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Austin Cline

Weekly Poll: Vatican Behavior During World War II

By January 24, 2013

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During World War II, millions of Catholics participated in Germany's war against Europe, and many were also involved with the attempt to exterminate the Jews. Neither Hitler nor any other Catholics in Germany's Nazi government were ever excommunicated and Vatican criticism of Germany's actions were weak at best; often, no criticism was issued at all. Are critics right in their own condemnation of the Vatican's failure to speak out more against the Nazis and the Holocaust?

Both critics and defenders of Pope Pius XII and the Vatican agree that they could have done more on behalf of Jews, at least in theory. Where they diverge is why more wasn't done: critics contend that the reasons were bad and this justifies moral condemnation; defenders contend that the reasons were good and this is morally exculpatory. It wasn't just the Vatican's lack of action with regards to the Jews that's the problem, however. Pope Pius XII and the Vatican were just as passive when it came to the slaughter of Catholic Poles in 1939 and of Orthodox Serbs in Croatia in 1941.

In both of these cases, Pius could have done more without challenging traditional anti-Semitism and with relatively little fear of repercussion. The fact that he didn't reveals that his failure to do more for the Jews was part of larger trends in his personality and attitudes. If he wasn't willing to speak out on behalf of Catholic and Orthodox Christians, how could he do more on behalf of Jews whom most didn't care much about anyway? So even if Pius XII was a bit anti-Semitic, that can't be the only or even primary explanation for his inaction. There had to be something else going on, but whatever it is I have trouble believing that it could be morally exculpatory.

Comments
July 27, 2008 at 12:29 am
(1) Bob says:

As a side issue I often think if all the Christians in Germany, Europe and Britain had collectively decided to follow the principle of “Thou shalt not kill” and refused to fight Hitler’s war would never had gotten off the ground. What if the Vatican and other church leaders clearly told their followers in Germany and Italy to refuse to fight? Italy was a very Catholic country. Neither Hitler nor Mussolini could ever had coped with the number of men refusing to fight. Even before the war started the Vatican knew Hitler was exterminating the mentally and physically handicapped why did it not speak out very loudly and forcibly?

December 20, 2009 at 3:33 pm
(2) lkarson says:

Having had friends saved by Pius XII, it was a glorious day when Pope Benedict XVI declared Pius XII to be Venerable. Venerable Pius XII, pray for us.

January 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm
(3) bill walker says:

The only thing I can recall that Pius 12 did during the war was to issue, in German, an enciclical : Mit brennender Sorge. ( with burning sorrow) it shows that he was aware of the annihilation. Immediately after the war Pius used his powers as ‘Head of State’ to help top Nazis escape war crimes trial. He even used his summer castle to house them while planning for their safe passage to Paraguay. The allies were aware of his complicity, but powerless to prevent it.

January 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm
(4) believer says:
January 25, 2013 at 5:21 pm
(5) believer says:

sorry
about posting a sci”fi”_link

January 25, 2013 at 6:19 pm
(6) jakenhyde says:

@Ikarson……I’ll wager that the number of folks “saved” by XII didn’t come close to the number he let die in concentration camps because of his total silence on the issue.
Most of the folks XII saved were nazis who he and his minions helped escape to South America.
Face it. The pope and most catholics hated the Jews because they still hold that age old grudge that the Jews killed Jesus. It wasn’t until vatican II that the catholic hierarchy decided to forgive the Jews for killing the late great J.C.
Still, to this very day, many catholics can’t seem to get over that facet of history.

January 26, 2013 at 6:46 am
(7) Jozef Van Bergen says:

One only has to look at history.
In 1929 Pius XII, then still Cardinal Pacelli, was instrumental in negotiating the Iterian Treaty between the Vatican under Pope Pius XI and the Italian fascist government under Mussolini. In 1933 he arranged the Reichskoncordat with Adolf Hitler’s fascist Germany. He did so against the advice of his German bishops and cardinals and with full knowledge of Hitler’s evil intentions which were prominently explained is his two volume book Mein Kampf. During the war years he refused to give in to protests from his European cadrinals and bishops for is support of the fascist regimes. He also supported murderous fascists dictators Franco in Spain, Caetano in Portugal and Peron in Argentina, all catholics.
The conclusion is that Pius XII was not just an anti-semite, but rather a fascist to the core, whose inactions and actions contributed to the deaths of tens of millions of people during WWII. He should have been included in the line-up of war criminals at the Neurenberg Trials of 1945/1946.
The present pope Benedict shows his true colours by the beautification of this evil monster. He is clearly a chip off the old block.

January 26, 2013 at 11:54 am
(8) GnosticAtheist says:

When is the Vatican going to reveal where it hid all of the mass murderer Nazis after WWII? The holocaust killed 17.5 million people.
Hitler saved the Vatican from bankruptcy and imposed a 9 percent tax on Germans that went to the Vatican and keeps the Vatican flush with money to this day. The Catholic Party was instumental in getting Hitler into power. Hitler went through 12 years of parochial school and one year of seminary.

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