Collision Course

The polemics engendered by the beatification of Pope Pius IX are unlikely to go away. When all the false charges of antisemitism are set aside, the fact remains that this one man may have done more to stem the tide of liberalism than all the great English and American conservatives of the past two centuries put together, and the new biography (more of an apologia, really) by Prof. Roberto de Mattel has had the remarkable effect of establishing the context for this great man's career.

And he was a great man, who stood like the archangel Michael before the gates of hell, saving "no" to the social and political heresies of the 19th century (they were also the heresies of the 20th) and smiting hip and thigh all the domestic enemies of Christendom: modernists and liberals, laicizing Catholic nationalists and Christian socialists, and all the weaklings who even then were willing to compromise with the enemy.

By one of the quirks of history, the Pope who stood in the way of Italian units' was also one of the most unusual geniuses of the 19th century. Born into an aristocratic family in 1792, Giovanni Mastai Ferretti was, despite his epilepsy, a brilliant student of the classics. He was encouraged by his mother to study for the priesthood, but he was ordained with the provision that, because of his condition, he was not allowed to say Mass without an assistant. Once he became a priest, the malady went away.


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