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The Pope Needs to Say "I'm Sorry"

May 13, 2009

The world, and the Jewish world in particular, was astonished by what Pope Bendict XVI didn’t say at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the 6 million innocents — one out of every three Jews in the world — that were intentionally, viciously and piteously murdered in cold blood, with the active support or cold indifference of the vast majority of Europeans, Christians, Catholics, and Muslims worldwide.
How will the Pope ever get past his own past if he declines to acknowledge it? Still the Vatican lies about his enrollment in Hitler Youth, even though the Pope himself has admitted it. Why not openly condemn it? Why not describe the circumstances at the time? Why not explain how ordinary Germans/Europeans became brutal demonic executioners of children and dedicate yourself to understanding that evil so that it never happens again? Why not examine and condemn the horrific role of the Catholic Church in putting the Nazis in power and refusing to speak out against the horrors it knew was occurring? Why not, in a gesture of good will, open up the Vatican’s Nazi files to allow all to see?
President Obama disclosed the far lesser crime of American torture so he could move our nation past these evils. Heck, even Senator Robert Byrd has tearfully apologized for his past membership in the KKK. Can’t this Pope — supposedly a moral leader of worldwide standing — mention his sorrow at playing any part in Hitler’s war machine? Can’t he even mention the role that he and his people played in committing the greatest atrocity of the 20th Century?
Europeans, having murdered most all their Jews, now want the remainder of the Jewish People to risk annihilation again. Perhaps Israel should take extraordinary risks in the fervent, if somewhat unrealistic hope, that with those risks, one day, much of the world and Israel’s neighbors will decide to allow the Jewish People some small place on earth where they can control their own destiny without fear of mass extermination. Perhaps those risks for “peace/annihilation” are too great. But until Europeans (especially but not only Germans) and the Catholic Church recognize the horror of the crime they themselves committed, their moral authority is less than zero.
One thing’s for sure. I consider this Pope to be of no higher moral authority than your average 82-year old Bavarian. And I don’t think much of your average 82-year old Bavarian. Sorry Catholics. Please don’t take offense. I had great respect for Pope John Paul II.

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  • Jeff May 18, 2009 8:48 pm

    I’m agreeing with everything else you’re saying here. Just not the kill exception. As far as him failing to internalize his sorrow, I agree that even if I had applied and been rejected and never served in the Hitler Youth, I would still be ashamed and perpetually apologize. I’m surprised he could even make pope with that history. If Obama were ever a Black Panther, he wouldn’t be President.
    Speaking of that, if Obama were involved in the Holocaust he would have taken his involvement in the Holocaust head on and comprehensively.

  • Mark May 18, 2009 4:25 pm

    My complaint was not that the Pope said “killed” rather than murdered. My complaint was that he did not apologize–that he took no responsibility for the crimes of his country (Germany) in whose Army he served and whose Fuhrer he served in Hitler Youth, nor for the crimes of the Catholic Church in wilfully deciding that the death of millions of Jews was probably a good thing, and certainly not anything to risk speaking out against.
    To me, having mere “compassion” for a victim of a lynching–when one’s father and brother did the lynching–would be a similar affront. The proper response would be to admit what your father and brother did and show immense sorrow and apology for their heinous acts. Think how, for example, those who knew Virginia Tech killer responded, not merely with blanket compassion for the victims but with real anguish for whatever role they may have played in the affair and whether they could have done enough to stop him.
    Pope Benedict acted like the Holocaust was equivalent to a famine or a typhoon, as if the victims were gassed by accident or an Act of God, rather than by the millions of evil Germans and Catholics (and non-Germans and non-Catholics) who perpetrated these crimes, the millions more who welcomed them, and the tens of millions more who stood by and did nothing to prevent them.

  • Jeff May 18, 2009 12:51 am

    I never trusted this pope. Anyone whose seen The Star Wars saga knows that he’s obviously the Emperor. Seriously, look at him.
    But seriously, I’m a protestant who thinks the whole office and the “holy” titles that go with it are over the top blasphemous. I just state it to let you know where I stand here.
    The church itself, great. The hierarchy, bowing to men? Not so much.
    That said, I agree with 80% of what you said. I think you were a bit sensitive on the murder thing. I’ve talked about the Holocaust since I was a small child. I’ve never called it murder and I think I’ve never heard it called murder. Murder is implied. Evil is implied. I can’t think of a time when a state has done this sort of thing and it was called murder, whether it’s Turkey with its Armenian event or Rwanda or Darfur. It’s almost always “killed.”
    A drug dealer murdered my brother five years ago, but up until now, I’ve always used the words “shot” or “killed” when describing the act.
    But I don’t want to sound like I’m defending this pope. Seriously, whenever I see him, I see George Lucas’ Emperor, and I think the cynicism he brings lowers the tide for all Christianity.
    Being a Protestant, I have always held some disdain for the way the media has respected the pope. The pope is no longer so respected. Oddly enough, somehow that frightens me! People blame Christians for so much now. They blame us for almost all war, especially the Crusades, while I blame most war on spices, water, land and resources, and the Crusades on the Muslims trying to conquer Europe FIRST.
    Something has been lost with this pope. I’m glad though that civility hasn’t been lost, at least here.