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Catholicism’s Emerging Post-Shoah Tradition

The Case of the Jesuits
  • S. J. James Bernauer
Chapter

Abstract

The catholic Church entered into an end-of-the-millennium season of repentance and articulated several strong statements of sorrow regarding its conduct during the Nazi period. There was the 1995 statement of the German bishops which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp: Christians ‘did not offer due resistance to racial anti-Semitism. Many times there was failure and guilt among Catholics. Not a few of them got involved in the ideology of National Socialism and remained unmoved in the face of the crimes committed against Jewish-owned property and the life of the Jews. Others paved the way for crimes or even became criminals themselves.’ The German bishops spoke clearly: ‘The practical sincerity of our will of renewal is also linked to the confession of this guilt and the willingness to painfully learn from this history of guilt of our country and of our church as well. We request the Jewish people to hear this word of conversion and will of renewal.’1 September 1997 brought the powerful confession of the French bishops, who blamed narrow ecclesiastical interests for blinding Church leaders to the call of conscience for a denunciation of the crimes against the Jewish people. The Bishops recognized that such silence was a sin and declared: ‘We confess this sin. We beg God’s pardon, and we call upon the Jewish people to hear our words of repentance.’2 More recently, there was the Vatican statement ‘We Remember: A Reflection on the “Shoah” ‘ which proclaimed an ‘act of repentance (teshuva)’: ‘At the end of this millennium the Catholic Church desires to express her deep sorrow for the failures of her sons and daughters in every age…. We pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people have suffered in our century will lead to a new relationship to the Jewish people.’3

Keywords

Jewish People General Congregation Weimar Republic Moral Formation Modern Sexuality 
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Notes

  1. 14.
    E. Rossi, Il magganello e Vaspersorio (Florence, 1958), cited by Meir Michaelis, ‘Christians and Jews in Fascist Italy’, in Judaism and Christianity under the Impact of National Socialism, 1919–1945, eds. Otto Dov Kulka and Paul R. Mendes-Flohr (Jerusalem:Historical Society of Israel and the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1987), p.274.Google Scholar
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    Address to the General Congregation Delegates (16 October 1906). Cited in David Schultenover, S.J., A View from Rome: On the Eve of the Modernist Crisis (New York: Fordham University Press, 1993), p.166.Google Scholar
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    Entry of 27 January 1943 of McCormick’s diary, which is preserved in the New York Province Archives. Large excerpts with commentary in James Hennesey, S.J., ‘American Jesuit in Wartime Rome: The Diary of Vincent A. McCormick, S.J., 1942–1945’, Mid-America 56 (1974): 32–55.Google Scholar
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    Wilhelm Arp, Das Bildungsideal der Ehre (Munich: Deutscher Volksverlag, 1939); Langer, Katholische Sexualpädagogik im 20. Jahrhundert, 115. For examples of Nazi denunciations, see The Persecution of the Catholic Church in the Third Reich, Facts and Documents Translated from the German (London: Burns Oates, 1940), pp.440, 464, 472–475. The anonymous editor of this collection was Walter Mariaux, a German Jesuit residing in Rome.Google Scholar
  55. 50.
    It could be argued that an exception would be the resistance shown by German Catholic women, motivated by ideals of virginity, to Nazi efforts to reduce women to the level of mere breeders of children. I cannot develop this issue here but see Michael Phayer’s Protestant and Catholic Women in Nazi Germany (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
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    For a Jewish defence against these charges, see Chajim Bloch, Blut und Eros im jüdischen Schriftum und Leben: Von Eisenmenger über Rohling zu Bischoff (Wien: Sensen-Verlag, 1935).Google Scholar
  57. On the charges, see Sander Gilman, The Jew’s Body (New York: Routledge, 1991), p.258.Google Scholar
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    See for example Heiko Oberman, The Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Age of the Renaissance and Reformation (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984). Gustav Gundlach’s 1930 article on ‘Anti-Semitism’ for the Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche is shocking for its depictions of the Jew; see The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI, pp.47–50.Google Scholar
  59. 54.
    My treatment of modern sexuality follows the categories developed in Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality I: An Introduction (New York: Pantheon, 1978).Google Scholar
  60. I analyse this history in my Michel Foucault’s Force of Flight: Toward an Ethics for Thought (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1990), pp.121–184.Google Scholar
  61. Following him, I want to identify the elements of that modern field. First, there is the body: the Nazis opposed their view of a trained, classically beautiful body to the Jewish body, weakened by deviant genitalia and unrestrained sexual appetite. Secondly, regarding children, there was the juxtaposition of an idealized German innocence with the Jewish invention of a childhood sexuality that was believed to reflect both an actual sexual precocity and Talmudic allowance for inter generational sex. Der Stürmer, Streicher’s newspaper utilized medieval tales of Jewish ritual slaughter of Christian children in accounts which stressed acts of torture and the sexual satisfaction they implied. In addition, he emphasized cases of child molestation which involved Jews. Thirdly, in contrast to the image of the German mother, who delighted in offspring and their care, and who felt threatened by the sexual advances of Jewish men, especially medical doctors, there was the Jewish woman, who was inclined to neurosis, attracted to prostitution, and craving emancipation from the home. The Nuremberg laws prohibited sexual relations between Aryan and Jew in part to prevent contamination by syphilis which was identified with Jews. Fourthly, Jews harboured all sorts of sexual perversions, especially homosexuality. These perversions stand behind the Jewish invention of psychoanalysis and sexology. For the Nazis, the Jewish menace was a constructed sexual experience, hidden but omnipresent, camouflaging in other innocuous symptoms the secret causality perverting Aryan life. There are extensive examinations of these themes but reasons of space permit mention of but a few: George Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality: Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in Modern Europe (New York: Howard Fertig, 1985)Google Scholar
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    Speech given to NSDAP party members on 16 June 1933, cited in James Wilkinson, The Intellectual Resistance in Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), p.112.Google Scholar
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    See Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Vol.3 (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1985), pp.1012–1029.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • S. J. James Bernauer

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