A tale of two popes

A century ago, under the reign of Pius X, it was called the “segretariola.” Pope Giuseppe Sarto had come to a very negative judgment about the curia at the time, but even after he had reorganized it he was very careful to protect the little personal secretariat with which he had surrounded himself immediately after his election in 1903.

With the current pope, the son of Piedmontese emigrants, the Venetian Pius X has many traits in common. He was also born to a poor family, and continued to dedicate himself even as pope to the help of the poor. He was dearly loved by people of humble conditions. He led a simple and austere life. He had a good-natured disposition, not devoid of irony. He had a profound spiritual life and was later proclaimed a saint. He had a tremendous capacity for work, which he extended into the nighttime hours. He did a great many things on his own, keeping the curia in the dark about them.

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Editor’s note: Does anyone remember the mess that resulted from President Jimmy Carter’s reliance on hand-picked, trusted – but poorly connected and often clueless – Washington outsiders? Vatican politics has been known to be even more demanding – even brutal. What might a pope learn from the bad experiences of a Georgia peanut farmer/politician? Time will tell!


  1. “With the current pope, the son of Piedmontese emigrants, the Venetian Pius X has many traits in common.”

    I nearly spewed a mouthful of coffee at this sentence, and could go no further.

  2. Extraordinary!
    Pius X was elected in August 1904 and only after his rival Cardinal Rampolla was removed by the Austrian veto to his election. Cardinal Sarto chose the name Pius with regard to Pius IX and disregarding Rampolla he placed the English born Rafael Merry del Val as his right hand. Pius cleared the way for elections in future, making the curia far more streamlined and efficient. he did not detest it but made it grow stronger and even more influential. He placed Church law before a new commission and approved singing in Churches and desired greater participation from the laity. Most famously he advanced the welcome to Children allowing them to receive communion often and service on the altar.
    Charitable and of humility and personal simplicity he detested pomp and ceremonial twittering. Renowned even in his lifetime for miraculous occurrences he was ideally suited to sainthood and canonised by Pius XII in the 50s.
    From a papal view he was ineffective in his setting up of a ban on Forbidden books and his determination to crush critics led to Organisations such as Catholic Action that favoured right wing governments. In this Pius was not absolutely to blame as Merry del Val had his influence.
    Much of these latter problems were corrected by Benedict 15 whom lifted the bans and broke the spy networks.
    What is so wicked is that some that followed Llefebvre and his ilk decided that they should name their society under his protection as if he is pleased by them? Well he is not! Pius X is ashamed of these that use his name to disobey his rightful successors and their authority! They have angered and heartily offended Jesus by their obstinate refusal to bend before the Papal Crown and acknowledge Francis as his true Successor.

    In Japan in the mid 1980s I met a splendid guy whom admitted that he was a Congressman (from Washington State) whom had been appointed by Carter to do whatever. I have no idea if he was “clueless” as an advisor but he was a splendid individual and far better than I had expected. The point? perhaps President Carter was a bit more bright than he has since been painted. I recall Reagan (whom I always liked) mocking campaign that he was a peanut farmer but the retort being that he was a Hollywood actor! Half truths can often be political dynamite and should not be recalled as one sided tales of obvious fact.

  3. “…I met a splendid guy whom admitted that he was a Congressman…”

    Such an admission is tantamount to a public, canonical confession.

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