My choicest political adviser is God who told me to run for the Presidency
Rev. Pat Robertson, quoted in the Church Times, March 1988.
When all countries lived under absolutist governments the Churches enjoyed a much closer relationship with the State than they do in democratic societies. Some of most cruel rulers in history were happily accommodated by the Church. (Vlad the Impaler was a convert to Roman Catholicism).
In recent centuries the Roman Church has always favoured authoritarian regimes that have allowed it privileges, while opposing liberal and democratic governments that have not. For example, in 1862 Pius IX concluded a concordat with the right wing Roman Catholic President of Ecuador, who had achieved power through a coup against the liberal government. Roman Catholicism was to be the only religion permitted and was to be given a dominant rôle in the country’s affairs. The Church was granted total control of education. This was the sort of arrangement that the Church would try to emulate wherever it could.
As it still does today, the Church felt itself competent to give direction on political matters. Pius IX forbade Catholics from engaging in Italy’s new democratic process, either as candidates or voters. Pius’s successor, Leo XIII (pope 1878-1903), was a keen critic of socialism, and of other political theories. The next pope, Pius X who reigned between 1903 and 1914, consistently criticised and suppressed liberal and socialist influences. On the other hand he was exceedingly tolerant of right wing groupings such as Action Française in France and Azione Cattolica in Italy. Pope Pius XI (pope 1922-1939) had equally clear ideas about the suitability of national governments. He was a fierce opponent of communism. Much more acceptable were the politics of Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco, all of whom were Roman Catholics.
In 1928 Pius reached an easy accommodation with Mussolini, under which civil divorce was not to be permitted in Italy. Under the terms of a Concordat the following year, priests in Italy who left the Church were to be penalised, for example by being precluded from certain jobs. Under the terms of the Lateran Treaty the pope recognised the state of Italy with Rome as its capital, getting in return the Vatican City as an independent state, an indemnity for the loss of the Papal States, and an undertaking that Roman Catholicism should be the state religion of Italy. Mussolini described the Pope as a “good Italian”, and the Pope declared that the treaty had “given Italy back to God”. Pius must have been highly impressed by Mussolini’s ability, since he encouraged him to use it by invading and colonising Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) in 1935.
Franco also enjoyed the most cordial relations with the papacy. The pope had denounced the separation of church and state in Republican Spain and supported Franco when he started the Spanish Civil War in 1936. For his part Franco felt himself to have been appointed by God, and considered the Civil War to be a Holy War. A devout Christian, he persecuted atheists and habitually carried around the mummified arm of St Theresa of Ávila. He even granted the Blessed Virgin Mary the rank of Field Marshal in the Spanish army. The Roman Church supported Franco throughout. When he won the war Pope Pius XII sent him a telegram congratulating him on his “Catholic victory”. Under Franco divorce became illegal, adultery became a criminal offence, and religious education was made compulsory, with the Church controlling the text-books. Children had to be given at least one name with adequate religious connotations. Some 25,000 civil marriages were declared invalid. A Concordat with the Vatican in 1953 made it illegal to publish works of religion or philosophy without the approval of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Church had a slightly less easy time with Nazi Germany, yet did not find too much difficulty with the relationship. In 1933 the Catholic bishops in Germany, at a conference at Fulda, voted down a resolution critical of Nazism. Instead they issued a pastoral letter expressing gratitude to Hitler for his moral stance, their ideas of morality being concerned with matters like family planning and mixed bathing . Like many other Christian leaders, Cardinal Faulhaber thought Hitler to be a good Christian, although he had doubts about some of his “evil associates”.
The Roman Church adopted an altogether positive attitude towards Hitler’s regime. As soon as he came to power in 1933 Rome advised that there would be no support for any policy of opposition. A concordat between Germany and Rome concluded in the same year reassured Catholics that the German State was legitimate and acceptable. Pope Pius XI had little difficulty in negotiating his concordat with Nazi Germany. It followed an established authoritarian model of the Lateran treaties . It explicitly documented the symbiotic relationship between Church and State, binding them together in the traditional manner. Article 16 for example included a bishops’ oath of loyalty to the State, and Article 30 a prayer for the Third Reich . As a Roman Catholic himself Hitler made basic decisions concerning the Catholic Church personally, leaving the Protestant Churches to his Protestant colleagues. No Christian Church seriously opposed Hitler, and many supported him. Some even regarded him as a new redeemer, sent by God. In 1936 Hitler warned Cardinal Faulhaber that: “unless National Socialism gets the better of Bolshevism, all is up in Europe for Christianity and the Church” .
Hitler had been brought up as a Catholic, and would certainly have absorbed anti-Semitism from his earliest years. In a speech made in April 1922 he had spoken about his own Christian feelings, and said that it was not merely possible for a Christian to be anti-Semitic, it was necessary for a Christian to be anti-Semitic . Again, he wrote in Mein Kampf:
“…I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the word of the Lord”.
Nazi ideas about the Jews and measures against them were not the invention of contemporary minds, they were what the Church had been saying and doing for centuries. There was nothing at all new in Nazi anti-Semitism. It was simply repackaged traditional Christian anti-Semitism. The whole panoply of persecution was founded on Christian precedents. Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were modelled in part on the decrees of Popes Innocent III and Paul IV. Jews were once again deprived of civil rights, and marriage between German Christians and Jews was once again forbidden. When Nazis confined Jews to specified districts they consciously called those districts ghettos, maintaining respectability by emphasising that what they were doing was exactly what the Roman Church had done. The link was explicit. Before the war Hitler had boasted to Bishop Berning of Osnabrüch that he would do nothing that the Church had done for fifteen hundred years , .
Before the holocaust Hitler had encouraged the expulsion of Jews from Germany, just as Pope Leo VII had done in 937, almost exactly a thousand years before. Denial of citizenship to Jews dated from the earliest days of Christian power. So too the denial of civil rights, and the restrictions on practising medicine. Public humiliation of old Jews was another traditional Christian pass-time. Nor did the Nazis invent the idea of making Jews wear distinctive badges; they simply adopted Church practices, even down to the colour yellow. Other minority groups had also been forced to wear a distinctive “badges of infamy” by the Church, and new minorities were obliged to wear them under the Nazis. The SS used much the same propaganda techniques to whip up hatred against the Jews as the Dominicans and Franciscans had used for centuries. The traditional blood libel against the Jews was revived. In 1934 Der Stürmer carried a front page article under the headline Jüdischer Mordplan (Jewish Death-plot), with an illustration showing Jews draining blood from the throats of blonde haired infants.
In medieval times beneficiaries of Church justice had been obliged to don sulphur shirts in order to help them burn in purpose built furnaces. The Nazis used the same basic idea, but carried it out more efficiently with gas chambers and crematoria. Towns boasted in Nazi times that they were free of Jews (Judenrein), just as they had done in Medieval times. The concept of collective guilt, the burning of books, the destruction of synagogues – all were traditional Christian ideas and practices promoted by the Holy Mother Church and validated by men like Luther.
While the encyclical Divini redemptoris explicitly condemned Communism in Russia, Mexico and Spain, a simultaneous encyclical directed at German Catholics, Mit brennender Sorge failed to make any explicit criticism of Nazism, and consequently had little if any impact. Article 24 of the Nazi party programme stated explicitly that “The party as such represents the standpoint of a positive Christianity” and its protection was guaranteed. When Nazi Germany seized Czechoslovakia in 1939, the recently elected Pope Pius XII refused to criticise the seizure, describing it as one of the “historic processes in which, from the political point of view, the Church is not interested”. The following month both Roman Catholic and Protestant church bells rang out in celebration of Hitler’s fiftieth birthday, and Cardinal Bertram sent him a congratulatory telegram. Throughout the war, Church bells were to ring out not only for Hitler’s birthday, but also for each of his victories, at least until the bells had to be melted down to help the Nazi war effort. When Hitler incorporated Austria into Nazi Germany he was greeted in Vienna by Cardinal Innitzer who proclaimed the ansluss to have been ordained by divine providence. Hitler himself on occasion referred to the divine providence that controlled his actions .
In 1939 and 1940 Pope Pius XII and bishops were unusually fulsome in their birthday greetings to the Führer. On Hitler’s 51st birthday, 20th April 1940, Cardinal Bertram conveyed “warmest congratulations” in the name of all bishops in Germany, and assured Hitler that these congratulations were associated with the “fervent prayers which the Catholics of Germany are sending to heaven on their alters on 20th April for Volk, army and Fatherland, for state and Führer” , a sentiment that was to be echoed on subsequent birthdays until Hitler’s suicide. When he heard of Hitler’s death in 1945, the Cardinal, writing in his own hand, instructed all priests in his archdiocese “to hold a solemn requiem in memory of the Führer and all those members of the Wehrmacht who have fallen in the struggle for our German Fatherland…” . According to Roman Catholic Church Law at the time, a solemn requiem could be held only for a public concern of the Church. Unlike the invasion of Czechoslovakia, this was an historical process in which the Church was interested.
It is no coincidence that the groups who suffered most under the Third Reich were precisely the groups traditionally persecuted under Christianity – Jews, homosexuals, the physically and mentally handicapped, gypsies, and other dissenters from the current orthodoxy. Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who were killed for their beliefs by the Nazis, can be seen as successors to the heretics who were killed for refusing to swear allegiance and for refusing to enlist in armies or fight in wars.
Pius XII (pope 1939-1958), though nominally neutral, seemed to many to favour the axis powers during the second world war. He could not bring himself to criticise Nazi atrocities. Nor did he see fit to criticise the many bishops and priests who supported the Nazis and collaborated with them. After the war the Pope’s behaviour was explained by loyal Catholics in a number of ways: the Pope had not known about the atrocities, or he had known but had felt unable to speak out because he did not interfere in political matters, or he had more important matters to deal with, or alternatively he could not make a stand because of the vulnerability of the Vatican – it was better for the Church to sit out this time of difficulty so that he would be of help after the war had finished. All of these arguments are untenable . In the first place the Vatican knew full well about Nazi atrocities. At one stage Vatican radio broadcasters had criticised them, but the Nazis had complained and the criticism immediately ceased. Jan Karski and the President of Poland, on behalf of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, asked the Pope to excommunicate those responsible for persecution and murder. The answer was no. The mass murder of Jews was reported directly to the Pope by Gerhardt Reigner, but again no action was taken. When the US government asked the Vatican whether it could confirm information about genocide the Vatican refused to do so.
The story about the Pope not wanting to interfere in politics is also difficult to sustain: there has never been a time since the creation of the Papacy that it has not been actively involved in the politics of numerous countries. Many people have been excommunicated for purely political reasons, and there were adequate grounds for excommunicating Hitler and his government. (People were at that time excommunicated for trivial reasons, for example for having expressed a wish to have their bodies cremated after death. It is also noteworthy that the Pope frequently threatened to excommunicate Communists because of their beliefs). Furthermore the Pope took an active interest in the conduct of the war and felt free to speak about it. For example he was quite prepared to speak out against the allies when he thought they might bomb Rome.
The relative unimportance of the Holocaust is also difficult to sustain in view of the other matters that occupied the Pope’s time (he was for example concerned about the danger of black men on his property. When Rome was liberated he asked the allies not to use black soldiers to garrison the Vatican). Finally the excuse that his personal safety was necessary for the survival of the Church cannot be sustained. The Pope could have given implicit guidance, even if he feared to give explicit guidance. He could for example have stated that the injunction to love thy neighbour as thyself applies to all neighbours, not merely Christian ones. He could have stated that there are circumstances when military orders can justly be disobeyed. He could have pointed out that Mary, Jesus and the apostles were all Jewish. He could have said that mass murder was contrary to one of the Ten Commandments. He could have done any of these things without endangering himself in the least. Also, apart from any ethical considerations it is a fact that Pius kept silent even after Rome was safe, the allies were winning and Germany was on the defensive. The bald fact is that the Papacy was far more sympathetic to Nazis and Fascists than to the Democracies. Only after the War was lost, Hitler dead, and world opinion unanimous did the pope disclose to his college of cardinals that Nazism had been a “Satanic spectre” and an “arrogant apostasy from Jesus Christ”.
Pius had also enjoyed friendly relations with Pétain’s Vichy government, Pétain being another keen Catholic leader with a taste for exterminating Jews and other minorities. Marshal Pétain and his government were appointed in July 1940 by an overwhelming vote in the democratically elected French parliament. Under this government Jews were rounded up by French police, herded into cattle trucks and sent to Nazi death camps. Altogether, over 70,000 French Jews were seen off by their Christian neighbours, never to return.. Though he failed to criticise such atrocities, the pope did again manage to find time to condemn communism. He also found time to deplore the surrender terms demanded by the allies at Casablanca. Even after the war Pius never quite found the time to make public statements about Nazism, genocide, atomic weapons or global war. He was occupied with matters such as the bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven, which he was to proclaim in Munificentissimus deus in 1950.
Significantly, none of the mainstream Churches spoke out against the excesses of Nazism – true enough they protested loudly about the removal of crucifixes from schoolroom walls, but with the arguable exception of euthanasia, they lodged no objections and made no public criticism of the invasions of successive countries, the suppression of free speech, the abrogation of democracy, judicial murders, or concentration camps. They did however offer prayers to the Lord of Battles for the Führer’s victory.
Since the end of the war the German bishops have consistently failed to acknowledge their rôle in the success of Nazi persecutions, a fact which keeps alive a great deal of bitterness in Germany and elsewhere. In recent years the German Catholic bishops have edged nearer to admitting their complicity in Nazism, but their failure to making any sort of clear unambiguous admission continues to irritate and anger many.
Throughout Europe, Catholic groups had carried out atrocities during the Second World War. The Croat Ustasha, overwhelmingly Catholic, ultra-nationalist and fascist outdid the Nazis in their barbarism against Orthodox Serbs and partisans, and assisted in exterminating Jews. Some of their leaders, who together were responsible for hundreds of thousands of murders, were Franciscans. One, the commandant of Jasenovac concentration camp, known as “Brother Devil”, accounted for 40,000 lives or more. Other churchmen also found common cause with the Nazis. The President of Slovakia, Joseph Tiso, was a leading Nazi responsible for setting up concentration camps in his country. But this was not his only vocation, For President Tiso was also a Roman Catholic Priest. He was executed for his crimes in 1946. Other bishops and priests were responsible for many thousands of deaths, having collaborated freely with the Nazi authorities. Here is, Dr Joachim Kahl, an ex pastor and German Church historian on the Catholic fascist movement in Croatia which flourished between1941 and 1944:
The Ustaša, as this terrorist organisation was called, was responsible for the forcible conversion of some 240,000 Orthodox Serbs to Roman Catholicismand for putting about 750,000 of these people to death. There was, from the very beginning, close collaboration between the Catholic clergy and the Ustaša. Archbishop Stepinac, whom the Vatican appointed in in 1942 to be the spiritual leader of the Ustaša, had a place, together with ten of his clergy, in the Ustaša parliament. Priests were also employed as police chiefs and as officers in the personal body-guard of the fanatical Croation head of state, Pavelic. Nuns marched in military parades immediately behind the soldiers, their arms raised in the fascist salute. Abbesses were decorated with the Ustaša order. The most cruel part of this movement was played, however, by the Fransiscans, whose monaseries had for some time been used as arsenals. Several monks and priests agreed to work as executioners in the hastily set p concentration camps to which the Orthodox Serbs were sent for mass execution by decapitation. These massacres were so brutal that even Croatia’s allies, the German Nazis, protested against them and petitions were sent to the Vatican. Pope Pius XII, however, said nothing, just as he also said nothing about Auschwitz. It was not until some ten years later, in 1953, that he broke his silence by promoting Archbishop Stepinac, who, as one of those bearing the greatest guilt, had been sentenced\by the Supreme People’s Court of Yugoslavia to sixteen years’ forced labour, to the rank of Cardinal for his “great services” to the Church.
Cardinal Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb, had been imprisoned on charges of collaboration. In the Ukraine, the Uniate Church (which owes allegiance to Rome) was similarly associated with Nazism. A number of Uniate bishops were arrested after the war, convicted as collaborators, and given long prison sentences.
Towards the end of the Second World War the Vatican helped Nazi War criminals to escape prosecution by issuing them with false passports and moving them to safe countries. In one known case (that of Paul Touvier, to which we will return) a convicted criminal was moved from one European state to another over 30 years, entering countries illegally and taking refuge in Church institutions. More usually such criminals were transferred to the safety of Roman Catholic countries. Often they were sheltered in monasteries, until red-cross passports could be obtained, and then taken to countries such as such as Spain and Argentina . Sometimes they were dressed as priests for the journey . This so called ‘rat-line’ was funded by a parallel ‘gold-line’. Gold taken from Jews, Serbs and Gypsies was spirited to the Vatican where it financed the work of saving alleged and convicted war criminals . Vatican reticence on the matter has been largely due to the fact that the men responsible held high office in the Vatican up to the late 1980’s at least. This was confirmed in 1988 by Cardinal Franz König, who knew two such men personally, though he declined to name them .
Such admissions a untypical within the Church. More usual is either silence, or continued explicit support for extreme right wing organisations. In France, masses are still said for Marshal Pétain and leaflets for Jean Marie Le Pen’s National Front pamphlets are available at church doors . Neo-fascists in Italy are also looked on by the Church with a kindly tolerance. When Giorgino Almirante, leader of the MSI fascist party, died in 1988 his body was borne in state to the church of Sant Agnese in Agone in Rome. After rousing shouts of “Duce! Duce!” from the ten thousand strong crowd and a hail of salutes from as many straight right arms, the body was led into the church by the new Neo-fascist leader. There, eight priests waited to perform the funeral mass amid the fascist political banners hung around the alter. The sermon faithfully reflected the dead man’s political views, incorporating as it did quotations from his lifetime of fascist thought .
Elsewhere, the Vatican has frequently lent support to right wing groups. In 1946 Cardinal Mindszenty organised a plot with the help of the Fascist Arrow Cross and Cardinal Spellman to overthrow the Hungarian government. Fascism has had a good friend in the Roman Catholic Church. Senior churchmen have supported every right wing dictatorship – from Spain under Franco and Portugal under Salazar to Argentina and other South American dictatorships under their military juntas.
The position of Protestants is very little better than that of the Roman Catholics. Luther had stated that the bible confirms the right of the state to rule by force, and described this as a benevolent provision of God. Protestants were thus happy to accept a Nazi dictatorship, and collaborated with Nazis just as much as their Roman Catholic brethren. On 3rd April 1933 German Protestants, at the first National Conference of the Faith Movement, affirmed in a resolution that for a German the Church is a community of believers who are under an obligation to fight for a Christian Germany. In the 1930’s Deutsche Christen, Protestants who found Nazism and Christianity to be perfectly compatible, became the largest Protestant faction. They were led by Reichsbischof Ludwig Müller, a favourite of Hitler, who regarded the Führer and the Nazis as ‘presents from God’. Their motto was “The swastika on our breasts; the cross on our hearts”. Their synods passed Arian legislation. They sang Nazi hymns. Nazi flags hung in their Churches. Their pastors wore Nazi uniforms. Their Church was an arm of the State. Like the Roman Catholic Church they were funded by the State, and benefited from public taxation. Church subsidies increased from 130,000,000 marks per year in 1933 to over 1,000,000,000 marks a few years later. Protestant Churches advocated obedience towards the Führer, and gave prayers for him and for the Third Reich. Congregations gave Nazi salutes in Church. Bishops asked for God’s blessing for those who accepted the Führer’s call. After the failed attempt on Hitler’s life on 20th July 1944, the Clergy Council of the German Evangelical Church sent a telegram to him which said “Thanksgiving is being offered in all the Protestant Churches of Germany for God’s gracious protection and his manifest preservation…” .
No mainstream Church offered any significant opposition. Very few Evangelical pastors were imprisoned at all for opposing the Nazi State. Amongst Roman Catholic bishops one was expelled from his see, and another served a short term for currency offences. Hardly any churchmen of any denomination spoke out against the evils of Nazism. For political reasons, Church governments often refused to show solidarity with those who had been arrested and condemned for opposing the Nazi government . As Konrad Adenauer later wrote to one pastor:
I believe that if all the bishops had together made public statements from the pulpits on a particular day, they could have prevented a great deal. That did not happen, and there is no excuse for it. It would have been no bad thing if the bishops had all been put in prison or in a concentration camp as a result. Quite the contrary. But none of that happened and therefore it is best to keep quiet.
In recent years the Roman Church in much of South America has abandoned its traditional right wing friends and, to the annoyance of the Vatican, has espoused Liberation Theology, a system of thought verging on Marxism. While priests and bishops support revolutionaries, their traditional rôle has been taken over by Baptists and other evangelists from the USA who find that their God has a strong affinity for dictatorships. Sociological studies have frequently noted the tie between Protestant fundamentalism and extreme right wing politics in the USA (and sometimes between Catholic fundamentalism and extreme right wing politics). One study showed that Protestant fundamentalists accounted for much of the support given to George Wallace in the 1968 presidential election in the USA . Extreme right wing politics are espoused by fervent Christian organisations like the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society (an extremist group named after the Baptist missionary who founded it). The affection between religion and extreme politics is mutual. As one commentator has observed: “All Right-wing dictatorships today have established churches of one world religion or another. The only political party in Britain which decrees religious allegiance for its members is the Nazi Party”
The propaganda by the Christian churches in regard to their role during WWII in Fascist Italy, Yugoslavia, and Nazi Germany has so conditioned their believers that most of them believe that Christianity played an honorable role at best, and only a silent role at worst. Yet there seems little recognition that the very framework of the beliefs owned by the Fascists and Nazis came from their Christian upbringing from church, school, and Christian traditions. The entire anti-Jewish and racial sentiments came not from some new philosophy or unique ideology, but rather from centuries of Christian preaching against the Jews, gypsies, and heretics. This comes especially true for European countries, for the Christian practice of crusades, inquisitions and holy wars occurred in their own backyards. Moreover, the wars conducted by Providence, approved by God, appears so often in the Bible, and practiced by Christians throughout the centuries has disciplined Christians to believe that they could engage in offensive war honorably and even worse—morally. One must remember that the Catholic raised and Protestant conditioned Hitler took his cause of war for an expanded Germany and his fight against the Jews, for Providence’s sake, and a fight for the Lord. He appealed to his fellow German Christians to put him in power and he achieved popular support. I find it unimaginable that Hitler, without this religious foundation, could have churches, politicians and citizens electing him into office, much less have acted against the Jews.
The intolerance against humans and religious wars committed before WWII comes from such abundant sources of Christian history that to deny an influential connection can only come from immeasurable ignorance. Moreover the justification for atrocious acts committed by Christians and priests during WWII could only have come from their own beliefs and faiths.
I do not think I understate the claim that the conditions required for a Nazi or Fascist state cannot occur without a deep religious or superstitious underpinning. I charge that the major accountability for World War II and the Jewish holocaust must go to the ones who created the conditions for it to occur. And the people who created the conditions come in the form of the Christian churches—the body of believing people who acted according to their Christian beliefs and who taught their children, preached to their congregations, and influenced their society’s political leaders.
I aim to provide the reader with a flavor of the forgotten or denied role of Christians during WWII. Nothing here comes from a unique or original understanding. Rather, I have taken parts of what comes almost directly from established and well researched historical works on the Catholic and Protestant involvement in Europe.
The Catholic Church during WWII
Jewish persecutions: banning Jews from working for public office, the enforcement of wearing yellow badges, the Jewish ghettos, burning of synagogues, and the extermination of Jews remind us of the atrocities committed by Nazis in WWII. However the atrocities above do not pertain to Nazi actions but rather the practices of Catholicism, centuries before Hitler came into power.
The seeds of Christian hatred for Jews begins from the readings of the New Testament and the persecutions began when the Church first held power to enforce its dogmas. The Biblical Paul, for example, put the blame of Jesus’s death entirely on the Jews. In the first epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians (2:14-15), it says, “the Jews who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets….” Also the gospel of John, makes it clear that the Jews represent an enemy (and John 8:44 puts the devil as the father of the Jews). Many prominent priests used Paul’s epistles and the gospels as Biblical justification for Jewish persecution.
Historical Christianity makes it clear that the Jews formed an essential part of early Christian theology. Examples include the letter of Barnabas (circa 130), Justin the Martyr’s “Dialogue with the Jew Trypho” (circa 160), Tertullian’s treatise against the Jews (circa 200), Orgin’s work against Celsus (circa 250). The sermons by John Chrysostom in 387, especially, show an indigence against the Jews. Origen had written, “The blood of Jesus falls not only on the Jews of that time, but on all generations of Jews up to the end of the world.” John Chrysostom wrote, “The Synagogue is a brothel, a hiding place for unclean beasts…. Never has any prayed to God…. They are possessed by demons.” [Cornwell, pp. 24-25]
When Christianity became officially accepted for the state in the 4th century, the Christians began to act against the Jews. Constantine imposed heavy penalties on anyone who visited a pagan temple or converted to Judaism. Mixed marriages between Jews and Christians were punished by death. In the Codex Theodosianus of Theodosis II (408-450), it forbade Jews to hold any public office. It first came from Justinian who legalized the burning and pillaging of Jewish synagogues by Christian bishops and monks (often canonized later). Thomas Aquinas, in the treatise De regimine Judaeorum ad Ducissam Brabantae, made it acceptable for popes and kings to dispose of property belonging to the Jews.
Compelling Jews to wear yellow badges came from an invention of the Catholic Church. The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 set up the Inquisition along with enforcement of Jews wearing a yellow spot on their clothes and a horned cap (pileum cornutum) to mark them as the murderers of Christ and to remind them of their descent from the devil. During the Black Death plague which ravaged Europe in the 14th century, the Catholic clergy aimed its blame at the Jews claiming they worked for the Devil and had poisoned the wells and springs. Their extermination compares with the pogroms that took place in the 20th century under Hitler. During the Spanish Inquisition, the Catholic Church directed its actions against the baptized Jews, the marranos. They forbade them to hold any office in the Church or the state; many suffered torture or death.
Popes have traditionally supported anti-Jewish acts and beliefs. Pope Paul IV in the sixteenth century established the Roman ghetto (another Catholic invention). For more than two centuries afterward, Catholics humiliated the Roman Jews and degraded them at the annual carnival. In the same century, Pope Gregory XIII instituted enforced Christian sermons insulting Judaism. [Cornwell, p. 299]. In a Papal custom Popes performed an anti-Jewish ceremony on their way to the basilica of St. John Lateran. Here the Pontiff would receive a copy of the Pentateuch from the hand of Rome’s rabbi. The Pope then returned the text upside down with twenty pieces of gold, proclaiming that, while he respected the Law of Moses, he disapproved of the hard hearts of the Jewish race. [Cornwell, p. 27]
Forcing Jews, and heretics into the Catholic faith, of course has always served as a hallmark of Catholicism. When they could not legally use strong-arm tactics they used propaganda. Although most people associate the term with Hitler, propaganda actually came as an invention by the Catholics long before the Nazis, from the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, an organization established by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.
In the 1930s, as the Catholic leaders listened to Hitler’s rhetoric against the Jews during his appeal for power, his speeches condemning Jews only correlated with the Church’s own long history of Jewish hatred. Indeed, in Hitler’s meeting with Bishop Berning and Monsignor Steinmann on April 26, 1933, Hilter reminded his Catholic guests that the Church, for 1,500 years had regarded the Jews as parasites, had banished them into ghettos, and had forbidden Christians to work for them. Hitler said he merely intended to do more effectively what the Church had attempted to accomplish for so long. [Lewy]
It should come to no surprise that at no time before or during Hitler’s rise did the Catholic Church speak up against such talk. Sadly the Church remained mostly silent, with its main objections concerned with its own power structure in Germany. Thus it aimed to prevent loss of control and, indeed, to gain Church control through an expansion of papal power, control of appointment of bishops, and the control of Catholic schools. This self-serving interest gave the Vatican an impetus to form an agreement with Germany. In this sense, Hitler actually saved Catholicism in Germany, especially considering that Bismark before him had begun a Kulturkampf (“culture struggle”), a policy of persecution against Catholicism. [Cornwell, p.14]
The Reich Concordat between Hitler and the Vatican
In 1917, Eugenio Pacelli, later to become Pope Pius XII, resided in a nunciature in Munich, directly opposite to what was later to become the Brown House, the cradle of Nazism. There he showed his first inkling of his unsympathetic feelings toward the Jews when he refused to come to the assistance of Jews and calling them a “Jewish cult.” [Cornwell, p.70]. In a typewritten letter, he described “a gang of young women, of dubious appearance, Jews as like all the rest of them, hanging around in the offices with lecherous demeanor and suggestive smiles.” [Cornwell, p.75] In the 1920s Pacelli presented his credentials to the Weimer government where he stated, “For my part, I will devote my entire strength to cultivating and strengthening the relations between the Holy See and Germany.” Pacelli’s stay in Germany with his familiarity with their political, religious, and racist views must have influenced his later work to unify Catholicism with Germany.
In Italy, the Holy See signed a pact (drafted by Pacelli’s brother and Pietro Gasparri) with Mussolini in February 1929, known as the Lateran Treaty. Hitler had taken note of the Lateran Treaty and hoped for an identical agreement for his future regime. [Cornwell, pp.114-115] The Vatican encouraged priests to support the Fascists and the Pope spoke of Mussolini as “a man sent by Providence.” The Church has a history of pacts with criminal states as the Holy See signed treaties with monarchs and governments regardless of slavery, inhumanity, or torture they may have induced upon fellow human beings. Even Mussolini’s attack on Ethiopia on October 3, 1935 was not condemned by the Holy See. Nor did Pius XI restrain the Italian hierarchy from war enthusiasm. “O Duce!, declared the bishop of Terracina, “today Italy is Fascist and the hearts of all Italians beat together with yours.” [Cornwell, p.175]
In the 1930s, Pacelli and his associates negotiated with the Nazis to form a contract which got signed in 1933 as the Reich Concordat with the approval of the Pope. Note that the Catholic hierarchy believes in the infallibility of Popes in matters of faith and morals (ever since the First Vatican Council of 1870). This Concordat with its Papal infallible authority had arguably neutralized the potential of 23 million Catholics to protest and resist and which helped Hitler into legal dictatorship. [Cornwell, p. 4] After the agreement, Hitler, mimicking Pacelli fourteen years earlier stated, “I will devote my entire strength to cultivating and strengthening the relations between the Holy See and Germany.” [Cornwell, p. 136] (Hitler, spent more time and effort on the concordat with Pacelli than on any other treaty in the entire era of the Third Reich [Cornwell, p. 150]). This Concordat gave Germany an opportunity to create an area of trust with the Church and gave significance to the developing struggle against international Jewry. According to John Cornwell, this papal endorsement of Nazism helped seal the fate of Europe which makes it plausible that these Catholic prejudices bolstered aspects of Nazi anti-Semitism. [Cornwell, p. 28]
The Concordat and the following Jewish persecutions resulted in the silence of the Pope and the bishops. Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich, referring to the Nazi attacks on the Jews, wrote to Pacelli, confirming that protest proved pointless since it could only extend the struggle to Catholics. He told Pacelli, “Jews can help themselves.” [Cornwell, p. 140] Most bishops and Cardinals were Nazi sympathizers as were bishop Wilhelm Berning of Osnabruck and Archbishop Grober of Freiburg (Pacelli’s choice for emissaries).
On April 25, thousands of Catholic priests across Germany became part of an anti-Semitic attestation bureaucracy, supplying details of blood purity through marriage and baptism registries in accordance with the Nazi Nuremberg laws which distinguished Jews from non-Jews. Catholic clerical compliance in the process would continue throughout the period of the Nazi regime. [Cornwell, pp.154] Any claimed saving of all-too-few Jewish lives by a few brave Catholics must stand against the millions who died in the death camps as an indirect result of the official workings of the Catholic body.
After Kristallnacht (where Nazis broke Jewish store windows and had synagogues burned) there issued not a single word of condemnation from the Vatican, the German Church hierarchy, or from Pacelli. Yet in an encyclical on anti-Semitism, titled Humani generis unitas (The Unity of the Human Race) by Pope Pius XI, a section claims that the Jews were responsible for their own fate. God had chosen them to make way for Christ’s redemption but they denied him and killed him. And now, “Blinded by their dream of worldly gain and material success,” they had deserved the “worldly and spiritual ruin” that they had brought down upon themselves. [Cornwell, p. 191] Cardinal Theodor Innitzer, archbishop of Vienna warmly received Hitler in Vienna after his triumphal march through the capital where he expressed public satisfaction with Hitler’s regime. [Cornwell, p. 201] Meanwhile, Cardinal Bertram sent Hitler an effusive telegram, published on October 2 in the Nazi newspaper Volkischer Beobachter, “The great deed of safeguarding peace among the nations moves the German episcopate acting in the name of the Catholics of all the German dioceses, respectfully to extend congratulations and thanks and to order a festive ringing of bells on Sunday.” [Cornwell, p. 202]
After the death of Pius XI, the electoral procedure to elect another pope had begun. The March 1939 election favored Pacelli and four days later, Pacelli made it clear that he would handle all German affairs personally. He proposed the following affirmation of Hitler:
To the Illustrious Herr Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer and Chancellor of the German Reich! Here at the beginning of Our Pontificate We wish to assure you that We remain devoted to the spiritual welfare of the German people entrusted to your leadership…. During the many years we spent in Germany, We did all in Our power to establish harmonious relations between Church and State. Now that the responsibilities of Our pastoral function have increased Our opportunities, how much more ardently do We pray to reach that goal. May the prosperity of the German people and their progress in every domain come, with God’s help, to fruition!
Pacelli became a crowned Pope on March 12, 1939 (Pius XII). The following month on April 20, 1939, at Pacelli’s express wish, Archbishop Orsenigo, the nuncio in Berlin, opened a gala reception for Hitler’s fiftieth birthday. The birthday greetings thus initiated by Pacelli immediately became a tradition; each April 20 during the few years left to Hitler and his Reich, Cardinal Bertram of Berlin would send “warmest congratulations to the Fuhrer in the name of the bishops and the dioceses in Germany,” to which he added “fervent prayers which the Catholics in Germany are sending to heaven on their altars.” [Cornwell, p. 209] By this time Pacelli could call on the loyalty and devotion of a half-billion people, of which half the populations of Hitler’s new Reich had become Catholics, including a quarter of the SS. At this time bishops, clergy, religious, and faithful had bound themselves to the Pope, and by his own self estimation, served as the supreme arbiter of moral values on earth. [Cornwell, p. 215]
Throughout the war, not only did Catholic priests pay homage to Hitler and contribute to the anti-Semitic feelings, several priests also protected Nazis from criminal charges. For example, Nazi sympathizers such as Bishop Alois Hudal helped Nazi criminals escape to South America by assisting them with false papers and hiding places in Rome. Father Dragonovic worked with the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) to organize the escape of the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie to South America. Barbie had also lived under Dragonovic’s protection in San Girolamo for about a year.
Catholic Croatia’s Atrocities
In 1941 Croat Fascists declared an independent Croatia. Italy and Hungary (also a fascist state) joined forces with Hitler for a share of Yugoslavia. Hitler had issued his plan for a partitioned Yugoslavia, granting “Aryan” status to an independent Croatia under the Catholic Ante Pavelic. This resulted in a campaign of terror and extermination conducted by the Ustashe of Croatia against two million Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and Communists between 1941 and 1945 (Note that the Croats were Roman Catholics, the Serbs were Orthodox Christians). According to Cornwell, “Pavelic’s onslaught against the Orthodox Serbs remains one of the most appalling civilian massacres known to history.”
From the outset, Pope Pius XII and the Vatican knew of the racist and anti-Semitic statements made by the Croats even as the Pope met with Pavelic and bestowed his papal blessing. Not only did the Croatian Catholic clergy know the details of the massacre of the Serbs and the virtual elimination of the Jews and Gypsies but many of the priests took a leading role! Monks and priests worked as executioners in hastily set up concentration camps where they massacred Serbs. These killings had gotten so brutal that even the Nazis protested against them. By the most reliable reckoning, the Catholic fascists massacred 487,000 Orthodox Serbs and 27,000 Gypsies between 1941 and 1945 in the independent State of Croatia. In addition, approximately 30,000 of the 45,000 Jews died in the slaughter.
At no time did the Vatican make an attempt to halt the forced conversions, appropriation of Orthodox property, or the mass killings. Croat priests had not only sympathized with the fascist massacres but took part in them. According to Cornwell, “Priests, invariably Franciscans, took a leading part in the massacres. Many went around routinely armed and performed their murderous acts with zeal. A father Bozidar Bralow, known for the machine gun that was his constant companion, was accused of performing a dance around the bodies of 180 massacred Serbs at Alipasin-Most.” Individual Franciscans killed, set fire to homes, sacked villages, and laid waste the Bosnian countryside at the head of Ustashe bands. In September of 1941, an Italian reporter wrote of a Franciscan he had witnessed south of Banja Luka urging on a band of Ustashe with his crucifix.” In the Foreign Ministry archive in Rome there sits a photographic record of atrocities: of women with breasts cut off, gouged eyes, genitals mutilated; and the instruments of butchery: knives, axes, meat hooks. [Cornwell, pp. 253-254] Not only priests, but even many nuns sympathized to the movement. Some of these nuns marched in military parades behind soldiers with their arms raised in the fascist salute.
From the very beginning the Catholic clergy worked in collaboration with the Ustashe. Archbishop Stepinac got appointed spiritual leader of the Ustashe by the Vatican in 1942. Stepinac, with ten of his clergy held a place in the Ustashe parliament. Priests served as police chiefs and officers of in the personal bodyguards of Pavelic. There occurred frequent BBC broadcasts on Croatia of which a February 16, 1942 typical report stated: “The worst atrocities are being committed in the environs of the archbishop of Zagreb [Stepinac]. The blood of brother is flowing in streams. The Orthodox are being forcibly converted to Catholicism and we do not hear the archbishop’s voice preaching revolt. Instead it is reported that he is taking part in Nazi and Fascist parades.” [Cornwell, p.256] The French cardinal Eugene Tisserant, a Slavonic expert, told a Croat representative on March 6, 1942, “that it is the Franciscans themselves, as for example Father Simic of Knin, who have taken part in attacks against the Orthodox populations so as to destroy the Orthodox Church in banja Luka….” [Cornwell, p. 259]
Even though petitions against the Catholics and their massacres got sent to Pius XII, not once did Pacelli, the “infallible” Pope, ever show anything but benevolence toward the leaders of the Pavelic regime. His silence on the matter matched his silence about his knowledge of Auschwitz.
To this day, there occurs ethnic cleansing, outbreaks of war and intense bitter feelings between Croats and Serbs. The religious organizations in the area must bear the major responsibility for these intolerances, atrocities and wars.
Yes there occurred some brave protests by priests and nuns against Nazism and their Jewish attacks but they came few and far between. For example, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (a Jewish convert also known as Edith Stein) wrote a letter to Pius XI begging him to “deplore the hatred, persecution, and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews, at any time and from any source.” Her letter drew no response. Faulhaber defended converted Jews, but not all Jews. Catholics point to the canonized friar, Maximilian Kolbe, who voluntarily took the place of another person in a concentration camp, but conceal the point that he took the place of a gentile, not a Jew; nor do we hear that he had served as editor of an antisemitic Catholic journal. We also have bishops such as Jozsef Midszenty of Hungary who openly condemned the Nazis after they invaded his country.
We should, of course, always applaud individuals against oppression, but the few protests cannot, by any standard, serve to absolve Christianity, much less honor it.
The deploring fact remains: the major body of the Catholic Church in Germany, that being popes, priests, nuns, and Catholic lay-people supported Hitler and anti-Semitism. Catholicism had links to government organizations, right-wing nationalism, including Fascism and Nazism. Moreover, most every right-wing dictator of the period had been brought up a Catholic: Hitler, Horthy, Franco, Petain, Mussoline, Pavelic, and Tiso (who has served as a Catholic priest). Catholic bishops and cardinals throughout the war expressed anti-Semitic views even as the actions against the visibly persecuted Jews increased. In 1936, for example, Cardial Hlond, primate of Poland, opined: “There will be the Jewish problem as long as the Jews remain.” Cardinal Maglione, even though he recognized the hellishness of Hitler, justified himself with the private view that “Hitler and all his diabolic works may be the process of the casting out of the devil in the subconscious of the German race.” [Cornwell, p. 282] Slovak bishops issued a pastoral letter that repeated the traditional accusations that the “Jews were deicides,” and evidence exists that anti-Judaism occurred in the heart of the Vatican. [Cornwell, p. 280] Pope Pius XII, his campaign of silence and subterfuge, his fanatical urge to complete a Concordat and to assist Hitler into legal dictatorship, shows his complicity with the Nazi Government. And at no time did the bishop of Rome make a single liturgical act for the deported Jews of Rome. Even after the lost war for Germany and upon hearing of the death of Adolf Hitler, Adolf Bertram, the cardinal archbishop of Berlin ordered all the parish priests of his archdiocese “to hold a solemn Requiem in memory of the Fuhrer and all those embers of the Wehrmacht who have fallen in the struggle for our German Fatherland, along with the sincerest prayers for Volk and Fatherland and for the future of the Catholic Church in Germany.” [Cornwell, p. 317]
The followers of the Catholic Church, the common German Catholic citizens also had ingrained into them a loyalty to the Church and to Germany. Most of them held anti-Semitic views. Many of the police battalions that formed execution squads came from religious men. According to Goldhagen, “some of the men who went to church, prayed to God, contemplated the eternal questions and recited prayers which reminded them of their obligations to other humans; the Catholics among them took communion and went to confession. And when they went at night to their wives and girlfriends, how many of the killers discussed their genocidal activities?” [Goldhagen, pp.267-268].
The Protestant Churches in Germany
Protestantism constituted the major religion in Germany during the early 1930s. Until Hitler attempted to establish a German Reich Church, there existed no such thing as an official German Protestant Church. The Nazi party made a call for all German Protestants to unite in the hour of national need [Holt, p.168-9]. The Christian Evangelical Church would receive the dignity due it within a National Socialist State (Nazism) based on positive Christianity (“Positive Christianity” was stated in point twenty-four of the Nazi Programme, their version of a constitution), and whom Martin Luther served as their spiritual patron.
Most German Protestants followed Luther (who they knew hated Jews) and believed in the sanctity of the secular authority and the supremacy of the authority over all religious organizations. To Luther, the head of the temporal state should also be head of “the church visible.” [McGovern, p.650] On May 14, 1933, Ludwig Muller, a prominent member in the ranks of the German Christian Movement became the principle Bishop of the Evangelical German Reich Church.
Of course the thought of a state controlled national church could mean loss of control by the pastors of the Church. Naturally many pastors became concerned; some protested quietly to themselves and others, openly, by forming the Confessing Church. Nevertheless, most pastors allied themselves with the Nazi party and their anti-Semitic views got published in the Protestant press even before Hitler’s election into power. The Protestant press influenced millions of its readers with the most prominent being the Sonntagsblatter, and the weekly Sunday newspapers. These weekly papers dwelled on religious piety and preached how they thought of Jews as “the natural enemies of the Christian-national tradition.” [Goldhagen, 1996] As far as anyone knows, there had never occurred any visible or vocal church protest against the anti-Semitism of the Nazi party before it came into power. Considering that the majority of Germans at that time held anti-Semitic feelings (no doubt due mainly to religious preachings and propaganda), this should not surprise anyone. As many have pointed out, the religious rhetoric influenced Hitler during his youth.
Other pastors openly welcomed the Nazi’s believing that the reintroduction of government by Christian authorities, affirmed St. Paul that “the power that be are ordained by God.” (Romans 13:1). Under the continuing influence of the Lutheran Court Preacher Adolf Stocker, they believed that the future of German Lutheranism lay in obliterating the Jewish background of Christianity, and creating a national religion based on the traditions of German Christianity. They repeatedly stressed Luther’s anti-Semitic statements.
One of the “moral” pastors of the nation, Bishop Otto Dibelius, declared in a letter after April 1933, that he has been “always an antisemite.” Dibelius had expressed that he wanted the Jews to die out peaceably, bloodlessly (what a guy!) Wolfgang Gerlach, a German Evangelical pastor and historian of the Christian churches during the Nazi period, observed Bishop Dibelius’ anti-Semitic sentiments as “well nigh representative of German Christendom in the beginning of 1933. [Goldhagen, pp.108-9].
Bishop Martin Sasse of Thuringia, a leading Protestant churchman, published a compendium of Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic vitriol shortly after Kristallnacht (the first openly public attacks against the Jews by the Nazis). He applauded the burning of the synagogues and the coincidence of the day: “On November 10, 1938, on Luther’s birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany… of the greatest antisemite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews.” [Goldhagen p.111] He also edited a brochure for his ministers at the end of November 1938 titled, “Martin Luther and the Jews: do Away with Them!” He quoted extensively from Luther’s book “On the Jews and their lies.” [Wollenberg, p.73]
After the Nazi party took over, they began to exclude Jews from jobs and schools and later to exclude baptized racial Jews from the Land churches and to force them to live completely by themselves. Notably, the churches deeply involved themselves in furnishing data about racial origins from the very beginning of the Nazi era. Even Bishop Wurm saw no harm in this, and in 1934 informed his clergy: “The use of the ‘hereditary passports’ (Ahnenpasse) can also be recommended from the standpoint of the church.” [Helmreich, p. 328]
On September 1, 1941, a national law made it compulsory for all Jews to display the Star of David when they appeared in public. The ordinance presented a problem to the churches because they did not know that many of the Christians in their congregations had Jewish origins.
How did the Protestant churches respond to this oppression of their fellow Christians? On December 17, 1941, Protestant Evangelical Church leaders of Mecklenburg, Thuringia, Saxony, Nassau-Hesse, Mecklenburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Anhalt, and Lubeck collectively issued an official proclamation:
From the crucifixion of Christ to the present day, the Jews have fought Christianity or misused and falsified it in order to reach their own selfish goals. By Christian baptism nothing is altered in regard to a Jew’s racial separateness, his national being, and his biological nature. A German Evangelical church has to care for and further the religious life of German fellow countrymen; racial Jewish Christians have no place or rights in it. [Helmreich, p. 329]
One must also remember that most of the German citizens held beliefs as Protestant Christians. Many of the German police battalions who executed Jews with anti-Jewish zeal got recruited straight from the German populace, citizens that grew up in traditional Christian homes. For example, the men of one Police Battalion came predominantly from Hamburg and the surrounding region, an overwhelmingly Evangelical Protestant area. And even those battalion members who renounced the Church, declared themselves “gottglaubig,” a Nazi term for having a proper religious attitude without being a member of a traditional church [Goldhagen, p. 209].
In the end neither the official Protestant or Catholic churches tried to stem the tide of anti-Semitic measure taken by the Nazis, The Kirchliches Jahrbuch summarized it after the war:
The anti-Semitism of the NSDAP found the Evagelical church unprepared. Indeed, at least the Confessing church resisted the Aryan paragraph in the church and the separation of Jewish Christians out of the Evangelical church of Germany, but against anti-Semitism they uttered no word, and even at the time of the Jewish persecutions and of their extermination it could not bring itself to stand against the measures of the National Socialist regime both in and without the church. [Helmreich, p. 332]
The Confessing Church
Inevitably, whenever one questions the role of Christianity during WWII, Christians will quickly respond by providing examples of heroic Catholics or Protestants who saved lives, protested against Nazism, or had given their lives by dying in concentration camps. What appears most puzzling by these defenses comes from their complete lack of perspective of the history of their own faith-system. Of course there lived a few brave Christian men and women who opposed Nazism and performed courageous deeds. But the key word here, “few,” can hardly absolve the whole. One can say the same of the few heroic Nazis who protested against the atrocities committed by their own government. But can we prop up these few as a banner, while ignoring the majority of those who committed crimes to justify a belief-system regardless if it comes from a political ideology or a religion? If this served the case, then we could mine any intolerant system for its “few” noble members as justification for the system by calling it the True system, as do Christians who love to use the term True Christianity as if this had any definable meaning. Any honest reader should recognize that if this ploy cannot work for support of Nazism, Communism, Islam, (or any religion not your own) or any ideological belief-system, then neither can it work for Christianity.
As for the Church’s supposed role against Nazism, when the focus gets narrowed as to just what Church opposed Hitler, sadly, one can only point to a single minor opposing Church body: the Confessing Church. Although one should always fairly honor any heroic struggle against oppression of human freedom, the ethical dilemma faced by the Confessing Church did not exactly meet the demands for opposing anti-Semitism.
Hitler wanted to combine all the regional Protestant churches into a single and united Reich Church. Of course this meant government control of the Church and a minority of Lutheran Pastors foresaw the dangers. In 1933, a few Protestant Pastors, namely Martin Niemöller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth and others formed the “Pastors Emergency League” which later became known as “The Confessing Church” to oppose the state controlled Nazi Church.
It bears some importance to understand that Germany did not recognize the Confessing Church as an official Church. Not only the Nazis, but all other Protestant Churches condemned the Confessing Church. They thought of it as a minority opposition that held little power. The vast majority of German churches supported Hitler and his policies against the Jews. Moreover, they advocated composing an “Aryan Paragraph” in church synods that would prevent non-aryans from joining the Church, which of course included Jews.
In spite of the myth that has developed that the Confessing Church opposed Hitler for anti-Semitic reasons, the main reason for the opposition actually aimed to protect the power of Pastors to determine who should preach and who they can preach to. The Barmen Declaration of Faith (by Karl Barth, et al) became the principle statement of The Confessing Church. Not a single sentence in it opposes anti-Semitism. According to Professor John S. Conway: “The Confessing Church did not seek to espouse the cause of the Jews as a whole, nor to criticize the secular legislation directed against the German Jews and the Nazi racial philosophy.”
Basically, the Confessing Church wanted to save themselves from state control by forming what they considered themselves as the “True Church” (don’t all Christians think of themselves as belonging to the True Church?). They did not want government interference with Church self-regulation. This of course deserves plaudits as history has shown that state controlled religions have always ended in oppressing its people. The formation of the United States with its secular government aimed at just this kind of freedom of religion from the state. On this account, the Confessing Church deserves honorable mention. However, just what did they oppose about the Jewish question?
It turns out that the Pastors of the Confessing Church held concerns only for Jews who converted to Christianity. Of course they viewed Jews who converted to Christianity as Christian, not Jewish. This Christian centered view gave them the reason for their objection to the “Aryan Paragraph.” For Jews who did not convert, they held strong anti-Semitic feelings. Remember that these pastors lived as well read Lutherans; any reading of Martin Luther will reveal strong anti-Semetic feelings toward Jews who did not convert (see, On the Jews and their lies).
Although Martin Niemöller opposed the Nazi regime, he concurred with the Nazi view in one foundational respect: the Jews as eternally evil. In one of his sermons, he attacked the Nazis (without naming them) by likening them to the Jews! [Niemöller 1937] Pastor Bonhoeffer, according to his beliefs, saw the Nazi treatment against Jews as proof of God’s curse on Jews. Shortly after Hitler came to power, Bonhoeffer wrote to a theologian friend that regarded the Jews “the most sensible people have lost their heads and their entire Bible.” [Goldhagen, 1996, p.109] To Bonhoeffer’s credit, he did proclaim a credo of non-violence, but this did not come from Christian theology. Rather he based his non-violent stand from Mahatma Gandhi and the humanistic movement (he claimed to be a disciple of Gandhi). His neo-orthodox view opposed most every cardinal doctrine of Christian faith to a point that some considered him an atheist. Indeed he claimed it impossible to know the objective truth about Christ’s real nature and even claimed that “God was dead” (Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge, New York: Macmillan Co., 1972, pp. 9-12, 378; Ethics, pp. 38, 186; No Rusty Swords, pp. 44-45). Karl Barth, considered a great theologian, and an opponent of the Nazis, and to his credit, did oppose the persecution of Jews, had nevertheless, made us quite clear of his own anti-Semitism. In his Advent sermon of 1933, he denounced the Jews, Luther style, as “an obstinate and evil people.” In a July 1944 Lecture in Zurich, Barth said, “We do not like the Jews as a rule, it is therefore not easy for us to apply to them as well the general love for humankind…”
Richard Steigmann-Gall’s research found that, “many confessional Lutherans who would later join the Confessing Church received the Nazi movement warmly.” Otto Dibelius, General Superintendent of the Kurmark, and one of the most conservative in the Confessing Church, certified the Nazi movement as Christian: “The National Socialists, as the strongest party of the right, have shown both a firm, positive relationship to Christianity…. We may expect that they will remain true to their principles in the new Reichstag.” After the Nazi Seizure of Power, Dibelius continued to view Nazism this way, even to the point of excusing Nazi brutality [Steigmann-Gall]. At a 1933 service in Berlin’s Nikolaikirche for the new Reichstag, Dibelius announced: “We have learned from Martin Luther that the church cannot get in the way of state power when it does what it is called to do. Not even when [the state] becomes hard and ruthless…. When the state carries out its office against those who destroy the foundations of state order, above all against those who destroy honor with vituperative and cruel words that scorn faith and vilify death for the Fatherland, then [the state] is ruling in God’s name!” [Steigmann-Gall].
Unfortunately, several of the members of the Confessing Church lost their lives in opposing Hitler. Bonhoeffer, for example, joined with several high ranking Nazi officers in a plan to assassinate Hitler. He also contacted foreigners to gain support for a call to resistance. The Nazi’s sentenced him for his opposition to Hitler and his policies (not because of his Christianity as some believers want us to believe). He died in the Flossenburg concentration camp in 1945.
Nevertheless, even after the war, members of the Confessing Church admitted their guilt. For example, Gerhard Kittle, a world-renowned scholar of the New Testament confessed his political guilt as he insisted that a “Christian anti-Judaism” which he found in the New Testament and in the tradition of the Christian church determined his attitude toward the Jewish question during the Third Reich.[Wollenberg, p. 76] On March 1946, in a lecture in Zurich, Martin Niemöller declared: “Christianity in Germany bears a greater responsibility before God than the National Socialists, the SS and the Gestapo.” [Goldhagen, p.114]
Considering that the Confessing Church with its few members, represents the most active religious protest against Nazism in Germany, it projects a poor commentary on the state of Christiandom as a whole, even if the other churches had remained passive. Unfortunately most Christian churches in Germany took an active role, not only by accepting Nazism, but to support and strengthen it.
The repulsive behavior of the Catholic hierarchy and the Protestant leaders in Germany presented here gives only a glimpse of the known atrocities and inhumane acts perpetrated through religious beliefs. Much remains unknown; the uncovering of the terrible history of Catholic and Protestant Germany during WWII continues. The silence of Catholic and Protestants, church members, priests, and nuns continues to this day. However, there occurs a few brave researchers who dig to uncover the facts. As one example, Anja Elizabeth Romus (best known in the U.S. from the fictionalized movie, “The Nasty Girl ”) continues to research and write about the priests who suppressed their anti-Semitic role in Germany (Romus’ first book: “A Case of Resistance and Persecution, Passau 1933-1939,” 1983). In her latest book, “Wintergreen: suppressed Murders,” she documents the atrocities in her hometown [Passau] at the end of the war including the slaying of 2,000 Soviet prisoners, the murder of slave laborers’ infants and the efforts to change memorials to victims so that Nazi horrors would remain forgotten. Rosmus has endured verbal abuse, death threats and lawsuits in response to her dedication to the memories of those who faced Nazi persecution.
Recent evidence has surfaced that shows that both Germany’s Roman Catholic Church and Germany’s Protestant Church used forced laborers during the Third Reich. Religious affairs organizations have attempted to get the Churches to pay into a compensation fund for Nazi victims. According to Christa Nickels, religious affairs spokeswoman for junior coalition government partners the Greens, said the Church should immediately pay into the fund; “The correct thing to do is for the Church to pay into the fund. It’s not about when, where and how many forced laborers were used, but whether the two main churches were involved in the system.” [Reuters news, 20 July 2000]
How can one come to terms with such a powerful and oppressive system that denies its involvements with crime? Priests and ministers get held in high regard as they unconsciously hide their tracks with “moral” platitudes and religious services that seem to have nothing in common with past Church intolerances. In the United States, Father Patrick Peyton in the 50s campaigned at encouraging the recital of the Rosary in the home with the famous slogan, “The family that prays together stays together” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace.” How in the world can anyone justify such fake sentiments in light of the fact that Christians have prayed for peace ever since Christianity’s invention without a single lasting result? The horrors of WWII introduced by religious minds appear so obvious and dominate that only some powerful agency could possibly conceal the obvious facts from so many people for so long a time. That agency, indeed, does exist and it confronts every conscious believing human being at every waking hour: the power of Faith, that hideous instrument of counterfeit reality that can convince even the most educated human.
One should also keep in mind that the sheep of Christ, the blind followers of Christian leaders, no matter how grievous their sins or the sins of their pastors and priests, could rest in assured comfort that they lived as a part of the people of God. This religious system excluded anyone who refused to pay allegiance to Popes and ministers.
The questioned cry of “How could these atrocities have happen?” could only come from a religious mind overwhelmed by falsification or who must live in a state of denial against the abundant facts of history to protect a religious illusion. The Nazi atrocities did not come from a mad leader (a common excuse) or from a superstitious Satan, or from the mysterious workings of God—they occurred from common people acting from their beliefs. The question has an obvious answer and it sits staring at us in the face for anyone who dares look.
Today the Catholic Church has undertaken a campaign of suppression and propaganda to belittle Cornwell, Goldhagen, Romus or any researcher that dares to uncover the reality of the atrocities committed by Roman Catholic Christians. Today, Protestant leaders rarely mention the influence by Martin Luther and his anti-Jewish sentiments taught throughout Germany. Indeed, most Protestants live completely unaware of the hatred and intolerances spread by their congressional ancestors. Instead of releasing documents and admitting to the crimes of their fellow Christians, they have opted to protect their religious power structures by silence, concealment, suppression, and projecting the story of persecutions committed against their own religion by other ideological systems, a ploy that disguises their own complicity of persecutions heaped upon others.
Catholics and Protestants might protest against revealing the reality of Church involvement by claiming a trampling on the sensibilities of the religious people between Church and the modern effort to form some sort of conciliation between Christians and Jews. However this tactic only distances themselves from the recognition of the very problem that created the problem in the first place. The seeds of intolerance sits firmly in the place where it has always been—in the “sacred” scriptures and in the minds of believers who read them and act upon its words.
What we are seeing today in the fight over birth control is a revival of a very old, and very dangerous kind of Catholicism. It is not one supported or practiced by most Rank and File Catholics. It is a kind of Catholicism which has done irreparable harm. It is a kind of Catholicism unfit for existence in the modern world.
It was the underpinning of the regimes of Mussolini in Italy, The National Catholicism of Francisco Franco, in Spain; The Parti Rexiste in Belgium; The Irish Blueshirts; The Croatian Ustaše, the Nazi puppet government in Croatia, and ultimately, was the kind of Catholicism practiced by the Sainted Josemaría Escrivá, founder of the Catholic order Opus Dei.
Josemaría Escrivá is the best place to start. He was a catholic priest during the Second Spanish Republic, who developed a kind of Catholicism in the late 1920’s which Fascists found very attractive. He rose to prominence and political influence during Franco’s Spain. His book describing Opus Dei was first published with an introduction by a Pro-Franco bishop, which contained many statements in support of National Catholicism. Saint Escriva personally preached to Franco during a week-long prayer retreat at Franco’s Palace.
Saint Escriva has been accused by catholic priests who knew him of Holocaust Denial, and many recall statements by Escriva defending Hitler. Saint Escriva has said that Hitler couldn’t have killed 6 million Jews, and that “Hitler against the Jews” really meant “Hitler against communism.”
He famously wrote a letter to Franco in the 1950’s saying
Although a stranger to any political activity, I cannot help but rejoice as a priest and Spaniard that the Chief of State’s authoritative voice should proclaim that, “The Spanish nation considers it a badge of honor to accept the law of God according to the one and true doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church, inseparable faith of the national conscience which will inspire its legislation.” It is in fidelity to our people’s Catholic tradition that the best guarantee of success in acts of government, the certainty of a just and lasting peace within the national community, as well as the divine blessing for those holding positions of authority, will always be found. I ask God our Lord to bestow upon your Excellency with every sort felicity and impart abundant grace to carry out the grave mission entrusted to you.
None of this is to say that all Catholics supported Franco. Plenty of Catholic bishops and priests opposed him, including bishop Mateo Múgica, and Cardinal Francisco Vidal Y Barraquer. I would also like to point out that neither Vidal Y Barraquer or Mateo Mugica were sainted. They are relatively forgotten. Múgica doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page in English. You’ll notice that this will become a recurring theme in our history of Opus Dei and Catholicism in Fascist Europe. Those who stood against the tide end up forgotten, while those that supported the brutal regimes end up sainted.
And so courageous men that fought a military dictatorship and died in exile are forgotten while Escriva is the sainted founder of Opus Dei. Racist. Fascist. Holocaust Denier. Despite the fact that we know about his writings, his views, his pretension to political power, and his support of Franco, all of these facts surrounding the man have been referred to as “Black Myths.” Catholic authorities deny that any of this happened, and call anyone who dares point out indisputable facts “anti-catholic.” Just like those laws about birth control.
Ireland: O’Duffy’s Blue Shirts
But it wasn’t just Spanish Catholics who supported Franco, either. The current Irish Conservative party, Fine Gael, was founded in part by another catholic fanatic, and an admirer of Benito Mussolini. His name was Eoin O’Duffy.
In the Early 1930s, O’Duffy had taken command of a paramilitary organization and reorganized them into what he called the National Guard. They fought running street battles with the IRA for most of the 30s. They were known as the Blueshirts, and were a Fascist organization on par with the UK’s BUF or Mousollini’s Blackshirts. In August of 1933, O’Duffy planned a march on Dublin. The president of the Irish Republic, Eamon De Valera, banned the march, and ordered the military to stop it. He wrote later that at that moment he recalled Mussolini’s march on Rome and expected a coup. Neither he nor his government knew if the military would agree to carry out their commands.
In the end, O’Duffy backed down, eventually uniting his blueshirts with another opposition party to form Fine Gael. The Catholic Church gave quite a lot of support to Francoism and O’Duffy’s political party. Thankfully, the other parties which had joined the Fine Gael coalition wanted little to do with Fascism, and expelled O’Duffy, who left with a number of his supporters to form an ultra-fascist National Corporatist Party, and his Blueshirts became Greenshirts.
He took his paramilitary forces with him to fight for Franco in the Spanish Civil War. It was a dark day in Irish History when a group of bishops blessed O’Duffy’s Greenshirts who departed from Dun Laoghaire on a German ship, flying the Swastika.
O’Duffy returned to find that his National Corporatist Party had collapsed. O’Duffy was part of a group of IRA extremists who met with the German Abwehr to attempt to set up recruiting for the Russian Front. Thankfully nothing came of it.
O’Duffy’s health failed, and he died in November of 1944. Because of his heroism during the Irish Civil War, when he led an IRA Guerrilla group, he was given a state funeral, and a requiem mass was held for him in the Dublin Pro-Cathedral.
Frank Ryan and the 15th International Brigade also traveled to Spain, to fight against Franco and O’Duffy. They were defeated, and Ryan was captured. He escaped to Germany where he operated as double agent under the name Frank Richard, and interfered with German attempts to recruit Irishmen into Hitler’s ranks. He didn’t have to do much interfering, actually, as the German attempts were fairly incompetent. He died in June of 1944, and was buried in Dresden. His remains were returned to Ireland in 1971.
So Frank Ryan, the man who Fought Fascism, lay forgotten in Dresden for thirty years, while the Fascist O’Duffy received a state funeral and requiem mass. Throughout it all, Catholic Priests were expounding on the war with communism, and supporting Franco’s National Catholicism in Spain.
Croatia: Forced Conversions and Genocide under the Ustaše
Not many people know about the Ustaše and its leader, Ante Pavelić. Before 1941, the organization was a radical fascist terrorist group. But when Axis powers invaded, it was given control of Croatia by the Nazis. They shared Hitler’s goal of ethnic cleansing.
Their plan, which they began enacting in 1941, decreed that one third of the Serbs in Croatia would be killed. They specifically targeted the Intelligentsia, all non-catholic religious leaders, all businessmen, all master tradesmen, all figures of cultural importance such as musicians and authors, and anyone else who might have some importance. Another third of the Serbs were to be expelled to aid in ethnic cleansing. The final third would be converted to Catholicism at gunpoint.
The Ustaše were radically catholic, and their leader had personally received a blessing and audience from Pope Pius in Rome just after his ascension to power. Pope Pius wrote of the church’s unique opportunity to reestablish the medieval church/state relationship, and his ministers referred to the ethnic cleansing as Croatia’s “Teething Pains.” The Ustaše’s plan for forced conversions could not have been successful without the participation of Catholic clergy. Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac and other Catholics eventually opposed the regime, but refused to publicly condemn the Ustaše until most of the Serbian Jews were already dead, and supported the forced conversions.
Without the support of the Catholic Church, the Ustaše would never have been able to move from a terrorist organization into an effective government. Indeed, Stepinac had originally welcomed the Ustaše to power, meeting with the leaders even before the surrender and defeat of the lawful Yugoslavian government. The Ustaše’s stated intent to ethnically cleanse Croatia was clear, but the Catholic Church maintained ties with the Ustaše through 1943, when Pope Pius again met with Ante Pavelić. Many catholic clergy directly participated in the extermination and forced conversion. One of the most famous of these was Miroslav Filopovic, a Fransiscan Priest, who ended up as the commandant of a concentration camp. The Croatian Catholic Movement, and Catholic Action, both catholic laity organizations, were mobilized to take part in the Genocide. Stepinac cooperated with all of this.
It was later in 1943, when the Ustaše had almost completed their plan for the extermination of Serbian Jews, that the Archbishop finally spoke, weakly, against the activities of the Ustaše. The sermons and statements against mass killings did not directly mention the Serbs.
When Tito’s partisans defeated the Ustaše, Stepinac was tried for war crimes. It was portrayed in the west as a show trial, and all of the Catholics who participated in the trial, including the majority of the jury, were excommunicated by the pope. Stepinac was imprisoned for collaborating with the Ustaše, but was released by the Communist government in an attempt to garner the good will of Croatian Catholics.
Despite the fact that Stepinac gave consistent support to the Ustaše, and the totality of his storied resistance was to ask, pretty please, if they could stop killing people, while allowing his own clergy to participate in the genocide and become the commandants of concentration camps, he is remembered as someone who stood up to the Nazis. He was called a martyr by Pope John Paul II.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center had asked that the Beatification be postponed until a full historical review of Stepinac’s actions could take place, but their request was ignored. The truth is, we just don’t know who Stepinac was, where his loyalties were, or the effect he had on the Serbian holocaust. There are some Croatian Jewish groups who say that Stepinac did in fact help the Jewish population, but those claims are treated with suspicion by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Yad Vashem, both of which consider him to be a Nazi Collaborator. We also know that Tito’s partisans included Serbs who were fairly brutal towards many Catholics in revenge for the genocide. Several hundred priests were killed by the partisans, though many of them were serving with the Ustase as chaplains. I don’t know how many, and sources on what really happened are still difficult to find in English. From my research, he appears to have been a collaborator, and appears to be complicit in Genocide. This may not be the case, but I could not find significant evidence to the contrary, other than a few relatively gutless statements.
So despite the fact that he appears to have done little good, is seen by many Jews as a collaborator and participated in a Fascist government, Stepinac is considered a sainted martyr, while those Catholics who testified to his actions in (an admittedly communist) court, were excommunicated.
I could go on, but this post is already far, far too long. I also planned to discuss the fanatically Catholic Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, who slaughtered 100,000 Jews while being in power for only three months, sending death squads into nursing homes, hospitals, and ghettos. They received support from some priests for their anti-communist actions, as communism was seen by many Hungarians as a Jewish phenomenon. I already mentioned Belgian Rexism. There are others, too, that I studied in order to write this diary.
The notable exception is Poland, where Catholics were victims, but the Vatican has treated this as the rule, when history seems to say it is the exception. I have intentionally avoided filling this diary with pictures of priests giving the fascist salute, but we’ve all seen those photographs many times, and the information here is already inflammatory enough
The fact is that most of the fascist parties across continental Europe included a great many Catholics, who saw Fascism as a way to combat Communism. In many cases the Nazi parties were nothing less than Catholic political parties, supported by the local priesthood, and Pope Pius in Rome. The core ideology that linked Catholicism to Fascism came directly from Franco’s Spain. The same place where the ideas for Opus Dei were developed and refined.
The truth, it seems, is that the Catholic Church was not superior to any other organization in Fascist Europe. It was not just Churches and Priests that became Fascist, but Businesses, Stores, Schools, Newspapers, Professors, Architects, Scientists, and almost every other institution, profession, or organization. Because that’s what fascism did. It took over everything, absolutely everything, and the Catholic church was no different.
This revisionist history that somehow the church was different from everything else and stood strong against the tide is a lie, plain and simple. It’s wishful thinking.
The good news is that almost all of the radical catholic fascist groups and parties either no longer exist, or have been commuted into relatively harmless “christian democrat” parties, such as Fine Gael in Ireland. They’ve let go of being exclusively Catholic, and are now simply the remains of Anticommunism in Europe. Many of them are about as left wing as the Democratic party. Many Christian Democrat parties have no roots in Catholic Fascism, though they shared its anticommunist goals, such as Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
Despite all this progress, there is one Catholic Fascist organization which still survives today.
The goal of fascism was to have the state take over every aspect of ordinary life. To live under a fascist state was to be part of the state itself. Family life, social life, and the professional world were all absorbed into state and party identity in fascist societies. The intent, ultimately, was for to make it impossible to have an individual life or identity outside of the context of the state.
This is the case, too, with Saint Escriva’s Opus Dei:
From Wikipedia: Opus Dei emphasises the “universal call to holiness”: the belief that everyone should aspire to be a saint, that sanctity is within the reach of everyone, not just a few special individuals. Opus Dei does not have monks or nuns, and only a minority of its members are part of the priesthood. A related characteristic is Opus Dei’s emphasis on uniting spiritual life with professional, social, and family life. Members of Opus Dei lead ordinary lives, with traditional families and secular careers, and strive to “sanctify ordinary life”.
In the same way that a fascist state sought to unite the state with professional, social, and family life, Opus Dei wishes the church to do the same. The intent is to destroy any sense of individual identity outside of the Catholic Church. The ideas of this organization are uniquely neofascist, though they seem to have modernized enough to dispense with the ideas of ethnic superiority. It’s no surprise, again, that the Catholic archbishop leading the charge against prophylactics is a leading member of Opus Dei.
Jose Gomez is the Archbishop of Los Angeles, and one of the first Opus Dei leaders to be given a position of significant ecclesiastical authority. In the past few months he has fought for a California Ballot initiative which requires doctors to inform a teenager’s parents if she’s attempting to have an abortion, saying “Who could possibly oppose such a reasonable law?” He has called birth control Tyranny, and described the church as the last line of defense. He has held a requiem mass for aborted zygotes. And was the key player behind our current storm in a teacup over birth control.
The reason, ultimately, why Archbishop Gomez has been silent on Troy Davis and other issues where the Catholic Church is in agreement with the Democratic party, is that Gomez is completely uninterested in Catholic theology or doing the work of God. What Archbishop Gomez is interested in is exactly what the founder of Opus Dei was interested in: Political Power. It’s about controlling rank-and-file Catholics. It’s about exercising political power. It is about once again uniting the power of the Church with the power of the State, as it was in Franco’s Spain.
None of this, though it may be inflammatory, is meant to condemn all Catholics, or the whole of the Catholic Church. Indeed, most Catholics aren’t members of Opus Dei. Most Catholics are relatively normal people, who use birth control and aren’t particularly theocratic. Most Catholics are catholic because they don’t want a church as controlling or touchy-feely as a number of protestant denominations. The services are shorter, and there’s a clear set of things you’re supposed to do. They see it as easier. A lot of my catholic family members see the church as a way of relating to god without all the drama of Protestantism. I can respect that.
Catholics have done plenty of good. For every priest who supported the Nazis, there was another who sheltered Jews. The problem is that most of the Bishops who supported fascism and used fascist methods to acquire power ended up being sainted, while the priests and nuns who fought fascism and focused on doing good for their people and communities are much less well-known, and many of them ended up forgotten in unmarked graves.
In the same way, rank-and-file priests and nuns fought the American propaganda machine convincing the public that everyone could easily survive a nuclear war. This action on the part of Catholics did more, in my mind, to prevent Nuclear war than any other action, because it prevented the government from telling a lie that would make a nuclear first-strike politically acceptable. Many of these priests have since left or been forced out of the Church, while the priests and bishops who opposed them have been elevated to positions of power. There are elderly catholic clergy in prison in the US right now for protesting nuclear weapons.
The problem with the Catholic church is that powerful conservatives are being elevated, while priests who simply want to be servants of the human race are being ignored – or worse – prevented from teaching peace and social justice.
The only people who can stop this process are rank-and-file Catholics
The laity has almost no power within the catholic church, except for one thing. They’re the ones that attend the services, and they’re the ones who tithe. I’m no Catholic, and I wouldn’t know how to go about fighting the authority (which clearly needs to be fought) but I would suggest refusing to Tithe until the Church reverses its current policies.
If I were catholic, I would refuse to give the church a single red cent until:
1. Jose Gomez is removed from power, and Opus Dei is banned from the church as a neofascist organization.
2. The church ceases exclusively right-wing political intervention, and begins living up to its views on the sanctity of life, such as intervening on the part of people like Troy Davis.
3. The church ceases its protection of pedophiles.
4. The church allows priests to marry.
5. The church allows the ordination of women.
6. The church ceases its persecution of LGBTs.
7. The church accepts the necessity of birth control in a world wracked by famine, and localized overpopulation.
The list goes on. Catholics, I can’t make the list for you, and you might disagree with some of the items on this list, and that’s okay. I can’t fight this fight for you. But if you step out and fight the authority, I promise I will have your back. I will write about you and draw attention to your fight. I don’t know if that means anything, and I hope it does.
Because I know something that some progressives refuse to accept: the only cure for right-wing religion, is progressive religion. If we can get the churches of the world focused on curing the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and visiting and supporting prisoners – you know, “the least of these,” and all that other Jesus Stuff – we’ll be living in a better world. But we have to convince them to stop attacking innocent people first.
So Catholics? Let me know how I can help. Because I see the problem, and can point out the people behind the problem, and I can write about the history of the problem, but only you guys can lead this particular charge.
This is a very difficult topic to write about for a number of reasons. First, the Catholic Church does not want to believe that its members, priests, and bishops were complicit in or integral to the fascist governments and parties of the 1930’s and 40’s. There is also quite a bit of anticatholic pseudohistory written about these issues. The response by catholic scholars is overwhelmingly denialist, and argues that the Catholic church was as much a victim of the times as every other religious organization.
There is a way to sort the fact from fiction, and it’s to examine some very specific sources.
First, reading the writings and letters of priests and others who opposed and were horrified by the Nazis. We find in the writings of nonpolitical or leftwing priests statements of disgust in reference to the actions of right wing Catholics. It is the statements of current, active priests that I find the most trustworthy for the sake of historical argument. The statements you read by Saint Escriva on Hitler are not sourced to a recovering catholic, or someone who left the priesthood, or someone who has an axe to grind, they’re sourced to a Catholic Priest in London who knew him.
Indeed, many of the Catholic critics do not criticize the history, facts, or sources, they criticize the people writing the history. Rather than dispute the history, which is fairly clear, many of the deniers argue that the historians are simply writing a political hatchet work because they hate Catholics and Catholicism.
In my research, I have done my best to avoid sources which might be even slightly biased towards anticatholic pseudohistory, and have instead relied on scholarly works from people who don’t care about Catholicism, or on accounts from people who despite their experiences remained Catholic. I think this is the best way to come to a position which can’t be argued away by Catholic Apologists as an anti-catholic assault. One of the best books on the subject is searchable in google books here. Wikipedia links have been provided, but remember to take Wikipedia with a grain of salt, as many of the articles on these subjects are very poorly cited and constructed.
I will reiterate one point about my politics. I am not and never will be Anti-Catholic, though unless there are significant changes in the Church’s theology, I can’t see myself ever agreeing with the Catholic church. I count a great many Catholics among my friends and family. I am and always will be antifascist, and that means opposing Opus Dei and organizations like it with everything I have.
Why, after almost fifty years, should there be a reprint of Karlheinz Deschner’s work God and the Fascists ( Mit Gott und den Faschisten)? Because it is very topical. Because it is, fully unfairly, in danger of being forgotten. Because it disrupts a process of suppression, or better, indeed the deliberate policy of disinformation, pursued by the Vatican. It reminds us of the Vatican’s collaboration not only with Hitler, the greatest criminal of all time, but also with Mussolini, Franco, and the little-known Pavelić, the Fascist leader in Croatia who, along with Cardinal Stepinac, was responsible for the concentration and death camp of Jasenovac, of whose existence only few people know today.
Because the web of lies spun by the Vatican is exposed. It has been trying to position itself as an anti-Hitler resistance organization for decades, although according to Cardinal Faulhaber, Pius XII was “the best friend, indeed, the only friend of the new Reich at the beginning,” especially in the unstable initial phase of National Socialism, when history could have taken a completely different course! Because it is not a fashionable book that caters for a trendy opinion for reasons of accommodation but presents and summarizes historical facts precisely and in great detail and draws conclusions that are comprehensible to everyone. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen clearly considers it unnecessary to quote Deschner at all in his book A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust, despite Deschner being able to provide much more information using much less ink nearly forty years earlier. And because it is also exciting to read, like a novel but where every line is the truth and every reader is considerably more intelligent and enlightened after reading it than he or she was before and may also be shocked to see the extent of the collaboration between the Nazis, all the Fascists, and the Vatican! In short, because it exposes a historical lie. The lie of the Catholic resistance.
Let us not forget that it was the French Revolution that showed the Catholic Church where its boundaries were and thereby put an end to its feudal power—albeit, unfortunately, only half-heartedly. But still, the Spanish Inquisition did not sentence the last heretic—the schoolteacher Caetano Ripol—to death at the gallows, followed by a “symbolic burning,” until July 26, 1826, almost half a century after the Bastille was stormed! After the revolution, Napoleon’s troops occupied the Papal States at the end of the eighteenth century—which had arisen from bloody wars and been legitimized by a forged document, the so called Donation of Constantine—arrested Pius VI, and took him to Valence as a prisoner. The Congress of Vienna restored the Vatican State again in 1815 with a reduced territory, but in 1870, after the occupation by Italian troops, it finally disappeared in the new Italian state. Those responsible were then excommunicated … and could not have cared less.
The increasing power of the bourgeoisie, the development of the European national states, the emancipation movement, the natural sciences and progress through technological developments increasingly forced Catholicism onto the back foot in the second half of the nineteenth century—it tried desperately, and in vain, to take up the fight against “modern rationalism” with the first Vatican Council and restore the beleaguered papal authority by means of the dogma of infallibility. But time was against Catholicism. Under Bismarck, nearly two thousand Catholic clergy were imprisoned or given hefty fines in the Kulturkampf (“battle of the cultures”) for interfering in state affairs; the United States broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican on February 28, 1867 (and did not restore them until 1984 under Ronald Reagan). The “Roman Question” had arisen: How could the Holy See be saved from ultimate, and at that time foreseeable, downfall? How, and with whose aid, could its former power be restored? This problem was exacerbated by the growth of the decidedly anticlerical workers’ movement after the debacle of the First World War, which was committed to enlightenment and the principle of equality.
This is the starting point of Karlheinz Deschner’s book God and the Fascists. The aim of this new edition, published by Prometheus Books, is to ensure it is not forgotten. With richness of detail, historically founded, and by mining a vast number of sources, it proves that after the First World War, the chance was seized to turn the wheel of history back together with the rising Fascist movements. For fear of a victory of the workers’ movement across Europe—according to the Soviet model—the Vatican, together with the reactionary property-owning classes and their henchmen—the Fascists—entered an alliance that was intended to secure the existence of both. This unholy Catholic alliance with the supposedly lesser—Fascist—evil led to the greatest catastrophe in human history: the Second World War and the Holocaust.
After the Catholic party “Partito Popolare” was dissolved by Pius XI, the curia paved the way for Benito Mussolini and Italian Fascism. As a reward, they received—by means of the Lateran Pacts—the Vatican State back, a sovereign, stately construct, albeit reduced in size, and the monstrous sum of one billion lire in state bonds and 750 million lire in cash. These assets formed the basis of the Vatican Bank, which is under strict observation from the American supervisory authorities today because of its machinations, suspicion of money laundering, and proximity to the Mafia.
And the Vatican helped the Nazis to power according to exactly the same pattern and under the same premises. The Catholic Centre Party—the oldest party in Europe led by Prelate Kaas, a close friend of Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, the Pope’s second-in-command—concurring with the Enabling Act of March 24, 1933, and then dissolving itself cleared the way for Hitler. The subsequent dictatorship set the catastrophe in motion. The historical lie that nobody at the time knew who they were dealing with is clearly disproved by Karlheinz Deschner. Because the first concentration camps had been built before the Enabling Act—not for the Jews at this point, but for political opposition—basic citizens’ rights were suspended and the boycott of Jewish businesses, doctors, and lawyers was called for. Hitler’s Mein Kampf could not have been unknown to Eugenio Pacelli: the same Eugenio Pacelli who had been the papal nuncio in Berlin until 1929 (“the best-informed diplomat in Germany”) and then made a career in the Vatican, first as cardinal secretary of state, then as pope. Pope Pius XII. He, who had the reputation of being an outstanding connoisseur and friend of Germany, harvested the fruits of that collaboration on July 20, 1933, in the form of the concordat with Nazi Germany. This treaty under international law still has constitutional status in the Federal Republic of Germany to this day (Article 123.2 of the German Basic Law). It regulates the friendly relations between the Holy See and the German Reich; state religious education was introduced under it, with a status equal to that of the other subjects taught, the payment of salaries from religious-education teachers to bishops by the state from public tax revenue is guaranteed and church tax collected by the state—to this day, let it be noted—a new phenomenon that was to have far-reaching consequences. Workers must publicly declare their religious confession, losing their previously constitutional right to keep this silent, and employers are obliged to take part in the collection of the ecclesiastical obolus. A church state was born! The Hitler concordat meant that the clergy’s robes were afforded the same protection as military uniforms, priests were exempted in advance from military service—they knew what was coming—the dissolution of the Centre Party was retrospectively justified and a great deal more.
Karlheinz Deschner describes how the collaboration of the German episcopate with the Nazis—which could only happen with the approval of the curia—lasted until the end of the Second World War, how vicars, priests, and bishops prayed for Hitler’s Reich every Sunday all across the land, which was also regulated in the concordat (Article 30), and agitated in favor of the war, how churches and cathedrals were decorated with swastikas on Hitler’s birthday, and the papal nuncio personally congratulated the Führer, full of pride, on his fiftieth birthday in 1939—half a year after the Kristallnacht! In the so-called church struggle, which is supposed to have been the expression of church resistance, the church stood up only for its own interests, never against Hitler, never against the war, and never for the Jewish population. And even after the military defeat of Nazi Germany, the Vatican helped high-ranking Nazi functionaries to flee to South America with the help of the ratline, with which Mengele, Eichmann, and many other criminals escaped the Allies’ justice.
What did Benedict XV, Pius XI, and Pius XII dream of? They dreamt of a Catholic continental Europe in a united military battle against the godless Soviet Union, as degenerated as it may already have been by Stalin’s influence (read Arno Lustigers Stalin and the Jews: The Red Book). They dreamt of the end of Orthodoxy, the end of communism, and the Catholicization of Russia. And of a neutral, Anglican Great Britain and a neutral United States. Because a military conflict within the western camp made the outcome of the war unpredictable. After the military defeat of France, this dream seemed to be well within reach, and in 1940 the whole world was convinced that Hitler would win the war. The realization of the curia’s dream had, with Hitler’s help, come within their grasp.
We learn from Karlheinz Deschner how the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, was openly welcomed, not only by the German episcopate, and how unlimited their enthusiasm for Hitler and agitations against Russia were. And Pius XII—who allegedly did too little against Hitler and said too little—spoke in a radio address one week later of “rays of light that raise the heart to great, holy expectations: great bravery and courage in defending the foundations of Christian culture and optimistic hope for their triumph,” by which he intended to express, according to embassy counselor Menshausen, the hope that the great sacrifices demanded by this war would not be in vain and would, should Providence so wish, lead to victory over Bolshevism. In this “war between worldviews,” which had been so longed for by the Catholics and which Hitler also called it, the Holocaust was viewed as a kind of collateral damage. There may even have been a secret feeling of satisfaction in light of the two thousand years of Christian anti-Judaism. Had Hitler not, in April 1933, already coquetted before high Catholic functionaries—as Deschner reports—and much to their delight, that his “treatment of the Jewish Question” was merely a continuation of medieval Catholic tradition?! In any case, the pope never condemned the Nazi pogroms against the Jews, not even when the Jews were rounded up before his eyes, so to speak, and taken away. Today’s propagated idea of a Judeo-Christian West is based on a syncretism swindle.
The Vatican was even more deeply involved in Fascist crimes in Croatia, where the Franciscans played a leading role in the atrocities perpetrated there, which were so brutal that even the Germans complained. Ante Pavelić, the leader of the Croatian Fascists, called the Ustaše, coined the slogan that a third of the Orthodox population of Yugoslavia should be forcibly converted, a third expelled, and the other third murdered. Seven hundred fifty thousand Serbs fell victim to this regime with clerical help, and often after brutal torture, as did 80 percent of the Jews in Yugoslavia. The Primate of the Croatian Catholics, Archbishop Dr. Stepinac, collaborated with Pavelić from the first minute to the last. After his conviction as a war criminal, the Ustaše leader managed to escape, initially to South America, with the help of the ratline. He was accompanied by the former contact man between the Croatian archbishop Stepinac and the Vatican, the priest Krunoslav Draganović, who was, among other things, responsible for the deportation of Jews and Serbs during the war as a “resettlement officer” and was later one of the key figures in the organization of the ratline. He later fled to Franco’s Spain, where he found refuge in a Franciscan monastery in Madrid. This war criminal died on December 26, 1959, and received the blessing of the Holy Father on his deathbed. Stepinac was the only high cleric who was at least partly brought to justice for his deeds. The sentence: sixteen years’ imprisonment with forced labor. After six years of imprisonment, he was released early. Today’s theologians may claim that this verdict was based on a “misunderstanding.” But it is no misunderstanding that Yad Vashem rejected the obscenity of an application to grant him the title and honor of a “Righteous among the Nations” twice, in 1970 and 1994. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998.
In his résumé at the end of the book, Karlheinz Deschner says, in 1965, “If one considers the attitude of Eugenio Pacelli to the politics of Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, and Pavelić, it hardly seems an exaggeration to say: Pius XII is probably more incriminated than any other pope has been for centuries. He is so obviously involved in the most hideous atrocities of the Fascist era, and therefore of history itself, both directly and indirectly, that it would not be surprising, given the tactics of the Roman Church, if he were to be canonized.”
And now the beatification is already under way, less than fifty years later! If Hitler had won the war, one may wish to add, then he would presumably have long since attained the same Catholic honors.
And Franco’s support from the Vatican in the Spanish Civil War—and before—is also a theme of this rewarding book, this irreplaceable source of information.
Let us now return to the present, to the constitutional knock-on effects of the church’s collaboration with Fascism in Germany. One has to only compare this close interrelationship between church and state, this still-surviving German church state—which, under the Weimar Constitution and the federal constitution of Germany, should never have been permitted—with the constitutions of France and the United States, in which the separation of church and state is clearly stipulated. It then becomes clear how far Germany is today from being a modern democracy. It is a country in which the churches, on the basis of regional concordats, have places in all radio and television broadcasting councils, in nearly all newspaper editorial offices, in countless other influential institutions, and—some quite openly, others well hidden—at the levers of power. It then becomes clear what massive favors Hitler and Mussolini did the Vatican with this special answer to the Roman Question, with the restoration of its statehood, its assets, and its public influence, which were in a state of dissolution in the second half of the nineteenth century. And at what cost to the rest of the world!
Karlheinz Deschner’s book is an important contribution to enlightenment, a jewel for anyone who seeks historical truth; it is an antidote to the historical lie of Catholic resistance to Adolf Hitler and provides a fundamental contribution to the current debate on the rehabilitation of the Pius Brotherhood (fronted by Richard Williamson, who denied the Holocaust), the planned beatification of Pius XII, the scandal surrounding the Vatican Bank, the reintroduction of the Good Friday Intercession, and the role of the Vatican in the world in general.
Anyone who is looking for the historical Ariadne’s thread in the labyrinth of church heteronomy will go nowhere without Karlheinz Deschner’s book God and the Fascists. I would, at this juncture, recommend to anyone who wishes to find out more, many historical layers deeper, for example, about the historical origins of Christianity, Hyam Maccoby’s superb, central work The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity (1986), in which he proves that Christianity is not founded on the Jewish Jesus but the Greek Paul, who composed a highly virulent mythical mix of gnosis, mystery cults, and the story of Jesus and, therefore, started off two thousand years of Christian anti-Judaism, which culminated in the Holocaust.
The other Ariadne’s thread from the religious labyrinth—the subjective, “psychological” one—can be found by anyone looking for it in Sigmund Freud (e.g., Totem and Taboo, The Future of an Illusion, Moses and Monotheism), and more especially in the pioneering study of religion by Fritz Erik Hoevels, “‘Bhagwan’ Rajneesh and the Dilemma of any Humane Religion” in Mass Neurosis Religion, published by Ahriman International, which is now also to be credited with the republishing of Deschner’s masterpiece God and the Fascists. Both authors make it clear how small the eye of the needle is through which human society must pass if the aims of enlightenment, reason, freedom, the principle of equality, and maximum happiness for the maximum number of people are to become reality, how many archaic and yet real power structures must be broken in order to achieve this.
May the interested reader convince himself or herself of the topicality of this book nearly fifty years after God and the Fascists was first published. It is thrillingly written and a literary achievement of the first rank.
Throughout its long history, the Catholic Church has been rocked by scandals ranging from the dissolution of the Knights Templar to Galileo’s trial to Mother Theresa’s questionable donors. Over the course of the 20th century, many more scandals have come to light—no matter how much the Church would like to keep them secret.
10. The Duplessis Orphans
In the 1930s and 1940s, a conservative revolution ushered in an era in Quebec now known as “The Great Darkness.” Led by Premier Maurice Duplessis, the period was characterized by unprecedented corruption and repression, much of which involved the Catholic Church. After Duplessis received the provincial Church’s support during his rise to power, he sought to repay the favor with a bizarre moneymaking scheme revolving around institutionalizing children.
At the time, federal subsidies for mental hospitals were much larger than those given to orphanages, which were largely the responsibility of the provincial government. Beginning in the 1940s, the Duplessis government, in collaboration with the Catholic Church (which ran the majority of the province’s orphanages and mental hospitals) began to systematically diagnose orphaned children with mental diagnoses they did not have. As a result of these false diagnoses, the orphans were sent to psychiatric institutions, where they qualified for the higher federal subsidy. In some cases, orphanages were emptied after their children were declared mentally incompetent, then the orphanage was converted into an insane asylum so the Catholic Church could make more money from the subsidies. Around 20,000 children were wrongly diagnosed and imprisoned in this way.
To make matters worse, many of the orphans weren’t exactly orphaned. Instead, some of them were simply the children of unwed mothers forcibly taken into the custody of the Church, who frowned upon the very existence of childbirth out of wedlock. After being institutionalized, the children were subject to a nightmarish life that included sexual abuse, electroshock therapy, and even forced lobotomies. Some children were used in drug testing and other medical experiments. Many died as a result of their treatment.
By the 1990s, about 3,000 surviving Duplessis Orphans organized to bring their stories to light and pressure the Canadian government for justice. Though they were eventually granted a monetary settlement from the Quebec government, the Catholic Church has yet to apologize for its role in the scandal.
9. Home Children
During the 19th and 20th centuries, around 150,000 British “Home Children” were sent to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Rhodesia. The scheme arguably dated back as far as the 17th century, but what’s surprising is how long it lasted—between 1947 and 1967 as many as 10,000 children were shipped from the United Kingdom to Australia.
Those behind the scheme had clear ideological intentions—they wanted to ensure that the colonies in question would have white majorities. The British children chosen to be shipped across the world were often referred to as “good white stock.”
Competing religious groups, including the Catholic Christian Brothers, sought to use the scheme to increase their followers in the colonies. Between the late ’30s and early ’60s, the Catholic Church shipped at least 1,000 British and 310 Maltese children to Catholic schools in Australia, where many were forced to do construction work or other hard labor.
In addition to forced labor, subsequent inquiries have found that many of the migrant children in the Church’s care were brutally beaten, raped, and starved—some children were made to “scramble for food thrown on the floor” to survive. Many of the children were stripped of their birth name. Decades later, in 2001, the Catholic Church in Australia confirmed the crimes committed and issued an apology.
8. Spain’s Stolen Children
Starting in the 1930s, the fascist regime of Francisco Franco sought to purify Spain by stealing the babies of “undesirable” parents and having them raised in more politically acceptable surroundings. The scheme originally targeted the children of leftists, who the Spanish government saw as having “a form of mental illness that was polluting the Hispanic race,” but eventually came to target unmarried mothers and otherwise “unfit” parents. As many as 300,000 babies were eventually stolen from their parents.
The baby-stealing scheme was carried out with the close cooperation of the Catholic Church in Spain. After Franco rose to power calling himself the defender of Catholic Spain, the Church controlled most of Spain’s social services—from schools to hospitals to children’s homes. This allowed thousands of children to be stolen or otherwise removed from their parents by Catholic doctors, priests, and nuns.
In many cases, nurses in Catholic hospitals would take a newborn baby from its mother to be examined. The nurse would then return with a dead baby kept on ice for the purpose of persuading the mother that her baby had suddenly died. After the babies were stolen from their mothers, they were often sold in illegal profit-making adoptions.
After Franco died in 1975, the Church retained its grasp on Spanish social services and largely continued the scheme. The child kidnappings didn’t fully come to an end until 1987, when the Spanish government began tightening adoption regulations. It has been estimated that around 15 percent of adoptions in Spain between 1960 and 1989 were part of the kidnapping scheme.
7. The Return Of Baptized Jewish Children
While Pope Pius XII has been condemned for remaining largely silent on the Holocaust and politics of Word War II, under his leadership the Catholic Church did take steps to save several thousand Jews from the Nazis. Some Italian and Hungarian Jews were issued false baptism certificates and other documents identifying them as Catholics. In France, many Jewish children were baptized and placed in Catholic schools and orphanages, effectively hiding them from the Nazis.
The problem is what happened next. When the war ended, the Catholic Church in France issued a directive forbidding its representatives from returning Jewish children who had been baptized to their families. The document, which claimed to have been “approved by the Holy Father,” firmly stated that “children who have been baptized must not be entrusted to institutions that would not be in a position to guarantee their Christian upbringing.”
Many of the children concerned had lost their parents in the Holocaust, and some were deliberately never told of their Jewish background. The issue first came to public attention in France with the case of Robert and Gerald Finaly, who became the subject of a lengthy legal battle after their surviving Jewish relatives attempted to regain custody from the French Catholics who had baptized them. Other French Catholics apparently ignored the Church’s order and agreed to return the Jewish children in their care, including the future Pope John XXIII, who was the Vatican’s representative in Paris at the time. To this day it is not clear how many Jewish children the Church saved—or how many it gave back afterward.
6. Nazi Gold In The Vatican Bank
In 1947, a US Treasury agent named Emerson Bigelow apparently penned a highly classified report which alleged that the Catholic Church had smuggled Nazi gold through the Vatican bank. Although the report itself has been lost, a letter written by Bigelow explained that it contained information from a reliable source revealing that the Nazi’s puppet Utashe regime in Croatia had smuggled around 350 million Swiss francs in gold out of the country at the end of the war. According to Bigelow, perhaps 200 million francs of this was briefly held in the Vatican bank for safekeeping.
Bigelow’s letter also referenced information that the gold had subsequently been funneled through the “Vatican pipeline” to Spain and South America, where it was used to help Nazi and Utashe officials escape punishment for their crimes. The letter only came to light in 1997, after being declassified by the US government the year before. A spokesperson for the Vatican bank denied the claims, but the Catholic Church remains embroiled in lawsuits over its alleged laundering of Nazi gold.
In 2000, a class action lawsuit was brought by around 2,000 Holocaust survivors and relatives who sought restitution from the Vatican up to $200 million, using the Bigelow letter and other recently declassified documents to allege that the Vatican had improperly harbored gold stolen from Europe’s Jews. The suit has since stalled, with American courts split on whether the case can be tried in the US.
5. The Alliance With Fascism
Today, the Vatican is famously the smallest country in the world, but it hasn’t always been that way. Rome was the capital of the Papal States for hundreds of years. But after Italy was united in the 19th century, the Pope lost his temporal territories, causing a tense standoff between Church and state. The Vatican only officially became its own country again in 1929—and it did so because the Catholic Church got into bed with fascism.
In 1922, Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party came to power, eventually abolishing democracy and forming a brutal dictatorship. In 1929, Mussolini and the Catholic Church signed the Lateran Treaty, resolving the crisis by granting the Church the status of a sovereign state within Italy. To sweeten the deal, Mussolini gave the Church a hefty cash settlement. The Church in turn used the money to create a lucrative international investment portfolio, which is now valued at around £500 million (USD $781 million).
The Church was also given a generous tax exemption and Catholic priests were given a guaranteed salary by the Italian government. The treaty also officially made Catholicism Italy’s state religion, making religion classes compulsory for all Italian schoolchildren unless a special exemption was granted.
The treaty also included a clause protecting the “dignity” of the Pope, effectively meaning that those who criticized the Church could be prosecuted. In 2008, an overzealous Roman prosecutor launched an investigation into an Italian comic who made a joke criticizing Pope Benedict. Fortunately, the attempt was blocked by the Italian Justice Ministry, a decision officially supported by the Vatican.
In return for signing the treaty, Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship received the public support of the Catholic Church and was recognized as the legitimate government of Italy, despite the fact that Mussolini had abolished democracy four years prior. After the treaty was signed, the Vatican’s official newspaper praised Mussolini, stating: “Italy has been given back to God and God to Italy.”
4. Hiding Child Abuse And Protecting Pedophiles
Widespread child abuse within the Catholic Church has been a problem for a long time, but the issue didn’t truly come to public attention until the late 1980s. The abuse is a huge scandal in and of itself, but the fact that it took so long to come to light speaks to an even larger crime: The Catholic Church as an institution deliberately sought to cover up child abuse and systematically protected pedophile priests.
The issue was fully brought to light in 2002, when five Catholic priests were tried in Boston for their horrifying abuse of children. One of the convicted priests, Father John Geoghan, had allegedly molested as many as 130 boys before he was caught. But Father Geoghan’s superiors had learned of his crimes long before he was charged in a court of law. Not only did the Church not turn him over the authorities, they didn’t even expel him from the priesthood. Instead, they simply reassigned him to other parishes, where he continued to abuse children with impunity.
In Wisconsin, a Catholic priest named Lawrence Murphy raped as many as 200 deaf and disabled boys at a Church-run school between 1950 and 1974. When Murphy’s superiors became aware of the abuse, they didn’t even fire him from his teaching job. Instead, they gave him a leave of absence. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Church internally investigated the abuse. However, the Church decided not to punish the child rapist because he was elderly and in poor health. Murphy died a few months later and was buried with “the full dignity and honors of a Holy Roman Catholic Priest in good standing.”
In February 2014, a special United Nations committee on child rights found that the Catholic Church had “systematically” protected priests who raped children, and is consequently responsible for allowing “tens of thousands” of children to be abused. The committee claimed that the Church has “consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests.”
The current Pope, Pope Francis, recently claimed that he had reliable data indicating that around 2 percent of Catholic clergymen are pedophiles. There are currently around 414,000 Catholic priests around the world. So according to the Pope himself, there are an estimated 8,000 pedophile priests currently working for the Catholic Church.
3. Magdalene Asylums
Based on their ultraconservative notions about sexuality, the Catholic Church imprisoned women suspected of prostitution or promiscuity in Church-run institutions known as the Magdalene asylums. Initially, women were committed to the asylums to receive pseudo-psychiatric “treatment” for alleged sinfulness or promiscuity. Many women were sent to the asylums by their own families.
Occurring mainly in Ireland, the imprisoned women were forced to do slave labor, mostly related to washing clothes, for seven days a week. Of course, the Church was getting paid for the work, since the laundries were operated for a profit. The imprisoned women endured horrific beatings, poor food, and sexual abuse. It has been estimated that as many as 30,000 women were forced into the Irish laundries.
The asylums operated in Ireland from the 18th to the late 20th century, but they didn’t become a matter of public debate until 1993, when 155 bodies were uncovered in a mass grave in North Dublin. The asylum authorities had buried the women in secret, without telling their families or even the authorities that they had died—none of the 155 women had a death certificate.
In 2013, the Irish authorities agreed to pay at least $45 million in compensation to the survivors after the United Nations Committee Against Torture urged the government to make the situation right. The Catholic Church has yet to apologize.
2. Nazi Ratlines
At the end of World War II, many Nazi war criminals attempted to flee Europe to avoid prosecution. In at least some cases, they received help from senior Catholic clergymen. In December 1944, the Church allowed a bishop named Alois Hudal to visit Nazi prisoners held in Allied internment camps, presumably for religious purposes. However, Bishop Hudal instead used his position to help a number of Nazi war criminals flee to safety.
Hudal helped to set up escape routes known as “ratlines,” allowing wanted Nazis to flee to relative safety in South America. He used his position in the Church hierarchy to obtain travel documents from the Vatican Refugee Organization. A number of senior Nazis were actually given Vatican state passports, which allowed them to disguise themselves as priests.
One of the Nazis who Bishop Hudal helped escape was Franz Stangl, who would remain at large until 1967, when he was arrested in Brazil. Stangl was then extradited to West Germany and convicted of overseeing the mass murder of 900,000 Jews.
Meanwhile, a group of Croatian priests operating out of a Catholic seminary college in Rome would set up an escape route now known as the San Girolamo ratline. Led by Father Krunoslav Draganovic, the organization was initially founded to help members of the Utashe escape Europe, but its operations soon expanded to include German Nazis like Klaus Barbie.
At least 9,000 Nazis escaped to South America after the war. The extent to which the Church as an institution helped them to do so remains controversial. The historical consensus is that Hudal and Draganovic acted without the Vatican’s knowledge or approval, but historians have also argued that the Church could have done more to ensure its refugee program wasn’t exploited by fleeing war criminals.
1. The Croatian Holocaust
While the concentration camps run by the Nazis during World War II are probably best known today, there were many similar concentration camps in other countries, including some in Yugoslavia run by Catholic priests.
After the Axis Powers occupied Yugoslavia in 1941, a new fascist government was formed called the Independent State of Croatia, which is considered to have been a “Nazi puppet state.” The new government was run by the Utashe, Croatia’s version of the Nazis, headed by a dictator named Ante Pavelic. The Utashe were defined by ultraconservative Catholicism and racism.
After Pavelic took power, the Catholic archbishop Aloysius Stepinac held a banquet for the dictator, proclaiming him “God’s hand at work.” Pavelic was also received by Pope Pius XII himself. Four days before Pavelic met the Pope, the Utashe had locked hundreds of Serbians inside an Orthodox church and burned it to the ground. Yugoslav diplomats warned the Pope of the atrocities and asked him not to meet with the fascist dictator, but Pope Pius XII refused their request.
Months later, an Utashe leader suggested destroying Croatia’s Serbian population by “killing one third, expelling the other third, and assimilating the remaining third.”
Such genocidal ambitions soon became a horrifying reality. Concentration camps were set up across the country, including one of the largest camps in Europe at Jasenovac, where as many as 800,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and political dissidents were killed. Croatian Catholic clergymen served as guards and even executioners in the camps. At Jasenovac camp, a former student priest named Petar Vrzica won a contest by slitting 1,350 throats in a single night.
The slaughter wasn’t contained in the camps either. The Ustashe would descend on villages with hatchets and knives. One attack in 1942 was led by a priest and may have killed as many as 2,300 Serbs. A survivor of the attack described how the Utashe beheaded young children then threw the decapitated heads at their horrified mothers, cut open the stomachs of pregnant woman, and raped young girls as their horrified families watched.
As all of this went on, Pavelic continued to exchange “cordial telegrams” with Pius XXI. The Catholic press in Croatia published propaganda for the fascist regime. The Vatican never once spoke out against the massacres.
After the war ended and Yugoslavia was liberated by communist partisans, Archbishop Stephinac was convicted of war crimes and sent to Lepoglava prison. However, the new Yugoslavian state later released him after pressure from the Vatican. Stephinac was later appointed a cardinal by Pius XII. In 1998, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
Jasenovac in Croatia was the third largest World War II concentration camp in Europe by number of victims. It was operated by the Catholic and Nazi-allied Ustasha government. Wartime Croatia has been called “one great slaughterhouse.”
The prisoners – mostly Serbs, Jews and Roma had their throats cut with specially designed knives, or they were killed with axes, mallets and hammers; they were also shot, or they were hung from trees or light poles. Some were burned alive in hot furnaces, boiled in cauldrons, or drowned in the River Sava.
Here the most varied forms of torture were used. Finger and toe nails were pulled out with metal instruments, eyes were dug out with specially constructed hooks, people were blinded by having needles stuck in their eyes, flesh was cut and then salted. People were also flayed, had their noses, ears and tongues cut off with wire cutters, and had awls stuck in their hearts. Daughters were raped in front of their mothers; sons were tortured in front of their fathers.
Said plainly, in the concentration camps at Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska, the Ustasha surpassed all that even the sickest mind could imagine and do in terms of the brutal way people were murdered. …
More than 74,316 children were killed. During the Second World War, the only place where there were special camps for children was Croatia. …
Estimates of the total numbers of men, women and children killed there range from 300,000 to 700,000.
“700,000 in a total population of a few million, proportionally, would be as if one-third of the US population had been exterminated by a Catholic militia.”
For the Ustasha (Ustase, Ustaša), “relations with the Vatican were as important as relations with Germany because Vatican recognition was the key to widespread Croat support.” (Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930–1965 (2000) p. 32)
Ante Pavelic, the “Butcher of the Balkans,” had already been convicted in France for planning the 1934 assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia and French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou when he was received in a private audience by Pope Pius XII in May 1941 shortly after becoming dictator of Croatia. “After receiving the papal blessing, Pavelic and his Ustasha lieutenants unleashed an unspeakable genocide in their new country. But Pius XII refused to cut his ties with Catholic Croatia and in 1943 once again imparted the papal blessing on Pavelic, who by that time was a genocidal killer.” (Phayer, Pius XII, The Holocaust, and the Cold War (2008) p. 219)
“It is well known that many Catholic clerics participated directly or indirectly in the Ustaša campaigns of violence.” (Phayer, 2000, pp. 34-35)
Pope Pius XII could not plead ignorance to these atrocities. “Both the nuncio [Vatican ambassador] and the head of the [Croatian] Church, Bishop Alojzje Stepinac, were in continuous contact with the Holy See while the genocide was being committed.” (Phayer, 2000, p. 30)
“Approximately half of what [Vatican agent] Fr. Krunoslav Draganovic took out of Croatia was in the form of gold coins, most of which had been looted from Jewish and Serbian victims of Ustasha terror.” (Phayer, 2008, p. 215) Along with gold taken from the pre-war Yugoslav treasury, the coins were transported by truck through Austria and Italy into Rome.
Based on accounts by Emerson Bigelow, in the U.S. Army reporting to the U.S. Treasury Dept, and U.S. intelligence agents William Gowen and James Angelton, “There is no reason to doubt that the Ustasha gold ended up as a deposit in the Vatican Bank.” (Phayer, 2008, p.217) In addition, Gowen later gave testimony at a U.S. federal court in San Francisco that his investigation in 1947 led him to believe that the Vatican was “implicated at the highest level.”
In an April 2014 “Open Letter to Pope Francis,” William Dorich, whose father and 16 other relatives were burned alive by the Ustasha and Catholic priests, he asks the pontiff to open the Vatican archives from World War II and make restitution for the gold and other assets stolen from the Ustasha victims and deposited in the Vatican.
Dorich was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit first filed in 1999 against the Vatican Bank by elderly Ustasha victims and their heirs for compensation. When their claim was rejected by U.S. courts for lack of jurisdiction, their attorney, Dr. Jonathan Levy, began petitioning directly to the Vatican, including a letter to Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
“As the postwar years rolled by, the deposited gold had to be ‘laundered’ or changed into various currencies to finance an evolving sequence of tasks. The immediate need was for upkeep for many dozens of Ustasha exiles. False papers had to be fabricated. Some of the funds had to be used for the paying for passage of war criminals.” (Phayer, 2008, p. 217)
As an Allied victory became more certain, two distinct ratlines developed, both operated by Catholic clerics.
Austrian Bishop Hudal’s ratline began to assist highly-placed German and Austrian war criminals. To escape Germany, the best route lay across the Alps to Italy. The American OSS was able to trace support of Hudal’s operation to the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission of Assistance and expatriated Germans and Austrians in Argentina. That Hudal was a notorious Nazi sympathizer was well known in the Vatican. (Phayer, 2008, pp. 196-199)
Due to a “long-time relationship with Himmler’s SD espionage service,” (Phayer, 2008, p. 206) Hudal was able to assist monsters – just a few named here — to escape to South America: Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Franz Stangl, Eduard Roschmann, Alois Brunner, Walter Rauff.
Pius XII “made no effort to remove Bishop Hudal from the Austrian refugee program under the Pontifical Commission of Assistance until 1952, at which time all, or almost all, of the perpetrators of World War II atrocities who had not been apprehended had made good their escape.” (Phayer, 2008, p. 200)
Numerically, the largest ratline was operated by Fr. Draganovic, and “reveals the direct involvement of Pius XII himself.” Draganovic had served as an army chaplain with the rank of lieutenant colonel at Jasenovac. After the collapse of the Ustasha regime, Draganovic returned to his base in Rome where he established escape routes for Croatian war criminals. This was accomplished largely through the Croatian seminary, St. Jerome’s, located near the Vatican. (Phayer, 2008, pp. 231-232)
A large number of clerical and lay Ustasha war criminals took cover in St. Jerome. The Vatican wanted Draganovic to take care of the criminals and Draganovic served the Vatican as the front man in this venture. As one U.S. Army intelligence report put it, “in many instances it was hard to distinguish the activity of the Church from the activity of Draganovic.” (Phayer, 2008, p. 233) “All intelligence agents involved in the case, regardless of nationality, believed by 1947 that Ante Pavelic had found refuge in a Vatican property or properties.” (Phayer, 2008, pp. 222-223)
“The Vatican was able to use deposits of stolen Nazi funds to finance these [ratlines].” Also, “It would have been perfectly possible to channel funds to escaped war criminals in South America from Vatican Swiss bank accounts through the branches of Sudameris” a South American bank in which the Vatican was heavily invested and “which in the eyes of the Allies was simply an Axis Bank.” (Pollard, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy p. 202)
Both ratlines moved war criminals through the port of Genoa to Barcelona, and from Spain to Argentina. (Phayer, 2008, p. 232) In June 1947, “an American diplomat working in the Buenos Aires embassy wrote to the State Department deploring the fact that ‘the Vatican and Argentina [are conniving] to get guilty people to haven in latter country.’” (Phayer, 2008, p. 194)
Based on previously secret files, “investigators of the central war criminal authority in Germany estimated 9,000 war criminals escaped to South America, including Croatians, Ukrainians, Russians and other western Europeans who aided the Nazi murder machine. Most, perhaps as many as 5,000 went to Argentina.”
The Peron government (1946 to 1955) was “so keen to have the war criminals that it sent recruiting agents to Italy to persuade them to come. Like all the other institutions that helped former SS men such as Eichmann get away, the Peron government was well aware of the crimes they had committed.”
Argentina and the Third Reich were “closely linked.” Peron had a secret postwar organization that provided a safe haven to war criminals, giving them landing permits and visas. Many were even given jobs in Perón’s government.
Pavelić arrived in Buenos Aires on November 6, 1948, on an Italian merchant ship and was employed as a security adviser to Peron. In 1950, Pavelić was given amnesty by Peron when the Yugoslav government asked for him to be extradited as a war criminal. He was allowed to stay in Argentina along with 34,000 other Croats, including former Nazi collaborators.
“Some Jewish groups in Argentina saw a continued Nazi influence in the armed forces and the police long after the first Peron government. They claimed there was persistent anti-Semitism at an official level, and that neo-Nazi propaganda was rife.”
The Dirty War — a period from 1976 to 1983 — shocked the conscience of the world. In the aftermath of a military coup, the junta and their hired killers “disappeared” an estimated 30,000 suspected of opposing them. There were also “child murders, mass executions and a harrowing array of other daily war crimes.”
“Disappeared” refers to one of the many types of Nazi atrocities copied by Latin American dictators. In 1941, Hitler ordered the Nacht und Nebel Erlass (Night and Fog Decree) designed to make anyone “deemed to be a threat … vanish without a trace into the night and fog” and murdered in secret. A victim who is murdered or executed in public becomes a martyr and public opinion is raised against the perpetrators.
“Uncertainty about the fate of those abducted sowed terror in society,” wrote Juan Méndez of Human Rights Watch. The situation “forced friends and relatives to renounce and ignore old ties, intimidated parents and siblings.”
“The Nazi influence was very much a part of the [Dirty War]. Pictures of Hitler hung in torture chambers and the torturers sometimes played Hitler speeches while torturing. While Argentina had the largest concentration of Jews in Latin America, Argentine society, particularly the Church and the military, were bastions of anti-Semitism.”
Navy School of Mechanics, Buenos Aires
After Jasenovac, Pope Francis’ next stop should be at ESMA — acronym for Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada (Navy School of Mechanics) – “ground zero for torture during the Dirty War” and now a memorial.
“ESMA was the largest of nearly 400 detention and torture camps that operated in Argentina, where almost 5,000 people died.” Victims were trade unionists, students, those who helped the poor – anyone thought to be “leftist.”
Of the 30,000 who perished, about 1,900 were Jews — or more than 6 percent of the victims, even though Jews numbered only about 1 percent of the population. Argentina’s approximately 300,000 Jews suffered in greater proportion, because so many were members of that country’s intellectual elite and its left-wing …
“Jews suffered all types of torture,” at ESMA, “but there was one that was especially sadistic and cruel: A tube was inserted into the victim’s anus or in a woman’s vagina and a rat would be let loose inside the tube. The rodent would try to get out and eat the internal organs of the victims.”
Ana Maria Careaga was sixteen at the time of her disappearance. She was recently married and three months pregnant. “As soon as we arrived at the camp, they stripped, and began torturing me. The worst torture was with the electric prod — it went on for many hours, with the prod in my vagina, anus, belly, eyes, nose, ears, all over my body. They also put a plastic bag over my head and wouldn’t take it off until I was suffocating.”
“Our bodies were a source of special fascination,” Astelarra recounted, shuddering at the memory. “They said my swollen nipples ‘invited’ the prod, eased the passage of current.”
It was rare for a pregnant detainee to survive; most were killed soon after giving birth and their babies sold to “proper” couples, usually from the military or police.
Typically, ESMA inmates were “left hooded the whole time.” In addition to being “burned and poked and prodded, they would have had objects painfully inserted into their orifices. As they screamed, they would have heard cries of others being tortured nearby.”
In 1995, former navy Captain Adolfo Scilingo confessed that “between 1,500 and 2,000” ESMA inmates “were disposed of” by putting them on a military plane and then – stripped naked, drugged but alive — dropped from a height of about 13,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean.” Scilingo reported that the Catholic hierarchy “approved [of this] as a Christian form of death.” When Scilingo felt anguished after directing these death flights, he would seek counseling from Catholic chaplains at ESMA.
“In out-of-the-way streets, on isolated highways, along the Atlantic Ocean and Plate River [Rio de la Plata] corpses periodically were discovered by civilians. Riddled with bullets, missing digits and teeth, most of the bodies were too ravaged to be identified.
When the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights visited ESMA in 1979, they found no sign of prisoners. With the aid of the Church, the Army had hidden them in the “Island of Silence,” a vacation retreat that belonged to Cardinal Juan Carlos Aramburu, Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1975 until 1990.
Church and the Dictatorship
Like the Ustasha and Jasenovac, the junta was supported by the Catholic Church and the torture and deaths at ESMA and other detention centers were known by the Vatican, Argentine hierarchs and Pope Francis, then Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
The military had presented themselves as the defenders of “tradition, family and property … The internal enemy was [declared] more dangerous than enemies from abroad because it threatened the fundamental Western and Christian values of Argentine society.”
“Patriotism came to be associated with Catholicism,” said Kenneth P. Serbin, a history professor at the University of San Diego who has written about the Roman Catholic Church in South America. “So it was almost natural for the Argentine clergy to come to the defense of the authoritarian regime.”
In his book, El Silencio (The Silence), Horatio Verbitsky reports that the Catholic Church actively participated in the dictatorship while having full knowledge of the human rights violations being committed at the time. The secret relations that El Silencio revealed also include the collaboration of the secretary of the military vicariate, Bishop Emilio Graselli, and his program of reeducation of the prisoners of ESMA.
Gen. Jorge Videla’s junta “had a close alliance with the Church where they served as confidants to the military in that period … During his tenure, Videla expanded the Church’s economic benefits” and authorized a generous “retirement package for high-ranking Church officials.”
Archbishop Adolfo Tortolo, vicar of the armed forces, said that “General Videla adheres to the principles and morals of Christian conduct. As a military leader he is first class, as a Catholic he is extraordinarily sincere and loyal to his faith.’ He also said that when confronting subversion, the military should take on ‘hard and violent measures.’”
Cardinal Raul Primatesta made it clear at the start of the dictatorship that “the Church wants to understand, cooperate” with the junta. Primatesta prohibited the lower clergy from speaking out against state violence.
In 1997, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of women who protested against the disappearance of their children, petitioned the Italian government to prosecute Cardinal Pio Laghi, Pope Paul VI’s ambassador to Argentina, as an Italian citizen.
“As nuncio from 1974 to 1980, Laghi silenced international protests, falsely stated to relatives that he knew nothing of the fate of victims and expelled from the country priests and religious who protested the ‘disappearances’ and tortures.” Laghi, the Mothers charge, “was seen in the clandestine detention centers. He was consulted as to whether prisoners should be spared or killed, and they asked his advice regarding ‘the Christian and compassionate way to liquidate them.’ … He participated actively with the bloody members of the military junta and he undertook personally a campaign designed to hide the horror, death and destruction. … He was one of those who governed the country from the shadows.” Laghi escaped prosecution on the basis of his diplomatic immunity.
Laghi was particularly close to Admiral Emilio Massera, head of ESMA. “They played tennis together almost every day. Massera was convicted in 1985 of human rights violations and again in 1999 for disappearances. He was also charged with abducting babies of women who went into labor or suffered involuntary caesarian births while in prison.”
“The secret relations that El Silencio revealed also include the [power of] seduction Admiral Emilio Massera exercised over Pope Paul VI.”
Like Pius XII, Paul VI was kept informed by Argentine hierarchs. “On April 10, 1978, prelates of the Argentine Bishops Conference all went to the president’s mansion where they typed a summary of the dialogue held with Videla and sent it to the Vatican.”
Bergoglio and the Dirty War
While Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio (later Pope Francis) was the Jesuit provincial of Argentina, the Jesuit Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires awarded an honorary doctorate to Massera on November 25, 1977. It was “inexcusable” for Bergoglio to honor Massera, head of ESMA where “thousands of young Argentines were tortured and murdered in a reproduction of Auschwitz,” Roberto Pizarro, Dean of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Chile and rector of University Academy of Christian Humanism wrote. For Bergoglio to have “cultivated a relationship” with Massera is a “stain” on his record for which “Argentines, the Jesuits and the two hundred billion Catholic in the world deserve an explanation,” declared Pizarro.
Witness to the Truth: The Complicity of Church and Dictatorship in Argentina (1986) by Emilio F. Mignone “exposes the ‘sinister complicity’ between the Church and the military.” Mignone wrote that before the 1976 coup, Archbishop Adolfo Tortolo worked out a deal with the dictators that bishops would be consulted before a priest was arrested. The army “did the dirty work of cleaning up the inside of the Church,” that is, getting rid of “leftist” clergy, brothers and nuns. Churchmen could give a “green light” for those they wanted abducted while offering their protection to those they wanted spared.
The part Bergoglio played in the abduction and torture of his priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalic, was first published in Mignone’s book. Mignone’s daughter was “disappeared” along with seven other young volunteers by Navy commandos from a Buenos Aires shantytown in May 1976. They had been working alongside the Jesuit priests, Yorio and Jalics, who were taken a week later but were later released after being tortured.
By agreement with the government, priests were “licensed.” “A week before the arrest of the two priests, Archbishop Juan Carlos Aramburu had withdrawn their ministerial licenses without reason or explanation. Because of various expressions heard by Yorio in captivity, it was clear to him that the Navy interpreted Aramburu’s decision and, perhaps, some criticism from his provincial, Jorge Bergoglio, as an authorization to take action against him. Most certainly, the military had warned both Aramburu and Bergoglio of the supposed danger that Yorio posed,” according to Mignone. He thought Bergoglio’s criticism “served as part of the basis for the arrest, imprisonment and torture of the Jesuit priests.”
Mignone died in 1998, Yorio in 2000. Yorio’s siblings, Graciela and Rodolfo, repeated their brother’s accusation that Bergoglio had given a “green light” to their abduction as did Jalics’ siblings. Another Jesuit present at the time, Juan Luis Moyano Walker, confirmed that Bergoglio did not protect his priests working with the poor. Jalics issued a statement that Bergoglio had not turned them over to the military, but he was silent as to whether Bergoglio had facilitated their abduction. The only person actually present at the time who confirmed Bergoglio’s assertion that he tried to help Yorio and Jalics was Alicia Olveira, a personal friend.
In 2005, the military chaplain said that the Minister of Health should be thrown into the sea because of his progressive views on contraception. “It doesn’t take much effort at all to imagine what that must sound like to the ears of an Argentine with any sense of history,” historian Ernesto Semán noted. The government asked for the chaplain’s removal. Cardinal Bergoglio refused.
A series of interviews with Videla from 2010 were published in July 2012. He confirmed that “he kept the country’s Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of ‘disappearing’ political opponents, and that Catholic leaders offered advice on how to ‘manage’ the policy.” Videla said that his “relationship with the Catholic Church was excellent, very friendly, honest and open.”
Church leaders had little choice but to respond when Videla’s interviews were made public. As cardinal primate, Bergoglio would have approved such an important declaration. The statement, Los Obispos de la República Argentina, 104º Asamblea Plenaria, 9 de noviembre de 2012, absolved the Church: “We have the word and testimony of our elder brothers, the bishops who preceded us about whom we cannot know how much they personally knew of what was happening. They tried to do everything in their power for the good of all, according to their conscience and considered judgment.” Videla’s statement was “completely divorced from the truth of what the bishops were involved in at that time.” The bishops also equated the “suffering” from “state terrorism” with “the death and devastation caused by guerrilla violence,” referencing the quickly-crushed left-wing opposition. The bishops conclude: “For our part, we have cooperated with the law when we have been asked for information which we have. In addition, we encourage those with information on the whereabouts of stolen children or know clandestine burial sites, to recognize their moral obligation to go to the relevant authorities.”
Four months later, when Pope Francis was elected and the initial reporting about the new pontiff questioned his cooperation with the junta, the Vatican press office issued a statement that the “accusations” came from “left-wing anticlerical elements to attack the Church.”
In 2015, when Chileans protested Pope Francis’ appointment of a bishop due to his covering up dozens of clerical sexual abuse cases, the pope called them “lefties.”
Opening the archives
After taking office, Pres. Nestor Kirchner made it a government priority to pursue justice by holding trials of those accused of human rights abuses committed during the Dirty War.
Cardinal Bergoglio was called to testify twice. The first was in November 2010 during a trial for ESMA officials. María Elena Funes — a former detainee at ESMA and a lay volunteer who was kidnapped along with Yorio and Jalics and, like them, later released — had testified that they were abducted in May 1976 after Bergoglio removed their protection. Bergoglio was called as a witness.
The second time was September 2011 during a trial for officials who stole babies. The five-month pregnant Elena de la Cuadra was kidnapped in 1977 and “disappeared” at ESMA. She was killed after giving birth and her baby was given to one of the favored families. Her father had gone to see Bergoglio twice asking for help, but was referred elsewhere.
The Vatican Embassy kept a secret list of thousands of people who “disappeared.” Laghi confirmed in 1995 that he knew of some 6,000 cases. A priest “discovered a second list of 2,100 ‘disappeareds’” kept by Tortolo, vicar of the armed forces.
In both his testimonies, Bergoglio told the court he would make Church records available. But neither Bergoglio nor other prelates provided any of the documents.
As pope, Bergoglio said he would produce the documents promised in his testimony in April 2013, April 2015, and March 2016. This last time, Pope Francis’ spokesman said that first the records needed to be studied and agreement reached with the Argentine Bishops Conference. Then they would be released only by “specific legal questions requested by rogatory [a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance] or matters of a humanitarian nature.”
In spite of the iron curtain dividing Europe at the time, John Paul II returned to Poland less than eight months after his election. Benedict XVI went to Germany only four months after his election although it was a practically obligatory that he go to the World Youth Day in Cologne. In any case, after a year and a half pope, Benedict made a visit to his birthplace in Bavaria.
On February 18, 2016, a reporter asked: “Holy Father, when are you going to go to Argentina?” Bergoglio responded: “China. (laughs) To go there. I would love that. I would like to say something just about the Mexican people …”
Listed are only events that solely occurred on command or participation of church authorities or were committed in the name of Christianity. (List incomplete)
As soon as Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire by imperial edict (315), more and more pagan temples were destroyed by Christian mob. Pagan priests were killed.
Between 315 and 6th century thousands of pagan believers were slain.
Examples of destroyed Temples: the Sanctuary of Aesculap in Aegaea, the Temple of Aphrodite in Golgatha, Aphaka in Lebanon, the Heliopolis.
Christian priests such as Mark of Arethusa or Cyrill of Heliopolis were famous as “temple destroyer.” [DA468]
Pagan services became punishable by death in 356. [DA468]
Christian Emperor Theodosius (408-450) even had children executed, because they had been playing with remains of pagan statues. [DA469]
According to Christian chroniclers he “followed meticulously all Christian teachings…”
In 6th century pagans were declared void of all rights.
In the early fourth century the philosopher Sopatros was executed on demand of Christian authorities. [DA466]
The world famous female philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria was torn to pieces with glass fragments by a hysterical Christian mob led by a Christian minister named Peter, in a church, in 415.
Emperor Karl (Charlemagne) in 782 had 4500 Saxons, unwilling to convert to Christianity, beheaded. [DO30]
Peasants of Steding (Germany) unwilling to pay suffocating church taxes: between 5,000 and 11,000 men, women and children slain 5/27/1234 near Altenesch/Germany. [WW223]
15th century Poland: 1019 churches and 17987 villages plundered by Knights of the Order. Number of victims unknown. [DO30]
16th and 17th century Ireland. English troops “pacified and civilized” Ireland, where only Gaelic “wild Irish”, “unreasonable beasts lived without any knowledge of God or good manners, in common of their goods, cattle, women, children and every other thing.” One of the more successful soldiers, a certain Humphrey Gilbert, half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, ordered that “the heddes of all those (of what sort soever thei were) which were killed in the daie, should be cutte off from their bodies… and should bee laied on the ground by eche side of the waie”, which effort to civilize the Irish indeed caused “greate terrour to the people when thei sawe the heddes of their dedde fathers, brothers, children, kinsfolke, and freinds on the grounde”.
Tens of thousands of Gaelic Irish fell victim to the carnage. [SH99, 225]
First Crusade: 1095 on command of pope Urban II. [WW11-41]
Until January 1098 a total of 40 capital cities and 200 castles conquered (number of slain unknown) [WW30]
After 6/3/98 Antiochia (then Turkish) conquered, between 10,000 and 60,000 slain. 6/28/98 100,000 Turks (incl. women and children) killed. [WW32-35]
Here the Christians “did no other harm to the women found in [the enemy’s] tents – save that they ran their lances through their bellies,” according to Christian chronicler Fulcher of Chartres. [EC60]
Marra (Maraat an-numan) 12/11/98 thousands killed. Because of the subsequent famine “the already stinking corpses of the enemies were eaten by the Christians” said chronicler Albert Aquensis. [WW36]
Jerusalem conquered 7/15/1099 more than 60,000 victims (Jewish, Muslim, men, women, children). [WW37-40]
In the words of one witness: “there [in front of Solomon’s temple] was such a carnage that our people were wading ankle-deep in the blood of our foes”, and after that “happily and crying for joy our people marched to our Saviour’s tomb, to honour it and to pay off our debt of gratitude.”
The Archbishop of Tyre, eye-witness, wrote: “It was impossible to look upon the vast numbers of the slain without horror; everywhere lay fragments of human bodies, and the very ground was covered with the blood of the slain. It was not alone the spectacle of headless bodies and mutilated limbs strewn in all directions that roused the horror of all who looked upon them. Still more dreadful was it to gaze upon the victors themselves, dripping with blood from head to foot, an ominous sight which brought terror to all who met them. It is reported that within the Temple enclosure alone about ten thousand infidels perished.” [TG79]
Christian chronicler Eckehard of Aura noted that “even the following summer in all of Palestine the air was polluted by the stench of decomposition”. One million victims of the first crusade alone. [WW41]
Battle of Askalon, 8/12/1099. 200,000 heathens slaughtered “in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ”. [WW45]
Fourth crusade: 4/12/1204 Constantinople sacked, number of victims unknown, numerous thousands, many of them Christian. [WW141-148]
Rest of Crusades in less detail: until the fall of Akkon 1291 probably 20 million victims (in the Holy land and Arab/Turkish areas alone). [WW224]Note: All figures according to contemporary (Christian) chroniclers.
Heretics and Atheists
Already in 385 C.E. the first Christians, the Spanish Priscillianus and six followers, were beheaded for heresy in Trier/Germany [DO26]
Manichaean heresy: a crypto-Christian sect decent enough to practice birth control (and thus not as irresponsible as faithful Catholics) was exterminated in huge campaigns all over the Roman empire between 372 C.E. and 444 C.E. Numerous thousands of victims. [NC]
Albigensians: the first Crusade intended to slay other Christians. [DO29]
The Albigensians (Cathars) viewed themselves as good Christians, but would not accept Roman Catholic rule, and taxes, and prohibition of birth control. [NC]
Begin of violence: on command of pope Innocent III (the greatest single mass murderer prior to the Nazi era) in 1209. Beziérs (today France) 7/22/1209 destroyed, all the inhabitants were slaughtered. Number of victims (including Catholics refusing to turn over their heretic neighbors and friends) estimated between 20,000-70,000. [WW179-181]
Carcassonne 8/15/1209, thousands slain. Other cities followed. [WW181]
Subsequent 20 years of war until nearly all Cathars (probably half the population of the Languedoc, today southern France) were exterminated. [WW183]
After the war ended (1229) the Inquisition was founded 1232 to search and destroy surviving/hiding heretics. Last Cathars burned at the stake 1324. [WW183]
Estimated one million victims (Cathar heresy alone), [WW183]
Other heresies: Waldensians, Paulikians, Runcarians, Josephites, and many others. Most of these sects exterminated, (I believe some Waldensians live today, yet they had to endure 600 years of persecution) I estimate at least hundred thousand victims (including the Spanish inquisition but excluding victims in the New World).
Spanish Inquisitor Torquemada, a former Dominican friar, allegedly was responsible for 10,220 burnings. [DO28]
John Huss, a critic of papal infallibility and indulgences, was burned at the stake in 1415. [LI475-522]
Michael Sattler, leader of a baptist community, was burned at the stake in Rottenburg, Germany, May 20, 1527. Several days later his wife and other follwers were also executed. [KM]
University professor B.Hubmaier burned at the stake 1538 in Vienna. [DO59]
Giordano Bruno, Dominican monk, after having been incarcerated for seven years, was burned at the stake for heresy on the Campo dei Fiori (Rome) on 2/17/1600.
Thomas Aikenhead, a twenty-year-old scottish student of Edinburgh University, was hanged for atheism and blasphemy.
From the beginning of Christianity to 1484 probably more than several thousand.
In the era of witch hunting (1484-1750) according to modern scholars several hundred thousand (about 80% female) burned at the stake or hanged. [WV]
15th century: Crusades against Hussites, thousands slain. [DO30]
1538 pope Paul III declared Crusade against apostate England and all English as slaves of Church (fortunately had not power to go into action). [DO31]
1568 Spanish Inquisition Tribunal ordered extermination of 3 million rebels in (then Spanish) Netherlands. [DO31]
Between 5000 and 6000 Protestants were drowned by Spanish Catholic Troops, “a disaster the burghers of Emden first realized when several thousand broad-brimmed Dutch hats floated by.” [SH216]
1572 In France about 20,000 Huguenots were killed on command of pope Pius V. Until 17th century 200,000 flee. [DO31]
17th century: Catholics slay Gaspard de Coligny, a Protestant leader. After murdering him, the Catholic mob mutilated his body, “cutting off his head, his hands, and his genitals… and then dumped him into the river […but] then, deciding that it was not worthy of being food for the fish, they hauled it out again [… and] dragged what was left … to the gallows of Montfaulcon, ‘to be meat and carrion for maggots and crows’.” [SH191]
17th century: Catholics sack the city of Magdeburg/Germany: roughly 30,000 Protestants were slain. “In a single church fifty women were found beheaded,” reported poet Friedrich Schiller, “and infants still sucking the breasts of their lifeless mothers.” [SH191]
17th century 30 years’ war (Catholic vs. Protestant): at least 40% of population decimated, mostly in Germany. [DO31-32]
Already in the 4th and 5th centuries synagogues were burned by Christians. Number of Jews slain unknown.
In the middle of the fourth century the first synagogue was destroyed on command of bishop Innocentius of Dertona in Northern Italy. The first synagogue known to have been burned down was near the river Euphrat, on command of the bishop of Kallinikon in the year 388. [DA450]
694 17. Council of Toledo: Jews were enslaved, their property confiscated, and their children forcibly baptized. [DA454]
1010 The Bishop of Limoges (France) had the cities’ Jews, who would not convert to Christianity, expelled or killed. [DA453]
1337 Starting in Deggendorf/Germany a Jew-killing craze reaches 51 towns in Bavaria, Austria, Poland. [DO41]
1348 All Jews of Basel/Switzerland and Strasbourg/France (two thousand) burned. [DO41]
1349 In more than 350 towns in Germany all Jews murdered, mostly burned alive (in this one year more Jews were killed than Christians in 200 years of ancient Roman persecution of Christians). [DO42]
1389 In Prag 3,000 Jews were slaughtered. [DO42]
1391 Seville’s Jews killed (Archbishop Martinez leading). 4,000 were slain, 25,000 sold as slaves. [DA454] Their identification was made easy by the brightly colored “badges of shame” that all Jews above the age of ten had been forced to wear.
1492 In the year Columbus set sail to conquer a New World, more than 150,000 Jews were expelled from Spain, many died on their way: 6/30/1492. [MM470-476]
1648 Chmielnitzki massacres: In Poland about 200,000 Jews were slain. [DO43]
(I feel sick …) this goes on and on, century after century, right into the kilns of Auschwitz.
Beginning with Columbus (a former slave trader and would-be Holy Crusader) the conquest of the New World began, as usual understood as a means to propagate Christianity.
Within hours of landfall on the first inhabited island he encountered in the Caribbean, Columbus seized and carried off six native people who, he said, “ought to be good servants … [and] would easily be made Christians, because it seemed to me that they belonged to no religion.” [SH200]
While Columbus described the Indians as “idolators” and “slaves, as many as [the Crown] shall order,” his pal Michele de Cuneo, Italian nobleman, referred to the natives as “beasts” because “they eat when they are hungry,” and made love “openly whenever they feel like it.” [SH204-205]
On every island he set foot on, Columbus planted a cross, “making the declarations that are required” – the requerimiento – to claim the ownership for his Catholic patrons in Spain. And “nobody objected.” If the Indians refused or delayed their acceptance (or understanding), the requerimiento continued:
“I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter in your country and shall make war against you … and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church … and shall do you all mischief that we can, as to vassals who do not obey and refuse to receive their lord and resist and contradict him.” [SH66]
Likewise in the words of John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony: “justifieinge the undertakeres of the intended Plantation in New England … to carry the Gospell into those parts of the world, … and to raise a Bulworke against the kingdome of the Ante-Christ.” [SH235]
In average two thirds of the native population were killed by colonist-imported smallpox before violence began. This was a great sign of “the marvelous goodness and providence of God” to the Christians of course, e.g. the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony wrote in 1634, as “for the natives, they are near all dead of the smallpox, so as the Lord hath cleared our title to what we possess.” [SH109,238]
On Hispaniola alone, on Columbus visits, the native population (Arawak), a rather harmless and happy people living on an island of abundant natural resources, a literal paradise, soon mourned 50,000 dead. [SH204]
The surviving Indians fell victim to rape, murder, enslavement and Spanish raids.
As one of the culprits wrote: “So many Indians died that they could not be counted, all through the land the Indians lay dead everywhere. The stench was very great and pestiferous.” [SH69]
The Indian chief Hatuey fled with his people but was captured and burned alive. As “they were tying him to the stake a Franciscan friar urged him to take Jesus to his heart so that his soul might go to heaven, rather than descend into hell. Hatuey replied that if heaven was where the Christians went, he would rather go to hell.” [SH70]
What happened to his people was described by an eyewitness:
“The Spaniards found pleasure in inventing all kinds of odd cruelties … They built a long gibbet, long enough for the toes to touch the ground to prevent strangling, and hanged thirteen [natives] at a time in honor of Christ Our Saviour and the twelve Apostles… then, straw was wrapped around their torn bodies and they were burned alive.” [SH72]
Or, on another occasion:
“The Spaniards cut off the arm of one, the leg or hip of another, and from some their heads at one stroke, like butchers cutting up beef and mutton for market. Six hundred, including the cacique, were thus slain like brute beasts…Vasco [de Balboa] ordered forty of them to be torn to pieces by dogs.” [SH83]
The “island’s population of about eight million people at the time of Columbus’s arrival in 1492 already had declined by a third to a half before the year 1496 was out.” Eventually all the island’s natives were exterminated, so the Spaniards were “forced” to import slaves from other caribbean islands, who soon suffered the same fate. Thus “the Caribbean’s millions of native people [were] thereby effectively liquidated in barely a quarter of a century”. [SH72-73] “In less than the normal lifetime of a single human being, an entire culture of millions of people, thousands of years resident in their homeland, had been exterminated.” [SH75]
“And then the Spanish turned their attention to the mainland of Mexico and Central America. The slaughter had barely begun. The exquisite city of Tenochtitlán [Mexico city] was next.” [SH75]
Cortez, Pizarro, De Soto and hundreds of other Spanish conquistadors likewise sacked southern and mesoamerican civilizations in the name of Christ (De Soto also sacked Florida).
“When the 16th century ended, some 200,000 Spaniards had moved to the Americas. By that time probably more than 60,000,000 natives were dead.” [SH95]
Of course no different were the founders of what today is the US of America.
Although none of the settlers would have survived winter without native help, they soon set out to expel and exterminate the Indians. Warfare among (north American) Indians was rather harmless, in comparison to European standards, and was meant to avenge insults rather than conquer land. In the words of some of the pilgrim fathers: “Their Warres are farre less bloudy…”, so that there usually was “no great slawter of nether side”. Indeed, “they might fight seven yeares and not kill seven men.” What is more, the Indians usually spared women and children. [SH111]
In the spring of 1612 some English colonists found life among the (generally friendly and generous) natives attractive enough to leave Jamestown – “being idell … did runne away unto the Indyans,” – to live among them (that probably solved a sex problem).
“Governor Thomas Dale had them hunted down and executed: ‘Some he apointed (sic) to be hanged Some burned Some to be broken upon wheles, others to be staked and some shott to deathe’.” [SH105] Of course these elegant measures were restricted for fellow Englishmen: “This was the treatment for those who wished to act like Indians. For those who had no choice in the matter, because they were the native people of Virginia” methods were different: “when an Indian was accused by an Englishman of stealing a cup and failing to return it, the English response was to attack the natives in force, burning the entire community” down. [SH105]
On the territory that is now Massachusetts the founding fathers of the colonies were committing genocide, in what has become known as the “Peqout War.” The killers were New England Puritan Christians, refugees from persecution in their own home country England.
When however, a dead colonist was found, apparently killed by Narragansett Indians, the Puritan colonists wanted revenge. Despite the Indian chief’s pledge they attacked.
Somehow they seem to have lost the idea of what they were after, because when they were greeted by Pequot Indians (long-time foes of the Narragansetts) the troops nevertheless made war on the Pequots and burned their villages.
The puritan commander-in-charge John Mason after one massacre wrote: “And indeed such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished … God was above them, who laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven … Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies”: men, women, children. [SH113-114]
So “the Lord was pleased to smite our Enemies in the hinder Parts, and to give us their land for an inheritance”. [SH111].
Because of his readers’ assumed knowledge of Deuteronomy, there was no need for Mason to quote the words that immediately follow:
“Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth. But thou shalt utterly destroy them…” (Deut 20)
Mason’s comrade Underhill recalled how “great and doleful was the bloody sight to the view of the young soldiers” yet reassured his readers that “sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents”. [SH114]
Other Indians were killed in successful plots of poisoning. The colonists even had dogs especially trained to kill Indians and to devour children from their mothers breasts, in the colonists’ own words: “blood Hounds to draw after them, and Mastives to seaze them.” (This was inspired by Spanish methods of the time)
In this way they continued until the extermination of the Pequots was near. [SH107-119]
The surviving handful of Indians “were parceled out to live in servitude. John Endicott and his pastor wrote to the governor asking for ‘a share’ of the captives, specifically ‘a young woman or girle and a boy if you thinke good’.” [SH115]
Other tribes were to follow the same path.
Comment the Christian exterminators: “God’s Will, which will at last give us cause to say: How Great is His Goodness! and How Great is his Beauty!”
“Thus doth the Lord Jesus make them to bow before him, and to lick the Dust!” [TA]
Like today, lying was morally acceptable to Christians then. “Peace treaties were signed with every intention to violate them: when the Indians ‘grow secure uppon (sic) the treatie’, advised the Council of State in Virginia, ‘we shall have the better Advantage both to surprise them, & cutt downe theire Corne’.” [SH106]
In 1624 sixty heavily armed Englishmen cut down 800 defenseless Indian men, women and children. [SH107]
In a single massacre in “King Philip’s War” of 1675 and 1676 some “600 Indians were destroyed. A delighted Cotton Mather, revered pastor of the Second Church in Boston, later referred to the slaughter as a ‘barbeque’.” [SH115]
To summarize: Before the arrival of the English, the western Abenaki people in New Hampshire and Vermont had numbered 12,000. Less than half a century later about 250 remained alive – a destruction rate of 98%. The Pocumtuck people had numbered more than 18,000, fifty years later they were down to 920 – 95% destroyed. The Quiripi-Unquachog people had numbered about 30,000, fifty years later they were down to 1500 – 95% destroyed. The Massachusetts people had numbered at least 44,000, fifty years later barely 6000 were alive – 81% destroyed. [SH118] These are only a few examples of the multitude of tribes living before Christian colonists set their foot on the New World. All this was before the smallpox epidemics of 1677 and 1678 had occurred. And the carnage was not over then.
All the above was only the beginning of the European colonization, it was before the frontier age actually had begun.
A total of maybe more than 150 million Indians (of both Americas) were destroyed in the period of 1500 to 1900, as an average two thirds by smallpox and other epidemics, that leaves some 50 million killed directly by violence, bad treatment and slavery.
In many countries, such as Brazil, and Guatemala, this continues even today.
More Glorious Events in U.S. History
Reverend Solomon Stoddard, one of New England’s most esteemed religious leaders, in “1703 formally proposed to the Massachusetts Governor that the colonists be given the financial wherewithal to purchase and train large packs of dogs ‘to hunt Indians as they do bears’.” [SH241]
Massacre of Sand Creek, Colorado 11/29/1864. Colonel John Chivington, a former Methodist minister and still elder in the church (“I long to be wading in gore”) had a Cheyenne village of about 600, mostly women and children, gunned down despite the chiefs’ waving with a white flag: 400-500 killed.
From an eye-witness account: “There were some thirty or forty squaws collected in a hole for protection; they sent out a little girl about six years old with a white flag on a stick; she had not proceeded but a few steps when she was shot and killed. All the squaws in that hole were afterwards killed …” [SH131] More gory details.
By the 1860s, “in Hawai’i the Reverend Rufus Anderson surveyed the carnage that by then had reduced those islands’ native population by 90 percent or more, and he declined to see it as tragedy; the expected total die-off of the Hawaiian population was only natural, this missionary said, somewhat equivalent to ‘the amputation of diseased members of the body’.” [SH244]
20th Century Church Atrocities
Catholic extermination camps
Surprisingly few know that Nazi extermination camps in World War II were by no means the only ones in Europe at the time. In the years 1942-1943 also in Croatia existed numerous extermination camps, run by Catholic Ustasha under their dictator Ante Paveliç, a practicing Catholic and regular visitor to the then pope. There were even concentration camps exclusively for children!
In these camps – the most notorious was Jasenovac, headed by a Franciscan friar – orthodox-Christian Serbians (and a substantial number of Jews) were murdered. Like the Nazis the Catholic Ustasha burned their victims in kilns, alive (the Nazis were decent enough to have their victims gassed first). But most of the victims were simply stabbed, slain or shot to death, the number of them being estimated between 300,000 and 600,000, in a rather tiny country. Many of the killers were Franciscan friars. The atrocities were appalling enough to induce bystanders of the Nazi “Sicherheitsdienst der SS”, watching, to complain about them to Hitler (who did not listen). The pope knew about these events and did nothing to prevent them. [MV]
Catholic terror in Vietnam
In 1954 Vietnamese freedom fighters – the Viet Minh – had finally defeated the French colonial government in North Vietnam, which by then had been supported by U.S. funds amounting to more than $2 billion. Although the victorious assured religious freedom to all (most non-Buddhist Vietnamese were Catholics), due to huge anticommunist propaganda campaigns many Catholics fled to the South. With the help of Catholic lobbies in Washington and Cardinal Spellman, the Vatican’s spokesman in U.S. politics, who later on would call the U.S. forces in Vietnam “Soldiers of Christ”, a scheme was concocted to prevent democratic elections which could have brought the communist Viet Minh to power in the South as well, and the fanatic Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem was made president of South Vietnam. [MW16ff]
Diem saw to it that U.S. aid, food, technical and general assistance was given to Catholics alone, Buddhist individuals and villages were ignored or had to pay for the food aids which were given to Catholics for free. The only religious denomination to be supported was Roman Catholicism.
The Vietnamese McCarthyism turned even more vicious than its American counterpart. By 1956 Diem promulgated a presidential order which read:
“Individuals considered dangerous to the national defense and common security may be confined by executive order, to a concentration camp.“
Supposedly to fight communism, thousands of Buddhist protesters and monks were imprisoned in “detention camps.” Out of protest dozens of Buddhist teachers – male and female – and monks poured gasoline over themselves and burned themselves. (Note that Buddhists burned themselves: in comparison Christians tend to burn others). Meanwhile some of the prison camps, which in the meantime were filled with Protestant and even Catholic protesters as well, had turned into no-nonsense death camps. It is estimated that during this period of terror (1955-1960) at least 24,000 were wounded – mostly in street riots – 80,000 people were executed, 275,000 had been detained or tortured, and about 500,000 were sent to concentration or detention camps. [MW76-89].
To support this kind of government in the next decade thousands of American GI’s lost their life.
Christianity kills the cat
On July 1, 1976, Anneliese Michel, a 23-year-old student of a teachers college in Germany, died: she starved herself to death. For months she had been haunted by demonic visions and apparitions, and for months two Catholic priests – with explicit approval of the Catholic bishop of Würzburg – additionally pestered and tormented the wretched girl with their exorcist rituals. After her death in Klingenberg hospital – her body was littered with wounds – her parents, both of them fanatical Catholics, were sentenced to six months for not having called for medical help. None of the priests was punished: on the contrary, Miss Michel’s grave today is a place of pilgrimage and worship for a number of similarly faithful Catholics (in the seventeenth century Würzburg was notorious for it’s extensive witch burnings).
This case is only the tip of an iceberg of such evil superstition and has become known only because of its lethal outcome. [SP80]
In 1994 in the small African country of Rwanda in just a few months several hundred thousand civilians were butchered, apparently a conflict of the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.
For quite some time I heard only rumors about Catholic clergy actively involved in the 1994 Rwanda massacres. Odd denials of involvement were printed in Catholic church journals, before even anybody had openly accused members of the church.
Then, 10/10/96, in the newscast of S2 Aktuell, Germany – a station not at all critical to Christianity – the following was stated:”Anglican as well as Catholic priests and nuns are suspect of having actively participated in murders. Especially the conduct of a certain Catholic priest has been occupying the public mind in Rwanda’s capital Kigali for months. He was minister of the church of the Holy Family and allegedly murdered Tutsis in the most brutal manner. He is reported to have accompanied marauding Hutu militia with a gun in his cowl. In fact there has been a bloody slaughter of Tutsis seeking shelter in his parish. Even two years after the massacres many Catholics refuse to set foot on the threshold of their church, because to them the participation of a certain part of the clergy in the slaughter is well established. There is almost no church in Rwanda that has not seen refugees – women, children, old – being brutally butchered facing the crucifix.
According to eyewitnesses clergymen gave away hiding Tutsis and turned them over to the machetes of the Hutu militia.
In connection with these events again and again two Benedictine nuns are mentioned, both of whom have fled into a Belgian monastery in the meantime to avoid prosecution. According to survivors one of them called the Hutu killers and led them to several thousand people who had sought shelter in her monastery. By force the doomed were driven out of the churchyard and were murdered in the presence of the nun right in front of the gate. The other one is also reported to have directly cooperated with the murderers of the Hutu militia. In her case again witnesses report that she watched the slaughtering of people in cold blood and without showing response. She is even accused of having procured some petrol used by the killers to set on fire and burn their victims alive…” [S2]More recently the BBC aired:Priests get death sentence for Rwandan genocide
BBC NEWS April 19, 1998A court in Rwanda has sentenced two Roman Catholic priests to death for their role in the genocide of 1994, in which up to a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Pope John Paul said the priests must be made to account for their actions. Different sections of the Rwandan church have been widely accused of playing an active role in the genocide of 1994...
As can be seen from these events, to Christianity the Dark Ages never come to an end.
If today Christians talk to me about morality, this is why they make me sick.
K.Deschner, Abermals krähte der Hahn, Stuttgart 1962.
K.Deschner, Opus Diaboli, Reinbek 1987.
P.W.Edbury, Crusade and Settlement, Cardiff Univ. Press 1985.
S.Eidelberg, The Jews and the Crusaders, Madison 1977.
Hunter, M., Wootton, D., Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment, Oxford 1992.
Schröder-Kappus, E., Wagner, W., Michael Sattler. Ein Märtyrer in Rottenburg, Tübingen, TVT Media 1992.
H.C.Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, New York 1961.
M.Margolis, A.Marx, A History of the Jewish People.
A.Manhattan, The Vatican’s Holocaust, Springfield 1986.
See also V.Dedijer, The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican, Buffalo NY, 1992.
J.T.Noonan, Contraception: A History of its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists, Cambridge/Mass., 1992.
Newscast of S2 Aktuell, Germany, 10/10/96, 12:00.
D.Stannard, American Holocaust, Oxford University Press 1992.
German news magazine Der Spiegel, no.49, 12/2/1996.
A True Account of the Most Considerable Occurrences that have Hapned in the Warre Between the English and the Indians in New England, London 1676.
F.Turner, Beyond Geography, New York 1980.
H.Wollschläger: Die bewaffneten Wallfahrten gen Jerusalem, Zürich 1973.
(This is in german and what is worse, it is out of print. But it is the best I ever read about crusades and includes a full list of original medieval Christian chroniclers’ writings).
Estimates on the number of executed witches:
N.Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons: An Enquiry Inspired by the Great Witch Hunt, Frogmore 1976, 253.
R.H.Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, New York 1959, 180.
J.B.Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, Ithaca/NY 1972, 39.
H.Zwetsloot, Friedrich Spee und die Hexenprozesse, Trier 1954, 56.
Fourteen years ago the U.S. Government de-classified the now famous “La Vista Report” of May 15, 1947, a top-secret U.S. Army Intelligence report documenting the Vatican’s role in aiding the escape of numerous high-ranking Nazi war criminals, among them Ante Pavelic, fascist leader of wartime Croatia; Franz Stangel, Commander of Treblinka; Eduard Roschmann, “the Butcher of Riga”; Klaus Barbie, “the Butcher of Lyon”; SS General Walter Rauff, inventor of the mobile gas truck; Adolf Eichmann, “architect of the Holocaust”; and tens of thousands of others. Writing about the document prior to its release, internationally renowned Nazi hunter Charles R. Allen Jr. noted that in light of the revelations contained in this and other classified documents about the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust it would be logical and proper that
“A commission of inquiry into these concerns including Jewish and Catholic scholars ought to be established to locate and examine all documentation in all relevant archives so that collectively they may determine what role both the Vatican and US Intelligence played in aiding and abetting the escape of some of history’s most notorious murderers.”(1)
Logical, that is, if one assumed that the Vatican truly wanted to get to the bottom of what really happened, and maybe even try to atone for some of the injustices it committed. But fourteen years after the fact, with the release of the Vatican’s official statement on “the mistakes” of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust, we now can see how overly optimistic that assumption was.
The “La Vista Report” was documentary evidence that opened a window on a suppressed chapter of the Holocaust: the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust. The Vatican’s report “We Remember, a Reflection on the Shoah (Holocaust),” issued this past March makes it abundantly clear that the Catholic Church is determined to do all that it can to shut that window as tightly as it can, and to keep it shut forever. Forget the idea of a commission — the Vatican has no intention of opening its archives or admitting anything other than “… the errors and failures of those sons and daughters of the Church” who did not “give every possible assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular … Jews.”
Far from suggesting that the Vatican did anything wrong, the document instead tries to portray the role of the Church during the Holocaust in a mostly positive light, insisting that “many” members of the Church did “give every possible assistance” — implying that those who didn’t were a minority, and going on to claim that the Vatican categorically condemned and opposed fascism and Nazism, making reference to pronouncements that at best are equivocal. It also claims that “Jewish communities and Jewish leaders expressed their thanks for all that had been done for them …,” a cynical manipulation of a half-truth if there ever was one. And to top it all off the document tries to argue that fascism and genocide were incompatible with Catholic teachings: “… the work of a thoroughly neo-pagan regime. Its anti-Semitism had its roots outside of Christianity ….”(2) Certainly not the view of the tens of thousands of Catholic clergy all around the world who warmly embraced fascism and joined its ranks from Berlin to Detroit (Have they forgotten our own “dear” Father Coughlin?).
What all of this amounts to is a staggering lie of gigantic proportions, a total whitewash of the crimes committed by the Catholic Church and the Papacy before, during and after the Holocaust. It is worthwhile that we now review some of the media response to this deliberate falsification of history before we examine some of the facts this most recent Vatican document conveniently “forgot” to mention.
The Vatican document is the result of a sophisticated public relations campaign aimed at improving its image with both Jews and the American public by shirking responsibility for its crimes before, during and after the Holocaust while pinning all of the blame on others. This necessarily involves a deliberate falsification and suppression of the historical record. The New York Times was correct when it predicted that the document would try to put as much distance between itself and the Holocaust as possible. Even anti-Semitism is portrayed as the result of “wrong-headed Christian thinkers,” not the papacy or its clergy.(3) As one CNN reporter put it, “the Pope has steered clear of blaming the church itself.”(4)
Thus, the Vatican’s “memory” is highly selective. The “errors” the Vatican is willing to recall are limited only to those of omission, not commission. In other words, the errors of the Church during the Holocaust are defined only as the silence or indifference of the Church in the face of crimes of genocide, a failure to speak out. The Vatican — and apparently many journalists — would like us to believe that this is the limit of wrongdoing. Defined out of the discussion are complicity in or support for these crimes — not to mention active participation in deportations, expropriations, forced conversions, and mass murder of a specific people, that is to say, genocide itself. As long as the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust is defined in this way, it safely avoids serious examination of the much worse crimes it did commit.
We shall return to these matters presently. First, some credit should be paid to those who have openly criticized the Vatican for its mendacity. To its credit CNN presented an interview with Israel’s Chef Rabbi, Meir Lau, who was forthright in his condemnation of this atrociously retrograde document and who focused attention on the actual historical role of Pope Pius XII, whom he called “an accomplice to Nazi murderers.”(5)
There are many good reasons for this designation: Pius XII’s (then Eugenio Pacelli) efforts as Papal Nuncio in Germany were central to bringing Germany’s Catholic Center Party close to Nazism in the 1920’s, and then to cementing the agreement between the Vatican and Hitler known as the Concordat of 1933. Pacelli’s support for Hitlerism in its early stages is historical record, and preventing the disclosure of the full scope of this support is one of the reasons the Vatican will not open its archives from this period.
Indeed, Pius XII brings us to the real heart of the matter, and Pope John Paul II’s response to the question of the wartime Pope’s culpability reveals the real design behind the Vatican’s report. John Paul II has consistently defended Pius XII, often in a truculent manner. The current Pope has made it clear that he will do his part to uphold the doctrine of Papal infallibility. One of his speeches during a trip to Germany in 1995 even contained a passage attacking all criticisms of Pius XII as “cheap polemics.”(6) This kind of attack is part of a pre-emptive strategy aimed at creating an unreceptive climate for scholarship or discussion dealing with the role of the Vatican. Once again the Church finds itself fighting to prove that the world is flat.
But more importantly it exposes the motives behind this recent report, which shares certain similarities with some interpretations of the Holocaust. By placing blame on wrong-headed individuals in the Church and denying any wrong doing by the Pope or Vatican, the Church is shifting responsibility from its leaders and from the institution itself to the rank and file followers, in effect side stepping all blame whatsoever. Thus, the Church really is completely innocent — it’s the sheep, not the shepherd who are responsible! The similarities with the manner in which the ruling elites in Germany prefer to interpret the Holocaust are quite striking. In Germany, authors like Daniel Goldhagen are all the rage because books like Hitler’s Willing Executioners blur responsibility for the rise of Nazism by taking the focus off of the capitalist and aristocratic elites and institutions who backed Hitler (many of which were left unscathed by the so-called de-Nazification of post-war Germany) and putting it on the popular culture and working masses instead. Not having their own Goldhagen to rely on, the Catholic Church has to hustle this cheap shell game itself.
The Vatican’s Role: A Suppressed Chapter of the Holocaust
If we consider for a moment the manner in which the phenomenon of genocide has been treated in the twentieth century by both historians and governments, in general we can say that it often has been cynically exploited for political purposes. When it suited the Western powers, they criticized the genocide of Armenians by Turkey in World War I. But after Turkey became a bulwark against the Soviet Union and a military ally, this chapter of twentieth century history was suppressed — and largely remains so to this day. Most historians in this country are still unwilling to consider the mass extermination of Native American peoples or the deaths of millions of Africans during slavery as acts of genocide, legally sanctioned by this country. At the U.S. Holocaust Museum the history of the Holocaust has been tailored to fit the political fashions of the Clinton administration and the New World Order: hence, one finds the words “Serbs” and “Russians” are altogether absent from the official record of the Holocaust, and instead are replaced in the most obscene Orwellian manner by the words “Yugoslavs” and “Soviets.” A most vicious and ironic cover up, considering that the U.S. today does not even recognize the existence of these states or peoples. In all of these cases we see instances of the suppression of the history of genocide against certain peoples for clearly political purposes (not least of which is the desire to target these same peoples for future destruction). The role of the U.S. and British governments in protecting and employing Nazi and fascist mass murderers will also probably not be fully disclosed or incorporated into history books in our lifetimes.
But nowhere has the truth been hijacked and suppressed more than in regard to that one chapter of the Holocaust that historians still hesitate to confront: the Vatican’s role in fascist Croatia. The story of the Holocaust in wartime Croatia is absent from many scholarly discussions of the Holocaust and from most Holocaust museums in this country. It is an odd omission considering the fact that if one defines the Holocaust from the first mass murders of civilians, then the Holocaust itself began in Croatia with the first murders of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies by the Croatian fascist regime in April 1941 — some nine months before the Wannsee Conference, more than two months before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. It is like a book whose first chapter is torn out.
What then are the political reasons for the systematic and deliberate suppression of the history of the Holocaust in Croatia? There are several, and they are all connected to vital geo-political considerations of the leading Western powers. One is the leading role that Croatian fascist war criminals played in establishing the “ratline” escape routes of European fascism after the war and their enormous contributions to U.S. and British intelligence agencies during the Cold War. Another was the American and British governments’ refusal to return for trial and punishment to post-war Yugoslavia Croatian war criminals in particular, thus violating the Moscow Declaration of 1943 in which they had sworn to do so. Still another was the long range goal of U.S. and Western imperialism to partition and destroy Communist Yugoslavia, a plan which depended on the support of the thousands of escaped Croatian fascists subsidized by the U.S. for decades in anticipation of this long sought goal.(7) The need to suppress such information from the public and from political discourse is obvious: a self-proclaimed moral superiority based on genocide is a fraud the whole world can see.
But all of these justifications pale in comparison to the importance placed on suppressing the truth about the Vatican’s and the Catholic Church’s role in the Holocaust in fascist Croatia. For in Croatia, the question of what role the Catholic Church played in the Holocaust is not limited to the relatively minor issues of whether they did or spoke out enough against it — here the question concerns the role of the Church and the Vatican in running concentration camps and in carrying out a religiously inspired genocide. Nowhere is the role of the Vatican more worthy of investigation, and nowhere has that role received less attention.
Vatican Sponsorship of Fascism
To understand the Vatican’s role and motives in the Holocaust in Yugoslavia we need to understand the phenomenon of genocide as a product of modern imperialism. Genocide is a direct consequence of imperialist wars of conquest aimed at territorial expansion for economic, political and military domination. After World War I the Vatican was determined, like its fascist partners of Italy and Germany, to destroy the Yugoslav state and reconstitute in that region the power and influence the Papacy had lost with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The Yugoslav state emerged out of the century long struggle of the peoples of the Balkans to overcome colonial oppression. The idea of a federation of Balkan peoples had its roots in the struggles against first Turkish and then Austrian-German and other Western domination. It was born of the realism of Balkan political leaders in the nineteenth century that small nations by themselves cannot defend themselves against the great imperialist powers, but that together they might be able to do so. It was this ideal that Yugoslavia in a truncated form represented, and that German and Italian fascism were determined to annihilate.(8)
The Vatican was also determined to destroy Yugoslavia, though for its own reasons. The dismemberment of the Catholic Austro-Hungarian Empire was a catastrophe for the Catholic Church. The Vatican was no longer the supreme religious authority in Central and Eastern Europe and had lost the state foundations on which citizens owed a dual allegiance to Church and state. Its disappearance marked a sharp decline in the Church’s world power and influence. Worse still was the replacement of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with states dominated by other religions in which Catholics sank to a minority status. The worst of the bunch was Yugoslavia which was ruled by a King of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox faith, a church that the Vatican viewed as a “schismatic sect.” From the Vatican’s point of view, this “schismatic sect” was a cancer, to be eliminated.
The Vatican had done all it could to support the Austrian and German war effort in 1914 against Serbia and considered Serbia as the “evil” behind the war. In his report of July 29, 1914 to the Austrian Foreign Minister Berchtold, the Austrian charge d’affairs to the Vatican, Count Palffy reported the views of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Marry del Val, who, speaking on behalf of then Pope Pius X
“… expressed the hope that the monarchy would go through to the end … [and] the opinion that it is a pity that Serbia wasn’t made smaller much earlier…. The Pope and the Curia see Serbia as a destructive disease which is slowly eating away at the Monarchy to its very essence and which will eventually destroy it…. Austria is and remains a Catholic state par excellence, the strongest bulwark of Christ’s Church in this century. The demolition of this bulwark would mean for the Church the loss of its firmest support. It would lose its strongest defender. Therefore, for this reason, just as it is necessary for Austria, for the sake of its self-preservation to get its organism rid, if necessary by force, of the evil which is eating away at it, so it is indirectly necessary for the Church to do everything that could serve this purpose.”(9)
In August 1914 the Vatican encouraged its clergy to rally the Catholic populations of Croatia and Slovenia to fight Serbia, portraying the conflict as a holy war against the very “enemy of Jesus,” i.e.: the Serbs. The Bishop of Ljubljana, Anton Jeglich, called on the Slovenian soldiers
“… to take arms and defend Catholic Austria and our Catholic imperial family from the sworn enemy of Jesus himself…. let us fight the enemies of God, against the enemies of Catholic Austria, against the enemies of the Catholic Habsburg house.”(10)
Combined with the Catholic fanaticism encouraged by the Vatican was the extreme racial violence expressed toward the Serbs throughout Austria-Hungary and summed up in the popular jingle of August 1914: “Alle Serben mussen sterben!”(11) This blending of Catholic fanaticism and racial violence toward the Serbs born in the last days of the Habsburg Empire and sponsored by the Vatican prefigured the later emergence of Croatian fascism. Indeed, in World War I, one out of every four male Serbs would be killed — a dress rehearsal, one might say, for the greater genocide to come.
Members of the Hungarian Arrow Cross carry confiscated goods out of the ghetto in Budapest on October 15, 1944. The man on the left is Father Andras Kun, nicknamed the “killer priest.” A Catholic Minorite monk and an Arrow Cross leader, Father Kun participated in the torture and murder of perhaps as many as 500 Jews after the Arrow Cross, backed by the Germans, seized power in Hungary in October 1944. During a raid at a Jewish hospital in the winter of 1944–45, Kun directed that patients be killed “in the holy name of Christ.” Kun was later tried and executed. (Source: US Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Having lost its “strongest bulwark” with the end of the first World War, the Vatican turned to Mussolini and fascist Italy to defend it and its long range goals. Likewise, the Vatican threw its support behind Mussolini’s imperialist ambitions for fascist Italy. The aims of the two Italian dictatorships were quite similar. Both were implacable enemies of the Yugoslav state seeking its destruction: the Pope wished to carve out a Catholic majority state from its northern half; Mussolini sought to annex parts of Slovenia, the Dalmatian coast, and Montenegro, along with Albania and Kosovo, so that he might “turn the Adriatic into an Italian lake.”
The origins of fascism in the Balkans can be traced directly back to Mussolini and the imperialist ambitions of fascist Italy, as well as to the generous support provided to them by the Catholic Church in Croatia. It was Mussolini’s fascist state that originally financed and sponsored nationalist extremist political movements in the Balkans, transforming them ideologically and organizationally into full blown genocidal, fascist parties. According to the diary of Mussolini’s foreign minister Ciano, the Italian government financed Croatian fascism at the level of around 25 million lire a year in the 1920’s and 1930’s.(12) By 1934 Italy’s investments in Croatian fascism paid handsome dividends when on October 9th King Alexander of Yugoslavia was assassinated by Croatian fascists in Marseilles, France along with the French Foreign Minister Barthou, both of them obstacles to the fascist domination of Europe.
The Vatican was kept apprised of fascist strategic planning in both Rome and Berlin through the 1930’s right up to the invasion of Yugoslavia. In May 1940 the Archbishop of Zagreb, Aloysius Stepinac, was called to the Vatican for briefings on the future invasion and partition of Yugoslavia.(13) In the years immediately preceding the German and Italian invasion of Yugoslavia of April 1941, the head of the Catholic Church in Yugoslavia, Stepinac, met regularly with representatives from both the Italian foreign ministry and the illegal Ustasha terrorist organization, as Stepinac himself noted in his diary.(14) Among these visitors was the future Ustasha Minister of Education Mile Budak, a chief architect of the genocide in Croatia, who is best known for his infamous speech on the final solution for the Serbs: “We will kill a third, expel a third, and convert a third.”(15)
The three nationalist movements that Italian fascism took under its wing were the Croatian, Albanian and Macedonian nationalist movements. The only one of these three that would graduate under Italian (later also German) fascist tutelage and financing, from a loose terrorist organization into a fully mature fascist movement was the Croatian Ustasha. Its success in becoming the largest and most mature of these fascist movements was in large part due to the considerable institutional support the Catholic Church in Croatia could provide — a factor altogether absent in the Albanian and Macedonian cases.
The leadership of the Church was well aware of the leading role it was expected to play in the soon to be independent, fascist Croatian state. In the years prior to 1941 the Croatian fascist movement recruited members of legal Croatian nationalist parties and from within the Yugoslav military with the help and encouragement of the Croatian Catholic Church. Not only did the Croatian Catholic clergy meet secretly in the years prior to 1941 with Italian fascist agents to help prepare for the final destruction of Yugoslavia, but they provided the Ustasha with all of the vast resources at its disposal, including its buildings and monasteries for meetings and safe-houses. The operational headquarters in which the plans for the Ustasha take-over were made was in the Franciscan monastery at Chuntich. Monasteries, parish houses, cathedrals, Franciscan high schools, seminaries, etc., throughout Croatia doubled as meeting places, recruiting centers, arms depots and staging areas for Croatian fascism and terror in the years prior to the war. We know this to be true because the Croatian fascists themselves boasted of it when they came to power in 1941 in their official publications and on the memorial plaques they affixed to these places.(16)
If the Vatican criticized Nazi Germany in the last half of the 1930’s, it had less to do with fascism than with Hitler’s imperialist conflicts with Mussolini over the fate of Central Europe. The Vatican’s interests were more in line with those of Mussolini’s: a “Pan-Danubian” confederation of Catholic states centered around Austria and Hungary as the core of a restored Catholic empire.(17) The Ustashi too favored a reconstitution of the old Habsburg empire following the destruction of Yugoslavia. But by the time Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Mussolini had to face facts and reach a tacit agreement with Hitler over who would call the shots. Moreover, the Munich agreement in the fall of 1938 signaling the end of Czechoslovakia, and Hitler’s creation of the clerical-fascist puppet state of Slovakia several months later, proved to Croatian fascists (if they had any doubts by then) that Hitler was their real fuhrer, not Mussolini. Hitler had wanted to put off the destruction of Yugoslavia until after Britain and the Soviet Union were defeated. But Mussolini’s mucked up invasion of Greece forced the issue, much to the delight of the Croatian fascists — and the Catholic Church in Croatia.
It is assumed that Pius XII would have preferred Mussolini’s leadership in Central Europe to Hitler’s. But Hitler’s creation of two semi-independent clerical fascist states out of the remnants of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia certainly showed a great deal of consideration for the Vatican’s interests as an ally. Besides, the Vatican recognized that of the three major alternatives for Central Europe, Nazi Germany may have been a less desirable arbiter than Fascist Italy, but still a whole lot better than Soviet Russia. And in the end, faced with larger problems, Hitler granted the Italian and Croatian fascists and the Vatican most of what they wanted anyway.(18)
Why did Hitler create two independent clerical-fascist states which considered themselves vassals of the papacy? The answer to this question explains why historians hardly ever mention Slovakia and Croatia in their discussions of World War II or the Holocaust: because the Vatican was a silent partner in the Axis alliance, as well as in the Holocaust.
The Vatican’s Holocaust
The Croatian Catholic Church and the Vatican were directly involved in helping the fascist regime in Croatia carry out a triple genocide against Serbs, Jews and Romas from 1941 to 1945 in every possible way. By the time they were done, they had killed one million people. The Catholic Church assisted the Croatian fascists in every aspect of their murderous rule, from open political and financial support, to serving in their military units in every phase of the war, to serving in their government, to participating in arrests, expropriations, deportations, forced conversions and mass murders of racially persecuted peoples. Catholic Priests even served as concentration camp commanders in some of the worst death camps of World War II. And it was all done with the full knowledge and support of Pope Pius XII and the Vatican.(19)
On April 10, 1941 the Independent State of Croatia was declared by Ustashi arriving in Zagreb with Nazi troops during the Nazi’s invasion and dismemberment of Yugoslavia which began on April 6 and continued until the surrender of the Yugoslav government on April 17. While 30,000 were killed by the Luftwaffe in the bombing of Belgrade, Zagreb and Croatia were left untouched and the Nazis were greeted like heroes in the streets of Zagreb. Once again much of the responsibility for preparing public support for Nazism in Croatia lies with the Catholic Church, which had published articles in its publications as early as 1939 calling for an independent Croatia. In 1940 an article appeared in the official Church publication “Catholic List” praising Mein Kampf and adding that there was no conflict between being a good Catholic and a good Nazi.(20) Indeed, similar articles were published by innumerable Catholic clergy all over Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Urged on by the Catholic clergy, thousands of Croatian officers and soldiers in the Yugoslav army deserted to the Nazi-Ustasha side as did a large part of the membership of the popular Croatian Peasant Party.
While the Ustashi rode to power on the backs of the Nazi Wehrmacht, units of Ustasha soldiers fought alongside them. Among the very first armed divisions of the Ustasha army were numerous Catholic priests. The military exploits of one priest, Ilija Tomas of Klepac, were hailed in the Croatian fascist publication “Hrvatski Narod” on July 25, 1941.(21) Another Catholic publication “Nedelja” praised the military exploits of dozens of priests, especially those in monastic orders such as the Franciscan Radovan Glavas, and the priest Ivan Miletic who led Croatian fascists in joint battle with Wehrmacht forces.(22) Priests who led Catholic organizations in Croatia and Bosnia such as the “Crusaders Brotherhood” and “Catholic Action,” which had tens of thousands of members, established military units within them and were used as recruiting centers for the Ustasha military.(23) These are not unique examples. The entire Catholic press in this period in Croatia was thoroughly pro-fascist, racist and supportive of the elimination of the “minorities.”
The leader of the Catholic Church in Croatia, Archbishop Stepinac, fervently supported the Ustasha movement and welcomed the invading Nazi army as it entered Zagreb. On April 11th he met with Ustasha leaders and on April 12th he blessed the newly arrived Ustasha leadership in a public ceremony at his cathedral. In his Easter address of that month he compared the creation of the new fascist state to the resurrection of Christ. In his pastoral letter of April 28th he ordered the clergy and called upon all Catholic people of Croatia and Bosnia to follow their “Poglavnik” (Fuhrer) Ante Pavelic, for he had seen in Pavelic’s rule “God’s hand in action.”(24) The pastoral letter was read over the radio and in every Catholic parish in fascist Croatia.
There is no question that Stepinac knew of the Ustasha’s plans for committing genocide even before they came to power. After Stepinac’s death in 1960, Ilija Jukic, a leading member of the Croatian Peasant Party, wrote of how he had told Stepinac in March 1941 that the Pavelic-Budak group “were thinking of applying Hitler’s methods to the Serbs in Croatia if they ever came to power.” Stepinac disingenuously told Jukic that he would look into it.(26) But Stepinac already was resolved on an attitude of passive acceptance of genocide, as is revealed from entries in his diary, such as one from 1940 when he wrote: “… the Serbs have not learned anything … and in the end they will lose everything…. I wish them no evil because they are God’s children. But if nothing can teach them a lesson, distress will.”(27)
Of course, Stepinac was easily outdone in fascist criminality by other high ranking clergy, most infamously by the second highest ranking cleric in fascist Croatia, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Ivan Sharich — called “the Hangman of Serbs” by his fellow Ustashi. Sharich had been a secret member of the Ustasha since 1934, and had been in close contact with them at least since 1931. Whereas Stepinac was willing to spare the lives of some Jews and Serbs who had converted to Catholicism, Sharich ridiculed those who did not have the stomach for total genocide, declaring it “stupid and unworthy of Christ’s disciples to think that the struggle against evil could be waged in a noble way and with gloves on.” Among Vatican documents that have emerged is one dealing with Sharich’s personal expropriations of property belonging to Jews in Bosnia.(28)
Since the Ustasha wished Croatia to be a vassal of the papacy, Catholic clergy held high positions at every level of the fascist government. In the majority of towns and villages throughout the newly created fascist state, Catholic clergy became the official Ustasha authority. A certain number of seats in the fascist “Sabor” were reserved for Bishops including Stepinac and Sharich. Pavelic included several priest-advisors and a personal confessor in his cabinet. In its inaugural radio address to the nation on April 11, 1941, the new fascist government instructed the population to apply to their local priest for further instructions, indicating again that the fascist take-over was planned in advance with the complete knowledge of the Church hierarchy.(29) When Pavelic fled the country in 1945 he turned over the reigns of state leadership to Stepinac. Thus, it truly was a clerical-fascist state in praxis as well as theory.
In its ideology, Croatian fascism combined extreme Roman Catholic fanaticism, Nazi eugenics and Croatian chauvinism, creating perhaps the most psychotic political movement of all time. Pavelic was obsessed with Croatia’s racial purity on both biological and religious grounds. The Ustashi claimed that the Croats were not Slavs but rather of the “Aryan race,” descendants of the Germanic Goths. However, unlike the Nazis, the Ustashi’s leading racist theorists were Catholic clergy, like Dr. Ivo Guberina, a priest and leading Ustasha emigre, whose writings reconciling religious purification with racial hygiene lent a spurious scientific veneer to Ustasha propaganda.(30) Croatia had to be purified of its “foreign elements,” namely Serbs, Jews and Romas. Purification for the Ustashi always meant extermination; they never hid their desire to commit genocide. In the 1930’s they were already known for songs with verses like: “We shall hang Serbs on the willows” (“Serbe o verbe”), and “We shall tear their children out of their womb.”(31)
The Italian and German fascists were astonished by the speed with which the Ustashi initiated their systematic policy of genocide. Already on April 18, 1941 the very first racial law, on “the Aryanization of Jewish property” was issued. Other racial laws of the Independent State of Croatia promulgated in April 1941 included laws ordering Serbs to wear blue bands on their sleeves with the letter “P” (for Orthodox), and Jews a band with the Star of David and the letter “Z” (for Jew), along with laws forbidding Serbs and Jews to walk on sidewalks and ordering the posting of signs in public places stating “No Serbs, Jews, Gypsies or Dogs Allowed!” In May 1941 laws carefully defining Serbs, Jews and Romas (as well as anti-fascist Croats) as “undesirable peoples” directed what was to be done with them: their rounding up, the dispossession of their property, and their deportation to death camps. Laws on the rounding up, dispossessing and deportation of the families of undesirables as well, including children, were issued later that same month. Racial laws regulating all aspects of society continued to be issued in the weeks and months to follow. Bound volumes of these published laws are available in the European Law Division of the Library of Congress.
The so-called Ustasha Minister of Education, Dr. Mile Budak, summarized the racial policy of Croatia in a speech on July 22, 1941 in Gospic when he said:
“The movement of the Ustashi is based on religion. For the minorities — Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, we have three million bullets. We shall kill one part of the Serbs. We shall deport another, and the rest of them will be forced to embrace the Roman Catholic religion. Thus, our new Croatia will get rid of all Serbs in our midst in order to become one hundred percent Catholic within ten years.”(32)
Meanwhile the foreign minister of fascist Croatia, Mladen Lorkovic, sent instructions to his diplomats and to the world: “… the Croatian people annihilate all foreign elements, which weaken its powers; those foreign elements are the Serbs and the Jews.”(33)
How committed was the Catholic Church in Croatia to this ideology and its racial laws? As has been mentioned already, priests were among the intellectual godfathers of Croatian fascism and racism. Whereas anti-Serbian racism had roots deeply connected to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, anti-Semitism in Yugoslavia was almost entirely the product of Catholic propaganda after World War I. Official church publications in Croatia like Catholic List frequently published condemnations of Jews during the 1930’s as being the source of communism, free-masonry, abortions and immorality.(34) It should not be surprising therefore that the man appointed to be President of Ustasha Central Propaganda Office (equivalent to the position held by Goebbels in Germany) was none other a priest, Father Grga Peinovic. To claim that the Catholic Church simply adapted to the fascist regime would be a whitewash of their long-standing promotion of racism. They were the very leaders responsible for articulating this ideology to the people and for the regime itself.
But there were considerable obstacles blocking the creation of a pure Croat-Catholic state. The most serious of these was the fact that Croats did not even constitute a majority of the population in their own state, just 3.3 million out of around 6.7 million people. There were 2.2 million Serbs, 60,000 Jews, 700,000 Muslims, 70,000 Protestants, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Romas and other minorities. The Ustasha solution was clear: kill as many Serbs, Jews and Romas as quickly as possible — and then sort the rest out later.
The Ustasha regime wasted no time at all commencing upon their systematic policy of racial extermination of all Serbs, Jews and Romas shortly after coming to power. If we are to adjudge that the Holocaust began with the first mass murders of entire peoples, then it is clear that the Holocaust began in Croatia in April 1941. The earliest punitive actions against Serbs are believed to have taken place on the evening of April 13, 1941 in Ogulin where Pavelic stopped to make a speech on his way to Zagreb from Italy.(34) Mass killings began in earnest on April 28, 1941 as Ustasha military units were dispatched to towns and villages all across the fascist state. Thousands of Serbian men, women and children were rounded up and killed that day, their property confiscated, in cities like Vukovar and villages like Gudovac, Tuke, Brezovac, Kokochevac, Bolch. Throughout May and June hundreds of towns and villages throughout the Croatian state underwent these same terrorist operations in which Serbs, Jews and Romas were either murdered on the spot or led away to concentration camps. By the beginning of July nearly 200,000 people, the vast majority of them Serbs, already were killed.(35) As Holocaust historian Jonathan Steinberg has pointed out, the Ustashi pioneered the methods of genocidal terror and extermination only later perfected by the Nazi SS Einsatzgruppen another fact “conveniently” overlooked in conventional Holocaust studies.(36)
The Ustasha operations were carried out with incredible acts of sadism and torture. In some cases entire villages were axed to death, in others men and women were hanged, crucified, burned to death or buried alive, body parts mutilated, decapitated, infants impaled or hammered. In the Orthodox church at Glina hundreds of Serbs were lured inside only to be slaughtered. Nazi Wehrmacht units attached to the Ustasha military were so impressed by the Ustashi’s methods for carrying out genocide that they established a commission to study the killings at Bjelovar, exhume the bodies, take photographs and write a report, later published under the title “Ustachenwerk bei Bjelovar.”(37) However, the top Nazi and Italian military authorities were concerned that they were dealing with out of control psychopaths who would destabilize their own regime, and thus Axis control of the Balkans. They were right. The Nazi “Plenipotentiary” in Zagreb, General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau reported back anxiously to Berlin in early June 1941 that “according to reliable reports from countless German military and civil observers during the last few weeks, in country and town, the Ustashi have gone raging mad.”(38)
As the noted historian of fascism Ernest Nolte has put it, “Croatia became during the war a giant slaughterhouse.” The operations continued with only brief pauses throughout 1941 and 1942, then at a slightly slower pace thereafter through 1945. No portion of territory given to Ustasha rule was untouched by this terror. In those areas where the Orthodox Serbs comprised a majority of the population, the Ustashi committed the worst atrocities. Vast areas were emptied of population and left a wasteland. Only a minority of those affected were killed immediately, the rest were rounded up for deportation to death camps.
Croatia became at this time, as Croatian historian Antun Miletic has said, “a land of concentration camps.” In order to execute the state’s racial laws, the Directorate for Public Security under Eugen Kvaternik was ordered by Interior Minister Andrija Artukovic to create a series of concentration camps throughout Croatia. From April to August 1941 Serbs, Jews, Romas and anti-fascists who were not killed outright were relocated to collection camps, such as Danica, Kerestinec, Pag, Caprag, Jadovno, Krushchica, Loborgrad, Gornja Rijeka, Djakovo, Tenj, Sisak, Jastrebarsko and the Lepoglava Prison. Some of these, like Jadovno and Djakovo were also major death camps. In other cases surviving inmates were transported for extermination to the main concentration camp system in Croatia which opened in August 1941, Jasenovac.
It was at Jasenovac that between 600,000 and 700,000 Serbs, at least 30,000 Romas and 25,000 Jews were systematically murdered between August 1941 and April 1945. Of all of the death camps during the Holocaust Jasenovac was the third largest overall in terms of victims. In terms of size it was probably the largest, spread out over 240 square kilometers (150 sq. miles) and encompassing actually a series of five major and three smaller “special” camps.(39) Jasenovac was intended to serve as “the radical solution” to Croatia’s racial problem a factory of death. Indeed, it was built around a former brick factory. Its first Commander was the notorious Maks Luburic, a man specifically sent to the Third Reich for training at various Nazi concentration camps prior to the opening of Jasenovac. Jasenovac holds a number of ghastly distinctions for its cruelty. It possessed some of the largest camps for women and children during the war – the names of some 20,000 children murdered there have been collected thus far. It was noted also for its extreme brutality every known method of murder and torture was employed there, as well as a few unknown anywhere else. There are very few examples in human history that can compare with the scale of murder, terror and barbarism conducted at Jasenovac. And yet it is not even mentioned at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington DC Why?
The answer lies with the Catholic Church. What was the Church’s reaction to and role in all of this? How deeply involved in genocide in fascist Croatia was the Catholic Church and the Vatican? In response to the persecution of the Jews and Serbs the Croatian clergy rallied around the regime and provided endless articles and pamphlets justifying their extermination. Stepinac had the racial laws published in his own publications. Writing in response to the publication of the racial laws of April and May 1941 the Catholic weekly “Hrvatska Strazha” in its editorial of May 11, 1941 welcomed the legislation as necessary for “the survival and development of the Croatian nation.”
“Defense from Judaism, from that destructive worm, was started by the Fuhrer and Duce…. Our Poglavnik has also announced a regulation on the protection and honor and blood, and we would add, on the protection of the survival and development of the Croatian nation, and with it the Poglavnik wants to prevent the dangerous worm from eating away at the tree of our Croatian national life.”(40)
Writing in response to new racial laws against the Jews the Archbishop of Sarajevo Ivan Sharich declared: “There exists limits to love. The movement for ridding the world of Jews is a movement for restoring human dignity. All mighty God stands behind this movement.” The Catholic Bishops of Banja Luka and Djakovo made similar public statements. The Croatian Academic Catholic Society also published a brochure in 1941 entitled “Why Do They Persecute Jews In Germany?,” explaining that Hitler was to be praised for eliminating the Jews because he was defending the German people. Hitler was merely righting the wrongs of the past.(41) By the time the Ustashi and Catholic Church were done with their work they had killed approximately 30,000 of the 40,000 Jews living in the territories of the Independent State of Croatia.(42)
Toward Serbs the rhetoric in favor racial extermination was even more severe. The Franciscan Priest Shimich stated bluntly: “All Serbs must be murdered within the shortest time. That is our program.”(43) And the actions of the Catholic clergy were not limited to words. Catholic priests and members of orders were recruited into as many Ustasha military commands as possible. As with the clerical fascist state, the clerical fascist army was led by priests. Taking up arms as if in a medieval crusade, the Catholic clergy were transformed, as Carlo Falconi has said, “into thorough going butcher-leaders.”(44) At the very first punitive action against Serbs at Ogulin it was the parish priest, Ivan Mikan, who addressed the Ustashi and said “Now there will be some cleaning…. Scoot you dogs (Serbs) over the Drina.”(45) It was speeches such as these that gave the signal to launch massacres all across the Independent State of Croatia. Sometimes priests gave less than spiritual reasons for liquidating Serbs, such as Father Mate Mogus in Udbina who told his congregation “Look, people, at these brave Ustashi who have 16,000 bullets and who will kill 16,000 Serbs, after which we will divide among us in a brotherly manner the fields …”
Meanwhile, Franciscan priests in dozens of villages attacked Serbian and Roma settlements, tortured, killed and expropriated their victims. Father Mogus explained in another sermon that “We Catholics until now have worked for Catholicism with the cross and with the book of the mass. The day has come however to work with the revolver and the machine gun.(46) The Jesuit priest Dragutin Kamber, who was also the Ustasha Commander for the district of Doboj, personally led numerous raids and ordered the execution of 300 Serbs in Doboj. Father Peric of the Gorica monastery participated in the massacres of 5,600 Serbs in Livno. Father German Castimir, the Abbot of the Guntic monastery, personally directed the massacres at Glina.(47)
The genocide of the Serbs was to be carried out in three ways: extermination, deportation and forced conversion. There were simply too many Serbs to kill them all. We have left this third part of the genocide plan, forced conversion, for last because this phase of the genocide was almost exclusively carried out by the Catholic Church itself. At his trial for war crimes in 1986 Andrija Artukovic emphasized that the management of forced conversions was entirely in the hands of Archbishop Stepinac and the church leadership.(48) In June 1941 the Ustashi created an “Office of Religious Affairs” to handle the conversion of Serbs to Catholicism. On July 18, 1941 the government decreed that the Serbian Orthodox religion had ceased to exist. By early September 1941 the government decreed the expropriation of all Orthodox Church property. Across Croatia Priests were instructed to inform the Serbian population that they had only one way out: become Catholic or die. This was the ultimatum the Catholic clergy offered to a lucky third of the Serbs in fascist Croatia.
The Ustashi kept particularly good records of this phase of genocide. One of the reasons for this is that the Ustashi were so awfully proud of their accomplishments in this regard, that they filmed dozens of such forced conversions for Croatian newsreels. Another is that each Catholic diocese published weekly and sometimes daily reports of new conversions. Children were especially targeted for conversion, especially orphans. No doubt, today there are tens of thousands of people living in Croatia, if not more, who do not know that they had Serbian or Jewish parents or grand-parents, nor what happened to them. In a letter to the Vatican dated May 8, 1944 Stepinac informed the Holy Father that to date 244,000 Orthodox Serbs had been “converted to the Church of God.”(49)
As the Serbs were marked for genocide, it was desired that no trace of their cultural heritage should remain. 299 Orthodox churches were destroyed. Some 300 Orthodox priests and five bishops were murdered. As this was a clerical-fascist crusade, the Orthodox clergy were marked for especially cruel torture, usually ending with the gouging out of their eyes or other forms of bodily mutilation. In one case the eighty-one year old Bishop of Banja Luka was shod like a horse and forced to walk until he collapsed, at which point his heart was cut out and he was set on fire. In Zagreb the Orthodox Bishop was tortured until he went insane. Some 400 Orthodox priests were killed in concentration camps.(50)
The Croatian Catholic clergy saw the rise of fascism as the beginning of an international Catholic-fascist crusade that would convert the world for Catholicism and the Papacy, as the following statement in Katholicki Tjednik of August 31, 1941 makes clear. This was the time to destroy the enemies of Catholicism: Communism, Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy.
“Until now, God spoke through papal encyclicals…. And? They closed their ears … Now God has decided to use other methods. He will prepare missions. European missions. World missions. They will be upheld, not by priests, but by army commanders, led by Hitler. The sermons will be heard, with the help of cannons, machine guns, tanks, and bombers. The language of these sermons will be international.”(51)
The clergy had to be ready to take on a military role if that was God’s will. Indeed, it had to be prepared for death and destruction. Perhaps this explains the scale of the Catholic clergy’s participation in running concentration camps. The exact number of Catholic priests who worked as commanders or guards at these camps in Croatia is unknown. However, there is no question that there were hundreds, if not thousands. In a surprising number of cases Catholic priests were named commanders or staff officers of concentration camps. These appointments were reported in the Catholic press during the war. Thus, we read in Novi List in 1941 that Father Stepan Lukic was named camp adjutant of the Zepce concentration camp, Priest Ante Djuric Commander of all camps in the Drvar district, and Father Dragan Petranovic commander of the camp in Ogulin. The active participation of clergy in running concentration camps in Croatia was known by the German, Italian, British and American intelligence services, as well as the Vatican. The U.S. intelligence report of February 23, 1943 entitled “Massacres of Serbs in Croatia” speaks bluntly of “the bloody hands of the Catholic clergy in the camps.”(52)
The scene of some of the most barbaric killings of all time was the concentration camp complex known as Jasenovac. German, Italian, British and American intelligence reports (as well as Croatian accounts) suggest that between 600,000 and 700,000 were killed there. Aside from intelligence reports, we have the testimony of survivors and of a few of the perpetrators as to the crimes committed there by the Catholic clergy. Testimony was collected by a Yugoslav War Crimes Commission and obtained during the trials of various Ustashi. A key witness was the parish priest of Jasenovac, Juraj Parshich, who along with survivors testified to the barbaric murders committed at Jasenovac by numerous priests, among whom the most infamous were Zvonko Brekalo, Pero Brzica, Anzelmo Chulina, Father Brkljanic, and the Jesuits Zvonko Lipovac and Father Cvitan. However, there was one priest who has carved out a special place for himself in the annals of sadism, barbarism and genocide. His name before the war was Vjekoslav Filipovich, a Franciscan priest who some say was excommunicated. During the war he went from wearing priestly robes to an Ustasha officer’s uniform, and bore the name Miroslav Majstorovich. He directed numerous actions against Serbian villages in which he played a conspicuous part in the killings. Before one such attack in the town of Drakulic he strangled a Serbian baby in his hands. Then he went to Jasenovac where he served as Commander for four months, from September 1942 to the beginning of January 1943. At the War Crimes investigation prior to his trial, Filipovich testified that during the four months of his command “according to my own calculations between twenty and thirty thousand were liquidated in the Jasenovac.”(53)
It is beyond the scope of this author’s comprehension to explain the psycho-pathology of clerical-fascism. However, I do know that they killed a million with clear consciences for their belief in God, the Catholic Church and the Aryan race. This is nowhere more eloquently expressed than in the comment made by Father Srecko Peric of the Gorica Monastery who reassured his fellow Ustashi prior to a massacre by saying: “Kill all Serbs. And when you finish come here, to the Church, and I will confess you and free you from sin.”(54) In other words, they were not responsible for their actions for they killed in the name of God, on behalf of God’s vicar on earth, Pope Pius XII.
The Verdict: The Vatican is Guilty of Genocide
We know that the Vatican met with and supported the Ustashi before they ever came to power. We know that on April 7, 1941, the day after the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia, the British Ambassador to the Vatican, D’Arcy Osborne, implored the Pope to condemn the invasion, but that he refused to do so.(55) We know that Pius XII met with and embraced Pavelic on May 17, 1941, exactly one month to the day Pavelic arrived in Zagreb to take power, and in the very weeks in which most of the racial laws calling for a triple genocide of Serbs, Jews and Roma were being issued.
We know the Pope also met with dozens of the Ustasha leadership and blessed them all. Pavelic made another state visit in 1943, this one more friendly and loving than the first, at which point his regime had killed upwards of 400,000 people. No doubt, the Pope probably met with Pavelic after the war too when he was a wanted war criminal hiding in the Vatican before escaping with the Vatican’s help to Argentina. The Vatican cannot claim that it was too far removed from events in Croatia or too poorly informed. Croatia was on the Italian border and Vatican and Ustasha officials traveled regularly back and forth. The Vatican had its ambassadorial Legate Ramiro Marcone in Zagreb throughout the war and his Secretary Guiseppe Masucci who spoke Serbo-Croatian fluently. Both of them visited concentration camps in Croatia and met directly with those most responsible for the Holocaust there: Artukovic, Kvartnik, etc. Meanwhile, the Italian military and government officials in Zagreb were protesting the Ustashi’s massacres and the Italian press was writing about them regularly. We also have dozens of acknowledgments of receipt from the Vatican of detailed descriptions of the Holocaust in Croatia, including those from the very few Croatian clergy who actually did protest the genocides, like the Bishop of Mostar. His protest is incriminating on several levels: on one it shows that Pius XII knew exactly what was going on; secondly, it shows that clergy could oppose the Holocaust if they wanted to and not be punished, though almost all supported it; thirdly, it offers a sickening justification for stopping the killings, namely that more Serbs and Jews would convert to Catholicism.(56)
We know that the Vatican was very enthusiastic about the thousands of forced conversions of persecuted people who converted to Catholicism in order to stay alive and that the Vatican sent notes of encouragement to the Croatian clergy, though warning them that they should not accept conversions of adults who were not sincere. We know that the Pope personally met with Archbishop Stepinac in May 1943 to discuss the persecution of the Jews. This is in the report of the Ustasha ambassador to the Vatican, Lobkowicz, to the Croatian Foreign Ministry where it is explained that Stepinac “spoke very much … about the crime of abortion, which was very well received in the Vatican. On the basis of these laws the archbishop partly also justified the treatment of the Jews, who were the greatest advocates and the most frequent perpetrators of such crimes.”(57) We know from his diary that Stepinac was an arch anti-Semite. And we know how staunchly Pius XII defended Stepinac after the war, even after his trial and conviction for war crimes in 1946, rewarding him with the robes of a Cardinal, calling him a martyr. Indeed, every Pope since Pius XII has called Stepinac a martyr including the current Pope who hints at Stepinac’s beatification, and who has worshipped at his tomb. John Paul II will travel once again to Croatia this October to celebrate the Ustasha clergy. But the only real martyrs were those who died at the hands of the Catholic gangsters. Pius XII and Stepinac as far as we know never personally murdered anyone, but what they did was far worse than any single murder: they supported a triple genocide of Serbs, Jews and Romas in fascist Croatia that cost a million lives.
We know that the Vatican aided in the escape of thousands of war criminals from Croatia and all other parts of Yugoslavia. Although Vatican representatives and Stepinac’s representatives visited Jasenovac several times, they did nothing to rescue the victims. However, when it was the turn of the fascists to face defeat and punishment at the end of the war, the Vatican stepped forward to rescue every single one of the millions of fascists it could, funneling tens of thousands of fascists from Austrian POW camps to the Vatican with false International Red Cross identity papers and the like. As early as 1943 the Vatican intervened with Allied military leaders on behalf of Nazi and other fascist POWs in Italy “to exercise that mission of charity proper to the Church.” Where was that mission of charity proper to the Church for the one million Serbs, Jews and Romas killed by the Church’s Catholic-fascist gangsters!?(58)
It is interesting to note that the Vatican ratlines, organized by the Vatican and Croatian-Ustasha clergy, would probably have never become widely known if not for the discovery and trial of Klaus Barbie who escaped through them. Because of the Barbie trial, slowly the truth about the ratlines emerged.(59) And so too did the protection by the Vatican and U.S. and British intelligence of thousands of war criminals involved in crimes of genocide in Croatia and Serbia emerge, hidden for the entirety of the Cold War. They were hidden for two reasons: because the United States and its imperialist allies were committed to the destruction of socialist Yugoslavia and therefore did all they could to prevent the extradition for trial of any of them; and secondly because of the importance of the Catholic Church to the West in the Cold War. Indeed, this is why a war criminal could become Secretary General of the United Nations: had Kurt Waldheim committed his crimes of genocide in a non-Communist country he at least would have been exposed after the war, if not also punished. Such is the human rights record of the United States and Britain concerning crimes of genocide. But should not we who do oppose fascism and do seek justice for its victims be at least as vigilant in pursuing these criminals as the Vatican has been vigilant in protecting them?
Incredibly, details now are even leaking out of the Vatican’s stealing of plundered property of murdered Serbs, Jews and Romas in Croatia.(60) This story emerged in June 1997 when a memo dated October 21, 1946 written by OSS agent Emerson Bigelow was discovered in the U.S. Treasury Department’s archives stating that the Vatican was holding around $170 million worth of Ustasha gold plundered from Holocaust victims in Croatia. President Clinton personally promised a full State Department investigation and report that was to be issued in December, then January, then February, then March…. Clinton will never keep his promise because the Vatican is not only hiding the fact that it stole the property of the people it murdered, but that it shared the loot with America’s allies, like Argentina, who were paid off to accept Nazi and Ustashi war criminals. Besides, the American government will never assist in the payment of war reparations to Serbs, or even Yugoslav Jews and Romas. America is currently in an undeclared war with the Serbs and with Yugoslavia. And who would pay?
This brings us back to the question with which we began: What is the Vatican hiding? Obviously, quite a lot. One might say that the answer is “simply” complicity in the murders of tens of millions of Jews, Serbs, Romas, Russians and others during the Holocaust. But this would not be sufficient, for the true answer goes far beyond this. The full answer to this question is that the Vatican is hiding its true historical identity and legacy, an identity that, were it to be widely recognized by historians, would bring the entire edifice of the Catholic Church crashing down. Indeed, the answer to this question is one that historians are not yet ready to acknowledge, for when one considers the crimes of the Vatican during the Holocaust alongside those committed during the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Counter-Reformation, and through thousands of years of anti-Jewish, anti-science, anti-democratic and anti-labor hatred, then what one must recognize is that it was not in Hitler’s Nazi Reich nor in Stalin’s gulags that the worst crimes against humanity of torture, oppression and murder in all of history were committed. Rather, that dubious distinction belongs to none other than the Roman Catholic Church and its “infallible” leaders, the Papacy, the most criminal institution the world has ever known.
1. Charles R. Allen, Jr., “The Vatican and the Nazis, Part II,” Reform Judaism, Fall 1983, p. 33.
2. “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,” Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, the Vatican, March 1998.
3. This has been a long term public relations effort. See “The Pope’s In A Confessional and Jews Are Listening,” New York Times, 30 November 1997.
4. “Vatican Expresses Sorrow over Holocaust, defends wartime Pope,” CNN, 16 March 1998.
5. “The Vatican Releases Document on Church’s Role During the Holocaust,” CNN Transcript of Program aired 16 March 1998.
6. “The Pope’s In a Confessional and Jews Are Listening,” New York Times, 30 November 1997.
7. The story of the “ratlines” and the employment of Croatian fascists and war criminals during the Cold War by the U.S. and British governments is told in Christopher Simpson’s Blowback (New York: Colliers, 1988) and in Mark Aarons and John Loftus, The Unholy Trinity, (New York: St.. Martin’s, 1991). The singularly shameless and criminal refusal of the U.S. and Britain to cooperate with Yugoslavia in the return of war criminals in total disregard of international treaties and laws is discussed in detail in Christopher Simpson’s The Splendid Blond Beast, (New York: Grove Press, 1993).
8. See L.S. Stavrianos, The Balkans Since 1453, (New York: Holt Rinehart, 1961), or Mihailo Crnobrnja, The Yugoslav Drama, (Montreal: McGill, 1994).
9. Cited in Milan Bulajic, The Role of the Vatican in the Break-Up of the Yugoslav State, (Beograd: Struchna kniga, 1994), pp. 41-42.
10. Ibid., p.38.
11. “All Serbs Must Die!” In his autobiography, Leon Trotsky (then living in Vienna) recalled the popularity of that song in the Austrian empire in 1914 and how his own son had been beaten up in the street for answering back “Hail Serbia!” Leon Trotsky, My Life, (New York: Pathfinder, 1970), p. 233.
12. Cited in Avro Manhattan, The Vatican’s Holocaust, (Springfield, Mo., Ozark Books, 1988), pp. 9-17.
13. Bulajic, pp. 48-49.
14. Ibid., pp. 49-50.
15. Ibid., p. 59.
16. Ibid., pp. 51-59.
17. Mark Aarons and John Loftus, The Unholy Trinity, (New York: St. Martins, 1991), pp. 3-17, 48-54, 125-127.
18. Frank Littlefield, Germany and Yugoslavia, 1933-1941. The German Conquest of Yugoslavia. (New York: Columbia U. Press, 1988).
19. One of the most widely respected scholarly studies of Vatican complicity in the Holocaust in Croatia is Carlo Falconi’s The Silence of Pius XII, (Boston:Little, Brown and Co., 1970). Falconi believed that the Pope gave his blessings to the Ustasha in 1939. See p. 266.
20. Falconi, p. 409, footnote 13.
21. Bulajic, pp. 72-73.
22. Manhattan, pp. 20-22.
23. Ibid. Also Falconi, p. 271.
24. Falconi, pp. 272-273.
25. Bulajic, p. 74.
26. Ibid., p.59.
28. Falconi, pp.294-296.
29. Ibid., pp. 266-272.
30. Vladimir Dedijer, Jasenovac – The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican, (New York: Prometheus, 1992), pp. 136-137.
31. Recalled in an article by Josef Matel, a Professor at Graz who served in the Wehrmacht in Yugoslavia, quoted in Lazo M. Kostic, Holocaust in the Independent State of Croatia, (Chicago: Liberty, 1981), p.12.
32. Kostic, p. 272.
33. Ibid., p. 80.
34. Manhattan, p. 62.
35. This figure was cited by several German intelligence reports compiled by Abwehrand other Nazi officers in Croatia in July 1941. Quoted in Kostic, pp. 36-37. Carlo Falconi, who had extensive and perhaps better access to archival materials than most historians, argues that by July 1941 350,000 people had been killed by the Ustashi, Falconi, p. 291.
36. Jonathan Steinberg, “The Roman Catholic Church and Genocide in Croatia, 1941-1945,” unpublished essay marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, January 1992.
37. Manhattan, p. 52.
38. Jonathan Steinberg, All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941-1943,(New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 57.
39. German, Italian and Croatian primary sources collectively support these numbers as base figures. The works by Kostic and Bulajic cited above provide abundant information on and from these sources. The Roma historian Dragljub Ackovic argues that the number of Roma victims was much higher in Dragoljub Ackovic, Roma Suffering in Jasenovac Camp, (Belgrade: Struchna, 1995). The names of the camps (logors) within Jasenovac were Versajev, Krapije, Ciglana, Kozhara, Stara Gradishka, Ciganski (Gypsy), Mlaka, and Jablanac. The current regime in Croatia today carries on a constant propaganda war of denial about Jasenovac and has desecrated the site itself.
The Tudjman regime to date has not acknowledged that crimes of genocide were even committed by fascist Croatia during World War II and holds to the view that it represented a positive chapter in Croatian history.
40. Bulajic, pp. 129-130.
42. The Independent State of Croatia comprised the provinces of Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Srem, and Slavonia. In these territories there were about 40,000 Jews, out of a total of 82,242 in pre-war Yugoslavia. About 35,000 Yugoslav Jews from other parts of Yugoslavia which were under German, Italian, Bulgarian, Albanian and Hungarian rule, died, most of them in German death camps. Thus, altogether 65,525 Yugoslav Jews were killed.
43. Kostic, p. 80.
44. Falconi, p. 298.
45. Bulajic, p. 73.
46. Manhattan, pp. 61-67.
47. Ibid., p. 102.
48. Bulajic, p. 88. Bulajic was present at the trial.
49. Ibid., p. 99.
50. Falconi, pp. 287-293.
51. Manhattan, p. 83.
52. Bulajic, pp. 159-161.
53. Bulajic, pp. 148-161; Falconi, pp. 297-298.
54. Manhattan, p. 68.
55. Bulajic, p. 100.
56. Falconi, p. 294.
57. Bulajic, p. 115.
58. Aarons and Loftus, pp. 35-36.
59. The best account is Christopher Simpson’s Blowback, (New York: Collier, 1988).
60. See “A Vow of Silence. Did Gold Stolen by Croatian Fascists Reach the Vatican?,” U.S. News & World Report, March 30, 1998. The Bigelow document is listed as PG 226, Entry 183, Box 29, (copy in possession of the author).
About the author:
Barry M. Lituchy has taught European, US and World history at the City University of New York for the past twenty years, and currently teaches at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY. He is editor of and a contributing author to the book Jasenovac and the Holocaust in Yugoslavia: Analyses and Survivor Testimonies published in 2006, and, as co-editor, brought out a new edition after fifty years of the book The Crimes of the Fascist Occupants and their Collaborators Against Jews in Yugoslavia in 2005. In 1999 he conducted videotaped interviews of refugees from Kosovo and later testified as a witness at the International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia at the Hague.
When it comes to ‘apologising’ for genocides, which it either directly instigated or facilitated through tactical support, the Vatican is a conjurer adept in sleight of words and institutions. You are made to believe that the Vatican has changed; that the Vatican has apologised but then you go through what has been actually said officially and by whom, and you realise that nothing has changed.
Take for example the absolutely safe sounding name for one of the oldest congregations in the Vatican — ‘Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’. That is the modern name. The original name? ‘Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition’. And what did it do? Banned books and burnt the heretics. And what does it do now? It still bans and restricts books within its sphere of influence like the books of Rev. Anthony de Mello SJ and the fact that it does not burn the heretics any more is more because of the want of power than because of the want of willingness. The spirit behind is the same: ‘Roma locuta; causa finita est’ – Rome has spoken and the case is closed as every student of theology knows, even if the case closed means the closing of the lives of millions in torture chambers.
So it will be prudent for the followers of Indic faiths to understand how the Church has reacted with response to its role in other genocides. Here we take the example of three cases: Nazi Holocaust, Native American genocides and Rwandan genocide. And in each case we shall see briefly the Indic parallels.
When Pope John Paul II expressed his regret for the Holocaust, the same play with words was in display in full plumage. In the much popularised ex cathedra statement issued by the Vatican ‘We Remember: A Reflection of the Shoah’, the Church laid the blame everywhere else except on itself. The Holocaust ‘was the work of a thoroughly modern neo-pagan regime’ and ‘its anti-Semitism had its roots outside of Christianity’, the communication stated.
The fact is that paganism as such had no institutionalised anti-Semitism. Most of the virulently anti-Semitic laws had their origin in Christian laws. For example, in 1592 Jesuits introduced the rule forbidding admission of men of Jewish origin calculating their ancestry to the fifth generation. Derived from the Jesuit rule, the ‘German blood certificate’ the Nazis introduced in 1935 calculated Jewish ancestry for three to four generations. Similarly blood-libel, a Christian propaganda against the Jews based on which the Church even manufactured martyrs, Passion plays which incited mobs to attack Jews, were all substantial Catholic contributions to Nazi propaganda. Yet, the Church without hesitation could call the Holocaust as the workings of a Neo-Pagan regime whose anti-Semitic roots were outside Christianity.
Then it pointedly called Jews ‘the elder brothers’, quoting Christian scripture. To the uninitiated in Christian theology it looks very pleasant. But in Christian theology it has a specific meaning. The elder brother is always wrong in Christian discourse. When quoting their scripture to call Jews ‘the elder brothers’, the theologians who crafted the document were well aware that this phrase actually links in their theology the Jews with Cain. In the grand narrative of the Church the verse ‘…the elder shall serve the younger’ in Hebrew Bible (Genesis 25:23) is darkly transformed to mean Jews serving the Christians in servitude. Maximinus to Tertullian, the founding fathers of the Church had allowed the ink to flow in torrents to explain how Jews as elder brothers were cursed like Cain. Historian Leon Poliakov in the third volume of his authoritative book ‘The History of Anti-Semitism’ points out that one of the ‘essential points’ of the teaching of the Church has been ‘the fall from grace of the elder brother, since wandering Jew, wandering like Cain was also marked by a similar sign on the temple.’
Interestingly the document contained not a single word of apology and had only a single word expressing ‘regret’ for the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. This is the nature of ‘regret’ shown by the Church in the most popular and horrible Holocaust of recent history. One should couple with this two important phenomena. One is the installation of ‘Auschwitz crosses’. This happened when a Carmelite convent was opened near Auschwitz and a huge cross was erected there. Jews protested this blatant Catholic aggression into one of their most painful recent memories. Yet in 1998 the same year the Vatican issued the ‘We remember’ document on the Holocaust, the Archbishop as well as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church opposed the removal of the cross which insulted the memory of the Jewish victims of Auschwitz.
And the Church has not bothered to express even such mild watered down, theologically correct, regrets for Gypsies and other ‘undesirables’ killed by the Nazi regime with which the Vatican had signed a concordat.
Present parallel in India: If it is blood libel for Jews, it is the manufacture of Christian ‘saints’ martyred at the hands of Hindus in general and Brahmins in particular, in India. Complete pseudo-histories have been fabricated like in the case of ‘martyr’ Devasaghayam Pillai, in which the Hindu king of Travancore ordered the torturing and killing of him for embracing Christianity. In reality, the kings of Travancore had been pro-Christian. The missionaries writing to the British government actually cited the example of the Travancore Hindu princely state which allowed Bible teaching in government schools and where large parcels of lands were freely given to Christian missionaries. Yet the Church has been actively propagating the fabricated martyr story. The very historicity of this ‘martyr’ has been questioned by historians. Yet stage dramas are conducted demonizing Hindus and full efforts are on to canonise him.
In the case of the St. Thomas myth in India also, Hindus are made the treacherous villains who stabbed St. Thomas. In the case of this legend, there is a well manipulated evolution of narrative to suit the local prejudices. So the initial Christian account spoke of ‘low caste man’ having killed Thomas by accident. In these earlier narratives, they attributed elephantiasis as the curse of St. Thomas. As anti-Brahminism became a popular political and evangelical tool, the current stories speak of Brahmins as the schemers and killers of St. Thomas.
In Christian propaganda literature endorsed by top Catholic clergy, fake ‘secret circulars’ of RSS similar to the protocols of the Elders of Zion used by Nazis to demonise Jews, were published.
Native American Genocide
“Doctrine of Discovery’ forms the theological basis of the Native American genocide. It involves the fifteenth and sixteenth century Papal Bulls which gave the Christian invaders the right to own the ‘discovered’ American lands for their Christian States and allowed them to convert, enslave or in case of refusal for conversion, exterminate the Native Americans.
Often Native Americans were lured with gifts from Spain and then they were trapped through baptism and their old ways destroyed. No wonder the missionaries called these Spanish goods ‘bait and means of spiritual fishing’. The converted native Americans were kept within the mission compounds and had to labour. Their women produced food for the mission. The men cultivated land and took care of the cattle – effectively becoming cowboys of the mission. To this day, missionary propaganda murals depict these events as one of peaceful serene coexistence.
However contemporary accounts by neutral observers give a different picture. For example the journals of French man Jean Francois de la Perouse, who was sympathetic to the missionaries called the mission compound resembling a ‘slave plantation’. Native American men were whipped in public and punished if they disobeyed. Women too were whipped but in secret chambers lest it ignite the men folk to raise a rebellion.
Missionaries coveted the Indian land for three reasons: it made conversions easy; landless natives converted and provided slave labour; and it placed vast lands at the disposal of missionaries. ‘Civilizing the Indian can only be achieved by denaturalizing them’ said Fermín Lasuén, another prominent missionary at the mission. That Fermín Lasuén belonged to Franciscan order of the Catholic Church is an interesting paradox for Hindus (like this writer) who love to eulogize St. Francis of Assisi as a saint with ecological sensibility. However, the point is that such ‘denaturalizing’ of Native Americans at once provided the mission with slave labour and vast land resources.
Along with such naked aggression, the violent proselytizing was also supported by the myth of St. Thomas. Catholic clergy spread the story among Native Americans that St. Thomas had come long before Spaniards to South America. The famous Virgin Goddess they venerated became the image of Mary which the Apostle had kept as a holy relic. Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent Divinity was St. Thomas. The native God Tehuitzahuac was actually Jesus Christ himself. These ideas spread through sermons in the Church thus justified the destruction of native culture which was supplanted by Christianity. The St. Thomas myth fitted well with the ‘doctrine of discovery’.
Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 reiterated this mindset of ‘doctrine of discovery’ when he addressed the Native Americans. He declared that the natives were “silently longing” for Christianity and “the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.” The present Pope Francis had simultaneously displayed words seeking forgiveness from Native Americans but the deeds were exactly opposite. He is proceeding with the canonizing of Junípero Serra – the founder of Catholic Mission in San Francisco, who ran a mission estate for Native Americans chillingly similar to Auschwitz minus the gas chambers.
Present day parallels in India: In many places across India, Indian Catholics are made to venerate ‘St.’ Xavier the architect of Goan Inquisition. The most prominent Catholic seminary to this day stands on the destroyed Siva temple considered the holiest place in Goa for Hindus.
The St. Thomas myth has been propagated in India also. The Church has been increasingly lending its voice in support of crackpot theories that Hinduism is a derivative of Christianity preached by St. Thomas. In Tamil Nadu, using the Dravidian political movement, sustained efforts have been made to push this crackpot agenda. On the ground level, evangelical guidelines have been issued to missionaries which make use of these crackpot theories to confuse the ordinary Hindus.
Now we come to the ‘apology’ of the Vatican for the Rwandan Genocide. The fact is that the Vatican has not expressed apology and the Rwandan government has rightly pointed that out. It was actually an inadequate apology by a Rwandan Catholic Bishop. The role of the Catholic Church in Rwanda in building racial tensions is far more sinister and heavy to be washed off in such inadequacies.
The two communities in Rwanda ‘Tutsi’ and ‘Hutu’ were identified as racial types by the European missionaries, anthropologists and colonial administrators. The ‘Tutsi’ were invaders and they were ‘clever’, similar to Europeans to a degree and they appropriated the land through trickery from the Hutus who became their slaves. Implanting this myth initially, the colonial administration and its religious arm, the Catholic Church favored the Tutsis, agreeing with colonial government policy in considering Tutsi and Hutu as distinct races. However, the Church’s support for Tutsis waned dramatically with the Rwandan revolution in 1959.
As some Rwandan patriots of Tutsi origin started questioning the Catholic Church for meddling in politics, the Church joined hands with the Hutus. The Church started filling its local hierarchies with Hutus and the Belgian Catholic clergy even participated in drafting the ‘Bahutu Manifesto’ in 1957, which paved the way to the genocide later. With colonial and Church support, the Hutu-republican party captured power in 1959 and initiated the first Rwandan massacre in which more than 20,000 Tutsis were killed. A report points out:
The demonization of Tutsis preceded the 1994 genocide. Even though this was a clear and grave human rights violation, Bishop Perraudin and his senior aides dismissed these events as a social revolution intended to redress social injustices. For thirty years these views were not questioned.
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 is the result of a long chain of events in which the Church was a major player and hence a key facilitator of genocide. Yet, the Vatican has not found it right to express ‘regret’ or apologize – what has happened is the statement of a regional official of the Church.
Indian Parallel: The Church has been at the forefront of spreading the Aryan-Dravidian racial divide theory and has invested much into this conflict creating narrative. Despite the fact that renowned anti-caste fighters like Dr. Ambedkar had denounced racial interpretation of caste conflicts, the Church and its affiliates go on with the propaganda of ‘Aryan Brahminical religion’ oppressing the so-called Dravidians. The Dravidians are traced to Abraham and through him Jesus is made a Dravidian! In Indian North East and in tribal areas of India, many Catholic missionaries take forward the pseudo-scientific race theories claiming that the Hindus and Tribals are separate races etc. This sustained campaign on racial lines camouflaged as ‘social justice’ just as in the case of Rwanda, contains in it the grim possibilities of many such massacres in India. Only Indian culture’s innate strength is holding on against such human tragedies happening.
So we come to the crux of the question. Will the Vatican apologise for Goan Inquisition? The answer is an emphatic ‘No’. It has never apologised for its crimes against humanity which have been more documented and more publicised. Hindus have never publicised the crimes done against them by the invaders systematically. Hindus seldom have a museum or memorial for those martyred for Dharma by the Catholic Inquisition. There have been no plays, no movies through which the memories of the cruelty of inquisition and more importantly the sacrifices of the Hindus to defend their religion, have been taken forward to their next generation.
So when in 1999 the VHP raised the issue of an apology for the Inquisition during the Papal visit to India, Indian Catholic officials crisply declared that ‘tendering an apology for the so-called inquisition was not on the Pope’s agenda’. And termed such a request by Hindus as ‘raking up unnecessary issues for cheap publicity’. In other words, Hindus weigh definitely less than the Jews, Native Americans and Rwandans in the public relations radar of the Vatican. The only solace is despite the Church running in India all the tactics it used in Rwanda, pre-holocaust Christendom and against Native Americans, Hindus still survive as a religion, culture and nation.
About the author:
Aravindan Neelakandan is a contributing editor at Swarajya, a big tent for liberal right of centre discourse that reaches out, engages and caters to the new India.
The Catholic pontiff does more than just spread the Vatican’s word across the world, as he also spreads the ‘gospel’ of Ukrainian nationalism and victimhood, too. Francis made headlines when he said the mass killing of ethnic Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire was “the first genocide of the 20th century”. Largely lost amidst the ruckus is his previous statement that “the remaining two (genocides) were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism”, which was a strong allusion to Ukrainian nationalists’ decades-long campaign to have the Golodomor recognized as genocide, to which the Vatican, and especially Francis himself, are ardent proponents. President Putin remarked in his annual Q&A session that “Attempts to put [Nazism and Stalinism] in the same basket are absolutely baseless…As ugly as the Stalin regime was, with all its repressions and ethnic deportations, it never attempted to eradicate [an ethnic group] completely”, and although his words were likely in response to recent Ukrainian legislation that ludicrously equates the two, his comments are just as relevant to the Pope as they are to Poroshenko.
Part I of the article begins with an overview of the Vatican’s historic geopolitical antagonisms against Orthodox Russia, including the role that Catholicism and its Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth proxy played in the external construction of the Ukrainian state. It then explores how and why Ukraine is still a battlefield in this epic saga, as well as detailing the US’ geopolitical designs for the country in its quest to transform it into a forward-operating base against Russia. Part II dispels the “genocide” myth surrounding the Golodomor and shows how a handful of radical states have seized control of the conversation to further their Russophobic aims. The series then climaxes with an in-depth examination into Pope Francis’ claim that the Golodomor is “genocide” and his statements of inferred support for the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, both of which serve historically revisionist anti-Russian ends and make Pope Francis poised to become one of the New Cold War’s most notorious actors.
The First Rome vs The Third Rome
Making The Move From Rome To Moscow:
Throughout the ages, the center of Christianity has shifted from West to East as result of certain geopolitical tectonic movements. Beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire in 476, the Byzantine Empire (or Eastern Roman Empire) centered on Constantinople took up the torch of worldwide Christian leadership, hence its designation as the “Second Rome”. Throughout the subsequent centuries, the differences between Western (Roman) and Eastern (Byzantine) Christianity widened to the point of a spiritual chasm, and when Rome unsuccessfully tried enforcing its views on Constantinople, the Schism of 1054 occurred. Since then, the Vatican has been consistently antagonist against the Orthodox Church, and it’s highly recommended that the reader reference Fort Russ’ epic examination on the topic, “The West against Russia: The Vatican against the Orthodox Church”, to gain a deeper understanding of the events that henceforth transpired.
To sum up events over next millennium (as difficult as it is to do so in brief), after Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, the center of Christianity once more shifted, albeit this time to Muscovy. Ever since the Baptism of Vladimir the Great in Crimea and the Christianization of Kievan Rus in 988, this civilizational sphere had vehemently ascribed to Orthodox Christianity, owing to its cultural and political affiliations with the Byzantine Empire. Following the fall of Constantinople, Moscow carried on the Christian torch and became the “Third Rome”, which created a major inferiority and sectarian complex back in the Catholic “First Rome”.
The Polish Proxy:
From thenceforth, the Vatican redirected its aggressive geopolitical calculus from the Sea of Marmara to the State of Muscovy, even going as far as supporting its Catholic client state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in its militant proselytization eastward. Other than having previously occupied and forcibly converted the historically Orthodox territory of the former Kievan Rus, Warsaw took its campaign all the way to Moscow during the Time of Troubles, even briefly occupying the Russian capital from 1610-1612 and imprisoning the Orthodox Patriarch, who they would later starve to death as a martyr. It wasn’t long after the Polish occupation began that the Russian people banded together (as they so often have during their most troubling historic periods) and began the campaign to purge the Poles from their land, in a moment of glory that is nowadays commemorated as National Unity Day every 4 November.
The Catholic Construction Of Modern-Day Ukraine:
The liberation of Muscovy from the Poles began the nearly two-centuries-long struggle that would see the Russians pushing the invading menace all the way back to its home territory (an historical prelude to what would later happen to Napoleon and Hitler, although in much shorter timeframes), all the while working to restore the civilizational heritage of Kievan Rus that the Polish occupiers had spent centuries trying to dismantle. Part of the Polish plan had been to spiritually partition the western reaches of this land from its central core, which led to the imposition of Catholicism over the Orthodox people that had originally inhabited modern-day Belarus and especially Ukraine.
One of the most novel forms that this took was the creation and promotion of the Uniate Church (also known as “Greek Catholicism”), an artificial religious construct created by Rome which fused many Orthodox practices with loyalty to the Catholic Pope. The effect of this religious manipulation served to de-facto spread Catholicism amongst the remaining Orthodox ‘holdouts’ in the region, thus fostering the myth of “identity separateness” among the population which could be strategically activated to increase resistance to Russia and aid in slowing down Moscow’s prolonged counter-offensive in liberating Kievan Rus from the Poles. In the coming centuries, the spiritual separateness of parts of modern-day Ukraine would be used as the foundation for the external construction of the “Ukrainian nation” by the German General Staff in 1918. Lenin’s recognition of a so-called Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922 provided ex post facto legitimacy to this Vatican-Polish-German creation.
The greatest legacy of Lenin’s mistake was that he grouped together the Catholic-adhering /pro-Polish/”Ukrainian”-identifying western areas with the reawakened Russian- and Orthodox-affiliated east, which consequently created an unstable entity whose externally influenced western reaches could be used to destabilize the entire thing. Had he kept both parts separate and perhaps designated only the western portion of modern-day Ukraine as “Ukraine” owing to its foreign peculiarities, then the situation could have been dramatically different. Nonetheless, ever since the geopolitical designation of Ukraine (roughly translated as “borderland”) was unilaterally birthed by Lenin’s decree (only to grow under Stalin and Khrushchev), the entire territory has become a focal point of Western aggression waged by its associated political and spiritual powers.
Political and Spiritual Aggression:
A perfect example of political weaponization over the territory of Ukraine was the Polish-Soviet War, whereby Moscow attempted to finally liberate the last vestiges of Kievan Rus from foreign occupation (having switched from Polish to Austrian then back to Polish control). Warsaw refused to peacefully withdraw from the territory due to its understanding that centuries of Polonization and Catholic proselytization (political and spiritual factors) intrinsically made it a separate entity than it historically used to be, and the Poles were able to successfully extend their control over the region until 1939. Prior to that, Polish leader Josef Pilsudski preached the policy of Promtheism, whereby the Polish state encouraged ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union (especially Ukraine) to rise up against the central authority as a ‘celebration of their separateness’ and secede into a constellation of what would then become pro-Polish satellite states. It ultimately failed to achieve its ambitious goals, but the legacy of separating Ukraine from Russia continues into the present day via Zbigniew “without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an ‘empire’” Bzezinski and his Grand Chessboard strategies.
Enter the Vatican, which has made a concerted effort to pluck converts out of the confused Ukrainian territory since the end of the Soviet era and extend its reach ever eastward into originally Orthodox lands. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk visited the Vatican last year with a scheme for souls that amounted to an alliance proposal, but due to the fragility of the Kievan regime and the associated dim prospects for the partnership’s success, Francis turned it down. It’s not to say that he wouldn’t have accepted it had it been proposed on more solid political grounds, since the Vatican’s goal has always been to proselytize Catholicism eastward at the expense of the Orthodox Church. Not only that, but the Vatican has been opposed to Moscow in geopolitical manifestations as well, as can be seen by Pope John Paul II’s Cold War “Holy Alliance” (in the words of Time Magazine) with Ronald Reagan against the USSR. There is thus clearly an established precedent set in modern times for using the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church as a front to advance geopolitical objectives, meaning that, as it will later be argued, it’s not unreasonable to link Pope Francis’ support for the Holy Grail of Ukrainian nationalists, the Golodomor as “genocide”, to larger geopolitical plans directed from Washington.
Let’s look at what these aforementioned plans entail:
1. Decouple Ukraine From Russia
The first step is to prevent the reintegration of Ukraine into the Russian fold, be it economically through the Eurasian Union (as then-Secretary of State Hillary threatened one year before EuroMaidan) or militarily through the CSTO, by highlighting artificially imposed Ukrainian ‘separateness’ (Polish-enforced Catholicism and Vatican-constructed “Uniates”) and selectively emphasized victimhood (Golodomor as “genocide”). The Western idea is that if Ukraine, a fraternal and religiously related entity, can be made to hate Russia and turn against it, then so too can less intimately affiliated ones like Kyrgyzstan, or, as Brzezinski’s Eurasian Balkans asymmetrical attack plan suggests, even Tatarstan and Chechnya one day (again).
2. Eliminate Russia’s Strategic Depth
The second stage expands upon the ‘success’ of the first one in turning large segments of the population against Russia, but this time it includes a tangible military dimension. The concept here is to make Ukraine either a de-jure or de-facto (shadow) member of NATO, which in effect would eliminate the valuable strategic depth that Russia has through the country’s neutrality. It needs to be mentioned at this point that the Color Revolutionary authorities in Kiev already revised the country’s constitution in order to eliminate its previous references to neutrality, thus meaning that NATO membership (be it de-jure or de-facto) can continue moving forward at full speed. The more strategic depth that NATO is able to successfully chip away from Russia, the more likely it is to tip the military balance away from parity and towards a first strike scenario, which would then place Russia in a position of nuclear blackmail.
3. The Reverse Brzezinski
The final phase of the US’ weaponization of the Ukrainian state is to have Kiev stage provocative actions that would elicit a Russian military response, preferably rash, hurried, and not thought out to the end. The Reverse Brzezinski, as the author calls it, sees the Polish-American strategist reverting back to his Afghan War roots in goading Moscow into a quagmire, but thankfully, President Putin appears to have caught on to the ruse and reaffirmed during his Q&A session that he war between the two states is “impossible”. No matter the President’s intention, however, the US will certainly continue trying to create the tempting pretext for a Russian military intervention, hoping perhaps that yet another slaughter of Russian-affiliated Eastern Ukrainians might be the tripwire for tricking Moscow into conventionally responding one of these days.
The ‘Good’ That Comes From A Golodomor “Genocide”
The ‘glue’ that holds the US’ plans together is the ability to rally Ukrainians against Russia, and this is where the Golodomor [Holodomor in Ukrainian spelling – OR] “genocide” myth is absolutely pivotal. It provides the underpinning of popular support and ‘legitimacy’ for rabid Ukrainian nationalism (the modern-day ideology of the state) and its anti-Russian authorities, as well as altering Ukraine’s natural trajectory away from Russia and diverting it towards the West. If the myth can be deconstructed, then the entire Western plan is endangered, but so long as it’s believed, propagated, and even ‘legitimized’ via the ‘authority’ of the Pope, then it presents the single-greatest obstacle to Ukrainian-Russian reconciliation and serves as the fuel for forwarding the US’ grand strategy against Russia vis-à-vis Ukraine. This is the ultimate strategic benefit that the politicization of the 1930s famine and its nationalist focus on solely one victim demographic attains, hence why it’s so heavily promoted in the Western world.
Russia has never refuted the fact that the Golodomor tragically occurred, but it has refused to label the events as genocide because many other groups besides Ukrainians were also adversely affected. Kirill Frolov, head of the Ukraine Department at the Institute of CIS Countries, explains:
“Russia shares the opinion that it was a terrible tragedy…It is well-known that the hunger of the 1930s was the reason for the deaths of millions of Ukrainians but also millions of villagers living along the Volga River, in the Ural Mountains, West Siberia, Kazakhstan, the North Caucasus and other regions. Every nation should remember its victims but it is high time to forget Yushchenko’s ideology (of designating the Golodomor as “genocide”). We also mean the attempt to interpret the hunger in Ukraine in the 1930s as the genocide of the Ukrainian people alone.
Recall that in the 1920s the Bolsheviks carried out the genocide of Russians and the elimination of the Russian Orthodox Church and actively supported the idea of the so-called Ukrainisation. It was an attempt to separate Ukrainians from Russians and make a thousand years of our common history null and void. As for the hunger, it was a consequence of Stalin’s industrialization policy. It was a conflict between the city and the countryside which involved the entire territory of the Soviet Union, including Russians and Ukrainians. It was not genocide but sociocide associated with the industrialisation policy.”
RT summarized the official explanation by relating that:
“Russia argues that the famine was caused by a combination of bad management, unfavourable weather and disastrous collectivization policies, which lead to the tragic events and cost numerous lives of many ethnic groups over several territories and not just Ukraine alone.”
Additionally, it has come out that some of the numbers being cited by the Ukrainian government to account for its associated victims have been faked:
“As quoted by the Russian Izvestia newspaper, Vladimir Kornilov of the Kiev branch of the Institute of CIS Countries has discovered why the official number of alleged Holodomor victims has significantly increased since the launch of Yushchenko’s campaign. According to Kornilov, the so-called “Book of Memory”, published in Ukraine’s regions, is full of falsifications. Instead of real victims of famine, one can find in the book alcoholics, different crash victims, and even those who weren’t alive in 1932-1933.”
Furthermore, some of the photographic ‘evidence’ that has been passed around as supposedly confirming the “genocide” is also falsified:
“Here’s a photo by Dorothy Lang, shot in 1936 in Oklahoma. And here’s a photo by Fritof Nansen made in Russia’s Povolzhe region in 1921. But both of those pictures and other falsified photos were displayed at Sevastopol’s exhibition on the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933,” (Sevastopol city council deputy) Merkulov says, demonstrating aged photographs…“We go to the Ukrainian president’s official website. Click on the photo gallery. Click on public events. And we see this picture – Yushchenko looking at pictures of the Ukrainian famine of the 1930’s. But the picture he’s looking at is this one, also shot by Nansen in Russia’s Povolzhie region. It is written here: Famine in Russia.”
“We have declassified all documents on the famine in Ukraine and there are only two genuine pictures from that time. The rest are very much distantly related and are not necessarily shot in Ukraine,” Olga Ginzburg the head of Ukraine’s State Archive told RT.”
Rejecting The Lie:
The claims of “genocide” are so dubious that the Council of Europe, generally pro-Western (despite Russia’s membership), refused to use such a label, opting instead to drop the false description from their draft resolution on the topic. Instead, their 2010 commemorative report, while mentioning that Kiev does call the tragedy “genocide”, recognizes all of the victims of the Golodomor, not just Ukrainians, specifying that:
“In Kazakhstan, too, millions fell victim to the mass famine, and the ratio of the dead to the whole population is believed to be the highest among all peoples of the former Soviet Union. Traditionally nomads, the cattle-raising Kazakhs were forced to settle down and were deprived of livestock. The Great Famine is remembered as the greatest tragedy of the Kazakh people.
In the grain-producing areas of Russia (the Middle and Lower Volga, the North Caucasus, the Central Black Soil region, the Southern Urals, Western Siberia and some other regions), the famine caused by “collectivisation” and dispossession of individual farmers took millions of lives in rural and urban areas. In absolute figures, it is estimated that the population of Russia had the heaviest death toll as a result of the Soviet agricultural policies.
Hundreds of thousands of farmers also died in Belarus and the Republic of Moldova.
While these events may have had particularities in various regions, the results were the same everywhere: millions of human lives were mercilessly sacrificed to the fulfilment of the policies and plans of the Stalinist regime.”
What’s more, even the pro-Western ‘human rights’ group, Memorial, notorious for lambasting Russia’s Soviet-era heritage and labeled a “foreign agent” in accordance with Russian law, surprisingly presented a strong argument against calling the Golodomor a “genocide” back in 2010. Voice of Russia quotes Interfax as reporting that:
“Ukraine was right to make a legal assessment of the Soviet leadership’s crimes, but the famine of the 1930s was not genocide against Ukrainians, Arseny Roginsky, head of Russia’s Memorial human rights and history society, has told Interfax. On Wednesday, the Kiev Court of Appeals declared Soviet and Ukrainian Bolshevik leaders guilty of organizing the Holodomor, or famine, in Ukraine in 1932-1933, which it qualified as genocide. The court ruled the criminal case to be dropped because the defendants, among them Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov and the then Ukrainian leadership, were already dead.
“Still, I don’t understand what documents were used to prove that the famine in Ukraine was genocide,” Memorial’s leader said. In his firm belief, the “famine of the 1930s is a common tragedy that befell Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan and therefore, instead of driving them apart, it should bring them closer together.” Memorial, a major nongovernmental human rights organization in the post-Soviet space, conducts research into the history of Stalinist repressions and the rehabilitation of victims of political terror in the former USSR.”
Who Goes Gaga For “Genocide”?:
If the Council of Europe and pro-Western foreign agents inside Russia itself refuse to bite the bait of politicization over the Golodomor, who then subscribes to and perpetrates this myth? First and foremost, it’s the Ukrainian government, which actually made denial of the Golodomor as “genocide” a crime per a piece of legislation passed in 2006 under the Orange Revolutionary government. While the law carried with it no “criminal responsibility”, it symbolically elevated the hoax to the level of national myth and part of the official Ukrainian identity, thereby facilitating the implementation of the US’ aforementioned geopolitical designs against Russia.
Prominent neo-conservative icon and famous anti-Russian author Anne Applebaum is another “genocide” activist and plans to pen a book about the “very, very well managed cover-up” behind the Golodomor, alleging that there has been a vast conspiracy to hide the truth about what happened. In actuality, the real cover-up is that certain parties are hiding the fact that other nationalities besides Ukrainians were also victims of the 1930s famine and that it was not “genocide”, but describing Applebaum’s personal life might shed some valuable light into why she would so actively want to politicize this tragedy. Her husband just so happens to be Radoslaw Sikorski, the rapidly pro-Western former Foreign Minister of Poland and current speaker of the Polish Parliament, who was also the co-author of the EU’s 2009 Eastern Partnership initiative that ultimately forced Ukraine into the doldrums that it’s currently in. It should go without saying that just as Victoria Nuland and her neo-conservative husband Robert Kagan coordinate their anti-Russian activity as a couple, so too do Anne Applebaum and Radoslaw Sikorski act as a singular unit in attacking Russia in every means available to them.
Adding a geopolitical aspect to the discussion is that Poland and the Baltic States, the most anti-Russian entities in the world today aside from the current Ukrainian authorities, are among the handful of countries which label the Golodomor as “genocide”. These states’ political establishments have a vested interest in promoting Russophobia in any and all of its iterations, including historical revisionism, and they’ve been some of the most enthusiastic supporters of Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist government since it seized power in the coup last year. Additionally, these are also the states which have become most heavily fortified by NATO since the Ukrainian Crisis began, which underlines their anti-Russian strategic dispositions.
OR Note: Even more important dimension of the “Golodomor” controversy consists in trade embargo imposed by the West on Soviet gold in 1920s. They accepted only grain as a mean of payment for modern machinery and industrial equipment being widely exported to the USSR in the framework of huge industrialization policy. Under such circumstances Moscow had nothing to do but paying grain at the expense of its own people! For more details read “Who organized the famine in the USSR in 1932-1933?“
The True ‘Francis Effect’
Smoke And Mirrors:
Unlike Poland and the Baltic States, which have minimal if no influence whatsoever worldwide in propagating this tale, Pope Francis has a global congregation of over 1 billion people who eagerly listen to his words and understand them as being representative of the will of God Himself. Not only is he the world’s most prominent religious leader, he’s also something of a global celebrity too, attracting the attention of millions of non-Christians all across the world who are interested in what he has to say. The media-driven ‘Francis Effect’, however, has elevated the Pope to such an esteemed level of popular culture and furthered his cult of personality to such extreme extents that it’s become impossible for anyone to criticize or accuse him of any wrongdoing without coming off as ill-spirited and self-serving. Essentially, he’s become an unassailable actor that can operate with impunity and away from any mainstream media scrutiny over the intentions.
The Real Deal:
Through his association with the Catholic Church, he’s assumed to be ‘infallible’ and a ‘man of God’ (much as the Dalai Lama is seen to be in relation to Buddhism), with the underlying idea that such an individual would never be guided by political motivations. This idea is absolutely misguided, since it’s been proven that both Pope John Paul II and the current Dalai Lama have both been ultra-politicized throughout their ‘religious’ careers, being weaponized by the US for use against the Soviet Union and China’s interests, respectively. The same is shaping up to be true about Francis, who is now beating the drums of Ukrainian “genocide” to advance the agenda of the US, Ukrainian nationalists, and his own proselytization interests.
Prior to becoming the leader of the Catholic Church, Francis spoke about his views on the Golodomor in his 2010 book, “On Heaven and Earth” [link to full original text in Spanish – OR], in which he wrote that “People who suffered massacres and persecution – as they did during the three biggest genocides of the last century, the Armenians, Jews and Ukrainians – struggled for their freedom.” From this bombshell of a quote, the future Pope is telling the world that the deaths of Ukrainians during the Golodomor is on par with the events that befell the Armenians and Jews during their associated tragedies. When compared with his recent news-making quote about how “the remaining two (genocides) were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism”, it’s clear that he’s equating Nazism with the genocide of Jews and Stalinism with the genocide of Ukrainians.
Addressing another very important point, Francis also falsely stated that the Ukrainians suffered from their supposed “genocide” because they “struggled for their freedom”. To put everything into perspective, the alleged “genocide” didn’t occur until the early 1930s, and the only Ukrainian ‘freedom’ organization (as the West sadly views it) active at the time was the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. To bring unaware readers up to speed, this group was the forerunner to the actual genocidal Ukrainian Insurgent Army (responsible for the targeted slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Poles – watch video below) and the ideological cradle of notorious Nazi Stepan Bandera. What Francis is plainly doing here is defending the seed of Ukrainian Fascism and perverting history to paint the proto-Nazi group as the ‘good guys’, after which he imagines that the Soviet government’s only response to their ‘struggle for freedom’ was to commit “genocide” against all of their ethnic kin.
At this point it’s relevant to reference Putin’s response that was noted at the beginning of Part I, in which the Russian President declared during his annual Q&A that “Attempts to put [Nazism and Stalinism] in the same basket are absolutely baseless…As ugly as the Stalin regime was, with all its repressions and ethnic deportations, it never attempted to eradicate [an ethnic group] completely.” This puts him at absolute odds with Francis, who had earlier used his global pulpit to preach the exact opposite. While it may seem strange to some that Argentinian Francis would try to involve himself in former Soviet affairs and potentially butt heads with Putin, the reasoning is that the pontiff is actually fulfilling a very important role in the context of the New Cold War.
New Cold War Context:
Historical revisionism is one of the postmodern battlefields of the New Cold War, and Francis is set to make himself one of its most ‘celebrated’ pro-Western fighters as he moves closer to openly promoting his Golodomor “genocide” campaign. Although not emphasizing it at the moment (and with the media currently obsessed with his Armenian commentary and Erodgan’s reaction), it’s expected that he’ll certainly become more active on this front in the future, which will further the three following anti-Russian objectives that are pivotal components of the West’s strategy in the New Cold War:
Misleadingly Tarnish Russia’s Reputation
The Soviet Union and its darker historical events are falsely associated with the Russian Federation in many uneducated circles across the world (especially in the West), and one of the lies pervasive of this inaccuracy is that the communist state was essentially a ‘Russian’ state. By drawing greater attention to the Golodomor as “genocide”, Francis is passively allowing this inaccurate association to take runaway root in people’s minds, with all of the negative implications thereof in the context of current tensions. This could predictably include a spike in anti-Russian sentiment throughout the West, as well as the vile assumption prodded on by Ukrainian nationalists that the tragic events were a ‘Russian-managed genocide’ against Ukrainians.
Legitimize And Secure Ukrainian Nationalism
The ‘authority’ and ‘legitimacy’ that Francis’ words hold in the minds of millions makes him the world’s most dangerous proselytizer of Ukrainian nationalism, in that he secures the foundations of this ideology and makes it ‘acceptable’ to the global public. The myth of “genocide” and the absolutely false statement that this alleged crime occurred because of Ukrainians’ “struggle for their freedom” (led at that time by the proto-Nazi Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) does more to support modern-day Fascism in Ukraine than Nuland’s celebrated $5 billion ever could hope to do.
Propagating the concept of Ukrainians being the most victimized and oppressed demographic in the former Soviet Union and forgetting about the other 150+ nationalities is geopolitically dangerous as well, since it promotes “Ukrainian Exceptionalism” and ‘justifies’ its nationalist consequences in the modern day. The Pope’s blessing of and sympathy for Ukrainian nationalism stabilizes the core of the US’ geopolitical imperative in Eastern Europe by laying the framework for Washington’s socio-political engineering operations that aim to turn all of Ukraine against Russia.
OR Note: A self-telling evidence of the hate-speech by Vatican-controlled clergy in the West of Ukraine well before the current crisis:
Create A Clash Of Christian Civilizations
One of the most often overlooked details of Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ theory is the division of the traditionally Christian World into East and West. While there certainly are cultural and historical differences between Huntington’s defined realms of both religious denominations, sectarian understandings are in no way the primary driver of any sort of their contemporary geopolitical competition. Rather, religion is being weaponized by the West as an asset in promoting pre-established geopolitical ends, such as the destruction of Russia’s soft power potential as the spiritual center of the Orthodox faith.
The Catholic Church’s recognition of the Golodomor as “genocide” and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and its spawn as ‘freedom fighters’ is meant to attract more Ukrainian converts to the Vatican, hoping that their nationalist fervor overrides their Orthodox obligations (which does not recognize the previous in the same manner). This Western-based ‘spiritual’ seduction is meant to complement the already existing Western political and social sentiments that have invaded the country and institutionalize Ukraine’s division between East and West. Francis’ end goal is to aggressively expand Huntington’s previously defined boundaries of Western Civilization, conform to his theories of a possible clash between the Catholic and Orthodox worlds, and firmly divide the Christian faith into geopolitical spheres vis-à-vis their political leaders’ relationship to the West.
Francis’ sectarian plans in the Christian world mirror those of Saudi Arabia in the Islamic one, in that the Catholic/Sunni strands of belief are seen as being on the ‘right’ side of the geopolitical spectrum while the Orthodox/Shia ones are seen as being on the ‘wrong’ one. It’s important to underline that geopolitical identification has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, and although certain denominations happen to be a prevailing demographic characteristic in certain Resistant & Defiant (R&D) states, it is by no means a cause of their strategic dispositions or in any way exclusive to any sort of political belief. Atheist China, for example, is just as opposed to the US’ unipolar hegemony as predominantly Orthodox Russia and majority Shiite Iran, just as Orthodox Romania and Shiite Azerbaijan are currently aligned with the US (with Bucharest being deep in Washington’s pocket and Azerbaijan on the potential verge of pivoting). Dividing religious spheres along sectarian beliefs and falsely attaching a political connotation to one’s faith only serves the geopolitical dividends of those who are drawing the lines, in this case, the Vatican, Saudi Arabia, and their allied American strategists.
Catholicism has historically been used by the Vatican to subvert predominantly Orthodox areas, especially as a means of geopolitically countering Russia. While the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is long gone (despite efforts by Warsaw to contemporaneously revive it), the strategic goal of Catholic proselytization in the East still remains, with the battlefield continuing to center on Ukraine. The Papacy’s centuries-long goal of poaching Ukrainian converts has undergone a tactical modification through its promotion of Ukrainian nationalism, which both serves the Vatican’s own interests and complements the geostrategic ones of the US. Francis’ push to have the Golodomor recognized as “genocide” against Ukrainians, as well as his inference that this mythical crime occurred as punishment because the proto-Nazi Ukrainian Organization of Nationalists’ “struggled for their freedom”, is indicative of the strategic confluence currently underway between Rome and Washington. While Francis has yet to fully play his hand in this regard, the fact that he’s still crying wolf about “genocide” since being elected two years ago shows that he may be testing the waters in anticipation of a full-fledged information offensive in the near future. Should he continue behaving this way, then Francis’ antics are expected to further ‘legitimize’ and institutionalize this hateful ideology, which would in turn have exceptionally dire consequences for the memory of historical truth as well as facilitate the US’ geopolitical plans against Russia in the New Cold War.
About the author:
Andrew Korybko is the political analyst and journalist for Sputnik who currently lives and studies in Moscow, exclusively for ORIENTAL REVIEW.
Original source of the article: www.orientalreview.org
Of the 22 Nazi concentration camps operating in the clerical fascist state of Croatia during World War II, nearly half were under the command of Roman Catholic priests.
They were responsible for the grisly slaughter of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. Serbs, Roma, and Jews were specifically targeted for extermination. .
Catholic clergy were especially keen to eradicate the Serbian Orthodox Church. This led to the murder of Christian Serbian Priests, forced conversions of Serbian Christians, and the destruction of 450 Christian Orthodox Churches during World War II.
“Kill all Serbs. And when you finish come here, to the Church, and I will confess you and free you from sin.” — Father Srecko Peric of the Gorica Monastery
As detailed in, The Jasenovac Extermination Camp “Terror in Croatia”, decree – law No. 1528-2101-Z-issued on on September 25, 1941, authorized the establishment of ‘assembly of work camps for undesirable and dangerous persons’ in Fascist Croatia.
Catholic Archbishop Stepinac with Ustashi (Croatian) Nazis
“Jasenovac became the largest and most important concentration camp (sabirni logor) and extermination camp complex in the Nezavisna Hrvatska Drzava (NDH), Independent State of Croatia, during World War II. The Jasenovac concentration camp complex would be crucial in the systematic and planned genocide of the Orthodox Serbs of the Srpska Vojna Krajina and of Bosnia-Hercegovina by the Croats and Bosnian Muslims..
Jasenovac was in fact a system or complex of concentration and extermination camps occupying a surface of 130 square miles…
The Ustaše interned mostly Serbs in Jasenovac. Other victims included Jews, Bosniaks, Gypsies, and opponents of the Ustaša regime. Most of the Jews were murdered there until August 1942, when they started being deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Jews were sent to Jasenovac from all parts of Croatia after being gathered in Zagreb, and from Bosnia and Herzegovina after being gathered in Sarajevo.
Some came directly from other cities and smaller towns. On their arrival most were killed at execution sites near the camp: Granik, Gradina, and other places…
Following the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, where the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’ was formulated, the Germans proposed through SS Sturmbannfuehrer Hans Helm that the Croats transfer Jewish prisoners to German camps in the east.
Kvaternik, agreed that the NDH would arrest the Jews, take them to railheads, and pay the Germans 30 Reich marks per person for the cost of transport to the extermination camps in the east. The Germans agreed that the property of the Jews would go to the Croat government.
SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Franz Abromeit was sent to supervise the deportations to Auschwitz. From August 13-20,1942, 5,500 Jews from the NDH were transpoted to Aushwitz on five trains from the Croat concentration camps at Tenje and Loborgrad and from Zagreb and Sarajevo.
Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler was on a state visit to Zagreb in May,1943 when two trains on May 5 and 10 trasported 1,150 Jews to Auschwitz…
In addition to the horrendous conditions in the Jasenovac camps, the guards also cruelly tortured, terrorized, and murdered prisoners at will. Here the most varied forms of torture were used: finger and toe nails were pulled out with metal instruments, eyes were dug out with specially constructed hooks, people were blinded by having needles stuck in their eyes, flesh was cut and then salted.
People were also flayed, had their noses, ears and tongues cut off with wire cutters, and had awls stuck in their hearts. Daughters were raped in front of their mothers, sons were tortured in front of their fathers.
The prisoners and all those who ended up in Jasenovac had their throats cut by the Ustaša with specially designed knives, or they were killed with axes, mallets and hammers; they were also shot, or they were hung from trees or light poles. Some were burned alive in hot furnaces, boiled in cauldrons, or drowned in the River Sava. […]
Other concentration camps were established in Sisak, Stara Gradiska, Djakovo, Lepoglava, Loborgrad. In all, there would be 22 concentration camps in the NDH, almost half of which were commanded by Roman Catholic Croatian priests.
Roman Catholic priests were involved in directing some of the worst atrocities of World War II. Since that time, the Vatican’s support for the persecution of the Jewish and Serbian people has never wavered.
The original source of the article: http://adarapress.com/2015/05/15/roman-catholic-priests-ran-half-the-concentration-camps-in-croatia/