Pope John Paul II and “We Remember” are widely praised for supposedly facing up to errors made during the Holocaust.
I ask: if the Church never aided, and indeed opposed, the Nazis, and never even accepted religion-based antisemitism, to what errors did the Vatican face up?
Here’s how Joseph Ratzinger explains it. Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote the following when he was a top advisor to John Paul II:
“‘Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah (Holocaust) was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel, it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians.'” (My emphasis – Jared Israel.)
— Joseph Ratzinger as quoted by Abe Foxman in an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) press release welcoming Ratzinger’s election as Pope.
Also quoted on boston.com http://tinyurl.com/hfpob
So Joseph Ratzinger claims that: a) Nazism was “anti-Christian”; b) Christianity erred only by “insufficient resistance” to Nazism, not by complicity or active support; c) even this error resulted from individual Christian’s religious hostilities to Judaism – “an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians” – rather than widespread and virulent antisemitism and the policies of religious organizations, such as the centralized Catholic Church.
But the evidence shows that:
A) The Catholic Church hierarchy – especially Eugenio Pacelli, before and after he became Pope Pius XII – aided the Nazis. Indeed, Pacelli and the Church played a central role in making Hitler the dictator of Germany.
B) The Catholic Church was active in Nazi movements outside Germany, especially in the Baltic region and in the Balkans, where the Church helped run the Nazi puppet State of Croatia. After the war, the Vatican sheltered Croatian Nazi war criminals.
C) Although at Yad Vashem, Pope John Paul II described the Nazis as having “a Godless ideology,” this is not how the Nazis presented themselves or how the Catholic Church described the Nazis when they were in power.
The German Catholic Church’s Centre Party (Zentrum) did clash with the Nazis in the 1920s, but as Hitler wrote (see quote below) their quarrel was over politics, not Catholic religious teachings, let alone belief in god. I can find no record from the period of Nazi rule of the Catholic Church attacking the Nazis as atheists, perhaps because they weren’t. The Nazis themselves claimed they were fighting against atheism, specifically Bolshevist atheism, which they charged was a Jewish-created movement. In attacking the Jews, the Nazis routinely employed Christian symbolism and traditional Christian antisemitic arguments, with which Europeans were familiar.
On 23 March 1933, the Nazi government put forward the Enabling act, which would allow Hitler to create new laws without parliamentary approval. This was after the Nazi-staged Reichstag fire; after the banning of the huge Communist party and subsequent arrest of thousands of communists and other anti-Nazis; and amidst a campaign of violent antisemitism. To become law, the Enabling act needed a 2/3 parliamentary vote. Before the vote, Hitler addressed the Reichstag (parliament) saying:
“While the Government is determined to carry through the political and moral purging of our public life, it is creating and insuring prerequisites for a truly religious life. The Government sees in both [Catholic and Protestant] Christian confessions the most important factors for the maintenance of our folkdom. It will respect agreements concluded between them and the States. However, it respects that its work will meet with a similar appreciation. The Government will treat all other denominations with equal objective justice. It can never condone, though, that belonging to a certain denomination or to a certain race might be regarded as a license to commit or tolerate crimes. The Government will devote its care to the sincere living together of Church and State.” (My emphasis – Jared Israel)
The Social Democrats fiercely opposed the Enabling act. Hitler needed a 2/3 majority, so the balance lay with Zentrum, the Catholic Center Party. Zentrum leader Monsignor Ludwig Kaas, a close friend and advisor to Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, addressed the Reichstag. Far from attacking the Enabling act, or disputing Hitler’s claim that Nazism was based on Christianity, Kaas called for a ‘yes’ vote. The Zentrum faction did vote ‘yes,’ and the act became law. According to National Catholic Reporter correspondent John Allen, a liberal Catholic and student of Vatican history (he has written a biography of Joseph Ratzinger):
[Excerpt from John Allen’s Telegraph article starts here]
Kaas acted in co-ordination with the German bishops. Four days later, on March 28, the German bishops rescinded their ban on Nazi party membership. On April 1, Cardinal Adolf Bertram of Breslau addressed German Catholics in a letter, warning them “to reject as a matter of principle all illegal or subversive activities”. To most Catholics, it looked as if the church wanted a modus vivendi with Hitler.
The same impression was created a few weeks later when Hitler held a plebiscite to endorse his decision to pull Germany out of the League of Nations, which received the endorsement of the Catholic press and of several Catholic bishops. When Hitler and the Church came to terms for a concordat, it cemented the impression that Hitler was a man the Church “could do business with”.
[Excerpt from John Allen’s Telegraph article ends here]
Three and a half months later, on 6 July 1933, the Catholic Church’s Center Party, Zentrum, dissolved itself. Two weeks after that, the Vatican and the Nazi government signed the Concordat, confirming the alliance between the Catholic Church and the Nazi state. Article 16 of the Concordat, published below, required that Catholic bishops swear to honor the Nazi government, to make their subordinates honor it, and...READ MORE