The Defamation of Pius XII

By Rychlak, Ronald J. | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2003 | Go to article overview

The Defamation of Pius XII


Rychlak, Ronald J., The Catholic Historical Review


The Defamation of Pius XII. By Ralph McInerny. (South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine's Press. 2001. Pp. xii, 211. $19.00.)

The past few years have seen book after book critical of Pope Pius XII, and behind almost every one of them was a larger attack on the papacy and the Catholic Church. The culmination is Daniel Goldhagen's hate-filled A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair. Fortunately, there are also occasional books that offer more insight than hate. The Defamation of Pius XII is a fine contribution from Ralph McInerny, professor of philosophy and head of the Jacques Maritain Center at the University of Notre Dame.

McInerny offers a vigorous "defense" (though neither he nor I like that word in this context) of Pius XII as a holy and courageous leader who was responsible, directly and indirectly, for saving 860,000 Jews from the Holocaust. He goes on to note that the evidence for this truth is massive, the testimonies are many, and the facts are incontestable.

For McInerny, then, the question is not whether Pius XII acted heroically during World War II. That is certain. The question becomes: Why is this good man being defamed? Who are the people devoted to besmirching Pius XII's reputation, and what are they really after?

McInerny makes abundantly clear that the real subject of attack is the Catholic Church and her unchanging moral doctrine, especially on all matters sexual. The animus of the (mostly Catholic) authors is directed as much against Paul VI and John Paul II as it is against Pius XII. McInerny calls these writers: "Catholic anti-Catholics" because they call themselves Catholic despite their denial of central dogmas of the faith. …

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