The connection is “highly disturbing”, especially in the light of Fatima, as this story from Catholic World Report reveals.
“As the Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, there is one lesser-known—and some would argue highly disturbing—aspect of the Council that has tended to be overlooked: the absence of any reference to, or condemnation of, Communism in the Council’s documents, despite the fact that the Soviet Union was at that time at the height of its powers.
“Over the years, many have speculated over the causes of the omission, while others have pondered the consequences, both for today’s Catholic Church and the wider world.
“In recent years, the veil of mystery over the omission has gradually been lifted, as historians have uncovered irrefutable evidence explaining how the absence of any reference to Communism in the documents came about.
“The omission came as a surprise at the time, as until the Second Vatican Council, the Church had repeatedly spoken out against Communism in its teachings. Its condemnations were clear and unmistakeable, consistent with those of Pope Pius XII, who was unfaltering in his denunciations of Communism until his death in 1958.
“In the vota of the Council Fathers—thousands of recommendations gathered from key Church figures just prior to the Council sessions—Communism figured high on the lists of concerns. Indeed for many, it appeared to be the most important area singled out for condemnation.
“Historians argue that a number of factors contributed to Communism not being mentioned at all during the Council. The first was the unfortunate timing of the Council. “It was the sixties and a new spirit of optimism hung over the world,” explains Italian Church historian Roberto De Mattei, author of Il Concilio Vaticano II – Una storia mai scritta (Vatican II – An Untold Story). “It was during this period that a ‘thawing’ of realities, already defined by the Magisterium as antithetical, ensued.”
“In particular, Pope John XXIII’s last encyclical, Pacem in Terris, is thought to have played a key role in this change of approach to Communism. For De Mattei, the encyclical “proved decisive,” as it gave the impression of “wanting to overturn the Church’s position against Communism, removing, in fact, every condemnation, even if only verbal.” The Vatican’s policy of “Ostpolitik”—opening the Church up to the Communist countries of the East through dialogue—is believed to have found its roots in the 1963 encyclical. It was taken up by Msgr. Agostino Casaroli, who, at that time, was effectively the Holy See’s deputy foreign minister, but who would later become Vatican Secretary of State.
“But why would John XXIII allow such a break with the hitherto firm line against Communism? Some believe that he had, if not sympathy, then a predisposition to look upon Communism with a degree of ill-founded optimism.
“One commonly held theory, which one can’t prove, is that John XXIII had good relations with [Soviet President] Khrushchev,” says Father Norman Tanner, a Jesuit expert on the Council at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. Certainly, it has been recorded that Khrushchev visited the Pope at the Vatican, and that John XXIII was delighted to receive birthday greetings from the Soviet leader when the Pope turned 80. In response, John XXIII asked Khrushchev to demonstrate the Soviet leader’s sincerity for better relations by improving the plight of Catholics—in particular, allowing the imprisoned head of the Ukrainian Uniate church, Archbishop Jozsef Slipyi, to emigrate, a request Khrushchev granted in 1963.
“Paul VI also met several times with Soviet officials. These meetings mostly took place after the Council, however, and the efforts were largely in vain: Soviet concessions to the Vatican proved to be mostly meagre in the years that followed.
“But another motive stood behind this push towards détente: that of fostering better ecumenical relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. As part of his desire for greater openness of the Church to other Christians and faiths, John XXIII strongly wanted members of the Russian Orthodox Church—then deeply entrenched with the Kremlin and the KGB—to take part in the Council. The Pope also wanted Catholic bishops from Russia and its satellite states to be allowed to attend the Council sessions. It would be “a kind of quid pro quo,” says Tanner. But to achieve these goals, John XXIII appears to have been prepared to make an extraordinary concession: that the Council refrain from making “hostile declarations” on Russia.
“In a 2007 book called The Metz Agreement, veteran French essayist Jean Madiran gathers a number of sourced claims, testifying that a deal was hatched during Soviet-arranged secret talks in 1962. The meeting, Madiran says, took place in Metz, France, between Metropolitan Nikodim, the Russian Orthodox Church’s then-“foreign minister,” and Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, a senior French Vatican official. Metropolitan Nikodim was, according to Moscow archives, a KGB agent.
“Various sources have since confirmed that an agreement was reached, instructing the Council not to make any direct attack on Communism. The Orthodox then agreed to accept the Vatican’s invitation to send a number of observers to the Council.
“Being a secret, verbal agreement, concrete evidence has proven elusive, but De Mattei says he found “a handwritten note” from Paul VI in the Vatican’s Secret Archives confirming the existence of this agreement. Madiran also backs De Mattei’s claim, saying that in the memo, Paul VI stated he would explicitly mention “the commitments of the Council,” including that of “not talking about Communism (1962).” Madiran stresses that the date in parentheses is significant, as it refers directly to the Metz agreement between Tisserant and Nikodim.
“The Vatican would firmly adhere to the agreement during the Council, insisting that Vatican II remain politically neutral. Even a petition of more than 400 Council priests, representing 86 different countries, to include a formal condemnation of Communism in the decrees was rejected. The petition, presented during the Council’s final session on October 9, 1965, “was not even sent to the Commission working on the document,” De Mattei says, “resulting in a huge scandal.” Surprisingly, even Bishop Karol Wojtyla, who would later become John Paul II but was then a bishop at the Council, was one of those who rejected the petition.
“The result is that the constitution Gaudium et Spes, the 16th and final document promulgated by the Council and intended as an entirely new definition of the relationship between the Church and the world, lacked any form of condemnation of Communism. “The Council’s silence on Communism,” says De Mattei, “was indeed an impressive omission of the historical meeting.”