this first installment, The Angelus begins a series of excerpts
"Vatican Encounter: Conversations with Archbishop Marcel
Lefebvre" by José
with permission from the Publisher.
present work is a book of conversations. The initiative
was taken by Jose Hanu, who wanted to serve as the voice
of many Catholics concerned about the crisis in the Church.
he asked my agreement, I did not think I should refuse.
After all, do I not have to profit from any occasion to
preach the truth?
any other literary form, that of conversations has its limitations
and its drawbacks. The questions cannot help but influence
the answers, since they have to set up the framework for
them. Besides, the one who asks them is led to choose one
particular fact over another, not because it is more important,
not even because it is closer to the truth, but because
it fits the general direction of the conversation better
this book, the overall direction was dictated by Jose Hanu.
Had I wanted to talk about my life myself, I would probably
not have cited the same facts, nor insisted upon the same
points. But, within this limit, I am nevertheless assuming
all the responsibility for my replies. I hope that in this
way I might contribute to the establishment of the social
kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is my only aim.
the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Econe, December 8,
Hanu: Well, here we are, your
Excellency, in the seminary of Econe which has been the
subject of so much talk. Let me first have a good look around.
lovely and peaceful it is with its modern but modest buildings
and the great stone house which once was the property of
the Canons of the Great St. Bernard! It seems to be exactly
right for its purpose. Besides, it is surrounded by symbols.
The snowcapped Alps so close by shout out their purity and
strength and the vineyards all around, planted by the monks
and cultivated in the same way and always yielding a fine
crop, show how effective thousand-year-old rules are.
highpower lines which extend above the vines in no way bother
them, as if to demonstrate that there is no incompatibility
between adherence to the past and the demands of modern
take a look at your seminarians, Excellency. They are a
fine group of handsome, well-adjusted young men. Their eyes
show no trace of disappointment, no anxiety, no fanaticism.
They seem so much at ease within themselves and they are
wearing the cassock with a kind of natural nobility.
short, these young men look happy.
take a look at you, yourself, Excellency, and I am really
astonished. You are a seventy-one-year-old bishop who all
his life was loyal to the Pope and the Vatican - and whom
the Pope and the Vatican have severely punished in the full
glare of publicity. You should be prostrate or in revolt.
You are, however, serene. Even better than that, you are
the embodiment of calm certainty, so rare in these hectic
I look at your seminary, which has been called "wild,"
and when I see your seminarians whom your opponents have
called "visionaries," I tell myself that there
must be a tragic error somewhere, that the hullabaloo about
your case has prevented Catholics from understanding the
essentials, especially the essence of what you, yourself,
Excellency, are. This will be the topic of our conversation.
of all, let me say that my heart is heavy when I think of
all those "progressive" Catholics, our brethren,
who have slandered you; of the bishops who have mistaken
the wind of a politico-religious mood, which too often is
destructive, for the breath of the Holy Spirit; and of the
Pope himself to whom the wind of this mood undoubtedly has
brought incomplete information, either false or distorted.
the noise of the mass media, their multitude of words, their
rash judgments have hidden the core of the questions raised
by your actions. These questions are serious and troubling
for every Catholic who is attached to the Church.
heart is heavy when I think of the possible consequences,
for a bishop is, after all, also a man with his faults and
tug of war between you and the Vatican, after your surprising
audience with the Pope, has left an impression of uneasiness.
too, your homily at Lille has upset and shaken me. Your
detractors were able to start a whole folklore about you
and it came off reeking as triumphalism. It allowed certain
people to exclaim: "He has finally dropped the mask:
this is an archbishop of the extreme right! "
trouble is that the right - and that includes the racist
right - is trying to claim you; you have only to read the
newspapers to be enlightened on this count! Now, as much
as I deplore and distrust the faithful and the priests who
read the gospel according to Marx, I also fear and reproach
those who justify their ideas by pointing to the Cross.
assume that your language has not expressed your convictions
accurately and your enemies, as well as those who are "claiming"
you, have lost no time in altering your thought even more.
you been, at this critical hour, the victim of Satan's trap?
Or was it the Holy Spirit himself who pushed you too far,
in order to prove to everybody that a man of the Church
-no matter what his origins, his opinions, or his rankshould
purge from his vocabulary political considerations which
could drive a wedge between him and his brethren? I must
admit that this latter explanation would not displease me
at all. But I want to state it once and for all: regrettable
or not, your sermon at Lille raised a question of capital
importance that of the role of religion in society.
will be with these matters that our dialogue will concern
itself. Some of my questions may well seem sacrilegious
Marcel Lefebvre: Sacrilege?
No question is sacrilegious, unless it implies statements
which hurt God!
don't expect too many shades of meaning on my part. I come
from the North, where Flemish blood pulses through the veins
of most of the inhabitants and the Flemish, as you well
know, are famous for their bluntness. It would be difficult
to say as much about the Italians and herein perhaps lie
the reasons for some of my difficulties with the
refuse to admit, however, that a cause such as that of Our
Lord Jesus Christ can be subject to the ups and downs of
OFTEN IS MISSING IS COURAGE
are beginning our dialogue on Christmas Eve, the feast which
is the most hopeful feast of the entire year.
I wish with all my heart that the coming year will finally
bring the solution to the crisis which has shaken the Church
and which has caused us such painful problems. Our young
priests will then be able to exercise their apostolate with
the blessings and encouragement which are their due.
young priests are anything but rebels, as some people pretend,
even at the risk of misusing the word.
can one call "rebels" those who follow the rules
which have been forged by centuries? And how can one call
"faithful" those who find it right to reject those
rules and even the laws, or who tolerate - through weakness,
if not by demagoguery - such shameful dismantling?
how can one designate as "faithful" those who
refer respectfully to the Council but come to doubt the
divinity of Christ, arguing the point even before the cameras
of national television? And "rebels" those who,
grounded in their faith, think that the Council Fathers,
in their eagerness for an "opening to the world,"
have edited the texts which, with their imprecision, have
opened the door to all sorts of fantasies, to put it kindly?
was certainly not the intention of the bishops who were
assembled at the Council, but the facts speak for themselves.
I could quote them by the thousands and I am going to quote
you a few right away, if you want me to.
any case, believe me that I can well understand that Catholics
of good faith could let themselves be carried away by baneful
ideas and that they fight me they who constantly use the
word love. - Indeed, if one measures the formidable
pressures of the modern world, the hostility aimed at me
seems natural and even logical.
what has been lacking, what is always lacking, is firmness,
courage, self-denial by those whose mission it is to be
firm as rocks, whatever the price.
the dismay of seminarians, for example, whose director of
conscience, after having urged over many long years the
supreme sacrifice of celibacy, reneges on his vows and marries
a divorcee in the nearby chapel. After letting such an "accident"
pass without an indignant outcry, can any bishop dare reproach
a Catholic couple for breaking the marriage vow?
I can understand the priests who - immerse themselves in
the world, and the couple whose home life shifts
grounds. What I really fail to comprehend
is the pretense of judging us, a right which those responsible
for such delinquency claim for themselves. Maybe in their
heart of hearts they are ashamed of this false example of
fidelity? Is it that they hope their conscience will be
quieted when such an example is "justified"?
AM NOT THE HEAD OF THE TRADITIONALISTS
shall make mine the famous motto: "I shall endure."
And I say aloud what Catholics who may have been brainwashed,
but whose heart is in the right place, feel in the depth
of their souls.
- don't be mistaken: I am not, I never want to be, I never
shall be "the head of the traditionalists," as
they want people to believe. As if I would enlist troops
to attack the Vatican! This is ridiculous!
have never "corralled" anybody. It happened simply
that the day when I regretted that true vocations might
not be able to find true seminaries, vocations presented
themselves and many of the faithful and various priests
gave us help.
faithful and other priests, sometimes huddled together in
small places, have asked me to come and comfort them in
their despair. Should I refuse to support them in their
addition, the suspension clamped on me has provided a publicity
which I certainly have not desired.
has alerted unhappy Catholics all over the world who before
did not even know of my existence. They, in turn, are calling
me. Whenever I can, I accept their invitation. But I do
not direct them at all, I don't regroup them, and even less
do I arm them against the Vatican: I simply recommend that
they keep the faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Holy
Spirit, and in the Virgin Mary, who - as I hope with all
my heart - will make it possible for me to continue my mission
within the bosom of the Church.
I am not the head of a rebellion. I am only trying to be
the shepherd who tries to tend a disoriented flock in the
spirit of the first pastor and those who followed him.
shepherd is now ready to answer your questions.
I read articles in the press both of the left and of the
right, or when I listen to the commentators on the radio,
I often ask myself if I am dreaming, or if they talk in
Chinese - for it is Greek to me. Well, as Beaumarchais said:
"Slander, slander! Something can always be found to
slander! " That is why slander is one of the best weapons
in Satan's arsenal. About his existence I have no doubt
- as you may have guessed, I take it?
has there ever been any doubt about Satan's existence by
His Holiness, Paul VI, who on February 29, 1972, declared:
have the impression that through some cracks in the wall
the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God: It is
doubt, uncertainty, questioning, dissatisfaction, confrontation."
I, Part II, Part
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109