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|Papal encyclicals |
regarding the Holocaust
Catholic apologists cite the encyclical, Mit brennender sorge ("With burning concern"), probably written for Pope Pius XI by his Secretary of State at the time (and future Pope Pius XII), Eugenio Pacelli, as an example of the Vatican speaking out against the Nazi's anti-semitism.
This is what Daniel Goldhagen says about this supposedly momentous encyclical :
Pacelli, then Vatican Secretary of State, either wrote or supervised the writing of a papal encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge, "With Burning Concern." It is often presented erroneously as evidence of the Church's, Pacelli's, or Pius XI's antipathy to Nazism, or as a sweeping condemnation of Nazism. The encyclical did object in clear and ringing language to violations of the Concordat, particularly the treatment of religion in Germany. In six sentences of its forty-three paragraphs it refers to race. Its objection to the doctrine of race is not that it is false or inherently pernicious, but only that some would have race take precedence over the teachings of Christianity. Race, no different from "time, space, [and] country," is too restrictive a basis for morality, which only God's universally valid commandments can supply.
The encyclical was not a general condemnation of Nazism itself. It never once mentioned Nazism by name. It pointedly made clear that its objection revolved around the narrow though important "systematic antagonism raised between national education and religious duty." But it also urged the young in Germany, in the canonical idiom of the Nazi regime itself, to embrace the new Germany: "No one would think of preventing the youth of Germany from establishing a true ethnic community (Volksgemeinschaft) in a noble love of freedom and unshakable fidelity to the Fatherland." Pacelli knew that, to German ears, the Volksgemeinschaft would by definition exclude Jews, because according to common belief and usage among Germans, and according to the well-known Nazi Party Program issued in 1920, "No Jew may be a member of the Volk".
The encyclical did seek to educate the German people about Nazism's religious transgressions and about its raising of race above the universal commands of religion. In such an encyclical a friend of the Jews, or at least a non-antisemite, would have condemned Germany's intensive persecution of its Jews. Pacelli did not. He defended the Old Testament against the Nazis' charge that it was a Jewish book, but he couched the encyclical's explanation in explicitly antisemitic terms, presenting it as an anti-Jewish book that reveals "the story of the chosen people, bearers of the Revelation and the Promise, repeatedly straying from God and turning to the world." Its value lies in "the luminous splendor of the divine light revealing the saving plan which finally triumphs over every fault and sin."
Pacelli's gratuitous affirmation of the sinfulness of the "straying from God" Jews could only strengthen the prevailing antisemitism among the many Germans who held that Jews should in some way be eliminated at least from German society. As if to drive home his point at a moment when Germans were subjecting Jews to a fierce persecution, he reminded Germans of "a people that was to crucify Jesus", referring to the Jews corporately, as a people, as Jesus' "torturer." To ensure the maximum exposure and effect of this encyclical on religious practice (which also shows how little afraid Pacelli was of criticizing the regime's practices publicly), it was read from every German pulpit on Palm Sunday 1937. . .
Pius XII's defenders attempt to exonerate him of antisemitism and to represent him as a friend of the endangered Jews, who did everything that he believed possible to help them. Yet this depiction of him is riddled with weaknesses. Why, as a moral or practical matter, did Pius XII intervene in Germany on behalf of Catholics who had converted from Judaism but not on behalf of Jews? His defenders have no good answer. Why, as a moral or practical matter, did he cause Mit brennender Sorge, the fiery encyclical protesting the treatment of religion in Germany, to be read from pulpits across the country, but not similarly denounce the persecution of the Jews, either then or when the mass murder began? Again, there is no good answer.
Why, as a moral or practical matter, did he protest the Germans' invasion of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, with separate telegrams to the sovereigns of each (and printed in large type on the front page of the Vatican's official daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano) but not the Germans' slaughter of the Jews? No good answer. Why, as a moral and practical matter, did he speak out publicly on behalf of the suffering (Catholic) Poles but not of the (non-Catholic) Jews?
(On the instructions of Pius XII) Vatican Radio broadcast this in January 1940: "Conditions of religious, political, and economic life have thrown the Polish people, especially in those areas occupied by Germany, into a state of terror, of degradation, and, we dare say, of barbarism.... The Germans employ the same methods, perhaps even worse, as those used by the Soviets." Why, as a moral or practical matter, did Pius XII not direct all ecclesiastic personnel to defend and to help save Jews? Why, as a moral or practical matter, did he not lift a finger to forfend the deportation of the Jews of Rome or of other regions in Italy by denouncing this publicly and by instructing his priests and nuns to give the hunted Jewish men, women, and children sanctuary? Why, as a moral or practical matter, did Pius XII excommunicate all Communists in the world in 1949 including millions who never shed blood, but not excommunicate a single German or non-German who served Hitler-or even the Catholic-born Hitler himself-as the millionfold willing executioners of the Jewish people? To all of these questions there is no good answer."
(A Moral Reckoning, by Daniel Goldhagen, pp.46-51)
"No faith in God can for long survive pure and unalloyed without the support of faith in Christ. "No one knoweth who the Son is, but the Father: and who the Father is, but the Son and to whom the Son will reveal Him" (Luke x. 22). "Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent" (John xvii. 3). Nobody, therefore, can say: "I believe in God, and that is enough religion for me," for the Savior's words brook no evasion: "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. He that confesseth the Son hath the Father also" (1 John ii. 23)."
[ see the entire official English translation at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_14031937_mit-brennender-sorge_en.html ]
Catholic apologists brag about the first encyclical ever written in German, which was read in all German churches on Palm Sunday. And they say that the Nazi Foreign Office characterized this encyclical as 'a call to battle' as it calls upon Catholic citizens to rebel against the authority of the Reich. The fact is, however, that the Nazis were so little offended by the publicizing of this encyclical that the clergy who read it to their congregations were not punished for doing so, and as Gordon Zahn documented, there was a grand total of only seven individual Catholics who 'rebelled against the authority of the Reich' to the point of refusing to be a part of Hitler's armed services. And far from being supported by their church for doing so, several of these were denied the sacraments for being unpatriotic.
In 2007, one of these conscientious objectors, Franz Jagerstatter, was "beatifed" by the Vatican, the step that leads to "canonization", whereby a person is declared a saint. What few of the hierarchy of his church were able to fathom at the time, this simple peasant was able to figure out by himself and he formulated it very clearly in a letter from prison to his wife, "Can there be any talk of defense of the Fatherland when one invades countries that owe one (i.e. Germany) nothing and robs and murders there? What more can we Catholic Austrians lose, if we refuse to continue fighting for the German state? . . . I cannot and never will believe that we Catholics must make ourselves tools of the worst and most dangerous anti-Christian power that has ever existed."
When Catholic authorities dishonestly try to paint Franz as a man who suffered "for his Catholic faith". Read about the extraordinary wisdom and courage of this true saint in his own words at shame-on-the-Roman-Catholic-hierarchy.website/NaziMartyrFranz.html . You will find that what his "Catholic faith" was telling him (and all the other Catholics in Germany at the time was "be a good Catholic and do what you are told" (by the Nazi authorities). What made Franz heroic is that he didn't believe or do what his church was telling German Catholics like himself to believe and do.
See http://ncronline.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2007d/110907/110907a.htm .Catholic News Service.
In 1933, there were some four hundred Catholic dailies in Germany. In 1935 they were all closed. Soon thereafter, additional restrictions meant that two-thirds of the Catholic weeklies had to close down. Continued limitations on Catholic life resulted, in March 1937, in the papal encyclical Mit brennender Sorge. . . The encyclical, which means 'With Deep Anxiety', was issued in March, 1937. The Pope expresses his dissatisfaction with Nazi Germany's disregard for the terms of the Concordat, agreed with Hitler only four years earlier. In January 1937, three cardinals and two bishops travelled to Rome to discuss the matter with the Pope. Cardinal Faulhaber drafted a suggested text which became the base for the encyclical. The final document condemned the German government's treatment of the Church. Elaborate and secret arrangements were made to print it in Germany and to have it read from the pulpits of all Catholic churches on Passion Sunday, 14 March. To avoid postal censorship, bishops arranged for the encyclicals to be delivered to parishes by hand. The Church had proven that she was able to undertake a clandes tine operation, although the twelve print plants which collaborated with the Church were immediately closed by the Nazis and many of their staff were imprisoned.
The publication and distribution of Mit brennender Sorge was a courageous feat. Unfortunately, it was wasted...
What could have been an opportunity to signal to Catholics worldwide that what Germany was doing was unacceptable and dangerous and that Nazi Germany must be fought with all means, was missed. Instead, the Vatican opted for: 'We shall continue without failing, to stand before the rulers of your people as the defender of violated rights, and in obedience to Our Conscience and Our pastoral mission, whether We be successful or not, to oppose the policy which seeks, by open or secret means, to strangle rights guaranteed by a treaty'. The only practical issue the encyclical dealt with was Catholic education. If that was the most the Church would do to safeguard rights of the Church and of Catholics which had been agreed in the Concordat, what - if anything - could one have expected from the Church with regard to the rights of Jews?
Racism was not defined as the main topic of the encyclical, and yet it did very clearly - without naming Nazism - condemn the Nazi racial concept. It also condemned the Fascist raising of the state to too high a level.
The Pope condemned German governmental pressure on Catholics to leave the Church: 'If the oppressor offers one the Judas bargain of apostasy he (very ambiguous pronoun) can only, at the cost of every worldly sacrifice, answer with Our Lord: "Begone, Satan!"' He called on Catholics to withstand pressure suggesting 'that this infidelity to Christ the King constitutes a signal and meritorious act of loyalty to the modern State. They were to withstand 'Secret and open measures of intimidation, the threat of economic and civic disabilities' and, as 'the highest interests are at stake, h the alternative of spiritual loss, there is but one alternative Left, that heroism.
The encyclical, however, did not have a word to say about the hounding of Jews in Germany. The papal realm of pain is defined in the first paragraph of the encyclical, in which he speaks of the 'trials of the Church' and those who have remained loyal to her, The following forty-two paragraphs do not mention Jews overtly. Indirectly, Jews are referred to, in true Catholic style, as:
'the chosen people, bearers of the Revelation and the Promise, repeatedly straying from God and turning to the world."
Even in a period so difficult for Jews, the Vatican was unable to issue a document which did not remind its listeners that Jews were sinfully straying. I wonder how many times Nazis used that quote to remind Catholic Germans that their pope didn't think too highly of the Jews either.
Five days after the publication of Mit brennender Sorge, in its vehement anti-Communist encyclical, Divini redemptoris, the Vatican showed that it was able to do better.
Communism was clearly and substantially considered by the Catholic Church to be more evil than Nazism. Nazism was not even mentioned in Mit brennender Sorge, whereas Divini redemptoris is not only an anti-Communist propaganda tool, it is virtually a manual for the clergy on how to attack Communism. It explains Communist concepts and terminology and throws its own interpretations onto Communist activities in Russia, Mexico and Spain.
Quoting his predecessor, Leo XIII, who in his encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris defined Communism as 'the fatal plague which insinuates itself into the very marrow of human society only to bring about its ruin, Pius XI, in his diatribe against the 'Communist plague ... the slippery path which will precipitate one and all to ruin and catastrophe', warns that 'entire peoples find themselves in danger of falling back into a barbarism'. Without holding back, the Vatican in its attack on Communism prepares an action plan against 'this all too imminent danger, ... bolshevistic and atheistic Communism, which 'strips man of his liberty, robs human personality of all its dignity, and removes all the moral restraints that check the eruptions of blind impulse.' Whereas Mit brennender Sorge did not refer to state terrorism in Germany, Divini redemptoris has no such compunction as it explains that 'it is terrorism that reigns today in Russia, where former comrades in revolution are exterminating each other'.
This encyclical is a call to arms and a clear action plan, to 'defend Christ and Christian civilization from this pernicious enemy' The Pope defines Communism as 'intrinsically wrong' and forbids collaboration 'with it in any undertaking whatsoever.' Priests are sent by the Pope to the poor and to 'the workingman, who he explains are more vulnerable to the 'wiles of agitators.' Priests are to rekindle their faith and specifically show the extent to which Christianity is a social religion, otherwise 'they will become an easy prey for the apostles of Communism.'
Divini redemptoris is also a papal order for the lay movement Catholic Action and for 'auxiliary forces'. It Is important that their members be rained, 'by study-circles, conferences, lecture-courses and the various other activities undertaken with a view to making known the Christian solution of the social problem.' The militant leaders of Catholic Action are ailed to action which 'is the means best calculated to save these, Our beloved children, from the snares of Communism.'
The Pope concludes by addressing the 'Catholic workingmen young and old... they are to bring back to the Church and to God those immense Multitudes of their brother-workmen. .. this mission, which must be fulfilled in mines, in factories, in shops, wherever they may be labouring, should at times require great sacrifices.'
In Divini redemptoris, therefore, the Church had proven that she could peak in direct and clear language, attacking wrongs, attacking power and calling the people to combat what she considered to be evil. Pro-German Vatican Secretary of State and future Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Pacelli, signaled to Germany that 'normal and friendly relations with [Germany] would be restored as soon as possible'.
Two months after Mit Brennender Sorge, it was business as usual as regards Church anti-Semitism. German diplomats in Rome must have been relieved when they saw La Civilta Cattolica's series of three articles on the 'Jewish Question in May 1937, in which they could read that: 'the Jews are a disruptive element because of their dominating spirit and their revolutionary tendency. Judaism is ... a foreign body that irritates and provokes the reactions of the organism it has contaminated. The whole question consists in finding the most appropriate way of getting rid of the irritation and re-establishing, on a durable basis, the social organism's equilibrium and tranquility. There are only two possible solutions: elimination or segregation. Elimination can be achieved in three ways: in a clearly hostile manner, through destruction; in a hostile but less cruel manner, through expulsion; in an amicable and kindly manner, through absorption. The first two are contrary to Christian charity and natural law. The third one has proven impossible, historically.
The articles, which discuss the 'disruptive Jewish dominance' and proceed to analyse the pros and cons of segregation, conclude with a 'Christian solution' based on 'charity and prudence'. Hitler's 'remedies' were different from those of the Catholic Church, but their definition of the 'ailment' was very similar." (Double Cross, pp.. 192 -195)
"Upon taking this highest office, Pius XII had to make a momentous decision about what to do with Pius XI's draft encyclical. The decision was momentous because Humani Generis Unitas would finally, and publicly, have the Church defend the hounded Jews, by explicitly condemning the Nazis' antisemitism and calling for the cessation of the Germans' persecution of Jews: "It becomes clear that the struggle of racial purity ends by being uniquely the struggle against the Jews. Save for its systematic cruelty, this struggle is no different in true motives and methods from persecutions everywhere carried out against the Jews since antiquity." That a Pope drew this direct connection, in motive and in method, between past persecutions—and by strong implication, the Church's persecutions—of the Jews and the Germans' contemporary assault on the Jews should give pause to anyone who wishes to dissociate the Church from any responsibility for the persecution and slaughter of the 1930s and 1940s.
That a second Pope began his papacy by burying this remarkable document in defense of the Jews, now known as the Hidden Encyclical, in the "silence of the archives," and that the Vatican for half a century tried to hide Pius XII's act of suppression and the encyclical itself, tells us a great deal about Pius XII, and about the dissimulations that have surrounded that Pope's and the Church's relationship to the Holocaust!" (A Moral Reckoning, by Daniel Goldhagen, pp. 39-40)
Some significant excerpts:
" 8. Who could observe without profound grief the tragic harvest of such desertions among those who in days of calm and security were numbered among the followers of Christ, but who – Christians unfortunately more in name than in fact – in the hour that called for endurance, for effort, for suffering, for a stout heart in face of hidden or open persecution, fell victims of cowardice, weakness, uncertainty; who, terror-stricken before the sacrifices entailed by a profession of their Christian Faith, could not steel themselves to drink the bitter chalice awaiting those faithful to Christ?"
"19. . . We feel We owe no greater debt to Our office and to Our time than to testify to the truth with Apostolic firmness: "to give testimony to the truth." This duty necessarily entails the exposition and confutation of errors and human faults; for these must be made known before it is possible to tend and to heal them. "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" ( John's Gospel viii. 32). "
"27. A full statement of the doctrinal stand to be taken in face of the errors of today, if necessary, can be put off to another time unless there is disturbance by calamitous external events; for the moment We limit Ourselves to some fundamental observations. "
52. But there is yet another error no less pernicious to the well-being of the nations and to the prosperity of that great human society which gathers together and embraces within its confines all races. It is the error contained in those ideas which do not hesitate to divorce civil authority from every kind of dependence upon the Supreme Being – First Source and absolute Master of man and of society – and from every restraint of a Higher Law derived from God as from its First Source. Thus they accord the civil authority an unrestricted field of action that is at the mercy of the changeful tide of human will, or of the dictates of casual historical claims, and of the interests of a few.
53. Once the authority of God and the sway of His law are denied in this way, the civil authority as an inevitable result tends to attribute to itself that absolute autonomy which belongs exclusively to the Supreme Maker. It puts itself in the place of the Almighty and elevates the State or group into the last end of life, the supreme criterion of the moral and juridical order, and therefore forbids every appeal to the principles of natural reason and of the Christian conscience. We do not, of course, fail to recognize that, fortunately, false principles do not always exercise their full influence, especially when age-old Christian traditions, on which the peoples have been nurtured, remain still deeply, even if unconsciously, rooted in their hearts.
54. Nonetheless, one must not forget the essential insufficiency and weakness of every principle of social life which rests upon a purely human foundation, is inspired by merely earthly motives and relies for its force on the sanction of a purely external authority.
55 Where the dependence of human right upon the Divine is denied, where appeal is made only to some insecure idea of a merely human authority, and an autonomy is claimed which rests only upon a utilitarian morality, there human law itself justly forfeits in its more weighty application the moral force which is the essential condition for its acknowledgment and also for its demand of sacrifices.
56. It is quite true that power based on such weak and unsteady foundations can attain at times, under chance circumstances, material successes apt to arouse wonder in superficial observers.
57. But the moment comes when the inevitable law triumphs, which strikes down all that has been constructed upon a hidden or open disproportion between the greatness of the material and outward success, and the weakness of the inward value and of its moral foundation. Such disproportion exists whenever public authority disregards or denies the dominion of the Supreme Lawgiver, Who, as He has given rulers power, has also set and marked its bounds."