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On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Tradition's "Operation Survival" through the episcopal consecrations by Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer on June 30, 1988, we republish this extract from the article published in Le Sel de la Terre N° 28. Emphasis is ours.

Non Possumus

Two weeks before the consecrations on June 30, 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre invited the four priests who would be consecrated, in order to prepare for the ceremony. In the course of two or three days they spent in the seminary, Monsignor Lefebvre gave them two private instructions in the small room of the seminary next to his, which is now the oratory of St. Marcellus. From the notes taken from his speaking with his usual calm and sweetness, we can reconstruct the approximate text of what he told them. This is of great interest. These words reveal the state of mind in which this giant of Church history performed this act which was for Catholic Tradition a decisive step and for Monsignor Lefebvre himself like the crowning of his glorious career in the service of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

† Monsignor Richard Williamson.

The SSPX has produced their own version of these recommendations on their website. It is well worth reading both versions, keeping mind that these instructions were only recorded afterwards and that there may be little differences in the exact words and expressions being used. The gist remains the same though: "the talks are over, don't trust the Romans, don't fall into their traps, wait for them to come back to Tradition".


Archbishop Lefebvre

June 12, 1988

It's over. The talks [with Rome] are over. The more we think about it, the more we realize that their intentions are not good. The proof: look what happened with Dom Augustin and Fr. of Blignieres [The Benedictine monastery of Dom Augustin gradually accepted the new Mass at the end of the 1980s; the Dominican Tertiaries Foundation of Fr. de Blignieres went from sedevacantism to union with Rome, accepting religious liberty. Ndlr]. They want to unite everyone to the council, leaving us only a little bit of Tradition.

Mr. De Saventhem (then president of Una Voce International) believes that there is still a way to get along with Rome.
But this isn't about little things. In Rome they remain what they are. We cannot put ourselves in the hands of these people. We don't want to be swallowed up. It is an illusion of Dom Gérard (at that time, prior of the monastery of Saint Magdalene of Barroux and who chose ralliement with Rome) to think that an agreement would give us an immense apostolate. Yes, but in an equivocal and ambiguous context that will corrupt us.

They tell us: "You will have more vocations if you are with Rome..." But if ever we spoke up against Rome, these vocations would divide and corrupt our seminaries. And the [liberal] bishops would say to them: "Come with us then!" So little by little the amalgamation would occur.

The sisters of Saint-Michel-en-Brenne, the Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux and Brignoles1, are all against the agreement: "We should not depend on Ratzinger, they say... Imagine if he came to give us conferences! He would divide us!"

What if some of them abandon us? It wouldn't be any more serious than it was in 1977. Fathers Blin, Gottlieb and Cie are now united to Rome and have scattered (Mgr Lefebvre is referring to the priests who left him in 1977. They were recruited by the dioceses and now say the new Mass). A second decision is needed against neo-modernist Rome (after the first, in 1976). What do you want to do? Are things more serious this time? The basic problem remains the same: Rome wants to destroy Tradition (...).

The role of consecrated bishops: ordinations, confirmations and maintaining the faith [underlined in the original notes]. You must protect the flock.

Rome wants to make us change

After June 30th, I will stay here, I will have finished giving the Fraternity the structure it needs. To the pope I say: when Tradition returns to Rome there will be no more problem.

Excommunication? It will be worthless, for they do not seek the good of the Church. Instead, excommunication will be treated as a treasure. They're panicking. They're trying to get me by all means (...) They want to stop me from acting. They'd like to send me to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. But it's not worth receiving them. There's no point endlessly repeating the same things. All we have to do is read the letter sent to us by Fr. C., who corrupted our seminarians and took them from us. He confesses that they are treated [in Rome] as outcasts, that they are forced to give up their cassocks or that they no longer receive them. He found out what this Roman "Mater Ecclesiæ" is like. This is what they want to intend to do with us2.  And when this happened, when these seminarians left us, Ratzinger rejoiced.

So why would they keep their word with us today? God protected us by making that agreement fail.

13 June, 1988

Monsignor Lefebvre: We thank you on behalf of the Fraternity.

The crux of the matter is, Rome never deals with the essential question. They ask us for a declaration, they force us to adhere to a minimum of their ideas, but they never question their own liberal and modernist background. At the same time, I constantly try to point out their modernism.

Regarding the letter of 2 June3

The talks, while courteous, have convinced us that the time for an agreement has not yet come. We need protection against the spirit of Assisi. We have never had an answer to our objections. Never! All the battles have been for nothing. We pursue different ends in these talks.  We hope that Tradition will return to Rome, but they're not changing.

One of our Fraternity priests asked me to write a letter begging forgiveness. But I answered that, before God, it is we who should ask them to take the anti-modernist oath and to accept Lamentabili, Quanta Cura. We are the ones who must question them about the faith. But they don't respond, they just reaffirm their errors.

On 12 June, Mr. De Saventhem told me: You will be responsible'. I replied: "Look at Fr. C.'s letter about this Mater Ecclesiae. This Fr. C. wrote: "I repent of everything". And then there's also his letter of appeal to Cardinal Ratzinger. He wrote several letters to the Cardinal: no answer! For two years, they made fun of these young people who are forced to tow the line. (…)

De Saventhem says they're little details! But they have many consequences. They want to drag our work into the spirit of the Council. If we had accepted [the agreement], we would have been dead. We wouldn't have lasted a year.

We would have had to cohabitate with the conciliarists, while now we are united. But if we had said yes, it would have caused the internal division of the Fraternity, everything would have divided us.

New vocations would come because we would be with Rome, or so we are told. But these vocations would not tolerate any distancing from Rome, any criticism: there would be our division! Today, vocations sort themselves out.

Look: Monsignor Decourtray offers Father Laffargue a traditional parish, on condition that he leaves the Fraternity... They take our faithful, they're leading us to the council...

That is why we are saving the Fraternity and Tradition by prudently keeping our distance.

We have tried all we could within reason, we wondered if we could keep on trying, but we were protected. We found out it is impossible. They have only changed for the worse..

They have spiritual AIDS. They no longer have the grace, they no longer have a defense system. I don't think we can deny that Rome has lost the faith.

The witnesses of the faith, the martyrs, have always had to choose between faith and authority. We are living through the process of Joan of Arc, but in our case, it doesn't happen in a single blow, but over a span of 20 years [and counting! - Tradidi].

Archbishop Lefebvre

  • 1. See also
  • 2. Archbishop Lefebvre is referring here to a recycling initiative orchestrated by Rome (and Cardinal Ratzinger) in 1986-1987: a seminary for "traditional sensitives", called Mater Ecclesiae, which was opened in Rome in order to recycle Ecône's deserters. The seminarian who had been instrumental in this initiative wrote to Ecône shortly before the 1988 consecrations to confess that he had been deceived by the Roman authorities.
  • 3. This is the letter in which Archbishop Lefebvre pointed out to the Pope that, in conscience, he could not prolong the talks, because of Rome's betrayal, and because the objective of the proposed reconciliation "is not at all the same for the Holy See as for us".