Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cardinal Montini (Future Pope Paul VI) Defends Venerable Pius XII

"On the eve of leaving for Rome, his secretary, Don Macchi, called his attention to a play entitled The Vicar by a German playwright named Rolf Hochhut in which Pope Pius XII was portrayed as a cowardly pragmatist who acquiesced through silence in the Nazi slaughter of the Jewish people.  Cardinal Montini retired to his study and wrote a letter to the editor of the London Tablet which had published a summary of the play, with a copy to Raimondo Manzini, director of Osservatore Romano.  The letter stated that the writer had worked in close contact with the late Pius XII from 1937 till 1954 when Pius, as Cardinal Pacelli, was Vatican Secretary of State and during most of his later pontificate; that the characterization of Pius XII was false.  The late pope, he wrote, was noble, virile, compassionate rather than cowardly and opportunistic.  'The thesis of Die Stellvertreter lacks psychological, political and historical insight into reality,' he wrote, 'and theatrical charm is a poor substitute for reality.  If Pius XII had acted as Hochhut would have had him act, there would have been such reprisals and such devastation that, after the war, Hochhut himself, with better historical, political and moral insight could have written a more realistic and more interesting drama than the one he has so unfortunately staged.  If Pope Pius XII had carelessly or recklessly let loose further ruin upon a tormented world in a spirit of bravado or political exhibitionism then, indeed, might Hochhut have held him guilty for the fate of countless innocent victims.'  'One should not play with such subjects nor accept the distorted images of historical personages which have been twisted and torn within the imagination of theatrical artists insufficiently endowed with historical judgment or, God judging them, honest intent....Pius XII was sensitively aware of his duty to mankind and of historical reality.  He did not condone the horrible crimes of German Nazism....An attitude of condemnation and of protest which Hochhut blames the pope for avoiding would have been not only useless but harmful in ways beyond his power of imagining.'"

-Shepherd of Mankind by William E. Barrett, c. 1964, pp. 268-269.

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