By Hilary White, Rome correspondent

ROME, February 13, 2009 ( – In a meeting with a US Orthodox rabbi, a renowned historian related his experiences with the mainstream media in his work as the “postulator” or investigator for the Vatican of the cause for canonisation of Pope Pius XII. Fr. Peter Gumpel SJ said that in his experience of hundreds of interviews and debates, he has experienced first hand the open hostility to the Catholic Church of the liberal mainstream media.

He relates what he said was a routine experience with the media: “I was once asked by a newspaper in Rome, I gave a long interview, but they never published it. Apparently they were deadly set against Pius XII so of course, I didn’t accept all their statements. It was in itself a friendly discussion, but it was never published.”

The elderly, soft-spoken German priest, received as a guest at his offices near St. Peter’s Basilica during a meeting with Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the US Orthodox rabbi who was in Rome at the end of January to discuss the relations of the Orthodox Jews with the Catholic Church.

After over thirty years of investigation, Fr. Gumpel has concluded that Pius was holy man who did everything possible to help save the Jews. But this picture conflicts with the message of the secular media, and some sections of the Catholic academic world, committed to portraying the pope as an anti-Semitic dupe, or even collaborator, of the Nazi’s genocide of Europe’s Jews.

“If you see the German documents of the time, you will see that the Nazis hated him,” Fr. Gumpel said of Pope Pius. But this history, he said, is being blocked by a consciously anti-Catholic media determined to keep it from the public.

Fr. Gumpel said that although books have been written clarifying the record in other languages, “nowadays to find a publisher who is intending to publish something in favour of the Roman Catholic Church in the English speaking world, be it in England, be it in the United States is not that simple.”

Rabbi Levin spoke with Fr. Gumpel about the widespread belief of many Jews, and heavily disseminated by the Catholic left, that what is termed the “silence” of Pope Pius led to the deaths of greater numbers of Jews in Europe in the Nazi genocide. But Fr. Gumpel maintains that the impression of the Pope’s “indifference” is one that has been created by a broadly anti-Catholic secular media and is not upheld by the historical record.

“I have given hundreds of interviews in six different languages on television, radio, newspapers, etcetera. I am not someone who would defend this man against my better conscience. If I have defended somebody I do so because I am convinced that he merits to be defended.”

The attacks on Pope Pius have come only since the publication in the early 1960s of a play, called The Deputy, in which he was depicted as an anti-Semite and a dupe of the Nazi regime. In the lifetime of Pius, however, the pope was enthusiastically thanked, applauded and honoured by the leadership of the Jewish world for his efforts to save Jews during the war.

Fr. Gumpel, a German, is one of the academic community’s most respected historians whose family suffered under the Nazi regime. In his more than thirty years of study and investigation into the Pope’s life, Fr. Gumpel has been no stranger to the hostility of the mainstream secular media for his defence of Pius.

“I remember some years ago I was called by a leading editor of a daily newspaper in the United States who point blank asked me ‘Professor, is it true that you were a member of the Hitler Youth and a member of the SS?’

“Now, since my family suffered greatly from the Nazis, at first I was taken a little bit aback. And then I said, laughingly to him, it is very interesting for me to get to know certain things about my own life from a journalist of which so far, I have never known anything.

“And then he said, ‘please father, understand that I was not thinking this, but I am put under terrible pressure to publish this. But since I am afraid that I may end up with a process for libel and calumny, I wanted to be sure’. These are the things that have been happening.”

He relates: “Certain people in the US of a leading weekly telephoned me to my residence asking whether I had ever been condemned for criminal activities or that my family were full of criminals.”

He takes a stoic, philosophical attitude toward these problems, however, saying, “We try to do what we can. And with considerable success in many instances even though it means that you may be attacked the next time as a fool or anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic.”