Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Communist Conspiracies & Pope Pius XII

Many of us have heard the accusation that Pope Pius XII was in league with the Nazis, siding with them in their attempts to exterminate the Jews, or the less severe accusation that the Pope was more concerned with protecting Vatican property than with defending the Jews, leading him to remain mostly neutral.

The book, Pope Fiction: Answers to 30 Myths and Misconceptions About the Papacy, has a chapter on this accusation, which quotes the 1941 New York Times, saying, "the Pope put himself squarely against Hitlerism," and again in 1942 The New York Times reported that, "he assails violent occupation of territory, the exile and persecution of human beings for no reason other than race or political opinion." It also explains that at the end of the war, the Jews praised Pius XII for his help. I'll note that the full quotes, and the rest of the chapter give far more evidence, but this suffices to show that there has been some serious historical revisionism going on.

Then where did this accusation come from? The first time anyone heard this charge it was in a play called The Deputy. This play's supposed author, Rolf Hochhuth, cites an unnamed bishop along with various unconvincing documents (like some which just quote anti-Catholic Nazi officers) as proof of the play's claims.

What I just learned about this matter recently, though, is that the entire charge, and the play that brought it into public knowledge, may have originated as a communist plot.

Former KGB "Romanian point man," Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa, who helped perpetrate the plot wrote, "In February 1960, Nikita Khrushchev approved a super-secret plan for destroying the Vatican’s moral authority in Western Europe."

He continues, in a 2007 article, to write, "Eugenio Pacelli, by then Pope Pius XII, was selected as the KGB’s main target, its incarnation of evil, because he had departed this world in 1958. 'Dead men cannot defend themselves' was the KGB’s latest slogan."

Pacepa worked to help "in pilfering hundreds of documents connected in any way with Pope Pius XII out of the Vatican Archives and the Apostolic Library."

Though, "no incriminating material against the pontiff ever turned up," his superior in the KGB, General Ivan Agayants, still went ahead to create a "play attacking Pope Pius XII, entitled The Deputy, an oblique reference to the pope as Christ’s representative on earth. Agayants took credit for the outline of the play, and he told us that it had voluminous appendices of background documents put together by his experts with help from the documents we had purloined from the Vatican."

He goes on to write that, despite the fact that by 1974 "newly released information show[ed] that Hitler, far from being friendly with Pius XII, had in fact been plotting against him. [...]Today, many people who have never heard of The Deputy are sincerely convinced that Pius XII was a cold and evil man who hated the Jews and helped Hitler do away with them."

For an even more detailed account of the whole controversy you can read The Myth of Hitler's Pope, by Rabbi David G. Dalin.

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