The infallible and
monarch of the Church
From Papal Power by Paul Collins
Harper Collins 1997, pp 63-95
Published with the necessary permissions on our website
The effects of Vatican I
Almost unnoticed, Vatican I embodied a radical break with a long Church tradition. For centuries it was held that there were three munera, or functions, operative in the running of the Church. The first of these was the doctrinal or teaching function. It, was through this that matters of faith, belief, and morals were decided. Traditionally, the process was that theologians debated these issues, and bishops and synods made decisions about them. Finally, if the congregatio fidelium (the Catholic people) received the teaching it was accepted as the doctrine of the Church. The papacy was involved only at the end of the process, or when Church unity or order was threatened. The second function was that of ordo, the celebration of the worship and sacraments of the Church. The third was the jurisdiction or the government of the community. Clearly, the papacy played an important role in both of these functions, especially the latter, What Vatican I and its doctrines of ordinary magisterium and primacy did was to subsume the teaching and doctrinal function to that of order and jurisdiction, and concentrate all three in the pope and the Roman curia. Alberigo argues that this created a magisterial monopoly in the church with the abolition of a sense of theological pluralism.(1) In other words, what was lost was the sense of doctrinal Catholicity. The history of the Church following Vatican I demonstrates the ongoing constriction of theological diversity in the Church. We have now reached the point where the idiosyncratic agenda of a particular pope is increasingly identified with the established teaching of the Church.
We can see this progressive constriction of Catholicity in the decades between 1870 and 1960. Pius IX died in 1878 and he was succeeded by Cardinal Gioacchino Pecci, who became Leo XIII (1878-1903). He was sixty-eight at the time and was seen as a 'caretaker' pope. He had traveled widely and was conscious of contemporary culture. He inaugurated a more intellectually open and challenging papacy. He used the encyclical letter as his major means of communication with the Church and bishops. He was convinced that the theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas would help Catholicism deal with cultural currents in the modern world.Thomism was to remain normative in Catholic universities and seminaries until Vatican II. Leo also insisted, in his letter on historical studies in 1883, that scholars ought to return to the original sources and not depend on subsequent interpretations of the Christian classics. He also allowed certain scholars access to the Vatican's secret archives.
Leo XIII was aware of the development of critical methods in biblical research, especially among Protestants, and he encouraged biblical studies and even literary criticism. In 1902 he set up the Pontifical Biblical Commission. He had what we would call an ecumenical sense and was concerned about both the Orthodox and Protestants. The social question was a major focus of Leo's papacy. The contexts in which he wrote were industrialization, an increasing population, and the capitalist exploitation of workers. The socialists and communists had proposed radical, revolutionary solutions to social problems, but moderate reformers, many of them Catholics, encouraged the development of a social conscience, workers' rights, education, and basic economic justice.
Leo XIII attempted to respond to all of this. He rejected the socialist and communist solution, and in defining the nature of the relationship between Church and state he maintained that civil authority came from God and not from the people. He argued that the ideal state was arranged according to gospel principles. However, he did admit that the Church is indifferent to the form that the government takes and that Catholics ought theological diversity in the Church. We have now reached the point where the idiosyncratic agenda of a particular pope is increasingly identified with the established teaching of the Church to take part in the public affairs of all forms of government. In his famous encyclical Rerum novarum (1891), he provided the foundation of the development of Catholic social doctrine in the twentieth century.(2) It is a carefully balanced document that is essentially very conservative. The pope blames capitalism for the condition of the working class, but he warns against a socialist and revolutionary solution. The right to own property is a natural right. But this natural right must be balanced by the fact that God has given the earth to all. Leo says that inequalities are inevitable and that the class war is wrong.
While all of this might seem to contradict my comments about the constriction of Catholicity after Vatican 1, the fact is that Roman centralization continued apace under Pope Leo. The very fact that he felt that he could speak so authoritatively on all of these issues meant that the papal or Roman view immediately became the dominant, normative view to be held by all Catholics. The fact that the pope felt that it was his task to take the initiative meant that his view immediately dominated the field, and theologians were seen as mere apologists for the papal teaching. This doctrinal centralization was reinforced by the increasing control of the world Church by Rome. The enormous expansion of Catholicism outside Europe continued during this papacy, with the establishment of two hundred and forty-eight dioceses worldwide.(3) Emigration from Europe to the United States, Canada, and Australia led to the growth of the Church in these areas. In the new world the Church prospered within the context of democratic and liberal regimes, and to an extent Leo XIII recognized this. However, the unfortunate condemnation of 'Americanism' in 1899 showed that Rome still had little real understanding of the Church's relationship with the democratic regimes that characterized the English-speaking world.
Pius X (1903-1914) and the rejection of modern culture
If Leo XIII's papacy had been a cautious attempt to come to grips with the modern world. Pius X's was a repudiation of it. Giuseppe Sarto, Patriarch of Venice, was elected after a difficult conclave in which controversy centered on the possible election of Cardinal Mariano Rampolla, who was expected to continue the political policies of Leo XIII. Eventually Sarto was elected because he would be a 'religious' rather than a 'political' pope. Roger Aubert calls Pius X 'a conservative reform pope' who 'instinctively mistrusted' anything progressive.(4) Sarto certainly tried to renew the inner life of the Church. He reorganized the curia, codified canon law, reformed seminaries and catechetical instruction, changed the emphasis in Church music, and encouraged frequent communion. Nevertheless, Pius X's anti-intellectualism was to result in the Catholic Church turning inward for the next six decades, largely divorcing itself from the cultural currents of modernity and setting up a false sense of separation between Church and world.
This primarily resulted from the condemnation of modernism. On 3 July 1907, the decree Lamentabili condemned sixty-five propositions from the works of several authors, and on 8 September 1907 Pius X issued the encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis, which attacked supposed covert enemies of the Church as 'modernists.' In the first chapter (pp. 24-7) I have already described the appalling results of the witch-hunt against Modernism. Here we simply need to remind ourselves of its tragic results for the Church in the decades that followed. Fundamentally, Modernism was symptomatic of a split between those who wanted the Church to deal with and express itself in terms of the emerging modern cultural forms of the twentieth century, and those who rejected this reconciliation completely. Aubert speaks of 'the disastrous consequences of the anti-modemist suppression upon Catholic scholarship.(5) An extraordinary constriction of Catholicity occurred through the anti-Modernist oath imposed by Pius X on all ordinands, bishops, and priests appointed to teaching or administrative offices in the Church. The oath demanded acceptance of papal teaching in eodem sensu (in the same sense) and eadem semper sententia (always with the same meaning) as that proposed by Rome. In other words, there was no possibility of any form of dissent, even interior. The conscience of the person taking the oath was forced to accept not only what Rome proposed, but even the sense in which Rome interpreted it! Not only was this contrary to the traditional Catholic understanding of the role of conscience, but it was a form of thought control that was unrivaled even under fascist and communist regimes. It was Orwell's 1984 in 1910! The imposition of this oath was not removed until 1966.
Two other actions of Pius X had long-term., centralizing effects on the Church. In rejigging the Roman curia in 1907 (one could scarcely call it a 'reform'), the pope enhanced the power of the Congregation of the Holy Inquisition, renaming it the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office and making it the 'supreme' congregation of the curia. Its power over theology was absolute. But the reordering of the curia did not lead to a change of attitude on the part of the Vatican bureaucrats; in fact- their power was enhanced. In the 1917 Code of Canon Law (can. 246), all determination of theological truth was entrusted to the Holy Office. As a result it controlled the Church during the period 1910 to I960.(6) It delayed Catholicism's participation in ecumenism for decades, it excluded millions of Catholics from the sacraments (in Spain, Mexico, and later Italy) for voting for communists, and it created a difficult obstacle course of condemnation and prohibition for those theologians who were to be the foundational thinkers of Vatican II. It went far beyond the traditional task of discerning orthodoxy from heresy, and its procedures were above control or appeal. It completely suppressed licit and discussable areas of thought and conduct, and imposed on the Church an extraordinarily narrow orthodoxy.
The other aspect of Pius's reordering of the Vatican was the codification of canon law. This work began in secrecy in 1904 under the guidance of Pietro Gasparri, who became a cardinal and secretary of state in 1914. Parts of the Code were issued at various times, such as the decree Ne temere (2 August 1907), which required Catholics to marry before an authorized Catholic priest and two witnesses, and declared invalid any marriage contracted outside the Catholic Church by a Catholic. Again, this was an arbitrary restriction of the freedom of Catholics; in its reform the sixteenth-century Council of Trent had never imposed the necessity of marrying before a priest for the validity of a marriage. The Code of Canon Law was finally published in 1917 and it considerably inflated centralization and the juridical and legalistic aspects of the Latin Church. In the Code the solemn and the ordinary teaching authority were equated (can. 1323). and heresy and error were conflated (can.1324). Thus basic and traditional distinctions were abandoned in a purely canonical context, without reference to theology.1324). Thus basic and traditional distinctions were abandoned in a purely canonical context, without reference to theology.
In this way a defensive pattern of rejection of contemporary culture was established in the Sarto papacy. It was to characterize Catholicism until Vatican II.
Benedict XV (1914-1922)
Benedict XV, along with John XXIII, is one of the great popes of the twentieth century. His papacy, overshadowed by the First World War, has been consistently underestimated by historians.(7) An experienced diplomat and a protege of Rampolla, he put an end to the worst excesses of anti-Modernist integralism, and he worked for peace and justice in war-torn Europe. One of his greatest achievements was the maintenance of papal neutrality throughout the First World War. He laid the foundations for the settlement between the state of Italy and the Holy See, he restored relations with France, and he encouraged the study of Orthodox theology and practice and established the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He was interested in missionary work and insisted that missionaries focus on the task of evangelization and not just be agents of their own national brands of European cultural imperialism. He also called for the training and ordination of indigenous clergy in missionary countries, which laid the long-term foundations for the enculturation of the Church in the third world.
Benedict died tragically early at the age of sixty-seven, and was succeeded by the Archbishop of Milan, Achille Ratti. He took the style Pius XI. A scholar himself, he continued the reversal of anti-Modernist integralism, but only within the cautious limits set by the Holy Office. In fact, throughout this whole period the dominance of the Holy Office continued. The Lateran Treaties of 1929, negotiated with Benito Mussolini, were the great diplomatic achievement of the Ratti papacy. The Holy See recognized the kingdom of Italy, with Rome as its capital. The Vatican City was established as an independent state, Catholicism was recognized as the official religion of Italy, and Catholic canonical legislation on marriage became the norm for Italian civil law. A large compensation was paid to the Vatican by Italy for the loss of the Papal States.
Pius XI was confronted with the problems of both left- and right-wing totalitarianism, and he attacked communism in the encyclical Divini Redemptoris (1937). Despite the Lateran Treaties, the pope's relationship with Mussolini became increasingly strained. In retrospect, one of the disasters of this papacy was the concordat with Nazi Germany, signed in July 1933. While motivated by fear of Soviet Communism, it gave Hitler the respectability he needed. By 1937, Pius XI was denouncing Nazi racism in the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge. He also had to deal with the persecution of the Church in Mexico and the problems of the Spanish Civil War.
On the theological front, Pius promoted Catholic action and the lay apostolate, but always in terms of the laity assisting the Church because of a shortage of clergy and because priests could not enter some areas because of their clerical dignity. Lay Catholic action was always to be under the control of priests. who in turn obeyed their bishops, who themselves reported to Rome. While it gave many laity a sense of their Christian dignity and encouraged their participation in the apostolate. it was always subsumed into the hierarchical and priestly ministry and was always ultimately under the control of Rome. Pius XI was concerned with the influence of secularization on Christian institutions. The encyclical Casti connubii (1930) attacked the modern vision of marriage and reproduction. It was significant that its strong condemnation of contraception came just after the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church had given cautious approval to the limited use of contraception.
When Pius XI died in March 1939, right on the eve of the Second World War, he was succeeded immediately by his secretary of state, Eugenio Pacelli. Pius XII (1939-1958) had had wide experience and had travelled further than any other pope. The first six years of his papacy were dominated by the war. and subsequent debate has centered on his attitude toward Germany and his failure to condemn the Jewish Holocaust. In theology, he at first permitted a cautious opening to broader influences. Even during the war he published the encyclicals Mystici corporis (1943), which shifted the focus away from the hierarchical Church toward the Christian communitv as the body of Christ, and Divino affiante Spiritu (1943). which permitted the use of modern historical and critical methods in biblical study. It was the beginning of the contemporary Catholic interest in scripture. This openness was continued in Mediator Dei (1947). which provided the basis for the work of Vatican II in liturgy. He reformed the Holy Week liturgy in 1953, and set a pattern for the renewal of worship.
However, it was still the pope making all the running. The only licit doctrinal or moral position for a Catholic was what Rome approved. It was seen as the task of theology to explain and justify papal teaching. Pius XII literally pontificated on a myriad of topics and all of this became normative for belief and practice. Those theologians who were pushing the edges of Catholic thought were bluntly brought to heel in the encyclical Humani generis (12 August 1950). It was basically directed, as we have seen, against the theologians of the French Nouvelle théologie. This encyclical was the apex of the influence of the Holy Office's repressive approach to theology. The new theology was accused of attacking the foundation of Christian culture, and theologians were told that the papal magisterium was the proximate and universal norm of truth, that a decision by the pope in controversial questions was final and binding, and that the task of theology was to show how the doctrine of the magisterium was found in the sources. The Church was paralyzed by this encyclical for another decade, and it negated much of the good that had been achieved earlier in Pius XII's papacy.
The high point of Pius's papacy was probably 1950. It was a Holy Year and millions came to Rome on pilgrimage. Papal audiences became very important and it was in these audiences that the tall, ascetic-looking pope lectured those present on a vast range of topics. He was the first pope to realize the importance of the media and used it widely. He expanded the college of cardinals both numerically and nationally, although his authoritarian and solitary style increasingly diminished the role of cardinals. He was popularly seen by many ordinary people as almost 'quasi-divine.'
However, during the illnesses of Pius's declining years, power slipped into the hands of the curalists who surrounded him. His death in October 1958 marked a turning point. He was succeeded by the greatest pope of the twentieth century, John XXIII. A decisive break with myopic Roman centralism and the extraordinary renewal that would take place at the Second Vatican Council were at. hand.
John XXIII (1958-1963)(8)
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who was born near Bergamo in 1881, came to the papacy with long experience in the diplomatic service in Bulgaria and Greece, where he established good relations with the Orthodox. During the Second World War he served in Turkey and from 1944 to 1953 was Papal Nuncio in Paris.(9) He left Paris in January 1953 and was appointed a cardinal and Patriarch of Venice. Here he found his true metier in full-time pastoral work. Roncalli was a mixture of the pietistic attitudes of his generation of Italian clerics arid an openness that allowed him to live and let live. His spirituality was traditional and simple, but it always remained humane and gentle. Despite his long years in the diplomatic service he was never a curalist. He never saw himself as an 'intellectual,' but he was a competent historian and antiquarian.
The long illness that led up to the death of Pius XII had left the curia in disarray, but still under the control of the career curalists. Roncalli emerged as one of the possible candidates before the conclave, but it took eleven ballots to elect him. He took the style John and the numeration XXIII indicated that Baldassare Gossa, elected by the Council of Pisa in 1410 as John XXIII, was considered an antipope by Rome. As pope, Roncalli was clearly perceived as transitional. However, his humanity, affability, and humor were in sharp contrast to his austere and remote predecessor and he quickly became popular. People sensed in him warmth, gentleness, and a genuine spirituality. Right from the start the themes that were to typify his papacy quickly emerged: unity in the Church, ecumenism and unity with other Christians, and justice in the world.
Anyone wishing to understand the problems of contemporary papalism must understand the pivotal, watershed role the Second Vatican Council played in the recent history of Catholicism. It was the moment of liberation, the break with the narrow and uncatholic orthodoxy of the previous two centuries. In many ways the history of the papacy since the close of the Council in 1965 has been a long, painful retreat from Vatican 11. But the forces for change unleashed at the Council have never been quite defeated. While Catholics are now in the post-Vatican II era, the vision of Vatican II has never actually been realized in Church structures. The papacy itself is the major obstacle to this. So it is worth reviewing what happened at the Council if only to reinvigorate the sense of freedom that was realized between 1962 and 1965.
The initiative to hold a council seems to have come primarily from Pope John himself. In the new History of Vatican II, Giuseppe Alberigo comments:
The calling of a new Council was ... the fruit of a personal conviction of the pope, one that slowly took form in his mind, was strengthened by others, and finally became an authoritative and irrevocable decision during the three-month period after his election to the pontificate. It was a free and independent decision such as perhaps was never made before in the history of ecumenical or general Councils.(10)
The pope announced his intention on 25 January 1959, to an unenthusiastic group of cardinals in the chapter house of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls. John intended that the Council be open and ecumenical in the broadest sense, and in October 1959 invitations were sent to the 'separated Christian churches.' Control of the conciliar preparations was in the hands of the secretary of state, Cardinal Domenico Tardini, and the curia. Their aim was an in-house council approving, but not debating, documents previously prepared by the curia. Rome simply presupposed that its views were the only possible ones.(11)Most of the curalists were very similar to each other: Italian career bureaucrats usually of limited theological knowledge and ability. Some were good canon lawyers and most were educated within the narrow confines of the Roman seminaries.(12) The prevailing view in the Vatican was that John had made a bad mistake in calling the Council, which, from the viewpoint of Roman centralism, was correct.
But there were other powerful forces at work in the Church. In order to facilitate ecumenism, John set up the Secretariat for Christian Unity in March 1960, directed by the German Jesuit biblical scholar, Cardinal Augustin Bea, who had been the main author of Divino afflante Spiritu. Some of the bishops began to demand that preparation for the Council turn outward to the world and its needs. The French, for instance, asked that, the Council confront the problems of the developing world, an idea echoed by Cardinals Josef Frings of Cologne and Bernard Alfrink of Utrecht, who also spoke of the need for decentralization in the Church. Archbishop Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn wanted a broad, ecumenical approach, and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini of Milan said that the Church must adapt to the needs of the age.
In the period prior to the Council there was also a parallel preparation carried on by theologians. Archbishop Jaeger, for instance, called for a Council that would be democratic, collegial, and open. He urged lay participation. But it was Hans Küng, then a young, outspoken Swiss theologian, who succeeded in spelling out the alternative agenda. In The Council and Reunion he outlined a conciliar program that was extraordinarily prophetic.(13) He wanted:
- reform of the Catholic Church leading to reunion with other Christians
- emphasis on the use of the Bible in theology and worship
- development of a vernacular liturgy
- an emphasis on the universal priesthood of all believers
- dialogue with other cultures and religions
- reform of the Roman curia and abolition of the Index of Forbidden Books
- a de-politicization of the papacy
The bookand Küng's lectures all over the worldenjoyed enormous publicity and offered a real alternative program. In the three years leading up to the Council it was theologians like Küng who broke the stranglehold of the Holy Office and the curia; the curalists were simply caught unprepared, especially for the intense media interest in preparations for the Council. The theological foundations of the Council had been laidat times at great personal costby scholars during the previous thirty years. The groundwork was already in place for a new view of the Church.
The Council opened on 11 October 1962.(14) The pope's opening address sketched a vision of vast optimism. He insisted that the Church must look outward into contemporary existence. He disagreed with the 'prophets of doom who announce ever more unhappy events.'(15) The Council was not about condemnation: 'Today ... the Bride of Christ prefers using the medicine of mercy rather than severity.' The agenda of Gregory XVI was bluntly turned around and it was clear to perceptive observers that the theological schemata prepared by the curia did not correspond to the attitude that the pope had emphasized in his opening address(16) The way was left open for the reformist majority. They were not slow in seizing the initiative.
It was the largest council in Church history: there were 2640 voting participants, the vast majority of whom were bishops. Superiors general of clerical religious orders also had a vote. Participants included 1041 Europeans, 956 North and South Americans, 300 from Asia and Oceania, and 279 from Africa. The numerical superiority of the Italians, who had dominated Trent and Vatican I, was gone. Present throughout the sessions were about fifty Orthodox and Protestant observers. They were there despite the attempts of the curalists who opposed their presence. These 'separated brethren and the psychological influence they exercised were to be profoundly important. Their attendance constantly reminded the Council that Catholicism did not exhaust Christianity, and that the imperative of Christian unity must be kept before the Council.
The first session (13 October to 8 December, 1962)(17)
Each morning the bishops gathered in Saint Peter's Basilica there were tiered stands erected on both sides along the length of the navefor Mass and then debate in Latin. Afternoons and evenings were increasingly taken up with meetings, conferences, and lectures as participants and theologians attempted to sort out the issues for themselves. On the first day, the curia tried to stampede the Council into accepting its list of members of conciliar commissions. Led by Cardinals Achille Liénart (Lille) and Josef Frings (Cologne), the Council put off these elections for three days and the commissions were given a much broader spread of representation. This is not to say that it was only the group of curalists aligned with Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani who opposed what was quickly to become the progressive majority. There were always different constellations of bishops who opposed various reforms, and there was a small but consistent group who really opposed everything for which Vatican II stood.
The first session debated schemata on the liturgy, revelation, communications media, Church unity, and the nature of the Church. The schemata prepared by the curial theologians under the guidance of Ottavianirevelation, Church unity, and ecclesiologywere summarily rejected by the large majority. Among the bishops there was strong emphasis on an ecumenical approach. Bishop Emile De Smedt of Bruges (Belgium), the finest speaker of the Council and one of its best theologians, summed up the majority view of the three schemata prepared by the Holy Office when he said that they (he was referring to the schema on the Church) smacked of 'Romanism' and were characterized by triumphalism, clericalism, and juridicism. De Smedt also emphasized the importance of ecumenism.
This was summed up in the debate about the schema on revelation, which, having been prepared by the Ottaviani commission, was a restatement of the old 'two separate sources' notion: the Bible was one source of God's revelation and the Church tradition another. But in the years prior to the Council the view of Josef Geiselmann gained ground: there was no distinction between scripture and tradition, and that tradition was actually the Church's ongoing interpretation of scripture in the demands of everyday life, which meant that scripture was not a second and independent source of revelation: it was simply the flip side of tradition. Such a view was much more biblical and more acceptable to Protestants. This open attitude was constantly repeated by the other leaders of the majority, Cardinals Paul Léger (Montreal), Franz König (Vienna), Bernard Alfrink (Utrecht), Léon-Joseph Suenens (Brussels), and the Melkite Patriarch, Maximos IV Saigh.
Because the pre-conciliar liturgy commission was fairly widely representative, debate on the schema on worship reversed the roles of progressives and conservatives. The progressives supported much that was in the schema and the conservatives wanted it radically changed. The debate centered on the issues of the use of vernacular languages in the Mass and sacraments, communion under both kinds, the concelebration of Mass, and, perhaps most importantly, whether local conferences of bishops could decide on liturgical changes For their own cultures with only general reference to Rome. While there was strong opposition to liturgical reform from some Italians, interestingly it was some of the English-speaking bishops who provided the stoutest opposition to the use of the vernacular, concelebration, and to communion under both kinds. No decisions were taken at the first session and, like all other topics, the schema went back to the commission for rewriting. Little was achieved in what was a superficial discussion of the media. The discussion was shelved for the next session.
The first session concluded on 8 December with very little in terms of concrete results. But the bishops had begun to think for themselves and to make their own decisions. It was now clear that this would not be a Council that merely approved prepared texts. It had gained its own momentum. A coordinating commission was set up with wider representation, and the schemata had gone back to much broader commissions for rewriting. The curia had been put firmly in its place.
Pope John XXIII died on 3 June 1963, the most important pope of the twentieth century. He had succeeded in initiating a revolution and things would never be the same again. But the future of the Council lay in the hands of his successor.
Paul VI (1963-1978)(18)
Giovanni Battista Montini was elected on the sixth
ballot of a two-day conclave that was the largest in history.(19) He took the
style Paul VI. In the conclave the anti-conciliar cardinals had at first tried
to exclude both Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna (who was considered very liberal)
and Montini.(20) He had been born near Brescia in 1897. His father was a
newspaper editor who was later a member of the Italian parliament and who was
strongly opposed to Fascism. From 1922 to 1954, with the exception of a brief
stint in the Warsaw nunciature. Montini worked in the Secretariat of State,
eventually becoming assistant to Pacelli. When Pacelli became Pius XII, he
worked closely with the pope. Always a moderate, he was anti-Fascist and widely
read in French Catholic thought. He was also deeply involved in the Catholic
student movement and, after the war, in support of moderate elements in the
Italian Christian Democratic party. His nine years in Milan gave him
considerable pastoral experience and in 1958 he was made a cardinal. Pope John
involved him in preparations for the Council and he was an active member of the
Central Preparatory Commission. In 1960 he visited Brazil and the United States
(where he met President Eisenhower), and in 1962 he took an extended trip to
Zimbabwe (then known as Southern Rhodesia), Upper Volta. Nigeria, and
Paul VI felt he faced a daunting task: how to continue the Council and, at the same time, win over the persistent curial opposition. Hebblethwaite outlines the problem clearly.
The fact that some twenty-two to twenty-five cardinals declined to vote for Montini. even when his election was assured, remained a worrying handicap. They were mostly Italian, and mostly in the Curia. Their refusal to vote for him meant they were not prepared to yield an inch. ... He would have to find some way of winning the Curia over to the Council while at the same time reassuring it that orthodoxy would not thereby collapse.(22)
In some ways this is the key to this papacy, and to subsequent papal history: it was a constant compromise between keeping the reactionaries in the curia and the wider Church onside, while attempting to grapple with modernity and the realities of contemporary ministry. This same compromise infected the Council, and much that has happened to the Church since 1965 has resulted from it. The tragic fact is that it is because the Church failed to make an unequivocal commitment to the contemporary world at the Council and in the years following it that Catholicism is now facing profound theological and ministerial problems that make it seem irrelevant to more and more of its own people.
The second session (29 September to 4 December, 1963)
Pope Paul VI immediately announced that the Council would continue. When the second session began, he set out four major tasks for the succeeding sessions.(23) Firstly, he called for a doctrinal presentation on the nature of the Church; secondly, he wanted an inner renewal of the Church; thirdly, he pledged the Church to work for Christian unity and asked forgiveness for the papacy's part in causing disunity: and fourthly, he broadened ecumenism to include a dialogue with the wider world.
The Council followed the papal suggestions and the debate opened with a consideration on the revised schema on the Church. It contained chapters on the people of God (laity), the hierarchy, and the role of Mary in the Church. A fierce debate broke out over the chapter on the hierarchy and specifically on the question of collegiality. A minority saw this as an encroachment on papal primacy and denied that it was based in either scripture or tradition. At this time the restoration of the permanent deaconate was also debated. Many speakers saw this as a threat to celibacy: who would choose to be celibate if they could be full-time deacons and marry? Most support for the deaconate came from missionary countries that were already short-staffed.
Discussion on this schema dragged on, and it became clear that the Council was floundering and in crisis. The only ones to profit from this were those who wanted the Council to fail. To break the deadlock a straw vote was taken and it became clear that both collegiality and the permanent deaconate would gain the necessary two-thirds vote. The schema on the pastoral office of bishops was introduced. It reflected a pre-conciliar, legalistic approach, and was rejected and sent back to the commission for a complete rewriting.
In November, the schema on ecumenism was introduced. It was more widely accepted, but debate immediately focused on the relationship of the Catholic Church to the Jewish people and the issue of religious liberty. Introducing the schema, Cardinal Bea spoke of the terrible consequences of anti-Semitism and of the difficult question of the status of the state of Israel. This became a crisis issue for Arabic Christians. It was De Srnedt who focused the religious liberty question: every person who follows their own conscience in religious matters, he argued, has a right to authentic religious freedom. Nothing can take the place of a free judgment of an individual conscience. It had been the American Jesuit John Courtney Murray who had developed the theory of the compatibility of Catholicism and a free society, and the strongest push for religious liberty came from the bishops of the United States. For those bishops from countries with a democratic tradition there was no problem with this. But there was strong opposition from many Latin bishops where Catholicism was the majority religion. The two problem chapters on the Jews and religious freedom were eventually pushed into a temporary limbo in the second session.
Meanwhile some work had been brought to a conclusion. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and the Decree on Social Communications were adopted on 4 December 1963. The liturgy constitution laid the foundation for the most radical overhaul of Church worship in history, and had great impact on ordinary Catholics in the parishes. But the ill-considered Decree on Social Communications has been subsequently consigned to the oblivion it deserves. However, there was a sense in which something had at last been achieved. To many, Paul VI's role in the second session seemed ambivalent. Throughout his papacy he often seemed to vacillate. At Vatican II he seemed unwilling to support the majority, to make a stand. But he had to guarantee the freedom of all, and humiliation and confrontation is not the way of the Vatican in dealing with its own. And the main opponents of the Council were the curalists themselves.
The pope concluded the session by announcing a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and a meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Orthodoxy. Athenagoras, which took place in January 1964. This action strengthened the ecumenical thrust of the Council and, as one of the first major papal journeys, it had a worldwide impact. Much work went on between the sessions. A liturgy committee was set up with Cardinal Lercaro as president and Annibale Bugnini as secretary.(24) But there were enormous problems in combining the work of this committee with existing bodies, the Congregation of Rites and the conciliar commission. Another problem was the escalating cost of the Council. Many felt that the third session would have to be the last.
The third session (14 September to 21 November, 1964)(25)
This session saw both the climax and the major crisis of the Council. The session began with the presentation of nine schemata: on the ministry and life of priests, the missions, the lay apostolate, religious life, Christian education, the Church in the modern world, the sacrament of marriage, the Eastern churches, and the Church. Eventually several of these were combined, eliminated, or integrated. The text on the laity was inadequate and dated: it still said that the ministry of laity was delegated by the clergy. There was no appreciation that ministry flowed directly from baptism and that all Christians shared in the priesthood of Christ. Likewise the text on the priesthood emphasized piety, avoided the question of celibacy, and gave the impression that priests were second-class and unimportant compared to bishops. This schema also was sent back for rewriting.
The important schema on The Church in the Modern World was introduced on 20 October. Pope Paul was one of the prime movers of this schema and he was determined to see it through the Council, It eventually evolved into the greatest document of the Council, with far-reaching implications: its aim was to shift the focus of the Church outward to the world, which was the context of the Church's ministry. The discussion on this schema ranged across a whole range of modern issues including contraception, social justice, sexuality, population, and a total ban on nuclear weapons.
However, dissatisfaction with the administration of the Council had been simmering throughout the third session. It focused on the secretary-general, Archbishop Pericle Felici, who, it was felt, was manipulating the Council on behalf of the conservative minority(26) Feelings reached a crisis point on 14 November when the revised schema On the Church was given to the bishops. The third chapter on collegiality was the storm center. Felici informed the Council that a 'superior authority' (whom everyone presumed to be Paul VI) had imposed a nota explicativa praevia (an explicative note) to the chapter to preclude any encroachment on the papal primacy by the notion of collegiality. Confusion reigned: was the nota part of the text? 'No,' said Felici. What was its purpose, then? Felici said the bishops had to understand the text and to vote in terms of the nota. Why had the pope imposed the nota on the Council as a precondition for voting? As Hebblethwaite shows, the pressure on the pope from the minority conservatives from the beginning of the session was considerable.(27) The pope wanted moral unanimity when the text was voted on and he knew that the minority conservatives would never agree unless the nota was imposed. However, many bishops were furious over this action, which was considered arbitrary and unnecessary. The nota probably did not alter the sense of the text but the question remained: Did the pope have the right to determine the interpretation of the text in advance? A somewhat gloomy Council eventually adopted the texts On the Church, Christian Unity, and the Eastern Churches on 21 November 1964. The schema On the Church has been viewed by most as the theological highlight of the Council, but the unresolved problems in the text still cause trouble for Catholics today. The now separate declarations on religious liberty and the Jews were put off until the next session.
When the third session of the Council closed it was clear that there would have to be a fourth session and that enormous work would have to be done before it. Most of the majority bishops were depressed, as were the observers from the other churches. But the reactionaries were happy. There was a core group of two to three hundred who formed the Coetus Patrum Internationalis (the international group of fathers) who opposed religious liberty, collegiality, ecumenism, and the deaconate.(28) Many were also anti-Semitic. Between the sessions work continued on all the outstanding documents.
The fourth session (14 September to 8 December, 1965)(29)
Prior to the opening of the session. Paul VI announced that he would reform the Roman curia and that canon law would be revised. The questions of mixed marriages and birth control continued to be openly discussed. This session was largely fought out in the committees framing the schemata, rather than in Saint Peter's. It also saw the beginning of the debate about the role of women in the Church. The pope opened the session with the announcement that he would set up:
in accordance with the wishes of the Council, an episcopal synod of bishops to be chosen for the greater part by the episcopal conferences and approved by us, which will be convened ... by the Roman Pontiff, for consultation and collaboration when ... this will seem most opportune to us.(30)
It was a concession, but it was a toothless tiger. The pope called it at his discretion, presided over it, determined its agenda, and decided how its results would be communicated. While Paul VI made desultory efforts to make it work, it was nothing more than a parody of a synod.
The Council was under pressure; this had to be the last session., if only because of financial concerns. The Declaration on Religious Liberty was the first item on the agenda. The debate was protracted and the reactionary Coetus opposed it in every possible way. The core of the declaration was that no human power could command conscience. Modern society was recognized as essentially pluralistic. The declaration did not pass until the second last day of the Council. The decrees on The Pastoral Office of Bishops and The Renewal of the Religious Life passed without a great deal of trouble. Few people took post-conciliar renewal more seriously than did religious orders, but the decree itself was not an impressive document. Debates continued on schema on the Church in the Modern World, priestly life, and the missions. Simmering under the surface of the discussion of priestly life was the celibacy issue. Paul VI became quite emotional over this and discussion of it was forbidden as 'inopportune.' This was the first issue to be withdrawn from the Council by the pope.
The revised Declaration on Relations with Non-Christian Religions (an expansion of the Declaration on the Jews) came before the Council again in mid-October. The issue was as divisive as ever. Bishops from Arab countries were still convinced that a declaration on the Jews would imply recognition of the State of Israel. Despite the fact that the declaration was directed to Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, and the other religions, it was the section on the Jews that received the most attention. Two hundred and fifty bishops opposed the Declaration to the end. The rewritten Constitution on Divine Revelation was also opposed to the end by a small minority. The decrees on the Apostolate of the Laity',the Missionary Activity of the Church., and the Ministry and Life of Priests were passed by mid-November. These were unimpressive documents. As we shall see later (pp. 102-7), the decree on the priesthood has been particularly problematic.
The last big issue for the Council to surmount was the schema on the Church in the Modern World. Despite enormous work on the document by ten subcommittees, there were still many problems to be resolved when it was submitted to the Council. There was a long discussion on marriage and sexuality, but the question of birth control was unhappily skirted on the pope's request. This was the second issue withdrawn from the Council by the pope, significantly both of them being related to sexuality. Over four hundred and fifty bishops said the schema was too soft on atheism and communism. The question of nuclear war and deterrence was fully debated. This was the time of the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the question of conscientious objection also arose. World population was also mentioned and there was a group that attempted to use the pope's name to introduce a condemnation of contraception into the schema. The schema was finally approved on 7 December 1965.
That same day the pope and the Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras agreed to 'consign to oblivion' the mutual excommunications that had poisoned the relationship between Catholics and Orthodox since 1054. On 8 December 1965, the Council ended. In itself it had been the most extraordinary event in the history of Catholicism since the Reformation, and perhaps in the whole of the second millennium of Christianity. But in order to bring it to fruition major compromises had been made. Catholics are now living with the consequences of those compromises and of all that happened after 1965.
The conciliar implementation under Paul VI
The work of Vatican II did not finish on 8 December 1965. It continued through the application of the practical reforms right across the life of the Churchworship, ecumenical relations, the establishment of episcopal conferences, the rejigging of the curia, the updating of religious orders and the priesthood, the rewriting of canon lawand through a whole new spirit of openness that spread throughout the Church. But the compromises that had been made, and the failure to reform the Vatican thoroughly, meant that there was always a window of opportunity for those who wished to maintain the old values and structures.
Enormous expectations had been built up by Vatican II. Much of the bitterness and disappointment of the present, the alienation of so many Catholics from the Church, and the loss of so many able clergy from the ministry, results from the hopes that were built up in the immediate post-conciliar period. Enormous energy was expended in the renewal of the Church and its institutions, but to many that all seems to have been betrayed by the Church's current leadership. The novelist Morris West has spoken of "the deep hurt and division ... within the post-Vatican II generation, who ... see the fading of the hopes they had invested in the updating and renewal of the church.'(31) This sense of alienation has only become apparent fifteen to twenty years after the Council, although the condemnation of contraception in Humanae vitae (1968) led many to abandon the practice of Catholicism.
The immediate period after 1965 saw a whole series of post-conciliar documents applying and expanding the reforms of Vatican II.(32) Between 1963 and 1981, forty separate documents were issued on the reform of the liturgy and set out practical applications of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. There were sixteen documents on ecumenism and ecumenical activities, fifteen on the reform of religious life, six on priesthood, and six from the Synod of Bishops. Of these the most important were clearly those on worship, ecumenism, and the religious life.
Ecumenism was a priority lor Paul VI and his meetings with Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury (23 March 1966) and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I at Istanbul (25 July 1967) and Rome (26 October 1967) were highlights of his papacy. One most significant yet least noticed of the ecumenical documents was the Apostolic Letter of Paul VI Matrimonia mixta (7 January 1970)(33)It dealt with the complex problem of 'mixed marriages' between non-Catholics and Catholics, especially in countries where there was a significant number of both Catholics and Anglican and Protestant Christians. The pope tried to engage the bishops of the world in the preparation of the letter but received little response. Collegiality is a two-way street. Probably because of the lack of input, it is not as radical as it could have been. There has still been very little work done to support mixed marriages ecumenically.
In the Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae (1967), Paul VI reformed the Roman curia. This reform broke the tenure of cardinals prefect of Roman congregations. Their position was to be reviewed every five years, they had to retire at seventy-five, and their tenure lapsed altogether on the death of the pope. Secondly the Secretariat of State (or Papal Secretariat) emerged as the core of the Vatican. All business now flows through this body: it has become a curia within the curia. The Council for the Public Affairs of the Church administers Church relationships with civil governments and the papal diplomatic service. In a further streamlining under John Paul II, the secretariat of state has been divided into two sections: the first deals with general Church affairs and the second with relations with states. In this sense, the secretary of state has now truly become a kind of papal prime minister. But, like the rejigging of Pius X, this was ultimately a superficial exercise. It did nothing to confront the notion that the curia 'owns' and 'runs' the Church. The structures and even some of the personnel changed, but the underlying attitudes remained the same.
In 1969, the French Cardinal Jean Villot was appointed secretary of state, succeeding the aged Cardinal Amleto Cicognani. But under Paul VI the key men were the Substitutes. Archbishops (later Cardinals) Giovanni Benelli and Agostino Casaroli. The industrious and dynamic Benelli dealt with ordinary affairs arid Casaroli with the controversial Ostpolitik, the Vatican's attempt to negotiate with the communist regimes of Eastern Europe.
Giancarlo Zizola has pointed out that the Papal Secretariat, which was meant to be a coordinating body of the curia, has, in fact, become a duplicate curia that surrounds and protects the pope(34)The 'old' curia remained pretty much as it was. with a certain amount of tinkering and renaming. The Holy Office, for instance, became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). and its first prefect was the friendly Yugoslav, Cardinal Franjo Seper. The Louvain scholar, Monsignor Charles Moeller, was brought in as CDF Secretary, but he soon returned to Belgium. The International Theological Commission was set up in 1967 to work 'alongside'' the CDF. The CDF's processes had been 'reformed' by the decree Integrae servandae in 1965. But the fact that this institution had changed its name but not its methods was quickly illustrated by the attempt to muzzle the maverick American monsignor, Ivan Illich. Despite the fact that the absurd 'case' against him was quickly abandoned, his two inquisitors continued their careers: Giuseppe Casoria became a cardinal and Sergio de Magistris is still the Regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
But a whole series of new secretariats and other bodies were set up between 1960 and 1967, such as the Secretariat for Christian Unity (I960), the Secretariat for Non-Believers (1965), and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (1967). Further bodies, such as the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Culture, have been set up by John Paul II. The increase in the number of curial officials is significantalthough by modern bureaucratic standards the numbers are small. At the turn of the century there were fewer than two hundred curial staff; at the time of the election of John Paul II that number had grown to around three thousand. It is this increase in staff that has largely contributed to the Vatican's financial deficits right up to the present time.
Guiseppe Alberigo comments that it was in the decade 1967 to 1977 that the restructuring of the curia was really abandoned and that, in fact, the new curial offices brought even more aspects of the Church under Vatican control.(35) The reforms of 1967 actually enhanced papal power. This is not to say that the curia did not change; it did. The sense of curial officials as baroque noblemen disappeared and there was a certain streamlining of administration. Particularly in the 'new' curia some able and broad-minded people were appointed, although there are not many of these left now. But at heart, things did not change: the same self-enclosed, ministerially inexperienced, and narrow attitudes characterize those who work in the contemporary curia.
The encyclical Humanae vitae (1968)
Paul VI's encyclical Populorum progressio of 1967 is one of the most radical of all papal documents and it is truly international in its approach. It deals fundamentally with the north-south divide, the gap between the rich and the poor. This, the pope, says, will be resolved only by the full human development of all people. The problem with the encyclical is the ambivalence of the meaning of the word 'development,' which so often occurs at the expense of the environment. However, the pope does seriously question theories of rationalist economics and the dominance of market forces. The inspiration of the encyclical was the papal visit to India, French Catholic social thought, and the influence of Barbara Ward, who had spoken to the Council.
However, it is not Paul VIs social radicalism that is remembered, but his moral conservatism. So often his papacy is defined by the encyclical Humanae vitae. The history of the encyclical is now well known.(36) The contraceptive pill, which made artificial contraception readily available, only came into widespread use in the 1960s. Prior to that, in Casti connubii (1930) Pins XI had condemned all forms of artificial contraception. The introduction of oral contraceptives seemed to shift the focus of the discussion, and some Catholic moralists said that the use of the pill was morally permissible. They argued that the pill was not a direct physical intervention against conceptionalso Lex dubium non obligat (a doubtful law does not oblige). Many Catholic couples, for whom the issue was more than theoretical, began to use the pill. Pope Paul used the Birth Control Commission set up by John XXIII to advise him. The only non-professional 'experts' on the commission were Pat and Patty Crowley, a married couple and the founders of Christian Family Movement, who provided the most telling evidence against the so-called rhythm method. If rhythm is the only way to space births, one woman asked, "How can we imitate God's love by rationing ours?'(37) In 1966, a final majority report recommended change in papal teaching. However, a minority on the Commission wanted the maintenance of the traditional teaching. The report remained secret until it was leaked to the US National Catholic Reporter, which handed it on to The Tablet in London.(38)
The curia and conservative moralists, of whom one of the most influential was the American Jesuit John C. Ford, put Paul VI under intense pressure to maintain the old line. They argued that any change would gravely weaken papal teaching authority, for it would contradict the condemnation of contraception by Pius XI. In other words, the real issue was papal power and not the question of the moral status of contraception. The pope appointed another, secret, commission headed by Ottaviani.(39) The arguments put to the pope by this commission can be deduced from a letter of Ottaviani to Josef Reuss, Auxiliary Bishop of Mainz. The arguments were:
1) it is not possible to contradict Casti connubii., for that would undermine the doctrinal authority of the magisterium and seriously endanger the confidence of the faithful. 2) In the existing atmosphere of general eroticism, in taking an open position, one risks opening the door to hedonism. 3) If one permits the use of contraceptives for individuals, governments will be able to claim recognition of their right to state-organized family planning.(40)
These are the real reasons for Humanae vitae. But the actual argument in the encyclical is based on natural law. It said that conception was a natural result of intercourse and the processes of nature could not be artificially vitiated. Every conjugal act must be open to the transmission of life.
All bishops, priests, Catholic faithful, andsince the letter was addressed to them'all men of good will,' must give internal assent and commit their consciences to the papal teaching. The pope admitted that many would not agree with him in his interpretation of natural law., but he wanted them to obey nevertheless. This was interpreted by many as hypocrisy and it did enormous damage to the papacy.
The results of this encyclical have been incalculable, most of them bad. An untold number of Catholics left the Church, never to practise again. Others, bereft of sensible advice, limped along for years denying themselves communion. Most priests were as confused as laypeople, but their pastoral sense guided them toward a tolerant and helpful attitude. Tragically, it led to many good priests and even to one bishop leaving the ministry. There has been a precipitous drop in Mass attendance, especially in the fertile age group. Many Catholics have come to see the Church as incredible in the area of sexuality. Young people today simply ignore the Church, and especially the papacy, which they see as irrelevant to their needs and aspirations. Perhaps the encyclical had one good result: it brought many Catholics to moral maturity in one step. They assumed personal responsibility for their own moral behavior. No longer would they ask the Church to decide their morals. They learned to use and develop their own consciences.
In 1968 The Economist commented bluntly: 'This encyclical is not the fruit of papal infallibility but of papal isolation.'(41) This is the core of the tragedy: today we can see clearly that everything was sacrificed to preserve papal power. This encyclical was not a collegial action. The pope had called a synod in 1969 to discuss collegiality. but as Cardinal Suenens pointed out, Paul VI had ignored collegiality in the extremely important contraception decision.(42) Suenens was quickly supported by Karl Rahner, Hans Küng, Bishop Christopher Butler, and other theologians. Nothing was resolved at the synod on collegiality, and for the rest of his papacy Paul VI remained stuck between primacy and collegiality, with a very strong emphasis on primacy.
I previously mentioned (pp. 914) the financial problems of the Vatican in the context of the cost of the expansion of curia after Vatican II. But the problems went deeper: in a series of spectacularly foolish moves, Paul VI and his financial advisers allowed themselves to become involved with some of the most notorious thieves and con men of the century. Highly centralized and secretive administrations like the Vatican are pecularily vulnerable to scams, for there are insufficient checks and balances. While the general lines of these scandals are clear, the exact interconnections between the Vatican and the shadow side of international finance are hard to clarify. Certainly by the late 1960s it was clear that the Vatican had financial problems. The Chicago-born Archbishop Paul Marcinkus was the rising star at the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR)the Institute of Religious Worksset up by Pius XII in 1942 as an investment arm of the Vatican. It acted as a merchant bank and was thus involved in the morally ambivalent world of international finance. As an ordinary bank most of its deposits came from religious orders, private individuals, and other church-related agencies. It is popularly known as the 'Vatican Bank.'
In the context of this book it is fascinating that a whole series of Church councils from Arles (314) to Vienne (1311) condemned usury: that is, the taking of interest on a loan. As late as 1745, Benedict XIV issued the encyclical Lex pervenit, which repeated the long-standing tradition that usury was sinful. It was only in the nineteenth century that the view began to change, when moderate rates of interest were approved. So what was the status of this teaching of councils and popes for fifteen hundred years? Was it infallible? Why could it have been dropped so quickly that within a century the Vatican itself was running a bank that speculated in the short-term money market? Again, we are confronted with the issue of teaching that is held to be binding and definitive, only later to be jettisoned.
Appointed head of the IOR in 1969. Marcinkus thought that Vatican investments should be moved out of the Italian stocks favored by his predecessor, Cardinal Alberto Di Jorio, and placed in various international companies that were felt to be safe. However, there were also justifiable accusations that the Vatican was trying to sidestep Italian taxes on its portfolio.(43) The IOR was also used by some Italians as a channel to the tax havens of Switzerland and the Caribbean to avoid Italy's financial regulators. Operating within the Vatican, which is an independent country, the IOR can sidestep Italy's currency laws.
In a secret meeting in 1969, Marcinkus introduced Paul VI to the Sicilian banker Michele Sindona. This was an extraordinarily foolish move, for Sindona's Mafia and criminal connections were well known. He was a member of the notorious right-wing, pseudo-Masonic lodge, Propaganda Due (P-2), founded by the Fascist, Licio Gelli.(44) Sindona was asked to dispose of Vatican shares in the giant holding company, Società Generale Immobiliare. Sindona did this by taking over the company and it is clear that he used his Vatican connections to facilitate criminal financial deals, and it is also clear that Marcinkus did nothing to stop him. By 1974 two banks run by Sindona had crashed and he was wanted in both Italy and the United States. The Vatican tried to distance itself from him. but. it had lost a massive amount of money through the Sindona connection. Estimates range between US$30 million (the official figure) and US$200 million. Sindona died of poisoning in suspicious circumstances in an Italian prison in 1986.
Through a connection with Paul VI's private secretary, Don Pasquale Macchi, the Vatican then brought in the Milanese banker Roberto Calvi, president of the prestigious Catholic Banco Ambrosiano. The IOR quickly became a large stockholder in the Ambrosiano. It was another unmitigated disaster. Calvi was probably the most talented con man and thief of the centurv. Like Sindona, he used his Vatican connections to facilitate a whole range of illegal dealings. In July 1981, Calvi was convicted of the illegal export of Italian currency. Further investigations by Italian banking authorities uncovered massive fraud by Calvi. He was found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge in London in June 1982. Through Calvi the Vatican had become involved in the theft of US$1.6 billion from the Banco Ambrosiano. In late 1982, John Paul II appointed a committee of cardinals to investigate the fiasco. Marcinkus was eventually charged by Italian authorities, but he was protected by Vatican diplomatic immunity and eventually retired to the United States.
While denying all responsibility in the Ambrosiano affair, the Vatican made 'reparation' by paying US$250 million to the bank's creditors. The source of this money has not been explained although various suggestions have been made.(43) It has now been almost certainly established by the British authorities that Calvi was murdered, probably by the Mafia whom he had deceived and cheated.
Many have subsequently charged the Vatican with criminal misbehavior in the whole sorry affair. The best that can be said is that its administration was utterly irresponsible. It vividly demonstrated the stupidity of allowing priests to play in the world of international finance. On Marcinkus' part there seemed to be a complete lack of moral and ethical sensitivity. While the affair has led to the Church being accused of criminal misbehavior, in fact, the 10R was probably more likely to have simply been remarkably stupid. Vatican finances are now under the control of Cardinal Edmund Szoka, formerly the Archbishop of Detroit, who has balanced the books. This is quite an achievement!
The last years of Paul VI's papacy were overshadowed not only by financial scandals, but also by the growing right-wing Lefebvrist schism, the departure of many priests and religious from the active ministry, and a spreading disillusionment among Catholics across the world as they perceived that the renewal of the Church was grinding to a halt. Many hoped that Paul would retire at seventy-five and that a synod of world bishops would elect his successor. The pope seems to have toyed with the idea for a while, but eventually only tried to broaden the internationalization of the college of cardinals even more, and to decree that cardinals over eighty years of age would be excluded from future conclaves. Again, a chance was lost. He suffered from ill-health for the last couple of years of his life and was deeply depressed by the murder of his lifelong friend, Aldo Moro, by the Red Brigades in 1978. The power and influence of Benelli in the curia throughout this last period of Paul's life was considerable.
Paul VI died on 6 August 1978. He left a profoundly ambivalent legacy. He had saved the Church from open schism and he had honestly tried to implement Vatican II. However, for the vast majority of Catholics he had never gone far enough. and he had never been strong and decisive in dealing with the curial and reactionary attempts to subvert the Council. Try as he might, he could not escape from the thought categories with which he had grown up. And with most people his reputation never recovered from the disaster of Humanae vitae. While there was never a significant right-wing schism (that of Lefebvre is numerically totally insignificant), the inactivity of Paul VI has contributed to a kind of schism of indifference. Many Catholics feel that the Church has come to a grinding halt. This feeling began under Paul VI, as he failed to deal decisively with the reactionaries in the curia, hierarchy, and elsewhere, was exacerbated by Humanae vitaeand is now deeply entrenched after eighteen years of John Paul II.
Even in 1978, time had not run out and there still was a chance to realize the radical vision that was inherent in Vatican II. In a month of optimism between 26 August and 28 September 1978, it seemed as though that radical vision might be realized.
The year of three popes(46)
The conclave that met on 25 August had a record one hundred and eleven cardinals, and was the first to meet under Paul VI's reforms. Cardinals over eighty were excluded, although their influence on the pre-conclave discussions was considerable. There were only twenty-seven Italians eligible as electors. The cardinals met daily to prepare lor the conclave. In the public discussions before the conclave it became clear that what people wanted was, in the words of a group of theologians that included Hans Küng, Yves Congar, and Edward Schillebeeckx, a man of holiness, a man of hope, a man of joy ... .who can smile. A pope not for all Caiholics but for all peoples. A man totally free from the slightest taint of financial organizational wheeling and dealing.'(47)
The Latin-American cardinals were looking for similar qualities. On 26 August 1978, twenty days after the death of Paul VI, the Patriarch of Venice, Albino Luciani, was elected on the third ballot. It was an extraordinarily quick conclave. He promised to be a new style of pope. He was from a working-class background and all of his priestly and episcopal experience had been in pastoral work and seminary teaching. He had never had anything to do with the curia, although he had been active in the Italian Bishops' Conference. He chose the unusualsome might say oddtitle of John Paul. It is impossible to say where he would have stood on theological matters, despite the assertions that he was assassinated because he was going to "disown' Humanae vitae and clean up the Vatican Bank and the curia.
He died late in the evening of September 28, 1978, while reading in bed. There was no autopsy and rumours of murder by poisoning found concrete form in the book In God's Name by David Yallop.(48) Yallop maintained that John Paul was murdered by a coalition that included Cardinals Jean Villot (secretary of state) and Cody of Chicago, as well as Archbishop Marcinkus, Sindona, and Calvi.(49) These fabrications were completely repudiated by John Conrwell's excellent book A Thief in the Night. Cornwell maintained that the pope died because no one took care of his health or made sure that he took medication for his heart condition.(50) The short reign of John Paul I seemed like another lost opportunity.
And so Rome prepared for another conclave. This time it was clear that the pastoral candidate would also have to have good health and probably be younger. The conclave was much longer and clearly more divided. At first the candidates were Benelli, by then Archbishop of Florence, and the reactionary Siri of Genoa. It is extraordinary that a person such as Siri could still be a serious candidate. It was only when it became clear that neither could get the necessary two-thirds-plus-one that the cardinals began to look beyond the Italian candidates. Cardinal Franz Konig of Vienna put forward the name of Karol Wojtyla of Krakow. He had travelled widely, spoke fluent Italian, and came from a communist country. Aged only fifty-eight, he seemed to have much to recommend him. After eight ballots he had obtained a large majority. He took the style John Paul II. This brings us to the papacy of the present day.
1 Alberigo in Swidler and Fransen. pp. 124-5,
2 John Molony, The Worker Question: A New Historical Perspective on Rerum Novarum. Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1991. Bruce Duncan. The. Church's Social Teaching: From Rerum Novarum to 1931, Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1991, pp. 20-91.
3 Kelly, p. 312.
4 Aubert in Jedin and Dolan, vol. 9, p. 386.
5 ibid., p. 464.
6 For an outline of the work of Holy Office before its incarnation as the CDF see Peter Canisius van Lierde, The Holy See at Work: How the Catholic Church is Governed, London: Robert Hale, 1964, pp. 55-61.
7 See W. H. Peters, The Life of Benedict XV, Milwaukee: Bruce, 1959.
8 For detailed studies of aspects of John's papacy see Giancarlo Zizola. The Utopia of John XXIII, English trans., Maryknoll: Orbis, 1978. For biography see Peter Hebblethwaite, John XXIII: Pope of the Council, London: Geoffrey Chapman. 1984.
9 Zizola, pp. 81-99.
10 Giuseppe Alberigo, 'The Announcement of the Council.' in Giuseppe Alberigo and Joseph A. Komonchak (cds), The History of Vatican II: Volume 1, Maryknoll: Orbis and Leuven: Peeters, 1995, p. 13. This is the first of a projected five-volume definitive history of the Council. See also Zizola. pp. 233-42. and Hebblethwaite, John XXIII. pp. 283, 306-9.
11 Alberigo in Alberigo and Komonchak. pp. 44-9, and Hebblethwaite. John XXIII, p. 337.
12 Zizola, pp. 165-80.
13 Hans Küng, The Council and Reunion. English trans.. London: Sheed and Ward, 1961.
14 I have described the workings of Vatican II in some detail in Mixed Blessings, pp. 20-49.
15 Quoted in Zizola. pp. 258-9.
16 Ibid., p. 260.
17 Xavier Rynne, Letters from Vatican City: Vatican Council II (First Session): Background and Debates, London: Faber and Faber, 1963.
18 Peter Hebblethwaite, Paul VI: The First Modern Pope, London: Harper Collins, 1993.
19 Kelly (p. 323) says it was the fifth ballot. Hebblethwaite's Paul VI (p. 329) says the sixth.
20 Hebblethwaite,Paul VI, pp. 318-32.
21 Ibid., pp. 292-4; 301-2.
22 Ibid., p. 331.
23 Ibid., pp. 348-69, and Rynne, Second Session.
24 Annibale Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1974, English trans., Collegeville: Liturgical Press. 1990.
25 Xavier Rynne, The Third Session, London: Faber and Faber. 1965.
26 Ibid., pp. 238-45.
27 Hebblethwaite, Paul VI pp. 384-401.
28 Ibid., p. 401.
29 Xavier Rynne, The Fourth Session, London: Faber and Faber, 1966.
30 Paul VI, opening address, quoted in Hebblethwaite, Paul VI, p. 432.
31 Morris West, 'One Man's Voice,' Eureka Street, August 1994. p. 31.
32 These documents can be found in Austin Flannery (ed.). Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents., Dublin: Dominican Publications. 1975, and Vatican II: More Post Conciliar Documents., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982.
33 Text in Flannery, Vatican Council II, pp. 508-14.
34 Giaocarlo Zizola, 'Secretariats and Councils of the Roman Curia,' in the Concilium entitled The Roman Curia and the Communion of Churches. New York: Seabury Press. 1979, p. 43.
35 Giuseppe Alberigo. 'Serving the Communion of Churches,' hi Concilium 1979, pp. 24-5.
36 Robert Blair Kaiser, The Politics of Sex and Religion: A Case History in the Development of Doctrine 1962-1985, Kansas City: Leaven Press, 1985. (A revised UK edition of Kaiser's book was published as The Encyclical that Never Was: The Story of the Commission on Population, Family and Birth, 196466, London: Sheed & Ward, 1987.) Kaiser's account has been confirmed and amplified by Robert McClory, Turning Point: The Inside Story of thePapal Birth Control Commission, New York: Crossroad, 1995.
37 Quoted in McClory., p. 92.
38 Kaiser, pp. 183-7.
39 Ibid., p. 183.
40 Ibid., p. 193.
41 Quoted in ibid., p. 198.
42 Hebblethwaite, Paul VI, pp. 532-5.
43 Luigi DeFonzo, St. Peter's Banker: Michele. Sindona, New York: Franklin Watts, 1983, pp. 8-10. This book is determined to attribute the worst possible motives to Paul VI.
44 Ibid., pp. 67-74.
45 Michael Walsh, The Secret World of Opus Dei, London: Grafton, 1989, p. 157.
46 Peter Hebblethwaite, The Year of Three Popes, London: Collins. 1979.
47 Complete in The Tablet, August 1978, p. 811.
48 David A. Yallop, In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I. London: Corgi. 1985.
49 For Cody in Chicago see Charles Dahm, Power and Authority in the Catholic Church. Cardinal Cody in Chicago, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981.
50 John Cornwell, A Thief in the Night: The Mysterious Death of John Paul I London: Viking, 1989.
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