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"And now the same thing should happen again inside the Society? No!"
Sermon of Bishop Richard Williamson
Sunday, October 17th 2004
Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet Church (Paris, France)
High mass of 10:30 AM

PDF version for printing

The original French written sermon had its oral style maintained on purpose everywhere  to avoid any controversy on what really Bishop Williamson meant. The translation from the official text is as literal as possible to respect the thought of the author. The signs < > represent the inaudible passages or supposed words.

ďIn the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Dear fathers, dear sisters, dear faithful. Father Beauvais, your prior, invited me to give you a pontifical mass when he knew I would be here for the symposium and as today is... itís providential maybe because Saint-Nicolas and the Society in general, is facing a crisis which has been public for a few weeks ; therefore, I donít run the risk of scandalizing people if I speak about it publicly and I think that the crisis is grave enough to demand the word of a bishop.

I can always be wrong on the way of saying, but I come from outside, and I had to prepare the symposium during several days, to participate in it and afterwards wait Saturday and Sunday, for Marseilles and Paris. I had time and could be more familiar with certain aspects of this crisis which threatens the Society, and itís for this reason that I take it upon myself to speak about it. If it was only a little thing, I wouldnít speak about it. But itís something that, in my opinion, wonít be resolved by the way of the authority. Authority and obedience are correlative but both serve the truth. And if authority and obedience are separate or turned away from truth, we have a problem which wonít be resolved only by the ways of obedience and authority.

Catholic authority is here for catholic truth. The Spanish proverb says something like this : ďObedience doesnít serve obedience. Obedience serves the faithĒ and catholic obedience is connected with the catholic faith and the catholic truth. And if <we do> as the Council did, then <why are we here my dear brethren?> Isnít it because Vatican II Council, Conciliars trampled on questions of truth on behalf of obedience? ... And itís for this reason that so many catholic souls are still astray on a way which doesnít lead to heaven, because they always think they obey. They are inculcated a notion of obedience which has them shut up. The catholic had to shut up. We say in English, in American: ďPray, pay and obey.Ē They had only but to pay, pray and obey. And this is for this reason that we are in this frightful crisis of the Universal Church.

And now the same thing should happen again inside the Society? No! The Society was founded by Archbishop Lefebvre who knew how to distinguish true obedience from false obedience. And obedience which doesnít obey God and the faith is a false obedience. He freed us from it and we followed him and we were right. But the devil is always at work. We have to admire how the devil acted this current time. We have to admire him really. Temptation was subtle: temptation was not under species of good (sub specie boni), temptation was under the appearance of the better (sub specie optimi).

Letís go back to the foundation of the Society of Saint-Pius-X. So, Archbishop Lefebvre, impelled by Providence, and co-operating according to his great wisdom, his sanctity, he co-operates with Providence to found the Society of Saint-Pius-X, which is completely inside the Church at its beginning. He doesnít establish a savage seminary as his enemies say. He founded a seminary completely according to the laws of the Church because he obtained the approval of the Bishop of Geneva and Friburg in may 1970 and for Archbishop Lefebvre, it was very important. For Archbishop Lefebvre, itís obvious that itís not an act of disobedience. He wanted to obey the laws of the Church ; but when these laws destroyed, subverted the faith, then he had to say ďnoĒ. He said the supreme law, itís the salvation of souls, and this is always true. Then he founded this Society but this Society has been weak since the beginning with an intrinsic weakness, which is always here and impossible to get rid of. This weakness is not our fault and we cannot do anything about it ; it is in the manufacture, in the very nature of the Society because the Society was founded, that is to say after 2, 3, 4 years, the Society didnít have the Pope behind and above itself : behind to lean on all what is catholic, to bear, to hold fast, and above to provide the head of a hierarchy which, at a certain time, before the Council, protected all the Catholics ; when, in the Church, when the authorities acted, Canon Law ensured all kinds of actions and possibilities of appeal and all a mechanism to secure this force and authority... Because the catholic authority is strong, it imposes to people as far as it can, to go to heaven. Therefore, catholic authority is strong, it comes from God, itís an authority of truth : ďI am the Way, the Truth and the Life.Ē And then, since Our Lord decided to give this so strong authority to men and not to angels, itís obvious that poor men as we are, everyone of us, we could get wrong and then to ensure that catholic force and obedience wouldnít crush, at no level, there was a system of appeals, which ensured justice right beside the truth. And itís justice and catholic truth which ensured catholic authority. Therefore, for instance, Archbishop Lefebvre in the conciliar collapse, how did he make the authority for himself that he made? Is it only by saying : ďI am bishop, you have to obey!Ē? No, no, no, no. Seldom, I heard him <saying that>. <Nevertheless>, he believed in the authority... He didnít sound like leaving the Society messed up. No, no. He didnít like disobedience, itís sure and certain. But when there was a problem, did he say : ďI am the BishopĒ? No, he said : ďCurrently, here are my reasons.Ē He said quietly and peacefully : ďHere are my reasons. If you have some reasons, I listen to you. If you are right, we will go like you, as you suggest. If you recognize that I am right, then letís go like me as I suggest.Ē

And if, like in the United States in 1983, if priests did a revolution, it was that indeed, sub specie boni without any doubt, we donít doubt of the intentions ; but priests were there, and in 1983, I was there and witnessed : his way of doing was to discuss, to reason with these revolutionary priests indeed. And when the discussions were useless, he finally said : ďDear fathers, discussion is useless.Ē ďNo, we will continue discussion.Ē ďNo, no, itís useless. You have your ideas and we have ours. And we wonít change. We have to be separate from each other.Ē

ďSo farĒ notice the humility! ďSo far, God seems like he has blessed the Society.Ē From 1970 to 1983, it was already 13 years of history of the Society. He said ďso farĒ, that is to say in the past but he didnít say in the future and how much itís right ; and how much a sensible person will listen to somebody who speaks like it. ďSo farĒ, he said, ďGod seems like he has blessed the Society.Ē, ďseemsĒ... But he didnít say : ďGod is with us, he is not with you.Ē No, no, no, no and no. Listen to this, he added, - I was there and heard him with my own ears Ė he added : ďSo far, God seems like he has blessed the Society. But if you know how to do better, may God be with you.Ē

What a great man! He is indeed a great man of God! He finds out that itís <possible to be wrong>, that he can be wrong, <he believes> that what he does is for the love of God, he believes it for some very serious reasons, he will continue to do what he is doing, but he finds out that he is not ďthe Way, the Life and the Truth.Ē

Archbishop Lefebvre, right beside this spirituality of the XVIIth century which came to him by the French School <seeking the ďegoĒ?>, beside it, he had a good sense and a humanity which is absolutely necessary to moderate this spirituality of the XVIIth century, and if the good sense lacks, this spirituality turns into pious hypocrisy and Jansenism. May we be careful in the Society ; we have not only to... contain and spirituality. I hate this word. Why do I hate it? Because very often, there is too much search of oneself mingled with the search of God. We are some poor guys, letís not forget it. We have to seek God and rush towards him. Saint Teresa of Avila said : ďGod prefers generous souls to faultless souls.Ē Yes! Because generosity will end up overcoming defects. But the faultless wonít warrant generosity. Saint Peter was generous, impetuous. He blundered. He was mistaken, and what did Our Lord with his heart? Our Lord permitted that Saint Peter denied him three times. At the time when Our Lord was in a great need, what did it do? Saint Peter thought himself right. He knows everything, him only, I am strong, I am a champion. I go, and a while later he falls, and the devil got him. by what? By human respect. It was the weak point of Saint Peter. But from this time, Saint Peter found out he was only but a poor guy but a poor guy could make a good pope. And a faultless who admired himself like being without defect couldnít make a good pope. He couldnít understand men. He wouldnít have the necessary compassion for us men, <poor beings as we are>. And, the lesson, Saint Peter hasnít ever forgot it. We say that he cried until the end of his life. But his tears were an essential part of his papacy, of his sanctity to govern the Church, and to protect the birth and the first days <of the Church>.

So, this spirituality of the XVIIth century, as I say it <sum up>, it is good, it certainly <looks good>, I tell you ďSub specie boniĒ but it is not ďsub specie boniĒ, itís ďsub specie optimiĒ. Willing to be spiritual is forgetting to be human. Archbishop Lefebvre was always human. But itís easier to imitate appearances to think oneself spiritual than to imitate this coalescing of spirituality with humanity. I am going to tell you the Shakespeare play ďMeasure for MeasureĒ, as briefly as possible :

Itís a young prince who is so upright, so perfect, so correct that he doesnít know himself. Then the devil sends him a young beautiful female saint to plead a cause. Isabella is completely virtuous. Then guess what will happen. At the meeting of the two persons, Isabella speaks for the life of her brother, imprisoned by the prince Angelo, and Angelo ends up giving her a very bad proposal. Because the one who was so correct, so well, so admirable, because he didnít know himself, he was inhuman. He paid the price. At this point, Shakespeare wasnít silly. What is the name of this young prince? ďAngeloĒ it means the little boy tried to attain angelic perfection, certainly on behalf of uprightness, of all what is good, all what is correct. Itís the XVIIth century, itís Jansenism, my dear friends. In England, itís Puritanism. Under the appearance of good, ... and the more we try, and the more we believe oneself <an angel> without remembering we are also an animal, the more we fall into nonsense and the most stultifying and terrible things, and we go back and forth from the one to the other one, and the devil knows it well. Jansenism shifted to liberalism and the French Revolution. And Puritanism in England shifted to liberalism, spread out in all Europe.

So, letís beware and be humble. And letís not forget that we are human beings, and that God, Our Lord Ė itís mysterious Ė he wanted for the ministers of his Church, to save souls Ė he chose men and not angels. He could have done, he could have chosen for his priests some angels, he didnít do it. He chose us, poor men, and from the beginning with Saint Peter : ďRemember Saint Peter, that you are only but a man. You are always a man and you will need me, and you will always need compassion for the other human beings like me.Ē ďForgive us O Lord, as we forgive those who trespassed against usĒ and forgiveness is necessary. And that, itís the wisdom of this play of Shakespeare. Itís a very catholic lesson. Itís a profane drama, I admit it, but the lesson is certainly catholic.

<In the drama, a duke intervenes> to prevent actions from going worse, and at the end, Angelo recognizes he was wrong, and seriously wrong. And he recognizes that he deserves to die. But the duke, his chief, spares him. The duke spares him, the duke forgives him, because he <Angelo> recognizes that he is wrong.

The Society is a lifeboat, itís its nature. A lifeboat is vulnerable ; it is here, the great transatlantic liner sank, and a lifeboat was put on the waves of the ocean, and the ocean gets into a fury today. The ocean is enraged. So a little lifeboat, it is not to last a long time. And the lifeboats we put on waters, from the Titanic, one more night, and probably the passengers aboard those little lifeboats would have been cold to death. Fortunately, other ships were there the day after in the morning and could pick up the lifeboats and save those who were in the lifeboats, but those who were in the sea, even if they had a life vest Ė I donít know the word in French Ė if they had a life vest, they died of cold in the frozen ocean. And if, my dear friends, you and I, we made the Society of Saint-Pius-X overturn by our manoeuvres, by our wars, our quarrels <apparently> fair and always under the appearance of goodÖ then if we fight on behalf of a good cause, if we fight, letís suppose against Jansenism or against Jansenist tendency, for itís more subtle, itís even more subtle with each decade today, for hundreds of years, temptations have become more and more subtle. And God knows if the temptations of the Council were subtle to deceive a crowd of Catholics, a crowd, a big mass of Catholics, deceived under the appearance of good, under the appearance of reason. So, this current time, some passengers aboard the lifeboat can say : ďJustice, I am refused my rights, there is no question of obedience only.Ē Ė he is right, he is right, he is right Ė for this end, they will fight and make the lifeboat overturn with the result that everybody dies in frozen waters! Letís beware, my dear brethren, letís beware! Letís beware of ourselves! Letís beware of ourselves! We are poor human beings and we can always, each and everyone of us, be wrong. Only Our Lord is infallible, because he is God. And itís in the fate of human beings to be fallible, what do you expect! And itís for this matter that the Catholic Church, in its history, with a maternal wisdom... the maternal wisdom is inscribed on all the canon law. I am not canonist at all, but nevertheless, letís go back to the lifeboat. Is it possible to have a process of appeal in the lifeboat? Itís very difficult. Itís not easy, because the process cannot be found only but in the lifeboat, and aboard the lifeboat, we need a captain, an authority. So, what is the conclusion?

Concerning the passengers, they have to control themselves and not to go to war even if the captain is wrong, because, if one is too much convinced of his right and if one is too ardent, and if one is too full of defects, itís very <dangerous>, we risk not only our own life <but also> the life of the whole passengers in the lifeboat ; and so itís difficult, aboard the lifeboat, to organize a process of appeal, because at this point, there would be the risk, a certain risk, of two heads, of a two-headed animal, it would be the risk. Wisdom would be necessary to avoid it. At the end of each way, my very dear friends, we need human wisdom and good sense. Letís not forget it : supernatural without natural makes supernaturalism as much as natural without supernatural makes naturalism.

Accusation of naturalism is brandished a lot, letís start to brandish the one of supernaturalism. Is it inciting to slackening? May God prevent us from doing that! But letís see how Our Lord wanted us to be poor ministers. Then, for the passengers, let them not loose control, let them not loose control, let them control themselves. We are in an extremely grave crisis, extremely grave, <...?> because itís about truth, itís about a false spirituality, and this fundamental question wonít be resolved with obedience and authority. And, every captain will exercise authority, itís what Archbishop Lefebvre did, I have just told you that, <but> Archbishop Lefebvre leaned seldom only on his authority to put forward what he wanted to put forward. He gave some reasons, he reasoned. And so, may the captain aboard try <to understand> that the community of the Society is not in a normal situation. In a normal situation, the captain can strike and do what he wants, because he knows that if what he is doing is arbitrary, there will always be a procedure possible above him. In the great structure of the Church, the victim has to be saved from his arbitrariness, of the arbitrariness of the captain ; therefore, the captain can go like that if he wants. But in the lifeboat, we cannot go like that, itís different. Then, pretending that in the lifeboat, everything is the same than in an ordinary community, in the ordinary times of the Church, itís deluding oneself on reality. So, let the authorities go smoothly, like Saint Peter. I am sure that Saint Peter, before his tears, before his fall, if he hadnít fallen, wouldnít have understood. ďAngeloĒ, he had to fall and to fall seriously, so that he could recover. We donít wish these young people of the Society to fall seriously so that they can know themselves and so that they can have compassion. We donít wish it of course because it would be a mortal sin, if you want. But, if it was necessary... Ouch! Ouch!, we donít want evil for a better good, Our Lord didnít want Saint Peter to fall but Our Lord permitted that Saint Peter fell for a greater good. Before the authorities go this way, what does the head think? Letís follow the model of Archbishop Lefebvre, and if we want to follow the example of Archbishop Lefebvre, letís not only follow his spirituality, <but also his humanity>. May we recognize and follow his humanity too and those who knew him among us <...>, God knows if we know that he was human. He was human, very human. And his humanity and his spirituality were very well mingled together, very well. But the one is easier to imitate than the other one, appearances are easier to imitate than the internal coalescing. Always sub specie optimi ; but itís for this reason, my very dear friends, that we say... You know the Latin saying maybe : ďLupus est homini lupus, mulier est mulieri lupior, sacerdos est sacerdoti lupissimus.Ē ę Man is for man a wolf, woman is for woman even more a wolf, but the most fierce wolf is the priest for <another> priest.Ē Itís a caricature, but itís true. Because on each side priests are persuaded that heavenís interests, eternity, salvation of souls are at sake and basically indeed, itís for this reason that quarrels among priests can grow so much acrimonious. Dear friends, pray for your priests, pray for your priests and donít stir them up neither from one side nor from the other side when they start to fight, when they think about fighting. But <...?>, my dear friends, some good sense, some good sense. May the good sense not be forgotten. Archbishop Lefebvre had some good sense. And itís what will temper the jansenising danger of this spirituality. And if the good sense is lacking, we have a problem. And as for the authorities, let them go smoothly, let us, the authorities, go smoothly, and let the passengers go smoothly themselves.

So, right beside the word ďspiritualityĒ that I hate, I hate also the word ďcharityĒ. I hate this word because of what we imply in it today : sentimentality, humanitarianism and all what makes a sound being vomit. Always under this word of ďcharityĒ ; but today, dear friends, true charity is necessary. And who can possess truth if he brandishes it without charity? <...> God is patient. But in the course of time, he can punish someone by making him loose the faith. Our Lord himself is the Way, the Life, the Truth ; but he relied on true charity. <...?> You and me, my dear friends, we can fall, fall, fall, fall, fall and Our Lord forgives, forgives, forgives, forgives, until 70 times 7, and even more. Here is the spirit of Our Lord and it was also the spirit, the spirit of Archbishop Lefebvre. A great compassion. At first, in this frightful crisis of the Church, my dear friends, at first, everyone of us we share truth : God in the place of God, God gave us the faith ; you and me, by the grace of God, we see plainly. <Nevertheless> we see some Catholics way better than us, apparently, in <the official Church>, who donít see plainly. Itís a grace, itís an election. We are from that point of view, my dear friends, some elect, may we persevere to be some elect of heaven. <...?>

And so, humility. Humility and charity!

Confusion will increase. Itís not difficult to predict it, to plan it and predict it. Rome doesnít come back, doesnít repent yet, doesnít show any sign neither of understanding, nor of willing to understand. Rome is rushing always in the same false direction. Then confusion in souls can only but <increase>. When the salt of the earth becomes intentionally insipid, and when the light of the world becomes intentionally blind, of course we are in darkness and in corruption. So, my dear friends, when we think of our weakness, human beings, letís have compassion for those who suffer in this confusion. Letís have compassion, charity, some true charity, towards one another. And, above all, as Saint Paul says, for those who belong to the house of God. And everyone of us, we are by the grace of God, at least for the time being, some members of the house of Tradition. If you want, itís the house of truth. And if we exercise, practice, preach this truth in a way of pestering our fellows, we could loose the truth. We have already lost it, from a certain point of view. Much charity and, my dear friends, the more confusion will increase tomorrow, the more charity will be necessary. A great spirit of tolerance is necessary, of good tolerance, because we are not guilty of this confusion which reigns at the head of the Church. In a way, itís not our fault, the fault of everyone of us, because itís a chastisement well deserved for everyone of us, the chastisement of God, this confusion. But, letís have compassion therefore for the ďSaint-PeterĒ people, for, who knows, for... for muslims, for Jews, for communists, for atheist people. Our mother, the Holy Virgin, is mother of all these poor people. So, first conclusion : charity. The true charity, neither the sentimental, nor charity which becomes blind to be nice. No, no. Itís necessary to see, to see clearly. But if we want to see clearly like Our Lord, at this moment, we will have also the compassion of Our Lord himself. For those who, itís not their own fault, donít see clearly.

Afterwards, such a crisis is a trial, as much as the crisis of the universal Church, the Church of the Council, was a trial for all the Catholics, a trial of which some Catholics knew how to draw the good from it. Believe me, we are <...?>. If there was not all this crisis, would we be, would we have fervour, such as we have it, if this crisis hadnít happened? If we had kept our little routine of the fiftiesí? Itís impossible to suppose that no. So, God permitted a trial to put up with now maybe because every universal catholic would deserve the trial of the Council. Maybe the Society deserves this trial today and so, letís know how to draw the good from it, because <God permits all trial so that we can draw some good from it.>

Thirdly, God knows what he does. We donít know what he does. We donít know what we do. But he knows what he does. And if he permits these trials, itís for our good, and even for our spirituality. But true <spirituality>, provided that we recognize the hand of God in the trials. He knows what he does, and even when he permits the increase of this confusion, that confusion increases always, then, he always knows what he does. And a great good can come out of it. Then, patience! Charity, humility and patience. And confidence in God. And we feel that if God, and this is in itself completely possible, the Society being so fragile, itís completely possible that the Society will come a cropper. I have said that in the United States for decades. I have said for a long time that, in the nature of things, there is nothing which warrants the survival of the Society, till, till the intervention of God. Because God will <finally> intervene in the situation we live in today. Then, letís not say : the Society is infallible, the Society is strong, the Society is a normal ship of the Church. Itís not the case. Itís a lifeboat. And, at last, letís have confidence also that if the dear Society came also to cropper Ė itís not impossible, since we are everyone of us some poor human beings Ė if it came to cropper donít be afraid, little flock. Donít be afraid. ďItís meĒ, says Our Lord, approaching his apostles on the waters. ďItís meĒ and Our Lord will never abandon his sheep, itís not possible. At the time of the Council, we could have thought that Our Lord was giving his sheep up ; well, NO ! Here is Tradition in the whole world now. And if the dear Society, by its human miseries, came to cropper like the Novus Ordo Church, then God would even so save his sheep who wouldnít want, who wouldnít want to abandon God yet. Saint Augustine : ďGod never abandons a soul who didnít abandon God at first.Ē <this quotation is taken by> the Council of Trent. Therefore, God is always here. Letís pray : charity, humility, patience, and confidence in God. And pray, pray, pray, my dear friends, for your priests. I donít say only for your Society priests, no, no. Pray for all the priests in the whole world, may your heart broaden, our heart <following> Our Lord, to embrace in our prayer all the priests making <...?> And itís inside the Society and outside.

And letís pray of course the Holy Virgin Mary, letís pray the good Mother for that. She is the mother of priests, <of all the> priests... She has been confided by God to Saint John at the foot of the Cross. She is the seat of wisdom. Ask her by praying the rosary what HER, SHE THINKS, what HER, SHE WISHES. In what direction she would direct us towards her son. And I am persuaded that if everyone, we have really her spirit, the maternal spirit of her maternal wisdom, then, problems, disagreements would be resolved without too much difficulty.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Ghost. Amen.Ē

Words of Bishop Richard Williamson, October 17th 2004 in Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet Church in Paris (France) at the 10:30 AM high mass, for about a thousand faithful.