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Archbishop Lefebvre on the Liturgical Reforms of Pope Pius XII


We offer a compilation of statements made by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre concerning the reforms that comprise the 1962 liturgical books and why they must be accepted based upon the principle of obedience to authority vis-à-vis the Catholic doctrine of the Faith as there is nothing unorthodox in them.


These statements have been extracted from a series of conferences that were given to the seminarians at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Ridgefield, CT on:

  • April 23, 1982

  • April 24, 25, 26 and 28, 1983

As well as from the:

  • April 1983 Superior General’s Letter to Friends and Benefactors

  • November 5, 1983 conference at Long Island, New York

Some excerpts
Thus, we cannot say always “that is modernist, this is modernist, that is modernist.” Perhaps it was that certain men when in doing this reform of the breviary, in their minds they intended it to be the preparation of a future reform that is modernist. But to say that this reform [published under Pope John XXIII] was modernist, I think that is exaggerated. I do not think it is modernist. We cannot say that it is.

But you know that this reform is not truly of Pope John XXIII. It was done during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. Myself, I know that because when I was Apostolic Delegate in Dakar, and when I was going to the episcopal conference in Madagascar... in West Africa, etc., for the episcopal conferences, I received a letter from Rome to speak with the bishops in Africa to ask questions about the reform of the breviary, during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. (...)


What is the first principle to know what we must do in this circumstance, in this crisis in the Church? What is my principle? The principle of the Church is the principle of St. Thomas Aquinas. It is not my choice; it’s not my favor; it’s not my personal desire... I am nothing... I merely follow the doctrine of the Church... and this doctrine is expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas... So what does St. Thomas Aquinas say about the authority in the Church? When can we refuse something from the authority of the Church?


Principle: “Only when the Faith is in question.” Only in this case: Not in other cases... only when the Faith is in question... and that is found in the Summa Theologica II-II q .33, a. 4, ad 2m.


St. Thomas’ answer is that we cannot resist to the authority; we must obey: “Sciendum tamen est quod ubi immineret periculum fidei.” Periculum fidei. That is, the danger to our faith... “etiam publice essent praelate a subditis arguendi.”, that is, the subject can be opposed to the authority if the Faith is in question [“periculum fidei”]: “Unde et Paulus, qui erat subditus Petro, propter imminens periculum scandali circa fidem, Petrum publice arguit,” that is, St. Paul opposed St. Peter because it was a danger for the Faith [cf. Galatians 2:11].


That is the principle [of St. Thomas], and I cannot harbor another motive to resist the pope... it is very serious to be opposed to the pope, and to the Church. It is very serious, and if we think that we must do that, we must do it [resist the Holy Father] only to preserve our Faith, and not for any other motive.


We must now do an application of the principle. For me I think that the liturgical reform of Pope John XXIII has nothing against the Faith. You can take the Pontificale, the Rituale, the Breviary, the Roman Missal, and... what is in these books of Pope John XXIII that is against the Faith? Nothing! And so [in an urgent tone]: ...I cannot refuse this book [of Pope John], because he is the pope, and the pope gave me this book [and I must obey]...

Additional information

In addition to the extracts of Archbishop Lefebvre, some explanations has been provided, such as:

  • Significance of these statements

  • Debunking some common myths

  • Historical background to conferences

  • Refuting certain rumors and false claims

The compilation can be read in it entirety as a PDF.

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