Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Superior General Vladimir Ledochowski, S.J., Pope Pius XI And "The Hidden Encyclical"

The death of (pictured) Rev. Vladimir Ledochowski, the "Black Pope," on December 13 somberly marked a period of tremendous growth for the Society of Jesus, whose general he had been since 1915. Monuments to his service included new buildings for the Curia Generalis on Borgo Santo Spirito and the Gregorian University on the Piazza Pilotta, along with the Oriental Institute, the Russian College, and the Biblicum. His uncle, the Cardinal Archbishop of Gniezno, had been deposed one month after taking office in the Kulturkampf of April 1874, imprisoned for two years, and lived from then on in Roman exile. One of Father Ledochowski's sisters would be beatified by Pope Paul VI, and another canonized by Pope John Paul II.
The Father General was small in stature and frail in appearance: "In later years, his face had a certain ageless transparent look; and he walked with a noticeable limp."
Father Ledochowski had supervised the Latin translation of Pope Pius XI's encyclical Humani Generis Unitas, which Eugene Cardinal Tisserant attested was on the pope's desk the day he died on February 10, 1939. Under Father Ledochowski's guidance, three Jesuits had drafted the document in Paris: the American Rev. John LaFarge, Rev. Gustav Gundlach, and Rev. Gustave Desbuquois.
While the encyclical began with a general condemnation of modernist assumptions, it moved into a specific attack on racism. Father LaFarge's hand was evident in the condemnation of American racial segregation, but the burden was anti-Semitism and Nazi eugenics. As it was never published, it has been called "The Hidden Encyclical," 
 with the implication that Pope Pius XII found it too strong. Now we know that Pius XII, in his own inaugural encyclical Summi Pontificatus, took up the theme of race mythology but excised the glaringly anti-Jewish commentary that accompanied the broad condemnations of genocide in the text Father Ledochowski had presented to Pius XI. Like Harry Truman, who had not been informed of the Yalta texts, Pius XII apparently had not previously seen the text of Humani Generis Unitas.
Contrary to the claims of some later historians, Pius XII preserved the essential critique of anti-Semitism, while excising stereotypical descriptions of Jews that would have been exploited by the Nazis:  
"Blinded by a vision of material domination and gain," and "this unhappy people, destroyers of their own nation."
Link (here) to read Fr. George W. Rutler's full article entitled, 1942: The Coming of Emmanuel at Inside Catholic

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