How much would be “enough”? For some people, nothing a Catholic pope did would ever be enough. What exactly would it have taken for people to desist from detraction of Pius’ reputation? I find it strange that people like to slur Pope Pius XII while I almost never hear people asking why didn’t Roosevelt do more? Why did the Allies hinder rather than help the Jews who were desperately trying to flee the Nazis? Why did they refuse them visas when they could have saved them? Why weren’t people in Europe told not to help the Nazis in the extermination of the Jews? Why did the Allies issue only one condemnation before 1944 of the Nazi persecution of Jews? Whereas Pope Pius issued Mit brennender Sorge with its condemnation of racism in 1937 and numerous Catholic bishops spoke out all over Europe.
Every time the Catholic bishops or the Pope spoke out, the Nazis retaliated viciously by rounding up more people and sending them to the camps. St. Edith Stein was sent to her death after the Dutch bishops publicly spoke out against the Nazi racist policies. (The reality of retribution and retaliation is something more recent popes have had to deal with in terms of speaking out against Muslim persecution of Christians in Muslim countries).
In no other Nazi-occupied country did local Catholic bishops more furiously resist Nazism than in Holland. But, their well-intentioned pastoral letter — which explicitly declared that they were inspired by Pope Pius XII — backfired. As Pinchas Lapide notes: “The saddest and most thought-provoking conclusion is that whilst the Catholic clergy in Holland protested more loudly, expressly and frequently against Jewish persecutions than the religious hierarchy of any other Nazi-occupied country, more Jews — some 110,000 or 79 percent of the total — were deported from Holland to death camps.” The protest of the Dutch bishops thus provoked the most savage of Nazi reprisals: The vast majority of Holland’s Jews — and the highest percentages of Jews of any Nazi-occupied nation in Western Europe — were deported and killed.
With the advantage of hindsight, Pius XII’s revisionist critics have been judging the Pope’s “silence” without considering the likely consequences of his having “spoken out” more loudly and explicitly. These critics do not know (or have chosen to ignore the fact) that the Pope had been strongly advised by Jewish leaders and by Catholic bishops in Nazi-occupied countries not to protest publicly against the Nazi atrocities. When the bishop of Munster wanted to speak out against the persecution of the Jews in Germany, the Jewish leaders of his diocese begged him not to because it would result in even greater persecution for them. Pinchas Lapide quotes an Italian Jew who, with the Vatican’s help, managed to escape the Nazi deportation of Rome’s Jews in October 1943, as stating unequivocally twenty years later: “none of us wanted the Pope to speak out openly. We were all fugitives and we did not want to be pointed out as such. The Gestapo would have only increased and intensified its inquisition…it was much better the Pope kept silent. We all felt the same, and today we still believe that.” Bishop Jean Bernard of Luxembourg, an inmate of Dachau from February 1941 to August 1942, notified the Vatican that "whenever protests were made, treatment of prisoners worsened immediately.
Consider what was said at the time. On Christmas Day, 1941, The New York Times, commenting on Pius XII’s Christmas Message, carried the following editorial:
**The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas. **. . . The Pontiff emphasized principles of international morality with which most men of good-will agree. He uttered the ideas a spiritual leader would be expected to express in time of war. Yet his words sound strange and bold in the Europe of today, and we comprehend the complete submergence and enslavement of great nations, the very sources of our civilization, as we realize that he is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all. The last tiny islands of neutrality are so hemmed in and overshadowed by war and fear that no one but the Pope is still able to speak aloud in the name of the Prince of Peace. This is indeed a measure of the “moral devastation” he describes as the accompaniment of physical ruin and inconceivable human suffering.