Pius XII and Communism: The Holy Office Archives Speak

February 24, 2022
Source: fsspx.news

A new documented study has just emerged from the pen of Professor Cesare Catananti, former director general of the Gemelli polyclinic, which sheds new light on the famous decree of excommunication of the communists, which caused a lot of ink to flow in its time.

The interest of the work La scomunica ai comunisti – the excommunication of the communists, San Paolo ed. (untranslated to date) – lies in the fact that the author was able to have access to the secret archives of the Holy Office, which are now open to researchers, for the period covering the pontificate of Pius XII (1939-1958), one of the most disputed in the entire history of the Church.

On July 13, 1949, the Holy See published the decree excommunicating the ommunists, signed by Pope Pius XII two days earlier.

From now on, all those who “profess the materialist and anti-Christian doctrine of communists, and particularly those who defend and propagate it freely and knowingly, incur ipso facto … excommunication specially reserved for the Holy See.”

73 years later, the documents, hitherto classified, consulted by Cesare Catananti, shed light on the process that led the then Roman pontiff to take a decision with serious consequences for the whole Church.

It appears that the decree of excommunication is the result of several decisive factors. First, the situation in the East. Behind the Iron Curtain, indeed, the repression against the members of the Catholic hierarchy was ferocious, with an avowed goal on the side of the Reds: to create almost everywhere local Churches totally in the hands of the Regime.

In Rome, it was then fully realized that Bolshevism was aimed at the heart of the Catholic Church, not simply to silence her, but to destroy her, top to bottom. In this, the decree of excommunication appears, for Pius XII, as a survival operation.

Another important factor was the situation in Italy. The peninsula had, in 1949, about two million communist militants, who had nothing to do with the good-natured figure of Don Camillo's Peppone.

Especially since the archives of the Holy See show that the Pope had information - since confirmed by Moscow and the archives of the Italian Communist Party - according to which an armed uprising was very seriously considered: it was necessary to deal with it most urgently, and call to order the many Catholics led astray by communism, but still attached to the traditions of their childhood, such as funerals and weddings in the Church, prohibited by the 1949 decree.

At the same time, this made it possible to give a decisive boost to the Christian Democratic Party – a party founded in 1942 and supported by the Vatican – which would dominate Italian political life for a long time, starting in 1949 in particular.

Reading the archives of the Holy Office, Cesare Catananti concludes with a half-hearted assessment, for a decree that would not have “achieved the objectives set for it”: the application of the canonical penalty was not always very easy, each bishop sometimes interpreting in his own way the scienter et libere – conscious, free, and intimate adherence – leading to excommunication. But perhaps this legal vagueness was intended, in order to allow the bishops to act as pastors, and not only as censors?

Be that as it may, the author emphasizes that this decree “with a strong religious character” must be placed in a very strong spiritual context: at the same time, archaeologists discovered the tomb of St. Peter, under the Altar of the Confession in the Vatican Basilica, confirming Tradition and giving it unequaled weight.

A few months later, the Holy Year 1950 begins, which culminated with the declaration of the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady, the one whose Immaculate Heart should one day triumph over the errors that communism has spread throughout the world.