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Monday, June 19, 2023

Ecclesia Dei Part 2: The Motu Proprio is Infected with Modernism

Archbishop Lefebvre, warrior against Modernism! He preserved the traditional Latin Mass.

Let's continue examining Modernism in light of Ecclesia Dei Adflicta (EDA), the document that established the Ecclesia Dei Commission in 1988. EDA allowed the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) communities to form beginning with the 15 priests who left the SSPX to establish the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). Read part 1 for a little history about the conflict with Archbishop Lefebvre resulting in EDA which was obviously meant to destroy the SSPX using the archbishop's own priests as the weapon of Mass destruction. All of the other EDA congregations came later. Archbishop Lefebvre is the father of all the TLM communities that exist today. They were all born as a result of the SSPX and Lefebvre's fidelity to passing on what he had received. Without Marcel Lefebvre, the TLM would be a dead memory for the history books.

So let's examine EDA. The Apostolic Letter (motu proprio) of Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta was published on July 2, 1988 two days after Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated bishops to continue the SSPX after his death. A second bishop was present that day, Antonio de Castro Mayer, but he did not actively participate in the ordinations and was not included in the ensuing excommunications. 

Rome was already in negotiation with priests of the SSPX who were concerned about Lefebvre's intention to consecrate the bishops. The motu proprio was likely already written and ready to be released as soon as the archbishop carried out his act of disobedience. Keep in mind that Rome had approved the ordination of one bishop for the Society, but would never give Lefebvre the mandata and kept delaying the date. Even to the eve of the consecration, the archbishop said he would not carry out the consecrations if Rome gave him the signed mandata allowing the consecration of one bishop to go on. He was convinced that the Vatican was waiting for him to die and leave the Society abandoned. He would not do it.

Fifteen Society priests left the SSPX led by Fr. Josef Bisig, a particular blow to Archbishop Lefebvre because of their close relationship. The priests were welcomed at the Vatican and formed the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) whose foundation documents can be found here. I'll say more about those documents later.

Fr. Josef Bisig with Pope Benedict

Following the consecrations, Archbishop Lefebvre continued to do what he had always done. He kept forming priests and passed on the faith he had received. Keep in mind that the new bishops were not assigned a jurisdiction (a diocese) which would have indicated Lefebvre's break from Rome. He only wanted to ensure that the priests being formed could be ordained after his death and that Confirmations in the ancient rite would continue to be carried out. 

You can't have priests without bishops to ordain them! Who would ordain Lefebre's beloved seminarians after he died? It was an agonizing decision to go against the pope!

It was clear from his own words that Lefebvre had no intention of abandoning the Catholic Church. Jean Guitton, theologian, philosopher, and observer at Vatican II was a close friend of the archbishop. He came to say good-bye the day before the ordinations. During their visit, he commented, "I admire your calm." Lefebvre responded, "Since I intend to do the will of God and not to separate myself from the Church of Peter, I am at peace." 

One act does not a schism make unless it is a public rejection of Holy Mother Church. Lefebre's was no such thing. Nor did he deny the authority of the pope. What he denied were papal decrees that destroyed the unity of the Church maintaining the teachings of the apostles and Eternal Rome. Marcel Lefebvre loved the Church and the pope. His action may one day be seen as an act of courage and charity offering a way out of the curse of Modernism. 

Every decision has a consequence and a cost. Archbishop Lefebvre made a decision early in his priesthood to always defend the faith, its Dogma and Sacred Tradition. When he became a bishop he took as his motto to pass on what he had received, the Dogma and Sacred Tradition of the Holy Catholic Church. He responded to the appeals of seminarians to defend the priesthood and protect their formation from the errors of Modernism. It was their pleading that led to establishing the seminary at Econe and the SSPX. He took the difficult step of consecrating the bishops in 1988 for the sake of those young men and the ones to come. And he paid dearly for it, dying excommunicated from the Church he loved. 

At the risk of being pilloried, I'm going to discuss now the abandonment of principle demanded by Ecclesia Dei Adflicta ( (EDA), a document that in many ways called for a "pinch of Modernist incense." It was the religious equivalent of the call of the Sirens. "You will be a friend of the pope if you obey. Just say the Novus Ordo once, only once. One pinch of incense to the conciliar Church. No one will accuse you of being 'out of the boat,' guilty of schism, sedevacantist, excommunicated, or disobedient to the Holy See. Just sign the accord and enter into the joy of Vatican approval."

In no way do I want to cast aspersions on the priests of the FSSP or the other congregations formed under EDA. In 1988, how could they possibly recognize the further attacks on the TLM that have arisen under Pope Francis? Pope Benedict did much to encourage a return to reverence and to support the TLM including his motu proprioSummorum Pontificum (SP), making the TLM an approved extraordinary form of the Roman rite. The SSPX thanked him recognizing that difficulties remained but with a hope of further improved relations with Rome.  But after the wolves drove Benedict from the See of Peter, the war against Tradition entered the scorched earth phase and Francis abrogated SP with his disastrous motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes.

Am I overstating the fact about EDA and its links to Modernism? Read the document. It begins by acknowledging that the conflict with the SSPX already existed and was of long-standing duration. EDA, however, ignores all the reasons for the difficult situation between the conciliar Church and the SSPX prior to the consecration of the bishops on June 2, 1988. That became a convenient focal point to say, "See, this proves what we've been saying all along. Lefebvre is a rebel and a renegade like Martin Luther! Ha! We've got him now."

Well, not quite. EDA illustrates very well the ambiguity used to attack truth and even outright errors of the Modernist mindset. It says:

The root of this schismatic act [ordaining the bishops without papal approval] 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. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".

This ambiguous statement about Tradition echoes the Modernists interpretation of "living" tradition which means everything is up for grabs. Everything can change according to the times. It's all about progress, progress, progress! Note how this paragraph emphasizes subjective understanding: "growth in insight," the "intimate sense of spiritual realities which they [the bishops] experience." This statement echoes Kants erroneous theories that make the individual's subjective interior sense the basis for truth. "I have my truth; you have yours." 

And further, the statement that the "right of succession in the episcopate" gives us the "sure charism of truth" is patently absurd in the face of so many cardinals and bishops today dissenting from even basic Catholic teaching. Can faithful bishops holding fast to orthodoxy and bishops spouting heterodoxy both be witnessing "the sure charism of truth?" Can a scorpion be an egg?

The "living tradition" of Modernist bishops allows Protestants and those in invalid marriages to approach for Communion, a clear break from Catholic doctrine! The upcoming Synod on Synodality promises to be a disaster for our already grievously wounded Church with outright heresy promoted and voted on by participants including the laity. We've seen that before in the U.S. at the 1976 Call to Action conference hosted by Cardinal John Deardon in Detroit. The conference was stacked with liberals challenging Church doctrine on contraception, homosexuality, ordination of women, etc. The upcoming Synod on Synodality is deja vu all over again! It helps to have lived through ugly moments in history and have a memory in order to recognize when you are being played using the same strategies.

Cardinal John Deardon, a "leading liberal voice in the Church" was a friend of Saul Alinsky and an enemy of orthodoxy. Ironically, he died about a month after Lefebvre consecrated the bishops: the archbishop of faith vs. the cardinal of chaos!

Since EDA brings up Vatican II, we'll examine what the conciliar document Dei Verbum says about revelation, scripture and sacred tradition:

In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature. Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends  and lives among them....This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation.

Holy Mother Church teaches that Divine Revelation ended with the apostolic age. It is an unchanging, immutable body of truth, No one, not even a pope, has the authority to change what God has revealed. Many of the "reforms" implemented after Vatican II were not approved by the Council Fathers. My husband and I were married in 1969 with the new form, which was drastically different from today's NO and retained many TLM features. It was only later that the gutting of the Mass was complete. Many of the "reforms" made in the name of Vatican II fly in the face of the requirement for deeds and words to reflect an "inner unity." The so-called hermeneutic of continuity was a chimera. The "hermeneutic of rupture" was a more realistic assessment of the situation after the council. We continue to live with that rupture and suffer the scandalous divisions flowing from it.

Dei Verbum also emphasizes the duty (and the limits) of the Magisterium: 

This teaching office [the Magisterium] is not above the Word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously, and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission. . .

This paragraph describe exactly what Archbishop Lefebvre devoted his life to. Focus on those words "handing it [the faith] on," "guarding it scrupulously," "explaining it faithfully." That's what the archbishop did. Unfortunately, many of his brother bishop do not. 

Dei Verbum goes on to outline the apostolic role:

But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, "handing over" to them "the authority to teach in their own place." This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments...was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter, and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all . 

Is there anything here that indicates Scripture and Tradition can change in their essentials? No! But that is what Modernism teaches and what EDA as a whole implies. Ironically, the quote above is exactly what Lefebvre did. He was amazed and appalled that what he had practiced throughout his entire priestly life was suddenly to be suppressed and replaced with novelties that became ever more absurd. 

Back to EDA:

But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal Magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the Body of Bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in his Church.

Is there a "universal Magisterium" today. There's not much evidence of it. Instead, we are living in the days predicted by Our Lady of Good Success who warned that priests would oppose priests and bishops would oppose bishops. Lefebvre preserved the "ecclesial bond" with the apostles, the Fathers of the Church, the saints, and popes like Gregory VII, Pius V, and Pius X who all led the Bride of Christ so faithfully through troubled waters. He was never a renegade. He was a faithful son, preserving the faith and passing it on. 

A "living tradition" that conflicts with Scripture and
Sacred Tradition handed on by the apostles is a lie!

And now we come to several serious examples of Modernism in EDA:

However, it is necessary that all the Pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety: of that blended "harmony" which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.

Exactly what does that all mean? Again, we have ambiguity. Does the "diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality, and apostolate" include devotion to Pachamama? Does it include pride Masses which almost never are suppressed by local bishops? During COVID, for example, when virtually all the public Masses in the world were shut down as bishops, and even the pope, bowed to Caesar, Joseph Tobin allowed a pride Mass in Hoboken. [Francis named Tobin to the Vatican Congregation that selects bishops. Think about that!] Is this the "diversity" and "blended harmony" the Church raises "up to heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit?" Is the homosexual New Ways Ministry apostolate of Sr. Jeannine Gramick, condemned and suppressed under Pope John Paul II but praised by Pope Francis, an "impulse of the Holy Spirit?" There is certainly beauty in variety as long as we are talking about the non-essentials of the faith. The Hispanic practice of decorating the sidewalks for Corpus Christi is one lovely example. Pride and clown Masses and normalization of sodomy, on the other hand, are abominations!

The next paragraph, however, contains a patently false statement! 

Moreover, I should like to remind theologians and other experts in the ecclesiastical sciences that they should feel themselves called upon to answer in the present circumstances. Indeed, the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the Council's continuity with Tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the Church.

The Church has always taught that DOCTRINE is immutable. It cannot change. How can it be "continuity with Tradition and "new" doctrine at the same time? The Holy Spirit doesn't reverse one day what was taught as truth the day before. This is Modernism plain and simple! To accept this statement in EDA is to ultimately accept all the aberrations allowed by those claiming the doctrines "have not yet been well understood" and actually mean the exact opposite of what the Fathers of the Church taught. It is the total undermining of the faith.

To go on. This next paragraph emphasizes the false notion that adherence to the TLM is simply a matter of "attachment" or nostalgia and "feelings." It's not! The NO is not the Mass envisioned by the council fathers. It's the creation of Annibale Bugnini, who was probably a freemason:

To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church....moreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition.
Faith is not about feelings!

So "attachment" to the TLM is based on nothing but "feelings." Is this why Pope Paul II met at Assisi placing the Catholic faith on the same level as other Christian denominations, Jews, and Muslims? Is that why his successors continued the practice? Was implying that the Church is just one path to salvation further affirmed at Abu Dhabi the will of the Holy Spirit to make everybody "feel" better?


It's not about "attachment" and "feelings." In fact, I find that notion offensive. It's about truth and giving praise, reverence, and glory to God in an appropriate way that emphasizes the sacrifice of Calvary rather than a watered down Protestantized memorial meal focused on the community.

Read Lex Orandi and weep for what we've lost.

To be continued....


  1. "Without Marcel Lefebvre, the TLM would be a dead memory for the history books." Certainly true, with the exception of the Thuc-line bishops.

    And you mention that Cardinal Deardon died a month after Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated the four bishops. A week or so before the consecration, Hans Urs von Balthasar, recently named a cardinal by John Paul II, stated that he wished God would take Lefebvre before he carried out the consecrations. And von Balthasar died a couple of days before that.

  2. This series you are working on is gold. It (the conflict between Sacred Tradition and Modernism *within the Faith*) is at the heart of our current Catholic condition but very few see and recognize it. And so we march on, oblivious (generally) to the threat.

    Glad to see the “To be continued” at the end.

  3. Thank you and God bless you!

  4. Not sure when you got married in 1969, but new mass did not to go into effect until first Sunday of Advent 1969 (November 30):

    "We order that the prescriptions of this Constitution go into effect November 30th of this year, the first Sunday of Advent.

    We wish that these Our decrees and prescriptions may be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by Our predecessors, and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and derogation.

    Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, Holy Thursday, April 3 1969, the sixth year of Our pontificate."

  5. I recall reading in Bishop Tissier de Malerais’ biography of the Archbishop how much Lefebvre loved the Mass from his childhood. As a young boy he would walk miles early every morning to serve the Mass.

  6. Anonymous,

    The NO was formally imposed on that date with the new missal, but changes were already taking place. The Sacred Congregation of Rites issued a directive on May 4, 1967, two years earlier, Liturgiam Authenticam relating to the Mass in the vernacular. There were other directives issued that year as well. In March, Musicam Sacram said this: "The decisions of the Council have already begun to be put into effect in the recently undertaken liturgical renewal." Those elements of the "liturgical renewal" being implemented changed the Mass, but not to the extent Bugnini's Mass did. In fact, reading those documents is instructive to realize how much the NO deviated from the instructions of the Sacred Congregation of Rites.

    We experienced those early changes at our wedding in October before Bugnini's massacre took effect.

  7. I apologise for going off-topic but I want to let Mary Ann know that with the Catholic Truth Scotland blog closing in early July, I have recommended that our readers and bloggers sign up here.

    However, I must draw attention to a concern raised in this regards which you will read at this link - it's the first comment, in fact.

  8. An earlier holy Child of France was also falsely accused of schism and heresy by worldly clerics, was excommunicated, put to death by fire, and eventually exonerated and canonized. Archbishop Lefebvre will follow a similar path, thankfully without the fire, and someday likewise be exonerated and canonized.

  9. Mary Ann,
    Thank you for this interesting thread. You are right about the Mass "changes" of the 60s. By the time the actual NO was promulgated in November of 1969, Cardinal Shehan had already completely gutted Masses in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. In fact, I recall, as a young altar boy in 1965 at St. Clement in Rosedale, that the Council had barely adjourned when Cardinal Shehan -- a real Progressive -- began directing his pastors to pull the altar out to be used as a table. Also, we altar boys were told that Latin would no longer be used, so we had to learn our responses to the priest from the English side of our St. Joseph Missals. Every week, it seemed, there were new changes announced from the pulpit, all in the name of Pope Paul VI being illuminated by the Holy Spirit. If anyone pushed back, they were considered disobedient to the will of God, and often sent packing. Others left of their own accord, as the "folk" Masses proved too much for them. The pews emptied. Eventually, the Communion Rail was removed and the priest shoved the Sacred Host into the standing communicant's hand. All of this, as I recall, was done prior to the promulgation of Bugnini's and Montini's Novus Ordo Missae.
    Regarding Fr. Bisig, he visited Post Falls, Idaho recently, and gave a conference (better described as an indoctrination) on "the origins of the FSSP). If you have not seen it, we covered it in detail in our blog here:
    Let us know what you think. God bless you.

  10. Actually, Mainaio, I was married in the Archdiocese of Baltimore at St. Augustine's in Elkridge. Later when Bishop Borders was the scandalous ordinary, my dad saw a Sunday talking heads interview with him and the pro-abort Jesuit congressman Robert Drinan. He was so angry he wanted to leave the Church. Well, he didn't, but many did and still do thanks to these evil clerics.

    I'm reading your blog article and finding it interesting particularly in light of the fact that Fr. Bisig was here in Front Royal not long ago trying to deep six the SSPX chapel in Linden. Three hundred people went to the talk, but I haven't noticed that it impacted our attendance which continues to grow.

    It's interesting that you mention Fr. Akers. I spoke to him at my granddaughter's high school graduation from Chelsea Academy. He was there for a graduate relative. I mentioned the SSPX and that my husband and I were attending out of curiosity to see what he would say. He immediately tried to convince me they were "outside the boat" which seems to be the mantra since the pastor at St. John the Baptist said the same thing. All the conversation did was get me doing more research and the more I do the more convinced I am that Archbishop Lefebvre was absolutely right. And now we are seeing the culmination.

    Thanks for sending me the link. I'll probably post the beginning of your article and link to it one day this week -- possibly tomorrow.