A RORATE CÆLI correspondent in Scandinavia interviewed Bishop Richard Williamson (one of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X - FSSPX / SSPX), a few days ago in a Scandinavian city. We post this exclusive interview here with no additional commentary - though we call our readers' attention to Williamson's answer to question #16.
[1.] Your Excellency, starting off - who would be the most important influence in your life apart from the Archbishop and possibly your own mother?
Probably Beethoven. Queen Mary Tudor said, that when she died, they would open up heart and find ‘Callais’ written on it. Callais was the last English possession in France, and it was lost under her reign. So when I die, they will open up my heart, and I think they will find ‘Beethoven’ written on it. He has been a very great influence. The music of Beethoven that is, not his person.
[2.] That pectoral cross, where’s it from? It looks like it could have been fairly newly made.
No, this is an old one. I believe it is from Canada, an American gave it to me. These details are maple leaves, you see.
[3.] How would you define romanitas?
I think it is a knowledge of the ways of Rome and love of the ways of Rome, which makes you instinctively behave in a certain way, which used to be in tune with the interest of the Church. But ever since Vatican II, romanitas is dangerous because it makes you behave in line with the New Church, which is not Catholic – not essentially Catholic.
[4.] Speaking of Rome, how do you personally keep up to date with Rome and things happening in the Church? Just to take a very current example of the fact that things are happening in Rome, today’s nomination was Cardinal Antonelli of Florence, a known supporter of tradition, as President for the Pontifical Council for the Family…
I don’t much follow what goes on in Rome, to tell you the truth, I don’t much follow. I think there is a fight going on, there has been a fight going on for a long time. But I think the freemasons hold the levers of power, and I don’t think they are going to let go. Oh yes, they still do, that is at least my opinion.
[5.] What kind of contacts do you keep with other traditional communities?
I personally don’t have too many contacts, but the Society is through the headquarters in Menzingen regularly in contact with the various traditional groups, in Europe especially. There aren’t many such groups in South America, where I am stationed, and I don’t run in to them very much, I hardly run in to them at all.
[6.] In your lecture, you mentioned that the level of education in humanities was a problem at seminaries, young men arriving to the seminaries with hardly any relevant human education at all some times. How do you tackle such a situation?
In the United States and in Argentina, I was responsible for introducing what is called a ‘humanities year’, which is a preliminary year of old fashion humanities. The young men study for a year some catechisms, a good deal of Latin, their own grammar, which they no longer know. The grammar of their own language – Spanish in South America and English in the United States - is obviously no longer taught to them. Grammar, didn’t you know, is [considered] fascist, because it’s structured. It structures the mind, so grammar has to be got rid of, which results in that the poor kids don’t know their grammar. Grammar, history, literature and some classical music – they know little of these things. So a year is better than nothing. It’s not much but clearly better than nothing.
[7.] Continuing on seminary education – how is the liturgy taught to the seminarians besides them taking part in it through daily Mass?
There is a course of liturgy - the humanities do not contain any liturgy, but from right through the seminary, one of the smaller courses is liturgy. It is not one of the main subjects, but it is a subject which is taught. So they learn about the theory of it and the practice of it. There is a liturgy course in the beginning of seminary training and at the end.
[THE SSPX AND IGNATIAN SPIRITUALITY]
[8.] If someone were to compare the Society and its spirituality with old school Jesuits, would there be something to it?
Yes and no. There is a comparison, but on the other hand, the situation of the Church is very different and the need of the Church is different. Archbishop Lefebvre always used to say that the spirituality of the Society is the Mass. So the spirituality of the Jesuits is the [Ignatian] exercises, that’s where the Excalibur, with which St. Ignatius forged the Society of Jesus.
[9.] Still comparing the two, the Society (of St. Pius X) using the Ignatian exercises is not to be considered a coincidence?
No, we use the Ignatian exercises, we also use Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas. So you know, those are two classic instruments of Catholic formation. You can’t get more classic than the Summa for the mind and the exercises for the will. The Society makes use of both those, but nevertheless the Archbishop said that the spirituality [of the Society] should be the spirituality of the Mass. The Mass is the great need of the moment, because Vatican II destroyed the Mass – or tried to destroy the Mass.
[WHAT IS THE SSPX?]
[10.] Would you say the Society is founded as a countermeasure for the Second Vatican Council?
You could say so, yes.
[11.] Wouldn’t that rather limit the Society making it tied down to a moment in time?
Well, the damage of Vatican II is going to last for quite a long time, so the Society has a chance for being needed for quite a long time. But of course, the other side of the chastisement is that the Church is going to get back on her feet. And then, maybe with luck, the Society will no longer be needed, and we could all go into retirement some time in the future.
[12.] In your lecture, it sounded like you were lamenting a difficult laity. Wouldn’t you rather agree that the most serious problems throughout Church history originated from within the clergy?
Again, yes and no. The only solution to the world’s problems is from good clergy, because the only solution is Our Lord Jesus Christ, since without Our Lord sin is insoluble. Only Our Lord can pay for and wash out sin. Now, Jesus Christ chooses to operate through His Church, and the Church is the priests, the priests run the Church. Therefore, all good comes from good priests, but correspondingly, all evil comes from the clergy too. The Latin expression for this is omne malum ab clero. They say that down in Hell, every soul would point to another soul and say: “You were responsible”. And then that soul would point to another and so on, and at the end of every chain is a priest. Terrible thought. I’m afraid a number of the leading heretics were priests: Nestor, Eutyches, Arius was a deacon, Luther… The real evil comes through the priest because the real good comes through the priest. So when the devil gets a priest to work for him, he does terrible damage.
[13.] Moving on, to what extent would you say you adapt your message to different crowds? For example, two days ago you shared in conference your view on the American constitution. That would most likely stir up reactions even in, say, the seminary in Winona.
If you’re speaking of the American constitution, obviously you have to be careful in the United States. When I would speak about that in the US, I would always say, like I think I said this time as well, that all of the essential problems of the United States come from my country, from England. If you lay down that preparation, it’s a little bit easier for the Americans to swallow. You obviously have to adapt partly to each audience, there are things you can say in front of some which you can’t say in front of others, but nevertheless the basic things you say have to be the same.
[14.] Connecting to your statements about the public practice of other religions, how would banning the same go about today in Catholic societies?
It would go over like a lead balloon. Simply because, people today are soaked in ecumenism, they’re soaked in the idea that truth doesn’t matter. All religions making you feel good are [considered] good, therefore to ban any religion is completely unfair and unjust, it’s “against chocolate”, it’s against being nice, it’s against being human. You can hardly do it today, because it won’t go over. That’s an example of, as you say, adapting to one’s audience. So you couldn’t say it today, the people are too sick. When you’ve got a very sick invalid, there’s a strong medicine you would love to give him, but you can’t give it because he is too sick. Some people are too ill to take an operation that they need, the operation would kill them. You have to do something that they can take, most souls today can only be told truths they swallow.
[15.] So in practical matters today, it is more of a position than a recommendation for immediate implementation?
It is a position of principle. It’s a clear principle which you have to use prudence in applying. The application of the principle requires prudence.
[REGULARIZATION OF THE SOCIETY]
[16.] On the future, how would you envision a regularization of the Society if it were ever to come about?
Well, the Archbishop used to say, and he’s quite right: “Once Rome comes back to its senses, there is no more problem”. Already the Romans are making documents, it’s already lined up how they would do it. It’s paperwork, paperwork.
[THE TRANSALPINE REDEMPTORISTS]
[17.] Lastly, would you care to comment on the latest proceedings with the Redemptorists at Papa Stronsay?
It doesn’t look good, it looks like they are going to make an agreement with modernist Rome. So, in my opinion, that’s not a very good idea, because they will be obliged, more or less, to abandon the defence of the Faith. More or less.
[18.] How would the change you predict manifest itself?
They will no longer be able to freely criticize Vatican II, and they will come under pressure to celebrate the modern Mass, or at least attend the modern Mass with the local Bishop on a Good Thursday. The New Church can hardly insist on less, it has to insist on that.
[19.] Would you even consider the Redemptorists regularizing their situation with Rome treason?
Treason is a very strong word. I distinguish subjectively and objectively: objectively I think it’s more grave than subjectively. Subjectively I dare say they mean well, they have good intentions, and they are sincere. But objectively I think they are abandoning the true cause of the Faith, yes, they are essentially abandoning the true defence of the Faith, I would say.
[20.] Should that be taken as your personal opinion or the position of the Society?
I think a number in the Society would share that opinion, yes, that they are objectively abandoning the true defence of the Faith. A number in the Society would take that position, and I think a number would also say, they nevertheless mean well, they’re sincere, they have good intention, they mean to defend the Faith, not to abandon the defence of the Faith. But the Archbishop was quite severe about those people who abandoned Tradition in those years, years back he was quite severe.
[21.] Saying that the Redemptorists at Papa Stronsay are abandoning Tradition could be perceived a just as strong a statement as calling it treason.
I didn’t say they are abandoning Tradition, I said they are abandoning the true defence of Tradition, which is a slightly different thing. They will still be defending Tradition to some extent, but they are abandoning the complete and true defence of Tradition.
[22.] Have you read anything of the way the Redemptorists are reasoning and considering their situation?
No, I haven’t. I don’t keep up with these things.
[23.] But surely people in central command have in order to properly deal with matters?
Of course. I’m not in central command, I’m not in headquarters. I’m way out in South America so I can enjoy the sunshine and forget about a lot of problems.