CATHOLICISM & FASCISM: A BRIEF RETROSPECTIVE
by Robert E. Nordlander
This essay was published in the April 1990 issue of FREETHOUGHT TODAY. Introduction by Annie Laurie Gaylor Editor of FREETHOUGHT TODAY.
"This essay in historical remiscence," notes Bob Nordlander, "was motivated by a recent column by William F. Buckley, Jr., a Roman Catholic, in which he expressed his gratitude that Hitler had never proclaimed himself a Christian. Perhaps readers of FREETHOUGHT TODAY might send him a response (William F. Buckley, Jr. 150 E. 35th Street, New York, NY 10016) based on this article and Anne Gaylor's essay 'Hitler's Relgion.' [Ed/ note: Gaylor's essay is available in reprint. Send your request with an SASE to the Foundation. You might also read the award-winning research of John Toland].
"It will indeed be interesting to see if Buckley will acknowledge that he made a mistake or if he will allow his historical untruth to stand uncorrected," Bob writes.
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CATHOLICISM & FASCISM: A BRIEF RETROSPECTIVE
Although there are elements within the contemporary Catholic Church attempting to alleviate the misery of millions of people living in Third World countries under the ideological or theological rubric of "Liberation Theology," the Catholic Church's hierarchy is for the most part opposed to this trend and is more comfortable wheeling and dealing with right-wing despots, just as it was comfortable earning the favor of royalty in days gone by.
This was especially true between the two world wars of this century when the Soviet Union and Stalinism appeared to pose a challenge to the political status quo of Europe. It was into this milieu that Adolf Hitler stepped and volunteered to serve as the messianic savior of Germany and later turned his "anti-communist" crusade into a world war.
Adolf Hitler virutally commenced his crusade as a champion of Christianity. While there are those who question the sincerity of his Christian (Roman Catholic) religious convictions, the Roman Catholic Church never saw fit to excommunicate him while giving him enthusiastic support in Germany and in the Vatican, especially after the attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941.
What follows is an excerpt from a speech made by Hitler early in his career taken from a book called My New Order, a collection of some of the more significant speeches he made from 1922-1941 (edited by Raoul de Roussy and published by Reynal & Hitchcock). In this speech Hitler proclaims his devotion to the Christian religion, thus laying the basis for the support he eventually obtained from the Roman Catholic and Lutheran religious establishments of Germany. The speech was made on April 12, 1922:
"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.
"In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison.
"Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.
"As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.
"And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery.
"When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited."
That the Roman Catholic Church had no hesitancy to back fascism in the name of the crusade against "godless atheistic communism" needs no documentation here. But there is a chapter in the history of Roman Catholicism's bloody alliance with fascism that is virtually unknown to people who are not literate or fluent in the Serbian/Croatian languages. I have reference to Yugoslavia during the years 1941-1945, particularly certain events that transpired in Croatia.
Anne Gaylor's essay "Hitler's Religion" mentions the Roman Catholic Croatian dictator Ante Pavelic and his massacres of the (Greek) Orthodox Serbian minority during World War II. Literature on this subject is very difficult to come by in English. One source is Spy in the Vatican by Branco Bokun, published by Praeger in 1973.
Branco Bokun was a young man of 21 years when his mother was able to obtain an appointment for him in the foreign service of Yugoslavia shortly before Hitler's invasion of that country in April, 1941. When the royalist government was quickly disposed of by the invading German military machine, the personnel of the foreign office was transferred to the Red Cross which was allowed to function by the occupying power.
Branco Bokun was fluent in at least two foreign languages. He was able to speak Hungarian like a native and Italian well enough to enroll at the University of Rome as a Hungarian in order to study the political economy of fascism as pracriced in Italy. He was ordered to do this by his boss in Yugoslav intelligence-also a Red Cross employee-to serve as a cover for his real mission which was to get the Vatican (that is, Pope Pius XII) to order the Roman Catholic Croatian dictator Ante Pavelic to stop his massacres of Serbian Orthodox Christians. Bokub's mission was a dismal failure (although he did win his degree in economics from the University of Rome in 1945).
The following is an excerpt of a speech by Mike Budak, Croatian Minister of Religion, made on July 22, 1941, three months after the Croats won their independence from Yugoslavia by joining the Axis cause during World War II. (From Spy in the Vatican):
"The Ustashi movement is based on the Catholic Religion. For the minorities, Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, we have three million bullets. A part of these minorities has already been eliminated and many are waiting to be killed. Some will be sent to Serbia and the rest will be forced to change their religion to Catholicism. Our new Croatia will therefore be free of all heretics, becoming purely Catholic for the future years."
At this point over 300,000 Serbs, Gypsies and Jews had been murdered by the Croatian fascists known as the Ustashi. A grand total of 700,000 human beings, mostly Serbian Orthodox Christians, were to fall victim to the Ustashi gangsters who did their killing in the name of Holy Mother Church.
Bokun quoted a Roman Catholic priest as having made the following remarks on June 13, 1941:
"Brethren, up to now we have worked for the Holy Roman Apostolic Church with the cross and the missal. Now the moment has come to work with a knife in one hand and a gun in the other. The more Serbs and Jews you succeed in eliminating, the more you will be raised in esteem in the heart of the Roman Catholic Church."
A game that was played by the Ustashi personnel who manned the concentration camp was called "cut throat." According to the author, whoever was "able to kill a Serb or a Jew causing the least agony is the winner." On July 14 (1941. the Pope received, and gave his blessing to a hundred Ustashi policemen. The delegation was selected from the winners of "cut-throat."
Bokun described some photographs an intelligence boss asked him to look at before he left for Rome.
"I saw a picture of an Orthodox Church in the village of Glina. In front of the church was a pile of bodies, with two Ustashis in the foreground throwing the body of a dead Orthodox priest on the pile. To the left of the photograph, a Catholic priest stood watching.
"The next photograph depicted an Ustashi in the act of beheading an Orthodox priest, his axe raised, ready to strike. In the background several other Ustashis were standing around laughing.
"The third picture showed an Ustashi brandishing a knife dripping with blood, at his feet the bodies of several women and children.
"My eyes fixed on a naked child in the front who could not have been more than three years old. The look of surprise in his wide-open eyes made him look as if he were still alive."
Bokun was only able to deal with one significant Vatican bureaucrat, and that was done only through his administrative assistant. The bureaucrat in question was the future Pope Paul VI, who was then Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, Pro-Secretary of State of the Vatican, Secretary of the Department of Ordinary Affairs. Montini accepted the version of events concocted by the government of Croatia claiming that the atrocities were the work of communists who maliciously attributed them to Catholics.
One highly-placed person in the Vatican bureaucracy, Cardinal Eugene Tiserant, Secretary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, was informed about what was happening in Croatia in the name of the Roman Catholic Church. He informed Pope Pius XII but to no avail.
The Vatican was especially proud of one facet of Croatian domestic policy: new abortion laws in Croatia justifying the persecution of Jews since "most practitioners of abortion were Jewish."
Wrote Bokun in his journal dated June 12, 1943: "When millions are being slaughtered the Vatican has nothing better to do than to honor Croatia for pronouncing abortion illegal. What is even more ironic is that his bloody Excellency is preventing abortion by murdering the parents."
Spy in the Vatican documents the holocaust no one knows about, as well as giving a memorable account of life and politics in Rome and the Vatican from 1941-1945.
Admittedly, this brief look at Roman Catholicism's World War II love-affair with fascism is hardly complete. Nevertheless, we should never forget that Adolf Hitler was never ex-communicated by the Roman Catholic Church for his crimes against humanity, and that the "Holy Mother Church" has more blood on her skirts than she is willing to acknowledge. Let's keep these historic facts in mind when we are urged by priest or politician that only a belief in "God" is going to produce a moral human being. The Roman Catholic Hitler and Christian Croatia have taught us otherwise.
The committment of 20,000 American troops in December, 1995 to Bosnia by President Clinton under the aegis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization makes the discussion presented above again relevant - not to mention NATOs aerial blitzkrieg launched against Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999.
April 22, 1999
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