Catholic fact check: Jean Guitton, Pope Paul VI, and the liturgical reforms

Photograph: Pope Paul VI and Jean Guitton. Undated.

Claim

The following quotation is found all over the internet. It's attributed to the philosopher Jean Guitton:

The intention of Pope Paul VI with regard to what is commonly called the Mass was to reform the Catholic liturgy in such a way that it should almost coincide with the Protestant liturgy…There was with Pope Paul VI an ecumenical intention to remove, or, correct, or at least relax, what was too Catholic, in the traditional sense, in the Mass and, I repeat, to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist Mass.

It is not inconceivable for Guitton to make such a statement, given that Guitton was close friends with Paul VI1. Nevertheless, the quotation is remarkable and deserves a ‘fact-check’ treatment.

I found four semi-independent sources for this quotation. I’ll describe them in the order that I found them.

Source 1: Apropos

The first time I found this quote cited was by the SSPX.2 The most common citation provided for this quotation is this:

Jean Guitton on December 19, 1993 in Apropos (17), p. 8ff.

Apropos3 was a traditional Catholic magazine. Like so much of American Catholic history, it looks fascinating but has fallen into obscurity and is difficult to find.4

I have been in contact with the wonderful librarians at Burns Library, Boston College, to ask about the December 1993 issue of Apropos. They have checked the entire issue, and report nothing authored by or even about Guitton. (One of the red flags of the quote is that it cites a journal issue, but gives no article title. Was Guitton the author? An interviewee? Was he simply quoted?)

As an aside, one Kansas library’s catalog said that they had this issue. After a chat with several staff member (God bless 24/7 online reference desks), they said regrettably they did not have that issue and their listing was not correct. The perils of library catalogs!

Source 2: Christian Order

The second most common citation was frequently tacked on to the one above:

Jean Guitton on December 19, 1993 in Apropos (17), p. 8ff [also in Christian Order, October 1994].

Christian Order was another traditional Catholic magazine. They have graciously provided an index of their old issues. In the October 1994 issue, there is no article by Guitton, or anything obviously about him. There is the possibility that he was quoted in an article, but not mentioned in the title. I have been unable to request a copy of this article.

Source 3: Latin Mass Magazine

Catholic Apologetics5 (note the typo in the URL – always a factor in research, and particularly so with online research) names yet another source, with a confusing explanation.

In an article titled “The Attractiveness of the Tridentine Mass,” Cardinal Alfonso Stickler discusses the protestantizing of the Mass and mentions that Jean Guitton, a friend of Paul VI, said his purpose was to “assimilate as much as possible of the new Catholic liturgy to Protestant worship” (Latin Mass Magazine, Summer 1995). Then, to directly quote Mr. Guitton in Christian Order, October 1994…

The Latin Mass Magazine article6 confirms that Cardinal Stickler did indeed say this, but this actually complicates the situation. Stickler is the one of the best sources one could hope for in Rome, but rather than bring us closer to the source, we are instead further removed from it. Stickler says:

French philosopher Jean Guitton says that Pope Paul VI revealed to him that it was his [the Pope's] intention to assimilate as much as possible of the new Catholic liturgy to Protestant worship. Clearly, it is necessary to verify the true meaning of this remark.

Stickler cites no one but Guitton himself, so while I can verify that Stickler said Guitton said this, this source is otherwise useless for my purposes.

Source 4: Radio-Courtoisie

Now, things are going to get complicated.

This colorful website7, which as far as I can tell is called “The Only One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church” named a fourth source forour quotation:

(Broadcast December 19, 1993 by Radio-Courtoisie, Paris).

The first question I ask – is this plausible? – checks out, as Guitton has been discussed on Radio-Courtoisie8.

I paid for a year’s subscription so that I could get access to archival broadcasts. No matter what I searched, I could not find a broadcast by or with Guitton in 1993. In fact, I couldn’t find any broadcast for December 19, 1993, with or without Guitton.

I searched for the broadcast date and Guitton, and found almost as many results as my first search for the quotation itself, which is interesting considering that they did not come up in my initial sources.

From Angelus Press9:

During a radio program devoted to Paul VI (December 19, 1993, on Radio Courtoisie), Jean Guitton described in the following terms the intention Paul VI had in devising the new rite: ‘First of all, Paul VI’s Mass is presented as a banquet, and emphasizes much more the participatory aspect of a banquet and much less the notion of sacrifice, of a ritual sacrifice before God with the priest showing only his back. So, I do not think I’m mistaken in saying that the intention of Paul VI and the new liturgy that bears his name is to ask of the faithful a greater participation at Mass; it is to make more room for Sacred Scripture and less room for everything…–some would say for magic, others for transubstantiation, which is of Catholic faith. In other words, Paul VI evinced an ecumenical intention to efface, or at least to correct, or at least to relax what is too Catholic, in the traditional sense, in the Mass, and to converge the Mass, I repeat, with the Calvinist Supper.’

This is an extremely helpful quote, and not just because it provides similar citation information. The quotation provided from Guitton is not the one for which I’m looking, but it is thematically similar. Another red flag for me in this quest is that the quotation in question always appeared in exactly the same way. The same ellipses, the same wording, the same citation format (that in itself is troubling), is unlike how information on the internet usually works. A quotation from Jane Austen may be attributed to Jane Austen, to her novels, to the characters, with or without the date, in italics, with quotations, etc.

If Guitton said this quote, he likely said it first in French. If he said it on a French radio broadcast, he definitely said it in French. Given how translations work, I would expect to see the French original, and possibly variant translations. I have so far seen neither.

However, the fact that I have a similar quotation from him is the greatest proof so far that that this quotation might be real.

The problem is that the broadcast does not seem to exist.

Searching again for the broadcast date and the radio name, I found this from the SSPX10:

Finally, leaving aside many other judgments, we reach the testimony of Jean Guitton (the author of Paul VI Secret). On December 19, 1993, during a debate on Lumiere 101 (Radio Courtoisie), he affirmed that:

‘Paul VI’s intention concerning the liturgy, concerning putting the liturgy into modern languages, was to reform the Catholic liturgy so that it would closely coincide with the Protestant liturgy… with the Protestant Supper."’

Later on he said:

‘…I repeat that Paul VI did everything in his power to bring the Mass—beyond the Council of Trent—into agreement with the Protestant Supper."’

Again, this is a thematically similar quote, which is good. It also gives us our next clue: I’m looking for a particular segment called Lumiere 101.

I searched Lumiere 101 with the broadcast date, about found this in a forum post from Fish Eaters11:

(Jean Guitton, French philosopher, Lay Peritus (Expert) at Vatican II, and close friend of Giovanni Montini/Paul VI quoted in radio program “Ici Lumiere 101,” broadcasted [sic] by Radio-Courtoisie, Paris, December 19, 1993, translated by Adrian Davies in Latin Mass, Winter 1995 [IV, 1], pp. 10-11.) cited in Apropos, #17, pp. 8f; Christian Order, October, 1994.

This confirms much of what we already know. The way this is phrased suggests that the three magazine citations (Apropos, Christian World, and Latin Mass Magazine) were all quoting Guitton from something else, rather than interviewing him or him writing directly.

All of this points to the quotation source being on the radio program Lumiere 101 in December 1993, and then quoted in three traditional Catholic magazines that month, October 1994, and Summer 1995.

Ici Lumiere 101

Running a search now for Lumiere 101, not Radio-Courtoisie, yields more helpful results.

A citation in the book Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Issues and Perspectives12 reveals that Francois-George Dreyfus was also on the radio broadcast, so I add his name to my search terms.

This link13 (the links are almost all French now, naturally, so I am relying on cognates, my high school French, and Google Translate) informs me that Lumiere 101 left R-C in 2006. That would explain why R-C hosts no archival content of Lumiere 101’s programs.

I found the current iteration14 of Lumiere 101, which is a podcast that ran from September 25, 2007 to August 15, 2011. It has clearly not been updated in some time, and there is no obvious contact information. However, given the title and the date the podcast started, I’m confident that I’m in the right place.

More searching found me this ancient forum15 for Lumiere 101 and Radio-Courtoisie listeners. Perusing the forums gives me a clearer picture of the situation. There was some bad blood in the departure from R-C; there are many negative comments about R-C’s leadership and decision-making, with one Wodehousian comment referring to R-C as ‘obsequious little valets’ (translated). This rift will likely make it difficult to impossible for R-C to help me track this down. (I did eventually contact R-C with my question, and they were unable to find anything relevant.)

The forum also tells me that Lumiere 101 became L107 in January 2016, but I can find no record of this either.

Investigating the forums further led me to this tantalizing thread, where a user, who had many archival episodes of Lumiere 101’s time on R-C, uploaded the content to the then-current website, lumiere101.com. I had found this link16 much earlier, but it was dead. All of the links to archival episodes in the above forum thread were dead, which is not surprising considering some comments were over a decade old.

I decided to use the Wayback Machine to break the logjam.

This17 is one of the first captures of the Lumiere 101 website, and confirms that the website started around February 2007. Their “about”18 page referenced an organization called Arcole, a cultural organization about which I couldn’t find too much information.

I took some of the links to archival episodes from this forum thread16 and plugged them into the Wayback Machine. The webpage mostly worked19, but of course the audio files were defunct. I’m inching closer!

One thing that that experiment revealed was the username of the person uploading the files: 100706jgmarc. The profile picture and name match the forum poster, J. G. Malliarakis.

Malliarakis appears to be still active in French politics. I emailed him with my plight, in hopes that he still has archival recordings of the 1993 Lumiere 101 broadcast. He does not, but I am grateful he responded so quickly to what must have been an odd email from an unknown American.

One would think we were at a dead end, but there is one final, important twist that keeps me on tenterhooks.

The breakthrough: a full transcription

By this point, I am reasonably sure that Guitton was on a Lumiere 101 program on December 19, 1993, broadcast by Radio-Courtoisie. (Another mark in Lumiere’s favor is that one website said they only ran on Sundays. December 19, 1993 is a Sunday, and possibly got erroneously connected with the Apropos issue date.)

Further searching leads me to a French Aleteia article20, with the following citation:

Yves Chiron est l’auteur de Paul VI, le pape écartelé, (rééd. Via Romana, 2018) et d’un livret d’entretien avec François-Georges Dreyfus et Jean Guitton, Entretien sur Paul VI, Éditions Nivoit (16 rue du Berry 36250 Niherne), 2011, 34 pages.

This is news indeed! This gives us two huge answers: that there was a third person present, Yves Chiron, who is still living, and that a transcription of the broadcast was published as Entretian sur Paul VI21, in 2011!

I quickly found the book in question for sale at a French bookstore online. This was a scenario I had not considered, but was a grateful bonus. Even if I had the broadcast, I would have to sift through the audio of the French to try to find an English quotation. Having a transcription would be an enormous help.

I ordered it as fast as I could, only to be greeted with an email the following morning that the bookseller “no longer had a relationship with the publisher,” so my order was cancelled. I checked viaLibri, and was unable to find any other copies available online. The book is not available for sale anywhere else online. I contacted the two libraries who say that they hold it, the French National Library and the National Library of Israel. The former has not responded yet, and the latter has halted all lending services indefinitely. (Even if they were lending, copyright would thwart any request for a full-text scan.)

On a whim a few days later, I checked Abebooks again. Despite checking Google Books, viaLibri, searching by title, by author, and by ISBN, none of those searches picked up the fact that there is a copy of the transcription on Abebooks, from a seller in Bordeaux. Obviously I bought it immediately.

(While I waited for the book, I heard from Dr. Peter Kwasniewski (who prompted this particular quotation adventure). He emailed to say that he had back issues of the Christian Order, and found the original quotation. It has the correct citation to the Lumiere 101 broadcast, complete with street address.)

The proof

The book finally arrived, and I found what I believe is the original quotation from Guitton on pages 27-28.

Cover page: Entretien Sur Paul VI

Page 27: Entretien Sur Paul VI

Page 28: Entretien Sur Paul VI

Mr. Chiron himself was gracious enough to respond to my email, to confirm that, “Le texte est la transcription littérale du débat qui a été enregistré.”

Summary

At this point, sifting through typos and dead links and French internecine radio conflicts, we can trace the timeline:

  • December 19, 1993: The quotation from Guitton originated in Lumiere 101’s broadcast on Radio-Courtoisie. The audio tapes are possibly irretrievable.
  • December 1993: An article in Apropos quoted Guitton.
  • October 1994: An article in Christian Order quoted Guitton.
  • Winter 1995: An article in Latin Mass Magazine quoted Cardinal Stickler’s word-of-mouth report.
  • 2011: Chiron published a full transcription of the 1993 broadcast.

Put another way: Parts of the interview with Guitton, Dreyfus, and Chiron, were translated, possibly by the SSPX. These snippets made their way into several traditional Catholic magazines which have largely been lost to time. At some point, in this convoluted game of telephone, Cardinal Stickler said that he also heard the quotation – perhaps he was listening to the radio broadcast.

With the increasing presence of traditional Catholics on the internet, the game of telephone went sideways, and the original source, the broadcast, was overshadowed by the citations to the three magazines (although there are references to the radio broadcast, if you already know to look for those words).

My Catholic fact-checking expeditions are not typically this long, but this had so many strange details and dead ends that I was more suspicious than usual.

This particular research adventure was an unusual case study in that many of the ‘final answers’ were in easily findable places, if you used the right words. The transcription of the broadcast was cited on Aleteia, which is hardly an obscure website. However, I had to make the painful journey from the original quotation, to the various magazines, to Radio-Courtoisie, to Lumiere 101, to the self-published transcription.

It's also a good example of the many problems that plague those interested in reconstructing semi-recent Catholic history: the oral tradition of many apocryphal anecdotes, the difficulty of finding a useful citation, the ensuing difficulty of requesting access to that material, library catalog errors, typos, link rot, content lost to time, how search engines decide what content to show or not show, and dots connected in the most unlikely places, like an ancient internet forum.

Did he say it?

If “he” is Jean Guitton, yes. He said (in French) the quotation at the top on Ici Lumiere 101 (a Sunday morning program on Radio-Courtoisie), December 19, 1993.

If “he” is Pope Paul VI, we can only use our best guess. Guitton and the Pope were close friends, and the spirit of the quotation matches the sort of thing that was said at the time. If the quotation was said privately from the Pope to Guitton, we can only go by Guitton's word.

Postlude: the publisher

At some point during this research extravaganza, I started to see the name “Isabelle Chiron” appear with some regularity.

Thanks to Worldcat, I know the publishing city: Niherne. A search for Niherne and Nivoit (mentioned in the Aleteia citation above) is a moderate success! The company comes up as a listing on several websites.22

The age of the pages is discouraging, and the lack of a website or further websites about Association Nivoit suggests that the company either has a very low profile or no longer operates. The address provided on all relevant websites is 5, rue du Berry, 36250 Niherne.

On a lark, I try searching for Guitton, Niherne, and Nivoit terms, and Isabelle. I find a dynamite piece of information by way of a reprinted Vietnamese monograph from Canada. The authors are Yves Chiron, and…Isabelle Chiron-Nivoit.23

Sources


  1. Pace, Eric. “Jean Guitton, 97, Philosopher, Author and Friend of Popes.” The New York Times, March 27 1999. https://www.nytimes.com/1999/03/27/arts/jean-guitton-97-philosopher-author-and-friend-of-popes.html.

  2. Society of St. Pius X, “Question 5: What Is Wrong with the Novus Ordo Missae?,” SSPX.org, http://archives.sspx.org/SSPX_FAQs/q5_novus_ordo_missae.htm.

  3. Fraser, A. S. “Apropos.” [In English]. Apropos. (1987). http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/475752600.

  4. ““Apropos,” a Sad Farewell,” The Eye-Witness, February 20, 2013, http://theeye-witness.blogspot.com/2013/02/apropos-sad-farewell.html.

  5. Redle, Kathleen Willet, “The Post-Conciliar Liturgical Revolution: On the Question of Liturgical Dancing and Other Abominations,” Catholic Apologetics, http://www.catholicapologetics.info/modernproblems/newmass/liturical.htm.

  6. Stickler, Alfons Cardinal. “The Attractiveness of the Tridentine Mass.” Latin Mass Magazine, Summer, 1995. http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/articles/articles_1995_SU_Stickler.html.

  7. “Jurisdiction,” The Only One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, http://1siri.50megs.com/photo3.html.

  8. “Libre Journal De Jean Ferré, Archive Du 29 Mars 1999 : Hommage À Jean Guitton.” Radio-Courtoisie, March 29 1999. https://www.radiocourtoisie.fr/2018/11/28/libre-journal-de-jean-ferre-du-29-mars-1999-hommage-a-jean-guitton/.

  9. Gaudron, Father Matthias. “Catechism of the Crisis in the Church, Pt. 18.” Angelus Press, November, 2008. http://www.angelusonline.org/index.php?section=articles&subsection=show_article&article_id=2799.

  10. Society of St. Pius X, “Must Catholics Attend the New Mass?,” https://sspx.org/en/must-catholics-attend-new-mass.

  11. “Why the New Mass? Why Not the Tridentine Mass in Vernacular?,” Fish Eaters, 2017, https://www.fisheaters.com/forums/showthread.php?tid=79517&pid=1351356.

  12. Reid, A. Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Issues and Perspectives. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=vSBHDAAAQBAJ.

  13. “Lumiere 101.” SchooP.fr, http://www.schoop.fr/ficheradio.php?id_radio=1733.

  14. Georges Lane Et François Guillaumat: Lumière 101. Podcast audio. https://podcloud.fr/podcast/georges-lane-et-francois-guillaumat?page=2.

  15. Forum Libéré de Radio Courtoisie et de Lumière 101: Le libre forum de l'actualité de Radio Courtoisie et de Lumière 101, https://libreforum.forumactif.fr/.

  16. Malliarakis, J. G. , “Mise En Ligne Des Archives Empty Mise En Ligne Des Archives,” Forum Libéré de Radio Courtoisie et de Lumière 101: Le libre forum de l'actualité de Radio Courtoisie et de Lumière 101, July 5, 2010, https://libreforum.forumactif.fr/t1698-mise-en-ligne-des-archives.

  17. https://web.archive.org/web/20111103220009/http:/lumiere101.com/

  18. https://web.archive.org/web/20111009061539/http:/lumiere101.com/about/

  19. https://web.archive.org/web/20100716160127/http:/lumiere101.com/2010/07/06/la-naissance-de-la-droite/

  20. Chiron, Yves. “Paul Vi, Le Pape Du Credo Et De La Vie.” Aleteia: Edition Francaise (2018). https://fr.aleteia.org/2018/10/12/saint-paul-vi-le-pape-du-credo-et-de-la-vie/.

  21. Chiron, Yves, François-Georges Dreyfus, and Jean Guitton. Entretien Sur Paul Vi. Niherne: Nivoit, 2011. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/875034234.

  22. https://jo-association.info/v2/36250/20020041-ASSOCIATION-NIVOIT.php; http://www.net1901.org/association/ASSOCIATION-NIVOIT,455137.html

  23. “Journal De Saïgon Et Du Mékong.” Renaud-Bray, https://www.renaud-bray.com/Livre_Numerique_Produit.aspx?id=2941768.

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Sharon Kabel
Librarian; Nuisance

I like Catholic newspapers, amateur data visualizations, and walls of text.

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