part of Vatican's study of pope's role in WWII
a consensus on the truth is rarely an easy task. When the stakes
are high and the group is divided, it can be even tougher than
was the challenge facing Gerald Fogarty, a Jesuit priest and the
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Religious
Studies and History, this past year as he struggled to find
a consensus among his colleagues on an international, interfaith
committee investigating an explosive historical topic: why didn't
Pope Pius XII do more to save the Jews from the Holocaust?
Pius XII was criticized in the mid-1960s as being an anti-Semite
who stood silent while millions of Jews were murdered in the Nazi
death camps. So, between 1965 and 1981, the Vatican published
11 volumes of diplomatic documents, expecting to lay to rest questions
about Pius XII's role during the war, Fogarty said.
questions about Pius XII's role remained, in part because few
scholars have studied the untranslated documents. Last year, in
an effort to improve relations between the Catholic Church and
the world Jewish community, a committee of three Catholic and
three Jewish scholars was formed to examine the published volumes
and determine whether they left a major gap in the historical
many civil governments, the Vatican delays the release of official
documents to protect the people and information mentioned in them.
To date, it has released official documents only through 1921
with the exception of the World War II volumes. It's been a rocky
the group could reach a consensus for its final report, word was
leaked to Haaretz, a major daily newspaper in Israel, that the
committee's findings criticized the actions of Pius XII. That,
however, was not the case, Fogarty said.
October, the group traveled to Rome with its final report, but
a day before its scheduled press conference, an article ran in
Le Monde, the major French daily, again based on leaked information.
The article, critical of Pius XII, was picked up by all the major
Italian dailies and caused a stir throughout Italy and in the
fundamental difference in historical perspectives toward World
War II has made cooperation difficult between the Jewish and Catholic
members, Fogarty said.
"Catholics need to realize that the Holocaust was such a horrific
experience that Jews need to keep it in the public's mind so that
it never happens again," Fogarty said. "But for the Vatican and
the Allies, the Holocaust was only one aspect of World War II,"
he said. "It was not the reason for defeating Hitler, it was one
more reason for defeating Hitler."
to that a difference in priorities. The pope's role, as head of
the Catholic Church, is to protect and further the interests of
the Church throughout the world. Pius XII was worrying about the
treatment of German Catholics and the safety of the Catholic church
in Germany while also supporting the Allies in their bid to defeat
Hitler, Fogarty said. In contrast, Jewish leaders, then and now,
focused on the Nazis' treatment of the Jews.
difference in priorities and perspectives led two of the committee's
Jewish members to try to use the media to pressure the Vatican
to open its archives.
was their intent to keep the Holocaust uppermost in everyone's
minds and to do that they tried to use the same kind of pressure
on the Vatican that they have used successfully on civilian governments,"
Fogarty said. "However, the Vatican does not respond to pressure
from the press. They shut down."
that is Fogarty's concern as he waits for the Vatican's response
to the committee's report, which is expected in January.
too early to evaluate the achievements of the committee, but at
least some of us learned the value of Jewish and Catholic scholars
working together," Fogarty said. "And I think all of us came to
understand that Pope Pius XII was a complex man."