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Should the Pope push through the canonisation of Pius XII?

A new book suggests the wartime pope used all the means within his power to help Jews

By on Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Pius XII prepares to give a radio address in 1943 (CNS)

Pius XII prepares to give a radio address in 1943 (CNS)

I have been reading a rather curious and interesting book, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943 by (Father) George William Rutler. Fr Rutler is a parish priest in Manhattan, New York and well-known for his erudite and quirky essays and other writings. His book is about World War II and the reason he has chosen those particular years to focus on is because an old priest-friend left him a mass of cuttings, journals and other papers on this period when he died.

Fr Rutler quotes freely from these sources, including The Tablet (then run by the brilliant and orthodox Catholic journalist, Douglas Woodruff), L’Osservatore Romano and The Jewish Chronicle. They make an interesting collection of contemporary commentary on the international politics of the day, dominated by the War. In particular, and running through the book, are references to the activities, speeches and broadcasts of the wartime pope, Pius XII.

Fr Rutler’s book is keenly relevant on this subject – not least because of an article written on June 14 by the veteran Vatican-watcher and journalist, John L Allen, of the Boston Globe. In it he suggests that “the best thing for Catholic Jewish ties right now might be to canonise Pius XII tomorrow and get it over with.” As is well known, the cause for Pius’s canonisation has been bogged down for years over the controversy surrounding his wartime record: could he or could he not have done more to help the plight of the Jews in Europe who were being at first persecuted and finally exterminated by the Nazis?

Allen isn’t arguing for or against the historical papal record. Citing the examples of St Maximilian Kolbe, who before canonisation was alleged to have sponsored anti-Semitic publications in Poland, and St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who, as the former Edith Stein and a convert, was seen by some Jews as an invitation to proselytism, he points out that after their canonisations the controversies surrounding them largely died away. Alluding to Pope Francis and the on-going cause of his wartime predecessor he concludes, “If you know you’re going to do this eventually, then do it now because sometimes the only way around a problem is straight through it.”

Obviously Allen is writing slightly tongue in cheek. I can’t see Pius XII being raised to the altar, as the phrase has it, any time soon, But Rutler’s book does deepen one’s sympathy for his predicament in those appalling years of the war: Europe (including Italy) was in the hands of murderous thugs who would stop at nothing, including mass murder, to achieve their objective. The Pope, as Stalin pointed out, had no divisions; he only had his moral and spiritual authority to sway events. From the pages of Rutler’s book, citing events that were taking place at the time and without the special pleading of a retrospective viewpoint, it is clear Pius XII was using all the means within his power to help the Jews.

Rutler cites The Jewish Chronicle, which reported that the Apostolic Nuncio in Germany – the papal representative – had made strong representations in Berlin against the Nazi killing of Jews. These were rejected by the German government as having no bearing on “Internal German policy”. The Apostolic Nuncio on France, also formally protested to the Vichy Government against the imprisonment of Jews. Pierre Laval, head of the Vichy government, rejoined that he “could not be influenced by the Holy See.” Later, the New York Times ran the headline, “Vichy seizes Jews; Pope Pius ignored.”

So it goes on. Another cutting from The Jewish Chronicle is quoted again: “The extreme Nazi organs in Germany have been expressing great dissatisfaction at concessions made to the Vatican…which have enabled about 300 Jews to leave Nazi-occupied countries, including the ghettoes of Poland, and go to Spain and Portugal.” Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, was furious with Pius XII and at the Vatican’s attempt to hide Jews.

Rutler indicates the difficulties of Pius’ position – and not only concerning the plight of Jews: he was also criticised by the Polish bishop Karol Radonski, now in exile in London, “for not speaking out more strongly about the situation in their homeland, while those bishops remaining in Poland urged the Pope not to say anything that might cause only reprisals.”

The book also quotes a letter of April 30 1943 to Bishop von Preysing, in which the Pope “described with unusual candour the theory of nuance he had deliberately equated with prudence in his public statements: ‘We give to the pastors who are working on the local level the duty of determining if and to what degree the danger of reprisals and of various forms of oppression occasioned by Episcopal interventions…seem to advise caution. Here lies one of the reasons, why We impose self-restraint on Ourselves in our speeches…The Holy See has done whatever was in its power, with charitable, financial and moral assistance.’”

If Pius XII had spoken more frankly and showed less “self-restraint” it might have helped his later legacy – but it would certainly have also occasioned more savage reprisals by the Nazis. Rutler’s book brings together some additional proofs, if they are needed, and from Jewish sources, of the very real “charitable, financial and moral assistance” of the wartime pope. Perhaps, as John Allen suggests, there is now a case for simply getting on with the process of his canonisation.

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  • Marie Pitt-Payne

    If you can’t understand why Esrciva was canonized, either you do not know as much as you should about the process of canonization or you know very little about Escriva. I suspect the latter since you do not even know how to spell his name. Perhaps do a bit more study before expressing how incredulous you are.

  • Guest 2

    No, John you have fallen into the same trap as “guest” and MIS-represent the “Mit Brenneder Sorge” – in which the Pope also explains that ALL sinners everywhere crucified Christ with their SINS EVERY SINNER. That also means YOU and ME … and NOT just Jews.

    On a similar note: there are a growing number (due to wilful ignorance of anything Christian) of people who have fallen for the “professional atheist” trick of declaring Hitler to have been a Christian.

    Information from a Historian:

    HITLER WAS NOT A CHRISTIAN – THE EVIDENCE:
    All the un-informed comments by some professed atheists confirm that they have no intention to make time for truth nor for basic research. In fact they seem to have an uncomfortable AVERSION to TRUTH.
    Just a little honest investigation would have revealed to them:

    Why Hitler was most definitely NOT a CHRISTIAN.

    History demonstrates that to claim Hitler was Christian … is not only ILLOGICAL but is the ANTITHESES of REASON. Here‘s why:

    Hitler’s Background:
    ** Adolf Hitler, was raised by his ‘UN-believer’ father. Unfortunately, his Catholic mother (who died while Hitler was still young) had almost no power within the household… and …Hitler, having had a very disrupted childhood of attending a long series of primary schools, NEVER took interest in taking part in the Sacraments (an absolutely central part of Catholicism).

    In fact, Hitler had REJECTED Christianity altogether by his teens (see Toland; Hitler; Wordsworth Editions; 1997 Edn; pp. 18)

    ** Hitler then became an avid reader of racist publications (= anti-Christian) and subsequently DISCARDED any notion of Christianity.
    = Therefore Hitler had already REJECTED Christ by his teens and so CHOSE to NOT be a Christian.

    ** Hitler, like his father, grew up with NO interest whatever in Christianity – YET later in life – he callously engaged in BLASPHEMOUS misuse of God’s name and Christianity for his OPPORTUNISTIC personal political strategies, especially in his rise to power (ie., to use religion “as a useful tool” for cunning manipulation of the voting public). Eg. The blasphemeous use of Nazi belt buckle (suggesting God being with them; whereas a true Christian would ONLY consider questioning HIMself whether HE is in fact on God’s side — and NEVER the other way round).

    = Such were the extent of his unrepentant incessant blasphemies against God, from adolescence to adulthood, that Hitler could
    therefore NEVER be described as a “Christian” in ANY sense of the word.

    ** “Hitler did NOT accept the conventional Christian vision of heaven and hell, NOR the survival [immortality] of an individual “soul”… [Hitler believed that] we are animals and just like animals we face the choice of destroying or being destroyed.” (see Laurence Rees; The Dark Charisma of Adolph Hitler, p 135)

    = Therefore Hitler adopted views COMPLETELY CONTRARY to the teachings of Christ
    = Therefore Hitler chose NOT to be a follower of Christ — and therefore Hitler chose NOT to be a Christian.
    = Therefore it is a LOGICAL IMPOSSIBILITY for Hitler to have been a Christian.

    ** “There is NO evidence that Hitler himself, (in his PERSONAL life), EVER expressed any individual belief in the basic tenets of the Christian church” … “Thus his relationship in public to Christianity – indeed his relationship to religion in general – was [entirely POLITICALLY] OPPORTUNISTIC” and “Hitler, as a
    politician, simply recognised the practical reality of the world he inhabited”
    … because “In PRIVATE, Hitler SCORNED Christianity to his friends, BUT when out campaigning for power in Germany, he PUBLICLY made deliberately calculated statements in favour of religion” [statements which were “liberally peppered with religious-sounding rhetoric“] (see Lawrence Rees; “The Dark Charisma of Adolph Hitler, p 135 and Ian Kershaw; “Hitler a Biography, p 373). ** Nazi Albert Speer (Hitler’s Minister of Armaments) also describes Hitler as seeing the need to “temper” his language “to suit the audience.”

    = Therefore Hitler had in fact BANISHED the Christian God from his personal life and was therefore NOT a Christian.

    ** According to historian Michael Rissmann, the emerging Hitler was now obsessively influenced by Pan-Germanism, and thus REJECTED the Catholic Church…
    and ..
    In Hitler’s opinion the issue was NOT negotiable: he said: “one is EITHER a Christian OR a German.”

    = Therefore Hitler had clearly not only REJECTED Christ but had now become an ANTI-Christ.

    ** Hitler repeatedly stated that Nazism was a SECULAR ideology founded on science (see Richard J. Evans; The Third Reich at War; Penguin Press; New York 2009, p. 547)
    (“founded on science” – note the interesting parallel to statements by atheist Karl Marx or by Richard Dawkins who also tells us that “there is n o such thing as ‘good or ‘evil’ … [its] just a merciless universe”— presumably if you want to live by ANY rules – just make up your own — whatever feels good at any given time; after all, if you don’t believe in a God or a moral code [‘so
    inconvenient’], you have just found JUSTIFICATION to do exactly as you wish) … and in fact:

    ** Hitler was a zealous follower of ATHEIST Friedrich Nietzsche (who promoted
    Eugenics, Euthanasia, Abortion and seeking JUSTIFICATION for “getting rid of
    ‘the unfit’ in the population, etc. to create his notion of “racial purity;“ of
    Aryan superiority = convenient euphemisms for state-sponsored institutional
    mass-murder).

    = To Hitler state-sponsored mass-murder and brutal social engineering became logical,
    acceptable, then desirable.

    = already Hitler‘s notion of the state was for it to be a callous ‘BRUTE-opia‘.

    = Hitler (just like militant atheist Stalin) had a profoundly ANTI-Christian
    attitude because his notion REJECTED the Christian teaching of the IMPORTANCE
    of EVERY human and their DIGNITY and absolute EQUALITY of ALL human beings
    before God.

    = Therefore Hitler had clearly not only REJECTED Christ but had become a
    vicious ANTI-Christ.

    = Therefore it is a LOGICAL IMPOSSIBILITY for Hitler to have been a Christian.
    …/2

  • Guest 2

    …/2
    ** Hitler espoused a ruthless policy of “negative Eugenic Selection”, believing that world history consisted of a struggle for survival between races.

    = racism being a profoundly ANTI-Christian attitude
    = Therefore Hitler had clearly not only REJECTED Christ but had chosen to BECOME a vicious ANTI-Christ.

    ** According to Evans, Hitler “used his own version of the language of “social Darwinism” as a central element in the discursive practice of extermination…” [of “undesirable” humans] and the language of “social Darwinism”, in its Nazi variant, helped to REMOVE ALL RESTRAINT from the directors of the “terroristic and exterminatory” policies of the regime, by “persuading them [the regime and then the voting public] that what they were doing was JUSTIFIED by history, science and nature”.
    = Therefore Hitler had clearly not only REJECTED Christ but had NOW become a VIOLENT ANTI-Christ.

    ** “… the spreading poison of his lust for power and SELF-IDOLATRY (= false “god”) finally crowded out any memories of childhood beliefs and in 1937 he JETTISONED the last of his personal religious convictions” (see Max Domarus; “The Essential Hitler – Speeches and Commentary” p21)
    = Therefore by his unrepentant unrelenting life-long BEHAVIOUR of the incessant breaking of the Ten Commandments, Hitler DEFINED himself as being a vicious ANTI-Christ.

    ** Samuel Koehne, a Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, working on the official Nazi views on religion, answers the question “Was Hitler a Christian?” thus:
    “Emphatically NOT, (ie, if we consider Christianity in its traditional or orthodox form) … It is an ABSOLUTE NONSENSE to suggest that Hitler – or ANY of the Nazis- adhered to Christianity in ANY form.” (see Koehne, Samuel, “Hitler’s faith: The debate over Nazism and religion“, ABC Religion and Ethics, 18 Apr. 2012)

    ** By now Hitler was also a serial fornicator, living a life of debauchery and arrogance.

    = As it is BEHAVIOUR (and NOT labels) which DEFINE what a person REALLY is – his openly unrepentant unrelenting life-long BEHAVIOUR of BREAKING of the Ten Commandments, Hitler DEFINED himself as being a violent ANTI-Christ.

    = Therefore to even suggest that Hitler could EVER be considered a Christian – is fanatical INCOHERENT NONSENSE by those who wish to distort history for their own agenda.
    …/3

  • Guest 2

    …/3
    ** Hitler’s own associates expose Hitler’s “burning HATRED for Christianity”
    … and that between 1941 and 1944 a number of Hitler’s intimates CONFIRM him expressing increasing and EXTREMELY NEGATIVE views of Christianity (Hitler’s intense HATRED of Christianity confirmed by his own contemporaries in the writings of several in the Nazi hierarchy eg Albert Speer, Martin Borman, Adolph Eichman; the Goebbels Diaries, etc.).

    ** Historians such as Ian Kershaw, Joachim Fest and Alan Bullock agree that Hitler was ANTI-Christian – a view also evidenced by even Nazi sources such as the Goebbels Diaries, the memoirs of Albert Speer (see Speer. (1997). Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 96.), and in the hand-written stenographic transcripts by Martin Bormann (head of the Party chancellery (Parteikanzlei) and private secretary to Adolf Hitler).

    * Hitler’s acutely ANTI-Christian statements made to his hierarchy, as:
    * “Our epoch will certainly see the end of the DISEASE of Christianity“ (27th February, 1942);
    * “There is something very UNHEALTHY about Christianity” (9th April, 1942);
    *“Christianity is an invention of SICK brains” (13th December, 1941);
    * “The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great SCOURGES: the pox and Christianity” (19th October, 1941);
    * “National Socialism and religion CANNOT exist together…. The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew” (11th-12th July, 1941);
    * “We’ll see to it that the Churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the State.” (14th October, 1941)
    * Intensely Anti-Christian attitudes were even instilled in the youth to corrupt them:
    A “Hitler Youth Marching Song” (Grunberger, A Social History) illustrates it:
    “We follow NOT Christ, but Horst Wessel. Away with incense and Holy Water, The Church can go hang for all we care. The Swastika brings salvation on Earth.”
    *In “Inside the Third Reich,” Albert Speer ( Hitler’s Minister for Armaments) describes:
    - how Hitler found no problem in exploiting the Church to his own advantage;
    - how Hitler viewed the Church merely as a “useful tool.”
    - Speer describes how Hitler very cunningly “adapted his remarks to his audience”, thus also FEIGNING friendship with the church – – A “CONVENIENT MASQUERADE” – “whenever it was EXPEDIENT to do so“.
    - Speer is also another witness to Hitler’s FEROCIOUS HATRED towards Christianity.
    = Hitler was a dishonest, cynical “master MANIPULATOR” and LIAR – and therefore NOT a follower of Christ … and therefore NOT a Christian.
    = Therefore Hitler – by his BEHAVIOUR defined himself as an ANTI-Christ.
    = Therefore for anyone to even suggest that Hitler could EVER be considered a Christian – is fanatical INCOHERENT NONSENSE.

    Sources:
    * Sharkey, Word for Word/The Case Against the Nazis; How Hitler’s Forces
    Planned To Destroy German Christianity, New York Times, 13 January 2002
    * The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches, Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, Winter 2001, publishing evidence compiled by the O.S.S. for the Nuremberg war-crimes trials of 1945 and 1946
    * Historians such as Ian Kershaw, Joachim Fest and Alan Bullock agree that Hitler was ANTI-Christian – a view evidenced by sources such as the Nazi J. Goebbels, Diaries, the memoirs of Speer, and the hand-written stenographic transcripts edited by Martin Bormann.
    * Goebbels wrote in 1941 that “Hitler HATES Christianity” (see Fred Taylor Translation; The Goebbels Diaries 1939-41; Hamish Hamilton Ltd; London; 1982; ISBN 0-241-10893-4; pp.304-305)
    * Albert Speer. (1997). Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. New York: Simon and Schuster.
    * Lawrence Rees; The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler; Ebury Press; 2012.
    * Alan Bullock; Hitler: a Study in Tyranny; HarperPerennial Edition 1991
    * Joseph Goebbels, (see Jonathan (2002). All Or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941–1943. London: Routledge Press, p. 234);
    * Albert Speer (see Albert (1971). Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs by Albert Speer. Trans. Richard Winston, Clara Winston, Eugene Davidson. New York: Macmillan, p. 143. Reprinted in 1997 Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 96)
    * Martin Bormann (see Bullock, Alan (1991). Hitler and Stalin: parallel Lives. New York: Vintage Books, p. 382).

    = Therefore Hitler (despite public pretensions), was described by his own collaborators as being profoundly ANTI-Christian.
    …/4

  • Guest 2

    …/4
    Hitler’s REMOVAL of ALL MORAL RESTRAINT
    LEADING TO the MASS MURDER of the “FINAL SOLUTION“:

    ** After 1938 Hitler began to publicly support a Nazified version of science, particularly social Darwinism, at the core of NAZI ideology IN PLACE of a RELIGIOUS ONE (see Detlev (1993).
    ** To learn of the very genesis of Hitler‘s ethnic-cleansing “Final Solution“ see:
    - “‘The Genesis of the “Final Solution” from the Spirit of Science’ in Thomas Childers and Jane Caplan (eds)”. Re-evaluating the Third Reich: 234–52) – a development that his INCREASINGLY HOSTILE remarks towards religion.
    - Hitler’s speeches that he had previously made in PRIVATE were now being expressed more openly.
    =Therefore Hitler was in fact profoundly and VIOLENTLY ANTI-Christian.
    = Therefore by his unrepentant unrelenting life-long BEHAVIOUR of breaking of the Ten Commandments, Hitler DEFINED himself as being a vicious ANTI-Christ.

    ** By 1940 it was public knowledge that Hitler had DISCARDED ANY possibility of union of Nazism with ANY religion (see Karla O, New Religions and the Nazis, p. 28)
    = Therefore Hitler was in fact profoundly and VIOLENTLY ANTI-Christian.

    ** Even historians who had previously given Hitler much leeway, now admitted that Hitler now showed an ‘unmistakable RUPTURE with ANY notion of Christianity.
    = Therefore Hitler was in fact profoundly ANTI-Christian.

    ** This led to a widespread consensus among historians, sustained over a long period of time following the initial work of William Shirer in the 1960s (see William (1960, 1998). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. London: Arrow Books. pp. 234–240) … that Hitler was EXTREMELY anti-clerical.(see Kershaw, Ian (2001). Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris. London: Penguin. pp. xiv).

    ** In his semi-autobiographical Mein Kampf – although Hitler makes several religious allusions – he declares himself “NEUTRAL” in sectarian matters
    - Hitler presented his own NIHILISTIC, Social Darwinist vision, in which the universe is arranged around principles of struggle between weak and strong (= a clear REJECTION of conventional Christian notions of EQUALITY of ALL humans before God; the brotherhood of the entire human family; solidarity with ANY person experiencing distress and of rushing to their aid).

    ** Historians such as Ian Kershaw, Joachim Fest and Alan Bullock
    agree that Hitler was ANTI-Christian – a view also evidenced by even Nazi sources such as the Goebbels Diaries, the memoirs of Albert Speer (see Speer (1997). Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 96.), and in the hand-written stenographic transcripts by Martin Bormann (head of the Party Chancellery (Parteikanzlei) and private secretary to Adolf Hitler).

    ** In “The Third Reich at War: How the Nazis led Germany from conquest to disaster“. (London: Penguin 2008 pp. 547–8) Richard Evans also reiterated the view that Nazism was secular, scientific and ANTI-religious in outlook and in the last volume of his trilogy on Nazi Germany, writing, ‘Hitler’s HOSTILITY to Christianity reached new heights, or depths, during the war.’

    Hitler’s view of Christianity: that “Nazism was completely INCOMPATIBLE with Christianity”(see“Martin Bormann”. Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 9.3.08)
    = Therefore Hitler had clearly totally REJECTED Christianity.

    ** Hitler re-opened the fight against the Christian churches, declaring in a confidential memo to the Gauleiters in 1942 that the power Christian churches “MUST absolutely and finally be broken“ because of their influence being “a SERIOUS OBSTACLE” to totalitarian rule.
    = Therefore Hitler was profoundly and VIOLENTLY ANTI-Christian.
    = Therefore by his unrepentant unrelenting life-long BEHAVIOUR of breaking of the Ten Commandments, Hitler DEFINED himself as being a vicious ANTI-Christ.

    ** Martin Bormann’s view [Martin Borman, like most of the Nazi Hierarchy were self-professed ATHEISTS]of Christianity too (like Hitler’s) was epitomized in his confidential memo to the Gauleiters in 1942 by stating that Nazism “was completely INCOMPATIBLE with Christianity” and that the views of the Nazi hierarchy were of the same opinion. (see “Martin Bormann”.
    Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2008-03-09).
    = Therefore Hitler, Martin Bormann and all of the Nazi hierarchy evidenced by their behaviour had REJECTED Christianity; and were instead, either neo-pagan or profoundly ANTI-Christian.

    = Therefore by his unrepentant unrelenting life-long BEHAVIOUR of breaking of the Ten Commandments, Hitler DEFINED himself as being a vicious ANTI-Christ.
    = Therefore Hitler by his own admission and by his BEHAVIOUR had clearly REJECTED ALL notions of Christianity.
    = Therefore Hitler had in fact BANISHED the Christian God from his personal life.
    = Therefore Hitler was NOT a Christian.
    …/5

  • Guest 2

    Re: “”Had the Catholic church been the kind of Gospel-inspired church that Francis is trying to re-establish, Communism, indeed, would never have arisen”
    … the early Christians …”(described in Acts).
    …lived a life of “social responsibility” based on respect for ever individual, their dignity and equality before God – which was an essential “glue” of a mature culture based on LOVE. Today one would call it the “social contract” which is severely lacking in countries where “extreme capitalism” or “extreme forms of socialism” like Communism or any form of fascism.
    I agree with you that if the Catholic Gospel-inspired culture were ALLOWED to flourish, there would NEVER have been found any reason for Communism.