Must One Believe in the Holocaust To Be a Good Catholic?
Antifascist news sources from the New York Times to the Süddeutsche Zeitung to the Associated Press have been acting in unison of late decrying the Nazi occupation of the Vatican. From these frantic accounts, it seems that Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunication that his predecessor had placed on bishops whom maverick Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre had consecrated, in violation of papal orders. Among those from whom the ban had been lifted is an English cleric Richard Williamson, who had been a follower of the traditionalist churchman Lefebvre. As everyone must know by now, Williamson had expressed the unsettling view on Swedish television that the official account of “6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers” was probably overblown. On the basis of his investigation, or those of “serious revisionists,” Williamson had arrived at a figure of “between 200,000 and 300,000” Jewish victims of Nazism who had perished in gas chambers.
These speculations led to indignant reactions from every sensitized or sufficiently intimidated politician in Europe, starting with German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who apparently treasures the words of former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, that “Ausschwitz is the founding and legitimating narrative of the German republic.” The daughter of a progressive Protestant minister and a very socialist mother who migrated to Communist East Germany, Merkel has never played up the Christian and patriotic traditions of the Christian Democratic Party. She has been at odds with Karl Cardinal Lehmann of Mainz, who has complained about her cynical exploitation of the “Christian label,” together with her support of the cultural Left and her coddling of Muslim extremists in Germany.
All of this is undoubtedly true. Merkel has made a career out of dragging the German center-right leftward, as typified by her generous financial and propagandistic support for the German leftist educational and public relations project, “battle against the Right.” She has also made a practice of expelling or driving out of her party those who don’t seem sufficiently contrite about the uninterrupted evil of German history. Throughout her career, something for which she has generally received good grades from the American press, Merkel has been ready to unite with the anti-fascist Left. She has repeatedly shirked responsibility in dealing with the growing Muslim menace in German cities. By all indices, violent crime, punishment of those who criticize the Muslim invasion of Germany and the use of public education to instill multicultural indoctrination are at least as bad under Merkel as they were under her social democratic predecessor Gerhard Schröder. But now, at last, we are led to believe, she is speaking out on a towering issue of the day, papal insensitivity. She “does not believe” that Benedict has been willing to clarify the Vatican’s position on the Holocaust.
Presumably Merkel is once again engaging in her usual kowtowing to the media. Only the cognitively challenged would not have noticed that the Pope and the Vatican have spoken out continuously against the “horror” of Nazi crimes. A comment by the Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi that “the Pope’s thinking on the subject of the Holocaust has been expressed very clearly” is if anything an understatement. The Pope has stated his moral position on the Nazis in a synagogue, on the grounds of Ausschwitz, and in about a thousand other situations. Even the selectively obsequious Merkel must have heard what Benedict had to say about Nazi crimes.
But the Associated Press may have a better angle on this than Vatican spokesman Father Frederico: “As a young man in Germany, Benedict, then called Joseph Ratzinger, served briefly in the Hitler Youth corps.” Well that’s the real scoop! The Pope, who is busily covering up his suspicious-sounding Kraut name with some Latin moniker, is really an unrepentant Nazi. He was only helping out another Nazi by removing the properly deserved excommunication from the friend of Archbishop Lefebvre. The reason for this kindness is obvious: Like Williamson, Ratzinger has never gotten over the downfall of the Third Reich. It’s a good thing that we all live in global democratic societies. One can only imagine how biased our sources of information would be in, say, Turkey or Russia.
Did Benedict’s relation to the Third Reich reveal sympathy of any kind for Hitler’s tyranny? The answer for anyone but a raving antifascist is emphatically “no.” Neither young Ratzinger nor his pious parents, who belonged to the least Nazified party in Germany, the Center Party, had any truck with Hitler’s government. Ratzinger tried to avoid military or any other kind of involvement with the regime, but he did serve in a youth unit that aided the German civil defense against the Allied bombing of defenseless German civilians. Of course if Josef had been a nicer fellow, he might have hoped that the Allies would have leveled even more German cities, and he might have assisted the invading Soviet army in locating German girls to rape. But then not everyone can be a perfect antifascist.
But getting back to his apparently odious indiscretion, why would he offend “world opinion,” as represented by the media, by removing the excommunication from disciples of Lefebvre? The reason is self-evident. He did not believe that there were sufficient doctrinal grounds for these clergymen to be excommunicated in the first place. As far as I know, the Catholic Church does not excommunicate members for holding political incorrect historical interpretations. Catholics are free to believe what they want about how many victims Hitler or Stalin killed. They may even believe, if they chose to, that the Cards beat the Steelers in last week’s super-bowl, without being tossed out of the fold for their wackiness.
Church authorities, however, are authorized to excommunicate those who reject church discipline or who openly deny some basic doctrine. Still and all, in the past century or so, the Vatican has not been kicking out confessing Catholics very often. What happened to Lefebvre and his followers was not a common occurrence. It was directed against those ultra-traditionalists who resisted the changes introduced by Vatican Two. Lefebvre and his followers repudiated the Church’s teachings, as proclaimed through Vatican Two, about the uses of vernacular liturgy and about certain alterations in the priest’s role in the Eucharist.
It is altogether possible that the current pope thought that such measures were excessively harsh in dealing with otherwise devout Catholics, who seemed to be erring on the side of orthodoxy. And particularly when those Catholics, who are on the opposite side of the political-ecclesiastical spectrum, continue to endorse positions that are entirely antithetical to Catholic moral positions. Catholics now throughout the West are championing such religiously indefensible stands as gay marriage and abortion on demand, but they have yet to suffer the consequences that befell the ultra-traditionalists. If the media’s understanding of religion were applied, then the only inexcusable sin would be to hold a politically incorrect opinion. On this basis the pope would have to excommunicate and keep excommunicated anyone whose views were not acceptable to the media elite and to politicians like Merkel, who bow and scrape before the Fourth Estate.
Unfortunately the Pope accommodated this leftist tyranny yesterday, when he placed a condition on Williamson’s return to the Church, namely that Williamson must accept the authorized 6 million figure for Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This of course muddies the waters, even if Williamson is being forced to sign on to what is factually probable. For now it does appear that Williamson had been excommunicated for saying something that was politically incorrect.
What for me, however, is the most galling aspect of this studied hysteria is the implicit assumption that only those mass murders committed by Nazis or “fascists” deserve to be condemned. Among those who are now writhing on the ground in theatrical indignation are the usual Communist apologists in Germany and elsewhere, those self-proclaimed models of conscience who would never think of noticing or even allowing anyone else to notice, Stalin’s or Mao’s enormities. In Germany an otherwise honest scholar or journalist might well be afraid to compare Stalin’s crimes to Hitler’s because someone who does this may well face criminal proceedings for “trivializing the Holocaust.”
And this is connected to what is now going on with the “new Vatican scandal.” The organized hysteria against the decency of lifting the ban of excommunication against Williamson comes from the trivializers of genocide on the left, those who need to fight fascist phantoms in order to divert attention from equally gruesome murders associated with their heroic regimes and those who are systematically rooting out civil liberties in Western and Central Europe. Needless to say, this hysteria is being used to strengthen the new red terror that has gripped the West in the name of antifascism. And those in the media and educational establishment who are engaging in it deserve to fall under what is now a distinct possibility in parts of Europe, Muslim rule. It is a possibility that the multicultural, antinational Left in Germany, with the acquiescence of “conservatives” like Merkel, have prepared the way for while burying their civilization—in shame. It is not Williamson but his shrieking enemies who should be inspiring the most fear. Too bad the Pope didn’t stick to his guns!