Page 51 - COG Publications

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Religion and Totalitarianism
caused us to meet!" The
Church agreed to endorse and
support Mussolini's regime in
return for a number of eccle–
siastical privileges. Among
them were recognition of Ro–
man Catholicism as the "sole
religion of the state," accep–
tance of clerical control of mar–
riage, and establishment of
religious instruction m secon–
dary schools.
In 1933 a similar concordat
was signed with Hitler. In doing
so, the church effectively
knocked the props out from un–
der the last vestiges of legisla–
tive opposition to Hitler's drive
for absolute power. The con–
cordat also had another salu–
tary effect on Hitler's regime.
It
gave it an aura of respectability
at a time when it was badly
needed. In the eyes of Germans
and non-Germans alike the
Fuehrer had now been recog–
nized by the highest spiritual
power on earth.
The Vatican continued to ex–
tend the cordialities for a num–
ber of years. In the early
thirties it publicly praised the
German chancellor for his
staunch opposition to the men–
ace of Communism. When Pius
XII was elected as the head of
the Holy See in 1939, Hitler was
the first head of state to be no–
tified. At the outset of the in–
vasion of Russia in June 1941,
49
the Vatican could still see fit to
proclaim the following: "Cer–
tainly in the midst of surround–
ing darkness and storm, signs of
light appear which lift up our
hearts with great and holy ex–
pectations - these are those
magnanimous acts of valour
which now defend the founda–
tions of Christian culture, as
well as the confident hope in
victory"
(The Vatican in the
Age of Dictators,
p.
258).
Silence Is Not So Golden
As the intensity of the war
continued to mount and the
scope of the Nazi atrocities be–
came more apparent, the Vati–
can was repeatedly urged to
intervene on behalf of the Jews
and other minorities who were
being ruthlessly exterminated.
About the closest the Pope ever
came was the famous encyclical
Mit Brennender Sorge.
Essen–
tially all it did was make a
feeble protest concerning Nazi
violations against the church
and the terms of the 1933 con–
cordat. For the duration of the
war, the Nazi hierarchy went
about the grim business of ter–
rorizing Jew and non-Jew alike
with little public opposition
from the ranks of established
European Christendom.