8 March 2019

PIUS XII and the Archives

Frankly, I am not as fervent an admirer of Ven Pius XII as many of my readers will be. Three of my reasons:

(1) He initiated the concept of deeply radical 'revision' and transformation of the Liturgy, which ended up we-know-where; and

(2) he developed significantly the disastrous and sick modern papal personality cult: I detect a direct line from him through S Paul VI to PF. Joseph Ratzinger wrote "After Vatican II the impression arose that the pope really could do anything ... "; it was a small jump from this to the major Bergoglianist error that PF, free from the constraints of Scripture and Tradition, is guided in his daily words and deeds by the Holy Ghost, by whose intervention he was indeed elected.

I do not subscribe to this perversion of Catholicism. So the idea that Pius XII's canonisation might be brought nearer by the opening of the remaining Vatican Archives of his pontificate leaves me, er, tepid.

(3) It is the role of the Roman Pontiff to repel error and to condemn heretical innovation. Nazism was a gross conceptual error; more precisely, it was a form of the Marcionite Heresy which the See of S Peter had put down in the Second Century. ("To Rome comes Marcion, already under censure in other Churches; but until Rome has condemned him he is still a Catholic Christian": Dix.) Between 1939 and 1945, this heresy was made even worse by the inclusion of anti-Christian twaddle such as Earth, Blood, and Volk. And it did not meekly remain in the lecture room: it was horribly embodied in an unjust war of aggression and in the planned mechanised slaughter of millions.

Yet, during this period, there was no papal condemnation of the error, or specifically of the consequent Judaeicide, at the formal, Magisterial, level. The fact that Pius XI had condemned it should have made it easier for Pius XII to repeat and to develop and to precision and to elevate (why not ex cathedra?) that condemnation both at the conceptual and at the genocidal levels. In the Newman terminology which I endlessly promote, the Teaching Office of the Church was, at least arguably, as much "in suspense" from 1939 to 1945 as it was during the Arian Crisis and has been during this pontificate. It is not that Pius XII taught nothing during those years (Mystici Corporis ...), so much as that he failed to teach with proportionate vigour and focus about the biggest single monstrous error that was staring Europe in the face. Just so, Vatican II was to leave Stalinism not, indeed, exactly uncondemned, but possibly not adequately condemned. The early Church Councils, on the other hand, identified errors by name, and flung precisely worded anathemata around with accurate addresses on the envelopes.

So there you have my own, provisional, personal,view.

I am a person of very imperfect judgement. I am usually wrong. My wife will confirm this.

So, if the opening of the Archives gives us a quite different picture of that pontificate, then, if I am still alive, I shall welcome it and do penance.

[I wonder if the Yad Vashem people and those neo-con meejah folks across the water would also welcome such a result. Or would they dream up some new means of evading the consequences of newly disclosed facts?]

(I know Pius XII secured the survival of nearly a milllion Jews who would otherwise probably not have survived, so please don't inform me of this. Let's take it as agreed between us.)

30 comments:

B flat said...

Dear Father,
Pius XII was to my childish eyes a divine and distant figure shining like a beacon in the darkness covering the world. Your sober reflections have disappointed me considerably, but are not unreasonable. Thank you for them.
May I express the hope that an unpartisan search of the records will uncover evidence to exonerate him of responsibility in the barbaric butchering of the Liturgy commenced during his pontificate? I would be glad to learn of his innocence in this.
As to the magisterial condemnation of Marcionism and its Nazi variant, I am unconvinced by your arguments. There was sufficient condemnation from PiusXI, building on the constant teaching of the Church since the Apostles, for Catholics to know the truth. More explicit condemnations aimed at a wider public audience or groups outside the Church, would surely be a matter of prudential judgment, on which no two people will have identical views. In this too, I hope that the hero of my childhood devotion will be vindicated of blame by the orderly presentation of evidence displaying his extraordinary and selfless service of God and the Church.
If the successors of Pius XII taken together had shown the prudential judgment and insight in episcopal choices that papa Pacelli showed in appointing the young Mindszenty and Wyszynski to primatial sees after WWII, we would not now find ourselves in this hellish mess.
But who am I to judge?

Anacharsis said...

He did not so much initiate as give a magisterial expression to curial views, together with opinions from the Liturgical Movement, that had been current ever since the days of Papa Sarto, if not before. One could write an "Allegory or Mask of the Liturgical Emulation of the Neo-Gallicans by the Ultramontanists" to illustrate this point.

On the second point, it is obvious that the showman Pacelli, well before his elevation to the supreme pontificate, had grasped the significance of the mass communication and the ways in which mass media could be used to inflate the image of a papacy that only recently came out of a self-imposed isolation. The equation of ultramontanism with Catholicism that followed the first Vaticanum had already prepared the terrain for the papolatry that peaked during his reign and subsequently.

On the third point, the invocation of prudential reasons for keeping silent still hold. When Papa Ratti issued his condemnation, war had not reached such levels as prevailed in the early years of the following decade, with all the implications, not only for the Jews, but for all the enemies of the Nazi ideologies. It was essentially a question of moral theology, not of dogmatic theology.

Finally, I do not think the Archives will inform us of anything that we did not already know or, at least, guessed.

Jon Kabel said...

Finally, someone who agrees with what I've been saying for years about Papa Pacelli.

Given the points you indicate along with his throwing open the barn door to the horses of evolution in Humanae Generis and the historical-critical method in Divino Afflante Spiritu, his cult among my fellow trads as some sort of uber-pope (pun unintended) has always mystified me.

Fr PJM said...

In De Mattei's "Vatican II, the Untold Story" we can see how the roots of present troubles were present in the time before the Council.

Feed Room Five said...

I think I can say that I am mostly neutral on the pontificate of Pius XIII. There are certainly problems with his legacy, not the least of which was Annibale Bugnini. But I think I am right in saying that he was the first pope to live in a situation where what he said would have immediate consequences for Catholics in various parts of the world. This circumstance meant that he ad to weigh the need to speak clearly and the need to protect Catholics. He may well have decided wrongly to protect Catholics. There is currently a similar situation with Catholics in China and it looks as if the policy of PF and Cardinal Parolin is wrong to be quiet about the Chinese Government. But that situation is much more transparent than the situation in Nazi Germany because the press and communication industries have become much more immediate in delivering news about what is going on everywhere. No one can envy Pius XII and the decision he had to make. Nor can we take that decision to mean that he was pro-fascist.

GOR said...

From my earliest years I have had a ‘soft spot’ for Pope Pius XII. I didn’t think of him as a saint but as a devout and holy man. Without modern means of communication at the time, he was only seen and heard from a distance.

We were well aware of the efforts of many clergy and religious – especially Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty – in saving Jews and Allied soldiers in Italy. That didn’t happen in a vacuum and we believed Pope Pius promoted and approved the efforts.

There will always be an argument as to whether it would have been better to condemn Nazism more explicitly or work behind the scenes to save as many as possible. It is easy to judge or condemn after the fact, but it was a different and difficult time. Who knows what any one of us would have done in the circumstances?

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Mary Ball Martinez observed:

+++++ begin quotes ++++++++++

The close partnership of Pacelli and Montini must have owed
its long duration to their shared background, making for
intense political commitment. Even as Secretary of State,
Pacelli was composing the two vernacular encyclicals attributed to
Pius XI , Non Abbiamo Bisogno and Mit Brennender Sorge, the latter
smuggled into Germany to be privately printed, hardly a
papal way to do things. As Secretary, he stopped the popular
broadcasts in America of Fr. Charles Coughlin, which were
exposing Jewish international financial power.

The Second World War had hardly begun when Pacelli,
now Pius XII, was writing atrocity propaganda against
Germany for Jesuit- run Vatican Radio. By 1940 he was
absorbing and exposing revelations by a double agent of the
coming Blitzkrieg.

Obviously this strong political bias, inculcated from
childhood, made it impossible for Pope Pius XII to fulfill
the role of neutral, compassionate Holy Father to each and
every Catholic.

While the faithful remained unaware of these political
initiatives, news of his peremptory repression of the
crusade of volunteers ready to fight atheistic Russia must
have swept across the youth of continental Europe as a
violent shock. The granting of hundreds of thousands of
false baptismal certificates to deceive immigration officers
in British Palestine was a degradation of the sacred, while
the pleas of 65 million Roman Catholics of Eastern Europe
to raise the papal voice in an effort to save them from the
oncoming Soviet hoards, met with adamant refusal...

“until Germany totally reverses its policy toward the Jews.”

His priority: Jews, not Catholics.

++++++++ end quotes +++++++++

The Catholic Church must chose to canonise a man on its own criteria and with no consideration for the emotional state of Jews or fear of Rabbinical Judaism which, since A.D. 70, has been an enemy of The Catholic Church

Unknown said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke: First, an academic point. Historians, at least of the hard-nosed empirical/analytical variety, are prone to be wary of what they call the fallacy of fictive questions. So, "What would have happened if the South had won the American Civil War?" or "What would have happened if the Versailles Treaty had been composed less vindictively?" Such questions can inspire interesting plots for the novelist, but the historian's only data are minutely conditioned by what actually happened.

That said, I promise I won't point out Pius XII's clandestine rescue of something like a million Jews from the clutches of the Nazi renegades. But my moral imagination, if not my sense of history, is nonetheless moved to ask, "What would have happened to the Vatican and to those rescued Jews if Pius XII had broadcast strings of anathemas against Hitler during the war years?

Christoph Matthias Hagen said...

I absolutely agree with you. I once owned a painting of Pius' XII., which I gave away as a gift after I had fully discovered the points you mention, Father!

Sprouting Thomas said...

My knowledge is small and I must be slow to judge. At first look, it seems as if Pius XII followed a sound and not unsuccessful policy as a statesman and diplomatist. That was, after all, his job for most of his life. If he'd been the Grand Master of the Knights instead, or the Captain of San Marino, our applause might be quite fulsome. But he was the Successor of Peter.

B Flat brings a point to mind. Pacelli was a showman in a silver-screen age, and the carefully cultivated image, the shining figure of the Angelical Pastor with his otherworldly look and sing-song voice, brought an worldly hope and confidence to many people for whom a deep trust in the Hidden God seemed too much to ask (I am by no means placing B Flat in that category; the words only suggested it). I believe he even appeared, as Pope, in a motion picture. On an admittedly mundane level, was he not simply doing for Christians, with his elevated gaze and flashing spectacles, what Churchill was doing for Londoners with his cigars and V for Victory?

It may be that his qualities as a "world leader", what might now be called a "spiritual leader", ultimately damaged his qualities as Pope, and indeed the situation of all Popes to follow. Nevertheless, I pray that they will be judged to his credit for what they were, and, like you, I hope the future will bring good cause to revise my opinion. May he forgive me if I've said anything unjustly, and ask God for the same.


Pius XI would always have been a hard act to follow. Let's hope we get another like him.

Donna Bethell (formerly known as Rose Marie) said...

Dear Father,you and your readers might find very interesting two fairly recent books of historical research: Rychlak, Ronald, Hitler, the War, and the Pope, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. (Huntington, 2010) and Riebling, Mark, Church of Spies: the Pope's Secret War against Hitler,Basic Books (Philadelphia, 2015).

Pastor in Monte said...

Pius XII certainly was an enthusiast for at least some of the liturgical reforms made during his reign. Burns & Oates, the London Catholic publishers, produced their own Breviary at one point. They had a set beautifully bound in white leather and embossed with gold which they took to Rome to personally present to Pope Pius at an audience. He was pleased by the gift, admired the binding and asked 'Which version of the psalms does it use?' 'The traditional Vulgate, your Holiness' was the reply. At which Pius' smile became fixed and his eyes glassy. Without opening the books, he simply handed them to an aide and moved on to the next pilgrim.
Nonetheless, I don't think he can entirely be blamed for starting the liturgical reform. St Pius X dramatically altered the ancient Breviary psalter and abandoned the Ratisbon chant for the Solesmes (not here going into the relative merits of each, but it was quite a revolution at the time). He liberally used the idea of 'restoration', rather in the way that a priest I know 'restored' a baptistery by completely altering it. The result, like the new psalter, may have been more convenient, but was hardly restoration.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Once Christendom had been carved up by the American and Soviet empires then the Church was in crisis. An occupied country hosted the council whilst its Christian Democrat government was being bailed out by the US to prevent the slide into communism or even civil war. The council's leading theologians were from the similarly compromised West Germany. If Vatican were a marriage, there would be grounds for annulment because of the financial inducements, external pressures and interference.

Did Pius XII understand these realities? Did any recent Pope? Benedict XVI definitely doesn't get it.

Rubricarius said...

Thank you, Pastor in Monte, for that interesting - and revealing - anecdote about the presentation breviary.

What will be interesting in the archives is find out the extent to which Pius had plans for a Council. In 'The Modern Papacy since 1789' Frank Coppa states "Throughout 1948 he [Pius] seriously considered calling one [a Council], and established five secret commissions to undertake preparatory studies."

I think it reasonable to assume that the Commission for General Liturgical Reform was one of those. Interestingly there was initial lack of interest/resistance within certain elements in the Curia for that when it was first established and it was only with the appointment of non-Curial members outcomes were achieved.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father. E. Michael Jones has some interesting observations from "Culture Wars"

++++++++++ ben quotes +++++++++

Not long after I returned to the United States, “pope emeritus” Ratzinger made the news briefly when fellow German theologian accused him, in so many words, of being an anti-Semite by backsliding on Catholic-Jewish dialogue. As some indication of just how preposterous the claim was, Ratzinger began his article in Communio with the two words, “Seit Auschwitz,” and went on to say how German theologians went on to re-frame the traditional Catholic understanding of the Jewish question in that light. It is impossible to talk about the Jews to the generation who were Heisenberg’s students, but like, David and Joseph Ratzinger, they are dying away and being replaced by a generation which realizes that they have no choice in the matter.

“Why should Auschwitz occupy center stage in the theological considerations of the Catholic Church?”

Ulrich wondered after watching my youtube video on the theological uproar which Ratzinger’s Communio article created in Germany.

“Why is the emphatically Jewish-messianic component in the Bolshevik mass murder of Russian Christians and Muslims being suppressed? Why is the fatal role which powerful Zionist elites played in World War I and II being suppressed? Why is the Church engaging in dialogue with a state which is ready to use the Samson Option to wipe us all out? Doesn’t the Church know that both the Iraq war and the war in Syria were waged in the interests of the state of Israel? Doesn’t the pope know that ISIS was created with the help of Israel to exterminate the Christians living in that region of the world in order to bring about the creation of Greater Israel?

Why does the Vatican preach in favor of immigration, knowing full well that the point of this program is the ethnic cleansing of Europe and the destruction of European Christian culture.241

“The issue is especially important to me because my Jewish grandfather spent a year in Auschwitz from which he miraculously survived, with a number tattooed on his left forearm, whereas his parents, along with 17 other relatives, had all been murdered.”

Was Ulrich telling us that being interned in Auschwitz saved the life of his Jewish grandfather? If he had remained in Wuerzburg, which was both Ulrich’s and Heisenberg’s home town, chances are he would have died in the allied bombing raid which flattened that city totally unnecessarily six weeks before the end of the war. Thanks to Winston Churchill that was the fate of the 250,000 refugees fleeing the Soviet army who found refuge in Dresden. No one knows how many Germans perished at the hands of American fighter pilots who were ordered to kill anything that moved on German soil. Ulrich is now waking up to the fact that “Jewish science” had imposed a totally false picture of German history on the German people. David Mardechai Levy is no longer handing

out licenses for magazines and newspapers, but why should he, when the Germans have so completely
internalized the commands of their oppressors?

Like most Bavarians, Ulrich is Catholic, but this does not prevent him from seeing that the main institution which is now inhibiting the emergence of an understanding of what happened to Germany after World War II and who was responsible for it is the Catholic Church. The German penchant for internalizing the commands of their oppressors is nowhere more evident than in the tortuous attempts of the world’s most famous living Bavarian to explain why Jews don’t need baptism to be saved

+++++ end quotes +++++++++

Victor said...

Dresden was destroyed February 13, 1945. W├╝rzburg was bombed March 16, 1945. The last German bombs destroyed houses in London (and killed people) as late as the end of March, 1945. The figure of 250.000 dead in Dresden was invented by Joseph Goebbels and continued by the Soviets and their East German allies; the true number is somewhere between 18.000 and 25.000.

I just thought it would be nice for readers to know the truth...

Anita Moore said...

A serious question, not meant to be flippant: can the magisterium really be said to be suspended at a time when, although silent, the Pope and his subordinates are actively working to save the lives of those being persecuted by National Socialism? Do not actions teach? Or am I defining “magisterium” too broadly?

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Victor. Maybe some day (unlikely) we will learn the true number of how many souls were killed in the Dresden bombing but the claim of 250K slaughtered is not outrageous as nobody knows just how many refugees had fled to that presumably safe city.

https://tinyurl.com/y5tqtgx8

The Encyclopedia Brittanica: It is thought that some 25,000–35,000 civilians died in Dresden in the air attacks, though some estimates are as high as 250,000, given the influx of undocumented refugees that had fled to Dresden from the Eastern Front. Most of the victims were women, children, and the elderly.

The idea that the Nazis continued to bomb England somehow justifies the unjustifiable action might- might - make some sense if the German Bombers were taking off from their airfields located in Dresden.

Sadie Vacantist said...

@ABS For good or bad the entire Catholic Church is now "living off" E Michael Jones. He is the last Catholic. Jones' deliberately obtuse thesis is that unless the Church returns to some sort of tradition then Catholics will join the lapsed protestants or "white guys" (i.e. protestants who've stopped going to Church) and embrace a cosmology with violent outcomes. The son of the late and ridiculously overrated Michael Davies is an example of such an individual. Adrian Davies was not only part of David Irving's legal team in that Lipstadt business, he is also a practising (sic) member of the British National Party and may well constitute some sort of future.

Victor said...

@ABS: If a dog bites you, you beat it until it stops biting. If it doesn't stop, it is probably rabid, and you have to club it to death or he won't ever stop.
There is no way of you knowing this, but rest assured that a) I am somewhat of an expert on the topic, having done serious scientific research (and by that, I don't mean quoting the EB and some website I found on the Internet), and b) there are very serious and accurate methods to estimate the true number of victims.

Victor said...

If you read German, please confer this: Neutzner, Matthias; et al. (2010). "Abschlussbericht der Historikerkommission zu den Luftangriffen auf Dresden zwischen dem 13. und 15. Februar 1945" / http://www.dresden.de/media/pdf/infoblaetter/Historikerkommission_Dresden1945_Abschlussbericht_V1_14a.pdf

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Sadie. In the current ecclesial climate the Chapels and Churches operated by the Traditional Orders are the modern equivalent of the caves of Covadonga and in those caves the Pelayos and El Cids are being formed who will, one day, recapture the entire Church for Christ.

Of course, one hopes it will take less than 7 centuries but good news abounds if one has the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Victor. If a dog is rabid it does not justify trying to kill every healthy dog in the city.

ABS does take your word that you know what you are talking about.

Fr Khouri said...

Pius XII, knowingly or not encouraged a cult of the papacy. Pope are flawed men, yes the successor of Peter (another flawed man) but not infallible in most things. Pius overdramatic behaviors, pseudo mystical "visions" and promotion of "yes" men (not uncommon) ultimately came together in a time when people were yearning for assurance and a daddy; "Papa" Pacelli provided these.

Fr Khouri said...

Pius XII, knowingly or not encouraged a cult of the papacy. Pope are flawed men, yes the successor of Peter (another flawed man) but not infallible in most things. Pius overdramatic behaviors, pseudo mystical "visions" and promotion of "yes" men (not uncommon) ultimately came together in a time when people were yearning for assurance and a daddy; "Papa" Pacelli provided these.

Fr Khouri said...

Pius XII, knowingly or not encouraged a cult of the papacy. Popes are flawed men, yes the successor of Peter (another flawed man) not infallible in most things. Pius's overdramatic behaviors, pseudo mystical "visions" and promotion of "yes" men (not uncommon) ultimately came together in a time when people were yearning for assurance and a daddy; "Papa" Pacelli provided these.

michael kakooza said...

Fr Hunwicke,
I am a Ugandan Catholic attached to the Traditional Latin Mass, celebrated in Kampala. Your blog forms part of my regular online reading. Thank you for providing this platform. Unlike you Fr, but fully respecting your views, I am a great admirer of Ven. Pius XII. The pressures and challenges he faced, especially during the Second World War, are, I believe, not easily appreciated by those of us living in less turbulent times. The contemporaries of Pius XII, including very prominent non-Catholics, unawed by Roman pontifical pageantry, were nevertheless effusive in their praise of this pope at the time of his demise. The play, Der Stellvertreter, by Rolf Hochhuth, continues to exercise a rather damaging impact on the legacy of this pontiff. I am confident that the opening of the archives, will fully complement and complete the great work already done by the Pave the Way Foundation.

Unknown said...

Father Hunwicke,
I commend you on your unique insight on Pope Pius XII and WW2. Most of the discussions on Pope Pius XII and WW2 seem to center around whether he was anti Semitic or not. I doubt that he was and there is no historical evidence for that. What is missing from the discussions is that the Germans also murdered 2.5 MILLION Polish Catholics including thousands of Catholic priests. So the question is "Why was it acceptable for German Catholic men to join the German military, SS and Gestapo and murder millions of Catholics? ". The German census of 1939 showed that 40% of the non Jewish population was Catholic. In other Axis nations it was 70% in Hungary and 90% in Italy. These Catholic soldiers were never advised to not receive communion nor were they excommunicated even though they were committing some of the worst evils in the history of the human race. If the pope, cardinals and bishops were unwilling to sanction these Catholics for openly engaging in evil then they have lost all their moral authority. Is is also acceptable Catholic men to engage in assisted suicide, euthanasia and perform abortions ? In our time it is no surprise that Governor Cuomo of New York has not been excommunicated for legalizing 3rd trimester abortion of which 1,000 per year occur in New York State alone. The same with the coverup of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. At some point the leaders of the Catholic Church need to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and realize that murder is evil.

George said...

Accusing Hitler of marcionism must be the strangest failing I've ever heard leveled against the brute. If true, it was the least of the errors of a man whose principal moral failing was immensely larger: leading millions into the mass murder of other millions. Wasn't that enough?

Pueblo Southwest said...

While not disputing the factual aspects of this article, I will note that the author has the benefit of hindsight. By that standard, another WW II leader should also be examined critically. President Roosevelt did not order the bombing of the death camps even after he knew what was taking place there. His preparations for the war, despite over two years advance notice were grossly incompetent. His one positive attribute is that he allowed the more knowledgeable military figures to conduct the war. Similarly, Pius XII acted in what he thought (somewhat mistakenly) that he was taking the correct approach to both international and Church affairs. To his credit, he appears to have maneuvered reasonably well when the facts became clearer and change necessary. I am uncertain of his candidacy for sainthood but neither do I think him in terms of being dismissed out of hand.