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Chapter 43

Pius XII - Part 2

 

It is not without significance that a majority of the dictators of the era were raised in the Roman Catholic faith. Among these were Francisco Franco (Spain), Adolf Hitler (Germany), Benito Mussolini (Italy), Ante Pavelic (Croatia), Marshal Henri Pétain (Vichy France) and Monsignor Josef Tiso (Slovakia).

Pacelli’s future course has been documented in numerous books, some vilifying him and others making strenuous efforts to place the most favorable interpretation upon his apparently inexcusable silence and his actions, so often judged contrary to justice. It is not our purpose to do more than present the facts in summary and to place Pius XII’s pontificate in the context of the healing of the deadly wound.

The fountainhead and stronghold of the Nazi movement in Germany was Bavaria in south Germany, Roman Catholic Germany, not Protestant north Germany. German Roman Catholics joined the Nazi Party en masse and enthusiastically supported the Hitler regime. Over half of Hitler’s troops were Roman Catholics. At the height of his power in 1942, Hitler ruled over the largest Roman Catholic population in the world. They were accustomed to authoritarian government in their religious lives, which made them unquestioning and enthusiastic supporters of authoritarian civil governments as well. (Stephen J. Tonsor, "The View from London Bridge," New Individualist Review, September 1965, p. 671, quoted in John Robbins, Ecclesiastical Megalomania, The Trinity Foundation)

Ideas about the corporate state, as developed in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, were having their effect on Germany too and at a critical moment weakened the democratic substance of the Centre party. One German Catholic who was particularly influenced by these ideas was Franz ("Fritz") von Papen, who became chancellor on June 1, 1932. His authoritarian views contributed to the breakup of the Weimar Republic, and it was his support that enabled Hitler to take over as chancellor on 30 January 1933. (Von Aretin, The Papacy and the Modern World, p. 206, quoted in John Robbins, Ecclesiastical Megalomania, p. 164)

Whether Pacelli aided Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 and even encouraged his ruthless policies will be debated endlessly. What is fact is that in Archbishop Pacelli’s eagerness to sign a Concordat with Germany, as he had already done with Bavaria (1920), Prussia (1929) and Baden (1932), he crushed the Catholic Centre Party, a powerful anti-Nazi force, using the disbanding of that party as a bargaining point with Hitler, in order to achieve his aims. Still filled with a sense of achievement over his principal role in codifying the canon law, Pacelli, now since 1930 Cardinal Secretary of State, felt comfortable with an authoritarian church in league with an authoritarian state.

On July 20, 1933, the Roman Church-State signed a treaty with Hitler guaranteeing the loyalty of the German Roman Catholics to the Hitler regime. One of the Roman Catholic bishops in Germany, Berning, published a book stressing the link between Roman Catholicism and German patriotism and sent a copy to Hitler "as a token of my devotion." German Monsignor Hartz praised Hitler for having saved Germany from "the poison of Liberalism [and] the pest of Communism." The Roman Church-State military bishop endorsed the Nazi goal of Lebensraum. It was no wonder, then, that the Roman Catholic publicist Franz Taeschner praised "the Führer, gifted with genius," and declared that he had "been sent by providence in order to achieve the fulfillment of Catholic social ideas."

Tonsor wrote:

[I]n accommodating to National Socialism through the Concordat of July 1933, the [Roman] Church put its stamp of approval upon a criminal regime and opened the way for recognition of that regime within Germany and abroad. The cooperation of the [Roman] Church played an important role in the Saar referendum, in the re-militarization of the Rhineland, in the Austrian Anschluss, in the German war effort, 1939—1945, and in the "crusade against Soviet Bolshevism." The Catholic press in Germany was frequently little more than an extension of Goebbels’ propaganda ministry, and German bishops and priests often spoke the party Chinese of the Nazis."(Tonsor, Ibid., quoted in John Robbins, Ecclesiastical Megalomania, the Trinity Foundation.

In the Concordat signed with Nazi Germany on July 20, 1933, Pacelli was persistent in his claim for government funding of Roman Catholic education. Hitler wisely accepted that condition, fully well aware of the old adage, that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Article 21 of the Concordat stipulated that the government pay the cost of educating pupils in Roman Catholic primary and secondary schools. Roman Catholic Diocesan leaders could appoint and dismiss teachers. Indeed Hitler went as far as accepting Article 23 which gave Roman Catholic parents the right to demand Roman Catholic schooling in regions where it did not exist.

No doubt Hitler regarded this as a small price to pay for neutralizing Roman Catholic political activity. The other major advantage Hitler deduced from the Concordat was that it provided him confidence to state that the agreement would be—

especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry. (Klaus Scholder, The Churches and the Third Reich, Vol. 1, p. 402)

Now, of course, the Concordat provided for no such permission, but Hitler shrewdly judged that he had bought Vatican silence in return for educational funding. If this was true, he bought that silence at a bargain basement price, for no amount of money could atone for the horrors of the Holocaust. What is true is that Pius XII’s silence was deafening during the Second World War. Yet diplomats such as Francis D’Arcy Osborne, the British minister to the Holy See, Harold Tittman, American representative at the Italian Embassy in Rome seconded to the Vatican, and Pinto, Brazilian ambassador to the Vatican regularly apprised either Pius himself or Cardinal Luigi Maglione, the Vatican Secretary of State, of intelligence reports of the escalating Nazi atrocities against Jews.

Incredibly, even when German diplomats in Rome pled for Pius to speak out against the arrests and deportation of the Jews of Rome and its environs in 1943, Pius remained silent. Albrecht von Kessel, the German Consul in Rome, a man of integrity, urged Pius to officially protest the arrest of the Jews. (Katz, Black Sabbath, p. 202) Even more important was the fact that Baron Ernst von Weiszäcker, German ambassador to the Vatican urged Cardinal Luigi Maglione, the Vatican Secretary of State, to use his influence to encourage Pius to denounce publicly the roundup of the Jews of Rome. Von Weiszäcker believed that such a denunciation would greatly impact Hitler’s policy. This diplomat was no minor man. He previously held the post of deputy to Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Nazi Foreign Affairs Minister. Von Ribbentrop was the highest Nazi official hanged after the Nuremburg War Crimes trial after the war, Herman Göring having escaped the noose by a last-minute suicide. The fact that a man of von Weiszäcker’s caliber and seniority was appointed as Ambassador to Vatican was evidence of how much Hitler believed that the pope had it within his power to influence world opinion against Germany.

But Pius still stubbornly refused to break his public silence. Cardinal Maglione replied to von Weiszäcker,

The Holy See would not wish to be put in a situation where it was necessary to utter a word of disapproval. (Records and Documents of the Holy See Relating to the Second World War, Vatican, 1965—1981, p. 506)

The Cardinal also stated in his own recollection of his discussion with the German Ambassador,

I wanted to remind him that the Holy See had shown, as he himself had acknowledged, the greatest prudence in not giving the German people the least impression of having done, or wished to do, the least thing against the interest of Germany during this terrible war. (Ibid., p. 506)

Only one Jewish woman from Rome survived deportation to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland, together with a few men. It is quite likely that many more Jews would have survived the war had Pius spoken out in their defense. The sole survivor, Settimia Spizzichino, who was only twenty-four at the time of her release in 1945, in a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interview entitled The Silence of Pius XII, broadcast in 1995, stated,

I came back from Auschwitz on my own. I lost my mother, two sisters, a niece and one brother. Pius XII could have warned us about what was going to happen. We might have escaped from Rome and joined the partisans. He played right into the Germans’ hands. It all happened right under his nose. But he was an anti-Semitic pope, a pro-German pope. He didn’t take a single risk. And when they say the Pope is like Jesus Christ, it is not true. He did not save a single child. Nothing. (Quoted in John Cornwell, Hitler’s Pope, pp. 317, 318)

What a contrast this silence, in the face of the deaths of numerous Jews, when compared with the response of Cardinal Adolf Bartram, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Berlin who, upon hearing of the suicide of Adolf Hitler, ordered the priests in Berlin—

to hold a solemn Requiem in memory of the Führer and all members of the Wehrmacht who have fallen in the struggle for our German Fatherland, along with the sincerest prayers for the future of the Catholic Church in Germany. (K. Scholder, Requiem for Hitler and Other New Perspectives on the German Church Struggles, London 1989, p. 166)

Not only was Pius all too silent on the Holocaust, he was also silent on the fate of the Eastern Orthodox Serbs who were cruelly murdered in the hundreds of thousands by the Croatian puppet president, Ante Pavelic, and his Ustashe thugs. Jews, Communists and Gypsies suffered a similar fate. John Cornwell makes an impelling case that Pius well knew of the Croatian slaughter, but did virtually nothing to prevent it, despite frequent visits of Pavelic and other Croatians to his quarters.

The Archbishop of Zagreb, Alojzije Stepinac, was undoubtedly aware of the Ustashe activities and efforts to force Roman Catholicism upon the Eastern Orthodox Serbs. Yet on October 3, 1998, Pope John Paul II beatified Alojzije Stepinac. During his term as Archbishop of Zagreb it is estimated that 487,000 Eastern Orthodox Serbs, 30,000 Jews and 27,000 gypsies were murdered, many hacked to death. In addition 7,000 Jews were deported to gas chambers and at least 20,000 people died in Ustashe Death Camps. (J. Steinberg, "Types of Genocide? Croatians, Serbs and Jews, 1941—1945" chapter in The Final Solution, edited by David Cesarini, London, 1996, p. 175)

The British Broadcasting Commission (BBC) on February 16, 1942, stated,

The worst atrocities are being committed in the environs of the archbishop of Zagreb [Stepinac]. The blood of brothers is flowing in streams. The Orthodox are being forcibly converted to Catholicism and we do not hear the archbishop’s voice preaching revolt. Instead it is reported that he is taking part in Nazi and Fascist parades. (quoted in C. Falconi, Silence, p. 304)

We cannot penetrate Pius’ mind to plumb the depth of his silence. Perhaps he saw this as an evangelistic crusade aimed at bringing Serbs into communion with Rome. Or was it seen as an ecclesiastical cleansing of the Serbs? Only the records of heaven will unveil this mystery. Whether heaven has beatified Archbishop Stepinac, then too we shall discover. We could be forgiven for doubting that it has.

What is thoroughly documented is that the Papacy of Pius XII forged passports and other documents, aiding and abetting the escape from justice of men laden with guilt. Many of the vilest of war criminals thus escaped due justice. That will ever remain a stain upon Pius’ pontificate, as it ought.

In a 1998 story the Associated Press stated:

The Vatican may have helped leaders of the Nazi-backed Fascist regime in Croatia escape after World War II with plundered gold and other valuables from Holocaust victims, an U.S. report concluded Tuesday. "It seems unlikely that they were entirely unaware of what was going on," the report said of Pope Pius XII and his advisers, who helped run a Rome pontifical college where war criminals took sanctuary. (Quoted in John Robbins, Ecclesiastical Megalomania, p. 162)

One of the most interesting plots in the Second World War was Adolf Hitler’s scheme to capture Pius XII and take him to the small principality of Liechtenstein. Despite the pope’s insistence in not condemning Hitler and his atrocities, Hitler’s view of the pope and his curia was far from one of gratitude. On July 26, 1943, Hitler exploded at his headquarters,

I’d go straight into the Vatican. Do you think the Vatican impresses me? I couldn’t care less. . . . We’ll clear out that gang of swine. (Quoted in John Cornwell, Hitler’s Pope, p. 313 who was quoting from Teste manuscript held by the Jesuit Curia at Borgo Santo Spirito in Rome).

Hitler called a forty-three year old general, Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff, who was supreme commander of the Schutzstaffel (commonly known as the SS [defense squadron]) and the German police in Italy, to his headquarters a few days after the German occupation of Italy on September 9, 1943. Hitler asked him to capture the pope and secure all his treasures. Wolff replied that Hitler’s command would take six weeks to organize and achieve. Hitler ordered that it be done immediately. Wolff eventually informed Hitler that there would be a great negative response if the plan was implemented and eventually Hitler dropped the plan.

Pius XII will be remembered as the only pope who with discernable certainty spoke ex cathedra since the Dogma of Papal Infallibility was invoked eighty years earlier. In 1950, Pius declared that Mary was taken body and soul to heaven—the Dogma of the assumption of Mary. At the conclusion of his pronouncement Pius XII stated,

If anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or call in doubt that which We have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic faith.

In a general sense Pope John Paul II came very close to this position in his Apostolic Letter, Ad Tuendam Fidem, issued March 28, 1998, when he declared that those who rejected the words of the Roman Pontiff, by which he meant himself and his successors, would be punished with an appropriate punishment. If he meant each of his many ecclesiastical declarations, then he was greatly increasing the number of infallible statements, for surely no one should be punished when rejecting a matter which is simply an opinion which may or may not be correct.

When Pius XII died, few tears were shed by those outside the Roman Catholic faith. That Pope John Paul II subsequently vigorously pursued his canonization was certainly no act of political correctness. The protests were loud and persistent. Pius’ failure to take a stand on the side of right during his period of office destroyed any lasting sense of respect or greatness. That his proclaimed Dogma of the Bodily Assumption of Mary possessed no Biblical evidence and no Scriptural mandate, did not endear him to Bible-believing Christians.

His chief, and not inconsiderable, contribution to the healing of the deadly wound, was achieved as a Monsignor, when he played the major role in the codification of the canon law which greatly enhanced Papal authority.

Soon after the end of World War II, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Luigi Maglioni, died. Pius did not replace him, rather desiring to himself hold that position which had been his prior to his election as pope. Emphasizing his centralized approach, Pius stated to Archbishop Dominico Tardini, who had been Maglioni’s deputy,

I don’t want colleagues, but people who will obey! (Archbishop Dominico Tardini, Pio XII, Rome, 1959, p. 79)

The occupant of the Papal throne engendered a sharp rise in distrust of the Papal office. In the minds of non-Roman Catholics there was a decided waning in public esteem for the Papacy.

The Papacy required a man of an entirely different character to set that admiration rising. In Pius’ successor they accidently discovered that man in the seventy-seven year old Patriarch of Venice, Angelo Roncalli.

 


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