Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sodalitium Pianum

Here is a link to a long overview of the history and influence of the Sodalitium Pianum, Benigni's anti-Modernist quasi-police force. The article gives a particularly astute summary of how it shaped the various traditionalist accounts of the 20th century overhaul in Rome (FSSPX, sedevacantism, integralism etc). For example, some have accused John XXIII of being a communist because he drew the ire and wrath of the Sodalitium for supporting a local labor strike as a parish priest (ironically that sent him into diplomatic work and accelerated the rise of an otherwise common priest).

One plus of this article is that is distinguishes between the many folds of "Modernism," between some people who really were outright heretics and others who simply were not neo-Thomists and did not know when to bit their tongues.

The article perhaps glosses over other factors in the understandable reactionism of early 20th century Catholics, such as a century of anti-clericalism, socialization of Church property, industrialization which ruined local communities, an endless series of nationalistic revolutions, and migration. Did all this warrant Pio Nono's (or Pio No No) "prisoner in the Vatican" approach? Unlikely, but I can hardly criticize those who supported Action Francaise in the 1920s. They wanted a Catholic country, or at least security for the Church, and if not for Cardinal Gasparri they perhaps would have had it.

And now Mr Bond, we will issue a new encyclical and
there is nothing the Holy Office can do to stop us!
The other matter where I think both liberals and traditionalists, and this article, are off is the subject of the Freemasons. No, there is not a master president of the "lodge" in an office under the United Nations headquarters plotting the destruction of the Church like a James Bond villain. This does not mean we should ignore the Masons. They were not, and are not, an organization in a corporate fashion. Structurally the most proximate thing to them would be terrorist cells in that one "lodge" is created from another and becomes an independent entity. The Masonic lodges gave primitive liberalism—political and philosophical—a forum for discussion and a means of social cohesion. This means that there was no Masonic conspiracy against the Church. It does mean that many who joined a given lodge were already disposed against the Church (like Calles of Mexico) and had access to the resources of like minded individuals. One cannot dismiss their importance outright just because the parody of them proved to be unsubstantial. Many clergy probably joined the Masons or had affiliation with them, either because of their own liberal beliefs or because they thought these new intellectual trends offered a means for making the Church relevant again. Indeed the particular Roman Pontiff about whom I have unique views may have associated with a greater number of "lodge men" than his predecessors or successors. This does not mean he was an "agent" or "on the other team," but it means that he may have held sympathies for their political liberalism, their optimism about the new age ushered in by technological shocks, and their views of the relationships between the Church and other parties. The Masons' relevance in the early 20th century is overestimated by some seeking an easy explanation for the total collapse that transpired and too easily dismissed by those wishing to distance themselves from crackpots.

Either way, read the article!


  1. Interesting and provocative, Rad Trad, as always! (Both your article and the one linked.)

    "[O]thers who simply were not neo-Thomists" etc. I'm not sure that "neo-Thomist" is the term needed here, since it is ordinarily used to describe the approach of Rahner and his followers who (inter alia) wished to change or replace St. Thomas's understanding of "ens." Perhaps, "Neo-Scholastic" would be better. After all, at this time and before, the schools of St. Bonaventure, Bl. Duns Scotus, and the Jesuits were thriving. I'm not sure I would (having read something of their works) characterize Harnack, von Huegel, Tyrrell, or Loisy as misunderstood but orthodox thinkers. The truth was, I think, that they really did accept an essentially Kantian view of reality. The "facts" discovered by modern Science that they accepted are akin to the "facts" of liturgical scholarship underpinning the changes in the '50's and beyond.

    Fr. Chadwick's article is interesting as far as it goes. I wonder, though, if the interpretation of events and personalities doesn't boil down to a question of sympathies? To those who loved the orthodox Catholic faith and practice, Benigni and his work is nothing terrible; but to those who desired the expression (at the very least) of the Faith and its concomitant practice to adapt to the modern world, he was something else entirely. But at least they've had their way in almost every particular and can rejoice in their triumph.

    One last thing: regarding the Masons, I know there is no single head of all the various "rites," but there is (speaking from some experience again) a great deal of communication and sympathy. The Grand Orient, the Scottish, and Yorkish "Rites" all have a supreme head, with limited but real authority over the various Lodges. And there's no doubt that they truly wish to see the Catholic Church come to an end, albeit indirectly and "cunctantes." I think, perhaps, they seem less "conspiratorial" and sinister nowadays because there is no more power of Throne or Altar to overthrow.

    Anyhow, these are just some thoughts of mine during a leisurely 96-hour liberty weekend. God bless you and your wonderful work with this blog!

    1. I agree Fr Capreolus. For me though the real question is not one of authority, but of outlook. Is it appropriate for the Apostolic See to have a secret police to snitch on heretics? In my book the real authority should be with the local bishop, but the episcopacy seems to have detumesced into a business manager role in some parts which reverted all major pastoral duties to the Roman See. I think the "fix was in" the moment such an organization was even considered necessary.

      I agree with you regarding the Masons, but I cannot see how that differs from what I have to say on the matter. I argue that they functioned, in their heyday, as a networking group for like minded persons who often held an animus towards the Church. And they did vary from place to place. The English and American ones were relatively benign Deistic and protestant do-good groups. The French and Italian chapters were outright malevolent, perhaps the consequence of being a minority in Catholic countries. Then again, are not all revolutions wrought by determined minorities who know what they seek and will be ruthless in acquiring it?

      Do have a good weekend and eat a hot dog!

  2. You refer to the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s in an obviously negative connotation. Are you aware every single one of the people accused of being paid by communists to foment communism by the McCarthy hearings was in fact, paid by the communists, as it later transpired?

    I feel your view here, as well as that of the author of the linked article is similarly blinkered. There is documented evidence that Marxist, feminist and masonic entrysm into the Catholic Church was planned consciously and with malicious intent to quite a good degree.

    You see...either Christianity is true or it is not. If it is, the oldest traditions are Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox along with Coptic. Of these, Catholicism had undoubtedly the most results in terms of Christianising the world. To be sure, by means that are abhorrent in certain cases, such as the conquest of the Americas, as perhaps best dramatised in the film The Mission, yet, in context, you should perhaps watch the film Apocalypto and see why the alternative could have been worse.

    Similarly, the current organisation of Sodalitium Pianum in Turin is not radical at all once you look into the details. I suggest you read this small work on the Novus Ordo Mass, which brings into perfect clarity as well as dignified humour why the Vatican II changes are an abomination and a farse.

    Happy reading.