PopeWatch: Suffering Paul VI



It is always fascinating when a Pope comments on a predecessor.  The comment will almost always be laudatory in nature, but it can also be revealing.  Such was the case when Pope Francis made this comment in his homily at the beatification mass of Paul VI at the close of the Synod on the Family:


In his personal notes, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour” (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121). 

Go here to read the rest of the homily.  Well, Paul VI certainly did suffer during his manifestly unhappy pontificate as did the Church under his rule.  Regarded as a “progressive” and “pastoral” Cardinal, he destroyed any following among liberal Catholics that he enjoyed with Humanae Vitae, the most significant event in his pontificate.  Personally appalled by the chaos within the Church in the aftermath of Vatican II, he was too weak of a Pope to do  much of anything about it.  Although personally holy, and fully deserving of canonization, it is hard to view his pontificate as anything other than a failure.  That the Church did not suffer even more damage under him can only be attributed to the truth of his comment that Christ is the true head of the Church and has been shielding the Church from the full impact of human weakness and folly in her leaders since Peter.  PopeWatch believes that the selection by Pope Francis of this suffering quote is significant and will doubtless be recalled by historians of the current pontificate.

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  1. Pope Paul VI was genuinely courageous for issuing Humanae Vitae in the face of liberal progressive opposition.
    Pope Francis will consider himself courageous for issuing something – anything – that angers and irritates conservative traditionalists while receiving applause from liberal progressives.
    Pope Paul VI suffered from liberal progressive rebellion – the Winnipeg Statement by Canadian Bishops comes to mind.
    Pope Francis will consider himself suffering when what he writes of a questionable nature is opposed by conservative traditionalists while he himself receives accolades from liberal progressives.

  2. Pope Paul VI did give us one of the great social encyclicals of the 20th century in Populorum Progressio.

    As for the aftermath of Humanae Vitae, am I alone in finding an eerie similarity between the “Truce of 1968,” as George Weigal calls it, when the Congregation for the Clergy decreed that Cardinal O’Boyle of Washington should lift canonical penalties against those priests whom he had disciplined for their public dissent from Humanae Vitæ and the “Peace of Clement IX” during the Jansenist controversy?

    In both cases, after the Church had been riven by a decade-long dispute, a papal document was issued that was intended to be definitive.

    In both cases, the original quarrel was immediately forgotten and argument raged over the scope of papal authority to decide the question. In the Jansenist case, peace, of a sort, was achieved, when Pope Clement IX brokered an agreement that neither side would argue the question, at least from the pulpit.

    The “Peace of Clement IX” lasted for about 35 years and ended in 1705 when Clement XI declared the clergy could no longer hide behind “respectful silence.” Eventually, in 1713, he issued Unigenitus and demanded the subscription of the clergy to it. There was enormous resistance, with bishops and priests appealing to a future Council (and being excommunicated for their pains, in 1718). As late as 1756, dissenters were still being denied the Last Rites.

    Will the “Truce of 1968” end in a similar fashion?

  3. Paul VI as “the great helmsman of the Council”? Not a shred of factual evidence exists to support this view, if you study Michael Davies (“Pope John’s Council”), Romano Amerio (“Iota Unum”) or Roberto de Mattei (The 2nd Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story”). He was more like the Flying Dutchman, punished to be driven without surcease by a Zeitgeist and its winds he could no longer control and by unscrupulous progressives who would not let him correct the course.

  4. “…like the Flying Dutchman, punished to be driven without surcease by a Zeitgeist and its winds he could no longer control and by unscrupulous progressives who would not let him correct the course.” wow – that really paints a scary eerie picture!
    Paul VI spoke very eloquently about the devil too didn’t he, in a general audience

    ” Paul VI’s famous speech, who reserved the catechesis of the general audience for this argument, stating that, “one of the greatest needs of the Church today is that of defending against the evil which we know to be the devil”. Pope Paul VI placed emphasis on the fact that, “evil is not simply a force in the background but rather truly present, a living being who is spiritual, perverse and who renders perverse. He is a horrifying reality, a mysterious force who spreads fear. Anyone who refuses to recognise his existence is distancing themselves from the framework of Biblical and Church teaching.

    Paul VI warned against the widespread beliefs of the time, saying, “some think that they can find sufficient reward in psychoanalytical studies, psychiatric studies or in spiritualist experiences, which have now sadly become widespread in some countries. There is a fear of falling back into old Manichaean ideas, or to get sidetracked by fearsome fantasies and superstitions. Today, there is a preference to come across as strong and open-minded, to sympathise with the most positive outlook, only to then show empathy for so many gratuitous magical or popular irrational fears. Or worse, one might open one’s very own soul to licentious experiences of the senses, to the harmful experiences of drugs, as well as to the mistaken ideological seductions of current trends, all of which are crevices through which the Evil one can easily penetrate and alter human mentalities”.
    that’s from the vatican insider article http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francesco-francis-francisco-27230/

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