Pope Benedict’s decision to resign has re-ignited media debate about his degree of complicity in the cover-up of child abuse by Catholic priests.
That debate echoes an earlier controversy over the complicity in evil on a much vaster scale of a predecessor of Benedict.
Pius XII was pope during the Nazi period, and has been condemned for not using his office more vocally to denounce the persecution of Jews.
Ironically, it was Pope Benedict who stoked the debate about Pius in 2009 after calling for him to be granted venerable status, first stage on the road to sainthood.
What Benedict’s reputation will finally be remains to be seen. However, a book about Pius out next month seems destined to lay to rest the accusations that have branded him “Hitler’s pope”.
Relying on previously unused Vatican archive material, as well as eye-witness testimony, British author Gordon Thomas contends that Pius went out of his way at great personal risk to use the Church’s resources to protect Jews.
Had Pius denounced the Nazis any more vociferously, that covert rescue operation would have been jeopardised, which, argues Thomas, was why he remained as silent as he did.
Mr Thomas is no stranger to dispute, especially where his books about Jews are concerned. On the strength of research for a work about Mossad, he claimed in a BBC radio interview in 2010, that a million Jews world-wide were ready to act on the orders of the Israeli secret service, exposing diaspora Jewry to the charge of divided loyalties.
Mr Thomas drew heavily on controversial claims by a self-avowed Mossad member. This new book, whilst seen as controversial by some, should correct an historic wrong.