Rorate Caeli

A Pope of Great Wisdom

Pius XII was the Pope of our youth. With his rich teaching he was able to speak to the men of his time pointing out the way of Truth and with his great wisdom was able to direct the Church towards the horizon of the Third Millennium. I must, however, stressed particularly that Pius XII was the Pope that, as father of all, presided in charity in Rome and in the world, above all in the difficult time of World War II...


The primacy of charity, of love -- which is the commandment of the Lord Jesus -- is the principle and key of the reading of the whole work of the Church, in primis of her universal Pastor. Charity is the reason for every action, for every intervention. It is the global reason that moves thought and concrete gestures, and I am happy that also in this film this unifying principle emerges. I take the liberty to suggest this key of reading, in the light of the genuine witness of that great teacher of faith, of hope and of charity that was Pope Pius XII.


  1. he's a very Marian pope. I admire him, his holiness and obedience to the Heavenly Father. He really deserves to be a saint!

  2. Samuel Ferraro3:55 PM

    I live for that joyous day when one of his successors (hopefully Benedict XVI) raises him to the altars of Holy Church.
    Papa Pacelli, ora pro nobis!

  3. A pope of Great Wisdom... except when it came to the liturgy.

    Sorry: has to be said.

  4. Samuel Ferraro8:52 PM

    Respectfully, I suggest that you read his 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei. You will see that he had a great love for the sacred liturgy and was concerned about liturgical matters getting into the wrong hands. At the time, Bugnini and others were thought to be solid. Unfortunately this was not the case but we can't blame the pope for what he was not aware of at the time.

  5. Regarding Mediator Dei, I agree with what Geoffrey Hull wrote:

    Considering much of what has taken place in the sanctuaries of the Latin Church since Mediator Dei, Pius XII’s reversal in that encyclical of the historical principle legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, i.e. "let the rule of prayer establish the rule of belief", is no less disturbing:

    "Indeed if we wanted to state quite clearly and absolutely the relation existing between the faith and the sacred liturgy we could rightly say that the law of our faith must establish the law of our prayer:’39

    This liberty taken with a theological tradition going back to apostolic times has been considered by some a most serious flaw in an otherwise excellent exposition of Catholic teaching on the liturgy.

  6. John McFarland11:29 PM


    Are you a critic from the "left," who deplores the fact that Pope Pius stood firm in upholding the teaching of the Council of Trent on Redemption and the Mass against the theological novelities that captured the Church during and after Vatican II, and underlay the new Mass?

    Or are you a critic from the "right," who deplores the fact that Pope Pius reformed the Holy Week liturgy and thereby enabled Buginini to work in a few novelties? As regards the basic elements of that reform, I would note that even Gueranger does not try to defend the commencement of the traditional Easter rituals at 7:00 a.m. on Holy Saturday, a full day before the Easter Mass with which they originally formed a unity, and makes it quite clear that the primary motivation for pushing the ceremonies forward over the centuries, and finally into the early morning, primarily functioned as a means of mitigating the fast.

  7. Basil6:13 AM

    Thank you Hestor for speaking the truth in an environment full of people wearing rose-tinted spectacles.

    Mediator Dei's reversal of 'lex orandi, lex credendi' was a disaster and effectively meant a pope could do anything they liked to the liturgy as any sense of authentic tradition was then lost.

    John McFarland - our Orthodox brethren manage to still celebrate Holy Saturday in the morning without any loss to their celebration of Holy Pascha.

  8. Anonymous11:57 AM

    "A pope of Great Wisdom... except when it came to the liturgy.

    Sorry: has to be said."

    Unfortunatly true, because he allowed for the earliest reforming dissidents like Bugnini et al to enter into the service of the Church....later to wreck the Holy Mass with the Novus Ordo.

    Pius XII was a great Pope, and he presented himself as Pope (liturgically etc.) far better than his successors.

    But, he did do afew things that gave impetus to liberals and reformers.
    1) with regards to minor reforms in the Mass, and massive reforms in Hoyl Week liturgies.
    2). Commenting in 1956, that Orders of nuns should modify their traditional habits. (This was a huge mistake).

    John XXIII (surprisingly), restored alittle bit of the Holy week ceremonies during his own pontificate, and really appreciated the pomp of his office, and loved seeing nuns in full habits.

  9. Samuel Ferraro3:39 PM

    If you read the encyclical fully and carefully, you will see that while the Holy Father expounds on "lex orandi, lex credendi", he certainly does not reverse it.

  10. "John McFarland - our Orthodox brethren manage to still celebrate Holy Saturday in the morning without any loss to their celebration of Holy Pascha."

    The celebration of Pascha begins at midnight with a procession around the church, the lighting of our candles, the reading of the Resurrection Gospel from St. John, and the singing of the Paschal troparion, “Christ Is Risen”, and is followed by Paschal Orthros (Matins) and the Divine Liturgy.

    The Divine Liturgy offered on Holy Saturday morning commemorates the victory of Christ over Hades and is not the celebration of the holy and great Pascha.

    That said; most of the offices and liturgies of Holy Week in the Orthodox Church are held either on the evening before or in the morning by anticipation (like the pre-1955 Roman Catholic Church).

  11. Basil4:58 PM


    My point exactly. The liturgy the Byzantines celebrate on Holy Saturday morning with the proto-anastasis Gospel is what modern Roman liturgy calls the 'Easter Vigil'.

    The old Roman Office celebrated Paschal Matins, albeit in a less spectacular version than the Byzantines, on the evening of Holy Saturday too. We used to celebrate Holy Saturday, quietly, in the morning, as the Byzantines still do, to far greater effect IMHO rather than creating the fabricated Bugnini 'Easter Vigil'. The Divine Liturgy the Byzantines celebrate late on Holy Saturday or very early on Sunday is the equivalent of our Resurrexi not the modern 'Easter Vigil'.

    Samuel - Yes he does: read #48. The encyclical was a disaster for the liturgy and gave the reformers everything they needed; especially #58 'It follows from this that the sovereign pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognise and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.'

    Bang goes custom and local tradition - we now see the results of Mediator Dei in our local churches every Sunday morning...

  12. No, Pius XII did NOT reverse "lex orandi, lex credendi" in Mediator Dei." Rather, he upheld "lex orandi, lex credendi," but also correctly noted that "lex credendi, lex orandi" is also true.

    As for MD 58, it is impossible to reject what he says there without rejecting what Vatican I teaches about the authority and jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. MD 58 necessarily and logically follows from Pastor Aeternus. It's erroneous to reject a Catholic doctrine on account of that doctrine having been misinterpreted or misapplied. It's the misinterpretation or misapplication of the Holy Father's authority over the liturgy that is to be rejected, not his authority over the liturgy.

  13. we now see the results of Mediator Dei in our local churches every Sunday morning...

    That's hilarious. So, all of the liturgical abuses and deformations and illicit introduction of new rites we see everywhere are a consequence of those local churches studying and obeying Mediator Dei 58? I doubt very many of the people in those dioceses and parish church have even heard of MD.

  14. Samuel Ferraro5:39 PM

    Thank you very much. Very well said.

  15. John McFarland11:59 PM


    I take it that you mean our Byzantine brethren.

    Let me offer a few thoughts that cover much the same ground as Jordanes from a somewhat different angle.

    If you think that "lex orandi lex credendi" means that prayer in some sense determines faith, you couldn't be more wrong. You have to believe in God before it makes any sense to pray to him. The the law of praying must follow the law of believing. If it does not, then it tends to subvert belief -- as we have learned to our sorrow in the last forty years.

    Your critique of MD 58 only makes sense if you believe that therein Pope Pius arrogated to himself a right that in fact the Vicar of Christ doesn't have. Do you really mean that? This is not an issue I've ever thought much about, but I find it difficult to believe that the Pope cannot change anything in the liturgy that is not of divine institution. As Jordanes indicates, any particular change may be good or bad for a variety of reasons; but can you really say that the Pope doesn't have the power to make the change?

    Remember that as regards the Faith, "tradition" is not "what we've always done," but rather "what has been handed down to us from Christ." Can "tradition" as regards liturgy really be unchangeable unless it means "tradition" in that same sense?

    You seem to think that diversity is a protector against change. But it seems to me that if Pope Paul, instead of saying, "here is the new liturgy, which permits and encourages diversity," had instead said, "I am in favor of diversity and local decisions on the liturgy, effect your own reforms as you see fit," the result would have been the same -- a mess. The same forces that generated the centralized new liturgy would cheerfully have produced the same results on a diocese by diocese basis, since there was no doubting that the Pope was permitting and encouraging change. After all, those forces had no trouble in pushing the diversity far beyond anything that Pope Paul or Bugnini had ever dreamed of.

    I would also note that centralization has been the direction of the liturgy in the West for a long, long time, even though Rome never bothered with the level of homogeneity that was characteristic of Antioch and Alexandria and Constantinople. The undertakers of the Gallican rite were Pepin and Charlemagne. The Mozarabic rite was a casualty of the Reconquista. In the 19th century, Dom Gueranger, whose love of those rites for the beauty and unction of the Mozarablic rite is obvious throughout the Liturgical Year, stamped out most of the non-standard usages in the French Church. By the time of MD, there was for all practical purposes nothing left in the West that hadn't been centralized.

    For what it's worth, I personally can't take seriously the notion that the NO is really diverse. It's pretty much all the same thing, with clowns or balloons or Hindu bricabrac or bagpipes or mariachi bands or drums -- just some episcopal conference liturgical "expert"'s dumb bunny notion of the essence of local traditions and customs. Even the really bad stuff -- do it yourself Eucharistic Prayers -- seems relatively uncommon, unless it's just that I'm running with a more respectable crowd nowadays.

  16. Anonymous2:52 AM

    You wrote "It's the misinterpretation or misapplication of the Holy Father's authority over the liturgy that is to be rejected, not his authority over the liturgy."
    This seems all to similar, don't you think, to the historical complaints of Socialists and Communists. "Real Marxism or true communism has never really be tried."

  17. Basil9:49 AM


    I firmly believe, as did the late Aidan Kavanagh, that “the law of worship transcends and subordinates the law of belief”.

    I may be missing the subtlety of your argument but you seem to be really saying that the liturgy is whatever the reigning pope says it is. If I have misinterpreted you I apologise in advance.

    As Kavanagh states more eloquently than I can “To reverse the maxim, subordinating the standard of worship to the standard of belief, makes a shambles of the dialectic of revelation. It was a Prescence, not faith, which drew Moses to the burning bush, and what happened there was a revelation, not a seminar. It was a Presence, not faith, which drew the disciples to Jesus, and what happened then was not an educational programme but his revelation to them of himself as the long-promised Anointed One,..”

    I must disagree with your definition of Tradition. If it is something handed down from the pope then can, for example, the NOM or the 1968 EPs be really criticised? Do they not become ‘traditional’ by your definition?

    I do believe diversity would have been a protector, or at least a stabilising force against radical change. Of course you are quite correct that centralisation had been taking place for over half a millennium. If for example there had been strong local Usages in Europe surviving into the twentieth century I do believe the effects of the worst of Rome’s innovations would have been mitigated, but we will never know.

    Back to Pius XII and MD it does seem pretty self evident that the radical reforms of Holy Week were the start of the modern decline. As Paul VI stated in Missale Romanum “..the texts of the Roman Missal now stand in need of revision and simplification. The process was in fact begun by our predecessor in his restoration of the Pachal Vigil and the Restored Order of Holy Week, whereby he took the first steps towards the adaptation of the Roman Missal to the new outlook and spiritual mentality of our own times.”

    People seemed less than keen on giving absolute obedience to Paul VI…


  18. You wrote "It's the misinterpretation or misapplication of the Holy Father's authority over the liturgy that is to be rejected, not his authority over the liturgy." This seems all to similar, don't you think, to the historical complaints of Socialists and Communists. "Real Marxism or true communism has never really be tried."

    There isn't the slightest similarity between the two statements, Anonymous, apart from the unimportant facts that both statements are written in English and are made up of words. The only way you could believe that there is any similarity is if you deny the divinely-revealed authority and role of St. Peter and his Successors in the Catholic Church -- for Socialism and Communism are erroneous and thus cannot ever work, no matter what form of error one attempts to implement. But the authority of the Roman Pontiff is an element of the deposit of faith, and thus it can either be applied correctly or else misapplied, just as any good thing can be used correctly or misused/abused. The Pope's infallibility does not extend to each and every one of his acts or decisions or utterances -- consequently, he can make incorrect or imprudent decisions . . . and it seems pretty hard to escape the conclusion that some of the recent Pope's decisions about liturgical matters have been erroneous.

  19. John McFarland4:03 PM


    And furthermore:

    Tradition as regards the Faith is what has come to us from the Apostles, who got it from Our Lord. The original meaning of the word refers to what has been handed down or over. Or consider the term "deposit of faith." The image is that of the assets in a trust. Paul and Timothy and their successors are trustees of that trust.

    The NOM is not part of the tradition of the Church. Leaving aside the characteristically squirrelly and ambiguous way in which it was imposed, the NOM is a revised rite of the Mass imposed by the Vicar of Christ on earth. It should be an implementation of Jesus's injunction to do this is remembrance of me. That injunction is part of tradition in the broad sense (that is, tradition viewed as including the scriptures). It is the standard against which the NOM is to be judged.

    As regards what is to be made of Pius XII's reforms and their relation to the Vatican II revolution, that is a topic for another day, and many days after that. I would note two things on the matter:

    1. In sizing up Pius XII or any other human being, one must always keep in mind the difference between principle and its practical application in the particular circumstances in which it is applied. It will take a lot to convince me that the Pastor Angelicus was a conscious agent of the revolution that triumphed at Vatican II. But if he made bad judgments, even culpably bad judgments, monkeying with the principles that he did not effectively apply can only make a bad problem worse. (It is that sort of monkeying that I suspect Aidan Kavanagh of.)

    2. Paul VI -- perhaps the most doubleminded of the doubleminded men who made the revolution in the Church -- is not a very reliable witness as regards the relationship of Pius XII to that revolution.

  20. John McFarland4:03 PM


    “[T]he law of worship transcends and subordinates the law of belief”.

    Can you find me anything in the scriptures, the Fathers, the Popes, the councils, the great theologians, or anyone besides Aidan Kavanagh (RIP) and his disciples who has ever said this, or anything remotely like this?

    Indeed, can you find me any liturgical pronouncement in the words of our Savior besides "Do this is remembrance of me"?

    What I am saying is that the Pope has authority over the liturgy, and that it seems to me, based on my very limited knowledge on the matter, that the only limitation of that authority is the doctrine of the Faith. For example, the Pope cannot make the Mass into something other than what the Council of Trent teaches that it is, nor can he estabish a new rite of the Mass that tends to subvert the teaching of Trent -- as the Novus Ordo does, and was manifestly intended to do.

    But let's go back to Kavanagh. Now that I look at your quotation from him, it is evident that he is a modernist -- a conservative modernist, I would guess, but a modernist. This talk of Presence is very much the talk of the makers of the liturgical revolution.

    What drew the disciples to Jesus is not the issue, and speaking of his Presence with a capital P doesn't change that. The issue is what he taught them once they had been drawn to him. He told them the things that he had learned from his Father, but they had to take those things on faith. Some people were drawn to him, but turned away when he told them that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Jesus's "revelation to [his disciples] of himself as the long-promised Anointed One" is worth nothing UNLESS THEY ACCEPT ON FAITH WHAT HE HAS REVEALED. Many people were impressed by Jesus. The Temple cops were too impressed to arrest him. But being impressed is not what saves. Only faith in what this impressive man is telling you saves. The miracles got people's attention, and gave them grounds for believing; but believing -- or not -- is the issue.

    The only dialectic of the Faith is the path by which one comes to accept -- or reject -- what Jesus teaches. That path can be quick, as with St. Paul, or long and winding, as with St. Augustine; but you're nowhere unless and until you accept the Faith.

  21. "Lex orandi, lex credendi" means the Church prays what She believes, and believes what She prays. Her liturgy not only contains and communicates the Faith, but is also shaped by the Faith. Mr. McFarland's observations and comments are absolutely correct: right worship is impossible apart from right belief, and in fact is a consequence of right belief and not the source and origin of right belief. True, Moses was attracted by a Presence, but he did not know what the Presence was until It identified Himself, revealing Himself as God, as The Truth, and *then* commanding Moses to perform the act of worship of removing his sandals. Again, the disciples were drawn to Christ Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life -- the embodiment and perfect expression of all the truths of the Catholic faith -- and we must believe all those truths to be saved. Only after they were drawn to Him did He teach them about prayer and fasting and almsgiving and His propitiatory Eucharistic Sacrifice of perfect praise.

  22. Anonymous6:37 PM

    You've hit the nail on the head of this conundrum for any traditional Catholic. Specifically:
    1. The dogma speaks of the Pope's infallibility regarding matters of faith and morals.
    2. The Mass and everything liturgical is by definition a matter of faith.
    3. Ergo, the Novus Ordo MUST be accepted, inasmuch as it was promulgated and blessed by a Pope, and so CANNOT be anything an exercise of His infallibility.

  23. John McFarland9:14 PM

    Anonymous 18:37,

    What conundrum?

    1. The Pope is infallible in his teaching regarding faith and morals when he either (1) repeats the Church's ordinary and universal magisterium (OUM) or (2) performs an act of his extrordinary magisterium in accordance with the criteria set forth in the acts of Vatican I.

    2. (a) The Pope's decisions regarding the Mass of course relate to the Faith; but they are not in and of themselves pronouncements regarding faith, unless they are decisions based on his judgment that some element of the Mass is of divine institution.

    (b) Furthermore, if the Pope were to make a pronouncement regarding the divine institution of some part of the Mass, that pronouncement would itself have to be either a repetition of the OUM or an act of the extraordinary magisterium meeting the criteria of Vatican I.

    (c) But note also that acts of the extraordinary magisterium are themselves just a refinement of such aspect of the revelation which was closed no later than the death of the last apostle. The Pope doesn't make up new dogma; he finetunes the OUM.

    (d) As far as I know, there are very few infallible pronouncements regarding the Mass outside the decrees of the Council of Trent, and even fewer (if any) that relate to what should and should not be part of the Mass.

    3. (a) At a minimum, it follows that however you understand the adoption of the New Mass from a canon law perspective (and the proper understanding is not easy to figure out, because Pope Paul was quite squirrelly in how he went about it), you still have a long way to go before you can demonstrate that such adoption involved anything infallible.

    (b) To put it another way: you don't have to swallow the New Mass whole, because the Pope ordered it (or whatever he did) and he's infallible, because nowhere near everything that the Pope says is infallible.

    (c) Furthermore, I don't think that Pope Paul or any of his successors ever said anything to imply that the adoption of the New Mass partook of infallibility. Indeed, I am not sure that the word infallibility has been on papal lips more than a very, very small handful of times since Vatican II.

    4. (a) In sum: unless and until you can determine that there has been some infallible pronouncement in connection with the adoption of the New Mass, there's no conundrum.

    (b) Furthermore, that determination has to be based on the genuine doctrne of the Church regarding infallibility, not the home-made hyperinfallibilism shared by conservative Novus Ordinarians (the Pope said it, and he's infallible, and so we must swallow it) and sedevacantists (the guy in the white soutane said it, and so he can't be the Pope, because if he were the Pope, it would be infallible, and we'd have to swallow it).

  24. Anonymous9:52 PM

    Excellent points made on infallibility and understanding obedience by Mr. McFarland.

    I am well into reading "The Problem of the Liturgical Reform" by FSSPX and also will read Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP expose showing more grace from the TLM compared to the NO mess.

    More and more I am convinced that fruit of V2 is rotten.

  25. Anonymous4:46 AM

    John, excellent points all, thank you. Still, you seem to have to tiptoe painfully through a minefield, straining with effort to weave your way through the thicket. Ok, so what if the Novus Ordo was never proclaimed officially to be infallible; is there a special formulation? At the same time, if you insist on some special formulation, isn't that asking for some sort of incantation? And, for all practical purposes, if anything was promulgated with the full might of the Papacy behind it, it was the Mass of Paul VI. Just read the histories of those persecuted who resisted. So what do you say to all those in the blogosphere and elsewhere - mostly traditional Catholics - who say that the Novus Ordo is at best a distraction and dilution of the deposit of faith, and at worst an assault on that deposit? It seems that you say you don't have to accept it, even while you insist that they maintain allegiance to the process that created it. Isn't this what cafeteria Catholics are accused of, picking and choosing what they want?

  26. Basil7:42 AM

    One only has to look at the Gospel accounts of the Lord’s appearances after the Resurrection where the Lord was recognised in the breaking of bread and other actions rather than anything he taught.

    You are entitled to your opinion that Aidan Kavanagh was a modernist, personally I regard him as one of the finest twentieth century liturgists.

    If Paul VI was a pope I fail to see how you can disregard his liturgical changes and claim they are ‘not part of the tradition of the Church’. On the basis of your logic what of tomorrow’s great feast? Was it the authentic tradition of the Church that Pius IX gave it to the Universal Church or the authentic tradition of the Church that Pius XII suppressed it?

    Reading through the various accounts of the Liturgical Conferences in the 1950s in periodicals such as ‘Worship’ it is easy to understand how the English liturgist Archdale King could write in his classic ‘Liturgy of the Roman Church’ “‘A revision of the solemn Mass, little short of revolutionary, was discussed at an international liturgical congress held at Lugano in September 1953, with the intention of simplifying the rite, removing what is redundant or superfluous, and giving the faithful a more active part in the liturgy’.” These days such radical plans are conveniently re-labelled as ‘organic development’ by those who wish to preserve the myth that the Second Vatican Council is the primary cause of the liturgical malaise.


  27. One only has to look at the Gospel accounts of the Lord’s appearances after the Resurrection where the Lord was recognised in the breaking of bread and other actions rather than anything he taught.

    There would not have been any recognition at all unless God had given them faith. St. Thomas did not say, "My Lord and my God!" until He had been shown (taught) that the Lord is truly risen.

    These days such radical plans are conveniently re-labelled as ‘organic development’ by those who wish to preserve the myth that the Second Vatican Council is the primary cause of the liturgical malaise.

    Pope Benedict calls those plans "organic development." Is he also promoting the myth that the Second Vatican Council is the primary cause of the liturgical malaise?

    Evidently your belief is that a primary cause of the liturgical malaise is Mediator Dei's teaching that the law of prayer forms the law of belief and the law of belief forms the law of prayer, and that the Roman Pontiff's jurisdiction extends to liturgical matters. If that is your contention, one must wonder if you're a Catholic.

  28. No Jordanes, I do not believe Mediator Dei is a primary cause of the malaise, just a contributory factor like the development of ultramontanism and centralised control of liturgical texts.

    Something is either traditional or it is not. Either today’s great feast was worth instituting by Pius IX for the Universal Church or it was right for Piux XII to suppress it.

    Such inconsistencies in papal praxis with regard to the liturgy perhaps being exemplified a little later in the Liturgical Year with the Sacred Heart. Pius XI granted the feast a third order privileged octave in June 1929. His immediate successor removed the same octave (and most of the others) in 1955.

    As one pope can clearly reverse the decisions of his predecessors what future for Bendict XVI’s opionions and Summorum Pontificum?


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