John Gielgud as the Grand Inquisitor

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The things you can find on the internet!  Here is the late John Gielgud giving a riveting performance in 1975 as The Grand Inquisitor from the fable in The Brothers Karamazov.  I have always thought of this story by Dostoevsky as a prediction of the godless socialist regimes that he so clearly saw were coming.  We see this clearly in this passage:



‘Receiving bread from us, they will see clearly that we take the bread made by their hands from them, to give it to them, without any miracle. They will see that we do not change the stones to bread, but in truth they will be more thankful for taking it from our hands than for the bread itself! For they will remember only too well that in old days, without our help, even the bread they made turned to stones in their hands, while since they have come back to us, the very stones have turned to bread in their hands. Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission! And until men know that, they will be unhappy. Who is most to blame for their not knowing it?-speak! Who scattered the flock and sent it astray on unknown paths? But the flock will come together again and will submit once more, and then it will be once for all. Then we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as they are by nature. Oh, we shall persuade them at last not to be proud, for Thou didst lift them up and thereby taught them to be proud. We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all. They will become timid and will look to us and huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever that we have been able to subdue such a turbulent flock of thousands of millions. They will tremble impotently before our wrath, their minds will grow fearful, they will be quick to shed tears like women and children, but they will be just as ready at a sign from us to pass to laughter and rejoicing, to happy mirth and childish song. Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life like a child’s game, with children’s songs and innocent dance. Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin. We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated, if it is done with our permission, that we allow them to sin because we love them, and the punishment for these sins we take upon ourselves. And we shall take it upon ourselves, and they will adore us as their saviours who have taken on themselves their sins before God. And they will have no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient- and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully. The most painful secrets of their conscience, all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all. And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves.

Humanity without God=children to be led by a ruthless elite.  It sums up much of our global history since the time of Dostoevsky.

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  1. John Gielgud also played Pope Pius XII in the movie Scarlet and the Black about the heroic efforts of Msgr. Hugh O’ Flahrety (played by Gregory Peck). Although it cast Msger. O’ Flarhety in a positive light, it mischaracterized Pius XII as indifferent to the plight of Jews and Allied POW escapees.

  2. I think it too strong Greg to state that it showed him as indifferent but rather cautious due to his immense responsibility for the Church. He clearly in the film knows that O’Flaherty is doing and approves, but cautions him that he could not intervene to protect him if O’Flaherty is caught. The film showed Pius XII’s courage in dealing with the Nazis, his disdain for them, and his offering to help the Jews of Rome raise the gold for the ransom demanded by the Gestapo. At the time of the making of the film, 1983, a lot of the documents detailing the rescue efforts implemented directly by the Pope had yet to be released by the Vatican.

    Historically, I think Pius XII probably viewed O’Flaherty as something of a loose cannon. I suspect Pius secretly liked the fact that O’Flaherty’s fairly flamboyant operation attracted a lot of Gestapo attention away from the hidden rescue efforts that Pius was supervising. Pius always kept his cards close to his vest and never more so than during the perilous days of German occupation.

  3. I recently read “A Vatican Lifeline 44” by William Simpson, “The Vatican Pimpernel”, by Brian Fleming, “The Scarlet and the Black, by J. P. Gallagher, and “The Rome Escape Line” by Sam Derry. None of these books refer to the supposed cowardly conversation between Pope Pius XII and Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty, depicted in the film, The Scarlet and the Black.
    I came to the conclusion that the scene was simply Hollywood’s attempt to be politically correct in maligning the Holy Father.
    After the war and following his death, Pius XII was praised effusively by world leaders and Jewish groups for his war time leadership. His responses to Nazism have been a matter of extensive study and scholarly debate in the decades since. Some post-war critics have accused Pius of either being overly cautious, or of “not doing enough”, or even of “silence” in the face of the Holocaust. Supporters have held that he saved thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of Jews by ordering the Church to provide them with sanctuary and aid, and that he provided moral and intellectual leadership in opposition to the violent racism of Nazi ideology.

  4. Actually, Donald, the Pope’s approval, as portrayed in the film, is grudging and discouraging. In real life, O’Flahrety’s operations were conducted not only with Pius XII’s approval, but at his behest. The 1983 movie seems to be influenced by the the anti-Pius XII propaganda that started in 1960.

  5. “In real life, O’Flahrety’s operations were conducted not only with Pius XII’s approval, but at his behest.”

    From everything I have read Greg O’Flaherty got permission from no one before he began his operation and was very much a free agent. If you have material to the contrary please link to it.

  6. In his book, “Hitler, The War, and the Pope”, Ronald Rychlak states, “In Rome, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty was known for his work on behalf of Jews and Allied soldiers hiding in Rome. Under Pope Pius XII’s direction, he was in charge of a network of hundreds of people that rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazis.” (page 220)

    If I am not mistaken O’Flaherty worked in the Holy Office, which is now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That would have made his working as a free agent practically impossible, given his position.

  7. The only thing I have discovered is this regarding Pius XII and direct involvement with O’Flaherty’s operation:

    “William Doino, a Vatican historian, described Thomas’s research as “unique and groundbreaking”. He spoke of the book’s new insight, for example, into Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish priest: “Everybody has always praised [O’Flaherty] because he helped Jews and escaped POWs. They made a movie about him, The Scarlet and the Black, with Gregory Peck. However, they always say he was acting on his own authority and that Pius was either aloof or not giving him anything. Gordon has spoken extensively with O’Flaherty’s family, who gave him private correspondence and told him that O’Flaherty said that everything was with Pius XII’s co-operation.””

    This is in regard to the book The Pope’s Jews which I have not yet read.

    This site has the usual account of O’Flaherty’s exploits where he is presented as a lone wolf:

    O’Flaherty took quite a lot of risks with Vatican neutrality and if Pius XII fully supported his operation that casts a new light in regard to the risks that Pius was willing to take and his willingess to countenance deception which O’Flaherty was a master of.

  8. It would stand to reason in order for someone in a dicastery like the Holy Office, they would at least need permission from his superiors to engage in such risky operation. And that superior, namely the Cardinal prefect would inform the pope of who was doing what in regards to such operations. In any, even he surely wouldn’t have acted on his own.

    However, I am sure O’Flaherty would not have implicated the pope had he been captured or kidnapped.

    In any event, I don’t think the movie, which I think was an otherwise great movie, did justice to Pope Pius XII. Gregory Peck’s performance was masterful.

  9. Guenter Lewy’s controversial, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany was first published in 1964. Lewy, supported Rolf Hochhuth’s controversial play, Der Stellvertreter, (The Deputy), which had appeared only a year earlier, indicting the Vatican for failing to act to save the Jews during the Holocaust. Lewy’s book continued in the same vein. However, on page 301, writing about the Roman persecution of the Jews, during the German occupation, Lewy wrote: “More than 4,000, with the knowledge and approval of the Pope, found refuge in the numerous monasteries and houses of religious orders in Rome.” Lewy provided a source footnote: CF. Robert, Leiber, S.J., “Pius XII und die Juden in Rom 1943-1944,” Stimmen der Zeit, CLXVII (1960-61), 429-430.
    Lewy was obviously writing about the time when Msgr. O’Flaherty and his group were active.

  10. “By the morning of October 16 (1943), a total of 4,238 Jews had been given sanctuary in the many monasteries and convents in Rome. A further 477 Jews had been given shelter in the Vatican and its enclaves. Later that day, SS troops combed the houses and streets of Rome in search of Jews; all they found were taken, regardless of age, sex, or state of health, to the Collegio Militare. As a result of the Church’s rapid rescue efforts, only 1,015—fewer than one-fifth—of Rome’s 5,730 Jews were seized that morning. Deported to Auschwitz, only ten of then survived.” Gilbert, Martin, “The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust”, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2003, p. 365.

    I believe we can safely assume that the pope was aware of his 477 new neighbors, considering Vatican City is only 0.44 square kilometers or 110 acres.

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