Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And while on the ADSS

One book that represents something of a "lost opportunity" on the Acts and Documents is Pierre Blet's summary volume entitled "Pius XII and the Second World War". I wrote an online review for Amazon in July 2000.  I think it worth putting up here on the Blog.

To the reader unfamiliar with the complexity of Holocaust and Catholic history Fr Blet's book could appear helpful. Indeed as a summary of the Vatican's 12 volume series of Vatican during WW2 it is indeed helpful. I argue that this is where the positives end. This work is so tightly bound by its parameters that it is difficult to see how it contributes anything to the debate over Pius XII's wartime role. Blet has, by his own admission, produced an edited version of the twelve volume series Actes et Documents. The lack of references, an index and contextual detail from both the wider Catholic world and the war years make this work weak. While Cornwell may have stirred things up by asking difficult questions - at least he took the risk and asked them. By failing to even address Pius' pre-1939 history (where the evidence for his future action or inaction lay) Blet has avoided taking any risks with the subject matter. It makes the case for the Pope's defenders look precarious. The treatment of the Rome Jews in October 1943 belies the whole neutrality scenario of Pius XII. The documentation cannot hope to cover all the aspects of this part of the nightmare of the Shoah. While the train rolled out of Rome he was silent. At every stop up the Italian peninsula people rang the Vatican to inform them where the train was in the hope that the Pope would say something. The silence of October 1943 has no justification for whatever reason. I respect Cornwell because he at least tried to make sense of the man's inaction. I cannot respect Father Blet's work since it looks alarmingly like a "damage control" exercise out to crush any suggestion that Pius did make mistakes after all.

Ten years later I think I may have been a tad harsh on Blet.  The work is helpful as a summary of the documents, but my criticisms regarding a lack of index and direct reference to documents stand.  And I publicly confess that the language of "respect" for Cornwall was inappropriate - "Hitler's Pope" is airport fiction stuff.  It just goes to show what a difference a decade can make!  And for something a little lighter, I have included the two comments posted about the review.  Both, curiously, were posted this year (2010).  One clearly thinks I am mad, the other, just bad.

Doggreen had this to say on February 15: You are obviously an anti-catholic and an idiot. Golda Meir, awarded Pope Pius the title "A rightous [sic] gentile." Every time the Pope spoke up the Nazi's executed thousands of Jews.......Never mind you are too damn stupid to understand.

(Never let the truth get in the way of a good dose of vitriol I say!  Clearly Doggreen knows something the rest of the world doesn't - Righteous Gentile?)
And on March 27 James E Egolf wrote: The Catholic Bashers who attack Pope Pius XII cannot cite one source from the Vatican Documents to accuse Pope Pius XII-not one. The Vatican Documents have been digitized, and 99% plus of his tenure as Pope have NO indication of Pope Pius XII hating Jews or anyone else. The documents do confirm Pope Pius XII's compassion, kindness, mercy, and rare courage. Not one of Pope Pius XII's critics have looked at the actual documents-not one. They repeat each other's media driven stupidity and then get angry when the actual historical sources refute their media driven lying and stupidity.
(I have had a short online discussion a few months after this post with James and he strikes me as someone who is prepared to listed to an alternative view.)
Oh the wonderful world of blogging and internet discussion!

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