x w v u t s r
b q
a c d e f g p
h o
i j k l m n

Hitler and the Vatican by Peter Godman
notes & commentary by William P. Meyers

Search This Site

Pages By Topic

Early Christianity
Fascism and Religion
Pagan Ideas


Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next

Hitler and the Vatican: Inside the Secret Archives That Reveal the New Story of the Nazis and the Church. The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York 2004. ISBN 0-7432-4597-0

The first Catholic dignitary Godman places some blame on is Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, then Secretary of State to Pius XI. Gasparri wrote a memo in 1933, after Hitler was already in power, recommending the Catholic Centre Party be dissolved and that Catholics be allowed to join the Nazi Party. [p. 6] Again, this sheds some light. A lot of Catholics had already joined the Nazis. The Catholic Church had said its members should not join the Nazi Party, but that is because they were wanted in the Catholic Party and other small German parties that were far more conservative than the Nazis. The reality was the Nazis were not a religious party; there was no religious test for admission. The Nazis needed to grow their membership to come to power; only Jews were excluded.

A lot of the politics of the era is summed up correctly by Godman early on: “Patron and mentor to Pacelli, Pius XI had begun, in March 1933, to take a more positive view of Hitler than previously. Communism—the worst of threats, in the Vatican’s eyes—was the reason.” [p8] But how dim could Pius XI’s view have been before 1933 when Franz von Papen, Pius’s henchman in Germany, conducted most of the negotiations that put Hitler in power?

There are some comparisons between the Church’s attitude towards the Fascists in Italy and the Nazi’s in Germany. “Catholics were recommended to vote for the government of the Hon. Mussolini in 1929 to ensure that Parliament would ratify the Lateran Pacts.” [p. 15] But generally Godman overstates Vatican ambiguity towards Mussolini. He also does not consider that there is a nice spectrum to consider: the Church’s unwavering support of Franco and Petain, who were in agreement with it on almost every point, and at the other end Hitler’s relatively high level of disagreement motivated by his need to unite a Germany that had a Protestant Christian majority and a significant pagan & atheist minority. “As he [Mussolini] remarked to his brother Arnaldo, a devout Catholic: ‘We intended that the Church should become a pillar of the regime. We never thought that the regime would become the servant of the Church’” [p. 16] But the same could be said for Pius XI, who helped engineer the rise of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco to power: he never intended that he would become a mere servant. The disagreements between the Vatican, Hitler and Mussolini do not illustrate the Vatican’s holiness or lack of culpability; they illustrate the limits of its power in the realpolitik of the 20th century.

For the record, Eugenio Pacelli was papal nuncio in Munich and then Berlin between 1917 and 1929 [p. 22]. He was in a position to keep the Nazis from coming to power. Whatever his disagreements with them, he was far more focused on his disagreements with secular socialists.

The real aims of church leaders are clearly stated by Domenico Tardini in 1937, as Franco’s priests handed in lists of Spanish men who had not been attending mass, and Franco’s soldiers lined them up and shot them: “Rome now has with the Pope a truly universal authority; an authority which, although of spiritual quality, must necessarily be expressed through and entire organization of external government based and centered here. So it is that, at long last, Rome truly governs the world.” [p. 23]

The Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office was the most powerful group under the Pope. From 1542 to 1908 it had been known as the Inquisition. Eugenio Pacelli became a member in 1930 when he became Secretary of State. As a member he agreed with all but one member to keep the “perfidious Jews” reference as Catholic dogma. In fact Pius XI dissolved the organization that petitioned for the change, Pax super Israel. [p. 23-26]

Next Page