Monday, September 30, 2013

Updating current news on Pius XII and the Shoah

Work commitments have kept me away from the blog for much longer than I anticipated.  Some might think that a good thing!

Here in summary are some items of interest that have ended up in my email throughout September.

1.  It is always good to see that works of note still enjoy a wide readership.  Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Controversy (2002) by Jose Maria Sanchez is one of the best introductions to the whole topic.  Matt Mazewski's comments are proof that a sturdy, evidence based work will always contribute to helping us understand the past and look at shaping questions based on fact rather than polemic.

2. World Net Daily - WND - a conservative American news service, ran an article entitled Call Issued to stop Communist Smear Campaign. After I checked the date to be certain this article was written in 2013 and not 1953, since Stalin's picture glowers out from the screen, I read about an appeal from Chuck Morse, author of On the Jewish Question - Karl Marx, anti-Semitism and the war against the West, and host of "Chuck Morse Speaks", made to Yad Vashem to have Pope Pius XII honoured as a "Righteous Gentile".  The basis of his appeal lies in his enthusiasm for the new book, Disinformation, by former Romanian communist spy, Ion Mihai Pacepa.  The article contributes nothing new to the discussion about Pius nor does it give any evidence of being aware of the comprehensive "de-bunking" of much of Pacepa's allegations that have been posted earlier.

3.  William Oddie wrote another column in the Catholic Herald related to Pius XII in mid-September.  I have written about Oddie's journalism and use of history a number of times and do not feel the need to write it again.  It is time to move beyond the old chestnuts of "calumny" and "canonise him now".  Let's deal with accurate history, not with defensive jabs at largely imaginary enemies.  The interested reader can look at past posts.

4. Filip Mazurczak interviewed Gary Krupp and posted it on the First Things site.  Mr Krupp has not changed his position over the years, which in one respect is commendable, the man is consistent and persistent.  However, I think it rather silly to say this:


The debate is over. Those who attack Pius XII still do not have a shred of documented evidence to support their claims. They base their theories on the books and research of historical revisionists whose research is weak and faulty. Every charge against Pius XII can be proven wrong. The problem is getting this information out there so that fresh, neutral minds can review and process it and render an opinion.

I respectfully suggest that Mr Krupp along with the journalists at First Things engage in some serious contemporary reading.  I recommend starting with Robert Ventresca and Frank Coppa's books.  The debate is definitely not over.

5. Catholic Culture, a conservative Catholic website from Virginia, USA, published a detailed chronology of Pope Pius XII's opposition to Hitler.  Their reason for publishing what is in fact a handy timeline that would be of great use for students is something less than salutary.

Both the Nazis of 60 years ago and today’s accusers have one common goal—to destroy the moral authority of the Papacy. Because Pius was such a strong Pope, destroying his good name would weaken the confidence of many Catholics and increase hostility to the Church everywhere. Scripture describes the cruel logic of Pius’s detractors in a single sentence: Strike down the shepherd and the flock will be scattered. (Mark 14: 27)

I imagine I would be one of those the author/s would consider out to destroy the "moral authority of the Papacy".  If so, I am flattered to be thought of as someone with such great power and influence.  It smells a bit like old fashioned conspiracy theory to me, and not dissimilar to the pernicious Jewish conspiracy theories peddled by the Nazis and their fellow travellers.

6. In two weeks Italian Jews will remember the great raid on the community in Rome on 16 October 1943.  In her article in the Edmonton Journal "The complex Holocaust legacy of Pius XII", Susan Zuccotti writes in her usual clear and unambiguous prose.  Zuccotti sets out the historical circumstances of the raid and the position of the pope.  Her closing paragraphs leave us with the timely reminder that history is not relegated to the past.  It is always in a state of discovery, interpretation and dealing with new questions.  In that sense, the debate over Pius XII is most definitely not over.

What are we to make of this complex legacy? The errors and omissions of Pius XII are not more glaring than those of other national and religious leaders, unless one believes that the head of the Roman Catholic Church should be held to a higher moral standard.

Furthermore, the Church of the past is not the Church of today. But it is important to study the historical record carefully and dispassionately, to define those errors and omissions with a view toward understanding the past and improving our responses to humanitarian crises in the future.

Finally, another review of A Cross Too Heavy has been published in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.  Mark Ruff, Associate Professor of History at St Louis University, has written a fair and balanced critique of the book.  I think he is right to criticise my lack of reference to many of the available German sources, something I am now more than well aware of and engaged in redressing.   

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