Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Would the popes who got it right please raise their hands?

Last week Melancholicus observed the forty-fifth anniversary — O unhappy day! — of the opening of the Second Vatican Council by reviewing the address given by Pope John XXIII on that day in 1962.

Poor Pope John! Melancholicus resolved that he would not embarrass the memory of the late pontiff any further, but in his reading he has since come upon these quotes from certain of Papa Roncalli’s predecessors in which the general tone of anxiety and even dread contrasts sharply with the beaming optimism of Papa Roncalli. Melancholicus’ comments on the opening address need not be repeated, and in any case they pale into insignificance beside these diagnoses of the times from the mouths of these august servants of God.

First let us hear Pope John:

... we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin ... They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse ... We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand ...

Now let us compare the above with these stark warnings:

We felt a sort of terror considering the disastrous conditions of humanity at the present hour. Can we ignore such a profound and grave evil, which at this moment is working away at its very marrow and leading it to its ruin? ... Truly, whoever ponders these things must necessarily and firmly fear whether such a perversion of minds is not the sign of announcing, and the beginning of the last times ...

That was St. Pius X, in his first encyclical E Supremi Apostolatus.

With God and Jesus Christ excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man ... the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that society is tottering to its ruin because it no longer has a secure and solid foundation.

And that was Pius XI in Quas Primas.

We are overwhelmed with sadness and anguish, seeing that the wickedness of perverse men has reached a degree of impiety that is unbelievable and absolutely unknown in other times.

And that was Pope John’s immediate predecessor, Pius XII, writing in February 1949. And just for good measure, here’s another quote from the same Pope (Evangeli Praecones):

... the human race is involved today in a supreme crisis, which will issue in its salvation by Christ or in its destruction.

So, who was right, Pope John or these his distinguished predecessors? I am sure that Good Pope John did not have his predecessors in the Chair of Peter in mind when he castigated his ‘prophets of gloom’, especially not his beloved father Pius X, who in 1904 ordained the young Angelo Roncalli to the priesthood, and to the memory of whom he had a lifelong devotion. But how can Pope John have failed to heed the warnings of such holy popes, especially when they urgently forecast disaster and ruin, both for the Church and mankind?

Ah, but Melancholicus forgets... the Piuses lived in the bad old days, before the Council. The Piuses lived before the 1960s, the decade when everything became new and fresh and interesting, and when the light and joy of brotherly love lit up the world. The Piuses lived in a different world, so how could they have been expected to understand?

Melancholicus would like to have lived in the same world as the Piuses. Unfortunately that world seems to be gone, and he is stuck instead in the world of Good Pope John. But he derives no comfort at all from the flowers and the colours and the easy availability of condoms. Because the wickedness of perverse men has now reached a pitch of impiety undreamt of by the Piuses (save perhaps the last, who witnessed the carnage of World War II). God is not mocked; and Melancholicus is afraid.

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