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April 24, 2005

Ratzinger's war

Jeanne D'Arc's explains why Joseph Ratzinger's association with Nazi Germany still matters: The German Shepherd and the Salvadoran Pastor. This essay is by far the most sophisticated and generous treatment of the subject I've seen.


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A great essay on new pope Ratzinger at Body and Soul. Esp does a nice summation on his whole "resistance was impossible" comment about living under the Nazi regime. (h/t: Majikthise...who must be looking forward to the upcoming Hitchhikers Guide)... [Read More]


Fascinating post.
I tend to agree. The recusing of one's self from facing the moral choices (even if failures) of one's past doesn't bode well in a implicit role model that a pope should be. Still the terminology of "Nazi" is probably inappropriate. Yet ... I just can't help but wonder if there was a better person suited for the position. Personally, though not Catholic, I was gunning for the Brazilian dude, and was quite disappointed the choices was insular with (if not reactionary to the growing congregations throughout the world) and consistent in the church's "European" roots (hah! forget the Mid-East here!)The papacy, though a by rhetoric a spiritual figure, is actually a political role. The church is a powerful organization and it has a spiritual oligarchy running the show, protecting its own vision, not necessarily the growth of its subjects.
Again, fascinating.

The post completely fails to explain why it is immoral for a 16-year-old to be drafted into an army and wait for a few months before deserting it, or why a person's actions have any relevance on his personality sixty years later. A person may have been completely brainwashed by the Nazis and then get deprogrammed and become anti-Nazi. Günter Grass, for example, was drafted into the Wehrmacht at the same time Ratzinger was, but after the war became a vociferous socialist agitator and anti-Nazi writer.

Christianity has always taught that we are not perfect and that there will be times when we fail to live up to our own standards of ethical and moral conduct.

It references the story of the night of Jesus' arrest and how the disciples denied knowing him. Later many of these same disciples were to be martyred in his name, despite their earlier lapse. (point of interest... the only one who did not deny him and stayed with him through the whole ordeal was the much maligned Mary Magdalene).

The Catholic church does teach that you must confess your sins, make an act of contrition, and go and sin no more. Which as the article points out... we haven't heard openly from the new Pope. That of course doesn't mean that he hasn't said this to his confessor... we don't know.

So can I forgive the Ratzinger for an earlier moral lapse committed in his youth 60 years ago... yes. What I have What I have a problem with is his acts and words today.

These are excerpts from his letter to the American Cardinals during the 2004 campaign:

Ratzinger Letter to Cardinal McCarrick, made public in the first week of July 2004

"Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist."

"When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person's subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."

What about just voting for the politician?

"[N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.]"

How about right-wing pet causes like war and the death Penalty?

"3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

It has been argued by some apologist that he wasn't interferring in the 2004 election. An argument that I find suits only those who have a cerebrum the size of Terry Schiavo's.

What is significant is that Pope John Paul didn't leave any wiggle room on item number three where Ratzinger does. JPII spoke about the war in Iraq as "Immoral" and "illegal" repeatedly. The death penalty is wrong.

Ratzinger wrote that the death penalty is "almost always wrong" and "it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

Again the timing of his writings is the key in all of this. While he speaks of absolutes and the danger of relativeism... he pses a rather relativistic defense of the death penaly and the war in Iraq.

To me a child killed by a five hundred pound bomb in Iraq is just as dead as a child killed in an abortion. I think this reveals the moral character of the man more than anything else.

You're conflating the fact that Ratzinger is an asshole with the accusation that he is a Nazi. He can be insanely reactionary independently of his Hitler Youth membership, which is irrelevant.

It's not so much the Hitler Youth aspect that bothers me. That's literally boy scout stuff compared to guarding slave laborers and literally watching Jews being shipped off to the camps. That's serious complicity. The issue is how he explains this fact about his past.

It's one thing to say "I chose to participate in an evil enterprise because...

i) I didn't know any better; or,
ii) I cared more about my own survival than I did about doing the right thing; or,
iii) Resistance was optional under the circumstances; or,
iv) Resistance would have been suicidal and therefore wrong."

It's quite another to say "I had no choice." He did have a choice. Everyone always has a choice. I'm inclined to think that he made a defensible decision about the Hitler Youth. But that doesn't change the fact that it was a morally fraught decision. Some situations are morally impossible. If there's any value to religion at all it's to teach people how to deal with those conundrums that reason can't resolve (prisoners dilemmas, tragedies of the commons, existential quandries, and so on).

Ratz thinks that complicity with evil is very serious. If so, then ought to have acknowledge his own compromised position. That would be morally instructive and honorable. Every ethical person faces dilemmas. Everyone has to make some compromises unless they're prepared to be a true martyr, especially devout Catholics in the modern world. Catholics could use some help and counsel from their supreme leader far more than they need another encyclical about the gospel of life or the intractably masculine sacrament of the priesthood. Maybe if Ratz is as smart as everyone says, he'd have something insightful to say on these ordinary and extraordinary human failings.

If Ratz wants to lecture all of humanity about the dictatorship of relativism, he should explain his own situational ethics.

I'd like to hear him explain why the peace protests of 1968 had a greater impact on him than watching a far right wing facist movement slaughter millions of innocent human beings.

He espouses moral absolutes but spins them with situational ethical and relativistic arguments, laced with a strong aroma of a political agenda.

It doesn't matter what Ratzinger thinks about this situation. If nobody accuses Günter Grass of being a Nazi, nobody should accuse Ratzinger of being a Nazi (mind you, Grass didn't desert, whereas Ratzinger did).

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