Pius XII and the Jews

In a recent comment (3/23, p. 389), America briefly noted a West Berlin play built around the thesis that Pope Pius XII could have stopped Hitler from killing the Jews but, for purely political reasons, did not do so. The play, Der Stellvertreter (literally, The Vicar, but best translated as The Vicar of Christ), has been playing to capacity crowds in West Berlin and is now in preparation for staging in London.

The heart of the author’s indictment is that perhaps never in the history of the world have so many men paid with their lives for the passivity of one politician. Thirty-one-year-old playwright Rolf Hochhuth undeviatingly builds up his picture of Pope Pius XII as an unprincipled politician who operates solely according to the dictates of reasons of state. Continue reading

How To Read an Encyclical

David Lawrence read it Right
Lippmann saw a liberal light
William Buckley sounded coolish
Pearson’s line was mostly foolish
Courtney Murray wasn’t certain
(We haven’t heard from Thomas Merton)
Nation-readers learned to hope
That J.F.K. would heed his Pope
Welch saw Red, red, redder than titian
As Rome fell under Birch suspicion
Time caressed each Lucid text
While Playboy found it undersexed
Pravda praised the portions peacenik
(No comment on the UN policenik)
The Dept of State was terribly kind
The Pope, it said, had us in mind
By now we know the simple trick
Of how to read Pope John’s encyc
To play the game, you choose your snippet
Of Peace on Earth and boldly clip it

John Cogley was an editor at Commonweal and an adviser to John F. Kennedy. This poem was part of his “Poems on a Postcard” series for America.

On Discussing Freedom

From America, May 11, 1963:

If our Protestant brethren still wondered whether our hierarchy is a monolithic bloc, the activity and comments of our bishops during and after Fr. Hans Küng’s recent lecture tour must have proved something to them. Cardinal Cushing, Cardinal Ritter and Archbishop Alter, for example, listened to what the Tübingen theologian had to say; there were others who let it be known they didn’t want him around.

Now that the visiting Vatican Council expert has returned to Germany, one hears complaints that some of his remarks were difficult to understand. The observation pinpoints an important, and often overlooked, fact about Fr. Küng’s tour. He spoke only in a university context or the equivalent. Continue reading

Encyclical’s Impact

An editorial from America, May 4, 1963

Initial reactions to Pope John’s encyclical Pacem in Terris quickly revealed areas in which its practical impact can be expected to make itself felt.

When the London Sunday Times hailed the document as “an act of leadership for which the world was longing,” it explained in part the torrent of editorial comment flooding the world press. A Rome daily, II Tempo, might speak peevishly of an “encyclical of enthusiasms, conceived under the sign of optimism and irenicism.” But the internationally respected Le Monde of Paris termed it rather “realistic, serene and confident of the future.” These qualities it saw as “reflecting the character of its author.”

Religious leaders everywhere praised the profound moral tone and insight of the Pope’s message. Here in the United States, J. Irwin Miller, president of the National Council of Churches, noted “remarkable similarities . . . between Roman Catholic thought and that of our constituency.” He pledged that the document’s “principles and proposals . . . will receive our interested study and exploration of ways of co-operation.” In a similar vein, the president of the American Jewish Committee, A. M. Sonnabend, declared that the encyclical “creates a broad dimension of possible cooperation among diverse religious, ethnic and racial communities.”

No reactions won more attention, however, than those in the Communist press on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Moscow’s Pravda professed to view Pacem in Terris as “an initiative in favor of peace.” Radio Budapest spoke of “a new wind blowing from the Vatican.” A Warsaw daily, Trybuna Ludu, linked the document with a papal plea for peace during the October 1962, crisis in Cuba, and described it as “very important.” In Italy, Communist boss Palmiro Togliatti claimed to see in the Pope’s message “something entirely new, conveying the very essence of life itself and telling the world that all of us on earth are part of past, present and future history.”

Here in the United States, the Worker, official Communist semiweekly, insisted that the new encyclical would make Western leaders “change their way of thinking.” Indeed, the secretary of the American Communists, Gus Hall, intimated that party members themselves might have to change in another respect. “There is need,” he commented, “for all forces of progress to re-examine and perhaps readjust our over-all estimate of the Roman Catholic Church as a social institution.”

What did these straws in the Communist wind add up to? Surely nothing in the curiously muted statements issuing from any Communist source even hints at compromise or coexistence, on the ideological plane, with the West—let alone with Christianity. More importantly, of course, even the most casual reader of the encyclical must realize that the Church has no intention of compromising its doctrine based on the teachings of the gospel. It can never remain true to its divinely instituted nature and at the same time renounce its vision of human dignity and the consequent necessity of grounding true peace in respect for the inalienable rights of men. Thus, for the Church any genuine coexistence supposes respect for such rights, including true religious freedom.

Pacem in Terris must be seen as far more than an idle or merely sentimental gesture toward peace. Whatever the motivation behind his remark, Premier Khrushchev spoke the truth when he remarked to an Italian journalist that the encyclical genuinely sought peace, which “can and must be defended by men of good will of every philosophical and religious conviction.” Such peace, Pope John would add, can survive only in an order rooted in “truth, justice, charity and freedom.”

For the rest, Le Monde rightly notes, “there can be no mistaking that the encyclical’s closely written lines trace out new approaches heavy with meaning for the future.”

Things Old and New in “Pacem in Terris”

From America, April 27, 1963

By John Courtney Murray, S.J.

An adequate interpretation of the encyclical “Pacem in Terris” must wait on lengthy study, because the reach of the Popes words, in its breadth and depth, is greatly extensive. What follows are some comments on certain salient points of the encyclical, on the quality of the Pope’s thought and its major accents.

It is obvious, in the first instance, that the Pope here offers a shining example of everything that he means by his own word, aggiornamento. He situates himself squarely in the year 1963. There is not the slightest note of nostalgia, nor of lament over the past course of history or over the current situation that history has evoked here on earth. The Pope confronts all the facts of political, social, economic and cultural change that have been the product of the modern era. Generously and ungrudgingly, he accepts those elements of historical progress which can be recognized as such by the application of traditional principles as norms of discernment. Continue reading

The Cardinal of Unity

From America, April 13, 1963: 

The words “humble,” “gentle” and “love” were in frequent use to describe Cardinal Bea while he was in this country. Thus, the president of 100-year-old Boston College, in conferring the degree of Doctor of Civil and Canon Law on the cardinal, said that “in this humble German scholar, this gentle Roman prince, as in none other save Pope John the Great, we find our hope for a united flock which may hear unblushing testimony to the still pre-Christian world: ‘See how these Christians love one another.’”

The slightest hint of criticism from such a man, therefore, would be striking. In the first of his talks during Harvard University’s four-day Catholic-Protestant colloquium, the cardinal said: “We can even hope that this genuine spirit [of ecumenical attitude and concern] will grow more intense, especially if there be present [at the Second Vatican Council] more delegate-observers from the venerable Orthodox Churches of the East.” In his third and final talk at Harvard, the cardinal quoted Heidelberg professor D. Bornkamm, president of the German Evangelical Union, as saying that every Christian as well as every denomination has an interest in the Second Vatican Council. “In this light,” the cardinal continued, “one can see a certain justification for the criticisms which have been directed against church authorities, for instance, of the Baptist Alliance and the Greek Orthodox Church, who did not send observers to the Council.” Continue reading

Collegiality

The interest in Church affairs sparked by the Second Vatican Council has forced journalists, TV commentators, the man in the street, and even some professional theologians, to brush up on the latest in theological terminology. One term that keeps popping up with great frequency is “collegiality.” It designates a development of profound importance for the future course of the Council, and thus of the Church.

Perhaps the commonest use of the term is to indicate that the bishops of the world, as a body, are heirs of the twelve Apostles. In a sense, as Fr. Gregory Baum, O. S. A., has remarked, its more basic meaning refers to the Church as a whole. “The Church being the mystery of charity in the world, incarnate in a community, embraces her members in such a way that in all significant actions all members are in some sense involved.” The fact remains, however, that the concept of a body of bishops acting collegiately, as a college or conference, has rightly attracted the greatest attention and interest at the present moment.

Like so many developments in the Church, interest in this concept represents a return to, or renewal of interest in, a very ancient Catholic tradition. Indeed, some see in this renewed emphasis a much needed corrective to popular thinking. For some time, a common tendency has been to picture the Church in such a way as to leave the inadequate impression that all power and teaching authority is in the Pope. Actually, the bishops, in union with the Pope, their head, exercise their sacred ministry for the good of the universal Catholic community. Events in the first session of the Council served to demonstrate the high consciousness which the bishops of the whole world have of their corporate responsibility. Continue reading

A Thought for the Interim

From America, March 30, 1963, by William F. Barnett:

Evelyn Waugh’s remarks on Vatican 11 unveil a paradox—the isolated Catholic

Evelyn Waugh has spoken, simultaneously in National Review and in the London Spectator, to the bishops of Vatican II. Despite the fact that the Holy Father has called these men to Rome to effect the rejuvenation and renewal of the Church, Mr. Waugh pleads that they leave him in his present blissful tranquility. The storm breathlessly promised by his publishers has not yet broken in the wake of the article, and Mr. Waugh’s amazing request has received scant attention from the bishops, pastors, scholars and laymen of the Church. Of course, the leaders are busy these days; perhaps they judged this voice from the British Isles unworthy of note. This should not be so.

Mr. Waugh’s article contains several well-founded complaints and some useful suggestions, no one of which is, however, particularly significant. But the trend and tenor of his thought deserve serious consideration. It will not do to brush him off as a slightly eccentric littérateur. Rather, certain of his assertions most indicative of his fundamental point of view should be examined with care and candor. The months between the sessions of Vatican II seem particularly appropriate for such a study. Continue reading