11 July 2016

The Pontificate of Pius XII (3)

In an idle moment, I browsed through some grainy old black-and-white video clips of the life of Pius XII. I had not realised how much he travelled in the 1930s, when he was Secretary of State. It all looked uncannily like a preview of the culture mainly set in place by John Paul II, of the travelling papal circus going from country to country, doing big things at big services in a thoroughly big way. Not surprisingly, Cardinal Pacelli was called the cardinale volante (remember that air travel was by no means as every-day at that time), and described as a sort of vice-papa. Occasionally, I was even reminded of Herr Hitler and the cult he fostered ... Pacelli and Hitler have in common a legacy of embarrassing studio photographs showing the Great Man trying out 'to camera' some rhetorical gestures.

I am far from sure that I agree with that sort of thing. On the one hand, the role of Peter is to strengthen his brethren, and I would have to concede that a papal visit can be very strengthening to a besieged and insecure local Church. But the whole business does rather suggest that a pope is a sort of superbishop, which he isn't. He is the Bishop of that Church with which all Christians are supposed to be in communion; of the Church where Peter's voice lives and speaks - so that under the prescribed conditions he articulates the Infallibility of the whole Church and has a Primacy, when and where it is needed, of ensuring that the norma fidei is everywhere also the local norm. In a healthy Particular Church, surely the local Successor of the Apostles, the Diocesan Bishop, should be capable, in normal circumstances, of fulfilling the munus apostolicum without needing the Head Master to come into his classroom and restore order? 

The endless and vulgar showcasing of Papa Bergoglio demonstrates how inherently dangerous this cult of personality really is. Turning the Servus servorum Dei into a cosmopolitan celeb obscures, rather than expresses, his true place in the Church Militant. Even Pio Nono did not consider that his  Primacy (which he was indeed so anxious to get defined) required him to gad around the world showing it off like a girl with an engagement ring. And, before anybody draws my attention to the 'pompous' 'Renaissance' rituals of the pre-John Paul I Papacy, I will suggest to you that a pope lurching around on an old-style sedia and with a weighty triregnum* to keep safely balanced on his head was not in a position to posture and gesture and flirt with the mob, or to dish out ill-considered one-liners to a hungry Press. But the modern papal cult, for all its 'immediacy' and 'humility', is a much more domineering phenomenon than all those harmless bits of baroque fun. And, in the hands of a pope who does not know his theology (Fr Zed neatly demonstrated two or three weeks ago that the Holy Father had apparently not understood the Address that he himself read last January to the Roman Rota), and who has a supreme over-confidence in the value of his own misguided and often inane off-the-cuff remarks, the whole, entire, present-day officially promoted papal personality cult is a very dangerous and profoundly unedifying tool.

Next time, we could do with a much quieter and less visible and more considered papacy. A pontificate along the lines of the Petrine Ministry as it was so admirably defined in the careful and balanced words of Vatican I.

Come back, the Prisoner of the Vatican!

* A truly edifying and really humble pontiff might resume the use of the papier-mache tiara made for the Coronation of Pius VII after the Conclave held in Venice while Rome was occupied by French revolutionary armies. It was light-weight, and is said last to have been worn by B Pius IX. 








19 comments:

GOR said...

I couldn't agree more, Father!

Stephen said...

It was also the young Eugenio Pacelli who, as a rising star under both Pius X and Benedict XV, had a very strong hand in the Code of Canon Law promulgated around 1917-18, which, among other things, pretty much laid to rest the last vestiges of local canons electing their ordinary without formal approval by Rome. As Cardinal Secretary of State, the future Pope Pius XII traveled quite extensively on numerous missions, not the least of which were to negotiate and implemente numerous Concordats with various nation-states, including Nazi Germany, which cemented Papal control over the activities of national churches (in exchange for...well, the relative good of those trades is a matter of debate). So, while it may be a comfort to think that the Pope is not a super-bishop or the only bishop on paper, in practice Pacelli -as THE force of the 20th century - made the Pope one by these centralizing exercises, treaties and activities.

Pacelli was clearly the innovator who paved the way for his proteges Bugnini and Montini, the future Paul VI, to enact their liturgical changes with little to no resistance.

Catherina of Siena said...

Oh, brilliant!

Thank you, Fr Hunwicke.

El Codo said...

Father.How dare you as a nouveau Catholic criticise St John Paul II! You are not a quarrelsome High Church Anglican playing anymore but a Priest of The One True Church with obedience .

Prayerful said...

This recent populism is sad. The tiara and chair are marks of office might seem pompous but it elevated the office above the person, and was a real way a true humility. Now the personality be he JP2 or now Francis almost overwhelms the office. Pope Francis has a tiara. He could make an effort of subsuming his outsized personality into the office. Sadly, I don't see that happening.

Jagged said...

Riddle of the day: Who or what is being disobeyed when a "nouveau Catholic" criticizes a pope?

mark wauck said...

@ Stephen,

Tx for that bit of information. I was wondering about that. If a pope is simply the bishop of the Roman church, how is it that he writes laws that make him the sole bishop to approve other bishops? Just one more area where things aren't as clear as many would like us to believe, yet where alternatives are fraught with hazards.

It's always the bureaucratic conundrum: to centralize or not? Either alternative has its dangers, although Ultramontanists like to pretend they had erected a fool proof system. And then came the 20th and 21st centuries.

I hope those comments re nouveau Catholics and criticism JP2 were somehow tongue in cheek?

Unknown said...

"Nouveau Catholic?" I beg to differ M. El Codo. Fr Hunwicke became a Catholic on the day of his baptism.. Not on the day of his incardination into the ordinariate.

El Codo said...

The Church of England as a rebel Protestant body, allowed a dissent and disobedience within its folds that is completely out of place in a Church with a magesterium and the sooner traddies bow their heads and obey the better we will all be!

Jagged said...

You still haven't explained what authority or regulation is disobeyed in the act of criticizing a pope. Clue: It isn't the magisterium.

Peter Moscatelli said...

This is English humour, is it not?

Peter Moscatelli said...

This is English humour, is it not?

Peter Moscatelli said...

This is English humour, is it not?

r100s said...

"The last Pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963, but after the solemn coronation ceremony he never used the tiara again and left his Successors free to decide in this regard. Pope John Paul I, whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes. Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself."

- S. John Paul II, inaugural papal speech

Admon said...

I certainly hope so.

Jagged said...

I don't know if El Codo is writing tongue-in-cheek but just to be logical for a moment, not even the Church of England can actually allow dissent and disobedience, as those are things that by definition are a breach of what is taught or permitted by the relevant institution or authority. Perhaps he means that the Church of England allows anyone to do or believe what he likes, which is a different proposition. All of which is to say that I entirely agree with what Father Hunwicke has to say on the present subject. :-)

Stephen said...

Mark,
Indeed, there are still many who, rather immaturely IMO, pine away for a Pope of their dreams who will issue all the proper ukase (proper from their POV, naturally) to right all the perceived wrongs; not realizing, or perhaps not wishing to realize, that such a power seems all well and good when it is NOT your ox that is getting gored. So to double-down on wishing for something so dangerous leads me to wonder exactly what those sort of folks believe, and why they believe it, to the point that I can only conclude that they do not really know what they believe, as they they do know why or why not they should believe - other than having this massive authority like the Pope tell them.

This is the problem with Pastor Aeternus. It quite rightly says the Pope is great and wonderful like any bishop when defending the faith once delivered. But it eliminates the possibility that a Pope, like any bishop, may teach heresy, all ultimately on the basis of a rather modern understanding of Tu Es Petrus (that the protection of the Holy Spirit is, like a nice French reduction, reduced to the Bishop of Rome alone as a benefit of the office, and not to every bishop who defends the faith or the Church as a whole).

So, once you go down the path of innovation, there's really no stopping it, as we see before us lo these last 50 years. And, the engine and origin of innovation was and still is the modern Papacy. And, like all good innovative progressives, Pius XII told everybody what he was intending - I'm referring specifically to his declaring that the what we pray is now dependent on what we believe, whereas the converse is true and is what should be operative, namely what we believe is first and foremost understood and realized by how we pray together corporately.

And, with the centralized machinery of the Papacy in place at full speed under his reign - which he designed and guided before he received the tiara - and all the other bishops, clergy and laity now trained like lambs before the slaughter to accept whatever the Pope says, it's no wonder that there was so little resistance to the liturgical changes which Pius launched and his successors finalized.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Two quibbles - if you like.

Was Pacelli Pope?

Is Bergoglio Pope?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Both of them, without the tiniest shadow of doubt.