Piers Compton: The Broken Cross Part 10

One is always wrong to open a conversation with the Devil, for however he goes about it, he always insists on having the last word.
Andre Gide.

It is hoped that possible readers of this book, who may not be acquainted with the Catholic story, will by now have grasped one essential fact – that the general decline of the Church was brought about by the Council that goes by the name of Vatican Two. Furthermore, that the Council was called by John XXIII who, like several of the prelates and many of lesser title under his Papal wing, were clandestine members of secret societies, and who were, according to the age-long ruling of the Church, excommunicate and therefore debarred from fulfilling any legitimate priestly function. The disastrous results of their being allowed to do so, with Papal approbation (since both the Popes who followed Pius XII were part of the over-all conspiracy, while the recent John Paul I and John Paul II are subject to suspicion) are apparent to the most superficial observer. Such results are the outcome of Paul VI’s main wish regarding the implementation of Vatican II, as expressed in his last will and testament, and repeated more than once by John Paul II: ‘Let its prescriptions be put into effect.’

Those prescriptions were defined years ago in the policies of Adam Weishaupt, Little Tiger, Nubius, and others (already quoted) for their trained disciples to infiltrate, and then to wear down the authority, practices, and very life of the Church. This they have accomplished, under the guise of progress or liberation.

Every aspect of the Church, spiritual and material, has been taken over, from Peter’s Chair, with its once regal dignity, to a faldstool in the most insignificant parish church. The few priests who recognised this were kept in the background, or, if they managed to get a hearing, were exposed to ridicule; and surveying the scene, with its disorders, the exhibitions of profanity, and sexual aberrations staged in some of its most revered buildings, including St. Peter’s, one is tempted to think of a once highly disciplined Guards brigade being transformed into a mob of screaming hooligans.

One may pass from the truism, that little things are little things, to a more comprehensive realisation that little beginnings are not little things; and it is by working precisely on that principle that the modern controllers of the Church achieved their ends without producing too much alarm among the populace at large.

They began by relaxing formal disciplines and inhibitions, such as keeping Friday as a meatless day. Then certain symbols, rituals, and devotions went. The old liturgical language of Latin practically disappeared. The nun’s habit, which had never failed to inspire respect even in the most irreligious, went out of use, as did the cassock. The latter was sometimes replaced by jeans, as was demonstrated by two novices who, in Rome, went up to the altar to receive the blessing of their Father-General looking more like hippies than future Jesuits. A small cross, worn in the lapel of a jacket, was fast becoming the only sign that the wearer was a priest.

The old idea of priestly authority, whether exercised by a simple cleric or by the Pope, was effectively destroyed; and voices were always ready to applaud whenever the Church squandered this or that of its inheritance. ‘The priest is today no longer a special being’, cried the exultant Yves Marsaudon, a member of the Masonic Supreme Council of France. A congress of moral theologians, held at Padua, went much further: ‘The individual conscience is the Christian’s supreme authority above the Papal magisterium.’

It was becoming generally accepted that ‘one day the traditional Church must disappear or adapt itself.’ It was to become one of many institutions, with the accumulated legacies of two thousand years being cast away as things of little worth.

A quick glance at available statistics, over those years, shows a startling falling off in all the relative departments of Church life. Vocations, baptisms, conversions, and church marriages, took a downward plunge. The only increase was in the number of those who walked out of the Church. Many preferred to read the liturgy of the Mass in their homes, on Sundays and days of obligation, rather than see its once dignified movements parodied, and hear the historic language cheapened, in church.

In England, between the years 1968 and 1974, it has been reckoned that some two and a half million people fell away; and, if one may add to that the selling of Catholic journals, the most popular of these, The Universe, had an average weekly circulation of nearly three hundred and twelve thousand in 1963. Nine years later that figure had dropped to under a hundred and eighty thousand.

In France, with eighty-six per cent of the population officially Catholic, ten per cent put in an appearance at Mass; while a similar figure from 1971 to 1976, applied even to Rome. During the same period, in South America, once regarded as one of the toughest nuts for anti-clericals to crack, and where the people were commonly regarded as being steeped in superstition, an estimated twenty-five thousand priests renounced their vows. Vatican sources reported that there were three thousand resignations a year from the priesthood, and that figure took no account of those who dropped out without troubling to get ecclesiastical approval.

The Catholic part of Holland, where the new teaching was paramount, was in a truly parlous condition. Not a single candidate applied for admission to the priesthood in 1970, and within twelve months every seminary there was closed. In the United States, in the seven years prior to 1974, one in every four of the seminaries put up their shutters.

The traffic was all one way, for apart from the recorded drop in church attendance, a regular procession of priests and nuns, in the spirit of the new freedom, were deciding that marriage offered a more comfortable daily round than life in the presbytery or cloister. ‘Rebel priest, aged fifty, weds girl of twenty-five’ – so ran a typical headline in the Daily Express of 9th September, 1973. The marriage was celebrated in a Protestant church, where the attendance was brightened by priests and nuns who were all professionally geared to add their blessings to the confetti.

Many priests had passed beyond the hinting stage and were now openly declaring in favour of abortion. As for the Sacrament of Matrimony, as more and more couples tired of encountering the same face at breakfast, the Church discovered that it had been wrong in pronouncing them man and wife. Pleas of consanguinity, non-consummation, or that neither party had been validly baptised, were the order of the day, and the granting of annulments became quite a flourishing business.

By 1972, a few years after the rot had set in, Pope Paul personally disposed of some four thousand cases. Thus encouraged, a veritable flood of applications followed. Very few of those in search of ‘freedom’ were definitely refused, but were advised to try again or to come back later. In Trenton, New Jersey, Bishop Reiss was so overworked that he nominated seventeen extra priests to help him (I quote his own words) ‘beef up’ the number of annulments.
2.

In March 1981 the Vatican took the quite superfluous step, so it seemed to many, of reiterating its Canon Law 2335, which stated that any Catholic who joined a secret society faced excommunication. To the man in the street, who was unaware that dozens of clerics, some in the highest offices of the Church, had already broken that law, it seemed a mere formality. But the Vatican, acting on information received, knew very well what it was doing. It was protecting itself, in advance, from any likely effects of a scandal that broke in May of the same year.

The Government of the country, headed by Christian Democrats, was formed of a coalition that included Socialists, Social Democrats, and Republicans. But the Communists were now demanding a place in the coalition, for political ends that left no doubt of their intentions. ‘The problem is’, they said, ‘to remove democratic institutions, the State apparatus, and economic life from the Christian Democratic power structure.’

But their efforts failed. The Christian Democrats held firm. So their enemies resorted to a weapon that has proved no less deadly in political warfare than assassination. They brought about a far reaching scandal which, they hoped, would topple the existing order of government in Italy.

It was made to appear, as part of the repercussions which, following the break-up of Michele Sindona’s financial empire, had rumbled through the early summer of 1981, that the activities of a widespread and dangerous secret society, known as Propaganda Two (P2 for short) had come to light. But in the confused world of politics and finance things do not happen as simply as that. The people who, when compelled to do so, cry out against the machinations most loudly, have invariably been part of the backstairs conspiracy. The fact of frauds being brought into the open may be through personal spite, disappointed blackmail, or the probing of some over-zealous underling – ‘why couldn’t he keep quiet?’ And the self-righteous profiteers who, from their lofty moral pedestals but with their pockets suffering, cannot do less than publicise the swindle, have to fume in private.

The exposure of P2 began when the police received a mysterious call advising them to search the home of Licio Gelli, a prestigious name in secret societies, and to investigate his relationship with the erstwhile barrow-trundler Michele Sindona.

The mere mention of Sindona made the implicated members of the Curia think of how to avoid being caught up in the scandal. Hence their apparently unnecessary reminder to the world at large that Canon 2335 was still valid. Meanwhile the police had come upon a suitcase in Gelli’s house containing the names of nine hundred and thirty-five members of P2.

There were many prominent politicians, including three Cabinet ministers and three under-secretaries; army generals and navy chiefs; leading bankers and industrialists, secret service heads, diplomats, judges, and magistrates; civil servants in foreign affairs, defence, justice, finance, and the treasury; top names in radio and television, and the managing director, editor and publisher of Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere Della Sera.

Many others resigned, while a whole host of others came crashing down, like so many Humpty Dumpties, when the lists were published. More sizeable litter followed as the government of Arnaldo Forlani, in its entirety, was swept off the wall. The accusers and their victims were, of course, all members of the same gang. It was a case of ‘Brothers falling out’ with a vengeance. The usual accusations and recriminations followed, involving every degree of crime, even murder. The falsification of accounts, espionage, and official stealing, passed as minor considerations.

Through it all the Vatican reacted with only a mild fluttering of hearts. For although the Church had shed its aura of reverence, and its prestige had been reduced to a shadow, it remained inscrutable. The ghost of its former self was still potent. The fatally loaded guns might be levelled against its walls, but there was no cannoneer to apply the match.

It was a wise cynic who said: ‘In Italy religion is a mask.’
3.

Although no churchman had been named in the scandal, the breaking of the Sindona story indirectly led to the Church reviewing its attitude to the secret societies. This had, according to orthodox belief, been settled by the said Canon Law 2335, which forbade any Catholic, on pain of excommunication, to join one. But in spite of that, because so many clerics, including members of the Curia, had broken that law, negotiations between the two sides, started in 1961, had been carried on for eleven years, with Cardinal Bea, the Pope’s Secretary of State (whose name was as doubtful as his nationality), assisted by Cardinal Konig of Vienna, and Monsignor J. de Toth, putting forward a more amenable version of the Church’s viewpoint.

These prolonged talks were more concerned with ironing out past differences than with formulating any future policy. But they managed to keep off the subject of hidden designs against the Church, which had partly prompted the latter’s ban. Then came further discussions at Augsburg in May, 1969, where consideration was given to Papal pronouncements that roundly condemned the societies; and there was more apprehension in conservative quarters when such equivocal terms as placing Papal Bulls in their ‘historical context’, and the removal of past injustices, were used to explain the purpose of the assemblies.

The outcome of this newly founded relationship fully justified the doubts of those who feared that the Church was giving ground, and going back on its judgments that had been defined as final; and that the thin end of the wedge was being imposed became apparent in July of the same year, after a meeting at the monastery of Einsiedeln, Switzerland.

It was there confidently anticipated, by Professor Schwarzbaver, that no reference to the seamy side of secret societies would be made. Neither was it. Instead it was announced that Rome’s previous rulings on relationship between the Church and secret societies had not been contained in Papal Bulls or Encyclicals but in Canon Law which, as every ‘updated’ cleric knew, was being revised.

This occasioned more serious doubt in orthodox quarters. It was recalled that Canon Law refers to a body of laws, authorised by the Church, and ‘binding to those who are subject to it by baptism.’ Could it mean that such terms as binding, revision, and alterations, were on the point of being subjected to new interpretations? Moreover, more than one Papal Bull had certainly contained a condemnation of the societies.

The societies (and this must be repeated) had no intention of refuting their original intention of undermining the Church. They had no need. They had so far succeeded in their design. Their own men had infiltrated and taken over the Church at every level; and to such an extent that the Church seemed in a hurry to abandon what was left of its original claims, its historic rites, and majesty; and now the societies waited for their picked men, Cardinals and others, to present themselves before the world, cap in hand, and cry aloud their past errors of judgments.

A definite move towards this came from the once highly orthodox centre of Spain, where Father Ferrer Benimeli put forward the extraordinary plea that Papal Bulls, condemning the societies, could no longer be regarded as valid.

An undertaking that strictures imposed by Canon Law on secret societies in the past would not again be invoked, was given by Cardinal Konig when Church and secular representatives met at Lichtenau Castle in 1970. Then came the statement that Canon Law and Papal Bulls had been all very well in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but such documents now had a mainly historical significance, and their import could not be enacted by a Church that was preaching the more significant doctrine of ‘brotherly love’ which, together with friendship and morality, ‘provided one of the most excellent tenets of the societies’.

The critics of these ‘get together’ tactics saw in this a concession to the fraternal spirit inspired by the societies, and also a virtual endorsement of the Cult of Man that Pope Paul had preached in the United States, and in which he had been confirmed by the Masters of Wisdom.

The general result of these contacts, on the Church side, was submitted for examination by the Congregation for the Faith; and the outcome was decided in advance by the remarks and reservations that accompanied them. It was no use looking back at what the Church had formerly decided. Comparison showed that its past attitude was old-fashioned, and properly belonged to a time when it had taught ‘no salvation outside the Church’.

That slogan too was outmoded; and the world’s Press, including most Catholic organs, again went to work with a will as it always did when it came to propagating views that undermined tradition and reinforced the designs of those secret society members who wore mitres in the Vatican.

With the Holy Office continuing to bend over backwards to confirm the changes, the process of secularisation gained momentum from the autumn of 1974 onwards. It was made clear that the bar against secret societies had become a dead letter, and that its abrogation was bringing relief ‘to a number of good people who joined them merely for business or social reasons’. They no longer presented a danger to the Church.

The dismay occasioned by this in some quarters was summed up by Father Pedro Arrupe, General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), who saw it as a concession to organized ‘naturalism’ which, he said, had entered into the very territory of God and was influencing the minds of priests and religious. Naturalism, by dogmatically asserting that human nature and human reason alone must be supreme in all things, was another echo of the Cult of Man.

The Church’s changing attitude towards secret societies was reflected in this country by John Cannel Heenan, who was appointed Archbishop of Westminster in 1963 and created Cardinal two years later. In keeping with his hopeful expectation that the Church’s ban on the societies would soon be abolished, some of his senior clergy were authorised to negotiate with them. The Cardinal was then informed that a publication repeating the differences between the two sides was on sale in Catholic bookshops in his diocese.

He expressed his concern. ‘If, as I suspect, it is misleading, I shall see that it is withdrawn.’ He did so, and that publication, together with all similar ones, disappeared.

An interested inquirer who wrote to the Cardinal on the matter received, in reply, an assurance that the Cardinal conveyed his blessing. The same inquirer, on calling at the Catholic Truth Society bookshop, near Westminster Cathedral, was told that there had been no dealings with the Cardinal, and that the booklets had been withdrawn ‘through lack of public interest’.

The growing belief that Canon 2335 would not appear in any revised edition of Church law, together with the fact that orthodox elements were being out-manoeuvred, as they had been at Vatican II, led to the Church and the societies expressing a more open relationship.

There was, for instance, a ‘dedication breakfast’ at the New York Hilton Hotel in March, 1976, presided over by Cardinal Terence Cooke, seconded by Cardinal Kroll, of Philadelphia, and attended by some three thousand members of secret societies. Cardinal Brandao Vilela of San Salvador de Behia, represented Brazil.

In his speech, Cardinal Cooke referred to this ‘joyous event’ as marking a further stage ‘on the road to friendship’. He regretted ‘past estrangements’, and hoped that his presence there signified that the new understanding between the two sides would never again be compromised. To the Cardinals and the Masters it was not so much an outsize breakfast party as a momentous union, effected by opponents who had never before at any time come (openly) together.

Cardinal Kroll, as President of the United States Bishops’ Conference, had previously been approached by Cardinal Seper, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who voiced the fears of those who regretted the signs of vital changes in the Church. Seper was informed that no alteration had been made, and that none was pending within the area of central legislation.

‘It is still, and in all cases’, said Kroll, in a statement that even to read causes a raising of the eyebrows, ‘forbidden for clerics, religious, and members of secular institutes to belong to a secret society organization…. Those who enrol their names in associations of the same kind which plot against the Church, or the legitimate civil authorities, by this very fact incur excommunication, absolution from which is reserved for the Holy See.’

It was true that no active plot against the Church was then in motion. The societies could well afford to sit back and to take breath; not through any decisive change of heart, but because the first stage of the plot had been successfully accomplished. Two of the societies’ choosing, in the persons of John XXIII and Paul VI, had occupied Peter’s Chair. Others of their kind, who had received a red hat or a Bishop’s mitre, had dominated their counsels. The next move in the plot against the Church was being reserved for the future, when the innovations in doctrine and practice had been accepted by a generation who had never known what it was to respond to the guiding hands of Popes such as the now belittled Pius XII.

The rearguard, for so the anti-Liberals may be called, made what capital it could by harking back to Canon 2335, and to the Sindona scandal as illustrating the widespread disasters brought about by contact with a secret society. As part of this campaign, a German Episcopal Conference of Bishops was held in the middle of 1981, where it was stressed, without any qualification, that ‘simultaneous membership of the Catholic Church and of a secret society is impossible.’1

This was followed by the Italian Government approving a Bill to outlaw and dissolve all secret societies, and reminding Catholics that excommunication was still the Church’s penalty for joining one.

But both the German and Italian pronouncements were merely smoke screens; and none recognised this more than the societies, who were not in the least impressed. That Canon 2335, if it appeared at all in any revised edition of Church law, would be shorn of its urgency, had passed from being rumour and newspaper gossip to becoming an imminent fact. An English prelate, Cardinal Heenan, had said more than that, and had even anticipated it being abolished. While a leading official of the societies in Rome, unruffled, said he had it on good authority that Canon Law was being revised, as it was, in fact, by a Commission of Cardinals that had been set up by John XXIII and continued under Paul VI.

The official went on to say that the still apparent differences between the Church and the societies were all part of the conflict in the Vatican between the traditionalists and the progressives. ‘This may well have been’ – and he could well afford to shrug it off – ‘their last attack upon us.’

That pronouncement, like every other emanating from the same quarter, has proved to be correct.

For it has now to be accepted, according to a statement from the Holy See, that ‘The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ruled that Canon 2335 no longer automatically bars a Catholic from membership of Masonic groups.’
4.

It had probably been by Pope Paul’s own wish, in defiance of a custom that was part of a Christian’s, and especially a Catholic’s, second nature, that, after his death in 1978, there was no crucifix, nor even the most common religious symbol, a cross, on the catafalque when his body was placed for veneration in St. Peter’s piazza.

Was it a silent acknowledgement that his work, in compliance with the secret counsel enjoined upon him since the time he became Archbishop of Milan, had been well and truly done?


1. The full text is given in Amtsblatt des Ezzbistums, Cologne, June 1981 issue.

 

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