NYTimes… yawn… against… yawn… Pius XII…. again… yawn

A priest friend of mine in New York says that the New York Times (aka Hell’s Bible) sole reason for continuing is to make liberals feel good about themselves.

On the day Pope Benedict XVI visits the Roman Synagogue comes an NYT piece with the usual smarmy anti-Pius XII slant.

NB: The NYT has beneath its articles links to related articles from the past.   The NYT on its editorial page has a feature of editorials from the paper’s archive.   Today the past articles are about how insensitive the Church is about Jews, blah blah, and the archive editorial concerns that significant players in modern history Conan O’Brien.

The New York Times never cites its editorial from Christmas Day 1941:

"The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas…He is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all."

The Gestapo in 1942 understood what Pius was talking about.  In a report they summed up: "in a manner never known before…the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order [Nazism]. It is true, the Pope does not refer to the National Socialists in Germany by name, but his speech is one long attack on everything we stand for. …Here he is clearly speaking on behalf of the Jews."

The Gestapo got it, but the present editors of the New York Times are a bit more obtuse.

That said, let’s have a look at what Hell’s Bible has to say with my emphases and comments:

Pope Quiz: [yuck yuck... get it?] Is Every Pontiff a Saint?
By DAVID GIBSON
Published: January 16, 2010

When Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree last month that nudged nearer to sainthood his controversial wartime predecessor, Pius XII, he sparked another round of the sort of Jewish-Catholic disputations that have marked his papacy  [That is not what has marked this papacy, btw, unless you are in the sphere of the NYT.  What is marking this Pope's papacy is a developing theology of the environment, and of course his work as the "Pope of Christian Unity". ] and even cast doubt on whether his trip to Rome’s main synagogue, set for Sunday, would go on.  [It didn't cast much doubt.]

The Vatican paired the announcement of Pius XII’s “heroic virtue” — the step before beatification, which would be followed by canonization, or sainthood — with a similar declaration about Pope John Paul II, who was considered a great friend to the Jews. No matter. Jewish leaders were furious, [I am forced to ask, once again, when do Jews consult the Church about, say, who should be declared a righteous gentile?] though Rome’s Jews decided to go ahead with the papal visit.  [Of course they did.]

Pope Benedict’s decision of course renewed the longstanding debate over Pius’s World War II legacy (was he “silent” or even complicit in the Nazi extermination of the Jews?), [This is the sort of thing to which I alluded at the top.  He tosses this smelly question out here and it will hang in the reader's mind like a sock on a shower rod through the rest of the article.  He could have asked the question, "Was Pius XII the quiet rescuer of thousands of Jews during the war?] but there is another question here that goes beyond Pius:

Should any pope be made a saint[It is hard to fathom why you would ask this question unless you were, say, anti-Catholic.]

The church counts less than a third of all 264 dead popes as saints, and most were canonized by popular acclaim in the first centuries of Christianity, often because they were martyrs. Only five were canonized in the entire second millennium, and when Pius X, who died in 1914, was made a saint in 1954 — by Pius XII — he was the first pope so honored in nearly 400 years.

Now nearly every recent pope is on the canonization track. John Paul II beatified Pius IX, the 19th-century pope who is a polarizing figure because of his belief in the power of the papacy and his views on Judaism. [Remember... just as for the writer the papacy of Benedict XVI is about Jews, so too was the papacy of Pius IX.] But like Benedict, John Paul did a little ticket-balancing. He simultaneously beatified the popular John XXIII, who convened the liberalizing Second Vatican Council in 1962. The canonization process for Paul VI, who followed John XXIII, is underway, and there is a campaign to beatify John Paul I, who reigned a mere 33 days before his death in 1978.

[This is where the writer goes even more seriously off the rails.] This trend, by some accounts, is creating several problems. One is that it can dilute the meaning of sainthood; [Ummm... no, actually not.  The cause of a well-known is actually an opportunity for people to learn more about what the Church teaches concerning holiness, and demonstrates that it is possible to live a good life.] all who die and go to heaven are saints, but those officially recognized as such by the church are exalted as worthy of veneration and imitation. [Ridiculous.  The causes of saints don't give the impress that all go to heaven.  If there were anything we as Catholic do these days that give that impression it must be the insipid funeral practices we have veered into since the Council.] Is every pope such an exemplar? Moreover, by canonizing predecessors a reigning pope elevates the throne he himself occupies and practically ensures that his successor one day will declare him a saint as well — as if sanctity were an award for becoming pope.  [Silly.  But I think the writer, to color your view, is trying smear the whole process of a cause, suggesting that this is somehow shallow or corrupt, or blend of politics and vanity such as might have been displayed by Julio-Claudian emperors.]

[The writer's narrow view of the material is made even more funnel-like now.  Notice which rickety hobby-horses he trots on now.] This overlooks the reality that the cardinals in a conclave are electing a leader to govern the church. [That's not a non sequitur, is it.] As the German theologian Karl Rahner put it, if a pope turns out to be a wonderful Christian, that’s “a happy coincidence,” just as when the president of the chess club is also a great player. It is not necessarily relevant, however, to the health of the chess club — or the church.  [Here we can agree with Karl Rahner.]

In fact, conclaves have often looked for a pope who could govern firmly and defend the church in a dangerous world because that’s what a pope usually had to do. But in modern times, as popes became, first, “prisoners of the Vatican” after the unification of Italy in 1870, and then globetrotting media stars a century later, they also became the universal face of Catholicism. [So?] “Before that, most Catholics would be hard pressed to name the pope and almost none would know what he looked like,” said Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University in Union, N.J. “After 1870, with cheap printing and his prisoner-of-the-Vatican status, the pope’s face became recognizable and a rallying point for those who wanted to see the world as standing against the church.”  [Ummm.... the world was standing again the Church.]

[This next part should sound familiar to people who keep up with liberal cant against Roman centralization, etc.] This “papalization” of the church means that every pope must now be seen as a holy man, indeed the holiest man in the church, [silly] even if there are pressing issues of governance that would require more savvy than piety. Although John Paul II is a lock for sainthood, serious questions about his administration of the church are emerging as the clergy sexual abuse scandals reveal how he neglected the mundane but critical tasks of being pope. [Again, the chance to smear.  The Church is a pretty big and far-flung organization.  Who can actually govern it in the manner he suggests?  Is it possible?  And should a pope attempt to govern in the manner he suggests, he would be labeled as a despot by the same liberals who whine that he didn't do enough.]

The Rev. Richard McBrien, [surprise!] a theology professor at Notre Dame and author of “Lives of the Popes,” [Is that the book in which he has his "borrowed" material?] suggested that canonizations may be a defense against criticism of popes, and he said the church would do better to canonize more saintly lay people — parents and grandparents and regular holy folk “with whom the overwhelming majority of Catholics can identify.”  [Has that been done?]

“The only one of the recent batch of papal candidates for canonization who is at all credible is John XXIII,” [ROFL!  That's it?] Father McBrien wrote in an e-mail message. “But I would gladly trade John XXIII’s candidacy for the suspension of procedures on behalf of the other recent popes.”  [Retire.]

Yet to avoid canonizing John Paul II or any pope at this point could come off as an insult, or a knock on the papacy. That forces promoters of papal canonizations, and defenders of Pius XII in particular, to create a false division between official actions and personal piety. [?  So, it a Pope makes a mistake in judgement, that means that he was not holy?  I guess that wouldn't help the cause of John XXIII.  Say what you want about the Council, but if we look at what has happened in the last few decades no one can say that the choice to have a Council ... and a Council without a clear agenda at he opening, btw,... didn't cause upheaval and confusion redounded into our own day.  It was at least controversial and questionable.  If that is the case, then his holiness must also be at question.] As a papal spokesman said in defending Benedict’s decision on Pius, “the evaluation essentially concerns the witness of Christian life that the person showed … and not the historical impact of all his operative decisions.”  [The development of the Gregorian Calendar was of great benefit for the world, but that benefit did not necessarily mean that Gregory XIII was thereby holy.]

But as Mr. Bellitto said, “based on this formula, plenty of nice people who did awful things would qualify for sainthood — and they’d hardly be models for the rest of us.”

Such a restricted view of sainthood also easily dismisses the realities of a pope’s job — and the debatable record of Pius XII. Hans Küng, [surprise!] the dissident Swiss theologian, recalls an episode during his days as a student in Rome in the 1950s when the private secretary of Pius XII, Father Robert Lieber, visited the seminary. Father Küng and the other young men pestered Father Lieber about whether the aristocratic Pius was a saint: “No, no!” the priest insisted. “Pius XII is not a saint. He is a great man of the church.”

It’s a verdict that makes Pius XII neither villain nor plaster icon, but neither does it answer the question of what a modern pope should be — a leader of the church or a model of sanctity[What an absurd question.  Of course a Pope ought to be a model of sanctity.  So should your spouse, teacher, neighbor, football coach and boss.]

David Gibson, author of a biography of Benedict XVI, writes on religion at PoliticsDaily.com.
A version of this article appeared in print on January 17, 2010, on page WK4 of the New York edition.

Dreck.

From the New York Times Christmas Day editorial of 1942:

Pope Pius expresses as passionately as any leader on our side the war aims of the struggle for freedom when he says that those who aim at building a new world must fight for free choice of government and religious order. They must refuse that the state should make of individuals a herd of whom the state disposes as if they were a lifeless thing.

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25 Responses to NYTimes… yawn… against… yawn… Pius XII…. again… yawn

  1. Good morning, Father:

    Let me get this straight. Pius X was the first pope canonized in 400 years. Now, Pius XII, Paul VI. possibly John Paul I and now John Paul II are in the process leading toward canonization. In 1946, Pius XII warned about “the loss of the sense of sin”. In 1950, Pius XII warned of ideas and practices in his encyclical Humani Generis which would result in the loss of Faith and lead to apostasy. In 1907, SAINT Pius X warned in Pascendi and Lamentabile about the Modernists and their thinking. Yet many of those condemned ideas are prevalent in the Church today. The reasoning here is quite simple. It is too complicated, so we will merely agree that [I don't think much of this made sense.]

  2. Mike says:

    Gibson wrote a thinly-disguised attack on B16 last Spring in the Wash.Post. I wrote a letter criticizing it, and the Post did print it, which was good. In this article it seems to me that he’s recycling the garbage found in Eamon Duffy’s “Faith of Our Fathers” collection of essays. Although Duffy is a fine historian, when he touches on the Papacy in the modern age, he starts drooling, and really turns nasty.

    Btw, Fr., I don’t think Gibson says “all go to heaven” but all who “die and go to heaven” are saints. True enough, if redundant enough as well.

  3. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    “and there is a campaign to beatify John Paul I, who reigned a mere 33 days before his death in 1978.”

    Because surely there weren’t those other 65 years of his life in which he could have shown heroic virtue.

    It would also seem to me that, in most cases, if a Cardinal were to die, and not be considered saintly, than in an alternate life, where he was elected Pope, then died, he would also not be considered saintly.

    In the positive, any pope that dies and is considered saintly, presumably would have been thought to be so EVEN BEFORE being elected pope

  4. Oneros says:

    “Should any pope be made a saint? [It is hard to fathom why you would ask this question unless you were, say, anti-Catholic.]”

    Not really. As William just pointed out, Pius X was the first canonized in 400 years. There has always been a bit of a hesitancy, rightfully, about canonizing Popes, though they may indeed have been saintly men personally.

    But there is a danger of it becoming a sort of canonization of their administration, or of being used as a sort of ultramontane propaganda against bishops who might tend towards a greater subsidiarity when it comes to ecclesiastic governance. It can take on the tone of a sort of Vatican self-promotion whereby the current Pope puts one of his predecessors beyond question thereby increasing the legitimacy and prestige of his own Office, by demonstrating how many Saints have held the same chair.

    But that’s sort of cooking the books, because it is the Pope who decides on Saints after all, so there could easily be a bias towards other Popes. Pius X was the first in 400 years, and after Constantine…very few Popes were made Saints in general out of a wise caution to avoid such issues.

    And yet, it looks like almost every Pope in the 20th century is going to be made a Saint eventually! If the local bishops were in charge of canonization…I’d bet we’d see a lot more of THEIR predecessors as Saints too…

    So I, as a Catholic, would by very wary to canonize any Pope; too many intra-church political motives could get entangled there. And that definitely isnt coming from any “anti-Catholic” sentiment. It was the practice of the Church to be very sparing with canonizing popes from at least the 8th century up to the 20th.

  5. My apologies, but my comments above were cut off in transmission. I meant to say: It is too complicated, so we will merely agree that everyone is saved. Look, we are dealing with a society, the Church, the thinking of which is off the rails. I mean this RESPECTFULLY. We were told forty years ago we had to get rid of the “encrustations” which had accumulated over the millenia. One of these was the Sacerdotal Priesthood, as Luther found no evidence for this in the New Testament. A teacher, yes, but no one confecting the Eucharist with special charisms. Schillebeekcx proposed this idea and it gained “legs” at the Council. So, no more Transubstantiation! Popes back to Pius IX (The Syllabus of Errors) saw the world and the Church we are living in decades before as they were aware of the thinking (from the writings) of the theologians of their day. That is why there is much resistance to the Tridentine Rite. It merely brings the encrustations back! [I don't see what this has to do with the article.]

  6. curtjester says:

    Of course the article is dreck, has David Gibson ever written anything other than dreck when it comes to the faith? Just another dissenter.

  7. robbini says:

    I find it quite logical that more popes are on the path to sainthood. With modern technology, it’s much easier to fully capture the lives and personal histories of the popes, as well as for Catholics around the globe to coordinate and report their prayers for intercession.

    Probably more importantly, with the unification of Italy and the scaling back of the papal states, the pope’s role became more spiritual and less secular. This has resulted in more spiritual popes being elected, and their spiritual works being more recognized.

  8. More and more people lecturing to the Church how to do it’s job. When the Church is loved by the world, then is the time to be concerned. I for one, could care less about what the NYT..errr the gospel of Satan, has to say.

  9. MikeJ9919 says:

    Father, I believe you’re misreading this sentence: “One is that it can dilute the meaning of sainthood; all who die and go to heaven are saints, but those officially recognized as such by the church are exalted as worthy of veneration and imitation.” I believe in this sentence he is merely explaining (for the benefit of a non-Catholic audience) the concept that there are two types of saints: all those who die and go to Heaven (who are saints simply by virtue of their victory in Christ), and those the Church specifically recognizes (who are saints for the same reason, but specifically called saints by the Church in order to instruct and encourage the faithful in holiness.)

  10. TJerome says:

    Well since the 1940s the New York Times has morphed from a reality based publication to a fantasy rag for left-wing loons in Manhattan. And they are definitely anti-Catholic nowadays.

  11. Father McBrien is just simply a protestant in disguise. The same person who said “Eucharistic Adoration is a theological step backwards”. lol. This guy needs to retire.

  12. Pius XII was declared venerable because of heroic virtue. That is to say, he repented, did acts of charity and penance. That’s what they are looking at here. Not on what he did or did not do. This leaves us in a culture that does not understand the canonization process.

    This author is acting like the beatification process is ill advised. It isn’t. A beatification is the result of a proven miracle. We are not allowed to ignore that. If there is a miracle, it is God’s will that it be recognized publicly. Beatification and subsequently canonization is an infallible decreee. There is nothing that you, I or even the pope can do. He must declare the sanctity of a person. Not to do so would make the pope a heretic. A pope has to canonize when there is proof of sanctity.

    The case for veneration on Pius XII is closed. It cannot be reopened! Get that Father McBrien? This is a process that is led by the Holy Spirit from day one. Problem is the media choses to ignore this.

    The so called secret documents to which so many people are referring to are the documents that were examined in the study of the life of Pius XII. It is true that these documents are numerous, sometimes hundreds of volumes and thousands of pages of testimonies, writings, and reports. Generally, these are not open to the public. Usually, they are not even available to Catholics. They are stored in secure vaults. For anyone to gain access to them one must go through a very complex petition process. Even historians are not allowed to get to all of these documents. The reason is simple. These documents are saved for posterity. If they are readily available to be handled by too many people, they can become damanged, lost and even destroyed.

    The answers are easy to explain to those who do not understand.

  13. JonM says:

    Mr. Gibson actually has points that can be legitimate; I agree both with Father and some of the contributors here.

    The Times writer is groping for reasons to attack, impugn, or otherwise weaken the position of the Church. So, from his perspective such as it is, the questions are inherently anti-Catholic. Had he been clear that he does not question at the least the possibility of a Pope leading a saintly life, then it would be different.

    However, elevated alert over the push for beatification for various (and recent) Popes is entirely fair if such concern is rooted in protecting the faith and what it means to be a saint.

    There are vocal though very small movements to have declared as saints Paul VI and John Paul I. I know less about the latter Pope than the former, but what I know about the two, I cannot fathom how these movements will go anywhere.

    Pope John Paul II of course has a very large crowd in favor of his beatification. I really, really hope that a hard look is given. I can’t see such an honest assessment completed before 2060ish. I’m not going to get into a back and forth abouth Pope JP II.

    In my view, we should never lose sight of what sainthood is. We are all called to it and virtually all saints are never recorded and called to in prayers. Certainly it is not a popularity contest or opportunity to buttress an incorrect approach to the faith.

    Back to the article, it is not surprise at all that the NY Times is again applying the anti-Semitic ‘Tar, Burn, Repeat’ charge cycle. It’s been pretty effective for the past several decades.

  14. To be clear: Every Pope should be a saint. Not every Pope ought to canonized… unless it can demonstrated through a cause that he merits that title.

  15. Hans says:

    Hey, he didn’t just trash popes in this article. Did you notice how he didn’t mention Fr. McBrien’s fine fiction column in the National Comedy Reporter? What a slight to his broad talents, especially as the article seems to be drawing from that column.

  16. Father:

    My comments are right on the article because the Popes up to Pius XII were warning us of what was to follow and did follow under John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II. Yet Pius X was declared a saint, Pius IX and Pius XII, are venerable, and the three Popes above, under whose papacies this turmoil occurred, are being considered for sainthood as well!

  17. Lee says:

    The talk of canonizing popes brings to mind a passage from “Philosopher King” by Renee Haynes, a bography of Benedict XIV, who, by the way, “wrote the book” on canonization: De Canonizazione.

    As a native of Bologna he had an unusually colorful vocabulary for a pope but, “Benedict realized he must in fact try to curb his language and especially his use of a particular four letter word whose Italian alibi is Cabbage. It is not to be found in dictionaries, so no exact translation can be given, but it was startling. He asked his friend, the Franciscan friar Leonard of Port Maurice, for who he had a great reverence and affection, what he should do about it, and in accordance with the gentle advice he was given arranged that a big Crucifix should be put up in his audience chamber just where it caught his eye so that he should recollect himself when speaking. On one particularly trying evening when three cardinals were with hims he was observed to look again and again at the Crucifix, and breathe deeply, until at last something so irritated him that he called for it to be removed, and directly it was gone exploded in a fine verbal outburst. Next morning, ashamed and repentant, he sent for Monsignor Boccapadulo, his maestro di camera at the time…. Would the monsignor be so good as to stand by him and pull gently at his sleeve if he said that or any other offensive word? Early two days later he was told that there had been a great fire in the Rione Monti during the small hours, and was much distressed. ‘Cabbage!’ he said, ‘how many people were hurt? how much dammage was done?’ The maestro di camera pulled his sleeve warningly, but as the story went on he was carried away with horror and pity he kept interjecting ‘Cabbage!…Cabbage!’ despite the dutiful and repeated tuggings. Finally, becoming maddened by them he said it again ten times over, and then cooling down remarked,’I shall end up sanctifying that word and attaching a plenary indulgence to its use a hundred times a day, then I need not reproach myself when I pronounce it….

    “On top of the Pope’s essential work and its anxieties came a thousand worries and annoyances, enough to detonate explosions in anyone, even if he were not already subject to sudden anger. Many of them were, moreover, connected with largely temporal business. Benedict wrote sadly to Tencin on one occasion that he envied ‘the first popes, who were occupied with religion alone, and won paradise by dying for it in the end. Today the earlthly interests of heaven are so mixed up with spiritual affairs that the Pontiffs who want to concentrate on the second, which are their especial province, are distracted by the first, which are slso their business. They do not die as martyrs, but undergo a living martyrdom which will by no means bring them to heaven.”

    It appears that the way to sanctity was substantially cleared when the papacy sloughed off the papal states in 1870, and so it may be that that is the reason why causes for the canonization of popes are more plentiful now.

  18. It appears that the way to sanctity was substantially cleared when the papacy sloughed off the papal states in 1870, and so it may be that that is the reason why causes for the canonization of popes are more plentiful now.

    Well, the papacy did not “slough off” the Papal States; the King of Italy took the Papal States by force. This was an evil act that God permitted to happen. It happens that the Pope does require temporal power in order not to fall under the subjugation of secular rulers; hence the creation of the Vatican city-state pursuant to the Lateran Treaty. Now, however, the Pope has no armies with which to defend his independence.

    Back to the article: I see that David Gibson is the author of a biography of the present Holy Father. I shall be avoiding it like the plague.

  19. Every priest should be a saint, and especially every Pope. Of course we can see how the NYT and editors aren’t interested in such Divinely oriented souls. Maybe we can get their sports writer to rag about stopping the hall of famers, who are often worshiped as secular gods?

  20. terryprest says:

    The article is remarkably bad journalism

    1. ” Pope Benedict’s decision of course renewed the longstanding debate over Pius’s World War II legacy (was he “silent” or even complicit in the Nazi extermination of the Jews?)”

    Surely no serious student of the period thinks that Pope Pius XII was “complicit” in the extermination of the Jews during the Second World War ?

    2. “The church counts less than a third of all 264 dead popes as saints, and most were canonized by popular acclaim in the first centuries of Christianity, often because they were martyrs. Only five were canonized in the entire second millennium, and when Pius X, who died in 1914, was made a saint in 1954 — by Pius XII — he was the first pope so honored in nearly 400 years.”

    Was the scarcity of Popes being canonised not due to the fact that the process of being declared a saint was extremely difficult and long ? Is it not the case that it has been the reforms to the process of canonisation by Pope Paul VI and more importantly by Pope John Paul II has led to a huge increase in the overall number of canonisations with the number of more recent Popes being included due to these recent reforms ?

    Pope Pius V died in 1572 but was only canonised in 1712

    Pope Innocent XI died on 12 August 1689. The diocesan process for his canonization was initiated on 11 April 1691, his heroic virtues were only proclaimed on 15 November 1955 and then he was beatified on 7 October 1956

    Pope Benedict XIII died on 21 February 1730 but the diocesan process for his canonization was only initiated on 21 February 1931

    Pope Pius VII died on 20 August 1823 but the diocesan process for his canonization was only initiated on 15 August 2007

    Further after 1870 the Popes lost most of their territorial jurisdiction. They lost the right to rule the Papal States. This allowed them to be free to concentrate on their spiritual mission. Perhaps that is why after 1870 more Popes than ever have been in the running for canonisation.

    3. “Is every pope such an exemplar? Moreover, by canonizing predecessors a reigning pope elevates the throne he himself occupies and practically ensures that his successor one day will declare him a saint as well — as if sanctity were an award for becoming pope”

    Since the time of Pope Pius IX, the following Popes are not in the process of “being declared saints”: Pope Leo XIII, Pope Benedict XV, and Pope Pius XI

    The writer does not seem to be aware of the procedure for being declared a saint: being declared a servant of God, being declared venerable, beatification, canonisation et cetera. This can extend over several if not many pontificates.

    It was during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI (1922-1939), that the process of canonisation of Pope Saint Pius X began in 1923 with the formal appointment of those who would carry out his cause. The event was marked by the erecting of a monument in his memory in St. Peter’s Basilica. It is however true that it was under Pope Pius XII that Pius X was declared “venerable”, beatified and then canonised,

    It was not Pope John XXIII who started the process for Pope Pius XII: it was Pope Paul VI.

    It was Pope Paul VI who started the process for Pope Pius XII. He also strongly defended Pope Pius XII against all the libels and slanders. As Monsignor Montini, he worked closely with Pope Pius XII when Pius XII was still Secretary of State and then Pope. He obviously knew Pius XII extremely well. The author seems to be implying that Paul VI in defending Pius XII was a bare faced liar solely motivated by self interest and realpolitik.

    Likewise, the author seems to suggest that Pope John Paul II in advancing the causes of Pope Pius IX, Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I was solely motivated by self interest and realpolitik. It is difficult to see how his interests were advanced by progressing the causes of Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XII. He could have avoided a great deal of criticism and problems if he had just ignored or put on the back burner the causes of Popes Pius IX and Pius XII

    4. “To avoid canonizing John Paul II or any pope at this point could come off as an insult, or a knock on the papacy. That forces promoters of papal canonizations, and defenders of Pius XII in particular, to create a false division between official actions and personal piety.”

    The writer seems to think that every decision taken by the Holy See, all its Congregations, and organisations, and of Catholic bishops throughout the world are the personal decisions of the reigning Pope for which he has personal responsibility.

    This is a bit like saying that every action, decision taken or omission by the Department of Works and Pensions in the United Kingdom is the personal act and responsibility of the Minister in charge. Every act may be the legal act of the Department and thus of the Minister. However most acts are neither politically nor morally the act of the Minister except for those which he takes personally

    Everyone accepts that President Abraham Lincoln was a moral and upright man. No one besmirches his moral integrity by saying that in the Emancipation Proclamation he should have freed all slaves and not allowed slavery to be continued in a few counties. He was fettered by the necessities and reaities of the time and of the situation in which he found himself.

    In times of war and emergency, the rule book gets re-written. Because of the lack of detailed and accurate information and the fact that political opponents do not abide by the normal rules of peace time, political leaders in such situations are in a very difficult and delicate position in deciding official acts

    In legal form the Vatican may be a medieval state where the Pope is the State: every act of State is an act of the Pope or one of his delegates. But that is to ignore reality.

    Popes have not had unfettered power in official decisions. Often they have been fettered by the College of Cardinals, the Congregations, the Curia and political realities.

    This was especially so when the Popes had territorial jurisdiction.

    After 1870, the Popes lost most of their territorial jurisdiction and this allowed them to be free to concentrate on their spiritual mission. Perhaps that is why after 1870 more Popes than ever have been in the running for canonisation.

    But even in a more spiritual environment, the Popes do not have unfettered power. To ignore the distinction between the official actions taken by a Pope and his personal piety is to fly in the face of reality.

    5. “Hans Küng, the dissident Swiss theologian, recalls an episode during his days as a student in Rome in the 1950s when the private secretary of Pius XII, Father Robert Lieber, visited the seminary. Father Küng and the other young men pestered Father Lieber about whether the aristocratic Pius was a saint: “No, no!” the priest insisted. “Pius XII is not a saint. He is a great man of the church.”

    It’s a verdict that makes Pius XII neither villain nor plaster icon, but neither does it answer the question of what a modern pope should be — a leader of the church or a model of sanctity? ”

    The anecdote by Hans Küng seems entirely out of place and irrelevant. Presumably when Father Lieber made his comment, Pope Pius XII was still alive. Therefore at that time, by definition, he could not then be a saint.

  21. Every priest should be a saint, and especially every Pope.

    When you consider that we have now had 265 Popes, and something like 70+ have been canonized, you have to admit that’s not a bad average!

  22. Andy F. says:

    I have a hard time stomaching the fact that this was printed as a legitimate article. Pagans.

  23. JonM says:

    I missed this sterling expert…

    It’s a verdict that makes Pius XII neither villain nor plaster icon, but neither does it answer the question of what a modern pope should be — a leader of the church or a model of sanctity?

    Father is totally correct – what an utterly silly rhetorical question!

    A trademark of ne’er do wells is that they love framing debates with terrible boundaries or options.

    Of course, a Pope is meant to be both the Church leader and a model of sanctity. Just like how any husband is supposed to work hard and be totally faithful to his wife.

    What silliness. But this is the NY Times we’re talking about.

  24. irishgirl says:

    Oh, what dreck the NY ‘Slimes’ is!

    As usual, Father Z, your comments are spot on!

  25. greg the beachcomber says:

    A journalist’s sources tell you a lot about him or her. A good journalist constantly digs for new sources, and when writing about something controversial, looks for source quotes from both sides of the issue. The best quotes come from picking up the phone and calling someone, because they’re more likely to be extemporaneous, which usually makes them more honest (and often more colorful).

    Those writing commentary pieces have a bad habit of getting lazy and having a small number of sources on speed dial, or having a stack of quotes from previous research ready to go.

    It’s easy to sum up a writer’s effort, and to some degree honesty, from his or her sources. Mr. Gibson’s sources were:

    German theologian Karl Rahner (apparently, via research)
    Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University in Union, N.J.
    The Rev. Richard McBrien
    a [unnamed] papal spokesman (apparently, via research)
    Hans Küng (also, apparently, via research)

    So, Mr. Gibson called or emailed a church historian in New Jersey, might’ve emailed Fr. McBrien (or might’ve quoted a previous McBrien email) and then went to his trusty stack of ready-made quotes to support his argument. Impressive.