Book Review: The Godmother: Madre Pascalina, a Feminine Tour de Force
Charles Theodore Murr is a Catholic Priest from the archdiocese of New York now retired. During his time as a Seminarian in Rome in the 1970s, he had the blessing of befriending the great Madre Pascalina (1894-1983), the secretary to Ven. Pius XII, and claiming her as his godmother. The two enjoyed a close spiritual friendship and spent countless Roman afternoons discussing the state of the Church during the twilight of Papa Montini’s pontificate. Murr’s book The Godmother recounts these conversations and offers a view at the Church crisis from the closest confidant of Pius XII, providing a unique perspective from her who had been the most powerful woman in the Vatican. The book was published in 2017 before the “summer of shame” and very few took notice. But now as we have endured these few years of scandal and the debate about Vatican II has once again been opened by Archbishop Viganò, Murr’s book deserves another look by faithful Catholics.
Most books which discuss the subject of controversy in the Vatican are sensationalist, pessimistic, or else wildly speculative. Murr’s book manages to avoid these pitfalls and makes for great reading. The conversations as recorded by Murr create a friendly and cordial look at a dire situation in the 1970s. Madre Pascalina may indeed be a saint, because there is a saintly charm that runs through this book, even as numerous dark stories are told.
Taylor Marshall “Infiltration” Book Review
The British publication Mass of Ages graciously accepted my book review of Taylor Marshall’s Infiltration.
I am happy to say that the Summer, 2020 issue is now available for free viewing. Turn to page 40.
You are not going to want to miss this one, folks. Trust me.
In this book, Taylor Marshall firmly maintains that the Catholic Church has been literally infiltrated by her enemies, thereby experiencing a massive campaign of disruption and distortion. A particular area in which Marshall advances this thesis pertains to the influence of the Vincentian priest, and later Archbishop, Annibale Bugnini (1912-1982) in the liturgical reforms of the mid-twentieth century. This review focuses on Marshall’s presentation of Bugnini’s influence upon these reforms and in particular of Marshall’s claim that Bugnini was involved with Freemasonry. It will be argued that, despite his eagerness to find evidence of ‘infiltration’ and his animus against Bugnini, Marshall actually misses some important evidence in favor of Bugnini’s membership of the Italian Freemasons.
Beautiful Quote from Mother Pascalina Lehnert
In 2017, I had the opportunity to read Fr. Charles Theodore Murr’s book The Godmother: Mother Pascalina, a Feminine Tour de Force.
For those who do not know, Mother Pascalina was the right hand of Pope Pius XII. She was, arguably, the most powerful woman in the Vatican during Pius’ pontificate. There has been much written about her over the years, some good, some not so good. I do not pretend to be an expert on Mother Pascalina’s life, but I am interested in learning more about her. Enter Fr. Murr’s book.
Sowers of the Current Chaos
For keen insight into some of the malevolent forces at work in the Church right now, an unexpected source is a fascinating book by Father Charles Theodore Murr, titled, The Godmother: Madre Pascalina. Published in May 2017, for the centenary of Fatima, it is one of the most interesting yet underreported Catholic books of recent years.
The impetus was Fr. Murr’s utterly unique relationship with the figure closest to Pope Pius XII: Sister Josephine Lehnert (1894-1983). Mother Pascalina was so close to, so trusted by, and so influential to Pope Pius XII, that wise-guys around the Vatican alternately called her La Popessa and Virgo Potens (Powerful Virgin).
Charles Murr was a young American seminarian in Rome in the 1970s. He had a lifelong special devotion to Pius XII. He knew about the iconic Madre Pascalina. Over dinner one day at Il Scarpone restaurant with his colorful friend Monsignor Mario Marini—a classic boisterous Italian who held an important job at the Vatican Secretariat of State—Charlie learned that the old nun was still alive.
“She’s alive?” he asked with astonishment.
Cardinal Edouard Gagnon
Published November, 2007, Catholic Insight.
"A faithful pastor who, with an evangelical spirit, consecrated his life in service to Christ and His Church” — Pope Benedict XVI.
In the death of Cardinal Gagnon, Canada has lost one of its most illustrious churchmen. He was a holy, learned and courageous teacher and defender of Life and the Faith.
The Basic Statistics
Eduard Gagnon was born in the small Gaspe town of Port Daniel in 1918, the third of thirteen children. His mother was part Irish, his father French Canadian, a carpenter. The family moved to Montreal in his childhood. He went from altar boy to seminarian and was ordained a Sulpician priest in 1940. He remained at the seminary a year longer to obtain his doctorate in theology.
In 1941 he was sent to study Canon Law at Laval in Quebec City and in three years obtained his doctorate. On his return to Montreal he taught moral theology and canon law for ten years at the Grand Seminary.
The Blessings of Betrayal
The Betrayal of Christ by Caravaggio 1573 – 1610
Dante reserved for the traitors the lowest circle of hell, the frozen river of Cocytus, where the divine justice submerges forever those who betrayed the people who trusted and loved them. As Dante tells us in the Epistle to Cangrande, however, the subject of his poem is not just the fate of the soul after death but, when “taken allegorically, the poem’s subject is man, either gaining or losing merit through his freedom of will.”
Dante also wants to tell us, therefore, about the effect of betrayal on the soul of the betrayer in this life . In approaching that question, Dante says something astounding: “The moment a soul betrays, its body is taken by a devil, who has it then in his control until the time allotted it has run,” while the betrayer’s soul “falls headlong into this cesspool” in hell. Probably based on John 13:27 (immediately after Jesus identified Judas as his betrayer, “Satan entered his heart”), the allegorical meaning seems to be that the psychology of the betrayer is that of a literal devil”a will confirmed in evil, a will that strikes at the good out of pure hatred for the good.
The Society of Judas (a new novel by first-time author C. Theodore Murr takes up a related question”the psychological effect of betrayal not on the betrayer but on the betrayed. What is it like for a fundamentally good man to be betrayed by someone he trusts implicitly? Worse, by a group of his former friends working together? “God help you when a friend sets out to betray you,” a mentor tells Charlie Mauer at the beginning of The Society of JudaS. “Your enemies can’t betray you, Charlie, only a friend can betray”but when friends collaborate for a betrayal . . . who could emerge victorious against . . . a whole ‘Society of Judas’?”
"Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States."
Dante and Virgil in hell by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
J. F Powers meets Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Society of Judas relates a chilling story of high ideals and human failures, set in a surreal world south of the border. As I read it, the words of Porfirio Diaz came to mind: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.” The protagonist is a zealous priest who finds himself uprooted from the hushed corridors of the Vatican and dropped (against his wishes) into a poor Mexican town. Dusting himself off and accepting this new state of affairs, he hopes to reverse Diaz’s saying by using American resources to build an orphanage and church to draw the villagers closer to God.
Dreams can become nightmares, and Father Mauer finds himself tangled in a web of treachery and deceit worthy of the pen of Graham Greene. As the story unfolds the reader marvels, not only at the depth of malevolence, but at the fact that it is carried out by “the devout”: prelates, nuns, lay people who have vowed themselves to the highest standards of Christian discipleship. Corruptio optimi pessima: it is precisely the religious commitment of the actors that makes this drama so chilling.