Dialogika

Canonization of Pope Pius XII?

Holocaust scholar begins "mainstream" blog

Paul O'Shea is Senior Religious Education and Liturgy Coordinator at St Patrick's College, Strathfield, Australia, who has written on Pope Pius XII and Catholic responses to the Holocaust for over ten years. He is the author of A Cross Too Heavy: Eugenio Pacelli, Politics and the Jews of Europe 1917-1943. He has recently launched a blog that he describes as "an attempt to reclaim the middle ground on Pius." The blog may be accessed at: http://paulonpius.blogspot.com/. Below is the blog's first posting, which sets forth a "mainstream position" among historians regarding Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust.


After a long time wondering whether I should or should not commit my thoughts to a blog on Pius XII I was finally prompted to do something after The New York Times published an article by journalist Paul Vitello on 7 March 2010 entitled "War Time Pope has a Huge Fan: Jewish Knight".

Vitello had interviewed me via telephone in mid-February for nearly an hour. The interview ranged far and wide on issues to do with Gary Krupp and Pave The Way, contemporary scholarship on Pope Pius XII and reactions to PTW claims that historians who held positions contrary to them were just not working hard enough or, worse, were ignoring information that did not sit with their particular world-views. Vitello listened as I set out what I believe to be the mainstream position of historians who work in this area. Regretfully, not much of the via media seemed to get into the article.

So this is where I start this blog.

The mainstream position on the question/s of Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust is as follows:

  1. Mainstream historians are not interested in either canonising or vilifying Pius XII. We are intrested in seeking and publishing the historical record based on evidence from as many sources as possible.

  2. We are interested in seeking as complete a picture of the historical period using every available resource we can access.

  3. Our work is of its nature, slow and time consuming. It has to be, lest we fall into the trap of simplistic and literalist interpretations.

  4. We work collaboratively, exploring our different and particular interests, but always with a willingness to learn from each other.

  5. None of us claims to have the entire picture — it is impossible at present because there is still so much material that has yet to be examined.

  6. Based on what is currently available — Actes et Documents, the published documents of the German, British, French, Italian, and United States Foreign Offices, etc — the mainstream holds that Pope Pius XII was active in various ways to try and save the Jews of Europe, but that he did not speak clearly or unambiguously in condemning the murder of the Jews of Europe. There is much that still needs examining on both counts here.

  7. The mainstream holds that Pius XII was concerned for the Jews of Europe, before and during the war, but was limited in terms of what he could do — not in terms of what he could say.

  8. The post-war claim of Pinchas Lapide that Pius was responsible for saving 860,000 Jews is unsubstantiated either by Lapide himself or any credible historian.

  9. The mainstream holds that all reports — positive and negative — must be examined within their various contexts and understood as being limited by a wide variety of factors. Therefore, articles published in The New York Times or testimonies by people such as Israel Zolli, Golda Meir etc cannot be read only at face value.

  10. History is best served by careful and tested research that reports and records as many angles of the subject as possible. "Scrap book history" (the throwing together of a bundle of unanalysed documents, reports, testimonies and articles) is, in the end, unsatisfactory, pointless and risks the accusation of being apologetic or polemic. The mainstream seeks to write history, not polemic.