Commonweal and Pius XII

Commonweal, which one day may be known as the Sr. Carol Keehan of Catholic magazines, is at it again in their own subtle and sophisticated way in keeping the slanders against Pius XII alive with an online scholarly article by John Connelly weakened by just a few too many unsubstantiated anti-Pius XII asides in an otherwise very interesting and informative narrative about the role of convert Catholics against Hitler.

[Please see the Comment to this post attributed to Fr. John J. Hughes for specific criticisms of the Connelly excerpt.]

The narrative of Catholic resistance to Hitler rarely includes three sets of facts:

1. The assassination by Hitler’s henchmen of Erich Klausener, the head of German Catholic Action during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, thus decapitating Catholic Action as a movement in German civil society;

2. The closing of hundreds of German Catholic newspapers, the seizure of German Catholic schools, and deportation of Catholic clergy immediately after Chicago Cardinal George Mundelein’s famous “paperhanger” speech against Hitler in 1937. Please see the references for these at the Archbishop Quigley Seminary Wikipedia page;

3. The German Catholics involved in the various anti-Hitler assassination plots. The hundreds of plotters executed after failed attempts were not exclusively Protestant.

Hitler and Goebbels intentionally set out to destroy Catholic mediating institutions and to decapitate Catholic leadership in German civil society. While this doesn’t account for all of the silence among German Catholics against Hitler, the systematic decapitation of Catholic Action leadership and Catholic mediating institutions is lopped out of the story with regularity.

Moral superiority to Pius XII is part of the bedrock of Catholic progressivism. I wish they would, but I don’t expect the editors of Commonweal to depart from this unfortunate theme any time in the near future. They just can’t seem to let it go, no matter how much evidence piles up to the contrary.

Please see the book, The Pius War, for another view.

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For what it’s worth, I have three long-term “beefs” with Commonweal which led me to drop my subscription many years ago, and dispose of an extensive collection of back issues:

1. Commonweal’s dissent on Humanae Vitae. (Which brought me to give Commonweal the sobriquet, Cogleyweal, after its late editor and Humanae Vitae dissenter John Cogley.)

2. Commonweal’s prolonging of the slanders against Pius XII, above mentioned.

3. (And this one may be obscure, Catholic “inside baseball,” but it’s a dispute about a Catholic essential) Commonweal’s support for the anti-Fr. Hugo camp in the Catholic Worker. Fr. John Hugo was a pious retreat master who led the “cool” sophisticated Dorothy Day of the New York intellectual night life to embrace a life of Eucharistic prayer and devotion along with her activism for social justice. For some reason, a few in the Catholic Church, and perhaps still at Commonweal, have yet to forgive Fr. Hugo for this. While this theme rarely manifests itself in Commonweal any more, it still irks me to no end when it does.

Dorothy Day’s daily Eucharistic devotion was an integral part of her mission and message. The integration of devotion to the Eucharist with Catholic social action is absolutely essential. Witness the contribution of Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand to this same essential Catholic theology and practice. Please see my scholarly article on Msgr. Hillenbrand for more.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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3 Responses to “Commonweal and Pius XII”

  1. To the Editor – Commonweal [not yet published]
    Prof. John Connelly’s claim that Pope Pius XII’s first encyclical Summi Pontificatus (issued on Oct. 20, 1939) “contained not even a mild rebuke of the Germans while offering vague consolation to the Poles” makes one wonder whether he has ever read the document. In the context of the day, its central theme, the unity of the whole human race, was an explicit condemnation of Nazi racial policy. Connelly’s inability to perceive this was not shared by people in 1939. A headline in the London Daily Telegraph for Oct. 28th read: “Pope condemns Nazi theory.” The headline on the front page of the New York Times for that date said in gigantic block letters: “Pope Condemns Dictators, Treaty Violators, Racism; Urges Restoring of Poland.” The American Israelite reported on the Pope’s “denunciation of Nazism.” The Nazis too got the message, loud and clear. Gestapo Chief, Heinrich Müller, wrote: “This encyclical is directed exclusively against Germany, both in ideology and in regard to the German-Polish dispute.”
    What Prof. Connelly calls the Pope’s “vague consolation to the Poles” reads as follows: “The blood of countless human beings, even noncombatants, raises a piteous dirge over a nation such as our dear Poland, which, for its fidelity to the Church, for its services in the defense of Christian civilization, written in indelible characters in the annals of history, has a right to the generous and brotherly sympathy of the whole world.” And Cardinal Hlond wrote thanks from Poland: “This official and solemn statement … will be greatly treasured by the Poles.”
    Readers who want further background will find it in Justus George Lawler’s just released book, Were the Popes against the Jews? Tracking the Myths, Confronting the Ideologues. It contains a detailed and searing indictment of Connelly and others who rig texts and overlook facts in order to produce not history, but to defend a pre-determined ideology.
    John Jay Hughes
    St. Louis, MO.

  2. Fr. Hughes,

    Thanks very much for your informative comment!

    In Christ,

    Albert J. Schorsch, III

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
    All Rights Reserved

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