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?

9 Responses to The Case for Pius XII Grows Stronger

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Arthur J East says:

    i believe that Pius XII hated jews , therefore he did nothing to interfer with Hitler

  4. Donald R. McClarey says:

    The Chief Rabbi of Rome during World War 2 would beg to differ.

  5. Terry G. Bollea says:

    Mr. Sandlin:

    I find your views intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  6. francineraymonde says:

    Diaporama “Pius XII a gift for the 20th Century” – Benedict XVI :

  7. francineraymonde says:

    Highly how Pie XII is béatifié!
    This Pope is undoubtedly one of the largest popes of the history which does not remove anything in Jean-Paul II, who is him also a very large Pope. For small reminder, here what says Gary Krupp* in connection with Pie XII: “Pie XII was the largest hero of the second world war… he saved more Jews than Roosevelt, Churchill and all those which are associated for them. It should not be a reason of litigation between the catholics and the Jews”.

    And also information: Among the evidence that Gary Krupp could advance, figure a dated November 30, 1938 circular, signed of the Pacelli cardinal, addressed to nonciatures, to the apostolic delegations and 61 bishops. This circular required “to find 200.000 visas to allow “catholic not-Aryan” (formula coded to designate the Jews…) to leave the territory of Reich”.

    One can read the following precision there: “that lenon day before so that sanctuaries are placed at the disposal to safeguard their spiritual life and to protect their worship, their habits and their traditions religious”. Little time after, in a letter gone back to January 1939, Pie XII confirmed the contents of her circular in these terms: “Do not only undertake to save the Jews but also the synagogues, the arts centres and all that belongs to their faith: rollers of the Torah, libraries, etc…” …. I do not invite that to help Hitler!

    * Gary Krupp is a Jew, 62 years old, with the retirement, after having been industrial manufacturing medical equipment. In 2003 it created a foundation Pave the way “Your way” having for goal Prepares “to fill the fractures of comprehension between the religions” But most important is that this foundation financed the investigations and surveys carried out about the relations between Germany main road-Socialist and Pie XII, at the end of which it could affirm in an unquestionable way: “Did you Know that the Pie XII pope had saved more than 860.000 Jews of the camps of death? I want to say that I did not know it before. That is a characterized assassination, a “shanda” (a dishonour in Yiddish), that as well Jews says as he was anti-semite”. He added, betraying all the pressure that he had had to undergo: “Believe me, when I was child, I did not dream whom I would defend one day a man that we believe a sympathizer Nazi”.

  8. francineraymonde says:

    Researcher thinks Pius XII went undercover to save Jews
    By David Kerr

    Rome, Italy, Nov 4, 2011 / 06:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Jewish New Yorker who has made it his life’s work to clear the name of Pope Pius XII of being anti-Semitic believes the wartime pontiff actually went undercover to save the lives of Jews in Rome.
    Gary Krupp came across the evidence in a letter from a Jewish woman whose family was rescued thanks to direct Vatican intervention.
    “It is an unusual letter, written by a woman who is alive today in northern Italy, who said she was with her mother, her uncle, and a few other relatives in an audience with Pius XII in 1947.” Next to Pope Pius during the meeting was his Assistant Secretary of State, Monsignor Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.
    “Her uncle immediately looks at the Pope and he says, ‘You were dressed as a Franciscan,’ and looked at Montini who was standing next to him, ‘and you as a regular priest. You took me out of the ghetto into the Vatican.’ Montini immediately said, ‘Silence, do not ever repeat that story.’”
    Krupp believes the claim to be true because the personality of the wartime Pope was such that he “needed to see things with his own eyes.”

    “He used to take the car out into bombed areas in Rome, and he certainly wasn’t afraid of that. I can see him going into the ghetto and seeing what was happening,” says Krupp.

    Krupp and his wife Meredith founded the Pave the Way Foundation in 2002 to “identify and eliminate the non-theological obstacles between religions.” In 2006 he was asked by both Jewish and Catholic leaders to investigate the “stumbling block” of Pope Pius XII’s wartime reputation. Krupp, a very optimistic 64-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., thought he had finally hit a wall.

    “We are Jewish. We grew up hating the name Pius XII,” he says. “We believed that he was anti-Semitic, we believed that he was a Nazi collaborator—all of the statements that have been made about him, we believed.”
    But when he started looking at the documents from the time, he was shocked. And “then it went from shock to anger. I was lied to,” says Krupp.
    “In Judaism, one of the most important character traits one must have is gratitude, this is very important, it is part of Jewish law. Ingratitude is one of the most terrible traits, and this was ingratitude as far as I was concerned.”
    Krupp now firmly agrees with the conclusions of Pinchas Lapide, the late Jewish historian and Israeli diplomat who said the direct actions of Pope Pius XII and the Vatican saved approximately 897,000 Jewish lives during the war. Pave the Way has over 46,000 pages of historical documentation supporting that proposition, which it has posted on its website along with numerous interviews with eye-witnesses and historians.
    “I believe that it is a moral responsibility, this has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church,” says Krupp, “it has only to do with the Jewish responsibility to come to recognize a man who actually acted to save a huge number of Jewish lives throughout the entire world while being surrounded by hostile forces, infiltrated by spies and under the threat of death.”
    Krupp explained that Pope Pius used the Holy See’s global network of embassies to help smuggle Jews out of occupied Europe. In one such instance, the Vatican secretly asked for visas to the Dominican Republic– 800 at a time – to aid Jewish rescue efforts. This one initiative alone is estimated to have saved over 11,000 Jewish lives between 1939 and 1945.
    Closer to home, the convents and monasteries of Rome—neutral territory during the war—were used as hiding places for Jews.

    Krupp speculates that the wartime actions of Pope Pius XII, whose birth name was Eugenio Pacelli, can be further understood in the light of his own personal history. His great boyhood friend was Guido Mendes who hailed from a well-known Jewish family in Rome. Together they learned the Hebrew language and shared Shabbat dinners on the Jewish Sabbath.
    Later, upon his election to the papacy in 1939, A.W. Klieforth, the American consul general in Cologne, sent a secret telegram to the U.S. Department of State explaining Pope Pius’s attitude towards Nazism in Germany.
    The new Pope “opposed unalterably every compromise with National Socialism,” Klieforth wrote, after a private chat with the pontiff in the Vatican. The two men had got to know each other during Archbishop Pacelli’s 12 years as nuncio in Germany.
    Pope Pius, explained Klieforth, “regarded Hitler not only as an untrustworthy scoundrel but as a fundamentally wicked person,” and “did not believe Hitler capable of moderation.” Hence he “fully supported the German bishops in their anti-Nazi stand.”
    Krupp describes the reputation of the wartime Pope as both glowing and intact until 1963, when German writer Rolf Hochhuth penned his play “The Deputy.” It portrayed Pope Pius as a hypocrite who remained silent about Jewish persecution.
    The Pave the Way website carries evidence from a former high-ranking KGB officer, Ion Mihai Pacepa, who claims that the tarnishing of the Pope’s reputation was a Soviet plot.
    Krupp explains how the communists wanted to “discredit the Pope after his death, to destroy the reputation of the Catholic Church and, more significantly to us, to isolate the Jews from the Catholics. It succeeded very well in all three areas.”
    But he also firmly believes that a fundamental revision of Pope Pius’s wartime record is now well underway. “The dam is cracking now, without question,” he says.
    Ironically, perhaps, Krupp says he meets more resistance when he speaks at Catholic parishes than in Jewish synagogues. “Many Jews,” he explains, “have been extremely grateful, saying, ‘I’m very happy to hear that. I never wanted to believe this about him,’ especially those of us who knew him, who were old enough to know him.”

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