Friday, September 6, 2013

St. Pius XII?

With all the talk last month about the impending canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, only a few are still discussing the interesting news that Pius XII, the last Pope prior to the Second Vatican Council, may also be raised to the altars and by the same dispensation as his successor, Papa Roncalli. One wonders why?
Rome's eagerness to canonize John XXIII and John Paul II reflect a desire to canonize the Second Vatican Council and the "Spirit" of the Second Vatican Council respectively. But what would make them want to canonize Papa Pacelli? Francis has been compared to John Paul II for his liturgical praxis, but at least this observer finds him more analogous to Paul VI than to the Pope from Poland. Which brings us to a potential answer. Pius XII made Paul VI, and in a great many ways.
As the Rad Trad has said before, Pius XII is the least understood Pope in centuries. He is condemned for the good he did and lauded for the ills of his pontificate. Traditionalists and liberals alike see him as the tiara-wearing, Thomistic, Latin Mass-defending bastion of orthodoxy that preceded the radical changes that began with "Pope John's Council" in 1962. This is romantic (or horrific, depending on one's perspective) rubbish. As previously stated on this blog, Pope Pius was a modernizer, neither a liberal nor a conservative, so his canonization would not necessarily vindicate either side's view. In more sensible times his cause would have had ecumenical implications with the Jewish people, but the media have blemished his reputation since the play The Deputy in 1966 and have painted him as a seething anti-Semite or passive Nazi-enabler; neither characterization could be further from the truth.
Yet his work on behalf of the Jewish people in the face of their extermination might be the only clear cut good on Papa Pacelli's part. His primary duty, to preserve the Catholic Church through the Second World War, was less than successful. Most of the Church hierarchy was disbanded, understandably, in Germany and Poland—less so in the lower countries which had Catholic Italy as a cultural boundary against too much Nazi secularism. The rebuilding of the European Church after the War was unsuccessful. Sure, American money—provided by Americanist bishops like Cushing and Spellman—restored the physical plants, but no revival of the faith took place in Europe. Poland had withstood secularism during the War and continued to do so, far from American influence, nestled behind the Iron Curtain. Perhaps one reason the Traditionalist movement began in France is because Church influence and Mass attendance had been declining since the reign of Louis XVI. French Catholics had no illusions, no glass house like American and English Catholics. One rarely heard Pius XII speak on matters of Church-State relations in a theological context. His concerns always seemed more practical and concerned with rights rather than public religion. More Paul VI than Pius XI in my opinion.
Pope Pius XII with his protégé some time after 1956, when
the Pontiff's health was in rapid decline.
Which brings us to one point too long overlooked: Pius XII made Paul VI. Sure, there are the stories of Msgr. Montini, a secretary in the Vatican, celebrating Mass with university students huddled around his altar—a forerunner to the modern day Newman center if there ever was one, which Pius XII's aristocratic nature did not meet well. And yet we find from his days as a cardinal, Eugenio Pacelli raised Giovanni Battista Montini through the ranks with startling efficiency, almost to denote his successor. Pacelli, as Vatican Secretariat of State under Pius XI, hired Montini for prestigious diplomatic work. Aside from a minor assignment in Poland, Montini worked under Pacelli's tutelage for the better part of three decades, including during the War, a time when other members of the Vatican diplomatic core, like Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, were engaged in active field work. There is, of course, the tale that Montini furtively held negotiations with Russian communists during the War, inciting the fury of his superior, by that point Supreme Pontiff, who promptly exiled him from the Vatican to the archdiocese of Milan. We should not be surprised if there had been contact between Rome and the Soviets, given the ease with which John XXIII acquired Orthodox observers at the Vatican Council a few years later, but this would indicate that the connection between the two parties was well-developed. Which causes us to re-examine the canard of Montini's exile: Msgr. Montini, a priest, was transferred from an under-secretarial position in the Vatican to one of the most important episcopal sees in the world (which had produced the previous pope at the time) and received his consecration from the Pontiff himself. If anything, Pius was denoting his eventual successor. Much is made of the fact that Montini did not get the red hat. Neither did Cushing and many others. Montini was raised to the episcopacy in 1956, three years after Pius XII's second and last consistory. Interestingly, Pope Pius also gave Frs. Suenens, Wojtyla, and Cushing their first episcopal work.
Captain Charles Ryder Evelyn Waugh,
convert to the faith, novelist, and
lay liturgical critic.
Lastly there is the liturgical question. Pope Paul stated explicitly in his bull Missale Romanum, which introduced the new ordinary of the Mass to the Roman rite of the Church, that this new praxis was the culmination of a renewal process which began under Pius XII. Given Montini's daily first hand knowledge of Papa Pacelli, one would be hard pressed to dispute this claim. Novelist Evelyn Waugh once wrote "many of the innovations, which many of us find so obnoxious, were introduced by Pius XII." Waugh's tone aside, he hits the "nail on the head" here. Evening Masses, vernacular Masses, people muddling through spoken responses, the new Holy Week, and other novelties came about with official approval from Pope Pius. He certainly was not a fan of other novel practices, like the lay offertory procession—which he condemned in Mediator Dei, but he did very little to stop other innovations such as Mass versus populum.
Depending on one's perspective, all of this could be good or could be bad, but, as the saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts. Pope Francis is an enthusiast of Paul VI, the Pope of his seminary formation and early priesthood. He knows that Pius XII, far from being a 19th century stuff-shirt, was in fact a very modern Pope who set the stage for Council and the liturgical renovations of the 1960s and 1970s which formed the modern hierarchy. It is the Rad Trad's opinion that Pope Francis, God love him, may be seeking to canonize Pius XII for the same reason he intends to canonize John XXIII and John Paul II: to canonize the what people perceive as the changes associated with the Second Vatican Council.


  1. Nothing better to incite blind papolatric defensiveness, Trad-style, than this post!

    While I am inclined to agree with your conclusion, there is still the question of bogus anti-semitism which could well turn Francis away from proceeding. Whether or not he follows through with Pius XII's canonization could well be a test of his priorities (Vatican II vs. Jewish relations), a true liberal conundrum.

  2. I am probably mistaken, but I have an idea in my mind:

    Could be this canonization an attempt to please both the most-right-wing conservatives and the "standard Trads"? I mean: as John XXIII is a progressive idol, and John Paul II a conservative one, Pius XII would be the perfect idol for domesticated traditionalists.

    And, at the same time, this Pope could secure also the papolatric view (present both in neo-cons and "standard Trads", and also in progressists, if they like that Pope) that the current mass-media-modernist Papacy needs for its own survival.

    As I said before, I am probably wrong. Greetings from the deep ultramontanist, and anti-traditional Spain.

    Kyrie eleison

  3. [Don't publish this if you don't want:]

    Another question (this is little related to the post, I think, but I remembered it seeing the ambiguous character of Pius XII):

    Yesterday I was taking to a friend (a neo-conservative one) after I showed him this writing. He tried to defend Pius XII (in all his actions), and also to justify the ultramontane-papolatric Church administration which XIX century Popes gave us.

    At the end of the conversation, he told me that, in fact, differences between conservative and traditionalist point of view are not important, and the only important thing would be that "they" and "us" should become united to fight against the liberal priests and friars, "pro-choice-catholics", neo-arianist theologians, &c.

    I didn’t answer him, but I have been reflecting on this that since then:
    -who are worse: heretic theologians or tolerant bishops who don’t condemn them?
    -why are these neo-conservatives so blind to those problems, which were already in progress by the time of Pope Pacelli?
    -are these trying to attract us to “moderation” when calling us to fight beside them?
    -and, finally, how could a true traditional catholic answer to my friend’s statement?

    Sorry if this comment is not related to the matter of your post, but I wanted to ask you for your opinion on these things, and I didn’t find a better place. So don’t publish it if you don’t want. Thank you anyway.

    Kyrie eleison

    1. I would agree with your analysis more if traddies, even the domesticated breed, had a presence in the Vatican that the authorities might wish to placate. Aside from one or two FSSP consultants for Ecclesia Dei they really have no presence. That is part of what make this an odd move. Often canonizations are used by the Curia as "confirmation bias," canonizing the standing practices and beliefs of the Roman congregations. The same thing happened in England with St Thomas Becket, although he was a martyr, which made matters much clearer for his case.

      Aside from the excessive focus on the personality of the pope, another side effect of Ultramontanism is instability. What does one do when two popes have different approaches to a matter? Boniface VIII taught that he WAS the Church, and outside of religious and political submission to him there was no salvation (and even within it there probably was not any). John Paul II basically taught everyone, or near everyone, was saved. Who do we believe? The established, influential medieval? The charismatic man still in our memories? Ultramontanists, on the issues, seem to share many of the traditional views, but their outlook prevents us from seeing everything eye to eye. A year ago many were clamoring about the "EF" Mass and "mutual enrichment." Now the hot topics are "humility" and "Pelagianism." Is there no continuity in outlook from pontificate to pontificate? Does Ultramontanism help the Church? Probably not. It subjects the Church to the reigning pope's whims and personality. Sedevacantists and many lay apologists have one thing in common: they're all Ultramontanists. One group just wants Pius IX back and the other wants John Paul II. Many "neo-conservatives" neglect these problems because they have an immanent outlook on matters. Also, as I wrote in my series on the Reform on the Roman Rite and in my review of Dr Hull's book, they separate liturgy (the core of Tradition) from doctrine, which leaves the Church as functional and minimalistic, but also fungible....

      Does that answer your question?

    2. Could you give me your thoughts on Pope Pius XI? To me he seemed much more solidly Traditionalist. He also seemed more Conservative than Pope Benedict XV. Perhaps even then Pope Leo XIII although I am not sure about that last one. He was obviously strongly opposed to Nazism but he does seem to have had sympathy for Fascism. Quadregisimo Anno showed clear support for Corporatism while also allowing for regulated market Capitalism and economic Centrism. Pope Leo XIII sounded almost like a Conservative Libertarian in Rerum Novarum.

    3. Ivan, you've inspired a follow up post today.

  4. I didn't want an "answer", but just an opinion, but anyway I think you are surely right. What really desperates me is that they are blind because they want (not always, but most often), and I think their obsession with progressist theologians is just a way for them not to look at the real (structural) problems of our Church.

    Oh, yeah, for them Liturgy is just a secondary "permormance"...

    Thank you

    Kyrie eleison

  5. Some people choose not to see as to do so would mean they could not maintain their artificial, revisionist, construct 'Traddieland' and use the scapegoat of the 'Wicked Council'. How anyone can be surprised by anything that happened after the aforesaid 'Wicked Council' is result of self-delusion as the antecedents of all the 'woes' are apparent and indeed were being nurtured before, particularly in the decade immediately prior to 1962.

    The sad reality is that hardly anyone is interested in the Liturgy per se, the Liturgy is merely a useful 'banner' and in reality is treated with the same contempt it has been for a very long time in the West - vide the good Dr. Hull.