One of the sad chapters of the Holocaust is the giving of children by desperate Jewish parents to Christians who were kind enough to take in the children. Christian families, as well as certain institutions, risked their own safety to take in these children.
In some cases, such as with Abe Foxman of the ADL, the children returned to their Jewish roots and Jewish lives. However, it now turns out that in 1946, Pope Pius XII instructed the Church not to release Jewish orphans under its care who had been baptized. Needless to say, any baptisms occurred without the knowledge and consent of the parents who may have been carted off to their deaths because they were Jewish. However, even if somebody could argue that the baptisms were legitimate, how can keeping children from their birth religion be legitimate? How can anyone conceive of doing this after the horror of what was done to the Jews by the Nazis became public knowledge?
This Pope had already been in the crossfire in an ongoing debate among many scholars (Jewish and gentile) for his role in during the War, particularly in the early years, with respect to Jews. Some accuse him of turning a blind eye to the plight of Jews, while others claim what he did was too little, and often too late. The Vatican has been attempting to beatify this Pope, and to that end had invited a group of scholars (Jewish and gentile) to investigate their historical archives. Something must have caused them to change their minds because they placed restrictions upon the group, and limited access to documents to a degree that members of the team resigned in protest. The historical debate over this Pope will therefore remain unresolved (the Vatican documents are crucial to understanding the history), but the Vatican is plowing ahead with its goal of making him, eventually, into a saint.
This letter is sure to become a significant blot on Pius’s record and confirmation of many claims made against his actions, leadership and motivations during WWII. What is sadder about this letter, is that its existence will create even more friction as the Vatican proceeds with its beatification process, and will become a contentious issue between Jews and Catholics.
The Vatican has not been overly friendly to Israel, and at times even hostile, but the current Pope, and the Catholic Church since the mid-60s, have made efforts to seek common ground and rapprochement with Jews and to find ways to overcome centuries-old biases and hatred against Jews within the Church.
In fact, Mel Gibson was poking a finger in the Church’s eye with The Passion because he belongs to an offshoot group from the Catholic Church that believes the Church inappropriately re-framed the depiction and perception of Jews because of political correctness and a cultural emphasis on Jewish victimhood during the Holocaust, particularly as a result of centuries of antisemitism within the Church. I believe that Gibson emphasized, during what I believe to be a disgusting and divisive marketing campaign, that Jews did not deserve any different consideration for what happened to them in WWII, than, say, Russian victims of the Nazis. He seemed to emphasize, in the marketing and in the film itself, that Jews were guilty of the worst accusations made against them in the Gospels. Hmmmm, maybe I should write a treatment for a very laudatory bio-pic of Pope Pius XII (starring Gibson himself, of course) and send it off to Gibson’s Icon Production. Yes, that’s what I’ll do! I’ll be rich! RICH!
By the way, one of the most touching and best made films I’ve ever seen touches on this topic. Aux Revoir Les Enfants by Louis Malle is a masterpiece that shows the good heart of many Christians. More important, it is a great film about childhood and friendship with moments that ring so true and so amazing that it ranks among my favorite films of all time. And that’s a hard list to join…SEE IT!