the Church?


Of course, it could be objected: “Is one obliged to leave the visible Church, to not lose one’s soul, is one obliged to leave the society of the faithful united with the Pope?” We are not the ones, but it is the modernists who leave the Church. And as for talk of “leaving the visible Church,” that is a misunderstanding, identifying the official Church with the visible Church.


We belong to the visible Church, the society of the faithful under the authority of the Pope, for we do not reject the authority of the Pope, but what he does. We recognise the authority of the Pope, but when he uses it to do the opposite of what it was given to him for, obviously we cannot follow him.


How about “leaving the official Church” then? To some extent, yes, obviously. The whole book of Mr. Madiran, “The Heresy of the Twentieth Century,” is the story of the heresy of the bishops. One must therefore leave the bishops’ environment, if one does not want to lose one’s soul.


But that’s not enough, for it is in Rome that the heresy is installed. If the bishops are heretics (even without taking this term in its canonical sense and consequences) it is not without the influence of Rome.


If we keep our distance from those people, it is absolutely the same way as people with AIDS. One doesn’t want to catch it. But they have spiritual AIDS, a contagious disease. If one wishes to preserve one’s health, one must not go with them.


Yes, liberalism and Modernism were introduced by the Council into the interior of the Church. These are revolutionary ideas, and the Revolution which used to be found in civil government, has passed into the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger, elsewhere in his writings, does not hide it: they have adopted the ideas, not of the Church, but of the world and they feel it their duty to make them enter the Church.


And yet the authorities have not changed one iota their ideas about the Council, Liberalism and Modernism. They are anti-Tradition, ‘Tradition’ as we understand it and as the Church understands it. That does not fit their concept. Since theirs is an “evolutionary” concept, they are therefore against this fixed Tradition which we are holding onto. We believe that everything the catechism teaches us comes from Our Lord and the Apostles, and that nothing in it is to be changed. That much is clear. The three parts of the Catechism come to us from Our Lord. Why change them? We cannot make them “evolve”. The Creed, the commandments of God, the means of salvation, the sacraments, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, prayer, all of that comes to us directly from Our Lord. All of that is our Catechism, which is given to us in general at our Baptism, which is placed into our hands. That is our charter, since Our Lord wants everyone to be baptised, everyone to adopt the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Sacraments which He instituted, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the prayers.


For them, no; everything is evolving and has evolved with Vatican II. The current form of evolution is Vatican II. That is why we cannot link with Rome.


Rome Has Not Changed!


Whatever happens, we must continue as we have done, and the Good Lord shows us that following this route, we fulfil our duty. We do not deny the Roman Church. We do not deny their existence, but we cannot follow their directives. We cannot follow the principles of the Council. We cannot join them.


I realised that the desire of Rome is to impose on us their ideas and their way of seeing things. Cardinal Ratzinger always told me, “But Monsignor, there is only one Church, you mustn’t make a parallel church.” Which is this Church for him? The conciliar church, this is clear!
When he said to us explicitly: “Obviously, if this Protocol [of 1988] is granted to you, you must also accept what we are doing; and thus, in the Church of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet there would have to be a New Mass as well every Sunday…” You see, he wanted to bring us back to the conciliar church! This is not possible since it is clear that they want to impose these innovations on us to bring Tradition to an end! They do not grant anything out of appreciation for the traditional Liturgy, but simply to trick those to whom they give it and to diminish our resistance; to insert a wedge in the Traditional block so as to destroy it!


This is their policy, their conscious tactics! They do not make mistakes, and you know the pressures that they exert.

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