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Pius XII, Richie, Potsie, and the Fonz: Happy Days 2.0

Pope Pius XII“A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. She will be tempted to believe that man has become God. In our churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask, ‘Where have they taken him?’ “ -Pope Pius XII

Prophetic words from a great man, a great Pope who was lionized by the Jews in the waning days and years after World War II. Not until the calumny against him began in the early 1960’s did anyone regard him as anything less than a prophetic voice in the Church. I’m happy to have been a part of restoring the truth about Pope Pius in recent years.

We look around us today, and often I hear people longing for the days of the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s. It’s a romanticized period, a romanticism that made its way into my life in the eighth grade when the hit T.V. series “Happy Days” made its debut. It was an iconic time in American life. Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Bing Crosby in “Going My Way” and “The Bells of St. Mary’s”.

From speaking with those in my parent’s and grandparent’s generations, it definitelywas as simpler time in many respects. But in that nostalgic and idealized world, Pope Pius XII uttered that dread prophecy. So what was going on, really going on? Consider the following quotes from contemporary sources in World War II:

Albert Einstein- Time Magazine, December 23, 1940:
“Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks…Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”

The New York Times editorial on December 25, 1941 (Late Day edition, p. 24):
“The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas… he is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all… the Pope put himself squarely against Hitlerism… he left no doubt that the Nazi aims are also irreconcilable with his own conception of a Christian peace.”

Also The New York Times editorial on December 25, 1942 (Late Day edition, p. 16) states: 
“This Christmas more than ever he is a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent… Pope Pius expresses as passionately as any leader on our side the war aims of the struggle for freedom when he says that those who aim at building a new world must fight for free choice of government and religious order. They must refuse that the state should make of individuals a herd of whom the state disposes as if they were lifeless things.”

The New York Times on the liberation of Rome:
“Under the Pope’s direction the Holy See did an exemplary job of sheltering and championing the victims of the Nazi-Fascist regime. I have spoken to dozens of Italians, both Catholics and Jews, who owe their liberty and perhaps their lives to the protection of the Church.”

Chief Rabbi of Rome:
Rabbi Israel Zolli in 1945 converted to Catholicism with his wife, and in honor of all the Pope did for the Jews during the War took Pius XII’s name, Eugenio and had the Pope as his Godfather.

Chief Rabbi Herzog of Palestine:
“The people of Israel will never forget what his Holiness and his illustrious delegates are doing for us unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history.”

FDR –August 3, 1944:
“I should like to take this occasion to express to His Holiness my deeply-felt appreciation of the frequent action which the Holy See has taken to render assistance to the victims of racial and religious persecutions.”

Pius was pope during the most convulsive period in all of human history. Eighty percent of his priests, brothers and nuns in Eastern Europe perished at the hands of the Nazis, virtually all of whom were baptized Catholics and Protestants who turned their backs on their Christian faith and followed the bloodlust of one of humanity’s greatest tyrants.

Some fourteen million people, including six million Jews perished in Hitler’s camps. Between 3.17% and 4% of the world’s population (62.5million-78.9 million humans) perished in that war.

Pius saw the turn of Protestantism to the embrace of contraception in the 1930s, the rise of eugenics in the first four decades of the century, and the beginnings of Nazi atrocities developing first in the corrupted medical community. Pius eyed the thirty-plus states in America that had forcible sterilization laws on the books and was no doubt appalled by the U.S. Supreme Cout’s upholding of those laws in its 8-1 decision in Buck v. Bell. Margaret Sanger, a once devout daughter of the Church rivaled Pius for the hearts and minds of Catholic couples.

Racism flourished in the Twentieth Century, and there were more man-made famines because of those intolerances than in any period before. Then came the perfection of annihilating humans by the millions with the atomic and hydrogen bombs.

Happy days, they were not. Yet many long for those “simpler” times. In so doing, they overlook the challenges faced by Christians in those darkest hours of human existence.

It has never been a good time to be a Christian. The Apostles, save John, all met a martyr’s death. The first few centuries saw Christians hunted down, fed to wild beasts in the Colliseum, doused in oil and used as torches. They met in catacombs, in the shadows.

When I was confirmed, the Bishop tapped each person’s cheek as a symbolic reminder to be prepared to die for the faith. We’ve had twenty centuries of martyrs. We live today during the pendulum swing back toward eugenics, but we also live in great times as well.

We no longer institutionalize the handicapped. They are integral parts of their families’ lives. We’ve developed miraculous therapies that teach them to speak, excel academically and vocationally. We now have sonogram technology that convinces 9/10 women contemplating abortion that there is a baby, marvelously fashioned, in her womb.

We have cures for cancers, antibiotics, vaccines, abundant and inexpensive food. The list goes on and on.

But we have our own challenges. We face a darkening world not unlike the darkness that enveloped Europe all those years ago. Like Einstein, we can no longer look to the newspapers or the universities for truth. Like Pius and the priests/religious/laity who heeded his call and paid with their lives, we are expected to stand and resist this evil, even at the cost of our own lives.

Those days weren’t as happy as the 70’s sitcom would have us believe. The world wasn’t as naive as we would suspect. Carly Simon got it right in the 70’s while Happy Days was enjoying its popularity,

These are the good old days.”

Let’s take renewed strength and inspiration from Pius XII’s example and do the work we are called to do, both in the Church and in the Public Square, in order to prevent his dread prophecy from coming to fruition.


Dr. Gerard Nadal is Science and Health Education Policy Advisor for the Bioethics Defense Fund. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy from Saint John's University, New York City. After his post-baccalaureate sciences at Columbia University, New York City,  Dr. Nadal returned to Saint John's University where he received his Master of Science in Cellular and Molecular Biology, Master of Philosophy in Biology, and Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology. Also a member of University Faculty For Life and the Catholic Writers Guild, Dr. Nadal is a columnist for Headline BistroDr. Nadal also serves on several advisory boards, including the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, Good Counsel Homes, and the Children First Foundation. A Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and unapologetic Roman Catholic loyal to the Magisterium, Dr. Nadal and his wife home school their three children. He blogs at Coming Home.


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  • jcsmitty

    I would disagree with only one statement: that Margaret Sanger was ever a “devout” daughter of the church. Yes, I believe her mother was Catholic but that didn’t make Sanger “devout.” From what she wrote, she hated the church early on.

    It does seem like the worst enemies of the Church were Catholics, however. The Protestant Rebellion was led primarily by Catholic priests, starting with Martin Luther. We see the same today as the church’s biggest enemies are politicians like Joe Biden, Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy Pelosi. The late “Catholic” Senator Ted Kennedy brought abortion into the Democrat Party. Jesuit colleges from Notre Dame to Georgetown dissent publicly from the church on fundamental teachings on life. Most bishops and priests avoid the tough issues like abortion and homosexual assault on traditional marriage.

    We’ve been blessed with saintly popes since Pius XII, but as the children of Fatima predicted, “The Holy Father will have much to suffer.” The children did not identify that Holy Father in 1917, probably because every one thereafter would fulfill the prediction.

  • noelfitz

    I am sorry to read the comment of jcsmitty.

    We Catholics are sinners and we ought not to criticize each other in a public forum.

    We should hang together, so we do not hang separately.

    The Church is like a family where loyalty prevents us abusing each other publicly.

  • James Kohn

    noelfitz there is nothing that Jc said that is untrue. St. Bernedette was once asked “Don’t you fear the Prussians?” She replies, “I only fear bad Catholics.” A pope and I cant find the quote right now but in the middle ages was once asked why the world was so troubling and he said its all due to bad Catholics. Instructing the ignorant is an act of charity, calling someone out for their behavior which will lead them to perdition is not uncharitable but the opposite. These politicians have sacrificed their faiths for the 30 pieces of perpetual power in government. Yeah I tell you they already have what they want and the world loves them for it. Biden, Sebelibus, Bohner, and the careerist clergy need not worry about hanging…dont you know your history? Learn from the English revolt, power corrupts, its only a Catholic that knows his faith and isnt afraid to speak truth in the face of death that is truely free, an amazing gift from the burning love of Christ to lay down ones life, even their social standing for the chance to bring one sinner home! Luke 15:10

  • Churchill4President

    I noticed the author doesn’t mention Marxism and communism — he only refers to it in passing as “man-made famines”. I would like to know why some in the Roman Catholic Church seem to give communism a consistent pass?

    Communism murdered well over 100 million people in the last century. Sadly even Vatican 2 failed to mention it. Even to this day a billion people are enslaved to communism in China, Cuba, North Korea, etc.

    Our Blessed Lady at Fatima mentioned the “errors of Russia”. If she can mention it then we as Catholics should as well.