Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Pious Pope

Interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about that new Pope.

You'll recollect how the Winger blogs were saying we should all hush calling him the Nazi Pope since that was such a long time back, and plus he was drafted, he never wanted to join the Hitler Youth, and anyway we liberals, we just like calling people Nazis, Good Lord, can't we give it a rest?

Well, examine your sources, that's what the tell us in the Academy. (This isn't something those folk over on the Right like to hear, because then they'd have to look at Rush's source, and Ann Coulter's sources, and Bushco's sources, and oh my, we never would have gotten into Iraq then, would we?)

Do you know the source for the claim that this new Pope was drafted into the Hilter Youth? The source for pretty much all the data we have about his, ah, activities during WWII?

Hmm. Two books. Written by this new Pope himself.

And those two books? Oddly? They contradict themselves, as well as external chronology in, well, some key areas.

And further, as the Chronicle article notes, they have some truly interesting omissions:

...Ratzinger doesn't mention Catholic student dissidents of his era. He says nothing about the heroic White Rose group led by Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, which operated in his Bavarian backyard. That group's principled bravery -- it denounced Nazism's slaughter of innocents through fliers distributed at both the University of Munich and towns around Munich -- resulted in the Nazis' beheading both Scholls after a fast trial in the dreaded People's Court. Such silence from a German Catholic turned high Vatican official disturbs.
But perhaps it should not surprise. Despite Ratzinger's reveries in his memoirs about academic Catholic theologians and the merits of Augustine and Bonaventure versus Aquinas, he denies a nod even to the mixed tactics of Bishop Clemens von Galen of Munster, who preached against Hitler's plan to euthanize sick, old, disabled, and mentally retarded Germans while keeping silent about Jews -- a selective dissidence also chosen by other officials of the German Catholic Church. Ratzinger never speaks of the slave-labor camp 12 kilometers outside of Traunstein. He never talks about Dachau, some 100 kilometers away, though contemporaries of Ratzinger have told reporters that townspeople knew of the camp, and even used "Watch out or you'll end up in Dachau" as a warning.

Instead, we hear from Ratzinger that Pope Pius XII -- best known in recent years as protagonist of such embarrassing exposés as Hitler's Pope, by John Cornwell (Viking, 1999); The Popes Against the Jews by David I. Kertzer (Knopf, 2001); and A Moral Reckoning, by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (Knopf, 2002) -- was a "great figure." Coming from a theologian who remarked that "the Cross recapitulates in advance the horror of Auschwitz" -- raising questions about Ratzinger's economies of scale -- such autobiographical choices do not permit one-word exonerations, even if they don't implicate Ratzinger as an overt Nazi sympathizer. Lack of indignation, rather than complicity, is the sin of omission in his reminiscences.
Further scholarly context raises more questions. According to Ratzinger's brother, it was Cardinal Michael Faulhaber of Munich who originally stirred the future pope's childhood desire to rise in the Church. At age 5, after he saw Cardinal Faulhaber getting out of a great big black car in Traunstein, young Joseph immediately told his father, "I want to be a Cardinal too."

After the war, Faulhaber became Ratzinger's mentor and also ordained him.
As a role model for a future pope, though, Faulhaber falls short. He lunched with Hitler at Obersalzburg in 1936, voiced support for the Führer, and denounced "atheistic" Jews. In his much-praised book, Hitler's Willing Executioners (Knopf, 1996), Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, after observing that in Nazi Germany "the Catholic Church as an institution remained thoroughly and publicly anti-Semitic," immediately adds, "Cardinal Michael Faulhaber of Munich expressed this in his Advent sermons at the end of 1933." As late as October 1943, Goldhagen writes, Faulhaber asserted that "nobody in his heart can possibly wish an unsuccessful outcome of the war."

Of course, this is old news -- except for his efforts to sweep it under the rug and his refusal to deal with it.

No, it's the new Pope's more recent behavior -- his late membership on the CDF (which, the uninitiate will be interested to know, descends directly from the Inquisition), his position on gays (a source of evil) and on women's rights -- and the fact that he seems less moved, as the Chronicle article points out, by Christ's message of moral behavior than by an overriding need to demand utter obedience from all: these are the things that might alarm those of us who worry about the role of a man who has been chosen to run one of the most powerful religions in the world.

1 comment:

al hakanson said...

dont you know all orgs are fascist usually to the degree of their size. what do you expect of the 2nd biggest org in the world. even the last pope signed on to the new world order (world state). declare your independence of this wicked org. replace it w. the we are god philosophy called advaita & encourage others to do the same