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Pius XII & Critical Race Theory: New books tell the truth

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 09, 2022

I can recommend two more very good books from Ignatius Press even though I have not read them thoroughly myself. One of the topics is Critical Race Theory, which is the latest academic liberal-ideological fashion in pursuit of worldly paradise. To help you understand it (the better to reject it), Edward Feser has written an extremely handy book, All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory.

The other is an extensive survey of what the Vatican Secret Archives reveal about the (apparently burning) question of Pope Pius XII’s role in protecting Jews from the Holocaust. Everybody acknowledged the Pope’s immense service to the Jews at the time, for which he was publicly thanked in 1944 by the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. But of course that reputation has been attacked long after the fact by academic secularists (the same kind as spin out culturally popular ideologies like Critical Race Theory), who have sought to pad their prominence by turning the world against the Pope and his nefarious religion. Nonetheless, researcher extraordinaire Michael Hesemann has put together everything anyone needs to know in The Pope and the Holocaust: Pius XII and the Vatican Secret Archives.

Now I don’t really have any remaining questions about either of these topics, so I’ve contented myself with confirming that the books are excellent rather than reading them in detail. But some readers may find themselves in a battle against those who wish to use the Holocaust to defame the Church or to adopt Critical Race Theory as the latest “all-embracing insight”. It is a wonderful way to dismiss all previous generations as blighted packs of amoral and unreflective knaves and fools. If you would like to understand either issue more completely, or if you are in a position to expose the preposterous misrepresentations of reality that both claims entail, then these are the books for you.

Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory has turned a few reasonable insights about racial bias into a comprehensive theory of human interaction. All of history, apparently, is about one race attempting to subdue other races, and we are blind if we do not recognize, denounce and compensate for the universal presence of this disposition (except in those who embrace the theory). Seriously, though, it is far better simply to examine your conscience according to basic Catholic moral teachings, and go to Confession as needed, than to get hung up on the Latest Overarching Explanation of Just about Everything. We will grow far more quickly in understanding reality, and do far more good, simply by being faithful to Christ and the Church.

But I probably don’t need to tell you this, and in fact CatholicCulture.org has covered both Critical Race Theory and even this author and this very book in the latest episode 141 of the Catholic Culture Podcast. Thomas V. Mirus interviews Edward Feser in a delightful and informative exchange entitled (somewhat improbably) Libertarianism, Jazz & Critical Race Theory. The episode is an opportunity to learn something significant while having a good deal of fun. But if Critical Race Theory is in your wheelhouse, you should definitely read Feser’s remarkably concise and insightful book.

Edward Feser is a thoroughly reliable scholar. In the past I have had occasion to review and recommend his Five Proofs of the Existence of God, and Thomas Mirus also recommended and summarized one of Feser’s articles on political theory in the 2019 Episode 45 of the Catholic Culture Podcast.

Pius XII and the Holocaust

According to Critical Race Theory, I suppose, Pope Pius XII was incapable of recognizing his own inescapable prejudices, and since he was not willing to repudiate his very self, he must have done far more harm than good in the methods he chose to protect the Jews and resist Nazi aggression. This, apparently, is the lot of anyone who lived BCRT (before Critical Race Theory). And of course there were many who were trying to prove that the Catholic record was not only imperfect but thoroughly bad during the Nazi era, and in particular trying to prove that Pius XII should never have been honored for the enormous good he did in a very difficult situation. It irks secularist and ex-Catholics that the Church should have a good reputation in anything, because the one inadmissible truth in a secularist age is the truth that if people followed Christ in the Church, the present would be far better, and the future (in its short, long, and very long term) would be much brighter.

Note that all “state” archives are opened only well after the administration in question has passed on, so as to protect the privacy of those referenced therein, not to mention the needed time for organizing and cataloguing the materials for use by others. Accordingly, when the Vatican Secret Archives for the pontificate for Pius XII were opened in 2020, many scholars rushed to study the existing records to find more information about the Church’s interaction with Hitler (a very delicate matter, obviously) and its efforts to protect Jews (and Christians) targeted for the Holocaust. Hesemann himself, who had been working in the overall Archives already for some thirteen years, was excited to have access to the material from the pontificate of Pius XII.

One can always argue in hindsight that this or that change in policy might have worked better, but in general the rush to dig through the archives has confirmed and enhanced rather than tarnished the record of achievements which were rightly credited to the Pope at the time. Michael Hesemann’s extensive overview of what the archives have revealed clarifies a dramatic story of a spiritual leader doing what he could to withstand and protect others from the onslaught of an evil that long appeared to be quite literally incredible—except to the Church. Hesemann has always been able to tell a great story based on impeccable research with extensive notes and bibliography. I’ve previously reviewed and recommended his fascinating archeological studies of the evidence testifying to the lives and impact of Mary and Jesus).

Conclusion

In Heaven, I suppose, we will have time to read everything. But of course it will be “simpler” and even more delightful to probe the Divine intellect—and there will be no evils to address. In the meantime, these are two good books on significant and unfortunately controversial topics that I can heartily recommend to anyone who would like to learn more.


Edward Feser, All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory. Ignatius Press 2022. 163pp. paper $15.26

Michael Hesemann, The Pope and the Holocaust: Pius XII and the Vatican Secret Archives. Ignatius Press 2022. 459pp. $16.96 paper, $12.97 ebook.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: rfr46 - Sep. 11, 2022 3:30 AM ET USA

    Very informative, to-the-point reviews. Thank you.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Sep. 10, 2022 12:05 PM ET USA

    I've read Feser for some years and was delighted to hear him with Tom on the podcast. The question that has been in the back of my mind is, why is he at Pasadena City College rather than elsewhere? You would think that a prominent Catholic college or university would like to snap him up. But from his angle, I can imagine living in such a beautiful area with presumably good working conditions he is quite happy. But, CALIFORNIA.