as the whole world gravitates toward fundamentalism…

Joseph Ratzinger, the conservative Catholic Cardinal that was just elected Pope, was a member of the Hitler Youth as a youngster in Germany. And, even though he deserted in 1945, he also served in the German military for a while. (The references I’ve found thus far say that Ratzinger was in “the German military,” but they don’t use the term “Nazi.” Is there a distinction that I’m not aware of, or are they just being kind to the Cardinal? I was under the impression that everyone in the military that time was a de facto member of the party. WWII isn’t something I know much about though.)

We’re told not to make too much of the fact that he was in the Hitler Youth, or that he later served Hitler in the military though. We’re told that he was an “unenthusiastic” follower of Hitler. And, we’re reminded, “it’s not like he worked in a death camp.” (He was assigned to an anti-aircraft group charged with protecting a BMW factory.)

More recently, I’m told by friends that he worked to see Bush reelected here in the US. (I’m not sure how he did this, exactly, but that’s what I’m told.) By all accounts, he is as conservative as the come… So, if you were waiting for a Pope that would tell the people in Africa that they could use rubbers to protect themselves from AIDs, you’d better have a seat. And he’s also not the kind of guy to extend a hand in friendship to the gay community either… Speaking of which, here’s an excerpt from Andrew Sullivan’s blog:

There is simply no other figure more extreme than the new Pope on the issues that divide the Church. No one. He raised the stakes even further by his extraordinarily bold homily at the beginning of the conclave, where he all but declared a war on modernity, liberalism (meaning modern liberal democracy of all stripes) and freedom of thought and conscience. And the speed of the decision must be interpreted as an enthusiastic endorsement of his views. What this says to American Catholics is quite striking: it’s not just a disagreement, it’s a full-scale assault.

So, make of that what you will. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but it looks to me as though the Catholics have cast their lot, deciding to meet fundamentalism with fundamentalism… Yup, it looks like we might be heading into a confrontation of Biblical proportions… If ever there was a time that called for an extremist, former-Nazi Pope, God knows it’s now.

Here, in hopes that it might not make our present situation look quite so bleak, is a clip from a Detroit Free Press article on the beautiful legacy left by Ratzinger’s predecessors, the old-school Popes of antiquity:

One of the most bizarre loose ends was the “cadaver synod” after the election in 896 of the insanely vengeful Pope Stephen VI. He harbored so much anger at a predecessor, Pope Formosus, that he had his corpse exhumed.

Formosus’ decomposing body was dressed in papal vestments, propped on a throne and put on trial for crimes against church law, including perjury. Unable to mount a defense, Formosus’ ghastly remains were convicted. As punishment, the three fingers Formosus once used to bless the faithful were hacked from his right hand. His body was dragged away and thrown into the Tiber River.

Piling crime upon crime like a modern suspense novel, Stephen soon was thrown into prison himself. Formosus’ friends crept into his cell and strangled him.

“Even professional historians shy away from this period because these things are so horrifying,” said John-Peter Pham, a papal historian at James Madison University in Virginia and the author of the newly released “Heirs of the Fisherman” (Oxford Press).

Just how horrible did it get? Well, squeamish readers should skip the next three paragraphs.

Because the papacy often was treated as a political pawn, popes sometimes found themselves at the mercy of ruthless rulers.

Consider poor John XVI, who thought he was the rightful pope, according to Roman nobles who pushed him onto the papal throne in 997. Unfortunately, another politically powerful pope, Gregory V, was alive elsewhere in Europe.

Gregory returned to Rome and was not amused at finding a rival. He ordered John’s eyes put out as well as his nose and ears sliced off. Then, to underline the point, John was excommunicated. Should he wish to object, his lips, teeth and tongue were removed next. And his mutilated body, still alive, was shipped to a monastery.

So, maybe an “unenthusiastic” Nazi isn’t so bad.

(All kidding asside, I don’t fault the Pope for serving in the German military. He was about 15 or 16 years old at the time, and there’s a great deal of evidence to support the fact that the people of Germany were lied to and manipulated by their government. I’m much more concerned with what this Pope believes now, and in which direction he’s likely to lead the church. All indications are that it won’t be toward the light of modernity, and I think that’s realy the last thing we need right now as a civilization.)

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9 Comments

  1. srah
    Posted April 21, 2005 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    “The references I

  2. Posted April 21, 2005 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Not to defend him as I’m not a fan of the new Pope, but all youths of a certain age were forced to join the Hitler Youth and yes, as srah points out there is a difference between being a Nazi Party Member and being forced (once again) to serve in the army. I was appalled to find out he had been a Hitler youth, but when I heard he was forced, I decided I couldn’t really hold that against him. Especially when there is so many other things I can hold against him…legitimately.

  3. chris
    Posted April 21, 2005 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Like I said before, it is not that he was a Nazi, member of the herren morale or even that he just happened to be a file clerk during the Third Reich. What matters is that given his background he was elected at all. Of course, Schwarzenegger (grandfather/nazi)is Governor of California, so maybe this is good for the cv.

    Hmmmm…how can I fabricate a National Socialist legacy to further MY career.

  4. srah
    Posted April 21, 2005 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Well, if you go for that kind of thing, he wasn’t really elected – the cardinals just act as a sort of Ouija board to point out the one that the Holy Spirit has already picked. :)

  5. Posted April 22, 2005 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    It’s complete nonsense to say, that all members of the German Army were members of Hitler’s Party. It is exactly the opposite, the members of the army were forbidden to be politically active during their military service. Most soldiers were not party members anyway!

    The Hitler Youth from 14 to 18 years old was compulsory for every male young! There were other organizations for girls and younger children.

    When the war was nearly lost the Luftwaffe replaced their anti aircraft units with youngsters and students from 15 to 17 years old. This is exactly the position Mr Ratzinger had. When he had his 18th birthday on the 16th April 1945, three weeks before the end of the Third Reich Ratzinger was already an American POW.

    It is ridiculous to call him a nazi!

  6. Posted April 22, 2005 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Holy crap, he looks like EMPORER PALPATINE from Star Wars. I wonder if Lucas had something to do with this, with a tie-in to the new film. Hehehee..

  7. Teddy Glass
    Posted April 22, 2005 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Mark said he was a Nazi, and I think the point of the post was that there are other, more worrisome, things in his more recent past to be concerned about anyway, like his support of Bush and his stongly held beliefs concerning the role of women.

  8. mark
    Posted April 22, 2005 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Like I said, I’m not very well read when it comes to World War II. What I know, which is fairly limited, comes by way of Hollywood and the stories of my relatives who served. And, in both cases, I don’t think a lot of effort was spent differentiating between the German soldiers who were members of the Nazi party and those that weren’t. They were all Nazi’s… at least as I recall it.

  9. Posted October 3, 2005 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    http://www.ratzinger-z.com

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