Between Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism, Pius XI's Response to the Nazi Persecution of the Jews: Precursor to Pius XII's "Silence"?
Coppa, Frank J., Journal of Church and State
The appearance of Rolf Hochhuth's "Deputy" in 1963, which focused on the "silence" of Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) during the Holocaust, has led some to ponder the responsibility of his predecessor Pius XI (Achille Ratti) in shaping this stance. The two have been associated because the pontificate of one followed the other,1 and together fashioned concordats to secure the institutional church.2 Furthermore, the Germanophile Pacelli, nuncio to Munich and Berlin, served as Ratti's secretary of state (1930-1939). Continuity also flows from the fact that the Nazi persecution of the Jews occurred in two stages: commencing in the pontificate of Pius XI from 1933 to1939, and culminating in the Holocaust, from 1941 to 1945, during the reign of Pius XII. Some have concluded that Pius XI set the tone toward the Third Reich, that Pius XII followed.3 Paradoxically, both defenders and denigrators of these popes have found their positions were more or less identical.4 Few have harped upon their differences.5
Earlier I assumed that these two pursued a similar course towards Nazism.6 I have modified my assessment, concluding that their differences outweighed the similarities in the policies towards Nazi racism. The availability and publication of some of the papers of the Holy Office concerning the proposed condemnation of Nazi anti-Semitism in the 1930s under Pius XI's direction;7 the surfacing and publication of the "secret encyclical" commissioned by Pius XI against racism;8 the partial opening of the Secret Vatican Archives for the pontificate of Pius XI, especially his relationship with the Reich; the publication of Pius XI's 1938 Instructions to the Rectors of Catholic Universities and Seminars to Refute "Ridiculous Dogmas,"9 as well as pressure for a "Pact of Pacification" with Fascist Italy by Vatican officials, have all contributed to my reassessment of Pius XI's response to racism.
Elected pope in January 1922, Achille Ratti, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, assumed the name Pius in honor of Pius IX, whose outspoken manner and willingness to champion church principles which he admired. Following the creation of the Polish State in 1919, Ratti was dispatched there as nuncio.10 Questioned by the secretary of state, Gaspari, on the pogroms against the Jews in Poland, Ratti found the situation "murky." In his words, "the Jews blame the Christians, and the Christians blame the Jews."11 In Poland, Ratti tended to focus on "matters strictly ecclesiastical." There he became increasingly obsessed with the communist menace while the anti-Judaism he shared with much of the hierarchy was reinforced. By 1921, when he moved to Milan, he was a confirmed anti-Communist, and parroting some in the Polish hierarchy, found a link between the Jews and the Communists." Ratti observed that almost all the Commissars of the Bolshevik regiments were Jews and believed that the dechristianisation frenzy in Russia was inspired by a Jewish aversion to Christianity.14 As late as 1932, Ratti charged that the church faced assaults from Protestants, Communists, and Jews.15
A bibliophile who was not politically or socially astute, Ratti absorbed the anti-Semitic stereotypes which prevailed in much of Polish society. Suspicious of secular politics, Pius XI, like his successor Pius XII, preferred to have ecclesiastical interests assured by Catholic action groups, favoring concordats rather than political conflict.16 Neither challenged the anti-Judaism which persisted in the church during their pontificates.17 Undeniably, Pius XI remained suspicious of Judaism as a religion and appreciated the need for some separation of Jews and Christians. Throughout the negotiations for the Lateran Accords of 1929, this pope proved hostile to granting religious equality to Protestants and Jews.18 Even after the Holocaust, Pius XII did not see fit to curtail the anti-Judaic current in the church, leaving it to his successor John XXIII (1958-63), to do …
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Publication information: Article title: Between Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism, Pius XI's Response to the Nazi Persecution of the Jews: Precursor to Pius XII's "Silence"?. Contributors: Coppa, Frank J. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 47. Issue: 1 Publication date: Winter 2005. Page number: 63+. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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