Monsignor Lefebvre

In last month’s instalment Marcel had commenced his studies in the French seminary in Rome. Continuing our serialised life of Mgr. Lefebvre as told to the Sisters of the Society at St. Michel we look this month at a sad chapter in the life of the seminary. It is easy to see how the enemies of the Church did not begin their campaign to impose modernism only at the Council. The example of Fr. Le Floch is only one amongst many…

But as so often happens in these cases, the defenders of the Church, those who defend truth, the defenders of the Tradition of the Church attract a lot of enmity. They attract the rage of all those who think we should compromise with the world, that we must move with the times, that we shouldn’t condemn error: “Let’s proclaim the Truth, but not condemn error”, a sort of two facedness. They are a very dangerous sort of person who call themselves Catholic and at the same time collude with the enemies of the Church. They can’t bear the truth, the whole robust truth. They can’t stand people fighting the world and Satan and the enemies of the Church, that we should always be in a state of crusade! We are in a crusade, a state of continual warfare. Our Lord too proclaimed the truth. Well! They put him to death. They put him to death because he proclaimed the truth, because he said that He was God. Yes! He was God. He couldn’t say that He wasn’t. And all the martyrs preferred to shed their blood, to give up their life rather than compromise with the pagans.

I spent six years in Rome (plus one year of military service). It happened that for the first three years (1923 – 24, 1924 – 25, 1925 – 26) I had Fr. Le Floch as my Rector. I was also delighted to have the teaching which we received from the Jesuits at the Gregorian University in Rome.

From 1926 to 1927 I had to go and do military service and so I had the good fortune not to have anything to do with the frightful business of getting rid of Fr. Le Floch from the French seminary. I learnt about it in letters, from confrères and when I returned to the seminary from military service in November 1927 I was told more details, absolutely scandalous, the way in which Fr. Le Floch was disposed of, you could say eliminated. Why? Because all the Freemasons who were already in the French government and all the liberals who worked with them feared that Fr. Le Floch’s disciples, all the priests who had been formed by Fr. Le Floch for Truth, for the fight against error and against evil, against Satan would become bishops. Throughout the world the majority of bishops had studied in Rome; it’s still true today but it was even more so in those days. They had good reason to fear that among those 220 seminarists, of whom perhaps 180 would become priests and would return to France, a good number of them would later be chosen as bishops. That was in fact the case actually, many of my confrères became bishops in France, many many. Unfortunately, many didn’t have the courage to keep the Faith and the teaching which they had learned at the French seminary. The atmosphere of the world, the spirit of the world, the liberal spirit in which they lived in a general way, all that was like a slow but certain poisoning.

They told me how it had happened. A delegation came to the seminary from the government and said, “Fr. Le Floch cannot stay in charge of the French seminary. He’s a dangerous man he is a…” Oh, you know the names they use, “integrist, fascist, ultramontane” and whatever, it’s easy enough to find unpleasant names to make things seem worse than they are. “Fr. Le Floch supports Action Française, Fr. Le Floch is a disciple of Maurras, Fr. Le Floch is this and that…” [Action Française and its founder, Charles Maurras were both condemned by Pope Pius XI].

Pope Pius XI was a man of great intelligence, very intelligent, he had a great faith too and wrote some marvellous Encyclicals but unfortunately in the praxis of his government was very weak, very weak and tended to ally himself a bit with the world. He got rid of not only Fr. Le Floch but also Cardinal Billot who was an eminent professor at the Gregorian, an extraordinary professor. His theology books are magnificent. He got rid of him for the same reason, because Cardinal Billot was an upright man: no compromise with error, the robust truth and the fight against error, against liberalism, against modernism, like St. Pius X. He was a true disciple of St. Pius X. So Cardinal Billot was thrown out, him too a victim of the French government.

It was poor old Pope Pius XI who was responsible for the massacre of the Cristeros in Mexico under the influence of the American bishops. The Mexican Catholics were defending themselves and wanted to fight against the masonic, anti-Christian, anti-Catholic government. They had taken arms like the Catholics from the Vendée region in France during the French revolution, in order to save their religion, to save the Catholic faith. At the beginning the Pope had encouraged them and then one fine day the American Freemasonic government which supported Mexico – once again the Freemasons – put pressure on the American bishops to stop the fighting. Oh, they would find some sort of agreement with the Catholics, they mustn’t worry about it! So the bishops put pressure on Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XI gave the order to the Cristeros to throw down their weapons. So, they laid down their arms and they were all massacred. The government massacred the lot of them en masse. Horrible, absolutely horrible. It was really an act of treachery for the poor people.

It was the same thing with Action Française. Pope Pius XI was pressurised, pressurised to condemn Action Française because Action Française which wasn’t a Catholic movement but was a reaction against the chaos the Freemasons were causing in the country. Action Française advocated a healthy, firm reaction, a return to good order, discipline, morality, Christian morality. So the government, angry to see such a movement tried to make Pope Pius XI condemn Action Française. The best Catholics in France were in this movement and were trying to get France back on the right track. Nonetheless, Pope Pius XI condemned Action Française. The best proof that he’d made a mistake was that as soon as he died, Pope Pius XII, his Secretary of State who became his successor, reversed the condemnation. But it was too late. The evil had been done. Action Française was finished. It was terrible, it had terrible consequences.

It was the same thing for Fr. Le Floch: they did an enquiry to see if there was anything in his running of the seminary with which he could be reproached; it wouldn’t have been very difficult, there’s always something, then Fr. Le Floch would have been told it would be better for him to resign and then he would go. The enquiry was done by dom Schuster, an eminent benedictine [Dom Ildefonso Schuster, abbot of the benedictine monastery of St. Paul-outside-the-walls in Rome had been designated as Apostolic Visitor for the seminaries in the province of Lombardy (1926 – 28). Amongst other things he was asked to make a visit of the French seminary in Rome. In 1929 he was made archbishop of Milan and cardinal. He was beatified in 1996]. Result of the enquiry, entirely favourable for Fr. Le Floch, entirely favourable. Dom Schuster gave a limitless paean of praise for what Fr. Le Floch was doing and how he was running the seminary, the influence that he had on the seminarists and his great faith and so on…

Fr. Le Floch’s enemies were furious with the results of the enquiry and they managed to convince the Pope that there should be another enquiry and to designate someone who would be given the job of saying something for which Fr. Le Floch could be sacked. So they ended up finding a professor and one or two pupils from the seminary who said a few things: he is too right wing, too Mauras influenced, too anti-liberal, too… etc. That was enough. He was condemned and had to leave. It was absolutely odious.

Now, it is exactly what is happening today. Why are we persecuted? Why am I persecuted today? Why is everyone persecuted in Tradition? Because we affirm Truth, we condemn errors, we condemn liberalism, we condemn modernism. The conciliar church won’t put up with that. The Council changed all that, now we must be nice to the liberals, nice to the modernists, nice to the Freemasons, nice to the Communists and everyone else. We are ecumenical with everyone. You are against that, therefore you are against the Council, therefore you are against the Pope, condemned!… Goodbye, you’re condemned! It’s exactly the same, the same reasons why, the same fight.

That was another providential thing in my life. For me that was a very important practical lesson because I saw the malice, the wickedness of the enemies of the truth. So, I’ve always been very suspicious of everyone who is forever looking to make the Church, the clergy, the bishops compromise with modern errors with the modern world taught me to be vigilant when I saw priests or when I visited the dioceses and I heard reports of that sort of thing. Immediately I thought: ah, they’re probably opposed to one another because there are liberals and conservatives, traditionalists. Always… you can find that sort of thing everywhere.

Poor old Fr. Le Floch had to go and when I came back in 1927, Fr. Berthet had been made rector. He was a two faced sort of person. He seemed traditional, but at the same time very easy going… There were no more condemnations, fighting or opposing error. Let’s leave that alone, let’s be prudent. So the final years at seminary were a bit unpleasant because of that. Besides there was a certain number of seminarists who were so upset because Fr. Le Floch had been condemned that they left the seminary altogether.