Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Pope Pius XII
A great deal has been written in the Jewish press about the march to canonizing Pope Pius XII as a saint. In Jewish eyes the man who served as pope during the Holocaust remains a controversial figure. Did he do enough to save Jews from the Nazi onslaught? Did he do enough to save Europe from the evils of the Nazi regime? It seems clear to me that he did not. To be honest there were few in power who did enough. The United States failed to bomb the tracks leading to Auschwitz arguing that it would divert valuable resources from the war effort. We turned away the SS St Louis from our American shores, sending hundreds back to Germany and most to death. Some historians have argued that this act emboldened Hitler (y"s) in his march to the final solution. Through the lens of historical hindsight few did enough. There were of course a few extraordinary individuals. These righteous gentiles were almost always simple, pious folk and not those who occupied positions of leadership or power. Read Yad VaShem's account of the righteous gentiles here. I wish the Pope did more. I also wish the Catholic Church would open its archives so we can learn more of the history. The question about Pope Pius becoming a saint is different. I believe every human being is fallible. This is part of what makes me a Jew. This is what I learn from reading the Bible. Moses is a great leader but given to anger. David is an extraordinary warrior and poet but given to, shall we say, sexual indiscretions and even murder. I would not call these leaders saints. I would not call anyone a saint. I believe that people are given to errors. I believe in the infallibility of no one. I have no saints. I have only one God. Whether Catholics call Pope Pius a saint is in their hands. The issue is more a matter of Catholic belief than Jewish history. Jewish belief is clear on this point. History has yet to rule on the matter. For more information about Pope Pius's wartime record read this article.