Sunday, May 27, 2007

touching on the recent history of the HRCAC

bloody drowning, not waving

I was hardly surprised to find the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church getting a hammering from Michel Onfray in his Atheist Manifesto, but I was intrigued by some specific twentieth century allegations, which I’m inclined to investigate further. The first allegation I knew a little about – the connection between the papacy and Nazism. The second allegation, about the part played by Catholic priests in the Rwandan massacre of the nineties, was completely new to me.

On the first issue, Onfray points out that the Vatican admired Hitler [the feeling was mutual] because they pinpointed the same enemies – Jews and Communists. The Vatican never censored the increasing militarism of Nazi Germany, and certainly didn’t protest against its increasingly anti-semitic policies. It supported and aided the pro-Nazi Ustachi regime in Croatia, and the collaborationist Vichy regime in France, and did nothing to protest the extermination policies pursued from 1942, though it knew full well about them. In 1945, the German Cardinal Bertram infamously ordered a requiem mass for Hitler’s soul, that he might enter paradise. No comment was made upon the victims of Auschwitz. After the war, the Vatican set up a network to smuggle Nazi war criminals out of Europe.

The Church’s role in committing or abetting mass murders in Croatia and elsewhere is also highlighted in a book by Daniel Goldhagen, A Moral Reckoning. Other books dealing with these issues include Constantine’s Sword, by James Carroll, and Papal Sins, by Garry Wills.

As to the Rwandan massacre, I feel a bit sheepish for knowing nothing about this. In one high-profile case, a Father Seromba was put on trial [though he has refused to appear] at the UN War Crimes Tribunal in Tanzania, accused of helping to orchestrate a mass-killing of 2000 Tutsis seeking refuge in his own parish church.

While nobody is accusing the Vatican of being responsible for this and other Rwandan atrocities, Onfray’s point is that, as with the sexual abuse problem in the priesthood, the Vatican’s first instinct is to protect its own and only later, if at all, to consider the victims. Also, the Church has refused to accept any responsibility for the actions of individual priests. Whether or not this is a justifiable position is the big question.

And another little point. As reported here, recently the Catholic church called for the abolition of the death penalty in Rwanda. This was after twenty-two Catholic clergy were given death sentences for their involvement in the Rwandan killings. The Vatican had never called for the abolition of the death penalty in Rwanda before. Ain't life strange.

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