On October 3, 1998, Pope John Paul II beatified Alojzije Cardinal Stepinac at the national shrine of Marija Bistrica in front of 500,000 Croats.1 The next step was canonization. On February 10, 2014, the memorial of Blessed Stepinac, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, announced that the canonization was possible in the year 2015 during the Eucharistic celebration over which he presided at St. Jerome’s church in Rome.2 What looked like a sure thing in 1998, however, never happened, and why it never happened has become an object of intense speculation and discussion ever since.
The Croats, as we have come to expect, blamed the Serbs, largely because Pope Francis convoked “a commission of Catholic and Orthodox leaders,” under the presidency of a representative of the Holy See, to examine the wartime record of Blessed Aloysius. Pope Francis established the commission in “May 2016 after receiving a letter from the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej, who stated his opposition to the cardinal’s canonization.”3 Instead of coming to an agreement on the life of one of the most heroic figures in the post-World War II Church in eastern Europe, the commission concluded its work within the foreseen time frame of one year, it terminated its investigation in the summer of 2017 without reaching any results “agreeing to disagree about the Croatian cardinal’s cause for canonization.”4
When Pope Francis was asked about Stepinac on his return from Bulgaria on March 17, 2019,5 he replied:
The canonization of Stepinac is a historic case. He is a virtuous man for this Church, which has proclaimed him Blessed, you can pray [through his intercession]. But at a certain moment of the canonization process there are unclear points, historic points, and I should sign the canonization, it is my responsibility, I prayed, I reflected, I asked advice, and I saw that I should ask Irinej, a great patriarch, for help. We made a historic commission together and we worked together, and both Irinej and I are interested in the truth. Who is helped by a declaration of sanctity if the truth is not clear? We know that [Stepinac] was a good man, but to make this step I looked for the help of Irinej and they are studying. First of all, the commission was set up and gave its opinion. They are studying other sources, deepening some points so that the truth is clear. I am not afraid of the truth, I am not afraid. I am afraid of the judgment of God.6
As in so many instances lately, Pope Francis once again spread confusion in the very act of making a clarification. If Stepinac’s life is an example of heroic virtue, as Pope John Paul II claimed, what’s holding back the canonization? Or is he, as the pope says, “a virtuous man for this church” alone? And if so, what does that mean? At what point did his status become unclear after his beatification? Shouldn’t the committee which approved his beatification have looked into unclear, historic points before beatifying him? Or are we talking about the difference between John Paul II, who like Stepinac lived under both Nazi and Communist rule, and Francis, who experienced neither? According to Matija Stahan, the Serbs presented no new evidence and Irinej made use of sources that have “perpetuated allegations fabricated by the Yugoslav government after World War II to remove Stepinac from the public as a symbol of Christianity and Croatian patriotism.”7 As proof that Stepinac was not guilty of the crimes which Patriarch Irinej laid at his feet, Stahan cites evidence from Stepinac: His life and Time by Robin Harris, who refers to the campaign to defame Stepinac as the “project”:
That project—as Stepinac himself well understood—meant that, in practice, the Yugoslav Communist Party and elements within the Serbian Orthodox Church, which otherwise had nothing in common, shared a joint goal. This consisted of demonizing the Catholic Church (to which nearly all Croats belonged) and the Croatian nation (which numerically, culturally and economically was, alone, in a position to challenge Serbian supremacy). The existence of this unholy and unspoken combination helps explain why the black legend against Stepinac was so persistent and its promotion so effective.8
The bland tone we have come to expect from press releases issued by official Vatican commissions failed to allay the outrage and betrayal Catholic Croats felt at the hand of the Vatican. Catholics had been suspicious of the commission from its inception. In 2016, Professor Ronald J. Rychlak, who has written about Pope Pius XII, whose canonization had been stalled by the Vatican for lack of a miracle—even though he had been proclaimed “venerabilis” in 2009—announced that the Serbian case against Stepinac was “a false narrative created by Soviet agents.”9
Stepinac’s sermons were “prohibited … from being published, because they were so strong against the Ustashe,” Rychlak said. Instead, his words were secretly printed and circulated and occasionally broadcast over the radio. He also severely condemned the Ustashe’s destruction of Zagreb’s main synagogue in 1941 and in an October 1943 homily, the archbishop condemned notions of racial superiority.
Robin Harris’s 2016 biography of Stepinac joined the chorus of outrage which Rychlak articulated in the same year. Stepinac, according to Harris, was the victim of a Serbian-Communist conspiracy. His show trial was Serbian payback for the show trial of Draza Mihailovic, the Serbian leader of the guerilla group known as the Chetniks, to whom Harris attributes war crimes of the same magnitude as those committed by the Ustashe, the Croatian fascist state. “The stoking of hatred against the Catholic Church remained a means of keeping the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serb nationalists sympathetic to the regime. Tito, under pressure from the Americans, would later justify his reluctance to free Stepinac by referring directly to Serbian Orthodox sensitivities.”10 According to Harris, the controversy which surrounded the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac in 2016 can be laid directly at the feet of the Communists, who “had systematically played on Serbian desires for revenge by knowingly exaggerating Catholic Croat misdeeds.”11
Serbian nationalism may be responsible for slandering Stepinac’s memory in the former Yugoslavia, but Harris attributes the ongoing animus against Stepinac abroad which stalled his canonization to “propaganda from Communist circles.”12 “Lenin’s imitators in Yugoslavia,” Harris continues “have, indeed, found plenty of ‘useful idiots’ in the West, though the idiocy is often concealed behind a veil of erudition.”13
It is worth noting that Harris wrote these lines 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and 36 years after the death of Tito. To say that “Lenin’s imitators” were hard at work in the West stalling Stepinac’s canonization in 2017 is nothing short of preposterous, but the fact that Harris made the claim is a significant lead and needs to be examined more closely in order to discover the true identity of the group which is hiding behind the cover of a now defunct communism.
Harris spends a lot of time defending Stepinac’s actions during the war by rebutting the allegations of writers like John Cornwell, who claimed that “priests, invariably Franciscans, took a leading part in the massacres”14 of Serbs at concentration camps like Jasenovac, where a renegade Franciscan who came to be known as Brother Satan engaged in the slaughter, but only after he had been excommunicated by the Church as soon as they found out what he was doing.
Harris marshals enough evidence to make a convincing case that Stepinac had nothing to do with the persecution of Serbs, Jews, or Gypsies that took place under the Ustashe, and that he did whatever was in his power to denounce those atrocities and come to the aid of those whom he could help once the situation became clear. Stepinac wrote to the Poglavnik, Ante Pavelic, when the Ustashe murdered 260 Serbs without a court hearing or investigation.15 Stepinac was so vocal that the Gestapo in Graz complained about “help for Jews organized by ‘the anti-German Croatian Archbishop, Dr. Alojzije Stepinac.”16
When the Croatian Novelist Mile Budak, one of the chief ideologues of the Ustashe regime, attacked Communism, Stepinac gave Budak his support, but when Budak later endorsed Ustashe atrocities, Stepinac parted company with him and defended the Catholic clergy as patriotic in the true sense of the word because they rejected the “evil idea of pagan nationalism as it appeared in Germany.”17 Stepinac distinguished between the Catholic understanding of race and the ideology that was being forced on them by what called itself a Catholic government, by citing two ideas for specific condemnation, namely:
“We are and we remain the offspring of wolves and lions,” and “Peace-making must be destroyed, and a new route taken from the past.” That kind of revolutionary paganism was, of course, what he had warned against in his earlier conversation with Budak in August 1940, and now he urged the contrary—quoting the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”18
Stepinac staunchly maintained the universal nature of the Catholic Church:
The members of that race can have a higher or lower level of culture, can be white or black, can be divided by oceans, can live at the North or the South Pole, but essentially they remain the race which comes from God, and which must serve God according to the norms of the natural law and the positive law of God, written in the hearts and souls of men, and manifested through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the ruler of all nations. All of them without distinction, whether members of the race of Gypsies or any other, be they blacks or polished Europeans, be they hated Jews or proud Aryans—they all equally have the right to say: ‘Our Father, Who art in Heaven!’ And if God has granted to all of them that right, what earthly authority can deny it? All nations, without distinction as to names, equally have the duty to say: ‘And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us!’
Therefore, the Catholic Church has always condemned, and condemns today, every injustice and violence which is committed in the name of theories of class, race or nationality.19
But, at the same time, when Stepinac proclaimed the universality of the Catholic Church, he did so as, to use the words he attributed to Pope Pius XII, the “defender of small and weak nations”20 like Croatia, which found itself in a very difficult situation in 1943 when he preached the homily that used those words. Stepinac believed in the universality of the Catholic Church but the man who held those beliefs was also a Croatian patriot who felt that the NDH was the most pro-Catholic regime in recent history and as such deserving the support of the Croatian people.
Harris does a good job of refuting Irinej’s claim that Stepinac “did not want to hear the children’s cry” as they were led off to concentration camps, but the real issue lies outside the discussion. Like Harris, Stahan, writing for Crisis, defends Stepinac’s war record. There is ample evidence showing that Stepinac was not reluctant to intervene when he was aware of what was going on. The issue seems to lie elsewhere, not with his actions during the war but with what he did before the war when the Ustashe came to power in Yugoslavia.
Stepinac was a Croatian patriot, and as such he supported the NDH to the extent that they fostered the good of the Croatian nation. The crucial issue, in other words, is Stepinac’s attitude toward the Ustashe before the war, not after the war had begun and the atrocities at places like Jasenovac perpetrated by Fra Satana took place.
Like the famous Dominican Thomist Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange in France, who claimed that the Petain regime was the most pro-Catholic government in France since the French Revolution, Stepinac welcomed the Ustashe’s efforts in combatting pornography and abortion, crimes which he attributed to Jews and Serbs. In response to what he saw as the defamation of a heroic figure in Croatian history who stood up to both the fascists and the communists, Sasa Kosanovic wrote:
Stepinac claims that violence is only a response to the persecution of Croats in the interwar period and emphasizes that the NDH is fighting against abortion and pornography. According to him, Jews and Serbs are responsible for both. According to Stepinac, the NDH introduced religious education in schools, banned swearing, fought against communists and Freemasons, increased the salaries of priests, and built churches, so the Church responded to this expression of goodwill with the same measure.
In a letter to Cardinal Maglione written on May 24, 1943, Stepinac explained why he supported the NDH:
There was talk of 20,000 abortions a year, while good Catholic doctors told me that the number was closer to 60,000. The evil of abortion grew in such a way that I had to write a letter to the doctors, warning them of the responsibility before God for those crimes. But the schismatic government in Belgrade did nothing to stop the advance of this evil in Croatia, because it is inspired primarily by Jewish and Orthodox doctors. . . . This Croatian government has strictly forbidden all pornographic publications that also were run by the Jews and the orthodox.21
Evidence of the existence of pornography in Serbia came to light on July 2, 2015, when Biljana Marinkovic published an article on vintage erotica which she found in a Serbian farmers’ market.22 Many of the pictures, which were posted on Tumblr, clearly date to the period before World War II.
On December 7, 1935, Archbishop Stepinac wrote a letter to the prime minister in Belgrade complaining about Krokodil, a “pornographic magazine” that was being printed in Belgrade using the Latin alphabet, as opposed to the Cyrillic which would have been the normal standard for magazines published in that city.23 Stepinac demanded that action be taken banning the magazine because so far “it seems that nothing has been done . . . to end this horrendous evil of spreading immoral publications . . . although the law is clear.”Acting on his own, Stepinac had gotten Love Messenger banned in Zagreb, but, based on the evidence he had already mentioned, he felt that the source of this material was not within his diocese. “What is the point” of banning material in Zagreb, “when now we have a publication sent to us from Belgrade that appears to be specifically made for outside regions, since it is not distributed in Belgrade.” Stepinac concluded that Catholics were being specifically targeted by this material because Croatian versions of the words were used inside, like the Croatian names for months instead of the Serbian names which would be used if the magazine were intended for a Serbian audience. Stepinac concluded his letter by saying that the country would fall to communism if the moral subversion of young people in Yugoslavia wasn’t halted:
Is it even possible under these circumstances to fight against communism that is spreading like a menace everywhere when all kinds of obstacles are put in place to hinder the actions of the Church? Who will save the corrupt youth from communism? And when we –in the name of morals and of the Church raise our voice about all the evil that is spreading –then the same press that is growing, and is disseminating evil around –is hitting at us with all kinds of suspicions and slander. Mister Prime Minister –evil and immoral press is an unspeakable evil for our people and our state. Our Law in that regard is clear and unambiguous. I am asking you that –with your own authority, and thru the Central Pressburo that is subordinated to you –most energetically stand in the way of –not only this pornographic publication, but also to all press, that is now indirectly, but openly spreading immorality among citizens, that –if they become morally corrupt –could easily fall into the arms of communism.24
Pornography in the form of films produced in Vienna by Johann Schwarzer, who founded Saturn Films in 1906, became extremely popular in Europe and began appearing in Croatian coastal cities like Rijeka before World War I.25 Saturn Films went out of business in 1911 after the Imperial Court of the Austro-Hungarian Empire banned further production to hinder the spread of immorality. In 1911, the Romanian Jew Bernard Natan was convicted of making pornographic films in France for Pathe films but the conviction failed to put an end to pornography production there as Natan went on to produce at least 20 hardcore films between 1920 and 1927.26 By the 1930s, these films, as Stepinac pointed out, had been weaponized by a cabal of Serbs and Jews to undermine the morals of Yugoslavia’s Catholic population. After the Ustashe came to power in Yugoslavia, Stepinac praised their efforts to rein in what he was calling Jewish-Serbian promotion of pornography and abortion.
A new version of that Serbian-Jewish alliance is now working against the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac, and the cardinal’s defenders don’t want to bring it up because of a tacit consensus among Catholics that any mention of Jewish involvement in anything immoral or illegal can be construed as anti-Semitism. Unlike an arcane topic like Jewish involvement in the history of pornography in Yugoslavia, Jewish influence over the Church’s canonization proceedings is easier to discern. On February 16, 2017, as the joint Serb-Croat commission was wrestling with Stepinac’s legacy, “Nazi Hunter” Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Israel and Eastern Europe office, announced in an interview on Radio-Television Vojvodina that it would be “a religious tragedy” if Stepinac were canonized because “It is quite clear, and 100 per cent true that the Catholic Bishop Alojzije Stepinac was close to the [fascist] Ustasa regime of the Independent Croatian State [NDH]. He never spoke out against the system and didn’t condemn its crimes. . . .” Zuroff went on to criticize Croatian authorities for honoring Stepinac “by naming streets after him or erecting monuments to him, as they did in the eastern city of Osijek last week. . . . “I tried to draw the attention of the authorities in Zagreb not to do so, but there’s no justice nor truth,” he said.27
In light of that influence, Harris’s preposterous claim about “Lenin’s imitators” becomes understandable as a code word for Jews, a group which was notable by its absence from Harris’s book but which was active in waging jihad in the culture wars surrounding the canonization conflict. Jews masquerading as communists were active in slandering Stepinac during the period of Tito’s show trials. Avro Manhattan (1914-1990) was a Jew and a notorious anti-Catholic who was a friend of renegade Catholic priest Viktor Novak (1889-1977), the main author of Magnum Crimen, the main source of the slanders that were levelled against Stepinac and the Catholic Church during Tito’s show trial.
That legacy has continued to this day.
Unlike Harris, Crisis condemns “The inclusion of a non-Catholic religious leader in the process of proclaiming a Catholic saint” as “virtually unprecedented,”28 but in doing so they neglect the main group which has been granted the right to interfere in virtually every canonization process since at least 2005 when the canonization process for French priest Leon Gustave Dehon (1823-1925) was derailed in a manner almost identical to what happened to Cardinal Stepinac. Ever since 2005, when the canonization of Father Dehon was put on hold, Jews have had veto power over who gets to be named a saint in the Catholic Church. Dehon’s case followed virtually the same trajectory as Stepinac’s. Pope John Paul II declared Dehon venerable on March 8, 1997, “confirming that the late priest had lived a life of heroic virtue.”29 A miracle involving the healing of the electrician Geraldo Marchado da Silva from a grave case of peritionitis on June 1, 1954 was approved on November 21, 2003, confirming that the miracle came after Dehon’s intercession was invoked.30
At this point, the Jews began to raise their objections, claiming that Dehon expressed anti-Semitic views in his writings. According to extracts from an article published in the French newspaper La Croix, Dehon claimed that Jews were “thirsty for gold,” that Jews’ “lust for money is a racial instinct in them,” and that the Talmud is “a manual for the bandit, the corrupter, and social destroyer.”31 Dehon also suggested that Jews wear special markings and that they be excluded from land ownership and teaching positions.
Even if we accept La Croix’s claims at face value, problems arise in evaluating the claims. The term “racial instinct” needs clarification because taken in a certain sense it contradicts the consensus of Dehon’s contemporaries, including Stepinac. As for the other claims, they are either insignificant or part of the constant teaching of the Catholic Church up to that time. Sicut Iudeis non clearly stated that Jews should be denied teaching positions in any Christian country and that Catholic girls should not work as maids in Jewish homes. Popes reiterated this position in letters to Poland, where the admonition was routinely ignored. Heinrich Graetz, the father of Jewish historiography, argued that Polish Jews were corrupted by their study of the Talmud, giving credence to the claim that it was “a manual for the bandit, the corrupter, and social destroyer.”
The best indication that Dehon was in line with Catholic teaching on the Jews was the publication of the three-part series on the Jewish Question which appeared in Civilta Cattolica over the fall of 1890. The fact that that article, published in the official journal of the Vatican, referred to the “voracious octopus of Judaism” is one more indication that Jewish lust for money and thirst for gold were part of the Catholic patrimony concerning their understanding of the Jewish question, and it is clear that Catholic prelates who were vocal in their opposition to the racial ideology at the heart of National Socialism shared it. It is also clear that Pope John Paul II, who also suffered under both communism and fascism, understood it as well and that he was not going to sacrifice people like Stepinac and Dehon to a Jewish distortion of the historical record.
That situation in the Church changed when Pope John Paul II died and he was succeeded on the throne of Peter by his former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger. Because Ratzinger was a German, and worse, had actually served in the Wehrmacht during World War II, albeit as a teenager in a unit which had no military significance, Pope Benedict XVI, was blackmailable, in a certain sense, simply because he was a German, because according to contemporary parlance all Germans were Nazis until proven otherwise, and the point of German existence after World War II was to prove innocence by works of supererogation like reparations payments and throwing fellow Catholics under the bus, which is what Ratzinger did with Dehon. To make matters worse, Ratzinger had been exposed to a ruthless form of social engineering at the hands of Jewish American psychological warfare experts like David Mardechai Levy which sought to instill collective guilt in the German people through the systematic corruption of their morals. The main vehicle of that corruption was pornography, which, as Stepinac had pointed out, was a Jewish phenomenon. Instead of joining the battle against “Schmutz und Schund,” Ratzinger’s generation of German clergy internalized the commands of their oppressors and began to apply those commands to anyone who came up for canonization. Given the widespread consensus which the Church shared on the Jewish Question up to World War II, that meant anyone born during the last half of the 19th century would run into problems.
Ratzinger got wind of the Dehon issue while still prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when he received an urgent letter from Jean-Marie Lustiger, the formerly Jewish Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, expressing alarm at Dehon’s writings and asking Ratzinger to put the canonization on hold. When the French government said that it would not send a representative to the beatification if it went ahead, Ratzinger capitulated and “ordered an urgent re-examination of Dehon’s writings.”32 Shortly thereafter, Ratzinger “resigned” from his job as pope. According to a Croatian language news report:
Benedict’s resignation was caused by the shame that broke out when the Bank of Italy blocked ATMs in the Vatican on New Year’s Eve. It was the last straw in a glass already full as the cardinal commission on the Vatileaks affair a week earlier, on Christmas Day, delivered to Benedict XVI a report on the investigation among the cardinals and prelates. The journalist believes and claims that the former Pope did not have any effective weapon against thieves, except himself: by renouncing his duty, he hoped to start an avalanche.
Ratzinger’s resignation from the papacy passed the problem on to Pope Francis, who tried to deal with the case of “the almost beatified Dehon” by introducing a form of historical relativism into the canonization process, claiming that the priest’s attitudes needed to be viewed in their historical context, rather than wondering why the historical context had changed and, more importantly, who changed it.
Ratzinger’s weakness manifested itself in other ways as well. He never stopped being the German professor, publishing books simultaneously as pope and under his own name in a scandalous break with tradition. The curia was happy to humor Ratzinger’s fantasies as long as he left them alone to use the IOR as their own personal ATM machine. Ratzinger opted to resign when he realized that he could not reform the financial corruption at the heart of the curia, leaving that problem to his successor Pope Francis, who dealt with it in his own way.
For years now every canonization proceeding has been held hostage to Jewish interests, which now have veto power over who gets to be named a saint. Members of the order which Dehon founded were left to make a virtue of necessity. They did this by internalizing the commands of their oppressors and reconciling themselves to the fact that their almost saintly founder was in reality a wicked anti-Semite. Confronted with the fact that in his 1898 Social Catechism, Father Dehon wrote that Jewish people “willingly favor all the enemies of the church,”33 Father Jose Carlos Brinon, a Spanish priest who had been charged with promulgating Father Dehon’s cause, said: “Of course I would like to see Leon Dehon beatified, but not at the cost of our friendship with the Jewish people.”34
As my reference to Garrigou-Lagrange indicates, Stepinac was no different in his views than virtually every other prominent Catholic in Europe at the time, all of whom saw Bolshevism as a Jewish phenomenon that all Christians needed to resist. Joseph I. Breen’s comments about the pernicious effect Hollywood’s Jews were having in America is just one example of this widely shared consensus. Breen, the first man in charge of the Hollywood Production code saw the battle over the sexualization of American culture issue in essentially ethnic terms as well. “Ninety-five percent of these folks,” he wrote describing the Hollywood moguls of the 1930s, “are Jews of an Eastern European lineage. They are, probably, the scum of the earth. . . . These Jews seem to think of nothing but money making and sexual indulgence. The vilest kind of sin is a common indulgence hereabouts, and the men and the women who engage in this sort of business are the men and women who decide what the film fare of the nation is supposed to be.”35
Breen saw the sexualization issue in ethnic terms because that is how everyone else saw it too, including the Jews of that era. Leo Pfeffer, lawyer for the American Jewish Committee and strategist for a number of key Supreme Court decisions, from Schempp v. Abington School Board to Lemon v. Kurtzman, decisions which effectively defined the cultural revolution of the ’60s, noted the same ethnic divide over the sexualization of the culture in one of his memoirs. “After World War I,” he wrote, “Irish-oriented American Catholicism began taking over leadership in anti-obscenity militancy. Catholic organizations such as the National Office for Decent Literature and the national Legion of Decency . . . became the nations’ most militant and effective defender of morals and censorship.” As a result, America’s Catholics came into cultural conflict with the Jews who promoted the sexualization of American culture. “American Jewry,” according to Pfeffer, supported that sexualization “because many Jews, far more proportionately than the other faiths, are commercially and professionally involved in the cinema and publishing.”
The situation in eastern Europe during the 1930s was no different. On February 29, 1936, shortly after the American Bishops imposed the production code on Hollywood, Agustin Cardinal Hlond, the primate of Poland, issued a pastoral letter on morals, in which he claimed that the Jews were having a similarly corrupting influence on Polish Catholics. “It is true,” Hlond wrote, “that Jews . . . have a corruptive influence on morals, and that their publishing houses are spreading pornography . . .” This part of his pastoral letter is invariably quoted as proof of Hlond’s “anti-Semitism,” but no mention is made of what follows because instead of spouting racial ideology Hlond’s pastoral letter is a classic instance of the two part teaching on the Jews that goes by the name of “Sicut Iudeis non . . .” which states 1) that no one may harm the Jew, but 2) that no Jew has the right to subvert the faith or morals of a Christian nation.
In a passage which never gets quoted by those who are determined to accuse him of anti-Semitism, Hlond went on to say that:
So long as Jews remain Jews, a Jewish problem exists and will continue to exist. This question varies in intensity and degree from country to country. It is especially difficult in our country, and ought to be the object of serious consideration. I shall touch briefly here on its moral aspects in connection with the situation today. It is a fact that Jews are waging war against the Catholic Church, that they are steeped in free-thinking and constitute the vanguard of atheism, the Bolshevik movement, and revolutionary activity. It is a fact that Jews have a corruptive influence on morals, and that their publishing houses are spreading pornography. It is true that Jews are perpetrating fraud, practicing usury, and dealing in prostitution. It is true that, from a religious and ethical point of view, Jewish youth are having a negative influence on the Catholic youth in our schools. But let us be fair. Not all Jews are this way. There are very many Jews who are believers, honest, just, kind, and philanthropic. There is a healthy, edifying sense of family in very many Jewish homes. We know Jews who are ethically outstanding, noble, and upright. I warn against that moral stance, imported from abroad [he is clearly thinking of Germany] that is basically and ruthlessly anti-Jewish. It is contrary to Catholic ethics. One may love one’s own nation more, but one may not hate anyone. Not even Jews. It is good to prefer your own kind when shopping, to avoid Jewish stores and Jewish stalls in the marketplace, but it is forbidden to demolish a Jewish store, damage their merchandise, break windows, or throw things at their homes. One should stay away from the harmful moral influence of Jews, keep away from their anti-Christian culture, and especially boycott the Jewish press and demoralizing Jewish publications. But it is forbidden to assault, beat up, maim, or slander Jews. One should honor Jews as human beings and neighbors, even though we do not honor the indescribable tragedy of that nation, which was the guardian of the idea of the Messiah and from which was born the Savior. When divine mercy enlightens a Jew to sincerely accept his and our Messiah, let us greet him into our Christian ranks with joy. Beware of those who are inciting anti-Jewish violence. They are serving a bad cause. Do you know who is giving the orders? Do you know who is intent on these riots? No good comes from these rash actions. And it is Polish blood that is sometimes being shed at them.36
Even closer to Stepinac’s position was the situation of Cardinal Clemens Auguste Graf von Galen, who, as bishop of Muenster, defied Hitler’s racial ideology in his own country. Like Stepinac, Cardinal Graf von Galen was a patriot who supported a regime which he saw as the antidote to Jewish Bolshevism, which meant that he gave his support to the German invasion of the Soviet Union. When Hitler tried to impose his racial ideology on Germany’s Catholics, however, Graf von Galen rejected the attempt in no uncertain terms, gaining the undying ire of Hitler, who promised to settle this score after the war.
Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen was another example of the same attitude which Stepinac manifested toward the Jews. According to the file on Graf von Galen at the Israeli holocaust memorial Yad Vashem:
(1878–1946), the German Catholic archbishop who was one of the most outstanding Catholic opponents of Nazism and Adolf Hitler. When the Nazis rose to national power in Germany in 1933, Galen pledged his allegiance to them, in the hope that they would win back the country’s honor, which had been lost during World War I. However, he changed his mind after discovering the Nazis’ anti-Catholic propaganda campaign, and after reading The Myth of the Twentieth Century by chief Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg. Galen immediately denounced the book for its pagan, racist, and anti-Catholic content. Galen’s most famous anti-Nazi action was his condemning of the Euthanasia Program as clear-cut murder in a sermon he delivered on August 3, 1941. Some scholars believe that Galen’s very public denunciation led Hitler to abandon the “mercy killings” of the mentally ill, aged, disabled, homosexuals, and others. Even so, Galen’s opposition was considered an act of treason, and he was only saved from execution because Hitler did not want to risk a public battle with the Catholic church.37
Determined to be more Catholic than the pope, or in this instance, more anti-anti-Semitic than Yad Vashem, Wikipedia concludes its entry with a version argumentum ad silentium which has been the standard form of Jewish calumny ever since Rolf Hochhuth used it against Pope Pius XII in his 1963 play Der Stellvertreter:
Despite Galen’s opposition to National Socialism, he nonetheless believed Germany was the last bulwark against the spread of godless Bolshevism. Parts of a sermon he gave in 1943 were used by the Nazis to aid in the enlistment of Dutch men to voluntarily join the SS. Galen feared that German Catholics were being relegated to second-class status in Hitler’s Germany and believed Hitler was missing the point that the Catholic Church and the state could be aligned against Bolshevism. Galen’s selective opposition to elements of National Socialism never amounted to solidarity with excluded groups such as the Jews, and while he spoke out against the euthanasia project he was silent on other issues such as the roundup, deportation and mass murder of Jews.38
Like Stepinac, Bishop Graf von Galen was beatified but never canonized. To his credit, Pope Benedict XVI officiated at Graf von Galen’s beatification ceremony on October 9, 2005. Unlike the case of Stepinac, we know that the Serbs were not responsible for derailing his canonization. The Wikipedia entry we cited above gives some indication who was responsible.
Were Cardinals Hlond, Graf von Galen and Stepinac anti-Semites? The answer is no. Each man in his own way was a patriot in his own country trying to maintain a balance between patriotism and resistance when his government attempted to impose alien racial concepts on the Catholic faithful. The term anti-Semitism was popularized by the German revolutionary Wilhelm Marr in his book Der Sieg des Judentums ueber das Germanentum, a book published in 1879. Anti-Semitism is by definition a racial ideology. It claims that Jews were condemned to antisocial behavior by their DNA.
When Cardinal Hlond wrote the sentence, “When divine mercy enlightens a Jew to sincerely accept his and our Messiah, let us greet him into our Christian ranks with joy,” he was not expressing racial hatred; he was expressing the opposite of anti-Semitism. He was in fact preaching the gospel, which states that Jews can be saved, in spite of the role they played in killing Christ and rejecting the Logos, if they accept Baptism. This is what St. Peter said to the Jews of Jerusalem at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, it is what we need to say today if we hope to be successful in our crusade against the ongoing sexualization of our culture in general and things like pornography and sex education in particular.
In the summer of 2017, the joint Serb-Croat commission kicked the ball back into the pope’s court. Before beginning, it was agreed that the commission would work for only one year, that there would be six meetings in total, the first and last in the Vatican, while the other four were to alternate between Catholic and Orthodox centers. The Commission concluded that “various events, speeches, writings, silences, and views are still subject to different interpretations. In the case of Cardinal Stepinac, the interpretations that were predominantly given by Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs remain divergent.”
To claim that the ball was back in Pope Francis’s court ignores the fact that the pope relies on underlings in the Vatican bureaucracy to make things happen, and that the same underlings had driven Ratzinger from the papacy when he was Pope Benedict XVI and had tried to reign in their financial malfeasance. In this instance, the man who received the decision of the Serb-Croat commission and relayed it to the pope was Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, a man who was heavily involved in the Balkans on another matter of importance in the former Yugoslavia, along with Cardinals Ouellet, Schoenborn, Herranz, Tomko, and others.
On February 11, 2017, Cardinal Parolin issued a press communiqué regarding the appointment of a special envoy for Medjugorje.39 On November 1, 2017, four months after the expected conclusion of the joint Serb-Croat commission on the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac, Parolin held a press conference in the Great Hall of the Croatian Catholic University of Zagreb, announcing a change of policy with regard to Medjugorje, the village in Bosnia-Herzegovina which has been the site of alleged Marian apparitions since 1981. Parolin began his statement by referring to an encounter on his flight from Rome to Split with a “big group of pilgrims who were traveling to Medjugorje” who expressed “great interest” in the alleged apparitions. “As far as I know,” Parolin continued:
there was a great gathering for the youth held this summer in that place. You know that the Commission for Naturally, when it comes to the supernatural character of the events in Medjugorje, investigation of this phenomenon was established and this Commission filed and submitted their results to the Holy Father. At the same time there is the whole issue regarding pastoral care taking place in Medjugorje, which is of the highest interest at the moment considering the number of pilgrims who are coming there. Therefore, it was the desire of the Holy See to help regulate that phenomenon, so all faithful who are coming to Medjugorje could listen to the Word of God, celebrate the sacraments, and thus have an authentic experience of faith. Archbishop Hoser was recently appointed for that purpose, precisely so that he could study the issue of pastoral care at the site and inform the Holy See about the situation, but again I am emphasizing it was all with the purpose of responding to the challenges of the pastoral care. The goal was to gather as much information as possible and see which would be the following step in that matter to be undertaken.40
Evoking the needs of pilgrims allowed his eminence to sidestep all of the embarrassing facts surrounding the “apparitions” themselves and focus on pastoral concerns instead, in what was a classic example of misdirection. During a period of time which stretched from March 28, 2017 to September 13, 2020, Hoser met with Peric, the ordinary of the Diocese of Mostar in which Medjugorje is located, a total of eight times. During those meetings, Hoser most certainly discovered that Peric had condemned the “apparitions” as a fraud, as his predecessor Pavao Zanic had done, and that neither ordinary had changed his mind—not Zanic before his death, and not Peric before his retirement in the summer of 2020.
In a statement which can be found on the official website of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, Peric explained in no uncertain terms, “The position of this Chancery throughout all this time has been clear and resolute: this is not an authentic apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”41
In its rush to respond to “the challenges of pastoral care,” the Vatican ignored a trail of sexual scandal that had swollen to flood-like proportions over the almost 40 years since the “apparitions” began. That flood of sexual scandal found its culmination in the fall of 2020 when Tomislav Vlasic, the man who had manipulated the seers into saying what he wanted them to say, was excommunicated, years after being defrocked, for continuing to engage in the same sexual and spiritual manipulation which had created Medjugorje in the first place. In the mid-1970s, Vlasic had fathered an illegitimate child with Manda Kozul, who was a Franciscan nun at the time. Vlasic’s troubled conscience led him to fasten himself to the children’s tales of the Gospa as some sort of exoneration of the guilt he felt for abandoning Kozul and the child he had fathered with her.
In the late 1980s, Vlasic pressured “seer” Marija Pavlovic into claiming that the Blessed Mother had endorsed Vlasic’s non-canonical charismatic community in Parma. When presented with evidence of Vlasic’s illegitimate child, Pavlovic quickly retracted the Blessed Mother’s endorsement and said she made the claim only after Vlasic had pressured her into doing so. Manipulation of this sort automatically disqualified the apparitions according the criteria established in the 18th century by Pope Benedict XIV, but these criteria were ignored by both the Ruini commission, which claimed that the first seven apparitions were authentic (as opposed to the other 70,000 which were not) and by Archbishop Hoser and Cardinal Parolin, who favor pastoral concerns over the truth.
Both Bishop Pavao Zanic, who was the first to expose the “seers’” lies and the manipulations of Vlasic and Zovko, and his successor Ratko Peric were true spiritual heirs of Cardinal Stepinac. Both Zanic and Peric fought heroically against the fraudulent apparitions in Medjugorje. For their pains, they have been left twisting in the wind by three successive popes who seem more interested in geopolitics at best and financial chicanery at worst than in the simple truth.
When I met with Bishop Zanic at the chancery office in Mostar in 1988, he told me that he had just returned from Rome, where he had explained the situation to Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II.
“What did Ratzinger say,” I asked in German to a translator who relayed the message to Zanic in Croatian.
“Ratzinger agreed with me.”
“And what did the pope say?”
“The pope said nothing,” Zanic replied.
We now know why. One year later, the Berlin Wall fell, and two years after that the Soviet Union collapsed. Pope John Paul II had collaborated with Ronald Reagan to bring about the fall of Communism, and he wasn’t going to queer the deal by discrediting what was in effect Solidarnosz South in the grand climactic battle of the war against Communism. But, to his credit, Pope John Paul II wasn’t going to endorse Medjugorje either, which is more than we can say about Pope Francis, who started off by saying the Gospa wasn’t a mailman who delivered messages on a daily basis, but ended up sending the Pole Hoser to Medjugorje to take care of pilgrims, which was a euphemistic way of telling him to secure the religious ATM machine that the Bosnian-Herzogovinian village had become.
Medjugorje may have been a bulwark against communism in the 1980s, but by the dawn of the 21st century, it had become a high-powered money laundering operation, in addition to the cesspool of sexual vice and religious fraud that it had always been. I know this because I received the information from a member of the Bosnian parliament who is trying to put an end to the mountain of deception that Medjugorje has become. The money laundering operation operates on deceptive but fairly simple terms. Medjugorje is full of Italian “charitable” organizations which have been allowed to set up operations by the local Franciscans in spite of the opposition of the local bishop. Italian businessmen make large contributions to these “charities,” receiving significant tax breaks as a result. Instead of going to any charitable purpose, the money is then used to build a gas station, or a restaurant, or a hotel to house that village’s many pilgrims, providing a cash flow which returns to its source in Italy as a handsome return on investment.
The last time I spoke with Bishop Peric, he told me that during the war which followed the break-up of Yugoslavia, the local Franciscans created the “Hercegovačka banka” or Bank of Herzegovina. One of the ten founders of that bank was Fr. Ivan Sevo, OFM, a member of the Provincial council of the Franciscan Province of Herzegovina, which had a 2.5 percent stake in the bank. The Chancery Office of the Diocese had no account or anything to do with the bank. In 2001, the international community raided the bank twice, thereby ruining it completely.
During the same period of time, financial scandals erupted at the Vatican Bank, otherwise known as the Instituto Opere Religioso or IOR. The man who emerged from the center of this network of financial corruption was Angelo Cardinal Becciu, who served under Cardinal Parolin as sostituto (or chief of staff) at the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018. Becciu was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Causes of the saints from 2018 until September 24, 2020, when Pope Francis fired him as prefect and stripped him of his prerogatives as cardinal, accusing him of “embezzlement and nepotism.”42 Shortly after the Vatican issued a warrant for his arrest, Becciu made the news again when he was accused of sending close to a million euros to Australia to suborn witnesses so that they could make false charges of child abuse against George Cardinal Pell, who was involved in Vatican finance reform.43 In his battle to bring transparency to Vatican financial dealings, Pell was an ally to Josip Cardinal Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, who was a cautious man, careful to neither affirm nor deny the authenticity of the apparitions in Medjugorje. Bozanic gave his tacit but not explicit approval to the apparitions by misrepresenting the 1990 statement of the Yugoslav Bishops’ Conference as stating “they cannot speak about the supernaturality of Medjugorje, but neither have they denied it” and totally ignoring the condemnation issued by Bishop Ratko Peric years later.
Bozanic later articulated what became Rome’s position after Bergoglio became pope when he wrote “Still today, we do not wish to give our judgment, because we do not have sufficient argument although we do not deny people the right to pray there or to go on pilgrimage. We desire that, what is given there, be a true catholic doctrine, but for Masses not to be linked to the alleged apparitions.”44 The strategists behind the Medjugorje money machine never sought approval. Instead, they promoted a wait and see policy which derailed any investigation into the facts of the situation but allowed for continued pilgrimages with the Church’s tacit approval being given in the name of pastoral care. This is precisely what happened under Pope Francis, and given the nature of Bozanic’s statements, it is difficult not to see him as the architect of the pastoral care option. Over the years, Bozanic perfected the technique of speaking out of both sides of his mouth when it came to Medjugorje. On February 22, 2004, Glas Koncila, the official newspaper of the Croatian Catholic Church, reported that Bozanic had given the following response to a question about Medjugorje asked by a student at the 7th Secondary School in Zagreb:
The Cardinal said that, as believers, we are not obliged to believe in private revelations, and that for now we cannot speak about something supernatural, but that the Church has not denied Medjugorje either. The Church, said Cardinal Bozanic, still has not sufficient argument to pronounce itself about the apparitions themselves. “We see that, in Medjugorje, people receive various graces, and this is why everything that is offered to the faithful there must be according to the Catholic doctrine”, underlined the Cardinal and added that, “as for now, nobody is obliged to believe in the apparitions of Medjugorje.”45
Bozanic’s live-and-let-live attitude ignored the lies, deception, and sexual scandals associated with the apparitions. In claiming that “the Church has not denied Medjugorje either,” Bozanic also ignored the condemnations issued by both Bishop Zanic and Bishop Peric, as well as the negative judgment which the Yugoslavian Bishops’ Conference issued in 1990. More importantly, his live-and-let-live attitude provided cover for the financial interests behind the “apparitions,” and allowed them to continue to fleece unsuspecting pilgrims. Unlike Bishop Peric of Mostar, who suspended Jozo Zovko for sexual misconduct, Cardinal Bozanic allowed Zovko, the other Franciscan who collaborated with Vlasic in fabricating the “apparitions” of the Gospa, to use the diocese of Zagreb’s Catholic TV station to promote Medjugorje. Bishop Zanic revoked Zovko’s faculties as a priest in the Diocese of Mostar in 1989. Five years later, Zanic’s successor Ratko Peric removed his faculties for hearing confession after Zovko was accused of sexually molesting several females on pilgrimage to Medjugorje, but in December 2011, Zovko found a home in the Diocese of Zagreb under Cardinal Bozanic where he is a frequent guest on the local Catholic TV station.46
Becciu, needless to say, was prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints during the crucial period when Cardinal Stepinac’s canonization got stalled. Since he was heavily involved in financial wheeling and dealing, it is more than likely that Becciu had more important things on his mind than the cause of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac.
The joint Serb-Croat commission on the canonization ended on a hopeful note:
With the conclusion of the commission, the path to the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac is fully open. The proper requisites in place, it is in the hands of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and then will go to Pope Francis for approval. It is believed the announcement of his canonization could take place soon.
Hope is a theological virtue which “springs eternal” in the human breast, but it seems totally unwarranted in the case of Cardinal Stepinac, whose cause is now caught up in the same web of Vatican intrigue and financial malfeasance which sank the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI and threatens to do the same to Pope Francis. What else can you expect when someone as sinister as Cardinal Becciu is expected to pass judgment on a heroic figure like Cardinal Stepinac? Can you expect honesty in investigating his cause or courage in defending a man who suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Communists only to have his canonization abandoned by fellow Catholic bishops who were more interested in money and good relations with the Church’s traditional enemy than in the truth? Can you expect Cardinal Parolin, the man who used pastoral concerns to save the Medjugorje money laundering operation, to guide two of the most contentious groups on the face of the earth to a consensus on one of the most contentious periods in their shared history? No, you can’t. But both Croats and Serbs should take consolation from this sad story. This was never about them. It was about the people who used their ancestral dispute as cover for their own malfeasance.