AGAINST THE SCHISMATIC DRIFT
ON Monday July 21, 1969, fourteen days after he had been served an ultimatum by Cardinal Seper, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, instructing him, under threat of excommunication, to retract and to submit entirely, nay blindly, to the Pope and the bishops of France, Fr. de Nantes received a visit from several priests who had come to ask him to exercise his priestly ministry without concerning himself further about the hierarchy, as they themselves had resolved to do. They wanted to set up a faithful and unofficial Church in the midst of the universal wreckage, and they planned to assume “ complete pastoral jurisdiction in an extraordinary manner, independently of official ecclesiastical authority, either local or Roman ”1.
So it was that in this month of July 1969 Fr. de Nantes was to confront two great temptations :
There was firstly the temptation to heresy, which he once again fended off by refusing to rally to the party of the Reform. On July 16 he countered the exorbitant demands of Cardinal Seper with his Profession of Catholic Faith, which we have quoted in full in the previous volume.2
And then, a few days later, there was the temptation to schism, when he was put under strong pressure to enter into dissidence.
JULY 21, 1969 : FR. DE NANTES IS URGED
TO ENTER INTO SCHISMATIC DISSIDENCE
On that Monday July 21, 1969, towards the end of the afternoon, several ecclesiastics rang the doorbell at Maison Saint-Joseph without any prior notice.3 They were Fr. Philippe Rousseau and two Mexican priests, Fathers Saenz y Arriaga and Charles Marquette, accompanied by a layman. Fr. de Nantes welcomed them kindly. He straightway ordered his brothers to prepare a dinner for them as well as rooms for the night, while he received them in his study. These priests immediately advised him that they would be joined later on by several of their colleagues who had agreed to meet there that evening. One could even expect to see Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, they said.
After a few moments the aim of these integrists in approaching the only theologian to have refused the Acts of Vatican II, and sanctioned with suspens a divinis since 1966, became only too clear. These priests judged the new ordo missae, promulgated by Paul VI on the previous April 3 and due to come into effect in the autumn, to be heretical. From this they concluded that Paul VI was no longer Pope on account of public and formal heresy, and that the bishops likewise had fallen from office.
“ The official Church ”, they said, “ has now fallen into apostasy. We are the only ones left. We must continue the Church, we must ensure her survival and her future. ”
The time had come to acknowledge the fall from office of all the clergy who followed the Pope, and it was therefore necessary to provide for the salvation of souls by availing oneself of the freedom to exercise the priestly ministry without canonical jurisdiction. The two Mexicans declared that they had met Cardinal Ottaviani at Rome and that he had advised them, even ordered them, to disregard all instructions, to take no account of any sanctions, and to distribute the sacraments without concerning themselves further about the bishops or worrying about receiving from them the ordinary powers of jurisdiction.
Given the turn the conversation was taking, Fr. de Nantes called for Brother Bruno. It was essential for him to take part in a discussion of such importance. Brother Bruno entered the study at the moment when the layman was saying : “ Father, my wife has no one in Versailles to make her confession to now ; things are urgent. ” By pleading the need of souls and the distress of the faithful, these integrists wished to persuade Fr. de Nantes to distribute the sacraments without worrying about receiving the requisite faculties from the hierarchy. Their idea was that priests who rejected the new ordo missae should in future say Mass, hear confessions, baptize, and preside at marriages universally, without asking anyone’s permission and without worrying about submission to the bishops or about jurisdiction.
It was a spectacle ! Fr. de Nantes declared his disagreement. He countered their arguments, wishing to make them listen to reason : “ What is the good ”, he asked the layman, “ of confessing to an ecclesiastic who has no faculties ? If a priest has not received jurisdiction from the bishop, his absolutions are invalid. ”
They went into dinner without reciting Vespers. Brother Charles had been waiting in vain in the chapel, and he was astonished that these gentlemen had no regard for the life of the small community which they had disrupted without any prior warning. In the refectory the monastic benedicite was said, and then a brother began the reading.
Suddenly the doorbell rang. “ Ah ! It’s Archbishop Lefebvre. ” Alas ! It was only Fr. Coache and Fr. Guérard des Lauriers, a Dominican. Being short of space, two places were made for them at the reader’s table, and our Father authorised general conversation with the ritual phrase : “ Benedicamus Domino ! ” Whilst serving the soup, he congratulated the layman for the study of the New Mass recently published by one of his close relatives and which had in fact been read in the refectory over the last few days. Then he said to Father Guérard :
– “ Ah ! Reverend Father, we have also read your article. Even though you did not sign it, we recognised your style. But, it remains without a conclusion. ”
– “ The conclusion speaks for itself ”, explained the Dominican. “ The New Mass is heretical and invalid. ”
– “ All right ”, replied Fr. de Nantes. “ Suppose we accept your theological arguments, we would still need to see how the Church is going to receive this ordo. ” And our Father added that one theologian on his own could not declare the new rite invalid like this, before he had even observed and taken note of the reaction of the hierarchical Church towards this new ordo.
– “ I consider ”, replied Fr. Guérard des Lauriers, “ that the hierarchy, in the person of the Pope and of the bishops, has collapsed. ”
– “ It is not sufficient, my Reverend Father, to say that the hierarchy has collapsed. Supposing you are right, it will still be necessary to get the rest of the Church to admit this. ”
– “ It is self-evident ”, interrupted the other, “ self-evident ! ”
The position of Fr. Guérard was instant, unambiguous, definite. The hierarchy had disappeared. No more Pope ! No more bishops ! Since they were heretics, they were spiritually dead and therefore cut off ipso facto from the Church.
– “ But ”, replied Fr. de Nantes to him, “ you have neither the authority nor the competence to declare the Pope and the bishops to be formally and completely heretical. Only the sovereign judgement of the Church can rule on heresy and excommunicate the heresiarch. It may indeed be that it seems to you that the definition of the Mass given by Paul VI in article 7 of the Institutio generalis is heretical. It clearly appears to you to be contrary to the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Trent. But, for the time being, this is nothing but your opinion. Before declaring Paul VI deposed from the sovereign pontificate on account of heresy, one has to obtain a judgement from the Church specifically on this matter of the Pope’s heresy. ”
– “ It is self-evident, self-evident ! ” repeated Fr. Guérard.
– “ I can well understand ”, explained Fr. de Nantes, “ that it is evident to you, even self-evident. But you are not infallible. ”
Then our Father, in a few sentences, gave his guests a lesson in philosophy about the degrees of certitude. Everyone listened to him with the greatest attention. Their minds were rapt. Fr. de Nantes spoke in a masterly way on a subject in which he excelled. Brother Charles remembers the very commonplace comparison that our Father made to enlighten them. He wished to make them understand that when Fr. Guérard stated something that he thought self-evident, he might nevertheless be deceived : “ Suppose that you live at the top of a block of flats. Someone warns you that your car is burning in the street. Looking out of the window, you notice that your car really has caught fire. You are quite sure about it… and yet it is not your car ! You believed you recognised it, but you were wrong ! ” He then returned to the question of Paul VI’s heresy : “ You may reason, prove, and argue as much as you like in formulating an accusation of heresy against Paul VI. But as long as the magisterium of the Church has not passed a dogmatic sentence, your thinking will be nothing more than the opinion of a theologian who could be wrong. Therefore, it is essential to obtain a judgement. Even if the Pope has fallen from office by virtue of having promulgated a heretical and invalid Mass, it is still necessary that the whole Church should recognise and acknowledge this. If you are alone in proclaiming this, it does not count. ” The conversation then turned to Bellarmine’s thesis concerning the case of a heretical Pope. According to Fr. de Nantes, Cajetan’s thesis was more penetrating, and he concluded thus : “ A judgement by the Church is needed if Pope Paul VI is to be deposed. ”
Fr. Coache had listened without saying a word. Suddenly he burst out laughing. “ Are you still harping on about that ! To expect the official Church to pass a judgement deposing the Pope is quite ridiculous. It could never happen ! The whole Church has foundered. How could she possibly issue such a judgement ? ” It was evident that Fr. Coache no longer had any faith in the Church.4
They got up from the table. The conversation continued in the hall. After a short while, Fr. Coache, who was leaning on a pile of papers, grumbled : “ Are there no chairs then in this house ? ” Fr. de Nantes’ face changed colour. He replied : “ I would be happy for you to be seated, but you still have a long journey home before you. ” He thus made it clear to everyone that, although his brothers had prepared rooms for them, he was asking them to leave. Given their schismatic designs and their outright condemnation of the whole hierarchical Church, they would not be passing the night under the roof of Maison Saint-Joseph. “ However ”, added our Father, “ you may have a seat if, despite the late hour, you are not in a hurry to leave. ” They all took their seats in the large secretarial study to continue the discussion. It was clear that they wished at all costs to lead Fr. de Nantes into dissidence with them. It is true that in June the latter had written personally to Fr. Coache to warn him that he disagreed with his theories and his plans. And then, in his confidential letter of July 165, he had firmly warned his close friends against the temptation and the danger of schism. Now, on July 21, it was quite evident that these priests wished to vanquish his opposition.
The categorical judgements of Fr. Saenz y Arriaga and Fr. Coache had to be heard ! The promulgation of the new ordo missae signified that the official Church had apostatised and that the hierarchy had been abandoned by God. “ I was truly surprised by the virulent attack of Fr. Saenz against the papacy and against the hierarchy ”, will recount his Mexican colleague, Fr. Marquette. “ It was the first time that I had heard Fr. Saenz speak in this way. ”6
– “ The faithful priests ”, said Fr. Coache, “ have been sent directly by Christ, who entrusts them with the fate of the flock, who are now without pastors. ”
Fr. de Nantes demonstrated to them that, objectively speaking, the hierarchy had neither been abolished nor dissolved. “ Paul VI, to all appearances, has always been the Pope and has been recognised as such by the whole world, you alone excepted. ”
The theologian of the Catholic Counter-Reformation defended and vigorously expounded the classical and certain thesis according to which “ the Church subsists, visibly and hierarchically, in the Pope, in the bishops united to him and in the priests sent by them, in such a manner that criticisms raised by us against their opinions or their decisions are not sufficient by themselves to exempt us from their authority… We have no jurisdiction unless it is delegated to us by our bishops ; there is no other, whether it comes from Heaven or from anywhere else. ”
Fr. Coache claimed to have received directly from Jesus Christ the divine powers of jurisdiction which his bishop had taken from him.7 Our Father replied : “ Confessions and marriages carried out without the ordinary powers of jurisdiction – and in the case of marriage, without the personal delegation of the parish priest – are null and void. Those whom you will have married will be taken for cohabitants by any ecclesiastical judge, from the simple fact that they will have been married by you. Consider the havoc that you are going to cause in what remains of our Christian society ! ” Fr. Coache had to agree that, “ on account of the social consequences ”, it would be necessary to defer on marriages. But, as for baptism and confession, he maintained that he would administer them without asking the bishops for the faculties to do so.
Fr. Noël Barbara, who during this month of July was on a brief retreat at Maison Saint-Joseph, was present at the discussion. He understood the force of our Father’s arguments. Nevertheless, he did not dare to show his disapproval of Fr. Coache’s plans. So he proposed a compromise to Fr. de Nantes :
– “ We would suggest that each keeps his own counsel. These gentlemen will do as they wish. Clearly, you refuse to subscribe to their plans ; but you will not publicly declare your disagreement with them. You must make this promise. We will not fight each other, given our state of doubt. ”
“ Ah ! excuse me ”, said Fr. de Nantes, “ but I do not have any doubt. It is not a matter of opinion, but of dogmatic truth and error. If Fr. Coache carries out his plans, he will create a schism. ” And he went on to emphasise once again the incalculable consequences of such a schism, both for the salvation of souls and for the unity of the Christian people : “ I give you notice that, if you do this, I will personally denounce your reprehensible schemes. ”
Then, despite the lateness of the hour, he dismissed them all except for Fr. Barbara. After their departure, the Father and the brothers took some herbal tea together and talked a little. Finally Fr. Barbara declared : “ You are right, Father. You are right. ” Alas ! inconstant man, he will often change his mind during the months to come and ultimately he will fall into schism.
During this year of 1969, the rebellion of the integrists against the liturgical reforms marked the beginning of a new and disastrous period in the crisis of the postconciliar Church, a period which we are going to study in the present volume. From now on, those sheep of the flock who had not been misled or swept away by the hurricane of the heresies of Vatican II, will be inveigled by bad shepherds who will attempt to lead them as far away as possible from the whirlwinds of the fearful tempest and into their schismatic chapels.
And so it was that the visit of these priests to Maison Saint-Joseph and their dramatic discussion with Fr. de Nantes on this July 21st, 1969, was the event heralding the difficult and trying combat that he would henceforth have to wage on a new front : against the integrists. Nevertheless, his defence of Catholic unity during the 70’s will not prevent him from pursuing his principal battle against the Masdu and the new conciliar religion.
THE SCHISMATIC REACTION OF THE INTEGRISTS,
Fr. de Nantes’ declared opposition to these erring integrists had a long pre-history. “ Ever since my studies at the seminary ”, he recounts, “ I have had to recognise that in their holy defence of the faith my masters and friends sometimes exhibited a certain dismissiveness, a certain narrow-mindedness, and occasionally an indefensible sectarianism. So, while sparing their persons, I had carefully sought to extricate traditionalism from the rut of integrism, out of a concern for truth, justice and also charity towards our Catholic brothers. My first study on the maladies of the right, the inadequacies of integrism, goes back to September 1, 1963, Letter to my friends no 151. I managed to write it without being accused of bias, as the integrists were my friends and some of them my readers, and also without being suspected of leftism, since I had just completed a two-year study on progressivism8, in which I denounced it as the worst and most universal error of all times. ”9
In this Letter our Father explained “ that all the clearly defined and acceptable reproaches levelled against integrism can be reduced to three main charges : (1) Over and above every other reason it prefers the argument of authority alone, considering this argument as absolutely decisive in every domain. (2) It rejects en bloc every new discovery or hypothesis made by the sciences, seeing them as nothing but the secret allies of unbelief or heresy. (3) Finally, it is unconditionally submissive to the established order in both Church and State, and refuses to hear anything about changing it, as it has an obsessive fear of revolution. ”10
At the end of his study Fr. de Nantes concluded that it was essential to work so that “ between progressivism which, in the name of liberty, science and evolution, is overturning the Church and rejecting her tradition, and integrism which, in the name of authority and the established order, is diametrically opposed to progressivism, there might exist a third party in which everyone might be reconciled. While remaining loyal to his faith, the Catholic is nonetheless invited to exercise all his intelligence in understanding his religion, to enrich his knowledge with all the reliable acquisitions of the human sciences, and to search continually for better institutions and to promote them for the common good of Church and Country ”10.
“ When in 1962 the Pope and the Council decreed the Reform of the Church, integrism, owing to the defects just cited, fell into the most violent contradiction imaginable. Submissive to authority and all too ignorant of modern science, history, exegesis and liturgy, it accepted everything that came from Rome. With its eyes shut, it eulogised the reforming Pope and his Council. Simply as a matter of principle. Authority was always right. During those years, I was left all on my own. Everyone said I was wrong to question orders and to rebel against Authority ! As for the actual content of this Reform, no one wished to see anything, to understand anything or to admit anything, simply wishing to remain faithful to the traditional order of things and to conserve the religion of all times ! But how could they obey the reformers for so long without in some way also changing their mentality and practice ? This would soon become all too clear…
“ Gradually integrism disintegrated. It was pointless each one claiming to be absolutely faithful to himself ! Some held firm to their submission to Authority and and began to adapt themselves to the new manner of praying, believing and acting. And so they denied their convictions, although they insisted this was not so ! The others held firm to the traditions and swore that neither Pope nor Council were asking anything new of them. They established themselves in disobedience, although they insisted this was not so ! ”11 And so they lived in the permanent contradiction of an alleged submission to the authorities who were intent on their ruin.
When Paul VI promulgated his new ordo missae in 1969, the “ submissive ” integrists swallowed the heretical definition of the Mass and the new rite itself. “ For some time now their integrism had been little more than an appearance, as they had decided to accept everything passively, obedience to authority taking the place of religion itself for them. ”
On the other hand, the “ refractory ” integrists, “ unfamiliar with the necessary distinctions and tired of having to contradict themselves and always to back down, now rose up abruptly from their previously supine position and at one stroke entered into dissidence ”11.
From the time of the Council, while struggling with all his strength against the tide of heresy sweeping through the Church, Fr. de Nantes strove to prevent schismatic dissidence and to turn his readers away from this temptation.
In January 1963, six months before the death of John XXIII, our Father, already deeply alarmed by the reformists’ striking victories during Vatican II’s first session, put his friends on guard against the danger of an excessive and reckless reaction :
“ I must insist on this, in order to keep you from entering certain circles, movements or leagues which seek to establish counter-revolution in the Church, and in particular to force the French episcopate to take a firmer line, even to engage in the struggle against progressivism. These groups with their presumptuous plans will continue to flourish and entice new members as long as the clergy cause scandal by compromising with revolution, treason, heresy or schism. But for the man in the pew to put his parish priest in his place only adds one ill to another, piling up disorder in the Church. Such contestation has always ended in condemnation from which the only beneficiary is in fact the very party one wished to crush.
“ Whatever may be the opinions of our lord bishops and of the Pope himself, they constitute the Church, that is to say they possess a Character, a Spirit that is fundamentally counter-revolutionary. Their distraction may be great, their inertia or their sympathies surprising not to say scandalous, nevertheless no one is entitled to substitute himself for them. It is their authority alone, on the day they care to exercise it legitimately and seriously and not to speak or act according to their own personal caprice or human politics… it is their divine authority alone that can save everything, and they will do this all the more rapidly, all the more perfectly, if a thousand small groups have not detached themselves from them and disoriented many of their finest subjects. ”12
As he specified a few months later, “ To declare that the teaching Church had been deposed would be to fall into the snare of the adversary and, believing oneself to have gone one better than the hierarchy in their faltering faith, to fall oneself into unbelief. No ! These appearances only deceive the impatient whose minds are blinded by pride. ”13
In January 1967, one year after Vatican II had concluded, while apostasy was eroding and disfiguring the Church, Fr. de Nantes expressed his detestation of schism in a heartfelt cry of love for the one holy Church of Jesus Christ :
“ We do not have the right – nor is it something we have ever desired or even dreamed of – to declare that we alone constitute the true Church, rejecting this reformed postconciliar Church as schismatic and heretical as though in our eyes it had become the accursed great Babylon of the Apocalypse. This solution, the most stupid and most criminal possible, may have excited the imagination of certain unfortunates who were looking for an adventure. But it will never be our solution. One does not throw oneself into schism when one has never woken up on a single morning of one’s life, over the last forty years, without smiling with joy at the radiant, virginal and maternal face of the Church, and without going to sleep at night filled with her immense wisdom and her salutary blessings. There is nothing in me, absolutely nothing, which I have not inherited from Her or which is not in accord with her holy thoughts and desires. Let us not overlook the sordid side of our nature and our sins, which are known to Her alone, since She has purified them. Can I then deny, strike and abandon my Mother ? God forbid !
“ What is certain, what is absolutely definite, is the divine origin of the Church, her continually dazzling miraculous nature, her age-old goodness. What is necessary, what is vital for us men and for our salvation, are the dogmas and luminous teaching of her doctors ; her sacraments and the supernatural marvels of her worship, her images and her sanctuaries ; her laws and imperishable institutions which have made us what we are, which in times past have restored and elevated to the highest degree the civilisation of Greece and Rome, a truly universal humanism that is now permanently Christian. The childishness, the conceited innovations, the daydreams, the errors and the crimes of the last five years of ecclesiastical life may be so greatly inflated by the propaganda that all the rest appears to have been eclipsed and replaced for ever, but we will not allow ourselves to be confused by this. Distinguishing the reality from the appearance, we will despise this shameful makeover which is intended to ‘change the face of the Church’; we know that very soon it will all break up. Never will we give up loving our Mother, even under this humiliating disguise. ”14
AT MY MOTHER’S BEDSIDE
It is just such a burning love for the Church that we discover on reading the wonderful Mystical Page which our Father published in June 1969, several weeks before the integrist priests paid him a visit. It is here that we clearly discover his most intimate thoughts and his firm resolution not to abandon his Mother who is devoured with cancer and whose mind is so seriously affected that she even goes so far as to speak painful, disagreeable and spiteful words to him. No, he will not leave her bedside and depart into the night ; he will not succumb to the temptation to desert his poor Mother.
Let us read this truly moving mystical page :
“ Infirmitas hæc non est ad mortem, sed pro gloria
Dei, ut glorificetur Filius Dei per eam. ”15 (Jn 11.4)
“ O Word made flesh, divine Spouse of the Church, I know not which of the two of Thee I love most, but no matter, since Thou art but one ! It is she who instructed me, as a child, about Thy delightful Name and Thy mysteries, but later it was through Thee that I came to know her Spirit and her heart. She was born from Thy opened side, this new Eve, as the invention of Thy love. But through the centuries her devotion, her fidelity and her tenderness have responded eloquently to Thine own.
“ What a privilege to have been entrusted to her from my earliest youth ! She was beautiful at that time, my holy and virgin Mother. I was enchanted by her teachings, her prayers and her hymns. My soul exulted in the luminous torrents of her immense wisdom. If I were to dwell on the soul of the Church, I could talk for ever ; if I were to enumerate the beauties of her body, I would never finish. I loved Thee dearly, O my Jesus, in the inflamed words of Thy preachers, in the lives of the saint who were Thy confidants, and in the resplendent faces of so many wonderful friends who lived only for Thee in the Church. At that time, I loved all Thy priests with an equal love, I venerated Thy consecrated virgins, and I felt myself of one family with all Thy faithful. The sanctuaries, the statues, the ornaments and the vessels are the jewels and the vestments and the dwelling of this spiritual Mother whose wisdom nourished me even in the orderly splendour impressed on marble and gold. I grew up, nourished on her bountifulness. And I bless Thee for allowing me to know the Church in this springtime of my youth and hers, when her whole being radiated the serene glory and happiness of a fulfilled spouse. I could only guess what unique love might be her secret.
“ Then misfortune struck. Although at first it was hidden, the sickness we dreaded began to take hold of this body, inexorably. For ten years now our fears and affliction have been on the increase. At first her beauty took on a somewhat sad radiance and the energy she displayed made us admire her even more. But then her trials became too heavy. Her body was covered in dark blotches and her members became deformed, making her a pitiable sight. Soon her skin was stretched to its limit and started to crack. She was saturated in great streams of pus, blood and flesh, causing a most appalling odour. We cared for her as best we could, using the same methods that we had formerly seen her apply to us, and our tears were mixed with her blood. Little did we know that we had not yet seen the worst and that she would begin to lose her mind. When in her delirium she uttered the most painful words against us, in vain did we repeat to ourselves that she was not in her right mind and a dreadful turmoil took hold of us. Several of those who were worn out with sleepless nights, the fatigue of continuous care and the stench of her wounds, let themselves be overwhelmed by doubt and discouragement. They abandoned the bedside of their mother who, knowing not what she was doing, started to call out to her imaginary lovers whilst tearing at the caressing hands of her sons, refusing to recognise them as her children any longer.
“ By what grace was it that I stayed behind, I the most unworthy of all, who normally put up so badly with suffering, doubtful devotion and ingratitude ? It was not the memory of her past beauty and her previous kindness that kept me near to her, defending her against her enemies, showing the door to charlatans, pleading for true doctors, and giving encouragement to the last of her faithful children. Sometimes a ray of light passed over her face, like a gentle smile, reminding me of the immense tenderness she had shown in former times. For a moment I thought I had got her back, and then the darkness returned and there was nothing but ugliness and horror, groans and curses. I was afraid of being swallowed up in all this myself. But I knew that I would remain with her, venerating, loving and serving this Church in a state of disgusting rottenness and decay, because, today as well as yesterday and for all eternity, she is the unique and beloved Spouse of my Lord. I look upon the Cross and there I see Thee looking as she does now. How could I abandon her ? I am certain that, deep down behind all this putrefaction, despite this delirium, her veiled Heart is still the same, ardent and virginal, that her Spirit remains Holy, and that her Life, her divine life, continues to struggle invincibly against the terrible assaults of the Evil One. Tomorrow, yes tomorrow, she will recover. It is of her that we understand today Thy prophecy : ‘This illness is not unto death, but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it’… The Church will recover ! After the long nightmare, all that will remain to her are the stigmata of her glorious wounds, similar to Thine own, and in her look there will be a more profound glow of indescribable tenderness for her Spouse who will have saved her from death.
“ And I believe that we shall cherish her all the more after this calvary, Thou her Spouse, and we her children. It is in dreaming of that day that we will remain by her side throughout the night. ”16
AUGUST 9, 1969 : REBUTTED BY THE ROMAN NOTIFICATION,
FR. DE NANTES REMAINS IN COMMUNION WITH THE CHURCH
In the previous volume17, we recounted the extraordinary combat of Fr. Georges de Nantes against the conciliar reform up till 1969, as well as the history of his doctrinal trial at the court of Rome.
It was after the Council had closed that he constrained his bishop, Msgr. Le Couëdic, and therefore hierarchically the Holy Office, to open this trial for heresy against himself, accusing him of declaring the Pope and the Council heretical ! He thereby presented the supreme Magisterium with a straight choice, in which there was no third option : they had either to condemn him with an anathema and so “ infallibilise ” the novelties everywhere imposed, or else they had to absolve him, which would mean weakening the novel teachings of the Pope and the Council. This first confrontation ended in August 1969 with a “ disqualification ” of the plaintiff, the case being dismissed without any other form of process. This denial of justice merely served to “ disqualify ” its Author, who thereby became guilty of an abuse of authority.
It is worth recalling that at the beginning of 1969 Fr. de Nantes, along with several other priests including Fathers Barbara and Coache, had conducted a national campaign against the new catechisms. The meetings he organised throughout all the main towns in France caused a great stir.
As Jacques Mourot wrote, “ At that time there was formed a Catholic offensive against the subversion and Fr. de Nantes was its uncontested leader. By declaring him ‘disqualified’ in August, the Holy Office had sought to wound him and bring him down, thus decapitating the traditionalist movement in France and – I venture to say without fear of contradiction – throughout the entire Church. ”18
The rostrum of speakers at the public meeting organised in the provinces against the new obligatory French catechism in the Spring of 1969. From right to left : Fr. Rimaud (at the microphone), Fr. Barbara, Fr. de Nantes and Brother Bruno of Jesus.
“ Action means openly and loudly demanding the freedom to remain Catholic, we and the people entrusted to our ministry, your and your children, even though all the rest should renounce it and create for themselves other gods and other saviours. But action means even more than this, according to the pure Will of our God. It means rejecting the liberal temptation to ‘pluralism’, whereby each has his own catechism to suit his opinions, and the temptation to ‘optionality’, whereby each has his own liturgy to suit his whim. That cannot be accepted in the Catholic Church. ”
(Georges de Nantes, CRC n° 19, April 1969)
At Lille, at the public meeting on 20 May 1969 against the new catechism : Brother Gerard of the Virgin (at the microphone), Fr. de Nantes and Fr. Barbara.
“ It is because this so-called catechism appears to us to be heretical, amoral, scarcely Catholic and a caricature of Christianity, that we have come here today, obliged to say so, to broadcast it and to proclaim it so loudly that our priests will listen, that our bishops will take alarm, and that at Rome the Sovereign Pontiff will finally have to make a decisive judgement on the matter. ”
(Georges de Nantes, CRC n° 17, February 1969)
The publication of the notification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with its so-called notice of Fr. de Nantes’ autodisqualification19, as well as the accompanying defamations in the press, had a deplorable effect on the mass of the humble faithful. As a consequence, Fr. de Nantes had to cancel the autumn relaunch of the campaign against the new catechisms, which had been planned at the beginning of the summer.20
On the other hand, the Roman disclaimer did not arouse any particular movement of disaffection among the readers of the Catholic Counter-Reformation in the twentieth century, the circulation of which increased quite noticeably during the autumn of 1969.
“ Currently ”, noted Fr. de Nantes in October, “ the net result of this crisis has been 96 cancellations of the monthly journal, especially by priests and religious, perhaps feeling frightened or even threatened, and of these 23 were accompanied by letters of disapproval. During the same time we have been obliged to increase the number of copies from 20,000 to 21,000 to respond to requests made by new readers who came to know of us through this episode. As for your kind donations, they will allow us to pay immediately, as always, for the next delivery of eight tons of paper. ”21
After the notification from Rome was announced on the radio and published in the newspapers, Fr. de Nantes began to receive a vast amount of mail : “ It has become impossible for me ”, he will soon confide, “ to answer these thousands of letters as I should have wished, especially those that displayed a wonderful elevation of mind or were seeking advice, and those that expressed, sometimes with great intelligence, piety and charity, certain doubts or objections, and even accusations. It it not even possible to thank all those who have immediately renewed their subscription or have sent us a special donation ‘in order that the Counter-Reformation may continue !’ ”22
It is remarkable that numerous correspondents said they were reassured to see that the notification did not impose any canonical penalty : neither excommunication, nor interdict, nor suspension for a month or a year.23 “ Having weighed up all the terms of this notification ”, wrote one of them, “ we were struck by the fact that Rome did not take the terrible sanctions against you that we feared. On this head, we experienced a certain relief. What does appear highly regrettable to us, however, is that the response you were seeking to elicit on the doctrinal plane has not been formulated, but one can at least draw the logical conclusion from this that there was nothing to condemn. ”24
The statement of disqualification expressed in the notification did not in fact have any dogmatic bearing. The very object of the doctrinal trial, opened three years beforehand, had been eliminated from its conclusion. The alleged errors of Fr. de Nantes were neither formulated nor even mentioned in this Roman document, for the simple reason that the assessors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had not found a single error in his writings.25 Moreover, the notification did not contradict or refute any of his accusations for heresy against Pope Paul VI and Vatican II.
“ I see ”, wrote a priest to him on August 19, “ that no condemnation has been brought against you because no heresy can be imputed to you either. For you to retract would therefore be the equivalent of denying your faith. This manoeuvre is calculated to impress the unshepherded flock which has been handed over to mercenaries. ”
Our Father’s mother, Ms. Marc de Nantes, was herself comparatively relieved to learn that that her son had not been struck with any canonical sanction. Writing on August 13 to Fr. de Nantes, Miss Germaine Ragot confided to him : “ I received news of your mother this morning. The notification seems less serious than she had feared ; she had only seen the note of Sunday-Monday. ”
One of his faithful readers and correspondents, Jean Crété, was the first to express, on August 15, his disquiet and concern : “ I have only just learned today of Rome’s disclaimer through this very imprecise article which I enclose for your information. What exactly is a disclaimer ? It does not seem to contain any sanction, fortunately. But how can one be sure, with only this ignorant journalist to rely on ? What is it a notification of ? I live in anguish and suffer at your distress. You may have prepared yourself well for this, but it is always hard to be sanctioned by Rome ! Our fathers suffered enormously from the condemnation of Action française. Let us hope that things will not go so far this time. ”
There we have a profoundly Catholic reaction : to fear, on behalf of oneself and one’s close friends and family, the sanctions of one’s religious superiors, and to be seized with dread if such sanctions are imposed by Rome. At this point one should re-read what Fr. de Nantes wrote to his friends in August 1963 when he was declared suspens ab officio and hounded out of his parishes by the Bishop of Troyes.26
But in that summer of 1969, he had not been struck with any genuine sanction of a doctrinal or even disciplinary nature. Jean Crété regained his serenity when he had actually read the notification :
“ Your situation ”, he wrote to Fr. de Nantes on August 27, “ should not be made any worse by this Note. People who are sensitive to everything that comes from Rome, like Pierre Lemaire, will be impressed by it, but as the Note contains no condemnation, the matter should go no further. ”
Admiral Hervé de Penfentenyo27 immediately understood the malice of the procedure used by the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and he was outraged by it. On August 12 he wrote to our Father :
“ Dear Father, if one can believe the newspapers, the Congregation for the Faith ‘notes with an immense sadness’ your firm attitude ; it disowns you, but it does not condemn you ! I am not surprised, but sickened ! Your enemies will thus be able to make the good people believe that the Pope has severely reprimanded you and to proclaim their victory. On the other hand it seems to me that it would be difficult for you to raise the least protest against their ‘sadness’ or their disclaimer. Ultimately, I do not know whether to sympathise with you or congratulate you on your courage. At any rate, I wanted to let you know that I am close to you with all my heart. Yours very respectfully, very sadly and very amicably. ”
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had striven to discredit and defame Fr. de Nantes, all the while refusing to rule on the underlying issues and to render a dogmatic verdict.
As soon as he was released from the secrecy imposed by the Holy Office, which he had sworn on the understanding that it would not extend beyond the verdict, Fr. de Nantes immediately published the final documents of his trial, particularly his response to Cardinal Seper’s ultimatum, which took the form of a profession of faith. A great number of readers of the Catholic Counter-Reformation in the twentieth century found these texts very comforting and even quite dazzling. On August 25, Fr. Félix Bourder, a hermit priest, wrote to our Father :
“ Yesterday I read your reply to the Vatican’s ultimatum with great excitement. It is very beautiful, very just, very edifying. I am full of admiration. I congratulate you. It will have its effect. It has already had its effect, since they did not dare to excommunicate you. Clearly they had not doctrinal reason to do so. ”
Possibly against his wishes, Paul VI, supreme judge of all ecclesiastical cases, had not been willing, or had not been able, to excommunicate Fr. de Nantes, whose opposition to the Conciliar Reform had been legal, legitimate, public, in a word, canonical. The conclusion of this doctrinal trial of the theologian of the Catholic Counter-Reformation was clearly proof of the infallibility of the Roman Church, mother and mistress of all the Churches. For if Fr. de Nantes had been excommunicated, this would have lent a kind of retroactive infallibility to all the heresies that proliferate in the Acts of Vatican II. Now, Paul VI was not able to impose such a penalty because, even though he refused to benefit from the positive assistance of the Holy Spirit, he still continued to enjoy His negative assistance, which invincibly preserved him from defining an error to be a truth in an absolute and irreformable manner, or from solemnly anathematising a truth.
This absence of condemnation strengthened Fr. de Nantes’ loyal readers in their faith in the Church. Such for example was the case with one of his former seminary teachers, who had been opposed in 1965 to the very idea of this trial. At the time he had thought that, in appealing to Rome and asking to be judged by the Holy Office, his former student was being highly imprudent. He had in fact forecast that such a trial could only, alas, end in the plaintiff’s condemnation. But in the summer of 1969, following the publication of the Roman notification, he drew the lesson from this denial of justice, and he wrote to our Father to tell him in confidence that the final verdict of his trial, a verdict quite outside the law, had revived and even renewed his faith in the Roman Church. “ Truly ”, he said to him, “ the Church must be divine if her leaders have finally be forced to beat a retreat. They did not impose any canonical penalty on you. ”
Fr. de Nantes had not retracted his accusations and it had not proved possible to cut him off from the Catholic communion. After the notification of August 9, he remained a full member of the Catholic clergy and a son of the Roman Church. Thus the conclusion of his trial had Rome had tremendous significance. It demonstrated that it was possible to remain in the Catholic communion whilst at the same time rejecting the conciliar reform. Nevertheless, it was during that summer of 1969, at the precise moment when they might have learned this lesson from the pontifical misadministration provisionally concluding Fr. de Nantes’ trial, that the opponents of the New Mass lost their faith in the Roman Church and urged him to enter into dissidence with them, as we have already seen.
THE VERY REAL DANGER OF SCHISM
Fr. de Nantes’ uncompromising stance during the discussion on July 21, 1969 immediately bore fruit, as it led to Fr. Charles Marquette, one of the two Mexican priests, turning away from schism. “ On his return to Mexico ”, our Father stated, “ he gave an account of this conference to his priestly community, and on their instructions he wrote me an admirable letter of retraction, affirming his absolute detestation of schism and his full union of faith with us in the indefectibility of the Roman Church. ”28 Let us quote a passage from this letter dated August 21, 1969, written in French by this Mexican Father :
“ Recently, I returned to my country, and I spoke with my companions, the priests of Guanajuato, that is to say the Abbot of the parish basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, Timoteo Rios, Fr. José de la Luz Barrón, Fr. Pedro Barrón, Fr. Miguel Rojas and several others from the same town. During our talk I spoke to them about the axiom of the Codex Juris Canonici which I had invoked : In extremis nulla est reservatio29, and which you had answered with the example of marriage, and… you were completely right ! Then Msgr. Timoteo Rios broke the silence and said to me : ‘Would you mind writing, sooner rather than later, to the French Fathers. It may be that they think we share Fr. Saenz’s opinion. But no ! We are with Fr. de Nantes on this’… ”
The danger of schism was not imaginary. The correspondence between Fr. de Nantes and Fr. Calmel during that summer of 1969, and the theories developed by this Dominican, a contributor to the review Itineraires, demonstrated how in rebelling against and rejecting the new ordo missae, the reactionaries were rapidly sliding into indiscipline, anarchy and schism.
At the beginning of the summer, on June 27, Fr. Calmel had been insistent in his suggestion that our Father should make an effort to unite all those who opposed the New Mass. “ Seeing that Our Lord ”, he wrote to him, “ has given you the grace of knowing how to get the attention of the crowd and especially how to bring them together30, it seems to me that you should try to unite those priests who reject the new ordo missae. I know : you have your own campaign against the catechism ; and how necessary it is ! But the Mass is even more important ; there is no comparison. ”
Fr. de Nantes, already alarmed, at the end of June, by Fr. Coache’s plans, informed Fr. Calmel of his unease. The latter replied to him on July 22 :
“ But, when all is said and done, my dear friend, do you really believe, even in private, that Fr. Coache can be accused of a ‘minor schism’ ? The whole question is of course about jurisdiction. ” But “ the non-existence of the bishop as such is a fait accompli (or almost) ever since the bishops surrendered themselves to an episcopal college of revolutionary structure won over to modernism. ” And he went on to question Fr. de Nantes : “ Do you think that when, tomorrow or in two months or in six months time, you and I and a host of others will have been suspended from hearing confessions, preaching and saying the Mass, we will become schismatic by continuing to exercise these ministries and these functions ? ”
A few lines further on, the Dominican himself answered the question he had formulated, thus betraying his real thoughts : “ For my part, I believe that in the current confusion, and especially because of the modernist infiltration of the hierarchy, although we must not of course make it a matter of principle that jurisdiction is unimportant (Heaven forbid !), we must however continue to exercise our ministry in its entirety without worrying about orders or counter-orders which mean nothing. And above all must not treat a fellow priest as a schismatic if, without any pretension to setting himself up as a bishop, he should continue to exercise his ministry in such a certain district, protected by members of the laity ; not far from here there is a group of lay people who have taken possession of a chapel.
“ This is the first time since the Incarnation that the Lord’s Church has been handed over to dicasteries or to collegialised or modernistized [sic] assemblies. It will certainly not last long. But, while we wait until the Lord sees fit to intervene miraculously, I think that our fidelity consists in exercising our ministry – and particularly in retaining the old ordo missae – whatever the sanctions might be. The abuse of power is no longer of the classical type (as in the Soviet regime) and our conduct in the face of this abuse of power cannot be the same as it would in ordinary times. ”
One month later, Fr. Calmel tried yet again to justify priests who would emancipate themselves from ecclesiastical discipline :
“ We are no longer living at a time of normal ecclesiastical authority, as we were under Pius XII. The situation is at least as muddled as it was under the Revolution when there were two sets of clergy. In such anarchy, what priest worthy of the name would say to the faithful : You know, I cannot absolve you, I cannot give you communion, because I do not have the proper ‘jurisdictional’ papers in my soutane pocket… When might the adage Ecclesia supplet in casibus extremae necessitatis31 ever be verified if not under Paul VI, Marty and Suenens ? To say nothing of the fact that schism requires at least one bishop. We have more important things to do than to let ourselves be tied up by legalistic scruples which, in the current situation – a revolutionary one – are not a worthy expression of obedience. That at least is how I see things. ”32
So the danger of schism was becoming very real and that is why, after having publicly struggled for so many years on his own against the Conciliar Reform, Fr. de Nantes undertook in 1969 to open up the fight on a second front, this time against the erring integrists.
From now on, he would have to oppose priests who claimed to be his friends and sometimes even his brothers as they had shared the campaign against the new catechisms with him. But these integrists failed to display a lively interest in the remarkable doctrinal combat that he had prosecuted for almost ten years against the monstrous heresies staining the Acts of Vatican II and against the politico-religious utopia of Paul VI, the Masdu. They paid no attention to any of this. Remaining aloof from the great battle of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, they will enter into dispute, not in the domain of dogma, but on mixed matters, on questions of liturgical rites. Arguing from events which were certainly scandalous, they will deliberately excite the passions of the faithful exasperated by the postconciliar disorders in order to lead them into their private chapels.
To defend and safeguard Catholic unity and charity, Fr. de Nantes will enter into conflict with these integrists. He will denounce their dogmatic errors and uncover their foolish projects. He will found a movement, the League of the Catholic Counter-Reformation in the twentieth century, in order to retain the greatest number of traditionalists possible within the bosom of the Church.
We should not underestimate the importance of his debates with these uninformed and imprudent priests. They providentially prepared Fr. de Nantes for a combat which several years later would take on a wider scope, when a bishop, Archbishop Lefebvre, would himself implement Fr. Coache’s plan, by establishing an unofficial Church faithful to the old rites. When that moment came, Fr. de Nantes would only need to recall, to repeat and to develop the demonstrations and warnings he had already published in the Catholic Counter-Reformation.
Let us quote a text of capital importance, from October 1969.33 Even at that time Fr. de Nantes was already solemnly warning his readers against the temptation to schism :
“ May Catholic charity always triumph in our hearts ! One does not answer schism by schism. In the face of ill-feeling, partiality and hatred which raise barriers and trenches, our only answer must be that of love, that love which is founded on the infrangible community of the sacramental life. The Church is the charity of Christ spread and communicated amongst all the brothers. Whilst our brothers maintain albeit only the appearance of belonging to the Church, we must hold and retain them in Catholic charity without accepting their ostracism and their scission, and without adding our own thereto. If we quit the community, if we emancipate ourselves from hierarchical authority and reject its jurisdiction, we reinforce the schism, we provide it with the homogeneous consistency of a sect, and we give it a free hand in the Church ! We must stay put, resigned to being punished, to suffering and to obeying whatever is not forbidden or intolerable, as martyrs for Catholic Unity and Charity… We must reject everything that is commanded for the purpose of subversion and not let ourselves be penalised without protesting. But never, never ever, will we contest the unique inviolable power of jurisdiction that belongs to the Pope and to the bishops united to him. Even though they behave unjustly, it is they who are the Catholic hierarchy, not ourselves.
“ One cannot save the Church by building on other foundations. But some people wanted to persuade me to do just that. As someone unjustly (although legally) deprived of all power of jurisdiction over souls by a Pope and bishops suspected of schism and heresy, I was supposed to consider myself a victim of persecution and to attribute to myself some kind of extraordinary jurisdiction directly derived from God ! The determining factor was meant to be the pressing necessity of souls who were in danger of perishing in a Church that had completely lost her direction. Well, my answer to this was : never, not at any price. Such jurisdiction has never been recognised by the holy canons except in the case of bishops in countries where persecution has totally destroyed or paralysed the local hierarchy. Presuming on the assent of the Holy See34, these bishops would exercise this kind of extraordinary jurisdiction to save these Churches from total ruin and to provide for the urgent necessities of souls (Dom Gréa, L’Église, p. 235-238). As none of this can be verified in my own case, the usurpation that is proposed to me would be invalid, criminal and strictly schismatic.
“ We are not the saviours of the Church. Rather it is she, both now and always, who is our salvation. I may not actually see this, but I believe it with an unwavering faith : the salvation of the Church today, as yesterday and for all times, is to be found in her Pastors. Although temporarily sunk in the error and sectarianism of their Reform, this grace still subsists in them, indefectibly. It may not be apparent, but it is ready on the day appointed by God to spring forth again for the salvation of all. The disorder may be great, the damage to souls mortal, but God does not wish to govern us except through the hierarchy. In such a sacred matter He cannot tolerate any fraudulent usurpation. If we were foolish enough to imagine that we could save the Church by carrying her off with us into the escapade of yet another schism, we who are nothing, it is we and we alone who would be irremediably lost. The only life we have within us is that which we have received. It is from the Roman Rock alone that this life springs forth.
“ The Church does not lie within us. It subsists in those very men whom we see busying themselves in her ruin and whom we nevertheless believe, by virtue of their apostolic jurisdiction, to be the bearers of Christ’s grace. We ourselves have no share in their powers of order and ministry except in the exact extent to which they delegate it to us. Thus, I am recognised as having the power to celebrate the Holy Mass, and this would be the case even if I were to be punished by an unjust excommunication (which God forbid !), provided that I then celebrate it in private and without the risk of scandal. I also retain the power to give absolution to those who are dying… I give thanks to the Church for these faculties which she allows me to keep. I make use of them and I will continue to do so. But to go beyond this would be to build a simulacrum of the Church outside the Church. Good heavens ! What would be the point ? To deceive myself into thinking that I could save everyone ? Ah, no ! When the schism of this Reform is over, I do not wish to be separated from the Church. ”35
All references to the CRC journal relate to the original French edition.
1. Supplement to the Contre-Réforme catholique au XXe siècle n° 31 [CRC 31, suppl.], April 1970, p. 6.
2. We recounted these events and presented the documents of Fr. de Nantes’ trial at the Holy Office in the previous volume : For the Church, volume II, In the eye of the cyclone.
3. The visit of these priests to Maison Saint-Joseph on July 21, 1969 has often been related by Fr. de Nante as well as by Brothers Bruno and Charles, eyewitnesses of the events of that memorable evening. Cf. CRC n° 34, July 1970, p. 2; n° 41, February 1971, p. 12; n° 59, August 1972, p. 14; n° 83, August 1974, p. 2; n° 304, August 1994, p. 35.
4. At no time during the evening did these integrist priests advert to the combat of the Counter-Reformation, a combat which their host had been waging since the opening of Vatican II, nor did they ask him any questions about his trial at the Holy Office. One can easily guess the reasons for their silence on such subjects. The canonical steps taken by Fr. de Nantes to have his writings judged showed his faith in the hierarchical Church, and his attitude towards the authorities was irreconcilable with their schismatic theories.
5. Cf. For the Church, volume II, p. 362.
6. Letter to Fr. de Nantes, August 21, 1969.
7. He had been suspended ab officio by his bishop on May 17, 1969.
8. Letters on The mystery of the Church and the Antichrist. Cf. For the Church, volume I, p. 111 ff.
9. CRC n° 83, August 1974, p. 1.
10. Letter to my friends n° 151, September 1, 1963.
11. CRC n° 83, August 1974, p. 1.
12. Letter to my friends n° 129, January 1963.
13. Letter n° 137, Easter 1963.
14. Letter to my friends n° 240, January 6, 1967, p. 5.
15. “ This illness is not unto death, but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it. ”
16. CRC n° 21, June 1969, p. 12.
17. For the Church, vol. II.
18. CRC n° 74, Nov 1973, p. 1.
19. The final documents of the trial, viz. Cardinal Seper’s ultimatum on July 7, 1969, Fr. de Nantes’ reply, namely his “ Profession of faith ” of July 16, 1969, and the notification on 9 August by the the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, were quoted in full and commented on in the last chapter of the previous volume of For the Church, chap. 10.
20. CRC n° 25, October 1969, p. 2.
21. Ibid. In December 1969, the circulation of the Catholic Counter-Reformation will reach 22,000 copies.
23. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had ignored the suspension imposed by Msgr. Le Couëdic, the Bishop of Troyes, on Fr. de Nantes on August 25, 1966. Cf. For the Church II, p. 356.
24. Letter of August 24, 1969.
25. Let us point out here that in the autumn of 1969 the Bishop of Troyes, Msgr. Fauchet, had engaged in writing insidious commentaries about the Roman notification. Fr. de Nantes therefore publicly promised to offer him five million francs (at the then rates) if he would state the “ errors ” of the “ disqualified ” concerning the Catholic faith ; CRC n° 27, December 1969, p. 2. During the long years of his episcopate – and he probably regretted it ! – Msgr. Fauchet will never receive this sum since he will continually prove himself incapable of stating even one of Fr. de Nantes’ so-called errors.
26. Letter to my friends n° 150, August 15, 1963; cf. For the Church I, p. 357 ff.
27. Born on August 14, 1879 and died on April 18, 1970.
28. CRC n° 34, July 1970, p. 2.
29. “ At the point of death, there is no impediment [to the administration of the sacraments]. ”
30. Father Calmel was alluding to the campaign which Fr. de Nantes, along with several other priests, had conducted against the new catechisms and to the increasing success of his conferences.
31. “ The Church supplies in cases of extreme necessity. ”
32. Letter of Father Calmel to Fr. de Nantes dated August 24, 1969.
33. In a previous volume (For the Church I, p. 9 ff), we have already quoted several passages from this text which we reproduce here in its entirety.
34. “ To sum up ”, Fr. de Nantes will write, “ in order to supplement the deficiencies of a bishop or of a group of bishops, one must first be a bishop oneself (an absolute prerequisite) before one may act in a territory where the hierarchy has been completely destroyed or physically prevented from acting, and one must be convinced, at least morally, of doing everything in accordance with the Pope. ” CRC n° 41, February 1971, p. 12. This last condition is essential, absolute. “ The moral consent of the Sovereign Pontiff must be positively certain. ” CRC n° 114, February 1977, p. 14; cf. infra, p. 443.
35. CRC n° 25, October 1969, p. 12.