Archbishop Lefebvre: 1986 Conference 'Times of St. Athanasius'
The Archbishop Speaks

Conference of Archbishop Lefebvre at Campbell, California

January 5, 1986

Mesdames, Messieurs,

I thank Father Finnegan for having prepared on the occasion of my stop‑over this conference and the ceremony which is going to follow. Indeed I did not actually have any intention to give a special conference here on my way back from the trip which I did with Father Black. But it comes out to be a very propitious occasion.

This will allow me to give you, during the few moments of this conference, some more precise information on the present situation of the Church. Because it is my impression that many Catholics do not understand, cannot understand the real situation of the Church today. Now, in order to take the decision to continue faithfully the Catholic Church, to maintain our Catholic Faith, we must realize that the Catholic Faith is in danger. Unless we reflect carefully on the present situation, we may be led little by little to the complete loss of the Catholic Faith! This is unfortunately the case of many Catholics who are losing the Faith nowadays. And so I hope the short moments of this conference will be helpful to you and that you may draw out of it some personal fruits.


Remember your reactions after the Council, and even during the Council, when you saw that your priests had a sudden change of attitude, even of exterior aspect. You saw your priests suddenly giving up their priestly garments. You heard them saying: “after all, we are men like everyone else, we need not to distinguish ourselves from other Catholics.” Then they had more familiar attitudes with you, with the population of their parishes; they were seen in cafes (or bars), in cinemas, without any sign of their priesthood, and you were surprised; you said, “But why? What is happening? Why do our priests change their attitude in such a way?”

And it is not only the priest’s attitude which surprised you, but when you went into your parish church, you noticed that the priest had no longer the soutane, he was putting the alb upon his civil garment, or he did not put on sacred vestments; that the priest no longer did any genuflections before our Blessed Lord. And suddenly you noticed that the tabernacle disappeared from the high altar; you knew no longer where the Blessed Sacrament was; then a table replaced the altar, the statues of the saints were disappearing. And you wondered “What on earth is happening? Why all these changes? We did not ask for all this! What is happening to these priests, for they are changing out most holy religion?” And you were right to be puzzled; all these rapid changes at the end of the Council and in the few years after were truly astonishing and bewildering. And you wondered: “But how all this could have happened?”

And then you saw little by little lay people taking practically the place of the priest; men and even women reading the Epistle, the Gospel and even distributing the Holy Communion. And the priest was sitting while lay persons were giving Communion, and were giving the Most Blessed Sacrament in the hands! Maybe you knelt down to receive your Lord, and the priest gave you a sign to stand up, that now you should receive Communion in the hands. And you wondered: “but does the priest still believe in the real presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist?”

And even worse, one day you noticed that your priest was…gone! He had left the parish and got married! And you learned that there were not only one, not only two, but thousands of priests who were gone and had married! Recently a meeting took place near Castel Gandolfo, about three months ago, a meeting of representatives of married priests. At this meeting they claimed they were 70,000! Seventy thousand married priests! That is one priest out of five who had married, abandoned his priesthood. And you even learned that this one or that married a nun! You learned that thousands of nuns were leaving their convents and getting married. “What is happening in the Church?”


And so you decided to write to your bishops. You told them: “We cannot continue like that, it is not lawful, these changes are not normal, not Catholic.” You decided to write to your bishop to ask for some explanations, to ask: “how can it happen that our priests are forsaking their priesthood? How can it happen that our priests do not believe any longer in their priesthood and are replaced by laymen?” And you did well.

But you were surprised by the reaction of your bishop. Your bishop answered you: “But now one must follow the spirit of the Council. There has been the Second Vatican Council, you must not forget this, so you must not wonder if there are now some changes in the Church.” Moreover, you learned that the one who presided at the marriage of this or that priest in the diocese was the bishop himself! The bishop himself marrying his priests in his private chapel! And he was explaining to his faithful that from now on this priest had found “another way” to realize his Christian life, and thus he did not find any difficulty to be present at this marriage.

And then you learned that the little seminary was sold. They had sold the little seminary because “now there was no need for a little seminary; seminarians must go in colleges like any other child, no need for a little seminary.” And even one day you learned that there was no longer a major seminary of the diocese! The major seminary was sold; the government or the town had bought it to make of it a house for students. “But where are our seminarians? Shall we still have some priests?” “Well, now, our seminarians, they live in flats and they follow the courses at the university because they must keep in touch with the world. Priests ought to be in contact with the world. So in flats, they can invite other young men, young girls, they can have contacts, live as the other men. There is no need to make distinctions between clerics and faithful.” And then you learned that there were almost no seminarians, that the bishop was ordaining only one or two priests per year in the diocese while in the past it was usual to have fifteen, twenty or thirty priests ordained.

And so you were even more bewildered and said: “So it is not only my parish, it is now the diocese, the diocese is now contaminated!” And one day you decided to pay a visit to your bishop and you found him in civil clothes, no more sign of his episcopate, no pectoral cross, no episcopal ring, nothing, like a manager, a businessman.

And not only this, but one day you learned through your children that the catechism in schools was changed, that the Old Catechism was no longer taught, that the bishop had now decided that the catechism had to be changed. And so you took your children’s catechism, you looked into it and exclaimed: “but what is this? In this catechism they do not speak of purgatory, they do not speak of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they do not speak of angels, they do not speak of original sin! But the Faith, is the Faith changed? Shall our children learn the Faith as we were taught it? What is this? Why?”


So you decided to write to Rome. And many did write to Rome to complain about their bishops. They said: “Do our bishops have the right to change the Catechism? And in a little while we shall have no more priests, because there is no longer any seminary! What shall the Catholic Church become? Our children do not want to enter the seminary any more, do not want to become priests, because why become a priest if these priests marry and say they are men like others. So vocations have disappeared.” So you wrote to Rome and you did well.

You wrote to Rome. Very often you do not receive any answer at all. So many letters of complaints, of despair, reach Rome that they are not answered. Or if they are answered, it is a very short answer: “You must have confidence in your bishop; you must have confidence in the episcopal conference of your country . You must know from now on that there has been the Second Vatican Council and so you must adapt to the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.”

And then you learn that in Rome also there are unbelievable ceremonies. One day charismatic groups were received in St. Peter’s basilica, and thus in St. Peter’s truly scandalous manifestations happened: all these charismatics lifting their arms in the air, shouting, screaming, falling down, embracing each other in a shameful way, scandalous way, in St. Peter’s basilica itself! And even recently in St. Mary Major’s basilica, the great and beautiful church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin in Rome, we were told that the same charismatics sang their songs as usual and did the same scandalous exterior corporal manifestations.

And if you tried to go during the week at Mass at St. Peter’s, you could see that in St. Peter’s also the Cardinal in charge of the Vatican basilica says Mass on a table, a marble table but still a table; it is no longer the beautiful Altar of the Blessed Sacrament or the beautiful Papal Altar or the beautiful Altar of the Four Doctors of the Church in the back of the sanctuary of St. Peter’s basilica, no, it is on a table facing the people, without consecrated stone for the Sacrifice, with little respect for the Blessed Sacrament.

And one must say it, it was in the newspapers, I do not invent it. We have all learned that the Pope went for a ceremony, participated in a ceremony with the Lutherans in Rome, in the Lutheran temple of Rome! And we recently learned that the Pope had sent some delegates for the laying down of the first stone of the Mosque in Rome!

And we learned recently that with the change of concordate in Italy, Rome was no longer a holy city. Up until now, Rome was considered as a sacred city, a holy city by the Italian government. From now on, Rome is not a holy city; therefore, anything can be done in it, the most scandalous things from the government, from the mayor of Rome, the Pope can no longer say anything while before he could intervene in order, for example, to forbid precisely the building of a mosque or the building of a temple; he could forbid this because Rome was considered as the Holy City of Catholicism.

And we understand that, in his travels, the Pope accepts practically all that he is asked to do. Some ceremonies have truly no longer the Catholic character: the way Holy Communion is sometimes distributed is painful; the Blessed Sacrament is put into plastic bags and those who distribute the Holy Eucharist take them under their arms, as it happened in Paris, as it happened in Canada, they put the plastic bags under their arms and then distribute the Sacred Hosts as one distributes ordinary pieces of bread or any kind of food! So these kinds of things are truly unheard of and we ask ourselves, “But what on earth happened to Holy Mother Church? Because we can see considerable changes even in the highest places, even in Rome.”


So if you know someone in Rome, as I personally know some cardinals who are traditional, who have the traditional spirit, you go and see them; Cardinal Pallazini, for instance, Cardinal Oddi. What do these cardinals say about the situation of Rome? What do these cardinals say about the situation of the whole world, of the whole Catholic world? They also are frightened, in desolation. “But what can we do?” and they say: “If we speak, if we raise our voices we shall be eliminated, we shall be expelled from our places!” Indeed, there is a persecution of the Traditionalists, a persecution of all those who want to keep the Tradition, from the cardinals even to the bishops, to the priests, to the faithful. ALL those who are traditionalist are persecuted. The poor Cardinal Ottaviani passed years after the Council in true sorrow, feeling that he was despised, he who was a man of such wonderful rectitude, of such a wonderful firmity in the Doctrine; even during the Council he was despised in a shameful way. And all the other traditional cardinals have been eliminated. And progressive, modernist cardinals were put in their stead; they are for the changes, for the novelties in the Church. Thus now in Rome you have these cardinals: Cardinal Casaroli, Cardinal Baggio and Cardinal Polletti, the Cardinal Vicar, and you have as Secretary to the Congregatio to the Divine Worship Virgilio Noe, people who are entirely against Tradition; they do not want to see it at all, they are against, absolutely against. As soon as someone is attached to the Tradition, he must be eliminated, he must be pushed outside of the services of the Church.

Thus many traditional bishops gave their resignations. I know many bishops; I would take the example of Bishop MacQuett, Archbishop of Dublin who felt despised after the Council because he was attached to Tradition. He gave his resignation and six weeks later he died. I am sure he died out of sorrow, sorrow for what was happening in the Church, sorrow to feel that he, a man so dedicated to the Pope, dedicated to the Church for all his life, was despised in such a way by Rome itself. This had bewildered him and practically killed him. Also here (in California) I think of Cardinal McIntyre, who was also very attached to the Tradition. He also was put aside. Cardinal Siri, who is still the Cardinal of Genoa, was president of the episcopal conference in Italy before the arrival of Pope Paul VI. When Pope Paul VI arrived, he took him off the presidency of the Italian Episcopal Conference because he was attached to the Tradition. One could quote similar cases everywhere, in every country. Priests - and you certainly know some priests and you have some of them here among the older priests, you know some of them - were persecuted by their bishops because they were keeping the Tradition.

And if I, myself, am persecuted, and I have been and still am persecuted in my seminaries, in my Society, if I am persecuted it is because I am attached to Tradition, and they hate me because I keep Tradition in my seminaries. And all the lay faithful have a similar case: lay people attached to Tradition are thrown out of their parishes. You have there, my dear brethren, a very tragic situation in the Church.

As I see that the time now is getting long, I will conclude the conference. I feel it necessary to say that all of these changes which we have considered this morning have been the result not of hazard or just pure accident, but they are the result of the application of a doctrine, the doctrines of modernism and of liberalism which have been introduced into the Church. And Pope Saint Pius X had predicted it. Pope Saint Pius X said: “Now the enemy is within the Church, the enemy is in the seminaries.” He said that himself. So from these seminaries came forth some priests; from these priests came forth bishops and even a Pope, with these liberal ideas, with the modernist ideas.


If one tries to give a definition, or at least a clear idea of these modernist and liberal ideas, of what do they consist? “The Church is no longer the only true religion.” Here you have one of the truths denied by all these modernists and liberals now. “The Church is no longer the only way of salvation.” This is very grievous, because for twenty centuries the Church has affirmed this: “I am the only way of salvation.” The Church was saying: “Our Lord Jesus Christ gave me all means of salvation; He did not give them to any other group. He gave His Sacrifice of the Mass, His Sacraments, His teaching and all the care of the salvation of souls to His Apostles, to the Church, and to no other group. Therefore, one cannot be saved outside the Church, at least through Baptism of Desire; one must be baptized, baptized by water or at least by desire; this is necessary to go to Heaven.” This is what the Church has always preached. Why did She send missionaries throughout the world? To preach: “you must be converted to our Lord Jesus Christ, you must become Christian, you must be baptized and become Catholic if you want to be baptized!” Many missionaries have been killed, slaughtered, all the Apostles have been martyred because they have preached this Gospel, because they have preached the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. But now they say: “No! All religions are ways of salvation.” My dear brethren, this is false, absolutely false! And it is precisely this which changes everything inside the Church. This influence comes from Protestantism and from Freemasonry; one must say it, these are Masonic ideas that the Church must not claim to be the only way of salvation. If the Church wants to be friend with Protestants and Freemasons, She must give up saying that She is the only way of salvation. She must accept to say that all religions are ways of salvation. But this is contrary to what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said! Our Lord said: “Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; he who shall believe shall be saved, he who shall not believe shall be condemned.” No other choice!

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Now if there is an example which is given to us today and which contradicts the errors which are spreading in the Church, it is in this feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Peter said at the very beginning of his apostolate: “there is no other name given to men on earth by which men ought to be saved than the Name of Jesus.” Thus there is no other name by which we can go to Heaven than the Name of Jesus! And the Church is the Mystical spouse of our Lord. There is only ONE Mystical Spouse of our Lord; it is through Her that we may be saved. This is what has always been the Catholic Faith.

So now we are in a very grievous situation in the Church, because everywhere within the Church is spread the idea that all religions are ways of salvation and that the Holy Ghost is working in all of them. Now I do not know how the Good Lord will solve Himself this grievous problem, but for us the conclusion which we ought to draw from all the facts which I quoted, from the present situation, is that we must remain Catholics, we must believe in the Catholic Church. We say it in our Creed: “Unam Sanctam Catholicam Apostolicam Ecclesiam." Unam: One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. ONE, there are not two, but ONE! We must believe this, and absolutely refuse to follow these false ideas which are spreading everywhere in the Church, that one may be saved in any religion; this would be to ruin the Church. The Church would no longer have Her “raison d’ê‑tre”, reason for being. If one may be saved in any religion, why the Church? Why? She has no longer any reason for being. This was the very “raison d’être” of the Church - to be the Way of Salvation and to work with all Her strength to convert souls so that they may become Catholic in order to go to Heaven, to be saved.

So in this feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, let all of us here present take the resolution to keep the Faith as the Tradition kept it, the traditional Faith as the Church has always given it to us, to keep Her teaching, to keep Her Catechism of the Council of Trent in which are summed up all the truths of our Faith, to keep the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to keep the Sacraments as before for you, for your children, and above all, gather yourselves around priests who are keeping the Faith. Do not hesitate, do not listen to criticism neither from modernist bishops nor from modernist priests in your parishes. Do not listen; follow the Catholic priests, those who are keeping the Catechism, those who are keeping the Faith. These are in the Truth, these shall save your souls. Do not be afraid, otherwise you will do as, for instance, the Catholics in England did when they passed to Anglicanism. They followed their priests, they followed their bishops, and they became Anglicans, they became heretics, they went out of the Catholic Church. If you also follow your progressive priests, if you follow your progressive bishops, you shall become progressive and that is no longer Catholic. This is a new error, a new heresy. Let us remain Catholic! In order to know what is Catholic, let us look at what the Church has done for twenty centuries, had taught; let us keep what the Church has done for twenty centuries. It is not possible that the Church would have been wrong for twenty centuries. So let us attach ourselves to twenty centuries of Tradition and we continue to do the same.

I ask you to pray during this ceremony asking for the grace of remaining Catholic and that we may continue our work in our seminaries for our priests, to make Catholic priests, to continue the work and encourage religious Monks and Nuns to remain true Monks, true Nuns. Here in America you have the priory at Campbell with your priests, you have the Seminary at Ridgefield; some seminarians from around here are in Ridgefield. You have the Carmel recently opened at Philadelphia with American Sisters, you have the College of St. Mary’s in Kansas, where a group of priests and nuns are keeping the Tradition. The College is wonderful and is working very well; I wish that you support it. And there will soon be at Armada, Michigan, near Detroit, a novitiate of the Sisters who are now at St. Mary’s; they will have a Novitiate for the Sisters of the Society. This is encouraging news, this shows that there are still vocations, there are good vocations, but they must be led according to Tradition.

So let us ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary in the end, let us ask her to help us to remain Catholic, to love her Divine Son. She is not ecumenical; the Virgin Mary believes that there is only one Savior, her Son Jesus, Whose Mother she is. She knows that it is by Him that every soul may be saved. If one asks the Blessed Virgin Mary whether there is another name by which one may be saved than the Name of her Divine Son, she would answer: “No! This is impossible!” Every time she came on earth, that she appeared, she appeared either with her Divine Son, or she encouraged souls to come to her Divine Son in order to be saved. So we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to make the Church remain Catholic and during this Mass I promise you to pray for you, for your families, for all those who are in hesitation that they may come to the Truth, that they may return to the Truth, that they remain attached to the Tradition.

My dear brethren, I thank you for your attention..

Someone asked that I give in a few words what is my situation, the situation in which I find myself in the Church, in which you find yourselves also. Well, I think that the shortest answer, the simplest answer, is this: we are in the situation in which St. Athanasius found himself. I am not St. Athanasius, I am not a saint, but he found himself in the same situation. All the Church had passed to Arianism; the great majority of bishops, the Pope himself was favorable to a certain kind of “semi‑Arianism.” Well, St. Athanasius was excommunicated by the Pope! And Athanasius became a saint. He was visiting everywhere, he was going everywhere. He was saying Mass in chapels everywhere in order to maintain the Catholic Faith against Arianism. We are in a situation fairly similar. It is not Arianism but modernism; modernism which is, as Pope Pius X himself said, the synthesis collecting all heresies. Now this modernism is underneath everywhere, is spreading everywhere in the Church, even in Rome. Well, we defend our Faith, we defend the Catholic Faith. As St. Athanasius was saying to those who attacked him, “you have kept the churches, you have kept the monuments, we have kept the Faith! Faith is more important than monuments!” Well, we are in the same situation. So let us pray to St. Athanasius that he may give us the courage to follow him so that one day Holy Mother Church may find again Her good Tradition.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
A reminder ....
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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