Bishop Williamson was found guilty of denying the Holocaust by a German court. This is particularly important given that this high profile bishop had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, and then reinstated by Pope Benedict. But the good bishop not only believes that no Jews were murdered in gas chambers, he believes it strongly enough to give television interviews and share those views with the audience. This of course got him in trouble in Germany where Holocaust denial is a crime. He was fined and he appealed, which forced the court to bring him to trial. But he did not go, yet he was tried in absentia. And he was found guilty. How could it be otherwise? He is on the record and what he said is not open to interpretation or dispute. But now Bishop Williamson is appealing the verdict, which is ultimately a good thing because now the court has a chance of changing the penalty from a few thousand Euros to a month in jail. This might be what it takes to give this bishop a chance to think about what he is saying and reconsider. And it will also be a chance for the Catholic Church to officially get rid of this man once and for all.
Monthly Archive for April, 2010
Zenit announced that the Pave the Way Foundation unearthed new documents form the Nazi-era that show that the Catholic Church opposed the policies of the Nazis and even excommunicated the faithful who followed them. The article also states these documents were open to researchers, who for some reason never until now read them. This is odd indeed. These documents were open and no one ever found them until now, even when so many scholars scoured the archives, and even when the Vatican itself attempted to clear Pius’ name by publishing 11 volumes of documents? The Vatican didn’t think these were important or relevant?
The explanation is that this is another attempt to mislead. Pure and simple, this is disinformation. It is intended to make the lay public believe that the German Church opposed the Nazis. This is a half truth, because even though it is true that the church had a ban on membership to the Nazi Party, and that those who persisted in becoming members of the party even after warning them were to be denied admission to the sacraments, the ban was in effect only until shortly after Hitler became chancellor in 1933 and after Cardinal Pacelli, then to become Pope Pius XII, made overtures to Hitler which led to the signing of the Reichskonkordat shortly afterwards. This article and Pave The Way Foundation are not making this all-important point on timing clear, and I think it’s appropriate they are asked why. So, Mr. Hasemann is technically correct when he states, “The documents clearly show an ideological war between the Catholic Church and National Socialism already in the pre-war decade. The German bishops and the Roman Curia considered the Nazi doctrine not only as incompatible with the Christian faith, but also as hostile to the Church and dangerous to human morals, even more than Communism.” Again, this was true before 1933 when Hitler took power. After that, the German Catholic Bishops said,
Without therefore departing from the condemnation of certain religious and moral errors voiced in our earlier measures, the episcopate believes it has ground for confidence that the general prohibitions and admonitions mentioned above need no longer be regarded as necessary.
Once the German bishops had lifted the ban, that opened the floodgates to membership in the party and millions of Catholic Germans joined. From that point onwards the growth of the party and the pursuit of its evil policies went on unimpeded. The Church never saw fit to clearly denounce these policies, not even once the nature and extent of the genocide those policies led to became clearly understood. And as opposed to the swift and generalized excommunication of all Communists in the world in one stroke, which the Church had no qualms to do after the war, the Church never threatened to excommunicate nor excommunicated any Catholics who were part of the genocidal rampage against the Jews. Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Bormann, and many others in the Nazi hierarchy died as Catholics.
Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens plan to initiate legal proceedings against the Pope, according to an article in the Times Online. That is a good thing, and it’s something the world should have done long ago. It’s time to make the clergymen who may be guilty of crimes accountable to Justice. Not heavenly Justice, mind you, but that of the countries they live in and International Law.
Doing things, or not doing them, based on the “good of the universal church” is something the Church has always done. The victims and Justice are never part of the equation. At the height of the German genocidal campaign against the Jews during WWII Cardinal Faulhaber approached his colleague Cardinal Bertram and proposed they compose a manifesto protesting the murder of Jews. Bertram’s response reflected the typical Catholic attitude toward the subject, namely that the Church should limit its influence to matters “of greater importance in the long term.” But an indictment against the Church would have gone much further than an accusation of apathy. It could have included charges of defamation, incitement, complicity in human rights violations, accessory or complicity in crimes against humanity, failure to warn/act, obstruction of justice, profiting from stolen property, abuse of diplomatic privileges, and crimes against humanity.
These days Jews around the world not only celebrate their liberation from the ancient Egyptian yoke, they also celebrate Iom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date was chosen to commemorate the revolt at the Warsaw Ghetto, an event in which—just like in the past—a handful of Jews dared confront the all-powerful pharaoh. But the story of these Jews in the ghetto did not have a happy ending: neither did the Red Sea open so that the pursued could escape, nor were their enemies smitten by divine hand. Instead, the few survivors from the hell that was the ghetto ended their lives in the vortex of death that was Treblinka.
The Warsaw Ghetto was one of the many ghettos the Germans established in various European cities. The ghettos were created with the sole purpose of keeping the Jewish population locked in to prevent them from having contact with their Christian neighbors. The Germans forced hundreds of thousands of Jews to live packed in these places that would have normally held a tenth of the population. The Jews from the ghetto, as well as those that still lived “free” in other cities, were forced to sew a yellow Star of David on their clothes so that the Christians could clearly identify them. The draconian anti-Jewish laws the Germans promulgated in 1935, followed by similar ones in Italy in 1938 and then in France, Slovakia, Hungary and other countries, prevented the Jews from having sexual contact with Christians, from holding public office or academic positions, from working in professions such as law or medicine as well as many other restrictions, including loss of citizenship. These laws constituted grave human rights violations and were the first steps in a gradual process of dehumanization of the Jews that made the subsequent genocide possible.
Where did the Germans get all these ideas? Which Machiavellian functionary thought of this? When the Nazis came to power in 1933 they discovered they did not need to invent almost anything in their persecution of the Jews, because the Catholic Church had invented practically everything hundreds of years before. The yellow badge in the garments, the prohibition to hold public office, the prohibition to have Christian employees, the burning of the Talmud, the prohibition of living next to Christians, the prohibition from belonging to guilds or work in industry, the ghettos, all these violations to basic human rights of Jews that we associate with the legislation of the Nazi tyranny was promulgated by the Catholic Church between 400 and 700 years before the Nazis. During almost two millennia Christians were taught that Christianity had replaced Judaism, and that Jews were evil, bent on the destruction of Christianity and that they were killers of Jesus.
So, we should not be very surprised then that when Hitler came to power he found that the population—like him—already deeply hated Jews. That hatred had been planted and cultivated by Christianity since practically the beginning of the Christian movement in the first century of the Common Era. A verbal hatred that began as an intra-Jewish fraternal fight, with time and the distancing of the Early Christians from mainstream Judaism (as Christianity gained traction among the pagan peoples of the Roman Empire) it transformed itself in violent, visceral and irrational hatred. The Christian movement accused Jews of killing Jesus and of rejecting his messianic mission. As a consequence, the Early Christians developed the concept of supersessionism in which Judaism was relegated to second plane as Christianity was replacing it. Christians believed at this time that God considered Christians the “New Israel” and the new “Chosen People”. They began calling the Christian Bible the “New” Testament and the Hebrew Bible the “Old” Testament, once again suggesting that the Jewish religion had become superfluous.
Despite oppression and hardship however, the Jews did not disappear. This tenaciousness to survive and their continued refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah led to an increase of Christian hatred toward Jews. The Church Fathers, whose writings make up the foundation of Christianity as we know it today, wrote about Jews in a manner comparable to the Nazis. As St. Ambrose, known as the “Bishop with the Golden Tongue” said in 374 CE,
The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy, rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. They worship the Devil. Their religion is a sickness. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jew must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is essential that all Christians hate them. 
Saint John Chrysostom, bishop of Antioch, was not that much better just a few years later:
Where Christ-killers gather, the cross is ridiculed, God blasphemed, the father unacknowledged, the son insulted, the grace of the Spirit rejected. . . . If the Jewish rites are holy and venerable, our way of life must be false. But if our way is true, as indeed it is, theirs is fraudulent. I am not speaking of the Scriptures. Far from it! . . . I am speaking of their present impiety and madness. 
During the Middle Ages Christians began associating Jews with the Devil. This association was a natural one to make for a population already used to reading in the Gospels verses like “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” Christian thinkers asked themselves what kind of creature would reject the truth and kill God, and concluded that only an inhuman agent of Satan could act that way. The descending spiral led many European Christians, most of whom had never even seen a Jew, to form a fantastic conception of them that had no basis in reality.
The French Revolution brought about the Emancipation of the Jews, who quickly left the ghettos and in large part assimilated to the Christian population of the cities to which they moved. The Enlightenment transformed the Christian theological anti-Judaism into something modern, secular and pseudo-scientific, sine qua non prerequisites for a population that was rapidly adopting a modern worldview detached from the yoke of their religion. It’s in these cultural surroundings that antisemitism was transformed into something racial, and it’s in the 19th and 20th centuries that the old accusations of deicide, of poisoning wells, of bringing about the Black Death, of killing Christian boys to extract their blood to make matzah and many other baseless accusations were transformed into modern accusations in which Jews were blamed for Germany losing WWI, of creating and fomenting revolutions, of modernism, of Capitalism, of Communism, of inflation, of unemployment, and many more.
The Nazis inherited this conception of the Jew. Hitler was raised as a Catholic and imbibed the traditional anti-Jewish teachings in Christianity, and he took maximum advantage of them to promote his agenda. As he told two German Catholic bishops in 1933:
The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them into ghettos, etc., because it recognized the Jews for what they were. . . . I am moving back toward the time in which a fifteen-hundred-year-long tradition was implemented. . . . I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the church and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service for pushing them out of schools and public functions. 
 Quoted in Dagobert David Runes, The Jew and the Cross, p. 61.
 Quoted in Jeremy Cohen, “Robert Chazan’s ‘Medieval Anti-Semitism’: A Note on the Impact of Theology,” in Berger, ed., History and Hate, p.69.
 Akten deutscher Bischöfe, vol. 1, pp. 100-102. Quoted in Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews, p. 47.
It’s odd that anyone should be surprised at the current sexual child abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic Church. It should not be surprising because for anyone who knows the history of the Church, rampant sexual abuses of all kinds were quite commonplace for centuries. During the Middle Ages the Church had absolute power over people, and the people had no power at all to do anything, nor anyone to complain to. One can only imagine the lurid events in convents, monasteries, abbeys and other houses of God. That clergy went on doing this until the present time is only natural.
The trouble for the Church is, these days the environment outside the Church is different. A priest can no longer do as he pleases with the boys in church because these days the child can speak out without fear of being flogged by his parents, or bringing shame to the family, or excommunication, or even a visit to an Inquisition dungeon. So, the only difference between now and the 14th century is that now there’s an open press, a somewhat liberal society, and an inexorable distancing from religion and thus from the despotic yoke of the Church.
But no one should expect the Pope to do the right thing now, namely defrock these pederast priests and hand them over to the civil authorities for prosecution, because that is not what popes do. No, popes do not have the interests of Justice and the victims in mind, they have the interests of the Holy Church in mind, and that means thinking in the long term. And when it comes to thinking ahead and thinking of what will be best for the Church in the long term, the answer is always demurrals, delays, silence, and stonewalling for decades—even generations—until there’s no one alive who lived through the events in question, and the events are forgotten by all except some historians. By the time they narrate the events in history books, the people are so detached that the stories sound almost quaint. It’s like stories of the massacres perpetrated by Catholics in the name of religion during the Crusades or even the Religious Wars. Or the tortures and persecutions of the Inquisition. Who is revolted by these things these days? We would if they had just happened. But we are not because they happened so long ago that we tend to view them in the same way as the barbarous actions of any people in antiquity. This is the strategy of silent popes. It has worked wonderfully for the Church in the past. It’s up to right minded people today to prevent it from working for them again.
Apologizing is not enough. It’s important the Catholic Church apologizes for sexually abusing children, and they also apologize for covering it up and not punishing pederast priests, but that is just one step toward the solution. To show that the Catholic Church is ready, willing and able to rid itself of the pedopjhilia problem once and for all, and to ensure it does not happen again, it needs to take draconian measures. Starting now, the Church should:
1. Make a world-wide call to Catholics that were allegedly molested by priests to come forward
2. Within the next month, look at all cases of accused priests still alive
3. Defrock the priests
4. Hand them over with all available evidence and/or testimonials to the civil authorities for prosecution
5. Alert the victims and the press of steps 3-4 above
If the priest is found to have been innocent after all, then the Church should issue an apology to him, reinstate him in the Church if he so wishes, and give him a free vacation in the Vatican. If he is found to have been guilty, then the Church should make very loud public statements of repudiation.
This will be a huge embarrassment to the Church in the immediate future, but will have the dual effect of restoring its moral standing in the long run, and will make any present and future cases of sexual child abuse disappear.
Rev. Cantalamessa, you really messed up today. I know you didn’t mean to insult anyone when you compared the current attacks on the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict with the persecution of the Jews, but you did, and you did it big time. It seems that you are ignoring a few important points: first of all, there is no comparison because the Church persecuted the Jews for no other reason than their Jewishness, which the Church found intolerable, while the current attacks on the Church and the Pope—I wouldn’t quite call it “persecution”—are well deserved as the Church seems to have an endemic child abuse problem compounded with on obstruction of justice problem. This is not the first time this happens. It’s best to not even talk about the Middle Ages. Hopefully the Pope will make use of his power and swiftly remove any offenders from the Church and hand them over to the civil authorities for prosecution, as would be the case with any child molester. The attacks on the Pope are well deserved too. He was responsible for some of these cases before he became pope and he not only did not punish these priests, he moved them to other places where they were able to molest children again! So, it’s hard to feel sorry for the Church or the Pope these days. You also seem to have forgotten that of the 365 days of the year, this is the least appropriate day to make such comparison with the persecution of the Jews. Should I remind you of the forced conversion of the Jews, instituted by the Church centuries ago? Should I remind you of the incitement to violence in the faithful every Good Friday after sermons and Passion Plays? Should I remind you of the accusation of deicide which prompted countless acts of Christian violence toward Jews? Or the Good Friday prayer which asked God to lift the veil of the blind, perfidious Jews?
It makes me wonder about your boss, Pope Benedict, too, because one needs to ask oneself the uncomfortable question of why he didn’t stand up as you were making this innapropriate comparison and distance himself and the Church from your comments. But then, maybe one should not be so surprised about this given his recent track record regarding the sexual predator priests, or his treatment of the whole Bishop Williamson affair, or his reinstating the Good Friday prayer referenced above, or his rush canonization process for the problematic wartime Pope Pius XII. In a way, seeing Pope Benedict looking at the floor today as you uttered those words reminded me of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who also stood silently by the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in 2001 as Assad let loose an antisemitic rant that was broadcast in the entire Christian world. Assad, like the Catholic Church before him, presented Jews as enemies of God. Also like Christians before him, Assad used the Christian blood libel of Jews as Christ-killers. Pope John Paul II did not see fit to stop him right then and there and thus appeared to implicitly accept Assad’s vitriolic statements.
Perhaps this issue of silent popes is also endemic in the Church. After all, Pope Pius XI and his successor Pope Pius XII both stood by silently as the Nazis slowly and inexorably dehumanized, demonized, and exterminated millions of Jews during the Second World War.
To wrap it up, Rev. Cantalamessa, as the sole and direct preacher to the pope I think you yourself need some advising. I would encourage you to think about these things, and next time you sit with Pope Benedict advise him better.