Pope Paul VI



Dear Professor and Friend,


      I've received a packet of papers that you sent, which, despite the pressures of pastoral and family obligations, I have tried to look over.  Let me make some brief observations on at least two of these pieces: the first from NOR by a certain Erven Park, entitled: "'Diabolic Disorientation' in the Church".


      Regarding this article, I would only point out that, at its outset, he presents a questionable exegesis of a passage of Saint Paul.  He writes:


           "It would be prudent at this point to briefly revisit one of the Apostle Paul's warnings

           on the End Times. 'For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound

           doctrine, but, according to their own desires, they will heap up to themselves teachers

           having itching ears and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth. . . (2 Tim. 4:


           By the fact that the Apostle addresses 'sound doctrine'  and 'teachers,' we know he

           is speaking of the Catholic Church."


      Certainly the "sound doctrine" indicates the Catholic Church, but the words of Saint Paul do not specify who the "teachers" are.  They could be leaders of sects, writers, atheists, or, in our own time, college professors, the media or whoever.  The Fathers generally assumed that they were propagators of sects and heretics of various sorts: Gnostics, Manichaeans and the like (Cf.: Saints Augustine, Jerome, Chrysostom, etc.).


      The second piece was a book chapter which did not carry the author's name.  I assumed it was by that women writer which you have mentioned. 


      A cause for canonization of Pope Paul VI, has been introduced in the Congregation of Saints.   This author, on the contrary, tries to make the case, that Giovanni Battista Montini, far from being a candidate for sainthood, was actually leading a double life: on the one hand, as priest, bishop, cardinal and pope, but, on the other hand, as a man, throughout his career, engaged in gravely immoral conduct.  She pretty much bases herself on an amalgam of gossip columnists, gay web sites, biographies and auto-biographies of homosexual exploits, as well as her own innuendoes regarding un-married men with whom Montini, over the course of his lifetime, was acquainted. 


      If I had nine lives, maybe I could dedicate one of them in responding to this character assassination gathered from what she must consider reliable sources; but unfortunately, with only one life, I don't feel that it can be spent in turning over these same rocks where she came up with these stories. 


      What is it, then, that I could contribute about this question, when admittedly I have no direct personal knowledge of the alleged episodes nor the personalities and figures involved?   About the only thing I suppose I can offer you is a some general principles which the faithful should use in these cases, "red-flag" a few points where the author has been inconsistent, and express briefly my own assessment of all this.


      The author, first of all, does not appear to be aware of the gravity of calumny and injuring a man's good name.  She may say that she is merely reporting the case that is already in the public sphere, but she is assiduously building the case, adding to the explosive stories new interpretations of things, as well as rumors and speculations indiscriminately garnered from wherever or from whomever she could find them, including from well known opponents of the Holy Father with a history of grinding axes well before the advent of the morals charges, being only to happy now to gain steam for their own contradictory position by piggybacking onto salacious allegations.  In them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Jacinta of Fatima: "The Holy Father will have much to suffer". 


      Our Blessed Lord has given a command to the Pope: "Confirm thy brethren." (Lk. 22, 32).  Those who would try to undermine the trust of the faithful in their shepherd are attacking the Plan of God. 


      The author, for example, adds the attack of Abbé Georges de Nantes, a suspended French priest most known for his repeated charges of heresy against Pope John Paul II.  Thus by consciously or unconsciously exploiting pre-existing bad feelings towards the pope for other totally independent reasons, such as liturgical dissatisfaction, there is a tendency to judge the Pope negatively regarding these sad accusations as well. 


     What was the source of this media episode?  It consisted of an anonymous charge of immorality carried out through the offices of one Roger Peyrefitte, probably the world's most prominent and vocal defender of Pederasty, who had already to his name a virulent work attacking Pope Pius XII.  The author fails to inform her readers of this background.  It should be noted that after the media covered the initial story, it died fairly quickly, leading one to believe that there was nothing by way of corroborative material to report, causing it to be pretty much ignored by the American press, not known to readily pass up an anti-papal story.  It has to be questioned, indeed, whether there was in fact an actual accuser, given Peyrefitte's reputation for trying continually to outdo, even himself, in coming up with scandalous stories.  Peyrefitte is said to have died with the Church's last rites; we should be praying for his soul, not continuing his calumnies.


      If the author were truly interested in uncovering the reasons for the spread in the culture of the gay lifestyle, perhaps she could begin by critiquing the works of any number of wildly popular, and widely applauded and awarded French authors, rather than the apostolic labors of good popes. 


     The author did not even have the fairness to quote the Holy Father's own statement concerning these accusations, but rather, in a footnote, contents herself with implying that the National Catholic Reporter was singularly praiseworthy for covering the allegations in the USA.   Oddly enough, the National Catholic Reporter has been more friendly to a gay culture than any similar Catholic publication in America.


      Most of what the author presents in her: "Case of Homosexuality Against Pope Paul VI" is actually just the malicious  speculations of suspicious minds anxious to give a bad interpretation to what may well be, and should be assumed to be, perfectly innocent facts: "Why do you think evil in your hearts?" (Mt. 9, 4)


      Scripture warns: "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered" (Zac. 13, 7; cf: Mt. 26, 31; Mk. 14, 27).   We have been given, by a guidance of the Holy Spirit, a living shepherd, and those who would try to weaken the confidence of the flock in its shepherd, are certainly not doing the will of Our Blessed Lord.


     The author's treatment of Pope Paul VI and the Council does not reflect, moreover, the Church's doctrine.  The fact that this or that statement of a Pope or council was first mouthed by a humanist, found in a socialist's book, or heard at a communist lecture, all matters nothing.  What is important is not the debate or the process or even the intrigue which produced a teaching, but only what the teaching itself is.  It is the actual words of the Holy Father, or a Council united to the Holy Father, that fall under the warning of Our Blessed Lord: "He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me" (Lk. 10, 16). 


      The author writes that "It soon became very clear that Montini was not a Marian priest.  He was, in fact, a Maritainist priest, an altogether different being", that Montini had "an aversion" to the Rosary preferring a "more Christ-centered approach to Mariology", and that he was criticized while at Milan for neglecting Marian customs. 


      The Cardinal's Marian preaching while archbishop of Milan was beautiful, often extraordinary, and is still freely drawn upon by his successor in that important See, Cardinal Tettamanzi, himself no stranger to powerful and elegant preaching.  As Pope, he wrote and spoke often and well on Our Lady and the Holy Rosary, including his encyclical on the Rosary: CHRISTI MATRIS ROSARII, and, right from his first general audience, repeatedly affirmed the Rosary to be a prayer truly Christ-centered, ("Christocentrique").   It was Pope Paul VI who introduced the beautiful custom of traveling to Saint Mary Major's Square and the Piazza di Spagna every year in the evening of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to pray at the foot of those two immense columns bearing statues of Our Lady.  It was Pope Paul as well who assembled all the Bishops attending the Council at Santa Maria Maggiori in order to officially declare Mary the "Mother of the Church".


      The author here also denigrates at the same time Montini's long time close friend, Jacques Maritain, whom even "traditionalist" Cardinal, Giuseppe Siri, though differing with him on various theological points, called: "a noble soul".   His voluminous and weighty works on Thomistic philosophy demanded the attention of secular philosophers.   The author presents a picture of Maritain's thought, not, however, through his own words, but through the shallow caricature and mis-representation of de Nantes and Caron.


      This, paradoxically, is where the thesis of the author suffers multiple implosions.   Maritain actually was a harsh but truly knowledgeable critic of the Council; yet nevertheless, though openly critical of Vatican II, remained a dear friend of Pope Paul VI.  Similarly, though Maritain was the pre-eminent Thomist of his day, Pope Paul VI, whom the author blames for "the attack on Thomistic Philosophy", personally translated into Italian one of his works, lunched with him weekly, while he was French ambassador to the Vatican, and, at the close of the Council, publicly entrusted to him a "Message to the Intellectuals of the World".  Paul VI dedicated to Saint Thomas and the subject of Thomistic Philosophy several specific documents.


      Despite the accusation to the contrary, Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI affirmed the same position of the Church's magisterium on the place of Thomism as did his predecessors, including Popes Leo XIII and Pius XII.


      Pope John XXIII affirmed that the Church considers Saint Thomas Aquinas as the "guide for those who work in the spread of the truth". 


      In an address, of Oct. 8, 1965, to a Canadian group working on the critical edition of Saint Thomas' works, Pope Paul stated:


           "The Thomistic system already recommends itself to the attention of modern man

           for its pedagogic, speculative and spiritual merits.  But the magisterium of the

           Catholic Church presents it, moreover, as the sure norm for the teaching of the

           Sacred Sciences." 


      In the same discourse, the Pope points out that this does not imply an "exclusivism".  The Church, while indicating Thomism as the "norm", has always allowed and profited by various other schools of thought such as Augustinianism, Scotism, as well as impute from more recent thinking. 


      Both of these Pontiffs quoted Saint Thomas continually in their sermons and discourses and spoke of him and Thomism numberless times in their addresses.


      In the famous Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris, encouraging the study of Saint Thomas, he as well pointed out the value of other currents of thought, Patristic and Scholastic, and even recognized the efforts of those attempting to deal with "the wealth of new discoveries":


           "We have no intention of discountenancing the learned and able men who bring

           their industry and erudition, and, what is more, the wealth of new discoveries, to

           the service of philosophy; for, of course, We understand that this tends to the

           development of learning."


      The author makes a lot of a visit that Maritain, in the company of an American "non-believing Jew", made to the Milan residence of Cardinal Montini.  We're reminded here of the words of the scribes and pharisees: "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them" (Lk. 15, 2). 


      The author writes: "In truth, the theology of Battista Montini was anthropocentric not theocentric.  It was man-centered not God-centered."   Here we see the total ignorance of the author regarding the teaching of the Holy Father.  The only sense in which Paul VI's teaching is ever "anthropocentric", is when referring to Our Blessed Lord, true man as well as true God, acting as a bridge, as it were, by which man can reach God, the very purpose of the Incarnation.  Nor, indeed, was there anything particularly revolutionary in this approach, being after all the difference between the approach of, for example, Saint Bonaventure, as opposed to Saint Thomas.


      Dominican Luigi Ciappi, "the Pope's theologian", receives the approval of the author.  Was it not Paul VI who made this Thomist a bishop and then a cardinal? 


           The author accuses Paul VI of trying to undermine the supernatural, but his Gospel preaching belies this accusation.  The Pope's evangelical preaching, testifying to a lifetime of deep and serious study and meditation, remains as a patrimony comparable in quality to the Church Fathers.  When the Holy Father  preached of Jesus, it was delivered with palpable feeling, filled with immediacy and actuality, overflowing with deep faith, and shining with a love of Christ that revealed his own soul as well.  Pope Paul had a specific spiritual grace of being able to make his listeners a part of the Gospel events and even involving them in the dialog with Our Blessed Lord.  This was no mere literary device, since it was based on the truth that Jesus does indeed speak to all men and He, the God-man, is, in fact, the only one who can do such a thing.   Those listening to this Pope (maybe not the self-righteous)  could sense, though they be among thousands of others, that he had carefully assembled his thoughts with them in his heart, and that he had made a great effort to know what was on their mind.


     Sadly, you have people, setting themselves up as the norm of orthodoxy, turning the faithful away from this Vicar of Christ.  The magisterium of Pope Paul VI was a vigorous, inspiring, solid and uncompromising presentation of the Faith.


      Those who hardened their hearts to the words of Paul VI, were themselves the losers, missing out on an unusual grace that will not easily pass this way again.   Montini, by a special lifetime of preparation, was the one in that period capable of shepherding the flock of Christ, and Pope Pius XII seems to have realized this when sending him to shepherd the see of Milan, (after Rome, the most important diocese in Italy) told him: "One day you will return to Rome".   Pope Pacelli, who was a good judge of a man, knew and worked closely with Montini for decades, but some would rather trust rumors from the dark side of the internet than the spiritual intuition of Pius XII.


    Far from being insensitive to the supernatural, Paul VI did not exercise the usual Vatican distance and reserve in regard to apparitions, but joyfully received the young girl Concita, one of the seers of Garabandal, and when, in fact, faced with the supernatural working through Padre Pio, Pope Paul VI was the only Pope to be openly warm and friendly with him.  I believe that it speaks well of Pope Paul VI that Padre Pio warned him in advance to prepare to be Pope!  Throughout his life, Montini was touched by the grace of having been baptized on the 30th of September 1897, the same day the "Little Flower", Saint Theresa of Lisieux, passed out of this life.


      This is anything but a full and worthy appreciation of "Papa Montini" and marred as well by the need of addressing this distasteful topic.  Paul VI is not the only pope to suffer by the poison pen of this author, who takes particular aim at Pope John XXIII as well.  Instead of adopting a Machiavellian "rule of thumb", the author might have been wiser to listen to that of Saint Louis de Montfort: namely devotion to the Rosary.  Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, both as a Bishop and Pope, gathered with his household three times daily to recite the Rosary. 


      Even Pope Pius XII, in the author's often demeaning depiction, pales in comparison to the saintly ascetic and towering intellect he truly was.  Of recent Popes, Pius XI is about the only one that comes off unscathed.  She even makes shameful innuendoes against the present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, as well.  It's really hard to see how any faithful Catholic can keep such a book in his house.  As Saint Don Bosco teaches us: there are three signs that mark a true Catholic: Love of the Eucharist, love of our Mother Mary, and love of the Pope.


     It would be too difficult to go over each and every point expressed in this piece.  Naturally pontificates are often filled with millions of words and thousands or hundreds of thousands of facts.  If, from the totality of information, the author has chosen to "cherry pick", from the common canards of writers similar to herself, certain opinions and interpretations in order to convey her personal viewpoint, then it is only her own readers who are damaged by a partial, unbalanced or outright misleading picture her subject.


      Our Blessed Lord commands us to follow the voice of the shepherd (cf.: Jn. 10), and yet in her treatment of Pope Paul VI, it is difficult to find a single quote from the Holy Father's teaching; instead we find the voices of Machiavelli, muckrakers, an infamous pederast, and other hostile critics of the shepherd.   Is the author one of those, foretold in the prophecy of Saint Paul, who "will not endure sound doctrine, but, according to their own desires, they will heap up to themselves teachers having itching ears and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth." (2 Tim. 4, 3-4)?


      Perhaps we could end here applying to Pope Paul VI his own words which he spoke in Israel referring to Pope Pius XII: "To remember him is piety, to thank him is justice".


Father Thomas Carleton

 Feast of Saint Margaret Mary, 2007