Today we look at what SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson has to say, twenty years after the illicit consecrations in Ecône.
My emphases and comments. I have changed some formatting. This interview is in the recent number of the publication of the SSPX called Angelus.
Q: What are your thoughts on the state of the Church after 20 years of the episcopacy?
Williamson: The state of the Church is very grave. The churchmen at the summits [He doesn’t say "summit", but "summit" is included.] of the Church continue to be blinded by the errors of Vatican II. [A vague charge.] They may have their moments in which they show some sympathy for the liturgy of Tradition, but one would have to say that its doctrine remains for them a closed book. They show no signs of grasping that there even exists a Truth which is one, exclusive and immutable, let alone their accepting such a Truth. [So, Williamson is saying that they, including Pope Benedict I suppose, are "relativists", perhaps post-modern deconstructors.]
Q: What has changed, if anything, in the Society?
Williamson: What has changed in the Society is that on the one hand it has no longer had Archbishop Lefebvre to guide it for the last 17 years, who had a unique charism as Founder, and on the other hand the world around us has very much moved on since his death, and not for the better. The holding action [As also Tissier de Mallerais used throughout his interview, this is the language of battle.] of the Society is holding, but when one observes this world around us one cannot help calling to mind the words of Our Lord, “If these days were not shortened…”
Q: How many countries have you visited since your consecration?
Williamson: I have lost count of the number of countries I have visited since 1988. It would have to be dozens.
Q: What has impressed you most about the faithful on your world-wide confirmation circuits?
Williamson: What impresses most in the people presently following or accompanying the SSPX is that some may come and some may go, but numbers generally hold, and in some parts of the world, even increase. The Faith is being kept, and it continues to bear fruit, the same fruit of peace and tranquility [really?] as it has always borne.
Q: Is it possible to consider how things might have played out had the Archbishop not consecrated bishops?
Williamson: Had the Archbishop not consecrated? We would have seen some other marvel of the Lord God to ensure that the Faith and the Church continued. [An interesting observation. In other words they did not have to defy the Vicar of Christ, and persist in defiance. I think when people offer the argument that had Archbp. Lefevbre and the SSPX not done what they did, then we would not have the older Mass today, we should reject that premise, or at least scrutinize it closely.] There can be no doubt that the bishops of the SSPX have in fact made possible the continuance of the SSPX as one bulwark of the Faith in difficult times, but the Lord God’s arm is not shortened by the wickedness of men. [True!]
Q: Do you see the situation with Rome as more or less encouraging after these past 20 years?
Williamson: I am afraid the situation with Rome is still more discouraging than 20 years ago. [One would not think so, unless one has an abiding problem with the person of Papa Ratzinger. Perhaps the abiding problems is, in this case, fear. Williamson would not be capable of "winning" an argument with Papa if it really came down to the serious doctrinal dialogue the SSPX claim they desire. So, perhaps constantly kicking sand at the eyes of the "summits" is their best strategy right now.] As Our Lord says in one of His parables, “Some enemy hath done this.” Some enemy, very clever and cleverly hidden, is at work. [A diabolical conspiracy. Still, I find it ironic that he cites a verse from Scripture which Augustine used when refuting the theological positions of the Donatists, who set up altar against altar, defied legitimate Catholic authority, and believed in a Church of the pure only. Ironic.] Notwithstanding, the Lord God is in control. [For someone who makes statements about abandonment to divine providence, there sure is an extreme need to be in control, isn’t there?]
Q: What would you say to those who, in 1988, predicted the Society was creating a parallel Church? [Which would a…. what… a "schism"?] Has not history proved them wrong?
Williamson: Of course events have shown that anyone was wrong who said that the SSPX was producing a parallel church. Amongst our people I would say the danger is rather of too much, and not of too little, love for these present Romans. But that love testifies to their true love of Rome. [Hmmm… I am not sure what this is saying. However, I glean from this that Williamson thinks that those who are in the Roman Curia are not real "Romans", in the sense of living true Romanità, in the sense perhaps of sentire cum Ecclesia. There is a Rome and the "true Rome", and the leadership of the SSPX adhere to the "true Rome". I suppose this is part of their deeply entrenched default position that they, not Rome, are the true arbiters of what is "Catholic". This is what, perhaps, Card. Castrillon’s conditions were aiming at when he asked if the SSPX would refrain from claiming a magisterium superior to that the Roman Pontiff. Once again, I hear echoing through these words the attitude of the Donatist.]
Q: What stands out as the most important development of the past 20 years? The death of the Archbishop? The election of a new Pope? The Motu Proprio?
Williamson: The most important development of the last 20 years would seem to me to be no one event in particular, but rather the advance on every front of evil in general. We are surrounded. [I want to give him the benefit of the doubt here, but a close read might suggest to some that he has just including the election of Benedict XVI and the issuing of the Motu Proprio as part of the "advance of evil". I get the impression that this fellow thinks that the MP was a Trojan Horse. Bp. "Cassandra" is therefore warning against any close dealings with the "false Rome" or those at "the summits".] Humanly, we are going under. [Is there a bit of a dualism behind this statement?] But God is God! [Again the reference to divine providence.]
Q: Many Catholics who began the fight alongside the Archbishop years ago now feel inclined to unite forces with a seemingly more conservative Rome by allying themselves with organizations with a more “regular status” [Well… a groups status is regular or it isn’t.. something they ought to know.] within the Church. What would you say to these people who abandon the cause of the Society of St. Pius X? [Interesting. So, unity with Rome isn’t the "cause" of the SSPX…]
Williamson: To those many souls tempted to join organizations that seem to defend the Faith yet are under these Romans, [!] I would say, beware, beware, beware! Look at the fruits of these Romans. Does the one, true and immutable Faith prosper under their hands, or does it not rather wilt? Doctrine, doctrine, doctrine! [Again, the SSPX position that doctrine is at the heart of the conflict they have with the "false Rome" and they are the arbiters of Catholic doctrine.]
Q: What is your most memorable recollection of the Archbishop?
Williamson: My most memorable recollection of the Archbishop would, again, be no one thing or event in particular, but rather his steady and calm measuring of everything by the measure of the Faith, and his complete, but sane, dedication to its service. May he be resting in peace!
Q: What was the most memorable time of your seminary formation?
Williamson: The most memorable time of my seminary formation would – I am getting stuck like a needle in an old-fashioned gramophone!–be all of it.
Q: Would you say that the fight for the Mass [Is the fight for doctrine or for the Mass? Read on.] has changed dramatically since the consecrations?
Williamson: What one might say has changed in the fight for the Mass since the Consecrations is that the enemies are pretending to yield on the liturgy, [Pope Benedict = "enemy"] but they are not giving an inch on their rotten doctrine of Vatican II. [Again, the vague label, "Vatican II".] But the relation between liturgy and doctrine is, broadly, like the relation between the ninth of the iceberg showing above water, and the eight-ninths beneath water upholding the ninth showing. Without the Faith, the Mass alone would be nowhere. [If I am not mistaken, this was an image used by the Bp. Fellay not long ago, in Paris, at the end of June 08.]
Q: Contrariwise, would you say that the fight for doctrine [doctrine again] has become more important?
Williamson: Would that the fight for Doctrine had become more important! I fear that its fundamental importance is still not sufficiently understood. Modern man is a sentimental, not a doctrinal, animal. [This is pretty close to the mark. It is interesting how, today, you can lead people step by step through an argument and, when you arrive at the inescapable conclusion, they will say, "I feel differently, but if that is true for you…".] Truth for him goes by inner feeling instead of by outer reality. It is all laid out in Pius X’s great Encyclical, Pascendi.
Q: What does it mean that, besides Bishop Rifan, Rome has not given traditional bishops to any of the Ecclesia Dei communities? Does this not vindicate the Archbishop’s decision?
Williamson: Bishops are where the Church is at, as Rome very well knows. Therefore of course Rome will not give out bishops if it can possibly help it. That is not a reason to consecrate them regardless, but the Archbishop was obviously right, in retrospect. [But earlier he stated that God would have provided anyway… hmmm.] God bless his courage!
Q: What do you foresee as the greatest challenges facing the Society and the faithful in the next few years?
Williamson: The greatest challenge to the SSPX in the next few years is to grasp the primacy of doctrine, [doctrine] and to measure everything else, and to pray, accordingly. In our sentimental world, the constant temptation is to go by feelings. Not going by feelings is what marked out Archbishop Lefebvre, [really?] and if in this respect we do not follow him, the SSPX will go the way of all flesh – into the arms of the (objective) destroyers of the Church. [?!? – says one of the men who broke the Church’s unity. Whom would he list among the "destroyers", I wonder?]
Q: What do you think would be Archbishop Lefebvre’s assessment of the crisis as things stand in 2008?
Williamson: How the Archbishop would see things today is an interesting question. Myself, I think he would be more wary of these Romans than ever. [Pope Benedict, Card. Castrillon, etc.] They are persevering, persevering, persevering in their blindness, while the Lord God must, logically, all the while be offering them all the graces they need to see clear, [My heavens the arogance of this judgment… ] and if necessary, to accept the martyrs’ crown. These graces they must be steadily refusing, or de-fusing. God is their judge. May He have mercy upon them, and upon us all.
Q: What counsel would you give to parents rearing Catholic children in today’s world?
Williamson: Parents have a specially difficult task today, but the answer to the question of what they must do is basically easy – EXAMPLE! Let parents practice their Faith sincerely and steadily, as though it is the most important thing in their lives, and the children will have there the greatest help towards saving their own souls. What else matters? But parents do also need to learn the old-fashioned basics of parenting, which today go largely lost. How learn them? From grandparents, their own parents, if they still know, and from priests who have their heads screwed on straight. All modern ideas of parenting and education are worthless. [Actually, pretty good advice!]
Q: What advice would you offer to young men and women contemplating the religious life?
Williamson: To young men and women contemplating the religious life, I would say, look before you leap! [Interesting. A slight contrast to the "leap now!" approch of Tissier de Mallerais. Though the different answers are not necessarily incompatible. You can still act with decision while scoping out the leap.] Again, the religious life can be presented, or present itself, in a sentimental light. Such vocations cannot go very far. For boys, perhaps ask to spend a year as a gopher in a priory of the SSPX, [hmmm…. ] and make yourselves useful. For girls, I would venture to say, look for a large family in which to spend a year helping out one of those mothers who have had nine children in ten years, and are home-schooling at the same time. That, for our under-real and under-feminine lasses, would be a great apprenticeship in reality and motherliness! [Okay… notice the difference in the way Williamson sees vocations of young men and women. He seems not to think of women and religious vocation at all, only motherhood of large home-schooling families. This was the approach also, wasn’t it, of Tissier de Mallerais?]
Q: Which books do you think are most essential for the faithful in these days?
Williamson: Catholics, especially men, should always be reading, in order to arm their minds against the universal delusions and deceitful propaganda which are all around us today. [Fair enough.] The books from which someone will most profit will always be the books which most interest him. But all kinds of men are interested by all kinds of aspects of the Faith, so a general recommendation is not easy. However, in this crisis of Church, world and Faith, Archbishop Lefebvre’s writings have a special character of being truthful, profound and yet accessible. [ROFL! Okay… no disrespect to the late Archbishop, who was a great man in many ways, but this strikes me as similar to those who offer young people the poety of Maya Angelou in a basic class in great classics of English literature. I think we have to wonder if Archbp. Lefevbre was one of the great Catholic writers who is best apt to give young people the best starting points for their Catholic future in this difficult world. Maybe… but I am forced to doubt. Perhaps this could be a good topic of discussion in a new entry on this blog.] Start with the Open Letter to Confused Catholics [available from Angelus Press. Price: $14.00–Ed.] and go from there.
Q: What do you foresee in the next 20 years?
Williamson: In the next 20 years I see an on-going, even accelerating, degeneration of men and morals, until either they all begin to tear one another to pieces – a Third World War is absolutely in the cards, or the Lord God intervenes – an unimaginable Chastisement is equally likely. [These fellows are really apocalyptic. I wonder… It is interesting that the extreme left will accuse the right of "fear mongering" and using "scare tactics". I wonder if these strongly apocalyptic tendencies in the SSPX leadership are not, in part, a compensation for a shaky ecclesial position. They do play well to a base inclined to an extreme. I am sure that the leadership is accutely aware of the need to keep the base on board with them, now that Papa Ratzinger is Pope and Summorum Pontificum is in force. I am simply wondering out load here. Interesting questions.] Or both. Things cannot go on for much longer like they are going at present. Reality is going to come swinging back. I think we all need to pray especially for the conversion of sinners, as Our Lady at Fatima asked of the three children, because surely millions and millions are on the very brink of eternal damnation. [But… they always have been in every age. Nothing new here.] Christ, have mercy upon us!
Sixty-eight years old, Bishop Williamson was born into an Anglican family. Receiving a degree from the University of Cambridge, he devoted more than seven years to teaching literature, an activity which took him for two years to the heart of black Africa. At the age of 30, he abjured Anglicanism and converted to the Catholic Faith, and in October 1972, he entered Archbishop Lefebvre’s seminary in Ecône, where four years of formation brought him to the priesthood on June 29, 1976. [He was ordained just 4 years after converting.] From 1976 to 1981, Bishop Williamson performed the duties of professor at the Society’s seminaries at Weissbad and Ecône, of which he was to become the Vice-Rector in 1979. In 1982 Archbishop Lefebvre, then Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, nominated him to the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, of which he was Rector until 2003. In 2003 he was appointed Rector of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix [Is the SSPX pushing also for a declaration of Our Lady as "Co-redemptrix"?] Seminary in La Reja, Argentina, a post he holds to this day.