Catholic Church collaboration with the Nazis


In this series of blogs, I am going to point out the involvement of the Catholic Church in modern history, banking, and social reform.  The reason I began a blog was to provide information on the background of novels I’ve written, am currently writing, or planning to write in the future.

The Fifth Coin story line involves how the Catholic Church evolved from earliest Christianity thru the present day.  The new religion was the product of a group of men fighting to make their “opinion” dominate this new religion.  Books written by Jesus’ contemporaries were eliminated because they didn’t fall in with the official “party line.”  They created a platform as divinely inspired as the political platforms of either present day Republicans or Democrats.

For centuries the Catholic Church was a political institution headed by ordinary men with extraordinary powers.  Popes had mistresses and fathered children.  Celibacy was introduced in 1139.   Justification for eating fish on Friday refers to a statement in the fifteenth century by John Myre in his Liber Festivalis which said, “For when God, for Adam’s sin, cursed the earth and the land, he cursed not the water; wherefore it is lawful for a man to eat in Lent that which cometh of the water.”  Now there’s a rationale worth accepting as doctrine.

Reading religious history will send the most dedicated reader into a self-induced coma, so I’m taking the liberty of compressing as much information into brief paragraphs as possible.  I write novels on topics with a lot of historical and scientific substantiation, and admire how Jesus got his points across in story form . . . using a simple parable.


One of the most important books about the relationship of the Catholic Church with the Nazis is a book written by John Cornwell: Hitler’s Pope:  The Secret History of Pius XII.  The author was a dedicated Catholic but at the end of his research he became convinced Pope Pius XII openly collaborated with the Nazi’s and turned a blind eye to the Final Solution.

The content of this blog has been taken from Hitler’s Pope.  Some of it has been paraphrased, some is included as direct quotes from the author.  Cromwell references another historian, John Morely, author of Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews During the Holocaust 1939-1943, whom I quoted verbatim because his words are relevant to the topic of this blog.

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The Reichskonkordat effectively broke apart the German Catholic Church—which successfully rolled back Bismarck’s Kulturkampf opposing the rise of Nazism in 1933.  It barred party members from receiving holy communion—if they expressed opposition to Hitler. More than that, as Hitler told his cabinet on July 14, it established a context which could be “especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry.”

Cornwell comments, “This was the reality of the moral abyss into which Pacelli, the future Pontiff, led the once great and proud German Catholic Church.”


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Pacelli became Pope in 1939. As is well known, he did not openly denounce Nazi Anti-Semitism as such, although he condemned Nazi racism in general terms. Nor did he explicitly refer to the Final Solution as it unfolded, even though he was one of the first leaders outside German-controlled Europe to be informed of its full dimensions.

On October 16, 1943, more than 1,200 Jews were arrested by German forces in the Jewish district of Rome, at the foot of the Vatican hill. Within a week more than a thousand of those arrested were taken to Auschwitz and gassed. Critics of Pius XII’s silence point to this event as emblematic of his failure; his defenders, giving equal emphasis to it, insisted had it not been for the Pope’s urgent behind-the-scenes intervention (he dispatched his Secretary of State, Cardinal Luigi Maglione, to protest to the German ambassador to the Vatican, and a German bishop resident in Rome conveyed the Pope’s concern to German military authorities).  If not for protests thru his Cardinals and Bishops thousands more Roman Jews would have been seized.


The Vatican offered shelter to hundreds of Jewish fugitives, within Vatican City and in other Church institutions under Vatican control.  Examination of relevant documents, however, leads one to conclude papal defenders exaggerated the significance of measures taken in behalf of Jews.

John Morely, author of Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews During the Holocaust 1939-1943 (1980)—asserted characterizing Vatican action as a “protest” seems dubious. In a presentation to a group of Jewish and Catholic scholars Morely read Cardinal Maglione’s own account of what took place in his October 16 meeting with Weizäcker, summarizing it this way: “There was neither confrontation, nor criticism, nor a plea for justice.” According to Cardinal Maglione, Vatican intervention led to the release of many Jews. The Pope’s defenders made much of this claim, but it has been dismissed as “untruthful.” As for Vatican pressure stopping the roundup of Jews, more than a thousand additional Jews were arrested after October 16. Neither Pacelli nor his Secretary of State openly protested any of this. “Their failure to speak or act astonished the German leadership in the city.”

But a factor more important than Anti-Semitism accounts for Pacelli’s (Pope Pius XII) early failings as a diplomat and his later failings as a Pope, was his determination to put the accumulation and defense of papal power above everything else—above the fate of the Jews, and even above the fate of the Catholic Church elsewhere in Europe. “Was there something in the modern ideology of papal power which encouraged the Holy See to acquiesce in the face of Hitler’s evil, rather than oppose it?” questioned John Cornwell.  The answer to this is yes, according to the author.


Why should the unfinished story of Pius XII matter so much—especially to Catholics? Even though the ancient Christian Anti-Semitism which fueled the Nazi program has been repudiated by the Church, Cornwell sites: “the modern ideology of papal power which helped make the hatred of Jews so lethal in this century still marks Roman Catholicism.”  The real agenda behind the campaign to stop Pius XII from becoming a saint, including all evidence of his involvement with the Nazis,  is turning his back on the Final Solution.

The story of Eugenio Pacelli, and of the modern papacy, began with Pius X, whose condemnation of modernism and commissioning of the Vatican dominated Code of Canon Law set the Catholic Church on its disastrous twentieth-century course. Pius X gave Pacelli his mission in life—the expansion of power, which became his moral undoing. It is an omen, perhaps, that Pacelli repaid his patron, and redefined the Church by canonizing Pius X in 1954.  Hitler’s Pope makes it clear that if Pacelli himself is to be canonized now, the Church will have sealed its second millennium with a lie and readied its third for new disasters.