On the Pius XII Seminar with Paul O’Shea

Many of you are probably wondering why I haven’t made any comment about the Seminar on Pius XII held at Temple Beth Israel on Sunday May 5th with Dr Paul O’Shea. The reason is simply because the hosts of the event, the Council of Christians and Jews and the B’nai B’rith, are currently working on writing up an article for publication reporting the matter. Also, we have recorded the event, and in due time a transcript will be made available. But these things take a little time when working cooperatively, and I will post the links to the article and the transcript when it becomes available.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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5 Responses to On the Pius XII Seminar with Paul O’Shea

  1. John Candido says:

    I attended the seminar on Pope Pius XII and the Shoah and found it informative. It was a little frustrating as we cannot presently get to a definitive record of Pius during World War II. As Paul O’Shea’s scholarship as a historian is an ongoing one regarding Pius XII, the world will have to await the time of the release of all of the archival documents regarding this most important historical epoch, from the Vatican archives.

    What I cannot understand about Pius XII is the silence on the issue of the Shoah after the death of Adolf Hitler and the total collapse of the Third Reich in 1945 to Pius XII’s death in 1958. This was a period of approximately thirteen years. Why didn’t Pius XII hold an international press conference to completely discuss the Shoah, the Third Reich, and his role during such an important historical moment of the 20th century? Maybe he did say or write something and I am not aware of it. Can anyone educate me?

    • Schütz says:

      I don’t think it was Pius’ style to hold “press conferences”. Audiences, yes; press conference, no. I don’t think we folk today can actually “get” Pius XII without getting inside the shoes of a bloke who, by the end of his life, had reached a rather exalted and mystical understanding of his role within the Church.

  2. John Candido says:

    Granted that he did not do press conferences; he could have chosen one or two journalists that were accredited to the Vatican, and given his story to the world in this way. Failing this, he could have written an encyclical on the matter, or authored a book. He even could have written a personal diary or left a more formal record for posterity, which would have eventually been released via the Vatican archives.

    The Shoah is no ordinary event. I am absolutely convinced that Pope Pius XII would have viewed the European catastrophe in similar terms. Of course as Dr. Paul O’Shea explained, the currently understood record of Pius XII, the Shoah, and the Third Reich is a murky shade of grey. He is not an absolute clean skin but neither was he the devil incarnate. He despised Hitler and the Nazis and he helped where he could to save as many Jews as possible. He came to the papacy as a veteran Vatican diplomat and this partly informs us all as to his basic modus operandi.

    His concerns for and his prioritising of the Catholic Church in terms of its clergy, laity, and property throughout Europe during this calamitous time, are quite understandable. Whilst he had these constant concerns, Pope Pius XII and the church saved many Jews by relying on Catholic and diplomatic networks in order to do so.

    I have two questions for Dr. Paul O’Shea, or anyone else for that matter. Firstly, why did Pius XII continue to be faithful to the Concordat between the Vatican and the Third Reich, which was signed on the 20th July 1933, after Hitler did not remain beholden to it? Secondly, did Pope Pius XII say or write anything about the Shoah after the death of Hitler and the demise of the third Reich between 1945 and Pius’s death in 1958? Both of these questions might have to await the release of further archival material pertinent to these matters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichskonkordat

    As the case for the merits of the beatification of Pius XII has commenced, I would have thought that it would have been in the interests of the Roman Catholic Church and the contemporary interreligious dialogue between the church and Judaism, for all archival material relating to Pope Pius XII, the Catholic Church, the Shoah, and the Third Reich, be completely released in as prompt a manner as possible. Such a release would have the double effect of assisting those in the Vatican who are authorised to rigorously examine the merits of his beatification, and for the Catholic Church to maintain good relations with our Jewish brothers and sisters.

    • Schütz says:

      The archival material is currently being prepared for release around 2014.

    • SonofTrypho says:

      I suspect that Pius XII didn’t discuss the Holocaust during the 45-58 period because the narrative actually wasn’t that bad for him in that period – his efforts were highly regarded by those who had lived (and particularly survived) the war.

      The development of Holocaust studies and hostile propaganda (both Soviet and anti-Catholic) influenced the narrative to the point where it is today.

      I suspect that the Concordat was honoured because it was a legitimate legal instrument and renegotiation of terms with the Third Reich would have been extremely difficult and most likely not in the favour of the Church.

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