* Hubert Wolf’s chapter on the Reich Concordat is more apologetics than history
Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 15, 2015
Rarely have I been so angry about a book as I now am with this one. After earlier chapters with which I had no quarrel (praised in my earlier comments previously posted) I have now read the chapter dealing with the Concordat signed by the German Reich and the Vatican in 1933. The following sequence of events seems not to be in controversy.
- The Vatican (Cardinal Pacelli) had been seeking a Reich Concordat for almost a decade before Hitler became Chancellor
- Pacelli had concluded there was no chance of reaching an agreement with the democratic parliament (Reichstag); only a dictator like Hitler could offer such a deal
- Hitler was appointed Chancellor on January 30, 1933
- Hitler failed, in elections held on March 5, 1933, to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to pass an Enabling Act which would make him an absolute dictator
- the Enabling Act thus required the votes of the Catholic Center Party to become law
- the Center Party, and the German bishops, had adamantly opposed the Nazis for years, including in the March 5 elections
- on March 23, 1933, the Enabling Act was passed, with all Center Party delegates voting for it, a stunningly sudden reversal of their earlier position
- a few days later, the German bishops reversed their long-standing admonitions against the Nazi Party. A Party whose principles had been judged completely incompatible with Catholicism was now viewed quite differently … “Catholic Christians, for whom the opinion of their Church is sacred, need no particular admonition to be loyal to the legally constituted authorities, to fulfill their civic duties conscientiously, and to reject absolutely any illegal or revolutionary activity.” … in other words, it is now permissible for Catholics to be Nazis and to support the Nazi Party
- shortly thereafter, a Concordat was entered into between Germany and Rome
- a few months later, the Center Party was dissolved, leaving the Nazi Party the only legal political party in Germany
Wolf does not disagree with any of the above facts.
However, he asserts that Cardinal Pacelli was NOT involved in the Center Party’s consent to the Enabling Act, or in the declaration by the bishops, or even with the idea of a Concordat.
Wolf asserts that all initiative for those fateful decisions came from the Center Party delegates or the German bishops. He supports this assertion by stating that there is no evidence in Church archives that the initiative for any of these events came from Rome.
Wolf is correct that there is no documentation so far released by the Vatican to implicate Pacelli in the actions of the Center delegates or the bishops.
There is voluminous evidence from other sources, however, that Pacelli was continually negotiating with Hitler regarding the proposed Concordat, through Prelate Kaas for sure and perhaps directly with Goering.
There is also considerable evidence that the last minute votes by the Center delegates, and the recanting of the German bishops’ fierce admonitions against Nazism, were ordered by Pacelli and were carried out by obedient Catholics for whom the option to disobey Rome did not exist.
Wolf actually cites some of this evidence, before reaching his opposing and unsupported conclusion that Pacelli was not involved, which he bases solely on Pacelli’s later, self-serving statements to that effect, which statements I believe are blatant lies.
Wolf’s chapter is not history. It is apologetics, perhaps with the intent of trying to preserve a portion of the unsavory reputation of Pacelli, later Pius XII, who is even now being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church.