Pope Pius XII: Proto-oecumenist?
By Patricius Anthony

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Pope Pius XII: Proto-oecumenist?

By Patricius Anthony

Pius XII


As history unfolds, it has become more apparent that Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) was far from the traditional pope that conservatives and many in the Traditional Movement have made him out to be. Not only were a number of his key appointments Modernists (the most notorious Hannibal Bugnini Secretary to the Commission for Liturgical Reform), but his commitment to traditional theology (Mediator Dei) have, in the light of some seventy years, come into question. Pius XII’s changes to the Holy Week rites (inspired by Bugnini) were quite dramatic and can now be seen as a precursor for the revolution which took place at the Second Vatican Anti-Council (1962-65) and the "reforms” which came in its wake, especially the promulgation of the New Mass by Paul VI (Montini).

Prior to becoming pope, Pius XII (Cardinal Pacelli) had wide experience in the Vatican hierarchy including his appointment to the powerful post of Cardinal Secretary of State in 1931. The position naturally meant that Cardinal Pacelli would be involved in the political affairs of other nations and more so with those of significant Catholic populations. The Cardinal’s involvement with the framing of the 1937 Irish Constitution reveals that the future pontiff was quite modern in terms of oecumenism which adds to the evidence that Pius XII was far from a traditional pope in the mold of St. Pius X, (1) but was a transitional figure who, with his subordinates, laid the groundwork for Vatican II.

The Irish Constitution of 1937

Eamon de Valera (1882-1975), who was head of the Irish Free State and Ireland’s leading political figure of the 20th century, played a decisive role in the wording of the Irish Constitution of 1937. De Valera had been a follower of three "conservative” Irish clerics: John Charles McQuaid, Edward Cahill (2) and Denis Fahey. McQuaid would become primate of Ireland during de Valera’s reign as head of the Irish Republic and would play an instrumental role in the enactment of the Vatican II reforms. The influence of these three could be readily seen in the first draft of the Constitution and the position that the Catholic Church would have in Ireland. (3)

Part of the initial draft read: "that the true religion is that established by our Divine Lord Jesus Christ himself, which he committed to his Church to protect and propagate as the guardian and interpreter of true morality. It acknowledges, moreover, that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. [The Church is] a perfect society, having within itself full competence and sovereign authority, in respect of the spiritual good of man.” (4)

The original wording raised vehement protests among some of the "republican- minded” elements of de Valera’s cabinet who contended that it would lead to religious and civil strife between Protestants and Catholics. De Valera backed away from the "full Catholic ideal” in the original document and through a representative to the Vatican argued for a less forthright position.

Cardinal Pacelli, who was privy to the Constitution’s formulation, told de Valera’s representative that "quite truthfully, according to the strict teaching of the Church, we were heretics to recognize any Church but the one true Church of Christ.” (5) One historian claims that "unofficially" the Church took a more "relaxed view of de Valera’s document" and added that Cardinal Pacelli took a "neutral attitude" of the final verbiage. (6)

Bishop McQuaid was intimately involved in the drafting of the Constitution and was reportedly livid at its final wording. (7) At this point in his life, McQuaid was under the influence of Frs. Fahey and Cahill, both of whom were against the recognition of any sect or denomination to be part of the Constitution. By the 1960s, however, McQuaid, as Primate of Ireland, was to play a pivotal role in the implementation of the Vatican II reforms.

While the future Pius XII could live with such a capitulation, it is highly doubtful that his saintly predecessor, Pius X, would have gone along with such a sellout. Recognition of false religions and sects could simply not be tolerated and if permitted would lead eventually to the de-Christianization of society which is what exactly happened not only in Ireland but throughout the West.

The final version of the Constitution would foreshadow the false oecumenism of the later Counter Catholic Church which was born at the Second Vatican Anti-Council as it recognized a host of false sects and, not surprisingly, Jewish worship. Before its publication, de Valera conferred with top Irish Protestants and a Jewish leader, Dr. Issac Herzog, none of whom had a dispute with its content:

The State recognizes the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens. The State also recognizes the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland, as well as the Jewish Congregations and the other religious denominations existing in Ireland as the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution. (8)

In 1957, twenty years after the Irish Constitution was passed, Pius XII praised the Constitution in an address at Castelgandolfo in which de Valera and other officials were in attendance and said: "It was the soundest of her many refined instincts, guided by divine grace, which prompted her to enact her constitution ‘In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions, both of men and States, must be referred.’" (9)

In spite of Pius XII’s laudatory words, Ireland, after twenty years of constitutional rule, was well on its way to becoming a modern welfare state. And, as history has shown with the emergence of nation states through the French Revolution and especially after the creation of Bismarkian social democracy, the Christian social order was eventually brought to an end.

The modern welfare state, as predicted by its critics, has had a deleterious effect on the peoples which have adopted its tenets. Nearly all of the natural and Christian virtues that make for a healthy culture decline under social democracy. The welfare state encourages sloth, promiscuity, divorce, infantilism, criminality while breaking down the social bonds which are essential for a well-ordered society. The welfare state would replace nearly all of the functions and duties that the Church had once performed and with it a decline in its status in nearly every land. Ireland would not be immune to its effects.

Religious liberty and false oecumenism are integral components of social democracy. Every religion, creed, belief or idea, no matter how erroneous or crazed, must be acknowledged and recognized. This, of course, is heretical and runs counter to two millennia of Catholic thought. Error cannot be tolerated by public authority and must be driven underground or extirpated as to not cause scandal or lead souls to perdition.

The Irish Constitution of 1937 imbibed nearly all of the principles of the Enlightenment, French Revolution and all of the political and social tumults which came in their wake, most of which were aimed at the eradication of Christianity or, at least, its subjugation to the State. The creation of a political document such as the Irish Constitution would, in an earlier era, never have recognized false faiths or heretical ideas. That Cardinal Pacelli and other of the Church hierarchy signed off on it, shows how much the false notion of oecumenism had infiltrated the Church. For the good of souls, all governing bodies and authorities must rule in accordance with the mind of the Church as Pope Leo XIII so aptly describes in Immortale Dei:

There was once a time when States were governed by the principles of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates, and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this way, bore fruits important beyond all expectation. (10)

Under true Christian governance, the proposed Irish Constitution, or, for that matter, any other authority does not determine the status of the Catholic Church, but as Fr. Denis Fahey explains, it is the State that is subjected to the Church: "Caesar is likewise bound to accept the decisions of the representatives of Christ the King, the Pope and the Bishops, in regard to what favors the diffusion of the supernatural life of Grace or is opposed to it, thus acknowledging what is called the Indirect Power of the Catholic Church, which is a participation in the Spiritual Kingship of Christ." (11)

The Church, unlike all other organizations or groups, is a supernatural institution created by the Divine Savior of mankind as the earthly median for the salvation of souls. Its status is not confirmed and or "recognized" by any earthly body, but receives its legitimacy from Christ unto which every creature and social construct is subjected to. Only the Catholic Church was given the Divine Commission to teach and convert all peoples, no other religious organization, sect, or individual was given such license.

Pius XII should have heeded the words of his direct predecessor, Pope Pius XI, in his Encyclical Letter, Mortalium Animos of 1928, where he cites St. John the Evangelist’s admonition about interrelations with other sects:

All remember how John, the very Apostle of Charity, who in his Gospel seems to have opened the secrets of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and who always inculcated in the minds of his disciples the new commandment, ‘Love one another,’ had wholly forbidden them to have relations with those who did not profess entire and uncorrupted the teachings of Christ. ‘If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house, or say to him, welcome.’ Since charity is founded in whole and sincere faith, the disciples of Christ must be united by the bond of unity in faith and by it as the chief bond.


In the nearly six decades since Pius XII’s passing, it has become clearer that his reputation as an orthodox defender of Catholic Tradition has been tarnished. His position on the Irish Constitution has added to a growing amount of evidence that, in a number of areas, he was quite modern. It would be hard to deny that his later pontificate, especially the significant changes to Holy Week and those that Pope John XXIII instituted on his behalf, laid the foundation for the revolution which was to come at Vatican II.

If Pius XII had rooted out the Modernists as St. Pius X had courageously done, then Vatican II most likely would have never taken place and the Church and world at large would not be in their deplorable spiritual conditions.


1. It is ironic that Pius XII canonized his saintly predecessor in 1954 who was an arch enemy of the likes of Bugnini and who removed many Modernists from prominent positions in the Vatican and in the universities. This was one of Pius XII’s finer moments. Yet, although certainly deserving, especially for the times he lived, Pius X’s elevation to sainthood in such a short time (40 years) was a bit surprising. The last pope canonized before him was St. Pius V in 1712, one hundred and forty years after his death. While it must have rankled the Modernists at the time and still does that their arch enemy was made a saint in such a short time, it could also have worked in their favor and have been a precursor for the utter travesty that Newchurch has made the "saint-making process."

2. A recent article about Reverend Edward Cahill S.J. can be found in the January/February, 2017 issue of History Ireland, vol. 25, no.1, pp. 32-34.

3. Historians and writers usually describe McQuaid, Cahill, and Fahey as "extreme," "ultraconservative," and, of course, "anti-Semitic." A typical example can be found in the work of Tim Pat Coogan, Ireland in the 20th Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

4. Quoted in Coogan, Ireland in the 20th Century, 220.

5. Ibid., 221.

6. Ibid.

7. John Cooney, John Charles McQuaid: Ruler of Ireland (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2000), 100.

8. Ibid.

9. Posted on Lux Occulta website, 28 January 2011.

10. Quoted in Fr. Denis Fahey, The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, 3rd ed. (Palmdale, CA.: Christian Book Club of America, 1939; 1994), 246.

11. Ibid., 245.