Pope Pius XII: Misunderstood and Maligned (Part One of Two)
Perhaps no other pontiff of the 20th century has been the subject of more intentional misinformation, slander, and calumny than Venerable Pope Pius XII, who faithfully served Our God and His Church as the Vicar of Christ from March 12, 1939 until his death on October 9, 1958. As he took the Chair of Peter at the beginning of World War 2, there have been more attempts at discrediting him and his pontificate for his actions during that war, by more Catholic hating and Catholic Church hating radical “journalists”, revisionist “historians”, so-called intellectuals, and self-proclaimed “scholars” than any other prominent figure from that war. The only person from the World War 2 era who is more vilified and treated with more contempt and total disdain than Pope Pius XII, is Adolph Hitler! This virulent attempt at defaming Pope Pius XII, has become a propaganda industry that would make the likes of Joseph Goebbels proud!
The most atrocious and bigoted of tags attached to this Venerable Pontiff, is “Hitler's Pope”. The preponderance of evidence available to even the most dim of history students would overwhelmingly support the fact that Pope Pius XII was anything and everything BUT “Hitler's Pope”! How anyone could ignore the evidence that shows Pope Pius XII was not only NOT “Hitler's Pope”, but, that indeed, his was the ONLY voice in occupied Europe that stood against Hitler and Nazi Germany, not only during the war, but, before the war as well when he was then Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli! Indeed, the only European voices to try to warn the world about Hitler and Nazi Germany before the war was the then Cardinal Pacelli and Winston Churchill!
The only way anyone could come to the incorrect conclusion that Pope Pius XII supported and condoned the actions of Hitler and his murderous henchmen, is to ignore the evidence and create their own version of events, as regards the time leading up to, and throughout the war itself! The most amazing and shocking part of this whole calumnious event, is the number of Catholics who will read such virulent vitriol and take it as absolute fact without ever making any effort to find out for themselves! One would hope that people would not make their opinions based solely on the last book they have read, and certainly not make their opinions based on one book alone! Alas, in todays world, people are too lazy to attempt to find out for themselves, they want everything in an instant, so let me try to help out, and highlight just a few of the more interesting FACTS regarding Pope Pius XII during World War 2, and not any of the myopic and bigoted speculation about what he allegedly did or didn't do.
Let us begin with a few absolute truths. At the time of Hitler's rise to power, the Catholic Church and the world was already faced with the atheistic evil of Communism, in the Soviet Union. The Church was well aware of the ongoing persecutions of Christians within the Soviet Union itself, especially under the brutality of such leaders as Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, so the Church would not be fooled by, nor led into complacency by National Socialism. The Church fully recognized the inherent danger and evil in Adolph Hitler, and indeed, the future Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli saw him for who and what he was, and could not comprehend why the German people were so willingly and eagerly beguiled by this murderous butcher. The Sister who was Pope Pius XII's assistant, quoted him as saying when he was still Cardinal Pacelli, "This man is completely carried away; everything he says and writes has the mark of his egocentrism; this man is capable of trampling on corpses and eliminating anything that is an obstacle. I cannot understand how there are so many people in Germany who do not understand him, and cannot draw conclusions from what he says or writes. Has any of them even read his horrifying ‘Mein Kampf’?"
Now, let's take a look at the man who actually precipitated the plethora of books and opinions that have been anti-Pope Pius XII and anti-Catholic Church, especially during the period of World War 2. That man, is one Rolf Hochhuth, who wrote a 1963 drama “Der Stellvertreter, Ein christliches Trauerspiel” (The Deputy, a Christian tragedy), that was critical of Pope Pius XII's role against Nazism during World War 2. Though far from factual, many aspects of this play were taken as fact by many people (perhaps the same sort of non-thinking types that failed to note “The DaVinci Code” is a work of fiction), and was also opposed by many people appalled at the slander aimed at Pope Pius XII. Mr. Hochhuth is a friend of David Irving, who calls himself a “self-taught historian”, and is a well known holocaust denier, who has been barred from entering many countries (Mr. Irving denied that Nazi's systematically exterminated Jews,that the Diary of Anne Frank was mostly a forgery compiled by her surviving father, and called Auschwitz a fabrication), Mr, Hochhuth defended Irving being called a holocaust denier in 2005, and called the charges “idiotic” and Irving “an honourable man”. Indeed, Mr. Hochhuth, who himself belonged to the Hitler Youth, wrote his next work, “Soldiers, Necrology On Geneva” where he criticized the allied bombing campaigns and Winston Churchill as a war criminal. And people took this man's work as “fact”.
The next work, was a book by John Cornwell, “Hitler's Pope”, in which the author, used research from Vatican documents, and essentially used what suited him to prove his case against Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church, and totally disregarded the rest. He did an excellent job of pure conjecture, historical revisionism, and discarding factual information from both those documents and the testimonies from people who lived and survived during that terrible time, to support his claim that Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church was indifferent to the suffering of the Jewish people imprisoned by Hitler and his henchmen. Indeed, he accuses Pope Pius XII of being anti-Semitic, and accuses the Catholic Church of fomenting a climate of Antisemitism in Germany, and throughout Europe. How can anyone still take his work seriously, when this man, who calls himself Catholic, has written books indicative of being anti-Catholic, and anti-Church, even in an interview on one of his books, he calls Pope John Paul II (who was still alive at the time) “a profoundly reactionary Pope”, and “truly a great pope; but he is also a human pope who has lived beyond his moment”. Cornwell has shown a penchant for ignoring the whole of the information available to him in the documents he “researched”, and only using excerpts to prove his malignant thesis. Any author worthy of the name should have done a better job of utilizing his research and not so blatantly and arrogantly ignored the full context of quoted documents, and only quoted parts of statements to prove his story. If he had in fact, quoted the entire sections he did quote, the entirety of what is in those documents would have proved that Pope Pius XII did not support National Socialism in Germany, and that he did what he could to oppose Hitler before and during the war, and that he did what he could to save Jewish lives in Europe.
We find it quite baffling, that so many deem it necessary and of utmost importance to lay the charges of indifference and culpability at the feet of Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church, yet are deafeningly silent at the same lack of public statements on the Jewish plight from other institutions, such as the International Red Cross and the World Council of Churches. Little if anything is ever mentioned of the fact that the allies were informed of, and yet refused to believe the stories of atrocities against the Jewish people during World War 2.
It is to say the least, quite amazing how so many can be critical of the actions of Pope Pius XII from the safety of their own freedom. They fail, and fail miserably, to take into account that while they can be “armchair quarterbacks” in the safety they enjoy today, Pope Pius XII did not have that luxury of freedom. Pope Pius XII was in Vatican City, in Rome, and Italy which was under the domination of Benito Mussolini, Hitler's ally in the Axis alliance, and when Mussolini was ousted, Rome was then under the control of Germany. In order to preserve the lives of the Jews and the Catholics held in the Nazi concentration camps throughout Europe, it was necessary and prudent for Pope Pius XII to do what he could, as he could, without going on a verbal assault against the Nazi's, for he realized that to do so, would result in the Nazi's intensifying their persecutions against those whom they held.
It is also even more baffling, as to how so many are so willing and so able to totally disregard all statements from survivors of the holocaust, their families, the contemporaries of Pope Pius XII within the Church, the contemporary leaders of the Allies, newspaper accounts of the period, and historical records that implicitly and completely prove without any doubt whatsoever that Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, was anything, and everything but silent and uncaring!
What these people do show, is a radical leftist leaning in their assessment of Pope Pius XII. For beginning in 1946, the Communists, especially in Communist Czechoslovakia, called Pope Pius XII a "Hitler Stooge". Communist propagandists systematically accused Catholics and other "reactionary" groups of collaborating with Hitler. Bishops were hauled into mock show trials, and for years, western leftists followed the Soviet lead in denigrating Pope Pius XII. Evidently, they are still hard at work on it today, and show those of us not blinded by a veil of lies and half-truths, what their true agenda is, and with whom their hearts truly lie.
Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.