AGAINST THE SCHISMATIC DRIFT
2. May God give us a good catholic pope
before three years are up
THE global reform of the Church, shamelessly launched by John XXIII, had been skilfully and doggedly pursued by Paul VI since his election to the sovereign pontificate on June 21, 1963.
However, the modernists continued to hate the papacy in general and this pontiff in particular, particularly because on certain key issues he had ultimately thwarted their plans. After the proclamation of his Credo and the closing ceremonies of the year of the faith on June 30, 1968, after his reactionary teachings on sacerdotal celibacy and conjugal fecundity1, the modernists openly threw themselves into a virulent rebellion. Vowing to decapitate the Church, they fiercely attacked the pontifical prerogatives and called the very existence of the papacy into question.
In June 1969, in his editorial entitled “ Guillotine for an unhappy Pope ”, Fr. de Nantes wrote : “ The progressivists feigned to respect and exalt the Pope’s authority as long as his acts were pleasing to them, because by preaching obedience to him they were able to bend the Christian people around to their own ways of thinking, also being followed by the Pope at the time. But as soon as he opposed a firm veto to their demands, through his Profession of Faith and his doctrinal encyclicals, they cried out that he was abusing his power and they contested his personal, sovereign and infallible authority. In this the true nature of hearts is revealed. Our own criticisms of Ecclesiam suam and Populorum progressio were directed against the strange and novel tenor of these debatable documents, without there ever being question of the ordinary or solemn Magisterium of Peter. However, their insurrection against Humanæ vitæ and the Credo of June 30, fails to discuss the proper and incontestable value of these documents, but directly attacks the authority of the Pope who wrote them. Their rejection of the common and constant teaching of the Church has turned into a rejection of the Magisterium which God has established as the supreme authority.
“ Let no one believe that this was some unexpected tempest. This insurrection had been prepared long beforehand. The manoeuvres of the conciliar Syndicate in the matter of ‘ collegiality ’ had already conformed to the general pattern of mistrust and resistance against the sovereign Authority of the Vicar of Jesus Christ. It was on October31, 1963, the day after the famous ‘ directional voting ’ imposed by Cardinal Suenens, that I referred in my Letter 156 to the guillotine raised aloft as a threat to any recalcitrant Pope. And now, on this May 15, 1969, in the ICI, a review documenting every act of treason, we are presented with an anti-Roman, anti-papist manifesto from Cardinal Suenens demanding that full power should be handed over to the people of God and the episcopal conferences which represent them in order to counter the arbitrary decisions of the Bishop of Rome, and all this… ‘ in line with the Council ’ !
“ Even when Paul VI was marching at their head along the paths of the Reform, they had told him that, should he slow down in any way or show the least hesitation, they would simply trample over his dead body. Re-read the dreadful menaces of Hans Küng quoted in my Letter 206 for Pentecost 1965; and here we now have their realisation.
“ In 1963 it was possible for the Pope to arrest the ecclesiastical revolution opened up by the Council. His authority was in fact sovereign. It was supported by a powerful Curia and recognised by more than two thousand bishops, by the whole of the clergy and by the entirety of the people united in its Catholic faith and its age-old devotion to the head of the Church. But he preferred to flatter the progressivist minority whom he installed everywhere in both the central and local hierarchies. From 1965 this former minority was in complete control and directed ‘ in union with the Pope ’ the Reform of the Church. The guillotine began to operate on a grand scale, decapitating the opposition and causing this great Body to break apart. The Pope is now surrounded by none except sycophants or secret enemies of his power. Elsewhere, rebellion. ”2
THE ANTI-ROMAN MANIFESTO OF CARDINAL SUENENS
Cardinal Suenens, one of the princes of the conciliar Reform, had formerly been greatly honoured by the Pope. On June 23, 1969, two days after his election to the papacy, when Paul VI had appeared for the first time at his window, during the Sunday Angelus, he had been accompanied by Cardinal Suenens who joined him in reciting the prayers and blessing the crowd.
“ This surprising event ”, Fr. de Nantes will recount in July 1969, “ lent substance to the rumours flying around during the conclave : it was said that Italian reformists and integrists had united over Montini’s candidature in order to block the way to the ‘ European ’ candidate, Cardinal Suenens. By honouring him as almost the equal of himself, Paul VI wished to affirm their union and to promise their collaboration in ‘ co-responsibility ’. Papacy and collegiality would tread their conciliar path together, like the pot of earth and the pot of iron in the fable.
“ It was at first a happy journey, highly applauded. The Reform had won out at the Council, and afterwards a new Rome had put it into effect with determination and guile, while the episcopal conferences applied themselves to it with greater boldness and freedom. Cardinal Suenens’ book ‘ Co-responsibility in the Church today ’, published in May 1968, retold this journey and brazenly defined its next stages. The revolution being advocated, he claims and with good cause, follows the spirit, the direction and the movement of Vatican II. Whole pages of its text are quoted by the author and he seeks to unlock their ‘ germs ’, the elements which are latent and implicit in them. In short, he legislates as a reformer, in the name of the Council. In the same vein, he speaks of Paul VI as a comrade in arms and he quotes him more than twenty times in his two-hundred page book. If he pushes the Pope forward and hustles him a little, it is always in reminding him of his own declarations and promises. ” The work of Vatican II and the post-Council is “ a struggle, difficult yet implacable, against the upholders of the old religion. If the Pope were to return to being a prisoner of the integrists, if he were to let himself be dominated by his Curia again, the old soldiers of the Resistance would have to stage a coup to free him ! ”3
Now, in 1968, one of the two companions refused to go forward along the path of the Reform, whilst the other ran ahead. It is true that Paul VI had not renounced his plan of reconciling the Church and the world, but he did not wish to give way to the revolutionaries in everything. Thus Cardinal Suenens’ vaguely protective friendship for Paul VI was transformed into a menacing hostility. “ Paul VI ”, Fr. de Nantes will remark, “ had become an obstacle, the papacy was once again a force of inertia, the enemy. The revolution needed an alternative instrument, one that was dynamic, effective and reliable ; it would have to be the episcopate. Since the Council, a strictly Roman form of Catholicism had been condemned, although sentence had been suspended. Paul VI’s sin of integrism had put him in breach of this understanding… ”4
With the publication of his Manifesto in the Informations catholiques internationales of May 15, 1969, Cardinal Suenens became the leader of the anti-Roman opposition of the European episcopates.
“ He presents himself to world opinion ”, observed Fr. de Nantes, “ as a possible antipope or, if you like, as the pretender to the regency of a constitutional Church, through the means of the IDOC5, that mafia which no one can do anything against and which even seems to dominate Rome. One cannot help thinking of one of those triumvirs who, in 1791 ‘ held the Revolution in their hands6 and, thanks to the magnificent apparatus that they perfected, turned it into that club called the Jacobin club ’ (Bernard Faÿ, La Grande Révolution, p. 229). It is the aristocratic revolution after the royal revolution. But let us read this historian : ‘ Believing they could forge themselves a suitable weapon for attaining power, the triumvirs had created an engine capable of abolishing their environment, their lifestyle, their superiority and themselves, as well as the King. The aristocratic revolution, by misjudging both the sovereign and the people, led straight to civil war, to the revolution of the revolutionaries ’ (p. 323) That is where we are heading.
“ I leave to others the task of narrating the affronts that Léon-Joseph Suenens suffered to his sensibilities and his ambition. He had had his eyes on the post of Secretary of State, but Cardinal Villot was preferred to him ; hence his all too evident disappointment and resentment (read Fesquez, June 10). He had had a brush with the nuncio Oddi who had lucidly remarked on his errors and his shortcomings, and then the latter had been honoured with the cardinal’s purple (read Europe-Magazine, June 10). The Belgian primate, who is neither successful nor loved, sees his prestige undermined and his advantage at Rome compromised. Whence his cold determination to reverse the established order. There is no doubt about it. Among the reformers and revolutionaries, from Calvin to Robespierre, history gives us abundant examples of mediocrities whose destiny fell short of their ambitions, of bitter men whose vexations made them so furious that they wanted to set fire to the society that had disdained them.
“ But this kind of pettiness only takes effect when it expresses itself in terms of doctrinal dissent. Suenens had been with Paul VI in attempting to reconcile the Church and the World, but now that the Pope rejects certain unworthy means, he had decided to press ahead. He is for the pill, Paul VI is against. The rest is in keeping… ”7
In his remarkable analysis of Suenens’ manifesto, published in July 1969, Fr. de Nantes demonstrated that the claim to liberate people from the yoke of Rome concealed a fearsome plan to enslave them. “ His whole books consists of this claim to liberate the People of God from the intolerable control of Rome, but it is all too clear that he intends to crush them immediately under the far worse control of episcopal assemblies ! ” To make the monarchical papacy collegial and parliamentary is to rob it of all its sovereign powers. “ More than anything, the cardinal wants to wrest from the Pope what the Council failed to obtain, namely the participation of the episcopal college in his government and in his supreme magisterium. ” It is on the ruins of the Roman primacy that the cardinal proposes to “ erect (in all freedom) his episcopal omnipotence in order that it may become the centre and summit of the local and national Church. The bishop, in this grand conciliar revolution, makes out that he is the only still standing amid the ruins of all the other authorities, both above and below his own. What stupid pride !
“ Who will come out on top ? Clearly, in the long term, the papacy will once again triumph over the episcopalian party. But in the short term, through the changing fortunes of human conflict, Léon-Joseph Suenens suddenly finds himself victorious over John-Baptist Montini ‘ without the latter having had an opportunity to complain ’ ! In fact, from the day of his election, the Pope has been happy to view himself as no more than a ‘ vase of clay ’ in those very matters where his supreme Magisterium means that he is actually the hardest and strongest metal. Whereas Cardinal Suenens, who is nothing but straw, is depicted as a man of iron by the IDOC. The immense international conspiracy – of which Marty, Suenens, Alfrink and other European primates are no more than puppets on a string – can now boast (well, nearly) of holding the keys of Saint Peter in its hands. ”8
“ PAUL VI NEED ONLY ACT AS THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF ”
The stakes involved in this war against Paul VI and papal primacy and the disastrous consequences of the ruin of the pontifical institution were very lucidly explained by Fr. Georges de Nantes in his account of the conflicts during the Synod of October 1969 :
“ What connection is there between these byzantine discussions on collegiality, co-responsibility, and participation with regard to papal primacy, and the ordinary daily life of the Church ?
“ A connection that is immediate and fundamental. If the antipope Suenens gets his way, the Church will become a new Gomorrha whose bishops, become popular orators and demagogues, will flatter people’s worst instincts, provoking the destructive Anger of God. All this I explained, using Suenens’ own declarations and writings, in the CRC for July. All it needs is a collegial and anonymous soviet government, full of irresponsible commissions and secretariats, and the Church will be ‘ opened up ’ to the aspirations and pressures of the World : the pill, marriage of priests, false catechisms, intercommunion, destruction of diocesan and parish structures, secular and creative liturgies, divorce, revolutionary violence… With the Pope, everything can be saved. With the college, everything will be inevitably and irretrievably lost.
“ Whence the tragic significance of these byzantine debates, continuously given fresh impetus over the last six years in order to promote the idea of a ‘ synodal Church ’ , an ‘ October Revolution ’ , which Father Congar dares not refer to in the fatal context of the massacre at Ekaterinbourg. But whether he thinks about this or not, the same thing is happening today. It is all or nothing. Our mitred bolsheviks will never be satisfied until they see the abdication not just of Paul VI, the Pope of a day, but of the whole papacy. ”
“ Their manoeuvre ”
“ The supporters of collegiality left for the Synod bearing a catalogue of demands, which fall into two parts.
“ Their maximum demand was that the Synod should be recognised as having deliberative power and be constituted as a permanent sovereign body representing the college of bishops and, through them, the People of God, the grass roots. Equipped with this authority to make doctrinal, legislative and judicial decisions, the Synod would have swallowed up and dominated the Pope.
“ The minimum they counted on was to obtain from Paul VI for all practical purposes what he would refuse to concede as a right. Not to share his sovereign authority… but the exercise of it ! There were to be no limits or controls placed on the primacy of the Head… only collaboration, consultations and co-responsibility in the preparatory stage of investigation before every decision ! To use the words of the Count de Chambord, who exposed the manoeuvres of the great liberal dukes and refused to fall in with them, the apparent compromise was to string him up like a sausage. ”
“ The Roman defence ”
“ The temptation was great for the Pope’s party to hold on to the right whilst giving way over the practice. This was the tactic used once again by Paul VI, as could immediately be seen in his opening speech. If you are well-behaved and do not attack our inalienable prerogatives, he told them, we will make new concessions to you to bring about the democratisation we are all hoping for ! So they were all on their best behaviour and, when the prizes were handed round, they received substantial benefits : a promise that the ordinary synod would take place every two years (to say nothing of the extraordinary synods); the strengthening of the Synod’s permanent secretariat in its dealings with the Pope (and its elevation above the Curia); an increase in the number of exchanges, consultations and agreements between Rome and the local Churches ; and finally the solemn recognition of the canonical authority of national and continental episcopal conferences.
“ The Pope will not let himself be tied up. Like the silkworm, he will cocoon himself in his own threads.
“ Retreat of the Papacy, anarchy in the the Church ”
“ Alfrink was happy to win back his already schismatic Holland. Suenens, confident of impunity, insolently declared that Pope was advancing at a walking pace when he should be running. Marty who disputes the fact that the Bishop of Rome should be the head of the Church, after having taken a leading role at the synod, has taken himself off to Lourdes where he and his colleagues intend to accelerate the ‘ revolution ’ in the Church (dixit Matagrin). In 67 we had the falsified Catechism, in 68 the pill, and today the marriage of priests and the collectivisation of the ministry. Tomorrow it will be divorce, intercommunion and violence. They know that the Pope will no longer dare to make practical use of the powers that are still rightfully his. Never again will he issue a Credo or an encyclical without advising them, consulting them and falling into their snares. ”
“ Paul VI’s doctrinal error ”
“ What delivers the Pope into the hands of the enemies of the papacy, who are also his personal friends, is the error that he and they profess as though it were an article of faith. Being a political democrat – there we have the error – he transposes this exaltation of the people in terms of the Church and believes in a spontaneous ‘ communion ’ of the ‘ people of God ’ , called together by the Holy Spirit, as though it were some primary and sovereign mystery – there we have the heresy.
“ From Paul VI to Cardonnel, from Suenens to Hans Küng and Bernard Besret, the carnival Trappist, they all aim to ‘ consider the problems of the Church in terms of communion ’ . Perfection is therefore a first principle, not a final result, of the work of the Magisterium. So what need is there of absolute authority and sovereign decisions ? One has only to give ear to the People whom the Spirit rouses to love and inspires infallibly !
“ It is I, says Paul VI, who will be the Witness to this communion. Behold how I listen to the whole world and congratulate it, how I express that great voice which rises up from the deep masses of humanity. Recognise that my dictatorship is popular ! No, reply the episcopal protesters, it is we who are the best organs to express popular aspirations. Only our parliament will permit that real democracy which your Authority, sullied by its longstanding absolutism, would prevent from functioning properly… So their dispute goes on, and meanwhile the people give themselves up to debauchery and idolatry. ”9
Fr. de Nantes’ opposition to the Pope ran wholly counter to the campaigns of the modernists against the papacy.
When he began to criticise papal teaching in 1964, shortly after the publication of the encyclical Ecclesiam suam, he dealt with the case of a heretical Pope, presenting his readers with a dramatic history that went back to the 7th century, to the time of the Monophysite heresy and the failure of Pope Honorius I. He explained that under the pontificate of Honorius the faith of the Church had clearly been made manifest in the protests of Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem. But, he added, the faith “ nonetheless depended on the authority of Peter, despite his weakness and his compromises, since this authority was the foundation of the whole supernatural life and Catholic unity. ”10
Let us listen to Fr. de Nantes renew his profession of faith in the Roman primacy, during the thick of the modernist contestation, in 1969. Although the daily acts of Paul VI the reformer “ distress me because they demolish the Church stone by stone and give extraordinary strength to subversion, although the general line of his papacy appears to me disastrous, I shall nevertheless continue to profess the entirety of Catholic doctrine regarding the Sovereign Pontiff and to pray for the person of Him who is invested with this fearsome office. It is a difficult position, but one that is perfectly loyal and legitimate. ”11
“ We must say it again, our opposition to the heresy of Paul VI does not have anything in common with the opposition of his friend Suenens to the Sovereign Pontificate, but directly contradicts it. While he dreams of a universal ‘ communion ’ , Paul VI neither safeguards or in any way restores the real communion of the Catholic Church. Under his reign, it is wasting away. It is becoming a Babylon where, amongst a divinised people, authority passes from Demos to Caesar, from the arbitrary rule of one man to the anarchy of all. But it would only need the Pope to be the Pope for the grace of God and the law of the Church to scatter the conspirators and return peace to us. ”12
In 1967, Fr. de Nantes had been disturbed to note that several traditionalists, admittedly isolated, were questioning the authority and legitimacy of Paul VI. For example, Dr Hugo Kellner in the United States declared that he had fallen de facto from the Sovereign Pontificate.
THE CASE OF AN HERETICAL POPE ACCORDING TO CARDINAL JOURNET
In December 1967, Fr. de Nantes dealt in depth with the case of an heretical Pope, taking as his authority Cardinal Journet’s scholarly treatise The Church of the Word Incarnate13. He quoted several passages from this book in his reply to three fundamental questions, and he pointed out with precision those solutions to the case of an heretical Pope that were prudent and reliable, solutions which it will never be necessary for him to abandon.
– Have the faithful the right to contest the validity of a Pope’s election ?
“ Validity and certainty of election. The election may be invalid. But if the universal Church accept it peacefully and unite themselves at the time behind the one elected, submitting to him as their head, this is an act wherein the Church engages her destiny. It is therefore an act which is of itself infallible, and it is immediately recognisable as such. This acceptance by the Church may operate either negatively, as when the election is not immediately contested ; or positively, as when the election is initially accepted by those present and then progressively by others. ” (L’Église du Verbe Incarné, vol. I, p. 624)
“ Holines of the election. These words do not mean that the election of the Pope always occurs as the result of an infallible assistance. Nor that the best candidate is necessarily chosen. They mean that, if the election is carried out validly, even though it should result from regrettable intrigues and interference (and such sins will continue to remain as such before God), then one can be certain that the Holy Spirit – who, over and above the popes, watches over the Church in a special manner, utilising not only the good but also the bad that they might do – wished or at least permitted this election for spiritual ends. ” (ibid., p. 625)
“ Consequently ”, Fr. de Nantes observed, “ no one has today the right to contest or to question the certain validity of the election of His Holiness Paul VI, even though it might appear unfortunate or tainted by intrigues and regrettable preoccupations. ”
Then, in his answer to the two following questions, he went on to quote Cardinal Journet, the friend of Paul VI, at length :
– Have the faithful the right to accuse a Pope of heresy or schism ?
– Must the faithful then consider the Pope as deposed or must they demand his deposition ?
Having set out Cardinal Journet’s teaching, Fr. de Nantes could then conclude :
“ Consequently, according to the most reliable opinion, a heretical or schismatic Pope, or even a Pope who is the prisoner of an occult power, may only lose his supreme Power following a declaratory statement by the Church concluding in his manifest incapacity or rather in his spiritual death. Such an action, should it prove to be just and necessary, prevails over any other consideration and constitutes the highest degree of charity, for the Fish – ICTUS – would rot from the Head downwards if the supreme Function was not removed from a man who was already dead.
“ Therefore, no one at the present time has the right to contest the supreme authority of HH Pope Paul VI. If certain people have solid and indubitable reasons for denouncing some error in his teachings or some fundamental failing in his government – as would be the case if he openly contradicted the doctrine of his Predecessors, or if he ‘ overturned all the traditional rites ’ , or if he yielded to the perverse demands of a party who were secretly blackmailing him14 –, then it is their duty, after mature deliberation and prayer, to bring this accusation before the Church. Initially by warning the Pope himself, and then, through a clear statement of opposition, by appealing to the infallible Magisterium of this same Pope or, failing that, of the Council (ibid., vol. I, p. 627). ‘ Formally ’ , it is to the clergy of Rome, and principally to the cardinal-bishops, the suffragans of the Bishop of Rome, that it belongs to accomplish such a perilous but urgent mission for the protection of the Church. ”15
In this way the theologian of the Catholic Counter-Reformation clearly explained his solution for the case of an heretical Pope16. It had all been said in a few words. In the future, he will never change his teaching on this matter, but he will clarify, explain and justify it on several occasions.
A TRIAL FOR HERESY MUST BE OPENED AGAINST PAUL VI
The promulgation of the new ordo missæ in April 1969 was the occasion for a few rebellious integrists to reveal their sedevacantists convictions. After his visit to Maison Saint-Joseph on July 21, 1969, Fr. Guérard des Lauriers wrote to Fr. de Nantes on August 8 to tell him in particular that his position and his attitude towards Paul VI did not appear to him to be satisfactory. Let us quote this letter :
Belated thanks for your generous hospitality on the evening of July 21.
I was given additional encouragement to write by the fact that I have just received your circular for mid-July.17
This time it is in full knowledge of the case that I can sympathise with you. And as yet I know not the result…
I take the opportunity to congratulate you and to thank you for your firmness in the faith.
There is one point on which I am not sure I understand your position, and on which we perhaps part company. You would like the Pope to recognise that some of his statements are contrary to revealed doctrine. Many of these statements are in fact ambiguous and capable of several interpretations ; in such cases, it is impossible to impute to Cardinal Montini a meaning that is contrary to the Truth without his explicit recognition of the fact.
Under the pen of Fr. Guérard, Paul VI had become a simple cardinal : “ Cardinal Montini ” ! It was only too clear that, for him, Paul VI was not the Pope.
To my mind, however, the question of the Ordo Missæ is rather different, and that for two reasons :
the omission or rather the eviction of the doctrine of the Council of Trent is manifest, indeed self-evident ;
the Pope, in his capacity as a member of the hierarchy, has signed this document. He adheres to what he has signed…
In these circumstances, what might an act of “ admission ” by the Pope involve ? In telling us whether, yes or no, he believes in what he has signed ?… But that seems to speak for itself, unless of course one were to assume some kind of mental illness.
Let us point out that Fr. de Nantes and Fr. Guérard des Lauriers were in disagreement over this matter. According to Fr. de Nantes, the mere presence of Paul VI’s signature on the Institutio generalis did not allow one to declare that the Pope was formally and completely heretical. A few months later, during a controversy with the sedevacantists, Fr. de Nantes will note that it “ is perfectly legitimate to find in Paul VI’s writings an indisputable ‘ revelation ’ of his personal heresy. Such accusations need objective proofs, speeches or writings, and these are the easiest to establish, but there is an even greater need for subjective proofs, of a psychological order, those that relate to the intentions of the heart, and I maintain that in this area, even today, such proofs are totally lacking. ”18
Or else this act would involve recognising that revealed doctrine is in opposition to the Ordo Missæ (for example). Thus, Cardinal Montini would be a heretic or an apostate “ formaliter ”. That is what you want, if I have understood you. In principle, it is perfect.
But in practice, if we accept that Cardinal Montini should be forced to explain himself (before whom ?), he will certainly reply that he in no way intends to deny the Council of Trent… and he will stand by the Ordo Missæ which is the practical negation of the doctrine of Trent. And where will that have got us ?
Fr. de Nantes thought, on the contrary, that such a “ reply ” by the Pope would be a considerable result. By “ explaining himself ” in the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, before the hierarchy, and for the benefit of the faithful, he would be accomplishing an important act in restoring the faith. He would have exercised his sovereign Magisterium.
It will be necessary to explain to Cardinal Montini what he does not understand, or does not wish to understand. In the current state of the Church, the undertaking is doomed to fail.
Alas, Fr. Guérard seemed to have lost his faith in the Roman Church, visible and hierarchical.
Moreover, I observe, dear Father, that you do not wait for the official recognition of Cardinal Montini’s apostasy in order to resist him to his face : in fact you refuse, and rightly so, to subscribe to what he seeks to impose on you. If you were really to take account in practice of the requirements of the principle you have formulated19, you would have to submit, while you waited for the deposition of him who currently remains the pope, officially at least.
Contrary to what Fr. Guérard claimed, it was certainly possible to “ resist ” the Pope and the bishops, to reject their exorbitant demands, without for all that contesting their legitimacy ! As Fr. de Nantes explained, all that was needed was to operate a saving distinction between the sovereign authority (to which one must always submit) of the hierarchy in its apostolic function on the one hand, and the abusive authority of the same Pope and bishops in their new and unacceptable role as reformers on the other hand.20
I think that you are right not to submit, and once again I express my admiration and my gratitude to you for this. But, given these circumstances, I cannot see that you accord real significance to the principle19 (just in itself) which you refer to with so much force.
Please believe, dear Father, in my total devotion and my religious sympathy
Fr. M.-L. Guérard des Lauriers OP
Providentially, in that same summer of 1969, at the very moment when Fr. de Nantes had entered into conflict with those integrists who became sedevacantists, his own trial Rome – a trial for heresy which he had brought against himself for proclaiming the Pope and the Council heretical ! – ended in a denial of justice. As he reviewed the lessons to be learned from this abuse of authority, Fr. de Nantes explained that there was now only one step to be taken to save the very notion of the infallibility of the Magisterium and the supreme reality of the sanctity of the Church.
The “ disqualification ”, an insulting sanction lacking canonical force, revealed the sectarian passion of the reformers and of Paul VI in the first place, a passion which was “ as strong if not stronger than their faith and of a contradictory character ”. Now, “ in the midst of this contradiction, now become blatant, between the faith and the reform, between the law of the Church and the sectarian violence ”, another trial was taking shape : that of Pope Paul VI, a canonical trial, apparently impossible, yet inevitable and inescapable, since it was the only solution that could guarantee some future for the Church.
“ In this new trial ”, explained Fr. de Nantes, “ I am neither the judge nor the accuser. Their only accuser is their conscience ; their only judge is the magisterium. I am simply the plaintiff, acting as the advocate for the victims of the violence of this reform which has made the life of the whole Christian people hell for the last five years.
“ In keeping with his tactics, the Pope has affirmed the Catholic faith with precision and vigour on certain fundamental points ; on several questions he has taken decisions of a preservative nature. But error is not condemned any longer, and the new heresiarchs have not been chased out of the Church, where in fact they holds positions of pre-eminence. Even if his personal faith is intact, the Magisterium of the Pope and consequently that of the bishops as well has effectively been obliterated.
“ Could it be that Pope Paul VI is a heretic and has fallen from office ?
“ It is to such agonising questions that we are reduced by the deliberate insufficiency, celebrated as a new virtue, of Roman Power : might it be that the personal faith of Paul VI is not materially sound nor formally convinced ? Such a suspicion was inconceivable under the reign of his predecessors whose policing of the Church’s faith required that they were strictly faithful to it themselves. But for a Pope not to condemn any error, however grave it may be, nor to repress any heresy, leads one to ask whether it is possible for him to fail in this absolute duty of his office simply through weakness or cowardice. Might not there be in him some affinity with error, some inclination to heresy, some intimate sense of companionship with the heresiarchs who are his chosen friends ?
“ It is well known – the Notification of August 9 informed the whole world of it and that is a good thing – that I have pointed out a number of heretical themes in the words and actions of Paul VI. I then went on to formulate the gravest hypothesis : is is not the case that these material errors, so often affirmed and repeated, and this openly displayed sympathy for the falsifiers of dogmas and Catholic morals, find their necessary and sufficient explanation in a mentality, an inclination of mind that is plainly heretical, one that that has long been associated with John-Baptist Montini ? This seems to be beyond dispute. But one still needs to know whether there has ever been a confrontation in his soul and his conscience between this doctrinal vice, this turn of mind on one side and the theological virtue of the faith on the other, a confrontation that would require that one of them be definitively sacrificed to the other, or whether they continue to co-exist, for want of authoritative reproof, in the confusion of a multi-faceted mind and a heart given over to successive displays of sincerity. The uncertainty of the Church over the real position of the Pope’s soul is the worst of evils and one that it is essential to resolve.
“ Protected as he is today against our lone criticisms by both the conservatives and the reformists, benefiting from the general credulity of the faithful who accord the Pope an unlimited infallibility, Paul VI has until now been able to play the double game of the Catholic faith and the Masdu revolution. But the Church cannot support such negligence for long ; her need of the papacy’s sovereign Magisterium is too great. On the other hand, this incoherence, this rhetorical duplicity, have caused too much anarchy for the heresiarchs not to seek to go beyond the Pope and egg him on still further. Whereas he has still not been sufficiently attacked on the right (alas) to be forced to mend his ways or resign, Paul VI must now undergo the attacks of the left who are only too eager to destroy the papacy in the person of its too feeble and unsteady representative.
“ The left wing of the Church wages its subversion without regard to the person of the Pope to whom it owes everything. In Le Monde for August 12 (the very paper which published the Notification against me !), Hans Küng justified Cardinal Suenens for having criticised the Pope ! He wrote :
“ ‘ Karl Rahner has explained, in support of the Belgian primate and with convincing and refreshing clarity, that public criticism can be legitimate, if not necessary, even with regard to the Pope. Cardinal Suenens has no need to apologise for the perfect Catholic orthodoxy of his doctrine and behaviour. His historic interview belongs to that great tradition of loyal and fraternal public criticism addressed to the Holy See, as exercised by Paul with regard to Peter, Jerome to Damasus, Bernard of Clairvaux to Eugene III, Bridget of Sweden to Gregory XI, Philip of Neri to Clement VIII, and so with Catherine of Sienna, Bernardine of Sienna, Thomas More, Robert Bellarmine and other canonised saints. ’
“ Küng fails to point out that the saints did not attack (to use the facile terms of Suenens) the ‘ motor ’ of the Church but the ‘ chauffeur ’ who was guilty of bad driving. The Cardinal, who describes himself as a friend of the ‘ chauffeur ’ , wishes to sell off the ‘ motor ’ , that is the papacy. Father Congar comes to the rescue, once more putting his erudition in the service of subversion. There he is, agitating ‘ an ecclesiological problem that remains unresolved ’ : the problem of the ‘ communion ’ of the Pope and the people of God, a problem which the disturbing ‘ monarchism ’ of Vatican I rendered insoluble apparently and which Vatican II failed to settle.
“ ‘ Can a Pope be heretical ? ’ he writes in La Croix for September 19. ‘ There is a certain thesis which has no practical application – and I hope that it never will have – but which, as an academic theory, is essential for indicating the truth of everything that can be said or thought concerning the Church. I am referring to that which, for many centuries, has been known as the thesis of the possibility of an heretical or schismatic Pope, about which Catholic tradition is absolutely in agreement – I only know of one exception : a theologian from Louvain, in the sixth century, whose position was not accepted by anyone. Today, this thesis is still upheld or can be or, in my opinion, should be. So what is its relevance ? There have been heretical Popes. In the sixth century, Pope Vigilius21, although not descending into formal heresy, was weak enough to stretch out his hand to that Christological heresy called Monothelism, which was condemned by the Council of Constantinople. For seven or eight centuries, his successors, when acceding to the papacy, used to swear a profession of faith anathematizing their predecessor.21 I could quote other examples. But the important thing here is not that this actually happened, but that one should hold this thesis as a borderline thesis. Its relevance is that it puts the Pope inside the Church : he must profess the faith of the Church and, from this point of view, he is in no way above the Church, but inside the Church. If, through some misfortune, he were to hold a heresy, he would ipso facto leave the Church and would therefore no longer be Pope. That, moreover, is the answer given by the canonists or theologians to this question : the primary see cannot be judged by anyone ; however, if a Pope is heretical, he must be deposed. How ? For no one is able to judge him. If the Pope is heretical, then ipso facto he is no longer the Pope. So, when one judges him, one is no longer judging the Pope. Isn’t that a neat solution ? ’
“ It is execrable ! Once again Father Congar demonstrates his inability to bring any difficulty reasoning to its doctrinal or pastoral conclusion. There only remains his opportune suggestion to the antipope Suenens of an easy way to crack Paul VI’s resistance : this threat of deposing him or simply abandoning him on the pretext of heresy, true or alleged it matters little ! ”22
The solution adopted by Father Congar was precisely that which the integrist extremists had adopted : a heretic, they said, is spiritually dead and ceases to belong to the Church by the very fact of his heresy. As it is well known that the Pope has fallen into heresy, it is equally certain that he ceased to be Pope from that very moment.
Fr. de Nantes was hostile to this thesis. Let us read his criticism of it : “ Now that it is no longer a merely theoretical possibility but a dramatic reality, it is difficult to maintain that an heretical Pope ceases ipso facto to be pope. The integrists who claim this consider Paul VI and the majority of the bishops united to him to have fallen from office on account of manifest heresy : the Church would therefore be without pastors… One will shortly hear the same anarchical language on the left, where the rejection by the entire ‘ people of God ’ of Paul VI’s doctrinal decisions will appear sufficient reason to declare him heretical and deposed from office. This subjectivism, this private judgement is intolerable and must be rejected in horror by all serious theologians as well as by the faithful. The visible, fragile and marvellous apostolic succession, to which the unity of the Church is bound, cannot survive this anarchy.
“ We must affirm that Paul VI is still the true and legitimate Pope. If he is also a heretic, then the Church, who cannot tolerate heresy – even less so in her head than in her members –, must make this duplicity unbearable for him. Either the heresy must ripen and fall off the tree, or else Paul VI, preferring this heresy to his faith, must be cut off from the visible body of the Church… but legally.
“ Let us deal first with the ripening of the heresy. For this to happen, there must be a clear declaration, by someone sufficiently capable and courageous, of his public errors in religious matters. As soon as this happens, the Suenens-Küng-Congar contestation will find itself demolished, for it lists among the errors of Paul VI those very teachings where he shows himself loyal to the Catholic faith ! We, on the other hand, can and must draw up a list of the errors of Paul VI. The next phase, incumbent on those members of the teaching Church who still remain sound, will require that He who holds so firmly to such errors should be suspected of heresy. For, properly speaking, heresy is the proclivity to error of an unsatisfied mind, a mind infected by the virus of criticism. It is for the integrist bishops to declare that the current and manifest errors of Paul VI reveal a disturbing and unacceptable inclination to what is novel, erroneous and heretical.
“ Then let a decision be taken. The next thing required is a trial. I maintain that it is possible for an heretical tendency to co-exist in a person’s mind with the theological virtue of faith and even with charity… at least until he has been given firm notice to quit such indecision and to resolve in one way or another the contradiction he is indulging in. For anyone other than the Sovereign Pontiff, this is the decisive role of the Inquisition and the coercive power, which condemn error and then constrain its author to choose between it and the faith, between belonging to the Church and the heresy which excludes one from her. But with the Pope, this must be the role, not of the Council since there is no Council without the Pope and certainly not in opposition to the Pope, but of the Roman clergy, mysteriously associated with the privilege of the Holy See’s indefectibility, which makes the Church of Rome the Mother and Mistress, Mater et Magistra, of the whole Catholic Church.
“ In this month of October 1969, we are still standing about in indecision because the Roman clergy, who lack neither the understanding nor the higher graces, lack courage. This atrocious, this scandalous, this culpable defection by ‘ the minority ’ gives error such an aspect of generality and plausibility that even extreme and manifest heresy remains ‘ occult ’ as the theologians say – in other words, unperceived. Not that it is hidden, it stares you in the face ! Not that it is done unconsciously, no… it simply has the impudence to pass itself off as the truth ! While things remain thus – re-read the chapter in the treatises of theology on the occult heresy of bishops – we will have to maintain that our current Pastors retain their full and entire jurisdiction over the Christian people. It is a power without grace, without spiritual fruitfulness and without pastoral effectiveness, as is all too easily seen ! But it is the legitimate power. There is no other. There is no alternative opposition party. Pope Paul VI is still pope and our bishops are still bishops, even though both he and they act as poisoned poisoners, in their confused and darkened souls…
“ These matters must be resolved. Father Congar decreed that there is no solution ! Well, of course there is ! Listen to Saint Bernard warning Innocent II23 : ‘ Who will give me justice against you ? If I had a judge before whom I could bring you, I would already have shown him what you deserve. There if of course the tribunal of Christ, but far be it from me to think of calling you there !… Therefore, it is to him who has been given the power to judge here and now the whole of Christendom that I have recourse. I appeal to you about yourself, asking you to pronounce between you and me. ’ (Ep 213).23 Ever since the First Vatican Council the solution is clear, but Suenens-Küng-Congar fear it more than anything else : it is an appeal to pontifical infallibility. If the Roman clergy address a formal reprimand to the Sovereign Pontiff and formulate a threat of deposition against him, it will not end in an impasse : so let the Pope judge himself ! Pressed to resolve the ambiguity and the apparent incoherence of his personal theories, he will have to make a sovereign decision, either alone or in a Council presided over by himself, and put an end to this extraordinary process. Whether it be Paul VI or his successor, either by himself or through the very much needed Vatican III, he will have to put the dubious legacy of this so-called Reform in the weighing scales. If the solemn Magisterium raises, ex cathedra, these novel and debatable theories to the rank of irreformable dogmas, then no one will have any choice but to submit to them, to adhere to them with all their heart and to repair the wrong inflicted on the Church by every unjustified criticism. But if the Magisterium, despite its desire to act in this way, should be prevented from doing so or if, as I am convinced, it should not dare to do so, then it is it that will be obliged, under the threat of being banned from the Church, to give up maintaining these strange opinions in public and to cease appearing to impose them on the Church as revealed doctrine. In one way or the other, the Church will be delivered from Heresy.
“ Failing this normal solution, God will provide for the infallibility of His Church Himself. Either by extraordinary chastisements, accidents, war or revolutions, as happened with Pope Innocent II.24 Or else by the ordinary chastisements that afflict men on account of their sins. Paul VI having personally failed in matters of doctrine, perhaps another will rise up against him in the name of an even greater heresy. Or maybe there will be two popes, or even three, or a moment will come when there is no pope at all. Only God knows. But throughout this period we will hold on to the Catholic faith of all time, and we will try to keep the eyes of our faith wide open in order discern where lies the apostolic succession, more precious than anything to our Roman Catholic souls. Despite his material errors, his heretical mentality and perhaps even his improbable ‘ spiritual death ’ , Paul VI remains, both today and tomorrow, the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Saint Peter administering, admittedly without fruit, the Church of God. ”25
PAUL VI A SCHISMATIC ?
As the theologians of the Holy Office had not identified any error in his writings and as his doctrinal trial had ended in a denial of justice in August 1969, Fr. de Nantes felt justified in developing and intensifying his opposition to Paul VI. With the added authority given him by this doctrinal examination of his writings, from which he had emerged victorious, he would now go on to accuse Paul VI publicly and vigorously not only of heresy but also of schism. Let us read what he wrote :
“ Heresy is a vice of the mind inspired by pride and directly contrary to the faith. When it finds a welcome in Rome, at its very summit, it is an appalling catastrophe. It is then that diabolical error, through this specious but effective appearance of authority, casts its spell over souls and precipitates them en masse into perdition. Heresy cannot continue without schism, but it is often schism which precedes and gives rise to heresy.
“ Schism is a sin of the heart, a certain hatred of the Church directly opposed to the virtue of charity. The tear of schism is painful enough when a people, supported by their bishops, revolt and break off relations with Rome. But the scourge is far worse when the schismatics refuse to separate or to declare their true position, seeking in this way to control the unity of the Church and to arrogate membership of the Church to themselves alone. Then, partisan hatred spills over into the very source of charity, the Catholic communion is coloured by sectarianism, and ecclesiastical society is no longer the sacrament of the love of God and neighbour inherited from Jesus Christ. If such a schism were to be prolonged, it would spell the end of the marvel of the Mystical Body, so good to all, so lovable, so open and attractive, in a word… Catholic !
“ Schism normally manifests itself by its open rebellion against the Pope and the body of bishops united to him. But, at a deeper level, it is an aversion to the historical, traditional and concrete society of the Church, and a detestation of the better part of the faithful who welcome and defend its patrimony. It is a secret but implacable hatred for a certain past of the Church and a certain portion of her people. The love which the schismatic prides himself on is not directed towards the Church or her Pastors as such. It is not the product of grace ; it merely usurps the name of charity. It is a sectarian passion, the expression of a private choice and an exclusivity which are neither Catholic nor Christian, but natural and violent.
“ Before the Reform was launched and proclaimed urbi et orbi, there was no division at the heart of the Church. The hierarchy exercised its teaching and judicial authority with a true charity, which made no distinction between persons. The Church limited her proscriptions to error and public crime, and it was only with reluctance and regret that she would cut off her corrupt members who were corrupting others in their turn. Schism still existed – latently – but it remained on the periphery. It was found in the secret society of the modernists, hell-bent on the destruction of Catholicism such as it has been fashioned by the Councils of Trent and Vatican I ; this formidable sect gradually invaded the very highest levels of the hierarchy. It was also found among the Christian Democrats who sought to identify the Gospel with their political ideology and so greatly detested their brother Catholics for their opposing views that they excommunicated them as pagans, in 1926, and even went so far – in collaboration with their brothers in democracy, the Stalinist communists – as to torture them and shoot them en masse, in 1944. But the muffled sectarianism of the former and the submachine-gun bursts of the latter, this face of hatred and religious hypocrisy, the worst there can be, were not the doing of Apostolic Power. That unique Catholic charity, whose inextinguishable source and living rule are located in Rome, remained a stranger to these passions and continued to exercise its influence over these warring brothers.
“ But ever since the hideous conciliar battle from which the traditionalist ‘ minority ’ emerged vanquished and the revolutionary party victorious, schism has become an institution in the so-called reformed Church. Their very formulas proclaim the schism. The Church ? yes, but conciliar. Catholic ? yes, but reformist. Tradition ? yes, but critical. The Catholic communion has been broken by the conciliar scission. All those changes, which might have been introduced peacefully into the Church, were affected by a coefficient of pure passion and by a sectarian intolerance, which turned them into so many occasions of division and unworthy persecution. The soutane, the Latin Mass, Communion received kneeling, the old catechism, scholastic theology, etc., are the object of suspicion, contempt and hatred !
“ This sectarianism dates back to Paul VI, who flaunts it in his decisions and acts, a sectarianism that is both theoretical and practical, affective and administrative. Along with the clique he has installed in power, it is the trump card of the Reform, and everyone there reigns an atmosphere of ‘ Liberation ’ , that is to say vengeance and oppression. The new law, brought in to replace the old abhorred legalism, is an exercise of implacable discrimination between those of the majority and those of the minority, between the reformists or those who have been recycled and the traditionalists. It leads to the latter being loathed, spied on and practically excommunicated, while the former are praised, promoted, showered with benefits and protected, even if they commit the most scandalous offences and crimes.
“ Instituted by Paul VI and extended to every level of the Church, even the most lowly, this cold, calculated and implacable sectarianism has crushed every opposition and stifled every freedom. It is the triumph of the modernist sect and the democrat party. But the usual effects of tyrannical regimes of so-called ‘ popular democracy ’ are all too visible. So we see party solidarity, fear, hypocrisy, the caving in of the cowardly and the reign of the ambitious – a frightening caricature of charity. The social fabric of the Church has for some time now been corrupted and destroyed. We are in the times of Robespierre and his Terror. The only equivalent to this pursuit of the integrists by the postconciliar clergy that I can see is the extermination of the ‘ counter-revolutionaries ’ in the countries behind the iron curtain. But the sectarian will always find someone more sectarian than himself. He who reigns through schism will perish through schism. That is simple justice…
“ No one but Paul VI, in the current centralised state of the Church, can shoulder responsibility for this collective detestation of the past and this marked hostility to the men of tradition. His predecessors sometimes had their preferences and their coteries, their narrow-mindedness and their injustice, but they never made them into a dogma or a law of the Church. Paul VI’s sectarianism presents itself as the expression of a new and marvellous charity, whereas it is nothing but a counterfeit. Is not a formal intention of schism apparent in this ?
“ The hypothesis of a schismatic pope, although at first sight inconceivable and self-contradictory, is still a classical one in theology, based as it is on the principle of the defectibility of the Pastors in their government of the Church. It is true that schism normally manifests itself through a break with the Pope, since it usually defines a heresy. However, just as the Pope’s personal opinions may be in contradiction with the sacred doctrine of the Magisterium, so in the same way he may come to hate and shirk his responsibilities, acting on mere caprice and in accordance with his aversion, like a father who abandons his children or a steward the care of the estate or an heir his legacy. It is a vice that flies in the face of nature, but it is a vice that is found in man ! Such would be the case with a pope who would interest himself in everything except the interests of his Church, who would detest the real Church and love merely a certain idea of the Church of the future, a chimera which would make him more the friend of heretics and schismatics than of Catholics ; a pope who would be driven by boredom to destroy all the rites, institutions and age-old customs of the Church, who would contradict all the decrees of his predecessors and make endless unnecessary innovations. Imagine a pope who would use his prestige, his influence and even his authority, not for the common good of the Church, but for the advancement of other religions and sects, for the development of technology and culture… a pope who was an expert in humanity, passionate about the cult of man, rather than a Doctor of the faith, who was the servant of the world and no longer the Servant of the servants of God. Such a pope would be a schismatic and would thus effect his own excommunication. ”26
Were the claims and demands of the modernists, who have been in a state of rebellion since the publication of the encyclical Humanae vitae and the proclamation of the Credo, to have the unfortunate effect of forcing Paul VI to deny this teaching and to break once and for all with Catholicism, then he would topple over into “ formal schism ”.
“ Unlike heresy, ‘ schism at the summit ’ or ‘ revolution sanctioned by authority ’ means that those who oppose it lack any form of recourse. In this domain of hierarchical government, no judgement can ever be infallible. The Sovereign Pontiff’s decisions themselves are not secured by divine assistance against practical error, injustice and partiality. ”26
SINCE THE DEFINITION OF PAPAL INFALLIBILITY,
THERE HAS BEEN A MODERN SOLUTION TO THE CASE OF AN HERETICAL POPE
During a dinner debate on January 30, 1970, organised by l’Union des intellectuels independants, Fr. de Nantes, when questioned about his opposition to Paul VI, was able to explain why the various solutions to the case of an heretical pope envisaged by the theologians of the sixteenth century seemed to him impracticable, misleading and outdated after the dogma of papal infallibility had been proclaimed at the First Vatican Council.
Let us slip between the guests at that dinner and listen to Fr. de Nantes replying to some of the questions put to him that evening :
“ According to Fr. Victor Berto, the Pope is the Sovereign Pontiff because he is the Bishop of Rome and not the other way round. What does Fr. de Nantes think ? ”
“ That is correct. Besides, it would be very surprising if one could catch the late lamented Canon Berto out in error. This truth, which is constitutive of the Roman Church, makes a nonsense of the collegialist demand for a presidential election of the Pope by all the bishops in the world. For why, in that case, should the newly elected pope not remain in his own episcopal see, in Sydney or New York or somewhere else, rather than come to Rome ? The whole thing is quite aberrant. The Church was entrusted to Peter and his successors. As the Bishop of Rome, Peter bequeathed his Sovereign Power to those who should succeed him in his episcopal office ; it is the Roman clergy, therefore, who normally proceed with the election of their Bishop. That is why the cardinals are assigned a particular Roman church, and this is more than just a legal fiction. It is in this way that they become members of the Roman clergy. And it is on this basis that they proceed to elect the Bishop of Rome who is, by law and by virtue of his episcopal office, the Sovereign Pontiff and Head of the whole Church. ”
“ Is there a canonical method of deposing the Pope ? If so, how would it work in practice ? ”
“ A difficult question, but one that has its place in every serious handbook of theology. It is not a question of ‘ deposing ’ a Pope whose behaviour is scandalous. In such a case the only recourse we would have would be to God, and we could do no more than bring a complaint before Him about His vicar, patiently of course. Rather it concerns the even more anguishing problem of a Pope who is a formal heretic or schismatic, a state of soul quite incompatible with membership of the Church and hence with the papal ministry.
“ When theology considers the question of a schismatic or heretical Pope – and this case is well known in theology – it is evident that it treats of the teaching of the Pope as a private doctor, in other words teaching that is not covered by formal infallibility. This situation can arise because, according to the doctrine of the Church, neither Pope nor Council are at all times and in all things infallible, and in those very matters where they are fallible it can sometimes happen that they fall into error. So what is to be done when this deviation from truth, despite private and subsequently public remonstrance, is accompanied by obstinacy ?
“ It is obviously not by chance that this question is frequently debated today. But I consider it deeply regrettable that present day theologians are still clinging to the doubtful positions of their far-off predecessors in the sixteenth century. For one of the two solutions they proposed seems to me to be quite untenable today, despite its apparent simplicity. Here it is, the first of these two solutions :
“ Papa haereticus depositus est, a heretical – or schismatic – pope is ipso facto deposed, because heresy and schism lead to a veritable spiritual death. Back in the good times of the Counter-Reformation when Saint Robert Bellarmine upheld this theory, everyone could clearly distinguish the Catholic faith from error. Picturing to themselves a Pope embracing some heresy or rejecting, say, some canon of the Council of Trent, the theologians of those days declared that such evident waywardness would immediately involve the excommunication of the erring Pope. The horror provoked by such a crime would be evidence enough of the infallible sentence irrevocably brought against him by the Church. All the cardinals would have to do would be to confirm his downfall and elect his successor. Those were the happy days of ‘ dogmatism ’ and ‘ legalism ’ – that is, of order.
“ But what neither Suarez nor Bellarmine, nor anyone else for that matter, could have foreseen, is that a time would come when evolutionism and subjectivism would spread such darkness in people’s minds that it would be impossible for them to immediately identify heresy, particularly in the private doctrines of a pope. Given the current confusion, in which protestant private judgement is further complicated by modernist immanentism, if we were to accept this solution, anyone might declare the Pope a heretic according to his own private whim and conclude that, as far as his own direction was concerned, there was no longer any pope. Thus Pius XII of Humanae Generis would no longer have been the Pope for Teilhard, Lubac and Congar, whilst John XIII of Pacem in terris would have ceased to be Pope for another category of the faithful and John XIII of Veterum Sapientia for the enemies of Latin. And so on ad infinitum ! Once the Pope is argued over like this, the writing is on the wall for the papacy and we would be the most unhappy of men.
“ Papa haereticus deponendus est, a heretical Pope should be deposed. This is the second solution, the one proposed by Cardinal Cajetan and others. In our twentieth century, where truth and error appear to be horribly confused with each other in almost everyone’s minds, it is the only viable solution, however difficult it may be in practice. It requires that the Church and more precisely those closest to the Pope, namely the Roman clergy, warn him, seek essential clarifications from him, remonstrate with him, and finally give him notice that he must either relinquish his heresy or leave the Church should he fail to amend himself. This process of deposition, which may have appeared inconclusive in times past, has received decisive clarification from Vatican I. Having been given notice to justify the strange novelty of his teachings, the Pope – as we now know since the proclamation of his infallibility – can do so in such a way that no one has the right to contest these teachings. Should he do so, then this will be the proof that God is behind him. Should he wish to do so and then die suddenly, or should he refuse to make use of his sovereign authority, then this will be the proof of his heresy. His deposition would then follow, not through any judgement, for no one may judge the Pope, but through the recognition of his prevarication, through his deposition and the election of his successor. None of this is inconceivable.
“ Let us take an example. I reproach Paul VI for stating and seriously holding that world peace is possible because all men are fundamentally good. I maintain that Sacred Scripture and the dogmatic teaching of the Church compel one to say that such an affirmation is heretical. Am I therefore going to content myself with declaring that the Pope is dead and that there is no longer any Pope in Rome ? That would make of me a fine protestant, a frightful anarchist ! I have a very sure conviction of his error, but I could be wrong or I may have misunderstood him. Am I going to keep quiet ? Having reached a certain degree of certitude, I no longer have the right to do this. I must therefore ask for clarification, then proceed to open criticism, braving and even provoking disciplinary sanctions in order to constrain the hierarchy to study this dispute and to give a sovereign decision on it. Finally – and I cut short the description of this long process which will inevitably capture the attention of the whole Church –, finally the Pope will have to settle the matter in a sovereign way. The Church waits for him to take this final step. If he should solemnly define his personal theory, which is that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, to be revealed doctrine, then I would have no choice but to bow my head and to repent before God and before men of my error and my insolence. But my mind is at rest on this point. He will not want to do this ! He will never be able to go so far in contradicting and anathematising the words of Christ : ‘ Without Me you can do nothing. ’ He will therefore be forced at last to declare that he renounces his naturalist optimism or else it will be the Church who renounces him.
“ Let us take a converse example. On the subject of the pill, Fr. Oraison very off-handedly stated that the Pope was caught between his fidelity to the teaching of his predecessors and the discoveries of science, the demands of public opinion and the requirements of the modern world. It is true that Paul VI was ‘ caught ’ . He wanted to authorise the pill, as he confided to Pastor Boegner. But at that very moment, Oraison’s opposite number in Germany, Hans Küng, was telling everyone that, in authorising the pill, Paul VI would inevitably have to recognise that his predecessors had made a mistake in a dogmatic matter. That would be the end of the myth of infallibility, said this imprudent man ! The result was that Paul found himself caught in a very different manner from that which Oraison was hoping for : to say Yes to the pill would be to destroy the authority of the papacy and therefore his own, to the point of putting himself outside the Church. He had to say No in order to continue the sovereign ministry which had been placed in his charge. With an aching heart, it seems, he said No, whilst allowing Yes to be spread throughout the world…
“ You can see that we are slaves of no one. As men who are free in our faith, we have the right and the duty to demand that our leaders respect this faith, no matter how highly placed they are. To enlighten us, to defend themselves and to sanction us, they possess all the necessary powers. The final judgement to the final appeal belongs to them, not to us. But should they fail in this duty, should they own their guilt in this way, then the Church will have to continue her divine office of truth without them, after having declared them departed from her bosom, cast out and stripped of their functions. So let no one say : Fr. de Nantes criticises the Pope, this poor Pope who cannot defend himself. The Pope can defend himself ! And he must do so in order that the truth may triumph. Let him take sanctions against us but let him at least reply, as Jean Madiran wrote. That is what I told them at Rome : I submit to the sovereign Magisterium, provided that it is exercised. ”27 (Applause)
“ MAY GOD GIVE US A GOOD CATHOLIC POPE
BEFORE THREE YEARS ARE UP ! ”
While apostasy was eating away at the faithful, who were weary of so many reforms, aberrations and acts of impiety, Fr. de Nantes continued to denounce the falsehood of the following proposition : The people get the leaders they deserve. On the contrary, he wrote, “ it is a proven fact that the people are what their leaders make them, and the flock is only as good as its shepherd ”28.
In January 1970, under the heading “ May God give us a good Catholic Pope before three years are up ”, he presented a very realistic analysis of the crisis in the Church. He set out its distinctive features, he explained the reasons for its extreme gravity and he brought out the truly novel and unique character of the appalling devastation of the Church. This is what he wrote :
“ The crisis through which the Church is passing is undoubtedly the gravest in her history, and one of the aspects of its gravity is that it is precisely this fact that is contested. We are told : the Church has experienced many dramas, persecutions and internal conflicts, and look, from all of them she has emerged stronger and more beautiful ; so have no fear ! To which I reply : that is true, dear friend, but I would ask you to notice two details. During these convulsions, from Arianism to Protestantism, philosophism and modernism, the saints, both pastors and doctors of the Church, took a tragic view of the situation and often repeated that the times of the Great Apostasy and the end of the world had come upon them. And if the Church emerged victorious from these former dangers, it was always by means of the prayers, penances, preaching and combat of these same saints, even at the price of their lives, and not by means of the reassuring speeches of so-called good Catholics only too happy to fall back on Christ’s promises in order to spare themselves any anxiety or distress.
“ Well, in imitation perhaps of the pessimism of the saints, I maintain that the current crisis is without precedent.
“ Is that because all the dogmas of our faith and all the principles of Christian morality have come under attack, as happened in the sixteenth century during the times of Lutheranism ? Is it because every canonical and liturgical institution has been overturned, and the Church has been thrown headlong into a radical Reform, as happened before at the infamous Synod of Pistoia… which resembles Vatican II like a brother ? No, it is not here that we find the gravest aspect of the crisis. Is it because man – no longer receptive to the truth if it comes from outside of him or from above, be it from objects, human authority or Divine Revelation – is busy creating himself from his own inner convictions, setting himself up as the sovereign rule of truth and goodness, the author of his own faith and his own worship, as modernism did at the beginning of this century ? Is it because humanism is being substituted for Christianity in the Church ? Again no.
“ The absolutely novel and singular character of the crisis we are passing through has as its material foundation the extraordinary technical development of the means of transport, communication, information and control, which give the holders of power unprecedented possibilities for exercising pressure and social oppression. And it consists in the fact that the controls of this formidable apparatus have been taken over by men who have decided on a sudden, artificial and total mutation of human society, which is entirely under their control. In this way ‘ Reform ’ and ‘ Revolution ’ have become the sovereign and absolute principles of a global and universal oppression, knowing no limits or checks.
“ All the other crises drew two or more parties up against each other. The party of the innovators formed itself into a hierarchy to confront and fight the other party, and each had his own sovereign place. As there were no newspapers, telephones, aeroplanes or centralised organisations, at least the monks, at least the missionaries retained the freedom to be themselves, faithful to their Catholic faith and at peace in their isolation, whilst the world, even the world of the Emperors and the Popes, tumbled into folly. Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis, the Cross stands firm while the world revolves. Today, the oppression is everywhere the same and it penetrates even into the cloister and the desert, just like electricity, without losing any of its power.
“ All this we have seen, and we see it still, in politics. But nowadays, ever since the death of Pius XII, one and the same revolution is sweeping the spiritual away with the temporal… The immense peril to souls has never been so overpowering, so implacable. Catholics no longer have the freedom to remain such. Even the saints of the Holy Church no longer have permission to be saints. Whether it be achieved through obedience, seduction or force, one is required to be modern, reformed and reformist. This collective tyranny ‘ in the Name of the Lord ’ , now universal and global, is precisely the sign of the Great Apostasy referred to in Saint John’s Apocalypse. It leads one to think that the Man of Iniquity, this Lord of the world whom Msgr. Benson imagined emerging from the depths of the cold countries, is going to appear at the very centre and summit of the Church, clothed in the mantle of Christ to mislead the elect themselves, if that were possible.
“ Today, Paul VI is implacably imposing the march of his Reform on the whole world. Although he is free to oppose this Reform, he has willingly made himself its slave and is pitilessly subjugating the whole Church to it. Therefore, there will be no restoration or deliverance for the Church except in the measure that he will change or be changed. May God grant this grace to His Church so that the Gates of Hell may not prevail.
“ Before three years are up. ”29
What was the reason for this deadline ? It was this : the tenth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II was to be celebrated in three years’ time, in October 1972. Now, it was most certainly from the day this disastrous Council opened, on October 11, 1962, that the Pope and the bishops had abstained from exercising their sovereign Magisterium and had taken pride in misusing their authority and assuming a new, subversive and unacceptable role, that of reformers of the Church. Fr. de Nantes therefore addressed an ardent supplication to God, Lord of Heaven and earth, that the eclipse of the infallible Magisterium might not be prolonged beyond a decade.
“ TO DEMAND THE DEPOSITION OF POPE PAUL VI
IS TO SERVE THE CHURCH AND HONOUR THE PAPACY ”
During 1970, Fr. de Nantes proceeded with a campaign – which was nothing less than extraordinary – to obtain “ the deposition of Pope Paul VI by the rightful authorities, after due remonstrance and acknowledgement of his persistent betrayal of his duties and his office ”30. In November, he published a dossier containing articles by different authors, including the exegete André Feuillet, Fr. Dulac, and the historian Harald Zimmermann who had made a study of the depositions of Popes in the Middle Ages. All these documents took their place in a demonstration that sought to establish the possibility and the legality of a procedure for deposing Pope Paul VI.
“ History, therefore, provides solid testimony ”, remarked Fr. de Nantes, “ to the fact that it can be legitimate to demand the deposition or discharge of a Pope who is a notorious for heresy, apostasy or simony (or… drugged ?). It is no less certain that a formal procedure is absolutely necessary and that this must be conducted by an ecclesiastical assembly, one in which the Roman clergy predominate. The only additional principle emerging from subsequent developments in dogmatic theology is that such an assembly cannot in any sense be regarded as being ‘ above the Pope ’ and that it is not entitled to pronounce upon doctrinal matters in opposition to the Pope. Such an assembly forces the Pope in person to declare himself, openly and unambiguously, to be either a faithful Catholic or a heretic, schismatic or apostate. The Pope makes his declaration and it is he who administers his own sentence against himself, the assembly being merely the witness and executor of this. ”
And he went on to state, a few lines later, “ that it is high time, in this autumn of 1970, to remind the clergy of Rome and especially the cardinals of their prerogatives and of their duty of remonstrance and coercion, in order that they may check the doctrinal and pastoral excesses of Paul VI ; and then to encourage the most solid defenders of the faith to threaten the Pope with an ecclesiastical assembly, legally convoked and constituted, which would have the right to force him to reply to the accusations made against him. If no cardinal, no monk, no priest or distinguished servant of God should dare to come forward ‘ to uphold the accusation in the capacity of probator et testis legitimus ’ , Fr. N., who has been publicly saying for the last six years that ‘ this Pope is heretical ’ , will himself come forward, unworthy though he be, to uphold the accusation of heresy and practical apostasy, and it will be the Roman clergy’s task to force the Pope to reply clearly and definitively to this accusation, under threat of excommunication and dismissal. To bring about the deposition of a Pope who, in the very words used recently by Pope Paul VI to describe himself, is ‘ incapable and unworthy ’, is to serve the Church and to honour the papacy more highly than ever. ”31
The concluding part of this dossier drawn up by Fr. de Nantes was placed under an impressive, if not frightening, title : “ … Paul the Apostate ? ”
“ My God, my God, give me the courage to go through with this to the end. And grant Thy Church that there may be found holy doctors and pontiffs to take up this necessary task of deposing Pope Paul !
“ If the Pope is a heretic, the answer is not to leave the Church, but to chase him out of it.
“ Every accusation against Paul VI will bear first and foremost on a crime that is public, incontestable and permanent : this Pope takes no sanctions and he obstinately refuses to combat the heresy, schism, sacrilege that are openly committed, perpetrated and professed by numerous and high-ranking members of the hierarchy. Likewise, he lets himself be treated as a heretic, either himself or his direct subordinates, without doing anything except to lift his arms towards heaven32 and simply waiting for his accusers to depart in desperation from a Church which despises them on this point. None of the modern principles he invokes or can invoke will excuse him for evading the essential duties of his sovereign Authority. There is no longer any unshakeable Catholic faith, there is no longer any assured worship, there is no longer any justice in the Church when the Pope refuses to exercise his triple Magistrature and when he prevents any other bishop or prelate from exercising it in his place. That such a defaulter should continue to occupy the Holy See is a disorder which the Church must remedy. The See of Peter is not vacant. Worse than this, it is legitimately occupied by a man who refuses to take up its functions. The way to remedy this unacceptable inertia by Authority is for the Roman clergy to summon Paul VI to act as Pope or to be declared ineffectual and deposed by the Church.
“ The pure (or I would dare to say ‘ abstract ’ ) religion of Paul VI is not in question. His religion, in every domain of our faith in the transcendent Mysteries and of our personal worship, is the same as ours. But despite all his incense bearers, it appears that Paul VI does not have any real piety, or else he conceals it well. For the demonstrable truth of the matter is that, in all that concerns this pure religion in the daily and universal life of the Church, he displays a deadly indifference. His feverish preoccupations, his passion, his grandiose projects lie elsewhere. Ever since that time – during and in the immediate wake of the Council – when novelties entered the Church wearing the label aggiornamento,we have seen him absolutely indifferent to the subversion of the faith, even if it has gone against his own private convictions. Souls are being lost… but he does not seem to be at all concerned, since he only has a theoretical belief in hell, certainly not a practical belief.
“ This indifference over the essential could be indicted, in accordance with ancient terminology, on three general counts :
“ Simony : because it is the price he must pay to maintain his popularity with all the progressivist circles and even among the worst enemies of the Church. Take the time, for example, when he dared to proclaim before UNO that religious liberty was a universally recognised dogma, even while the Council was still discussing it as a dubious novelty. On that day, the Pope’s faith served as a bargaining counter for his admission to the judeo-masonic assembly at Manhattan, a simoniacal contract if ever there was one !
“ Invasion : because the inviolable domain of divine religion has been invaded, occupied and ravaged, more violently every day, through the preoccupations of diplomacy and the wholly human reasoning of politics. We have reached the point where even the Pater and the very Words of the Eucharistic celebration are changed to please heretics and schismatics. And so it goes with all the rest…
“ Perjury : inasmuch as the cardinals who elected him, the people and the Roman clergy who acclaimed him, and the entire Church who accepted him as the legitimate Pope, heard him, in private and in public, make sworn protestations of fidelity to the constant discipline and traditional faith of the Church, promises which have never been kept. One remembers how Pope Paul, in the preface of his Credo, declared that he would put all his energies into defending this Catholic faith which he was proclaiming before the whole world. And not only did he not defend it, but on a hundred occasions he contradicted it in practice and trampled it underfoot himself. ”
Fr. de Nantes then came to the chief indictment : apostasy.
“ The reason for all this disorder and – to take up the central theme of the teaching of the Prophets – the idolatry which causes this spiritual adultery, is not to be found in the abstract religion of Paul VI, but in his applied religion : his political messianism, his Masdu. Prescinding from his hypothetical faith and personal devotion, in the more concrete area of the temporal life of modern humanity the Pope has built himself an ideology, a ‘ mysticism ’ , which is extraordinarily structured, powerful, invasive and all-consuming. His plan involves an all-encompassing renewal of the human condition, a kind of ‘ salvation ’ that is new and definitive, or a ‘ liberation ’ that is a hundred times more real and radical than the Redemption effected by Christ’s Church over the last two thousand years. ‘ Paul-outside-the-walls ’ , as Fr. Congar aptly and with much satisfaction described him, has little by little enclosed himself in this dream, this utopia, outside the walls of ancient Christendom. To this Tower of Babel, whose foundations stretch from Manhattan to Jerusalem to Peking, he is prepared to sacrifice everything, absolutely everything, quite ruthlessly – save on those occasions when he is pulled up short by the Holy Spirit. Faith, morality and Catholic worship must give way before this humanitarian, cosmopolitan and futuristic ‘ mysticism ’ , as do means towards their end. And likewise the Church must devote herself to the service of this World, the material and cultural development of which will procure for men that ‘ Supreme Good ’ , Peace.
“ Well, it is absolutely intolerable that the Pope, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, should be so entirely absorbed, indeed consumed, by a political fantasy and should sacrifice to it – in all his thoughts and speeches, in every major decision throughout made over the months and years – the religion of God whose supreme and absolute representative he is on this earth. Because there will come a moment when this political ‘ mysticism ’ will replace the true one, when this heresy, passionately lived out and extolled, will occupy every vital and sovereign position previously occupied by the divine faith. Once the latter has been suppressed, the former will become absolute master. Such is the apostasy of Pope Paul.
“ When the trial of Pope Paul for heresy is initiated tomorrow, his Message for the twenty-fifth anniversary of UNO (Documentation catholique, October 18) which repeats – and aggravates even to blasphemy – the errors of the Discourse to that same assembly on October 4, 1965 and the errors of the Encyclicals Ecclesiam suam and Populorum progressio, will constitute sufficient evidence in itself to convict him. If this is the true and sincere Credo of Paul VI, the Church will have no choice but to declare him anathema. For myself, I would wish to be delivered up to the Malediction of God if this Masdu-Message is not the work of Antichrist.
“ You tremble at my audacity ? This is because you are afraid that the whole Church will follow her Head along this ‘ March towards Mao33, the eye fixed on a fantasy ’ . Consider then the shrieks from the dance hall at Saint-Laurent34… Laurence, the martyr burned over the spit… what a sign of the times ! ‘ There was no explosion. But the conflagration was such that everyone was utterly astonished. ’ If the Church follows the Apostate, such will be the chastisement of the world. ”35
It is stupefying that a Pope could have allowed a full member of the Catholic clergy to rise up against him and vehemently demand his deposition – and that without any reaction on his part. After the ‘ disqualification ’ of August 9, 1969, which disqualified none but its Author who was guilty of an abuse of power, the theologian of the Catholic Counter-Reformation will spend several years developing this campaign to change public opinion, and Paul VI will pretend to ignore it ! The accuser of the Pope will not be summoned before an ecclesiastical tribunal, either in his diocese or in Rome ; he will not be sanctioned or even threatened with excommunication. It is an astonishing fact, quite extraordinary and without precedent in the whole of the Church’s history. We will have to draw the necessary lessons from this.36
THE POLITICAL FAITH OF PAUL VI
This campaign to obtain the deposition of the Holy Father was made all the more impressive by the fact that Fr. de Nantes backed it up with a severe criticism of his teachings and his “ prophetic ” actions. The theologian of the Catholic Counter-Reformation penetrated right into the heart of the Pope’s thinking.
Let us draw attention to some of his vigorous denunciations of Paul VI’s doctrine and pastoral teaching.
In July 1969, Fr. de Nantes ran the headline : “ H.H. Paul VI at Geneva : head of the Church or expert in Masdu ? ”37 Let us retain just one single sentence from this article. It exposes the complete impiety of the Pope in visiting the International Organisation of Work and the World Council of Churches : “ Paul VI, forgetful of his faith and neglecting his apostolic function, is going to proclaim the supreme benefit of judeo-masonic humanitarianism and to lay the foundations for collaborating with 234 other ‘ Churches ’ (sic) in the evangelical animation of the great modern Babylon. ”37
One month later, Fr. de Nantes began to draw up an assessment of the Pope’s “ pilgrimage ” in Uganda : “ As in all his other voyages – even at Fatima and certainly at Manhattan and Geneva – piety and the true cult of God have once again given way to human passions. It was nothing but a celebration of the cult of man, an exaltation by the ‘ white Marabout ’ of negritude and the construction of a new Africa, liberated and prosperous. “ Our Father forcefully protested against Paul VI’s misrepresentation of the witness of the martyrs of Uganda : “ Anglicans and Catholics (Muslims even !)… are all these victims of the massacres to be venerated under the Catholic term ‘ martyrs ’ ? And how are we going to define their martyrdom except by breathing the heresy of Vatican II : ‘ Your martyrs, all of them Christians, have given their life for their faith, in other words for their religion and for the liberty of conscience ’ ? ”38
At the beginning of the new year, in January 1970, Fr. de Nantes published in full Paul VI’s new message for peace, accompanied by a commentary which highlighted for the reader the apostasy of a Pope whose discourse was “ neither Catholic, nor Christian, but quasi masonic ”39 !
Certainly, Fr. de Nantes accepted the “ Apostolic Benediction ” given by the Holy Father at the end of his message : “ I dismiss my rage, I put my holy indignation against these unworthy thoughts and words in parentheses, in order to accept as a faithful Catholic the Benediction of Christ imparted by the Pope. It is not I who split my life into two parts, separating my faith from my politics ; it is he. My soul is at peace.
“ But it occurs to me, as I bow my head before his apostolic benediction, that if this man is still Pope, it is because no one in the Church has challenged his satanic speeches in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Judge of tomorrow. ”39
At last, in January and February 1971, under the title “ The religion of the Pope ”, Fr. de Nantes dealt with Paul VI’s ideology, his “ political faith ”, by analysing a large number of his speeches. Then in August 1971, he published the full text of the Letter on the Sillon (August 25, 1910) by Pope Saint Pius X, presented in a parallel arrangement with quotations from the speeches, letters and encyclicals of Paul VI.40 The contradiction between the two sets of teaching struck one between the eyes. It was a dazzling confirmation of the justice of his previous demonstrations. He concluded by drawing out the full lesson to be learned from this absolute opposition between the religion of Saint Pius X and the political utopia of Paul VI : “ Pius X was canonised primarily for the purity of his doctrine and his strength of soul in defending the Catholic faith. He remains the great doctor of the faith in the twentieth century. Therefore Paul VI will one day be declared anathema principally on account of his already condemned Masdu utopia. He is the great corrupter of the Church in the twentieth century. ”40
“ YOU MUST FOLLOW PAUL VI, UNLESS… ”
Fr. de Nantes knew that he could never win over to his combat the mass of Catholics who respected the legitimate authorities as a matter of principle and submitted themselves unconditionally to the Pope and the Council.41 When he explained to such members of the faithful his counter-reformist opposition, he did not preach rebellion to them or urge them to enlist themselves in his combat. Nevertheless, he justified this combat, as he knew that some of his audience or readership could be sufficiently enlightened thereby to make it a duty in conscience for them to associate themselves with it.
Let us listen to him replying to one of the questions put to him during the dinner-debate on January 30, 1970 :
“ To what extent is it useful to criticise the actions of the Pope, even if they are apparently contradictory ? Is he not the sign of unity ? Did not the saints suffer and obey their often unjust superiors ? ”
“ To give a proper reply to this, I would have to expound a whole theory of obedience.42 It is true that the saints did suffer and obey their often unjust superiors. As long as the orders of our superiors go against our personal opinions or our private interests, we have a duty to submit to them, whatever this obedience may cost us. The case of Galileo is typical. The salvation of souls was not in any way involved in this question of the sun turning around the earth or the other way around – I know nothing about any of this and forget which is the correct system (laughter). It has no bearing on eternal life. The question was one that could wait. Galileo’s duty therefore was to submit and keep quiet ; that is all they were asking of him. If on the other hand it is a question of those sacred objects that surpass all fallible human authority, such as the defined truths of our faith, the clear-cut demands of charity or the divine law, then human commands which go against these have no value. Catholic theology as well as the natural moral law teach that we have the duty – not the freedom, but the duty – to protest. Should our superiors state some error against the faith, then we must try and recall them to the truth, at first discreetly and then, if they fail to take any notice, publicly. We must defend the truth with the same publicity that they have given to the error.
“ You will say to me : even so, by making public attacks on the Pope, you are undermining the Holy See, the supreme Authority, which you claim to be defending ! Well, I recall a conversation on the metro, some twenty years ago, with my friend Henri Boegner, a teacher of philosophy and a convert from Protestantism. He said to me : ‘ It was the resistance shown by the Catholics of Action française to their condemnation in 1926 that made me decide to become a Catholic. I had been brought up to believe that Catholics accepted everything that came from the Pope – one thing one day, and its opposite the next. That seemed to me an abdication of intelligence which I could not accept. When I saw this large number of practising Catholics maintain their loyalty to the Pope, remain within the Church, and yet reject this unjust sanction and publicly justify their refusal, I began to understand what Catholic obedience meant, and it was then that I left for Solesmes to ask to be received into the Church. ’ With emotion I replied : ‘ My father and my mother were amongst those Catholics. ’
“ You will see from this that a certain type of criticism is not merely necessary but useful, fruitful and holy. Contrary to what you might think – but then you are not all professional historians – many saints unfortunately earned their haloes by standing up against the errors of their superiors, bishops or even popes. But this is not to say that such criticism necessarily leads to canonisation ! ”43
When people said to him : “ I prefer to follow the Pope and the bishops rather than a rebel priest ”, Fr. de Nantes would usually answer : “ You have a thousand reasons to do so ! If neither your faith nor your conscience clearly contradict this line of action, you must obey and follow the Pope and your bishop. But if one day your moral conscience should rise up against the teachings and directives of your Pastors, you would have to clarify your conscience. And if, having done this, you should note that your thoughts and feelings lie with the Church of all times and all countries rather than with the innovators of today, be they Pope or bishops, then you would have a duty to rally to the Counter-Reformation. To act thus would be to obey God.
“ For we reject the heretical novelties, from whatever source they come, but ultimately we remain Catholics who submit to the bishops and the Pope in their infallible Magisterium and their just government of souls. ”44
So, on the one hand, Fr. de Nantes was misunderstood by the submissive integrists who tended to attribute to the Pope an absolute infallibility, a total indefectibility, in short a complete impeccability, thus setting him alongside or even above the Apostles. Whereas, on the other hand, he was actively opposed to the rebels who denied any legitimacy to Paul VI and the bishops.
During the dinner-debate on January 30, 1970 at Lutetia, a clerk of the Paris court declared to him :
“ Since the death of the great Pope Pius XII, I feel we no longer have any pastors. Let us not speak of our modern bishops. ”
“ Well, Monsieur ”, our Father replied, “ I am very sorry to tell you that you have lost the Catholic faith ! Do you clearly understand this ? Anyone who truly believes that for the past ten years there has been no Pope and no bishops and that the Church came to an end with the death of Pius XII… anyone who no longer goes to Mass because, so he says, he wants to keep his Catholic faith intact, has in fact already lost it ! It is sad, but true ! For the hierarchical Church will endure to the end of the world. That is a dogma. And it does not refer to some invisible continuity, through a small band of ‘ faithful ’ priests and laymen (the rest presumably being ‘ unfaithful ’ ?) who keep themselves apart and stay at home while the visible Church continues elsewhere. The Church persists in the uninterrupted succession of legitimate Popes and bishops in communion with them. Whether or not we happen to like these Popes and these bishops, whether their conduct is good or bad – annoying or even catastrophic though this may be –, this remains a secondary consideration. If their perversities offend against faith or charity, then one does not obey them in those matters. But that is not a reason for saying that the Church does not exist any longer. We believe in the Roman Church, which is immortal, and in her hierarchy carried on by visible men, to whom we remain obedient in all that is honest. ”45
Since the promulgation of the new ordo missae, these objections against the hierarchical Church were not limited to certain wayward members of the laity. A number of priests and theologians had in fact set themselves up as their ringleaders and were claiming that Paul VI and the bishops had fallen de facto from their office. Fr. de Nantes had therefore to witness the gradual and increasing “ desertion of the good, scattering in a hundred and one different kinds of revolt whose common characteristic was to reject, not just the Reform of the Church, but the visible Church herself ”46.He reminded his friends that “ tactics, success, effectiveness, unity and charity itself were nothing but odious façades once divorced from Catholic truth. To be good and to do good one must first belong to the truth. It is only through the discipline of the Church that unity will be preserved. ”46
In these circumstances, Fr. de Nantes will not be content to urge his readers to model their behaviour on a “ supernatural wisdom ”47. He will do more. In the spring of 1970, in order to keep the traditionalists more securely in the bosom of the Church, he will found a movement : the League of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.
All references to the CRC journal relate to the original French edition.
1. Humanæ vitæ will be so greatly disparaged that Paul VI will not publish any more encyclicals throughout the whole of his pontificate.
2. CRC no 21, June 1969, p. 1-2, extracts.
3. CRC no 22, July 1969, p. 3.
4. CRC no 22, July 1969, p. 3.
5. In 1968, the revolt of the two pressure groups that had been active during the Council was an event of considerable importance. As Fr. de Nantes will remark in 1969, “ The group made up of theologians united around the review Consiliumand claimed for itself a total independence from any kind of sovereign Magisterium established on the ruins of the Holy Office. The group made up of journalists organised itself on an international basis under the cover of the Dutch IDOC and immediately assumed such power that Paul VI has this year had to back down in fear on several matters concerning the faith. Nothing to surprise us here : these two pressure groups had made common cause during the Council and had given the Pope and the bishops decisive support against the minority who alone maintained total orthodoxy. Having had them as their accomplices, the Pope and the bishops are now their prisoners. ” (CRC no 16, p. 6)
6. This refers to Adrien Duport and the two brothers of Lameth.
7. CRC no 22, July 1969, p. 3.
8. CRC no 22, July 1969, p. 3-4, extracts.
9. CRC no 26, November 1969, p. 2.
10. Letter to my friendsno 188, November 12, 1964.
11. CRC no 21, June 1969, p. 1.
12. CRC no 26, November 1969, p. 2.
13. L’Église du Verbe Incarné, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, volume I, 770 pages ; volume II, 1393 pages. The first volume appeared in 1941 and, on the advice of one of his masters, “ the incomparable friend ” (Cf. Mémoires et Récits, vol. II, p. 363-384), Fr. de Nantes read it shortly after its publication, while he was pursuing his studies at the seminary of Issy-les-Moulineaux.
14. It was for a very precise reason that Fr. de Nantes raised this last possibility, which was to be remarked on, not by the majority of his readers, but by the supreme Authority itself. On this subject, see below, p. 339.
15. CRC no 3, December 1967, p. 8.
16. In December 1967, Fr. de Nantes’ trial at the Holy Office had been opened. The consultors responsible for conducting it and the Pope himself were therefore aware of the conclusions that Fr. de Nantes had drawn from the teachings of Cardinal Journet. And they had no objections to make. In its notification of 9 August 1969, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith mentioned Fr. de Nantes’ appeal to the Roman clergy. The Sacred Congregation deplored it, but it issued no judgement on the matter. In fact it gave no dogmatic verdict at all on the canonical possibility and validity of a Pope’s deposition by the Roman clergy. Cf. For the ChurchII, p. 350.
17. Fr. de Nantes had probably sent Fr. Guérard the text of his reply to Cardinal Seper’s ultimatum dated 16 July 1969 (cf. For the Church II, p. 344 ff) as well as his confidential letter of 16 July (cf. For the ChurchII, p. 362)
18. CRC no 41, February 1971, p. 11.
19. The principle that Fr. de Nantes had referred to was this : it is an error and an offence to commit schism by declaring that the Pope is no longer the head of the Church or by acting as if he were not.
20. Cf. for example Fr. de Nantes’ reply to Cardinal Seper, in the form of a “ Profession of Catholic faith ”, dated July 16, 1969; For the ChurchII, p. 344-349.
21. Congar confused Popes Vigilius and Honorius. Fr. de Nantes pointed this out in this same edition of the Catholic Counter-Reformation(no 25, p. 15). It was not Pope Vigilius, but Honorius I whom a Council (the 6th Ecumenical Council) and another Pope (Leo II) anathematised at the request of Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem.
22. CRC no 25, October 1969, p. 3-7, extracts.
23. Innocent II was put to the test from the beginning of his pontificate, since his election in Febuary 1130 was immediately contested. After the Pierleoni faction had set Anacletus II up against him, Innocent II was forced to flee Rome. The schism of Anacletus II will only end in May 1138, a few months after the death of this antipope. Furthermore, the last years of Innocent II’s pontificate († September 24, 1143) will be darkened by other disturbances and rebellions.
It is worth mentioning that the doctrine of Innocent II was orthodox in every point. Saint Bernard’s remonstrance to the Pope concerned an affair that was purely disciplinary and had nothing in common with the reasons that will lead Fr. de Nantes to oppose Paul VI. After the schism was extinguished, Innocent II condemned the former supporters of Anacletus II with great severity during the Lateran Council in April 1139. It was then that Saint Bernard wrote to Innocent II to protest against the deposition of Peter of Pisa, who had made his submission in 1137. Here are some extracts from this letter :
“ Who will give me justice against you ? If I had a judge before whom I could bring you, I would already have shown him what you deserve. There if of course the tribunal of Christ, but far be it from me to think of calling you there ; I would wish to defend you there if I could and if you then had need of me. Therefore, it is to him who has been given the power to judge here and now the whole of Christendom that I have recourse. I appeal to you about yourself, asking you to pronounce between you and me. In what way, I ask you, has your servant shown himself unworthy of Your Paternity, to the point of being branded as a traitor ? Had you not done me the honour of delegating me in your name to work for the reconciliation of Peter of Pisa, in case God should deign to use me to pull him back from the abyss of schism ? If you deny this, I shall find in the court of Rome as many witnesses to the truth of what I claim as there were people present at the time. Is it not in execution of your orders that he was re-established in his rank and dignity ? Today, therefore, I ask myself by whose counsel, or rather through what seduction, you have come to revoke what you had granted and to betray your promise like this ? If I speak thus, it is not that I have any quarrel with the apostolic firmness for which you are distinguished, nor for the ardent zeal animating you against schism. But is it necessary to be equally harsh against faults of a lesser nature, and to take the same sanctions against those who abandoned their sin as as against whose sin abandoned them first ? ” (Ep. 213)
Saint Bernard therefore thought that those who had abandoned their schism before the death of Anacletus should not be treated with the same severity as those who had retained their attachment to the antipope right up to the end.
24. On Innocent II, cf. supra, page 118, note 1.
25. CRC no 25, October 1969, p. 8-9, extracts.
26. CRC no 25, October 1969, p. 9-12, extracts.
27. CRC no 30, March 1970, p. 6-8, extracts.
28. CRC no 36, September 1970, p. 5.
29. CRC no 28, January 1970, p. 1, extracts.
30. CRC no 36, September 1970, p. 6.
31. CRC no 38, November 1970, p. 6.
32. In the introduction to this dossier “ Concerning Pope… Paul the Apostate ”, Fr. de Nantes had provided some detailed information on this subject. He was in fact aware that a French bishop had mentioned his opposition to the Reform during a meeting with the Pope shortly before the end of the Council : “ One day in 1965, Cardinal Marty, the Archbishop of Rheims, was chatting with the seminarians. One of them asked him what one should make of Fr. de Nantes who was attracting much attention to himself. ‘ Ah ! I was speaking with the Pope only the other week about him, and I told him what a nuisance this man was to us and what an obstacle he was to the progress of the conciliar reform. Paul VI raised his arms towards heaven and said : How can he say : the Pope is a heretic ! ’ ” CRC no 38, November 1970, p. 3.
33. In this same edition of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, one might read an article that appeared in the journal Aurorefor 30 October 1970, entitled : “ The secret wish of Paul VI : to negotiate peace with Mao ”. Its author, Philippe Bernert, showed how Paul VI, since the very first years of his pontificate, had tried to establish relations with Mao. “ On December 4, at Hong Kong ”, he concluded, “ the head of Christendom and the leader of Red China will not be shaking hands, but they will greet each other halfway. ” Quoted in CRC no 38, November 1970, p. 9.
34. Alluding to the dramatic fire at the dance hall of Saint-Laurent-du-Pont, which broke out on November 1, 1970, causing one hundred and forty-five deaths.
35. CRC no 38, November 1970, p. 7-8.
36. Cf. infra, chapter 6 and 7.
37. CRC no 22, July 1969, p. 12.
38. CRC no 23, August 1969, p. 3-6, extracts.
39. CRC no 28, January 1970, p. 5-6.
40. CRC no 47, August 1971, p. 1-13.
41. Cf. The religion of the Pope ; a letter from Fr. Richard, CRC no 42, March 1971, p. 3-10.
42. Cf. Letter to my friends no 169, April 11, 1964. For the Church vol II, p. 42 ff.
43. Quoted in CRC no 30, March 1970, p. 5.
44. Account of the dinner-debate of February 3, 1970 at Lutetia, CRC no 54, March 1972, p. 5.
45. CRC no 29, February 1970, p. 10.
46. CRC no 38, November 1970, p. 2.
47. CRC no 31, April 1970, p. 1.