Pope Paul has ignored a request by rebel French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre for a private audience.
Lefebvre made the request in a letter sent on July 7. Presumably because he feared censorship, he sent the letter through an intermediary in the Vatican. According to a declaration made today by the acting Vatican press office, it reached the Secretariat of State only on July 25 and was taken immediately to Pope Paul.
In Cannes this week, on return from his Latin American trip, Lefebvre said. "I wrote to the Pope on July 7. My letter was ignored. I understand it - it was owing to his age and the state of his health. He is no longer fully independent in his decisions."
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev, Pier Franco Postore said today that Lefevre's letter requested a meeting without witnesses to favor a return to normality.
Father Pastore added that as Lefebvre has not replied to a papal letter of June 20 regarding his illegitimate ordinations and has continued his public opposition to the Pope. Paul VI will not reply to him, unless he sends a letter of unconditional obendience, he said.
The Vatican's previously announced conditions for reconciliation with Lefebvre are that he accept the authority of the Pope and the teachings of Vatican Council II, hand over his seminaries and dissolve his St. Pius X movement.
Vatican Radio gives promience to bishops criticizing Lefebvre. Today it reported a statement by Bishop Thomas Welsh of Arlington, who asserted that "the traditionalist prelate and his followers have separated themselves from the church."
One of the priests illegitimately ordained by Lefebvre last Sunday celebrated a Tridentine Mass in a motel in the Arlington Diocese.
Vatican Radio also carried a statement by Archbishop Carlos Qarteli of Montevideo. Uruguay, Qarteli said Lefebvre not only represented a rebellion against the council's decrees but also against a central aspect of the faith "that the Holy Spirit guides the church and its councils." He said Lefebvre defends an "irrational form of tradition rather than authentic Catholic tradition which is never mummified."
Although some of the bishops who were in the same ultraconservative group as Lefebvre during the council live in Latin America, none made declarations favorable to him during his recent trip there. Cardinal Juan Landazuri-Ricketts, archbishop of Lima, Peru, denied him access to the city's churches and Cardinal Raul Silva-Henriquez, archbishop of Santiago, Chile, condemned Lefebvre trenchantly.
His failure to arouse significant support in Latin America seems likely to convince the Vatican that the more rope Lefebvre is given the more he discredits himself.
He was suspended from his priestly functions n July 28 last year, a month after ordaining priests despite the pope's injunction not to do so. He has ignored this suspension which, the Vatican spokesman recalled today, is still valid.
This alone could provide grounds for excommunication of Lafebvre on disciplinary grounds. He could likewise be excommunicated on doctrinal grounds for his denial of the authority of the pope and the council.
Pope Paul seems in no hurry to act. It would have created less uproar if the Lefebvre case had been handled solely by the church's central administration, the Roman Curia.
French curialists, such as Cardinal Gabriel Garrone, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, are said to have spurred Pope Paul to intervene instead personally, which has placed him in a personal confrontation situation with Lefebvre.
It is thought that some curialists, because of tacit sympathy with Lefebvre, would enjoy the confrontation. This situation in his administration may limit Pope Paul's options in responding to Lefebvre.