Friday, March 03, 2006

The Legacy of Pius XII --
Via Haaretz, Pope Benedict speaks on Pius XII.

Pope Benedict XVI praised the World War II-era pope, Pius XII, as a great pontiff but stopped short of endorsing his case for beatification, according to a transcript released Friday by the Vatican.

Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958 and was a Vatican diplomat in Germany and its secretary of state before that, has been criticized for not doing enough to save Jews from the Holocaust. His supporters say he made every effort to help Jews and other victims through quiet diplomacy.

. . .

That Pius maintained restrictions on Jews in Rome's ghetto and also condoned the church's decision to have papal guards take a Jewish-born boy away from his family because he had been secretly baptized. The boy grew up in a Catholic boarding school and eventually became a priest.

Benedict, a member of the Hitler Youth when he was a seminarian, has made a point of reaching out to Jews, following in the footsteps of John Paul. He has publicly condemned the Nazi regime and recalled the tragedy of the Holocaust on several occasions.

In his response, Benedict made no mention of Pius XII's cause for beatification, although he did praise the late pope as being particularly dear to Germans.

"It seems that this is also an occasion to express gratitude for all the great popes of the last century," Benedict said, listing each pope from the 1900s.

Benedict XVI is too much the good Catholic soldier to ever say anything bad about Pius XII, even if that were his opinion of the late pontiff. So far, B16's pontificate has not been the militant one that some had hoped for. There are those who seem to wish for the beatification and sainthood of Pius XII as a blow against those criticial of the Church's role during World War II.

I tend to think there are two questions. Did the Catholic Church do enough during World War II? Did Pius XII do the most he could possibly do to save the Jews? I think it is possible to answer yes to the first question and no to the second question (although I decline to say that those are the correct answers). It is quite possible that the wartime pope did could be reasonably expect of him but fell short of all that was humanly possible.

Some advocates of Pius XII uphold him, in part, because they (wrongly) feel that any flaw in the man must cast doubt upon the goodness of the Catholic Church. Some who want to tear down Pius do so because they want to use it as an argument that the Catholic Church is flawed. If these agenda-drive people on both sides are in control of the debate, the truth will never be known.
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