Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bishop to Archbishop

Second letter to Archbishop Klushko, Rome (The first letter is #35.)
Friday, March 11th, 1977.

Dear Archbishop Klushko,

First of all I must congratulate you on your new appointment. Not only does it immediately put you into a key position but, in view of your comparative youth, it means that with a modicum of care you can scarcely avoid becoming a Cardinal. This, I imagine could still be quite fun—although the renewal of the Church in implementing the spirit of Vatican II has abolished the principal attraction of that high office. I refer, of course, to the hat.

I am in receipt of your letter of February 28th and apologize for the delay in answering it. It is most kind of you to invite me to Rome and under normal circumstances I should be delighted to accept. As you know, however, I happen to be dying. It is an inconvenient occupation which makes it difficult for me to move from my base: numerous injections, an impossible diet and inconsiderate bowels.

However, I should not like you to imagine that I am using my imminent demise as an excuse. Were I in the pink of health I should require some assurances and clarifications before accepting your invitation. Your write: “The Cardinal Prefect and myself should now like to discuss with you odd points which cause us some embarrassment as a result of your Ad clerum of January 13th.” Apart from the reference to my Ad clerum, this is word for word the same as Cardinal Garrone’s letter to Archbishop Lefebvre of January 25th, 1975: “nous voudrions nous entretenir avec vous . . .” Diplomatic language, I suppose, follows well worn grooves. The point is, however, that when Lefebvre, all on his own without Canon Lawyer, theologian or secretary, arrived in Rome, he found himself confronted by Cardinals Garrone, Wright and Tabera sitting as a sort of People’s Court in which the accusation is the condemnation. The Court proceedings were duly taped.

Now, I am willing to chat with anyone—presumably Testastorta as I am unable to get to Rome. I am also willing to appear (inevitably by proxy) in front of any tribunal provided that the case against me is properly formulated and I am given due notice; that I am allowed Counsel as I think fit; that I may myself have the proceedings recorded and publish them at my discretion. What I am unwilling to do is to turn up for a chat and come in for a grilling.

I wish to explain why I insist on recording and publishing myself any discussion or proceedings which may take place. You will remember that in the case of Archbishop Lefebvre the discussion of January 25th was duly taped. This was probably less to hear what Lefebvre had to say for himself than to make sure that the Cardinals did the grilling properly. Apparently they did not, so the tough old bird was put under the grill again on March 3rd. This time the Cardinals doubtless said all they were supposed to. Lefebvre asked for a copy of the tape. Garrone had no hesitation: of course, it was his right. That evening Lefebvre sent a person round to the secretary with the necessary machinery to re-record the tape. It was refused. Next day he went himself to get it. No, he could only have a transcript, which would be ready the following evening. The following evening he was told that even the transcript was not forthcoming. It is reasonably obvious that neither Garrone nor the secretary had the tape. It must have been removed by higher authority who refused to part with it. So Lefebvre never got a copy. Then came the crowning insult. Months later—quite recently in fact—extracts appeared in an illustrated French weekly! I lack the humility to lay myself open to such treatment.

Do not tapes remind you of something, my dear Archbishop? I am not wildly interested in politics, but I seem to remember a scandal in the United States about a watergate [sic]. The upshot of it was that the then President was obliged to produce the tapes which condemned him. Surely this was splendid? It proved to the world that the U.S. is a great civilized country, governed in the long run by the Rule of Law no matter how much mud may collect in her watergates. I wish the Vatican had done likewise in the Lefebvre affair. As all agree, justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. Now that you are a distinguished member of the Church’s central administration, I trust that you will exert your utmost influence to secure the re-establishment of the Rule of Law. The sanctuary of the post-Conciliar Church is sufficiently cluttered with corpses without adding to the pile.

I am no less sincerely yours,
my dear Archbishop,
for remaining in indignant opposition,

— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 191–192.