Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Vatican Diplomacy Then and Now

Whether so couched to appeal to the issues at stake in our day and time, I found this news piece reporting on a lecture concerning a find in the Vatican Secret Archives, relative to the position taken by the Holy See on the sinking of the passenger vessel, the Lusitania, by the Germans in 1915 to be very telling concerning the operative principles governing stances taken today by the Holy See in matters of war and peace.

Our Lusitania today might not be on the high seas; it might just be Ukraine under attack from one side and abandoned by the other in somebody else's big geopolitical end game. Andrea Gagliarducci reports on a very interesting presentation made recently by the prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, Bishop Sergio Pagano, on "How did the Vatican respond to the sinking of the Lusitania during WWI?"

The story is based on a series of letters exchanged with Pope Benedict XV by his Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, and Cardinal Francis Aiden Gasquet, of the Vatican Library. Cardinal Gasquet, who was a Benedictine born in London, was very upset that L'Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Holy See, was not expressing its concern in louder terms, in that the good should be sought above all and hence the Church ought always to speak the language of truth, without compromise. The counter argument from Gasparri, which won the day with Pope Benedict XV, was for prudence calculated to assure the Church's freedom of action in the cause of peace.

Say what you will or blame whomever you want, but it is hard to believe that the diffidence of the Holy See over the Lusitania tragedy gave anyone reason to seek the mediation of the Pope in the peace process of that tragic war. This diffidence continues to be thrown in the face of Pope Pius XII, as we have noted again in the last couple weeks relative to a film intended to tell the full story of all the Jewish lives the Pope is said to have saved in secret. Sadly, here we are again with the tragedy of the Ukraino-Russian conflict, which La Croix still feels licensed to declare civil war, stringing together gratuitous statements supposedly defining the official position of both Pope Francis and the Holy See. Needless to say, not only was the article news to my contacts in the Secretariat of State, but it left them in utter shock. How can someone make such claims?

Be that as it may, I will repeat my sad prediction that history will as surely condemn Pope Francis as it has condemned Pope Pius XII. The problem rests not with the famous "neutrality" of the Holy See, which from the experience of Pope Benedict XV and WWI seems at best ill advised, but with its diffidence in the face of naked aggression and hatred.

Have mercy on us, poor sinners, dear Lord!

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