History’s Long Defeat

“Actually I am a Christian,” Tolkien wrote of himself, “and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory” (Letters 255).

History as a long defeat – I can think of nothing that is more anti-modern than this sentiment expressed by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is a thought perfectly in line with the fathers and the whole of Classical Christian teaching. And it’s anti-modernism reveals much about the dominant heresy of our time.

We believe in progress – it is written into the DNA of the modern world. If things are bad, they’ll get better. The “long defeat” would only be a description of the road traveled by racism, bigotry, and all that ignorance breeds.

And our philosophy of progress colors everything we consider. 19th century Darwinian theory wrote a scientific version of progress into his theory of evolution. Of course, using “survival” as the mechanism of change gave cover to a number of political projects who justified their brutality and callousness as an extension of the natural order. 

The metaphor of improvement remains a dominant theme within our culture. A few years ago a survey of young Americans revealed the utterly shocking conclusion that for the first time in recorded history, the young did not expect to be as well off as their parents. It was a paradigm shift in American progressive thought. It remains to be seen how that will play out.

But Tolkien’s sentiment bears deeper examination. For not only does it reject the notion of progress, it embraces a narrative of the “long defeat.” Of course this is not a reference to steady declining standards of living, or the movement from IPhone 11 back to IPhone 4 (perish the thought!). It is rather the narrative of Scripture, first taught by the Apostles themselves, clearly reflecting a Dominical teaching:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. …Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra– what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (II Timothy 3:1-13).

This is Tolkien’s warrant for the “long defeat.”

 And the thought is not that we wake up one day and people are suddenly boasters, proud, blasphemers, etc. Rather, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

It was a common belief among the Desert Fathers that successive generations of monks would become weaker and weaker, unable to bear the great trials of their predecessors. Indeed it was said that in the end, the simple act of believing would take greater grace than all of the ascetic feats of the earliest monks.

This is not a Christian pessimism. If history tells us anything, it is that this is a very honest, even prescient reading. The evils of the 20th century, particularly those unleashed during and after World War I, are clearly among the worst ever known on the planet, and continue to be the major culprits behind all of our current struggles. That first war was not “the war to end all wars,” but the foundation of all subsequent wars. May God forgive our arrogance (“boasters, proud”…). However, the Classical Christian read on human life contains the deepest hope – set precisely in the heart of the long defeat.

It is that hope that sets the Christian gospel apart from earlier pagan historical notions. For the “long defeat” was a common assumption among the ancient peoples. The Greeks and Romans did not consider themselves to have exceeded the heroes who went before. They could model themselves on Achilles or Aeneas, but they did not expect to match their like. The Jews had no hope other than a “restoration of the Kingdom,” which was generally considered apocalyptic in nature. All of classical culture presumed a long decline.

The narrative was rewritten in the modern era – particularly during the 19th century. The Kingdom of God was transferred from apocalyptic hope (the end of the long defeat) to a material goal to be achieved in this world. This was a heresy, a radical revision of Christian thought. It became secularized and moderated into mere progress. It is worth doing a word study on the history of the word “progressive.” 

But Tolkien notes that within the long defeat, there are “glimpses of final victory.” I would go further and say that the final victory already “tabernacles” among us. It hovers within and over our world, shaping it and forming it, even within its defeat. For the nature of our salvation is a Defeat. Therefore the defeat within the world itself is not a tragic deviation from the end, but an End that was always foreseen and present within the Cross itself. And the Cross itself was present “from before the foundation of the world.”

Tolkien’s long defeat, is, as he noted, of a piece with his Catholic, Christian faith. It is thoroughly Orthodox as well. For the victory that shall be ours, is not a work in progress – it is a work in wonder.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The photo shows, “Galadriel,” by the Brothers Hildebrandt.

True Beauty

Converts are drawn to the Catholic Church for many different reasons: her historical credentials, the clear moral witness of pro-life Catholics, reasons of doctrine and truth, etc.

Some, particularly former high church Anglicans, have spoken occasionally of being impelled by conscience to convert despite the vast doctrinal confusion and liturgical ugliness they found in certain Catholic parishes.

Conversely, some have been drawn to the Church for aesthetic reasons — by the beauty of Gregorian chant, Palestrina, Chartres, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the breath-taking vision of Dante, and the majestic traditional Latin liturgy itself.

Converts from non-liturgical backgrounds attest to the compelling power and beauty of even simple gestures, like kneeling, genuflecting, and the Sign of the Cross.

What is the relation of beauty to truth? Usually truth is understood as a matter of propositions or judgments.

The Medievals distinguished three acts of the intellect: (1) understanding, (2) judging and (3) reasoning. Logically, the object of understanding is a term (“rose”), the object of judging is a premise (“All roses are red”) and the object of reasoning is a syllogism (“All roses are red/This flower is a rose/Therefore, this flower is red”).

In these examples, a flaw is readily apparent in the syllogism because of the false premise: it is not true that all roses are red. This tells us something important: truth applies to judgments, the second act of the intellect. Judgments can be true or false.

But can the term “rose” be true or false? Clearly not. It is either understood or not; but the question of truth seems irrelevant to understanding, the first act of the intellect. Or, at least, so it seems.

The poet, John Keats, once declared: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” What did he mean? Is there a sense in which the beautiful can be true?

Beginning with Plato, a number of ancient and medieval philosophers have referred to the good, the true and the beautiful as though they were somehow inter-penetrating concepts.

Medieval philosophers related these to other concepts like “being,” and called them “transcendentals” (from Latin, transcendere – “to climb over”), meaning they transcend or “climb over” all divisions, categories and distinctions between and within beings.

For example, anything in the world, by the mere fact of its having been created by God, is good. Evil, then, cannot be some sort of existing thing, but rather a kind of non-being, as blindness is the non-being of sight.

The goodness of something (like sight) does not add anything to its being, but is simply an aspect under which its being may be considered.

The same is true of all the other transcendentals: Truth is being as known, Goodness is being as rightly desired, and Beauty is being as rightly admired. Being considered (1) as the object of the intellect is Truth; (2) as the object of right desire is Goodness; and (3) as the object of right aesthetic delight is Beauty. Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, then, are various aspects of Being as apprehended by the intellect, will, and emotions.

A little sticking point might be the terms “right” in the definition of Good as the object of “right desire” and Beauty as the object of “right admiration.”

After all, is not the proverbial maxim, De gustibus non est disputandum (“there is no disputing about taste”)? Isn’t “beauty” purely subjective? Aren’t “goodness” and even “truth” considered purely subjective these days? Who is to say what is “really” true, good, or beautiful? Isn’t that presumption a trifle arrogant?

This is hardly the place for a full-blown discussion of criteria for adjudicating differences of opinion over judgments of truth, goodness, and beauty. Suffice it to note several conditions that will serve to define the framework of a traditional Catholic approach to these questions.

First is the conviction that reality is intelligible and that the intellect can know it — maybe not exhaustively, but adequately. Hence, Truth is defined as the correspondence between intelligible reality and the knowing intellect (adaequatio rei et intellectus).

Second is the conviction that what is really (as opposed to merely apparently) good for us is knowable and that we ought to desire it. Hence Goodness is defined as the object of right desire.

Third is the conviction that what is really (as opposed to merely apparently) beautiful is knowable and that we ought to admire and delight in it. Hence Beauty is defined as the object of right admiration.

Beauty has been called “the synthesis of all transcendentals” since it is related not just to one faculty but to the intellect and will and emotions. It is therefore the most complex of the transcendentals.

St. Thomas Aquinas defines it in one place as, id quod visum placet (“that which pleases upon being seen”), which underscores its subjective aspect. The beautiful is pleasing to us. Yet this is not the end of the matter, because we clearly do dispute whether certain objects rightly warrant aesthetic admiration.

Accordingly, St. Thomas adds three objective criteria to his subjective criterion of pleasure: (a) integritas (unity), (b) consonantia (harmony), and (c) claritas (splendor or radiance).

Thus, when John Paul II entitled one of his encyclicals, Veritas splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”) he seems to have touched on the inter-penetrating quality of transcendentals: Truth is beautiful. It exhibits qualities of beauty: unity, harmony, and splendor (or radiance). One could also refer to the goodness of truth. Well, you get the picture.

Can we also speak of the truth of beauty, then? There does seem to be some reason for supposing that truth need not be limited to judgments alone.

While it makes little sense to speak of a beautiful rose as “true” in a strictly propositional sense, a rose nevertheless presents itself as an object of the intellect, and as an intelligible being created by God in correspondence to His own intellect and will.

At the very beginning of his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas refers to “God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves.”

Thus, God signifies not only His existence, but His power and majesty by the sheer beauty of His creation (see Romans 1:19-20). Likewise, the beauty of music, liturgy, and religious art can serve, as do Sacraments themselves, as signs that point to realities and truths beyond themselves.

Professor Philip Blosser teaches philosophy at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. This article is courtesy of his blog.

The photo shows, “Eternal Peace,” by Isaac Levitan, painted in 1894.

The Council Of Trent – Some Thoughts

The importance of the Council of Trent lies in its being two things at the same time: 1) the heart and soul of the Catholic Reformation (the authentic reform of the Church); and 2) the definitive moment of the Counter Reformation (the reaction against the Protestant Revolt): “By almost universal agreement, the counter-attack of the Church to the movement that is known as the Protestant Reformation begins seriously with the Council of Trent.”

Besides these important issues the Council met to address, there were serious problems that plagued it before, during, and after its sessions. These will come to light in the following brief sketch.

For many years before the Council actually met, there had been talk of an ecumenical synod to reform the Church and to react to the challenge put to her by Luther.

Reform-minded Catholics strongly desired such a council, as did others with a more pragmatic agenda, especially the Emperor (Charles V), who had to address the civil strife caused by Luther’s revolt within the Empire and the Spanish Netherlands.

As early as 1520, only three years after the close of the Fifth Lateran Council, there was a call for such a council, but Pope Leo X was afraid of what might come of it, especially in light of the conciliarist tendencies that were still lingering.

The threat was a real one: The Protestants agitated for conciliarism during the Council, and, even after its conclusion (1563), the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand I, who succeeded his brother Charles as emperor, advanced a conciliarist line.

Pope Paul III (1534-1549), a reform-minded Pontiff, was willing to risk the dangers, and summoned a council to meet in Mantua. Emperor Charles V resisted, as he wanted the council within the confines of the Empire. A compromise was made in selecting Trent, which, while an Italian city, belonged to the Empire. Charles resided much of the time at Innsbruck, a day’s ride to the south.

Although the Council was summoned in 1542, it did not convene until 1545. Even then, it was off to a very slow start. Those who were in attendance at first were exclusively Italians. Then the Spaniards showed up. French and German bishops were in sporadic attendance throughout the history of the Council, depending on the present mood of their sovereigns.

The Council met on and off for eighteen years: 1545 to 1563. That it was off more than on can be seen by the dates of the sessions, which spanned over three periods: 1545-1547, 1551-1552, and 1562-1563.

The Council met for only four of those eighteen years. The reason behind the frequent prorogations of the Council was most often disagreement between the pope and the emperor over such things as location of the Council, the subjects it was to take up, the pope’s policies toward Charles’ war with France, and the war itself.

There was also a typhus epidemic that broke out in Trent, leading to a brief convocation in Bologna. Francis I, the Valois king of France, showed himself to be even less cooperative, opposing the Council at first, forbidding the publishing of the bull of convocation in his Kingdom, and refusing for a while to allow French bishops to attend its sessions.

Francis feared not only the loss of the Gallican Church’s independence, but also whatever might favor Hapsburg hegemony in European politics. Indeed, France’s allying herself against the Empire with the Protestant Schmalkaldic League showed that she put her own national interests over those of the Church.

For his part, Charles, a good Catholic, was too pragmatic in his pursuit of peace with Protestants within the Empire. At many points during the Council, he pushed for a deferring of the doctrinal questions in favor of discussing reform, naively thinking that the Council could show the Protestants that the Church was reforming herself, thus rendering the dogmatic disagreements non-issues.

We see that there were two issues the Council met to address: reform and heresy. In the immediate background, though, were the issues of conciliarism (condemned shortly before at Lateran V, but still lingering) and nationalism. The complex interplay of these four issues was to impact the life of the Council until its very end.

In light of the events he had to deal with, Charles’ pragmatic considerations are not as reprehensible as they may seem. They were not governed by sheer pacifism. Not only did he have to deal with the treachery of an anti-Hapsburg Valois policy, but, all the while, the Turks were at the Gate threatening the security of all Christendom.

The Italians present, by far the majority of Fathers – never to be equaled or outnumbered by all the other national groups combined – were of a much more realistic awareness of the depth of the doctrinal divide. Luther had transgressed orthodoxy. Not only was the Church in need of internal reform; heresy must be condemned.

But how to accomplish both of these ends? Paul III preferred that doctrinal questions be addressed first, then the Council could take up reform. Charles V wanted it the other way. In a compromise between the emperor’s preferences and the pope’s, issues of doctrine and of reform were addressed simultaneously.

Having briefly summarized the intrigues and politics that complicated the work of the Council, and what, in broad outline, that work was, we now detail some of the issues the Council addressed. We will do so session by session, skipping those whose work was limited to the administrative functions such as convocation, indiction, resumption, translation, prorogation, or the granting of safe passage to heretics.

The fourth session of the Council defined the Canon of Holy Scripture contrary to the Protestant rejection of the deutero-canonical books. It also established the authenticity of the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome, anathematizing anyone who would reject it. (It did not, as Palmer claims – pg. 85 – say that the Vulgate was “the only version of the Bible on which authoritative teaching could be based.”)

The fifth session issued the Decree on Original sin. This condemned Lutheran and Calvinist “total depravity,” the doctrine that exaggerated the effects of Original Sin.

At the same time, the Decree avoided anything savoring of Pelagianism, Protestantism’s heretical opposite in the doctrine of grace. The Decree established the true doctrine of Original Sin concerning its existence, extent, effects, and remedies. This session also addressed two reform issues touching upon 1) the education of clerics in theology and the liberal arts and 2) the office of preaching and that of “questors,” i.e., collectors of alms.

The sixth session gives us the celebrated decree on Justification, which did so much to clarify Church teaching in a matter some Catholics were confused about, thinking that there was room for compromise with the Protestants. In the “process of justification,” faith is not the only ingredient, but it is the essential initium salutis.

In addition to faith, the other infused theological virtues are necessary, as is human cooperation with God’s movement. Those in sin can, by the actual grace of God, cooperate with His loving designs.

Grace is not simply an external garment (still less is it snow on dung!), but an interior beautification of the soul, an intrinsic change that makes the Christian a new creature. Once in the state of Grace (justification), man can truly merit an eternal reward because he has the principle of supernatural life in him. In a series of canons, the various heresies of Luther and Calvin on these points are explicitly anathematized.

The reform issues taken up by this session included episcopal and priestly residence (the duty of the bishop to reside in his diocese and the priest charged with cure of souls to reside in his parish), restrictions on bishops performing pontifical functions outside their dioceses, and the prohibition of regulars from residing outside their religious houses.

The seventh session considered the doctrinal issue of the sacraments in general and two of them specifically: Baptism and Confirmation. There are seven sacraments, all of which were founded by Jesus Christ.

They work ex opere operato, effecting what they signify, and are not mere symbols of grace. The form and matter of Baptism and Confirmation, their effects and relative necessity, as well as the proper minister are carefully laid down. Canons with anathemas attached to them censure the Protestant errors in sacramental doctrine.

The reform issues addressed included several items concerning benefices, clerical life, promotion to orders, repair of churches, and the timely filling of vacant sees.

After several prorogations, delays, and upon the beginning of a new pontificate, the thirteenth session resumed the work of the Council on the Sacraments, treating only of the Eucharist. Lutheran “consubstantiation” is condemned, while transubstantiation is upheld.

The real presence of Jesus Christ, which abides after the Mass (ergo allowing for reposition of the Blessed Sacrament) was also affirmed, as was the divine institution of this august sacrament, Its excellence over the other sacraments, Its power to give grace, the dispositions necessary for Its reception, and the veneration to be showed It. Contrary errors were anathematized.

The reform issues addressed included the bishops’ involvement in civil criminal cases, ecclesiastical exemption from the civil arm, and the degradation of clerics for severe crimes.

The fourteenth session continued with the sacraments, laying down the Church’s doctrine on Penance and Extreme Unction. As for the former, it was defined that Our Lord established Penance when he said “Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22).

Regarding the latter, St. James’ text is shown to speak of Anointing: “Is any man sick among you ? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man; and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15). The necessity, effects, form and matter, and minister of each sacrament are taught, while contrary errors are anathematized.

The reform decree of this session treated episcopal oversight of clerics, their promotion to orders, and their suspension for various crimes. Financial endowments, rights of patronage, and benefices were also addressed.

The twenty-first session treated of communion under both species and the communion of infants. The Council taught the principle of Eucharistic concomitance, that “Christ whole and entire, and a true Sacrament are received under either species,” so the faithful need not receive from the Chalice. Infants need not receive Holy Communion at all. The reform decree in this session treated benefices and the establishing of new parishes.

The twenty-second session set down the true doctrine concerning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass against the novelties of the Protestants. Included in this doctrine is “that the Sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory both for the living and the dead.” The reform decree addressed the use and protection of church property, among other things.

The twenty-third session defined, against the heretics, what is the truth concerning the sacrament of Holy Orders, which is “a true and proper sacrament,” distinguishing the three sacramental orders from the minor orders and subdiaconate, and affirming that the former of divine institution. Contrary errors were condemned in the canons. The reform decree included minute prescriptions on who can be admitted to Orders.

The twenty-fourth session treated of the sacrament of Matrimony. A short section established its true sacramental nature, while a much longer section minutely reformed the administration of the sacrament.

The twenty-fifth and last session treated the dogmatic topics of purgatory relics, saints, sacred images, and indulgences. The reform issues concerned religious, regulations on the granting of indulgences, the establishing of the index of forbidden books, feast and fast days, and the reform of the breviary and missal. It also called for a catechism to be issued.

J.P. Kirsch succinctly summarizes the importance of the Council of Trent: “The Ecumenical Council of Trent has proved to be of the greatest importance for the development of the inner life of the Church.

No council has ever had to accomplish its task under more serious difficulties, none has had so many questions of the greatest importance to decide. The assembly proved to the world that notwithstanding repeated apostasy in church life there still existed in it an abundance of religious force and of loyal championship of the unchanging principles of Christianity.

Although unfortunately the council, through no fault of the fathers assembled, was not able to heal the religious differences of western Europe, yet the infallible Divine truth was clearly proclaimed in opposition to the false doctrines of the day, and in this way a firm foundation was laid for the overthrow of heresy and the carrying out of genuine internal reform in the Church.”

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.

The photo shows, “The Council of Trent,” by Pasquale Cati, painted in 1588.

The Holocaust Pope?

The controversy surrounding Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust is so extensive that the controversy has gained its own name, “The Pius Wars.”

After the Eichmann Trial, historians began to expand their understanding of what it meant to be a perpetrator in the Holocaust.

The burden of guilt fell on the shoulders of those who failed to act. To be a bystander was considered a form of passive collaboration.

As the world contemplated this new paradigm, more individuals were considered to be guilty in their relationship to the Holocaust, and before long the ghost of Pius XII was dragged into the fray.

After his death in 1958, debate stirred in post-war Germany about the Pope’s diplomatic agreements with the fascist governments, and his relationship to Hitler.

In the mist of these debates, in 1963, Rolf Hochhuth released his controversial German play, The Deputy: A Christian Tragedy.

The play depicted Pius XII as a greedy, power-hungry, and anti-Semitic goon, who callously turned away from the suffering of the Jews.

In addition, books like Gitta Sereny’s Into That Darkness claimed to have linked the Pontiff to dubious activities, such as helping the escape of mass murders like Franz Stangl.

In contrast, the deceased Pope had high approval from both Catholic and Jewish communities. In fact, consideration for Pius XII’s canonization were set in place in 1965.

As new Vatican archival material became available, the controversy was reignited, with John Cornwell controversial history, Hitler’s Pope.

Examining the Pope’s early career, Cornwell argued that Pius XII was a hypocritical anti-Semitic, and an authoritarian Pontiff who sought to expand Church power, from his earliest days at the Vatican. According to Cornwell, Pius XII was the Pope that Hitler needed in order to carry out the Holocaust.

Cornwell didn’t just get 15 minutes of fame, he got 60 minute on CBS. And so the myth began.

The controversy gathered steam, as scholars scrambled to either criticize or defend the Pope. All of this took place in the shadow of John Paul II’s decision, in 1990, to declare Pius XII a Servant of God, and in 2009, he was made  Venerable, a major path to sainthood.

From this accusatory storm, Rabbi David G. Dalin released his cogent work, The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: Pope Pius XII And His Secret War Against Nazi Germany. This book was written as a direct response to Cornwell’s initial attack.

Building on the works of other Pius XII’s defenders, like Ronald J. Rychlak, Dalin disputed nearly everything that Cornwell contends, especially the alleged papal anti-Semitism and the “silence” of the Pontiff.

Although Dalin’s work seemed like the final nail in the coffin of Cornwell’s false narrative, the myth of the “Nazi Pope” has yet to die.

Let us take a look at the DNA of the myth, item-by-item, so we can finally kill it off.

ITEM 1: Was Pope Pius XII A Nazi Collaborator?

Myth I: Yes, because the Pope was power-hungry!

Reasons given to support this myth…

  • The Pope wanted to centralize the Catholic Church in order to increase his own power.
  • He had already passed the Code of Canon Law by 1917, which required Catholics to be more observant of the dictates of the Vatican, and which gave the Church more control over schools, the appointment of Bishops, and regional legislation.
  • This authoritarian pope seized his chance to increase his power by making a deal with Hitler in the Reich Concordat of 1933. This agreement would disband the Catholic Center Party, Hitler’s main opposition to power, but give the Pope greater control over Catholics in Germany.
  • The Pope willingly became Hitler’s “pawn,” against the will of the German Bishops.

Myth II: Yes, because the Pope did not speak out against Hitler or the Nazis!

Reasons given to support this myth…

  • As Hitler would came to wreak havoc on the Jews of Eastern Europe, the Pope remained silent.
  • After the invasion of Poland, Pius issued an encyclical, Summi Pontificatus (1939), which emphasized “the unity of the human race,” as “neither Jew nor Greek,” but the Pope never mentioned Poland by name.
  • He never explicitly condemned the atrocities of the Nazis.
  • Worst of all, the Pope’s Christmas Eve Address of 1942, further continued his silence about the Holocaust.
  • This address mentioned only the sufferings of “hundreds of thousands”, not millions.
  • This address did not even mention the words “Jew” or “Nazi” because the Pope was Hitler’s pawn, a tool of the Nazi regime.

Myth III: Yes, because the Pope did not try to stop Hitler and the Nazis!

Reasons given to support this myth…

  • The Pope did nothing to stop the Nazis. He simply watched countless Jews taken by Einsatzgruppen from “his very windows.”
  • There is no evidence that the Pope spoke out against the Nazis, let alone mobilize against them.
  • He didn’t do enough because he was most likely a Nazi stooge.

Myth IV: Yes, because the Pope was a Nazi ideologue who hated Communists!

Reasons given to support this myth…

  • In his younger days, Pacelli (the future Pius XII) was a diplomat for the Vatican to the German Kaiser Reich. He had even negotiated with the Kaiser himself, making him no stranger to dealing with egotistical autocrats.
  • But as the Kaiser Reich fell in the sunset of WWI, the future pope found himself in Munich. It was there that a group of violent communists proclaimed the city as their own. Proper Marxists, they despised religion as an obstacle to human progress.
  • A Jew by the name of Levien was among their number. Wanting to put the Catholic Church in its place, he entered Pacelli’s workplace. Howling blasphemy and profanities in the entrance hall, he found Pacelli. Levien demanded the papal limousine, but Pacelli refused to give it to him. Levien pressed his gun to Pacelli’s chest and asked once more of the papal limousine. Pacelli kept a cool head and explained to the shooter that he did not fear death. The Marxist took flight after being called back by his superior.
  • This experience must have traumatized Pacelli, and thus created a hatred for both Communists and Jews. This is why he would always seek neutral diplomatic solutions later in his life.
  • Hitler and Pacelli were anti-Semitic, and both opposed Communism; their alliance was only natural.

Myth V: Yes, because the Pope was anti-Semitic!

Reasons given to explain this myth…

  • What else but anti-Semitism can explain the Pope’s silence in the face of the Holocaust?
  • Why did he not act to save the Jews as they were dragged through the streets of Rome?
  • Pius XII was an Anti-Semitic authoritarian who was against the Jews, or at the very least indifferent to their extermination.
  • For these reasons he was happy to cooperate with Hitler.

Rebuttal To Item 1 And To The Myths.

In the words of Rabbi David G. Dalin, what John Cornwell and others concocted in regard to the character of Pope Pius XII is nothing but “an abominable slander.”

Pope Pius XII was not “Hitler’s Pope.” He sought to save the German Catholics, not forsake them. Nor was he truly silent about the Nazis, since his words were, in fact, clearly understood by all Catholics across the world as specific instructions to resist the Nazi oppressors.

Acting in love, against the will of the Nazis, Pius XII saved thousands of Jews across the Third Reich. In fact, he mobilized the Catholic Church as a spy network which reported to British Intelligence. In many ways, Pius XII out-maneuvered Hitler.

But let us look more clearly at the myths themselves.

MYTH I Dismantled… The Pope was not power-hungry.

  • The Pope did not betray the Catholics of Germany, he tried to save them.
  • Contrary to what the accusers say, the German Bishops were in favor of the Reich Concordat, not against it.
  • The Pope sought to centralize power so that he could protect his Catholic subjects. He agonized over reports of Hitler youth groups violently fighting Catholic youth groups in Bavaria.
  • The persecution of Catholics did not happen because of the Reich Concordat – rather the Concordat happened because of the persecutions.

MYTH II Dismantled… The Pope was not silent about Hitler and the Nazis.

  • Summi Pontificatus (1939), was understood by Catholics as a denouncement of the invasion of Poland.
  • The 1942 Christmas Eve Address was understood as a denunciation of the Nazi atrocities towards the Jews of Eastern Europe
  • It was understood as such by the Nazi’s German Foreign Office as an assault against them. They were outraged.
  • Fellow Catholics, and even Jews, understood the message as a denouncement against the Nazi war crimes despite of its vagueness.

Thus, the Pope’s message was heard, understood, and acted upon. But, his message was not an explicit denouncement of the Nazi regime – but maybe this was for a very good reason.

Rabbi Dalin, argues that if Pius XII had more explicitly denounced the Nazis, then the Nazis would have retaliated and simply “invaded” the Vatican (which they actually had plans to do!)

The Pope had no army of his own. The retaliation would have destroyed the papacy and the Church, and completed the circle of persecution. The Pope’s implicit rather than explicit condemnation was far more effective.

But why did the Pope act this way? Because he was using the Church to bring down Hitler and save the Jews.

MYTH III Dismantled… The Pope did try to stop Hitler and the Nazis.

  • The Pope created a major spy network known as The Orders Committee, headed by Josef Muller, codename “Joey Ox.”
  • Muller gathered information from the Abwehr with the help of fellow Nazi-resistors.
  • Muller would then fly his sports plane over the Alps and inform Ludwig Kass (the former high-ranking member of the Catholic Center Party) about what was going on in Germany. Kass would then report to Pius XII.
  • But it didn’t stop there; the Pope then conveyed the highly classified data to British intelligence at the Vatican.
  • The Pope was behind many of the conspiracies against Hitler.
  • He was the main link in a connecting agreement between German and Italian conspirators to act in a coordinated fashion.
  • Plans to assassinate Hitler were aided by the Pope’s participation, including talks to kill Hitler shortly after the invasion of Poland, an attempt to slip a bomb into Hitler’s plane, and finally the famous Operation Valkyrie.
  • This is why the Pope wasn’t the loudest critic of Hitler – he had to protect the many people who relied on him in their opposition to the Nazis.
  • Historians like Hurbert Wolf rightly argue that some in the German Catholic Church liked Hitler, and if the Pope loudly criticized the Nazis, there would have been a full-blown revolt among such German Catholics. This which would have started an undesired crisis and could only end in the Nazis gaining more power over the German Roman Catholics.

But didn’t the libellers of Pius XII know that the Pope was spy master? They did! Although Cornwell briefly concedes a large degree of bravery to Pius XII for his participation in intelligence gathering, Cornwell uses it to claim that Pius XII was silent not because of cowardice, but because of his indifference to the plight of the Jews.

The fact remains, the Pope was hardly indifferent to Nazi Power. He actively aided the conspiracies against Hitler.

MYTH IV Dismantled…The Pope was not a Nazi ideologue who hated Communists.

The Pope was well aware of the many atrocities being committed by the Communists in the Soviet Union. The Russian Civil War, the Red Terror, and Stalin’s Gulags of the 1930s were common knowledge. So, certainly, the Pope opposed the Communists – because they were avowed atheists, who were intent on destroying Christianity.

Did this opposition make him a Nazi? Of course not.

The Pope was also aware that the only thing keeping the Soviets at bay were the Nazis.

The best the Pope could do was aid the allies (which he did by channelling highly classified information to them).

To say that the Pope was Nazi ideologue is just calumny. Why did Pius XII conspire against Hitler, if he were a Nazi? The Pope regarded Nazism as “perhaps the most dangerous heresy of our times.

MYTH V Dismantled… The Pope was not anti-Semitic.

  • Perhaps the greatest injustice against the Pope is the false accusation of anti-Semitism.
  • Pius XII did so much to help the Jewish people in their time of need that the first major historical work against John Cornwell’s libels was written by a Rabbi named David G. Dalin, to set the record straight.

But the dismantling of Myth V requires fuller elaboration, as follows…

ITEM 2: Did Pope Pius XII care about the Jews?

MYTH I: No, because the Pope did not speak up for the Jews.

  • In the face of Jewish annihilation, the “Vicar of Christ” was silent. Where was the voice of moral truth when the world needed it most?
  • After the invasion of Poland, his encyclical, Summi Pontificatus (1939), never mentions Poland by name let alone the Nazi atrocities committed there.
  • In his Christmas Eve Address in 1942, he never even uses the word Jew. Hence, the Pope did not speak up for the Jews.

MYTH II: No, because the Pope did not act to save the Jews.

  • The Pope did not try to save the Jews because he was indifferent to their suffering.
  • Susan Zuccotti brings up a case where the Pope remained silent as the Jews of Rome were being rounded up the Einsatzgruppen “under the Pope’s own windows.

MYTH III: No, because the Pope smuggled Nazi’s out of Europe.

  • The Catholic Church smuggled high ranking Nazi officials like Klaus Barbie, Josef Mengele, Adolf Eichmann, and Franz Stangl using the Vatican “Ratlines” after the war.
  • The “Ratlines” were escape routes that were originally designed for the Catholic clergy to escape from Fascist or Communist persecution. But, the Catholic Church used them to smuggle out Nazis after the war.
  • Why would the Catholic Church aid Nazis? Simple – because Pius XII was an anti-Semitic Nazi collaborator.

Rebuttal To Item 2 And To The Myths.

Pope Pius XII was a pontiff who loved the Jews. He loved them enough to risk his life to save theirs. His words inspired hundreds of Catholics across Europe to risk their lives to save the Jews as well. Furthermore, he gave them sanctuary when they needed it most. As for the “Ratlines,” they can hardly be said to be connected with the Pope. And even if they were, there is more reason to believe that they were an act of human love, not anti-Semitic hatred.

MYTH I Dismantled… The Pope was not silent about the Nazis.

  • In Summi Pontificatus (1939), the Pope emphasized “the unity of the human race” as “neither Jew nor Greek.”
  • Furthermore, in his Christmas Eve Address of 1942, the Pope explicitly talks about the suffering of “hundreds of thousands” of innocent people.
  • Everybody seemed to understand the message, even the Nazis. In fact, the Nazi German Foreign Office saw it as an assault against them.
  • One must realize that the Pope was working behind enemy lines. Very simply, if the Pope became a loud critic of the Nazis, then they would retaliate against the Church and the many Jews that the Church was hiding. In Holland, for example, when the Pope told the bishops to speak out, the number of Nazi atrocities against the Jews increased.
  • When Clements von Galen, the Bishop of Munster, sought to speak out against the Nazi’s, the Jewish leaders told him not too.
  • The Pope received many letters telling him that denouncing the Nazis would only make things worse, not better. Even Susan Zuccotti (an early accuser) admitted that the Pope may have been silent for the Jews’ sake.
  • Rabbi Dalin argues that if the Church had more explicitly denounced the Nazis, then the Nazis would have retaliated. The retaliation would have destroyed the power of the papacy and inflamed the persecutions.
  • Michael Phayer, a very reputable Holocaust historian, who had originally criticized the silence of Pope Pius XII, reversed his position saying that the Pope was understood as speaking out against the Nazis throughout the war.

MYTH II Dismantled… The Pope did act to save the Jews.

  • Pius XII risked his life to save the Jews. For example, in the capture of Jews from Rome, Pope Pius XII told his clergy to hide Jews from the Nazis. He not only hid Jews in the Vatican, he also hid 3,000 in his summer home, Castel Gandalfo.
  • The Pope was not indifferent. Rather, he was a hero of the Jewish people. He risked the safety of the Church, his flock, and himself for the sake of the Jews.
  • Endless testimonies speak of the clergy saving Jews in Italy from the Einsatgruppen. This evidence was ignored by authors, such as, like Susan Zuccotti. Such actions are not those of an anti-Semite.
  • What kind of anti-Semite would tell his priests to split their wartime rations with Jews? One could argue that he wasn’t as vocal as he could have been, but there are no grounds whatsoever to claim that Pius XII was an anti-Semite.

MYTH III Dismantled… The Pope did not smuggle Nazis out of Europe after the war.

There is no evidence to claim that Pius XII knew about the Ratlines.

Michael Phayer (the historian who first spoke about “Ratlines”) cannot even manage to the Austrian Bishop, Alois Hudal, to the Nazi “Ratlines”, let alone the Pope.

Phayer argues that because Hudal was responsible for the Austrian refugees, he could be linked to the “Ratlines.” But he cannot prove his assertion by any definitive evidence.

Then, Phayer is forced to admit that his “source” is “incomplete.” All he say is that he “thinks” the Catholic Church helped fleeing Nazis.

We must be careful in the judgement of the dead. The truths of their character come with time.

Here are the words of Joey-Ox, which aptly summarize German Roman Catholic resistance and defiance of Nazism…

““I am philosophically opposed to you. I am a practising Catholic, and my brother is a Catholic priest. Where could I find the possibility of a compromise here?”

These words were spoken to Heinrich Himmler, the head of the dreaded SS.

Where, indeed, is the “possibility of a compromise here?”