Correcting the legacy of ‘Hitler’s Pope’
In his article “Papal benediction” (Commentary, Monday), Arnold Beichman writes, “The role of the wartime Pope Pius XII has been much studied and discussed for a half-century …. Little in this literature has exonerated Pius XII let alone praised his papacy.” I’m surprised Mr. Beichman is so uninformed about a subject about which he has chosen to write.
In the past 10 years, many excellent books have been published that defend Pius XII. They include the Rev. Robert Graham’s “The Vatican and Communism in World War II” (1996), Sister Margherita Marchione’s two books “Yours Is a Precious Witness” (1997) and “Pope Pius XII: Architect for Peace” (2000), the Rev. Pierre Blet’s “Pius XII and the Second World War II” (1999) and Jose Sanchez’s “Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Controversy” (2002).
Catholics aren’t the only scholars who have to come to Pius XII’s defense. In an extensive interview with Inside the Vatican magazine (August 2003), Sir Martin Gilbert, the Holocaust historian and British Jewish author, lauded the late pope, arguing that he acted prudently during World War II, opposed the Nazis and helped save many Jewish lives. This month, Regnery Publishing introduced Rabbi David Dalin’s “The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews From the Nazis,” which is expected to be a major work on the subject.
The recent literature that challenges the “black legend” of Pius XII is even more extensive in Europe. The scholars and authors include Hans Jansen of the Netherlands; Philippe Chenaux of France; Michael Feldkamp, Konrad Low, and Rainer Decker of Germany; and the Rev. Giovanni Sale, Matteo Luigi Napolitano, Andrea Tornielli, Antonio Gaspari, and Alessia Falifigli of Italy.
I also should note that in 2002, the Vatican finally began opening its archives from 1933 to 1945. Many of the documents that have been emerging from the archives establish the Vatican’s opposition to both Nazism and anti-Semitism. Not surprisingly, many of the critics who had been calling on the Vatican to open its archives have shown no interest in this material.
Patriot Act needs some revision
Although I believe that much of the USA Patriot Act is necessary to protect America from terrorism, I disagree that it should be renewed immediately in its entirety (“Protecting the Patriot Act,” Commentary, Monday). The Patriot Act as it stands goes beyond its anti-terrorism mission and delves into the private lives of ordinary U.S. citizens. It is becoming simply a tool used by federal law enforcement in ordinary criminal investigations, from drugs to prostitution.
None of us wants to take away the tools law enforcement agents need to prevent terrorist attacks. However, modifications to the Patriot Act are necessary so as not to invade and disrupt the lives and privacy of law-abiding Americans. Sixteen sunset provisions of the Patriot Act are not due to expire until December, yet President Bush and the House of Representatives are recklessly moving to renew the law, including 14 of the 16 expiring provisions, without due deliberation, attempting to make the entire act permanent without including common-sense reforms to some of its most pernicious sections.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows authorities to obtain an order from a secret court to collect individuals’ medical, library, gun sale and other personal records, all without showing any evidence that the person affected is connected to terrorism or any other criminal activity. I’m not suggesting repealing this section, but a modest amendment — requiring minimal proof that the person in question may actually be involved in terrorist activity — would protect the rights of ordinary Americans.
Similar revisions also must be made to Section 213, which allows federal agents to conduct secret “sneak and peek” searches of private homes and businesses without notification. A simple solution would be removing the “catchall” justification for these warrants, meaning that authorities still would be free to request secret search warrants, but only if notice of the warrant would threaten someone’s life or physical safety, if it would result in evidence tampering or witness intimidation, or if it would cause the suspect to flee.
We still have time to fix the Patriot Act before the broad standards applied to Sections 213 and 215 make extraordinary powers ordinary. If we make this law permanent without the deliberation that is due, we risk seriously undermining the liberty on which America has been built.
Former U.S. representative
Chairman, Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances
Not-so-high levels of mercury
Jennifer Harper’s article “Lower toxin levels found in Americans” (Nation, Friday) inaccurately portrayed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s findings of mercury levels in America’s women of childbearing age but did it in such a way as to frighten readers.
Ms. Harper skipped back and forth between the reference dose and benchmark dose numbers without explaining them and then misquoted the CDC as saying that “almost 6 percent of the women [of childbearing age] have potentially hazardous levels of mercury in their blood.”
In fact, the CDC found that no women of childbearing age had mercury levels at or above 58 micrograms per liter (parts per million). That’s the benchmark dose — the level that, according to Dr. Joseph Jacobson of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Methylmercury, is “the lowest dose [the Environmental Protection Agency] thought safe from any effect over a lifetime of daily exposure in the most sensitive population of children.” The EPA then added an arbitrary tenfold safety factor to arrive at its reference dose.
The CDC found 5.7 percent of women had levels at the reference dose or that crossed it — still 10 times below the level where it’s believed there may be any potential risk to themselves or their babies.
Protect democracy in Taiwan
I would like to applaud the insight with which Don Feder described the danger in which Taiwan and the United States find themselves as China assiduously works toward regional dominance (“China’s Zhu-doo diplomacy,” Commentary, Thursday), and the importance of Taiwan’s democracy to both countries.
In his second inaugural speech, President Bush made the cultivation of democracy around the globe the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. finds the perfect expression for this commitment in its continued support of Taiwan, while simultaneously sending China a firm message that using violence (actual or implied) to resolve the cross-strait issue is an unacceptable option.
A free and democratic Taiwan is vital to America’s geopolitical interests, and the symbolism of Taiwan’s thriving democracy in the face of Chinese aggression illustrates the intrinsic strength and value of the ideals America wishes to spread around the world.
STEPHEN C.J. CHANG
Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office