(Groupe de Réflexion Entre Catholiques or: Group for Reflection Among Catholics).
A once hidden story, now revealed.
By a Dominican Father of Avrillé, France.
In December 2011, Father Michel Lelong, member of the Society of the White Fathers (la Société des Pères Blancs), published a work entitled Pour la nécessaire réconciliation (For the necessary reconciliation), prefaced by Dom Éric de Lesquen O.S.B., Abbot Emeritus of Randol (a foundation of the Monastery of Fontgombault).
This book, 159 pages long, relates the work of the Groupe de Réflexion Entre Catholiques (GREC), from 1998 to 2010, in other words, twelve years of “discreet, but not secret” meetings (p. 29). These meetings, which were sometimes monthly, gathered together representatives of the official hierarchy, superiors of the Ecclesia Dei Institutes, and members of the Society of Saint Pius X. Their goal? “To speak without anger about things which make us angrry 1” to favour the “necessary reconciliation”. It will, of course, be necessary to clarify just what those in charge of the GREC meant by this expression.
The origin of the GREC: an Ambassador’s dream.
The GREC finds its roots in a note written by M. Gilbert Pérol, former French Ambassador to the Italian Government, in 1995, some months prior to his recall to God. He had had the opportunity of meeting Archbishop Lefebvre in Rome and, when at home in Paris, he liked to go with his wife to Mass at Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet2 each Sunday (p.90).
But, let us allow Madame Pérol to carry on the story:
Good diplomat that he was, [my husband] had drafted what is known as a “texte de bons offices” [text of mediation] wherein the points of view of one and the other party are presented, seeking what is common to both, and inviting each party to take a first step towards the other. The GREC – a means of perpetuating my husband’s life – was born from this text [p.90].
Following several encounters which are related in Father Lelong’s book (pp.21-25), a first working group was set up in 1998, which led to the organization of conference-debates which would deal with those points currently disputed in the Church.
The participants: a most varied palette.
From the earliest years of its existence, alongside Madame Pérol, Father de la Brosse O.P., Father Lorans (SSPX) and Father Lelong, the principal leaders of the GREC were:
- Father Barthe, “who has lots of links with the Holy See and in the French Church, and has helped us a lot3”;
- Father Vincent Ribeton, Superior of the French District of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, “who made a valuable contribution by his presence at meetings, by his interventions, and by his writings” (p.40);
- Father Hervé Hygonnet (FSSP);
- Laymen, such as Paul Airiau, Jacques-Régis du Cray, Luc Perrin, Philippe Pichot-Bravard, Jean-Maurice Verdier.
Madamoiselle Marie-Alix Doutrebente was named secretary.
Let us add, in order to complete the list of those who were principally in charge, that, on the 18th September 2004, a “theological group” was created within the GREC, one member of which was Father Charles Morerod O.P., professor at the Angelicum in Rome (p.57). This religious “will be one of the personalities chosen by Benedict XVI to participate in the doctrinal discussions between the Holy See and the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X” (p.48). Father Morerod has the absolute confidence of today’s Rome, since he was consecrated bishop a short while afterwards. In any case, the link between the GREC and the discussions with Rome of 2010-2011 is clear.
Also participating in the meetings of the GREC were certain French bishops, priests and laypeople belonging to the Diocese of Paris and other French dioceses, members of the Society of Saint Pius X, of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, and of the Institute of Christ the King (p.27).
Both Father du Chalard (SSPX), whose “support was as discreet as it was attentive” (p.26), and Dom Éric de Lesquen (then Abbot of Randol), “who had played a part in Dom Gérard’s agreement with Rome of 8th July 19884”, supported this initiative from its very beginnings.
The Nuncio, Monsignor Fortunato Baldelli warmly welcomed it. It was the same story for his successor, Monsignor Luigi Ventura (pp.29-32).
The French Bishops’ Conference was informed of it. Following a visit from Madame Pérol, Father Lorans and Father de la Brosse to Cardinal Ricard, a bishop was designated at their request to follow the work of the GREC and to inform the Bishops’ Conference of it: the bishop was Monsignor Breton, Bishop of Aire and Dax. When Archbishop Vingt-Trois of Paris succeeded Cardinal Ricard as head of the Bishops’ Conference of France, the same group visited him, promising to keep him informed regularly (p.35).
Amongst the other Cardinals and bishops having supported the GREC, we can mention: Cardinal Barbarin of Lyon, Archbishop Duval of Rouen, Bishop Aubertin of Chartres, Bishop Fort of Orléans (who often came to the meetings), Bishop Delmas of Angers, Bishop Aubry of La Réunion, Bishop Rey of Toulon, Fathers Brouwet and Aillet both before and after their episcopal consecrations (p.41).
It was Father Lorans, for the Society of Saint Pius X, who kept Bishop Fellay informed (p.35).
On Rome’s side, the following were kept up to date: the Secretariate of State from 1998 onwards, then Cardinal Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Cardinal Ratzinger, then President of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and numerous Vatican personalities. When Cardinal Ratzinger rose to the Sovereign Pontificate, the GREC was able to have direct contact with the Pope (pp. 44-48).
The goal of the GREC: a dangerous ambiguity
What was the goal of these meetings?
If it were only a case of having meetings to try to make the Conciliar Church authorities understand the necessity of returning to Tradition in order to save souls, every Catholic (in other words missionary) mind could only have rejoiced.
Unfortunately, from the beginning, the GREC set off down a path which could not have been more ambiguous.
In the book’s preface, in effect, Dom de Lesquen, wishing that the action undertaken (by the GREC) would “obtain precisely that the act qualified as schismatic by the Holy See in 1988 not turn into an out-and-out schism” (pp. 12-13), adds: “The GREC’s objective is the necessary reconciliation” (p.15).
What reconciliation are we talking about?
For a Catholic, the answer is clear: that the Holy See reconcile itself with the teachings of the Popes and Councils before Vatican II. This reconciliation is necessary, because it is the only means of saving the Church and the world.
On 20th October 2008, far from imploring Pope Benedict XVI to accept to call the Second Vatican Council into question, those in charge of the GREC sent a very ambiguous letter to him, implying that it was the Society of Saint Pius X which was in an abnormal situation. Thanking the Pope for the Motu Proprio of 2007 on the Traditional Mass5, and requesting the lifting of the “excommunications” of 1988, they concluded their letter in the following manner:
We hope that this will be the opportunity for the Society of Saint Pius X to regularize its canonical situation and thus to be able to manifest its will to return to full communion with the Holy Father (p.52).
Something which is ambiguous is defined thus: a phrase (or a word) having two different meanings6. Here we are dealing with a perfectly ambiguous situation:
- From the point of view of the official authorities, the letter to the Pope gives it to understand that the ultimate goal of the GREC’s work is to bring the Society of Saint Pius X back into the bosom of the present-day Church: we can understand the generally favourable response to this initiative on the part of these same authorities;
- Seen from the Traditionalist point of view, a benevolent – but superficial – interpretation, gives another understanding: the letter to the Pope means that the goal of the GREC is to remake unity in the Church, to at last once more find union with the Holy See, to get out of this tragic and terribly painful situation – which it truly is – which consists in being in opposition with the Head of the Church.
Moral theology adds that “an ambiguity, which hides the truth, can only be used in case of necessity or for a reasonable cause7”.
But, if there is a time when hiding the truth is illicit and dangerous, it is precisely when the Faith is at stake. How can one make use of ambiguity by making the authorities believe that one desires to return to full communion with them, whereas they persist in continuing along a path which leads to apostasy?
Had those unofficial representatives of Tradition who signed this letter with the other members of the GREC forgotten the warnings of Archbishop Lefebvre?
Rome has lost the Faith. Rome is in apostasy. […] We can no longer trust these people. They have left the Church, they are leaving the Church. It’s sure, sure, sure8.
When I am asked when there will be an agreement with Rome, my answer is simple: When Rome crowns Our Lord Jesus Christ once more! We cannot be in agreement with those who uncrown Our Lord. The day when they once more recognize Our Lord as King of peoples and nations, they will not have joined up with us, but with the Catholic Church in which we remain9.
At that moment, the canonical question will be immediately resolved.
Of course, the GREC was aware of the limits of its actions:
The GREC never had a vocation to participate in any negotiations whatsoever. Its raison d’être is much more humble: it strives to create, through meetings and regular discussions, a climate of mutual benevolence, which is the indispensable prelude to any eventual rapprochement and reconciliation whose practical details and time-frame are unknown to us10.
The method used by the GREC.
Conference-debates and approach of the authorities.
To push the “necessary reconciliation” forward, the GREC worked in two directions:
- organizing conference-debates on controversial points;
- approaching the authorities.
All this happened in a climate of great discretion:
“We wanted to remain discreet. But we did not want to be secret” (p. 29).
It is understandable that it was better to exclude journalists and avoid internet debates for such a delicate affair.
It is nonetheless astonishing that no reference was made to these meetings during the four symposia on the Second Vatican Council held in Paris between 2002 and 2005, symposia which brought together priests of Tradition from all over the world. These symposia, which were themselves of a completely public nature, were conducted under the patronage of Bishop Fellay. While the workshops at these symposia were highlighting the harmfulness of the Council’s texts, “discreet” meetings relativizing the errors of Vatican II and seeking to open the path to a canonical recognition of the Society were taking place in the very same city, unbeknownst to the participants of the symposia.
Given what was at stake, it is also astonishing that, throughout twelve whole years of conferences and approaches made towards the Conciliar Church, the superiors of those religious communities working alongside the Society of Saint Pius X were excluded and were not informed of what was being done.
Father Lelong’s book itself failed to elicit any response in the official organs of the Society of Saint Pius X, not even to deny or qualify what the author said. Yet, three years have passed since it was published. We can therefore suppose that the persons mentioned in this book have nothing to add.
But now let us see how the work of the GREC was carried out.
For twelve years, numerous conference-debates were organized on major topics: “Ecumenism, risk of apostasy or future of the Church?”; “Interreligious dialogue, peril or hope?”; “Which path for the Church? Concrete proposals for getting out of a crisis” (p. 59); “Should we revise and/or interpret certain passages of the Second Vatican Council?” (p. 64), etc.
We will try to see, a little later on, why these conferences, interesting in themselves, ended up in total failure.
Nevertheless, for the moment let us take note of one disturbing comment, the responsibility for which we leave to its author. Speaking about the conference-debate of 21st January 2008 between Father Morerod O.P. and Father Grégoire Célier (SSPX) on the theme: “Vatican II and the other Ecumenical Councils; to revise and/or interpret certain passages of the Second Vatican Council”, Father Lelong notes:
Listening to their presentations, we could see that the doctrinal and spiritual convergences between these two theologians were much more numerous and profound than the divergences between their respective approaches (p. 64).
Would there have been the same convergence if it had been Archbishop Lefebvre face-to-face with Father Morerod, a priest who is totally one with Rome’s modernism?
An impressive series of diplomatic comings and goings.
Alongside these discussions took place an impressive series of diplomatic comings and goings: bishops, nuncios, Secretariate of State, Ecclesia Dei Commission, all were kept up-to-date on the GREC’s activities. Once Benedict XVI was elected, it was the Pope himself who was informed in person. According to Father Lelong, the accession of Cardinal Ratzinger to the Sovereign Pontificate “was welcomed by the leaders of the GREC with great joy and much hope, a hope which was not to be disappointed, but entirely fulfilled” (p. 48).
These men were in complete utopia. We refer our readers to Bishop Tissier de Mallerais’ brilliant study entitled L’Étrange théologie de Benoît XVI11 as well as to the premier bilan (i.e. initial assessment) of his pontificate, published (complete with photographs) by Le Sel de la terre, 84. In any case, this admission of Father Lelong is revelatory of the spirit which reigned in the GREC, especially under Benedict XVI.
To enter a little farther into the details, this diplomatic action of the GREC was conducted mainly in two different directions: towards the Pope on one hand, and towards Bishop Fellay on the other.
1. GREC’s interventions with the Holy See
Already back in 1998, Father Lelong had written to Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State, to inform him of the GREC’s initiative, and to suggest that the Holy See lift the “excommunication” of the Society’s bishops on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Year 2000. We must quote at least one extract from this letter in order to see the spirit in which these approaches took place. For Father Lelong, kingpin of the GREC, the goal was to get the Second Vatican Council accepted by the Traditionalists:
“I am profoundly attached to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and I am trying to make them understood by those of our brother Catholics who have followed Archbishop Lefebvre and his successors. Some friends and I have set up a working group in Paris which is trying to prepare the day when all traditionalists will be able to find their place once more in the Church, in obedience to the Holy Father and under the authority of our bishops. […] It is in this spirit, in total fidelity to the Sovereign Pontiff and to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, that in the name of many French Catholics, I take the liberty of asking your Eminence, if, in a gesture of charity towards our brothers, the Holy Father could lift the excommunication which had been pronounced against the bishops who were irregularly consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre (pp. 42-43).” [bold emphasis is added]
Was this letter the personal initiative of Father Lelong, or did it have the approval of the unofficial representatives of Tradition within the GREC? The book does not say. In any case, Cardinal Sodano having asked for “signs of repentance” (p. 44) on the part of the authorities of the Society, the approach resulted in nothing. As regards the question of the lifting of the “excommunications”, the situation remained unchanged under the pontificate of John Paul II.
However, starting from the pilgrimage of the Society of Saint Pius X to Rome for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, frequent contacts began to take place between Bishop Fellay and Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, then President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission. Father Lelong does not say a word about them.
We know that the priests of Campos (Brazil), invited by the General House of the Society to join these negotiations, did not resist the seduction of Rome. This was their deplorable rallying to Conciliar Rome, victory for Cardinal Castrillon and loss for the combat of the Faith. Bishop Rifan now concelebrates the New Mass fervently12.
The pontificate of Benedict XVI, which manifestly brought great hope to the members of the GREC, especially after the Motu Proprio on the Traditional Mass, was the opportunity for a new approach, this time to the Pope himself. On the 9th July, 2008, “the leaders of the GREC” (p. 49) addressed the following request to the Pope:
We are very grateful, Most Holy Father, for this decision [concerning the Motu Proprio] and we wish to respond to your call for reconciliation among all Catholics, respecting those legitimate diversities which exist within the Church. There are many of us who wish that the proposition handed by Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos to the Society of Saint Pius X will meet with a favourable outcome, since the doctrinal questions relative to the Second Vatican Council are of interest to the whole Church. We also wish that the excommunications be lifted and that the Society of Saint Pius X once more find its place in the Church where it has so much to bring [pp. 49-50].
Then there was the famous request of 20th October 2008, where the leaders of the GREC, wishing the Society of Saint Pius X to “regularize its canonical situation and manifest its full communion with the Holy Father” (see above), added:
We think that the lifting of the excommunications would set in motion an inevitable process of approach, in view of an agreement between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X, or at least an agreement with a large part of the priests and faithful of aforementioned Society (p. 52)13.
The request appears to have obtained its effect, since the “excommunications” were lifted in the beginning of 2009.
2. Interventions of the GREC with Bishop Fellay
The leaders of the GREC seem to have been concerned with bringing about the cessation of attacks against today’s Rome. To quote Father Lelong:
At that time, all too often aggressive and polemical points-of-view were being expressed both on the part of those Catholics attached to tradition14, as well as on that of those who claimed to follow the spirit of the Council. These were not contributing to bring about that climate of peace and mutual confidence which is necessary in the search for a true reconciliation (p. 33).
The Society of Saint Pius X must understand that, even if it has much to bring to the Church of Rome, it also has much to receive from it. Therefore, it must stop rejecting Vatican II in its entirety (p. 85).
In their letter to Benedict XVI of the 9th July 2008, which we have already quoted and which is so important, the leaders of the GREC (therefore, the unofficial representatives of Tradition as well?) desired to reassure the Pope on this point:
We ask the leaders of this Society to cease declarations and polemical articles which criticize the Holy See (p. 50).
On the 20th June 2008, Father Lelong and several members of the GREC had written to Bishop Fellay:
Are you not afraid that by refusing the repeated calls of the Holy Father and by permitting yourselves to criticize him unjustly and systematically, the Society will end up taking a path which will lead it inevitably to separate itself from Holy Church, as has – alas! – happened throughout history? (p. 39).
Occupied Rome does not really mind cozy academic discussions taking place between theologians about Vatican II. It allows the Ecclesia Dei communities to engage in them in principle. It gives an impression of openness. But what this Conciliar Church cannot bear is that scandals be denounced: the ecumenical meetings at Assisi, the visits to synagogues and mosques, the false beatifications and canonisations, etc. It is especially these scandals which, over the years, cause millions of souls all over the world to lose the Faith. But, when the Faith is in danger, attacked by the wolves, it is a duty for the shepherds to shout out in order to protect the flock. Not to do so is a grave sin in relation to the confession of the Faith, because to attack current-day Rome, destroyer of the Faith, is necessary to maintain the great Truths of the Faith. All the efforts of the Conciliar Church since the Consecrations by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988 have been employed in breaking off groups of priests from Tradition by granting them the Traditional Mass without asking them to officially accept Vatican II15. Conciliar Rome knew that by acting thus, it would no longer have anything to fear from these groups: they could do nothing else but remain silent concerning the Council and the scandals of the hierarchy, for fear of losing their canonical recognition and of being refused all apostolate in the dioceses. That is what happened with all the Ecclesia Dei communities without exception from the moment that they signed, and it is their great sin before history, before the Universal Church and before all souls.
Today’s Rome desires the Society of Saint Pius X to go down this path. At this point we must understand the subversive techniques used especially in the last two centuries by the enemies of the Church. Their major tactic for destroying resistance consists first and foremost in obtaining an end to any attack against them. To obtain this, they use liberal Catholics, their best auxiliaries, seducing them by promising them peace, on condition that they cease fighting. At the same time, they provoke anathemas against those (the anti-liberals) who are not resigned to lay down their arms. They cover them with all sorts of epithets, calling them men of bitter zeal, integrists16, etc. In this way, the enemy seeks to isolate them in order to remove all influence they may have. Then, at their leisure, they can work away at putting the main part of the flock to sleep and slowly win it over to the new ideas.
Thus, in the 1950’s, under Pope Pius XII, there were thousands of good priests who were both pious and doctrinally sound. T hen “Good Pope John” arrived, with his suggestion at the beginning of the Council of no longer anathemitizing, of no longer condemning errors, with the exception of “the prophets of doom” who, following in the footsteps of the anti-liberal Popes, continued to lambast modern errors. The manoeuvre succeeded. Just look at what the Church has become today all over the world17.
Archbishop Lefebvre rose up and unfurled the flag of battle. This was the foundation of the Society of Saint Pius X and the works of Tradition, which spread like wildfire throughout the entire world. Since the death of Archbishop Lefebvre we have witnessed the manoeuvres of modernist Rome (advised by Freemasonry) to destroy the only organized resistance to world Revolution. T his manoeuvre consisted in attacking the superior authorities of the Society in particular, among whom they had detected certain weaknesses (because the enemies of the Church are shrewd observers). Father Lelong’s book does us the service of enlightening us on at least one part of this operation.
The results of the GREC.
In 2010, when the doctrinal discussions began in Rome between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X, the GREC ceased its activities, or at least the conference-debates18. Did letters and telephone calls continue in order to advance the “necessary reconciliation”? It is quite possible. When a group of people shares the same objective, relationships and friendships built up over the course of years do not just stop from one day to the next. Besides, it is very dangerous to keep up regular contact with heretics (and the Modernist heresy is the most dangerous in this respect, since it does not clearly affirm its errors). By dint of frequent meetings, we end up forming friendships, relativizing what opposes us, no longer speaking about it, and at last abandoning the fight. How many priests of Tradition have fallen for having played this imprudent game, with a good intention at the beginning. Such an apostolate requires men of the strength of Archbishop Lefebvre. Having known the Rome of Pius XI and Pius XII, he did not allow himself to be impressed by the Rome of Paul VI or John Paul II. And even a bishop of the stature of Archbishop Lefebvre almost fell into the trap by signing a protocol of agreement on the 5th May, 1988. He recovered heroically during the night and saved us.
It is now time to take stock of this group’s activities between 1998 and 2010.
The failure of the conference-debates.
When reading Father Lelong’s book, it is striking to see how, after twelve years of discussions, there was no movement on the part of the “Concilars”. Bearing in mind all the tendencies which exist among those who claim to follow Vatican II, “each one stood firm in his positions19”:
Dom de Lesquen is still persuaded that the episcopal consecrations of 1988 were “a schismatic act” potentially leading to “an out and out schism” (p. 13).
Father Lelong is so enthusiastic about the last Council that he devotes an entire chapter of his book to an unreserved defence of it (Chapter 4, pp. 71-87).
Even the most glaring prejudices towards the Traditionalists remained intact. Thus, recalling an interview from March 2003 with Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, Father Lelong writes:
He observed that, in our country [France], the misunderstandings and tensions between the French bishops and the Society of Saint Pius X often had to do with political motivations, rather than truly theological reasons. This observation seemed perfectly correct to me since, in the 1970’s, I had often heard French bishops reproaching Catholics attached to the Latin Mass with being “extreme right-wing” (pp. 44-45).
To still be at this point after twelve years of meetings, discussions and conference-debates has something quite despairing about it.
Father Lelong will reply that the goal of the GREC was not to sort out the doctrinal question, which can only be done by authority. Certainly, but without having the pretention to resolve current problems with all the technicality of theologians, it is difficult to understand how priests and bishops speaking about doctrine for twelve years, did not advance a single step. And how can we explain the fact that the top-level discussions which took place in the period 2010 – 2011 between the Roman theologians and those of the Society of Saint Pius X (despite being carried out in a remarkable manner by the latter), ended up in the same failure?
Whence the impossibility of discussing the crisis in the Church?
The first cause, with today’s clergy, is, in a general manner, a subjectivist and evolutionary concept of the truth, which comes from a warped theological formation.
When one no longer seeks the truth, all that is left is “dialogue”, in order to find a way of living together without waging war on one another and in order to arrive at a certain unity which respects our differences. Moreover, the word dialogue comes back time and time again in the book:
When we are all together in friendship, writes Father Lelong, I often think of Gilbert Pérol who, while actively taking part in Islamic-Christian dialogue, had the idea for having this dialogue between Catholics (p. 27).
Since Vatican II, there was a lot of talk in the Church of dialogue with Protestants, Jews, Muslims, the Dalai-Lama, and also with atheists. Those with whom there was no dialogue were the faithful attached to the Mass of Saint Pius V, labeled as integrists (p. 60)20.
The very aim of the discussions seem, therefore, to have been achieved: French Catholics, of diverse and even opposed sensibilities, have freely accepted to engage in a dialogue which in no way prejudices a total reconciliation – domain which is reserved for the competent superiors – but opens the possibility, when the day arrives, for the authorities involved in dialogue to come face to face with partners capable of understanding and mutual respect, and no longer confined in radically opposed camps21.
In his brilliant work Iota Unum, Romano Amerio has a whole chapter devoted to dialogue (Chapter 11)22:
This term is totally unknown and unused in pre-Vatican II doctrine (p. 347). […] Dialogue, it is said today, does not have either the refutation of error, or the conversion of the interlocutor as its goal23.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his last Christmas discourse to the Curia before his lamentable resignation, clearly enunciates what the concept of dialogue is for the Conciliar Church:
- Dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at understanding. In this respect it differs from evangelization, from mission;
- Accordingly, both parties to the dialogue remain consciously within their identity, which the dialogue does not place in question either for themselves or for the other24.
The GREC situates itself resolutely in this perspective. Thus, Father Lelong, speaking of the foundation of this think tank, writes:
It remained to specify the best way of implementing this beautiful project, by associating with it Catholics belonging to very diverse schools of thought, but who share our concern to contribute towards the unity of the Church, respecting legitimate diversities (p. 25).
Up to what point is diversity legitimate? Father Lelong gives his solution:
After the Motu Proprio of the Holy Father in July 2007, we can hope that the old and the new rites will from now on not only live alongside one another, but mutually enrich one another, as Benedict XVI desires (p. 82).
The Society of Saint Pius X must understand that, if it has a lot to bring to the Church of Rome, it also has a lot to receive from the latter. Therefore, it must stop rejecting Vatican II in its entirety and accept its main orientations, interpreting them as the Holy Father proposes today (p. 85).
Father Barthe thinks that this cohabitation of opposites could bring back the authorities of the Church to Tradition:
In the same way that, from the liturgical perspective, the Motu Proprio said that the Traditional Mass was never abolished, we are going to arrive at a situation where it will be said that the doctrine from before the Council concerning the disputed points was never abolished. We can follow the “extraordinary doctrine”. And just as the extraordinary liturgy draws the ordinary liturgy to itself, so we can hope that the “extraordinary doctrine” will draw the “ordinary doctrine” to itself also” (p. 121).
This all makes one want to cry out: sufficit(enough is enough)!
Precisely what part did the pressure from Rome and the GREC play respectively in the evolution of Bishop Fellay’s thought? It is difficult to say. Both certainly had an influence on it. In any case, the spirit of the GREC is to be found in the Doctrinal Declaration sent by Bishop Fellay to Cardinal Levada on 15th April, 2012 to commit all faithful Catholics (who were unaware of it) to a practical agreement with Conciliar Rome:
The entire tradition of Catholic Faith must be the criterion and guide in understanding the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which, in turn, enlightens – in other words deepens and subsequently makes explicit – certain aspects of the life and doctrine of the Church implicitly present within itself or not yet conceptually formulated [No. 4].
We declare that we recognise the validity of the sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments celebrated with the intention to do what the Church does according to the rites indicated in the typical editions of the Roman Missal and the Sacramentary Rituals legitimately promulgated by Popes Paul VI and John-Paul II [No. 7]. [italic emphasis is ours]
This Doctrinal Declaration has never been retracted by Bishop Fellay. It has simply been “withdrawn”.
Bishop Fellay should know that compromise with error will never restore unity.
For the Church, the first principle of unity is the Faith:
Wherefore, in His divine wisdom, He ordained in His Church Unity of Faith; a virtue which is the first of those bonds which unite man to God, and whence we receive the name of the faithful […] The Church, founded on these principles and mindful of her office, has done nothing with greater zeal and endeavour than she has displayed in guarding the integrity of the faith.25.
A “dialogue” where one part of the interlocutors is not seeking the truth, but, on the contrary, a union outside of the constant and infallible Teaching of the Church, can only end in failure. And it will be the Church and the Faith which will be the losers.
In such conditions, it is understandable that after twelve years of (sometimes monthly) discussions, the Conciliar interlocutors and the unofficial representatives of the Society stuck firmly to their positions.
A dangerous diplomacy, and a weakening of Tradition.
If the GREC had limited itself to discussions which had resulted in nothing, the most that could have been said was that it had all been a waste of time, and that the time for the restoration of the Church had simply not arrived.
But, was there anything more dangerous than setting all the authorities of the Church in motion by allowing it to be thought that the Society of Saint Pius X desired a canonical regularization and a return to full communion with the Holy See at a time when the Conciliar Church was continuing its descent into apostasy?
It was even totally opposed to the resolutions that this same Society had taken at its 2006 General Chapter:
The contacts made from time to time with the authorities in Rome have no other purpose than to help them embrace once again that Tradition which the Church cannot repudiate without losing Her identity. The purpose is not just to benefit the Society, nor to arrive at some merely practical impossible ‘agreement’. 26 When Tradition comes back into its own, “reconciliation will no longer be a problem, and the Church will spring back to life”.27
This firm resolution normally-speaking should have stopped the diplomatic initiatives of the GREC in their tracks from 2006 onward. This did not happen.
So, while, the world over, Tradition continued to live and develop in peace, in the belief that it was protected by the decisions of the highest authorities of the Society, an informal group composed of both Traditionalist and Conciliar figures was discreetly continuing to prepare the way for a practical agreement with “the Rome of Neo-Modernist and Neo-Protestant tendencies28”.
The result was that Tradition was on the brink of disaster in June 2012; the lifting of the “excommunications” in 2009 having, in effect, initiated “an inevitable process of approach in view of an agreement between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X”, as the leaders of the GREC had predicted in their letter to the Pope29. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais commented:
Let us trust in the Blessed Virgin who got us out of a tight corner, it is true. This year, she got us out of this tight corner, she did not want any of this talk of an agreement; in other words, that we would go to Rome to submit ourselves to the Conciliar authorities. Certainly, they are the authority in the Church, the Pope is Pope, Successor of Peter, but he is also the representative of this system which controls the Church, which paralyzes the Church, which we name the Conciliar Church by manner of speaking. It is not another Church, it is another form of Church, it is a new religion which has penetrated within the Catholic Church, and which is supported by the Pope and the entire Hierarchy, apart from some exceedingly rare exceptions.
Dear Faithful, how could you want us to submit ourselves to such a Hierarchy? It would have been impossible to collaborate, it would have been a bogus collaboration, a lie. We would never have collaborated and we would have been constantly persecuted, threatened by the bishops and by Rome. How could one survive in such conditions? With the obligation of signing a misleading text, ah no!
Nevertheless, Tradition emerged in a weakened state from the whole episode.
It is difficult to say precisely what role the GREC played in the evolution of Tradition since 1998. In any case, it would be impossible not to make the link between the reiterated appeals made by this group to put an end to attacks against Rome, and the fact (observable by all) of the loss of the spirit of combat in Tradition, at least generally-speaking. The emblematic example of this is the DICI newsletter, official organ of the General House of the Society. Headed up by Father Lorans, one of the main leaders of the GREC, DICI endeavours to always show the least bad side of the Pope, and remains silent concerning those scandals which cause the loss of Faith. Continual complaints made to Bishop Fellay by figures of authority within the Society, by priests and by members of the faithful, have never achieved any result. Such pertinacity proves beyond doubt that there has been a change of direction.
Yet, in the conference cited above, Bishop Tissier had raised the alarm:
Archbishop Lefebvre passed on everything he had received. The entire heritage of Father Le Flo’ch30, of the [French] Seminary [of Rome], all his experience, he passed it all on through the Society, and it continues to work, but only so long as we continue with the same spirit of combat. There can be no question of putting away our arms in the midst of battle; we are not going to look for an armistice while the war still rages on, with Assisi III or IV, with the beatification of a false Blessed, Pope John Paul II – a false thing, a false beatification, and the demand ceaselessly made to us by Benedict XVI to accept the Council and the reforms, and the magisterium from after the Council31.
The voice of Bishop Tissier, echoing that of Archbishop Lefebvre, seems, however, to be have been lost in the desert. Let us not imagine that this will not have its consequences.
The early generations built up Tradition with the sword. The new generations have received everything without having to fight: chapels, schools, seminaries, religious houses etc. They have fallen asleep in bourgeois-like comfort. As an editorialist recently wrote:
The vast majority of the faithful in our chapels do not form themselves, they do not read. Only from time to time do they concern themselves with the future of their family and of their children. Assistance at Mass (to which they arrive ever later) is for them the maximum they can commit towards their eternal salvation. Some of them add to this the daily recitation of the Rosary, the most fervent among them saying the full fifteen decades. Some free up their consciences by signing a petition or by risking themselves in some protest or another, but that is all. Do not talk to them about any in-depth work or study of Freemasonry, for example, and its role in the current state of a society which is in the process of being de-Christianized, a fact which they deplore! Speak to them about the root causes of the decomposition of the Church which has become Conciliar, or of the crisis which seriously affects Tradition today, and they care not.
To this we should add the growing levels of immodesty in many chapels, the stagnation of the number of faithful attending spiritual retreats, the resulting insufficiency in the number of vocations, etc.
There are, of course, edifying exceptions, but these are no longer numerous enough to inspire the whole with new fervour.
As we write this article, we do not know if a practical agreement between the Society of Saint Pius X and Modernist Rome will take place within a shorter or longer time-frame. But the very fact of no longer denouncing the scandals coming from Rome, or of only doing so timidly, under pressure from concerned priests and faithful, avoiding attacking the Pope by name, makes Tradition resemble more and more those communities which have already gone over to Rome and which have abandoned the combat of the Faith. The day when we will be fully imbued with their spirit, a practical agreement with today’s Rome will no longer be a problem for anyone. The new direction of the General House of the Society will have destroyed the work of Archbishop Lefebvre. The enemy will have conquered.
Will Providence raise up a small remnant to continue the fight and to save what can be saved?
Father Michel Lelong, Pour la nécessaire réconciliation, Le Groupe de Réflexion Entre Catholiques (GREC), Paris, NEL, 2009 (159 pages). Price: €19.