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Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter XXI
Archbishop Lefebvre in Venice
Volume 3, Chapter XXI
Archbishop Lefebvre in Venice
7 April 1980 - Easter Monday
On Easter Monday 1980, Archbishop Lefebvre offered Mass in the Church of San Simone Piccolo. Twenty students and a number of priests of the seminary at Albano, near Rome, had travelled to Venice for the Mass. I had a personal interest in this particular Mass as I had been staying at the seminary during Holy Week, prior to meeting Cardinal Seper on the evening of Easter Monday. The Cardinal had expressed a wish to meet me after having been given some of my books by Archbishop Lefebvre. I had gone to the Rome terminus to see the seminarians off, and I was most interested in the outcome of the Mass as the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Cé, made public his displeasure at Archbishop Lefebvre’s decision to offer Mass in his diocese. A justification of Mgr. Lefebvre's practice in intervening within the dioceses of other bishops is included in my commentary on the protest made by Mgr. Elchinger when the Archbishop came to Strasbourg .
Four items concerning the Venice Mass are included here. They are: an account of the Mass provided by a seminarian; the Archbishop’s sermon; a report which appeared in The Times; and a characteristic example of Universe gutter journalism from Ronald Singleton. It is interesting to compare this report with his account of the condemnation of Hans Küng.
A Visit to Venice
by a Seminarian from Albano1
by a Seminarian from Albano1
The seminarians completing their second year of studies at the Society of St. Pius X's house near Rome were able, during Easter week, to benefit from a five-day holiday in Venice provided by the generosity of Italian benefactors. Under the direction of our Director, Father Didier Bonneterre, we left Albano after chanting Vespers in the seminary chapel. A picnic supper had been provided by the Sisters, and we very much appreciated it during the long journey by train as far as Padua.
Padua is a modem thriving metropolis whose history goes back well before the time of the Holy Roman Empire when it was already an important religious, cultural, artistic, and commercial center. Today its chief claim to fame is its magnificent medieval basilica built to house the remains of St. Anthony, the great Franciscan preacher whose name is popularly invoked in the search for mislaid objects. The hotel at which we were to stay was situated very near the basilica, and from six 0' clock each morning seminarians could be seen dotted all over this huge church, making their early morning meditation and reciting their breviary.
We had the opportunity of visiting other churches in Padua, whose expansive medieval city-center is still very much unspoiled by the industrial development springing up in the suburbs. In the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Guistina, for example, a majestic sixteenth-century church surmounted by eight domes, we were able to pray at the tomb of St. Luke the Evangelist and author of the Acts of the Apostles. It is at such venerable sites of Christendom as this that one is more painfully aware of the sorrows of today's Church. Since St. Luke and the other Apostles and Evangelists first began to preach the Word of God, never has the Faith been so disturbed, so endangered as in the present century; the Benedictine monk in the emerald-green shirt, one of the "guardians" of this holy place, was living proof. We should remember in our prayers the modern day pastors of Christ's flock, that they may continue to spread the truth of Christ, and to safeguard the Deposit of Faith handed down to us by the Apostles.
Just over half an hour from Padua, the city of Venice is approached by a three-mile long road-rail bridge built in 1933. Stepping outside from the railway station the first view of Venice is impressive - the Grand Canal with its endless stream of gondolas and vaporetti, and immediately opposite, the steps rising out of the water, the Church of San Simone Piccolo.
This small but imposing building was to be the scene of a much publicized and controversial event this past Easter Monday: Mgr. Lefebvre, Superior of the Society of St. Pius X, was to celebrate a Solemn Pontifical Mass - his first public Mass in Italy since the Vatican attempt to suppress the Society and the Mass of St. Pius V back in 1975. As we arrived in Venice early that morning a large crowd was already gathering around the church, and television cameras were being fixed into position on the bridge across the Grand Canal.
Without San Simone the atmosphere was relatively peaceful. A group of local supporters was succeeding in separating the newspaper reporters and the curious from the worshippers at the entrance, and the church was quickly filled by several hundred Catholic faithful, who, in a general air of expectancy, quietly recited the Rosary, or followed the Low Mass being celebrated in one of the side chapels by Father Bonneterre.
As last minute preparations were being made in the sacristy a loud commotion outside the church announced the arrival Archbishop Lefebvre, who had travelled down to Venice from Ecône the night before. Despite his long journey His Grace showed no signs of fatigue, and acknowledged the enthusiasm of the crowds as he made his way through the church to the sacristy. With proverbial Italian exuberance, the faithful clapped and cheered, and kneeling to receive his blessing and obviously grateful to have the opportunity of showing their loyalty and devotion to this faithful pastor and all he stands for.
The Archbishop arrived in the sacristy where the priests and seminarians were vesting for Mass. Soon the procession had formed and, after bowing to the Cross, it slowly made its way towards the door into the church. As the processional cross appeared in a cloud of incense the enthusiasm of the faithful burst forth again, this time in the singing of the Sacerdas et Pantifex. Arriving at the high altar resplendent in its Easter decorations, each seminarian in turn genuflected and made his way into the choir. The Introit was solemnly intoned and Monseigneur began the prayers at the foot of the altar. The ancient chants and ceremonies of the Easter liturgy continued: Hæc est dies - "This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad therein."
When the deacon had completed the singing of the Gospel announcing the Resurrection of Our Lord, he incensed the Archbishop who then proceeded to address the faithful. In a sermon in which he criticized condemnation of the Society - a condemnation made without any pretense at a fair trial - the Archbishop reaffirmed his refusal to compromise the Faith and his continued belief that any renewal within the Church must come through Tradition. He also criticized the attitude of those traditionalists who take an extreme position in regard to Rome, and refuse to acknowledge the lawful and divine authority of the official Church. Never has he worked against the Church - Ecône and its more than two hundred seminarians are working for the Church and within the Church. To prove this point, Mgr. Lefebvre reminded the congregation of the words of St. Pius X, Cardinal Patriarch of Venice before he was elected to the Throne of Peter, that the friends of the people are not the progressives and the innovators, but rather those who remain faithful to Tradition.
After the sermon the congregation rose to its feet to profess its faith in the singing of the Credo. The Mass proceeded, and soon a hush descended on the church as the warning bell was rung for the consecration. As the Archbishop paused and bent over the paten to whisper the words of consecration, the sacred stillness was suddenly broken by the triumphant pealing of the church bells, jubilantly proclaiming to the outside world the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the altar.
As the Mass came to an end, the congregation knelt for the pontifical blessing. The Archbishop made the triple sign of the cross over the people, and as choir and congregation joined in the final hymn, Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat, the clergy began the procession out of the church.
After changing out of our surplices and saying a prayer of thanksgiving, it was time to leave. Monseigneur arrived looking relaxed and cheerful, and we began the perilous descent of the steps down to the Grand Canal - perilous because of the enormous crowd of reporters and cameramen jostling each other in a frantic attempt at getting a personal interview with the Archbishop. With cameras clicking furiously, and microphones being brandished in all directions, Monseigneur looked the picture of serenity as he boarded the motor launch and waved to the crowds.
Our benefactors had arranged a banquet at a restaurant outside the city, and after such a long and physically tiring day everyone was more than happy to relax in pleasant surroundings and enjoy the hospitality of our hosts.
Later in the afternoon we were taken by bus to Riese, the birthplace of St. Pius X. For Archbishop Lefebvre, as well as for the majority of the seminarians, this was their first visit to this shrine, and although only a fleeting pilgrimage, the tour was made very special by the presence among us of the great-niece of St. Pius X. This wonderful old lady still lives in the home of the Sarto family where St. Pius X was born and spent his childhood. It is a simple house, typical of the dwellings of the region, a house which has retained all of its charm, thanks to the care of the Sarto family who have also established behind the house a museum dedicated to this great and holy man. In the town of Riese - now known as Riese/San Pio Decimo - the memory of this Pope lives on. His name is to be seen everywhere you look: Giuseppe Sarto Street, Pius X Boulevard, St. Pius X Pharmacy, and so on. It was refreshing to see such devotion to our heavenly patron in these times when his successors in the hierarchy seem to prefer to forget the teachings of such a staunchly traditionalist and anti-liberal Pope.
What is Happening In The Church?
A Sermon Pronounced by His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre at the Church of St. Simon Piccolo, Venice2
7 April 1980
7 April 1980
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My dear brethren,
I hope you will excuse me if I am not very fluent in your language but I hope that you will understand my words.
Perhaps there are some among you who are having doubts. They are maybe wondering why Archbishop Lefebvre has come here to Venice, without having been invited by Cardinal Cé. My presence here creates a situation which, in the Church, is not normal.
This is true. When I was Archbishop of Dakar, if a bishop had come to my diocese without having asked me and without having been invited, I would have been very surprised. I realize this, that we are dealing with an abnormal situation. We definitely have to ask ourselves what the present situation in the Church is.
Never, never would I have wanted to do anything contrary to the Church! All of my life has been devoted to the service of the Church. In my fifty years of priesthood, thirty-three of them as a bishop, I have done nothing but serve the Church as a missionary, as a bishop in France, as Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, and as a missionary bishop. The young seminarians and the priests that you see here with me represent a very small part of all those presently studying in my five seminaries.
Ten years ago I began this work - this Society of St. Pius X - with the intention of wanting always to serve the Church. Why, then, is Cardinal Cé, Patriarch of Venice, not happy that I have come here? Why does he not understand the reason? How can I best explain? Obviously, he is not happy that I have continued my duties unchanged since the day of my ordination to the priesthood. I have never changed in any way, whether it was when I established new seminaries in Africa, or when, as Apostolic Delegate of His Holiness Pope Pius XII, I visited the sixty-four dioceses of French Africa during the course of eleven years. I visited all the seminaries, laying down to the diocesan bishops the standards for the new ones to be opened.
I have never changed. I have preached and done what the Church has always taught. I have never changed what the Church said in the Council of Trent and at the First Vatican Council. So who has changed? Myself or Cardinal Cé? I don’t know, but I think that considering the way things are - that is, the fruits of the changes made in the Church since the Second Vatican Council - as Catholics we can observe the fruits for ourselves, you can see it with your own eyes.
How are things going in the Church today? Ask His Grace Monseigneur Pintonello, former Chaplain to the Armed Forces, who has made a detailed report on the present conditions of the Italian seminaries: a disaster! A real disaster! How many seminaries have been sold or closed? The Seminary of Turin with three hundred places - empty! And how many others have you seen closed in your own dioceses? So then, surely, something is wrong in the Church, because if there are no longer any seminaries there will in the future be no more priests - thus, there will no longer be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. What will become of the Church? All this is unbelievable! They have changed, yes. They have changed, but why? They have done this, of course, with the idea of saving the Church, of doing something new. Before the Council there was a real decrease of fervor and therefore they thought that by changing, the Church would become more alive. But one cannot change what Jesus Christ has established. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments, the Creed, our catechism, the Sacred Scriptures - all come from Jesus Christ. To change them is to change the establishment of Jesus Christ. Impossible! One cannot say that the Church has been mistaken; if something is wrong one must look for the reason somewhere, but not in the Church. They also say that the Church must change as modem man changes, that as man has a new way of life, so too the Church must have another doctrine - a new Mass, new Sacraments, a new catechism, new seminaries - and, in this way, everything has gone to ruin. Everything has been ruined!
The Church is not responsible. It is not the Church but rather the priests who are responsible for the deterioration of Catholicism. Pope St. Pius X, your Holy Patriarch of Venice, in the first pages of his encyclical Pascendi, writes that already in his time there were errors and heresies not outside but inside the Church; within the Church and not only among the laity but, more to the point, amongst the priests. St. Pius X saw these enemies from the very beginning of this century. Today we can add that if St. Pius X were still alive, he would see them not only amongst the priests but amongst the bishops and cardinals as well. It is certain, unfortunately, that there are even some cardinals who are diffusing error.
Where does the Dutch Catechism originate? Certainly not from the Catholic Catechism, even though it was approved by cardinals and bishops. Even the French catechism, with which I am acquainted, contain errors. It is no longer the true Catholic doctrine which has always been taught. We are dealing with a very serious situation.
Throughout the world, everywhere I have been, I have visited groups of Catholics like you, who ask themselves: "What is happening in the Church?" The Church is hardly recognizable today. The ceremonies - the half - Protestant, half-Catholic liturgy - are a circus; it is no longer a Mystery. The Sacred Mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - a great Mystery, heavenly and sublime - is no longer considered such. One no longer feels the supernatural character of the Mass; those who are present have a feeling of emptiness and no longer know whether they have been at a Catholic ceremony or at some king of secular gathering.
This is an inadmissible situation. The faithful, good and simple people, are opposed to it. Because they intuitively know that there is something which is not right in this reform. They see seminaries empty; the novitiates of religious communities empty throughout the world. This, too, is inadmissible.For the good of the Church we must resist without being against those in authority.
I have always had a great respect for the Holy Father, for the bishops and cardinals. I am not capable of pronouncing uncharitable words in the confrontation with Cardinal Cé, but that does not stop me from affirming Catholic doctrine because I want to remain a Catholic.
When I was baptized, the priest asked my godparents: "What does this child ask of the Church?" They replied: "Faith. He asks Faith from the Church." And even today I still ask Faith from the Church - the Catholic Faith. Why do the godparents ask Faith of the Church for the child? They do so to enable him to obtain everlasting life. If it is the Faith that obtains everlasting life, then it is this Faith that I want- and I don’t want to change it!
The Catholic Faith is the Catholic Faith. The Creed is the Creed. They cannot be changed. One cannot change the Catechism; one cannot change the Mass, transforming it into a meal as the Protestants have.
The Mass is a Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of the Cross and, as the Council of Trent says, it is the same Sacrifice as Calvary, with the only difference being that one is bloody and the other unbloody. But the two are the same; the same priest - Jesus Christ, and the same Victim - Jesus Christ.
If the Victim is truly Jesus Christ, God, our Creator and our Redeemer, who shed all His Blood for our souls, it is impossible to receive Him in our hands like just any piece of bread. And it is therefore impossible for a Catholic not to have respect and adoration, if he truly believes that in the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus Christ - God Himself - the Creator, our Judge, who will be seen coming in the clouds of heaven to judge the entire world. Like you, I am also scandalized, I am saddened and it pains my heart to see it - they even show it on television - pictures in which a cardinal or bishop approaches the Blessed Eucharist without making a genuflection or any other sign of respect towards the Blessed Sacrament - nothing! Once again, this is inadmissible and does not reflect the attitude of the Catholic Church. We must keep the Faith in this storm through which the Church is passing - a storm that has lasted for a long time and that we hope will soon be over so that the Church can return to the Faith that she had before. We must have a little patience.
I go to Rome five or six times a year to plead with the cardinals, the Pope himself, to return to Tradition and to give back to the Church her Catholic spirit. I quote again from St. Pius X: "Who are the friends of the people? The true friends of the people are neither the revolutionaries nor the innovators but rather the traditionalists." Those are the words of St. Pius X to the French bishops. The true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries nor the innovators - and it was precisely the innovators who condemned St. Pius X - but rather the traditionalists. We want to be in the same spirit of St. Pius X whom for this reason I have chosen as patron of our Society, which is recognized by the Church.
My Society, in fact, was officially recognized ten years ago by Rome and by the Bishop of Fribourg in Switzerland in which diocese it was founded. Afterwards, progressive bishops and Modernists saw in my seminaries a danger for their theories. They were enraged with me and said to themselves: "We need to destroy these seminaries, we need to finish off Ecône and the work of Archbishop Lefebvre, because it presents a danger to our progressive and revolutionary plan." They addressed themselves to Rome in this calumnious manner and Rome consented.
But as I said to His Holiness John Paul II, the suppression was carried out in a manner contrary to Canon Law. Not even the Soviets pronounce judgments as the cardinals at Rome have done against my work. The Soviets have a tribunal, a kind of tribunal to condemn someone, but I have not even had this tribunal - nothing! I have been condemned without having had anything, not even a forewarning or a summons - nothing! One fine day a letter arrived to tell me that the seminary would have to be closed.
I have repeated this to the Holy Father that not even the Soviets behave like this. I told him that I have continued because this is not how the Church acts - it is the enemies of the Church that want her seminaries closed down. The Catholic Church cannot just forget her Tradition, it is impossible. It is the enemy, as St. Pius X said, the enemy who is working within the Church because he wants the Church to be finished with her tradition; because he is in a fury against her Tradition.
It is up to you to judge the facts. In my seminaries we have over 200 seminarians and many vocations to the religious life. When a house opens it is soon filled with many new vocations. Why? Because the youth seek to find the Church - Tradition. There, where one finds Tradition, one also finds the Church. Through a priest all finds its ideal; all his heart is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To go unto the altar of God, to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to give Our Christ, the true Victim - to souls. Thus the fullness of the priesthood and the priests. My seminarians, such as those at Ecône, know this; they prepare themselves for the priesthood upon this basis.
I congratulate and thank those who have invited me to come. I hope that my visit has encouraged Catholics to maintain the Church of all time, the Catholic Church. In Rome it has been said of me that I have done nothing other than halt, impede, progress in the Church. In that alone I would be doing a splendid thing! If only this, to halt, to impede the ruin of the Church!
That is not our only purpose. Not only do we wish to halt this ruin but we desire also to reconstruct the Church, a living Church. For this end I preach to you a crusade, a true crusade of all Catholics who desire to maintain the Faith. In order to do so you must gather about good priests who wish to conserve the Faith by assuring life in the Church.
In closing, I ask all who are gathered around this altar, a true altar with a true priest, I ask you to continue the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We pray also for your children that they may see and know the Catholic religion, that they may frequent Catholic schools. Indeed, there are great trials for Catholic parents. These children must also conserve Tradition. We invoke, to this end, our highly venerated Patriarch of Venice, Pope St. Pius X, who was a saint who foresaw the future.
During the course of this Mass let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom we must have a great devotion, especially through the invocation of the most holy Rosary, let us ask her to terminate this crisis in the Church and return to the Church the peace and grace of Almighty God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Ghost. Amen.
"Catholic Church at Point of Catastrophe," says Rebel Prelate
from Peter Nichols, Rome, April 7
8 April 1980 - A Report in The Times
from Peter Nichols, Rome, April 7
8 April 1980 - A Report in The Times
Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre, the traditionalist prelate suspended by the Vatican for disobedience, said in his sermon preached in a Venice church today that change had brought the Catholic Church to the point of catastrophe.
During the celebration of the Latin Mass, the first in Italy since his suspension by Pope Paul VI for disobedience, he said that he would never do anything against the Church which he had served all his life. He had not changed. He still said and preached the things that the Church had always taught. But the fruits of the changes around him were now clear.
"Seminaries have been sold or closed with the risk that, in the future, there will be no more priests and no more Masses."
There had been, he said, before the Vatican Council a falling off in fervor, and people had thought that by changing things, the situation would improve. "But you cannot change things pertaining to the Church."
Responsible for the situation were those bishops and cardinals who spread error and a Catholic doctrine which was no longer what it used to be. For the good of the Church, he said, "one must resist."
"I have asked, and continue to ask, several times a year, the cardinals in Rome to return to the tradition, but these progressive and Modernist bishops have seen in my seminaries a danger and they want to destroy them, and with them my work. Not even the Soviets are as intransigent as the cardinals of Rome have been toward me."
This, he said, was not the Catholic Church but the enemy within the Catholic Church. "To brake the ruin of the Church is one of our aims. The other is to build a living Church."
There were about 600 people in the church. Scuffling was caused because of an order to ban all press photographers.
Mgr. Lefebvre himself appeared quite calm, ignoring the numerous placards outside the church criticizing his challenge to the Vatican.
The rebel Archbishop was preceded by twenty students from his seminary at Ecône in Switzerland, and eight priests.
Mgr. Lefebvre was heckled both during and after the services by young parishioners from a nearby Liberal Roman Catholic church. At one point the Archbishop's traditionalist followers appeared on the point of breaking into fist fights and police moved between the two groups outside the tiny church of San Simeon Piccolo to prevent violence.
As Mgr. Lefebvre arrived at the church he was met by about twenty protesters shouting: "Fascist" and "throw him into the water."
When compared with the account of the Venice Mass by the seminarian, and the text of the Archbishop's sermon, it will be clear that this report describes what took place and summarized the Archbishop's sermon in a reasonably objective manner. The contentious epithet "rebel prelate" is unfortunate, but it has been used so frequently in the Catholic press it is now almost a sine qua non for secular journalists. It is consoling to think that had there been newspapers in the fourth century the same epithet would have been applied to St. Athanasius.
"New Challenge by the Rebel Archbishop"
by Ronald Singleton
8 April 1980- A Report in The Universe
by Ronald Singleton
8 April 1980- A Report in The Universe
Cherubic, pink-cheeked, and immensely self-confident Archbishop Lefebvre, 74, zoomed into Venice by motorboat and celebrated a Tridentine Mass that was a challenge to the Pope.
A crowd shouted: "Throw him in the lagoon!"
More than 400 Catholics who reject Vatican instructions on how Mass must be said went to his service at a building, once the church of St. Simeon Minor.
The Archbishop’s sermon contained not words of joy, but acrid accusations of all bishops gathered about the Pope. As usual they were his favorite villains and "Abominations." He pointedly ignored the Holy Father.
Most Venetians were shocked. Cardinal Patriarch Cé, and diocesan Church and lay leaders were outraged.
The congregation included so-called princes, princesses, counts and dukes.
They filed into the building past black-cloaked men who told correspondents, "No photos! No tape recording! No notebooks! No notes! No pencils!"
Invitations were limited to cards: "A Mass will be said in the Latin Gregorian Rite in the church with the green dome past the canal in front of the railway station."
The suspended Archbishop had the support of Countess Elisabetta Marcella Vendramin, but not of Count Pier Fillippo Grimani, descendant of three Dogs and "Leader" of Venetian aristocracy, who observed: "This Lefebvre! What are we coming to!"
The promoter of the ceremony was Sirio Cisilino, 80, who said: "I am proud of the fact that I have never once said Mass in Italian!"
He was given permission to say Latin Masses in the church by the last Cardinal Patriarch Luciani (Pope John Paul I).
The Archbishop was celebrating Mass "to help the beatification cause of Padre Pio."
An angry Cardinal Patriarch Cé telephoned the Pope a few days ago, then wrote in a pastoral letter: "The Mass will take place explicitly against the ruling of the Church authorities in violation of the rules concerning the use of the building involved, which is for musical concerts."
A Vatican official said: "If the Archbishop continues trying to score points, the Holy Father is bound to intervene."
The angry citizens who shouted: "Throw him in the lagoon!" were answered by others who waved banners and called "Long live Lefebvre!" There were fights. Thirty police intervened.
It is hardly surprising that there is such a widespread prejudice against Mgr. Lefebvre when it is remembered that the typical Catholic will form his opinion of the Archbishop from reports such as this. A lack of professionalism is, unfortunately, a characteristic of the Liberal Catholic press. It is only reasonable that any journal should be entitled to its viewpoint, and to use its columns to promote this viewpoint, but any journal claiming to be a newspaper should make the classic distinction between news, which should be sacred, and comment, which should be free but fair. The Universe had every right to criticize Mgr. Lefebvre for offering Mass in Venice without the permission of Cardinal Cé, but it should have used its opinion column to do this and not what purported to be a news report. When The Universe report is set beside that of The Times, the abysmal lack of professionalism which characterizes this squalid propaganda sheet becomes apparent immediately. In his sermon the Archbishop mentioned the fact that the treatment he had received from the Vatican was more reminiscent of Soviet Russia than the Catholic Church. The manner in which The Universe has consistently vilified Mgr. Lefebvre also brings to mind the manner in which the Soviet press conducts its campaigns against such men as Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The same motive can be discerned in both cases: fear of the truth.
It is worth examining the Singleton report in some detail, as has been done on previous occasions, to discern the techniques used by the journalists of conciliar Catholicism engaged in character assassination. It should also be noted that The Universe rarely publishes letters defending those whom it has denigrated, and that the techniques it employs are typical of the official Catholic press throughout the world.
Singleton claims that the Mass which the Archbishop offered was a challenge to the Pope. Let us hope that the Pope did not consider that offering Mass in a rite dating back in all essentials to the epoch of St. Gregory the Great constituted a "challenge" to him. Mgr. Lefebvre has never been in any diocese to challenge any bishop’s authority, but simply to minister to the pastoral needs of traditional Catholics, the orphans of the Conciliar Church. Hans Küng travelled all over the world undermining the faith of Catholics in diocese, both before and after his condemnation. Singleton on no occasion terms this "a challenge to the Pope."
"A crowd shouted: ‘ Throw him into the lagoon!'" The Times report reveals this "crowd" consisted of only twenty youths from a local Liberal parish. As they also shouted "Fascist" at the Archbishop it would appear fair to describe them as left-wing hooligans.
The "400" Catholics who assisted at the Archbishop's Mass "reject Vatican instructions on how Mass must be said." The number was actually 600, and they were all, it seems, very naughty Catholics who reject Vatican instructions. It is definitely arguable that there has never been any canonically valid legal prohibition of the Tridentine Mass, but leave that aside. As is made clear in Inæstimabile donum, Vatican instructions on the way Mass must be said are widely ignored throughout the Catholic world, and in a manner that undermines Eucharistic devotion. But even if were ignored in Venice, attendance at this Mass could only have served to strengthen the Eucharistic devotion of those present. I am certain that Singleton would never have described those attending a Küng lecture as "Catholics who reject Church teaching."
"The Archbishop’s sermon contained not words of joy, but acrid accusations of all bishops gathered about the Pope. As usual, they were his favorite villains and abominations." A photograph of the Archbishop had the caption: "Acrid: Archbishop Lefebvre."
Is Singleton under the impression that every sermon must contain "words of joy"? It would be hard to find any terms of joy appropriate for the present condition of the Church. One must presume that Singleton would have censured Our Lord for weeping over Jerusalem. Unlike the readers of The Universe, readers of this book are able to compare Singleton's description of the sermon with what the Archbishop actually said. It will also be noted that, unlike The Times correspondent, Singleton made no attempt to report the Archbishop's actual words. The only word he quotes is " abominations" - claiming that the Archbishop applied this term to " all the bishops gathered about the Pope - his favorite villains." Readers will have noted that the word "abominations" does not appear anywhere in the sermon, but most Universe readers would have believed that Mgr. Lefebvre had actually used this expression. They will also note that the sermon was very far from being acrid. It provided an accurate assessment of the state of contemporary Catholicism, and offered words of encouragement, inspiration and hope to those remaining faithful to Tradition. The Archbishop did indeed criticize cardinals and bishops, and with very good reason. As he mentioned, the notorious Dutch Catechism could hardly be described as Catholic, and yet it has received the approval of cardinals and bishops. The Archbishop’s judgment is corroborated by Professor J.P.M. van der Ploeg, O.P., one of the most outstanding biblical scholars in the world today. Professor van der Ploeg stated:
The Dutch Catechism is, from one end to the other, a manual of Modernism for which it aims to win an acceptance everywhere. In order not to alarm its readers the true import of its teaching is frequently concealed by deceptive and ambiguous phrasing, although at times the authors have the insolence to flaunt it openly. The Dutch Catechism has already caused incalculable harm throughout the world, as a Roman Cardinal confided to me recently.
If the Dutch Catechism is indeed a "manual of Modernism" which has caused incalculable harm throughout the world, then Mgr. Lefebvre not only has a right but a duty to criticize cardinals and bishops who endorse it. Such criticism, far from being acrid, is courageous, constructive and a duty to the Faith.
Singleton was obviously disappointed that Mgr. Lefebvre had not criticized the Pope. But such is his pathological dislike for the Archbishop (which I referred to in Apologia II, p. 37), that he even uses this as an excuse to abuse the former Apostolic Delegate to the whole of French-speaking Africa. The Archbishop, he claimed, "pointedly ignored the Holy Father." Just as there is no obligation for any preacher to include "words of joy" in every sermon, there is equally no obligation for him to mention the Pope each time he preaches. I have heard many hundreds of sermons in which the Pope has not been mentioned, but it never struck me that the preacher was "pointedly ignoring" the Holy Father! Once again, unlike the readers of The Universe, readers of this book will be aware that Singleton is stating something which is totally false. There are, in fact, several references to the Holy Father in the sermon, and all in the most respectful terms. Indeed, the Archbishop was equally respectful when referring to the bishops whom Singleton claimed he had accused in acrid terms as "villains and abominations":
The negative impression which most Universe readers would have formed of the Archbishop after reading the Singleton report would have been very different had they been able to read what Mgr. Lefebvre had actually said. It is not difficult to understand why The Universe has such a fear of the truth.
"I have always had a great respect for the Holy Father, for the bishops and cardinals. I am not capable of pronouncing uncharitable words in the confrontation with you Cardinal Cé, but that does not stop me from affirming Catholics doctrine because I want to remain a Catholic."
It is clear that had Mgr. Lefebvre criticized Pope John Paul II in his sermon he would have been denounced by Singleton as some sort of apostate. If criticism of cardinals and bishops is unacceptable, then criticism of the Pope is unthinkable. But is this necessarily the invariable view of The Universe? Not so. Its editor has gone on record as stating quite clearly that criticism of the Pope can be legitimate. What matters is who is criticizing him, and why. In July 1983 the Holy Father was attacked by Mgr. Bruce Kent for failing to endorse the policy of unilateral disarmament. Mgr. Kent had been excused from his priestly duties by Cardinal Hume so that he could devote himself full-time to undermining the defense of the West.3
Mgr. Kent also had a very poor opinion of the Pope’s attitude to women and his view of the life of the clergy. In both cases he castigated the Pope's attitude as "unbelievable." The Monsignor received a good deal of criticism for his attack upon the Pope, but in its 22 July 1983 edition The Universe sprang to his defense. Criticism of the Pope, it appears, is not wrong providing the criticism comes from Liberals. "We are concerned," explained The Universe, "with the principle that criticism of the Pope is not forbidden by the Church. Criticism should not be taken for disloyalty." The editorial might have added: "Except in the case of Mgr. Lefebvre."
Back to Singleton
According to Singleton, Venetians could be divided into two classes that Easter Monday: those who were shocked and those who were outraged. Most, it appeared, came into the former category. It is far more likely that most Venetians were totally indifferent, if their attitude to the Faith bears any similarity to that of Catholics of most Western countries today. It would be interesting if Singleton could reveal precisely how he was able to ascertain the opinion of "most Venetians."
"The congregation included so-called princes, princesses, counts and dukes." What does Singleton mean by this? Either these people did possess the titles to which they laid claim or they did not. As Singleton does not adduce one word of evidence to suggest that any of them were frauds then he had no right to make such an imputation.
Singleton was somewhat irate at the refusal to let reporters into the Mass with their equipment. In view of the vilification to which the Archbishop and his Society have been treated by the press this precaution appears to be no more than common sense.
It will be noted that when reporting the condemnation of Hans Küng, comments were obtained only from admirers of this Liberal hero. The Universe published three comments on the Mass in Venice, all from individuals hostile to Mgr. Lefebvre, including one from a mysterious "Vatican official," whose remarks were so inane that he might well have been a gardener or a cook. One notes, too, that thirty police had to intervene to stop a fight which, according to The Times did not take place. Had there been a fight it would evidently have been provoked not by supporters of the Archbishop, but by the Liberal hooligans who had come solely with the object of abusing a prelate who had been a giant in the Church long before they had been born.
Singleton, The Universe, and the Catholic press in general might consider themselves to have been successful, to have won a victory, in their reporting of the Venice Mass and countless similar incidents involving Archbishop Lefebvre. They have deceived their readers, and they have covered up their deception. They have been successful in building up the image of the acrid "rebel bishop" in the minds of the ordinary faithful. In the best tradition of Dr. Goebbels, they know that if you tell a lie often enough, most people will come to accept it as the truth. The Archbishop can take comfort in the recollection that the enemies of his Divine Master needed to call upon the testimony of false witnesses. The same tactic was used in the trial of St. Thomas More. Satan does not change the methods which he employs from one century to another in his war against those who uphold the Truth.
1. This account was first published in The Angelus of September 1980.
2. First published in The Angelus, October 1980.
3. Mgr. Kent left the priesthood in 1987, and, in 1988, married an official of Pax Christi in a registry office without obtaining a dispensation from his priestly vows. The Universe made his marriage its front story on 15 April 1988, without a hint of criticism of Mgr. Kent, or even a hint that the marriage was invalid. He was given ample space to justify his indefensible behavior.
Adapted from here.
[Red font and bold emphasis - The Catacombs]