3

Ten Years of TAC: The Pope, the Clown and the Cross

 

(The American Catholic will observe its tenth anniversary in October.  We will be reposting some classic TAC posts of the past.  This post is from September 29, 2009.)

 

 

 

In 1957 comedian Red Skelton was on top of the world.  His weekly comedy show on CBS was doing well.  He had  curtailed the drinking which had almost derailed his career.  Not too shabby for a man who had started out as a circus and rodeo clown and who was now often called the clown prince of American comedy.  He and his wife Georgia had two beautiful kids:  Richard and Valentina Maria.  Then the worst thing in the world for any parent entered into the lives of Red and Georgia Skelton:  Richard was diagnosed with leukemia.  Unlike today, a diagnosis of leukemia in a child in 1957 was tantamount to saying that Richard was going to die soon.  Red immediately took a leave of absence from his show.  CBS was very understanding and a series of guest hosts, including a very young Johnny Carson, filled in for Skelton during the 1957-1958 season.

Red and his wife made two decisions.  First, they decided not to reveal to their son how ill he was;  if  worse came to worst they wanted him to enjoy the time he had left.  The boy’s leukemia was temporarily in remission and outwardly he appeared healthy.    When the boy saw “The Last Days of Pompeii” on TV and was fascinated by it, his mom and dad made their second decision.  They were going to take him and his sister to Europe so the boy could see Pompeii and other parts of Europe and the world, and to allow the parents to consult with foreign physicians and also to conduct a pilgrimage for their son.  The Skeltons were Protestants, indeed, Red was an active Mason, but they had chosen to educate their kids at a Catholic school and Richard was very religious, his room filled with religious pictures and statues.  Like many Christians of whatever denomination, in their hour of utmost need the Skeltons decided to seek aid of the Catholic Church.

The entertainment press was just as aggressive then as it is now.  Skelton informed the press why his family was going on an around the world trip, but asked their assistance in helping keep from his son that he was afflicted with a mortal illness.  Amazingly enough, the American press agreed to help him.  The American ink-stained wretches of the Fourth Estate behaving quite honorably in this instance.

The British press was quite another matter.  While the Skeltons were in England during their trip, the British tabloids, always in a contest to see which paper can be the most vicious and cruel, denounced the trip as a cheap publicity stunt by Red Skelton.  Richard learned of his grave illness by reading one of these disgusting rants.  Only nine years old, however, the boy was a fighter.  “Everybody says I’m going to die but that means everybody but me.”, was his brave reaction to the news.

On July 22, 1957  the Skeltons had a private audience with Pius XII.  There was nothing unusual about this.  Pius considered it as part of his duties to meet with anyone who wished to see him:  rich or poor, Catholic or non-Catholic.   These audiences often had a large impact on the people who saw the Pope.  For instance, while Rome was occupied by Germany during World War II, German troops, Protestant and Catholic alike, flocked to see the Pope, until such visits were forbidden by the Nazis, fearful of the impact of the Pope’s words regarding mercy and Christian charity on the troops.

The Pope spent a great deal of time talking to the Skeltons.  He blessed Richard and the other members of the family and gave them religious medals.  Red would later describe this visit as the high point of his son’s life.  The Pope gave them these words of comfort, which really are the only words of comfort for members of a family when one of them is nearing death.  “Life is eternal because of God. So if life is taken away from one person in a family they are never separated because the family will always live together in eternal life with God.”

The family saw Pompeii which greatly interested Richard.  Arriving in Paris he said, upon being asked by a reporter, that he wanted to see the Eiffel Tower.  When asked as a follow up what else he wanted to see, he showed that perhaps he shared his father’s comedic talent.  “What else is there?”

The family had a great deal of fun, but the European physicians could offer no hope.  In August the Skeltons went to Lourdes.  “God alone can save my boy’s life as science has done all it can.”, was Red Skelton’s comment at the time.

After they returned to the States, the leukemia came out of remission and took its dreadful course.  Richard underwent treatment at the UCLA medical center.  His parents were constant visitors to see him.  Both father and son, as detailed here, did their best to keep up the spirits of the other children undergoing treatment by telling jokes.  On one occasion Red Skelton sat up most of the night with a young girl who was undergoing surgery and kept reassuring her that everything was going to be all right, as it turned out to be in her case.

“The doctor was as gentle as he could be when he told me there was a good chance I had something that would mean amputating my leg. I remember crying for hours that night. The night before surgery I was very scared. My mother was at home with three small children and I had a difficult time falling asleep. When I finally gave in and allowed sleep to take over, it wasn’t for long. I awoke to find my friend Richard’s father asleep in the chair next to my bed. He woke up soon after I did, and in a very gentle voice kept telling me it was going to be ok. I just had to believe. There he stayed for most of the night. I would sleep and waken, and he would sometimes be asleep, other times he’d smile and comfort me.

Surgery went well, and my leg wasn’t amputated, but I was in and out of surgeries, casts, and the hospital for the next two years. Richard passed away from leukemia the second year, but has lived on in my heart and memory. His father became my hero as I watched him on television, then and in later years. For during the time I knew Mr. Skelton and his son Richard, I only saw their courage, compassion, and tender hearts. I saw a man who was “in character” to make the children laugh and forget their illnesses, but I also saw a very gentle man who was not “in character”, as he sat by the bed of a fatherless 11 year old. Setting aside his own fears, or sadness, Red Skelton, the clown who entertained millions during the early days of television, made sure I was able to face a scary situation with the hope it was going to be ok.”

I find this remarkable.  Dealing with the approaching death of his own son, Red Skelton found it within himself to keep up the spirits of other children.  I guess he really meant it when he said, “God’s children and their happiness are my reasons for being”. In the years to come Skelton would become a major donor for charities for sick kids, and would also assist children through his establishment of the Red Skelton Foundation in his hometown of Vincennes, Indiana.

Throughout his treatment at UCLA Richard kept a bag packed near his bed at home just in case the leukemia would go into remission again and his family could go on another trip together.  Heartbreakingly, that was not to be the case.  As his tenth birthday neared, his father brought a catalog to his son so he could pick out what he wanted.  He did so and also picked out a surprise gift for his mother for mother’s day.

The end came for Richard on May 10, 1958, a week before his 10th birthday.  As he lay dying he asked his father to remember to get his mother the red blanket he had picked out since he didn’t think they’d let him out of the hospital so that he could buy it himself.  An hour later his gallant struggle against leukemia ended.  His mother and father wept quietly by his bedside for half an hour.

Shortly after the boy’s death, a package arrived from the Vatican.  It contained a crucifix blessed by Pope Pius XII.  Just before his death the boy had requested the crucifix, and the Pope had immediately sent it.  Richard doubtless realized the great truth that the crucifix is the symbol of Christ’s victory over death, and our victory also.   The mortal remains of Richard Skelton were buried with the crucifix in his hands.  I have absolutely no doubt that the soul of the brave young boy who loved God so much immediately enjoyed the Beatific Vision after his period of travail on Earth.  As Red Skelton said after the death of his son, “I want the thousands of people who have written us that they prayed for Richard during his illness to have faith that God will answer their prayers.”

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The Assumption of Mary: Development of Doctrine

The Feast of the Assumption is an excellent time to take a look at it as a development of doctrine in light of Cardinal Newman’ s test to determine whether something is a development or a corruption in regard to the doctrine of the Church:

1. Preservation of Type-

This is readily suggested by the analogy of physical growth, which is such that the parts and proportions of the developed form, however altered, correspond to those which belong to its rudiments. The adult animal has the {172} same make, as it had on its birth; young birds do not grow into fishes, nor does the child degenerate into the brute, wild or domestic, of which he is by inheritance lord. Vincentius of Lerins adopts this illustration in distinct reference to Christian doctrine. “Let the soul’s religion,” he says, “imitate the law of the body, which, as years go on, developes indeed and opens out its due proportions, and yet remains identically what it was.

In his encyclical which defined the dogma MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS, go here to read it, Pope Pius XII was at pains to show that this dogma logically developed in the life of the Church over the centuries.  Pius pointed out that belief in the physical assumption of Mary into Heaven was no novelty:

In the liturgical books which deal with the feast either of the dormition or of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin there are expressions that agree in testifying that, when the Virgin Mother of God passed from this earthly exile to heaven, what happened to her sacred body was, by the decree of divine Providence, in keeping with the dignity of the Mother of the Word Incarnate, and with the other privileges she had been accorded. Thus, to cite an illustrious example, this is set forth in that sacramentary which Adrian I, our predecessor of immortal memory, sent to the Emperor Charlemagne. These words are found in this volume: “Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself.”

Thus defining this dogma was a filling out of what had historically come before.

2.  Continuity of Principles-

As in mathematical creations figures are formed on distinct formulæ, which are the laws under which they are developed, so it is in ethical and political subjects. Doctrines expand variously according to the mind, individual or social, into which they are received; and the peculiarities of the recipient are the regulating power, the law, the organization, or, as it may be called, the form of the development. The life of doctrines may be said to consist in the law or principle which they embody.

Principles are abstract and general, doctrines relate to facts; doctrines develope, and principles at first sight do not; doctrines grow and are enlarged, principles are permanent; doctrines are intellectual, and principles are more immediately ethical and practical. Systems live in principles and represent doctrines. Personal responsibility is a principle, the Being of a God is a doctrine; from that doctrine all theology has come in due course, whereas that {179} principle is not clearer under the Gospel than in paradise, and depends, not on belief in an Almighty Governor, but on conscience.

Pope Pius quoted Saint John Damascene:  Thus St. John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he compared the bodily Assumption of the loving Mother of God with her other prerogatives and privileges. “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”(17)

The Church had long venerated the unique role that Mary was chosen to play in God’s plan of salvation.  That Mary did not taste of mortal death was a logical drawing out of the principle of that role and the gifts that God gave her for that role.

3.  Power of Assimilation-

In the physical world, whatever has life is characterized by growth, so that in no respect to grow is to cease to live. It grows by taking into its own substance external materials; and this absorption or assimilation is completed when the materials appropriated come to belong to it or enter into its unity. Two things cannot become one, except there be a power of assimilation in one or the other. Sometimes assimilation is effected only with an effort; it {186} is possible to die of repletion, and there are animals who lie torpid for a time under the contest between the foreign substance and the assimilating power. And different food is proper for different recipients.

This analogy may be taken to illustrate certain peculiarities in the growth or development in ideas, which were noticed in the first Chapter. It is otherwise with mathematical and other abstract creations, which, like the soul itself, are solitary and self-dependent; but doctrines and views which relate to man are not placed in a void, but in the crowded world, and make way for themselves by interpenetration, and develope by absorption. Facts and opinions, which have hitherto been regarded in other relations and grouped round other centres, henceforth are gradually attracted to a new influence and subjected to a new sovereign. They are modified, laid down afresh, thrust aside, as the case may be. A new element of order and composition has come among them; and its life is proved by this capacity of expansion, without disarrangement or dissolution. An eclectic, conservative, assimilating, healing, moulding process, a unitive power, is of the essence, and a third test, of a faithful development.

Pius XII demonstrated how the belief in the Assumption over the centuries was aided and strengthened by developments within the Church, for example Scholastic Theology:

 

4. Among the scholastic theologians there have not been lacking those who, wishing to inquire more profoundly into divinely revealed truths and desirous of showing the harmony that exists between what is termed the theological demonstration and the Catholic faith, have always considered it worthy of note that this privilege of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture.

25. When they go on to explain this point, they adduce various proofs to throw light on this privilege of Mary. As the first element of these demonstrations, they insist upon the fact that, out of filial love for his mother, Jesus Christ has willed that she be assumed into heaven. They base the strength of their proofs on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those prerogatives which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, entirely surpassing the sanctity of all men and of the angels, the intimate union of Mary with her Son, and the affection of preeminent love which the Son has for his most worthy Mother.

26. Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers,(20) have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified”(21); and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord’s temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven. Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer.(22) Likewise they mention the Spouse of the Canticles “that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense” to be crowned.(23) These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom.

27. Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos.(24) Similarly they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,”(25) since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve.

28. Thus, during the earliest period of scholastic theology, that most pious man, Amadeus, Bishop of Lausarme, held that the Virgin Mary’s flesh had remained incorrupt-for it is wrong to believe that her body has seen corruption-because it was really united again to her soul and, together with it, crowned with great glory in the heavenly courts. “For she was full of grace and blessed among women. She alone merited to conceive the true God of true God, whom as a virgin, she brought forth, to whom as a virgin she gave milk, fondling him in her lap, and in all things she waited upon him with loving care.”(26)

In the development of a doctrine the kernel of an idea usually exists from very early in the history of the Church, and the idea takes strength from subsequent developments in the life of the Church.

4.  Logical Sequence-

Logic is the organization of thought, and, as being such, is a security for the faithfulness of intellectual developments; and the necessity of using it is undeniable as far as this, that its rules must not be transgressed. That it is not brought into exercise in every instance of doctrinal development is owing to the varieties of mental constitution, whether in communities or in individuals, with whom great truths or seeming truths are lodged. The question indeed may be asked whether a development can be other in any case than a logical operation; but, if by this is meant a conscious reasoning from premisses to conclusion, of course the answer must be in the negative. {190} An idea under one or other of its aspects grows in the mind by remaining there; it becomes familiar and distinct, and is viewed in its relations; it leads to other aspects, and these again to others, subtle, recondite, original, according to the character, intellectual and moral, of the recipient; and thus a body of thought is gradually formed without his recognizing what is going on within him. And all this while, or at least from time to time, external circumstances elicit into formal statement the thoughts which are coming into being in the depths of his mind; and soon he has to begin to defend them; and then again a further process must take place, of analyzing his statements and ascertaining their dependence one on another. And thus he is led to regard as consequences, and to trace to principles, what hitherto he has discerned by a moral perception and adopted on sympathy; and logic is brought in to arrange and inculcate what no science was employed in gaining.

And so in the same way, such intellectual processes, as are carried on silently and spontaneously in the mind of a party or school, of necessity come to light at a later date, and are recognized, and their issues are scientifically arranged. And then logic has the further function of propagation; analogy, the nature of the case, antecedent probability, application of principles, congruity, expedience, being some of the methods of proof by which the development is continued from mind to mind and established in the faith of the community.

Pius XII, in this most historical of Encyclicals, was at pains to show how the dogma of the Assumption developed down through the long centuries:

 

13. Various testimonies, indications and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries; and this same belief becomes more clearly manifest from day to day.

In the recitation of the Pope we see how the dogma advanced from simple belief  as its implications were thought about and written about by some of the greatest luminaries of the Church.  This was no flash in the pan development but rather the fruit of many centuries of thought.

5.  Anticipation of its Future-

Since, when an idea is living, that is, influential and effective, it is sure to develope according to its own nature, and the tendencies, which are carried out on the long run, may under favourable circumstances show themselves early as well as late, and logic is the same in all ages, instances of a development which is to come, though vague and isolated, may occur from the very first, though a lapse of time be necessary to bring them to perfection. And since developments are in great measure only aspects of the idea from which they proceed, and all of them are natural consequences of it, it is often a matter of accident in what {196} order they are carried out in individual minds; and it is in no wise strange that here and there definite specimens of advanced teaching should very early occur, which in the historical course are not found till a late day. The fact, then, of such early or recurring intimations of tendencies which afterwards are fully realized, is a sort of evidence that those later and more systematic fulfilments are only in accordance with the original idea.

2.

Nothing is more common, for instance, than accounts or legends of the anticipations, which great men have given in boyhood of the bent of their minds, as afterwards displayed in their history; so much so that the popular expectation has sometimes led to the invention of them. The child Cyrus mimics a despot’s power, and St. Athanasius is elected Bishop by his playfellows.

It is noticeable that in the eleventh century, when the Russians were but pirates upon the Black Sea, Constantinople was their aim; and that a prophesy was in circulation in that city that they should one day gain possession of it.

Pius noted that from ancient times a Feast of the Assumption was celebrated in the Church, both East and West:

16. This belief of the sacred pastors and of Christ’s faithful is universally manifested still more splendidly by the fact that, since ancient times, there have been both in the East and in the West solemn liturgical offices commemorating this privilege. The holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church have never failed to draw enlightenment from this fact since, as everyone knows, the sacred liturgy, “because it is the profession, subject to the supreme teaching authority within the Church, of heavenly truths, can supply proofs and testimonies of no small value for deciding a particular point of Christian doctrine.”(10)

6.  Conservative Action Upon Its Past-

As developments which are preceded by definite indications have a fair presumption in their favour, so those which do but contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has been developed before them, and out of which they spring, are certainly corrupt; for a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.

It is the rule of creation, or rather of the phenomena which it presents, that life passes on to its termination by a gradual, imperceptible course of change. There is ever a maximum in earthly excellence, and the operation of the same causes which made things great makes them small again. Weakness is but the resulting product of power. Events move in cycles; all things come round, “the sun ariseth and goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” Flowers first bloom, and then fade; fruit ripens and decays. The fermenting process, unless stopped at the due point, corrupts the liquor which it has created. The grace of spring, the richness of autumn are but for a moment, and worldly moralists bid us Carpe diem, for we shall have no second opportunity. Virtue seems to lie in a mean, between vice and vice; and as it grew out of imperfection, so to grow into enormity. There is a limit to human knowledge, and both sacred and {200} profane writers witness that overwisdom is folly. And in the political world states rise and fall, the instruments of their aggrandizement becoming the weapons of their destruction. And hence the frequent ethical maxims, such as, “Ne quid nimis,” “Medio tutissimus,” “Vaulting ambition,” which seem to imply that too much of what is good is evil.

So great a paradox of course cannot be maintained as that truth literally leads to falsehood, or that there can be an excess of virtue; but the appearance of things and the popular language about them will at least serve us in obtaining an additional test for the discrimination of a bonâ fide development of an idea from its corruption.

A true development, then, may be described as one which is conservative of the course of antecedent developments being really those antecedents and something besides them: it is an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds; and this is its characteristic as contrasted with a corruption.

Pope Pius noted the long historical pedigree of the dogma of the Assumption:  Since the universal Church, within which dwells the Spirit of Truth who infallibly directs it toward an ever more perfect knowledge of the revealed truths, has expressed its own belief many times over the course of the centuries, … 

Here was no reversal or contradiction of prior Church teaching, but rather its confirmation.

7.  Chronic Vigor-

Since the corruption of an idea, as far as the appearance goes, is a sort of accident or affection of its development, being the end of a course, and a transition-state leading to a crisis, it is, as has been observed above, a brief and rapid process. While ideas live in men’s minds, they are ever enlarging into fuller development: they will not be stationary in their corruption any more than before it; and dissolution is that further state to which corruption tends. Corruption cannot, therefore, be of long standing; and thus duration is another test of a faithful development.

Pius in MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS demonstrated the vigor of the idea of the Assumption that had existed since the dawn of the Church.  It was no novelty dreamed up in his own century, or his hobby horse that defied what had come before in the history of the Church.  The dogma of the Assumption is a classic example of a true development of doctrine.  I will leave to another day an example of a manifest corruption disguised as a development of doctrine.

Saint Joseph the Worker and Communism

 

 

 

 

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Joseph the Worker.  Pius XII instituted the feast in 1955 as a response to Communist May Day celebrations.  In 1949 he issued the Decree Against Communism which excommunicated all Catholics collaborating with Communist organizations.

This Sacred Supreme Congregation has been asked:

1. whether it is lawful to join Communist Parties or to favour them;
2. whether it is lawful to publish, disseminate, or read books, periodicals, newspapers or leaflets which support the teaching or action of Communists, or to write in them;
3. whether the faithful who knowingly and freely perform the acts specified in questions 1 and 2 may be admitted to the Sacraments;
4. whether the faithful who profess the materialistic and anti-Christian doctrine of the Communists, and particularly those who defend or propagate this doctrine, contract ipso facto excommunication specially reserved to the Apostolic See as apostates from the Catholic faith.

The Most Eminent and Most Reverend Fathers entrusted with the supervision of matters concerning the safeguarding of Faith and morals, having previously heard the opinion of the Reverend Lords Consultors, decreed in the plenary session held on Tuesday (instead of Wednesday), June 28, 1949, that the answers should be as follows:

To 1. in the negative: because Communism is materialistic and anti-Christian; and the leaders of the Communists, although they sometimes profess in words that they do not oppose religion, do in fact show themselves, both in their teaching and in their actions, to be the enemies of God, of the true religion and of the Church of Christ;
to 2. in the negative: they are prohibited ipso iure (cf. Can. 1399 of the Codex Iuris Canonici);
to 3. in the negative, in accordance with the ordinary principles concerning the refusal of the Sacraments to those who are not disposed;
to 4. in the affirmative.

And the following Thursday, on the 30th day of the same month and year, Our Most Holy Lord Pius XII, Pope by the Divine Providence, in the ordinary audience, granted to the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Assessor of the Sacred Office, approved of the decision of the Most Eminent Fathers which had been reported to Him, and ordered the same to be promulgated officially in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Given at Rome, on July 1st, 1949.

Those who turn away from freedom inevitably turn away from God.  Something for us all to ponder on this day.

O glorious Joseph!  Who concealed your incomparable and regal dignity of custodian of Jesus and of the Virgin Mary under the humble appearance of a craftsman and provided for them with your work, protect with loving power your sons, especially entrusted to you.

You know their anxieties and sufferings, because you yourself experienced them at the side of Jesus and of His Mother.  Do not allow them, oppressed by so many worries, to forget the purpose for which they were created by God.  Do not allow the seeds of distrust to take hold of their immortal souls.  Remind all the workers that in the fields, in factories, in mines, and in scientific laboratories, they are not working, rejoicing, or suffering alone, but at their side is Jesus, with Mary, His Mother and ours, to sustain them, to dry the sweat of their brow, giving value to their toil.  Teach them to turn work into a very high instrument of sanctification as you did.  Amen.

Pope John XXIII

4

Hero Pope: Church of Spies

9781925106862

“The election of Cardinal Pacelli is not accepted with favor in Germany because he was always opposed to Nazism and practically determined the policies of the Vatican under his predecessor.”

Berlin Morgenpost, March 3, 1939

Of all the historical controversies that I have examined over the years, the one over Pius XII has to be the most mendacious.  Everyone, the Nazis, the Allies and the Jews, knew where Pope Pius XII stood during the War.  Pope Pius was regarded as a hero by all who opposed the Nazis and the Nazis regarded him as a bitter enemy.  The controversy arose after his death, instigated by playwright Rolf Hochhuth and his historically worthless anti-Catholic diatribe The Deputy (1963), a play which sought to cast Pius XII as coldly indifferent to the fate of the Jews, a reverse mirror image of the actual historical record.  Haters of the Church eagerly seized upon this thesis as a club to belabor the Church for her stances in current controversies.  There has never been any historical validity to the thesis:  zilch, zero, none.  Its persistence has much to do with anti-Catholicism and nothing to do with History.

Truth usually has a way of catching up with lies, and in regard to Pius XII, a new book, Church of Spies:  The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler by Mark Riebling in which the author details the involvement of the Pope in plots within Germany to overturn Hitler:
“When the pope arose the next morning, he had made up his mind. He would engage the German military resistance and encourage a conservative counterrevolution. He would serve as secret foreign agent for the resistance—presenting and guaranteeing its plans to the British. He would partner with the generals not just to stop the war, but to eliminate Nazism by removing Hitler.”
Pius XII was even willing to be involved in plots to assassinate Hitler:

Continue Reading

2

First American Saint

“Although her constitution was very frail, her spirit was endowed with such singular strength that, knowing the will of God in her regard, she permitted nothing to impede her from accomplishing what seemed beyond the strength of a woman.”

Pius XII

The first American citizen to be canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church was born on July 15, 1850 in Saint Angelo Lodigiano, in the Lombardy region of a then disunited Italy.  One of 13 children, Francesca Cabrini was born to her mother, who was then 52 years old, two months premature, and it was touch and go for a while as to whether the new baby would live.  Her health would be precarious all of her life, which, considering what she accomplished, should be a standing rebuke to those of us blessed with good health.

She studied for five years at a school run by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart.  Her hearts desire was to be a missionary.  When she applied to enter a convent at age 18, however, she was turned down due to her health.  Nothing daunted, she returned to her home to help her parents on their farm.  A terrible small pox epidemic took the lives of her parents and almost took hers, but she was nursed back to health by her sister Rosa.  Almost miraculously she suffered no disfigurement from the small pox.

Taking a job as a substitute teacher at a nearby village, she taught with such skill and with such obvious love and concern for her pupils, that the rector of her parish, Father Antonio Serrati, who was to become a lifelong friend and advisor of hers, placed her in charge of an orphanage for girls in the parish, the House of Providence.  She was twenty-four at the time and she was presented with no easy task.  The orphanage was known as the House of Providence.  It had been set up by two well-meaning, but incompetent, laywomen, and it was badly organized and visibly failing.  In six years Francesca turned it around, winning the affection of the young girls in the orphanage through the care she showed to them.  While at the orphanage she took vows as a nun, and seven of her girls followed her example and became nuns and helped her run the orphanage.  Here for the first time we see the managerial skill with which Mother Cabrini, as she became universally known, was so gifted. Continue Reading

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The Jesus The Professional Left Chose To Ignore

Jesus Christ has always been an enigma to those on the left. Some liberal idealists embraced Him; many others on the radical left did not. Some on the radical left actually attacked Jesus by either saying He didn’t exist (a rather strange way of dealing with someone) or claiming he was demented. However, after World War II a rather cunning adaptation of Jesus was embraced by the Professional Left.  The solution thought up by the Professional Left was as simple as it was devious; simply say Jesus was one of them.

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If Liberals Lose Big In This Fall's Election, The Professional Left Will Mock The Religious Faithful

This fall all of the hopes and dreams of those who have detested Middle American values stands in the balance. Those values are best exemplified in religious beliefs shared by many faith traditions. However, Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox Christians and Orthodox Jews are those to which the angry Professional Left, to use Robert Gibbs (President Obama’s Press Secretary’s) term, will most turn their anger.  Some may say this seems a little far-fetched, after all aren’t some of those people from the “Professional Left” religious themselves? Yes, some on the “Professional Left” are religious, but they often go to great pains to say they are not affiliated with any faith tradition. They often classify themselves as “spiritual.”

During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, then Senator Obama made by his own admission his biggest gaffe. The future President, speaking in  San Francisco, called those middle Americans of western Pennsylvania, “bitter clingers.” In his own words, the future President described western Pennsylvania residents as hard working salt of the earth folks who clung to “their guns and religion,” presumably because they weren’t enlightened enough to understand the modern world.

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