Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pope Pius XII: anti-Semite and moral coward

This concise summary, from JPost, 10/03/2010, by SHMULEY BOTEACH, is essential reading:

Eugenio Pacelli, alias Pius XII - anti-Semite, mass kidnapper, moral coward and prospective "Catholic saint"

...Pius was, of course, the man who, as cardinal secretary of state, became the first statesman, in 1933, to sign an agreement with the man he called “the illustrious Hitler,” sending him a letter expressing his confidence in his leadership. His concordat with Hitler forced the Catholic Center Party into dissolution, not only removing the last obstacle to Hitler’s goal of absolute power in Germany but also destroying any further resistance by Germany’s Catholic bishops to the Nazis.

He was the pope who famously refused, amid unmistakable evidence of thousands of Jews being shipped to slaughter in Nazi concentration camps, to ever speak out against the Holocaust. This followed Pius’s successful efforts to prevent the publication of an encyclical commissioned by his dying predecessor to condemn Nazi anti-Semitism. This is also the pope who sent Hitler birthday greetings every single year and who refused to excommunicate Hitler or any other top Nazis who were on official Catholic rolls (to give this context, the singer Sinead O’Connor was excommunicated).

He ignored the pleas of president Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to denounce the Nazis. He later refused to endorse a joint declaration by Britain, the US and Russia condemning mass murder of Europe’s Jews, claiming that he simply could not condemn “particular” atrocities. The most he ever did was a single pronouncement during the war on the murder “of hundreds of thousands.” By then, of course, there were millions, and he did not mention Hitler, Nazi Germany or the Jews in the statement.

Most infamously, he was silent when the Germans rounded up Rome’s Jews in October 1944 for slaughter. They were being processed for extermination in a military school a few hundred yards from his window in St. Peter’s. An Italian princess, Enza Pignatelli, forced her way into the pope’s study and warned him about the imminent assault on the city’s Jewish citizens. “You must act immediately,” she cried. “The Germans are arresting the Jews and taking them away. Only you can stop them.” The pope assured her, “I will do all I can.” He made no protest and nearly all were later gassed in Auschwitz. Curiously, amid the pope’s inability to find his voice to condemn the extermination of European Jewry, when the Catholic archbishop of Berlin issued a statement mourning Hitler’s death, the pope did not reprimand him.

AUTHOR JOHN Cornwell unearths letters from Pius’s early career in Germany which reveals a stubborn, even distasteful disposition toward Jews. While papal nuncio in Germany, Pius refused to perform favors for the Jewish community on the flimsiest of grounds and describes the Munich chapter of the German Communist Party as being filthy and full of Jews. Pius refers derisively to “a group of young women, of dubious appearance, Jews like all the rest of them” and he describes communist leader Max Levien as a Jew, “pale, dirty, with drugged eyes, hoarse voice, vulgar, repulsive...”

Perhaps this would explain why, in one of the greatest acts of mass-kidnapping in history, Pius, in 1946, instructed the French Church to refuse the return of entire classes of Jewish children who were entrusted to the Church for safekeeping during the Holocaust if they had already been baptized. [Also see this and this - SL]

Now, if, as the Church maintains, Pius is being falsely maligned by his critics as a pious fraud and moral coward who disgraced a great world religion, then why doesn’t the Vatican fix the error by simply opening its archives on his pontificate that would reveal Pius’s correspondence and actions during the war?

It has thus far released a very select and carefully scrubbed collection of wartime documents that reveal next to nothing about the Church’s interactions with the Third Reich.

There is a comical element to this debate, which would be more humorous if it weren’t so tragic. It involves Pius’s defenders arguing that he purposefully refrained from condemning the Holocaust because the Jews would have fared even worse had the pope spoken out.

Worse than the Holocaust? Now that’s [not] funny.
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