Pope Benedict XVI Undo the ‘New Religion’
and Restore the Church?
Exclusive Interview with Bishop Richard Williamson
Michael Chapman - REMNANT COLUMNIST, Virginia
Note: Following the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the
papacy, Remnant columnist Michael Chapman had the opportunity to
interview Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four priests consecrated
a bishop by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. As many of our readers
have expressed interest in learning how the SSPX is responding to
the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the throne of St. Peter, we
are grateful to Mr. Chapman and to Bishop Williamson for providing
us with this interview. The following are Bp. Williamson’s
thoughts on the new Pope, the “New Religion,” the current
situation between the Vatican and the SSPX and the ongoing crisis
in the Church. MJM
What do you think about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger being elected
to the papacy?
A: I was a
little surprised, at first, because some people had said he wasn’t
really in the running. After that, to tell you the honest truth,
I don’t expect a great deal from Rome as it stands. They are
too far gone in the “New Religion,” and the “New
Religion” is too radically different and distant from the
True Religion. Rome is Rome, though, and I do believe there the
popes are, and there are the cardinals, and that is where the official
structure of the Church is to be found. But, I’m afraid, for
the defense of the Faith, you’ve got to wait for some grave
event to shake Rome and/or to drive the true cardinals out of Rome
to start again somewhere else. I’m afraid that Rome is too
deeply in the grips of the enemies of God.
One, would you explain what you mean by the “New Religion”
and, two, do you think Pope Benedict is consciously or willingly
promoting the “New Religion”?
A: The “New
Religion” starts from man and is centered on man. The “New
Religion” starts from the proposition that God, and the idea
of God, is too strange for modern man, and so, to get through to
modern man, we must start from man. That’s what’s called
from Karl Rahner the anthropological term, the “turn towards
man.” And Fr. Ratzinger, at the time of the Second Vatican
Council, was closely tied to Karl Rahner, a close disciple. So,
the young Joseph Ratzinger was soaked in this brand new theology.
For instance, instead of saying that Jesus Christ is the Son of
God from eternity who took a human nature, it [the New Religion]
says that Jesus Christ is the man who was such a perfect man that
he could be called the Son of God.
Is that what Karl Rahner said?
A: Yes, that’s
Rahner and Fr. Ratzinger. It’s an absolute revolution. And
it has, deep down, nothing to do with the Catholic Faith. It’s
an attempt by Catholic priests who want to say something that will
be acceptable and understandable by modern man—an attempt
by these priests to re-write, to empty out all the bottles, all
the dogmas, of their old content and re-fill the dogmas with brand
new content that will be acceptable to modern man.
And that new
content is coherently a system that starts with man, centers on
man, and finishes with man. Hence, the New Mass is said in the language
of man and no longer in Latin. And it’s said with the priest
turned towards man, and no longer towards God. Those are two concrete
examples of the “turn towards man.”
That is, briefly,
the “New Religion.” Is Cardinal Ratzinger conscious
of all this? I believe he’s in good faith. I can easily be
wrong. I believe that he and his like, sincerely believe the “Old
Religion,” the old Catholic religion, was out of touch with
modern man, and they sincerely believe that, whatever the Catholic
religion is, it’s got to be in touch with the men of its time
or get in touch with the men of its time.
the true Catholic religion is not that religion that gets through
to modern man; it’s that religion re-stated, or with the dogmas
emptied-out and refilled with contents that can get through to modern
man. Therefore, I do believe Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict
XVI sincerely believe that this is the Catholic religion. I think
My opinion does not matter. What matters is that objectively they
have completely turned the Catholic world upside down. And this
continues to cause this unbelievable crisis in the Catholic Church
because, and as Archbishop Lefebvre deep down grasped, this crisis
is primarily a doctrinal crisis. It’s not primarily a crisis
of the Mass. It’s primarily a crisis of the very Faith.
If you were talking to a run-of-the-mill Novus Ordo Catholic about
the dogmas being spilled and refilled, how would you explain that
to him? And explain the point about the Church being inverted?
A: I would
quote some of the statements from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: I think
he’s a decent representative of a crazy mistake. I do believe
he’s a decent man. But the question is not whether he’s
decent or sincere. The question is, what is he actually saying?
And is he actually defending the Faith?
How would I
explain this to an average conservative Catholic? I would say: Imagine
a pharmacy, and during the night thieves break in and they empty-out
every bottle in the pharmacy, and then they mix the powder in great
heaps all over. And then they fill all the bottles with a different
powder. Then I enter the shop in the morning and see all the bottles
exactly where they were with their labels. But if I open up the
bottles, I will find a different content. That’s how the Modernists
keep the appearances but change the contents. And it means that
the Catholic religion, in our time and by the Second Vatican Council
and by the promoters of the Council—like, up to now, Pope
Benedict XVI—the Catholic religion has been completely gutted.
It has been emptied of its substance. It’s man-centered.
Yes. But what about the good conservative Catholic who says to you,
that may or may not be true, but at least Rome has stood firm on
some serious doctrinal or moral issues, such as abortion, contraception,
homosexuality, the male priesthood, and things like that?
A: Right, that’s
the case with John Paul II, and it’s likely to be even more
true with Pope Benedict XVI. But, let me give you another image:
I have a skyscraper resting on rocks and suppose I empty-out the
rocks and put plastic in its place? The skyscraper is still standing
but it’s on a very un-rocky, uncertain foundation. It’s
man-made plastic instead of nature’s rock. So, for instance,
John Paul II would oppose abortion in the name of human dignity,
the dignity of the human person. He would not oppose it on the law
of God. (God said, “Thou shalt not kill.”) Pope John
Paul would base it on the dignity of the human person, and that’s
a very dangerous foundation because the mother then turns around
and says, “my human dignity requires that I get rid of this
little extra piece of my own body.” So, the basis of human
dignity is an ambiguous foundation. It can be turned for and against
a number of those decent causes for which John Paul II is respected.
Is the use of the “human dignity” argument drawn from
Karl Rahner’s teaching?
They’re centering everything on man. Pope John Paul II centered
so much on the human person. He believed in the human person, he
believed in man. And remember what Jeremiah said: Woe to any person
who puts his trust in man. It’s the same, very much alive
with John Paul II. I think John Paul II was sincere. I think he
was a good man, but he was just deeply mistaken. And I think Pope
Benedict XVI is the same kind of man. I believe he’s decent
and sincere, but deeply mistaken.
So, things are too far gone in the “New Religion”? What
can Catholics do?
A: Well, what
is needed? When John Paul I became Pope, there were various indications
he was beginning to understand, although he had followed the Council,
and even changed his mind about religious liberty because of the
Council. He accepted the Council on religious liberty. He followed
the movement, which is what many bishops did. He was a normal, decent
cardinal who followed the movement. Then, when he became Pope, when
he was in the hot seat, it looks as though the pressures came to
bear upon him, as they must now be bearing upon Cardinal Ratzinger.
Cardinal Ratzinger must now be going through a firestorm.
are that Pope John Paul I was beginning to understand what the score
was. He wanted to get rid of some high-ranking Freemasons in the
Vatican. And they got to him before he could get to them. It is
very likely he was assassinated—again, there are plenty of
indications of this. Of course, the Vatican hushed it all up, but
enough truth got out to indicate that John Paul I was likely assassinated.
So, there’s an example of a man from whom we might not have
expected very much. But when he became Pope, when he got in the
hot seat, he began to get the picture and he had the courage to
start to act. And that was enough for him to be martyred.
now very possible that Cardinal Ratzinger, under the same pressure—the
stakes are much higher than when he was No. 2, head of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith—is taking the hits like John
Paul II took the hits. These first few weeks are crucial. The little
indications we have so far suggest that he is not going to jump
out of his skin and change all his ideas. After all, it’s
very hard for a man of 78 to change his system of ideas rapidly.
He spent his entire life acquiring those ideas. Most men of 78 stay
with the ideas they acquired over their lifetime.
If Pope Benedict
XVI stays with the ideas he acquired under Karl Rahner and Vatican
II, he’s going to run the Church pretty much as it was run
by Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI. That’s why I don’t
expect a great deal, although I hope and pray for Pope Benedict
XVI, pray that he may have the courage of a Pope John Paul I and,
if necessary, that he die a martyr. That would be a great victory
for himself and for the Church.
What do you think of the fact that the Pope has kept Cardinal Sodano
as Vatican secretary of state and that there have been no major
shake-ups in the hierarchy? Is the Pope just taking his time?
A: I remember
Archbishop Lefebvre when Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II.
Archbishop Lefebvre said that the new Pope has got a few months
to clear the decks and set a new course if he wants to. After those
few months, it’s going to be business as usual. His hands
will be tied and he won’t be able to change much. But the
Archbishop, at the time, did say “a few months.” So,
Pope Benedict XVI, he’s not likely to change high officials
within days or weeks of becoming Pope. The question is what he will
do in a few months time. If there’s still no change then,
you’ll know it’s business as usual. But if he puts in
a few new men, it will be very interesting to see who he puts in.
And that will tell us more than any sermons or speeches. Actions
speak louder than words. The men he chooses will show which way
his mind is going, as he feels the pressures from the Lord God and
So is too soon to say that this election is good or bad for traditionalist
Catholics? We just need to watch and pray?
A: I think
that’s the best answer now, to watch and pray. We hope—charity
hopes all things—we hope, because he must be receiving much
more grace as Pope. It is God’s Church. We do believe Benedict
is Pope. Therefore, logically, either God has abandoned His Church,
which is impossible, or God must be giving Pope Benedict XVI all
the graces he needs to direct the Church for the good of souls.
So, we hope that with this extra grace he receives from God he will
see things he has not seen so far as Prefect for the Congregation
of the Doctrine of the Faith, or as a disciple of Karl Rahner. We
hope—it is not impossible. But, to be wise, I think we have
to understand that the Lord God does not normally violate a person’s
free will, or does not normally bend people’s free will. So,
if He doesn’t bend Pope Benedict’s free will, it’s
likely that, given the man at 78 years old, Cardinal Ratzinger will
stay with his ideas and there won’t be a change. For instance,
already on his papal blazon, his shield of arms, he’s not
put the tiara. He’s put a miter, a simple miter, which suggests
that he accepts the idea that he is just one bishop among many and
no longer of a papal stature among the bishops.
he’s a good man. But if I’ve got a first-class motor
car, with excellent tires, chassis, and bodywork, and the steering
wheel doesn’t work, what use is the rest? The steering wheel
is the ideas. And if the ideas are wrong, it doesn’t matter
how decent and of good will you are. It’s simply going to
make you crash harder and faster. He may be of very good will, but
if his ideas are completely wrong, what’s going to happen?
What do you think of the highly negative media reaction in the United
States to the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope? The media
described him as arch-conservative, hardliner, former member of
the Hitler Youth, and so on.
A: The vile
media do not like him because he’s a “conservative liberal,”
not a “liberal liberal.” And that’s to his credit.
He’s a decent man. The media have no idea what a real Catholic
is. If they did, they would scream for his martyrdom, they would
scream for his skin. They’re yelling at Ratzinger because
he’s a “conservative liberal.” If he were a real
conservative, the media would be screaming even more.
In your 1999 letter on Cardinal Ratzinger, you talked about his
book Milestones, and his philosophy of focusing on the search for
something and not the end result: the meaning is in the searching
and not in the answer when it comes to theological questions. Would
you explain, in layman’s terms, what you were describing about
Cardinal Ratzinger’s theology?
A: The modern
mind does not believe in a fixed, unchanging truth, basically because
the modern mind does not believe in God. And when one comes to believe
in an unchanging God—that the whole universe is framed, upheld,
and maintained by a completely unchanging absolute and total Truth—then
all changes become very small beer, so to speak. But when you think
that there is no truth, that nothing is fixed, then you can have
no idea or understanding of the true religion, the Catholic religion.
As I noted in my letter, in his book, Milestones, Fr. Ratzinger
says he “wanted not only to do theology in the narrower sense,
but to listen to the voices of man today.” Is it conceivable
that the Deposit of Faith cannot provide the answers for man today?
Fr. Ratzinger later says that he chose to study at Munich University
Theological Faculty “to become more fully familiar with the
intellectual debates of our time.” There, he also chose to
study under a Professor Maier, whose “liberal historical method”
in approaching Scripture “opened up dimensions of the text
that were no longer perceived by the all-too-predetermined dogmatic
reading.” In other words, history’s relativizing had
more to give to our young theologian than dogma’s absolutes?
His mind is at sea.
He was thinking
not with the mind of the Catholic Church but of those humanly brilliant
German thinkers, about whom he says, “German arrogance perhaps
also contributed a little to our belief that we knew what was better
than ‘those down there (i.e., in Rome).”
In your 1999 letter, you have a section in there about Cardinal
Ratzinger’s views on revelation. Would you explain this?
A: The truth
is unchanging. And the complete and total truth is “findable.”
Hence, it’s absurd to think that God would reveal Himself
to us if he did not make it possible for us to find Him. But without
the idea that one can find God, then the alternative is to say that,
well, we can talk about it, we can dialogue, we can keep an open
mind, and take no decision as absolutely true or not. Yet there
are certain absolute truths and they have been found, and that is
where our mind closes, on those truths. With the open mind as your
guide, however, all ideas, true and false, drift in and out of the
mind, and nothing is ever closed. Nothing is ever absolute, total.
Truth is forever in the discovery, but it is never found.
better than finding? That is the modern mentality. The modern theologians
have no grasp of an unchanging God. The Modernists believe in an
open mind because they don’t believe in a closed truth. They
believe that whatever of religion comes to us from God must be no
ready-made and finalized product or content such as Catholicism
was always supposed to be, but it must incorporate the input of
us modern men. In brief, in the old days, God told men what was
in the Catholic religion, but that religion fell dead. Now man tells
God what is in the Catholic religion, and religion is again living.
An article from the May 15, 1969 edition of Informations Catholiques
Internationales says that 30 theologians had been chosen by Pope
Paul VI to fill a new International Theological Commission, and
that Joseph Ratzinger was “previously suspect by the Holy
Office” and did “outstanding work in collaboration with
Karl Rahner ....” Does “previously suspect” mean
that Fr. Ratzinger was teaching something unorthodox?
very possible because Fr. Ratzinger’s doctoral thesis was
on St. Bonaventure. And his argument was false and deceptive. It
led to undermining the belief in an absolute truth—sheer modernism.
You’re back to the idea that religion must be adapted to modern
man. And that is exactly what the Holy Office did not support. At
that time, the early 1950s, it’s no surprise that Fr. Ratzinger
and a staggering number of other theologians were under “suspect”
by the Holy Office. When the Holy Office was still under Cardinal
Ottaviani and Pope Pius XII, it did its job. The theologians knew
the Faith and believed the Faith and they gave a hard time to any
“theologian” who wanted to change the Faith. If you
read Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement on St. Bonaventure, the
end conclusion is that the content of revelation needs to be changed:
We need to go into the pharmacy at night and switch the contents
of all the bottles in order to satisfy the customers of tomorrow.
It’s crazy, unless you’ve got crazy customers who will
enjoy it. And the truth of the matter is that a lot of Catholics
enjoy the “New Religion” because it is a lot easier
than the tough “Old Religion.”
Yes, and the “Old Religion,” in many ways, is no longer
taught, except maybe by parents or traditionalist priests. Also,
do you think today that many of the clergy foster this ignorance
about the Faith and foster a blind obedience regardless of the scandals
that may come about in the Church or what abuses one might be aware
of because, all in all, you must obey?
A: Yes. And
that’s wrong. That’s not Catholic. That’s exaggerated
obedience. The problem is who or what the man you’re obeying
represents. If he stands for the conciliar religion, he’s
not standing for the Truth. If he’s not standing for the Truth,
you can’t obey him because he’s no longer a minister
of Christ. You can obey him in those things for which he is a minister
of Christ, such as not using contraception, no abortion—there
you can obey him. But when he’s for the new novelties of Vatican
II, you can’t obey him. You would be disobeying God.
That idea of
exaggerated obedience is way off the mark, but it is very common.
You have to stick to your Faith and obey God. If you’re obeying
a leader who has abandoned Christ, consciously or unconsciously,
you’re going to be led away from God. Let’s suppose
that Pope John Paul II meant well, that he was sincere, but if he’s
mistaken, he’s going to lead you away from God and not towards
God. I can’t obey someone who’s going to lead me away
from God. My reason for obeying him is that he’s going to
lead me to God. But as soon as he leads me away from God, I’ve
got to obey God and not the man. It’s common sense.
And in Pope John Paul II’s case, it looks like it was a mix.
On some things, he was leading people the right way, and on other
things, he was not.
A: Yes, and
in these modern times, the times of Vatican II, I've got to judge
the Pope in some matters. I have to listen to what is said and compare
it with what the Church has taught, and then I may not be able to
Getting back to Pope John Paul I, you said that he changed his mind
on religious liberty. Would you explain?
A: Prior to
Vatican II, he thought that religious liberty, in the modern sense,
was wrong—the idea that you are free to choose whatever religion
you like. That’s the modern doctrine: Because we have the
faculty of freedom, we have the right to choose whatever religion.
But that’s wrong. We have the ability to choose what is right
or wrong, but we only have the moral right to choose what’s
right. We have no right to choose what’s wrong. That’s
common sense. And then religious liberty comes along and says we
have a right to choose what’s wrong. At Vatican II, the future
Pope John Paul I changed his mind on religious liberty and he accepted
Vatican II doctrine. Then he became Pope and he realized he was
surrounded by villains, and he was going to get rid of them. And
the indications are that he was assassinated because he was going
to start moving things around in the right direction.
On another subject, how are relations between the Vatican and the
Society of St. Pius X?
A: Can I say
it’s a Mexican stand-off? It’s a friendly stand-off.
The Vatican officials may not understand why the Society is taking
the stand that it has but they do know that the Society is making
its stand. It’s not budging. It’s not moving. Vatican
officials don’t like that; they don’t understand it.
But they reckon that that’s how it is and that’s how
it will stay. On the side of the Society, we do our best to maintain
contact with the Vatican, to demonstrate that we wish to have contacts
with Rome. And that we have something very serious we want them
to understand. Contacts have not been broken off but they have not
yet proven very fruitful.
Is the sticking point that the Society wants all priests to be allowed
to say the Tridentine Mass?
A: That is
the immediate battleground. It is not the war. If it weren’t
that battlefield, it would be another. But that is what, at present,
the Society is asking for and that is what Rome refuses to allow.
It might be that Rome would like to grant it but it can’t
because of the French bishops or that the Modernist bishops would
rise up and revolt, if the Mass is released. It may well happen
because it looks as though some of the younger bishops are looking
more and more favorably toward the Old Mass and the Old Religion.
It’s taking time. The wheels of God grind slowly. It takes
time for the Truth to filter. But there are indications that the
Truth is filtering. So, with time, Rome will eventually come back
to the Truth.