Taken from The Philadelphia Inquirer
Last Tuesday's commentary "Church's misguided honor: Moving to canonize a World War II-era Pope amounts to an attack on Jews" could not have been more flawed, judgmental, and historically erroneous.
The historical record suggests that the alleged "silence" of Pius XII had everything to do with his capacity to intervene and save as many of Hitler's victims as possible and nothing to do with indifference to the great suffering around him in Nazi-dominated Europe, as his critics assert.
Why would anyone assume that the Pope saying more would have saved more? And why single out Pius XII? He may not have publicly denounced Hitler, which would have pleased the Allied governments at the time and greatly bolstered the Pope's reputation. But the Pope surely realized that such an action would have been a noble failure and would certainly have cost more lives. In order to save Jews from Hitler it was necessary for the Church to maintain lines of communication with those who had the power of life and death.
It is simply historically inaccurate to scapegoat the man responsible for saving an enormous number of Jews from the clutches of the Third Reich for his "silence." There are a great many Jews alive today either because they, or their parents or grandparents, were saved by the Catholic Church at the Pope's direction during the Holocaust.
The fact that Pope Pius XII hid thousands of Jews on his own property at Castel Gandolfo to save them from almost certain death speaks volumes. Could there be more eloquent testimony to Pius XII's opposition to Hitler and all he stood for?
John H. Ahtes III
Professor of Church history
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
Professor of History, Immaculata University