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Monday, 16 April 2007

Caring for G_d's Souls or rather the Vatican's assets?

Francis Bacon
Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X 1953

With the recent uproar of the Vatican's representative boycotting Shoah Memorial Day in Israel, I thought I might do some back ground reading into the history behind Pope Pius XII.
What I found shocked me.



Your Holiness has doubtless noted the condemnation of the President and Secretary Hull of the inhuman treatment of prisoners of war, Catholics, Jewish and civilian populations, and the executions of hostages in all occupied countries.

It is today reported that the executions alone number two hundred thousand.

It is widely believed that Your word of condemnation would hearten all others who are working to save these thousands from suffering and death.

A statement that the war had unleashed in some places uncontrolled passions leading to atrocities that shock the conscience of mankind, it is considered, would be helpful.

Original document here:
Memorandum on the Treatment of POW
Myron Taylor September 1942 to His Holiness Pope Pius

(Myron Taylor was Personal Representative of the President of the United States to Pope Pius XII from 1939 -1950)


So lets actually look at this, we have Pope Pius XII who has to actually be goaded, into making public statements against atrocities committed against (estimated at the time) 200,000 victims.


I've been reading the historical archives of one FD Roosevelt, they're readily available online at The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and provide an insight into the real motivations of both 'Statesmen', Diplomats and 'Eminences'. I don't profess to be a historian, nor in any way a expert on the Second World War, or the Vatican and its general affairs.

But what I am able to do is read source documents. From the source documents I have read Between the US President's Vatican diplomat Myron C Taylor, the US President, the Vatican's diplomats and Pope Pious XII, I have come to the opinion that Pope Pius was in the unenviable position of balancing demands by the Italian Dictator Mussolini, the German Dictator Adolf Hitler, UK's Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the United States President Roosevelt.

An example of the difficult situation Pope Pius was placed in can be seen in the source document, Memorandum for the President written by Myron Taylor, the Presidents representative to Pope Pius, in which he details the pressure he has brought to bear on Pius in ensuring the Italians know the repercussions of any Italian submarine action on any US Merchant Shipping.

He also was placed in the situation of both appearing independent whilst appearing to cede somewhat to the demands placed on him by the Italian State.

It would appear that there were repeated efforts by the US to influence Pope Pius to denounce the genocide that was happening during World War two.

The Popes reply to Roosevelt was mild to say the least.

I don't have access to the Vatican's archive, in fact an official Review board of 3 Vatican scholars and 3 Jewish scholars who were asked to do an official review of Pope Pious XII never had access to some of the most important documentation from the Vatican covering Pope Pius XII papacy during this period.

Ironically, due to a lack of co operation with the Vatican, they were never able to finalise a Final report due in part to this situation.

Probably the most poignant comparison I came across was the seeming lack of action Pius communicated with respect to acting on the Presidents recommendations, for what reasons we can only conjecture about, yet when faced with the possibility that Rome may be Bombed, and Vatican buildings and possessions exposed to risk, Pope Pius was very forthright.

"...if the Vatican City State or any of the basilicas, churches or pontifical buildings and institutions in Rome (and they are very numerous and of very great historical and artistic importance) were to be hit, the Holy See could not remain silent. Nor would it be well that, with cordial relations existing between the Holy See and England, anything should happen to modify or disturb them..." Pope Pius Sept 17 1941

It is with a sad Irony that I note that Pope Pius XII wasn't so vocal when the many Synagogues and Jewish places of worship, which were
' very numerous and of very great historical and artistic importance' were being burned to the ground in the occupied territories.

Could it be because Pius XII had had entered into a concordant with Nazi Germany in July of 1933. As stated in The Jewish Advocate by Lawerance Lowenthal

" ...Pacelli [Pius XII] arranged the infamous Vatican- Nazi Concordat in July, 1933, a treaty that allowed Catholic protection and privileges in Germany, in exchange for Catholic withdrawal from all social and political action."
The sad fact is supporters of Pius within the Catholic Church like to infer that the reason why Pius was so silent was because of perceived repercussions that could also follow any pronouncement by him after the action of the Dutch Bishops initiative resulted in persecutions..

This defense is detailed in the Book Pius XII As He Really Was
Dr Peter Gumpel S.J. writes
"The action of the Dutch bishops had important repercussions. Pius XII had already prepared the text of a public protest against the persecution of the Jews. Shortly before this text was sent to L’Osservatore Romano, news reached him of the disastrous consequences of the Dutch bishops’ initiative. He concluded that public protests, far from alleviating the fate of the Jews, aggravated their persecution and he decided that he could not take the responsibility of his own intervention having similar and probably even much more serious consequences. Therefore he burnt the text he had prepared. The International Red Cross, the nascent World Council of Churches and other Christian Churches were fully aware of such consequences of vehement public protests and, like Pius XII, they wisely avoided them." [*]

I find this 'claim for immunity' to be quite farcical. The real reason why Pope Pius didn't want to make any pronouncements in support of Jews and against the barbaric treatment they were receiving was solely based in self interests and ensuring that he didn't raise the anger of Adolf Hitler and the German war machine.

Pope Pius's lack of action due to the fear of repurcussions is the major argument that Christopher McGath writing in Corazones.org puts forward.

Christopher McGath also puts forward, that the reactions of the Jewish community in the early post war years were far more favorable and this is proof of Pope Pius positive actions.

I would rather pose that the Vatican's hesitation to actually release any real information for independent Scholarship may have resulted in a secrecy that hid Pope Pius's lack of Action in regarding the atrocities affecting Jews.

Now that time has passed and a gulf has been bridged between Catholicism and Judaism,[Re: Vatican II], it is time for gestures of Honesty and true reconciliation.

The Issue of Pope Pius's potential canonisation must surely be addressed, by allowing full independent scholarly access to to the Papers of the period held in the Vatican's Archives.

I recommend the following further article:

AJC: Time to Clear the Air on Puis XII

FDR Library: Memorandum on the treatment of POW, Myron Taylor September 1942
FDR Library: Minute For Intergovernmental Committee Sept 9 1942
FDR Library: Memorandum for the President Oct 21 1942
FDR Library: Memorandum Re Bombing Rome Given Myron Taylor, September 17, 1941 by His Holiness Pope Pius XII
Corizones.org : Personal Observations on Pius XII and the jews
Ref: Of Quote:Christopher McGath; Corazones
AJC: Time to Clear the Air on Puis XII
Truman Presidential Museum and Library: The papers of Myron C. Taylor
Wikipedia: Francis Bacon
Art.com: Francis Bacon
Corazones: Pius XII and the Holocaust
Web Museum Paris: Velazquez: Pope Innocent X
Wikipedia: Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Picture Credits:
Web Museum Paris: Francis Bacon After Velasquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X
Animated Francis Bacon picture: Bagelblogger
Photograph from the National Archives: Scene inside Concentration Camp. [Here]

1 Comment:

Barbara said...

Mr. B - as a former Catholic and someone who found out just 6 years ago after the death of her mother - that her Great Grandfather was a Jew who married a Catholic woman and fled the Pogroms in Poland to come to the U.S. and lived as a Catholic (practicing his Judaism in secret)... the Catholic Church doesn't even take care of its own.

Catholics were not immune to the Nazis. Yes, they sometimes got a pass where as Jews never did. Catholics hid Jews and sometimes forcibly converted them to try to protect them from the Nazis. But many Catholics perished because Hitler didn't want ANY organized religion and was infuriated with the Catholics helping their Hebrew friends.

And Yet, the Holy See? Had to be pushed, as you said, into condemning this. The murder of Catholics. Why? Well, having been Catholic most of my life the answer is simple. What is the Catholic Church most interested in (in my opinion?) MONEY.

The Catholic Church still remains one of the largest property owners on the planet. They protect their assets like pit bulls too.

Remember the Catholics for YEARS sold indulgences - a way to PRAY your way into heaven (getting someone else to do the praying for you).

The Nazis made large monetary contributions to many Catholic officials during WWII - but of course the Church will vehemently deny all that - only condemning Hitler and the rest of the evil that stormed through Europe - in retrospect.

Yes, there are some good Catholics out there - my Nana was one. But very often, heavily organized religion like the Church is only interested in CONTROL and MONEY.