* Lew’s review (and quotes from) HITLER’S POPE … and the relevance to my novel-in-progress

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 30, 2014


Hitler's Pope & An Untitled Novel

Cornwell has written a devastating condemnation of Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII). So far, I have read the chapters describing Pacelli’s role in bringing Hitler to a position of dictatorial power by passage of the Enabling Act in 1933.

To summarize Cornwell’s argument …

Pacelli was fixated on reaching a Concordat with Hitler that would implement the 1917 Code of Canon Law he had been instrumental in drafting … He was totally unconcerned with Hitler’s destruction of human rights, social ethics and Jews … He was determined to destroy the power of the Catholic Center Party and the German bishops, who had vehemently opposed Hitler … His primary objective seems to have been to establish conditions under which he could rule imperiously from Rome without opposition … and to have Hitler in power in Germany as a bulwark against Communist expansion

Hitler knew exactly what he was gaining from Pacelli’s ambition *** nearing completion of the Concordat, Hitler wrote: the treaty shows the whole world that the assertion the NS is hostile to religion is a lie *** and then Hitler reported to his cabinet: a sphere of confidence has been created that will be especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry

This is Pacelli’s record until 1933. Then, of course, there was his reprehensible silence during the Holocaust.

Here are a few more of the many points Cornwell makes to support his conclusions …

*** Hitler was wary of Catholic resistance to National Socialism … in Mein Kampf he wrote that a confrontation with the Catholic Church in Germany would be disastrous

*** Catholic criticism of National Socialism was vehement and sustained … open warfare … a parish priest at Kirschhausen gave guidance to his parishioners: no Catholic may be a Nazi, no Nazi may participate in parish activities, no Nazi may receive sacraments … promptly confirmed by the vicar-general of Mainz that the priest was speaking in accordance with diocesan thinking

*** the Bavarian bishops (Faulhaber) directed their clergy to warn against National Socialism … incompatible with Catholicism

*** a Catholic Reichstag representative – Karl Trossman … published “Hitler and Rome” … described Nazis as a “brutal party that would do away with the rights of the people” … would drag Germany into a new war which would end even more disastrously than the last 

*** Catholic author Alfons Wild: Hitler’s view of the world is not Christianity but a message of race that proclaims violence and hate … Catholic journalists: NS means hatred, fratricide and unbounded misery … Hitler preaches the law of lies

*** Pacelli was not inclined to take the least notice of advice from German Catholic leaders … maintained that satisfactory relations between Germany and the Church (by which he meant the Vatican) could only be achieved with a new concordat

*** as 1932 proceeded … decisions about the fate of the Catholic Church in Germany were being made entirely by Pacelli in the Vatican

*** in order to achieve the Reich Concordat … Pacelli needed the German bishops to reverse their denunciations of NS … and have the Center Party give legal force to the passage of the Enabling Act to grant Hitler dictatorial powers



The role of the Catholic Church (among and in conjunction with other actors) in enabling Hitler’s rise to power and his later annihilation of the Jews is a central element in my novel-in-progress, set in Germany and Poland in the Nazi years.

Although this is only a thought for now, I have in mind contrasting Pacelli/Pius XII with Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich …

  • Faulhaber was one of the leaders of a Catholic organization called Friends of Israel, devoted to better relations between Catholics and Jews, until the group was ordered to dissolve in 1928 by the Vatican Holy Order of which Pacelli was an important member. The group was dissolved because it had recommended eliminating the phrase “perfidious Jews” from the Easter liturgy.

  • Faulhaber was among the many German bishops and lay Catholics who were vehemently and vocally opposed to Hitler before 1933 until Pacelli effectively squashed all opposition by demanding in the Reich Concordat he negotiated with Hitler that German Catholics must support their Fuhrer.

Pacelli and Faulhaber both came to Munich in 1917. Pacelli of course moved on, but Faulhaber remained in Munich through the war and after. I am picking up hints that they did not like each other, personally or professionally.

I am also thinking about possible scenes where Berthold Becker, my main fictional German character, could interact with Faulhaber.

Cornwell’s is one of many sources that will guide this part of my writing.



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