Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WWII and the Church

A recent comment left with me has fired a few shots at the record of the Church's activities (or inactivities, according to the writer) during WWII.

He maintains that even opening up the archives to many more documents will not change the record of the Church, which he maintains was "largely inactive in the face of genocide"

I'm not certain, Mr. Wilensky, which inactivity you are referring to.

In 1937, Pope Pius XI issued a statement in German (almost unheard of to this day.  The Pope really was doing his best to make sure that his target audience heard him) called Mit Brennender Sorge which came down very hard on the Nazi Party.

The man who became Pope XII on the death of Pope Pius XI had already been speaking out against the Nazis in word and in print, as evidenced in the archives of Osservatore Romano, since the mid-1930s.

Some Jews were hidden in the Vatican itself.  Others were hidden in other Church buildings, such as Castel Gandolfo, and convents and monasteries.

"The final number of Jewish lives in whose rescue the Catholic Church had been the instrument is thus at least 700,000 souls, but in all probability it is much closer to ... 860,000." (Pinchas E. Lapide, 'Three Popes and the Jews', pp 227-228).

Rabbi Israel Anton Zolli, Chief Rabbi of Rome converted to Catholicism after the war and took the baptismal name of Eugenio,  name of Pius XII.  While his conversion may have been 'encouraged' by other events, he did express his deep appreciation for Pius XII in his memoirs.

I am, for now (as Holy Week events are picking up speed, and I have much to do) going to leave you with this interview which spells out quite a bit and refers to a book you may be interested in. 

I have no fear at all with the opening of the archives.  Heck, if contemporary New York Times could sing PXII's praises over his war efforts, and if can be declared a 'Righteous Gentile" then I'm sure it's all good.

But the Truth will bear out. 


Gabriel Wilensky said...

I did not say that opening the Vatican Secret Archives will be a meaningless act which will not change the record of the Church. Perhaps new documents will come to light to prove me and others who think the Church was largely inactive during the Holocaust wrong, but I doubt it. The Vatican already published 11 volumes of documents in an attempt to cear Pope Pius XII's name, so one can assume the best and most clear examples of his work in favor of the Jews would be there. But unfortunately those documents did not prove anything.

The other documents you cite show Pius opposing the Nazis, at best. My point is not that the Pope failed to oppose the Nazis. My point is the Pope failed to defend the Jews. You state that some Jews were hidden in Vatican properties, which is true. It is also true many Christians everywhere in Europe helped Jews. But my point again is that these were individual acts of Christian caritas, made in motu proprio, not by papal directive. The number of Jews supposedly saved you cite from Pinchas Lapide has been thoroughly discredited as voodoo math. Lapide, Meir and other Jews who defended Pope Pius at that time were playing a realpolitik game in which they needed to secure the favor of Catholics everywhere where emaciated Jewish survivors had to return to, and then curry Vatican favor and recognition of the State of Israel (which shamefully didn't come until much later. The Vatican was among the last states in the world to extend recognition to the State of Israel.)

Gabriel Wilensky

Six Million Crucifixions:
How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust
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JP said...

Time has not allowed me to do the research needed for this subject. I have had a thought though (I do get them occasionally).

Perhaps the reason that the Nazis seemed to occupy more Vatican press than that Jews specifically is because the Jews were not the only Nazi target. I am not saying they did not suffer the most, but there were several other target groups, as I'm sure you know.

I did eventually find a reference to Pinchas Lapide which sounds like it has info behind it (and not in favour of Lapide's figures) is a book called "Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Controversy" by Jose Sanchez.

Have you read it? I'm curious.