BISHOP WILLIAMSON CONFERENCES- n°1
Fr Le Floch used to teach the great encyclicals, running from the early 1800s through to, as it then was, the 1920s. The Church had not yet gone crazy in Fr Le Floch’s time. Then the Church went crazy in the 1960s, or the churchmen went crazy in the 1960s, and when the Archbishop started his seminary in the 1970s, he instituted, what I don’t think he’d had in his day, a course on the encyclicals, a course on the full-blooded Church teaching on the modern errors. I heard him quoted once, saying to somebody, “We need to make more use of the encyclicals.” Those encyclicals nail the great errors of the modern age, and the modern age squealed, especially the Syllabus. It really made the liberals yell. It touched a nerve. It hit the modern age where it hurts, and the modern age didn’t like it. Gladstone, the great Liberal prime minister, who was no Catholic, and I’m sure was nowhere ever near the Catholic Church, he yelled, “This is a Catholic business. You don’t have to worry about what a Catholic says,” but he did worry, because the Church was hitting on exactly what the modern world was doing wrong. The Syllabus was hitting on exactly the problem.
The modern problem begins with Protestantism. Protestantism is at the root of the modern errors, which is in the 16th century. Protestantism is taking about a third of Christendom and it’s yanking it off to the left – grace alone, scripture alone and faith alone – the tremendous heresy of Protestantism, which undermined the whole of Catholic teaching and the whole of the Catholic Church and it broke Christendom. From then on Christendom was fractured. You may remember the Five Ages of the Church. The Fourth Age of the Church lasted about 1,000 years. Prior to that, the Age of the Apostles, the Age of the Martyrs, the Age of the Doctors, and then things stabilise and tranquilise, and you’ve got 1,000 years with not much heresy. There is heresy but there’s not much, and it’s more or less tranquil. The Church is always in trouble, but it’s relatively tranquil for 1,000 years - the Church peacefully possessing civilisation. The later Middle Ages get decadent, and the heresy of Protestantism breaks out with Martin Luther in 1517, and a whole chunk of the Church swings left.
The Church reacts with the Counter-Reformation, which opposes Protestantism, and it’s rebuilding the Church, and the Church begins to expand again. Then there’s 1789, the French Revolution, and Liberalism breaks out. There was another 250 years of Catholic civilisation, 1517 to 1789, about 250 years, and the Jesuits are the counterattack of the Catholic Church against Protestantism. St Ignatius is a contemporary of Luther, and while Luther is going to sort out the Church by rebelling, St Ignatius sorts out the Church by converting. That’s the Spiritual Exercises, which we inherit from St Ignatius. He founded the Spiritual Exercises, in the modern form at least, and every Catholic pope since that time has praised the Spiritual Exercises and commended them and recommended them, and they have been a tremendous means of fortifying Catholics against the world being shaken and broken and infiltrated by Protestantism. So you’ve got 250 years of Catholicism and Protestantism slugging it out.
Then the French Revolution is a rerun of Protestantism, only in the form of Liberalism. It’s more subtle than Protestantism. It’s less of a sledgehammer. It’s more of a scalpel. Liberalism pretends to be Catholic. Actually, both Protestantism and Liberalism pretend to be Catholic - one form after another of fake Catholicism. Since the Fourth Age the Church has triumphed. Everybody knows that the Catholic Church is where it’s at and that we should all be Catholic, so everybody has to pay homage to Catholicism, but they don’t want to be Catholics, so all of this is hypocrisy. It’s all pretence of being Catholic without the reality. It’s a break with Catholicism while pretending to be Catholics. Liberalism is a more refined form of Protestantism – liberty, equality, fraternity. Liberalism doesn’t pretend to be a religion like Protestantism did, but, in effect, it’s a whole world view pretending to save the world, and it’s basically rerunning the ideas of Protestantism, but it’s Protestantism inside Catholic countries.
For example, Liberalism breaks out in France, which is a Catholic country, where the Jesuits had been at work, and many other religious orders and many saints have been at work for 250 years – St Francis de Sales, St Vincent de Paul, St John Eudes and so on. There was a good deal of Catholicism in 17th-century France. France got its Catholic act together, so to speak, but in the 18th century the 17th-century Catholicism soured with Jansenism. Jansenism was a form of Protestant Catholicism, and Jansenism led to Liberalism. Jansenism is very strict, on the right, and then the pendulum swings. It’s unbalanced, it’s too far out, and the pendulum swings in the opposite direction, and you get somebody who’s very strict suddenly becoming very liberal, and so Jansenists turn into liberals.
The same thing happened in England. The Puritans turned into Whigs about the same time, towards the end of the 17th century. Catholicism had been knocked out in England by then, stamped out by the wicked governments of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James VI. The English are tough. They’re implacable. They put their foot on the Church just like somebody would stamp on an insect and crush it out. That’s what the English did to the Catholic Church, so the Catholic Church had been knocked out. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers were semi-Catholic Protestants. In other words, you had this tendency amongst the Protestants, they still had a great respect for the Catholic Church and they wanted to be like Catholics. In fact, between them and the Puritans it came to outright war, the Civil War in England of the 1640s, and King Charles I had his head cut off, but then the English did come back after Oliver Cromwell. The English restored the monarchy, even though it was gutted, even though it was comparatively powerless, and then it was a constitutional monarchy, and then the liberals took over. The Puritans morphed into Whigs, and then the Whigs dominated English politics for a long time.
In France, the Protestantism seeping into the Catholic Church, seeping into the Counter-Reformation church, took a virulent form - Jansenism. Jansenism morphed into Liberalism. Liberalism produced the French Revolution of 1789.
Freemasonry was lodged in London in 1717. Freemasonry generated Liberalism. Liberalism is the result of Protestantism dividing from Catholicism. When Catholicism was in possession of civilisation, it was the Truth and everybody knew it.
In Catholic Austria, Beethoven said, “God and the basic rules of music, you don’t question.” In medieval Catholic Europe, you didn’t question Catholicism. It was in serene and complete possession. When Protestantism set up shop, you then had two completely different systems. So a soul says, “They can’t both be true, so which is true? The Protestants seem good guys, and the Catholics can seem quite sloppy guys sometimes, so which is true?”
The Roundheads and the Cavaliers - the Roundheads are strict and they’ve got strict morals, whereas the Cavaliers enjoy wine and women. You’ve got a choice.
Then what happens is the liberals come in and say, “OK, you Catholics, OK, you Protestants, don’t worry. You be a good Protestant and you be a good Catholic and that way we’ll all be happy and we’ll live together and we won’t have any more of these terrible religious wars.” That’s Liberalism. In other words, your different beliefs, your different doctrines don’t matter. Doctrine doesn’t matter. What matters is it to be a nice guy and to live united. Unity in front of truth. “Let’s get together. Let’s all love one another. Don’t worry about the things that separate us. Let’s concentrate on the things that unite us”- that’s another great slogan of the liberals.
Liberalism arises from the existence of Protestantism opposite Catholicism, and the liberals come along and say, “Doctrine doesn’t matter. Let’s all get on together.” It’s the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. Liberalism doesn’t sweep off countries like Protestantism did, but it sweeps off the politics. Liberalism has the effect of separating politics from religion. Religion is kicked out of politics by Liberalism. The liberals say, “Look, every man in private can have his own religion. That’s not a problem, but in public we’re going to agree to disagree. In public we’re not going to be Catholic. We’re not going to be Protestant. The State will not be Protestant or Catholic, but the individuals will be what they like in their own lives.” That’s Liberalism.
Liberalism arises from the coexistence of Protestantism with Catholicism. Without Protestantism there would never have become Liberalism. Liberalism is “let’s all be free; freedom for everybody; let’s agree to differ; ideas don’t matter all that much. What matters is getting on together, being good guys. You can have what religion you like in private, only don’t try and force it on anybody in public.” That’s the United States, which is soaked in Liberalism; and England, also, but in a different way from the United States.
The Church reacts with the 19th-century popes against Liberalism. They’re fighting Liberalism, just as the Counter-Reformation fought Protestantism. The 19th-century popes write the encyclicals. One of the first is in 1832, Mirari Vos of Gregory XVI. These are the encyclicals that Archbishop Lefebvre loved and wanted to use.
An encyclical is from the Greek. It’s like “cycle”. A monocycle is a cycle with just one wheel; a bicycle is a cycle with two wheels; a tricycle is a cycle with three wheels. “Cycle” means “wheel” or “circle”. It’s a circular letter which is going to go the round of all the bishops of the world. That’s why it’s called an “encyclical” letter. The encyclicals are written for bishops, so they’re on a substantial level.
The Archbishop loved them because they are the answer to Liberalism, which is a tremendous problem in the modern world. If Protestantism originated the problems of the modern world, Liberalism certainly developed them. It is apparently less hateful towards Catholicism but more undermining. At least the Protestants stood up and said, “We hate you. We’re going to smash you.” It was an open fight. Liberalism says, “We love you but we also love Protestants. We love everybody. We’re agreeing with everybody.” It’s apparently friendly but in reality it’s deadly. It’s more deadly in a way than Protestantism. The Protestant is wrong but at least his mind is still firm. Luther says, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” He takes a stand. He’s not wishy-washy, but every liberal is wishy-washy. By his very principles he’s wishy-washy because he says, “Ideas don’t matter. Let’s all agree to disagree. No problem. Let’s not make a problem of doctrine or a problem of ideas. Let’s just live together and be happy together and coexist together, and let each man have his own convictions in private.” Liberalism is apparently nicer than Protestantism but it’s more deadly, and the modern world is full of Liberalism.
Protestants morph into liberals. Today there are few convinced Protestants. They do still exist, but the general state of people’s minds today is Liberalism. In philosophy it’s Kant, the deadly, terrible Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher. He systematised the idea that ideas are useless. He created a system around the proposition that we cannot know reality, that the mind cannot know reality. Then the mind really is at sea. The liberal Kant, who disconnected the mind from objective reality, is the real nigger in the woodpile of Modernism, the real uranium of Modernism. That’s the heart of Modernism. Therefore there are 100 people, there are 100 truths – that’s Kant. He made it into a system. You go to any university today, you go to the philosophy department, and automatically it’s built on Kant. It’s never built on St Thomas Aquinas. Today not even the Catholic universities are built on St Thomas Aquinas. St Thomas Aquinas is included in the syllabus, but the automatic supposition is that if you want to philosophise you’re going to have to start out from Kant. That’s Liberalism.
The 19th-century popes stand up to Liberalism, and again the Church expands. There’s a great missionary effort in the 19th century. For instance, Africa is opened up. A lot of French missionaries go to Africa, which has only had contact with Europeans more or less around its coast. The Europeans had never penetrated much into the interior. With the 19th-century missions, the Catholics going to the inside of the continent, and so Africa opens up. Also Asia and Oceania open up with missions. The Catholic Church gets its act together and again it expands. That’s the pattern – pulls itself together, expands; corrupts, shrinks.
Modernism is around the end of the 1800s, and that’s more subtle still, more subtle than Liberalism. Liberalism is more subtle and poisonous than Protestantism. Modernism is more subtle and poisonous than Liberalism or Protestantism. The heresy gets more and more refined as time goes on. There’s a handful of Catholics at the end of the 19th century who are bewitched by the wonderful modern world that is being created by the liberals and Protestants. They say, “Hey, what’s so wrong with the modern world? It’s OK. Look at the progress in science. Look at the progress all over the world. Look at the development of the nations. Look at our free politics. Look how we all get on now.” So the modern world is, in its own way, glamorous. Once you see through it, it’s not nearly as glamorous as it looks, but it does look glamorous. If you don’t look deep, it’s very attractive - people mow their lawns and the trains run on time, and you can catch a train from London to Bristol in two hours, what used to be, in Jane Austen’s day, a journey with a stagecoach of three or four days from London to Bristol. Today, of course, with an aeroplane it’s one hour. The trains are fast, but the aeroplanes are even faster. Look at progress. There’s been marvellous material progress.
Africa’s been opened up, and Asia’s been opened up. There’s also been great material progress, because as things spiritual are being made doubtful by Protestantism and Liberalism, as it seems that there’s no one clear truth any longer, as it used to seem in the Middle Ages, then as religion becomes purely personal then religion is obviously not that important - the truth is unknowable; we don’t know the truth so it’s not that important. So where do the best of men’s minds go? If they’re no longer going to things spiritual they’re going to go to things material, and therefore as the spiritual is discredited, so materialism rises. As some very talented men give the best of their minds to things material, materialism flourishes, and that’s a large part of why the modern world is so glamorous, because of the flourishing of materialism - trains, motor cars, aeroplanes, electronics and so on. This material progress has gone ever since, and it’s a child essentially of Protestantism and Liberalism.
Catholics don’t care so much for material progress. It’s not in itself sinful but it’s not that important and it’s not where it’s at. Where it’s at for Catholics is getting to heaven. Money and materialism, there’s a danger there. The Catholics don’t worry about materialism. Liberalism and Protestantism develop materialism. They develop a very successful and glamorous modern world to the point that a lot of the European peoples are falling away from the Faith.
The Faith is being undermined by Liberalism and Protestantism, Liberalism especially, and so the popes have to fight it. As they fight it, the Church expands in the 19th century, but by the end of the 19th century there are these Catholics who say, “Hey, look, the modern world is triumphant. It succeeds. It works. It’s wonderful.”
So we’ve got to develop and find a new way of pretending to be Catholic while not being Catholic, going with the material progress, going with modern science, going with materialism, going with Liberalism while still appearing to be Catholic, and this is Modernism. Modernism is keeping the appearances while emptying out the substance. I give the example of a pharmacist. The afternoon of Wednesday you go into the pharmacist’s shop, and all the little pills are each in their bottles with the correct label. Then in the middle of the night somebody breaks into the pharmacy, empties out all the little jars, a great heap of pills on the floor, and then the pills are loaded back into the jars. The label is the same, the little pill jars are the same but the contents are quite different. That’s Modernism.
A classic and very simple example - the Resurrection. The original content, the Wednesday afternoon content of the Resurrection, is that the actual physical body of Our Lord, the one that was crucified on the Cross, Whose body and soul were brought together by Our Lord Himself on the Sunday morning, and came back to life with the same body but yet mysteriously different, and then He broke out of the tomb - that’s what Catholics believe. That’s the reality. That’s the proper content of that bottle. Now it’s difficult to believe, because people don’t usually rise from the dead. You don’t usually get people bursting out of the grave and walking through walls and talking and then eating fish and so on, as we know from the Gospels that Our Risen Lord did. So what do you do? Well, the Modernist says, “What the Resurrection really means is that when two or three or four or five living human beings are getting together, and when they all are thinking of Jesus Christ and they’re all loving Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ comes back to life amongst them. That’s the Resurrection.” That doesn’t require any faith at all. That’s just completely natural. That’s just people feeling good because they’re all thinking about Jesus. So the content is quite different but they keep the same word. That’s Modernism. You keep all the words, you keep all the appearances, but the content is completely changed.
Therefore, these characters are threatened. There’s only a handful of them, and a number of them are priests, and they are a very serious threat because they will completely empty out the Catholic religion and the Catholic Church if they’re left alone. The one who fights that is Pius X. That is exactly why Archbishop Lefebvre chose Pius X as the name of the Society, because, as the Archbishop knew, that today’s problem is just like Modernism, and therefore the patron of the Society is the man who really administered a body-blow to Modernism, and that was Pius X by the great encyclical Pascendi of 1907, and Lamentabili, which is a list of modern errors, like the Syllabus. Pius X scotched Modernism. If you picked up a Catholic seminary manual of 1930 or 1940, you would read in it, “Modernism was a slight, little problem raised by argumentative French priests.” So – “But it’s over and done with. Modernism is finished. It’s dead. It was dealt with by Pius X, and we are now great Catholics.”
Again the Church actually did expand. There was also some tremendous 20th-century mission work. The Church had a great flourishing at the very beginning of the 20th century under Pius X. For instance, in England there was the generation of Benson, Chesterton and Belloc before the First World War and after. It was a good time for the Church. In France at the same time there was a flourishing of the Church. But the Devil doesn’t sleep, and so while Pius X scotched it, apparently, this disease of wanting to adapt the Church to the modern world continued, which is Modernism. That’s why it’s called Modernism, because you want to change the substance of Catholicism to fit the modern world. The modern world is intrinsically anti-Catholic, and it’s very uncomfortable to live as a Catholic in the modern world because the modern world is so deep-down, subtly, insidiously, cleverly pressuring against being a Catholic - “I’m in this tension and in this crossfire and I don’t like it, so I am going to empty out the substance of Catholicism. I’m going to change it so that it will fit the modern world.” That’s Modernism. There are more and more Catholics that are tainted by the idea that we need to adapt the fuddy-duddy old Church, the medieval Church, the Constantinian Church, the Tridentine Church - it’s too old and old fashioned.
Contraception – “How can a married couple possibly live in a modern city and have all the children that they would have if they weren’t able to use contraception?” That’s a real example of the pressure of the modern world upon Catholic morals. Of course, artificial means of birth control are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong and they will always be wrong – “But that’s severe. That’s difficult. Ah, the Church has got to get with it. It’s impossible to not use artificial means of birth control today. It’s just not possible. The Church is out of touch.” I’m sure you’ve heard this kind of thing.
We go through two world wars, which shake the whole civilisation, and make all ideas questionable and promote Liberalism, because when some Nazis, for instance, have some strong and clear ideas - they gas six million Jews, so it’s thought – then ideas take another discrediting, which is another great advance of Liberalism. Modernism is, of course, in synch with Liberalism and Protestantism. It’s Liberalism and Protestantism brought even more subtly, even more deeply inside the Church. The attack is always against the Church. Protestantism is obviously against the Catholic Church. Liberalism is more subtly against the Church but undermining the Catholic Church. Modernism undermines every doctrine of the Church. The Church needs to be updated – “You need to update the Ave Maria. You need to update the Stations of the Cross. If anything isn’t updated it’s not living, it’s not real and it’s not authentic. Everything has to be changed in order to be authentic.” That’s the idea of Modernism.
The modern world is pressing more and more, so by the 1960s it’s the great mass of Catholics that swing to the left, and this is Vatican II. This is Neo-Modernism, or the rerun of Modernism. Vatican II is the churchmen going along with the modern world - the churchmen adapting the whole of the Catholic religion to the modern world. Pius X had scotched Modernism and driven it underground like a snake, but modern men love their modern world. There’s a famous Modernist called Marc Sangnier, who headed a movement called the Sillon. Pius X condemned it because it was false and liberal, but Marc Sangnier said, “Oh, yes, Holy Father, I agree. Yes, I submit, I submit, I submit, Holy Father, yeah.” But really he didn’t, and again we get the hypocrisy of modern times.
Modern man is difficult to convince. You could try to persuade him, but arguments don’t have a grip on modern man. Modern man doesn’t go by arguments. He doesn’t think. How many people do you know today that really think? Not many. People today go by their feelings. They go by their sentiments, which is why politics work by television. Who’s got the more toothpaste-y smile on television? Who looks good on television? A politician today has to look good on television. It’s absolutely indispensable. Politics go by television. They don’t go by the content. Modern man is not a content man. He’s not a content man and he’s not content.
This time it is the mass of Catholics, because you’ve got a lot of Catholics living in the big city by the 1960s, big cities all over the world, and in the big city, for instance, artificial means of birth control are seen necessary and indispensable, and so there’s a great pressure from many, many, many Catholics upon their priests, upon their cardinals. The cardinals and priests also are not praying enough. That’s undoubtedly a serious problem. They’re not praying enough and they don’t have grace. That’s what St Thomas More said about the clergy in England at the time of Protestantism. Television and radio and the newspapers are distracting the churchmen. There is pressure from many of the laity, not by any means all of the laity. There was more resistance to Vatican II amongst the laity then there was amongst the priests. One reason for that is that the Devil works harder on priests than he does on the laity, because if the Devil can catch one priest, he’s going to catch maybe a hundred souls. If he catches one layman, it’s one layman and perhaps his family, so eight or ten souls. There’s much more payload to corrupt a priest than to corrupt a layman. The Devil works hard on the churchmen. With centuries of more subtlety, more pervasiveness, more corruption, and this time almost the whole Church swings over to the left. Neo-Modernism is exactly parallel to Modernism, to Liberalism and Protestantism. It’s always a swing, since the French Revolution, to the left.
When people start talking about right and left and why, the answer is it was the French Revolution. It was at one of the sessions of the parliament that was making the French Revolution, and at one point they divided right and left, with the moderate revolutionaries on the right, and the rabid revolutionaries on the left, and that’s why we talk ever since of right and left. Actually if you go back to the French Revolution, interestingly both the right and the left were revolutionary, only the right was more moderately revolutionary than the left.
So these are all swings to the left. You could call all of this the revolution against the Catholic Church.
END OF CONFERENCE