Commission Studying Pius XII Comes Under Fire

Commission Studying Pius XII Comes Under Fire - Father Peter Gumpel, Postulator for Cause of Pope, Calls Panel "Disloyal"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2000 ( The postulator for the cause of beatification of Pius XII sharply criticized a commission of Jewish and Catholic scholars for the way it is handling the investigation of the wartime Pope's activities.

Father Peter Gumpel, usually a serene person, was irked after the International Catholic-Jewish Commission went public with a preliminary report at a press conference Thursday. The conference was prompted by a news leak that surfaced in the French press a day earlier ( see "Panel on Pius XII Wants More Documentation" in Oct. 26 ZENIT archives at ).

"I find the conduct of the international, historical Judeo-Catholic commission disloyal to the Holy See, academically unacceptable and incorrect," Father Gumpel said.

The Jesuit said that "the report they have presented is preliminary and should be discussed here in Rome with persons who are considered well informed."

He continued, "They came to Rome for three days and presented 47 questions. I had the text with the questions 15 days before the meeting. I prepared 47 dossiers, answering each one of the questions with vast and solid documentation. I was heard by the commission for three and a half hours Oct. 24 in the morning.

"The tone of the discussion was academic and courteous. I gave concrete answers to all the questions, about 10, that could be addressed in that amount of time. The whole discussion was taped and the session was led by a totally impartial and very correct moderator.

"I have publicly expressed my willingness to give answers, but no member of the commission has been in touch with me. They requested that two persons of the commission be able to speak with Father Pierre Blet, but the appointment was canceled without any explanation."

Father Blet is the Jesuit historian whom John Paul II has indicated as the principal expert in matters concerning the Vatican during the Second World War.

Father Gumpel continued: "If they [the commission members] wished to have a wide discussion, and give us the possibility to provide exhaustive answers to each question, the time fixed by them was insufficient. However, we have had utmost willingness, but the commission decided not to know all the answers.

"Moreover, the report that has been published is preliminary in nature, which means that it should serve as a basis for study and discussion. Instead, it has been made public on Internet and the press. With what right have they circulated the preliminary report, which includes harsh accusations against Pius XII and the Church, without having even heard the answers to the questions posed?

"I wonder why they have done this. Did they wish to influence public opinion against Pius XII and the Church? This has happened precisely when we Catholics are making all kinds of efforts to improve relations with the Jewish world."

Father Gumpel was visibly upset. "It is not the first time that this leakage of news occurs," he said. "The same thing happened Aug. 4, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and Internet also, with reference to the activities of the commission published that 'Jewish activists and European leaders have seen the preliminary report,' while we, the scholars and experts in Rome, only saw it just 15 days ago. I find this conduct disloyal and dishonest."

--Q: In the preliminary report, the commission says that the preparatory documents of the encyclical "Mit Brennender Sorge" [to the bishops of Germany, on the Church and the Third Reich] are missing.

--Father Gumpel: The encyclical "Mit Brennender Sorge" was published in 1937. Not much is found, necessarily, in the volumes taken into consideration because these begin in 1939 and go up to 1945. Moreover, "Brennender Sorge" was published by Pius XI and not by Pius XII. They are asking for other documents on this encyclical but they do not know at least four volumes that I have quoted page by page, where the original writing of the encyclical is found and later the published version - books that give the most detailed information on the history of the encyclical.

--Q: In the second question they say that there seemed to be a change in [Eugenio] Pacelli the moment he became Pope Pius XII.

--Father Gumpel: It is their opinion because, especially in relation to the Nazis, Pacelli was absolutely coherent. In March 1939, Pius XII received a visit from the German ambassador, who said, essentially, "We will do everything possible for peace but, if in spite of everything they want war, we will defend ourselves."

--Q: The commission holds that Pius XII approved [French Marshal Henri-Philippe] Petain's anti-Semitic laws through [Father Giovanni Battista] Montini [the future Paul VI].

--Father Gumpel: This is a resounding falsehood. Following the racial laws, there were protests organized by Catholics and Jews throughout France. Petain was impressed and tried to create a break between the Roman and non-Roman clergy.

He wrote Leon Berard, ambassador to the Vatican, and Berard sent Petain a lengthy report, whose integral text was published again in 1946. The commission holds that Berard reported that he had Montini's approval for Vichy's anti-Semitism, so long as it was "administered with charity."

However, Berard's report can be read and reread without ever finding either [Vatican aide Msgr. Domenico] Tardini's name or, much less so, Montini's who is supposed to have said these things. Berard never pronounces Tardini's or Montini's name. This is an invention. He certainly spoke with Tardini and Montini, but nowhere is it written that they approved the anti-Semitic law. So, it is a falsification of history, a real fraud.

--Q: According to the commission, at the end of August 1942, Metropolitan Andrzeyj Szeptyckyj of Lvov denounced Nazi atrocities in which some Catholics took part.

--Father Gumpel: This archbishop wrote two letters. One refers to the occupation by the Russians (Volume 3.1, Page 24 in the Introduction, Aug. 30, 1941), in which he says that the Communists were persecuting all those who were Christians; they had deported 500,000 people to Russia and killed many priests. Almost half of the faithful were deported to Russia.

The following year, he wrote another letter describing the atrocities of the Germans. The commission has said there were Catholics who had persecuted the Jews.

Now, I have read the letter several times, and I have not found written what they state. This is an undue and slanderous interpretation. Perhaps they have not understood the text where the contrary is written, that is: "I must mention with great recognition the help that German Catholics give us through the channels of an association for helping Germans outside of Germany (Volume 3.2, pages 626-627)." In the question, the Commission quotes the right letter but falsifies the terms. Well, errors of this kind are found in almost all the questions posed by the commission. ZE00102703

ZEN - Zenit
27. oktober 2000

av Webmaster publisert 28.10.2000, sist endret 28.10.2000 - 18:58