Question: Mr. Hunt: Having read some of your vitriolic statements against Pope Pius XII (i.e., that 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...”) I thought it worthwhile to send along to you this editorial from the March 30  Newsweek [p. 35]. I don’t know what level of journalistic integrity you or your staff content yourselves with, but, journalistic integrity aside, your defamation of this pope and, by implication, his predecessor, does not square with your profession of belief in the gospel. Ironic, isn’t it, that it takes a public statement by the secular—and often viciously anti-Catholic—media to refute the smears by professed Christians against their brothers and sisters in the faith. It would be comforting to believe that Catholics might anticipate a public apology from you. However, knowing your penchant for misrepresenting those whom you oppose, including your own Protestant comrades (I have read Gary DeMar’s account of his debating against you), I don’ t expect much....
If I should be proved wrong and you do decide to correct this injustice, I will be happy to post your retraction on the bulletin board at my parish, St. Edward’s Church....
P.S. A number of my fellow Catholics and I attended a showing of your video, “A Woman Rides the Beast,” at a Protestant fundamentalist church in Grand Rapids a few months ago...In the Q and A session...we had the opportunity to correct a number of misrepresentations in that video....At the end of the session, one of the leaders of this congregation came over to shake our hands and to tell us that he had now come to believe that “Catholics are Christians after all.”
Response: It must have been relatively easy to “correct” alleged “misrepresentations” in the absence of anyone who could present the abundant documentation behind the video. Had I been present that evening it would have been another matter. My public debates with leading Roman Catholic apologists are available on audio and some also on video tapes. These are formal debates governed by rules enforced by a moderator, during which my opponents have had every opportunity to point out any “misrepresentations” on my part. We offer those tapes, but to my knowledge, my Catholic opponents do not (for example my last debate with Karl Keating).
It is far more distressing that you could, apparently, so easily convince “one of the leaders of this congregation” that the Reformation was due to a semantic misunderstanding; that those burned at the stake died in vain in the mistaken belief that Roman Catholicism offered a false gospel when in fact it was really the truth; that the hundreds of evangelical missionaries who have endured fierce opposition to the gospel in Catholic countries have wasted their time; and that the millions who have been saved out of the Catholic Church and left it were already saved but just didn’t know it because “Catholics are Christians after all.”
As for my “misrepresenting those whom [I] oppose,” let me suggest that, rather than taking “Gary DeMar’s account of his debating against [me],” you should listen to the the debates themselves since you claim to be interested in the truth. My last debate with Gary was about two months ago. Don’t expect to get a copy from Gary, however, because he refuses to offer it. On the other hand, if you are really interested in the facts you may order an audio copy from us.
Your accusations that I have been “vitriolic” and guilty of “defamation” and “smears” in my statements concerning Pope Pius XII reflect the very inflammatory tone for which you criticize me. The Newsweek essay you sent has been in my voluminous Pius XII files since its publication. It is but one more addition to the recent misguided attempts to exonerate this Pope and the Vatican, all of them, like this one, pitifully weak because the evidence simply doesn’t support the hope. This essay itself admits (exactly as you quote me) that Pius XII never spoke out publicly against the Holocaust. It quotes an editorial commendation in The New York Times, 12/25/41, of the Pope’s public expressions in favor of peace and in opposition to war. That was brave of him?!
The essay quotes from the Pope’s 1942 Christmas message to the world and calls him “the first figure of international stature to condemn what was turning into the Holocaust.” Note the careful language: “what was turning into the holocaust”—not the Holocaust itself. In fact, the mistreatment of Jews had been public policy for years and the Holocaust was well underway. Yet to the Pope’s shame, exactly as I have stated and the records prove, there was no specific statement in that Christmas message to which his supporters hopefully refer—nor was there ever such a statement from the Pope—which unmistakably exposed and opposed the deportation and extermination of Jews. He was more concerned with appeasing Hitler in order to protect his Church in Germany and to keep fascist Germany strong as a bulwark against communism than he was for the plight of the Jews.
In contrast to Newsweek’s naive praise nearly 56 years later of the Pope’s 1942 Christmas message, those suffering through Hitler’s hell at the time were bitterly disappointed. For example, a letter protesting the weakness of that Christmas message was written to the Pope on January 2, 1943 by Wladislaw Raczkiewicz, president of the Polish Government in Exile, which read in part, “Holy Father, At this tragic moment, my people are fighting not merely for their lives but for everything that has been sacred in their eyes. They...implore that a voice be raised to show clearly and plainly where the evil lies and to condemn those in the service of evil...the Apostolic See must break silence...” (Pius XII and the Third Reich: A Documentation, Alfred A. Knopf, 1966, by Saul Friedlander, pp. 131-33). In spite of many such pleas from various quarters, the Apostolic See, supposedly the world’s watchdog on morals, did not break that infamous silence in the face of the worst evil the world had ever seen.
To support its whitewash of Pius XII, the Newsweek essay refers to “11 volumes on the war years published by the Vatican archives....” It fails to mention that the archives themselves, as the Vatican’s official publications (La Civilta Cattolica, 3/21/ 98, and L’Osservatore Romano, 4/29/98) admit, are “closed to the public and to historians.” Three Jesuits (Angelo Martini, Burkhart Schneider and Pierre Blet), given access to the archives for the Church’s own purposes, authored these eleven volumes, which can hardly be considered either a fully documented or an impartial account. Dare I use the word “cover-up” with regard to the continued refusal to open the Vatican’s archives? Friedlander’s book quotes heavily from the Nazi archives, which he wanted to check against the Vatican’s records, but was not allowed. In his fore- word, Friedlander writes, “When preparing this book I attempted several times to get access to the Vatican archives, but in vain.”
On the other hand, for these crucial years the Nazi archives have been exposed to the public as have many of the previously secret files of the OSS (predecessor to the CIA) through the Freedom of Information Act. These records present Pius XII in an entirely different light from the Newsweek essay and other recent attempts to exonerate him based upon the Vatican’s self-serving account. There was an outcry on the part of Roman Catholics for the Vatican to refute Friedlander’s book following its publication—and the Vatican promised to do so. More than 30 years later we finally have the release of a defense in those eleven volumes, but no one is allowed to go to the archives themselves to check their accuracy and especially their completeness. Thus the conclusion that the Vatican has much to hide is not only based upon evidence found in other records but in its refusal to allow impartial historians to examine its own archives.
Efforts to justify Pius XII make the claim that his silence about the Jewish question was due to his fear that to renounce the Holocaust would only have angered Hitler and made it worse. That view simply can- not be sustained either by logic or history. The facts are that his silence about the Holocaust saved no one. It is more reason- able to conclude that silence over the Jewish question was maintained to protect the Church’s interests in Germany and because of the Pope’s belief that Germany was the Church’s only bulwark against the threat of communism from the East. And this view is supported by much evidence.
It is also argued that no one, least of all Hitler, would have heeded the Pope. On the contrary, the Nazi archives bear proof that Hitler was fearful of what the Pope might say right up to the end of the war, even when German troops had occupied Italy and surrounded the Vatican. When Hitler ordered the deportation and extermination of all Jews in Rome and Italy, Bishop Hudal, who was very open in his support of Hitler, wired Berlin that snatching Jews from the very gates of the Vatican would surely force the Pope to protest publicly, even though he did not want to do so. But on October 28, 1943, State Secretary Ernst von Weizsacker was able to advise Berlin that the Pope would not make a protest but would continue to do “everything he could, even in this delicate matter, not to injure the relationship between the Vatican and the German Government or the German authorities in Rome” (Friedlander, pp. 206-207).
Furthermore, the Pope was not only silent publicly but diplomatically as well. Contrary to the propaganda put out by Vatican supporters that the Pope was silent publicly so he could work more effectively behind the scenes through secret diplomacy, there is no evidence whatsoever in the Nazi archives to suggest the he ever even made a serious inquiry concerning the Holocaust to Hitler through the diplomatic channels which remained open at all times! The Nazi archives, which contain meticulous accounts of everything down to the amount of gold taken from the victims’ teeth, “do not contain any document recording a discussion of the Jewish problem between the Pope and one of the Reich Ambassadors or between the Secretary of State and the German diplomats” (Friedlander, p 145).
That the absence of any such record was not due either to policy or oversight is evident from the fact that Nazi archives do contain the record of three very weak inquiries on the part of papal Nuncio, Msgr. Orsenigo. The first, presented 10/15/42 to Reich ambassador Ernst Woermann, passed along concern expressed by certain Jews in France and Lvov as to the fate of relatives who had been taken away. According to Woermann’s notes of the meeting, the manner of inquiry was “somewhat embarrassed and without pressing the point.” In the second, Orsenigo met with State Secretary Ernst von Weizsacker 11/6/42 and according to Weizsacker’s notes of the meeting, “casually mentioned rumors of an impending intensification of the ordinances concerning mixed marriages [between Catholics and Jews].” The third was in August 1943 when Orsenigo met with Weizsacker’s successor, Steengracht, to request consideration for a destitute 74-year-old Jewess in Amsterdam who wanted permission to join her son in London. Steengracht’s notes state, “The Nuncio ...[made] the immediate comment that this was a matter that was really outside his competence and that, if nothing could be done about it, he could readily resign himself to the fact” (Friedlander, pp 145-46).
These three instances for which we have records could hardly be characterized as expressing great concern or pressure from the Vatican concerning the Jewish question! Remember, that by June 1943 more than 3 million Jews had already been killed, and deportations to extermination camps continued in a steady flow.
There is extensive documentation concerning Pius XII’s collaboration with and support of Hitler and his regime, but I can only take time to cite one other source: Sister (and later Mother Superior) Pascalina, the tiny and strikingly beautiful and regal Bavarian-born nun who was often called his “mistress of the soul” and “the most powerful woman in Vatican history.” She was for more than 40 years at his side day and night as his skiing partner, his “aide, his housekeeper, his confidante, his adviser, his surrogate mother, and, in critical times, his conscience” (Paul I. Murphy, La Popessa, Warner Books, 1983, inside front of jacket). No one can deny her fierce loyalty and devotion to Pius XII and therefore it is all the more telling that we learn from such a source a full confirmation of all that you don’t want to believe about him—and more.
Sister Pascalina was witness to his giving Hitler a large sum of church money to help launch the Nazi party when he was Eugenio Pacelli, papal Nuncio in Munich (p. 52). After Pacelli became Pius XII in 1939, Pascalina pleaded with him often to speak out against Hitler and the Holocaust, but to no avail. She was infuriated that “Pacelli’s first official act as Pius XII was to court Hitler...[and] by ‘the condescending message’ that the Holy Father first wrote the German Fuhrer.....The extremes to which the Pontiff and his clerical backers went to placate the Fuhrer were altogether appalling to her” (pp. 162- 63). She personally took the official notes as the Pope discussed with the German cardinals the content of that first message to Hitler. Indeed, it had been Pacelli’s popularity with the German cardinals because of his support of the Nazi regime which had no doubt swung the vote that put him in as Pius XI’s successor.
That first letter from Pius XII to Hitler began, “To the Illustrious Herr Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer and Chancellor of the German Reich!” The Pope’s letter went on to say, “We recall with great pleasure the many years we spent in Germany as Apostolic Nuncio, when we did all in our power to establish harmonious relations between Church and State. Now...how much more ardently do we pray to reach that goal....” (Remember, this was 1939 and Hitler’s evil had been exposed to the world.)
Pius XII has been credited with saving the lives of thousands of Jews in Rome, but it was Pascalina who introduced the Pope to the idea and conceived and carried out the clever and secretive way in which this was accomplished. It was that tiny but determined nun who “risked everything for the Jews...and issued hundreds of papal identity cards...so [that Jews] could pass as Christians through Nazi lines for safety in the Vatican.” Hitler agreed that the Vatican, churches and properties, including the Pope’s summer palace, Castel Gandolfo, would be off limits to Nazi inspection. In exchange for that assurance, the Pope announced to the world that Nazi troops were behaving properly.
On September 3, 1943, Weizsacker (now German Ambassador to the Holy See) sent a memorandum from Rome assuring Hitler that “Concern in the Vatican about the fate of Italy and of Germany, too, is growing...in the Pope’s view a powerful German Reich is quite indispensable for the future of the Catholic Church.” On September 24 Weizsacker, in another dispatch from Rome, referred to the Vatican’s persistent dream “that the Western powers will realize in time where their real interest lies and will join the German effort to help save European culture from Bolshevism.” On that same day State Secretary Steengracht, in Germany, noted in a memorandum pre- served in the Nazi archives that Nuncio Orsenigo had “declared, of his own accord, that...only Germany and the Vatican were in a position to tackle the Bolshevik peril....”
As the war neared its end, the Pope pleaded with the Allied Forces to deal leniently with both Hitler and Mussolini. Both were Catholics to their deaths. There is no excusing the fact that Pius XII never excommunicated either of these master criminals in spite of their unspeakable evil.
The issue goes beyond Pius XII himself. He merely reflected centuries of anti- Semitism on the part of previous popes and his Church involving the most vicious persecution and death of multitudes of Jews. I hope you will post this on your church’s bulletin board as promised.