SKEWING CATHOLIC SCHOLARSHIP
"The New Papaphobia"
A specter is haunting Europe or, rather, haunting what is still called Western Civilization by that dogged remnant of anti-postmodernists that refuses to believe in such fashionable fictions as "the end of history." But rather than a specter, it is more precisely a spirit redivivus that was unforeseen by those gullible nineteenth-century social prophets whose own collective nunc dimittis is now only a fading echo. So rather than failed visionaries like Marx and Engels, we must hearken to a chronicler of history, Lord Macauley, writing around the middle of the nineteenth century and also going against prevailing fashions in his memorable description of an institution long viewed as moribund by his contemporaries. Describing the Church of Rome Macauley said: "She may still exist in undiminished vigor when some traveler from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's."
From the eighteenth-century Enlightenment with its social, intellectual, and industrial revolutions up to the period of the great world wars, the papacy had been viewed as at best an archeological relic much like the Hapsburg Empire, and at worst as the last bastion of religious superstition and political reaction. The seal had been embossed on its coffin by Pope Pius IX, around the very time Macauley was writing, in a document repudiating "progress, liberalism, and modern civilization." The universal obloquy since heaped on the papacy--save by a negligible remnant of what were assumed to be the elderly, the ignorant, and the retrograde--can be represented by the chilly exclusion of Benedict XV from any role at Versailles after World War I, and by the utter indifference among the heads of all European governments to the unceasing pleas for peace before and during World War II by Pius XII--who was also excluded, save as occasional mediating agent, from participation in plans for peace.
Nothing in the modern era better symbolized the ineffectuality of the bearer of such exalted titles as Patriarch of the West, Supreme Pontiff, Heir of St. Peter, and Vicar of Christ than the plan by Hitler in 1943 to emulate Napoleon's capture of Pius VII in 1809--even to the dismissive gibe first voiced by Napoleon and later by Stalin, as to how many battalions had the pope. To draw a page from Gibbon on the Holy Roman Empire, this leader of the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" governed a body that was neither unified (German Catholics were slaughtering Polish Catholics); nor holy (financial scandals were germinating); nor catholic (dissident bishops were raising challenges from China to Ukraine); nor apostolic (a pedigree long viewed as undermined by historians and biblical scholars).
So, how then is one to explain that in the last forty years books on the papacy not as religious authority but as political force have been multiplied in every major language (even Japanese) in almost uncountable numbers, particularly and most divisively during the past two decades in the English-speaking world? I mention only a few titles, of which ten were published during the years 1999-2001. Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy, by Susan Zuccotti; The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, by Michael Phayer; The Italian Refuge: Rescue of Jews during the Holocaust, edited by, K. Voigt, J. Burgwyn; History, Religion, Antisemitism, by Gavin Langmuir; Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews during the Holocaust, by John F. Morley; Three Popes and the Jews, by Pinchas Lapide; Hitler's Pope, by John Cornwell; Pius XII and the Second World War, by Pierre Blet; Controversial Concordats, edited by Frank J. Coppa; Papal Sin, by Garry Wills; Constantine's Sword, by James Carroll; Pope Pius XII: Architect for Peace, by Margherita Marchione; Hitler, the War, and the Pope, by Ronald J. Rychlak; The Defamation of Pius XII, by Ralph McInerney; Pius XII and the Holocaust, by José M. Sanchez.
The crux of the political issue is clearly the papacy and the Holocaust. But this is the same papacy which political scientists, historians, social commentators, and intellectual observers in general, had dismissed for well over two centuries as a negligible factor in public life. Why then is there now such intense scrutiny of every personality and every document from that controverted period as they relate to the extermination of the Jews? It is argued that archives have been opened, new materials circulated, deeper insights gained. But acknowledging an element of truth to those assumptions, how then explain that the debate is more combustible at this late date, even though the basic positions and even the putatively supportive documents remain nearly identical or at least highly congruent with those disclosed (1965-1980) in the aftermath of Rolf Hochhuth's attack on the pope in his drama, Der Stellvertreter?
Among Jewish scholars, one must recognize that there is certainly a continuing passion for truth and for what is commonly (and perhaps naively) called "closure." Among some Catholics, there is probably all of that too; but also it soon becomes apparent among other Catholics that different agenda are here in play. In short, the reason for such renewed ardor and animosity is that this arena has--with exceptions I shall note--largely become the precinct of ideologues. The ideological denigrators of the papacy such as James Carroll, John Cornwell, and Garry Wills appear to speak in the language of candor and honesty, and with a view to reform of a corrupt and "deceitful" (Wills' term) ecclesiastical structure. But in fact they speak in the language of Hobbes' Leviathan, as I pointed out in the preceding chapter. The ideological consecrators, such as Ralph McInerny and Margherita Marchione are patent apologetes, clearly motivated by piety and loyalty to prevailing church norms and to religious tradition. That the denigrators are generally from the political left, and the consecrators generally from the right only adds to the factious fury. But as is usual in such polarizations, ideologues of the right are generally less persuasive because, at least ostensibly, less intellectually grounded than those of the left. As a result, the analyst of such a controversy must of necessity devote more attention to the latter. Ideas have consequences as a conservative observer once noted; whereas piety, loyalty, and traditionalism, like matters de gustibus, are not subject to dispute or public debate.
Since the ideological consecrators proffer testimony to the righteousness of their viewpoint rather than exposition or argument to support that viewpoint, they can be dispensed with speedily and briefly. Marchione quotes everyone from Einstein to Ed Koch on the merits of pope and church during the Holocaust, and attributes the denigration of Pius XII to such factors as that "anti-Catholicism is alive and popular today"; "cultural changes that swept over the Western world in the 1960s..., religion was mocked, the death of God espoused, passion exalted..."; "moral and family values declined." In addition to testimonials, she provides interviews with other partisans, quotations from supportive documents, discusses "Arians" and "non-Arians" as though this were a fourth-century debate, and supplies an "annotated bibliography"--the following excerpt from which indicates the tone, while this preliminary comment indicates the context.
To many non-partisan observers, John F. Morley's work on the Vatican and World War II is one of the most balanced, least tendentious historical studies of the last twenty years. (When one considers the historical studies critical of Pius XII that I analyze next, that will be seen as very high praise.) Nevertheless, in Marchione's bibliographic estimate: "Father Morley's book has become the 'Bible' of anti-Pius XII commentators"; she then quotes an allied critic to the effect that it is: "a grotesque anti-historical and in the end self-defeating incrimination." Not surprisingly, Marchione's potpourri is described as "a sober and documented work," by Ralph McInerny who-only incidentally--regards Morley's book as "providing aid and comfort to enemies of the Church," and who also sees the papacy in the context of "passion exalted and moral values in decline." This is prelude to an unexpected tirade, which quickly degenerates into a foaming frenzy about "the culture of death": "Proponents of abortion do not like hearing it compared to the Holocaust. The Holocaust lasted less than half a dozen years. The scourge of abortion has been going on for more than a quarter of a century.... We are all Nazis now."
An illustration of his polemic strategy is evident in his attempt to dismiss Garry Wills' Papal Sin on the ground that: "When Lillian Hellman's Scoundrel Time appeared in 1976 it had a long fawning thirty-page preface by Garry Wills," who after about five hundred words of condemnation by McInerny is indicted for, in effect, backing the wrong nag in the Hellman-Mary McCarthy sweepstakes.(17) One might have to delve into McInerny's own "memories of a Catholic boyhood" to see the relevance of any of this to The Defamation of Pius XII--a work which itself suffers from being merely an extensive paraphrase of two other studies of the pope by, respectively, Pierre Blet and Pinchas Lapide--apologetes both. When McInerney deviates from their works, it is either to indulge in warped polemic to prove that Zionist leaders and organizations (implicitly by contrast to Pope and Holy See) were indifferent to the Holocaust, or to engage in on-stage and off-target cultural pedantry.(18)
Ronald Rychlak is an attorney--and I presume a formidable one--whose mastery of the relevant literature is impressive. Nor in Hitler, the War, and the Pope are there any self-inflating excursuses on his own personal politics or on his nostrums for the moral tribulations of the cosmos. Moreover, though he might be classified as an ideological consecrator, he proves himself to be less biased than the professional and "leftist" historians I shall examine shortly. But there are some minor problems with the book: it is primarily a detailed response to various critiques of Pius, and only secondarily a constructive assessment, even when the response and the assessment do dovetail rather effectively. Second, as the work of a legal scholar it relies on oral witnesses who do not often seem either supported by documents or subject to rigorous adversarial protocol. An example is the acceptance, albeit somewhat hesitantly, of the testimony of Sister Pasqualina, Pius's dedicated assistant and, after his death, ardent defender. Nevertheless, it seems to me as a book by a partisan of Pius to be as honestly and as forthrightly executed as, from a different point of view, is John Morley's Vatican Diplomacy.
But as I have noted, in addition to ideologues of either stripe, there is also a third party, the historians, who are usually allied with the left, but as professional advocates of objectivity and independence, must appear to be above the fray. This is the first group I shall consider in detail before moving on in the next chapter to the views of their "amateur" companions in arms. What will emerge in the present chapter is the startling phenomenon of slanted and bogus scholarship where one might least expect it; not among the ideologues of the right who are blatantly but negligibly sanctimonious and adulatory, but among the acknowledged professional exponents of candor, honesty, and rectitude. Unfortunately what is lost sight of by ideologues of both categories is the reduction of the greatest crime in history to the status of a mere tactical ploy in an intermural ecclesiastical wrangle over the office and function of the papacy. That this is to hijack the Shoah for Christian purposes--much less noble than the kinds of goals analyzed by Tim Cole's Selling the Holocaust--seems to have been lost sight of even by Jewish scholars anxious for "answers" and eager to grasp at any straw of ecumenical reciprocity.
I begin with Susan Zuccotti's Under His Very Windows (the pronoun refers to Pius XII), and will then take up Michael Phayer's The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, and will conclude with what by contrast to those two works can only be described as a revolutionary treatment, entailing a radically different approach to the whole range of Holocaust issues: Gulie
Ne'eman Arad's America, Its Jews, and the Rise of Nazism (Bloomington, 2000), a work not listed among the titles at the beginning of this chapter, since it does not directly relate to the role of Catholics or the Holy See. However, as will become evident at the end of this chapter, it is in its overall perspective utterly different from those other titles, and particularly Zuccotti's and Phayer's.
My concern with the latter two books is less with their general conclusions (though I differ with them strongly), but with the persistent bias they display in reinforcing such conclusions. It is the accumulation of incidental distortions combined with verbal legerdemain that results in provably doctored inferences and that may confirm (Zuccotti's book has been the recipient of the Revson Award for "Jewish-Christian Relations,"and Phayer's has received widespread praise in Catholic journals) the epigraph to this chapter from Lord Acton: "a rule of policy to praise the spirit when you could not defend the deed." Some may praise the drift of Zuccotti's and Phayer's broad-gauge theses; it is less easy to defend the foundation on which they are often established and which reveals what can only be defined as an omnipresent papaphobia-a term resuscitated in the nineteenth century by Coleridge.
Since it is axiomatic among papal critics that modern popes have been obsessively anti-communist while scanting the evils of fascism, Zuccotti in her first chapter discusses these encyclicals of Pius XI: on Hitler's Germany (Mit brennender Sorge), on international Communism (Divini Redemptoris), and on Mussolini's Italy (Non abbiamo bisogno). Of the latter she makes three assertions that are either verbally extravagant or simply false: "Despite claims to the contrary, the pronouncement [the encyclical] cannot be glorified as a sweeping and courageous condemnation of Fascism." First, "He never uttered the word 'Fascist'...he added, clearly enough, 'we have not said that we wish to condemn [second] the party as such.'... Nor can Non abbiamo bisogno be described as [third] an appeal for democratization and civil rights...." Yet the words "fascismo" and "fascisti" are in the encyclical (cf., para. 23 and para. 67); second, "the party as such" is attacked at least twenty times; third, pleas for "a free press" and for "citizens' desire for peace and order" would seem by any reckoning to pertain to "civil rights." As to the alleged failure "to utter" specific "words": that a highly critical socio-religious manifesto, written in Italian and addressed to Italians living in a one-party state could not be discerned as aimed at Mussolini's government evokes the image of some dim-witted onlooker laboriously straining to comprehend the over-worked tautology: is the pope Catholic?
Zuccotti then discusses the encyclical's treatment of the fascist oath which as Pius XI observed, "even little boys and girls are obliged to take...which inculcates hatred, violence, and irreverence.... Such an oath, as it stands, is unlawful." To which Zuccotti adds without a pause, "unlawful, for in case of conflict between the demands of government and those of natural law as defined by the Church, the latter had priority." But it is not the demands of government "as such" but of a government which is "against all truth and justice." Moreover, what constitutes "natural" law is precisely that it is not defined by the Church (if it were, it might loosely be termed "supernatural" law) but by the individual person's own rational faculties. Had Zuccotti deigned to read the entire encyclical she would have seen it make precisely that distinction when it condemns "a 'statolatry' which is no less in contrast with the natural rights of the family than it is with the supernatural rights of the Church." It might also be observed that the use of the word "statolatry" would seem to be a fairly sweeping and even courageous condemnation of fascism.
After her comment about "natural law as defined by the church" taking priority, she continues: "He [Pius] suggested that the difficulty could be overcome if individuals who had already taken or were required to take the oath made a mental reservation 'before God, in their own consciences' to recognize that priority." The reader may determine why she provides a paraphrase here rather than the direct quote--which is: "It seems to Us that such a means [to restore tranquility of conscience] for those who have already received the membership card [containing the oath] would be to make for themselves before God, in their own consciences, a reservation such as... 'in accordance with the duties of a good Christian' with the firm purpose to declare also externally such a reservation if the need for it occurred." Thus Pius's "suggestion" that this could apply to those who "were required" to take the oath in the future, is entirely Zuccotti's fabrication. Furthermore, the term "mental reservation"--which the pope does not use-- in English is a euphemism for equivocation (indeed, the OED, supplies it as a euphemism for "Jesuitry"). Third, the "reservation" is not for recognition of "the priority of what the church defines," but for recognition of "the duties of a good Christian." Lastly, and obliterative of the canard here being dredged up--"Papists can lie for the church," as Charles Kingsley's disastrous attack on Cardinal Newman also affirmed--the encyclical insists on a firm intent to publicly declare the reservation when necessary. (19)
Of this book to which the heavy-handed sequence above is merely the ponderous Introduction , one jacket blurbist, Michael Berenbaum of the University of Judaism--taking note of Zuccotti's plumbing the depths to which the papacy can sink--observes: "It will only further enhance Zuccotti's reputation for balance, scholarship, and appropriate gravitas."
Concerning Mit brennender Sorge, Zuccotti warns the reader that "a careful examination of its contents is in order" because it like the Italian encyclical "is often cited as evidence of Pius XI's courageous stand against Fascist and Nazi regimes." Again, three tendentious claims are proffered. First, the encyclical begins "with a protest against violations of the treaty of 1933 by 'the other contracting party,' meaning Germany. [Second] It never used the words 'National Socialist,' and [third] it rarely even referred to the Reich government as such." As to the first claim, there is no sinister omission here. In fact, Germany is mentioned five times on the very first page of the encyclical. Second, we are presented with another argument ex silentio comparable to Zuccotti's earlier, "He never utter ed the word 'Fascist'," since to what "other contracting party"--which is standard legalese--could the encyclical be referring than to Germany's ruling party, the National Socialists? Third, "Reich government" also appears on the very first page of the encyclical.
Then after quoting a lengthy statement from the encyclical praising the Hebrew Bible unrestrainedly, and in language the most orthodox rabbi would endorse, Zuccotti comments: "The Old Testament [sic], then, must be taught because it is a credit to Christians rather than to the Jews who wrote it." The gravamen of this argument will escape most readers, since the quotation makes no implicit or explicit mention either of authorship or of Christians.
After denigrating Pius XI, but only as prelude to calumniating Pius XII, Zuccotti comes to the point of her first chapter: papal indifference to Nazism relative to papal obsession with Communism--a difficult case to make to anyone who has actually read Mit brennender Sorge. And as one might expect of an author afflicted with gravitas, the proof will be quantitative. "Even though papal condemnations of Communism were not at all new, La Civiltà Cattolica [a journal, randomly anti-Jewish, edited in Rome by Italian Jesuits] (20) printed Divini Redemptoris in full, in two successive issues, along with two lengthy articles on the subject. It subsequently printed Mit brennender Sorge in a single issue, along with one article of comment." Not to get caught up in Zuccotti's brand of cliometrics, I would merely note that this difference in coverage might just come from the simple fact that the encyclical on Communism is roughly twice as long (82 numbered paragraphs) as that on Nazism (43 paragraphs). But the more obvious reason--which again evades her--for this gravely special "spatial" difference in coverage is that an encyclical addressed to the universal church in the church's universal language, Latin, is likely to get more attention in an Italian Jesuit journal than an encyclical written in German and explicitly addressed "to the Archbishops and Bishops of Germany."
Zuccotti, having disposed of the encyclicals, then concludes a discussion about the Church in Italy being "comfortable with the recent Fascist measures against the Jews," by noting about such comfortableness that "additional evidence emerged" during the German occupation of France when Marshall Pétain asked his ambassador to the Holy See, Léon Bérard, to determine "the Vatican's attitude toward the new anti-Jewish decrees." The ambassador sent an unusually detailed and desultory report containing among other things, descriptions of medieval practices regarding Jews, quotations from Thomas Aquinas, and ending with the observation that "someone in authority said to me at the Vatican there is no intention of quarreling over the Jewish statute." Zuccotti, again arguing from silence, says that Cardinal Maglione, the Vatican Secretary of State, "never denied the report or declared that it was inaccurate....The report, of course, is not evidence of Vatican approval of the entire content of the French anti-Jewish legislation. But neither was there any public expression of dissatisfaction." Yet this discussion of the report was initiated by her comment that "additional evidence emerged"; now it ends up, after a sequence of insinuations, that the "report, of course, is not evidence." And why the Secretary of State should express anything about a report (which may have been a mere summary) privately communicated to him remains unexplained. The two face-saving phrases for her are "entire content,"since then she can insinuate, though not too subtly, that some of the content indicated Vatican approval of the anti-Jewish legislation, and "public expression," since "public" is not only undefined, in this context it can't be defined: expression to what public, and by what means? The people of Rome, the people of occupied France, of the Vichy regime (since the report was written for Pétain), in newspapers, radio messages, the aula of St. Peter's?--and expression by whom? the French ambassador, a Vatican functionary, the pope? This tissue of suppositions displays an astonishing reliance on unverified and unverifiable assumptions.
This can all be compared to Rychlak who notes that the distinguished Jesuit theologian, Henri de Lubac, devoted two chapters to the Bérard report in his memoir of the war years, Christian Resistance to Anti-Semitism, and supplied reasons for viewing it-not in summary form, but in its entirety--as a hoax: "If the ambassador had been able to obtain from any personage at all in Rome a reply that was even slightly clear and favorable [to the anti-Jewish laws], he would not have taken so much trouble to 'bring together the elements of a well-founded and complete report' obviously fabricated by himself or by one of his friends." And this internationally renowned scholar--later a cardinal--who a few years after the war was silenced by Pius XII added: "...from the very first day...the opposition between the orientation of the Vichy government [toward the Jews] and the thought of Pius XII was patent." De Lubac's memoir was first published in 1988 in French, and two years later in English; certainly sufficient time for a scholar like Zuccotti to have taken it into account, particularly since in her The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews (1993), she has high praise for de Lubac's efforts to aid Jewish refugees.(21)
I now want to consider another substantive instance of Zuccotti's doctoring her facts--but an instance that will also provide the transition to Phayer's equally questionable alterations. The Capuchin friar Marie-Benoit Peteul--known for his rescue efforts as "le père des Juifs"--was a friend of an Italian Jewish banker, Angelo Donati, who himself had long been active in helping the refugees. In the summer of 1943 Donati developed a bold and ingenious plan to save more Jews. Aided by Father Marie-Benoit, Donati met in the Vatican with representatives of the Italian, British, and American governments with a view to transporting by ship some forty thousand Jews to safety in North Africa. According to official US diplomatic records, the project was aborted because the consensus of the American and British officials, both in Rome and in their respective capitals, was that the undertaking could not be carried out given the imminence of the armistice which would place all of Italy under German military control. The Italian representative himself blamed the failure of the project on General Eisenhower who was believed to have broken the pledge to postpone announcing the armistice until the refugee ships were out of port. In fact, though the armistice was signed on September 3, it was announced only on September 8.
Subsequently Father Robert Graham, an editor of the official papal documents (and therefore suspect as a creature of the Vatican, or as described by Phayer, "a Vatican operative"), observed that the plan "was easily seen as unrealizable in time of war." Immediately following this quotation Zuccotti detonates a curious non sequitur: "Are we, then, to believe that it received no Vatican support because it was so preposterous?" After a couple of sentences of annotated
irrelevancies, she resumes: "The plan was not unrealizable because of the war but because of the lack of time [to which Graham would have said, per me fa lo stesso, "to me it's the same thing"] and, perhaps, good will." That transitional "perhaps" elides into the realm of the ethical, i.e., of the Holy See: "Vatican officials seem to have been, again, highly conservative; unwilling to risk the loss of prestige that a failure might have entailed, and much too ready to decide that a difficult project was an impossible one."
However, it was the American, British, and Italian representatives exclusively who made that decision which had nothing whatever to do with "Vatican officials," much less with some specious "loss of prestige." As I said, the armistice was formally announced by Eisenhower on September 8. But that latter is the date Zuccotti herself gives for the Vatican's being informed of the details of the project, "exactly the kind of project that causes conservative bureaucrats to hesitate." In another inexplicable non sequitur a hundred pages earlier, in a different context, she notes that the armistice "inadvertently led to the German occupation of Italy and the onset of Jewish deportations." But it wasn't "inadvertent": it was predictable; it was predicted; and it occurred. Hence the urgency for action on the Donati overture. Moreover, it is self-defeating (and self-contradictory) for Zuccotti to then say: "Officials at the Vatican Secretariat of State were informed of the Donati plan before the armistice rendered it impossible," since in fact, the "informing" and the "announcing" were on the same day--this entirely apart from the sheer impossibility of transporting thousands of people, not in a matter of hours but even in a matter of days or weeks. But clearly from all this discussion the villain of the piece is the Vatican which, in fact, had nothing to do with the success or failure of the project.
One cannot but feel a touch of pathos when one reads all of the above in the light of Zuccotti's 1993 book on the holocaust in France. In that book Pius XI's leadership during the period from the late twenties to the early thirties in improving relations with Jews is praised; and Mit brennender Sorge, "a protest against atheistic Nazi confrontations with the Church" is quoted in confirmation of that improvement. In the earlier book of nearly 400 pages, the name, "Pacelli" or "Pius XII," who in Under His Very Windows is the triple-crowned phantom hovering over despairing victims: in that earlier book, the name never once occurs. The Donati plan (seen above as virtually sabotaged by the Secretariat of State) is discussed in the earlier book with no mention whatever of anything connected with the Holy See, save the single observation that Père Benoit "introduced Donati to influential individuals at the Vatican" who happened to be the representatives of the American, British, and Italian governments. The Bérard "report," with its implications of papally inspired antisemitism (although written at the request, and by a representative, of the Vichy French government, and never verified in toto by the Vatican) is nowhere discussed in Zuccotti's earlier book on "the holocaust, the French, and the Jews."
Lastly, and most paradoxically, while in Under His Very Windows the entire world of Vatican officialdom is depicted as knowledgeable in 194l of the Nazi concentration camps and, less than a year later, of the beginning of the extermination process, in The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews virtually no one--social workers, members of Jewish or Christian agencies, officials of the Free French government, church leaders whether Catholic or Protestant--seemed to know of or believe in the existence of the death camps. Zuccotti here is all magnanimity, generously forbearing, and detailed (pp. 145-54) in her condonation of this nescience and incredulity. (22) The Communist press tried to expose the gassing of Jews in October, 1942, but it "had already made sweeping allegations of other types of atrocities, and [its] credibility was low." Of Protestant churchmen we are told: "...like government and religious leaders throughout the world with partial knowledge of the mass murders being committed in the east [they] did not necessarily understand emotionally what they knew intellectually. That failure of imagination..., continued until the end of the war."
But it was not just a "failure of imagination." In her earlier book Zuccotti tells the reader that, "The full and unique reality of the Holocaust....can be comprehended today with the help of thousands of haunting personal testimonies, documents, photographs, and physical remains of gas chambers and killing centers. During the war it was almost inconceivable." However, it was not almost inconceivable in the Vatican. There it was a truism, however cunningly concealed. In Under His Very Windows we are told: "The summer of 1942 [when the French communist press was ignored because of its "low credibility"] witnessed the deportations to Auschwitz of thousands of Jews from France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and the onset of systematic selections and gassings at the camp." Because sick and elderly, and not just potential laborers, were being deported the nuncio to France in a note to the papal Secretary of State inferred that extermination was possibly their fate. He added that "the Holy Father has made clear allusions in order to condemn such inhuman persecution" although fear of the extension of such draconian measures "incline him to prudent waiting." Zuccotti's gloss is unfalteringly condemnatory: the nuncio "suspected that people were being deported to their deaths, yet he was willing to fabricate papal responses and point out reasons for 'prudent waiting.' His mentality, as well as his writing style, was typical of his colleagues in Rome."
Interea, as epic transitionists say, back in France: "The postwar testimony of hundreds of survivors, many of whom had seen Resistance tracts and heard BBC reports throughout the war, reveals similar incomprehension" about the extermination process. Raymond Aron, "with the Free French in London, where information circulated freely," is quoted: "...but the gas chambers, the industrial assassination of human beings--I must confess that I did not imagine it, and because I could not imagine it, I did not know." The Jewish physician at Drancy had been at the departure camp for Auschwitz until the summer of 1944. Of his experience, he asserted: "I was one of the best informed about the mental state of several dozens of thousands of internees..., trying to understand the sense of these events.."; it was simply 'the exploitation of Jewish manpower by a Germany more and more short of labor..., aggravated by the wish to isolate the Jews in an immense and miserable ghetto." And on and on-- all in startling contrast to the vitriolic description of the broad range of allegedly precise knowledge, grasped early in the war years and conveyed to his emissaries by the detached and indifferent figure of the pope frigidly gazing down at the swelling ranks of the doomed "under his very windows." On September 27, 1942, the American representative at the Vatican formally inquired if the Holy See "had any information to confirm reports" of Jewish massacres. A couple of weeks later, (23) the Secretary of State confirmed "from other sources" the reports, and added: "It has not yet been possible for the Holy See to check the exactness of such news. As is known, however, it avails itself of every possibility that is offered to ease the suffering of non-Aryans." Again, Zuccotti's gloss: "Apparently, help to 'non-Aryans' did not include cooperation with efforts to learn what was happening to them." But in her earlier book she exoneratingly describes how "the Jewish publishers of J'accuse suffered agonies of indecision about whether to print news of gassings" in that same month when, in her later book, she is indicting the Vatican for having "to check the exactness of such news." Moreover, even a full year later in the summer of 1943, "the president of the Consistoire [the most important "non-Aryan" organization in France] received a copy of a letter" from one of those "uncooperative and unhelpful" papal offices, the nunciature "in Munich describing the crematoriums and mass execution of Jews"; nevertheless, and entirely absolved by Zuccotti prima, the president of the Consistoire (known also as Alliance Israelite Universelle) "still found it unimaginable...." Whereas in Italy, in that same summer of 1943, Zuccotti secunda tells us that not only were mass execution of Jews imaginable, but "Vatican officials were perfectly aware of the fact [that] millions of European Jews had been murdered in the Soviet Union and in Poland."
And so the juxtaposition goes back and forth between the benevolence dispensed in the earlier book and the malevolence depicted in the later; between carte blanche exoneration for Free French authorities, for acquiescent French Jewish and Christian leaders, for the BBC information sources beamed to France on the one hand, and the unsparing condemnation relating to all things papal and "Roman" on the other. Again, the issue is not whether papacy and Rome deserve to be criticized; the issue is whether this is the kind of scholarship that clarifies or obfuscates; whether, in short, this is history or propaganda.
One final irony. All of these benignly described events and persons in The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews appear in that book which was published more than a decade after the completion of the 11 volumes of Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale-which is the single most utilized source for Under His Very Windows. Thus the difference in perspective, from charitably descriptive in the first book to acrimoniously critical in the second, cannot be attributed to a massive infusion of new data.(24) The pathos to which I referred earlier derives not from such a transformation of perspective--which is no one's affair but the author's--but from the reader's experience of an unfathomable sense of psychic dissociation A chasm divides two books on the very same theme and by the very same author, a chasm which seems to be viewed not as unbridgeable but as non-existent: as though the argument of Under His Very Windows were merely the logical continuation of the argument of The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews. This "dissociation" is what in another context Dr. Johnson characterized as resulting from the "violent yoking together of discordant images."
Perhaps, one muses, the startling difference between the two treatments suggests that there is some validity to the notion--otherwise thought vulgar superstition--that a turn of a century or of a millennium can precipitate individual or collective metanoia.
Michael Phayer's initial reference to Father Marie-Benoit is possibly an illustration of "even Homer nods," since it is also based on an argument ex silentio. Of Pius XII's audience with Père Benoit, Phayer writes: "He gave Pius a written report on the Jews of France, which included those of the Italian-occupied zone who were being pursued by the Germans. (This document is not contained in the Vatican Collection Actes et Documents du Saint Siège pendant le IIe Guere Mondiale)." The misspelling and mistitling are mere carelessness, though the implication here, and more frequently in Under His Very Windows, is that "Saint Siège" should be spelled "Saint Sieve" and that documents were intentionally omitted by the editorial board to put a better face on Vatican misdeeds. (Hence, too, Zuccotti's assault above on Father Graham one of the editors: "all priests," as she says in her Introduction, failing to note that, even worse--all Jesuits.) But in fact Phayer is simply mistaken: the document with annexes is included in its entirety in Actes et Documents.... Moreover, John Morley--who, notwithstanding ideologues of the right and historians of the left, never engages in spin in his truly exemplary Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews--certifies that Pius was well-disposed to Benoit's requests, that this was reassuring to Jewish leaders, and that the pope expressed surprise at the information because "he would never have thought such conduct possible in France."
What cannot be attributed to any etiam-Homerus hermeneutic of generosity is Phayer's observation about the Donati plan requiring consent of the American and British who controlled the Mediterranean--the latter a simple fact; but then Phayer adds: "Donati hoped that the Vatican would allow him to speak to the American and English diplomats to the Holy See, but permission to do this was refused, as we saw in chapter 4." This is much like Carroll"s "as we saw above," because in chapter 4 there is no reference at all to Donati, and in fact the latter did communicate in the Vatican with the diplomats. Concerning the allegation of maltreatment of Father Benoit, the reader is told that "his request for an audience with Pope Pius was not granted. (A Vatican official informed him that Pius no longer gave private audiences, but in March he had given one to Margin Slachta...)" But in March Benoit was still in France. "...on July 16, Benoit, accompanied by his religious superior, finally saw the pope." But not after the suggested lengthy interval; in fact, Benoit returned to Rome late in June, and less than three weeks later had his audience, at which he presented the documents to Pius who responded in the terms of concern cited from Morley above. Again, one is compelled to suggest, this is not quite history as an Acton would have wanted it written.
In another unwarranted effort to cast doubt on Actes et Documents..., Phayer observes of the correspondence between the pope and his personal friend, the anti-Nazi bishop of Berlin, Konrad von Preysing, that: "Of his letters to the pope--thirteen of them in fifteen months, eight in 1943 and five in 1944--only two have been included in the Vatican's document collection,...
omissions which suggest that Preysing was pressing Pope Pius to speak out about the Europe-wide murder of the Jews." But the fact is that "omissions which suggest" this don't exist. In the 1943 volume alone there are four letters included relating to the persecution of the Jews; three others with excerpts but not quoted in full since they relate less to the Holocaust than to the execution of priests. The editors of Actes et Documents.... in a footnote referring to another letter state: "Information omitted on the religious life and the bombing of the cathedral of Berlin." One concludes that there was no cabal or conspiracy to suppress von Preysing's letters.
But two far more serious errors than those above relate to events in postwar Germany--on which Phayer's book does make a signal contribution. The first concerns the Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain, whom we encountered in McInerney's diatribe, and who was briefly de Gaulle's ambassador to the Vatican. Maritain in two letters pleaded with his friend in the Vatican secretariat, Monsignor Montini (later Pope Paul VI), for a statement on Germany's collective responsibility for the Holocaust. Phayer, again arguing ex silentio, writes: "What kind of a hearing Montini was able to get for Maritain's thoughts is unknown. It appears, however, that the pontiff rejected them explicitly when he raised the bishops of Berlin, Cologne, and Münster to the cardinalate early in 1946, to indicate to the world his high esteem for the German church." But it doesn't so "appear" explicitly or even implicitly since Maritain's letters were written in July and August, and the consistory creating the cardinals took place six months earlier on February 18, 1946. Not only is this warped chronology a blatant attempt to attack the pope on the grounds of indifference to justice, but it also renews the "canonical" cliché of Pius's critics that he was blindly partial to all things German.
Nor does Phayer hesitate to stigmatize--as he piles Pelion on Ossa--the bishops of Berlin, Cologne, and Münster who were clearly being honored primarily for their vigorous opposition to Nazism. Phayer himself had earlier noted: "No other German bishop spoke as pointedly [against Nazi policies] as Preysing [of Berlin] and Frings [of Cologne]." (Of the bishop of Münster, more shortly.) Moreover, as to Pius making cardinals in order to "indicate" his high esteem for favored countries, it should be noted that at the same consistory the three French prelates elevated with the strong backing of de Gaulle were known opponents of the Vichy regime: Petit de Julleville of Rouen, Roques of Rennes, and Saliège of Toulouse. Finally, it should be emphasized that Pius had declined to offer the purple to the Berlin wartime Nuncio, Cesare Orsenigo, whom Phayer describes, a bit ham-fistedly, as a "pro-German, pro-Nazi, antisemite fascist who would have no trouble adjusting to the Nazi regime in Berlin [in short according to ideologues of the left, a man after the pope's own heart]...and who hankered after a cardinal's hat." The "hankering" is not overstatement; and after the consistory Orsenigo-as Herodotus might have moralized--"died of a broken heart."
As to the third German cardinal, von Galen of Münster, all references to him by Phayer up to the postwar period mention only his universally admired courageous denunciation of the Nazi compulsory euthanasia program. This is curious since any historian of that era would have certainly mentioned that von Galen, though a bishop only one year, sponsored and prefaced a book attacking the Nazi bible of racism, Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century. The bishop's supportive imprimi potest resulted in the critique selling more than 200,000 copies in the period shortly after Hitler had come to power. In 1935 and 1936 after Rosenberg himself ventured to Münster, the bishop again denounced Nazi racism. Nor is there any mention in Phayer of the fact, found even in popular short accounts like the Encyclopaedia Britannica, that after von Galen's barrage of sermons attacking the euthanasia scheme, Hitler's aide, Bormann, was dissuaded by Goebbels (who anticipated propaganda embarrassments) from pursuing the bishop's execution "until after the final victory."
Goebbels had in mind the massive and unprecedented public demonstrations against the regime (also not mentioned by Phayer) that followed on the bishop's demands that crosses be replaced in schools, and that the other "cross," the swastika, not appear on any religious building or at any religious ceremony. Furthermore, Goebbels' propaganda ministry is also recorded as noting that action against von Galen--who had supported the attack on the "atheist" Soviet Union--would turn the bishop into a martyr and create opposition to the war not only "in Münster, but in all of Westphalia." Nor does Phayer tell the reader that the pope wrote von Galen that his anti-Nazi stand had inspired Pius's 1942 Christmas condemnation of the Holocaust; nor that in the following year, after this long series of public anti-Nazi confrontations, von Galen was honored with the title Assistant at the Pontifical Throne.
What obviously doesn't now have to be mentioned is that all three prelates were made cardinals not--as these conspiracy theories masking as history would suggest--to counter some utterly irrelevant letters from Maritain, or not because of Pius's "predilection for Germans"; but because--like their brother bishops in France--of their "open and courageous" (Pius to von Galen) opposition to the Nazi regime.
But the matter of Phayer's oddly parsimonious treatment of von Galen remains to be explained. So many omissions of central events in the life of one of the most outspoken critics of Nazism are only with difficulty justifiable as oversights or scholarly lapses. Neither should anyone be surprised, certainly not by this phase of our consideration of these various books attacking the role of the Holy See, that one can relate this distorted treatment to their unrelenting leitmotiv of subornation by the papacy. Though it takes more than a "bystander's" detachment to attack a heroic anti-Nazi prelate, if the ideological prize is the further ventilation of papaphobia--then, why not? The plot--in the narrative, not the conspiratorial sense--played out in a matter of less than a year, roughly from the Allied occupation (Münster was in the British zone) to the bishop's death in March of 1946, a month after being made a cardinal. Von Galen who had opposed the Versailles treaty, then the Third Reich, now opposed the British occupation as well as the Nuremberg trials (this latter, perhaps, the "moral" basis of Phayer's biographical erasures) with their initial assumption of Germany's collective guilt--though they were opposed by scores of British jurists, as well as by such Americans as William O. Douglas and Learned Hand.
True to his episcopal motto nec laudibus, nec timore-roughly, "neither for praise, nor out of fear"--the bishop proved such a scourge to the British that, like victors throughout history vaunting their power, they even tried to prevent his journey to Rome for the papal consistory. His criticism of the occupation force was not a mere matter of pique or resentment; though his complaints do not differ greatly, say, from those of Okinawans toward the American military today. He complained to the British officers about undisciplined soldiers, increased crime, the violation of military curfew, and destruction of property. On a more significant level, he consistently spoke out against the allied assumption of "collective guilt" on the part of all Germans. But the issue here is not the validity of that assumption, nor the licitness of the Nuremberg trials (which, however, flawed did attempt to bring criminal leaders to account), and certainly not the bishop's complaints about the unruliness of the occupation troops.(25)
The only issue here is Phayer's reading of the bishop's "diatribe" (Phayer's term) "attacking the Nuremberg 'show trials'," and its alleged consequences--a "reading" which again entails juggled chronology as well as a plot, now, in the conspiratorial sense. Phayer after noting that the German bishops' Fulda conference "had unequivocally said that those who engaged in atrocities must be brought to justice," then states that "only months later German Catholic bishops began to plead for leniency for those who had engaged personally in the Holocaust." The footnote to this references U.S. War Crimes Trial Program in Germany (1989), by Frank M. Buscher, one of Phayer's students. But the discussion on those pages refers only to "the end of 1946" and a sermon by Cardinal Frings on New Year's Eve of 1947 (and the rest of the book covers a period of ten years after the war). So rather than "only months later," we have events of a year and a half, and a full decade later. Phayer continues immediately: "The reason for the bishops' reversal can be traced to Rome. Just months [actually nine months] after the Fulda statement, Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen...published an address in which he sharply attacked the Nuremberg 'show trials'." But he also attacked the notion of collective guilt, and the Allied occupation authorities. (Rhetoricians might also want to note in the above paragraph a familiar tactic: on the previous page it had been simply "Bishop von Galen"; now we get the full name and a panoply of titles, after the fashion of Democrats in the seventies syllabicating "President Richard Milhous Nixon.")
Phayer continues: "Abruptly after church leaders found out about von Galen's attack, they distanced themselves from OMGUS [Occupational Military Government--United States] authorities.... Of course, the fact that von Galen's tract came out in Rome signaled the bishops that the Holy See opposed punishment of German war criminals. Given the green light from Rome, German bishops began a long and largely successful campaign to free imprisoned criminals...." Three times in this short quotation the sinister Roman provenance is mentioned. (Another principle of rhetoric and metaphysics is that the most unvarnished proof is not only the most elegant, it is usually the most effective--less is more; or as the Franciscan metaphysician would have had it: "provenances" should not be multiplied sine necessitate.) The reason the "diatribe" did not come out in the bishop's episcopal see, Münster, is that an attack on the British occupation authorities could hardly have been published in the British occupied zone. But why Rome? Simply because the bishop had been there a few weeks before at the consistory. (26)
But again, the issue is not whether the bishops did or did not do what is here (somewhat exaggeratedly) affirmed: "campaign to free imprisoned criminals." The issue regarding the bishops is: "why?" Did they do it because von Galen (hitherto a heroically independent figure) was acting as tool of the always deceitful papacy? Did they do it because of the persuasive power of a document that appeared in March, the very month von Galen died, and that presumably was circulated immediately throughout the German episcopate, convincing the entire hierarchy to "reverse" a long-standing position? Moreover, there is the view of Phayer's associate, Frank Buscher, that, "When it came to opposing Allied trials of war criminals, the two major religious hierarchies in Germany shared identical views. The issue, like few others, united Catholic and Protestant clergymen." Are we to believe the Protestant clergy were also influenced by the impetus and inspiration of the long-dead von Galen--he of course, even from the grave, being responsive to the "green light from Rome"? I think any unbiased reader would say that one doesn't have to be a David Hume to dissolve this whole post hoc ergo fabrication of causality whereby the bishop of Münster, in the month before his death, moves the entire German hierarchy from a posture of sympathy and cooperation with the occupation forces to one of active opposition.
Nor, one is morally obliged to add, does it do honor to the profession of history to obliterate a record of heroism on the part of von Galen in order to taint him with antagonism toward an occupying power and a legal proceeding--the Nuremberg trial--that, however ostensibly well-intentioned, were disorganized, indiscriminate, and conflicted almost from the start. Von Galen was one of the few genuine and consistent opposition heroes of the Hitler period--albeit a man of conservative and patriotic bent.
At least as damaging to Phayer's credibility as the "three cardinals" incident is his treatment of (the always villainous) Pius on matters relating to noncombatant immunity and the bombing of civilian centers. The reason these are crucial is that a case could be made, as I tentatively shall in chapter four, that if the pope's repeated denunciation of destroying non-strategic urban areas--which violated the traditional Catholic just-war doctrine as well as the Geneva Conventions--was ignored, might not a similar fate have met any repeated denunciations of what led to the Holocaust? Again, however supremely important Holocaust condemnations are, that is a matter to be postponed to a later phase of this discussion. Phayer's assessment of Pius's alleged preoccupation with the bombing of Rome introduces the present issue: "The problem facing Pius XII was that he had failed to condemn the German bombing of England during 1940 and 1941, but then spoke out against the bombing of civilians when the Allies gained aerial superiority." Pius also "made a serious tactical mistake," by "expressing sympathy for Germany's bombed-out churches after not having regretted the Nazi destruction of Coventry." Again, we have Pius's alleged philo-germanic inclinations raised to a canon of interpretation.
But in fact Pius spoke out against the destruction of civilian centers from the very beginning of hostilities. In 1939, less than a week after the ten-day bombing of Warsaw the pope said, "We cling especially to the hope that civilian populations will be preserved from all direct military operations." Three months later in his Christmas message: "Among such crimes.... We must include the unlawful use of destructive weapons against noncombatants and refugees, against old men and women and children." On March 24, 1940: More than once, to Our great distress, the laws which bind civilized peoples together have been violated; most lamentably, undefended cities, country towns and villages have been terrorized by bombing, destroyed by fire, and thrown down in ruins. Unarmed citizens, even the sick, helpless old people and innocent children have been visited with death." On June 2, 1940: "Nor do we think it right to refuse to express Our sorrow in seeing how the treatment of noncombatants....is far from being in conformity with humane standards. On April 13, 1941: "...the ruthless struggle has at times assumed forms which can be described as atrocious..., the sufferings of civilian populations, defenseless women and children, the sick and aged...." Perhaps most significant in light of the enduring canard of Pius's secret sympathy for the German war against Communist Russia is that on June 29, 1941, a week after Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the pope declared: "There is a decadence of the spirit of justice..., human bodies are torn by bombs or by machine-gun fire; wounded and sick fill hospitals." On December 24, 1941, two months after the last bombing raid on Coventry which unlike London was a manufacturing city: "We think of the mental and physical pain, death and destruction which air warfare has inflicted upon cities, populations, and industrial centers." Clearly Pius did not "fail to condemn the German bombing...during 1940 and 1941"--nor is it surprising that he continued to condemn all such bombing in the following years, particularly if one takes into account that in 1943 alone the allies dropped 200,000 tons of bombs on Germany, whereas the Luftwaffe dropped 2,000 tons on England. So, once again the professional historians--to put it kindly--have distorted facts to support personal prejudices.
At the beginning of this chapter I made a crude but functional distinction between the ideological denigrators of the papacy and the ideological consecrators, and noted that generally the first group is akin to the liberal left, while the second, to the conservative right--admitting the fuzziness of all such labels. I also noted that because of the intellectual poverty of the second group of ideologues, I have devoted only minimal attention to them: piety, fidelity, loyalty, etc., are virtues, but they are not a critical or rational stance, however intrinsically admirable, and indeed essential to any polity they may be. I also observed that what I called the "professional historians" are generally allied with the first grouping, but not in any way as rigidly or as programmatically. From what I have sketched above, that may sound like a dubious encomium to the professoriate, since I have concentrated on some very seriously skewed scholarship. But the difference between the "professional historians" and the "ideological denigrators" is that the former are concerned primarily with methodology, the latter, with goals. Of course there are shaded areas, but it probably still remains true that the historians are concerned with disclosing the facts as they see them, however influenced by social, economic, and other biases. The denigrators are concerned with disclosing many of the same facts but mainly with a view to some external agenda, loosely defined as reform of the church, collegiality, democratization, gender parity, freedom of expression whether in the pew or in the academy, etc.. These goals are possibly of concern to some historians, but their attainment is at best a by-product of their research, not its objective.
If I criticized the historians above for professional lapses which might generously be described as either derived from the exhilaration of hunting down clues based only on heuristic intuitions, or derived from the truism that "even Homer nods," I will, on the other hand, be condemning in the next two chapters those I have termed "ideological denigrators" for not merely skewing, but actually corrupting, their research to reach a pre-ordained conclusion.
Here a personal note--though I shrink from anything that smacks of the memoirist-may be called for. John Cornwell in Hitler's Pope professes to have begun the book with a view to disproving Hochhuth's mean-spirited depiction of Pius XII. That is possibly a dubious assertion since his previous "papal" book, A Thief in the Night: The Mysterious Death of John Paul I, sustains the arc of attention by holding out to the reader throughout its narration the tantalizing prospect of a Vatican murder--until that arc collapses in a tardy exposé of the Vatican banking scandal, which even the catchy title never hints at. (There may have been no truth-in-advertising regulations in Thatcherian England.) Nevertheless, he claims that it was only after he was engaged deeply in his own research into Pius XII--just as research into a murder led to a reversal of his original intent--that he was driven to conclude that the pope was indeed the punctilious, self-centered (though "humble"), diplomacy-obsessed human being that Cornwell's readers can readily recognize.
On first examining Zuccotti and Phayer, I was aware of their bias, but since they had gained my sympathy both as serious scholars (one of whom I had published) and as welcome contrasts to obviously eulogistic defenders of Pius, I found myself unwilling to abandon that view, and even willing to contemplate some exculpatory dialectics that would leave them untarnished. My initial argument--which I abandoned utterly as I read and analyzed their work more closely--was that they were fulfilling the role every researcher is familiar with (again, witness Cornwell): that of the scholar as sleuth. This is a role that readers of PI ("Private Investigator"; formerly, just plain "Detective") fiction are accustomed to. The latter is also the genre--so I was going to suggest--that determines the mood of these books, as clue after clue is pursued to validate what appears originally to be the slimmest suspicion, until finally the ardor which possesses the author, by an almost intangible contagion influences the reader to also embrace what becomes clearer as the "trial" reaches its end: a conclusion of "guilty as charged."
What happens, I tried to persuade myself, is that such authors being hunters (ostensibly of the truth), get caught up in the exhilaration of the chase which then so possesses them that marshaling their data towards a discovery of guilt becomes not only a means to vindicate their research but also to convince themselves of serving the cause of truth. I even contemplated citing Cardinal Newman's Dublin lecture, "Literature," where he described the satisfaction experienced by the gifted writer who, self-mesmerized by his own rhetoric or mastery of argumentation, delights in setting off pyrotechnic displays of skill, whether of discovery or of refutation. He compared the experience to that of the giant wielding his club not out of aggressive boisterousness but out of the sheer joy of the exercise. (One might well think of the verbal overkill in the thirty-nine "blots" of Newman's--subsequently wisely excised--indictment of poor Kingsley.) So, too--I almost had myself convinced--with critics such as I have discussed in whom the scholarly complexus of impulses and emotions, of drives to achieve and triumph, is a humane and humanistic passion and, at least initially, admirable and guiltless. It is in any case, I told myself, entirely different from the motivation of what Harold Bloom identifies as "the school of resentment" (some of whose members I will discuss in the next two chapters), which arbitrarily manufactures adversaries in order to settle imagined scores, or to cicatrize old psychic wounds, or hubristically to indulge in the Schadenfreude of vilification.
Alas, it just didn't wash. As I read more and more, the temptation to exonerate these perpetrators of scholarly errors grew weaker and weaker. Good people, noble spirits even, have had their reputations sullied. And regardless of what those perpetrators imagine in the precincts of their own conscience, it must be said that no matter how--in the larger cause of liberal thought, even of legitimate reform of abuses--they think themselves justified: I do not. They may even in the sketching of the overall picture prove to be right. But if in the details they are distorting truth, that sketch will be right only by the fortuity of unanticipated chance, not by the persuasiveness of their argument.
The reason for their failure is that their goal has been to satisfy an a priori assumption, i.e., the Holy See was derelict both on humane and religious grounds in its obligation to "save" the Jews. This was their own, perhaps honestly reached, allegation which they then set out to prove. And in that effort and with that methodology--short of deliberate distortions which we have seen are manifold--they are representative of a large body, in fact the largest body of professional historians examining the Holocaust. If one looks at the titles which I cited at the beginning of this chapter, they bear a remarkable similarity to the following representative list relating, now, not to the papacy and the Holocaust but to the American Jewish community and the Holocaust: While Six Million Died; No Haven for the Oppressed; The Abandonment of the Jews; The Jews Were Expendable; The Sacred and the Doomed; and The Deafening Silence--the latter two presaging or echoing the titles of books indicting the papacy.
Lord Acton in a letter to Mary Gladstone warned her of the pitfalls awaiting any historian who finds facile parallels between situations and events that superficially may appear to have something in common, but which on investigation are clearly lacking in significant similarities. But one cannot look at those titles and not hear a ring of familiarity, and given their common theme, the Holocaust, there is no doubt that they can cast some light on issues that transcend the purely American or even the purely national. Students of both the American Jewish community and the papacy, and indeed of the Holocaust in general have, in the words of one historian, Henry Feingold, written what "are as much cries of pain as they are serious history." Michael Marrus speaks of "a strong tendency... to condemn rather than to explain," while Feingold adds that the "indictment against the witnesses [or "bystanders"] is as predictable as it is irresistible." The most recent contributor to this "revisionist" approach summarizes the crucial differences as follows: (27)
The extent of the tragedy and the failure to reduce it, let alone prevent it, inspires a tacit moral-psychological posture that renders the bystanders as guilty until proven innocent. Furthermore, with the end result known, rescue becomes the indisputable expectation and the six million victims reinforce an intuitive-ethical inclination to evaluate the results of the American Jewish leaders' actions as a function of the sufferers' needs and not of the bystanders' means. Such an analysis is based on the fanciful notion that American Jews should have totally identified with the plight of their European co-religionists in the belief that unequivocal altruism, itself based on an idealized vision of kinship solidarity, could have overcome any objective or subjective obstacles to a determined will to help. This is a deeply felt moral-emotional argument. But it is also deeply flawed.
Now I am certainly not going to suggest one simply substitute "papacy" for "American Jews," or
"fellow human beings" for "European co-religionists," to make the parallel more effective. But it should be clear that an entirely different perspective from that of papal critics whom I will examine shortly or whom I discussed earlier, particularly Zuccotti and Phayer, is here being envisioned with regard to the Holocaust.
If Lord Acton were living today, he would certainly have warned his protégée about another abuse of the historian's art, the facile adoption of academic slogans or clichés as explanatory devices for complex realities. Certainly he would have found offensive the rampant invocation for every conceivable social change, however trivial, of the already exhausted phrase "paradigm shift." Rather than describing some historic transitional sequence of perspectives, the term has been almost eviscerated of any real meaning by its application to everything from new styles of dress to new brands of breakfast cereal, from haute couture to oat meal. So true is this, that even sloganized ironies like the exhausted, "brother can you paradigm," elicit only a dismissive shrug. And that represents a great misfortune, because beyond all its abuse by cliché mongers, it remains the best term to encapsulate the kinds of embryonic effort the quotations above adumbrate: a revolution in redescription.
The authors that Arad has cited are among those that are "initiating" this shift. The earlier paradigm of what may be called "judgmental" scholarship has an honorable lineage, certainly in the modern era beginning with that historian I have been citing, Lord Acton. And I should make clear that what appears here is not an embrace or an endorsement of this newer perspective, but merely an acknowledgment of its existence and its importance. Thus in the chapters to come I shall be writing in the more or less "standard" fashion, and that not merely because I am responding to critics who have adopted that mode in their historical narratives, but also because in the long run I have more trust in the persuasiveness of a judicial, adversarial approach--so long as it is not based on doctored data.
Nevertheless, I am convinced this shift is not just another fashionable quest for "difference"; nor, as with many revisionary tactics, merely an attempt to rejuvenate an enervated discipline (like Civil War studies); nor, finally, an effort to introduce novel approaches into traditional fields (like that urbane sprawl known as "culture studies"). This is literally a shift in the patterns and templates and taxonomy whereby one may get a new "handle," a new "purchase" on an elusive and over-interpreted subject. It cannot be ignored, and it is relevant to what I have already criticized in this chapter. Before taking up the precise illustrations of this shift, another effort at definition is called for: (28)
Among historians the desire to dispel the ambiguity that surrounded the early perceptions of the Nazi regime is not entirely innocent. Not least because of the cataclysmic aftermath, we tend to expect "knowledge" and "understanding" to coincide. Hence, the question "What did they know?"--they being the victims and the witnesses--has never been a purely scholarly question. Indeed, in its updated version-- "Had they known more, could they have done more?"--the query is even more loaded.... In the existing historiography this assumption often leads to judgment instead of critical analysis of the period, particularly regarding the behavior of the witnesses and the issue of rescue. The implication is that lack of information exonerated inaction, or, conversely, availability of facts can serve as grounds for condemnation if action did not result.
Around the time that John Morley wrote his study of the papacy and the Holocaust, another American scholar, a gentile, David S. Wyman, wrote a comparably balanced study titled The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust (New York, 1985). This was a creative contribution to a growing literature on the topic which concluded to the failure of American officials, specifically of Roosevelt and the State Department as well as leaders of Jewish organizations, to take the necessary steps to save hundreds of thousands of European Jews. The parallel which hardly needs spelling out would be the alleged failure of the pope as well as of Vatican officials to take comparable steps: in the case of America, bombing the death camps and access to them; in the case of the papacy, condemning publicly the extermination of Jews. (A reader may note that in the first case, it is a question of an action, a deed; in the second, it is a question of a statement, a proclamation; yet Pius's failure has not merely marred his image, it has over the last few decades virtually destroyed it, while that of Roosevelt has been progressively burnished.) And as with the papacy, several historians, some quoted above, attacked Wyman for writing a moral tract not a historical analysis.
Arad who clearly knows all the literature refers to Wyman's work only in a bibliographical note, and writes with no polemical intent. Nevertheless, her "reading" of events concentrates on what might be called "thick redescription." In late summer 1943 when the totality of the extermination struck the leaders of American Jewish organizations, some of them expressed regrets at their failure to speak out. This failure was attributed to the fact that they had not "been ready enough to shake the bond of so-called amicability in order to lay our troubles upon the conscience of our Christian neighbors and fellow citizens." Arad comments that "this kind of catharsis so late in the day, however sincere, was still of little real consequence. If we prefer to attain an understanding rather than reach a judgment, then analyzing individual or group behavior on the basis of an idealized vision of human nature, where the exception is expected to be the rule, is of little avail. American Jews were thoroughly normal fallible human beings" (p. 220). This may sound exonerative, defensive, even pollyannish, but it may very well simply be an analysis of the humanity common to everyone regardless of place in society, regardless of status as victim or witness.
Arad also cites, as did Wyman and others, such instances of failure or betrayal as the State Department's delaying Gerhard Riegner's message-received also in London and in Rome--
about the planned "final solution" from reaching Rabbi Wise, the major Jewish leader: delayed because of the "fantastic nature of the allegations." Only ten weeks later was Wise allowed to disclose the contents of the message to the press, and to seek the long postponed audience with Roosevelt which finally, five months after Riegner's message, was granted. (Does this not sound like the makings of a Zuccotti-style plot?) (29) Meanwhile, a New York officer of the World Jewish Congress was expressing outrage not about the contents of a report that Jews from all German occupied countries were being murdered, but about the fact that the report was released: "We don't really need to convince ourselves that Hitler is capable of anything, and if we want to convince others, we must be sure that we have evidence of some value." When Rabbi Wise finally met Roosevelt in December and requested a statement from the president about conditions in Europe, Roosevelt authorized the re-issuance of a July statement "without any change in wording" and "which had not specifically emphasized Nazi crimes against Jews."
The first thought that comes to mind is how similar are all ruling agencies, not because of structures of deceit but simply because of what might be described as structures of bureaucracy. Of these various betrayals, particularly by Roosevelt, the contrast between Arad's perspective and that of zealots attacking the papacy can only be described as stark. Speaking of her own inability to understand the continuing esteem of Jewish leaders for Roosevelt, she writes: "... probably few would contest the wisdom of American Jews in embracing their nation's interest. Rather more difficult to accept is their deep affection for the 'chief' who had done so little to help them lessen the tragedy of their European counterparts." Then true to her search for understanding not judging, and rather than elaborating on the monstrosity of White House functionaries, including their leader--an elaboration that could have colored her narrative from the beginning as it colored that of Pius's critics--she continues immediately: "But
that too can be grasped when we acknowledge that despite what they had endured in America, they were eternally grateful, especially during the difficult times of the 1930's, for the protection their adopted country gave them from a far worse fate" (p. 221).
Perhaps on my part an irenic gesture at this point in the exposition would be to suggest some kind of merging of paradigms: a fusion of the judgmental and the empathetic--more or less after the fashion of Milton (again, to compare great things to small) who employed the Ptolemaic system when it suited him, and at other times the Copernican However, it would be easy to act on such a combination or variation of approaches, if it weren't for the multiple distortions employed by the "adjudicators." The next chapter will illustrate precisely how difficult that will be in the light of even more historical falsifications than those exposed above. A shift doesn't mean shiftlessness: lies and deceptions are not components of any workable paradigm.
"Neither before nor after the Second Vatican Council did I write
and publish everything that was on my mind. But I took a great
deal of pain not to write anything I believed to be false."
17. This plays out in McInerney and fellow first-thingers' embrace of Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Communio faction vis-à-vis Wills and fellow last enders' embrace of James Carroll and the Concilium contingent. One can even imagine McInerney greeting Neuhaus with
"Oh! you're the imitation me." As that nineteenth-century observer I alluded to in the first sentence of this chapter approximately commented: "The first time as farce, and the second time
-....as farce again."
18. Cardinal Newman did not define "what he meant by the liberalism he opposed in an appendix to his Apologia." He defined in the Apologia, "what I meant as a Protestant by Liberalism"; his definition as a Catholic (most of his adult life) was his speech in Rome on accepting the red hat. The treatment of Maurras is contradictory; moreover the attraction of Maritain to Action Française had less to do with "the tradition of French Catholicism" than with the influence of Père Clérissac. Nor should Professor McInerny, the director of the Jacques Maritain Institute at the University of Notre Dame, assert that Maritain opposed the Falangists because he was "bewitched by propaganda about Guernica and the atrocities of Franco." He opposed them because they and their clerical allies appeared to the common people as representing "nothing but imposture" (The Martyrdom of Spain, Introduction, ). When France fell, "Marshall Pétain took counsel with the representative of the Holy See about the anti-Semitic laws." One assumes, and this appears to be what McInerny believes, that such a representative was attached to the nunciature. But in fact it is the exact opposite: Pétain consulted the French ambassador to the Vatican. His report is important, as will be clarified in the discussion of Zuccotti's book below. Again: "Occupied Holland was to show a nobility and courage that contrasts dramatically with what that land has since become." This non sequitur may be based on Holland's present-day policy toward euthanasia, indicating its endorsement of "the culture of death"--now reified as a sociological category. --just a minor correction of our self-described "author to nearly 100 books": after Holland, one doesn't expect another gratuitous ethnic slur, now cum solecism. "Totalitarianism might have the look of opéra bouffe in Italy." Not quite: it might have that look in France; but "in Italy," opera buffa.
19. Through an anomalous lapse Peter Hebblethwaite in Paul VI: The First Modern Pope also uses the term "mental reservatiion," and speaks as though it could relate to some future occasion. He does, however, emphasize the disturbing impact of the encyclical's provisions on the fascists.
20. Cf. "'Everyone Has to Tell the Truth': Heidegger and the Jews," by Thomas Sheehan, Continuum, Autumn, 1990.
21. James Carroll in Constantine's Sword (p. 542) introduces the Bérard hoax into a discussion of Edith Stein: "Because of the world into which she was thrust, she was forced out of the supersessionist mold. That said, it is also important to acknowledge that many of Sister Benedicta's earlier assumptions about the guilt of her 'unbelieving people' reflected Christian religious antisemitism." The footnote between the first and second sentences reads: "An example of the prevailing attitude is the report from Vichy's Vatican ambassador, Léon Bérard, referred to above." But there is no "reference above" or anywhere else in Carroll's book to Bérard, and his appearance here is entirely arbitrary. Since I treat Carroll only as a subordinate participant in these discussions of the papacy, this may be the place to mention briefly his methodology which is, quite simply, to assemble quotations from books in the general area being treated, and then insert references to them wherever more or less relevant--here less since there is no connection with Stein and Holland, and Bérard and Vichy, except of course the ubiquitous theme of Catholics and antisemitism. Occasionally his file cards get mixed up, as in this instance, but what never are mixed up are the self-inflating autobiographical extravagations and the fulsome praise for every academic he has ever chatted with--the latter generous adulation presumably redeeming the former self-serving egotism and also providing a stable of supporters and endorsers--three of whom appear on the jacket of the book. A non-tendentious treatment of the "report," though before de Lubac's memoir, is Vichy France and the Jews by Michael R. Marrus and Robert O. Paxton, (New York, 1981).
22. In fact, she seems to go beyond neutral objectivity to explain why the Holocaust information was not credible. The Riegner report of August 11, 1942 was accepted in London, Rome, and Washington, but a month later when Cordell Hull denounced to the French ambassador the extermination process, she says: "But again, this was information from opponents of the Third Reich, and thus dismissable as enemy propaganda. Furthermore, Hull's warning, like the earlier Radio Moscow and BBC reports, formed part of a wealth of rumors and assertions, many of which turned out to be as false as the allegations of German atrocities against civilians during the First World War had been. We cannot assume that information proven with hindsight to be correct should have been recognized as such at the time."
23. For a large bureaucracy this would seem gratifyingly expeditious; for Zuccotti this short period is riddled with dilatoriness and suspicious delays. "Despite the recent reports [actually only one] from Malvezzi" [September 30], another "via the Polish government in exile [October 3], and Scavizzi [October 7], Vatican officials declined Taylor's request for confirmation of reported atrocities. [no date is given for this "decline" nor is there any footnote reference]. Nine days after Tittman asked for an answer to Taylor's request, and three days after receiving the Scavizzi report, Maglione [Cardinal Secretary of State] replied." --in all less than two weeks to assemble "information to confirm reports" of massacres.
24. In her Introduction she informs the reader: "The purpose of this book is to separate fact from fiction, reality from myth, about what the two popes and their principal officials at the Secretariat of State actually did [her italics] to help Jews in Italy, the country where they enjoyed the greatest opportunity to be useful. For that purpose, the Actes et Documents du Saint Siège are more than adequate. Although much that is unfavorable may have been omitted, it is reasonable to assume that all that is favorable was included." That last sentence is known, acceptably and neutrally, as the expression of a Ricoeurian hermeneutic of suspicion, a valuable corrective particularly for issues relating to minority status. That hermeneutic, particularly among feminists of the second generation, has generally been supplanted by a hermeneutic of empathy.
25. Phayer's facile assumption that "collective guilt" (a notion Pius criticized in Nessuno Certamente, his 1944 Christmas address) is a self-evident basis for censure or condemnation can be put in a less geographically and chronologically remote context by consideration of such ever more serious issues as reparations for indigenous peoples and for African-Americans. But who specifically is to pay the unquestionably justifiable compensation; to whom is it to be paid; and who determines the answers to both questions? But certainly no "collective guilt" devolves on, say, citizens of the West coast for the internment--Roosevelt once slipped and said "concentration"--camps where over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were held? But that leaves unanswered the question whether a payment by the government of twenty thousand dollars forty years later to the survivors, along with a presidential apology, was just or even adequate recompense? As Pius implied in his Christmas address, "collective guilt" is elusive, elastic, and in the end unjust; like capital punishment it offers only a sham sense of that fictive entity, "closure."
26. To further taint the dramatis personae of this Bishop of Rome-Bishop of Münster axis, Phayer says that von Galen "made the outrageous claim that the prisons of the [British] occupational authority were worse than the Nazi concentration camps...." To which Phayer in a note adds: "To provide an 'out' for this assertion, Galen referred to an anonymous English newspaper writer who had made the comparison." Anonymous he apparently was not, since article, newspaper, date, and author are supplied--along with a more benign interpretation-- by Suzanne Leschinski's "Kardinal von Galen in der Nachkriegzeit," in Joachim Kuropka, ed., Clemens August Graf von Galen: Neue Forschungen [but not so new as to be unavailable to Phayer], 1992.
27. All quotations and those that follow are from Gulie Ne'eman Arad's America, Its Jews, and the Rise of Nazism (Bloomington, 2000). She is a student of Saul Friedländer, and is now associated loosely with the Israeli New Historians whom we shall encounter in chapter four.
28. Arad., p. 109.
29. It does, and it is. Cf. p. 45 supra and her discussion of events surrounding communications beginning September 27, 1942 by the State Department to the Vatican.