Bishop Richard Williamson 248.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy / Swedish television screencapture )
My how times have changed. During World War II a German chancellor should have been denounced by a Catholic pope regarding the slaughter of Jews he was perpetuating. That pope, Pius XII, famously never once even criticized Hitler for his extermination of European Jewry. Fast forward 60 years and now we have the incredible spectacle of the reverse happening: A German chancellor is reaching out to a pope to teach him morality. Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, called Pope Benedict XVI on the phone and demanded that he do the right thing. "The pope and the Vatican must make absolutely clear that there can be no denial of the Holocaust," Merkel said.
Why would an elected leader of the German people denounce hate-filled Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson but the pope will not? Yes, the pope did, in response to Williamson's comments, proclaim his utter opposition to Holocaust denial in a January 28 statement. But he has yet to simply kick the bishop back to where he belongs - a state of excommunication from the Catholic Church.
To make matters worse there is the curious phenomenon of the Church demanding that Yad Vashem revise its display pertaining to Pope Pius XII if Benedict is to visit Israel. Incredible. The Jewish people are to lie and revise history, whitewashing the sins of "Hitler's pope," in order to receive his successor on an official pilgrimage.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH has come a long, long way from its anti-Semitic past. This was done primarily through the courage of three of the four most recent popes, great men all, beginning with John XXIII, continuing with John Paul II and culminating in the warm friendship offered to the Jewish community by Pope Benedict. So why would the pope undermine the warm and outstretched hand he has offered the Jewish community by demanding that the sins of his predecessor, the unrighteous Pius XII, be expunged by his victims?
Just a few years ago a memo, dated October 23, 1946, came to light in which Pius had given instructions to Church authorities not to return to their relatives Jewish children who were placed in the care of the Church during the Holocaust to save them from extermination. The memo stated: "Children who have been baptized must not be entrusted to institutions that would not be in a position to guarantee their Christian upbringing." It also makes it clear that Pius himself had approved this criminal policy: "It should be noted that this decision taken by the Holy Congregation of the Holy Office has been approved by the Holy Father."
But even before this recent revelation of Pius as a mass kidnapper came to light, his moral cowardice was well established. Hitler's Pope by John Cornwell and The Battle for Rome by Robert Katz convincingly demonstrate that Pius's failure, far from being merely a product of a personal prejudice against the Jews, was indicative of a far wider and more serious flaw: an almost callous indifference to the value of human life in favor of papal authority and the preservation of Church property. There is ample evidence that this aautocrat (who told the Roman curia repeatedly that their job was not to give him advice but to follow his orders) was a collaborator with the Nazi government in its occupation of Rome.
When the Nazis committed the heinous war crime of executing 335 Roman citizens, many of them Jews but the vast majority Catholic, in reprisal for a partisan attack against Nazi troops, Pius was implored to publicly protest and protect his personal flock. As usual, he refused to say anything that might upset the Nazis. It seems that neither the love of God nor the love of his fellow man could move Pius to condemn Hitler, with whom he had famously negotiated, as papal nuncio, a 1933 treaty which the FÃ¼hrer praised to his cabinet on July 14 of that year as being "especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry."
Pius even granted a secret audience to Supreme SS Polizeifuhrer Karl Wolff, who had served Himmler as chief of staff and was in 1943 serving as the chief of the German persecution apparatus in occupied Italy. That Pius realized he was doing something that others would regard as immoral is attested to by the fact that the meeting took place in great secrecy and Wolff came dressed in disguise. Years later, Wolff had this to say about the meeting: "From the pope's own words I could sense the sincerity of his sympathy and how much he loved the German people."
THE COUP DE GRACE, of course, was how Pius XII watched quite literally as the Germans, on October 16, 1943, rounded up more than 1,000 Jews of Rome, nearly all of whom would perish by gas a few days later at Auschwitz. A special SS contingent had been brought in for the roundup, and since many of them had never seen the great city, used the roundup of the Jews as a partial tourist excursion. This brought them to St. Peter's Square, where many of the transport trucks parked not more than 300 feet from Pius's window. Even as the Jews were herded aboard and taken to their death, Pius dared not upset the Germans by offering any kind of protest.
But while he did not prize the lives of Jews, there was one thing that Pius did esteem, and that was the bricks and mortar of his churches. As the British and American armies geared up for a massive offensive in the spring of 1944 to capture Rome, Pius suddenly found his voice. He condemned the allies for bombing the eternal city and ordered his American bishops to launch public relations offensives to pressure the Roosevelt government not to cause destruction to the sacred monuments of the city. This while the Nazis were gassing more than 10,000 people per day.
Pope Benedict is cut from completely different cloth than Pius. He is a godly man who has reached out to the Jewish community in genuine friendship and warmth. It is time for this courageous leader to unequivocally denounce Holocaust-denying bishops and morally compromised popes.
The writer is the founder of This World: The Values Network which has just launched its national initiative 'Turn Friday Night into Family Night.'