Editor’s note: Historians are split on whether Pope Pius XII’s subdued response to Hitler and behind-the-scenes efforts helped save many Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, or whether his “neutrality” amounted to moral cowardice, costing many Jewish lives.
With Christianity serving as the single most potent moral force in America today, it is imperative that this great world religion never allow itself to be sullied by any immoral taint lest its powerful message be compromised.
Yet, if the Roman Catholic Church pursues its plans to canonize Pope Pius XII, it will be more damaging to its reputation than another huge explosion of pedophile priest scandals. For even child molestation – evil and sinister as it is – remains a step below complicity in the extermination of millions of people and ordering mass kidnapping, two great sins among many by which Pius XII disgraced himself.
The new revelation – in the form of a typewritten directive discovered in a French church archive and dated Oct. 23, 1946, that Pius had given instructions to church authorities not to return to their relatives Jewish children who were placed in the care of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust in order to save them from extermination – is perfectly in keeping with the rancid and hateful morals that defined this profound religious hypocrite. How sad that so august an institution as the Catholic Church, that could produce in modern times moral colossi like Pope John XXIII and John Paul II, would wish to defile itself by beatifying so sinister a character as Pius XII.
To be sure, even before this new revelation, the moral cowardice of Pope Pius XII in the World War II – having never once summoned the courage to condemn the Nazi Holocaust – was well established. Indeed, the unwillingness of Pius XII to speak out against the destruction of European Jewry constitutes, arguably, the greatest moral omission of all time. Important books like “Hitler’s Pope” by John Cornwell and “The Battle for Rome” by Robert Katz convincingly demonstrate that Pius’ failure – far from being merely a product of a personal prejudice against the Jews – was indicative of a far wider and more serious flaw: an almost callous indifference to the value of human life in favor of papal authority and the preservation of church property.
An autocrat who told the Roman curia repeatedly that their job was not to give him advice, but to follow his orders, there is ample evidence for Pius as a collaborator with the Nazi government in their occupation of Rome. When the Nazis committed the heinous war crime of executing 335 Roman citizens – many of them Jews, but most of them Catholic – in reprisal for a partisan attack against Nazi troops, Pius was implored to publicly protest and protect his personal flock. As usual, he refused to say anything that might upset the Nazis. It seems that neither the love of God nor the love of his fellow man could ever move Pius to publicly condemn Hitler, with whom he had famously negotiated, as papal nuncio, a 1933 treaty which the Fuhrer praised to his cabinet on July 14th of that year as being “especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry.”
Pius even granted a secret audience to Supreme SS Polizeifuhrer Wolff, who had served Himmler as chief of staff and was, in 1943, serving as the chief of German persecution apparatus in occupied Italy. That Pius realized he was doing something that others would regard as scandalous and immoral is attested to the fact that the meeting took place in great confidence, and Wolff came dressed in disguise. Years later, Wolff had this to say about the meeting: “From the pope’s own words I could sense the sincerity of his sympathy and how much he loved the German people.”
The coup de grace, of course, was how Pius XII literally watched as the Germans, on Oct. 16, 1943, rounded up more than 1,000 Jews of Rome, nearly all of whom would perish by gas a few days later at Auschwitz. A special SS contingent had been brought in for the roundup, and since many of them had never seen the great city, used the roundup of the Jews as a partial tourist excursion. This brought them to St. Peter’s Square, where many of the trucks actually parked, not more than 300 feet from Pius’ window. Even as the Jews were herded aboard cattle trains and taken to their death, Pius dared not upset the Germans by offering any kind of protest. His strict policy of neutrality was upheld as the Jews of his diocese were literally turned into ash.
But while he did not prize the lives of Jews, there was one thing that Pius did esteem, and that was the bricks and mortar of his churches. As the British and American armies geared up for a massive offensive in the spring of 1944 to capture Rome, Pius suddenly found his voice. He condemned the allies for bombing the eternal city and ordered his American bishops to launch public relations offensives in the United States to pressure the Roosevelt government not to cause destruction to the sacred monuments of the city. This while the Nazis were gassing more than 10,000 people per day.
Now comes the revelation that Pius ordered the mass kidnapping of hundreds of thousands of Jewish children by refusing to hand them back to their rightful Jewish guardians after the war, if they had been baptized into the Church. “Children who have been baptized must not be entrusted to institutions that would not be in a position to guarantee their Christian upbringing,” the newly revealed document declares. It also makes it clear that Pius himself had approved this criminal policy: “It should be noted that this decision taken by the Holy Congregation of the Holy Office has been approved by the Holy Father.”
All of which makes it abundantly clear that for all his white robes, Pius was a dark soul whose beatification would be a sin against God, a stain against the Church, and an affront to holiness and decency.