We may be witnessing the birth of a new anti-Catholic myth. The CBS news program “60 Minutes” recently presented what looked like an airtight case proving Pope Pius XII aided and abetted the Nazi cause by refusing to denounce them — presumably because he was anti-Semitic.
Like many myths about the Catholic Church (the popes turning a blind eye to New World slavery, for instance) this one isn't true. And like others, it's based on one historian's erroneous research being endlessly repeated but never checked.
In this case, John Cornwell's 1999 book Hitler's Pope, which has been thoroughly discredited by scholars who examined the same sources he did, continues to get favorable media attention around the world. (Last week's Register reported Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel's strong critique of the “60 Minutes” episode.)
In the interest of accuracy — and of the papacy — it is time to once again correct the record. Here are some headlines from The New York Times during World War II, and quotes from each article, as cited by John McLaughlin on his syndicated program the McLaughlin Group March 24:
Jan. 23, 1940: “Vatican Denounces Atrocities in Poland.” “Jews and Poles are being herded into separate ghettoes, hermetically sealed and pitifully inadequate.”
Jan. 24, 1940: “Vatican Amplifies Atrocity Reports: Weight of Papacy Put Behind Exposure of Nazi Excesses in Poland.”
On the same day, in an editorial entitled “Poland's Agony”:
“Now the Vatican has spoken with authority that cannot be questioned, and has confirmed the worst intimations of terror which have come out of the Polish darkness.”
March 14, 1940: “Jews'Rights Defended.” “That's how The New York Times described the Pope's words when meeting with a Nazi foreign minister,” said McLaughlin.
Christmas Day, 1941 and 1942: New York Times editorials said Pius XII is, “a lonely voice,” in his intervention on behalf of Jews and other victims of the Nazis.
Aug. 27, 1942: “Vichy Seizes Jews. Pope Pius ignored.” “These arrests are continuing, despite appeals to Marshal Henri Philippe Petain by leading Catholic clergymen, with the support of the pope.”
Dec. 4, 1943: While Germany occupied Rome and martial law prevailed, the “Vatican Denounces Decision to Intern and Strip all Jews in Italy.”
Oct. 1958: On the death of Pope Pius XII, then-Foreign Minister of Israel Golda Meir: “When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of the pope was raised for its victims.”
Added McLaughlin, “Are these New York Times headlines and the stories from the Holocaust less trustworthy than some alleged modern scholarship? Which is the more suspect, would you think?”
Pope Pius XII's canonization is being pursued by the Holy See. We hope his heroic acts on behalf of the Jewish people will help raise him to the altar.