Contribution to a Canonization
Marian T. Horvat
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It was very encouraging news to hear of plans for the beatification of Pope Pius IX, the Pontiff who declared the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and papal infallibility, the Pope of the dogmatic Council Vatican I, which reaffirmed the teachings and traditions of the Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church.|
The accompanying news of the beatification of Pope John XXIII, the Pope of the pastoral Council Vatican II, which worked a real revolution in the largest religious body in the world, rightfully raises concern and questions in the minds of a number of good Catholics.
Card. Montini and John XXIII, same spirit, same thoughts
Let’s put aside the announced miracles and John XXIII’s self-claimed boast of perfect chastity in his autobiography, Diary of a Soul. What raises concern are the politics and actions of Angelo Roncalli, which have often favored the Modernist and progressivist agendas condemned by St. Pius X and other Pontiffs up to and including Pius XII. An accommodating and smiling man, this Pope imprinted this spirit of accommodation onto the Church herself with the much-trumpeted policy of aggiornamento, the adaptation of the Church to the world.
The spirit of accommodation to the world has never been the material for biographies of saints. Far from this! In the lives of the saints, what is normally praised as worthy of admiration and imitation is their distancing themselves from the bad influence of the world.
Therefore, the announcement of the double beatification to be made in Fall of this year was jolting. Even more shocking are attempts to justify John XXIII’s beatification by conservative Catholic journalists, who are trying to present his controversial ideological behavior under the golden light of an indisputable orthodoxy. Since we are dealing with a topic so serious as beatification, it seems quite reasonable to adopt a more suspicious stance and examine the shadows, which are many, that loom over this ever-amiable and smiling Pontiff.
Some facts to be considered
I would like to present some data that normally would be taken into consideration in a fair process of beatification. This contribution is not an attempt to make a definitive judgment on so weighty a matter as who should be raised to the altars in the Holy Catholic Church. It is only to point out some facts that I came across recently in my translation of Volume Four of Atila Sinke Guimarães’ 11-volume Collection on Vatican II. This volume, entitled Animus Delendi - I (Desire to Destroy) examines the planned auto-demolition, or self-destruction of the Church, designed and implemented by progressivists inside the Church.
In the remarkable and numerous footnotes, for which Atila is famous, are interesting facts about John XXIII that merit examination by the Devil’s Advocate. Lest I be accused of impartiality or distorting the facts, I will simply take some excerpts (with the author’s permission) from the documentation in the Introduction.
The first is a quote from Silvo Tramontin, a journalist favorable to John XXIII, who attempted to find the “middle road” between the often “teeter-tottering” positions of the Pontiff:
“From time to time, he [John XXIII] has been defined by the progressivists as a standard-bearer, a demi-urge, to which they attribute no only the summoning of the Council, but all the progress made by today’s Church … The progressivists and those who see the person and work of Pope John as ‘progressivist’ can find many signs of such behavior since his youth: his union activity (which is quite significant, given that it took place at a time when Pius X was not favorable toward Christian labor unions); his solidarity with the Ranica strikers; his correspondence with Adelaide Coari, one of the most controversial exponents of Catholic feminism; Cardinal de Lai’s reprimand for the materials he was reading (especially Duchesne’s Storia della Chiesa antica), and a suspicion of Modernism because of his friendship with Buonaiuti.”
Tramontin also dealt with his term as Pope:
“As Pope, he granted an audience to Khruschev’s son-in-law and his wife, an incident that probably gained votes for the Italian Communist Party in the 1963 elections. Above all, he called the Council, which restored a voice to the bishops” (1).
Roncalli’s early contact with Modernists and socialists influenced him strongly toward a different vision of the Church. Archbishop Emeritus of Trent Alessandro Maria Gottardi, a long-standing disciple of John XXIII, reported some of the vanguard actions of the Patriarch of Venice:
“What drove Cardinal Roncalli, as he was at that time, was his desire for the people to be an active part of the Church. This explains his efforts, for example, to facilitate the participation of the faithful in the religious functions at St. Mark’s Basilica. I also remember when a conference of the Italian Socialist Party, dominated by the figure of Pietro Nenni, was held at the Venice Lido in 1956. Roncalli invited all the faithful to give a warm welcome to the socialists. One needs to remember that political divisions were very strong at the time” (2).
Opening doors to Progressivism
It is difficult to deny that John XXIII opened the doors of the Church to the modernist-progressivist movement. Condemned by St. Pius X at the beginning of the century and later by Pius XII during the ’40s, this movement had continued to spread surreptitiously during the period preceding the Council. Alluding to this “opening,” Cardinal Congar stated:
“Pius X was the pope who confronted the Modernist movement, understood as ‘the theoretical and practical subordination of Catholicism to the modern spirit’ …. However, the movement’s studies continued to follow its irreproachable course, both from within and without [the Church], although at times it met with resistance, problems, controls and restraints. Later the situation changed profoundly. There was John XXIII (1958-1963), the Council (1962-1965), aggiornamento…”(3).
Into this “changed situation,” John XXIII rehabilitated various theologians formerly considered suspect by the Holy See or even condemned for heterodoxy. Some of them were exponents of the Nouvelle Théologie (New Theology). Philippe Levillain wrote this about the theological commission that prepared the Council:
“Among the advisors, one noted the presence of Frs. Congar, de Lubac, Hans Küng and others. The whole group of theologians implicitly condemned by the Encyclical Humani Generis in 1950 had been called to Rome at the behest of John XXIII”(4).
The list of the most important exponents of Nouvelle Théologie that became prominent under John XXIII includes Karl Rahner, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Küng and Joseph Ratzinger.
Cardinal Congar confirmed the role of John XXIII in appointing progressivists to influential positions for the Council:
“Fr. De Lubac later told me that it was John XXIII himself who had insisted that we both become members of this commission [that prepared the Council]”(5).
Like various other followers of the Nouvelle Théologie, Han Küng was called by none other than John XXIII to be a peritus at Vatican II. It was this action that in effect launched the Swiss German theologian into the great winds of world publicity. After he was chosen, Küng would become one of the great, if not the most symbolic, stars of conciliar thinking. It was John XXIII’s vote of confidence that propelled forward the theological career of the professor of Tübingen. Thus the first fame of Küng is due preponderantly to John XXIII.
More suspicious actions
John XXIII’s opening speech of Vatican II and his intervention during the first session that caused the schema De fontibus Revelationis to be withdrawn from the debates of the Council Assembly contributed powerfully to the predominance of the progressivist current (6).
Likewise, the plan to reformulate Vatican II, as well as the Council’s most progressivist Constitution Gaudium et spes, counted on John XXIII’s personal support. Msgr. Philippe Delhaye attested to this:
“At the end of November 1962, John XXIII asked Cardinals Montini and Suenens to propose a new program involving the study of the relations between the Church and the modern world. After reviewing the plan, the Holy Father approved it and asked the Cardinal of Malines to propose these suggestions to the Assembly. This was done on Monday, December 3. The prelate gave no indication that the initiative came from above, but the authority and precision of the suggestions were such that many suspected what was later confirmed about the papal origin of the plan for the Council and the schema to study the Church and the modern world”(7).
It also befell John XXII to inaugurate a new way of being in the Church when he proposed ridding it of “its imperial mantle.” “Did John XXIII not explicitly propose ridding the Church of ‘its imperial mantle?’” asked Msgr. Ignace Ziade, the Maronite Archbishop of Beirut (8). We also saw the emergence of the egalitarian and de-sacralizing “Church of the poor,” an expression also termed by John XXIII himself in his message of September 11, 1962 (9).
Then perhaps it should come as no surprise to hear Lucio Lombardi of the Italian Communist Party making this eulogy of this Pontiff:
“We finally arrived at the brief but resplendent pontificate of John XXIII. We saw the explosion of a thirst for justice, a craving for liberty, a rejection of the ‘consecration’ of the capitalist regime and the ‘excommunication’ of socialism, and an ardent desire for fraternal dialogue with the ‘infidels’”(10).
Thus, I think it is fair to say that if the traditional criteria and procedure were being followed, many actions of Angelo Roncalli normally would impede his canonization. It seems to me that to canonize John XXIII without disproving these facts implies the automatic “canonization” of the thinking of the New Theology.
An outright lie: A sudden inspiration to convoke a council
Finally, there is ample proof and documentation that the decision to convoke the Council was no sudden inspiration of the Holy Ghost as John XXIII has purported in his autobiography, Diary of a Soul.
Fr. Giacomo Martina, S. J., a known scholar in Church History, is one of many who have contradicted this commonly held view. In an interview for 30 Giorni, he said:
“The Pope affirmed in his Diary of a Soul that the decision to convent the Council came from a sudden inspiration on January 20, 1959, during a conversation with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tardini. But it is historically confirmed, as we have already mentioned, that John XXIII had already been thinking of doing this since November of 1958”(11).
Cardinal Giuseppe Siri also stated definitively that the idea of convening a Council arose during the pontificate of Pius XII:
“The idea came up at that time, but Pius XII never talked to me about it, even though we were very close. I was told that he had said that ‘at least twenty years would be needed to prepare a Council. That’s why I will not call it. My successor will.’ And he was right, because the Council was convened by John XXIII. The one who suggested it to him, or at least reminded him about it, was Cardinal Ruffini on December 16, 1958, two months after his election. The Pope was enthusiastic and agreed …. But the idea of holding a Council was already circulating. Pius XII had set up a small commission to study the proposal quietly. It was an idea that was maturing” (12).
I could continue, quoting yet other documents that all lead to the same questions: Why would the Pontiff in his Diary pretend that the calling of the Council was a sudden inspiration, when it is a documented fact that it was already an idea long in planning stages? Who and what was this accommodating “interim” Pontiff trying to accommodate? And why?
This dissimulation also raises a doubt. If there is an erroneous dishonesty in one part of his Diary, this clearly indicates that there could be others... The beatification process carried out by Holy Mother Church - like all mothers, always so good, yet always so vigilant - has never relied solely on the words of the candidate alone as proof of holiness. She always wisely and carefully examines the facts and clarifies any doubts. It seems to me the case of Angelo Roncalli bears some truly serious study and explanations to the faithful. Otherwise we could have the “canonization” of the new Modernism - Progressivism.
1. “Giovanni XXIII de ‘destra’ o di ‘sinistra?’” in Avvenire, June 1, 1993.
2. Personal Memoires, apud Massimo Iodini, “L’Angelo della semplicitá,” in Avvenire, June 1, 1993.
3. Yves Congar, Eglise Catholique et France Moderne, Paris: Hachette, 1978, pp. 37-8.
4. La mécanique politique de Vatican II, Paris: Beauchesne, 1975, p. 77.
5. Jean Puyo interroge le Père Congar - Une vie pour la verité, Paris: Centurion, 1975, p. 124.
6. Atila Sinke Guimarães, In the Murky Waters of Vatican II, Chap IV, §2, note 2, Chap VI § 49, 52-55, 83, note 47).
7. “Histoire des textes de la Constitution pastorale,” in L’Eglise dans le monde de ce tempe, Constitution pastorale Gaudium et spes, Paris: Cerf, 1967, vol. 1, p. 217.
8. “Un nouveau style de papauté,” in La Nouvelle image de l’Eglise - Bilan du Concile Vatican II, Paris: Mame, 1967, p. 131).
9. Yves Congar, Le Concile au jour le jour - Deuxième session, Paris, Cerf, 1964).
10. Eulogies of John XXIII, in Il dialogo alla prova, Firenze: Vallechi, 1964, p. 91, apud Philippe de la Trinité, Dialogue avec le marxisme? - Ecclesiam Suam et Vatican II, Paris, Cedre, 1966, p. 50).
11. “O Concilio na visão de Roncalli,” interview with Lucio Brunelli, in 30 Giorni, June 1988, p. 69.
12. Stefano Paci and Paolo Biondi, “Assim falou o Cardeal ‘guerreiro,’” in 30 Dias, June 1989, p. 69.
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