Pontifications

Pontifications


Was Pius XII a saint? More Jewish-Catholic tensions

posted by David Gibson

Pope Pius XII.jpgThe canonization process for the wartime pontiff is an ongoing source of drama–and tension.

The latest dust-up concerns remarks by Fr. Peter Gumpel, the Jesuit promoter for Pius’ cause for sainthood, who blamed Jewish pressure for the delay in the controversial pope’s beatification. As the CNS story has it:

Speaking at a Vatican bookstore in Rome June 19, Father Gumpel said Pope Benedict has not signed the decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Pope Pius XII because representatives of several Jewish groups have told him “loud and clear” that “if you do the least thing in favor of the cause of Pius XII, relations between the Catholic Church and the Jews are definitively and permanently compromised.”

The Vatican quickly tried to distance itself from Gumpel’s statements, as Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that “signing the decrees regarding beatifications are the exclusive competence of the pope, who must be left totally free in his evaluations and decisions.”

“If the pope thinks that more study and reflection on the cause of Pius XII is required,” the statement continued, according to CNS, “this position must be respected without unjustified and inopportune interference.”

But as Father Gumpel said, “Sooner or later, the beatification and then the canonization will go through.”

For a more modulated view of Pius XII–and from the Jewish side–read Michael Paulson’s interview in the Globe with Mordechay Lewy, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, who spoke at Boston College last week. Lewy addressed many issues, but I think his comments on Pius get it as right as possible:

Q: Does Israel have a role to play in the canonization of Pius XII?

A: Canonization is not our concern. We don’t believe in beatification. What concerns us is the historical role of Pius XII. This is a real issue which has been, to my mind, deliberately, but still mistakenly, combined with the matter.

Q: Do you have a position on Pius XII’s historic role?

A: Historically speaking, I think he was neither a hero nor a villain. It is probably the right thing to think of a more balanced view of him. The problem is that we are looking at him through the filter of a post-conciliar church. He is definitely a protagonist of the pre-conciliar church, and the pre-conciliar church has, as its main assignment, to seek all possible means to salvation for its own flock. He is not a pope for the Jews; he is not a pope for the Mohammedans; he is not a pope for everyone who was not Catholic. ‘My main task is to save the souls of the Catholic Church.’ This is why he did a concordat with the Germans. He didn’t make a concordat because he was Hitler’s pope. This is a mistaken concept. He did it in order to survive, to make it happen that the church can survive a godless regime. This was the term that they used. He tried also to make a concordat with the Soviet Union, but the Russian Orthodox Church didn’t like this idea. It is wrong to look for any affinity between him and the Nazis.

It is also wrong to say that he didn’t save Jews. Everybody who knows the history of those who were saved among Roman Jewry knows that they hid in the church, they hid in Roman monasteries, in the Vatican itself people were hidden. To look for written evidence, an order of the pope, well…this is odd. This is not how it works.

Q: So I hear you explaining why he was not a villain. Why was he not a hero?

A: He was very, very timid. He was a diplomat. This is why the curia is very much advocating for him as a saint. He was brought up politically by Benedict XV, who was the protagonist of neutrality during the First World War, wanting to keep up relations with everyone in order to get involved in mediation, humanitarian aid, good things. This is the concept with which Pius XII, as a pupil of Benedict XV, approached the Second World War. He misread, completely, the situation. He can not be blamed for it. He was who he was, with shortcomings. To be neutral meant for him to be quiet, to rely on quiet diplomacy. The main argument is why he was silent, not why he didn’t help. And by the way, after the war, he was silent as well. If we take the whole tenure, before the war and after the war, he was silent all the time. He never spoke up. He was saying…the church was victim of those regimes. With that mindset, there’s not much space to have a place to have another victim, if you feel yourself a victim. And, by the way, that’s our problem in the Middle East.

 

 

 



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Gerard Nadal

posted June 22, 2009 at 12:55 pm


Gumpel pretty much has it correct. No Pope will throw the historical truth about Pius XII under the bus in order to appease the historical revisionists in the Jewish Community. To the revisionst’s dismay, ur Popes will continue to deal in the light of historical truth, as told by an army of Jews who lived through WWII and Praised Pope Pius XII during the war and in its aftermath.
The revisionists know well the mountain of history they are ignoring in order to promote their calumnies against Pius and the Catholic Church. The day is not long off when Catholics will finally quit in the outreach to Jews now in its ninth decade and rightly conclude that they are wed to an identty of victimhood that does not permit reconciliation. Then we will simply move on.
It isn’t the Popes who should dread rejection by the Jews. It is the Jews who should dread the isolation, alienation, and needless ill-will because of their senseless and willful revisionism.



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crystal

posted June 22, 2009 at 1:55 pm


There seems to be a lot of conflicting evidence about how Pius and the Church acted during and after the war. I’ve just been reading about a Bishop, , who ran an escape route for Nazi war criminals.



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Charles Cosimano

posted June 22, 2009 at 3:20 pm


There is a certain lack of creativity on the part of the Israelis in this. It would make more sense for them to quietly, and through diplomatic channels, explain to the Vatican that if Pius XII is considered for sainthood then the access of pilgrims to certain holy sites will have to be curtailed because of the threat of terrorism. In fact it may be necessary to remove all of those sites from the control of the Church.
And then we would see how much leverage the Israelis would have.



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freelunch

posted June 22, 2009 at 3:33 pm


But as Father Gumpel said, “Sooner or later, the beatification and then the canonization will go through.”
I realize that Fr. Gumpel has the job of advocate and having such a positive outlook as above is good from his point of view, but he doesn’t seem to be wise in attacking Pope Benedict or implying that he is only delaying because he is appeasing the Jews. It is almost as if Fr. Gumpel doesn’t want a thorough review of Pius XII and his actions. I also notice that John Paul II and Benedict seem to have set new standards for sainthood that will lead people to question why so many have been canonized in recent times. Will people take these canonizations seriously a century hence? Or will they all be reviewed and the majority be done away with?



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Scott R.

posted June 22, 2009 at 9:32 pm


Gee Gerald, more than 1/3 of all Jews died in the Holocaust, and you call how we feel about it an “identty of victimhood”.
Every Jew alive today lost huge chunks of our families to the Nazis and you have the AUDACITY to complain about our “identty of victimhood”? And then you essentially threaten us?
What is wrong with you? Your basic lack of human empathy is frightening. If you are representative of all Catholics, we would be best off having no relationships with you.
Fortunately you are not.



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ann

posted June 22, 2009 at 9:51 pm


I facilitate interfaith dialogue and I am heartened by the desire to understand one another by most people. Most Catholics, until in real conversation with a Jew, don’t understand the immensity of the Holocaust, we hold it at arms length, I think because it is so beyond our comprehension. I know personally a few survivors, Polish Catholics, who were also victimized by this. I think that Pius acted as many people would considering the time, I also think that we must acknowledge that it is a prime example of the humanity of our clergy.



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Andrea

posted June 23, 2009 at 6:57 am


The Jews shouldn’t get a say in who the Catholic Church chooses to beatify.



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freelunch

posted June 23, 2009 at 8:27 am


The Jews shouldn’t get a say in who the Catholic Church chooses to beatify.
They don’t. I think Fr. Gumpel made a big mistake in making that accusation. His job, when specific questions about the appropriateness of sainthood is to answer the questions, not get all snotty about it. If Fr. Gumpel feels that Pius XII did the best he could under the circumstances then he should make a defense of Pius, not attack the motives of those who criticize Pius. There is evidence on both sides, the balance of the reading should be based on the best understanding of the evidence, not Fr. Gumpel’s personal attacks on those who oppose canonization.



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Gerard Nadal

posted June 23, 2009 at 2:24 pm


Scott R,
It would help matters if you bear in mind that according to Israeli diplomat and Consul in Italy, Pinchas Lapide in his 1967 book, “Three Popes and the Jews” concluded, “The Catholic Church saved more Jewish lives during the war than all other churches, religious institutions and rescue organizations put together.”
He also goes on to credit the Catholic Church with saving 860,000 Jews. How many Jews alive today, the descendants of those 860,000, owe their existence to the salvific role of the Church under Pope Pius XII’s leadership?
Catholics too were martyred during the war. Over five million Christians died in those camps-a number blithely ignored by the Jewish community as they only mention the six million Jews. Many of those Christians died because they sheltered Jews, or spoke out against the tryanny of the Third Reich.
Finally, I’m powerless to threaten anything. The simple reality is that Catholics today will simply not allow themselves to be guilt-tripped over the sins of distant forbears. We are the children of the Hundreds of thousands of Catholics who rose up in WWII to shelter Jews. We are the children of Vatican Council II, which decried anti-semitism in its document, Nostra Aetate. We are the children of Pope John Paul II who apologized for the sins of the Church in past centuries and asked forgiveness. We do not lay claim to the sins of the distant past, but are formed by and participate in the virtuous consistent outreach by the Church, at all levels, over the past eight decades.
If our outstretched hand gets slapped much more, we will simply leave you to your self-imposed imprisonment to a past of bitter recrimination. We will have been forced to conclude that it is you who are not desirous of reconciliation, as evidenced by your denial of the WWII Jews’ testimony about Pius and his heroic efforts, your demonizing Catholic martyrdom and virtue. Cutting off the good will of over 1 Billion people in a world increasingly anti-semitic (if the United Nations behavior is a measure) is truly dreadful, and entirely unnecessary.



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Scott R.

posted June 23, 2009 at 4:31 pm


Gerald,
We have never needed Xians and we never will. You are so completely deluded as to what Xians did during the war, it is pathetic. Jews didn’t even comprehend the enormity of the Holocaust in the 60’s, so of course people like Lapide still kissed up to Xians because we thought we still needed to.
I don’t care who you do or do not “canonize”. But the Catholic church has never been a friend to the Jewish people and it never will – and we KNOW that.



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ann

posted June 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm


Scott R,
You really have no right to say that. Perhaps you don’t feel there is any friendship to you, which clearly you have no interest in, but there are too many that see it otherwise.



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Jim McCrea

posted June 23, 2009 at 6:18 pm


Ann: Scott has EVERY right to say what he feels! I suspect that you have live a life sheltered from expriencing Jewish memories of the Shoah, life in Europe before that, and even life in contemporary American during and after the war.
I have a Jewish friend who was raised in the Bronx. He told me more than once that he and his friends dreaded Good Friday because they knew that they would be chased by and, if caught, beaten by good Catholic school kids because Jews were Christ Killers. Now where, pray tell, do you think these Catholic school kids got that idea?
Wake up and stop deluding yourself about how Holy Mother Church is pure and undefiled when it comes to Jews.



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ann

posted June 23, 2009 at 10:28 pm


Jim, you are correct in that Scott does have every right, and Scott for that I apologize…but I stand by the rest.
As far as being “sheltered” and “deluded” you are way off base. If you have ever read any of my other posts you would know that…but if you feel better ranting at me, go ahead.



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Jeffery Ewener

posted June 24, 2009 at 9:23 am


“He [Pius] was saying…the church was victim of those regimes. With that mindset, there’s not much space to have a place to have another victim, if you feel yourself a victim. And, by the way, that’s our problem in the Middle East.”
This must be the most remarkable statement made by an Israeli diplomat in 20 years.



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Gerard Nadal

posted June 24, 2009 at 2:37 pm


Scoot R,
First, I’ll call you Scott instead of Scoot if you would be equally respectful and use Gerard instead of Gerald.
Secondly, I know that many Jews do not have reconciliation or forgiveness in their lexicon. Jews such as yourself. Apart from being bitter, you present yourself as one of the most patronizing, arrogant, and presumptuous people alive when you say of the Jews who lived through the war to praise Pius and the Church that,
“Jews didn’t even comprehend the enormity of the Holocaust in the 60’s, so of course people like Lapide still kissed up to Xians because we thought we still needed to.”
Luckily for the Jewish community there are Jews like Rabbi David Dalin who recently authored, “The myth of Hitler’s Pope.”
But really Scott, you are so blinded by your hatred and bigotry that you fail to see the biggest inconsistency in your argument. You hate Pope Pius XII for not doing enough in your eyes to save Jews and simultaneously proclaim,
“We have never needed Xians and we never will.”
If that statement about Christians is true, then be consistent and be quiet about Pope Pius XII, lest you continue to betray your bigotry.



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Orestes

posted June 25, 2009 at 5:45 pm


Please no more arguments. The Jews have spoken. We must obey them. If they do not want Pius XII beatified there can be no beatification. Remember they are the “Chosen People”, our “Elder Brothers” in the words of John Paul II.
The very pope, John Paul II taught that the Jews did not have to accept Christ as the Savior. He taught that Jews do not have to convert to Christianity. All the Bishops have agreed with JP2 entirely. Therefor we must obey the will of the Jews. Sorry Pius XII, no beatification for you.



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Gerard Nadal

posted June 25, 2009 at 7:32 pm


Orestes,
A Lutheran Pastor who converted to Catholicism once said that Ecumenism will be alive and well so long as Catholics continue to apologize for being Catholic. He pointed to our sacrifices for Jews in WWII, Nostra Aetate and JPII, among others and then asked, “What have the Jews offered in return, or Protestants for that matter?”



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Your Name

posted June 29, 2009 at 6:50 pm


@andreas
The Jews shouldn’t get a say in who the Catholic Church chooses to beatify.
As if the Jews would let have a voice in the matter! As if they could prevent the Vatican from canonizing Pius. Of course the Vatican is allowed to, it is very free in choosing whom it wants to present as an example of “highest morality”.
But as there are too many historical proofs of his totally missing morality, and as there are too many Catholics as I am (or was) who would leave the Church at the moment Pius XII is declared a saint – that’s the only fear of the Vatican, the reaction in the catholic world, to loose its own fidels.
The Jews’ opinion is only a pretext – was Hochhuth a Jew, or John Cornwell, or Giovanni Miccoli? Cornwell even was allowed to make research in the Vaticans’ secret archives because he wanted to write an apology on Pius XII. – but he couldn’t, instead he was shocked of what he found, and he was a pious Catholic!
So don’t make the Jews responsible for the Vatican’s own decisions.
@Gerard Nadal
Secondly, I know that many Jews do not have reconciliation or forgiveness in their lexicon. Jews such as yourself [Scott R.]
I know at least of one Catholic who is an enlightening example of reconciliation and forgiveness spirit: As Eichmann was captured by the Mossad in Argentine to be brought to Jerusalem on trial, the only thing Cardinal Antonio Caggiano could say was: “It is our Christian’s duty to forgive him what he had done.”



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Gwunderi

posted June 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm


@andreas:
«The Jews shouldn’t get a say in who the Catholic Church chooses to beatify.»
As if the Jews would let have a voice in the matter! As if they could prevent the Vatican from canonizing Pius. Of course the Vatican is allowed to, it is very free in choosing whom it wants to present as an example of “highest morality”.
But as there are too many historical proofs of his totally missing morality, and as there are too many Catholics as I am (or was) who would leave the Church at the moment Pius XII is declared a saint – that’s the only fear of the Vatican, the reaction in the catholic world, to loose its own fidels.
The Jews’ opinion is only a pretext – was Hochhuth a Jew, or John Cornwell, or Giovanni Miccoli? Cornwell even was allowed to make research in the Vaticans’ secret archives because he wanted to write an apology on Pius XII. – but he couldn’t, instead he was shocked of what he found, and he was a pious Catholic!
So don’t make the Jews responsible for the Vatican’s own decisions.
@Gerard Nadal
«Secondly, I know that many Jews do not have reconciliation or forgiveness in their lexicon. Jews such as yourself [Scott R.]»
I know at least of one Catholic who is an enlightening example of this spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness: As Eichmann was captured by the Mossad in Argentine to be brought to Jerusalem on trial, the only thing Cardinal Antonio Caggiano could say was: “It is our Christian’s duty to forgive him what he had done.”



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