Some people are fascinated by questions involving "alternate history," or "alternate time lines." Many books and movies also explore this theme. An "alternate history" speculates as to "What would have happened to the world if..." Examples include:
- What if Adolf Hitler had won World War II ?
- What if Charles Martel had lost the Battle of Tours?
- What if U.S. President Abraham Lincoln hadn't been assassinated?
The list goes on endlessly and it can be entertaining to think of the ramifications had these things happened, and what our world would look like today. How different would things be and in what way(s)? Only God Himself knows these contingent possibilities, that is, the free actions which never occurred, but which would have occurred, if certain conditions were fulfilled. He would know everything which would have flowed from different choices and the resulting different effects on the world. (This is the common teaching of the theologians, See e.g., theologian Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, , pgs. 40-43).
I bring this topic up, because I'm sure most Traditionalists have, at one time or another, wondered what the world would be like had Vatican II (and the Great Apostasy which followed) never occurred. Many believe things would have been different without Roncalli ("Pope" John XXIII). While undoubtedly true, I think that to get at the real source of Vatican II, one needs to go back much further.
The Modernist resurgence and takeover would, in my opinion, never had happened if a relatively obscure Cardinal been elected pope after St. Pius X. The majority of Vatican II sect members (and I dare say, probably most Traditionalists) know little or nothing of the great Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930). He was a cleric as pious as he was orthodox, as intelligent as he was humble, and as practical as he was optimistic. I believe if we had a true pope, there would be a "St." before his name. His virtues were such that he was dubbed "The Angel of the Vatican" by many who knew him. This post will explore the life of this most holy cleric, so often ignored or forgotten, and what a quintessential "Prince of the Church" looks like. (I have compiled many sources to produce this post. I wish to cite most notably Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, , by F.A. Forbes, and Give Me Souls: A Life of Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, , by Sr. M. Bernetta Quinn, O.S.F. I take no credit..---Introibo).
Birth and Youth
The man who would become a Cardinal and the "power behind the throne" of Pope St. Pius X, was born on October 10, 1865. His baptismal name reads like The Litany of the Saints: Rafael María Jose Pedro Francisco Borja Domingo Gerardo de la Santisima Trinidad Merry del Val y Zulueta. He came into this world at the Spanish Embassy in London, the child of a rich and noble family. His father was Rafael Carlos Merry del Val (1831-1917), secretary to the Spanish legation in London. His mother was Sofia Josefa Merry del Val (nee de Zulueta d. 1925). Although mostly a Spaniard by heritage, he also had Irish, Dutch, and English ancestry. He was the third of five children; in birth order they were Maria, Alphonso, Raphael, Pedro, and Domingo.
Raphael's parents were devout Catholics and made sure their children knew their Faith, especially living in England, a country whose official religion was the false sect of Anglicanism, engendered by the unbridled lust of the adulterous murderer, King Henry VIII. All the Merry del Val children were firm in the faith, but young Raphael stood out in his steadfast love of Christ's One True Church. While the children of nobles asked for lavish and expensive gifts and toys at Christmas and for their birthdays, Raphael begged his father for a small "altar" and vestments along with a play chalice and paten so he could practice "offering Mass" because he wanted to be a priest. He got his wish. His uncle saw him "saying Mass," and teasingly asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Young Raphael answered, "A priest!" His uncle inquired further, "Oh, a Jesuit?" The jubilant lad's face lit up, and he replied happily, "No! A bishop!" His ambition was not driven by a want of power or prestige, but rather, he thought that being a bishop would give him the best means to accomplish his dream--the conversion of his beloved country of birth back to the One True Church which it sadly left in the 16th century.
Although highly intelligent, Raphael needed to work hard to achieve his good grades. His teachers were all impressed by how diligent he was in his studies, and his behavior was exemplary. Most impressive was his devotion to the Church. He had a tender love for the Blessed Mother and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Once, while a good nun was teaching him catechism at the age of eight, she was explaining in simple terms the recently declared dogma of papal infallibility promulgated at the Vatican Council of 1870. When she finished, the nun held up the black catechism book and asked little Raphael, "Suppose the pope were to say that this book is white. What would you do?" The lad replied, "The pope would not speak such nonsense." He went on to explain that the Pontiff is protected by the Holy Ghost. His answer was met with stunned silence by the Sister.
When Raphael was 16, he questioned his vocation. His humility was such that he did not think he was worthy of the lofty calling of the priesthood. His father told him he had two years to decide, and should pray much and ask advice from holy priests. All this he did, and at eighteen years old, he told his father he had resolved, as unworthy as he was, to become a priest. His jubilant father immediately gave him his blessings. Most importantly, Raphael had resolved to become a saint. The prayer he prayed gives insight to how the Faith consumed him. In his prayer he thanked God he had been given good parents and that God had not let him be placed "among idolaters, Protestants, Schismatics, and dangerous or evil company." He would become a saint for the glory of God, and his own eternal happiness; he had no excuse to do otherwise, as he often reminded himself.
An Alter Christus
The future Cardinal enrolled at the seminary of St. Cuthbert's in County Durham in northern England after having graduated with honors from the Jesuit College of St. Michael in Brussels, Belgium--an institution recommended by his father for its unwavering orthodoxy. (Yes, there were actually orthodox Jesuits at one time. It is also no surprise to find them among the Belgians; "Belgium" and "Catholic" were virtually synonymous). In 1885, he was sent to complete his studies in Rome. Rafael Sr. was now Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See. Both father and son were received in a private audience by Pope Leo XIII.
The pontiff had heard that Rafael's son was brilliant and was coming to finish his studies for the priesthood in Rome. During the audience with the young seminarian, Pope Leo was so impressed, he ordered Rafael to go to the Pontifical Academy of Ecclesiastical Nobles rather than the Pontifical Scottish College he was going to enter. The pope saw a rare combination of humility, piety, and intelligence that he wanted to put at the service of the Church. That would begin by a top-notch education. Rafael bowed to the wishes of His Holiness.
Rafael was the model seminarian, and he hungered for sanctity and knowledge. He achieved both. Ordained a priest at age 24 on December 30, 1889, Fr. Merry del Val offered his First Mass at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome. His desire to go and be a priest in England to convert the Anglicans was never to be realized. Pope Leo bestowed honors on him which Fr. Merry del Val reluctantly accepted. He represented the Holy See at various functions and became rather well-known at the time. He never let it go to his head; his humility would not permit it--a genuine humility, not like the "humility" of an Argentinian apostate calling himself "pope." There is a Litany of Humility he would recite after each Mass he offered. Its authorship has often been ascribed to him, but whether he actually composed it or not remains uncertain.
His prayer life was intense, and he would sometimes pass the whole night kneeling on a hard floor, praying with a fervor few could match or exceed. His reputation as the "Angel of the Vatican" was born.
The Question of Anglican Orders
Fr. Merry del Val was a formidable intellectual. He obtained doctorates in philosophy and Sacred Theology, as well as a Licentiate in Canon Law. He could read, write and speak fluently in five languages (Latin, English, Spanish, French, and Italian). It was, therefore, hardly a surprise when Pope Leo XIII chose him to be on the Commission that was investigating the validity of Anglican Orders. The question was open to debate, and Pope Leo wanted to definitively decide the matter. In the 1830s, there was the so-called Oxford Movement that wanted to stem the tide of increasingly heterodox doctrine and practice, making the "Church of England" more radically Protestant. The Oxford Movement was centered at the University of Oxford that sought a renewal of Roman Catholic thought and practice within the "Church of England" in opposition to these Protestant tendencies of the Anglican sect.
Fr. Merry del Val was also chosen because of his affection for the English and his well-known desire to convert them. Many wanted Anglican orders recognized as valid, believing there would be a large number of converts. Father upbraided those with such sentiments, reminding them that nothing, no matter how laudable a goal, should come at the expense of truth. He ran up against strong opposition on the Commission from Cardinals Rampolla and Gasparri. Both were strongly in favor of recognizing Anglican Orders as valid. Fr. Merry del Val stood toe-to-toe with them during meetings of the Commission. His intervention was seen as instrumental in stopping a favorable report.
Fr. Raphael Merry del Val excoriated the two Cardinals for underestimating doctrinal obstacles for the sake of unity (sound reminiscent of ecumenism today?). He knew that Cardinal Gasparri was listening to Fr. Portal, a priest who would later be outed as a Modernist. He never trusted Cardinal Rampolla, and his insight was proven correct when, years later, it was discovered Rampolla was a high-ranking Freemason. Merry del Val went so far as to ask Card. Gasparri, "Where he learnt or unlearnt his theology." Gasparri was furious that a priest, even one favored by the Holy Father, would dare speak like that to a Prince of the Church. Fr. Merry del Val would not back down. He advanced his carefully crafted arguments against the validity of Anglican Orders:
If a minister uses a valid form, it is most difficult, often impossible, to prove that his personal intention invalidated the sacrament, unless clear evidence is forthcoming...but that is not the point here. If a minister uses a corrupt or mutilated form, the intention is expressed in the rite itself, i.e., the intention of excluding the definite object and effect of the sacrament.
He actually succeeded in winning over Cardinal Gasparri, and the other members of the Commission were likewise convinced. The vote to declare Anglican orders invalid was unanimous (Rampolla, realizing he had lost, no doubt did not want to bring undue attention to himself). On September 13, 1896, Pope Leo XIII promulgated Apostolicae Curae, settling the question for all time by declaring Anglican orders "absolutely null and utterly void" due to defect of both form and intention. Rather than alienating potential English converts, the truth attracted them. Fr. Merry del Val received no less than forty converts from Anglicanism into the One True Church.
The Conclave of 1903
Pope Leo XIII was most impressed by the work of Fr. Merry del Val, and ordered him to be consecrated a bishop--Titular Archbishop of Nicea to be precise. On May 6, 1900, the 34 year old priest was consecrated by Cardinal Rampolla, his adversary at the Commission on Anglican orders. Bishop Merry del Val took as his Episcopal Motto, Da mihi animas caetera tolle (roughly translated as "Give me souls, take the rest"). On July 20, 1903, Pope Leo died at the age of 93. Bp. Merry del Val was appointed Secretary of the Conclave.
Cardinal Rampolla emerged well in the lead as the votes were tallied. Suddenly, the conclave was interrupted by a shock: Jan Cardinal Puzyna, Bishop of Kracow (at that time within the Austrian Empire) rose to give a declaration which stunned the assembly. In Latin he declared, “… officially and in the name and by the authority of Franz-Josef, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, that His Majesty, in virtue of an ancient right and privilege, pronounces the veto of exclusion against my Most Eminent Lord, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro." The almost forgotten Right of Exclusion, or Jus Exclusivae was given to Emperors as well as the French and Spanish leaders. It is possible that a devout emperor or king with vital information could have exercised the Right with integrity in order to protect the Chair of Peter from a corrupt candidate. It is now believed the Emperor received information that Rampolla was a Mason.
Bp. Merry del Val refused to accept it, but the Polish Cardinal read it again. Despite his suspicion and lack of trust regarding Rampolla, the good bishop didn't want inference in the Conclave by a secular power, and showed his ability to put aside his feelings in order to conduct things fairly. According to several sources, Rampolla allegedly gained votes after the veto because the cardinals did not want to be told what to do. A Cardinal of a simple background--one Giuseppe Sarto--- started receiving a large number of votes, and overtook Rampolla as the leader. When it appeared Cardinal Sarto was poised to win, he excused himself and was (literally) crying, since he did not want to be pope. He did not consider himself worthy. The Secretary of the Conclave advised him that he should accept the Will of God. Bp. Merry del Val's advice won the day, and the bond between the two great Churchmen began.
Cardinal Sarto was elected and took the name Pope Pius X. One of his first acts as Pontiff was to abolish the Jus Exclusivae. Pope Pius X had excellent reasons for abolishing it. As related by the Pope’s chamberlain: “Pius X frequently made known his decisions by motu proprio, one of his first official acts being to abolish the privilege of veto, accorded in very different times to the Emperors and the Kings of Spain and France. The Christendom in which its exercise had been tolerated no longer existed and, had the Emperor’s latest misuse of it been left unrebuked, we might conceivably have next had a Masonic President of France claiming the same right as part of the Republic’s inheritance from the Bourbon monarchy." Later that year, Pius X appointed Bp. Merry del Val as Secretary of State of Vatican City, and gave him the red hat as Cardinal. Pope St. Pius said to the new Cardinal, "We will work together. We will suffer together for the love of Holy Mother Church."
The Fight Against Modernism
Many tried to portray Pope Pius as a "country bumpkin" who was being manipulated by the young and "intransigent" Cardinal Secretary of State. The hatred spewed forth from the usual suspects: Jews, Freemasons, and Modernists. Frequently, Pope St. Pius X was denigrated as "a relic from the Dark Ages," and Cardinal Merry del Val was derided as "Grand Inquisitor." Nothing would deter the saintly pope and his right-hand-man from the work of protecting the Church. The good cardinal saw the greatest threat to the Church is Modernism and the attempt to lessen respect for the prerogatives of the pope. He knew that by striking Modernists, he would also attack Masons. All Masons are Modernists, but not all Modernists are Masons.
In 1905, the Masonic French government declared separation of Church and State. They wanted to limit the power of the Catholic Church which was allied with the royalists, and broaden their support from other sects, especially the Protestants. While the Protestants and Jews complied immediately with the 1905 Law of Separation, Cardinal Merry del Val condemned it, not only on the grounds that it removed Church privileges, but because it promoted de facto "state atheism." Pope St. Pius X was quick to condemn it in Vehementer nos on February 11, 1906:
That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. Based, as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God; for the Creator of man is also the Founder of human societies, and preserves their existence as He preserves our own. We owe Him, therefore, not only a private cult, but a public and social worship to honor Him. Besides, this thesis is an obvious negation of the supernatural order. It limits the action of the State to the pursuit of public prosperity during this life only, which is but the proximate object of political societies; and it occupies itself in no fashion (on the plea that this is foreign to it) with their ultimate object which is man's eternal happiness after this short life shall have run its course. But as the present order of things is temporary and subordinated to the conquest of man's supreme and absolute welfare, it follows that the civil power must not only place no obstacle in the way of this conquest, but must aid us in effecting it. (para. #3).
Documents from the Vatican Archives are said to show that Cardinal Merry del Val was hoping that a "national uprising" of Catholics in France would force the government to reconsider and rescind the damnable 1905 law. Such never came about to the regret and sorrow of both pope and cardinal. It is not without reason Pope St. Pius X remarked, "All the strength of Satan's reign is due to the easygoing weakness of Catholics." The Cardinal's foresight as to atheism being the logical result of the events in France has been proven true; self-declared atheists represent 30 percent of the French population, and France is among the top five most atheist countries in the world.
The Cardinal went on to write one of the greatest defenses of the papacy, The Truth of Papal Claims, a most excellent theological treatise which earned him the epithet "ultramontanist" by the Freemasons. It was an appellation the cardinal wore with pride, because to be "ultramontanist" simply means to be a true Catholic. When U.S. President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt asked for a private audience with Pope St. Pius on his trip to Rome, it came to the Cardinal's attention that Roosevelt planned on visiting a Protestant church first. The Cardinal informed the president that there would be no audience unless the visit to the church of a false sect was dropped from the itinerary, for to greet the Vicar of Christ after going to a false religion (as if both were in any way equal), was an insult to Christ Himself Who only founded One True Church. The president refused not to go to the Protestant church (himself a Protestant), and Pope St. Pius X refused him an audience. (Compare Bergoglio meeting baby-killer and pro-sodomite Biden).
It is no secret that Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val drafted most of the great condemnation of Modernism, Pascendi Dominici Gregis in 1907. He also helped to craft Lamentabili Sane Exitu, also in 1907, which was a Syllabus against Modernism. The Cardinal would get red-faced and angry if anyone dared ascribe even one word to him. "The pope read every word, and he alone, protected by the Holy Ghost, promulgated it. It is the work of the pope. To say otherwise is an insult to both His Holiness and God."
The Sodalitium Pianum ("fellowship of Pius") was formed by a group of theologians who would report to the pope those thought to be teaching condemned doctrine. One such was Fr. Angelo Roncalli. Unfortunately, the leader of the group was Fr. Umberto Benigni, a priest who started to espouse Fascism and other radical ideas. This caused Pope Benedict XV to disband the group. Cardinal Merry del Val did not want opposition to Modernism sullied by adherence to other errors, and he did not intercede for the the group.
Pope Benedict XV and the Conclave of 1922
The Cardinal was heartbroken at the death of Pope St. Pius X. The pope had said of the Cardinal, "He is very modest. He is a saint." That is some praise coming from a pope who would himself be canonized by Pope Pius XII on May 29, 1954. On the election of Pope Benedict XV, Cardinal Merry del Val was replaced as Secretary of State and placed in the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office where he served as Secretary of the Congregation. His pleadings with Pope Benedict regarding Modernism still being a threat, fell on deaf ears. He wrongly believed it was extirpated.
When Pope Benedict died on January 22, 1922, Cardinal Merry del Val was considered a leading contender to become the next pope. The Modernist resurgence and Masonic propaganda tried to paint him as "out of touch," and "backwards;" a man incapable of leading the Church. The plan worked. Cardinal Ratti was elected as Pope Pius XI. He was a good and holy pope, but was not as severe against Modernism as Merry del Val wanted him to be. The good cardinal was working on a treatise against the three biggest threats against the Church and the world: Modernism, Masonry, and Communism (as Russia rolls through the Ukraine today). He wanted to put in place stringent means against all three threats. I can't help but wonder what that would have been like had he been elected pope.
Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val died in the odor of sanctity during an appendectomy on February 26, 1930, at the age of 64. In 1953, Pope Pius XII opened the cause for his canonization, and bestowed on him the title "Servant of God." Cardinal Merry del Val composed many beautiful prayers contained in The Raccolta, the official book of Indulgenced Prayers. Before his death, he spoke of the "rule of his entire life." It speaks volumes as to his character and sanctity:
I have promised with His grace not to begin any work without remembering that He is Witness of it. I will remember that God performs the action together with me and gives me the means to do it. I have promised never to conclude any action without that same thought, offering it to Him as belonging to Him, and in the course of the action whenever the same thought shall occur, to stop for a moment and renew the desire of pleasing Him.
If one day the Modernist Vatican should ever become Catholic again, I can't help but think that maybe it's because there's a special "angel" watching over it from Heaven, who almost became pope.