Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The anti-Jewish racial laws in Italy of 1938

"La Civiltà Cattolica" recently published an article by the distinguished Jesuit historian Giovanni Sale on the promulgation of the anti-Jewish racial laws in Italy in 1938 when the Fascists were in power.

"La Civiltà Cattolica" `s articles are reviewed line by line by the Vatican secretariat of state before they are printed. And this supervision has been even more stringent since Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone became secretary of state.

An English translation of the article has been published in Chiesa on line.

The laws were promulgated when Pope Pius XI was Pope and Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, ( later Pope Pius XII) was Secretary of State.

Sale attributes to Pacelli in 1938 – the year of the promulgation of the anti-Jewish racial laws in Italy – a diplomatic prudence that "today it is embarrassing to defend."

The article "highlights Pius XI's desire to defend the Jews more energetically and condemn the racial laws more drastically. Pius XI, nonetheless, found himself muzzled twice over. His most incisive words and writings never saw the light of day, both because of the censorship of the Fascist regime, which banned the Italian Catholic press from publishing the pope's speeches against racism, and because of the caution of the secretariat of state, which prevented "L'Osservatore Romano" itself – the newspaper of the Holy See – from printing any papal texts that were believed to be too imprudent."

Sale concludes:

"It now appears embarrassing for the Catholic historian, especially after the openness of Vatican Council II in this matter, to defend this kind of viewpoint and manner of proceeding in moral or religious categories. But the task of the historian is to reconstruct, as much as objectively possible, the historical narrative, seeking to understand the mentality and culture of the subject in question, without ideological bias.

According to the Catholic culture of the time, although not everyone agreed with this principle, it seemed that the Church's duty was to protect its own faithful first of all, but without neglecting the sense of justice and charity due to all human beings....In the light of this principle, one can better understand the later interventions by Church authorities in this matter."