September 2002 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter- September 2002- Vol. VIII, no .9

Dear Friends,
A warm welcome to those of you returning this month to the academic fray!
I trust you all had a good holiday, and will be glad to hear from you on
any matter relating to our interest in Contemporary Church History.
We return this month to the affairs of the Catholic Chrch, beginning with
the continuing debate about Pius XII and his policies, this time from a
Canadian perspective. We are most grateful to Gregory Baum, one of
Canada’s most distinguished theologians, for allowing us to reprint the
following article, which is a valuable contribution to the debate about the
character and aims of Pope Pius XII, as seen by one of the pioneering
champions of a new stance towards Judaism, Jacques Maritain. We are also
glad to reprint a review of a new book by our noted colleague from New
Brunswick, Peter C.Kent, which is here reviewed by one of our younger
scholars, Robert Ventresca of King’s College, University of Western
Ontario, London, Ontario. We are also grateful to Jay Hughes for is
insightful review of a new book about Pope Paul VI.

1) German Studies Association meeting, Oct. 4-6th 2002
2) Gregory Baum, Essay on Jacques Maritain and the Vatican’s stance on Judaism and the Jews
3) Book reviews:

a) Kent, The Lonely Cold War of Pius XII
b) Brechenmacher and Ostry, Paul VI – Rom und Jerusalem

4) Journal article: Pius XII and diplomacy
1) The following papers in our field are to be given at the GSA meeting
next month:

The Text and Context of Nazi ‘Theology’ – R.Steigmann-Gall
‘Christian Charity’ and ‘Jewish Vengeance’, Bishop Muench 1946-7
– Suzanne Brown-Fleming
Protestant Theology and the Conversion of Jews, 1945-1950 – M. Hockenos
The DEK’s Foreign Office and the Spanish civil war – G.Besier
NS Church policy in Poland – M. Phayer
Protestantism in Austria in the Third Reich – K. Schwarz

(We shall hope in a future issue to have a precis of these papers for those
unable to attend this meeting.

(2) Maritain Puzzled By Pius XII – in 1946
(Reprinted from The Ecumenist, Vol 39, Spring 2002, p.1-3)
On February 12, 2002, Professor Michael Marrus, honoured historian at the
University of Toronto, gave a lecture at McGill University in Montreal on
the Vatican and the Holocaust. He focused his lecture on a letter of July
12, 1946 written by Jacques Maritain to Giovanni Montini, who at that time
held a high post at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Since Maritain’s
letter is not well-known, I have asked Professor Marrus’ permission to
draw upon his research and write a short article based on his lecture.
Maritain’s solidarity with Jews
Maritain was one of the first Catholic thinkers who was troubled by
antisemitism in western society and raised the question to what extent the
Church and its theology have been responsible for this. In 1937 he
published the essay “L’impossible antisémitisme” and a year later the book
“Les juifs et les nations.” That his wife Raïssa was of Jewish origin may
have given him a special sensitivity to the topic. As a democrat and
defender of human rights, Maritain opposed fascism in all its forms and
therefore supported the republican side in the Spanish civil war – while
the great majority of Catholics stood behind Franco. In 1939, Maritain
taught at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto, and
after France fell in 1940 he moved to New York, where he became a
unofficial ambassador for the Free French, supported the cause of General
de Gaulle and entertained associations with Jews and other refugees in that
city. In April 1945, de Gaulle named him the French ambassador to the Holy
See where he remained till June 1948. In Rome he became a friend of
Giovanni Montini, effectively the pope’s chief of staff, who regarded
himself as a student of Maritain and who had introduced Maritain’s thought
to Italy.
In his letter of July 12, 1946, Maritain addresses Montini as a friend, not
as an ambassador. He pleads with him to submit an urgent appeal to Pope
Pius XII. He ” feels impelled as a Catholic to present this plea at the
feet of the Holy Father, together with sentiments of filial and profound
devotion.” Maritain explains that he has been troubled for many years by
the most savage hatred visited upon the Jews. “During the [recent] war six
million Jews have been liquidated, thousands of Jewish children have been
massacred, thousand of others torn from their families and stripped of
their identity .. . . Nazism proclaimed the necessity to wipe the Jews off
the face of the earth (the only people whom they thus wanted to exterminate
as a people)”. In his judgement “among the many other crimes that have
ravaged and debased humanity,” this genocide was a “mysterious tragedy”
that expressed “a hatred of Christ,” targeting as it did “the people who
gave to the world Moses and the prophets and from whom Christ himself came.”
Maritain then refers to “the tireless charity with which the Holy Father
hastried with all his might to save and protect the persecuted,” and to
his “condemnations against racism that have won for him the gratitude of
Jews and all those who care for the human race” Yet he continues. ” What
Jews and Christians need above all [at this time] is a voice – the paternal
voice, the voice par excellence, that of the Vicar of Christ – to tell the
truth to the world and shed light on this tragedy. This has been, permit
me to say it, greatly lacking in the world today.”
Maritain recognized that “for very good reasons, and in the interests of a
higher good, and in order not to make persecution even worse, and not to
create insurmountable obstacles in the way of the rescue that he was
pursuing, the Holy Father abstained from speaking directly about the Jews
and [from] calling the attention of the whole world to the iniquitous drama
that was unfolding. But now that Nazism has been defeated, and the
situation has changed, could it not be permitted, and this is the purpose
of this letter, to transmit to the Holy Father the appeal of so many
anguished souls and to beg him to make his voice heard?” “It seems to me –
and I hope that your Excellency will not see any presumption in what I am
writing in all humility – it seems to me that this is a particularly
opportune moment for such a sovereign declaration of the thought of the
Church. On the one hand the conscience of Israel is particularly troubled,
many Jews feel deeply within them the attraction of the grace of Christ,
and the word of the Pope would surely awaken in them echoes of exceptional
importance. On the other hand, the antisemitic psychosis has not vanished,
on the contrary one sees that everywhere in America and in Europe
antisemitism is spreading in many segments of the population, as if the
poisons issuing from Nazi racism continue to do their work of destruction
of souls . . . .”
Maritain notes that his appeal is “urgent”; he refers to “the part that
many Catholics had in the development of antisemitism” both in the past,
during the war, and in the present.
Pius XII: Charity and Reticence
Maritain wrote to Montini on July 12th. Four days later, on the 16th, he
had an audience with the Pope. On that occasion, the pope told him that he
had “already spoken [on this issue], and that he had done so “on receiving
a Jewish delegation.” A Jewish delegation had indeed come to see the Pope
on November 29, 1945. This was a group of 70 Jewish refugees coming from
German concentration camps who had asked for “the great honour of thanking
the pope in person for the generosity that he had shown when they were
persecuted during the terrible period of Nazi-Fascism.” The Pope’s speech
was published in Osservatore Romano the next day.
“Your presence, Gentlemen, seems to us an eloquent testimony to the
psychological transformations and the new orientations that the world
conflict has, in its different aspects, created in the world· The abyss of
discord, the hatred and the folly of persecution which, under the influence
of erroneous and intolerant doctrines, in opposition to the noble human and
authentic Christian spirit, have engulfed incomparable numbers of innocent
victims, even among those who took no active part in the war· The Apostolic
See remains faithful to the eternal principles of the law, written by God
in the heart of every man, which shines forth in the divine revelation of
Sinai and which found its perfection in the Sermon on the Mount and has
never, even in the most critical moments, left any doubt as to its maxims
and its applicability .. . Your presence here is an intimate testimony of
the gratitude on the part of men and women who, in an agonizing time, and
often under the threat of imminent death, experienced how the Catholic
Church and its true disciples know how, in the exercise of charity, to rise
above the narrow and arbitrary limits created by human egoism and racial
passions·. You have experienced yourselves the injuries and the wounds of
hatred; but in the midst of your agonies, you have also felt the benefit
and the sweetness of love, not that love that nourishes itself from
terrestrial motives, but rather with a profound faith in the heavenly
father, whose light shines on all men, whatever their language and their
race, and whose grace is open to all those who seek the Lord in a spirit of
Maritain was deeply disappointed. On July 19, he writes in his diary:
“Visite à Montini. Je lui parle des Juifs et de l’antisémitisme. Le Saint
Père ne les a jamais nommés. Conscience catholique empoisonné, il faut
l’éclairer.” Maritain appreciated that during the war the Holy See
articulated its opposition to racism without naming antisemitism or the
Jews, but he did not understand why even after the war the Pope still
refused to use the word antisemitism, speak to Jews as Jews and
acknowledge the relation of the contempt for Jews to a certain Christian
theological discourse. Writing to his friend Charles Journet, Maritain
confesses that “he felt an absence of papal leadership on the Jewish
Why do I think that Maritain’s exchange with the Pope in 1946 is
significant? It sheds lights on the complex personality of Pius XII. It
confirms that he sorrowed over hatred, persecution and death inflicted by
the Nazi Germany upon innocent people and that he offered his help to them
whenever this was possible. Maritain’s exchange reveals that the Pope
believed he had done his Christian duty. Yet we also learn from this
exchange that Pius XII refused to reflect thematically on the experience of
the Jewish people and on the contempt in which they were held in western
society. He addressed the Jewish delegation in universal terms, recalling
God’s love for all human beings and expressing the Church’s respect for
people beyond her borders. The only specific reference to Jews in the papal
address was the claim that the Christian law of love was more perfect than
the law of the Mosaic covenant. Having announced to the world the divine
summons to love and justice, the Pope had a good conscience; at the same
time he was unable to address the Jews as Jews, utter an explicit
condemnation of antisemitism and acknowledge the Church’s religious
anti-Judaism. One has the impression that the Pope was inhibited by the
traditional orthodoxy, according to which the Jews had missed the boat of
salvation in the first century and were in need of hearing the Christian
truth in the present. Pius XII lacked a theology that would permit him to
do what Maritain had asked for, namely to speak to the world of the
pervasive contempt for Jews in western society and to repudiate this hatred
in properly Christian terms. Admittedly, such a theology was hardly
available in the Church of that time. Jacques Maritain and Charles Journet
were perhaps the only Catholic philosophers before 1946 who adopted a
Christian approach to the Jews that respected them as Jews and honoured
their religious faith. Maritain’s letter reveals that even he still longed
for the eventual conversion of the Jews to the faith in Christ.
I think Maritain’s exchange with the Pope in 1946 sheds light on the
contemporary debate between historians over the role played by Pius XII
during WW II. Some scholars defend Pius XII as a man of great charity who
had condemned racism, lamented the persecution of the innocent, and
extended his help to great numbers of Jewish refugees. Other scholars judge
him severely because he did not condemn the persecution of the Jews in
specific terms nor acknowledge the religious roots of antisemitism. These
different interpretations do not seem to be in contradiction. If Pius XII,
moved by Maritain’s plea, had made a public declaration in 1946, he would
have created a different image of himself. For such declarations we had to
wait for the Vatican Council II (1962-1965) and the pontificate of John
Paul II.
Gregory Baum, Montreal.
3) Book Reviews:
a) Peter C.Kent, The Lonely Cold War of Pope Pius XII.
Montreal/Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002, 358 pp. $45.00
(Reprinted from the Montreal Gazette, July 13th 2002)
When Eugenio Pacelli was elected Pope in March 1939 – taking the name Pius
XII – some cardinals complained that the new pope was a “man of peace” at a
time when the world needed a pope prepared to “do battle”. What they meant
was that Pacelli was too timid, too much the diplomat, to provide the kind
of resolute leadership needed in a world threatened by totalitarian
repression and war.
Though the charge of timidity dogged Pius XII for the duration of his
pontificate, and well beyond, a new book by historian Peter C. Kent
suggests that Pacelli was not so much timid as he was selective, choosing
to do battle with enemies he identified as most dangerous, and then
fighting them with all the spiritual, political and diplomatic means
available to a pope.
Pius XII’s resolve to “do battle” against one declared enemy – Soviet
Communism – while fulfilling the role of universal pastor to a world
divided by war and ideology is the subject of Kent’s The Lonely Cold War of
Pope Pius XII.
Drawing largely on the diplomatic records of western countries, Kent, a
professor at the University of New Brunswick, offers us a detailed look at
the role of the papacy in the early Cold War. To his credit, Kent has
balanced a narrow time frame – 1943 to 1950 – with a comprehensive
geographic focus, providing readwers with valuable insights on Roman
Catholicism in various national contexts. Though narrow, Kent’s choice of
time frame is the book’s great virtue. With a focus on PAcelli’s
pontificate after 1945, Kent offers an important corrective to our skewed
version of Pius XII. Yes, Pacelli was pope throughout World War II:
yes, this is the pope many people condemn as “Hitler’s Pope” for not having
done more to save Jews during the Holocaust. Yet, as Kent reminds us, the
pope so closely associated with the events of the watr reigned as head of
the Roman Catholic Church for 13 years after 1945. In a sense, it was the
Cold War, not World War II, that defined the pontificate of Eugenio Pacelli.
Kent’s study is centrally concerned with a simple question: to what extent
did Pacelli act on a “predetermined political agenda” in exercising his
power as spiritual head of Christianity, and as sovereign head of state?
Kent maintains that Pius XII was indeed a “pope with an agenda”, namely to
fight the spread of Coimmunism and protect the interests of the Catholic
Church within the Soviet bloc. This agenda, Kent asserts, clashed with the
“great powers,” and often ran counter to the “demands of good sense.”
So it was, Kent suggests, that Pius XII went against the interests of the
western powers, the national Catholic churches of eastern Europe, even
common sense itself; this to the detriment of his own influence and the
interests of his flock in the East. To hear Kent tell it, Pius XII was very
much left out in the cold in Cold War Europe; a shivering, lonely cold
warrior, you might say.
This is where the narration of historical facts and the interpretation of
those facts begin to diverge. And this is precisely where Kent’s
conclusions begin to falter. For one thing, Kent argues that had he had
less of a “predetermined agenda,” Pius XII would have been a more effective
shepherd to his flock, and a more effective cold warrior. Yet, this
argument sounds more compelling than it is convincing. Take, for instance,
the question of Catholic co-operation with Communist regimes in eastern
Europe. Kent maintains that Pius XII’s refusal to sanction Catholic
co-operation with Communist rulers made things even more difficult for
Church leaders in eastern Europe, and weakened his own pastoral leadership.
Feeling the heat of growing persecution, the Catholic bishops of eastern
Europe found themselves under pressure to co-operate with Communist regimes
or risk even graver persecutions.
And co-operate they did, often signing agreements with Communist
governments without the Vatican’s authorization. Yes, the pope disapproved,
but that was about it. Faced with the option of imposing its authority and
denouncing the agreements, the Vatican said and did nothing – an implicit
acceptance of the agreements. In so doing, perhaps Pius XII showed greater
pastoral leadership than Kent appreciates.
Indeed, in apparent contradiction, Kent admits that the pope’s stature
among Catholics in eastern Europe was “enhanced” because of his willingness
to fight Communism beyond the Iron Curtain. Does this sound like a papal
agenda that ran counter to the demands of good sense?
This brings us to a more serious flaw in Kent’s assessment of Pius XII’s
record as a cold warrior. Accused by so many of moral equivocation of the
worst kind when it came to saving Jews during the Holocaust, Kent seems to
criticize Pius XII for displaying considerable backbone in fighting Soviet
Communism. When, in 1949, the Communist government of Hungary sentenced
the primate Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty to life in prison, Pius XII publicly
denounced the arrest with a passion and eloquence uncharacteristic of
someone known for his quiet reserve and diplomatic caution.
Yet, despite such public condemnation from the lips of the pope himself,
Kent would have us believe that national churches in places such as
Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland were left to defend the interests of the
church with “slight assistance” from the Vatican.
On the contrary, what emerges from Kent’s research is that the church of
Pius XII stood alone in confronting Communism behind the Iron Curtain. The
U.S. and other western powers were neither willing nor able to do much more
than preach the gospel of containment. As bishop of Rome, however, Pius XII
preached a different kind of gospel, conscious of his role as shepherd to a
universal flock.
Sadly, Kent’s book misses an opportunity to buck the trend made
fashionable by the commercial success of John Cornwell’s dubious Hitler’s
Pope (Viking, 1999). Clearly, Kent is not out to demonize Pius XII, nor
does he blame Pacelli — as Cornwell would have it — for all the ills of
the 20th century, from world wars to genocide. But Kent’s book is clouded
by a predetermined agenda of its own: to damn Pius XII if he does, and damn
him if he doesn’t; condemn him for remaining silent, and for speaking out.
Yes, readers will learn much about the early Cold War from Kent’s
exhaustive research. But they will search in vain for a deeper
understanding of Eugenio Pacelli the man, the pope and the cold warrior.

Robert Ventresca, King’s College, University of Western
Ontario, London, Ont.
b) Thomas Brechenmacher and Hardy Ostry, Paul VI. – Rom und Jerusalem.
Konzil, Pilgerfahrt, Dialog der Religionen. (Trier: Paulinus Verlag. 2001.
Pp. 303. 18.90 Euros) ISBN 3-7902-1359-4.
With Pope John Paul II’s journeys outside Italy approaching the one
hundred mark, it is difficult to appreciate the astonishment caused by Pope
Paul VI’s announcement at the end of his address on December 4, 1963, the
closing day of Vatican II’s second Session, that he would undertake a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem exactly a month later. In preparation since the
previous September (prior to the opening of the Council’s second Session on
October 11), the trip was a personal initiative of the Pope. Though two of
his aides had flown to Jerusalem in November to plan the itinerary, and
though the number of others informed was not small, there was not even a
rumor of the Pope’s intention until he exploded his bombshell. This
secrecy, almost unprecedented for Rome, was a tribute to the care with
which Paul had selected those charged with the planning.
Speculation about the Pope’s intention in making the trip
approached that which had greeted his predecessor’s announcement of the
Council five years earlier. Though the Holy See had no diplomatic
relations with either Jordan (then in control of east Jerusalem) or Israel,
the Pope would meet with officials of both governments, and with Orthodox
prelates, including the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. There were also
possible implications for the Council’s proposed declaration on the Jews,
already the cause of sharp controversy at the second Session. In this
fraught situation people had difficulty accepting the Pope’s repeated
assurance that he was going as a simple pilgrim.
In the first hundred pages of this book Thomas Brechenmacher describes
in great detail the trip’s preparation, the widespread advance speculation
about its significance, the crowded and sometimes tumultuous events of its
three-day duration, and the Pope’s triumphal return to Rome, where he was
received at the airport at nightfall by the Italian President and his
government. Despite darkness and cold, jubilant throngs greeted Paul on
his two-hour drive to the Vatican in an open car: “The greatest and most
moving reception any Pope had received for a century.” Addressing the
cardinals the same evening, the Pontiff, clearly moved, recounted his warm
reception in the Holy Land, especially by Patriarch Athenagoras.
In the pages following Hardy Ostry describes in similar detail the
stormy controversies and Byzantine intrigues preceding the Council’s
passage of its declaration on the Jews (Nostra aetate) at its final session
in 1965. Opposition came from Near Eastern Catholics, small in number and
dependent on the goodwill of Arab governments. They were supported by
powerful sympathizers in the Roman curia. Before the Council’s final
session an Italian bishop demonstrated that anti-Judaism was not dead by
declaring in an article that responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ
fell not only on the Jews of his day but on all Jews today.
Jewish spokesmen several times almost torpedoed the efforts of their
Catholic friends by indiscretions, moving the American Rabbi Tannenbaum to
say in 1964 that if the Council approved its declaration on the Jews, it
would be “in spite of the Jews, not because of them.” Cardinal Bea refused
to give up, despite numerous setbacks. He had strong support from western
European and especially from American bishops. The latter made a
condemnation of anti-Semitism a personal cause celebre at the Council.
The book is an example of meticulous German scholarship at its best.
In contrast to most such works, it is consistently interesting. The account
of the struggle for the Council’s declaration on the Jews could almost be
called a page-turner.
John Jay Hughes, St. Louis.

4) Journal article:
K. McDonnell, Pius XII and the Holocaust: Fear of Reprisals and Generic
Diplomacy in Gregorianum, 83/2 (2002), p 313-334
In this article Fr McDonnell argues that the policies of Pius XII towards
the international crises of his day were derived from the long practice of
the Vatican and the experience of successive popes in dealing with
situations of crises over many centuries. The aim was to resolve, or at
least to mitigate, the rivalries and hostilities of over-ambitious rulers,
and at the same time to seek to prevent the escalation of outright warfare
with its consequent disasters for civilian populations. Fr McDonnell then
traces the responses of the Vatican to the international crises of the
twentieth century. Certainly not all of these responses look advantageous
from the perspective of seventy years later. But we are here warned
against what a Cambridgeprofessor calls “the self-righteousness of vulgar
With every best wish
John Conway