CATHOLIC PewPOINT:

Have they forgotten the lessons of history?

     Today we celebrate the optional feast of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, a bishop and doctor. No one knows if he was born a Jew but we do know he converted to Christianity and cared deeply about the Jewish people under his jurisdiction as head of Jerusalem's flock - Christian and non-Christian. His life was filled with strife and accusations stemming from jealousies and the politics of Arian sympathizers. It is not unsimilar to another great man of the Church whose life was filled with strife during the terrible war of nations known as the Second World War. In the aftermath of that terrible time accusations were slung like misguided arrows at Pope Pius XII who was unjustly accused of remaining silent while hundreds of thousands Jews were murdered in the gas chambers of the Nazi and, later, Soviet death camps. The most notable, of course, is Auschwitz where just this weekend the controversy reached a crescendo over the removal of a twenty-six foot cross that had been part of a Carmelite convent that was built in memory of the souls who died there. The good nuns prayed night and day for not only the souls of those murdered, but also for their murderers. But in recent times the Carmelites were forced to forsake it and abandon the convent to the Polish government because of political pressure from the Jews. The latter screamed in protest that this "cross" was an affront to their fellow Jews - nearly one and a half million - who died. They failed to recognize that over 75,000 Catholics were also put to death at this same camp, including Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Blessed Edith Stein, a convert from Judaism. They lament their countrymen and well they should, but they should not deprive others, especially in a Catholic country such as Poland, homeland of our Holy Father, of a fitting memorial to all the slain. Perhaps it is too vivid a reminder of the tree their ancestors, both silently and vociferously, approved be raised to hang an innocent Man on nearly 2000 years ago. Perhaps they forget that it was Catholics, clergy and the Church who have stood with them throughout history in their persecutions, with great saints taking unpopular stands in their favor because it was the right thing to do. But evidently with these Jewish voices, the loudest coming from factions in the United States such as the Jewish Anti-Defamation League headed by national director Abraham Foxman and Phil Baum, head of the American Jewish Congress, they want blood! Why?

      We can't presume to answer their reasoning, only what the Roman Catholic Church has done and only by studying the causes and effects of history. Over the centuries the Inquisition created ill will with many and often it could have been handled better. But what so many historians seem to forget is that this was not the sole working of Rome, but rather heavy influence from monarchs in Europe who used the Inquisition for their own personal gain and, sadly, used Holy Mother Church in the process. We must remember man was born with Original Sin and therefore no one is perfect, not pope, bishop, priest, religious, lay person, king, peasant, aristocrat, rabbi, or minister. There were many throughout history who took advantage of the Church both those employed by her and those who used her for their own purposes. If one truly studies the causes and effects of history, especially European history one can see the intertwining tableau of monarchies that feared competition. That was the main reason kings, dukes and the like tried to curb Jews and their activities during those years for the Jews formed their own exclusive cliques to try to monopolize and manipulate markets. It had nothing to do with religion! That's right! In fact, we suspect there were more priests available to minister to the victims of the holocaust than there were rabbis, but the American Jewish factions fail to recognize this and instead lash out at another Pole - John Paul II, who himself was a first-hand victim of the atrocities while growing up in Poland. There was and is no greater sympathizer to the Jewish cause than this wise Pope.

      This past Monday, with the supreme pontiff's approval, the document "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah (Holocaust)" was released to the public in which the Holy Father stated, it is our "fervent hope that this document will help heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and injustices committed by Christians against Jews." But because he didn't crucify his fellow pontiff Pope Pius XII in the document released by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, headed by Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy of Australia, they cry for more blood and call the document "a travesy", "hollow," even "bizarre." What do they want? Did they want the Holy Father to admit Pius XII and Nazi despot Adolph Hitler were in cahoots? Talk about absurd! Hitler, once a seminarian, had abandoned his faith and his Church and had subsequently excommunicated himself. He was no longer Catholic. Blaming Hitler's actions on the Church is akin to blaming any criminal activity by anyone born a Catholic, but not living his faith, on the Church. Or it is similar to placing the blame for any criminal no matter how old on the parents. Sorry, we don't buy that! If it was a child, then we could see parental responsibility. But over the years other factors come into play and the parents can do just so much, just as the Church can do just so much. The two have tried to instill the values and ethics so important in leading good, upstanding lives with the ultimate goal of an eternal afterlife as the reward. But we forget about another major player in all of this, one who loves to throw blame around, namely satan. He takes great pride in the state of our society today and it is society that has ruined so many souls because of the seven deadly sins which are just that - fatal. Such was the case of Hitler and many other ruthless, murdering dictators throughout history - both modern and ancient history which includes the Old Testament times.

     The whole crusade against Pius XII began with protests from New York Jews after World War II, not before or during. In fact, during the war, specifically on Christmas Day, 1941 just weeks after America entered the war, the New York Times wrote in their editorial, "The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas...He is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all." It is a known fact that German Nazis were not happy with Pius' election on March 2, 1939 for he had long been a vociferous opponent of Nazism. Many complain that Pius XII was "too silent" about the aberrations going on in Germany. Perhaps they fail to realize why. Could it be that by speaking out too strongly he would have endangered the lives of millions of more Catholics not only in Germany, but France and Poland as well? Could it be that his "silence" was really working underground to effect change, to help the allies defeat this mad Arian and his regime which was the scourge of Europe? Could it be that behind the scenes his "silence" was devoted to countless hours of prayer and petition to Heaven for a resolution to this armageddon?

     That same "silence" was being heard in convents and monasteries around the world where religious were praying night and day for God's Mercy on the devastation that befell Europe and the Pacific theater. That same "silence" was busy in the Carmelite monastery for years after the atrocities of Auschwitz. But the Jewish power-brokers don't buy "silence" - they want noise and the more they make, the more they denigrate others such as the Carmelites who were forced to abandon their accommodations for a safer place. We doubt all Jews feel the same way or would express the same "outrage" that Foxman and Baum are spouting in order to grab center stage. But it only takes a few to make some noise. John Paul II, in a sincere effort to bring Christians and Jews together, has released this document out of love and reconciliation. Yet you don't have to be intelligent to make a lot of noise, just have a loud voice and ears to hear it. The media are the ears and they make even louder noise, looking for the sensational, looking for every opportunity to please their Jewish bosses and bash Catholics. It's a common thread that's been going on for years. But for Catholics to cry out "foul?" Well, that's not politically correct! Political correctness be damned, we accept the abuse not because we don't have any other recourse or are afraid, but chiefly because Jesus Christ said we would be persecuted for Him, and to willingly carry our crosses daily. For the Vatican, this is a cross. But they carry it willingly and take the slings and arrows of accusations, false charges, exaggerations and ignorance of what really happened. Father Kurt Peter Gumpel has done extensive research on the subject in spearheading Pius XII's cause for canonization and, as a sort of "devil's advocate" has discovered that Pius XII should be absolved of any wrong-doing as should those who came after him, especially our present pontiff who has shown more love and concern toward the Jewish people than anyone since a certain Carpenter walked their land nearly 2000 years ago - the same Man Who they proclaimed "King of the Jews." But they failed to realize all He told them that His kingdom was not of this world, just as today they fail to realize Pius XII's methods were based on Christ's teaching and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - also not of this world. Just as they crucified Christ, they try to do the same to Eugenio Pacelli today nearly forty years after the death of this quiet, but effective and holy Pope. Have they forgotten the lessons of history?

Michael Cain, editor


Daily CATHOLIC          March 18, 1998