Fascinating and sad: transcript of 1976 meeting of Paul VI and SSPX Archbp. Lefebvre

UPDATE 

The late, great Michael Davies (God rest his soul) published in his Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre (Vol. 1 Ch. 14 – US HERE – UK HERE) Lefebvre’s own account of that same meeting with Paul VI on 11 Sept 1976.

You can read it online HERE.

Lefebvre’s account is more complete in many ways.    Frankly, I find Lefebvre’s account more convincing, especially as I consider that the one who transcribed the conversation as reported below was, well… Benelli, then the Sostituto, and, as people in the Curia knew, ruthless.

___

I saw at the Italian Vatican Insider of La Stampa a story about the “verbale” or “transcript” of the conversation between Paul VI and Archbp. Marcel Lefebvre of the SSPX of 11 September 1976.   It was recently published in a book.  More on that below.

As I read this, I was overtaken with great sorrow.  The frustration of these two men, talking to, at, across each other is palpable.  Lefebvre’s sad determination and Paul’s somewhat feckless naïveté come through.  Note their exchange about the number of Eucharistic prayers in France and Paul’s insistence that “great graces” were coming from the Council despite the rampant abuses that were multiplying at the time.   I am reminded of Paul’s self-contradictory assurances on the eve of the promulgation of the Novus Ordo before Advent 1969.

Hindsight is an advantage.  However, there was plenty of evidence right in front of everyone’s face at the time that something wasn’t right.  The solutions were not a matter of gnostic rocketry, either.

Here is my fast translation, since I am staring at literal piles of stuff to be handled.  I hope someone else will also take it in hand.  I left some of the background out.  My emphases and comments:

“Perhaps there was something not appropriate in my words, in my writings; but I didn’t ever want to get to (raggiungere) your person, I never had that intention… I cannot grasp how in a single stroke I am condemned because I form priests in obedience to the holy tradition of Holy Church.”

“That’s not true. You said and wrote many times that you were wrong and why you were wrong.  You never wanted to listen… You said it and you wrote it.  I would be a modernist Pope.  Implementing an Ecumenical Council, I would betray the Church.  You understand that, if that were the case, I would have to abdicate; and to invite you to take my place to direct the Church.”

A dramatic document, transcribed by typewriter in Italian with French interjections.  Pope Montini on 11 September 1976 received at Castel Gandolfo the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, head of the fraternity of St. Pius X and great protester (gran contestatore) against the Council. The special transcriber (verbalizzante de’eccezione), whom Paul VI wanted to be present at the audience together with his special secretary, Fr. Paolo Macchi, was the Sostituto of the Secretary of State Giovanni Benelli (who a few months later would be promoted to Archbishop of Florence and created Cardinal): a special assistant, who 10 years before had been pro-nuncio in Senegal, where until a few years before the French prelate had been our missionary Bishop. The transcript of the conversation – between the Pope, who had brought the Council to a conclusion and had promulgated the liturgical reform, and the rebel Bishop who challenged the authority of the Pontiff – was published in a book “La barca di Paolo” written by the director of the pontifical household Fr. Leonardo Sapienza.

[…]

The meeting, one reads in the transcript just published, lasted a little more than a half hour, from 10:27 to 11:05. The transcription fills eight pages. “His Holiness has charged the Sostituto to transcribe his conversation with Msgr. Lefebvre: if, during the conversation, he would have thought it opportune to intervene, he would have mentioned it”. But there is no trace of intervention by Benelli. Notwithstanding the presence of two witnesses, the Sostituto and Fr. Macchi, the conversation was always between the Pope and Lefebvre, alternating in Italian and French.

“I hope to have before me, a brother, a son, a friend. Unfortunately, the position that you have taken is that of an anti-pope – Paul VI exhorted – what should I say? You have not acquiesced in any way in your words, in your acts, in your behavior. You did not refuse to come to me. And I would be happy to be able to resolve such a distressing situation. I will listen; and I will invite you to reflect. I know that I am a poor man. But right now it is not a person who is in play: it is the Pope. And you have judged the Pope to be unfaithful to the faith to which he is the supreme guarantor. Perhaps this is the first time in history that this has happened. You have told the entire world that the Pope does not have faith, that he does not believe, that he is a modernist, and so forth. Yes, I have to be humble. But you are in a terrible position. You are carrying out acts, before the whole world, of extreme gravity…”.

Lefebvre defends himself saying that it was not his intention to attack the person of the Pope, he admits: “perhaps there was something not appropriate in my words in my writings.” He adds that he is not alone, but has “with him some bishops, some priests, numerous faithful”. He affirms that “the situation in the Church after the Council” is “such that we cannot understand any longer. What to do. With all these changes either. We risk losing the faith or we give the impression of being disobedient. I would want to get on my knees and to accept everything, but I cannot go against my conscience. I am not the one who created a movement” it is the faithful “who do not accept this situation. I am not the head of traditionalists… I am acting exactly as I did before the Council. I cannot grasp how in a single stroke I am condemned because I form priests in obedience to the holy tradition of Holy Church.” [NB: Libs claim all the time that they are following their “conscience”.  But, apparently, only they are allowed to do that.]

Paul VI intervenes to disagree: “”That’s not true. You said and wrote many times that you were wrong and why you were wrong.  You never wanted to listen.  You continue your exposé.”

Lefebvre responds: “Many priests and many faithful think that it is difficult to accept the tendencies that are going on day after (sic That’s how it is in the transcript) . The Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, about liturgy, about religious liberty, about the formation of priests, about relations between the Church and Catholic states, about relations of the Church with Protestants. We don’t see how what is affirmed conforms to the sound Tradition of the Church. And, I repeat, I am not the only one who thinks this. There are a lot of people who think this way. People who grab on to me and push me, often against my will, to not leave them… In Lille, for example, I was not the one who wanted to put on that protest…”.

“But what are you saying?”, Pope Montini interrupted. “Not me… It’s the television”, Lefebvre stutters in his defense. “But the television,” replied Paul VI, who shows he is well-informed about everything, “transmitted what you said. It was you who spoke, in a most harsh manner, against the Pope”. The French archbishop pushes back putting the blame on journalists: “You know how it is, there are often journalists who oblige you to speak… And I have the right to defend myself. The Cardinals, who have judged to be in Rome have calumniated me: and I believe I have the right to say that they are calumnies… I don’t know what to do anymore. I am trying to form priests according to the faith and into the faith. When I look at other seminaries, I suffered terribly: unimaginable situations. And then: the religious who where the habit are condemned and insulted by bishops: on the other hand, the ones who are appreciated, are those who live a secularized life, and who act like people of the world”.

Pope Montini observes: “But we have in no way approved these behaviors. Every day we strive with great effort and with equal tenacity to eliminate certain abuses not consistent with the present law of the Church, which is that of the Council and of Tradition. If you had taken the trouble to see, to grasp what I do and say every day, to assure for the Church faithfulness to yesterday and response to today and yes, also tomorrow, you would not have arrived at the sad point in which you find yourself. We are the first to deplore excesses. We are the first and the most solicitous to search for a cure. But this cure cannot be found in a challenge to the authority of the Church. I have written this to you repeatedly. You have not taken my words into consideration”.

Lefebvre responded saying that he wanted to speak about religious liberty because “what we read in the conciliar document is contrary to what your predecessors have said”. The Pope says that these are not topics to discuss in the course of an audience, “But,” he assures, “I take note of your uncertainty: it is your attitude against the Council…”. “I am not against the Council,” Lefebvre interrupted, “but against some of its texts”. “If you are not against the Council,” Paul VI responded, “you have to adhere to it, to all its documents”. The French archbishop responded: “it’s necessary to choose between that which the Council said, and that which your predecessors have said”[Sound familiar?]

Then Lefebvre addresses to the Pope, “a prayer. Would it not be possible to prescribe that bishops grant, in churches, a chapel in which the people can pray as the did before the Council? Today everything is permitted to everyone: why not permit something also for us?”. Paul VI responds: “we are the community. We cannot permit autonomy of behavior to various parts“. Lefebvre responds: “the Council admits pluralism. We ask that this principle be applied also to us. If your holiness would do this, everything would be resolved. There would be an increase of vocations. Aspirants to the priesthood want to be formed in true piety. Your holiness has in your hands. The solution to the problem…”. Then the traditionalist French archbishop says he is disposed that someone from the congregation for religious “oversees my seminary”, he says he’s ready not to hold any more conferences and to remain in his seminary. “Without going out anymore…”.

Paul VI reminds Lefebvre that Bishop Adam (Nestor Adam, Bishop of Sion), “came to talk to me in the name of the Swiss Episcopal Conference, to tell me that his activity could not any longer be tolerated… What must I do? Try to come back into order. How can you consider yourselves in communion with us, when you take positions against us, in front of the whole world, to accuse us of infidelity, of a desire to destroy the Church?”. “I never had the intention…”. Lefebvre defended himself.   But Pope Montini replied: “You said it and you wrote it.  I would be a modernist Pope.  Implementing an Ecumenical Council, I would betray the Church.  You understand that, if that were the case, I would have to abdicate; and to invite you to take my place to direct the Church.”

And Lefebvre: “There is a crisis in the Church.” Paul VI: “And we are suffering profoundly. You have contributed to aggravate it, with your solemn disobedience, with your open challenge against the Pope”.

Lefebvre replies: “I have not been judged as I ought”. Montini responds: “Canon law judges you. Haven’t you seen the scandal and the damage that you have done to the church? Are you conscious of it? Do you think you can go before God like this? Make a diagnosis of the situation, an examination of conscience and then ask, before God: what should I do?”.

The Archbishop proposes: “It seems to me that opening up a little the host of possibilities to act today as we acted in the past, everything would work itself out. This would be the immediate solution. As I have said, I am not the head of the movement. I am ready to remain closed up forever in my seminary. The people who remain in contact with my priests and they remain edified. It’s the young people who have the sense of the church: they are respected in the streets, in the subway, everywhere. Other priests no longer wear the cassock, they don’t hear confessions anymore, they don’t pray anymore. And people have chosen: there are the priests whom we want”. (The priests formed by Msgr. Lefebvre, the transcriber notes).

At this point Lefebvre asks the Pope if he is conscious of the fact that there are “at least 14 cannons used in France for the Eucharistic prayer”. Paul VI responds: “not only 14, but hundreds… There are abuses; but the good brought by the Council is great. I don’t want to justify everything; as I have said, I’m trying to correct things where it is necessary. But it is necessary, at the same time, to recognize that there are great signs, graces from the Council, of of vigorous upswing among young people, a growth of sense of responsibility among the faithful, priests, bishops”.

The Archbishop replies: “I’m not saying that everything is negative. I want to collaborate for the building up of the Church.” Pope Montini responds to him: “but it is not so, certainly, that you contribute to the building up of the Church. But do you know what you are doing? Do you know that you are going directly against the Church, the Pope, the Ecumenical Council? How can you claim for yourself the right to judge a Council? A Council, after all, whose acts, in great part, were signed also by you. Let us pray and reflect, subordinating everything to Christ and to his Church. I too will reflect on it. I accept with humility your rebukes. I am at the end of my life. Your harshness is for me an occasion for reflection. I will also consult with my offices as for example the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, etc. I am sure that you also will reflect. You know how I had esteem for you, that I recognized your merits, that we found ourselves in agreement, at the Council, about many problems…”. “That’s true”, Lefebvre recognizes.

“You understand,” Paul VI concludes, “that I cannot permit, also for reasons that I would call ‘personal’, that you bring the guilt of a schism upon yourself. Make a public declaration, with which you retract your recent declarations and your recent behaviors, which everyone have recognized as acts taken not for the building of the Church, but to divide it, and to do it harm. From the moment you met with the three Roman Cardinals, there has been a rupture. We have to find again union in prayer and in reflection.”. The Sostituto Benelli, transcribing, concludes the transcript of the conversation with the note: “the Holy Father then invited Msgr. Lefebvre to recite with him a Pater Noster and Ave Maria and Veni Sancte Spiritus”.

[Here comes Turncoat Tornielli, to make sure that you are left with only a negative impression of Lefebvre and only sympathy for Paul.] As is known , the wishes and the prayers of Pope Montini fell on deaf ears. Although the Lefebvrist schism [the Church hasn’t defined it as such] would occur more than ten years later, during the pontificate of John Paul II, when Lefebvre, nearing the end, he decided to ordain new bishops without the mandate of the Pope. Msgr John Magee, second secretary of Paul VI, recalled in a testimony that Montini, after that audience, “hoped that the archbishop (Lefebvre) had decided to change his way of conducting attacks on the Church and the teaching of the Council, but everything was useless. From that moment Paul VI began to fast. [Post hoc…] I remember well that he did not want to eat meat, he wanted to reduce the amount of food he took even if he was already eating very little. He said he himself had to do penance, so as to offer to the Lord, in the name of the Church, the proper reparation for everything that was happening.” [Everything, not just Lefebvre, etc.  Everything that Paul VI was, in great part, responsible for as well.]

Turncoat Tornielli, who posted this, closed with this fantastically tendentious paragraph.

The crisis, by the way, was not caused by Lefebvre.  You can agree or disagree with what Lefebvre did in order to address that crisis.  However, as a bishop he did something.  He did not remain enervated and prone on the ground to be run over by the secularizing, anthropocentric juggernaut grinding on the Church after the Council.  Even today. we cannot rely on Popes and the Curia to address the crisis – crises – in the Church.  Bishops must act.  In fact, we all have a roll to play.

At the end of the conversation, Paul told Lefebvre to examine his conscience.  That’s always good advice.

Let us all take it.

Take it and then…

GO TO CONFESSION.

That’s how we start to fulfill our roles in the Church.

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47 Responses to Fascinating and sad: transcript of 1976 meeting of Paul VI and SSPX Archbp. Lefebvre

  1. chantgirl says:

    This conversation is striking to me, in that it seems that a perceived offense against the unity of the Church is of greater import than the inconsistency of doctrine in VII documents. Today, even, we see those who question the teaching of AL, and who hold to what was taught by JPII and earlier popes, being branded as disloyal schismatics.

    As Catholics, our first loyalty must be to Christ, who is Truth. If our unity is not bound in truth, it is false unity. It is a lie. True unity can only exist in truth, in Christ.

    These two men sound like they are speaking amidst the fog of war- perhaps, of diabolical confusion.

  2. ChrisP says:

    It appears Lefebrve acted in reference to the Tradition of the Holy Church, not his own conscience. That is the MAJOR difference to the suggestions of the modern Screwtape Princes.

    I’m just a stupid NO bred guy and even I can see that.

  3. Eric says:

    Guts, plain and simple. It is striking what courage and faith it took for the Archbishop to withstand this and all the injustices inflicted upon him after. As Cardinal Newman asked: “when shall our northern Church her champion see, raised by high heaven’s decree, to shield the ancient faith at his own harm?” Well, here was one such man, for the whole Church.

  4. GordonB says:

    If actions speak louder than words, seems Paul VI was ultimately moved by the concerns of Lefebvre given his penitential attitude. And it seems, per the article, it was many years before even Tornelli could posit the existence of an actual “schism” of SSPX — which charge, for some reason, was echoed by Burke not too long ago (ironically, Burke is the one in the Lefebvre position now, though he is much more tentative than Lefebvre). At any rate I’ve always been taken aback by how strong the language by Arch Lefebvre was against the Pope, however, I guess when one is in error, you try to shock them back into place with the words? And, as mentioned, Paul VI’s fasting seems to show his own reflection and response to these words — not to mention his “smoke of satan” comment as well as the comment he made in shock about his OWN unknowing elimination of certain liturgical practices. Does anyone know the timeline of those events in light of this meeting with Lefebvre? And what were the “goods” that both Paul VI and Lefebvre were speaking of in the wake of the counsel? I suspect those goods are all but vanished with the empty pews and shuttered Churches.

  5. The Astronomer says:

    In the fullness of God’s time, when sanity has been restored to the Church, App. Lefebvre will be Saint Marcel of Tourcoing.

  6. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Notable quote from Lefebvre:

    “It’s the *young people* who have the sense of the church: they are respected in the streets, in the subway, everywhere. Other priests no longer wear the cassock, they don’t hear confessions anymore, they don’t pray anymore. And people have chosen: there are the priests whom we want”

  7. WmHesch says:

    Wouldn’t the double canonization of Lefebvre and Montini be quite the bookend to this?

  8. RAve says:

    I was very moved by reading this. A man I had been conditioned to loathe now seems to me to be destined for eventual canonization. The spine is a very holy part of the body.

  9. TonyO says:

    Wouldn’t the double canonization of Lefebvre and Montini be quite the bookend to this?

    That would be hugely funny. But of course, it could never happen. The whole thing was so terrible, and the conversation recounted above is so terribly, sadly misshapen by blindness, that I cannot but grieve over it. It caused so much harm, for so little reason. So unnecessary. So thoughtless. So completely without basis. The Pope could have easily corrected his issuance of the NO Missale Romanum to say “oh, no, I certainly did not mean to abrogate the Mass of Pius V, what I meant was …” Or, he could have resolved the dispute by saying “I failed to be sufficiently clear, so to correct that error, I now pronounce, solemnly and clearly: I hereby absolutely abrogate the use of the Missal of 1962, and all other Missals containing the Mass of Pius V, in every form and of every sort, except for the following exceptions…” Or, he could have done EXACTLY what Lefebvre asked for, and gave permission for groups to have the old Mass: “Today everything is permitted to everyone: why not permit something also for us?” He could have done exactly what Pope Benedict did some 30 years later. He could have… but he was blinded by the ridiculous, baseless, nonsensical, unhistorical sentiment “we are the community” as if that were an answer. There are Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean, Coptic, and 19 other rites that are in union with the Roman Church, that retain their ancient rites; can’t there be a use of the old Roman rite that is, also, in union with the Roman Church? To ask the question is to answer it in the affirmative: of course there can be. (Manifestly, now, given the FSSP, and the Institute of Christ the King, and others.) Paul VI made a series of terrible mistakes in letting the liturgical reform get away from him, and then compounded his terrible mistakes by forcing Lefebvre to bow to those mistakes and call them “good”, by pretending that the goods that were produced in the Church after the Council could not possibly permit speaking of the evils as grave, or as caused by the Council.

    I have never condoned some of Lefebvre’s actions like ordaining the 4 bishops. But I hope and pray that God can deal mercifully with him given the terrible trials Paul put him through for no good reason, in the name of “the Church”.

  10. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I cant help but think of the scene in “A Man for All Seasons” were Saint Thomas Moore has an exchange with the Duke of Norfolk regarding being part of unity and fellowship with one another in error. The query is not of truth or error. But arguments from authority and conformity.

    The Duke of Norfolk: “Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!”

    Sir Thomas More: “And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

  11. Uxixu says:

    I agree that Abp. Lefebvre seems more convincing. He specifically recalls how aghast he was at the accusation he had his seminarians make an oath against the pope (one wonders who was caluminating him before Paul VI?).

    This line always resonates today with so many of the actions of Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI
    and of course, Francis:

    “On the one side we desire to submit to you entirely, to follow you in everything, to have no reserves about your person, and on the other side we are aware that the lines taken by the Holy See since the Council, and the whole new orientation, turn us away from your predecessors. What then are we to do? We find ourselves obliged either to attach ourselves to your predecessors or to attach ourselves to your person and separate ourselves from your predecessors. For Catholics to be torn like that is unheard of, unbelievable.”

    I find Abp. Lefebvre largely unimpeachable… until the episcopal consecrations.

  12. Geoffrey says:

    I think everyone who longs for the canonization of the late Archbishop is deluding themselves. He died excommunicated. I think that bars someone from canonization.

    Meanwhile, I dare say the current crisis is worse than back then. Doctrine concerning the sacraments of Matrimony and the Eucharist are being tampered with. Also, for all his faults, at least Blessed Paul VI was willing to sit down with the late Archbishop. Two out of four Cardinals have died waiting for Pope Francis to respond to them.

  13. Fr. Reader says:

    Oh, disobedience, disobedience… It is a pity that he decided to go against the Church of Christ by ordaining these bishops, since he had so much good to fight for.

  14. Alexander Verbum says:

    Paul VI: “Haven’t you seen the scandal and the damage that you have done to the church?”

    It’s like a hydrogen bomb calling a stick of dynamic a dangerous explosive.

    Can’t wait for the canonization of yet another pseudo-Saint (and I am no fan of Lefebvre either).

  15. Alexander Verbum says:

    It should read “dynamite” in my last post.

    Sigh, it’s late and I goofed.

  16. oledocfarmer says:

    “The accuser of our brothers is cast out….who night and day accused them before God”

    It a role proper to the Evil One to accuse. The role of accuser should be foreign to the Christian.

    But in almost every line of this transcript the sad Paul VI is accusing and otherwise hiding behind the solemnity of his Petrine Office to bring the Archbishop to heel.

    I used to think the post-Conciliar “changes” were just a well-intentioned policy error. I less-and-less think that anymore. If one steps back and looks at their roots, and the rebellious spirit, the deceptions, and the actual LIES on which they were based; at the warnings of the Saints prefiguring them; and at the barren, desolate landscape that they produced….there’s clearly sometimes preternatural involved here. A great trial which Our Lord permits His Church to suffer before He comes again.

  17. TonyO says:

    In effect, it seems that Paul VI was willing to consider – on a theoretical level, at least – that his own actions might have been imperfect. But what he shows is that he was unwilling to consider the possibility that the Council had been imperfect, or that the IMPLEMENTATION of the Council’s reform had been imperfect. For some God-forsaken reason, Paul VI and virtually every bishop at the Council (and most since) has felt it right to take the line that the Council was a great good, that its decrees were inspired by God, and that its implementations afterwards were right, just, and unimpeachable. Whereas we know as a matter of historical fact that the Council was railroaded by a minority faction that wanted a revolution, that they got control of the reform of the liturgy and produced a mass that was NOT the intention of the Fathers of the Council, and that enormous numbers of new priests and religious were mal-formed in their “formation” during the 60’s and after. Paul VI seems to have been almost pathologically schizophrenic in his insistence that everything that flowed from the Council was good, but in his seeing quite clearly that “the smoke of Satan has entered the Church”. I can’t understand how it is that a man in his position, the ruler of the visible Church on Earth, could have stood by and simply not dealt with so many evils it was his duty to address, and yet will be canonized later this year. Frankly, I find it a bit scandalous. Doesn’t holiness have a connection to carrying out one’s duties? How was it not his duty to correct the nonsense of the liturgical commission that produced the Novus Ordo?

  18. Legisperitus says:

    Geoffrey:

    Saint Joan of Arc died under a sentence of excommunication, and we all know how that ended.
    http://www.maidofheaven.com/joanofarc_sentence_excommunication.asp

    The supposed excommunication of Abp. Lefebvre was far less than that. There was no canonical trial, judgment, or sentence; the Pope merely stated that Lefebvre had been excommunicated latae sententiae, by operation of Canon Law.

    In any case, excommunication only excludes a person from the Sacraments, not from Heaven. So yes, it is entirely credible that the Church will one day be praying to Saint Marcel.

  19. Ann Malley says:

    @Fr. Reader

    “Oh, disobedience, disobedience… It is a pity that he decided to go against the Church of Christ by ordaining these bishops, since he had so much good to fight for.”

    The pity here is that Catholics make unresearched, sweeping statements that promulgate falsehoods. Like the above. Canon law provides for the state of necessity. It is not “going against the Church of Christ” to defend the fullness of the Faith with all due respect.

    And much like this article reveals the particulars of “so much good to fight for” future articles will reveal more. But the truth, beyond shallow judgments of another, are there to be found for those who want to be faithful to the Church of Christ beyond following a particular bias.

  20. Rouxfus says:

    In his 1978 The Final Conclave, a fact-based fictional (“faction”) account of a hypothetical conclave, published just before the election of Albino Cardinal Luciani to his short-lived 33-day reign as pope, Fr. Malachi Martin includes his translation, interpretation and rendering of that meeting. Page numbers from the book are in brackets. Martin probably had access to the same source as Michael Davies:

    Earlier in the year, Lefebvre had twice asked Villot’s office, as protocol requires, to arrange an audience for him with Paul in the Vatican. Each time Villot refused. Paul heard about it all only much later. Paul did agree to a request made on Lefebvre’s behalf by Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, a black African, that Lefebvre have an interview with Paul. But Villot would not allow the meeting. “The Pope will not see Lefebvre,” he told Gantin. “He (the Pope) might change his mind, and that would only create confusion.”

    On September 8 Paul sent another letter to Lefebvre. Lefebvre replied through mutual friends: “I want to work under your authority … but I must speak to you [43] personally. …” Archbishop Benelli sent a message to Lefebvre which said summarily: Come to Castel Gandolfo with a letter petitioning an interview with His Holiness. On September 11, Lefebvre did just that. The Osservatore Romano would report, tongue in cheek, that the Archbishop “unexpectedly presented himself at the Pope’s villa.” And he talked with Paul for over an hour.

    When Paul came down that day to see Lefebvre in the Reception Hall, he was surprised: He remembered the Archbishop’s appearance: the long, slightly aquiline nose, the thin lips in the wide mouth, the determined chin, the wary look in his almost-almond eyes. But it was now Lefebvre’s attitude that struck Paul, or, more accurately, the vibrating atmosphere that surrounded his diminutive figure. Not arrogant. Not resentful. Not servile. Not sulky. Lefebvre, in short, seemed possessed by some devouring idea that haunted his face, his words, his gestures, even his dutiful act of kneeling and kissing Paul’s ring.

    Paul let Lefebvre pour out all his complaints and express all his fears. And when Lefebvre had finished, Paul returned to his basic position: “As you are now going, you will be destroyed. And all your work will be for nothing.”

    Lefebvre’s words were clear to Paul. “Holiness! I am willing to do anything for the good of the Church.”

    “Without obedience to the See of Peter, without our unity in Christ, the Church cannot exist,” was Paul’s answer to Lefebvre.

    The Archbishop went on to ask for his “rights”: the right to celebrate Mass in the old way; the right to train his priests in his own seminaries. He was ready to do anything for the Church of Christ, Lefebvre went on to say, but the faithful who feel threatened should have an alternative to the newfangled practices and teachings launched by the “new theologians.” At present false teachings are given them, and their Faith is in danger of being destroyed.

    “Does the Archbishop intend to consecrate new bishops?” Paul asked. This was a nightmare thought; Lefebvre could validly consecrate new bishops. That would be a classical schism, another splinter church, more disunity.

    If good bishops were needed, he would do his duty, was Lefebvre’s answer. He also said that His Holiness had been misinformed about the faithful. A big minority in every Catholic population yearned for the old Mass and for the old teachings. [44]

    Paul was well aware of the trouble. Many found it hard to go along with his changes. In a sense, Paul’s pilgrimage had begun; and not all the faithful could begin it with him. There was serious unrest in the Church. There was disobedience among Catholic Leftists as well as among Catholic Rightists who followed Lefebvre. Already a Bishop Dozier of Memphis, Tennessee, in the United States, wanted to hold irregular “Confession and Absolution” mass meetings. On August 20, 1976, Paul had had to consent to release an entire Convent of Dominican nuns from their religious vows: They, like Lefebvre, abhorred Paul’s new Mass form. Father Gommar DePouw in Long Island, New York, celebrated only the old Mass, and had developed a congregation of over 10,000, some of whom came from miles away each Sunday. DePouw probably had a couple of million secret sympathizers.

    To his recollection Paul lost his temper only at one point in the conversation. Lefebvre was asked why he personally attacked and condemned Paul. His answer was maddening: “Someone must keep the truth before the eyes of the faithful.”

    “What am I supposed to do when you condemn me?” Paul turned on him. “Resign? Is that what you want? Is it my post you want?”

    But Lefebvre calmed him down. “You have the solution at arm’s reach,” continued Lefebvre. “One word from you to the Bishops and they will allow us Traditionalists to use their churches for worship. Isn’t that our right?”

    Paul had done his best to win Lefebvre to his own point of view. He had explained that he, more than the Archbishop, was extremely troubled by the zigzag split that ran from the College of Cardinals down through the Bishops, through the priests, and into the people all over the Roman Catholic population in Europe and elsewhere. There is an actual de facto schism in the Church, Paul explained to Lefebvre. But nobody has been condemned. And it should stay like that. The losses would be irreparable for generations to come if Rome had to condemn thousands of Catholics.

    Paul had gone on to explain how he saw his own function: to preside over his divided Church; to bring the mass of Catholics to a central position and attitude; to admonish all and sundry when they erred; and to launch a series of statements over a period of time in which the traditional [45] doctrine concerning basics—the Eucharist, priestly Ordination, Papal infallibility, the ethics of abortion and sexuality, and so on—would be echoed. Thus there would ring out in his Pontificate, and beyond into the dark age facing Christianity, a clear bell-like voice stating and restating against all opposition within and without the Church the traditional doctrine in its barest outline.

    All his attempts, however, to convince Lefebvre had been in vain. “What can be wrong with at least having a trial-run with forming priests the way you and I were formed? In the traditional way? What can be wrong with it?” Lefebvre pleaded.
    One part of Paul’s brain told him: Nothing. Nothing at all. Another part said: Too dangerous! Lefebvre will attract a large minority—perhaps a majority!

    Still, the interview had not ended too badly. As they walked to the separation point, Lefebvre made one last try: “But can’t you do something to protect us, to ease the pressure on us, Holy Father?”

    “I can’t answer you now. The Curia must be consulted. We will see. … We will think about the whole thing.” Then, with his usual gentle smile: “We should end our conversation now. But let’s pray a little together.” They said an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and the traditional prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Veni Sancte Spiritus. Both of them spontaneously recited the prayers in Latin. It was more natural and had a greater savor for them than any other tongue.

    For Lefebvre, it was not as bad as he had expected, so he explained to the press. “The Pope spoke to me like a father … he opened his arms to me. … It is the beginning of dialogue. …” Nor had it been as good as he had wished. “We reached no conclusion. …”

    But for Paul, it was disturbing. Lefebvre could not be stopped by threats nor by entreaties. Pushed mercilessly by Villot’s downright treatment, the least Lefebvre might do would be to cause an ecclesiastical schism. He might (the thought caused Paul to shudder) set himself up as anti-Pope. …

    In the end no good result came from the interview. Paul could not relent and allow an alternative style of worship and belief. That, too, could end up in schism and doubt among the faithful. He could not approve of Lefebvre, because his authority was at stake. And he could not [46] allow the Traditionalists in his own Papal Curia that sort of a triumph. The struggle would go on.

  21. Antonin says:

    The polemical attitude of Lefebvre was a strategic blunder and also indicative of the sin of pride. Paul VI is entirely correct in that we are a community and disunity is and always has been one of the cardinal sins against the Church which is why historically we have always tried to find consensus and much of Lefebvre’s criticism is not an issue of faith but expression, liturgical or otherwise – and even religious freedom and ecumensism his position is weak and Paul VI rightly says this is not the time to address this. This exchange does show, though, that Paul VI was a strong leader with an interest in the unity of the Church.

    But Paul VI, on balance, was too invested in seeing the positive in the Council that he did not step in strongly enough when liturgical abuses (that he admitted to being aware of were occurring).

    I think that the only fair and reasonable historical assessment was that events spiralled completely out of control of anyone – in a real and literal sense all have to profess faith in Our Lord as we continue to be in a boat that is being tossed about on the sea and in danger of being smashed against rocks.

    Paul VI, in that sense, did the only reasonable thing he could do, fast and pray. He simply did not have control of the aftermath in all directions and had to let Lefebvre go his way which he did and the Bishops go their way which they did.

  22. tho says:

    The Church has rightly declared that the saints are in Heaven, but if my catechism memories are correct, the Church has never declared that someone is in hell. That would preclude the Infinite Mercy of God. Also, contrary to what Pope Francis supposedly said, the Church has never denied the existence of hell.

  23. Rouxfus says:

    Father Martin seems to have had access to not only the Lefebvre account of the meeting, as Davies did, but the the excerpt from The Final Conclave above also makes reference to Paul’s personal impressions of the meeting. Martin knew Montini well, and it is quite possible he communicated with him personally about this meeting. He strikes a good balance here between the two—more so than Tornielli.

    Here are some of the indications which suggest to me that Fr. Martin had communicated with the pope about the meeting:

    + “ Paul let Lefebvre pour out all his complaints and express all his fears.”
    + “Lefebvre’s words were clear to Paul. ‘Holiness! I am willing to do anything for the good of the Church.’ ”
    + “Paul was well aware of the trouble.”
    + “To his recollection Paul lost his temper only at one point in the conversation.”
    + “But for Paul, it was disturbing. Lefebvre could not be stopped by threats nor by entreaties. Pushed mercilessly by Villot’s downright treatment, the least Lefebvre might do would be to cause an ecclesiastical schism. He might (the thought caused Paul to shudder) set himself up as anti-Pope.”

  24. Geoffrey says:

    “In any case, excommunication only excludes a person from the Sacraments, not from Heaven…”

    Very true. But, it is not easy to enter Heaven without the Sacraments!

    Don’t get me wrong, I pray for the repose of the late archbishop’s soul, but do not see him ever being elevated to the altars of the Church considering his unrepentant disobedience.

  25. Alexander Verbum says:

    Antonin wrote:

    “This exchange does show, though, that Paul VI was a strong leader with an interest in the unity of the Church.”

    No.

    It shows that Paul VI had no idea how to lead and guide the Church. He was a disaster. Lefebvre was disobedient and Paul VI was a weakling and let most of the house burn. They are both examples of excess and deficiency in the 20th century Church. We are all paying the price for Pope Paul the Disaster and Lefebvre’s reactionary attitude that stifled real Catholic restoration and renewal.

  26. Giuseppe says:

    It does seem a bit odd the number of recent papal saints.
    From 1500 until Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II there were only 2 papal saints (Sts. Pius V and X).
    Now we’re about to have Saint Paul VI?
    And Popes Pius XII and John Paul I are in the process.

    There was something to be said about the 50 year delay after death – it allows for some time to think. 5 years seems too soon. Regardless, the Pope can waive the waiting period.

    Nothing prevents anyone from praying to any deceased pope, regardless of canonization status.
    Indeed, I think it would be right and proper to pray to Blessed (soon to be St.) Pope Paul VI in Latin.

  27. TonyO says:

    Paul VI, in that sense, did the only reasonable thing he could do, fast and pray.

    This is manifestly not true. Pope John Paul II instituted the Ecclesia Dei Commission which allowed for official permission to certain priests and parishes to use the old Mass. Benedict went even further and issued Summorum Pontificum, which not only give ALL priests the right to use to the old mass, it makes it clear (if indirect) that Benedict thought that in some sense they always had some right to it. Either or both of these could have been done by Paul. Much more importantly, he could have gone back and fixed the darn stupid mess to begin with: the Novus Ordo was not the Mass that the Council had asked for, and for Paul to stuff his ears so he couldn’t hear the complaints and keep on insisting that it was the reform VII called for was sheer blindness and deafness – self-made at that. There is simply no good reason Paul could not bend far enough to solve 90% of the problem that Lefebvre was pointing out, and let the other 10% be a smouldering back-bench problem that didn’t really affect day-to-day issues like the Mass is. Simply none. It is nonsensical to allow there to be 23 rites (and several distinct “uses”) in communion with Rome, and then insist that “communion” demands that Lefebvre say the Novus Ordo.

    It is also wrong to call Paul a “strong” pope. If he were strong, he would have stood up to the forces of revolution at the Council and told them no. If he were strong, he would have insisted on taking the liturgical commission away from the revolutionaries and given it to the right people – the people he could have known would carry out the will of the Council properly. If he were strong he would have taken much more proactive steps to deal with the known abuses. He would have used EXISTING CANON LAW to punish heresy and disobedience that was running rampant and being taught in the seminaries. He would have removed the worst of the bishops, and remonstrated with the more pliable ones going in the wrong direction. He kept rolling over and playing dead to these bad forces within the Church. He seemed to think – from outward appearances, anyway – that fasting and praying were his only tools. Well hang it all, that’s ridiculous. A person in authority has an obligation to use ALL of the tools in the tool chest that are put there for a reason, and prayer and fasting are not the only tools available to a pope.

  28. Fr. Reader says:

    It is not a good thing to die excommunicated. We can pray for this poor man Lefebvre. He might need it.

  29. irishromancatholic says:

    Major, major compliments for Father Z even mentioning this or anything having to do with ++Lefebvre. It takes allot of courage to so much mention his name given he has a reputation among all the bishops and most priests on par with Hans Kung and Father Curran.
    Tony O is spot on in his analysis of Paul VI. His pontificate was an epic failure. The worst in the last five-hundred years of the Church. Let’s not forget the historical record: Paul VI gave us the notoriously unorthodox bishops such as Cardinal Bernadine, Mahoney and Bishop’s Weakland, Shannon, Lucker, Gumbleton, Hunthausen; the list of horrific episcopal appointments is endless. These wicked Bishop’s undermined Catholic dogma and morals and deliberately covered up sex crimes which the Church still reel’s from today. Pope Paul VI appointed these bishop’s; when one thinks of the number of soul’s that were lost because of these atrocious appointments, it is staggering for the mind to grasp.
    It look’s to me that ++Lefebvre was dressed down in a major way by Paul VI. This was his time to shine and personally call the pope out in the way that St Catherine of Sienna did by getting in the pope’s grill and making him wake-up. Or the way St Paul did to St Peter resisting him PRIVATELY to his face.
    I’ll close with another example of how to handle the very difficult task of wayward pope’s with a quote from the great Alice von Hildebrand: ” I shall never forget the private audience we had with Paul VI just before the end of the Council. It was on June 21, 1965. As soon as my husband started pleading with him to condemn the heresies that were rampant, the Pope interrupted him with the words, “Lo scriva, lo scriva.” (“Write it down.”) A few moments later, for the second time, my husband drew the gravity of the situation to the Pope’s attention. Same answer. His Holiness received us standing. It was clear that the Pope was feeling very uncomfortable. The audience lasted only a few minutes. Paul VI immediately gave a sign to his secretary, Fr. Capovilla, to bring us rosaries and medals. We then went back to Florence where my husband wrote a long document (unpublished today) that was delivered to Paul VI just the day before the last session of the Council. It was September of 1965. After reading my husband’s document, he said to my husband’s nephew, Dieter Sattler, who had become the German ambassador to the Holy See, that he had read the document carefully, but that “it was a bit harsh.” The reason was obvious: my husband had humbly requested a clear condemnation of heretical statements. ” When the history of this period is written it will show that Deitrich Von Hildebrand like St Paul and St Catherine of Sienna before him, got it right. ++Lefebvre, like Savonarola in the 15th century, identified the problem’s in the Church accurately, but had the wrong approach that led to suspension and excommunication.

    [The account of the audience was quite interesting.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  30. Ann Malley says:

    @Antonin

    “The polemical attitude of Lefebvre was a strategic blunder and also indicative of the sin of pride. Paul VI is entirely correct in that we are a community and disunity is and always has been one of the cardinal sins against the Church which is why historically we have always tried to find consensus and much of Lefebvre’s criticism is not an issue of faith but expression, liturgical or otherwise – and even religious freedom and ecumensism his position is weak and Paul VI rightly says this is not the time to address this. This exchange does show, though, that Paul VI was a strong leader with an interest in the unity of the Church.”

    Look to the polemic attitude in definitively proclaiming the sin of pride in another.

    Was it a strategic blunder of Our Lord to speak the truth?

    Disunity from the truth is dividing oneself from Christ Jesus. So, in your analysis, you seem disinclined to acknowledge the realities of what was at stake. We are living the fruits of false unity today.

    Our Lord Jesus prayed for unity to the Father, telling the Apostles at the Last Supper to cleave to that which they had been given. He did not bid the Apostles compromise with the truth so that they could all get along and pretend to be one.

    @ Alexander Verbum

    “It shows that Paul VI had no idea how to lead and guide the Church. He was a disaster. Lefebvre was disobedient and Paul VI was a weakling and let most of the house burn. They are both examples of excess and deficiency in the 20th century Church. We are all paying the price for Pope Paul the Disaster and Lefebvre’s reactionary attitude that stifled real Catholic restoration and renewal.”

    Sorry, but what this exchange demonstrates are those divisions Our Lord warned would come. The Holy Ghost is there to protect Mother Church as promised, but men tend to think like men do. Instead of relying upon God to supply for the Church when speaking the fullness of the truth, the fear of people walking away was focused upon.

    Our Lord, when He spoke of the Bread from Heaven, allowed those who had previously followed to walk away. He was bold. He spoke truth. He knew that Faith is a gift from God, not a manufacture of compromise to keep people in place when their hearts and minds are wandering to all manner of error.

    What is “Real” Catholic restoration?

    How would you have proceeded when pinned between following that which had been handed down and obvious error? This is a serious question. The back seat driving/Monday morning quarterbacking is overriding clear thought.

    What are “we” an example of when we blame others for acting as they needed in a situation “we” cannot begin to fathom because we are snug in our present situation of name and blame?

    Canon 675 regarding the Mystery of Iniquity must come about in some fashion, no?

  31. Eric says:

    I respectfully disagree with the “wrong approach” comment above and others regarding the suspension and excommunication. They were both acts of grave injustice. I trust in the future they will be recognized as such. He was obedient to the Faith and refused to standby and allow the wreckage to occur and would not be complicit in it. I recommend to all readers to pick up his biography, along with Davies’ multi volume account of what happened and the position that great man was placed, Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre. As the Archbishop stated in his Open Letter to Confused Catholics, “For it is a master-stroke of Satan to get Catholics to disobey the whole of Tradition in the name of obedience.” For those who have commented above that the Archbishop was wrong in his act of “disobedience” and what happened, I believe if one goes through the materials referenced above, your mind will be changed. Mine was.

    Finally, a strong argument could be made that the very fact of the survival and now growth today of the Latin Mass, which I am sure much of the readers of this blog attend and thrive in, is due to the Archbishop’s “disobedience.”

  32. jflare29 says:

    Well, I guess this one depends a good deal on your point of view. If Lefebvre raised some legitimate, serious points, they do not undo the gravity of Paul VI’s concerns. If Lefebvre did not wish to lead rebellion, he still became a lightning rod, a rallying point for a traditionalist faction. If he stated that he wished to be subordinate to the pope, he still acted differently. I am bothered by his comments about conscience. Whether a traditional or progressive, conscience must be accountable to the whole of the Church’s teaching. Lefebvre strikes me as being the traditionalist version of the progressive distortion of Church teaching because of conscience concerns.
    He seems mostly concerned by Vatican II ambiguities and the resulting abused. OK, legitimate concerns. Trouble is, he wasn’t the first to have concerns a Council. His view suggests he was insistent that Church teaching must be stated in the manner he felt best, yet there appears no cause for him to make such a requirement. Even bishops must accept correction from other bishops and the Holy Father. Whatever Lefebvre intended, ultimately he did not subordinate his views to the Holy Father’s wishes.
    I will give him credit for having acted vigorously, I could wish that most of our bishops today would demonstrate his passion. Even so, the military adage about “do something, even if it’s wrong” has limits. Military leadership have developed means to determine what went well and what didn’t. Someone who acts vigorously in the wrong manner must still be corrected, however a superior may admire the nerve involved. Subordinates must still be accountable to properly designated superiors. In this sense, I see a serious problem. Ultimately, even if SSPX has never been declared formally schismatic, the Society still declares itself Catholic and acts accordingly, yet does not hold itself accountable to the Holy Father’s authority as pope. The only rational explanation I can discern is material schism. Such a view apparently began with Lefebvre. However much I may admire the man’s guts and tenacity, that last concern is still a serious issue.

  33. Ann Malley says:

    @jflare29

    “If Lefebvre did not wish to lead rebellion, he still became a lightning rod, a rallying point for a traditionalist faction.”

    That’s not his fault. That was the role Providence placed him in.

    “If he stated that he wished to be subordinate to the pope, he still acted differently.”

    With all due respect, a child can desire to be subordinate to his parent but is forced not to comply with that parent’s wishes should they fall outside of that which is licit. The pain of such a child would be great, but the need to act in good conscience if the authority should ask that which is not permissible is still paramount.

    “I am bothered by his comments about conscience. Whether a traditional or progressive, conscience must be accountable to the whole of the Church’s teaching.”

    Precisely so. That is why cleaving to the modernist trial balloons that make ambiguity a science is out of the question.

    “Lefebvre strikes me as being the traditionalist version of the progressive distortion of Church teaching because of conscience concerns.”

    Um, check out the doctrinal issues to which Lefebvre objected. It’s easy to dismiss the matter as mere overreaction until you look at the realities of what was being objected to.

    “Ultimately, even if SSPX has never been declared formally schismatic, the Society still declares itself Catholic and acts accordingly, yet does not hold itself accountable to the Holy Father’s authority as pope.”

    This is a moot point as the Society is Catholic and is recognized as such by the Vatican. There is recognition of papal authority but also the authority of the Faith itself. That’s the rub here.

    And while many posit that “today’s” crises are far worse, the crisis at the time discussed was grave as that has what has led us down his current road of jollies. The only rational explanation is that we all withhold judgment on that which is outside our purview and cleave to tradition during this obvious time of crisis wherein even those with the authority have not declared the SSPX to be in schism.

    Time to stop admiring “guts and tenacity” and look to what motivated the actions in the first place. The root problems are still very much here, spewing off new surprise fruit at every turn.

  34. fmsb78 says:

    Many people empathize with good Archbishop Lefebvre up until the consecrations but I personally think that without that event, there would be no FSSP, neither ICRSS and the rest of the priestly societies that came ever since.

    There would be no Ecclesia Dei commission to begin with and I honestly doubt that the Traditional Catholic movement would be bigger enough in order to be deserve papal attention in the form of apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum.

    Let’s not forget that there are many communications that takes decades to come to light and they explain a lot the motivations behind people’s actions. I believe Msrg. Lefebvre saw something that lead him do what he did, for example, the FSSP says they picked up the agreement Msgr. Lefebvre so the question is: Where is their bishop? 30 years and counting.

    Pax et bonum.

  35. Fr. Reader says:

    @fmsb78
    God can manage to bring good things out of sins. That does not mean that we should glorify the sins, or canonize sinners. A sin is a terrible thing, even if it produced all the commissions and apostolic letters of the world.

  36. Fr. Reader says:

    @irishromancatholic.
    Great comment about the great Von Hildebrand, and the wrong approach of poor Lefebvre.

  37. robtbrown says:

    Fr. Reader,

    In so far as you easily trot out accusations of sin and disobedience, do you think that Paul VI committed sin and was disobedient with his de facto suppression of the historical Roman Rite?

    Keep in mind that at the end of Quo Primum is found what is sometimes referred to as a curse:

    Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Would anyone, however, presume to commit such an act, he should know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

    Whether or not you agree that Quo Primum still carries obligation, with the current state of the Church, it is difficult to deny that the wrath of God and Peter and Paul has been incurred.

  38. JabbaPapa says:

    This blog post provides some simply fascinating insight into the origins of Monseigneur Lefèbvre’s slide from sheer, understandable utter frustration into his personal Act of schism [I think that says too much.] (and NO the SSPX itself has *never* been charged with the same).

    Particularly the sadness of the two men talking past each other.

    The Pope on his part was quite clearly wrong in his proposal that every detail of every text of any Ecumenical Council must unconditionally be agreed with by all Christians, which if this were any worse than just the unfortunate mistake on his part that it is — but if someone were to take this words and propose them as being somehow “doctrinal” — could constitute the Heresy of Conciliarism. Which the Pope was not guilty of, but now that his words are public, a risk now exists that some Christians reading them might therefrom fall into it.

    But the Archbishop was wrong too, in his suggestion that the Council proposed “pluralism” — this is actually a catastrophically bad interpretation of its texts, correctly and à propos denounced by Pope Benedict XVI as a “hermeneutic of rupture“. No matter that such an interpretation of those texts is very frequent among the “progressive” “liberals”. They do not define the Catholicity.

    The underlying theological problem here is in the multiple degrees of Authority, especially given the complexity of the texts, so that many (including seemingly Pope Paul VI) can confuse the pastoral or the simply disciplinary with the dogmatic.

    [It may be that this comment says too much.]

  39. JabbaPapa says:

    He received the so-called “Last Rites” in unimprovably canonical manner

    That is to say : after his Confession.

    Go to Confession !!

  40. Fr. Reader says:

    @robtbrown
    I cannot, obviously, affirm the sin of no one. I should have used different words in what I wrote.
    And yes, the Quo Primus is a very strong text.

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  42. robtbrown says:

    Fr Reader,

    I did a poor job of making my point. I really don’t mind your accusations against Lefebvre of sin and/or disobedience.

    Rather, my point is that you were blaming the wrong person.

    Paul VI was bright but a hot house cleric. Although he understood there were controversies in the Church, he had never been a professor who had probed the philosophical skepticism and perfidy in the foundation of the likes of Rahner, Kung and Schillebeeckx.

    There was a giant system of discipline in the Church with Latin liturgy as the foundation, and it would be a fortress against whatever innovations liberals* proposed. He never suspected that they planned to reduce the fortress to rubble. One day he looked up, saw that it was all gone, and didn’t know what to do. After the innovations gained momentum, he defended them.

    He then isolated himself from legitimate criticism. He wanted Jean Guitton to write him every year to say how the papacy was going. After Guitton criticised what was happening, the pope never answered his letters. In meeting with Lefebvre, he doesn’t defend the specifics of the Council. Rather, the accusation is that L is attacking the papacy or the authority of a Council.

    * including some of his friends

  43. robtbrown says:

    Jabba says

    But the Archbishop was wrong too, in his suggestion that the Council proposed “pluralism” — this is actually a catastrophically bad interpretation of its texts, correctly and à propos denounced by Pope Benedict XVI as a “hermeneutic of rupture“.

    The comment of BXVI is proof that there is a pluralism in certain texts. Any text that can only be interpreted by reference to tradition is obviously not clear.

  44. JabbaPapa says:

    robtbrown, sorry for the tardiness in my response — if it helps, it was from some final acts of penance and contrition, that took an unusually long time on my own part and in my own conscience, between my last Confession and the Grace of that Sacrament in the Eucharistic Mass.

    mea maxima culpa, and thank God for the Sacrament !!

    The comment of BXVI is proof that there is a pluralism in certain texts. Any text that can only be interpreted by reference to tradition is obviously not clear.

    This is, sorry to say, an Error of interpretation — it is a simple FACT that every single written text is multiply interpretable.

    This does not mean that texts do not have singular non-reinterpretable meanings ; it means that misunderstandings of particular texts are intrinsically inevitable ; but this is not from ambiguity in texts, but it is from our own sins.

    You implicitly refer to the so-called “post-modernism” ; but the thing is that if you make the effort to pursue that “deconstructionist” method to its natural goal, not only do you find yourself facing the uncompromising brick wall of an intellectual dead end street, but even more importantly you find that Relativism has no effect upon Reality.

    As for “pluralism in texts”, I can only recommend that you read Umberto Eco’s seminal Lector in Fabula and Foucault’s brilliant Les mots et les choses (and BTW neither of these fine men were Modernists nor Relativists denying Science and Reality and the Divine Rea

  45. robtbrown says:

    Jabba,

    This is, sorry to say, an Error of interpretation — it is a simple FACT that every single written text is multiply interpretable.

    Are you saying that your text above can be interpreted to mean that NO single text admits of a multiplicity of interpretation?

    BTW, Umberto Eco was a Nominalist. His inclination toward Ockham was obvious in The Name of the Rose. That means he didn’t think there was natural Truth. In so far as he left the Faith and became an atheist during his years as a student, he didn’t think there was supernatural Truth.

  46. robtbrown says:

    Jabba,

    Link to my article on the Vat II theology of the priesthood

    http://www.christianorder.com/features/features_2001/features_nov01.html

    After a period of some years I am now working on two articles, not unrelated: Amoris Laetitia and Latin Liturgy and Intention and the Bonum Coniugale.

  47. Antonin says:

    @ TonyO
    “for Paul to stuff his ears so he couldn’t hear the complaints and keep on insisting that it was the reform VII called for was sheer blindness and deafness – self-made at that.”

    Exact same response of traditionalists today when there is suggestion of putting the order of readings and calendar into the extraordianary form.

    Everyone who was around and actually used the, then extraordinary form, knew that it needed pruning and reform. Particularly to meet the exigencies of the present time. At the point of Trent, literacy was low, at the time of VII, literacy was high. At the point of Trent, the printing press was not used widely. At the time of VII, books were circulating widely.

    This meant that people had access to the Bible and the translated texts. A more robust emphasis on the liturgy of the word was a good idea. And the specific linkage of OT texts to knew within the liturgy also implicitly shows how the OT prefigures and anticipates the revelation of Christ (with all due respect to our Jewish friends).

    A unified calendar and order of readings would do much to unify the Church and not make the extraordinary form appear like a boutique liturgy and instead ensure that it truly is another form of the single Roman Rite.

    Cardinal Sara has suggested precisely that and for traditionalists is sheer blindness and self-made