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Friday, June 16, 2023

Ecclesia Dei and the Abandonment of Principles! Part I: A Little History

SSPX seminary Econe, Switzerland

Earlier this week, I wrote a post titled Is There a Crisis in the Church? That post was the beginning of a series on Modernism which is the plague eating at the heart of Holy Mother Church and has been for much of my life. I was in high school during most of Vatican II and lived through all the dissent over contraception that followed. I personally experienced the damage of the scandalous confusion of Modernism even leaving the Church for a short time between college graduation and my marriage a year later. What began as a tidal wave of scandal and confusion, has become a tsunami today.

Who could have predicted, even in the 1960s that Rome would allow veneration of a pagan idol in the Vatican gardens during the Amazonia Synod? Who could imagine that the symbol of Pachamama (the plant with red flowers) would desecrate the altar in St. Peter's during the closing Mass? Who would have believed that many Catholic churches would celebrate pride Masses or bless sodomite unions or give Communion to couples living in adultery? Who would guess that cheerleaders for sins that cry to heaven for vengeance would be representatives for the Vatican like Fr. James Martin or praised by the pope like Sr. Jeannine Gramick? Things have certainly changed in fewer than 60 years! 

Remember the story of Eleazar in the second book of Maccabees? His refusal to eat meat sacrificed to idols is described in chapter 6.  Chapter 7 goes on to relate the martyrdom of the courageous mother and her seven sons. She preferred to die and see all her boys die before her eyes rather than worship idols. Many around Eleazar and the mother tried to convince them to fake it. "Bring your own meat and just pretend you're eating the other. Who will know?" they told Eleazar. 

He wouldn't do it. Neither would the others capitulate in the face of brutal torture. They all preferred torture and death rather than commit the grievous sin of sacrilege against God.

How many are thinking, "Good grief, die for a principle? Just eat the meat!" Or in another context, "Just throw the pinch of incense in the fire bowl." 

That's the Modernists mantra. "Things have changed. We've progressed. We don't adhere to those rigid standards any more. We have a 'living tradition.' Get with the times! Bring the Church into the modern world. "


Let's look at a little history about the SSPX that preceded Ecclesia Dei, the document allowing the priests who left the SSPX to form a new foundation in union with Rome:

1970:  Archbishop Lefebvre opened his traditional seminary. in Econe, Switzerland with the approval of the local bishop for a six-year "experimentum." His purpose was primarily to form priests faithful to the perennial teachings of the Church, but it was the seminarians who begged for his help.
1974: Apostolic visitation of the seminary by Mgr. Albert Descamps, a biblical scholar, and Mgr. GuillaumeOnclin, a canonist. During the visitation the two priests made scandalous statements to the seminarians calling married priests inevitable, denying immutable truth, and even questioning the physical reality of Christ's resurrection. The scandal to the seminarians led Archbishop Lefebvre to release his declaration in November:

We adhere with all our heart and all our soul to Catholic Rome, guardian of the Catholic Faith and the traditions necessary to maintain it, and to Eternal Rome, mistress of wisdom and truth. On the other hand we refuse and have always refused to follow the Rome of the neo-Modernist and the new Protestant trend which was clearly evident in the Second Vatican Council and, after the Council in all the reforms which flowed from it.

1975: That was when the local bishop by direction of Rome withdrew approval for the seminary to exist. Lefebvre appealed. It was rejected. He appealed again asking for the proof of the specific approbations lodged against him and the Society. The appeal was ignored. He went ahead with the ordinations of three priests on June 10, 1975. He assured the remaining seminarians, "I will not abandon you." He described the suppression as "illegal and unjust." In October, Cardinal Jean Marie Villot, Vatican Secretary of State, instructed all episcopal converences to refuse incardination of members of the Society. 

1976: On June 29th the archbishop was canonically suspended a collatione ordinum as he ordained thirteen priests and fourteen subdeacons in Econe.  In his sermon he explained why he continued to resist Rome's demands. It was all about the Mass!

Ah, I know well that the difficulties are numerous in this undertaking which we have been told is foolhardy. They say that we are in a deadlock. Why? Because from Rome have come to us...demands, supplications, orders, and threats to inform us that we must cease our activity, to inform us that we must not perform these ordinations to the priesthood...
But if in all objectivity we seek the true motive animating those who ask us not to perform these ordinations, if we look for the hidden motive, it is because we are ordaining these priests that they may say the Mass of all time.1 It is because they know that these priests will be faithful to the Mass of the Church, to the Mass of Tradition, to the Mass of all time....
In proof of this, consider that six times in the last three weeks-six times-we have been asked to re-establish normal relations with Rome and to give as proof the acceptance of the new rite; and I have been asked to celebrate it myself....They told me as well that if on this date, today, this 29th of June, before your entire assembly, we celebrated a Mass according to the new rite, all would be straightened out henceforth between ourselves and Rome. Thus it is clear, it is evidence, that it is on the problem of the Mass that the whole drama between Econe and Rome depends.  

1977-1988: Negotiations between Rome and the Society continued with Pope John Paul II finally agreeing to the ordination of one bishop. However, the date of the ordination was continually postponed. Archbishop Lefebvre was already experiencing health problems, and he finally decided that Rome was "waiting for me to die." And so he took the final step to ensure that the SSPX would continue. He ordained four bishops without a papal mandate on June 30, 1988 incurring excommunication. During the ordination ceremony which begins with the reading of the pontifical mandate, Archbishop Lefebvre replied affirmatively to the question, "Do you have the Apostolic mandate?" He replied, "We have the mandate of the Roman Church ever-faithful to the holy traditions received frm the Apostles." He went on to describe the case of necessity:

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ordains four bishops for the SSPX.
...I am simply a bishop of the Catholic Church who is continuing to transmit Catholic doctrine. I think, and this will certainl not be too far off, that you will be able to engrave on my tombstone these words of St. Paul: 'Tradidi quod et accepi --- I have transmitted to you what I have received,' nothing else."  

There are many, particularly in Rome, who insist that those who ask for the TLM live in the past, nostalgic for an old form of the Mass to which they are attached. That is simply untrue. The differences between the traditional Latin Mass (TLM) and the Novus Ordo (NO) are extensive. One of the most grievous errors of the NO is the offertory which substituted Jewish meal prayers for the emphasis on the sacrifice of Calvary. The entire Mass became more of a ceremonial meal than a sacrifice in atonement for sin. Why? To make it more acceptable to Protestants. Think of beginning the offertory with the Catholic meal prayer, "Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts...." Is the priest the minister of a Holy Sacrifice offered to God facing the East with the people following a good shepherd? Or is the priest the host of a dinner facing his dinner guests and offering a meal to them? Eucharistic prayer 2 is particularly problematic in this regard, but it is almost exclusively chosen by many priests.

Despite the serious problems with the new Mass, Archbishop Lefebvre recognized that many Catholics had no alternative but the NO. His recommendation to them was moderate. He advised priests to keep at least the traditional Offertory and Canon and say them in Latin. He urged the laity to, "Make every effort to have the Mass of St. Pius V, but if it is impossible to find one within forty kilometers and if there is a pious priest who says the New Mass in as traditional a way as possible, it is good for you to assist at it to fulfill your Sunday obligation .... Should all the world's churches be emptied? I do not feel brave enough to say such a thing. I don't want to encourage atheism."

July 2, 1988: Rome responds to the ordinations with the motu proprio of Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta.

To be continued.....


  1. Hello Mary Ann,

    Thank you for this post. I've commented before but I can't remember under what name.

    I'm intrigued by the quote from Abp. Lefebvre in the last paragraph, on what Catholics with no nearby TLM are to do. Where does it originate--one of his books, perhaps Open Letter to Confused Catholics? I would like to think on it and possibly see it in full context. It might be helpful in exhorting both anti-Novus Ordites (think "the NO is not Mass") and those who think the Archbishop or the SSPX are schismatics/heretics.

  2. It's from the Biography of Marcel Lefebvre by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais from the chapter, "I adhere to eternal Rome" p. 463-64. The book is a goldmine of information, very well documented with many of the documents contained in appendices.

  3. I see a lot of post on indulgences today

  4. Many indulgences are available on this feast of the Sacred Heart. Unfortunately as an Sspx chapel, we don’t have a full time priest, so don’t have the opportunity to communicate nor confess. The hardest part though is detachment from venial sin. I wish I weren’t so attached to wine ….

    1. Cynthia said - “I wish I weren’t so attached to wine ….“


      Mary Ann said - “ Enjoy your wine with a joyful heart.”

      As a convert, it has been a small challenge to embrace the Catholic culture surrounding wine and spirits. My experience is that it can get you into trouble, like anything else, if you drink for the wrong reasons. It has the potential for addiction and real destruction at the extreme of abuse; or merely lowering your intellectual “conscience shield” at more moderate levels.

      The key, as Mary Ann said (I say this from personal experience) is to enjoy your “wine” (etc) with a joyful heart … preferably in the company of others for all the right reasons.

      But for the wrong reasons … no doubt, it can lead one into the “sinful rocks”. Everybody knows this, at some level, from personal experience.

      Which is the beauty of confessions with Traditional Catholic Priests - they are all (in my experience) gifted at getting to root causes.

    2. Aqua, your comment is interesting to me as a New York Italian Catholic transplant to Tennessee. Wine was just part of our lives and meals. Here among the Southern Baptists and Church of Christers there is a stigma of sorts to drinking alcohol.I guess sometimes the disapproval makes me feel uncomfortable. In fact the town I live in was dry when we moved here 25 years ago and Lynchburg, where Jack Daniels is made, still is. Contraception, divorce, and adultery are fine, everyone is saved! alcohol, not so much 😏

    3. Church of Christers don't believe "contraception, divorce, and adultery are fine"..they believe only the innocent part can remarry, the one that committed adultery must remain celibate or go to hell.

    4. plus alchohol and alchoholic environments is what causes adultery anyway. a dry person committing adultery is near impossible. you need alchohol to dull the conscience.

    5. in the CoC of my youth the only time we had to excommunicate someone for adultery was when a couple who went out drinking ended up as swingers. alchohol is heavily the cause of adultery.

    6. A man who doesnt drink will be rejected by a whore as boring. Redpill 101.

    7. I have a close relative, literally a Lynchburg (Liberty University) Protestant, whose life has been seriously sidetracked, not yet destroyed, by addiction to alcohol. One example among many. I know so many other similar examples. I also know exactly what you’re saying about it’s proper place in a healthy Christian life.

      Everything in its proper place. That’s what I’ve learned.

      Easier said than done. That too.

      And it’s harder for some people than others. Also that.

      “All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:17) … mostly that.

  5. Hey, Cynthia, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana -- lots of wine! A glass or two of wine with dinner is no sin. Moderation in all things. And here's what Hilaire Belloc said:

    "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there is always laughter and good red wine."

    Enjoy your wine with a joyful heart.

  6. There are traditional Masses and confessions available and were so on the feast of the Sacred Heart. “Seek and ye shall find.”

    1. In the barren Bible Belt of Tennessee, there aren’t many TLM masses, at least not within hours of driving from my home, except our SSPX chapel.
      We are blessed to have Sunday Mass as well as First Friday and Saturday Masses and most weeks Saturday evening Mass when our priest arrives from his priory in KY. I’m not complaining, it’s a cross Our Lord offers us to carry for Him. I was simply commenting on the difficulties of life as a Traditional Catholic in our days.

  7. On confession every two weeks and obtaining indulgences daily

    1. I do make it a habit to confess weekly if possible, and since First Friday of this month we were lead in the consecration to the Sacred Heart by our priest after receiving communion, that may count towards the indulgence, being within the two weeks. As I mentioned though, detachment from sin being a requirement, I always worry that I may be attached to little venial sins that prevent me from obtaining a plenary indulgence.
      Resentments,idleness, pettiness,
      as well as other imperfections sometimes remain hidden from us in our pride, in mine anyway. That being said, I do my best and gratefully accept the partial.

  8. "Mgr. Albert Descamps... made scandalous statements to the seminarians calling married priests inevitable..."

    Augustine of Hippo was married. So how is unmarried priests/bishops "the perrenial twaching of the chirch" when it was invented after the 5th century. How "perrenial."

  9. There is nothing inherently evil about alcohol. Obviously it's misuse is never legitimate. And if someone wants to choose to not drink as an offering, that's a good thing. Drinking to excess certainly can dull the conscience. It probably contributes heavily to fornication among young people. But to blame alcohol is like blaming the arsonist's match for setting fires.

    Honestly, I'm shaking my head. The monks made beer and champagne and mead. Wine is used in the holy sacrifice of the Mass and if a priest uses water instead because he thinks alcohol is sinful, the Mass is invalid.

    All things in moderation!

    1. Mary Ann,
      Your article is outstanding. I appreciate the research and time you put into it. I apologize for “hijacking” the comments away from your theme … I just found the sub-topic on alcohol 🥃 personally interesting and relevant.

      One more clarifier on a few points you raised, to prevent misunderstanding (and then I’m done) …

      You said: “There is nothing inherently evil about alcohol …”.

      I hope I’ve been clear enough that I fully agree in all the particulars on this premise. It’s not a sin, although for *some*, it *may* be an *occasion* of sin.

      And you said “Obviously it's misuse is never legitimate …”.

      As I said - easier said than done for some than others. Myself included. For many, it’s just an incidental thing to be enjoyed as the occasion arises - great! But for some, and I know examples personally, it enters the life as a destroyer.

      And finally, you said “Drinking to excess certainly can dull the conscience ...”.

      And this is an insight I think every Catholic should be aware of. I certainly am. The conscience is intimately connected to one’s intelligence and reason; dull the mind, weaken the conscience. Not a problem for most Catholics, perhaps. But for some … best be aware. The devil is “prowling about seeking whom he may devour”, such as the devastating example of Fr Jackson - *how did that happen*?! Given that we are at war with an enemy *always* awake and at peak intellectual capacity on the prowl, we should guard our defenses so we don’t fall to that implacable enemy.

      Again, sorry to hijack the thread - I really just found the sub-topic interesting and I like to think out loud.

      The end🙂.

    2. Sorry, Mary Ann, I caused quite the brouhaha with my joking comment about being attached to wine as well as my teasing the teetotalers. Please forgive me y’all for the offenses, they were meant jokingly and I’m sorry I touched some nerves.Truce🏳️

    3. Cynthia,
      It’s not a “brouhaha”. It’s just comments. I found the topic interesting. Thought it might be helpful.

      No need for a “truce”. No nerves were touched. Just thinking out loud.

  10. Augustinus,

    Where do you get your claim that Augustine was married? He was committing fornication before his conversion with his long-time lover and had a son, Adeodatus, by her. He was never married. The boy died as an adolescent.

  11. Thank you for this post. Having served the Church all his life as a missionary bringing Christ to a pagan Africa, Bishop Lefebvre came out of retirement as a "missionary" to bring the progressive pagans back to the true faith. I believe he is a saint.

  12. Mr Augustinus

    The constant tradition of the Church is that the Apostles in imitation of Christ (and St Joseph) were celibate. Even the married Apostles were celibate. This tradition has been past down to us to this day. The enemies of the Church have always hated the celibate priesthood.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  13. Apologies again for my little “alcohol” rabbit trail and the (possible) distraction. Especially after seeing where you’re going with this in Part 2, (and the “To be continued”) this series is gold. God and Our Lady are active in His Church and Sacred Tradition. There is much reason for encouragement. God bless!

  14. "Drinking to excess certainly can dull the conscience."

    I was taught that drinking to excess (getting drunk) was a mortal sin. Same as eating to excess. But the teaching has almost disappeared from the Novus Ordo.

    “On this way drunkenness is a mortal sin, because then a man willingly and knowingly deprives himself of the use of reason, whereby he performs virtuous deeds and avoids sin, and thus he sins mortally by running the risk of falling into sin. For St. Ambrose says: ‘We learn that we should shun drunkenness, which prevents us from avoiding grievous sins. For the things we avoid when sober, we unknowingly commit through drunkenness.’ Therefore drunkenness, properly speaking, is a mortal sin …,speaking%2C%20is%20a%20mortal%20sin%20%E2%80%A6

    Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, 10 Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God.

    1. I hate to do it … but I can’t help myself ☹️ … the point being so grossly missed. Amazing how misunderstood this is.

      Anonymous - in your premise you made equal the phrases “drinking to excess” and “getting drunk” (as well as “eating too much”) all of which is a mortal sin that damns one to hell forever - (second dish of ice cream; thirds on the meat loaf; three glasses of wine for a 270 pounder vs a 120 pounder etc … who can say except one’s well-formed conscience?).

      This is all true according to Catholic teaching. But I did not make that point. My point was more refined and specific. The particulars of mortal sin are between God, yourself and the Priest who mediates.

      My point is in reference to the *practical connection between your God-given conscience and your Reason which connects your conscience to specific choices*.

      Drinking any alcoholic drink begins the process of lowering the capacity of your intellectual capacity to Reason as your conscience speaks to you through temptations.

      You don’t have to be drunk (incapacitated) to feel the effects of reduced intellectual capacity to listen to, understand and honor your conscience.

      My point is a simple one, one we should all agree on: alcohol is perfectly fine and even a blessing for many or most; alcohol by its nature affects one’s intellectual capacity, to the extent it is used, and so *beware*, be alert.

      “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8)

  15. Your quote of +L's position on assisting at N.O. is from very early on. This is what SSPX says re +L's position:

    "The problem of assisting at the New Mass
    Some priests were torn between the need to keep the Faith as expressed by the traditional Mass and a desire to be obedient as they saw it. In the early days of the reforms, Archbishop Lefebvre advised them to keep at least the traditional Offertory and Canon and to say them in Latin. His advice to the seminarians as to the faithful was remarkably moderate in tone for one who was first to step up to the breach to repel the New Mass.

    He exhorted them:

    Make every effort to have the Mass of St. Pius V, but if it is impossible to find one within forty kilometers and if there is a pious priest who says the New Mass in as traditional a way as possible, it is good for you to assist at it to fulfill your Sunday obligation."
    One can counter the dangers for the Faith through solid catechism:

    Should all the world’s churches be emptied? I do not feel brave enough to say such a thing. I don’t want to encourage atheism."[10]

    Little by little, the archbishop’s position hardened: this Mass with its ecumenical rite was seriously ambiguous and harmful to the Catholic Faith.

    This is why one cannot be made to assist at it to fulfill one’s Sunday obligation.”[15]
    In 1975 he still admitted that one could “assist occasionally” at the New Mass when one feared going without Communion for a long time. However, in 1977, he was more or less absolute:

    To avoid conforming to the evolution slowly taking place in the minds of priests, we must avoid—I could almost say completely—assisting at the New Mass."[16]
    A poisoned liturgy
    Soon, Archbishop Lefebvre would no longer tolerate participation at Masses celebrated in the new rite except passively, for example at funerals [this is also true for marriages—Ed].[17]"

    This is what my priests say who were ordained by +L: you can attend N.O. mass or funeral if you have to but you must act as you would at a protestant/other religion. Basically you have to sit through the whole ceremony as if you are attending out of respect for the deceased but can't participate/engage in false worship, i.e. behave as a protestant / n.o. would if they are attending traditional mass (and i have seen some of them at funerals).

  16. It's funny that you speak of pride masses and pachamama worship and glide over folk guitar and jean masses. I must confess I never heard of Assisi one or two until 2009 or so when I began searching as to how a catholic nursing home was treating patients just like a non-catholic nursing home. All I ever heard was how faithful and pro-life JPII was. But the traditional Catholics had still not gotten over the shock of statue of buddha being placed on a tabernacle. Of course, the conservative N.O. claim it was just a mistake, but saw pictures of Mother Teresa worshipping Buddha--and whole host of cardinals and bishops, not to mention popes including JPII getting mark of shiva, in Jewish temples, with Lutherans, Muslims and Buddhists in their churches/temples.