I have received a number of letters from friends who ask for my opinion about the recent beatification of Pius IX and John XXIII by Pope John Paul II. (For those of you unaware of the system, beatifying someone is the last step before declaring them a saint.)
Personally, I think the Pope put John XXIII on the list as a spiritually political ploy to placate the left wing cardinals. John in his short rule (1958-1963) was responsible for the most progressive updating of Catholic theology and canon law in history—the Vatican II Council (which he opened in 1962). Pius IX (d. 1878) in many ways was John’s antithesis. Pius was of the triumphant, fundamentalist school of pontiffs. His Vatican I Council (1869-1870) worked to solidify his spiritually autocratic view of the Pope’s unquestionable power. Along with its decrees against materialism, socialism, and atheism, Vatican I solemnly decreed Papal Infallibility for Pius and his successors.
Pius IX was known to be anti-Semitic in his statements and actions. He was the last pontiff in Europe to sanction putting Jews in ghettos. Among many of his rather nasty observations about the Jews, he liked to call them “dogs.”
During Pius’ reign (1846-1878), Jews were squeezed back into their urban concentration camps throughout the Papal States. At a time in the mid-19th century when most European Jews had been freed from their ghettos and received an unprecedented measure of equal rights and freedom to practice their religion, those Jews living under Pius saw their children regularly snatched from families to be baptized. In general the race which had given Christians their beloved Christ was repressed with a vengeance by this saint-to-be. A Jew could even be sent to prison for employing a Christian to clean his linen.
Pius ran a secret police that infiltrated the populace. People were tortured and executed for minor offenses. Pius breathed new fire into the barbarous institution of the Inquisition allowing it to survive into modern times. Torture was disavowed since the 1830s, but defendants during Pius’s reign were tried without legal representation and the tribunal of priests sitting in judgment had unlimited power. You would not be sent to the rack to confess your sins, but you could end up tortured by neglect and locked away and forgotten in the dungeons. Descriptions recorded in 1870 by troops of Victor-Emmanuel who were liberating the Papal States describe the survivors of the dungeons in terms reminiscent of death camp survivors from he 20th century.
Pius IX to the end was righteously unapologetic for his treatment of his subjects and persecution of the Jews. He saw these acts as infallible. One could say that the climate of fear and antisemitism he left behind took Europe one large step towards the Holocaust of the next century. On the other hand, John XXIII’s unofficial apologies to the Jews for over a thousand years of abuse by the Church went ten times farther than anything his beatifier, John Paul II, has recently said as an apology for the Holocaust.
Here is what Pope John said:
“The mark of Cain is stamped upon our foreheads. Across the centuries, our brother Abel has lain in blood which we drew, and shed tears we caused by forgetting Thy love. Forgive us, Lord, for the curse we falsely attributed to their name as Jews. Forgive us for crucifying Thee a second time in their flesh. For we knew not what we did.”
As De Rosa in his book “Vicars of Christ” commented, “It was some atonement for over a hundred anti-Semitic documents that were published by the church between the sixth and the twentieth centuries. Not one conciliar decree, not one papal encyclical, Bull, or pastoral directive suggests that Jesus’ command, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’, applied to Jews. Against this entire tradition, John the Good pointed to the mark of Cain on his own forehead…Most movingly of all, he claimed that Catholic persecution of Jews amounted to crucifying Jesus a second time in the flesh of his own people. The pope, chief representative of a holy and infallible church, begged forgiveness for these appalling sins and errors. Our only excuse, he said, was ignorance.”
John’s prayer of atonement was meant to be entered officially into Vatican II canon law, but after he died and his successor, Paul VI, washed John’s specific text down to the current bromides popularly used ever since, even by Pope John Paul, such as “Certain Catholics where in error….etc.”
The whole matter of these beatifications are plainly clear to me. They fulfill the prophecies of apostasy at the highest echelons of the Church which were forewarned by hundreds of Catholic seers down the last millennium. Pius the papal tyrant beatified alongside John the humanitarian was done to appease the two wings of reform and retrenchment one today finds splitting the Cardinalate hierarchy of the Church. It is from these cardinals the next future pope will be chosen in a very short time.
Will he be dark or light?
For more information on my take on the Catholic prophecy, the Church’s future and papal prophecy, please read my book The Last Pope.
(12 September 2000)