The question of whether Pius XII was right in issuing such a directive is debatable. Nathan is incorrect in characterizing me as "taking up" Pius XII's position -- I did so only in demonstrating how the absence of attention to the theological rationale perpetuates The Guardian's blatant slander that Pius XII was anti-semitic. (I said as much in my post).
A lot of over-the-top rhetoric is to be expected in discussing this issue, but I would encourage Nathan to partake in a closer reading of Amy Welborn's blog. I've read through the exchange on Open Book twice and it seems Pius XII's "defenders" are motivated not by a loyal desire to 'defend the Pope at all costs" but rather a nostalgic appreciation for a time when Catholics gave greater weight to what baptism really meant (assuming the baptisms were valid), and the importance of a Catholic education in the salvation of one's soul. Certainly that much can be appreciated, regardless of whether Nathan or I agree with Pius XII's decision.
Likewise, I agree with those who find the consequences of such a decision -- the deprivation of children from their parents, or the literal kidnapping of a child in the case . In such cases, the primary mission of the Church ("to save souls" does not, in the words of one commentator, "mean that saving souls is an end to which anything becomes a proper means. Saving souls may be an end without which the Church loses its earthly meaning, without being a licence to make decisions for others that are not given to us to make. St. Thomas might help here on such things as formal and final causes."
If you can look past the heated rhetoric and verbal abuse, there is actually a really good discussion of this topic going on by commentators Amy Welborn's blog, with arguments by both sides worthy of consideration and reasoned discussion. Don't take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. It's a tough issue with no easy answer, and I agree with Mark Shea's comment:
For the defenders of Roncalli and Woytila, it's equally simple: parental rights trump whatever cloud cuckoo theological issues might be involved. Baptism, sure, is important. But not all *that* important. Not really. Completely absent from this side of the discussion is any serious consideration of "Unless a man hate his father and mother and indeed his very life, he cannot be my disciple". No discussion or consideration of "I come to set father against son and son against father." The notion that Pius might have felt a profound responsibility before God that a child of God not be deprived of their eternal destiny through his neglect seems not to really be entertained. He's simple labeled a "kidnapper" and that's that.
It's all white mitres and black mitres. There seems to be no consideration of the possibility that everybody involved was confonted with competing goods. Rather, everybody seems to be talking as though one side (Them) wanted Evil and the other side (Us) wanted Good.
Fulfilling the desired ends of The Guardian's article, Nathan goes on to indulge in some unwarranted speculation of the true intentions of Pius XII and those who baptized Jewish children:
I'll try to be charitable in assuming that Nathan has written this post in an impassioned state and will think otherwise when his temper subsides. But let's look at the reasons why we can refrain from speculating (as Nathan does) that Pius XII's directive was motivated by "true feelings" of hatred toward "the perfidious Jews":
We can credit the Church's repudiation of the 'teaching of contempt' which fostered anti-semitism to a Jewish-French professor named Jules Isaac. You can find a summary of how he did so here. Those who have studied the topic will recognize that such a reform could not have occured without the initial help and collaboration of Pope Pius XII. It was by papal authorization in 1949 to translate the Good Friday prayer for the Jews, pro perfidis judaeis with the milder translation "unfaithful" or "unbelieving" that prompted Isaac to obtain an audience with Pius XII, in which:
At the papal audience, Dr. Isaac presented the pope with his scholarship and his Eighteen Points (specific recommendations for the purification of Christian teaching regarding the Jews). He petitioned the pontiff for further changes, and these in turn were addressed by Pius XII's successor, Pope John XXIII. In his book The Hidden Pope, Darcy O'Brien expresses his belief that Pius XII's meeting with Jules Isaac "may even have affected the pontiff's preference for a true reformer, John XXIII, as his successor. Cardinal Deskur, for one, believes this is so." And as Dave Kubiak pointed out (commenting @ Open Book): "it may be useful to recall that on 29 October 1953 at Castelgandolfo, Pius XII held the scarlet galero over the head of Archbishop Roncalli, whom he named Patriarch of Venice."
The belief that Pius XII "paved the way for Vatican II" was also held by Jewish convert Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher (1904-1993), a close friend of Cardinal Willebrands and participant in the drafting of Nostra Aetate (His book The New Encounter Between Christians and Jews contains a behind-the-scenes history of the document). Msgr. Oesterreicher describes the revolutionary attitude Pope Pius XII took in the preface to his encyclical on Holy Scripture Divino Afflante Spiritu (my brother Jamie will get a kick out of this, considering it "the greatest papal encyclical ever written"):
We know very little from the newspaper accounts of the specific circumstances under which the baptisms in question occured, so I believe it would be imprudent to speculate on the motives of the foster parents. We do know, however, what Pius XII thought of "forced conversions." Commenting on Open Book, Steve H. says:
Finally, Nathan ends his post by praising the actions of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II as models of dissent from papal authority:
I hope the events I've described above will call into question those who seek to portray Pius XII and John XXIII as simple adverseries with respect to the Jews. Likewise, Nathan should recognize that Fr. Wojtyla was dealing with a different kind of situation, parents who were intending to baptize the child. He wasn't "disobeying" Pius XII in doing so. Nor can one presume he was aware of the directive to retain childrenn who were already baptized -- or that Pius XII would have necessarily disagreed with Wojtyla's actions.
The secular media is already having a field day by using this latest story to slander Pius XII as an anti-semite. No sense for Catholic liberal bloggers, whatever their beef is with the Vatican, to join them in doing so.
- It Didn't Happen, by Nathan Nelson. "Fides, Spes, Caritas" January 13, 2005.