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Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre September 18, 1976
A Talk To The Seminarians At Econe
A Talk To The Seminarians At Econe
My dear Friends,
I hope not to distract you too much from your retreat in this first instruction by telling you of things that I think are useful for you to know about what has been happening these last two and a half months since the ordination on June 29th.
You have learned that other letters came from Rome after this ordination, demanding that I make honorable amends and apologize for having done the ordination. In my letter of reply to the letter sent from the Congregation for Bishops, I wrote to the Holy Father, telling him that I did not think I could collaborate in the work which is currently being accomplished in the Church, a work of demolition, and I besought him, in the name of the Catholics who share our sentiments, to restore to us the common law of the Church, and by this common law of the Church, the social reign of our Lord; to restore to us the Bible of all time, particularly in the Vulgate translation, which has always been in honor in the Church; to restore to us the rite of worship that the Latin Church has had “for centuries, and which has a dogmatic and hierarchical character that we need and which runs the risk of being compromised by the new liturgy; and, finally, to restore to us the catechism of all time in conformity with that of the Council of Trent. These are the four points we emphasized in our letter to the Holy Father, so that he might understand our attitude, and that by going in that direction we could rebuild the Church. That is what we are doing at Econe.
Let us hope that he will understand. Evidently, our letter- once again-has been badly received; apparently, I gave the impression of almost giving him orders. So the answer was the suspension “a divinis” which was signed by the Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, and not by the Cardinal Prefect or the Holy Father.
Afterward, personally, I thought the affair was filed and disposed of, and things would stand like that for months and months. And, goodness knows, I said what I had to say to the Holy Father; I did not think I could say anything else. That seemed to me as if it were going to be my last letter; I did not imagine that I could still have had other things to say. What do you expect me to say to him? Keep the doctrine of the faith, and by that very act keep the worship and keep the books that contain this teaching. I don’t know what else I can say, faced as we are with the destruction of doctrine and of faith in the Church. Then a little later, I received yet another letter from the Holy Father asking me to change my attitude, and to not maintain this opposition to the Council, a Council which was accepted by all the bishops and by himself. To this letter I did not reply.
Then in the meantime, the press, the radio, and the television made a media event of the celebrated Mass at Lille. The newspapers, the television, and the radio telephoned us all day long. Heaven knows, I don’t know how the good Mother Agnes [who answered the telephone at Econe] is not dead yet from the hundreds upon hundreds of phone calls she was receiving every day: “So, is Msgr. Lefebvre going to Lille? What is he going to do there? Is he going to speak? Do you know yet what he will say? Is he this, is he that...?” And then: “May we see him?” So it was these journalists who staged the whole affair. From Lille, they wrote me every week saying that they had changed the hall, because there were so many inquiries. The first hall could hold one hundred fifty people; the second, three hundred; the third, a thousand, and then to top it all they rented the largest place available, one that could accommodate ten thousand. Personally, at one point, I conveyed the reply: “Well, I shall not go to Lille. It’s quite simple. It’s the journalists who have fomented this business of a challenge: ‘Msgr. Lefebvre Defies the Vatican!’ I will not go.”
Then the journalists did not know what to do. Is Msgr. Lefebvre going to Lille or not? Then I said: “The event, perhaps, will take place.” Meanwhile, I wrote to Lille, saying: “Set your minds at ease; stay ready.” M. Saclier de la Batie, President of the St. Pius V Association of France, came to see me to ask what should be done, whether it was necessary to turn people away. I said: “No, no, don’t turn anyone away. Telephone everywhere to tell people not to come. I do not hold with turning this Mass into a mass demonstration. On the contrary. I have been invited by the Lille group as I have been invited elsewhere. If there are three hundred people, then there are three hundred. But not more; that’s enough.”
Afterward, I started a rumor that I might be replaced by a young priest who would take my place. Then the radio and the television were getting on our nerves with their trying to find out What was going to happen and what I was planning to do. They had already launched the story, completely made up, that I was gong to Brittany, to Dinan, when I had never intended to go there. I did not even know that there was going to be a meeting there; I only learned of it later on. It was invented out of whole cloth. I think that the press, as usual, looks for the sensational and the extraordinary, so it wanted to fabricate the story of defiance. On the other hand, I believe that behind all that there were probably some people trying to provoke the Holy See into an excommunication, since in principle I was not supposed to be saying the Mass after my suspension, and thus that I ought not to have said this Mass: they pretended that this was perhaps the first Mass that I was going to celebrate after my suspension. All of this, clearly, only served to aggravate relations and difficulties.
But seeing that, in any case, I was not succeeding in keeping people from coming, because from Lille and everywhere, from Belgium, Germany, Holland, England, people were writing: “We’re coming, we’re coming,” so a week beforehand I had a call made to M. Saclier de la Batie and other friends: “If you want to come, come, because I see that I shall not succeed in preventing people from coming, and so, at all events, I’m coming, and that’s that. And then, since I had already decided to go to this Mass, I shall go anyway.” All of this may have diminished slightly the number of people in attendance, but not by very much.
The ceremony at Lille was obviously very enthusiastic and very beautiful. The sung chants were truly very beautiful. But because I denounced the marriage that took place during the Council between the Church and the Revolution-and I said that, clearly, the offspring of this marriage were illegitimate priests, an illegitimate Mass, and an illegitimate liturgy-and then I spoke about ecumenism and then Communism, and of the warmer relations with the Communists and the repudiation of the social reign of our Lord Jesus Christ-all that clearly provoked stupefaction in the press corps. And they characterized my speech as “political”: I was engaging in “politics.”
Clearly, it is now no longer possible to speak of anti-communism; one can no longer speak of the social reign of our Lord without immediately being accused of “engaging in politics.” And, especially, I had the misfortune to take Argentina as an example. That was the last straw! I simply wanted to give an example of a country that is adopting Christian principles, the principles of the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, and show that once those principles are put into practice, order is restored immediately: with peace and a little justice, people resume their work and live in security. Whereas two months before there were kidnappings, blood flowing in the streets, assassinations, looting, and disorder: anarchy gripped the entire country, and the economy was at its lowest ebb. Then finally, you had a typical example of the benefits conferred by Christian principles and the social reign of our Lord Jesus Christ. What did I say amiss in that? I could also have taken the example of Chile; the reaction would have been even worse; I would have been hounded immediately.
For because of this speech, which was talked about everywhere for days later, I was literally pursued by a mob of journalists and TV crews. When I went to Brussels, I did not have a moment to myself. You’d try to get them to leave by the door, and they would come back through the window-it was impossible! The people relentlessly assailed by the ringing of the phone finally ended by saying: “Fine, I’ll ask Msgr. Lefebvre”; they would relent a little, and before you knew it, they were on the doorstep. And so, of course, they would be received.
A little physically worn out by all this combat, I preferred not to go to Holland and the places I had planned to visit. Moreover, the chapel I had planned to go to was directed by a person who claimed to be having Visions, and that she possessed pictures with our Lord’s blood, and so on. So I said to myself, Providence is good, I am tired, I am not going there. So we headed to Besancon.There it was the same thing: the press and the camera crews followed me everywhere, expecting, hoping for a speech like the one at Lille. But I was on my guard not to give them the satisfaction. Quite the contrary, that was not at all my intention since there I was supposed to speak of the priesthood, and that was quite normal. I had no occasion to make a speech that would have given them the opportunity to claim that it was “political.” So the journalists reported that “the tone has subsided.”
It so happened that I was at Besancon preparing for Mass when I was told: “There is a priest come from Rome who would like to see you after Mass. It is very urgent and very important.” I said: “I’ll see him after Mass.” So after Mass we retired to a corner of the room where we happened to be, and this priest, Don Domenico La Bellarte, I think-I did not know him, having never in my life set eyes on him-said to me: “The Archbishop of Chieti, my superior, saw the Holy Father recently, and the Holy Father expressed a desire to see you.” I said to him: “Look, I’ve been wanting to see the Holy Father for five years. They always impose conditions, and they will impose the same conditions again. I do not see why I should go to Rome now.” He insisted, saying: “There has been a change. Something has changed at Rome in the situation with regard to you.” “Very well. If you can assure me that the Archbishop of Chieti will accompany me to the Holy Father, I have never refused to see the Holy Father and I am willing to go.”
I then promised him that I would go to Rome as soon as possible. I had the ceremony at Fanjeaux, so I went to Fanjeaux and afterwards went direct by car to Rome. I tried to get in touch with that priest, and I met him in Rome, where he said to me: “You had better, all the same, write a bit of a letter to the Holy Father that I can give to Msgr. Macchi, his secretary, and then you will be able to see the Holy Father.” I said: “But What sort of letter? There is no question of my asking pardon or saying that I accept beforehand whatever will be imposed on me. I will not accept that.” Then he said to me: “Write anything. Put something on paper and I’ll take it at once to Castelgandolfo.” I wrote expressing my deep respect for the person of the Holy Father and saying that if there were, in the expressions I had used in speeches and writings, anything displeasing to the Holy Father, I regretted them; that I was always ready to be received, and hope to be received, by the Holy Father. I signed the letter, and that was that.
(Regarding the precise text of the letter, the following note was printed in Itineraires, November 1976, p.188: “Msgr. Lefebvre’s Request to Pope Paul VI for an Audience.” The text of this letter has not been published. We asked Archbishop Lefebvre about the matter, and this is his answer: “That request for an audience was composed very quickly; I have no copy of it, but, as far as I remember, this is an exact reproduction of its substance:
‘Most Holy Father, Will Your Holiness be pleased to accept the assurance of my respectful veneration? If in my words or my writings certain expressions have displeased Your Holiness, I am exceedingly sorry. I am still hoping that Your Holiness will kindly grant me an audience, and I assure you of my respectful and filial feelings. Marcel Lefebvre Rome, September 10, 1976.”)
The priest did not even read the little note I had written but put it in an envelope. I addressed the envelope to the Holy Father and we set off for Castelgandolfo. He went in to the palace. We remained a while outside. He went to see Msgr. Macchi, who said to him: “I cannot give you an answer at once. I will let you know about seven this evening.” That was last Thursday evening. And in fact at seven I got a telephone call in my house at Albano. I was told: “You will have an audience with the Holy Father tomorrow at ten-thirty.”
So, the next day, Saturday, at quarter past ten, I went to Castelgandolfo, and there I really believe the holy angels had driven out the Vatican employees because I had come back there: there were two Swiss Guards at the entrance, and after that I encountered only Msgr. X (not Msgr. Y: their names are very alike). Msgr. X, the Canadian, conducted me to the lift. Only the lift man was there, that is all, and I went up. The three of us went up to the first floor, and there, accompanied by Msgr. X, I went through all the rooms: there are at least seven or eight before you come to the Holy Father’s office. Not a living soul! Usually-I have often been to private audience in the days of Pope Pius XI, Pope Plus XII, Pope John XXIII, and even Pope Paul VI-there is always at least one Swiss Guard, always a gendarme, always several people: a private Chamberlain, a monsignor who is present if only to keep an eye on things and prevent incidents. But the rooms were empty-nothing, absolutely nothing. So I went to the Holy Father’s office, where I found the Holy Father with Archbishop Benelli at his side. I greeted the Holy Father and I greeted Archbishop Benelli. We seated ourselves at once, and the audience began.
The Holy Father was lively enough at the beginning-one could almost call it somewhat violent in a way: one could feel that he was deeply wounded and rather provoked by what we are doing. He said to me: “You condemn me, you condemn me. I am a Modernist. I am a Protestant. It cannot be allowed, you are doing an evil work, you ought not to continue, you are causing scandal in the Church, etc.,” with nervous irritability. I kept quiet, you may be sure. After that he said to me: “Well, speak now, speak. What have you to say?” I said to him: “Holy Father, I come here, but not as the head of the traditionalists. You have said I am head of the traditionalists. I deny flatly that I am head of the traditionalists. I am only a Catholic, a priest, a bishop, among millions of Catholics, thousands of priests and other bishops who are torn and pulled apart in conscience, in mind, in heart. On the one hand we desire to submit to you entirely, to follow you in everything, to have no reserves about your person, and on the other hand we are aware that the lines taken by the Holy See since the Council, and the whole new orientation, turn us away from your predecessors. What then are we to do? We find ourselves obliged either to attach ourselves to your predecessors or to attach ourselves to your person and separate ourselves from your predecessors. For Catholics to be torn like that is unheard of, unbelievable. And it is not I who have provoked that, it is not a movement made by me; it is a feeling that comes from the hearts of the faithful, millions of the faithful Whom I do not know.
“I have no idea how many there are. They are all over the world, everywhere. Everybody is uneasy about this upset that has happened in the Church in the last ten years, about the ruins accumulating in the Church. Here are examples: there is a basic attitude in people, an interior attitude which makes them now unchangeable. They will not change because they have chosen: they have made their choice for Tradition and for those who maintain Tradition.
There are examples like that of the religious Sisters I saw two days ago, good religious who wish to keep their religious life, who teach children as their parents want them to be taught many parents bring their children to them because they will receive a Catholic education from these religious. So, here are religious keeping their religious habit; and just because they wish to preserve the old prayer and to keep the old catechism they are excommunicated. The Superior General has been dismissed. The bishop has been five times, requiring them to abandon their religious habit because they have been reduced to the lay state. People who see that do not understand. And, side by side with that, nuns who discard their habit, return to all the worldly vanities, no longer have a religious rule, no longer pray-they are officially approved by bishops, and no one says a word against them! The man in the street, the poor Christian, seeing these things cannot accept them. That is impossible.
“Then it is the same for priests. Good priests who say their Mass well, who pray, who are to be found in the confessional, who preach true doctrine, who Visit the sick, who wear their soutane, who are true priests loved by their people because they keep the old Mass, the Mass of their ordination, who keep the old catechism, are thrown on the street as worthless creatures, all but excommunicated. And then priests go into factories, never dress as priests so that there is no knowing what they are, preach revolution-and they are officially accepted, and nobody says anything to them. As for me, I am in the same case. I try to make priests, good priests as they were made formerly; there are many vocations, the young men are admired by the people who see them in trains, on the underground; they are greeted, admired, congratulated on their dress and bearing; and I am suspended a divinis! And the bishops who have no more seminarians, no young priests, nothing, and whose seminaries no longer make good priests-nothing is said to them! You understand, the poor average Christian sees it clearly. He has chosen and he will not budge. He has reached his limit. It is impossible.”
“That is not true. You do not train good priests,” he said to me, “because you make them take an oath against the Pope.” “What!” I answered. “An oath against the Pope? I who, on the contrary, try to give them respect for the Pope, respect for the successor of Peter! On the contrary, we pray for the Holy Father, and you will never be able to show me this oath which they take against the Pope. Can you give me a copy of it?” And now, officially, the Vatican spokesmen have published in today’s paper, where you can read it, the Vatican denial, saying that it is not true, that the Holy Father did not say to me that I made my
seminarians and young priests take an oath against the Pope. But how could I have invented that? How invent anything of the kind? It is unthinkable. But now they deny it: the Holy Father did not say it. It is incredible. And obviously I have no tape recording. I did not write out the whole conversation, so I cannot prove the contrary materially. But my very reaction! I cannot forget how I reacted to that assertion by the Holy Father. I can still see myself gesturing and saying: “But how, Holy Father, can you possibly say such a thing! Can you show me a copy of the oath?” And now they are saying it is not true. It is extraordinary!
Then the Holy Father said to me further: “It is true, is it not, that you condemn me?” I had the strong impression that it all came back rather to his person, that he was personally hurt. “You condemn me, so what ought I to do? Must I hand in my resignation and let you take my place?”
“Oh!” I put my head in my hands. “Holy Father, do not say such things. No, no, no, no!” I then said: “Holy Father, let me continue. You have the solution of the problem in your hands. You need say only one word to the bishops: receive fraternally, with understanding and charity, all those groups of traditionalists, all those who wish to keep the prayer of former days, the sacraments as before, the catechism as before. Receive them, give them places of worship, settle with them so that they can pray and remain in relation with you, in intimate relation with their bishops. You need say only one word to the bishops and everything will return to order, and at that moment we shall have no more problems. Things will return to order. As for the seminary, I myself shall have no difficulty in going to the bishops and asking them to implant my priests in their dioceses: things will be done normally. I myself am very willing to renew relations with a commission you could name from the Congregation of Religious to come to the seminary. But clearly we shall keep and wish to continue the practice of Tradition. We should be allowed to maintain that practice. But I want to return to normal and official relations with the Holy See and with the Congregations. Beyond that I want nothing.” He then said to me: “I must reflect, I must pray, I must consult the Consistory, I must consult the Curia. I cannot give you an answer. We shall see.” After that he said to me: “We will pray together.” I said: “Most willingly, Holy Father.”
We then said the Pater Noster, Veni Creator, and an Ave Maria, and he then led me back very pleasantly, but with difficulty-his walk was painful, and he dragged his legs a little. In the room to the side he waited until Don Domenico came for me; and he had a small medal given to Don Domenico. We then left. Archbishop Benelli did not open his mouth; he did nothing but write all the time, like a secretary. He did not bother me at all. It was as though Archbishop Benelli were not present. I think it did not trouble the Holy Father, just as it did not trouble me, because he did not open his mouth and gave no sign.
I then said twice again that he had the solution of the problem in his hands. He then showed his satisfaction at having had this interview, this dialogue. I said I was always at his disposal. We then left.
Since then, they are now relating what they like in the newspapers, the most fantastic inventions-that I accepted everything, that I made a complete submission; then they said it was all to the contrary-that I had accepted nothing and conceded nothing. Now they are telling me, in effect, that I lied, that I am inventing things in the conversation I had with the Holy Father. My impression is that they are so furious that this audience took place unforeseen, without going through the usual channels, that they are trying in every way to discredit it, and to discredit me as well. Clearly they are afraid that this audience puts me back in favor with many people, who are saying: Now, if His Excellency has seen the Holy Father, there are no more problems; he is back again with the Holy Father. In fact, we have never been against the Holy Father and have always wanted to be with the Holy Father. Moreover, I have just written to him again because Cardinal Thiandoum was so insistent on that (the Cardinal had been spending some days with Archbishop Lefebvre), so that he could have a short note from me to take to the Holy Father. I said to him: “Good. I am ready to write a short letter to the Holy Father (though I am beginning to think that this correspondence is endless), I want to thank the Holy Father for granting me this audience.” I did that, and thanked the Holy Father. The Holy Father had said in the course of the conversation: “Well, at least we have a point in common: we both want to stop all these abuses that exist at present in the Church, so as to give back to the Church her true countenance, etc.” I answered: “Yes, absolutely.”
So I put in my letter that I was ready to collaborate with him, he having said in the course of the audience that at least we had a point in common, to give the Church back her true countenance and to suppress all the abuses in the Church. In that, I was quite ready to collaborate, and indeed under his authority. I said nothing, I think, which would promise too much, since giving back her true countenance to the Church is what we are doing.
That will change nothing, mind you. What is important after all, I think, is the world opinion that was manifested after all these events, and which has made it impossible for the Holy See to remain impervious to the stir. It came to their notice that quite a few people were really upset by the changes, many more people than they had probably thought. It revealed what many were thinking to themselves but dared not say aloud. Now they dare to say it even more because they know that they are no longer alone.
Moreover, certainly, I think that intervention by the French government was not negligible either. This intervention by the French government, obviously I am not involved in that at all. I did not go and see any official of the French government. If they write to me and come to see me, it is not I who seek them out; but, in any case, I have the impression that the French government is a little uneasy about next year’s March elections. That is obvious; that is the only thing guiding them now. It is a little like the Holy See and public opinion; for them it is the elections. Since President Giscard d’Estaing was elected by very slight majority, should the traditional Catholics, discontented because no one looks out for them in France, decide not to vote for him, he is out. It is a very simple calculation. That is why I believe that they must have intervened with the Holy See. I was told (it was Don Domenico who told me this), I believe, that the Holy Father would have received a phone call before my audience coming from the French government or ambassador, to urge the Holy Father to receive me with understanding and kindness. It is possible. But what is equally possible is that the French government may eventually put pressure on the Holy See, telling them: “If you do not manage to find a solution to this problem, then we shall do so.” How could they find one?-simply by helping the traditionalist Catholics. They have an enormous number of empty churches, churches which belong to the government, churches no one attends any more. It is not difficult for the French government to send a letter to the mayors of the communes saying that wherever churches are available and where almost nobody comes, and where there are groups of traditionalists, they are to put these churches at the disposition of the traditionalists. It is quite simple! And, you understand, that makes the Holy See reflect, because that would become almost an official recognition of the traditionalists in France. That would become very serious, all the more so that when the French government seized the churches at the time of the separation of Church and State it nonetheless promised the Holy See that these churches would only be used for Catholic worship.
They can very well say that “Catholic worship” is the worship that has always been done, and thus that the traditionalists have a right to the churches. And if their action were contested, they could very easily say to the progressivists: “Your manner of worship is no longer Catholic. You are going to leave the churches and we are going to give them to the Catholics. Catholicism is necessarily what has always been done. It is sure that the traditionalists are Catholics, since they practise the religion that was practised for centuries, whereas yours no longer appears to us to be Catholic at all. So you must pack up and leave.” Legally they can do it; they can eventually threaten the Holy See. This can certainly influence the Holy See in a decision in our favor. I think that the Holy See would have every advantage to go through the bishops rather than the government, instead of letting the government act.
Finally, it is necessary to look at all this from the standpoint of Providence, because it has happened in an improbable way. It was probably necessary that I be condemned. I certainly do not want to compare my poor sacrifice to our Lord’s sacrifice, but I think that we all try to unite ourselves to our Lord and His Passion. Oportebat Deum pati - it behooved God to suffer, it behooved Him to be crucified. I believe that is what has happened to me a little by the penalties that the Holy See has inflicted on me, which are after all painful, which are after all quite disagreeable. Oh well! It was necessary, I believe, that I be condemned so that the scandal that has been brewing in the Church would erupt: the official Church’s support of the entire destruction of the Church and of those who destroy it, and its condemnation of those who build it up, defend it, and conserve it. The scandal has been such that, by this condemnation, it provoked this wave of opinion which now has obliged the Holy See to receive me-this is what must have influenced the Holy See.
How could they receive me, since such a terrible barrier had been made. It might have been Padre Pio who intervened, since this Fr. Domenico, whom I did not know from Adam and whom I had never heard about, spent twenty years with Padre Pio. For him, it was Padre Pio that arranged it. I’m quite willing to think that it was Padre Pio; the whole affair has been a little miracle: I was able to meet with the Holy Father and tell him what is on the mind of a great part of the faithful people, those who are faithful to the Church, the true Catholics, the true faithful. I think that is, all the same, important. Now, since the good God is leading things this way, we must trust Him. I think that, more than ever, we must pray very much that the Holy Father manage to take this decision in spite of his collaborators, in spite of all those who surround him; that he manage to Sign a circular letter to all the bishops of the world so that they bring this intolerable situation to an end.
When I spoke to the Holy Father, I actually based my argument on “pluralism.” I said: “But, after all, with the present pluralism how would it be to let those who want to keep Tradition be on the same footing as the others also? It is the least that could be granted us.” I said: “I do not know, Holy Father, if you know that there are twenty-three official Eucharistic prayers in France.” He raised his arms to heaven and said: “Many more, Your Excellency, many more!”
So then I said to him: “But if there are many more, if, even so, you add another, I do not see how that can harm the Church. Is it a mortal sin to keep up Tradition and do what the Church has always done?” You see, the Pope seems well informed.
So now I think we must pray and hold firm. There may be some among you who were shocked at the suspension a divinis, and, I should say, by my rejection of the suspension a divinis. Of course. I understand. But that rejection is part, and I say it should be seen as part, of our refusal to accept the judgment that came to us from Rome. All that is the same thing. It is part of the same context; it is all linked together. Is that not so? So I do not see why I should accept this suspension since I did not accept the prohibition of ordaining, nor accept the closing of the seminary and the closing and destruction of the Fraternity. That would mean that I should have accepted from the moment of the first sentence, the first condemnation. I should have said, Yes, we are condemned, we close the seminary and end the Fraternity. Why did I not accept that? Because it was done illegally, because it is based on no proof and no judgment.
I do not know if you have had occasion to read what Cardinal Garrone himself said in an interview: “Our meeting with Msgr. Lefebvre in Rome with the three Cardinals was not a tribunal.” He said that openly. It is what I have always said myself. It was a conversation. I have never found myself before a tribunal. The Visitation was not a tribunal; it was an enquiry, not a judgment. So there was no tribunal, no judgment, nothing: I have been condemned like that without being able to defend myself, with no monition, nothing in writing, nothing. No! It is not possible. All the same, justice exists. So I rejected that condemnation, because it was illegal and because I was not able to make my appeal. The way that happened is absolutely inadmissible. We have been given no valid reasons for our condemnation. Once that sentence has been rejected, there is no valid reason for not rejecting the others, for the others always rest on that one. Why have I been forbidden to ordain? Because the Fraternity was “suppressed” and the seminary should have been closed. So I have no right to ordain. I reject that because it is based on a judgment that is false. Why am I suspended a divinis? Because I ordained when I had been forbidden to do so. But I do not accept that sentence about ordinations precisely because I do not accept the judgment that was pronounced. It is a chain. I do not accept the chain because I do not accept the first link on which the entire condemnation was built. I cannot accept it. Moreover, the Holy Father himself did not speak to me of the suspension, he did not speak to me of the seminary, of anything. On that subject, nothing, nothing at all.
That is the situation as it is at present. I think that for you, clearly-and I understand-it is a drama, as it is for me; and I think we desire from our heart that normal relations will be resumed with the Holy See. But who was it that broke off normal relations? They were broken at the Council. It was at the Council that normal relations with the Church were broken; it was at the Council that the Church, separating herself from Tradition, departing from Tradition, took up an abnormal attitude to Tradition. It is that which we cannot accept; we cannot accept a separation from Tradition. As I said to the Holy Father: “Insofar as you deviate from your predecessors, we can no longer follow you.” That is plain. It is not we who deviate from his predecessors.
When I said to him: “But look again at the texts on religious liberty, two texts which formally contradict one another word for word (important dogmatic texts, that of Gregory XVI and that of Plus IX, Quanta Cura, and then that on religious liberty, they contradict one another word for word); which are we to choose?”
He answered: “Oh, leave those things. Let us not start discussions.” Yes, but the whole problem is there. Insofar as the new Church separates itself from the old Church we cannot follow it. That is the position, and that is why we maintain Tradition, we keep firmly to Tradition; and I am sure we are being of immense service to the Church. I should say that the Econe seminary is basic to the battle we are waging. It is the Church’s battle, and it is with that idea that
we should position ourselves. Unhappily, I must say that this conversation with the Holy Father has left me with a painful impression. I had precisely the impression that what he was defending was himself personally. “You are against me!” “I am not against you, I am against what separates us from Tradition; I am against what draws us towards Protestantism, to wards modernism.”
I had the impression that he was considering the whole problem as personal. It is not the person, it is not Msgr. Monlini: we regard him as the successor of Peter, and as successor of Peter he should pass on to us the faith of his predecessors. Insofar as he does not pass on the faith of his predecessors he is no longer the successor of Peter. He becomes a person separated from his duty, denying his duty, not doing his duty. There is nothing I can do; I am not to blame. When Fesquet of Le Monde-he was there in the second row two or three days ago-said: “But in fact you are alone. Alone against all the bishops. What on earth can you do? What sense is there in combat of that sort?”
I answered: “What do you mean? I am not alone, I have the whole of Tradition with me. Besides, even here I am not alone. I know that many bishops privately think as we do. We have many priests with us, and there are the seminary and the seminarians and all those who come our way.”
And truth is not made by numbers; numbers do not make truth. Even if I am alone, and even if all my seminarians leave me, even if I am abandoned by the whole of public opinion, it is all the same to me. I am attached to my catechism, attached to my Credo, attached to the Tradition which sanctified all the saints in heaven. I am not concerned about others-they do as they wish; but I want to save my soul. Public opinion I know too well: It was public opinion that condemned our Lord after acclaiming Him a few days before. First Palm Sunday, then Good Friday. We know that. Public opinion is not to be trusted at all. Today it is for me, tomorrow it is against me. What matters is fidelity to our faith. We should have that conviction and stay calm.
When the Holy Father said to me: “But, after all, do you not feel within you something which reproaches you for what you are doing? You are making a huge scandal in the Church. Is there not something which reproaches you?” I replied: “No, Holy Father, not at all!” He answered: “Oh! Then you are irresponsible.”
“Perhaps,” I said. I could not say otherwise. If I had anything to reproach myself with I should stop at once.
Pray well during your retreat, because I think things are going to happen-they have been happening for a long time, but the further we go the more often we come to critical points. All the same, the fact that God has allowed me to meet the Holy Father, to tell him what we think, and to leave the whole responsibility for the situation, now, in his hands-that is something willed by God. It remains for us to pray, begging the Holy Ghost to enlighten him and to give him courage to act in a manner which could clearly be very hard for him. I see no other solution. God has all the solutions. I could die tomorrow.
We should pray also for the faithful who maintain Tradition that they may always preserve a strong, firm attitude, but not an attitude of contempt for persons, insult to persons, insult to bishops. We have the advantage of possessing the truth-we are not at fault-just as the Church has the superiority over error of having the truth: that superiority is hers. Because we have the conviction that we are upholding the truth, that the truth must make headway, that truth must convince, it is not our person. It is not outbursts of anger, or insults to people, which will give added weight to truth. On the contrary, that could cast doubt upon our possession of the truth. Becoming angry and insulting shows that we do not completely trust in the weight of truth, which is the weight of God Himself. It is in God that we trust, in Truth which is God, which is our Lord Jesus Christ. What can be surer than that? Nothing. And little by little that truth makes, and will make, its way. It must. So let us resolve that in our expressions and attitudes we shall not despise and insult people, but be firm against error-absolutely firm, without compromise, without relaxation, because we are with our Lord. It is a question of our Lord Jesus Christ. The honor of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory of the Blessed Trinity is at stake, not the infinite glory in heaven, but the glory here below on earth. It is truth; and we defend it at any cost, whatever happens.
I thank you all for praying for these intentions, as I believe you did during the vacation, and I thank all those who had the kindness to write me a few words during the vacation and show their sympathy and affection during these times, which are always something of a trial. God certainly helps us in this fight, that is absolutely certain; but, all the same, it is trying. It would be such happiness to work with all those who have responsibility in the Church and who ought to work with us for the kingdom of our Lord.
We remain united. Make a good retreat so that you will be able to undertake a profitable year of studies.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. A BISHOP SPEAKS. 2ND ed. KANSAS CITY: ANGELUS PRESS, 2007. pp. 277-293