Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: Undermining of the Catholic Church UPDATED

"There are only two books worth reading on the Traddie situation," a correspondent, who knows who he is, wrote me to over a year ago. "Dr. Hull's book and Undermining of the Catholic Church by Mary Ball Martinez."

Traditionalists and all stripes of Catholics have access to volumes upon volumes of material to read, published or online. The best sources are of course Scripture, the liturgical texts of the Church, and the Fathers. These sources tell us not just what to believe, but more importantly how to believe. And there are other useful books, works, and lecture series for understanding theology, liturgy, history, and philosophy. Many of these works have been reviewed on this blog, particularly ones pertaining to liturgy (Dr. Hull's book, Kavanagh's lectures, and Laurence Hemming's works among them). And yet after extensive reading and private research I must agree that, as far as the "Traddie situation" is concerned—the 20th century revolution in the liturgy and the political agenda of the Roman Church—The Banished Heart by Geoffrey Hull and Undermining of the Catholic Church by Mary Ball-Martinez are still the best books to read. Other books touch related material, but only these works address the matters at hand directly.

I have alluded to Martinez's first book, From Rome Urgently, which was a compilation of articles she wrote in the 1970s. Undermining is something of a sequel to From Rome, with greater and clearer rumination on the status of the traditionalist movement and limpid hindsight into the beginnings of the revolution in the late 19th century. 

Undermining, which can be read and downloaded free of cost here, has largely been ignored by all quarters of the Church because its thesis and narrative do not fit anyone's agenda. The liberal crowd may have agreed with its facts and found the result of the revolution positively delightful. The neo-Ultramontanists who we now identify colloquially as the "JP2 generation" would find the criticism of the renewal outright scandalous. And sedevacantists, FSSPX traditionalists, and "indult" traditionalists could not stomach that she exposed Pius XII and the early 20th century Vatican for what they really were. Consequently, her book enjoys a dedicated, narrow following like 1980s "B films."

The Thesis

Martinez's begins on the vigil of Pentecost in Rome in 1971. The Second Vatican Council closed six years earlier. Pope Paul was midway to the end of his tragic reign. Archbishop Lefebvre was not yet ready to declare himself publicly. And Catholics were gathered and praying the rosary by the thousands under the windows of the Apostolic Palace for the return of the old Mass. How did the Church arrive at this odd point? With Mystici Corporis, Martinez says. MC was the first and most vital step in dismantling the legalistic understanding of the Church that dominated the Counter-Reformation and replacing it with a model based on human beings, an opinion shared by Avery Dulles, the Jesuit Cardinal and theologian.  It was the first domino to fall, culminating in the long anticipated Council that would complete a revolution started in 1903.

In 1903, Martinez asserts, Cardinal Rampolla was elected or nearly elected Pope, only to be vetoed by the Polish cardinal under the auspices of an obscure and long forgotten treaty. The cardinals then flocked to the patriarch of Venice, whose first decision as Pope was to rescind all veto privileges. Rampolla, now saddled with the less glamorous position of Secretary of the Holy Office, spent his time training three proteges who would make his humanistic vision for the Church a reality: Giacomo della Chiesa, Pietro Gasparri, and Eugenio Pacelli. Della Chiesa had no sooner been made a cardinal than he was elected Pope Benedict XV and began to undo his predecessor's measures against modernizations, including the dissolution of Pius X's secret informant network. The First World War threw a wrench into the clique's immediate plans. When Benedict XV died prematurely the powers that were found themselves in a debacle. Pacelli was still too young and Gasparri was un-electable. As a solution they elected an aloof academic in Pius XI, hitherto the Vatican Archivist. It was during this papacy that things began to turn.

The Secretariat of State office, run by Gasparri and assisted by Pacelli, promoted policy antipodal to the teachings and desires of the Pope of the time, opposing and undermining Action Francaise and the Catholics in the Spanish Civil War in favor of French secularists at the same time the Pope was talking about the "social reign of Christ the King," a long favorite subject of traditionalists. The most reprehensible betrayal was that of the Christeros, wherein a civilian army fighting against a humanistic and even Masonic (?) president in Calles with no support from the upper clergy achieved absolute victory and were then convinced by Rome to make an un-conditional surrender and subject themselves to slaughter.

During this same period the paradigm shifted within academia and the religious orders, often with tension between the younger and older generations of priests. The Holy See, far from reigning in excesses and deviations from the accepted teachings and outlook, often aided and abetted these digressions. In the case of Teilhard de Chardin the Society of Jesus prohibited him from publishing and obstructed him from going on the speaking circuit. The Secretariat of State however, at the behest of Pius XII, arranged for him to give lectures in occupied France during the rule of the Vichy government. 

During the War Pius XII aided Jewish efforts to escape from the Holocaust and Hitler's death camps, but almost entirely ignored the political difficulties of the Church during this era. His foreign policy consistently stood against authoritarian governments that were either indifferent to Catholicism or in favor of it, but he sided with the humanists and Marxists. He permitted the Vatican to be used an an intermediary point in the War for discussions between the Allies. And he spent copious time during the War smuggling Jews from Italy into British Palestine on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. After the War the early seeds of liberation theology and the Charismatic movement began to sprout above ground with the support of Countess Pacelli, the Pope's sister.

The time after the War was spent consolidating power and loosening discipline. The Biblicum was created in Rome to give a presence in Vatican academia to the progressive movement. The rules around the celebration of Mass and reception of Communion were relaxed to a point envied today, but risible to previous generations. And the promulgation of the dogma of the Assumption and the creation of a commission to reform the liturgy centralized spiritual authority around the Pope. Martinez at one point boldly asserts that the canonization of Pius X was part of a barter with the baroque-minded Vatican establishment to begin introducing the new liturgy, particularly the new rites of Holy Week.

Aware of his age, the Pope sent his protege to Milan, but died before making his successor a cardinal. The affable Angelo Roncalli took the papacy for a few years before Montini could become Pope in 1963. From that point on the narrative becomes familiar. We all know about the Council, the branching and flowers of the roots planted half a century earlier.

The middle section of Undermining is a series of vignettes, short biographies of the Popes from John XXIII until the then-incumbent John Paul II. Paul VI's segment is especially poignant. He was an early revolutionary, encouraging students in the Red Brigade to oppose Mussolini, who, although a bad man, was tolerant to the Church in ways unseen since before the 1840s. Later in life he may have lamented that the Red Brigade had killed his dear friend Aldo Moro, the product of the center-left political party his father had party and Pius XII advanced decades prior. He died a broken, unhappy man. Also interesting, if only for historical reasons, is her honest biography of John Paul II. She summarizes his education and seminary formation in Poland after the Russian invasion and his time at the Belgian college in Rome dispassionately and with concision. This was revolutionary in 1991 because most people were pretending he was an impoverished miner who studied at an underground seminary amid Soviet persecution. 

The last segment of the book contrasts sharply in certain aspects with From Rome Urgently. Previously she was brimming with excitement about Lefebvre, the militancy of the traditionalists, and the devotion of the faithful. She maintains these qualities in Undermining, but with considerable reservation. She wonders if Lefebvre missed his chance to make a difference in 1976 by obeying the Pope's command to bite his French tongue. The grassroots traditionalist movement collapsed and all that was left was the FSSPX and a few independents—something that will be explored in our upcoming series on the early traditionalists.

Short-Comings

Undermining is not a book without short-comings, the three greatest of which are: the lack of citations, the proclivity for conspiracy-theory language, and a lack of historical perspective.

The lack of citations is the most arrant deficiency in this work. Martinez was a journalist, writing for decades as the Vatican correspondent for National Review, the Wanderer, and other periodicals. She was not a professional historian and did not document her work very well. Much of what she learned could be documented with extensive and painful research though. I came to trust Undermining from personal experience. My first major university research project was on the role of the Holy See during the Second World War. What Martinez surmises about the Pope's efforts against the Nazis and Holocaust I corroborated independently years before encountering her book using primary information sources (journals, news articles, and records) as well as some scholarly polemics. That she recorded this information favorable to Pius XII during a time before a cottage industry for defending his War record emerged (Rabbi Dalin, Sr. Marchione etc) and given her un-favorable view of the man impressed me.

The second issue is also significant. She speaks of "the Masons" and like groups as though they are an organized secret government with a dedicated head—as though the cretins who mangled the Church in the 20th century and who are mangling Western governments and economic policy now are capable of such things. She does at points clarify what she means, but often lapses into conspiracy theories again. At one point she wrote that Pius XII, Paul VI, and Benedict XV should not be considered conspirators in the common understanding of the word. These men did not hold round tables discussions on how to undermine the Church deep within the walls of a lodge. These men acted in accordance with their rearing and education, which involved a different outlook on the Church than the one received. She does claim John XXIII and Pius IX (you read that right) were Masons, but does not expound upon the supposed significance of this too deeply.

The last pitfall is her lack of perspective. Mystici Corporis was a departure from the legalistic, cold understanding and corporate structure of the Catholic Church that emerged during the Counter-Reformation. Where she errs is in stating that the teaching was entirely novel. Indeed, it is well rooted in the letters of St. Paul, the sermons and treatises of the Cappadocian Fathers, and in the ecclesiology of Lateran IV. The footnotes and citations in MC easily verify this. Where she was right was in suggesting that the point of MC was to confuse theologians by introducing an understanding of the Church based on human beings and mysticism. Indeed, the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ bound up in the Sacraments is the teaching of the Church Fathers East and West as well as that of the Greek and Latin liturgies. The idea of the mystical Body of Christ was quite novel, and the focal point of this mystical body would be the Roman Pontiff. Martinez, with more familiarity with the deeper traditions of the Church, might have realized that MC was about spiritual centralization and taming precocious revolutionaries, not about introducing unheard of doctrines.

Final Words

Undermining of the Catholic Church by Mary Ball-Martinez is an essential work to study and parse for those who seek to understand the political changes in the Vatican that wrought decades of internal revolution in the Church of Rome. For all its problems, Undermining is the only book that connects the dots which have been hiding in the plain sight of traditionalists for years.



As an aside, if anyone wants to know how to access her first book, From Rome Urgently, email me.

UPDATE: My email address is theradtrad@gmail.com.

18 comments:

  1. Text of Pope Paul VI’s Address Closing Council’s Second Session

    by Jim Lackey

    Following is the council press office translation of the Latin address delivered Dec. 4, 1963 by Pope Paul VI at the closing meeting of the second session of the ecumenical council.

    We have now reached the end of the second session of this great ecumenical council.
    You have already been long absent from your Sees, in which the sacred ministry requires your presence, your guidance and your zealous pastoral labors. Your work here has been heavy, and assiduous and protracted by reason of the ceremonies, studies and meetings of this period of the council...


    Before concluding our labors, it would be fitting to sum up and to consider together the course of the session and its results. But to do that would make this address too long, nor indeed could it be done adequately since so many aspects of this council belong to the domain of grace and the inner kingdom of the soul into which it is not always easy to enter, and since so many of the council’s results have not yet come to maturity, but are as grains of wheat cast into the furrows, awaiting their effective and fruitful development, which will be granted only in the future through new mysterious manifestations of the divine goodness.

    Nevertheless, lest we seem to leave this holy council hall without gratitude for the blessings of God, from whom this council has here taken its origin, we will remind ourselves above all that some of the goals that the council set itself to achieve have already been at least partially reached.

    The Church wished to grow in her consciousness and understanding of herself. See how, on the very level of her pastors and teachers, she has begun a profound meditation on that mystery from which she draws her origin and form. The meditation is not finished, but the very difficulty of concluding it reminds us of the depth and breadth of this doctrine, and stimulates each of us to strive to understand and to express the doctrine in a way which, on the one hand, cannot fail to lead our minds, and certainly those of the faithful who are attentively following our labors, to Christ Himself from whom all gifts come to us and to whom we wish to return all, “reconciling everything in Him” (Col. 1, 20).

    On the other hand, our efforts cannot fail to increase both our happiness in being personally called to form part of this holy Mystical Body of Christ, and our mutual charity, the principle and law of the life of the Church.

    Let us rejoice, my brothers, for when was the Church ever so aware of herself, so in love with Christ, so blessed, so united, so willing to imitate Him, so ready to fulfill His mission?

    There is more of his speech but that blooded part says it all, no? They thought themselves THE best Catholics to have ever lived. This is embarrassing to read. They are all better than - well, let;s just roll out the A List; Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas..

    O, and ABS does desire to access, From Rome Urgently

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  3. Masons show-up in the most unexpected of places. ABS read an interesting biography of a great American; Charles Goodnight Cowman and Plainsman, by J. Evetts Haley and there was related this 1850s story of a Choctaw Indian, Caddo Jake, giving the ...grand hailing sign of the Masons... before he was mistakenly shot and killed.

    Who knew that Masonic Sign Language served to unite those whose language was so different?

    As an aside, Lonesome Dove cribbed many of his employees characters and some of the occurrences associated with the great Charles Goodnight.

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  4. Her belief on John XXIII is the weakest part as it seems to contradict historical fact. To quote a comment I made elsewhere:

    "Rev. Cekada,

    Would you be able to explain why sedes put the first 'antipope' as John XXIII, of all men?

    Pius XII took a hatchet to the sacred Roman rite with his "reforms" (most notably Holy Week, which I've noticed most sedes don't use), promulgated blatant heresy in Mediator Dei, installed Bugnini and oversaw his work, and spent years paving the way for the Second Vatican Council.

    John XXIII - erstwhile - restored Papal liturgies to their pristine state (under Pacelli they were common low masses), fired Bugnini, celebrated the Rite of Lyons as bishop simply because he could, and lastly refused to celebrate the 1956 Holy Week.

    Yet, the former is considered by the sedes to be "the last true pope" while the latter is condemned? How does this make sense by sede logic?"

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  5. Their reason seems to be that John, throughout his life, seemed to have had sympathies for left-leaning movements and that parts of his encyclical "Pacem in Terris" are seemingly at variance with previous papal teaching on the subject of religious liberty.

    This is of course my understanding of their perspective, it is not my own.

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    1. I can see that, but that would not be enough "proof" for a reasonable human being. They also seem to hate that he was friendly to the "Eastern Schismatics" (which, honestly, improves my opinion of him because - unlike Paul VI and Bugnini - he was on promoting ecumenism where it could be done instead of to the Protestant heretics).

      If they wanted real dealings with Leftists they should check Paul VI before he was pope and then step back and ask: "On whose orders did he do that?"

      The fact that Paul VI was a very weak-willed man should clue some people in on Pius XII.

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  6. I think the greatest weakness in Undermining is Mrs. Ball-Martinez working hypothesis that Pius X was one of the 'good guys' and that the frustration of Rampolla was necessarily the triumph she maintains. I read the first edition of the book when it came out and thought her treatment of the history of liturgical reform in the second half of the twentieth century highly accurate. I do hope that she is still with us - I have not heard of her passing - I had a brief correspondence with her in 1992/3 (Golly, twenty year ago now). She told me how she had lost many friends after writing that book and not supporting the revisionist script of 'wicked Council' and 'evil Paul VI' etc. Something similar happened to Dr. Hull and his book. Modern Traddies don't like the truth and prefer to live with their constructs.

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    1. The last things you say are sadly so true...

      Kyrie eleison

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    2. I think the greatest weakness in Undermining is Mrs. Ball-Martinez working hypothesis that Pius X was one of the 'good guys' and that the frustration of Rampolla was necessarily the triumph she maintains.

      Sorry, Rubricarius, but I don't understand what are you actually meaning. Could you explain it?
      Thank you.

      Kyrie eleison

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    3. I believe Rubricarius is alluding to two things:

      1. Pius X's crusade against the "Modernists" which backfired and all but assured that the Rampolla movement would survive.
      2. His well-intended but ill-advised changing of the Roman Breviary in 1910.

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    4. Pius X's crusade drove the Modernists underground, into the depths of religious orders and academia, where they studied seemingly benign subjects like the liturgy and the long neglected Church Fathers, triangulating those two into their cause. One could even argue that prior to Pascendi there were no Modernists, just differing kinds of dissidents (let us be frank, Fortescue, Tyrrell, and Duchesne were all very different and to lump them together is quite inaccurate). If anything he forced them into a coherent identity which they previously did not share. Moreover, given their new and furtive religious and academic surroundings, they were subject to discipline by the Holy Office, which Papa Sarto put in the hands of Rampolla.

      Also, despite arguing for a liturgical renewal, particularly in chant, he created a new Divine Office and fired the first salvo against the fortress of the old rite.

      Although canonized, he made more than a few unfortunate mistakes.

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    5. All goof punts but as to Canonisations, the criteria for Canonisation had to be changed so that our recent Canonisations could proceed for there is no way the pre V2 Church would have Canonised the V2 Popes.

      Even Fr Z was perplexed by the changes but he abandoned commentary after a few public notices of the changes he said he could not wrap his head around

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    6. Ἰουστινιανός,

      What I meant was I think it is far from certain that if Rampolla had been elected instead of Sarto liturgical matters would have been worse. Pius X in his motu proprio Abhinc duos annos (1913) described the Roman liturgy as 'squalid' and promised extensive further reform that would take many years to accomplish. The subsequent outbreak of WW1 and Pius's death put that all on the back-burner and Benedict XV was only really interested in consolidating the reform so far with the publication of the 1920 typical edition of the Roman Missal. The desire for extensive reform lay relatively dormant within the curia until the establishment of the Sectio historica of the SRC and the establishment of the Pian Commission in 1948. That had originally been desired in 1946 but interest was slow. Meanwhile of course there was a growing desire for reform at local level and the two strands came together with the Liturgical Congresses in the early 1950s, thirty-five years or so after Pius X's time. I would agree with the sentiments expressed by Paul VI in Missale Romanum about the continuity of the reform process.

      Contextually, there is nothing particularly surprising in this. Pius IX had established a commission to look at the problem of the Calendar. It suggested a two-year cycle with a different saint on a specific day in the first year to that in the second year. Thankfully, that died a natural as had plans for reform under the great Benedict XIV when he had forbade changing the order of the venerable Psalterium Romanum.

      As to Modernists I personally regard that as an open and complex question. What could be more modernist, in terms of destroying ancient Church praxis, than wiping away a Psalter dating back to the earliest days or inversing the rites of sacramental initiation for example.

      I do not think Mrs. Ball-Martinez was correct is assuming Pius X was one of the 'good guys' as I believe there was no substantial difference between him and the rest of them she discusses.

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    7. Now I have understand everything!

      Thanks to all of you!

      Kyrie eleison

      PS: the Popes have historically been the worst custodians of Tradition and Liturgy, as far as the overview seems to me...

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    8. Well, their job is to defend and be guardian of those. It's when they try to change it when things go wrong. They were at their best when they managed their own diocese, called an ecumenical council when necessary, and smacked down the occasional bishop or patriarch who went way too far.

      The papacy is a real (and abused) necessity, though it may not always feel that way.

      Kyrie Eleison

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  7. Dear Rad Trad. Many thanks for, From Rome Urgently As one who is the same age as Israel, ABS well remembers the revolution within the from of Catholicism and he laughs his ass off at any and all claims of continuity.

    As an aside, there is a sort of perverse pleasure to be derived from having one's memories of those days refreshed; the arrogance of those man is monumental while their plans amounted to zip. Has there existed before them any sizable collection of clerics who thought so highly of themselves and yet whose accomplishments amounted to less than zero?

    They didn't build crap; they simply destroyed.

    The best and the brightest were really the wretched and the worst; and don't even get me started on Pope Francis E.C. ; ABS has to assist at new mass and today he was silent during the bidding prayers during which - no, this is not made-up - we were asked to thank God for the two popes who shepherd our Church.

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