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Chapter 42

Pius XII - Part 1
2 March 1939 — 9 October 1958

 

Eugenio Pacelli had left his mark upon the Roman Catholic Church through long years as Vatican diplomat and administrator.

In many ways Pacelli appeared almost as destined to wear the triple crown. He came from a line of significant Vatican lay workers who served successive popes as legal advisors. Pacelli’s great-great-great uncle, Monsignor Prospero Caterini had sponsored Pacelli’s grandfather, Marcantonio Pacelli, to study canon law in 1819, only twenty-one years after the deadly wound had been inflicted. By 1834 Marcantonio was involved in the investigation of marriage annulments as an advocate in the Vatican Tribunal of the Sacred Rota under Pope Gregory XVI. Under Pius IX, Marcantonio rose to become the Pope’s legal and political advisor, and accompanied Pius into his short exile to Gaeta in the Kingdom of Naples after unruly mobs declared a Roman Republic in 1848.

Upon their return to Rome, Marcantonio was appointed a member of the Council of Censorship which investigated those involved in the republican coup. In 1852 he became the Vatican Secretary of the Interior. In an era in which—

There [was] not a breath of liberty, not a hope of tranquil life; two foreign armies; a permanent state of siege, atrocious acts of revenge, factious raging, universal discontent; such [was] the papal government of [that] day. (A letter written by an English tourist to British Prime Minister William Gladstone and quoted by G. Trevelyan, Garibaldi’s Defense of the Roman Republic, London, 1928, p. 228)

No doubt Marcantonio was a tough administrator.

Marcantonio’s son, Filippo, was a devout Roman Catholic; and Eugenio’s elder brother by two years, Francesco, later became a senior canon lawyer in the Vatican. Filippo’s family was living with Marcantonio when Eugenio was born in Rome on March 2, 1876.

It would not overstate the case to make the assessment that Cardinal Pacelli’s greatest contribution to Papal ascendancy was made prior to his election as pope. In fact his pontificate, marked by his failure to specifically condemn Nazism and Hitler’s policy of genocide against the Jews and Gypsies, despite detailed knowledge of the atrocities at Auschwitz and like concentration camps scattered throughout Europe; his assistance to war criminals in their flights to Argentina, Paraguay and other parts of South America; and his feverish diplomatic efforts to ensure that Rome would not be bombed, while taking less interest in the fates of other European cities; lost ground in public relations with the religious faiths outside his communion.

Pacelli, as a young priest during the reign of Leo XIII, came to the attention of Cardinal Mariano Rampolla, Leo’s Secretary of State, who was so influential that he had the numbers to succeed Leo, but was vetoed by Austria. After ordination to the priesthood in 1899, Pacelli studied canon law, a family tradition. Monsignor Pietro Gasparri in 1901 was Under-secretary in the Department of Extraordinary Affairs which dealt with Foreign Affairs and was part of the Secretariat of State. He was a renowned canon lawyer. It was he who invited Pacelli to join the Secretariat of State as an apprendista, effectively an intern in Gasparri’s department.

These two men forged a working relationship for three decades and it was Gasparri, who was appointed Secretary of State in 1914 by Bene-dict XV, whom Pacelli succeeded as Secretary of State in 1930. It was these powerful, able and intelligent canonists who were, during the reigns of Pius X and Benedict XV, to completely codify Roman Catholic canon law and to forge the centralized Papacy set forth by Pius IX and Leo XIII. This was to have long-term benefits for the Papacy in the years ahead. A cohesive church was crucial to the advancement of Rome’s political agenda, and centralized control ensured that all but the most highly principled dissenters would comply to Pontifical dictates. The work on the new canon law cannot be overestimated in evaluating its significance for Papal advancement.

Yet that code of canon law which was completed in 1917 retained medieval concepts. One glaring example was canon 747 which stated that if there was a danger of inter-uterine death of a baby, the foetus should be baptized before birth. Thus was perpetuated Augustine of Hippo’s appalling fifth century view of punishment for even unborn children should they die unbaptized. Fortunately the revision of this code of canon law in 1983 deleted this absurd requirement, although Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ, p. 452 asserts that that 1917 canon law number 747 "still determines the practices imposed by moralists."

Furthermore, the 1917 code contained as an appendix, documents of Popes Paul III (1534—1549), Pius V (1566—1572—the last Papal saint before twentieth century Pius X; Pius V was a grand Inquisitor, no less), and Gregory XIII (1572—1585); documents which authorized popes to dissolve marriages contracted between individuals, neither of whom were Roman Catholics at the time of their marriage. Pius XI in the 1920s rapidly invoked this authority. In 1924 he dissolved the marriage between a Protestant and a Jew. The Protestant had converted to Catholicism and desired to marry a Catholic. At least two other such cases were granted by Pius XI. (Ibid., p. 490) Pius XII, himself one of the architects of the code, dissolved six marriages legalized when neither party was a Roman Catholic. In one case both were Moslems at the time of their marriage.

Cornwell, in Hitler’s Pope, page 6, has pointedly stated that the code of canon law,

distributed to clergy throughout the world, created a means of establishing, imposing, and sustaining a remarkable new "top-down" power relationship.

The revision of the Code of Canon Law had commenced in secret in 1904. Together with the Anti-Modernist Oath which Pius X required of all priests, the new code—

became the means by which the Holy See was to establish and sustain the new, unequal, and unprecedented power relationship that had arisen between the Papacy and the church. (Ibid., p. 41) The code was to be applied universally without local discretion or favour. . . . It transformed the power of the Papacy. (Ibid., p. 42)

Yet this code of canon law was dangerous, exceedingly dangerous, to the Papacy itself. The very laws which upheld the Pope at the pinnacle of the hierarchy provided the Roman Catholic Church with its Achilles heel. Roman Catholic priest, Malachi Martin, set forth this serious matter well.

The same catastrophe of disintegration would desolate the Roman Catholic institutional organization . . . if a sizeable body of Roman Catholic clergy and laity became convinced, rightly or wrongly, that the then occupant of the throne of Peter was elected quite validly but over time had become heretical, and was actually collaborating, actively or passively, in the piece by piece dismemberment of the sacred Petrine Office and its ministerial organization. For a pope who became a heretic would cease to be a pope.

In such a situation, the principal cause of disintegration would be the lack of any authoritative voice in the church structure by which Catholics would be assured authoritatively that their pope had or had not fallen into heresy. For there is no official mechanism within the structure of the church that is authorized to pass judgment on pope and papacy. Indeed the Church’s official code of ecclesiastical law, canon law, expressly denies to anyone the right or duty of passing official judgment upon the pope or papacy. (The Keys of this Blood, pp. 679, 680)

In codifying the canon law there is no doubt that Pacelli and Gasparri found themselves in a bind. To create a means in canon law whereby an heretical pope could be expelled from office for heresy would have seriously dented the claim of papal infallibility when speaking ex-cathedra. Yet the history of the Papacy abounds with heretical popes, even as judged by Catholicism, let alone the Word of God.

Let us quote from the words of a pope himself, Pope Adrian VI, the Dutchman who was the last non-Italian pope before the election of John Paul II. In 1523 he said,

If by the Roman Church you mean its head or pontiff, it is beyond question that he can err even in matters touching the faith. He does this when he teaches heresy by his own judgement or decretal. In truth many Roman Pontiffs were heretics. The last of them was John XXII [1316—1334]. (Quoted in de Rosa, op.cit., p. 285)

One can ponder the question, Was it Adrian VI who was infallible when he made this statement, or was it Pius IX when he declared the Dogma of Papal Infallibility? One or other of these two popes was manifestly fallible.

Pope Liberius (352—366) accepted the view that Christ was not equal with the Father. Both Innocent I (401—417) and Gelasius I (492—496) stated that baptized babies who died and had not ever received communion would go straight to hell. At least the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century denied such fiendish rubbish. In 682 Pope Leo II wrote, "[Pope] Honorius [625-638] tried with profane treachery to subvert the immaculate faith." (Ibid., pp. 288—290)

Incredibly Pope Vigilius (537—555), the pope who assumed the title of the head of the Universal Church, accorded by Emperor Justinian, and who was the first pope to wield undisputed power both religious and political, which he was accorded in 538 when the Ostrogoths were evicted from Rome, most certainly was a heretic, for he waffled back and forth between the views that Jesus was a single or a dual being. Both views were mutually contradictory. When the Emperor exiled him to Proconessus, Vigilius sent a letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople on December 8, 553 stating that he had been deluded by the "wiles of the devil," but he had since seen the light of truth. He was a self-confessed heretic. (Ibid.)

Thus Pacelli and Gasparri failed to come to terms with this sordid Papal history and left the Papacy vulnerable to Papal heresy.

His task in the codification of canon law complete, Pacelli was consecrated an archbishop by Benedict XV on May 13, 1917, and appointed papal nuncio to Munich, the center of German Catholicism. By an incredible coincidence, this was the very day the vision of Fatima transpired in Portugal. Pacelli left Rome for Munich in style. He was provided his own private compartment on the train and an additional carriage to carry sixty cases of groceries lest he could not obtain the foods he needed for his fragile stomach in Munich. Even the pope was reported to have been amazed at his extravagance.

Munich was a critical post in his life and future. It was here that his hatred of Communism was established. On April 12, 1919, Max Levien, Eugen Levine and Towia Axelrod set up a Communist-type government in Munich. Even the diplomatic immunity of the embassies was breached. In Pacelli’s letter to Gasparri, the Vatican Secretary of State, written April 18, 1919, he stated concerning conditions at the Communist headquarters,

An army of employers were dashing to and fro, giving out orders, waving bits of paper, and in the midst of all this, a gang of young women, of dubious appearance, Jews like all the rest of them, hanging around in all the offices with lecherous demeanour and suggestive smiles. The boss of this female rabble was Levien’s mistress, a Russian woman, a Jew and a divorcée, who was in charge. And it was to her that the nunciature was obliged to pay homage in order to proceed.

This Levien is a young man, of about thirty or thirty-five, also Russian and a Jew.

The letter complained of Levien’s discourtesy to Monsignor Schioppa, Pacelli’s German aide. Levien said there was no need for a nuncio in Munich. Pacelli was incensed when a Communist mob came to the Nunciature and confiscated his limousine. The militia of the Red Guards later fired on the Nunciature and stormed through it. The upper level of the building was left in devastation and fifty bullet holes were found in the structure.

These events of 1919, more than any other, were to rivet the mind of Pacelli and surely account for his strong antithesis to Communism and reveal his distaste for Jews, to the point that during the years of World War II, Pius, despite mild protestations concerning afflicted people, never once publicly named the Jews and, in the view of many of his detractors, demonstrated a callous indifference to their plight.

The events of that year also produced another salient feature of Pacelli’s diplomacy. It reduced his fear of the vile role of Nazism in Germany. It appeared as if he saw Nazism as promise of future protection of the Roman Catholic Church against the atheistic Communist movements sweeping Europe. As Pope, he never openly condemned the Nazi regime by name.


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