Why Vatican II avoided Communism
#1
Why Second Vatican Council Avoided ‘Communism’
Tuesday, 02 Oct 2012 08:27 PM
By Edward Pentin


The Catholic Church will mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council this month — a time of great reform aimed at opening up the Church to the modern world.

To coincide with the anniversary, plenty of reflection on Vatican II is expected, with experts examining the positive and negative fruits of those momentous three years in the life of the Church.

But one interesting and, some would argue, highly disturbing, aspect of the council tends to be overlooked: the absence of any reference to, or condemnation of, Communism in the Council’s documents, despite the Soviet Union at that time being at the height of its powers.

Many have speculated why, while others have pondered on the impact of excluding any condemnation on today’s Catholic Church.

According to a number of historians, “irrefutable evidence” claims to explain the reasons behind the absence of any reference to Communism in the documents. Pope John XXIII strongly wanted members of the Russian Orthodox Church — then deeply entangled with the Kremlin and the KGB — to take part in the council, and he was prepared to make an extraordinary concession to secure their presence: to refrain from making “hostile declarations” on Russia.

In a 2007 book called “The Metz Agreement,” French essayist Jean Madiran gathers a number of sourced claims, testifying that such a deal was hatched during Soviet-arranged secret talks in 1962. The talks, Madiran says, took place in Metz, France, between Metropolitan Nikodim, the Russian Orthodox Church’s then-“foreign minister,” and Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, a senior French Vatican official.

Various sources have since confirmed that, once an agreement was reached instructing the council not to make any direct attack on Communism, the Orthodox agreed to accept the Vatican’s invitation to send two observers to the council.

Being a secret, verbal agreement, concrete evidence has largely proved elusive, but Madiran cites a memo, written by John XXIII’s successor Pope Paul VI shortly before the end of the Council.

In it, the new Pope stated he would explicitly mention "the commitments of the Council," including that of "not talking about communism (1962)." Madiran stresses that the date in parentheses is significant as it refers directly to the Metz agreement between Tisserant and Nikodim.

The Vatican would firmly adhere to the agreement during the council, insisting that Vatican II remain politically neutral. Even a petition of more than 400 council fathers to include a formal condemnation of Communism in the decrees was rejected (surprisingly, Bishop Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, was one of those who voted against it).

Despite the omission, some believe the Second Vatican Council was in fact instrumental in bringing down Soviet Communism. It brought a new emphasis — or new doctrine, as some traditionalists argue — on religious freedom which hastened its demise, largely thanks to the insistence of Bishop Wojtyla.

And, for the first time, it allowed bishops behind the Iron Curtain a chance to meet each other and to talk together outside their countries. “It gave them a sense of influence and unity,” said American theologian Michael Novak, who reported on the entire second session of the council.

Novak added that when they returned to their homelands, they would set up churches as meeting places for people of all faiths or none, thanks to the council’s new spirit of openness and dialogue.

“A broad alliance was formed of those who loved freedom and wanted to resist the Regime of the Lie,” he said, adding that Iron Curtain bishops “now had close friends in the West and elsewhere whom they met at the council.”

But notwithstanding these positive fruits of the council, some see the omission as having enormous consequences.

“The lack of condemnation of Communism at the council means, in modern times, that the church’s response has been ineffective to the assaults on human dignity by the arbitrary and all-powerful state,” says Christopher Gillibrand, a respected Catholic commentator in the U.K.

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, a former archbishop of Bologna, has eloquently summed up just why many find the omission so disturbing. In his autobiography, "Memoirs and Digressions of an Italian Cardinal,” he points out that Communism was “the most imposing, most lasting, most overpowering historical phenomenon of the 20th century” and yet the council, which even contained a decree on the church in the contemporary world, “doesn’t talk about it.”

For the first time in history, he adds, Communism had “virtually imposed atheism on the subjected people, as a sort of official philosophy and a paradoxical "state religion," and the council, although it speaks about the case of atheists, does not speak of it.”

Moreover, he stresses that in 1962, Communist prisons were “still all places of unspeakable suffering and humiliation inflicted upon numerous "witnesses of the faith" (bishops, priests and laypeople who were convinced believers in Christ), and the council does not speak of it. And some want to talk about the supposed silence towards the criminal aberrations of Nazism, for which even some Catholics (even among those active at the council) have criticized Pius XII!"

Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times.

Link: http://www.newsmax.com/EdwardPentin/Seco.../id/458448
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#2
The real question then is: Why did Pope John XXIII care that much to have Orthodox at a Catholic council?
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#3
(10-04-2012, 03:14 AM)Geremia Wrote: The real question then is: Why did Pope John XXIII care that much to have Orthodox at a Catholic council?

Because Pope John XXIII probably was a .:FM, rosicrucian kind, and because he was very communism friendly. The brother of his secretary (Mgr Capovilla, still alive) was the head of the Venice's local communist party and Capovilla himself had ultra leftist views.
How is it possible that this council which was called to address the main challenges the Church actually had to confront, deliberately chose to put aside the main one, the Communism. Yes, the council started under very flawed auspices.
In addition, the orthodox "observers" during were true red spies, not clerics. Only the Pope himself believed they were.
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#4
"And, for the first time, it allowed bishops behind the Iron Curtain a chance to meet each other and to talk together outside their countries. “It gave them a sense of influence and unity,” said American theologian Michael Novak, who reported on the entire second session of the council.

Novak added that when they returned to their homelands, they would set up churches as meeting places for people of all faiths or none, thanks to the council’s new spirit of openness and dialogue. "



Given the sad fate of Card. Mindszenty , Slipyi and many others some years later, that opinion is very doubtful.
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#5
From what I read, Pope John thought the presence of non-Catholics at the Council would provide them with some special grace towards reunion--obviously didn't bear fruit.  To be fair, while Russia and communism are not mentioned, all the specific errors of communism are addressed.  Likewise, Pope Paul renewed the condemnation of communism of his predecessors during the Council in his encyclical Ecclesiam Suam.

I think there was a line of thinking, not unlike Pius XII's "silence" concerning the Nazis, that a harsh, high profile condemnation from the Council would do more harm than good.
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#6
(10-04-2012, 08:16 AM)SaintSebastian Wrote: From what I read, Pope John thought the presence of non-Catholics at the Council would provide them with some special grace towards reunion
The Sacraments give grace, not councils…
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#7
(10-04-2012, 03:14 AM)Geremia Wrote: The real question then is: Why did Pope John XXIII care that much to have Orthodox at a Catholic council?

It's not unusual to have non-Catholics invited to a Catholic council.  Orthodox were invited to Florence; Lutherans were invited to Trent.
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#8
The schismatic Eastern bishops were also invited to the First Vatican Council by Bl. Pius IX, but they didn't come. I think it was just to be observers, rather than to actually participate (like at Florence or with the Lutherans at Trent)

(10-04-2012, 05:09 PM)Geremia Wrote:
(10-04-2012, 08:16 AM)SaintSebastian Wrote: From what I read, Pope John thought the presence of non-Catholics at the Council would provide them with some special grace towards reunion
The Sacraments give grace, not councils…

Sanctifying grace, yes, but actual graces can come any number of ways. 
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#9
I'm still reading into Bl. John XXIII's life, so I don't have any great first hand information about this topic. For what its worth, and it may be wrongly depicted, in the Ed Asner movie he is portrayed as saying that the excommunication is already on the books, and its stands, but that a more friendly approach needed to be adopted to defeat them. He seemed very personally concerned about Cardinal Slipyj as portrayed in the movie. Ottaviani is used as the antagonist, who wanted clear vocal denunciations and excommunications. I don't know if this is true, or being played up for the screen. It is well known that the Pope is portrayed as being a softie by many, but he was actually very strict and exacting about many things. He examined his conscience three times a day. Also in April 1959 voting for communists was expressly forbidden, which was approved by the Pope on April 2nd of that year. Cf. AAS 51 [1959] pp. 271-272.



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#10
Something to consider is that Vatican II, or at least its "spirit," was at least partly an attempt to bring the Church closer to liberal humanism. A stronger condemnation of communism would have made it seem as if the Church were throwing in completely with the liberal democracies of the West. I think this is a problem that continues to plague the Church.
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