The Pope's Dilemma: Pius XII Faces Atrocities and Genocide in the Second World War

The Pope's Dilemma: Pius XII Faces Atrocities and Genocide in the Second World War

by Jacques Kornberg


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The Pope's Dilemma: Pius XII Faces Atrocities and Genocide in the Second World War by Jacques Kornberg

Pope Pius XII presided over the Catholic Church during one of the most challenging moments in its history. Elected in early 1939, Pius XII spoke out against war and destruction, but his refusal to condemn Nazi Germany and its allies for mass atrocities and genocide remains controversial almost seventy years after the end of the Second World War.

Scholars have blamed Pius’s inaction on anti-communism, antisemitism, a special emotional bond with Germany, or a preference for fascist authoritarianism. Delving deep into Catholic theology and ecclesiology, Jacques Kornberg argues instead that what drove Pius XII was the belief that his highest priority must be to preserve the authority of the Church and the access to salvation that it provided.

In The Pope’s Dilemma, Kornberg uses the examples of Pius XII’s immediate predecessors Benedict XV and the Armenian genocide and Pius XI and Fascist Italy, as well as case studies of Pius XII’s wartime policies towards five Catholic countries (Croatia, France, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), to demonstrate the consistency with which Pius XII and the Vatican avoided confronting the perpetrators of atrocities and strove to keep Catholics within the Church. By this measure, Pius XII did not betray, but fulfilled his papal role.

A meticulous and careful analysis of the career of the twentieth century’s most controversial pope, The Pope’s Dilemma is an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the Catholic Church’s wartime legacy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442628281
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Publication date: 05/01/2015
Series: German and European Studies Series
Pages: 424
Sales rank: 672,002
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jacques Kornberg is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Toronto.

Table of Contents

Introduction: An Approach to the Controversy

1. Demolition of Pope Pius XII’s Reputation

2. The Vatican and Nazi Germany: The 1933 Concordat

3. Pius XII and World War II: The Catholic Belligerent States

4. Catholic Anti-Jewish Attitudes: Achille Ratti, Eugenio Pacelli, and Others

5. The Debate over Pius XII’s Priorities, and a Conclusion

6. Pope Pius XII and His Predecessors: Different Popes, Similar Policies

7. Religious Good Trumps Moral Good

What People are Saying About This

Kevin P. Spicer

The Pope’s Dilemma is a serious accomplishment by a historian who has spent years studying Pius XII in great depth. Jacques Kornberg has a fine grasp of the theology of the period and has truly incorporated it into his attempt to understand the choices Pius XII made during the Holocaust.”

Susannah Heschel

“In a book that reads like an exciting detective thriller, Jacques Kornberg examines Pope Pius XII and the Nazi regime of terror in Europe. Did the Pope resist the Nazis or acquiesce by failing to protest loudly and clearly? Could he have done more to rescue the Jews of Europe who begged him for his assistance? Why has world opinion shifted from praising Pius in the post–Second World War years to excoriating him, starting in the 1960s? Kornberg’s book leads us through the maze of evidence with remarkable clarity and intellectual suspense.”

John S. Conway

“For many years, historians have awaited the opening of the Vatican’s archives for the reign of Pope Pius XII, unsure how the documentation therein will challenge our interpretations of the wartime church. Until that day arrives, Jacques Kornberg’s magisterial survey, written in distinguished and elegant language, provides a valuable analysis of the numerous conflicting theories about Pius XII and his policies that have appeared over the course of the past fifty years.”

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