|Looking toward the future|
J's latest offering on modern Catholic blogosphere vocabulary has generated copious comments on the liturgical changes that Pius X put into force, changes which were just as radical as those effected by Pius XII to Holy Week and Paul VI to the Ordo of Mass, although they were less distasteful in their result. This same who tossed out the psalter used by the ancient Church of Rome since probably the fourth century and which St. Benedict of Nursia proactively sought to imitate in his Rule also went on a zealous hunt against theological and disciplinary dissidents in an effort to preserve what I have termed the "Perfect Society" model of the Church. What could be more modernistic than discarding a fifteen century old liturgical tradition?
Guiseppe Sarto was not the College of Cardinals' first choice for the Apostolic See. An often reliable and much condemned correspondent for National Review, Mary Ball-Martinez, wrote in her Undermining of the Catholic Church that Mariano Cardinal Rampolla del Tindaro, Secretariat of State, was originally elected only to be vetoed by the Archbishop of Krakow on charges of Freemasonry. Mainstream thought, whenever it heard this far-fetched claim, quickly dismissed it. Recent research and leaked papers from the 1903 conclave now validate at least part of Martinez's claim. Sarto assigned the dubious Rampolla to the Holy Office and gave the Secretariat of State to the conclave secretary, Msgr. Merry del Val. A parish priest and unlikely patriarch now found himself at the center of a political institution that had hardly moved since the the Peace of Westphalia.
What differentiates the pontificates of Pius X and Pius XII, at least in this observer's view, is that Pius XII displayed a unified program of policies which he indefatigably followed. Consider, for example, the concerted effort to save Jewish lives during the Second World War, the various offices involved in implementing the new Holy Week, the general concordance of his encyclicals, and the movement towards new methods of communication. Pacelli's Vatican modernized and dealt with the prevailing issues of the time with a somewhat uniform mind, athwart the baroque remnants of prior pontiffs. Pius X's Vatican seems much less unified. Rampolla promoted the careers of his three prized students (della Chiesa, Gasparri, and Pacelli). Benigni hunted dissidents with his own home-grown intelligence network and ghost wrote official documents. Liturgical reformers reformed the Divine Office along the lines of the Jansenist breviaries on vogue in France. Everyone seemingly followed his own desires and none the pope's, which early in his papacy were a return to chant and more frequent Communion.
Was Pius X in complete control of his Vatican or was he, like Leo XIII at the end of his life, a functionary for the larger factions? His inexperience in playing politics and possibly apolitical nature (coming from peasant stock, not a noble) could very well have disincentivized Sarto from favoring or suppressing the urges of any one group. He let them do as they please, or by consent or by surrender. Pius XII had firm control. Did Pius X? If not, it would be difficult to ascribe to him any specific legacy, much less the proto-Lefebvrian image so many assign the parish priest turned pope.
Sarto and his second successor, Pius XI, may have been relatively inactive personally as pontiffs because they were compromise candidates between the reactionary political forces, liberal reformers, and the Rampolla clique, the most powerful of them all. The Rampolla clique eventually got their own Pope in Benedict XV, who died after having expended almost all his effort on preserving the Church through the First World War. Gasparri had already made a bad name for himself and Pacelli was too young to elect in 1922, so another Sarto, another compromise came about in the form of Achille Ratti. The only remaining mystery, if we are right thus far, is why did Pius XII canonize the nominal obstruction of his mentor's program? Was Pius XII above politicking? Was it a humble concession to the miracles attributed to Papa Sarto? Was it a nod to conservative elements in the Curia, to re-boot the liturgical reform program? We may never know. What can be known is this: Pius X, the great reactionary pope of the 20th century, may have been less a reactor than a spectator in his own see.
|Passing the baton|