Mike the Mad Biologist

Why Former Nazis Shouldn’t Be Popes

Because what’s a little intolerance among ‘friends’:

The revision of a contentious Good Friday prayer approved this week by Pope Benedict XVI could set back Jewish-Catholic relations, Conservative Judaism’s international assembly of rabbis says in a resolution to be voted on next week.

The prayer calls for God to enlighten the hearts of Jews “so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men.”

The draft resolution states the prayer would “cast a harsh shadow over the spirit of mutual respect and collaboration that has marked these past four decades, making it more difficult for Jews to engage constructively in dialogue with Catholics.”

On Tuesday, the pope released new wording for the prayer, part of the traditional Latin, or Tridentine, Mass.

Before the Second Vatican Council, also known as Vatican II, the Good Friday Mass in Latin prayed for the conversion of Jews, referring to their “blindness” and calling upon God to “lift a veil from their hearts.”

An unofficial translation of the new prayer reads: “Let us pray for the Jews. May the Lord Our God enlighten their hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men.”

….”We have been very much involved in interfaith activities and dialogue for years, and relationships with the Catholic Church are really quite good,” the rabbi said. “I think it really turns back the clock a bit and reverts to some sense that the church is pulling back from the positions it took in Vatican II.”

I would think so. What’s crazy is that this appears to be an attempt to assuage the ‘traditionalist’, pre-Vatican II Catholics:

Most Catholics worship in the vernacular, and their prayers will not be affected. But last year, the pope made it easier for traditionalists to celebrate the Latin Mass that was the norm before Vatican II.

At a meeting in Washington from Sunday to Thursday, the Rabbinical Assembly will vote on a draft resolution, which, while subject to revision, says the group is “dismayed and deeply disturbed to learn that Pope Benedict XVI has revised the 1962 text of the Latin Mass, retaining the rubric, ‘For the Conversion of The Jews.’”

Welcome to the true face of theological conservatism.

Update: In light of this NY Times story, it seems that Pope Benedict clearly wasn’t a willing participant, so the title is unfair. Having said that, reinstating the conversion clause is truly offensive: I don’t need fixing. For those who say, “That’s what religions do”, well, not all religions do that–in fact, many Christian denominations have turned away from this attitude. Furthermore, I think this is a shameless political ploy to retain the most reactionary elements of the Church. If this were really based on theology, why would only the Latin mass, and not the vernacular masses be changed? If the NYT story is accurate, Pope Benedict should know better. Much better.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott Belyea
    February 10, 2008

    Why Former Nazis Shouldn’t Be Popes

    Silly and ignorant article title, folks. Move along … nothing worth seeing here …

  2. #2 The Ridger
    February 10, 2008

    It’s got nothing to do with Nazis. Catholics are like that anyway. Christians kinda have to be, since they think that Jews are going to hell. Praying for them to be saved is actually, if you buy into the premise at all, sort of obligatory… though unless they had prayers for the Buddhists, Hindus, pagans, and the rest of the Jesus-less world, it is kind of pointed. But hey, maybe the Jews are the only ones they want to save.

  3. #3 Edward
    February 10, 2008

    To “The Ridger” – not all Christians, not even all Catholics, think that. Your view of Christians and Catholics is fairly bigoted in its own right, but I think Pope Benedict may still have you beat.

  4. #4 Joseph Andersen
    February 10, 2008

    @scott – the man was in the German Army (or something equivalent) at a time when he could have been excused from duty because he was in the seminary. Clearly he was not against the Nazi policies at the time.

    Nice article Mike – it seems that religious festivals that promote ill will towards otther groups – like easter – ought to be the first we do away with, when the sane finally rule

  5. #5 386sx
    February 10, 2008

    Your view of Christians and Catholics is fairly bigoted in its own right,

    What he’s bigoted because he thinks Christians and Catholics want to save people from damnation? Okey dokey! What a horrible bigot The Ridger is.

  6. #6 Pierce R. Butler
    February 10, 2008

    Li’l Joey Ratzinger was a member of the Hitler Youth, the Nazi young men’s group and a prime recruiting ground for both the SS and the National Socialist Party.

    During the latter years of WWII, the Hitlerjugende were mobilized for military duties, and young Ratzinger’s group served as prison guards and in anti-aircraft batteries. He is thus the only Pope known to have fired on American and British troops.

  7. #7 Sophie Hirschfeld
    February 10, 2008

    When I was a kid, my mom told me that the holocaust was punishment to the Jews for killing Jesus and that the Jews were to be among the last for the church to work on converting (I was raised Mormon) because of their actions. Of course that made no sense … sometimes when I look back, I’m amazed at the craziness of it all.

    I think with the pope, though, this is something we could have seen coming. It was known when they put him there that he was more conservative and might cause a lot of progress to be set back.

  8. #8 Gordon Stephens
    February 11, 2008

    To “The Ridger” – not all Christians, not even all Catholics, think that. Your view of Christians and Catholics is fairly bigoted in its own right, but I think Pope Benedict may still have you beat.

    I think you’re wrong. The Christians I know either think the Jews are going to hell, or think everyone, even the faggots, are getting to Heaven unless they plant bombs under bingo halls.

  9. #9 SLC
    February 11, 2008

    As difficult as it might seem, in fairness to Joe the rat, there is no evidence that either he or any of the immediate members of his family belonged to the Nazi Party. The fact that he belonged to the Hitler Jungen is not definitive because all German youths at the time had to join the Hitler Jungen. As best we know, our boy Joe was a member of an antiaircraft unit, having nothing to do with concentration camps, and, in fact, deserted before the end of the war (I believe his brother also deserted).

  10. #10 Pierce R. Butler
    February 12, 2008

    SLC: all German youths at the time had to join the Hitler Jungen.

    Not so.

    I have to (tentatively) retract my comment about Ratzinger’s Hitlerjugende group serving as prison guards, as the closest supporting info for that I’ve found tonight is that he witnessed Jews being herded into death camps while on duty building tank traps in Hungary.

    He deserted in April 1945, when the Allies had overrun almost all of Germany and the entire Wehrmacht dissolved: a practical action impossible (by that time) to attribute to conscience or resistance.

    Moreover, it appears that he has never apologized for his youthful indiscretions – not to mention his vigorous advocacy of reactionary political positions throughout his career. In short, while Ratzinger was technically neither a Nazi nor a soldier, he was as close to being both as he could possibly be – and, in the confessingest culture in the world, has never expressed regrets.

  11. #11 SLC
    February 12, 2008

    Re Pierce R. Butler

    I do not consider the web site counterpunch, a purveyor of left wing antisemitism and Israel bashing a credible source of information. It is my understanding that Joe the rat was a member of an anti-aircraft unit. Attached is a link to a New York Times article on the subject. Whatever its faults, the Times is a far more credible source then counterpunch.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/21/international/worldspecial2/21germany.html?pagewanted=print&position

  12. #12 Pierce R. Butler
    February 12, 2008

    SLC: I’ll agree that Counterpunch is not always a reliable source (though Patrick Coburn’s Iraq reportage seems of high quality; I can’t speak one way or the other about Vicente Navarro, who wrote the linked piece).

    Alas, my second link was to the first page of a rant about Ratzinger’s elevation to infallibility, and what I wanted to reference was a lengthy comment by myself, citing serious historians, on the 6th page. Please check it out: there were many in Ratzinger’s generation who spent their formative years under the Third Reich and still found the strength of character to resist.

  13. #13 SLC
    February 12, 2008

    Re Pierce R. Butler

    It should be clear from my reference to Joe the rat that I am in no way defending him or his ideas. Clearly, he is a reactionary old man. I just think that referring to him as an ex-Nazi is inaccurate, in the absence of evidence that either he or close members of his family were actually members of the Nazi party. Clearly, belonging to the Hitler Jungen is not synonymous with Nazi party membership, as most teenage Germans who were members of this organization never joined the Nazi party.

  14. #14 Pierce R. Butler
    February 13, 2008

    SLC: … most teenage Germans who were members of this organization never joined the Nazi party.

    Party membership was restricted after the regime grew suspicious of careerists and other opportunists. According to Michael H. Kater’s Hitler Youth, by the end of WWII “Nine out of ten juveniles had been in the Hitler Youth…” (pg 249).

    If Kater gives stats on how many joined the NSDAP, I missed ‘em. He does note that Nazi efforts to recruit party leaders from the HJ in wartime were unsuccessful: “In the period from 1941 to 1944, the number of HJ volunteers for Party office was minimal, so that by the fall of 1943 the Party had to concede that its echelons had been staffed by HJ leaders only ‘to a certain degree.’” (pp 59-60)

    Once Hitler’s power was secure, he began to downplay the Party apparatus as such. Most of the HJ were conscripted by the Wehrmacht and the SS (which ran many HJ-related facilities and recruited from them heavily). IOW, party membership seems a poor way to measure the political tendencies of Hitler Youth.

    Kater’s book also includes revealing sections on the corruption (financial and sexual) of many HJ groups and on youth counter-organizations such as the Edelweiss Pirates, Swing Youth, and Mobs: I recommend it for relevant background, though Ratzinger is not mentioned.

  15. #15 SLC
    February 13, 2008

    Re Pierce Butler

    The Nazi party in Germany acted much the same as the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union. Membership was severely limited and most of the population was excluded.

    However, the issue at hand which Mr. Butler is not addressing is whether Joe the rat (or any close members of his family) was a member of the Nazi Party. Unless or until there is evidence indicating that he was or they were, calling him an ex-Nazi is inaccurate. We do have to accept the premise that innocent until proven guilty.

    However, lets suppose that, in fact, Joe the rat was not a member of the Nazi party. It could be that he applied for membership and was turned down? Or it could be that neither of the two scenarios is correct but, rather, he was sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Is there any evidence of either of these two latter cases being true. It just seems to me that calling Joe the rat an ex-Nazi in the absence of evidence only weakens the case against him and his wing views.

  16. #16 Pierce R. Butler
    February 13, 2008

    SLC: What difference would it make if other Ratzingers were Nazis?

    As I stated above, Joe R was not a member of the party, but he was an active Hitler Youth and participated in high-risk combat operations for the Reich against American and British air crews.

    Our host’s headline is incorrect.

    So is Joseph Anderson’s initial statement that the panzerpapst was “in the German Army (or something equivalent) at a time when he could have been excused from duty because he was in the seminary.” The “something equivalent” does apply, but JR was 18 at the end of the war (and the Nazi Party), meaning he was deemed suitable for cannon fodder but not for party membership. By 1945, I’m fairly sure that draft exemptions for seminarians were long forgotten in Germany.

    Still, both MtMB and Joseph A are very close to the historical truth, if not actually there. I’ve seen it stated that Ratzinger has never apologized for his role in Hitler’s project, but haven’t pursued that claim in depth (anybody here know of such a statement?).

    It does seem clear that he has clung to a hard-right ideology all of his life. In context, sorting out how much of that could reasonably be called Nazism would seem an exercise in arbitrary hair-splitting and ambiguity (and an illustration of the limits of Godwin’s Law).

    Personally, it made my day when Ratzinger was chosen for the tiara: of all the candidates, he seemed most likely to do the most damage to the Catholic Church as an institution. So far, he has not disappointed.