Time to get caught up on our Catholic-themed television shows…
Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History
Episode Five: The Wartime Popes (this title is a misnomer because the episode is almost entirely about Pius XII)
CNN, originally aired 4/8/18
This episode focuses on the extremely controversial papacy of Eugenio Pacelli aka Pius XII. Previously the papal nuncio/ambassador to Germany, Pacelli was appointed Cardinal Secretary of State by pope Pius XI in 1930. In that capacity, he negotiated a number of concordats (treaties) with various European and Latin American countries, most of which contained clauses that recognized Catholicism as the state religion and suppressed Protestant churches. Pacelli’s brother, Francesco, had been instrumental in negotiating the Lateran Treaty in 1929 between the Vatican and fascist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. Eugenio Pacelli negotiated the Reichskonkordat with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany in 1933. Eugenio was elected to the papacy in 1939 for his diplomatic experience in the face of increasing international volatility.
Pope Pius XII has been strongly criticized over the last 70 years for his deafening silence in the face of the Nazis’ genocide of European Jewry during the Second World War. His defenders insist the pope chose to work quietly behind the scenes in attempting to help Jews rather than risk additional persecution with a public denunciation. While Hitler’s brutality affected Catholics throughout Europe, the church also acknowledged the German fascist dictator was a bulwark against its most feared and hated enemy, Russian Soviet communism.
Pius XII would later define the doctrine of the physical assumption of Mary into Heaven as dogma in 1950. Admirers have been pressing for Pacelli’s canonization despite his controversial papacy.
Those who aren’t aware of the controversy surrounding Pius XII and the Holocaust will find this episode quite interesting.
Next and final episode: “Courage, Change, & the Modern Papacy,” airs tonight, 4/15/18
Episode Seven: Let Us Pray
CBS, originally aired 4/9/18
Chip confides to his “god squad” (a priest and rabbi) that he has some difficulties with praying (he mentions the “Hail Mary” prayer as one of his regulars). Priest Gene advises Chip to keep trying and promises prayer will eventually come naturally. Shortly afterwards, Chip is stuck in an elevator with some of his co-workers and his prayer seems to facilitate their rescue. Chip is not happy about his atheist mother-in-law staying with him and his wife for a short time, including her constant jabs at his religion. When she suffers an apparent heart attack, Chip’s prayer for her seems to result in her medical stabilization (the heart attack turned out to be a peptic ulcer).
No Gospel here, folks. It’s all about the religion of Cain.
Next episode, “Show Hospitality,” airing 4/16/18