A Crisis in the Spiritan Family
In the wake of Vatican II, many things were questioned. The Congregation of the Holy Spirit also experienced considerable internal tensions and divisions.
A few months before the end of his mandate as Superior General of the Spiritans, Mgr. Lefebvre wrote an article entitled “A little light on the present crisis in the Church”. He denounced the “collegiality of the Magisterium” which he saw as a sign of the democratization of the Church:
“Modern ideas have been introduced into the Church under the famous slogan of “collegiality”. The whole government has to be “collegialised”: that of the Pope and the bishops with a presbyteral college, that of the parish priest with a pastoral college of lay people, the whole enveloped by commissions, councils, assemblies etc….before the authorities can proceed to giving orders or directives…This war of collegiality, supported by the communist, protestant and liberal press, will remain famous in the annals of the Council”
Having been elected Superior General in 1962, Mgr. Lefebvre did not approve of the spirit of Vatican II. But forty other Spiritan bishops asked Mgr. Lefebvre for an exchange of views because they were not happy with his attitudes and positions. Mgr. Lefebvre listened to them, then with his usual good nature, but without any dialogue, brought the meeting to a close with the following words:
“You have your way of thinking, I have mine. I would never force any of you to vote the same way as myself, even less to think the same way as I do. We all have a conscience: everyone must follow his own”.
A bishop spoke of the disappointment that they all felt: “And that was it, the end!, and always with a smile that disarmed us. He seemed to have a blockage. He seemed incapable of reviewing his ways of thinking”.
During the General Chapter of the Congregation in 1968, the capitulants came up against the same difficulties with Mgr. Lefebvre, who would not consider any form of collegial government in the Congregation. He finally resigned and opened his traditionalist seminary at Ecône in Switzerland.
He was succeeded as Superior General by Fr. Joseph Lécuyer, a well-known theologian and one of the experts who had worked for the Vatican Council. He collaborated with Fr. Yves Congar on the “Decree on the Episcopal role of bishops in the Church”.