State of Necessity?

 January 2009
The Angelus English-Language Article Reprint
Let your speech be “Yes, yes: no, no”; whatever is beyond these comes from the evil one. (Mt. 5:37)
The State of
In a letter dated July 8, 1987, Archbishop Lefebvre
wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger: “The permanent will to
annihilate Tradition is a suicidal will, which justifies,
by its very existence, true and faithful Catholics when
they make the decisions necessary for the survival of
the Church and the salvation of souls.”1 In his homily
on the day of the episcopal consecrations of June 30,
1988, the Archbishop returned to this rule, from which
he deduced the legitimacy of his actions. “Thus,” he
explained, “we find ourselves in a case of necessity….
This is why we are convinced that, by the act of these
consecrations today, we are obeying…the call of God.”2
The Real Reason
for the Society’s Stand
The attitude of Archbishop Lefebvre and the
Society of St. Pius X is not reducible to a certain
personal attachment to the Church’s Tradition. If it
only involved a personal attachment, we should have
accepted long ago (as ultimately the priests of Campos
did in 2002, and the priests of the Institute of the
Good Shepherd in 2006) the principle of the personal
apostolic administration or of a personal parish, which
are particular, limited legal frameworks within which
the expression of a personal attachment to the Tradition
of the Church can legitimately prevail, more or less,
according to the terms of the agreements. And because
this attachment is merely personal, there is no room for
challenging the gains of the Second Vatican Council
to which one must willy-nilly pledge allegiance, even
if it is only by signing the New Profession of Faith of
1989.3 Archbishop Lefebvre never refused in principle
Rome’s extended hand, and, following its founder, the
Society of St. Pius X always remains ready to respond
favorably to the opportunity of these discussions with
the authorities of the hierarchy. But these contacts have
only one goal: to let the pure and integral voice of
Catholic Tradition be heard in Rome so that it might
recover its rights in the whole Church. The discussions
will be in vain for as long as Rome maintains in
principle the corrupted teachings of the Second Vatican
Things stand thus because the liturgical and
doctrinal Tradition reigning prior to Vatican II is not
just one form of Catholic expression among others in
the Church. It cannot be defended by pleading only the
cause of “all those Catholic faithful who feel attached
to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of
the Latin tradition.”4 The defense of this Tradition is
nothing more nor less than the defense of the integrity
of the Catholic Faith, which is the common good of the
Church; by this very fact it entails the fight against the
reforms that issued from Vatican II which challenge
fundamental truths of faith and thus endanger the
common good of the Church. When this common good
of the Catholic Faith is considered by the authorities as
the object of a simple personal attachment, a state of
necessity exists.
The State of Necessity
A state of necessity is an extraordinary situation in
which the necessaries of natural or supernatural life are
threatened in such a way that to safeguard them one
finds oneself habitually obliged to break the law. Now,
law is essentially intended by legislators to procure
these necessaries to their subjects. In the Church,
the whole edifice of ecclesiastical law is by definition
ordered to the preaching of the doctrine of faith and
the administration of the sacraments.5 If the application
of the law goes against the end of the law intended by
the legislators, it is no longer legitimate because selfcontradictory.
The subjects can and must take no notice
of it in order to obtain the end of the law despite the
authorities who apply the law contrary to the law.
It is clear that since the Second Vatican Council
the Church has found herself in such a situation. The
common good of the Church is the handing down of the
Catholic Faith, and if the pope has received authority
from Christ, it is uniquely to safeguard Tradition. Now,
since the Council, instead of continuing to transmit
the deposit of faith as did all their predecessors for two
thousand years, the men of the Church have taken it
upon themselves to impose on the faithful the principal
theses of the new theology condemned by Pius XII in
Humani Generis and then confirmed by Vatican Council
II and the reforms that followed, novelties absolutely
contrary to all that our Lord taught. Since 1965, the
authorities of the Church have imposed a new Creed
in three articles, with religious liberty, ecumenism,
and collegiality; since 1969, they have also imposed a
reformed liturgy with a new Mass of Protestant spirit
and sacraments renewed in an ecumenical sense.
These popes have imposed the grave errors of neomodernism,
already condemned by their predecessors.
Faced with this generalized protestantization, the
Church must react. A state of necessity exists that
legitimates resistance; it is this resistance that explains
the work of Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of
Saint Pius X.
The Enduring Dilemma
Archbishop Lefebvre perceived the dilemma: either
capitulate to tyranny under pretext of obedience, or else
resist tyranny by rejecting false obedience.
If this government [the conciliar Church] abandons its
duty and turns against the Faith, what ought we to do?
Remain attached to the government, or attached to the
Faith? We have a choice. Does the Faith take precedence?
Or is it the government that takes precedence? We are
faced with a dilemma and we are indeed obliged to make
a choice.6
The choice was made and the defense of the Faith
prevailed over false obedience:
We do not reject the pope’s authority, but rather what
he does. We do indeed recognize the pope’s authority, but
when he makes use of it to do the opposite of that for which
it was given him, it is obvious that we cannot follow him.7
These words were spoken 20 years ago. Today,
everything still hinges on this state of necessity. If one
believes that it no longer exists, deeming that Pope
Benedict XVI has set about correcting not only the
abuses but also the false principles of the Council, it
becomes necessary to cease a resistance that can no
longer be justified; it becomes necessary to accept
the canonical statute proposed by Rome. This is what
the priests of Campos and those of the Institute of the
Good Shepherd have done. But if one has kept one’s
eyes open, one sees that the state of necessity still
exists, and this is why the resistance must continue.
Just as in June 1988 Archbishop Lefebvre would
have performed “Operation Suicide”8 had he decided
against consecrating the four bishops, so also today,
obtaining a purely canonical solution for the Society of
St. Pius X from Rome would be “very imprudent and
hasty,” as Bishop Fellay recently reaffirmed.9 In fact,
it is possible that circumstances have evolved on this
or that point since the Roman authorities have been
trying to establish a new equilibrium far removed from
the shameful abuses that followed the implementation
of the Council. But for all that, the circumstances
have not changed fundamentally insofar as the same
Roman authorities in charge of reforming abuses are
still imbued with the same false principles of Vatican II,
which are the ultimate source of the abuses.
This analysis, moreover, has been confirmed
by the events of the last 20 years, which correspond
with an aggravation of the crisis. The distance that
has opened between the two liturgies amounts to
an abyss separating two conceptions of the Church
and the Faith.10 The extent of this separation can
be measured by the force with which the national
episcopacies oppose the initiative of the Motu Proprio
Summorum Pontificum. Even if the traditional rite of
the Church is not supposed to exclude the new rite,
its extension is viewed badly. The same opposition
was to be seen when the Vatican proposed correcting
the mistranslations of “pro multis,” which is part of the
words of consecration in the Mass. These two examples
show that Rome is not followed when it comes to
reining in abuses. On the other hand, Rome is pursuing
ecumenical dialogue more than ever and continues
to preach the principle of the secular State. Another
very tangible result of the crisis is the steep decline in
vocations in the last two decades.11
A Doubly False Argumentation
In a little book published last year by Éditions
Sainte Madeleine of the Monastery of Le Barroux, the
Most Reverend Fernando Arêas Rifan reasons exactly
as if a state of necessity not only no longer exists
more than 20 years after the episcopal consecrations
at Ecône, but that it never existed. The book, entitled
Tradition and the Living Magisterium, is a revision of a
“pastoral orientation” addressed to the priests of the St.
John Vianney Apostolic Administration of Campos. It
comprises three chapters. The first claims to recall the
basic givens of traditional theology on the magisterium.
The following two chapters apply these principles,
the second to the question of the Mass, and the third
to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The
fundamental flaw of this reflection is twofold: it presents
a warped idea of the magisterium, and it denies the
state of necessity.
A False Idea of the
Magisterium of the Church
Bishop Rifan has a false idea of the magisterium.
The first chapter of his book Tradition and the Living
Magisterium overlooks the fundamental points of the
actual doctrine of the Church on the pope’s power
and the Church’s magisterium [teaching authority].
Yet Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer had underlined
these points in a remarkable study published in Heri
et Hodie (No.3, May 1983), the monthly periodical of
the priests of Campos. This study was included in a
booklet that came out in several languages, the English
version being published in 2000 under the title Catholic,
Apostolic, and Roman: A Summary Defense of Catholic
Tradition (pages 22-23).
The Bishop Emeritus of Campos emphasized this
fundamental truth: “the pope is essentially the Vicar of
Jesus Christ.” From this he draws several consequences:
This aspect is of the very essence of the papacy. It
cannot be put aside. Forgetting it would have the worst
consequences, leading people to believe that the pope is
master of the Church, that he can do what he wants, ordain
and rescind according to that which might seem best to
him, the faithful being always and absolutely obliged to
obey him. Upon reflection, it is clear that this conception
attributes to the pope omniscience and omnipotence,
exclusive attributes of God. It would be idolatry, transferring
to the creature that which is proper to divinity. This
is why the First Vatican Council, in defining the powers of
the pope, took care to also define its purpose and its limits.
The pope must keep intact the Church of Christ, through
which the Divine Savior perpetuates His work of salvation.
Therefore he must maintain the structure of Holy Church
as the Lord has constituted it, and he must vigilantly preserve
and wholly transmit the faith and morality received
from the Apostolic Tradition….
Should the pope be unfaithful to this mission, the grave
duty of Catholics is to resist him in order to remain faithful
to Jesus Christ, of whom the pope is only the vicar.
…Whence it follows that the priests of Campos, in
rejecting the New Mass, do not reject John Paul II, nor
communion with the entire Church, since the New Mass
is prejudicial to the Faith….
Contrary to these luminous considerations,
Bishop Rifan preaches blind obedience to a pseudomagisterium,
to an absolute rule independent of the
objective tradition of past centuries:
Being content with quoting earlier popes alone as if they
were the current pope, or earlier bishops as if they were
the present bishop, would be to betray the lack of a good
Catholic spirit. It would be the negation of the living magisterium
and the institution of a posthumous magisterium
in the Protestant style.
But is he not forgetting rather quickly that the Church’s
magisterium is essentially a traditional magisterium:
in every age of history, the present teachings of the
Catholic hierarchy always rest upon those of the past,
in keeping with the words of St. Paul: “Tradidi quod et
accept—I have handed down to you what I received.”
The Church’s teaching is a constant teaching, for it
accomplishes the integral transmission of the inalterable
deposit of divine revelation. Therefore, if the faithful
Catholic observes a break in the Church’s preaching,
this can only be because the men charged with making
this teaching heard have been unfaithful to the mission
received from God; the faithful must then remain
as constant as divine Tradition itself and not allow
themselves to be swayed by the winds of new doctrines.
Acting thus, the faithful do not place themselves above
the magisterium; on the contrary, they do but show
their submission to the magisterium of yesterday,
which is the still living, and as indefectible as divine
revelation, condemnation of today’s now unfaithful
Rejection of the Obvious
Not content with falsifying the Catholic notion of
the Church’s magisterium, Bishop Rifan also denies
the state of necessity, which is nonetheless a tangible
reality. Anyone used to hearing Archbishop Lefebvre
preach could not but be struck by an expression that
recurred incessantly, every time the former Archbishop
of Dakar expounded the profound reasons for the
Society’s combat: “We are obliged to observe…” This
is a decisive expression, for it indicates the point of
departure for all of our analysis: these are facts that
have no need of demonstration because they impose
themselves upon the consciences of Catholics who are
the least bit lucid. From the beginning of the Society’s
opposition, the attitude of Churchmen, who abuse their
power by imposing on Catholics the errors already
condemned by the whole of the preceding magisterium,
especially by Pope St. Pius X and his successors until
the venerated Pope Pius XII, has been obvious. The
Conciliar apostasy is a fact against which no theoretical
argument can prevail. Either one sees or one does not
see. Or else one no longer sees.13 And once one has
become blind, one can no longer bear the brightness
of the light: then “you’re a libertine if you have good
Bishop Rifan denies the obvious. And the negation
of the obvious is already contained in the false idea
that he makes of the magisterium. If one ascribes to the
magisterium the exclusive attributes of God, neither
the pope nor the bishops could ever be unfaithful to
their charge, not even outside the strict limits of their
infallibility. The faithful will always offer to their pastors
an absolute obedience. The state of necessity is by
definition an impossibility. With such a postulate, the
only thing left to do is to deny the fact of the crisis in
the Church, to minimize and then reduce to nothing the
serious detriment caused by the teachings and reforms
of Vatican II: religious liberty, ecumenism, the new
ecclesiology, and the new Mass. This is the natural
bent of the Ecclesia Dei movement. Chapters 2 and 3 of
Bishop Rifan’s book are a striking illustration of this.
The New Liturgy and
the State of Necessity
It suffices to examine the normative text of
the Novus Ordo of 1969 to realize that the liturgical
reform constitutes as such and in its principles a grave
detriment for the common good of the unity of faith
and worship in the Church. The conclusion of the
Short Critical Study of the New Order of Mass presented
on September 25, 1969, to Pope Paul VI by Cardinals
Ottaviani and Bacci is well known. The Novus Ordo
Missae “represents, both as a whole and in its details,
a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the
Mass as it was formulated in Session 22 of the Council
of Trent.”14 This conclusion pertains independently of
all the abuses which could have followed during the
implementation of the new rite (defective translations,
innovations and glosses exceeding the letter of the text,
etc.). The critique in this case applies, not to abuses, but
to the rite itself as it is expressed in the normative text
of the 1969 typical edition.
An Incontestable Examination
As was to be expected, Bishop Rifan attempts to
challenge the worth of the Short Critical Study; but for
lack of valid arguments he is obliged to stoop to false
reasoning, which the attentive reader will have no
trouble discerning.
a. A simplistic amalgam
We start with the most flagrant of these untruths:
the Short Critical Study is not reliable because “the
majority of the radical critiques of the Novus Ordo
originate with persons inclined to sedevacantism.”15
Many Communists think that two and two are four.
Because they are Communists, should we think that two
and two do not make four? Does Bishop Rifan suspect
that, among those who, like him, are attached to the
traditional rite of the Mass of St. Pius V, there are a
good number of “persons inclined to sedevacantism”?
Does he then conclude the illegitimacy of the traditional
rite? It may be that one of the principal authors of the
Short Critical Study, Fr. Guérard des Lauriers, ended
up in sedevacantism,16 but that was in 1977, long after
the drafting and publication of the analysis of the New
Mass. Should all the works of Tertullian written before
his adhesion to Montanism be put on the Index? In fact,
do the priests of Campos still use the Catholic Catechism
of Marriage by Fr. Barbara, a sedevacantist of the first
hour like Fr. Guérard des Lauriers?
b. The apocryphal letter
of Cardinal Ottaviani
The second sophism is rather sly. Bishop Rifan
presents it in §8 of Chapter 2, in which he makes
much ado of the famous letter of February 17, 1970,
which Cardinal Ottaviani purportedly addressed to
Dom Marie-Gérard Lafond, O.S.B., and in which the
eminent prelate would have claimed that he never
authorized anyone to publish the Short Critical Study.17
However, this letter is a forgery. In a study which
is by now quite old, Jean Madiran demolished this
imposture. He had only to relate a few facts of which
he was the direct witness. In October 1969, Cardinal
Ottaviani personally gave authorization to publish the
Short Critical Study to Fr. Raymond Dulac, one of the
principal collaborators of the journal Itinéraires. One
month after the letter to Dom Lafond, Jean Madiran
personally obtained assurance from Cardinal Ottaviani
that the authorization was authentic. Until now, it has
been generally granted that the objection derived from
the purported Ottaviani letter to Dom Lafond was
unfounded. By resorting to it anew, 35 years after Jean
Madiran’s refutation, Bishop Rifan deprives the Ecclesia
Dei cause of a sizable part of its credibility.
c. Bishop de Castro Mayer
Reread and Corrected
Chapter 2 concludes with a §9 in which, for the
purposes of his cause, Bishop Rifan quotes Bishop de
Castro Mayer’s September 12, 1969, letter to Pope
Paul VI. The short excerpt18 could make one believe
that Dom Antonio was seeking papal indulgence just
for the privilege of continuing to use the Tridentine
liturgy. But when the letter is read in its entirety,19 it
becomes clear that it constitutes an unflinching list
of charges against the New Mass.20 Contrary to what
Bishop Rifan tries to make us believe, Bishop de Castro
Mayer was seeking from Paul VI permission to keep
the traditional rite to the exclusion of the new. Bishop
Rifan quotes a short excerpt from a second letter sent
by Bishop de Castro Mayer to Pope Paul VI on January
25, 1974.21 This passage expresses a protestation of
obedience towards the pope in everything that he
might decide in conformity with Church Tradition.
But Bishop Rifan avoids specifying the precise tenor of
this letter. The letter accompanied three documented
studies,22 in which the Bishop of Campos explained to
the Pope the acts of the pontifical magisterium that were
unacceptable: ecumenism, religious liberty, and the
New Mass. The third of these studies is by the Brazilian
Lawyer Xavier da Silveira; it was subsequently
published under the title What Should We Think of Paul
VI’s New Mass? Bishop Rifan speaks of it, but elsewhere,
in order to deny him any credibility under the pretext
that the author delves into the (entirely hypothetical)
question of a possible heresy of the Sovereign Pontiff.
Yet the letter of January 25, 1974, quoted only partially
by Bishop Rifan in §9, in a passage that Bishop Rifan
does not quote, unreservedly praises this study on the
New Mass, asserting that the arguments employed by
Xavier da Silveira express the thought of the Bishop
of Campos.23 Fourteen years later, Dom Antonio had
not changed his mind, since, having resolved to go to
Ecône in person to attend the episcopal consecrations
of June 30, 1988, he publicly protested against “these
pernicious errors of which they [the faithful] are the
victims, deceived by many persons who have received
the fullness of the Holy Ghost!”24
Despite Bishop Rifan’s untruths, two facts remain
uncontestable: the Short Critical Study always kept its
value in the eyes of Cardinal Ottaviani, and Bishop de
Castro Mayer, basing himself upon this study and that
of Xavier da Silveira, always contested the grounds of
Paul VI’s liturgical reform.
The Illegitimacy of the New Rite
In light of these two studies, it appears clearly
that the reformed new rite of Paul VI is illegitimate.
Certainly, Pope Paul VI desired to impose this reform,
but that is not sufficient to constitute a legitimate
exercise of authority. A pope can abuse his authority,
and Paul VI undoubtedly exceeded the limits of his
powers by promoting a rite so far removed from the
Catholic definition of the Mass. Such a rite cannot be
placed on the same rank as the traditional rite of St.
Pius V:
To compare the current reform to the reform, or rather,
the act by which St. Pius V canonized the Latin rite of the
Mass with the aim of protecting the faith against Protestant
ideology is to give proof of a serious ignorance of the
history both of the Council of Trent and of the Second
Vatican Council and its liturgical reform. On the one hand
everything was done to safeguard the traditional expression
of the true faith; on the other, the ecumenical idea so
attenuated this expression that doubt invaded the minds
of the faithful and of priests.25
The reformed rite of Paul VI is an intruder; it is not
only less good than the traditional rite, and the latter is
not only preferable. The rite of Saint Pius V is good and
legitimate; the rite of Paul VI is bad and illegitimate.
Without affirming as much, no one can refuse in
principle to celebrate the New Mass.26
Bishop Rifan’s Preferences
In favor of the traditional rite of St. Pius V, Bishop
Rifan from now on professes a simple preference:
We keep the rite of Mass in its traditional form, that is
to say, the ancient form of the Roman rite….We love it, we
prefer it, and we keep it because it is, for us, the best liturgical
expression of Eucharistic dogma and a solid spiritual
nourishment. We keep it for its richness, its beauty, its
elevation, its nobility and the solemnity of its ceremonies,
for its sense of the sacred and reverence, for its sense of
mystery, for its greater clarity and rigor in the rubrics,
which represent a greater security and protection against
abuses by not leaving room for the “ambiguities, liberties,
creativity, adaptations, reductions, and instrumentalizations”
of which Pope John Paul II complained.27
For Bishop Rifan, the traditional rite of Mass is no
longer the perfect expression of the Church’s faith,
in contrast with a new rite that represents a striking
departure from it both as a whole and in its details. The
traditional rite is the object of a personal preference
for motives extrinsic to the profession of Catholic faith,
which does not exclude the legitimacy and the intrinsic
goodness of Pope Paul’s new rite:
Although we have the Mass in the traditional Roman
rite as the rite proper to our Apostolic Administration, the
participation of the faithful or the concelebration of one
of our priests or its bishop at a Mass in the rite officially
promulgated by the Church’s hierarchy, determined by it
to be legitimate and adopted by it, as is the case of the Mass
celebrated in the current Roman rite, cannot be considered
a bad action or one susceptible of the least criticism….28
Our purpose, assuredly, is to combat herewith the
doctrinal error of those who consider the New Mass as
it was officially promulgated by the Church’s hierarchy
to be sinful, and, consequently, who think it impossible
to attend it without committing a sin, violently attacking
those who in certain circumstances participate in it as if
they had committed an offense against God.29
The Limits of Pope Benedict XVI’s
Motu Proprio
In lines that were written before the promulgation
of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, Bishop
Rifan already displays an enthusiastic welcome for
the extension of the traditional liturgy: “Our applause
is won over by the much desired Motu Proprio of
Benedict XVI, who will grant universal freedom for
the Mass in the traditional Roman rite, which will be of
benefit to the whole Church.”
It is undeniable that the recent Motu Proprio of July
7, 2007, represents an unprecedented expansion since
1969. But this expansion does not go so far as to make
the traditional rite the ordinary and common expression
of the law of prayer; the ordinary expression of this law
remains the Novus Ordo Missæ of Paul VI. In the text
of the Motu Proprio, Article 1 contains the decisions
The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary
expression of the Lex orandi (Law of prayer) of the
Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman
Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John
XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression
of that same Lex orandi, and must be given due honour for
its venerable and ancient usage.
For the same “lex orandi,” we are told, there are two
expressions, one of which is extraordinary in relation to
the other.
The Motu Proprio of July 2007 thus introduced the
cohabitation of the two missals, except that the two are
not on the same level: a place is kept for the Catholic
Mass; honorable by reason of the antiquity of its usage,
it was never abrogated and remains the extraordinary
expression of the liturgical law. But the Catholic Mass
must take a place beside the Novus Ordo Missae, which
remains the ordinary expression of the liturgical law.
Certainly, from the standpoint of the faithful and priests
who want to continue defending Catholic worship, a
small place is not nothing, and it is even better than
nothing at all. But from the standpoint of the Roman
authorities, who want to continue imposing the
liturgical reform of 1969 as the ordinary expression
of the law, this little place must be inscribed in the
liturgical pantheon, which is on an equal footing with
the catechetical and dogmatic pantheon. A Pantheon or
caravansary: such is the conciliar Church, in the image
of modernism, which recognizes to all the religions,
cults, and liturgies their expression, provided that
they be living, that they be the spontaneous fruit of
conscience and sensibility, the traditional sensibility
included—why not? But with Archbishop Lefebvre, we
persist in believing that the Catholic Mass merits much
better than a little place beside the reformed Mass of
Paul VI.
The conclusion that retains our interest is the
following30: the Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI does not
put an end to the state of necessity, and necessitates the
continuing resistance of faithful Catholics in favor of
the Catholic rite of the Mass, which must be recognized
as the ordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex
orandi) of the Catholic Church, to the exclusion of
the new reformed rite of 1969. The law of belief does
indeed depend upon the law of prayer. If there are two
expressions, one good and the other bad, of the “lex
orandi,” then there are equally two beliefs, one good
and the other bad. The same principle holds true: “Lex
orandi statuat legem credendi.” The belief of the people
must be regulated by the expression of the liturgy (this
is a necessary consequence). The missal conditions the
faithful’s profession of faith. Corresponding to a bad
missal is bad belief. In order to restore the good belief
completely, it does not enough to set the good missal
beside the bad one; it is necessary to re-establish the
traditional Missal of 1962 as the ordinary expression of
the law of prayer to the exclusion of the missal of Paul
In spite of certain undeniably positive aspects,
Benedict XVI’s act brings nothing that might justify
Bishop Rifan’s attitude. There is matter to justify, to the
contrary, the attitude of the Society of St. Pius X.31
Religious Liberty and
the State of Necessity
The declaration Dignitatis Humanae on Religious
Freedom explicitly contradicts the teaching of the
preceding Tradition.
A Twofold Error Condemned by
Popes Gregory XVI and Pius IX
Religious liberty was condemned by Pope
Gregory XVI (1830-46) in the Encyclical Mirari Vos
of August 15, 1832, then by Pope Pius IX (8146-78)
in the Encyclical Quanta Cura of December 8, 1864.
This error can be summarized in two points: (1) “the
best political regime and the progress of civil society
absolutely require that human society be constituted
and governed without making any distinction between
the true and false religions” and consequently, “the best
condition of society is that in which the civil authority
does not have a duty to suppress by legal penalties the
violators of Catholic law, except insofar as keeping the
peace may require; (2) freedom of conscience and of
worship is a right due to every man; this right must be
proclaimed and guaranteed by the law in every wellorganized
society; the citizens have a right to complete
freedom to manifest openly and publicly their opinions
whatever they may be, by means of speech, the printed
word or any other means, which neither the civil nor
ecclesiastical authority may limit.”
This twofold condemnation bears upon two
different expressions of one and the same error, the
error of the religious indifferentism of the public
power. The first expression: Civil authorities must
not intervene to repress the external manifestations
of false religions in the framework of life in society.
Second expression: individuals have a right not to
be prevented by the civil authorities from exercising
the exterior acts of their religion, true or false, in the
external forum of life in society. This condemned error
now forms the basis of all modern democracies. In his
recent speech at the UN, Pope Benedict XVI, far from
challenging this state of affairs, sees in it the logical
culmination of the reforms undertaken by the Second
Vatican Council. The false principle condemned by
Gregory XVI and Pius IX has become the charter of the
new social doctrine of the Conciliar Church.
Religious Liberty in the
Declaration Dignitatis Humanae
a. The text of Dignitatis Humanae
The essential passage is in §2:
This Vatican Synod declares that the human person
has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that
all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of
individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in
such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to
act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone
to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own
beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or
in association with others, within due limits. The Synod
further declares that the right to religious freedom has its
foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as
this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God
and by reason itself. This right of the human person to
religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional
law whereby society is governed. Thus it is to become a
civil right.
This passage can be broken down into the
following three propositions: (1) Religious freedom
is a right proper to the human person; (2) This right
must be recognized and guaranteed by the law in every
society; (3) This right means that everyone must be
free from all constraint whether from individuals or
social groups or any human power whatsoever, such
that in matters religious, no one may be compelled to
act against his conscience nor prevented from acting,
according to his conscience, in private as in public,
alone or in association with others, within due limits.
b. The meaning of the text
The text does not teach (at least in §2) freedom of
individual consciences in matters religious in the sense
of the religious indifferentism of individuals; that is to
say, in the sense that every man would have the right to
choose the religion he likes (whether it be true or false
objectively), without regard for any objective moral
order.32 The text teaches the freedom of individual
external actions in matters religious in the sense that
every man has the right not to be prevented by the civil
authorities from exercising in the external forum of life
in society, the religious acts that he feels in conscience
obliged to accomplish, provided that these acts do not
trouble the public order; this amounts to the teaching
of the religious indifferentism of the civil authorities.
In effect, the right thus defined implies that the civil
authorities must not intervene in the external forum of
life in society, whether in favor of the true religion or
disfavor of false religions unless the public order would
happen to be threatened.
Religious indifferentism in general corresponds
to two distinct errors: the religious indifferentism of
individuals and the religious indifferentism of the
secular power. Section 2 of Dignitatis Humanae teaches
the second error without teaching the first. But the
teaching prior to Vatican II condemns the second error
as well as the first, for there is a link of cause and effect
between the second error and the first: man being a
political animal, if he lives in a society in which the
public powers profess indifferentism, he will finish by
professing the same indifferentism. This is why this
passage of Dignitatis Humanae is condemned as such
by the previous magisterium. This passage teaches the
second error, which is the very negation of the Social
Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
c. The question of due limits
The indifferentism of civil authorities is described
when No. 2 of Dignitatis Humanae indicates what are the
external acts which men may, as a consequence of this
freedom from constraint, accomplish or not. The text
then speaks of “due limits.” But this mention does not
aim at restraining the specifically religious domain of
the liberty in question. The exercise of a right can have
extrinsic limits when the concrete exercise of a right,
specifically defined by a property (in this instance the
“religious” domain), oversteps this domain in virtue
of other related properties. There are mixed matters,
where certain limits will restrain the exercise of a right
not by reason of the proper matter of the right, but by
reason of another matter that coincides in fact with the
proper matter of the right.
For example, a religious procession on a public
thoroughfare involves the religious domain as such,
but also affects the domain of traffic circulation. The
two facts coincide, but remain distinct nonetheless. If
the procession is limited because it impinges on the
traffic of the route followed, the limit in question is
extrinsic to the religious domain. On the other hand,
the fact of exercising a true or false religion is an action
intrinsic to the religious domain, and if this action
is limited (for example, if the authorities allow the
funeral procession of Baron James de Rothschild to the
Père-Lachaise Cemetery while forbidding the Corpus
Christi procession), the limit in question is intrinsic to
the religious domain. As such, the properly religious
domain of the right recognized by Dignitatis Humanae
is without intrinsic limits because it is ascribed to all
religions, true or false. At most there will be extrinsic
limits taking into account the circumstances in which
the right in favor of religion (whether true or false) is
d. A coherent text
This mention of “due limits” must be understood,
then, not in relation to the objective order of the true
religion, but in relation to the objective order of civil
society, and signifies that the exercise of a religion,
whether true or false, must respect good order and
public peace. That is why this restriction of the right
takes away absolutely nothing of the fundamental
perversity of the false principle of religious liberty.
Even if it imposes on the exercise of religion the limits
required for the sake of public tranquility, the State
remains absolutely indifferent to the truth or falseness
of religion.33
(To be continued.)
Authored by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, SSPX. Translated exclusively for Angelus
Press from Courrier de Rome, July-August, 2008.
1 English version: Fr. François Laisney, Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican, 2nd ed.
(Kansas City: Angelus Press, 1999), p.22.
2 Ibid., pp.118-19.
3 See Archbishop Lefebvre, Homily at Ecône, May 14, 1989, in Vu de Haut, No. 13, Fall
2006, p.70.
4 John Paul II, Motu Proprio Ecclesia DeiAdflicta, §5 [English version from Vatican web
5 Code of Canon Law (1917), Canon 682, and 1983 Code, Canon 213: “The Christian
faithful have the right to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual
goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the sacraments.”
6 Archbishop Lefebvre, Homily at Ecône for the Chrismal Mass of Holy Thursday, March
27, 1986.
7 Archbishop Lefebvre quoted in Fideliter, November-December 1988, pp.27-31.
8 “Today, this day, is Operation Survival. If I had made this deal with Rome, by continuing
with the agreements we had signed, and by putting them into practice, I would have
performed ‘Operation Suicide’.” Archbishop Lefebvre, Homily of June 30, 1988, in
Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican, p.119.
9 Bishop Fellay, Letter to Friends and Benefactors No. 72, April 14, 2008.
10 “The liturgy is a theological place. The Ordo Missae of 1969 implements in particular
the theology of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Lumen Gentium presents the
Church as both the Mystical Body of Christ and as the People of God gathered in the
name of Christ….The desire to encourage in the Latin Church a return to another theological
accent by extending the 1962 Ordo is to cause a deep disturbance in the People
of God”: Dom Jean-Pierre Longeat, “L’Unité de la Liturgie Romaine en Question,” La
Croix, October 23, 2006, p.25.
11 According to figures reported by the newspaper La Croix of April 11, 2008, p.17, France,
“the Eldest Daughter of the Church,” numbered 20,523 priests (diocesan and religious) in
2007, compared to 28,780 in 1995. The total number of seminarians declined from 1155
in 1995 to 756 in 2007. The number of entrants into the first year of seminary studies
went from 247 in 1995 to 133 in 2007. The same newspaper in its May 29-31, 2004,
edition (p.13) reported that France still compares favorably with Africa (one priest per
4700 inhabitants) or South America (one priest per 7100 inhabitants).
12 Having explained this in detail in a previous article, “À propos de St. Vincent de Lérins,”
published in the February 2008 edition of Courrier de Rome [English version: see SiSi-
NoNo, May 2008], we shall not develop this point further. The reader who would like
to delve into this should consult this study.
13 “It seems that if one excludes from Assisi every thought of religious syncretism, this
meeting can be situated on the level of natural religion; and that, having as its goal peace
in the world, it should be understood as a highly and soundly political diplomatic act”
(Jean Madiran, editorial of the newspaper Présent, No. 5001, January 26, 2002, p.1).
Citing these reflections, Fr. Louis-Marie de Blignières, O.P., comments: “Unfortunately,
Madiran’s interpretation was practically unnoticed by the public nor was it picked up by
Catholic commentators. It presents, however, the advantage of showing that Assisi can,
thanks be to God, be considered other than as ‘a public sin against the unicity of God,’ as
Archbishop Lefebvre asserted in 1986, or as a ‘blasphemy’ as his successor at the head
of the SSPX maintained in 2002” (“Reflections on Assisi,” Sedes Sapientiae, No. 80,
Summer 2002, p.23). It would suffice for Mr. Madiran and Fr. de Blignières to reread
the Encyclical Mortalium Animos of Pope Pius XI (January 6, 1928) to be reminded
that a natural religion never existed in the pure state. God promulgated a supernatural
revelation which obliges all men to practise religion as it has been established in the one
and only Catholic Roman Church. The claim that one is abiding by the precepts of the
natural law alone already constitutes an admission of religious syncretism. The scandal
of the ecumenical meetings at Assisi I (19886) and II (20002) and of Naples (2007)
merely renews the error of the pan-Christians condemned by Pius XI.
14 Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci, The Ottaviani Intervention: Short Critical Study of the
New Order of Mass, translated by Fr. Anthony Cekada (1969; reprint, Rockford, Ill.:
TAN Books & Publishers, 1992, p. 27.
15 Rifan, Tradition, p. 16.
16 Ibid., p. 54, n. 71.
17 Ibid., p. 65-66, with n. 97. Source of information on the the affair: Jean Madiran, “Sur
la Lettre du Cardinal Ottaviani à Paul VI,” Supplément au no. 142 d’ Itinéraires,” April
1970. On page 6, this study shows that the letter was published at the instigation of Msgr.
Gilberto Agustoni, Cardinal Ottaviani’s secretary. Since Ottaviani was already blind, it
was easy for his secretary to abuse his trust by getting him to sign texts without telling
him their precise content.
18 Ibid., p.67.
19 Reproduced in the journal Le Sel de la Terre, No. 37, Summer 2001, p.29.
20 “The Novus Ordo Missæ, by the omissions and mutations it introduces into the Ordinary
of the Mass and by many of its general norms, which indicate the conception and the
nature of the new missal in its essential points, does not express as it should the theology
of the holy sacrifice of the Mass established by the holy Council of Trent in its Session
22, a fact which simple catechesis does not succeed in counterbalancing….The Novus
Ordo not only does not sustain fervor but on the contrary diminishes faith in the central
truths of the Catholic life, such as the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,
the reality of the propitiatory sacrifice, and hierarchical priesthood.”
21 Rifan, Tradition, p.54, n.70.
22 See Le Sel de la Terre, No. 37, Summer 2001, p.33ff.
23 Le Sel de la Terre, No. 37, Summer 2001, p.34. Bishop de Castro Mayer was careful to
state that the considerations on an eventual heresy of the Sovereign Pontiff remained
purely theoretcial and did not imply any intention of analyzing the particulars of the
present situation in the Church.
24 Declaration of Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer in Laisney, Archbishop Lefebvre and
the Vatican, p.125.
25 Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Courrier de Rome, July 1974.
26 “The New Mass is not good! If it were good, then tomorrow we would have to start
saying it, obviously. If it is good, we must obey. If the Church gives us something good
and tells us ‘You must take it,’ what reason could there be to say no? Whereas, if we say,
‘This Mass is corrupted; this Mass is bad: it makes us gradually lose the faith,’ then we
are indeed obliged to refuse it.” Quoted in The Mass of All Time (2005; English version:
Angelus Press, 2007), p. 271.
27 Rifan, Tradition and the Living Magisterium, p.38-9.
28 Ibid., p.47.
29 Ibid., p.49. Archbishop Lefebvre said just the opposite: “The New Mass leads to sin
against faith, and that is one of the most serious of sins, the most dangerous of sins, …the
loss of faith…” (The Mass of All Time, p.284).
30 For more details about the Motu Proprio, the reader may refer to the article published in
the September 2007 of Courrier de Rome [and in the January 2008 issue of SiSiNoNo].
31 For more details, the reader may wish to consult the exclusive interview with the Most
Reverend Bernard Fellay, in Nouvelles de Chrétienté, No. 111, May-June 2008, online
32 The religious indifferentism of individuals is condemned in Proposition 15 of Pope Pius
IX’s Syllabus of Errors (DS 2915).
33 This reading of §2 of Dignitatis Humanae is confirmed in parallel places of the document:
the end of §§3, 7, 10, and 12.

 March 2009
The Angelus English-Language Article Reprint
Let your speech be “Yes, yes: no, no”; whatever is beyond these comes from the evil one. (Mt. 5:37)
The State of
Part II
Bishop Rifan’s
Incoherent Reading
Confusion between Two Errors
For Bishop Rifan, “there is no real contradiction
between what Blessed Pius IX taught and what
Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious
Freedom, teaches.”1 According to him, Pius IX
condemned religious liberty understood as the
absence of a moral obligation for the individual
conscience to embrace the true religion (the error
of personal or individual religious indifferentism),
while Dignitatis Humanae teaches religious
liberty understood as the individual’s right to
be free from constraint by civil authorities in
the public exercise of religion. But the teaching
of Vatican II corresponds to the error of the
religious indifferentism of civil authorities, equally
condemned by Pius IX. It suffices to compare the
texts to realize that Bishop Rifan’s interpretation
is completely unfounded. Pius IX condemned not
only the error of the indifferentism of individuals,
but also and more precisely the error of the
indifferentism of the State based upon the principle
that the civil authorities must not prevent the
exercise of false religions in the external forum,
which is tantamount to denying the social kingship
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The two equally condemned errors
(indifferentism of the individual and of the State)
are quite distinct. In theory, the second error can be
professed without professing the first, even though
there is a link of cause and effect between the
two. This, moreover, is an attribute of both liberal
Catholicism and of modernism, which (indirectly)
instill the indifferentism of the individual conscience
by at first restricting moral duty to the limits of
the individual conscience. Even if apparently
§1 of Dignitatis Humanae rejects the error of the
indifferentism of individuals, even if apparently
§2 of this document does not teach it, even if the
expressed and various authorized declarations have
stated at the time of the Council2 and afterwards3
that the documents of Vatican II did not teach the
first error, it nonetheless remains that §2 of Dignitatis
Humanae confirms the error of the indifferentism
of the State. That is why all the passages cited by
Bishop Rifan are beside the point.
A Too Rapid Inference
Bishop Rifan is mistaken about the real thrust
of Dignitatis Humanae because in his reading of it
he makes no distinction between the internal forum
of acts of conscience and the external forum of acts
done in public. He says:
The Council teaches from the natural point of view a
right not to be forced or prevented from acting within
due limits in matters religious by the State. That is to
say that the Council affirms that in matters of conscience
the civil power lacks jurisdiction; it is relatively incompetent.
But keeping to the exact meaning of Dignitatis
Humanae, it must be said that the inference Bishop
Rifan makes by linking these two phrases by means
of “that is to say” is incorrect. It is true that, as he
says in his second statement, the State does not have
power to act directly on internal acts of conscience.
But the text of Dignitatis Humanae says much more
than that. In his first statement, Bishop Rifan says
that the State does not have the power to compel
external actions accomplished in the framework of
life in society. The first assertion logically implies
the second, for if one lacks the power to compel
external actions, all the more so does one lack
the power to compel internal acts. But the second
statement does not necessarily imply the first, for it
is possible to lack power to act on internal acts while
possessing the power to act on external ones. That
is why the two statements are not strictly equivalent,
the first saying more than then second.
The Negative Right:
A Previously Refuted Thesis
Finally, Bishop Rifan adopts the argument used
by Fr. Basil of Le Barroux,5 which was refuted by Fr.
Jehan de Belleville,6 also of Le Barroux. According
to this argument,
the Council merely affirms a negative right, without
conceding any affirmative rights to persons in their acts
not in conformity with the truth or the good in matters
The distinction between a negative right and an
affirmative right in this context is equivalent to a
distinction between the right not to be impeded
from acting and the right to act. However, it is a
sophistical distinction, for, as St. Thomas says,8
every negation is based on an affirmation: if one has
the right not to be prevented from acting (negation)
it is because one has the right to act (affirmation).
To be fair, we should make it clear that Fr. Basil’s
argumentation is in reality more nuanced than
the short summary given by Bishop Rifan would
lead one to believe. According to the Benedictine,
Dignitatis Humanae proclaims not the right to act
but the right not to be prevented from acting in the
sense that even if an objectively bad action as such
has no objective right, the person who does it has
the subjective (or personal) right not to be prevented
if he is in good faith. But it suffices to refer to the
notion of right defined by Aristotle and St. Thomas
to comprehend right away the sophism underlying
this position. For in fact a right is inherently
objective and not subjective; the right to act and the
right not to be prevented from acting are identical,
and both are ascribed not to the person who acts
but to the action with its object. For it is essentially
the object of an action which is at the root of a right,
that is to say of the justice and hence the moral
goodness of an action.9 The dispositions of the
person accomplishing it (invincible ignorance, good
faith, good intention) cannot remedy the intrinsic
malice of an action. That is why the State ought
to prevent intrinsically evil actions in the external
forum of life in society even if those who accomplish
them are in good faith. In practice, of course, the
heads of state are unable to prevent evil always
and everywhere. Human government imitates that
of God, who allows evil in order not to place an
obstacle to a greater good or to avoid a worse evil.
But this exercise of tolerance is a matter of prudence
and not of justice: it implies no strict right, either
positive or negative, in favor of evil.
It is this negative right “not to be restrained from
acting” which is explicitly condemned as such by
Pope Pius IX in Quanta Cura. The Pope condemns
the proposition that
liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal
right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and
asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a
right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which
should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical
or civil.
This is the condemnation of the religious
indifferentism of the civil authorities in the sense
that they should not “restrain [anyone] from acting,”
the error taught by§2 of Dignitatis Humanae in
contradiction with Tradition before Vatican II and
the social kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Coherence of the Conciliar Texts
Thus far we have shown that the teaching of
religious freedom in Dignitatis Humanae regarding
the indifferentism of the State incurs Pius IX’s
condemnation. We must now see whether the
condemnation is limited to this error alone and
examine whether §1 of Dignitatis Humanae really
rejects the indifferentism of individuals or merely
seems to.
a. A traditional appearance
It is true that this text begins by making an
assertion in apparent opposition to the error of
private indifferentism condemned by Gregory XVI
and Pius IX:
First, this sacred Synod professes its belief that God
himself has made known to mankind the way in which
men are to serve Him, and thus be saved in Christ and
come to blessedness. We believe that this one true religion
subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church, to which
the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad
among all men. Thus He spoke to the apostles: “Go,
therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have
commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-2). On their part, all men
are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns
God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they
come to know, and to hold fast to it.
This sacred Synod likewise professes its belief that it
is upon the human conscience that these obligations fall
and exert their binding force. The truth cannot impose
itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its
entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.
Religious freedom in turn, which men demand as necessary
to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with
immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore, it
leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the
moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion
and toward the one Church of Christ.
b. But an appearance only
Apparently, then, or at least directly, the text
of Dignitatis Humanae does not seem to oppose
the statements of Popes Gregory XVI and Pius IX
concerning the condemnation of the indifferentism
of individuals. But in reality, things are not quite
so simple, for §1 of Dignitatis Humanae contains
the ambiguous expression “subsists in,” which
recurs here, taking it from Lumen Gentium, §8. This
expression opens the way to a new, much subtler
form of private individualism and inexorably leads,
albeit indirectly, to the conclusion condemned by
Gregory XVI in Mirari Vos and by Pius IX in Quanta
Cura and the Syllabus of Errors: one may indeed
hope for salvation outside the one true religion,
since religious communities other than the Catholic
have by no means been deprived of significance and
importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of
Christ has not refrained from using them as means of
salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness
of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.”
(Unitatis Redintegratio §3)
The end of this passage is also remarkable:
it states that religious freedom, the subject of the
following discussion, “leaves untouched traditional
Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and
societies toward the true religion and toward the
one Church of Christ.” Here it is not a question of
“the Catholic Church” in which, it is said a few
lines above, the one true Church subsists; rather,
it is a question of “the one Church of Christ.” This
is another snare from Lumen Gentium §8. The true
religion is the one exercised only in the one Church
of Christ. But the Catholic Church is only the
community in which this one true religion and this
one Church of Christ subsist. Now, we know (thanks
to a document of the Sacred Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith of June 29, 2007,10 what the
expression “subsistit in” means: to subsist means to
exist fully, as opposed to existing partially. The text
of §1 thus states that the religion binding on all men
is the one exercised not only fully in the Catholic
Church, but also more or less in the other religions,
which are so many partial elements of the one
Church of Christ.
Dignitatis Humanae:
A Text Contradicting
Tradition from A to Z
and from No. 2 to No. 1
Consequently, to state that “it leaves untouched
traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty
of men and societies toward the true religion and
toward the one Church of Christ” is to deny the
truth. Indeed, either the text of Dignitatis Humanae
understands the expressions “true religion” and
“one Church of Christ” in the sense suggested by
the context in parallel places of Lumen Gentium
and Unitatis Redintegratio, in which case the
doctrine that religious liberty leaves untouched is
not the traditional Catholic doctrine; or else the
text understands these same expressions in the
traditional Catholic sense, in which case religious
freedom does not leave untouched the doctrine they
Contrary to the appearances, §1 of Dignitatis
Humanae is perfectly coherent with §2: the moral
obligation imposed on individuals does not concern
the one true religion as it is preached by the one true
Catholic Church; it concerns religion not only as it
is preached in the Catholic Church, but also in the
false religions considered as such. The indifferentism
of the State which is the subject in §2 is rooted in a
new, subtler form of the indifferentism of individuals
discussed in §1.
Benedict XVI and the Authentic
Interpretation of Vatican II
We can also see that the different declarations
of Pope Benedict XVI do not corroborate Bishop
Rifan’s rereading of the text.11 Until now, the
successor of John Paul II has not yet done anything
to correct the most seriously defective teachings of
the Council; on the contrary.
a. Benedict XVI and Religious Liberty
In his Christmas Address to the Roman Curia
of December 22, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI makes
a distinction between the two meanings possible
for “freedom of religion.” In the sense that it
would be the equivalent of an independence of the
conscience in relation to the divine authority fixing
the objective rule of morality (thus, in the sense of
the indifferentism of the individual) the expression
is to be reproved,12 according to the Holy Father.
But in the sense that it would be the equivalent of
the absence of any and all constraint in the external
forum on the part of the civil authorities, the
expression is, according to him, just.13 Further on,
the Pope adds:
The martyrs of the early Church died for their faith in
that God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, and for this
very reason they also died for freedom of conscience
and the freedom to profess one’s own faith: a profession
that no State can impose but which, instead, can only
be claimed with God’s grace in freedom of conscience.
This passage could at the most have an
equivocal sense, for it is true that the profession of
faith cannot be imposed by the State in the internal
forum of the conscience, whereas it is false that the
profession of faith cannot be imposed by the State in
the external forum of society. Moreover, the Pope is
not speaking here of the profession of the one true
faith; he is simply speaking of martyrs who claimed
the freedom to profess their own faith, which can be
understood in the subjective sense.
But subsequently, other addresses of the Pope
have dispelled this ambiguity and proven that
Benedict XVI speaks of freedom understood in the
sense condemned by Gregory XVI in Mirari Vos
and by Pius IX in Quanta Cura. Indeed, the Pope
claims the right for all believers to profess their
religion publicly in society without the State being
able to intervene in any way whatsoever. Moreover,
in his Address of 2005, Benedict XVI already said
that the Vatican II had wished to ratify “an essential
principle of the modern State.” This remark should
prick our ears, for it strikes us as an echo of the
former reflections of Cardinal Ratzinger, who
presented the teachings of Vatican II on religious
freedom as a “countersyllabus.”14
One year after his famous speech on the
hermeneutic of the Council, Pope Benedict XVI
unequivocally indicated what the meaning of this
religious freedom is in the Address of November
28, 2006, to the diplomatic corps of the Turkish
The civil authorities of every democratic country are
duty-bound to guarantee the effective freedom of all
believers and to permit them to organize freely the life
of their religious communities.15
Especially during his recent trip to the United
States, Benedict XVI forcefully repeated the same
ideas in his Speech to the United Nations Assembly
on April 18, 2008:
Human rights, of course, must include the right to religious
freedom….The full guarantee of religious liberty
cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship, but
has to give due consideration to the public dimension of
religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing
their part in building the social order.
He adds that the principle of religious liberty
is “directed towards attaining freedom for every
b. Benedict XVI and Ecumenism
Far from correcting the faulty teaching of
Dignitatis Humanae on religious freedom, Pope
Benedict XVI’s speeches clearly and forcefully
confirm it. On the other hand we can see that Pope
Benedict XVI, no more than did Pope John Paul
II, does not flinch the consequence of this teaching;
indeed, the consequence of religious freedom is
ecumenism. Without entering into details about his
visit to the synagogue of Cologne in 2004 or his trip
to the Middle East in 2006, we can see very well
that, during the ecumenical meeting held at Naples
on 21 October 2007, Benedict XVI did not hide his
intentions. He explained:
Today’s meeting takes us back in spirit to 1986, when
my venerable Predecessor John Paul II invited important
Religious Representatives to the hills of St Francis to
23 THE ANGELUS • March 2009
pray for peace, stressing on that occasion the intrinsic
ties that combine an authentic religious attitude with
keen sensitivity to this fundamental good of humanity.
And he added: “While respecting the differences of
the various religions, we are all called to work for
peace….”17 It is clear that the spirit of Benedict XVI
is still the spirit of Assisi.
The conclusion that interests us is the following:
the declarations of Pope Benedict XVI and his
ecumenical endeavors do not bring an end to the
state of necessity. The authentic interpretation of
Vatican II given by the present pope still upholds
in principle the same errors denounced long ago
by Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro
Mayer in their Open Letter to Pope John Paul II.18
This letter alone reduces to nothing Bishop Rifan’s
Twenty Years after the Episcopal
Consecrations: Operation Survival
Twenty years have passed since the episcopal
consecrations of June 30, 1988. Pope Benedict XVI
denounces the abuses ascribed to the spirit of the
Council, but he preaches fidelity to the empoisoned
letter of the Council. He declares that the traditional
missal was never abrogated, but he sees in it the
extraordinary expression of the liturgical law in
concurrence with the protestantized Novus Ordo,
which in his eyes remains the ordinary expression of
this same law.
This duality which divides Benedict XVI’s
government between a faultless fidelity to the
erroneous principles of the Council and an
appearance of a return to order is perfectly
explained in the logic of the modernist system.
Modernism, which is religion in progress and
perpetual evolution, results, said St. Pius X, “from
the conflict of two forces, one of them tending
towards progress, the other towards conservation.”
The force tending towards conservation is authority,
which represses abuses; the force tending towards
progress is the imperatives of the Council. And we
can see how the conciliar authorities are always
looking for a balance and trying to counterbalance
the two contradictory tendencies against each other,
the progressives against the conservatives.
The conservative tendency will at the most go
so far as to authorize a certain personal attachment
of some of the faithful to pre-conciliar Tradition.
But this would not justify a conclusion that the
state of necessity has ended. The dilemma remains
the same, between a false blind obedience and
legitimate resistance for the sake of perpetuating the
Catholic Faith. Even today we must still choose the
Authored by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, SSPX. Translated exclusively for Angelus
Press from Courrier de Rome, July-August, 2008, pp.6-8.
1 “This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This
freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals
or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that [1] in matters religious no
one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. [2] Nor is anyone to be
restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs whether privately or publicly,
whether alone or in association with others, within due limits” (Dignitatis Humanae, §2).
[Emphasis added.] Bishop Rifan, Traditions et magistère vivant (Le Barroux: Editions
St. Madeleine, 2007), p.96. See also p.92, n.130: Bishop Rifan borrows this explanation
from Fr. Lucien, Fr. Basil of Le Barroux, and from Fr. Louis-Marie de Blignières. For
more details about this question, see Le Sel de la Terre, No. 56 (Spring 2006), pp.183-87.
2 Bishop Rifan, ibid., pp.94-95, quotes the official report given on the text of Dignitatis
Humanae by Bishop Emile De Smedt on November 19, 1963.
3 Ibid., pp.99-103. Bishop Rifan quotes long passages of the Catechism of the Catholic
Church (1992) which are along the same lines as Bishop De Smedt’s report.
4 Bishop Rifan, ibid., p.96.
5 The thesis of Father Basil, La liberté religieuse et la tradition Catholique (Le Barroux:
1998) reviewed in Le Sel de la Terre, No.30) in six volumes comprising 2,960 pages
and 9,154 notes, has only a material advantage, for if one has the patience to read it to
the end, it becomes evident that there is a lot of hot air. A new, condensed version in
one volume is not any more convincing.
6 Jehan de Belleville, O.S.B., Droit objectif dans Dignitatis Humanae: La liberté religieuse
à la lumière de la doctrine juridique d’Aristote et de St. Thomas d’Aquin (Rome, 2004).
7 Bishop Rifan, Tradition et le magistère vivant, p.96.
8 Disputed question De Malo, Q.2, Art.1, ad 9.
9 See Sel de la Terre, No. 56 (Spring, 2006), pp.180-82.
10 Response of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 29, 2007.
11 Bishop Rifan (Tradition, p.103), claims nevertheless to rely on the Discourse of December
22, 2005.
12 “…if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to
discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and
historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped
of its true meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the
human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner
dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge” (translation available on the Vatican’s
Web site).
13 “It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that
derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that
cannot be externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of
conviction. The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential
principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has recovered the
deepest patrimony of the Church” (ibid.)
14 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a
Fundamental Theology (1982; Ignatius Press, 1987), pp.381-82.
15 Meeting with the Diplomatic Corps to the Republic of Turkey, November 28, 2006
(online at
16 Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, April 18, 2008
(online at
17 Greeting to the Heads of Delegations taking part in the International Encounter for Peace
at the Episcopal Seminary of Capodimonte, October 21, 2007 (online at www.vatican.
18 English version: The Angelus, January 1984.
The Demolition of Orthodoxy
Neomodernism is demolishing orthodoxy stone
by stone, by repeated blows, blows which, through
an unnameable tolerance and sometimes a veritable
complicity, are allowed by those in charge, who
wash their hands like Pilate. Numerous “masters
in Israel” vie to create a media spectacle; there is a
whole cortege of improvised disciples: neo-exegetes,
neo-theologians…neo-this and neo-that, disposed to
joyously trample the Faith in the name of the fairyqueen
of a global, ultimately adogmatic religion. An
example of this continuous demolition of the most
certain truths is the attack on the doctrine of limbo.
In its July-August 2007 edition, Courrier de
Rome1 published an article that demonstrated in
great detail the doctrinal falsity of the assertion
that the existence of limbo is a mere “theological
hypothesis.” In fact, it is neither an hypothesis
nor a fable that the “New Evangelization” could
sweep away, opening wide the gates of Paradise to
all unbaptized infants. In this issue we will review
the teachings of the Apostolic magisterium prior
to Vatican II, with the clarification that if a rightly
understood, homogeneous evolution of doctrine is
certainly possible, the involution and contradiction
of truths already legitimately set forth ought to be
rejected out of hand. It is certainly possible that a
less clear truth may acquire greater clarity, but the
contrary is false, given that a clearly explained truth
tranquilly taught in theology and by the constant
and universal magisterium of the Truth cannot
undergo an involution, and still less a cancellation.
In effect, the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church,
does not begin by teaching a truth only to authorize
its being discarded.
The Voice of the
Apostolic Magisterium
1) The Council of Carthage (418) energetically
defends the baptism of infants (and thus the doctrine
of limbo) in the following articles:
Whoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’
wombs ought not to be baptized, or says that they are
indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they
draw nothing of the original sin from Adam, which is
expiated in the bath of regeneration…let him be anath-
Limbo Is Not a
Theological Hypothesis
But a Truth Taught by the
Apostolic Magisterium
25 THE ANGELUS • March 2009
ema. Since what the Apostle says: “Through one man sin
entered into the world (and through sin death), and so
passed into all men, in whom all have sinned” [cf. Rom.
5:12] must not to be understood otherwise than as the
Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood
it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants,
who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit
any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission
of sins, so that that which they have contracted from
generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration.2
It is a truth of faith, then, that infants are born
with original sin (cf. Rom. 5:12); this can only be
effaced by baptism (“nisi renatus fuerit ex aqua et
Spiritu Sancto non potest introire in Regnum Dei”—Jn.
3:5). Baptism of desire also exists, but it is not
possible except for those who have attained the use
of reason, which is certainly not the case of infants
and young children.
If anyone says that for this reason the Lord said:
“In my Father’s house there are many mansions” [ Jn.
14:2]” that it might be understood that in the kingdom
of heaven there will be some middle place or some place
anywhere where the blessed infants live who departed
from this life without baptism, without which they cannot
enter into the kingdom of heaven, which is life eternal, let
him be anathema.3
The canon is formal: children who die without
baptism cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven,
which is eternal life.
2) Pope Innocent III (beginning of the 13th
century), in an apostolic letter to the Archbishop
Imbert of Arles, affirmed this among other things:
We say that a distinction must be made, that sin is
twofold: namely, original and actual: original, which
is contracted without consent; and actual, which is
committed with consent. Original, therefore, which is
committed without consent, is remitted without consent
through the power of the sacrament; but actual, which is
contracted with consent, is not mitigated in the slightest
without consent….The punishment of original sin is deprivation
of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin
is the torments of everlasting hell.4
3) The Council of Florence (1442), in the decree
Pro Jacobitis, affirmed:
Regarding children, indeed, because of danger of
death, which can often take place, when no help can be
brought to them by another remedy than through the
sacrament of baptism, through which they are snatched
from the domination of the Devil and adopted among
the sons of God, it advises that holy baptism ought not to
be deferred for forty or eighty days, or any time according
to the observance of certain people, but it should be
conferred as soon as it can be done conveniently, but so
that, when danger of death is imminent, they be baptized
in the form of the Church, early without delay, even by
a layman or woman, if a priest should be lacking.5
4) Pope Pius VI (1794), in his Apostolic
Constitution Auctorem Fidei, condemned 83
propositions of the Jansenist Synod of Pistoia,
including the following:
The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable, that
place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally
designate by the name of the limbo of children) in which
the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original
sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned
exclusive of the punishment of fire, just as if, by this
very fact, that these who remove the punishment of fire
introduced that middle place and state free of guilt and
of punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal
damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly
talk—false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools.6
5) Pope St. Pius X, in his Catechism of Christian
Doctrine (1912), wrote:
Children who die without baptism go to limbo, where
they do not enjoy God, but neither do they suffer, for
having original sin, and only this, they do not merit to
enter Paradise, but neither do they merit purgatory or
In an apostolic letter to Cardinal Vicar Pietro
Respighi, speaking of his Catechism, the holy pope
wrote that the faithful
will find it a brief, very precise summary, even in
format, in which they will find explained with great
simplicity the principal divine truths and the most useful
Christian reflections.8
How can anyone think that limbo is a simple
“theological hypothesis” that can be tranquilly
6) Pope Pius XII, speaking of the necessity of
baptism, confirms:
If what We have said up to now concerns the protection
and care of natural life, much more so must it
concern the supernatural life, which the newly born
receives with baptism. In the present economy there is no
other way to communicate that life to the child who has not
attained the use of reason. Above all, the state of grace is
absolutely necessary at the moment of death; without it,
salvation and supernatural happiness—the beatific vision
of God—are impossible. An act of love is sufficient for
the adult to obtain sanctifying grace and to supply the
lack of baptism; to the still unborn or newly born this
way is not open.
A Convenient Interpretation
The last act of the supreme magisterium, which
officially blocked the interpretation of the doctrine
of limbo as a whimsical hypothesis, could not go
unmentioned by the International Theological
Commission, which in fact, in its last document
aimed at suppressing the Catholic doctrine of limbo,
gave its own interpretation, asserting that
Pius XII rather recalled the limits within which the
debate must take place and reasserted firmly the moral
obligation to provide Baptism to infants in danger of
In reality, the Commission did not correctly
understand the pontifical message: Pius XII
authorized no “debate” on limbo, but wished
to confirm that baptism is absolutely necessary for
salvation, for if baptism of desire exists for adults in
a state of invincible ignorance, this is not the case
for infants and children who have not yet reached
the use of reason. And if for children without the
use of reason baptism is a “conditio sine qua non” for
obtaining supernatural life, this also holds true for
obtaining the beatific vision; whence the traditional
teaching on limbo as a strictly theological conclusion
confirmed by repeated and precise statements of
the magisterium, which no one can suppress on the
pretext that this teaching is but a vain imagining fit
only for the memory hole.
The International Theological Commission
cannot wander outside the rails set by biblical truth,
which is of divine faith: “Unless a man be born
again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God.”10 That is what Fr. Michel,
author of several articles on the subject published in
L’Ami du Clergé, wrote:
Undoubtedly, the Catholic doctrine implied in the
dogma of the necessity of baptism for the remission of
original sin is that children who die without baptism
cannot enjoy the beatific vision. If this conclusion cannot yet
be considered a dogma of faith insofar as it has not yet
been proposed directly as such by the Church’s magisterium,
it is at least an immediate truth of faith susceptible of
a dogmatic definition.11
Translated from Courrier de Rome, October 2008, pp.7-8.
1 Name of the French edition of SiSiNoNo. This article appeared in the The Angelus
(Nov. 2007).
2 Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, tr. by Roy J. Deferrari from the 30th
edition of Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum (1955; reprint: Loreto Publications,
n.d.), 224 [hereafter abbreviated Dz.].
3 Ibid., n. 2.
4 Dz. 410.
5 Dz. 712.
6 Dz. 1526.
7 St. Pius X, Catechism of Christian Doctrine, §100.
8 AAS, December 2, 1912, pp.690-92.
9 International Theological Commission, The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die
Without Being Baptized,” §39.
10 Jn. 3:5.
11 A. Michel, “The Salvation of Children Who Die Without Baptism,” L’Ami du Clergé.

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