Piers Compton: The Broken Cross Part 8

Part Eight

Christian atmosphere, Christian tradition and morality … is diminishing and is in fact to a great extent displaced by a way of life and thought opposed to the Christian one.
Pope Pius XII.

This section is concerned with some of the most dramatic changes in the whole of history; changes whose ultimate significance has, in the popular sense, gone largely unreported, and because of that they have been accepted without comment by the world at large. But they are changes that have set the tone of our present; they are fashioning our future; and in time to come they will be so established that it will seem foolish, or eccentric, to question them. At the risk of being tedious, and in order to emphasise a vital point, it needs to be repeated that religious Rome was regarded, less than a generation ago, as the one fixed centre of faith that would not change. It was proof against novelty. It despised fashion and towered above what is called the spirit of the age.

Secure in itself, it admitted no speculation, none of the guesswork that too often goes by the name of discovery. It maintained one attitude and taught, century after century, one message that was always the same. So much was claimed by itself, endorsed by its followers, and recognised by its enemies.

But just as in our time we have witnessed the spread of Communism, so at the turn of the century another movement threatened what may be called the more static ordering of thought. It was, put very roughly, a mingling of the nineteenth century’s liberal and scientific preoccupations, and its object was to treat the Bible to the same sort of criticism to which the political and scientific worlds had been subjected. Evolution, as opposed to settled and accepted truth, was in the air; dogma was questioned, and many saw this, though some of its propagators may not have intended it to go so far, as a denial of supernatural religion.

The reigning Pope of the time, Pius X, denounced Modernism, as the new movement was called, as being no less than free-thought, a most dangerous heresy. An encyclical, issued in 1907, and a condition he laid down a few years later, that clergy were required to take an anti-Modernist oath, evidenced his firm opposition. And a similar situation was created later when Pius XII, brought face to face with Communism, condemned it time and again, and in 1949 promulgated the sentence of excommunication against any Catholic who countenanced or supported it in any way.

But a very considerable difference soon appeared between the receptions that greeted the opposition expressed by the two Popes. Pius X had been accused, in the main, of arrogance and intolerance. But Pius XII, echoing the sentiments of Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Pius XI, was not only ridiculed by avant-garde journalists, one of whom called him a ‘small-town aristocrat’, but was actually opposed and contradicted by the man who in 1963 ascended the Papal throne as Paul VI.

His sympathy for Left-wing politics had never been in doubt. He had co-operated with Communists. His encyclical Populorum Progressio, issued in 1967 on the development of the world, was adversely criticised by the Wall Street Journal as ‘warmed up Marxism’1. But his being ranged openly on their side, and his reversal of earlier Papal judgments, marked a new departure in a Pontiff whose words carried to the greater part of the Christian world.

He was fully in tune with the modern age, and responsive to the currents of the time. He was ready to open doors that every one of his predecessors, even those of doubtful character, had kept fastened. This was made clear in 1969, when he said: ‘We are about to witness a greater freedom in the life of the Church, and therefore in that of her children. This freedom will mean fewer obligations, and fewer inward prohibitions. Formal disciplines will be reduced … every form of intolerance and absolutism will be abolished.’

Such statements were welcomed by some, while others among his listeners were filled with apprehension; and when he referred to some normally accepted religious standpoints as being warped, and entertained only by those who were polarised or extremist, the hopes or fears of both modes of thought appeared to be justified. Was he paving the way for what would virtually be a new religion, freed from established notions and practices, and embracing all the advantages of the modern world, or was he bent on so paring down the established religion until, instead of standing out as decisive, unique, it appeared to be but one faith among many?

So the two sides waited. One in favour of a promised relaxation, the other apprehensive lest many of their traditional supports were about to be dismantled.
2.

Here again, I feel it necessary to repeat, what follows is neither in the nature of attack nor of defence. It is a simple summary of events that occurred, and of declarations made; and if they appear to be partisan, it is not the fault of the present writer, but of Pope Paul who made them all of one character.

He challenged and condemned the unbroken front presented by Pius X in the face of Modernism. The latter’s imposition of an anti-Modernist oath was said to have been an error, so Paul abolished it. The Index of forbidden books, and the prerogatives of the Holy Office with its historic right to impose interdicts and excommunication, were now things of the past. The Canon Laws of the Church, hitherto regarded as pillars, the guardians and promulgators of decisions and judgments, were thrown open to criticism and, if need be, to revision. History and text-books, written from a predominantly Catholic viewpoint, were blue-pencilled or re-edited.’

The Church’s contacts with the world, and with other religions, were to be more open, and no longer conducted from a height of superior authority, knowledge, and experience. There was declared to be no fixation of absolute truth. Discussion or dialogue was to take the place of declaration. And from these changes a new society of humanist culture would emerge, with an ostensible Catholic background provided by advanced theologians who, under Pius XII, had been kept on the fringes of the Church.

They included Hans Kung, whose views were said to be more anti-orthodox than those advanced by Luther. He was to claim that he had been specially defended by Paul VI. The German Jesuit, Karl Rahner, whose brand of thought had formerly been frowned upon as being too extreme, was now told by Paul to ‘forge ahead’. The Dominican Schillebeeckx spread consternation among the already dispirited Dutch clergy with such statements as that Christianity would, sooner or later, have to surrender to atheism, as the most honest and natural man was the one who believed nothing.

Teachers such as these, far from being reprimanded, retained their secure positions and were given a publicity, not usually accorded to churchmen, in the Press. Even an Irish paper referred to Hans Kung and to Schillebeeckx as ‘the most outstanding theologians in the world’; and the belief that they were confident of having powerful support was strengthened when it became known, in some ecclesiastical quarters, that prelates such as Suenens and Alfrink had threatened to form a ‘Cardinals’ Trade Union’ if Hans Kung and his writings were condemned.

The total ban on Communism and its supporters, by Pius XII, was taken for granted, although it had never been actually enforced. But even so there were demands for its removal. Instead of an ice-bound resistance to Communism, that had been an accepted feature of the historic Church, a thaw set in, and it soon became no longer remarkable for a priest to speak and act in favour of Marxism. Some accompanied their change of heart with a profession of contempt for the past, as did Robert Adolphs, Prior of the influential Augustinian house of Eindhoven, in Holland.

Writing in The Church is Different (Burns and Oates), he said that the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas represented ‘a pretty desiccated kind of Western thinking’. He denounced the anti-Modernism of Pius X as a ‘Fascist-like movement within the Church’, and he ridiculed the warnings given by Pius XII who had imagined that ‘he had to do battle with a sort of underground Modernist conspiracy that was making use of a widespread clandestine organisation in order to undermine the foundation of the Catholic Church.’

The Flemish professor, Albert Dondeyne, was more outspoken in Geloof en Wereld (Belief and the World), where he criticised the mental outlook of the Church for always having been convinced as to the total perfidy of Communism. He referred to the Church’s habit of presenting things as though Christianity were simply and without reminder opposed to the Communistic order of society as being extremely dangerous.

‘Christian society’, he went on, ‘makes God the servant of a kind of Christian party interest. It may’, he continued, ‘identify Communism with the Devil; but what if this particular Devil has been conjured up by the errors and shortcomings of Christianity itself?’ He admitted that the inhuman aspect of Marxism could not be denied. ‘But this does not altogether preclude there being major positive values in Communism to which Christianity of the nineteenth century ought to have been open, and to which Christianity must all the while remain receptive today.’

A similar plea emanated from a most unexpected quarter, the semi-official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which recommended Catholics being taught to collaborate with Marxists for the common good. Communism, it was urged, had changed dramatically since the time of Lenin and of Stalin; and there was now no reason why the Church, if only because of its humanitarian aspect, should not regard it as an ally. Old differences between them were disappearing, and the Church should now recognise, as more than one Western European government was on the point of doing, that Communism had a vital part to play in helping to shape the future.

Traditionalists eyed these advances with no little alarm. As they saw it, a door was being opened by which Marxist elements could enter into their stronghold; and those fears increased when Communist and Vatican officials showed signs of entering into a partnership that had hitherto been unthinkable.

Prelates whose names might be known to the public, the ever serviceable Suenens, Willebrands, Bea, and Konig of Vienna, exhibited a readiness to walk hand-in-hand with agents hot from Moscow, who, but a short time before, had ridiculed the Church’s claim to moral sovereignty over the minds of men. Nothing now was said of that claim by either side. Instead a list of everyday details, which maintained a steady growth over the years, showed how atheistic and orthodox spokesmen were passing from dialogue into a series of friendly exchanges.

Archbishop Casaroli, acting as middleman between the Vatican and the satellite States, flew in a Red airliner to the Soviet capital. He and members of the Central Committee raised glasses together in the Kremlin. He dined with KGB officers in Bulgaria, and later in Czechoslovakia. The secular Press circulated such items as proof that the Church had at last come down from its pedestal, and was accepting democracy; and the nervousness previously felt by traditionalists became downright fear when Paul VI, between the years 1967 and 1978, by his own words and actions, gave evidence of that very definite shift in Vatican policy.

Let us telescope and summarise the allusive events of that time. Local armed risings in Africa were everywhere on the increase, and the Pope supported those movements even when they not infrequently led to the massacre of women and children. By a surprising turn-about he said that the Christians in those parts were the terrorists, and the whites the latter had displaced had always exerted an influence that was bad. When the Reds finally took over the provinces of Mozambique and Angola, he hailed them as legitimate representatives of the people, and expressed a personal desire to meet some of the guerrilla leaders.

Three of them, Amilcar Cabral, Agostino Neto, and Marcellino dos Santos, accordingly went to the Vatican, where there was a kissing of hands as the Pope gave them a letter expressing de facto recognition of their Communist regime. But he was less forthcoming when a deputation showed him pictures, some revolting, of murderous activities carried out by West African terrorists. Sceptical journalists exchanged knowing looks when he made very obvious efforts to put them aside.

Equally surprising was the affectionate respect he confessed for Obote of Uganda, who had a long record of violence behind him and who is, at the moment of writing, still in the news as being a more bloodthirsty tyrant than the overthrown Amin. The blacks of Uganda were actually urged by the Pope – it must be the first call of its kind ever to issue from such a quarter – to take up arms against the whites.

In Algiers, many of the half-million Catholics there, under Monsignor Duval, were slaughtered when the overwhelming Moslem population turned against them. Duval abandoned his charges and joined their enemies, an act of betrayal that was rewarded by Pope Paul creating him a Prince of the Church.

Another puzzling situation occurred in Spain, at a time when the shooting of police, by Basque gunmen, was at a startlingly high level. Five of the gunmen were caught and sentenced to death. It was a time of grief for Pope Paul, who called the executions that followed ‘a homicidal act of repression’. He offered special prayers, but only for the murderers. Their victims were never mentioned. Thus encouraged by Rome, there was an upsurge of Communism in Mexico and in Latin-American States. Monsignor Ignaccio de Leon, speaking for the Mexican bishops, declared that his Church had shown itself to be useless in the face of social problems. Most fair-minded people will agree that it probably had. But no better example had been shown by the Marxism he openly preached from the pulpit.

Cardinal Henriquez celebrated a Te Deum in his cathedral when Salvador Allende, who boasted of being atheist, became President of Chile. Many Catholics, swayed by the hierarchy, had used their votes to help him to power. The name of Christ was now rarely heard in those once highly orthodox countries, except when it was used to invite a depreciatory comparison with such luminaries as Lenin and Mao Tse Tung. The revolutionary Fidel Castro of Cuba was honoured as a man ‘inspired by God’.

Causes that excite suspicion are sometimes covered by euphemistic terms, and observers who were alarmed by Pope Paul’s political leanings were liable to be assured that he was following ‘a policy of expansionism’. But whatever their nature, his sympathies certainly extended over a wide area. He confessed to feeling close spiritual ties with Red China. He sent his accredited diplomatic agent to the Communist government in Hanoi. He voiced support for the atheistic regimes in Yugoslavia and Cuba. He entered into talks with the Russian controlled government of Hungary. But he was less cordial in his relations with a traditionally orthodox country such as Portugal.

His presence there in May, 1967, excited comment, both on account of the almost casual arrangements he made for meeting the Catholic President, Salazar, and the way in which (as one of his closest colleagues remarked) he practically mumbled when celebrating the Mass that marked the climax of his visit.

It had been taken for granted that he would welcome a meeting with Lucia dos Santos, the last survivor of the three children who, in 1917, witnessed the apparitions, the strange phenomena that accompanied them, at the small town of Fatima. But the Pope put her aside with a testy: ‘Now now, later.’ As an afterthought he referred her to a bishop.

A different kind of reception was accorded to Claudia Cardinale and Gina Lollabrigida, when the Pope received them at the Vatican. They were certainly not dressed in the approved way for a Papal audience; and the crowd who had assembled to gape at the ‘stars’ expressed admiration for the Holy Father’s broadmindedness.

This would seem to be the place to introduce a report that reached me by way of a M. Maurice Guignard, a former student of the Society of Jesus at the college of St. Francis de Sales, Evreux, Normandy. The report, dated the 7th of August, 1972, originated from a body for the defence of the Faith, of Waterloo Place, Hanover. It was drawn up ‘out of obedience’ to orders given by Father Arrupe, Superior-General of the Society, and it was the work of Father Saenz Arriaga, Doctor of Philosophy and of Canon Law.

Apart from those influential Jesuits, it was substantiated and countersigned by the following members of the Society:

  • Cardinal Daniélou, the story of whose mysterious death, in 1974, is told in part seven of this book.
  • Father Grignottes, private. secretary and confessor to Father Arrupe.
  • Father de Bechillon, former Rector of Evreux.
  • Father de Lestapis, formerly of Evreux and for some time in charge of Radio Vatican broadcasts.
  • Father Bosc, formerly professor at Evreux and Professor of Sociology at the University of Mexico.
  • Father Galloy, member of the faculty of the College of Lyons.

Dealing with the past of Paul VI, it states that from 1936 to 1950 he was prominent in a vast network of espionage that covered some of the countries, on both sides, involved in the Second World War.

It goes on to say that he was a principal shareholder, with a Maronite Archbishop2, of a chain of brothels in Rome. He found the money for various films, such as the erotic Temptations of Marianne, which he financed on condition that the leading role was given to a certain actress named Patricia Novarini. When not working at the movie studio, this young lady performed as a striptease artist at the Crazy Horse Saloon, an exclusive night-club in Rome.

The tolerance accorded to film stars was, however, withheld from those who refused, even at great cost to themselves, to compromise with the Russians. One such was Cardinal Slipyi who, as Patriarch of the Ukrainian Church, had witnessed the deaths, deportation, or the unexplained disappearance of some ten million of his fellow Catholics. He was ultimately arrested and spent some years in prison.

When released, he cried out against ‘traitors in Rome’ who were co-operating with those who had been his oppressors. ‘I still carry on my body the marks of the terror’, he exclaimed to those who, like Pope Paul, were suddenly afflicted with deafness. The Pope, in fact, refused to recognise him as Patriarch; and from then on Slipyi encountered a surprising number of obstacles and harassments at every turn.
3.

It was only to be expected that the Vatican’s attitude would, sooner or later, be reflected by a similar change of heart among the people of Rome; and elections held there in 1978 brought about a result that would once have been regarded as a catastrophe, but which now passed as commonplace. For the newly returned President was Sandro Pertini, a life-long member of the Communist Party who soon introduced measures that affected every sphere in the hitherto settled precincts of Italian family life.

Many Catholics, influenced by the friendly relationship that had existed between the Red leaders and Good Pope John, gave their votes to Pertini.

Traditionalists called to mind the directions given by the Marquis de la Franquerie in L’infaillibilité Pontificale to those who were planning to infiltrate the Church: ‘Let us popularise vice through the masses. Whatever their five senses strive after it shall be satisfied…. Create hearts full of vice and you will no longer have any Catholics.’ And now, as the Marquis had rightly anticipated, a general breakdown occurred in every social grade and every department of life; from junior schools to factories, on the streets, and in the home.

Murders increased, as did the kidnapping of wealthy people who were held to ransom. Crime and chaos flourished as a barrage of anti-police propaganda weakened the law. The prevailing axiom, and not only among the young, was that ‘anything goes’. Pornography flourished. The hammer and sickle emblem was painted on church doors, and scrawls ridiculing priests, the Church, and religion in general appeared on walls and hoardings.

The Pope’s reaction to this did not surprise those who were already dismayed by his pro-Communist views. He invited Pertini to the Vatican, where, it was discovered, the two men had so much in common that their meeting was afterwards described by the Pope as having been emotional. ‘The encounter brought us very close’, he said. ‘The eminent visitor’s words were simple, profound, and full of solicitude for the welfare of man, for all humanity.’

In the same year Giulio Argan became Mayor of Rome. He too was a hardened Communist, and his election provided further proof of the way in which the political pendulum was swinging in Italy. Pope Paul, expressing satisfaction with the turn of events, looked forward to working with the mayor in a spirit of ‘desire, confidence, and anticipated gratitude.’

We have so far given instances of the Pope’s personal commitment to Marxist principles. And that he was by no means averse to compromising with or surrendering the Church’s doctrine was proved by the way he handled the case of Alighiero Tondi, a priest who left the Church and became an ardent worker for Moscow.

Tondi married Carmen Zanti, whom he chose as being the possessor of a ‘melancholy look and a sweet voice.’ Tondi had never been dispensed from his former vows, but Pope Paul had no difficulty in declaring that his marriage, void of any religious form, was canonically valid.

Meanwhile Carmen had used her voice to such good effect that she was elected to the Soviet Chamber of Deputies, and afterwards to the Senate. Then, both KGB agents, they went to Berlin where Carmen, who was obviously more pushing than Tondi (who was experiencing qualms of conscience), became the leader of the Women’s Communist organisation.

Tondi, who never quite forgot his ordination, was suffering a premature dread of hell fire, and wished to return to the Church. Nothing could be easier, said the not-at-all squeamish Pope Paul. He removed the ban of excommunication from the penitent, assured him that he had no need to recant, and declared that his marriage was still perfectly valid.

The fact of Communism having been given ‘a human face’, and by no less a legislator than the Head of the Church, was not without effect on other countries. When the National Committee of Catholic Action for Workers met in France, it was attended by seven card-carrying members of the Communist Party. The French Bishops overlooked their anti-national and disruptive tendencies.

In England, Cardinal Hume of Westminster expressed sympathy for movements that challenged the authority of governments opposed to the Left. And in February 1981, Cardinal Gray and his Auxiliary Bishop, Monsignor Monaghan, leaders of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, called on Catholics to support Amnesty International, a movement that, under the banner of Human Rights, gave what help it could, moral and otherwise, to agitators who, in several parts of the world, worked for the overthrow of established order.

Dissatisfied elements within the Church, who had weaker voices and no clenched fist to emphasise their protest, soon discovered that they had no right of appeal against the imposition of what, to them, was a more deadly danger than heresy. A spokesman for traditional Catholics in America, Father Gommar de Pauw, explained their bewilderment to the Vatican, and begged for guidance. His letter was not even acknowledged. When it was announced that a congress of Spanish priests, for the defence of the Mass, would be held at Saragossa, an edict issued by Pope Paul, at almost the last minute, prevented the meeting.
4.

The once proudly independent colours of the Catholic Church were hauled perceptibly lower when Pope Paul entered into ‘dialogue’ with the World Council of Churches.

At that time, 1975, more than two hundred and seventy religious organisations, of various kinds, were grouped under the Council, and it soon became clear that it stood for the liberation theories that had been introduced by John XXIII and since furthered by Paul VI. It had funds to spare for subversive movements in what is called the Third World, so that even our Press was forced to complain of the support it handed out.

Its gifts were not niggardly. For instance, as the Daily Express deplored, £45,000 had gone to terrorists who were responsible for the massacre of white women, children, and missionaries; and the Anglican Church Times remarked that the World Council of Churches ‘has developed a political bias recognisably Marxist in its preference for a revolution of a Left-ward character.’

The Catholic Church had always stood apart from the World Council. But the advent of ecumenism had changed all that, and the Council’s dangerous tendencies were made light of in order to foster harmony between the different religions.

Pope Paul, acclaimed as being always ready to move with the times, was willing to see eye to eye with the Council. But he had to move warily, as Catholic opinion throughout the world had, so far, been well trained to resist any encroachment upon its rights and its historical claim.

So when asked whether an alliance could be effected, he returned a diplomatic ‘not yet’. But he showed where his sympathies were by following that up with a personal gift of £4,000 to further the Council’s work and its aid to guerrillas.

The present Pope, John Paul II, has announced his intention of renewing negotiations with the pro-terrorists.
5.

There is a more sinister note on which to end this summary of Pope Paul’s intransigence.

The name of a self-confessed devil worshipper, Cardonnel, is practically unknown here; but in other countries his writings excited a variety of feelings ranging from awed admiration to horror in those who read them.

As a member of the Dominican Order, he was given permission to speak in Paris Notre-Dame in mid-Lent 1968. Listeners were struck by his rabid anti-Christian expressions, on account of which he was called ‘le théologien de la mort de Dieu’ (the God’s death theologian). He boasted of the title, left his Order and finally the Church, and became a hardened devil-worshipper. In a typical outburst he likened the Christian God to Stalin, to a beast, and finally to Satan.

Pope Paul admired his work; and although he ignored requests from Catholics who wished to safeguard their religion, he made a special point of writing to Cardonnel, congratulating him and sending good wishes.


1. Robert Kaiser, who approved the innovations of Vatican Two.

2. The Maronites are a group of Eastern Catholics, named after their founder, Maro, and mainly settled in Lebanon.

 

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