Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Papal Profile: Pope Pius XII

One of the most admired, despised and entirely controversial Christians of modern times was Pope Pius XII. Many people adore Pius XII for his courage in the face of tyranny, defense of Catholic traditions and condemnation of international aggression. Others attack him endlessly on charges of being "soft" on the Nazi persecution of Jews. There is definitely no shortage of opinions on Pius XII. I firmly believe that, at some point in the future, historians will divide the history of the modern Church into two eras: one before the reign of Pope Pius XII, and one after. No matter what opinions you may have, few people could really deny that the Church has changed considerably from what it was before his time compared with today.

The future Pontiff, Eugenio Pacelli, was born in Rome in 1876 to an aristocratic Roman family, members of what was known as the "Black Nobility" (those nobles who sided with the Pope rather than the King after Italian unification). He joined the Church and was ordained a priest as Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli. His notable achievements were in the Vatican diplomatic corps and working on canon law. He was cardinal secretary of state during the reign of Pope Pius XI during which time he toured Europe, the United States and South America. After one of the shortest conclaves in history Cardinal Pacelli was elected Pope on March 2, 1939. His reign was immediately consumed with the impending outbreak of World War II in Europe. Contrary to what his enemies may say, Pope Pius XII took immediate action to oppose the aggression of the Axis powers.

Whenever enemies of the Church speak about Pius XII their favorite tactic is pointing out the lack of a specific Papal condemnation of the genocide against the Jews. Although it has been given wide publicity by the liberal press it is very easy to refute. Pope Pius XII did more than any other world leader to help the suffering people of World War II. He did not need to make speeches or write letters on the subject, he made his feelings known by taking action. It is also important to remember that his predecessor, Pope Pius XI was condemning Fascism back when President Roosevelt was refusing asylum to Jews and calling Mussolini a gentleman. Pope Pius XII issued Vatican passports to Jews to get them out of Nazi-controled areas. Jews were hidden in Papal property where Axis forces could not reach them. The Pope even gave sanctuary to many Jews in the Vatican itself. After the war the Jewish leaders themselves said they had no greater friend than the Christian Pope and the chief Rabbi of Rome converted to Christianity and served the Church devotedly for many years thereafter.
A condemnation of the kind everyone wanted was not only unneccessary but would probably have been harmful. No Jews would have been saved by it, Christians would have come under increasing persecution and the Holy See would probably have been occupied by Axis forces. Pope Pius XII also understood that Nazism was clearly doomed. The world was arrayed against the Nazi state but the equally contemptible U.S.S.R. was on the winning side, getting alot of Allied help and conquering nations rather than liberating them. The Pope knew that Hitler's days were numbered, but that Communism was an ideology that could poison diverse peoples all around the world and cause numerous other wars in future years. And, to the point of the Jews, while not named specifically, the Pope did issue a strong condemnation against all genocide, against killing the innocent of any race or religion in 1942. His support for the Jews in Hungary prompted the Hungarian government to refuse Hitler's demand that they deport all Jews for extermination. Clearly, the Pope was a friend to the innocent and persecuted of all peoples, Jews included.

Throughout his reign Pope Pius XII was a voice of peace and reason, of tradition and freedom for the peoples of the world. He was enemy to Communism, Nazism and modern humanist trends. When his pontificate ended in 1958, extremely large shoes were left to fill.


  1. ALWAYS a Favourite of mine since I first learned of him. The usual negative press given to him owes more to Modernists who hated his opposition to them, both outside of the Church and in, than to Historical reality. Its much easier to see him as Hitler’s Pope than to admit he was a Hero in World War 2 if you want to oppose all he stood for. By so doing you make people the him, and by extension, while not rational, the things he stood for. He was for Tradition, and he was an Anti-Semite who loved Hitler and the evil NAZI’s, so therefore Traditionalists are NAZI wannabe’s. See, easy. On the other hand, to depict him as a Hero depicts Traditional Values as Heroic.

    He is an excellent cases study in why I don’t buy Into the supremacy of Reason in the Human Species, as we are geared to really operate on an emotional level more often than a Rational one, and people think in Stories not abstract Philosophical concepts, and in this Story the old fashioned Traditionalists, along with Monarchists, are simply the reactionary forces trying to support evil and tyranny, again the progressive forces of good that Revolutionaries bring us.

    He makes an excellent case for this aspect of our Psychology, because the narrative Changes with the needs we have to place upon it, and the men become what we want them to become to fit our needs. The same applies to others, such as the American Founding Fathers who are venerated as Saints by most Americans, and how Atheists claim they hated all Religion, whilst the Right claims them as Devout Christians. Or look at Marx, and how some Liberals even today see him as a Prophet and True Leader for humanity, while others demonise him as one of the worst men of all History and thoroughly evil, with some saying he was literally a Satanist.

    But in Pope Pus the 1th you see this play t on even a Grander scale than this, for in so few in Hisotyr in the reality is far removed from the narrative we are generally presented.

    But also, he shows how he was, indeed, a True Disciple of Christ, for he risked all for the principles of Justice he believed in. In this way, even in the face of all the hatred he wins, he only reminds me f the passages in the Scripture were we are told not to be discouraged by the world and its contempt of us, but t press on, an do our good works not for Praise but for the Lord and because it the Right thing to do.

  2. Well, I would have to disagree with you on the reason thing there, ZAROVE.
    While certainly we are easily governed by emotion, our ability to reason is one of the things that elevates us above the rest of God's creation, and it is our duty to use that gift.

    Besides, isn't it our good Pope Benedict XVI who says Catholicism is a religion of reason? No reason you can't be faithful and a rational person.

    Well, you pretty much covered what I would have said about Pope Pius XII, so I'll just say I'm a little sad we still don't use the Papal tiara. It's one good-looking hat.

  3. I fear you misunderstand me. I am not saying that Reason is bad, and I quiet agree that Catholicism, as well as other forms of Christianity and many other Religions, can be Rationally defended. The point I was making is only that when the Atheists elevate the Supremacy of Reason, they seldom actually mean it and usually just use Reason as a cover for heir one Ideology, which is something many people do.

    Its not so much that I am saying Emotion is superior to reason and that Religious Belief cannot be Rationally defined, and I become Irritated when people give into Atheists in that way, rather I am saying that Reason Alone is seldom ever used in arriving at our beliefs or defending them, and most of the people who attack Religion in the same of Reason do so no because Reason alone has lead them to their conclusion, but because they have embraced a Philosophical system of beliefs, itself a Religion by another name, that they now simply seek to argue for.

    The Human Mind is capable of making arguments for anything is desires, an so Reason is easily subjugated to our desires and often serves to simply add legitimacy to what we want to believe, hence why many people allow themselves to be pulled into what is ultimately a personal belief system based upon their prejudices rather than dispassionate Reason. My examples should have made this clear, EG how Americans Venerate the Revolutionary War, and the American Founding Fathers, and many conflicting Groups claim all of them as their own. Atheists claim, they were all Deists who hated Religion, and Evangelical Christians say they were all Christians giving us a Biblical Republic based on Biblical Principles. Both claim these are facts and both claim Reason is behind them and yet both views of history lack the Nuance of Reality.

    They subject Reason to the King in their minds, which is the conclusions they want to Draw. The same is True of Pius the 12th. Many assorted Anti-”Religious” types, many Anti-Christian Jews or Militant Secularises, and many Anti-Catholic Protestants, simply want him to be evil, for him to have been Hitler’s Pope, to help justify their own hatred of Catholicism. They want to conclude that the Catholic Church has had a History of evil and is basically a great evil in and of itself.

    Once you start with those prejudices, you end up pursuing means to support them. Pius the 12th as a NAZI sympathiser or even collaborator fit’s the desired image of the Old, Traditional Catholic Church as an evil organisation by linking it to our cultural imaginations greatest Evil, and people are willing to believe it because it fits their pre-existing model. Reason has been made to serve the agenda.

    It is not Reason I am condemning, it’s the misuse of Reason to reach a desired Conclusion, which in the end makes the Supremacy of Reason in the Human Condition very much a questionable assumption.

  4. I would say that emotion, inspiration etc is what probably most drives us and it is reason that, properly used, keeps us from running off the road into useless or dangerous nonsense. Reason, of course, has its place, but like emotion and inspiration it has its limits and should not be taken as the 'be all and end all'.

    The Pope is often attacked as a religious leader, someone whose authority is based spiritual ground (the Word of God made flesh giving to St Peter the "keys" to the Kingdom of Heaven and the charge to tend his flock and feed his sheep) yet it was his use of reason which caused him to understand that grand public denunciations of Nazi atrocities would do no one any good and probably cause only further suffering and it was also his use of reason which allowed him to see that international communism was the greater long-term threat than Nazism which, by its very nature, could never have much appeal to anyone outside of the German community.

  5. ASI said, it is not Reason that I condemn, only its misuse. Though it should be noted that those who most Praise Reason, such as Militant Atheists, are most given to irrational beliefs which they will insist are the only Rational beliefs one can hold merely because they hold them. They have also in recent times taken to calling themselves “Rationalists” because of their supposed dedication to Reason, even though few have bothered to read Des Carte, who was himself a Christian. They conflate being a Rationalist with being an Atheist, of course, so they probably wouldn’t understand how the whole of Rationalism was founded by Christians in the First Place.

    Generally anyone who has inherited the Enlightenment Era assumptions, most especially the Atheists but also some Modern Christians and all Republicans, simply define Reason as that which agrees with their own beliefs, which is why Monarchy is said to be Irrational, and Democracy the only Logical form of Governance available. You have started another thread on this I intend to comment on.

    My only point is that, one can call upon the Name of Reason even when your real motives aren’t very Rational at all, and this is what we call Rationalising, making an argument seem Rational that at its core really isn’t. This is why Pope Pius the 12th is Hitler’s Pope in the Minds of Many, because as much as they praise Reason, they don‘t really use it for anything other than to make a case for their own beliefs, which always go uninvestigated and unchallenged.


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