Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter XLIV

“Liberalism has Penetrated the Church”

Excerpts from a Conference Given by Mgr. Lefebvre at Angers, France
23 November 1980

The spirit of Liberalism has penetrated the Church. How can such a thing have happened? Do I really believe that Pope Paul VI had a Liberal mentality? It is not I who say it, but his great friend, Cardinal Daniélou. It can be found in his book, The Memoirs of Cardinal Daniélou, told by His Sister, where it is explicitly stated: “The Cardinal says of Pope Paul VI that he was one of his best friends, that he knew him well and that he had a Liberal outlook." That is sufficient ! That explains everything that has happened during his pontificate, because the Liberal mentality is one which is tempted by the world, by all those liberties, as if by some sort of enchantment.

The Liberals were enchanted by the French Revolution. When, fifty years later, France found itself confronted with revolution it was also faced with a choice: must the consequences of the revolution be perpetuated or should they be opposed? There were evidently those who were quite opposed to the principles of the revolution, and others who simply said that one should simply oppose the excesses, the abuses the violence of the revolution. Yes, but it was enough to Christianize the principles of the revolution a little, and one could come to terms with them quite well. Well, that was France’s loss. Pope Leo XIII did not realize that it was really the Masonic leaders that were controlling France at this time, and believed that terms could be agreed. The result was the Combe Ministry and all the monks and nuns expelled from France. The churches plundered, all the wealth of the Church seized. That is what Liberalism is.

Well, the position with the Council is much the same. There are those who say that the principles could be accepted, but not the excesses. But the Liberal worm is in the fruit. It is a mistake to try to limit the excesses. If the disease is in the fruit it always comes back again. In fact, the worm which is in the fruit must be removed, as must the errors which are at the interior of Liberal thought. One day there will have to be a return to Tradition. We will be forced by events or by disasters which God will perhaps send as a punishment for not accepting the social reign of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. But they will be forced because there will no longer be anything, all will be destroyed, all will be demolished. There will no longer be seminaries, there will no longer be real priests, there will no longer be the Sacrifice of the Mass. Everything will have vanished.

So what is to be done? We are surely obliged to return to Tradition if the Church is to have a true renewal. That is why even without wanting to win, even without wanting to say that it is we who have won, deriving a kind of satisfaction at seeing that we are right – that is not what matters. What matters is the salvation of souls, the continuation of the Church, the duty which we have towards Our Savior Jesus Christ Who should reign. It is that which we uphold, as it is that which makes us steadfast. In any case, we are inevitably the winners from the outset. Were we have to die, were an atomic bomb to kill us all, what we have done, what we have taught, what we have said conforms with the truth, since it conforms with what has been taught, as St. Paul says, in the early Church. This truth cannot perish. It is not possible. So, quite simply, we must continue, as did our parents and our grandparents, to preserve our religion as it always was.

We shed tears of blood to see the Church deteriorating to this extent, to see the wretched state of our churches, of our priests, of our seminaries, or of those religious orders which sell all their goods. Take, for example, the Sisters of the Order of the Visitation, founded by St. Francis de Sales. The Sisters of the seventy-five convents which remain in France met last year and decided to sell half of them, and use the others for homes for the old sisters. That is what is happening to the convents in France – nearly forty Visitation convents for sale!

Obviously, people write to me from everywhere. They write to me from Quimper: "Monseigneur, the minor seminary at Quimper is for sale. Don't you wish to buy it?"

“Monseigneur, the seminary at Legé is for sale. Couldn’t you buy it?”

This very morning someone said to me: "Monseigneur, the major seminary at Nantes is for sale. Won't you buy it?"

Incredible! And it is like that everywhere. Every week I am offered sale of a major seminary, or a convent, or an abbey for sale…

We must know how to draw distinctions. As you can well imagine, it was a profound sorrow for me to see some of my priests leave the Society because they do not agree with a line of conduct which I have followed since the foundation of the Society. I have always recognized the Pope. I went to see Pope Paul VI, and I have been to see Pope John Paul II. I am ready to see Pope John Paul II tomorrow, if he asks me, but I am ready to speak the truth.

I try to explain that we must return to Tradition, that there has been an error, that they are mistaken, that it is necessary to return to a solid foundation, to the things of faith, to the catechism of old, to the sacraments of old, to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass of old. There must be a return, even if they do not abandon all that they have done since the Council immediately. A tree is judged by its fruits. Let them at least leave us freedom (i.e., which rite of Mass to use). I do not agree with those who say there is no pope. very grave thing to say that there is no pope. Because the Pope is Liberal, that does not mean that he has ceased to be the Pope.

I do not think that Pope John Paul II is as infected with Liberalism as was Pope Paul VI; but, unfortunately, in view of the fact that he himself professes to be the spiritual son of Pope Paul VI, that he follows the line of Pope Paul VI, that he is there to defend and continue the work of Paul VI, that he feels it his duty to continue all that John and Paul did, whose names he took, we are troubled and we wonder where it will all end? Must we wait yet again for a new pontificate [to initiate a return to Tradition]? Yet, despite all that, the Pope is nonetheless keen to return to Tradition insofar as seminaries, clergy, Church discipline, and religious discipline are concerned. When the Pope speaks of these things, he speaks well. We are pleased to hear him. If only the Pope wished to return in this way in all respects!…

I tell you that, quite simply, because you could ask yourselves many questions, as I ask myself, wishing with all my heart, praying morning and evening, night and day, that Tradition might return to the Church. The Pope himself would be more satisfied and happy than anyone if it did. We can only live in Our Lord, and by Our Lord with the reign of Our Lord. Everywhere! Everywhere! In the Liturgy, in social, political, family life, we can do nothing without Our Savior Jesus Christ. Do you see what I am trying to tell you? We must keep a firm line and we must not deviate during these difficult times in which we live. One could be tempted, justifiably, to extreme solutions and say: “No, no. The Pope is not only Liberal, the Pope is heretical! The Pope may well be more than heretical, so there is no pope!”

That is not so. To be a Liberal is not necessarily to be a heretic, and as a necessary consequence, outside the Church. We must know how to make the necessary distinctions. This is very important if we are to stay on the right path, to stay in the Church. Besides, where would this thinking lead us? If there is no longer a pope, there are no longer any cardinals because, if the Pope isn't pope, when he nominates cardinals these cardinals can no longer elect a pope, because they are not really cardinals. Well then, would an angel from heaven provide us with a pope? The idea is absurd, and not only absurd,but dangerous because then we would be guided perhaps to solutions which are truly schismatic. One might go to find the "pope" of Palmar de Troya who has been excommunicated. He has excommunicated me, he has excommunicated the Pope and he everybody ! There are others. One could go to the church of Toulouse, to the church of Rouen, who knows ? To the Mornlons, to the Pentecostals, to the Adventists, or everywhere. Souls are lost, and I do not wish to have such a responsibility.

There are those who find me severe perhaps, for insisting that those young priests who do not agree with us, do not agree with that line which I have always followed, leave us. But I cannot allow the wolf into the sheepfold.

If today I say there is a Pope, this Pope, we are not obliged to follow him in everything. It is possible to have shepherds who are not always good shepherds in the full sense of the word, and we are not obliged to follow them in everything. But to go from this, to say that we do not have a pope, no!

And so they introduce divisions among traditionalists. They introduce division into the Church, and I want nothing to do with this. I can have nothing to do with this, while regretting it profoundly…

(One day there will be a Pope) a pope truly like a St. Pius X, and there will be no more problems. Holy Church will find herself once more in the Truth, and we shall be in communion one hundred percent with the pope who will have found Tradition again. Oh, certainly, I shall probably not be alive when that happens, but we hope that an arrangement can be made with Pope John Paul II. I do not in any way despair of an arrangement being made with him. We ask simply perhaps not to get into too much discussion over theoretical problems, to lay aside the questions which separate us, such as that of religious liberty. We are not obliged to settle all these problems now. Time will clarify them and bring a solution.

On a practical level, I ask as I have done so many times, that we be allowed to experiment with Tradition (qu’on nous laisse faire l'expérience de la Tradition!). I might be told: “You can do it!"

Yes, but imagine that the Pope himself said: Leave them in peace." If he would just say one little word to the bishops: "Let them do it! They are not doing anything bad. They are doing what we did ourselves for half or two-thirds of our lives. Let them do it, and we shall see what happens." That is the only thing that we ask of him.

At that moment I am certain that Truth would regain its rights, that Tradition would regain its rights, and that the Church would find a new youth.

Chapter 43

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