Interview with Fr. Louis Demornex
Seattle Catholic (SC): Father Demornex, Traditional Catholics throughout the world first came to know of you in 2000 A.D., when you stopped saying the New Mass and returned to the Traditional Catholic Mass in your parishes. For those who are not familiar with the general circumstances, can you tell me something about your parish of Fontanaradina and the Diocese of Sessa Aurunca, Italy?
Fr. Louis Demornex (LD): My Diocese is situated between Rome and Naples, near Monte Cassino. It is a small Diocese of about 50 small towns and villages, about 55 parish priests and religious. Fontanaradina, which has about 170 inhabitants, is situated on the side of Monte Santa Croce, and has a beautiful view of the Tyrrhenian Sea. I came to the parish on October 24, 1978, because I wanted to live in solitude, silence and poverty. You know how the small villages of South Italy are: there were still livestock (sheep, goats, cows) living with people in the same house. Now it has all changed: all of them go to school and follow popular fashions; no more livestock, nor tilling of the earth; now they only cultivate fruit trees (olives, peaches, apples, and so on). The elderly still retain a traditional outlook, but the youth here are being shaped by national television with its consumerist advertising to live like those in the cities. The religious outlook of the youth is similarly changing.
As for the Mass, I must say that I never celebrated the New Rite according to the New Missal. Even if I said the Roman Canon in Italian, I always said the Tridentine offertory while the choir sang, because for me, it is not so much a question of language, but of content — so I think my Mass was valid, even if it was a kind of wrong, illicit creation of mine own.
About the year 1997, my Bishop ordered me to say the New Mass facing the people. Since from the beginning it was my intention was to stay with my congregation so as to teach them the Catechism of St. Pius X and continue to preach the Catholic faith pure and simple, I accepted and said Mass — my version of the Mass, facing the people. After two years (and then only on Sundays), I could no longer endure the position I had taken. I felt like I was spiritually suffocating, suffering from a kind of allergy, a total refusal of my inner being, a violent repulsion, to such a point that I told my bishop to do with me what he would, but I could not obey this directive anymore. He told me that obedience must be enthusiastic and joyful. I answered that I spent 13 million lira (about $7,000) of my own money to modify the churches and I thought it was true obedience.
So, after that experience, on the first Friday of February 2000, I began to say the Tridentine Mass because it was no longer possible for me to try to follow such a "Church" which changed every day and imposed with severity all its whims.
Then, in May 2000, my Bishop sent me a letter in which he accused me sowing a widespread discontent among the people of my parishes, by means of my personal approach to pastoral care. It was not true — but I had to leave my three parishes. At once, all young people started going about in cars, gathering signatures; they met the Bishop, and for a whole week they demanded that he make me return. A week later, I returned and all was quiet until September 2001.
Then the bishop sent a priest to ask me to stop offering the Tridentine Mass, because this Mass was forbidden and it would die with me. After two months, on December 2, 2001, the Bishop took the pastoral care of the parish of Fontanaradina from me, but strangely, even until now has left me Corigliano and Aulpi.
SC: What was your experience as a Pastor with the New Mass and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council; were they beneficial to your congregation?
LD: As I always celebrated "versus Deum" (except 1997-1999, on Sundays), with Gregorian chant, my congregation did not notice much change in parish life. They were satisfied that they could understand Mass and that I restored all traditions about processions and devotions. As for the Second Vatican Council, I must admit that I ignored it totally, as I saw in it an event without identity, and only a heap of confusion, anarchy and destruction. While its implementation continued to evolve more and more away from the Catholic Faith, I went on with the traditional practices of a parish priest.
SC: How is that you came to the decision to stop saying the New Mass and start saying the Traditional Latin Mass?
LD: When I saw that in spite of my efforts, I could no more agree with the "New Church" in its many continuous novelties and evolutions (e. g. imposition of the Holy Communion in the hand, against the wishes even of the many bishops who wanted liberty in this matter, Communion distributed by girls and women in spite of the fact that biblical and ecclesiastical tradition entirely forbid the liturgical action of women). In many places nowadays, the actual way of treating the Eucharist is a continuous sacrilege. It reminds me of abortion, and so I could not agree any more with this kind of Church.
SC: What was the response of your congregation to the Traditional Latin Mass?
LD: There was little reaction, as here in southern Italy, it is the custom to accept all the decisions of one's parish priest. Very few of them understood; others made comparisons with other parishes and accepted it. I can say that the same people attend the Traditional Mass as attended the "New."
SC: What was the response of your bishop, the Most Reverend Antonio Napoletano?
LD: He called me in during May of 2002 to give him an explanation of my decision. For two hours I expressed my point of view on the present so-called "conciliar Church": a demolition company, as it were, within the Catholic Church, like a cancer in a healthy body. At the end, as I told him that it was absolutely ridiculous that a Mass made by Popes was forbidden while a Mass made by a Vatican Commission, and afterwards "interpreted" by translators and modified by the parish priest and his staff of ignorant, materialist "unfaithful," could be compulsory. He told me he could not let me continue as a parish priest, but he would allow the traditional rite if enough people signed a request. I told him that two years before, 927 people signed a petition requesting that I return as pastor to say that Mass. Since this meeting, I have not received any response from my Bishop.
SC: How did your people respond to the Bishop's decision to send you away?
LD: At the end of my last Mass, I told them that the Bishop reproached me for fomenting a widespread discontent among them; I begged pardon for my incompetence and promised that in the afternoon I would leave the parishes. To my great amazement, they burst into tears, above all the young people; they ran into the sacristy to ask me what happened. After a short explanation they took their cars and started gathering signatures. To obey my Bishop, I had to leave my parishes, but only at about 10 p.m. that night. Throughout the day my people came to me to embrace me with so much weeping — even old people, coming from farms far out in the country side. I did not expect such manifestations. People made so much noise every day at the Bishop's palace, making continuous visits and protests, that after a week he told them that he did not decide to send me away. They phoned me to tell me the news, and the day after I returned.
SC: What sacrifices and blessings came about as a result of returning to Tradition in your parish?
LD: This is very difficult to answer. But I can remark that they trust me for what I represent. I myself found interior peace, joy, patience and a gentleness of one who is at least at rest because he has done God's will and has taken a firm stance in harmony with his priestly identity. And that kind of peace is so much appreciated by tormented souls living in this agitated world. Other priests told me I represent a kind of column and a symbol, so I must stay here. These are the fruits of the true Mass.
SC: Today you are the pastor of Corigliano and Aulpi, and their churches of San Lorenzo and San Antonino: do you attribute your reassignment to the TLM?
LD: I am rather mysteriously endured, and cannot explain to myself how it is that I am still alone among so many of my peers who have wholeheartedly embraced the "conciliar Church."
SC: What do you see as the principle obstacles, both objective and subjective, to pastors following your example in their own dioceses? And what advice or encouragement would you give them if they asked?
LD: There are many obstacles: obedience, formalism, sluggishness, cowardice, the love of quiet, careerism, the fear of loneliness, the lack of knowledge about the old rite, and, above all, that many priests do not see any problem nor the difference between the two rites and so they do not understand my position. According to them, I am an eccentric anachronism who exaggeratedly likes Latin and old things. They also think that the old rite is absolutely forbidden, that people do not understand Latin and so it is ridiculous to go on using it; that the Church went forward and made much progress, while people like me have remained behind.
We know a tree by its fruits. Together with the Mass, theology, exegesis and morals are in full and continuous evolution; the "conciliar Church" is a total confusion and impostiture of the Catholic Church. For these people the Roman Catholic Church is only a fragment of the "Catholic One," the Universal Church that will contain all religions, and this is the true aim of ecumenism. For them all is a human plan from which God and revelation are absent. For example: the Inquisition is no longer the guardian of Revealed Truth, but as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith it has become an international centre of theological research, that is, a guide for the self-admitted official evolution of the Faith.
So, it is my intention to get far from this monstrous, artificial new construction and remain a faithful member of the Mystical Body of the Church which has remained the same throughout the centuries, begging from our Lord the grace and strength to serve the True Church and seek always the salvation of the souls. I think it is sufficient to look around us today to perceive the apostasy, the disorder, the fantasy, the sacrilege, the disobedience, and the anarchy the "conciliar Church" has brought about. Where are God and Truth in all this confusion? Doing what the Catholic Church has always done, we are assured of doing God's will, of walking in the right path.
The Traditional Latin Mass has held the Church upright for centuries in spite of the clergy, poor sinners then as well as now, and She shall endure. This Mass is the source of theology and morals, of the authentic spirituality of the Cross for the expiation of sins and of the authentic spirit of penance as an effective preparation to everlasting life. The abolition of this Mass has unleashed Satan on the earth and in the Church.
Anyone can choose his own way: the short paradise of conformism and its peace on earth, or the eternal Paradise of Heaven after a persecution on earth.
SC: The status of the Traditional Catholic Movement in Southern Italy is not well known in the English speaking world. Can you tell the readers of Seattle Catholic something about the present situation and what is needed?
LD: I personally do not know any priest in Southern Italy who celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass. There are only some small groups of traditional laymen who are assisted by the Fraternity of St. Pius X.
SC: What do you see as the chief obstacles toward the restoration of ecclesiastical tradition in the Catholic Church worldwide?
LD: Since the time of the Council, every bishop in the world has been chosen among priests open to the world — that is, priests who pleased the people, who walked arm-in-arm with the evolution of society, more attentive to read the signs of the time than to the dictates of Heaven. As a result we have this continual evolution in search of adaptation, so as not to lose "contact" with people. In this way, the clergy have lost contact with the absolute and definitive Truth, and have gone about in search of the 'politically correct' way of teaching a Doctrine that the world never has accepted ("in propria venit et sui eum non receperunt"). The only way to restore ecclesiastical tradition would be to dismiss all the pro-evolutionary Bishops and consecrate as new Bishops men full of integral faith, heroism, and the love of God and souls. I wish many priests of the Fraternity of St. Pius X were consecrated bishops, because they are learned in theology, morals and spirituality. I say this in all seriousness. I do not see elsewhere such a breeding ground of an authentic Catholic spirit. They are the Noah's ark of the Church, which flows on the muddy waters of apostasy, heresy and immorality.
SC: What advice would you give the laity, especially parents raising a family today, on how to practice the Catholic faith amid the growing Modernist Crisis in the Church?
LD: First of all, they should be good catechists, using every kinds of book faithful to traditional teaching, faith, spirituality and devotion. They should keep their children from television so as to teach them the true spirit of the Cross, which is separation from this world, and which looks towards Heaven. Then be ready to make all possible sacrifices so as to reach a traditional centre with the Mass and all the Sacraments. The best weapon is the love of God fortified with much courage, conscious that salvation is very difficult amidst that corrupted world.