Thursday, June 07, 2007

The pope who should not be saint

In the Vatican's latest attempt to save Pope Pius XII from ignominy as the pope who failed to speak out against the Holocaust, Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, has called Pius the victim of a "black legend" of "of Soviet and communist origin." (A "black legend" refers to exaggerated tales of the exploits of the Spanish conquistadores; one wonders how they could have made the real thing any more lurid. I also wonder if Bertone knows how, um, well, not politically correct that sounds in English.)

Bertone went on to refer to Pius as "righteous among the nations," a term some Jewish organizations use to refer to non-Jews who aided those fleeing the Nazis. (I'm sure that went over well. That's probably not a term Christians should be giving other.) Bertone was speaking at the release of a new book on Pius XII, rivetingly titled Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, a Man on the Throne of Peter, according to the European Jewish Press. The book comes on the heels of a report on Pius' virtues, which has been sent to the pope as part of the process of Pius' beatification. Let us hope that it sits there for a long time, along with the promised restoration of the Tridentine liturgy.

It is an incredible puzzle why so many in the Vatican are championing Pius' cause; I hardly think there is any devotion to him, and his war record is at least sketchy. At best he played it safe, and that's hardly heroic sanctity. For that reason, and for the sake of the Catholic-Jewish relationship, he ought not be beatified. (I don't know why we're in such a rush to beatify every pope of the 20th c. anyway.)



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