Translated into English for The Recusant, August 2014,
taken from Fideliter No. 79 January-February 1991.
«It is no longer just a question of liturgy, …
that separates us from Rome, but a matter of faith.»
[Archbishop Lefebvre, 1991]
On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, Archbishop Lefebvre kindly answered the questions we asked him. We also note how the prelate destroys the calumnies that have been made against him about the conciliar documents on Religious Liberty and “The Church in the Modern World.”
Fideliter – Since the coronations there has been no more contact with Rome; however, as you told us, Cardinal Oddi telephoned you saying, “Things have got to be sorted out. Make a little act of asking forgiveness to the Pope and he is ready to welcome you.” So why not try this one last approach and why do you think it impossible?
Archbishop Lefebvre – It is absolutely impossible in the current climate of Rome which is becoming worse. We must not delude ourselves. The principles which now guide the conciliar Church are more and more overtly contrary to Catholic doctrine.
Before the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations, Cardinal Casaroli recently declared: “I want to dwell somewhat on one specific aspect of the fundamental freedom of thinking and acting according to one’s conscience: religious liberty … the Catholic Church and her Supreme Pastor, who has made human rights one of the major themes of his preaching, have not failed to recall that, in a world made by man and for man, the whole organization of society has meaning only insofar as it is the human dimension a central concern.” To hear that in the mouth of a cardinal! He does not speak of God!
For his part, Cardinal Ratzinger, presenting a discussion paper on the relationship between the Magisterium and theologians, affirms he says “for the first time clearly” that “the decisions of the Magisterium cannot be the last word on the matter as such” but are “a kind of provisional disposition … the core remains stable but the particular aspects that influence the circumstances of that time may need correction later on. In this regard one can point to the declarations of the popes of the last century. The anti-modernist decisions rendered a great service but they are now outdated.” And voila, the position on modernism is turned around! These reflections are absolutely insane.
Finally the Pope is more ecumenist than ever. All the false ideas of the Council continue to develop, to be reaffirmed with ever greater clarity. They are hiding less and less. It is absolutely inconceivable that we can agree to work with such a hierarchy.
Fideliter – Do you think the situation has deteriorated even further since the time before the consecrations when you engaged in discussions that led to the drafting of the Protocol of 5th May 1988?
Archbishop Lefebvre – Oh yes! For example the making of the Profession of Faith which is now claimed by Cardinal Ratzinger since the beginning of 1989. This is a very serious matter. Because he asks all those [Traditionalists] who rallied to them [i.e. want to make an agreement with Rome] must make a profession of faith in the Council documents and in the post-conciliar reforms. For us it is impossible.
We will have to wait some more before considering the prospect of an agreement. For my part I believe that only God can intervene as humanly we do not see any possibility of Rome straightening things out.
For fifteen years we dialogued to try to put the tradition back in its place of honour, in that place in the Church which it has by right. We ran up against a continual refusal. What Rome grants in favour of this tradition at present is nothing but a purely political gesture, a piece of diplomacy so as to force people into compromise. But it is not a conviction of the benefits of Tradition.
Fideliter – When we see that Dom Gérard and the Fraternity of St. Peter got to keep the liturgy and catechism without, so they say, having conceded anything, some people who are troubled and find themselves in a difficult situation with Rome, can be tempted to make an agreement in their turn, through lassitude. They have managed, so they say, to get along with Rome without having to relinquish anything.
Archbishop Lefebvre – When they say they don’t have to give anything up, that’s false. They have given up the ability to oppose Rome. They cannot say anything any more. They must remain silent given the favours that have been granted them. It is now impossible for them to expose the errors of the Conciliar Church. Softly, softly they adhere, even be it only by their Profession of Faith that is requested by Cardinal Ratzinger. I think Dom Gérard is about to publish a small book written by one of his monks on Religious Liberty and which will try to justify it.
From the point of view of ideas, they begin to slide ever so slowly and end up by admitting the false ideas of the Council, because Rome has granted them some favours of Tradition. It’s a very dangerous situation.
During the audience which he granted to Dom Gérard and a delegation of monks from Le Barroux, the Pope expressed the desire to see them continue to evolve. He didn’t hide what he thought. They must submit more and more to the Archbishop [of their diocese] and they must take care not to act as though the conciliar reforms are less-than-appreciated because they have been granted an exception to the liturgical rule of the Council. They must also make an effort to bring with them all those who are not yet in obedience to the Holy Father.
These are pressing invitations made to them and it’s this which is the purpose of the privileges granted to them.
That is why Dom Gérard wrote to Mother Anne-Marie Simoulin, Father Innocent-Marie, the Capuchins of Morgon and others to try even to influence me. On his return from Rome he launched the offensive to try to convince those who do not follow him to follow in his wake and rally to Rome.
All the things that have been granted to them have only been agreed to with the goal of ensuring that all those who adhere to or are related to the Society will break from it and submit to Rome.
Fideliter – Dom Gérard is thus taking on the role that had devolved to Mgr. Perl.
Archbishop Lefebvre – I have had the opportunity to see at least three letters which Mgr. Perl sent in response to people who had written to him. It is always the same. It is essential to make an effort among those who do not understand the need to make an agreement with the Pope and the Council. It’s a shame, he wrote, to see that there have been no more agreements.
Fideliter – You have said, concerning Dom Gérard and others: “They have betrayed us. They are now giving a helping hand to those who demolish the Church, the Liberals, the modernists.” Isn’t that a bit harsh?
Archbishop Lefebvre – Not at all, no! They appealed to me for fifteen years. It was not I who went looking for them. It is they themselves who came to me and asked me for support, for ordinations, for the friendship of our priests and at the same time the opening of our priories to help them financially. They took full advantage of us, as much as they were able. We did it with good will and even generosity. I was happy to do these ordinations, to open our houses so that they could take advantage of the generosity of our benefactors. And then, suddenly, they telephone me. We no longer need you; it’s over. We’re going over to the archbishop of Avignon. We’re now in agreement with Rome. We’ve signed a protocol.
It gave us no joyfulness of heart to have trouble with Rome. It wasn’t out of pleasure that we had to fight. We did it out of principle, to keep the Catholic faith. And they agreed with us. They cooperated with us. And then suddenly they abandon the true combat to ally themselves with the demolishers on the pretext that they be given some privileges. That’s unacceptable.
They have in practice abandoned the fight for the Faith. They cannot attack Rome.
That was what Father de Blignières did too. He has changed completely. He who had written an entire volume condemning religious liberty, he now writes in favour of religious liberty. That’s not being serious. One cannot rely any more on men like that, who have understood nothing of the doctrinal question.
I think in any case they commit a serious mistake. They sinned seriously in acting the way they did, knowingly, and with an unreal nonchalance.
I have heard about some monks who intend to leave Le Barroux, saying they can no longer live in an atmosphere of lies. I wonder how they managed to stay as long as this in such an atmosphere.
It’s the same with those who are with Dom Augustin [Superior of the Benedictine Monastery of Flavigny]. They were even more traditional than us and now they have completely gone over to the other side. For all young people who are there, it’s awful to think of such a reversal. They entered the monastery to be really in Tradition. It was the safest, firmest bastion of Tradition, even more so than the Society. They thought they were guaranteed forever. And then they completely turn their coats and they stay put! It is inexplicable.
Fideliter – Some of the faithful are tempted to keep good relations with those who have rallied, or even attend the Mass or ceremonies that they celebrate, do you think that there is a danger in that?
Archbishop Lefebvre – I have always warned the faithful, the sedevacantists, for example. There also people say: “The Mass is fine, so we go to it.”
Yes, there is the Mass. That’s fine, but there is also the sermon; there is the atmosphere, the conversations, contacts before and after, which make you little by little change your ideas. It is therefore a danger and that’s why in general, I think it constitutes part of a whole. One does not merely go to Mass, one frequents a milieu.
There are obviously some people who are attracted by the beautiful ceremonies, who also go to Fontgombault, where they have taken up the old mass again. They are in a climate of ambiguity which to my mind is dangerous. Once one finds oneself in this atmosphere, submitted to the Vatican, subject ultimately to the Council, one ends up by becoming ecumenical.
Fideliter – The Pope is very popular. He draws crowds; he wants to gather all Christians together in ecumenism, which he says he is making the cornerstone of his pontificate. At first glance this may seem a noble thought, wanting to actually gather all Christians together.
Archbishop Lefebvre – The Pope wants unity with those outside the Faith. It is a “communion”. Communion with whom? With what? In what? That is no longer unity. This cannot be, except in the unity of the Faith. That is what the Church has always taught. That is why there were missionaries, to convert souls to the Catholic Faith. Now you don’t have to convert any more. The Church is not a hierarchical society, it is a communion. Everything is distorted. It is the destruction of the concept of the Church, of Catholicism. This is very serious and it is what explains why many Catholics are abandoning the Faith.
When you add to that all the outrageous comments that were made at the synod on the priesthood, declarations like those of Cardinals Decourtray and Danneels, one wonders how there can be any Catholics left.
After Assisi and after similar declarations, we understand that there were many people who went over to the Mormons, to the Jehovah Witnesses or elsewhere. They lose the Faith, it’s not surprising.
Fideliter – You often say, it is now a matter of Faith which makes us oppose modern Rome.
Archbishop Lefebvre – Certainly the question of the liturgy and the sacraments is very important, but it is not the most important. The most important is that of the Faith. For us it is resolved. We have the Faith of all time, of the Council of Trent, of the Catechism of St. Pius X, of all the councils and all the popes before Vatican II.
For years they have tried in Rome to show that everything in the Council was fully consistent with Tradition. Now they are showing their true colors. Cardinal Ratzinger never spoke so clearly. There is no tradition. There is no longer any deposit to be transmitted. Tradition in the Church is whatever the Pope is saying today. You must submit to what the Pope and the bishops say today. That’s what Tradition is for them, the famous ‘Living Tradition’, the only ground of our condemnation.
They no longer seek now to prove what they say is consistent with what Pius IX wrote or with what the Council of Trent promulgated. No, all of that is over; it’s outdated, as Cardinal Ratzinger said. It is clear and they could have said so earlier. There was no point in our talking, in our discussing with them. Now it is the tyranny of authority, because there are no longer any rules. One can no longer refer to the past.
In a sense things today are becoming clearer. They always give us more reason. We are dealing with people who have a different philosophy than ours, a different way of seeing, who are influenced by all modern subjectivist philosophers. For them there is no fixed truth, there is no dogma. Everything is evolving. That is a totally Masonic concept. This is really the destruction of the Faith. Fortunately, we continue to lean on Tradition!
Fideliter – Yes, but you are alone against everyone.
Archbishop Lefebvre – Yes, it is a great mystery.
Fideliter – In the last newsletter “Introibo” Father André notes that although they say the New Mass, a dozen bishops provide hope. They are classified as “traditional bishops” by “Episcopal Who’s Who.”
Archbishop Lefebvre – Yes, but they are all conciliar. It’s only Bishop de Castro Mayer and myself who have resisted that Council and its applications, whereas at the Council there were 250 of us opposing the errors.
I was recently told to re-read the prophecy of Our Lady of Quito (1), where in the early seventeenth century, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave a revelation to a holy nun about the destruction of morals and the terrible crisis which now afflicts the Church and its clergy (2) announcing to her also that there would be a prelate who would dedicated himself to the restoration of the priesthood.
The Blessed Virgin announced that this would happen in the twentieth century. This is a fact. The Good Lord has planned for this time in the Church.
Fideliter – You have emphasized that you are convinced that the work you have undertaken is blessed by God, because at several points it could have disappeared.
Archbishop Lefebvre – Yes, that’s right. We have always come under very hard, very difficult attacks. Often people who worked with us, who used to be our friends, have turned against us and have really become enemies. It is very painful, but there is nothing to be done. We realise after some time that those are after us and who are trying to destroy us are sinking, and that we continue, we must believe nonetheless that the line of the Faith and Tradition that we have adopted, that we are following, is imperishable because it is the Church and because God cannot allow his Church to perish.
Fideliter – What can you say to those of the faithful who still hope in the possibility of an agreement with Rome?
Archbishop Lefebvre – Our true faithful, those who have understood the problem and who have precisely helped us to continue along the straight and firm path of Tradition and the Faith, were afraid of the approaches I made towards Rome. They told me it was dangerous and that I was wasting my time. Yes, of course, I hoped until the last minute that in Rome we would witness a little bit of loyalty. I cannot be blamed for not having done the maximum. So now too, to those who say to me, “You’ve got to reach an agreement with Rome,” I think I can say that I went even further than I should have.
Fideliter – You answer: you do not have to worry, because we are with Tradition, with all the councils before Vatican II, with everything said by all the popes who preceded it…
Archbishop Lefebvre – Yes, obviously if we were inventing something we would be worried that our invention would not endure. But we’re doing nothing new.
A little while ago time I saw a bishop, one of my friends with whom we worked during the council and was in complete agreement with me at that time. And he said: “It is unfortunate that you are in trouble with Rome.”
“How can you, who fought at the Council for the same reasons as me,” I answered him, “how can you now be surprised? We held continual meetings together and with others to try to maintain the line of Tradition in the Council. And now you have abandoned all of that. Is what we were doing wrong?”
“See the results of the Council. Can you show me any that are good, that are positive? Where and in what areas have the Council and the reforms that came from it brought about an extraordinary revival in the Church?”
He did not answer. There is nothing. Everything is negative.
Fideliter – What conclusions can we draw from the Society after twenty years of existence?
Archbishop Lefebvre – The Good Lord wanted Tradition. I am deeply convinced that the Society is the means that God wanted to keep and maintain the Faith, the truth of the Church and what can still be saved in the Church. Thanks also to the bishops around the Superior General of the Society, who fulfil their indispensable role of maintaining the Faith, of preaching the Faith, and of communicating the grace of the priesthood and confirmation, Tradition remains unchanged and a still-fruitful source [of] the divine life.
All this is very comforting and I think we have to thank God and continue to faithfully keep the treasures of the Church, hoping that one day these treasures resume the place they deserve in Rome and they should never have [been] lost.
Interview by Andrew CAGNON
(1) Extract from the consecrations sermon of 30th June 1988:
“Just recently, the priest who takes care of the priory of Bogota, Colombia, brought me a book concerning the apparition of Our Lady of «Buon Suceso,» – of «Good Success,» to whom a large church in Quito, Ecuador, was dedicated. They were received by a nun shortly after the Council of Trent, so you see, quite a few centuries ago. This apparition is thoroughly recognized by Rome and the ecclesiastical authorities; a magnificent church was built for the Blessed Virgin Mary wherein the faithful of Ecuador venerate with great devotion a picture of Our Lady, whose face was made miraculously.
The artist was in the process of painting it when he found the face of the Holy Virgin miraculously formed. And Our Lady prophesied for the twentieth century, saying explicitly that during the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century, errors would become more and more widespread in Holy Church, placing the Church in a catastrophic situation. Morals would become corrupt and he Faith would disappear. It seems impossible not to see it happening today.
I excuse myself for continuing this account of the apparition but she speaks of a prelate who will absolutely oppose this wave of apostasy and impiety – saving the priesthood by forming good priests. I do not say that prophecy refers to me. You may draw your own conclusions. I was stupefied when reading these lines but I cannot deny them, since they are recorded and deposited in the archives of this apparition.”
(2) cf. fideliter No.66, Nov. – Dec. 1988