Vatican Defends Pius Beatification

From the London Times:

The Vatican has defended its moves towards beatifying Pope Pius XII, saying that they reflected the piety of the wartime pontiff and not his “historical importance”.  Pope Benedict XVI sparked anger among Jewish groups on Saturday by bestowing the title “venerable” on Pius, criticised by historians for his silence in the face of the Holocaust.  The honour is a necessary step towards beatification and eventual sainthood for Pius, who was pope from 1939 to 1958. But a spokesman for the German-born Benedict said in a note issued today that it did not drive from Pius's “operative choices” but his deep piety and “witness of Christian life”.  Father Federico Lombardi Lombardi also insisted that the the decision was in no way “hostile” towards Jews, for whom Benedict felt “great friendship and respect”.


Read the rest here.

James Martin, SJ

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9 years 1 month ago
It's been said so often that every sainthood cause has an intense constituancy,i.e. a founder has her/his community, a nationality/ethnic connection, a lifestyle, a ministry etc.
But I can't remember past 'causes' having any organized opposition. There has been so little opposition recently the the Devil's Advocate position has been abolished. Pius XII's cause, seems to only have as its 'intense constituancy' the Curia [and SSPX ? ].. maybe the 'cause'has the Italian aristocratic class, if any are still Church goers. However the opposition to his cause will be loud and mean.
James Lindsay
9 years 1 month ago
Malachy called him the Angelic Pastor, for heaven's sake.  Given what other Catholic prophets say about the angelic pastor as well, it is about time this was started.  Pius did more for the Jews escaping the NAZIs that is known.  It is FDR that dropped the bomb on this by not letting refugees in before the doors closed.  If the United States had not stood idly by, millions could have been saved.  The same kinds of voices want to do enforcement first on immigration.  Sad.
Pearce Shea
9 years 1 month ago
Ed, I know of some people, actually people I work with, who actively lobbied (mostly letter writing) against Mother Teresa's potential sainthood. I think some still do. I can't recall the names but there have been organized opposition to a number of canonizations in the past.
I've not seen any opposition to this canonization that seems entirely (a) ignorant of all the help Pius provided the jews (and everyone to whom I've given evidence of this bit of lost history seems to reject the information out of hand) (b) ignorant of the fact that, while Pius had some skewed ideas about the German/Poland situation, he was the first "world leader" in the west to publicly denounce the Nazis, and consistently denounced jewish deportation and genocide and (c) more than comfortable with the double standard Michael mentioned (FDR and the west's refusal to admit Jewish refugees, etc etc etc).
I also find it striking that none other than Golda Meir, no shrinking violet when it came to accusing people of anti-semitism spoke very highly of Pius.
To be honest, my original opinion of the man was pretty low and when talk of beatification started rumbling I did a lot of reading up and that changed my opinion completely. It seems to me that he was acting in a way that he hoped would keep the Nazis from arresting Bishops and Priests and tearing down churches while, at the same time, criticizing and actively acting against, the Nazis.
9 years 1 month ago
I wholeheartedly agree with Michael's comments regarding Pius, FDR and the tie-in to immigration in this country.  I'm afraid Ed is right that the opposition will be loud and mean and that is truly unfortunate for the cause of Pius but also for the cause of justice and correct history.  Sir Martin Gilbert, Rabbi David Dalin and other Jewish scholars hhave documented the many ways that Pius aided Jews and saved many many lives.  What is the resistence to looking at this scholarship?  Could it be the same as the resistence to fair, just and compassionate immigration policy?  Is the need for humans to find scapegoats so great that we are blinded to what is just, fair and compassionate? 
Eric Stoltz
9 years 1 month ago
OK, I'll bite. What is this heroic witness to the Christian life that Pius displayed? What specifically were the heroic virtues that were noticed by everyone around him that Christians are called to imitate?
The Vatican disingenously claims they want Pius canonized not to declare victory over his detractors, or to approve of his ''operative choices'' but to acknowledge the widespread clamor among Christians who are inspired by his heroic virtue and well-known extraordinary sanctity. You know, the throngs at his tomb, the images of Pius XII you see venerated in churches, the songs composed in his memory, the widespread devotion of the people who place statues and images of him in their homes, the demand for books about his holy life and the lessons he has to teach us as we live our everyday lives. Cause you know he's practically the Father Damien of Rome.
Oh, none of that is happening? Then why is the Vatican determined to canonize him?
9 years 1 month ago
A person's piety informs and leads to their operative choices.  To say Pius is being promoted for how he was, but not for what he did, is schizophrenic ..... talk about failing upwardly.
John Smythe
9 years 1 month ago
When the only true Church of God has to defend itself publically from its enemies - who are therefore the enemies of God - it is a sad day indeed and shows exactly who runs the world.
9 years 1 month ago
Deacon Stoltz brings up an interesting point.  Why indeed has there not been evidence of Catholic veneration of Pius.  Perhaps, I can shed a small ray of light on this question from my personal experience.  Growing up in the 40's and 50's I learned from my mother and the nuns in grade school and college that Pius was considered to be saintly and holy.  This view of Pius changed drastically after his death, when he could no longer defend himself.  A critical point was the play, "The Deputy" by Rolf Hochhuth in 1963, which was supposedly a fictionalized account of the holocaust.  Hochhuth, in the play, indicted Pius as an anti-semite who was complicit in the holocaust.  The play was accepted by many as gospel truth.  In the late sixties while working at Family Service Assn. of Cleveland, my supervisor adamantly believed every word and was vocal about it.  My sister, who attended Loyola University in Rome, was taught  the same by the Jesuits there.   I eventually bought into this version of history and dismissed Pius as a cowardly pope.  This , I believe, was the conclusion of many Catholics who,  like myself would ordinarily have been the ones to express veneration of him. 
After the publication of the Goldhagen and Cornwall books, I began doing some research on my own.  What I've learned is quite the opposite of the Hochhuth version and I continue to wonder at my own and others' gullibility and closemindedness.  I proposed the scapegoat mechanism, which seems deeply imbeded in the human psyche, as one possibility.  The utter evil of the holocaust seems to cry out for a scapegoat-=someone to focus the guilt on so we don't have to look into the wickedness in our own hearts. 
9 years 1 month ago
How is the Vatican disingenous, Eric?  Your sarcasim and slander is quite serious coming from a "deacon."  Does your pastor know about your views on these subjects?
Sainthood is not a popularity contest and your personal, emotional opposition to a variety of Church teachings (on homosexuality etc.) does not constitute hypocrisy or politics on the part of the Vatican.
Eric Stoltz
9 years 1 month ago
Actually, canonization is a lot like a popularity contest. In the ancient days it was done by acclamation, remember? Authentic devotion to saints always begins at the grassroots. What canonization should NOT be is a cynical bureaucratic process originating at the top in order to make a point. And it's not slanderous to say so.
Francis of Assis was canonized because he bore heroic witness to the idea of poverty, simplicty of like and reform. Damien of Molokai is canonized because he bore heroic witness to the virtues of charity and compassion. Thersa of Avila was canonized because her teachings on prayer have helped millions to grow closer to God. Therese of Lisieux was canonized because her ''Little Way'' approach to life impacted millions who could envision themselves doign great things for God in the minutiae of everyday life.
So, we need to complete this statement: ''Pius XIII should be canonized because ______.'' The Vatican now insists the answer is ''because he was holy.'' Oh really? What does that mean? No specifics offered, just that: ''holy.''
Oh, and Brett, saying it might not be wise to canonize someone who died recently, has no established cult and who faces significant opposition is not slander. Nor is my point personal or emotional, nor is a process of canonization a Church teaching.
Eric Stoltz
9 years 1 month ago
And John Allen now asks the same question: Why?
9 years 1 month ago
You are obviously more versed in the process of canonization; however, your assumption of politics or bad faith (or disingengenuousness, as you stated) on the part of Church leaders is petty and does not represent the ideal of Christian charity.
Do you honestly think pope Benedict acts in bad faith on this matter? 
There is a difference between authority and authorianism and liberal catholics do not seem to recognize the difference as they reflexively criticize the Vatican at every possible opportunity.
As for your disapproval of church teachings, I was speaking of your previous statements on homosexuality.  Do you, as a deacon, preach your personal views from the pulpit?
9 years 1 month ago
Also, calling the Vatican's decision "disingenous" is very much a subjective and emotional statement on your part as you are obviously against church authority on the very most basic levels of doctrine and teachings.
Eric Stoltz
9 years 1 month ago
Disingenuous means ''lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.'' It does not presuppose bad faith, nor was that my intent. I presume the Curia is acting in good faith, but I disagree with their premise.
After a lengthy battle to secure the wartime reputation of Pius, the Vatican suddenly announces that his process is not about anything he actually did as pope, but rather his personal ''sanctity.'' There is no further elaboration. To me, that statement is disingenuous, and there's no emotion involved in that.
Nor is my criticism of the Vatican ''reflexive.'' I do not accuse you of reflexively supporting everything done by the Roman Curia. I presume you have judgment and analytical skills. So why not allow the same benefit of the doubt to others? Unless you know what I approve of and disapprove of, why would you assume I am opposed to everything the Curia does?
And despite your attempt to sidetrack my point, I have still not heard anyone describe the qualities of Pius that rose to the level of heroic virtue worthy of imitation by all Christians. Remember, that's what canonization is supposed to be about, not circling wagons or scoring a win for one's team.
9 years 1 month ago
Come on!  Saying that the canonizaiton by the pope is "hypocritically ingenuous," or any other variation on the theme, is essential saying that they were acting in bad faith. 
I am sure there will be more details as the process unfolds and you are right to point out that this is what canization is about.  I am not saying that this should be an easy process; however, I am saying that the attacks on this pope by various groups are malicious and have been proven to be unfounded and biased.
Considering the political nature of many of the attacks against the repuation of Pius - a fine example of this ahistorical character assassination was provided by Janice in a previous post - there is very much a need to be as supportive as possible as the process gets off the ground.
Do you suscribe to the slander put forth such as "Hitler's Pope?"
There is a difference between objective desire for fair assessment and the subjective desire to torpedo a candidate for political or personal vendetta.
It is the critics who bring politics into this process and who are disingenious - not the Vatican.
Eric Stoltz
9 years 1 month ago
I repeat: I have still not heard anyone describe the qualities of Pius that rose to the level of heroic virtue worthy of imitation by all Christians.
That is the eseential purpose of canonization. Demonstration of heroic virtue is not merely  ''details as the process unfolds.'' It is the witness of the person that should initiate the process; the witness is not some arcane detail. Demonstration of heroic virtue is the raison d'etre of canonization, not a minor detail to be worked out along the way. Otherwise we have put the cart before the horse.
Criticism of the candiate has historically been an integral part of the canonization process. Remember there used to be an official nicknamed ''The Devil's Advocate'' whose job it was to question the suitability of the candidate at every step. That position was done away with, and we as a Church are still struggling to figure out how to evaluate a cause without a recognized, legitimate forum for questioning the process. At this point, there are only advocates for the candidate; there is no one whose job is to exercise caution.
And it is not only critics of Pius who have brought politics into the process. Many feel that his supporters have made the canonization a referendum on his policies. Yet every cause brings with it political considerations. Kenneth Woodward's book ''Making Saints'' offers an unflinching view of how this occurs, humans being human and all. The good news is that in most cases in our history the political considerations of canonization have not resulted in disaster; maybe occasionally an obscure mother foundress was canonized who did not offer a particualrly strong universal witness, but no real harm was done by the lobbying of her supporters. And to my knowledge there has never been this level of opposition to anyone being canonized.
I still don't understand what harm would be done by delaying the cause for Pius another 10 or 20 years until the heat dies down and an objective analysis can be made. Perhaps we will learn that he did indeed live a life of heroic virtue; I don't know. Perhaps the story we will learn from him is that detraction can be overcome and enemies can be won over. We don't know what the future holds. But slowing things down and adopting a posture of discernment rather than partisan debate seems a better way to choose our role models.
9 years 1 month ago
"Perhaps we will learn that he did indeed live a life of heroic virtue; I don't know. Perhaps the story we will learn from him is that detraction can be overcome and enemies can be won over. We don't know what the future holds."
(I havent answered your question because, quite honestly, I have no idea)
But, this is my point: we don't currently know the timeline or the details regarding the specifics of the candidate's personal holiness nor his reach to various individual Christians.
Given these conditions I don't see the reason for acrimony surrounding the issue - and it would seem that a delay would only be motivate by political rather than spiritual reasons - i.e. the opening of records regarding what the church was or was not able to do during the crisis of world war.  (and these could take years to dig through not to mention various interpretations etc.)
In any case, thanks for the well written / thought provoking posts and Merry Christmas.
Jeff Bagnell
9 years 1 month ago
Read any biography of Pius, which the Deacon apparently never has, and you will find a boat load of examples of heroic virtue.  On top of that, there is substantial evidence that he received a vision of Jesus in 1954, and a personal revelation mirroring Mary's appearance at Fatima.  This was the man who also, after God, gave us the doctrine of the Assumption.
For most people, this is enough.  But for the "pre-Vatican II Church was bad" crowd, nothing will suffice.
Eric Stoltz
9 years 1 month ago
And a Merry Christmas to you too, Brett!
Jim McCrea
9 years 1 month ago
"On top of that, there is substantial evidence that he received a vision of Jesus in 1954, and a personal revelation mirroring Mary's appearance at Fatima."
Until there is very credible verification of these alleged events, this remains hagiography at its most odious extreme.
I am of the decided opinion that very few - if any - popes should be declared saints.  There are very few of them who exhibit the necessary virtues that need to underlie their exercise of power based so often on a lack of accurate, non-self-serving advice from others. 
Karl Rahner said it best:
“The true lights of the Church, those who are most important for the eternal salvation of mankind as well as of individuals are not the Pope, the bishops or the cardinals in their red cassocks, but those who possess and radiate most faith, hope and love, most humility and unselfishness, most fortitude in carrying the cross, most happiness and confidence.
If a Pope does all this as well or perhaps even better than, for example, John XXIII, well, then he is not only a Pope but a wonderful Christian, then it happens that, if I may say so, the president of the chess club is for once also himself a great chess player. But this would be a happy coincidence which God is not bound to bring about and which he has not guaranteed.
If we are looking at the Church in this way, we shall not find it difficult to accept that the cashier is responsible for the finances and the president of this holy society directs its activities. But we ought to remain conscious of what is both our pride and our burden, namely that the Church depends ultimately on ourselves.”
Karl Rahner, Grace in Freedom
Solomon Anderson
9 years ago
Why should Pius XII's cause continue? First, Eugenio Pacelli's 1937 sermon in France is perhaps the first example of a state official condemning Nazi racism. By this time, Joseph Goebbels already was publicly attacking Pacelli. Second, Pacelli was one of the authors of Mit Brennender Sorge, which denounces the same race fanaticism. Third, Pius XII's Summi Pontificatus again attacks the racism and the totalitarianism. Also, this pope's Mediator Dei stresses the importance of lay participation in the Mass, a movement of continuing importance in the Church. Finally, Pius XII promulgates the definition of the Assumption of Mary. And these are only some of the documentary acts. This does not even mention the personal piety, the devotion to Mary, the mystical visions, and the worldwide recognition of his piety during his lifetime.
James Lindsay
9 years ago
At this point, because he has been named as Venerable, it is time to wait for miracles. Anyone really sick and beyond treatment?
John Smythe
9 years ago
Eric wrote: "Actually, canonization is a lot like a popularity contest."
Uhm, actually canonization is a lot like verifying miracles - when that happens then there is proof the person is a Saint.
However, one must have faith to believe in true miracles and the Communion of Saints.
It's like those modernists who whine about how the election of the Pope is a popularity contest.  Sorry, it is the Holy Spirit.  Read your Catechism.


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