Georges de Nantes.
The Mystical Doctor of the Catholic Faith.
19. TO PREPARE THE CATHOLIC RENAISSANCE (1974-1977)
Between those who wanted to reform the Church – which is a veritable sacrilege, for the Church is holy! – and those who claimed that they were going to save her – she, who is our salvation! – Fr. de Nantes led his followers along a ‘high ground,’ beset with perils, admittedly, but admirably secure. He warned them against two attitudes: the false tranquillity of right-thinking people and the exasperation of the disgruntled and incensed.
“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 so many tragedies, 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. Moreover, if the Church had emerged victorious from these former dangers, it was always by means of the prayers, penances, preaching and combats 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.” 1
So much for the worldly, and now for the disgruntled:
“My God, My Father, a distant friend wants me to complain to You. About whom? About Yourself, yes, about You, Sovereign Lord and Master, because of the lamentable state in which You leave Your Church […]. ‘Come,’ the unknown friend shouts to me, ‘look this way, curse this Church, thunder forth against this corrupt Rome!’
“How can I curse whom God has not cursed? Yes, I see her, our Mother Church, from the summit of the hills. I look at her, planted in the middle of the desert. Here is a people that God has chosen, set apart, and that cannot be compared to any other people. The age-old and forever youthful Church is magnificent in my eyes. She forges saints, gives life to the souls of the poor and is a sincere refuge in times of distress. Her celestial bread converts sinners and her mystical wine arouses love in the hearts of virgins…”
Our Father wrote this modern application of the oracle of Balaam, “the man whose eye is true” (Nb 24:3), in September 1970 in a pure act of faith, when there was nothing to suggest a recovery of the Church, for “man sees the outward appearance and gets worried but God looks into the heart where the flame of love is still burning. He will punish, but He will raise her up; He will smite and she, the unique Spouse of the eternal Saviour, will be purified.” 2
THE REBUILDING OF A CITY HALF IN RUINS.
We saw that in 1973, in view of the denial of justice that the authorities committed against him, Fr. de Nantes appealed to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. This ultimate recourse would not remain unanswered. In 1978, through a series of providential events, Our Lady of Fatima sent “a new Saint Pius X without knowing it”, in the person of John Paul I, this “Bishop dressed in White” whom She had announced in a vision to Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta on July 13, 1917. She, however, did not wait until this far off date to inspire our Father with the courage to undertake the great toil required to “restore all things in Christ,” in the crucified Christ, and to rebuild the “large city half in ruins” by means of the written and spoken word.
“I make a very clear distinction,” wrote Saint Pius X to the Bishop of Cremona, “between the ‘modern,’ the fruit of serious study and diligent research, and Modernism […], an error more lethal than that of Luther’s, because it seeks the destruction not only of the Church, but of Christianity itself.”
Being a disciple of saint Pius X, Fr. de Nantes approached novelties with an open mind: “As for me,” he would recount, “one fine morning I opened the Dutch Catechism. Very soon I was enthralled. Of course, I stumbled against the same points as the Roman theologians – I only noticed this later on – but I was captivated by this modern human perspective, this intelligence, both speculative and practical, which leaps out at one on every page, both in its theological and spiritual content as well as in its skilfully adapted pastoral form. I almost had to make an effort to tear myself away from the fascination of pages 334 onwards. It is there that one comes across the ruin of the essential Christian Mystery, that of our Redemption. I pursued my reading with growing horror for this magnificent intellectual instrument for the perversion of souls, so dangerous that I myself had been enthralled by it.” 3
It can be said that each of the eleven constitutions of the Second Vatican Council gave Fr. de Nantes, who did not let himself be overawed by the authority that the Council claimed to have to impose its perverse doctrines, the opportunity to make an equally objective analysis. That is why he not only detected and denounced the seeds of heresy, schism and scandal at work in these constitutions, bringing to light the “post-conciliar” subversion that resulted from them, but he also applied himself, through a new dogmatic exposition of all the controversial points, to devising masterful pastoral counterpropositions. He thus explained the providential meaning of this unprecedented trial: Vatican III will be able to “defeat at long last the hydra of the first Lutheran Reformation (1517) and that of the second Modernist Reformation (1907).”
Only this victory would make a Catholic renaissance possible, under the leadership of another Saint Pius X: “Expiation will come now in this world or the next, God knows. When the time has come, however, Saint Pius X will be back again, and through his intercession, his example and his doctrine, the Church will once more flourish.” 4
AN INTELLIGENT TRADITIONALISM.
In the autumn of 1975, at the end of an outstanding series of conferences on ‘The Great Crises of the Church,’ Fr. de Nantes drew some conclusions from them that opened the way for future reconciliations. It would not be consonant with Paul VI’s dream of “reconciling Christians” by “disregarding old quarrels, or reconciling the three great monotheisms with a view to a Judeo-Islamo-Christian communion, or reconciling all men of goodwill irrespective of religions, races and parties. By merging into one, the Churches would reconcile all religions, and they together would reconcile the world, thus becoming its unique spiritual and cultural leader.” 5
In rejecting this Satanic caricature of God’s plan, our Father followed in the footsteps of the saints who, throughout the history of the Church, were both intrepid defenders of the pure Catholic Faith and reconcilers “who tirelessly resewed the fabric of the Church, healed wounds, avoided rents, which were two fine complementary preoccupations! […] They were haunted by filial and fraternal communion, by the laborious reconciliation to be obtained through comparing viewpoints and relating various languages. These are very topical themes.” 6
The lesson to be drawn from these controversies from the past is that the heretical fever is to be avoided just as much as integrist sectarianism:
“In the Church, an innovator or a progressivist is always a rationalist who bends the Faith to the demands of his logic. He is a naturalist who debases the splendours of divine grace to the level of human psychology.” In doing so, he gains the protection of the worldly, but produces neither miracle, nor heroism, nor holiness. He also incurs the opposition of the integrists, the defenders of the Faith. “It is the sense of scandal and horror at the proud innovation that rouses them against the heretics. They want to protect the most precious gift in the world – the Faith, the deposit of the Faith!”
Let them stay on their guard however! “Let the integrists beware lest, having waged a just war against the Modernist heresy, they find themselves excommunicated and in schism when the Church – without them, regardless of them, and even perhaps against them – will already have rediscovered her peace and unity, far removed from their prejudices.” 7
Only an intelligent “traditionalism” that shuns heresiarchs, rejects all liberalism and is wary of integrism bears good fruits.
“The first is already manifest in many places, even though it is considered by some as treason and evil. It consists in the communion which the traditionalists maintain at all costs with other Catholics in the parish, in the diocese, in the Church, refusing to confuse the Church with its cancer; refusing to reject them both as though they were inextricable; refusing to confuse the entire faithful with their lying pastors; refusing to confuse the entire hierarchy with its chief, who alone is absolutely responsible before God and the Church.
“The second result will only appear later. It will be the recuperation of the faithful masses following the Counter-Reformation decisions of a future Pope and a future Council. It will be a recuperation made all the more rapid and complete by virtue of our never having been separated from them by unjust anathemas [...].
“The third and best fruit to expect from a wise, intelligent traditionalism will be of a doctrinal, moral, liturgical and canonical order. I hesitate even to mention this moment when a feverish agitation of integrists is at its height! All through this wicked reformation with its train of errors and vices, the immense Church of God has never ceased to exist and consequently to adapt herself to suit the times and their requirements, to prosper and increase through the labour of her humble workers endowed with many gifts: theologians, apostles and missionaries. The cancer is there but invisibly the organism is fighting back and developing for its own survival. It is foolish to claim that there can be a return, pure and simple, to the Church of the 1930’s [or of 1962]. I say often that one day it will be seen that the pioneers of the Counter-Reformation were, by God’s grace, the true Reformers and bold creators of tomorrow’s Church, during these times of struggle, without having striven after this honour – but simply because of their living fidelity. The greatest saints of the 16th century Counter-Reformation prepared the way and started that admirable and entirely new Catholic Reformation of the 17th century.
“Today, however, we still have to tear and root the cancer out of the heart of the Church: Paul VI’s Masdu, Vatican II’s Cult of Man, Modernism and Progressivism. The heresiarchs and schismatics must be driven out of their entrenched positions within the Vatican from whence they hold the Church in subjection. Let them be anathematised, and as soon as possible! Once the Body has been freed, however, it will have to be stitched up, healed and nursed. Then will be the time for another wonderful, consoling, joyful fidelity, that of Catholic rebirth and restoration.” 8
“HELP, DEAR CONFRERE!” 9
Alas! Few traditionalists were able to understand this lesson, although it radiated truth in a loving, unwavering loyalty to the Catholic communion. A large number of them, exasperated by post-conciliar anarchy, preferred to turn their eyes towards Archbishop Lefebvre and pin their hopes on his work. There were a few exceptions, for example, Fr. Henri Saey. In autumn 1974, this friend from Montreal persuaded our Father to come to Canada to explain his “high ground” to the priests and faithful who were disconcerted by the liturgical reform, in order to forearm them the integrist temptation. Our Father was so well understood that a Counter-Reformation movement was created in French Canada.
From this first visit, we have his moving Way of the Cross that our Father wrote and preached for the first time in ‘Saint Raphael’s chapel’ near Shawinigan. 10 It alone suffices to bear witness to the piety and profundity of the soul of its author.
Unfortunately, a few months later Archbishop Lefebvre, then Fr. Barbara, came in turn to Quebec to revive the quarrel concerning the validity of the new Mass. What our Father had wanted to avoid took place: traditionalist priests and members of the faithful rallied the Bishop of Écône.
Our Father alone continued to affirm the Catholic truth. Thus, on August 6, 1975, he wrote to our Canadian friends:
“Every Mass that is said in the Church by a priest who has been legitimately ordained according to an accepted rite, being seriously aware that he is saying Mass, is valid and licit […]. The CCR, in this critical circumstance, will not be an element of division. It will only ask its members to shun fanaticism, sectarianism and intransigence where our Catholic Faith does not impose them absolutely […]. Be intransigent on doctrine but remain tolerant and truly fraternal with other Catholics! 11
On the same day, our Father confided to his friends in France the moral anguish that he had suffered before succeeding in defining so clearly his position on Paul VI’s Mass.
“Should I admit it? Of course. Why should I conceal my weaknesses from you? These last few days I have experienced great lassitude. Not so long ago I had confided to a friend that it sufficed for me to meditate on the first words of the Our Father to be freed of all anguish and all worries. Well, I have had to go even further, and often as far as forgive us our trespasses as we forgive… and even as far as deliver us from evil, in order to regain a serenity and force that can only come from God, and not from us, poor sinful creatures […].
“Why am I writing you these things to you? In order that you may know that I am not invulnerable either. The times in which we are living are humanly overwhelming for many of you; first of all, ‘the unemployed!’ I think about them; I pray for them. They are often at a very low ebb; sometimes we are as well… if that could be of any solace to them! It is also in order that you may know that we have our difficulties, our trials, and that a certain confident tone that the CCR adopts is not attributable to human presumption or pride, but to a supernatural will that counts on faith, hope and charity for the triumph of Christ the King. Finally, so that you may divine just how much both your spiritual and material help is humanly indispensable for us and heartens us morally. I had to make decisions that I felt cruelly; there are contradictions, mistrusts, distain which, beyond ourselves, assail the sacred cause that we are defending. Sometimes it is a burden that is too heavy. The fight against the Pope! Against our bishops! The fact that so many priests and members of the faithful won over to the novelties, or are indifferent is hard for you? It is for us, for me too. See how sometimes we ourselves are disheartened by it! […]
“Come on! It is a promise; let us help each other and in the name of Christ, in the name of Mary His Holy Mother, in the name of Saint Joseph, our dear protector, nothing will be able to dishearten us in the service of the CCR.”
“Your friend and brother Georges of Jesus.” 12
Fr. de Nantes also spoke out in the strongest possible terms against the distinction that the founder of Écône was spreading among his followers between the ‘the reformed, liberal Church’ and the “Church of all times.” Our Father stated:
What I have been tirelessly repeating for twenty years now with a sort of spirit of foresight in dated, unrevised texts that are constantly being republished, surely bears witness to the fact that for almost a century, a great apocalyptic combat is being waged: two religions are fighting within the one Church. They have been contesting the minds and the hearts of clerics with the aim of climbing the hierarchical ladder to reach the Supreme Power of the Council, the Conclave and finally the Papacy, and so spread unimpeded among the entirety of the faithful. On the one side there is the religion of Antichrist with its cult of Man, and on the other side, our Christian religion with its cult of God Alone. The ancient and perfect revealed religion is at grips with a new religion invented by men, which bears a blasphemous resemblance to it.” 13
To wage this “apocalyptic” combat, our Father was ready to go so far as to sacrifice entirely his personal work, and his only thought was to serve the common good of the Church. “It is our present vocation, our mystical immolation.” 14
Nevertheless, in the midst of these theological debates, our Father continued his monastic life. Even though the duties of his office sometimes required him to go to bed late, at 1 o’clock in the morning he was in the chapel for Matins. He rose again at 4 o’clock to say the Rosary and pray at the foot of the altar. Then he resumed his work to advance the writing of articles for the CCR, or the preparation of his lectures. During the day the house was a beehive of activity of which our Father was the soul, with unequalled drive! He presided over Divine Office and very often improvised a sermon at Mass, showering our souls with spiritual riches. Likewise, in the evening, he commented on a spiritual reading in community.
His office was the centre of the house; anyone could disturb him at any time, and we did not deprive ourselves of doing so, for a spiritual direction, for a permission, for advice concerning our obedience. He kept abreast of the news by reading several publications and replied to an abundant correspondence. Every day he conducted recreation and chapter, passing on to us news concerning the Church, the world, as well as our families and friends. Above all, he spoke to us about his readings and his works, never missing an occasion to teach and form us. He also looked after retreatants and received passing visitors, taking them on a ‘walk in the park.’
Often he liked to go to Sainte-Marie’s across the street to visit his daughters.
On February 11, 1975, he wrote to our friends: “We are going to build a wing onto Maison Sainte-Marie. The rapid development our sisters’ community makes this necessary, not to mention the increasing number of guests. Growth is life! Your offerings are for us one of the signs that ‘God wills it.’ Let us forge ahead. After the victory of the Counter-Reformation, we will see that it already contained in embryo the Catholic Restoration that will be the universal triumph, never achieved to date, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the world, the Kingdom of Christ the King on earth. It is an honour to expend ourselves on such a task!” 15
Likewise, in July 1977, the building of a wing with a chapel onto Maison Saint-Joseph was undertaken.
THE BAD BREAK.
The Reformation cannot be denounced without identifying the responsible parties, without redressing the effects, without addressing the profoundest and most general root causes: the Council, the reigning Pope; this must be done, come what may. In accordance with this requirement of the Faith and its logical consequences, Fr. de Nantes beseeched Archbishop Lefebvre, whose sacerdotal fraternity was threatened, “to strike at the head,” that is to say, to accuse the Pope of heresy, schism and scandal, openly, publicly:
“There remains a weapon, a deed, an action: to strike at the Head of him who has the Powers of the Lamb, but who speaks in the language of the Dragon (Ap 13:11) [...]. The Pope who receives Jews by denying Christ in order to speak to them about reconciliation is heretical The Pope who abrogates in practice and forbids the Mass of the Roman Church that Saint Pius V promulgated and granted to the Universal Church for all time is schismatic. The Pope who praises Buddhism and associates with Tibetan lamas is scandalous.
“As long as you spare the Head, you will not master the members; as long as you obey the Head, you will be crushed by the claws and the teeth of this Masdu. The hydra of the Antichrist must be struck at the Head in order to free the Church of Jesus Christ.” 16
To this urgent invitation, Archbishop Lefebvre replied to our Father on March 19, 1975: “I will have you know that if a bishop breaks with Rome, it will not be me!” The following year, however, on June 29, 1976, the Archbishop ordained fifteen priests, despite Rome’s prohibition. Twelve years later, he consummated his schism by consecrating four young bishops.
“What a mess!” Fr. de Nantes wrote in July 1976: to be right on the essential issue and put oneself in the wrong by separating from the one Church of Jesus Christ. A worse outcome could not be imagined! When retracing the history of this lamentable affair in his editorial ‘The bad break,’ he warned his friends and readers that it was henceforth “not only useless, but reprehensible” to support Archbishop Lefebvre’s foundations. Admittedly, he said, Archbishop Lefebvre may still “come to repentance, and each of his priests and individual followers also. His work, however, is forever compromised. It has no future except outside the Church and against the Church.”
At that time, Archbishop Lefebvre went to all the dioceses where integrists called him to confirm children, without the consent of the local bishop, or even to re-confirm them, casting doubts on the validity of the sacrament administered by the Ordinary. What an appalling “muddle”! “Rather than getting embroiled in discussing variable rites and disciplinary decrees, it would have been necessary to strike the Head – as David had struck Goliath – with the three precious stones of Faith, Hope and Charity. Archbishop Lefebvre fought and he has lost. Deprived of his best weapon, he is now in the Enemy’s hands. Let us hope that Israel’s next hero will make better use of his weapons and be victorious over the arrogant Philistine who defies the Church of God.” 17
THE CHURCH AND HER SACRAMENTS.
The integrist revolt was not only a schism, but a heresy affecting the Church and her sacraments. Indeed, to despise the Confirmation administered by the Bishops according to the form prescribed by the Holy See and to administer the sacrament a second time, to declare the new Mass invalid, to see in it only bread and wine proposed for the sacrilegious adoration of the faithful, was to despise the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, His Church and the Holy Spirit in Person. Saint Augustine demonstrated this point to the Donatists of his time: “It is Christ Himself who effectively works everywhere in His Church, through the ministry of men, no matter how unworthy they may be. Whether the pipe be made of gold or of lead, both are equally effective for conducting water from the source to the house. The power given to the Church is so great that the essential sacraments administered correctly even in schism or in heresy and by false brethren, are still fully valid, according to the unfailing and infallible teaching of the Church.” 18
During the year following the dramatic ‘break,’ Fr. de Nantes undertook an in-depth study of each of the sacraments in order “to appreciate serenely the exact value of the post-conciliar novelties. Sapientis est ordinare: it is wisdom to place everything in its proper order and to appreciate all things according to their true worth neither more nor less.”
At the end of this study that was held in high esteem by the specialists – by Congar himself! – our Father confided:
“I learned much in the course of this study and I believe that I was able to teach my audience or my readers a great deal about the tradition, which for the most part they had never suspected of such richness and variety, and about the considerable work undertaken by a large number of contemporary liturgical scholars with the solid foundations and excellent reasons for certain of the conciliar and post-conciliar reforms or innovations [...].
“We are conscious of having helped, however minimally, in the distant preparation of a now necessary and reconciling synthesis that will be the work of Vatican III, when past routines will be definitively restored and corrected in the light of today’s novelties, which in their turn will be amended and purged of their disfiguring errors. Does that complicate the strategy of the opposing parties by breaking the Manichean dualism from which they draw their militant strength? On the contrary, it reinforces the only party to which we adhere, that of the Church, and it is only by following this unique path that I can see any light ahead or any outcome.” 19
CONTROVERSIES WITH FR. CONGAR.
Restoring unity in faith within the Church, by having our duty to refuse the heresies of the Second Vatican Council recognised, in particular Religious Freedom, was Fr. de Nantes’ intention when, at the end of 1976, he took to task ‘Brother Yves Congar’ who, in his book on ‘The Crisis in the Church and Archbishop Lefebvre,’ had just counted him among the separated brethren with whom it would be good to establish a dialogue.
“For my part I have often attacked you as the father of the Council Fathers and therefore as the Grandfather of the Conciliar heresy. At Christmastide, however, cannot our differences, without our disavowing them, be turned into a fraternal dialogue with the oil of charity and the unction of piety, in view of peace and the restoration of one true Communion of Saints in the Church, in the Lord’s name? I think so, and so do you, which is why I am writing to you today, brother….”
The focal point of the entire discord was Religious Freedom. “You should not be content,” our Father continued “with just the half-success that you managed to achieve with difficulty and with no excess of candour at the Second Vatican Council, for this pastoral Declaration still obliges you to be evasive and untruthful even to this day. Bring your work to completion and come to Rome for the triumph of your ideas! As a true son of Lacordaire, plead the cause of Religious Freedom against us; your chances of success are infinitely greater than were his in 1832 [...]. You are ninety-nine percent sure of succeeding. I shall go to Rome with you, counting only on the last hundredth of our human chances, but that last hundredth chance appears to me to enclose the totality, the hundred per cent of the divine chance. I am certain that the Pope will refuse to define any such thing, or that he will drop dead on the eve of making a definition such as you have in mind.” 20
The Reverend Father having eluded, Fr. de Nantes pursued him to Annecy, where he managed, on February 8, to impose a public debate on him. 21
“‘Will you tell me now, and this is of interest to everyone, whether at the second Vatican Council there was a single dogma defined by the solemn and extraordinary Magisterium of the Church?’
“Whether he wishes it or not,” Fr. de Nantes, concluded, “the father of the Fathers of the Council will always be nonplussed when confronted with our two theses”:
“1. The Second Vatican Council contains no infallible teaching.
“2. On the other hand, it contains novelties that the universal Magisterium of the Church has infallibly condemned as insanity and heresy right up to our own times. It is on these bases that we remain impregnable, demanding ‘Truth and Justice whatever it may cost.’ ” 22
TOWARDS PEACE FOR THE CHURCH.
One day, Cardinal Marty, then archbishop of Paris, wrote to our Father to tell him that he retained “an exact and painful memory of the ‘libellus’ (sic) of accusation which you brought against Pope Paul VI”. When he was informed of this, Jean Vieux, the head of a circle of our League of Catholic Counter-Reformation, took up his pen:
“Eminence, in the name of Jesus Christ, as a Successor of the Apostles, can you positively state that the 237 quotations from Paul VI contained in the Liber are the expression of the authentic Catholic faith?”
Having no illusions about the fate that awaited his letter, like so many others received by our bishops, thrown directly into the waste basket, our friend had the brilliant idea of adding:
“If you hesitate to reply, which I can understand, I would like to imagine you at least sending a word to Fr. Georges de Nantes – and it is this which forms my request: ‘Father, your accusation of heresy, schism and scandal is stupefying! What a responsibility before God you have taken on! Yet since you submit your personal judgement to the Judgement of the Church, I beg you to come and see me: together we will examine the incriminating texts and your arguments. For my part, I do not wish to be in error either. Let neither of us betray the Church... Come, my dear son, come...’”
Saint Pius X would not have waited for advice coming from our friend. The cardinal answered in an evasive manner, which was already a success. Jean Vieux went back on the offensive on Good Friday, March 24, 1978:
“Will you remain deaf to our entreaties? Will you not finally respond, in a straightforward manner and point by point, to these questions that are so grave for the Church and the salvation of souls? Will you not act like a Father, and also like a worthy successor of the Apostles, and welcome Fr. Georges de Nantes?”
Contrary to all expectations, the Archbishop of Paris replied to him on 6 April 1978:
“I am disposed to receive the Fr. de Nantes and to aid him in his reflection. I should point out that this type of dialogue could also be set up with Archbishop Etchegaray, President of the Episcopal Conference. Nevertheless, I myself would also be happy to receive him in a private capacity…”
Our Father seized the opportunity.
“For my part I am ready – and I shall be infinitely grateful to you for making this known to His Holiness Pope Paul VI – to do all in my power so that my friends, my brothers and I may regain full communion with the Sovereign Pontiff and with the episcopate in communion with Him, nothing being more desirable and more urgent today than a manifestation of the Holy Catholic Unity of the Roman Church. This, moreover, is in accordance with this venerable maxim, often recalled by H.H. Paul VI: ‘In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas’.
“I am determined to respond to every invitation transmitted by your intermediary, or by Bishop Fauchet of Troyes, or by Archbishop Etchegaray to whom I am writing by the same mail, so that your charitable action may accord with his, and to go to Rome, there to study with any person delegated by the Holy Father the conditions for this desirable and greatly desired reconciliation.”
Cardinal Marty replied immediately.
“I have received your letter of last May 8. I have read it carefully, and I thought I found sentiments in it on your part which fill me with hope. I was in Rome yesterday for the third centenary of Saint-Louis-des-Français, and I sent the Holy Father a copy of your letter.”
The Cardinal then proposed that the two of them meet with Archbishop Etchegaray in Paris on June 13, “at the House of the Daughters of Mary [sic]”, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. On June 13! The anniversary of the first manifestation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Fatima. In the House of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary! How can we fail to see the hand of the Blessed Virgin?
THE CONDITIONS 0F A RECONCILIATION.
Therefore, on June 13 at 6.30 pm, our Father could be seen approaching Cardinal Marty and Archbishop Etchegaray. The two prelates were smiling. The welcome was simple, relaxed. They went into the religious house, then into a parlour, and took their seats around a small square table made of white wood. The cardinal inquired about the community:
“Have you come from Saint-Parres-lès-Vaudes? I have never been there. Is it far from Troyes?
– It is twenty kilometres from Troyes, Eminence.
– Are there many of you there?
– At the moment there are eleven brothers and eleven sisters.
– And some of them have taken their vows over the last few days? I read that in your Bulletin.
– Yes, Eminence, we had a clothing ceremony.”
Our Father then asked permission to explain the object of the meeting by reading a note in which he summarised in twelve points his defence of the Faith and the steps taken to induce Rome to re-examine his file:
“1. I believe in the Holy Roman Catholic Church and I recognise His Holiness Paul VI as the true and only Pope, and the Bishops in communion with Him as true and legitimate bishops.
“2. From 1964 on, I thought I discerned errors and heresies in the Acts of Pope Paul VI and of the Second Vatican Council. I then publicly formulated my opposition to these novelties that, to my thinking, undermined the deposit of divine Revelation.
“3. I was threatened with interdict by Bishop Le Couëdic, Bishop of Troyes, by reason of this rebellion in December 1965, then suspended a divinis by him in his diocese on August 25, 1966, a suspension which has been prolonged by his successor, Bishop Fauchet, to this day.
“4. Bishop Matagrin of Grenoble, the diocese to which I belong, did, however, grant me the power to celebrate and distribute the sacraments; even so, he withdrew my Celebret in 1972 – at the request of certain bishops, he told me but without withdrawing my faculties.
“5. At my request, my writings were examined by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith between 1966 and 1968. I was summoned to Rome for the closing of the hearing of this trial in May and again in July 1968. It was at the time when Pope Paul VI’s Credo was being prepared and then proclaimed. This Credo, according to what I was told then, was to signal a restoration of the faith and of the Church’s discipline.
“6. In July 1968 and again in July 1969, I was summoned to sign a formula retracting my criticisms and expressing boundless and universal submission to the Pope, the Council, the Bishops of France and my own particular Bishop.
“7. The absolute character of such a formula seemed unacceptable to me, and I refused to sign it. On August 10, 1969, I learnt from the newspapers that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had declared me to be ‘disqualified’. On this ‘disqualification’ are based all the public warnings against me, against the League of the Catholic Counter-Reformation which I founded and against the monthly bulletin of the same name which I direct. Bishop Fauchet invokes this act by Rome in order to justify perpetuating my suspension.
“8. In 1973, I wrote a “Libellum of accusation against Pope Paul VI for heresy, schism and scandal”. I went to the Vatican to present it to him, accompanied by sixty of my collaborators, but we were denied access to the Vatican and the Holy Office by the Italian police.
“9. In November 1973, we distributed this ‘Libellum’ among the Roman dicasteries, but with no apparent result.
“10. On July 22, 1969, I publicly opposed the schismatic ideas and projects brought to my knowledge. I disavowed and broke with those who were leading the faithful down the path of rupture with the Church. I refuted their doctrinal errors, in particular concerning the validity of the new sacramental rites; I denounced their rejection of the actual visible Church and their setting up of separate chapels; I also rebuked the exasperation, the contempt and sometimes the hatred provoked among the faithful.
“11. From 1971, I considered it prudent to reconsider my opposition to the novelties – trying to distinguish in the present Reform that which is a matter of homogeneous and continuous development of dogma, of normal progress in exegetical, historical and catechetical science, as well as that which is an evolution of liturgical and canonical institutions from their systematic alteration or destruction.
“12. I came to desire that my Roman judges should reconsider our overall differences and that the possibility of an agreement and of paths of reconciliation be examined: ‘in the unity of the faith, diversity of opinions, and the charity of the Church’.
During the interim and whilst awaiting a further clear, precise and definitive examination of the controversial points, I would like my Celebret to be restored to me by my Ordinary, Bishop Matagrin or Bishop Mondésert, and the suspension which I have endured for twelve years in the Diocese of Troyes to be lifted.
“My wish,” our Father continued, “is that the Roman theologians would impose on me, not a total retraction, but a formula of submission that is precise and limited. I am not prepared to sign just anything.”
Well, of course!
“We are going to send your note to Rome in the diplomatic bag, which leaves on Friday. But we will probably have to wait till autumn before we receive a reply. For the time being, it is best that this matter remains among ourselves, is it not?
– Yes, Eminence.
– Until this matter is concluded, we will remain discreet.
– I am in no hurry, Eminence. However, I would draw your attention to the last lines of the note. As a sign of good will, I would like to see my powers of jurisdiction returned to me.
– Well, Father, we will see Bishop Matagrin and Bishop Fauchet and do what we can regarding your celebret and your suspension.”
– Thank you, Eminence.” 23
On the following August 6, on the evening of feast of the Transfiguration, Pope Paul VI gave up his soul to God.
Two months later, Fr. de Nantes learned that his request had been accepted by Rome and that serious consideration was being given to it in the offices of the Secretary of State. On Friday, October 20, Fr. Lucien Lefeuvre, who held a position in this dicastery, confided to a member of the League staying in Rome at the time: “I would not be betraying a secret, this ecclesiastic explained to him, if I told you that Fr. de Nantes’ case is currently under study. A reconciliation would be desirable, for this priest does much good around him. One must be patient, however. The agreement is not yet around the corner.”
“A MYSTICISM FOR OUR TIME.”
While these important events were taking place in the history of the CCR’s fight, the spirituality of our Father, which until then had essentially St. John of the Cross as its point of reference, flourished remarkably. He resolutely embraced St. Francis de Sales’ spirituality, thereby disarming certain critical minds. During our community retreat, he commented on the ‘Treatise on the Love of God.” 24
Steeped in this mystical teaching, the authority of which no one will dispute, “to make Love [Who is not loved] loved,” our Father gave a new series of lectures at the Mutualité Hall, on “mystical aesthetics.” He prepared these lectures of exceptional value using the seven volumes published by Father Hans Urs von Balthasar. 25 In the Letter to Our Friends of July 7 he wrote: “The study of the sacraments ends in beauty, a great enrichment for all of us. Next year’s program is dazzling: Catholic moral doctrine and mystics; In advance, I experience much dread yet even greater joy.” 26
Indeed, under these somewhat enigmatic words of mystical aesthetics, our Father expressed the essential secret of our lives: the great mystery of union with God. He wanted this study to be a “search for an open and practicable way to God, for a union with God that is possible, sure and that speaks to us, for this is what we cruelly lack even though we might have all the rest, faith, virtues and works. The mystical life is truly that pearl of great price of which the Gospel speaks and for which we should exchange all our goods.” 27
Aesthetics evokes the meaning, the intuition of beauty, as an attribute of God. In a more common way than through the “intuition of being,” we can have access to Him through beauty, insofar as He reveals Himself in perceptible forms! Mystical aesthetics raises us from the natural sphere in which creation is admired, to the supernatural sphere. We are not enthralled by the beauty of things, since this exists only to manifest to us the beauty of God, the resplendence of His divine holiness and the splendour of the Son of God. It is a tender and suave beauty.
Then the mystical aesthetics becomes man’s encounter with the living God, Creator, Saviour and Sanctifier, drawing us into His intimate life; and with God as He reveals Himself in Jesus Christ, our supreme Beauty, our Good, our Beatitude, the object of all our desires.
In our human condition, this aesthetics becomes dramatic, since it is embodied in a history which, since the original sin, is only tragedy and abyss of distress. God, however, wants to lead us to Heaven. It is the mystery of Redemption through the Cross of Christ and of the Co-Redemption of the Immaculate Virgin, so that we may be purified from our sins. If we accept to enter into this mystery, we understand how beauty manifests itself above all in the ugliness of the Cross and on the holy Face of Jesus crucified, “the centre and the summit of all human aesthetics.” 28 Thus, to find the Father in the Son is to reach Glory through the Cross, to seek happiness in trial, wealth in poverty, life in sacrifice and death.
In the end, this aesthetics becomes hyperbolic, that is, it reaches its consummation beyond all beauty in the Glory of the living God that is resplendent in the Risen Christ and in Mary Immaculate assumed into Heaven.
Since Pentecost, it is now resplendent in the mystery of the Church and in all the marvels that the Holy Spirit has accomplished in her, throughout the history of Christianity, in order for the temporal reign of the Sacred Heart to increase in the whole universe, by means of a divine political action: a holy Crusade. “It is in such mystical ascent and at its highest point that the root and the source of this apostolic, social, political charity is to be found, which is expressed in the second petition of the Pater Noster leading to the third: Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” 29
“Then, the true mystic necessarily seized with a total love of this divine Will for the world, accompanied by a vehement desire to see it fulfilled and, even more, by the resolution to co-operate in it himself with all his might.” 30
This “total” mysticism, open to everyone, is enough to prove that its author is himself a mystical doctor, “a man who, with the aid of divine grace, has pursued faith to its highest point of incandescence, in such a manner that the world to which he belongs, first of all and more intensely than any other, is the supernatural world.” 31
Subsequently, our Father would constantly refer to this study. In 1978, he developed it further by applying it to the Virgin Mary 32 then, the following year, to Saint Joseph. 33
From 1968 on, however, his readers were able to discover the richness of his mystical life by reading the Mystical Pages 34, which were published to support the daily struggle against apostasy. For, far from being disembodied, our Father’s mystical doctrine is not an escape into the intemporal. On the contrary, it espouses all the Church’s struggles, her concerns, her agony. These pages reveal the supernatural ardour and the theological virtues to which our Father’s holy polemic owed its strength. They communicate its grace to those who wanted to follow him!
CRC no. 28, January 1970, p. 1.
Mystical Page no. 26, ‘How can I curse?’ September 1970, pp. 111-115.
CRC no. 20, May 1969, p. 4.
CCR no. 77, April 1976, p. 21.
CRC no. 77, February 1974, p. 1.
CRC no. 89, February 1975, p. 3.
“Integrism, Progressivism, Traditionalism,” CCR no. 79, October 1976, pp. 12-13.
Ibid., p. 14.
Renaissance catholique no 176, March 2010, quoting a letter from Fr. Saey, of October 16, 1966.
In 1990, the new Maison Sainte-Thérèse was built near this chapel.
Letter to Our Friends no. 12.
Letter to Our Friends no. 11.
CCR no. 76, July 1976, p. 1; cf. Letter to My Friends no 219, December 11, 1965, p. 8.
Letter to Our Friends no. 2, April 1, 1974, quoted in CCR no. 213, October 1988, p. 25.
Letter to Our Friends no. 8.
CRC no 89, February 1975, p. 2.
CCR no. 77, August 1976, p. 3.
CCR no. 78, September 1976, p. 2
CCR no. 102, September 1978, p. 8.
CCR no. 82, January 1977, pp.1-4
This turbulent debate is printed in extenso in CCR no. 84, March 1977, pp. 1-6.
CRC no. 118, June 1977, p. 15.
The full text of these discussions has been published in For the Church, Vol. III, pp. 501-509.
S 35, “The Love of God According to Saint Francis of Sales”, September 18 to 25, 1977.
“La Gloire et la Croix,” (Éditions Aubier) from 1965 to 1972. In 1977, a further volume would be published.
Letter to Our Friends no 22.
CCR no. 105, December 1978: The Mystical Sense.
CCR no. 109, April 1979, p. 7.
CCR no. 114, September 1979, p. 3.
He is Risen no. 83, August 2009.
“Marian Mysticism”, S 37, Josselin 1978.
“Trilogy on Saint Joseph”, S 40, May 1979.
Published as two volumes in 1996, it was republished in 2010 as a single volume.