You just can’t catch a break if you’re one of those people who wants to defend Pius XII against the flood of attacks in recent years. In his quiet but unrelenting way, Ronald Rychlak has been covering this beat for almost a decade, most notably in his 2000 book Hitler, the War, and the Pope , his demolition of Daniel Goldhagen in FIRST THINGS, and now in his selected essays on the topic, Righteous Gentiles: How Pius XII and the Catholic Church Saved Half a Million Jews from the Nazis , just out from the indispensable Spence Publishing. And, sure enough, Rychlak didn’t catch a break in the pre-publication notice of the book in Publisher’s Weekly , which accuses him of "occasional manipulation of the evidence." The example PW gives is: "while Pius XII condemned the Germans’ use of ‘asphyxiating and poison gases’ in WWI, Rychlak reads it as a condemnation of the gas chambers." As it happens, the date of that condemnation was 1939, and what Rychlak actually wrote was that Pius "condemned ‘the use of asphyxiating and poison gasses,’ which had been used during World War I, and which the Nazis, in a radically different manner, would later employ for the gas chambers." I’m not sure I would have written the sentence just that way, but it certainly is no manipulation of the evidence. Still, Rychlak can’t have been expecting much better. He’s a defender of Pius, after all, and that kind of person never catches a break.
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