Stonehill College Priest Leads Effort to Slow Pope’s Sainthood Process
February 20, 2010
By Paula Vogler
A Stonehill College professor is among 19 Catholic scholars asking Pope Benedict XVI to slow the process of making Pope Pius XII a saint until more research is done into the late pontiff's role during the World War II Holocaust.
Pius XII was the leader of the Roman Catholic church from March 1939 until his death in 1958.
In recent years, his leadership of the Catholic Church during World War II, especially regarding the plight of Jews under the Nazi regime, has come under scrutiny, especially after Pius XII became a candidate for sainthood.
The Rev. Kevin Spicer, associate professor of history at Stonehill College, and the other 18 scholars signed a letter sent recently to the current pope that said "history needs distance and perspective" before definitive conclusions can be reached on the controversy.
In an interview on Thursday, Spicer said the 19 signers are colleagues who know each other through academia, working on different projects together and meeting at conferences.
"The signers of the letter believe that it is very important that it is known that Catholics are also very concerned with the movement to press forward at this time with the beatification of Pope Pius XII," Spicer said.
He said each signer had written about Catholic and Jewish relations during the Holocaust and they were familiar with each other's work. One is working on a biography of Pius XII, others have written books about him and still others are doing more research, Spicer said.
As part of the process toward sainthood, writings about the person being considered are examined, including biographies, papers at the Vatican, personal papers and any other works deemed relevant.
"It's important to examine those papers," Spicer said.
Spicer said the group's letter was e-mailed to Pope Benedict XVI last Thursday with a hard copy expected to arrive in the mail today.
"It was a private letter between Catholics who happen to be scholars and academics, and the Holy Father," Spicer said.
The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, recently reported on the letter in a Catholic News Service story posted to the Pilot's Web site.
The letter, obtained by The Enterprise, stated the signers are greatly troubled by "the movement to press forward at this time the process of beatification of Pius XII."
Beatification is one of the steps toward being canonized a saint in the Catholic church.
"Numerous books and articles have been written on the topic," the letter stated. "Nevertheless, the scholars still have a great deal of research to complete before the final conclusions can be drawn about Pius XII's behavior during the Holocaust. History needs distance and perspective to arrive at these conclusions."
The story in The Pilot said Spicer is one of the leaders of the effort, along with the Rev. John Pawlikowski, professor of ethics at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
Pawlikowski says the scholars are not opposed to Pius XII's canonization, The Pilot story said.
"We sent this letter because we feel that too often the issue of Pius XII is portrayed as one of Jewish concern," Pawlikowski wrote in an e-mail, according to the Pilot. "We wanted to make it clear that some Catholics who have worked on Holocaust issues have serious concerns about advancing the cause of Pius XII at this time."
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