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“On February 9, 1963, John XXIII received in an audience lasting more than an hour and a half Father Roberto Tucci a Neapolitan Jesuit in his forties, who since 1959 had been editor of Civilta Cattolica. the pope appears to be decisively aligned against the curial culture, and when he remarks that curia members “have a petty, restricted mentality, because they have never been outside of Tome, outside of their village,” the allusion to Cardinal Ottaviani is evident. It is worth reproducing a long passage from Father Tucci’s diary, because it offers an assessment of the council made by John XXIII just a few months before his death:This conversation, recorded by Father Tucci in his diary, is revealing:
“He told me that Civilta Cattolica now seems to him to be on the right track, more so than in the past, although he did not specify what his criticisms were with regard to the past.
He spoke to me about his relations with the separated brethren, which he characterized as based on good will united with prudence and without illusions: nothing is gained by pressing them with talk of return, even though it is true that that is the only way; in the case of Fisher, who insists on speaking to him about reunion and unity, he gives him to understand that he does not quite follow, and then he changes the subject to imitation of Christ and similar topics, and the Anglican prelate goes away contented; it was the same yesterday with the Methodist prelate; with regard to the latter, he told me: “Yesterday they once again declared me a saint!”
As an example of the good fruits produced by his attitude of simplicity and kindness, he told me confidentially the news about the release from prison of the Metropolitan of the Ukrainians: Bishop Willebrands has gone to Russia to pick him up; he is expected din Rome by evening and he will reside for now in the monastery at Grottaferrata. He kept emphasizing that certain nationalistic attitudes, the type found among the Ukrainian bishops at the council, especially Bishop Bucko, can only cause annoyance; on the contrary, good relations with Khrushchev have brought about a more relaxed situation; he does not think that Khrushchev is as cynical as some say; he has his own serious internal difficulties and is animated by good intentions, even though he remains firmly committed to principles altogether opposed to ours. He told me that after the exchange of messages and other courtesies, an American journalist, who had an occasion to speak with Khrushchev at length, had brought him personal Christmas greetings from him and that he, by the same channel, had sent his own greetings back, adding to them a request to free the Metropolitan. The journalist had told about hearing from Khrushchev how he had been raised in a religious family, but later had become quite alienated from religion because he wanted to work for renewal in society, and he had seen that the “popes” [slang for clergy] in Russia were all slaves of the tsarist regime and of the rich. With regard to improving official relations with the Holy See, the Holy Father had sent a response that there were difficulties with that provided that the fundamental rights of the human person were recognized and hence also the right to religious liberty. From what I understood of the matter, Kennedy was not uninvolved; the Holly Father said that he understood his caution about not appearing to be too favorable to the Catholic Church, so as not to lose the support of the protestants; nevertheless members of his family had come to see the pope, etc.
As far as the council was concerned, he said that he was completely satisfied: the council had really got into its work only in recent weeks when it began to understand the implications of the September message and of his inaugural address on October 11. He complained however, about the fact that the Holy Office thought that it was in charge; he said that he had to set them straight; while praising the good dispositions of Cardinal Ottaviani and Archbishop Parente and others, he said that they still had not understood that certain ways of acting could by no means meet with his approval. He strongly criticized Father Tromp, who thinks that he needs to teach the bishops and who expresses himself in a way that shows little respect for them; he also observed that unfortunately some eminent council fathers, because they once taught theology, think that they have to turn the council documents into manuals of theology; he reaffirmed that it is not a matter of settling doctrinal questions, since it does not seem to him that there are any disputed questions today that must solved in order to avoid grave harm to the faith of the Church. He forcefully critiqued all the intervention of Archbishop Vagnozzi, a fine young man, but one whose impertinence he had already noticed, since the former was out of place both because of his substance of what he said and above all because of his manner of saying it; he knew, moreover, that in this case it was not the archbishops won work [literally: it was not flour from his own sack], since it had been prepared for him.
During the first session he had preferred not to intervene in the debates, so as to allow the fathers freedom to discuss and the opportunity to find the right path on their own; on the other hand, he, not having the necessary competence in the various matters, might be more of a disturbance than a help with any intervention of his own. The bishops needed to learn on their own – and they had done so.
As for his recent letter to the bishops, he appeared to be proud of having written the whole thing by himself; when asked whether he had meant to fault the liturgical movement when he talked about novae praedicationes [new sermons], etc., he said that was entirely absent from his mind; he was thinking about the good sisters who want to spread new forms of prayer, and about devotions to Our Lady of this place or that, which people were trying to extend to the whole Church, and the like. With regard to the curial culture, he noted that they have a petty, restricted mentality, because they have never been outside of Rome, outside of their ‘village’: they cannot manage to see Church matters in a truly universal perspective.
He then asked me whether I had any remarks or observations about the pope’s attitude, about the things people are saying. (He realizes that, even in my community, there will be some who do not agree with his approach!) I spoke then the need for abundant information on the council so as to help journalists, and so as not to reinforce the inferiority complex of Catholic publications, etc. He asked me whether Vallainc was doing well or not. I replied that it did not depend on him, but on Archbishop Felici. At that point he observed that Archbishop Felici is a really fine man, though he is somewhat limited in his thinking; he knows Latin very well and also Italian, but that is more or less all; it is true that he did not put himself in that position, since he had been proposed by Tardini without him knowing anything about it; he is obedient and a good worker. But the pope rescued him (by adding the five undersecretaries), and archbishop Felici knows this and is grateful. Understand the problem but doesn’t get into details. Just says that in order to contain the bad press it would be necessary for Manzini at L’Osservatore Romano to expose and give the lie to malicious interpretations and the like as soon as they occur; in that way everyone who is in error will fall into that category. The Pope has not spoken to Manzini.”