The Consecrations One Year After
It was a year ago on June 30th that Archbishop Lefebvre, together with Bishop de Castro Mayer, consecrated four bishops in a ceremony which all who were present will remember with admiration and emotion. On its 1st anniversary His Grace agreed to answer some questions put by "Fideliter," and expressed his profound satisfaction with the way things have gone since this event, which he himself describes as "miraculous."
Fideliter: Your Grace, when you reached your decision to consecrate bishops you had already been speaking of the likelihood for some time. Together with Bishop de Castro Mayer you had even written to the Pope to inform him of your intention. You had also made a statement to the Italian magazine, "Trenta Giorni" in which you said specifically, "If duty demands it, I will consecrate bishops," and you confirmed this during the 1987 ordination ceremonies at Ecône. This was the first time you had spoken of the matter in public, and it seemed to start off a chain of events. At the end of July you received a letter from Cardinal Ratzinger which led you, during the celebration of your 40 years as a bishop, to say, "It seems to me that something has changed in Rome, because the proposals they have now made to me appear to indicate a new way of looking at things." After that there were the various contacts which led to the discussions in May, 1988, and these in their turn produced the protocol which might have made an agreement possible, you were not enthusiastic about signing that protocol, however, and the very next day you came to the conclusion that Cardinal Ratzinger's continued procrastination regarding the choice of a bishop showed that the whole thing was a hoax. You therefore made a definitive decision to consecrate four bishops, and announced it publicly at the press conference you gave on June 15th.
It might be helpful if you would recall for us your precise object in making this momentous decision, which you already knew would provoke a fierce reaction from the Vatican. You were prepared to risk being excommunicated and branded a schismatic for the sake of ensuring the continuity of the priesthood and the other sacraments...
Lefebvre: Yes, obviously preparations had been made. It didn't all happen overnight. For some years already I had been trying to make them understand in Rome that I was getting older and I had to ensure there would be someone to take my place sooner or later. You can't have seminaries and seminarians with no bishop, and the faithful also need a bishop to hand on the Faith and to administer the sacraments, especially Confirmation. Rome was well aware of all that. I had spoken about it a number of times, and in the end I did so publicly. They can't say in Rome that I took them by surprise, that they knew nothing about it, or that I performed the consecrations surreptitiously. It isn't true. They had ample warning several years beforehand from my letters, from the cassette recordings which they had of my sermons, and from the letter which Bishop de Castro Mayer and I wrote to the Holy Father. In fact, I think that was what brought about a certain change in their attitude towards us. They feared these episcopal consecrations, but they couldn't believe I would actually perform them. That was why Cardinal Ratzinger got rather agitated when I spoke of the matter publicly on June 29th, 1987. Rome started to be afraid that I really would consecrate bishops, and that was when they decided to make greater concessions on what we had been asking for all along; that is to say the right to celebrate the Mass, the sacraments and the various pontifical functions according to the 1962 rite of John XXIII. At that point it didn't look as though they were going to make any demands about accepting the Council. That subject wasn't mentioned, and there was even talk of us having a bishop who would be my successor.
This was, after all, quite a profoundâ€”quite a radical change. So of course the question arose of what we were to do about it. I myself went to Rickenbach to see the Superior General and his assistants and to ask their opinion. Were we to take the hand that was being offered to us; or to refuse it?
"Personally," I told them, "I'm not at all hopeful. I've moved in those circles for years and years, and I know how they work. I no longer have any faith in them. But I wouldn't want people in the Society and in traditional circles generally to say later, "You could at least have tried; it wouldn't have cost you anything to talk to them, to dialogue." They agreed. "We should consider their offer, and not just let it pass," they said. "It's worth at least talking to them."
I immediately agreed to see Cardinal Ratzinger, and when we met I insisted very strongly on a visitation in the hope that it would demonstrate the advantages of upholding Tradition as well as proving its results. I thought this might strengthen our position in Rome, and that the requests I was going to make, to have several bishops and a Roman commission for the defense of tradition, might thus have a better chance of success. However, we soon discovered we were not dealing with honest men. As soon as Cardinal Gagnon and Mgr. Perl got back to Rome we were treated with contempt. Cardinal Gagnon made the most extraordinary statements to the press. He claimed that 80% of our supporters were going to leave us if I consecrated any bishops, and whereas we wanted recognition from Rome, Rome wanted us to be reconciled and to admit our errors. The visitors said that, after all, they had only seen the outward appearancesâ€”only God could see what was withinâ€”and therefore the visit did not really prove anything. In short, they were contradicting all that they had said and done during their time with us. It all seemed unbelievable. Once they were back in the Vatican and once more under Rome's bad influence they also returned to the Roman way of thinking, and when they looked back at us they again held us in contempt.
I went to Rome for the planned discussions none-the-less, but I was not optimistic. At the beginning of January I was already writing to Fr. Aulagnier: "I am certain that on June 30th I shall be consecrating bishops. This will be the year when it happens, because I really do not hold out any hope." In the event, I went along with Rome as far as I possibly could in order to show our good faith.
The next thing they did was to confront us with the question of the Council once again. We were not prepared to discuss it, but a formula was produced which was acceptable at a pinch. Then they allowed us the Mass and the sacraments and the liturgical books, but when it came to the Roman commission and the consecration of bishops they refused our requests. We were only to be allowed two members out of seven on the commission, neither of whom would be the president or the vice-president, and they would only let me have one bishop, whereas I had asked for three. This was already virtually unacceptable. Then, even before signing, when we asked how soon we should have this bishop they back-pedalled at top speed. They didn't know. November? They didn't know. Christmas? They didn't know. We could not get them to give us a date.
That was the position when I signed the protocol which was supposed to open the way to an agreement. Afterwards I thought it over, and in view of my mistrust and their reticence I felt impelled to demand that they nominate a bishop for consecration on June 30th from among the three candidates whose dossiers I had submitted on May 5th. Either that, or I would go ahead and consecrate bishops of my own choice. It was to this ultimatum that Cardinal Ratzinger replied, "If that's the way it is, then the protocol is cancelled. It's all overâ€”there is no more protocol. You are breaking off relations." It was he who said it; not I.
On May 20th I wrote to the Holy Father saying that I had signed the protocol, but that I insisted absolutely on having bishops, and having them by June 30th. In reality, however, there was never any way we could have reached a settlement. Even when I had Cardinal Ratzinger's back to the wall and he was saying we could have a bishop for August 15th, he still asked for more dossiers, so that the Holy See could choose a candidate with the kind of "profile" the Vatican wanted. Imagine where that could have led us.
Realising that an agreement was impossible, I wrote another letter to the Pope on June 2nd saying that there was no point in continuing the discussions or holding any further meetings. We did not have the same aim in view. They wanted to bring us round to their position and reconcile us, but we wanted them to recognise us just as we were. We wanted to continue with Tradition, as we had been doing all along.
That was the end of that. Afterwards I decided to call that press conference on June 15th, because I didn't want to do anything in secret. Tradition cannot survive without Traditional bishops. They are absolutely indispensable. That is why the Society of St. Peter and the monks at le Barroux are deluding themselvesâ€”because they have no Traditional bishops.
Fideliter: Rumour has it that the Society of St. Peter might be given a bishop.
Lefebvre: What bishop? One with the kind of "profile" the Vatican wants? In that case they will get a bishop who will bring them slowly but surely into line with the Council: that's obvious. They will never get a thoroughly Traditional bishop, who is opposed to the errors of the Council and to the post-conciliar reforms. They can't have signed the same protocol as we did because they have no bishop. The protocol I signed with Cardinal Ratzinger did at least stipulate that we could have a bishop. Thus, in a certain sense we did have Rome's approval to appoint a bishop. They tell us we have disobeyed the Holy Father. In part we have disobeyed, but not fundamentally. Cardinal Ratzinger gave written authorization for us to have a bishop who was a member of the Society. True, I consecrated four, but the actual principle of our having bishops, whether one or several, was conceded by the Holy Father.
As far as anyone knows at present, those who have left us have not been given a bishop and are not represented on the Roman commission. Therefore, they are bound hand and foot in the power of the progressives. In such conditions it is impossible to uphold Tradition. They think they're being given everything they want, but they're deluding themselves completely.
I believe it was my duty to provide these Traditional bishops, and essential for the faithful and the seminarians to have them. I say again, I do not believe a community can remain loyal to the Faith and to Tradition without bishops who have the same allegiance. It is impossible. After all, the Church means primarily the bishops. It's all very well having priests, but priests are influenced by the bishops. It is they who train and ordain priests, so they are responsible for their orientation. They influence them in the seminary, by sermons, through retreats, in a whole multitude of ways. It is impossible to maintain Tradition with progressive bishops.
Since there was no other way for us, I am very glad that we are now guaranteed bishops who will maintain Catholic Tradition, who will uphold the Faith. Because it is the Faith and nothing less that is at stake here. We are not dealing with trifles.
Fideliter: Some people say, "Yes, but His Grace should have accepted a settlement with Rome, because once the Society was recognised and the suspensions were lifted he would have been able to act more effectively within the Church, whereas now he has put himself outside it."
Lefebvre: These things are easy to say. What is meant by "acting within the Church?" In the first place, what Church are we talking about? If it's the Conciliar Church, then it means those of us who have fought against it for the past twenty years because we want to remain Catholic, now joining it, supposedly in order to catholicize it. This is a total illusion. Superiors are not molded by their subjects, but subjects by their superiors. In the present Roman Curia, and among all the progressive bishops in the world, I should have disappeared from sight and my voice would have been drowned. I shouldn't have been able to accomplish anything, nor to protect the faithful and seminarians. Rome would have said to us, "Right, you can have Bishop So-and-So to perform your ordinations, and your seminarians will have to accept professors from Such-and-Such a diocese." Impossible! The Society of St. Peter has professors from the diocese of Augsburg. What sort of professors are they? What do they teach?
Fideliter: Are you not afraid that in the long run, after you have gone to your reward, the split will slowly widen to give the impression of an "alternative Church" running parallel to what some call the "visible Church"?
Lefebvre: Dom Gerard's and Monsieur Madiran's talk of the "visible Church" is childish. It is incredible that anyone can speak of the Conciliar Church as the "visible Church" in opposition to the Catholic Church, which we are trying to embody and continue. I do not say that we are the Catholic Church. I have never said that. Nobody can accuse me of ever having imagined I was a pope. We are, however, faithful representatives of the Catholic Church as she used to be, because we are still doing what she has always done. It is we who have the marks of the visible Churchâ€”unity, catholicity, apostolicity, and holiness. They are what distinguishes the visible Church.
Monsieur Madiran would add, "and infallibility." But with regard to infallibility one needs to remember what Fr. Dulac expressed so perceptively when speaking of Paul VI: "When, in the history of the Church, there were several popes at once, one could choose one's pope, but now we have two popes in one." We do not have a choice. It is a fact that nowadays we have 'double-headed' popes. To the extent that he represents the tradition of the papacy, the tradition of infallibility, we are at one with the pope. We remain attached to him as continuing the succession of Peter, and on account of the promise of infallibility made to him. It is we who still uphold his infallibility. He, on the other hand, even if from certain aspects, ontologically speaking he can be said to embody infallibility, is formally opposed to it because he just doesn't want to know about it anymore. He doesn't believe in it, and none of his official pronouncements or documents bears the marks of infallibility. That's why they insisted that Vatican II be a pastoral and not a dogmatic council; because they don't believe in infallibility. They don't want any defined truths. Truth has to be 'living' and 'evolving;' possibly it will change to keep in step with history, science, etc. Infallibility, however, permanently establishes a formula and a truth which can never change, and that they cannot believe. We are the ones who believe in infallibility, not the Conciliar Church. It is absolutely certain that the Conciliar Church is opposed to it.
Cardinal Ratzinger is against infallibility, and so, due to his philosophical grounding, is the Pope.
Let us be quite clear: we are not opposed to the Pope as standing for all the unchanging values of the Apostolic See, the See of Peter, but to the modernist Pope who does not believe in his own infallibility and who practises ecumenism. Obviously we are against the Conciliar Church, which for all practical purposes is schismatic, even if it refuses to recognise the fact. In reality it is virtually excommunicated because it is a modernist church. And those are the people who excommunicate usâ€”for wishing to remain Catholic. We want to stay united to the Catholic Pope and the Catholic Church. That is the difference. Monsieur Madiran is well aware of the situation, yet he claims we are not the visible Church, that in fact we are diverging from the visible Church, which has the gift of infallibility. Such a claim is in variance with the facts.
Fideliter: Is it possible to have no opinion either way about the consecrations, even not to give them any thought whatever, and still to advocate the formation of priests in the way you intended when you founded Ecône? Is one not bound to reach the conclusion that if seminarians are being trained for the Catholic Priesthood, there must be Catholic bishops to ordain them?
Lefebvre: If there are not, they will get bishops like Mgr. de Milleville, who turned up for the ordinations at Fontgombault dressed as a layman. If he had preached a sermon I wonder what he would have said to those seminarians, and what example he would have set them. That is no longer the Catholic Church, it is the Conciliar Church, with all its evil consequences. They are contributing to the destruction of the Church.
It was John XXIII who first began to be, as Fr. Dulac put it, two popes in one. It was he who began opening up the Church to the world. Since then everything has been ambiguity and equivocation; the classic marks of liberalism. Therefore I do not think anyone should have any doubts or scruples about the consecrations. We are neither schismatic nor excommunicated, nor are we against the Pope. We are not against the Catholic Church, and we are not setting up an alternative Church. That is all nonsense. We are what we have always beenâ€”continuing Catholics, and nothing else. There is no call to complicate the issue. We are not forming a "Petite Ã‰glise," as Paupert claims in his book. What he writes at the end of it is horrifying: "I no longer know what I am!"
This Monsieur Paupert was once a seminarian, though not a priest. He lost his faith, then regained it more or less, and is inclined towards Traditionalism, but he is afraid to leave the Conciliar Church. So now he doesn't know whether or not he is a Catholic, nor whether to practice his religion. He writes: "When I go into a church nowadays I feel like a stranger. That is why I do not go to Holy Communion."
M. Paupert is an intelligent man, but he is in a kind of impasse and he cannot find a way out of it. It is dreadful. And it is also the position of all those Catholics who simply will not commit themselves once and for all to Tradition. They are anxious to remain in communion with the official hierarchy, with the bishops currently occupying the Sees, but they have quite lost touch with the Catholic Faith which they practiced in their younger days, and to which they have not the will-power to return. It is terrifying to think that there are millions of Catholics in this situation. That is why many no longer go to church on Sundays, while others join sects or give up the practice of religion altogether and lose their faith.
Fideliter: In his book, "EcÃ´ne, Comment DÃ©nouer la TragÃ©die," Father de Margerie advises you to be reconciled with Rome, basically by accepting what you have always rejected. What is your reaction to this?
Lefebvre: I do not know Fr. de Margerie personally, but his work is full of contradictions. He is clearly very hard put to it to defend religious liberty and to show it conforms to Tradition; that there has been no break. The position is untenable. Supporters of the Conciliar Church, including some of its most influential figures, admitted openly in May last year at the Venice congress on religious liberty that something had indeed changed. Among them were the Rector of the Lateran University, and Mgr. Pavan, who is an important man in Rome, having drafted all the popes' social encyclicals. Others, like Cardinal Ratzinger and the theologians who have written such numerous books on the subject are still trying to prove that religious liberty is a continuation of Tradition.
In the past, liberty was seen essentially in relation to truth, but now it is linked to the human conscience. The choice of what is true is therefore left to the freedom of conscience. It means the death of the Church. Thus to sanction the "Rights of Man" is to drink the poison of the Revolution. At least Mgr. Pavan and the Rector of the Lateran University are honest about it. The rest will say anything to try and shut us up. But it is there in black and white; that the state, civil society, is radically incapable of distinguishing the true religion. The entire history of the Church, from Our Lord on strongly contradicts any such assertion. What about Joan of Arc, the saints and all the holy kings and princes who have defended the Church? Were they unable to distinguish the true religion? How can anyone write such outrageous things?
The answers to our objections, which came to us from Rome via intermediaries, were all attempts to show that there had been no change, but a continuation of Tradition. These assertions are even worse than those made in the conciliar Declaration on religious liberty. They are outright official lies.
As long as the Roman authorities remain committed to conciliar ideasâ€”religious liberty, ecumenism, collegiality and so onâ€”they will be on the wrong track. The situation is grave because of its practical consequences. It is the justification for the Pope's visit to Cuba. The Pope visits or receives Communist leadersâ€”torturers or murderers with Christian blood on their handsâ€”as if they were the equals of decent human beings.
Fideliter: They did suffer a set-back when Cardinal Lustiger was not able to go to Kiev.
Lefebvre: He went to the U.S.S.R. thinking that Moscow had become Catholic, which was bad judgment. It is said that the Pope has more or less granted Moscow the right to nominate the Ukrainian Patriarch, and to replace the present one, Cardinal Slipyi's successor. Obviously, however, the man chosen would be a Soviet agent, like Pimen.
All these visits are just playing into the Soviets' hands. They will end up by getting what they want, which is to have the Ukrainians in their pocket through the installation of a government-controlled hierarchy. They did the same thing in Hungary after Mindszenty, when they got Lekai appointed in his place. What a scandal that was; the Lekai affair! In the old days all those cardinals and bishops were thrown in prison for defending the Catholic religion, and now their own successors are responsible for locking up truly Catholic priests.
We are in the same position as those priests: the bishops persecute us because we are Catholics. We are not being persecuted by atheistic governments, Socialists and Freemasons, but by so-called Catholic bishops, the bishops of the Conciliar Church.
It's the same in Communist countries. They have conciliar bishops who belong to the "Peace Priests," and who support the Communist governments. The persecutors are no longer governments but bishops.
I have received a letter from a Hungarian priest who writes that in Hungary now, whenever there is a dispute between a bishop and his priests the government steps in in the guise of a father-figure trying to reconcile them, and thereby itself appearing in the best possible light. It's an incredible situation. The Pope has done a great deal of harm by this policy of according error and vice the same respect as truth and virtue. For simple people it is disastrous; it is the utter ruin of all Christian moral values, of the very foundations of morality, even of society itself.
Fideliter: John Paul II defends the unity of the family, and he is against married priests and abortion. Where his moral teaching is concerned, many people think he is a good pope.
Lefebvre: That is true with regard to certain principles of natural morality. But having said that, on a practical level, no action is ever taken against priests who openly favour contraception. The Pope never takes a firm stand on anything and backs it up with vigorous action. He just professes general dispositions which are so much a part of the natural law that nobody is going to disagree with them. When the United States president, Bush, is against abortion it's hardly conceivable that the Pope would be for it!
Fideliter: In Austria and elsewhere, John Paul II has appointed bishops who are considered to be somewhat on the Traditional side, so much so that he has been criticised and rebuked for it by a group of German theologians, backed up by others from France.
Recently, too, Cardinal Ratzinger issued that instruction on the oath of fidelity, together with a profession of faith. Do you not see in this some sign of amendment, of a return to more Traditional formulas?
Lefebvre: I don't think it's a real return. It's like fighting a battleâ€”when you think your troops are advancing a bit too far you hold them back. In the same way they're slowing down the momentum of Vatican II ever so slightly because the Council supporters are getting too far ahead. In any case, those theologians have nothing to get worked up about. The bishops in question are 100% behind the Council, the conciliar reforms and the ecumenical and charismatic movements. They're apparently a little more moderate than others in some ways, and show some slight Traditional religious feeling, but it doesn't go deep. When it comes down to the main principles of the Council, to its errors, they welcome them and put them into practice; never fear. In fact I would go so far as to say that they are the sort who treat us most harshly, and would be the most insistent that we submit to the Council.
No, it is a necessary tactic in any campaignâ€”you have to avoid excesses. Besides, the Pope has just given Mgr. Kasper a See in Germany. He was secretary of the 1985 synod, when Cardinal Danneels of Brussels was the president. Kasper was the real leader, the brains behind the synod. He is highly intelligent, and one of the most dangerous men going. Now the Pope is making him a bishop. He is rather like the bishop of Trier, who is president of the German Episcopal Conference and who is also extremely dangerous. They are thorough-going left-wingers who at heart agree with the Rahners and KÃ¼ngs of this world, but who take good care not to say so openly. They keep up appearances so as not to be linked with these people, but their minds work the same way.
So no: I don't really think there's any hope at present.
Fideliter: What, finally, are we to make of Rome's attitude as shown by Cardinals Ratzinger and Mayer who, so far, are none the less displaying a measure of tolerance to the Benedictines at le Barroux, the Fraternity of St. Vincent Ferrer and the Society of St. Peter? Do you think they are sincere, or are they playing a double game which will go on just as long as there is still some likelihood of winning over other Traditionalist groups? Will they afterwards put their cards on the table and require those who have been "reconciled" to submit to the Council? Or should we give them credit for a real change of policy?
Lefebvre: Everything points to it all being just temporary and by way of exception. These are not general rulings, applicable to all priests and throughout the world. They are exceptional privileges, granted in specified cases. Although they don't say so, what has been allowed at the Abbey of Fontgombault, to the sisters at Jouques, and to various other monasteries, is allowed under the indult. Now, the indult is an exception, which can always be rescinded. The indult confirms the general rule, which is the new Mass and the whole new liturgy. So these communities are being treated as exceptions.
We have an example in London, where the Cardinal Archbishop has started having three Masses celebrated close to our centre to try and take our faithful away from us. He has said he is giving the arrangement a six months' trial. If the faithful begin to leave our centre it will continue. If, on the other hand, our faithful stay with us he will stop the experiment. If these Masses are stopped, no doubt the faithful who have rediscovered the Traditional liturgy will come to us.
It seems Cardinal Lustiger might consider giving a church to some priests who have left us, but he would insist on Novus Ordo Masses being celebrated there as well. Cardinal Ratzinger told me during our discussions with him in Rome that if, with a view to a settlement, permission was given for the old liturgy to be used at Saint Nicholas, there would have to be New Rite Masses there also. That shows perfectly clearly how they are thinking. There is no question for them of giving up the New Mass, but obviously quite the opposite. That is why what may appear to be a concession is in fact nothing but a maneuver to enable them to separate as many faithful as possible from us. It is with this end in view that they seem always to be giving a little more, and going a long way towards meeting us. It is vital for us to convince the faithful that it really is a maneuver, that it is dangerous to put oneself in the hands of the conciliar bishops and modernist Rome. It is the greatest danger which threatens them. We have not fought for 20 years to avoid the errors of the Council only to deliver ourselves now into the hands of those who profess them.<