Month: December 2004

The Guardian’s Attempt to Slander Pope Pius XII

Via Patrick Sweeney (Extreme Catholic) comes this report from The Guardian:

The Vatican secretly issued instructions to the Catholic church in France not to return Jewish children to their families after the second world war, it emerged yesterday.

The children were entrusted to the church’s care to save them from the death camps. But if the parents survived the war and came forward to reclaim their sons or daughters, the children were only to be returned “provided [they] have not received baptism”, the Vatican ordered.

The instructions, contained in a letter dated October 20 1946, were sent by the Holy Office, the Vatican department responsible for church discipline, to the future Pope John XXIII, Angelo Roncalli, who at that time was the Holy See’s envoy in Paris. The letter was published yesterday by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

The letter ends with the words: “Please note that this decision has been approved by the Holy Father.” This may well have been a warning to the then Monsignor Roncalli, who, in his previous job as the pope’s nuncio, or ambassador, in Istanbul, was suspected by some in the Vatican of an excessively pro-Jewish outlook.

The letter deals a new and crushing blow to the reputation of the wartime pope, Pius XII.

Source: “Vatican hit by new row over war role: Pope kept Jewish families apart”, by John Hooper. The Guardian December 29, 2004.

Leave it to The Guardian to put the worst anti-Catholic spin on this, leaving its readers to draw their own conclusions (“See? This PROVES that Pope Pius XII was anti-semitic!”) — but let’s unpack this.

The nature of the instructions and the qualification for retaining custody of the children — “provided they have not received baptism — reveals the guiding principle: concern for the spiritual welfare and salvation of the children, once baptized, now Catholic, supercedes the rights of the parents to raise their offspring. We may find it controversial. Indeed, it was the same principle that led to the famous and tragic “kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara:

In 1858 the 6-year-old Jewish boy was taken from his parents’ home in Bologna, Italy, by agents of the Papal inquisition. The year before, seriously ill, Edgardo had been secretly baptized, by the Mortaras’ Catholic servant (or so she claimed); it was against the law for baptized Christians to be raised by Jews, and so, in the eyes of the Church, the kidnapping was only just. Secular Italians did not agree, and thus was set in motion a series of reforms that ended the Church’s temporal power in Italy and forged the creation of a liberal, near-democratic state. For his part, young Edgardo became a priest and lived in a Belgian abbey until 1940–just before the invading Germans began to deport and execute all those tainted with Jewish blood. [description via Amazon.com, from the narrative history by David Kirzer ]

Let us reverse the relationship for a moment. If a baby were to be relenquished to the custody of Jewish foster parents, and in that time converted to Judaism (or was raised as a Jew), would they then be inclined to return the child to its Gentile (though natural) parents and thereby endanger his faith?

It’s an unlikely situation, I admit, given the circumstances and Jewish-Christian historical relations in general, but again, we see the guiding principle of such a directive, and it is not entirely unreasonable to expect that this was the Vatican’s motivation in its post-WWII instruction.

Whether a deliberate tactic or just plain ignorance on the part of the reporter, suffice to say by omitting any likely rationale for the Vatican’s directive, The Guardian perpetuates the notion that Pius XII was motivated by anti-Jewish sentiments in issuing such an order.
* * *
Update (11:55am): (Via Amy Welborn): The Jerusalem Post brings further information, and clarifies the nature of the Vatican directive:

The document, transmitted by the Holy Office to Roncalli on October 20, 1946, includes instructions on how to deal with requests by Jewish institutions to return Jewish children who had been entrusted to Catholic institutions and families during the war.

The document reads: “Those children who have been baptized cannot be entrusted to institutions that are unable to ensure a Christian education.

“Regarding those children who no longer have parents and for whom the Church has been responsible, it is not advisable that they be abandoned by the Church itself or entrusted to persons who have no rights whatsoever over them – unless they are able to take responsibility over themselves. This obviously applies to children who have not been baptized.

“If the children have been entrusted [to the Church] by their parents, and if the parents now claim them back, they can be returned, provided the children themselves have not been baptized. It should be noted that this decision of the Congregation of the Holy Office has been approved by the Holy Father.”

As the Jerusalem Post notes: “the pope instructed Nuncio Angelo Roncalli to refuse to hand back children who had been baptized by their Catholic caretakers, but Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, disobeyed.”

Our present Holy Father, John Paul II, had a somewhat different mindset as well, at least giving due respect to the rights of the parents. According to a commentator on Amy Welborn’s blog:

A childless Christian couple had taken in the child of Jewish friends. The Jewish friends did not survive the Holocaust. The couple wanted to keep the child and baptize him. They sought out a young Polish priest for advice asking whether they should baptize the child and raise him. The priest said, “No. Follow the wishes of his parents and find living relatives to give him to.” They followed the priests instructions. That priest is now our Pope.

If memory serves me correctly the above account is taken from The Hidden Pope, Darcy O’Brien’s fascinating “parallel biography” of the Holy Father and his lifelong friend Jerzy Kluger. Kluger went on to be enlisted by the Holy Father as an intermediary in the negotiations leading to the Vatican’s formal recognition of Israel.

Note: this is not a discussion of the justifiability of the Vatican’s rationale in itself and the proper rights of natural parents — that’s for another blog, at another time, although it appears that Open Book’s Commentariat is presently debating the issue. Perhaps Jimmy Akin and other theological minds could weigh in?

* * *

Meanwhile, that Pope Pius XII didn’t hate the Jews but possessed a clear concern for their welfare is bolstered by many testimonies, including:

  • “On Pius XII’s Help to Slovakian Jews”, Zenit.org interview with Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, on a new book attesting “to the Holy See’s intervention to prevent the persecution of Jews in Slovakia during World War II.”
  • “Praise for a U.S. Diplomat’s Memoirs on Pius XII” Zenit.org. June 17, 2004. According to Pius XII historian Peter Gumpel, U.S. diplomat Harold Tittman’s “correspondence with the United States confirms the Holy See’s absolute independence in its opposition to the Nazis and its endeavor to support the victims of the conflict.”
  • “Pius XII Gave Instructions Specifically to Save and Protect Jews” Zenit.org January 9, 2003. Two documents published by Inside the Vatican reveal Pope Pius XII’s preferential help for the Jews. According to Zenit, the letters were addressed to Bishop Giuseppe Maria Palatucci of Campagna, in southern Italy, where a major concentration camp was located. The Bishop, along with his nephew Giovanni, chief of police in Fiume, were caring for hidden Jews interned in Campagna. The letters document two donations by the Pope “preferably to those suffering for reasons of race” and “to be distributed in aid to interned Jews.”

My compilation of news, articles and book reviews on Pius XII can be found here.

Earthquakes and Eschatalogical Speculation

On December 26, 2003 the world witnessed a horrific earthquake in the city of Bam, Iran. At that time I had posted some musings on “theodicy and the scandal of physical evil”. This year, Amy Welborn and company carry on the discussion of “tsunamis and moral anthropology”.

How little has changed — was it a simple coincidence that the world would bear witness to yet another earthquake on December 26, 2004 ? A cruel twist of fate? Or an event of cosmic implications, as SpiritDaily would have us believe? — It’s sad to see how every natural disaster that occurs sets certain hearts aflutter with eschatalogical speculation about the “last days.”

On a more practical note:

Here and There . . .

  • Read the Bible in a year? A schedule [.pdf format] “follows the Liturgical Church year (beginning with December, that is,Advent) and attempts to follow the liturgical seasons in general; using natural breaks in the text, rather than chapter breaks; spacing Psalms and Proverbs throughout the entire year; calls for reading the Gospels twice a year (approximately half a chaptera day), and includes all 73 books in the original Bible.” Via Fructus Ventris
  • “The true test for any Catholic blogger will come when they discover in the Particular Judgment that the blog added to or deducted from their time in Purgatory.” – Patrick Sweeney (Extreme Catholic)
  • The Pontificator reflects on the meaning of the common inquiry: “Brother, Are you Saved?”
  • Bill Cork challenges the “willful ignorance” of The Revealer.
  • Training for Eternity, a blog by a military chaplain who was present at the recent terrorist attack at the Army camp in Mosul. Attending to the dying in their last moments is one of the hardest duties I can imagine any pastor could have, and Chaplain Lewis’ faith is admirable to behold. (Thanks Indepundit).

    My brother Jamie (Ad Limina Apostolorum”) with a scholarly discussion of “Augustine on the Goodness of the Corporeal Realm.”

  • Dave Morrison (Sed Contra) blogs about Bishop Loverde’s recent attendance of their Courage meeting.
  • “Get behind me, Grinch!” — Earl E. Appleby (Times Against Humanity) rounds up stories from secular society’s ‘War on Christmas’.
  • Father Dowd (“Waiting in Joyful Hope”) is doing a series of posts in connection with his parish’ study of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Here is Part I, on what is liturgy and ‘The Liturgical Movement’?; and Part II: “Why did Vatican II change the liturgy?”

  • A hearty welcome (back) to Karen Marie Knapp (From The Anchor Hold), just in time for Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Greetings all and I hope you had a pleasant, restful and merry Christmas!

Midnight Mass was excellent as always, the choir singing many old favorites and ending as usual with a fine renedition of the ‘Halleluah’ chorus from Handel’s Messiah. This year was rather significant, with the priest’s blessing a recently-refurbished tabernacle which they had discovered in the basement and installed in the center of the church, directly behind the alter (a move prompted by the Holy Father’s proclamation of “The Year of the Eucharist”, reminding all of the foundation of the Church). A move which surely merits POD recognition by members of St. Blog’s Parish.

Speaking of good music — perhaps it is only in keeping with the spirit of the season, but for several Sundays in December our typical Eucharist hymn (which is drawn from modern fare and usually serves to bolster the premise of Thomas Day’s “Why Catholics Can’t Sing”) has been replaced by “Hidden God, Devoutly I Adore Thee,” a translation of the famous hymn Adoro Te Devote by St. Thomas Aquinas.

I’ve read that there are twenty-five translations, and I’m not sure whether ours is a modern or traditional musical rendering — but in any case, after being forced to sing (or sit through) the saccharine-sweet “One Bread, One Body”, it was a welcome relief to sing so substantial a hymn, and to marvel at the meaning of the words — allegedly written by the saint at the request of Pope Pius IV for the feast of Corpus Christi in 1264.

I just hope it lasts, although I’m resigned to the possibility that come the transition to “normal time” we’ll be returning to more contemporary works.

"The Child Knocks" — Will we listen?

The Word became flesh. Alongside this Johannine truth there has to be put also the Marian truth as rendered by Luke. God has become flesh. This is not only an immensely great and remote happening, it is something very close and human. God became a child who needed a mother. He became a child, someone born with tears on his cheeks, whose first utterance is a cry for help, whose first gesture consists in outstretched hands searching for protection. God became a child.

Nowadays we also hear it being said, in contrast, that this, after all, would be nothing but a sentimentality better put aside. Yet the New Testament thinks differently. For the faith of the Bible and the Church, it is important that God desired to be such a creature who has to depend on a mother, on the sheltering love of humans. He wished to be dependent in order to awaken in us love that purifies and redeems. God became a child, and every child is dependent. To be a child thus contains already the theme of the search for shelter, the elementary motif of Christmas. And how many variations has this motif seen in our history!

In our days we experience this anew and in disturbing ways: the child knocks on the doors of our world. The child is knocking. The search for shelter is profound. There is indeed an atmosphere of hostility toward children, but is this not preceded by an attitude that altogether bars any child from entering this world because there would be no more room for him? The child knocks. If we would receive him we are to rethink thoroughly our own attitude toward human life. Here we are dealing with fundamentals, with the very concept of what it means to be human: to live in grandiose selfishness or in confident freedom that knows its vocation to be united in love, to accept one another.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

p. 404, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year

“The Child Knocks” — Will we listen?

The Word became flesh. Alongside this Johannine truth there has to be put also the Marian truth as rendered by Luke. God has become flesh. This is not only an immensely great and remote happening, it is something very close and human. God became a child who needed a mother. He became a child, someone born with tears on his cheeks, whose first utterance is a cry for help, whose first gesture consists in outstretched hands searching for protection. God became a child.

Nowadays we also hear it being said, in contrast, that this, after all, would be nothing but a sentimentality better put aside. Yet the New Testament thinks differently. For the faith of the Bible and the Church, it is important that God desired to be such a creature who has to depend on a mother, on the sheltering love of humans. He wished to be dependent in order to awaken in us love that purifies and redeems. God became a child, and every child is dependent. To be a child thus contains already the theme of the search for shelter, the elementary motif of Christmas. And how many variations has this motif seen in our history!

In our days we experience this anew and in disturbing ways: the child knocks on the doors of our world. The child is knocking. The search for shelter is profound. There is indeed an atmosphere of hostility toward children, but is this not preceded by an attitude that altogether bars any child from entering this world because there would be no more room for him? The child knocks. If we would receive him we are to rethink thoroughly our own attitude toward human life. Here we are dealing with fundamentals, with the very concept of what it means to be human: to live in grandiose selfishness or in confident freedom that knows its vocation to be united in love, to accept one another.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
p. 404, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year