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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Revisitingthe Myth of Hitler's Pope

In 1999 a book was published called "Hitler's Pope" which chronicled the rise of Hitler and the alleged complicity of Pope Pius XII, who served as pontiff from 1939 to 1958, in Hitler's ascent to power. (Disclaimer:  I have not read this book).  According to the author, Hitler and Pope Pius were best buddies and the Pope served at the pleasure of the German chancellor.

The accusations against Pope Pius gained traction because of this book, and charges against him ranged from:  "he was indifferent to the Jewish genocide" to allegations of actual collaboration with Nazi leaders in the murder of millions of Jews.

According to anti-Catholic Dave Hunt:  "The Vatican had no excuse for its Nazi partnership or for its
continued commendation of Hitler on the one hand and its thunderous silence regarding the Jewish question on the other hand. As the evil mounted, the Roman Catholic Church continued to work with the Fuehrer and even to praise him."

Let me preface with this:  even if the above allegations were true, it in no way indicts the Catholic faith.  Many, many Catholics (including popes) have done some horrible things.  That doesn't make the teachings of Catholicism false.  Shouldn't we evaluate the truths of a particular religion based on what it professes, not on what its members do, especially if these actions defy the teachings of this religion?  There is no religion which one can join where we couldn't say, "But people in this religion did these monstrous things!"  

Nevertheless, it should be conceded that bad Catholics doing bad things does prompt a legitimate emotional response: "I really don't want to join that Church if that's what her members look like."

However, the above charges against the Pope, and the Catholic Church are myths borne from unsubstantiated rumors.

According to Ronald Rychlak , author of the books "Righteous Gentiles: How Pius XII and the Catholic Church Saved Half a Million Jews From the Nazis" and  "Hitler, the War, and the Pope" (which I also have not read)  "During and after the war, Pius was known as a champion of the Jews and other victims. That reputation continued through his life and for several years thereafter."  It was only decades after the Holocaust did a reversal in his reputation commence.

In fact, after Pope Pius' death, Nahum Goldmann, President of the World Jewish Congress, said:“With special gratitude we remember all he has done for the persecuted Jews during one of the darkest periods of their entire history.”  Rabbi Elio Toaff, who would later become Chief Rabbi of Rome,said:  “More than anyone else, we have had the opportunity to appreciate the great kindness, filled with compassion and magnanimity, that the Pope displayed during the terrible years of persecution and terror, when it seemed that there was no hope left for us.” 

The Israeli consul, Pinchas E. Lapide, in his book "Three Popes and the Jews" (which I also haven't read *~X( at wits' end) writes:  "The Catholic Church under Pius XII was instrumental in saving 860,000 Jews from Nazi death camps".

Finally, primarily due to the efforts of Pope Pius to save the Jewish people in Nazi Germany, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, converted to Catholicism.  And, he took as his baptismal name, Eugenio.

Can anyone guess what Pope Pius XII's birth name was?

Yep.  Eugenio.  Eugenio Pacelli.

The Chief Rabbi of Rome must have been so moved and impressed with the efforts of this pope to save his Jewish people, that he gave honor to this man by taking Pope Pius' birth name.

Now, a legitimate question ensues:   Could the Catholic Church have done MORE during the monstrous reign of Hitler to thwart his regime and the atrocities which followed?  Yes, of course the Church could have done more.  She can always do more to oppose evil.  But then, again, couldn't the same be said for us as individuals?  If we accuse the Church for standing by while evil flourishes, then couldn't the same charge be leveled at the accuser?

What are you doing to, say, thwart ISIS?  (Here, "YOU" stands for "The person who thinks the Catholic Church should have done more to stop the Holocaust", not the reader of this post  *:) happy).

Incidentally, there will be some accuser who offers evidence of Catholic Nazi sympathizers*:

No one disputes that there were individual Catholic Nazi sympathizers and Catholics who, horrifically, participated in this holocaust either directly or indirectly.  But to say that the Church and the Pope were cowardly silent on this slaughter or collaborated with the Nazis is unsupportable and baseless.

*NB:  the above photo is a generic example only.  No claim or judgement is being made about the views of the specific woman pictured here. 

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