RNS: Catholic Experts Pawlikowski and Fisher Ask Pope to Stop Sainthood for Pius XII

What propels Benedict XVI to seek to make a saint out of Pius XII?

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.


Bruno said...

I think it’s important to ask what may be an uncomfortable question: why is Pope Benedict in such a hurry to canonize Pope Pius XII? Even though I think the Catholic Church has the right to rise to sainthood whoever they please, including its own popes, it may be counterproductive to do it with a person that was so visible and whose actions are so questionable. The Catholic Church moves at a glacial speed on anything they do; everything is done decades or even centuries late (think of Galileo). Yet, when it comes to Pope Pius XII, the Church wants to push the process of canonization forward as soon as possible, even as the debate rages on.

Perhaps the Church feels that the combination of time and new “facts on the ground” may whitewash the role of the pope and the Church during WWII. After all, it has worked in the past many times when the Church canonized many people whose record was atrocious, yet today we call them Saint This or Saint That and that makes them automatically good people. Pope Pius XII may have been a profoundly wonderful human being whose religious work may indeed warrant raising him to the sainthood. However, a pope is more than a religious figure. A pope is a head of state, and the head of a giant church, and Pope Pius had the misfortune to reign over it during the darkest period in history. Maybe he did indeed work tirelessly in defense of the Jews as his apologetics claim, and maybe his “heroic virtues” would warrant calling him a saint. However, his public record is well known and the available evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. As far as is publicly known, Pope Pius failed to speak loud and clear on behalf of the Jews, failed to prevent the German Catholic Church from providing the Nazis with baptismal records that allowed them to identify Jews, failed to instruct Catholics to stop murdering Jews, failed to officially instruct the clergy everywhere to give shelter to Jews, and failed to excommunicate any Catholics including Hitler, Goebbels, and many others in the Nazi hierarchy, let alone the actual Catholic perpetrators whose souls were cleansed by field priests as the soldiers, policemen or SS came back to the barracks with blood stains in their uniforms from the hundreds of Jews they murdered at point blank range that day.

I applaud the recent letter a few scholars and religious figures sent to Pope Benedict. These people are experts on the subject and are familiar with the information available. Pope Benedict should heed their advice and delay the canonization process to avoid a backlash to the church. There is no rush. If the Vatican Secret Archives or other sources show the role of Pope Pius XII to have been different and scholarly scrutiny shows him to have indeed bestowed heaps of Christian caritas on the hounded Jews, then I believe the entire world would join the Catholic Church in celebrating Saint Pius.

Gabriel Wilensky

Six Million Crucifixions:
How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust
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Tzvee Zahavy said...

I wonder if it is possible for the church to excommunicate someone posthumously. good catholic people who wish to strengthen their church ought to consider that as the most beneficial course.