On Canon Law



Extract from Conference of His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to Priests, 29 October 1984 at Stuttgart, Germany

ANOTHER GRAVE PROBLEM now undermining the Church is found in the new Canon Law. The new Canon Law is very serious for it goes much further than the Council itself.

In the Council they succeeded, for example, in avoiding the creation of two supreme powers in the Church: the Pope on the one hand, and on the other hand, the Pope and the bishops as two ordinary powers in the Church, which is contrary to the doctrine of the Church. There is only one supreme ordinary power in the Church and that is the Pope. The Pope communicates his supreme power in extraordinary cases like a council, but the Pope and the bishops are not an ordinary power in Holy Church. Besides, it is contradictory because the bishops could claim this power from the Pope if the Pope acts alone, saying: "We also have supreme power with you, therefore you must consult us." The Pope could say, "But I alone have the power" - "Yes, but we have it with you," and thus he would be in continual conflict with the bishops. That is inadmissible. Our Lord did not found the Holy Church in such a way that there would be a continual conflict between the Pope and the bishops.

Then another thing, which is very seriously flawed in the new Canon Law, is the definition of the Church. For me, that is perhaps what best characterizes the new theories of the Church since the Council: the Church is the "people of God." The Church no longer consists of clerics and the laity, with only the clergy exercising the ministry from which all the graces are communicated to the laity, while the laity must receive these graces from their ministry. No, now it is all one "people of God," everyone is admitted, according to his function, according to his capacities, to different ministries, as if there were no more distinction between the clergy and the laity.

This is extremely serious. It is, fundamentally, the destruction of the Church. Now one could say, "No, look at the following chapter and there is, all the same, a distinction made between the clergy and the laity." Yes, but that does not take away the contradiction. The error exists. It is there even if later on it is more or less "corrected" by an affirmation of the distinction between clerics and laypeople. Notice however that it is precisely this which becomes the leit motif of the following chapters, when they speak of the munus docendi - in the chapter on the Church's Teaching Office - the Teaching Office is given to the People of God, it is not given to the priests; the mission of sanctifying is given to the People of God; it is incredible! What power will they leave to the priests then? There remains only the power of jurisdiction; that is a little more difficult to change; so they published an article in L'Osservatore Romano on the powers which the laity now has in the new Canon Law, in which they said: you may have taken notice of the fact that the Teaching Office and the mission of sanctifying have been attributed to the People of God; as for the power of jurisdiction, that is a bit more delicate, what they say about that is less precise. There you are! These are grave errors. For example, with the Teaching Office and the mission of sanctifying, they make an absolute link between the role of a parent with respect to his children, and the role of the priest. The priest has a role: the Teaching Office and the mission of sanctifying with regard to his parish. The father of a family has a role: a teaching office and mission of sanctifying of his family. All this comes from a false vision of the Church. It will mean the definitive disappearance of the essential distinction between the priesthood of the faithful and the sacramental priesthood.

The priest has received a sacrament, the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which confers a character on the priest and which gives him alone the power to pardon sins, the power to pronounce the words of consecration at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the power to administer the sacraments. It is really unbelievable to have made this kind of comparison between the priests and the faithful.

THERE IS ALSO MORE and more of this democratic spirit in the Church. You are aware of all the councils they have - although they are only "consultative" - but they still have them all the same: a parish council, a bishops' council - at least two councils in the parish and one or two for the bishop - there is the Synod of Bishops at Rome, which is now a recognized institution in Canon Law, so that the authorities, in practice, are obliged to take them into account, and it is no easy thing to govern when one is continually obliged to seek the counsel of a majority vote, or to hold a vote to see what the assembly thinks. Those in authority have their hands tied. Not that there was no such thing as consultation in the old Code of Canon Law, there were certain consultations which the bishop had to make, but they were much more discreet, much more reasonable than now. Now it has become an institution, which really limits the powers of the bishop.

All this means that the new Code of Canon Law, to my way of thinking, goes considerably further than the Council itself.

The giving of Holy Communion to Protestants - eucharistic hospitality, as they call it - is a dogmatic error. One does not have the right to give Communion to someone who does not have the Catholic Faith, that is a real rupture with what has always been most precious in the Church: the Body and Blood of Our Lord, and faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. One does not give the Body and Blood of Our Lord except to someone who truly has the Catholic Faith, faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, and not simply faith in the Real Presence while he perhaps denies the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Before passing to the second point, which will be somewhat shorter than this one, I would like to make a little comparison between the preceding and what Mgr. Bugnini said. Last year there appeared an enormous book of his on the liturgical reform, published posthumously, by one of his confreres. I recommend, if you ever come across this book, that you read the general principles. They are very instructive, and absolutely incredible - right in these general principles Archbishop Bugnini says, this liturgical reform is a profound one, aiming at restoring to its true place - for him, according to what he says - the People of God. It is very curious to find here this notion of the People of God, which is in the new Code of Canon Law, published after the death of Archbishop Bugnini. He could not have gotten it from the new Code, so these ideas must have been around well before it. It is stupefying to read in the Documentation Catholique that the Lutheran - Catholic Commission of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, and thus an official Roman commission, said in effect that numerous points in the Council were drawn from the teachings of Luther, one of them being the notion of the People of God. They say it explicitly; so with this doctrine of the People of God, they are restoring the assembly to its true place, to give it an important role in the liturgy, implying that before the assembly did not exist, or that its role was minimal, that there was no participation; and that, now, thanks to the new liturgy, there is finally participation.

There comes to mind an objection made by a certain Benedictine Abbot at the conference which Archbishop Bugnini gave before twenty-four Superiors of Religious Orders - I myself was present at this conference - at Rome, before the publication of the New Mass. When he introduced to us his "normative mass," Archbishop Bugnini spoke to us precisely about this participation of the faithful, active participation, as if before Vatican II the faithful had never participated in the Mass. And so an Abbot got up and said, "Father, if I understand correctly, we should not say private Masses any more, since there is no congregation, and thus no participation by the people in our Masses." The response was, "Quite truthfully, we have not envisioned that." Incredible! As he himself said, this idea has inspired the liturgical reform, an idea which reverses the roles, giving the greater role to the assembly, and no longer to the priest and the sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Our Lord.

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