Old and New

The Vatican Concordat With Hitler’s Reich (9/1), by Robert A. Krieg, confirms what had to be the case in history. It has always seemed intuitive to me that the Catholic Church must have made a pact with the devil in order to survive Hitler’s grasp.

It was the conclusion of the article that surprised me.


Mr. Krieg’s conclusion asserted that Vatican II redirected a church that was concerned only with the preservation of its political structure without regard to preservation of human dignity and life. The hundreds of victims of sexual abuse might disagree.

In light of the recent revelations regarding the sexual abuse scandals and the tenacious denials by church officials for the first year or two of discovery, how can anyone say the church has changed from 1933? The poster child for the church, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, went to Rome and was not summarily dismissed by the pope in a public statement. How long did it take Cardinal Law to resign? If this wasn’t old church politics, what is?

Most bishops and higher officials knew of such indiscretions for decades, but they chose to look the other way. At the very least it was, Don’t ask, don’t tell. They chose to conceal the perpetrators within the church political structure. This was placing the interest of the institution ahead of the victims of abuse.

The new rules and regulations are in place to make sure perpetrators of sexual abuse do not go undetected and unpunished. Those who look the other way, the rule-makers i.e., bishops and cardinalscontinue to remain outside of the new rules.

Mark D’Agostino
Omaha, Neb.


America has remained for years one of my most reliable sources of information and inspiration in matters of the spirit. I rarely read an issue that does not provide me with one or both of these most necessary ingredients of my life.

What brings me to my computer this morning, however, is an expression of gratitude to you for printing in your Sept. 1 issue the letter of Dolores Liptak, R.S.M. I have long known her as a fine historian and a woman of gracious intellectual acumen. It heartened me profoundly to read her expression of appreciation for Catholic Identity: New Age and Women Religious (7/21), by Patricia McCann, R.S.M.

I, too, commend Sister McCann for taking on a daunting topic. We do, indeed, need to look at this issue from the background of our own theological and religious education as well as our lived experience.

I also second her recognition of the deleterious effect upon women’s congregations today of an almost wholesale submission to what she correctly terms New Age secularity. Parallel to this influence is a decline in evidence of any independent thinking leading to critical analysis of what our highly articulate but often irrational society offers us as today’s truth.

Our ancestors in the religious tradition were women of staunch courage and deep abiding faith in God made manifest in Jesus and articulated through the Catholic Church, even though they lived among a populace steeped in anti-Catholic bigotry. Through their lives of self-sacrifice and loving service of others, they earned the respect and affection of these very same persons without compromising their religious identity, a witness we might find instructive today.

Mary Roger Madden, S.P.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.

Seasoned Diplomat

The discovery by Charles R. Gallagher, S.J., of a revealing document in the Kennedy Archives (9/1) shows the realism of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, a friend of the family of Joseph P. Kennedy. However, that document, with its criticism of Adolf Hitler, apparently did not make much of an impression on the ambassador himself, given his questionable views of the Nazi leader right down to the end of his service at the Court of St. James.

On the other hand, the Cardinal Secretary of State was known to have been outspoken about the Nazis on a number of occasions before he passed on his personal private views to Kennedy in April of 1938. Three years previously, on April 28, 1935, Pacelli had publicly criticized the Nazis while addressing 250,000 pilgrims at Lourdes in France, as reported the following day in The New York Times. And a year before his meeting with Kennedy, there was Cardinal Pacelli’s role in the composition of the blistering encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge, issued against the Nazis by Pope Pius XI on March 14, 1937.

Pacelli, then, came to the papacy as a seasoned diplomat with broad experience in dealing with the Nazis. As pope, his contacts with key opponents of the Nazis in Germany continued. One was Theodor Groppe (1882-1973), a Catholic and a lieutenant general on the German general staff, who had been dismissed from active duty because he had opposed the Nazi propaganda against the Catholic Church. Groppe had warned Pius XII early in his pontificate that Hitler had said, I will crush Christianity under my heel as I would a toad. Known as the Black General, Groppe survived the war even though he had been placed under the sentence of death; he lived to see his son, Lothar (b. 1927), ordained a Jesuit priest.

Although it took the horror of a world war to change Kennedy’s views about the Nazi leader, Pacelli was very perceptive and prophetic in his analysis of what the Catholic Church and humanity faced in Adolf Hitler. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had read the document recently recovered by the young Jesuit historian, admired Pacelli (later Eleanor Roosevelt had reservations about the pope being too lenient with the Nazis) and sought to silence Kennedy as the president faced the challenge of a world at war on the eve of the 1940 election.

Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J.
Coordinator, Holocaust Collection
College of the Holy Cross
Worcester, Mass.


After some three years of reading about almost nothing but misery (because that’s what there has been to write about), today I read the lovely essay by George M. Anderson, S.J., (9/8) on turning 70just like meaccompanied by the luminous photograph by Michael Flecky, S.J., (I believe he has access to a darkroom) and Renay Sheehan’s astonishing poem, so goosebumpy in its simplicity. I am going to watch the football game tonight, and if the Lord chooses to take me in my sleep, I’ll not complain.

John R. Agnew
Fort Myers, Fla.

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