How can so many church goers blindly support Trump although Trump is the antithesis of Christianity? Many Christians who feel alone in their opposition find hope in this editorial of the leading magazine Christianity Today:
History does not so much repeat as it rhymes, before you can compare any historical era to today you first need to under past historical eras on their own terms, which we have done in a series of blogs examining the Fascist regimes of the World War II era, focusing on how the Christians were able to survive these troubled times. In this blog we will see what we can learn by comparing these histories to our current political situation.
Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State, also penned a book based partially on her family’s experiences fleeing authoritarian regimes in the post war years, call “Fascism, A Warning.” Her book is not entirely on point, fascism comes in very different flavors in differing cultures in differing countries. The Fascism in America is a racist Jim Crow Fascism, which means that a more direct comparison can be made between our current racial politics and our American history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, Redemption, and the Civil Rights era, which we will explore in future blogs.
We do have many more parallels between our Civil Rights struggle and Nelson Mandela’s struggle in South Africa, which includes the World War II and postwar years, though South Africa was too remote to get involved in this struggle directly. South Africa in the Apartheid years was like Mississippi in your worst nightmare, the violence in the struggle was much more destructive, it was more like a civil war lasting decades. So we will review our blogs on Mandela also.
Note: My sources are indicated in the original source blogs that are summarized here. Reading the original blogs will enable you to setup these individual histories in their historical context.
BOOK REVIEWS ON OUR SOURCES:
Many of these histories have histories of their own!
YOU ARE WELCOME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR MEETUP ZOOM DISCUSSION ON THIS TOPIC ON 8/28/2020
HOW DOES TRUMP COMPARE TO FASCIST LEADERS OF THE PAST?
What do we mean by fascism? Can we say that Trump is like the Fascist leaders of the past? Or are Trump and his Republican enablers correct when he attempts to project his fascism onto Democrats and the antifa movement?
We will examine three dictatorships, Italy, Germany, and Spain, where fascist leaders were able to seize dictatorial powers and establish a totalitarian government, where the government sought total control over unions and political and social organizations, denying its citizens their freedoms of speech and assembly, seeking absolute personal loyalty to the Supreme Leader. Hitler was the only Fascist leader who persistently persecuted Christian churches, the other fascist leaders actively supported the Catholic Church. Hitler influenced the fascist regimes of Italy and France to implement racial policies to persecute Jews. We will examine life in Vichy France, where a fascist regime collaborated with its Nazi conquerors. Finally, we will examine apartheid South Africa, the closest to our American example, where a fascist regime sought to enforce Jim Crow policies holding down their African majority both by violence and every miscarriage of justice possible in their apartheid codes.
Although many suspect that Trump is a wannabe dictator, nobody claims that Trump is a totalitarian dictator. However, a subservient Senate has enabled his personal corruption and enabled his selection of many incompetent and corrupt minions to government appointments. Rather, Trump and his administration is rather a fascist regime seeking to exploit the poison of white supremacy and fear to roll back civil rights of blacks and bring back as much of Jim Crow America as possible, and to reverse as much as possible the historically pro-immigration policies that truly made America great. The Trump administration want to chip off this paean inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Our fear that should Trump be re-elected a second term that he will continue to corrode our democratic institutions until, like Venezuela, all we have left is the shell of democracy hiding an increasingly dictatorial and totalitarian regime. If Trump is re-elected, will his successor four years later be even worse?
Let us define fascism as a political ideology that appeals to the basest instincts of mankind rather than their nobler instincts; seeks to blame minorities and immigrants for all the ills of society; that seeks to enrich the wealthy and powerful and take away from the minorities, the poor, the sick, the elderly, the minimum wage workers; that pretends to support traditional Christian values but who constantly erodes Christian values and morals in our culture.
Fascism values greed and hate over charity and love, values denigration over patience, values cruelty over kindness. Jim Crow fascism encourages envy over government programs that assist the disadvantaged and poor, boasts of its self-righteousness, never admits faults, seeks more wealth for the wealthy, is easily angered by the protests of minorities, always remembers white grievances. Trump fascism delights in conspiracy theories and corruption but paints inconvenient facts and virtue as fake news. Will Trump by November be the President of 30,000 lies, 300,000 deaths, and 300 golf outings?
FASCIST ITALY AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH UNDER MUSSOLINI
The first Fascist regime was created when Mussolini seized absolute power in Italy after 1921. Mussolini had been in power for over a decade when Hitler started his rise to power, in his early days Mussolini was the inspiration for Hitler, Hitler had a bust of Mussolini on his desk.
The Catholics of Italy were more fortunate than the Christians of Germany during the dark days of Fascism and Nazism. Although Mussolini’s totalitarian regime was brutal, and although Mussolini was not a practicing Catholic himself, he did cooperate with the Pope and the Catholic Church. Mussolini did not enact Nazi style anti-Semitic race laws until he fell under the spell of Hitler after 1938. Until then, the Catholics in the pews were not morally forced to choose between obeying the church and the state. There was not widespread support for the German Nazi roundup of the Jews, sending them to the death camps, after the Germans seized control of Italy in the final years of World War II.
LESSON: THE CHURCH SHOULD BE WARY OF VIOLENT POLITICAL MOVEMENTS
The Fascist movements in Italy and Germany came to power with assistance by large gangs of fascist thugs who bullied, beat up, and sometimes murdered their opponents. After assuming dictatorial powers Mussolini promised the Pope that he would reign in his thugs, but this was a promise he never fully kept, in part because these fascist gangs were hard to control, in part because he wanted to remind the Pope who was really in charge, who alone could rein in the gangs.
Politics was violent in the interwar years. Lenin had just overthrown the czar and setting up a Bolshevik government eager to export communism and revolution to all the countries of Europe, eager to meddle in their elections, eager to overthrow democracies and replace them with communist dictatorships. Communism believes in violent revolution; communist ideology teaches that it is noble to lie and deceive and cheat and steal your way into power.
The millions of conservative World War I veterans were eager to join the Fascist street gangs that battled the communists in the streets. There were no cellphone cameras, there was no television, radio was in its infancy, only newspapers could report on the riots, so street battles raged and blood was shed in relative anonymity. There were elections in Italy and Germany where hundreds died in the street battles. Often the police intervened, sometimes they were sympathetic.
LESSON: THE CHURCH SHOULD BE WARY OF A LEADER WHO DOES NOT SUPPORT THE RULE OF LAW
Read the blog on Mussolini for the captivating history of how Mussolini grabbed power and stayed in power with his disorganized rabbles of tens of thousands of armed fascist street gangs. Hundreds were killed in the street battles between his Fascist thugs and the Communists, and his thugs also killed many Catholic priests in their rioting. Mussolini bullied his way into Parliament, forming a majority with the conservatives against a loose coalition of the socialist, communist, and Catholic party. Mussolini had his thugs march on Rome and planned armed insurrections across the country, but King Emmanuel, the constitutional monarch, balked and refused to approve plans to put down the Fascist thugs by military force.
Mussolini surprised everyone, especially the Pope, when he publicly proclaimed that his Fascist Party was the party of traditional Catholic morality, that under fascism he would make the Catholic Church great again. The Pope sold out the Catholic Party, and embraced the new friend of the church who had so much blood on his hands already. Why not back the likely winner in this political struggle?
Why did the Pope betray the Catholic Popular Party to swing his support to Mussolini? Like all popes of his era, Pope Pius XI distrusted democracy, equating it with socialism, atheism, and communism.
Trump proclaimed he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters would sill love him. A famous Fifth Avenue moment actually happened in Mussolini’s Italy. We will quote from our blog above:
Mussolini would soon face the first serious challenge as Prime Minister of Italy. A very brave socialist delegate named Giacomo Matteotti strode to the podium on the third day of Parliament while being threatened by the Fascist thugs also elected to Parliament. There he bravely announced that the recent election, marred by violence, should be annulled.
Mussolini was furious. He turned to Cesare Rossi, his press secretary and head of a secret squad of thugs, and muttered, “That man shouldn’t be allowed to remain in circulation.”
There was no direct order, but we know how mafia gangs work, the boss complains and everyone knows what to do. The next day three thugs, one with brass knuckles, abducted Matteotti in broad daylight in downtown Rome, drove with the horn constantly blaring, drowning out the screams of Matteotti while they brutally beat him to death. After his wife calls the police they find the corpse in a shallow grave.
Italy was not yet a totalitarian police state. Many witnesses stepped forward to tell their story of this brazen murder. Everyone knew the trail led directly to Mussolini. Conservative newspapers turned against him, demanding justice. Many tore up their Fascist party cards. Fascists were afraid to march in public. Mussolini hesitated.
Not Pope Pius XI. The Pope did not hesitate, we went all in defending Mussolini. He directed the Vatican newspaper to write an editorial urging all good Catholics to obey civil authorities, refuse to cooperate with Socialists, and abstain from violent protest or any sort of protest. Mussolini was praised for all he had done for the Church, implying that he did not have anything to do with this murder.
Mussolini was so grateful he enrolled his children in religious lessons, they would soon celebrate their confirmation and first communion. But now there were rumors of a possible military coup overthrowing Mussolini, with the king’s blessing.
Seven months after the murder of Matteotti, Mussolini spoke to Parliament. “I declare here, in front of the Assembly and all the Italian people, that I alone assume full political, moral, and historical responsibility for everything that has happened.”
“We are all with you,” shouted the Fascist deputies.
“If Fascism has been a criminal organization, I am the head of this criminal association!”
“We are all with you!” The applause kept building.
Mussolini shouted, “You believed Fascism was finished, but you will see, Italy wants peace, want tranquility, wants calm. We will give Italy her tranquility, this calm through love if possible, and with force, if necessary.”
Were these seen at the time as the rants of a good Catholic? Now that Mussolini knew he could get away with murder, he would turn Italy into a dictatorship subject only to a compliant king. Fascist thugs threw the opposition leaders in jail and closed down their newspapers. New laws were passed banning opposition parties, only fascists unions were allowed, strikes were banned. Mayors would be appointed by the central government, the press was censored, and capital punishment was reinstated. For good measure, he tricked his wife into being baptized to please the Pope.
Will a similar Fifth Avenue incident happen in America? Several corrupt incidents have already happened where Trump got caught only to bombastically declare that what he did was the right thing to do. Like his perfect letter to the leader Ukraine where he tried to extort his assistance in announcing a phony investigation to try to hurt Biden’s election prospects, an action that led to his impeachment, an action that nearly all the Republican senators celebrated by yelling, “We are all with you!”
Will Trump ever encourage armed thugs to terrorize their political opponents? Remember Charlottesville, where Trump only reluctantly somewhat condemned white supremacists. Remember Charlottesville, where Trump declared there were good people on both sides. Remember Charlottesville, where one of his right wingnuts drove his car into the crowd of protesters, murdering one girl and injuring many others. Fortunately, he was vigorously prosecuted for murder, discouraging similar acts of violence.
Always remember how Trump equates the second amendment gun rights with Christian values. Remember how Trump encourages the domestic terrorist Q-Anon and Boogaloo right wingnuts, and never discourages them from bullying bystanders with their AK-47’s. Remember how Trump tweeted, Liberate Michigan! Liberate Minnesota! Liberate Virginia! Will Trump tweet and encourage and egg on his second amendment right-wingnut vigilantes in the week of the election?
LESSON: THE CHURCH SHOULD BE WARY OF A LEADER WHO SPORTS MANY MISTRESSES AND HAS NO MORALS
Like Trump, Mussolini had many mistresses. Unlike Trump, he was a little bit younger and more virile during the time he was El Duce. He had a couch in one of his offices for his time with his mistresses. Many on his staff wondered how he found time to govern since he spent so much time dallying with his mistresses. He even had his own Ghislaine Maxwell, his favorite mistress, who would also recruit other young mistresses.
So far with Trump we only know about him cheating on his wife with a playboy mistress, cheating on his playboy mistress with a porn star, and possibly a maid, but Michael Cohen promises Trumpian revelations about strip clubs and gold shower in Vegas sex clubs.
Like Trump, Mussolini was not a devout Christian. Like Trump, he only paid lip service to the Church, making a big show of complying with the big sacraments like baptism, marriage, and confirmation (for his kids). Like Trump, he was not that thrilled about Christian concepts like confession, forgiving, loving your neighbor, thinking these were all signs of weakness, and El Duce should never seem weak.
The Pope tolerated Mussolini because he granted most of what he asked for to benefit the Catholic Church. The Pope tolerated Mussolini because he guaranteed that the Catholic Church would play a central role in education and Italian culture. The Pope tolerated Mussolini because he was able to negotiate the 1927 Lateran Accords, the Concordat in effect today that established the Vatican as an independent state governed by the Pope, and that the Catholic Church would be the official church of Italy.
LESSON: THE FASCIST SUCCESSOR WILL PROBABLY BE WORSE
You need a strong moral compass to do what is right. Like Trump, Mussolini did not have a strong, he did not even have a weak moral compass, his compass had no morals at all. Shortly before the start of World War II Mussolini started looking up to Hitler, Mussolini visited Berlin, Hitler visited Rome, and Mussolini started to value the values of Nazi Germany over the values of the Catholic Church.
Starting in 1938, the Fascist government under Mussolini started to implement many of the same anti-Semitic race laws that had earlier been passed in Nazi Germany. In the years before 1938 the Catholic Church prospered in its partnership with Mussolini. In the remaining years of Mussolini’s rule these relations were more and more strained. The Pope had started hearing disturbing reports from his churches in Germany and across Europe, disturbing reports on the fate of the Jews and the disabled and dissenters, priests, and believers.
Pope Pius XI started to have regrets about his compromises with Mussolini, Pope Pius XI was elderly and in poor health, Pope Pius XI started to worry about his salvation.
Some want to compare Trump to Hitler. Some say that perhaps Trump is a type of anti-Christ. Perhaps this is unfair. Perhaps Trump is more like Mussolini. Perhaps if Trump wins the election maybe he will bring us closer to the gates of Mordor. Perhaps Trump is more like an evil anti-baptist-john figure. Maybe like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump’s successor will be the true evil genius, truly a type of anti-Christ, someone much darker, someone more evil, someone more deliberate in their evil scheming, than Trump.
HITLER SEIZES POWER IN NAZI GERMANY, HIS PERSECUTION OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES
At the time of Hitler about 97% of Germans were registered as Christians, a third were Catholic, two-thirds were Protestant, most were Lutheran or Reformed Christians.
Trying to emulate Mussolini, Hitler tried to seize power with help from his armed Nazi thugs in the Beer Hall Putsch. The police succeeded in putting down this revolt. During his trial the sympathetic judge allowed Hitler to gain attention with lengthy courtroom speeches, but the conspirators were found guilty and were thrown in prison.
LESSON: BELIEVE THE CHOSEN ONE, THE FUHRER, WHEN HE SAYS STUFF
While in prison, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, or My Struggles, which is chock full of conspiracy theories, the QAnon manifesto of the day, blaming Germany’s problems on the odious Jews, urging the persecution of the Jewish scum, trumpeting the conquest of the East to gain Lebensraum or Living Space for the German people, subjecting the inferior Slavic races to slavery to the superior German race. Like Trump, Hitler did not hide what he planned to do. Nearly alone among Allied leaders, only Winston Churchill, then in a political wilderness, would read Mein Kampf and its horrific rantings, only Churchill would take them seriously and recognize Hitler for the sadistic madman that he was.
LESSON: FASCIST LEADERS CAN NEVER TRULY BE A FRIEND OF THE CHURCH
Like Trump, Hitler gained power with only about 40% support from the electorate. Like Trump, Hitler’s conservative allies thought they could easily manipulate them. They were wrong, both Trump and Hitler outwitted their conservative allies, both Trump and Hitler gained total control over their party, both Trump and Hitler gained control over much of the government.
Hitler quickly maneuvered his conservative allies after his manufactured emergency following the Reichstag fire, pinning the blame on the communists while some historians suspect it may have been a Nazi false flag operation. He had to maneuver the Reichstag, the German parliament, into approving the Enabling Act which enabled him to become the Fuhrer, the absolute dictator of Nazi Germany.
How would Hitler win the two thirds majority that he needed for the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act, which would enable Hitler to assume dictatorial powers in a totalitarian regime? To reach this two thirds threshold Hitler would need the support of the Nazi, Conservative, and the Catholic Center Party. To get the support of the Catholics, he would also need the approval of the Pope to this arrangement.
How did Hitler gain the support of the Catholic Center Party and alleviate the fears of Christians that the Nazi Party was essentially pagan and anti-Christian? By blatant lies and deceitful reassurances. Hitler got religion for the day of the vote, March 23, 1933.
Hitler reassured these believers in his speech to the Reichstag, “the national government regards the two Christian confessions as the most important factors for the preservation of our national culture… Their rights will not be infringed.” He promised that Christian teachings would be welcome in the schools. Of course, the Reich “regards the Christianity as the unshakable foundation of our national life and morality.” Hitler promised friendly relations with the Vatican Holy See.
Why did Pope Pius XI give his reluctant assent to the Enabling Act? He was a supporter of the monarchy and established order and distrusted democracy and socialism. His policy of cooperating with the ruling Fascist dictator worked out with Mussolini, who became an enthusiastic if not genuine partner of the Catholic Church. He soon opened up negotiations with Hitler for a Concordat similar to the one negotiated with Mussolini.
But the unlike the Fascist Party in Italy, the Nazi Party was profoundly pagan and hostile to Christian values. Hitler promised anything he had to promise to coax the Pope into signing a Concordat that provided Hitler with a propaganda victory. Why not? Hitler never had any intention of following the terms of the Concordat.
Unlike Mussolini, Hitler started breaking both the letter and the spirit of the Concordat provisions before the ink had a chance to dry. Both the Protestant and Catholic Churches would be subject to varying degrees of persecution for the duration of the Third Reich.
But you may say that Trump is still a friend of the evangelicals and Catholics. Trump may be a political friend of the evangelicals and Catholics, but Trump is no Christian, Trump does not see the need to hide that he does not believe in core Christian values, like repentance, like forgiveness, like love of your neighbor. Like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump has no genuine support for the values of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
Will a vote for Trump be a vote for his Enabling Act?
LESSON: FREEDOM TO WORSHIP WITHOUT HARASSMENT IS THE MAIN CONCERN OF THE CHURCH
Unlike the Fascist regimes of Italy, Spain, and Vichy France, who actively support the Catholic Church, the pagan Nazi regime in Germany harassed and persecuted all Christian Churches. Hitler in the 1920 Nazi Party platform supported the notion of positive Christianity which sought to fuse Christianity with Nazi racial ideology. This was a Christianity without an Old Testament, an Aryan Christ who was not a Jew, an absorbing Nazi Christianity that would absorb all other Christian Churches, a Nazi Church that would glorify the fatherland. These Nazi leaning churches were known as German Christians, and they managed to gain control of some of the Lutheran German Evangelical Churches.
The Confessing Church movement formed to resist this pressure to Nazify the German Protestant Churches. The leading theologian of this movement was Karl Barth, then theology professor at Bonn, known for his groundbreaking Commentary on Romans. During a synod in 1934, Barth was the primary author of the Barmen Declaration, the main confession of the Confessing Church. Barmen declared that Jesus is the sole authority of the Church, not the Fuhrer; that the Word of God is the source of revelation, not Nazi ideology; and that the message and order of the Church should not be influenced by Nazi politics. German Christians had the freedom to disobey Nazi dictates when they conflicted with scriptural mandates.
These machinations caused many member churches to distance themselves from the national organization. Also deeply controversial were the racial policies that decreed that any converted Jew should be dismissed from the clergy, and could not draw a state salary. Many churches were offended by the heavy-handed Nazi attempt to hijack the churches. Many of the churches were far more concerned with the fate of Jews who converted to Christianity than they were with the fate of all Jews.
The Confessing Church was not monolithic. Confessing Churches did not leave their denomination, they were a church within a church. Although the Confessing Church resisted Nazi encroachments into the church, it did not encourage political opposition to the Nazis. Some Confessing Church pastors refused to make any compromises, chief among them was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who eventually was involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler and would die in a Gestapo prison near the end of the war. Bonhoeffer was also adamant that Christians should concern themselves with the fate of all Jews. Many Confessing Church pastors tried to stay off the radar, some pastors were even card carrying members of the Nazi Party, which sometimes helped when they were harassed by the Gestapo.
The Nazi regime also harassed the Catholic Church, closing down all church schools and seizing all their printing presses.
There are many stories in my sources of brave Catholic and Protestant bishops and priests who stood up for the Christian ideals, some defending the rights and dignity of their Jewish brothers, many who died in Nazi concentration camps, martyrs for their Christian beliefs.
LESSON: HITLER’S FIFTH AVENUE SHOOTINGS WERE FAR MORE SINISTER
Like Trump, Mussolini may have thought that he could shoot a person on Fifth Avenue, and he did get away with the brutal murder of a political opponent on the streets of Rome in broad daylight.
Hitler was bolder, he knew that he could shoot hundreds of people of Fifth Avenue, and nobody would dare offer up a peep of protest. Hitler showed his boldness and savage butchery in the Night of the Long Knives
What led up to the Night of the Long Knives? Papen and Hindenburg became concerned at the brutality and overreach of the Nazi government, and the army command was concerned by Hitler’s huge SA brownshirt gangs that were causing terror in the streets of Germany. With Hindenburg’s encouragement, Papen delivered a speech that called for the restoration of some freedoms and advocated the end of SA terror in the streets.
Hitler was furious. The publication of the Marburg address was suppressed. Papen then met with Hitler and threatened to resign unless the publication ban was lifted, threatening action by Hindenburg. Papen was the Pence of the Third Reich. Hitler outwitted Papen, telling him that the ban on publication would be lifted at once and the SA brownshirts would be suppressed, if Papen would not resign and they would meet with Hindenburg.
Two weeks later Hitler kept his promise. Now that Hitler was in power the troublesome the thuggish SA brownshirt mobs needed to be reigned in, the ambitious head of the SA, the homosexual Ernst Rohm was a loose cannon and a threat to his power. During the Night of the Long Knives Hitler directed the SS troops to purge the SA leadership. In addition to Rohm, between a hundred and a thousand of Hitler’s enemies died during the purge, including several Nazis whose politics were suspect, several Catholic politicians, and some of Papen’s associates.
Whoever was not convinced of the brutality of the Nazi regime witnessed the Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, where the SA storm-troopers smashed the windows of Jewish stores, homes, hospitals, and synagogues, they were burned, looted, and demolished by sledgehammers. Prayer books, Torah scrolls, artworks, and philosophy texts were burned. Many ordinary Germans gleefully joined in the mob violence. Many Jews were murdered, and many more committed suicide. Some Jews were able to emigrate, most lost all their possessions, over 20,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps.
You might object, no, Trump would never be capable of such atrocities. Perhaps not, after all Mussolini was not guilty of such atrocities. But then maybe if Trump wins a second term, then maybe someone far worse would seize power four years later. What would then happen four years later under someone far worse than Trump? History reveals how quickly evil leaders can appeal to the darkness in our soul to sink our civilization into a dark abyss. That is the real nightmare scenario.
LESSON: FASCIST LEADERS TRY TO TURN TRUTH INTO LIES, AND LIES INTO TRUTH
Currently Trump is the President of 20,000 lies and 200,000 Covid-19 deaths, by November he may be the President of 30,000 lies and 300,000 deaths.
The Nazis were the inventors of the Big Lie, the lie so big nobody should be fooled that it is true, but if you constantly hear the Big Lie over and over and over again many people will be fooled into believing. Like that extortion call to the leader of Ukraine? The call that was perfect, it was a perfect call, it was a perfect call, it was a perfect call. Always lie the big lie with a straight face, a straight gas-lighting face.
The lies started with Mein Kampf, the Jew is a parasite, the Jew is a sponger, taking advantage of everyone, the Jews are not really religious, the Jewish religion is all about money grubbing, the Jews seek to ruin girls and women, the Jews are responsible for all the misfortunes that have befallen the German nation. And Hitler is sure to repeat the old lie that the politicians stabbed the German nation in the back, snatching away victory in the First World War. The Jews were even blamed for the Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.
Hitler’s many lies against Christians is they did not support the Fatherland, they were not sufficiently patriotic, their priests and monks were guilty of sexual abuse and embezzlement. As soon as the ink of the Concordat treaty was signed the Nazis accused the Catholics of trumped up violations of the treaty.
Before invading Poland the Nazis ran numerous false flag operations where SA Storm-troopers posing as Poles attacked a German radio station and other German targets so the Nazis could claim that Poland was the aggressor. Similar lies and tactics were used when the Nazis took over Austria and Czechoslovakia. After the Kristallnacht when the Nazis vandalized and looted Jewish synagogues, homes, and businesses they concocted reasons to blame the Jews for even this aggression!
LESSON: BEING ABLE TO FILL LARGE STADIUMS WITH ENTHUSIASTIC SUPPORTS IS NOT RELEVANT
When challenged about the legacy of his regime, Trump crows: Look at my TV ratings! Look at my poll numbers among Republicans! Look at how I can fill stadiums with thousands of my cheering and enthusiastic supporters!
Trump has a real talent for whipping up the audience with racist chants like BUILD THE WALL! LOCK HER UP! SEND HER BACK! But Trump is not a masterful and spell binding orator when compared to Mussolini and Hitler.
Hitler was the undisputed master for stuffing stadiums with tens of thousands of swastika flags waving, wildly cheering, enthusiastic supporters, especially after the Nazi regime gained total control over the radio, newspapers, and all public media. Those Triumph of Will newsreels of cheering Nazi supporters were not doctored, there was genuine enthusiasm when Hitler shouted out his bile against Jews, after his string of successes in taking over the Ruhr Valley, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.
We have no record of Winston Churchill staging large public rallies before the start of the war where he shouted out the base impulses that many love to hear. Rather, before the war Churchill was quite unpopular, Churchill truly had a moral compass, Churchill often used his oratorical skills delivering speeches telling the citizenry what they needed to know but did not want to hear.
Trump’s high polling numbers among Republics are less relevant with each passing day, since the Republican Party is bleeding membership, in particular bleeding women, teachers, young voters, college-educated voters, and informed voters who are not totally immersed in the Fox News bubble.
LESSON: BRAVE PROTESTS CAN SOMETIMES MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Hitler was like Trump, he was always probing, always trying to see what more eh could get away with. But even as dictator Hitler was not totally immune to political pressure, Hitler sought the willing support of his base, his enthusiastic followers.
Like Trump, Hitler would retreat from policies that proved unpopular. For example, Hitler rescinded the policy of exterminating the mentally handicapped, mentally ill, and severely disabled patients in state hospitals under public pressure. The hospital gas chambers disguised as showers would either be decommissioned or utilized with more discretion. Another example is when the hundreds of brave Christian wives publicly protested for many weeks when their Jewish husbands were sent to concentration camps, Hitler ordered the release of these Jewish husbands to calm public opinion.
The most notable protest to the racial policies of Hitler and the Nazis came from the pope. Pope Pius XI was aging with ill health, Pope Pius XI was worried about his eternal salvation. He knew that if he spoke out forcefully that the persecution of the church would increase. But enough was enough, 300,000 copies of the papal encyclical “Mit Brennender Sorge”, translated in English “With Burning Concern”, were successfully secretly smuggled into German and read from every Catholic pulpit on Palm Sunday in 1937. Hitler was not named but rather referred to as the mad prophet oppressing the Church and breaking the terms of the Concordat. The encyclical proclaimed the true belief in God could not be reconciled with the idolatrous deification of a race, people or state, that the God of Christianity could not be imprisoned in a single race. The Nazi principle that “right is what is advantageous to the people,” what is morally illicit can never be truly advantageous, and Christians have no obligation to obey laws contrary to natural moral laws. The faithful were bound to believe in Christ, divine revelation, and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, challenging the totalitarian claims of the Nazi regime. The encyclical proclaimed that “humility in the spirit of the Gospel and prayer for the assistance of grace are perfectly compatible with self-confidence and heroism,” and that “the priest’s first loving gift to his neighbors is to serve truth and refute error in any of its forms,” both of these proclamations are anathema to Nazi sensibilities of superiority.
Hitler was furious. The Gestapo seized many of the copies of the encyclical, a dozen print shops were seized, and hundreds of Catholics were thrown in prison and in concentration camps. The Nazis trumped up immorality trials against priests, monks, and nuns and confiscated church assets. But the encyclical did not totally condemn totalitarianism. Succumbing to the relentless anti-Catholic Nazi propaganda, many Catholics left the church. But Hitler did not want to overreact, he wanted the allegiance of Catholics. Hitler planned further retributions against Catholics and the Pope and all Christians after the war.
Many in the Vatican opposed releasing this encyclical, including the Secretary of State who would become Pope Pius XII in less than a year. There were many who did not want to take the risk of antagonizing Hitler and increasing the persecution of Christians, there were some who were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. This is the World War II equivalent of the unpopular Christianity Today editorial opposing Christian support for Trump cited at the beginning of this blog.
LESSON: CHRISTIANS USUALLY MIRROR THE VALUES OF THEIR CULTURE
Many Christians babble about what spiritual warfare means, but the definition of spiritual warfare in a relatively free modern society is simple: the spiritual battle is an eternal contest of who is going to influence whom. Will Christians push back on the godless influences surrounding them, slightly improving the virtues of those who they meet? Or will Christians allow the godless influences surrounding them to corrupt their love for their neighbor? Will their politics increase in them their love for their neighbor, or will their politics decrease their compassion for the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the unemployed, the imprisoned, the elderly, and those who do not look like them?
We see in the history of Christians in Nazi Germany, and Vichy France, that most Christians were not truly compassionate for the plight of the Jews, just as many white Christians today are not truly compassionate for the plight of their black brothers. Understandably, most ordinary Christians in any age are far more concerned with their own survival and the safety and future of their children than they are for other groups. Those compassionate few who seek social justice for all are the remnant among us.
POSTWARE RATLINES: HELPING NAZIS TO ESCAPE ACCOUNTABILITY
In the decades after World War II there has been increasing awareness of the ratlines helping former Nazis escape their accountability to start a new life in the New World. Both the Allies and the Russians were eager to snatch Nazi technology and those scientists who worked on develop the dreaded V2 missiles and the nuclear program in the closing days of World War II. Also, many former Nazis actively involved in the Holocaust were among the Nazis drafted into the Allied Intelligence services in the post-war years.
What is embarrassing is a key ratline was organized by a high-ranking cleric who was a rector of a monastery in Rome, the Austrian bishop Alois Hudal, who made no efforts to hide his pro-Nazi views. Why didn’t Pope Pius XII demote Bishop Hudal to a life of penance in some distant monastery after it was clear that Nazi Germany would lose the war? Why did Pope Pius XII tolerate the activities of Bishop Hudal? The Vatican has recently granted scholars access to the private papers of Pope Pius XII, more light will shine on these and many other questions relating to Catholic Church history in post-war era. Dr Wikipedia gives us more details:
More than 1,600 German scientists, including Wernher von Braun and the V2 rocket team, were resettled in the United States with government research jobs. Most of these scientists were card-carrying Nazi party members, and many held pro-Nazi sentiments. Many of the leading scientists in the NASA space agency in the post-war era were Nazis.
Mark Felton has a series of YouTube audio talks on these ratlines that also tells us the stories of many Nazis who escaped, and what happened to those who were discovered by the Nazi hunters in the post World War II years:
LESSON: PEOPLE DO NOT READILY ABANDON DEEPLY HELD BELIEFS
A favorite Christian parable tells us of a farmer who sows a field of wheat that is overtaken by weeds, but since they are entangled together, he waits until the field is harvested to separate the wheat from the weeds. The implication is that there are far more weeds than wheat.
My uncle married a German lady sometime after the war. Even after living through countless bombing raids that destroyed her neighborhood, even after seeing the death camps where many Jews starved and died, even after surviving starvation rations in the lean times after the war, even after living through these disasters she still held firm in her belief that Adolph Hitler was good for the German nation. She was not alone, that is why to this day it is illegal to publicly deny that the Holocaust actually happened in many European countries. We also see this reluctance to abandon past ideologies that are morally wrong in a modern context in our blog on Vatican II cited later in this blog.
THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Background: In the Spanish Civil War, the socialists and communists were called Republicans, while the rebelling Fascist generals were called Nationalists. General Franco and other generals anticipated a quick military coup, but only managed to control half the country. Instead, the attempted military coup was transformed into a long civil war where both sides implemented tactics that maximize casualties. General Franco sought total victory over and subservience from his political enemies.
Why were so many Christians so eager to tolerate Fascist leaders in the interwar years? One main reason is the Fascists were the mortal enemies of the Communists. During the Russian Revolution hundreds of thousands of priests and millions of believers were martyred for their faith. Likewise, in the Spanish Civil War the communists murdering many priests, monks and nuns in the regions they controlled.
Both sides were guilty of massacres, but the Nationalists were traditionalists who supported the Catholic Church. The Nationalists only murdered priests when they were part of a larger group that was targeted, like a socialist village that was captured, or the occasional priest who served in the Republican forces as chaplains or soldiers. Instead, the Nationalists massacred liberal school teachers.
Although the Luftwaffe blitzkrieg bombing campaigns of the Spanish Civil War definitely served as practice for the dive-bombing in the Nazi invasions of Poland and France, the Spanish Civil War was really more like the Battle of Stalingrad that helped turned the tide of war in Europe. In both these conflicts both sides stubbornly fought just viciously for a propaganda victory, never willing to strategically retreat, readily accepting massive military and civilian casualties.
LESSON: SOCIALISM IS NOT COMMUNISM
The Spanish Civil War was really two civil wars. One was the larger civil war between the Republicans and the Nationalists. The other civil war was between the Socialists and the Communists, and this conflict helped sparked the larger civil war. In early 1934 the socialist executive committee pushed a program to nationalize all land, dissolve religious orders and seize their property, and dissolve the army, replacing it with a national militia. These proposals strengthened the Bolshevik party over the other socialist parties.
In hindsight, the Republicans were doomed to lose the Civil War. The Great Stalinist Purge Trials that decimated the officer corps and political and bureaucratic class of Russia occurred at the same time in history, being a lackey of Stalin was valued far more highly than professional competence. This attitude also affected only intensified the inflexible ideology of the far-left in the Spanish Civil War, battles were valued more for their propaganda victories than for their actual military victories. Strategic retreats were ideologically suspect, once you committed troops to a battle you never retreated, you just kept committing more troops until your armies were either victorious or all dead or captured. And after all battles the dead always leave their guns and trucks and tanks behind.
Like much of history, the history of socialism and communism is a complex story. Communism was discredited as the Cold War persisted and the public became more aware of the brutal Gulag Siberian Labor camps and the Ukrainian government induced famine under Stalin and his successors. On the other hand, the reputation of communism increased because many communists were leaders in the French Resistance. In post-war Europe, the Christian Democrat socialists were willing to cooperate with the European communist parties, especially when they were more eager to show their independence from Moscow.
The Christian Democrats are European socialists who are explicitly Christian:
In summary, socialists are not communists. In America, communists are rare as dodo birds, the few communists that still exist are academic curiosities.
VICHY FRANCE, CHAMPION OF NAZISM AND CATHOLICISM
Nobody in Europe expected that the Nazi Blitzkrieg army would sweep across France and reach the Pyrenees in six weeks. The Nazi hold on the European continent was seen as impregnable, General Charles de Gaulle wanted to fight on as a guerilla force, but the hero of France and World War I, General Petain, and most of the other French leaders, thought that they were forced to sign an armistice with the Germans. The French longed for peace, their fighting spirit was crushed by the Blitzkrieg and the memories of the trench warfare in the last war, the French longed for order. At the end of the war collaboration was seen as treasonous, and many collaborators were executed, but at the beginning of the war collaboration was seen as a necessity by many.
Hitler shrewdly allowed the rump Vichy regime nominal autonomy in the third of France that was unoccupied by German troops. Marshal Petain and the Vichy regime had moral legitimacy in the early years of the war. Since the church teaches that the political authorities should be respected, the regime had the support of the elderly bishops throughout the war. The British were urging the French to fight on, from North Africa if necessary, but the Church Hierarchy felt that an attitude of repentance and acceptance was more appropriate. The humiliation of the German conquest was seen as an opportunity for moral and religious transformation.
What was the first priority of Vichy France? Politics, of course. The Third Republic was known for its gridlock, its inability to govern, and many leading French decided that their defeat was due to the moral failings of this hated republic. But the patriotic liberals had fled to exile, only conservatives greeted the Nazi storm-troopers.
Like the general population, some of the clergy were collaborators, some aided the Resistance. Resistors were few when the Nazis ruled the continent, they grew in number after the Allies invaded North Africa, then Sicily and Italy, then Normandy. Communists were the most dedicated resistors, there were also many Catholic and priests involved in the Resistance.
The Vichy government was friendly to Catholics, but was not friendly to Jews. In 1940, long before the Germans began to apply pressure, the Vichy government implement anti-Semitic policies and legislation, although Jewish veterans and long-established French families were exempted from some of the harsher policies. Jews were excluded from prestigious governmental and military jobs, and from teaching and jobs in the media.
The German persecution of the Jews in France increased in 1942, Jews were required to wear yellow stars, and Himmler ordered that 100,000 Jews from all of France be deported to the Auschwitz death camps, foreign born Jews first. The Vichy officials offered token resistance. This persecution extended to clergy who assisted the Jews, many French priests would be murdered in the Dachau concentration camp, many of the faithful would become martyrs in their defense of the Jews. One nun commented as she sent to the death camp in Ravensbruk, “I am leaving for Heaven.”
The abhorrent treatment of the Jews was what turned much of the clergy and the faithful against the regime. Several bishops protested against the treatment of the Jews while they continued to support Petain. Many Catholics and Protestants clergy and faithful cooperated in actively resisted the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Many seminaries, convents and churches hid Jews, often with secret cooperation from bishops and other church administrators, many of the faithful helped Jews escape to Spain and Switzerland
Much of the Vichy legislation was declared null and void, although the Vichy bureaucracy was allowed to continue governing. Some measures were retained, the religious orders continued to be teachers, the subsidies paid to Catholic schools were not revoked. The experience of the Resistance may have helped the new worker-priest movement grow, younger priests wanted to be closer to the working class. The adversity of the war had encouraged a revival among many faithful.
LESSON: DANGERS OF SINGLE-ISSUE ABORTION POLITICS
Many Christians view abortion as the only moral issue that matters, that they do not care what other political stands a party take, if a party is against abortion, that is the party Christians should support.
The danger of such a narrow view is apparent when we review the history of the only anti-abortion, pro-Catholic regime in France after the French Revolution, the fascist regime of Vichy France that collaborated with the conquering Nazis. The leaders of this pro-Catholic Vichy regime were also deeply anti-Semitic, and cooperated with the Germans to persecute the Jews from the earliest days of the regime. The Vichy regime was also deeply xenophobic in its immigration policies. Communism was the mortal enemy of the Christian faith, most Catholics saw fascists as allies in their struggles against communism.
The collaborationist Vichy government made a big show of being pro-Catholic. The Vichy government fought against moral decadence, waging a campaign against alcoholism, reestablishing religious instruction in the schools, church properties that had been seized in 1905 were now restored. Divorce was now forbidden in the first three years of marriage.
Vichy France would replace the French Revolution slogan of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” with “work, family, and fatherland.” The French under the Vichy regime would definitely be far less free and have to work far harder, either as prisoners or for far less pay.
Many leaders and officials of Vichy France openly and eagerly collaborated with their Nazi conquerors in rounding up the Jews to send them to their deaths in the Nazi concentration camps. The Milice, the French secret police, had a more sinister reputation than the Gestapo in their eagerness to arrest, torture, and murder those who opposed the Nazi Vichy regime, those who fought with the Resistance, those who secretly harbored and protected Jews, those who printed flyers and posters opposing Nazism. Many Vichy leaders were tried and executed after the end of the war treason.
In the end the Church gained little from the efforts of the Vichy regime, upon its liberation France reverted back to a secular state, and the constant battle between clericalism and anti-clericalism was resumed. The authority of the bishops, who were so closed tied to Marshal Petain and the Vichy regime, was undermined, most bishops were forced into retirement.
CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLES IN SOUTH AFRICA
We are using Nelson Mandela’s autobiography as primary source for this blog. You might say this is also his autohagiography, but this is fitting as Mandela lived the ideal of forgiveness and reconciliation and still inspires us today with his message of peace and understanding. Mandela lived his ideals. This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read, it deals with so many historical transitions. We read not only about Mandela’s role in the struggle to transition from an apartheid system to a democracy, we also witness the transition from a benign colonial system to an oppressive apartheid system, and how a dirt-poor and barefoot African native like Nelson was able to take advantage of higher education to take their place in society. Nelson Mandela finished law school and passed the bar examination just before that window of opportunity was slammed shut for blacks in South Africa.
LESSON: COMMUNISM IS DEAD! LONG LIVE SOCIALISM!
Mandela was a reluctant revolutionary. He recalls his thoughts as young activist, “I began to suspect that both legal and extra-constitutional protests would soon be impossible. In India, Gandhi had been dealing with a foreign power that was more realistic and farsighted, unlike the Afrikaners in South Africa. Non-violent passive resistance is effective as long as your opposition adheres to the same rules as you do. But if peaceful protest is met with violence, its efficacy is at an end. For me, nonviolence was not a moral principal but a strategy; there is no moral in using an ineffective weapon.” Mandela was a communist in the years before Stalin further disillusioned leftists with his murderous politics.
Prison made Mandela a living martyr. Mandela had the good fortune to be the first military director of the ANC just as it started its campaign of sabotage, which meant he was that rarest of generals, the general who had no blood on his hands since the authorities arrested him shortly after he returned from his military training camp abroad. His blood free hands allowed him to successfully make the transition to majority rule after apartheid was abandoned.
After Mandela was released from prison after many decades he attended a eye-opening communist leader conference. He learned that most communists had lost faith in hard-core ideological struggles of past years and that as a practical matter they conceded that mixed capitalism was the only viable economic system. After he became President Mandela was eager to keep the economic system intact by doing what he could to allay the fears of the white Afrikaners, he did not seize their properties.
Many whites criticize both Mandela and the historic US black activist WE DuBois for their support of communism. In the civil rights struggles in both South Africa and America the civil rights movements were cautious in their dealings with the communist party, they rightly feared that white communists would seek to dominate and control over the civil rights organizations fighting against oppression of blacks. Both Mandela and DuBois were sympathetic towards communism because the Stalinist excesses were not yet widely known and because the white supremacists were so violent and intransigent that they feared that blacks would have to resort to armed struggle to gain racial equality.
South Africa and the US differed in their use of the military and police in the civil rights struggles. In South Africa, both the military and police violently enforced the Apartheid system. The ANC, the main South African black civil rights organization, was compelled to engage in decades of armed struggle to overcome apartheid because . In America, in contrast, most civil rights activists encourage non-violent protests in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi. After the Civil War the US Army forced the Deep South to accept civil rights policies, and during the Sixties the US Army compelled the Little Rock school board to accept federally mandated school integration. Although many Deep South policemen, sheriffs and judges were secretly members of the terrorist KKK movement, state and local law enforcement officers never formally violently enforced the Jim Crow laws, though the most racist members did beat civil rights protesters. More prevalent was domestic terrorism by thugs belonging to loose white supremacy movements like the KKK. Before the passage of the civil rights legislation of the Sixties brutal lynchings of blacks and race riots burning down overly prosperous colored businesses and neighborhoods often went unpunished by the white supremacist judicial system of the Deep South.
LESSON: FORGIVENESS FROM STRENGTH ENCOURAGES RECONCILIATION
After decades of civil war waged against Mandela’s ANC party that had no end in sight the Afrikaner National realized they needed to negotiate an end to Apartheid even though this meant they would lose political control over South Africa. Their best and only path to political reconciliation was through their celebrity prisoner Nelson Mandela.
Mandela would disarm his Boer opponents by speaking to them in fluent Dutch Afrikaans. The Dutch Boers had settled South Africa several hundred years before, and Mandela was more familiar with the white Afrikaner history better than many Boers. He would very patiently retell the history of his ANC movement, comparing the struggle the blacks experienced resisting apartheid to the struggles the Boers endured to gain independence from the English. Mandela always tried to see the world through the eyes of his opponents, so he could find common ground for mutual understanding.
Mandela was moved into a small cottage on the prison grounds and was even assigned a white Afrikaner cook and attendant, making his accommodations as comfortable as possible. Before a meeting with President Botha could be arranged some preliminary talks were needed.
The first issue was that the government “insisted the ANC must renounce violence and give up the armed struggle before the government would agree to negotiations.” Mandela responded that “it is always the oppressor, not the oppressed, who dictates the form of the struggle. If the oppressor uses violence, the oppressed have no alternative but to respond violently.”
The second issue was the relationship between the ANC and the Communist Party. Mandela said that the Communist Party did not control the ANC, that the ANC did not believe in the communist ideology, but that he would not disavow the assistance the Communist Party had provided over the years.
The third issue was whether the rights of the minorities, in particular the white minority, would be guaranteed under majority rule. Mandela’s response was that “whites were Africans as well as blacks, and that in any future dispensation the majority would need the minority. We do not want to drive the whites into the sea.”
Shortly before he was released Mandela got his meeting with Botha. To enhance his dignity Mandela was provided with a tailored suit before he was smuggled into the Presidential Office. Botha staged a welcoming walk where they met in the middle of a grand hall, shook hands, had their official picture taken, and then chatted in his office over tea about South African history. Botha’s health was failing, he would soon resign. FW de Clerk would succeed him as President, perhaps the meeting was set up to Botha would be one to cross the Rubicon, so that de Clerk would not be the first South African President to meet face to face with Nelson Mandela.
Negotiations began to plan for the elections to a national assembly that would write a new constitution and form a new majority government. Now that he was out of prison and real negotiations were proceeding, the violence escalated, there were massacres by extremists on both sides. Mandela had to walk the fine line between firmness and compromise to bring the country to the ballot box.
After some debate, and with Mandela’s urging, the ANC declared that it would suspend its armed struggle, with the understanding that armed struggle could resume if the government showed bad faith.
There was tension between the ANC and the ruling National Party. Mandela and the ANC thought that the government was trying to negotiate a power sharing arrangement that was little more than watered-down apartheid. But the ANC realized they could not effectively govern if the current civil servants running the government fled after the elections. In the end, they agreed for the first five years that every major party would be represented in the cabinet, and that after that there would be simple majority rule.
As expected, Mandela won the election by an overwhelming majority. Mandela’s ANC party had an ambitious platform, which was only partially fulfilled upon election, which included “creating jobs through public works, building a million new homes with electricity and flush toilets, to extend primary health care and public education for all, to redistribute land through a land claims court, and to the VAT tax on basic foodstuffs.”
Often Mandela told crowds, “do not expect to be driving a Mercedes the day after the election or be swimming in your own backyard swimming pool. Life will not change dramatically, except that your self-esteem will increase and you will become a citizen in your own land. You must have patience. You might have to wait five years for results to show.”
In the closing pages of his autobiography Mandela shares some comforting thoughts, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”
Mandela is ever the stoic, “A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”
VATICAN II: CATHOLIC CHURCH ACCEPTS DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM OF RELIGION
The memories of World War II are key to understanding the teachings of Vatican II and the Catholic Catechism. During the war years there were many brave bishops in Germany and France, and the Pope, who took public and private stands pushing back on the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi brutalities. However, the attitudes of the clergy reflect the attitudes of the political culture in general, most supported the political status quo, many lived quiet lives of passive resistance, a precious minority actively resisted the horrors of Nazi terror.
In contrast, in the early interwar years most Christians were tolerant of fascist regimes because the fascists were the sworn enemies of communism, and communism was the sworn enemy of the church. After Lenin seized power in Soviet Russia, his communists murdered tens of thousands of priests and millions of Orthodox believers. Likewise, the communists in the Spanish Civil War copied the Russian communists by torturing and murdering thousands of priests, monks and nuns. Historical memories of the terrors inflicted on the church by French Revolutionaries caused many in Europe to distrust democracy.
Just because Nazi Germany and fascist Italy were defeated in World War II, there were still many in Europe who were sympathetic to the fascist ideology. The defeat of the Axis powers and the publicity about the concentration camps may have discredited anti-Semitism, but it did not totally destroy such evil in the hearts of men. Few traditional Catholic priest or bishops were anti-Semites, but the few that were anti-Semites were all “traditional” Catholics.
Contrary to the impressions of many, Vatican II did not introduce any theological reforms, Vatican II sought to share with the world the theology of the original reform council, the Council of Trent. What Vatican II changed was the political philosophy of the Catholic Church. Under Vatican II, the Catholic Church recognizes that totalitarianism is either the enemy or a false friend of the Church, and embraces democracy as the best friend of the Church.
LESSON: DEMOCRACY IS THE TRUE FRIEND OF THE CHURCH
Vatican II marks a shift in the Church’s attitude towards the modern secular world. Gone are the anathemas that condemn those who may disagree with the teachings of the church, instead Vatican II seeks dialogue with the modern world in with a pastoral rather than a condemning attitude. The Vatican II decree on religious freedom announced that democracy and freedom of religion and conscience were the friends of the church, that a totalitarian form of government could never be a trustworthy friend of the Catholic or Christian Church.
The Church Fathers of Vatican II believed that the Catholic guarantee of Religious Liberty was crucial for regaining the respect of many believers and the modern world. History had evolved so that the Catholic Church was not on the side of truth regarding religious liberty. From ancient times the Catholic Church was supported first by the Roman emperors starting with Constantine, and then the royalty of medieval Europe, but the absolute monarchies had all disappeared, giving way to dictators and republics, some of which were constitutional monarchies. The Jacobism of the French Revolution and its grandchild communism were the enemies of the church, and the church supported fascism to combat communism. World War II totally discredited fascism, now the Catholic Church saw democracy as the bulwark opposing communism, and religious liberty was a cornerstone for democracy.
The Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom, or Dignitatis Humanae, teaches us that just governments should not only reluctantly tolerate religious freedom, but should rather seek to encourage a healthy civil environment in which religious worship and institutions can thrive, encouraging the religious and the whole society to live a more moral life.
LESSON: THE CHURCH MUST KEEP AN OPEN DIALOGUE WITH ALL POLITICAL PARTIES IN A DEMOCRACY
In the spirit of Vatican II, we should recognize that a striving democracy is essential to guarantee that the Church can fulfill its mission, and that believers should never demonize any political party simply because the church does not agree with all of the planks in their platform. We should especially not demonize a political party that enthusiastically champions the doctrine of social justice, the doctrine of social justice that is central to so many papal decrees and encyclicals since Rerum Novarum issued over a century ago.
TRUMP IN SOME WAYS DIFFERS FROM FASCIST DICTATORS
In some ways Trump closely resembles Mussolini, in other ways Trump resembles Hitler in his tweets. We say tweets, as John Bolton argues in his book, Trump really does not have any thought-out policies or philosophies of governing, his contradicting tweets are what pass for policy. Bolton further argues that Trump’s policies only have one goal, and that goal is winning the 2020 reelection.
The Ukrainian scandal revealed that Trump refused to provide military aid to help them in their war against Russian aggression until Ukrainian President Zelensky announced ON TELEVISION that he would investigate Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma. Trump did not care whether there really was an investigation, but he did not want a discrete investigation which would be the only fair way to conduct a sensitive investigation. Trump only cared about his reelection campaign, he wanted Ukraine’s help for Trump’s reelection campaign, Trump only cared about the appearance of an investigate that could be captured in a Fox news clip, he did not care if there was an actual investigation.
This may be the key to understanding Trump. Trump finds briefings and policy briefings boring, he hates reading, he spends hours each day watching cable television. Trump does not actually want to do the hard work of being President, he does not intellectual curiosity to actually ponder and formulate policies, he only wants to appear to be busy. Trump wants to show his base that he is busy playing at being President by spending half his day tweeting, his twitter rates are rising, he averages over thirty tweets a day, he tweeted four times more tweets per day in 2019 than he did in 2017. Should we elect Trump to a second term in 2020 as Twitterer In Chief?