"FORTITUDO NOSTRA NOMEN JESU"
Msgr. Antonio Pildain y Zapiain was a good fighting bishop completely devoted to his flock. He was born in Lezo, a little city in the Basque province of Guipùzcoa, on 13 January 1890. He studied theology in Rome at the Gregorian University from 1907 to 1912. Ordained priest on 13 September 1913, he was bishop, by he mandate of Pius XI, of the Canary Islands from 1936¹ to 1966, the longest episcopacy ever recorded for that diocese.
At the seminary of Vitoria, then a young man, he taught the Hebrew Language, the History of Philosophy, and Dogmatic Theology. He was a formidable orator with a crystal-clear voice and a clear, transparent diction.² In the biography written by Gabriel de Armas Medina, one reads of him:
"Expert artist of the word, with absolute mastery of construction, the ideas of Pildain are chained in magnificent periods of precise logical connection. Possessing, on the other hand, a fertile imagination and an ardent heart, the public remains attracted by his lips and fascinated by the ornamental elegance of his expressiveness."³
He had an active rôle in the Spanish political life of the early '30s of last century, such that, in accordance with his own bishop, he participated as a candidate in the elections of 1931 and was elected deputy for the Corti Costituenti of the Second Spanish Republic by the Basque-Navarran minority within the Cattolico-Fuerista coalition.
At forty years since his death, the inscription placed on his tomb within the Cathedral of Las Palmas still gives us a summary of his existence:
Our strength, the name of the Lord.
The remains rest here
of the Most Excellent and Most Reverend Doctor Don
Antonio Pildain y Zapiain.
the most worthy bishop
of this Diocese of the Canaries
Loving pastor of the poor.
Defender of the Church and morality.
Solicitous in the formation of priests.
Faithful to the Magisterium of the Chair of Peter.
Died 7 May 1973.⁵
The teaching of Msgr. Pildain was abundant and aimed particularly at pointing out the social doctrine of the Church, of which he was a profound connoisseur,⁶ for the safeguarding and the improvement of the living conditions of the socioeconomically most disadvantaged groups attracted by the illusory and horrifying Communist theories.
He wrote about the anti-divine and anti-religious Communism, in perfect adherence to the teachings of the Supreme Pontiffs (especially of Pius XI and Pius XII), in his Pastoral Letter Sobre el communismo
]. ¿Adversarios o fautores? Puntos de meditación y examen de consciencia
[Adversaries or accomplices? Points for meditation and examination of conscience
], published during Lent of 1945, where he posed to his readers the social and political dilemma of that time, exhorting them to remain on the side of Jesus Christ: "Either complete Catholicism, and without concessions of any type; or revolutionary radical Communism. The choice cannot be uncertain for any Christian."⁷
There would be many valid reasons to remember the figure of this excellent and little-known Prelate. Among these, still, one, which today seems particularly useful to illustrate, stands out. It treats of the agony that the humble and pious heart of Msgr. Pildain was constrained to live through because of the approbation, by part of the Vatican II "Council,"⁸ of the Declaration Dignatitis humanæ personæ
on religious liberty.
The bishop of the Canaries was one of the conciliar fathers. And—though it happens that he did not form a part of that group of fathers that, under the name of Cœtus internationalis patrum
, wanted to put the brakes on the neo-Modernist ferocity—he was one of the greatest opponents to the Declaration on religious liberty.
Regarding this, his biographer Don Agustin Chil Estevez says:
"Monsignor Pildain belonged to the minority opposed to religious liberty. He worked with all his strengths and arguments to show what was unacceptable in this declaration [i.e., the conciliar declaration on religious liberty]."⁹
The same Estevez also reports:
"Of all the themes that were treated in Vatican II, this one had to be the one that made the bishop of the Canaries labor and suffer most. All the sessions in which this subject of religious liberty was treated had to be for him a genuine via crucis
The definitive approbation of Dignitatis humanæ personæ
provoked a most great dolor and profound sense of dismay. This exemplar and so zealous a bishop in the practice of virtue remained appalled by the fact that the Church
(he considered, in fact, Paul VI a true Pope and Vatican II a true Ecumenical Council) took up and then made its own the doctrine contained in that document.
To depict this important and terrible circumstance in the life of Msgr. Pildain, we have recourse to the testimony of Msgr. José María Cirarda de Lachiondo, who at the time of the "Council" was auxiliary bishop of cardinal Bueno Monreal, archbishop of Seville, but who knew Msgr. Pildain since his youngest years.
Behold the account of Msgr. Cirarda de Lachiondo:
"On 7 December 1965 I went by car with Msgr. Pildain of the Spanish College to St. Peter's Basilica for the last session of work. The day before there was a series of votes on various conciliar documents—among these, the declaration 'Dignitatis humanæ
' on Religious Liberty. While we were going, Msgr. Pildain told me, almost verbatim:
"If this Declaration is approved today, I will return to the Canaries, ascend to the pulpit with miter and crosier, and say to my faithful: 'The Vatican Council II teaches something distinct from what I explained to you in various Pastoral Letters on religious liberty. The Council is right.'
"The internal battle that the good Don Antonio was suffering impressed me, and I replied to him:
'Do not say that. You have to say that a curve is concave or convex according to the point of view from which it is contemplated. You spoke in your writings on the right of truth. But the Council changed its point of view and speaks of the right of each person to operate according to his conscience.'
"No," he replied to me forcefully. "I do not want to scandalize you. But if the Council approves the text that it today is presented to us, it defends the contrary of what I have taught. I do not understand."
"Buried in sand, I dared ask him a question:
'Why do you use a conditional over and over: If the Council approves this Declaration? It is certain that it is going to be approved today. Yesterday, in the session at which the Pope did not assist, it had only a hundred, more or less, contrary votes. Today there will still be fewer contrary votes. Why are you still talking in the conditional: If the Declaration is approved…?'
"His response left me almost petrified:
"I speak in the conditional," he told me, "because yesterday I presented a text before the Secretariat of the Council which began saying: Utinam ruat cupulla Sancti Petri super nos antequam approbemus Declarationem De Libertate Religiosa… [I would that the dome of Saint Peter's collapse on us before we approve the Declaration On Religious Liberty…]
"It was 8:30 in the morning, and anything could still happen. He stood there for a moment, and added:
'Don José María, I do not want to scandalize you. Are you sure that if the Declaration is approved, you will return to the Canaries, ascend to the pulpit, and, as you said before, say to my people: The Council has taught a doctrine distinct from what I taught you on Religious Liberty. I was mistaken. Ignore what I taught you. The Council is right.'
"The Declaration was approved. And Don Antonio kept his promise. It was already twenty-five years. Perhaps someone of those present remembers Msgr. Pildain in the plenitude of his episcopal office, with miter and crosier, affirming his unreserved adhesion to what the Council had taught on religious liberty. He died not understanding the conciliar doctrine on the matter. But he asked his faithful to listen to Vatican II and not to what his pastoral letters said before it."¹¹
The same Msgr. Cirarda, elsewhere, specifies that in the same occasion, Msgr. Pildain told him:
"I am convinced that the Declaration on religious liberty is an enormous error."
"Why?," I told him.
"Because the Church had always taught the contrary."¹²
The words addressed by the bishop of Gran Canaria to the General Secretariat of the Council ("I would that the dome of Saint Peter's collapse on us before we approve the Declaration On Religious Liberty…") almost make me shudder because of the image they carry with them. An image that gives the exact dimension of what was happening in the world in the days of the approbation of Dignitatis humanæ
and of the promulgation of the nefarious bad-council (conciliabolo
) called Vatican II. The Church has not ceased, but the Vacancy of the Chair of Peter, which since then perdures to this day, has become certain.
Msgr. Pildain undoubtedly erred in thinking that a doctrine contrary to what the Church has always taught could come from the Church herself, that what the Church has always proposed to the faithful to believe is something moving and worthy of reflection, especially for him who insists, even today, in the desperate impression of being able to square a circle. Of being able, i.e., to believe, or try to make others believe, that the doctrine contained in the conciliar Declaration on religious liberty is conformed to the traditional doctrine on this matter.
No one was fit to take the awareness of that contradiction from the mind of Msgr. Pildain. Certainly, his dolorous experience saddens and encourages us at the same time because it reenforces—if there were ever need of it—the certainty that Vatican II, in proposing its doctrine on religious liberty, is dissociated from the doctrine of the Church, contradicting it irremediably.
The tombstone inscription, we have seen, concludes by affirming that he was faithful to the Magisterium of the Chair of Peter. Unfortunately, this, at least objectively, does not correspond to the truth because Msgr. Pildain submitted himself to the will of the bad-council (conciliabolo
), professing some of its doctrine also as "bishop." And in inevitable consequence disowned, at least externally, the Magisterium of the Chair of Peter.
One could apply the same exhortation that the bishop of the Canaries made to his faithful for distancing them as much as possible from Communism to the choice that each Catholic today is called to carry out, facing the novelties of the "Council" and the post-"Council": either complete Catholicism, without any compromise, or the deadly doctrine of the Montinis, Wojtyłas, Ratzingers, and Bergoglios. There is not room for doubts.Ora pro nobis Sancta Dei Genitrix. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
[See the original
for the corresponding footnotes.]