If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first...
Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No servant is greater than his master.' If
they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
In recent years,
the media have accused the Catholic Church of either helping the Nazis or being
silent during the Holocaust. As an example, the January 26, 1998 issue of
Time magazine on page 20 claims that the Catholic Church apologized for
"collaborating with the Nazis during World War II." Even the new Holocaust
Museum in New York unjustly criticized Pope Pius XII for being silent during
World War II. The Church has recently spoken on this topic.
consul, Pinchas E. Lapide, in his book, Three Popes and the Jews (New
York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1967) critically examines Pope Pius XII. According
to his research, the Catholic Church under Pius XII was instrumental in saving
860,000 Jews from Nazi death camps (p. 214). Could Pius have saved more lives by
speaking out more forcefully? According to Lapide, the concentration camp
prisoners did not want Pius to speak out openly (p. 247). As one jurist from the
Nuremberg Trials said on WNBC in New York (Feb. 28, 1964), "Any words of Pius
XII, directed against a madman like Hitler, would have brought on an even worse
catastrophe... [and] accelerated the massacre of Jews and priests." (Ibid.)
Yet Pius was not totally silent either. Lapide notes a book by the Jewish
historian, Jenoe Levai, entitled, The Church Did Not Keep Silent (p.
256). He admits that everyone, including himself, could have done more. If we
condemn Pius, then justice would demand condemning everyone else. He concludes
by quoting from the Talmud that "whosoever preserves one life, it is
accounted to him by Scripture as if he had preserved a whole world." With
this he claims that Pius XII deserves a memorial forest of 860,000 trees in the
Judean hills (pp. 268-9). It should be noted that six million Jews and three
million Catholics were killed in the Holocaust.
We must remember
that the Holocaust was also anti-Christian. After Hitler revealed his true
intentions, the Catholic Church opposed him. Even the famous Albert Einstein
testified to that. According to the December 23, 1940 issue of Time
magazine on page 38, Einstein said:
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 cause 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.
In another, similar statement, Einstein referred explicitly to the Catholic
Church (Lapide, p. 251). This is an extraordinary testimony by an agnostic
German scientist of Jewish heritage. Even though there were traitors in her
ranks, the Church still opposed the Nazi movement.
The December 23,
1940 issue of Time magazine contains an interesting article about
Christians living in Germany, both Catholic and Protestant, who opposed and
suffered under the Nazis. On page 38, it claims that by late 1940 over 200,000
Christians were prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, with some estimates as
high as 800,000. On page 40, it reports on the Archbishop of Munich, Michael
Cardinal von Faulhaber, who led the Catholic opposition in Germany against the
Nazis. In an Advent 1933 sermon, he preached: "Let us not forget that we were
saved not by German blood but by the blood of Christ!" in response to Nazi
racism. In 1934 the Cardinal "narrowly missed a Nazi bullet", while in
1938 a Nazi mob broke the windows in his residence. Even though he was over
seventy and in poor health, he still led the Catholic German resistance against
Not trusting the
new regime, the Vatican signed a Concordat with the Reich on July 20, 1933 in an
attempt to protect the Church's rights in Germany. But the Nazis quickly
violated its articles. In Lent 1937 Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical "Mit
brennender Sorge" (With burning sorrow) with the help of German bishops and
Cardinal Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII). It was smuggled into Germany and read in
all German Catholic churches at the same hour on Palm Sunday 1937. It did not
explicitly mention Hitler or Nazism, but it firmly condemned the Nazi doctrines.
On September 20, 1938, Pius XI told German pilgrims that no Christian can take
part in anti-Semitism, since spiritually all Christians are Semites.
slander against the Church and Pope Pius XII can be traced back to 1963 with
Rolf Hochhuth's play, "The Deputy." In this play Hochhuth criticized Pius for
being silent and portrayed his silence as cold indifference. Even though
fiction, people took it as fact.
Pope Pius XII
was a diplomat and not a radical preacher. He knew that he first needed to
preserve Vatican neutrality so that Vatican City could be a refuge for war
victims. The International Red Cross also remained neutral. Secondly, he knew
how powerless he was against Hitler. Mussolini could quickly shut off electrical
power to Vatican Radio during his broadcast (Lapide, p. 256). Finally the Nazis
did not tolerate any protest and responded severely. As an example, the Catholic
Archbishop of Utrecht in July 1942 protested in a pastoral letter against the
Jewish persecutions in Holland. Immediately the Nazis rounded up as many Jews
and Catholic non-Aryans as possible and deported them to death camps, including
Blessed Edith Stein (Lapide, p. 246). Pius knew that every time he spoke out
against Hitler, the Nazis could retaliate against the prisoners. His best attack
against the Nazis was quiet diplomacy and behind-the-scenes action. According to
The 1996 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (V8.01) under Pius XII,
"Wishing to preserve Vatican neutrality, fearing reprisals, and realizing his
impotence to stop the Holocaust, Pius nonetheless acted on an individual basis
to save many Jews and others with church ransoms, documents, and asylum."
The charity and
work of Pope Pius XII during World War II so impressed the Chief Rabbi of Rome,
Israel Zolli, that in 1944 he was open to the grace of God which led him into
the Catholic faith. As his baptismal name, he took the same one Pius had,
Eugenio, as his own. Later Israel Eugenio Zolli wrote a book entitled, Why I
Became a Catholic.
But Pope Pius
XII was not completely silent either, especially in his Christmas messages. His
1941 and 1942 Christmas messages were both translated and published in The
New York Times (Dec. 25, 1941, p. 20 & Dec. 25, 1942, p. 10). To prevent
retaliation, he did not refer to Nazism by name, but people of that era still
understood him, including the Nazis. According to The New York Times
editorial on December 25, 1941 (Late Day edition, p. 24):
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... the Pope put himself
squarely against Hitlerism... he left no doubt that the Nazi aims are also
irreconcilable with his own conception of a Christian peace.
Also The New York Times editorial on December 25, 1942 (Late Day edition,
p. 16) states:
This Christmas more than ever he is a lonely voice crying out of the silence
of a continent... Pope Pius expresses as passionately as any leader on our side
the war aims of the struggle for freedom when he says that those who aim at
building a new world must fight for free choice of government and religious
order. They must refuse that the state should make of individuals a herd of whom
the state disposes as if they were lifeless things.
Both editorials recognize and highly praise Pius' words against Hitler and
Now there were
traitors in the Church who were Nazis or helped Hitler. There were Catholics who
committed sins of bigotry. There were also Catholics, who, out of fear or
indifference, sinned through silence. The Church is full of sinners for whom
Christ died. We killed Jesus with our sins (Is. 53: 5-6). But Pope Pius XII and
many Catholics did not remain "silent." Could 860,000 Jewish lives be saved by
"silent" indifference? In our own day, there are people who claim to be Catholic
but promote and participate in abortion, assisted-suicide and artificial birth
control. In the next century, will the world also falsely accuse the Church and
the Pope for being silent during the "culture of death" holocaust?
Reverend John T. Folda, S.T.L.
Most Reverend Fabian W. Bruskewitz, D.D., S.T.D.
Bishop of Lincoln
May 27, 1998
The NIHIL OBSTAT and IMPRIMATUR are official declarations that a book or a
pamphlet is free from doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained
therein that those who have granted the NIHIL OBSTAT and IMPRIMATUR agree with
the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.