Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Israel, Pope Pius XII, and the Holocaust

There is currently a controversy, or renewal of a controversy, about the role of Pope Pius XII and the Jews in during World War II. It is usually posed by mainstream accounts as: did Pius XII do all he could to save the Jews from the Holocaust? Since the current Pope, Benedict XVI, was a member of the Nazi youth organization and is trying to get Pius XII qualified as a saint, now is a good time to get the facts about Pius XII.

"Politics makes strange bedfellows." Here I find myself siding with the State of Israel, whereas I am usually pro-Palestinian (the Palestinians have nothing to do with this particular controversy). Israel, and doubtless many Jewish organizations, don't want Pius XII canonized.

Pius XII, before he became Pope, was the Vatican Secretary of State. Born Eugenio Pacelli, as Cardinal Pacelli he was the right-hand man to Pius XI. To understand Pius XII you have to understand Pius XI, who chose to promote Pacelli to the second highest rank in the Roman Catholic Church.

I think it is fair to say that Pius XI, who became pope in 1922, was the architect of fascism. Of course this is a controversial hypothesis, and can be argued against on a number of fronts. Benito Mussolini would be the other candidate for the title. But it was Pius XI who made anti-Communism the first priority of the Catholic Church. Under the banner of Anti-Communism (and the Church was also openly against democratic forms of socialism, and even capitalist forms of democratic government), Pius helped first Mussolini, then other fascist leaders come to power. I know that is a shocking assertion to most people, but it is not difficult to paint that picture once the facts are at hand. First, however, I want to relate this to antisemitism and thus the Holocaust.

Adolf Hitler is usually portrayed as the architect of the Holocaust. His own antisemitism, in the consensus histories, is attributed to anti-semitic cults that he encountered as a young man living in Vienna. However, this does not hold up under analysis.

Hitler was born a Catholic (See Hitler's Catholicism) and was raised as a Catholic in a Catholic state, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Antisemitism in Austria was rooted in the Catholic Church. There was a close alliance between the Hapsburg emperors and the Church, which ran the education system under the tender mercies of the Jesuits. When modern ideas began to penetrate the empire in the 19th century and some representative government was allowed, an Austrian Catholic Party (Later the Christian Social Party) was formed, with the Church's blessing. Because the Church itself was be abandoned by so many citizens in the empire, the party's leader, Karl Lueger, hit upon antisemitism as the primary selling point.

The antisemitism of the Holocaust grew out of the antisemitism promoted by the Catholic Church throughout its history. It became enshrined as a principle of fascist government because the Church wanted its prejudices to be backed by the power of the state.

To consider the idea that Pius XI was the architect of modern fascism, see the following essays (they are in linear order):

Pius XI and the Rise of Benito Mussolini
Pius XI and the Rise of Adolph Hitler
Pius XI and the Rise of General Franco
Pius XI, the Rise of Petain, and Fascist Vichy France

Pius XI and his Secretary of State were deeply involved in promoting fascism in other nations, notably Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria as well.

So when Cardinal Pacelli became Pope on March 2, 1939, he had been part of setting up a series of fascist regimes in Europe. Fascist movements, mostly but not exclusively Catholic, existed in many more nations of the world, including in the United States. He was a gung-ho anti-communist who believed that fascist dictators were the best bulwark against atheist communism, and against all rival creeds. Better still, except for Hitler, who had a large Protestant Christian population to deal with, all the dictators made the Catholic Church their exclusive religious partner. Cardinal Pacelli had never spoken out against anti-Semitism. He did not even speak out against mass-murder of non-Catholics, which had just been carried out by the Spanish fascists under General Francisco Franco. Here's what he said:

"With great joy we address you, dearest sons of Catholic Spain, to express our paternal congratulations for the gift of peace and victory, with which God has chosen to crown the Christian heroism of your faith and charity ... As a pledge of the bountiful grace which you will receive from the Immaculate Virgin and the Apostle James, patrons of Spain ... we give to you, our dear sons of Catholic Spain, to the Head of State and his illustrious Government, to the zealous Episcopate and its self-denying clergy, to the heroic combatants and to all the faithful, our apostolic benediction."

That said, I don't think that Pius XII agreed with the technical details of Hitler's extermination of the Jews. Hitler saw the Jews as not just a religion, but as a race of people. Pius XII and the Catholic Church had a long history of giving Jews (and other non-Catholics) the choice of conversion or death. I believe that if Pius XII had run Hitler's concentration camps for Jews he would have gone to great lengths to convert them to Catholicism. Hitler did not give the Jews that opportunity.

You might say that Pius XII does not sound like much of a saint, but you are using your own definition of a Saint, not that of the Roman Catholic Church. There are many Saints who were mass murderers. As long as they killed non-Catholics, with the idea in mind of converting the survivors to Catholicism, they are considered to be heroes of the church.


  1. you don't need to publish this
    Broken links alert:

    Your links are defective,
    (missing ".com")

  2. Revisiting Pope Pius XII
    Revisiting Pope Pius XII
    Since the early 1960s, it has been fashionable to condemn Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) for keeping "silent" during the Holocaust and having "pro-Nazi" sympathies. In fact, the evidence shows that these allegations are false.
    During World War II, the "silent" pope had a lot to say. His wartime encyclicals, speeches, and public letters fill seven volumes. At the time, the pope's words were widely seen as condemnations of Nazism. For example, on October 27, 1939, the New York-based Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that "the unqualified condemnation which Pope Pius XII heaped on totalitarian, racist, and materialist theories of government in his [first] encyclical Summi Pontificatus caused a profound stir."
    In his 1939 Christmas address, Pius XII said, "Atrocities and the illegal use of violence even against noncombatants and refugees . . . cry out for the vengeance of God." In the same speech, the pope articulated his conditions for a "just and honorable peace," which included the protection of all "racial minorities."
    The Nazis never believed Pope Pius XII was silent. A report dated January 22, 1943 by the Reich Central Security Office (RHSA) on the pope's explosive 1942 Christmas message reads, "In a manner never known before the pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order. . . . His speech is one long attack on everything we stand for." After quoting the pope's words, the report states, "Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals."
    Although Pius XII publicly refused to take sides, he actively cooperated with the German Resistance. In early 1940, the pope acted as an intermediary between a group of German generals who wanted to overthrow Adolf Hitler and the British government. A 1944 report by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was found in the National Archives a decade ago, reveals that the Resistance gave the pope knowledge of two other plots against Hitler.
    Instead of sympathizing with Nazi Germany, Pius XII actually assisted the Soviet Union during the war. In response to diplomatic appeals made by President Franklin Roosevelt in the fall of 1941, the pope agreed that American Catholics could support the extension of military aid, through the Lend-Lease program, to the Soviet Union after it was invaded by the Nazis.
    Throughout the war, the pope instructed his diplomatic representatives in many Axis and Nazi-occupied nations to help Jews who were being persecuted or in danger of being deported. The Jewish press even reported some of the Vatican's efforts. Consider a few headlines and articles: "Vatican Radio Denounces Nazi Acts in Poland"--Jewish Advocate (Boston), January 26, 1940; "Laval Spurns Pope--25,000 Jews in France Arrested for Deportation"--Canadian Jewish Chronicle, September 4, 1942; "Jewish Hostages in Rome: Vatican Protests"--Jewish Chronicle (London), October 29, 1943. In an editorial (July 27, 1944), the American Israelite in Cincinnati stated: "With Rome liberated, it has been determined, indeed, that 7,000 of Italy's 40,000 Jews owe their lives to the Vatican .... Placing these golden deeds alongside the intercession of Pope Pius XII with the regent of Hungary on behalf of Hungarian Jews, we feel an immeasurable degree of gratitude towards our Catholic brethren."
    In February 2003, the Vatican began the process of opening its archives from the Nazi period. One of the very first documents that was found was a letter dated April 4, 1933 by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the Vatican Secretary of State and future Pius XII, to the papal nuncio in Germany. Pacelli instructed the nuncio to see what he could do to oppose Germany's anti-Semitic policies.
    In the last few decades, Pius XII's other achievements have been forgotten as well. He encouraged scholars to use scientific methods to analyze biblical texts, agreed that Catholics could accept the theory of evolution, and encouraged women to enter public life. Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have all credited Pius XII with laying the theological groundwork that made the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) possible.
    The recent scholarly literature in Europe defending Pope Pius XII is extensive. The pope's defenders include Jewish authors such as Rabbi David Dalin and Sir Martin Gilbert. Contrary to what is often repeated in the secular media, the Vatican has made a strong persuasive case for beatifying Pius XII. Now it's up to the late pope's critics to prove his guilt rather than demanding that the Vatican to prove his innocence.

  3. Don't you agree that anybody who cites Rabbi David Dalin's book, "The Myth of Hitler's Pope" as proof that John Cornwell's book "Hitler's Pope" that they ought to have the integrity to real BOTH books first?

    Actually, since the whole purpose of Dalin's book is to disprove not only Cornwell's book, but "A Moral Reckonning" by his fellow Jew, Daniel Goldhaggen, one ought to become familiar with all THREE books.

    I challenge any honest and educated person to read Dalin's book and either of the others and to then say with a straight face that Dalin's book is "scholarship".

    Having read all three books, I swear on the bible as a respected clergyman for 50 years that Dalin's book is a comic book compared to the others. There's no sense repeating here what I have spelled out on a web page I devoted to this very topic at JesusWouldBeFurious.Org/Hitlerspope.html.

    P.S. Rabbi Dalin should be sharing his royalties with me for urging so many people to read his "book" to see for themselves how phony it is.