It seems to me important for the truth to give a detailed answer to the paper Father de La Rocque wrote on “the Laguérie affair” and which was distributed here and there, notably in Our Lady of Good Counsel’s : here is the first part of my answer. Some other ones will be issued within the next days, following the time I will have left to make them after the ministry of Saint-Eloi’s and the works in progress...
We know that Father de la Rocque is often mandated by the current general superior of the Society of Saint Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, to write this or that, by drawing some sound arguments from his theological science. After ecumenism, the Laguérie affair, why not? What an honor! His quality of writer doesn’t keep us from holding in esteem the prior of Toulouse. His letter to the priests was unquestionably a good idea ; his zeal for the house of God is well-known. As for me, he was my student in some very old times. Anyhow, In this long six-page statement I see not only my judge and my judgment, but rather an expression (alas a bit clumsy) of this devoring fervor which characterizes the ministry of Patrick de La Rocque. His overzealousness towards his superior – in these troubled times – is truthfully extremely understandable. Honi soit qui mal y pense!
But all the same, we feel like shouting at him : don’t throw anything anymore, the court is full...
As soon as we get into the first paragraphs of this lampoon, the scene is set. It sinks into a sad offhanded atmosphere, the one of some groundless accusations and the one of an easy denunciation of a “conspiracy”. In a theatrical production, which follows the rythm of seasons : summer, fall, winter, this priest tells us that “the masks were took off” : “For, we have to admit it : the supposed affair of the seminaries was just a pretext”.
“The supposed affair of the seminaries was just a pretext”
“The supposed affair of the seminaries”... Do you say supposed? Father, dear Patrick, you didn’t say that at all in the middle of the summer. There are some witnesses, some felow-priests heard you speak a very different language. And how to explain your volte-face? Today, whereas there are only fourty seminarians left in Ecône and that a fifth-year seminarian has just come out again, speaking about a supposed affair is not caring too much about the influence of the Society of Saint Pius X. “Days go by peacefully in Ecône”. Would it be the peace of cemeteries you exalt here? I believe that if His Grace Archbishop Lefebvre was still alive, he would take seriously this hemorraghe which doesn’t seem to ever stop. Instead of letting the situation rot without making any decision, he would be willing to get things back on an even keel.
The sadest thing is that yourself, dear Patrick, you know well in your heart of priest of Jesus Christ and of Society of Saint Pius X member that this affair is not “supposed” but actually real. After having brushed it aside in the 1st page, in the 2nd page, you get back to it as if you felt some remorse. And you justify your superiors by an argument taken from the episcopal rhetoric of the nineteen-seventies. You question, by using the same expression twice, “a relative maladjustment of our French-speaking seminary for the youth which enters it from now on”. To justify your diagnosis in the style of “neo-70’s”, you continue with an obvious claim : “The youth of today cannot be identified with the one which entered Ecône thirty years ago”. Father, the question is not here ! Our own youths, yours and mine, don’t look like each other similarly, and we nevertheless received the same training and the same spirit fruitfully, the one of our founder who braves the time which goes by because he takes roots in the deepest Tradition. Let’s stop rambling on about adaptation of our seminaries ! If a difficulty is encountered, the order of our seminaries is not to be called into question, neither the bad quality of the youth, but necessarily the aptitude of the teachers for the fulfilling of their mission ! This is true for every work of education and consequently for the education of the future priests. The wisdom of Archbishop Lefebvre defined in advance the framework of this education (with what a precision!) in the great rules he decreed for the seminaries of the Society of Saint Pius X... You put forward the reinforcement of the level of study by one year of spirituality, (intervened in 1982), as being the precedent meant to legitimate other strict changes which narrow this structure.
When one wishes to do more than the founder does, he does ever too much! And when he does too much, he does bad... Just think about it. The remedy for the “supposed affair of the seminaries” you are worried about whatever we say, is not a crackdown on the seminaries as you seem to recommend it, but a faithfulness more internal to the spirit of our founder, which is the spirit of Jesus Christ himself. Let’s stop thinking we will get over it by adding rules to rules. The true reform is internal, it concerns all of us, every time. Instead of putting the blame on our valiant traditionalist youth, instead of condemning those who dare to knock on the door of our seminaries, by treating them like some morons obviously incapable, let us pass on to them simply what we have been received and let the grace of Our Lord Jesus work on them. He will know well how to make his priests out of this youth ! Let’s have confidence in the grace and in the charity of our Savior. And may we say again : Et nos credidimus caritati !
A pretext... But for whom?
This “supposed affair” preoccupied you a lot. But it’s necessary to consider the use you make of that in this paper. You say that it was merely a “pretext”. Very well : I can tell you before God that never, as for me, I considered the influence of our seminaries like a pretext. I never used this affair real and not “supposed” to affect anybody either. But if my honesty (Deus testis est) is entire, you are certainly right to speak about a pretext.
This “supposed affair of the seminaries” was used as a pretext by Bishop Fellay, as he told it to me himself and as he recognized it in front of Father de Tanouärn and Bishop Williamson. I still hear the current superior of the Society telling me : “If it had been only me, you wouldn’t have been transfered to Mexico, you would have kept your position of prior and I would simply have withdrawn the title of Aquitaine dean.” As for Father de Tanouärn, he told me that after asking Bishop Fellay in the presence of Bishop Williamson why I was expelled and after stressing that the affair of the seminaries must have been a pretext, hearing Bishop Fellay with this calmness and this smile we often notice on him : “Let’s say we made use of it”.
Equipped with this double confirmatur of the superior, I would conclude as you do, but backwards and not by sticking to the intentions (that I carefully avoid judging) but by sticking to the very terms our general superior used : the affair of the seminaries was used like a pretext to justify some expulsions which were already planned. It’s anyhow what we can grasp from his own words, without faking any of their meaning. And that’s why, at the end of August, precisely at the feast day of Saint Louis, the expulsion of Father Héry and even the one of Father de Tanouärn had been pronounced – with a strange haste – by our superior himself.
If I get back to the seasons listed by Father de La Rocque not straightforwardly, I notice he forgot one. He forgot the spring. Let’s wish this spring 2005 to be for the Society of Saint Pius X a spring of truth and of natural strength, and let each one of us, me at first, know how to recognize his own wrongs where they are if necessary.
This 2nd of March, 2005
(To be continued)
Father Philippe Laguérie