Saint Pius

January 19th, 2010 at 9:40 am by David Farrar

AP reports:

In a synagogue visit haunted by history, Pope Benedict XVI and Jewish leaders sparred over the record of the World War II-era Pope during the and agreed on the need to strengthen Catholic-Jewish relations.

Both sides said the visit to the seat of the oldest Jewish community in the diaspora was an occasion to overcome what Benedict called “every misconception and prejudice”.

Signs of the Jewish community’s tragic history were abundant, as the German-born Benedict stopped at a plaque marking where Roman Jews were rounded up by the Nazis in 1943 and at another marking the slaying of a 2-year-old boy in an attack by Palestinian terrorists on the synagogue in 1982.

Benedict defended his predecessor Pius XII against critics, telling the audience that the Vatican had worked quietly to save Jews from the Nazis during World War II.

Many Jews object to Benedict moving Pius towards sainthood, contending that the wartime Pope didn’t do enough to protect Jews from the Holocaust.

My conclusion is that Pius refused to speak up publicly, as he didn’t want to risk the Nazis and Fascists moving against the Church. Now this doesn’t make him a bad person – it was arguably a reasonable decision for the Pope to make.

But in my lay opinion, it should disqualify him from sainthood. Sainthood should not be bestowed when there is significant doubt.

Of course decisions on Sainthood, are decisions for the Catholic Church alone. But if they proceed, they should not be surprised that many will think less of the Church for such a decision.

59 Responses to “Saint Pius”

  1. Jeff83 (792 comments) says:

    Evil triumphs when good men do nothing so they say. Not catholic so guess not my right to have an opinion but if it was I would not approve

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  2. Repton (769 comments) says:

    Saints used to be the Christian equivalent of the heroes and demigods of other mythologies: bad-ass types who you could tell cool stories about.

    [well, there’s also the other category of saints: martyrs — those who died horribly because they refused to renounce god. Apparently hagiographers sometimes classified saints by which bits got chopped off]

    But John Paul 2 made almost 500 more. What’s the purpose of them all? Why does the Catholic church need so many saints these days?

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  3. Brian Smaller (4,332 comments) says:

    Sainthoods are not decided upon by an international popularity contest. It is internal mumbo-jumbo relevent to the Catholic Church.

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  4. Brian Smaller (4,332 comments) says:

    But John Paul 2 made almost 500 more. What’s the purpose of them all? Why does the Catholic church need so many saints these days?

    Not sure but could be because that the Catholic church covers a lot of the world and a lot of the new saints come from those places, not jkust the Old World countries.

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  5. Murray (8,822 comments) says:

    “My conclusion is that Pius refused to speak up publicly, as he didn’t want to risk the Nazis and Fascists moving against the Church. Now this doesn’t make him a bad person – it was arguably a reasonable decision for the Pope to make.”

    Actually no. It does make him a bad person. He turned a blind eye and said NOTHING while Jews were slaughtered while in a no doubt entirely unrelated matter the Vatican aquired a substantial protion of Europes art and culteral wealth which still resides in its vaults.

    This was the Pope, gods representative on earth, not bloody Martin Smith from Croydon. People within Germany had the balls to stand up for their faith like Sophie Scholl and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Gods right hand folded like a wet paper bag and rolled over when he could have made a difference.

    Saint wouldn’t be my first thought for his post life appointment.

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  6. andrei (4,510 comments) says:

    Rubbish – this is just another opportunity to have a go at the Church by selectively dredging up history you have little comprehension of.

    Pope Pius did do things to help the Jews – they were harbored in monasterys and convents all over Europe and in the Vatican itself. And the Vatican also pressured South American countries to take them in.

    Whether or not he is a Saint I will leave it up to the Good Lord to judge but understand this the Holocaust which encompassed more than Jews did not originate in the Vatican and that many of us could if we so choose harbor grievances from that dark time and use them to sow division and discord today.

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  7. Murray (8,822 comments) says:

    andri care to post Pius’ speech against the deportation of Jews please.

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  8. Brian Smaller (4,332 comments) says:

    Murray – my Italian mother’s best friend and her family who were Jewish were harboured in a monastery in Rome after the German occupation of Italy in 43. They all survived the war.

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  9. MT_Tinman (4,392 comments) says:

    Other than yet another chance for the god-botherers and saint Helen mobs to square off this is surely a complete non-issue.

    One question for whomever used the term; Which of the three is the “Good” god?

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  10. dime (13,001 comments) says:

    this pope was in the hitler youth right?

    so he’s either a bad man, or a nancy boy like Pius 🙂

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  11. Murray (8,822 comments) says:

    Brian how does this vindicate the pope at the time who publicly did not say one word please. Let along make him saint like.

    Jews were harborred in Berlin but my take on history still has this Hitler chappie as being something of a bad egg.

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  12. Gosman (357 comments) says:

    The Roman Catholic Church has nothing to crow about in terms of how it handled the moral situation around 1930’s and 1940’s Europe. The time to stand up against the sort of prejudice that inevitably led to the Holocaust was in the early 30’s when the Nazi’s were just starting their rise to power. It was the Right of Center’s, (strongly dominated by Conservative Catholic parties), willingness to do business with the Nazi’s that enabled them to seize power.

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  13. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    Here’s a link for those with a genuine interest,as opposed to those who simply want to vent their usual prejudices.It’s kinda funny that the anti Pius brigade may be dupes of the Soviets,wouldn’t be the first time .No shortage of idiots these days.

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  14. Murray (8,822 comments) says:

    Congratulations you can google. I got my history of WII from books as did my brother who got his degree in politics and religion and is also Jewish and not particularly suspectable to Soviet propaganda.

    Give me ten minutes a I’ll give you a link proving that Troy in just north of London. The interwebs will tell you anything you want to hear.

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  15. Murray (8,822 comments) says:

    There you go an entire book on it The fact thats its a load of arse hasn’t stopped it being published.

    Pius is no more a saint than Cameron Slater.

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  16. Fletch (9,011 comments) says:

    Actually the Pope was the ONLY one who spoke up.
    It always angers me when I see revisionist rubbish being brought up in posts like DPFs.

    Here is what the New York Times published in an editorial Christmas Day 1941 –

    The New York Times, Christmas Day, 1941: “The voice of Pius XII is the only voice in the silence and darkness that developed in Europe this Christmas . . . He is the only ruler left on the continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all.”

    And Einstein (a Jew) says in the December 1940 issue of Time magazine –

    Albert Einstein (December 1940 edition of Time): “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 had had the courage and intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I had once despised I now praise unreservedly.” (After the war Einstein wrote, “Only the Catholic Church protested against the Hitlerian onslaught on liberty. Up till then I had not been interested in the Church, but today I feel a great admiration for the Church, which alone has had the courage to struggle for spiritual truth and moral liberty.”)

    Adolph Eichmann, Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel: In early 2000 the government of Israel, after nearly 40 years, released the diaries of Eichmann who had been executed in 1962 “for crimes against the Jewish people and against humanity.” Eichmann wrote of the deportation of Jews from Rome and that the Vatican “vigorously protested the arrest of Jews, requesting the interruption of such action; on the contrary, the Pope would denounce it publicly.”

    In fact, the greatest defenders of the Pope – those who spoke in praise of him – are Jews

    I could fill this page with quotes from them, but here are some –

    Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli: “What the Vatican did will be indelibly and eternally engraved in our hearts….Priests and even prelates did things that will forever be an honor to Catholicism. Volumes could be written on the multiform works of Pius XII and the countless priests, religious and laity who stood with him throughout the world during the war. No hero, in all of history, was more militant, more fought against, none more heroic, than Pius XII in pursuing the works of true charity…and thus on behalf of all the people of God.”

    – he later converted to Catholicism.

    Grand Rabbi of Jerusalem, Dr. Isaac Herzog (February 29, 1944): “The people of Israel will never forget what his Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion which form the very foundation of true civilization are doing for us unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history. Which is living proof of divine Providence in this world.”

    Rabbi Barry Dov Schwartz (Summer Issue 1964 of Conservative Judaism): “Many Jews were persuaded to convert after the war, as a sign of gratitude, to that institution which had saved their lives.”

    Golda Meir, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, representative to the United Nations (first delegate to react to Pius XII’s death), later Prime Minister of Israel; “We share with the grief of the world over the death of his Holiness Pius XII. During a generation of wars and dissensions, he affirmed the high ideals of peace and compassion. During the ten years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and to commiserate with their victims. The life of our time has been enriched by a voice which expressed the great moral truths above the tumults of daily conflicts. We grieve over the loss of a great defender of peace.”

    As a papal envoy to Germany from 1917 to 1929, Vatican Secretary of State in the 1930’s, and
    Pope during World War II, Pius XII established a clear record of supporting the Jewish people against
    the Nazis. Lapide wrote: “Of the 44 speeches which the Nuncio Pacelli had made on German
    soil between 1917 and 1929, at least 40 contained attacks on Nazism or condemnations of
    Hitler’s doctrines.”

    Pius XII followed the Dutch Roman Catholic hierarchy’s plan to name the Jews explicitly in their
    condemnation of Nazi deportations, and he intended to issue a similar statement himself. The Nazis
    threatened to arrest more Jews. The Dutch Reformed Church agreed not to protest openly, but the
    Roman Catholic hierarchy issued, in May 1943, their famous protest against the deportations. The
    Nazis then launched an all-out offensive against Jews (except those who had converted to the Dutch
    Protestant Reformed Church). Ironically, it was the Dutch hierarchy’s letter of open condemnation
    which led to the arrest and execution of Saint Edith Stein, the Jewish Roman Catholic nun and

    The news of the increased persecution reached Pius XII. His own protest was due to go into
    L’Osservatore Romano (the Vatican newspaper) that very evening, but he had the draft burnt saying,
    If the protest of the Dutch Bishops has cost the lives of 40,000 people, my intervention
    would take at least 200,000 people to their deaths.”
    Such was the result of openly naming the
    Jews; more death from vain gestures. There is no doubt that if Pius XII had made such a vain
    gesture, instead of saving more Jewish lives, he would then have been open to the criticism of having
    made the situation of Jews worse by vain and inopportune public statements. Those who now criticise
    him for not saying enough would then have attacked him for saying too much.

    The Jewish historian Pinchas Lapide sums it up: “The saddest and most thought-provoking
    conclusion is that whilst the Catholic clergy of Holland protested more loudly, expressly
    and frequently against Jewish persecutions than the religious hierarchy of any other
    Nazi-occupied country, more Jews – some 11,000 or 79% of the total – were deported
    from Holland; more than anywhere else in the West.”

    Would YOU have spoken out more if to do so would have sent thousands more to their deaths?

    And so why, after having praised him during and after the war, and even at his death has Pius XII got such a bad reputation now? Because of a fictionalized play called The Deputy in 1962 written by a German.
    And people wonder why Catholics get upset by rubbish like The Da Vinci Code. It’s because some people believe the lies and it gets passed on as truth.

    If you really look at the history – I wasn’t there and you weren’t there, but if we look at the comments of people who WERE there – prominent Jews, the New York Times, and other publications, then Pope Pius saved more Jews than Schindler and is well worthy of sainthood.

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  17. Murray (8,822 comments) says:

    Fletch I’m going to go as far as “Actually the Pope was the ONLY one who spoke up.” and stop you right there. Please reconcile the pope being the “only person” who spoke out with my first comment refering to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

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  18. Scribe (84 comments) says:


    Thanks for posting those quotes — saves me finding them 🙂

    Murray, you’re right to say there were others. But there are plenty of Jews who have said no one did more for the Jews in WWII than Pope Pius XII.

    In 2005, a rabbi in the US wrote a book called The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, debunking a lot of the nonsense that has been thrown at Pius XII. Sure, there were detractors, but there always will be.

    Rabbi Dalin suggests that Yad Vashem should honor Pope Pius XII as a “Righteous Gentile”, and documents that Pius was praised by all the leading Jews of his day for his role in saving more Jews than Schindler.

    In the July/August 2006 issue of The American Spectator, Martin Gilbert, a Holocaust historian, writes: “Building on earlier, documented defenses of Pius XII…[ Dalin ] builds a powerful case for Pius XII, suggesting that the desire of Pope John Paul II to canonize Pius need not have been offensive — or insensitive — to Jews, as it was widely portrayed.”

    Gilbert asserts that “Professor Dalin’s book is an essential contribution to our understanding of the reality of Pope Pius XII’s support for Jews at their time of greatest danger.”


    I’ve seen estimates that Pope Pius XII and his associates saved as many as 4 million Jews in WWII. A figure that high, from Jewish sources, simply can’t be made up.

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  19. towaka (47 comments) says:

    Just a few facts about Pius…

    As a Cardinal,he signed the concordant with the Nazi`s in 1933(have a look in the dictionary as what this means).

    Right through WW2 the Vatican under Pius had full diplomatic relations with the Nazis.

    In 1944 as the Allies approached Rome suddenly Pius found his voice..not in defense of the Jews but to save church property.He launched a campaign in America through the church in this regard.

    The Yad Vashem in Jerusalem has a display about Pius and his disgraceful record through the war and even though there has been much political pressure they will not resile from their position.Remember the Yad Vashem are the World`s leading authority on the Holocaust.

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  20. sixmillionbook (1 comment) says:

    No one should be really surprised at Pope Benedict’s actions. After all, he lifted the excommunication to a Holocaust-denying bishop, he spoke at Auschwitz but forgot to mention that the Holocaust was caused by pathological antisemitism, and of course neglected to mention where antisemitism might have come from. Also, he has been extolling Pope Pius XII’s “heroic virtues” and has been promoting his canonization. People should be even less surprised at any residual animosity toward the wartime pope, Pius XII. After all, that pope had the power, but not the will, to make a difference during the war yet he chose to remain silent.

    The Church claims that propelling Pope Pius XII into the sainthood is a reflection of his religious actions, and that may be so. However, Pius XII was not just a religious figure: he was the pope, the leader of an international organization responsible for the care of hundreds of millions of souls, and he was the leader of a state with a fully operational government with influence on a global scale. So his actions—or inactions—cannot be measured solely based on what his contributions to the advancement of faith was. Certainly not for someone who ruled over the Catholic Church at a time when almost half the German population and the vast majority of Austrian, French, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Hungarian and other populations that collaborated with the Germans in executing the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” were Catholic.

    One needs to be careful when looking at what various world leaders have said in favor of Pope Pius. They cannot be considered without understanding the realpolitik context at the time they were uttered.

    The Vatican Secret Archives for the WWII period need to be opened. This is ultimately also for the Church’s benefit, even if it does show, as I think it will, that the Church as such did very little to help the hounded Jews. After all, it was the Church itself that published eleven volumes of documents 40 years ago precisely to counter allegations that Pope Pius XII did do as much as he should have. It’s safe to assume the Church would have shown its best, most compelling documentation showing Pius helping Jews if it had it, and it would have been totally counterproductive to have left clear evidence of this help out of those eleven volumes. I think one can logically assume the documentation simply does not exist.

    Gabriel Wilensky

    Six Million Crucifixions:
    How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust
    Follow me on Tweeter at

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  21. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    Thanks for the compliment. If your ability to read and having a couple of rellies whose ethnicity or religion places them in a particular context relating to the war makes you an expert historian then so am I and quite a few others too.
    The link is provided in good faith to help enlighten the debate ,did you notice where its from?

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  22. Biomag83 (94 comments) says:

    To be declared a saint a person must have lived the three theological virtues to an heroic degree. Faith, Hope and Charity.
    Pope Pius the 10th did lives these lifes such this. David at the time of the holocaust and the years after it the Jewish community landed praise on the work of Pope Pius. It was only the Holywood Jews that began to think otherwise

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  23. Biomag83 (94 comments) says:

    secondly david the Catholic Church doesnt take your veiw into account on who it confers sainthood on. Arrogant twit

    [DPF: Are you incapable of reading? I specifically said my view doesn’t count towards the decision. But my view does count, along with millions of others, as to what we think of the Church if they make Pius a saint]

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  24. andrei (4,510 comments) says:


    An anti Nazi homily – Delivered in every Roman Catholic Church in Germany, March 14th 1937

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  25. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    Fletch and other defenders of Pius do seem to imply that open denunciation of Nazism and open defiance of deportation orders for Jews were an impossibility for a religious body like the Catholic church in an effectively occupied country during World War Two.

    I think such a claim is unfortunate, because it involves a distortion of the historical record.

    The fact is that there were churches that openly defied the Nazis, and that successfully sabotagued attempts to deport Jews to their deaths. At exactly the same time that Pius was declining to publically condemn the deportation of Jews from Italy and to use his church’s respurces to spike that operation, the mostly Protestant churches of Denmark joined with the resistance and defeated Nazi attempts to deport their country’s Jews to the death chambers.

    Danish church leaders issued proclamations that condemned plans for the deportation of Jews and called on their members to refuse to carry out any work that might facilitate deportation. Christians were warned it was a sin to supply, service or drive a train carrying Jews away, and this made it easier for underground trade unions to organise the informal strike which helped forestall Nazi plans. Civil servants and local police were also warned against collaboration with deportation orders. Taking heart from the open calls to resistance they heard from the pulpit, many Danes hid Jews in their homes to protect them from deportation. As a result of these efforts, only a tiny minorty of Danish Jews was ever deported to the concentration camps. A concerted effort at deportation in October 1943 was a flop.

    Of course, Denmark was an exception rather than a rule in occupied Europe. In most countries Jews were deported in huge numbers to near-certain deaths. In many countries, the sort of open resistance to deportation that the Danes practiced would have been very difficult. Denmark was ruled with a relatively light hand by the Nazis, Danish Jews constituted a small, well assimilated minority, and were thus harder for the Nazis to pick out and pick on, and the deportation order came towards the end of the war, when it was clear that the days of Nazism were numbered, and when resistants were therefore emboldened. In a country like Poland, which was conquered right at the beginning of the war and subjecdted to appalling brutality, and which had a huge and geographically and socially segregated Jewish community, resistance to deportations would have been much harder.

    There are certain compelling similarities, though, between the situation of Italy when the deportation of Jews took place and the situation in Denmark. Like Denmark, Italy had a relatively small, relatively assimilated Jewish population. Like Denmark, Italy had retained some measure of autonomy from Berlin. Mussollini was an appalling man, but he had, for resons of pride rather than principle, resisted becoming a Nazi puppet, and for years he had made a point of refusing Hitler’s demands for the deportation of Jews. The deportation of Jews began in earnest only after Mussollini was briefly deposed, rescued from prison by Germans, and installed as puppet leader of the ‘Salo Republic’ in the northern part of Italy that had not yet been occupied by Allied forces and partisans. The Salo Republic and Nazi Germany itself were clearly doomed, and the deportations were, for Himmler and his SS, a race against time and advancing Allied armies. Neither the Salo Republic nor the Nazis had any legitimacy with the vast majority of Italians. Swathes of the northern countryside were already under the de facto control of armed partisan bands. Even in the cities, there was sometimes open defiance of the fascists.

    Given all of these factors, what would have happened if Pius had publically condemned the deportation of Jews and demanded that all his followers do whatever they could to stop them? I think it is quite reasonable to suggest that the Italians could, like the Danes, have protected their Jewish minority.

    At the very least, the action of the Danish churches shows us that there was an alternative to Pius’ policies towards the Nazis.

    As an aside, I find some of the quotes that Fletch has supplied us with a little odd. Take this one, for instance:

    ‘Of the 44 speeches which the Nuncio Pacelli had made on German soil between 1917 and 1929, at least 40 contained attacks on Nazism or condemnations of Hitler’s doctrines.’

    Given that the Nazi Party didn’t exist until 1920, that Hitler was virtually unknown until 1923, and that Hitler’s movement was not a major force in German politics until the second half of the ’20s, I think the Nuncio Pacelli must have had remarkable political foresight!

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  26. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    ‘It was only the Holywood Jews that began to think otherwise’

    ‘Hollywood Jews’ is a term that was created by anti-semites to express their belief that Jewish interests control America’s entertainment industry and its media. You may not be using it with anti-semitic intent, but it’s not a term that belongs in a rational discussion.

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  27. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    In the 60s a play called The Deputy by Rolf Hochhuth seems to have kicked off this anti Pius business.
    It has also been made into a film. A KGB defector has made the claim it was inspired by a plot to discredit the Pope by the Soviets. Seems to have worked.
    Prior to this the Pope had been greatly admired for his efforts.
    I too think” Hollywood Jews” is offensive .
    Hollywood does have a huge influence in the world tho ,mostly negative.
    Recently watched a “documovie'” about the Wansee Conference , final solution meeting in Berlin, and again reference made to Catholic Church timidity thrown into the narrative,but it made me wonder how historical or accurate that comment was and whether there’s an agenda out there and I think there is an anti-clerical,anti Papacy agenda and some of this muck stirring about Pius is part of that.

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  28. Fletch (9,011 comments) says:

    towaka –

    First, Cardinal Pacelli was not the instigator of the Concordat, and he signed it only out of practical considerations. The Church had been making concordats with every government she could as a kind of protection for the rights of the Catholics in every country [During his pontificate Pius XI concluded concordats with at least 21 nations in an effort to secure world peace and protect the spiritual mission of the Church]. Concordats were practical because they would ensure the continuation of Catholic education, protect schools and monasteries from seizures, and safeguard the freedom of worship and Catholic sacraments such as marriage. As one author put it, concordats won “in a single stroke, protections that would have required years to obtain politically as domestic legislation.”27 With this thought in mind, Pacelli had been in Germany in the 1920s to try to negotiate a concordat with the German Weimar Republic, but he and his successor as nuncio were not able to obtain the right promises from the government. When Hitler came to power in 1933 and was granted dictatorial powers, “Pacelli [as Secretary of State] was not in favor of concluding such a treaty with Hitler in the immediate future,” 28 especially since Hitler was not only an “untrustworthy scoundrel, but [also] a fundamentally wicked person.”29 It was actually Hitler who approached the Church and offered all the concessions that the Church wanted. “If the Church had rejected the Concordat, all Hitler needed to do was publish the concessions he had offered the Church” and then explain that the Church did not care enough about her children to obtain for them religious rights.30 Pacelli himself was actually reluctant to sign, as was witnessed by multiple acquaintances. Ivone Kirkpatrik, the British minister to the Holy See, wrote after a meeting with Pacelli that the future Pope had been given less than a week to decide whether or not to sign, and that “the spiritual welfare of 20 million Catholic souls in Germany was at stake and that was the first and, indeed, the only consideration.”31 Even authors who are fairly neutral on the subject of Pius XII claim that the Concordat was simply the “prudent thing to do” because not to do so “would have been prejudicial to the rights of Catholics in Germany.”32

    The Concordat was also in no way a “papal endorsement of Nazism.” Hitler himself was the first to circulate this rumor, claiming in his propaganda that the Concordat was the Church’s “recognition of the present government” and implicit approval. To combat this idea, “Pacelli, in two articles in L’Osservatore Romano, said that Hitler’s claim that the Church now approved of Nazism was absolutely wrong,” immediately after the Concordat was signed.33 In his 1937 encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (“With Burning Anxiety”), Pius XI stated that the Church signed the Concordat “despite many misgivings” to “secure for Germany the freedom of the Church’s beneficent mission and the salvation of the souls in her care, as well as by the sincere wish to render the German people a service essential for its peaceful development and prosperity.”34 The Concordat was a defense of German Catholics, not an approval of a dictatorial regime. In fact, German Catholics sometimes used the Concordat “as a legal basis with which to resist Nazism,”35 which was one of the purposes of the Concordat. Pius XII later explained that “despite all of the violations to which it was subjected the Concordat gave Catholics a juridical basis for their defense, a stronghold behind which to shield themselves in their opposition, so long as this was possible, to the rising tide of religious persecution.”36

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  29. Ryan Sproull (7,975 comments) says:

    Generally speaking, the Nazis were against everything I like and were allied with everything and everyone I dislike.

    By “generally speaking”, of course, I mean that everyone tends to think that.

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  30. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    I don’t think the large number of serious historians who have worked on this subject and come to a conclusion different to that of the present Pope are all part of some Soviet/Jewish/Hollywood plot to discredit Catholicism. A bigger stimulant has probably been the release of declassified documents over the years – in the ’90s the Americans released thousands, for example, and these have been the basis of some studies.

    As far as I can see, the debate about the Vatican’s wartime policies is not a contest between serious scholarship and bigoted charlatans, like the ‘debate’ about the reality of the Holocaust, or the ‘debate’ about whether 9/11 was the work of Osama bin Laden. There seem to be well-credentialed scholars on both sides.

    Historical controversies should not be seen as a sign of failure on the part of scholars. Without the controversies that new information and new analyses inevitably create, progress could never be made in explaining the past, and the ways in which the past have created the present. The arguments over Pius XII should be allowed to continue, and the Vatican should open its wartime archive to the Holocaust scholars that have requested access to it.

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  31. ZenTiger (401 comments) says:

    Indeed, Ryan.

    Fancy the Pope signing a concordat with the Germans (sorry, Nazis) in 1933. Only a few years before the war. What was he thinking?

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  32. Murray (8,822 comments) says:

    Actually Kowtow my epxertise as an historian comes from my history degree if thats ok by you.

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  33. JC (1,102 comments) says:

    Here’s a link to Churchill and the Holocaust.. a man himself who came in for some criticism of his handling of the Shoah.

    In his notes, comments and speeches the old warrior did what he could.. he even saved a few hundred Jews here, several thousand there.. but in sum he could only be bloodthirsty about what he would do to Nazis involved in the murders *after* the war.

    Pious was under bloody and brutal Occupation, so were his priests and nuns, so were most European Christians, but between them they quietly saved hundreds of thousands.. they did OK and an awful lot better than Churchill despite his might and fulminations.

    Imagine Churchill in the Pope’s shoes.. he might well have been far more bloody minded and brave than the Pope, but in the end his fiery blasts might well have been characterised as “I will will fight this bestial Hitler and his Nazis to the last drop of Jewish blood..”


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  34. Hoolian (180 comments) says:

    This is an interesting debate. As a Catholic I have mixed feelings about Pius. On one hand you hear accounts of how much he did (albeit quietly) for Jews all over Europe; while on the other, one wonders why he didn’t speak out more.

    But who am I to judge?

    WWII-Europe was a dark and lonely place – very different looking back as opposed to have actually lived there.

    I’m sure there were many brave acts by Catholics all over Europe, including from Pius.

    In whatever way you look at it; Pius sure is a great example of how we must always speak out against evil. Whether or not you think he did enough, he sure encourages us to do more in our own lives.

    Ironically, when the Catholic Church today speaks out on moral issues, it gets rebuffed for interfering and told to shut up. Perhaps in 50 years we’ll be having this argument, but instead being accused that the Catholic Church didn’t speak out enough against abortion.

    The beauty of hindsight I suppose.

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  35. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    I notice that no one discussing Pius XII favourably has focussed on the deportation of Italian Jews in 1943-44, and the question of whether he should have adopted the method of the Danish churches by publicing the deportations and calling for his followers to sabotage those deportations.

    I find it hard to understand Fletch’s comments about the historical method. He says that we should look at what people ‘who were there’ said about Pius, but it’s difficult to know exactly what he means by this. If he means that we should base ourselves on primary evidence – eg the documents produced during the war and the testimony of the people who were involved with the Vatican, with Jewry and so on in occupied Europe – then I agree with him. But Fletch follows up his call for us to listen to ‘people who were there’ by citing a series of interpretations of Pius’ behaviour made during the war by observers who were usually far away – Einstein, the New York Times, and so on.

    Einstein’s or the Times’ commendations may or may not be interesting, but they are not pieces of primary evidence, even if they were made during the war. They are interpretations, of the sort that have to be made on the basis of primary evidence. And it’s fair to say that a huge amount of new primary evidence has emerged since the NYT and Einstein made their judgements of Pius. Contemporary scholars who have the opportunity to read, say, the telegrams between the Vatican and the US governments, thanks to the declassification of documents that occurred in the ’90s, have access to material that was unavailable to Einstein or the Times in the ’40s.

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  36. towaka (47 comments) says:

    What ever way Fletch wants to spin it,the concordant that Pius did with the Nazis was doing ”a deal with the devil”..did you know that the quid pro quo of the concordant was that the Germans set up a ”Church” tax so that 10% of Germans income was collected by the government and passed on to the Churches.Can you imagine the untold billions that flowed to the Vatican in this way.No wonder the Vatican wants to make this guy a saint!

    But as to the point I made earlier,The Yad Vashem in Israel is the world center in Holocaust studies.Going into the Yad Vashem you go through the avenue of Righteous Gentiles where a tree is planted for every person who helped to save Jews.But to the shame of the Roman Catholic church Pope Pius does not have tree planted in his honor but is instead held up to severe criticism inside the museum.

    I think it is the prerogative of the Jewish historians to make this call on Pius and what motive would they have to not to be fair in their judgments.I know this issue causes much political pressure for the Israeli government,but the Yad Vashem`s historians are not changing their stance.

    By the way it was until only recently that the Vatican established diplomatic relations with Israel…no problems with hobnobbing with Nazis but not with Jews eh!

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  37. Banana Llama (1,105 comments) says:

    Probably had something to do with the amount of Jews in the black shirts up until 43.

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  38. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    German Christians still pay taxes to their churches . This applies to RC and Lutherans.I suspect the untold billions dont go to the Vatican but to local Xtian schools & charities.

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  39. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    Here’s a defence written by a Rabbi.

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  40. towaka (47 comments) says:

    Yes Kowtow I know that Germans still pay this ”church” tax…so the billions still flow and ultimately the monies flowing for the RC`s will be under the control of the Vatican.Just think of the size of the German economy and then think what 10% from all German Catholic`s adds up to over 70 odd years.Like I said no wonder they want to make Pius a saint for setting up this nice little earner.

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  41. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    Done some reading,googles great,that tithing was from the Weimar Constitution,current Federal Germany carried it over.Sorry your anti Catholic theory falls over with only a little research.

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  42. Don the Kiwi (2,636 comments) says:

    Ah yes. As I have stated before several times on this blog, the last acceptable prejudice is alive and well in NZ.

    As long as its the Catholics in the firing line, any amount of vilification and distortions of the truth are fair play.

    But we’re used to it – 2000 years of history show that you vilifiers of Pius X11 are real pussies at your limp and gutless style of criticism and condemnation.

    Pius X11 will be recognised as a saint or not dependent on the examinations that will be carried out by the Church, and not by a bunch of complaining wimps decrying the Church and venting their own personal bigotries.

    Oh, and BTW, Schindler -who has been mentioned in this thread – he was a Catholic.

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  43. Fletch (9,011 comments) says:

    The Yad Vashem in Israel is the world center in Holocaust studies.Going into the Yad Vashem you go through the avenue of Righteous Gentiles where a tree is planted for every person who helped to save Jews.But to the shame of the Roman Catholic church Pope Pius does not have tree planted in his honor but is instead held up to severe criticism inside the museum.

    towaka, on the contrary, I read that in the Negeb, southeast of Jerusalem, however, there stands a forest that was planted in acknowledgment of the Jewish lives saved by Pope Pius XII, one tree for every life. The forest has 860,000 trees. I remember seeing a TV program with John Paul II being shown it.

    As far as the Yad Vashem, I do not care what they are saying now. It sounds as though they are not immune from the liberal revisionism that goes on in every country in the world. It is a travesty that the people he saved are representing him that way; however, the voices of Israel’s great leaders and politicians echo down through the ages in opposition – the statements of the people who were actually there during and after the war, and the statements of thanks at Pius’ funeral tell me much more than someone today with some kind of axe to grind.

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  44. Biomag83 (94 comments) says:

    you hit it in one.

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  45. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    There does seem to be failure in your posts to understand the historical method Fletch.

    It is obvious that the role of the church in World War Two has been controversial amongst historians, and is capable of varying interpretations. Of course, given this fact, you can roll out the interpretations of various defenders of Pius.

    Equally, though, one could roll out a series of quotes from wartime and postwar critics of Pius’ policies – the US ambassador to the Vatican during the war, who was critical of Pius’ failure to pass on information he received about the Holocaust, or the distinguished Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritian, who resigned from the employ of the Vatican after the war in protest at what he considered Pius’ failure to appreciate the church’s failings over the Holocaust, or the numerous professional historians without any obvious political ‘axe to grind’ who have published on this issue in recent decades and made criticisms of Pius.

    Surely the point is to examine the evidence, which is still being produced, and decide which interpretation is best? By invoking some kooky conspiracy theory involving a vast anti-Catholic plot by commies/Hollywood Jews/liberals (I can’t keep up with all the conspirators being nominated in this thread) and dismissing the work of contemporary scholars, who have access to vastly more material than anyone did in the ’40s, you make this impossible.

    Your attitude is much more retrograde than that of the Vatican, which has at times worked with contemporary Holocaust scholars to try to explore the subject of Pius XII’s policies during World War Two (the commission which the previous Pope set up to explore the matter broke down when its Jewish members requested documents from the Vatican archive which the archive’s keepers were not prepared to release).

    Two useful questions for defenders of Pius in this thread to ask are: is it possible to criticise Pius XII’s wartime policies without being anti-Catholic and ‘bigoted’? If the answer to this question is ‘no’, then there’s little point in discussion. Dogma can’t be discussed, only asserted.

    If the answer is ‘yes’, then a second question can be asked: what possible piece of evidence, or set of pieces of evidence, would make defenders of Pius XII conclude that they had been wrong to consider that he did a good job in opposing Nazism and the Holocaust? In other words, is there anything that could shake your faith in Pius’ saintliness? If the answer is ‘no’ then, once again, there is no point in discussion. But if you can lay out some sort of criteria that Holocaust scholars would have to meet to change your views, then at least there is a basis for taking a look at the evidence. How about it, folks?

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  46. Don the Kiwi (2,636 comments) says:

    Obviously you have not read kowtow 6.30 pm post.

    An article by Rabbi David Dalin. Perhaps you need to read it before you contiinue with your falshoods against Pius X11.

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  47. wolfjung (62 comments) says:

    A very well researched book, “Hitler’s Pope” discusses at length why this man should not receive a sainthood.
    Pius was every part the fascist power seeking freak Hitler was. He was doing cloaked deals with Hitler by withdrawing the Catholic party from German politics and essentially ceding the Catholic youth groups (to latter become the foundation of the Hitler youth) all to feed the momentum of the Nazi party.

    This man Pius thought he was more clever than Hitler and its speculated his grandiose idea was to conduct a counter-reformation giving the Catholic church the power its craved since the Roman empire collapsed. Well……didn’t he get shat on big-time by Hitler?……….and he should be shat on again and left to history remembered as Pope Pius, not Saint Pius

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  48. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    Thanks Don for exemplifying the approach to historical debate that I was criticising.

    David Dalin takes one position in the controversy over Pius XII; other scholars, like John Cornwell, whose book ‘Hitler’s Pope’ is mentioned by the last commenter, take another position. Instead of recognising that scholars can disagree with one another, and examining which theory best fits the evidence (or considering whether some sort of synthesis might be the best way to account for the evidence) you’ve decided that anyone who disagrees with the defenders of Pius’ wartime record is some sort of anti-Catholic bigot spreading lies for political purposes. There is a vast literature on this subject, bedrocked by a vast and growing collection of primary documents, but you’re content with one article you read on the net yesterday.
    With that sort of attitude, serious discussion is impossible.

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  49. Canterbury Atheist (7 comments) says:

    This is an historical ‘no-brainer’.

    European Fascist Dictatorships run by megalomaniac Catholics, garnish support from the Dictatorial leader of The Roman Catholic Church at the time. Then when one of the said Fascist leaders begins exterminating en-mass the historic enemies of The Roman Catholic Church – ‘The Christ Killers’ – not un-surprisingly he ‘The Pope’ turns a blind-eye.

    Pius XII himself in his 1942 speech to his Cardinals identified Jews as “the murderers of God.”

    The Jews are ‘The Murderers of God’ a theme carried-on from pope to pope, generation to generation of Catholic doctrine.

    In the 15th century Jews in Rome were forced by The Roman Catholic Church to wear labels so they could be identified by officials (‘cum nimis absurdum”) and rounded-up and consigned to ghettos – where have I read that before?

    Another Pope Pius (IX 1846 – 1878) also restricted Jews in Rome to ghettos and consigned them to 2nd class citizens based on their faith – Warsaw WW2 all over again.

    I can see why The Catholic Church would want to celebrate & support Pius XII given their centuries-old history of anti-Semitism.

    This pope like all before him is a hero in ‘believers’ eyes, more importantly can do no wrong – so why bother arguing the point?

    Catholics are passionate about infallibility, their place as the one-true-church.

    So let’s leave the sad bitter hate-filled old-men to it.

    Have a great day.


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  50. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    The Pope did not remain silent.Read the 1942 Christmas address.Commentators are judging the Pope because they dont like the manner of his diplomacy .Read what Golda Meir said. Scott H can dress his criticisms up any way he likes,”historical method ” my arse.He makes lots of big claims w/o substantiation too. “Cornwells great cos I agree with him” ,did he have access to the all important archives which the evil Vaticanists wont allow anyone to see? Dark secret vaults ,conspiracy theories ,little green men.
    Hey Scotty look at wolfjungs post@810 and tell me he’s not as nutty as you claim the pro Pius mob to be.

    Most history is not history ,it’s idealogic polemic and this blog on Pius proves it.

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  51. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    This thread should be preserved as an example of how difficult it is to have a rational discussion about history in an internet forum! Kowtow, I never said Cornwell was great, and I never said I agreed with his book, which I haven’t read. What I’ve done is objected in my first comment to the idea that Pius’ policy was the only possible policy toward Nazism from a church, using the example of the Danish Lutherans to show that there was an alternative, and then in subsequent comments criticised the suggestion that historians who make criticisms of Pius are politically-motivated liars involved in some sort of conspiracy. It is quite clear that Pius’ role in the Holocaust is a source of controversy and debate amongst qualified historians. This debate should be respected. We should not suggest that one side or another has sinister motives.

    Contrary to what kowtow suggests, none of the claims about historical facts I’ve made here are particularly controversial. It is an historical fact that the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission was set under the last Pope, and that its Jewish members requested and were denied access to various Vatican documents. It is an historical fact that the Danish Protestants openly supported and took part in the operation to thwart the deportation of Jews in October 1943. Jacques Maritian’s criticisms of Pius’ policies are a matter of historical record.

    What kowtow objects to is the possible interpretation of these historical facts. He doesn’t like the idea that some people use them to form an interpretation of Vatican policy which is negative. That’s fine – as I’ve said, there are some distinguished historians that go in to bat for Pius. What’s not fine is the insinuation that anyone who disagrees with a pro-Pius interpretation is part of some evil conspiracy, or at the very least bigoted.

    kowtow is now suggesting that the discipline of history is itself irrational – a matter of ‘ideology’ and ‘polemic’ divorced from facts. While facts do not speak for themselves, and always have to be interpreted and contextualised, and no historical interpretation is ever completely final, the argument that history is just whatever anyone says it is, and that the method of historians is without rationality is profoundly reactionary.

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  52. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    PS I’ve found a copy of the 2000 report of the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission online:

    The Commission broke up in 2001, and so did not, so far as I know, produce any texts after the 2000 report, which focuses not on making judgements but on identifying areas of Pius’ wartime policies which need further research. The report also concludes with a request for access to more Vatican documents.

    Because the 2000 report was produced with the cooperation of the Vatican, and was made by a commission which was half-Catholic, it might help to convince some of the commenters here that not everyone who raises questions about Pius’ wartime policies is a raving anti-Catholic bigot. With its series of questions designed to tease out the meaning of historical documents and to uncover new documents, the report gives a great picture of the way that historians work.

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  53. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    I love Scottys historical method.Yesterday @344 Einstein and The Times contemporary comments are dismissed as interpretations ( because they don’t fit his views on this issue) while today@1040 facts have to be “interpretted and contextualised”.
    And I stand by my remark that history as it is presented is idealogical polemic. There are very few true historians out there.
    I love that “profoundly reactionary’……. sounds like a Marxist.

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  54. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    Oh dear kowtow. I didn’t ‘dismiss’ Einstein’s view of the Pope – I pointed out it was an interpretation and not a piece of primary evidence. I said it might or might not be a good interpretation, but it can’t be confused with a piece of primary data.
    Of course we need to interpret – we can’t do research without hypotheses, and we can’t generalise the facts we gather without interpreting. The trick is to make sure that the interpretations and the facts are lined up.

    I’m curious as to who you think the ‘true historians’ are. If they are trained historians, and not DIY nutjobs like David Irving and his ilk, then you’ll find that their ‘true’ histories contain hundreds of footnotes from scores or hundreds of other historians that don’t make your list. History, like most forms of scholarship, is a basically collective enterprise. I hope that you’ll find out more about the subject and its method at some stage in the future. Reading the report I linked to might be a good place to start.

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  55. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    Scotty, when all else fails a bit of condescension will do the trick. And why bring Iring into this,that’s a red herring and you know it. Again brings into question your methods .

    Reading Rabbi Dalin may be a good place for you to start and Pius’ 1942 Christmas message. Put them together and hey voila Pius not silent and a few angry Nazis to keep you happy.

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  56. Don the Kiwi (2,636 comments) says:

    Careful Scott.

    Quoting John Cornwell’s “Hitler’s Pope” (debunked decades ago) is like quoting Dan Brown as a reliable scource that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a daughter. You must know that Cornwell is quite vehemetly anti-Catholic. How does that make him objectively, a reliable historian?

    I prefer to stick with those who made comments at the time – Einstein, Golda Meir, and many many other Jewish and even agnostic people who spoke out in favour of Pius X11.

    Of course, I’m biased – and proudly so in this instance.

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  57. kowtow (13,200 comments) says:

    A review of Rabbi Dalins book by Sir Martin Gilbert, Holocaust historian

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  58. Scott Hamilton (763 comments) says:

    Er, Don, Cornwell’s book (which I neither praised nor scorned, but merely mentioned as an example of a prominent recent comment on Pius’ wartime policies) was published in 2000, so I doubt whether it really was ‘debunked decades ago’, as you mentioned. Would I be right in concluding you haven’t read either the book or the ‘debunkings’ you mention?

    I haven’t read Cornwell’s book and so can’t take a position on it. I do note that he has good academic credentials and enjoys the esteem of his peers, and isn’t regarded as some sort of pseudo-scholar. If he has vehement opinions – and I don’t know if he has – then this doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from being a competent historian. One could easily argue that many of the best historians have had strong personal opinions about subjects like politics and religion, and that these opinions gave them some of their hypotheses. All of us have opinions. Strong opinions may actually help a scholar form interesting hypotheses. The question is whether a scholar is prepared to ‘listen’ to the evidence and modify his or her hypothesis when it doesn’t fit the evidence.

    I wrote my PhD on the great British historian EP Thompson, who had very strong opinions on all manner of subjects, yet was capable of changing his mind dramatically in the course of his research. To take one example – Thompson did a famous study of the sale of wives in nineteenth century Britain, which he began using the hypothesis that the practice was an example of the oppression of women by men. As he accumulated scores and then hundreds of cases of the practice, though, Thompson noticed that women often participated happily in their ‘sale’, that the amount of money that changed hands was derisory, and that the ‘buyer’ of the wife was usually a man who had been having a relationship with her. Thompson concluded that the sale of wives was an informal working class form of divorce used in the days when only the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy could divorce legally.

    Historians who are unable to modify their hypotheses in the light of empirical evidence generally don’t become successful.

    I’m surprised by these repeated references to a statement Einstein made about Pius in 1940. Einstein’s comment was made when the war was in its very early stages, and wasn’t informed by either first-hand experience or a reading of documents. Today’s historians have far better resources, thanks to declassified documents. It’s reasonable to think that they might raise questions which would never have occurred to Einstein, like the scores of questions in the report of the Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission I cited earlier. I think that the questions raised in the report of the Catholic-Jewish Commission should be answered, and that the documents the commission requested should be released.

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  59. Don the Kiwi (2,636 comments) says:


    Apologies Scott.

    Senior moment. I was getting confused with David Yallop’s ” In God’s Name.”

    I accept your point about later released documents, but still consider the statements of prominent people during and after the war to be more valid than an academic’s critical and subjective analysis, the type of which we seem to get all the time nowadays – objective truth it seems, has gone out the window.

    No. I haven’t read “Hitler’s Pope.”

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