This is a remarkable book on Eugenio Pacelli, who was Pope Pius XII from 1939 to 1958. Written by a Catholic scholar originally intending to defend Pacelli, the book presents a Catholic insider view of Pacelli.
The pope is the top authority in the Catholic religion and by tradition he has resided in Rome, Italy. Currently the place where he resides is called the Vatican, a place that other countries treat as a tiny country into itself. Cornwell has examined Vatican documents regarding Pacelli at a time when the Catholic Church is considering naming him a saint, in a process called beatification. Vatican documents generally stay secret for 75 years; (p. 372) although the Vatican claims to have released a complete collection in regard to World War II.
Cornwell concludes that Pacelli was "no monster," (p. viii) but he was "Hitler's pope," an easy pawn to handle.(p. 297) From the details presented by Cornwell, MIM separately concludes that Pope Pius XII must be counted amongst the most evil men of the twentieth century -- above and beyond his role perpetuating religion as a diversion from scientific and ideological clarity about this world and a deliberate division of the humyn race based on a figment of the imagination known as "God."
Yugoslavia and the Croats
Cornwell's material with the most contemporary flavor concerns the bloodletting in ex-Yugoslavia. In recent MIM Notes issues regarding Kosovo (e.g. MN 186), MIM has explained how the Russians have historical ties to the Serbs, including a similar alphabet.
In the case of enemies of the Serbs, it was Catholic Croat fascists who declared an independent Croatia and initiated massacres of Serbs in the wake of Hitler's invasion of eastern Europe. Cornwell fully admits the Catholic role and points out that the Pope condoned the massacres of non- Catholics in the wake of Hitler's victories: "Even by comparison with the recent bloodshed in Yugoslavia at the time of this writing, Pavelic's onslaught against the Orthodox Serbs remains one of the most appalling civilian massacres known to history."(p. 249)
In fact, the Croats had managed a rare feat -- to be included by Hitler in his idea of the Aryan race as Aryans.(p. 248) The Serbs along with most peoples in the world were slated for extermination by Hitler -- a fact increasingly lost in capitalist propaganda seeking to whitewash racism and equate Hitler's Nazism and communism as "totalitarianism." Hitler only regarded the Jews as his most fit internationalist enemy and the most convenient scapegoat for German unity purposes. There were only 2 million Orthodox Christian Serbs, and the Croats led by Catholic priests(p. 254) managed to kill 487,000 between 1941 and 1945 in addition to 27,000 Gypsies and 30,000 out of 45,000 Jews. (p. 253) What today's relativists lose sight of is that Stalin used violence to address capitalist violence, but he never targeted entire peoples to be systematically eliminated. The capitalist media whitewash of fascism omits this fact when it villifies fascism's vanquisher.
The reason Pope Pius XII condoned the massacres by the Ustashe is that it made it easier to spread Catholicism in the region. "Mass conversions" of Orthodox Christian Serbs and massacres of those same Serbs became difficult to separate, because the reasons for the two were the same. For this reason, Pacelli held joyous greetings for Croatian police and young Catholic fascists in Rome.(p. 260)
While it is well-known that the Jews suffered a holocaust, what the people do not realize is that the Vatican had its own genocidal fascism to account for all by itself -- without tailing behind Hitler or Mussolini. The Serbs and Gypsies were just two more peoples that faced genocide by fascists. As it turns out, Pacelli also had a role in fanning the historical hatreds in the Balkans that led to the genocide of World War II.
World War I
Of all the evil ruling class figures during the 20th century, Pacelli's claim to infamy comes largely from the fact of having an important role to play for so long. Before he became pope, he was the number two persyn in the Catholic hierarchy, the Secretary of State. As a diplomat, in World War I, Pacelli was involved in the most vexing European ethnic conflicts, most of which remain unresolved today, thanks to Pacelli's type of politics.
As it turns out, Pacelli was there for the beginning of World War I in 1914. Four days before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that started World War I, Pacelli maneuvered a diplomatic deal with Serbia that embarrassed Austria-Hungary.(p. 48) Pacelli had cut a deal with the Serbs to protect Catholicism and allow the Pope more absolute authority over Catholics in Serbia. His so-called "Serbian Concordat" was another straw piled on the camel's proverbial back.
As the war went on, Pacelli also learned to fake his anti-militarism. None other than the German kaiser told him he should show concern for the troops in World War I, because it often seemed to them that only socialists and communists were concerned about their well-being.(p. 68)
While Pacelli's greatest evil came from working with Hitler, both Hitler and Pacelli took their cues from Mussolini first. Mussolini came to power as a fascist in Italy before Hitler and he also signed a treaty with the Pope before Hitler. While Pacelli was the senior diplomat in the Vatican, Pope Pius XI called Mussolini "'a man sent by Providence.'"(p. 114) Rather than upbraid Pope Pius XI, Pacelli named himself in the same line. We find it reprehensible that so many Christians today live in denial regarding Christianity's role in propping up Hitler and Mussolini. The Vatican's endorsement of Mussolini is especially damning. The Vatican went so far as to dissolve a Catholic party and urge voters to support Mussolini and his party.(p. 116)
As the one to break the ice in Europe, Mussolini bears much of the responsibility for the fascist infection of all of Europe after World War I. The Vatican in turn bears responsibility for Mussolini.
Most communist analysis of the rise to power of Hitler focuses on the social-democrats and their influence in the communist ranks. The original reason for this focus is that it used to be obvious that the Catholics and other Christians were ready fodder for Hitler; in contrast, the split in the working-class was much more interesting. It was often thought that a united German working-class under proletarian leadership could change world history decisively.
Now with capitalist media-induced amnesia, the youth grow up thinking that Hitler was simply a "statist." Hence, the trouble that Cornwell goes to to prove that Catholics and not socialists supported Hitler is important. Catholic Father Paul Collins pointed out that the version of papal authority accepted was more strict than anything put forward by communists or fascists.(p. 39)
From the point of view of Marxist scientists, it is obvious that Christianity dulls the scientific sensibility of the masses, because it teaches them poor logic -- "to argue from authority." No matter how well respected the authority, a statement is not true because an authority says so. Any argument along the lines that "God says so" is in fact "argument from authority" and should not be applied to anything in the real world, lest an elementary mistake in logic be made. This is not the same thing as saying that people may not submit to authorities as anarchists are likely to say. There may be good reasons to follow authority. Logic only says that the truth is independent of its speaker.
Aside from the countless German Christian leaders who named Hitler as Christ reincarnated, Christianity prepared the masses for fascism by teaching "argument from authority" in place of logic. Religious efforts to water down scientific education also contribute to making the masses ready for fascist leaders appealing to their emotions -- especially anti- Semitism in the case of Catholics.
Cornwell adds that Hitler was the perfect counterpart to Pacelli, because Pacelli opposed democracy and needed an authoritarian leader to negotiate with. Hitler was willing to impose a nation-wide deal that others had a hard time negotiating with various local authorities and political constituencies.
Pacelli had failed to obtain from Germans what he wanted for Catholic schools. Hitler granted Catholic schools and recognition of papal authority over all Catholic clergy in exchange for removing the Catholics from politics. In practice, this meant that Hitler succeeded in paralyzing possible Catholic opposition to himself. Every time the masses or lower levels of the Church rose against Hitler, Pacelli was there to urge reconciliation with Hitler until well into World War II.
As in the case of starting World War I, and helping Mussolini in power, Pacelli was right there when Hitler needed a pivotal push to power. It is a great irony of history and previously unknown to this reviewer that Pope Pius XII made right-wing German Chancellor (1930-1932) Heinrich Bruning look like a radical leftist. Catholic Bruning urged Pacelli not to make deals with Hitler. Bruning's Catholic Center Party was one of the last possible sources of opposition to Hitler.
Instead of opposing Hitler, the Catholic Center Party followed Pacelli's advice and facilitated Hitler's rise to power. Crucially, it voted for Hitler's so-called "Enablement Bill."(p. 135) Already by the time of March 1933, Hitler had succeeded in banning the communists and their elected representatives. The social-democrats voted against Hitler's power-grab, but the Catholic Center Party voted for it and dissolved itself. It would be hard to think of a more timely yet evil single act in the 20th century. Bruning rightly called the "Enablement Bill" "'the most monstrous resolution ever demanded of a parliament.'"(p. 135) Unfortunately, Pacelli had his way, not Bruning! Only 14 out of 76 Catholic delegates had the courage to oppose Pacelli and side with Bruning, so the entire Catholic bloc voted for Hitler.
Four days after becoming pope in 1939, Pacelli issued a positive statement to Hitler asking for reconciliation again. He also arranged for an ostentatious birthday for Hitler's 50th on April 20th, 1939.(p. 209)
Seven months later in 1939, a right-wing plot involving the Pope arose in Germany to kill Hitler. (p. 235) Thus far, historians have treated this plot as legitimate and not a concoction of German Nazi counter- insurgency. Eventually it's leaders did die in the attempt. It is one of the few proofs that Pacelli was not completely a Hitlerite himself, merely a Nazi collaborator. In the plot to kill Hitler, it was the role of Pacelli to approach England and France to ask for good peace terms in exchange for the rebels' killing of Hitler.
While Pacelli was thus willing to see Hitler assassinated in the late 1930s or early 1940s, his own agenda still overlapped with much of the Nazi agenda. He preferred Franco fascism to Hitler fascism. Franco in Spain was also ardently authoritarian and anti-communist, but Franco believed his work was on behalf of the Pope, while Hitler was more likely to encourage others to think he was the messiah himself. Pacelli hoped for a Franco style fascism all across Europe. Pacelli opposed both majority rule by bourgeois rules and communism.
The single issue most scandalous to John Cornwell is how traditional Catholic anti-Semitism played right into Hitler's program of genocide against the Jews, what Cornwell calls "the greatest crime in human history."(p. 293) Pacelli's admirers include Jews who credit him with saving 860,000 Jewish lives during the war, (p. 378) but Cornwell shows how numerous stories regarding the pope's role in resisting Hitler's genocide were simply false, an attempt to protect Pacelli's image. It is Cornwell's efforts in the historical archives on this question that set much of history straight.
The pope's negative role decreased as the war went on, but even at the very end when German troops occupying Rome were afraid of Italian revolt, partly because Mussolini had been sent packing, Pacelli did not manage to speak out against the murder of over 1000 Roman Jews by a few determined SS troops. Thanks to Stalin's leadership success of the Soviet Red Army, the situation was so weak for the Nazis that Hitler had to concede that he did not have the power to kidnap even the defenseless pope in a city occupied by Nazi troops in late 1943. (p. 315)
Meanwhile the Nazi diplomats to the Vatican secretly turned against their government and begged the pope to stop the massacre of Jews just by speaking out against the demoralized and potentially heavily outnumbered SS. (pp. 302, 304) So it was that even sectors of the Nazi ruling class were beginning to look good compared with Pacelli. Hence, even with Allied troops advancing and the Italian people carrying out armed resistance and near the boiling point against a losing Nazi army, Pacelli still did not take a correct stance, and one reason was his ardent anti- communism and fear of an Italian Revolution.
Rather, during most of World War II once England and France declared war on Germany, Pacelli could be found agitating for "universal city" status for Rome -- by which he meant freedom from Allied bombardment by airplane. As the leader of the world's half a billion Catholics, Pacelli was a provincialist putting his locale first while taking weak stances on the fascist atrocities inside Rome and around the world. Also under Pacelli's rule, the death of Hitler found the Cardinal Archbishop of Berlin in mourning and ordering all priests "'to hold a solemn Requiem in memory of the Fuhrer and all those members of the Wehrmacht [German military--MC5] who have fallen in the struggle for our German Fatherland, along with the sincerest prayers for Volk and Fatherland and for the future of the Catholic Church in Germany.'"(p. 317)
While Pacelli had little to say about specific war atrocities when he had the chance regarding the Jews, Gypsies and Serbs, he did speak out twice against the use of Black troops as occupation forces. According to Pacelli, Black troops are more likely to rape European wimmin than other troops.
Hence, we see that Pacelli was willing to get into minute ethnic details when it suited him. He specifically asked the U$A not to allow any Blacks to occupy Rome.(p. 95)
John Cornwell provides a good example of how to write an historical account without resorting to airy ideological principles. He provides examples of where Catholic resistance (to eugenics (p. 153), to euthanasia (p. 198) or German atrocities in Italy) made a big difference and proved that Hitler was not unstoppable. He also demonstrated from other periods of history what was possible, what the masses should have expected the pope to be able to do on behalf of justice -- since much of the argument concerning Pacelli is with regard to just how much power he had to bring to bear in various situations.
Hitler's Pope is a well-organized book with a clear sense of moral logic and direction that is increasingly lacking in the contemporary academic world. It answers many of the questions that we communists would also want answered about Pope Pius XII. Perhaps more than any reactionary leader this century, Pope Pius XII was at the right place at the right time doing the wrong thing.
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