Monday, September 6, 2010
Here is a collection of wartime letters and speeches of Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines. He achieved a heroic reputation among Catholics and non-Catholics alike for his bold, fearless denunciations of the German occupiers. He was also seen as a compassionate, beatific man of God. I will admit, however, to harboring some reservations about Mercier. Doctrinally, it is claimed that he was a mentor of the radical Cardinal Suenens, and he was suspected of Modernism in his day. While some portray this simply as hysterical Vatican witch-hunting, and Mercier himself condemned the heresy, there are some odd facts which make me skeptical of him. You would expect a Prince of the Church to be eager to assist in bringing about an end to World War I, which was destroying the remnants of Christendom, but apparently this was not the case. On the contrary, Marie-Rose Thielemans, in her editions of the war diaries and letters of Albert I, contends that the Cardinal's intransigent political attitudes actually obstructed the King's peace efforts, which depended upon Church support. In his diary, Albert voiced his frustration with Mercier, and even complained that the Archbishop was fraternizing with freemasons. Finally, although Mercier professed great devotion to the Belgian mystic Berthe Petit, who pleaded for the solemn consecration of Belgium to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, he was curiously reticent in fulfilling her request. He agreed to dedicate Belgium privately to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, but the solemn, public consecration never took place. This always strikes me as a strange omission coming from an ostensible champion of God, King and Country.