Silent Consent

TimeWatch Editorial
February 21, 2017

In our last Editorial, we quoted from Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s Review of “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe,” which was published in The Guardian Newspaper, on March 6, 2014. In her article, Ms. Hughes-Hallett referred to the fact that John Cornwell in his book, “Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII” exposed the Vatican's culpable passivity in the face of the wartime persecution of Italian Jews.

According to the Free Encyclopedia, “John Cornwell (born 1940) is a British journalist, author, and academic. Since 1990 he has directed the Science and Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, Cambridge , where he is also, since 2009, Founder and Director of the Rustat Conferences.[1] He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters (University of Leicester ) in 2011.”

In 1999, Cornwell published “Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII,” in which, according to Owen Chadwick in his, "Review of Hitler's Pope," he accuses Pope Pius XII of assisting in the legitimization of the Nazi regime in Germany through the pursuit of a Reich Concordat in 1933 and of remaining silent, like the Allies, after information about the Holocaust was released to the public in late 1942 and early 1943. Owen Chadwick praised the book's scholarly approach and the abundance of new information Cornwell had managed to unearth. You will of course recall as was stated in our last Editorial, February 20, that Lucy Hughes-Hallett, in her Review of “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe,” published in The Guardian Newspaper, March 6, 2014 made the point that “much of fascist ideology was inspired by Catholic tradition – the authoritarianism, the intolerance of opposition and the profound suspicion of the Jews.” It is therefore easy to understand why Pacelli, Pope Pius XII was so amenable to establishing a Concordat with the Nazis. Listen to what John Cornwall says on page 7 of his book:

“Pacelli sought to impose the new code, state by state, on Germany—one of the largest, best-educated, and richest Catholic populations in the world. At the same time, he was pursuing a Reich Concordat, a Church-State treaty between the papacy and Germany as a whole. In 1933 Pacelli found a successful negotiating partner for his Reich Concordat in the person of Adolf Hitler. Their treaty authorized the papacy to impose the new Church law on German Catholics and granted generous privileges to Catholic schools and the clergy. In exchange, the Catholic Church in Germany, its parliamentary political party, and its many hundreds of associations and newspapers “voluntarily” withdrew, following Pacelli’s initiative, from social and political action. The abdication of German political Catholicism in 1933, negotiated and imposed from the Vatican by Pacelli with the agreement of Pope Pius XI, ensured that Nazism could rise unopposed by the most powerful Catholic community in the world.” John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope; The Secret History of Pius XII,” page 7

So the bond was set. The similarities between the Fascist authoritarianism and the Papacy were clearly seen. The church was happy. It provided no opposition to the absolute control enforced by the Nazis. The church felt no need to resist, for as Lucy Hughes-Hallett said, much of fascist ideology was inspired by Catholic tradition – the authoritarianism, the intolerance of opposition and the profound suspicion of the Jews.”  John Cornwall continues his description this way:

“The signing of the Reich Concordat marked the formal beginning of German Catholicism’s acceptance of its obligations under the terms of the treaty which imposed a moral duty on Catholics to obey the Nazi rulers. Thus Catholic critics fell silent. A great Church, which might have formed the basis of an opposition, confined itself to the sacristy. There was to be nothing remotely resembling a concerted act of protest from within Germany, even over issues connected with the infringements of the terms of the treaty itself.” John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope; The Secret History of Pius XII,” page 157

The Concordat, even though it was an agreement between the Nazis and the Catholic Church, ultimately influenced other denominations. Even though some of them were coerced into surrendering their positions, the impact was the same.

“On March 26 the Protestant churches across Germany formally acknowledged their acceptance of Hitler and his regime. The Protestants, having watched the Vatican negotiating a concordat with Hitler, now sought, and were to achieve, a similar agreement of their own on the Catholic model.” John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope; The Secret History of Pius XII,” page 139

Mr. Cornwell then delivers a description of the level of satisfaction expressed by Adolf Hitler.

“Hitler expressed the chilling opinion that the concordat had created an atmosphere of confidence that would be “especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry.” There is no record of further explanation, but the statement can be understood readily from two points of view. First, the very fact that the Vatican had signed such a treaty indicated both at home and abroad, Catholic moral approval of Hitler’s policies.” John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope; The Secret History of Pius XII,” page 153

Notice what he says here. “The very fact that the Vatican had signed such a treaty indicated both at home and abroad, Catholic moral approval of Hitler’s policies.” Then he continues:

“Second, the treaty constrained the Holy See, the German hierarchy, the clergy, and the faithful to silence on any issue the Nazi regime deemed political. To be specific, since the persecution and elimination of the Jews in Germany was by now a stated policy, the treaty had legally bound the Catholic Church in Germany to silence on outrages against the Jews.” John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope; The Secret History of Pius XII,” page 153

Clearly then, the bond between Hitler and the Papacy was solidified. So strong was that bond, that:

“In the terms of Article 21 of the concordat, Hitler was to protect and underwrite the cost of educating Catholic pupils and students in every kind of institution, from the primary level up to the end of secondary education. The Catholic diocesan authorities were granted the right to examine religious instruction in schools and to appoint and dismiss teachers. More important still, according to Article 23, Catholic parents could demand the provision of Catholic schooling where it did not exist, depending on local conditions. Thus Hitler had promised Catholic education a carte blanche for expansion of facilities and places for students.” John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope; the Secret History of Pius XII,” page 153

The question would therefore be, if there arose another Fascist government, would the Church also be involved?

Cameron A. Bowen

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