Sunday, October 16, 2011

ADSS 8.360 Burzio to Maglione. The Slovak bishops' statement

In ADSS 8.343, Giuseppe Burzio informed Cardinal Maglione that the Slovak Catholic bishops were preparing a joint statement as a response to the deportation of the Slovak Jews.  A statement by the bishops was published on 26 April 1942, and a copy sent to Rome the following day.  Burzio informed Maglione that the bishops had some difficulty getting their statement approved by the Government.  It took the personal intervention of priest-president Tiso to get the bishops' letter executed.  The Interior Minister, Alexander Mach wanted the bishops to align their statement with government policy, becoming an endorsement of the regime's policy.  This the bishops refused to do. 

Reading the statement would have been cold comfort for Jews who had not converted to Catholicism.  There is barely a word of consolation.  Rather there is a regurgitation of traditional Catholic anti-Judaism based on the ancient teaching of contempt and supercessionism mixed with an acceptance of late-nineteenth century pseudo-racial theories of Jewish proclivities to domination in economics and their negative impact on the public life of a Christian state.  At no point do the bishops condemn deportation as a way of solving "the Jewish Question".

My reading of the statement leads me to suggest that it was a case of an episcopate that was concerned to exercise some pastoral care for converted Jews, but were not passionate about helping the vast majority of Slovakian Jewry.

This document makes for heavy and hard reading.  What Pius XII thought of it when Maglione most assuredly passed it on can only be imagined.  From what we know of the man, it would have likely been a sense of great disappointment.

ADSS 8.360

Reference: Report number 890 (AES 3617/42, original)

Location and date: Pressburg (Bratislava) 27.04.1942

Summary statement: Joint letter of the Slovak bishops against the race laws and indicates two sections deleted by the government.

Language: Italian


With respect to my report number 862 of 9 March 1942 (1) I have the honour to report to Your Eminence that Their Excellencies, the bishops of Slovakia have prepared a joint letter to illuminate the faithful on the attitude of ecclesiastical authorities towards the Jewish question and the measures taken by the government against the Jews.

This letter, or rather statement, appeared in the newspaper “Katolicke Noviny” of 26 April 1942, and I have attached a translation. (2)

At first, permission to publish the letter was refused, but following an intervention by the President of the Republic, the Minister of the Interior, Alexander Mach, informed the bishops that the prohibition to publish had been withdrawn provided that they made some changes to the text of the statement. (See Attachment 2 at the dotted spaces) “… and we will not cease to insist that because they are dispensed from the requirements of the Jewish Code they are not deported from Slovakia” (3) and “it is therefore, not possible to approve, so we have raised a warning voice against those who violate the provisions of private property honestly acquired and who violently destroy the relationships of the family” (4) or to follow on with the following conclusion: “This is not to say that we will not affirm that existing laws do not violate natural or divine law. Likewise we do not intend to assert that we have violated the private property of the Jews honestly acquired, since it is well known that Jews are rich. Since the bonds of family are not broken indefinitely, there is nothing to object in the measures which have arisen in the Jewish question among us”.

This statement is so blatantly contrary to the truth that the bishops could not accept it as an alternative, and preferred to publish their statements, by removing the text of the two phrases highlighted. (5)

References for the first part:
(1) ADSS 8.343
(2) Follows the cover note from Burzio.
(3) The original place in the attached statement is marked “A”
(4) This passage was inserted into the original text at “B”
(5) Burzio added to his report two letters to representatives of the Holy See, Spain and Italy in Bratislava. The letters contained detailed information on the persecution of the Jews and urged a collective approach.

Attachment: The Bishops of Slovakia to the Catholic Faithful 26.04.1942

In recent times, the attitude of Catholic ecclesiastical authority to the anti-Jewish measures has been noted in newspapers, on radio and in public opinion.

There have been attacks on church authorities with accusations that they have allowed Jews to be baptised and have intervened with the government for the Jews themselves. On the other hand, instead, it was stated that the attitude of Catholic circles was identified with the action of the government and supported the elimination of Jews from public life and their expulsion from Slovakia. When the Government began transporting the Jews, and as the improbable news spread widely, people wondered who the bishops and priests could allow the carrying out of such barbaric acts.

These various and conflicting voices have prompted the Catholic authorities to calm Catholic public opinion and declare the following:

1. Jews were not baptised en masse by Catholic priests. Some Jews, under the influence of contingencies, have asked for acceptance into the Church, renouncing what they had been before, to them were given precise explanations and the imposition of conditions for their acceptance in the Church itself.

The Church, in principle, can not refuse anyone, when baptism is honestly required. Christ founded the Church for all nations and all peoples. The Church of Christ is catholic and universal and it is therefore necessary to preach to all the truth of Christ. Of course the sacrament of baptism can only be granted to those with sinless thought and the inner conviction to become a member of the Church. To have the opportunity to obtain this conviction, a long period of preparation, called the catechumenate, which under the usual arrangements should last several months (3-10), according to the intelligence and religiosity of the catechumens. After this preparation the Church can administer baptism, but always with the special permission of the bishop. The bishops always remind the clergy, who request permission to administer baptism to Jews, fulfilling their responsibility before God, if indeed the Jew is perfectly prepared, if he has the appropriate religious disposition and he is not acting to acquire temporary political or material benefit.

We must emphasise that only the Church is authorised to decide whether or not to grant the administration of the sacrament of baptism. This exclusive right of the Church has been defended in difficult times in the past and does not allow limitations even in the future.

When the Catholic Church welcomes anyone into its ranks, it signals not only all the duties of a Catholic-Christian, but guarantees that they enjoy the same rights as other members of the Church, simultaneously requesting that these rights be recognised by all.

2. This is our opinion and understanding of the baptism of the Jews.

Some Jews when they were baptised drew no advantage, but were persecuted from other Jews, often with excommunication and expulsion. These baptised Jews, sever all ties with an ancient tradition and intended to become a genuine part of the Christian community. They live a Christian life and fulfil their religious duties.

These Jews are regarded by us as believers, like all others, and it is our duty to take up their defence. It is in the interests of those baptised, who have taken up their religious duties, we have intervened. [A] (6)

3. Our attitude towards the other Jews and the measures taken against them is summed up on these principles:

The tragedy of the Jewish nation is that of not recognising the Redeemer and of having prepared a terrible and infamous death on the cross. The Redeemer himself, shedding tears at the lack of faith of the Jewish people, predicted as punishment their dispersal throughout the world. After the fall of Jerusalem, the prediction of Christ came to pass. For nearly two millennia the Jews have lived in larger of smaller groups among the nations of the world. In all this time never, never have they merged with other nations, living as a foreign element. Their attitude of hatred of Christianity did not change, and lately in the bloody persecution of Christians in Russia and in Spain, the Jews had an important part. Add to this that nations sometimes showed their discontent and their anger against the Jews in a too harsh and brutal way, that conflicted with Christian principles.

Even we have witnessed the pernicious influence of the Jews. In a short time they have controlled almost all the economic and financial life of the country to the detriment of our people. Not only economically, but also in the cultural and moral fields, they have damaged our people. The Church cannot be opposed if the state with its legal provisions impedes the harmful influence of the Jews.

In old Hungary, in the years 1848 to 1896, the laws dealing with political ecclesiastical matters also accepted the law on hospitality to Jews. Ecclesiastical groups protested against the law, since they feared the harmful influences of the Jews on public life. Government circles at the time and a greater part of public opinion accused the Church of being backward. The facts, however, have proved the Church right.

In resolving this difficult issue it can not be forgotten that Jews are men, and that they must be treated humanely. Care must be taken firstly that the legal order is not violated nor the laws of God. It is the natural right of every individual to be formed with honest work, to use private property according to Christian teaching. It is also the right of everyone to have their own family. If one decides for family life they must fulfil all their duties arising from this state and enjoy all the rights according to Christian principles. [B]

We have considered it necessary to declare the above so that the Catholic public was aware of the point of view of Catholic circles and so that our believers have a clear view of the attitude of the Catholic Church on the Jewish question, after the various, and not always beneficial, voices that have been heard.

References for the second part:
(6) Refer to note 4.
(7) Refer to note 5.

Deportation of Slovak Jews (from Yad Vashem)

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