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Was Pope Pius IX anti-Semitic?

Editor

Lately, certain Jewish spokesmen have taken it upon themselves to interfere with the canonization process. Aided and abetted by dissenting Catholics who also judge all things according to liberal rationalism, they have objected--or are objecting--to Edith Stein, Pius XII and now Pius IX. The attack on Pius IX led me to write the following now amended letter to the Globe and Mail.

Letter (not published)

"In his front-page article on August 30, "Reviled pope nears sainthood", the Globe's Michael Valpy pits Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) against fellow modern popes, and against the modern world. He presents the following points as indisputable facts:

1) that Pius IX was full of hatred of Jews, calling them "dogs";

2) that he maliciously kidnapped a young Jewish boy who never saw his parents again;

3) that he "forced the Jews of Rome to live in Europe's last compulsory ghetto before the Nazi era";

4) that he is a striking contrast to Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) who as Nuncio in Turkey, helped Jews escape during World War II;

5) that the stubbornness of Pius IX started a "Kulturkampf";

6) that the beatification of Pius XII (1939-1958), now dubbed "Hitler's Pope," has been sidetracked because of Jewish protests.

"In response, please note first that this "reviled" pope was immensely popular among the downtrodden Catholic masses in mid-nineteenth century Europe for standing up to the political bullies of his day, especially pompous, arrogant, intellectual liberals whose transformation into liberal nationalists led Europe right to World War I. It was they who "reviled" him, not his Catholic faithful. Now to Mr. Valpy's five points.

"Numbers 1 (hatred of Jews), and 3 (maintaining Rome's ghetto), are contradicted by the historical records. In 1846 the new Pope embraced the new positive ideas of the day. In April 1848 he ordered the Jewish ghetto in Rome to be abolished, its gates removed, and soldiers to be stationed there to protect the inhabitants, who, he declared, were not foreigners. He also abolished irritating impositions such as the requirement for Jews to attend the local Sunday sermon. Is this hatred of Jews?

"Later, in 1848-49, Mazzini occupied Rome and while his rogue troops murdered priests, Pius fled the city. Restored in September 1850, the Papacy controlled Rome and central Italy only for another short period until Rome fell to the nationalists in 1870 and the Pope withdrew into his one remaining palace as the "prisoner of the Vatican." Never again did the Papacy control Rome or any other part of Italy. So what's this about "the last ghetto until the Nazi era?"

"Point 2 refers to the Mortara case. This was not the result of maliciousness but rather the outcome of a too-rigid legal application of the Church's duty to educate a baptized child. We can regret this today and recognize more clearly that this cannot be done at the expense of the natural rights of parents. But it is not true that the boy never saw his parents again. As an adolescent he was given the freedom to return home to Bologna. He remained with his parents one month, but then decided to stay in Rome and become a priest. Once he was ordained, he was reconciled with his parents. It is also not true that this single incident makes Pius IX anti-Semitic. As for calling Jews "dogs", where is the evidence for this? Why should we believe this when the same press gets the story about the ghetto totally wrong?

"Regarding point 4, Pope John XXIII never thought of his predecessor as one whose behaviour should be criticized. In fact he admired Pius IX so much that he wanted to beatify him 40 years ago but lacked the time to do so. Pius IX did not defend the Papal States out of love of power but because he was unwilling to allow the Papacy to become the footstool of Italian or European politicians. Rome's fall was hailed by liberal intellectuals the world over. Headlines in all leading newspapers across North America, for example, expressed their jubilation with huge, fat, 6-8 inch headlines such as "Roman Catholicism comes to an end", and "Catholicism defeated for ever." Such was the venom of intellectual liberals in Europe and America.

"To accuse Pius IX for starting wars against the Church, is once again turning the issue upside down. It was men like the vicious, anti-Catholic, anti-Polish Chancellor of the newly united Germany, the Prussian Prince Otto von Bismarck, who saw an opportunity to destroy a cultural and political opponent. The word "Kulturkampf" (war against Catholics to preserve German culture) was coined by Virchow, a Jewish member of Bismarck's party in the Reichstag. Between 1870 and 1878 Bismarck attempted to crush the Catholic Church by denying bishops and priests the right to freedom of speech. Five bishops went to jail. A thousand parishes stood empty by 1876, their priests evicted and exiled.

"Bismarck called an end to the 'war of cultures' in 1878 not because Pope Pius IX died that year, but because the Catholic Centre Party--growing at every election--together with the growing Socialist Party had checkmated his National-Liberal Coalition. Bismarck had imitators elsewhere, not only among Protestants but also in France, Italy, Portugal and other countries.

"One more point. To call Pope Pius XII "Hitler's pope" is obscene. He was a holy man who suffered immensely because the barbaric events around him spurned the voice of Church and God--as, of course, today's society spurns that of Pope John Paul II on the dignity of life, especially that of the unborn. To think that Pope Pius XII could have stopped the onslaught against the Jews is a form of lunacy. The world paid even less attention to him in 1939 than they do to John Paul today. As for the process for his beatification, it is not being sidetracked at all."
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Words:976
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