Sunday, June 2, 2013

All very quiet on the Pius front

Today is the feast of St Eugenio, name day of Pius XII.

Work commitments have made it difficult to keep posting  on the subjects related to Pope Pius XII.  However, given the significance of the day I thought it worth while making a few comments on what appears to have been a lull or even a "cease fire" in what has been about a decade and half of energetic polemic and a growing academic discussion over Eugenio Pacelli. 

Cyberspace has been very quite for about three months.  My google alerts have been getting  fewer and fewer and the content of what has been coming through has been fairly innocuous. I suggest a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, Frank Coppa and Robert Ventresca's biographies of Pius XII have been published and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive.  The scope and scale of historical work done by both authors is impressive for its depth and detail along with balanced interpretation and analysis.  It is hard to argue against scholarship of this calibre.

Secondly, I believe that the arguments of those who have been very vocal in the recent past decrying and demonising those historians who did their job, and did it well, have been comprehensively answered and deconstructed.  To remain a proponent of the over-used and generalised statements "Pius did everything possible to save the Jews of Europe" and "Pope Pius XII saved 860,000 Jews" is to place oneself well and truly outside any form of mainstream discussion.  In effect, these positions have been shown to be effectively bankrupt and without historical basis.

Thirdly, the interest in the subject appears to have "gone off the boil".  The wait for the archives of Pacelli's papacy continues.  However, the energy to explore what is currently available has waned.  And this is a significant "reality check" for those who want clear answers now.  Research into the available material is only in the early stages.  It will take years to explore the archives of the pontificate of Pope Pius XI and his Cardinal Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli.  Out of this will come new insights and nuances that will help shed light on Pacelli's papacy; but it demands great patience and discipline, something most of the apologists lack.

Fourthly, there is what I describe as the "Francis effect".  The new pope does not appear to have the interest that his two immediate predecessors had in the debates over Pius XII.  I do not believe this indicates disinterest, but rather it is not high on his priority list at present.  This many change, but current indicators seem to suggest that this will not likely be the case.  What may happen is a direction to the archivists to speed up the process, but this is moving into wishful thinking.

Thank you to those who have written to me with questions.  I hope to get answers for you shortly.

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