September 2019 Print

The Confusion of the Church and the World at the Root of the Crisis

by Fr. Davide Pagliarani

The 14th theological congress of the Courrier de Rome was held in Paris on January 19, 2019 on the theme “Francis, the pastoral pope of a non-dogmatic council.” Fr. Davide Pagliarani, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, gave the final conference entitled “The Church, Mystical Body of Christ or adaptation to the World?”

Here is the integral transcription of this conference. In the second part, Fr. Pagliarani responded to the questions of Fr. Lorans.

Where do we place Pope Francis with regards to the Council and his predecessors? I will come back to the things which were said during the day, but I also think that it is very interesting to situate this pontificate within the panorama of modernism. Where are we with regards to the evolution of the problems of the laity? This was already stated by the other conference members, but I will return to this point later.

Rupture or continuity is the question. The “great hero” who is invoked by the thousands of conservatives today, the thousands of conservatives who are more and more critical toward Pope Francis, is John Paul II. John Paul II is the “hero of orthodoxy.” This is where we are today in the court of public opinion.


The Council Instituted a New Manner of Understanding the Faith

First premise: the Council is not limited to defining new doctrine; the pope realized this concretely. Even if the Council was presented as pastoral, it defined new doctrines and imposed them. The Council instituted a new way to interpret the Faith, a dynamic Faith that subjects itself continually to question. This is crucial for being able to accurately place the pope in the context of modernism. The Faith should be analyzed, the Church should be analyzed, but by whom? Analyzed by all of us: firstly by the faithful, after which the hierarchy should be open to listen. This was already highlighted, so I don’t want to insist too much on this point. But this is modernism as it is written by Pius X (cf. Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, September 8, 1907). Pope Francis assigned a new complementary role to the Magisterium. The Magisterium is not there to teach transcendental truths—the revealed truths which came from on high; the Magisterium is there for sanctioning that which the people little by little through the ages continually try to rethink God. Therefore, there is one Tradition, yes, that goes back to the apostles, but a Tradition which, at the same time, is continually dynamic, which is open to discussion. Pope Benedict XVI made the comparison with a river, a river that has a beginning, a source, but a river where there is nothing, not even a drop of water that remains in the same place.

In order to understand Pope Francis well and his stance upon things, we must remember that the biggest concern of the Council was to reduce the existing distance between the Church and the modern world. Several fractures between the Church and the world are the conflict between faith and reason, the spiritual and the temporal…and Benedict XVI was extremely sensitive on this point. The great concern to reduce this fracture that the Revolution provoked is a very important point which has a theological scope, but also an anthropological one. I will explain myself.

The laity created a dichotomy in the home; the laity imposed, to all of the West for the past 200 years, two ways which cannot create harmony within a person, even if they are condemned to live simultaneously in the Church and the world. Why does this propose a humane, anthropological, and as otherwise stated, deep problem? It is because man cannot support a dichotomy which, in a certain sense, is against nature: modern man has separated that which is inseparable. This is the function of Revolution. Sooner or later this fracture, which not only touched the Church and the rights of God, but which also touched the natural exigence of man—that which lives in harmony between the two mediums—sooner or later this fracture will have to be repaired. It simply must be reduced in the correct sense. From the historical struggle on the part of the Church, above all in the 19th century and up until the Second Vatican Council, in order to restore the rights of the Church in civil societies and among individuals.

There are efforts therefore to find this harmony between the two orders. These efforts have left the men of the Church at a compromised point where the whole intellectual movement in the middle of the 19th century, without renouncing the desire to recuperate this unity, begins to wonder about another erroneous possibility: it is the “Maritainian” Christianity. What is the great revolution of Maritain? Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) began his most famous work Humanisme integral (1936) [Integral Humanism] with this idea: two tired giants. It isn’t the point anymore, Maritain says, that man will continue to try to open up in the same manner that they have opened the Middle Ages. The moment has arrived to think of a new Christianity! And what is this new Christianity? Precisely to recuperate the unity between the two giants, but in another manner. We are there presently in this integration of the sacred and the profane.


The Church Takes Worldly Values unto Herself

I would say to return to the same idea, that it is very interesting to see how the great founders of modern laity immediately consecrate the ideas, icons, and ideals of the laity. So, there is evidently a pantheon where we can find all of the symbols of the republic. You have those individuals who like to idolize sports, sometimes their pets or other animals, ecology, the planet…it essentially deals with attributing sacred qualities to that which is not sacred. Why? Because man must find harmony, in a certain manner, between that which is natural and that which is transcendent.

Arriving at the papacy of Pope Francis, I think that one could say that this pontificate represents the last phase of the effort to reestablish this harmony in yet another way. And this harmony is made in a way that is well described. In a word, harmony is made by listening to the world. The Church reestablishes union with the world, harmony with the world, because it listens to the world. It listens to others and converses. This harmony is reestablished by the comprehension of the world, the attention to problems that affect the world: climate, migrants, pollution, air, water, and poverty…therefore the Church, once again intervenes in the temporal world. If you think about it, many of the discourses of bishops today could be accused of clericalism. They make up an ensemble of themes and subjects that are political. Why don’t they leave this to the politicians? Because, the Church must show that she is in harmony with whatever the politicians say and do with the object of action in the political world. Thus, the Church and the world are finally in communication again, but the novelty consists in a completely different foundation. One could say opposed to that which the Church has always held or vindicated since the Council. The Church, in other words, has made the values of the world her own.


The Faith is Replaced with Sincerity

From this perspective, what used to be a problem traditionally speaking isn’t one anymore. Here is a concrete example: the problem of vocations. It is said that vocations have lessened 80-90% in the last 50 years among different countries and circumstances. This decrease is shocking. Do you think that this issue occupies the minds of the hierarchy of today like it should? No. In this new concept of the Church, in this new mission that the Church has of rapport with the world, everything has to be re-thought. If one rethinks the Faith, one has to rethink everything that has come from the Faith, that is to say all of the different aspects of the life of the Church including the consecrated life—vocations. If the goal of the Church is to no longer teach doctrine (revealed truth that is real and transcendent) and to sanctify souls in the traditional sense of the word…if the goal of the Church is new and different, if it is to diffuse the world, it is evident that the priesthood is no longer necessary in the same way as it was in times past. But in these given conditions, that which the priest must do is the same that any lay person could do, because the latter is better capable of listening to the world than the priest is. Why? Because he lives in the world to a greater extent and the priest is a good priest in the measure that he makes himself more like a lay person—closer to the world. You see here a very concrete example that shows how this conception is revolutionary: this new relationship between the Church and the world postulates changes at every level.

The Faith, in this context, is to be “a listener.” Truth comes from the foundation. From this perspective one could say: the Faith has been replaced by sincerity.

Is Our Lord Unified to All Men by the Incarnation?

We have spoken a great deal about the Church during the course of this day. It is true that the Church is at the center of all of the attacks of the Council. It is the Church principally who is at the center of all of the errors to which we are subjected today; it is the Church who is disfigured. And don’t forget that the Church, being the mystical body of Christ also indicates that it is Our Lord who is attacked, dogmatically. It is interesting because all of the heresies from the first centuries were Christological heresies. There is a profound reason for this. The devil knew from the beginning that he was vanquished by the Incarnation. The Incarnation was ordained for the Cross and therefore the demon was virtually conquered, struck at the moment when Our Lord took on human nature. One understands very well then why, from the beginning, the demon attacks the Incarnation in the entire series of heresies which confront the rapport between the two natures—human and divine—of Our Lord and His will.

It is the same regard, the same attention to the Person of Our Lord in the present day as well. Effectually, if we look at what is happening in the Church of today, at what affects Christianity, we can see here that the demon uses this false notion to attack the Incarnation. It is at the same time upon the Church and the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we should direct our gaze. And we see this new idea upon which Our Lord is united to all men through His Incarnation: having taking on a human nature, He has united Himself to all men. One finds this in the Council and it is the magnum opus of the pontificate of John Paul II, because it is one of the great axes of the post-Conciliar era. But this is false. Upon His Incarnation, Our Lord gave the possibility for every man to unite himself to Him. Yes, it’s true. It is by His personal human nature that Our Lord permits humanity to unite itself to Him, to find harmony with God once again, but this harmony with God presupposes the cooperation of man. That being said, Our Lord, by the Incarnation is already united to every man with all of the consequences that this implies. However, that which we see today: this confusion between the Church and the world, this assimilation of the Church by the world, this Church that dissolves her mission into the world to construct the world: this is false. It is right here where the root of the present crisis is situated: in this false idea with all of its applications. The consequences have already been sufficiently highlighted today in the course of different interventions, on which I don’t need to elaborate.


Renewing Our Love for the Church Who is Our Mother

Why does God permit all of this? God treats us and treats the Church according to His own divine and supernatural economy. Unfortunately, we too often forget this. The Church is governed by God according to non-human laws. Ourselves, living in the world, too often judge the Church according to worldly categories. What is going to happen? Why all of this disorder? How many souls damn themselves? Yes, it’s true, but once again we must judge all of this with a supernatural perspective in the measure that we are able to penetrate the mysteries of God, because there is indeed a mystery in the present crisis.

Therefore, what could one respond even if one knew ahead of time that his response would have its limitations because he is touching upon a mystery? Error is the accidental occasion for dogmatic progress: the more that error affects the Church, the more the Church can react, and therefore one can love the truth because it becomes more and more clear. One can analogically compare this to the Church and the current crisis. If the Church is at the center of the attacks of the Council and post-Council, if the notion of the Church is at the center of all the errors that we denounce and against which we struggle, it is to permit us to prove our love for the Church. God wills, by this trial, to wake us up and make us redouble our love for the Church. In order to be faithful to the Church of today, one no longer needs faith, we have to augment our faith; we must enter into this supernatural vision, because if one judges the present Church according to human criteria, one loses their faith within the Church or, in any case, our faith in the Church diminishes. Just as all of the errors of history have been the occasion for dogmatic progress, likewise here, and again, these errors have made us suffer and tear us down. They are therefore certainly the occasion—in the vision of God—to prove and renew our love for the Church who is our Mother.

It is the great explanation of Archbishop Lefebvre. I think that which touches us the most when we listen to him, when we read his writings—according to the testimony of those who knew him personally—is the harmony that one recognized in his preaching, in his manner of speaking, between the denunciation of error—a clear denunciation, without concession—and at the same time his great love for the Church. It is because he loved the Church that he denounced her errors with the vigor with which we are familiar.

So, I would say that 50 years later, despite our difficulties, we are all here for the same reason, to renew our faith and our love for the Church. It is because we love the Church that this combat must continue, and must continue using the same means, yes, with our fervor and renewed faith.

But, I leave the word to Fr. Lorans because, principally, this conference is more of a dialogue…


Transformation of the Ecclesia Dei Commission

Fr. Lorans: Be assured, Reverend Father Superior General, you resemble your predecessor who asked me to ask him questions. I can only ask two or three during this conference, because each response takes about 20 minutes. You are truly his successor. On a more serious note, permit me one question that deals with the present. The media has spoken recently of a suppression or a transformation of the Ecclesia Dei commission. One knows that you came back at the end of November from an audience with Cardinal Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The information has come to us today, a Motu proprio from Pope Francis who has put an end to the Ecclesia Dei commission. How did you react to this information?

Fr. Pagliarani: I prefer not to react right away. The information has come to us in a non-official manner. The noise has been circulating since the end of the month of December. And immediately, I was accused. The Society was accused of being behind this maneuver for a reason that the most “clairvoyant” put online right away: that we are supposedly in the process of finalizing an agreement with the Holy See, and the true “favor” that the Society asks from the Holy See, is the suppression of the Ecclesia Dei Commission. Why? Because the Society does not want to co-exist and therefore, with the suppression of Ecclesia Dei, the Society demands from Rome the capitulation of all of the Ecclesia Dei institutions!

Behold what has been circulating on the internet. Permit me to address this. It is news like this that immediately provokes agitation within our circles and those outside of them. Thus, even though we have so much to do with a congregation consisting of hundreds of priests around the world, do you really think that our principal concern is to heal the relations between the Ecclesia Dei Commission and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? Absolutely not! This was never in question, and I have only just today learned this news. Until the present, it was a noise which didn’t even deserve to be commented upon.

It is interesting though to reveal that from the moment when something doesn’t even directly touch the Society, but rather the “traditionalist galaxy” something that touches us only indirectly, immediately it is understood as a function of the Society…

It doesn’t do any good to listen to rumors or to be affluent with the noise as long as there is no proof. What is interesting is a point of the Motu proprio of Pope Francis. There was a reminder that the Ecclesia Dei commission was instituted to permit “full communion” with those who, persons or organizations, did not want to follow Archbishop Lefebvre in his supposed schism, etc. And the reason for which one made the decision to suppress the Ecclesia Dei Commission, (which is to be transformed into a section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) is that the conditions today are not what they once were. The institutions and the religious communities who habitually celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass have found true stability in number and life. Thus, all of the Ecclesia Dei institutions have found their peace today, their stability in the Church! Above all, now, under the pontificate of Pope Francis! It seems to me that there is no need for commentary upon this.


We Have a Duty of Charity

What should one think of the Ecclesia Dei institutions? We must recognize that they have suffered in recent years. And it seems to me that there is reason to distinguish this. It is true that these institutions have been created, in the beginning, to favor “full communion” of all those who did not agree with the Society of Saint Pius X at the time of the episcopal consecrations. As the years have passed, things have changed a little bit and we are faced with a situation that is more heterogeneous: there are people, above all after the Motu proprio (Summorum pontificum, July 7, 2007), who have come to Tradition upon discovering the Mass. And the Mass detangles often, for the well-disposed—priest or laity—a reflection that clarifies the doctrinal conclusion which comes close to those of ours. Also, I think that in view of these last few years, we can find the interlocutors toward whom we have a duty of charity, in order to direct them toward integral Tradition. They should unite all of their conclusions to their adhesion to the Tridentine Mass; for many it is well received but when one switches between the two rites, one cannot make great progress. So, we have the duty to encourage these conclusions, little by little and make progress here and there which is perhaps a source of worry for the authorities. In effect, the hierarchy does not always control the communities of Ecclesia Dei like one might think, and this is the reason for which it intervenes from time to time upon this or that institution. There it is—a first lecture of the Motu proprio. But I insist: when one speaks about the institutions of Ecclesia Dei, one finds a little bit of everything, sometimes a route that travels in the right direction, from where, I think, there is a certain worry in the Vatican. These circumstances demand a more in-depth exposure…


Beware of the Temptation to Naturally Evaluate that Which is Supernatural

Fr. Lorans: You have told us before in your synthesis that the Church since the Council opens herself up to the world, adopts, and even assimilates certain values of the world. She has a political vision and today one sees bishops and even the pope taking a position on ecology, migrants… Do we ourselves, within Tradition, have a political vision? Do we see things in a manner that is too quantitative? Do we also lack a supernatural spirit? Can you speak more precisely, or in depth, of what you expect from the priests and faithful?

Fr. Pagliarani: This is inevitable. It is inevitable that our vision is a little too natural, because we are not angels. We work in this world; we have need of strength, of people, schools, mothers of families… We have need of money, and inevitably, we can be affected by a way of calculating the present and the future to measure our problems and their solutions in a natural manner. Yes, in this sense, we play a political game. In the large sense, we use the same categories of the world. Let us take an example: communication. In the manner of using the most modern means, one can fall into the temptation to treat the Society like a big business and to gauge according to statistics. Another example: if, perhaps, the majority of families have 10 children, it is a good sign. Yes, it is a sign of generosity, but be careful! Afterward, one must see if there is an equivalent generosity to carry the cross of education, to carry the cross of struggles and great suffering. Let us then guard ourselves against the temptation to evaluate that which is supernatural, fundamentally spiritual, with quantitative measures. Without a doubt we are all a little bit affected by this…


A Renewed Caution to Priests

Fr. Lorans: You are at the beginning of your charge as Superior General and you have begun to travel. You will soon go to the United States. Do you already have an idea of what needs to be taken to souls? I know that since you have been elected, you have spoken of the sanctification of the priests saying that by the sanctification of priests, one is able to do good for families. It must first pass through the priests. Can you specify this point for us that you think expresses the mission of the Society by the will of its founder?

Fr. Pagliarani: Yes, it is a question of fidelity to the spirit of the Society and that which our founder bequeaths to us: this attention is renewed to the priests. Without a doubt Providence does not cease to send us vocations. We must, of course support, cultivate, and help them to persevere. I think that in our life as priests of the Society—and indirectly we can say for the faithful also, because this affects them too—there are values proper to the Society that could be rediscovered. One of those is the common life upon which our statutes particularly insist. Our founder underlines that it is really the medium where one practices charity. Once again the common life in itself is not always functional; it does not harmonize with a vision of life of the priest and of the Society according to the categories of the world. Commercially speaking, it would be better to open more priories. It would be better to go to more places because we must occupy the land. This happens, and every time, the situation must be evaluated and explained. It’s true that there really are places where one sees that Providence opens up its doors. But at the same time, we must know when to calmly take a step back and rediscover the beauty of the common life in which our founder wills that we support each other one and all in the practice of charity. Many difficulties could be avoided in rediscovering the initial spirit of generosity, but always maintaining—common life is only one example—a supernatural perspective. That which saves the Church, that which saves the Society, that which sanctifies souls, is the spirit of the Cross, the economy of the Cross which is at odds with the natural economy. It is this manner of thinking which takes likeness with the categories of the world.


God Also Wants to Save the Christian Family

Fr. Lorans: Can you please tell us, in particular, your expectations from families?

Fr. Pagliarani: Certainly, generosity at all levels: moral generosity, spiritual generosity, and material generosity all have the same source in the measure that one arrives at transmitting to souls this supernatural spirit which is the spirit of detachment. Before anything else, detachment from ourselves, from our will, and also sometimes, that which is in our pockets…but there is a consequence. We must place our material generosity in its proper place. It is a piece in a mosaic where the sanctification of souls and the supernatural spirit must touch all aspects of the soul and the family.

So, what can one ask from families? Perhaps somewhat the same thing as priests. The fight necessitates an effort: one is sometimes tired. In particular, I think of the families of today, unlike the families of the 80s. In the 80s, there was sometimes an imprudent generosity, but a generosity which was provoked by the circumstances. Today, this generosity, because of the circumstances which have changed, should be the fruit of a more profound reflection because the exterior circumstances have demanded perseverance after so many years, in a crisis which doesn’t stop in a world which attacks families with ever-new methods.

I will not repeat my hostility with regard to electronic means, because one would believe that it is a fixed idea of mine, but I really think that it is a cause of spiritual laxity.

It is better to encourage souls, families with all of the supernatural means that we have at our disposal. Above all, it is important to help them understand that it is the Cross which increasingly assimilates them to Our Lord. These are the difficulties proper to our life today which will gain the graces necessary to make saints of their children.

It is a magnificent mission.

Above all, I conclude, the last steps to the proper dissolution of the post-Conciliar crisis have been exposed during the course of this congress: the attack on the family and of natural morals. I think that the most beautiful witness, more superior than anything that we could say or denounce, is that of Christian parents who live their marriage in all of its beauty and in all of the integrity of the law of Our Lord. Yes, it is a magnificent witness and much more precious because of its rarity today, and that the men of the Church do not really encourage it. If God wills to save the priesthood, God will also save the family, the Christian family; this is certain.

Fr. Lorans: Thank you very much. The hour has come for us to part ways. We ask of you the benediction of the Superior General, after which we will sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater. But beforehand, I say in the name of all here present that our prayers will accompany you and that we will ask God to bless your charge as Superior General.


To conserve the proper character of this conference, the oral style has been kept. This conference has been translated from the French by Associate Editor Miss Jane Carver.