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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, September 17, 2010

"Pissing on the corpses – or the ashes – of the dead."

I was creeped out that the pope brought up the Nazis, saying that atheism is responsible for such regimes. I could go into all the details of why his statement is untrue, I could post about the relationship that existed between the Catholic Church and Hitler's regime (or about Catholic clergy involvement with the Ustaše), but no one will care. I have to admit, I don't understand that - the lack of interest in what the actual truth might be, even given the difficulties in defining and discovering 'truth".

But anyway, here instead is part of what Andrew Brown wrote on the subject ....

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Pope Benedict and Nazism

[...] The first thing to say is that national divisions were far more important than confessional ones in deciding how other countries reacted to Nazi Germany. The Polish Catholic church was violently persecuted and correspondingly anti-Nazi; in Ireland, another country where faith and nationality were closely entwined, the church was if anything pro-German; the admirable historian Hubert Butler was hounded for writing the truth about the Catholic Ustase in Croatia.

In Spain, Croatia and Slovakia, the Catholic church was closely associated with pro-Nazi regimes. In Britain it was firmly anti-Nazi and very large numbers of Catholics died in the fight against Hitler. Elements of the French church were absolutely vile, as they had been since the time of Dreyfuss. That was the soil from which the Lefevrist schism later grew. The Austrian church was deeply compromised.

The German church was nationalist but not heroically anti-Nazi, though individual Catholics obviously were. I don't judge this because I don't know that I'd have been braver. Obviously, many of the commenters here have no such difficulty.

But the general moral of this is that it is much easier to answer the question "Were many Catholics (or Christians) Nazis?" than "Was Nazism a Christian movement". I myself think it is absurd and disgusting to suppose it was. But that's not the point. The real disgusting absurdity is even to ask the question, because it is almost always done in a wholly anachronistic and shallow way.

To recruit the unimaginable and almost incredible horrors of the twentieth century into the service of internet flame wars is a kind of blasphemy against humanity. Shouting "nyah nyah, Hitler was on your team!" is pissing on the corpses – or the ashes – of the dead.

Anyone seriously thinking on how to derive their morals from their beliefs must of course work out how it is that their own beliefs and morals are incompatible with totalitarianism. To that extent the pope must always conclude that true belief in God is incompatible with Nazism; and Bertrand Russell would have to conclude that true humanism was. But this exercise is necessary precisely becasue neither atheism nor faith in themselves protect us from inhumanity. No one should take the apparently logical next step and conclude that those who disagree with us theologically are therefore morally inferior or closer to evil. Certainly no Christian should, who believes in the reality of sin. The Pope was unwise to give that appearance yesterday.

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