Tuesday, February 02, 2010

No Going Back to the Gulags! For Religious Freedom NOW!

Apparently His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI may be facing protests organised by the bigots from the National Secular Society when he visits this country next year.

I think it's high time that we organised a counter-protest, don't you? We could carry placards bearing funky slogans, huge banners depicting gulags with the legend "NEVER AGAIN" painted on them in vivid colours, shout ourselves hoarse and then retire to a hostelry feeling very good about ourselves.

I'm ready to bellow through my cattlehorn in the direction of Titus Oates anyday.


Anonymous skidmarx said...

As "Never Again" is a slogan traditionally directed at Nazis, aren't you a little concerned that a former member of the Hitler Youth might think it is directed at him?

2/04/2010 5:53 AM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

Ha bloody ha.

If you're referring to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI I think you'll find that he was a teenager when he was compelled to become a member of the Hitler Jugend, along with many other young German people at the same time.

2/04/2010 12:52 PM  
Anonymous martin ohr said...

Red Maria,

What will you put on your placards: "defend our right to hate gay men" it's very snappy.

wrt to the Hitler Youth, plenty of people were compelled, although plenty refused too. I would think that someone who claims to be god's representative on earth might have had the moral courage to stand-up to something as uniquely evil as the holocaust- when he had the opportunity to do so.

While our families suffered and died in the camps, his holiness was part of the team that rounded us up. So you'll excuse me if I decline to forgive him or take a single word he says on anything seriously.

2/05/2010 2:05 AM  
Blogger Red Maria said...


The Church does not stand for hate but love. But what is this love? It is not eros but caritas, or the loving-kindess our fellow descendents of Abraham call Chesed.

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited.

it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth

It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and endure whatever comes.

Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away with.

You say very confidently that many rejected the compulsion to join the Hitler Jugend as though you would have done the same thing.

But I wonder, would you have done, would I? I think the answer to that question is revealed by the honour we give to people - adults - who resisted Nazism in occupied Europe. We do so because we appreciate that we may well have not had the guts to do the same thing. We know that it's very easy for us to make such assertions living where we do and when we do.

Josef Ratzinger as he then was, was in his early teens when he joined the Hitler Jugend.

Perhaps you had in mind as a comparison the members of the White Rose Group or indeed his venerable predecessor. But Sophie Scholl was in her late teens and early twenties when she was involved in resistance to the Nazi regime - prompted, incidentally, by her fierce devotion to human dignity. Lolek was a similar age - he was 19 when the German Army blitzkreiged its way through Poland. In 1941 as a young worker, Lolek lost his father to a heart attack and left alone, the only member of his immediate family to be alive.

He was older than Ratzinger, who was only 12 in 1939 and alone in the world. He had no living family to consider. Ratzinger, on the other hand, did, including his father, who was a fierce opponent of Nazism. One of Ratzinger's cousins who had Downs Syndrome fell victim to Nazi eugenic policies. In 1941 the boy was murdered.

At any rate, there have been accounts by Ratzinger's former neighbours in wartime Germany that he was a distinctly unenthusiastic member of the Hitler Jugend who refused to attend meetings.

Perhaps you are aware of the irony of me writing such things. You correctly refer to us as having had relatives who were incarcerated in camps. That is true. In my ahem, ethnically-diverse family, one of my grandparents survived a Stalinist gulag and another one a Nazi concentration camp. She, who was liberated by the Americans at the end of the war, retained a blazingly unforgiving attitude to any former members of the Hitler Jugend, which I think she was quite entitled to do.

I, infinitely luckier than her, can afford to be more reflective about these things, and of course, time creeps on, to finish the Pauline quotation:

When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways.

As you are a revolutionary, I would recommend that you read Pope Benedict's encylical, Spe Salvi, with particular attention to paras 20 and 21. I think you would find them interesting.

I would also respectfully direct you to Pope Pius XI's encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge - it was going to be entitled Mit Grosser Sorge (With great anxiety) but his successor, the then Cardinal Pacelli, later Pius XII is credited with having changed the title to the far stonger With burning anxiety - especially paras 8 and 11. I think you would find them equally interesting.

2/05/2010 8:39 PM  
Anonymous martin ohr said...


to answer your question would I have done the same, Well I wouldn't have had any choice in the matter. I'd rather not imagine what fate would have befallen me or my immeadiate family in Nazi germany.

I think my point still stands and the one you fail to address. The pope claims to be God's representative on earth, he had at one moment in his life chance to oppose fascism yet he chose not to do so. My conclusion from this is either that the Pope is not so holy or that your god is happy to tolerate fascism.

Or rather you can draw the same conclusion as me that it's further proof that there is no god.

2/09/2010 3:29 AM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

Yes indeed but imagine something different. Imagine just for a moment that you are that ordinary citizen, one who happened to have been born to an "Aryan" family. Imagine the propaganda you'd be subjected to. Imagine, at the same time, the all pervasive sense of fear. Not for nothing has Hitlerism been described as "gangsterism enthroned". Imagine a completely different world in which there is no rule of law and no impartial authority to which you could appeal. If you were say a 12 year old in that kind of world what would you have done? What could you have done?

Take extreme racism out of the equation for a moment and imagine yourself living under an equally dangerous regime: Stalin's Russia. Would you have resisted joining the Young Pioneers?

What if your next door neighbour, Mr Ivanov, were one day arrested and charged with Trotsyist-Bukharinist counter-revolutionary sabotage. Imagine that you knew very well that he would not return from wherever it was that he'd gone. Imagine that when you were at the dinner table one evening and asked about Mr Ivanov and your mother told you never to mention his name again. Imagine that every day on your way to school you see enormous propaganda posters every few metres or so and that at school you are treated to a teacher ranting at you about Trotsyist-Bukharinist counterrevolutionary saboteurs.

Honestly, in such a situation, what would you do? What could you do? What could you allow yourself to think? Could you even allow yourself to do that?

The reason I think your argument does not hold water is that it fails to take into account the young Ratzinger's age at the time. It bears repeating that he was aged 12 at the start of the war and 17 at its end. I think it's too much to expect teenagers to have taken on the responsibilities the majority of the adult citizenry baulked at.

The Pope is God's representative on earth in that he has unique authority in the Church, an authority handed down from Jesus to Peter the first pope ("You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church. Whatever you bind on earth you will bind in heaven" etc). He is infallible in matters of faith and morals. He is infallible but not impeccable. People tend to confuse the two.

Does the existence of human evil prove the non-existence of God? As you know one cannot prove a negative. The traditional Christian answer to the problem of evil is to point to free will. Yet it can all seem very pat, I agree. Well, credo ut intelligam, I suppose.

2/09/2010 7:48 PM  

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