Catholics and Jews pan film defending wartime Pope Pius XII

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Pope Pius XII. From a painting in the Casa Santa Maria dell'Umilta of the Pontifical North American College, Rome. Religion News Service photo by Rene Shaw.

Pope Pius XII. From a painting in the Casa Santa Maria dell'Umilta of the Pontifical North American College, Rome. Religion News Service photo by Rene Shaw.

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(REUTERS) “Shades of Truth” is the account of a fictional present-day American journalist who starts off as a critic of Pius and changes his mind after research in Israel, Rome and elsewhere in Europe.

  • Pingback: Catholics and Jews pan film defending wartime Pope Pius XII - by Rev. Ron Gronowski - Rev Ron Gronowski - The Reverend()

  • Does any brains go into editing Reuters or this site? How do the remarks of three individuals merit the generics “Catholics” and “Jews”?

  • Jack

    Good point. Most Catholics and Jews who’ve bothered to study the matter realize that Pope Pius was a paradox on these issues which is why both “sides” have some credibility.

    On the one hand, Pius did save a number of Jews. On the other hand, if you compare the power and prestige he commanded, even in Nazi-occupied Europe, to the number saved, it could have been more. In addition, his personal attitudes toward the Jews weren’t as warm as those of Pope John or Pope John Paul II. One senses that he was fighting his own seemingly ambivalent attitudes towards Jews.

    And yet, it would be horribly wrong for Catholics, Jews, or anyone else to show zero acknowledgement or gratitude for the lives that were saved.

    So honesty requires balance and rejection of both extremes.

  • Larry

    Don’t worry history in general has not been kind to Pious or the Catholic Church’s conduct during the war.

    Their tacit support of fascism prior to the war (most notably Franco’s regime) and constant support of various Nazi collaborators such as the Belgian Rexists and Croatian Ustasche don’t really paint a nice portrait of the pontiff. The last forced conversions to Catholicism were done under his watch and with approval from the Vatican in 1944.

  • Greg

    “So honesty requires balance and rejection of both extremes..” Moderation maybe, in a way. Not honesty. Sometimes an extreme view is right, and when it is, an honest approach would not claim otherwise.

  • James Carr

    Pius XII will attain sainthood eventually, it’s startling how much animosity has been thrown at this Pope who acted in Catholic righteousness during his reign as the Holy Father.
    ‘Not doing enough” for the Jews is a matter of pure personal opinion, for what is the guideline of what “enough” is?
    He was not the Leader of the Jewish Faith, nor had he any armies at his disposal. Jews did nothing of importance for their own brothers and sisters, so how can the head of the Catholic Church be smeared with false accusations? I have read where he was responsible for the saving of some 10,000 Jews, and was lauded after war world wide.
    His “silence”, so to speak, most likely was his knowledge that Nazi reprisals would have extended to even more innocents.
    The film may be bad, but Pius’ actions during that horrific time are irreproachable.

  • Jack

    Sometime an extreme view is indeed right. But probably not in this case…..

    I once took the view that Pius was 110% awful on this issue. I still believe he could have done a lot more, and that he may well have been held back by feelings about Jews that were less than warm, as well as by prudential concerns. However, I now know the extent of what he did do and can’t discount that so readily.

  • Jack

    “Not enough” means that when you compare what he did do with what he had the power to do, a yawning gap exists. Sadly, such a gap still exists in Pius’ case.

    Part of the problem is that Pius was not like some of his successors when it came to his views of the Jews. He did not have the motivation of a Pope John or a Pope John Paul II to do the utmost — and even his strongest supporters can’t deny that.

  • DeaconJohnM.Bresnahan

    Most of those –Catholic or otherwise- who are constantly attacking Pope Pius XII usually talk of the power of the Church. They talk as though if the pope just snapped his fingers that would have somehow ended the Holocaust. When all it would have done is condemn to death the thousands being housed in monasteries and other Church institutions. The proof of this is how the killing of unborn children–and now even born children- has grown and spread no matter the Church’s efforts to save lives.
    In modern times the “power of the Church” is a fantasy left over from the past. Governments and political parties have all the power. The most the Church can do is try to limit the deaths and damage as Pope Pius tried to hiding as many of the hunted as possible.

  • James Carr

    I can, and I do.

    I want to know exactly what Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin did for the Jews? Remember the ship forced to return to Europe from Cuba that the US would not welcome? Hmmmmmmmm.

    If Pius saved one life, even that would have been outside of his technical responsibilities as Pope.

  • Jack

    Pius had tremendous cultural power as the head of the Church, and Hitler respected that power enough to spend elaborate amounts of time trying to show that his own nihilistic regime was somehow not anti-Christian. There were opportunities to push back, and push back hard, against Hitler, especially given that Germany had a substantial Catholic population.

    As for Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, the old book, “While Six Million Died,” tells their story…. not a pretty one.

    Now clearly, most of the critics of any of these people, Jewish and non-Jewish people alike, probably would have done no better if the shoe were on the other foot.

    True enough, but that’s not the point. The point is that if someone in power could have done a lot more to save innocent folks, whoever they are, we can’t just sweep that under the rug. We have to call it like it is. Human beings need to hold each other accountable.

  • Jack

    And another point to ponder is that the Holocaust didn’t just drop down from the sky on an innocent Euro-Christendom. From Fr. Flannery to evangelical author David Rausch, dedicated and honest believers in Christ have told the terrible story of 17 centuries of replacement theology and other teachings of contempt against the Jewish people which sowed on European soil the seeds for the Holocaust.

    Yes, Hitler and the Nazis were anti-Christian neopagan Gnostics who saw Christianity as a religion of weaklings.

    Yes, it is true that it took a nihilistic Hitler to perpetrate a Holocaust.

    Nonetheless, what made the slaughter of the 6 million possible was that most of Europe was so drowning in historic teachings against the Jewish people as Christ-killers, it could not muster the moral energy to say or do anything other than speculate that maybe the Jews were getting what was coming to them.

    We can’t pretend that none of this was the case when it clearly was.

  • Greg

    Jack, grow a pair.

  • Greg

    Hitler was pretty plainly documented to be a Christian.

    Talk about pretending!

  • James Carr

    Certainly, ingrained anti -Semitism in Europe fed the Holocaust…..and Christianity was where this discrimination rose from……the “killers of Christ”, shall we say.

    Pope Pius may not have been a stranger to that feeling, but it is
    unthinkable that he would have thought that their extermination was somehow
    their fault. His holy life presumes the

    Hitler was only Christian by Baptism, his maniacal hatred of the Jews was that they owned all the banks, were Communists/Socialists…..not that they were enemies of “the Church”.

  • Larry

    We can also mention the times when the Vatican tacitly supported Fascism. So it wasn’t just silence. It was active spoken collaboration.

    Its telling that the Vatican didn’t renounce its anti-Semitic dogma until after the death of Pious. Even long after the Holocaust was burned into the world’s memory.

    His elevation to sainthood is an insult to the people who put the words “Crimes Against Humanity” into the public lexicon.

  • Larry

    Except he did more than just stand by. The Vatican supported the Nazis and their collaborators. The Vatican’s support of the Ustashe is enough to remove any question of their culpability. It was more than just standing by. It was signing off on one of Hitler’s most murderous allies. They even supported forced conversions to Catholicism.

  • Larry

    “I want to know exactly what Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin did for the Jews? ”

    They defeated Hitler and put his surviving cronies on trial for crimes against Humanity.

  • Larry

    Hitler relied on antisemitic teachings in the mainstream European churches. Christianity was pretty much allied with Hitler because fools thought Fascism was an alternative to Communism. The Catholic Church underwrote the Fascist regimes in Spain and Italy. They considered Hitler to be just one of a long line of dictators they could work with.

    Nazi collaborators were willing to sign off on the murder of hundreds of thousands of their countrymen under the guise of opposing the communists and supporting their Christian faith.

  • James Carr

    Yeah, after 6 million Jews died. They had known long before 1945 that Jews were being slaughtered on a mass scale. But, Pius gets the blame for inaction. Odd choice.

  • Larry

    Pius did more than inaction. The Vatican supported some of Hitler’s collaborators outright such as Ante Pavelić and Leon Degrelle. Even after the war, he maintained the Catholic Church’s anti-Semitic stance. They didn’t drop it until well into the 1960’s.

    In comparison defeating Hitler certainly stands as doing quite more than simply standing by and supporting him.

  • Jack

    Sorry, Greg, but neither view is correct about Pius. That’s reality and there’s no way around it.

  • Jack

    Hitler was not a Christian, and no, I don’t mean it in terms of the “no good Scotsman” fallacy. I mean it in an objective, doctrinal sense. Transport him back to the Middle Ages and he’d probably have been burned as a heretic. He clearly believed in salvation by race, not grace. He clearly deified race and nation. He recast Jesus into an Aryan superman who’s main job was to fight the Jews rather than die on a cross for humanity’s sins. His Nazi ideology was a heterodox hodgepodge of Norse mythology, pagan animism, ancient Gnosticism, Eastern pantheism and mysticism, Social Darwinism, and pseudo-scientific racism. The swastika itself was an ancient Eastern symbol…..

    In the early years at least, some Indians nicknamed him Swami Hitler.

    Whether Hitler believed this Nazi brew is up for debate. He might well have believed in nothing and no one but himself and his monstrous ego. But this was Nazi ideology and it was a thing unto itself.

  • Jack

    Larry, have you ever read, “While Six Million Died?” None of these guys can be whitewashed — not Pius, but not FDR or the others, either. The evidence is quite damning.

  • Jack

    Besides everything else that has been said on this board, Larry, we have to add the fact that almost until Hitler took power in 1933, most Germans and other Europeans saw Communism as the major threat to Western civilization. Even in Germany, most Jews, along with most other Germans, at first saw the Nazis as thuggish losers who were going nowhere. Most people would have bet on the success of a Communist revolution over a Nazi takeover. That’s partly because Communism by then had already taken over the vast Russian Empire and was quickly exporting its ideology to the West.

    Of course, they were mistaken. Hitler shrewdly allied himself with the old German authoritarians, who considered him a front man and a tool whom they could use to stop the Communists, get rid of the weak Weimar Republic, and restore a modicum of what they considered to be order.

    In fact, Hitler used them…..they gave him the credibility that street thugs rarely get on their own.

  • Greg

    You have No True Scotsman written all over your post.

  • Larry

    Nazism (and Fascism in general) relied heavily on appeals to Christianity. Whatever equivocation you try to make for Hitler (which ignores how easily he was able to work with various churches), his party made specifically reactionary appeals. Those included equating the Nazi party with Christianity. One of the first diplomatic acts of the Nazis was a Concordat with the Vatican. Antisemitism was deeply ingrained in all Christian Churches at the time.

    Churches provided a tool for furthering Nazi control in occupied territories as well. In most cases whipping up antisemitism was aided and abetted by local religious animosities already there.

    The Church’s involvement with Nazi collaborators in Croatia alone are enough to damn Pius and company. The Ustasche ran a campaign of terror and genocide against not only Jews but also Serbs/Orthodox Christians. Part of that campaign was also forced conversions to Catholicism.

  • Larry

    Again, Pius did more than stand by. He was an active participant. The evidence of church collaboration with the Nazis paints a far worse portrait than those who failed to act.

    But at least FDR Churchill and Stalin can take credit for doing the ultimate act to stop the Holocaust. By defeating the Nazis

  • James Carr

    Oh, Larry,
    Listen to Jack, you’re giving me a headache. Yes, okay, Pius gave the idea of the Holocaust to his BFF, Hitler, and enabled all his Nazi buddies to escape to South America after the war. Whatever……….

  • Jack

    No, Greg. You just don’t know how to read.

  • Jack

    James, one thing you need to know about Larry. The closest thing on earth to eternity is an opinion that makes its way into his head. It will never leave.

  • James Carr


  • Larry

    “Pius gave the idea of the Holocaust to his BFF, Hitler, and enabled all his Nazi buddies to escape to South America after the war. ”

    That is about right. Sarcasm doesn’t work well in print without signifiers. 😉

    The direct involvement of the Catholic Church in the murderous regime in Croatia would bear fruit 50 years later when Yugoslavia broke up. Serbian propaganda played up this murderous past when inciting people to commit their own genocidal actions in the 90’s.