Sunday 23rd October 2016

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Finnish Scholar In Rome . . . A Non-Catholic Sets The Catholic Record Straight

April 5, 2014 Frontpage No Comments


ROME — Villa Lante al Gianicolo, located on one of the many picturesque hills of Rome with a unique view of the eternal city, is probably one of the best-preserved Renaissance villas in the city and is the property of Finland. This stately mansion houses the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae, Finland’s cultural institute, and the Finnish Embassy to the Holy See.
One of the main purposes of a cultural institute is obviously to arrange cultural events, such as the conference, “Pilgrims or Benefice Hunters? Ordination of Finnish Clergy in the Fifteenth Century Roman Curia.” It was held there February 19, under the auspices of the institute’s current director, Tuomas Heikkilä, a professor of history attached to the University of Helsinki. He has authored books on Finland’s patron saint, St. Henry of Uppsala.
Although I feared facing some of the usual anti-Catholic Church tirades that the intriguing title seemed to suggest, I nonetheless decided to attend the event, due to my interest in covering the Christian presence in Scandinavia. But, to my pleasant surprise, I had to eat humble pie, because the event turned out to be exactly the opposite, with a non-Catholic speaker exposing an anti-Catholic bias in a noted scholarly work.
The conference consisted in the presentation of and reflections on a book the speaker, Dr. Jussi Hanska, who teaches medieval history at the University of Tampere and Ecclesiastical History at the University of Helsinki, coauthored with his Finnish colleague Kirsi Salonen of the Universities of Turku and Tampere. The title is Finland: Entering a Clerical Career at the Roman Curia, 1458–1471, of the series Church, Faith, and Culture in the Medieval West (Ashgate Publishing Co., 2013).
As a follow-up to his lecture, Professor Hanska confirmed in a subsequent e-mail interview that the book was the result of his most demanding commitment ever, in the form of a decade-long project. It was prompted, as happens at times, almost by chance when some ten years ago he was at the Vatican Library to do research.
While consulting a book, The Church in Italy in the Fifteenth Century by the British historian Denys Hay (1915-1994), he was struck by what he read on pages 54-55. As a result of a single document investigated, the British scholar concluded that the Ordinations of priests at the Roman Curia, and specifically in the Camera Apostolica (Apostolic Chamber), during that century entailed proceedings that often “must have lacked dignity, and usually they must have involved only the most superficial verification of qualification and title. The ill-arranged, not to say slatternly, organization of the registers themselves confirms that a certain degree of disorderliness pervaded the whole process.”
To employ more updated language, we might say that the whole process was marked by an evident “lack of transparency.”
The above-mentioned document, identified as ASV, Cam. Ap., Libri format., vol. 4, f. 2r., is kept in the Vatican Secret Archives and Professor Hanska ultimately decided to see it for himself. He could not have been more astonished in finding out that the thesis upheld by Denys Hay — namely, that the ordinands were overwhelmingly some sort of uneducated, greedy, benefice-seekers adventurers whom the Vatican Curia failed to unmask and reject, be it for lack of diligence or due to incompetence or bribes-based complicity — was devoid of foundation.
The negative conclusions so arbitrarily drawn by Denys Hay, he continued, have serious implications. Although his book was published long ago, in 1977, it was reprinted in 2002 and still retains considerable clout in British and American academic circles, all the more so if one considers that there is hardly any other book in Italian (or in any other language) which tries to describe what the Italian clergy and their parishioners were like in the 15th century.
This was the century prior to the Reformation and in Italy it has generally been seen with either neglect or recrimination. Whereas Protestants tended to see the Church becoming ever-more corrupt, Catholics lamented that it was “paganized” by the Renaissance. Be that as it may, unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations like Professor Hay’s are precisely the kind of material that can trigger and/or foster what is at times known under a specific term, “black legends,” namely, a sort of mud-slinging exercise against the Catholic Church and its clergy.
Alas, long gone are the days when the English-speaking cultural domain was graced by academics of the caliber of Christopher Dawson (1889-1970), a British scholar who is considered among the greatest English-speaking historians of the 20th century!
Back to Professor Hanska’s discovery. The initial result of his mere curiosity soon developed into a much wider plan and actually turned into a mammoth job: a thorough screening of 14 volumes of Libri Formatarum, viz., the registers of Ordinations which have survived thus far. Due to this massive material, he had to limit his investigation to the pontificate of Paul II, from 1464 to 1471, for a total amount of 1,673 Ordinations of secular clergy (excluding religious orders, since they represented a particular case from the viewpoint of canon law) in the Roman Curia.
Next step was to source information on these clergy: Who were they? Where did they come from? What was their background? Why did they decide to be ordained in Rome? Besides the good amount of data already contained in the Libri Formatarum, Professor Hanska was able to collect further evidence from other sources, such as the Repertorium Germanicum and other documents from the Vatican Secret Archives.
Again, Professor Hay’s assumption that those ordained in the Camera Apostolica were inept candidates with neither education nor titles, but with enough money to “buy” their Ordinations, was proven wrong.
For example, the Finnish professor wondered, how could these Ordinations have “lacked dignity” if their religious celebration took place in the majestic Basilica of St. John Lateran, in the Sancta Sanctorum Chapel? Moreover, a great many of the names in the list of the candidates to presbyteratus were preceded by two initials, H and L, standing for Habuit Letteram, meaning that they had received from their bishops a littera dimissorialis, viz., the permission to be ordained in another diocese.
But Professor Hanska further pointed out that another abbreviation could be noted: r.p.e., namely, rector parochialis ecclesiae. This is the clear indication of a certain status, in the sense that these ordinands had already a cura animarum, viz., they were taking care of souls in a parish church and therefore in terms of canon law being fully ordained was mandatory. Normally a stipend was also attached to a parish church, and this stipend could be used in part to pay the vicar taking care of the parish church during the ordinand’s absence and the rest by the latter as a bursary, if he was also a university student.
We should also bear in mind, the professor emphasized, that we know nothing about half the ordinands, but whenever data are available about them, invariably the same picture emerges: They were well-educated members of the clerical establishment and at times not even foreign pilgrims, but persons living in Rome, many of them even in the Curia or relatives to well-known members of the Curia, in some instances next-of-kin of the Pope himself.
And the few cases of ordinands coming from Finland, the professor concludes, are no exception, since the relevant documentation points to the fact that they were also members of the career religious establishment, however low-ranking they might have been — a far cry from any idea of benefice-hunters.
To sum it up all, all available data confirm that well-educated members of the then ecclesiastical elite were ordained in the Camera Apostolica, rather than scoundrels, rogues, and crooks as contended by Professor Hay in his book.

Share Button

2016 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Live From New York Should a Catholic Vote for Hillary or Trump?

Almighty God has been very good  in giving us as the day’s Gospel passage that of Our Lord’s famous admonition to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but to God what is God’s.” I say that in view of the…Continue Reading

Catholic university blasts ‘Unborn Lives Matter’ posters as ‘bigotry,’ bans them on campus

CHICAGO, Illinois, October 18, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – College Republicans at DePaul University were prohibited by the university president from displaying posters on campus advertising their group with the pro-life message, “Unborn Lives Matter.” Vincentian Father Dennis Holtschneider indicated to the…Continue Reading

For Archbishop Chaput, ‘Catholic Spring’ group did untold damage

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 14, 2016 / 05:53 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput did not enjoy his first and only encounter with two leaders of Catholics United. “It was an interesting experience,” Archbishop Chaput recounted in his Oct. 13 column…Continue Reading

The anti-Catholic Catholics (and the bishops who support them)

Yesterday Ross Douthat of the New York Times embarked on a lengthy Tweetstorm —21 tweets in all—questioning whether it’s accurate to refer to the leaked emails from the Clinton campaign as evidence of “anti-Catholic” bigotry. Douthat—who is no friend of…Continue Reading

The next ‘deplorables’? Clinton campaign rips ‘backwards’ Catholic beliefs in leaked e-mails

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – “Conservative Catholics” are the latest Americans to be smeared by members of Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign, leaked emails revealed on Tuesday show. Catholic beliefs are bashed as “backwards” and conservative Catholics…Continue Reading

German Bishop’s New Proposal: “There Exists More Than Man and Woman”

The Catholic Church in Germany seems to be becoming more and more unbounded in its proposals. In the recent past, for examples, the official website of the German Bishops’ Conference,, has reported about the idea to have women cardinals; about…Continue Reading

Cardinal Sarah presents counter-vision to Francis as he launches new book

After being reprimanded by Pope Francis over the summer for calling on priests to face east while saying Mass, Cardinal Robert Sarah is refusing to back down and is becoming a rallying point of opposition to this papacy.  The Vatican’s…Continue Reading

Massachusetts’ highest court grants full parental rights to unmarried gay woman

BOSTON – The Mass. court that paved the way for same-sex marriage in the United States ruled Tuesday that an unmarried gay woman whose former girlfriend gave birth to two children through artificial insemination has the same parental rights as…Continue Reading

Shunned for supporting natural marriage, former Mozilla CEO is back with new browser

SAN FRANCISCO, September 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The former CEO of Mozilla has released a new Internet browser called Brave. Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript, continues to lead the technological revolution with Brave, an innovative concept in Internet browsers.…Continue Reading

Lay Catholic Group: Tim Kaine’s Radical Views Stem From Embrace of Liberation Theology

An organization of committed lay Catholics is challenging Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, who’s invoking his Catholic faith and the words of Pope Francis as a basis for his radical positions on abortion and marriage, as well as his…Continue Reading

Quebec cardinal won’t refuse funerals for those choosing assisted suicide

Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec said he has no intention to follow in the steps of his fellow Canadian bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories in refusing funerals for those who asked to be euthanized. “I don’t plan specific…Continue Reading

Shocking Report Reveals Scientists Have Created the Word’s First Baby With Three-Parents

A shocking new report claims the world’s first three-parent baby (pictured above) has been born. Children born through ‘three-person IVF’ would contain some genetic material from each of three different people. There are about 50 known mitochondrial diseases (MCDs), which…Continue Reading


Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Enter Comments Below

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “An Introduction To The Problem Of Euthanasia”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 23 of The Facts of Life, a 150-page treatise on all of the aspects of euthanasia, e-mail him at + + + We have covered the definitions of the varieties of…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput welcomes ‘smaller church’ of holier Catholics

(RNS) In a stark prognosis for contemporary Catholicism, a leader of the conservative wing of the U.S. hierarchy has said that “a smaller, lighter church” of fewer but holier believers is preferable to one that promotes inclusion at the expense of traditional orthodoxy. In a speech delivered Wednesday (Oct. 19) at the University of Notre Dame, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput also suggested that many prominent Catholics are so weak in their faith that they ought…Continue Reading

Kansas archbishop blasts Kaine: He’s an ‘orthodox’ Democrat but a ‘cafeteria Catholic’


KANSAS CITY, Kansas, October 17, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, has lambasted Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine for supporting abortion on demand while simultaneously touting his Catholic faith. Kaine is an “orthodox” Democrat but only a “cafeteria Catholic” who picks and chooses “the teachings of the Catholic Church that are politically convenient,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann wrote in a devastating critique of the Virginia senator. “It was painful to listen…Continue Reading

U.S. Catholics Under Attack

WikiLeaks did it again with another e-mail release, 1,200 of them, and this time exposing the deliberate attempts by the Clinton campaign to disrupt, undermine and, yes, try to destroy the Catholic Church. Their intent was (is) to plant the “seeds of the revolution” within the institution. Among the e-mails are communications between Clinton operatives that are clearly filled with bigotry. If anyone had any doubt that Hillary Clinton and the people around her have…Continue Reading

Fake Catholic Groups and the “Catholic Spring” Emails


It is now impossible to deny that Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United have worked for years to undermine and manipulate Catholic leadership Beginning in 2007, orthodox Catholic writers including myself wrote dozens of articles in an attempt to expose the funding and duplicitousness of two fake Catholic groups: the George Soros-funded Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United. (For example, see here and here and here.) Now,…Continue Reading

Archbishop Chaput’s Weekly Column: About Those Unthinking, Backward Catholics

Back in 2008, in the weeks leading up to the Obama-McCain presidential election, two young men visited me in Denver.  They were from Catholics United, a group describing itself as committed to social justice issues.  They voiced great concern at the manipulative skill of Catholic agents for the Republican Party.  And they hoped my brother bishops and I would resist identifying the Church with single-issue and partisan (read: abortion) politics. It was an interesting experience.…Continue Reading

A Disillusioned Marxist Professor

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK I spent much of my adult life observing left-wing academics who professed a fondness for socialism in one form or another. Some were my professors, others colleagues. More than a few were New Left Marxists who spoke openly in admiration of Mao, Fidel Castro, and the Sandinistas. One woman I taught…Continue Reading

The March To Totalitarianism

By DONALD DeMARCO Hannah Arendt, best known for her denunciation of totalitarianism in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, has made the comment that “the aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.” Totalitarianism can appeal only to the unthinking masses. A true education, let it…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Advance Medical Directives: The Living Will”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 23 of The Facts of Life, “Euthanasia,” e-mail him at + + + “Evil committed for a good cause remains evil.” “Even when it succeeds?” “Above all when…Continue Reading

The Joke’s On Us

By DONALD DeMARCO The definitive Jack Benny joke is well known. Originally aired in a March 28, 1948 episode, the legendary comedian is accosted by a mugger and given the option, “Your money or your life!” A long pause follows. The gunman reiterates, “Look, bud! I said your money or your life?” Benny replies, “I’m…Continue Reading

“Pope’s Day” . . … The Lost Tradition Of A November 5 Anti-Catholic Feast Day

By RAY CAVANAUGH In much of colonial America, November 5 was known as Pope’s Day. This was not a day of celebrating the Pontiff, however. In fact, violence would erupt over who got the privilege of burning the Pope’s effigy. Pope’s Day (also known as “Pope’s Night” or just “Pope Day”) was the colonial offshoot…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

What Is Faith?… Other Attributes Of God

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA Part 8 “I love thee, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2). The enthusiasm with which the psalmist praises God our Lord comes from his knowledge of God’s…Continue Reading

Confirmation In The Economy Of Salvation

By DON FIER Part 2 In the introductory paragraph of its section on the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Roman Catechism [RC], promulgated in 1566 by Pope St. Pius V soon after the Council of Trent, are the following words: “If there was ever a time when the Sacrament of Confirmation needed to be explained carefully, that time is now. All…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: J.H.T. of North Carolina, a deacon who has been a witness to the “liturgical wars” of the past half-century, has recommended an “extraordinary book” — Peter Kwasniewski’s Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church — that he says should be read by all Catholics, clergy and lay, who…Continue Reading

The Lover Of Souls

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Thirty-First Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Wisdom 11:22-12 2 Thess. 1:11-2:2 Luke 19:1-10 In the first reading today, we are given a good perspective on things: Before the Lord, the entire universe is less than a drop of morning dew on the Earth. When we consider one tiny drop of dew in comparison to…Continue Reading

The Clergy’s Silence, Ambiguity, And Dissent Are Destroying The Family

By FR. SHENAN BOQUET (Editor’s Note: Fr. Shenan Boquet is the president of Human Life International, and he travels around the world spreading the Gospel of Life in that role. He is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese in Louisiana where he served before joining HLI in August 2011. (Fr. Boquet’s commentary below on the silence of the shepherds first…Continue Reading

Blessed Giuseppe Puglisi

By CAROLE BRESLIN When a society is riddled with evil and corruption, the worst thing we can do is to remain quiet. If we truly believe in God, then it is our obligation to do all we can to save the souls in danger of being lost in such a society. The threats and dangers of this world are not…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Gerard Majella

By CAROLE BRESLIN God works many miracles through the weakest persons so that their lives read like a fairy tale. Old or young, sick or poor, powerful or destitute, all are touched deeply by their encounters with such men of God. Such was the life of St. Gerard Majella, the patron saint of expectant mothers and young children. Domenica, a…Continue Reading