There are some subjects before which the mind recoils and the imagination rebels, and which place inordinate, unwelcome demands upon our compassion. Generally we are on our guard, and to the intruder who by a trick passes our defenses and spells things out to us we accord scant thanks. Such an intruder is Rolf Hochhuth, whose play The Representative has been causing a great furor in Western Europe (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, October 25, News, and November 8, Book Reviews). Incidentally, we might regard it as a curiously telling judgment upon all of us that the dramatist is listened to where the straight historian has to a large extent been brushed aside.

As all the world now knows, the Nazis deliberately murdered a vast number of Jews (perhaps the equivalent of the present population of Massachusetts), and from a quarter where we might have expected speech, there was only silence. François Mauriac put it thus: “We have not yet had the consolation of hearing Simon Peter’s successor clearly and sharply condemning, without a trace of circumlocution, the crucifixion of these countless ‘brothers of Christ.’ ” Is Pius XII to be condemned for not lifting his voice against this awful massacre? The Representative addresses itself to this problem. Hochhuth does not accuse the Vatican of anti-Semitism and does not say that the pope could actually have saved the Jews. In fact, he gives examples of Pius’s concern for the victims of Nazi anti-Semitism. Even the possible results of intervention are made secondary to the intolerable thought that Christ’s vicar, confronted by absolute evil, prevaricates, negotiates, and maintains the Concordat with Hitler, who was never denounced.

Nor, despite ...

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