The canonist Urbano Navarette Cortes S.J. (1920-2010) was created Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. In 2008 he gave an interview to Bruno Volpe which was widely reported in the Spanish and Italian Catholic blogospheres. To my knowledge, this interview was never published in its entirety in English. In belated memorial for this cardinal, Rorate presents the following translation (by Fr. Charles Johnson) of this interview (underlining is by CAP):
by Bruno Volpe
Eminence, do you have any stories you might tell us after a lifetime serving the Church?
“I have many stories and anecdotes but, if you’ll permit me, I would rather focus my attention on two Pontiffs who are particularly dear to me, without of course wishing to minimize my role and my affection for the others.”
Let us proceed in chronological order and begin with Pius XII.
“In his case, there have been, unfortunately, many calumnies and historical inaccuracies written and spoken that need to be refuted once and for all. I refer, for example, to his presumed anti-Semitism: a falsehood that cries for vengeance! I myself am aware of a fact which has been unpublished and up until now never made public.”
Please tell us!
“When I became Rector, some instructors a few years older than me told me that Pope Pacelli during the Second World War had arranged and ordered—and I would underscore ‘ordered’—a place of refuge for the Jews in the subterranean parts of the Gregorian University in order to save their lives. I ask you: can this providential intervention of Pius XII ever be compatible with an accusation of anti-Semitism?”
And yet, the so-called “Grand Silence” of Pacelli in the face of the Shoah is often decried.
“Let us be serious! What else could he have done? His was not a silence of complicity but an attitude of tried prudence, dictated by that historical context. The truth is that Pius XII chose the lesser evil, public silence, solely and exclusively so as not to bring harm to the Jews and to avoid the Nazis setting upon them with an even greater ferocity. This too proved that Pacelli was never an anti-Semite, and therefore, while respecting the Church’s decision and timing, I await the day when he is raised to the honor of the altars.”
Let’s move on to the Servant of God Paul VI.
“I knew him personally and can attest to his sanctity. He was precise, meticulous, and eagerly looked to every detail. So, it was good and yet difficult to work with him.”
What was Pope Montini like personally?
“Solitary and taciturn. But after Vatican Council II he felt wounded, attacked, and in a certain sense he was no longer himself.”
In what way?
“He blamed the gravity of the post-conciliar situation; he felt himself attacked and accused even by certain so-called progressive factions in the Church. I can assure you that it was very painful for him.”
In your view, what did Paul VI mean by the expression “the smoke of Satan in the Church”?
“I would remind you of what I said before. This phrase was spoken after the Council, when life had become impossible for him. So, at that time, in his view, the presence of the smoke of Satan in the Church consisted in the rebellious logic of certain ecclesiastical structures [sic] which had abandoned him, leaving him completely isolated.” (Quite at variance with Virgilio Cardinal Noe's reported interpretation of the phrase. CAP.)
What did Paul VI think, in the end, of the Second Vatican Council?
“He did not interpret it as an act of rupture with the past. Indeed, he maintained that it was an error to describe it as some kind of revolution; rather, he encouraged it to be ‘read’ in the light of continuity with the Church’s tradition.”
Let’s talk about “liturgical creativity,” the mother of so many abuses during Holy Mass.
“One of the causes of Paul VI’s sadness was in fact the opinion of many authoritative voices in the Church who had ordered, after Vatican II, a kind of ‘cast off the lines!’ to cut all ties with the past. Accordingly, this so-called ‘liturgical creativity’ was wrongfully used to shield and foster the fads and fancies of priests who thought they controlled the Church.”
Are you hopeful that within a short time Pius XII and Paul VI will be beatified?
“For me, both are already Saints for what they have done and above all for the calumnies they have suffered for the sake of their Faith. Having said this, I submit to the judgment of the Church.”
Benedict XVI, with his motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum,” has freed up the Holy Mass according to the liturgical books of Saint Pius V. Do you share [his ideas here]?
“Certainly. The Pope has accomplished an act of intellectual honesty and wisdom, not to mention liberty and justice. Why on earth—I wonder, and ask myself—was a rite that has nurtured generations of the faithful banned in the name of an absurd modernism? I believe that traditionalists have every right to celebrate, in communion with the Successor of Peter, Holy Mass according to the ancient rite, especially since it in no way detracts from the Novus Ordo.”
In all sincerity, do you find that the rite of St. Pius V ensures greater solemnity, spirituality, and mystery at Mass?
“Let me be clear. I have nothing against the Missal of Paul VI, and I consider it valid on a par with that of St. Pius V. But the Mass of St. Pius V, in effect, by its use of the Roman Canon, instead of the too abbreviated canon [i.e., Eucharistic Prayer] number two, is more directed toward God. I think, then, that the Mass of St. Pius V is one that really looks toward God, and, compared to the Novus Ordo, it seems to me more complete from the point of view of the prayers.”
Communion in the hand: what is your opinion?
“I believe that it is better to administer the Eucharist on the tongue to avoid, for example, particles or fragments of It being touched by dirty hands. I am of the opinion that they were, back then, a little hasty in allowing Communion in the hand; a greater catechesis was needed, also because ‘haste makes waste’ [literally: a fretta fa nascere i gattini ciechi”, ‘haste causes kittens to be born blind’ - translator].”