The Case for Pius XII Grows Stronger

Following up an earlier post I made here at The American Catholic, I wanted to see how the beatification process for Pope Pius XII was coming along. The Catholic News Agency reported on June 22:

Fr. Peter Gumpel S.J., the priest leading Pius XII’s beatification process, said at a conference in  Rome last week that Pope Benedict XVI was “impressed” by concerns that Jewish relations could be marred by a declaration of the World War II era Pope as a Servant of God.

I understand the necessity of playing this delicate game, but at the core of this controversy is historical truth. It saddens me to no end that so many Jews – and plenty of Catholics and secular commentators as well – are willing to believe the worst about Pius XII when there is so much evidence that not only casts doubt on the “Hitler’s Pope” argument, but actually obliterates it. There have been some new developments this year that only make the defense of Pius XII easier, and the complaints of his critics even more detached from honesty and reality.

Back in March, Fr. Gumpel found written evidence, a note by Pius instructing the Augustinian Nuns of the Roman Monestary to take in Jews:

“The Holy Father wishes to save his children, the Jews as well, and orders that the Monasteries provide hospitality to these persecuted people.” The note is from November of 1943 and includes a list of 24 people taken in by the monastery in response to the Holy Father’s request.

Of course, most of the evidence to date has been oral testimony, and understandably so; putting too much down in writing under Nazi rule was libale to be dangerous and to end up harming the effort to save as many Jews as possible. On that note, one of the most unreasonable claims made about Pius is that he didn’t “say” enough; aside from the fact that he was not exactly silent, what good would an outburst against the Nazi occupiers have done? No rational person could possibly condemn the Pope for verbal restraint, especially when it is obvious that he was operating silently and effectively to undermine the Holocaust.

Next we have Gary Krupp, president of the Pave the Way Foundation, which will be analyzing all of the documents gathered by Fr. Gumpel – over 25,000 that have never before been seen. It is not, however, because they are secret documents. CNA quotes Krupp:

“Of the critics who have accused Pius XII, nobody has come to the Vatican archives to see what was open until 1939, which represents a great percentage of his public life.”

Krupp said that German historian Michael Hesemann has been investigating the open archives. Each time he enters the archive, Krupp said, he comes out with an “astounding” document about Pius XII fighting anti-Semitism or saving Jewish lives.

This information is so readily available, but nobody has gone to look,” he said, saying historians and critics of Pius XII’s pontificate do not have to wait for the sealed archives to open when they have “so much material they can look at.”

It is high time that the Papacy and faithful Catholics take an unapologetic stand in defense of Pius XII. The attack on his memory is not an attack on one man, but on the entire institution, the entire Church. And why should that surprise us? As I noted in my last post, much of the public outcry against Pius was instigated by a work of fiction – one might say, a deliberately orchestrated lie – called “The Deputy”.  For years it was known by a few and suspected by many that this play, or at least the ideas within it, was commissioned by the KGB as part of a plan to undermine the Papacy in Western Europe.

Earlier this year, a former KGB agent, Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa, candidly described the campaign:

“In February 1960, Nikita Khrushchev approved a super-secret plan for destroying the Vatican’s moral authority in Western Europe,” writes Pacepa. “Eugenio Pacelli, by then Pope Pius XII, was selected as the KGB’s main target, its incarnation of evil, because he had departed this world in 1958. ‘Dead men cannot defend themselves’ was the KGB’s latest slogan.”

Pacepa says he became the Romanian point man. He was authorized to falsely inform the Vatican that Romania was ready to restore its broken relations with the Holy See, in exchange for access to its archives — in order to find historical roots that would help the Romanian government publicly justify its change of heart toward the Holy See — and a one-billion-dollar, interest-free loan for 25 years.

Between 1960 and 1962, the Romanian spy sent hundreds of archival documents connected in any way with Pope Pius XII to the KGB. Pacepa says none of the documents were incriminating in themselves, but they were sent to the KGB in any case….

The KGB used these documents to produce a powerful play attacking Pope Pius XII, entitled The Deputy. It eventually saw the stage in Germany in 1963, under the title The Deputy, a Christian Tragedy. It proposed that Pius XII had supported Hitler and encouraged him to go ahead with the Jewish Holocaust. The German director claimed to have 40 pages of documentation attached to the script that would support the thesis of the play.

I will conclude with this. If the beatification of Pius XII causes a rupture in Catholic-Jewish relations, it will not be the fault of the Papacy. It will rather be the fault of those who inexplicably and unjustifiably continue to harbor absolute faith in KGB fabrications against an ever-growing mountain of evidence. What else but a deep-seated hatred of the Church could possibly be the motive for not even bothering to examine the evidence?

6 Responses to The Case for Pius XII Grows Stronger

  • Anthony says:

    For the most part I agree… the question will be weighing the inevitable P.R. havoc the Church will endure vs. the clarion call Pius’ beatification will be to faithful Catholics.

    It will be as big, if not bigger, than the controversies around the ‘old’ Latin Mass and SSPX.

    Expect the media to unambiguously accuse the Church of resurrecting old bigotries and prejudicial doctrines.

    The Vatican needs to have its P.R./Marketing/Advertising guns at the ready for this one. It can’t be the disaster we had early in the year, where events spun out of control and the Holy Father was left in a lurch all alone. I hope people got fired for that.

  • This struck me as an interesting piece of analysis over at The Long View:

    I must confess that I, and all the world’s history buffs, regret that we cannot read accounts of Pius XII’s Last Audience, in which he condemns Hitler as a type of Antichrist and Mussolini as his toady, puts Germany and Italy under the Interdict pending the overthrow of their current regimes, and orders Catholics with the requisite authority to open the gates of every concentration camp in Europe. Thinking solely of the quality of the story, we may also regret not being able to read the accounts, no doubt much disputed, of Pius’s Last Words when he is taken from his dungeon in Wewelsburg to be shot during the final weeks of the war. For Pius to have embraced such a scenario, however, would have been a very Fascist thing to do.

    Fascism was politics as art. It was government by grand opera: Hitler in his bunker, cities in flame, Mussolini finally getting a chance to execute his weasely son-in-law. Eugenio Pacelli may have been physically afraid of what would have happened to him if he, for instance, had publicly encouraged Italians to shelter Jews. He would certainly have found the prospect that the Vatican would have been closed or even sacked had he made such a plea to have been a sublime monstrosity, precisely the kind of incident that characterized 20th-century totalitarianism. Taste militated against that course as much as fear, I think.

    Maybe good taste is not grounds for canonization. It was, however, the best that Europeans statecraft had to offer at the time.

    John Reilly predicts, in the above linked article, that Pius XII’s reputation as an anti-Nazi will, in the long run, be vindicated and taken as common wisdom. I hope he’s right, though one does well not to give the general wisdom more credit than its worth.

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