History at the Crossroads: Evaluating Pope Pius XII’s Legacy

Once again the issue of Pope Pius XII’s potential beatification has come back into the news. Indeed, many people wonder: how could the Pope bequeath sainthood to a man who watched 1000 Jews in Rome being rounded up to the gas-chambers, without so much as uttering a protest? Questions like these are difficult to answer… however, it is easy for us to be critical after the fact; however, it is a huge leap to presume that Pope Pius XII did little or nothing to help Jews as they were being murdered by the Nazis.

The Vatican claims that Pope Pius XII did his best to operate, “from behind the scenes,” and did as much as he could to speak out against the evils of Nazism. While many Jewish leaders find this argument difficult to accept, it is still worth asking, “What if the Vatican is actually correct in making such an argument?”

Let me share with you a personal anecdote that occurred this past year.

When Father Patrick Desbois, the author of the best-selling book “Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews,” spoke at St. Ambrose University this past year, I had the opportunity to ask him his question about Pope Pius XII’s beatification. “Are you for it or against it?” I asked him. He replied, while rushing out the door with a clear but brief response: The Vatican must open its archives once and for all for everyone to see, once they do, then we shall know how to answer this question.

Well, the Vatican plans on doing exactly that and by 2015, and we will see the archival material made available covering Pope Pius XII’s leadership from 1939-1958. I am among a number of people who happen to think that the Pope will be vindicated for the most part. Along with enormous power comes enormous responsibility.  After Pope Pius XII died, many Jewish leaders from the Italian community felt a debt of gratitude toward the historical Pontiff. Continue reading “History at the Crossroads: Evaluating Pope Pius XII’s Legacy”