Sunday, September 11, 2011

ADSS 8.199 Maglione to Slovak Minister, Karel Sidor

Continuing the Vatican-Slovakian document series.

Having received the reports from Guiseppe Burzio, Apostolic Delegate in Bratislava, and the letter of the Slovak Bishops addressed to President Tiso, Cardinal Maglione wrote a formal note to the Slovak minister to the Holy See, Karel Sidor (1901-1953).  This note, written on 12 November 1941, came five weeks after the Slovak Bishops had written to Tiso, and nearly two months after the promulgation of the Jewish Code in Slovakia.

Maglione treads a careful line.  He objects, as expected, to articles of the Code that directly infringe upon the rights of the Church - marriage and Catholic education; but he extends his, and by implication, the Pope's concern towards a wider group.  The Secretary of State deplores the loss of social, economic and moral rights of the Catholics of Jewish origins, but it could be argued that the way the text is written, a complaint about the treatment of all Jews could be "read into" the text.  I admit this is drawing a rather "long bow" given the general Vatican diplomatic role of sticking to the parameters when negotiating with "difficult" governments. 

The Slovak Minister, Karel Sidor, was a known antisemite.  He was a commander in the Hlinka Guard.  At the end of the war he was tried in absentia by the new Czech government in 1947 and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment.  Sidor fled to Canada in 1949 apparently, with the help of Pius XII.  He died there in 1953.

Karel Sidor

ADSS 8.199
Reference: AES 8355/41, minute

Location and date: Vatican City, 12.11.1941
Summary statement: Objections to the race laws in Slovakia
Language: Italian


The undersigned Secretary of State has the honour to communicate to His Excellency the Slovakian minister the following:

With great sorrow, the Holy See has learned that even in Slovakia, a country where nearly the entire population honours the great Catholic tradition, has, on 9 September, published a Governmental Order, which established a special “racial legislation” containing a number of measures in sharp contrast with Catholic principles.

In fact, the Church universal by the will of her Divine Founder, welcomes in her womb peoples of any race, and shows maternal concern for all humanity, to awaken and develop among all people feelings of brotherhood and love, according to the explicit and categorical teaching of the Gospel.

Firstly, in this universal character of the Church and her teaching, Article 9 of the Ordinance which prohibits marriages between Jews and non-Jews as well as between Jews and “mixed” Jews, opposed.

On this important issue, the doctrine of the Church and the resulting canonical practices are known.

The Church forbade marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics in order to protect their children from losing the priceless gift of faith, but it has, and will continue to keep intact the right to dispense from the mentioned prohibition, when that exemption is claimed by compelling demands of conscience. In practice the Church allows such marriages only in very rare cases, for serious reasons and always with well-defined conditions and with the providing of solid guarantees.

But when it comes to two Catholics, free from canonical impediments, albeit of a different race, the Church would not object to the marriage without failing in her sanctifying mission and violating higher divine laws. The Church would not fail to advise against marriage between people from diverse races, in view of the damage to which the children may be exposed.

Faced with the principles mentioned above, Article 9 is inconsistent with Catholic teaching, because it prohibits in absolute and general terms, marriages between Jews and non-Jews.

Further, Article 38 excludes young people, designated as Jews, even if they are Catholics, from any study in all schools and institutions, except primary schools and courses especially designed for them.

It is evident in this way, the Church is impeded from exercising one of the most important and sacred rights – the education of Catholic youth, and is obstructed in her apostolic work.

Moreover, such a measure can not but be a matter of grace concern for the Church, because so many of her Faithful are in danger of losing their faith and be less solemnly committed before God.

Nor can the Holy See be indifferent to the plight of her children of Jewish origin, as a result of these and other burdensome provisions of this Ordinance. They are indeed deprived of many rights and segregated from other citizens, against whom they find themselves in a state of great moral, social and economic inferiority that forces them to act heroically in order to remain loyal subjects of the Church and to lead some, perhaps, in extreme necessity.

The Holy See, then, considers that the provisions of Article 33 about Jewish participation in public meetings, does not prohibit Catholics of Jewish origin to take part in religious events: they would not require therefore, a reassuring and official declaration about that proposition.

The under-signed Cardinal Secretary of State, recognising the painful necessity of calling the attention of the Slovak minister to the considerations set about above, is confident that the Slovak Government will not fail to appropriately modify the wording of the Ordinance, so as to remove any conflict with Catholic principles.

In this regard it was noted with satisfaction that even now Article 255, has laid down rules which, while far from dispelling the apprehensions of the Holy See, attest to the Slovak Government’s proposition to mitigate the rigour of the implementation of the enacted measures.

Therefore the Holy See is confident that the Slovak Government will interpret and apply the provisions of the Ordinance in such a way to make them acceptable and not harmful to Catholic consciences, until such time as the Ordinance is revoked or altered.

Cross references:

Refer to ADSS 8.153, 173.

The minister replied 23.05.1942 – ADSS 8.383 – deportations to Poland had already begun in March 1942.

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