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Monday, March 13, 2017

Another 'False Witness' Falls

A wicked calumny against the Catholic Church took a hit to the chin, so we heard the other day.  Frankly, any good news is welcome even if about events several generations ago. While the Catholic Church has been reeling from body blows, often self-inflicted, over the past several decades, it is not as though prior to the current accusations and calumnies there had not been a concerted effort to destroy its credibility.  A major effort stemmed from the role played by the Church during the second World War. The phrase,  "Hitler's Pope" really exploded onto the scene 18 years ago. People were all too ready to believe it.



Hitler's Pope was a book published in 1999 by the British journalist and author John Cornwell that examined - poorly and with deliberate bias - the actions of Eugenio Pacelli, who became Pope Pius XII, before and during the Nazi era, and explored the charge that he assisted in the legitimization of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime in Germany, through the pursuit of a Reichskonkordat in 1933. 

The book was critical of Pius' conduct during the Second World War, arguing that he did not do enough, or speak out enough, against the Holocaust. 

Cornwell argued that Pius's entire career as the nuncio to Germany, Cardinal Secretary of State, and pope was characterized by a desire to increase and centralize the power of the Papacy, and that he subordinated opposition to the Nazis to that goal. He further argued that Pius was antisemitic and that this stance prevented him from caring about the European Jews.

It is very easy to cast calumnies at a person, especially one long dead, and academics are adept at 'researching' to prove a point, omitting anything that points against their view. Yes, even though that is common today, it started a long time ago, before integrity was finally stomped out.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) does its homework with some of that old Integrity though, and recently it has been busy. It is a non-governmental organization which researches Holocaust rescuers and advocates for their recognition. The organization developed educational programs for school to promote peace and civil service. Founded by Baruch Tenembaum, it has offices in Buenos Aires, New York, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro and Jerusalem.

The organization bears the name of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved Jews and other persecuted people in Hungary during the Holocaust. He was captured by the Soviet Union and his death has been the source of controversy and secrecy.


The organization has many humanitarian campaigns. Aimed to put pressure on the Russian government to release an official statement of what happened to Wallenberg, IRWF created two campaigns. The 'Bring Raoul Home' campaign asks dignitaries to address Wallenberg’s case in the correspondence and official meetings with the Russian Government; and the '100,000 Names for 100,000 Lives' campaign, which aims to get 100,000 people to sign the petition who then will be conveyed to the Russian President. As of August 12, 2010, IRWF has gotten 27,204 signatures for its '100,000 Names for 100,000 Lives' campaign.

But that is not all.

Fr Leo Chamberlain was sitting in the UK Room telling of what the Foundation has been up to recently. We were honoured. The Very Rev Fr Leo Chamberlain osb is a former headmaster of Ampleforth College. He is parish priest of St John the Evangelist, Easingwold in North Yorkshire. He came a long way and I pulled many a pint that evening.
The end of the ‘Hitler’s Pope’ myth

For 50 years, the truth about Pius XII’s battle against Nazism has been suppressed. But new evidence makes his heroism undeniable

It has scarcely been noticed in Britain, but a remarkable development has recently taken place in Holocaust studies. Nearly two years ago, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, a historical research institute, set out on “a modest project”. 
It wanted to mark “Houses of Life” – places where Jews were sheltered during the war – with memorial plaques. 
It found more than 500 such houses in Italy, France, Hungary, Belgium and Poland. Eduardo Eurnekian, chairman of the foundation, wrote that “to our surprise, we have learned that the overwhelming majority of Houses of Life were institutions related to the Catholic Church, including convents, monasteries, boarding schools, hospitals, etc”.

In Rome alone, some 4,500 people found refuge in churches, convents, monasteries and boarding schools. In Warsaw, All Saints Church sheltered Jews. This was remarkable, because the penalty for Poles for rescuing Jews was the death camp or, more likely, instant execution.

It is appropriate that a foundation named after Raoul Wallenberg should find such an extensive Catholic contribution to saving Jewish lives. Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the war. He and Angelo Rotta, the papal nuncio, saved 120,000 out of the city’s 150,000 Jews. Wallenberg was arrested by the Red Army and never seen again.
The news about the Houses of Life is only surprising because the truth about the Church and the Jewish people in the Second World War has been suppressed. Several aides of the wartime pope, Pius XII, acknowledged that they had worked to rescue Jews on his direct instructions. They included two future popes – Mgr Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII) and Mgr Giovanni Battista Montini (Paul VI). Pius XII himself sheltered Jews both in the Vatican itself and at Castel Gandolfo.
This is a good moment to mark the Church’s witness against Nazism. Eighty years ago, on March 14, 1937, Pope Pius XI issued Mit Brennender Sorge (“With Burning Anxiety”), an encyclical, pointedly written in German, condemning Nazism. “Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the state, and divinises them to an idolatrous level, perverts an order of the world created by God,” the pope wrote.
Pius XI’s secretary of state was Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XII. He distributed the text, which he had helped to draft, secretly within Germany. Four years earlier, in 1933, he had negotiated a concordat between the Holy See and Germany, not to appease Nazism but to have some means of holding the Nazis to account through an international treaty. 
The regime referred to him as “Jew loving”: he had made more than 50 protests against Nazi policy, the earliest coming just days after the passing of the Enabling Act, which granted Hitler the power to enact laws without Reichstag approval. 
Pacelli was regarded as so anti-Nazi that the Third Reich attempted to prevent his election as pope in 1939.

Pacelli’s personal story is important. He was a Germanophile – and, equally, a philosemite – from his youth. As nuncio in Bavaria during the brief 1919 communist republic he showed high personal courage, remaining at his post. His sympathy and friendship with Jews, including the great conductor Bruno Walter, was well known, and he gave discreet help to many. At Walter’s request, he gained the freedom of a musician, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, arrested in a pogrom while Bavaria was under communist rule. Safe in America, Gabrilowitsch became the founding musical director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. 
Walter himself later became a Catholic.

Before the war, Pacelli took extraordinary risks to help the German opposition. He knew which generals were preparing to act against Hitler, and made sure news of their intentions reached the British government.
In a situation of huge difficulty, Pius XII did what no one else did to save Jewish lives during the war. He knew quite early on what was really happening to the Jewish people. At the time, too many were in denial, including a British diplomat who wrote of “these whining Jews”. Neither Britain nor America made it easy for Jews to escape into exile – the Kindertransport was a blessed exception.

In the war years, Pius XII acted directly in Italy and through papal diplomats in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and elsewhere. Unsurprisingly given the circumstances, there is no firm number for those saved by the pope and the Church in one way or another. 
It was perhaps between 500,000 and 860,000.

Pius XII’s statements both before and during the war were unmistakably hostile to Nazism. The Allies may have wanted more, but the price would have been the ending of all the good the pope could do. The Nazis understood his meaning very well. 
The pope was also utterly clear about the evils of communism and vicious Stalinist religious persecution. But he said nothing about it during the war. Allied diplomats in the Vatican understood this, realising that it was only the pope’s preservation of the Holy See’s neutrality which enabled him to give refuge to thousands of Jews in religious houses in Italy and the Vatican itself. It also allowed him to provide contacts so that information about prisoners of war and the Holocaust could reach the Allied powers.
Several 'Nation States' remained neutral during the war, not because they could not clearly differentiate between the 'good' and the 'bad' sides but because their neutrality was of benefit to both sides, as well as they themselves. 
All this was acknowledged during and after the war, not least by Jews. Albert Einstein, who had escaped Nazi Germany, said in 1940: “Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth … I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”
Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, and Isaac Herzog, chief rabbi of Israel, paid similarly generous tributes. 
Israel Zolli, Rome’s chief rabbi, became a Catholic.. 
....and took the pope’s Christian name, Eugenio, in tribute to him. After Pius’s death in 1958, Golda Meir, then Israeli foreign minister, wrote: “We mourn a great servant of peace.”

The Nazis hated the Catholic Church. 
Thousands of Catholic priests were imprisoned, especially in Dachau, the “priests’ camp”. 
Dachau became the camp where 2,720 clergymen were sent, including 2,579 Catholic Priests. The priests at Dachau were separated from the other prisoners and housed together in several barrack buildings in the rear of the camp. There were 1,780 Polish priests and 447 German priests at Dachau. Of the 1,034 priests who died in the camp, 868 were Polish and 94 were German. Source: "What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?" by Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler.


Other clergymen at Dachau included 109 Protestant ministers, 22 Greek Orthodox, 2 Muslims and 8 men who were classified as "Old Catholic and Mariaists."...... Some of the clergymen at Dachau had been arrested for helping the Jews. For example, one of the Catholic priests at Dachau was Father Giuseppe Girotti, a Catholic theology professor at the Saint Maria della Rose Dominican Seminary of Turin. After Italy changed sides and joined the Allies in September 1943, Father Girotti saved many Jews by arranging safe hideouts and escape routes for them. He was arrested on August 29, 1944, and deported to Dachau after he was betrayed by an informer; he died at Dachau on April 1, 1945. While in Dachau, Father Girotti worked on his unfinished book, a commentary on the biblical book of Jeremiah.
It is true that some bishops followed a policy of appeasement: Cardinal Adolf Bertram of Breslau supposedly ordered a Requiem Mass for Hitler in 1945. Some Catholics betrayed Jews and even, as in Jedwabne in 1941, massacred them. But others, notably Bishop Clemens August von Galen of Münster and Bishop Konrad von Preysing of Berlin, did all they could to resist Nazism. Preysing’s agent, Bernhard Lichtenberg, the provost of Berlin cathedral, was judicially murdered and is now recognised as a martyr.

Yet in the nearly 60 years since Pius XII’s death, his reputation has been traduced. 
One recent example was the BBC’s report that the silent prayer of Pope Francis at Auschwitz was in reparation for the silence of the Catholic Church. The corporation was simply repeating what had become the received view of Pius XII and of the Church’s record during the war.
The BBC can always be relied upon to calumnise. That disorganisation needs to be upbraided immediately and fiercely whenever it lies or spreads mendacities.
Lord Alton of Liverpool immediately protested, and together he and I made a formal complaint to the BBC. A considerable correspondence ensued. In early December, the complaint was upheld. Fraser Steel, head of the editorial complaints unit, wrote: “This did not give due weight to public statements by successive popes or the efforts made on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with the balance of evidence.”

The negative view of Pius marked an astonishing reversal of reputation. In 1963, a previously unknown German, Rolf Hochhuth, published a play called The Deputy which blamed Pius XII for the Holocaust. Hochhuth claimed it was historically accurate. The play was premiered in West Berlin and performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in England and America.

The provenance of Hochhuth’s play, and the degree of communist support, aroused suspicion. 
The USSR had a strong interest in destroying the moral authority of the pope and the Catholic Church. 
As Khrushchev, a mass murderer in his own right, said at the time, dead men cannot defend themselves.

Confirmation of these suspicions came only in 1998, with the publication of the memoirs of Ion Mihai Pacepa, a Romanian three-star general in the Securitate who defected in 1978. According to Pacepa, the project, known as Seat 12, originated in Moscow with Khrushchev. From 1959, Pacepa had directed his spies, posing as priests, to pilfer Vatican archives. They found nothing they could use, but Ivan Agayants, the KGB’s disinformation chief, had been able to feed Hochhuth with false information, which he was only too ready to use. 
The Soviets’ aim was to discredit Pope Pius and wreck the growing understanding between the Church and Judaism.

The American writer Ronald Rychlak, who has done the most detailed work on the story, concludes that Hochhuth was heavily dependent on such Soviet disinformation. Not that Hochhuth was the only author: his play was rewritten and heavily abridged by Erwin Piscator, a famous producer and communist agent of influence.

In 1964, Blessed Paul VI commissioned detailed research, eventually published in 1981, which showed the degree of papal and Catholic support for the Jewish people during the war. This should have been the end of the matter. 
It was not. A number of Jewish scholars, such as Daniel Goldhagen, publishing in the 1990s, endorsed the accusations. This had its effect. The distinguished historian Sir Martin Gilbert wrote that he repeatedly received applications for support for PhD study which usually included a reference to the “silent” or even “anti-Semitic” Pius XII.
John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope, published in 1999, was seriously misleading. 
He implied that Pacelli held “stereotypical” anti-Semitic views. This was based on, among other things, mistranslating, misconstruing and selectively quoting a long letter written by Pacelli in 1919, reporting on a meeting with the chairman of the Bolshevik administration in Munich. Cornwell’s book was overdependent on the understandably embittered recollections of Heinrich Brüning, the exiled former German Chancellor. Hitler’s Pope was really part of a campaign against St John Paul II. But that is a different argument and has no business in an evaluation of Pius XII.

Cornwell’s book had wide circulation and favourable reviews from the liberal media. It and others in a similar vein have been savaged by knowledgeable critics, such as Rychlak, Gilbert and Rabbi David Dalin. Together they provide detailed evidence of 
misquotation, misrepresentation and even malice 
in these books. The media have found little space for these corrections. So the lie remains the received story. But the example of the BBC suggests that this may be changing.

Three steps would do much to right the wrongs against Pius.

First, the BBC should prepare a major documentary on the pope who was responsible for saving thousands of Jewish lives. I am advised that the corporation will consider this. 
The BBC has acknowledged that there should be closer scrutiny. Which of course there already has been: the question is whether minds are open.

Secondly, the critical statements about Pope Pius at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims, should be substantially revised. Many of the pope’s helpers have now been named Righteous among the Nations. It is time that Pius was recognised himself as among the Righteous. He needs not a tree, but a whole forest planted in his memory. The story of the Houses of Life adds further weight to the evidence for his bravery.

Thirdly, Pius’s beatification should proceed without delay. Rome has already recognised his heroic virtue, paving the way for him to be declared Blessed.
Let the last word be with Pius himself. In 1943, he wrote: 
“The time will come when unpublished documents about this terrible war will be made public. Then the foolishness of all accusations will become obvious in clear daylight. Their origin is not ignorance but contempt of the Church.” 
At that time he was referring to Nazi propaganda. His words apply equally to the malicious libels of the past 60 years.
A great sadness is falling over the Church. Some fear the destruction from within by its own failings. Yet it has survived the malicious lies as well as the devastations of two World Wars.  The Gates of Hell shall not prevail.

I shall join the good Reverend Fr in raising a glass.

Pax









4 comments:

  1. "The pope was also utterly clear about the evils of communism and vicious Stalinist religious persecution. But he said nothing about it during the war. Allied diplomats in the Vatican understood this, realising that it was only the pope’s preservation of the Holy See’s neutrality which enabled him to give refuge to thousands of Jews in religious houses in Italy and the Vatican itself. It also allowed him to provide contacts so that information about prisoners of war and the Holocaust could reach the Allied powers."

    When engulfed by an oppressive regime I believe that is the only way to act in order to at least partially resist the regime. Any other way would mean death of the opposer to the regime.

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    1. We may be thankful that we are not in such a position. Almost any approach will be interpreted maliciously by those who have no regard for truth and life.

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  2. 'Dead men cannot defend themselves.' That task falls to their friends, and to the living.Thank you Amfortas.

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    1. It has been an honour to put this here.

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Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..