“Theology of the Body” 1.0

Modernist Yves Congar Urinated on Wall of Holy Office in early 1960s

Fr. Yves Congar, O.P.

The following report comes from Robert Blair Kaiser (1931-2015), a Jesuit-trained liberal who became a journalist instead of — thank heavens! — a “Catholic” priest. Normally we would just provide a quote or an excerpt and then link to the full article; however, as Kaiser is now deceased and his web site is likewise defunct, we are reproducing it below in its entirety.

In a nutshell: The Modernist lowlife known as Fr. Yves Congar, O.P. (1904-95), urinated at the walls of the Holy Office in the early 1960s to show his contempt for Roman Catholic orthodoxy and in particular for Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, who was then functioning as the secretary of the Holy Office.

Here is Kaiser’s article in full, originally published on his blog, “Kaiser’s Vatican II Journal” in 2012:


I often wondered whether the story was true. Did Congar really pee on the wall of the Holy Office? I’d heard the story from one of my theologian friends at the Council, but I’d never been able to confirm it.

Yesterday, on the tenth day of my 3-week lecture tour in India, I got the kind of independent second source that makes a story reportable.

Setting up the tale: At Vatican II, Yves Congar, the French Dominican theologian, was one of the visionaries brought in by Pope John XXIII. During the 1950s, he had been on the Vatican’s enemies list for his “false irenicism.” (Translation: he was entirely too friendly with England’s Anglicans.) Then, after Pope John XXIII put him on the Preparatory Theological Commission, he did battle with Alfredo Ottaviani and Ottaviani’s number two man, the Dutch Jesuit Sebastian Tromp, and when he wasn’t providing re-writes of the projects “De Ecclesia” and “Dei Verbum,” he was briefing groups of bishops about what was going on behind the scenes, and, incidentally, explaining the rationale of Pope John’s aggiornamento.

During the Council’s entire three-year preparatory period, Ottaviani and Tromp arranged to put their stamp on the 72 documents to be presented for endorsement by the Council Fathers. (By “their stamp,” I mean the style and tone was pure Council of Trent: too legalistic, too abstract, too much concerned with the prerogatives of the pope (i.e., their own power), still operating under the seige mentality of Pius IX.) It looked like they wanted Vatican II to out-Trent Trent, anathematizing everything in sight.

Though Congar was on John XXIII’s side of the divide, that didn’t seem to matter to Ottaviani and Tromp. Once, when Congar put up objections to a particularly Trent-like expression in the schema on the Church (which was undergoing multiple revisions during the Council’s first two years), Ottaviani actually threatened to put Congar on trial for heresy. (In Congar’s Journal of the Council, which I am reading on my iPhone during this trip, Congar quotes himself lashing back at Ottaviani, “Are we having a discussion here, or is this an Inquisition?”)

Well, enough background. The story I heard was that, one night after dinner, Congar and some friends were walking past Ottaviani’s Palazzo di Sant’ Ufficio. He proceeded to excuse himself for a minute, walked over to the building, peed on the wall and returned to the group with a satisfied smile on his face. A good story, but one I was reluctant to report, until now.

Yesterday, at JDP, the Indian Jesuits’ theologate, Jnana-Deepa Vidyapapeeth (house of wisdom and light), I had the pleasure of a long rambling chat with Luis Bermejo, 82, a now-retired Spanish Jesuit who had spent most of his life teaching theology in India.

It was one of those gossipy conversations that could (and did) go everywhere. At one point, when I said to Bermejo how much I was enjoying Congar’s Journal, particularly his accounts of his ongoing (often lost) battles with Ottaviani, he recalled Congar’s emphatic, wordless gesture at the Holy Office wall.

“‘Aha!” I said to Bermejo, “for years I have been looking for confirmation from an independent source. Now I have it.”

Maybe. Bermejo couldn’t recall where he got the story. I got the story from Leo Alting von Geusau, the very well informed priest who ran C-DOC, the Dutch documentation center at Vatican II.

If Bermejo did not get the story (directly or indirectly) from von Geusau, then I can be 99 percent certain the story is true.

Why does it matter? As an important part of the history of the Council, it doesn’t matter much. To me, however, a journalist-author who likes to entertain his readers every now and then, as well as enlighten them, it’s a story worth confirming.


My three-day stay at the seminary complex in Pune (once known as Poona), has been the high point of my trip so far. I stayed in the Jesuit house of theological studies called Jnana-Deepa Vidyapapeeth (JDP), a very modern building with spacious rooms quite a bit nicer than other places I’ve stayed in on this trip. My room had cable Internet access AND a shower with hot water. (Just when I was getting used to cold showers!)

I will try to attach a picture here of the altar at JDV, startling to me because of the mosaic behind the altar, of a dancing Jesus. The Indian Jesuits, unlike most Jesuits I have known, have a real love for, and appreciation of, the dance. Instead of an opening prayer before my talk at St. Xavier College in Kolkata, a young woman, a student of the dancing Jesuit Saju George (whom I mentioned in my Journal #1), performed a sacred dance.

My host at JDP was the newly installed president, George Pattery, a tall handsome Jesuit with a brilliant smile who has spent some of his study-years in Rome and in the U.S. (The Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, if I recall correctly.) He personally appeared at the door of my room five minutes before every event, then escorted me there, very often had me join him at his breakfast, lunch, or dinner table. (No special table for the fathers. They and the students all dine together, buffet-style, at tables of four.) Fr. George delegated the college’s registrar, Fr. Pravin Severarkar, to pick me up at the airport when I arrived in Pune, and escort me to the bus terminal on my departure. I particularly appreciated Father Pravin’s presence at the bus terminal, a scene of utter chaos made even more confusing by a high-volume stream of announcements in the local language of Pune. (Don’t ask me to identify the language, one of the eight official languages of India no doubt, where the one common language is English.)

One of the faculty members at JDV: Sister Patricia Santos RJM (Religious of Jesus and Mary?) teaches feminist theology to the mostly male students at JVD, young Jesuits and candidates for grad degrees in theology from a good many dioceses around the country. Father Pattery had Sister Patricia introduce me to a crowd of 200 at one of my major talks; she also introduced me to an even larger crowd of mostly women, members of a lay Bible study group (and others), who gathered at her convent school on Boat Club Road. (I am counting on my webmaster friend Dennis Tomko to post her picture here, a shot I took with my iPhone.)

From Sister Patricia’s presence on the faculty, and from the presence of maybe a half dozen other young women in the student body, I get the feeling that the Indian Jesuits are a little bit ahead of their time. They certainly do not fear the women in their midst. More: they treat them as equals, though I suspect that some of the women at JVD are even a bit superior to the men.

I say that because of the presence at JDV of Leanne Tonkin, a student visiting there as a guest at JVD whilst getting her doctorate in early childhood education at Mumbai. After lunch one day, I made it a point to chat with Leanne. She looked Eurasian. I was right. I discovered she has a Canadian father and a mother who was herself Eurasian. Interesting background. Leanne grew up in Vancouver and Montreal, and, in her senior year in college, won a $10,000 prize for her (yet unpublished) memoir. She has seen the production of two of her own plays. She also meditates for an hour every morning according to a Buddhist form of wordless prayer called Vipassana.

Enough for now. I am off to Mumbai (once known as Bombay) where I hope to regale audiences with stories about the one-time archbishop of Bombay, T.D. Roberts, who came to our home in Rome for dinner one evening–and stayed as our houseguest for two years.

(Source: Robert Blair Kaiser, “Story Confirmed: Congar Did Pee on the Wall of the Holy Office”, Kaiser’s Vatican II Journal, Sep. 26, 2012; available at Web Archive here)

During the reign of Pope Pius XII, Congar was already suspect of heresy because of his support for the Nouvelle Theologie (“New Theology”, also known as “ressourcement theology”) that had begun to emerge in the 1930s as a clear inheritor of Modernism. The New Theology sought to re-interpret the theology of the Church’s Universal Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, from scratch and attempted to mix theology with modern philosophy, all in order, allegedly, to make it “relevant” to modern man.

We know how that’s been working out.

Having been invited to the Second Vatican Council as a theological expert by Antipope John XXIII, the urinator was effectively rehabilitated and became one of the big names in the Vatican II Sect. He was ultimately honored with the title of “cardinal” by Antipope John Paul II in 1994 before being called by Almighty God to render an account on June 22, 1995.

One of Congar’s fiercest opponents was the saintly Dominican Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877-1964), who fought the Nouvelle Theologie tooth and nail and was quite successful in doing so. By the providence of Almighty God, Fr. Garrigou was allowed to pass away before the end of Vatican II and had already lost his mind during the council. Without exaggerating one may say that if there was one man who was a genuine Doctor of the Church in the 20th century, it was Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

Fr. Congar, on the other hand, will forever live in infamy as producing nothing but Modernist urine.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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