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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Last Laugh of Alfredo Ottaviani

By George Weigel

Despite his humble origins as a baker’s son from Trastevere, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, longtime curial head of the Holy Office (“successor to the Inquisition,” in journalese) and scourge of the nouvelle théologie of the 1950s, was a formidable figure in pre-conciliar Catholicism. Ottaviani’s approach to theology was neatly summarized in the Latin motto of his cardinalatial coat of arms, Semper Idem [Always the Same], and his fierce defense of what he understood to be orthodoxy made him a not-implausible model for the character of Cardinal Leone in Morris West’s novel The Shoes of the Fisherman.

Despite the caricatures of the world press, Ottaviani was no monster; indeed, he was reputed to be a man of considerable personal charm. Nor was he a dyed-in-the-wool conservative politically; he wanted the council to condemn all forms of modern war, another cause in which Ottaviani (whose Vatican II batting average did not rise above the Mendoza Line) failed. But perhaps his greatest defeat at the council came on the question of Church and state. For before and during the Vatican II years, Cardinal Ottaviani stoutly, and, ultimately, futilely, resisted the development of doctrine that led the world’s bishops to approve the council’s “Declaration on Religious Freedom.”

Read more at First Things >>

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