Archbishop Lefebvre: 1972 Conference - That the Church May Endure

Rennes, France
November 1972

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I should rather say My dear Brethren, since I rejoice to see several cassocks among the audience. I have not the eloquence of a Bossuet, I have not the knowledge of a St. Thomas, so you must forgive me. I am only a missionary, but if my words lack eloquence, I hope the conviction of my faith will be sufficiently apparent to you and that you will understand that I did not come here to make an eloquent address; above all I come here with joy, in answer to the request made of me, so that your and my faith in the Holy Catholic Church may grow, that our faith in our Lord may persevere, and that when we leave this meeting we may be more determined than ever to maintain that faith, the most precious gift that we have in our souls. For I it was indeed our priests who, one day, asked our godfathers and godmothers when they carried us to the baptismal font: “What does faith give you?” “Eternal Life.” And if there is one thing we need, one thing for which we hope, one thing we await, it is indeed eternal life. Hence we are not here concerned with words of little importance; this is not a lecture dealing with something transitory.

The question is that of life eternal, of the salvation of our souls. It concerns the salvation of the souls of those about us and entrusted to us, the souls of your children. That is why I have answered your call. I should not have come had the question been of small importance. I have come because it concerns serious and important matters, essential to our faith and the life of our souls.

It is then for these grave and important motives that I am among you. For what is the real danger in the situation in which the Church is engaged today, in the battle which she is fighting and in which she is deeply implicated and wounded? What is it all about? It is our faith. And it seems to me that it is on that plane that all that is happening now must be considered. Simply to consider the liturgy, the difficulties of the priesthood, the attacks on the Christian family, including that of the Catholic school, is not enough. It is a question of considering all these spheres in which the Church today finds herself in some way wounded in the matter of our faith. Moreover, I believe it may be rightly stated that throughout the history of the Church it has always been through lack of faith that heresies and schisms have been born; that whole families have been cut off from the Church by forsaking the faith. Once again it is under this aspect that today’s crisis must be considered if it is to be rightly understood.

I hope my words will not scandalize you. I hope you will not think my attitude too hard and fast, and the words I shall speak too lacking in the finer shades! One thing I would say, before touching the heart of the matter, is that I have no intention of criticizing individuals. If you prefer, I will adopt the position taken by the Holy Office, the position it has always taken when bound in duty to consider the condemnation of books and to put them on the Index.

The Holy Office did not consider persons, only their works. It has been criticized for condemning books supposedly without hearing persons. To be accurate, however, it was not persons whom it condemned. It condemned on the evidence-the works. It said: “This book contains passages which are not in conformity with the traditional teaching of the Church.” One point, that is all! The author is of little importance; the poison is there. The Church detected it; she condemned. It was her duty and that is what the Church has already done. Alas! she does it less today. Hence I shall consider the events through which we are living, the things we are seeing and hearing, the things put into our hands, in that same way, without concerning myself with persons. You will tell me that I must go further back to the people who wrote these things or who gave them to us. I do not know and I do not want to know, because I am incapable of knowing the responsibility, still less the degree of guilt of those who may have written or given us a particular document. One thing is certain, however. If today we are experiencing a tragic and dramatic situation in the Church, there are causes which we must study and look into. We cannot close our eyes to a situation as grave as that through which we are living today.

If you wish, then, I will give you a brief description of such themes and phenomena as seem of major importance in this crisis, the phenomena which seem to us most serious. We will then seek their causes so that we may be forewarned and know what we must do. We shall then end with practical conclusions-what is to be done in the face of this crisis which constitutes an attack on the Church’s every sphere?

We might concentrate mainly on the present crisis of the Church regarding her teaching and magisterium. One of the first domains to come under serious attack is university teaching, since if there is one thing important to the Church, it is Catholic universities. The Church has always considered the university chairs of Theology, Canon Law, Liturgy, and Ecclesiastical Law as the organs of its authentic magisterium or at least preaching. It is now an established fact that in all, or nearly all, Catholic universities, at least those not behind the Iron Curtain, the orthodox Catholic Faith is no longer taught in its entirety. So far as I am aware, whether in free Europe, in the United States, or in South America, there is not a single Catholic university that teaches the Catholic Faith in its entirety. There are always some professors who, under the guise of theological research, allow themselves to express opinions contrary to our faith, not merely in a few secondary aspects, but against its very principles.

Here beneath my eyes, I have the text of a lecture on the Eucharist given by the Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Strasbourg: “Contemporary Thought and the Expression of Eucharistic Faith.” This lecture, from the first line to the last, is heretical. There is no longer any question of the Real Presence of our Lord. The Real Presence, for the one who is Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Strasbourg, is comparable to the presence of a composer of a piece of music, who shows himself in his piece when it is played. It is thus that our Lord would be held present in the Holy Eucharist. Incredible!Unimaginable! And he speaks of what the celebration of the Eucharist will be in a few years. For him, the Novus Ordo is no longer in question; it is already outdated. The world evolves so swiftly that such things are soon relegated to times past and consequently, we must look forward to a Eucharist emanating from the group itself. In what will it consist? The Dean himself is not sure. But by meeting together, groups will create the Eucharist,will create the sense of this communion with Christ, who will, as they say, be present in the midst of them, but in no way present under the species of bread and wine. He smiles at that Eucharist which is called an “efficacious sign,” which is the definition of the Sacrament, of all sacraments. He says: “That is utterly ridiculous; such terms cannot be used today. In our day they are meaningless.” What this Dean says is grave indeed. As a result, the young students who hear these things from their professor, from the very Dean of the Faculty, young seminarians still in residence, are gradually steeped in error, marked by it; they receive a training which is no longer Catholic.

It is the same with those who are now at Fribourg and who hear from the famous Dominican, Professor Pfuertner, that premarital relations are both natural and desirable. Such was the scandal created throughout Switzerland that the laity themselves took the matter up. Imagine fathers of families learning that the Faculty professor, the professor of Ethics, was teaching such things! It was flabbergasting. So violent and so vehement was the reaction among Catholic and Christian parents that the bishops were made aware of the existence of a great danger. Now, despite the comments made to him, despite the coming of the Superior General of the Dominicans to Fribourg, despite the bishop’s journey to Rome to consider the measures to be taken in the matter of the professor, this Dominican Father is still attached to the University of Fribourg, where he continues his teaching. He has simply agreed to take three months’ leave, and he proposes to return to his Chair for the second term of the year, saying that those three months will give him the opportunity for discussion with the bishops. These are minor examples, but they show that even in such universities as Fribourg, hitherto regarded as a sound and traditional university, the doctrine of the Church will not be taught from now on.

It is the same with liturgy. Father Baumgartner, also a Dominican, has taught those of my own seminarians at Fribourg. They themselves have told me the way to compose new Canons. He said to them: “It is not very difficult to make new Canons; here are a few principles you can easily adopt on becoming priests.” Yet, so far as I know, he has never been the object of any comment or criticism. Examples could be multiplied. And when one reflects that even in the universities of Rome, including the Gregorian, there are freely put forward, in the guise of theological research, utterly incredible theories on the relations of Church and State, on divorce, etc! Assuredly, the very fact of having achieved a transformation of the Holy Office-always considered by the Church as the Tribunal of the Faith-is significant and of great consequence. Anyone soever, layman, priest, and more especially bishop, might submit to the Holy Office a book, a review, an article and ask for the ruling of the Church on its conformity to Catholic doctrine. A month or six weeks later, the Holy Office would answer, “This is right, this is wrong; a distinction should be drawn here; part is true, part false.” In short, it was thoroughly examined and judgment passed. It was the Tribunal of Faith. The Holy Office has now defined itself for the future as the “Office for Theological Research.” The difference is clear to see.

I remember asking Cardinal Browne, the former Superior General of the Dominicans: “Eminence, do you regard this change in the Holy Office as radical change or merely as superficial and accidental?”

“Oh no!” he replied. “The change is essential.”

The Holy Office, then, is no longer the Holy Office of the past. That is why we must not be surprised if there are no more condemnations, if the Tribunal for the Faith of the Church no longer acts, or carries out its functions where theologians and all who write on the Faith of the Church are concerned. We must not be surprised if errors grow everywhere widespread and that theologians, theologians in name only, find themselves free to publish errors and profess them publicly without fear of intervention. Thus the poison of heresy ends by spreading through the whole Church. The magisterium of the Church is subjected to a grave crisis.

It is a teaching which appears in our catechisms also-you certainly know something about that! You could see for yourselves the catechisms put into your children’s hands and found in Catholic schools today. I have here some copies of a particularly “with it” catechism. They are Canadian catechisms. All these catechisms, whether French, Canadian, German, or Italian, what have you, derive more or less from the mother-catechism, if we may call it so, of Holland. Now, you are well aware that the Dutch Catechism has been condemned, if not by the Holy Father directly, at least by the commission named by him and made up of cardinals. Ten points dealing with ten fundamental points of the doctrine of the Church have been condemned or their authors have been asked at least to restate them and thus change the text of the work in question; they were asked to issue a new edition of the catechism, changing the text-well, the text never has been changed. Some editions, in which these ten points were added at the end of the book, have been published, but the text has never been changed. Finally, the addition of the points disappeared. They are no longer to be found in recent editions. These same catechisms are now the source of all catechisms throughout the world.

Look at this one, for instance, where you can see “Sexuality and Daily Life.” I regret that I cannot pass it round. You would yourselves see the horrors it contains, including even illustrations aimed at giving children an obsession. I assure you it is an abomination. There is nothing but that in the book and always in large headlines. Sexuality! Open the book at any page, you will find it everywhere-sexuality lived in the faith, sexual promotion. The illustrations themselves are absolutely revolting-sexual promotion, sexual union, there is nothing else. The child who has these pictures to look at and these texts to attract his interest will end by believing that there is nothing else in life and that it is a reality that cannot be ignored. In a thousand forms sexuality invades the inner and outer universe of every man and woman as if nothing else existed. It is to give the child the desire and the obsession of sex!

It is this publication which is put into the hands of children in Canada. Christian parents, many Christian parents have protested, but, alas! there is nothing to be done. Why? It is enough to look at the last page. It shows that these catechisms have the approval of the Committee on the Catechism. “Nihil obstat, Gerard-Marie Coderre, President of the Episcopal Commission for Religious Education in Quebec.” Here is another, still on the same subject: The Power of Meetings. You may imagine what that can mean-the power of meetings. Here is a third catechism: Direction on the Journey: Reflections on Breaking Away. Yet again you can see immediately what this may mean. The child is invited to break with everything-with his parents, with tradition, with the bonds of society in order to rediscover his personality, in order that he may free himself of the complexes bred in him by society or the family. It is the break-away! And it is claimed that through experience of these breaks, Christ reveals to us what it means to be the Son of God. It is thus our Lord who has experienced such severances and who desires them.

When this is compared with what I was saying to you recently about the faith, we see, if we go into this domain, that it is the exact contrary of what we should be doing-we should seek bonds, above all with God. We should be the slaves of God, we should be the servants of God; and so, instead of forever speaking of severance, we should speak of ties, of those which make up our life-the love of God. What is the love of God if not a link with God, obedience to God and to His commandments? The bond with parents, love for our parents, these are the bonds of life, not of death. And these are presented to the child as ties which constrain and hem him in, bonds which diminish his personality and of which he must rid himself. There, then, is a catechism approved by Bishop Coderre and the Canadian Episcopate.

Something, then, is going on in the Church and it is something abnormal. These are facts. I do not judge Bishop Coderre, I do not judge the Canadian Episcopate. But the catechisms are there, they have been put into the hands of children. The lecture was given by the Dean of the Faculty of Theology in Strasbourg. The facts are beyond dispute. I heard of them by chance, but, faced with such happenings, actual events, which provide evidence that something is going wrong, we have no right to shut our eyes and say, That has been given us, that is from above, so let us close our eyes, accept, and obey. No, and yet again no!

St. Thomas himself asks, in the questions he poses on fraternal correction, whether fraternal correction can exist with regard to superiors. That may seem a bold question on the part of St. Thomas, but he never avoids a problem-he is not afraid of them. So he asks the question: “May one exercise fraternal correction towards one’s superiors?” After consideration of all necessary and useful distinctions, he replies: “Fraternal correction may be exercised in the case of superiors where the faith is concerned.” He is altogether right. It is not by Virtue of being a superior that any may impose on us the loss of our faith, that he may command a diminution of faith. That is the whole problem. We have no right to run the risk of losing the faith; it is the most precious gift we have and, were we stronger in our faith, we should avoid slipping gently into heresy.

What will become of those children who have studied these new catechisms for years? For those of us who are no longer young and were brought up in the true faith through the true catechism, the danger is extremely slight. What, however, will the children and young seminarians brought up in such a milieu become? That was the question put to me by the Superior General of the Franciscans, whom I met recently in Rome. He said: “Your Excellency, it is not so much for us that this is a grave crisis, but for the young seminarians now in the universities. What will they know of dogmatic and moral theology? From now on, nothing!” Moreover, since they no longer want to study these sciences, they take up experimental psychology and sociology. They no longer study dogmatic or moral theology, or canon law or the history of the Church. All that no longer interests them. Well? Those will be the priests of tomorrow. Bishops even! What is to become of your children’s faith then, of the faith of those alive at that time? We have no right to wash our hands of the matter.

Just as this crisis of faith is manifesting itself in teaching and the magisterium, it is becoming equally apparent in the priesthood and the liturgy. The conception of the priesthood and of the priest which the faith gives us has gone. Definitions are being gradually changed. Within holy Church the priest has always been looked upon as one having a “character” given by the sacrament of Order in preparation for the holy sacrifice of the Mass-the holy sacrifice, not the Supper, not any kind of communion, not the breaking of the bread of charity or the bread of the community. He was ordained for the holy sacrifice of the Mass and the continuation of the sacrifice of the cross on the altar, for the shedding on the altar of the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, for bringing to the altar by words of Consecration Him who is the King and Prince of the universe, the Creator of all things, the Savior, the Redeemer. It is for this that the priest has the sacerdotal “character” and that he is a priest. That is what a priest is; that is what we were always taught. Hence, during our years in the seminary, we had but one desire, to mount the steps of the altar. Oh! for the day when I should celebrate my first Mass! My tonsure was the first step on the way, then minor orders, then the subdiaconate, my promise of chastity, and then the diaconate; and, at last, the ascent to the altar to speak the words of Consecration, the sacrificial act, which is not a mere recital as it is today. It is not the story of the Passion! It is a true act and a true sacrifice which takes place at that moment, and it is of faith that “Soli sacerdotes sunt ministri sacrificii.

Today we are told, “It is the whole assembly which makes the sacrifice.” The assembly indeed participates in the sacrifice, but does not offer the sacrifice, and it is not the minister of the sacrifice. The priest alone is the minister of the sacrifice. It is in this that the priest’s dignity lies. It is because of this that the priest cannot become an ordinary being. He cannot put himself on the same footing as the unconsecrated, as those who have not this sacerdotal “character.” Any such attempt would be vain. Before the angels, before God, for all eternity, the priest is a priest. In vain might he consign his cassock to the dust bin. In vain would he put on a red or multicolored pullover, he is still a priest. And if he seeks to hide his sacerdotal character he betrays his mission. Yes, he is a traitor to his mission.

The world needs the priest; the world cannot do without priests, and the priest must show himself. He has no right to conceal his “character.” He is a priest from morning to night; twenty-four hours of his day he is a priest! At all times he may be called for confession, for extreme unction, to give counsel to lost souls. The priest must be present. Thus, to make himself profane, to lack faith in his sacerdotal character signifies the end of the priest, the end of the priesthood; and we are reaching that point. No wonder seminaries are empty.

Why does the priest preserve his celibacy? There again we must appeal to faith. If we lose faith in the priesthood, if we lose the idea that the priest is made for sacrifice, that unique sacrifice which “is the sacrifice of the altar, which is the continuation of the sacrifice of our Lord, we lose altogether the meaning of celibacy. There is no longer any reason for the priest’s celibacy. We shall certainly be told that the priest is so busy and so absorbed by his functions that he cannot assume the care of a family. There is no sense in this argument. The doctor, if he has a true vocation for medicine, is as busy as a priest. If he be a true doctor and is called in day and night, he must be present to treat those who beg him to come to their aid. Hence, he too should remain unmarried since he cannot have time to spend on his wife and children. It is absurd to say that a priest is so busy that he could not take on the burden of a household. The deep reason for priestly celibacy does not lie in that. The real reason for the consecrated celibacy of the priest is that same reason for which the Most Blessed Virgin has remained a virgin, because she bore our Lord in her womb. It was therefore both right and just that she should remain forever virgin. In the same way the priest, by the words he speaks at the Consecration, brings God to earth. Such is his nearness to God, a spiritual being, the Supreme Spirit, that it is good and right and eminently fitting that the priest should be a virgin and remain celibate. That is the fundamental reason: it is because the priest has received the “character” which allows of his speaking the words of Consecration and bringing our Lord to earth that he may give Him to others. Therein lies the reason for his virginity.

But, you will say to me, why are there married priests in the East? It is a matter of tolerance. Make no mistake, it is simply tolerated. Ask the Eastern priests. A bishop may not be married. None of those Eastern clergy exercising functions of any importance may be married. Marriage is merely tolerated, and the conception is not one held by the Eastern clergy themselves. For they also reverence the celibacy of the priest. In any case it is absolutely certain that from the season of Pentecost, even if they lived with their wives, the Apostles no longer “knew” them. After all, to whom was our Lord speaking when He said: “If you would be my disciples leave all things, leave your wives.” Having received the Holy Spirit, how could the Apostles, the first to be filled with the light and power of the Holy Spirit, fail to obey the behest of our Lord Himself?

But, you will tell me, St. Paul did indeed say that he had no wife. True, St. Paul had no wife who went about with him. The Apostles’ wives doubtless continued to follow their husbands. However, profiting by the grace of the Holy Spirit which had descended upon their husbands, the Apostles, they understood what must be their future part. They were content to follow their husbands, but without “knowing” them. That is certainly the tradition of holy Church, and that is the reason for the celibacy of the priest.

Once the definition of the priestly state is lost there can be no sound conception of what it is. Hence we are now asking, What is a priest? What is priesthood? So then, after two thousand years of priests in the Church do we not yet know What a priest is? But that is lunacy. Now, it seems, the priest is said to exist for evangelization. A cardinal said that very thing to me when I told him that my seminary was wholly centered on the altar. From the sacrifice one passes to the apostolate, to evangelization, since it is from our Lord’s heart that there should spring that flame which fires the priest, who then preaches our Lord to bring souls to the Eucharist and thus to our Lord Himself That is the two-way action which the priest should take. He speaks of our Lord. But if he is created for evangelization only, I wonder evangelization of what, if it is not of Jesus Christ. It is the preaching of a so-called social justice that is neither more nor less than a real revolution.

Do not be surprised, then, if priests become Marxists. It is natural, all quite natural and logical. The people must be freed; that is the new aim of the priesthood, the liberation of humanity, ruptures. That is what the priest should preach! They are turned into militant trade unionists. Then they are understood; it is a new mystique of which the priest has need, of which the young have need. That is how they find it. But they have lost the mystique of the altar, of sacrifice. Do not be surprised that the priest, utterly bewildered, marries, that he gives up his priesthood. And there is now talk you have heard (I will name no names, but you will realize at once what I am talking about) of priests for a limited time. All this
is extremely serious.

It is the same with the Mass: if the priest is not defined by the sacrifice, and if the sacrifice is not defined by the oblation of the Victim who is our Lord Jesus Christ present on the altar, but if the sacrifice is defined as an assembly coming together for a meal, the essential and most important element-the Victim-has been left out. Indeed, there is no further need of a victim since there is no sacrifice. It is a meal. If, then, it is simply a meal, there is no further need for the victim to be present, and therefore no more need of the Real Presence of our Lord. Obviously, I could continue with the other sacraments, but I do not want to go on too long.

Another domain in which we must revive our faith, the better to realize the gravity of the situation, is the domain of the Church herself, for there is no longer faith in the holy Church; it is being lost day by day. There is a desire to submit the Church to common law, to put her on the same footing and the same level as all other religions. Even among priests, seminarians, and professors in seminaries there is a reluctance to speak of the Catholic Church as the only Church, and to state that she has the truth, that she alone brings salvation to men through Jesus Christ. When you are virtuous, you have done with vice; in so far as you are in the truth, you forsake error; in so far as you are going to heaven, you avoid hell. Do not let us come to say, then, that the Church is on the same footing as the religions which are in error: that is not possible. Well, now it is said openly: The Church is now no more than a spiritual ferment in society, but equal with other religions, perhaps a little better than the others. The Church, then is merely useful. She is no longer necessary, and that is radically contrary to the very dogma of the Catholic Church.

The Church is necessary; the Church is the one ark of salvation; we must state it. That has always been the adage of theology: “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” Is that intolerance? No, it is the teaching of theology; it is the truth. This does not mean that none among other religions may be saved. But none is saved by his erroneous and false religion. If men are saved in Protestantism, Buddhism, or Islam, they are saved by the Catholic Church, by the grace of our Lord, by the prayers of those in the Church, by the Blood of our Lord as individuals, perhaps through the practice of their religion, perhaps because of what they understand in their religion, but not by their religion, since none can be saved by error. It is not possible. Error is contrary to truth; it is a break with the Holy Spirit. One cannot be saved by something which no longer possesses the Holy Spirit. One cannot be saved by a false religion.That has always been the Church’s teaching. How many, then, have been saved? That is the great mystery of predestination, the great mystery of the good God and His mercy; we do not know.

One thing, however, is certain: God has asked us to go and preach the Gospel. “He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” What intolerance! Yet our Lord did indeed say: “He that believeth not shall be damned.” People must then be shown the light. If they are not told that they will be condemned if they will not believe, how can they wish to believe? Why, before the Council, were 170,000 Protestants in the United States and 80,000 in England yearly converted to Catholicism? Today there are very few. Why? Because the definition of the Church has been changed and the missionary spirit quenched. It cannot be said that all religions are of equal value. For if all religions were of equal value, why should there be any evangelization? Why set off and cross the seas? Why go to Africa or India? There is no longer any need if people can be saved within their own religion. The missionary spirit is utterly extinguished by this bad definition of the Church.

Only in so far as one says: “Salvation comes only through the Church” (and this the Church has always proclaimed) is it worthwhile to cross the seas to save some souls, to ask them to believe in our Lord and so be saved. These souls are nevertheless subject to original sin, and original sin has grave consequences. It seriously wounds our human nature, our soul. They are the four famous wounds of which St. Thomas speaks, the wounds of ignorance, malice, weakness, and concupiscence which remain even in us here present, though we have been baptized. Those wounds are still within us, and they need to be bound up and lessened that we may better live the life of Christ Jesus.

I myself spent thirty years in Africa. I have lived among these peoples, and I can tell you that there exists among them, for example, one very grave thing-hatred. There are few of those people who do not hate someone. One village hates the neighboring village. Within the Village one hates a particular family. Why? Because the villagers believe that in times past that family cast a spell on their own family, and by reason of that spell one of their own family has died, and that creates ill feeling. “Such and such a family cast a spell on yours,” parents tell their children, “and because they cast that spell, your grandfather died. Remember.” Hence springs hatred, a profound hatred which may go as far as murder or poisoning. Old family bitterness, old family rancor-it is a mortal sin to nourish in one’s heart the desire for murder.

God is indeed merciful. He understands that they live in an intricate and dramatic complex of life and society; all the same, they may render themselves guilty of mortal sin, so we must go and carry the gospel to these peoples. God asks it of us: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk. 15:16). Hence comes the gravity of this change in the definition of the Church.

I should like to speak also of the constitution of the Church, which has always been a constitution in which authority is personal. The pope has his personal authority because he is Bishop of Rome, because as Bishop of Rome he is the successor of Peter on the Chair of Peter in Rome; he is thus the universal Pontiff because he is Bishop of Rome. He must first be named Bishop of Rome, and when he takes his seat on the chair of Rome, he becomes Peter’s successor; and being the successor of Peter, he becomes the universal Pontiff. This is the tradition and truth taught by the Church; and that is why all the cardinals who elect the Holy Father are parish priests of Rome, for it belongs to the Roman clergy to elect their bishop. All the cardinals have Roman titles-they are parish priests of Rome, and on the Roman churches you may see the coats of arms of one or another cardinal. They are truly parish priests, under obligation to pay a pastoral visit to their churches when they visit Rome. And the cardinals elect the Bishop of Rome who, because he becomes Bishop of Rome, becomes the pope of the universal Church. It is thus personally that the pope is elected! The bishops then receive their consecration personally; through that consecration they receive a personal grace; priests too are personally consecrated. In the Church authority has always been given personally. Now there seems to be a growing desire to replace and submerge this authority in the authority of a college. This means that authority finds its hands tied.

The pope feels that his hands are more or less tied by the synod; the bishop feels his hands tied by his council of priests; the parish priest feels his hands tied because he must now consult his parishioners. It seems that if he gives directions personally he is guilty of an abuse of authority. It all ends by submerging personal in collective authority, and this is entirely contrary to the whole constitution of the Church established by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since I do not want to trespass on your patience I will now come to the crux, I should say the heart of my lecture. I hope not to upset you, but I myself have so strong a conviction, so deep a persuasion that I cannot keep silence. Oh! I realize that I shall be told that I am against the Council. I am not against the Council, that is not true, but I could have wished that the Council bore more resemblance to its preparation.

I took part in the preparations for the Council as a member of the Central Preparatory Commission. Thus, for two years I was present at all its meetings. It was the business of the Central Commission to check and examine all the preparatory schemata issued by all the committees. Consequently, I was well placed for knowing what had been done, what remained to be examined, and what was to be put forward during the Council.

This work was carried out very conscientiously and with a concern for perfection. I possess the seventy-two preparatory schemata and can state, speaking generally, that in these seventy-two schemata the doctrine of the Church was absolutely orthodox and that there was hardly any need for retouching. There was, therefore, a fine piece of work for presentation to the Council-schemata in conformity with the Church’s teaching, adapted to some extent to our era, but with prudence and Wisdom.

Now you know what happened at the Council. A fortnight after its opening not one of the prepared schemata remained, not one! All had been turned down, all had been condemned to the wastepaper basket. Nothing remained, not a single sentence. All had been thrown out. It was laid down in the Council’s rules that a two-thirds majority was needed for the rejection of a preparatory schema. Now, in the sixth or seventh meeting of the Council a vote was taken on the preparatory schemata to decide on their study or rejection. Two-thirds of the votes were therefore needed for their rejection. As it happened, there were sixty percent against and forty percent in favor. The two-thirds majority was lacking so, under the rules of the Council, there should naturally have been a study of the schemata.

It should be said that there already existed at that time an extremely powerful body, well organized by the cardinals from the Rhineland and their perfectly equipped secretariat. They brought pressure on Pope John, saying to him, “It is inadmissible to ask us to study schemata which did not carry a majority. They must be rejected outright.” Pope John XXIII sent us word that given the fact that less than half the members of the meeting had voted for the schemata, all were rejected. After a fortnight we were left without any preparation. It was really inconceivable. Which of you gentlemen, if chairman of an administrative council, or taking part in your company’s annual meeting, would consent to meet without any preparation or any agenda? That is how the Council began.

Then there was the matter of the commissions, which were to become conciliar commissions. To begin with, there were the preconciliar commissions which had made the preparations for the Council, then the conciliar commissions had to be elected. Thereupon, a second drama ensued! You can read about that in Fr. Wiltgen’s book The Rhine Flows into the Tiber. It is a book written in English and translated, which is found among the publications of Le Cedre. Fr. Wiltgen was the director of the Council’s best press agency. His papers appeared in between eighty and eighty-five languages, from which you will see that he was extremely well organized. He was clearly very well informed and wrote this book in which he speaks of “victories.” He is a wholly impartial witness since one cannot tell whether he is liberal or conservative; he is first and foremost a technician, the press technician. For him the inter-change of ideas is not important. All that mattered to him was organization and diffusion. Hence he wanted plenty of personalities to interview. Everything was written up and sent out in all these languages-he is therefore an impartial witness. Later he wrote this extraordinary book that shows how a single organization took over the Council. What would you have me do? It is a fact of history and undeniable. As a result, the commissions that were to be set up got us into difficulties.

Picture the bishops arriving from their countries. They know one or two of their colleagues well. But how can bishops coming from all over the world and meeting in Rome know which of their colleagues assembled there are most fitted to be on the commission for Priesthood, on the one for Liturgy or for Canon Law. They are unknown to each other. Hence Cardinal Ottaviani quite properly circulated to all of them the list of members who had been on the preconciliar commissions; people, that is, who had been chosen by the Holy See and who had already worked on the commissions. It seems natural enough that some of them should be on the conciliar commissions. There was an immediate uproar. I need not name the person who sounded the alarm and said: “To submit names is to exert intolerable pressure on the Council. The Council Fathers must be left free. Once again the Roman Curia is exerting pressure to get its members elected to the Committees.” Somewhat taken aback by this revolt, the meeting was adjourned, and in the afternoon the Secretary, Bishop Felici, informed us: “Well, the Holy Father agrees that it may perhaps be preferable that the episcopal conferences should meet and furnish the lists.” Now, episcopal conferences were still in an embryonic state. They met to nominate members whom they considered particularly qualified to be on the commissions. But the people behind this coup d’etat were prepared. They already had all their lists, all the commissions prepared, and all the names chosen from the various countries, for they knew their men; and they submitted their names to us there and then. It so happened that the episcopal conferences had not had time to meet, as it had to be done Within twenty-four hours, and so they could not present names soon enough.

Obviously the lists were accepted by a big majority. Hence, from the very beginning of the Council, we were confronted with committees, two-thirds of whose members showed a very marked trend, the remaining third being nominated by the Holy Father. This became clearly apparent in the schemata teaching us, schemata wholly different in tendency from those of the preparatory commissions. Had I but time and opportunity, I should like to publish both texts-the preparatory and those given us later. It is clear that their orientations differ greatly. Certain things dominated the Council and directed its course.

It must be admitted that the same thing happened where the four moderators, elected after the presidents, were concerned. Pope John XXIII had appointed ten Council presidents. After Pope John XXIII’s death Pope Paul VI appointed only four moderators after the second session of the Council. These four moderators were Cardinal Dopfner, Cardinal Suenens, Cardinal Lercaro, and Cardinal Agagianian. The trend was obvious, it carried enormous weight for the mass of Council Fathers.

We might have had a splendid council by following up its preparations and taking Pope Pius XII as master and doctor of the Council. Pius XII had something to say on all problems. Reference to him was all that was necessary. I do not believe that there exists a single problem of the modern world and our day that he has not settled with all his learning, all his theology, all his holiness. To all, Pope Pius XII offered a solution; I do not say an ultimate, but almost final solution. That is because he really saw things from the point of View of faith. But no, there was no desire for a dogmatic council. Be sure to remember that. Pope John XXIII said it and Pope Paul VI repeated it. During the meetings of the Council we have often sought to get definitions of ideas. Define religious freedom, collegiality, etc. There came the reply: “But we are not being dogmatic, we are not stating a philosophy. We are concerned with pastoral theology.”

Define what a man is, define what is human dignity. It is all very fine to speak of human dignity, but what does it mean? What is liberty? Define those terms. No, no. We are concerned with matters pastoral. So be it-you are dealing with pastoral questions, but in that case your council is not like the other councils. The other councils were dogmatic. All the councils have combated errors. God knows there were errors enough to combat in our time. There were ample for the calling of a dogmatic council, and I well remember Cardinal Wyszinsky’s saying to us: “Draw up a schema on Communism; if there is one grave error threatening the entire world today, that is it. If Pope Pius XI felt it his duty to issue an encyclical on Communism, it would remain very useful for us, gathered here in full assembly, to draw up a schema on Communism.”

We obtained the signatures of six hundred bishops in favor of a declaration against Communism. But do you know how the story ended? The six hundred signatures were left forgotten in a drawer. And when the Chairman for Gaudium et Spes put the problem before us he said: “There have been two petitions for the condemnation of Communism.”

“Two petitions!” we answered, “there are over six hundred.”

“Then,” said he, “I know nothing about them.” A search was made. The six hundred signatures were left once more lying in the drawer.

I know these things through personal experience. If I tell you of them it is not to condemn the Council. It could have been a magnificent thing, but as matters fell out, it must be admitted that nothing can justify some occurrences. Yet, you will say, the Council is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Not necessarily. A pastoral, non-dogmatic council is a sermon which does not of itself invoke infallibility.

When at the close of the sessions we asked the Secretary of the Council, “Could you not give us what theologians call the keynote of the Council,” he replied, “Distinctions must be drawn among the various schemata and chapters, between those which had been the subject of dogmatic definition in the past and statements with the stamp of novelty; the latter call for certain reservations.” This Council, then, is not a council like the others, and for that reason we have a right to judge it prudently and with some reservation. We have no right to say that the crisis through which we are going is wholly unrelated to the Council, that it is simply a misrepresentation of the Council.

There were time bombs in the Council. I believe there were three: collegiality, religious freedom, and ecumenism. Collegiality, which corresponds to the term Egalite of the French Revolution, has the same ideology. Collegiality means the destruction of personal authority; democracy is the destruction of the authority of God, of the authority of the pope, of the authority of the bishops. Collegiality corresponds to the equality of the Revolution of 1789.

Religious freedom is the second time bomb. Religious freedom corresponds to the term Liberte of the French Revolution. It is an ambiguous term which the devil loves to use. That term was never understood in the meaning accepted by the Council. All earlier documents of the Church which speak of religious freedom mean the liberty of religion, never the liberty of religions. When speaking of that freedom, the Church was invariably referring to liberty for religion and tolerance for other religions. Error is tolerated. To give it freedom is to give it a right; but it has none. Truth alone has rights. To acknowledge freedom of religions is to give equal rights to truth and error. That is impossible. The Church can never say anything of the kind. To speak thus is, in my opinion, to blaspheme. It is opposed to the glory of God-God is Truth, Jesus Christ is Truth. To put Jesus Christ on the same footing as a Mahomet or as a Luther, what is it but blasphemy? If we have faith we have no right to admit this. It is the error of common law condemned by Pope Pius IX and all the popes. With religious liberty, it is liberty as understood by the French Revolution that penetrated the Council.

So, to the last time bomb: ecumenism. If you think for a moment you will realize that it corresponds to Fraternite. Heretics were referred to as brethren, Protestants as separated brethren. There you have fraternity. With ecumenism we have really achieved it; it is brotherhood with Communists. Time and again the popes have pointed it out. In his Encyclical Immortale Dei, Leo XIII wrote on the new law and the old law. The new law is revolutionary ideology as a whole. Read all those passages again, and you will realize that we are now living what happened in civil society and is now happening in the Church. Every pope from the time of the French Revolution had set up an insurmountable barrier against the errors of the Revolution; the ideas of the Revolution never penetrated the Church. By these three terms-collegiality, religious liberty, and ecumenism-the modernists have got what they wanted.

These, then, are the aims against which we have striven. The Church has indeed the words of eternal life, she will not perish, but who can say how small a remnant of her little flock will survive once these errors and ideologies have penetrated everywhere.

What is to be said of the liturgy and of the sacraments? If the Eucharist is to be valid, and so for all the other sacraments, there must be present the matter, form, and intention necessary for their validity. The pope himself cannot alter that. The matter is of divine institution; the pope cannot say: “Tomorrow, alcohol shall be used for the baptizing of infants.” It is not within his power. There are things in the sacraments the pope cannot change. Neither can be essentially change the form; certain words are essential. One may not say, for example, “I baptize you in the name of God.” Our Lord Himself gave us the form: “You shall baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” Neither can the pope alter the fact that the priest’s intention is necessary. How can that be known? Remember the historical fact of Pope Leo XIII’s proclamation that all Anglican orders were invalid for lack of intention; lack of intention because it is necessary to will what the Church wills. True, the faith of the priest is not a necessary element: one priest may no longer have the faith, another’s may have dwindled, a third may not believe fully; that has no direct, only an indirect, influence on the validity of the sacraments. Now, Anglicans by the very fact that they have lost the faith, have refused to do what the Church does.

Would not the same situation arise in the case of priests who have lost the faith? We shall find priests who will no longer carry out the sacrament of the Eucharist in accordance with the definition of the Council of Trent. If they are asked: “Is the Eucharist that you are celebrating that of the Council of Trent?” The reply will be: “No. Much has happened since the days of the Council of Trent. We have Vatican II now. Now it is transignification and transfinalisation. Transubstantiation-the Real Presence of our Lord, of the Body of our Savior, the physical presence of our Lord under the species of bread and wine? No, not in these days.” Should priests say that to you, the Consecration is invalid, for they no longer carry out what the Church defined at the Council of Trent. That is irreformable. What the Council of Trent laid down on the Holy Mass and the Eucharist Christians are bound to believe till the end of time. Terms may be made more explicit, but they cannot be changed; that is an impossibility. Whoever says that he does not accept transubstantiation, says the Council of Trent, is anathema, and therefore separated from the Church. One day you may be obliged to ask your priests: “Do you believe in the definitions of the Council of Trent, yes or no? If you no longer believe, your Eucharist is invalid. The Lord is not present.” Because they are desirous of doing what the so-called new theology, the new religion, seeks to do, it is no longer what the Church wills. That is why we must be very circumspect. One may not do what one likes with the sacraments. The sacraments were instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ and explicitly defined by the whole tradition of the Church.

What, then, must we do? I will not trespass on your patience by a longer discourse. Confronted with this unleashing of the devil against the Church-for it is indeed that-what are we to do? We must look at things in terms of the supernatural. The devil is at large today-this is perhaps one of his last battles, an out-and-out conflict. He is seeking to attack on all fronts. If Our Lady of Fatima said that one day the devil would mount to the highest spheres of the Church, it is not, perhaps, incorrect. For myself, I affirm nothing, I condemn no-one, but if it be true that she said it, it could happen. When will it happen? I do not know, but there are now signs and symptoms which might lead us to suspect that among the highest circles in Rome there are now people who have lost the faith. I am ready to say, do, and grant whatever the powers in Rome, from the pope himself to the lowest secretaries of Congregations desire, provided that they do not rob us of our faith. Do not make me change what the Council of Trent said. Do not make me change my Credo. Do not make me change the essence of the sacraments. If an angel from heaven tells you what is contrary to the truth, says St. Paul, do not listen to him.

We must pray. We must do penance. The Blessed Virgin has told us so. But we must put it into practice. We must say the rosary as a family. We must pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Pray to our Lord, to our Lady, to our guardian angels. We must pray to St. Michael the Archangel, we must live among those in heaven that they may intercede for us and help us in our tragic plight. Today, it is when bombs are beginning to fall or there are other grave dangers that people have recourse to prayer; it is then that they begin to tremble and think of God.

But we are living at a time when bombs are raining on us, and we are in danger of losing the faith. It is infinitely worse to lose the life of the soul than the life of the body. Let us, therefore, pray and do penance. We should know how to do without television and break with the desires of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, the pride of life and honors. We must know how to do penance, abstaining from all that is too much of this world, all that panders to the flesh and indecent dress. All such things should be wholly forbidden to true Christians or we shall be bereft of God’s grace, the grace needful now to our salvation. We should go from one disaster to another.

Finally, you must organize your apostolate, and give help and succor to your priests. I fully realize their present problems of resistance, especially for those in the ministry, those who hold office. I fully understand that it is difficult, because a moral pressure is exerted on them and it puts them under a kind of obligation to act as they do and to modify to some extent all the rites of the Mass. The adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that used to take place, all the Benedictions of the Blessed Sacrament that used to be celebrated, all that is disappearing; the rosary must no longer be said, and so forth. Your priests need support. If they feel themselves in the midst of encouraging Christians, priests will again take courage and revert to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the recitation of the rosary; they will no longer give Communion in the hand; they will not invite just anybody to preach or choose just any reading. Little by little there will be a return to good and healthy traditions, even-so far as possible-to the traditional Canon at least. It is a prayer dating back to the Apostles.

When we are told: “You have no right to do this; Pope St. Pius V made one Mass, Pope Paul VI has made another. You should adopt the Mass of Pope Paul VI and abandon that of Pope St. Pius V,” it is not at all the same thing. The Mass given us is an altered Mass. The best proof of this is to be found in the definition of the Mass in Article VII, which is not the same definition as that of the Council of Trent. Pope St. Pius V changed nothing. On the contrary, he simply codified what was from the time of the Apostles. St. Thomas himself says so: explaining the whole Mass, he says frequently that these prayers belong to the apostolic tradition. The prayers of the Canon and many others are thus those of the apostolic tradition. Pope St. Pius V changed nothing. It is now that, for the sake of ecumenism, for the sake of praying jointly with Protestants, we are made to change. In his-«dare I say-naiveté, Fr. Schutz of Taizé said it in plain terms when, coming back from Rome where he had been attached to the Commission for the Liturgy and for the Reform of the Mass, he commented: “Now we can say the Mass with Catholic priests.” Why now? Why not before? Clearly something has changed.

Then comes the question of the catechism: Catechisms must be organized in such a way that there will be groups formed everywhere to expound true doctrine and ensure that children shall be well taught. God will bless you. Of that you may be sure. But what will our priests say? What will the parish priests say? We shall be refused First Communion, Confirmation. Leave that to God in His goodness. Teach your children the Faith and all will be well. God will one day set wide the doors. Already, bishops are becoming seriously worried. No-one left in the seminaries! There will be no more priests... As for you, keep the faith, give the faith to the children, and you will find that all will go well.

In any case, I can assure you of one thing-my seminarians hold fast to the faith, and I am edified by these young people. They are pious, they are lighthearted. Many of them have taken their degrees: I have two engineers, a doctor, four or five B.A.’s in mathematics and an MA. in biology. They are no longer children, but young men who know what they are doing, who know what they want. Hence I have great confidence in these young people and am convinced of their outstanding qualities. For me, it is a miracle, a real miracle. For all these young people have lived like all the other young people, they have been in the universities and so been in contact with the world. When it is said that these young people will not be fitted for the world-come, are they not drawn from the universities? One of them read biology for seven years, and he would not be adapted to the world? Be serious! These young people are well aware of what they are doing. They love the holy sacrifice of the Mass because they see that it is the heart of the Church. It is all deeply consoling and encouraging. I assure you that you must in no way despair of our time-on the contrary. There are still very fine vocations; do but give these vocations the opportunity to flower naturally, and our seminaries will be full once more.

I am convinced that could I open seminaries today in the United States, in England, in Italy, and even in German Switzerland, I could fill them with true vocations. It is an absolute certainty. If I tell you this, it is to encourage you so that you may not lose heart, and I keenly hope that you too may be able to say with St. Paul in the evening of his days, when he was awaiting our Lord’s reward: “I have kept the faith.” Why did he say that? Because he realized that to keep the faith to the end of one’s days, even until death, is a very great grace from God, it is the greatest grace of all that of final perseverance. I pray God that you too, till the ending of your days, may keep the faith so that the Church may live on.

A Bishop Speaks, Writings and Addresses 1963-1976, Angelus Press, 2nd ed., 2007, pp. 119-142
"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 ...

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