The Condemnation of Action Française and the Birth of Vatican II
Posted by Sacerdos Romanus at 2/27/2016 @ Rorate-Caeli
Pope Pius XI’s condemnation of a political party supported by many French Catholic royalists was a revival of the ralliement of Pope Leo XIII, a dangerous ecclesiastical policy that was reversed by St. Pius X [see comment below]. The condemnation paved the way for the rise of a new theology that would be of great influence at Vatican II.
The Condemnation of Action Française and the Birth of the Nouvelle Theologie
The Condemnation of Action Française signaled the end of Thomist dominance in French seminary studies and the arrival of the nouvelle theologie. As a result three leading Thomists were fired from their jobs: Fr. Henri LeFloch, cssp, rector of the French seminary in Rome, Cardinal Louis Billot, SJ who taught at the Greg and Fr. Thomas Pegues, OP regent of studies at St. Maximin in Provence.
On the eve of the Condemnation, Fr. Marie Vincent Bernadot, OP and Fr. Etienne Lajeunie, OP met with Pius XI. They found common goals. Pius XI wanted to normalize relations with the French government and an opening for his beloved Catholic Action. Frs. Bernadot and Lajeunie wanted the removal of Fr. Pegues from his post at St. Maximin and a ban on Action Française as the bastion of Thomism.
In the wake of the condemnation Fr. Bernadot would launch his journal, La Vie Intellectuelle and a publishing house, Editions du Cerf that would publish Catholicism by Fr. Henri de Lubac, SJ. The conventional account of this affair is newly told by Fr. Peter Bernardi, SJ “Action Française Catholicism and Opposition to Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae” in the festschrift A Realist Church: Essays in honor of Fr. Joseph Komonchak. Fr. Bernardi tries to convict Cardinal Billot of antiliberalism, failing to convict Pius XI for a monumental error which Pius XII would reverse in his first act as pope. Vide Philippe Prevost, “Condamnation de l’Action française : preferer la verite historique a route papolatrie.” But the last word belongs to a saint. Fr. Roger Thomas Calmel, OP writes at the end of his life (1974):
Between the two modernisms there was the savage condemnation of Action Francaise; in that lamentable affair a pope very authoritarian unable to understand that his repressive operations carried out according to his desire, had no. other outcome than disaster; first the crushing of Catholics attached to the Syllabus, then the rise of an episcopacy not opposed to modern errors; regarding the famous Catholic Action, it would not find any advantage other than politicizing itself and bending in the direction of socialism.