Few figures during the time of the Robber Council, which spawned the sect of Counterfeit Catholicism, was more of a lightening rod for criticism on all sides than the late, great Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani (1890-1979). One of the most powerful men in the Vatican under Pope Pius XII, and a brilliant canonist, theologian, and philosopher in his own right (three earned doctorates), he was Pro-Prefect of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. The primary purpose of the Holy Office was to safeguard the Deposit of Faith from all attacks from whatever source; a responsibility the Cardinal took with all the somber seriousness and diligence one would expect from a true Prince of the Church.
Modernists portray Cardinal Ottaviani as a "villain" who tried to "stop progress" and liked to "persecute misunderstood theologians." Some "conservative" Vatican II sect members falsely claim that he eventually recanted the famous theological study named after him (The Ottaviani Intervention), and accepted the so-called Novus Ordo Missae as a Catholic Mass. Some Traditionalists, acting like Monday morning quarterbacks, criticize him for not "doing more" or for not being an outspoken sedevacantist.
Truth be told, Cardinal Ottaviani was a great Churchman, who tried with all his might to stop the Modernist takeover of the Vatican. In this post, I will write a brief overview of his life and his battles for Holy Mother Church. My sources are from two men who knew the Cardinal personally; theologian Fr. Joseph Fenton, and canonist Fr. Gommar DePauw.
Fr. Fenton wrote about Cardinal Ottaviani shortly after the Council began, in a 1963 article for The American Ecclesiastical Review entitled Cardinal Ottaviani and the Council. I have the writings of Fr. DePauw regarding the Cardinal, and how he told me that the ecclesiastical giant was a spiritual father to him, and without his help, the Catholic Traditionalist Movement never would have gotten off the ground. I take no credit for the information herein. I simply compiled the information from two amazing priests who stood alongside Cardinal Ottaviani in (as Fr. DePauw would say) the "fight for Truth and Tradition," and made it into what I hope is a terse, readable, and worthy writing on a Hero of the Catholic Church.
A Holy and Humble Beginning
Alfredo Ottaviani was born on October 29, 1890, the tenth of a poor baker's twelve children, in a little store. He was never ashamed of his impoverished background, seeing that he had that in common with Our Lord. He grew up in the shadow of the Vatican, in Rome's Trastevere working-class district, where his pious parents instructed young Alfredo in the truths of the Faith. They probably couldn't imagine that their son would become the second most powerful cleric in the Church; second only to the Holy Father himself.
Alfredo was as brilliant as he was devout, having been taught by the Brothers of the Christian Schools, and felt called to the priesthood at an early age. He attended the Pontifical Roman Seminary and the Pontifical Roman Athenaeum S. Apollinare, from where he received doctorates in philosophy, canon law, and sacred theology. On March 18, 1916, the twenty-five year old scholar was ordained to the Holy Priesthood.
Called to teaching, he lectured several years on Ecclesiastical Public Law at the Apollinare Judicial University, and on Philosophy at the Pontifical Urban College of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, where he also held the position of Secretary for some time. In addition to all his official duties, he also carried out priestly work among the youths of the densely populated Aurelio district, at St. Peter's Oratory.
In 1926 he was nominated Rector of the Pontifical Bohemian College, later called the College of Nepomucene, and there guided many young Czechs to the priesthood. In February 1928, Professor Ottaviani was called to service at the Vatican by Pope Pius XI, who appointed him Undersecretary of the Vatican Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, and a year later, Deputy Secretary of State. In 1935, he was transferred to the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (informally, "Holy Office"), as his stellar academic career as an approved theologian, canon lawyer, and philosopher preceded him, and that---along with his reputation for unflinching orthodoxy---made him the perfect cleric to help defend Faith and morals.
In 1952, Pope Pius XII, who knew talent when he saw it, appointed him as the Pro-Prefect in charge of the Holy Office (the pope himself is Prefect of that Congregation). On January 12, 1953, that same Pontiff gave Fr. Ottaviani the Red Biretta as a Prince of the Church. Cardinals could be Cardinal-Priests, or Cardinal-Bishops. Cardinal Ottaviani remained a priest. He would resign as Pro-Prefect of the newly named "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" in 1968, when Montini (Paul VI) wanted him to give approval to "ecumenical services." Just prior to that battle, the Cardinal used every bit of his leverage and influence to successfully convince Montini not to permit artificial contraception.
In 1962, Roncalli (John XXIII) wanted all Cardinals to be Bishops by definition and would consecrate all Cardinal-priests personally. Hence, on April 19, 1962, at the main altar of St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Ottaviani was consecrated a Bishop, with Roncalli as his Principal Consecrator, and Giuseppe Cardinal Pizzardo along with Benedetto Cardinal Aloisi Masella as his Co-Consecrators.
Cardinal Ottaviani chose as his motto upon becoming a Cardinal Semper Idem---"Always the Same"---a reference to how Faith and morals can always be better understood, but can never change or become other than they were. How could they? The faith and morality of the One True Church is as unchanging as God Himself. His motto let friend and foe alike know that he was an indefatigable defender of the Deposit of Revelation against the machinations of the Modernists. He once publicly described his role at the Holy Office as that of "an old police officer guarding a reserve of gold."
Both Church and human history would have been changed for the better had Cardinal Ottaviani been elected at the ill-fated conclave of 1958. He was so sure he would be elected, he even had his regnal name picked out; Pope Pius XIII, in honor of "Papa Pacelli" whom he esteemed and admired.
At the Robber Council (which he advised against ever calling), His Eminence was the undisputed leader of the Traditionalist Bishops fighting tooth and nail against the Modernists. The Cardinal also knew talent when he saw it, and had 44 year old canonist Fr. Gommar DePauw as one of his periti (theological experts) and closest adviser. They would repeatedly lock horns with the equally undisputed leader of the demonic Modernists; the despicable Joseph Cardinal Frings of West Germany, and his top peritus, 35 year old theologian Fr. Joseph Ratzinger--the future leader of the very Vatican II sect of Counterfeit Catholicism he would help create. Fr. DePauw would spend many sleepless nights during Vatican II in strategy discussions with Cardinal Ottaviani and Bishop Blaise S. Kurz, to whom Fr. DePauw was his peritus as well.
After the disaster that was Vatican II, Cardinal Ottaviani publicly denounced the Novus Bogus bread and wine service masquerading as a Catholic Mass, in a scathing theological critique that would go on to bear his name as the Ottaviani Intervention. It was something which he would never recant, just as the Novus Bogus itself was a service ("Mass" would be a meaningless word here) which he never used. Cardinal Ottaviani had many problems with his eyes, becoming completely blind in one eye, and severely vision-impaired in the other. Yet his faith and intellect allowed him to see what was happening better with one poor eye, than most people with two perfect eyes.
On August 3, 1979, just under three months away from what would have been his 89th birthday, Cardinal Ottaviani went to Judgement. He went to meet His Judge after a life well-spent in the service of God. The highlights of his life will be examined next.
Cardinal Ottaviani: Reviled by the Communists, Modernists, and Masons
During the Robber Council Vatican II (October 11, 1962-December 8, 1965), no cleric was more constantly reviled and placed under unrelenting attack by the press than His Eminence. To any fair-minded person who knew the Cardinal, the words most used to describe him were brilliant, devout, and urbane. Yet the press put out story after story that was vehemently (even hysterically) unfavorable.
The Communist papers of Italy (literally Communist, I'm not using the word loosely in a pejorative sense) were the most vocal against him. The Italian anti-clerical press joined in, most notably L'Espresso, which would have three and one-half inch headlines attacking the Cardinal; some articles written by Carlo Falconi, a former Catholic. In the United States, the dual rags of Time and Newsweek would do their best to convince the gullible American public that His Eminence should be a discredited member of the College of Cardinals by writing articles that were notable for inaccuracy and malevolence.
The question naturally arises as to why Cardinal Ottaviani was the object of such hatred. The answer is clear: he performed his job as Pro-Prefect of the Holy Office astonishingly well, and was Cardinal-President of the Preparatory Theological Commission for the Second Vatican Council. During his time at the Holy Office, numerous books were censured and placed on The Index of Forbidden Books. Many theologians were censured, such as Teilhard de Chardin and Yves Congar. The fact that he stopped Modernists dead in their tracks, earned him the ire of the many Modernists who were "underground" as it were, and waiting to overtake the Church. Ottaviani made no secret of his contempt and condemnation of all things Communist, making them his bitter enemies as well. He was also aware of the danger of Freemasonry, making his name one subjected to seeming limitless scorn in the Lodges of Lucifer. The good Cardinal also was an influence behind Pope Pius XII publishing his famous, scholarly, and erudite encyclical Humani Generis in 1950, forcefully condemning the errors of Modernist theologians of the time.
As Cardinal-President of the Preparatory Theological Commission for the Second Vatican Council, he was the guiding force behind the original schemas, which were completely orthodox and address many errors. Never one to back down when protecting Church teaching, he publicly made it known that the documents would continue in the tradition of Counter-reformationist theology. When Roncalli (John XXIII) rehabilitated all the theologians Cardinal Ottaviani had censured under Pope Pius XII, he had them draw up new schemas after getting those originals scrapped. Cardinal Ottaviani was humiliated, and the Communists, Modernists, and Masons rejoiced.
While not formal theological terminology, "Counter-reformationist theology" was a colloquial term for the theology as organized by the masters of the Counter-reformation period, such as Melchior Cano, St. Peter Canisius, St. Robert Bellarmine, Thomas Stapleton, William Estius, Francis Suarez, and Adam Tanner. These men were unanimous in their teaching that there are some truths contained in Sacred Tradition alone which must be believed. They insist that the Roman Catholic Church is the One True Church of Jesus Christ, outside of which no one may be saved. These truths are reviled by the world, which reviled Christ Himself. Can anyone who stands with the God-Man expect to be treated any more favorably? Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. (St. Luke 6:22).
Cardinal Ottaviani: Fighting at Vatican II Against the Modernist Juggernaut
By 1962, a majority of Bishops were Modernist or Modernist-sympathizers. With false pope Roncalli (and later false pope Montini---Paul VI) aiding them, the Modernists were unstoppable. Nevertheless, the good Cardinal used his influence and his encyclopedic knowledge of procedure to try and stop them at every opportunity. Three incidents will help illustrate this point.
Frings attacks the Holy Office
On November 8, 1963, the loathsome Cardinal Frings took to the floor of the Council to address the question as to whether the powers of the Roman Curia should be at least partially taken away and given to diocesan Bishops. With an arrogance equaled by few, and surpassed by none, the leader of the Modernists directly attacked the Holy Office. "Its [the Holy Office's] procedures are out of harmony with modern times, and a source of scandal to those outside the Church. No Roman Congregation should have authority to accuse, judge, and condemn an individual who has had no opportunity to defend himself."
Cardinal Ottaviani rightfully considered the German's words as a direct attack on the papacy itself. He took to the floor immediately after Frings' time to talk was up, and he wasted no time castigating him.
"The opportunity must be taken to protest most vigorously against the condemnation of the Holy Office voiced in this Council hall. It should not be forgotten that the Prefect of the Holy Office is none other than the Sovereign Pontiff himself. The criticism formulated proceeds from a lack of knowledge, not to use a stronger term, of the procedures of this Sacred Congregation. No one is ever accused, judged, and condemned without a thorough previous investigation carried out with the help of competent consultors and experienced specialists. Besides, all decisions of the Holy Office are approved by the pope personally, and thus such criticisms are a reflection on the Vicar of Christ."
The "stronger term" Cardinal Ottaviani wanted to use was that Frings was a LIAR and CALUMNIATOR. Any canonist, whether in Frings' own diocese of Cologne, Germany or anywhere else, would have immediately known that the procedures of the Holy Office are very fair and can only have effect if approved and promulgated by the pope. What Herr Frings did was to purposely misrepresent the Holy Office to make the Congregation charged with keeping safe faith and morals look bad, and to take a cheap shot at both Cardinal Ottaviani and Pope Pius XII who had very successfully censured so many of the theologians who shared the Modernism of Frings.
The speech by Frings had its intended effect. The press reported how Cardinal Ottaviani was acting the part of "Grand Inquisitor" and was defending the Church's alleged "human rights violations" in condemning heresy. Montini (Paul VI) never ordered Frings to retract his objectively false speech, nor was he made to apologize to the Pro-Prefect Ottaviani. He was clearly with the heretics and liars.
When the debate on the topic of collegiality came up, once more, Cardinal Ottaviani took to the floor and defended the true teaching of the Church against this heresy: "Those who propose collegiality of the Bishops proceed in a vicious circle, since they presume that the Apostles existed and acted as a collegial body, and then proceed from that presumption to deduce the collegial character of the body of Bishops. And yet, learned and experienced professors of Sacred Scripture reject this thesis as without any solid foundations in the Sacred Scripture. To defend collegiality is to place a limitation on the exercise of the universal primacy of the Roman Pontiff. Yet, the fact remains that only Peter has responsibility for the entire flock. It is not the sheep who lead Peter, but it is Peter who leads the sheep." (Emphasis mine).
Frings was livid that Ottaviani (assisted this particular time by Cardinal Spellman of New York City) was clearly exposing the vacuous arguments of the Modernists and making the heretical prelates look like the sophistical fools they were. Indeed, Cardinal Spellman said in his floor speech, "Let us be careful about proposing anything that may be at variance with the decrees of previous Councils or papal pronouncements." Yet, that could only happen in the absence of the protection of the Holy Ghost promised to St. Peter and his successors. However, if Paul VI approved something contrary to previous Councils or papal pronouncements, it must mean he's NOT protected by the Holy Ghost because he is not the pope. Cardinal Spellman may have unwittingly spoken one of the premises for sedevacantism. Unfortunately, Spellman would later compromise his faith by voting for so-called "religious liberty." It would be a decision he would lament before his death with (literal) tears.
Nevertheless, Ottaviani lost the battle in the demonic press, and by the Modernists who also bullied other prelates into voting their way on collegiality.
Adamant Against Communists
Many Modernist prelates had Communist sympathies. They thought the idea of "containing Communism" as was the case in Vietnam at the time, was evil. They denounced war without condemning the cause of war: the sins of humanity and the scourge of Communism. On October 7, 1965 the Cardinal stated:
"War is not the only thing we should condemn. We should also condemn the so-called 'guerilla' warfare, a method of fighting especially employed by the Communists to bring about the subjection of peoples to Communism. We should also condemn subtle war-like acts which nations use against each, such as 'sabotage' and 'terrorism.' Neither should we forget that Communism initiates its wars --that is, its aggressions---under the guise of 'liberation.' For, to Communists, words assume a different meaning, more often than not a meaning which is contrary to that normally contained in the words themselves." Needless to say, no condemnation of Communism would ever make it out of the Council. Roncalli had already sold his soul to the Communists, agreeing that if the Communists allowed Eastern Schismatic Bishops to attend the Council, there would be no condemnation of their wicked system of government. It was dubbed the "Vatican-Moscow Agreement," and Montini honored it. Another example of ecumenism at its "finest."
Cardinal Ottaviani: Condemning The Novus Bogus "Mass"
In 1969, His Eminence met with a small group of top-notch theologians, and they put together the ultimate condemnation of the so-called "New Order (Novus Ordo) Mass." He sent Montini (Paul VI) the study with a cover letter in September of 1969, exactly five months after the "promulgation" of the Neo-Protestant bread and wine service. The study entitled A Critical Study of the New Order of the Mass, gave the dogmatic reasons explaining why the Novus Bogus must be rejected. After one month went by with no reply from Montini, the Cardinal attempted to meet with him, only to be denied an audience.
Cardinal Ottaviani asked for all Bishops willing to stand up for the Mass of Ages and opposed to an invalid counterfeit, to sign the study along with him. Only two answered the call; Bishop Blaise Kurz (exiled Bishop of the Diocese of Yungchow, China), and Antonio Cardinal Bacci. Bishop Kurz was confined to a Catholic hospital and somehow the study never reached him (!) Cardinal Bacci signed and it was made public on October 15, 1969. It gave every Catholic solid grounds for rejecting the Novus Bogus on no less than twenty-seven counts, calling it:
- a denial of all Catholic claims to be the True Church
- the overthrow of a Tradition unchanged in the Church since the fourth and fifth centuries
- satisfying even the most Modernistic of Protestants
- the systematic and tacit negation of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament
- an incredible innovation
- AN INCULCABLE ERROR (Emphasis mine)
The study was subsequently called The Ottaviani Intervention, and belongs on every Traditionalist's bookshelf; to be read at least once a year to remind us of what was taken away from us and what evil replaced it.
In 1970, there was a letter, purportedly signed by the Cardinal, retracting his endorsement and involvement in the study. His signature was obtained by fraud, as he was nearly totally blind in 1970, and the culprit was one Msgr. Gilberto Agustoni, a member of the "Concillium" which concocted the Novus Bogus with Freemason Bugnini directing it. The cardinal never retracted his condemnation, nor did he offer any "Mass" but the Traditional Mass.
Cardinal Ottaviani: Defender of the Catholic Traditionalist Movement
Fr. DePauw first heard the name Ottaviani while studying Canon Law in the seminary, where a textbook the future head of the Holy Office wrote, was part of the curriculum. Upon becoming an approved canonist himself, he never apologized to his students or colleagues for having stated that he was trying to be a faithful spiritual and intellectual disciple of Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani. He would develop a close relationship with the His Eminence at the beginning of Vatican II, when he was introduced to him by his former Ordinary, Francis Cardinal Spellman. Impressed by Fr. DePauw, he became one of Cardinal Ottaviani's periti; Father also was peritus to Bishop Kurz and Cardinal Ruffini.
Fr. DePauw launched the Catholic Traditionalist Movement on December 31, 1964, while the Council was still in session. He saw the evil coming. He made his Catholic Traditionalist Manifesto public on March 15, 1965, and refused to implement any of the changes to the Mass as it would degenerate into the "Monstrosity of 1969." Father's Ordinary at that time was the ultra-Modernist Lawrence Cardinal Shehan of Baltimore. He made it clear that he would "destroy that thorn-in-my-side DePauw" who does nothing but "hinder progress."
Cardinal Spellman got wind of this (already regretting some of his actions at the Council), and immediately went to Fr. DePauw. He told Father he would use his enormous political and legal connections to incorporate the Catholic Traditionalist Movement (CTM) in record time, and keep him safe under civil law in the United States. Ecclesiastical law was another matter. Cardinal Spellman met with Cardinal Ottaviani and told him of Shehan's intentions. His Eminence then invited Fr. DePauw to stay with him in Rome the week of August 10-16, 1965.
Father said that during that week he learned more about Church politics than he was even able to suspect during his (at that time) previous 23 years in the priesthood. He thanked God that, besides many painful eye-openers he experienced on that occasion, he learned that not all Bishops and Cardinals were cheap politicians, and that the one with whom he was staying as a guest, was a man whose scholarly brilliance was only surpassed by his simple faith and unshakable integrity.
Cardinal Ottaviani convinced Shehan to sign Fr. DePauw's excardination papers, releasing him from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and had him incardinated into the Diocese of Tivoli, a suburb of Rome, on November 15, 1965. Tivoli allowed Father to continue with the CTM. When Shehan realized what His Eminence had done, he had a conniption. He denied having signed the excardination papers, and "suspended" Fr. DePauw, ordering him to return to Baltimore. Tivoli had allowed Bishop Kurz to have Fr. DePauw under his personal episcopal jurisdiction.
Bp. Kurz went toe to toe with Shehan, and on January 17, 1966 made the following public declaration carried by the news media; it read in pertinent part:
"I consider any attack on Father DePauw, at whatever the source or with whatever person that attack may originate, as an attack on my personal integrity as a Bishop of the Catholic Church. I most solemnly declare that the statements released by Father DePauw to the media [about his being incardinated with Bp. Kurz after release by Shehan--Introibo] ...contain the truth and nothing but the truth." (Emphasis mine).Then on May 22, 1966 at the Garden City Hotel in Long Island, NY, Bishop Kurz made the following historical step at a press conference when he stated to the world:
"I recommend the Catholic Traditionalist Movement to all Catholics willing to defend our Church. While the active leadership of the Catholic Traditionalist Movement will remain with Father DePauw, I have today accepted the position offered me by that Movement's Board of Directors, and will henceforth publicly function as Bishop-Moderator of the Catholic Traditionalist Movement."
Bp. Kurz further publicly challenged the odious Shehan to go to the Vatican and let Paul VI decide if he really signed those papers or not. Not one to mince words, he stated that if he was too cowardly to do so, then apologize like a man and undo the damage his calumny caused Fr. DePauw. Shehan never responded, and ran like the coward he was. The heroic response of Bp. Kurz was only possible thanks to the behind the scenes work of Cardinal Ottaviani.
When Fr. DePauw was leaving Rome in December of 1965, to publicly defend the Catholic Faith and denounce Vatican II, Cardinal Ottaviani gave him a letter containing his advice to him. It read in part:
Son, my prayers and blessings are with you. You will need them. You will have to suffer a great deal once you are back in the States. But, be strong. Watch every word you say. Be charitable even in regard to those who do not practice charity to you. I worry that they will even try to make life materially impossible for you. But, you must persevere. You are fighting for God's truth and our Holy Mother Church. I am behind you. Always keep me informed. As long as I live, no one in Rome will ever touch you. And, if I live a few more years, by the time I leave this vale of tears, you will be so solidly entrenched that no one in Rome will touch you then either.
His words came true. Thanks to Father's wealthy Belgian father, he was always materially well-off. Yet he suffered much from the constant harassment of the Modernists.
It is my belief that in the Church's darkest hour, the Most Holy Trinity raised up a quartet of holy clerics to keep the One True Church going. They did the best they could under the unique circumstances of the time as they then understood it. Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, Antonio Cardinal Bacci, Bishop Blaise S. Kurz, and Father Gommar A. DePauw, shall one day be known as the heroes of the Church they are, and who paved the way for others to do what they could. I respect other clerics who fought for the Church, but at the beginning of the Great Apostasy, you did not hear the names of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Bishop Alfred Mendez, or Archbishop Peter Thuc. They would not come out until after those brave "first responders."
What made Cardinal Ottaviani and the other three great clerics stand out was the Gift of Fortitude. One of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost received at Confirmation, fortitude is defined as, "... a firmness of mind in doing good and in avoiding evil, particularly when it is difficult or dangerous to do so, and the confidence to overcome all obstacles, even deadly ones, by virtue of the assurance of everlasting life." Can anyone reading the above post deny that Cardinal Ottaviani was a man of fortitude? It was my God-given honor and blessing to have known Fr. DePauw as my spiritual father for almost 24 years. I still miss him, and I'm afraid we will never see the likes of him again.
Evil people continue to lie and calumniate these four Churchmen of fortitude. However, the facts of history will not change, no matter how hard people may try. The great assurance of our Faith also tells us that death is not "good-bye," but "so long for now." I am comforted by the words of Sacred Scripture:
But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery: And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace. (Wisdom 3:1-3).