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The Long Island Conference
Conference of Archbishop Lefebvre given at Long Island, NY on November 5, 1983.
Printed originally in the December 1983 issue of The Angelus magazine.
I think that, like all traditionalist Catholics, you would like now to hear how things stand; at what point relations are between the Priestly Society of St. Pius X and the Vatican in Rome. So I shall give you a rapid summary.
Why do I maintain relations with Rome? Why do I keep going to Rome? Because I think that Rome is the center of Catholicism, because I think that there cannot be any Catholic Church without Rome. Consequently, if our purpose is to find a way of setting the Church straight again, it is by turning to Rome that maybe, with the grace of God, we may perhaps manage to set the situation straight. It is not one single bishop like myself who can set the whole situation straight in the Catholic Church. That is why I strive to keep on going to Rome and to plead the cause of Tradition. Because I am persuaded that it is by Tradition that the Catholic Church will recover its position as it was before the Second Vatican Council, and the means of its true progress. In the first place, I must tell you that I am under no illusions - the situation in Rome is very grave, very grave. Let me sum up the whole situation as it took place at the Council and such as, unfortunately, it still exists even today, by saying that there were, in fact, three betrayals of the Church. Holy Church was betrayed in three ways in a very direct and concrete fashion.
Archbishop Lefebvre preaching in the Farmingville (Long Island), NY chapel
The first betrayal was the betrayal with the Freemason, the second with the Protestants, and the third was the betrayal with the Communists.
There was an understanding before the Council and during the Council through men commissioned by the Church who were the instruments of these betrayals, namely, the Secretariat for the Unity of Christians, which was specially created for that, directed by Cardinal Bea with, as Vice President, Mgr*. de Smedt, Bishop of Bruges, and with, as Secretary, Mgr. Willebrands, who became Cardinal of Holland. These were the personalities who were the instruments of betrayal. There were direct contacts precisely between Cardinal Bea and the Masonic Lodge here in New York and in Washington, with the B'nai-Brith, the Jewish Lodge numbering 75,000 members, and with the lodges of the whole world.
*[Being French, throughout this conference, Archbishop Lefebvre uses the title "Mgr." (abbreviated for "Monseigneur", literally, "My Lord"), which in French is equivalent to the American episcopal title of "His Excellency" or "Bishop", though it is also sometimes used in reference cardinals. Being a transcription of a spoken conference, we have retained the original. - Ed.]
Why did these contacts take place? Why did Cardinal Bea come in the name of the Vatican, in the name of Rome, to meet these Freemasons? In order that we would accept the "rights of man" at the Council. How could we accept them? By accepting Religious Liberty, which is one of the "rights of man." Hence, to accept Religious Liberty was in principle to accept the "rights of man" within the Church. Now, the Church has always condemned these declarations on the "rights of man" which have been made against the authority of God.
The second betrayal was the betrayal with the Protestants. It is Mgr. Willebrands who was entrusted in particular with the fostering of relations with the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Geneva. He went to Geneva to make peace with the Protestants, and the Protestants said to him, we can make peace with you, we can all unite and work together, but you must remove everything in the liturgy of the Church and in the concept of the Church which does not agree with Protestant principles. Hence, the whole liturgy and the whole structure of the Church was to be modified and there was to be a new Canon Law to establish this new structure of the Church and to put it into practice, a democratic structure. This is what was then accomplished by Mgr. Willebrands.
The third betrayal was through Mgr. Willebrands also, and Cardinal Bea, through their meeting with delegates of Moscow at Constantinople and also in Greece, with representatives of the Orthodox Church, the Patriarch Pimen of the Orthodox Church delegated by Moscow. What had to be done in order to please the Communists? The Communists required that there should be no condemnation of Communism at the Council, firstly; secondly, that all the bishops opposed to the Communist regime should be dismissed and replaced by collaborating bishops. Well, these various requirements: Religious Liberty required by the Freemasons, the changing of the whole interior and the Constitutions and the liturgy of the Church by the Protestants; the non-condemnation of Communism and the changing of the bishops by the Communists - all this was agreed to and granted by the Church. The Church said yes, that's all right, we accept Religious Liberty, and it was Mgr. deSmedt, the Vice President of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, who was the reporter at the Council for the schema on Religious Liberty, together with Cardinal Bea, who was behind him and who supported him. Five times there was an attempt to refuse this schema, five times they brought it back, and finally they succeeded in having Religious Liberty passed.
What that meant was the laicizing of all the Catholic States, which is very grave, excessively grave. The Protestants also were given what they wanted and you saw the Protestants present at the liturgical reform. They were there: six Protestant pastors were present at the liturgical reform, and they asked these Protestant pastors what might be displeasing to them in the Catholic Church, and Pope Paul VI did everything he could to satisfy them. Hence, they changed our Mass in order to please the Protestants, and that is what they call "ecumenism." And the Communists were promised, Communism will not be condemned at the Council, and it wasn't condemned at the Council. I myself carried 450 signatures to the Secretariat of the Council in order to have Communism condemned. I did it myself! Four hundred and fifty signatures of bishops were put away in a drawer and they were buried in silence whereas sometimes the request of a single bishop was listened to. In this case, 450 bishops were ignored. The drawer was closed, we were told, no, no, we have no knowledge of that, there will be no condemnation of Communism. And they replaced the anti-Communist bishops: Cardinal Mindszenty by Cardinal Lekai, Cardinal Beran in Czechoslovakia by Cardinal Tomasec. The same happened in Lithuania, and in Czechoslovakia, all the bishops became priests of the Pax movement, collaborators of the Communist regime. You can read in the book called Moscow and the Vatican how the Lithuanian priests wrote to their bishops a letter in which they say:
"We no longer understand. Before, our bishops used to support us in the fight against Communism and they died martyrs, many are still in prison, others are dead, martyred because they supported us against the Communists in order to fulfill our duty as priests, and now it is you bishops who are condemning us, it is you who are telling us that we don't have the right to resist, to fulfill our apostolate, because it is contrary to the laws of Communism, it is contrary to the government."
How is that possible? That is the situation in the Church. These are real betrayals which took place!
So, you can understand that when I go to Rome and when I refuse the principle of Religious Liberty proclaimed at the Council, I am told, "you must accept the Council, you must accept the liturgical reforms." And, then, I refuse. These are not trifling matters. Religious Liberty did not get passed in the Council as easily as that. It is a whole program. Consequently, for the last six years I have been going to Rome, always to try to have them reform the Council, to have the schemas of the Council reformed which are no good, like the one on Religious Liberty. Obviously, I meet with a continuous refusal on the part of the Vatican, though when I met the Pope himself, at the end of 1978, he did agree to name an intermediary between himself and myself, Cardinal Seper. Then Cardinal Seper died and the Pope named Cardinal Ratzinger. But we are still running up against the same problems.
In the latest letter which I received from Rome, the Pope continues to regret that I am unwilling to accept all the acts of the Council, that I am unwilling to accept the liturgical reforms in the Holy Church. But there is no way round these. And in fact, there is even an additional obstacle, which is the new Code of Canon Law, which has been made in the same spirit I've just been speaking to you about, the spirit of the Council, a bad spirit. Hence, obviously, I run into great difficulties. But since they are willing to sit down and discuss, who knows? Almighty God is all-powerful - and so, I say to myself, if the Good Lord wishes to make them understand, wishes one day to give them a particular enlightenment, perhaps one day we shall manage to make them accept a correction of the Council, to come back to Tradition in the liturgy and to come back to Tradition in the Church. Well, I am well aware that it is very difficult, because I have now been going for six or seven years to Rome in order to achieve this purpose and we are still at the same point we started. Hence, when they say I am seeking a compromise with Rome, there is no question for me of compromising over anything whatsoever with Rome - I am simply asking for the return to Tradition, which is the only way for the Church to truly recover her perfection and her sanctity, as before.
There is the situation such as it is at present, and I must admit that, for the moment, I see no great hope. The only little success which might be on the way is this famous decree still in suspense, still being put off, a decree to enable all priests to say the old Mass, to leave them freedom and no longer to persecute them. Now, this decree was due to appear, but for three years they have been talking about it and for three years it has still not been published. For, you must realize that, at present, the situation at Rome is very difficult. Modernism is still all-powerful at Rome. The Modernist and progressive Cardinals are in the majority; thus, even if there are one or two cardinals who are more or less traditionalists and who have at least a desire to come back to Tradition, well, they are immediately stopped by five or six cardinals who have all power and who put pressure on the Holy Father to stop any return to Tradition. It is they who are preventing this decree from appearing. They say to the Pope, "If you make this decree appear, if you liberate the old Mass, the traditional Mass, then everything that we have done since the Council is over and done with."
There is a true struggle going on in Rome between the few traditionalist Cardinals - Cardinal Oddi, Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Pallazini, on one side, and all the progressive cardinals on the other: Cardinal Casaroli, Cardinal Pironio, Cardinal Baggio; and all those who are in the Congregations of Worship: Cardinal Casoria with Mgr. Virgilio Noe; and then in the Congregation of Faith, Mgr. Hamer, a Dominican, all these are Modernists and each time that they go to see the Pope they say, "Above all, no turning back, no return to Tradition, out of the question!"
Now the Pope is not strong-willed. He seems a strong man, but he is not a strong man, he is weak. I saw that myself in the audience I had with him. He was ready to sign a paper giving me freedom, saying that I and the Priestly Society could celebrate the Tridentine Mass, "Oh, that's not important, you prefer that Mass, oh, if you like, that is not important. It's a disciplinary question." And then, he summoned Cardinal Seper to say that he would be the intermediary between the Pope and myself, and when he told Cardinal Seper, "After all, there aren't really many difficulties in the case of Mgr. Lefebvre. We could grant him the right to celebrate the Tridentine Mass with the Society." "Oh, no!" cried out Cardinal Seper, "Oh, no, Holy Father! They are making this Mass into a battle flag! We cannot accept!" And then the Holy Father was like a naughty child caught in the act, he seemed to be afraid, and he said, "All right, all right. Listen, you talk with Monseigneur, I have a great deal of work. Cardinal Baggio is waiting for me. He has a great deal of work." And then the Holy Father left. That is not behaving like a true Pope! A Pope who knows what he is doing should have said to Cardinal Seper, "Listen, I am the head, I know what I am doing, and if I wish to sign such a document for Mgr. Lefebvre, I am quite free to do so!"
Here is why I have always thought that I had to go to Rome, that I had to write, that I had to visit these cardinals in order that they should not say that we are doing nothing or that we no longer recognize them or that we wish to have no contact with them. They cannot say that I have not done everything in my power to try to stay in contact with them. However, I think what counts much more are the facts, than the words or writings, even for Rome. What are the facts which count for us? The seminaries! To make priests! To make traditional priests, priests according to Tradition, to make good and holy priests in our seminaries. That is the work we must carry on with and the work which counts in Rome.
Why does Rome still go on receiving me? Why do they still consider me with a certain respect? Because they know that I have seminaries, that I have now ordained nearly 200 priests since 1970 and that I have 250 seminarians in my seminaries. They know that very well and that's what counts at Rome. They no longer have any seminaries. Their seminaries are empty or they are Modernist seminaries. Now they know that at Econe, at Ridgefield, at Zaitzkofen, and at Buenos Aires, we are forming true priests. They know that very well and they admire our young priests. So, that is what makes even more of an impression on them than my words, writings or meetings. They are well aware that this year I ordained thirty priests. So that's what I think it is. And they are perfectly well aware that our priests are spread throughout the world. They know of the existence of our traditional groups throughout the world, and a little everywhere in the world. We are striving to extend. They know we have many priories in Europe, in all the European countries. They know, moreover, that there are other traditional priests, that we are not alone, that we support other traditional priests in their work. So all of that scares them a little. They are forced to reckon with us. And that is how I think we will succeed one day in convincing Rome that they must return to Tradition. They will say, we can no longer ignore these seminaries, these priests, not only the priests of the Society, but all traditionalist priests as well. We can no longer ignore them. That is the task before us, and I have never changed!
And that is why I will now proceed to say a few words, as we must do, on the sad situation in which the Society found itself this year in the Northern District of the United States. Well! I have been accused of changing. Changing what? The Mass that I say, the Mass that was said a few moments ago by Fr. Schmidberger, is the Tridentine Mass! It's the traditional Mass! I have never changed anything! It's the same Mass attended by the poor priests who left us: Fr. Kelly, Fr. Sanborn, and the others, while they were at Econe. And how long were they at Econe? Fr. Kelly spent two years in Switzerland, Fr. Sanborn three, or maybe, four years, Fr. Dolan the same, Fr. Collins was also at Ecône, they always had the same Mass there - the one we say today. So, we have not changed a thing. How can they now say, "The Archbishop is changing"? What? What am I changing? They know perfectly well - they spent years at Econe - that they had there the liturgy which we now have, that we have not changed one iota, not one thing. They are the ones who have wanted change, who have wanted to go back to an older liturgy or to older practices. They are the ones who wanted change. We wanted to change nothing, not one thing. We have made no compromise with Rome. That charge is not true. So it is very sad to think that these priests who were ordained by myself and who, after all is said and done, receiving everything from Econe and the Society, should now be turning against the Society. Why? They say we are making compromises, they say we are going to accept the New Mass, they say things of this kind, which are absolutely false. You can see that for yourselves.
So, I think that the good sense of the faithful will triumph and that, little by little, the faithful will understand that a certain number of our priests have taken up an attitude which is not normal. In fact, they are children rebelling against their parents. Their father in the priesthood is me. They are rebelling against me, whereas I have changed nothing, nothing, nothing. This attitude is unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable. And not only are they rebelling, as you see, but also it is I, obviously, who asked them to look after the development of the Society here in the United States. Consequently, through them we obtained Oyster Bay Cove and acquired Ridgefield, Armada, and the other chapels, and all this was agreed between us - we granted them the necessary authorizations. And now they are saying, "All that property is ours." Not only are they rebelling, but also they are claiming the properties, properties for which, in the case of Ridgefield, I sent the money from Switzerland! I sent $500,000.00 from Switzerland to buy Ridgefield! And now, it's meant to belong to them? It's inconceivable! It's plain theft! It's unreal, it's unbelievable! They deliberately put all their names on the boards of the corporations, whereas I was asking them to put the usual names on them, as everywhere else in the Society: those of "Superior General, Econome General," and so on. True, they put my name in, but my name is the only one in these corporations, in place of the others we asked them to put in, they put in all their own names, telling us all the time, "Oh, yes, Monseigneur, we'll change them, we're going to do what you want" ...but they never did. And now they thought they were strong enough to break away from us, so they are saying, "The properties are ours." Did you ever hear anything like it? It is really unbelievable. It is really sad to think that priests formed by ourselves could reach such a point. However, in our day and age, alas! trials are all too common. Obviously, we are living in an age of confusion within the Church and we have to get used to such trials. However, I hope that the situation will be straightened out and that maybe some of them will come back to join us once more, that some of them will do some thinking, and that God will give them light.
In any case, I thank all of you here for remaining faithful to us, and we will remain faithful to you. We will carry on with what you have always seen in the Society. I gave Confirmation today just as I have given it in Oyster Bay Cove, in Armada, and elsewhere, in all the centers. I have changed nothing. So, I trust you will remain faithful and that we will be able to continue working together for the greater good of the Church, because there is nothing more disastrous, even in the face of Rome, than these divisions, because these divisions weaken us and weaken our fight for Tradition. So, let us pray that everything will be sorted out.
Personally, I am not seeking to harm these priests - may God be their judge! And I ask you not to get into polemics, but simply to follow us. You now have here a magnificent chapel. Come and attend Mass in this chapel with the priests of the Society, and, in the various centers, bring about a regrouping of the faithful staying with the Society, so that they keep their bond with Rome and with the Church. It is very important that there should always be the bond with Rome if we wish to remain Catholic; even if we do not agree with everything being done in Rome, I think the bond is absolutely indispensable.
That is what I wished to say to you. I thank you warmly for your attention and for your support. I congratulate you on all the work you have done here - it is a minor miracle. For I had been saying to Fr. Kelly for the last ten years, we must have a chapel in New York, and now, in the space of a few months, the chapel exists and we have at last got a chapel in the New York area. So, I thank the Good Lord, I thank you all, and I trust that this chapel will be the means of a return to genuine Tradition.
[Emphasis - The Catacombs]