There are learned and respected scholars in the Catholic church that now are publicly begging the pope not to go down this road. [hat tip to henry.]
Call to suspend pope sainthood
VATICAN CITY — Catholic historians and theologians are urging Pope Benedict XVI to suspend the sainthood process for the controversial World War II pontiff Pius XII until further research clarifies Pius' record during the Holocaust.
"Holy Father, we implore you, acting on your wisdom as a renowned scholar, professor and teacher, to be patient" with the sainthood cause, the academics wrote to the pope. "History needs distance and perspective to arrive at these conclusions."
The 19 scholars — 17 of them based in the United States — warned that prematurely moving Pius toward sainthood would disrupt Catholic-Jewish relations and make it harder for Catholic scholars to study Pius' legacy objectively.
Prominent signers included the Rev. John Pawlikowski of the Chicago Theological Union and Eugene J. Fisher, former associate director of the U.S. Catholic bishops' ecumenical office.
Critics say Pius, who served from 1939 to 1958, failed to do or say all he could to stop the Nazis' persecution and genocide of the Jews.
The late pope's defenders counter that he heroically condemned anti-Semitism throughout Hitler's reign and directly and indirectly saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
"Pius XII has become a symbol of centuries-old Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism," the scholars wrote.
Jewish leaders protested in December when Benedict signed a decree recognizing Pius' "heroic virtues" and declaring him "venerable," making the late pope eligible for beatification, the rank just below sainthood.
The controversy overshadowed Benedict's visit to Rome's main synagogue last month, when the president of Rome's Jewish community criticized the "silence of Pius XII" and a high-profile Italian rabbi boycotted the event.
The 19 scholars intended their letter "to make clear that these concerns are not just exclusively from the Jewish side," Pawlikowski said. "There is Catholic concern as well."
According to Pawlikowski, premature honors for Pius would place a special burden on Catholic academics.
"It's very difficult for serious scholars who take their Catholic faith seriously to do a real critical analysis of someone who's been beatified or canonized," Pawlikowski said.