by Patrick J. Buchanan – April 4, 1998
“The document doesn’t even mention Pius XII’s failure to speak out against Nazi atrocities,” said a disgusted New York Times — as it dismissed Rome’s recent statement on the Vatican and the Jews in World War II. “It now falls to John Paul and his successors to take the next step toward full acceptance of the Vatican’s failure to stand squarely against the evil that swept across Europe.”
Yet, here is the same New York Times on December 25th, 1941: “The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas. … He is about the only ruler left on the continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all.”
How can the Times damn for silence during World War II the same pope it hailed for courage in speaking out during World War II? Answer: The Times’ revisionism has nothing to do with the truth but everything to do with anti-Catholicism and moral blackmail.
As Newsweek’s Ken Woodward writes, Pius XII was once hailed by all mankind for helping rescue 700,000 Jews from certain death. “That Pius XII was silent in the face of the Holocaust; that he was in fact pro-German if not pro-Nazi; that … he was anti-Semitic; all are monstrous calumnies that now seem to pass for conventional wisdom,” he writes.
Yet, the Times has collaborators in its campaign of defamation. No sooner had the Vatican document appeared than Israel’s Chief Rabbi Meir Lau declared: “It is too little, too late. … I have no doubt that the Church did not do everything it could have to save people. (Pius’) silence cost millions of lives.”
But the rabbi who knew best what Pius XII did was the chief rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli. On February 13, 1945, Zolli and his wife converted to Roman Catholicism. As Thomas Craughwell writes in Sursum Corda, “At the (baptismal) font, Zolli took the name `Eugenio’ — the Christian name of Pius XII. “Would Rabbi Zolli have become Roman Catholic if he suspected papal complicity in the slaughter of his kinsmen?
And if Pius XII was complicit in Nazi crimes, why did Hitler’s henchmen hate him so? “We should not forget that in the long run, the pope in Rome is a greater enemy of National Socialism than Churchill or Roosevelt,” said Reinhard Heydrich of the SS. When Pius XI died, the Nazi organ Das Reich reviled both him and the new pope, Pius XII: “Pius XI was a half-Jew, for his mother was a Dutch Jewess; but Cardinal Pacelli is a full Jew.”
Israel’s chief rabbi may despise Pius XII, but the chief rabbi of Palestine revered him. “The people of Israel,” wrote Isaac Herzog in 1945, “will never forget what his holiness and his illustrious delegates … are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history.” Gratitude was not out of fashion then. The chief rabbi of Bucharest, Alexander Safron, had earlier written to the papal nuncio to Romania, “In the most difficult hours which we Jews of Romania have passed through, the generous assistance of the Holy See was decisive and salutary.”
On Pius XII’s death in 1958, Golda Meir cabled Rome: “When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims.” Was the greatest woman in modern Jewish history truckling to a church she believed was complicit in the death of millions of Jews? Yet, today, the New Republic feels free to smear the dead pope as a “horrible man.”
What happened to create such animus against Pius XII within a community that almost universally mourned his passing in 1958?
It has to do with the 1960s. From 1945 to 1960, America and the Catholic Church enjoyed enormous prestige. Both had triumphed over fascism, and Eisenhower’s America and Pius XII’s Rome stood as the twin pillars of Western civilization against Bolshevism.
But a war against the West had begun inside the West. On the hard left, America was no longer the nation that had eradicated fascism. Amerika (spelled with a “k”) was itself a fascist, racist nation stifling progress in Cuba and Vietnam. Rome was no longer a bulwark against Stalinism but an incubator of patriarchy, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. The campaign of vilification began in 1963 when a left-wing German playwright, Rolf Hochhuth, wrote The Deputy, smearing Pius XII as a Nazi collaborator.
The libel has metastasized like a cancer into a Big Lie, and this very useful lie will not be let go by the haters simply because guilt-ridden Catholic clergy scribble little apologias. It is time John Paul II stood up as Vicar of Christ to defend his illustrious predecessor. No better time will come than this season, as we recall that, 2000 years ago, so many cowardly disciples abandoned Christ himself.