Write Again … Judgment rendered

Published 4:51 pm Friday, July 12, 2019

Eugenio Pacelli.

A familiar name? Of course not. Yet the very few still with us who are a generation ahead of me knew of him. By another name.

A biography of him, published in 1999, which I read recently, was truly interesting, to say the very least.

The world came to know Eugenio Pacelli as Pope Pius XII. Few in the world were more widely known during his pontificate (1939-58).

His biographer was John Cornwell, whose pedigree includes having been a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, England, and an award-winning journalist and author in addition to his world bestseller, “A Thief in the Night: The Death of John Paul I,” plus writing about Catholic issues for many publications around the world.

So. Why would I write about Pope Pius XII, who died so many decades ago (1958)?

First, he was pope during one of the most significant periods in the history of the world, rising to his exalted role in 1939. For many, many years prior to that, he rose through many levels and titles of the church, with each role one of increased responsibility and influence. Much influence.

With that bit of preamble, I’ll tell you the title of this riveting biography. “Hitler’s Pope — The Secret History of Pius XII.”

The author did not do a one dimensional assessment of him. His life, his story, is far more complex, one lived during complicated, difficult, tragic times.

As the book’s back cover notes: “The Career of Eugenio Pacelli — Pope Pius XII — from the beginning of this (20th) century is the story of a bid for unprecedented papal power that by 1933 had drawn the Catholic Church into complicity with the darkest forces of the era … Eugenio Pacelli was no monster; his case is far more complex, more tragic than that. The interest of his story depends on a fatal combination of high spiritual ambition for power and control. The consequences were collusion with tyranny and, ultimately, violence.”

This book doesn’t just look at Pacelli’s pre-and World War II life. It also examines his papacy post-WWII, and chronicles his thoughts and actions as he strove to arrogate more and more authority — infallibility, in some cases — into himself as “Christ’s Vicar on Earth.”

This part also is complex, yet it clearly establishes who he was, how he viewed things, in his irrefutable quest for supremacy, both the church’s and his.

I really can’t imagine many, if any, of you choosing to read this book. Yet, should even one or two of you do so, I believe you will find it one of the best and most interesting biographies you have ever read.

Reading. What a wonderful way to learn.

So many books, so little time.