Alan McElwain's ROME DIARY
N Pope John elected the Cardinal Michael Browne to the Sacred College in 1962, there was a story about that he could have become one at a consistory held a year earlier, but "turned himself down."
He was then Master-General of the Dominican Order and, as a matter of form, was requested to nominate someone in the order for the Red Hat (then still extant). He wrote back that he had given the matter grave consideration, but just couldn't think of anyone worthy of the honour.
Under the late Pope Pius XII, the then Father Browne was Master of the Sacred Palace, a post traditionally held by a Dominican and more popularly known as "the Pope's theologian." He had to drop this when he was elected Master-General in 1955 and Pope Pius was reported to be "extremely upset" when he was deprived of his personal service.
He joined the Dominicans in Dublin in 1903, when he was sixteen. He had been a great Munster Cup Rugby player and it was said that if the Church had not won him, he would have won an Irish cap.
As a young novice master, he went with one of his novices to the death cell of his brother, Sean Heuston, a leader of the 1916 Easter rising, and stayed with the condemned man in his last hours.
There are particularly happy memories of Cardinal Browne at San Clemente, the college in Rome run by the Irish Dominicans and attached to the historic church of the same name, where he was Prior for
some years; at the "Angelicum" (now the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas), where he was Professor, Rector and finally Grand Chancellor, and, of course, at Santa Sabina, the Dominican Headquarters, where he ruled gently, wisely and well.
When he was appointed cardinal, President de Were and Mrs. de Valera were among friends who came to Rome from Ireland for the ceremonies.
He was the first-ever Irish Dominican cardinal, the seventy-first Dominican cardinal and the twelfth Master-General to become one.
He was a big man : big in heart as well as in body. He
spoke softly, rarely forgot a face or a name, stuck to his conservative guns, but loved people of all faiths, and all his life placed tremendous value on true friendship.
Dirt by the ton
BEFORBEFORE Pope Paul last condpmned the flood of pornography flooding into Italy, police had been seizing huge quantities of "dirty" publications — eight tons of them in Milan alone, It has been estimated that 3,000 Italians receive mail about pornography every day. Mostly from Sweden, Denmark and Holland. Italian police have asked the international police organisation, Interpol, to trace companies behind the traffic.
Complaints about the porn o g r a phic publications mounted after it was revealed that letters and samples soliciting orders had even been received by convents and other religious institutions.
Men over forty head the list of Italians receiving the material. Young people are not greatly involved in the traffic.
The Italian government recently passed a law authorising the opening by postal officials of any mail thought to be obscene. This, however, brought complaints about violation of the secrecy of the mails. Despite increased police surveillance, thousands of envelopes containing pornography continue to be delivered.
The law's delay
ANOTHER case demonstrating the dire deficiency (to say the least) of Italy's archaic legal system is being so vigorously thrashed out in the Italian parliament and newspapers that there could be hope for long-overdue reforms.
There is special interest in the present case because the key figure is a foreigner.
The American actor, William Berger, 43, spent 238 days in jail without trial on drug charges which police insisted upon bringing against him after exactly one twentyeighth of an ounce of marijuana was found in his house. Once he did get before a court, he was promptly acquitted.
A tragic element of the proceedings was that Berger's 39 year-old American actress wife, one of seven other foreigners charged with him, died in a prison hospital last October after an emergency operation. Berger — in handcuffs — had been allowed to see her just once. His first act on being released this week was to go straight to her grave.
Berger, who has made a big name for himself in Italian western films, was arrested after police searched his home near Naples and found the minute quantity of marijuana in a cigarette case which, he protested, was not his. On this "evidence" he was charged with possessing, using and permitting others to take drugs in his home.
In the Italian chamber of deputies, Mr. Flavio Orlandi, leader of the Social Democrat Party, a partner in Italy's Centre-Left coalition government, likened the Berger case to "something from a Kafka nightmare."
Even the public prosecutor, Dr. Francesco Marchesiello, sided with Berger. He said the drugs law, originally intended to crush illegal traffic, had become an instrument of injustice and persecution. He also pointed out that, in 1956, an appeals court had ruled that taking drugs, as distinct from selling or distributing or encouraging others to take them, was not a crime, but the old law still operated.
The law under which the now proved innocent Berger was charged and kept in jail for nearly eight months dates from 1954. In this, as in numerous other cases, measures introduced during Mussolini's repressive Fascist regime intruded.
For instance, Berger was refused bail, for the simple reason that there still operates in Italy a Fascist, typically totalitarian law refusing bail to anyone.
Berger, in his way, was lucky. Like many other accused persons, some ultimately judged innocent, he could, under another Fascist law, have been kept in jail without trial not merely for months but for years.
For a long time, modernminded and humane politicians, lawyers and others have been doing their best to have Fascist penal and civil laws banished. They have pointed out that Fascist measures still operating in a democracy with a constitution guaranteeing the right of all people to fair and unimpeded justice, make a mockery not only of justice generally, but of many new laws passed since the second world war.
One healthy sign came recently from Milan, where more than 40 per cent of persons jailed to await trial are ultimately declared innocent by pre-trial examining magistrates and more than one-third of those who are brought to court are found Not Guilty.
There, judges and lawyers, both prosecuting and defence, with the English legal system as their ideal, have taken upon themselves to set up special courts to cut through red tape and provide speedy hearings for accused people.
Other centres may follow suit and the Berger case, now so hotly debated, provides more encouragement for reformers determined to act, not talk.
THE bishops of Latium (Central Italy) have gained themselves considerable publicity by taking the initiative for direct contact with the region's industrial workers in an attempt to find out, through frank, unrestricted dialogue, their expectations.
They also want to know what the Church means to the labour world, what charges arc being brought against her by the working class, and what the workers would like from the Church.
Other questions concern present trade union disputes and Italy's political and economic systems.
On the Feast of St. Joseph, about 300 representative workers attended a meeting with the bishops organised by Bishop Luigi Liverzani, of Frascati, chairman of the Latium Episcopal Conference's committee for labour, and at which the Pope's VicarGeneral for Rome, Cardinal Angelo Dell'Acqua, was also present.
A document setting out the workers' position will be drawn up for joint approval by the bishops and workers.