Interview with Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, SSPX

H.E. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais

The following interview was conducted by Catholic Family News Editor, John Vennari on February 11, 2009. It took place in Syracuse, New York at the time when Bishop Tissier de Mallerais visited Society of St. Pius X’s Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God Church to administer the sacrament of Confirmation and to give a Sunday evening speech. In this interview the Bishop speaks of Archbishop Lefebvre and the Social Kingship of Christ; the upcoming doctrinal discussions with Rome; the possible framework for “regularization”; and the SSPX’s position regarding the Second Vatican Council.

JV: Your speech in Syracuse on February 8 was entitled “Archbishop Lefebvre, the Priesthood and the Social Kingship of Christ”. What is the significance of this title?

BTM: I wanted to show that according to Father LeFloch, who was the teacher of Marcel Lefebvre in the French seminary in Rome, and according to Archbishop Lefebvre, the priesthood contains not only the sanctification of souls, but also the baptism of the nations. The integrity of the priesthood leads to the conversion of the nations so that civil society submits itself to Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the full aim of the priesthood.

JV: In this speech, you had mentioned that the seminarians trained in the French Seminary under Father Le Floch constructed a three-point outline of how a revolution proceeds. Could you enumerate them?

BTM: I followed what Father Fahey explained from the teachers of the French seminary. They describe the three progressive points of the revolution.

First step of the Revolution: The elimination in government of Christ the King through the laicization or secularization of the State. Through this laicization, the civil law will no longer be submitted to the Gospel; and the Catholic religion will no longer be acknowledged publicly by the State. According to this revolutionary principle, the State is unable to give a judgment of truth about religion.

Second step of the Revolution: the suppression of the Holy Mass. Freemasonry wanted to do this at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century with the separation of the Church and State. They hoped the Christian would lose the Faith and abandon the Church and the Holy Mass be no longer celebrated.

Third step of the Revolution: to make souls lose the Divine Life of Christ, so that souls do not live any more in the state of grace. To make pagan souls, to make laicized souls.

JV: How do you see the Second Vatican Council and its reforms in the light of this three-point outline?

BTM: With the Second Vatican Council, these three points were effectively accepted by the Church.

First, the destruction of the Catholic State by the Declaration on Religious Liberty; the separation of the Church from the State; the State is unable to give judgmentƒ of truth in matters of religion. That is what Cardinal Ratzinger explained to Archbishop Lefebvre in his interview of July 14, 1987; that the State is unable to know what the true religion is.

Second, the suppression of the Holy Mass. This happened after the Second Vatican Council with the New Mass. This New Mass does not express the sacrifice of propitiation. Rather, it expresses more an offering of the People of God, but not a sacrifice celebrated by the priest in order to atone for our sins. This second point was realized by the liturgical reform.

Third, the laicization of souls. This is practically the situation today because hardly anyone goes to confession. Most Catholics no longer go to confession. The sacrament of Penance has been practically suppressed with so-called general absolution. Now Rome wants a turning back to individual confessions, but I am sure that many bishops will not accept because many priests do not want to hear confessions.

JV: Yet there are a good number of priests out there who do want to hear confessions.

BTM: Yes, but in general, modern priests do not like hearing confessions, and do not encourage confession. Sin, Original Sin, the need for confession, and satisfaction for sin are no longer talked about. Statistically, there are few confessions in parishes. The result is the majority of Catholics who still may have the Faith cannot live in the state of grace. Let us be realistic, it is such a corrupt world, it is impossible to live in the state of grace without the Sacrament of Penance.

JV: You noted that Archbishop Lefebvre saw the answer to today’s crisis of Faith as consisting in a reversal of those three points. Can you elaborate?

BTM: Yes, take the revolution program but reversed.

First, to give the Holy Mass back to the faithful, so that they receive the graces coming from the Sacrifice of the Cross – through the true Mass. That is what we are doing with our faithful. We see the fruits of sanctification. We see many families with many children, and many vocations.

Second, through the traditional Mass and sacraments, to have souls living in the state of grace. That is the situation of our faithful. I think that most of them are living in the state of grace. They come regularly to confession in order to increase sanctifying grace or to recover it if they have the unhappiness to lose it. They are living in the state of grace. Children are living in the state of grace. Children are taught to fight against the occasions of sin.

Third, with this group of Catholics living in the state of grace, to make actions in order to “recrown” Our Lord Jesus Christ in society, to give Him back His crown. They do this in their homes, in our Catholic institutions, little-by-little in their jobs, in their professions, to make their professions run according to the law of Jesus Christ; to be a good example at work among fellow workers; all this ultimately for the re-Christianization of civil society.

JV: In your talk, you spoke of the modern notion of “personalism” as the philosophical error of the Second Vatican Council that has corrupted the doctrine of the Church.

BTM: This error corrupted the so-called Declaration on Religious Liberty, saying that everyone has the right not to be prevented from worshipping the Divinity according to his own mind. This comes directly from personalism.

The true definition of the human person was given by Boethius: an individual substance of a rational nature. The Thomist insists on “the rational nature”, because man has an intellect that is made to discover, to grasp, the truth; and to hold the truth. Thus the perfection of the intellect is to know the truth, because the truth is the object of the intellect. Thus the perfection of the human person consists in possessing the truth.

But now, the new “personalists” take the same definition of the human person, but stress rather the “individual substance”. The person consists of being an “individual”, so they must have rights according to their individuality. That is to say, to have liberty without consideration of the truth. By stressing the “individual substance”, the human person has the right of an “individual”, his own principles, his own choices, without consideration of the truth. The possession of the truth is not essential in the new definition.

This was the teaching of Jacques Maritain in France, who was a Thomistic philosopher, but converted to “personalism”. He had great influence on Pope Paul VI and on the Second Vatican Council.

Personalism insists that the individual must be free, must be independent, must choose by himself. In this consists “human dignity”. And this was condemned by Pope St. Pius X Letter to the French Bishops against Sillonism.

JV: Can you comment on what you said in your talk: the Church cannot keep the truth without fighting error?

BTM: The whole history of the Church demonstrates this principle. From the first centuries, the Church Fathers spent their time fighting heresies and condemning heretics. The Council of Nicea, the Council of Ephesus, are demonstrations of this truth. The Council of Trent was a splendid Council because it condemned Protestantism. Never does the Church put in clearer light her own principles than when fighting against heresies. Thus today the Church ought to condemn false principles in order to put into light her own principles, revealed principles. It is a necessity. The Church cannot teach the truth without fighting errors. It is the providential way that the good Lord established for the magisterium of the Church.

JV: Would you say that the new orientation of “dialogue” is a false substitute for condemning error?

BTM: Yes, under the pretext of “charity”. Saint Augustine says let us love the errants but fight the errors. But now it is also, let us love the errors, let us respect all these errors. Because error is always professed by persons, so if we respect the persons, we ought to respect their errors. It is subjectivism.

JV: In light of teaching the truth and resisting errors, what can you tell us about the upcoming doctrinal discussions between the SSPX and Rome ?

BTM: According to the January 21 decree of Pope Benedict XVI, he declared he is open to these discussions, and I think they will be set up quickly.

JV: The SSPX, are formed in perennial Catholic magisterium of the centuries; formed according to the Syllabus of Blessed Pope Pius IX and the Syllabus against Modernism of Pope St. Pius X. The modern churchmen with whom you will have these doctrinal discussion are men who for the most part have been formed in the counter-syllabus of Vatican II; and in the new anti-anti-Modernism of the Council. Can we speculate how there will be a meeting of minds in the upcoming discussions?

BTM: Our intention is to put them in front of the contradiction between their doctrines and the traditional doctrines. We want to show them there is a real contradiction.

JV: How will these discussions proceed?

BTM: We intend to engage in a written discussion. We will put in writing our objections and they will respond. Perhaps toward the end there could also be face-to-face discussions.

JV: In these discussions, do you see language as a potential problem? For example, words such as “continuity” and “Tradition” are defined differently by the traditional Catholic and by present-day leaders in the Vatican.

BTM: It is difficult to discuss with people who have the same language but not the same meaning of the same words. So we will try to understand their philosophy and speak to them in terms of their own false philosophy. When we speak of “Tradition” we speak with them with an understanding of how they understand it; not to accept their new definition of it, but in order to understand their understanding of it.

JV: In 1988, the following was supposed to be on the original protocol between Rome and the SSPX: 1) that the SSPX get its own bishop; 2) that it has a majority in the Vatican ‘s Ecclesia Dei commission; 3) that the SSPX has autonomy from diocesan bishops. Will the SSPX still insist upon these when the time comes to talk about a juridical structure for the SSPX?

BTM: Yes, and it is what Rome is disposed to give. Cardinal Castrillon has already made some such plan, though the SSPX having a majority in Ecclesia Dei is not likely. As far as independence from the diocesan bishops, it appears Rome is ready to give us a structure that gives us a certain independence from the bishops, which is possible under Canon Law. I should note that we cannot rapidly seek out regularization. The doctrinal discussions will last a long time.

JV: One of the reasons I ask about autonomy from diocesan bishops is due to a recent statement from the Bishop Müller of Regensberg, Germany. Bishop Müller said that if the SSPX is regularized, they must also “accept that the seminary of Zaitzkofen falls under the supervision of the Diocese of Regensburg . The seminary should be closed and the students should go to seminaries in their home countries – if they are suitable for this purpose.”

BTM: We must have a juridical structure that protects us against such an enterprise of destruction from the bishops.

JV: If the SSPX is regularized, who would perform the ordinations and the confirmations?

BTM: Our own bishops. It would be contained in the final documents. But I must stress that this final juridical solution will not occur if Rome does not make a real conversion, because it would be impossible to obtain such a thing if Rome does not convert. It would not be possible to live such regularization without the conversion of Rome . I said this in an interview in La Stampa in Rome , and it was considered a scandal. Some said, “This bishop is ridiculous! What pretension! To convert Rome!” But that is our intention. It is clear. When we discuss with these people, it is to convert them.

JV: Since you’ve opened that topic, I’ll ask: Do you think the representatives in Rome also approach these discussions with the same intention: to convert the SSPX to a more councilor position? To make you “see the light”, or at least “feel the heat”?

BTM: Yes, that’s true.

JV: What about the fact that Archbishop Lefebvre signed all the documents of Vatican II, which means, some believe, that he saw no problems with the entire Council?

BTM: I have demonstrated in my biography of Archbishop Lefebvre – in the chapters on the Council – that the Archbishop felt at the time he could not refuse a decision of a general Council without separating himself from the Church. The great majority of the bishops signed the documents of Vatican II. Bishop de Castro Meyer signed all the documents of the Council. It was a collegial decision, and in a collegial decision, even if you do not agree with the decision, you have to sign it. For example, in the decree of nullity of marriage, there may be three or five judges deciding. If one judge does not agree, he will sign the decree anyway because the decision is taken as from the majority. Same thing with a general Council. It does not mean that Archbishop Lefebvre accepted all the decisions of the Council. For example, he voted to the very end against the document on Religious Liberty, and continued to publicly oppose Religious Liberty until his death in 1991.

Rather than read Vatican II in light of Tradition, we really should read and interpret Vatican II in light of the new philosophy. We must read and understand the Council in its real meaning, that is to say, according to the new philosophy. Because all these theologians who produced the texts of Vatican II were imbued with the new philosophy. We must read it this way, not to accept it, but to understand it as the modern theologians who drafted the documents understand it. To read Vatican II in light of Tradition is not to read it correctly. It means to bend, to twist the texts. I do not want to twist the texts.

JV: You had been with Archbishop Lefebvre from the beginning in 1969. You were with Archbishop Lefebvre in the three great landmarks of the SSPX in its dealing with Rome: the withdrawal of the permission for the seminary in Econe in 1975; the suspension in 1976; and the impasse with the Vatican that led to the Episcopal consecration in 1988. How does the present situation in 2009 compare/contrast with these earlier landmarks?

BTM: I think that from them nothing is changed. Ultimately, they want to take us back to the Second Vatican Council. To make us accept the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. The lifting of the excommunications did not affect this deep problem of the Faith. It did change something for those Catholics who do not understand our fight, who now see that we are not excommunicated, so this is a certain amount of good for the Church.

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