Eleven years in the writing, “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,” released last month by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, will not and should not satisfy those on any side of the tortuous debate about the church’s responsibility for anti-Semitism and possible complicity in the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews. Although the sincerity of the statement’s desire for genuine reconciliation between Christians and Jews cannot be second-guessed, the document as a whole is a grievous disappointment.

Most notably, some Jewish leaders have expressed sharp exception to, and even anger at, the Vatican’s defense of Pius XII’s failure to condemn Nazi atrocities in explicit terms. That reaction is understandable, although in fairness to the Vatican it should be said that Pius’s alleged moral insensibility is not as self-evident as many—thanks largely to the distortions of Rolf Hochhuth’s 1964 play The Deputy—assume. Similarly, the pope’s power “To Save Jews From Nazis” (as a recent New York Times headline put it) continues to be much exaggerated, even as the church’s actual efforts to help hundreds of thousands of Jews are too easily dismissed. Nonetheless, calls for the opening of the Vatican’s diplomatic archives to independent...

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