More than thirty years ago, under your predecessor, Pope Paul VI, a major reform modified the Latin rite of the Catholic Liturgy, especially the "Order of the Mass."
reform immediately raised troubles and controversies across the entire
world. Some studies which were made, notably the "Brief Critical
Examination of the Novus Ordo Missae" given to Pope Paul VI by Cardinals
Ottaviani and Bacci, pointed out the troubling deficiencies and ambiguities
affecting this reform.
faithful and priests thus found themselves in the "tragic necessity
of choice". It was, for Catholics, a spiritual drama without precedent.
affirmed, however, that time would show the appositeness of such a reform
by its fruits (cf Mt. 7:15-20; Lk. 6:43-44). This time has since passed
by and controversies, instead of diminishing, do but increase daily. Faithful,
priests, bishops and cardinals, in ever increasing numbers, speak of their
confusion before the current liturgical situation, and their desire to
see once again on a larger scale the liturgy that preceded the reform.
Liturgy has certainly evolved over the course of history, as is shown
by the reforms made during the past century by St. Pius X, Pius XII and
John XXIII. But the post-conciliar liturgical reform, by its extension
and brutality, represents a disturbing upheaval, as a radical rupture
from the traditional Roman Liturgy. Above all, this reform contains disconcerting
elements, ambiguous and dangerous for the faith.
this spiritual danger, the true obedience to the Seat of Peter, the true
submission to the Church Mother and Mistress obliges us, along with a
great number of Catholics around the world, to remain faithful no matter
the cost to this venerable Liturgy which the Roman Church has celebrated
for centuries, the Liturgy which you yourself have celebrated in the past.
Such is the sacred heritage which the founder of our Priestly Fraternity
of Saint Pius X, Archbishop Lefebvre, has entrusted to us: "It is
clear, it is evident that the entire drama between Ecône and Rome
is due to the problem of the mass. (.) We are convinced that the new rite
of Mass expresses a new faith, a faith which is not ours, a faith which
is not the Catholic Faith; (.) that this new rite is misleading and, if
I may say, supposes another conception of the Catholic Religion. (.) This
is why we are attached to this Tradition which is expressed in such an
admirable manner, and in a definitive manner, as Pope St. Pius V said
so well, in the sacrifice of the Mass" (June 29, 1976).
much reflection and prayer, we feel the duty before God to address the
Holy Father once again with regard to this problem of the Liturgy. We
have asked those pastors of souls who are qualified in theological, Liturgical
and Canonical matters, to compose a synthesis of the certain difficulties,
including the most important ones, which the Liturgy of the post-conciliar
reform poses to the faith of Catholics.
This work has sought to go back to the doctrinal causes properly so called of the actual crisis, bringing to light the principles which are at the origin of the Liturgical reform and contrasting them with Catholic doctrine.
The reading of this document manifests clearly, we believe, that the "theology of the paschal mystery," to which the door was left open at the occasion of Vatican II, is the soul of the liturgical reform. Because it minimizes the mystery of the Redemption, because it considers the sacrament only in its relation with the "mystery," and because the conception that it makes of the "memorial" alters the sacrificial dimension of the Mass, this "theology of the paschal mystery" renders the post-conciliar Liturgy dangerously distant from Catholic doctrine, to which however the Christian conscience remains bound forever.
Catholic Faith imposes upon us a grave obligation not to remain silent
about the questions which assail our mind.
not the deficiencies of this theology and of the liturgy which issues
from it one of the principal causes of the crisis affecting the Church
for more than thirty years? And does not such a situation demand the doctrinal
and liturgical clarifications on the part of the supreme Authority of
the Church? Do not the subjects, for whose good a law is made, have the
right and duty, if the law manifests itself harmful, with filial confidence
to demand from the legislator its modification or its abrogation?
the measures which are the most urgent, does it not seem appropriate to
make publicly known that every priest possesses the faculty to use the
integral and fruitful Roman Missal revised by St. Pius V, a treasure so
profoundly rooted in the thousand-year Tradition of the Church, Mother
doctrinal and liturgical clarifications, joined with the universal renewal
of the traditional Roman Liturgy, would not fail to produce immense spiritual
fruits: the restoration of the true notion of the priesthood and of sacrifice,
and consequently, the renewal of priestly and religious sanctity; the
increase of fervor in the faithful; the strengthening of the unity of
the Church; the powerful momentum for the evangelization of former Christian
nations and of infidel nations.
beseech Your Holiness, who alone has the power as Successor of Peter and
Shepherd of the universal Church, to strengthen his brethren in the faith
and to sanction with his apostolic authority the indispensable clarifications
which are demanded by the present tragic situation in the Church.
such a necessary restoration cannot be done in the Church without an extraordinary
recourse to the Holy Ghost, obtained by the intercession of the Blessed
Virgin Mary. It is, therefore, by prayer, especially by the holy sacrifice
of the Mass, that this long desired renewal will be accomplished, and,
for our part, it is to this, with the grace of God, that we give ourselves
and desire to give ourselves always more.
Deign, Your Holiness, to accept our sentiments of filial respect in Jesus and Mary.
+ Bernard Fellay