Emails to the Editor
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A Response to Fr Hayes
I thank Fr Simon Hayes for his constructive response (letters, June 2014) to my positing of “mind as a metaphysical first principle” such that “being-known-by-mind is a relationship constitutive of and causative of a creaturely thing”. Crucially however this is to say more than the affirmation of Pieper, Sartre and Aquinas that “things only have an essential nature only in so far as they are fashioned by thought.” For this does not imply existential causation of a thing, which dynamic is placed in the non-essential realm by these thinkers. Hence the failure of Sartre to apply the analogy of an artefact’s contingency upon a human mind to “natural things” contingency upon the divine Mind. I would agree with Fr Hayes that the resultant de-naturing of things has led to the “abolition of man”.
For Pieper, Sartre and Aquinas the primary metaphysical foundation of created things is not intelligent and free mind but an existentiality which transcends intelligible essentiality. In my understanding of the FAITH vision the transcendent principle of intelligible physical natures (and simultaneously their existentiality) is mind not an intrinsically supra-intelligible Act of Existence. Existentiality flows from spiritual mind, the metaphysical first principle. Even artefacts have an analogous “existence” as exhibited by the way we talk about them. Because such existence is intrinsically intelligible to man and dependent upon human intelligence, by analogy we are enabled to affirm the divine mind and Creator of the whole cosmos.
Fr Hugh MacKenzie
The Defaming of Pius XII
William Oddie is correct in his well-balanced critical analysis of not only the writing of John Cornwell but also his liberal agenda especially when it comes to such easy targets for the secularist mindset like Pius XII. Cornwell’s hyperbole even in choosing to call his book ‘Hitler’s Pope’ not only beggars belief but is crass beyond words. Cornwell is not alone either for one is reminded of the exaggerated claim made by former editor of the Catholic Herald Gerard Noel, in his book ‘Pius XII the Hound of Hitler’ which also claims that Archbishop Pacelli, the then Apostolic Nuncio in Munich 1919, gave ‘a considerable sum of Church funds’ to a ‘young man (who) had grave need of funds for his fledgling political party.’
The young man in question according to Noel whose own source is “Hitler’s Pope. The Secret History of Pius XII” (not exactly an unbiased title) ‘was Adolf Hitler’. Assisting a beggar at the door of the Nunciature (even if it was Corporal Hitler) is hardly tantamount to bankrolling a political activist and in any case the post First World War charitable activities of Archbishop Pacelli in Berlin and throughout Germany were the precursor to the establishment of what would eventually become the Institute of Religious Works (aka ‘Vatican Bank’) under the direct supervision of the nun who ran Pacelli’s household before and after his election as pope.
A recent review in the Catholic Herald of Garry O’Connor’s The Butcher of Poland about Hans Frank rightly describes as “shameful” the slur against Pius XII of which O’Connor accuses “the future Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli …(as being) smitten by Hitler in 1919” and that “he even went so far as to bankroll him.”
The reviewer describes O’Connor’s accusation as “an abiding and unpleasant feature of this biography.” Surely the same must be said of Noel’s and Cornwell’s books too? One thing is indisputable and that is that Fr Peter Gumpel SJ who listened as a boy in church to the 1937 Encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Sorrow) is not exaggerating when he states that it was that Encyclical ( Pacelli revised the first draft by the archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber ) which so infuriated Hitler that it caused him to refuse to see or speak to anyone for three days. This much overlooked encyclical affirmed that the Nazi leader was perfidious, untrustworthy, dangerous and determined to take the place of God, not least by usurping parental rights. The international community reacted enthusiastically. The Jewish communities were elated since the encyclical presented the strongest condemnation of racism. All the Jewish newspapers in the world showed their enthusiasm for what the Holy See had done. Yet despite this, England, France and Italy came to an agreement with the Nazi regime at the Munich conference in 1938. Gumpel emphasises that “the harshest statements against Nazism were Pacelli’s, and Hitler knew it,” so much so that Hitler considered Pacelli his No. 1 enemy and feared his moral power. Now that there is more access to the Vatican Archives of the papacy of Pius XI, (yes Pius XI) the symbolic and prophetic nature of this encyclical will receive the attention of scientific historical analysis it rightfully deserves, rather than ignoring its existence to say nothing of the sweeping generalisations of authors intent on disparaging Pius XII because of their agenda. Pope Francis himself recently declared the need to celebrate the facts of his predecessor’s war-time achievements; such as the lesser known detail that many pregnant Jewish mothers actually gave birth to their children in safety on the bed of the pope at the summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
Director for Marriage and Family Life
Archdiocese of Westminster