A book for the defense of the Society of Saint Pius X – SSPX: The Defense – by Kennedy Hall has just been published in the United States by Augustinus Press. It aims to respond to the most common objections against the Society.
Without speaking about the contents of the book itself, it is undeniable that the Foreword is of serious interest - admittedly limited - and that it brings to light hitherto unknown information on the report of the visit of Cardinal Edouard Gagnon to the Ecône seminary in 1987.
The author of this Foreword is a priest, Fr. Charles Theo Murr, 73 years old. This priest says that he spent 10 years in Rome, from 1971 to 1980, for his studies, and that he also worked at the Vatican Information Office.
In 1974, he met Bishop Mario Marini, who became secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, then secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, as well as Bishop Edouard Joseph Gagnon, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who will become a cardinal. A solid friendship was forged among the three ecclesiastics.
Disinformation Against Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
The first testimony reported by this priest relates to the disinformation put in place by two French cardinals: Jean-Marie Villot, Secretary of State of the Holy See, and Gabriel-Marie Garrone, Vatican Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities. Fr. Murr says that it was through his two friends that he learned “some of the disinformation [regarding Archbishop Lefebvre] put in place” by the two Eminences.
Thus, “both Frenchmen, but especially Villot, had the ear of the Francophile Pope, Paul VI, and exerted strong pressure upon the French episcopacy,” in order to discredit the founder of the Society.
The Report of Cardinal Gagnon
Further on, the author reports an exchange with the cardinal who visited the Ecône seminary in 1987, an exchange he had with the prelate in New York after this visit. In his official report to Pope John Paul II, says Fr. Murr, Cardinal Gagnon “praised the SSPX and particularly the St. Pius X Seminary, as being: ‘Among the finest philosophy and theology study programs I’ve ever seen… and remember: I was a seminary rector for years.’”
He went even further in his evaluation of the SSPX seminary: “The system they have deserves to be reproduced in every seminary in the world. It is exemplar.” The priest continues relating the confidence from the high prelate that is quite astonishing.
“I found the cardinal's opinion of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the man himself, surprising. ‘He [Lefebvre] does not trust the Vatican. And who can blame him? Would you? For years he tried to deal with Villot and Garrone. And for years all they did was block his efforts to speak and reason directly with the Holy Father. You would mistrust the Vatican too.’”
And he ends up quoting Cardinal Gagnon: “No, while I can’t condone what he did [consecrate four bishops instead of one], I can understand why he did it. They [the Holy See] permit him to consecrate a bishop. One bishop. He [Lefebvre] dies. Eventually, so does his one bishop. The Vatican then sends the SSPX a modernist replacement – and, like that [finger-snap], it's all over!”
Of course, this testimony is purely private, but the person reporting it is a longtime friend of the late cardinal, and he heard him on this matter. There is therefore a good assurance of the veracity of the comments reported.