Pope Pius XII: After 50 Years

I recently came across this excellent article and wished to share it on this website. I have heard a lot of condemnations from traditional Catholics of Pope Pius XII and his decisions, and I find such brazen disrespect of a Vicar of Christ to be quite appalling.

On the one hand, all that I have read about him has been quite remarkable and edifying, especially considering the very difficult times during which he held the Papal throne.  On the other hand, I just can’t swallow any lack of reverence for the Papacy and those who hold that office. To highlight one part of the article below, this was the attitude of the great St. John Bosco: “To his clerics he gave a practical rule of thumb in appraising a book: If its author is somewhat unfavorable to the Pope, don’t read the book.” Such is my attitude, and such, I believe, should be the attitude of all Catholics.

I hope any readers of this blog will take the time to read this article, though it may be a bit lengthy for some. I hope to write a follow up in the next week or so with some of my own thoughts on the Papacy.


Excerpts from a Lecture by Rev. Fr. Benedict Hughes, CMRI

Rev. Fathers and Sisters, and dear Conference guests, I chose this title for this lecture not only because yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the passing of the great Pope Pius XII, the last pope to whom we can look as a truly orthodox Catholic Pope, but also because I want to talk about the Papacy in general and in particular what our attitude towards the Papacy should be as traditional Catholics today.

Let us begin with an understanding of the proper Catholic attitude towards the papacy. Fr. Mateo, a priest from South America who spent his whole life promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in particular the Enthronement of the Home to the Sacred Heart, had a great love for the Papacy. He had this to say about an audience he once had with the Pope:

“I was gratified by the Sovereign Pontiff meeting with me and the answer His Holiness made to one of my remarks. I said ‘Holy Father, I always request prayers for the Pope for I unite the Eternal King and His Vicar in one same love. I often preach devotion to the Pope whom I consider as a kind of second Eucharist.’ His Holiness suddenly interrupted me and said, ‘Oh, you do well my son, and you are quite right in saying that the Pope is as a second Eucharist. Unfortunately the beauty and necessity of devotion to the Pope is  not always understood. You, my son, spread this devotion wherever you preach the King of Love’” (Jesus King of Love, p. 244).

Here is another quote, this one from a book entitled Forty Dreams of St. John Bosco (p. 129):

“This was Don Bosco’s attitude. In his love of the Sovereign Pontiff he was truly great, both in word and in deed, he used to say that he could kiss each page of Salzano’s Church history because this Italian historian had clearly shown therein his love for the Popes. To his clerics he gave a practical rule of thumb in appraising a book: If its author is somewhat unfavorable to the Pope, don’t read the book. The Bonetti chronicle had this entry to that year, 1862: When Don Bosco talks about the Popes, he can go on forever. He always has new praises for them and speaks so charmingly as to inflame his listeners. He is at his best in two subjects: the virtue of purity and the Papacy. He entrances and amazes everyone. To believe this, one must only read his works, especially his lives of the Popes, which we consider required reading for anyone chosen by Providence to write the biography of this faithful servant of God.”

The book brings out beautifully St. John Bosco’s love for the Papacy and for the true Popes. This is the spirit that we as traditional Catholics have. You might say that we have imbibed it from our Baptism and all through our Catholic upbringing, through the Masses we have attended, the Holy Communions we have received, the spiritual books we have read. This is the Catholic sense of loyalty and love for the Papacy.

It is sad that many of our adversaries do not understand our position regarding the Papacy. They believe that a sede­vacantist is one who has to somehow temporarily forget Catholic doctrine on the Papacy in order to make the intellectual decision to reject what I refer to collectively as the modern “Popes” of Vatican II. Nothing could be further from the truth. As one priest once put it, it is not in spite of our belief in the Papacy that we reject these promoters of a new religion, but it is because of our belief in the Papacy that we must reject those who have rejected the work of all the Popes before them.

I recall someone asking a question on this subject at one of my lectures, and a layman who was present answered it very well in this way: “Well, the way I look at it is that if I accept and follow John Paul II, I automatically reject the 262 Popes from Peter to Pope Pius XII inclusive. But if I accept those 262 Popes, then I automatically reject these Modernists who have undermined and rejected what these Popes taught and what they stood for.”

We must understand, then, this attitude of the saints and of true Catholics because it must be our attitude. The devil knows this. He knows that as Catholics we have a strong love and respect for, and, as Fr. Mateo would say, a strong devotion to the Papacy. That is why the devil sought to control the Papacy. As one prominent Freemason put it, “We must get our own man on the Chair of Peter.” It has been said that at the time of Pope Pius IX, the devil inspired his minions, Freemasons and others, to try to destroy the Catholic Church from without. Pope Pius IX’s prime minister was murdered in broad daylight. The Papal States were taken away. There was open warfare against the Papacy and the Catholic Church — but the devil lost, as he always does and always will. For it was at this time that the Vatican Council took place, and that the dogma of Papal Infallibility was defined, and the Faith seemed to revive all the more. It was then that the Freemasons changed their tactics, and began working to infiltrate and destroy the Church from within. And so over the last 150 years or so there has been a concerted effort to get Modernists and liberals into positions of authority.

It is interesting that Pope Pius XII understood the state of the Church, although to all appearances the Catholic Church in the 1950’s was a magnificent structure. I’m not talking about physical structures, although it had those in abundance. All around this country there were magnificent buildings such as this one — convents, schools, and seminaries that are now vacant but that were built with the pennies and dimes of the faithful. More than that, there were converts by the droves, and the Church seemed strong and thriving. But Pope Pius XII knew that there was a terrible cancer within, and that many priests and bishops were infected with Modernism. Shortly before his death he confided to a cardinal, “After me, comes the deluge.” What an amazing insight!

So let us examine the life of this great man, his accomplishments, and some of the major events of his life, and then return to this Catholic concept of the Papacy. Pope Pius XII was born Eugenio Pacelli on March 2, 1876. He was ordained at the young age of 23 on Easter Sunday of 1899 with degrees in theology and both canon and civil law. Even as a young priest, he was assigned many diplomatic roles for the Pope at the time, first under Pope Leo XIII and then under Pope Pius X. He was consecrated a bishop by Pope Benedict XV himself in the Sistine Chapel on May 13, 1917 — the very day that Our Lady first appeared to the children at Fatima. (It is also interesting that he was laid to rest in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica on October 13, 1958.)

After Pacelli’s consecration, he was sent as a papal nuncio to Bavaria. According to his biographers, he quickly became more beloved to the Germans than even their own bishops and cardinals. As he was there during the rise of the Nazi party, an account is told of an occasion when his residence was stormed by an angry mob. One young man pulled a gun and pointed it at him. Pacelli fearlessly talked them down, and then the man took his gun and threw it at him and hit him in the chest.

Eventually Pacelli was recalled to Rome and created a cardinal on December 16, 1929, by Pope Pius XI, who named Pacelli his Cardinal Secretary of State. He served in that post until the death of Pope Pius XI in 1939, at which time he was elected to the Papacy.

Cardinal Pacelli was the highest ranking churchman ever to visit the United States. During his visit, which took place in 1936, he traveled extensively throughout the country. I remember an elderly priest, Fr. Ferdinand Falque, who lived here at Mount St. Michael, whom we took care of in his last years, telling us how he spoke to Pacelli of the difficulty of the Eucharistic fast for priests in this country. He felt he was personally responsible, at least to some degree, for giving Pope Pius XII the idea that the fast needed to be changed. The then-Secretary of State Cardinal Pacelli met with bishops and pastors who explained to him the difficulty a priest would have in fasting from water as well as food from midnight on Sundays when he offered three Masses, preached three sermons, distributed numerous Communions, and perhaps had to travel in hot summer weather. I remember Fr. Clement Kubesh telling me that on Sundays he would drink a gallon of water after Mass. I said, “A gallon — you’re exaggerating.” And he answered, very seriously, “No, I would drink a gallon of water.” You can imagine how difficult it would have been. Pope Pius XII certainly had a special love for this country and that became manifest later.

Eugenio Pacelli was elected Pope on March 2, 1939, on his 63rd birthday, and he died 19 1/2 years later. He had, then, a relatively lengthy papacy, during which he accomplished an enormous amount of work. He wrote 41 encyclicals, more than his predecessors of the previous 50 years combined. Some of them, granted, were short, but others were lengthy and filled with footnotes. He wrote on topics such as the Mystical Body of Christ, the Sacred Liturgy, Sacred Music and Sacred Virginity. One of his greatest encyclicals was on devotion to the Sacred Heart, Haurietis Aquas, which is quite lengthy and filled with hundreds of footnotes.

Pope Pius  XII also wrote and delivered many addresses which were later published. I have a book which is a collection of addresses he gave to newlyweds, for whom he had a particular regard. He gave nearly a thousand addresses in the course of his papacy on anything from nuclear physics to medicine to modern travel to just about any other topic under the sun. As the primary Teacher of Christianity, the Vicar of Christ used his position and his office to explain various facets of life from a Catholic viewpoint. This required the reading of many books. It was said that he read a book or two a day, and was the master of six or seven languages.

In addition to his written works, Pope Pius XII gave audiences to thousands upon thousands of people, including many servicemen, as he was Pope during World War II and the Nazi occupation of Rome.  Of course, the Germans who had known him as papal nuncio loved him, and many German soldiers, some Catholic, some not, were eager to see the Pope. He was as kind and affable to them as he was to the Italians, his own people, and later to the American servicemen when the Allies liberated Rome. Many servicemen considered it one of the greatest privileges of their lives to have an audience with him.

Unfortunately, however, Pope Pius XII has been roundly criticized more recently by a number of authors who claim that he did not do enough for the Jews during World War II. Other books have been written which completely refute that claim, which, of course, comes from anti-Catholic sources. One can put those criticisms to bed very simply by pointing out that the head rabbi of Rome, who became a Catholic and took the name Eugenio after Pope Pius XII, said that he was converted because he was so inspired by the example of Pope Pius XII. The problem these modern historians encounter and don’t understand is that the Pope tried to intercede for the Jews for quite a while. Eventually he realized that, because of the anti-Catholic attitude of the Nazis, the more he did this, the more they were persecuted. He was caught, so to speak, between a rock and a hard place. But he really did all that was humanly possible to help the Jews.

No matter how you look at it, Pope Pius XII was an extraordinary man. He worked tirelessly during the war to intercede for prisoners of war and for people who lived in areas that had been occupied or were being used as battlefields. At the end of the war he issued an encyclical asking nations to come to the aid of the children who had been orphaned. He worked tirelessly during the war for peace. Most fittingly, then, the name Pacelli comes from the word peace. Pope Pius XII was truly the Pope of Peace, and constantly sought to bring about a just end to the war and a lasting peace to the world.

Pope Pius XII was also prominent in his canonizations, which included many familiar saints: St. Pius X, St. Maria Goretti, St. Gemma Galgani, and others who lived in more recent times.

He had an extraordinary devotion to our Blessed Mother. He consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1942, and promoted the propagation of the message of Fatima. In 1950, which was the Holy Year, he proclaimed solemnly the dogma of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother body and soul into heaven, and proclaimed 1954 a Marian year, something that had never been done before. The entire year was to be dedicated to honoring Our Lady, studying her theological role, and promoting devotion to her. This was to celebrate the centenary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which took place on December 8, 1854. The year officially began in December of 1953 and lasted until the following December, the climax of the Marian year. During that year Pope Pius XII established the feast of the Queen­ship of our Blessed Mother and issued the encyclical Ad Coeli Reginam on the Queenship.

In January of 1954 Pope Pius XII became very ill, and endured a painful and protracted illness throughout the year. He had a seemingly incurable case of the hiccups and was bedridden much of the time. He grew weaker and weaker, to the point that doctors did not think he would last the year. He went to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence, for the summer and stayed there well into November, which was much longer than normal. He then returned to Rome and by December 1, appeared to be dying. The next morning, when the Pope awoke, he began to pray one of his favorite prayers, the Anima Christi. As he came to the words, “and bid me to come unto Thee,” Our Lord appeared to him, standing at the foot of his bed. Pope Pius XII thought that he had already died and that Christ had come for him. Although he never revealed exactly what Our Lord said to him, apparently it was that he needed to remain a few years longer, that he had more work to do. Amazingly, he got up and was just fine, even though he had been gravely ill most of the year. One of his greatest crosses was that he confided this vision to a few friends, and the story leaked out to the secular media, who reported it with ridicule and mockery.

Pope Pius XII lived for a few more years, accomplishing an enormous amount of work during that time, and dying in October of 1958 at the age of 82. One wonders what would have happened had he lived just a little longer until 1960, when, according to Our Lady’s instructions, the Fatima secret was to have been revealed.

It has often been said that Popes can be divided into three categories: scholars, diplomats, and saints. Pope Pius XII, it has been said, was all three. He was certainly a scholarly, brilliant man, and also a very skilled and successful diplomat. But he was obviously holy as well. When I say this, certainly I acknowledge that the judgment of the Church is the final word, and we can only go by appearances. But he was a very devout and spiritual man, and this can be seen in his writings as well as in his own personal life. No one ever accused him of anything that would besmirch this reputation. In that regard I might mention, somewhat parenthetically, that there is talk now in the modern Church of canonizing Pope Pius XII. If that should happen, I believe that the purpose of such an act would only be to use him, to try to portray the modern teachings of the Conciliar Church as a continuation of the work of his pontificate.

After the death of Pope Pius XII came the election of John XXIII, who in almost no time declared that he was going to call a council. Many cardinals were surprised, and some were steadfastly opposed to it, for there was no need for a council. But he went boldly ahead with his council, which, as we know, changed what is known to the world as Catholicism. John XXIII was succeeded by Paul VI, who completed the work of  Vatican II. It was he who promulgated its decrees, established the Novus Ordo Missae, changed all of the sacraments and devastated the Catholic Faith. Paul VI was followed briefly by John Paul I, for a month, then by John Paul II for about 26 years. Now, of course, there is Benedict XVI, who was elected in 2005. These five I group together as the Popes of Vatican II. Now why do we reject them?

It’s interesting that you have individuals, would-be traditional Catholics who do love their faith, who believe they must submit to or at least accept verbally these modern popes. And so we have the interesting situation which Fr. Anthony Cekada refers to as the Cardboard Pope  — for display purposes only. In other words, you can go into a traditional chapel and see a picture in the vestibule of Benedict XVI, and then hear the priest rail against what he’s doing in the sermon. Here’s another example. This is a book called Previews of the New Papacy put out by a traditional group in San Diego called Tradition in Action (TIA). They have some very good books, and promote devotion to Our Lady of Good Success. But the gist of this book is that the popes of V2 have changed the Papacy and Catholics need to adjust to the fact that there is a new papacy. Now they are not supporting it; they are just stating the facts. But they nevertheless believe these men are true Popes.

You don’t need to be a theologian or a scholar to say to yourself, “Well, wait a minute, Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church and He founded everything about the Church, its hierarchical structure, the Mass and Sacraments, and the Papacy, and what He founded will endure until the end of time. So how can any human being take something that Christ founded and change it and distort it until it is no longer similar to what it was that Christ founded?” There might be the trappings, the white cassock, certain marks of respect — although those have been disappearing — such as the sedia gestatoria, the tiara, and so forth. But it’s still referred to as the Papacy. So I look at this contradiction and see these modern Popes promoting a new religion and I say to myself that they cannot be representatives of the Papacy that Pope Pius XII and his predecessors represented, who were authentically Vicars of Christ. These individuals who recognize the errors of Benedict XVI, John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII, are often referred to as the “recognize but resist” crowd. Theirs is the attitude that we must recognize them as true popes but we must do everything we can to resist them. They often quote a commentary of St. Robert Bellarmine or St. Thomas Aquinas on chapter 2 of Galatians, concerning fraternal correction, in support of their position. Now while we do not have time today to delve into this erroneous reasoning, suffice it to say that faithful Catholics may never refuse to obey universal disciplinary laws or teachings of the Pope’s ordinary universal magisterium. (For more detail on this subject, see the article on “Resisting the Pope….” by Fr. Anthony Cekada in The Remnant, November, 2005. Also at  www.traditionalmass.org).

To return to the proper Catholic attitude to guide us in these days: We must love, revere and honor the Papacy. Our attitude is well explained by Pope St. Pius X, who said: “When people love the Pope, they do not discuss his orders; they do not question the extent of their obedience, nor in what matter they are to obey” (as quoted by Fr. Mateo in Jesus King of Love, p. 247).  Far be from us, dear friends, that un-Catholic attitude of “recognize but resist.” May we always have that love for the Papacy, with which the Church has ever been endowed.