Take prominent televangelist John Hagee; Christian Zionist and periodic Catholic basher. Hagee campaigns for an Israeli state that will provoke an end-of-times conflict; one in which he believes the great majority of the Jews he claims to hold dear, wind up in perdition. That is bad enough, but as Bruce Wilson has pointed out, Hagee blames the Jews for the Holocaust. And while he is at it, he also blames the Catholic Church. Let's underscore that Hagee is not a marginal or obscure figure. He heads a prominent "pro-Israel" lobby, and politicians, most recently, GOP presidential contender, John McCain, court his support. And his anti-Catholicism is not youthful excess.
At page 114 of his recent book Jerusalem Countdown, he states:
Anti-Semitism is sin, and as sin, it damns the soul. Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolph Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.
But if anti-Semitism is a sin, isn't anti-Catholicism? At page 116 he declares:
Nazi legality was immensely strengthened by the Concordant with the Vatican (July 20 1933), an agreement that the Catholic Church had refused to give the previous Weimer Republic. Hitler described the Concordant of Collaboration as an "unrestricted acceptance of national socialism by the Vatican."
Hagee clearly mischaracterizes the intended parameters of the 1933 Concordant with the Reich. First and foremost, the document was never defined by the Vatican as "Concordant of Collaboration:" that appears to be a description invented by Hagee. As Robert Krieg wrote in the Jesuit journal America:
Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII) judged that their first duty was to secure civil guarantees for the autonomy of ecclesiastical institutions and their activities. After the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918, the Holy See had tried to sign a concordat with the Weimar Republic but did not succeed. The sticking point was the church's insistence on state support for Catholic schools and for Catholic religious instruction in the public schools. This stipulation was not acceptable to Weimar's parliament, especially to its Socialists, who held that it violated the separation between church and state. As the Vatican's nuncio to Bavaria (1917-20) and then to the Weimar Republic (1920-29), Eugenio Pacelli had arranged concordats with individual German states-namely with Bavaria in 1925, Prussia in 1929 and Baden in 1932. Given this history, Pius XI and Pacelli had reason to be pleased when Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen came to Rome on April 7, 1933, to negotiate a concordat with the Reich's new government.
The Concordat of 1933 gave the papacy what it wanted most, but it also required some concessions from Pius XI and Pacelli, as Joseph Beisinger has described in Controversial Concordats (edited by Frank J. Coppa, 1999). It stipulated that the state would permit parishes to administer the sacraments to the faithful and to instruct its members in the faith and that civil authorities would not interfere in the naming of bishops and pastors. These safeguards were important, because the predominantly Protestant Prussian government had closed Catholic churches, imprisoned bishops and pastors, and stopped the appointment of new bishops during Otto von Bismarck's Kulturkampf (1870-80). The concordat asserted, too, that the state would give financial support to the church's schools and that it would make Catholic religious education available in the public schools-religious education taught only by instructors approved by the bishops.
As Shira Schoenberg, writing for the Jewish Virtual Library observed, "The Pope's reaction to the Holocaust was complex and inconsistent. At times, he tried to help the Jews and was successful. But these successes only highlight the amount of influence he might have had, if he not chosen to remain silent on so many other occasions."
Schoenberg's observations seem to be the most balanced statement on the Vatican during Pius's reign. Perhaps an even more balanced view of Pius's action (or inaction) could have been provided International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission had been able to get greater cooperation from the Holy See.
There is clearly enough information to make certain conclusions. The Vatican, especially through the actions of Pius XI and then Pius XII, failed in 1933 to recognize potential for evil Hitler presented. The Vatican was much too concerned with solidifying its place in German society and fighting Communism than preventing the rise of a Nazi culture. Hitler's intentions were there for all to see in Mein Kampf. And although there are many examples where the Vatican acted to save imperiled Jews, certainly much more could have been done.
Yet further down at page 116 of Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee exaggerates Catholic involvement with Nazi policy:
The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself. For Rome, it was only a repetition of the Concordant it had previously made with Mussolini. The German bishops followed the Vatican, represented by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pacelli, and later Pope Pius XII. The priest obeyed the bishops, and the parishioners fell in line.
"...the parishioners fell in line?" Well, perhaps Hagee should read up on the Jesuit Priest Fr. Alfred Delp, or Fr. Bernhard Lichtenberg who openly spoke out against Hitler and died in transit to the Dachau concentration camp. These are just two of many examples who spoke out against the regime.
And finally, here is Hagee at page 116 through 117...
Was Hitler a Christian? The Roman Catholic Church certainly thought so. In all of his years of absolute brutality, he was never denounced or even scolded by Pope Pius XII or any other Catholic leader in the world
Unfortunately there were certain Catholic clergy-as there were certain Protestant clergy-who worked hand-in-hand with the Nazis, but they did so without Vatican approval. In fact, the Vatican soon became disillusioned with Hitler as her own clergy were being arrested and put on trial. On March 14, 1937 Pope Pius XI issued Mit Brennender Sorge which clearly criticized the Nazi regime for its "pagan cult of race."
Was there Vatican negligence concerning Jewish suffering during the Holocaust? Could Pius XII have been more active in protecting European Jews? Absolutely. But for Hagee to charge that Vatican was scheming with Hitler to exterminate the Jews of Europe is more than dishonest. And if Donohue were the least bit vigilant, he would be confronting Hagee instead of hiding.
Donohue is quick to complain about the lack of Christmas trees or religious songs not being sung during school pageants. What Hagee wrote was maliciously inaccurate.
In fairness, the Catholic League spoke out against similar statements by Hagee-ten years ago, but evidently, it didn't do any good. And since then, Hagee has grown more prominent and more powerful. Does that make him untouchable?
The ancient Greeks said that they enemy of my enemy is my friend. And if that be the case, is "a friend" defined as someone who can simultaneously disparage your faith but shares the same political philosophy?
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