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Against the Rumors - transcript
Angelus Press interview of Fr. Arnaud Rostand



Transcript of video interview by Angelus Press editor, James Vogel of Fr. Arnaud Rostand, USA District Superior.


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JAMES: Fr. Rostand, thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule to sit down and have an interview. Before we begin can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, perhaps when you were ordained?


Fr. Rostand: Well, I was born in France, in Paris. I grew up there, and from a traditional family. I had the grace of receiving confirmation from Archbishop Lefebvre. I went to the seminary, to Flavigny first; I spent there 3 years, and then to Econe. There, I was able, it was also a grace to see and live with the Archbishop. And it was very impressive to see his example to all of us seminarians, young seminarians. I was ordained in Ď93 and then I was assigned to the missionary lands, to Asia, first the Philippines, then Sri Lanka. I went back to France as a headmaster of a school, then I was assigned as District Superior of Canada and now here in the United States for the past 4 years.


JAMES: What can you tell us about the American District of the Society of St. Pius X?


Fr. Rostand: Well, the first thing I was, when I came into this country, I was really impressed by the apostolate of the Society of St. Pius X, the number of chapels, schools, the fervors that we could see, the youth, many young families. And itís something that anybody who comes to this country and visit our chapels can see. So itís very impressive. I was also pleased with the unity I could see, especially among the priests. So in the United States, we have about 100 chapels, 26 schools, and I would say we are blessed with religious communities. All of these are graces and prayers for us priests in the war, I would say.


JAMES: How many priests and/or seminarians are there in the American District, roughly?


Fr. Rostand: There are 82 priests in the district and about 100 seminarians at Winona.


JAMES: Very good. Since youíve been District Superior here for four years, can you tell us what special projects or emphases youíve been placing on the work here?


Fr. Rostand: Yes, of course, we have many projects going on in the district. A few; first I would say construction project expansion, churches that we need to build. So, the district being young and growing, we need to work on these facilities. The second project I would say that we worked on for the past few years is to increase the unity of the District and of the priests especially; we had regular priestsí meetings. We multiply, I would say, these meetings to be able to really work together. The focus also on our work, has always been and is our schools. We have worked on our curriculum, on helping the teachers and so on. So this has been also a real focus for us. And I think some projects that you were involved in which is the conference of October. For two years now we have organized these conferences. It was a big project to start but very important and it was very successful. The first year we, well it was the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Society but following year was the Christ the King doctrine and a fight in our days which is dear to the Society of St. Pius X. And next year, next October, we will study the papacy. Kind of a providential topic for the coming meeting.


JAMES: Speaking of the papacy, Father, a topic which is on the minds of many Catholics today is the question of the relationship between the Society and Rome. Can you summarize for us what has occurred over the last 12 years?


Fr. Rostand: Yes, of course. Well, as you remember, the relations between the Society and Rome were kind of broken in 1988 after the consecration of the 4 bishops. The Archbishop had foreseen that; he speaks about it in a press conference that he gave. He thought that these relations would be frozen for just a couple of years, where we are years after. Itís in 2000, in the year 2000, after the pilgrimage of the Society of St. Pius X to Rome that the relations started again. Cardinal Hoyos invited the bishops to meet, and from then, they were a long process of 12 years of discussions. Bishop Fellay was very prudent in approaching this. It came from an invitation from Rome so he thought, we all thought, it was needed to respond to that. But he was very prudent. He asked a few conditions, or a few things that would re-establish a certain confidence between the Society and Rome: the freedom of the Mass, the lifting of the excommunication, doctrinal discussions. These conditions were seen as essential and necessary. They looked a bit too demanding at that time, but thatís the stand that Bishop Fellay took. Now 12 years later, some steps have been made: the motu proprio came out, not as perfect as we had wished, but a step towards the freedom of the Mass, then the lifting of the excommunications, there also, we had someÖ


JAMES: Reservations?


Fr. R: Reservations. We definitely also have some reservations about it, but these were important steps. For the past two years, the Society of St. Pius X was involved into doctrinal discussions, where our positions were expressed, stated to Rome, and last September came the first announce of a possible recognition of the Society.


JAMES: Father, is there anything new that you can add to the current situation? Where do things stand right now?


Fr. R.: Today, we are in a waiting phase. A declaration, a doctrinal declaration has been sent to Rome, and we are awaiting a decision of the pope. So, there are a lot of rumors going on, speculations, and so on, but the reality is that, yes, we are just waiting for a decision of the pope.


JAMES: So, speaking of rumors, would it then be unfair to say that the regularization has been perhaps postponed by the Holy Father, as certain media outlets have reported?


Fr. Rostand: I have no information on that. Once again, these are rumors of which we must be very careful. What we know is that it was announced for the month of May, eventually, but without specific dates, and we are still waiting. I think the pope today is taking the time to go through the normal channels, and will that take more time than was announced? It looks like it will be.


JAMES: Father, there are those who argue that the Society is simply looking for a practical agreement, even contrary to the wishes of Archbishop Lefebvre himself. What would you say to that argument?


Fr. Rostand: Well, I think first of all, we must make it clear that Bishop Fellay is not really looking for an agreement. Rome is proposing a regularization of the Society. So, the term agreement is confusing. Itís not clear. Itís too vague. An agreement would be maybe on doctrine, which is not the case. But, a recognition of the Society, thatís what we are talking about today. The Society exists for more than 40 years. It was founded and erected within the Church, in the normal way of the Church, and because of the circumstances, because of the crisis in the Church, we were kind of kicked out in a way; not that we are outside of the Church, but we wereÖ


JAMES: In an irregular situation?


Fr. Rostand: Yes. Pushed into an irregular situation. It would be an act of justice, in fact, to just be reintegrated in a more visible way in the Church. Thatís all we are talking about here.




JAMES: Some people have used the recent interview of Bishop Fellay with Catholic News Service to indicate or argue that perhaps he is backing down or softening his position on doctrinal questions that affect the Faith.


Fr. Rostand: That makes no sense to me. How can you use one quote from an interview and say the position has changed. I mean, take a conference where Bishop Fellay explains his position on Religious Liberty and say ďOk, this position has changed from the past.Ē Ok. But take one sentence which has been used by a journalist from an interview of an hour. Take a few, not even a minute, and say ďthis is an official position of Bishop Fellay.Ē Itís dishonest. It doesnít make any sense.


JAMES: Father, another common objection or argument that we have been seeing is that there is perhaps a change in the strategy of the Society or in the position that a doctrinal resolution would be necessary before any kind of canonical regularization. Has there in fact been a change in the Societyís position?


Fr. Rostand: First, I think itís important to remember that discussions on doctrine, doctrinal matters, have taken place, so there were already a doctrinal approach to the relations with Rome. We must remember also the example of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. In 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre signed a doctrinal declaration, more known as the Protocol of Ď88, in which he didnít look for a doctrinal resolution before going to practical aspects. So, I think thatís important toÖ


JAMES: Sure. But then, couldnít one argue that in fact since the Archbishop did not end up signing the protocol or changed his mind after signing the protocol, have circumstances changed since 1988? Is there any reason to believe that Archbishop Lefebvre would do something different today?


Fr. Rostand: Yes, the circumstances have changed. The reason why Archbishop Lefebvre refused the protocol the next day was that he could see that Rome was not prepared to give him a bishop. That was really the goal of Archbishop Lefebvre, was to obtain the consecration of at least one bishop. He saw that Rome was not prepared to agree with this, and therefore he went on with the consecrations. Today, the situation of the Society is different. We have grown, we have bishops, and it is a strength for us. It is, in these relations with Rome, it is definitely a strength. So yes, the circumstances have changed on our side, since 1988. And, there are also certain signs that in Rome, certain things have changed as well.


JAMES: Father, you mentioned and spoke of changed circumstances in recent years. Could you perhaps give us some practical examples of these circumstances?


Fr. Rostand: I think the first important point is the doctrinal discussions we had with Rome. Thatís essential in our actual situation. We were able to present to Rome our positions. It was never known in Rome as well as today. And, as an effect of these discussions with Rome, we could already see that, a spread of critics of Vatican II, Msgr. Gheardini for instance is a good example. So, itís important to see the signs. Now you had also, obviously, the motu proprio, there are more and more Masses celebrated in the Tridentine Mass, Rite; you have also efforts in Rome toÖ


JAMES: Restore?


Fr. Rostand: Restore a certain discipline in the Church, at least, with the clergy, with the sisters here in the United States, all of that are definitely going in a different direction than it was a few years ago. And I think the most important, which is a sign that is to come, is really the prelature, the personal prelature. Is that a structure that will give us the possibility of continuing our work? Is that a structure that will be, give us the ability to remain as we are? And if it is there, well this is a big sign of a change in Rome, and a sign that we have the possibility of continuing our work for the restoration of Tradition in the Church.


JAMES: Father, going back a little bit to the question of a doctrinal agreement or recognition between Rome and the Society. What would you say to the argument that the Faith is whatís most and important and therefore if weíre not entirely on the same page there then we cannot move forward?


Fr. Rostand: Well the Faith is definitely what matters the most. Our fight for 40 years has been to defend the fullness of the Catholic Faith. However it is not true to say that the unity of the Church is only based on the Faith. If you take a catechism, open your book and you will see the question about the unity of the Church. Well the answer is that the Church is one because the Catholic believes the same doctrine, receives the same sacraments, and also are governed by the same head. There are 3 principles of unity in the Church. So, definitely today the fight for the Faith is what is the priority. However we cannot lose sight on the other factor, on the other principles of unity in the Church. So it is important to keep in mind the role and the mission of the pope in the Church. It is the visibility of the Church which is in question here. The Society of St. Pius X, after Archbishop Lefebvre, has never taken a sedevacantist position where we would say that there is no pope anymore and so on. So whenever the pope asks us something where there is no reason to not obey, well, we have to obey. There is no choice. When the Faith is not in question, when itís not something that goes against the moral principles, well, itís a recognition of the visibility of the Church. Today, I think we are asked an act of Faith in the Church. We have seen for many years and we still see a Church which is attacked on all sides and from even within the Church. We have seen so many heresies, we have seen so many abuses, errors that we may forget that Our Lord Jesus Christ still leads his Church through the structures, the visible structures that He had founded.


JAMES: Father, in light of what you have just said about the Faith, is it not the case today that the Faith is threatened?


Fr. Rostand: Well, the question of the Faith is always there. It is definitely thatís the problem in the Church today and the Society has always stood for the defense of the Faith. So, yes, itís a matter of Faith in a certain point of view. However, the matter which is discussed here which is a recognition by Rome of the Society of St. Pius X is mostly a question of prudence. If the Faith is not compromised and if we can stay as we are, well to go forward then is a question of prudence. And Bishop Fellay has been very clear on these two questions. There is no way that we would accept to compromise the Faith.


JAMES: Father, to go one step even further, what would you say to the argument that even to accept a recognition by Rome would be a compromise?


Fr. Rostand: Itís an interesting question. Itís one of the major objections to a recognition of the Society today. Because we have seen so many errors in the Church in the past decades that would be being recognized, would that be by itself a compromise on the Faith? Well, no, because, once again, we have been discussing with Rome the doctrine and Rome knows exactly our position. And our position on Religious Liberty, on Ecumenism, is public, is known. And we have made no statement and we have no intention of making any statement, of backing down on this fight for the Faith. The recognition of the Society is a different matter than this fight for the Faith. Would you say that in 1970 when Archbishop Lefebvre made a request for recognition of his newborn Society, or when in Ď88 he signed the protocol, was Archbishop making a compromise on the Faith by the simple fact that he asked the blessing of the Church for the Society that he was founding in 1970 and in the process of the protocol in 1988. No. No, Archbishop Lefebvre never compromised on the Faith. And the situation today between the Society and Rome is similar to the situation of 1988 with the possible protocol of that time.


JAMES: Father, in light of recent circumstances, some seem to think or worry that the silence and secrecy which has surrounded recent events should actually be a cause for concern. The argument goes something along the lines of, ďIf something is true and good, why shouldnít it be in the open for everyone?Ē


Fr. Rostand: You know the privacy about certain matters are normal things in life. They are everywhere, and every priest knows that you cannot share a lot of information that we receive; and Iím not talking here about the seal of confession, but of other things. And a superior, a priest even in his apostolate, has to make decisions knowing certain things that he cannot share; thatís part of life; and itís true also for a businessman, itís true for a father of a family. You donít explain to your children every reason why you make a decision. So itís a normal part of life, there is nothing surprising about it. The privacy that goes on between Rome and the Society of St Pius X is a necessity in the actual circumstances of the Church. Why? Well because we know the pressure that can be put on Rome as well as on Bishop Fellay by the media, by even, by anyone. And when you are making such discussions, well you need to be able to make a decision without pressure. The responsibility of Bishop Fellay is not to follow one group of people or one group of pressure; itís to make a decision in conscience of what is right and what is wrong; thatís his responsibility. So the privacy about all of whatís going on with Rome is normal and itís definitely not a sign of wanting to hide things.




JAMES: Father, what can you tell us about the personal prelature which has apparently been offered to the Society?


Fr. Rostand: Well, I cannot tell you much about it, because we do not know yet what are the conditions within the prelature. And, it is amazing, in fact, that some are basing their position, or attacking even the Society and Bishop Fellay based on rumors about it, when nothing is public, and even nothing is known.


JAMES: Father, is there perhaps a danger that in the event of recognition from Rome, instead of the Society influencing the Church, would we not be susceptible to being poisoned or corrupted by neo-modernist tendencies in the Church and wouldnít you say that the examples of other congregations who have entered into an agreement, should they not be lessons for the Society today?


Fr. Rostand: Well, definitely it is a question of prudence. And, here I would like to clarify one point, is that in matters of prudence, the decision lies firstly in the superior. A decision made for the Society of St. Pius X is not left into the hands of everyone; itís the Superior General who has to make the decision for us. Now, is there a danger that we would compromise? Yes. There is a danger today in the situation we are in, and there will be in a new, possible, canonical recognition. Because, the main danger is our own weaknesses. Now, the difference between us and the other congregations who have made agreement with Rome is, first I think, we had doctrinal discussions with Rome first, and thatís very important, and secondly we have bishops and that is a strength for our Faith, for our work, for continuing what we have always done.


JAMES: Father, concerning the Rosary Crusades, there is a certain, letís say conspiracy theory that claims that these were simply ruses for the faithful.


Fr. Rostand: First of all, we have prayed these different rosary crusades with our whole hearts, and they were asked by Bishop Fellay, really to give a support from Heaven for the work we are doing, and for special intentions. So itís unfair today to come back, years after the start of these rosary crusades, and say that, well, they were scams, or whatever. It doesnít make any sense, and I think itís even really unfair. We had a lot of requests; we had and we still have a lot of requests for these rosary crusades. People are writing asking, what is the next rosary crusade for the Society, even giving intentions for them and so on. So, itís part of our fight. Itís even one of the greatest things that Bishop Fellay did during these years of Superior General, is to call to prayers, to help, to get the help from Heaven to the work we are doing here. I believe that Our Lady has a decisive role in the situation, to resolve the situation we are in. How she will do that? I donít know. But I canít believe that the Rosary Crusades would be not decisive into this situation.


JAMES: And then, on a practical note, since the last Rosary Crusade recently ended, do you know how many rosaries were offered in the American District?


Fr. Rostand: Yes, the number today is over 4 million rosaries, which is even more than the last crusade we did. So itís very encouraging to see that. I donít have the worldwide result yet.


JAMES: Father, the Society of St. Pius X is having a general chapter this summer. What can you tell us about the upcoming general chapter?


Fr. Rostand: The general chapter which is coming in July is a normal chapter which will gather, as usual, the superiors of the society, district superiors, rectors, and the oldest priests of the society. And it is to discuss different matters, internal matters of the Society. We have a chapter by our statutes every 12 years, for the election of the General Superior and for internal matters, especially to check if we are following our statutes, and if the spirit of the Society is good. And thatís the two reasons that we have in our statutes for this every 12 years chapter. This chapter here is a mid-term chapter, which was announced already 6 years ago at the last chapter; Bishop Fellay announced that there would be a mid-term chapter. So thatís whatís going to happen in July at Econe.


JAMES: So the speculation that this is somehow extraordinary, that it was even called because of the recent developments with Rome is not true?


Fr. Rostand: No, itís not true. The chapter was called years ago, as I said. Of course, the situation we are in gives, I would say, one more reason to have this chapter, but itís not the reason for its call. The chapter will first start by a retreat. So, all the members of the chapter will first follow a retreat of a week, and then we will meet for a week and discuss the different matters


The Church is not a democracy, and the Society of St. Pius X is not neither a democracy; meaning that some men are in charge of certain things, are responsible and make decisions for others. Thatís how Our Lord, Jesus Christ founded the Church. He gave all powers to the Vicar of Christ, and He gave powers to the Bishops within the Church to make decisions for an entire diocese. So there is nothing surprising that Bishop Fellay has to make decisions that will have consequences for every one of us. Itís normal. Thatís how Our Lord, Jesus Christ founded the Church.


Fr. Rostand: You know whatís interesting is that the Society of St. Pius X has always been attacking collegiality, the novelty of Vatican II, because it diminishes the power of the Pope, diminishes even the power of the bishops in their diocese, putting responsibilities to the college of bishops, and when it is the popeís decision. Well, today, those who are requesting that this decision about Rome should not be made by Bishop Fellay alone, but should be maybe voted by the chapter, or maybe even by the faithful, or by all the priests, well are just putting into practice what we have been fighting for 40 years. Itís a certain application of this collegiality that we have always denied.


JAMES: Father what closing thoughts do you have for those on every side following the drama of the Society today?


Fr. Rostand: First of all I would like to thank our faithful for the past rosary crusade, and especially the one we just ended. The people, the faithful have been very generous praying many, and many millions of rosaries and offering sacrifices, and itís an example and Iím very grateful to them. I invite them to continue to pray; itís not because the rosary crusade has ended that we should just stop praying and offering sacrifices. I think we need these, and we will need them for a long time. So please continue to offer your family rosaries at the intentions of the Church, of the Pope, of Bishop Fellay, of the Society of St. Pius X, that Our Lady may help us and will help us in the situation we are in. We trust in Providence, we trust in Our Lady to help us in the situation we are in today. And, I would like also to thank the unity of the priests of the U.S. District. I am in contact with them regularly, and I am really thankful for that communion, union of hearts, supporting Bishop Fellay and keeping altogether into these times.


I am very proud of the American district, of the faithfulness of the priests, of the generosity of the faithful, of our apostolate here, and I thank God for that


James: Thank you very much for your time, Father. © 2013                    home                    contact