Vatican- Rat Line- Myth
(Kevin Madigan’s Offenses against History)
William Doino Jr.
At the end of the Second World War, when the Nuremberg prosecutors were gathering evidence for the upcoming trials, one of the many people they turned to for assistance was Pope Pius XII. They were not disappointed. The Holy See sent on massive documentation, recounting Nazi criminality, and the material given proved to be of great value.
Pius XII made it a point to meet with chief
prosecutor, Robert Jackson, and also announced: “Not only do we approve of the trial, but we desire that the guilty
be punished as quickly as possible, and without exception.”
“Among the many legends about the Vatican inherited from World War II is the allegation that Pope Pius XII knowingly and willingly assisted hunted Nazi war criminals to escape from justice by taking flight overseas—particularly to Latin America. He is supposed to have regarded these ex-SS men as an elite to be preserved, for the ultimate world struggle against Communism.
It is never asked why the Pope should lift a finger for a group of men who had apostatized from their religion and who were the chosen instruments of Hitler to: ‘crush the Church underfoot like a toad.’”
This is a way of thinking that comes naturally to a certain type of mind steeped in the literature of left-wing writers, according to which all Vatican policy is explicable by an ‘obsession’ with Communism.
But it’s not just the Left that has been misled. The Wall Street Journal recently endorsed a PBS documentary (“Elusive Justice”) which continued the charge; Max Hastings otherwise excellent new history of the War, Inferno, repeats it; and in its December issue Commentary magazine published an egregious piece entitled: “How the Catholic Church Sheltered Nazi War Criminals.”
article is written by Kevin Madigan, a Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard. Employing just the kind of narrative
Graham warned against, Madigan depicts a grand conspiracy within the post-War Church, whereby the Vatican allegedly
set up a network to recruit, fund, and protect fleeing Nazi war criminals.
There were also several dozen separate Catholic agencies, usually for designated national groups, which operated on their own responsibility, though the pope tried to help each out as best he could, with the intention of helping the innocent and the good. Countless decent people were helped, but because of the chaotic post-War situation, a number of suspected or known war criminals exploited the system, and were abetted by a number of collaborationist clerics.
Among the most notorious were Bishop Alois Hudal, head of the Austro-German Church and seminary in Rome; and the Croatian priest, Krunoslav Draganovi . Neither were “Vatican officials” (as has often been claimed), and Graham described how they betrayed their faith, and flagrantly violated the pope’s commands.
For anti-papal ideologues, however, it is essential that they link Pius XII to these guilty priests, since exposing the sins of renegade clerics just doesn’t have the cache of a full-throated j’accuse against the papacy. The problem is that “there is simply no evidence against Pius XII,” as Guy Walters, an investigative authority, has recently written.
Still, Madigan tries. He outrageously writes that “the PCA viewed itself as a sort
of papal mercy program for National Socialists and Fascists.” Hudal, we are told, was “someone dedicated to extending
papal charity to ‘so-called’ war criminals,” but Hudal spoke of Christian charity, not papal directives;
and while the two frequently and emphatically disagreed on how to implement it, Hudal and Pius XII did see eye
to eye on one occasion—when they both rescued Jews during the German occupation of Rome, a fact Madigan leaves
Cymet accuses the pope of refusing to return Jewish children, rescued by Catholics during the Holocaust, to their rightful Jewish guardians—a hoax that was exposed many years ago, but which Madigan repeats as fact.
Following Cymet, Madigan also rails against Pius XII for allegedly seeking “pardons” for condemned Nazi war criminals—as if he wanted them to go free—when, in reality, what the pope did was ask they be spared the death penalty (while remaining locked-down in prison), just as he appealed for the Rosenbergs, when they, too, faced execution.
Pius believed in tempering justice with mercy, even for the worst criminals, be
they Nazis or Communists, knowing God would have the final say, for eternity. That is not a universally accepted
view, but it is certainly a Christian one.
Though less polemical than Cymet, Steinacher is no less misinformed. Nazis on the Run posits a close friendship between Hudal and Pius XII, missing entirely Pius’s call for Hudal’s censure, even before he became pope. Steinacher also peddles the image of Pius as a blind anti-Communist, ignoring the pope’s intervention for American lend-lease to Russia, and his numerous statements calling Nazism an even graver threat than Bolshevism.
Given his cynical, secular views, it’s not surprising to find Steinacher also mocking
baptism, repentance and conversion, depicting them as mere techniques to foster Pius’s supposed political agenda.
But nothing Steinacher says about Pius XII equals his treatment of Giovanni Battista Montini, Pius’s wartime assistant
and the future Pope Paul VI.
At a key point in his polemic, Madigan tries to employ Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld
in the campaign against Pius XII. Klarsfeld, however, has emerged as one of the wartime pope’s principled defenders,
telling the French journal Le Point, “Pius XII had a decisive role against Hitler, but also in the fight
against Communism in Eastern Europe.” Noting how the pope helped save thousands of Jews in Rome, Klarsfeld remarked:
“There is no reason why Pius XII should not become a saint.”
For more articles and a Booklet on wartime Croatia, see references: ,  and .