The Russian Czar and the Orthodox Church hierarchy blamed the current civil unrest on the Jews. 300 Jews were killed at Odessa and 120 at Yekaterinoslav. Pamphlets urging pogroms were printed on a press of the Czar's secret police. [Haught, 1990, 150]
Pope [St.] Pius X issued the decree Lamentabili and the encyclical Pascendi gregis both of which condemned modernism. He thought that modernism threatened the purity of Catholic doctrine. [Cross, 1080; Grun 460]
The Roman Holy Office of Inquisition was renamed the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. [Kirsch, 208]
20,000 Armenians were killed by Turks. [Haught, 1990, 154]
Pope [St.] Pius X issued Sacrorum antistitum which contained an anti-modernist oath. In it he called modernism "Americanism" and said that it "represented 'the synthesis of all heresies.'" [Williams, 2003, 23; Cross, 1080]
"When a clearly defined dogma contradicts a scientific assertion, the latter has to be revised." [Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914, "Science and the Church" (article), "Conflicts" (section heading)]
"To undo the creed is to undo the Church. The integrity of the rule of faith is more essential to the cohesion of a religious society than the strict practice of its moral precepts." [Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914, "Heresy" vii, "Vindication of their teaching"]
While Ottoman Turks fought WWI on the German side, Christian Armenians backed by Russia rebelled and slaughtered Muslims, including 30,000 at Van. The Ottomans sent armies against them and forcibly relocated some. After WWI Muslim/Christian killing continued until the 1920s, when Armenia was incorporated into the Soviet Union. [Haught, 1990, 154]
During the Bolshevik revolution 60,000 Jews in 530 communities were killed, mostly by the anti-communist White Army and Ukrainian troops. [Haught, 1990, 150]
After receiving financial help from Mussolini, the Vatican ordered the Catholic Populist Party to disband. [Williams, 2003, 27]
Therese Neumann (1898-1962), a German stigmatic visionary, lived in the Bavarian village of Konnersreuth. She lost her health and her sight, and became bedridden. On the day of the beatification of Teresa of Lisieux (or Teresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face) in 1923, Therese Neumann reportedly regained her sight. On the day of Teresa of Lisieux's canonization in 1925, Therese Neumann reportedly regained her ability to walk.
During Lent in 1926, she began to have visions and to show stigmata, which bled on Fridays. She was alleged to have supernatural abilities, such as reading consciences and authenticating relics. Supposedly, Theresa took no solid food after 1922, and no nourishment at all after 1927 other than daily Holy Communion. As the news of her spread, pilgrims began visiting her village. Catholic authorities remained neutral and silent about her case. [Cross, 948; Grun, 490]
A Hungarian court acquitted a peasant family of beating an old woman to death for witchcraft. The court found that the defendants had acted out of "irresistible compulsion." [Ellerbe, 137]
Pope Pius XI published Mortalium animos: "On Fostering True Religious Unity." This encyclical forbade Catholics from taking part in Faith and Order or any other ecumenical movement to reunite the Christian churches. [Cross, 492 & 927; Grun 494]
The Vatican under Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini signed a concordat known as the "Lateran Treaty." The Vatican blessed the Italian fascist in return for money and recognition of the Vatican as a sovereign state. "In Berlin, Adolf Hitler was delighted with the news of the treaty." Hitler wrote: "The fact that the Catholic Church has come to an agreement with Fascist Italy proves beyond doubt that the Fascist world of ideas is closer to Christianity than those of Jewish liberalism or even atheistic Marxism...." The treaty also made Catholicism the "'official religion of Italy' and outlawed propaganda in favor of Protestantism." [Williams, 2003, 31]
Bernardo Nogara, financial manager for the Holy See, took over Banca di Roma for the Vatican. Pope Pius XI, in authorizing the investment, broke the tradition against usury, which was condemned by the Council of Nicaea in 325 and reaffirmed by many councils thereafter. [Williams, 2003, 36-37]
Catholic bishops, at a meeting in Fulda, Germany, voted down a condemnation of Nazism. "They hated liberalism and democracy much more than they hated Hitler." [Johnson, 1976, 482]
Adolph Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany. "The Nazis, thanks to the clandestine workings of the Vatican, had gained control of the government." [Williams, 2003, 44]
German Catholic bishops reversed their position and supported Hitler after he assumed power. The Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pacelli convinced Pope Pius XII not to oppose Hitler. [Johnson, 1976, 482]
Hitler told Bishop Berning of Osnabruch: "As for the Jews, I am just carrying on with the same policy which the Catholic church had adopted for 1500 years." [Johnson, 1976, 490]
Rome signed a concordat with Hitler, which unilaterally ceded all power to the Nazis and advised German Catholics to support Hitler's regime. At the time of the signing, Nazis had been asserting their hostility to Catholics by "by searching priests' houses, forcing Catholic clubs and organizations to liquidate themselves, dismissing Catholic civil servants, confiscating diocesan property, censoring Catholic papers, and even attempting to close Catholic schools." Priests and leading lay Catholics were arrested and held until the Catholic Bavarian People's Party dissolved itself. In the face of these provocations, there was nothing but silence from German Bishops and the Vatican. [Johnson, 1976, 482-483, 489]
Hitler and the Vatican signed a concordat. The Nazis promised state support for Catholic social programs, outlawed criticism of Catholic doctrines in schools and public forums, and instituted a "church tax" on incomes of all Catholics in Germany. The tax was 9 percent of gross income and was collected via payroll deductions. In return, the Vatican agreed that Germany's Catholic Center Party would dissolve itself. In addition, German Catholic bishops were forced to swear loyalty oaths to the Nazi regime. [Williams, 2003, 46]
The "Night of the Long Knives." Nazis purged the Reich. The executed included Dr Fritz Gerlich, editor of "Der Gerade Weg," a Munich Catholic weekly, Dr. Edgar Jung, prominent in Catholic Action, Dr Erich Klausner, General-Secretary of Catholic Action, Adalbert Probst, Director of the Catholic Sports Organization, and Father Bernard Stempfle, editor of an anti-Semitic Bavarian newspaper.
"Hitler refused to hand over their bodies to relatives and had them cremated in defiance of Catholic teaching." Evangelicals and Catholic bishops alike were silent, making no protest. One Evangelical bishop of Nassau-Hessen, a Dr. Dietrich, sent a congratulatory letter to Hitler, thanking him for the "rescue operation," and claiming that "he has been sent to us by God."
Cardinal Pacelli (later, Pope Pius XII), the Vatican's Secretary of State, stated that the atrocities against Jews and Catholics were matters of German internal affairs. [Johnson, 1976, 487; Williams, 2003, 48]
A munitions plant owned by the Vatican provided armaments for Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia. [Williams, 2003, 38]
The Nuremberg Laws forbade two Catholics to marry if one was non-Aryan. The Church had initially complained that the law infringed on its spiritual jurisdiction, but eventually gave in. The Church excommunicated Catholics who willed that they be cremated, but it did not forbid them to work in concentration or death-camps. "... at the end of 1938, 22.7 per cent of the SS were practising Catholics." [Johnson, 1976, 491]
Talking with Bishop Berning of Osnabruch, Adolf Hitler told him "there was no fundamental difference between National Socialism and the Catholic Church. ... 'I am only doing what the church has done for fifteen hundred years, only more effectively.' Being a Catholic himself, he told Berning, he 'admired and wanted to promote Christianity.'" [De Rosa, 5]
Pope Pius XI had prepared an encyclical that condemned Hitler's anti-Semitism and terrorism. He scheduled a meeting of the Italian hierarchy for February 11 to be followed by the public release of the document on the twelfth. On February 10 the pope died under mysterious circumstances. Not only was the encyclical never issued publicly, for decades the Vatican maintained that the document never existed. In 1997 scholars found a copy among the papers of Cardinal Eugenio Tisserant, who had been dean of the Sacred College under Pius XI.
Only Dr. Francisco Petacci and Cardinal Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) had access to Pius XI's body. Against Vatican tradition, they had the deceased pope's body immediately embalmed and refused to allow an autopsy.
It turned out that Dr. Petacci's daughter was one of Mussolini's mistresses, and Cardinal Pacelli's secretary, Monsignor Umberto Benigni, was an official of the Fascist Secret Police—a Nazi spy. [Williams, 2003, 49-54]
Cardinal Pacelli became Pope Pius XII on March 9, 1939. One of his first acts as pope was to send greetings to Hitler and "to strengthen papal ties to the Reich."
"Hitler's response to the groveling of the Austrian bishops was to revoke their concordat, close their schools, and loot and burn the palace of Cardinal Innitzer, their leader. Despite this, Pius XII ... could hardly wait to send Hitler a friendly letter." [Williams, 2003, 59; Johnson, 1976, 489]
In 1939 Hitler invaded predominantly Catholic Poland. He planned to kill the Polish intelligentsia, including clergy, and enslave everyone else. There were more than 2,000 concentration camps in Poland. "Altogether Poland lost six million citizens during the war years."
"In his 1939 encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, Pius XII condemned the war but not the German invasion." "...the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said vaguely that the pope suffered because of the destiny of a Catholic nation, but that the Holy See would remain impartial and speak in the name of truth and justice."
Polish clergy wrote to the pope in 1941, telling him how bad things were for Polish Catholics. The Polish ambassador to the Vatican told the Vatican's secretary of state about it also. In the fall of 1942, six countries, including the US and Britain sent separate letters to the pope, warning him about the loss of papal moral authority. In 1942 the English minister to the Holy See checked the record and told the Vatican that "Pope Pius had not referred explicitly and publicly to Poland since June of 1940."
For a long time, the Vatican's official position on their silence was that condemning the atrocities in Poland would just make matters worse for the Poles. A second reason given for inaction was that they didn't want to be accused of giving in to Allied pressure. A third reason: the Vatican feared the Germans would put an end to their charitable work for the Poles. Then they admitted that the Nazis hadn't allowed it up to that time anyway
It appears that the real reason for the Pope's silence was that he was afraid of German retaliation against the Vatican if he spoke out. Three times during the latter half of 1941, Pius sent a representative to Germany to plead for better treatment of Polish priests and lay people, but that accomplished nothing. When the Vatican pressed the Germans more strongly in 1942, they received threats from the Nazis, so they backed off.
But, Pius said privately that he wanted both an independent Poland and a strong postwar Germany. On several occasions he spoke about Germany's "vital necessities." [Phayer, Chapter 2]
It was believed that the pope feared communism more than Nazism.
Hitler conquered Yugoslavia and partitioned Catholic Croatia from Orthodox Serbia. A few days later, the primate of Croatia, Archbishop Stepinac, offered his congratulations to Hitler's new puppet ruler, Ante Pavelic, for the Fascist victory. He was the leader of the Croat fascist movement, the Ustasha. Besides being anti-Semitic, he was anti-Serb and pro-Catholic.The Catholic press published a statement which ended with "Glory be to God, our gratitude to Adolf Hitler, and infinite loyalty to chief Ante Pavelic." [Williams, 2003, 64; Phayer, 32]
Many Catholic priests were officers at Ustashi death camps in Croatia. Fr. Miroslav Filipovic, Fr. Zvonko Brekalo, Fr. Zvonko Lipovac, Fr. Josef Culina, Fr. Grga Blazevitch, and Br. Tugomire Soldo, all of whom were Franciscans, also took an active part in the atrocities.
Many more such atrocities by Croatian Catholics (including priests) are documented here. Williams comments that even some hardened Nazi officers were horrified; one reported to Hitler that "the Ustashi have gone raving mad." The massacres and plundering of Orthodox establishments resulted in much treasure being transferred to the Vatican. [Williams, 2003, 67-68]
Ample documentation exists which shows that Pope Pius XII and his closest advisers were well-informed throughout the war about the atrocities committed by the Croatians.
- The World Jewish Congress sent a letter to the Pope asking for help.
- Archbishop Stepinac of Croatia and the pope's personal representative in Croatia, Monsignor Ramiro Marcone, both regularly reported to him about the conditions in Croatia.
- Francis D'Arcy Osborne, London's Minister to the Vatican monitored and translated BBC broadcasts for the Pope.
- Prvislav Grizogono, former Minister of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, wrote an official letter to Pius XII listing the atrocities in Croatia.
Notwithstanding these reports and postwar documented stories in the international press, Pius XII did not censure the Ustashi, the Franciscans, or any member of the clergy.
After the war, when a war crimes tribunal found Archbishop Stepinac guilty and sentenced him to sixteen years in prison, then Pius XII publicly declared his outrage and excommunicated everyone who had taken part in the trial. Furthermore, in 1998 Pope John Paul II went to Croatia and announced the archbishop's beatification. [Williams, 2003, 70-72]
Corroboration and augmentation of the events in Croatia, described above, can be found in Chapter Three of Michael Phayer's The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965. The record clearly shows that Pope Pius XII wanted a Catholic Croatian state more than he wanted to end the genocide.
On order of the Nazis, 500 Polish Christian men shot to death 1800 Jews in one Polish village. [Newberg, 147]
The Vatican bank was founded by Pope Pius XII, despite never having withdrawn its ban against the charging of interest on loans "under any circumstances." The bank was involved in major financial scandals a few decades later. [De Rosa, 21]
Pope Pius XII finally condemned the Nazis. By this time the Germans had surrendered and Hitler was dead. [Johnson, 1976, 493]
"In a state where the majority of people are Catholic, the church will require that legal existence be denied to error, and that if religious minorities exist, they shall have only a de facto existence without opportunity to spread their unbeliefs." [Civilta Cattolica (Jesuit), quoted in Leedom, 265]
© R. Paul Buchman 2011