The Wanderer Interviews Fr. Aulagnier, SSPX . . .
"Why I Favor Our Superiors Legalizing Our Situation In The Church"
(Editor’s Note: Those who follow the movements of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) have likely come across the person of Fr. Paul Aulagnier. He was among Archbishop Lefebvre’s first class of SSPX seminarians, the first French seminarian to be ordained into the SSPX, and one of the SSPX’s strongest proponents of the episcopal consecrations in 1988. As a former assistant to the superior general, Fr. Aulagnier and Archbishop Lefebvre remained close until the archbishop’s death.
(In more recent years, Fr. Aulagnier has become an outspoken voice among SSPX clergy
who favor reconciliation with
+ + +
Q. Since you are the first French priest ordained for the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, were you close to Archbishop Lefebvre? How did he inspire you?
A. Yes, I was close to Archbishop Lefebvre. I knew him well and I strongly appreciated him. He was so cordial, pleasant, a great prelate, but humble, simple, thoughtful for those who surrounded him. He had heart. It was difficult to not love him. He had a magnetic per-
Fr. Aulagnier meets with Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos and Bishop Rifan.
sonality. I knew him while during my seminary days at Santa Chiara, the French Seminary in
The seminary professors often invited a particular conciliar father to spend the evening with us. They were of every tendency. It certainly brought some of us joy to hear Archbishop Lefebvre on the two or three occasions he was invited. Differing from the others, he spoke little about the council. Rather he spoke about the priesthood to which we desired Ordination. Like several of my fellow seminarians, I appreciated his presentation of the Catholic priesthood.
In the midst of the council, everything was changing. In a university seminary, minds react quickly, undergo influences, and seek to understand. We participated at the seminary in all the systematic changes of everything — of the common life, of the house rules, of theology, of scholastics. In the midst of this spiritual and intellectual agitation, we needed to be careful, to reflect, to inquire, and to read a lot in order to remain informed.
We painstakingly followed such journals as Nouvelles de Chrétienté, Itinéraires, and La Pensée Catholique to follow the conciliar debates. Without these journals, I do not know if I would be a priest today. Without Archbishop Lefebvre, I certainly would not be. The superiors of the French seminary would not have accepted me. My mind was not open to the proposed novelties.
Our little group of traditional
seminarians quickly saw ourselves becoming the object of criticism. When many
of us were refused tonsure in 1968, we turned to Archbishop Lefebvre. Having
resigned as superior general of the Spiritans,
Archbishop Lefebvre was now free to found a seminary in
I became part of the first class of nine seminarians. My diocesan bishop at the time authorized the transfer. Being the most experienced seminarian — I already had four years of seminary under my belt — gave me the opportunity to become close to Archbishop Lefebvre. During walks, he would gladly converse with us. He even confided in us spontaneously, spoke of his projects, of his priestly ideal, of his hesitations. He often shared his African memories, his memories of the council, his decision to publish his essay, "To Remain Catholic, Must We Become Protestant?"
This essay explains the whole of Archbishop Lefebvre. He hated the modern world’s revolutionary spirit that refused subjection, submission, subordination to a created order, to a divine order. Archbishop Lefebvre had been formed by the thinking of Popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, and Pius XII. These were his masters. He remained faithful to them all his life. For Archbishop Lefebvre, God as Trinity is everything.
Q. What functions did you have in the
heart of the SSPX before coming to
A. My "ecclesiastical career" is
simple. I served three years as a professor and the sub-director of our
seminary in Econe, and 18 years as district superior
When my mandate expired in 1994, I needed
a break and went to
In 2001, I was made superior of an
autonomous house in
Q. Why were you strongly in favor of the consecrations of 1988?
A. I personally saw in it the wisdom of
Archbishop Lefebvre. I knew he loved the Church, that he wanted to serve the
Church. He did it all his life. He did it in
All this gave him experience and wisdom. He knew the Church in its internal structure. I trusted in him more than others. The consecrations were not an easy decision for him. I myself favored them. I could not see how Catholic Tradition, the Catholic priesthood, the Catholic Mass would survive without any assured episcopal succession. It is the bishop who ordains the priest. It is the priest who offers the Sacrifice of the Mass, renewing the Sacrifice of the Cross. This Sacrifice of the Cross is at the heart of the Church, as it is at the heart of the thinking of our Lord, at the heart of the divine plan of salvation. The Mass is essential to the Church, to the world, to any city.
With Archbishop Lefebvre gone, no bishop at that
time possessed the courage to continue his work. One must never forget that.
Our battle was always centered on the
A Long Evolution
Q. Do you think that the same reasons would be valuable today? Or are there any dangers in waiting for a reconciliation?
A. Today, the conditions would not allow for what was done in June of 1988. Several of my confreres will, perhaps, hit the roof when they become aware of this interview. It does not matter. I am free to state my judgment and I never liked yes men.
Why would the consecrations not be
reasonable today? Because many Romans have changed and now acknowledge the very
difficult situation in which the Church finds herself. Cardinal Castrillon’s Mass of
Pope John Paul II’s
encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia vivit is also very important. Additionally, I think
that there is a danger in seeing this conflict last for ages. The Church is a
visible and hierarchical society. If one lives too long in an autarchy, one
ends up losing the meaning of what a hierarchy is. We are thus in danger, the
time passing and the opposition remaining, of forgetting
This is why we must always remain in
Q. Why do you believe that the
reconciliation of Bishop Rifan and his priests is a
positive step not only for the traditionalists of
A. One reason is the danger of schism
which I just expressed. Secondly, my friendship with these heroic priests has
led me to experience their traditional parishes and their numerous works. I
have especially seen even here the problem of the
Q. Many priests of your Society, including Bishop Fellay, have praised the new encyclical of the Holy Father Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Do you consider the new encyclical to be a positive sign on the doctrinal and liturgical level?
A. Yes and greatly so. This encyclical is truly a positive sign on the doctrinal and liturgical level. One sees here an authority that is newly aware of the drama which affects the Church and her liturgy. The liturgical reform, such as it was conceived and applied after the council, has denatured the liturgy by not respecting its end. The liturgy is essentially worship rendered to God. The priest offers, in the name of the people, "for the living and the dead," for the people who are united to this action, the sacrifice of Christ which renders to God "all honor and all glory."
The Catholic liturgy has a transcendent dimension. It orients us toward God. It subjects us to God. There is a similarity between the Roman liturgy and the heavenly liturgy. Read the Book of the Apocalypse of St. John and you will see that heavenly worship is directed toward the Father and the Lamb of God, the paschal Lamb to whom the angels and the elect sing and magnify the power, the divinity, the glory, the sanctity of God. The Sanctus of our Mass is a divine praise. All this is, for many, lost, so much so.
The Catholic hierarchy is finally aware of it. It is never too late in order to do good. It wants to correct the "shadows." How can one not rejoice at this? This is yet another reason why I favor our superiors legalizing our situation in the Church. It is necessary today to be inside with a recognized right of the Mass of St. Pius V on the altars of Christianity. One must have the sense of what is possible. To ask too much is to ask for nothing. The Holy Father has spoken. We must help and participate in the liturgical restoration in the Church.
Diversity Of Rites
the time of the Mass of
A. Yes, I have greatly appreciated the
words of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos
Today, everyone says this. All the cardinals who thought over the question are saying this. Cardinal Medina says this, after having said quite the opposite in 1999. Cardinal Arinze as well. He is the prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship. He is the authority on this subject. As for Cardinal Stickler, he is a canonist whose authority is recognized. Cardinal Ratzinger, who is the workhorse of liturgical restoration in the Church, says it in all his recent books. He also assisted Pope John Paul II in the editing of the Holy Father’s latest encyclical we have mentioned. This new honesty is extraordinary. Almost 40 years have gone by where everyone said quite the contrary.
Additionally, the return of the Mass of St. Pius V will not be done in one day. It takes its time, little by little. Regarding liturgical plurality on which Cardinal Castrillon is rooted, I am, of course, in favor to the degree where the "reform of the reform" will allow the rite of the parishes to come closer, little by little, to the Traditional rite. In herself, the Church has always respected liturgical diversity. Take note of the attitude of Pope St. Pius V! Here, there was a matter of a rite which will re-traditionalize. The only condition required is that the rite in question expresses the Catholic faith.
An Apostolic Administration
Q. In the context of these positive stages, is the reconciliation of the
A. One Mass does not establish a custom. Thus I will speak about restoration of normal relations between Catholics of goodwill. This restoration is more than desirable. It is necessary. In a month? In three years? I do not know. Yet the more that time passes, the more the restoration becomes urgent. But again, minds must be prepared.
Q. Do you think that the recent transfer
of Bishop Williamson to
A. I believe it was simply routine. One should not imagine conflicts or hidden reasons
where none exist. Granted, Bishop Williamson is one of the most firm opponents
to a reconciliation with
Q. Considering your friendship and close
proximity with Archbishop Lefebvre, do you think that he would have accepted
the offer of reconciliation that
A. I sincerely believe that today
Archbishop Lefebvre would have accepted an accord with
regard to the obligation of the
Additionally, through an apostolic
administration, we would have better protection today than in 1988. Our
bishops, recognized by
Q. In closing, we wish to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share some of your thoughts with us, and we would also invite our readers to visit your web site at: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/item.tradition