Saturday, November 27, 2010

Comments welcome!

The world of blogging is a learning curve for me. While having a look at the different tools etc I found that I had disabled my comments facility.  I have reset it.  I welcome comment on the posts, although I ask that people show basic courtesy to me and others. 

Comments will be monitored.  In the seven months I have been writing there have been nearly 2,000 visits to the blog.  Thank you to those readers who have written to me with messages of support and encouragement - it is appreciated.

The sheer volume of material on Eugenio Pacelli is growing rapidly.  His pre-papal career archives are now fully available.  The number of critical studies is increasing.  There is plenty of material to keep historians and interested parties busy as we await the opening of the 1939-1958 archives.

Now it is back to ADSS volume 11 ...

Benedict on Pius - New Zealand and USA Today

The fallout from the pope's interview-now-book continues.  Ultra-orthodox Catholics are up in arms at the very suggestion that the man they have championed as the worthy successor to John Paul appears to have had a change of mind on the use of condoms.  That is one issue. The other is, of course, Benedict's comments about Pius XII.  I made some comments of my own in an earlier post and won't repeat them here.  These two articles, one from the Southland Times (New Zealand) and an op-ed by Cathy Grossman of USA Today.  There are no new facts, but there are some nuances of interpretation.

I was asked a couple of years ago by a reporter in the USA if I believed the seemingly never-ending battle over Pius was indicative of a "culture war" within contemporary Catholicism.  At first I thiought the question was overblown.  Now I think the reporter was spot on.  Watching the reactions to Benedict over the last week has revealed a new layer of internal Catholic upset.  Whether it be condoms or the role of Pius XII, Catholics (who care) are pretty much divided between those who believe any suggestion that Eugenio Pacelli made mistakes is tantamount to heresy, and those who believe any suggestion that the same man should be canonised is tantamount to supporting flat earthers.  And for those of us who try to walk the via media, the road gets narrower every day.

The Southland Times

Last updated 05:00 24/11/2010

OPINION: Maybe they need the Devil's Advocate back.

The Catholic Church's interest in making the loudly decried Pope Pius XII a saint may be an appalling example of a recalcitrant church stuck in its own holy huddle, showing supreme disregard for ugly truths about a leader who, to protect his own people, abandoned the Jews to Nazi persecution before and during the war.

Or it may be a case of the church defying a chorus of damning anti-Pius rhetoric because it really does have the information in its capacious vaults to prove that this was one cruelly defamed pope.

We are not, as yet, in a position to know which scenario is true.

But the church must surely stump up with the evidence, which needs to be, in a word, compelling. And not just to the satisfaction of Pope Benedict and his cardinals.

This is a case in which the church disregards at its peril the views of the watching world. To take the view that whomsoever Catholics choose to call saint is a matter of no legitimate interest to those outside the faith would be a vanity that ignores the hugely provocative implications.

At such times we surely miss the rigour of the Devil's Advocate; a role that served the church for centuries. The advocate, usually a lawyer, was appointed by church authorities to put the case against anyone's elevation to sainthood.

Pope John Paul II abolished the position and replaced it with a Promoter of Justice, who is more a tester of accuracy, and apparently an altogether more agreeable type, considering how the number of new sainthoods went through the fluffy-clouded roof during John Paul's watch.

Attempts to rehabilitate Pius' reputation have already been published, by Jewish as well as Christian writers, casting him as something between a Scarlet Pimpernel figure and an Oskar Schindler quietly set about offering strategic and effective sanctuaries, saving as many Jewish lives as he could, in preference to impotently railing against the wrongdoers.

The Vatican points to a wealth of documentary evidence that Pius ordered monasteries to shelter Jews, though Benedict admits he had not, himself, studied it all.

Within the Catholic church, the view has been put that liberal Catholics have been demonising Pius as a Holocaust quisling because it's an effective way to undermine the traditionalists and to advance their own reformist agendas.

Mind you, even if a bit of corrective revision does prove to be in order on Pius' behalf, this still raises the question of whether there is a distinction to be drawn between a man being not half as bad as he's painted, and a saint. In this case it would apparently be a saint who, rightly or wrongly, made some fairly tactical decisions about the best result gettable, rather than the come-what-may approach that surely typified the more traditional saints. Especially the martyred ones. Still, behind the church's invocation of life on a higher plane, you will quite often find its representatives are capable of all-too-human assessments and, yes, manipulations.

And, can we airily conclude, although the Devil's Advocate is no longer among us, the Vatican may still informally recruit the testimony of critics of a candidate for canonisation. A columnist Christopher Hitchens was asked to testify against the beatification of Mother Theresa, which he lightly described as "representing the Evil One, as it were, pro bono".

Pope book reopens Jewish-Catholic rift
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

A newly released interview with Pope Benedict XVI revives a bitter Catholic-Jewish dispute over whether the Roman Catholic Church did enough to save Jews from Hitler.

Wartime Pope Pius XII was a "righteous" pope who "saved more Jews than anyone," Benedict told German journalist Peter Seewald in a book out today, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.

But Jewish Holocaust experts sharply disagree.

"If the Catholic Church had any evidence, it would long ago have been taken out of the dustbins of the Vatican and shown to the world," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. He noted that Pius XII saved Jews in Rome in 1944, "but where was he (from 1939 to 1943)? … He could have made a critical difference."

Theologian Victoria Barnett, director of church relations at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, says, "We don't know what (Pius XII) did, because the Vatican archives are not open. We know that only 1,100 of Rome's 10,000 Jews were deported; the rest hid, many of them in convents, churches or monasteries, but it's not clear what his role in those rescues was, because we don't have the evidence."

Barnett said Benedict brings up a larger question about all leaders in that era: "Not just what people did or did not do, but what was the expectation of moral leadership?"

Abraham Foxman, Anti-Defamation League director and a Holocaust survivor, called the pope's remarks "a great disservice to the families of Holocaust victims, qualified historians and Catholic-Jewish relations."

All three echoed scholars' decade-old call for access to the Vatican's wartime archives. The Vatican has said all the records of Pius XII's 1939-58 papacy must to be catalogued first.

Jewish frustration with the Vatican's support of Pius XII deepened last December when the church recognized Pius XII as a Servant of God for his "heroic virtues."

It's the first step toward possible beatification, when someone is proven to have persuaded God to work a miracle, and, ultimately, sainthood, which requires two proven miracles.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ADL releases statement on Pope Benedict's comments on Pius XII


New York, NY, November 22, 2010

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today renewed its call for the opening of the complete Vatican archives on the Second World War following remarks by Pope Benedict XVI calling his predecessor, Pope Pius XII, a “great, righteous” man who “saved more Jews than anyone else” during the Holocaust.

The statements attributed to Pope Benedict XVI were made in a book-length interview with a German journalist to be published this week.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor, issued the following statement:

Pope Benedict XVI’s unqualified praise for Pope Pius XII’s alleged efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust does a great disservice to the families of Holocaust victims, qualified historians and Catholic-Jewish relations. Pope Benedict’s conclusions that Pius XII, “was one of the great righteous men and that he saved more Jews than anyone else” amounts to a double standard – ignoring the Vatican’s own position calling on Jewish institutions not to come to conclusions about the World War II-era pope until all the evidence is in.

What the Vatican needs to do, and can do, is release the secret archives concerning Pius XII for the years 1939-1946, something Cardinal Jorge Mejia promised the Jewish community he would do 10 years ago. Our understanding is the war years have already been catalogued and there is no legitimate rule preventing them from being made public.

The Vatican’s argument that it must wait until all the millions of records of Pope Pius XII entire papacy, which lasted until 1957 [sic], are catalogued is questionable. For the sake of Holocaust survivors and their families, for the sake of historical truth and for the sake of Catholic-Jewish relations, the secret Vatican archives must be opened now, not in six years, and the light of truth must shine on the record of Pius XII once and for all.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pope Benedict on Pope Pius

There has been a flurry of news over a book to be published on Tuesday.  For most of the world it has been the Pope's candid and frank comments about the use of condoms that have caught the attention, and rightly so.  Benedict has made some very pastoral and morally positive statements in regard to prevention of illness through the responsible use of condoms.  For those used to Catholic or Vatican-speak, this is a big move forward and may be the harbinger of more developments down the line. 

However, my concern lies in the reporting of his comments on Pius XII.  Recognising that these are the private opinions of Benedict, the comments about Pius are still significant, perhaps even more so because they are personal and private.  I am somewhat alarmed that a man with such an appreciation of history, the value and importance of scholarly research and study and above all the knowledge that the evidence for Pius is still being and still to be considered, studied and weighed, can make these bald claims. I have copied the following report from Haartez sent to me by a colleague in New York.

This incident highlights the significance of the letter sent by historians earlier this year.  To date there has been no reply to the letter.

Jewish leaders dismayed by Benedict's defense of Nazi-era pope

Current pope's new alleged that Pope Pius XII 'saved more Jews than anyone else', despite research criticizing him for turning blind eye to Holocaust.

By Reuters

Jewish leaders reacted with dismay on Sunday to comments in Pope Benedict's new book that his wartime predecessor Pius was a "great, righteous" man who "saved more Jews than anyone else".

Many Jews accuse Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of having turned a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked quietly behind the scenes because speaking out would have prompted Nazi reprisals against Catholics and Jews in Europe.

In his book to be published on Tuesday, called "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times," the German pope says Pius did what he could and did not protest more clearly because he feared the consequences.

In the book-length interview with a German journalist, the pope says of Pius:

"The decisive thing is what he did and what he tried to do, and on that score we really must acknowledge, I believe, that he was one of the great righteous men and that he saved more Jews than anyone else."

Jewish leaders said they were surprised by the comments.

"Pope Benedict's comments fill us with pain and sadness and cast a menacing shadow on Vatican-Jewish relations," said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

"The assertion that Pius saved more Jews than anyone else during the Holocaust is categorically contradicted by the known historical record. As survivors of the Holocaust we have a solemn obligation to the memory of those murdered to defend the truth of the tragedy till our last breath," he said.

When the pope visited Rome's synagogue in January, the leader of the city's Jewish community told him bluntly that Pius should have spoken out more forcefully against the Holocaust to show solidarity with Jews being led to the Auschwitz death camp.

Pius, including the possibility that the Vatican may one day make him a saint, is one of the main points of contention in relations between Jews and the Vatican. The pope's latest comments raised new tensions.

"The Shoah represents the darkest abyss of our history and perhaps of human history," said Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.

"How can one say that any persons did all they could have done in the face of such evil unless they laid down their life to oppose it?"

Last December, Benedict took the decision to advance Pius XII on the path towards sainthood by recognizing his "heroic virtues," a move that almost led to the cancellation of the synagogue visit.

In the book, Benedict says he took the decision after an inspection of unpublished archival records in the Vatican but acknowledged that it was impossible to evaluate the hundreds of thousands of documents in a rigorously scientific manner.

"It is distressing that the pope has found it necessary to come to judgment on Pope Pius XII as he himself admits that the files and archives are not available to make a full judgment," said Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League in the United States.

Jews have asked that the process that could lead to making Pius a saint be frozen until after all the Vatican archives from the period are opened and studied.

"There is certainly enough evidence to refute those who charge that Pius XII stood idly by while the lives of Jews and others were imperiled," said Rosen, who is based in Jerusalem.

"On the other hand it appears that he never directly - certainly not publicly - challenged the Nazi regime regarding the extermination of the Jews; and arguably even more dramatic, never made any mention of this, let alone any expression of regret, subsequent to World War Two," he said.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

5 November 1943 Bombing the Vatican

Yesterday Zenit, a Rome based Catholic news agency, published an article on one of the lesser known stories of World War II, although it is recorded in some detail in ADSS Volume 7.  Documents 453 onwards describe the bombing and the diplomatic aftermath.

On 5 November a single plane flew over Vatican City and dropped bombs (ADSS 7.453).  The identity of the plane was never established despite a series of investigations launched by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Maglione (ADSS 7.455, 473, 474, 475), and responses made by the British (457), American (459) and German (464, 471) governments.  Amidst the documents is a telegram sent by Maglione to the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, Amleto Cicognani, (463) that there was a rumour that Stalin had congratulated Churchill for ordering the raid! The British government promptly denied the rumour (465).

The three governments denied responsibility and reaffirmed their committment to observing Vatican neutrality (466, 470, 472, 483).  The Allies accused the Germans, who counter-accused the Allies of bombing the Vatican for propaganda purposes. On 9 December the British and American governments informed the Vatican that Allied pilots had been ordered to avoid flying over Vatican territory (491, 492, 493).

The timing of the bombing was significant.  Rome was occupied by the Germans, the Jews of Rome were either in Auschwitz or hiding, the city was hungry with the very real spectre of famine hovering ominiously, the partisans were stepping up anti-German activity and Naples had been liberated a few weeks but not before the Germans wrecked a savagery on the city not witnessed outside of Eastern Europe. The Vatican remained visibily neutral hoping Rome would be spared. 

The Zenit article proposes a new theory based on new documents that suggest the source of the raid lay in orders given by Roberto Farinacci from the Salo Republic in an attempt to silence Vatican Radio.  According to the new information, Farinacci was convinced the Vatican was sending information to the Allied.  It will be interesting to read the book which has received some coverage in the Italian press.

Book Features 1943 Bombing of Vatican

Cardinal: Episode Targeted Defenseless State

By Mariaelena Finessi

ROME, NOV. 12, 2010 ( A newly published book documents the 1943 bombing of the Vatican, with recently discovered documentation on the event and facts about who was responsible.

Augusto Ferrara's Italian-language book, "1943 Bombe sul Vaticano" [1943 Bombs on the Vatican] was presented Nov. 5, the 67th anniversary of the attack.

Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and of the Governorate of Vatican City State, participated in the book's presentation. He recalled the bombing, stating that "it was a wretched, vile episode, because it was directed against an unarmed and defenseless state."

He added that "one wondered what sense an event of such a nature could have other than that of an insult."

Cardinal Lajolo explained that it "was the only act of violation of the territorial sovereignty of the Vatican state since its creation."

Despite this, he said, the event demonstrated that the Vatican "in as much as it was small," showed "the efficacy of its function of protection of the Pope," whose "liberty and independence" it ensured.

Unknown to many, the episode was shrouded in mystery for several years. Ferrara's volume finally throws light on the event thanks to complete documentation made from newspaper clippings of the time and, above all, of images, to date unpublished that the author, a known philatelist, found in a bookstall in Verona, Italy.

In all there are some thirty photographs taken on November 6, 1943, the day after the bombing. A personal note of the photographer, also kept in the envelope, indicated the hour of the event.

Though Vatican City was hitherto spared during the war, that evening a plane flew over. At 8:15 p.m. five bombs were released, of which one remained unexploded.

The consequences are imprinted in those photos: the water reservoir in the railroad station and offices of the governorate were destroyed; the glass in the rear of St. Peter's Basilica was shattered.

Finding those responsible

The event was covered both in L'Osservatore Romano as well as in Italian and foreign newspapers. To identify the perpetrator of the attack, the Vatican Secretariat of State asked for clarifications from the foreign ministers of the powers of the time: the United States, England and Germany.

Published in the book is the relevant correspondence: U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower, the English government and the government of the Reich all denied responsibility.

The Italian Social Republic, led by Benito Mussolini out of Salo, accused the United States of the attack. The Fascist press speculated on the event, accusing the Allies of having violated the international norms and offending the symbolic place of Christianity.

In reality, Ferrara revealed that it was the Italian Fascists themselves who planned the attack on the Holy See.

The plane, which has since been identified as a SIAI Marchetti S.M. 79, an Italian bomber known as a "Sparviero," took off from Viterbo, Italy. It had been a gift to the Italian Social Republic. The book offers a transcription of a telephone conversation, between a priest and Jesuit Father Pietro Tacchi Venturi, who was close to the Pope's secretary of state at the time, which suggests that Fascist leader Roberto Farinacci ordered the bombing.

In the dialogue, the priest affirmed: "It was the Italians. We were able to verify it through persons who were present at all points of the development of the maneuver.

"It was a Savoia-Marchetti plane, which had on board five bombs destined to strike the Vatican Radio station, because Farinacci was convinced that it was transmitting to the enemy news of a military character."

The news was confirmed by the director of L'Osservatore Romano, Count Dalla Torre. For a week there was talk of nothing else in the press. Then silence fell.

Cardinal Lajolo noted that it seems the event was quieted by an invitation of Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, who worked at that time in the Secretariat of State of Pius XII, so as "to not fuel the risk of a possible civil war."

The book, co-published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana and Augusto Ferrara, was delivered to the Benedict XVI on Nov. 3.


Report on the Conference on Pius XI at Brown University, Rhode Island. The revised press release.

Earlier I posted a news release on the recent Brown University sponsered conference on Pius XI.  There were several mistakes in the first release and some careful revision has been done.  I will leave the original release on the blog because I think it makes a valuable point relevant to my interest in Pius XII.  In the rush to get the news "out there" accuracy is often sacrificed to expediency.  Taking time to "get it right" the first time is always preferable to having to correct mistakes and ommissions.  And from the historians' perspective, it is often the first bulletin that is remembered and re-used.  The historical accuracy about Pius XI and Pius XII has suffered because of a lack of patience to understand a very complex part of history.

Conference on Pius XI Debates Papal Role in WWII

A two-day conference, “Pius XI and America”, recently brought international scholars to Brown to discuss newly released documents from the Vatican archives. They discussed the papacy of Pope Pius XI and his relationship with the United States and Nazi and fascist leaders in Europe.

Scholars who attended the conference came from Italy, Canada, England, Finland, and the United States. It was the third of three conferences since 2006, when current Pope Benedict XVI opened the Vatican pre-WWII archives. This conference was hosted by Provost David Kertzer and conducted in Italian and English. Kertzer is one of three scholars who initiated the network and the series of conferences.

Conference discussion focused on Pius XI, who led the church from 1922 until his death in 1939, the Holy See, and their relationship with the United States. Inevitably, comparisons were drawn between Pius XI and his successor Pius XII, around whom a good deal of controversy has swirled. Eugenio Pacelli, who became Pope Pius XII, served from 1930 until his elevation to the papacy in 1939 as the Secretary of State to Pius XI.

Among the key topics that the newly available documents shed a great deal of light on is Pius XI’s relationship with Pietro Tacchi Venturi, a Jesuit who served as the unofficial liaison between the pope and Benito Mussolini. The newly available documentation chronicles scores of one-on-one meetings between the pope’s emissary and Mussolini on a wide variety of topics.

The network of scholars around Pius XI was established in 2006 by Kertzer, Alberto Melloni, director of the Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII in Italy, and Professor Hubert Wolf of University of Münster in Germany.

Conference attendees, drawn from this network, are all engaged in research in the newly opened archives, chronicling a dramatic period in European and world history. During the conference the scholars shared and discussed their works, including presentations by a number of graduate students who have been writing doctoral dissertations based on these materials.

Melloni delivered concluding remarks, summarizing the current body of work that has occurred since the first conference. He spoke specifically about the network, and about collaboration of the network with a group based at the Ecole Française de Rome.

The two earlier conferences were held June 2009 in Milan and a March 2010 in Münster. Alberto Melloni was host of the second conference. Wolf, host of the first, could not attend this third conference.

By Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Brittaney Check ‘12

Friday, November 12, 2010

Report of the Conference on Pius XI at Brown University, Rhode Island

This news article from the Watson Institute on the recent conference at Brown University gives an overview of some of the areas covered in what looks to have been an excellent two days of discussion and sharing of information.

I have taken the liberty of correcting several (very) minor errors in the text, with the exceptions of the banner, which is, I think, rather misleading, and a rather surprisingly bald statement in the text (my comments are in a different colour).  Questions related to Pius XII were raised - that was to be expected, but the conference remained focussed on what Pius XI, his Secretary of State, Cardinal Pacelli and the Vatican did (and did not) do in the years prior to 1939, the year of Pius XI's death.

Conference on Pius XI Debates Papal Role in WWII

November 10, 2010

A two-day conference, “Pius XI and America,” recently brought international scholars to Brown to discuss newly released documents from the Vatican archives. They discussed the papacy of Pope Pius XI and his relationship with the United States and Nazi and fascist leaders in Europe.

Scholars who attended the conference came from Italy, Canada, England, and the United States. It was the third of three conferences since 2006, when current Pope Benedict XVI opened the Vatican pre-WWII archives. This conference was hosted by Provost David Kertzer and conducted in Italian and English. Kertzer is one of four scholars who initiated the network and the series of conferences.

Conference discussion was intended to focus around Pius XI, who led the church from 1922 until his death in 1939, the church in Rome, and the relationship with the United States. Inevitably, comparisons were drawn between Pius XI and his successor Pius XII, Kertzer told the Providence Journal. Prior to archives being opened, most scholars had believed with some certainty that Pius XI was the “Good” Pope while Pius the XII has historically been called “Hitler’s Pope.”  I am somewhat aghast at this last statement!  Did Ms Check check her sources, read some history, do some research?!  Such a blunder may have been forgivable in the late 1990s after Cornwall's book was published, but it is not so in 2010.  I have written to the editors of the Watson Institute Press Center.

But since the opening of the records four years ago information has been found which contradicts these labels. Conference attendees raised questions of which church policies were truly Pius XI’s and which were Pius XII’s. At the conference, scholars debated about whether or not Pope Pius XI truly did enough to speak out against the Holocaust. Again, this is problematic.  Does the journalist mean German action against the Jews during 1933-1939?  I presume this is the case.  Accuracy in reporting is essential if the pseudo-histories are to be laid to rest.

Scholars point to Pius XI’s relationship with Pietro Tacchi Venturi when calling his reputation into question. Venturi was a Jesuit priest and historian who served as the unofficial liaison between Pius XI, Pius XII, and Benito Mussolini. With the unsealing of records, more documents were found that illustrate this relationship as friendlier than previously thought, said Harry Kashdan, attendee and Kertzer’s assistant.

The existence of the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge is the reason most scholars believed Pius XI spoke out appropriately against the Holocaust. He commissioned and published the encyclical that condemned Nazi ideology and it was read to church congregations from the pulpit. Pius XII, by comparison, is often viewed as too “silent” about the holocaust for not initiating something similar. However, scholars at the conference had lively debate around this issue, according to Kashdan.

Much of the scholars’ debate revolved around three documents, the encyclical and two documents released with the unsealing in 2006. These two documents, the Syllabus of Errors and Humani Generis Unitas, were commissioned by Pius XI but never published. The documents were completed while Pius XI was on his deathbed. Debate surrounds whether or not Pius XI would have still wanted them published had he recovered and if Pius XII should have published them to honor Pius XI’s wishes.

The network of scholars around Pius XI was established in 2006 by Kertzer, Alberto Melloni of Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII in Italy, Charles R. Gallagher, SJ of Boston College and author of Vatican Secret Diplomacy, and Professor Hubert Wolf of University of Münster in Germany.

Conference attendees were a part of the research network because of scholarly work they had done around Pius the XI. During the conference the scholars shared and discussed works and grad students were also given the opportunity to present their research and receive feedback.

Melloni delivered concluding remarks in Italian, summarizing the current body of work that has occurred since the first conference. He spoke specifically about the network, and research around Catholic Action, a Vatican initiative under Pius XI that sought to educate Italian youth as an alternative to the Union of Young Fascists. Kertzer asked for suggestions and ideas from the network as they continued their research. Catholic Action in Italy was established in the 19th century and adopted by the popes as the preferred way for the Catholic laity to work "in the world".  Pius XI adopted CA with enthusiasm.  Politics and political life were the prerogative of the laity, not the clergy.  From the beginning of his pontificate, Pius XI made it clear that priests were to have no role in the political life of a nation. CA spread throughout much of the Catholic world through the first half of the 20th century.

The two earlier conferences were held June 2009 in Milan and a March 2010 in Münster. Alberto Melloni was host of the second conference. Wolf, host of the first, could not attend this third conference.

By Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Brittaney Check ‘12

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Colin Tatz, Gallipoli, Denialism and Pius.

One of the recurring problems in any historical research are the problems with perceptions, hindsight, projection, revisionism and distortion.  My work on Pius XII encounters these problems on an almost daily basis.  This post takes is an article by Professor Colin Tatz, former Professor of Politics at Macquarie University, Sydney and Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra.  Colin was my doctoral supervisor and has for many years been both mentor, teacher and friend.  I am grateful for his permission to publish this article.

One of the concerns Colin has spent much time exploring is the phenomenon of denial and denialism.  His article looks afresh at one of Australia's most famous icons - Gallipoli 1915.  Denialism is not unique to the study of Pius XII, it is common throughout much of human history.  I think Colin's reflection is pertinent to my study of Pacelli.


The only Australian politician to openly question the Gallipoli saga is former prime minister Paul Keating. In October 2008 he said we were "dragged into service by the imperial government in an ill-conceived and poorly executed campaign, we were cut to ribbons and dispatched." That Australia was born as a nation or redeemed there "is utter and complete nonsense".

Leaving aside Australia's "birth in the crucible", an image now deeply cemented in our history books and national psyche, we are about to see the annual holding of hands by the former combatants. Thousands will visit the "sacred site"; Turks and Australians will join in understandable commemoration but less comprehensible celebration; and friendship societies will become tearful and lyrical during this anniversary of the shedding of brotherly blood.

But intruding on this mourning ritual is the growing world recognition of the Ottoman (and, later, Kemalist) Turkish genocide committed between 1915 and 1922. Some 26 nation states and over 50 regional governments, including New South Wales and South Australia, formally recognise the Turkish attempts to annihilate three million Armenians and possibly one million Pontian Greeks and Christian Assyrians. At least 1.5 million Armenians were dead by bayoneting, beheading, bullets, butchering, crucifixion, drowning, elementary gas chambers, forced death marches, hanging, hot horseshoes, medical experiments, and other unprintable atrocities.

Turkey is totally dedicated, at home and abroad, to having every hint or mention of an Armenian genocide contradicted, countered, explained, justified, mitigated, rationalised, relativised, removed or trivialised. The entire apparatus of the Turkish state is tuned to denial, with officers appointed abroad for that purpose. Their actions are spectacular, often bizarre, and without distinction between the serious and the silly, including: pressures to dilute or even remove any mention of the genocide in the Armenian entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica; threats to sever diplomatic relations with France over the latter’s parliamentary declaration that there was such a genocide; replacing the Turkish Prime Minister’s Renault with an inferior Russian limo; Sydney Turks demanding that the broadcaster SBS pulp its 25th anniversary history for twice making passing reference to an event they claim “never happened”; and, more recently, frenetic Turkish efforts to stop a memorial to the dead Assyrians in the western Sydney district of Fairfield.

Explanations abound. One is that Turkey is the victim of the single greatest conspiracy in world history, with states like Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Northern Ireland, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Vatican and Wales conniving to falsely brand Turkey as a genocidaire. Another is that somehow 11 million Armenians around the globe have subverted the truth, history and dozens of nations to "frame" innocent Turkey. Yet another is that witnesses — like British historians Arnold Toynbee and Viscount Bryce, German missionary Dr Johannes Lepsius and German medico Armin Wegner, the American ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau Snr and his Swedish diplomatic colleagues — invented their sometimes daily conversations with the major perpetrators, Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha, and lied to besmirch Turkish honour. Another is that the dozens of Australian POWs, isolated and often grossly maltreated in remote villages rather than in camps, deliberately faked the photographs and invented the atrocity stories they brought back home. They assert that the special Turkish military courts-martial held in Istanbul in 1919 only sentenced several perpetrators to death in absentia and imprisoned some 30 others for war crimes only because of duress from the Allies. The best explanation is that the Turks did precisely what they were recorded and filmed as doing, for which their own tribunals convicted them.

We are approaching a serious junction: the path to Gallipoli grows in scale and traffic each year, but so does the avenue to official recognition that what occurred was genocide, one in so many ways the prologue to, and template for, the Holocaust less than 20 years later. Sooner rather than later the United States Congress will find the numbers for the two-thirds majority needed for recognition. The United Kingdom government won't be far behind. More Australian states will follow and, inevitably, an unwilling (and very unhappy) federal government will have to do so. Our dilemma will be profound.

There is, of course, a way forward: an admission of truth about the events; a genuine opening of all the Ottoman archives to obviate the old Turkish chestnuts about "awaiting the verdict of historians" and "Armenian revolutionaries engaged in civil war"; an offer of regret, or apology, even one leavened by a limitation on reparations. That way Turkey can more readily enter the European Union and the comity of nations. But the hysterical and obsessive denialism of the Batak massacres in Bulgaria in 1876, the 200,000 Armenians dead at the hands of Sultan Abdul Hamid II between 1894 and 1896, the 1.5 million dead at the hands of the Young Turks from 1915, will always get in the way of "normal" relationships.

Even if today's Turkey decided to become more West-oriented, less cosy with Syria and Iran in a jihadist worldview, more willing to address its past in relation to Christians generally, the juggernaut of the denialism industry is such that it simply cannot stop. The machine has developed its own mind, its own convulsive and reflexive responses. Turks see genocide as a blot on their escutcheon and honour; they see themselves as decent people, and decent people don't commit genocide. Wrong. "Decent people" — like Americans, Canadians, Belgians, Italians, Germans, Austrians, Spaniards and Australians — have all done just that.

Colin Tatz is a visiting fellow in the College of Arts & Social Sciences, Australian National University. He is the author of With Intent to Destroy: Reflecting on Genocide.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Some thoughts from reading "Rome's Most Faithful Daughter"

I have finished reading Rome’s Most Faithful Daughter by Neal Pease. Having had some time to think about the entire work and what it adds to our understanding of the role of the Catholic Church and, in particular, the popes, during the inter-war period and the immediate outbreak of war in 1939, I have some reflections based on Pease’s study.

1. Pease underscores the horrible dilemma that confronted the Vatican and its diplomatic strategies in Poland and the rest of Europe. Confronted with Hitler whom both Pius XI and Pius XII hoped could be contained and, perhaps, even reasoned with and Stalin who was beyond the pale by any standard, the Vatican engaged in an increasingly frantic series of attempts to prevent war. It would appear that throughout the last months of peace, Pius XII believed that peace at any price was better than war.

2. By mid-1938 Rome was certain there would be another war and that Germany would be responsible for it. Vatican policy was therefore shaped to do all it could to prevent this. Rome also knew with reasonably certainty after he had reclaimed all “legitimate” German territories Hitler's next demand would focus on Danzig and the “corridor”. Vatican opinion seems to have been divided on whether Poland should surrender the Corridor or not. Certainly by August 1939, opinion had moved towards putting pressure on Poland to let Danzig and the Corridor “return” to the Reich.

3. The Vatican was probably Europe’s best “listening post” as far as diplomats were concerned. Ambassadors and envoys sent messages, often veiled and obtuse, knowing they would be passed along and circulated among the corridors of Europe’s foreign ministries. This proved a useful means of testing the waters and probing different states to gauge reactions to possible directions in policy. The Holy See, desperate to prevent another war, passed along all information no matter how trite it may have appeared.

4. Pius called an international peace conference in May 1939, but apart form Italy, no one else was particularly interested. Germany made statements to the effect that German-Polish differences could be settled amicably and without conflict. Britain and France had pledged to support Poland if Germany attacked and saw little relevance in a Vatican sponsored set of talks. Various Vatican officials made statements on and off the record to the effect that the Holy See supported Poland and believed her cause (to defend her borders) to be just. Polish government officials were slow to use these statements to their advantage. Foreign Minister Beck had still not replaced the Polish ambassador to the Holy See since 1937, and so lost a valuable opportunity to broadcast Polish concerns to a wide audience via the Pope. A Polish ambassador, Casmir Papeé, was appointed in the early summer of 1939.

5. With the prospect of a German initiated war growing more likely, Pius XII started sending messages to the Polish government through the Nuncio, Filippo Cortesi, urging Warsaw to consider acceding to Hitler’s demands to prevent war. Rome believed a German accommodation of the Soviet Union was also likely and Poland had to face reality if it was to save itself. Not surprisingly, Poland was not sympathetic to Pius’ suggestions. When the Russian-German non-aggression pact was signed on 21 August 1939, Pius’ efforts to persuade Poland to surrender the Corridor became frantic. (ADSS Volume 1 demonstrates this quite clearly.)

6. 24 August 1939. Pius broadcast his famous appeal “In this grave hour” and pronounced what may have been the most famous words of his pontificate: "Nothing is lost with peace; all may be lost with war”. At the same time British and French diplomats were urging Pius to make a clear statement on the situation and defend Poland against Germany. The pope refused, saying he had to be father to all Catholics in all countries.

7. The last days of peace brought renewed calls from the Vatican via the nuncio in Warsaw to surrender the corridor. Rome’s greater fear was the potential of a Soviet move westwards. “Better to suffer pain today, than lose your life tomorrow” seems an apt way to summarise the Vatican’s position on Poland on the eve of the war. Foreign minister Beck’s final rejection of the papal proposal was made just after Germany launched the invasion on 1 September 1939.

8. Pius refused to name either the victim or the aggressor in any public statement at any point throughout the war. This caused enormous pain to Poles and eroded much respect towards the papacy that was not restored until the advent of communist rule later in the 1940s.

9. The Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939 was the fulfillment of the Vatican’s worst nightmare scenarios for Christian Europe. But, Pius still clung to the hope, however faint, that he could act the part of a mediator in some peace conference that would end the war before more harm could be done. I find it difficult to understand how such a well-educated man, who knew his enemies so well, could have thought that Hitler or Stalin would stop at Poland.

10. Pius issued his first encyclical, Summi pontificatus, in October 1939. By this time it was all but too late to speak plainly. Poland no longer existed. A reign of terror covered the German-occupied part of the Polish lands, and a near-complete blackout of all news covered the Soviet-occupied territory. The future for the people of the now-dismembered Poland was bleak and fraught with fear. The voice of the Vicar of Christ was not heard to speak in their defence.

Pease’s closing chapter is tough reading. He pulls no punches in his assessment of Pius XII. He judges Pius to have failed to respond as Christ’s Vicar for the Polish people, even though he acted with all honest and honourable intention. “One may question whether Pius XII made the correct policies during the war, but he chose them with honourable intentions, and it appears that he was mainly ‘guilty’ of having been Pope at the wrong historical moment, and one ill matched to his talents and personality”. (Pease, 212) I find it hard to disagree with this assessment.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rome's Most Faithful Daughter

The author of Rome's Most Faithful Daughter: The Catholic Church and Independent Poland 1914-1939 Neal Pearse is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

This is a very interesting book and a valuable contribution to the study of Catholic history in the first half of the 20th century, especially during the years immediately following World War I and the Russian Revolution.  From my perspective nearly a century later, with all the insights gained by hindsight, Pearse's unravelling of the multi-strand history of Poland resurgent in its great and grand complexities and with the hopes of popes resting upon it as bulwark of Christendom, makes for compelling reading.  To be quite blunt, I had no idea the Polish Second Republic was as riven with divisions in politics and religion - even within Catholic Poland - as it was.  Pease's examination of the role played by Marshal Jozef Pilsudski was enlightening.  When you consider the alternatives to the Marshal it is not surprising Rome spent much time and energy pulling the Polish bishops into line.  From my other perspective as a student of Holocaust and the Catholic responses to it, Pearse's book also helped me gain a greater appreciation of the Jewish-Christian realities before the German invasion.

Arthur Jones, book reviewer for the National Catholic Reporter wrote a very sound review of the book.  I agree with his assessment, but I have one criticism which I will mention after the review.

The Italian monsignor, Poland, God and church

Reviewed by ARTHUR JONES


By Neal Pease

Published by Ohio University Press, $26.95

It was Aug. 14, 1920. The Red army, determined on subduing the Polish army and regaining the third of Poland that Russia had only recently lost after 125 years, was roaring toward Warsaw. The country’s quick defeat was anticipated. The ambassadors of the major embassies had fled, leaving subordinates -- if anyone -- in charge. The Vatican had recommended its papal nuncio leave the doomed city.

Instead, the nuncio, Msgr. Achille Ratti (later Pius XI), had the papal flag run up the pole at the nunciature, ordered his open carriage, and was driven throughout the city to show everyone that he was still there. The last train carrying foreign officials was pulling out of Warsaw’s main station, Soviet cannonades could be heard in the suburbs, but Ratti -- who had sent out his archives with the English ambassador -- continued to let himself be seen. In addition to boosting the morale of the citizens, he wanted his conduct be known to the Polish fighters, 64 percent Roman Catholics, so they would know their church was standing with them.

Pope Pius XI, formerly Msgr. Achille RattiRatti’s conduct was risky, for as a priest and high Catholic dignitary, he could expect no mercy from the Soviet communists. The Polish head of state, Marshall Josef Pilsudski, also had left the city, but to take over command of the armed forces. Pilsudski implemented a daring maneuver to outflank the Red Army. On Aug. 16, he succeeded. The Soviets were routed.

To absolutely no one’s expectations, Pilsudski had saved Poland.

Equally, Ratti’s courage and conduct earned him the title Il Papa Polacco. He was the first of the Polish popes. Popes? Plural, you say?

Neal Pease’s minutely researched Rome’s Most Faithful Daughter is not just first-class political history earning its place among the best of the type. The book is part of Ohio University’s Polish and Polish-American studies series; Pease is a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

It is a detailed recounting of the four-way dance between socialist leader Pilsudski, a Catholic nuncio who liked him and could overlook his peccadilloes, a right-wing Polish hierarchy that detested Pilsudski and did not entirely trust Ratti to seek Poland’s best interests, and a Vatican and papacy that needed its “most faithful daughter” far more than most people realized.

For a totally Eurocentric Vatican, which other continental European country in the first quarter of the 20th century had a majority population of pious Catholics? Where else in Europe was there a church still powerful enough nationally to have God and church written into its new constitution; its crowning national moments almost routinely celebrated in Catholic cathedrals by its heads of state and government?

Not France, “oldest daughter of the church,” with a Third Republic that saw French Catholics fleeing to French-speaking Canada. Not Germany, twisting down into the depths of an inflationary vortex that would spew up Hitler. Certainly not chaotic Italy, whose socialists were witnessing the birth pangs of Mussolini’s fascism.

A Reformation, and two revolutions -- the French and the Russian -- had spawned Europeans whose concepts of existence were not reliant, to put it mildly, on the church as their main reference point for their sociopolitical forms and opinions. Yet here was the newly constituted Catholic Poland, free and independent at last, after being divided into three parts and ruled for a century-and-a-quarter by Russia, Prussia and Austria.

Pease exhibits a master historian’s control as he interweaves these many strands of political history that impact the aspirations and exasperate all of the domestic political and hierarchical players.

The further benefit of Pease’s book is that from Poland’s past today’s readers begin to appreciate the extent to which pious and conformist, rightist and highly nationalistic Poland has influenced the papal mindsets and Catholic agenda since Pius XI’s day down to the present.

When Ratti was in Poland, Eugenio Pacelli (his successor, as Pius XII) was nuncio in Bavaria. As such, Pacelli was intricately involved in Germany’s claims on German-speaking Polish Silesia. Regarded as pro-German, Pacelli nonetheless understood and admired the Poles and apparently played by the book, diplomatically, where Polish interests were concerned. (The Poles remained dubious.) Ratti, as Pius XI, in 1923, sent Giovanni-Battista Montini (the future Paul VI) as nuncio to Poland. [Not quite accurate.  Montini was sent to Poland as a member of the nunciature staff, not as nuncio, for a short time in 1923.] As Paul VI, Montini pushed hard for permission to visit Poland under the communists, but was rebuffed.

Karol Wojtyla (as John Paul II) needs no further introduction. That brings the narrative to the present day and to the question: To what extent does Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lived with the ethos and dictates of Polish Catholic thinking for 28 years, reflect that thinking other than in John Paul II’s hallmark Mary-centered piety? Ratti godfathered them all. (An amusing aside: The diplomat pope-to-be who declined the Polish post was Angelo Roncalli, later John XXIII. He went to Bulgaria instead.)

Pius XI was a reactionary autocrat, but whatever reservations one might have about him as pope, Achille Ratti is the hero of Pease’s superbly researched and highly enlightening book, and deservedly so.


My only concern is that there is little evidence of using material from the ASV related to Benedict XV or Pius XI.  I am not suggesting that Pease did not use material from ASV, only that the footnotes contain little reference to it.  This is disappointing.  Certainly a scholar of Pease's standing and clear ability should have, in my opinion, used this material explicitly.  Nonetheless, the book is well-written, easy to follow (itself reason enough to read it!) and does make a significant contribution to our understanding and appreciation of the Polish Church and its relations with both Rome and Warsaw.