Today from the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke about the late Cardinal Augustin Bea to participants in a series of scholarly lectures hosted in honor of the 50th anniversary of the prelate’s death. Cardinal Bea, a German Jesuit, was one of the most influential churchmen during the Second Vatican Council, and was instrumental in improving relations between Catholics and the Jewish people. Much like his fellow Jesuit, Francis, Cardinal Bea faced a great deal of criticism for his approach, which favored dialogue and understanding in our relationships with those of other religions.

Vatican News reported:

The Pope said that, “Cardinal Bea was convinced that love and respect are the primary principles of dialogue.” But the Pontiff also noted that the Cardinal did not always have it easy and “faced a number of obstacles in his efforts on behalf of dialogue.”

“Although accused and maligned” commented the Pope, “he moved forward with the perseverance of one who never stops loving. When told that the times were not ripe for what the then Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity was proposing, he responded spiritedly: ‘Then we have to make them ripe’.”

Pope Francis continued, “neither an optimist nor a pessimist, he was a realist about the future of unity: on the one hand, conscious of the difficulties, on the other convinced of the need to respond to the heartfelt desire of the Lord that his disciples be ‘one’”.

“As Cardinal Bea put it”, emphasized Pope Francis, ‘the Council should not be a goal but rather a point of departure’”. The Pope underlined that, “dialogue calls for hearing two voices, and the witness of Jewish and Catholic instructors who teach together is worth more than many speeches.”

Cardinal Bea is also an interesting figure who plays a role in traditionalist conspiracy theories. During Vatican II, Bea’s assistant was none other than Malachi Martin, SJ, until Martin was removed from the priesthood due to indiscretions with at least one married woman. Martin later moved to New York and reinvented himself as the author of a number of novels (including bestsellers) filled with conspiracy theories about Vatican intrigue and satanic infiltration of the Church.

For more about Martin, there’s a documentary on Netflix about him called “Hostage to the Devil,” (also the title of his bestselling novel) which gives a lot more credence to his claims than he deserves (I am convinced he was a total con artist who exploited Catholic traditionalists to make money, but I’ll save that for another blog post), but is an interesting portrayal nonetheless.


Image: Meeting with Jewish Scholars and Theologians at AJC- March 31, 1963; Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel; Cardinal Augustin Cardinal Bea. (Source)


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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He's a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He's active in his parish and community. He is the founding managing editor for Where Peter Is.

Pope Francis commemorates groundbreaking cardinal

3 Responses

  1. Joaquin Mejia says:

    I have never heard of Cardinal Bea but I have heard of Malachi Martin. Everything about Malachi Martin is scary though. The fact that his books are bestsellers makes him even scarier because that means he has given so many people wrong ideas about the Catholic Church. Good alternatives to him would be Graham Greene and Shusako Endo. They are Catholic novelists but there are no wacky conspiracy theories, just interesting history.

  2. Pete Vickery says:

    I remember the late Malachi Martin being a guest on the late night radio program “Coast to Coast” in the 90’s. He had some wild stories, almost as wild as Art Bell’s (also now deceased) alien encounter stories. He even warned Bell at the end of the program that his life could be in danger since the Vatican had people who could make him disappear. Jack Van Impe also used to plug Malachi Martin’s book “The Keys Of This Blood” on his program. Van Impe is a nice guy but, like Bell and Martin, he’s got a screw loose. I never heard of Cardinal Bea but he sounds like he was a great guy. I can understand why Pope Francis would have admiration for Bea, after reading your description of him. On the other hand, Malachi Martin definitely appealed to the traditionalist element of the Church. I agree with Joaquin Mejia that Martin was scary; you could see him influencing unstable people. Two people I knew were taken in by his crazy stories and it seemed to make them even more paranoid. God help us. We need to pray for the cross Pope Francis is being called upon by Christ to bear. We all have our crosses but his appears to be especially difficult.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      Thanks, Pete. Malachi Martin is a fascinating character, and is as responsible as anyone for fostering the culture of conspiracy that surrounds today’s radical Traditionalist claims.

      Interestingly, it appears that when he was an active priest, he was more progressive, but after he was laicized he struck gold when he exploited the hype that followed “the exorcist” when he published “Hostage to the Devil,” supposedly an account of five real American exorcisms that he had taken part in. He explained away his laicization by claiming that he was still a priest, but on a secret mission from Paul VI.

      By the time the Art Bell interviews came around, he was claiming to have read the 3rd secret of Fatima, had perpetuated and expanded the Siri thesis (according to him, Siri had been elected pope in 1963 and 1978, not just 1958), and was talking about Satanism in the Vatican. People believed him and continue to believe him, 20 years after his death.

      Anyway I hope to pull all of this into another post at some point.

      Cardinal Bea’s role in the Malachi Martin story appears to be mostly incidental; he was long dead by the time Martin recreated himself in the US, but Martin’s work with him set the stage for his claims of being a Vatican insider.

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