Pope Pius XII Didn't Speak Out Against Nazi Treatment of Poland Either

Roundup: Talking About History

Tracy Early, in the Catholic News Service (March 8, 2004):

Pope Pius XII, who was elected to the papacy in 1939 after service as a Vatican diplomat and then secretary of state, should be evaluated in the context of the international situation in which he worked, a Catholic historian said in a lecture March 4.

Jesuit Father Gerald P. Fogarty, professor of religious studies and history at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said Catholics should not react to criticism of the pope with defensiveness.

But he said they also should not"jump on the bandwagon" to join in the condemnation that has come to Pope Pius XII from the authors of a number of recent books and articles. These critics have emerged only since Rolf Hochhuth's 1963 play,"The Deputy," and present a picture different from that given by historical sources of the pope's own time, he said.

Father Fogarty said the Catholic public was"extremely ill-informed," and ought to wait until it can base its judgments on historical evidence.

Recounting his own research in the historical archives of various nations, he said he mostly found"shades of gray."

Father Fogarty delivered his lecture at the New York archdiocesan seminary, St. Joseph's in Yonkers, under the sponsorship of the Cardinal Francis Spellman chair in church history.

In citing various personal relationships that influenced the Vatican role in international affairs, he gave special attention to Cardinal Spellman, who was appointed archbishop of New York in April 1939, the month after Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli became Pope Pius XII.

Father Fogarty noted that much of the criticism of the pope centered on his"silence" regarding the Jews and the Nazi persecution that culminated in the Holocaust. But as Vatican secretary of state he was calling on Germany from the early years of Nazi rule to respect the rights of Jews who were baptized Catholics and to give humane treatment to those who were not baptized, Father Fogarty said.

As pope, he said, Pius XII showed in diplomatic actions and language that he rejected the racism of the Nazis and favored the Allies during World War II.

Although some reports of Hitler's extermination of the Jews had come out, people at the time found it difficult to imagine such horrors could be true, and remained cautious because reports of German atrocities during World War I were subsequently found to be largely propaganda, Father Fogarty said.

Cardinal Avery Dulles, who teaches at St. Joseph's Seminary as well as at Fordham University in New York, asked Father Fogarty during a question period after the lecture whether there was anything Pope Pius XII could have done that would have saved more Jewish lives."No, I don't think so," he replied.

Regarding the"silence" allegations, Father Fogarty also pointed out that during the Nazi period Pope Pius XII, calling himself"the pope of impartiality," was equally silent about Nazi treatment of Poland and about the Bolshevik rule in the Soviet Union. ...

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