his life and his setting as America sees if
Pius XII. By Joseph P. Dinneen. (Cassell, 8s. 6d.) Reviewed by A. E. IL SWINSTEAD
MR DINNEEN complains that books about the Pope are usually neither so full nor so frank as they might be. He puts that down to the Imprimatur. But hooks about a Pope still happily reigning share the disadvantages attaching to all biography of the living. It is with men's lives a little as it is with their houses. In life, some rooms are known to many people, some to a few intimates alone. At death there is a pause; and then the house is thrown open for the sale and ransacked from attic to cellar.
But so long as a public man or a great man (or one who is both) is alive, all is unfinished and much is unknown.
The natural interest of the public can he satisfied only in part.. For that interest and from his own interest Mr Dinneen has written.
THERE are several things to enter on the credit side of his book's account. To start with it is not ponderous. It is written for the general reader, and the general reader will be able to read it without tears. Then it puts the reign of Pius XII into perspective by giving some account of the four preceding pontificates and of their relations with secular powers. It explains, when necessary, the organisation of the Vatican and the ceremonies performed at such moments as the death or election of a Pope.
There also emerges a picture of the man who is Pius XII, with enough detail to content the modern desire for the " human interest" story, but in proportion, and without what I am tempted to call " valetry." By this I mean that intentness upon the insignificant which is proverbially supposed to have such a bad effect on the valets of heroes.
BUT there are some debit entries to be made. The book Is written with an eye to American readers. There is, of course, no reason why it should not be. But it results in some disproportion. The field to be covered is wide, yet onefifth of the whole book goes to the United States, and a deal of that fifth to
the Rev. Charles E. Coughlin. Contrast the space given, for example, to Spain. The result is very summary treatment of some important matters.
A popular style, too, has its dangers, chief among them the picturesque. Thus Mr Dinneen tells how Cardinal °Uglia struck the forehead of the dead Leo XIII with a silver mallet. By the time Pius XI dies the mallet has become ivory and gold, and as the ectinerlengo Is by now the subject of the book the ceremony is described more warmly. But the use of the mallet to attest a Pope's death has been officially denied in Rome and the growth of the legend was examined by Father Thurston in The Tablet of March 4 last.
THAT tl, present Holy Father's first public words should be given as " sit nomon Domini benedictus" is no more than an unfortunate slip. But there are inaccuracies.
I doubt that Pius X "condemned congregational singing in which women had a part." We are told that there have only been three exceptions, two Spanish and one Dutch, to the Italian Popes; there was Adrian IV, who was born in England.
The account of modernism is so short as to be misleading.
Pius XI is described as having "an exasperating, u.n.ruffled complacence," which goes ill with his "tact and wisdom in dealing with men."
The wording of one ground for a decree of nullity is unfortunate: "If either party had committed an offence against Christian morality before the marriage (such as being previously divorced)."
The reader might conclude from the text that John XIX remained a layman after election.
IN short, the book must he taken for what it is, a readable popular account of the life of Pius XII before his election in which much is necessarily inadequately dealt with and which needs reading with due caution.