Interview of Father Aulagnier with the
President of Entraide et Tradition (Valerie Houtart )
June 18 2003
You are asking me for my opinion on the recent letter of the month of June from the Dominicans of Avrillé to their friends and benefactors. I just became aware of it in my faraway Canada. I will gladly share it with you and in a straightforward manner.
One part of the letter is consecrated to the last encyclical of the Holy Father on the Eucharist: Ecclesia de Eucharistia. You know already that I have studied it in depth, as so many of my confreres have done as well, a good census, such as Father Hery, Father de Tanoüarn. You published all three of us on the site ITEM; in the file that you had dedicated to this encyclical. You are equally aware of the fact that Mgr. Fellay, in an Italian journal, manifested his satisfaction with the publication of this document. ITEM has equally published it. I congratulate you for it.
Any errors and weaknesses can be perfectly revealed, as the FSSPX has done often enough, in this recent instruction. I completely acknowledge that one can say that our censuses of the encyclical are “optimistic” where others are “pessimistic”. But this commentary from the Dominicans of Avrillé is inadmissible from the point of view of an intellectual method: it is partial and thus false. It is not very strong from persons who use the motto: contemplari alliis tradere. It is even shocking. I will show you the partial and false aspect of their presentation by a little example.
At the end of their fourth paragraph, they quote the Pope: “There is no doubt that the liturgical reform of the Council has produced a greater participation in the holy sacrifice of the altar for the faithful that is more attentive, more active and more fruitful”. This is a small part of number 10 of the encyclical. If the Dominicans quote this passage, which insists upon the benefits of the liturgical reform, it is for mocking it. This liturgical reform has only emptied the churches. Case closed. But if one wants to criticize the thinking of Jean-Paul II, one needs to make an effort to both present it completely and try to understand it. They would have to honestly follow the quotation. For the thought of the Pope does not stop at this single “satisfecit”. Just the opposite. He especially insists upon the present grave doctrinal omissions. And thus one can completely conclude that it is the liturgical reform that the Pope wants to criticize. In any case, one needs to repeat all that the Pope says about the present liturgy. And, de facto, the Pope continues number 10 by writing: “Unfortunately, apart from these lights, shadows are never lacking”. The Pope enumerates them: “There are in fact places where an almost complete abandonment of eucharistic worship is noticed”. And about this subject, I precisely rejoice about the great procession announced at Nantes in honour of the most Holy Sacrament, while the bishop of Nantes hardly encourages his parishioners to honour, as the Pope requests, the Holy Eucharist.
The Pope continues: “To this is added, in such or such an ecclesial context, abuses which contribute to obscuring the right faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this admirable Sacrament” (some time ago, he would have said “abuses which contribute to obscuring the right interpretation of the conciliar reform”). The Pope explains these abuses: “Sometimes there appears a comprehension that greatly reduces the eucharistic Mystery ”. This is how the Pope states the disappearance of the notion of sacrifice, benefiting from the notion of meal or of the simple notion of festivity: “Deprived of its sacrificial value, this sacrament is lived as if it did not go beyond the meaning and value of a cordial and fraternal encounter”. He will dedicate numerous paragraphs in order to recall the essence of the holy Mass which is precisely a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ. It would have been better, as Mgr. Fellay has observed, that the propitiatory character of the sacrifice be better explained. But this essential element is de facto present. It is manifested, as I had explained in my commentary, that the Pope took into account the theological criteria that Cardinal Ottaviani presented to Pope Paul VI in addressing to him the Brief critical examination, similiar to remarks from the Society’s book that was presented to Cardinal Ratzinger and to the Supreme Pontiff: The problem of the reform of the Mass. In any case, about this notion of sacrifice Pope John Paul II almost insists just as much upon it as the reformers insist on the notion of the meal, of banquet, in the Institutio generalis which directed the liturgical reform.
The Pope continues: “furthermore, the necessity of a ministerial priesthood which adheres to the apostolic succession is sometimes obscured”. Here is expressed, very clearly this time, the second deficiency of the liturgical reform that issued from the II Vatican Council. And there as well, the Pope is going to refute this error present in the Novus Ordo Missae during long and very great developments, precise and with a great technique. Any serious reader cannot help but see this. The Pope finally writes: “the sacramental character of the Eucharist is reduced to a sole efficacy of an announcement”. Here, the Supreme Pontiff is going to explain the third truth of the faith concerning the holy Mass which is unfortunately expressed in an equivocal manner in this new Mass: the real presence of Our Lord. The Pope will then have an opportunity to mention transubstantiation, to quote the Council of Trent, Saint Thomas of Aquinas.
From then on, only quoting from the end of number 10, only taking into account a single expressed idea, whereas this number 10 contains precisely other ideas and even all the ideas of the encyclical- this number 10 being the plan of the whole encyclical- this, for me is an intellectual dishonesty. With such proceedings, the criticism coming from Tradition ceases to be credible.
Their conclusion is particularly shameful coming from theologians who are supposed to be speaking in the name of Tradition. They state: “The conclusion of this brief review is that Rome (the conciliar Rome) has not changed since 40 years not only according to content but also according to form. According to content, since they continue to teach the new theology, that of the new Mass”. Now, I encourage that one criticizes them, but on condition that one has read correctly and thus to find that the encyclical does de facto denounce the ambiguities of the theology of the new Mass. To speak falsely on a subject so important for Catholics of Tradition as the Mass, the aim of their combat for such a long time, is self-defeating. It is to deceive the faithful, to lead them into error by falsely informing them. It is to discredit oneself in the eyes of those that one criticizes.
They continue with their conclusion: “According to form, for they (Rome) persists in the art of mixing the true and the false together so as to render docile the mentalities and to make one progressively pass form Catholicism over to the new religion”. Here the intention is judged. Thus, from partiality to intellectual falsity, we arrive at a moral suspicion. Saint Ignatius stated the contrary at the beginning of his Spiritual Exercises (no. 22) that one must always grant an a priori that is favourable to the “proposition of one’s neighbour”. According to Our Lord, He says that one must not “extinguish the smouldering wick”. How much more reason when the wick re-lights, which must not be put out but left intact so that it burns further. Partiality. Error. Suspicion. What a family! As one knows, I do not belong to such a family. And, I could equally demonstrate to you very easily that, in this letter and this conclusion, which rests upon the principle that everything that comes from Rome is a priori bad, thus raising the theory of the “Church in eclipse”, which is certainly a theory worst than sedevacantism, which is certainly heretical by not expressing the truth about the Church. I believe that this letter of Avrillé does a great harm to the noble cause that we are defending.
Father Paul Aulagnier