Monday, February 20, 2012

Two stimulating articles on Pius

It is important to recognise the steady flow of academic work continued on Pope Pius XII where evidence has been weighed, and scholars have taken time to judge and evaluate the material.  Two such articles on Pius appeared recently.

Eamon Duffy is well known in the English-speaking world for his studies of late medieval and early Reformation English Church history.  His magisterial work The Stripping of the Altars (1992/2005) built on the thesis that Catholicism was very much alive and well in the years prior to Henry VIII's break with Rome in the 1530s and that much of it survived the turmoil of the Tudor successions throughout the mid-16th century until the last dismantlings occurred under the Elizabethan Settlement and then the encroachment of the Puritan movements. 

Duffy has also written a recent book on the papacy - Ten Popes that shook the world (2011) - which included a chapter on Pius XII.  I bought the book, found it fascinating for the portraits of many of the successors to Peter, but have to confess to feeling somewhat deflated with the chapter on Pius XII.  Duffy adds nothing new in what he writes, but he does try to steer a middle course between condemnation and canonisation without resiling from the hard questions, of which the one surrounding "the silence" is the hardest.  His conclusion is succinct and in keeping with the moderate stand he takes throughout.  I will let the reader make their own judgement.  A summary of the chapter appeared in Commonweal in November 2011

Eamon Duffy

A second article appeared in the most recent edition of Commonweal this week.  John Connelly is Associate Professor of History at University of California, Berkeley.  His book, From Enemy to Brother (2012) has just been published. It is a study of the evolution of Christian-Jewish relations between 1930 and 1965.  There is a very interesting presentation of the life and work of Father John Oesterreicher one of the pioneers in establishing positive relations between Catholics and Jews beginning in the 1930s.  The Commonweal article was compelling reading, and I recommend it.

Michael Connelly 

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