Martin Blackshaw, aka Blogger Athanasius, writes:
I know Bishop Williamson is yesterday’s news, but I thought it worth remarking on his latest Eleison Comments (EC – Number CDLXV (465) June 11, 2016) to demonstrate once again the blindness that comes upon those who surrender themselves to a truly schismatic spirit.
On cue as always, this spiritual director of an increasingly fragmenting “Resistance” minority is seeking to rekindle suspicions of betrayal in the minds of Society priests and faithful as the very real possibility of a reconciliation with Rome gains momentum.
Like the authors and implementers of the conciliar reform, Bishop Williamson knows well how to manipulate words and human emotions to suit his own agenda. On this occasion he directs all at the end of his comments to familiarise themselves with arguably the most hard-hitting and forthright interview with Archbishop Lefebvre from 1990, one year before His Grace’ death.
And just so that we all know what conclusions we should reach from that interview, Bishop Williamson takes up almost the entire length of his EC page preparing us to read according to his mind, i.e. without context or objectivity.
Two things need to be borne in mind here. The first is that the Archbishop gave his interview 26 years ago at a time when liberals in the Roman Curia still held the upper hand and were insisting on SSPX recognition of Vatican II reform as fundamental to “reconciliation”. That situation has drastically altered with Pope Francis, who acts unilaterally and determinedly with respect to the SSPX to the great chagrin of said Curial liberals.
We saw this when the Pope directly intervened with the Argentinean government to ensure recognition of the SSPX as a valid Catholic organisation, thereby countering the actions of Pope Benedict’s Papal Nuncio who had written to the President of that Country before Francis’ election to encourage rejection of the SSPX.
This brings me to the second point which is that Archbishop Lefebvre was more than a little angry over the two-faced betrayal of certain senior prelates who said one thing to him in private and the opposite in public. Francis’ maverick style of Papal governance greatly reduces the possibility of a similar betrayal this time around.
It is also worth recalling that in 1988 His Grace was dealing directly with then-Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger, who was both theologically unsound and personally untrustworthy. I believe the Cardinal, when he became Pope Benedict, expressed some regret himself over the way he had handled the 1988 negotiations. Perhaps that was why he dispensed altogether with the lie that the ancient Mass of the Church required a Papal Indult for celebration, a lie that his predecessor John Paul II perpetuated to the great detriment of truth and justice.
At any rate, a close inspection of the Archbishop’s words in the aforementioned interview, hard hitting as they are, leaves us in no doubt that His Grace had left the door firmly open to further negotiations with Rome should circumstances change for the better, a turn of events that he did not foresee in the immediate future.
Before highlighting the appropriate passages from this and a similar interview from 1989, one year after the consecrations, it is important for us all to reflect on the Archbishop’s assurance that the Society is a work of God and will not therefore disappear as a result of the machinations of the Church’s enemies.
Bishop Williamson and his rebellious cohorts at first tried to turn this to their advantage, claiming that they represented a fulfilment of the Archbishop’s prophetic promise against a Judas-like “sell out” by a compromised Bishop Fellay.
Of course time has proven this to be a total falsehood; the so-called “Resistance” movement comprising today of a motley crew of bitter little groups at war with each other as well as with everyone else who does not share their particular point of view. Many indeed no longer have even a weekly or monthly Mass to attend through shortage of partisan priests.
Bishop Fellay, for his part, is well chastened after his 2011 negotiations with the Roman authorities under then-Pope Benedict XVI, who, just as they had done with Archbishop Lefebvre, gave the impression that they were willing to accede to the requests of the SSPX only to back track at the last moment and demand that the Society acknowledge the validity of the conciliar reform, including ecumenism.
His Excellency is a much wiser man for that encounter and that’s why on this occasion he has decided to include all thirty SSPX superiors in the scrutiny of a supposed offer of Personal Prelature with no strings emanating directly from Pope Francis.
Strange how divine providence works! That the most liberal Pope ever to sit upon the Chair of Peter should be pursuing a no-strings settlement with the SSPX, a setup that could pave the way for much good in the return of Tradition to the Church. It’s true that God’s ways are not ours. To reject such a proposal out of hand before even exploring the detail would be imprudent of the authorities of the SSPX to say the least. At worst, it could be taken as a formal declaration from the SSPX that it no longer acknowledges any legitimate authority or good will in the Holy See. Now that would be very worrying indeed.
But it won’t happen. Bishop Fellay is a sound prelate who is faithful to the Church and to the spirit of Archbishop Lefebvre. His Excellency together with his superiors will scrutinise this supposed offer from the Pope and will accept it if the demands of the SSPX are met and protection for the apostolate is guaranteed. We are not, after all, at war with the Roman Pontiff, just faithful to the Traditions handed down and vehemently opposed to the Modernism that has invaded the Church.
Would it not be in line with the actions of divine providence, which confounds the proud, to begin the restoration of all things in Christ by a provision made for the further strengthening of Tradition in the Church by a liberal Pope? It is, I argue, much more likely than that elusive Damascus-like conversion of the Modernist hierarchy that Bishop Williamson and other self-appointed rebels claim was Archbishop Lefebvre’s view of things.
Let us now read sections of those interviews that show the Archbishop Lefebvre’s thoughts on the crisis in the Church was not remotely akin to these isolationists.
Archbishop Lefebvre’s address to his priests given in Econe, Switzerland on September 6, 1990. Transcribed and slightly adapted from the French.
“Someone was saying to me yesterday, “But what if Rome accepted your bishops and then you were completely exempted from the other bishops’ jurisdiction?” But firstly, they are a long way right now from accepting any such thing, and then, let them first make us such an offer! But I do not think they are anywhere near doing so. For what has been up till now the difficulty has been precisely their giving to us a Traditionalist bishop. They did not want to.”
Would anyone seriously argue that this is the situation we face today? Are not the Bishops of the SSPX recognised as Catholic Bishops by Rome? Of course they are. There is a dramatic change in this regard from the Archbishop’s time. And note how the Archbishop demands that they first make this offer, indicating that he was not opposed to considering it. Yes, His Grace was always open to positive approaches from Rome, even if he was careful to weigh them with some suspicion.
Extracts from Archbishop Lefebvre’s interview of 1989 with emphasis by me that demonstrate what the Archbishop wanted from Rome. The same as Bishop Fellay today.
“…I think that is what actually caused a certain change in their attitude towards us. They were afraid of the episcopal consecrations, but they did not believe that I would actually do them. Then, on the 29th of June 1987, when I spoke about them in public, Cardinal Ratzinger was nevertheless a little upset. At Rome, they were afraid that I would really get to consecrating bishops, and that is when they made the decision to be a little more open with regard to what we had always been asking for – that is to say, the Mass, the Sacraments, and the pontifical services according to the 1962 rite of John XXIII. At that moment it seemed that they would not make any demands upon us to go along with the Second Vatican Council. They made no mention of it, and they even alluded to the possibility of our having a bishop who would be my successor.
Now, that was definitely a somewhat profound, radical change on their part. And so the question arose to know what I should do. I went to Rickenbach to see the Superior General and his assistants to ask them: What do you think? Should we accept the hand being offered to us? Or do we refuse it? “For myself, personally,” I said, “I have no confidence in them. For years and years I have been mixing with these people and for years I have been seeing the way in which they act. I have no further confidence in them. However, I do not wish people within the Society and Traditional circles to be able to say afterwards, you could easily have tried, it would have cost you nothing to enter into discussion and dialogue.” That was the opinion of the Superior General and his assistants. They said, “You must take into consideration the offer which is being made and not neglect it. It’s still worthwhile to talk with them.”
At that moment I accepted to see Cardinal Ratzinger and I insisted strongly to him that someone should come and make a visitation of the Society. I thought that such a visit would result in the benefits of maintaining Tradition being made clear at the same time that its effects would be recognized. I thought that that could have strengthened our position at Rome, and that the requests that I would make to obtain several bishops and a commission in Rome to defend Tradition, would have more chance of succeeding.
Nevertheless I wished to go as far as possible in order to show what good will we had. That is when they brought up the question of the Council again, which we did not want to hear of. A formula for an agreement was found which was at the very limits of what we could accept.
Then they granted us the Mass and the Sacraments and the liturgical books, but concerning the Roman Commission and the consecration of bishops, they did not want to accept our requests. All we could get was two members out of seven on the Roman Commission – without the president, without the vice-president – and I obtained only one bishop whereas I was asking for three. That was already virtually unacceptable. And, when, even before signing, we asked when we could have this bishop, the answer was evasive or null. They didn’t know. November? – They didn’t know. Christmas? – They didn’t know …Impossible to get a date.
That is when, after signing the protocol, which paved the way for an agreement, I sat down and thought. The accumulation of distrust and reticence impelled me to demand the nomination of a bishop for the 30th of June from amongst the three dossiers which I had left in Rome on the 5th of May. Either that, or I would go ahead and consecrate. Faced with such a choice, Cardinal Ratzinger said, “If that’s how it is, the protocol is over. It’s finished, and there is no more protocol. You are breaking off relations.” It’s he who said it, not I.
…Realizing the impossibility of coming to an understanding, on the 2nd of June I wrote again to the pope: It is useless to continue these conversations and contacts. We do not have the same purpose. You wish to bring us round to the Council in a reconciliation, and what we want is to be recognized as we are. We wish to continue Tradition as we are doing.
…No doubt we suffered from the departure of some priests and seminarians. But, that is a little like the pilgrimage of Chartres, which this year split in two, into a traditional and a conservative pilgrimage. We may thank the good Lord for having allowed those who are not completely in agreement with us, who do not completely understand what we are fighting for, to leave us. In this way we are stronger and surer in our actions. Without that we would all the time be mixing with people criticizing us, who do not agree with us, within our own congregations, and that would cause division and disorder.
Question: If Rome had accepted to give you just one bishop, the protocol of an agreement could have issued in an agreement, and one may be surprised that such a concession, which after all doesn’t commit them to very much (one bishop amongst three thousand in the world), should have been refused you.
Archbishop Lefebvre: Yes, it is extraordinary. It can only be explained by their fear of Tradition. It is unbelievable, but they are afraid of a traditional bishop working against the errors of the Council and they cannot bear it.
The entire interview with Archbishop Lefebvre can be read here:
One final observation that I believe some of the more Traditional leaning in the hierarchy are today reflecting upon is this amazingly foresighted statement of the Archbishop from that interview:
“…the pope has just named Msgr. Kasper a bishop in Germany. He was Secretary of the Synod of 1985 presided over by Cardinal Danneels of Brussels. Kasper was the leader, the mastermind, of the Synod. He is very intelligent and he is one of the most dangerous of Conciliarists. He is a little like the bishop of Trier who is President of the German Assembly of Bishops, and who is very dangerous also. They are absolutely men of the left, who, deep down link up with the Rahners and Hans Kungs but who take care not to say so. They keep up appearances in order to avoid being associated by anyone with the extremists, but they have the same spirit…”
How Cardinal Burke, Bishop Schneider and others must now be reviewing this warning from 26 years ago and realising just how holy and prophetically wise Archbishop Lefebvre was. Times have changed and the SSPX has many more friends in the hierarchy than it did way back then. We need to recognise this fact, trust in God and let Bishop Fellay and his assistants assess matters accordingly.