2, Chapter II
27 February 1977
SUNDAY, 27 February 1977, the Church of Saint Nicholas
du Chardonnet in Paris was "occupied" by Catholic traditionalists,
or "liberated" as they prefer to express it. The church
was still firmly under their control in 1983, and is certainly the
most popular and thriving parish in Paris. Melodramatic stories
of the event have been circulated by progressives; there have even
been accounts giving the impression that it fell to a squad of fascist
militia using rosaries as knuckledusters! When the Pope visited
France in 1981 an appeal was made to him to celebrate Mass with
ousted parishioners in the schoolroom which they have to use since
they have no church. The Pope declined the invitation. As the article
which follows makes clear, Saint Nicholas was operating as joint-parish
with the parish of Saint Sévrin, literally a stone’s throw away.
There is ample room in this huge church for a hundred times the
number of the parishioners of Saint Nicholas, or alleged parishioners
of Saint Nicholas, who do not wish to worship there now that the
Tridentine Mass is offered once more. Although, strictly speaking,
the occupation of Saint Nicholas does not form part of the story
of the breach between Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican, which
is the subject of this book, it must be set within the historical
context of this breach-particularly where the French situation is
concerned. It was certainly the most dramatic event in the centuries-old
conflict between Tradition and Liberalism to have occurred in France
since the triumphant Mass at Lille just over six months before (see
Vol. I, pp. 253-271).
had the good fortune to visit Saint Nicholas on 12 April 1977. The
account which follows is one which I wrote for The Remnant of
30 April 1977.
date: Tuesday, 12th of April, 1977. The place: Paris-more precisely,
the métro station Maubert-Mutualité. The time: about 6.15
in the evening. I emerge from the métro station, and the
first thing I note is the sound of the church bell sounding triumphantly,
imperiously over the noise of the rush hour traffic and the homeward
hurrying crowds. Within moments I see the church from which the
bell is sounding-it is the Church of St. Nicholas du Chardonnet,
the church where a miracle has taken place. A miracle? Il ne
faut pas exagérer say the French. "One must not exaggerate."
But this is no exaggeration. Up till the first Sunday of Lent it
had been typical of most parish churches in Paris. Less than 100
of the faithful attended all the Masses celebrated on Sunday. The
once beautiful church had a grubby, dilapidated look. The Sunday
assemblies, as the Mass is now termed in France, were celebrated
on a table placed upon a podium covered in extremely tatty purple
material. The altar had been abandoned-apparently forever.
the final Mass of the morning on the First Sunday of Lent the miracle
began. The handful of worshippers started to grow. Slowly but surely
the church began to fill. Before long it was full. The faithful
were standing in the aisles. One of the parish clergy could not
restrain his astonishment.
are you? Why are you here? We're overcome with delight."
hope you're still delighted in a few minutes' time," answered
what do you mean?" asked the cleric.
soon found out.
the main door of the church a triumphal procession entered. Preceded
by a cross came a long line of the faithful headed by a good number
of priests, three of whom were vested ready for Mass-let their names
be known and venerated. M. l'Abbé Juan, sub-deacon; M. l'Abbé de
Fommevault, deacon; Monsignor Ducaud-Bourget, celebrant-a priest
of more than eighty years of age, a patriarchal figure with long
white hair , a priest who appeared to be a reincarnation of the
Curé d'Ars. Among the other priests was M. l'Abbé Coache, hounded
from his parish for the crime of organizing a procession in honor
of the Blessed Sacrament.1
years now these holy priests had been celebrating a series of Masses
each Sunday in the Salle Wagram, a rather dilapidated hall near
the Arc de Triomphe. They had begged and pleaded, used every possible
approach to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities to be allowed
the use of a church to celebrate their Mass-but to no avail. The
Mass which they wished to celebrate was the Mass codified by Pope
St. Pius V –and the celebration of this form of Mass is the one
and only form of activity which is totally and absolutely verboten
in the French Church. The present situation was perfectly expressed
by Fr. Henri Bruckberger, Chaplain-General to the French Resistance.
“Today a priest is permitted to lend his church for use by Moslems
or Buddhists, Tibetans or Patagonians, hippies, Papuans, non-Papuans,
boys, girls, by the ambiguous, the ambivalent, the ambidexterous,
amphibians or nomads-but if a poor priest wishes to celebrate the
Mass for which the very Church was built (and not by the hierarchy
but by the people themselves), and if the French people wish to
go there to assist at the same Mass that has been said in the place
for centuries, then the full fury of the French episcopate falls
by the First Sunday of Lent 1977 the faithful had had enough-more
than enough. Attendance at the Salle Wagram -8,000 each Sunday-more
than surpassed any other place of worship in Paris, not excepting
the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Why, they asked themselves, priests
and people alike, why should they have to worship in a public hall
for the sole crime of remaining true to the faith of their fathers?
what right do you come here?" asked one of the parish clergy.
come ," replied Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget (and is it unreasonable
to claim that he was inspired?) "in Nomine Domini."
apostles of progress are temporarily nonplussed; before they realize
what is happening their podium and table have been relegated to
a transept, and a Solemn High Mass is being celebrated on the altar.
But the apostles of progress do not remain nonplussed for long.
Militant campaigners against oppressive social structures, advocates
of lay participation- what can they do? The answer is simple. Call
the police. They do so without hesitation. The police arrive. "Expel
those people from the church."
they're saying Mass and praying. That's what a church is for! "
Exit the police. The apostles of progress are nonplussed once more.
that was that.
traditionalists came; they prayed; they stayed. And they are there
progressives clung on to the sacristy for some days, and on one
occasion made a determined counter-attack which was unsuccessful.
The resulting violence did, for a time, cast a shadow over what
had been a very joyful event. But now they have given over the church
entirely to the traditionalists. The faithful have a church in which
they can assist at the Mass which was celebrated in all the churches
of Paris before the "liturgical renewal" which has been
followed, on the admission of Cardinal Marty, Archbishop of Paris
in 1977, by a 54% decline in Mass attendance by Parisians. But no
one is as determined as a stubborn Liberal, and the Cardinal would
quite clearly prefer not to have a single Catholic assisting at
Mass on Sundays rather than allow a single celebration of the traditional
the occupation, the Liberal establishment, led by Cardinal Marty
himself,has engaged in a series of grotesque posturings for the
benefit of the media-posturings which could only evoke amusement
but for the distaste aroused by their cynical hypocrisy. Messages
of sympathy have gone out to the poor pastor of Saint Nicholas and
his distressed congregation (all sixty or seventy of them) who now
have nowhere to worship, nowhere to hold meetings, religious instruction,
or for their scout troop to meet. The Cardinal is united with them
in their hour of sorrow and persecution, etc., etc., as are innumerable
Liberal stalwarts who have expressed their solidarity effusively
and very publicly. Yet only a stone’s throw from Saint Nicholas
is the huge church of St. Sévrin-in fact, the two were already some
sort of joint parish before the occupation. Once again, as a result
of the decline in Mass attendance, there has been no difficulty
in squeezing the handful of parishioners from Saint Nicholas, who
have opted for the new Mass, into the ample space available for
the new Masses celebrated in this church. But, and this is very
important, now more than two hundred parishioners of Saint Nicholas
are attending Mass in their parish church each Sunday-and the traditionalists
can prove this. Cardinal Marty claims to have the signature of 2,000
outraged inhabitants of the parish who are consumed with impatience
for the return of their church! When I mentioned this figure to
those organizing the occupation it evoked extreme hilarity. To put
it mildly (which they did not), they suggested that the Cardinal’s
figures might be somewhat (and more that somewhat) exaggerated.
In their own case, they are keeping a list of parishioners who have
expressly signed a petition asking that the church be left in traditionalist
hands, and in each case a photocopy of the signatory’s identity
card has been obtained to prove that the person concerned is a genuine
parishioner. The petition has now been signed by more than 50,000
symathizers-not just from Paris but from all over the world. I was
most honored to add my own on April 12th.
surprisingly, Cardinal Marty is not content to leave the situation
as it is. A court order has been obtained stating that the traditionalists
can be expelled by a bailiff, by the police, and by the military
if necessary .A date was given, but was followed by a stay of execution
until after Easter, so that all the Holy Week services could be
held (perhaps the judge wished to attend himself). This stay of
execution expired on Monday 11 April, and it had been with some
trepidation that I made my first visit to the church at about 8:15
a.m. on the morning of 12 April after an all-night journey from
Switzerland. Upon entering the church I thought that the worst had
happened as I heard a priest speaking in French-but all was well,
he was simply reading the Gospel. It was a great joy to assist at
Mass in a beautiful old church exactly as it had been celebrated
before the Council.
the Mass I had a talk with the celebrant and some of the young men
who are guarding the church. They then invited me to share their
very simple breakfast of bread and butter dipped in coffee. It would
be hard to imagine more pleasant and courteous young men; to discover
such fervor and dedication for the traditional faith among young
people brought up in the "Conciliar Church" is certainly
a sign of great hope. All the doors of the church but one have been
locked, and at least two or three young men always remain on duty
here. They work in shifts-some remaining on duty all night while
the others sleep in a makeshift dormitory. It is a monstrous calumny
to suggest, as some Liberal papers (Catholic and secular) have done,
that these are young men with a predilection for violence. If an
attempt is made to expel them from the church by force they will
resist-but if they are not attacked there will be no violence. Those
I spoke to also assured me that they would not resist the police-only
a physical attack by progressive laymen.
the police and the courts have made it quite clear that they are
most reluctant to take any direct action. Monsieur Jean Guitton,
a prominent Catholic writer, member of the French Academy, and a
close friend of Pope Paul VI, has been appointed as mediator. But
the traditionalists will not leave unless they are offered a church
of their own. After eight years of exile they are determined that
they will worship in Churches from now on. If they are expelled
they will simply occupy another church, and the legal process will
have to begin again-the Cathedral of Notre Dame has been mentioned.
was assured that if I wished to experience the true atmosphere of
the traditionalist parish I should return in the evening-which explains
why, at 6.15p.m., I emerged from the métro station Maubert-Mutualité
to hear the bell of Saint Nicholas summoning the faithful to worship.
Even on weekdays there is Mass at 0800, 1200, 1700 (followed by
Vespers Benediction) and at 1830. I entered the church during Benediction
just in time to hear Pope Paul being prayed for by name. This had
also been done during the Good Friday services at Ecône where I
had been four days before. A truly superb choir was singing-I discovered
later it had come together spontaneously; it sings at Vespers, Benediction,
and Mass each day and on Sundays at several Masses. Each evening
its members remain behind to practice and expand their already impressive
repertoire-the most remarkable aspect of the choir (apart from its
talent) is its youth.
grubby and dilapidated church which has existed before the occupation
has been transformed-lovingly and thoroughly. The church has been
washed and scrubbed-marble statues that seemed almost black with
grime are now positively gleaming with whiteness. There are flowers
in every side chapel, candles burning before the statues, the high
altar in particular is ablaze with candles and almost smothered
with flowers. The high altar in every church is the symbol of Christ,
and in this Easter Week it is the most dramatic possible symbol
of the resurrection of the faith of Christ’s Church in Saint Nicholas.
The altar had indeed seemed to be dead, abandoned forever, never
to be used again, and here it was, triumphantly resurrected, radiant
with light and Easter joy-with the Cranmerian table and its tatty
podium, cast inside, aptly symbolizing a defeat for the Conciliar
Mass began. It was celebrated by Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget himself. It
was sung, and sung beautifully. At the Sanctus in particular
the timeless chant filled and echoed through the arches of this
ancient church as it had done for centuries. The Council might never
have taken place.
1ady moved from chapel to chapel watering the potted flowers with
loving care. Every few seconds an individual or a' group of people
came into the church. Some stayed for the Mass, others just prayed
for a few moments before leaving. Many were young, but some were
old-and how happy these old people were. Here was the faith they
had been brought up to know and love; here were their traditional
devotions quite unchanged. Inside the Church of Saint Nicholas du
Chardonnet it is as if time had stood still in 1962. A group of
seminarians from Econe came in for a few minutes. They had left
the seminary for their Easter break. They were a heartening reminder
that the traditionalist resurgence in France is not a temporary
phenomenon dependent on a few elderly priests. For every older priest
who has remained faithful to the Mass of his ordination there is
a young priest or a seminarian ready to join him, and eventually
replace him. And for every old person who clearly regards Saint
Nicholas as heaven on earth there is a teenager who has discovered
what the Catholic faith once was, and is determined to accept it
in no other form.
the miracle of Saint Nicholas du Chardonnet - will it "continue?
"You must pray for us. You must pray for us that it will continue,"
said one lady, gripping my arm in her fervor. "Tell everyone
to pray for us."
an ironic footnote to this report, and a significant sign of the
times we live in, I discovered upon reading the 9 April issue of
The Tablet, after my return to London, that Cardinal Mart)'
has invited any Anglicans visiting France to receive Holy Communion
in Catholic churches if they cannot get to an Anglican one. It would
seem that the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris needs our prayers far
more than the traditionalist members of his flock.
Report in The Times
an interesting coincidence a reporter from The Times visited
Saint Nicholas on the same day. I was shown a copy of his report
some days after mine had been dispatched to The Remnant.
This report refers to the attempt at mediation by Monsieur Jean
Guitton of the French Academy. It appeared in the 13 April 1977
Occupiers Ignore Order
Roman Catholic traditionalists occupying the church of St.
Nicholas du Chardonnet, in the Latin quarter, since February
27, expected to fight eviction today. But no police turned
up to enforce the decision of the Paris court of April 1,
which gave them 10 days to leave voluntarily or be expelled
by force if necessary.
main doors were shut against any surprise attack. A few determined
looking young men, wearing a Sacred Heart badge, controlled
admittance through a side door.
the dimly lit church there was no sign of tension. A couple
of dozens faithful, old, and a few seminarians from Ecône,
seminary of Mgr. Lefebvre, the former Archbishop of Dakar,
knelt in prayer before the high altar, reinstated in its pre-conciliar
role. The host was exposed on it in a monstrance amid a profusion
of flowers and tapers.
“Kitchen table" in the transept, which had displaced
the high altar in the new liturgy, had been removed.
steady stream of people came in, asking for information about
services, and putting their names down on the rolls of watchers
or donors of offerings in support of the traditionalist cause.
were being arranged in rows in one of the side chapels for
a lecture in theology to denounce the ways of the modern church,
which was to follow the evening Mass, at which Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget,
the instigator and organizer of the occupation of St. Nicholas,
has never been any real likelihood of force being used to
put an end to the occupation of the church. The Paris court
which ruled it illegal and authorized the parish priest, Father
Bellego, to call on the police to enforce the judgment, also
indicated its distaste for such a solution.
the court's president said, "would create an unpleasant
situation for all concerned." He appointed mediator,
M. Jean Guitton, of the French Academy, the Catholic philosopher,
who was given three months to produce a report.
meeting Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget, Father Bellego, and the Archbishop
of Paris, Cardinal Marty, M. Guitton was in Rome last week
to obtain the approval of the Vatican for a compromise solution,
which Cardinal Marty refuses to contemplate.
Cardinal has said recently that to allow the traditionalists
to have a church of their own where they could worship as
they pleased would amount to giving official approval to a
lover of tradition, M. Guitton is also a close friend of the
Pope, who publicly wished him prompt success in his efforts
on Easter Monday.
Serralda, one of the four or five traditionalist priests who
minister to the needs of the new congregation, told me: "Many
Catholics today are in deep distress. They do not understand
what is happening in their Church. The conciliar texts are
like the decisions of Pope Paul VI-they are ambiguous. All
we ask is that all the rites and teaching of the Church should
respect Catholic doctrine.
are not a party in the Church. We are battling for the Church,
not for ourselves. The obligation to say the New Mass is based
on an abusive interpretation. It attributes to papal decrees
the same authority as to Church laws, like the Bull of 1570
of Pius V laying down irrevocably for all time the liturgy
of the Mass."
and the Truth
reporting of events at St. Nicholas which appeared in The Times
was generally fair and factual, it was evident that its reporter,
Charles Hargrove, was making every effort to be objective. But the
report which follows indicates the extent to which a factual report
does not necessarily convey the truth of a situation. Why this is
so will be explained after reproducing the report which appeared
in the 23 April 1977 issue.
to Occupiers of Church is Rejected
Marty, the Archbishop of Paris, has made a gesture of conciliation
to the traditionalists who have occupied the church of St.
Nicholas du Chardonnet since the end of March.
has offered them another place of worship until July 4, when
M. Jean Guitton, the Roman Catholic philosopher appointed
as mediator by a Paris court on April 1, will submit his report.
He added that this offer in no way implied a recognition of
church, appropriately St. Marie-Médiatrice, is on the outer
boulevards, near the Porte des Lilas, north of Paris. It has
been out for use for more than five years, since the construction
of the Paris ring motorway. It was built by Cardinal Suhard,
the archbishop at the time of the German occupation, as a
result of a vow to erect a place to worship if Paris were
Marty announced the granting of this church to the traditionalists
after reaching an agreement with M. Guitton, who recalled
in a statement last night that the dead-line set for the evacuation
of St. Nicholas by the court had been prolonged by a week
until yesterday, at his request.
the offer was rejected last night by Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget,
one of the leaders of the traditionalists, who said he would
sue the cardinal before the ecclesiastical authorities.
10 years we have been treated with contempt," he said.
“The faithful from at least five parishes come to our services.
There is no question of our transferring to one of the outlying
churches of Paris. Let the forces of law and order come and
throw us out."
a press conference this morning at the offices of the archbishop,
Mgr. Georges Gilson, an auxiliary bishop, expressed regret
that this "generous offer" had been rejected. The
cardinal had made it in a "spirit of peace."
and above the juridical problem raised by the occupation of
St. Nicholas, the cardinal was much more concerned with the
religious conflict in which the traditionalists' leaders were
opposed to the Catholic hierarchy, the Pope and the Council.
Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget persisted in his refusal to leave the
church, justice would take its course. A bailiff would come
to record the fact and the secular arm would then act as it
thought fit. But it seems hardly likely that force will be
used to expel the traditionalists.
Gilson said the leaders of the traditionalists would have
to face up to their responsibilities.
Truth behind the Facts
reason that the traditionalists declined the "generous offer"
of Cardinal Marty was that it was not a generous offer at all, and
he must have realized that they would find it totally unacceptable
before making it. The church, as the report notes, had been out
of use for five years since the construction of the Paris ring motorway.
It could only be reached by crossing a very busy motorway (freeway)
on foot. The area around the church also happens to be one of the
least salubrious in Paris, one where mugging is prevalent. It was
also in a most inconvenient location, right on the north side of
Paris rather than being central as St. Nicholas is. A good number
of elderly Catholics now worship at St. Nicholas, and to have asked
them to switch to St. Marie-Médiatrice was a totally impractical
proposition, so unrealistic that it could not possibly have been
made with any expectation that it would be accepted. This is the
truth that the facts quoted in the report did not reveal.
Tradition and the New Mass
French newspaper Le Monde of 22 April 1977 published this
among other letters which it said it had received concerning the
“occupation” of St. Nicholas du Chardonnet Church in Paris. Le
Monde said that these letters "are particularly revelatory
of the viewpoint of certain Catholics who have so far had little
opportunity to express themselves in public.” Professor Salleron’s
brought forward by opponents of the Mass of St. Pius V can be
reduced in the last analysis to a single point: St. Pius V, they
say, established a rite by his Bull Quo Primum of 1570.
What one Pope has done another Pope can undo; consequently, the
new rite approved by Paul VI in his Constitution Missale Romanum
of 1969 has abrogated the earlier rite.
the question thus is to be wrong all along the line. To start
with, there is an essential difference between St. Pius V's Bull
and Paul VI’s Constitution. Pius V did not set up a new rite.
What he did was to authorize a text based on the researches of
scholars over many years, and which thus seemed to him to carry
the best guarantee of authenticity. It was the traditional rite
in all its purity that he restored, after centuries during which
faulty versions had become current in a number of dioceses. So
great was his respect for tradition, that, although in his Bull
he formally prohibited the use of the faulty rites, he expressly
recognized and permitted the use of any rite which could prove
a certain tradition of at least 200 years. In a word, his intention
and his achievement was the restoration of the traditional Mass
rites and, in particular, of the first among them, the Roman rite.
By contrast, what Paul VI has done is to give his approval to
a new rite-Novus Ordo Missae-which is a totally different thing.
it is said, had the right to do this. Of course he did. And therefore
(the argument continues) the old rite has been abolished. This
is not so. For in his Constitution the Pope does not abrogate
the tradition rite; he does
not forbid its use any more than he makes the new rite mandatory.
Is it the
Pope's will that the new rite should replace the old one and that
the latter should disappear? There is no doubt that this is his
own wish, but it is not (in the legal sense) his WILL as Pope,
which he could only express in and through a solemn Constitution,
such as Missale Romanum. Moreover, even in the most urgent
of his addresses (Allocutions), he has never invoked his authority
as supreme legislator, nor applied this to give effect to his
will in respect to the Mass; such an exercise would in any case
require a different form than that of an Address. The most "imperious"
of his texts on the subject is his Consistorial Address of 24
May 1976, and this merely refers one to the Instruction (or rather,
Notification) of 14 June 1971. Now, in this context, an Instruction
has no more weight than a Notification or an ordinance; none of
them have the authority of an "Apostolic Constitution"
or have the power to modify it. (To do so would be rather as though,
in French political terms, an executive decree or even a Bill
passed by Parliament were to modify the Constitution of the Republic.)
One may add
that in the Bull Quo Primum St. Pius V granted an individual
indult to all priests, permitting them to celebrate the rite that
he had just authorized, despite any ruling to the contrary, even
by competent juridical authorities. This perpetual indult can
only itself be abrogated by a new and equally authoritative ruling
specifically directed to that end.
Ottaviani was thus fully justified when he said to me personally
at Whitsun 1971-many months after the promulgation of the new
rite: "The traditional rite of Mass, according to the Ordo
of St. Pius V, has not to my knowledge been abolished. Consequently,
local ordinaries (i.e., bishops) especially if they are concerned
to protect the rite and its purity , and even to make sure that
it continues to be understood by the body of those attending Mass,
would do well, in my humble opinion, to encourage the permanent
retention of the rite of St. Pius V. .." Note that he does
not say "would do well ...to authorize the
rite," but "encourage the. ..retention of the rite;"
the rite, having been neither abolished nor forbidden, has no
need of authorization.
practice, the bishops do forbid the use of the rite of St. Pius
V. But their prohibition is itself illegal, and this illegality
would be proclaimed as such openly if it were not that the Roman
legal structures are in full decomposition.
priests and layfolk do not look so far. What they can see is that
anything, absolutely anything, is permitted in the way of "celebrations"-anything,
that is, except the Mass of St. Pius V. As they know, too, or
as their instinct tells them, that the new Mass was constructed
in an ecumenical intention: that is to say that in it the notion
of Eucharistic Sacrifice is played down as far as possible, so
as to make it acceptable to Protestants, they are in revolt.
affair of St. Nicholas du Chardonnet (in Paris) looms the whole
problem of the Catholic Mass. This problem is still to be resolved.
Nicholas du Chardonnet - Two Months Later
the fact that Monsignor Ducaud-Bourget was sagacious enough to evade
the trap set for him by Cardinal Marty’s “generous offer,"
he soon found that remaining at St. Nicholas brought its problems,
namely that despite the fact that is a very large, it was soon unable
to accommodate the thousands who wished to worship there each Sunday.
The result was that Mass had to be celebrated once more in the Salle
Wagram. This is referred to in an extract from an article by Professor
Thomas Molnar which follows. Professor Molnar also mentions the
sympathy shown by the police for the traditionalist clergy and parishioners
of St. Nicholas. It appears that on one occasion a delegation of
progressive clerics (in civil costume, naturally) went to the principal
police station of the area to demand that the officer in charge
should explain why no action had been taken to evict the traditionalists
from the church. They were informed by the sergeant on duty: "You
can't see him now, he's assisting at Mass at St. Nicholas."
Molnar's account of his visit to St. Nicholas appeared originally
in the New Oxford Review and was reprinted in The Remnant
of 17 January 1978.
Interview with Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget
April Ecône received some important allies, one in the person
of Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget the priest-poet, and the thousands
of people who helped him take over the Church of St. Nicholas
du Chardonnet in one of the Paris’s oldest quarters. The reader
may now speak of “violence.” But this is France. St. Bernard
was violent, so was Joan of Arc and Bossuet and Bernanos.
So was Jesus Christ in chasing the money changers from the
temple. For years, the "traditionalists" have begged
Cardinal Marty for a church where the Mass of Pius V (Tridentine
Mass) could be celebrated; the Cardinal, closing his eyes
to the desecration of Rheims Cathedral by copulating hippies
and to the Buddhist celebration in the Cathedral of Rennes,
left the petitioners without an answer. Last Easter they moved
into St. Nicholas, made it clear that only the old Latin Mass
would be celebrated, and that they would not leave before
a church is officially offered them as a permanent abode.
For more emphasis, they set up a permanent guard of several
dozen young men to keep out troublemakers. These young people,
all of them making financial sacrifices by leaving their jobs
or studies for the duration of the "siege," canalize
the worshippers, keep a watch on the street, and provide protection
to the half dozen priests celebrating Mass.
visited St. Nicholas on Sunday, 12 June of this year. It was
11 o'clock, people were coming out en masse, their
way practically blocked by a similar mass of people waiting
to enter for the next celebration. The crowd in the square
in front of the church was enormous, waiting for the 12 o'clock
Mass. Before entering, I talked to several policemen in the
vicinity. Without exception they sympathized with the "occupants,"
partly on the old religious grounds, partly on political grounds.
"It is doubtful," a young police officer told me,
"that if ordered to evacuate the church, my men would
obey. But at any rate, what politician would dare give such
an order, and certainly not Chirac, the new mayor? Besides,
if Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget personally stands in our way, we would
not touch him or whatever or whomever he protects."
Mass, I was received by the Monsignor in a room of the sacristy
.We are in France! He is 84, as alive as an eel, white hair
to his shoulders, long nails like a mandarin, and a pipe between
his lips. His manners and speech could be placed somewhere
between the eras of Louis XIV or Louis XV. First we spoke
of doctrine and philosophy, which was made easier by the fact
that we had read some of each other's writings, I his poetry-poetry
which had just been given an enthusiastic review in the Osservatore
Romano where the editors had not realized that the poet
Ducaud-Bourget and Mgr. D-B are the same person! Huge embarrassment
a few days later and repulsive back-tracking. So much for
Monsignor had just arrived from the Salle Wagram where he
said Mass before the 800 people who could not get into St.
Nicholas that morning. In other areas of France churches are
similarly occupied by those whom the new inquisitors contemptuously
describe as a few old people and some reactionaries. I had
carefully scrutinized the crowd in and outside the church:
all age groups were represented; of course, whether they were
reactionaries, I had no way of discerning.
Monsignor told me of the endless lies, unkept promises, threats,
and vexations on the parts of Cardinal Marty, his bureaucrats,
and the Vatican. Thank God for the brutal anti-church laws
of 1905: all ecclesiastic property was then confiscated by
the State, so that the Cardinal is today unable to send his
shock troops to reoccupy St. Nicholas; and as we saw, the
Government and the Municipality prefer not to touch this hot
potato, for fear of dividing their electorate. Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget
is consequently confident that nothing will happen. We then
spoke of the recent court decision (lawsuit by the regular
curé of the church) to ask the Roman Catholic philosopher,
Jean Guitton, supposedly impartial, to mediate between the
Archdiocese and the occupants. Guitton is a soft man and an
opportunist, Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget told me; he does not wish
to jeopardize his status as a biographer of Paul VI. With
all that-I was shown letters-Guitton expressed his “déférence
sympathique” to Mgr. Ducaud-Bourget, and called his own
role as a mediator a wonderful opportunity to meet him. Therefore
I was surprised to read in the Express interview with
Guitton (late July) his disparaging comments on Lefebvre’s
position vis-à-vis the Pope to that of an Algerian
O.A.S. General vis-à-vis De Gaulle. A ludicrous and
not even flattering comparison-after which one may speak disparagingly
of Guitton’s intelligence too.
the “mediation” is off, but meanwhile the “Case” is expanding
and more “allies” are joining Lefebvre. In early June the
Princess Pallavicini opened her palazzo in Rome for 1,500
guests to hear the Archbishop re-explain very simply that
he would not renounce the faith of 2,000 years. “I do not
want to die a Protestant,” he said. There was an indescribably
fervent ovation, not only by the guests in the salons, but
also by people sitting on the stairs and the multitude outside
who listened through loudspeakers to Lefebvre's words.
Vatican took this as a further provocation - to carry the
"opposition to the Pope" to within the latter's
earshot. The Pope's vicar (as Bishop of Rome), Cardinal Ugo
Poletti, attacked the Princess in a press statement-to which
he received a responding statement amounting to "mind
your own business, I receive in my home whom I wish."
The "mind your own business" is quite an appropriate
warning, since Rome now has a fellow-travelling mayor elected
on the Communist list.
who wish to participate in the "miracle of Saint Nicholas"
during a visit to Paris should take the metro to the station
Maubert-Mutualité, which is adjacent to the church. All the old
churches and cathedrals in France belong to the State, which is
responsible for the upkeep of their exteriors. It is very significant
that since the liberation of St. Nicholas a great deal of work has
been done to the outside of the building, by the civil authorities,
to complement the internal renovation carried out by the parishioners.
Although the diocesan authorities will not accept the legality of
the present situation, or that it has any permanent basis, it is
clear that the civil authorities have no intention whatsoever of
evicting the traditionalists. St. Nicholas now stands as an island
of Catholic tradition, and, indeed, of sanity, in a sea of Modernism
and liturgical banality.
Well-known writer and journalist
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109