This interview was conducted by Fr. Lukas Weber on August 26, 2021 in Wangs, Switzerland. While the text had to be revised and translated, we have nevertheless tried to keep the spoken style as much as possible.
Msgr. Huonder this year you will celebrate the 50th anniversary of your priesthood. Congratulations and thank you for agreeing to give us an interview so that we can get to know you a little better. Such an anniversary is, of course, an occasion to take a first look back at your childhood, at the boy from Trun in the canton of Graubünden, who wanted to become a priest. How did that come about?
I was born in 1942 in Trun, not far from Disentis, well known for its Benedictine monastery. It was there, in the church of St. Martin of Trun, that I was baptized. I can say that is where I received my faith. What very much marked this time, was the early Mass attendance with my mother. I loved going to Mass, even when I was only a 3 or 4 year old child. What has also always impressed me is the Stations of the Cross leading from Trun to Maria Licht. I have often contemplated this Way of the Cross and carved it deep in my heart. These are the external elements that marked me.
From an early age, I have always had a strong desire to become a pastor: not just a priest, but a pastor. In fact, the priests who exercised their ministry there were the parish priest and especially the vicar. It was he who, very early on, initiated me into the service of Mass. When I was seven, I was already an altar boy, which I remained until I was around 26-27. These were my first steps in the faith, which I owe especially to my mother, because she had an important part in the formation of my faith.
Your testimony confirms the importance of education within the family and of contact with priests for the awakening of vocations.
Yes quite. This remains very important for today.
You then did your studies, followed by your theological training, and you were then ordained a priest on September 25, 1971. What memories do you keep of this ceremony?
It was a long journey to get there. We moved to Thalwil, in the canton of Zürich, when I was eight years old. I went to primary school there, then to Disentis’ high school, still carrying within me the desire to become a priest. After many stages, I was ordained a priest on September 25, 1971. What particularly impressed me during my ordination was, of course, the laying on of the bishop's hands, and then the anointing of hands, where I realized that these hands were sanctified, that they were anointed, especially for the holy sacrifice. That really impressed me during the ordination.
In fifty years of priesthood, we have seen many things happen. Perhaps our readers would be happy to hear a couple of anecdotes from your rich experience.
Priestly life as a whole is a beautiful experience, I would like to stress this. But if you want an anecdote, I remember once, as a bishop, during confirmations in a parish, a 11 or 12 year old boy came to see me after the ceremony and said, “I want to become a priest.” That touched me and gladdened me very much and also showed me how important it is for bishops to visit the parishes, which allows, not necessarily for the kindling of priestly vocations, but at least to strengthen them. What has always impressed me during my life as a priest, and especially during these later times, is when I celebrate Mass. During the canon, during the silence of the canon, I sense that many young people, who are present there, truly join in with this silence. That impresses me very much. These young people of 11 to 15 years old…You can sense how the understanding of this silence is already growing in them, especially when this silence plunges us into the suffering and death of Our Lord. That impresses me every time.
There are undoubtedly many experiences in the life of a priest, but also, of course, crosses and trials. They have not been lacking in your life, neither priestly, nor episcopal. Where did you find the strength to carry these crosses and overcome these trials?
First in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself. It is there that you can always find the necessary strength to bear the trials. Then also through prayer, especially the prayer of the Church. I have always prayed much and observed the prayers of the Church, the breviary, very faithfully. And I have always been able to sense how prayer carries me, helps me, fortifies me, cheers me also in many difficult situations. These are very important moments in the life of a priest, so that he can persevere, because this is not easy. Furthermore, it is also important to have fraternal contacts, to have confreres who live the same life, who accompany you along the same path. These are formidable supports in the priestly life.
What you tell us sounds like an encouragement or perhaps a call to priests to really live a life of prayer despite all the demands of daily life. That is where you have found this strength.
Yes. I really try to emphasize that a priest’s faithfulness to his prayer life is very important. Yes.
As a bishop, you have naturally chosen a motto: Instaurare omnia in Christo – to renew all things or to strengthen them in Christ. That is the same motto as that of Pope St. Pius X. Why this choice?
It really is a connection with Pope St. Pius X. I was 12 years old, in 1954, when Pope Pius X was canonized. I can still remember the picture of the pope that we received during our catechism. This motto was written at the bottom of the picture. That made a deep impression on me, and has been with me ever since. I know that in 1960, 1961—when the question of a council was in the air, because it had just been announced—there were various discussions at high school on the council, the expectations of the council, etc. And I remember that they said that “the Church must renew herself,” etc. I answered them with this motto and I said: yes, the Church much renew herself, but according to the motto of Pope St. Pius X: “Renew all things in Christ.”
After that, you were the head of the diocese of Coire for 12 years. When the time came to leave this position after the Pope’s decision—that was a little more than two years ago—you made the courageous step of deciding to retire here to a house of the Society of Saint Pius X. Today, are you happy with or do you regret this choice?
Certainly, I am very happy with this choice. Perhaps it is important to know how all this happened, because there was a whole evolution. First of all, very early on as a priest, I had sporadic contact with faithful tied to the Society. But these were not very regular contacts. However, I had already gotten to know the Society at that time. Then everything was happening with the movement in favor of Tradition, Una Voce. Finally, as a bishop, I had the advantage of contacts with the traditional faithful, and also with the priests. I had even received a visit from some of the members of the Society of Saint Pius X. That is when I got to know them. Then I discovered the school here in Wangs, where I had even been invited to crown the statue of Our Lady. This was later—around 2012, 2013.
And then, of course, what was decisive, was the request that had been made to me, as to whether I would be ready to dialogue with the Society, like other bishops throughout the world. This happened around 2014. I said yes. That was especially close to my heart. So I made contact, started this dialogue, and from there I was able to develop a deeper knowledge of the issue. I then became involved in everything that concerned the Society and Tradition, and I realized that I absolutely had to continue on this path. And finally, I was persuaded that I had to deepen this contact with the Society, which I did by choosing Wangs for my episcopal retirement. This choice was even welcomed by the Holy Father. He confided to a priest: “It is good, what he is doing there.”
And now, I am here and I must say that I am very happy. I am in a religious environment that truly supports me, that helps me to live the faith in an intense manner, even as a bishop emeritus.
Listening to you, one could conclude that you have evolved yourself and that, in the increased contact with the Society, you have recognized more and more the kinship of spirit that binds us, the one and same faith that we share, and which you want to live. Have I understood you correctly?
That’s it exactly, yes. But you must not forget that I have spent all my youth in this faith. Great changes have taken place since 1968, yes, but I was already 26 or 27 years old at that time.
… so that you have been able to practically preserve the faith of your youth until your old age, despite the troubles that shook the Church and of which you have been the witness.
Yes! You must not forget that we were young at the time, when all these changes took place. We were young. We were very confident, both regarding the Holy Father and regarding the hierarchy. We thought that what was happening before our eyes was good. We didn’t have any way to make distinctions. Look at the things in themselves, study them . . . the liturgy, the theology… that came later. At that time, that was not yet the case, precisely because we had total confidence. Now that I am older, I must admit that we have been robbed of many things. I notice this more and more now, precisely because of this contact with Tradition, with the Society and the concerns of the Society.
So you have taken the plunge and are here at St. Mary’s Institute in Wangs, without a lot of noise, with discretion, which, it seems to me, corresponds perfectly with your character. You have not deemed it necessary to make great public declaration, but you have done this through conviction and you are saying: my presence here, my actions, testify to my interior conviction and the strength of my faith.
Yes, absolutely. On the one hand, I attach great importance to living and showing my convictions. But, on the other hand, it is important to me that there is a sense in the Society that this example is also a support for it. I want to say for the Society itself, but also for the priests who are looking for Tradition, so they can see that this example strengthens them. Of course, there are other things as well, conversations, for example, through which I can give witness. But, above all, it is important that my life itself be a witness.
It is conceivable that you could have chosen another place, with another congregation. But you have deliberately chosen this location with the priestly society.
Yes, I have chosen it deliberately. That clearly shows the evolution I spoke to you about. I have also said that this Society—I do not want to appear presumptuous—that this Society may also need me. And I would like to give my support to the Society. This was truly the thought that guided me, when I was making this choice. There are also other reasons: I thought that it would be good for me to find an environment where there are young people, to keep me in shape a little—which is not always easy, because the simple fact of walking is already difficult for me. It is important for me to come to an environment where I can sense that the faith is still young.
It is great that you are continuing to look for this youth in the physical plane as well as the spiritual! I do not want to miss thanking you for this decision, because in fact, for many of us, priests and laity, it is a encouragement to see that a bishop feels at home with us, that he wants to support our work and encourage us by his presence to continue to be faithful in the faith. Thank you very much!
It makes me very happy!
Not everyone is happy with your choice to come here. It was, let us say, perceived in a negative way in the dioceses of Switzerland. If you had made a completely different or even atypical choice, it would probably have been better perceived. How do you explain this reaction?
Of course, this is the general reaction of many people today regarding the values of Tradition. That does not just apply to the Society. It is certain that the latter has its share, but what is really at stake is the question of Tradition. It is difficult to find an explanation for it. On the one hand, it is perhaps the historical conscience that torments some few of the faithful in the Church, because they know that this is, in fact, their past up to the most recent era, and they want to get rid of that past. On the other hand, society has so changed that they feel that this is not at all for our time. Other factors also play a role. Here in the Church in Switzerland I have always been in the line of fire. In many circles, they have always criticized me negatively. From this point of view, this reaction was understandable. This is why it is important to me that people know that I am not here simply from personal desire, but truly because I consider this to be a very important responsibility, as a Catholic bishop, to testify to my deep attachment to Tradition before the Church, our Mother, and before the Society. You have to know, I attach great importance to it. But all this is not enough to elicit a positive reaction, because other factors are at the origin of this negative attitude.
This great encouragement you are giving us through your presence among us is precious. Do you perhaps have some words of encouragement for the priests of the Society, by telling them how you perceive their apostolate? But also how you see the help to be given to diocesan priests or the contact that can be made with them to show them the value of Tradition?
First and foremost, the question of the Society itself. I must admit that they are doing marvelous pastoral work here, but also in other places. To have such a Catholic school in a diocese was my dream back then. But you no longer find this type of school in our regions. I am speaking particularly about Europe, central Europe, I do not know about the entire world, but I must say that we have no longer have them here. I would like to congratulate the Society for managing such schools, and more generally that their priests are close to their faithful. We need these pastors, the faithful too are waiting for these pastors, they depend on them.
I recently visited the seminary at Zaitzkofen. I have seen the formation that the priests are receiving. I said then to the director: here we have a model for the Church. The leaders of the Church would do well to return to the formation that is given here, in the Society. Whether in the formation of priests or young people, or in the daily pastoral care and community life of priests, this is very important. Ideally no priest is left alone, but he is in a small community that supports him. All these elements are in fact models for the Church today, to show her how to renew herself. This is what I would like to say about the Society.
As for other priests: I know that many young priests today yearn for Tradition. It is a simple observation. I do not seek to know the reasons for it, but I note that there is this desire for Tradition, this desire for the Mass of all time. I would like to encourage these priests to be a witness, to try to live in the sense of this Tradition. They should not be afraid, even though they may have to encounter some trouble in the current situation. But they must not let that discourage them, because in doing so, they make an act that will pay off in perhaps 50, 60, or 70 years.
Returning to community life, because it seem that there is also a major point in this life that you share the house with our priests, as well as with the youth who come to school here. It’s no secret that you are a model of punctuality for communal prayer. During the course of the day you can be seen frequently in the chapel, absorbed in prayer. We thus agree that this constancy, this regularity, and this care brought to the spiritual life are very important so that the priest can bring this fruit to his ministry.
Yes! It would be a serious problem if the bishop were not an example. I believe that this is absolutely necessary. And if I can be there, then I am grateful for being exemplary, that is part of the episcopal duty. The life of prayer has always been of great importance to me. It sustains the life of a priest, the life of a bishop. It is also support for the life of a lay person. I particularly love the breviary prayers, that is, the prayer of the Church. I find myself happily in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament. If we realize that prayer is like an anticipation of the eternal praise of the trinitarian God, we will certainly love to pray. If we truly realize it, I think that we would go to pray much more willing. With prayer, with the Mass, we already have a foot in eternity.
I find it invaluable for the young boys who receive their education here to have these examples of priests, of a bishop before their eyes. This will contribute to forming them, as well as preparing them for the future, and probably also to awaken new vocations to the priesthood. It is that way here, in this school, that you can see the work accomplished by the Society in the education domain. If I understand your response, I deduce from it that you are in perfect agreement with us in saying that it is just and important that the Society also emphasizes schools in its apostolate.
That is very important. It is not only just an option, but I would say that it is truly a priority, if we lead to the goal, but if we no longer educate the youth in the faith like they are educated here, not only in the sciences, which are also important, but especially in order to acquire a religious education, religious knowledge, and particularly religious practice, there will be no vocations, because it is from there that priestly vocations come. This is very important. And this is what is unfortunately lacking in our world, in Europe.
The complaint today is that there are too few priests, but one of the reasons why things have come to that point is that a truly religious education has been neglected, or at least this religiosity has been transmitted in such a way that it was not able to penetrate the students in any depth. I will say firstly that it does not go to the heart of our faith. This is why I would truly like to thank the Priestly Society and to ask the priests to tackle this often difficult task with an ever new joy. Because it is not easy to educate children and young people. Of course, that strikes me all the more now that I am very close to it.
Can you also bear witness that young people here receive a true spirit of the Church? Our Society is, in fact, often accused of having a schismatic attitude or intention. In other words, can you really confirm that this work is what the Church has always wanted through all the centuries, and still wants it today?
Of course, I can bear witness all the more since I have myself benefited from this education. And if someone claims that I have been a part of, at this time, a schismatic community and that I have adopted those theories there, I will not fail to contradict him. It was quite normal at the time to be so educated. In certain respects, our education was much more strict. In the first place, we had daily Mass. It was obligatory for everyone. We could not visit our parents as often as the children here do. So, the regime from my time was in fact much more strict. And this is why I can say without hesitation that what is done and accomplished here is quite simply Catholic, and others should consider it to be simply Catholic.
And as far as the accusation of schism goes, well, I have an anecdote to tell—you know that I have had many contacts with the Holy Father, also on the subject of the Society. The question of schism was brought up, and the Holy Father himself said on several occasions: “This is not a schismatic community.” Pope Francis himself said this to me during a private audience. I just point that out in passing, also in order to reassure people who keep returning to this subject, or who suffer from this false accusation.
Thank you, Monsignor for confirming this to us! So you now live here in Wangs, as a retired bishop, but you are not idle, you are still very active. What are you doing now?
These are rather discreet activities, but above all prayer and daily Mass. This is very important for all priests and more so for a bishop. I also have contact with the students. Limited contacts, one could say: I sometimes hear the students confessions, I sometimes also visit a catechism class or teach a religion course myself. That is rather rare, but it happens. And as I live in community with the priests of the house, I talk to them. I have at times given a conference, which gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in Holy Scripture, which is very close to my heart. I have always held it in high esteem and I have, moreover, devoted a doctoral thesis to it. As you can see, there are small tasks of this kind or the occasional help in a priory to celebrate Mass and to preach. Here too, I preach from time to time. All these activities keep me busy.
Since you are here in Wangs, you also offer Mass daily, and you do it exclusively according to the traditional Roman Rite. What brings you to the celebration of this traditional rite?
I have of course studied very closely the new rite and the traditional rite. This study has pointed out to me the significant differences: for example, that certain texts have been shortened, suppressed, such as the prayers that are very important for the priest. Now I can only live on all these prayers in the traditional rite. It is clear that they fortify the priest, that they especially reinforce the faith, but also the gift of self during the Mass. One is truly before God, before Jesus and not simply in front of a community. All that I can rediscover in the traditional rite; it is so precious and, let’s say, so intemporal that I don’t want to go back.
May I conclude from your remarks that you no longer wish to celebrate the Novus Ordo at all?
I no longer want to do it. I sense simply that I can no longer do it, because when you are immersed in the traditional Mass, you simply come to a point where you sense that you can no longer do anything else.
Not only because of a sentiment or esthetics, but because of the Faith?
Yes, due to its profoundness. I always say: the rite as we have it is a profession of faith, and a profession of faith cannot be simply set aside. What can you say if, as a bishop, I stopped praying the Apostles’ Creed? What would these faithful say about me? They would say to me:
What’s the matter with you, that is not possible! We must not forget that the traditional rite, especially because it has the weight of years, this maturity, is also a profession of faith. They cannot demand that the faithful put aside this profession of faith.
Monsignor, people are always struck by your smile and your kindness towards those that you meet. How do you maintain such an equilibrium of soul and a young heart?
What you have said is very serious. This young heart, it truly comes from the faith. And especially from constant contact with the Lord. And that is the reason why I attach a great importance to it. I have already said it and resaid it to the students: it is important for you to have a good relationship with Jesus, one of friendship. And to get there, it would be good for you to have a picture of the Savior, a good picture, a beautiful picture of the Lord. And if you look at this picture again and again and you look at Him as if He were there, you will always remain in dialogue with Him, even when you are around other people. And that will help you to have a very personal relationship with Jesus, and such a relationship is always something of beauty, something edifying, something that will make men happy.
It is beautiful that you have paid attention to that and I think that every morning, when you begin Mass, you say the words of the Psalm: “I will go unto the altar of God, to God who giveth joy to my youth.”
That is true!
This is not a lie, even for a bishop already advanced in age?
[He laughs.] A bishop must not tell lies. He must always tell the truth.
Leaving aside your episcopal insignia, you are a very simple person who lives here among his confreres. How do you stay so withdrawn as a former bishop of a great diocese in Switzerland and no longer appear in public?
We can find several very important passages in the Psalms where it is repeatedly emphasized that all is ephemeral, that we must always have death in mind, that even the glory of a bishop, in the measure that it exists, also passes. And it is good to remind yourself without ceasing, even when you are on duty, that one day this will end, that then it will be necessary to organize things differently; that you will stand before the Lord in a completely different manner. This thought has been with me all my life, I constantly say to myself: “at any given moment, what you do now will be over, even if it is the most beautiful thing”; and so the episcopal duty will one day come to an end, by a call from the Holy Father or by the Lord Himself. You must always have this thought in mind and stick to it. From another perspective, it is also agreeable to be able to give up a burden so as to consecrate yourself to further deepen your faith, your theology, your knowledge of Holy Scripture. This is the beautiful side of the life of a former bishop, because there is that too, the good side of things. So goes life: we must be ready to leave our job on the day when the Lord calls us, when He will say to us: “The time has come.” The book of Wisdom well and truly says it: “All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.” (Wis. 3:2). Likewise, there is also a time for the episcopacy and a time that succeeds it, that of the bishop emeritus.
Thus you have left behind your dignity and your charge as a diocesan bishop, but for sure you are always a bishop and in this measure you are always active in the Church. I have been told that very often priests and lay people come here to visit you, to ask your advice, perhaps to find some clarity in their difficulties, I think. Without revealing any secrets, what do you say to these people?
Ah, well, most of these people come because they are encountering difficulties in real life or with what is happening in the Church, among other things. For the most part, they must be reassured and told: we must continue in this direction, we must not let go of our faith, our convictions, etc. Most need a word of encouragement, some support. Others come simply to see what the bishop is doing now, how it’s going, and then there are those light conversations where we talk about every day things. But most of the time, these people are looking for spiritual help for their soul, and as a bishop, I am bound to take this work seriously. A bishop feels the continual need to behave like a pastor. That is part of the job, we are shepherds, and this is why we are in fact grateful when we are able, despite age, to exercise this pastoral function in one manner or another. This is also a grace from God.
Your choice to come here to Wangs makes all that possible, even among the many souls who live in the house. Do you still maintain contact with the official hierarchic organs of the Church, or perhaps with the Vatican?
Of course, I make an effort still to maintain certain contacts. But, naturally, it is more difficult for an emeritus bishop to maintain them than for a bishop who is in office and who, by virtue of his mission, must travel to Rome from time to time. So, they are much more sporadic, but whenever possible, I try to maintain their interest in the cause. In fact, one remains a bishop and, as a bishop, I will always carry, in a certain sense, the responsibility for the life of the Church.
How do you see the near future for the Church, taking into consideration the crisis that she is really going through?
I can obviously only judge the crisis in our regions. I don't know the situation in Africa. I don't know what it is with Asia. But I would simply like to repeat here that we will only come out of the crisis to the extent that we return to the old values of Tradition. Without it, we will not move forward. We will make a few improvements, that will have no future and will only leave disappointments. They will say, just like that, that there are not enough priests, that the faithful have to live with it and so on, instead of recognizing where the causes of the crisis are and attacking it at the root.
The signs, even from the side of the highest authority of the Church, do not really suggest a return to the sources of Tradition. Very recently, Pope Francis published his Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes, by which he largely limits the celebration of Mass according to the traditional rite. One cannot help but think that he's trying to prevent it almost entirely. What do you think of this document?
You can imagine that this has affected me very much, saddened me, yes, I cried. I did not expect this. I don’t see what the causes are. If I were still a bishop in office with good access to the Holy Father, I would ask him to get more information from the people affected by this measure. There are so many people who are affected by this and not only priests, but there are faithful who are who are affected, children, young people, families, because I can say that, in Tradition we have numerous families. I do not know if the Holy Father’s advisors are aware of what they are doing to these people. What they are doing to them?! No, that makes me deeply sad and I really ask my confreres in the episcopacy, in particular the cardinals, to reconsider the whole affair, what happened, and approach the Holy Father with the necessary requests. That is their duty, because it is not simply an ecclesiastical law, it is a decree. It goes to the heart of the faith. The heart of the faith. And to attack the heart of the faith of the faithful in this way, it is simply not good. Nothing good can come from it.
And when that concerns the heart of the faith, you say that that affects men, souls, Catholics, but also the Church herself.
That concerns the Church herself, yes. Because, in the end, the Church lives by this faith.
And the Faith is not at his disposal, not even that of the Pope.
No, the Faith is given, it is also over all authority, or rather all authority is subject to the authority of the Faith, which ultimately means subject to the authority of Our Lord, because the faith comes from Our Lord. And all authority must answer to Him, equally on this point (that is, the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes). It should be realized what a great responsibility one assumes in adopting such an ordinance.
It seems apparent that the measures taken with this document were not motivated by the faith, even if that seems to be implied, but rather by concern for unity in the Church. Can the pope hope to promote unity in the Church through this Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes?
I find this reasoning strange, because we know very well that in the Catholic Church diverse rites have always coexisted. Church unity was not threatened by this diversity. The question of Church unity is somewhere else, that is, in the faith, in fidelity to the faith. I believe that Church unity is today threatened by the fact that, for the most part, even among theologians, etc., I do not want to be more explicit, fidelity, fidelity to faith in the Lord is not present or has faded. I repeat: the faith is given by Our Lord, through the Apostles who transmitted it, and this faith binds us. Now, this is what, in large part, is missing today in the Church, and what threatens unity.
You are getting to the crucial point, our Society see things in the same way. After the faith, and flowing from it, come the moral questions. Many contemporaries dissatisfied with the Church, would like to reduce her to these moral questions. As a bishop, you have yourself courageously defended Catholic moral principles, which has earned you many hate campaigns in the press. In hindsight, do you regret having done this, or do you think it remains relevant today?
No, I do not regret it. To the contrary, I keep in mind that one day I will have to stand before the Lord, and He will ask me what I did about this. I will have to tell Him what I said and did: for example, I tried to teach on the basis of Holy Scripture, which is the foundation of our faith, to know the Word of God, the Revelation of God. I tried to pass it on in this way and this is why I am confident and serene. For sure, the evolution of everything political, of public morals, etc., is going in another direction, but that does not dispense us from ceaselessly recalling what Scriptures tell us, what Revelation tells us about moral life. Because that come from the faith. In St. Paul’s Epistles, for example, there is always a part of teaching, where it is about faith, and from there it deduces the way of life, or in other words, morals. Thus the way of living flows from faith. He attaches great importance to it, and repeats in all his writings that we must live in conformity with the faith. This is what the world today has to learn again, we have to think about it again. In that case, certain developments will no longer be possible. This is where we need to be courageous and persevere, even if we are accused of being old fashioned. They often tell us that it is Medieval—a faithful said to me one day: “You are stuck in the Middle Ages.” This is not the Middle Ages, this is simply a consequence of our faith. And it must continue. As I said to him: I regret nothing and I also and particularly ask my confreres in the episcopacy to work in this direction.
On September 25th you will celebrate your jubilee. The next day, the Swiss people will be called upon to vote at the ballot box on the bill introducing “marriage for all.” In other words, the unnatural union of persons of the same sex should be placed at the same level as the sacrament of marriage instituted by God between a man and a woman. How do you see the evolution of our society and how can we counter it?
Firstly, I must say that it is clear that our faith always forbids us to say yes to such a evolution. That means, of course, that we must take our place in public life accordingly and do everything possible to prevent it. This will be difficult, but every Christian is bound by his faith. If he takes his faith seriously, he must affirm that all that is going against God’s law!
It is very clear that today the divine law is no longer taken seriously, nor is the natural law, it does not even exist, it is seen as the fruit of the imagination of certain out-of-date theologians. But our faith is our conviction: and what contradicts the divine law, contradicts the natural law! We must act accordingly, including in public life, and do everything in our power to ensure that such a development does not lead society into the abyss. I cannot say any more about it.
Let’s move on to something more agreeable: in your episcopal career and through your own experience, you have remarked that more and more young people, and even vocations, are turning towards Tradition, towards the Mass of all time, towards the perennial faith of the Church. Is this really your observation?
I must already make an observation, it is that there are many young people in Tradition, many families. In other words, I observe that Tradition is young! This makes us even more responsible, we bishops, the leaders of the Church. Our responsibility is put before us, because it is undeniable that something is happening here, is growing, and this movement—I cannot conceive of it otherwise—is under the movement of the Holy Spirit! This is not the work of some person, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit! Insofar as we consider that young priests come, who very often have very little knowledge of Tradition, a question arises: how is it that they are coming there? My only explanation is that the Spirit of God is at work here! This is why I encourage these people—even if they are candidates for the priesthood, and henceforth in a very difficult situation—to continue on this path and to ask the Holy Spirit to grant them perseverance and, especially, a deeper and deeper understanding. Because the more the understanding of these truths of the faith is deepened, the more the faith is fortified! And the more they can work with conviction and strength.
St. Paul said that “faith comes by hearing.” Therefore, we have the job of transmitting that to the clergy through our words and our witness.
Yes, this is the goal of all preaching! And the priests, particularly on this subject, have their responsibility put before them.
In many of the Society’s Mass centers, we have been able to observe, in this period marked by Covid measures, that more and more Catholics from official parishes have begun to discover Tradition, because they were probably often disappointed with the way their pastors handled these measures, which led to a severe restriction on the reception of the sacraments. They came looking to receive the sacraments in our chapels and our houses and many of them then realized on this occasion how little knowledge of the faith they had received in these parishes, and how ignorant they were about their faith. Do you think that this is one factor explaining the crisis in which the Church and Catholics have been plunged? Is this also a crisis of faith?
Yes, this is a crisis of the faith in the sense that you intend, to know that the faith has not been taught in all is profoundness. This is in catechesis, especially in catechesis, unfortunately, I must say it, that we have seen this lack, during these last 50 years. This profound transmission of the faith no longer takes place in a huge number of parishes, in a huge number of institutions where it should have been taught. It is from that that this ignorance of the faith comes. And it is why the catechism, instruction, for catechetical purposes, is of great importance. And there I must also remark that, in the Society—but also in other Traditional movements—catechesis is taken very seriously and is taught very seriously. It is from there that the increase of the faith in this environment will come. It is absolutely necessary that we again teach the faith in its fullness. Not only on certain subjects which are pleasing to men, or of which one has the impression are pleasing to men, but truly in it profoundness, in all its breadth.
Monsignor, thank you very much for the witness you have given us today and for the encouragement it contains. I wish you as long a life as the Savior desires, full of faith and with the satisfaction of witnessing the transmission of this faith and also of being able to work as a bishop!
Thank you very much! You have expressed a wish that, I hope, will be truly realized!