The Personal Diaries of Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton

The Personal Diaries of Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton

(1906-1969)

(by gloria.michaels@yahoo.com) 

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(by T. Stanfill Benns)

A friend forwarded this to me recently, and in compliance with the request of the compiler, I am sharing it with readers. It appears the material was taken from the Novus Ordo Watch site, but its inclusion here should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement of that site or any of its operators. As I have been a longtime admirer of Monsignor Fenton’s and have quoted him at length in my own works, I have personally read all these journals, and towards the end of this document I have provided additional excerpts from them which I felt were appropriate. Fenton’s insights concerning the close of the 1950s era of the Church and the early Vatican 2 era are invaluable. While his evaluation of Pope Pius XII may seem somewhat harsh, it was never lacking in respect. It must be remembered that Fenton did not have the information that only later became available in the wake of the Church’s demise. He saw its beginning, but could never in his wildest dreams have envisioned the totality of its consequences.

One thing brought out most clearly in these journals is the fact that even members of the hierarchy, well-schooled in theology, were constantly researching and updating their knowledge base, refashioning their writing direction as they learned and better understood the revealed truths defined by the Church. Monsignor Fenton was no exception to this rule, as he noticeably demonstrates below in his journals. If even highly trained theologians had to scramble to make sense of the devastation that was Vatican 2, then surely the laity, trying to puzzle out what really happened all these years, cannot be faulted if they made some detours along the way.

The sense one leaves with, in finishing the journals Fenton left us, is that fading light that once was the magnificence of Rome. The good monsignor may have known that he had booked on the equivalent of the Titanic, but he could not have foreseen how few would survive the wreck of St. Peter’s Barque. Monsignor Fenton died of congestive heart failure, after suffering a series of heart attacks that began in the mid to late 1950s. At about this time he was beginning to clearly see to what extent a new sort of Modernism had invaded the Church. Perhaps he, like Pope St. Pius X, really died of a broken heart, after working so long and hard to defend and promote the Church he had loved all his life.

Michaels’ review of Msgr. Fenton’s journals begins below.

Explosive Background on Vatican II

Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton was a priest of the diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, ordained in 1930. He taught at the Catholic University of America and served as editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review from 1943-1963. In 1931, he received his doctorate degree in Sacred Theology from the Angelicum in Rome. His dissertation was written under the direction of Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (d. 1964) and was published in expanded form ten years later as The Concept of Sacred Theology (Bruce Publishing).

Under Pope Pius XII, Fenton was named monsignor and received various papal honors (source). He published numerous books and distinguished himself as a gifted, competent, and orthodox Catholic theologian entirely loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. Over the years, Fenton battled many Modernist errors and engaged in heated polemics with their proponents. In particular, he forcefully refuted the error of religious liberty promoted by Jesuit Fr. John Courtney Murray, which later became Novus Ordo doctrine. At the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Fenton was a theological expert (peritus) for Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, the then-Secretary of the Holy Office, who was also a personal friend of Fenton’s.

A number of Mgr. Fenton’s personal diaries have been preserved in an archive of the Catholic University of America. Now, for the first time ever, these journals have been scanned and made available online for worldwide public perusal. We are pleased to share the links with you in an effort to further a greater and more accurate understanding of the true history of the Second Vatican Council and the theological struggles that occurred between Catholics and Modernists before, during, and after the council.

What follows is a list of links to the individual diaries available — numerous explosive quotes from the various journals are found further below in this post.

Mgr. Fenton’s Diaries Online

(in chronological order — titles are Fenton’s own)

Please Note: Each LIVE link leads to a downloadable PDF file; these files are large (anywhere from 20 to 150 MB each), so keep this in mind as you try to download or open them.

These diaries, which also provide unique insight into the mind of the competent and zealous anti-Modernist Fenton and make known interesting details about other theologians, are sometimes quoted and cited in various scholarly publications, such as the multi-volume History of Vatican II by Giuseppe Alberigo/Joseph Komonchak.

We have had photocopies of a number of these diaries in our possession for a while, and were eventually going to scan and publish them, but we are delighted to see that this work has now already been done for us by the Washington Research Library Consortium.

Of greatest interest to most, of course, will be what Fenton wrote about his struggles against the Modernists during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII, when a lot of errors were being fought that later resurfaced at Vatican II, and about the council itself and the theological discussions that took place behind the scenes. Fenton had a direct connection with Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani at the Vatican, which gave him much more influence than other theologians had, and also more inside information.

For example, Fenton knew that the Holy Office under Pope Pius XII was preparing to condemn Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J., and also Jacques Maritain for various doctrinal errors — a condemnation which, however, came to an abrupt halt when Pius XII died on October 9, 1958 (see “The Censuring of John Courtney Murray”, Part II, by Robert Nugent in The Catholic World [Mar/Apr 2008]) and didn’t materialize after the Modernist Angelo Roncalli (“Pope” John XXIII) usurped the papal throne later that same month. In fact, Roncalli made Murray a theological expert at the council, and his successor, Giovanni Battista Montini (“Pope” Paul VI), later elevated Murray’s error on religious liberty to official conciliar teaching.

Though Fenton assisted Ottaviani with drafting various preliminary documents (schemata) for the council to be debated on the floor, at the order of John XXIII all of them were discarded after the council began, and entirely new texts were drawn up in which the Modernist “New Theologians” had the greatest influence (names like Rahner, Ratzinger, von Balthasar, Congar, Chenu, Murray, and de Lubac come to mind). Good Mgr. Fenton was hospitalized several times during the council for heart problems, so he was not able to participate in the pre-conciliar and conciliar discussions and sessions at all times.

The Fenton diaries are of great import also because they give a glimpse into how this anti-modernist theologian tried to cope afterwards with the doctrinal, pastoral, and liturgical disorder the council had produced. Although, from all we have been able to ascertain, there is no evidence that Fenton was ever a sedevacantist, he also knew that the novel “recognize-and-resist” position, so popular among traditionalists (especially the Society of St. Pius X) today, was not an option. The idea of each individual believer sifting church teaching and then “resisting” conciliar errors, while still recognizing the council and the hierarchy as legitimate, was certainly foreign to him.

From what can be gleaned from his diaries, Fenton attempted — as did most priests at the time, of course — to reconcile the teachings of Vatican II with the prior, Catholic magisterium. We must keep in mind, however, that documents and other information back then were not as readily available as they are to us now, and certainly Fenton did not have the benefit of 50 years’ hindsight as we do today with regard to the Novus Ordo Church’s magisterial explanations, clarifications, and developments after the council, which have clearly resolved any ambiguity contained in the conciliar documents themselves in favor of error, not orthodoxy (religious liberty being a case in point).

In any case, Fenton’s journals are an incredibly valuable resource for the historical study of Vatican II, the Modernist errors, and the usurpation of the papal throne in 1958. We share the links to these diaries in order to allow the objective historical record to speak for itself, not to spin the post-Vatican II Fenton in any particular direction.

Mgr. Joseph Fenton died of a heart attack in his sleep on July 7, 1969, less than 5 months before Paul VI’s imposition of the Novus Ordo Missae as the liturgical norm in the Latin rite. The last diary entry is dated March 27, 1969. May he rest in peace.

We now proceed to present to you a select few striking and revealing quotes found in the Fenton diaries.

Highlights from the Fenton Diaries

Before, During, and After Vatican II:

“If I did not believe God, I would be convinced that 

the Catholic Church was about to end.”

—Mgr. Joseph C. Fenton on Vatican II, Nov. 23, 1962

1960

  • “Our Maltese friend (who was born in Alexandria) told us that he saw Spelly [Cardinal Francis Spellman] coming out of the [1958] conclave looking white and shaken.” (Nov. 2, 1960)
  • “To me the condition here in Rome is an evidence of the existence of the Church as a miracle of the social order.  In general it is being run by men who have no concern whatsoever for the purity or the integrity of the Catholic doctrine. And yet, when the chips are down, the doctrine of Christ always comes through.” (Nov. 5, 1960)
  • “The council will not be allowed to fail. This trip has taught me one thing: I definitely am a believer. It has also shown me that some of the leaders in the Church appear not to believe.” (Nov. 5, 1960)

1962

  • “These are four propositions handed to me under the SHO by the then Laodicea in Phrygia 11/28/54. They were also delivered to [Fr.] Frank Connell… There has never been anything less effective in the Church than a secret condemnation of an error.” (Mar. 16, 1962)
  • “He [Cardinal Ottaviani] remarked that we were on the eve of the Council, and that no one knew who the Council’s theologians were to be.” (Sept. 28, 1962)
  • “It is a crime that we did not take the Anti-Modernist Oath. Poor O[ttaviani] must have failed to have our own profession passed by the central commission. It contained his condemnation of [Fr. John Courtney] Murray.” (Oct. 9, 1962)
  • “I had always thought that this council was dangerous. It was started for no sufficient reason. There was too much talk about what it was supposed to accomplish. Now I am afraid that real trouble is on the way.” (Oct. 13, 1962)
  • “I started to read the material on the Liturgy, and I was shocked at the bad theology. They actually have been stupid enough [to say] that the Church is ‘simul humanam et divininam, visibilem et invisibilem’ [at the same time human and divine, visible and invisible]. And they speak of the Church working ‘quousque unum ovile fiat et unus pastor’ [until there be one fold and one shepherd], as if that condition were not already achieved.” (Oct. 19, 1962)
  • “I do not think that any little work on our part is going to bring good to the Church. We should, I believe, face the facts. Since the death of [Pope] St. Pius X the Church has been directed by weak and liberal popes, who have flooded the hierarchy with unworthy and stupid men. This present conciliar set-up makes this all the more apparent. [Fr.] Ed Hanahoe, the only intelligent and faithful member of [Cardinal] Bea’s secretariat has been left off the list of the periti. Such idiots as [Mgr. John S.] Quinn and the sneak [Fr. Frederick] McManus have been put on. [Fr. George] Tavard is there as an American, God help us. From surface appearance it would seem that the Lord Christ is abandoning His Church. The thoughts of many are being revealed. As one priest used to say, to excuse his own liberalism, which, in the bottom of his heart he knew was wrong, ‘for the last few decades the tendency in Rome has been to favor the liberals.’ That is the policy now. We can only do what we can to overt an ever more complete disloyalty to Christ.” (Oct. 19, 1962)
  • “As far as I can see the Church is going to be very badly hurt by this council. The opposition between the liberals and the loyal Catholics has been brought out into the open. Yesterday a Dutch (Holland) bishop gave a nasty talk in which he claimed to be speaking for all of his countrymen. He charged that the claims (really statements of fact) about theological imperfection in the schema were ‘exaggerated.’ The poor fellow seemed to imagine that a little lack of precision is all right in a conciliar document. I am disgusted with talk of this kind.” (Oct. 27, 1962)
  • “The sense or feeling of this gathering seems to be entirely liberal. I am anxious to get home. I am afraid that there is nothing at all that I can do here. Being in the council is, of course, the great experience of my life. But, at the same time, it has been a frightful disappointment. I never thought that the episcopate was so liberal. This is going to mark the end of the Catholic religion as we have known it. There will be vernacular Masses, and, worse still, there will be some wretched theology in the constitutions.” (Oct. 31, 1962)
  • “[Fr. Sebastian] Tromp has just pointed out that a pastoral council should not be non-doctrinal. Tromp is being very good. He is defending the schemata. He definitely is not giving a break to the opposition. We are hearing history. What is the theological note of what is contained in the theological or doctrinal constitution? Absolutely certain — at least.” (Nov. 13, 1962)
  • “At the Pope’s own order the rules were changed and the schema was thrown out. A new commission was set up including Cardinal Meyer, Alfrink, and Lienart.” (Nov. 23, 1962)
  • “They plan to leave off this television nonsense in a day or two, and then take up the Church Unity then. That will be a disaster…Some other people believe what I have thought for several months, namely, that John XXIII is definitely a lefty. This nonsense to the effect that he is ‘deceived’ or ‘mal servite’ is disgraceful. He is the boss.” (Nov. 25, 1962)
  • “The articles in the Milan Corriere della Sera tell of the Pope’s connection with [the excommunicated Modernist priest Fr. Ernesto] Buonaiuti, and they make him look like a real Modernist, at heart. He probably is.” (Nov. 26, 1962)

1963

  • “I am afraid that they are going to foist a lot of nonsense on the poor Catholic people.” (Mar. 6, 1963)
  • “Liberal Catholicism as understood by these men was and is the system of thought by which the teachings of the Catholic Church were represented as compatible with the maxim that guided the French Revolution.” (May 11, 1963)
  • “The statement of the Council is not a theological text book. At the same time, however, a declaration by a council can cause confusion or finally can actually be harmful when even though there is no error about faith or morals in it, the statement passes over Truths which are, and which have long been generally been recognized as, assertions of Catholic doctrine.” (May 11, 1963)
  • “[Fr.] Ed Hanahoe gave me two books on Modernism. In one of them I found evidence that the teaching in the first chapter of the new schema on the Church [the one that became the Vatican II dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium] and the language are those of [the excommunicated Modernist Fr. George] Tyrrell. May God preserve His Church from that chapter. If it passes, it will be a great evil. I must pray and act.” (Sept. 24, 1963)

1964  

  • “There is nothing erroneous in the material [in the schema on divine revelation] we have passed. But there is a great deal that is incomplete and misleading.” (June 4, 1964)
  • “M [Fr. John Courtney Murray] has just come in to see the triumph of his false doctrine [of religious liberty].” (Sept. 21, 1964)
  • “[Cardinal] Lienart is speaking. He is insisting that all Christians have the Jews as a common source. He ignores the fact that the religion of Israel and Juda before the public life [of Christ] was one thing, and past. Christian Judaism is quite another. The center of Jewish religion after Christ is and has been the denial of Christ.” (Sept. 28, 1964)
  • “The more I hear of the speeches and of the progressiveness, the more I am aware of the fact that this council is one of the most important events in all the history of the Church.” (Oct. 9, 1964)
  • [Fr.] Charles Davis has inherited [Fr. Hans] Kung’s position as king of the nuts.” (Nov. 16, 1964)
  • “Of course I realize that I did a stupid thing in asking for the parish and that Chris [Bp. Christopher Weldon] did a stupid and mean thing in giving me [St. Patrick’s church in] Chicopee Falls.” (Nov. 16, 1964)
  • “[Mgr.] Joseph Quinn just told me that the H.O. [Holy Office] is being abolished and that Card. Ottaviani will not be the head of the new, non-supreme, congregation which will take its place. The old man is being humiliated. He is a saint.” (Nov. 21, 1964)

1965

  • “Since coming here I have been obsessed with the idea of writing a book ‘To Be a Priest.’ Then, the night before last (during which I did not sleep at all) I had the inspiration to write what would really be ‘To be a Priest in the Church after Vat. II.’ I think I have something. It will give me the chance to comment on some of the schemata.” (Oct. 26, 1965)
  • “The part on ecumenism [in the text of the commission] is a joke. It reads like a 19th century text, or a second-rate article in a leftist magazine.” (Oct. 28, 1965)
  • “The day before yesterday I had dinner with O [Cardinal Ottaviani]. On the way back I found that the Pope had written to O about [schema no.] 13. I saw the letter. It was a great mistake to let that one, the one on religious liberty [which became Dignitatis Humanae], and the one on non-Christian religions [which became Nostra Aetate] get by the council.” (Nov. 26, 1965)

1966-69

  • “This afternoon John M. Carth [?] called. He is a believer, and he has some confidence in Montini [Paul VI]. He told me that O[ttaviani] has written some articles entirely revising his old position. It must have been under pressure from Montini.” (Sept. 24, 1966)
  • “The Pope [Paul VI] was extremely kind to me. He said over and over again ‘This man is my friend.’ He told those around him to give me anything I wanted. He spoke of our friendship as going back 30 years. Actually it dates back to 1948.” (Nov. 22, 1968, referring to an occurrence on Oct. 16, 1968)
  • “I have just about made up my mind to start a new book. I shall write on the notion of the Church. Nothing like this has appeared since the Council. Within the book I hope to have quite a bit to say about the Council. I must be very careful. If a sincere Catholic writes a book it’s either ignored or brutally attacked. I must make no mistakes. My main thesis will have to be that the Catholic theology on the Church has been improved but in no way changed by the Council. I must start with the basic notion of the Church, which is that of a people ‘transferred’ from the kingdom of darkness into the realm of light. The Council left out the background of the Church. It minimized or glossed over the fact that the Church faces opposition, not just from hostile individuals, but from the ‘world.’” (Nov. 23, 1968)
  • “Thoughts for writing: 1) The ‘for all men’ [as an English translation of pro multis in the canon of the Mass]; 2) Perjury & the Anti-Modernist Oath; 3) Only the historian can judge heresy – a statement by a pretender in the field of theology.” (Mar. 27, 1969)

Please share this information with anyone you know who loves the holy Catholic Church and is concerned about what has happened since the death of Pope Pius XII and the Second Vatican Council.

See Also:

Permanent Link

Fr. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ (1927), p. 119:

“Satan will imitate the Church of Christ to deceive mankind; he will set up a church of Satan in opposition to the Church of Christ.”

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Additional notes on Fenton’s Journals by T. Benns

The Room Off Inquisition Alley

(From the Diaries of Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton, 1954-1968)

The above title is taken from Msgr. Fenton’s own description of the room in which he stayed during most of his trips to Rome.  It was there that he wrote his annotations in his diaries for his many trips there and during the false Vatican 2 council. In one of those diaries we found a description of the neo-Modernists then flooding the Church, and could not help but be struck by their similarity in thinking to Traditionalists. Msgr. Fenton writes:

“The great danger facing our people comes from a trend to go along with the attacks on the Church, especially those from the rants of the liberals and the Masons.” The laundry list of errors issuing from a French author he refers to only as “Z” (Jacques Maritain?) could apply just as easily to sede occupantists today.

  1. Catholic doctrine, Catholic principles and Catholic ideas change from age to age.
  2. Statements of the Holy Father, as doctrinal pronouncements, need not be accepted by the faithful precisely as they stand.
  3. Entire sections of Catholic teaching can be consciously abstracted from, or, to use a more ordinary English expression, may be [entirely] disregarded.
  4. The teaching of an entire section of scholastic writers, such as the authors in public ecclesiastical law, can be passed over.
  5. Catholics do not have to be guided by the teachings of the Church, but can freely and laudably be progressive or other than conservative when the Church itself is designated as conservative.
  6. He teaches a most obnoxious and incorrect doctrine on scholars in the Church and the magisterium, (by suggesting a “vital adaptation of traditional principle” is possible, also by teaching that scholars decide which direction doctrinal development will go and the magisterium follows along).
  7.  He presents his strange doctrine entirely on his own authority and never answers the articles of his opponents.
  8. He cites neither magisterial teaching nor theological evidence in his work.

(Mgr. J. C. Fenton — 1954 journal)

The Traditionalist “trend” in the Church, therefore, was already set in motion by the late 1950s. It could operate in either direction: to the left for the Novus Ordo or to the right, for the Traditionalists. The lengths to which it went could be determined by who was applying it. Msgr. Fenton chronicles the progress of this trend below and laments its absolutely devastating effect on the Church.

Journal 4 — Aug. 13, 1956 – Aug. 20, 1958

• Msgr. Fenton says that Pope Pius XII was in the control of Sr. Pasqualina, who he called “a disgrace,” and of the liberals, especially certain Jesuits. He says he knew he would never make it far in the Church because he believed he was sent by God to correct the errors, but that was fine because it “strengthened his faith.” It happened because he was “working for our crucified Divine Lord, not His instruments.” He also said if things were as bad as they appeared (he was just beginning to realize how bad this was in 1955) then we were heading for a “terrible apostasy.”

(After an audience with the pope, his attitude softened and I think he was confused about how all this was falling out. I will keep reading and relating the tidbits.)

• Frenchman Monsabre was responsible for offending sensibilities of Americans re Testem Benevolentiae. Fentons says he escalated bad feeling on this head by careless language, making it tough for integralists later.

• Calls Teilhard Chardin “one of the outstanding heretics of our time.”

• Cardinal Vincent La Puma really bad; assassinated by his own servant.

  • “I am completely unable to understand not the Modernists, but the faithful Catholics among the Roman officials. Even Pope St. Pius X allowed Maffi and Ferrari to keep their jobs while they were struggling against him. He backed up the integralist magazines, but he was willing to allow them to be pushed around by his own enemies. I wonder what would happen to General Motors if they were to try and run on such lines.” (Amen! How many times have we asked ourselves this very same thing???)

• “I have learned a lot (in Paris) about the new modernism in the Church.”

• Pg. 170: Religious liberty errors to be condemned (see above)

• Connell seeking “special permission” from Rome to hear the confession of a penitent during a trip, pg. 196 (But jurisdiction is no big deal, right?!)

  • “The true victory for Christ in this world is to be achieved in suffering and disappointment… [I] shall be faithful to Our Lord even if He is abandoned by all those who should be loyal to Him,” pg. 241.

• “Romeo” tells Fenton Pius XI was a bad pope; refused to provide a pension for Msgr. Benigni “one of the great heroes for Christ in our time” and he died in want. Mussolini paid Benigni’s doctor bills. He also said Ratti (Pius XI) fired Billot, who Fenton considered the finest mind of the 20th century, to please Card. Pizzardo. Pizzardo was responsible for the dismissal of Montin? (pg. 248).

• “I can see why Romeo and those in his corner have a high regard for Pius XII,” (as compared to Ratti). “Despite his manifest and terrible failings, Pius XII beatified and canonized his saintly predecessor. He did write Humani generis. He is definitely an improvement over his predecessor. But certainly he is not a man in the stamp of Pope St. Pius X. It would be hard to imagine a time when the purity of the Catholic faith was so disregarded and despised as it is today,” (pg. 253, 260).

• “One gets the idea that no one cares very much these days about the purity of the faith.”

  • Someone said that “If the Modernists were alive today, Pope Pius XII would not condemn them. I believe that is perfectly correct. I am convinced that the errors of Modernism are being taught today without hindrance in Catholic schools…The love of the true faith and the opposition to the misstatement of Catholic teaching are not fashionable in the Church today,” pg. 258-59.

Journal 5 — Aug. 20, 1958 – Nov. 18, 1960

  • U.S. Scripture professor teaching Christ never crucified, (pg. 24)

• Cardinals Confalonieri, Pizzardo, Ruffini “marked men” targeted by the progressives.

• Pope Pius XII receiving blood transfusions in Aug.-Sept. 1958, pg. 52

• Doesn’t favor at all petitions of others asking pope for definition of our Lady as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces, pg. 63

• “A Council is supposed to state the salutary doctrines of Christ and condemn the errors opposed to it, and not to take up questions disputed among theologians,” pg. 111

• “Other people seem to go through life without attracting enemies, yet they gather around me,” pg. 131

• Scripture scholars teaching Acts account of Ascension attributed to the Resurrection story are one and the same. “Some of these men are actually trying to change the Church,” pg. 141

• Fenton thought Feeney case should be re-examined, pg. 228. (He could not foresee how rabid these Feeney supporters would become or the new heresies they would spawn.)

• Fenton had no use for “Spelly” (Cardinal Spellman), pg. 277

• “Many, if not most Americans believe that the Church has in some way abandoned the doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church.

• Fenton to study Feeney case, pg. 286

• Fenton on Feeney case from beginning, pgs. 288-89

• Montini scandal, girl’s uncle sued for calumny, p. 299

Journal 6 — Nov. 18, 1960 – Dec. 12, 1960

• “The good of the Church demands that we insist on the episcopal responsibilities more than the episcopal prerogatives,” (p. 18).

• Have the Commies any monopoly on brainwashing? Think of Pasqualina and the Count,” (?) pg. 60

• “The way things are going, there will soon be a general breakdown in the faith of Catholics throughout the world. The men who actually are our leaders are giving the impression that the denial of Catholic truth by those outside the Church, is for all practical purposes, on a par with the statement of that truth by the Church’s loyal sons. But we must not forget that Our Lord Himself has said: “When the Son of Man comes again, think you that He will find faith upon the earth?” pg. 81

• “Ottaviani is always right, but when he sees a fly on the baby’s forehead he will insist on hitting it with a baseball bat,” spoken by an unidentified cardinal, pg. 83. Fenton comments: “Whoever that cardinal was, he incarnates in himself the most serious troubles with and in the Catholic Church today.”

• Fenton no fan of Stanislaus Grabowski, pg. 91

•  Hungarian monsignor says very few strong men in Roman Curia, only four at most, pg. 94

• St. Augustine credited with doctrine of both visible and invisible Church, per Grabowski. Fenton says that those mistaken about the meaning of the doctrine claim St. Augustine did not “intend to say that there is a spiritual or invisible Church in any way distinct from the visible…The language is most unfortunate and open to serious misinterpretation. Ultimately I consider the terminology inept…St. Augustine’s teaching was ideal but his terminology was somewhat loose by reason of the fact that the difficulties that were raised by the advent of Protestantism had not been considered in his time. I think that we can best state the Catholic truth that St. Augustine taught by saying that the visible Church is the corporate reality living the life of grace in its [exterior] social aspect,” pg. 96.

• Fenton resents repeated mention of “separated brethren,” especially by Germans, pgs. 97-98.

•  “Visibility is not attributed to the Church in the same way that it is attributed to Our Lord,” (re Mystical Body teaching), pg. 101.

• Doesn’t want Montini as papal Secretary of State, pg. 108.

• “[Europeans are] convinced USA is in a bad way and there are dire days ahead,” pg. 122.

• Montini helps commies; Spelly thought he would be pope after Pius XII, p. 123.

• Friend of Fenton’s tells of seemingly good Catholics who have not been going to Church because of corruption in Rome. “As long as men are permitted to teach and to write doctrine that questions fundamental Catholic dogma, there is going to be grave trouble in the Church,” p. 141.

Journal 7 — Dec. 12, 1960 – Jan. 28, 1961

• Make teaching pastoral — “Theology is not a thing apart from Catholic life and devotion,” p. 20.

  • One of the bishops from Katanga asked the forthcoming V2 council to define something “to the effect that it is not only morally evil, but also invalid to attempt to consecrate one of the matters of the Eucharistic Sacrifice without intention to consecrate the other. There must be Satanism rampant down there,” (pg. 46). This is only in keeping with the teachings of he Church. Here we see the anticipation, I think, of the “for all men” heresy, yet Fenton totally misses it. Or maybe he was not making the connection.

• Fenton says the great majority of Catholic laity is “with” him and “O[ttaviani],” otherwise there would be no point in fighting, p. 68.

• Fenton finds errors contradicting the Oath against Modernism, other errors in works of European scholars on theological commissions. “One only has to read the garbage turned out by these ‘European scholars’ like Dupont (?), Congar and Tromp to realize what fakes they are.”

• “The Biblical Institute itself has become a center for anti-Catholic teaching here in Rome,” p. 202

• Re Tardini: “It will be a good thing for the Church if the old grafter resigns as soon as possible,” p. 282.

• “The inner circle here lives on a diet of steady promotion. Most of them are not at all impressive from an intellectual point of view. Yet the men of this one peninsula, and to be more accurate, the men of one or two seminaries, seem to have the world by the tail. They go to foreign lands, mixing with and living like the richest of the rich.  They occupy archbishoprics or fill-in posts. Then they return and drive around Rome in oversized, chauffeur driven cars. And at the top of the ladder, there is always the big prize…Here are members of the Church who are obviously in a state of mortal sin. Some of them do not believe Our Lord’s message at all,” p. 289-290.

•  “Of course the great need is for reformation in the Church. The scandal that is worst today is that of anti-Catholic doctrine being taught and published with impunity, indeed, with the highest praise within the Church. That scandal is going to continue just as long as this scramble for power and position within the Church is going on,” p. 291.

• “From my 31 years experience as a priest, the worst scandal that can be given comes from allowing a contradiction of Our Lord’s teaching to go unanswered. Of that I am absolutely sure. The people who utter the contradiction are usually so incompetent that nothing much can be done about them,” (!!!) p.  293.

•  “Peyrifitte’s blast against Pius XII is now in Italian…That sort of thing can do great harm. I must work to present Our Lord’s message as it should be presented,” p. 302

• “What utterly disgusts me is the cowardice of the men who claim to be working for the faith but who are, as a matter of fact, working only to gain promotion and money for themselves,” P. 337.

• From Romeo: “Where the faith is gone, there is no such thing as justice…Even the most mendacious liberal Catholic is obligated by the laws of justice, and people like cardinals, bishops and delegates have no excuse for violating justice. Neither does the pope.  After all, he could straighten all this mess out in a short time if he really wanted to, and he is the only one who can,” p. 339.

Journal 8 — Jan. 28, 1961 – Sept. 27, 1961

• Pgs. 56-66 on Church membership: good

• “If a man realizes he is in error, he is there by his own fault. No one is permitted to remain in error once he knows the truth,” p. 63.

• “As far as I can see they are working to make Catholicism a kind of Teilhard religion. And the authorities are deathly afraid that what the Church has been teaching over the course of all these centuries may turn out to be wrong after all. The martyrs may have died in vain (according to them), and men like St. Athanasius may have been mistaken,” pgs. 79-80.

• Fenton’s address to the sub-commission was the only scientific talk about Church membership. “No one knew what I was talking about…These poor slobs did not understand ordinary theology…They do not know what visibility of the Church means,” pgs. 98-99.

• Definitive teaching in the ordinary magisterium questioned by Tromp and Ottaviani goes along with it, p. 104.

• In one of the February sub-commission meetings, Garafalo proposed that, “God of course is infallible, yet the statements in the Bible are modo humano. Human language does not attain absolute truth — thus de facto there is no infallibility in the Bible,” pgs. 117-18, Feb. 1961. “[This] simply does away with infallibility and the certainty of faith.”

• The Modernists tried to block the Monitum on biblical teaching. Parente tells Roncalli that they wished to say the Bible is not infallible per se, and this is no unimportant detail. Parente said he told Roncalli when they were arguing about this matter: “If Our Lord had not given that promise to Peter, that he and the Pope should take off their pectoral crosses and quit,” pg. 146.

• The Catholic Biblical Institute, with its headquarters at the CUA, censures AER for printing the address of the Apostolic Delegate Vagnozzi and the Monitum “which contained the most forceful statements about contemporary aberrations in teaching about the Bible,” (p. 157). The condemnation of AER by the biblical institute stated that Fenton and others were misrepresenting their position, calling their stance “a gross ignorance of the truth and a malicious perversion of the truth.” p. 152.

• Fenton comments on the attack: “It should always be a source of deep satisfaction for a Catholic priest to find his work feverishly proposed by the kind of individuals who were responsible for this resolution. I know these individuals quite well. Despite their manifest mediocre scholastic competence they have always manifested an extraordinary talent for academic intrigue. Their language, like that of their better known predecessors Von Hugel, Tyrell, Loisy and Hautin [all Modernists] is cryptic in the extreme,” p. 155-56.

• “[This] condemnation of AER was a means used by the men responsible for this resolution to move the CBA into a position in which really, even though indirectly, it has expressed disapproval of an authoritative statement by the Holy Office and of a salutary warning of the Apostolic Delegate,” p. 158.   (These men denied the actual truths of Our Lady’s Annunciation, Our Lord’s Resurrection and the promise of the primacy, rejecting it as actual historic fact.)

• “Ed Hanahoe was quite right when he said that the weariness of these sessions is neither physical nor mental, but purely emotional. One tires of hearing so many completely vacuous statements on matter that is of tremendous importance,” p. 159-60. (Amen!)

• A friend urges Fenton to “go easy” in his reply to the CBA condemnation and Fenton writes that, “In my articles I said from time to time that a certain erroneous opinion was being divulged…I did not mention by name the guilty parties.  I reminded him that this was merely the workings of the law of Christian charity,” p. 176.

Journal 9 — March 4, 1962 –  June 3, 1963

• Fenton one of 11 Americans called to V2 as experts. The others were Brennan, Doheny, Steinmuller, Higgins, Quinn, McManus, Beste, Wagner, Heston and Tavard, p. 33.

• Bomb thrown into Spellman’s residence; “Reynoso” suggests reform of Curia, p. 45.

• “I find all the bishops…quite worried…They know the people of the world, and especially the American people, expect some miraculous results from the council. And they do not see how these are going to come about,” p. 49.

• Grand Rabbi of Jerusalem: “The bible of Jerusalem was of no scientific value and that it opposed the doctrine that the scriptures are inspired,” p. 50.

• After taking an oath and making the profession of Faith, the council begins two days later. “It is a crime that we did not take the anti-Modernist Oath,” [as experts], Fenton remarks, p. 51.

• Fenton meets with DePauw and his brother. DePauw says that the papers in France, Germany and Belgium are saying the American bishops are scandalizing everyone by staying in the best Roman hotels and spending so much money, p. 63.

• “Dulac wants me to contact Vagnozzi about a reply to some French bishops. It seems that these men intend very soon to propose that the council pass up all the doctrinal schemata and settle for some ‘pastoral’ stuff,” p. 74.

  • “I do not think that any little work on our part is going to bring good to the Church. We should, I believe, face the facts. Since the death of [Pope] St. Pius X the Church has been directed by weak and liberal popes, who have flooded the hierarchy with unworthy and stupid men. This present conciliar set-up makes this all the more apparent. [Fr.] Ed Hanahoe, the only intelligent and faithful member of [Cardinal] Bea’s secretariat has been left off the list of the periti. Such idiots as [Mgr. John S.] Quinn and the sneak [Fr. Frederick] McManus have been put on. [Fr. George] Tavard is there as an American, God help us. From surface appearance it would seem that the Lord Christ is abandoning His Church. The thoughts of many are being revealed. As one priest used to say, to excuse his own liberalism, which, in the bottom of his heart he knew was wrong, ‘for the last few decades the tendency in Rome has been to favor the liberals.’ That is the policy now. We can only do what we can to avert an even more complete disloyalty to Christ,” (Oct. 19, 1962, p. 74-75; I know this is quoted above, but it bears repeating

• DePauw tells Fenton that McManus “is telling everyone in Rome that Fenton does not represent American Catholic thought nor even the thought at the Catholic University,” p. 76.

• “As far as I can see, the Church is going to be very badly hurt by this council. The opposition between the liberals and the loyal Catholics has been brought out into the open,” p. 88.

• [At the council] Tuesday Oct. 30, 1962: “The news was that Alfrink, at Felici’s urging, shut O off…The whole city is talking about it,” p. 92.

•  “Being in the council is, of course, the great experience of my life. But, at the same time, it has been a frightful disappointment. I never thought that the episcopate was so liberal. This is going to mark the end of the Catholic religion as we have known it. There will be vernacular masses and worse still, there will be some wretched theology in the constitutions,” p. 95.

• “[Nov. 1]: “I talked to O. He seemed shaken at what had happened the day before,” p. 96. “O is in terrible shape. Stoffa [and Parente] told me he had been told not to talk,” p. 103.

• Roncalli throws out schema, sets liberal cardinals over a new commission, p. 111.

• Siri is mentioned on page 112(a) as opposing Modernism. It is the only mention of this cardinal, sold as a “super-conservative” by those pretending he was a secret pope, in the entire set of journals. Since when do popes vote at councils as cardinal bishops, especially since, if he WAS a pope, such a council would have been a farce, being called illegally by an antipope?!

• Paul Philippe, in tears: “This is the time of the devils,” p. 112(b).

• “After supper I finished the Tedeschi book. It is a scorcher. It simply shows that some other people believe what I have thought for several months, namely that John XXIII is a lefty. This nonsense to the effect that he is ‘deceived’ or ‘mal servite’ is disgraceful. He is the boss,” (!!!) p. 120. (So much for material/formal!)

• Lefebvre, p. 123.

• John 23 dies on June 3, 1963. Fenton had another heart attack May 16 and was in a Roman hospital when Roncalli died.

Journal 10 — Jan. 1, 1963 – Nov. 26, 1965

March 4 — “A meeting of the mixed commission. A first chapter appeared. It is a poor thing. May God protect His Church.”

March 5 — “The thing is hopeless. Ottaviani seems not to care. Supper…with Mark Hurley. We agree that no one over here seems to care. A new pope soon?”

May 11 — “The men who advocated the doctrine of separation of Church and state, as these have been condemned by the popes since Pope Leo XII, are called liberal Catholics…In the sense in which the tenets of liberal Catholicism have been repudiated by the popes, these teachings definitely are not going to be expressed by the Council…The Fathers of the Council who are called liberals as distinct from the group known by the reporters as conservative are definitely not liberal in the sense that Lammenais was a liberal Catholic. These…Fathers of the Council, designated as liberals by the press, are those who seek a “pastoral” rather than a “scholastic” approach to the teaching and legislation of the council…[while] the statement of the council is not a theological textbook, at the same time…a declaration by a council can cause confusion or finally be actually hurtful when even though there is no error about faith or morals in it, the statement passes over truths which are, and which have long generally been recognized as assertions of Catholic doctrine.” (Ambiguity was the fatal flaw found in all council documents — Fenton would have been incredulous had he known how loosely these would later be interpreted, to exclude even any vestige of Catholic doctrine. Thank God it is clear that Roncalli was never a true pope, and hence could never have called an ecumenical council.)

Sept. 24 —Fenton had another serious heart attack on Sept. 8.

Sept. 24 — “Ed Hanahoe gave me two books on Modernism. In one of them I found evidence that the teaching in the first chapter of the new schema on the Church and the language are those of [the Modernist George] Tyrrell. May God preserve His Church from that chapter. If it passes, it will be a great evil. I must pray and act,” (this after having two major heart attacks. The schema did pass.)

Nov. 18, 1963 — Last mention of writing AER articles was made, when he planned an article for the Jan. 1964 edition.

Nov. 16, 1964  — “Of course I realize that I did a stupid thing in asking for the parish and that Chris [Bp. Christopher Weldon] did a stupid and mean thing in giving me [St. Patrick’s church in] Chicopee Falls. Still, I would not change back to CU at all. There is no good to be achieved by going back.

Nov. 18 — “The things said by Bellarmine and Sylvius are not understandable by the modern man.”

Sept. 21, 1964 — Murray’s doctrine on religious liberty triumphs.

Sept. 29, 1964 (June 27) — Lienart on Jews

Journal 11 — Sept. 24, 1966 – Nov. 24, 1968

  • Cardinal Alfrink wrote “a substitute for the oath against the Modernists. It is asinine,” p. 2.

• “John Carth called…and told me that O has written some articles entirely reversing his old position. It must have been under pressure from Montini,” p. 5.

(Responding to a question of the journalist, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani declared in 1965:

“I am a soldier who watches over the gold reserve. Do you think I would fulfill my duty by arguing, abandoning my post, turning a blind eye? My son, 75 years are 75 years! I lived them defending certain principles and certain laws. If you tell the old soldier that the laws are going to change, it is obvious that as an old soldier he will do everything to keep them from changing.

“But if, nonetheless, they change, God will certainly give him the strength to place himself in the defense of the new treasure in which he believes. Once the new laws become the treasure of the Church, an enrichment of the gold reserve, then only one principle counts: to serve the Church. And this service means to be faithful to her laws.”

Alfredo Ottaviani, Interview to Corriere della Sera, October 28, 1965, apud Henri Fesquet, Le Journal du Concile, Foulcalier: Robert Morel, 1966, p. 1019)

http://www.traditioninaction.org/ProgressivistDoc/A_096_Ottaviani_Betray.html)

• “I have just about made up my mind to start a new book. I shall write on the notion of the Church. Nothing like this has appeared since the Council. Within the book I hope to have quite a bit to say about the Council. I must be very careful. If a sincere Catholic writes a book, it is either ignored or brutally attacked. I must make no mistakes. My main thesis will have to be that the Catholic theology on the Church has been improved but in no way changed by the council…The Council left out the background of the Church. It minimized or glossed over the fact that the Church faces opposition, not just from hostile individuals but from ‘the world,’” p. 24-25. Fenton also planned to write a book on the role of the priest post-V2.

• His second to last entry, written in red, is hard to read and understand. After sailing back to America from Rome and landing in the U.S. Dec. 8, Fenton recounts: “On Dec. 31 [1968] I had another [heart] attack. I was in Mercy in Springfield until Jan. 15. On Feb. 17, my drunken (?) Stafford attacked me in the house. Previously I had been warned by Dr. (?) to take several days away from the house.” After booking on the Da Vinci and sailing once again, Fenton continues: “I had another [heart] attack and was in my room for 36 hours. If I should die of this the fault will be [that of] the drunkard Stafford.” [Concerning the building of a school this Stafford was in charge of approving, a project Fenton appears to have been involved in], he comments:  “It is very obvious that Chris [Bp. Christopher Weldon] applauds the actions of my drunken assistant.”

• Last page, “Thoughts for Writing”:

1)      “The “For all men”

2)      Perjury and the anti-Modernist Oath

3)      “ ‘Only the historian can judge heresy,’ a statement by a pretender in the field of theology.”

Interestingly enough, Fenton may have been decidedly uncomfortable at St. Patrick’s because at that point in time, many homosexual priests were assigned to the very area surrounding his parish. Three years following Fenton’s death, a priest only miles away became a suspect in the molestation and murder of 13-year-old altar boy Danny Croteau, (http://open.salon.com/blog/laura_wilkerson/2012/06/28/the_murder_of_danny_croteau_massachusetts_1972). Bp. Weldon himself was accused of pederasty by the nephew of a fellow priest, and is listed on the Internet posthumously as a suspected sexual offender, (http://www.bishop-accountability.org/ma_springfield/), also ( (http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/2005_03_31_Zajac_MurdererAlleges.htm). There are doubts Weldon was guilty of the abuse, but certainly the estimated number of sexual offenses occurring in his diocese during the 1970s (see accountability link) makes one wonder if there may have been a reason for his toleration of the situation.

Summary

Monsignor Fenton died eight months later in his sleep on July 7, 1969. If he seems to have failed to grasp the V2 situation with his usual acumen, it was likely because those suffering from progressive congestive heart failure, as he was, experience a significant decrease in oxygen levels, robbing the brain of its ability to function properly. (I experienced this firsthand with my own father.) It is amazing, indeed, that he was able to function as well as he did, for as long as he did. His greatly weakened condition could account for his somewhat incoherent and shaky entry in red on the second-to-last page. Fenton used different–colored inks to write in his journals, but, as a rule, used red only to outline his articles or write down things of importance. The account of his final illness, the attack and the “Thoughts for Writing,” his last entry, are all made in red, almost as though he was specifically calling the attention of the reader to the gravity of what he was saying. We will never know the true import intended in his last entries, but here is my opinion, for what it is worth.

In his journals, Msgr. Fenton repeatedly mentions the fact that he has many enemies in Rome as well as back home. His friends and acquaintances often told him how little he was esteemed among his liberal colleagues, something Fenton, true Catholic that he was, actually took as a sign of God’s favor. While it bothered him, as it would anyone, he never let it interfere with the duty he owed to the Church to defend Her truth. One of those enemies appears to have been Bp. Christopher Weldon, who figures into his last entries. Stafford also appears here, although it is not known who he was exactly, only that he appears, perhaps, to have been an assistant priest. Or was he Fenton’s personal assistant? Internet searches and even recourse to the Catholic Directory have been fruitless. This is often the case when seeking information on Msgr. Fenton, whose life and work, it seems, could not be forgotten fast enough by the “people of God” crowd. In trying to defend his writings, there are those who point to his 1962 article on the false V2 council and also to the diaries and insist that he upheld the council. And yet the article was written before he ever became a council expert and the diaries clearly show he had many misgivings and fears concerning what the council had done.

Fenton says in his 1962 article that the council could never err in doctrinal matters — yet he says in the diaries that it actually did err where Modernism was concerned. Could he have sorted it out? Would he have sorted it out? We will never know because God relieved him of making that choice. Obviously he had no idea Montini and Roncalli were false popes. Had he ever read Cum ex… ? Remember that he had not read some of the papal documents he researched and located in Rome during his time there. It was this document that changed the entire scope of the Traditionalist movement, effectively splitting it in half in the early 1980s. As strong as he stood against the Modernist heresy, did he have any idea that Roncalli was at one time listed as a suspected Modernist, but presumably was later cleared? Did he have the slightest inkling he had favored and catered to Freemasons in France, whom Fenton hated, and was pandering to them as “pope”? Was De Poncins in translation then, or could he read French? Did he know that Roncalli had been promoted as pope before the death of Pope Pius XII, violating the provisions of Vacantis Apostolica Sedis and disqualifying him as papbile? Given his failing health, could he have even processed such earth-shattering information had he known it?

In this day and age we are used to the circulation, lightning-fast, of all information that we need to make our decisions and to satisfy our curiosity on any given subject. Much more personal information, on any given individual, is now readily available at the touch of a keystroke.  In the 20th century, such information was difficult to access, and as a general rule people were much more likely to take a guarded stance concerning their own personal lives and the lives and behavior of others. Where the Church is concerned there was much secrecy surrounding the misbehavior of the hierarchy, as was later discovered in regards to the extent of the sexual abuse scandal. The same type of secrecy surrounded the commission of heresy, apostasy and schism, which nearly always was absolved secretly, with any invalid acts being supplied by the Church (pope). As Fenton points out in his diaries, this was a bad policy and these men should have been taken out of circulation immediately; this was Pope Pius XII’s greatest misjudgment, in my opinion. But as Fenton also noted, even Pope St. Pius X did not intervene to stop the fatal hemorrhage. Could this be because Christ Himself instructed us to allow the weeds to grow alongside the wheat until the harvest? Yet as Pope St. Gregory the Great said, better that scandal come than the truth be suppressed.

Given the above, there was very likely much Msgr. Fenton did not know or understand and much he could not have known or understood under the circumstances. How long has it taken those of us watching this agonizing process to sort out all the pieces of the puzzle and put it together? Do we even have all the pieces we need to make sense of this tragedy to this day? Cum ex… states that no matter how long such a usurper has occupied the office, anyone can depart from obedience and fealty to him without incurring any censure. Was this because Pope Paul IV knew that such cunning as it would take to secure “papal” election and rule unopposed might be difficult to detect and prove, even among the hierarchy? It would appear that he did. I would like to believe that had Msgr. Fenton lived another 10 or 15 years, he would have played a prominent role in reorganizing the Church. Perhaps he would even have been elected pope. But then God deemed it was not to be, because, as Christ told St. Peter in Gesthemane, how can the Scriptures be fulfilled that so it must be done?

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3 thoughts on “The Personal Diaries of Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton

  1. Glad to see you are posting again, Teresa. Poor Fenton was indeed a fine theologian who must have been so distraught and confused by all that was happening.

    I do think he underestimates Pius XII, though. Why was he so negative about Pascalina?

    • It is as they say — hindsight is always 20/20. I believe that a cabal of men surrounded Pope Pius XII who fed him and others only what he wanted to hear in the end. One American priest tried to address this problem and wound up dead. Was he a “pope in chains”? No, I don’t believe that either. But he basically closed up the Vatican offices after the betrayal by Montini and his near-death experience. He did not know who to trust and so trusted almost no one. The ones who formed the outer circle around him may have appeared legit to people like Msgr. Fenton, but were not. They may very well have intercepted his documents, frustrated his wishes and miscommunicated his orders. Weakened by his attempted poisonings, possibly declining in mental acumen to some extent and definitely wearied to the bone, as Fenton comments, Pius XII was no match for them.

      As for Pascalina, so many of the bishops and cardinals were anti-fem it is hard to tell what to believe. I hear the actual translation of her diaries is out and want to read those before commenting. Her attempts to protect the pope may have been misinterpreted and she may also have gone overboard in this endeavor on occasion. At any rate it is clear Fenton was on the outside looking in, by his one admission, and may not have understood what he was actually hearing or seeing. We probably will never know how rotten things really are in Rome. Suffice it to say that we see what they elected as “pope” following Pius XII’s death, and that is enough of an indicator for me.

  2. Yes, the *100%* nature of the betrayal on the part of the hierarchy is astonishing. I can only wonder how many were frauds all along, and how many were themselves misguided by the appearance of authority of Roncalli and successors.

    I tend to think that Pius XII was one of those who are great leaders but poor managers. As for Pascalina, she may have had faults, but she seemed to be one of the few who actually cared about him.

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