Tuesday, June 04, 2019



On June 3, 1963 the Cardinal-electors from around the world gathered in Rome and elected Giovanni Cardinal Battista Montini, Archbishop of Milan who choose the name Paul VI. Crowned on June 30th he was the last pope to be crowned and shortly after assuming the papacy stopped wearing it, preferring the mitre instead. None of his four successors has had a coronation choosing rather a Holy Mass within which their formal installation takes place.

Like his namesake, the great missionary St. Paul the Apostle and Martyr, Pope Paul the VI would suffer much and while not martyred by blood certainly was made to suffer much by the actions and spurious words of clergy, religious, laity within the Church and truly demeaning press reporting in the emerging leftist ersatz Catholic media and in the secular media as well. He would call the Council into its 2nd session on September 29th, which session closed on December 4th, 1963 and he would reconvene the council for two sessions more in 1964 and 1965, formally closing it on December 8th of that year. Pope throughout the most turbulent post Vatican II years, a council he guided to success and whose documents he promulgated.

For the Church, ultimately for the world, the combination of Vatican II and St. Pope Paul’s teaching, whose task it was to oversee the implementation of the documents, therefore having to issue many post-Conciliar documents on the proper implementation, where necessary ordering corrections when bishops, priests, went off track. This would consume the bulk of his papacy. He also became the first modern pope to travel outside Italy, making pastoral visits to India, Columbia, Portugal, Uganda, the Philippines [where he was slightly wounded in an attempt on his life], and to New York where he gave a powerful speech at the United Nations headquarters.

Certainly, the secular world points to other events and personalities of 1963 as being pivotal when it comes to the impact of the sixties on contemporary life in this third millennium, however the pontificate of St. Paul VI truly is of more global, ecclesial and secular importance.

Morris L. West would publish a novel in 1963, made into a film in 1968, which has one of the characters state: “Who cares about theology except the theologians? We are necessary, but less important than we think. The Church is Christ—Christ and the people. And all the people want to know is whether or not there is a God, and what is His relation with them, and how they can get back to Him when they stray.”  [1] It would be rogue theologians, among other dissidents in the Church, who would, with utter misuse of the first document from the Council, THE CONSTITUTION ON THE SACRED LITURGY, promulgated by the Holy Father on December 4th that the dissidents would use, “in the spirit of Vatican II”, a distortion of the actual text, to inflict profound wounds within the Church which are still in need of healing.

In a homily on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 1972, the full text of which the Vatican has yet to publish, St. Paul VI made his famous reference to the smoke of satan entering the Church:  “… We would say that, through some mysterious crack—no, it’s not mysterious; through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation…..The Church is no longer trusted. We trust the first pagan prophet we see who speaks to us in some newspaper, and we run behind him and ask him if he has the formula for true life..… It was thought that, after the Council, sunny days would come for the history of the Church. Nevertheless, what came were days of clouds, of storms, of darkness, of searching, of uncertainty … We tried to dig abysses instead of covering them …” [2]

As Cassius lamented:  "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves……”[from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar] The fault lay not in the documents of the council, the ‘stars’ if you will, but in the choices those tasked with implementing the documents made. One way or another either clergy or laity went too far trying to create a Church in our own modern image and likeness, or rebelled against the authentic documents and tried to regress to a time in Church and world history, well passed, or worse, chose to passively go along with whatever of the other two was unfolding in our local parish, diocese, religious order.

Had this one simple directive from the document on the liturgy been faithfully observed: Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority. [3], how many sins and wounds in the following decades would have been avoided! There is no surer way to allow satan entrance into the Church, into the lives of bishops, priests, religious, laity than to mess around with, demean, the Sacred Liturgy.

What a nation believes about its past is at least as important as what that past actually was. [4]

Read: Church for ‘nation’ and we touch upon a key source of both the dissident damage-wounds and the sense among countless Catholics, both those who matured in the faith before Vatican II and those since, for whom the radical changes, particularly in liturgy but also by bishops and priests abandoning clerical dress, nuns, their religious habits, thus making themselves invisible, abandoning also the original charism of their founders, and many other factors means that still, more than half a century after the Council, in spite of the efforts of Pope Paul’s successors to set the bark of Peter aright, much, much, still needs to be done.

In the face of those who, like West’s character, dismiss theologians, teachers of the faith in general, a great teacher-witness, reminds us that: Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. ~St. Paul VI [5] The writings/teachings/witness of the life of St. Paul VI are an important part of the Church’s treasury of wisdom to guide us on the path of holiness.

From St. Peter to Pope Francis all papal teachings are both immediate as regards the matters of the current day within the Church and society, and prophetic as regards what lies ahead for both. Also from the Acts of the Apostles to the current day and into the future the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ on earth: the popes, bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, monks, nuns, every member of the laity, are members of the Mystical Body of Christ, our ranks filled with saints and sinners. To expect that within the life of the Church, in all Her members, there will never be outrageous sins, scandals that are visible in the public domain, while extremely painful to accept, is nonetheless, along with the inspirational examples of saints and martyrs, the stark reality of humanity being disciples of Christ, a reality recorded from the Acts of the Apostles to this very day. Rather than obsess over the scandals, which we must constantly pray to be ended, for the conversion of those who cause scandal, the healing of those within and without the Church wounded thereby, our primary focus and effort, humbly begging daily the help of the Holy Spirit that it might be so, is for us to tirelessly within our baptismal and adjunct vocation, to become saints.

A few examples of St. Pope Paul’s teachings which illuminate his awareness of the state of the world and the Church in the immediate and how he was well aware of the damage being done by dissidents through their ideas and actions: The Church does, however, realize that it is the seed, as it were, the leaven, the salt and the light of the world. Fully conscious of all that is new and remarkable in this modern age, it nevertheless holds its place in a changing world with sincere confidence, and says to men: "Here in my possession is what you are looking for, what you need." [6] [It]……..is not permissible to extol the so-called "community" Mass in such a way as to detract from Masses that are celebrated privately; or to concentrate on the notion of sacramental sign as if the symbolism—which no one will deny is certainly present in the Most Blessed Eucharist—fully expressed and exhausted the manner of Christ's presence in this Sacrament; or to discuss the mystery of transubstantiation without mentioning what the Council of Trent had to say about the marvelous conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body and the whole substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ, as if they involve nothing more than "transignification," or "transfinalization" as they call it; or, finally, to propose and act upon the opinion that Christ Our Lord is no longer present in the consecrated Hosts that remain after the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass has been completed. [7] Those who mess around with the Sacred Liturgy, the truth about the Holy Eucharist, inflict profound wounds within the Church and deep disturbances in the heart of the faithful.

The progressive development of peoples is an object of deep interest and concern to the Church. This is particularly true in the case of those peoples who are trying to escape the ravages of hunger, poverty, endemic disease and ignorance; of those who are seeking a larger share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities; of those who are consciously striving for fuller growth. [8] A critical addition to the social teachings of the Church.

Our reflection on the beauty, importance and intimate fittingness of holy virginity for the ministers of Christ and His Church makes it incumbent on those who hold the office of teacher and pastor of that Church to take steps to assure and promote its positive observance, from the first moment of preparation to receive such a precious gift. In fact, the difficulties and problems which make the observance of chastity very painful or quite impossible for some, spring, not infrequently, from a type of priestly formation which, given the great changes of these last years, is no longer completely adequate for the formation of a personality worthy of a "man of God."  [9] Had these serious issues in priestly formation been addressed at the time perhaps the subsequent spike in sins of abuse by priests would have been greatly reduced if not eliminated. It would fall to St. John Paul II to strive to reform the seminaries; for him and his successors to work tirelessly to put an end to such sin, to care for the victims. Pope Emeritus Benedict would rightly point to the sixties, with all its moral disorder, as a prime point of the evil expanding.

The remaining years of the Saint’s pontificate would be extremely painful, indeed a type of bloodless martyrdom, as he was battered from all sides by hostile media, by the seemingly endless flood of priests demanding release from their vows and the clerical state, nuns abandoning their vocation or becoming ersatz religious in constant rebellion against Rome, laity abandoning the faith, radical theologians challenging him at every turn.

In the centre of ‘martyria’ [witness] – as one of the primary dimensions of Christian existence – one finds these words: ‘and He [i.e. the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth] will bear witness to Me – and you are witnesses, because you have been with Me since the beginning’. Our witness has its origin in His witness and it owes its divine nature to Him only. Witness can be borne by words [these words are not only information, but also annunciation and prophecy]; by actions that come from the words [actions bear witness by themselves – they in turn provide support and confirmation for the witness of words.] Through words and actions our witness embraces the entire existence of the human witness; therefore, it is the witness to life; if the witness to death is added to this, the death is – in the very context – the fulfilment of life, its seal of credibility. [10]

For several years a story, perhaps apocryphal, was told that as hundreds of letters arrived from priests asking for laicization, the Holy Father would take them into his private chapel at night, pray for a long time, weeping, with a broken father’s heart, and sign them.

On the feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 1978 death, ‘the fulfilment of life…seal of credibility’, came to the Holy Father, in what became known as the Year of the Three Popes. It has been only since his death that the importance of his writings has become clear. On October 14, 2018, Pope Francis would canonize him as St. Paul VI.

[1] Shoes of the Fisherman, Morris L. West, 1963, Morrow Publishing.

[2] This is a link to the source of the Pope’s expression: https://aleteia.org/2018/07/06/what-did-paul-vi-mean-by-saying-the-smoke-of-satan-has-entered-the-church/

[3] http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html

[4] The Death of Democracy, pp 232/33; Benjamin Carter Hett; Penguin Canada 2018

[5] http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19751208_evangelii-nuntiandi.html

[6] Ecclesiam Suam, para. 96; http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_06081964_ecclesiam.html

 [7] Mysterium Fidei, para. 11; http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_03091965_mysterium.html

[8] Populorem Progressio, para. 1; http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_26031967_populorum.html

[9] Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, para. 60; http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_24061967_sacerdotalis.html

[10] IN GOD’S HANDS, The Spiritual Diaries of Pope Saint John Paul II; p. 128; 2017 by Centrum Jana Pawla II; English Edition: William Collins, 2017

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph

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