Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wrap up on Pius - December 2012 - January 2013

This is a summary of some of the latest posts on Pius XII from the last month of 2012 and the first half of the first month of 2013.

1.  Doris Bergen's review of Hubert Wolf's detailed study of the Vatican's relationship with the Third Reich, Pope and Devil (2010) appeared in the January 2012 Harvard Theological Review.  Her opening line sums up one of the fundamental truisms of sound history work: "... that the writing of good history requires access to good sources". 

2. Bill Loughlin reviews Gordon Thomas's The Pope's Jews (2012) in The National Catholic Register (not to be confused with the National Catholic Reporter).  What caught my eye was Loughlin's opinion that two of the most significant sources for the history of Pius XII are the former chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, who disappeared from Rome just before the German razzia and who later converted to Catholicism in 1946, and Sr Pascalina Lenhert, Pius' deeply unpopular and greatly resented housekeeper who wrote a very personal take on the pope a long time after her unceremonious departure from the Vatican in 1958.  Loughlin has not changed my general sense of scepticism about the book especially with his final paragraph:

For decades, papal critics have used the delay in opening the papal archives as an alibi to justify their complaint that Pius was silent. Given the public record, so well scrutinized in Thomas’ The Pope’s Jews and by others, there’s little reason to expect the opening of archives will alter the end results, namely that the Catholic Church, under Pius’ leadership, rescued more Jews than any other institution or government.

3.  In some of the darker corners of the Catholic Church lurk some who still hold to attitudes and beliefs that the vast majority of believers have long abandoned.  Accusations of "Jewish conspiracies" have a long and tortured history within mainstream Christianity and were appropriated by the Nazis as one of the mainstays of their Antisemitism.  This article from Forward is a reminder that some who call themselves Catholics live on a different planet to the rest of us.

4. Writing on the publication of Pius XII and the Holocaust by Yad Vashem for Vatican Insider Andrea Tornielli gives a general review of the 2009 symposium attended by a number of historians and scholars who have written in the field. I was one of those who attended.  Tornielli also mentions the recent - November 2012 - gathering at the Sorbonne in Paris.  I hope that there will be more information on the Sorbonne conference in the near future.

5.  Finally, just before Christmas, the Catholic League published a major advertisement in the New York Times under the eye-catching heading "New York Times salutes Pope Pius XII".   There was a minor flurry but it seems to have passed without major damage.  Bill Donohue has a long-time reputation of rushing to defend the Catholic Church against the enemies arrayed against it.  He enjoys no official endorsement from the Church and his comments should be taken as a personal expression, not as a statement from the Church.

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