I have a certain feeling of sympathy towards Pius XII, his obvious antipathy towards Hitler, his personal desire to help the Jews in Rome, the huge moral dilemma he lived with constantly, of the temptation to make an outright condemnation of Nazism but fearing the consequences, even his ambiguous relationship with Italian Facism, it makes him human. At the dawn of the age of mass communication he strode the world stage as the embodiment of Catholicism, a counter-weight to those other huge men who strode the world stage and embodied Russia or Germany. It was an age of men who were in a sense 'manufactured' and projected onto the cinema screen in huge images or whose words for the first time could be heard not by at most a few thousand but by millions.
In the case of Pope Pius there is something endearing about his neurotic belief in monkey glands and quack medicine and that strange nun that governed the papal apartments. What I have never been able to understand is the reverence those who style themselves 'trad' Catholics have for him, he was after all the patron of those ant-heroes of the traddie world like Bugnini et al.
The good Fr Hunwicke is back, he makes the suggestion that Vatican II was really not that important, that Pius XII had already laid the foundations for radical liturgical reform.
The fontal point is this: The process of change was already firmly in place. I do not think that the Council, in fact, made any real difference whatsoever. My train of thought was started by reading some words which Annibale Bugnini wrote in the Preface to his 1956 Commentary on the new Holy Week liturgy. I give my own translation of his Latin:Fr Hunwicke's point is that previous Pope's had seen themselves as 'guardians' of Tradition, whilst Pius XII saw himself as the Pope could do anything. Personally. I can't help but see him as another of those Colossi of the 20th century who thought they could do anything.
"When the Easter Vigil had been restored, a certain keen liturgist did not hesitate to assert: Pope Pius XII, in the history of Liturgy through the ages, will be 'The Restorer of the Easter Vigil'. Now, indeed, by the help of God's grace he is to be called 'The Restorer of Holy Week'; while in the secret of our hearts we do not doubt that still greater things await this indefatigable Labourer, and it is very likely (nec veritatis specie caret) that He will be 'The Restorer of the entire Sacred Liturgy'".
I concur with wise Fr Hunwicke's conclusion.
I think it will be very interesting to see, over the medium term, how Pope Francis understands his Ministry. It can be easy for a good man with admirable motives and who is facing real problems to use the power which his position gives him to take short cuts. It takes a very learned and a very truly humble Pontiff - such as a Benedict XIV or a Benedict XVI - to understand, and to internalise his perception of, what he ought not to do (and I'm not only talking about Liturgy). Pope Francis's two recent utterances which bear upon the Hermeneutic of Continuity make me cautiously optimistic. If this man can consolidate the gains made by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI and at the same time prudently develop the teaching of the Magisterium about the Preferential Option for the Poor, he could turn out to be a great Pontiff.