REVIEWSrnStylish Mendacityrnby Paul GottfriedrnHitler’s Pope:rnThe Secret History of Pius XIIrnby John ComwellrnNew York: Viking;rn430 pp., $29.95rnAwash in reviews of Cornwell’s portraitrnof Pius XII, I felt surfeited by thernbook even before it arrived in the mail.rnI’o call this biography unflattering isrnmeiosis. John Lukacs is right to say that,rnwhile Cornwell’s production is being featuredrnby the History Book of the MonthrnClub, history itself is what Comwell mercilesslyrnclubs in his assault on EugeniornPacelli, the papal nuncio to Germanyrnwho became Pope Pius XII.rnCornwell’s intemperate attacks do notrnseem justified by the evidence cited. IfrnPius, as a well-wisher of Nazi t^’ranny andrnan anhsemite who typified the Church’srn”habitual fear and distrust of Jews,” reallyrnwas “Hitler’s Pope,” Cornwell does notrnmake these charges stick. It is one thingrnto claim that Pius did not go far enoughrnin criticizing Nazism, when in his Christmasrn1942 address he referred to the “hundredsrnof thousands [not identified specificallyrnas Jews] who without any fault ofrntheir own, sometimes only by reason ofrntheir nationality or race, are markedrndown for death or gradual extinction.”rnBut these diplomatic tropes do not establishrnPius’s enthusiasm for the holocaust,rnanymore than his failure to take strongrnaction when the Nazis entered Rome inrnOctober 1945 and imprisoned its Jews.rnWhat exacfly should Pius have done atrnthat time? Denunciations of Nazi antisemitismrnby Catholic bishops in Hollandrnthree years earlier had resulted in the exterminationrnof Dutch Christians of Jewishrndescent, including a future saint,rnEdith Stein. Wliat leverage (or militar)’rndivisions) did the Pope have to inducernthe Nazis to become gentle and caringrnpeople?rnIt may be appropriate to ask, as one reviewerrnin Osservatore Romano has, howrnPius —who had been viewed by Jewishrnleaders after the war as an heroic protectorrnof Jewish refugees and who was thernobject of testimonials by Colda Meir, thernchief rabbi of Rome, and the World JewishrnCongress—could have so fooled thernvery people he had hoped to hurt? Whyrnhad no one after the war come up withrnthe evidence which supposedly confirmsrnPius’s Nazi and antisemitic convictions?rnThe reason may be that Cornwell’s accusationsrnare mostiy concocted. Until thernvictimological hysteria of the present age,rnmoreover, no one would have taken suchrna work seriously. At least ten magazines,rnincluding Atlantic Monthly (which gavernthe biography high marks), feature a photornof Pius approaching the offices of thernGerman head of state, the entrancernflanked by grim-looking soldiers: an obviousrnattempt to create the impression ofrnan obsecjuioLis visit to the GermanrnF’iihrer by the papal nuncio. The visit actuallyrntook place in 1926, when Pius paidrna courtesy call on the democraticallyrnelected president of the Weimar Republic.rnThe real sins of Pius XII, which Cornwellrnand his adulators find inexcusable,rnare two. The first charge, having been anrn”authoritarian” ecclesiastical head, is entirelyrnludicrous. Any pope, in particular arnconservative one, becomes for Cornwellrna usable stand-in for Pius IX, who was responsiblernfor the proclamation of papalrninfallibility at the Eirst Vatican Councilrnin 1870. Unfortunately, Pius XII, arnpainfully cautious and forever agonizedrnpontiff, was a poor candidate to be Cornwell’srnideal villain: far better for the authorrnto have focused on the autocraticrnPius XI, who in fact blasted the Nazis inrnhis 1937 encyclical Mit brennenderrnSerge, partly prepared by Pius XII.rnThough Pius XI loathed the communistsrn(and backed the Nationalists in Spain), itrnwould be hard to depict him as a friend ofrnHitier. The other polluting sin attributedrnto Pius was to have been hostile to communismrnand the political leff—which allegedlyrndrove him into the arms of thernjAxis.rnIf one is a white Westerner, the bestrnway to protect oneself against the pro-rnNazi smear is to have had communist orrnpro-communist associations. Eor example,rnboth Bella Abzug and the ErenchrnCommunist Party supported the Nazi-rnSoviet Pact and spent almost two yearsrnportraying the Third Reich as no threat tornthe international working class. Neitherrnhas suffered much for this stand (whichrnonly isolated historians know about andrneven fewer dwell on). In comparison tornJewish liberal activist Abzug, Pius XII wasrnan engaged anti-Nazi; unfortunately forrnhis reputation, he also feared the left andrnenjoyed German culture. Pius XII hasrnsuffered a posthumous hatchet job notrnfor being Hitler’s Pope but because hernwas politically incorrect, undeserving ofrnthe proceedings that might have led tornhis beatification (which, in fact, werernhalted last October).rnIn a certain sense, this is fitting. Wliyrnshould beatification be exempt from thernleftist victimology to which every otherrnpolitical —or politicized —event is nowrnsubject? Last month, an American televisionrnprogram on the life of John Paul IIrnscolded the Pope (or found someonernwho did so at length) for canonizing Polishrnpriest and Nazi victim MaximilianrnKolbe. Although Kolbe gave his life tornsave an intended Nazi victim, allowingrnhimself to be executed in the place of arnconcentration camp inmate with a wifernand children, this martyr did not quiternmeasure up to media standards, havingrnmade unkind remarks in a Catholicrnmonthly about Polish Jewish commercialrnpractices. These angelic standardsrnwould not have been applied so rigorouslyrnhad Kolbe been a Gommunist Partyrnmember or generic leftist. After all, liberalrnidol Bobby Kennedy frequently madernscurrilous references to Jews and blacksrnwithout journalists bothering to mentionrnthis habit for 30 years after his death, andrneven then without hurt to his reputationrn(cf The Dark Side of Camelot by SeymourrnHersch). Pius XII, Cornwell reasons,rnmust have been a Nazi becausernhe held “undemocratic” views aboutrnChurch polity and the threat communismrnposes to Christiair societies. ThernPope also fell short of the special standardsrnapplied to non-leftists in determiningrnwho is, and is not, an antisemite.rnPius’s unkind ethnic reference, duringrnthe short-lived Bavarian Soviet regime ofrn1919, to a Russian Jewish Marxist—arnmildly insensitive comment probablyrneasily surpassed every day of their lives byrnHarry Truman and members of thernKennedy clan —is brought forward tornshow that the future Pope had genocidernon his mind.rnRight now I have a hard time decidingrnwhich is the more reprehensible andrn28/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn