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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pope Paul VI and the Slippery Slope


I recently came across this interview with Alice von Hildebrand. The interview was conducted by the Latin Mass Magazine (I am a subscriber). Alice von Hildebrand also writes for the New Oxford Review. Her words speak to the present crises in the Catholic Church.

[The interview, reproduced in part]

TLM: In terms of the present crisis, when did you first perceive something was terribly wrong?

AVH: It was in February 1965. I was taking a sabbatical year in Florence. My husband was reading a theological journal, and suddenly I heard him burst into tears. I ran to him, fearful that his heart condition had suddenly caused him pain. I asked him if he was all right. He told me that the article that he had been reading had provided him with the certain insight that the devil had entered the Church. Remember, my husband was the first prominent German to speak out publicly against Hitler and the Nazis. His insights were always prescient.

TLM: Did your husband think that the decline in a sense of the supernatural began around that time [1920s -- from an earlier question], and if so, how did he explain it?

AVH: No, he believed that after Pius X’s condemnation of the heresy of Modernism [1907], its proponents merely went underground. He would say that they then took a much more subtle and practical approach. They spread doubt simply by raising questions about the great supernatural interventions throughout salvation history, such as the Virgin Birth and Our Lady’s perpetual virginity, as well as the Resurrection, and the Holy Eucharist. They knew that once faith – the foundation – totters, the liturgy and the moral teachings of the Church would follow suit. My husband entitled one of his books The Devastated Vineyard. After Vatican II, a tornado seemed to have hit the Church ...

Even the pagan Plato was open to a sense of the supernatural. He spoke of the weakness, frailty and cowardice often evidenced in human nature. He was asked by a critic to explain why he had such a low opinion of humanity. He replied that he was not denigrating man, only comparing him to God.

With the loss of a sense of the supernatural, there is a loss of the sense of a need for sacrifice today. The closer one comes to God, the greater should be one’s sense of sinfulness. The further one gets from God, as today, the more we hear the philosophy of the new age: “I’m OK, You’re OK.” This loss of the inclination to sacrifice has led to the obscuring of the Church’s redemptive mission. Where the Cross is downplayed, our need for redemption is given hardly a thought.

The aversion to sacrifice and redemption has assisted the secularization of the Church from within. We have been hearing for many years from priests and bishops about the need for the Church to adapt herself to the world. Great popes like St. Pius X said just the opposite: the world must adapt itself to the Church.

TLM: From our conversation throughout this afternoon, I must conclude that you don’t believe that the accelerating loss of the sense of the supernatural is an accident of history.

AVH: No, I do not. There have been two books published in Italy in recent years that confirm what my husband had been suspecting for some time; namely, that there has been a systematic infiltration of the Church by diabolical enemies for much of this century. My husband was a very sanguine man and optimistic by nature. During the last ten years of his life, however, I witnessed him many times in moments of great sorrow, and frequently repeating, “They have desecrated the Holy Bride of Christ.” He was referring to the “abomination of desolation” of which the prophet Daniel speaks.

TLM: This is a critical admission, Dr. von Hildebrand. Your husband had been called a twentieth-century Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII. If he felt so strongly, didn’t he have access to the Vatican to tell Pope Paul VI of his fears?

AVH: But he did! I shall never forget the private audience we had with Paul VI just before the end of the [Second Vatican] Council. It was on June 21, 1965. As soon as my husband started pleading with him to condemn the heresies that were rampant, the Pope interrupted him with the words, “Lo scriva, lo scriva.” (“Write it down.”) A few moments later, for the second time, my husband drew the gravity of the situation to the Pope’s attention. Same answer. His Holiness received us standing. It was clear that the Pope was feeling very uncomfortable. The audience lasted only a few minutes. Paul VI immediately gave a sign to his secretary, Fr. Capovilla, to bring us rosaries and medals. We then went back to Florence where my husband wrote a long document (unpublished today) that was delivered to Paul VI just the day before the last session of the Council. It was September of 1965. After reading my husband’s document, he said to my husband’s nephew, Dieter Sattler, who had become the German ambassador to the Holy See, that he had read the document carefully, but that “it was a bit harsh.” The reason was obvious: my husband had humbly requested a clear condemnation of heretical statements.

TLM: You realize, of course, Doctor, that as soon as you mention this idea of infiltration, there will be those who roll their eyes in exasperation and remark, “Not another conspiracy theory!”

AVH: I can only tell you what I know. It is a matter of public record, for instance, that Bella Dodd, the ex-Communist who reconverted to the Church, openly spoke of the Communist Party’s deliberate infiltration of agents into the seminaries. She told my husband and me that when she was an active party member, she had dealt with no fewer than four cardinals within the Vatican “who were working for us.”

Many a time I have heard Americans say that Europeans “smell conspiracy wherever they go.” But from the beginning, the Evil One has “conspired” against the Church – and has always aimed in particular at destroying the Mass and sapping belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That some people are tempted to blow this undeniable fact out of proportion is no reason for denying its reality. On the other hand, I, European born, am tempted to say that many Americans are na├»ve; living in a country that has been blessed by peace, and knowing little about history, they are more likely than Europeans (whose history is a tumultuous one) to fall prey to illusions ... Judas had played his hand so artfully that no one suspected him, for a cunning conspirator knows how to cover his tracks with a show of orthodoxy.

TLM: Do the two books by the Italian priest you mentioned before the interview contain documentation that would provide evidence of this infiltration?

AVH: The two books I mentioned were published in 1998 and 2000 by an Italian priest, Don Luigi Villa of the diocese of Brescia, who at the request of Padre Pio has devoted many years of his life to the investigation of the possible infiltration of both Freemasons and Communists into the Church. My husband and I met Don Villa in the sixties. He claims that he does not make any statement that he cannot substantiate. When Paulo Sesto Beato? (1998) was published the book was sent to every single Italian bishop. None of them acknowledged receipt; none challenged any of Don Villa’s claims.

In this book, he relates something that no ecclesiastical authority has refuted or asked to be retracted – even though he names particular personalities in regard to the incident. It pertains to the rift between Pope Pius XII and the then Bishop Montini (the future Paul VI) who was his Undersecretary of State. Pius XII, conscious of the threat of Communism, which in the aftermath of World War II was dominating nearly half of Europe, had prohibited the Vatican staff from dealing with Moscow. To his dismay, he was informed one day through the Bishop of Up[p]sala (Sweden) that his strict order had been contravened. The Pope resisted giving credence to this rumor until he was given incontrovertible evidence that Montini had been corresponding with various Soviet agencies. Meanwhile, Pope Pius XII (as had Pius XI) had been sending priests clandestinely into Russia to give comfort to Catholics behind the Iron Curtain. Every one of them had been systematically arrested, tortured, and either executed or sent to the gulag. Eventually a Vatican mole was discovered: Alighiero Tondi, S.J., who was a close advisor to Montini. Tondi was an agent working for Stalin whose mission was to keep Moscow informed about initiatives such as the sending of priests into the Soviet Union.

Add to this Pope Paul’s treatment of Cardinal Mindszenty. Against his will, Mindszenty was ordered by the Vatican to leave Budapest. As most everyone knows, he had escaped the Communists and sought refuge in the American embassy compound. The Pope had given him his solemn promise that he would remain primate of Hungary as long as he lived. When the Cardinal (who had been tortured by the Communists) arrived in Rome, Paul VI embraced him warmly, but then sent him into exile in Vienna. Shortly afterwards, this holy prelate was informed that he had been demoted, and had been replaced by someone more acceptable to the Hungarian Communist government. More puzzling, and tragically sad, is the fact that when Mindszenty died, no Church representative was present at his burial.

Another of Don Villa’s illustrations of infiltration is one related to him by Cardinal Gagnon. Paul VI had asked Gagnon to head an investigation concerning the infiltration of the Church by powerful enemies. Cardinal Gagnon (at that time an Archbishop) accepted this unpleasant task, and compiled a long dossier, rich in worrisome facts. When the work was completed, he requested an audience with Pope Paul in order to deliver personally the manuscript to the Pontiff. This request for a meeting was denied. The Pope sent word that the document should be placed in the offices of the Congregation for the Clergy, specifically in a safe with a double lock. This was done, but the very next day the safe deposit box was broken and the manuscript mysteriously disappeared. The usual policy of the Vatican is to make sure that news of such incidents never sees the light of day. Nevertheless, this theft was reported even in L’Osservatore Romano (perhaps under pressure because it had been reported in the secular press). Cardinal Gagnon, of course, had a copy, and once again asked the Pope for a private audience. Once again his request was denied. He then decided to leave Rome and return to his homeland in Canada. Later, he was called back to Rome by Pope John Paul II and made a cardinal.

TLM: Why did Don Villa write these works singling out Paul VI for criticism?
AVH: Don Villa reluctantly decided to publish the books to which I have alluded. But when several bishops pushed for the beatification of Paul VI, this priest perceived it as a clarion call to print the information he had gathered through the years. In so doing, he was following the guidelines of a Roman Congregation, informing the faithful that it was their duty as members of the Church to relay to the Congregation any information that might militate against the candidate’s qualifications for beatification.

Considering the tumultuous pontificate of Paul VI, and the confusing signals he was giving, e.g.: speaking about the “smoke of Satan that had entered the Church,” yet refusing to condemn heresies officially; his promulgation of Humanae Vitae (the glory of his pontificate), yet his careful avoidance of proclaiming it ex cathedra [infallible doctrine]; delivering his Credo of the People of God in Piazza San Pietro in 1968, and once again failing to declare it binding on all Catholics; disobeying the strict orders of Pius XII to have no contact with Moscow, and appeasing the Hungarian Communist government by reneging on the solemn promise he had made to Cardinal Mindszenty; his treatment of holy Cardinal Slipyj, who had spent seventeen years in a Gulag, only to be made a virtual prisoner in the Vatican by Paul VI; and finally asking Archbishop Gagnon to investigate possible infiltration in the Vatican, only to refuse him an audience when his work was completed – all these speak strongly against the beatification of Paolo VI, dubbed in Rome, “Paolo Sesto, Mesto” (Paul VI, the sad one) ...

God alone is the judge of Paul VI. But it cannot be denied that his pontificate was a very complex and tragic one. It was under him that, in the course of fifteen years, more changes were introduced in the Church than in all preceding centuries combined. What is worrisome is that when we read the testimony of ex-Communists like Bella Dodd, and study Freemasonic documents (dating from the nineteenth century, and usually penned by fallen-away priests like Paul Roca), we can see that, to a large extent, their agenda has been carried out: the exodus of priests and nuns after Vatican II, dissenting theologians not censured, feminism, the pressure put on Rome to abolish priestly celibacy, immorality in the clergy, blasphemous liturgies (see the article by David Hart in First Things, April 2001, “The Future of the Papacy”), the radical changes that have been introduced into the sacred liturgy (see Cardinal Ratzinger’s book Milestones, pp. 126 and 148, Ignatius Press), and a misleading ecumenism. Only a blind person could deny that many of the Enemy’s plans have been perfectly carried out.

One should not forget that the world was shocked at what Hitler did. People like my husband, however, actually read what he had said in Mein Kampf. The plan was there. The world simply chose not to believe it.

But grave as the situation is, no committed Catholic can forget that Christ has promised that He will remain with His Church to the very end of the world. We should meditate on the scene related in the Gospel when the apostles’ boat was battered by a fierce storm. Christ was sleeping! His terrified followers woke Him up: He said one word, and there was a great calm. “O ye of little faith!” ...

TLM: So you see the only scenario for a solution to the present crisis as the renewal of a striving for sanctity?

AVH: We should not forget that we are fighting not only against flesh and blood, but against “powers and principalities.” This should elicit sufficient dread in us to make us strive more than ever for holiness, and to pray fervently that the Holy Bride of Christ, who is right now at Calvary, comes out of this fearful crisis more radiant than ever.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

THE RAPE MONOLOGUES: (from The Weekly Press)




The first line of Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL reads: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix…”

Put a contemporary Philly twist on Ginsberg’s HOWL and you might come up with: “I saw heretofore reasonable intellects destroyed by political correctness, starving hysterical in their search for answers, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an appropriate scapegoat…”

The scapegoat in this case, Broad Street Review editor Dan Rottenberg, has been blacklisted by some in the theater community because of an editorial he wrote in BSR in which he admonishes city women to pay attention to what they wear if they want to be “on guard” against rapists. Ideologues interpreted Rottenberg as saying that women who dress scantily deserve (or “ask”) to be raped. The emotional backlash went even further when some men and women put the iconic and often cantankerous editor on the same level as a rapist.

A fatwa of sorts was issued by a number of small theater companies barring Rottenberg or any of his BSR freelancers (the online publication is famous for its huge stable of theater reviewers) from reviewing new plays “forever and forever” (the bigger theater companies, of course, took the high road).

(For those not in the know, the highly readable and often enjoyable BSR is a quirky publication in which contributors write not to a general audience but attempt to address or appeal to some mysterious, albeit therapeutic, need in Dan Rottenberg’s head. If you don’t understand or “get” Dan Rottenberg, you’ll never appear in BSR, despite the fact that you may be a Pulitzer Prize winner or a columnist for The New York Review of Books.)

At Plays and Players Theater recently, a one time showing of “Dan Rottenberg is Thinking About Raping You: An Educational Presentation” was presented at Plays and Players Theater. The show’s creator, Clara Blouin, told The Philadelphia Weekly that she wanted to “put Rottenberg’s ideas under the lights to be laughed at.”

But what are Rottenberg’s ideas?

One of them is the egregious sin of paternalism, his seeming to offer “fatherly” advice (the man does have a grown daughter) to women to pay some attention to how they dress before going out in public.

On the surface at least, the idea of a man giving advice to women on how to dress when going out in public may appear as slightly medieval. But…this is Philadelphia, an often times “medieval” place where shopkeepers get shot in the face with sawed off shotguns and where spitting in the street is accepted as normal behavior.

I wonder if all the people hanging Rottenberg out to dry have ever hung out or walked in the most dangerous sections of the city, which seem to be everywhere these days sans the oasis of Center City and the Avenue of the Arts.


I doubt whether presenting exposed cleavage and mini shorts as a green light for rape was Rottenberg’s explicit intention. I think Rottenberg was merely asking: why risk rattling the cage of uncivilized urban animals, since there seem to be so many of them? I mean, if you’re deciding what to wear to go to WAWA in the middle of the night for that bit of frozen yogurt, would you opt to wear something skimpy rather than a sweater that may draw less attention? If you know that at that hour there might be a number of skuzzy men hanging around, why invite possible animal leers? Why even tempt them a little bit to go over the edge?

Of course, every woman has the legal and human right to wear whatever she wants, just as I have the right to walk hand-in-hand with a male partner through questionable, gay unfriendly neighborhoods. But why invite the hassle?

While dressing sexily in no way excuses a rapist, Rottenberg’s paternalistic common sense rule still contains a little bit of wisdom.

I wish the antiRottenberger bigrade good luck in attempting to eliminate any reference to common sense when it comes to navigating Philly’s mean streets.

I say this because just the other day, as I was exiting the EL at Berks Street, I witnessed a police officer pull over a scantily clad young woman in a mini skirt. What he said to her was right out of an article written by Dan Rottenberg: “Miss, you shouldn’t be walking around this neighborhood like that. You don’t know where you are. I suggest you call someone and have them pick you up.”






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Swimming in the Crest (STAR column)


Wildwood Crest is a place I keep returning to, as noted in other Sojourn columns. Once a year I usually head down to the bus station at 13th and Filbert and take New Jersey Transit to the Wildwood Bus Terminal, and then walk with my luggage to the little apartment that I rent every year.
Ocean swimming has gotten a bad reputation over the years. I know people who will not swim in the ocean because of toxins and pollutants or because they have a primal fear of marine life. While the “ocean is a dirty place” mindset may direct our attention to legitimate ecological concerns, in my mind the concern is inevitably linked with current scientific data on the atmosphere or the air we breathe.
Do we stop breathing because the air around us is filled with toxins?
True ocean lovers realize that swimming in the sea is like taking a leap of faith with Mother Nature.
Four years ago when I visited the Crest after Labor Day I noticed a lot of jellyfish in the water. Not live jellyfish mind you, but those dead blobs of protoplasm that float over the waves like transparent Jell-O molds.
Three years ago I noticed another “impurity”: the water was filled with unusual tangles of seaweed, Seaweed, while a great herbal food (especially in soups) is most unpleasant when it gathers around your body. This year the seaweed problem was minor; there were also virtually no jellyfish, as well as no big fish swimming around my ankles (as there was last year) when I waded into the breakers.
This year, for the first time ever, I experienced the feeling of a crab’s claw clamping down on my feet. One crab attached itself to my little toe and caused me to loose my balance in the breakers. I no sooner disengaged the thing when another one attached itself. I literally had to lift my left leg out of the water and shake it loose in the air. A third crab came along but I think the pounding surf washed it away. For a moment I imagined that I was crab special target #1, caught in some “crab version” of Hitchcock’s The Birds.
Believe it or not, there are big men and big women who are afraid of fish, otherwise fearless individuals who wouldn’t think twice about engaging in a street fight but who run like Goldilocks from the living, wiggling things on the ocean floor.
But nothing, neither rabid crabs, fish as long as eels, or dead jelly fish, can keep me out of my beloved ocean. I’m sure that other Philadelphians, and especially Riverward residents, feel similarly. The ocean is not an antiseptic chlorine saturated pool, but a natural playground. When we swim there we unite with our primal selves. And that’s why I love it.
There’s a certain skill to swimming in the ocean. For starters, always respect the ocean and always be on guard. Whether it’s the paranoid influence of B movies like Jaws, but when I swim in the ocean my eyes always periodically scan the horizon for fins or strange “above water” protrusions. This obsession served me well a few years ago when I noticed a huge 20 foot pier plank, with a number of spikes in it, floating over the rollers towards the beach. Two nephews of mine who happened to be swimming with me then did an altruistic thing and carried the plank to the beach.
Now I’m a firm believer in teaching children to swim if only because I think that conquering a fear of water can have a positive influence on handling a number of problems in life.
When you think about it, there’s nothing more depressing then hearing a strong looking man or woman announce to friends or strangers that they never learned how to swim. They may be a star athlete in every other area of life; they may be able to press 200 pounds, but when it comes to water they are reduced to silly putty. At the beach I sometimes see tough football player types wade in the ocean up to their ankles only to retreat skittishly when a big wave comes in.
Sometimes these brawny characters, though “gladiatorial"” in every other aspect of life, draw back from the ocean like the infirm or a scared young child. Like the Biblical Samson without his hair, not knowing how to swim has rendered them powerless.
A crab, however, may still find their feet delectable.