Conspiracies and Catholicism: Hitler’s Pope

Hitler’s Pope

It’s a slander, and not just misleading but so opposite of reality I don’t understand how it caught ground. See you next month.

….alright, I know I’ve done that gag before, but some topics are just ridiculous. I do them, because being absurd to those who have some familiarity with the subject is no guard against a claim being believed by those who are less familiar, but I think it’s important to make it clear that it’s not because it’s such a strong argument that it deserves respect as a brilliant display of reasoning. Let me explain why it’s unbelievable:

The Story

The guy whose behavior during the Nazi occupation converted the chief rabbi of Rome to Catholicism was working with the Nazis? The guy who was supposedly so silent and passive, at best, did enough that EWTN found a dozen paged of quotes from contemporary Jewish sources that were favorable to his behavior? A Pope who is defended from such accusations by a Jewish historian (formerly of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America) who not only debunks the claims, but describes Pius XII as the greatest friend to Jews of the 20th century? The man who, at his death, official condolence from Golda Meir, Israel’s delegate to the UN: When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”

This man gets described as “Hitler’s Pope”?

Ah, such is the power of a well-crafted story, even if that craft is used for evil ends.

I’ll start at the beginning: it was a KGB plot. (I told you this was ridiculous– I can’t help it if the USSR lived down to bad 80s movies.)

Objectively, the idea of attacking the reputation of the Pope, any Pope, makes sense– the point of the plot was to destroy the moral authority of the Catholic Church, which was a threat to Soviet interests. Getting people to believe he was either a Nazi or worked with them was a double-tap, since it both tarred the entire Church with the sins of an atheist, totalitarian group that was intrinsically counter to the most elemental of our binding teachings, but in the same stroke it weakened the Church’s ability to fight the Soviet empire when they pursued similar goals or used the same methods. The tactic both erased

the popular memory of Catholics being targeted with the Jews, and strengthened the ability of the evil empire to continue to act against Catholic opposition.

Short version of how it worked: they pushed a “based on a true story” play– ‘The Deputy’ by Rolf Hochhuth– that represented the attack they wanted to make on the then-recently dead man using documents obtained under false pretenses from the Vatican archives.

You can read the story from the guy who did the obtaining, if you’d like– he defected to the US in the late 70s. It had just enough truth to it, and just enough support, to get the flavor of fact with the sweet lure of ‘I know something secret.’ (The same appeal as any other conspiracy theory.) The bones of the story have since been boiled, reused, repackaged and simplified so they go even further than the original, in which Playwright Rolf Hochhuth criticized the pontiff for his (alleged) silence, but even he admitted that, on the level of action, Pius XII generously aided the Jews to the best of his ability. (Quote from The Jewish Virtual Library’s Holocaust section article, The Controversy over the Alleged Silence of Pope Pius XII in World War II.)

The Truth

What did the Pope actually do?

  • While serving as a papal nuncio to Germany, the vast majority of his public speeches included open attacks on the Nazis.
  • Called Hitler’s carefully crafted ideology “neo-Paganism.”Was part this: Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth.– editorial by Albert Einstein, 1940, Time Magazine.
  • Also before he was Pope, helped draft an encyclical on “the Church and the German Reich” that resulted in the Nazis calling Pope Pius XI “half-Jewish” and then-Cardinal Pacelli “all-Jewish.”
  • The Fascists in both Italy and Germany opposed his election openly, because he was so hostile to their political means and ends.In 1940, in an open audience, responded to the Nazi representative sent to threaten him out of continuing to oppose Germany by reading out a list of German atrocities in Poland, in detail, in German.
  • Promoted the tactic of providing “baptismal certificates of convenience” to disguise Jews as Catholics.
  • Ordered religious buildings to shelter the persecuted, even if it drew persecution on themselves.
  • Released covenants and monasteries from the strict rules about admitting non-members
  • Took personal responsibility for the care of the children of those deported from Italy.
  • Saved 80% of Italy’s Jewish population; Rabbi David Dalin wrote a book about it several years ago, and brought attention to three thousand Jews that were protected at Castel Gandolfo.
  • Wrote a letter the bishop of Berlin, praising those Catholics who had aided the Jews, risking themselves, and singling out Monsignor Lichtenberg for paternal gratitude and discussing tactics, even alluding to how the open declaration by the Dutch bishops in support of their Jews had resulted in massive deportations to Auschwitz. (Letter of Pius XII of 30th April, 1943 to the Bischop of Berlin, Graf von Preysing, published in “Documentation catholique” of 2nd February, 1964; does not seem to be available on line, and would presumably be in German)

Bullet-points without links are from Jimmy Akin’s How Pius XII Protected Jews.

In short: the story of “Hitler’s Pope” is not just a lie, it’s deliberately malicious slander that is unsupported by history.

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10 thoughts on “Conspiracies and Catholicism: Hitler’s Pope”

  1. Worse IMO is that the people who d*mn this Pope also hate religious people/leaders “getting involved in politics” (unless said people support their positions).

    Here are a bunch of people “claiming that the Pope didn’t do enough” (falsely) yet hating Catholic leaders (and others) for “opposing their positions” by claiming “religious people should not be involved in politics”.

    They only show their hypocrisy.

    1. The Nazis are pretty dang obviously evil– the problem being that they’ve become a personification of evil, rather than being a personification of people that turned to evil.

      The permutation of Godwin’s law that’s a “you lose” card is an example of this; it makes sense if you assume that people can’t actually be like the Nazis.

      ****
      So if the Nazis are inhumanly evil, then it’s possible to both complain the Pope didn’t do “enough,” and get angry when Catholics get involved in modern subjects– because it’s almost impossible to imagine that a modern topic would be as evil as the Nazis, especially if the objectors are supporting it.
      The idea that what the Nazis did was the then-stylish mode just doesn’t sink in…even for folks actively promoting eugenics.

      1. I think the way of describing it is “different starting assumptions.”

        I never understood why my mom made such a big deal about how the Nazis my grandfather guarded being just normal people until well into adulthood, when I figured out that most people had this strange disconnect where they didn’t consider the Nazis a thing which could possibly happen.

        G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown actually has that as his “method” for solving crimes– he puts himself into the mindset of whoever did the crime… MORALLY. Not just in an FBI profiler way, but with full empathy.
        If you can’t do that, you can’t see how abortion for “quality of life” and the Nazi deathcamps are two aspects of the same deformed impulse.

  2. You lost me there. I can’t do that, at least not consistently, but I can see that.

    I wonder if they ever made movies or tv of Father Brown. Strikes me that Mia might like that.

    1. Oh, I can’t do it, not all the time. I can just, if I twist it around, see how A gets to B– and that’s if I don’t think it’s DANGEROUS to see what it would take for me to become that– but I can understand it’s possible.

      Masterpiece did several of the short stories, but the only one I remember is “The Hammer of God” or something like that.

  3. Reblogged this on Medieval Otaku and commented:
    That some people were calling Pope Pius XII “Hitler’s Pope” came to my attention back in high school. A little bit of research suffices to debunk that falsehood, but some people would rather believe the falsehood than investigate the facts. Here’s a post which provides all the facts one needs to challenge anyone who believes that Pope Pius XII was a friend to the Nazis–or to the Communists, for that matter.

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