Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's been quiet in cyber-space of late ... Pius XII?

When I get a chance of late to have a look at the google alerts and my inbox, I have noticed that the news on Pius XII has been relatively slim.  That's not to say there has been nothing, just no where near what has been the usual volume that I have become accustomed to.

In the last week there have been reports on a lecture given by Ronald Rychlak at Wabash College and two news releases from the ADL in New York.

Ronald Rychlak is no stranger to the "Pius Wars".  He is one of the more articulate academic apologists.  That is not say that his writing is convincing - I find it not.  The Wabash lecture re-visited familiar territory and a familiar theme, that it was the USSR that was behind the blackening of Pius XII's name and reputation.  The "black legend" relies heavily on the story of a former Romanian secret service major-general, Ion Mihai Pacepa, but, more significantly, on the accusations of Papal complicity in the crimes of the Nazis made by French and Polish Catholics as early as 1939, just after Pacelli's election as pope - two decades before the KGB stories were hatched.  Giovanni Sale, the respected Jesuit historian has written extensively on the "black legend" and helps to provide the evidential base for its strange history.  Sandro Magister, editor and writer of the Italian column Chiesa: espresso on line published a detailed and lengthy article on Sale and his research in early 2009.  (This was not the first time he had written on the topic.  There is an earlier column from 2005.)

Rychlak is entitled to his opinion, but not to claims that he had access to Vatican archives that remain under embargo, which is what the article states quite bluntly.  What are these archives?

The ADL has published two media releases of interest in the last week.  Firstly Abraham Foxman, National Director of the ADL wrote congratulating the pope on his recent statements acknowledging without any hint of ambiguity, that the Jews were not, and are not, collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.  Foxman's words are worth quoting:

This is an important and historic moment for Catholic-Jewish relations, as Pope Benedict XVI is now moving ahead with implementing the second phase of Vatican II. It is especially significant because it deepens and gives historians context crucial in having the doctrine expressed in Nostra Aetate translated down to the pews.

The 1965 Second Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate rejected the deicide charge on theological grounds. But continuing in this tradition with specificity, Pope Benedict has rejected the previous teachings and perversions that have helped to foster and reinforce anti-Semitism through the centuries.

The fact that this Pope is a theologian, and has served as a defender of the faith, makes this statement from the Holy See that much more significant for now and for future generations. He is continuing in the storied tradition of Pope John Paul II in rejecting the calumny of those charges and in taking Nostra Aetate and Vatican II to the next level.

The second ADL media release is interesting for the strange comments by two of the Catholic representatives at the recent 21st International Liaison Committee Meeting in Paris (February 27 - March 2, 2011)   At the meeting the ADL made another call to the Vatican to set a definite date for the release of the files from Pius XII's papacy.  Dates have come and gone with no clear picture of when the ASV will allow public access.  Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Kurt Koch said that there is an argument for the Vatican to withhold release of some archival material from the war years, if it was found to be detrimental to the Holy See.  Historians should be shouting from the rooftops against this ham-fisted attempt to justify a form of censorship.  Given that all the major players are now dead, what has the church to gain from appearing to hide secrets?

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