Wednesday 17 December 2008

In comparison Pius XII was a saint, by Sean Gannon

"... in 1919 the future Pius XI reported from Poland that the Jews were "perhaps the strongest and most evil influence" there, while 13 years later as pope, he told Mussolini that the Jews of central and eastern Europe posed a threat to Christian society."

Source: Essay by Sean Gannon, TJP

"... recent critics of Vatican policy such as Gary Wills, John Cornwell, James Carroll and Daniel Goldhagen have focused attention on the issue perhaps most damning from a modern perspective - Pius XII's undoubted anti-Semitism - arguing that what Cornwell calls Pius's "secret antipathy" toward Jews helps explain his lack of action on their behalf. Yet the fact is that, however abhorrent, Pius XII's anti-Semitism was utterly unremarkable for a churchman of his time, and was certainly no deeper than that of Pius XI, against whom he is most frequently unfavorably compared regarding his response to Nazism. For example, in 1919 the future Pius XI reported from Poland that the Jews were "perhaps the strongest and most evil influence" there, while 13 years later as pope, he told Mussolini that the Jews of central and eastern Europe posed a threat to Christian society. Even the unpromulgated encyclical, Humani generis unitas, drafted by Jesuit theologians as Pius XI's definitive condemnation of anti-Semitism, warned of "the spiritual dangers to which contact with Jews can expose souls" and stated that Judaism formed an "authentic basis for the social separation of the Jews from the rest of humanity."

Pius XII's anti-Semitism is certainly a stain on his record. But there is simply no evidence that it played any part in determining his wartime decisions. In this, he contrasts starkly with other Catholic authorities whose anti-Semitic ethos led them to directly help the Nazi cause.
For instance, a majority of Slovak bishops initially justified the deportations of Jews as necessary "to stymie [their] nefarious influence." In Croatia (where 50% of Ustache concentration camp commanders were priests), high-ranking prelates presented the "liberation of the world from the Jews [as] a movement for the renewal of human dignity," while in Lithuania, the hierarchy explicitly instructed the Catholic clergy not to assist the Jews in any way during the Einsatzgruppen killing campaign. Elements of the Polish, Slovenian and Hungarian hierarchies also deliberately fanned anti-Semitism's flames even as their Jewish compatriots were being slaughtered.

Here in Ireland, the Catholic Church's endemic anti-Semitism had more indirect, yet still devastating, consequences. Irish Catholicism had, throughout the 1920s and 1930s, published and preached against the Jews as a deicidal nation which had endured for 2,000 years as "the worm in the rose" of Christendom. And in a country where notions of Irishness and Catholicism were inextricably entwined, the Jews, as enemies of the Church, were by definition enemies of the State, and so religious and non-religious anti-Semitic motifs were synthesized to create one national anti-Jewish ideology. So "Jewish finance" was characterized as a means of enslaving the Irish Catholic nation while Freemasonry and Communism were presented as Jewish-driven vehicles for what Ireland's leading anti-Semitic ideologue Fr. Denis Fahey (most of whose books were prefaced and approved by prominent members of the Irish hierarchy) called "the destruction of Catholic civilization through the perversion of hearts."

Thus Ireland's Rome-based Catholic clergy could warn the Irish ambassador to the Holy See in 1946 that Jewish influence was not just "anti-Christian [but] anti-national and detrimental to the revival of an Irish cultural and religious civilization" - an attitude which may partly explain the Irish colleges' apparent refusal to shelter Jews during the round-up of Roman Jews three years earlier, even as 4,500 were being hidden in other Catholic institutions, 10% of them in the Vatican itself.

The Irish government's response to the increasingly desperate pleas of the chief rabbi of Mandated Palestine and former Irish chief rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog (ironically, one of Pius XII's first defenders) to use its influence to rescue small groups of French and Hungarian Jews was, in the words of historian Shulamit Eliash, "tepid and unenthusiastic." And, mindful of the "numerous protests regarding the number of alien Jews who [had] established themselves" in Ireland, the Ministry of Justice (which had the final say on refugee visas) implemented throughout the Nazi era an immigration policy which explicitly excluded those with what were termed "non-Aryan affiliations."

So while just one Irish Jew actually perished in the Holocaust, one wonders how many of her Continental co-religionists died as a result of Ireland's institutionalization of societal anti-Semitism, which resulted in fewer than 70 Jewish admissions between 1933 and 1945.
These, the real anti-Semitic sins of Catholic Europe, have all been obscured by the Pius XII sideshow - a sterile debate which will never be resolved even if the Vatican opens all its wartime archives. For, if documents exist there exonerating Pius of the charges against him, they would have long ago been released, while any evidence supporting the claim that he was, in Deborah Dwork's words, "the canonical example of tacit collusion and collaboration" with the Nazis will have long ago been removed.
It is, then, surely time to let the matter rest."
The writer is a freelance journalist, writing mainly on Irish and Middle Eastern affairs. He is currently preparing a book on the history of Irish-Israeli relations
Photo: cover of Dirk Verhofstadt's book about the Pope's conduct during the war : Pius XII and the extermination of the Jews (in Dutch)


Anonymous said...

Yet the only Jewish historians of note such as Rabbi Dalin and Sir Martin Gilbert defend Pius XII. One is puzzled how ex-catholic priests writing juornalistic books can talk of his secret anti-semitism? If it was secret how do they know of it? Or was it just the sort of thing one encounters in the works of 1920's and 30's popular novelists? Agatha Christie springs to mind. It was a very common attitude. Certainly the chief Rabbi of Rome and the State of Israel thanked him for his efforts during the war.

Contrast this with the statements of the last two Popes who declare anti-semitism to be a sin.

However the schismatic excommunicated Lefebvrist group known as the Society of St Pius X is certainly anti-semitic.

Rayosun said...

Just because Dalin is a Jewish Rabbi doesn't make him a "historian of note" any more than being a Catholic priest makes one a saint!

In fact, judging from his so-called "book" called "The Myth of Hitler's Pope" and from his position as a professor in a yet to be accreditted Catholic "University" with a student body of give or take 600 students, I would say that Dalin is a nothing but an academic hack, especially when compared to the distinguished authors he dares to challenge, i.e. John Cornwell and Daniel Goldhaggen. See why I say that at my page on this very issue.
Rev. Ray Dubuque

Rayosun said...

It's no wonder that this poster who claims "the ONLY Jewish historians of note such as Rabbi Dalin and Sir Martin Gilbert defend Pius" wants to be "Anonymous".

(Assuming that what is MEANT is "the ONLY Jewish historians of note, who expressed themselves, defend Pius." I say:)
What utter non-sense!
I haven't even explored books written in languages other than English, but I have read some of the following and am at least aware of the others: The following are Jewish sources:
One of the scholars who has studied and written most about the Holocaust is the Jewish historian Saul Friedlander who published all of the following:
Pius XII and the Third Reich. by Saul Friedlander, (1966)
The Years of Persecution 1933-1939, (published in 1997),
The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945, by Saul Friedlander, (2007)
reviewed at
"The Popes Against the Jews : The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism", by David I. Kertzer, (2001)
"The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Anti-semitism " by Dan Cohen-Sherbok , (1992)
The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965, by Michael Phayer, (2001).
"Pius XII, the Holocaust, and the Cold War", by Michael Phayer, (2007).
"The Real Odessa", by Uki Goni, 2002, demonstrates that Pius knew that ecclesiastical institutions in Rome were hiding war criminals.
"Hitler's Willing Executioners", by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, (1996)
( particularly, pp. 431-441 ) and a whole new book on the topic
"A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust
and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair", by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (2002)
"The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany" by Guenter Lewy, (McGraw-Hill, 1964)
"NAZI Terror, The Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans" (1999), by Eric Johnson, a professor of history.
"Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, The NAZIs, and The Swiss Banks (1998) " by Mark Aarons, John Loftus &
"The Vatican and the Holocaust: A Preliminary Report. International Jewish Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission: Submitted to The Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with Jews. (2000).
"The Abandonment of the Jews"by David Wyman:
"The NAZI Holocaust" (2006) , by Ronnie S. Landau
"Perpetrators Victims Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe", by Hilberg, Raul, 1933-1945. NY: Harper Perennial Library, (1993).
"Betrayal (of their faith): German (Protestant) Churches and the Holocaust", (1999) by Robert P. Ericksen, Susannah Heschel (Augsburg Fortress Publishers )

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your list of books, I have read most of them. I am particularly fond of Saul Friedlander, who is remarkably objective. Cornwell however is a mere controversialist as is evident from the misleading dust cover of his book which suggest collaboration with the Nazis, while in fact showing Eugenio Pacelli in Weimar Germany being saluted by an ordinary soldier. I am also puzzled by your denigration of Dr Dalin and wonder whether your ordination is sufficient academic grounding to make such a judgement. Certainly I write anonymously but you tell us nothing about yourself beyond a name and a reference to an anti-catholic organisation. I am not a catholic, I am married to a survivor of the shoah, but I intensely dislike those who peddle
animosity and have been for years a supporter of the Council of Christian and Jews.

Anonymous said...

Gunter Lewy went to school with my wife.