Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ratzinger says whoops

It's not that often that the Vatican admits it made a mistake. But today it pretty much did just that, and demanded that one of the four "bishops" excommunicated back in 1989 but reinstated back into the Catholic Church last month -- Britain's Richard Williamson -- to recant his position about the Holocaust being "exaggerated" and that only 300,000 Jews were murdered, not 6 million; if that bishop wants to ever be assigned a diocese.

Turned out Williamson made the comments on Swedish state television some time ago but somehow that completely eluded the Roman Curia who decided to let bygones be bygones with the Society of St. Pius X, an ultra-conservative Catholic faction that rejects all of the reforms of Vatican II in the 1960s; including the introduction of local languages in the liturgy, and making peace with other religions, in particular Protestantism and Judaism.

This came one day after Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel (a Lutheran but who leads a party with strong Catholic roots) demanded Pope Benedict XVI (a.k.a. Joe Ratzinger), a German national who spent time in the Hitler Youth, should make it clear that there can be no ambiguity when it comes to the Holocaust.

No surprise she took her position, but it shouldn't be really -- Germany is still trying to come to grips with how it allowed Hitler to ever come to power, as well as completely bungling the 1972 Munich Olympics. Since Germany arose from the ruins of World War II, much of which self-inflicted on fellow countrymen, Holocaust denial has been specifically outlawed in Germany.

Moreover, but unreported by most media outlets, I believe she wants to send a signal that the European Union has absolutely no intention of ever being ruled by a Pope, even if all 27 Prime Ministers turned out to be Catholic. It's worth pointing out that the EU issued a directive to its member states in 2007 that if their criminal statutes didn't outlaw the denial or trivializing of genocide, it should -- and recommended a minimum sentence of 1 to 3 years, indicating propagating hate should be one of the rare cases when freedom of speech becomes "yelling fire in a crowded theatre."

It took the Vatican 400 years to exonerate Galileo. As a Catholic, I have to ask how long it will take to unseal the secret archives dealing with its true wartime role and how much of a role it played in turning a blind eye to atrocities right in Rome as well as in the rest of Europe. Ratzinger's about face is welcome, as was his turnaround on the sex abuse scandal after he became Pope, but like the other it doesn't go near far enough.

As I've pointed out a couple of times, the Vatican is one of three non EU states that mints Euro coins (the others being Monaco and San Marino) and like the other microstates they make a "mint" selling the very low circulation coins well above face value. I doubt the Eurozone countries will kick the Vatican out of the grouping (what currency would it use then -- the lira is spent) but this pushback is long overdue; at least it got a measured response for the first time in ages. They need to keep pushing back if the separation of church and state will mean anything and there's no better place to start than standing up for God's Chosen People, the Jews.

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uranowski said...

Two comments:

1. Galileo was actually a jerk who didn't like the Pope. The Church was o.k. with his work but wanted to discuss the theological implications before releasing it. He was just impatient.

2. Pope Pius XII did not ignore atrocities during WWII he actually let Jews take refuge in the Vatican and other Vatican controlled areas in Italy. Time magazine credited Pius XII and the Catholic Church for "fighting totalitarianism more knowingly, devoutly, and authoritatively, and for a longer time, than any other organized power."

BlastFurnace said...

I'm not denying Pacelli did a lot of good during the war, but there are a lot of questions about what he didn't do. The Church signed a concordat with Hitler that pretty much guaranteed that the Vatican would look the other way.

It was well known inside government and Church circles what Hitler's true agenda was, but Vatican Radio -- the one broadcaster with nothing to lose by saying there was a Holocaust going on -- didn't until 1943.

It's only fair to ask why; millions could have been saved sooner if the world knew what was going on.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the ratlines. The Vatican basically facilitated escape for a lot of Nazi war criminals, mainly to South America, soon after the war's end. Some of them also went to the newly formed CIA, to teach them "interrogation techniques" (i.e. TORTURE.) They also wound up working for a lot of the CIA's installed dictators down there--again, as torturers and secret police officers.

There's actually a book called Ratlines that explains how the process worked. I forget who wrote it, but google the word sometime and you'll probably find it.