This interview of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre took place on April 27, 1986 at St. Michael's Mission in Atlanta (now Roswell), Georgia. In attendance was Fr. Francois Laisney, then USA District Superior. The text was featured originally in the August 1986 issue of The Angelus magazine.
Question: Are there any cardinals in the Church at all who are with you?
Archbishop Lefebvre: There are some cardinals who, in their hearts are with us: the Cardinal of Toledo in Spain; Cardinal Siri of Genoa in Italy; Cardinal Thiandoum in Dakar, Senegal, Africa; Cardinals Oddi and Palazzini in Rome; and, Gagnon, a Canadian Cardinal. They are with us in their hearts, and when I speak with them they say, "Oh, you do good work. It is sure you work for the Church," but publicly, nothing.
Q. I have read that many of the high-ranking members of the Roman hierarchy are secret Masons. Is that true? If so, how deeply have they penetrated the Church?
Archbishop: It's very difficult to say, "This man is a Freemason," "This man is a Freemason," or "This man is a Freemason." We don't know. It's very difficult. It is certain that there are some cardinals, some bishops, cardinals in the Curia, or monsignors or secretaries of congregations in Rome that are Freemasons. That is certain because the Freemasons themselves have said that. They have said that they have in their lodge some priests and bishops.
It is certain that there are some cardinals and many monsignors in Rome who do the same work as the Freemasons; they have the same thinking, the same mind. Willebrandt is Prefect of the Secretariat for the Unity of Christians, and Archbishop Silvestrini is the first secretary of Cardinal Casaroli who is Secretary of State—and his right hand is Silvestrini. He is a great power in the Curia. He nominates all the nuncios in the world. He has a very great influence and he is probably a Freemason.
Q. Some people feel that if you keep going to the New Mass and stay in your own parishes you can fight from within. What do you think of this approach?
Archbishop: No, I think that is not good, because if they are going to the New Mass—slowly, slowly they change their mind and become, slowly, slowly Protestant. It is very dangerous to go to the New Mass regularly, each week, because the New Mass is not some accidental change, but it is a whole orientation, a new definition of the Mass. It has not the same definition as the True Mass.
You can see that, in the New Mass, the "assembly" is the focal point. It is no longer Jesus Christ crucified, the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No. That is why, in the Tridentine Mass, the priest faces toward the crucifix, because Jesus Christ crucified is central in the True Mass. But, in the New Mass, the priest is facing the "assembly," and he is president of a "meeting." It is no longer the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our King, our Savior. That is a very great change in the New Mass and it is very dangerous. It is a Protestant orientation.
And so—slowly, slowly—people going to this Mass change and for them, gradually, all religions are good; all are brothers—even if they are not the same religion and have not the same mind in religion. That is very dangerous. We cannot say that all religions are the same thing—that they are all good religions. That is very dangerous.
Q. Are these people then no longer Catholic?
Archbishop: I think that—slowly, slowly—they abandon the Catholic Faith. They are no longer Catholic. I think that very slowly they have abandoned the Catholic Faith.
Q. What is your feeling about the future of the Catholic Church? Do you think there will be an open schism?
Archbishop: We can say that right now there is perhaps no real schism, but we are very near it, because, when they say that all religions are on the same level, hold the same place and receive the same consideration, the same respect, that is against the teaching of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church cannot accept that all religions are considered on the same level as herself.
That is impossible because the Catholic Church is convinced and teaches that the Catholic Church is the only true religion, founded by Jesus Christ, by God. We cannot say that God established three or four religions. That is not true. Jesus Christ is God; and, if Jesus Christ is God, He founded the Catholic Church, then we cannot say that other religions are the same as the Catholic Church. That is impossible. It's against God; it's against the decision of God and does not depend on us.
Now we see in the newspaper that the pope has gone to India where he received the sign of the pagan sect on his forehead. I don't understand! And when he went to the synagogue, he didn't say, "You Jews must convert to the Catholic Church," as did St. Paul and St. Peter and all the Apostles when they were in the synagogue. When they went to the synagogue, they said to the Jews—to their brother Jews—they said: "You must become Christian now. The Old Testament is the preparation for the New, the preparation for Christ's Kingdom. You must now become Christians." But they were put out of the synagogue and they were killed. Some Apostles were killed by the Jews because they spoke the truth. But now the pope says, "Oh, your religion is very good, you are our older brothers." Incredible! Incredible! The pope is not a missionary when he says that. He is not a missionary, no longer a true Apostle. That is very, very sad, very sad, for the Catholic Church.
Q. Is it possible that traditionalists, at the death of this pope, could elect the next one?
Archbishop: The pope is the Bishop of Rome, and who has the power to choose the Bishop of Rome? In the beginning it was the priests—the parish priests of Rome—who elected a bishop and the bishop became the Bishop of Rome, and when he became Bishop of Rome he became bishop of the whole world. He was the successor of St. Peter, because St. Peter was the first Bishop of Rome. And so they elected the successor of St. Peter—and when the successor of St. Peter takes his place in the chair of St. Peter—he is pope. He is pope because he is the Bishop of Rome, because he sits in the seat of St. Peter. That is a duty of the clergy in Rome, to elect a new pope, and all cardinals are parish priests in Rome. They can elect the pope because they are parish priests in Rome. We don't know what is to happen. We don't know.
Q. Why has Our Lady's request at Fatima not been fulfilled?
Archbishop: I think because now the pope and the bishops are afraid of the Communists. If the bishops with the pope consecrate Russia to the Blessed Virgin of Fatima—to the Immaculate Heart of Mary—they are afraid that the Communists will be furious. And now, with ecumenism, they want to be friends with the Communists, and it's very difficult to be friends with the Communists and make this consecration.
The pope is afraid. He's afraid. He wants to be very good friends with the Communists and he hopes that perhaps one day the Communists will give freedom to the Catholic Faith in all Communist countries, but that is impossible. Then they would no longer be Communists.
Q. You have met Fr. [Frederick] Nelson at Powers Lake, North Dakota. In the last issue of the Maryfaithful we learn that the Bishop of Billings has said that Fr. Nelson is not in communion with Rome—he did not ask the bishop's permission to put on the Marian Hour.
Archbishop: I know. I met Fr. Nelson in Rapid City four or five days ago. He is now persecuted by his bishop, but he is not the first; we are all persecuted by the bishops. But we must not be troubled and I encourage Fr. Nelson and his sisters—he has good sisters there—and he is doing good work. So I encourage him to remain and to continue even if the bishop does not treat him kindly.
Q. We hear a lot about the "spirit of Vatican II." Since you were there, could you perhaps give us your impression of the "spirit of Vatican II"?
Archbishop: Somebody asked me: "Monseigneur, do you think that the Holy Ghost was in the Council of Vatican II?" I do not know! The Holy Ghost could have been there. I think that if the pope had been very strong, very much opposed to error—Modernist error—it would have been possible to have a good Council.
But already, before the Council, in the Central Commission—I was in the Central Commission to prepare for the Council—and already, in this Commission, there were two factions in the cardinals and bishops—two groups—who fought against each other—the Liberals against the Conservatives. I must say that the pope took the side of the Liberals. And so, once things got underway, the Council became liberal. It is impossible that this comes from the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is not liberal.
Q. Is it possible that Rome will give you permission to consecrate a bishop for the Tridentine Mass to continue?
Archbishop: It would be possible, but I don't think it's possible now. It is not possible now. They are too against Tradition, too against us because we uphold Tradition. So it is impossible to think that they will, themselves, consecrate or give us permission to consecrate a bishop for the Traditionalists. Not now. I don't know when, but not now.
Q. Our Lord promised that the Church would never err. As Rome errs, it becomes obvious to me that the true Church must no longer be with the men in Rome who are in error. Then where does the flock look for the infallibility which we must have in order to remain faithful?
Archbishop: It is a real problem now, that is true, but I cannot give the solution to this problem. The men in Rome—are they still Catholic or no longer Catholic?—that is the question. I think that—slowly, slowly—we see the unfolding events as a movie. Today, the pope is in Africa, in Togo, where he went to the pagan forest and where he did something incredible. After that he went to India where he received the pagan sign. After that, he went to the synagogue. It is like a movie. Tomorrow, what will he be doing? I don't know. And so, you ask yourself: "This man, is he still Catholic or is he no longer a Catholic?" I don't know. I think we may ask the question, but I have no answer now. It is impossible.
If one of the faithful had done these things, we would have said: "Oh, but you are no longer Catholic!" And if Rome were the Rome of the past—as she had always been before the Second Vatican Council—if a bishop had done these things he would have been excommunicated by Rome. They don't do that now.
This man is the successor of St. Peter. It is a very grave question; it is very sad for all Catholics—for me, and for priests. And so, we must pray to know and, perhaps one day, we must say that this man is not Catholic. It's very, very sad; it's very extraordinary; it's a great mystery of the Church. We cannot follow a man who no longer teaches Catholic truth. It's very, very tragic.
Q. But the question remains: where to look?
Archbishop: For us, it's not a problem to know what is the source of our faith: our Catholic Faith. We must look at what was before us. Tradition is the Faith. St. Pius X said: "The Catholic is traditionalist." Se we must look at Tradition and know that all teaching of Tradition is Catholic. We follow Tradition.
Q. About the sacraments, when do we know if they are invalid or valid in the New Mass? It is very confusing. Will there be a point when they are not valid anymore? What about baptism, marriage?
Archbishop: The answer to that is found in the principles of theology. For the validity of a sacrament you must have three things: proper matter, proper form and proper intention, the intention of the priest. Those are the three conditions which determine the validity of the sacrament. I cannot say, myself, that for all sacraments in the Conciliar Church, these three conditions are never met. I don't think we can say that. But I think with new priests, with priests who no longer have Catholic intentions, they don't know what the proper intention is, the intention of the Church, so that perhaps the validity of their sacraments is at least doubtful.
Interpolation by Fr. Laisney: There are three things required for a valid sacrament: valid matter, proper form and the proper intention in the minister and it is not true to say that it never happens that the sacraments are invalid in the Novus Ordo.
There are some valid baptisms, some valid Masses, but, especially with new priests who are not trained properly, who do not know what should be the intention of the Church—for instance with the Mass, they think the Mass is just a meal—then the intention becomes doubtful, and there is at least a doubt in many modern Masses. At least a doubt.
Moreover, you must add the bad translation. For instance, with "for many" replaced by "for all men," which is a change in the very words of consecration. This raises another doubt on the validity of the consecration.
And so you have the intention of the minister that becomes doubtful. If the minister in baptism, for instance, says: "Oh, it's just a rite of initiation"—if they reject the intention to remove Original Sin, then the intention is not proper. Because they are trained in the new way, then the intention is sometimes doubtful. Sometimes, but not always—if you have an old priest. You know they are good Catholics and this old priest would have a good intention.
Q. Could you tell me how many priests are now in the Society of St. Pius X, and how many priests who are not members of the Society have joined in your work?
Archbishop: Since the foundation of the Society I have ordained 250 priests. In the Society there are 152, and 100 more or less who are Benedictine monks or Dominicans or Franciscans. Some have abandoned the Society—they were members—but they continue more or less the same way. We have also many priests who resist Modernism, who resist the demolition of the Church—they are very numerous. They are more numerous than priests of the Society.
I think I can say that here in the States there are perhaps 100 priests who say the Mass privately; they are afraid of their bishop and they say the Old Mass privately. In France there are about 250 priests who say the Old Mass but who are not members of the Society, with a similar situation in Switzerland. It is the same in Germany. There are far fewer in Italy and in Spain—very few, very, very few. They all follow the bishop. In Portugal, in Spain, in Italy, in South America, very, very few priests resist Modernism.
Q. I correspond with a lot of people behind the Iron Curtain, mainly in Lithuania. There, at the local level, in parishes and small villages, only the Tridentine Mass is said. No other Mass is said.
Archbishop: This is true, especially in Lithuania—but there are so many Lithuanian priests in jail, in prison. The persecution is worse than in other countries. It is very, very hard.
Q. The faithful in Lithuania, and the priests themselves, have asked the Vatican to allow the Church to go underground so that they would not have to ask for permission from the Communist government to be a priest or to be a bishop, but the Vatican will not allow this, but we have some young seminarians and priests secretly.
Archbishop: Yes, it is possible. In Rome now, the Vatican wants to be friends with the Communist governments. So they don't want the priests and bishops to do things opposed by the Communist government in Lithuania, or in Poland, or any country under the influence of Communism. It is the same everywhere. We never hear now of Rome condemning the Communists. No condemnation of the Communists in the Council either! I gave to the secretary of the Council, 450 signatures of bishops—I myself gave these signatures to the secretary—the request by the bishops to condemn the Communists. And they didn't condemn the Communists; they refused. 450 signatures and no condemnation of the Communists! It's incredible!
Q. If there was a war in, say, Italy, and something happened to the pope and cardinals there, who would then elect a new pope?
Archbishop: That belongs to the parish priests of Rome. Or if there were no more parish priests in Rome—if Rome should just disappear—then there is a problem. God provides. It is in the hands of God.
Q. In the case when the papacy was in France, when the pope did not reside in Rome, is it possible that that could happen again?
Archbishop: He was still elected as Bishop of Rome by the clergy of Rome.
Fr. Laisney: May I ask a question? Your Excellency, what is your practical advice to the faithful?
Archbishop: I think we must keep studying the history of the Church. It is very important to see the development of the bad errors in the Church. From the Protestant error, until the Second Vatican Council, until now, it is very important to see that it is a work of evil, it is a work of Satan. Change has brought about revolution.
There has absolutely been a revolution in the attitude of the Catholic mind. The Catholic attitude is one of dependence, a disposition to obey. In his heart the Catholic has obedience to God, obedience to the commandments of God. He has in his heart devotion to and adoration of God. But since the Protestant revolt, there ensues a revolt of man against God. Man is free—free to interpret himself all things that come from God. God is now at the service of man, man is no longer at the service of God.
There is absolute change. And this change goes on and on and on in the whole world. All states align themselves against God; they become independent of God, become free of the commandments of God. And now, in the Church, it is the same. They don't follow Jesus Christ Himself, and they don't follow the commandments of God; they follow this revolution. It is a true revolution.
The theology of liberation—it is nothing but the revolt of man against society, the society founded by God. It's the same in the family; they destroy families. The father is no longer the head of the family. That is against the will of God. God created the family with a head, of his wife and their children—that is very well organized by God. But now, no, no, no.
In Switzerland, for example, they have announced that the wife can ask from her husband a salary for the hours she works in the home. That is the law of Switzerland right now. It is incredible! That is the law since last September 22nd. And the bishops said it is a good thing! Yes! And the law passed because the bishops sent a letter to all the faithful saying: "You must support this new law." Incredible! I preached in Switzerland against the bishops, you know. They are no longer true bishops, Catholic bishops. They destroy the family. The wife now has the liberty to have another house in which to live apart from her husband. Incredible! It is the destruction of the family.
And the same for society. In society, now, each man does as he likes, and he is encouraged by law, the laws of the state. Now, the laws of the state are opposed to the laws of God. That is the revolution and the revolution comes from Protestantism. And—slowly, slowly—we have all the consequences.
And now, we Catholics, I think we must return to the good revolution—the revolution we received in baptism. The grace of baptism is a revolution. We were under the influence of Satan, we were under the influence of the devil, but by the grace of baptism we are under the influence of God, we are sons of God and we are sons of Jesus Christ. We receive this life of God in our souls and so all virtues come from this life of God. And by the sacraments, by prayer and by the practice of the commandments of God, we make a revolution—to refer our lives, our bodies, our souls to God. So it is a revolution, a good revolution, that Jesus Christ has done by His Resurrection, by His Incarnation, by our redemption—that is, the sanctification of our souls. If we are true Catholics we must have this conviction that we must renew our souls by this dependence on God.
It is the same in our families, dependence on God in our families. Keep the commandments of God in your families; keep the commandments of God in society. That is the will of God. I think that is a special invitation for us now in this sad situation in the Church. Why Jesus Christ chose you and me to continue this work, the work of the redemption of Jesus Christ, the work of the Catholic Church, to return to true Catholicism and not be under the influence of this evil revolution—why He chose you and me?—we don't know.
I give you this advice and encouragement: that is, the source of peace, the source of satisfaction, the source of joy, is in your families when they are under the influence of God, the influence of Jesus Christ, the influence of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When they pray together, when each member of the family works in its proper place, the husband head of the family, the wife the heart of the family under the authority of her husband, and the children under the authority of their parents, that is a good Christian family.
But everywhere this revolution is a rebellion against all authority. This equality is against the will of God, against the creation of God. That is very important.
I think that God asks us now to return to the true Tradition of the Church, and to continue this Tradition of the Church, to renew families, to renew society and the Church also—a true renovation. I think that this is a great grace for us to remain in this spirit—this Catholic spirit.
It is not my orientation, my attitude—I say many times to the seminarians in Econe, and in Ridgefield, and everywhere in our seminaries:
Don't say, 'We follow Mgr. Lefebvre,' no! Why Mgr. Lefebvre? He's no saint! But you follow Jesus Christ and the Tradition of the Church. You remain Catholic! What more do you want? No other thing!"
I refuse to say, "I am the chief of the people who follow Tradition." No, no, no, no! I am a Catholic bishop, no more, and I continue my work to preach Catholic doctrine. I do my work to prepare Catholic priests, and through them, the Catholic faithful, and no other thing. No! Don't say "the doctrine of Mgr. Lefebvre." I have no doctrine. I have no new teaching.
My teaching is that of the Church, the teaching of the Catholic Church and the catechism of the Council of Trent. That is very important—to remain in the true way—and not to give the impression that you have founded a new Church. That is what the Modernists are doing—they build a new church. We don't build a new church; we follow the Catholic Church of always.
Thank you very much.