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Erin wrote:

Hi, guys —

How does the Catholic Church maintain tax exempt status, while violating the Separation of Church and State, by telling its members how to vote?

Thank you, from a former Catholic.


  { How does the Church maintain a tax exempt status while telling its members how to vote? }

Eric replied:

Hi Erin,

Because the Catholic Church doesn't tell people which candidates to vote for, only what moral issues are important.

For example, Catholic Answers has a voting guide for serious Catholics that discusses five essential issues that Catholics are obliged to take a stand on:

  1. abortion
  2. euthanasia
  3. cloning
  4. embryonic stem-cell research, and
  5. gay marriage

It specifically says what positions Catholics must hold. This guide was approved by the IRS because it covers issues, not candidates. For information on the legal reasons why, see

This only makes sense since, after all, it's the nature of a Church to take moral stands. One can hardly fault it for doing so.


Richard replied:

Hi Erin,

To find out about the advice that the Catholic bishops of the US are giving to voters, see their web site:

Best wishes —

— Richard Chonak

John replied:


The so-called Separation of Church and State is phrase found nowhere in the Constitution.

The phrase itself comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist Congregation in Danbury, Connecticut.

In that letter Jefferson addressed the concerns of the Baptists that Congregationalism would become the official Church of the State and citizens of the United States would be forced to join it, hence the Jefferson's phrase, in context, refers to the Government interfering with Churches.

The Constitution simply says that the Government will not establish a national religion and that everyone has the right to worship according to his or her convictions.

In the mid-20th Century, the Supreme Court starting quoting Jefferson's phrase and indeed wrenched it out of context. So much so, that one dissenting Justice said,

if we keep quoting this phrase, people will begin to think it's in written in the Constitution!

None of this precludes the influence of religion in making of laws. Our basic laws are based on the laws of God: Don't commit murder, don't steal, don't bear false witness and so forth.

I don't know of anyone that would say,

We should abolish laws which prohibit murder and theft because the violate the "separation of Church and State"

Moreover, the Church as individual has a protected right to free speech under the same amendment of the Constitution to which the so-called Separation of Church and State appeals.

More importantly, the Church cannot and will not allow governments to dictate Her moral theology.

Finally, the Separation of Church and State was actually instituted by Christ Himself, when He said render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God. (Matthew 22:21)

It is only because of Christianity that governments practice the separation of Church and State but we render unto Caesar only what is Caesars, not what is Gods. Matters of life and death, marriage, and so forth are not Caesar's purview, they are God's!!

The Church has every right to admonish those who condone immoral marriages and perpetuate the unconscionable genocide of children in womb under the banner of false freedom.


Erin replied:

This is completely untrue.

Catholic priests and pundits are telling their followers to vote for McCain. McCain promotes the killing of adults through war.

A priest on EWTN specifically pronounced that abortion is the only issue for Catholics. Catholic web sites are specifically stating that Palin (who supports illegal wars and killing animals) is a better choice than Obama because he follows the constitution. Catholics are lying by saying that Obama is pro-abortion.

They are misleading their followers on many issues. If what you stated were true, the Catholic Church would be against both candidates.

I thank you for your time, and I pray that Catholics will be blessed with clarity and cease to promote right wing politics.

  • Perhaps a closer look at the actual teachings of Jesus Christ is called for?


Eric replied:

Hi Erin,

You said:
This is completely untrue. Catholic priests and pundits are telling their followers to vote for McCain.

Unfortunately Catholic priests don't speak for the Catholic Church, only the bishops do. Priests should not be telling the faithful to vote for McCain.

You said:
McCain promotes the killing of adults through war.

In Catholic theology, it is worse — far worse — to deliberately kill the innocent, including the unborn innocent, than to kill a combatant in war, or to unintentionally kill an innocent civilian. Also, millions of innocents are killed through abortion, whereas only a few thousand have been killed in total in the Iraq war. The two just don't compare.

You said:
A priest on EWTN specifically pronounced that abortion is the only issue for Catholics.

That is true, but again, that is a moral issue, not an endorsement of a candidate.

You said:
Catholic web sites are specifically stating that Palin (who supports illegal wars and killing animals) is a better choice than Obama because he follows the constitution.

Again, Catholic web sites don't speak for the Catholic Church. If they are not non-profits they can say whatever they wish, too.

I really doubt that Catholic web sites are saying that Palin is a better choice because Obama follows the constitution. In all likelihood, it is your opinion that he is following the constitution for certain reasons and Palin is not. They disagree with your opinion, so you conclude, wrongly, I would submit, that they are opposing the constitution in some way. In all likelihood, they believe they are consistent with it, they just don't agree with your interpretation. I'm not sure what issue you are referring to since the constitution has no bearing on the Iraq war or killing animals.

You said:
Catholics are lying by saying that Obama is pro-abortion.

He gets the top score from NARAL and Planned Parenthood.

  • Do you think he could do so if he was not pro-abortion?

Note: By pro-abortion we mean pro-choice — he supports legislation that legalizes abortion.

Obama is the most pro-choice candidate in national politics today. If he's not pro-abortion, no one is. In our mind, if someone is personally opposed to abortion but supports keeping it legal or reducing legal barriers to it, that person is pro-abortion because from a policy standpoint they support abortion.

Now you may disagree with our semantics but that does not mean that we are lying when we say he's pro-abortion.

You said:
They are misleading their followers on many issues. If what you stated were true, the Catholic Church would be against both candidates.

There is such a thing as choosing the lesser of two evils. Many feel that Obama would be a total catastrophe and the only way to prevent him from being elected is to support McCain.

You said:
I thank you for your time, and I pray that Catholics will be blessed with clarity and cease to promote right wing politics. Perhaps a closer look at the actual teachings of Jesus Christ is called for?

If you look at actual teachings of Jesus Christ, as preserved in the traditions handed down in Christianity throughout the centuries, then the Catholic Church is the one who preserves them.


Erin replied:

You are in complete denial.

  • How can you say with honesty that this war has only killed a few thousand adults?
  • What about all the innocent Iraqis?

You should feel deep shame for your ignorance and for the spreading of lies.

  • Do Catholic priests make it clear that they are not speaking for the Church when telling their followers who to vote for?
  • Why didn't the Republicans, who the Catholic Church endorses and promotes, rule abortion illegal with all the power that they held for six years?

Clearly the Constitution (or, as George Bush put it, "just a god damned piece of paper") is no obstacle considering the Patriot Act and other various signed statements.

Not only is John McCain reprehensible when it comes to the killing of innocents, but also, along with all Republicans, clearly contradict Christ's teachings on the issues of poverty and equality.

I thank you very much for your replies. You have given me much insight and data.

These e-mails, in addition to my knowledge concerning the Vatican's assistance to the Nazis, and the rampant instances of pedophilia have further proven to me what the Catholic Church truly is.

I will make good use of this information.


Eric replied:

You said:
You are in complete denial.

  • How can you say with honesty that this war has only killed a few thousand adults?
  • What about all the innocent Iraqis?

You should feel deep shame for your ignorance and for the spreading of lies.

If I am ignorant, then I am not guilty of spreading a lie. Unless you are going to tell me that over a million people a year are being killed by the war -- according to the pro-abortion, or if you wish pro-choice, Alan Guttmacher Institute there are about 1,200,000 abortions in the U.S. every year -- then it simply doesn't compare. According to, civilian casualties reached a high of at least 3,500 civilian and Iraq security force deaths a month. Assume that's the average (which definitely overestimates it), adding the five thousand or so total coalition military deaths, does not compare with 100,000 deaths by abortion a month.

You said:

  • Do Catholic priests make it clear that they are not speaking for the Church when telling their followers who to vote for?

No, but they should not be telling people who to vote for.

You said:

  • Why didn't the Republicans, who the Catholic Church endorses and promotes, rule abortion illegal with all the power that they held for six years?

Clearly the Constitution (or, as George Bush put it, "just a god damned piece of paper") is no obstacle considering the Patriot Act and other various signed statements.

Because Congress can't make abortion illegal because the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that they could not. Surely, as well informed as you are, you should know that.

You said:
Not only is John McCain reprehensible when it comes to the killing of innocents, but also, along with all Republicans, clearly contradict Christ's teachings on the issues of poverty and equality.

That very well could be, but at least he's not in favor of killing 1,200,000 children a year.

You said:
I thank you very much for your replies. You have given me much insight and data.

These e-mails, in addition to my knowledge concerning the Vatican's assistance to the Nazis,

Now it is you who are misinformed. If the Vatican gave so much assistance to the Nazis:

  • Why did the chief rabbi of Rome, during the war, convert to Catholicism, and take the Pope's given name as his own?
  • Why did Pius XII receive the highest award from the Jews that a Gentile can receive?
  • Why, on December 25, 1941, and December 25, 1942, did the New York Times editorials speak of "a lonely voice" to describe the pope's intervention on behalf of Jews and other victims of the Nazis?

I urge you to read the attached text files at the end of this posting. They give a lot of evidence I'll bet you've never heard.

You said:
and the rampant instances of pedophilia have further proven to me what the Catholic Church truly is.

Curiously, people never use pedophilia as a reason to reject other churches, even though other churches have pedophiles. Nor do people seem to care about so many teachers sexually abusing minors. but all of a sudden, a tiny minority of Catholic priests do what a tiny minority of the rest of the population does and it is used as proof that somehow the religion is nefarious.

I think you need to examine your heart on this question.


Mary Ann replied:

Hi Erin,

In addition to what my confreres have said so well, I would like to add that the only way that the Catholic Church in today's world could be said to be like those who supported Nazis (and the Church did not) would be this:

Those bishops and priests who have not spoken out forcefully against abortion, euthanasia, and embryo farming, are guilty of the same sin as those who did not speak out against the Nazis.

If the issue today were the destruction of Jews, or the destruction of blacks, would you say that the Church is wrong to speak out and tell people that it's a moral imperative to vote against those practices?

These are not political issues, they are issues of basic moral principle. They are not issues of the prudential application of moral principle, but of the principle itself, that one must never intentionally take innocent human life.

Mary Ann

Documents Speak for Themselves on Church, Pius XII, and Nazism
Pacelli Is Pope Who Received Greatest Recognition from Jewish People

JERUSALEM, MAR 24 ( No Pope ever used such strong words to condemn anti-Semitism as John Paul II did yesterday at the Memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem. "As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that, motivated by the evangelical law of truth and love and not by political considerations, the Catholic Church is profoundly saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place."

And yet, leaders of the Jewish world have criticized the Pope for not asking forgiveness for Pius XII's "silence" in face of the Holocaust.

The solemn petition for forgiveness that Pope Wojtyla pronounced on March 12 is not enough for Grand Rabbi Meir Israel Lau, who spoke yesterday on Italian television; the Pope must go a step further, he asserted.

When John Paul II was asked by reporters on the airplane headed for Nigeria a couple years ago what he thought of Pius XII, without hesitation the Holy Father replied: "He was a great Pope." In spite of their enormous difference in temperaments, Pacelli and Wojtyla have many things in common, especially in regard to their teachings on moral issues, their love for the Virgin Mary, their opening to the Church's universality, and the latter's of government. Similarities that have been acknowledged by John Cornwell himself, author of "Hitler's Pope," an attack on Pius XII.

However, in his lifetime, Pius XII received more praise and expressions of gratitude from the Jewish people than any other Bishop of Rome in history. According to several Jewish historians living in Italy, Pius XII and the Church saved between 740,000 and 860,000 Jews from extermination. In Rome alone, during the Nazi occupation 4,447 Jews were hidden in over 155 Catholic houses, ecclesiastical institutions, parishes and schools. In several churches in Rome there are Jewish plaques thanking the Church for saving Jewish lives. This rescue work was done at the express wish of the Pope.

In December of 1940, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to "Time" magazine stating, "Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the case of truth; but no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom. But they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess, that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly."

After the War, Moshe Sharrett, former Foreign Affairs Minister and Prime Minister of Israel, went to see Pius XII "to thank the Catholic Church for what it did to save the Jews in all parts of the world." Like Sharrett, Rabbi Herzog of Jerusalem, as well as the Rabbis of the Italian, U.S., Rumanian, and Hungarian Jewish communities came to Rome or sent messages thanking Pope Pacelli for the way in which he mobilized the Church in their behalf.

At least three of the volumes of the "Acts and Documents of the Holy See Relating to the Second World War, are full of documents written by the Jewish communities worldwide thanking Pius XII and the Catholic Church for the assistance offered to persecuted Jews.

When Pius XII died, Golda Meir wrote: "During the Nazi terror, when our people were subjected to a terrible martyrdom, the Pope's voice was raised to condemn the persecutors and to offer mercy to their victims. We mourn over the death of a great server of peace."

Jacob Philip Rudin, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, said: "His sympathy for all, his wise social vision and his extreme understanding made him a prophetic voice in the service of justice everywhere. May his memory be a blessing for the life of the Roman Catholic Church and the world."

On that same occasion, London's "Jewish Chronicle" recalled that "before, during and after the Second World War, he tried to carry a message of peace. Confronting the monstrous cruelties of Nazism, fascism and communism, he continually proclaimed the virtues of humanity and compassion."

The idea that Pacelli was a philo-Nazi from his time as nuncio in Germany, one of Cornwell's theses in his book, doesn't match up with the facts. When Pacelli was elected Pope, the "Berliner Morgenpost," a pro-Nazi newspaper, stated that "the election of Cardinal Pacelli is not of Germany's liking, as he has always been opposed to Nazism."

The international communist newspaper, "La Correspondance Internationale," dedicated an article to Pope Pacelli's election, saying it was a good election, because he was a man cleared opposed to Nazism.

Following Pius XII's 1942 Christmas radio message, the Gestapo wrote the following in a report: "the Pope has rejected the new National Socialist European Order. He has not attacked National Socialism directly, but he has severely criticized everything we believe... He has spoken clearly in favor of the Jews."

These documents explain the reasons why John Paul II has not asked for pardon for Pius XII's conduct during the Second World War, as forgiveness cannot be asked for faults that have not been committed. These testimonies have also advanced Pope Pacelli's cause for beatification.


The New York Times, Thursday, March 16, 2000
Letters: After the Pope's Apology, a Range of Voices

To the Editor:

"The Pope's Apology" (editorial, March 14) speaks of "the failure of Pope Pius XII to speak out against the Nazi genocide."

In September 1939, The New York Times reported the Vatican's disclosures of Nazi atrocities against Jews and non-Jews in Poland. In 1940, the newspaper reported the Vatican's condemnation of the herding of Jews and Poles into ghettoes as well as Pius XII's publicizing of the mass execution of Poles by the Nazis and his defense of the rights of Jews against the Nazis. In 1942, The Times reported the pope's efforts to save Jews in France. In December 1943, there was an article on Pius XII's denunciation of the Nazi attempt to wipe out the Jews in Italy.

On Dec. 25, 1941, and Dec. 25, 1942, New York Times editorials spoke of "a lonely voice" to describe the pope's intervention on behalf of Jews and other victims of the Nazis.

(Rev.) Vincent A. Lapomarda
Worcester, Mass., March 14, 2000

The writer is coordinator of the Holocaust Collection, College of the Holy Cross.

Some Issues of the New York Times Dealing with the Actions Of Pope Pius XII on Behalf of Jews and other Victims of the Nazis

September of 1939:

Following the outbreak of the war at the start of the month, the newspaper has articles and editorials this month dealing with the disclosures by the Vatican of Nazi atrocities against Jews and non-Jews in Poland.

January 23, 1940:

"Vatican Denounces Atrocities in Poland"

"Jews and Poles are being herded into separate ghettos, hermetically sealed and pitifully inadequate for the economic subsistence of the millions destined to live there."

January 24, 1940:

"Vatican Amplifies Atrocity Reports / Weight of Papacy Put Behind Exposure of Nazi Excesses in Poland."

"Poland's Agony" (editorial on same day):

"Now the Vatican has spoken, with authority that cannot be questioned, and has confirmed the worst intimations of terror which have come out of the Polish darkness."

January 29, 1940:

"Memorandum Presented to Pope"
"Mass Shootings in Poland Laid to Nazis by Cardinal"

March 14, 1940:

Action by Pope in meeting Nazi Foreign Minister:
"Jews' Rights Defended"

December 25, 1941:

Editorial speaks of Pope:
"a lonely voice"

August 27, 1942:

In article, "Vichy Seizes Jews; Pope Pius Ignored," it is stated:

"These arrests are continuing despite appeals to Marshal Henri Philippe Petain   . . . by leading Catholic clergymen, with the support of the Pope."

December 25, 1942:

Editorial speaks of Pope:
"a lonely voice"

December  4, 1943:

Speaking of Vatican:
 "Denounces Decision to Intern and Strip All Jews in Italy"

Pius XII and the Jewish Holocaust

Catholic apologetics must address the subject of Pope Pius XII and the Jewish Holocaust. Since 1963, when Rolf Hochhuth's play THE DEPUTY indicted Pius XII for complicity in the Nazi genocide, it has been a commonplace of editorial writers that the Vatican was a silent, and therefore guilty, bystander to the murder of six million Jews.

But an examination of the facts puts to rout all the charges which are made against the pope by certain parties, none of whom are serious historians. The following are the main points to consider:

  • Before he became Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Pacelli drafted the papal encyclical, MIT BRENNEDNDER SORGE, in which Pius XI denounced Nazi paganism and racism; the document was smuggled into Germany in March, 1937 and read from all Catholic pulpits, which infuriated the Nazis;

  • It is well documented by Jewish scholars like Joseph Lichten of B'nai B'rith that Pius used the assets of the Vatican to ransom Jews from the Nazis and that the Vatican under Pius ran an extensive network of hide-outs. Even the Pope's summer residence, Castel Gondolfo, was used to hide fugitive Jews. The Pope, moreover, took personal responsibility for the children of deported Jews;

  • Largely as a result of the Church's efforts, the Jews in Italy had a far higher survival rate under Nazi occupation than was the case in other countries; estimates of the number of Jews saved by the Vatican's efforts range up to several hundred thousand; this was one reason why the chief Rabbi of Rome converted to Catholicism at the end of the war;

  • In appreciation of what Pius did for the Jews, the World Jewish Congress made a large cash gift to the Vatican in 1945; in the same year, Rabbi Herzog of Jerusalem sent a "special blessing" to the Pope "for his lifesaving efforts on behalf of the Jews during the Nazi occupation of Italy"; and when Pius died in 1958, Israel's Foreign Minister Golda Meir gave him a moving eulogy at the United Nations for the same reason;

  • We share the grief of the world over the death of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. During a generation of wars and dissensions he affirmed the high ideals of peace and compassion. During the ten years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and commiserate with their victims. The life of our time has been enriched by a voice which expressed the great moral truths above the tumults of daily conflicts. We grieve over the loss of a great defender of peace.....What was to be gained by Pius's getting up on a soap box and lashing out at the Nazis? Both the International Red Cross and the World Council of Churches came to the same conclusion as the Vatican: relief efforts for the Jews would be more effective if the agencies remained relatively quiet; yet, you never hear anybody attacking the Red Cross for its "silence" about the Holocaust;

  • In 1942, the Catholic hierarchy of Amsterdam spoke out vigorously against the Nazi treatment of the Jews; the Nazi response was a redoubling of round-ups and deportations; by the end of the war, 90 percent of the Jews in Amsterdam were liquidated. Jewish relief officials were in complete agreement that a public attack by the Vatican against the Nazis would a) not have the slightest effect on Hitler and b) would seriously jeopardize the lives of Jews who were being hidden in convents, monasteries, etc.;

  • Nevertheless, Pius's Christmas message in 1942 decried the fact that hundreds of thousands were being persecuted "solely because of their race or ancestry." The German ambassador to the Vatican complained that Pius was "clearly speaking on behalf of the Jews." A NEW YORK TIMES editorial on Christmas day, 1942 praised Pius as "a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent";

  • The scurrilous lie that Pius somehow quietly abetted the Final Solution began with Rolf Hochhuth's 1962 play THE DEPUTY, which is a total fabrication. One does not need to be a psychologist to understand why a German playwright might do this; it's called guilt transference;

  • Finally, apropos of the Vatican's 1933 concordat with the Nazi government, which Pius XI signed with great misgiving: The Vatican throughout history has had to sign concordats with governments of which it disapproves; the Church has a fundamental duty to serve Catholics wherever they may be and it must have a MODUS OPERANDI with all governments, even (or especially) bad ones. The German concordat guaranteed Catholic marriages, protected Catholic education and allowed the creation of new dioceses; it was not meant to endorse the Nazi government, which the Church condemned on many occasions.

That is a simple outline of the case. The Church's record was not perfect, but how many other institutions did this much?

From A Question of Judgment: Pius XII and the Jews, 1963 by the late Dr. Joseph Lichten, then head of the Intercultural Affairs Department of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith:

"An indictment has been brought down on Pope Pius XII, and by extension on the Catholic Church, of criminal implication in the extermination of some six million Jews during World War II.....What is the case against Pius XII? In brief, that as head of one of the most powerful moral forces on earth he committed an unspeakable sin of omission by not issuing a formal statement condemning the Nazis' genocidal slaughter of the Jews, and that his silence was motivated by reasons considered in modern times as base: political exigency, economic interests and personal ambition.

What is the case for him? That in relation to the insane behavior of the Nazis, from overlords to self styled cogs like Eichmann, he did everything humanly possible to save lives and alleviate suffering among the Jews: that a formal statement would have provoked the Nazis to brutal retaliation, and would substantially have thwarted further Catholic action on behalf of Jews. To the Sacred College of Cardinals Pius XII wrote on June 2, 1943: "Every word that We addressed to the responsible authorities and every one of Our public declarations had to be seriously weighed and considered in the interest of the persecuted themselves in order not to make their situation unwittingly even more difficult and more unbearable."

Pius XII Fed Thousands of Jews in Rome for Two Years
New Book Reveals Vatican Work During World War II

VATICAN CITY, MAR 12 (ZENIT).- Sr Margherita Marchione has written a new book, entitled "Pius XII and The Jews," covering the difficult years of the Second World War and the Holocaust. She presented her book today at Vaticana Radio headquarters, accompanied by Cardinal Edward Isdris Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism.

Debate over Pope Eugenio Pacelli's relations with the Jewish people still rages. Some circles accuse him of keeping "silent" during the Holocaust. John Paul II, on the other hand, has consistently defended the work of his predecessor, to the point of encouraging his cause for beatification.

In order to shed new light on the debate, the Italian edition of Sr Margherita's book has just been published, offering the testimony of Jews saved by the Church and by the Pontiff during those dark years. Pius XII "did everything possible," Sr Margherita explained. "Suffice it to quote the commissar of the Italian Union of Jewish Communities who on September 8, 1945, said to L'Osservatore Romano: 'In the first place, we offer our reverent homage of recognition to the Supreme Pontiff, to the men and women religious who, putting into practice directives from the Holy Father, have looked upon us as brothers, rather than persecuted Jews.' "

Renzo de Felice, one of the most rigorous Italian historians, has proven that there were 150 monasteries and convents in the city of Rome in which Jews were hiding to defend themselves from the Nazi occupation.

The author of the book has not the slightest doubt: "faced with the drama of genocide, Pius XII was not an impassible spectator." The documentation which supports this claim is momentous. "There are twelve volumes of documents in the Vatican archives in which there is proof that the Holy Father did everything possible and that the Jews were extremely grateful. Here, at the Vatican, there was a center where our religious went every day to help the Holy Father answer letters from prisoners all over the world, as well as from their families."

Some sectors of the Jewish world criticize Pope Pius XII, but the book proves they do not represent the majority. Cardinal Cassidy believes that "an important aspect of this book is the collection of testimonies of Jews in Rome and other places who were saved by religious with the help of the Holy See, which gave them their food almost every night for two years. If the Pope had spoken out, how many would have survived? We are speaking about thousands of people. It is a question we must keep in mind. A strong word from the Holy Father would have created a very negative reaction against these persons, even here in Italy."


Additional Evidence of Pius XII's Help to Jews
Church Saved One Million Jews From Certain Death

VATICAN CITY, MAR 15 (ZENIT).- Throughout World War II, Pius XII remained in the Vatican at the heart of occupied Rome, seemingly separated from the action of the war. Many claim today that he was cowardly hiding from the Nazis, refusing to speak out against the atrocities committed around him. The speakers at the Vatican presentation of Sr. Margherita Marchione's new book, "Pius XII and the Jews," paint a different picture.

"The document 'We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,' published by the Holy See on March 12, recalls that, at the end of World War II, Jewish communities and personalities expressed their gratitude for what Pius XII and his representatives did to save the lives of thousands of Jews," noted Cardinal Edward Isdris Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Commission for Relations with Judaism.

During his address, Cardinal Cassidy said, "Cardinals, bishops, priests and religious sheltered Jews, at times for months. Even cloistered religious did not hesitate, there severe canonical restrictions notwithstanding, to save Jews and expose themselves and their communities to grave reprisals by the German occupation. Sister Margherita Marchione's congregation, the Pious Philippine Teachers, cared for 114 Jews whose lives were in danger. Recently, Israel's ambassador in Italy gave the Medal of the Just to the Sisters of Sion who saved 187 Jews."

"In reflecting on the Holocaust, we are not trying to deny that there were Catholics who did not offer as much help as they could have to the persecuted, but we do have some heroic Christian testimonies. They were witnesses of evangelic love, of the love Jesus Christ taught his disciples in very clear words: 'Love your neighbor as yourself' and 'I give you a new commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.' "

Cardinal Cassidy ended his talk by recalling what Golda Meir -- Foreign Minister and later Prime Minister of Israel -- wrote when Pius XII died: "We share humanity's sorrow ... When the terrible martyrdom was unleashed on our people, the Pope raised his voice on behalf of the victims. Life in our times was enriched by a voice that spoke clearly, above the daily tumult, on the great moral truths. We mourn for a great servant of peace."

Senator Giulio Andreotti, former Italian prime minister, said that as soon as the calumnies against Pius XII started, Giuseppe Saragat, who was Italian Foreign Minister at that time, wrote: "I, myself, am convinced Pius XII was a great Pope and that the campaign against him is orchestrated for partisans. So many years after his death, this is unacceptable not just for Catholics, but for all men of good will.... Innumerable episodes reveal the spirit behind Pius XII's activity, especially here in Rome, the capital of the Republic, where there is living testimony from all citizens on Pius XII's work; moreover, instead of going to a safe place protected by Allied troops, as others did, he stayed in his place, in the middle of the storm, giving aid to neighborhoods stricken by the fury of the war, and trying to pry innocent victims away from Nazi barbarism.... In any event, the controversy that has broken out over the memory of Pius XII is not a cultural debate; it is founded on calumnies and lies that have nothing to do with historical and cultural research. In the debates against Pius XII we seethe cold, calculating propaganda of those trying to excuse Nazism from horrific crimes by making the Roman Catholic Church co-responsible."

Fr Peter Gumpel, process reporter for Pius XII's beatification cause, made a detailed explanation of the way opinions on Pope Pacelli changed over a period of twenty years. "At the end of the War, all the large Jewish organizations of the world, the chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, New York, Denmark, Bulgaria, Rumania and Rome, and thousands of Jews who survived the persecution expressed their gratitude and affection for what Pius XII had done for them. After 1963, there was a complete turn around, following the play 'The Deputy,' written by Rolf Hochhuth, a very young playwright. At the end of the play, which was translated into several languages, the author included an historical appendix. Any historian who reads that text would appreciate its superficiality. There are quotations with no references and unjustified declarations. Hochhuth himself admitted that where he had no documentation, he gave free rein to fantasy. It is interesting to note that his thesis is identical to the one Stalin spread to all the countries under communist occupation; perhaps this coincidence is not accidental."

Father Gumpel noted that the first to attack Hochhuth's play were some Jewish historians, among whom were Emilio Pinchas Lapide and Jeno Levai. Lapide wrote that "the Holy See, the nuncios and the Catholic Church saved between 700,000 and 860,000 Jews from certain death." Levai published a book documenting the Church's role in saving thousands of Hungarian Jews: "Hungarian Jewry and the Papacy: Pius XII Did Not Keep Silent."

In regard to anti-Semitic accusations, Father Gumpel said that "on March 25, 1928 the Holy Office published a document stating, 'The Church fully condemns the hatred against the chosen people of God, that hatred is currently called anti-Semitism.' The condemnation was made in 1928, in other words, five years before Hitler came to power, and the document was directed against authors who had left the Catholic Church to promote racism and an exaggerated nationalism, the exaltation of the Nordic race, and scorn for everything else."

To dispel any lingering doubts about Pius XII's relations with Nazism, Father Gumpel said, "when Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was elected Pope, the Nazi government, led by Adolf Hitler, was the only one that did not send an official delegation to the ceremony."


Document Reveals Jews' Recognition of Pius XII's Support
Generous Jewish Donation to Catholic Church Following World War II

ROME, JUL 30 (ZENIT).- Contrary to some recent historical readings, which tend to picture Pius XII as silent, if not condescending, on the question of Nazi anti-Semitism, a document has been discovered in Israel that not only confirms Pius XII's role in defense of persecuted Jews, but reveals that world leaders of the Jewish communities at the time were very aware of his action, to the point that after the war they came to Rome and gave the Catholic Church a very generous donation.

The document was discovered by Lorenzo Cremonesi, the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera's" Jerusalem correspondent, who is completing a book on the history of Israel's relations with the Holy See. Cremonesi spoke about his discovery to the magazine "Tempi," sympathetic to the Communion and Liberation movement. While examining the Israeli archives, Cremonesi found a letter from the Vatican, dated October 27, 1945, signed by Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini - the future Paul VI, who at the time worked in the Secretariat of State; it was addressed to Raffaele Cantoni, President of the Italian Jewish communities. In the letter, Montini gave detailed information on a conversation between Pius XII and Leo Kubwitsky, secretary general of the World Jewish Congress.  Montini wrote that during an audience, on behalf of his organization, Kubwitsky gave Pius XII more than one million dollars (at the present value) for "charity works" and expressed "his gratitude to the august Pontiff for his work in support of persecuted Jews."

Montini added, moreover, that Pius XII decided that "the sum should go exclusively to needy persons of Jewish origin." The news has awakened some interest but, as Fr. Peter Gumpel, reporter for Pius XII's beatification cause and an expert in the history of the period, has pointed out, "This is nothing new. It is news that has been published before. And it is only one of hundreds of testimonials of affection and gratitude that different Jewish representatives expressed to Pope Pacelli."

Fr. Pierre Blet, former professor of Ecclesiastical History at the Gregorian, who was one of four persons appointed by Paul VI to compile the "Holy See's Acts and Documents of the Second World War," recalled that in at least three of the twelve volumes of this monumental work, specifically in Nos. 8, 9 and 10, are to be found "all the official documents in which the Jewish communities, the Rabbis of half the world, and other refugees, thank Pius XII and the Catholic Church for all the help and work in their favor."


Pius XII Rehabilitated by Jewish Historian
New Documents Prove Nazis Distrusted Him for Helping Jews

ROME, JULY 7 ( "Hitler distrusted the Holy See because it hid Jews," stated Jewish historian Richard Breitman.

He has written 5 books, one of which is on the Holocaust, and another on Nazism. Breitman confirms the role played by Pius XII in defending and safeguarding the persecuted during the Nazi regime.

The professor at American University in Washington, is a consultant for the working group for the restitution of Jewish property, which group has obtained the declassification of the OSS dossier. In an interview with the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" on June 29, Breitman (who to date is the only person authorized to study the OSS documents of U.S. espionage during the Second World War), explained that the documents "are only the tip of the iceberg. Over the next 3 years, additional millions of pages will be made public. But what impressed him most in regard to Italy, was German hostility toward the Pope, and the September 1943 plan to "Germanize" the country. Breitman also found "the Allied silence on the Holocaust surprising. Their first testimonies are from the end of 1942..."

Asked about relations between Pius XII and the Germans, Breitam responded: "In general, the Germans considered the Pope as an enemy. In a telegram, someone suggested to play on his old anti-communism, to induce him to 'understand' Nazism, and to take him from Rome to the north: the Vatican and Germany would have formed a common front against the USSR, and the Vatican would fall under Berlin's control. But the proposal was rejected because the majority knew that Pius XII would never leave Rome, and that the Vatican was on the side of the Allies."

How did they know it? "The Nazis had spies in the Vatican. Among their dispatches deciphered by our espionage one spoke of an Allied plan to disembark in Sardinia, another of the departure of a diplomatic train with Jews on board, transported from Rome to Spain. Only the Vatican was up-to date, the Nazi 'moles' told general Karl Wolff, SS chief in Italy. Berlin distrusted the Pope and the Vatican, because it knew they hid Jews."

Breitman's statements in part deny the thesis of those who at present speak of Pius XII as "Hitler's Pope" and, at the same time, confirm the hypotheses, advanced at other times by Catholic historians and researchers, according to whom the OSS documents and those of the corresponding British secret service, would result in demonstrating how great and meritorious was the action carried out by the Vatican in favor of the persecuted. Sadly, the respective U.S. and British dispatches have to date denied Catholic historians permission to see these documents but, sooner or later, truth will end up in the public domain.


New Revelations On Jews Saved By Pius XII
Includes Testimonies by Founders of Israel

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2001 ( - As early as 1939, Pius XII organized special operations to help Jews persecuted by Nazism, according to a new book on the Vatican's prewar and wartime activity.

In "The Jews Saved by Pius XII" ("Gli ebrei salvati da Pio XII"), which goes on sale in Italy today, journalist Antonio Gaspari gathers numerous testimonies in favor of Pius XII and the Catholic Church expressed by founders of the state of Israel, leaders of Jewish associations, and survivors of concentration camps.

Gaspari is the author of a best seller published in Spain, Italy, and Latin America, entitled "The Jews, Pius XII, and the Black Legend". (Planeta and Testimonio, Publishers) This work highlights many activities organized by the Vatican, and requested secretly by Eugenio Pacelli, to defend and hide the Jews.

The new book is published by Logos.

These are stories that now, almost 60 years later, emerge from anonymity. One is that of the 51 Jews hidden in the Dermatological Institute of the Immaculate in 1943. The religious, Sons of the Immaculate Conception, who managed this hospital had an original idea: to hospitalize in their premises all Jews in danger of losing their lives. Since they had to give the Germans reasons for the admission of so many patients, they used all kinds of creams to confound the enemy.

The doctors soon became friends of their pseudo-patients. When one of them arrived at the hospital and someone there asked what was wrong with him, the doctors answered, "Kesselring's syndrome," the surname of a German officer in Rome.

A unique atmosphere was created, to the point that hymns were sung, saying: "Hail Mary, our hope, give our Jews a roof."

The volume contradicts American Susan Zucotti's thesis, who in her book "Under His Very Windows -- The Vatican and The Holocaust in Italy" (Yale University Press) contends that, although the Church saved many Jews, this was the isolated action of priests and religious. The Vatican and the Pope, Zucotti claims, never gave any sign of help.

"This is a thesis that is impossible to defend," Gaspari explained. "Few know that as early as 1939, Pius XII had created a special department for the Jews in the German section of the Vatican Information Office. Some 36,877 papers were processed in favor of the Jews. This work is referred to in Jewish publications like the Canadian Jewish Chronicle."

"In the city of Rome alone," he continued, "the Jewish community has attested that the Church saved 4,447 Jews from Nazi persecution. In fact, an inscription in the Museum of the History of the Liberation of Rome, states: 'The Congress of delegates of the Italian Jewish community, held in Rome for the first time since the liberation, feels the urgent duty to render reverent homage to Your Holiness, and expresses the most profound feeling of gratitude that inspires all Jews, for the evidence of human fraternity shown to them by the Church during the years of persecution, when their life was endangered by Nazi barbarism.'"

Gaspari recounted several stories of this nature. For example, he quoted an unimpeachable source: Gideon Hausner, Israeli general prosecutor at Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann's trial, who said on Oct. 18, 1961: "The Italian clergy helped numerous Jews and hid them in monasteries, and the Pope intervened personally in support of those arrested by the Nazis."

Among the new documents published by Gaspari, is a letter of Pius XII sent to Sister Ferdinanda (Maria Corsetti), awarded by the Israeli government with the title "Righteous Among the Nations," in which Jews are referred to as "beloved children."

Pius XII intervened on several occasions in a personal capacity, through the Vatican state secretariat or its intermediaries, to save the Jews. In the case of 1,000 German Jews who wanted to emigrate to Brazil, the Pontiff paid out of his own pocket the $800 each needed for the trip.


Pope Pius XII Opposed Deportations Imposed in Occupied Rome

JERUSALEM, MAR 1 (ZENIT).- After guarding Adolf Eichmann's secret diaries for almost 40 years, yesterday the Israeli government made them public. Eichmann, a Nazi SS lieutenant colonel, was executed in 1962 in Israel for "crimes against the Jewish people and against humanity", for his central role in helping to carry out the Nazi holocaust.

Eichmann wrote these diaries during the months following his death sentence. They are especially chilling in their description of the way the Nazi regime came to the "Final Solution" against the Jews, and the way the extermination was implemented.

The pages are also very interesting in studying the Vatican's position on the persecution of Jews. Some people accuse the Church of having done nothing in October, 1943, when the Nazis began to deport Jews from their "ghetto" in Rome.

However, Eichmann wrote that the Vatican "vigorously protested the arrest of Jews, requesting the interruption of such action; to the contrary, the Pope would denounce it publicly."

This is a confirmation of the statements of those historians who have collected documents on the actions undertaken by the Vatican to defend Jews from the Holocaust during those dark years.

It must be kept in mind that Rome was occupied, and that the Church was the only institution that had the courage to denounce the Nazi action.

In a chapter about Italy, Eichmann explains that "on October 6, 1943, ambassador Moelhausen sent a telegraphic message to Foreign Minister Ribbentrop in which he said that general Keppler, SS commander in Rome, had received a special order from Berlin: he had to arrest 8,000 Jews who were living in Rome to deport them to northern Italy, where they would be exterminated. General Stahel, commander of the German forces in Rome, explained to ambassador Moelhausen that, from his point of view, it would be better to use the Jews for fortification works. On October 9, however, Ribbentrop answered that the 8,000 Jews of Rome had to be deported to the Mathausen concentration camp. He emphasized that, in giving evidence under oath in the military prison of Gaeta on June 27, 1961, Kappler said that it was with that order that for the first time he heard the term 'Final Solution.' "

"At that time, my office received the copy of a letter, that I immediately gave to my direct superiors, sent by the Catholic Church in Rome, in the person of Bishop Hudal, to the commander of the German forces in Rome, general Stahel. The Church was vigorously protesting the arrest of Jews of Italian citizenship, requesting that such actions be interrupted immediately throughout Rome and its surroundings. To the contrary, the Pope would denounce it publicly. The Curia was especially angry because these incidents were taking place practically under Vatican windows. But, precisely at that time, without paying any attention to the Church's position, the Italian fascist government passed a law ordering the deportation of all Italian Jews to concentration camps," Eichmann wrote in his diary.

"The objections given and the excessive delay in the steps necessary to complete the implementation of the operation, resulted in a great part of Italian Jews being able to hide and escape capture," Eichmann wrote. A good number of them hid in convents and monasteries, and were helped by priests, nuns and other men and women of the Church.

On Hitler, the Holy See and the Jews (Part 1)
Interview With Historian Father Giovanni Sale

ROME, JUNE 11, 2004 ( The Holy See was farsighted in understanding the dangers inherent in Nazism long before World War II, says a new book.

The book, "Hitler, la Santa Sede e gli Ebrei" (Hitler, the Holy See, and the Jews), Jaca Book publishers, is written by Father Giovanni Sale. In it, the Gregorian University professor analyzes the relations between the Third Reich and the Vatican during 1933-1945.

The book refers to unpublished archive documentation, in particular that of the Vatican Secret Archives relating to the nunciatures of Monaco and Berlin, and that of the review Civiltà Cattolica.

ZENIT interviewed Father Sale about the findings published in the book. Part 2 of this interview appears Sunday.


Historiography has neglected what the Catholic clergy did to oppose Hitler and National Socialism from coming to power in Germany. Can you explain how the Catholic Church conducted itself?

Father Sale:

With the recent opening of the Vatican Archives relating to the nunciatures of Monaco and Berlin, 1922-39, we now have the possibility to better assess how that prophetic political change of January 30, 1933, was commented upon and judged by the highest authorities of the Catholic Church at the time.

A series of reports, written by Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, the apostolic nuncio in Berlin, gives us the possibility to better assess those events.

The first German bishop to take action against National Socialism was the archbishop of Mainz, who already in September 1930 published some norms with the objective of impeding Catholics from being contaminated by the National Socialist epidemic. However, not all the German bishops approved them, considering them too harsh in content and, in any event, they judged the episcopal document premature, as Hitlers movement was still in the process of formation.

Moreover, some bishops were of the opinion that it was not necessary to give too much credit to theoretical constructs of some intellectuals of the Hitlers movement, such as the anti-Christian ideologist Rosenberg, while, instead, it was necessary to consider that the National Socialist Party was the only one that opposed with determination the advance of Bolshevism in Europe.

With the passing of time, however, the whole German episcopate associated itself with the line of conduct of the ordinary of Mainz -- "driven," nuncio Orsenigo wrote, "by the persistent irreligious attitude of some leaders of National Socialism."

In the Prussian bishops' conference meeting in Fulda from August 17-19, 1932, it was decided, "keeping in mind the danger that the National Socialist Movement might constitute for souls," to issue dispositions that would prohibit Catholics from belonging to Hitlers party. The document was approved unanimously.

It was on the occasion of the electoral campaign for political elections of March 5, 1933, that the opposition between National Socialism and the Catholic world came into focus for the first time.

In a dispatch of February 16, 1933, sent to the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Orsenigo talked about the gravity of the situation and the harshness of the political clash under way between the parties, and about the orientation of Catholics in the political realm and the manipulation of religion for party ends.

"The electoral struggle in Germany," the nuncio wrote, "has now entered its acute stage. [...] Unfortunately, even the Catholic religion is often used by one or the other parties for electoral purposes. The Center Party naturally has almost total support from the clergy and Catholics and, yet to have a momentary victory, it acts without being overly concerned with the painful consequences, which might ensue for Catholicism, should the adversary gain a full victory."

In fact, during the electoral campaign, the religious element was seriously exploited for reasons of political propaganda both by the governing parties and the Zentrum [the Catholic Center Party].

The latter, considered by many as a "confessional party," appealed to Christian values to condemn and combat the principles of National Socialism; National Socialism, instead, appealed to the struggle against Communism to mobilize the Catholic forces against the common enemy. And we also know that many men of the Church were not at all insensitive to such an appeal.

In general, the control exercised by the German Catholic hierarchy during the whole period of the electoral campaign was marked by great prudence and a sense of responsibility. In general, it did everything possible not to fuel, with partisan or improvised statements, the existing conflict between National Socialism and the Zentrum.

The Holy See did as much as well. From the documentation consulted, we see that in fact neither the Holy See nor the nuncio in Berlin intervened in any way to influence the bishops and the leaders of the Center party in a specific direction.

In those months, the Secretariat of State limited itself only to examine what was happening in Germany, and tried in every way to remain outside of the complicated German political questions. Nevertheless, the secretariat looked with apprehension at all that was occurring in those months in such an important nation for the destiny of Europe.

Although sharing the point of view of the German bishops in their condemnation of the National Socialist ideology, and nourishing intense concern for the destiny of the Catholic Church in that country, the Vatican was also aware of the danger of an eventual "Bolshevization" of Germany, which would have drawn the whole of Continental Europe into conflict, consigning it defenseless to Communism.

This explains why at that moment the Vatican did not judge with excessive rigor Hitler's coming to power, much less so his political plan to create a Germany with a strong, authoritarian government on the model of that of Mussolini.

The most controversial issue from the historical point of view refers, however, to the decisive support given by the Zentrum to the consolidation of Hitlers dictatorship, through the voting of the law on full powers of March 23, 1933.

It should be recalled that the granting of full legislative powers by the Reichstag to the chancellor was a procedure, although exceptional, provided by the Constitution and, therefore, legitimate.

In our opinion, the responsibility of the Zentrum in regard to the consolidation of the power of National Socialism is limited to the fact that with its vote it made possible the enlargement of the chancellor's powers.

This did not mean, however, the assumption of absolute power -- which remained in the hands of the army and of the president of the republic -- by Hitler, of which he was subsequently invested by simple decree, undersigned by himself, after President Hindenburg's death.

So, to put the burden of the advent of Hitlers dictatorship on the Zentrum, as is often done by certain political journalism, seems to us, in addition to unjust, also erroneous on the plane of historical truth.

It was the reactionary and conservative forces of the state that permitted National Socialism to attain power in Germany and it was always the latter that allowed Hitler -- although they did not know the ideas and political plan -- to be invested with full powers, deluding themselves by the idea of being able to dominate and manipulate him to their own advantage.

Nor should it be forgotten, moreover, that it was the voters in the elections of March 5, 1933, who confirmed such a choice, giving to Hitlers party a high percentage of the votes.

If on March 23 the Center Party had refused to vote full powers to the National Socialists -- who for the purpose of intimidating the Deputies had the building where the meeting was taking place surrounded by the SA -- it would have used force to obtain this result, even by spilling innocent blood.

In our opinion, the Deputies of the Center who voted in March 1933 the law of delegation of powers acted in good faith, thinking in this way of rendering a good service to the homeland, to preserve social and political peace and save the Constitution. And they certainly did not have before their eyes all the negative effects -- many of which at that time were unforeseeable -- which would then follow that assumption of powers.


National Socialist ideology turned out to be pagan and decidedly anti-Christian. But the most serious clash between the Nazis and the Catholic Church occurred with the 1933 law on compulsory sterilization. It was with this law that the Nazis began to implement in a criminal manner the selection of race. Can you illustrate for us how the Catholic Church reacted?

Father Sale:

In reality, the disagreements between the Holy See and National Socialism began already the day after the stipulation of the July 1933 Concordat, when, without hesitation, Hitler began to violate not just the spirit but also the letter, limiting at his pleasure the rights of the Church in matters of associations, formation, etc.

However, as early as April 1933 the Holy See had let Hitler know, either through channels of papal diplomacy or through the mediation of Mussolini, of disapproval of the anti-Semitic legislation adopted by the new government, as it was in violation of the natural law and did everything possible to attenuate its rigor.

It should be said, in any case, that it was the law on compulsory sterilization which entered into force at the beginning of 1934 that represented the first instance of a clash between the Vatican authority and that of the new German Reich, now decided on carrying out its eugenic theories in the matter of racial selection -- theories that Pius XI openly condemned in the 1931 encyclical "Casti Connubii."

At the request of the Holy See, the German episcopate did everything possible -- through pastoral letters, personal contacts with leaders of the regime, etc. -- to obtain the modification of the law on sterilization.

Such mobilization of the German Catholic world led in fact to the modification of the regulation of the application of the law, which was published on December 5, 1933.

It contained two important clauses, which were drafted to be inserted in the final text by representatives of the bishops after exhausting meetings with government authorities and against the resistance of the radical wing of the National Socialist Party.

The first allowed persons affected by hereditary illnesses who did not want to be sterilized to recover in a clinic or health center; the second guaranteed exemption to members of staff who for reasons of conscience did not wish to be involved or be present at operations for sterilization.

More fortunate was the courageous complaint made by some German bishops in 1941 against the program of euthanasia of individuals carriers of hereditary illnesses, especially mental patients -- the very ones on whom sterilization was practiced in virtue of the law of 1933 -- whose maintenance was considered too onerous by the state.

It was Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen of Muenster who, in a homily on August 3, 1941, recounted in particular how patients were killed who were brought in some cases, purposely predisposed to this objective, and how relatives were given false news on the death of their dear ones.

The bishop condemned these killings with force, describing them as real and proper crimes, and requested that those who were responsible be punished.

The lack of respect for human life, he continued, led in the end to the physical elimination of all people held to be unable to work, such as the seriously ill, the elderly and wounded soldiers returning from the front.

Woe to the German people, von Galen warned, if it allows the killing of the innocent, leaving unpunished those who perpetrate such crimes.

The homily made a profound impression among the civilian people and also among German soldiers fighting at the front. The Nazi leaders, seeing themselves attacked by the bishop's denunciation, reacted with violence. Some called immediately for the hanging of von Galen, accused of the crime of high treason.

However, Hitler reluctantly decided to put off the rendering of accounts with the Church until the end of the war, in order not to create ill will among the civilian population of that important region, and among numerous Catholic soldiers.

In any event, an order of the Führer on the same date, August 3, 1941, officially blocked the further implementation of the euthanasia program. In subsequent years, despite Hitler's order, euthanasia continued to be practiced in some special situations. But the official program on a large scale was never taken up again.

[Sunday: Pius XI's courageous encyclical]


On Hitler, the Holy See and the Jews (Part 2)
Interview With Historian Father Giovanni Sale

ROME, JUNE 13, 2004 ( Pope Pius XI's 1937 encyclical against Nazism commanded world attention and was widely seen as a heroic denunciation of Hitler's regime, says a historian.

Father Giovanni Sale, a professor of history at the Gregorian University, in Part 1 of this interview clarified the position of the Holy See and of German Catholics in regard to the rise of Hitler's movement.

In Part II, the historian-priest clarifies the position of Pius XI and Pius XII vis-à-vis Nazism. Father Sale is author of the recently published "Hitler, la Santa Sede e gli Ebrei" (Hitler, the Holy See, and the Jews), Jaca Book publishers.


The encyclical "Mit Brennender Sorge" and the fact that Hitler was not able to visit the Vatican show the Holy See's hostility to the Nazi regime. What is your opinion about Pius XI's conduct toward the Nazi regime?

Father Sale:

The recent opening of the Vatican Archives relating to the nunciatures of Munich and Berlin shed new light on Hitler's truncated visit to the Vatican -- during his state visit to Rome in 1938 -- as well as on the writing and dissemination in Germany of the encyclical "Mit Brennender Sorge," that is, Pius XI's encyclical against Nazism.

The new available Vatican documentation informs us in an amazingly detailed manner on the vicissitudes linked to the reception of this encyclical by the states and the realms of international diplomacy.

The sources show that the encyclical was interpreted at that time, by the majority of Western countries not linked to Germany, as a courageous act of denunciation of Nazism, of racist doctrines, and of the idolatry of the state that it professed, as well as of its violent methods of social discipline.

"Mit Brennender Sorge" [...] had truly worldwide resonance. Especially for political reasons, it was one of the first papal acts that went beyond the frontiers of the Catholic world: It was read by believers and nonbelievers, by Catholics and Protestants. Moreover, for the first time the latter gave public recognition to a papal document, something which shortly before was unthinkable.

According to a prestigious Dutch Protestant newspaper, the encyclical "would be valid" also for Christians of the Reformation, "as in it the Pope does not limit himself to defend the rights of Catholics, but also those of religious freedom in general."

Of course, "Mit Brennender Sorge" was received in different ways, according to the sensibility and political culture of many of the people who read it.

The fact is, as we have already stated, that it was interpreted generally not only as an act of protest of the Holy See because of the continuous violations of the Concordat by the German government, or as a doctrinal repudiation of the errors of National Socialism, but above all as an act of denunciation of Nazism itself and of its Führer. And this was understood immediately by the leaders of the Reich.

It is true, as those who have commented on the encyclical have stressed, that it never mentions either National Socialism or Hitler. But if one goes beyond the "letter" of the document, it is easy to perceive behind every page, every phrase a genuine accusation against the Hitlerite system and against its racist and neo-pagan theories.

This was understood by the great majority of the readers of the papal document. That is why it became one of the most important and most courageous denunciations of Nazi barbarism, pronounced in an authoritative manner by the Bishop of Rome, when a great part of the European political world still regarded Hitler with a mixture of admiration, surprise and fear.


Another great debate is that of Pius XII and the Holocaust. What have you concluded after your historical research? What did Pope Pacelli do in face of the persecution of Jews?

Father Sale:

In regard to the Jews deported to territories occupied by the Reich, the action taken in their favor by the Holy See's diplomacy was oriented in the direction of the governments of countries allied to Germany, where there was a Catholic majority and a "combative" episcopate.

A note of April 1, 1943, from the Secretariat of State said: "To avoid the mass deportation of Jews, which is taking place in many countries of Europe, the Holy See has requested the attention of the nuncio of Italy, of the chargé d'affaires of Slovakia, and of the Holy See's charge in Croatia."

Using the Vatican diplomatic channels, he did all he could to obtain something -- often, unfortunately, very little -- in favor of the Jews from those governments. It is known, moreover, that he exhorted the local episcopate, in particular the German, to strongly denounce the horrors committed by the Nazis against Catholics and Jews.

It should be recalled that the greater part of papal interventions had as their principal objective to defend Catholic Jews and to guarantee the indissolubility of marriages between Jews and Catholics, based on the concordats stipulated with these states. Really, the Holy See could not ask or do more through the official diplomatic channels.

After the occupation of Poland, Germany had answered the Holy See that it was requesting the application of the German Concordat to all Polish territories "included" in the Reich. In fact, it was not even applied in the German territory.

The archives of the Reich's Foreign Ministry are full of periodic addresses of the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, on the Jews. However, the dispatches he sent to the Secretariat of State show how difficult his situation was.

One of them, of October 19, 1942, says: "Despite the precautions, I have tried to talk with the Foreign Minister but, as usual, especially when it is a question of people who are not Aryan, he replied, 'There is nothing to do.' Any issue on the Jews is systematically rejected or ignored."

In this connection, one often perceives a sense of impotence and discouragement in the words of the Vatican diplomats. The diplomatic activity of the Holy See in favor of the Jews was not, however, as some say, totally useless and ineffective. Sometimes it succeeded in "slowing down" the deportation operations or, when it could do nothing else, in excluding some categories of persons from it.

Part of recent historiography, especially of the United States, ignores this activity carried out by the Holy See in favor of the Jews. It denounces the "silence" of Pius XII, considering it "culpable." According to them, the Pope had the duty to denounce what was happening in Europe, even if he had to endanger his own life.

The truth is that this not only would have exposed the Pope's life to Nazi reprisal -- which on several occasions he said he was willing to accept -- but that of all bishops, priests, men and women religious, who lived in the Occupied Territories, as well as the security of millions of Catholics.

On the so-called Final Solution, from the sources I have consulted, some of them kept in our archive of Civiltà Cattolica, it is clear that the Pope did not have sufficient and accurate information. Basing himself on nebulous and at times contradictory news, he knew that very many Jews, without any culpability and only because of their race, were killed by Nazis in different ways. In fact, shortly before, the same had happened to many Polish Catholics, for the sole reason of their nationality.

But he knew nothing about the Final Solution. Until 1944, the Vatican was not even aware of the existence of Auschwitz. Allied propaganda itself, despite the fact that it described German atrocities, savage reprisals and other things, said nothing about the extermination camps.

The first certain news was had with the famous Auschwitz Protocol, in which two young Jews, who fled from the Auschwitz concentration camp in the spring of 1944, denounced to the world the extermination of their brothers in the gas chambers. The text, known in part already in June of the same year, was not fully published until the month of November.

What did the Allies know about the Final Solution? Certainly more than the Pope. According to historian Richard Breitman, both Roosevelt and Churchill knew much about the systematic extermination of Jews, as their secret services deciphered the SS' coded communications.

According to Breitman, a strong denunciation of the crimes by the Allies would have constituted a serious obstacle to the implementation of the Final Solution, but it did not take place.


In your book, you dedicate two chapters to Pius XII's 1942 radio message. Can you explain to us why that radio-message is so important?

Father Sale:

Pius XII's 1942 Christmas radio message, dedicated to the pacification of states, presenting the moral and natural law as criteria for the re-establishment of a new order among nations, is one of the most significant and at the same time most controversial acts of Pope Eugenio Pacelli's pontificate.

When it was pronounced, it had an enormous echo in all the continents and was heard and appreciated even outside the Catholic world. Newspapers and magazines of different cultural and political orientation published ample passages and commentaries, benevolent in the majority of cases.

Very different was the reception given the papal message by governments and the world of diplomacy. It was received with open hostility by the Axis powers, in particular by Germany, and with open indifference by the Allied powers, in particular by the English.

In it, the Pope not only repudiated the new "European order" that National Socialism sought to establish, but it condemned explicitly the atrocities of the war, both the blanket bombings carried out by the Allies on German cities, as well as the atrocities carried out by the Germans against innocent civilians.

In particular, the Pope denounced the extermination of European Jews. "This desire for peace," the Pope said, "humanity owes to the hundreds of thousands of persons who, for no fault at all, at times only for reasons of nationality or race, are destined to death or are left to died gradually."

If this passage of the radio message was practically ignored in the international press, this was not the case of the attentive National Socialist censorship.

Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Reich's Foreign Minister, immediately ordered the German ambassador to the Holy See to inform the Pope on the position of the German government: "There is an impression that the Vatican is prepared to abandon its normal attitude of neutrality and to take positions against Germany. It is your responsibility to inform it that in such a case Germany is not lacking in means of reprisal."


What did the Pope himself think of the content of that year's Christmas message? Was he convinced that he had denounced to the world the horrors of war, of deportation, and of the massacre of innocent peoples, such as the Jews?

Father Sale:

From the reports of the ambassadors of Allied countries it would seem that he did: The Pope was completely convinced of having fulfilled to the end his duty before God and before the tribunal of history.

In a letter of April 30, addressed to Archbishop K. von Preysing of Berlin, he wrote with a serene tone that "he has said a word on what is being done at present against those who are not Aryans in the territories under German authority. It was a brief mention but it was well understood."

Also with the director of Civiltà Cattolica, Pius XII made reference to the Christmas message, in which he evidently unburdened his pastor's heart and conscience. "The Holy Father spoke first of all of his recent Christmas message, which seems to have been well received in general, despite the fact that it was certainly rather strong," Father Martegani said.

The Pope, therefore, was "subjectively" convinced of having denounced before the world what was happening to those who were not Aryan in the territories under German authority, of having spoken out "strongly" against the horrors of the war and, in particular, against the Nazi crimes.

Some historians maintain, however, that this denunciation was insufficient, dictated by reasons of political-diplomatic prudence and not so much by human sentiments. In any case, according to these interpreters, it was "objectively" inadequate to the great tragedy that was taking place in the heart of Europe.

The attitude of "prudence" before the belligerents for which the Holy See opted during the war was revealed inadequate above all at that moment, the historians comment, insufficient to respond to the grave needs of the moment.

According to them, the civil world expected from the Pope, the supreme moral and spiritual figure of the Christian West, not so much "prudent," "balanced," and even just words, but rather "words of fire" when it came to denouncing the violations of human rights, despite the fact that this might put in danger the lives of innumerable Catholics, both clergy and laity, who lived in territories of the Reich. In this way, the Pope would have fulfilled his high prophetic mission.

From my point of view, this historical judgment on Pius XII's action is extremely simplistic at the level of historical facts, and unjust from the subjective point of view.

It does not take into account the real difficulties of the historical moment in which the Pontiff's work was carried out and, at the same time, completely dispenses with Pope Pacelli's sensibility and culture.

Some historians speak of the Pope and the papacy in an abstract, ideological manner, without considering the fact that the Petrine ministry is made concrete at the historical level in the person of particular individuals, with their virtues and human limitations, and that in her concrete action, the Church like all institutions with a long tradition, looks to the past and at the same time to the future, as well as the present needs and urgencies.

I have tried to demonstrate that Pius XII was "subjectively" convinced of having spoken out "strongly." He believed that the way he had expressed his denunciation was the most appropriate, the most just for that particular moment.

He was convinced he had said "everything" and "clearly" and of having done so in a way that would not expose to Nazi reprisals faithful Catholics who were living in territories of the Reich, and Jews.

For him, this was a point of the greatest importance for which he would have sacrificed anything, as he said clearly both during the war as well as immediately after.

In short, one can discuss ad infinitum over the fact that the Pope's denunciation was or was not adequate to the gravity of the moment; and above all, at the historical level, different positions can be held legitimately.

However, one cannot say, as some propagandists do, that the Pope was consciously "silent" about what was happening to the Jews, because he was pro-Nazi or simply because he lacked sensibility due to anti-Judaism or anti-Semitism.


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