Why did the Vatican help Nazis escape justice?

Why did the Vatican help many Nazis to escape retribution after WWII? My mother, a Serbian-American, told me that many years ago.

With questions like this, it is important to insist that the claimant substantiate such claims before assuming that the assertion is correct. While there has been much speculation about a group known as ODESSA, purportedly established to help Nazi criminals evade charges of war crimes, journalists and historians have reported that ODESSA may not have been a monolithic organization dedicated to saving Nazis from justice, but perhaps a more diffuse coalition of organizations that did not necessarily have the intent to further the goal of rescuing Nazis:

According to [famed Nazi hunter] Simon Wiesenthal, ODESSA was set up in 1946 to aid fugitive Nazis. Other sources, such as many interviews by the ZDF German TV station with former SS men, suggest that ODESSA never was the single world-wide secret organization that Wiesenthal described, but that there were several organizations, both overt and covert (including the CIA and several Latin American governments), that helped ex-SS men.

To some extent whether ODESSA was a criminal conspiracy that protected and smuggled out war criminals or an informal network by which various German and Allied elements protected “useful” former SS anti-communists from war crimes charges is purely a matter of viewpoint since, short of finding a genuine documentary constitution for it, any facts or actions would fit both descriptions equally.

Long before the ZDF TV network, biographer Gitta Sereny wrote in her 1974 book
Into that Darkness … that the ODESSA network was of minor importance if it existed at all. She attributed the fact that several criminal SS-men could escape due to the post war chaos and the lack of means of the Catholic Church, the Red Cross and the American military to verify the claims of people who came to them for help or were imprisoned (source).

Ms. Sereny did note that some churchmen are believed to have deliberately assisted Nazi criminals. However, even if this be true, it does not mean that the Vatican, as an institution, was aware of or condoned the actions of these individuals. Indeed, Pope Pius XII, the wartime pope, was a fierce adversary of Nazism and a dedicated rescuer of Jews.

Recommended reading:

Hitler, the War, and the Pope by Ronald J. Rychlak
The Myth of Hitler’s Pope by Rabbi David G. Dalin

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