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April 20, 2005

Israel's cool with Popenfuhrer

Israel Praises Pope Despite Past Nazi Ties[AP]

Ct of DKos says it's inappropriate to bring up Pope Ratz' sordid past. I don't see why. Ratz' defenders argue that he spent his entire life atoning for his collaboration. What has he really done to atone?

Pope John Paul apologized for the "failure of many Catholics to oppose the Nazi extermination of the Jews during World War II." [Belieftnet].

This and other apologies occurred during Ratzinger's tenure as God's Rottweiler, so he's at least doctrinally committed to being ashamed of himself. However, his own statements about his past suggest something less than absolute contrition. Years later, Ratzinger is trying to minimize his moral responsibility by pleading youth and coercion.

It is perfectly legitimate to point out that Ratz cooperated in the day and made excuses after the fact. That's not the level of moral leadership one might expect from St. Peter's representative on earth.


A "fuhrer" furor is dogging the papal candidacy of Germany's top Roman Catholic cleric — over revelations he was a member of the Hitler Youth.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger — a favorite to become the next pontiff — joined the Nazi children's corps in 1941 as a 14-year-old and was later an anti-aircraft gunner.

At one point, he guarded a factory where slaves from a concentration camp were forced to work. He was later shipped to Hungary, where he reportedly saw Jews persecuted.

Ratzinger, a staunch conservative dubbed "God's Rottweiler," has said he joined the Hitler Youth when membership became compulsory. He and his brother were later drafted but deserted. The cardinal claims he never fired a shot and that resistance would have meant death.

Not so, Germans from his hometown of Traunstein told The Times of London.

"It was possible to resist, and those people set an example for others," recalled Elizabeth Lohner, 84. "The Ratzingers were young — and they had made a different choice." [NY Post]

Hat tip to Americablog.


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I don't really like the new pope, and disagree with most of what he says, but this is ridiculous. Asking a 14 year old to rebel is fine, provided the rebellion is perfectly safe and is exactly the same rebellion every other 14 year old is engaged in. Open defiance of the Nazis was suicide. The most we should have expected of anyone after 1936 was a personal revolt of expedience. He deserted when he had the chance. To condemn Ratzinger is to insist that he should be dead. Are there no causes worth dying for today? If so, why are you still alive?

True, and this whole Hitler Youth thing seems to be overshadowing that he has been complicit in covering up for some pedophile scandals, which I think is more of a relevant issue.

Ratzinger made a moral choice, perhaps a defensible moral choice, given his age and his circumstances. However, the fact remains that it was a choice. He was old enough to have been confirmed in the Catholic church, wasn't he?

I'm objecting to his attitude about his past. I wouldn't care if he acknowledged that he had chosen to save his own life by complying with a culture of death and that he was very sorry for the ways in which that choice implicated him in crimes against humanity.

But instead, Ratz tries disingenuously to argue that he had no choice--no meaningful opportunity, or no moral ability to choose to resist or comply. A supple theologian like himself knows better than that, especially one who claims to be strongly influenced by Buber.

Mutant Cat wrote "...he has been complicit in covering up for some pedophile scandals, which I think is more of a relevant issue."


There is plenty to disapprove of with this Pope. (And plenty that I disapprove of, despite my practicing Catholic faith.)

It seems to me that using this "Nazi past" argument is self-defeating, since (a) it is not *really* true and (b) playing the "Nazi card" will overshadow all the other issues and (c) playing the "Nazi card" will cause too many otherwise interested people to tune the argument out.

There's really not much scope for argumentation. It's a done deal.

It's worth noting that Ratzinger has done a lot of work on the ethics of collaborating with evil. He argued that Americans who voted for Kerry were meaningfully morally complicit with mass murder (i.e. abortion). He thinks even this level of complicity is a very serious moral transgression for other people.

Obviously the two cases aren't directly parallel because nobody's life is at stake for voting one way or the other. I'm just raising this example to show how seriously Ratzinger takes the idea of complicity with evil.

I'm just raising this example to show how seriously Ratzinger takes the idea of complicity with evil.

I think it's clear that he takes it very seriously.

You don't get to the top of any profession without taking your job seriously.

Ratzinger's Nazi past is of significance. There were other contenders for the position who did not have such a background, but they were rejected. I find it very strange that they should pick a European and such a European. If Ratzinger were confronted with events similar to those which faced Bishop Romero, how would he respond, I wonder. And what will he do, as Pope, if/when other Catholics respond as did Romero, when they see injustice and misery being inflicted by the state on those whom the state and the church are supposed to protect?

Gotta agree with Njoral.

The real issues with this man are his career long violations of law and decency. The 2001 support of the 1962 Papal demand for secrecy in sexual assaults by priests. His interference in the US elections by refusing communion and threatening excommunication for Kerry and those who voted for him. Etc.

To complain of his compliance with the draft in Germany, service in that military, or the mandatory Hitler Youth is not realistic. The price of such refusal was prison or death.

Are we all morally responsible because we have not taken such risks to end every wrong doing by our own government? Or that of others? Do I carry a burden of guilt for not flying to Sudan to help end the genocide there? Am I accursed for not physically stopping the 2000 putsch that put Bush in power? What unending stains did I gather for not throwing myself under the treads of tanks bound for Viet Nam, Iraq, Panama.... I could not have changed these things no matter what I did.

Judgement of my life can not be based on such, it must be on those things over which I had control, and most especially those which I instrumental in bringing about.

I don't accept the teaching "Judge lest not you be judged", but I must judge others on a similar basis to that on which I weigh my own behavior.

This rodent has done enough on his own to condemn him, there is no need or purpose to bring up issues which were beyond him.

" playing the "Nazi card" will cause too many otherwise interested people to tune the argument out."

Yes, and I am one of them.

I usually like the posts here and respect Lindsay's opinion but this is just stupid...there is no other word for it. Benedict xvi (Cardinal Ratzinger) was a teenager during the war. Fourteen when forced to enter the HY in 1941 which would make him 18 when the war was over. Have none of you who are so quick to criticize him ever read any history. Hitler was reduced to using old men and young boys to fight his war by the end. Are all of these boys, usually younger than the age of consent in our own nation, responsible for the crimes of Nazism?

I consider myself of the Left but the comments on some of the left of center blogs has left me shocked and wondering what the hell is up with my side of the fence. Can we have a discussion with out stoooping so low as to calling someone a Nazi. It means we've already lost, right?

As a black man, should I dismiss a politician because as a boy he was forced to be installed in the Klan or the American Nazi Party by his parent? No. We seem to give a reformed Klansman a lot more credit around here than we do Ratzinger. Some constitency please.

"But instead, Ratz tries disingenuously to argue that he had no choice--no meaningful opportunity, or no moral ability to choose to resist or comply. A supple theologian like himself knows better than that, especially one who claims to be strongly influenced by Buber. "

This is a tricky area for Catholic doctrine. It's been a while since I was one, but I'll take a stab at it. And it is Catholic doctrine which this argument should be about. For him, all morality is a subset of Catholic doctrine. Was joining the Hitler Youth a sin? I don't believe it could be considered one in and of itself. Being killed for not joining, however, would be a sin. It could be anything from disobeying a papally recognized temporal authority to suicide. Such an act is only allowable if it is to preserve ones relationship with God. If the choice was renounce your faith or die, then you may die. So, if the choice was join the Hitler Youth or die, according to the only moral framework he accepts, joining was the only moral path.

It is hard to imagine that such a clear choice persisted, though. He was in it for 4 years. I would guess that at some point there was a choice that involved violating his moral code to preserve his life. However, joining the Hitler Youth was not immoral by the code he embraced then or now.

Same point, I think, as George's:
Can somebody please point out one example (just one) of somebody of the age (or generation) of B16 who - in a similar situation - did "the right thing" according to the self-righteous here?
I am from the country where all of this originated and I can't think of one.


See, though, the klansman was sorry.

Ratzinger, it was more like, "Oh, who cares, I'm German anyway, might as well join." and then when it became politically expedient, "Oh, I um, was, um, coerced into joining."

Ratzinger himself saw to it that all priests who opposed supporting death regimes in south america were dealt with. It's one thing to say you are sorry for your nazi past, it's another to say it and continue to use naziesque methods to oppose folks who want to help poor people in Latin America while supporting the regimes that are oppressing these people. Fuck this guy. He is not a holy man. The Dali Lama is a holy man. This guy is the kind of holy man that says "Look how humble a servant of God I am" whenever he is in public, but then retires to opulent private secret chambers in a 100 gazillion dollar palace to work against liberation theology in latin america because said theology would threaten some of the churches vast land holdings. Fuck this guy.

Does anyone else think it's bullshit that this guy is humble? Look, if you are humble, you don't go around saying "Look how humble a servant of God I am!"

Google "The White Rose".

There was a ring of students, and eventually professors even, who spread som pamphlets. They did not do so openly. Some of them fought in the army. They were eventually caught, tried and executed.

If by "The right thing" you mean an open protest against the Nazis after 1939, no, no one did it.

This statement, ' "It was possible to resist, and those people set an example for others," recalled Elizabeth Lohner, 84. ' Is horseshit, unless by "example" she meant that they were killed, and that was the example.

Was joining the Hitler Youth a sin? I don't believe it could be considered one in and of itself.

Are you serious?

What about enabling slave labor, is that not a sin, either?

What about never apologizing or even expressing the slightest regret for having done these things?

"I was just following orders" doesn't absolve one of sin.

Unlike Americans, Israelis do not view the Pope as a sort of holy man for all faiths. For them the Pope is the head of a large and potentially hostile international organization. No Israeli leader would attack the Pope without substantial provocation. The modest praise they have for Ratzinger is an effort to maintain cordial relations with a foreign power, not an expression of genuine pleasure at his appointment.

Oh yes, the White Rose/Weisse Rose - the one and only example every German is trained to give when asked about civil Nazi resistance in Germany.
What they did: saved nobody, but get killed - not so wise.

Executed in 1942/1943: B16 was 15 at this time, the terror of the Nazi regime intensified as the war went on.

Some short facts about the members (circle of members is a little larger though):

Hans Scholl (1918-1943), joined Hitlerjugend voluntarily in 1933, member of NSDAP since 1932

Sophie Scholl (1921-1943), dragged into the circle by her brother Hans

Alexander Schmorell (1917-1943)

Christoph Probst (1919-1943)

Willi Graf (1918-1943)

Kurt Huber (1893-1943)

You see, this is not the generation of B16.



Byrd was an adult, Ratzinger was not. That makes all the differnce. I'm sorry but you're post just strikes me as a little bit juvenile. Where exactly does B16 say the words you place in his mouth. Please provide a link.

I don't know how holy B16 is and don't care. I'm not Catholic, I do hold my ideological brothers and sisters up to a higher standard becasue I want our arguments and ideas to be sharp and focused. All this hysteria over the Nazi Pope is just ridiculous. He was a kid and his parents were anti-Nazi. He only joined when it was made mandatory and again I say he was a young teen and can not be held responsible for that by any resaonable person. JOPII didn't "resist" either if by resist you mean take up a gun or pass out leaflets. There are other ways of resisting and they are usually more productive.

OK. The current pope is not a nazi.

The current pope, is, however, a facist who actively works against the interests of the poor people who make up the base of his church.

How about that? Can we agree on that?

I don't think we can agree that he is a fascist. If that word is to have any meaning other than "a bad right-wing person that I don't like," he doesn't qualify. He is a Catholic reactionary of a type that precedes fascism by many centuries.

"You see, this is not the generation of B16."

I see exactly the opposite. People ten years your junior or senior are your generation.

No TomK, we don't agree on that. I think JR said what I would have said except that I don't think that B16 can be really called reactionary. I think that we on the left fail to see that religion (and I am for the most part no fan of institutional religion) is about truth. B16, and JPII before him, saw the Church drifting away from its core beleifs and following the winds of whatever philosophical doctrine was popular at the time. If that is reactionary then I guess a Catholic's belief that Jesus died for our sins is reactionary as well, correct? Becasue you and I think that there is ni sin in homosexuality doesn't make the Church's counter argument "bashing". This sort of thinking is the tyranny of relativism that Ratzinger spoke of. Just as there should be fundamental Democratic beliefs, there are and should be fundamental Christian beleifs. I for one will take the Orthodoxy of JPII or B16 over some televangelist, Christian Coalition Protestant anyday. At least the Vatican has hordes of scholars discussing and debating these issues.

I won't go into a long discussion on it, but lets look at the ordination of women. Its not that the Church sees women as lesser than men, and if you read some of JPII writings you will see that, but Jesus and Peter were men and the Church is designed as an example of Christ's ministry 2000 years ago.

We also have to look at why JPII was set against Liberation Theology. We can not forget his experience under a Marxist influendced system and his, albeit kneejerk, dislike of any ideology influenced by Marxism.

So maybe we can get past ad hom attacks and really have a true discussion of these issues. We don't need to agree with the Vatican, Pope or whoever, but we can give their ideas an intellectual discussion like the adults we are.

Benedict XVI first came to my attention in 2002, while doing some research before composing a Psalm (#100 - Make a Joyful Noise (Catholic numbering system - #101)) to be sung in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. In 1986 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a long essay, "Liturgie und Kirkenmusik," which attemts to compare and contrast some cultural goals of Vatican II with those of the Council of Trent. He was arguing against the use of worldly types of contemporary music, most notably rock, in liturgical aspects of the Catholic order of service or mass. I turned back to that article and later interviews with him on that subject in 2003, when setting Psalm 137 ("By the Rivers of Babylon").

The guy is quite brilliant, even if he failed, in my mind, to make his point in "Liturgie und Kirkenmusik."

I do find his resistance to liberation theology and meddling in American politics far more troubling than his Hitler Youth membership or Wehrmacht conscription. To have resisted such service would have gone against the wishes of the Bavarian Catholic Church of that time, which had chaplains posted to some of the more traditionally raised military units.

As Wilhelm Reich pointed out in his book _The Mass Psychology of Fascism_, "Catholic Christianity in particular has long divested itself of the revolutionary, i.e., rebellious character of the primitive Christian movement. It seduces its millions of devotees into accepting war as an act of fate, as a "punishment of sin....The Catholic Church preaches the acceptance of distress in this world and thereby systematically ruins man's ability to achieve the goal of freedom, to fight it in an honest way." This was written in 1937. In 1942, Reich added "German Catholics give blessing to German weapons and American Catholics give blessing to American weapons."

I've been looking for more thorough documentation of the specifics of BXVI's WWII experience, so far with no luck. What unit was he in, where was he posted in Hungary and when? When did he desert (May, 1945?), and under what conditions? Anybody out there know any of this?

Generally, I think throwing the term Nazi around can be counter-productive and off-putting. Ditto facist. However, while Ratzinger was young and not in a great position to resist conscription, going on to burn books and make homophobic comments later in his life is not helping him escape the charge.

Also, George - I'm not sure I see how calling the church out on its homophobia is indicative of a "tyranny of relativism." I think it's quite the opposite. I certainly don't think truth or morality is relativistic. The church has a bad view for which they offer bad arguments. What's relativistic is giving them a pass on this issue because they subscribe to a particular world view. No?

Darn. I've kind of been hoping that Ratzinger's becoming pope would disrupt some of the political alliances that have been formed among Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, and Orthodox Jews.

As is often the case most of these comments miss the point of your post. My wife spent some time with a German family and heard much from the Opa about civil resistance to the Nazis. There were many ways to undermine or avoid serice to the fascists. Rattzinger seems to have taken a long time to realise this, long enough that his 'rebellion' neatly coincided with the end of the war. P.Z.Myers has a long thread on this issue.

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