The following article by J. Christopher Pryor is excellent. Nevertheless, for the average South African reader, Roger McCaffrey and Thomas E. Woods are unknown. Their argument, however, is unfortunately not rare even in southern Africa. A passage taken out of context makes one believe that Archbishop Lefebvre was only interested in the Mass; “All we ask for is the Mass. ” Having lived with him for six years in Econe, and, after many, many conferences, I can assure you that what Christopher Pryor writes is accurate.
Allow me to precede this article with an extract from one of the Archbishop’s conferences that says it all. To Card. Ratzinger he replied:
“Eminence, even if you give us everything a bishop, some autonomy from the bishops, the 1962 liturgy, allow us to continue our seminaries, we cannot work together because we are going in different directions. You are working to dechristianize society and the Church, and we are working to Christianize them.
For us, our Lord Jesus Christ is everything, He is our life. The Church is our Lord Jesus Christ; the priest is another Christ; the Mass is the triumph of Jesus Christ on the cross; in our seminaries everything tends towards the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ. But you! You are doing the opposite: you have just wanted to prove to me that our Lord Jesus Christ cannot, andmustnot, reign over society. “1
Often during a conflict one of the opponents tiring of the fight, begins to question the purpose of the conflict in order to bring about a rapid conclusion to the hostilities. The battle against Modernism in the Church is no exception. In an article entitled “All We Ask is for the Mass”2, Roger A. McCaffrey and Thomas E. Woods, Jr. fell prey to this attempt at historical revision. In their article, McCaffrey and Woods quoted one request made by Archbishop Lefebvre during his interview with John Paul II, “All we ask for is the Mass.” Upon this one quotation, they built an argument that all the Archbishop wanted was permission to say the Tridentine Mass and that if the SSPX would only stay faithful to this original plea, then this conflict would soon be over.
Historical Error #1
McCaffrey and Woods erred in their historical assertion that, in the beginning of the conflict with the Modernists, the Archbishop was concerned primarily with the Tridentine Mass and that, once he had permission to continue using the Indult, his disagreement with Rome would be at an end. “They (avenues used to bring “Archbishop Lefebvre back”) were nevertheless easier to tread in those early days, because as Lefebvre insisted time and again, ‘All we ask is for the Mass.’ “.3
For those who wish to discover the Archbishop’s true intentions, there are voluminous primary and secondary sources which show that the Archbishop was fighting for much more than the Mass, and that he was publicly doing this before his meeting with Pope John Paul II. In fact the sources show that the Faith was the primary aspect which the Archbishop fought for. During the Council, when the Tridentine Mass was in use throughout the Latin Rite, the Archbishop was part of an organized group of prelates who resisted the introduction of Modernism in the Church.4 In addition to this, once the Novus Ordo was introduced, the Archbishop opposed it primarily on doctrinal grounds. In February 1975 the Archbishop gave a lecture in Florence concerning the doctrinal errors contained in the New Mass and its striking similarity to the Lutheran reform of the Mass and Luther’s doctrinal errors.5
These things are important to note. The Archbishop did not prefer the Tridentine Mass because he liked Latin or incense or because of ascetics. He primarily opposed the New Mass because he saw the doctrinal errors contained in it and that the enemies of the Church were using the New Mass to attack the Faith and Our Lord. This was at the heart of the Archbshop’s fight with the Modernists in Rome.
Another clear example of the nature of the Archbishop’s fight against Modernism is his declaration of 21st November, 1974. In this statement the Archbishop said:
“We adhere with our whole heart, and with our whole soul to Catholic Rome, the guardian of the Catholic Faith and of those traditions necessary for the maintenance of that Faith, to eternal Rome, Mistress of Wisdom and Truth.
Because of this adherence we refuse and we have always refused to follow the Rome of neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies, such as were clearly manifested during the Second Vatican Council, and after the Council in all the resulting reforms.”6
Historical Error #2
McCaffrey and Woods’ second historical error was that Pope John Paul II was eager to help the traditionalists evidenced by the fact that he granted the 1984 Indult. Furthermore, McCaffrey and Woods claimed that this was a great victory for traditionalists; won by Eric De Saventhem and Michael Davies.7 On the surface, it may appear as if they were correct, however, when one reads the letter which granted the Indult, it can be clearly seen that this was no victory. The letter from Rome granting the permission for the 1984 Indult stated: “a) That it be made publicly clear beyond all ambiguity that such priests and their respective faithful in no way share the positions of those who call in question the legitimacy and doctrinal exactitude of the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970.”8
In other words, any laymen or priest, including Saventhem and Davies, attending this indult must be public and clear about the fact that he has no problem with the New Mass. This was not a victory but a defeat.
McCaffrey and Woods then used this example to show how willing Rome was to work with the SSPX and how the Society missed an opportunity in its more recent discussions with Rome. Ironically enough, McCaffrey and Woods provided the Society of Saint John Marie Vianney (SSJV) as an example of what could have been a helpful arrangement for the SSPX. They wrote, “The members of this community (SSJV) were granted the right to offer only the traditional Mass and Sacraments, and in general to carry on their work as they had been doing, except now with express Vatican approval. Michael Davies cheered the agreement…”9
What was the fruit of this new agreement which McCaffrey and Woods offered as an example for the SSPX to follow? The Society of St. John Vianney and their faithful may not attack the Council and Bishop Rifan has now changed his colors and has publicly attended and concelebrated a New Mass.’10 Furthermore, the SSJV along with the other members of Ecclesia Dei remained silent during the sacrileges of Assisi II.11 It is clear that Modernist Rome does not object to granting the use of the Tridentine Mass provided that those who attend do not attack Modernism and do not defend the Faith.
The article “All We Ask is for the Mass” is an example of how some would like to alter history and reality in order to come to a quick and practical conclusion in the fight for Tradition. Furthermore, the article also shows that there are many traditionalists who do not understand that this conflict is primarily a fight for the Faith and is not just about the Tridentine Mass. Before the Council there were many liberals in the Church working against the Faith such as, Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, Fr. Anibale Bugnini, Fr. Courtney Murray, Fr. Henri de Lubac, etc. Each of these men said the Tridentine Latin Mass and each of them was a modernist working, knowingly or unknowingly, to destroy the Faith. As the Archbishop said “That is why we are opposed, and it is the reason for which we cannot agree [with them]. It is not first and foremost the question of the Mass […]. The true, fundamental opposition is about the Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Opportet Ilium regnare, says St. Paul. Our Lord came to rule. They say no; we say yes, with all the Popes.” Traditionalists should thank God that Mgr. Fellay and the SSPX, like Archbishop Lefebvre, have understood the essence of this crisis is the Faith and that only by adhering to the Faith without compromise will the fight be won.