Pius XII


I have a tiny coterie of friends who, whenever we meet, immediately plunge me into esoteric, vehement exchanges on arcane subjects. Two such are the publisher of this tract (and I mean that in the sense of propaganda leaflet) and the sadly dead and missed Ivan Musicant.
An encounter in Lund’s with one such set me into a spirited discussion of Eugenio Pacelli. That’s how these things go—right into the deep end.
The guy, Jeff Morris, sent me three books proving Pacelli was not an anti-Semite. Two by rabbis no doubt pursuing their own agendas. I neither scanned nor perused them, but I did actually read more than a trifle.
Straw man reasoning. Reductio ad absurdum, I concluded.
But the books set me thinking.
Pacelli was the central Catholic figure of my youth. A gigantic image. Aloof, cerebral, austere, elegant and patrician.
As Secretary of State he negotiated the creation of the Vatican state with Benito (and let’s never forget his father named him after Juarez) Mussolini. Maybe the preeminent achievement of the church’s millennial history.
So, Pius XII is a big, big figure.
But an enigma.
The Church has not released his papers.
What will they show?
Imagine Pius XII. The recipient of a very large gift from the inventor of fascism (pedantry—a fasces symbol was an axe, encased in rods, to demonstrate Etruscan kings could beat or kill you). They flank the podium from which American presidents give their annual addresses to Congress.
There—that sums up the confining limits of my knowledge—of everything.
Anyhoo—moving right along …
Jews were caught in the dilemma that only Communists were fighting fascists in the ’30s.
Pius XII confronted the identical problem, but from a reversed perspective.
Pacelli loathed godless Communists.
He knew the Nazis were evil, but the Communists were eviler. He is unlikely to have been an anti-Semite; he tolerated acts of charity toward or protections of Jews—isolated and particularized but not as policy.
The Pope’s papers will very likely show a realpolitik assessment of the world he faced. His was the quintessential realism. The Church dares not expose this facet because, as Shakespeare reminds us, “The devil quotes scripture for his purposes.”
So, take that, Morris. I never said Pacelli was an anti-Semite; I would have admitted he practiced and tolerated actions that helped some Jews, but what you will never convince me of is that, faced with the greatest evil the world has ever known, and perched on a uniquely positioned seat to bear witness—Pius XII remained silent.

Publisher’s note: As Minnesota’s preeminent retired peace officer, Tony Bouza is under-appreciated as an elegant and brutally efficient bomb-thrower. In a brief, economical aside he characterizes me as “the publisher of this tract” and Southside Pride as a “propaganda leaflet.” Of course, he’s right. Southside Pride is propaganda—in the same way that every news source, every newspaper, every television station is propaganda. All news is written from a point of view. Most newspapers and all network television are produced from the point of view of defending the status quo, and just because they’re defending the status quo doesn’t mean that it isn’t propaganda. Southside Pride, for 30 years, has challenged the status quo. That has always been our point of view.
Mark Twain—“A newspaper is not just for reporting the news as it is, but to make people mad enough to do something about it.”

Comments are closed.