Despite talk of a “pluralistic” Church, with many alternative theologies, those who have fully embraced a liberalized Christianity cannot in fact tolerate a staunchly other-worldly Catholicism because it calls into question the basic terms of their own revised faith. Traditional Catholics, for the same reason, cannot tolerate much of what calls itself renewal; but they never claimed to be pluralists.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)


Traditional Catholicism is variously patronized , derided, condemned, or ignored by self-consciously modern Christians, on the equally various grounds that it is outdated, narrow, inhuman, or incredible. Yet behind these sundry forms of rejection lies an unacknowledged fact: a firmly transcendental religion, a deeply held belief in the eternal God, is a constant threat to the humanistic Catholicism so skillfully fashioned in the past twenty years. To take seriously the Absolute, to endeavor sincerely to see all of life under the aspect of eternity, is to impose great inconveniences on the comfortable arrangements which advanced modern Christians have made with the world. Thus the priest or the nun is tolerable in his or her role as “minister,” that is, as a professional specialist applying skills to the facilitation of community life. But the priest or the nun as representative of the sacred, as ambassador of God, cannot be tolerated. For the same reason not only are classic conversion stories no longer told, but those converts who entered the Church because they experienced the call of the absolute and unwavering God are sometimes the objects of hostility.

The “relevance” of Catholicism has always lain in its power, not its contemporaneity, that is, in its ability to communicate to the individual a sense of God’s majesty and unchanging will, along with the concomitant promise of eternal life. It is this which is now, under the misnomer of “triumphalism,” rejected by so many Churchman who enjoy strategic influence. The Church’s crisis is not primarily intellectual, as it is often stated, not primarily the question whether its doctrines are any longer credible. During the supposedly intellectually barren period between Modernism and the Second Vatican Council, the Church did not cease to attract or keep highly respectable individuals from the artistic and intellectual worlds – Maritain, Gilson, Claudel, Peguy, Waugh, Greene, Rouault, Mauriac, Marcel, and Chesterton, a few among the many, along with others like Bergson and Simone Weil who were attracted but never formally converted. There is no even remotely comparable record of distinguished adherents to liberal Protestantism, despite the most strenuous efforts to make Christianity intellectually respectable and up-to-date. The crisis of the Church is not primarily intellectual and probably never was. It is personal and spiritual, a crisis of fundamental self-understanding and will. It proceeds from the failure of nerve, not the perplexities of the intellect.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

It was not merely the inconveniences of religious life – the possibly uncomfortable clothes, celibacy, obedience to rules – which understandably rankled. It was in fact the whole special character of the religious identity. The religious habit was discarded not simply because it was out of date or unfunctional but because of its symbolism, its marking the wearer as an ambassador of God in the world, a responsibility the wearer no longer wished to discharge. […]

Numerous priests and religious announced, during the postconciliar crisis, that they no longer wished to play a special role, that the burdens of living up to what the Church expected of them were now intolerable. Humanly such feelings were quite understandable. Yet unnoticed was an implication of the most profound theological significance – no longer was the religious vocation treated as a call from God that might or might not coincide with the individual’s own wishes. The possibility that God might will certain people to assume tasks they would rather shirk was implicitly denied. The entire Judaeo-Christian understanding of the ways in which God deals with man was being silently rejected.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

The clerical crisis (using the term clerical as a convenient designation for both priests and religious) is very familiar in general outline, and this familiarity has tended to obscure a complete understanding. Church professionals, before the Council was barely over, began to show themselves restive under the kinds of discipline they were made to endure – anachronistic and confining clothing, petty and outmoded rules of conduct, pious practices left over from another age, authoritarian and frequently arbitrary superiors. Finally this restiveness reached the heart of the matter – the vow of chastity or the promise of celibacy and the very notion of lifelong, unbreakable commitment.

For a time the priesthood seemed almost fated to disappear, as thousands of men who had supposedly committed themselves for life gave up their offices and, usually, took wives. Nuns, who were if anything popularly regarded as even more exalted and sacrosanct than priests, appropriately went through an even more dramatic crisis, one which shows no sign of resolving itself short of the eventual disappearance of many existing communities of women.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

Poor blokes! They’ve worn everything threadbare – even sin. You can’t have a “good time” just because you want to. The shabbiest tuppeny doll will rejoice a baby’s heart for half the year, but your mature gentleman’ll go on yawning his head off at a five-hundred franc gadget. And why? Because he has lost the soul of childhood. Well, God has entrusted the Church to keep that soul alive, to safeguard our candour and freshness. Paganism was no enemy of nature, but Christianity alone can exalt it, can raise it to man’s own height, to the peak of his dreams…Joy is the gift of the Church, whatever joy is possible for this sad world to share. Whatever you did against the Church, has been done against joy. I’m not stopping you from calculating the profession of the equinoxes or splitting the atom. But what would it profit you even to create life itself, when you have lost all sense of what life really is? Might as well blow your brains out among your test-tubes. Manufacture “life” as much as you like, I say! It’s the vision you give us of death that poisons the thoughts of poor devils, bit by bit, that gradually clouds and dulls their last happiness. You’ll be able to keep it up so long as your industries and capital permit you to turn the world into a fair-ground of mechanical roundabouts, twirling madly in a perpetual din of brass and crackling fireworks. But just you wait. Wait for the first quarter-of-an-hour’s silence. Then the Word will be heard of men – not the voice they rejected, which spoke so quietly: “I am the Way, the Resurrection and the Life” – but the voice from the depths: “I am the door for ever locked, the road which leads nowhere, the lie, the everlasting dark.”

Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest (1936)

Well, as I was saying, the world is eaten up by boredom. To perceive this needs a little preliminary thought: you can’t notice it all at once. It is like dust. You go about and never notice, you breathe it in, you eat and drink it. It is sifted so fine, it doesn’t even grit on your teeth. But stand still for an instant and there it is, coating your face and hands. To shake off this drizzle of ashes you must be for ever on the go. And so people are always ‘on the go’. Perhaps the answer would be that the world has long been familiar with boredom, that such is the true condition of man. No doubt the seed was scattered all over life, and here and there found fertile soil to take root; but I wonder if man has ever before experienced this contagion, this leprosy of boredom: an aborted despair, a shameful form of despair in some way like the fermentation of a Christianity in decay.

Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest (1936)

The often-overlooked about why Carroll, Cornwell, and so many other post-Hochhuth liberal Westerners have fallen into the KGB trap and watered the poppy seeds of its framing of Pius XII, is that their works were ultimately not about Pius. They were part of a new offensive aimed at further dividing the Judeo-Christian world by discrediting the Vatican. They saw the end of John Paul II’s anticommunist papacy coming, and they tried to help elect a leftist pope, by making people believe that Pius XII and John Paul II had led the Church in a bad direction. […]

Any doubt about Cornwell’s intent was resolved in March 2000, when Pope John Paul II made an unprecedented and historic trip to the Holy Land. At that time, as Christians and Jews were coming closer together, Cornwell described the Pontiff as “aging, ailing, and desperately frail as he presides over a Vatican that is driven by cliques, engulfed in scandal, and subject to ideological power struggles.”

Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa and Professor Ronald Rychlak, Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism (2013)

While Cornwell [author of Hitler’s Pope] was granted access only to the Vatican’s open archives, he claimed that his book was based on “previously unseen material.” He also said he spent “months on end” in a “windowless dungeon beneath the Borgia Tower,” while a “silent factotum brought him Pacelli’s files, which had been hidden from view for decades.”

In fact, the files were simply in an underground storage vault; moreover, they were not secret, and they covered the years 1912-1922, before Hitler was running Germany and while Pacelli was nuncio to the Kingdom of Bavaria. Vatican records show that Cornwell visited those archives only from May 12 to June 2, 1997, that he did not come every day, and that he often stayed for very brief periods of time…He later admitted that he was there only three weeks and that the files were not secret – but by then the damage was done.

In his preface, Cornwell claimed that by mid-1997, “nearing the end of my research, I found myself in a state I can only describe as moral shock” over the evidence that Pacelli had an “undeniable antipathy toward the Jews” and that his “diplomacy in Germany in the 1930s” betrayed groups that “might have challenged Hitler’s regime and thwarted the Final Solution.” […]

The most revealing insight into Cornwell’s research methods lies in the fact that, citing a secondary source, he wrote that the papal nuncio in Vienna had warned Pacelli about the risks posed by the concordat. Remarkable, Cornwell made no mention of the original document from the Vienna nuncio, which Cornwell is shown to have signed out while doing research in the Vatican archives, and which directly contradicts the statement in his book.

Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa and Professor Ronald Rychlak, Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism (2013)

Another KGB disinformation technique used in Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope is revealed by the book’s cover. The dust jacket of the original British edition represents a deliberate and nasty deception. The cover is a photograph showing Nuncio Pacelli [Pius XII] leaving a reception given for German President Hindenburg in 1927. The caption given on the inside of the dust jacket of the British edition, however, dates the photograph as having been taken in March 1939.

This is not an honest mistake. This is intentional deception for a purpose. By March 1939 Hitler was Fuhrer, and Pacelli had been elected pope on March 2, 1939. A naive reader who had fallen for Cornwell’s slander could easily conclude that Pius XII rushed off to visit Hitler as soon as he was elected. That never happened – neither Pacelli nor Pius XII ever met Hitler.

This dramatic photograph shows Nuncio Pacelli, dressed in formal diplomatic regalia (which could easily be confused with papal garments), as he exits a building. In front of him stands a chauffeur saluting and holding open the square-looking door typical of old-fashioned, ceremonial automobiles from the 1920s. On either side of the nuncio stand solders of the Weimar Republic. Those who do not recognize the differences in uniform details could easily confused the Weimar soldiers with Nazi soldiers because of their distinctive helmets widely associated with Nazi-era German soldiers.

The American edition of Hitler’s Pope (and its later paperback version) has the correct date – 1927 – for the cover photograph, but the picture is cropped to eliminate two important points of reference: the soldier nearest the camera and the square door of the automobile. Both of these images provide clues to the true date of this photo, which Cornwell apparently wanted to avoid-he has admitted that he approved the photo. In the American addition, the photos background has also been significantly darkened and blurred, making it unlikely for the observer to notice that the remaining soldier is wearing a Weimar which Cornwell apparently wanted to avoid-he has admitted that he approved the photo. In the American addition, the photos background has also been significantly darkened and blurred, making it unlikely for the observer to notice that the remaining soldier is wearing a Weimar uniform, not a Nazi one. The chauffeur, with the cropping of the car door and the blurring, takes on the appearance of a saluting SS office. It all helped Cornwell establish his thesis.

Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa and Professor Ronald Rychlak, Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism (2013)

To support his conclusion that Pius was “Hitler’s Pope,” [John] Cornwell selectively edited quotes from Western publications, a technique widely used by the “science” of disinformation. By this method, a clever writer can turn a quotation into the exact opposite of what was originally intended. To see how this works, let us take a look at a remarkable statement quoted in the introductory materials to Hitler’s Pope. Cornwell offers a supposed quotation from Thomas Merton, a well-known contemplative monk whose writings have inspired many people. In Cornwell’s hands, the quotation reads:

Pius XII and the Jews…Those whole thing is too sad and too serious for bitterness…a silence which is deeply and completely in complicity with all the forces which carry out oppression, injustice, aggression, exploitation, war.

This seems to be a shocking condemnation of the pope from an esteemed Catholic thinker. If Merton had written this, it would indeed give one pause. But Cornwell manipulated a text by Merton to create this quotation…Since Cornwell gives no citation for this Merton quote (although he did give references for the other two less controversial quotations used on the same page), it was not easy to document his trick.

Below is the complete statement, which was written by Merton in his personal journal, and which is a complaint that he himself had been ordered not to publish his essay on nuclear war. The “silence” about which he complained was the “silence” that had been imposed upon him. It was unrelated to Pius XII. Here is Merton’s complete text, with the parts extracted by Cornwell highlighted in italics:

A grim insight into the stupor of the Church, in spite of all that has been attempted, all efforts to wake her up! It all falls into place. Pope Pius XII and the the Jews, the Church in South America, the treatment of Negroes in the U.S., the Catholics on the French right in the Algerian affair, the German Catholics under Hitler. “All this fits into one big picture and our contemplative recollection is not very impressive when it is seen only as another little piece fitted into the puzzle. The whole thing is too sad and too serious for bitterness. I have the impression that my education is beginning – only just beginning and that I have a lot more terrible things to learn before I can know the real meaning of hope.

There is no consolation, only futility, in the idea that one is a kind of martyr for a cause. I am not a martyr for anything, I am afraid. I wanted to act like a reasonable, civilized, responsible Christian of my time. I am not allowed to do this, and I am told I have renounced this – fine. In favor of what? In favor of a silence which is deeply and completely in complicity with all the forces that carry out oppression, injustice, exploitation, war. In other words silent complicity is presented as a “greater good” than honest, conscientious protest – it is supposed to be part of my vowed life, it is for the “Glory of God.” Certainly I refuse complicity. My silence itself is a protest and those who know me are aware of this fact. I have at least been able to write enough to make that clear. Also I cannot leave here in order to protest since the meaning of any protest depends on my staying here.

Cornwell selected the phrases that are italicized above, and linked them with ellipses. This is more than academic fraud. This is disinformation at its best.


Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa and Professor Ronald Rychlak, Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism (2013)