dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

First read Peter Steinfels. Then talk about the Vatican and the Third Reich.

First read Peter Steinfels's superb piece in the current Commonweal on the crisis of attrition in the Church. On the big issues for Catholicism in the United States -- and why bishops (and other Catholics) don't talk enough about the big issues -- it strikes me as exactly right.If you've done that and are looking for something completely different you might take a look at the Journal of Modern History, June 2010 issue. (I couldn't find an open link -- you can access it through many university libraries with a university identification.) There William Patch has an unusually lucid summary of the ongoing stream of books on the relationship between the Vatican and Nazi Germany. The polemics around the topic have attracted attention, of course, but the real story is access to a wide range of new sources as the Vatican (and other bodies) slowly open their archives for the 1930s and 1940s. Patch's conclusions:1. The highest Vatican officials -- including Eugenio Pacelli, Vatican nuncio to Germany and then Pope Pius XII -- did not display a sympathy for Nazism over Communism. Instead, consistently, they condemned both. They muted public criticism of Nazism because of fears that many German Catholics would abandon the Church, obviously a decision that can be critiqued, but their anti-communism did not blind them.2. Anti-Semitism among even those Catholic leaders -- German, American, French -- strongly opposed to Nazism was more significant than previously realized. Of course Anti-Semitism was evident among political leaders as well, but the Anti-Semitism among church officials has a casual, everyday currency that jolts the contemporary reader, and makes the discussion of Catholic-Jewish relations at the Second Vatican Council even more surprising.3. Pius XII certainly knew about the Holocaust in 1942-43 but he did not know much more (indeed perhaps less) than Roosevelt or Churchill.4. Intriguingly: fierce Vatican opposition to the Soviet Union, and the influence of this opposition on figures such as George Kennan, may have played a role in jumpstarting the early cold war.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

"...the Anti-Semitism among church officials has a casual, everyday currency that jolts the contemporary reader..."The question is why did it not jolt church officials and others then. Even after WWII anti-semitic language in Catholic circles was common. It was only with the help of the leaders of Vatican II led by the unique John XXIII that attitudes began to change. With all the talk of attrition and numbers loss we should remind ourselves that we are a much better church (read People of God) as we are able to see good or evil wherever it is and not declare it just by the fact of its source. We are a much better, less triumphalist church.

Perhaps instead of bemoaning the fact that the Vatican and Local Cardinals have lost the faithful throughout Europe and trying to shut the barn doors WAY after the horses have left the barn, they should look at the success of the American church, study it to see why we kept our flocks in the turbulant 60's and 70's, and then, in stead of attempting to turn the clock back on Vatican II reforms, they should give us a medal! And then take the best of we did right and implement in in the EU.I believe that each country should govern itself and institute those practices and teachings that and pertinent to their population. Let the Pope be Pope, as the Queen of England is Queen, and the curial college that shores up poor decisions and is clearly at a loss to stem the flow of people disband. Put the power in the hands of the Dioceses, each under their own Cardinal, and let the Pope be the Ceremonial Figurehead. Influenced by his nucklehead advisors and his (what few are left) theologians, and following on the reactionary papacy of his predecessor, he, and his predecessor, are probably the single largest factor in driving Cradle Catholics out of their church. This latest transation of the Mass (which is basically regurgutated mass of Pope Paul VI, edition 1 - and that was a direct translation from the latin which took the English Speaking Churches decades to put into full-sense contemporary English. Now, we go back to the stilted prose of almost 50 years ago, and lose all sense of what WE have been taught about God, Christ and the Eucharist.The time is coming when scores of Opus-Dei priests, many of whom are converts from other denominations, will be shepherding what few parishes are left, performing the Tridentine Mass, and as the dust grows on the empty pews, perhaps the Last Pope to be elected will realize too late that the program of his esteemed predecessors was, indeed, not the will of God.Meanwhile, the unchurched Catholics will lick they wounds, watch the demise of the church, and find some other 'god' which brings them comfort.It is a sad time for me to see the once Grand Catholic Faith become a beehive of hyper-fundamentalism and see Rome pulling the strings to try to resurrect the certainy dead corpse of the church of the 40's and 50's.In the end, will Nietche have ultimately been correct, or will God?

"The Jews murdered Jesus"My Parish Priest, mid 1950's. I am sure he was an honest man who believed what he said. Now Jews are acceptable in polite society, we have found a new ogre.

Share

About the Author

John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.