Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Pius XII’s Great Goals and Means for the Restoration of
the Christian Social Order
Tradition, Family and Property Magazine, January-February 1994, pages 7-11
On November 9, 1993, the Spanish edition of Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII was released in Santiago, de Chilean capital.
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira dictated a speech for this event which was attended by over 300 Andean admirer of a true social order: the Christian order.
One of the most important —though not one of the most noted— results of World War I was a transformation and indeed a revolution not only in the political and economic ﬁelds but also in the mentalities, usages and customs prevalent until then. Much of what had been deemed essential, elevated, sublime, perhaps untouchable, was pitilessly and ingloriously swept away by the whirlwind of events and replaced by mentalities, usages, and customs diametrically opposed to the old.
An analogous phenomenon occurred aﬁer World War ll, which allows us to state that this troubled century’s two great wars —let us pray there will not be a third— were two great revolutions.
Justice mandates that it be known that Pius Xll attempted to diminish the effects of these revolutions by means of admirably wise instructions in his fourteen allocutions to the Roman patriciate and nobility.
In the aﬁermath of the second war, the Pontiff speciﬁcally stated that “this time the work of restoration is incomparably more immense, more delicate and more complex. It is not a question of bringing one sole nation back to normalcy. One can say that the entire world must be rebuilt; the universal order must be re-established.
The material order, the intellectual order, the moral order —all must be remade and set back in a regular, constant motion. The tranquil order that is peace, that is the only true peace, cannot be reborn and endure except by building human society upon Christ, so as to gather, recapitulate, reunite everything in Him” (allocution of January 14, 1945).
Whoever reads the Pontiff’s documents readily sees that he intended to oppose the immense revolution with a reaction in the opposite direction, a counterrevolution that would save from ruin so many traditions and even enable the rise and regeneration of many other traditions that still had a reason for existing but had disintegrated.
As was to be expected, there were those who supposed that because the author of the allocutions addressed only the nobility and analogous elites he counted solely on them for such an endeavor. Perhaps those who thought this judged that only they could understand, love and defend these traditions, of which they were bearers.
And indeed Pius XII was convoking these elites in a special way to this great mission —which is understandable, for these elites are a guarantee of the continuity of the values that according to the Pontiff should not disappear.
The collaboration the Pope wanted from them must be considered in its entirety. His request for collaboration was not addressed only to the members of this elite who still possessed enough riches to irradiate all the prestige of their forefathers. They were not the only ones the Pope was asking to place all their force of impact at the service of this counterrevolution.
He was counting also, and particularly, on the members of this social class who due to the misfortunes of war no longer had the material resources to exercise their inﬂuence. These persons, bearers of a great name, even though often reduced ﬁnancially to a shocking extent, were supposed to exemplify to the common people the essence of true nobility and the best it can provide. They were to be an example of all the virtue, greatness of soul and moral dignity that can continue intact in a noble person and be irradiated by him to the other social classes even when he has been deprived of all kinds of material goods.
There was more. Pius XII clearly counted on the whole social body not only to save the remaining elites and their traditions, but also to give rise to elites that would take a place next to them. Traditional elites, animated by a truly Catholic spirit, should give origin to habits, customs and forms of power to face new situations. And they should do this without destroying or contradicting the past in the least, but rather by complementing it when necessary.
In view of this high end, it would have been reasonable for Pius XII to think of founding a speciﬁc association or institution, from which he might request a new effort in new circumstances. Something like the famous boarding school of Saint-Cyr, established by the Marquise of Maintenon, the morganatic wife of Louis XIV, to succor the many noble French girls whose parents had fallen into poverty.
But obviously Pope Pius XII did not place the best of his hopes in this.
It must be noted that when the Pontiff spoke about these hopes, though defending a past in face of new situations, he promoted the cause of tradition and nobility as much as possible. Consequently, his words have the value of a warm incentive, of an ardent desire, of a precise instruction: “Far from forcing you into a proud isolation, your origin should incline you to penetrate all levels of society, to communicate to them a love of perfection, of spiritual cultivation, of dignity, that feeling of compassionate solidarity that is the ﬂower of Christian civilization” (allocution of 1945).
This being the case, we must ask ourselves on what else was Pius XII counting?
There can be no doubt that Pope Pacelli appreciated associations organized for worthy speciﬁc ends, as he clearly showed in his support of Catholic Action and the Marian Congregations in the Apostolic Constitution Bis Seculari Diae. Yet he was also counting on other resources.
One has the impression that in the mind of the Pontiff success could only be achieved with the collaboration of the whole social body.
Society viewed as a great body constituted not only by institutions and societies, but also by the multitude of individuals who develop a merely personal action in favor of the common good, is a social power of the ﬁrst order. Pius XII was counting on this great body.
This concept is a far cry from the servitude to which so often the media reduces peoples and nations by supplanting the organic organizations that should have a true inﬂuence over society.
Anymore, without the approval of the media, or at least its principal organs, it is nearly impossible for a cause to succeed. Much is said about democracy, but the truth of the matter is that in our so-called democracies the decisive power is usually in the hands of media leaders.
Pius XII could have resorted to them. It would have been easy and convenient. They would have heeded his pleas. Or at least pretended to.
As is only natural, Pius XII did desire their effective collaboration. And on several points he obtained it. But in his allocutions to the Roman patriciate and nobility the media does not ﬁgure as an essential element in the general picture of an ideal society. The probable reason for this may be that there is a permanent temptation to inauthenticity at the heart of media leadership, and it is well known that many times human weakness docs not resist the permanent temptation to walk in the ways of untruth.
So on what power was Pius XII counting? It was ﬁrstly and evidently the power of God Almighty: the Power who granted victory to Constantine at Milvian Bridge and to John of Austria at Lepanto, to mention but two outstanding historical examples. .
In fact, from the teachings of Pius XII we can infer that a powerful global impact can be achieved if every Catholic who hears him strives, individually, to fulﬁll his duty by applying them especially in his own circles.
We should see in these allocutions, above all, the Pontiff’s great desire that each person make his own the papal aspirations and ideals, and concentrate on realizing them principally among those with whom he lives and works. If all Catholics —proud to collaborate with the Pope in what is undoubtedly a great crusade, perhaps the crusade of the twentieth century— would devote themselves to this task, no organization or coalition could impede the Catholic victory.
The victory of great causes is not achieved so much by large armies as by the individual action of vast multitudes imbued with great ideals and ready for all sacrifices in order to win: “ln an advanced society like our own, which will have to be restored and reordered after the great cataclysm, the responsibilities of the leaders are rather diverse; the leader is the man of State, of governement, the politician; the leader is the worker who, without resorting to violence, threats or insidious propaganda, but through his own worth, is able to gain authority and standing among his peers; the leaders are all those in their respective ﬁelds, the engineer, the jurist, the diplomat, the economist, without whom the material, social and international world would go adrift; the leaders are the university professor, the orator, the writer, all of whom aim at molding and guiding spirits; the leader is the military officer who infuses the hearts of his soldiers with a sense of duty, service and sacriﬁce; the leader is the doctor carrying out his mission of restoring health; the leader is the priest who directs souls onto the path of light and salvation, providing assistance for advancing safely along the road” (allocution of 1945).
This statement deserves to be emphasized, because too many people reduce their whole life to the carefree conﬁnes of personal convenience, exempting themselves from any obligation toward great causes by comfortably claiming that individual action has been rendered useless in this century when human masses —whether crowded in Babylonian urban concentrations or scattered throughout the globe— are constantly subject to the psychological and ideological manipulations of the media.
The importance of the individual action of each person must be stressed so those who do nothing cannot excuse themselves by alleging the uselessness of making any effort because they are powerless and their personal inﬂuence is so minute. If every one, from the greatest to the smallest, gives himself to the endeavor indicated by the Pontiff, victory is certain.
This is the central thought of Pius XII.
When presenting it, I am far from wanting to discourage the organized efforts of associations and social groups that wish to promote such a great good and that can efﬁcaciously aid the fulﬁllment of the huge common task. My only desire is that they have the immense united collaboration of all those who are open to the teachings of Pius Xll.
To evaluate the enormous power of this collaboration allow me to recall a well-known historical anecdote.
When Napoleon’s power in Italy was reaching its apogee, one of the generals of the young Corsican asked him how the reigning Pope should be treated. Bonaparte’s answer was fulminating: “Treat him like a general who has imposing armies under him.” The white-haired occupant of the Throne of Peter, in the eyes of many just an old man who could do little, was a power in the eyes of the shrewd Napoleon. Why? Because an innumerable multitude of persons, apparently without inﬂuence, importance, capacity, or strength of individual impact; recognized in him the Vicar of Christ and were ready to do everything for him. This coalition of seemingly worthless faithful frightened the man at whose sight the kings of the earth trembled.
A proper historical analysis will show that one of the reasons for Napoleon’s isolation and fall after Waterloo was the absence at his side of the “General” who could command the invisible but frightening armies of those who are small in the eyes of men but whose prayers and sacriﬁces are all-powerful at the feet of the throne of God.
In other words, the Church no longer looked kindly on the apparent winner of Europe.
Napoleon no longer had the sympathy of innumerable simple and honest folk; of people who had hoped he would restore the rights of the Church from the ruins to which the French Revolution had impiously attempted to reduce her; of people who had expected his sword to be the defense of so many overthrown legitimacies in the spheres of public and individual rights. He no longer had the sympathy of those who, having seen him ask Pius VII to crown him in Notre Dame, conceived great hopes that this gesture would be a recognition of the divine origin of power, only to be proven wrong when Napoleon instead of allowing the Pope to place the imperial crown on his head took it into his own hands to proudly crown himself, thus denying the power he was supposedly going to restore.
But another famous anecdote illustrates the abandonment the tyrant would bring upon himself by his ambiguous when not openly anti-religious policy.
It is said that when Bonaparte’s troops were marching victoriously on Moscow, a special envoy of Alexander l requested and was granted an audience with him. When lunchtime came, they were still in the middle of their negotiations, and Bonaparte invited the delegate of the Czar of all the Russias to eat with him. During the meal they began to discuss the many religious ediﬁces the invading monarch had noticed on Russian territory. Wanting to attribute the weakness of the Russian resistance to an excess of religiousness, Napoleon asked if Russia was the European nation that spent the most on religious buildings.
The envoy of Alexander I quickly answered: “No, Sir, we’re on par with Spain.” Precisely at this historical moment the heroism of Catholics in the Iberian Peninsula was inﬂicting unprecedented humiliating defeats on Napoleon’s greatest generals. Understanding the allusion and the admirable military scope of the Iberian religious fervor, Napoleon kept silent. Soon after, the ﬁre of Moscow began and Napoleon had to retreat from Russia.
During the sufferings of Waterloo, Napoleon may have remembered everything he was lacking to attain victory and understood better than ever the importance of the religious factor, even in the face of the most powerful generals.
The presence of this factor strengthens even more than its absence weakens. Such is the power of the multitudes of faithful who bring to success the works of the Popes and who, when moved by the wind of the Holy Spirit, feel capable of what Camoes termed with such striking beauty, “Christian feats of daring” (Lusiadas, VII, 14).
It was considerations like these that ﬁlled the heart of Pope Pacelli with hope as he delivered his famous allocutions to the Roman patriciate and nobility.
At Clermont, so many centuries ago, “God wills it!” became the unanimous cry of feudal warriors until then indolent in face of the Moslem danger. The action of the Holy Spirit, making itself felt through the impressive mystical inﬂections of Blessed Pope Urban II’s voice, ignited in these sleepy souls the sublime ﬁre of the combativity of the crusaders.
And the course of History changed.
The voice of Pius XII still resounds in his allocutions to the Roman patriciate and nobility. Hence these allocutions —which did not succeed in shaking the inertia of so many Catholics in the days they were delivered— seem today to be admirably viviﬁed by a renewal of graces. A renewal of graces that leads ever more numerous legions of our contemporaries to desire the restoration of a Christian society, where in an atmosphere of peace the tranquility of order will reign and where for the sake of the common good all legitimate hierarchies will be respected.
And this is why Pius XII’s allocutions to the Roman patriciate and nobility are reprinted, with renewed ardor for this grand ideal, in the book we launch today, as we bring back to life days of eﬁicacy and glory in ever larger areas of civilization in our Westem world.