CANONISATION

11 March 2018

CANONISATION

As if he has not yet created enough divisions within the Church Militant, PF intends this year to perform the highly divisive act of canonising Blessed Paul VI. Even he, judging from what he said in giving this information to the Clergy of the City, can see that this canonisation business has become a silly giggle: “And Benedict and I are on the waiting list”, he quipped. Delightfully humorous. A very witty joke.

I share the views of many, however, that the joke is a bad one, in as far as this projected canonisation is fundamentally a political action to be linked with the apparent conviction of PF that he himself is the champion and beneficiary of B Paul’s work at Vatican II and afterwards. I do not accept that he is. But, today, I do not intend to enable comments which discuss these questions of the prudential order (or comments which simply rant).

Instead, I have some queries which are genuinely questions with regard to important theological matters antecedent to any imminent canonisations.

My mind really is not made up regarding the Infallibility of an act whereby the Roman Pontiff ‘canonises’; and the probably but certainly related question of whether a de fide assent is required.  I assume that everybody with an interest in this subject knows exactly what the Vatican I text of Pastor aeternus said and did not say about Papal infallibility. I have also found it useful to have read parts of Benedict XIV’s De Beatificatione et Canonizatione, and Liber 1 Caput LXV really is required reading; it can be found by googling Benedicti papae XIV Doctrina de Servorum Dei beatificatione et …, and then scrolling down to pages 55-56 (42-43 in the printed book which Google copied). It was written before the election of the erudite and admirable Prospero Lambertini to the See of Rome.

Theologians of distinction can be listed who have taught that Canonisation is an infallible act of the Papal Magisterium. But, with regard to those who wrote before 1870, is there not a prior question that has to be asked? The Church had then not defined (i.e. put limits, ‘fines‘, to) the dogma of Papal Infallibility. The terms of Pastor aeternus were (to the chagrin of Manning and the palpable relief of Newman) extremely limited. Therefore, can we be sure that those pre-1870 theologians really were categorising canonisation as infallible in the sense of the word infallible as defined with all the limitations of the 1870 decrees? Or, because of the limits imposed by that definition, might they have used a different term had they needed to develop their arguments within the confines of what Pastor aeternus lays down? Is this why Benedict XIV accepts the possibility of arguing that what a Roman Pontiff decrees may be infallible, but still not be de fide? It is in logic obvious that a proposition may be true, and may be demonstrably true, without it being incumbent upon anybody to accept that truth. But after 1870, I assume, this is changed as far as ex cathedra papal pronouncements are concerned, because the scope and function of the term infallibilis have been changed to imply and include the notion that a proposition is not merely true but is also of faith.

In assessing the arguments of such pre-1870 writers, should we pay attention to the general extent which they assert when talking about the authority of the Roman Pontiff? That is: if a writer is very generous in his estimate of the fields to which papal infallibility extends, he is unlikely to be writing in terms of something like the highly limited 1870 definition. But if an author is very much more sparing and circumspect in associating infallibility with papal interventions, he is more likely to have in mind a concept of infallibility resembling that of Vatican I.

As a consequence of this, when we turn to theologians who wrote later than 1870, and who argued that papal canonisations are infallible, should we not subtract from the arguments with which they sustain their conclusions the mere citation, qua authorities, and without further discussion, of those earlier, pre-1870, theologians? In other words, should not the event of 1870 have the effect of pruning back some previous theologically luxuriant growths?

And there is another question raised by the Definition and Practice of Papal infallibility which the pontificate of B Pius IX bequeathed us. It implies an assumption that the Roman Pontiff is acting with the morally unanimous, collegial, assent of the whole ecclesia docens. I know that, for some traditionalists, Collegiality is a dirty word; but B Pius IX and Pius XII wrote to the bishops of the entire world seeking their counsel before defining the two Marian Dogmas (‘Is it definable? Is it opportune to define it?’) and … well … I’m just an ordinary Catholic … the praxis of those two pontiffs is good enough for me! But do Popes seek the counsel of all their Venerable Brethren before canonising?

Papal infallibilty is nothing but one modality within the infallibility of the Church. So is it rational to assign infallibility to some canonisations – those personally enacted by the Pope – and not to those enacted by a different authority (the oft-quoted Quodlibet IX:16 of S Thomas is not necessarily limited to papal canonisations.)? We know that popes cannot delegate their infallibility. There are the saints on the calendars of sui iuris churches: such as that of the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch (after all, it is arguable that, as a successor of S Peter, this Patriarch is, after the Bishop of Rome himself, the senior prelate of the Catholic Church) which include some who lived outside visible unity with the See of Rome in recent centuries and were canonised by Byzantine synods … and whose names are certainly not on any Roman ‘list’. Incidentally, my recent mention of S Gregory Palamas in this context was intended to establish some preliminary data to the present discussion.

I believe the Ukrainian Church includes Saints canonised up to the time of the Synod of Brest. And the ‘two lungs’ rhetoric of JP2 implies that, although the Latin Church is de facto very much larger than the Oriental Churches in Full Communion with Rome, theologically these latter are not just almost-irrelevant, tolerated, anomalies. What would a rounded and complete understanding of Canonisation within the Catholic Church have to say about Melkite and Ukrainian praxis? And what would be the bearing of that upon the question of the Infallibility of Canonisation?

Papal infallibilty resides in the papal munus docendi, the ministry of doctrinally binding the whole Church, not part of it: so is there a distinction between those Saints who are by papal authority to have a compulsorycultus in every local Church, and those whose commemoration is confined to some localties; or is optional in the Universal Church? If the sui iuris Churches not of Latin Rite do not promptly include a Latin Saint, when he/she is canonised, on their Calendars, and the Roman Pontiff tolerates this, does this mean that he is not imposing that cult on the Universal Church and thus is not using his Universal munus docendi?

The actual formula of canonisation is in fact merely an order that X be placed on the List* of Saints of the ‘ecclesia universalis’. What exactly … physically … is this ‘list’? And furthermore, Benedict XIV explicitly says that “writing a name down in the Martyrology does not yet bring about formal or equipollent canonisation” (descriptio in martyrologio nondum importat canonizationem formalem, aut aequipollentem). But even if it did, would this mean that the Martyrologium Romanum, theologically and juridically, applies to sui iuris Churches not of the Roman Rite? If it doesn’t, does this mean that ‘ecclesia universalis’, in the context of papal canonisation, really means ‘ecclesia Latina universalis’ (because, after all, the Latin Church is pretty world-wide)? And if this be true, what then becomes of the observation of Benedict XIV that an act of ‘canonisation’ which lacks complete preceptive universality is not in the strict sense canonisation? [Are there other loose ends arising from the fact that Roman documents seem quite often to sound as though they are majestically addressing the whole Church, but, when you get down to it, are really pretty obviously addressing the Latin Church (Sacrosanctum Concilium is an example of that)?]

Finally: S Thomas held that canonisation was medium inter res fidei, et particulares; and Benedict XIV concludes his discussion of this matter by saying that plures magni nominis auctores deny that an act of canonisation is de fide; he gives a fair wind to their arguments; then summarises the arguments of those, inferioris notae doctores, who affirm that it is de fide; concludes by saying Utraque opinio in sua probabilitate relinquenda videtur, donec Sedes Apostolica de hac re judicium proferat. Benedict XIV went on to give his own private opinion as favouring the positive thesis (canonisations are of faith), but added “But before a judgement of the Apostolic See, it does not seem that the mark of heresy should be branded onto the contrary opinion.”

In 1998, the motu proprio Ad tuendam fidem of B John Paul II was accompanied by a Commentary written by the CDF and signed by its august Cardinal Prefect. Paragraph 6 of this, combined with paragraphs 8 and 11, appears to lead to the conclusion that canonisations are to be given the same “full and irrevocable assent” as that required by the Creeds and the doctrinal definitions of Ecumenical Councils and of Roman Pontiffs speaking ex cathedra. Have I understood this correctly? But can such a dicasterial ‘Commentary’ be deemed to be that “judgement of the Apostolic See” which was required by Benedict XIV in order to settle this question?

To be frank with you, I am more impressed by writers who merely call the public rejection of a papal act of canonisation ‘temerarious’, than I am by those who invoke the I-word. The I-word surely means, from 1870 onwards, that, as a matter of divine Faith, one must accept something in ones heart. Use of temerarious (Suarez; Benedict XIV) means (I take it) that a public rejection is rash and unsafe and that, accordingly, one should refrain from disturbing the peace of the believing community by publicly attacking an authoritative inclusion of a person on the List* of Saints; and, furthermore, that one should preserve an interior awareness of ones own fallibility (after all, someone has to decide whether X goes into … or does not go into … the canon, and the decision is certainly way above my pay grade).

Finally: I have a prejudice against potentially causing people problems of conscience by telling them that something is of divine Faith when (even if “just possibly”) it might not be. After all, a lex dubia does not bind. And it potentially damages the authority of the Roman Pontiff to be rash in spraying the I-word too liberally around … a point which poor Manning never grasped.

There is further Magisterial evidence to be considered, which comes from this present pontificate, before I will enable comments. 
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*List: canon in Greek; catalogus in Latin (if you see what I mean!)

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The rites of Canonisation have tended  … this will not surprise you … to vary in the last seventy years. The most recent changes before this (PF) pontificate, which took place under Benedict XVI, seemed designed to impose on the rites a theological meaning which they previously had not so explicitly expressed. As Pope Benedict left the rite, before the singing of Veni Creator Spiritus the Pontiff asked for prayer that Christ the Lord would not permit His Church to err in so great a matter. And, in the Third Petition the Cardinal Prefect for the Causes of Saints informed the Pontiff that the Holy Spirit “in every time renders the supreme Magisterium immune from error (omni tempore supremum Magisterium erroris expertem reddit)”.

These phrases, added by Pope Benedict, were in formulae cut out by PF when he canonised a number of beati in 2014; and subsequently.

It looks to me as though Pope Benedict’s additions were intended to confirm the view that acts of canonisation are infallible and require acceptance de fide. I wish now to point out that, if the formulae introduced by Benedict XVI did affect this debated theological question, then, surely, so does the action of this Pontificate in removing them. In the gradual accumulation of evidences and precedents which gradually build up an established judgement of the Magisterium, surely phrases which were introduced into rites by one Pontiff and, very soon afterwards, removed by the next, have less auctoritas than established and immemorial formulae which have been used by successive pontiffs for centuries.

Canonisation raises questions which, for centuries, interested specialist students of Canon Law. They interested Pope Benedict XIV, Prospero Lambertini. However, they have in the past not been things which concerned non-specialists. Ordinary Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, and laity naturally and very properly just accepted the judgements made by the Sovereign Pontiff in this as in so many other matters. But the situation is not the same now. There has been, in some quarters, an uneasy suspicion for some time that canonisations have turned into a way of setting a seal upon the ‘policies’ of some popes. If these ‘policies’ are themselves a matter of divisive discussion and debate, then the promotion of the idea that canonisations are infallible becomes itself an additional element in the conflict. Canonisation, you will remind me, does not, theologically, imply approval of everything a Saint has done or said. Not formally, indeed. But the suspicion among some is that, de facto and humanly, such can seem to be its aim. This is confirmed by a prevailing assumption on all sides that the canonisations of the ‘Conciliar Popes’ does bear some sort of meaning or message.

Personally, I feel more confident in my earlier conclusion, that to dispute the judgement made in and by an act of canonisation would not actually be a sin against fides. In other words, I feel happier with the theological implications of PF’s’ actions than I did with the implications of what Pope Benedict did. In practical terms, I feel that PF’s excisions from the rite ought to make the canonisation of B Paul VI just that little bit less of a problem for particularly tender consciences, because the act of canonisation does not now come before us weighed down with quite that same degree of Authority with which Pope Benedict had wished it to be endowed. And I would regard the observations I made in the previous part of this series, about schismatic canonisations subsequently adopted within the Catholic Church, as also pointing in the direction of canonisations (at least pro eo) not necessarily being de fide.

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4 comments on “CANONISATION

  1. “Even he, judging from what he said in giving this information to the Clergy of the City, can see that this canonisation business has become a silly giggle: “And Benedict and I are on the waiting list”, he quipped. Delightfully humorous. A very witty joke.”
    /
    With all due respect, I believe PF really believes what he said and it truly is no joke. The Modernists control the institutional church today but the Holy Spirit will have the final word in the Courts of Heaven. What Catholics need to believe is that “error has no rights” and the Holy Spirit cannot be invoked to condone error for that is an impossibility – i.e., a refutation of God’s attribute that He is All-Good and All-Perfect. And, it does not take an advanced theological degree to understand this fact for it is something we learned in Catholic grade school before the Modernists took over in Vatican II – the chief Modernist being Paul VI. What we see is merely God’s Permissive Will being played out.

    • [Speaking of “the chief Modernist … Paul VI”]
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      THE ENIGMA POPE: POPE PAUL VI
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      null
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      Posted on March 15, 2018 by abyssum [Bishop Rene Gracida]
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      THE BOOK THAT STOPPED THE BEATIFICATION PROCESS OF PAUL VI*
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      *The first time around, but that doesn’t stop the NewVatican saint-making machine, because “If at first you don’t succeed …” – AQ moderator Tom]
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      sac. Luigi Villa
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      PAUL VI beatified?
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      The Apostolate of Our Lady of Good Success
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      by Father Luigi Villa (Doctor in Theology)
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      PREFACE
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      Paul VI was always an enigma to all, as Pope John XXIII himself observed. But today, after his death, I believe that can no longer be said, in light of the fact that in his numerous writings, speeches and actions, the figure of Paul VI is clear of any ambiguity. Even if proving this point is not so easy or simple, since he was a very complex character, both when speaking of his “preferences”, by way of suggestions and insinuations, and also for his jumping abruptly from one idea to another, and when he opted for Tradition, but then immediately preferred “novelty”; the whole thing in a language that was often very inaccurate. Simply read, for example, his Addresses of the “General Audiences”, to see a Paul VI made up of an irreducible duality of thought, a permanent conflict, almost, between his thought and that of the Church, which he was nonetheless to represent.
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      Since his time at Milan, many already called him “the man of the utopias”, an Archbishop in pursuit of illusions, generous dreams, yes, yet unreal!”… Which brings to mind what Pius X used to say of the “Leaders” of the Sillon: “… (The exaltation of Sillon was a social Movement, originated in France in 1893 by Marc Sangnier.) At first, the movement adhered to the Pontifical directives. Leo XIII and Pius X honored Sangnier with praises. The organ of the Movement was the newspaper “Le Sillon” (The Furrow). Toward 1903, however, the Movement began to involve itself with political-social concepts that brought it to become a “Center of their sentiments, the undiscriminating good-will of their hearts, their philosophical mysticisms, mixed, with a measure of Illuminism, have carried them towards another Gospel, which they thought was the true Gospel of our Savior…”
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      Now, this our first “study” of research upon the historical-religious figure of Paul VI has brought us to a sad conclusion, and that is, that the “religion” preached by Paul VI did not always coincide with that authentic Religion, constantly taught for 2,000 years, by the perennial Magisterium, by all of the Saints and Doctors of the Church. Although it is far from my intention to judge Paul VI, for “only God probes kidneys and hearts”, we nonetheless wish to report, here, the painful findings of our study on him, convinced as we are that he has drawn the faithful toward a “new religion”, while this continues to carry the label of “Catholic”.
      /
      For the drafting of this “Dossier” – given the seriousness of the “stakes”, especially when it comes to honestly taking one’s courage in both hands to tell the whole “truth”, despite the risk of becoming unpopular (exactly because, customarily, “veritas odium parit” – “Truth begets hatred”), the author of this work, for more than a decade, has been going through no less than 30,000 pages of encyclicals, speeches, Conciliar documents, historical journals, commentaries and magazines of all kinds, in order to gather an overview adequate enough to weigh up the Pontificate of a Pope who has already been consigned to History. Therefore, making it open for discussion and possible “judgments” as to his actions.
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      It is evident that, with this work of mine, I do not claim to have done an exhaustive analysis of the entire oeuvre of Paul VI. Yet his quotations that I am presenting here cannot certainly have a different meaning from what they contain; and therefore, the presentation of other diverse texts of his, cannot but validate the “mens” of this “Hamlet”, that is, of the “double face” of Paul VI!
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      However, the honest reader will find that our writings reproduce his true dominating “mentality”; one so deeply rooted in him as to have disastrously inspired his entire pastoral and his Magisterium, his true dominating “mentality”; one so deeply rooted in him as to have disastrously inspired his entire pastoral and his Magisterium.
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      “Moral Unit” independent of the doctrine of the Church. Hence the condemnation inflicted upon it by Pius X in 1910.
      (S. Pius X, “Letter on the Sillon”, 25 August 25, 1910, n. 41. 3 Psalm 7, 10.)
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      We are presenting this work, therefore, not to rejoice in it, but with sadness. It is but the execution of a painful duty. As Faith is by now publicly attacked, we can no longer feel bound to the duty of silence, but rather to that of unmasking an anti-Christian mentality, so many years in the making, and one that sunk its root in the Pontificate of Paul VI, too.
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      Certainly, writing about him has not been easy on me, as Paul VI was a Pope at the center of an Ecclesiastical shipwreck that perhaps was, and still is, the most dreadful the Church has ever witnessed throughout Her history.
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      In writing about him, therefore, one cannot be beating about bush, quibble in search of sensational episodes in order to hide the reality, that is, the real responsibilities of his unsettling Pontificate, in the complex framework of Vatican II.
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      That is why, to come to a humanly equitable judgment of the thought of Paul VI and his responsibilities, I had to go over again the “official texts” of his writings and his words, pronounced during Vatican II and those of his executions. Only thus could I untangle the grave “question” of his responsibilities in the dreadful drama the Church has lived and has been living from the onset of the Council to this day.
      /
      I may, therefore, make mine the lesson of Manzoni in his celebrated book: “Observations Upon Catholic Morality”, where in Chapter VII, he wrote:
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      «… One must demand, of a doctrine, the legitimate consequences drawn from it, not those which passions might deduce from it».
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      And so, let us open directly the pages of the First Address to the Council, in which Paul VI made his own, manifestly, the principle of “Modernist heresy” that Pope John XXIII has already expressed, in his Opening Address of the Council, on October 11, 1962, (an Address, however, which had been inspired by the then Archbishop of Milan, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini), in which he, Paul VI, said the following:
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      «Neque opus Nostrum, quasi ad finem primarium, eo spectat, ut de quibusdam capitibus praecipuis doctrinae ecclesiasticae disceptetur, sed potius ut ea ratione pervestigetur et ex- ponatur, quam tempora postulant nostra».
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      And here is the substance in the English language:
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      «…But, above all, this Christian doctrine be studied and exposed through the forms of literary investigation and formulation of contemporary thought».
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      Now, such “principle” is unheard of in the history of all the centuries of the Ecclesiastical Magisterium, as it takes the place of the “dogmatic” principle, alone to offer proof and certainty of the “Catholic truth”, and the teaching Church has always taught that the “reason of believing” does not lean at all upon scientific conquests, achieved through man’s intellect, for the “reason of believing” rests exclusively upon the AUTHORITY of REVEALING GOD and upon that of the SUPREME MAGISTERIUM OF THE CHURCH, which received from Jesus Christ the mandate to teach it officially and in an infallible manner.
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      The “principle” enunciated by Paul VI, on the contrary, becomes the negation of that of the APOSTOLIC TRADITION, wanted by God, and it reverses the traditional Magisterium of the Church, putting on the teacher’s desk, in place of “REVEALING GOD” and of the “TEACHING CHURCH”, the method of man’s autonomous investigation and the formulation of a purely human and arbitrary doctrine, peculiar to the philosophical-literary style of modern man – therefore, of the man of all ages, mutable with the times – oblivious that only the “truth” revealed by God is the sole immutable and eternal truth.
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      Therefore, it vanished; that principle of the investigation to know “Revelation” by knowing the original teaching of the Church was done away with, instead it would be that of knowing the teaching of modern thought.
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      But this smacks of “heresy”!
      One cannot invent dogma, nor can one reduce it into a convenient cliché, as it has been done in these years of upheaval and arrogance, ignoring that Christ, and only Him, is and shall always be the absolute “truth”.
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      How Paul VI should have shuddered, for inflicting on the Church of Christ this horrible catastrophe, by means of and in the name of an alleged Ecumenical Council!
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      Furthermore how prevailing is still that whole 2nd Chapter of Epistle 2.a of St. Paul to the Thessalonians:
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      «… For the mystery of iniquity already worketh: only that he who now holdeth do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed: whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: him whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power and signs and lying wonders: And in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish: because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: That all may be judged who have not believed the truth but have consented to iniquity»
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      This is the reason, the only reason, in the light of the Gospel and of the Tradition of the Church that we are asking the reader to proceed with the following pages.
      II Thessalonians II, 7-12.
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      «… I was not drawn to the clerical state which seemed sometimes stagnant, closed… involving the renunciation of worldly tendencies in proportion to the renunciation of the world… If I should feel this way, it means that I am called to another state, where I would be fulfilled more harmoniously for the common good of the Church».
      (Paul VI to Jean Guitton, in: “Dialogues with Paul VI,” p. 285) ***
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      «I noticed how his thinking was secular. With him, I was not in the presence of a “cleric”, he even promoted an unexpectedly secular Papacy»! (Jean Guitton, in: “The Secret Paul VI”, Ed. Pauline)

  2. Thanks for posting this.

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