Monday, June 2, 2008

Wlodimir (Vladimir) Ledochowski- Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies

Wlodimir Ledochowski S.J.

John LaFarge S.J.

Since John Hagee had reportedly blamed the Roman Catholic Church for the WW2 holocaust of the Jewish peoples, I went to his site for a search there upon John LaFarge, the Jesuit who was involved with encyclical opposing racially based persecution that was reportedly suppressed by Wlodimir Ledochowski, and found nothing.

For the benefit of Hagee and anyone else, I did an internet search upon this and came across the book "Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies", from which I quote below:


The election of Pacelli made it all but certain that the draft encyclical prepared y LaFarge and his colleagues would never be issued by the Holy See. From the Vatican, Ledochowski's assistant wrote to LaFarge on March 16 saying that the draft had not yet had time to take the matter in hand. A few weeks later he advised LaFarge that the project was finished, and that the French and English versions would be returned. La Farge was to keep the whole process secret, Ledochowski insisted, although he could publish parts of the draft over his own signature-subject of course, to the regular censorship of the Jesuit Order. 29

Why did the encyclical fail to see the light of day as LaFarge and Gundlach so feverantly had hoped? As we have seen, the German Jesuit strongly suspected that the obstacle was Ledochowski, and that his motives were anti-communism. Of Polish aristocratic background, Ledochowski seemed to subsequent commentators a militant right-wing cleric who probably was disinclined to challenge the fascist dictators, particularly on questions of race and antisemetism. However, elements of his background and is reputation might suggest otherwise. 30 Known as a Polish patriot, Ledochowski was actually born in 1866 in the Lower Austrian village of Loosdorf, just west of Vienna, and his native language was German. Once a page at the court of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, he was the son of Count Anthony Ledochowski, an exiled Russian Pole and cavalry officer in the Austro-Hungarian army, and Josephine Salis-Zizers, who was of aristocratic Swiss background. His distinguished family included Cardinal Miecyslaw Ledochowski, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, a sister [Julia Ursula] who was superior of the Polish Ursulines, and another sister [Maria Teresa] who directed missionary work in Africa. Educated in both German and Polish instructions, Ledochowski was elected Superior General of the Jesuit Order in 1915, and served in his post for twenty seven years until his death in 1942. He lived almost continuously in Rome for this entire period.

Appreciated as a strict disciplinarian and keen administrator, committed to the strengthening [of] the Jesuit Order and opposing the excesses of modernism, Ledochowski was a dynamic and determined leader, with greater seniority in the high office at the Vatican even than the Pope himself. He seems to have no particular interest in Jewish matters, but was understood to be rather liberal on matters of race and religious diversity. "A great believer in the cooperation of Catholics with non-Catholics" observed The New York Times in its 1942 obituary; he worked untiringly to promote understandings between religious groups." 31 As Superior General, Ledochowski sought the appointment of native clergymen in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East and, again according to The New York Times, was "keenly interested in the rights and progress of the Negro in the United States."

There is no indication that he might have been driven by anticommunism to spare criticism of Germany under Hitler. To be sure, as Passelecq and Suchecky point out, Ledochowski had believed like so many others that Nazism was a passing phenomenon, and in a sense the Soviets were seen to pose a far more fundamental threat than the Hitlerian regime to the interests of the Church. 32 But on the other hand as the Fuhrer hold on power solidified[,] the dangers of Nazism became more apparent- a viewpoint confirmed by Obborne's Italian counterpart in August 1939. Indeed, Ledochowski was said to fear the pope's peace initiative of 1939 precisely because it suggested the Holy See was coming too much under German and Italian pressure. 33

Another hypothesis has it that Pacelli himself might have blocked the encyclical- based on the latter's disinclination to confront the fascist dictators on matters of racism and antisemitism and his concern to maintain the neutrality of the Holy See. The French Cardinal Eugene Tisserant's words in 1940 are often quoted, saying that history might reproach the Vatican with having followed a policy of "Selfish convenience" under Pius XII, in marked contrast to the policies of his predecessor, Achille Ratti. 34 Whatever the general assessment of Pacelli, however, no evidence has come to light that he sought to subvert the objectives of his predecessor whom he had faithfully served as secretary of state, or that he disagreed with the content of the draft encyclical. What seems much more important is the shifting context of the spring of 1939. A few weeks after the death of Pius XI[,] the British government announced a military guarantee of Poland, sharply reversing their hands-off approach to eastern Europe. To an even greater degree than before, the European powers seemed about to go to war. At the Vatican, might the newly elected pope have been determined to make a fresh effort to preserve the peace, putting aside Ratti's confrontationist approach, which after all had borne little fruit? Pacelli seems to have been determined to assist the European powers "not to destroy each other," as Owne Chadwick observes. This was not a rejection of Pius XI's cause, but the adaptation of a new priority. In Chadwick's words, "Vatican policy changed overnight." 35

Much of factual evidence cited above has been known, at least among a small circle of interested readers, since the end of 1972, when a story on he "hidden encyclical" appeared in the Kansas City-based, lay-edited National Catholic Reporter (NCR) by Thomas Breslin, then a twenty-eight-year old academic and former Jesuit seminarian who had come across the material in LaFarge's private papers. Unfortunately, discussion at the time drew only selectively from the draft encyclical itself and made some very doubtful claims about its import. "Pope Pius XI commissioned ... an encyclical attacking racism and anti-Semitism in June of 1938," the NCR article began; had it been published, the encyclical "would have broken the much criticized Vatican silence on the persecution f the Jews before and during the Second World War." Had the encyclical appeared, the associate editor of NCR further claimed, hundreds of thousands, even millions of lives might have been saved. Commenting more soberly for the NCR, Gordon Zahn, historian and author of German Catholics and Hitler's Wars, noted that "the heart of [the draft] encyclical, its whole reason for being written in the first place, was the explicit condemnation of racism and anti-Semitism." While not so bold in his claims as Connor Cruise O'Brien fifteen years later, Zahn was nevertheless certain that publication would have made an important difference. "Nazi anti-Semitic practices would not have stopped, but they [might] not have escalated to the stage of planned extermination; more important, Catholics in countries soon to be occupied might have been less ready to cooperate when the time came." 37

At the time, the NCR story whetted the appetite of Georges Passelecq, who eventually joined with Bernard Suchecky to write a full-dress account of the affair. In a not entirely convincing first chapter, the authors suggest that their hunt for the missing encyclical- a most elusive document, "like the Loch Ness monster," as one source described it to them -- was constantly obstructed by Church authorities. 38 It is not clear why they did not immediately seek out Breslin, who was named in the 1972 NCR story. ....

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