November 2013 Print

Book Review - Vatican Encounter: Conversations with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre By Jose Hanu

Angelus Press is setting back in print a book which is over 30 years old. It is a long interview between the Archbishop and a Dutch journalist, a concerned Catholic voicing the worries of many about the crisis in the Church. Much of the talk deals with the year 1976, the “hot summer” for the seminary of Ecône and for its founder, during the titanic tug of war with Pope Paul VI, which culminated in the meeting of the two protagonists by the end of the year. The interview was thus conducted only weeks after these events, right hot off the plate!

The table of contents suggests the main themes of the interview, from “We are not rebels” and the family background to the Sermon of Lille (July 1976), from demythologizing Vatican II and its fruits, to conclude with the events which led to the illegal condemnation and the meeting with the Pope.

The work is embedded with crunchy life details which are virtually unknown. It describes the family background of the textile industrialist from Northern France, and a saintly woman seen with her son’s eyes; the veneration of the Senegalese people for their bishop and his anti-liberal interdict of the Island of Fadiouth. Besides the heated Sermon of Lille which acted as a detonator throughout the Christian world, we read the courageous attacks made by the Archbishop at the conciliar texts, as well as his letter dated 1966, one year after the Council. After a long list of the woes of the conciliar fruits, we get a breath of fresh air with the story of Ecône, its purchase and its chauffeurs, before we bury ourselves again in the dreary events of the apostolic visitors, the accusation and sanctions against Ecône which led to stunning revelations during the Pope’s meeting.

Yet beyond the wonderful details of the book are underlined the vital principles which animated the founder of the Society of St. Pius X, those same principles which all its members hold as definitive and non-negotiable. This work reveals a striking characteristic of the man, a mind and heart deeply at peace in the thick of the Roman pressure. The interview’s last words truly give the tone of the entire book: “I am not worried. God is almighty; what appears insurmountable to us is only a little thing in his eyes. If my work is God’s work, God will preserve it and make it serve the Church for the salvation of souls.”

Fr. Dominique Bourmaud