Friday, April 22, 2005

Wishful Thinking: Benedict’s Speech On His Hitler Youth Past

I was going to make this point on dada’s blog , but since it’s kinda long I’ll make it here. I don’t like that our new Pope was a member of the Hitler youth. I really don’t like it. However I am taking it for granted that he has done as much as can be done to make up for it. I say that based solely on the fact that so many Jewish leaders seam to have made statements of forgiveness and acceptance in his favor.

However it would do a whole hell of a lot for me as a Catholic to hear him own up to it and not make excuses for it. We are living in troubling times. We need a leader who will encourage Catholic youth to take responsibility for standing up to injustice.

So I have taken the liberty of writing the speech that I would truly like to hear him give. PLEASE NOTE, THIS IS NOT ANYTHING THE POPE HAS ACTUALLY SAID! So don’t go emailing it around saying he made this speech. It’s just that if he were to make a speech like this, I would think he was the coolest person on the planet and he would immediately be elevated to JP2 status in my mind. Here is the speech I’d like to hear…

“My brothers and sisters, you have heard it said that I was a member of the Hitler Youth as a young boy. You have also heard me say that I was pressed into this service against my will. But there is something I have learned over the years, something I must share with you. While as a boy I told myself I had no choice, I must accept now that I DID have a choice. I had a choice to hold fast to my faith in God rather than cling to my fears of persecution. I joined the hand of evil out of fear. And for that I have done and will continue to do penance for the remainder of my days.

“I ask you all to forgive me for that transgression. But do not excuse the reality of it or forget how devastating that choice was. That I have been elevated to this office is a reflection of God’s grace and not of my own merit. I know now that had I stood up in the face of evil, God’s hand was able to preserve me. And oh how I wish I had such a triumph to boast of in His name. Now perhaps my actions as a member of the Hitler Youth did not lead directly to the deaths of innocents, I do not believe they did but I will never know. And neither will I ever know if my steadfast resistance would have been a beacon that might have caused another to have the courage to rescue one of the persecuted from the jaws of death. For it is not only our wrong actions that aid evil, but the absence of right actions too can bring death.

“I tell you this because the world even now is fighting a fierce battle. Poverty, injustice and war are facing us at every turn. I speak now to the hearts of young people. Learn from my mistakes now. I was blessed in being given a second chance. But I do not want you to risk your souls as I did. And I cannot bear that you should have to live with the burden that I must live with.

“Let no one tell you that you have no choice. Let no one say that you must act against your moral conscience. Let not the threat of death or ridicule be the deciding factor in whether you act rightly. Stand up to oppression. Speak the truth. Suffer bravely and do not remain idle when your brothers and sisters are persecuted. When you see injustice in your neighborhoods and in distant lands, hold fast to the hand of God and He will preserve you.”

Now seriously that is what I would like to hear. Don’t you think it sounds Papal? Even if you don’t like his views on abortion, contraception, homosexuality and women in the priesthood, you’d have to respect somebody who would own up to it and not excuse his past. I know I would. Maybe I should email this speech to the Vatican suggestion box.


Dex2177 said...

Not excuse his past? Gosh, somehow I get the feeling you've never lived under a totalitarian regime, nor have I though I apparently understand them a wee bit more than you.

A few things to consider:
1. Joining the Nazi Hitler Youth was mandatory. Failure to attend would draw serious consequences and as much as you might want you and your family executed for standing up for your beliefs I somehow think that if you actually *were* living in a fascist state you might make another choice.

2. To qualify to be in the Hitler Youth you had to be a *Youth*. Under conscription age, or else you would have been put in the army and no, that wasn't optional either and when I say not optional I mean, would you rather be in the army or die? Once again, you may find it noble to imagine the concept of someone being executed to be a useless voice for christianity against the Fascist regime of Nazi Germany but I assure you, if they didn't just send you to a forced labor camp they'd likely just shoot you in the street but I digress... you have to be a youth to qualify for the Nazi Hitler Youth. This was like the boyscouts, I doubt many of these kids fully appreciated the political implications of the activities they were being forced to participate in. So, before you get all pias on the guy you might want to consider that. Being Catholic enough to be Pope I'm sure that he's confessed about it any number of times even though it wasn't his own fault.

Girl With An Alibi said...

Ahh but you see many have suggested that it while it was mandatory there was not strict enforcement. And there are those who DID refuse to join and were NOT shot. So really I think it is kind of up in the air whether it he would have been a martyr or not. Regardless I have to say that it does bother me, mainly because of the poo-pooing that is offensive to many IN the church (as well as outside it.) It is an echo of the rug-sweeping done to protect predator priests and that is disturbing to people who have not gotten over that. Let's face it, he is not just Pope he is Catholocism's Head of PR and excusable or not Nazi associations are bad press. And yes I am suggesting that a speech like this would be good for appearances. Shallow perhaps but sometimes it's not a bad thing to play to the crowd.

I am quite sure he has confessed and made amends (but I'd be willing to bet that it still troubles him from time to time regardless. I've a few patently un-Catholic, un-Christian things myself that I've been absolved of but they still sting me and probably will for the rest of my life.) I'm sure that he is a good and pious man and I'm sure he'll give good evidence of that in due time. Nevertheless it troubles me that many youth today, who are feeling just as much deadly force pressure to join gangs or in the case of Africa to join the ranks of vicioius blood-thirsty militia -might give in thinking that it's okay to go along with the crowd, because if it gets somebody hurt or killed they can just strug it off and say, "hey the Benedict was a Hitler Youth, and now he's Pope." (And in Africa it is definitely a death sentence and still there are a few who refuse.)

And actually, yes I have lived under a totalitarian regime... I worked for a Hollywood Producer for 2 years. And Man That Was Scary... that's like taking your life in your hands every DAY!!! :O

Girl With An Alibi said...

And yes I realize that being an unwilling Nazi "boyscout" who never killed anybody is quite different from being a gangbanger or mercenary killer but you'd be hardpressed to explain that to those kids when there's a whole holocaust attributed to the Nazis. My point is that he could actually be more of a hero to a kid like that by not downplaying the whole thing.

That's my thinking anyway. (btw: You know you're kinda cute when you're all riled up. ;-D)

Socialist Swine said...

That would be a good speech. If Benedict XVI made such a speech then I would have to reconsider my assessment of him.

-Socialist Swine

Dex2177 said...

I'm cute the rest of the time too according to some, lol...

Something else to consider while critisizing people who were in the Nazi Hitler Youth(read, everybody except those who wanted to stick out in the face of a fascist regime), we also don't know what his parents urged him to do and that wouldn't be his fault either but consider this as well...

"In 1940, Arthur Axmann took over leadership of the Hitler Youth and began to reform the group into an auxiliary force which could perform war duties. The Hitler Youth became active in German fire brigades and assisted with recovery efforts to German cities affected from Allied bombing. The Hitler Youth also assisted in such organizations as the Reich Postal Service, state railway, and Reich radio service, and served among anti-aircraft defense crews." By the end of the war the Hitler Jugend were being conscripted for military duties at ages as young as 10.(

So... I'm not defending the Nazis but... if the crap is being bombed out of your city are you going to tell me it doesn't seem virtuous to belong to a group responsible for civil defence?... aside from the fact that these were just kids.

Would some speech aid optics? Sure. But do you want it truthful or do you want it BS to please those who don't take things in light of the time in which they happened?

The Catholic Church was of course the first government body to sign a treaty with Hitler and the Catholic Church from the highest level conspired to keep Jewish children from being returned to their Jewish parents after WWII. Far greater sins than having been unfortunate enough to have been born in Germany during the Nazi regime.

And finally... I don't know that people who join gangs think about the Pope first and in the case of Africa I guarauntee you that the people forcing these kids into horrendous behavior care neither what the Pope does or did, nor about any of the objections of their conscripts.

I think that comments made by most European governments might fall on deaf ears in most of post-colonial Africa. Africa, as you probably know, had christianity long before any Roman Ceasar made the One True Faith the state religion of Rome... but now I'm onto something entirely different... :-p