Thursday, September 21, 2023

Papal Indifference to the Genocide of the Jews

Pope Pius XII (CNN)
What did Pope Pius XII know and when did he know it? 

For those who don’t know - Pius XII was the pope during the Holocaust. He is currently under consideration for beatification by the Vatican.  Beatification is the step before sainthood.

Pius has always been suspected of not doing enough to save Jews during the Holocaust. But he has been defended by the church with claims that he did a lot quietly thereby saving more lives that way than if he had protested publicly. 

I never bought into that argument. The history of Catholic Church policy with respect to the Jewish people has been one of great antagonism. They had always blamed the Jewish people for the death of their god. And at the very least the wanted do something about it. Sometimes by seeking our conversion They had no compunction about using torture to accomplish that. Which is what the Inquisition was all about. 

European persecution of our people  many times throughout historywas sourced in Christian theology. We were seen as Christ killers.  (There is still some residue from that attitude even in our day by a few Catholics that did not accept Vatican II. Often expressed by anisemitic White supremacist groups.)

The Holocaust preceded Vatican II. Those attitudes were still mainstream. Pope Pius included. Maybe they were no longer torturing and killing us. But they still blamed us and the church did little to help us. I recall Dr’ Eleizer Berkovits  comments about this in‘Faith After the Holocaust’. When the the Holy See was asked to intervene in a Nazi execution of innocent Jews, it was refused -  saying the church did did not concern itself with such mundane matters on a Sunday. Apparently killing Jews was a mundane matter.

Even a Polish hero of the Holocaust that  risked his life by hiding Jews in his house said that when he saw Nazis outside his house marching Jews on their way to Auschwitz, he put on his Sunday finest to watch God’s ‘retribution’ to the Jewish for killing his god.

This was the backdrop of Pius XII. I don’t think he felt much different about us – even though he probably didn’t think we deserved to be slaughtered, he was not moved enough to help us that much.

It has recently been discovered in the Vatican archives that Pius knew we were being systematically slaughtered and did nothing to stop it. From CNN: 

Wartime Pope Pius XII knew details about the Nazi attempt to exterminate Jews in the Holocaust as early as 1942, according to a letter found in the Vatican archives that conflicts with the Holy See’s official position at the time that the information it had was vague and unverified.

The yellowed, typewritten letter, reproduced in Italy’s Corriere della Sera on Sunday, is highly significant because it was discovered by an in-house Vatican archivist and made public with the encouragement of Holy See officials.

The letter, dated December 14, 1942, was written by Father Lother Koenig, a Jesuit who was in the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany, and addressed to the pope’s personal secretary at the Vatican, Father Robert Leiber, also a German.

Pius XII was guilty of indifference to the Nazi genocide of our people. Denials by the Vatican notwithstanding. We now have proof of that. 

None of this should come as a surprise to those of us who know the history of the Catholic Church. Making whaAngelo Giuseppe Roncalli, a later pope did during the Holocaust even more amazing. From the Jerusalem Post:

From the Jerusalem Post: 

During the dark days of WWII, he felt the tragic plight of the Jewish people and set up working bonds with representatives of the Yishuv – the pre-state Jewish population – primarily with Chaim Barlas, who was then emissary of the Jewish Agency. Roncalli’s door was always open to Barlas, and he went out of his way to help alleviate the pain of the persecuted people. During those turbulent years Roncalli sent detailed reports to his superiors in the Vatican, with the expectation of getting support for his life-saving mission. In return, he got diplomatic lukewarm responses. 

Without any instructions from the Vatican, he started to use the diplomatic courier to dispatch to Nuncio Angelo Rotta in Budapest desperately needed certificates of immigration to Palestine, which he got from the Jewish Agency. Years later, Monsignor Rotta was declared Righteous Among the Nations. He also approached King Boris of Bulgaria, urging him not to hand over his country’s Jews to the Nazis.

Roncalli became Pope John XXIII. and changed forever the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people. Although he did not live to see it, his successor, Pope Paul, presided over Vatican  II and honored his beloved predecessor by implementing his changes to church doctrine. No longer  were we seen as Christ killers. Instead we are now seen by the church as a brother religion and progenitor of their religion. 

If anyone deserves to be honored by the church it is John XXIII.  Pius ought to be put in his place as a footnote in the history of the church.  A very negative footnote. And certainly not beatified. I am disgusted by this man. He has no claim to greatness. Quite the opposite. 

Why should I care what the Catholic Church does? Because the truth matters and impacts on how over a billion Catholics now think of Pius, John and us.