AT LEAST LEAVE US LIBERTY
I was at Rome five weeks ago, so as to see Cardinal Ratzinger who was named by the Pope to replace Cardinal Seper as a personal intermediary for relations with the Society and myself. Cardinal Seper had been named on the occasion of the audience, which Pope John Paul II granted me. The Pope had made Cardinal Seper come and had said to him: "Your Eminence, you will have the job of maintaining relations between Archbishop Lefebvre and myself. You will be my intermediary." Now he has named Cardinal Ratzinger.
I went to see him and I spoke with him during an hour and three quarters. Certainly Cardinal Ratzinger seems more positive and more willing to come to a good solution. The only difficulty, which remains rather troublesome, is the Mass. Ultimately it has always been a question of the Mass, right from the beginning.
For they know very well that I am not against the Council. There are some things, which I cannot accept in the Council. I did not sign the schema on Religious Liberty. I did not sign the schema on the Church in the modern world. But it cannot be said that I am against the Council. These are things, which cannot be accepted because they are contrary to Tradition. This ought not to upset them too much, since the Pope himself said: "The Council must be looked at in the light of Tradition." If the Council is to be accepted in the light of Tradition I am not at all upset.
I will readily sign this, because everything, which is contrary to Tradition, is clearly to be rejected. During the audience, which the Pope granted me (-on November 18, 1978 - Ed.),, he asked me: "Are you ready to sign this formula?” I replied: "You yourself used it and I am ready to sign it." Then he said: "Then there are no doctrinal differences between us? " I replied: "I hope not." - "Now what problems remain? Do you accept the Pope?" - "Of course we recognize the Pope and we pray for the Pope in our Seminaries. Ours are perhaps the only seminaries in the world where the Pope is prayed for. We have a great deal of respect for the Pope. Each time the Pope has asked me to come I have always come. But there is a difficulty concerning the liturgy,” I said to him, “which is truly very important. The new liturgy is in the process of destroying the Church and the Seminaries. This is a very important question.” – “But not at all. This is but a disciplinary question. It is not very serious at all. If this is the only problem. I believe that it can be fixed up.”
And the Pope called Cardinal Seper, who came immediately. If he had not come I believe that the Pope would have been ready to sign an agreement. Cardinal Seper came, and the Pope said to him: “I believe that it should not be so difficult to make an agreement with Archbishop Lefebvre. I believe that we can come to an agreement. There is just the question of the liturgy which is a little thorny.” – “But, concede nothing to Archbishop Lefebvre,” cried out the Cardinal. “They make of the Tridentine Mass a flag.” – “A flag?” I said. “But of course the holy mass is the flag of our Faith, the ‘mysterium fidei.’ It is the great mystery of our Faith. It is obvious that it is our flag, for it is the expression of our Faith.”
This made a profound impression on the Holy Father, who appeared to change almost immediately. In my opinion this showed that the Pope is not a strong man. If he had been a strong man he would have said: "It is I who am going to decide this matter. We are going to fix things up."
But no. Immediately he became as if were afraid. He became fearful, and when he left his office he said to Cardinal Seper: "You can speak together right now. You can try to make an arrangement with Archbishop Lefebvre. You can stay here. But I am obliged to go and see Cardinal Baggio. He has very many files to show me concerning Bishops. I must leave." As he left he said to me: "Stop, Monseigneur, stop." He was transformed. In a few minutes he had completely changed.
It was during this audience that I had shown him a letter that I had received from a Polish Bishop. He had written to me a year beforehand in order to congratulate me for the Seminary I had founded at Econe and for the priests that I was forming. He wished that I maintain the old Mass with all its Tradition. He added that he was not the only one. We are several Bishops who admire you, who admire your Seminary, the formation that you give to your priests and the Tradition that you maintain within the Church. For we are obliged to use the new liturgy, which makes our faithful lose the Faith.
That is what the Polish Bishop said. I took this letter with me when I went to see the Holy Father, saying to myself: "He will surely speak to me of Poland." I was not wrong. He said to me: "But you know, in Poland all is going very well. Why do you not accept the reforms? In Poland there are no problems. People are simply sorry to have lost the Latin. We were very attached to Latin, because it bound us to Rome and we are very Roman. It is a pity, but what can I do? There is no longer any Latin in the Seminaries nor in the Breviary nor in the Mass. There is no more Latin. It's quite unfortunate, but it's just like that. You see, in Poland these reforms were made and they did not create any difficulty. Our seminaries are full, and our Churches are full."
I said to the Holy Father: ”Allow me to show you a letter I received from Poland." I showed it to him. When he saw the name of the Bishop he said: "Oh, this is the greatest of the communists' enemies." -"It's a good reference," I said. The Pope read the letter carefully. I watched his face in order to see how he would react to those words which were twice repeated in the letter: "We are obliged to use the liturgical reform which makes our faithful lose the Faith." Obviously the Pope could not accept this. At the end he said to me: "Did you receive this letter just like that? " – “Yes, this is a photocopy that I bring to you." - "It must be a fake," he replied.
What could I say? I could no longer say anything. The Pope said to me: "You know, the Communists are very cunning in their efforts to provoke divisions among the Bishops." So according to him this was a letter fabricated by the Communists and then sent to me. I am very doubtful about this. This letter was posted in Austria, for I imagine that the author was afraid that the Communists would intercept it and that it would not arrive. That is why he posted it in Austria. I replied to the Bishop but I heard nothing more from him.
All this is to say that I think that there are even in Poland profound divisions. Moreover, there have always been divisions between the peace priests and those who wish to hold fast to Tradition. This has been tragic behind the iron curtain.