Sunday, February 18, 2018

St. Pius XII? A Necessary Repost

After seeing this advertisement for the widely ignored case for the canonization of Pope Pius XII I thought readers of a traditionalist bent would do well to remember why his canonization should be opposed: because of what he actually did during his pontificate, not because of what secular media mindlessly repeating the accusation of Rolf Hochhuth merely think he did. At the time of his death Pius XII made the Church more vulnerable to the world and to poor leadership than any pope since Leo X.

Here follows an old piece from 2013:

With all the talk last month about the impending canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, only a few are still discussing the interesting news that Pius XII, the last Pope prior to the Second Vatican Council, may also be raised to the altars and by the same dispensation as his successor, Papa Roncalli. One wonders why?
Rome's eagerness to canonize John XXIII and John Paul II reflect a desire to canonize the Second Vatican Council and the "Spirit" of the Second Vatican Council respectively. But what would make them want to canonize Papa Pacelli? Francis has been compared to John Paul II for his liturgical praxis, but at least this observer finds him more analogous to Paul VI than to the Pope from Poland. Which brings us to a potential answer. Pius XII made Paul VI, and in a great many ways.
As the Rad Trad has said before, Pius XII is the least understood Pope in centuries. He is condemned for the good he did and lauded for the ills of his pontificate. Traditionalists and liberals alike see him as the tiara-wearing, Thomistic, Latin Mass-defending bastion of orthodoxy that preceded the radical changes that began with "Pope John's Council" in 1962. This is romantic (or horrific, depending on one's perspective) rubbish. As previously stated on this blog, Pope Pius was a modernizer, neither a liberal nor a conservative, so his canonization would not necessarily vindicate either side's view. In more sensible times his cause would have had ecumenical implications with the Jewish people, but the media have blemished his reputation since the play The Deputy in 1966 and have painted him as a seething anti-Semite or passive Nazi-enabler; neither characterization could be further from the truth.
Yet his work on behalf of the Jewish people in the face of their extermination might be the only clear cut good on Papa Pacelli's part. His primary duty, to preserve the Catholic Church through the Second World War, was less than successful. Most of the Church hierarchy was disbanded, understandably, in Germany and Poland—less so in the lower countries which had Catholic Italy as a cultural boundary against too much Nazi secularism. The rebuilding of the European Church after the War was unsuccessful. Sure, American money—provided by Americanist bishops like Cushing and Spellman—restored the physical plants, but no revival of the faith took place in Europe. Poland had withstood secularism during the War and continued to do so, far from American influence, nestled behind the Iron Curtain. Perhaps one reason the Traditionalist movement began in France is because Church influence and Mass attendance had been declining since the reign of Louis XVI. French Catholics had no illusions, no glass house like American and English Catholics. One rarely heard Pius XII speak on matters of Church-State relations in a theological context. His concerns always seemed more practical and concerned with rights rather than public religion. More Paul VI than Pius XI in my opinion.
Pope Pius XII with his protégé some time after 1956, when
the Pontiff's health was in rapid decline.
Which brings us to one point too long overlooked: Pius XII made Paul VI. Sure, there are the stories of Msgr. Montini, a secretary in the Vatican, celebrating Mass with university students huddled around his altar—a forerunner to the modern day Newman center if there ever was one, which Pius XII's aristocratic nature did not meet well. And yet we find from his days as a cardinal, Eugenio Pacelli raised Giovanni Battista Montini through the ranks with startling efficiency, almost to denote his successor. Pacelli, as Vatican Secretariat of State under Pius XI, hired Montini for prestigious diplomatic work. Aside from a minor assignment in Poland, Montini worked under Pacelli's tutelage for the better part of three decades, including during the War, a time when other members of the Vatican diplomatic core, like Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, were engaged in active field work. There is, of course, the tale that Montini furtively held negotiations with Russian communists during the War, inciting the fury of his superior, by that point Supreme Pontiff, who promptly exiled him from the Vatican to the archdiocese of Milan. We should not be surprised if there had been contact between Rome and the Soviets, given the ease with which John XXIII acquired Orthodox observers at the Vatican Council a few years later, but this would indicate that the connection between the two parties was well-developed. Which causes us to re-examine the canard of Montini's exile: Msgr. Montini, a priest, was transferred from an under-secretarial position in the Vatican to one of the most important episcopal sees in the world (which had produced the previous pope at the time) and received his consecration from the Pontiff himself. If anything, Pius was denoting his eventual successor. Much is made of the fact that Montini did not get the red hat. Neither did Cushing and many others. Montini was raised to the episcopacy in 1956, three years after Pius XII's second and last consistory. Interestingly, Pope Pius also gave Frs. Suenens, Wojtyla, and Cushing their first episcopal work.
Captain Charles Ryder Evelyn Waugh,
convert to the faith, novelist, and
lay liturgical critic.
Lastly there is the liturgical question. Pope Paul stated explicitly in his bull Missale Romanum, which introduced the new ordinary of the Mass to the Roman rite of the Church, that this new praxis was the culmination of a renewal process which began under Pius XII. Given Montini's daily first hand knowledge of Papa Pacelli, one would be hard pressed to dispute this claim. Novelist Evelyn Waugh once wrote "many of the innovations, which many of us find so obnoxious, were introduced by Pius XII." Waugh's tone aside, he hits the "nail on the head" here. Evening Masses, vernacular Masses, people muddling through spoken responses, the new Holy Week, and other novelties came about with official approval from Pope Pius. He certainly was not a fan of other novel practices, like the lay offertory procession—which he condemned in Mediator Dei, but he did very little to stop other innovations such as Mass versus populum.
Depending on one's perspective, all of this could be good or could be bad, but, as the saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts. Pope Francis is an enthusiast of Paul VI, the Pope of his seminary formation and early priesthood. He knows that Pius XII, far from being a 19th century stuff-shirt, was in fact a very modern Pope who set the stage for Council and the liturgical renovations of the 1960s and 1970s which formed the modern hierarchy. It is the Rad Trad's opinion that Pope Francis, God love him, may be seeking to canonize Pius XII for the same reason he intends to canonize John XXIII and John Paul II: to canonize the what people perceive as the changes associated with the Second Vatican Council.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Reminder: Lenten Office of the Dead

We are now into a new penitential season, which means the Office of the Dead on Mondays (or the first free ferial day) of Lent until Holy Week exclusive. As usual please leave your intentions on this page and, if possible, join our prayers on your own, perhaps by using the Officium Defunctorum provided there.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Universal Language of (Lenten) Music

Many functions can "exercise" parts of the brain seldom used in the doldrums of quotidian life: practicing arithmetic, learning or speaking another language, and music. The last of these, according to neurologists, exerts memory, creativity, motor skills, and releases oxytocin, which creates emotional trust between people.

Music is so powerful that one often neglects the words of a well-written melody and sometimes the key or produced effects of music elicit a "mood" that speaks more clearly than words. Very touching melodies, the sort where the notation follows in sequence rather than spilling all over the place for the sake of "theory", can render even memorable words immemorable, as Beethoven did to Schiller's An die Freude. This same power of melody made the Beatles and Beach Boys popular despite the inanity of the words. Yet it is the unique combination of melody and word that makes the Marian anthems of the season my favorites in the liturgical canon.

Alma Redemptoris Mater has never "done it" for me; melodically it dithers too much and lyrically it lacks the rhythmic qualities that make the other three anthems so very singable. Ave Regina caelorum and Regina coeli, however, are this writer's most favored of the four anthems precisely because their simple tone variants perfectly marry a straightforward, balanced base text to a tune that accentuates and punctuates those words adequately.

Ave Regina caelorum, like the Ordinary setting of Lenten Masses, is given in a major key, beginning low and climbing high in saluting the Blessed Virgin under several titles (Queen of Heaven, Lady of Angels etc) before trilling at the top of the scale to change the direction of the prayer from greeting to petition (Rejoice, O Glorious Virgin) and finally resting with the request that She might pray to Her Divine Son on our behalf.

Regina coeli does something very similar with a more spartan set of words, but instead of a "climbing" melody that cheers up the grimness of Lent, it begins high and slowly relaxes at the end of each verb and its accompanying Alleluia. Rather than provide relief, as the Lenten music does, Regina coeli reflects the confidence, heart-throbbing joy of a mother who can touch Her once-dead Son.

One wonders if, when God disposed the human mind toward the qualities of music, He had the Felix culpa of the Fall and His Son's restoration of us, His image, in mind?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Gregory Hesse Contra Mundum

Amid of the impending "canonization" of Giovanni Battista Montini it might be time to revisit, in vignette form, the life of one of his more interesting modern critics, Gregory Hesse.

The traditionalist world seems interested in Don Gregorio, whose only previous post on this website is the most viewed in the blog's six year history by far. Hesse worked at the Mercedes-Benz factory until taking an interest in the Church, becoming a priest at the hands of Archbishop Sabattini in Saint Peter's Basilica. He served Cardinal Stickler as his private secretary for a few years, celebrating the 5PM Latin Novus Ordo in Saint Peter's until he and Stickler were forced into retirement, the cardinal because of his age and Hesse because of his orthodoxy. In retirement he ran a "ratline" for traditional seminarians to get ordained through the canonically normal methods and he even had a friendship with Fr. Gilles Wach of the Institute of Christ the King, the erection of which he helped facilitate. The erosion of the papacy under John Paul II and further historical research only served to radicalize his opinions (or clarify, depending on one's perspective) and aligned his views greatly with those of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, which he championed, but never joined.

Perhaps most interesting about Hesse is that he was an interesting man, like Quintin Montgomery-Wright he was a welcomed and vivacious break from the chary, dull world of '90s traditionalists who spout off canons from the Council of Trent without having read the full documents of the sessions. According to Fr. Chadwick, Hesse loved to hum the theme to the Munsters as he went about life and had a strong fascination with steam locomotives, imitating the noises to Fr. Anthony's surprise. Due to a heart condition he consumed a great amount of red wine, which probably caused complications to his diabetes. Above all, his opinions, while not always original, were always informed, well cited, and easily presented to the faithful for consideration; part of the resurgence in interest in Don Gregorio no doubt comes from the availability of his very accessible and understandable talks on YouTube.

Rather than prattle on with more unoriginal information I will instead present these [relatively] new images and quotes borrowed from this website dedicated to Don Gregorio's memory. Not knowing a word of German I blame Google Translate for all misquotations.

Colonel Gregory Hesse, Union Army
Now he drives the British out of Lexington
Inside Hesse's apartment, presumably in Austria
Ordination to the priesthood in Saint Peter's Basilica, 1981. Note the altar at the Throne was still intact.
Hesse's ordaining bishop, Cardinal Sabattini, eventually became Archpriest of the Basilica.

Don Gregorio's house chapel. Fr. Hesse was strictly old rite, not 1962.
The trains....
At work in Rome with a primitive computer in 1988

"I can assure you that I myself experience time and again how uncomfortable in the human sense how uncomfortable the observance of the Ten Commandments and the sacramental practice are. And just this inconvenience - where you have to write in the so-called civilized countries: "In a word: no sex" - is what drives people into the hands of these secret societies."

"The most common word in the [Second Vatican] Council is the word "but". "

"I read Mein Kampf , I also read the Koran and the Second Vatican Council. This is common to all three books: A deep truth, then complete nonsense, then a deep untruth, then again complete nonsense and then again a deep truth - really leaps and bounds. I therefore dare to suppose that both the Koran, Mein Kampf , and Vatican II have the same author."

"A council convened to condemn nothing and define nothing, and of which not a single decree in the nineteenth century had the episcopal permission to publish, but most of it had landed on the list of banned books, and so on is not a council! This is Pistoia No. 2, the second robber's synod. Nothing else. And in the future, when we again have a Catholic as pope, they will be scrapped, and then we will be rid of all that junk and will not have to spend the evening here, instead of bowling. - - So I do not go bowling, I go to the model railway club!"

"The Peter brothers and the Institute of the Christ King have to tell the believers in the pulpit that they have nothing against the New Rite and that they have nothing against the Second Vatican Council. That's exactly what two thousand years ago was incense sprinkling for the emperor."

"The Protestant used to go to Vienna on vacation and burst into St. Stephen's Cathedral "accidentally" on Sunday at ten o'clock in the Pontifical High Mass of the Cardinal, stops, looks at this, sounds like that, is shaken to the depths, kneel down and say: "That's the true religion, there's God. "- If he gets into St. Stephen's Cathedral today at ten o'clock, he gets gastritis."

"The same people who deny original sin also deny the Immaculate Conception, which means that they are actually very behind in logic."

"The anti-extremists, the Greens, are at the forefront of banning legitimate amusements: smoking is forbidden, shooting is forbidden - everything is forbidden, which is fair and right."

"There is one person Cardinal Stickler is constantly lying to - the one he sees that when shaving."

"We are experiencing the spread of the errors of Russia: The errors of Russia are on the third floor of the apostolic palace."

"Until 1870, the Papal State was a perfectly sovereign secular state with jurisdiction over life and death. Even under Pius IX death sentences were still executed in the Vatican. It is a deplorable fact that this no longer happens today, I know many candidates there."

"Hydrogen peroxide burns instantly on contact with organic matter. The Pope can not change that. He can not publish a decree that says: The priests drink only hydrogen peroxide instead of water. That would lead to a reasonable cleansing in the clergy, but he can not do that."

"The devil tries to make it clear to man that there is more to him than to God. This, of course, happens through what appeals to people: money, power, knowledge, boredom, sex and similar fun things, all of which are very entertaining."

"I like to shoot black powder, which is dangerous too. Only it is not half as dangerous as to deal with apparitions and wonders. Because if I make a mistake with black powder, then I made the first and last mistake and killed my body. But the hobby of apparitions and wonders can kill the soul."

"The 21st Century starts at 0 o'clock, New Year's Eve, when the Pummerin beats on St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, the Danube Waltz sounds on ORF and the 1st of January 2001 begins ... - and I fire a cannon on my balcony."

"I will not stop the confessor from telling him about my eating habits. At the most I can tell him - when light is in the confessional, he sees it immediately - that I am eating too much."

Fr. Hesse's kitchen, with copper sauce pans and carbon steel French skillets

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

When the Saints Come Slouching In

The heavily politicized canonizations of the postconciliar era continue unabated. Papa Montini is the latest to receive the dubious honor of being scheduled for elevation to the altars. No doubt the bloggers and twitterers will be aflutter with commentary on the greatness of Paolo Sextus—how he saved the world from the terror of birth control and ushered in an era of liturgical glory.

About a week ago I had a long conversation with an old friend of my wife's who was complaining about some bad habits of Tradistanis, in particular the mindless aphorism that a good Catholic should "Be like the saints." What about St. Simon the Stylite, she wondered, who lived the last few decades of his life upon a pillar? Should we also live on a pillar until our deaths, or should we arbitrarily choose another saint to imitate? The question was provocative, but it made the point that it is rather absurd to advocate the imitation of the saints without being somewhat more specific about the ways in which we are to imitate them.

It used to be that sainthood was a glory bestowed on certain of the faithful departed who had lived a life of extraordinary virtue in some manner worthy of admiration and imitation. They needed to be publicly recognized so that we could learn from their spiritual fruitfulness and also so they could be called upon for intercession with the Most High. God especially loves those who love him, and is more willing to be swayed by their requests.

Christians could learn what makes a good pope from Gregory the Great, what makes a good penitent from Augustine, what makes a good monk from Benedict. Martyrs teach a simple though difficult lesson, but the lessons we are supposed to abstract from most of the more recently elevated are ambiguous. What shall we learn from Teresa of Calcutta: that we may permit pagans to die unbaptized? Shall we learn from Mary Faustina Kowalska how to feminize Our Lord? Can Josemaria Escriva teach us how to terrorize our subordinates? Was John Paul's particular virtue popularity? When the virtues desired for imitation are not specified, the faithful are left to assume that those canonized are perfect through and through without any shade of turning, and will perform extraordinary feats of mental gymnastics to maintain this pious fiction.

Adding P. Paul to the very kalendar he created is fitting, if not edifying. We do not yet know how Pontifrancis intends to laud his progressive predecessor. One wishes we had reason to hope for the best, but one also knows better.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Candlemas: A Case of Mutual Enrichment (Conflation?)

Having just returned from a celebration of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Mater Dei (aka Tradistan Dallas) I feel uncertain as to whether or not I can pinpoint exactly which edition of the Roman Missal was celebrated last night. Was in the old rite? Was it 1962? Was it the Novus Ordo Missae? The only possible response is "yes."

Candles were in a basket in the narthex, which I found odd. The procession entered the church to Ave Regina coelorum, an odd choice since the Nativity season ends after Vespers of the feast, not prior to its Mass. Alma Redemptoris Mater at the beginning with Ave Regina coelorum at the end would have been a nice touch. I noticed the celebrant was wearing a violet cope, a first for Mater Dei, and mistakenly got my hopes up.

The blessing of the candles happened, but the candles were not near the altar to be blessed, although the table to hold them was there and barren. Instead, it seems as though the candles already in our hands, acquired in the narthex, would be it. At this point we transitioned from the pre-Pius XII rite to the Novus Ordo, summarily leaving out large chunks of traditional liturgical action for the purpose of pastoral accommodation. The celebrant traversed the aisle, sprinkling lustral water as he went; the use of incense, prescribe in the [presumably 1962] Missal was omitted.

Candles in hand and priest in purple cope, we skipped the antiphon and old rite Flectamus genua for an immediate Procedamus in pace, at which point the choir began to sing the antiphonal setting of the Nunc dimittis prescribed for the distribution of candles (!) and skipped the processional antiphons. Whatever time the organizers hoped to save by eschewing the distribution of candles was lost because one person genuflected when leaving his pew for the procession, causing the next three hundred people to do the same thing, making it take five minutes for people simply to leave their seats. Would grabbing a candle and kissing the priest's hand have taken longer? Maybe only a little.

After the procession a regular Missa cantata was celebrated, sans the preparatory prayers, per 1962, that rite's first clear appearance last night. The absence of the psalm and Confiteor temporarily confused people as to whether they should stand, like the celebrant, or kneel as is customary for the Introit and Kyrie. The Mass continued according to the rite of Econe, with bows to the Cross at the Holy Name and the Confiteor at Communion. The servers made the innocent and forgivable mistake of not lighting our candles for the Canon of Mass, although they did so for the Gospel; such things will happen; I once forgot to light the Paschal candle on Low Sunday as a young altar boy.

At the end of the Mass the Last Gospel was said, which is in the pre-Pius XII rite and may well be in 1962, but which has not been said on Candlemas at this parish in past years.

So, once again, which Roman Missal was followed? Or was this a case of mutual enrichment betwixt three editions by way of Econe?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Is the Pope a Medieval Heretic?

No, not a material heretic. A medieval heretic.

Behind Amoris laetitia and the general Communion-for-public-adulterers movement lies the seemingly modern belief that all of Man's actions revolve around the need for sex and, therefor, the Church's discipline should accommodate this mild short coming. After the sexual revolution and the pill and its other cheaper siblings Mankind will do what it will and the Church must charitably find a way to live with the fact that a complete discipline according to the Gospel is impossible. It's all quite bad and quite morose, but you may not know this idea is quite old, too.

Popular devotion and piety in the middle ages focused on pilgrimages, liturgy, votive Offices, Requiem Masses, reliquaries, and miracles. Formal theology and Church administration, however, took a decidedly different and less sanguine route. A popular opinion eventually arose among some theologians that Man, in his fallen and sinful state, could not truly live the Gospel completely, even if assisted with the help of sanctifying grace after washing in the laver of Baptism. Before Calvin stated Man was so wretched and sinful that he could not be saved unless God especially willed it, Pope Innocent III effectively said the same thing in a tract he wrote as Lothar di Segni. A frustrated Church combating the demands of a virile and warrior-ruled age threw her hands up in despair and some bishops even licensed brothels (!) in hopes the resident women would eventually become Magdalens. The same Pope Innocent who thanked God for allowing him to live in an age when the Church was triumphant seemed perpetually pessimistic toward the same Divine Institution's ability to convert hearts.

Then came Saint Francis, whose jarring poverty and detachment from the world culled anything other than the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. His disinterest in property, his pure focus on salvation, and his naive desire to live the precepts of Christ's Church to their fullest shocked paupers and prelated alike. Innocent permitted Francis to turn his friendships into a temporary brotherhood and by the time Francis died they had become a property-owning, fully-fledged religious order, unlike the small community the deacon from Assisi desired. A true Minorite did not smell like the sheep; he smelled far worse.

Which brings us to our age, when the Churchmen have revived this downtrodden medieval disposition and attempted to smell like the stench of modern sexuality. Is not Francis the cure to Francis?