April 12, 2007
April 14-15, 2007, weekend

April 13, 2007


The question of how much Pope Pius XII did in World War II to save Jews from the Holocaust continues to be debated fiercely. Now it has causes the Vatican's ambassador to Israel to boycott an annual Holocaust memorial next week because it portrays the pope in a negative light. I wish I could be around 100 years from now to read a much more fully documented account of this history. At the moment, my reading is that Pius didn't do enough but he did more than many of his critics contend.

* * *


Earlier this week I served on a panel at St. Paul School of Theology as part of a program called "The Future of Civility."

Saintpaul_2Our panel was to discuss "Civility in the Local News." The other panelists were Vincent Orza, a former TV anchor who serves now as the dean of the business school at Oklahoma City University, and the Rev. Gordon McClellan, an associate pastor at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kan.

Lots of good discussion, but I thought these were some interesting points made either by one of the panelists or by someone in the audience:

* We don't own God. When we imagine we have God all figured out and then treat others as if they're all wrong about their perceptions of God, it leads to a lack of civility and needless division.

* Two major U.S. Supreme Court decisions have been occasions for the profound religious divide that continues to bedevil the nation: The decision outlawing school-led prayer in public schools in the early 1960s and the 1973 decision legalizing abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. Those decisions did not cause the divisions so much as reveal them. And until we can reach some consensus as a society on the issues involved, we may not be able to re-establish civil discourse as normative.

* Labels inevitably hide more than they reveal. Our use of labels to describe people or groups of people should be careful and judicious, and we should pay attention to nuance.

* Too few people have time or take time for reflection. Information comes at us so fast from so many directions that, in response, we sometimes simply fly off the handle and spew out, Don Imus-like, whatever first comes into our heads. As Orza said: "There's never a moment when someone's not saying something."

I'll stop there so you can reflect. Take your time. (And for regular commenters on this blog, I appreciate those of you who try to be part of the solution.)

Oh, and by the way, click here for an interesting recent New York Times piece about civility on blogs.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow is about my recent visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.)

P.S.: If you haven't read much writing by Kurt Vonnegut, who died this week, you should, of course, read Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle, but for a sense of his religious beliefs (or non-beliefs), read his book Palm Sunday, especially the Palm Sunday sermon he preached once at a church in New York. Vonnegut was one of my favorite writers, even though he sometimes disappointed me.



Civility? On blogs? Why should blogs be different from the rest of the world? We as a public can't obey speed limit signs while driving, and they think we could be civil to each other?

We view joining hands and singing "Kumbaya" as naive fru-fru, and somebody thinks we should be civil to each other? Ha!

Must be leftist liberal Commie Nazi dreamers.

Just Thinking

So the *entire* Catholic Church is offended by the caption on a picture:

The caption that accompanies a photo of Pope Pius XII says his "reaction to the murder of the Jews during the Holocaust is a matter of controversy" and that "his silence and the absence of guidelines obliged churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react."

"It hurts to go to Yad Vashem and see how Pius XII is presented there," Franco said to the Italian bishops news agency SIR. Yeah, truth hurts, eh, Franco?

And yet these thin-skinned, drama queens couldn't haven't foreseen the offense taken by Muslims to the Pope quoting that the only thing new brought to religion by Muhammad was both evil and inhuman? I think the Pope should just wear his ruby red slippers, his best dress and tiara, arrive fashionably late in the Pope mobile, and nobody will even notice the caption.

The only thing new brought to religion by having a Pope has been both evil and inhuman. That's what the caption should read, and that should not offend Catholics at all, especially if it is presented as academic discussion and presented as a quote from someone else. It wasn't us that said this ... we're just quoting.


From the article to which Bill refers: "The caption that accompanies a photo of Pope Pius XII says his "reaction to the murder of the Jews during the Holocaust is a matter of controversy" and that "his silence and the absence of guidelines obliged churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react.""

To be frank, I find that commentary rather mild, especially in comparison to what could be and has been said. I'm sorry that the Vatican's ambassador was offended, and regret he feels the whole Catholic Church is offended.

Of course, being offended is far more comfortable than being exterminated. In addition, extermination was 60+ years ago, and offended is now.

I guess it's a matter of differences in perspective.

I haven't visited Yad Vashem, and I wonder if it doesn't provide more than a picture of Pius XII, however. Is there a picture of Martin Luther with captions, relieving the burden placed on the Pope? Or photos of the crowds at Nazi rallies, asking "What were these people thinking?"

I will say this in semi-defense of the Papacy: Welcome to the real world. When you attempt to tell the entire world how you must believe and must act, you do tend to draw attention to yourself. Because of the uniqueness of the position and the size of the world-wide congregation, the Pope can easily become a focal point, a "target." In defining the faith and the organization, it's to be expected, just like the President becomes the focal point for the United States, or the Prime Minister for Britain, or the president of a corporation.


"I'm sorry that the Vatican's ambassador was offended, and regret he feels the whole Catholic Church is offended."

Why would Isreal think that the Vatican ambassador should attend an event at this museum? Did they think he'd stand awrong having tea and crumpets in front of a photo that insinuated the Pope may have collaborated with Hitler to kill all the Jews in Eurpore? It's good that he found out that Isreal had created such a display before he showed up. I'm sure he would have felt obliged to denounce the exhibit and leave immediately in shock and anger. Better to just stay home.


"It's good that he found out..." Ron, did you even bother to READ the article? If you had, did you notice the paragraph that said, ""This photo offends the entire Catholic Church," he [Franco] said, adding he had already conveyed his disapproval of the use of the picture last year."??????

Franco would attend as "Ambassador." Just like the Russian ambassador to the U.S. will attend 4th of July celebrations, or a U.S. ambassador will attend civic events in foreign countries.

It's what ambassadors are supposed to do. (Just like commentators are supposed to read articles before commenting on them.)

Gentle Ben

A panel on civility with Panelist from this hateful rag, and a minister from Johnson County's home of hate, Prairie Village Presbyterian. How many times have they held conferences there that have been denounced by the Jewish Chronicle as anti-Semitic? And isn't that the church where Bob Meneilly stood in the pulpit and launched his campaign of hate against evangelicals? It's fine for his church to be political, but no one else's better be (at least if they're a fundie, or a pro-life Catholic).

Saint Paul's is also somewhat of a nut house if memory serves. In fact, isn't it the home of the character who was a poobah in Meneilly's brownshirts? Wamley, or something like that. He was a war protester against our forces in World War II and the feds also forced him to register as an agent for North Korea. Great collection for a discussion of civility. Who did they decide to lynch to make society more civil, the Jews, or the fundies? Talk about birds of a feather.

Gentle Ben

Having said that, in the interests of civility, I volunteer to hold hands with Keith and sing Kumbaya as long as we can sing it by inserting the words to the Lord's Prayer while standing in the driveway of an abortion clinic ;0

Gentle Ben

Well, since no one else is volunteering, let me also add that had there been no Fox News, or no conservative sources of news available, this conference would not have been held. If it was still CBS, NBC and ABC lying through their teeth to us every night, this panel would not have been convened. To be honest, the real topic should have been "Silencing the right".


Of course, Ben. As long as I can stand in your driveway, sing "Onward Christian (or Jewish) Soldiers" and make decisions especially for your wife's and daughters' lives.

I figure one good turn deserves another. Right? ;-O


Wow, Keith. Isreal knew the ambassador was outraged by the photo and caption, but went ahead and left it up and invited him to attend anyway? That's outrageous. Were they trying to ambush him? Were they going to try and usher him over to the photo and try to get him to admit once and for all the Catholic Church collaborated with Hitler to kill all the the Jews in Eurpoe?

I think the ambassador made the right decision to stay away.

Just Thinking

It's fine for the Catholics to stand up for what they think is right, Gentle. There's every evidence right here in this blog that they will fight you to the death on what they feel is right, regardless of the tactics required to do it.

For example, the current Pope thinks that Muhammad brought only evil and inhuman things to religion and he stood up for it. One could argue that he didn't know what he was doing by just quoting such a thing. However, the way these Catholic drama queens reacted to the simple caption that suggested Pius did nothing is perfect evidence of how they are always keenly aware of how things will be taken. SO THEY KNEW HOW THAT QUOTE ABOUT MUHAMMAD WOULD BE TAKEN. They were taking a stand, this little drama queen episode is proof of it.

That's what leads me to believe that Pope Pius absolutely agreed with Hitler. Otherwise, he would have been brave and would have stood up, right? He would have found his way of throwing Papal wads, but maybe he just saves those for the mouths of little children.

Notice how they still won't test their priests for HIV, even though the estimates are that 1 in 6 priests in this country are infected with HIV. We know what they think about all of that, too, don't we.


"That's what leads me to believe that Pope Pius absolutely agreed with Hitler."

If the newly elected Pope were to get up and rant and rave about the Jews, it would have served no purpose and would have threatened Vatican sovereignty.
In reading all the scholarship out there, there is a big probability that Pius XII was doing a lot behind the scenes to help them out. You go beyond silence as consent and take it to mean wholesale approval. It really doesn't follow, but you want to take any opportunity to demonize anything Catholic, so extrapolate away!
Anyway, that is a silly and adolescent approach to history, there is a lot there that you are ignoring. As fun as it is to laugh at whatever mild form of paranoid schizophrenia that you are taking medication for, the reason Pius XII didn't get up and rant might have been to prevent endangering the ability of the Church to help and to serve the rest of the world. That is unreasonable to you, but I don't think anyone who reads what you write would ever say that you are a standard of "reasonableness." In fact, it may lead them to wonder if the internet is a good thing to have in the asylums.


I'm curious as to what Franco and the Catholic hierarchy would deem a fair caption under the picture.

Bill may have posted it before and my memory isn't serving me, but has there ever been any kind of acknowledgment that the church might have done more during the Holocaust? Or is its position that its efforts were adequate?

It's not fair for the Catholic Church to take the only hit here, but it would seem that most of us who are Christians could not issue enough mea culpas or apologies for not doing more to aid the Jews. And I say that from the perspective of someone who was born after WWII.


"Pius Xii, the Holocaust And the Revisionists: Essays"

Good book on this whole controversy. It isn't available online so you who only go to wikipedia or DailyKos for your info, this might be a stretch for your minds. JT, sorry, it isn't the Bible and you might not want to endanger your airtight faith.

Dolores Lear

Is killing more evil when Christians kill Jews, and Muslims kill Chlristians, than countries using Christians, Jews, and Muslims, killing Chlristians, Jews, and Muslims? What is the degree that one war is more evil than another? What makes one religious group, kill Humans of the same religious group, in a country or in riots?

Which God are Humans following, when they Kill? Is there any religion that does not Kill? Do all religions have a God that says, Thou Shalt Not Kill? Why?

If so, why do Humans kill their Brothers/Sisters of Life? To get rid of Evil? How can we get rid of Evil when we use Evil also against Evil? Until we know, what made Humans start killing Humans, and Evil being the Lifestyle on Earth, will there be and end to Evil, before we blow up our Home with our nuclear bombs?

Dolores Lear

Does the God of the USA, which God?, the Christian God?, let us have more Evil bombs and weapons of massive destruction, because we have the One True God? Is the Christian USA the chosen children of God?

Gentle Ben


You're on. You can sing whatever you want. Given the overblown reaction to Don Imus I'm in a real defense of the first amendment mood and have even found myself in agreement with Howard Stern (however, as usual, Ann Coulter had the best analysis of the issue).

Oh, your smiley was better than mine, but I normally don't do that smarmy stuff. Have a great weekend, comrade.

(How's that for civil?)

Dolores Lear

Are all Humans on Earth the children of God? Why are the children of God, killing all Life on our Home? Is the God on Earth a Killer God, or a God of Peace? Why are all Humans on Earth Serving the Killer God? Is there any religion, that has all members that do not Kill?


"Why would Isreal think that the Vatican ambassador should attend an event at this museum? Did they think he'd stand awrong having tea and crumpets.........."

Well. To be honest, that's what an ambassador does. When you represent this country in another country, you are often entering territory that is not completely friendly. That's the point of being an ambassador. It's to foster good will and to try to negotiate for what you want. That's why I asked what caption the Catholic Church would like. Would it not make more sense to attend and to try to persuade change?

Just Thinking

One thing about it, Corbie, your history speaks for itself.

"In reading all the scholarship out there, there is a big probability that Pius XII was doing a lot behind the scenes to help them out."

Probability is all you have? When there is no evidence of Pius doing anything, then that IS history, Corbie, even thought it contradicts your delusion: "Anyway, that is a silly and adolescent approach to history, there is a lot there that you are ignoring."

Just Thinking

Oh, and you can stop posting now, Corbie, because we know that Catholic silence is really your way of protesting. So we'll understand if you just shut your mouth and work against everything silently and undetectably.


I think that I would add a couple more points to the panel on civility, Bill.

At this moment in time, lack of civility sells. Young people watch the rewards and the acceptance of bad behavior. Rush and Sean and Howard and Don have all come into mainstream advertising money. When uncivil discourse becomes mainstream, it becomes status quo and desirable. Witness Imus. His remarks were right off of a rap album. And rap albums haven't been challenged by civil rights leaders or by the white establishment, because there is such revenue attached to them.

There's also a real problem with incivility being fostered by the net. Anonymity makes it much too seductive to suppress remarks and writing that we otherwise would censor in a face-to-face conversation.

I do think that there is much to be said for the reasons that the panelists give as being the source of incivility. Abortion and mandated-prayer. At the same time, I see the media and churches avoiding discourse with opponents on the subjects


I just find it ironic that people who tout freedom of religion want to dictate what the pope should and shouldn't do or say.

You don't listen to the pope. In fact many people don't listen to the pope. What exacly would you have had the pope do differently.

"Tisk, tisk, Hitler. That would be great if you would just not go and invade Poland and slaughter all those Jews."

I bet that the pope speaking out against the atrocities of the Holocaust would have stopped the Germans in their tracks. Just like the pope speaking out against abortion does oh so much to halt that practice today. I DON'T CARE IF YOU DON'T THINK THEY ARE THE SAME! The point is that people don't listen to the pope. Especially people with heavy armored divisions. They pick and choose what they want to hear and accept. Just like you do.

So, God forbid, Pius XII take a different course of action, one that was very much like the underground railroad. What an evil man.


GB, apparently your memory DOES fail you. Have you ever been to Saint Paul or talked to its students, faculty or President since 20 years ago. If you are going to express your opinion about any one or any place, you should get your facts straight.

Gentle Ben


I agree that there are a lot of thugs and people on the net that are here looking for nothing more than a fight, but you and I and Keith would not be in the same conversation were it not for the Internet. that's why i think it behooves those of us who are here for a legitimate shot at dialog to try and police those on our own side to at least not be insulting to the other members in the conversation.

Assertiveness and aggressively making ones case is one thing, but the ones we've seen in the past few days that have just been one insult after another with no attempt to construct an argument are another.

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