Featured Image
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre as a young manArchival

(LifeSiteNews) — Father Charles Murr, a close friend of both Sister Pascalina, personal secretary to Pope Pius XII, and Cardinal Édouard Joseph Gagnon has written a fascinating foreword to a new book by LifeSite journalist Kennedy Hall about Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of St. Pius X.

Murr endorses Hall’s “SSPX: The Defence,” an attempt to defend the work of the traditionalist priestly society, and he describes how two modernist curial cardinals in Rome did everything they could to fight against Archbishop Lefebvre: Cardinals Jean-Marie Villot (Pope Paul VI’s Secretary of State) and Gabriel-Marie Garrone (Vatican Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities).

Murr explains their influence as follows: “The two Frenchmen seemed to personify the ‘new order’ of things actual and things to come. Without a doubt, they were the embodiment of modern(ist) ecclesiastical power and, for the benefit of their underlings, demonstrated the correct direction in which to walk, the correct attitudes to have, the correct options to hold.” According to the priest, these cardinals established “political correctness” within the Church long before the term was used.

Murr is the author of the book “Murder in the 33rd Degree: the Gagnon Investigation into Vatican Freemasonry” and has been on the John-Henry Westen Show numerous times.

The priest illustrates in his recollection of events surrounding the Lefebvre case that there were forces in the Vatican working against any peaceful and fruitful solution for the Society of St. Pius X, which fought to preserve the traditional Mass and sacraments, as well as the traditional teachings of the Church.

For example, Murr’s close friend Cardinal Gagnon went on an official visit to the SSPX seminary in Econe in 1987 and subsequently praised its work in an official report to Pope John Paul II. Murr recalls that Gagnon wrote that the seminary curriculum was “[a]mong the finest philosophy and theology study programs I´ve ever seen … and remember: I was a seminary rector for years.” He went on: “The system they have deserves to be replicated in every seminary in the world. It is exemplar.”

Murr comments on Gagnon’s words as follows: “Frankly, I found the cardinal’s opinion of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the man himself, surprising. ‘He [Lefebvre] doesn’t 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.’”

It is to be hoped that Murr’s frank foreword contributes to a fairer assessment of the history of the SSPX and its founder, Archbishop Lefebvre. It will certainly also give the readers more insight into the matter of the infiltration of the Catholic Church by modernists, who have been for decades undermining the Church’s fuller mission and mandate.

Please see here the foreword written by Fr. Charles Murr (printed with permission from Kennedy Hall):

Painted by Enrique J Aguilar

In SSPX: The Defence, my friend Kennedy Hall takes on a noble albeit challenging task. He ventures to answer the many questions regarding Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Society of Saint Pius the Tenth [SSPX]. Amazingly, there are far more inquiries on these two subjects today than ever before – due greatly and quite ironically, I believe, to Pope Francis’ hostile attacks on the Traditional Latin Mass [TLM].

Now, the many questions being asked (some in the form of pointed criticism) really come down to two: What were Archbishop Lefebvre’s expressed intentions when he founded the SSPX, and what is the actual state and juridical [canonical] standing of the SSPX?

“Disinformation,” from the Russian transliteration of Dezinformatsiya, is defined by its Marxists creators and developers as dissemination (in the press, radio, etc.) of false reports intended to mislead public opinion. The word has now become part and parcel of our own lexicon but with its original sharp point dulled down quite a bit. Disinformation is now a catchall term for any bit of news deemed disagreeable by those who “woke” among us. (Similarly, disinformation’s curious first cousin, “hate-speech,” really means anything a liberal does not particularly like.) Nonetheless, many of us who were alive and reasoning prior to the 1968 cultural revolt remember the first time(s) we heard the oxymoronic sounding expression.

The first time I recall hearing the term “disinformation” was in a sermon by a Lithuanian priest recounting details from the 1947 “show trial” of József Cardinal Mindszenty. That was in the early 1960s. I was 11 or 12. It was at the height of the “cold war,” that solid deep freeze between Western civilization and Soviet Communism that began as World War II ended [1945] and ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union [1991].

So, however brief, what is a discussion of “disinformation” doing in a book forward about Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the SSPX? Well, just everything, that’s what!

Lying, or, if you will, the “art” of disseminating a falsehood, has been the modus operandi of SSPX critics from the Society’s inception to this very day (as the reader of this book will soon discover for himself). Vilification of the Archbishop and his disciples was an ongoing “ministry” of two very prominent and powerful Vatican prelates the 1960s and 70s: Cardinals Jean-Marie Villot (Secretary of the Vatican State) and Gabriel-Marie Garrone (Vatican Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities.) The two Frenchmen seemed to personify the “new order” of things actual and things to come. Without a doubt, they were the embodiment of modern(ist) ecclesiastical power and, for the benefit of their underlings, demonstrated the correct direction in which to walk, the correct attitudes to have, the correct options to hold.

Diplomatically speaking, Villot and Garrone were political correctness itself long before political correctness became plebian and vulgar. They stridently opposed their brother bishop and compatriot until their deaths. With ample assistance from Annibale Bugnini and his latest liturgical creations to broaden the new theological [Nouvelle théologie] horizons – Villot and Garrone helped bring about a veritable coupe-d’église, the effects of which are still felt today.

READ: US Catholics will gather to begin restoring Christendom through ‘altar, culture, and trade’

How do I know such things? What’s more, who am I to say them? For 73 years, in His magnanimity and mercy, God has seen fit to grant me the most fascinating, anything-but-boring life. Many times, He has planted me, uprooted me, and replanted me in the most amazing places, always surrounding me with the most eclectic cast of characters; from true friends and false enemies to false friends and true enemies and, of course, the ubiquitous plethora of inbetweeners.

But of all my time on earth, the most glorious was the decade of my twenties. From 1971 to 1980, I lived in Rome. The last five of those years, while continuing postgraduate studies, I worked in the Vatican Information Office. In 1974, I became friends with two remarkable gentlemen who would shape the course of my life. Originally from Ravenna, Monsignor Mario Marini was a minutante [minute-taker] in the Vatican Secretary of State. [He would later become Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments, as well as Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission.] Marini soon introduced me to the French-Canadian Archbishop Édouard Joseph Gagnon, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family. [Gagnon would be made a cardinal and, in 1987, would be sent by Pope John Paul II to meet with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1987) at Écône.] In 1977, the three of us, Marini, Gagnon, and I, decided to reside together in the Lebanese Residence near the Gianicolo Hill. I remained close to these two great men until God called them to Himself: Cardinal Gagnon, in 2007; Monsignor Marini, in 2009.

I seldom saw my friend Mario Marini angry, but one occasion that stood out in my mind is [that] of my first mass, at the Basilica of Mary Major. I was to offer my first mass in the Borghese Chapel, on the altar where Eugenio Pacelli offered his first mass. Mother Pascalina offered to lend me the white missal of Pope Pius XII that I could use for the Roman Canon of the mass. UNTIL the rector of the Mexican College (my legitimate superior at the time) protested. He would not participate in any “Lefebvrian-heretical” ceremony! The little twerp claimed that the use of that precious missal could render my first mass invalid. Marini was livid: “Who, in his wildest nightmares, could have imagined that the missal of Pius XII would be branded heretical!! This is pure insanity!”

READ: ‘Deep regret’: Roman bishop apologizes for allowing Anglican ‘Mass’ in papal basilica

It was through Gagnon and Marini that I learned some of the Lefebvre disinformation put out by the likes of Jean-Marie Cardinal Villot and Gabriel-Marie Cardinal Garrone. Both Frenchmen, but especially Villot, had the ear of the Francophile Pope, Paul VI, and exerted great pressure upon the French episcopacy. Equally disturbing was the fact that Villot saw eye-to-eye with another “likeminded” Vatican prelate, Sebastiano Cardinal Baggio, Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops. Baggio made extra sure that every candidate for a French bishopric was a modern(ist) thinker who enjoyed the backing of Villot. It took a few years to deconstruct French Catholicism, but eventually every functioning bishop in France was a “freethinking” progressive who viewed Lefebvre and the SSPX as religious and social reactionaries who in time – hopefully very soon – would simply fade away and die.

While Secretary of State Villot made sure that every Vatican congregation, dicastery, council and committee concerned itself with “ecumenism,” and was “dialoguing” with every non-Catholic entity that might be open to the new, Vatican II, spirit of things, he did nothing to promote a dialogue between the Vatican and Écône. In fact, he was opposed to it. According to Secretary of State minutante Monsignor Mario Marini and Head of Secretary of State personnel Monsignor Guglielmo Zannoni, nothing got the ire of Cardinal Jean-Marie Villot quicker and more obviously than that someone bring up the subject of Archbishop Lefebvre. Until his timely death in 1979, the French Secretary of State seemed quite satisfied that Archbishop Lefebvre had been ostracized by the French bishops, and that he had been suspended a divinis. As far as Villot was concerned, the “L’affaire Lefebvre” was finished, done with, one less headache to deal with – and that, comme on dit, was that.

With Villot gone to his eternal reward, his longtime subordinate, Archbishop Agostino Casaroli, was eager to fill his empty shoes. Years of silence, of paper-pushing, and of emptying Gauloises butts from stinking ashtrays had Casaroli chomping at the bit to speak his mind and to promote his own interpretation of Ostpolitik; to put real impetus into the myth of dialogue with the Soviet Union and its satellite states. And now, with the new Polish Pope to back him, it seemed there was no mountain too high for the little clerk not to conquer. All that to say: Casaroli was as uneager to resolve things with the “Lefebvristi” as was his former superior. That is: not at all

Yet, the new pontiff, Pope John Paul II, did want to come to a meeting of the minds with Archbishop Lefebvre. He wanted a reconciliation. Besides the obvious, hoping to maintain (or reestablish) Christian unity, no other Catholic community was growing in strength and number as was the Society of Saint Pius X. In my very humble opinion, no one in the Church, and at that time, could have helped Pope John Paul II to achieve this and many other noble goals he hoped to realize, more than Giovanni Cardinal Benelli. And no one knew this better than Pope John Paul II and, of course, Giovanni Benelli himself. However, less than two weeks after accepting the pontiff’s request that he leave Florence and return to the Vatican as Secretary of State, Giovanni Cardinal Benelli, age sixty-one, and seemingly in good health, suffered a fatal heart attack and died in Florence, October 26, 1982. A somber Agostino Cardinal Casaroli, acting Secretary of State, delivered the sad news to Pope John Paul. Several days later, the Pope confirmed him as Secretary of State.

READ: Priest who read 3rd Secret of Fatima: Satan ‘enthroned’ at the Vatican in the early 1960s

In early November 1987, I received a special delivery letter. I knew at once it was from Vatican City, as some postal worker had torn off the top right-hand corner of the envelope for his stamp collection. (A common occurrence in Mexico.) Foremost in Cardinal Édouard Gagnon’s handwritten missive was a special request for prayers. He wrote that he and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger had met several times with Holy Father. Topic of discussion: the precarious situation of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the SSPX. As a result, Pope John Paul II commissioned Cardinal Gagnon to go to Switzerland, speak with Archbishop Lefebvre, and investigate the Society, especially its seminary.

As Cardinal Gagnon later explained to me in New York, he arrived in Écône on November eleventh [1987] and remained there until the ninth of December. Although he had failed to convince Lefebvre to accept the Holy See’s proposal – i.e., primarily, that Lefebvre consecrate only one new bishop to ensure the survival of the SSPX, not four – he [Gagnon] did not consider the mission a complete failure. In his official report to Pope John Paul II, he praised the SSPX and especially the Saint Pius X Seminary as: “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 with his appraisal of the SSPX seminary: “The system they have deserves to be replicated in every seminary in the world. It is exemplar.”

Frankly, I found the cardinal’s opinion of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the man himself, surprising. “He [Lefebvre] doesn’t trust the Vatican. And who can blame him? Would you? For years he tried to deal with [Secretary of State] Villot and [Prefect for Catholic Universities and Seminaries] 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. No, while I can’t condone what he did [consecrating 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!”

Funny how one thing can trigger your memory of another. In 2022, Papa Bergoglio commenced to chip away at the remarkable influence and legal standing of Opus Dei. The [1982] “personal prelature,” most happily agreed upon with Pope John Paul II, now under the Argentine’s watchful eye, was beginning to undergo “modifications.” The first thing to go was the personal prelature´s personal prelate. Opus Dei is now bishop-less. What’s more, no longer is it under the Congregation for Bishops, but is being constantly monitored by the Congregation for the Clergy. The Argentine´s dictate to Opus Dei: No bishops or anything resembling episcopal rights for you.

No sooner had I learned of this when, again, I heard that inimitable French Canadian accent whisper in my ear: “Lefebvre does not trust the Vatican. And who can blame him? Would you?”

In this book, The SSPX, A DEFENSE, Mr. Kennedy Hall answers some of the misgivings some Catholics may still have regarding Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the SSPX. As for me, I thought I’d add a few misgivings of my own as to how Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the SSPX have been treated this last half century by modernist Rome and any number of closeminded “progressisti.”

Fr. Charles Theo. Murr

February 23, 2023

Featured Image

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli,, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana,, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.