My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at and I have a Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pius XII, Sainthood and the Holocaust

Dear Blog Visitors:

If you have been followers of my blog, you are aware that I often speak of my Judeo-Christian background. Part of this background was inclusive of distant relatives in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was later to become absorbed as territories of present-day Hungary, Poland, Austria and Slovakia.

For Jews around the world, 2010 represents the 65th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps that dotted the landscape of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. Having done extensive family research, I discovered that 69 persons with the Grosswirth name perished during that terrible period (original spelling was Groszwirth). Most family victims were from Hungary, with some from Poland and Austria. (As indicated in the previous paragraph, these countries were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.)

With a Roman Catholic history on my mother’s side of the family, I have generally been supportive of the canonization process when sainthood is bestowed upon righteous persons. For example, in terms of the papacy, I have no problems with the canonization of either Pope John XXIII or John Paul II. Most notably, as a young man, John Paul II was part of the Polish underground that worked against the Nazis.

I do find the canonization process underway for Pope Pius XII to be somewhat problematic. While he was certainly not guilty in any way for atrocities that took place during the Holocaust, an open question remains as to how often he spoke out against the Nazi regime.

In the video that appears above this post, I tried to be sensitive to persons on both sides of the debate underway concerning the canonization of Pius XII. I tried as best as possible to provide a historical perspective concerning the late pontiff. In the final analysis, I don’t think he should be demonized in any way. At the same time, however, there was perhaps more he could have done toward saving the lives of countless Jews who were trapped in the terrible events of World War II.

There were certainly Catholic saints during the Holocaust period. Many were priests, nuns, bishops and lay Catholics, who worked tirelessly in their efforts to provide shelter to Jews whose lives were in danger. Many of these heroes ended up suffering the same fates of Jews in concentration camps. Whether or not Pope Pius XII deserves to be named amongst the saints remains a hotly-debated topic. I personally don’t feel Pius is deserving of sainthood, and I hope my video will give a credible argument against his canonization.

As you watch this video, you will notice that I produced it in black and white, utilizing film effects that were characteristic of the period Pius XII occupied the papacy.

After you watch the video, and you should decide you want to read some credible books on this topic, I offer the following titles for your consideration:

Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican by Pierre Bilet, translated by Lawrence J. Johnson (Paulist Press, 304 pages)

Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews by James Carroll (Houghton Mifflin, 756 pages)

Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII by John Cornwell (Penguin, 464 pages)

The Catholic Church and the Holocaust: 1930-1965 by Michael Phayer (Indiana University Press, 328 pages)

Hitler, the War, and the Pope by Ronald J. Rychlak (Genesis Press, 468 pages)

Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit by Garry Wills (Doubleday, 336 pages)

Under His Very Window: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy by Susan Zuccotti (Yale University Press, 408 pages)

An oustanding magazine article I highly recommend is 'What Would Jessus Have Done?': Pope Pius XII, the Vatican, and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (The New Republic: January 21, 2002)

I close with two relevant items: 1.) a photo of Papal Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli signing the Concordat with Nazi officials before becoming Pope Pius XII; 2.) a Reuters article from two weeks ago, which covered comments made by one of my heroes, Elie Wiesel:


Elie Wiesel accuses Pius XII of Holocaust silence
Wed Jan 27, 2010 2:32pm GMT
By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, in a major speech to Italy's parliament, attacked wartime Pope Pius XII on Wednesday for his "silence" during the Nazis' mass killings of Jews.

Wiesel, an Auschwitz and Buchenwald survivor, gave the emotional speech on World Holocaust Remembrance Day -- also the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

At about the same time German-born Pope Benedict, who has defended the actions of his wartime predecessor, was also speaking about the Holocaust at his general audience at the Vatican across the River Tiber.

"Whether at the lowest level of politics or the highest level of spirituality, silence never helps the victims. Silence always helps the aggressor," Wiesel told parliamentarians and top officials including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

A source in Wiesel's entourage later told Reuters the words "highest level of spirituality" were a reference to Pius, who headed the Roman Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958.

The question of what Pius did or did not do to help Jews during the war remains a burning issue between Catholics and Jews, and Wiesel's reference to Pius indicated it shows no sign of being resolved.

Ten days ago, Pope Benedict made his first visit to Rome's synagogue, where a Jewish leader told him bluntly that Pius should have spoken out more forcefully against the Holocaust to show solidarity with Jews being led to the "ovens of Auschwitz."

The Vatican maintains that Pius was not silent during the war, but chose to work behind the scenes, concerned that public intervention would have worsened the situation for both Jews and Catholics in a wartime Europe dominated by Hitler.

At his general audience Benedict, who was drafted into the Hitler Youth and German army as a teenager during World War Two, called the Holocaust a "homicidal folly" that should never be forgotten.

"With an emotional spirit, we think of the countless victims of blind and religious hate, those who underwent deportation, imprisonment and death in those abhorrent and inhuman places," Benedict said.

Jews have asked that the Vatican's wartime archives be opened up to scholars so the role of Pius can be cleared up.

Let us continue to pray for tolerance and peace in our world.

Peace to all,


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