The Empty Cathedral: An Open Letter to the Pope


179 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 1-895854-17-2
DDC 261'.1




Translated by Madeleine Hébert
Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


Many Roman Catholics are concerned that their church is slowly declining
into irrelevance because of its stubborn refusal to deal with the
realities of the modern world. This book is a heartfelt call by a
life-long Catholic for his church to modernize its doctrinal stands on
such matters as celibacy of the priesthood, the ordination of women, and
contraception. Furthermore, it is the author’s view that the reason
the church has become so divorced from the faithful is that it is
governed by a structure that stifles debate. Not surprising, Lefebvre
has chosen to appeal directly to the person atop that structure, who
could make changes if he so wished.

It is doubtful, however, whether Lefebvre’s book will affect the
pope, especially if he reads the English translation of it. It seems the
publisher let Lefebvre do his own proofing of the English text, and this
has meant that clumsy translations (e.g., “epidemic of vaccines”),
inexcusable spelling errors (e.g., “dinning room”), and grammatical
boo-boos (e.g., “a succession of tyrants have to be disposed of”)
throughout the text act as barriers to easy reading.

More serious, while Lefebvre addresses the pope in the first and last
chapters, in between he has written a rambling memoir, interspersed with
his unexplored opinions on such matters as the “approaching Asian
hegemony over the world.” In Lefebvre’s view there is nothing wrong
with this approach. “When one reaches the age of writing one’s
memoirs, one acquires many privileges,” he notes. For example, “One
is not constrained as a writer of an essay or treatise could be to
classify one’s content so that nothing strays from the pre-established

Lefebvre’s general critique of the church has much to recommend it.
It is regrettable that because of the way his book has been patched
together, it will likely have less impact.


Lefebvre, Jean-Paul., “The Empty Cathedral: An Open Letter to the Pope,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 25, 2024,