In a letter he wrote to The Sun on Oct.16, Michael Kelly calls the current saying on the St. Pius sign at the corner of Elm and Cross streets “a disgrace” and “destructive to human intellect and moral behavior.”
The sign reads, “Remain silent and you will never regret it; speak, and you often will.”
That quote is not mine, incidentally; it’s actually from the writings of a canonized saint of the Church, Josemaria Escriva. St. Josemaria meant it, of course, with respect to those uncharitable, insulting remarks that all of us can be tempted at times to make toward other people. It was certainly not meant either to approve of or to encourage silence in the face of gross, moral evil.
Thankfully, most readers of the sign that I’ve spoken to understood that.
Mr. Kelly then takes the opportunity in his letter to resurrect the old canard concerning Pope Pius XII’s alleged “silence” in the face of the Nazi atrocities of the Second World War.
The fact is, Pius XII was not silent. That lie was born in the early 1960s with an anti-Catholic play called “The Deputy” — a play that was written by an ex-member of Hitler Youth named Rolf Hochhuth.
Prior to that time, Pius XII had been recognized for what he was: a courageous hero who worked quietly to save as many Jewish lives as possible, knowing that an open confrontation with the Nazis would bring a backlash against the very people he was trying to help. The result of Pius’ many efforts, as Jewish historian Pinchas Lapide has rightly noted, was the saving of nearly 800,000 Jewish lives.
What I always find interesting is that most of the people who condescendingly criticize Pius XII rarely go back and read what his contemporaries said about him.
Here are a few quotes from prominent world figures who knew what the pope had done:
Golda Meir, who would later become Prime Minister of Israel, said this after Pius died in 1958: “When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for its victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out about the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”
In 1945, toward the end of the war, Israel Herzog, chief rabbi of Jerusalem, said: “The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion which form the very foundation of true civilization, are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history, which is living proof of divine Providence in this world.”
And then we have this testimony from Albert Einstein, which was quoted in Time Magazine on Dec. 23, 1940:
“Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany I looked for the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the case of truth; but no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom. But they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I had never any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess, that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly.”
Even the New York Times (which has slandered Pius often in recent years) praised him during the war. Here’s what the editors of the Times said in their Christmas editorial of 1942: “The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas. ... He is about the only ruler left on the continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all.” (One wonders if the current editors of the Times have lost access to their own archives.)
It is interesting that Mr. Kelly uses the case of Pius XII to criticize the current saying on the St. Pius sign, since by giving voice to his criticism he inadvertently verifies the truth of the saying.
Rev. Raymond Suriani, pastor, St. Pius X Church