To support his conclusion that Pius was “Hitler’s Pope,” [John] Cornwell selectively edited quotes from Western publications, a technique widely used by the “science” of disinformation. By this method, a clever writer can turn a quotation into the exact opposite of what was originally intended. To see how this works, let us take a look at a remarkable statement quoted in the introductory materials to Hitler’s Pope. Cornwell offers a supposed quotation from Thomas Merton, a well-known contemplative monk whose writings have inspired many people. In Cornwell’s hands, the quotation reads:

Pius XII and the Jews…Those whole thing is too sad and too serious for bitterness…a silence which is deeply and completely in complicity with all the forces which carry out oppression, injustice, aggression, exploitation, war.

This seems to be a shocking condemnation of the pope from an esteemed Catholic thinker. If Merton had written this, it would indeed give one pause. But Cornwell manipulated a text by Merton to create this quotation…Since Cornwell gives no citation for this Merton quote (although he did give references for the other two less controversial quotations used on the same page), it was not easy to document his trick.

Below is the complete statement, which was written by Merton in his personal journal, and which is a complaint that he himself had been ordered not to publish his essay on nuclear war. The “silence” about which he complained was the “silence” that had been imposed upon him. It was unrelated to Pius XII. Here is Merton’s complete text, with the parts extracted by Cornwell highlighted in italics:

A grim insight into the stupor of the Church, in spite of all that has been attempted, all efforts to wake her up! It all falls into place. Pope Pius XII and the the Jews, the Church in South America, the treatment of Negroes in the U.S., the Catholics on the French right in the Algerian affair, the German Catholics under Hitler. “All this fits into one big picture and our contemplative recollection is not very impressive when it is seen only as another little piece fitted into the puzzle. The whole thing is too sad and too serious for bitterness. I have the impression that my education is beginning – only just beginning and that I have a lot more terrible things to learn before I can know the real meaning of hope.

There is no consolation, only futility, in the idea that one is a kind of martyr for a cause. I am not a martyr for anything, I am afraid. I wanted to act like a reasonable, civilized, responsible Christian of my time. I am not allowed to do this, and I am told I have renounced this – fine. In favor of what? In favor of a silence which is deeply and completely in complicity with all the forces that carry out oppression, injustice, exploitation, war. In other words silent complicity is presented as a “greater good” than honest, conscientious protest – it is supposed to be part of my vowed life, it is for the “Glory of God.” Certainly I refuse complicity. My silence itself is a protest and those who know me are aware of this fact. I have at least been able to write enough to make that clear. Also I cannot leave here in order to protest since the meaning of any protest depends on my staying here.

Cornwell selected the phrases that are italicized above, and linked them with ellipses. This is more than academic fraud. This is disinformation at its best.


Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa and Professor Ronald Rychlak, Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism (2013)


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