Excerpt from Papal Sin by Garry Wills, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Papal Sin

Structures of Deceit

by Garry Wills

Papal Sin
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2000, 304 pages
    Sep 2001, 256 pages

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So this document--which the Pope commends for calling "memory to play its necessary part in the process of shaping a future" (7)--establishes three entirely separate categories:

1. Those who caused the Holocaust--irreligious Nazis with a godless scientism about race, who were anti-Christian as well as anti-Jewish.

2. Those who opposed the Holocaust--Pope Pius XII and bishops and other authorities encouraging their followers to act in accord with the church's teaching.

3. Those who did not oppose the Holocaust enough--Christians too fearful to follow their brave leaders. It is only in the name of this last category that the document expresses "penitence."

What is left out of this picture? To begin with, the bishops and priests who were supportive of the Nazis are expunged from the memory that Pope John Paul says is supposed to guide us into the future.

The [papal] nuncio to Berlin throughout the war, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, was a Nazi sympathizer, and far from the only friend of the Nazis in the hierarchy. The rector of the German College in Rome, Archbishop Alois Hudal, who was useful in dealing with the Nazis during their occupation of Rome, was another, and many members of Hitler's government, like Ernst von Weizsacker, the ambassador to the Vatican and an old acquaintance of the Pope [Pius XII], professed to be good Catholics. When Weizsacker was credited to the Vatican in 1943, the papal limousine that took him to his audience flew the papal flag and the swastika side by side, "in peaceful harmony," as Weizsacker noted proudly.2

1 Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, Vatican translation (Pauline Books, 1998), p. 14. Numerical references in my text are to pages of this edition.

2 Charles R. Morris, American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America's Most Powerful Church (Times Books, 1997), p. 239. John F. Morley, a historian who is also a priest, concluded, on the basis of the extensive diplomatic correspondence between Orsenigo and the Vatican: "Whether aware or not, Orsenigo was indifferent to what happened to the Jews. His superiors in the [Vatican] Secretariat of State, however, were well informed, and yet they manifested no concern for the Jews." Morley, Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews During the Holocaust, 1939-1943 (KTAV Publishing House, 1980), p. 128.

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Excerpted from Papal Sin by Garry Wills Copyright© 2000 by Garry Wills. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday Religion, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher

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