The Queen Mother with the Holy Father. Not exactly a traditionally complimentary relationship
British humanists are angered with certain assertions Pope Benedict made yesterday about Nazism and atheism. Benedict appears to have a very relativistic view as to the true history of the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holy See's part in legitimizing the Third Reich:
"Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. (As were many other categories of 'sub humans', including gays and gypsies, who are still being persecuted by segments of traditionally Catholic Europe.)
"As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny."
How can Pope Benedict overlook the fact that one of the first 'nation states' to recognize and legitimize Hitler's government was the Holy See? How does he, a German who lived through this period, pretend Hitler came to power as if the Institutional Church opposed him? Perhaps Benedict is counting on the fact most people aren't familiar with the Church's history with Germany during this period. I'm not one of those people. America Magazine ran an article by Robert A Krieg on this topic back in 2003. It is well worth reading in it's entirety as it deals with a number of concepts which can give some history to all this 'dictatorship of relativism' which Benedict is so worried about. It's the the very sort of thing his predecessors helped to create in Nazi Germany. The article also shines some light on how the exact same hierarchical attitudes are still operating the abuse crisis of today. The following extract deals with the immediate ramifications for Catholicism after the concordat between the Holy See and The Third Reich was ratified by both Hitler and Pius XI in September of 1933:
The Holy See’s concessions included the concordat’s requirement that clergy not engage in political activities and not hold political offices. Bishops were required to swear an oath of loyalty to the Reich and its legally constituted government. The bishops would sponsor only those lay organizations dedicated to charitable works and to social activities of a religious nature. Although it was agreed that a list would specify which organizations were protected under the concordat, this list was never completed. In addition, diocesan newspapers and church-affiliated publishers were left vulnerable to the state’s interference and suppression, because the concordat did not explicitly protect them. (The concordat also resulted in the suppression of the Catholic Center Party which removed the last real opposition to the Nazi party. For more interesting reading google Fr. Ludwig Kaas.)
The Concordat of 1933 embodied a problematic theology of the church, for it implicitly reduced the church to an organization concerned solely about a private, otherworldly realm unrelated to the social and political aspects of human life. It devalued the fuller reality of the church expressed in German Catholicism’s rich tradition of social and political activism, as realized in the Kolping Society, the programs of Mainz’s Bishop Wilhelm Ketteler (d. 1877) and the Catholic Center Party. As a result, it lost sight of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891) and Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno (1931). Moreover, it cast ambiguity upon the church’s civil autonomy by requiring the bishops’ oath of loyalty to the Reich.
The concordat was also flawed in its timing and implementation. Cardinal Pacelli signed the agreement too early in the regime’s history, for this treaty gave Hitler the international respectability he craved. The signing of the concordat also demoralized German Catholics, who had stood with their bishops in opposing National Socialism from the early 1920’s until March 28, 1933. On that date the bishops, relying on Hitler’s solemn pledge to make “the two churches [Catholic and Protestant] the cornerstone of our work of national renewal,” rescinded their bans against membership in the Nazi Party. Pius XI and Pacelli may have operated in the best interests of the church as an institution, but they implicitly diminished the church as an advocate of human rights and justice. Here was one of the ill effects of the ecclesiology of perfect society. The metaphor of the church as a medieval castle or a Gothic cathedral so dominated Catholic thought that it lessened the role of the church as a proponent of universal human values as embodied in natural law....
Analyzing the Concordat of 1933, the Rev. John Jay Hughes has rightly observed that “[t]oo much reliance was placed on diplomatic protests; and too little was done to acquaint rank and file Catholics in Germany with the existence and content of these protests and to mobilize them in support of church rights.” Fueling this inadequate implementation of the concordat was the theology of the church as a hierarchical institution. “The fundamental cause of this failure was theological: the view of the church as consisting of a more or less passive laity, an obedient body of pastoral clergy, and a hierarchy that directed and led both laity and clergy, making all decisions in lonely and splendid isolation.”
Kreig places great emphasis on the theology of the time which saw the Church as a perfect society. As Fr. Hughes states, the institutional view this theology generates is hierarchical with a passive laity, obedient clergy, and a hierarchy that directed and led everyone else from it's lonely and splendid isolation. Their direction was supposed to lead everyone to the personal sanctity and holiness needed to enter the private Catholic heaven. Vatican II was supposed to have done away with all this nonsense in it's theology of the Church as the People of God.
I believe one of the driving motivations in the 'reform of the reform' movement, is the return of this theological notion of the Church as the perfect society. It is the fundamental basis of all the 'new movements' as is perfectly illustrated in the cultic dysfunction in the Legion of Christ and other imitators. It can also be seen in it's universal application in the hierarchical response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis--protect the instituion at all costs, even if that cost includes it's very reason for existence. This is why Benedict routinely apologizes from the apex of his splendid isolation, while nothing changes down below him in the institutional aspect of the 'Perfect Society'. I sometimes wonder if he really believes his papal apologies will magically blind us to the fact he is refusing to deal with the structures, personalities, and attitudes which created the scandal.
I understand why British humanists are up in arms about these quotes. These quotes should be challenged, and not just by secular atheists and agnostic humanists, but by Catholics who care about the true history of the Institution. The theology of the perfect society is far far from perfect. It's damaging to the laity, the clergy, and the isolated leaders who feel compelled to make one disastrous decision after another in order to protect themselves and their position in this perfect society. It actually promotes a theology of relativism with all things being relative to the hierarchy. Hence the totality of the German Catholic Church and it's influence in the German culture could be negotiated away in order to protect some of the autonomy of the bishops and the Holy See. Millions of people died while Catholic bishops wrote secret memos back and forth with the Vatican, their official silence giving the impression the Nazi's were all right by them.
And yet after this history, Benedict repeatedly states gay marriage is the biggest threat to civilization. Maybe in his theological illusion of the mythical perfect clerical culture, but hardly to civilization in the real world. In the real world the Vatican illusion of the perfect society has proven to be the far bigger threat to civilization. In too many respects it still is.