Scholars Decry Distortion of Pius XII Quotation

Explain Context of Pacelli's Words

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ROME, SEPT. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The latest attempt to discredit Pope Pius XII is based on a manufactured quote that distorts his words, assert two authors.

Ronald Rychlak, author of "Hitler, the War, and the Pope," stated this in an article written with William Doino, Jr., contributor to "The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII."

Their article, "Pius XII and the Distorting Ellipsis," pointed out that "as charge after charge that Pope Pius XII failed to resist the Germans or even that he was indeed 'Hitler's Pope' has been refuted, the critics have advanced new and more remote accusations."

"First," it noted, "critics attacked him for what he said or did -- or failed to say or do -- during the war. When those accusations were proved to be without merit, they charged him with failures after the war."

"When those were refuted," the scholars said, "they shifted to the Pope's actions before he was Pope."

They explained, "The current charge claims that in a presentation Pius XII gave at an International Eucharistic Congress in Hungary in 1938 -- when he was still Eugenio Pacelli, Vatican secretary of state -- he referred to Jews as enemies of Christ and the Catholic Church."

Misquoted

The article reported: "The critics claim that on May 25, 1938, just after the Anschluss (the German annexation of Austria), but before the Shoah or even the outbreak of World War II, Pacelli said: 'Jesus conquers! He who so often was the recipient of the rage of his enemies, he who suffered the persecutions of those of whom he was one, he shall be triumphant in the future as well … As opposed to the foes of Jesus, who cried out to his face, 'Crucify him!' we sing him hymns of our loyalty and our love. We act in this fashion, not out of bitterness, not out of a sense of superiority, not out of arrogance toward those whose lips curse him and whose hearts reject him even today.'"

The scholars noted that "one major critic of Pius, Moshe Y. Herczl, claimed that Pacelli was clearly assailing Jews." This claim was echoed by critics Michael Phayer and John Cornwell.

However, the authors said, "there is reason to be suspicious of this quotation, and the anti-Semitic interpretation applied to it."

They continued: "First, no one at the time thought that Pacelli was speaking of Jews. He spoke of the 'military godless' and those who wanted to 'impose a new Christianity,' statements applicable only to the Communists and Nazis."

"Second, look at the quotation the papal critics use," the scholars pointed out. "One has to wonder what the ellipsis is replacing."

They added, "Despite the importance of this quotation to the argument of many Papal critics, it seems that none of them traced it back to its origin."

Original source

The scholars reported: "With the assistance of Vatican historian (and relator of Pope Pius XII's sainthood cause) Father Peter Gumpel, we reviewed the text of the speech as it was published in "Discorsi e Panegirici." The quote as given by the critics does not appear therein. 

"The ellipsis was used to link very diverse passages from different pages of Pacelli's speech, producing a complete distortion of Pacelli's words. (To be certain that we were not overlooking anything, we reviewed transcripts from all seven of the talks he gave in Hungary)."

The article explained that "early in the talk, Pacelli spoke about biblical history. He recalled the Passion of Christ, and he mentioned the defiance of disciples, the solitude of Gethsemane, the crowning of thorns, the cynicism of Herod, and the opportunism of Pilate."

It noted that "he referred to the masses that called for the Crucifixion and said they had been 'deceived and excited by propaganda, lies, insults and imprecations at the foot of the Cross.'

The article affirmed: "Those identified as enemies of Christ included Pontius Pilate, Herod, the Roman soldiers, the Sanhedrin, and their followers. He did not call out 'all Jews' or 'the Jews.'"

"About two pages later in the manuscript," the scholars reported, "Pacelli referred to those who were persecuting the Church at that time by doing things like expelling religion and perverting Christianity."

Nazi persecution

"Jews were not doing this, but Nazi Germany certainly was," they asserted. "The future Pope was clearly equating the Nazis, not Jews, to those who persecuted the Church at earlier times."

The article continued: "Pacelli then returned to the theme of Christ's sufferings during the Passion which were being repeated against the Mystical Body of Christ in modern times, contrasting them with the Church's offering of love: 'Let us replace the cry of 'Crucify' made by Christ's enemies, with the 'Hosanna' of our fidelity and our love.'

"Pacelli was rebuking the totalitarians of his day, not the Jews of earlier times."

"Nowhere in the address did he mention or single out Jews as the specific, much less sole, enemies of Jesus Christ, past or present," it asserted. "There is no legitimate way to argue that Pacelli was blaming Jews when he spoke about the enemies of Christ."

The article asked, "Where did the distorted quotation come from?"

It added that "Herczl was not present at the speech and did not even look at Pacelli's script" or "even the Italian version that appeared in the Vatican newspaper."

The scholars noted that "in his book, he cited a Hungarian newspaper, Nemzeti Ujsag (National Journal), with a long and controversial history as a political outlet."

Anti-Semitic

They continued: "As its name implies and as numerous articles in the newspaper itself attest, Nemzeti Ujsag was a political journal, not a religious one. 

"It was, at least in the relevant years, overtly anti-Semitic and truly despicable. Randolph L. Braham, a noted scholar in the field, called it a voice of National Socialism."

The authors posited: "It is likely that the newspaper manufactured the quotation to support its anti-Semitic position. 

"Pacelli, after all, was criticizing the exact political position the paper held. Then as now, Vatican support was a very useful thing to claim."

"Herczl and those who followed him should have been skeptical of this source," they asserted. "Neither he nor anyone else would have accepted what that paper said about Jews, yet with several other reliable sources available, why did he turn to an unreliable source for this crucial information about Pacelli?"

"More importantly," the authors added, "why have critics like Phayer and Cornwell simply repeated the charge, relying upon this English translation of a Hebrew translation from a Hungarian translation of a speech originally made in French by a native Italian speaker?"

"The manufactured quotation blatantly distorted the words of the future Pope," the article stated.

It continued: "Inasmuch that quote was inconsistent with so much other evidence of Pacelli's character, it should have been strictly scrutinized. 

"Instead it was readily accepted and insufficiently analyzed by critics eager to discredit the papacy and the Catholic Church. They should be ashamed."