article appeared in its unedited form in response
to a book excessive in its praise of John XXIII
by Rev. Fr. Franco Molinarik, I Peccati di Papa
Giovanni, published in 1975. It first appeared
in the Italian review Rassegna di Ascetica e
Mistica, S. Caterina da Siena (July-Sept., 1975)
and was edited for this edition of SISINONO.
Molinari is Professor of Modern History at the Catholic
University of Milan, Italy, nicknamed "Volaire
in cassock" in Corriere della Sera (May,
intend here to make a critique of Molinari's book, although
I may perhaps do that at some other time or place. I only
wish to take the opportunity to state what is, it seems
to me, the true sin, the very great sin of John XXIII, which
is the following: to be pleasing to everyone, he did not
always make known, nor always sufficiently defend, the truth
and the discipline of the Church.
those authors who, to my knowledge, have recently applied
themselves to pointing out some of the stains on Pope John's
"halo," none have gone so far as to utter such
a grave accusation. This is why the duty that I undertake
is new and of a very ticklish nature. I confront it with
great anxiety, the more so because it seems to me almost
to be committing an act of ingratitude towards a dear person
who held me in esteem (cf. Roncalli, A. Letters to the
Bishops of Bergamo, Bergamo, 1973, p.133).
nevertheless that the truth, outweighs every other consideration,
I wish to express my thoughts very clearly, even if by doing
so I should appear to be presumptuous, irreverent or shocking.
were many who exploited the goodness and the kindness of
Pope Roncalli during his lifetime. As he himself loved history,
knowing that it was cruel and pitiless, he will pardon me
for this indictment, born of the grief caused by the chaotic
condition of the present-day Church, a condition for which,
it seems to me, he also was responsible. A cardinal said
after his death that it would take 50 years to repair the
damage done during his pontificate. The statement was diplomatically
denied, but, uttered or not, I believe that it expresses
a good bit of truth.
which follows, naturally, is solely a matter of the reflections
and the personal judgments of the author; judgments, moreover,
not influenced by the recent publications, for the good
reason that they were implicitly expressed, even if only
in private, from the time that the campaign for the canonization
of the "good pope" was begun. Indeed, when I was
urged to sign the petition in favor of this cause, I refused,
thereby stirring up the disapproval of the promoters.
criterion which forced me to make such a disagreeable refusal
was precisely that one which is diametrically opposed to
the fundamental norm of our great man's actions; a norm
recently recalled by the Postulator himself in Osservatore
Romano of July 4 :
did not want to offend anyone, and it was precisely to
avoid falling into the intentional error of displeasing
someone, that he preferred to appear overly credulous.
weak I might add!
against this basic mode of behavior, practiced not only
as a private person but even while occupying posts of supreme
responsibility, I brutally oppose the practice and the norm
of St. Paul: "If I were still trying to please men,
I should not be a servant of Christ" (Gal 1:10).
cannot set up "peace at any price" as a rule of
I have taken upon myself the thankless task of devil's advocate,
I am going to try to proceed...in a scientific manner by
recalling the classical, and apparently paradoxical thesis
according to which "the virtues, carried to their perfection,
are necessarily connected in such a way that if just one
is lacking, none are perfected, and one cannot therefore
speak of sanctity." My venerated teacher, Fr. Reginald
Garrigou-Lagrange, under whose direction I wrote my doctoral
thesis precisely on this theme of the connection of the
virtues, was insistent on the point that, in processes for
canonization, one had to examine in depth to determine if
the virtues had attained in the subject their degree of
perfection, their vital cohesion, their cooperative force,
because if only one of them is not perfect, none of them
will be. Consequently, if a man possesses the greatest charity
but lacks moral courage, or the virtue of fortitude or of
prudence, he will be a good man, an excellent Christian,
but certainly not a saint in the full meaning of the term.
a lecture given to candidates for holy orders on December
12, 1945 (and which, I believe, remains unpublished to this
day), the celebrated theologian developed his thought in
the following way:
interconnection of the virtues, particularly of the dissimilar
and apparently opposing virtues, constitutes an excellent
criterion for judging the heroic degree of the true virtues
held, and thus of the sanctity of a person. When the intensity
of a virtue proceeds not from human effort sustained by
Grace, but from the natural disposition, one will not
find, at the same time and in an eminent degree, the virtue
which, in a certain sense, is opposed to it, because this
natural disposition is only oriented towards one particular
virtue (ad unum). He who, by nature, is inclined
toward fortitude will not, by temperament, also be inclined
toward mildness, and vice-versa. Hence, if we encounter
these "opposing" virtues in a soul, we will
have to admit that there is, in that soul, a special intervention
of God and of His Grace. In effect, God alone, in His
absolute simplicity, possesses the "dissimilar"
perfections. He possesses, for example, in a supremely
excellent mode and in a marvelous unity, both infinite
justice and infinite mercy, and that is why He can unite
them in the soul of the just. If on the other hand, the
"dissimilar" virtues, such as fortitude and
mildness, do not appear fused and united but, instead,
isolated and apart, then, in that case, we don't have
the triumph of grace and true sanctity, but rather the
triumph of human nature, that is to say of a single virtue
without the counter-weight of the one which is its apparent
to St. Thomas on this subject:
natural inclination to a good of virtue is a kind of beginning
of virtue, but is not perfect virtue. For the stronger
this inclination is, the more perilous may it prove to
be, unless it be accompanied by right reason, which rectifies
the choice of fitting means towards the due end. Thus
if a running horse be blind, the faster it runs the more
heavily will it fall, and the more grievously will it
be hurt (Summa Theologica, la lIae, Q.58, A.4,
that good-naturedness, so highly praised in Roncalli, always
supported, accompanied and corrected by all the other virtues,
especially by true prudence and true fortitude? There, is
the real basic theological problem in judging the sanctity
of Pope John. Wishing at any cost to be benevolent, sympathetic
and agreeable, did he not perhaps establish a method of
government which has weakened the discipline of the Church,
as a consequence of which, along with many other causes,
we now find ourselves immersed in a frightful ideological,
moral, liturgical and social chaos?
reply, as far as I am concerned, is positive and the accusation
is thus very grave: it is on me therefore that the burden
of proof is incumbent. It is not a matter here of revealing
enormous or secret deficiencies in the way in which he directed
the Church, but simply of recounting a few symptomatic acts
which express a certain style of government; a style which,
emanating from such an elevated seat, was then fatally spread,
by concentric circles, throughout the entire Catholic universe.
are a few of those symbolic episodes, significant of a style,
of a method, of a system, concerning which I'm not sure
that his most extreme panegyrists have given sufficient
us begin with an episode which in itself is rather modest,
but which sets forth very nicely the personality of the
protagonist. On February 12, 1962, the well known Apostolic
Constitution Veterum sapientia was published. It
contained in its norms one stern law, that is, the chair
will be taken from professors of theology who, over a period
of time, will not submit to giving their teaching in Latin.
A German bishop, accustomed, as a good German, to always
taking things very seriously, hurried to Rome, troubled
and distressed, to lay before Pope John his grave problem:
must close my faculty of theology because my professors
neither can nor wish to submit themselves to Veterum
Pope sent him away with a big smile accompanied by some
worry about this point; pass over it and allow the teaching
of theology in German.
one who told me of this event is now dead, but he was a
person worthy of being believed and very well informed on
Roman affairs. The episode will seem to be of little importance,
but, in my eyes, it is revealing of a mentality and of a
manner of acting which has little coherence and little firmness.
following act is however of public knowledge and constitutes
a far more grave indication of weakness in the government
of the Church. The Dutch episcopacy, wishing to prepare
its people at the Council well in advance, issued a joint
letter, which was quickly translated into several other
languages. In it was suggested, and moreover in sufficiently
clear terms, the principle that the validity of the decisions
of the coming Council would be dependent upon their reception
or rejection by the faithful. Rome quickly detected the
implied but very certain democratization which would flow
from these positions, and the letter was withdrawn from
circulation, by order of higher authority. Card. Alfrink,
the Primate of Holland, immediately descended upon Pope
John XXIII to point out to him what dishonor such a disciplinary
measure would cast upon the episcopacy of an entire nation:
John, in order not to displease the Dutch, annulled the
measure, thereby inaugurating that series of capitulations
which would culminate later, under his successor, in the
non-condemnation of the notorious Dutch Catechism.
the fundamental norm of his private and public life, which
was to never give offense to anyone, the Pope was, obviously,
radically allergic to condemnations, and especially to solemn
and formal condemnations.
this, he was certainly not faithful to the teachings of
his master, Msgr. Radini-Tedeschi, Bishop of Bergamo, who,
in one of his first pastoral letters, formulated his essential
duty in these words:
bishop must steadfastly and courageously anathematize
all error, combatting the many sophisms which, today more
than ever before, are propagated in the name of a license
which they improperly call liberty….Fearless yet mild,
vigorous yet gracious, he must, with the severity of the
censor and the charity of a father, confront the anger
of his adversaries and endure the attack of the devil
(cited by Molinari, op cit., p.160).
COMPROMISING PAGE OF "HAGIOGRAPHY"
will be useful to pause here a moment to more fully enlighten
ourselves, with the aid of Roncalli's own words in his biography
of Msgr. Radini-Tedeschi (3rd ed. Rome, 1963),
on the saintly and energetic style of this bishop whom the
future Pope saw as the image of the good shepherd:
personal keynote of his nature was integrity: an integrity
beyond any debate and surpassing any praise; an absolute
love of that which is Good. From that came his fearlessness,
his ardor in battle, his attraction to danger, one could
say, as well as his powerful activity. One saw, sometimes,
in his speech and in his writings, both public and private,
great vehemence of language, some strong and scornful expressions,...but
the Grace of the Lord had ennobled these natural gifts of
man and rendered them more fruitful and worthy of veneration
in the priest and the bishop (p.l06).
and vigorous government above all; this was the true reflection
of his character and of his personal temperament:
a bishop should be wise is the least that one can ask
- as the renowned Card. Pie has said in a discourse on
the subject: that he should be numbered among the learned
is a necessity. But neither wisdom nor knowledge will
be sufficient for him if each of these qualities does
not have its compliment in fortitude. All the virtues
of the Christian, all the virtues of the priest, are necessary
for the bishop...you should say of the bishop that he
is not wise enough if he is not also strong, nor is he
sufficiently learned if he is not at the same time vigorous
and resolute: "The wise man is powerful, and the
learned man is strong and vigorous" (Prov. 24:5)
knew that excess must be avoided in everything: and, being
considerate by nature, he also knew how to take into account
the respect due to persons and to institutions. But at
the same time he was convinced that vigor in the leadership
of a government entails less evil than weakness. He had
for his value a sacred horror of that popularity obtained
at the price of weakness and feeble complacency. "Weak
rulers - he often said - soon fall into low esteem, abandonment
and contempt: the strong on the other hand command respect;
and on that respect flourishes, in time, admiration and
certainly, in matters of principles and of ideas, he was,
and would always remain, uncompromising, as all souls
of superior intelligence, in whose lives principles are
valued and count for something, know how to be…For the
purity of an idea, he would have given his life (p.112).
citation should not be seen as an irrelevant matter, since
it puts the finger on how the young Roncalli, under the
teaching of his bishop, had some very clear ideas on the
inviolable duty of joining mildness with strength and, in
case of necessity, giving primacy to the latter. However,
I believe that no honest panegyrist could apply to Roncalli
the words that he wrote concerning Bishop Radini-Tedeschi.
ACTS OF WEAKNESS
is an example of his weakness. From the time that he was
nuncio at Paris, he made no secret of his cordial detestation
for the radically evolutionary doctrines of the famous Jesuit,
Teilhard de Chardin. But, elected Pope and solicited on
all sides to put de Chardin's works on the Index
- they were an abundant source (among others) of the encroaching
doctrinal confusion of today - he slipped away, limiting
himself to approving the Monitum of the Holy Office
of 30 June, 1962, (which was grave in its content but ineffective
in practice) and uttering the historic phrase:
I was born to bless and not to condemn!
St. Paul, St. John the Evangelist and numerous great and
holy Popes did not limit themselves to blessing - an easy
and sympathetic task - but also exercised the solemn duty
of condemning and anathematizing.
whip was not made for the hand of Roncalli" says Molinari
(op. cit. p.149); however Jesus himself used the
thus it came about that an Ecumenical Council was summoned,
which, for the first time in the history of the Church,
did not dare to openly condemn the greatest error of its
day, atheistic Communism.
and the future centuries will certainly never pardon Vatican
II for failing to stigmatize, in a most peremptory and draconian
manner, that atheistic Communism, or Marxism, which constitutes
the most powerful enemy of Christianity in the 20th century.
Even the name itself never appeared in the authentic text
of the Council! (Whoever wishes to know the maneuvers by
which, against the wishes of numerous bishops, they succeeded
in not even mentioning atheistic communism in the Acts of
the Council should read The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber,
by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen, TAN Books, 1985).
will say: but when Gaudium et Spes was voted, Pope
John XXIII was already dead. Very true: but it was he who
in the opening discourse announced, with the greatest solemnity
and the greatest clarity, that he wished, in avoiding condemnations,
to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of
severity, under the specious pretext that it was better
to expose the truth than to condemn the error, the more
so since it would be a matter of errors that had already
been condemned. Thus he ignored the laws of human psychology
according to which a formal condemnation, renewed under
the threat of practical sanctions relative thereto, is far
more efficacious than a brilliant theoretical dissertation.
John and Vatican II at that time set an example in such
a way that, today, the hierarchy, at all levels, no longer
has the healthy courage to put outside of the Church those
who openly deny the most sacrosanct dogmas. The Küng case
Dutchwoman Cornelia De Vogel, who converted to Catholicism
in 1943, recounts (in her book Lettres aux Catholiques
de Hollande et ŕ Tous) how she appealed to Card. Alfrink
to reprimand those Catholics who were denying dogmas. Here
is his response, which would henceforth become typical:
should condemn? That would serve no purpose. They have
already been condemned long ago. And besides, one no longer
condemns; it's an out-of-date attitude.
origin of this non-usage, brought into the Church for the
first time, is found in the behavior of Pope John XXIII.
his reign, one began to consider the problem of condemnation
no longer by paying attention to the common good and to
the meaning of a book in its obvious and objective terms,
but rather to the personality and the intentions of the
author, whose "sacred" individual rights, according
to the new ecclesiastical ethics, take precedence over those
of the aggregate of the faithful.
let's come back more directly to Pope John.
before the encyclical Pacem in terris, there appeared
in Osservatore Romano the famous "Fixed Positions"
which stigmatized any collaboration whatever with movements
ideologically founded on erroneous doctrines, for the obvious
preventative reason that such a collaboration, by a sort
of osmosis, would lead, with the passage of time, to absorbing
the doctrines on which they are based.
Pope John XXIII performing the "obedience"
in the Sistine Chapel on the day after his election.
this classical and ineluctable law, always put forth by
the preceding popes and especially by Pius XII, reaffirmed
again under the eyes of John XXIII, would be radically contradicted
in his encyclical Pacem in terris (#55). Here are
the precise liberalizing affirmations:
must be borne in mind, furthermore, that neither can false
philosophical teachings regarding the nature, origin and
destiny of the universe and of man be identified with
historical movements that have economic, social, cultural
or political ends, not even when these movements have
originated from those teachings and have drawn and still
draw inspiration therefrom.
is so because the teachings, once they are drawn up and
defined, remain always the same, while the movements,
working in historical situations in constant evolution,
cannot be influenced by these latter and cannot avoid,
therefore, being subject to changes, even of a profound
nature. Besides, who can deny that those movements, in
so far as they conform to the dictates of right reason
and are interpreters of the lawful aspirations of the
human person, contain elements that are positive and deserving
can happen, then, that a drawing nearer together or a
meeting for the attainment of some practical end, which
was formerly deemed inopportune or unproductive, might
now or in the future be considered opportune and useful.
is true that in the immediate context, the conditions for
such encounters are afterwards spelled out, but the conditions
are partially contradictory and always blindly utopian,
as the history of the collusion between Catholic movements
and Marxist movements of these past 10 years has abundantly
demonstrated (and of which one will see more and more in
cited text is fundamental for the Johannine turn-about and
represents a veritable revolution in the practice of the
Church; a revolution whose very grave and deleterious consequences
will weigh heavily on the future of civilization and of
the world. We have here the ideological basis for the "historic
compromise," not only for Italy, but for the entire
Giovanni Spadolini writes in his interesting book Le
Tibre Plus Large (Milan, 1970), seems incorrect to me,
when he affirms that, in Pacem in terris, one finds "nothing
new in regard to the preceding Pontificates."
the contrary, #55 represents a radical reversal of direction
when it legalizes collaboration by Catholics with movements
born of anti-Christian ideologies - a collaboration up until
then positively forbidden for the simple reason that "he
who goes with a lame man learns how to limp" (a fact
we see verified every day). There is no need to be a specialist
in Marxism to perceive how many subtle infiltrations of
this ideology have henceforth penetrated into the thought
and action of different groupings of so-called Catholics.
please whom were the "Fixed Positions" approved?
And to please whom was the revolutionary #55 of Pacem
in terris signed? In taking as a rule of government
to never displease anyone, one falls fatally into doctrinal
contradictions and practical confusions.
TOWARDS THE COMMUNISTS AND….. THE SUPERIORS
now comes an episode relative to the much discussed audience
granted to Khrushchev's journalist son-in-law Adjubei; probably
to please him (not to mention other contingent and more
decisive reasons): in any event, it was foreseeable that
the audience would be utilized in favor of Communism.
one morning in May of 1963, I found myself on the piers
of the port of Civitavecchia, awaiting the arrival of the
boat from Sardinia which was bringing some people for an
audience with the Pope…While chatting with some longshoremen
of the port, who of course were Communists, I heard them
enthusiastically praising the Pope for having received Adjubei.
They were interpreting the gesture as a symbolic act of
tacit approbation for the Communist movement, and all my
attempts to dispel such an interpretation were to no avail.
Probably inspired by one of their leaders, they replied:
Pope, not being able to explicitly approve Communism,
has found this fashionable stratagem to make it understood.
Both he and we understand it perfectly. The Pope is with
the behavior of Pope Roncalli may have at the same time
weakened the restraints put on the advance of Communism
in Italy, he himself has rendered account of, if it be true
that on the night the results of the elections of 1963 were
released, he burst out in sorrow, exclaiming: "This,
I did not wish! I did not want this!" But the policy
of "being pleasing" can lead to such results,
and to many other disastrous consequences.
"be pleasing" or to avoid displeasing someone
can, in addition, be a source of the dissimulation of the
truth or, at the very least, occasion of the lack of courage
to express it.
is another little personal instance. In July of 1950, I
was invited to lunch by the Nuncio Roncalli in Paris. For
three hours at a stretch, he beguiled me with a most amiable
and interesting conversation which left me greatly enthused;
an enthusiasm which later was partially mitigated when I
realized that he was saying more or less the same things
to everyone. On this occasion, the Nuncio had some harsh
words for the French Dominicans who had, in one of their
publications, sharply criticized the affected and bookish
Latin (a Latin neither classic nor Christian) with which
the Biblical Institute had translated the Psalter, by order
of Pius XII:
should not have done this because it caused the Pope much
displeasure, since he was very attached to that translation….
allowed myself to say, weakly, that they had done well,
since, in questions of philology, the pleasure or displeasure
of the pope is of no account.
the Nuncio himself basically thought as the Dominicans did;
so much so that, once elected Pope, he gave the order to
resume use of the former Psalter, correcting it only in
its less auspicious passages or where it corresponded poorly
to the He- brew text. Here is the testimony on this subject
of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in his book A Bishop Speaks
(Angelus Press, p.115):
XXIII...did not like the new Psalter. He said so openly
to the pre-conciliar Central Commission. He said to all
of us who were there: "Oh, I'm not in favor of the
if he had been less tactful, he would have been obliged
to say it earlier to Pius XII himself.
all indications, it seems to me that his obedience to his
superiors was too passive. Thus, most certainly, by not
contradicting them, even when it had been his duty to do
so, he was able to enjoy that "precious" interior
and exterior peace which limits one, in large measure, to
a life without turmoil.
aside the fact that at the time of his formation and his
employment "lack of moral courage was a plague in the
Church," as A. Fogazzaro saw it, exaggerating a bit,
in his book The Saint (Milan 1906, p.243), there
are some accusations which sharply point out the tendency
towards an excessive submission.
is the offspring of his calling, and every calling inevitably
entails a professional deformation, the more serious in
proportion as the subject is the more malleable. During
almost all his life, the future pope Roncalli was a subordinate:
secretary, delegate, nuncio. Molinari writes, not very tactfully,
is in fact known that the young secretary thought with
the brain of his bishop (op. cit., p.167).
had been too obedient all his life to learn later, in his
old age, how to command; for it is not at all true that
he who has known how to obey knows how to command. In reality,
it is a case of two operations psychologically and morally
structured in opposite ways. (And unfortunately John XXIII
obeyed his iniquitous private secretary Msgr. Capovilla).
addition, in a letter from Istanbul to professor Donizetti,
in March of 1938, the future pope wrote the following:
these past four years, I can say that I have enjoyed the
fruits of a system which corresponds well with my temperament,
that is to say, the substitution of the motto Flectar
non frangar, May I be bent, not broken, for the motto
Frangar, non flectar, May I be broken, not bent
(cf. D. Cugini, Le Pape Jean Au Cours De Ses Premiers
Joursa motto II Monte, Bergamo, 1965, 2nd
irony of history! A man who, throughout his whole long life
was always too submissive, has become, in spite of himself,
the father of dispute.
reputation which has been wrongfully acquired is that of
genial innovator. In reality, by temperament and training,
he was an inveterate conservative and, in a certain sense,
even a restorer, as one can see in the Acts of the Roman
Synod and also in the first schemas of Vatican II. In short,
these documents were far more oriented towards a recapitulation
of the traditional ideas, in a modern style and sensibility,
than towards the presentation of radically new ideas. In
addition, the novelties did not spring forth from the merits
or demerits of the Bishops, but rather from the experts
who were the true artisans of Vatican Council II. These
latter, well prepared and well coordinated, knew how to
maneuver so cleverly that there remained almost nothing
of the original schemas, those that we could call Johannine.
(For the details, we return to the book by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen,
the reader will have perceived, our indictment does not
concern certain tiny faults of John XXIII, such as could
be found in any saint. It deals rather with a style of life
and of government too inclined towards the desire to please
and towards attracting universal sympathy and good will.
Too much of the behavior of "the good Pope" was
not that of a good pope.
will object: it is just a matter of mistakes in "technique,"
which does not invalidate the subjective sanctity. We reply
that the true goodness of one who governs must constantly
be regulated by the prudence proper to those who govern,
which, in its turn, must be sustained by the virtue of fortitude,
given the requisite inter-connection of all the virtues.
Moreover, the future pope was aware of this weak side of
his nature. Molinari observes that this is brought out in
Roncalli's book Journal de l’Ame, where he promises
"not to give way too much to his peaceful and easy
going temperament" (p. 139, Molinari, op. cit.).
But, just as he never succeeded in correcting his fault
of excessive loquacity, neither was he able to fortify himself
with the strength of soul needed to govern the Church and
not to allow himself to be governed, thereby handing on
to his successor a very difficult heritage.
SANCTITY IS A VERY DIFFICULT SANCTITY
though the Pope is given the title His Holiness, it is difficult
to be holy in that position, because the duties are so serious,
so complex and often almost contradictory. It is not insignificant
that John XXIII did not believe in the sanctity of Pius
XII, as was reported to me by a very highly authorized member
of the Holy Office. This source added that when Pope John
went down into the Vatican Grotto to make a visit to the
tomb of his predecessor, he very openly said a De Profundis,
to make known to those around him that he did not consider
Pope Pius XII canonizable, and, thereby, to put a brake
on the movement which was already appearing. The Pope himself
explained to him the signification of his prayer for the
which for others (including the Postulator of the cause
for Roncalli) is exquisite virtue, is for me (the undersigned)
a vice, if it is erected into an accepted system of governing;
a very grave and dangerous vice!
one could object that "the good Pope" did not
always allow himself to be guided by the desire to please...and
one could cite some of the vigorous gestures of reprobation
enumerated by Molinari on p.164 (op. cit.). But,
aside from the fact that certain of them have been exaggerated,
such as the "Spiazzi case" for example,
they were momentary outbursts of his visceral traditionalism
and of his not very costly adhesion to the Curial program
quieta non movere, Not to change things which are peaceful...If
he had been able to foresee, and he should have been able
to foresee at least in part, the development and the consequences
of Vatican Council II, I think that he would never have
convoked it. But in the matter of prevision, though many
have called him a prophet, Pope Roncalli was rather lacking,
as Carlo Falconi demonstrates so well in his inquisitive
book (op cit.).
the testimony of his confessor, Msgr. Cavagua, I know that
the Pope, in the last moments of his life, was very distressed
to see how things were developing on the ecclesiastical
and the political levels.
should have been less good nature and more constancy. On
this point there comes to mind the long and ferocious critique
that Nietzsche makes of the good man (he should have said
of "the good-natured man") in his posthumous Fragments:
is indulgent, tolerant, filled with peace and kindness;
he understands everything, shows his compassion to all;
he is obliging, in order not to be hostile; in order not
to have to take sides, he practices benevolence and a
very great delicacy, and for that reason he offers and
receives consideration everywhere. He is the true lamb
the German philosopher, this type of man is the most noxious.
proposition: good men are the most noxious human types.
You reply: “But there are only a
few good men"-Thank God,-You will say further: "There
are no perfectly good men." - So much the better!
- I will always hold that to the extent that he is good,
a man is also harmful (Oeuvres, vol.VIII, T.III,
p.275pp., 370375, Milan, 1974).
is precisely these good and conciliatory people who become
dangerous when placed in positions of authority, because
they are easily manipulated by those who are stronger and
more deceitful than they are. However, that is not exactly
Nietzsche's perspective when he says that the good are harmful.
To understand his paradoxical affirmations, one must place
them within the concepts of the "super- man" and
of the "will to dominate." Obviously, we do not
subscribe to them, except in the curtailed sense of the
compassionate doctor, that is to say the "good-natured"
doctor, allows the wound to become gangrenous.
is how Ernest Hello describes the kindly doctor (who is,
naturally, anything but a good doctor):
should we say of a doctor who, guided by a sentiment of
kindliness, makes use of circumspection towards his client's
illness? Picture this personage so full of consideration!
He would say to the sick man; "After all, my friend,
one must be charitable. The cancer which consumes you
is perhaps of good faith. Let's see for a little while.
Be gentle, and try to develop a little friendship with
it. One must not be intractable. Assist it in its nature.
Perhaps there is in this cancer a little animal who nourishes
itself with your flesh and blood. Would you have the heart
to refuse him that which he needs? The poor little one
would die of hunger! Besides, I am prepared to think that
the cancer is of good faith and, I believe, performs a
mission of charity in your service" (L 'Homme,
Florence, 1928, p.70).
himself, in this context, makes allusion to the danger of
compromise in the matter of teaching. He had in fact written
a bit before:
who compromises with error does not comprehend love in
its fullness and its superlative power. Apparent peace,
bought and paid for by compliance, is contrary as much
to charity as to justice, because it creates an abyss
where previously there had been only a ditch. Charity
always de- sires the light, and the light does not tolerate
even the shadow of a compromise.
is in the same work an amazing passage in which he de- scribes
the type of saint that the world would desire; and, on the
matter of saints, it is the author of Physionomies de
Saints whose voice is heard here. This passage throws
a beam of light on the universal sympathy that Pope Roncalli
evoked even among men of the world, although, let it be
well understood, his moral character only coincided in a
very reduced proportion with that of the model described
to picture a saint who would not hate sin! - The very
idea of such a saint is ridiculous. And nevertheless that
is the way the world pictures the Christian that it should
canonize. The true saint has charity, but it is a terrible
charity which burns and devours, a charity which detests
evil because it wishes to heal. The saint which the world
fancies would have a sweet charity, which would bless
anyone and anything, in no matter what circumstance. The
saint that the world pictures would smile at error, smile
at sin, smile at everyone, smile at everything. He would
be without indignation, without profundity, without eminence,
without regard for the unfathomable mysteries. He would
be benign, benevolent, overly mawkish to the sick and
indulgent of the sickness. If you want to be this saint,
the world will love you, and it will say that you make
Christianity loved. The world, which has the instincts
of the enemy, never asks that you abandon the thing that
you believe; it asks only that you compromise with that
which is opposed to it. And then it declares that you
make it love the Religion, which is to say that you become
acceptable to it by ceasing to be a reproach to it.
affirms then that you resemble Jesus Christ, who pardoned
sinners. Among all the confusion that the world cherishes,
here is the one that it most greatly cherishes: it confuses
pardon with approbation. Because Jesus Christ pardoned many
sinners, the world wants to infer that Jesus Christ did
not greatly detest sin (E. Hello, L'Homme II; Les Alliances
Spirituelles, Montreal, pp.197 ff).
come at last to the end of these bitter disputes and harsh
considerations, (imposed by suffering in face of the decay
which devastates the Church in the domains of the faith,
of practices and of discipline); in the presence of the
frightful crisis of vocations, of the numerous defections
of priests and religious, of the advance of atheistic communism
- all of which evils derive, at least in part, from the
lack of firmness and clear-sightedness in the pontifical
governance of John XXIII. I can easily imagine what a wave
of indignation is going to arise from those who are unreserved
admirers of Pope Roncalli. In my partial exoneration, I
will say that while the now-deceased Pope, "in order
to please everyone," did not always brutally speak
the truth, or, more correctly, that which he thought, the
undersigned, on the contrary, by temperament and conviction,
judges it expedient to manifest his thought harshly, even
at the price of displeasing many, while however remaining
prompt to retract if it is shown to him that he is wrong,
since no one is infallible, especially in matters of history
and the more so when it is a matter of very recent events.
Innocenzo Colosio, O.P.
of the Dominican Fathers
56027 S.Miniato (Pisa)
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Kansas City, MO 64109
translated from the Italian
Fr. Du Chalard
Via Madonna degli Angeli, 14
Italia 00049 Velletri (Roma)