O Villain! thou hast stolen both mine office and my name.
To those unacquainted with the power and scope of secret societies, the personality of Pope Paul VI presents a veritable enigma. No other Pope, even in the most tempestuous times, has been the subject of such conflicting reports; no other Pope has been so apparently self-contradictory. Even a casual reading of his reign leaves an impression of doubt, equivocation, and a pathetically weak kind of hedging that is a far remove from the assertive Pontificates of the past.
For how can one account for a Pope lamenting, as Paul did, that ‘one can no longer trust the Church’? He signed the documents that kept Vatican Two on course, and promised, almost in the early hours of his reign, to consolidate and implement its decisions. Yet he changed his tune even before the last of its sessions. ‘One would have believed the Council would have brought sunny days for the Church’s history. On the contrary, they are days of storm, cloud, and fog. How did this come about?’
And the answer he provided: ‘We think there has been the influence of a hostile Power. His name is the Devil’ – tempts one to ask whether that was a form of confession, a self-indictment. Was he merely expressing what he knew had become fact, or speaking as a victim, a disillusioned man in the grip of forces beyond his control?
Compare his judgments with those of almost any of his predecessors, a Pius V, a Leo XIII, and the contrast appears to be, as I said before, quite pitiful. To quote but two instances. On 14 September, 1972, he came down heavily against the suggestion that women might play some part in the ministry of the priesthood. Such a departure from custom was unthinkable. Yet his was not a decisive voice, for only some three weeks later the Vatican issued a hand-out to journalists announcing that the Pope might change his mind. The final contradiction came on 29 March, 1973, when the Associated Press reported: ‘Pope Paul ruled today that women, regardless of whether they are nuns, may distribute Communion in Roman Catholic churches.’
The Pope had already, in May 1969, condemned a new departure that had crept in whereby Communion was received in the hand. Yet later he took that stricture back, with the meaningless proviso that Communion bread could be so received ‘after proper instruction.’
His weakness, his yielding to innovation in ritual and practice, together with the acceptance of revolutionary Marxism, and the many strange rumours that issued, from time to time, from the Vatican, caused many people in more than one part of the world to wonder if they were indeed witnessing the fall of Rome.
It was said that the Pope’s correspondence, before it reached him, passed through the hands of Casaroli, Villot, and Benelli, the Cardinals in virtual control of the Vatican. Statesmen and churchmen who paid official visits found Pope Paul diffident, almost vague, and more ready with comments and opinions than with definite answers. He lacked clarity; and as wonder gave way to a feeling of disquiet, various theories emerged to account for the air of mystery around Peter’s Chair.
The most feasible one, that Paul was an anti-pope, a trained Communist infiltrator, could be supported by his known past, his friendship with the anarchist Alinsky and others of his kind in Milan, and the heresies he had fostered since coming to power.
Other explanations will be advanced here (not because they figure among the beliefs of the present writer, who regards them as extravagant, some wildly so), but in order to make known what many intelligent people have come to think in the face of a situation akin to those, in centuries past, when the forces of St. Michael and Asmodeus clashed by the banks of the Tiber.
One theory is that Paul VI, a good Pope in the normal sense, fell into the hands of agents of secret societies (and here the names of Villot, Casaroli, and Benelli crop up again) who drugged him, injected poison into his veins, and made him incapable of reasoning, so that all that purported to be stamped by the magisterium of the Church came, in reality, from the triumvirate of Cardinals.
But that would seem to be ruled out by Montini’s life-long attachment to Marxism, which would have obviated the need for the Left orientated secret societies to exert any pressure upon him.
That would have been superfluous. Though there was one utterance by the Pope, when a dignitary asked him to quieten the widespread alarm, that might have been taken as indicative: ‘Do you people believe the Pope to be badly informed, or subject to pressure?’
At length stories emanating from Rome of sacrilege and abuses committed in church, with the approval of the Pope, became so startling, that groups of people in Europe and America decided to take action.
This culminated in a Mr. Daniel Scallen of the Marian Press in Georgetown, Ontario, Canada, employing the Pinkerton Detective Agency in New York to investigate. One of the agency’s detectives was sent, in 1973, to Rome, and he returned with a story that dwarfed all other speculations, however sensational.
He had determined that there were two Popes living in the Vatican, Paul VI and an impostor who had been made to resemble Montini with the aid of plastic surgery. Several such operations were necessary, and when colour photographs of the false Pope were sent to interested circles in Munich, where the imposture is still receiving concentrated study, there were certain noticeable differences in the two sets of features that could not be overcome.
To point out the differences: Montini had clear blue eyes, large, and being long-sighted he only required glasses for near viewing. The impostor had green eyes, small, and he wore glasses with thick lenses on all occasions.
Montini’s photographs reveal a small mole, or birth-mark, between the left eye and the left ear. This does not appear in photographs of the impostor, whose left eyebrow was nearer to the eye than was Montini’s.
The differences between the nose and the ears of the two men are held to be decisive. Montini’s nose was Roman, and protruded somewhat over his mouth. The impostor’s nose, part straight and part hooked, was short, and those who subjected the photographs to professional examination claim to have detected the insertion of a plastic strip in the nose to make it appear more straight.
But it is differences in the shape and formation of the ears that present the greatest difficulty to those who doubt the existence of an impostor. Such differences are unique, individual, and they are treated the same as finger-prints in courts of law. Any comparison of the lobes and build of the ears, as revealed by photographs, becomes not a little impressive.
But the interested circles did not stop there. They turned their attention upon the voice, and called in the help of the Type B-65 Kay Elemetrics of Pine Brook, New Jersey, and the Ball Telephone Company. Their object was to analyse the voice (or voices, if there were indeed two popes) when they pronounced the traditional Easter Sunday and Christmas Day blessing, with the words Indulgentium Peccatorum, spoken from the Vatican in 1975.
On both occasions the message was broadcast over Rome, and many people taped it; and it appeared, according to sonograms that were made – and sonograms are more sensitive than the ear – that the man who had spoken at Easter, and again at Christmas, had not been one and the same. There had been two different speakers.
Here I quote from those who are qualified to judge the sonograms and sum up the distinctions:
One voice had a much lower pitch than the other, with a more pronounced dragging of word syllables.
Another difference was that one voice had a much lower range of frequencies. It emitted a more hissing sound, and was noticeably shaky.
These graphs were submitted to the FBI for examination, and the same conclusions were arrived at. The voice patterns were different, and indicated that the vocal chords, the mouth, and the lips, were unique to each individual.
Subsequent statements alleging that there was a false Pope Paul VI, go on to say that he was an actor whose initials are P.A.R., and that it was he who died at Castelgandolfo on 6 August, 1978. A German Bishop, who claims to have proof that Montini was last known to be living not in the Vatican but in the outskirts of Rome, hopes to make this public in a forthcoming book.
So could this point to the fact that the genuine Paul VI was held captive in the Vatican, or that he was kidnapped, perhaps murdered? A layman in search of more concrete evidence went to Brescia, where some of Montini’s relations were living. There a niece informed him that they were perfectly well aware of the imposture, but that all their efforts to make it known had been stifled.
The investigator, who was obviously untried and filled with a crusading zeal to bring things into the open, soon landed in trouble. He was jailed for four years, and afterwards deported from Italy. All efforts to trace his whereabouts since then have failed.
Well, as part of the prevailing confusion in the Roman stronghold, that is what some far from negligible people have come to believe.
[Evidence for the above can be found at http://www.tldm.org/News3/impostor.htm. The discerning reader will not fail to distinguish between the actual evidence presented and the authenticity or otherwise of the apparitions of Bayside - ed.]
No Roman was ever able to say: ‘I dined last night with the Borgias.’
A disillusioned priest who, nonetheless, still says Mass daily and fulfils all the duties demanded by a parish, merely shrugged his shoulders when I mentioned the possibility of crimes being perpetrated in the Vatican today.
‘Well’, he said, ‘such things have always happened there. Why shouldn’t they still be going on?’
He was not in the least troubled by my suggestion. An enemy of Rome could not have been more casual, more resigned to the use of poison and the strangler’s cord, and the acceptance of adultery, in high places.
The two complaints of malaria and gout figure among the causes of death of quite a few Popes. But sometimes they could be contracted into a single word, poison, as in the case of Gregory V who reigned from 996 to 999. The same could be said regarding the death of Damasus II who, after being elected on July 17, 1048, lived for only three weeks.
Celestine II, a one-time disciple of Abelard, was made Pope on September 26, 1143, and died in the second week of the following March. There were those about him who more than suspected poison. In June 1517 the Medici Pope Leo X narrowly escaped a plot led by Cardinal Petrucci, and four other Princes of the Church, to poison him. Leo XI died on April 27, 1605, after a reign of only twenty-seven days. His death, according to official biographers, was caused by a sudden chill aggravated by the cares of office. But there were those on hand who had seen him droop over a poison cup.
Between those two short-lived pontificates, the Vice-Chancellor of the Roman Church, Rodrigo de Borgia, who was to stamp the period and his family with an infamy that was rare at any time, took his seat on the Papal throne in 1492 as Alexander VI.
As well as several secondary ones, he had already taken as his principal mistress a married Roman lady, Vanozza de Cataneis, who presented him with three sons and a daughter, all of whom lived under their father’s wing as favoured members of the Court; and from the first, apart from the gestures and protestations that were inescapable parts of his office, the mainspring of Alexander’s life became the advancement and political security of his family.
The oldest son, Juan, Duke of Gandia, rivalled his father in the number of illicit relationships in which he figured. His brother, Caesar, not a whit behind him in this, was to add his own distinctive brand of crime to the Borgia annals. When he was only seventeen Alexander created him Cardinal, though Caesar was never more than a sub-deacon, certainly not a priest. His papa was equally obliging when Caesar, although a Prince of the Church (he soon dropped the sham), wanted to marry. The necessary dispensation was soon forthcoming.
The youngest of Alexander’s sons, Jofre, married an illegitimate daughter of Alonso II of Naples. Then came Lucrezia who, because of her sex and the manifestly pious strain she exhibited in such surroundings, has been badly treated by novelists and historians of the Hollywood type. She was, according to the time, sufficiently ungirlish to deal with her father’s official correspondence when he was out of Rome, and we know nothing definite to her discredit.
Her first marriage, to a prince of the Sforza house, was annulled on the grounds of non-consummation. Her second was to another of the illegitimate brood produced by the Neapolitan king, while her third was to Duke Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara.
Lucrezia died young, but not before she had passed through the strange experience of knowing that her second husband had been strangled by her brother Caesar. But that was not the highlight of Caesar’s career, for he also dealt, in similar fashion, with his own brother Juan. He then turned his attention to Cardinals, those with money, and used his ready hands, or the always convenient poison, to account for several, including Cardinal Michele, who was a nephew of Pope Paul II, and Cardinal Orsini.
But that by no means depleted the College of Cardinals, for apart from Caesar four other members of the Borgia clan sported the red hat. Alexander turned a blind eye on Caesar’s exploits, though he was genuinely grieved by the loss of his first-born, Juan.
During this time the Devil made his presence felt, sometimes visibly, in Rome, and the populace had no doubt but that the dregs of wickedness were being stirred by doings at the Vatican. For instance, a ballet was performed there on the Eve of All Saints, 1501, at which every one of the fifty dancers was a whore picked from the streets of Rome.
One of those who came to decide that the Borgias had been in the saddle all too long was Cardinal Castellisi of Corneto. So he invited father and son to a banquet, and prepared a dose of his own mixing that was guaranteed to rid Rome of them both.
They accepted the invitation, but it so happened that Alexander had made up his mind that Castellisi was a nuisance, and he came provided with some wine that had proved so efficacious in the past.
Those were not the days of mixed drinks, but the wines were somehow mixed up as they sat at table, with the result that Alexander and Caesar got a draught of their own preparation. Amid their groaning and twisting the party hurriedly broke up. Caesar recovered, but Alexander died, duly fortified by the Sacraments of the Church.
Cause of death – malaria.
His Eminence of Corneto probably enjoyed a quiet laugh. Caesar made some amends for his evil life by dying in battle. Lucrezia was caricatured in a novel by Victor Hugo, and her name was given to the title role in an opera by Donizetti. An apologist for Alexander could say no more than that during his reign Greenland accepted the Gospel.
According to a recipe that was handed down and came into the hands of Garelli, who was physician to the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740), the Borgias obtained their poison by first killing a pig, sprinkling its abdominal organs with arsenious acid, and waiting until putrefaction set in. This contaminated matter, when introduced into liquids, became an active, deadly, and, in the majority of cases, almost instantaneous poison.
Great precautions were taken at the Court of Alexander VI to prevent this being written down; and some of the other methods employed to administer the poison were nothing short of ingenious. A person cutting fruit could die through touching the edge of a knife that had been brushed by the preparation; while the effect of turning a key to open a door or a box might cause a minute graze of the skin through which a fatal drop imperceptibly entered the bloodstream.
Other toxicologists affirm that there was another Borgia poison, a complex mixture consisting of a gritty and whitish powder that resembled sugar. It was known as canterella or cantoreli.
Who shall decide when doctors disagree?Alexander Pope.
The figure of John Paul I, who succeeded Paul VI, adds yet another, and one of the most profound, to a situation that is already crowded with problems. Created Bishop by John XXIII, and made a Cardinal by Paul VI (the Popes who, between them, created and implemented the revolution), his rise to the Papal throne after having been Albino Luciani, Cardinal-Patriarch of Venice, came almost as an ecclesiastical bolt from the blue.
Humbly circumstanced, he grew up in a family where opinions, quite naturally, were formed and dominated by those of the father, a committed Left-winger; and he was in his mid-sixties when, on 26 August, 1978, he emerged from the conclave at which he had been elected, with unprecedented speed, after four ballots that covered only eight hours and forty-five minutes on the first day.
An observer with an eye on the state of affairs at the Vatican might have noted that the stage was being set for yet another Renaissance drama. And such an event was indeed figured forth by the enigmas at once presented by this (apparently) by no means uncommon Pope.
Two schools of thought, in neither of which his voice had so far been definitely heard, grew up about him. One insisted that he was bent on continuing the changes set afoot by his two predecessors; that he favoured the modernist or progressive elements, and their reforms.
Support for this was given when he rejected the title of Supreme Pontiff, and elected to be installed rather than crowned. There was no crucifix on the table that served for an altar, at his inaugural Mass. Simplicity governed all, and those who echoed the ideology of Paul VI were soon claiming that the new Pope was ‘their man’, especially when he was known to have opposed the Church’s teaching forbidding contraception.
On the other hand, it was said. that he contemplated the annulment of some of the innovations started by Vatican Two; that he deplored the so-called ‘upward’ movement that was threatening the Church; and those conservatives who looked for an endorsement of their viewpoint were encouraged when the time came to appoint new Bishops to vacant sees, and, more especially, one to his old Patriarchate of Venice.
In that he was opposed by Cardinal Baggio (known as Ceba to the secret societies) whose candidate was a certain Monsignor Ce, who was known to be radical. But John Paul refused to make the appointment, thus giving support to those who wished to believe that he was in conflict with heresy.
Their satisfaction, however, was short lived, as was evidenced by an occasion when he was called upon to address a gathering of students and teachers. He led them in reciting the Angelus, but no sooner had he concluded the last ‘Hail Mary’ than he began to sing the praises of one whom he extolled as ‘a classical example of abnegation and devotion to education.’
This was not, as might have been expected, a saint, nor even a simple member of the Church, but Giosue Carducci (1835-1907), who had been professor at Bologna University and whose name, as a self-confessed worshipper of Satan, was widely respected in occult circles.
His poem Hymn to Satan, in forty stanzas, contained such lines as the following [apart from the first line, the quotation here given bears little resemblance to the original Inno a Satana - ed.]:
‘Glory to thee,
Magnanimous Rebel!On Thy brow shall rise, like laurel groves,
The forests of Aspromonte.I drink to the happy day which shall see the end
Of Rome the eternal.To Liberty who, avenging human thought,
Overturns the false throne of Peter’s successor;In the dust with crowns and garlands!
Lie shattered, iniquitous Lord!’1
In shorter pieces, Carducci apologised to Satan, or the spirit of evil, which he called Agramainio, for the lies and slanders that are heaped upon him on earth. Glorifications of the occult and the Black Mass, and of Satan as the symbol of revolt against the Church, the antithesis of religion, are mixed with blasphemies. Satan is thanked for being kind, while in his Ode to the Town of Ferrara, Carducci cursed the ‘cruel old she-wolf of the Vatican’.
Carducci became the centre of a cult, and was accorded much the same reverence by his followers that he gave to Satan. Processions were held, preceded by a banner on which Satan, in all his regalia of horns, tail, and hooves, was depicted, and at which a parody of the Litany, including the line ‘Gloria in profundis Satanae’ was chanted. The last eight verses of the hymn by this ‘singer of Satan’ passed into the repertory of songs that made the rafters ring in Italian secret society meetings.
Yet Pope John Paul’s admiration for this man, his holding him up as an example for teachers and the rising generation to follow, was only one of the mysteries connected with his reign.
Over the centuries Rome, insisting on her unique historical validity, had remained stubbornly aloof from negotiations with other Churches, Protestant or Orthodox. But the Second Vatican Council had opened doors so that representatives of those Churches were now exchanging views and discussing the possibilities of unity.
One such visitor to Rome was the Russian Metropolitan Monsignor Nikodim, the Orthodox Archbishop of Leningrad. Born in 1930, and becoming the youngest Bishop of any creed in Christendom, he was reputed to exhibit a pro-Soviet and anti-West bias. In 1961 he led a deputation of Orthodox churchmen to the World Council of Churches. He was awarded the United Nations’ medal for peace, and became head of the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate; and after attending the installation of John Paul I, he was received in audience by the Pope on September the 5th.
The meeting occurred in the study adjoining the Pope’s private library, and the opening remarks, as reported probably by Father Arrupe, Superior-General of the Jesuits, or by the liberal Cardinal Willebrands (who acted as hosts to Nikodim), followed these lines: ‘Welcome, dear brother’, said the Pope, coming forward from the large oak table at which he had been working, ‘So close to us, and yet so far away. What shall we discover about ourselves? When will all of us, Catholic and Orthodox, be sons of the same Church?’
Nikodim responded in the same spirit. ‘I wish it could be in your reign that such a thing could happen.’
The Pope asked for news of the state of religion in Russia. ‘Father Arrupe tells me that you are very hopeful about the future of the Church in your country.’
Nikodim was silent for a time. Those who had met him could imagine how, when pausing for an answer, his eyes showed as little more than slits under bushy brows. ‘Most Holy Father, I’ll be frank with you’, he said at length. ‘In Russia they think very badly of me. They say I am working with the State authorities, and that I serve them rather than God. Yet I am a faithful servant of God.’
That short confession brought a rush of colour to his cheeks. He breathed quickly, in the grip of some violent emotion.
John Paul asked quietly: ‘What do you wish me to do?’
When able to speak again, Nikodim continued: ‘Most Holy Father, how can we work together if Russia still thinks that the Orthodox Church is part of the Communist system? One day I shall be crushed’ – he flung out his arms – ‘and the Russian Orthodox Church will come to an end. You must come to an understanding, and negotiate with them as they ask you to.’
Had that been the object of Nikodim’s visit? We shall never know, for by now his physical state was truly alarming. His hand was pressed to his left side, as though, it was later said (perhaps by John Paul himself), he wished to tear out his heart and fling it at the Pope’s feet. He tried to speak, but failed. His mouth twisted, and only the whites of his eyes were visible.
The Pope seized and partly supported him. ‘Mercy, he is ill’, he exclaimed to Willebrands, who was still within hearing. ‘Quickly, Eminence, call Doctor Fontana’ – the Pope’s private physician.
The Pope arranged what comfort he could for Nikodim on the floor of the study. Then he opened the window. By the time the doctor arrived the Russian was dead.
It later emerged that Nikodim had been refused permission to enter France, on his way to Rome, and that he was only able to do so when a number of French Bishops interceded on his behalf.
Then, as though to account for their opposition, the French Foreign Office let it be known that Nikodim was an accredited agent of the Soviet Secret Police.
Thursday, the 28th of September, 1978, had been what passed as on ordinary day at the Vatican. The Pope, after working in his office, had received some members of the hierarchy in private audience, and then a group of prelates from the Philippines, to whom, as representatives of the most Catholic region in south-east Asia, he extended a special welcome.
Following lunch, and the usual siesta, there was more business and discussion with several of the Cardinals. Evening prayers in his private chapel had been followed by a general goodnight to members of his staff, after which he retired to his bedroom on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace.
Friday dawned as a typical end-of-September day, with the rows of Palace windows taking shape in the dull grey light and the first sounds coming, not from birds in the Vatican Gardens, but from the little room where Sister Vicenza, a nun who had been in the service of Popes for the past ten years, was preparing coffee. Her timing, her movements, and the details of her task, had an almost military precision.
It had turned five o’clock. At ten minutes past she would place the cup of coffee, always strong, in the sacristy adjoining the chapel where the Pope knelt, in meditation, before saying Mass at five-thirty. She was therefore surprised when, not hearing any movement, she had gone to the sacristy and found that the coffee, half-cold in the cup, had not been touched.
One of the Papal secretaries, Don Diego, then joined her; and when five-twenty came, and still the Pope had not appeared, they went to the door of his bedroom. There the secretary tapped, more than once, and having received no answer he opened the door.
The Pope lay on his bed, fully dressed, and obviously dead. On the bedside table was a lamp, still burning, and a cheap little alarm clock that he had brought from Venice. In the corridor was a red light emanating from an electric bell. It was placed there as an alarm, to summon help, and its glow meant that such a signal had been made by the Pope who, as Diego saw at a glance, had died alone without his call being answered. He had worn the Fisherman’s Ring for only thirty-three days.
The Pope’s other secretary, Father John Magee, was next on the scene, and as the news spread Cardinal Confaloniere, Dean of the Congregation of Cardinals, who arrived at the bedside, pronounced what was afterwards accepted as the regular and official version of the tragedy.
The resulting description might relate to the death-bed of any outstandingly religious man. The Pope was on the bed, supported by pillows, with his head, turned a little to the right, inclining forward over his chest. His eyes were open. The prevailing impression was one of calmness and serenity, with no suggestion of pain. There was nothing to belie the name ‘smiling Pope’ that had been given him during his brief time in Rome. One hand held some sheets of paper containing notes for a speech he intended to deliver on the following day. A copy of Thomas a Kempis’sImitation of Christ was on the floor. [The author is here repeating the sanitized version provided by the Vatican and challenged by David Yallop in his book 'In God's Name' - ed.]
In the near panic and stupefaction that followed, Don Diego, who might have been. expected to join in, was holding a hurriedly excited conversation on the telephone. It later transpired that he had called Doctor Antonio da Ros, begging him to come at once to the Vatican to carry out an external examination of John Paul whom he had known and treated for some twenty years – an extraordinary act for a secretary to carry out on his own initiative, when he was surrounded by a bevy of influential prelates; and doubly surprising since Doctor da Ros was not in Rome, but in Venice.
The news was released through Vatican Radio at seven-thirty-one, and on Italian Radio the morning’s announcer cut short the latest act of terrorism by the Red Brigade to say: ‘We interrupt this broadcast to bring you grave news ...’
The tolling of bells throughout the city, and the lowering of the yellow and white Vatican City flag, took up the story; and away in Cracow, when the tidings were heard in the old building that housed the cathedral Curia, a man who had been seated at breakfast suddenly rose and retired to the private chapel. Those who saw him at the time remembered how Karol Wojtyla, for that was his name, was deathly pale and trembling, as though some heavily charged mission, whose import had been made known to him by some secret counsel in the not too far off past, was on the point of reaching fulfilment.
Those who experienced it have no hesitation in saying that from then on an atmosphere, hitherto unknown there, passed into the Vatican. Men began almost to question themselves, as they did others. Small groups met, and talked without animation. They were under a nameless pressure that it was beyond the power of any among them to remove. Much of the conversation there, at normal times, is highly allusive, causing one to search into their classical, historical, or literary memories to find a reason for it, or an answer.
Now that impression was heightened, as when Cardinals Poletti and Baggio came face to face, both aware of a question, and both equally nervous lest the other might solve it. One of them took refuge in recalling the words of Antonio Fogazzaro, the anticlerical writer.
‘Eminence’, said one, ‘you jeer at anyone who holds his tongue. Dread his silence!’ A less experienced priest came nearer to summing up the situation in more picturesque language. ‘The cupboards of the Vatican are full of skeletons. Their bones are beginning to rattle.’
‘What if they are?’ said another cleric. ‘They were placed there during the great heresies of the Middle Ages. Now those heresies have come again.’
Rumours, mystery, embarrassment, perplexity.... It came almost as a relief when movements were heard in the hall-way that led to the Pope’s bedroom. The Swiss Guards, before the termination of their four hours’ duty there, were marching out, and a high temporary partition was being erected round the bed. At the same time, all exits and entrances to that part of the building were sealed.
Before long the dead Pope’s brother and sister, Eduardo and Amelia Luciani, and a niece Pia, had arrived. They were plain, simple people, who would be regarded, by some in Rome, as rugged sons and daughters of the mountains (they came from the Dolomites), and not the sort to impress, in spite of their closeness to the dead Pope, a Cardinal like Villot who, now in charge of Vatican affairs and worldly to a degree, covered an iron nature with a more than usual share of French courtesy.
Worried by the sudden and unexpected death of their brother, they voiced their agreement, with most of the doctors, that an autopsy must be held to settle the matter and dispel any lingering doubts.
Professor Prati, consultant of the heart unit of St. Camillo hospital, said an autopsy was not only desirable, but necessary. Professor Alcona, head of the neurological department of the Polyclinic of the Catholic University of Rome, gave his more downright opinion that it was the duty of the Holy See to order a post-mortem. The same theme was to be more strongly renewed after the Pope’s funeral when another specialist, Professor Fontana, said: ‘If I had to certify, under the same circumstances, the death of an ordinary unimportant citizen, I would quite simply have refused to allow him to be buried.’
Many publications were equally insistent that a post-mortem was necessary, among them being the conservative group Civilta Cristiana, under its director Franco Antico, and the influential Corriere della Sera, of Milan.
Their doubts were supported by the way in which the specialists, who examined the Pope’s body, contradicted each other. Doctor Buzzonetti, the first doctor on the scene, said the Pope had suffered an acute coronary thrombosis. Another put it down to cancer, while a third said the Pope had an apoplectic fit resulting from a brain tumour. Doctor Rulli of the St. Camillo hospital, said it was a case of cerebral haemorrhage.
The suggestion of heart trouble was discountenanced by Edouardo and Amelia Luciani, while Monsignor Senigallia said that John Paul, acting on his advice, had had an electro-cardiogram which lasted for twenty minutes, and that no irregularity had been revealed.
The official investigators now adopted a new line to help them out of an embarrassing situation. They suddenly announced that the Pope had, from the first, been a very sick person; that he had been baptised soon after birth since he had not been expected to live through the day; that he had been in hospital eight times, in a sanatorium twice, and had undergone four operations. Appendicitis, heart, and sinus trouble, with swelling of the hands and feet, were also numbered among his complaints. His fingernails had turned black, he had managed to survive with a single lung, while there was also talk of an embolism, or blood clot. If this summary of ills had been true (and he underwent the usual medical examination before the conclave) he would not have been elected.
Within a few hours, when the initial feeling of shock had been passed, a veritable campaign of suspicion made itself felt, from which only Villot, and a few of his close associates stayed aloof. There was talk of a more than medicinal dose of digitalis, of the rare wickedness that would be necessary to introduce poison into the wine used for Mass, and of the unobtrusive ways in which a man might be helped to die.
But these hazards apart, with such terms as murder, assassination, and poison beginning to be heard, there were some unanswerable questions that were threatening, as one prelate put it, to shake the pillars of the Vatican to their very foundations.
The first one to look on the face of the dead Pope was Don Diego, a secretary. He must have seen something that thoroughly alarmed or shocked him, since he had rushed to the telephone to call Doctor da Ros, a more intimate medical friend of John Paul than any on the Vatican rota, although the average of fourteen prominent specialists it numbered were readily available, while da Ros was three hundred miles away.
Moreover, Don Diego was never asked to account for his action, or, at least, not in a way that was ever the subject of any known inquiry. And, normally loquacious, he became reserved, and could never be drawn to enlarge upon the reason why, with so much threatening to break about him, he rushed to the telephone to make a distant call.
What had he seen? Had it been the expression on the face of John Paul? According to the octogenarian Dean of the Congregation of Cardinals, Confalonieri, the dead man appeared serene, smooth, peaceful, with a hint of smiling. But a young cleric who had recently been accredited to the Vatican, and who pressed forward with a beginner’s eagerness and ardour to make himself familiar with its affairs, saw a very different countenance from the one officially described.
It was distorted by a pronounced look of suffering, while the mouth, instead of presaging a smile, was gaping wide. That this latter version was true was borne out when the embalmers arrived, the four brothers Signoracci from the Medical Institute. Their combined and highly practised efforts, carried out for two hours on the face alone, and with the aid of cosmetics, could not overcome, still less remove, the manifestation of horror that the dead Pope carried to his tomb.
But the greatest obstacle, in the way of a comfortable explanation, was the red light in the corridor. It was controlled by an electric bell on the Pope’s bedside table, and it was a signal that meant he was calling for assistance. That signal had certainly been made. The red glow had sprung into life. But it had not been answered. Not by any of the guards, nor by any of the staff, the secretaries, clerks, nurse, the chauffeur, who were in the annexe; not by either of the seven nuns of the Order of Marie-Enfant who, being responsible for the Pope’s domestic arrangements, were on the floor above his own.
What had they all been doing at the time? What more important task than the Pope’s welfare, his safety even, had kept them employed? The police who patrolled St. Peter’s Square, all through the night, must instinctively have glanced more than once at the slightly parted curtains in the Pope’s bedroom. The red glow might have appeared between them. But was it indeed observable all through the night, or had it been tampered with so that it only became visible at early dawn? There was no inquiry along those lines. Those questions went unanswered. The Pope was dead. But a post-mortem, demanded by most of the Pope’s doctors and his relatives, and seconded by an influential Press, would settle all doubts as well as determining the cause of death.
But here again the tall imposing presence of Villot intervened. An autopsy, he declared, was out of the question; and his reason for saying so left the doctors more bewildered than before. The body had been found at five-thirty a.m. Time, that is normally so regular and methodically paced at the Vatican, had then taken a surprising leap forward. For the embalmers, with quite unnecessary and unprecedented haste, had immediately been summoned, and their process had been completed by nine-thirty.
‘But the intestines?’ asked one of the doctors, who had made up his mind to remove them and carry out tests for a trace of poison.
Villot’s answer was again decisive. They had been burnt.
One of the most salient comments on the strange affair came, surprisingly enough, from L’Osservatore Romano, which asked whether the death of John Paul might in any way be linked to the homily he had pronounced in favour of the Satanist and devilworshipper Carducci. But only Catholics in Germany read this, for it was deleted from every copy of the paper that went elsewhere. An effort was actually made to suppress the German edition, but it was too late.
An unimpressive Press conference, that Villot could not actually oppose, though his obvious displeasure almost had the effect of a positive ban (especially when one of those present voiced the widespread regret at the failure to hold an autopsy), yielded nothing. Villot referred objectors to the final verdict given by Father Romeo Panciroli who, after carrying out whatever check was possible on the highly-spiced and viscerated body, was ‘pleased to report that everything had been in order.’
Meanwhile a medical man, Gerin, who rejected the possibility of the Pope’s death having been a natural one, openly pronounced the word ‘poison’; and a Bishop (one must respect his wish to remain unnamed) made up his mind to succeed where doctors, professors, and journalists, had failed. He would penetrate the veil of silence and secrecy, and establish the truth, whatever its import or what it might entail.
He worked hard and long; interviewed countless people; delved into every department, mounted stairways and passed through devious passages in the Vatican. Then, for a time, he vanished from the scene; and those who have since met him found him not only changed, as may happen after only a few months, but in every sense an entirely different man.
Hardened Romans and realists, who had expected nothing else, merely shrugged. The dome of St. Peter’s is not an egg-shell, to be cracked. He was merely one more fool who had cracked his own heart against it.
Cardinal Villot, aware of the growing disquiet in the Church, promised to make a statement on recent events in the Vatican before the calling of the next conclave. He never did, but remained a man of mystery to the last, leaving no evidence as to how much he had known (there was ample suspicion to more than make up for absence of certainty), or for how much he had been responsible. The cause of Villot’s own death on 9 March, 1979, occasioned the same elementary confusion that surrounded the passing of John Paul I. The Cardinal, according to an early announcement, had died of bronchial-pneumonia. A second verdict named kidney trouble; a third, hepatitis; while yet another attributed the cause to internal haemorrhage.
It appears that top-flight Catholic specialists, when called to the bedside of their most eminent patients, reveal themselves as being very indifferent diagnosticians.
It was raining. From their places on the colonnade above the piazza, Simon Peter and his fellow saints looked down upon a forest of umbrellas. The dead Pope, in vestments of red, white, and gold, and with a golden mitre on his head, had been brought from the Clementine Hall in the Apostolic Palace to the square where, in a plain cypress coffin, the body rested on a red blanket fringed with ermine, for the celebration of an open air Mass. The flame of a single tall taper, placed near the coffin, flickered this way and that in the wind and drizzle, but never to the point of going out. A Monsignor, his mind heavy with a fast growing certainty, looked round at the mostly shawled heads and white faces, and thought of the terrible suspicion that was trembling on everyone’s lips.
‘It is too much’, was all he could murmur to himself. ‘It is too much.’
A chill October dusk, pierced by pin-points of light from the city, was closing down as the cortege moved into the basilica where, in the crypt, future generations will come to gaze at a tomb bearing the simple inscription JOHANNES PAULUS I. And some, despite the blunting of time, may wonder.
1. Joseph Leti. Charbonnerie et Maçonnerie dans le Reveil national italien. Translated by L. Lachet. (Paris. Ed. polyglotte, 1925.) Quoted by Alec Mellor in Our Separated Brethren. (Harrap, 1964.)
Belief in the innocence of rulers depends upon the ignorance of those ruled.
Hugh Ross Williamson.
Hugh Ross Williamson.
The Catholic world at large had barely recovered from the shock of John Paul’s death, sudden and unexpected as it was, when another event diverted their attention from the Sedis vacantia (vacancy of the Apostolic See) to the puff of white smoke that, on 16 October, 1978, issued from the small bent chimney of the Sistine Chapel, and to the announcement that followed it: ‘We have a new Pope.’
More than the usual excitement resulted, and there were those among the more experienced observers who noted that much of it came from the same quarters that had acclaimed John XXIII; from those who greeted the changes (or disasters, as many thought) that resulted from his reign, as long awaited and welcome signs that the Church was throwing off its iron archaic fetters.
For the new Pontiff was Karol Wojtyla, who received something like a hero’s welcome because he was a Pole, from behind the Iron Curtain, where religion, especially the Christian, had had to run the gauntlet, and where now, although the era of blows and taunts was somewhat relaxed, it was still subject to a mainly wary and restricted acceptance. Wojtyla was, incidentally, the first non-Italian to be elected Pope since 1522.
A veteran American journalist who had the not inappropriate name of Avro Manhattan, who knew the Vatican more intimately than he did the White House, and who was well versed in Russian tergiversation, had earlier written: ‘The proportion of radical Cardinals, and of future members of the Sacred College, whose political leanings range from light pink to scarlet red, has been mounting and will continue to increase. The inevitable result will be that, thanks to the greatest number of Leftist clerics, the election of a Red Pope is becoming more likely.’1
Had such a Pontiff arrived in the person of Karol Wojtyla?
In view of the strained relationship between countries in the West, and those behind the Iron Curtain, the officially irreligious policy of the latter, and the emergence of John Paul II as the new Pope elected to be called, a number of questions presented themselves that called for an answer. His orthodox early training and development, his becoming a priest, and his rise to Archbishop and then to Cardinal, had proceeded normally.
Many hundreds of his co-religionists in Poland during the thirty years of Communist domination had undergone petty or serious persecution, many being jailed, some put to death. Yet there is no indication of Wojtyla ever undergoing more than the usual trials that have to be endured by known dissidents. He had not been subject to any sustained or menacing outcry, and his relationship with the Marxist authorities had been the same as that of any ordinary citizen who wore his faith upon his sleeve.
Through it all he must have been called upon, as a prelate, to give not only religious but also social, and even economic advice to those of his faith, advice that must have sometimes conflicted with the governing code. Yet he was never actually silenced, and he was tolerated, even privileged by the authorities, while his religious superior, Cardinal Wyszynski, then Primate of Poland, lived under constant pressure.
A case in point was the granting of permission to leave the country. When the Synod of Bishops was called for Rome, both Cardinals applied for exit visas. The Primate encountered a blunt refusal, but Wojtyla was given permission as a matter of course.
He experienced the same favour when it came to attending the conclave at which he was elected, and those who had been dismayed by the prospect of a Pope from a Soviet background soon felt they were justified.
Pierre Bourgreignon, writing in Didasco, a French publication that appeared in Brussels, April 1979, said: ‘No one capable of coherent thought will easily believe that a Cardinal from behind the Iron Curtain can be anything but a Communist plant.’
A similar doubt was expressed in The War is Now, an Australian production issued on behalf of Catholic tradition. If Wojtyla, it asked, is a true Catholic Pole, ‘why would proper, sensible, prudent Cardinals with the Church’s welfare at heart, elect a target, a man whose family and people remain under the gun, a whole nation of ready-made hostages or martyrs?’
The Abbé de Nantes, leader of the Catholic Counter-Reformation of the Twentieth Century, was more downright: ‘We have a Communist Pope.’
It was formerly acknowledged that differences, when they were in Poland, did exist between the two Cardinals. Wyszynski never yielded an inch when dealing with the controllers of his country. Wojtyla was all for coming to terms and continuing ‘dialogue’ with them, along the lines that had been established by Paul VI; and what was more noticeable, Wojtyla, apart from never actually condemning atheistic Marxism, stood in the way of those who wished to adopt a more militant attitude towards it.
Someone had noted that during the conclave in the Sistine Chapel, at which he was elected, the solemnity of the occasion, and the fact of being overlooked by Michelangelo’s gigantic frescoes of the Last Judgment, did not prevent Wojtyla reading from a book that he had thought fit to take in for instruction – or for a little light relief from the gravity of choosing the Vicar of Christ? It was a book of Marxist principles.
Those who regarded him with suspicion were not reassured when he rejected the ritual of coronation and chose to be ‘installed’, and when he let it be known that he rested more easily in an ordinary chair than on the Papal throne. Were Church practices, they asked, to undergo a further paring down after those that had already resulted from the Council? Their fears grew when he put aside the mantle of authoritarianism with which the Church, of which he was now the Head, had hitherto been invested. And any lingering doubts they may have had vanished when, in his inaugural speech, he undertook to fulfil the last will and testament of Paul VI, by adhering to Pope John’s directives of collegiality and the liturgy of the New Mass – and that, it may be observed, in spite of the fact that he must have been aware of all the obscenities that followed it.
When making that announcement, Wojtyla stood by a makeshift altar that, like Paul VI’s bier, was bereft of any religious sign in the form of a crucifix or cross.
Other indications of what might be expected of the new Pope soon followed. In his first encyclical he praised Paul VI for having revealed ‘the true countenance of the Church’. He spoke in a similar vein of the Second Vatican Council which had given ‘greater visibility to the Eucharistic sacrifice’; and he undertook to follow and promote the renewal of the Church ‘according to the spirit of the Council’.
A later statement referred to that Council as having been ‘the greatest ecclesiastical event of our century’; and it now remained to secure ‘the acceptance of fulfilment of Vatican Two in accordance with its authentic content. In doing this we are guided by faith.... We believe that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was with the Council Fathers, that the Church contains, within its magisterium, what the Spirit says to the Church, saying it at the same time in harmony with tradition and according to the demands posed by the signs of the times’ (my emphasis).
His remark on being in harmony with tradition was flatly contradicted by his admission that ‘the liturgy of the Mass is different from the one known before the Council. But’ (he added significantly) ‘we do not intend to speak of those differences.’ It was essential to renew the Church, in structure and function, to bring it into line with the needs of the contemporary world; and from that admission it needed but a step for Wojtyla to emphasise the revolutionary principles of 1789, with the glorification of man, liberated man, as a being who is sufficient unto himself. Man was the only idol deserving the reverence of those on earth, his stature being confirmed by and classified as the Rights of Man.
That somewhat hazy terrestrial belief has been the inspiration of every Left-wing movement from then on. With a fine disregard for the authority of law it was proclaimed, in America, that ‘liberty is the very foundation of political order’. While a few years ago François Mitterand, the Communist who is now President of the French Republic, said that ‘Man is the future of Man.’ It was then left for Karol Wojtyla, as John Paul II, to enshrine that belief in a modern religious setting by declaring that ‘Man is the primary issue of the Church’; a Papal announcement that is thoroughly in line with the Marxist principle that ‘Man is an end in himself and the explanation of all things.’
The Pope then proceeded to pass from verbal to more active approval of the political system from which he had emerged. Speaking of the Church in Poland, he said that ‘its relationship with Communism could be one of the elements in the ethical and international order in Europe and the modern world.’ He maintained a friendly understanding with the Red occupiers of his country, and thought it possible to open up a spiritualdétente with them. In furtherance of this the Communist Minister of State, Jablonski, with a train of comrades as large as that of any Eastern potentate, was received at the Vatican. Then came the Soviet Minister, Gromyko, who was granted more than the prescribed time with His Holiness.
He greeted guerrillas between their bouts of ‘freedom fighting’ in Africa and Nicaragua. His moral support went with them. He opened the door of his study to the Mexican Jose Alvarez, who travelled far and wide in South America calling on extremists to light the flames of anarchy. Not even the Pope’s intimates knew what passed between them. He was the ‘star’ speaker at a Latin American Congress in Panama City, where the theme was certainly not religious, since the organisers were the Communist dictator, General Torrijos, and the Marxist Sergio Mendez Arceo, of Cuernavaca.
When addressing a group of refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the Pope’s lukewarm attitude was commented on by Robert Serrou, the Paris Match correspondent. The Pope, naturally enough, had commiserated with his audience, but why, asked Serrou, had he not so much as mentioned the Red terror from which they had escaped?
In view of that failure to condemn tyranny, it is remarkable that one of the few strictures uttered by John Paul II has been directed against those Catholics who deplore the gradual taking to pieces of the Church since Vatican Two: ‘Those who remain attached to incidental aspects of the Church which were more valid in the past but have now been superseded, cannot be considered the faithful.’
His orthodoxy, when it came to the teaching of Catholicism and its relation to other religions, has also been called into question. It is a commonplace, but no belittlement of Islam, to point out that the fatalistic Arabian tradition, with its denial of Christ’s divinity and of the redemption, is a far remove from the essentials of Christian belief. Yet the Pope told an audience of Moslems that their Koran and the Bible ‘are in step’. And in more casual mood, was he pandering to the mechanical spirit of the age when he told a gathering of motorists to have the same care for their cars as they have for their souls? Or was it by a slip of the tongue that the importance attached to cars preceded that of souls?
One of the Pope’s letters, dated 15 September, 1981, on the subject of private property and capitalism, shows a marked contradiction of and a departure from the Church’s teaching. For in the letter he says: ‘Christian tradition has never upheld the right of private property as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood the right as common to all to use the goods of the whole creation.’
That is so blatantly false, and so opposed to what every Pope from Leo XIII to Pius XII had said, that one is tempted to agree with those outspoken trans-Atlantic critics2 who bluntly call Karol Wojtyla a liar, and who follow that up with the exhortation: ‘Break off, Charlie!’
For here I quote from Leo XIII: ‘The Socialists endeavour to destroy private property, and maintain that the individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies.... It is unjust, because it would rob the legal possessor, bring the State into a sphere that is not its own, and cause complete confusion to the community.’
Leo went on to say that a man works in order to obtain property, and to hold it as his own private possession. ‘For every man has the right by nature to possess property of his own. This is one of the distinct points between man and the animal creation.... The authority of the Divine Law adds its sanction forbidding us in the gravest terms even to covet that which is another’s.’
From Pius XI: ‘The primary function of private property is in order that individuals may be able to provide for their own needs and for those of their families.’
And from Pius XII: ‘The Church aspires to bring it about that private ownership shall become, in accordance with the plans of the divine wisdom and with the laws of nature, an element in the social system, a necessary incentive to human enterprise, and a stimulus to nature; all this for the benefit of the temporal and spiritual ends of life, and consequently for the benefit of the freedom and dignity of man.’
And still from the same Pope: ‘Only private ownership can provide the head of a family with the healthy freedom it requires to carry out the duties allotted to him by the Creator for the physical, spiritual, and religious well-being of his family.’
Side by side with these proclamations the Church has issued warnings against Liberalism, which ends in capitalism, and against Marxism which preaches the abolition of private property. Therefore the statement made by John Paul II may be seen to be extraordinary compared with many of those made by his predecessors.
During his early life in Cracow, both as student and as a young priest, Wojtyla acquired a liking for the theatre that has never left him. It began when he joined a school dramatic group, and later, during the war when Poland was occupied, what is often referred to as a ‘subterranean theatre’, which means that rehearsals and performances took place in a room, sometimes the kitchen of an apartment, secretly and by candlelight.
‘It was round about that time’, says one of his biographers3, ‘that he formed a sentimental attachment to a young woman’; and from then on she has followed him like a shadow, by rumour, newspaper report, and in the conversation of Polish exiles on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sometimes the details differed. The most unlikely version, that was probably put out to engage sympathy, was that she worked against the Germans, had been discovered, and shot. Another gives the date 1940 as marking the height of their attachment. According to Blazynski, who was born in Poland, the future Pope was popular with the girls and ‘had a steady girl friend’.
His love of entertainment extended to the cinema, and to such superficial mock-religious shows as Jesus Christ Superstar. After one performance of the latter he spoke for twenty minutes to the audience on the theme of love and joy. He encouraged the adolescent bawling and aimless strumming of guitars that, in the name of popular accompaniments, make some present day Masses unbearable to many. In the same spirit, he invited the American evangelist, Billy Graham, to preach one of his red-hot sermons in the church of St. Anne, Cracow.
One of the subjects discussed by the circle in which he moved was a book by the writer Zegadlowicz, which had been frowned upon by the Church because of its obsession with sex; while an early piece of writing by Wojtyla (translated by Boleslaw Taborski and quoted by Blazynski) contains such lines as ‘Love carries people away like an absolute.... Sometimes human existence seems too short for love.’
The same theme occurred in Wojtyla’s book Love and Responsibility, 1960, which, Blazynski says, ‘does not ignore the bodily reality of man and woman, and goes into considerable detail in describing both the physiology and psychology of sex (the latter often with a great deal of insight that might seem surprising in one who is now, after all, a celibate clergyman.’
Even when Wojtyla became Pope the ghost of the mystery woman who had haunted his student days was not laid. There are those among Polish exiles who claim to have known her, and one of the most downright rumours spread is that her name is Edwige.
But be that as it may, not even Wojtyla’s apologists can deny that he has shown more interest in human sexuality than any Pope since the Middle Ages. Many listeners to an address he gave in Rome were quite embarrassed when he launched into details on lust and the nakedness of the body.
Some of his own statements have given publicity agents ample scope to enlarge upon them. ‘Young people of France’, he cried to a far from mature audience in Paris, ‘bodily union has always been the strongest language that two people can say to each other.’ Those words have been called some of the most stupefying ever spoken by a Pope.
During his visit to Kisingani in Zaire, Africa, a correspondent in Newsweek shook his head sadly over the way in which the Head of the Roman Church dispensed with formality. In humid heat, and almost as soon as he stepped from the plane, he was seen ‘grinning, sweating, swaying and stomping with dancing girls.’ He has been photographed watching a group of adolescent girls in one-piece garments that reached well above the knee carry out a series of acrobatic dances. Another picture has recently come to hand in which, at Castelgandolfo, he watches a young dancer perform convolutions in front of him, with her head and face almost lost sight of in a flurry of white underclothes.
A play written by Wojtyla, The Jeweller’s Shop, was produced at the Westminster Theatre in May, 1982. Said to be written in purple prose, the producer hoped that the play ‘should draw the punters’ as well as the church audiences.
His hope may well be realised since the play, still quoting The Daily Telegraph (28 April 1982) ‘embraces the unlikely subject of prostitution.’4
There is no need for John Paul II to enter deeply into the differences in the Church resulting from Vatican Two. It has been said that he is walking with a rose in his hand – that is, until the early gains achieved by John XXIII and Paul VI have been consolidated. The once proud boast relating to the One True Church has diminished into a spineless acknowledgment of ‘these ecumenical days’. The claim of Papal authority, which has yielded place to the idea of power-sharing with Bishops, may remain on the Church’s statute books for a while longer, but the force of its divine origin has been watered down; and the altars, always a sign of ‘whatever gods may be’, have been demolished.
Even so, the next phase of the attack upon the Church, from within, has passed beyond its preparatory stages and is already under way. It is likely to be less spectacular than the earlier depredations. The word ‘revisionary’ will be heard more often than ‘change’. The churches will no longer be used as amatory playgrounds. Yet what is likely to result from meetings in the Vatican Synod Hall, between more than seventy Cardinals and Bishops, will probably, in the long run, be quite as devastating as the innovations that have now been accepted as norms by a largely unperceptive and uncritical public.
Among the subjects that are known to have been discussed are marriage and abortion; and prelates such as Cardinal Felici are rational enough to admit that the issues on these, and similar questions, have virtually been decided in advance. Marriage annulments, robbed of much of their earlier formality, will be made easier. The threat of excommunication will be lifted from women who undergo abortion; and, a still greater earnest of more and vital concessions to come, the articles of Canon Law will be reduced from numbering 2,414 to a possible 1,728.
But these considerations will not weigh heavily on those who are likely to be impressed by the Pope’s visit to this country in May this year, 1982. The power of Mr. Mark McCormack’s International Management Group has been invoked to provide the same publicity for a Pope that it has so ably done for golfers, baseball toughs, and tennis players; while a firm of business consultants, Papal Visits Limited, will add further promotional backing.
The proven dramatic instinct of John Paul II will doubtless come into play as, scattering blessings from a glass-topped vehicle, he rides slowly between miles of fencing, stands, marquees, and Press platforms, and over carpet decorated with thousands of plants, to where three crosses, the tallest a hundred and twenty feet high – no, Mr. McCormack, Calvary was not like that – rise above a steel and canvas altar structure.
After Mass, the faithful may come away with a screwdriver that bears a sticker showing the Pope’s head on its handle. All arrangements for the visit will be in the capable hands of Archbishop Marcinkus, who has obviously been washed clean of the somewhat doubtful reputation that clung to him in Rome.
2. The publishers of Veritas, an orthodox newsletter. Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
3. George Blazynski in John Paul II (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979). Some of the incidents related here are taken from that book.
1. English theatre critics did not exactly acclaim the Pope’s efforts as a playwright-editor.
The strange death of Roberto Calvi.
Hard upon the upheaval caused by the collapse of Michele Sindona’s financial empire, and the revelations concerning membership of the masonic lodge Propaganda 2, Oriental Rite, the Vatican faced a third embarrassment when on June 18, 1982, the body of banker Roberto Calvi was discovered hanging from scaffolding under Blackfriars Bridge.
Calvi had been the president of Italy’s biggest private bank, the Ambrosiano, which took over many of Sindona’s assets. Sometimes known as ‘God’s banker’ because of his close connection with Vatican finance (the Vatican bank was a large shareholder in the Ambrosiano), in May of the above year he faced a number of charges related to, among others, illegal currency transactions.
He vanished from Rome and arrived in London, where he took accommodation in Chelsea Cloisters, on June 15. He was a frightened man, burdened with secrets connected with his own and the Vatican bank, into which it was not wise to probe too deeply. Some who had tried were suddenly dismissed from their posts, others went to jail on faked charges, and there had been at least one known shooting affair during investigations.
While Calvi was absent his secretary, who had been with the bank for thirty years, wrote a note cursing Calvi and then threw herself, so the authorities said, from the fourth floor of the bank’s headquarters in Milan.
In London Calvi treated his chauffeur as a bodyguard. He arranged with a friend to call at his flat at regular intervals, and then to knock three times for entrance. He also shaved off his moustache, which he had worn for years.
But although disinclined to leave his apartment, Calvi, it was said, had nonetheless walked four miles in the night or early morning, to commit suicide in the unlikely area of Blackfriars.
The mention of that area calls for comment, together with a reminder that secret societies lay great stress on association and symbols. Blackfriars was the site of the friary and church of the Dominican Order, members of which acquired the name of Black Friars because of their habit. They were, and still are, known as the Order of Preachers. As such they brought the pulpit into general use, and pulpits figure in the stonework of Blackfriars Bridge. And members of the P2 lodge, in which Calvi figured as number 0519, dressed as Black Friars in white tunic, with black cloak and hood, for their ritualistic meetings.
An inquest jury, supported by Scotland Yard, found that Calvi had committed suicide, a verdict that caused raised eyebrows and disbelieving smiles among his relatives and the Italian Press and police. For it implied that Calvi, who was sixty-two, had displayed the dexterity of an athletic young man in seeking, as the Rome Public Prosecutor said, a complicated way to end himself.
In the dark, and on completely strange ground, he had filled his pockets with rubble, negotiated a long ladder and wet planks which had a gap of some feet between them, seized a piece of sodden rope, tied one end to his neck and the other to a piece of scaffolding, and flung himself off. Why take so much trouble, when among his belongings were found medical syringes, seven boxes of tablets, and 170 pills of various kinds, many of which could have done the trick more easily?
But here again the obscure, somewhat bizarre, yet sinister influence of P2 and other secret societies comes into the picture. The initiation of a candidate into the craft often includes the taking of an oath not to reveal any of its secrets. Should he offend, he would undergo a violent death and then be buried near water at low level within reach of the tide; the belief being that his ghost would thereby be prevented from walking, which might embarrass his murderers.
This would apply to Calvi, who in all probability had been strangled before being taken to Blackfriars, to ensure that the dangerous secrets in his possession would not be divulged. For after his mysterious and clumsy ‘suicide’, before his body was cut down, the Thames tide was covering his feet.
There is nothing to suggest that Calvi had offended his brother masons. But he was under legal pressure, and there were many who feared the possible bringing to light of his extensive financial network. The Vatican, ever since the Sindona scandal, had been on its guard against further revelations, and when the activities of P2 were brought into the open, it took a surprising and an apparently unnecessary step.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith reminded Catholics that according to article 2335 of Canon Law they were forbidden, under pain of excommunication, to become freemasons. This was merely a tongue-in-cheek exercise to out-step questioners since, as readers of these pages will know, some of the leading prelates at the Vatican were established masons. But the move reflected the alarm that was felt there. Two cardinals, Guerri and Caprio, had worked hand-in-glove with Sindona whose fall had brought P2 and its shady dealings into the open. A prominent member of the lodge, Umberto Ortolani, was known to have close links with the Vatican.
But the most significant name that surfaced with the scandal was that of Archbishop Marcinkus, among whose several unacknowledged connections were those with Mafia circles and with Licio Gelli, a former Grand Master of P2. But even more to the point, he was also president of the Vatican bank, the most secretive and exclusive bank in the world.
Marcinkus had also been a friend and business associate of Calvi, and, having remarked that ‘Calvi has our trust’, he bore that out by issuing a guarantee, in the name of the Vatican bank, to cover some of Calvi’s extensive loan operations, involving many millions, as part of a vast monetary programme that included international arms selling deals.
But as the storm gathered Marcinkus withdrew his guarantee, though by then sufficient evidence had come to light to justify the belief that more than normal business exchanges had passed between the Vatican bank and the Banco Ambrosiano.
The Minister for the Treasury, Andreatta, called for the Vatican to come into the open and admit its part in the crisis that was rocking the financial world. There were also demands for Marcinkus to be questioned, while pressure was put upon the Pope to dismiss him. But Marcinkus was too well versed in Vatican banking secrets for the Pope to risk his displeasure. Moreover, he had been nominated chairman of the influential Commission of Cardinals, and so was well on the way to becoming a prince of the Church, a prospect which made him unavailable for awkward contacts.
For when commissioners went to the Vatican to seek information on its bank and Calvi’s relationship with it, Marcinkus was ‘not at home’. And when subpoenas (implying that the recipients were subject to examination) addressed to Marcinkus and two of his clerical banking associates, were sent by registered post to the Vatican, the envelope was returned unopened.
A somewhat grudging admission that the Vatican may have been partly responsible for the Calvi bank failure was made this month (August 1982) by Cardinal Casaroli.
Meanwhile the highly controversial Archbishop Marcinkus, in his office that is just a few steps down from the Pope’s apartment, may sometimes handle a balance sheet from his late colleague’s bank and reflect upon the words with which such statements ended: ‘Thanks be to God!’
‘Ye’re a bad lot; a blackguard, in the likes of a living man.’
I was thus greeted by an Irish priest early one crisp April morning. He had read in manuscript much of what I have here written, and while he could not confute it, he thought that I was doing the Church a sorry service. He was a big, broad-shouldered man, with sad eyes and a knobbed stick that he swung as though it were a shillelagh.
We were standing within the shadow of St. Peter’s, while the blinds were still drawn in the palace windows, and only isolated footsteps sounded on the piazza. His hint of humorous menace contrasted with the serenity of my feelings.
For there is nothing more golden in the world than a Roman dawn. Gold dust, lighting the past more surely than it does the present, filters through the air and settles, like a hesitant touch, on Maderna’s façade with its bold Roman letters, turning its brown and ochre tints into gold. Dust motes, where the first light catches them, are turned into gold that touches the base of Caligula’s obelisk and breaks in splendour over the cobbles; over the statues of the saints on the colonnade, and the dome that gradually wears to white; over the space before the basilica surrounded by Bernini’s giant columns, as once the legions surrounded the levelled spears that rose in envy of the Roman Thing; water from the fountains, whenever a breeze ruffles it, falls away in drops of gold.
The angle of the stick was inviting me to look over Vatican Hill. ‘That’s the way dawn will come, over the city, over the Church. Don’t you believe it?’
I only half nodded.
‘What you’ve written will pass, like a holiday or a slow fever. But the promise that was given to Peter’ – and he pointed to the central figure on the colonnade – ‘will not pass. It cannot. The fissure in the Rock will be closed. Dawn will come again. Don’t you believe it?’
‘Yes’, I agreed, influenced perhaps by his sad eyes and the swing of his shillelagh. ‘Dawn will come again.’ But will it be a false dawn?
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