The following is a never before released transcript of the conversation between Archbishop Lefebvre & Pope Paul VI on September 11, 1976, when the Archbishop boldly defended his stance, despite the strawmen & falsehood set up by the Pope. A highly recommended read.
The Introductory Indictment of Paul VI
The beginning of the meeting as reported by both sources, was a veritable indictment against the Society’s founder: “a storm”, the archbishop would later tell his seminarians, summing up the Pope’s reproaches: “You condemn me; I am a Modernist, a Protestant. It is intolerable! You are doing wicked work.”
Cardinal Benelli’s verbatim account reveals how strong these accusations were: “I hoped to find before me a brother, a son, a friend,” declared Paul VI. “Unfortunately,” he went on, “the position you have taken up is that of an anti-pope….It goes beyond all measure in its words, actions, and general attitude.” What is at stake here, continued the Holy Father:
…is not the person, it is the Pope, and you have judged the Pope to be unfaithful to the Faith of which he is the supreme guarantor. This may be the first time in history that this has happened. You have told the entire world that the Pope does not have the Faith, that he does not believe, that he is a Modernist, and so on! Of course, I myself must remain humble. But you, you have placed yourself in a terrible situation. You have accomplished extremely serious actions before the eyes of the world.
Archbishop Lefebvre’s Answer: A Bishop Torn by the Situation in the Church
Archbishop Lefebvre answered by admitting that, while some of his words or writings may have been inadequate, he never intended to attack the person of the Pope. But the real problem lay elsewhere: it was what had been happening in the Church since the Council. “The situation is such that we do not know what to do. With all these changes, either we risk losing the Faith, or we have to give the impression of disobeying.” The prelate added: “I would like to fall on my knees and accept everything, but I cannot go against my conscience.”
The French bishop explained his position:
It is not I who have created a movement, it is the faithful who are torn and do not accept certain situations. I am not the ‘leader of the traditionalists’. I am a bishop who, torn by what is happening, has tried to form priests as he did before the Council. I am behaving exactly as I did before the Council. I therefore cannot understand how I am all of a sudden condemned because I form priests in obedience to the healthy tradition of the Holy Church.
The Pope invited him to go on, which allowed Archbishop Lefebvre to explain:
Many priests and faithful believe that it is difficult to accept the tendencies that began after the ecumenical council Vatican II on the liturgy; religious freedom; the formation of priests; the relations between the Church and Catholic governments; the Church’s relations with Protestants. They do not understand how all these things that are being promoted can be in keeping with the healthy Tradition of the Church. I insist, I am not the only one who thinks this. Groups have formed, and they urge me not to abandon them…
No matter the disputes and calumnies, sometimes inflamed by the media, Archbishop Lefebvre always returned to the painful situation he was in, and that was only the consequence of the reforms undertaken in the name of Vatican II. And these were the very reforms Pope Paul VI demanded that he accept, as he had told his cardinals four months earlier. That was the heart of the matter.
For behind these reforms, it was the Faith that was at stake. The report from the September 11 audience explicitly mentions: “I do not know what to do,” explained the former archbishop of Tulle, distraught.
I seek to form priests according to the Faith and in the Faith. I suffer terribly at the sight of other seminaries; there are unimaginable situations. Religious faithful to their habits are condemned and despised by their bishop, while those who live a secular life and behave like people of the world are accepted.