No Compromise, No Ambiguity


Interviewed by French television circa 1978, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X, said the following:


"Since the Second Vatican Council the deposit of the faith has not been preserved."


". . . commitment to ecumenism means one can longer tell where the border between truth and error lies."


On Religious Liberty: ". . . there is no such thing as a natural or God-given right to err."


"But the fundamental unity between Church and State is a unity desired by God."



Towards the end of the Papacy of Pope Paul VI, French television presented an interview with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre conducted by noted intellectual, journalist and politician Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber.    About half of this interview was translated in a book printed in 1979 by Vatican correspondent Mary Martinez, entitled From Rome Urgently.


JJSS:   You insist, Monseigneur, that you are Roman Catholic.  But isn't obedience to the Pope part of being Roman Catholic?

ML:   The question of obedience is certainly of great importance in the Catholic Church.   But the authority which makes use of the laws has the right to obedience only when it employs the laws to achieve the objective for which it received the authority.  An authority which uses the power to deviate from that objective has no right to obedience.

JJSS:   And in what regard to Pope Paul and the Church deviate from this objective?

ML:   The Pope, and this was laid down very firmly in the decree on infallibility by Pius IX, receives his entire authority for one purpose and that is to preserve the deposit of the faith. The fact that the deposit of the faith is no longer preserved is reason for not obeying any longer.

JJSS:   It is an unusually grave charge to say that the Pope, the successor of St. Peter, does not preserve the deposit of the faith.

ML:   It is very grave.  Of that I am fully aware.

JJSS:   And what is your definition for the preservation of the faith?  Do you not put a tradition of external customs, a collection of rituals on the same level as faith?

ML:   No, by no means. When I speak of the faith I mean the official magisterium of the Church, the official doctrine which has been handed down for 2000 years.  This revelation was given by Our Lord to the Apostles and entrusted to their successors, the bishops, who on their part must preserve the deposit and pass it down from hand to hand to the faithful.  That is the office of the bishop.  Since the Second Vatican Council the deposit of the faith has not been preserved.  There are liberal and Protestant influences at work within the Church.  It is not a question of customs.   It is a question of truths.  The Credo must be handed down faithfully in such a way as to be consistent with the belief handed down to us from the Apostles.  This is very important.

JJSS:   You have said this:  Cardinals Montini, Bea, Lienart, were at the fore during the Council searching for a new way to reform the Church in order to make it more acceptable to the modern world which, you say, has false philosophies, false religions, false social and political principles.  Is this not a condemnation, not merely of the cardinals, but of the entire modern world?

ML:   Certainly, if one thinks of the evil in the world, which does not mean that everything in the world is evil.

JJSS:   But the Church itself has not stayed the same through the centuries.  It has evolved.  The Roman pomp, the administrative apparatus, the liturgy, becoming more complicated through the centuries - all this was unknown to the Early Church.   Are you of the opinion that the Church during the last two centuries has found its final form and that absolutely nothing must be touched or reformed?

ML:   No, I don't say that certain things may not be changed in certain minor ways.   But what cannot be changed are the essentials of the faith.  One cannot change the Creed.  One cannot change the catechism although one can present it in different ways and with pictures to make it easier for children to understand.  But one cannot change the substance of what is taught without changing the Church itself.

JJSS:   But what of the conclusions of the Council which were accepted by a large majority of the bishops?

ML:   First of all it is necessary to say that this Council was not dogmatic and that it defined nothing.  On the other hand it is true that the large majority of the bishops accepted the Council documents and I, myself, shared in this.  But it is just as certain that the majority of the bishops were very troubled and that they were persuaded to sign the acts because Pope Paul made it very clear that there should be no hesitation in doing so.  I, too, was personally impressed by the fact that the Pope wanted the documents to be signed as presented.  I signed most of them and there were only two which I refused to sign, the one on Religious Liberty and Gaudium et Spes, the Church in the Modern World.  And while it is true that most of the bishops approved the subsequent reforms, they rejected the new rite of the Mass.  Despite this it was enforced.  The Holy See brushed aside the wishes of the bishops.

JJSS:   Even if a few bishops and cardinals seem to agree with your stand against modernization, how is it that none of them have publicly assumed your position?

ML:   My stand was made public because I was founding a seminary for which I had to make a decision.  I had to choose the new patterns or hold to tradition.  But I admit that I find it difficult to believe that among nearly 3000 bishops so few make even a sign of distaste for what is going on in the Church.

JJSS:   How do you explain that?  How is it possible that the collectivity of the hierarchy accept the reforms with you the only exception?

ML:   As the sole publicly declared exception, yes.  But I believe that if you were to ask the others privately they would deplore the present situation.  But they prefer, out of obedience and respect for Rome to remain silent and to wait.

JJSS:   And you do not?

ML:   Oh, no.  I do not.  I prefer not to deceive myself.  I prefer to be in the right.  Whether or not the Pope is in the right is not important for me.   What counts for me is the truth, since the truth is God and I prefer to be with God than with the Pope.

JJSS:   But Monseigneur, is it not a typically Protestant attitude to say, "If I believe in a truth I must practice it in spite of the hierarchy?"

ML:   No, because the Protestant thesis is subjective and does not refer to objective truth.

JJSS:   Cold you clarify your objection to the document on Religious Freedom?

ML:   The text proposes that every man has the natural right to freely and publicly express and spread his religious beliefs without being hindered by any human authority.   Never has the Church admitted anything of the sort.  The Church says one may put up with error but there is no such thing as a natural or God-given right to err.   Such an idea is in direct opposition to what the Church has always taught.

JJSS:   But the idea that non-Catholic Churches are in error leads back logically to the Crusades.

ML:   Truth is necessarily intolerant of error, as light is of darkness.  One cannot have both at the same time.  One cannot live in a state of continual contradiction.   That is in the nature of things.  What do you want me to do about it?

JJSS:   Is Pope Paul involved in this contradiction?

ML:   He helps bring it about.  His commitment to ecumenism means one can longer tell where the border between truth and error lies.  Ecumenism puts all religions on the same footing.  This for the Catholic, is a absolutely unacceptable.  Cordial relations with Protestants and Muslims is another question.  I was for many years a missionary in Africa and I had very good relationships with Protestants and Muslims but I never thought of asking whether Islam or Protestantism were on the same level as the Catholic faith.

JJSS:   If you, Monseigneur, have not been able to mobilize the masses in these last years, does that not prove that yours is not the way to save the Church?

ML:   The Apostles were twelve when they began.  They needed 300 years to evangelize the world.  Obviously, I do not claim to be the same.  But, do you know that the seminary at Econe had 43 entries this year?  And this under persecution form Rome?

JJSS:   Monseigneur, next to your resistance in religious matters is your resistance in the field of politics.  You wrote: "The theses summarized in the three words Liberty, Equality and Fraternity were devised against the authority of God and against all authority.  They have led to the ruin of Catholic civil society."  But this is a condemnation of all modern democracies.

ML:   If you think they are all based on those principles.

JJSS:   France is.

ML:   I do not speak of particular cases but rather of principles.  If a society is based on the Ten Commandments. . .

JJSS:   Was that the case of Spain under Franco?

ML: Yes, I believe that Franco saw in the Ten Commandments the basis for the constitution of his country.  Unfortunately such pressure was put on him  to "widen his vision" that he finally gave in.  The fact that the Church itself takes the view today that it is more important to have a society based on human rights than on the Ten Commandments is fraught with consequences.

JJSS:   But you defend a past, an almost forgotten past, when the Church was linked with political power to hold up a social order that was hierarchical rather than democratic.  Are you deeply convinced that is the message of Christ?

ML:   For you political power seems to have to be democratic.  It is true that most of the powers with which the Church had ties were monarchies but that was not always the case.  There was Switzerland, a democracy for centuries.  But the fundamental unity between Church and State is a unity desired by God.

JJSS:   There is nothing about it in the Gospels.

ML:   "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."   Ergo: the will of God should take place not merely in the Church but in the civil society as well.  Accord must reign between the law which the Church follows and the law which the state follows.  God would not arrange for two societies living in discord with each other.

JJSS:   One last question.  What of the future?  Rome has said that if you consecrate a bishop you will be excommunicated.  What of the continuation of your work?

ML:   Rather than create a situation which gives the appearance that I have broken with the Church - even though I know in my heart that I have not, I have preferred to leave the matter to Providence.  Obviously, I could have an accident and die tomorrow.  I am already old and I know I have not much longer to live.  But I think that even then my work will continue.  It will come about that a bishop will come forward to ordain my priests, my young seminarians.   


 Controversial, bold and thought-provoking, the above book is available in print or Kindle format.



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Frank Rega is the author of:  Padre Pio and America,
St. Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims,

The Greatest Catholic President: Garcia Moreno of Ecuador
  Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - Journeys in the Divine Will 
vols. 1 and 2
Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - volume 3 in preparation
 The Truth about Padre Pio's Stigmata and Other Wonders of the Saint
Vatican II, Evolution, and Medjugorje: Hubris, Heresy, and Mystery

This page was last updated on 02/12/14