Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Pope’s Extraordinary Chutzpah

As PZ reported, Pope Palpatine landed in England yesterday and promptly tried to blame atheists for Adolf Hitler, saying:

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny”.

This takes monumental gall and utter dishonesty.Let’s count the ways this is either outright false or breathtakingly hypocritical. But let us first acknowledge that he is absolutely right that a great many brave Christians fought valiantly against Hitler, including lots and lots of Catholic priests and nuns who hid Jews from the Nazis. They deserve enormous praise for that.

But the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church had a far more complicated relationship with Hitler — not as bad as the church’s most strident critics claim but also not nearly as pure as Catholic apologists claim. Pope Pius XII negotiated a concordat with the Nazis in the 1930s that granted Catholics freedom of worship in Germany but required the church to be essentially neutral in regard to Nazism. There was some criticism of Nazi atrocities from the church, but it was fairly muted. And there is evidence of collaboration among at least a faction of the church leadership.

Far more importantly, of course, is the Catholic history of pogroms against the Jews. It could fairly be said that Hitler was doing little more than continuing the centuries of Catholic tradition of ghettoizing and dehumanizing the Jewish people, going back all the way to Constantine and some of the early church fathers.

In 1105, Pope Innocent III wrote to his archbishops and said, “The Jews, by their own guilt, are consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord. As slaves rejected by God, in whose death they wickedly conspire, they shall by the effect of this very action recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom Christ has set free.”

In 1555, a Papal bull required Jews to wear badges, just like the Nazis did, and forced them to live in a single ghetto. Pope Pius IX restored those restrictions in the 1800s, which was the last pogrom against the Jews in Europe until Hitler’s Third Reich.

And even if one ignores Catholic history, the pope could have made a far stronger case against the founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther, for laying the groundwork that allowed Hitler to flourish in Germany. Martin Luther’s book On the Jews and Their Lies is a virtual blueprint for the Final Solution, as he encouraged his followers to burn down the houses and synagogues of Jewish people, beat them and steal their possessions.

It is not a coincidence that Luther, the most influential theologian in German history by a wide margin, spouted virulently anti-Semitic views and then the nation later embraced Hitler’s maniacal hatred for the Jews. Luther had for centuries tilled the soil in which Hitler planted the seeds of anti-Semitic madness.

Given the Catholic church’s history of Hitler-like behavior the Jews, this is one subject on which Pope Palpatine really should keep his mouth shut.