Canonizing Pope Paul VI, CIA Collaborator

February 7, 2018

Canonizing Pope Paul VI, CIA Collaborator

Apparently the canonization of Pope Paul VI may culminate this year. He was pontiff from 1963 to 1978, presiding over the latter part of the Second Vatican Council and issuing Humanae Vitae, which defended Catholic opposition to artificial contraception.

Less recalled is his role across 30 years in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State under Pope Pius XII, which included his apparent collaboration with the CIA in covertly opposing the Communists in Italy’s dicey 1948 election. A new biography of CIA legend James Angleton, an Episcopalian whose mother was Catholic, recounts he reportedly was close to and met regularly with the future Pope, then Monsignor Giovanni Montini, to synchronize support for Italy’s Christian Democratic Party. (The Matt Damon character in the 2006 film The Good Shepherd is partly based on Angleton.)

It was widely feared Italian Communism, backed by the Soviet Union, could prevail in post-WWII Italy, which was impoverished, chaotic and still recovering from Fascist rule. The Christian Democrats, who hearkened to Catholic social teaching, were the best hope for a democratic, pro-Western and free market Italy that could prosper. A Communist Italy would have been a huge addition to Stalin’s growing slave empire behind the Iron Curtain. At the same time Greece’s royalist government was in virtual civil war with a communist insurrection. The new Truman Doctrine in 1947 announced USA support for Greece and Turkey in their resistance to Soviet expansionism.

American support for Italy’s Christian Democrats was not so public, and possibly millions of dollars were channeled to them, sometimes cooperatively with the Catholic Church. Mythology recalls satchels of lira transmitted quietly. The new Angleton biography claims Monsignor Montini was given control of a CIA subsidized slush fund at the Vatican Bank for campaign purposes.

With or without CIA help, the Christian Democrats won a big victory in 1948 and governed Italy for the rest of the Cold War, with the opposition Communists remaining unacceptable to still mostly Catholic Italy. To the extent future Pope Pope Paul VI assisted this campaign in 1948 and afterwards to keep Italy democratic, good for him. Presumably his role will not be cited in his canonization, any more than Pope John Paul II’s collaboration with the Reagan Administration against Polish and East European Communism was cited in his canonization. But their opposition to totalitarian enslavement of their native lands, respectively Italy and Poland, and beyond, further exemplifies their service to God and humanity.

IRD emeritus board member George Weigel notes that when the Catholic Church self-protectively tried to reach accommodations with vicious dictatorships, the results were shameful, whether with Italy’s Fascists, the Third Reich, or East European Communism. Now he warns against an apparent Vatican accommodation of China’s repressive regime, which seeks to preempt the Catholic Church in China.

Christian political witness has always been more heroic when it sided against tyranny and in favor of lawful freedom not just for Christians but for all people. In 1948 that entailed future Pope Paul VI secretly collaborating with James Angleton and the CIA against Italian Communism and for Christian Democracy. We can be grateful.


3 Responses to Canonizing Pope Paul VI, CIA Collaborator

  1. Ruth Ann Eiermann says:

    Thanks for the Truthful historical information on Pope Paul VI a and John Paul I.

  2. ROBERT J. TROJAK says:

    Why not address this to our current Pop who is thinking of selling out the Holy Seas directive of the FAITH in China to the Chines communist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Neil Gastonguay says:

    Paul VI is one of the most underrated figures of the 20th century. John XXIII opened the windows of the church, but it was Paul who had to deal with the gale force winds that those open windows released. He managed to keep Catholicism together as the winds of change cracked its facade, and he took the Papacy out of its sheltered Vatican palaces into the world where his people live. His act of kissing the foot of Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras was the bravest and most powerful statement of change of any pope, certainly in the 20th century. Glad to see the recognition by the church of the Pope who may have saved it from its own implosion.

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