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Sunday, 28 May 2006

Comments

andante

That remark troubled me, too. The God I worship is omnipresent; He doesn't take vacations or go off and sulk somewhere because His children have chosen evil.

IMHO, those who endured, suffered, or died through the evil are the only ones with the right to ask "Where was God?". Those who contributed to the evil, even under duress, have a moral obligation to atone for it.

Andrea

I wasn't worried -yet- by the "where was God?" comment. We can believe that God is omnipresent and not feel it. And people in despair frequently lash out at God as being absent -and I thought it might be helpful to hear the pope do it too. God can take it, after all.

But then he (the pope, not God) blew it. He almost made it with the "German Pope" bit. He could have apologized right there, but didn't. It was disappointing, to say the least.

Andrea

Thomas Nephew

I agree that those are surprising comments by a pope, indeed. Like Andrea, I think that was a kind of human response, though; my feeling has generally been that if there is a God, he/she/it is either not as merciful or as powerful as he/she/it is cracked up to be. I just hadn't expected agreement, of a sort, from Benedict XVI.

I also agree that as pope, he could and should have discussed the Catholic Church's failure as an institution during that time, and resolved not to let that happen again.

I disagree that he "blew it", though, by failing to "express even personal remorse for the extent to which he himslef [sic] contributed to the evil that went on there." "Even" isn't right, I think; given his lack of responsibility for what happened -- he was a teenage boy at the time -- I think that would have been a kind of preening moral grandstanding to apologize along those lines. By any reasonable measure of his childhood self's moral agency in a monstrous political system, he simply did not contribute to the evil that was Nazi Germany. Rather, he was a victim, too -- certainly not to the degree that, say, Anne Frank was, but a victim nonetheless.

Michael

I can't quite agree, Thomas. He was 14 years old when he joined the Hitlerjugend (as required by law). He would doubtless have belonged to the "junior" division, the Deutsches Jungvolk (for boys aged 10-14 years), which I believe was also obligatory. He would have been brought up in Nazi schools and imbued with Nazi doctrines, though it is of course that the young Ratzinger rejected them as his father apparently did.

However, Ratzinger also served in the armed forces--first as a Luftwaffe auxiliary from age 16-17, then in a technical support battalion, and finally in the infantry proper. As such, he would have been obligated to take the infamous Fahneneid, the oath of personal allegiance to Hitler, to whom he swore "before God" to offer "complete obedience" and, "as a courageous soldier, to be willing to give my life for this oath at any time."

Ratzinger may not have fired a shot in anger, and I certainly doubt that he participated in pogroms or worked as a concentration camp guard. But I'm afraid I can't entirely absolve of responsibility for the excesses of the Nazi regime anyone who took that oath--even if he did so with some degree of mental reservations.

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