Rorate Caeli

New Edition of Davies’s Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre

This post has a very simple purpose: to alert Rorate readers that Angelus Press has brought out a new and very handsome edition, in three matching hardcover volumes, of the critically important work by Michael Davies entitled Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre. 

The first volume, published in 1979, recounts the years from 1905-1976, providing a comprehensive collection of source materials essential for serious research on the Archbishop. The words of Davies in his introduction have lost nothing of their timeliness:

The reason I believe that Archbishop Lefebvre will occupy a major position in the history of the post-conciliar Church is that he had the courage and foresight to take practical steps to preserve the traditional faith. Unlike many conservative Catholics he saw that it was impossible to wage an effective battle for orthodoxy within the context of the official reforms as these reforms were themselves oriented towards the cult of man. The Archbishop appreciated that the liturgical reform in particular must inevitably compromise Catholic teaching on the priesthood and the Mass, the twin pillars upon which our faith is built.1 The sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers had also realized that if they could undermine the priesthood there would be no Mass and the Church would be destroyed. The Archbishop founded the Society of St. Pius X with its seminary at Econe not as an act of rebellion but to perpetuate the Catholic priesthood, and for no other purpose. Indeed, as my book will show, the Society at first enjoyed the approbation of the Holy See but the success of the seminary soon aroused the animosity of powerful Liberal forces within the Church, particularly in France. They saw it as a serious threat to their plans for replacing the traditional faith with a new ecumenical and humanistically oriented religion. This is the reason they brought such pressure to bear upon Pope Paul VI. There is no doubt that the demands for the destruction of Econe emanated principally from the French Hierarchy which, through Cardinal Villot, the Secretary of State, was ideally placed to pressurize the Pope. (xii-xiii)

This first volume contains five admirable appendices: I. Saint Athanasius, The True Upholder of Tradition; II. The Right to Resist an Abuse of Power; III. "Vatican II More Important than Nicea"; IV. Archbishop Lefebvre and Religious Liberty; V. The Legal Background to the Erection and Alleged Suppression of the Society of Saint Pius X, by Dr. Boyd Cathey.

The second volume, originally released in 1983, is devoted to the intense years between 1977 and 1979. Once again, the author's introduction expresses the purpose of the work:

This book, as was its predecessor, is not directed primarily to Catholics who support the stand Archbishop Lefebvre has taken. Its aim is to provide factual material for those interested in discovering the truth about a man and a movement of great significance in the history of the Church during the post-conciliar epoch. No individual has been as consistently mispresented in the official Catholic press as the Archbishop. When the three volumes of the Apologia are available it will at least be possible for fair-minded Catholics to judge him by what he has said and done, rather than what he is alleged to have said and done.

          I do not expect every reader to agree with all the Archbishop's opinions, actions, and judgments. I do not necessarily do so myself. He has admitted that he sometimes speaks with excessive indignation (see p. 112), and that his addresses have included "exaggerated expressions" (p. 290). But, as I have endeavored to point out several times in the present volume, it is necessary to set the case of the Archbishop within the overall context of the Conciliar Church, a context of accelerating self-destruction, of doctrinal, moral, and liturgical degeneration, widespread anarchy, and apparent impotence on the part of the Holy See to take any effective measures to restore order.... This is a fact which must be kept in mind continually when passing judgment upon Archbishop Lefebvre. I would ask those readers who do not know him and are not familiar with his work to read his sermons carefully. How many bishops preach like this today? They disclose a man who has the Faith, loves the Faith, and lives the Faith. (xiii-xiv)

The most valuable part of this second volume is its extensive collection of letters, homilies, and talks by the Archbishop, concerning both his particular trials and the larger problems facing the Church. It is remarkable how applicable most of these writings are to the present moment.

The third volume covers the years 1979-1982; it was first published in 1988. It once again takes the form of collecting relevant documents, placing them in chronological order and in ecclesial context, and offering judicious commentary. Davies is particularly good at documenting a frequent pattern in the postconciliar Church: the popes will issue a document that sounds good, but then follow it up with no concrete action whatsoever, and the situation still does not improve. Sound familiar? It's what has happened with clerical abuse, especially at the episcopal level. From the Introduction:


This volume also documents the visits of a good shepherd, a bonus pastor, into the dioceses of shepherds who have opened the doors of the sheepfold to allow wolves to enter and ravage their flocks with impunity. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the media and of the Vatican, it is the good shepherd who must be censured and not the bad shepherds, the hirelings, who have abandoned their flocks. It cannot be denied that Archbishop Lefebvre breaches the letter of Canon Law; it cannot be denied that his judgments are sometimes hasty and expressed intemperately. Equally, it cannot be denied that he is motivated by a single desire - the salvation of souls: Salus animarum suprema lex - "The salvation of souls is the supreme law."

          The most effective answers to the distorted and frequently vindictive accounts of the Archbishop which appear in the Catholic press can be found in his sermons, of which a good number appear in this volume. They are profoundly spiritual and totally Catholic. Their message is simple: "Let us keep the Faith - the simple and solid faith of the just and the faithful soul, according to the model of Mary and Joseph and all who have followed their example." This "simple and solid Faith" is expressed in beautiful and inspiring terms in the Profession of Faith of the priests of Campos, Brazil, which concludes this volume, as Appendix II. This is the Faith of our Fathers, this is the Faith that we must hold and we must cling to if we are to be saved. "Blessed be God!" wrote Cardinal Newman, "We have not to find the truth. It is put into our hearts, to preserve it inviolate, and to deliver it to our posterity." (x-xi)

Readers who may wish to sample the contents of the books before purchasing them will find the entire contents online here

Thanks are due to Angelus Press for making this set available at a time when renewed study of the life, work, and teaching of Lefebvre is an important task.