The Infiltration of Modernism In The Church
The following conference was given by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre at Montreal, Canada in 1982. It demonstrates by personal experience the tragic corruption of modernism right from the time of Pope Pius XI. The Archbishop describes the extraordinary influence of Monsignor Annibale Bugnini in the framing of the New Mass and how his unprecedented daring brought about the “approval” of this protestantized liturgy. We present it to our readers to allow them to share a more personal viewpoint of the Archbishop’s battle for the Church and for the Faith.
I’m happy to remark that every where in the world, everywhere in the Catholic world, courageous people are uniting together around priests who are faithful to the Catholic faith and to the Catholic Church, so as to maintain Tradition, which is the bulwark of our Faith. If there is a movement as general as this it is because the situation in the Church is truly serious.
If Catholics and good priests, some of whom have served in parishes for thirty years to the great satisfaction of their parishioners, have been able to beat the insult of being treated as disobedient rebels and dissidents, it could have only have been so as to maintain the Catholic Faith. They do it knowingly, following the spirit of the martyrs.
Whether one is persecuted by one’s own brethren or by the enemies of the Church, it is still to suffer martyrdom, provided it be for the maintaining of the Faith. These priests and faithful are witnesses of the Catholic Faith. They prefer to be considered rebels and dissidents rather than lose their Faith.
Throughout the entire world we are in the presence of a tragic and unheard of situation, which seems never to have happened before in the history of the Church. We must at least try to explain this extraordinary phenomenon. How has it come to pass that good faithful and priests are obliged to fight to maintain the Catholic faith in a Catholic world, which is in the process of totally breaking up?
It was Pope Paul VI himself who spoke of self-destruction within the Church. What does this term self-destruction mean, if it is not that the Church is destroying herself by herself, and hence by her own members. This is already what Pope St. Pius X said in his first encyclical when he wrote: “Henceforth the enemy of the church is no longer outside the church, he is now within.” And the Pope did not hesitate to designate those places where he was to be found: “The enemy is found in the seminaries.” Consequently, the holy Pope St. Pius X already denounced the presence of the enemies of the Church in the seminaries at the beginning of the century.
Obviously the seminarians of the time, who where imbued with modernism, sillonism and progressivism, later became priests. Some of them even became Bishops and among them were even some Cardinals. One could quote the names of those who were seminarians at the beginning of the century and who are now dead but whose spirit was clearly modernist and progressivist.
Thus already Pope St. Pius X denounced this division in the Church, which was to be the beginning of a very real rupture within the Church and within the clergy.
I am no longer young. During my whole life as a seminarian, as a priest and as a Bishop I have seen this division. I saw it already at the French seminary at Rome where by the grace of God I was able to study. I must admit that I was not very keen to do my studies in Rome. I would personally have preferred to study with the seminarians of my diocese in the Lille Seminary and to become an assistant vicar, and finally a parish priest in a small country parish.
I longed simply to maintain the Faith in a parish. I saw myself somewhat as the spiritual father of a population to which I was sent to teach the Catholic Faith and morals. But it happened otherwise. After the First World War my brother was already at Rome, for he had been separated from the family by the circumstances of the war in the north of France. Consequently my parents insisted that I go to be with him. “Since your brother is already at Rome, at the French seminary, go and join him so as to continue your studies with him.” Thus I left for Rome. I studied at the Gregorian University from 1923 to 1930. I was ordained in 1929 and I remained as a priest at the seminary during one year.
The First Victims Of Modernism
During my Seminary years tragic events took place, which now remind me of exactly what I lived through during the Council. I am now in practically the same situation as our Seminary Rector at the time. Fr. Le Floch. When I was there he had already been Rector of the French Seminary at Rome for thirty years. From Brittany, he was a very outstanding man and as strong and firm in the Faith as Brittany granite. He taught us the Papal encyclicals and the exact nature of the Modernism condemned by St. Pius X, the modern errors condemned by Leo XIII and the liberalism condemned by Pius IX. We liked our Fr. Le Floch very much. We were very attached to him.
But his firmness in doctrine and in Tradition obviously displeased the progressive wing. Progressive Catholics already existed at that time. The Popes had to condemn them.
Not only did Fr. Le Floch displease the progressives, but he also displeased the French government. The French government feared that by the intermediary of Fr. Le Floch and by that formation, which was given to the seminarians at the French Seminary in Rome traditional Bishops, would come to France and would give to the Church in France a traditional and clearly anti-liberal direction.
For the French government was Masonic and consequently profoundly liberal and frightened at the thought that non-liberal Bishops could take over the most important posts. Pressure was consequently exerted on the Pope so as to eliminate Fr. Le Floch. It was Francisque Gay, the future leader of the M.R.P., who was in charge of this operation. He came to Rome to exert pressure on Pope Pius XI, denouncing Fr. Le Floch as being, so he said, a member of.’Action Franaise” and a politician who taught his seminarians to also be members of “Action Franaise.’ This was all nothing but a lie. For three years I heard Fr. Le Floch in his spiritual conferences. Never did he speak to us of “Action Franaise.” Likewise people now say to me: “You were formerly a member of Action Franaise.’” I have never been a member of “Action Franaise.”
Clearly we were accused of being members of “Action Franaise,” Nazis and fascists and every other pejorative label because we were anti-revolutionary and anti-liberal.
Thus an inquiry was made. The Cardinal Archbishop of Milan (Card. Schuster) was sent to the seminary. He wasn’t the least of the Cardinals. He was in fact a Benedictine of great holiness and intelligence. He had been designated by Pope Pius XI to make the inquiry at the French Seminary so as to determine if the accusations of Francisque Gay were true or not. The inquiry took place. The result was: the French Seminary functions perfectly well under the direction of Fr. Le Floch. We have absolutely nothing to reproach the Seminary Rector with. But this did not suffice.
Three months later a new inquiry was begun, this time with the order to do away with Fr. Le Floch. The new inquiry was made by a member of a Roman Congregation. He concluded, in effect, that Fr. Le Floch was a friend of “Action Franaise,” that he was dangerous for the Seminary and that he had to be asked to resign. This is just what happened.
In 1926 the Holy See requested Fr. Le Floch to kindly abandon his post as Rector of the French Seminary. He was overwhelmed with sorrow. Fr. Le Floch had never been a politician. He was traditional, attached to the doctrines of the Church and the Popes. In addition he had been a great friend of Pope St. Pius X, who had had great confidence in him. It was precisely because he was a friend of St. Pius X that he was the enemy of the progressive wing.
It was at the same time that I was at the French Seminary that Cardinal Billot was also attacked. He was a first class theologian at the time and remains today well known and studied in our Seminaries. Monseigneur Billot, Cardinal of the Holy Church, was deposed. The purple was taken away from him and he was sent away in penance to Castelgandolfo, quite close to Albano, where the Jesuits have a house. He was forbidden to leave under pretext of having connections with “Action Franaise.”
In fact Cardinal Billot never belonged to “Action Franaise.” He did, however, hold Naurras in high esteem and had cited him in his theology books. In the second volume concerning the Church (De Ecclesia), for example, Cardinal Billot accomplished a magnificent study of liberalism where he took, in the form of notes, several quotations from Maurras. This was a mortal sin! This was all they could find to depose Cardinal Billot. It is not a minor tragedy, for he was one of the great theologians of his time and yet he was deposed as a Cardinal and reduced to the state of a simple priest, for he was not a Bishop. (At that time there were still some Cardinal deacons.) It was already the persecution.
Pope Pius XI Underwent The Influence Of The Progressive Wing
Pope Pius XI himself fell under the influence of the progressives who were already present in Rome. For we see a distinct difference from the Popes before and after. But nevertheless Pope Pius XI at the same time wrote some magnificent encyclicals. He was not a liberal. “Divini Redemptoris,” his encyclical against Communism was magnificent. So also was his encyclical on Christ the King, which established the feast of Christ The King and proclaimed the Social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. His encyclical on Christian Education is absolutely admirable and remains today a fundamental document for those who defend Catholic schools.
If on the level of doctrine Pope Pius XI was an admirable man, he was weak in the order of practical action. He was easily influenced. It is thus that he was very strongly influenced at the time of the Mexican Civil War and gave the Cristeros, who were in the process of defending the Catholic religion and combating for Christ the King, the order to have confidence in the government and to put down their arms. As soon as they had put down their arms they were all massacred. This horrifying massacre is still remembered today in Mexico. Pope Pius XI placed confidence in the government who deceived him. Afterwards, he was visibly very upset. He could not imagine how a government, which had promised to treat with honor those who defended their Faith, could have then gone on to massacre them. Thus thousands of Mexicans were killed on account of their Faith.
Already at the beginning of this century we find certain situations, which announce a division in the Church. Slowly we arrived at it, but the division was very definite just before the council.
Pope Pius XII was a great pope well in his writing as in his way of governing the Church. During the reign of Pius XII the Faith was firmly maintained. Naturally the liberals did not like him, for he brought back to mind the fundamental principles of theology and truth.
But then John XXIII came along. He had a totally different temperament than Pius XII. John XXIII was a very simple and open man. He did not see problems anywhere.
When he decided to hold a Synod Rome they said to him, “But Holy Father, a Synod has to be prepared. At least one year is necessary and perhaps two so as to prepare such a meeting, in order that numerous fruits be gained and that reforms be truly studied and then applied so that your diocese of Rome might draw profit from it. All this cannot be done straight away and in the space of two or three months followed by two weeks of meetings and then all will be fine. It is not possible.”
“Oh yes, yes I know, I know, but it going to be a small Synod. We can prepare it in a few months and everything will be just fine.”
Thus the Synod was rapidly prepared: a few commissions at Rome, everybody very busy and then two weeks of meetings and all was over with. Pope John XXIII was happy his small Synod had been held, but the results were nil. Nothing had changed in the diocese of Rome. The situation was exactly the same as before.
The Drifts Begins With The Council
It was exactly the same thing for the Council. “I have the intention to hold a Council.” Already Pope Pius XII had been asked by certain Cardinals to hold a Council. But he had refused, believing that it was impossible. We cannot in our time hold a Council with 2,500 bishops. The pressures that can exercised by the mass media are too dangerous for us to dare hold a Council. We are liable to get out of depth. And there was in fact no Council.
But Pope John XXIII said: “But it’s fine: we don’t need to be pessimistic. You have to look on things with confidence. We will come together for three months with all the Bishops of the entire world. We will begin on October 13. Then everything will be over with between December 8 and January 25. Everybody will go home, and the Council will be over and done with.”
And so the Pope held the Council! Nevertheless it did have to be prepared. A Council cannot be held off the bat just like a Synod. It was indeed prepared two years in advance. I was personally named as a member of the Central Preparatory Commission as Archbishop of Dakar and president of the West African Episcopal Conference. I therefore came to Rome at least ten times during the two years so as to participate in the meetings of the Central Preparatory Commission.
It was very important, for all the documents of the secondary commissions had to come through it so as to be studied and submitted to the Council. There were in this commission seventy Cardinals and around twenty Archbishops and Bishops, as well as the experts. These experts were not members of the Commission, but were only present so they could eventually be consulted by the members.
The Appearance Of Division
During these two years the meetings followed one another and it became clearly apparent for all the members present that there was a profound division within the Church itself. This profound division was not accidental or superficial but was even deeper amongst the Cardinals than amongst the Archbishops and Bishops. On the occasion of the casting of votes the conservative Cardinals could be seen to vote in one way and the progressive Cardinals in another. And all the votes were always more or less the same way. There was obviously a real division amongst the Cardinals.
I describe the following incident in one of my books A Bishop Speaks. I often mention it because it truly characterizes the end of the Central Commission and the beginning of the Council. It was during the last meeting, and we had received beforehand ten documents on the same subject. Cardinal Bea had prepared a text “De Libertate Religiosa,” “Concerning Religious Liberty.” Cardinal Ottaviani had prepared another, “De ‘Tolerantia Religiosa,” .’Concerning Religious Tolerance.’
The simple fact the two different titles on the same subject was significant of two different conceptions. Cardinal Bea spoke of freedom for all religions and Cardinal Ottaviani of freedom for the Catholic religion along with tolerance of error and false religions. How could such a disagreement have been resolved by the Commission?
From the beginning Cardinal Ottaviani pointed the finger at Cardinal Bea and said, “Your Eminence, you do not have the right to present this document.”
Cardinal Bea replied, “Excuse me but I have perfectly the right to put together a document as President of the Commission for Unity. Consequently, I have knowingly put together this document. Moreover, I am totally opposed to your opinion.”
Thus two of the most eminent Cardinals, Cardinal Ottaviani, Prefect of the Holy Office, and Cardinal Bea, former Confessor of Pope Pius XII, a Jesuit having a great deal of influence on all the Cardinals, who was well known in the Biblical Institute and responsible for advanced biblical studies, were opposed on a fundamental thesis in the Church. Unity for all religions is one thing, that is to say that liberty and error are placed on the same footing; but liberty of the Catholic religion along with tolerance of error is something quite different. Traditionally the Church has always been for the opinion of Cardinal Ottaviani and not for that of Cardinal Bea, which is totally liberal.
Then Cardinal Ruffini, from Palermo, stood up and said; “We are now in the presence of two confreres who are opposed to one another on a question which is very important in the Church. We are consequently obliged to refer to a higher authority.”
Quite often the Pope came to preside over our meetings. But he was not there for this last meeting. Consequently the Cardinals requested to vote: “We cannot wait to go and see the Holy Father. We are going to vote.” We voted. Just about one half of the Cardinals voted for the opinion of Cardinal Bea and the other half for that of Cardinal Ottaviani. All those who voted for Cardinal Bea’s opinion were the Dutch, German, French and Austrian Cardinals, and all those in general from Europe and North America. The traditional Cardinals were those of the Roman Curia, from South America and in general those of Spanish Language.
It was a true rupture in the Church. From this moment I asked myself how the Council could proceed with such opposition on such important points. Who would win? Would it be Cardinal Ottaviani with the Cardinals of Spanish or romance languages or would it be the European Cardinals and those of North America?
In effect, the battle began immediately, from the very first days of the Council. Cardinal Ottaviani had presented the list of members who had belonged to the preparatory commissions, leaving full freedom for each to chose those that he wanted. It was obvious that we could not all know one another, since each one came for his own diocese. How could one possibly know the 2,500 Bishops of the world? We were asked to vote for members of the commissions of the Council. But who could we chose? We did not know the Bishops from South America nor from South Africa nor from India.
Cardinal Ottaviani thought that Rome’s choices for the preparatory commissions could help as an indication for the Council Fathers. It was in fact quite normal to propose these.
Cardinal Lienart arose and said, “We do not accept this way of doing things. We ask for 48 hours to reflect, that we might know better those who could make up the different commissions. This is to exert pressure on the judgement of the Fathers. We do not accept it.”
The Council had begun only two days previously and already there was a violent opposition between the Cardinals. What had happened?
During these 48 hours the liberal Cardinals had already prepared lists made out from all the countries of the world. They distributed these in the letterboxes of all the Council Fathers. We had therefore all received a list proposing the members of such and such a commission; that is such a bishop and another etc. from different countries. Many said: “After all why not. I do not know them. Since the list is already ready we have simply to make use of it.” Forty-eight hours later it was the liberals’ list, which was in front. But it did not receive the two thirds of the votes, which were required by the Council rules.
What then would the Pope do? Would Pope John XXIII make an exception to the rules of the Council or would he apply them? Clearly the liberal Cardinals were afraid that he might apply them and so they ran to the Pope and said to him: “Listen, we have more than half the votes, nearly 60%. You cannot refuse that. We cannot keep going like this and hold another election. We will never be done with it. This is clearly the will of the majority of the Council and we have simply to accept it.” And Pope John XXIII accepted. From this beginning all the members of the Council commissions were chosen by the liberal wing. It is easy to imagine what an enormous influence this had on the Council.
I am sure Pope John XXIII died prematurely because of what he saw at the Council, although he had thought that at the end of a few months everything would be done with. It was to be a council of three months. Then all would say good-bye and go home happy for having met one another at Rome and for having had a nice little meeting.
He discovered that the Council was to be a world of itself, a world of continual clashes. No text came from the first session of the Council. Pope John XXIII was overwhelmed by this and I am persuaded that this hastened his death. It has even been said that on his deathbed he said: “Stop the Council; stop the Council.”
Pope Paul VI Gives His Support To The Liberals
Pope Paul VI came along. It is obvious that he gave his support to the liberal wing. Why was that?
From the very beginning of his pontificate, during the second Session of the Council, he immediately named four Moderators. The four Moderators were to direct the Council instead of the ten Presidents who had presided during the first Session. The Presidents, one of whom had presided over one meeting and then the second and then the third, sat at a table higher than the others. But they were to become honorary Presidents. The four Moderators became the true Presidents of the Council.
Who were these moderators? Cardinal Dopfner of Munich was one. He was very progressive indeed and very ecumenical. Cardinal Suenens, whom the entire world knows along with his charismatics and who has given conferences in favor of the marriage of priests, was another. Cardinal Lercaro who is known for his philocommunism and whose Vicar General had been enrolled as a member of the Communist party was a third. Finally there was Cardinal Agagianian, who represented somewhat the traditional wing, if I can say so.
Cardinal Agagianian was a very discreet and self-effacing man. Consequently he had no real influence on the Council. But the three others accomplished their task with drums beating. They constantly brought together the liberal Cardinals, which gave considerable authority to the liberal wing of the Council.
Clearly the traditional Cardinals and Bishops were from this very moment put aside and despised.
When poor Cardinal Ottaviani, who was blind, started to speak, boos could be heard amongst the young Bishops when he did not finish at the end of the ten minutes allocated to him. Thus did they make him understand that they had had enough of listening to him. He had to stop; it was frightful. This venerable Cardinal, who was honored throughout Rome and who had had an enormous influence on the Holy Church, who was Prefect of the Holy Office, which is not a small function, was obliged to stop. It was scandalous to see how the traditionalists were treated.
Monseigneur Staffa (he has since been named Cardinal), who is very energetic, was silenced by the Council Moderators. These were unbelievable things.
Revolutions Of The Church
This is what happened at the Council. It is obvious that all the Council documents and texts were influenced by the liberal Cardinals and Commissions. It is hardly astonishing that we have such ambiguous texts, which favor so many changes and even a true revolution in the Church.
Could we have done anything, we who represented the traditional wing of the Bishops and Cardinals? Frankly speaking, we could do little. We were 250 who favored the maintenance of Tradition and who were opposed to such major changes in the Church as false renewal, false ecumenism, false collegiality. We were opposed to all these things. These 250 bishops clearly brought some weight to bear and on certain occasions forced texts to be modified. Thus the evil was somewhat limited.
But we could not succeed in preventing certain false opinions from being adopted, especially in the schema on Religious Liberty, whose text was redone five times. Five times the same opinion was brought forward. We opposed it on each occasion. There were always 250 votes against. Consequently Pope Paul VI asked that two small sentences be added to the text, saying that there is nothing in this text which is contrary to the traditional teaching of the Church and that the Church remains always the true and the only Church of Christ.
Then the Spanish Bishops in particular said: “Since the Pope has made this statement there is no longer any problem. There is nothing against tradition.” If these things are contradictory then this little phrase contradicts everything, which is in the texts. It is a contradictory schema. We could not accept it. Finally there remained, if I remember well, only 74 bishops against. It is the only schema, which met such opposition, but 74 of 2,500 is little indeed!
Thus ended the Council. We should not be astonished at the reforms, which have been introduced since. Since then, everything is the history of Liberalism. The liberals were victorious within the Council for they demanded that Paul VI grant them places within the Roman Congregations. And in fact the important places were given to the progressive clergy. As soon as a Cardinal died or an occasion presented itself, Pope Paul VI would put aside traditional Cardinals, immediately replacing them with liberal ones.
Thus it is that Rome was occupied by the liberals. This is a fact, which cannot be denied. Nor can it be denied that the reforms of the Council were reforms which breathe the spirit of Ecumenism and which are quite simply Protestant, neither more nor less.
The Liturgical Reform
The most serious of the consequences was the liturgical reform. It was accomplished, as everybody knows, by a well-known priest, Bugnini, who had prepared it long in advance. Already in 1955 Fr. Bugnini had asked Msgr. Pintonello, general Chaplain of the Italian army, who had spent much time in Germany during the occupation, to translate Protestant liturgical texts. For Fr. Bugnini did not know German.
It was Msgr. Pintonello himself who told me that he had translated the Protestant liturgical books for Fr. Bugnini, who at that time was but an insignificant member of a liturgical commission. He was nothing. Afterwards he became professor of liturgy at the Lateran. Pope John XXIII made him leave on account of his modernism and his progressivism. Hence surprise, surprise, and he is found again as President of the Commission for, Liturgical Reform. This is all the same, unbelievable.
I had the occasion to see for myself what influence Fr. Bugnini had. One wonders how such a thing as this could have happened at Rome. At that time immediately after the Council, I was Superior General of the Congregation of the Fathers of the Holy Ghost and we had a meeting of the Superiors General at Rome. We had asked Fr. Bugnini explain to us what his New Mass was, for this was not at all a small event. Immediately after the Council was heard of the Normative Mass, the New Mass, the Novus Ordo. What did all this mean?
It had not been spoken of at the Council. What had happened? And so we asked Fr. Bugnini to come and explain himself to the 84 Superiors General who were united together, amongst whom I consequently was.
Fr. Bugnini, with much confidence, explained what the Normative Mass would be; this will be changed, that will be changed and we will put in place another Offertory. We will be able to reduce the communion prayers. We will be able to have several different formats for the beginning of Mass. We will be able to say the Mass in the vernacular tongue. We looked at one another saying to ourselves: “But it’s not possible!”
He spoke absolutely, as if there had never been a Mass in the Church before him. He spoke of his Normative Mass as of a new invention.
Personally I was myself so stunned that I remained mute, although I generally speak freely when it is a question of opposing those with whom I am not in agreement. I could not utter a word. How could it be possible for this man before me to be entrusted with the entire reform of the Catholic Liturgy, the entire reform of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, of the sacraments, of the Breviary, and of all our prayers? Where are we going? Where is the Church going?
Two Superiors General had the courage to speak out. One of them asked Fr. Bugnini: “Is this an active participation, that is a bodily participation, that is to say with vocal prayers, or is it a spiritual participation? In any case you have so much spoken of the participation of the faithful that it seems you can no longer justify Mass celebrated without the faithful. Your entire Mass has been fabricated around the participation of the faithful. We Benedictines celebrate our Masses without the assistance of the faithful. Does this mean that we must discontinue our private Masses, since we do not have faithful to participate in them?”
I repeat to you exactly that which Fr. Bugnini said. I have it still in my ears, so much did it strike me: “To speak truthfully we didn’t think of that,” he said!
Afterwards another arose and said: “Reverend Father, you have said that we will suppress this and we will suppress that, that we will replace this thing by that and always by shorter prayers. I have the impression that your new Mass could be said in ten or twelve minutes or at the most a quarter of an hour. This is not reasonable. This is not respectful towards such an act of the Church.” Well, this is what he replied: “We can always add something.” Is this for real? I heard it myself. If somebody had told me the story I would perhaps have doubted it, new I heard it myself.
Afterwards, at the time at which this Normative Mass began to be put into practice, I was so disgusted that we met with some priests and theologians in a small meeting. From it came the “Brief Critical Study,” which was taken to Cardinal Ottaviani. I presided that small meeting. We said to ourselves: “We must go and find the Cardinals. We cannot allow this to happen without reacting.”
So I myself went to find the Secretary of State, Cardinal Cicognani, and I said to him: “Your Eminence, you are not going to allow this to get through, are you? It’s not possible. What is this New Mass? It is a revolution in the Church, a revolution in the Liturgy.”
Cardinal Cicognani, who was the Secretary of State of Pope Paul VI, placed his head between his hands and said to me: “Oh Monseigneur, I know well. I am in full agreement with you; but what can I do? Fr. Bugnini goes in to the office of the Holy Father and makes him sign what he wants.” It was the Cardinal Secretary of State who told me this! Therefore the Secretary of State, the number two person in the Church after the Pope himself, was placed in a position of inferiority with respect to Fr. Bugnini. He could enter into the Pope’s office when he wanted and make him sign what he wanted.
This can explain why Pope Paul VI signed texts that he had not read. He told Cardinal Journet that he had done this. Cardinal Journet was a deep thinker, Professor at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and a great theologian. When Cardinal Journet saw the definition of the Mass in the instruction, which precedes the Novus Ordo, he said: ”This definition of the Mass is unacceptable; I must go to Rome to see the Pope.” He went and he said: “Holy Father you cannot allow this definition. It is heretical. You cannot leave your signature on a document like this.” The Holy Father replied to him (Cardinal Journet did not tell me himself but he told someone who repeated it to me): ”Well, to speak truthfully I did not read it. I signed it without reading it.” Evidently, if Fr. Bugnini had such an influence on him it’s quite possible. He must have said to the Holy Father: ”You can sign it”. “But did you look it over carefully”. ”Yes, you can go ahead and sign it.” And he signed.
But this document did not go through the Holy Office. I know this because Cardinal Seper himself told me that he was absent when the Novus Ordo was edited and that it did not pass by the Holy Office. Hence it is indeed Fr. Bugnini who obtained the Pope’s signature and who perhaps constrained him. We do not know, but he had without a doubt an extraordinary influence over the Holy Father.
A third fact, of which I was myself the witness, with respect to Fr. Bugnini is also astonishing. When permission was about to be give for Communion in the hand (what a horrible thing!), I said to myself that I could not sit by without saying anything. I must go and see Cardinal Gut -a Swiss -who was Prefect of the Congregation for Worship. I therefore went to Rome, where Cardinal Gut received me in a very friendly way and immediately said to me: “I’m going to make my second-in- charge, Archbishop Antonini, come that he also might hear what you have to say.”
As we spoke I said: “Listen, you who are responsible for the Congregation for Worship, are you going to approve this decree which authorizes Communion in the hand? Just think of all the sacrileges, which it is going to cause. Just think of the lack of respect for the Holy Eucharist, which is going to spread throughout the entire Church. You cannot possibly allow such a thing to happen. Already priests are beginning to give Communion in this manner. It must be stopped immediately. And with this New Mass they always take the shortest canon, that is the second one, which is very brief”
At this, Cardinal Gut said to Archbishop Antonini, “See, I told you this would happen and that priests would take the shortest canon so as to go more quickly and finish the Mass more quickly.”
Afterwards Cardinal Gut said to me: “Monseigneur, if one were to ask my opinion (when he said “one” he was speaking of the Pope, since nobody was over him except the Pope), but I’m not certain it is asked of me (don’t forget that he was Prefect for the Congregation for Worship and was responsible for everything which was related to Worship and to the Liturgy!), but if the Pope were to ask for it, I would place myself on my knees, Monseigneur, before the Pope and I would say to him: ‘Holy Father do not do this; do not sign this decree.’ I would cast myself on my knees, Monseigneur. But I do not know that I will be asked. For it is not I who command here.”
This I heard with my own ears. He was making allusion to Bugnini, who was the third in the Congregation for Worship. There was first of all Cardinal Gut, then Archbishop Antonini and then Fr. Bugnini, President of the Liturgical Commission. You ought to have heard that! Alas, you can now understand my attitude when I am told; you are a dissident and disobedient rebel.
Infiltrators In The Church To Destroy It
Yes, I am a rebel. Yes, I am a dissident. Yes, I am disobedient to people like those Bugninis. For they have infiltrated themselves into the Church in order to destroy it. There is no other explanation.
Are we then going to contribute to the destruction of the Church? Will we say: “Yes, yes, amen’; even if it is the enemy who has penetrated right to the Holy Father and who is ableot; make the Holy Father sign what he wants? We don’t really know under what pressure he did it. There are hidden things, which clearly escape us. Some say that it is Freemasonry. It’s possible. I do not know. In any case, there is a mystery.
How can a priest who is not a Cardinal, who is not even a Bishop, who was still very young at the time and who was elevated against the will of Pope John XXIII (who had chased him from the Lateran University), how can such a priest go to the very top without taking any account of the Cardinal Secretary of State, nor of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Worship? How can he go directly to the Holy Father and make him sign what he wants? Such a thing has never before been seen in the Holy Church. Everything should go through the authorities. That is why there are Commissions. Files are studied. But this man was all powerful!
It was he who brought in Protestant pastors to change our Mass. It was not Cardinal Gut. It was not the Cardinal Secretary of State. It was perhaps not even the Pope. It was him. Who is this man Bugnini? One day the former Abbot of St. Paul Outside the Walls, a Benedictine who had preceded Fr. Bugnini as head of the Liturgical Commission, said to me: “Monseigneur, do not speak to me of Fr. Bugnini. I know too much about him. Do not ask me about him.” I replied: “But tell me. I must know it. The truth must be uncovered.” It is probably he who asked John XXIII to send him away from the Lateran University.
All of these things show us that the enemy has penetrated right within the Church, as St. Pius X already said. He is in the highest places, as Our Lady of La Salette announced, and as without a doubt the third secret of Fatima tells us.
Well, if the enemy is truly within the Church, must we obey him? “Yes, for he represents the Pope,” is a frequent answer. First of all we do not know this at all, for we do not know exactly what the Pope thinks.
I have, all the same, some personal proofs that Pope Paul VI was very much influenced by Cardinal Villot. It has been said that Cardinal Villot was a Freemason. I do not know. There are some strange facts. Letters of Freemasons addressed to Cardinal Villot have been photocopied. I do not have the proof of it. In any case, Cardinal Villot had a considerable influence over the Pope. He concentrated all power at Rome within his own hands. He became the master much more than the Pope. I do know that everything had to go through him.
One day I went to see Cardinal Wright with respect to the Canadian Catechism. I said to him: “Look at this catechism. Are you aware of those little books, which are entitled ‘Purture’? It’s abominable that children are taught to break away. They must break with their family, with society, with tradition. ..this is the catechism, which is taught to the children of Canada with the Imprimatur of Monseigneur Couderc. It’s you who are responsible for catechism in the entire world. Are you in agreement with this catechism?” “No, no,” he said to me: “This catechism is not Catholic” -“It is not Catholic! Then immediately tell the Canadian Bishops’ Conference. Tell them to stop and to throw this catechism in the fire and to take up the true catechism.” His answer was: “How can I oppose myself to a Bishops’ Conference?”
I then said: “It’s over and done with. There is no more authority in the Church. It’s over and done with. If Rome can no longer say anything to a Bishops’ Conference, even if it is in the process of destroying children’s Faith, then it’s the end of the Church.”
That is where we are now. Rome is afraid of the Bishops’ Conferences. These conferences are abominable. In France the Bishops’ Conference has been involved in a campaign in favor of contraception. The Socialist Government, which is constantly advertising on the television the slogan: “Take the pill so as to prevent abortions,” got them involved, I think. They had nothing better to do than push crazy propaganda in favor of the pill. The cost of the pill is reimbursed for girls of only twelve years, so as to avoid abortion! And the bishops approve! Official documents in favor of contraception can be found in the Tulle diocese bulletin, which is my former diocese, and which bulletin I continue to receive This came from Bishop Bruneau, a former Superior General of the Sulpicians. He is supposedly one of the best Bishops of France. It’s like that!
Why Do I Not Obey Error?
What should I do? I am told: “You must obey. You are disobedient. You do not have the right to continue doing what you are doing, for you divide the Church.”
What is a law? What is a decree? What obliges to obedience? A law, Leo XIII says, is the ordering of reason to the common good, but not towards the common evil. This is so obvious that if a rule is ordered towards an evil, then it is no longer a law. Leo XIII said this explicitly in his encyclical “Libertas.” A law, which is not for the common good, is not a law. Consequently one is not obliged to obey it.
Many canon lawyers at Rome say that Bugnini’s Mass is not a law. There was no law for the New Mass. It is simply an authorization, or a permit. Let us accept, for argument’s sake, that there was a law, which came from Rome, an ordering of reason to the common good and not to the common evil. But the New Mass is in the process of destroying the Church, of destroying the Faith. It’s obvious. The Archbishop of Montreal, Archbishop Grgoire, in a letter, which was published, was very courageous. He is one of the rare bishops who dared write a letter in which he denounced the evils of which the Church of Montreal is suffering. “We are greatly saddened to see parishes abandoned by a great number of the faithful. We attribute this, in great part, to the liturgical reform.” He had the courage to say it.
We are in the presence of a true plot within the church on the part of the Cardinals themselves, such as Cardinal Knox, who made that famous inquiry concerning the Tridentine Latin Mass throughout the entire world. It was a clear and obvious lie, so as to influence Pope John Paul II that he might say: “If there are such a small number who want Tradition, it will fall away by itself. His investigation was worth nothing.” Yet the Pope, at the time that he received me in audience in November of 1978, was ready to sign an agreement according to which priests could celebrate the mass they choose. He was ready to sign that.
But there is at Rome a group of Cardinals bitterly opposed to Tradition. Cardinal Casaroli the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Religious and Cardinal Baggio, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops who has the very important responsibility of nominating bishops, are amongst them. Then there is the infamous Virgilio Noe who is the second-in- charge for the Congregation for Worship and who is perhaps worse even than Bugnini. And then there is Cardinal Hamer, the Belgian Archbishop who is second in charge of the Holy Office, who comes from the region of Loops n and is imbued with all the modern ideas of Louvain. They were bitterly opposed to Tradition. They did not want to hear us speak about it. I believe that they would have strangled me if they could.
At Least Leave Us Liberty
They league together against me as soon as they know I am making an effort to obtain from the Holy Father the freedom for Tradition. Just leave us in peace; just leave us to pray as Catholics have prayed for centuries; just leave us to continue what we learned in the seminary; just leave us to continue that which you yourselves learned when you were young, that is to say the best way to sanctify ourselves.
This is what we were taught at the Seminary. I taught this when I was a priest. When I became a bishop I myself said this to my priests, to all my priests and to all my seminarians. This is what you need to do to become a saint. Love the holy sacrifice of the Mass, which is given to us by the Church. Be devoted to her sacraments and her catechism, and especially change nothing. Keep Tradition. Keep to the Tradition, which has lasted for twenty centuries. It is that which sanctifies us. It is that which sanctified the saints. But now all has been changed. This cannot be. Just leave us at least freedom!
Obviously, when they hear this they immediately go to the Holy Father and say to him: “Concede nothing to Archbishop Lefebvre, grant nothing to Tradition. Especially do not back down.”
Since these are the most important Cardinals, such as Cardinal Casaroli the Secretary of State the Pope does not dare. There are some Cardinals who would be rather more in favor of an agreement, such as Cardinal Ratzinger. It is he who replaced Cardinal Seper who died at Christmas of 1981. Cardinal Ratzinger was nevertheless very liberal at the time of the Council. He was a friend of Rahner, of Hans Kung, and of Schillebeeckx. But his nomination as Archbishop of the diocese of Munich seemed to open his eyes somewhat. He is now certainly much more aware of the danger of the reforms and more desirous of returning to traditional rules, along with Cardinal Palazzini who is in charge of the Congregation for Beatifications and Cardinal Oddi who is in charge of the Congregation for the Clergy. These three cardinals would be in favor of allowing us freedom. But the others have still a great deal of influence over the Holy Father…
I was at Rome five weeks ago, so as to see Cardinal Ratzinger who was named by the Pope to replace Cardinal Seper as a personal intermediary for relations with the Society and myself. Cardinal Seper had been named on the occasion of the audience, which Pope John Paul II granted me. The Pope had made Cardinal Seper come and had said to him: “Your Eminence, you will have the job of maintaining relations between Archbishop Lefebvre and myself. You will be my intermediary.” Now he has named Cardinal Ratzinger.
I went to see him and I spoke with him during an hour and three quarters. Certainly Cardinal Ratzinger seems more positive and more willing to come to a good solution. The only difficulty, which remains rather troublesome, is the Mass. Ultimately it has always been a question of the Mass, right from the beginning.
For they know very well that I am not against the Council. There are some things, which I cannot accept in the Council. I did not sign the schema on Religious Liberty. I did not sign the schema on the Church in the modern world. But it cannot be said that I am against the Council. These are things, which cannot be accepted because they are contrary to Tradition. This ought not to upset them too much, since the Pope himself said: “The Council must be looked at in the light of Tradition.” If the Council is to be accepted in the light of Tradition I am not at all upset.
I will readily sign this, because everything, which is contrary to Tradition, is clearly to be rejected. During the audience, which the Pope granted me (-on November 18, 1978 – Ed.), he asked me: “Are you ready to sign this formula?” I replied: “You yourself used it and I am ready to sign it.” Then he said: “Then there are no doctrinal differences between us? ” I replied: “I hope not.” – “Now what problems remain? Do you accept the Pope?” – “Of course we recognize the Pope and we pray for the Pope in our Seminaries. Ours are perhaps the only seminaries in the world where the Pope is prayed for. We have a great deal of respect for the Pope. Each time the Pope has asked me to come I have always come. But there is a difficulty concerning the liturgy,” I said to him, “which is truly very important. The new liturgy is in the process of destroying the Church and the Seminaries. This is a very important question.” – “But not at all. This is but a disciplinary question. It is not very serious at all. If this is the only problem. I believe that it can be fixed up.”
And the Pope called Cardinal Seper, who came immediately. If he had not come I believe that the Pope would have been ready to sign an agreement. Cardinal Seper came, and the Pope said to him: “I believe that it should not be so difficult to make an agreement with Archbishop Lefebvre. I believe that we can come to an agreement. There is just the question of the liturgy which is a little thorny.” – “But, concede nothing to Archbishop Lefebvre,” cried out the Cardinal. “They make of the Tridentine Mass a flag.” – “A flag?” I said. “But of course the holy mass is the flag of our Faith, the ‘mysterium fidei.’ It is the great mystery of our Faith. It is obvious that it is our flag, for it is the expression of our Faith.”
This made a profound impression on the Holy Father, who appeared to change almost immediately. In my opinion this showed that the Pope is not a strong man. If he had been a strong man he would have said: “It is I who am going to decide this matter. We are going to fix things up.” But no. Immediately he became as if were afraid. He became fearful, and when he left his office he said to Cardinal Seper: “You can speak together right now. You can try to make an arrangement h Arch- bishop Lefebvre. You can stay here. But I am obliged to go and see Cardinal Baggio. He has very many files to show me concerning Bishops. I must leave.” As he left he said to me: “Stop, Monseigneur, stop.” He was transformed. In a few minutes he had completely changed.
It was during this audience that I had shown him a letter that I had received from a Polish Bishop. He had written to me a year beforehand in order to congratulate me for the Seminary I had founded at Econe and for the priests that I was forming. He wished that I maintain the old Mass with all its Tradition. He added that he was not the only one. We are several Bishops who admire you, who admire your Seminary, the formation that you give to your priests and the Tradition that you maintain within the Church. For we are obliged to use the new liturgy, which makes our faithful lose the Faith.
That is what the Polish Bishop said. I took this letter with me when I went to see the Holy Father, saying to myself: “He will surely speak to me of Poland.” I was not wrong. He said to me: “But you know, in Poland all is going very well. Why do you not accept the reforms? In Poland there are no problems. People are simply sorry to have lost the Latin. We were very attached to Latin, because it bound us to Rome and we are very Roman. It is a pity, but what can I do? There is no longer any Latin in the Seminaries nor in the Breviary nor in the Mass. There is no more Latin. It’s quite un facunate, but it’s just like that. You see, in Poland these reforms were made and they did not create any difficulty. Our seminaries are full, and our Churches are full.”
I said to the Holy Father: ”Allow me to show you a letter I received from Poland.” I showed it to him. When he saw the name of the Bishop he said: “Oh, this is the greatest of the communists’ enemies.” -“It’s a good reference,” I said. The Pope read the letter carefully. I watched his face in order to see how he would react to those words which were twice repeated in the letter: “We are obliged to use the liturgical reform which makes our faithful lose the Faith.” Obviously the Pope could not accept this. At the end he said to me: “Did you receive this letter just like that? ” – “Yes, this is a photocopy that I bring to you.” – “It must be a fake,” he replied.
What could I say? I could no longer say anything. The Pope said to me: “You know, the Communists are very cunning in their efforts to provoke divisions among the Bishops.” So according to him this was a letter fabricated by the Communists and then sent to me. I am very doubtful about this. This letter was posted in Austria, for I imagine that the author was afraid that the Communists would intercept it and that it would not arrive. That is why he posted it in Austria. I replied to the Bishop but I heard nothing more from him.
All this is to say that I think that there are even in Poland profound divisions. Moreover, there have always been divisions between the peace priests and those who wish to hold fast to Tradition. This has been tragic behind the iron curtain.
The Communist Influence On Rome
You ought to read the book “Moscow and the Vatican,” by the Jesuit, Father Lepidi. It is extraordinary. It shows the influence that the Communists had in Rome, and how they were responsible for the nomination of Bishops and even of two Cardinals: Cardinal Lekai and Cardinal Tomaseck. Cardinal Lekai, was the successor of Cardinal Mindszenty, and Cardinal Tomaseck was the successor of Cardinal Beran. Both Cardinal Mindszenty and Cardinal Beran were heroes and martyrs for the Faith. They were replaced by peace priests who were determined above everything else to come to an understanding with the Communist government who persecuted traditional priests. These traditional priests went secretly to baptize in the countryside or to secretly catechize so as to continue their work as pastors in the Catholic Church, and yet they were persecuted by their Bishops, who said to them: “You do not have the right not to respect the rules of the Communist government. You do us a disfavor by acting against its laws.”
But these priests were ready to give their life so as to keep the Faith of children, so as to keep Faith in families, and so as to give sacraments to those who had need of them. Obviously in these countries one had always to ask for authorizations, if one wanted to carry the Blessed Sacrament to a hospital or to do anything at all. As soon as they left their sacristy these priests were obliged to ask the Communist party if it authorized them to do this or that. This was impossible. People died without the sacraments. Children were no longer educated in a Christian way. So the priests had to do these things in secret. If they were caught it was often because the Bishops themselves persecuted them. It’s frightening.
Neither Cardinal Wyszynski nor Cardinal Slipyi nor Cardinal Mindszenty nor Cardinal Beran would have done such things as these. They, to the contrary, encouraged good priests, saying to them: “Go ahead, go ahead. If you are put into prison you will have done your duty as a priest. If you must die martyrs then you will be martyrs.”
This shows how much influence they had on Rome. We have great difficulty in imagining it. We cannot even believe it.
I have never been against the Pope. I have never said that the Pope is not the Pope. I am absolutely for the Pope, for the successor of Peter. I do not want to separate myself from Rome. But I am against modernism, progressivism, and all the bad and destructive influences, which Protestantism has had via the reforms. I am against all those reforms, which poison us and poison the life of the faithful.
Thus I am told: “You are against the Pope.” No, I am not against the Pope To the contrary, I come to help the Pope. For the Pope cannot be modernist; he cannot be progressivist. Even if he allows himself to be pushed around, it is by weakness. This can happen. St. Peter also was weak with respect to the Jews. And St. Paul severely reproached him for: “You do not walk according to the Gospel,” he said to St. Peter. St. Peter was the Pope and St. Paul reproached him. And he did it vigorously: “I reproached the head of the Church because he was not walking according to the law of the Gospel.” It was a grave thing to say this to the Pope.
St. Catherine of Siena also vehemently reproached several Popes. We must have the same attitude. We say: “Holy Father, you are not doing your duty. You must return to Tradition to be persecuted by all those Cardinals and Bishops who are modernists you are going to bring about the ruin of the Church.”
I am sure that in his heart the Pope is profoundly concerned and that he seeks for a means to renew the Church. I hope that by our prayers and sacrifices and the prayers of those who love the Holy Church and who love the Pope we will succeed.
This will be especially by devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. If we pray to Our Lady, she who cannot abandon her Son, she who cannot abandon the Church that her Son founded, the mystical Spouse of her Son, we will be answered. It will be difficult and a miracle, but we will succeed.
As for myself, I do not want people to make me say that the New Mass is good, but that it is simply less good than the Traditional Mass. I cannot say that. I cannot say that these modern sacraments are good. They were made by Protestants. They were made by Bugnini. And Bugnini himself said on March 19, 1965, as can still be read in the “Osservatore Romano” and in “Documentation Catholique,” which magazines published a translation of Bugnini’s discourse:
“We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is for the Protestants.”
This was on March 19, 1965, just before all the reforms. Can we go to the Protestants and ask them concerning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, concerning d toour catechism? In what are you not in agreement? Do you not like this or do you not like that? …Well we will suppress it. This is not possible. It would perhaps not be heretical to do so, but the Catholic Faith would be diminished. Thus it is that people no longer believe in Limbo, in Purgatory and in Hell. Original sin is no longer believed in, neither are the angels. Grace is not believed in. People no longer speak of that which is supernatural. Our Faith is being destroyed.
So we must absolutely maintain our Faith and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary. We desire to undertake a giant task, and without the help of the good Lord we will never be able to accomplish it. I am certainly aware of my weakness and of my isolation. What can I do by myself compared to the Pope or the Cardinals? I do not know. I go as a pilgrim, with my pilgrim’s staff. I am going to say “keep the Faith.” Keep the Faith. Be rather a martyr then abandon your Faith. You must keep the sacraments and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
You cannot say: “But it is all different now. It is not too bad after all. As for me, I have a solid Faith and I’m not likely to lose it.” For it is clear that those who habitually attend the New Mass and the new sacraments undergo a gradual change of mentality. After a few years it will become apparent in questioning somebody who goes regularly to this new ecumenical Mass that he has adopted its ecumenical spirit. This means that he ends up by placing all religions on the same footing. If he is asked whether one can save oneself through Protestantism, through Buddhism, or through Islam he will reply: “But of course. All religions are good.” And there you have it. He has become liberal and Protestant and is no longer Catholic.
There is only one religion. There are not two of them. If Our Lord is God and founded a religion, the Catholic Religion, there can be no other religion. It is not possible. The other religions are false. That is why Cardinal Ottaviani used the title: “Concerning Religious Tolerance.”
Errors can be tolerated when they cannot be prevented. But they cannot be placed on to dame footing as the truth. There could then be no missionary spirit. The missionary spirit could not then be possible. If all the false religions save souls then why go out on mission? What is one going to do there? We have only to leave them in their religion and they are going to all save themselves. This is not possible. What, then, has the Church done for twenty centuries? Why all the martyrs? Why were they all massacred on the mission? Did the missionaries waste their time? Did the martyrs waste their blood and their lives? We cannot accept that.
We must remain Catholic. The slide into ecumenism is very dangerous. Easily one falls into a religion, which is no longer the Catholic religion.
I sincerely wish that all could be witnesses of Our Lord, of the Catholic Church of the Faith, and of Catholicism, even if we have to be despised and insulted in the newspapers, in the parishes and in the churches. What does it matter? We are witnesses of the Catholic Church. We are the true sons of the Catholic Church and true sons of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
+ Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
(Translated from Fideliter, Janvier-Fevrier 1992,)