Venerable Pope Pius XII

The Pope, The Clown and The Cross

 

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(I originally posted this on September 28, 2009 and it has always been one of my favorites.  I am reposting it now since I assume many current readers of the blog have not read it, and, with the recent death of my son, Larry, it now has a special meaning for me.)

 

 

 

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. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker and Victims of Communism Day

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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 and Victims of Communism Day.  Pius XII instituted the feast in 1955.  In 1949 he issued the Decree Against Communism which excommunicated all Catholics collaborating with Communist organizations.  →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Cardinal Mundelein and the Conclave of 1939

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Thanks to the protest of Cardinal O’Connell to Pius XI after the Conclave of 1922, and the development of transoceanic air travel, all Cardinals not prevented by illness or extreme old age were able to participate in the Conclave of 1939, beginning on March 1, 1939 on the eve of World War II.  One of the American cardinals participating was George Cardinal Mundelein of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Born in 1872 on the lower east side in Manhattan, Mundelein broke the mold for most American Cardinals of his era in not being of Irish extraction,  He was only half-Irish on his mother’s side!  His father’s family was of German origin.   He spent all of his early career in the Brooklyn diocese, rising to Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn in 1909.  He was made Archbishop of the Chicago Archdiocese in late 1915.

His introduction to Chicago was turbulent in that an anarchist dosed chicken with arsenic at a banquet held in his honor.  An emergency emetic prepared by a Doctor in attendance prevented any fatalities.

The Archbishop was made a Cardinal in 1924 by Pius XI.

For his day, Mundelein was viewed as a liberal and he certainly was in his politics.  He was an enthusiastic supporter of the New Deal and he made this comment which would not be out of place in a Catholic Worker  paper today:

 The trouble with [the Church] in the past has been that we were too often allied or drawn into an alliance with the wrong side. Selfish employers of labor have flattered the Church by calling it the great conservative force, and then called upon it to act as a police force while they paid but a pittance of wage to those who work for them. I hope that day has gone by. Our place is beside the workingman.

His views on other matters reveal the limitations of political classifications when applied to Churchmen.  He was an uncompromising foe of contraception and campaigned against sexual suggestiveness in films.  On easy divorce he had this to say:  “that not war, nor famine, nor pestilence have brought so much suffering and pain to the human race, as have hasty, ill-advised marriages, unions entered into without the knowledge, the preparation, the thought even an important commercial contract merits and receives. God made marriage an indissoluble contract, Christ made it a sacrament, the world today has made it a plaything of passion, an accompaniment of sex, a scrap of paper to be torn up at the whim of the participants.”

He did not live long after his participation in the Conclave of 1939, dying of a heart attack at age 67 in October of 1939. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Pope Blesses 4000 American GIs

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The things you can find on Youtube!  Pope Pius XII blesses 4000 American soldiers after the liberation of Rome in 1944.  Here is what the Pope said:

It is a real joy for us to welcome you all here to the very own house of the Eternal Father of the Christians. You know very well you have experience now of the dangers and uncertainties of life in the midst of war. Make one thing certain, that you always keep close to God.

Pope Pius was quite popular among servicemen with huge numbers flocking to the Vatican to receive his blessing:  Catholics, Protestants and Jews.  Many soldiers wrote that it was a highlight of their service in Europe, and more than a few converted as a result.  The Pope had a special fondness for those in the military who were risking their lives, and he made himself availabe in frequent audiences for them.   Pius was grateful for the liberation of Rome, as he indicated to General Mark Clark when he first met the Pope. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Mark Clark-Almost the First American Ambassador to the Vatican-On What’s My Line

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“A few days after the liberation of Rome, Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth Allied Army, paid his respects to the Pope: “I am afraid you have been disturbed by the noise of my tanks. I am sorry.” Pius XII smiled and replied: “General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like.””

The show What’s My Line makes a rather good time capsule for informal looks at major figures in mid twentieth century  American history.  On February 19, 1956 General Mark Clark, commander of the US Fifth Army in the Italian campaign during World War II, and commander of the United Nations forces in Korea from May 12, 1952 to the truce ending the conflict., appeared on the show.

It is an ironic commentary on the relative obscurity of the Italian campaign during World War II that the panelists were unable to guess his identity.  Clark was nominated by President Truman to be the first ambassador of the United States to the Vatican due to his excellent personal war time relationship with Pope Pius XII.  Opposition by Protestant groups and powerful Senator Thomas Connolly of Texas caused Truman to shelve the plan.  Continue reading

The Lion of Munster

Neither praise nor threats will distance me from God.

Blessed Clemens von Galen

The Nazis hated and feared Clemens August Graf von Galen in life and no doubt they still hate and fear him, at least those now enjoying the amenities of some of the less fashionable pits of Hell.  Going into Lent, I am strongly encouraged by the story of Blessed von Galen.  I guess one could come up with a worse situation than being a Roman Catholic bishop in Nazi Germany in 1941, and confronting a merciless anti-Christian dictatorship that was diametrically opposed to the Truth of Christ, but that would certainly do for enough of a challenge for one lifetime for anyone.  (Hitler privately denounced Christianity as a Jewish superstition and looked forward after the War to “settling accounts”, as he put it, with Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular.)

Priests who spoke out against the Third Reich were being rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps.  What was a bishop to do in the face of such massive evil?  Well, for the Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen, there could be only one answer.

A German Count, von Galen was from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Westphalia.  Always a German patriot, the political views of von Galen would have made my own conservatism seem a pale shade of pink in comparison.  Prior to becoming a bishop, he was sometimes criticized for a haughty attitude and being unbending.  He was chosen Bishop of Munster in 1933 only after other candidates, no doubt recognizing what a dangerous position it would be with the Nazis now in power, had turned it down.  I am certain  it did not hurt that he was an old friend of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

Von Galen immediately demonstrated that he had not agreed to become Bishop of Munster in order to avoid danger.  He successfully led a fight against the Nazi attempt to take over Catholic schools, citing article 21 of the Concordat between the Vatican and Nazi Germany.  He then began a campaign, often using humor and ridicule, against the Aryan racial doctrines proposed by Alfred Rosenberg, chief Nazi race theorist, and a man even some high level Nazis thought was little better than a crank.  Von Galen argued that Christianity totally rejected racial differences as determining how groups should be treated, and that all men and women were children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Bishop spoke out against Nazi attacks on the “Jewish Old Testament” stating that Holy Writ was Holy Writ and that the Bible could not be altered to suit current prejudices.

In early 1937 he was summoned by Pope Pius XI to confer with him on an encyclical in German, highly unusual for an encyclical not to be written in Latin as the primary language, that the Pope was in the process of drafting.  The encyclical was the blistering Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Heart) that the Pope ordered be read out in every parish in Germany on Palm Sunday 1937.  A head long assault on almost every aspect of National Socialism, it may be read here.

The language in the encyclical was blunt, direct and no doubt benefited from von Galen’s input and his experience from the battles he was waging with the Nazis. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS

1. The most bountiful God, who is almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon wisdom and love, tempers, in the secret purpose of his own mind, the sorrows of peoples and of individual men by means of joys that he interposes in their lives from time to time, in such a way that, under different conditions and in different ways, all things may work together unto good for those who love him.[1]

2. Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life. Thus, while the Blessed Virgin is fulfilling in the most affectionate manner her maternal duties on behalf of those redeemed by the blood of Christ, the minds and the hearts of her children are being vigorously aroused to a more assiduous consideration of her prerogatives.

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War Crimes

As the New York Times remembers Hiroshima, Richard Fernandez asks us to name the two greatest losses of civilian life in the Pacific war. (“Hint. In both cases the civilian casualties were greater than Hiroshima’s. In one case the event took place on American soil.”)

Meanwhile, Donald Sensing (Sense of Events) thinks it’s past time for Western churches to stop treating Japan as victim every Aug. 6 and 9:

I refuse on principle to pollute God’s ears with prayers dedicated only to Hiroshima Day and the dead of those cities while ignoring the tens of millions of Japanese-murdered souls who cry for remembrance, but do not get it, certainly not from the World Council of Churches and its allies who have no loathing but for their own civilization. If the prayers of the WCC’s service are to be offered, let them be uttered on Aug. 14, the day Japan announced its surrender, or on Sept. 2, the day the surrender instruments were signed aboard USS  Missouri. Let our churches no longer be accessories to Japan’s blood-soaked silence but instead be voices for the  millions of murdered victims of its bloodlust, imperialist militarism.

(HT: Bill Cork).

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Under the Roman Sky

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A new film, Under the Roman Sky, starring James Cromwell as Pius XII, details the heroic efforts of Pius XII to save the Jews of Rome from the Nazis, after Rome came under Nazi occupation subsequent to the fall of Mussolini following the Allied invasion of southern Italy in 1943.

Rabbi David G. Dalin, in his review of a Moral Reckoning, a tome by Daniel Goldhagen which sought to blame Catholicism for the Holocaust, details the efforts of the Pope to save the Jews of Rome:

Goldhagen’s centerpiece is the outrageous allegation that Pius XII “did not lift a finger to forfend the deportations of the Jews of Rome” or of other parts of Italy “by instructing his priests and nuns to give the hunted Jewish men, women and children sanctuary.”  Much of this is lifted straight from anti-Pius books like Susan Zuccotti’s Under His Very Windows–and thus Goldhagen repeats the errors of those books and adds extras, all his own, in his determined attempt to extend their thesis into over-the-top railings against the sheer existence of Catholicism.

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Liberation of Rome

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Today is the 66th anniversary of the D-Day landings.  If the D-Day landings hadn’t occurred, the big news would have been the liberation of Rome.  The above video is color footage showing the entrance of some of the American troops into Rome on June 5, 1944, and an audience they had with Pope Pius XII.

The Pope, like almost all Romans, was joyous to be free from Nazi occupation, and he made that clear when he met with General Mark Clark.

“A few days after the liberation of Rome, Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth Allied Army, paid his respects to the Pope: “I am afraid you have been disturbed by the noise of my tanks. I am sorry.” Pius XII smiled and replied: “General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like.””

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A Papal Audience in Autumn 1941

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Venerable Pius XII always believed that it was part of his duties as Pope to be accessible to virtually everyone who wished to see him.  His audiences would normally be crowded as a result.  In the autumn of 1941 he held an audience which was no different.  Italians, pilgrims of all nations, German soldiers (German soldiers flocked to see the Pope until the Nazis forbade such visits, fearing the influence the words of the Pope, in direct contradiction to the doctrines of National Socialism,  might have on the Landsers.), humanity from across the globe, all eager to see, and perhaps have a word with, the Vicar of Christ on Earth.

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God Bless America?

If were to ask you what some Catholic traditionalists and some radical leftists had in common, you might be left scratching your head for a few moments. On most matters you wouldn’t expect them to agree on much of anything. But there’s one issue they do tend to converge upon, and that is their take on American history.

When I read some Catholic trad descriptions of American history and Catholicism’s place in it, I find myself wondering if I’d accidentally picked up and began reading something by Charles Beard or Howard Zinn. I’m not associating these tendencies in order to delegitimize the Catholic trad critique – which contains, as do most critiques which catch on with at least some people, elements of truth. But the trad critique, in its shrillness and its refusal to engage historical facts that may falsify or at least cast reasonable doubt upon its substantive claims, deserves to be set alongside the vulgar leftist critique of American history. And bear in mind, I say this as a Catholic trad myself, albeit one who is more of a romanticist than a true reactionary.

I also say it as someone who once bought into this whole idea. As a young man emerging from a long and involved commitment to Marxism, both academic and political, into Catholicism, a religion I had little to do with since the age of 13, I had sort of stumbled upon this narrative on my own. There was still something romantic and alluring about rejecting “Americanism”, now from a Catholic perspective.

After all, the two critiques often make use of a lot of the same themes – a rejection of individualism, of bourgeois Protestant values, a savage critique of the Enlightenment, invocations of slavery and other manifestations of racism and inequality, and perhaps more specific to the Catholic angle, reminders of Freemasonry and the Illuminati (though to be fair, Mozart was a Freemason too, back in the days when it wasn’t yet forbidden by the Church. I don’t think that’s ever stopped a trad from enjoying his Requiem, but I digress).

Now, given the popularity of this critique, not only among trads, but also among the Catholic left, the “peace and justice” crowd – of course, for much different reasons and to much different ends – one would surely expect to find a solid foundation or at least an implied resonance within Church history, tradition, and teaching.

If you hold that expectation, prepare to be utterly disappointed. Or delighted, as the case may be.

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Pope Pius XII: Ready for Sainthood?

In the closing days of December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree of “heroic virtues” of Pope Pius XII, which places him on the path to sainthood. This decision has caused a worldwide uproar among Jews, dissident Catholics, and others who believe that Pius was silent, or worse yet, complicit, in the Holocaust.

In the first two decades following World War II, there was certainly no public perception, among Jews, Catholics, or anyone else that Pius had been silent to a fault during the Holocaust, much less that he was “Hitler’s Pope.” Prominent Jewish leaders such as the first Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, as well as Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Palestine praised Pius. TIME Magazine reported in 1953 that Pius was “to Romans and to much of the world, something of a living and familiar saint.” It was widely known that Pius XII, to a greater extent than many secular heads of state, opposed the designs of the Third Reich. When Pius was able to speak to the world, as he did on Christmas in 1942, there was no question as to where he stood on the tragedies unfolding worldwide.

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Venerable Pope Pius XII

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Pope Benedict has decreed Pope Pius XII Venerable which moves the hero Pope of World War II closer to sainthood.  I deem Pope Pius XII a hero because, confronting one of the cruelest tyrants in the lamentable chronicles of human crime, he saved hundreds of thousands of potential victims.  Millions of people alive today owe their lives to the actions of Pius XII.  Jewish historian Martin Gilbert, the world’s foremost authority on Sir Winston Churchill, and one of the most highly regarded historians of the World War II era, has stated as follows:

“Gilbert replied: “Please read my new book, ‘The Righteous.’ I’ve written extensively there about the Catholic Church, some of whose leaders played a remarkable part in the rescue of Jews, many of whose priests and […] ordinary Catholics played a remarkable part.”

“The Pope himself was denounced by Dr. Goebbels” — the Nazi propaganda minister — “for having taken the side of the Jews in the Christian message, in December 1942, where he criticized racism,” Gilbert said.

He continued: “The Pope also played a part, which I describe in some detail, in the rescue of three-quarters of the Jews of Rome, at very short notice, when the SS came in and tried to round up all 5,000, at least 4,000 of whom were given shelter in the Vatican itself and other Catholic places. …

“So I hope that my book can restore, in a way, on the foundation of historical fact, the true and wonderful achievements of Catholics in helping Jews during the war.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Fulgens Corona

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Encyclical Promulgated on 8 September 1953
To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.

1. The radiant crown of glory with which the most pure brow of the Virgin Mother was encircled by God, seems to Us to shine more brilliantly, as We recall to mind the day, on which, one hundred years ago, Our Predecessor of happy memory Pius IX, surrounded by a vast retinue of Cardinals and Bishops, with infallible apostolic authority defined, pronounced and solemnly sanctioned “that the doctrine, which holds that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary at the first moment of her conception was, by singular grace and privilege of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the Human race, preserved from all stains of original sin, is revealed by God, and therefore to be firmly and resolutely believed by all the faithful.” (Dogmatic bull Ineffabilis Deus, of 8 Dec. 1854.)

2. The entire Catholic world received with joy the pronouncement of the Pontiff, so long and anxiously awaited. Devotion of the faithful to the Virgin Mother of God was stirred up and increased and this naturally led to a great improvement in Christian morality. Furthermore, studies were undertaken with new enthusiasm, which gave due prominence to the dignity and sanctity of the Mother of God.

3. Moreover, it seems that the Blessed Virgin Mary herself wished to confirm by some special sign the definition, which the Vicar of her Divine Son on earth had pronounced amidst the applause of the whole Church. For indeed four years had not yet elapsed when, in a French town at the foot of the Pyrenees, the Virgin Mother, youthful and benign in appearance, clothed in a shining white garment, covered with a white mantle and girded with a hanging blue cord, showed herself to a simple and innocent girl at the grotto of Massabielle. And to this same girl, earnestly inquiring the name of her with whose vision she was favored, with eyes raised to heaven and sweetly smiling, she replied: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism Because The Pope of Christian Unity (Pope Benedict XVI) Is Gathering the Scattered Flocks Left Behind by Those Who Thought They Knew Better Than The Church

The Catholic Church has always had a bull’s-eye attached to it, and in truth many of us wouldn’t want it any other way, for when we are almost universally loved, as has happened a few times in the last 40 years we have become “of the world,” instead of suffering for the world.”  Lately, during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI dark forces have gathered at the gates of truth attacking the Church for a variety of long held beliefs.  These beliefs can range from the theological to the social. However, following the US Election of 2008 a tidal wave seems to have inundated the Church from the mainstream media, the political realm and even the entertainment world. The Church’s 2,000 year old teachings and beliefs have been attacked in the United States and Western Europe from elected officials, the mainstream media and well known entertainment celebrities. Some of the faithful have become discouraged and questioned me as to how the thesis of my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, could possibly be true in light of this news.

The truth of the matter is that against this troubling backdrop the Church continues to grow around the world, especially in African and Asia but even in North America, where much of the onslaught against the Church has emanated. Seminaries and Mother Houses often have no room for those pursuing a vocation and those young African and Asian men and women are often sent to the US or Europe to explore their vocation. Even in the US and pockets of Europe seminaries are experiencing a mini boom. One seminary rector told me that in the 40+ plus years of being affiliated with the Church, he has never seen a longer sustained period of top notch orthodox minded young men coming in and being ordained as he has seen in the last 10 years. Perhaps this is why the powers that be are so angry.

It seemed the US midterm Election of 2006 emboldened the cause of those militant liberals and secularists who have contempt for much of what orthodox minded Catholicism holds dear. Following the results of the Election of 2008, many pundits proclaimed the results as a sea change for America. Agnostics and atheists gleefully announced that a world where religion and especially conservative or orthodox minded Catholicism held sway was being replaced by a humanist brand of religion where age old teachings were replaced by the ideas of “enlightened” religious leaders, agnostic thinkers, and pop culture celebrities. It seemed this new brand of liberal thinker was less idealistic than their 1960s peers and displayed an anger and hostility that was a far cry from the utopian idealism displayed some 40 years ago. Yet, beneath the surface and below the radar screens of many news organizations, lies the hope of the Catholic faithful who hold on to the ideas  imparted by Christ, His Apostles, Popes, Bishops, Priests, Women Religious, Saints and holy laymen and laywomen throughout the centuries. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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