"We gather in faith..."
Teaching and commentary from our pastor, Bishop Francis J. Christian
ReflectionsFor many years, Pope Pius XII and the Vatican have
been criticized for their alleged “silence” in regard to the
Holocaust during the Second World War. Recently, in
England the British Broadcasting Corporation aired a
program making the same claim. This program elicited a
stern response from Lord David Alton, a former member of
the House of Commons. I offer this enlightening response
in this space for the next three weeks hoping it will assist
you to have a more objective understanding of the truth of
In a significant finding, the British Broadcasting
Corporation has conceded that in their main evening news
bulletin, seen by millions, it falsely described the Church
as being ‘silent’ in the face of Nazism and that it has not
reported correctly on the Church’s opposition to Hitler.
The finding was made by the BBC’s internal watchdog
after Father Leo Chamberlain and I jointly lodged a
complaint. Chamberlain, a Benedictine, is a historian and
former headmaster of Ampleforth College.
The broadcast was made last July during a visit to
Auschwitz by Pope Francis. The reporter stated as fact
that, “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church
when Nazi Germany demonized Jewish people and then
attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe.”
After several unsuccessful attempts to seek a
correction, we felt that we had no choice but to make a
formal complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU).
We presented a dossier of material - all of it publically
available to any reporter.
Having studied this, the ECU said that, in their
judgment, the news report had not given “due weight to
public statements by successive popes or the efforts made
on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi
persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with
the balance of evidence.”
Ironically, part of the BBC report came from St.
Maximilian Kolbe’s cell at Auschwitz. St. Maximilian,
was executed after taking the place of another prisoner.
He had been arrested for publishing a denunciation of the
Nazis in his magazine, Knight, which had a circulation of
around one million people.
Hardly silence, then.
Nor was silence the response of the 6,066 Poles
(overwhelmingly Catholic) who have been officially
recognized in Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations,”
for their role in saving the lives of Polish Jews.
One charitable interpretation of the Auschwitz report
was that it was a sloppy, lazy, throw-away remark -
indicative of the sort of religious illiteracy that can cause
so much offense; and part of a blurring between the
straightforward reporting of news and the desire to add
some melodrama to spice it up. Don’t let facts or truth
spoil a good story.
Less charitably, the BBC report may be seen as simply
the latest example of a long-running attempt to rewrite