Those of you who remember or have studied World War II, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, will remember the names of Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Goring, Heydrich, all guilty of terrible war crimes, especially against the Jews. What did those men have in common, besides being amongst the most evil men of the 20th century?
They had all been Catholics (don’t say “once a Catholic, always a Catholic” – it isn’t true). That is part of the horror of the collective memory of the Catholic Church in Germany: that “the Final Solution (extermination of the Jews)” and the conquest of Europe and, perhaps, eventually, the whole world, was directed by men who had grown up in Catholic families in a religious Germany.
The pastoral leadership of the Catholic Church in Germany and Italy during the frightening years of Fascism is shameful. The world received public apologies from the bishops of both countries in the 1960’s for their moral cowardice, but the world already knew, through bishops’ pastoral letters during the war, of the Church’s support for the German and Italian war conquests. Do read those letters. They will show you how far nationalism, patriotism, can lead even seemingly good men from the truth of the faith they profess to the brutality of supporting war “my country, right or wrong.”
The studies continue of how a nominally Christian country could wage war, hate the Jews, seek to dominate the world, to impose its power over Europe – and even the world. The voice of Christianity was muted. Pope Pius XII knew Goring well. He was papal nuncio in Germany for many years. He would have seen better than most what was happening and we know he kept Pius XI informed. Pius XI was an implacable foe of Nazi Germany and we can suppose Pius XII was also.
What blinded/silenced them that they did not speak out more strongly in defence of the small countries of Europe and of the Jews! Soviet Russia. They feared Communism even more that Naziism and saw Hitler and his horrifying henchmen protectors of Western Europe.
We pray for Church and world leaders to put God first, not political power and domination.
God bless us,
28th February 2016