Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers
Pope John XXIII, like his predecessor, believed that Archbishop Lefebvre’s theological expertise, missionary experience, and background in education were of an exceptionally rare quality; the pope thus appointed him to the Preparatory Committee of the Second Vatican Council, a body charged with setting the agenda of the upcoming and much anticipated ecumenical council. The Holy Ghost Fathers were also quite impressed with the archbishop’s work and at their General Chapter of 1962, elected him superior general.
Archbishop Lefebvre was now at the height of his career. Vatican II however, would prove for him a bitter disappointment. Most of the texts he helped prepare for the council were rejected outright and new, more liberal and modern versions were substituted in their place. In response, the archbishop along with other confused prelates formed a conservative, reactionary group called the Coetus Internationalis Patrum in which he served as chairman. This group primarily opposed the introduction of modernist tendencies into the council texts.
The Coetus was ultimately unsuccessful in countering these modernist reforms, and Archbishop Lefebvre left the council heartbroken. Additionally, the Holy Ghost Fathers, chaffing under the archbishop’s conservative leadership, essentially forced his resignation as their superior general at the General Chapter of 1968. Marcel Lefebvre was now 63 years old and, after a lifetime of service to the Church, planned to retire.
Foundation of the SSPX
Here the archbishop’s life dovetails with that of the SSPX. Following the repeated requests of several young men seeking a traditional priestly formation, Archbishop Lefebvre opened a new seminary in Econe, Switzerland. The local ordinary, Bishop Francois Charriere, gave his blessing for this work, and on November 1, 1970 the Priestly Society of St. Pius X was born.
A brief account of the history of the SSPX can be read in this FAQ, so that information will not be here. One detail, however, should be added to that general account, as it pertains primarily to Archbishop Lefebvre’s involvement in the Coetus Internationalis Patrum. During the Second Vatican Council, an important friendship developed between Marcel Lefebvre and Antonio de Castro Mayer, bishop of Campos (Brazil). These two shared ideas at the various Coetus functions and kept in contact long after the close of the council. They both refused to implement the modernist teachings of Vatican II and in 1983 jointly authored an open letter to the pope lamenting the numerous errors which seemed to infect Rome. When Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four new bishops in 1988, Bishop de Castro Mayer assisted as co-consecrator.
Tradidi quod et accepi
Archbishop Lefebvre, after guiding the SSPX for over 20 years, died on March 25, 1991. He is buried in a crypt beneath his beloved seminary at Econe where his remains can be visited today. On his tomb are marked the words of the apostle St. Paul: "Tradidi quod et accepi" (I have transmitted what I have received—I Cor. 15:3)
First priest of the SSPX to die. July 26 1987 young Australian Fr Stephen Abdoo aged 24.
Father Abdoo: Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand (1987)Father Abdoo: Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand (1987)
It is now thirty two years since Father Stephen Abdoo died in a motor accident in New Zealand. He was the first priest of the Society of St Pius X, formed in 1970, to die.
His Open Letter still has application in our time, thirty years on; the Church is in a worse crisis now with the very Faith under attack even from the Vatican itself.
Please read what Father Abdoo wrote in 1987, and then forward this email to all on your list. The original appeared in the Australian journal Catholic for September 1987
An Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand.
The Catholic Bishops of New Zealand have written a Pastoral Letter attacking the work of the Society of St Pius X. We publish this month the reply prepared by Father Stephen Abdoo who was the Superior for the Society in New Zealand.
These same Bishops obviously prefer the faith-destroying RENEW process, they introduced it to New Zealand a little over a year ago. Already its disastrous effects are being felt, the exodus of faithful from the parishes is increasing.
Fr. Abdoo died as the result of a motor accident on his way to celebrate Holy Mass at Wellington on Sunday, July 26, 1987, the Feast of St. Anne. He was buried at Econe, Switzerland on August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord.
Your Eminence and Lordships,
Over the last few weeks you have published in parishes throughout the country a Pastoral Letter warning Catholics about the activities of the Society of St. Pius X. As Superior of this Religious Congregation here in New Zealand, I wish to submit to Your Eminence and Lordships some points for your consideration.
It was some months ago that I visited you, Bishop Gaines, to point out that an inaccurate version of our ‘position’ was emanating from your secretary’s office. I said that I had no objection as to your informing the Catholic people of our rejection of certain reforms of Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Missae of Pope Paul VI, but requested that it at least be accurate information. Unfortunately, I find myself once more in the necessity of replying to mistaken information, on this occasion however, to all the bishops of New Zealand.
Your Pastoral Letter centres around two premises. The first is that our ‘position’ depends upon ‘private interpretations of the Council’ and hence that we ‘depart from the fundamental Catholic principle that the Pope and bishops of the world acting collectively are the ones to whom is entrusted the responsibility and the charisms, for deciding what is ultimately Catholic and what is not.’ I can only say that it is not true that we depart from this principle; on the contrary, it is precisely because we follow this principle, and not our own private interpretation, that we are compelled to reject certain reforms of Vatican II.
In fact for 200 years, eleven Popes who foresaw this crisis (from Pius VI to Pius XII) have rejected the principles of Religious Liberty, Collegiality and Ecumenism as formulated during and after the Council, declaring them to be detrimental to the Catholic Faith, affirming on many occasions that they contribute to the formation of a naturalistic, humanitarian Religion. The encyclicals Mirari vos of Pope Gregory XVI; lam vos omnes, Quanta Cura, and the Syllabus of Errors Pope Pius IX; Libertas praestantissi, Humanum Genus, Immortale Dei of Pope Leo XIII; Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Lamentabili and the letter 'Our Apostolic Mandate' of Pope St. Pius X; Mortalium Animos, Divini Redemptoris of Pope Pius XI and Humani Generis of Pope Pius XII are but some of the documents of the Magisterium of the Church rejecting such principles. Clearly this is by no means a “private interpretation” by Archbishop Lefebvre or his “followers”.
Moreover, Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in his book, les principes de la Theologie Catholique Tequi 1985 p 426 ff.) admits to this deviation from the preceding Magisterium of the Church and summarises this with the following formula: “Vatican II is the anti-Syllabus.” (It must be noted that Pope Paul VI explicitly refused on more than one occasion to engage infallibility as regards the conciliar decrees, which, at a council of this kind, in unprecedented in the history of the Church. There was not therefore that special assistance of the Holy Ghost to preserve it from such deviation.)
The second premise of your letter is the following: “Without compromising the essentials of our Faith, we are obliged to find new ways of exposing it, teaching it and celebrating it that make it more accessible to people.” In this we are in total agreement with you. Certainly if this only were the case, there would be no reason to oppose the reforms. But clearly this is not the case, clearly we are compromising articles of our Catholic Faith, we are diluting it to make it more acceptable to Protestants. and the result is that, by thousands, Catholics are losing their Faith.
We need only to look around us to see the truth of this; since the Council, vocations to the priesthood and the religious life have dropped dramatically; Priests and nuns have abandoned their vocations by the tens of thousands; there are countless Faithful throughout the world no longer practising their Catholic Faith. In the Zealandia of July 12, New Zealand Mass attendance figures for 1986 were published. In Auckland there were 156,000 Catholics and only 33,000 attend Mass; in Hamilton diocese out of 75,000 Catholics there are only 15,000 practising; in Palmerston North diocese out of 70,446, there were only 19,000; in Wellington out of 83,000, 28,000 are practising; in Christchurch out of 68,000 there are 21,000 and out of 40,000 Catholics in Dunedin diocese, only 14,000 practise their Faith. Is this what is meant by the second Pentecost of Vatican II? At the first Pentecost St. Peter and the Apostles converted souls to the True Faith by the thousands, currently they are being driven away by the thousands. Surely you must at times ask yourselves why this is occurring? Why the great RENEWAL has resulted in such a decline?
It is because we have compromised, firstly, by this false Religious Liberty. By it we have dethroned Our Lord. He is no longer considered as King of the Universe with right over all His creatures. The Doctrine of the Social Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is now a thing of the past, overthrown by the decree of Religious Liberty which is a false Religious Liberty; for it puts the Religion founded by God on the same level as religions founded by men. By giving error and truth equal rights, it gives men the right to violate God’s right to be adored by His creatures in the way He Himself wishes to be adored. This decree and its consequences have instituted a new pantheon of all religions in the same way as the pagan emperors of Rome made their pantheon of all religions. The Italian Concordat of 1984, signed by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Casaroli, is an example of this.
From the false notion of Religious Liberty flows the Post-conciliar conception of Ecumenism. It consists in laying aside what divides us from our separated brethren and, concentrating on what unites us so as to bring about unity—or as you put it, Bishop Brown, at Holy Trinity Cathedral on Saturday, March 21 to launch the Luis Palau Mission to Auckland “to come together in a unique way, so that differences can be put aside and the unifying message of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed.” It all sounds very good and charitable, but the history of the last two decades shows that in practice, this means a watering-down of the Faith as regards its specifically Catholic content so as to facilitate this unity.
This is more easily seen in the obvious deficiency in catechetical instruction for our children, I am by no means exaggerating in saying that you allow them to be taught a naturalistic, humanitarian version of Religion which teaches vague notions of love, sharing, joy, peace, social justice, human dignity, the rights of man, life in community etc., which is devoid of sufficient knowledge of the Commandments of God, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the life of grace in the soul—in fine, the supernatural and truly Catholic dimension of our Religion.
Our Liturgy has also suffered this dilution. The prayers have been stripped of their specifically Catholic meaning and replaced by ambiguous and Protestant terminology. No longer are we to offer to God the “Pure Victim, the Holy Victim, the Immaculate Victim“, but the “fruit of the vine and work of human hands”; no longer is the priest to be the man set apart to, offer the Holy Sacrifice, but the ‘president’ of the Assembly, who will do no more than “commemorate the memorial of the Lord.” (General Instruction to the New Mass no. 7, 1969 ed.) Was it not Cardinal Ottaviani who stated in a letter to Pope Paul VI on September 25, 1969, accompanying the “Critical Study of the New Mass by a group of Roman Theologians” that the “Novus Ordorepresents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic Theology of the Mass as it was formulated in session 22 of the Council of Trent”? And if on the other hand, we are not compromising our Faith, if it is purely a new formulation, a new expression of the same Faith, as you say, then why, why is there so striking a similarity between the New Mass of 1969 and Cranmer's 1549 Communion Service and the new Anglican Series III Communion service? Why is it that Max Thurian, a member of the Protestant monastic Community of Taize is reported in La Croix (May 30, 1969) as stating that “the Novus Ordo Missae now makes it possible for non-Catholics to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with the same prayers as Catholics”?
Why is it also that the famous joint Catholic-Lutheran Commission of West Germany (1985) affirmed that a common liturgy was now possible between the two confessions?
How can you, Bishops of New Zealand, palm this all off by saying that it is only our own private interpretation? The results of this Liturgical ‘Renewal’ are before our very eyes in the figures for Mass attendance quoted above. The New Mass is devoid of the supernatural, reduced to the banal, but worst of all, Catholics no longer pray like Catholics, but more like Protestants. As a result they end up believing like Protestants. In support of this, I need only quote to you a passage from the ‘Angelus’ newsletter of St. Mary of the Angels in Wellington of May 24, 1987, entitled “The Mass we celebrate”: “The Institution Narrative (what we used to call the Consecration) . . . is a proclamation, not a dramatic re-enactment, and as the Priest relates what Christ did, he holds up the bread and the chalice for the people to concentrate their gaze. Only afterwards does he kneel or bow in adoration, pausing for the people's Memorial Acclamation.” This is, as you have undoubtedly noticed, pure protestantism.
But it is not only in catechetics and the liturgy that this ecumenism is practised. This 'Renewal' has penetrated every fibre of the Church. We see ecumenical meetings and services now on a regular basis. You yourselves have now joined this new ecumenical body.
However, the most startling example of this is undoubtedly the World Congress of Religions at Assisi to pray for peace, organised by the authorities in Rome. There they invited representatives, not only of the Christian denominations, but also of pagan religions. There were, for example, jainists present who adore the rising sun. In St. Peter’s Church, the bonzes adored the Dalai Lama (reincarnation for them of the Buddha) with his back turned to the Tabernacle where a sanctuary lamp signalled the Real Presence; in St. Peter’s also, a statue of Buddha was placed atop the tabernacle on the main altar;* in St. Gregory’s, the Red Indians prepared their peace-pipe on the altar; in Santa Maria Maggiore’s, Hindus sitting around the altar invoked the whole range of Hindu gods; in Santa degli Angeli’s, the Vicar of Christ sat in a semicircle of wholly identical seats amidst the leaders of the other religions so that there should be “neither first nor last.” Newspaper titles read amongst others: “Our Fathers who are in heaven . . . ”; “In the name of all gods. . . ” ,- “The peace of the Gods“, “All mankind's gods Assisi meeting”, etc. (from Si Si, No No, December 15, 1986) One can certainly understand Pope Leo XIII condemning such meetings as far back as in 1893 in Chicago, and again in 1900 in Paris; for surely this is a great dishonour proffered against the One True God; surely God’s right and those of His Son are being violated to an eminent degree by this false Religious Liberty and ecumenism, where we Catholics place Our Lord on the same level as pagan idols, and encourage pagans to invoke them. Does this not contravene the First Commandment and the first article of our Creed? Pope Pius XI certainly thought so. In 1929 he was invited to such a meeting. Not only did he refuse to attend, but he wrote an Encyclical Mortalium animos which is the most explicit condemnation of ecumenism this century. In it he stated, concerning those who undertake such meetings, that they “are not only in error; they distort the true idea of religion, and thus reject it, falling gradually into naturalism and atheism. To favour this opinion therefore, and to encourage such undertakings is tantamount to abandoning the religion revealed by God.”
How can you therefore pass it all off by saying that it is just a different expression of the same Faith? Surely we are compromising for the sake of unity some of the most basic tenets of our Catholic Religion?
It is in the light of all this that I find your statement to the effect that our “actions constitute a sin against the unity of the Church” quite incredible.
It is not considered a sin against the unity of the Church for you, Bishop Brown, to go and pray at the Evangelical Mission of Luis Palau, who is an apostate Catholic, and encourage the Catholics of Auckland to attend; or for you to go and preach at the Milford Methodist Church on August 8; neither is it considered a sin against the unity of the Church for you, Bishop Cullinane, to be on this ecumenical body and so to reduce the Catholic Religion to the level of one denomination amongst others; or for you all collectively to allow the E.J.D., as it seems, to finance Communist organisations in the Philippines, or to push what is pagan in Maori culture. Perhaps if we adored the rising sun or a statue of Buddha you would even invite us to a prayer meeting.
But for Roman Catholic Priests to celebrate the same Mass as you yourselves celebrated on the day of your ordination, a Mass which has sanctified the Church for so many centuries, and produced so many holy men and women, the Mass for which so many martyrs poured out their blood over the centuries to protect, now that that you consider to be a sin against the unity of the Church. And I suppose then, it must also be a sin against the unity of the Church to hold with all our hearts to the Solemn Teachings of so many Popes, the most outstanding of whom is a canonised saint, Saint Pius X. For that you say we have incurred canonical penalties? What canonical penalties can Catholic priests incur for upholding the traditional teaching of the Church? Where does this put St. Pius X?
On the other hand, what has happened to your Religious Liberty, to your freedom of conscience which you talk about so much in your Pastoral Letter? It works for Hindus and Luis Palau -- why not for Traditional Catholics?
Furthermore, we are Roman Catholics -- we will live and die as such.We pray for John Paul II, that God may grant him the necessary graces for his charge, but this does not prevent us from seeing the contradiction in the principles of Vatican II and the Solemn Magisterium of past centuries, guided by the Holy Ghost. All those Popes preceding the Council cannot be wrong.
In closing I wish to make just one request: that you make a reasonable reply to this letter, instead of furnishing the Faithful with a distorted version of our ‘position’. If you can frankly prove to us that we are in error, we will desist from our apostolic activities here in New Zealand; otherwise we will continue our work, confident that we cannot render a greater service to the Roman Catholic Church, to the Supreme Pontiff and to the future Catholic generations of this country.
Yours Sincerely in Jesus and Mary
Stephen Carl Abdoo FSSPX
Superior in New Zealand
The below listed were signatories to the document headed:
“Pastoral letter concerning the position of Archbishop M. Lefebvre and his followers in New Zealand.”
The document was dated May 1987, but was not released immediately.
Thomas Cardinal Williams DD,Archbishop of Wellington
Denis Browne DD, Bishop of Auckland
Edward Gaines DD, Bishop of Hamilton
Peter Cullinane DD, Bishop of Palmerston North
Leonard Boyle DD, Bishop of Dunedin
Matthew Duggan, Diocesan Administator Christchurch
* We have made previous reference in this journal to the placing of a statue of Buddha atop the tabernacle at St.Peter’s, Assisi. This was hotly denied by a priest of ‘Opus Dei’ in Sydney in a private letter. We are in possession of a photo which clearly shows this event. Ed.
An Appreciation to the parents of the late Father Stephen Carl Abdoo, priest of God, Member of the Society of Saint Pius X.
God alone knew the grief in our hearts and the incredulity of our minds when the news was broken that your son, our beloved priest was not attending a motor car tragedy to administer the Last Rites, but was himslef the victim of it.
Only thirteen months since his ordination day at Econe, clothed in Christ, he returned to the Father on the Feast of Saint Anne, Mother of Our Lady -- a day which was significant as, just that very morning in Christchurch, he had preached a memorable sermon on the Mass, the Blessed Virgin and the Rosary.
Our hearts are heavy as we contemplate the irony of the tragedy and his sudden death as we had grown to love his youthful exuberance, his maturity and intellect, and his courage of conviction. Now this young priest would walk no more amongst us. Each day as we pass that place of tragedy we wonder anew at God’s ineffable plan for His beloved, and we are moved to pray for our beloved priest so that, even in death he leads us in prayer.
Father Abdoo had a fruitful mission amongst us, and we thank Almighty God and His Blessed Mother for this, and we offer you our sincere condolences in your loss, and our grateful thanks for sharing your only son’s life with us. His short time with us has enriched our lives and the lives of many in New Zealand.
Father Stephen Abdoo will always have a cherished place in our hearts and in our prayers as we pray earnestly that God in His mercy will admit him to His Holy Presence so that we can rejoice in having a new advocate amongst the Blessed in Heaven.
Saint Michael’s Chapel, Wellington, New Zealand.
From the perspective of Catholic Tradition
Seminary and ordination
Marcel, drawn to the priesthood from his youth, followed his father’s advice and entered the French Seminary in Rome at the age of 18. Six years later he was ordained priest; shortly thereafter he completed his doctorate in theology and began pastoral work within the diocese of Lille.
Fr. Lefebvre’s older brother, a missionary associated with the Holy Ghost Fathers, urged the new priest to join him in Gabon, Africa. Fr. Lefebvre eventually acquiesced and temporarily joined the Holy Ghost Fathers in 1932; he was immediately sent to Gabon, first as a seminary professor, but was soon promoted to rector. After three years of difficult missionary work, he nevertheless decided to commit himself permanently to missionary work: he made perpetual vows with the Holy Ghost Fathers.
Apostolic Delegate to French Africa
Marcel Lefebvre, after these early years, was entrusted with increasingly important responsibilities. He was called back to France and made rector of a seminary in Mortain; later Pope Pius XII appointed him Vicar Apostolic of Dakar and he was thus consecrated a bishop; the following year, 1948, the pope further honored Bishop Lefebvre by naming him Apostolic Delegate to French Africa and granting him the title of archbishop.
Fr Daniel Cooper died 2018
Fr Carl Pulvermacher RIP 2006
Fr Stephen Abdoo. RIP
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
After a life of exemplary service in the Church, this retiring archbishop still had his greatest work ahead of him. His generous spirit and clear-sighted vision are still the beating heart of the SSPX today.
Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, was born November 29, 1905 in the northern French town of Tourcoing. The third of eight children, Marcel grew up under the supervision of his devout Catholic parents, Rene and Gabrielle, who owned a local textile factory.