The Disciple

By Ronald J. Buttarazzi Sr.

[an excerpt]

______________

A Play in Three Acts

The play chronicles the epic struggle for the life of western civilization between Hitler, the bloodthirsty tyrant of Nazi Germany and his archenemy, Eugenio Pacelli, also known as Pope Pius XII.  

Synopsis:

In 1925   Munich, Hitler, a rogue politician, and Eugenio Pacelli, a Vatican diplomat, studied each other from afar. They instinctively knew that one day only one of them would remain standing.  Eugenio Pacelli became Pope Pius XII. Hitler became the Fuhrer of Germany. Hitler intended to destroy western civilization, annihilate the Jews, and supersede Christianity with the cult of race. The play unveils the titanic struggle between the two in its stark dimensions between good and evil, freedom and tyranny, and life and death. The stage is  World War II.

ACT II

SCENE 6

A   WALK

*

NARRATOR

It is June 1943; Pope Pius XII is on a meandering walk in the Vatican Gardens requested by his personal secretary Bob Leiber.   (The Holy Father smiles at a tiny bird perched on his finger.)  The Gestapo is closing in on their quarry-the fragile webs of networks spun by Pope Pius XII, Monsignor Leiber and Joey the Ox Mueller.

LEIBER

Holy Father, I have some disturbing news.

The Gestapo arrested Bonheoffer, Dohnanyi and Mueller early April on April 5, 1943).[i]  Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi were at the meeting  with  me discussing the removal of Hitler from office  at the Benedictine monastery in Etal in the winter of 1940. [ii] The Ox set up the meeting and  has  been passing on Nazi classified information to me  through dead drops across  Rome. By your undertaking the sole responsibility of passing the information on to the British, you bear all the risks of being accused of being  a spy against Nazi Germany. With the arrests, the Gestapo is in a position to unravel everything.

PIUS XII:

Have our codes been broken?

LEIBER

As far as we know, our codes are intact.  Our best guess is that one of our operatives under torture has  revealed something.

You  are also being criticized for not more vehemently condemning the murder of over 2000 priests in Poland[iii]  and the mechanized murder of the Jewish people.

PIUS XII

( The Pope rises and speaks directly to the audience. )

Roberto, you forgot to mention the 2500 priests in the compound in the Dachau Concentration camp.

We have not been silent. I have not been strident so as not to trigger Hitler’s compulsive homicidal  behavior. He uses any pretext to rationalize his atrocities.   In making  my decisions,  I must consider the likely outcomes of  the other attempts to change Hitler’s behaviors.

Any stinging rebuke would be like ringing  the bell for Pavlov’s dog, and Hitler will be on another rampage of bloodlust. None of the Church admonitions have been effective in diminishing or stopping the persecution but did raise the number of deaths from reprisals.

About a year ago in June 1942, the assassination of the chief of the Nazi security police, in Czechoslovakia, Reinhardt Heydrich, unleashed a savagery beyond barbarism.[iv]  The population of the Village of Lidice was annihilated and the village destroyed.  Three thousand  German Jews were sent to a concentration camp to be murdered.  One thousand three hundred Czechs were  executed.[v]

All for one dead Nazi.

LEIBER

The local priests hid about one hundred and twenty members of the Czech resistance and the two assassins in the cathedral church in Prague, – the Church of Karl Borrotomaeus.  The Gestapo found them, cornered them and in the gun fight in the cathedral killed them.[vi]

PIUS XII

In July 1942 the bishops of Holland led by Archbishop Johannes de Jong condemned the deportations of Jews from Holland. The persecution did not abate.  The Nazi Commissioner of Holland retaliated  by categorizing baptized Jewish Catholics and Catholics of Jewish ancestry as our greatest enemies and proceeded to abduct forty thousand to be sent to the death  camps.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 If The protest of the bishops cost more than 40,000 lives, a denunciation by me would result in the death of two hundred thousand people.  [vii]

It is easy to second-guess decisions from  an  armchair without bearing the  responsibility for the possible death of  thousands of innocent people.

The likelihood of  reprisals  forced me to burn my manuscripts in case they fell into wrong hands.

LEIBER

No doubt, the Vatican is infested with agents of Germany and the Soviet Union.

PIUS XI

Yes, Roberto,  Ambassador Osborne informed me that British intelligence is aware that both Nazi and Soviet agents have infiltrated the Vatican.

I  have cautioned the cardinals that, “all our public utterances…” (must)  ”be carefully weighed and measured  by us in the interest of the victims themselves, lest contrary to our intentions we make their situation harder to bear.”[viii]

LEIBER

“Holy Father, actions speak louder than words. A few days ago at one of your audiences, you granted Max Ciampoli’s request for 3000 baptismal certificates for more than 2000 children he and a friend,  posing as  fascist police,  rescued from a filthy concentration camp outside of Paris.”  [ix] The baptismal certificates will be signed by parish priests for the families hiding them throughout France. The certificates are the passports for their protection, safety and new identities for those fugitive orphaned Jewish children. We respect their loyalty to their ancient covenant as Jews. Indeed thousands of the persecuted are living at your summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.  Some might even be scandalized to learn that your own bedroom is being used as a birthing area. Over forty children have been born in your own apartment[x] .

PIUS XII

We are committed to removing Hitler from office for the good of all. [xi]The life of the thousand year Reich is now measured in months not years and not centuries.

SCENE CLOSES

(END OF ACT II)

[i] (Shirer, William L. 1960, 1024)

[ii] (Metaxas 2010, 375) (Michael 2002)

[iii] (Catholic Martyrs and The Holocaust n.d.).

[iv] (Shirer, William L. 1960, 991-992)

[v] (Shirer, William L. 1960, 991-994)

[vi] (Riebling 2015, 124 et seq.)

[vii] (Krupp, The Documented Truth 2012, 20) Krupp references memoirs of  Sr. Pascalina Lehnert,  (Wickepedia 2016) (Phayer 2000, 54,55) (Catholic Martyrs and The Holocaust n.d.)

Hamans, Paul(Edith Stein and Companions, Paul Hamans, 23).

[viii] (Toland 1976, 864)

[ix] (Ciampoli 2010, 195)

[x] (Krupp, The Documented Truth 2012, 106) -/ Courtesy of Prof.  Ronald Rychlak

[xi]  (Riebling, Church of Spies 2015, 63)

 

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Playwright Ronald J. Buttarazzi Sr., JD is a retired Rochester attorney and a former Assistant Attorney General of New York.  A reading of The Disciple is scheduled for Friday, May 12 at 7:00 PM – the eve of the 100th anniversary of the first Fatima appearance – at St. John of Rochester.   If you are interested in staging The Disciple, the author can be reached at: buttarazz@yahoo.com

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