Thursday, April 24, 2014

Informal Bibliography on Pius XII

Maestro asked for it, but I sense others may find some of the material here useful in understanding my opinion or stance concerning Pius XII, Ordinary of the diocese of Rome from 1939 until his death in 1958. My thoughts on Papa Pacelli are shared by others, but not very widely because it runs against the accepted narrative of most traditionalists, which in turn curtails the publication of books and source material directly related to our theses. So for those who wish to "connect the dots" on their own here are some primary and secondary sources to consider:

On the Pacelli family, their associations, and three generations of influence in the Vatican prior to Eugenio Pacelli's elevation to the Roman Pontificate:
  • Papal Genealogy by George L. Williams
  • Money and the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican 1850-1950 by John F. Pollard
On Eugenio's rearing:
  • The Life and Pontificate of Pope Pius XII by Frank Coppa (lots of valuable information, although it mostly repeats the accepted narrative)
  • Anything available on the Almo Collegio Capranica
  • Anything available on his mentor, Mariano Rampolla, and his colleague Giacomo della Chiesa (Benedict XV)
For more on his relaxation of discipline, this falls under common knowledge, but someone very determined could venture through the Acta Apostolicae Sedis for the 1940s and 1950s.

Best read any New York Times archives from October of 1936 and find out the people with whom Pacelli associated during his American visit (not a few of them—like Myron Taylor of Cornell University, my alma mater—would send people into cahoots about Masons and conspiracy theories). On that note, it would also be prudent to learn more about his family doctor, Tito Ceccherini.

There is precious little on his time as a nuncio and member of the diplomatic corps, but it would prudent to familiarize one's self with the career of Pietro Gasparri, Pacelli's boss during the first half of Pius XI's papacy, and his use of Ostpolitik. Ostpolitik, in Vatican use, was more or less invented by Benedict XV and applied by Gasparri, although everyone attributes it to Paul VI. It formed the basis of Pacelli's foreign policy as pope and understanding it aids one in seeing his highly selective attitude towards Nazism and Communism. Look up the works of Roland Cerny Werner.

Contrary to popular opinion these days, Pacelli was a strong anti-Nazi who exerted tremendous effort to save hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. I spent an entire semester at university on a research project about his involvement. For a brief synopsis see The Myth of Hitler's Pope by Rabbi Dalin and The Last Three Popes and the Jews by Pinchas Lapide. His efforts to save Jews largely succeeded, but his aiding and abetting the Allies during the War—through which he established communication with the Communists (no, Montini did not do it alone)—he helped Roosevelt give half of Catholic Europe to the Soviets.

For more on his liturgical work, see Reform of the Liturgy by Annibale Bugnini and La riforma liturgica di Pio XII by Carlo Braga, a series of pamphlets produced by the 1948 Commission Pius XII established and the members of which he hand selected to reform the Roman liturgy. He received members and demanded regular reports on their progress even when he was too ill to see other people. It may also be worthy perusing that ridiculous Latin psalter he had Cardinal Bea produce in 1945.

Do not under-estimate the importance of Italian politics to this papacy either. Learn about the Italian Popular Party, Giorgio Montini's center-left party, which evolved into the Christian Democrats. As a coalition party, when they began losing members to the Communist party in 1949 Pius finally aided them by placing membership in Communist organizations under excommunication.

And as far as his centralization and his political views, read Mediator Dei and Mystici Corporis, which put the authority of the papacy well beyond the previously accepted juridical grounds. Some of his more liberal moments can be seen in Divino Afflante Spiritu, which finally accepted the historical-critical method of Biblical interpretation at a time when the historical-critical method was being used imprudently to undermine the veracity of the New Testament, the trustworthiness of the writers, and the time frame of the books (all matters which have now swung the other way). And then of course there is Humani Generis, in which he opens the floodgates for evolution at a time when Chardin was spreading his pantheistic nonsense (interestingly the Jesuits and Holy Office condemned and silenced Chardin, the Pope did not; indeed he arranged for the preaching ban to be lifted so Chardin could deliver lectures in Paris). Was Pius advocating a middle path in matters or was he taming and domesticating the more radical parts of the progressive movement, telling them to wait for their time?

I have mentioned Frank Coppa and will do so again. He reviews Pacelli's foreign policy in his Policies and Politics of Pope Pius XII and in another book (forget which) lays out the study groups Pius established for an ecumenical council, the one which his successors called and completed.

In reviewing this material one must not judge the dead too harshly given the seventy years of perspective the living have. And yet one must ask: what motivated this man to do what he did given the climate of the age, the politics of the era, his education, his family background, his mentors, and the effects of his pontificate? Do the actual research and stop reading the Traddie blogs (my own included if you must!).

Alright? No more mention of Pius XII for a long time!

Any other book recommendations will be welcomed though.


  1. Mary Ball Martinez' "The Undermining of the Catholic Church" is essential, if not entirely convincing. Available here ( or from

    Paul Hofmann's "O Vatican!" is very amusing.

    1. The above post is an attempt to give some firm sources and history for the narrative in Ms Martinez's book, which is lacking in citations and footnotes. When I first read the book I was impressed by its accuracy in areas with which I was familiar (Vatican's role in World War II) and where it agrees with non-religious historians. After further research I found the book very reliable, aside from the occasional accusation of Masonry, and have made the above effort to help those who wish to trace the story on their own using more "reputable" material.

  2. Thanks. After a quick google search, perhaps the other book by Frank Coppa that you're thinking of is The Life and Pontificate of Pius XII?

  3. There is a recent biography: Soldier of Christ: the life of Pope Pius XII, by Robert A. Ventresca. I have it at home, but I could not read it yet, so I cannot tell you how accurate it is.

    Kyrie eleison

  4. Pius IX has long been my favorite 20th Century pope. But as a trad, and an inveterate reader of trad blogs, I've still always had the same sentiments regarding Pope Pacelli's canonization as yourself. My reasons weren't quite as in-depth as your own, but I've always been disconcerted regarding the fact that he began the liturgical revolution, and hired Bugnini. I've also been long disturbed not so much by Mediator Dei, but by Humani Generis and Divino Afflante Spiritu.

    After this week, I think we need to give the papal canonizations a pause of three or four centuries. I've had quite enough.