Is the Catholic Church the Wickedest Institution on the Face of the Earth?
“I warn against the moral stance, imported from abroad [Nazi 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…Beware of those who are inciting anti-Jewish violence. They are serving a bad cause…No good comes from these rash actions.” Augustin Cardinal Hlond, February 29, 1936
… by Jonas E. Alexis
In 1996, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen of Harvard released his first book entitled Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust and it quickly became a sensational and bestselling book.
- Goldhagen argues that anti-Semitism was so ingrained in the entire German people that not even the ordinary Germans were spared that irrational hatred. Other Jewish writers such as Lucy Dawidowicz and Steven T. Katz ascribe to that thesis.
- Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer agrees with some of Goldhagen’s arguments and desperately tries to rescue him from historical oblivion, but on a few occasions he criticizes Goldhagen.
- Bauer wrote, “Goldhagen puts all anti-Semitism in the same basket, including the liberal type that wanted to see the Jews disappear by assimilation and conversion. He quotes Uriel Tal, but Tal never said that liberal efforts to assimilate the Jews were the same as extermination programs.”
- Similarly, Albert S. Lindemann of the University of California pulls no punches when he declares, “Racism and anti-Semitism were, in the eyes of many German-speaking Jews, more accurately seen as products of reactionaries and of the mob. Hatred of Jews, they believed, was most typically to be found in Eastern Europe, or in the less developed parts of the German-speaking world.”
Lindemann argues that Goldhagen’s book “is far more questionable and simplistic; he typically ignores, or is ignorant of, evidence that contradicts his by no means original reading of German history.” Jewish historian Raul Hilberg called the book “worthless.” Other historians such as Hans Mommsen declared that Goldhagen simply does not know “the internal structure of the Third Reich.”
It was discovered by two scholars, Norman Finkelstein and Ruth Bettina Birn, that Goldhagen invented many of his sources and concocted a sophisticated hoax.
Instead of responding to his critics in a scholarly manner (the Cambridge Historical Journal invited him to do so), Goldhagen
“enlisted a high-powered London law firm to sue Birn and Cambridge University Press for ‘many serious libels.’ Demanding an apology, a retraction, and a promise from Birn that she not repeat her criticisms, Goldhagen’s lawyers then threatened that ‘the generation of any publicity on your part as a result of this letter would amount to a further aggravation of damages.”
As a serious scholar, Birn went through the archives and checked the sources that Goldhagen had cited, and the majority of them were Goldhagen’s own inventions or distortions of the actual account. Knowing that the historical data and reason were not on his side, Goldhagen had to move on to a new territory: he wanted to sue Birn.
Marshalling falsehood notwithstanding, Goldhagen moves on to say in his subsequent book A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair that ordinary Catholics were largely responsible for Nazi Germany, most specifically Pope Pius XII.
Building on the work of James Carroll, David Kertzer, Michael Phayer, Garry Wills, and Susan Zuccotti, Goldhagen basically argues that the Catholic Church is one of the most evil institutions on the face of the earth.
More recently, one of America’s most famous Rabbis, Shmuley Boteach, declares in his Kosher Jesus:
“The Catholic Church’s tragic refusal at the papal level to make a public stand and commit itself to saving Jewish lives during Hitler’s Holocaust was all too consistent with the Church’s historical indifference to Jewish suffering. Pius XII was pope of the worldwide Catholic Church from 1939 until 1958, and was the first foreign dignitary to reach an accord with Nazi Germany after Hitler took power. It would be a stretch to refer to this deeply anti-Semitic pope as ‘holy’ father.
Back in 1994, popular authors such as Dave Hunt postulated the same idea, that the Catholic Church laid the groundwork for Nazi Germany. Drawing his conclusions from rabbis like Yoel Schwartz and Yitzchak Goldstein, Hunt argues that the Catholic Church was not only an accomplice in bringing about National Socialism, but they built the “foundation for the Holocaust.”
Yet historian Theodore S. Hamerow of the University of Wisconsin tells us that Catholics “rarely engaged in systematic anti-Semitism.” Hamerow goes further to say that for Catholics, “In anti-Semitism they perceived the specter of anti-Catholicism,” for even though the Catholic Church was anti-Communism and was against subversive activities such as Bolshevism, they were in no way going to support physical persecution against the Jews.
For this reason, Hamerow continues, “in 1934 a priest, who understandably preferred not to reveal his name, declared in a religious periodical that it was ‘a sacred task of the church’ to oppose ‘sinful racial pride and blind hatred of the Jews.’” More importantly, “Every good Friday the church offered a prayer for all people, ‘including the Jews,’ that they might see Christ and gain faith in him.”
Obviously Hunt did not know that there were Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and even political dissenters in Nazi concentration camps. You can’t be a Catholic if you are putting Catholics in concentration camps!
Herman Goering himself declared, “Catholic believers carry away but one impression from attendance at divine services and that is that the Catholic Church rejects the institutions of the Nationalist State.”
We see the same kind of reasoning behind Susan Zuccotti’s book, Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy. As a well-informed historian, Zuccotti searched the archives in Italy and found that numerous Catholics not only rejected the ideologies of Nazi Germany but hid and nurtured Jewish refugees.
Simply put, the notion that Pope Pius XII “was silent about the Holocaust” is false. And even throughout the centuries it was the popes, believe it or not, who stood up against physical persecution of Jews.
When Jews in Italy and in other places were persecuted, they ran to Pope Gregory for their protection. The fourteenth-century Jewish scholar Judah Mosconi extolled Gregory as a person who “loved Jews very much and made for them great deliverances in his days.”
Other generational popes such as Pope Calixtus II (1119-1124), Pope Gregory X (1271-1276), Pope Clement VI (1342-1352), Pope Boniface IX (1389-1403), Pope Martin V (1417-1431), Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484), Leo X, Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), Pope Pius XI (1922-1939), were all known to stand up against physical persecutions of Jews and defended them against false accusations.
Philo-Semitic historian Will Durant himself writes, “Gregory IX…exempted the Jews from its operation [Inquisition] or jurisdiction except when they tried to Judaize Christians, or attacked Christianity, or reverted to Judaism after conversion to Christianity; and in 1235 he issued a bull denouncing mob violence against Jews.”
Jewish historians and scholars such as Solomon Grayzel and Israel Jacob Yuval agree. Looking at what the popes had done over the centuries, Durant declares that “the popes were the most tolerant prelates in Christendom.”
Jewish historian Salo Baron, who himself is a staunch defender of the thesis that Jews are persecuted for what they are and not for what they do, had this to say, “Had it not been for the Catholic Church, the Jews would not have survived the Middle Ages in Christian Europe.”
When Pope Pius XI died in 1939, it was former prime minister of France Leon Blum, a Jew, who declared, “A great pope and peacemaker…has considered it his duty towards Peace to fight against the racist powers and against the propagation of racist theories throughout the world…”
And a Jewish group named the Alliance Israelite Universelle wrote to Rome, “Never shall we forget the kindness and courage with which the late pope has defended all victims of persecution, irrespective of race and religion…”
Even the B’nai B’rith did not hesitate to declare that “Regardless of their personal religious beliefs, men and women everywhere who believe in democracy and the rights of man have hailed the firm and uncompromising stand of Pope Pius XI against Fascist brutality, paganism, and racial theories.”
Rabbi, astronomer and physician Bonet de Lattes would go on to dedicate his book, The Astronomical Ring, to Pope Alexander VI. Pope Martin V for example would mention the “hypocritical religious zeal” of those who would make false accusations against the Jews and would condemn them.
Martin was praised by Italian Jews for saying things such as “Jews are created like other men in the image of God, and in order to protect their future, they must not be molested in their synagogues, nor hindered in their commercial relations with Christians.”
When Franciscan friars led by Giovannie da Capistrano would ignite the spirit of a riot against the Jews in Italy, Martin would write Edict of Protection in order to stop any physical harm against the Jews. Even Cecil Roth would praise Martin for such an effort.
Roth goes on to acknowledge that “No Italian rulers showed themselves better disposed toward the Jews than the popes of the Renaissance period—particularly those of the House of Medici, Leo X and Clement VII. Enlightened beyond their time and tolerant to a degree, they regarded even Jewish scholarship as an integral part of the intellectual life of which they were such passionate devotees.”
Cambridge Jewish historian Israel Abrahams made it clear in his 1896 work Jewish Life in the Middle Ages that it “was a tradition with the popes of Rome to protect the Jews who were near at hand.”
What does this all mean? Modern Jewish writers such as David I. Kertzer have been misleading people in advancing the historically untenable and irresponsible thesis that the popes were largely against the Jews and that they were instrumental in bringing about anti-Semitism in Western culture.
When Michael Tagliacozzo, who later became a historian, was being sheltered at the Seminario Romano, he was completely amazed at how he and other Jews were treated there, and finally concluded that “nothing but good memories” of the place, stating further that “there was absolutely no pressure for conversion to Christianity. The respect shown to those being helped was exemplary.”
In the same vein, Jewish historian Saul Friedlander, who is hardly a friend of the Catholic Church, declares that
“The Zionist archives contain numerous documents concerning the unceasing activities of Nuncio Roncalli in favour of Jews. Let us underline that Monsignor Roncalli had declared that all he did in this field was upon papal urging.” Even the Jewish Chronicle of London had an article entitled, “Jewish Hostages in Rome: Vatican Protests.”
In June 25, 1944, Pius XII released a telegram to Admiral Miklos Horthy of Hungary, telling him
“to use all possible influence in order to cease the pains and torments which innumerable persons must undergo for the sole reason of their nationality or their race. Our paternal heart cannot rest unmoved in the face of their appeals and the demands of charity which embraces all men without distinction. I therefore appeal to Your Excellency personally…in the hope that Your Excellency will do everything in order to spare these poor people further sorrow and suffering.”
In a nutshell, serious Catholics wanted to help their fellow Jews from physical persecution. Jewish historian Sarah Gordon writes:
“For example, one parson paid the medical bills of a Jewish cancer patient in 1941, for which he was then sentenced to two and a half months in prison and fine 2,000 marks. Another attempted to help a Jewess to cross the border, and criminal proceedings were begun against him. Another parson was arrested in 1942 for saying the following: ‘I am a minister and in this capacity cannot adopt hostility toward any man, including Poles, Russians, or Jews.’ In Berlin a parson was arrested in 1943 because he gave 350 marks to a Jew out of the funds of the Caritashilfe (the major Catholic charity fund, which secretly aided many Jews) and associated with them in public…
“In 1944 a chaplain was arrested and sent to Dachau because he secured lodging for a ‘submarine’ (Jew in hiding) even though he knew what was involved. A Catholic nun in a hospital was condemned to death in 1945 at the age of twenty-seven because she helped Jews in Germany. Behrend-Rosenfeld also recounts that nuns were very helpful to Jews during World War II. Catholic hospitals took in Jews for real and contrived reasons to protect them.”
A largely Catholic group called the Zentrum had their leaders emphasize “the incompatibility of racial theories and Catholicism, urging their followers to avoid all connection with the Nazis because of fundamental ideological differences…The Zentrum ran a Jewish candidate for the Reichstag in Berlin during the election of September 1930 and, in general, defended Jewish rights against anti-Semites even after 1930.”
Gordon declares: “Two Catholic women, Else Heidkamp and Gertrud Luckner, aided Jews through the St. Raphael Society and the Caritashbund. In one case they placed a Jewish child in a Catholic home illegally, and during the investigation it was also discovered that Gertrud Luckner had aided many Jews to cross the border in Switzerland. She spent the rest of the war in a concentration camp, while Else Heidkamp was sent to prison, where it is known that she remained until at least August 1943.”
The logic, then, is pretty simple. The Church is against subversive activity and against physical persecution of anyone. E. Michael Jones puts best,
“The church was consistent in its opposition to revolution on the one hand, and in defending the Jews against genuine persecution on the other. Both parts of this teaching are necessary. If either one is ignored, trouble follows.”
Israeli-Russian writer Israel Shamir (a Christian) declares the same thing,
“Christendom made a grave mistake by unilaterally abandoning ideological struggle against the Jewish paradigm. One should make a clear distinction between Jews as persons, and the Jewish paradigm as ideology. Jews are just human, and deserve to be treated and accepted as human. The Jewish paradigm should be confronted and counteracted. Two important issues were confused: the question of external relations, human and civil rights, human dignity on one side and ideological difference and variance, on the other. They can, and should be treated separately.”
Simply put, the Church indeed has had and will continue to have issues with revolutionary and subversive activities, but the church has never espoused hatred or even condoned physical persecutions against the Jews. The issue has always been theological.
Granted, those theological issues will continue to have metaphysical and historical implications, but those implications should not lead to hatred or animosity toward other human beings.
Sure, corruptions have come and gone, and no one is exempt from lustful and greedy temptations (including members of the church), but we certainly do not want to swipe all historical data just by looking at samples of corruptions in the church, as we are currently seeing with the homosexuality issue.
We simply do not want to take the irrational route that just because hundreds of police officers have committed sexual crimes, therefore we ought to shut down the entire police department.
More recently, an Army Reserve unit declared that Catholicism is on equal footing with al-Qaida, the Ku Klux Klan, etc. Hopefully writers of all stripes will now stop misrepresenting the Catholic Church when it comes to Nazi Germany.
The Catholic Church and Western Civilization
Moreover, Western science is Western science not because the Church wanted to suppress free inquiry, as we have been led to believe with the Galileo affair, but because the Church, traditionally, has been for truth and against error. And no, Galileo was not tortured for his scientific enquiry. And yes, the Church gave individuals freedom to pursue scientific inquiry.
As historian of science Lawrence M. Principe of Johns Hopkins University puts it, “During the 16th and 17th centuries and during the Middle Ages, there was not a camp of ‘scientists’ struggling break free of the repression of ‘religionists’; such separate camps simply did not exist as such. Popular tales of repression and conflict are at best oversimplified or exaggerated, and at worst folkloristic fabrications.” Even Michael Ruse conceives the point that the Galileo affair for example was not as clear-cut as we have been led to believe.
The Catholic Church and Homosexuality
You are within your reasonable right to criticize the rise of homosexuality among Catholic priests, and it is a shameful situation. But this movement was mapped out years ago by a Jewish revolutionary named Wilhelm Reich:
“Reich noticed a simple fact. If you changed the sexual behavior of idealistic young Catholics in the direction of sexual liberation, including specially masturbation, then the idea of God simply evaporated from their minds and they defected from the Catholic Church, and the way to successful revolution was clear. The key to bringing about revolution was changing sexual behavior, something he noticed in a communist girl whose behavior he discusses in The Mass Psychology of Fascism.
“‘The compulsion to pray,’ Reich writes, ‘disappeared when she was made aware of the origin of her fear; this awareness made it possible for her to masturbate again without feelings of guilt. As improbable as this incident may appear, it is pregnant with meaning for sex-economy. It shows how the mystical contagion of our youth could be prevented.’”
After years of incubation, priests began to succumb to Reich’s sexual calculus. Reich told them not to suppress their sexual fantasies—either with men or women. But when priests follow that principle, now they are told that they are the wickedest people on the face of the earth.
Moreover, the fact that many writers are saying things like “The Vatican’s Gay Priests” is an implicit indication that they do believe that homosexuality is wrong, otherwise they would not have spent too much time chastising priests. After all, does not our culture declare that we ought to respect homosexuals? Why not Catholic priests who happen to follow the dictates of Reich, Freud, and others?
Here I am not defending homosexual priests, and let me say right at the outset that I agree with the law that they should be dethroned from their posts and be prosecuted for their crimes. Here I am just showing the contradiction that exists in the sexual culture.
We can chastise homosexual priests, but we cannot chastise those who are teaching that homosexuality is all right in schools around the country. Here are the names of some courses:
UCLA: M101A: Lesbian and Gay Literature before Stonewall; M101B—Lesbian and Gay Literature after Stonewall? University of Colorado: Introduction to Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Literature; Queer Theory; Studies in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Literature. University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee: Same-Sex Desire in Modern Literature; Carnegie-Mellon University: Gay and Lesbian Theory; University of Michigan: How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.
We can welcome “kinky sex club for students” at major universities such as Harvard, and we can even have people like Alfred Kinsey raping countless students and boys under the name of “science;” Indiana University can cover Kinsey’s crimes and even block researchers from going through Kinsey’s archives. But once Catholic priests follow the sexual crowd, they are being told that they have committed an unpardonable sin by the media. I think we have a vital contradiction here.
And this implicit contradiction is found throughout the academic realm. For example, college campuses are always shouting for “diversity,” but by “diversity” they mean if you only agree with the prevailing opinions. If you do disagree with the “group-think,” you are excommunicated.
More recently, the renowned pediatric Ben Carson was scheduled to speak to graduate students at Johns Hopkins University’s medical school—his own school!—about traditional marriage. Carson was chastised because he said some unpardonable thing about homosexuality. Activists at George Washington University recently asked that Catholic chaplain Gregory Shaffer be fired from his job because he said that homosexuality is immoral.
I thought they believe in diversity? If everyone believes the same thing—that homosexuality is right—would that be diversity? Shouldn’t there be at least one dissent to spice up things? Once again we are confronted with an obvious contradiction.
From its traditional foundation, the Catholic Church has always stood against homosexuality and even contraception and has always stood for traditional marriage.
The traditional response to gay marriage has largely been based on the principles of biology, what nature actually dictates, and the risks of contracting multiple diseases if individuals happen to get involved in such activity. It has never been based on hatred of individuals.
And despite what has happened recently, the last pope maintained the traditional position of the Catholic Church on gay marriage. The new pope even admitted recently that there ought to be a crackdown on U.S. nuns whose “radical feminist themes [are] incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
There is indeed a crisis in the modern-day Catholic Church, and apologists such as Robert A. Sungenis and others have recognized this problem. People are still wondering what the new pope will bring to the table.
 After all, last fall European Jewish Union CEO Tormer Orni universally declared that “anti-Semitism is part of Europe’s DNA.” Yossi Lempkowicz, “‘ Anti-Semitism is Part of Europe’s DNA,’ Brussels Conference is Told,” European Jewish Press, September 5, 2012.
 Finkelstein and Birn, A Nation on Trial. I personally had an email correspondence with one of the leading Holocaust figures and in the end he basically threatened me not to publish our interactions, for it would disprove what he had written in his own book published by a major university press.
 Durant, The Age of Faith, 388. Keep in mind that Durant was not a Christian and his wife was Jewish. Moreover, on many occasions Durant propounded the flimsy and historically untenable thesis that Jews were persecuted for what they are, not for what they do. In other words, Durant had nothing to gain for saying the statement above.
 See for example Christopher Dawson, The Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1952); Kennard Edward Rand, Founders of the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1928).
 For further study on these complex issues, I would highly recommend the following works: Ronald L. Numbers, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009); Peter J. Bowler, Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons: Evolution and Christianity from Darwin to Intelligent Design (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009); David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007); Science in the Middle Ages (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978); David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, eds., When Science Meets Christianity (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003); Edward Grant, Science and Religion, 400 B.C. to A.D. 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006); Richard G. Olson, Science and Religion, 1450-1900: From Copernicus to Darwin (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004); Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).
 For an introduction, see for example Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
 For other stories, see for example “2 Gay GW Students Keep Complaints About Priest Going,” Washington Times, April 9, 2013; Catherine Deveney, “Catholic Priests Unmasked: ‘God Doesn’t Like Boys Who Cry,’” Guardian, April 7, 2013; “Nicolas Coppola, Openly Gay Catholic, Banned from Church Duties,” Huffington Post, April 5, 2013.
 See for example Jim Nelson Black, Freefall of the American University: How Our Colleges Are Corrupting the Minds and Morals of the Next Generation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012); Martin Anderson, Impostors in the Temple: How American Intellectuals Are Destroying and Cheating Our Students of Their Future (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991).
 See for example Greg Wilson, “Harvard Welcome Kinky Sex Club for Students,” FoxNews.com, November 29, 2012; Tara Wanda Merrigan, “Harvard Sex Week: Dirty Talk, the Female Orgasm, and More,” Daily Beast, April 17, 2012.
 See for example John R. Diggs, “The Health Risks of Gay Sex,” Catholic Education Resource Center, http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0075.html#07.
 Nicole Winfield, “Pope Francis Supports Crackdown on U.S. Nuns,” http://news.yahoo.com/pope-francis-supports-crackdown-us-nuns-150211781.html.
Some of his main interests include the history of Christianity, U.S. foreign policy, the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the new book ,Christianity & Rabbinic Judaism: A History of Conflict Between Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism from the first Century to the Twenty-first Century.
He is currently teaching mathematics in South Korea. He plays soccer and basketball in his spare time. He is also a cyclist. He is currently writing a book tentatively titled Zionism and the West.
Alexis welcomes comments, letters, and queries in order to advance, explain, and expound rational and logical discussion on issues such as the Israel/Palestine conflict, the history of Christianity, and the history of ideas.
In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, Alexis asks that all queries be appropriately respectful and maintain a level of civility. As the saying goes, “iron sharpens iron,” and the best way to sharpen one’s mind is through constructive criticism, good and bad.
However, Alexis has no patience with name-calling and ad hominem attack. He has deliberately ignored many queries and irrational individuals in the past for this specific reason—and he will continue to abide by this policy.
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