Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Not a Nazi

Well, whatever can be said about Pope Benedict XVI, formerly known as Cardinal "I put the D back in Dogma" Ratzinger, a Nazi's not one of them. The Jerusalem Post explains:
Ratzinger's membership in the Hitler Youth was not voluntary but compulsory; also admitted are the facts that the cardinal - only a teenager during the period in question - was the son of an anti-Nazi policeman that he was given a dispensation from Hitler Youth activities because of his religious studies and that he deserted the German army.

Ratzinger has several times gone on record on his supposedly "problematic" past. In the 1997 book Salt of the Earth Ratzinger is asked whether he was ever in the Hitler Youth.

"At first we weren't he says, speaking of himself and his older brother, but when the compulsory Hitler Youth was introduced in 1941 my brother was obliged to join. I was still too young but later as a seminarian I was registered in the Hitler Youth. As soon as I was out of the seminary I never went back. And that was difficult because the tuition reduction which I really needed was tied to proof of attendance at the Hitler Youth.

"Thank goodness there was a very understanding mathematics professor. He himself was a Nazi but an honest man and said to me 'Just go once to get the document so we have it...' When he saw that I simply didn't want to he said 'I understand I'll take care of it' and so I was able to stay free of it."

Ratzinger says this again in his own memoirs printed in 1998. In his 2002 biography of the cardinal John Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter wrote in detail about those events.

The only significant complaint that the Times makes against Ratzinger's wartime conduct is that he resisted quietly and passively rather than having done something drastic enough to earn him a trip to a concentration camp. Of course whenever it is said that a German failed the exceptional-resistance-to-the-Nazis test it would behoove us all to recognize that too many Jews failed it as well.

If he were truly a Nazi sympathizer then it would undoubtedly have become evident during the past 60 years. Yet throughout his service in the church Ratzinger has distinguished himself in the field of Jewish-Catholic relations.

As prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith Ratzinger played an instrumental role in the Vatican's revolutionary reconciliation with the Jews under John Paul II. He personally prepared Memory and Reconciliation the 2000 document outlining the church's historical "errors" in its treatment of Jews. And as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission Ratzinger oversaw the preparation of The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible a milestone theological explanation for the Jews' rejection of Jesus.If that's theological anti-Semitism then we should only be so lucky to "suffer" more of the same.As for the Hitler Youth issue not even Yad Vashem has considered it worthy of further investigation. Why should we?

The Jerusalem Post affirming Pope Benedict XVI's anti-Nazi credentials is enough for me. As secular critics of Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church's harsh social conservatism, let's stick to the facts and not exaggerate. There's enough wrong already without making the most inexcusable and intellectually flaccid of connections.

In a later post, I'll investigate Pope Benedict XVI's hostility to liberation theology, which was closer to Jesus's social gospel than the Church proper's ridiculous tiff with homosexuality and contraceptives and their legitimate concerns over abortion and euthanasia.