this first installment, The Angelus begins a series of excerpts
"Vatican Encounter: Conversations with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre" by José Hanu,
with permission from the Publisher.
The present work is a book of conversations. The initiative was taken by Jose Hanu, who wanted to serve as the voice of many Catholics concerned about the crisis in the Church.
Since he asked my agreement, I did not think I should refuse. After all, do I not have to profit from any occasion to preach the truth?
Like any other literary form, that of conversations has its limitations and its drawbacks. The questions cannot help but influence the answers, since they have to set up the framework for them. Besides, the one who asks them is led to choose one particular fact over another, not because it is more important, not even because it is closer to the truth, but because it fits the general direction of the conversation better than another.
In this book, the overall direction was dictated by Jose Hanu. Had I wanted to talk about my life myself, I would probably not have cited the same facts, nor insisted upon the same points. But, within this limit, I am nevertheless assuming all the responsibility for my replies. I hope that in this way I might contribute to the establishment of the social kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is my only aim.
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Econe, December 8, 1976
José Hanu: Well, here we are, your Excellency, in the seminary of Econe which has been the subject of so much talk. Let me first have a good look around.
How lovely and peaceful it is with its modern but modest buildings and the great stone house which once was the property of the Canons of the Great St. Bernard! It seems to be exactly right for its purpose. Besides, it is surrounded by symbols. The snowcapped Alps so close by shout out their purity and strength and the vineyards all around, planted by the monks and cultivated in the same way and always yielding a fine crop, show how effective thousand-year-old rules are.
The highpower lines which extend above the vines in no way bother them, as if to demonstrate that there is no incompatibility between adherence to the past and the demands of modern life.
I take a look at your seminarians, Excellency. They are a fine group of handsome, well-adjusted young men. Their eyes show no trace of disappointment, no anxiety, no fanaticism. They seem so much at ease within themselves and they are wearing the cassock with a kind of natural nobility.
In short, these young men look happy.
I take a look at you, yourself, Excellency, and I am really astonished. You are a seventy-one-year-old bishop who all his life was loyal to the Pope and the Vatican - and whom the Pope and the Vatican have severely punished in the full glare of publicity. You should be prostrate or in revolt. You are, however, serene. Even better than that, you are the embodiment of calm certainty, so rare in these hectic times.
When I look at your seminary, which has been called "wild," and when I see your seminarians whom your opponents have called "visionaries," I tell myself that there must be a tragic error somewhere, that the hullabaloo about your case has prevented Catholics from understanding the essentials, especially the essence of what you, yourself, Excellency, are. This will be the topic of our conversation.
First of all, let me say that my heart is heavy when I think of all those "progressive" Catholics, our brethren, who have slandered you; of the bishops who have mistaken the wind of a politico-religious mood, which too often is destructive, for the breath of the Holy Spirit; and of the Pope himself to whom the wind of this mood undoubtedly has brought incomplete information, either false or distorted.
But the noise of the mass media, their multitude of words, their rash judgments have hidden the core of the questions raised by your actions. These questions are serious and troubling for every Catholic who is attached to the Church.
My heart is heavy when I think of the possible consequences, for a bishop is, after all, also a man with his faults and foibles.
The tug of war between you and the Vatican, after your surprising audience with the Pope, has left an impression of uneasiness.
Then too, your homily at Lille has upset and shaken me. Your detractors were able to start a whole folklore about you and it came off reeking as triumphalism. It allowed certain people to exclaim: "He has finally dropped the mask: this is an archbishop of the extreme right! "
The trouble is that the right - and that includes the racist right - is trying to claim you; you have only to read the newspapers to be enlightened on this count! Now, as much as I deplore and distrust the faithful and the priests who read the gospel according to Marx, I also fear and reproach those who justify their ideas by pointing to the Cross.
I assume that your language has not expressed your convictions accurately and your enemies, as well as those who are "claiming" you, have lost no time in altering your thought even more.
Have you been, at this critical hour, the victim of Satan's trap? Or was it the Holy Spirit himself who pushed you too far, in order to prove to everybody that a man of the Church -no matter what his origins, his opinions, or his rankshould purge from his vocabulary political considerations which could drive a wedge between him and his brethren? I must admit that this latter explanation would not displease me at all. But I want to state it once and for all: regrettable or not, your sermon at Lille raised a question of capital importance that of the role of religion in society.
It will be with these matters that our dialogue will concern itself. Some of my questions may well seem sacrilegious to you.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre: Sacrilege? No question is sacrilegious, unless it implies statements which hurt God!
But don't expect too many shades of meaning on my part. I come from the North, where Flemish blood pulses through the veins of most of the inhabitants and the Flemish, as you well know, are famous for their bluntness. It would be difficult to say as much about the Italians and herein perhaps lie the reasons for some of my difficulties with the Vatican.
I refuse to admit, however, that a cause such as that of Our Lord Jesus Christ can be subject to the ups and downs of human thought.
WHAT OFTEN IS MISSING IS COURAGE
We are beginning our dialogue on Christmas Eve, the feast which is the most hopeful feast of the entire year.
Therefore I wish with all my heart that the coming year will finally bring the solution to the crisis which has shaken the Church and which has caused us such painful problems. Our young priests will then be able to exercise their apostolate with the blessings and encouragement which are their due.
Those young priests are anything but rebels, as some people pretend, even at the risk of misusing the word.
How can one call "rebels" those who follow the rules which have been forged by centuries? And how can one call "faithful" those who find it right to reject those rules and even the laws, or who tolerate - through weakness, if not by demagoguery - such shameful dismantling?
Or how can one designate as "faithful" those who refer respectfully to the Council but come to doubt the divinity of Christ, arguing the point even before the cameras of national television? And "rebels" those who, grounded in their faith, think that the Council Fathers, in their eagerness for an "opening to the world," have edited the texts which, with their imprecision, have opened the door to all sorts of fantasies, to put it kindly?
This was certainly not the intention of the bishops who were assembled at the Council, but the facts speak for themselves. I could quote them by the thousands and I am going to quote you a few right away, if you want me to.
In any case, believe me that I can well understand that Catholics of good faith could let themselves be carried away by baneful ideas and that they fight me they who constantly use the word love. - Indeed, if one measures the formidable pressures of the modern world, the hostility aimed at me seems natural and even logical.
Unfortunately, what has been lacking, what is always lacking, is firmness, courage, self-denial by those whose mission it is to be firm as rocks, whatever the price.
Consider the dismay of seminarians, for example, whose director of conscience, after having urged over many long years the supreme sacrifice of celibacy, reneges on his vows and marries a divorcee in the nearby chapel. After letting such an "accident" pass without an indignant outcry, can any bishop dare reproach a Catholic couple for breaking the marriage vow?
Still, I can understand the priests who - immerse themselves in the world, and the couple whose home life shifts grounds. What I really fail to comprehend is the pretense of judging us, a right which those responsible for such delinquency claim for themselves. Maybe in their heart of hearts they are ashamed of this false example of fidelity? Is it that they hope their conscience will be quieted when such an example is "justified"?
I AM NOT THE HEAD OF THE TRADITIONALISTS
I shall make mine the famous motto: "I shall endure." And I say aloud what Catholics who may have been brain washed, but whose heart is in the right place, feel in the depth of their souls.
So - don't be mistaken: I am not, I never want to be, I never shall be "the head of the traditionalists," as they want people to believe. As if I would enlist troops to attack the Vatican! This is ridiculous!
I have never "corralled" anybody. It happened simply that the day when I regretted that true vocations might not be able to find true seminaries, vocations presented themselves and many of the faithful and various priests gave us help.
Other faithful and other priests, sometimes huddled together in small places, have asked me to come and comfort them in their despair. Should I refuse to support them in their Catholic faith?
In addition, the suspension clamped on me has provided a publicity which I certainly have not desired.
It has alerted unhappy Catholics all over the world who before did not even know of my existence. They, in turn, are calling me. Whenever I can, I accept their invitation. But I do not direct them at all, I don't regroup them, and even less do I arm them against the Vatican: I simply recommend that they keep the faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and in the Virgin Mary, who - as I hope with all my heart - will make it possible for me to continue my mission within the bosom of the Church.
Therefore, I am not the head of a rebellion. I am only trying to be the shepherd who tries to tend a disoriented flock in the spirit of the first pastor and those who followed him.
This shepherd is now ready to answer your questions.
When I read articles in the press both of the left and of the right, or when I listen to the commentators on the radio, I often ask myself if I am dreaming, or if they talk in Chinese - for it is Greek to me. Well, as Beaumarchais said: "Slander, slander! Something can always be found to slander! " That is why slander is one of the best weapons in Satan's arsenal. About his existence I have no doubt - as you may have guessed, I take it?
Nor has there ever been any doubt about Satan's existence by His Holiness, Paul VI, who on February 29, 1972, declared:
"We have the impression that through some cracks in the wall the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God: It is doubt, uncertainty, questioning, dissatisfaction, confrontation."