What is meant by the term "Conciliar Church"? Does this mean the post-conciliar crisis has divided the Catholic Church into two different entities?
Fr. Michel Gleize, professor of theology at the seminary of Econe, discusses the expression "Conciliar Church" and what it does not imply for the Society St. Pius X following the sense the interpretation Archbishop Lefebvre has given to this expression.
Interview given to Angelus Press and published in the July-August 2013 issue of The Angelus.
Angelus Press: Father, you recently offered an explanation saying that the expression “Conciliar Church” does not signify an institution distinct from the Catholic Church, but rather a “tendency” within it. (See the February 2013 issue of Courrier de Rome, cited in part by DICI.)
Wouldn’t the logical consequence of this theory be then that the traditionalist movement should rejoin the official structure of the Church, so as to fight, from within, the conciliar “tendency” and thus to bring about the triumph of Tradition?
Fr. Gleize: I ask you in turn: what do you mean by “official structure”? Logically, this expression makes a distinction with some other structure that would be non-official: where is it, in your view?
For my part, it seems to me that there is the Church and there is her visible structure; and in the Church’s structure there is the good spirit and the bad spirit, the latter having taken hold of the minds of the leaders and wreaking havoc under the pretext of government by the hierarchy.
If there is an official structure to which we do not belong and which we should rejoin, then either it is the visible hierarchy of the Catholic Church and we are schismatics, and as such outside the visible Church; or else it is a visible hierarchy other than that of the Catholic Church and we are the Catholic Church inasmuch as it is distinct from the conciliar Church; but then where is our pope? Is our pope the Bishop of Rome, and who is the Bishop of Rome in our Tradition?
AP: We often hear the authorities of the Society say that it is necessary to “help the Catholic Church reclaim her Tradition.” Don’t you think that this sort of statement could leave the faithful confused? For the Catholic Church could not exist without her Tradition; she would no longer be the Catholic Church.
Fr. Gleize: If you consider the Church figuratively as a person, then your question makes sense. But the Church is not a person like you or me; she is a society, and then things are not that simple.
“To help the Church reclaim her Tradition” is an expression in which the whole is taken for the part, that is, those men of the Church who are infected by the bad spirit. This figure of speech is legitimate, and a person of good will does not misinterpret it.
In the past, the popes have indeed spoken about “reforming the Church.” Now the Church as such does not need to be reformed. Therefore the popes meant not the Church per se, but certain persons in the Church.
AP: But Father, do you really think that we can talk about a “tendency” in order to describe the modernism that is wreaking havoc in the Church, since the liberal and Masonic ideas of Vatican II are, so to speak, institutionalized by the reforms affecting all aspects of the life of the Church: liturgy, catechism, ritual, Bible, ecclesiastical tribunals, higher education, Magisterium, and above all, canon law?
Fr. Gleize: You were right to say “so to speak.” This is indeed evidence (at least unconscious) that here again things are not that simple. Do not forget, in any case, that I am not the first to speak about tendencies to describe the current situation of the Church occupied by Modernism.
Recall the 1974 Declaration, which Archbishop Lefebvre wanted to make the charter of the Society: Archbishop Lefebvre speaks precisely about a “Rome with a neo-Modernist, neo-Protestant tendency, which clearly manifested itself in the Second Vatican Council and after the Council in all the reforms that resulted from it.”
Archbishop Lefebvre does not mean that there are two Romes or two Churches diametrically opposed to one another, as two mystical bodies and two societies would be. He means that there is Rome and the Church, the one Mystical Body of Christ, of which the visible head is the pope, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ. But there are also bad tendencies that have been introduced into this Church because of the false ideas that are wreaking havoc in the minds of those who are in power in Rome.
Incidentally this is the argument repeated in the recent February issue of Courrier de Rome. Yes, the reforms are bad; but the result of them is to instill these tendencies (which remain at the status of tendency) into the things that are reformed: thus we have a new Mass, new sacraments, a new Magisterium, a new canon law. And therefore a new Church also. But these expressions mean to point out the corruption that is wreaking havoc within the Church, not another distinct, separate Church.
For example, in the examination that took place on January 11-12, 1979, in response to the questions posed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Lefebvre spoke about the New Mass as follows:
This rite in itself does not profess the Catholic Faith as clearly as the old Ordo Missae and consequently it may promote heresy....What is astonishing is that an Ordo Missae that smacks of Protestantism and therefore favens haeresim [is promoting heresy] could be promulgated by the Roman Curia."
You will note that all his words are carefully weighed: “not...as clearly as”; “may promote”; “smacks of Protestantism”; “favens, promoting.” These are the words of a wise man, the words of a man who pays attention to what he says.
Archbishop Lefebvre also said: “I never denied that these Masses said faithfully according to the Novus Ordo were valid; nor did I ever say that they were heretical or blasphemous.”
Careful, therefore! Let us be firm, but let us not be simplistic.
The bad tendencies become more or less encrusted on the life of the Church, yet we cannot say that there are always and everywhere new institutions completely foreign to the Church.
In all the examples that you mention, it is a question of innovations devised by men of the Church. But the power that they employed (quite abusively) to impose those novelties is one thing, and the visible hierarchy to which they belong is another.
The liberal and Masonic ideas of Vatican II have been “institutionalized,” if you want to use that term, but let us reflect on what we mean by that formula: precisely these are new ideas which are at the outset of new tendencies. Ideas have enormous consequences, but they are subtly inoculated in people’s minds, they are not an institution, as an entire separate Church can be. Because otherwise, everybody would see it and everybody would say it, don’t you think?
How can we explain the fact that many people, whom we can certainly suppose are nevertheless somewhat thoughtful and well-meaning, continue to think that the Church remains the Church, even though disorder prevails in it extensively.
AP: No doubt, but these tendencies are not Catholic! They cause people to lose the faith and separate them from the Church. We are not the ones who left the Catholic Church; they are, even though they succeeded in taking command of the official structure. We are therefore confronting a structure, an institution different from the Catholic Church. If that were not the case, we would be members of it!
Fr. Gleize: If I follow your logic to the end, I must conclude that the conciliar Church exists therefore as a schismatic sect formally different from the Catholic Church.
Therefore, all its members are materially at least schismatic, including all those who have rejoined it; they are outside the Church; one cannot give them the sacraments until they have publicly recanted; the conciliar popes are anti-popes; if we are the Catholic Church either we have no pope (and then where is our visible character?), or else we have one (and then who is it and is he the Bishop of Rome?).
AP: As for the place of the pope in all this, we certainly must admit that there is a mystery here, a mystery of iniquity.
Fr. Gleize: No doubt, but a mystery is a truth that surpasses reason; that the Church should be habitually deprived of her head is an absurdity and contrary to the promises of indefectibility.
One of the reasons the founder of the Society of St. Pius X could rely on to reject the sedevacantist hypothesis was that “the matter of the visibility of the Church is too essential to its existence for God to be able to do without it for decades; the reasoning of those who assert the non-existence of the pope places the Church in an insoluble situation.”
Actually, your reasoning is more or less equivalent to sedevacantism. This is nothing new; but it is an old error that was already condemned by the founder of the Society of St. Pius X.
Pardon me if I disappoint you, but I will not run the risk of trying to be wiser than Solomon! The 40 years of Archbishop Lefebvre’s episcopate matter, if not in the sight of men, at least in the sight of God. Archbishop Lefebvre was a great man, a great bishop, because he was a man of the Church.
AP: Thank you, Fr. Gleize.
1 “Mgr Lefebvre et le Saint-Office,” Itineraires 233 (May 1979): 146-147.
2 Archbishop Lefebvre, Conferences in Econe on December 2 and January 10, 1983.
3 Archbishop Lefebvre, Conferences in Econe, October 5, 1978.