1942: No Longer on the DefensiveFATHER GEORGE W. RUTLER
In the second week of October 1942, Stalingrad was still standing, if cruelly battered after 80 days of siege and starvation.
Catholic newspapers in England mentioned in passing the death of Rev. Leo Paul Ward, son of Wilfrid Ward and brother Maisie. The 46-year-old priest had died during his return from Japan, where he had been a missionary. All such papers ran advertisements from the Ministry of Food, in which a caricature named Potato Pete gave recipes for replacing bread and saving shipping space for military cargo. By giving the body warmth, potatoes could also save coal for the war effort.
The Vatican Radio broadcast (in German) an attack on the German press, comparing it to "scorpions lurking in the darkness." The Nazi newspapers would make man "a mere brute and a tool of this contradictory propaganda which seeks good through evil, order through disorder, and human dignity through its negation." From another flank, the Mussolini newspaper Regime Fascista pointed its purple prose at the editor of L'Osservatore Romano, who was "an old acquaintance of the most pig-headed political world" and who had made the Vatican newspaper "the favorite reading matter of the Masonic dark corners of the anti-Axis front."
Gen. Jay Smuts arrived in London from South Africa and echoed the optimistic tone of Winston Churchill's recent address in Edinburgh, as well as one of Franklin Roosevelt's "fireside chats" in which he described increasing odds against the Axis. Even the Frankfurter Zeitung admitted that "hopes are now centered on how the United Nations will lose the war, and not on how Germany will win it." General Smuts cited the importance of the combat in the African theater. Arthur Cardinal Hinsley published a long essay on the future of Africa in relation to the Atlantic Charter. He likened Africa to "a grand piano which has suffered from neglect or abuse. The white and black keys represent the European and Native Africans. Will they ever be made to produce harmony, and if so, how?" A Nazi victory would be disastrous for the indigenous tribes, whom they call "semi-apes."
The bishops of Provence, with the exception of the bishop of Marseilles, did not distinguish themselves in opposing the Vichy government. But the bishop of Rodez, Msgr. Charles Challiol, forbade his priests to participate in Pierre Laval's "Légion des Combattants"; and Pierre-Marie Theas, bishop of Montauban, called for "national liberation from the Swastika." On September 12, Archbishop Jules-Gerard Saliege of Toulouse had decried the "heart-rendering" scenes in concentration camps. "Jews are men and women. Foreigners are men and women. . . . They are brothers as much as any others . . . . France, my beloved Fatherland . . . chivalrous and generous France, I am convinced you are not responsible for these horrors."
Joseph Goebbels ordered the Nazi Party Department for Public Enlightenment to publish 10 million copies of a pamphlet for distribution in Europe and Latin America, condemning the Vatican's attempt to protect Jews. The pamphlet said that 18 popes since the twelfth century had promoted policies similar to that of the Nazi Party, but only Pope Pius XII had intervened on behalf of the Jews, and much of the Catholic world would turn against the "pro-Jewish pope." Presumably in response, the Boston Pilot quoted Pope Gregory the Great: "We forbid you to molest the Jews or to lay upon them restrictions not imposed by the established laws; we further permit them to live as Romans and to dispose of their property as they will; we only prohibit them from owning Christian slaves." The Pilot also listed among protectors of the Jews Popes Sixtus IV, Clement VII, Eugenius III (encouraged by St. Bernard), Gregory IX, and Pius XI, who famously declared—within a stone's throw of the Fascists—"Spiritually, we are all Semites." It added that Pius XII had employed Jewish scholars in the Vatican library.
When words failed, Bishop Felix Roeder of Beauvais chose another course. German officials had ordered the Jews of Beauvais to register at the municipal headquarters. On the strength of his claim to have had a distant Jewish ancestor, the bishop formally processed through the streets to register his own name, wearing full pontifical vestments, and preceded by an acolyte carrying the cross.
Rev. George W. Rutler. "1942: No Longer on the Defensive." Inside Catholic (January 18, 2010).
Reprinted with permission of InsideCatholic.com. The mission of InsideCatholic.com is to be a voice for authentic Catholicism in the public square.
image: Catholic Herald
Father Rutler contributes to numerous scholarly and popular journals and has published 14 books on theology, history, cultural issues, and the lives of the saints, and also one book on sports, as a member of the U.S. Squash Racquets Association. Among his books are: A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins,
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