The Audience


I respect Peter Quinn’s work, but along with Dimitri Cavalli (Letters, May 7), I must object to his treatment of the proposed canonization of Pius XII (“Why the Rush?” March 12). Although Quinn makes clear that Pius XII was certainly not Hitler’s pope, he nonetheless believes that Pius was “defined (compromised?) to one degree or another by his career as a diplomat and church official with commonly held values and views, including a low opinion of Jews and Judaism.” This is patently flawed reasoning. John XXIII had an even longer career as a diplomat and church official, and yet was not tainted by the “low opinion of Jews” that according to Quinn resulted from the church’s “long history of contempt.” The latter phrase alludes to a now classic work, The Teaching of Contempt: Christian Roots of Anti-Semitism by the Jewish scholar Jules Isaac—who, of course, did not suggest that either Pius XII or John XXIII had “a low opinion of Jews.” In fact, after a private meeting in 1949 with Pius XII, Isaac said he had been received “with goodwill and understanding sympathy.”

I don’t have space here to even skim the surface of the issue of Pius XII and his alleged silence during the Holocaust. Of course, every sane person wishes the pope would have spoken out; the only real question here is whether his “silence...

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About the Author

Justus George Lawler is author of Popes and Politics: Reform, Resentment, and the Holocaust (Continuum).