INTERVIEW WITH ARCHBISHOP MARCEL LeFEBVRE
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of France made headlines when he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II for consecrating bishops in contravention of orders from Rome. While much has been written about the controversial churchman, very little has been heard directly from him. As a consequence, many people are confused about what is involved in his so-called rebellion and what motivates him.
The following interview with the archbishop was to have been published in 1978 by a leading American Catholic publication. However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops threatened the publication’s publisher with excommunication and decreed virtual extinction for the publication itself if the interview were run. In fact, the bishops ordered that no Catholic publication could run this interview with Archbishop Lefebvre.
An edited version of the interview was finally published in The Spotlight, a weekly newspaper in Washington, D.C., in its issue of July 18, 1988. The complete and unedited interview is transcribed below.
The Spotlight makes no case for or against the doctrinal positions of Archbishop Lefebvre. We printed the interview for we find his statements of 14 years ago, if read in the light of current events, to be extremely timely.
The world itself we find to be in a state of near collapse and the Catholic Church an institution that was once regarded by friend and foe alike to be changeless, now to be riddled with elements of moral relativism, communism, homosexuality and gross uncertainty. Archbishop Lefebvre speaks out in opposition to these trends. The questions asked of the archbishop are in dark type; his responses in light type.
You have debated and taken part in the deliberations of the second council of the Vatican, have you not?
Did you not sign and agree to the resolutions of this council?
No. First of all, I have not signed all the documents of Vatican II because of the last two acts. The first, concerned with “Religion and Freedom,” I have not signed. The other one, that of “The Church in the Modern World”, I also have not signed. This latter is in my opinion the most oriented toward modernism and liberalism.
Are you on record for not only not signing the documents but also on record to publicly oppose them?
Yes. In a book, which I have published in France, I accuse the council of error on these resolutions, and I have given all the documents by which I attack the position of the council - principally, the two resolutions concerning the issues of religion and freedom and “The Church in the Modern World.”
Why were you against these decrees?
Because these two resolutions are inspired by liberal ideology which former popes described to us-that is to say, a religious license as understood and promoted by the Freemasons, the humanists, the modernists and the liberals.
Why do you object to them?
This ideology says that all the cultures are equal; all the religions are equal, that there is not a one and only true faith. All this leads to the abuse and perversion of freedom of thought. All these perversions of freedom, which were condemned throughout the centuries by all the popes, have now been accepted by the council of Vatican II.
Who placed these particular resolutions on the agenda?
I believe there were a number of cardinals assisted by theological experts who were in agreement with liberal ideas.
Who, for example?
Cardinal (Augustine) Bea (a German Jesuit), Cardinal (Leo) Suenens (from Belgium), Cardinal (Joseph) Frings (from Germany), Cardinal (Franz) Koenig (from Austria). These personalities had already gathered and discussed these resolutions before the council and it was their precise aim to make a compromise with the secular world, to introduce Illuminist and modernist ideas in the church doctrines.
Were there any American cardinals supporting these ideas and resolutions?
I do not recall their names at present, but there were some. However, a leading force in favor of these resolutions was Father Murray.
Are you referring to Father John Courtney Murray (an American Jesuit)?
What part has he played?
He has played a very active part during all the deliberations and drafting of these documents.
Did you let the pope (Paul VI) know of your concern and disquiet regarding these resolutions?
I have talked to the pope. I have talked to the council. I have made three public interventions, two of which I have filed with the secretariat. Therefore, there were five interventions against these resolutions of Vatican II.
In fact, the opposition led against these resolutions was such that the pope attempted to establish a commission with the aim of reconciling the opposing parties within the council. There were to be three members, of which I was one.
When the liberal cardinals learned that my name was on this commission, they went to see the holy father (the pope) and told him bluntly that they would not accept this commission and that they would not accept my presence on this com- mission. The pressure on the pope was such that he gave up the idea.
I have done everything I could to stop these resolutions which I judge contrary and destructive to the Catholic faith. The council was convened legitimately, but it was for the purpose of putting all these ideas through.
Were there other cardinals supporting you?
Yes. There was Cardinal (Ernesto) Ruffini (of Palermo), Cardinal (Giuseppe) Siri (of Genoa) and Cardinal (Antonio) Caggiano (of Buenos Aires).
Were there any bishops supporting you?
Yes. Many bishops supported my stand.
How many bishops?
There were in excess of 250 bishops. They had even formed themselves into a group for the purpose of defending the true Catholic faith.
What happened to all of these supporters?
Some are dead; some are dispersed throughout the world; many still support me in their hearts but are frightened to lose the position, which they feel may be useful at a later time.
Is anybody supporting you today (1978)?
Yes. For instance, Bishop Pintinello from Italy; Bishop Castro de Mayer from Brazil. Many other bishops and cardinals often contact me to express their support but wish at this date to remain anonymous.
What about those bishops who are not liberals but still oppose and criticize you?
Their opposition is based on an inaccurate understanding of obedience to the pope. It is, perhaps, a well-meant obedience, which could be traced to the ultramontane obedience of the last century, which in those days was good because the popes were good. However, today, it is a blind obedience, which has little to do with a practice and acceptance of true Catholic faith.
At this stage it is relevant to remind Catholics allover the world that obedience to the pope is not a primary virtue.
The hierarchy of virtues starts with the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity followed by the four cardinal virtues of justice, temperance, prudence and fortitude. Obedience is a derivative of the cardinal virtue of justice. Therefore it is far from ranking first in the hierarchy of virtues.
Certain bishops do not wish to give the slightest impression that they are opposed to the holy father. I understand how they feel. It is evidently very unpleasant, if not very painful.
I certainly do not like to be in opposition to the holy father, but I have no choice considering what is coming to us from Rome at present, which is in opposition to the Catholic doctrine and is unacceptable to Catholics.
Do you suggest that the holy father accepts these particular ideas?
Yes. He does. But it is not only the holy father. It is a whole trend. I have mentioned to you some of the cardinals involved in these ideas. More than a century ago, secret societies, Illuminati, humanist, modernist and others, of which we have now all the texts and proofs, were preparing for a Vatican council in which they would infiltrate their own ideas for a humanist church.
Do you suggest that some cardinals could have been members of such secret societies?
This is not a very important matter at this stage whether they are or not. What is very important and grave is that they, for all intents and purposes, act just as if they were agents or servants of humanist secret societies.
Do you suggest that these cardinals could have taken up such ideas deliberately or were they given the wrong information or were they duped or a combination of all?
I think that humanist and liberal ideas spread throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. These secular ideas were spread everywhere, in government and churches alike.
These ideas have penetrated into the seminaries and throughout the church. And today the church wakes up finding itself in a liberal straitjacket.
This is why one meets liberal influence that has penetrated all strata of secular life during the last two centuries, right inside the church. Vatican Council II was engineered by liberals; it was a liberal council; the pope is a liberal and those who surround him are liberals.
Are you suggesting that the pope is a liberal even if he has never declared himself to be a liberal?
The pope has never denied that he was (a liberal).
When did the pope indicate that he was a liberal?
The pope stated on many occasions that he was in favor of modernist ideas, in favor of a compromise with the world. In his own words, it was necessary.’to throw a bridge between the church and the secular world.’
The pope said that it was necessary to accept humanist ideas, that is was necessary to discuss such ideas; that it was necessary to have dialogs.
At this stage, it is important to state that dialogs are contrary to the doctrines of the Catholic faith. Dialogs presuppose the coming together of two equal and opposing sides; therefore, in no way could (dialog) have anything to do with the Catholic faith.
We believe and accept our faith as the only true faith in the world. All this confusion ends up in compromises, which destroy the church’s doctrines, for the misfortune of mankind and the church alike.
You have stated that you know the reason for the decline in church attendance and lack of interest in the church today, which you reportedly attributed to the resolutions of Vatican II. Is that correct?
I would not say that Vatican II would have prevented what is happening in the church today. Modernist ideas have penetrated everywhere for a long time and that has not been good for the church. But the fact that some members of the clergy have professed such ideas, that is to say the ideas of perverted freedom, in that case-license.
The idea that all truths are equal, all religions are the same, consequently, all the moralities are the same, that everybody’s conscience is equal, that everybody can judge theologically what he can do - these are really humanist ideas – (the idea) of total license with no discipline of thought whatever which leads to the position that anybody can do whatever he likes. All of this is absolutely contrary to our Catholic faith.
You have said that most of these theological counselors and experts only pretend that they are representing the majority of the people, that in fact the people are really not represented by these liberal theologians. Could you explain?
By ‘majority of the people,’ I mean all the people who honestly work for a living. I mean the people on the land, people of common sense in contact with the real world, the lasting world. These people are the majority of the people, who prefer traditions and order to chaos.
There is a movement of all these people throughout the world, who are slowly coalescing in total opposition to all the changes that were made in their name, of their religion.
These people of good will and good sense have been so traumatized by these dramatic changes that they are now reluctant to attend church. When they go into a modernist church, they do not meet what is sacred-the mystical character of the church, all that which is really divine.
What leads to God is divine and they no longer meet God in these churches. Why should they come to a place where God is absent?
People perceive this very well and the liberal cardinals and their advisers have seriously underestimated the loyalty of the majority to their true faith. How (else) can you explain that as soon as we open a traditional chapel or church, every-body rushes in from everywhere? We have standing room only. The Masses go on all day to accommodate the faithful.
Why? Because they find once again what they need: the sacred, the mystical, the respect for the sacred.
For instance, you would see at the airport different people coming to the priests who were there to meet me, shaking their hands - total strangers. Why? Because where people find a priest, a real priest, a priest that behaves like a priest, who dresses like a priest, they are attracted to him immediately and follow him.
This happens here in the United States, it happens in Europe and everywhere in the world. People in the street coming to greet a priest; they come to congratulate him out of the blue and tell him how glad they are to see a real priest, to tell him how glad they are that there are still some priests.
Do you suggest that clothes and habit make a difference in the quality of the priest?
Habits and clothing are, of course, only a symbol, but it is to what this symbol represents that people are attracted, not, of course, the symbol itself.
Why do you appear to attach such importance to the rituals of the Tridentine Mass?1
We certainly do not insist on rituals just for the sake of rituals but merely as symbol of our faith. In that context, we do believe they are important. However, it is the substance and not the rituals of the Tridentine Mass that has been removed.
Could you be more specific?
The new Offertory prayers do not express the Catholic notion of the sacrifice. They simply express the concept of a mere partaking of bread and wine. For instance, this Tridentine Mass addressed to God the prayer: “Accept O Holy Father, heavenly and eternal God, this immaculate victim which your unworthy servant offers to you, my living and true God to atone for my numberless sins, offenses and negligences.” The New Mass says: ‘We offer this bread as the bread of life.’ There is no mention of sacrifice or victim. This text is vague and imprecise, lends itself to ambiguity and was meant to be acceptable to Protestants. It is, however, unacceptable to the true Catholic faith and doctrine. The substance has been changed in favor of accommodation and compromise.
Why do you appear to attach such importance to the Latin Mass rather than the vernacular Mass approved by Vatican Council II?
First the question of the Latin Mass is a secondary question under certain circumstances. But under another aspect it is a very important question. It is important because it is a way to fix the word of our faith, the Catholic dogma and doctrines. It is a way of not changing our faith because in translations affecting these Latin words, one does not render exactly the truth of our faith as it is expressed and embodied in Latin.
It is indeed very dangerous because little by little one can lose faith itself. These translations do not reflect the exact words of the Consecration. These words are changed in the vernacular.
Could you give me an example?
Yes. For instance, in the vernacular, it is said that “the Precious Blood is for all.” When in the Latin text (even the latest, revised Latin text), the text says, “the Precious Blood is for many” and not for all. All is certainly different from many. This is only a minor example that illustrates the inaccuracies of current translations.
Could you quote a translation, which would actually contradict Catholic dogma?
Yes. For example, in the Latin text, the Virgin Mary is referred to as “Semper Virgo,” “always virgin.” In all the modern translations, the word “always” has been deleted. This is very serious because there is a great difference between “virgin” and “always virgin.” It is most dangerous to tamper with translations of this kind.
Latin is also important to keep the unity of the Church because when one travels - and people travel more and more in foreign countries these days - it is important for them to find the same echoes that they have heard from a priest at home, whether in the United States, South America, Europe or any other part of the world. They are at home in any church. It is their Catholic Mass, which is being celebrated. They have always heard the Latin words since childhood, their parents before them, and their grandparents before them. It is an identifying mark of their faith.
Now, when they go into a foreign church, they don’t understand a word. Foreigners who come here don’t understand a word. What is the good of going to a Mass in English, Italian or Spanish when no one can understand a word?
But wouldn’t most of these people understand Latin even less? What is the difference?
The difference is that the Latin of the Catholic Mass has always been taught through religious instruction since childhood. There have been numerous books on the matter. It has been taught throughout the, ages - it is not that difficult to remember.
Latin is an exact expression, which has been familiar to generations of Catholics. Whenever Latin is found in another Church, it immediately creates the proper atmosphere for the worship of God. It is the distinctive tongue of the Catholic faith, which unites all the Catholics throughout the world regardless of their national tongue.
They are not disoriented or baffled. They say: This is my Mass, it is the Mass of my parents, it is the Mass to follow, it is the Mass of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the eternal and unchanging Mass. Therefore from the point of view of unity, it is a very important symbolic link; it is a mark of identity for all Catholics.
But it is far more serious than simply a change of tongue. Under the spirit of Ecumenism, it is an attempt to create a rapprochement with the Protestants.
What proof do you have of this?
It is quite evident because there were five Protestants who assisted in the reform of our Liturgy. The archbishop of Cincinnati, who was present during these deliberations, said that not only these five Protestants were present but also they took a very active part in the debates and participated directly in the reform of our Liturgy. CONTD…