Thursday, 1 June 2006

Benedict XVI visits Auschwitz

This week Benedict XVI visited Auschwitz, both as a Christian and as “a son of the German people.” He said:

“To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible, and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a pope from Germany.... In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can be only a dread silence, a silence which itself is a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent?”

10 Comments:

Mike Todd said...

He remained silent because we are his vocal chords.

David Wilkerson said...

Right, he might have explicitly apologized for catholic complicity and silence instead of pondering the philosophical question of God's relationship to the atrocity. It could have served as a wake up call to Christian complacency regarding violence in the Sudan and Congo or the Aids crisis of southern Africa.

kim fabricius said...

Hi Mike.

Yes, as Shoah survivor Rabbi Hugo Gryn wrote: "People sometimes ask me 'Where was God in Auschwitz?' I believe that God was there Himself - violated and blasphemed. The real question is 'Where was man in Auschwitz?'"

And, David, thanks for telling it like it is. Not only did the Pope not apologise "for catholic complicity and silence" (as you put it), he couldn't just refer to the extermination of the Jews as a crime against humanity, no, he had to say that "by destroying Israel . . . they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith" - as if the ultimate crime was against the church! Indeed the only victims the Pope mentioned were Christians.

And what about the Pope's choice of term "they"? Against all the historical evidence now in, the Pope said, "I come here as a son of the German people . . . a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future geatness . . . with the result that our people was used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power."

Jürgen Habermas was livid, saying that the phrase "ring of criminals" was "a phrase too far", falsely exonerating the German nation as a whole. "For decades," he went on, "phrases like this have nourished a mendacious apologetic within the public rhetoric of our country. Being German, Ratzinger [sic] knows that. Which is why it is incomprehensible to me that, in a place that does not tolerate any misunderstanding, he did not avoid a phrase that is so susceptible to creating misunderstanding."

My wife is both German and Catholic. We are both surprised that the Pope was able to walk away from the death camp unaided, seeing that he had unerringly shot off both his feet.

Dustin said...

Has there ever been an "official" apology or response to the Holocaust from the Catholic Church? Just call me curious.

Also, as one who has visited Auschwitz twice, I can speak for the darkness one feels when present in such an evil place. Having walked through the gas chamber and seen the torture cells (standing, starvation, etc.), I cannot explain how deeply saddened I was that the world, and the Church (universal), largely allowed this to go unchecked for so long.

God forgive us.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

We nowadays expect statements on political trauma from every church on the planet. Such was not the case even thirty years ago, if you'll pause to remember. And during the war itself, not only did Germans participate in allowing these things, every one of the allied and axis nations did, through either action or inaction. It sounds like some would like to require a statement from the Catholic Church on everything, and hold them to blame when every latest public relations issue is not front and centre. To do so, however, is to require one from every church, from the smallest storefront's xeroxed tract to an ex cathedra papal pronouncement. But churches should deal with souls, not with press releases or politics.

David Wilkerson said...

Kevin, I am not asking for the church to become entangled in petty politics. The holocaust was however a human and moral catastrophe which is why the Pope is visiting Auschwitz at all.

It is an event that the Catholic and Lutheran Churches were in unique positions to challenge if not stop altogether had they not failed in the proper 'political' mission of the church. These churches alone perhaps had the critical mass of numbers and public moral authority inside Germany (and in Rome's case outside Germany as well) to be effective.

That the church of thirty years ago was not sufficiently political is only another part of the indictment.

kim fabricius said...

"But churches should deal with souls, not with press releases or politics."

Kevin, I'm afraid that is precisely what Goebbels told the German church at the beginning of the Third Reich. And the awkward thing about souls is that they are embodied in flesh which is inflammable.

Rob said...

The perceived silence will become a deafening and frightening boom on the day that Christ will judge all for their works in the body.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I disagree. There's nothing that they could have done to change what happened, since none of them had the kind of power it required, not the German state church, coopted from before the war even began, or the "foreign" Roman church. But it was particularly because faith in the lives of the people was no longer so strong as it had been ages before that nothing was done. It's that failure (past and present) that should be addressed, which would have given them all, from orphan to prince, the fortitude to stand up against that tyranny and its evils, not the externalist, official kind of top-down addressing of issues that people seem to prefer these days (perhaps so that they can relax and feel justified in that someone speaks for them on all these issues). It's not being "political" that's the issue, but "Christian."

Yes, Goebbels and Hitler took advantage of religiously motivated pacifism (which used to be called martyrdom). That doesn't make it wrong.

I hope that clarifies things a bit.

Deep Furrows said...

What Benedict said at Auschwitz surprised me; it was not something that I would have anticipated or expected. So it will take me some time to digest it. The criticisms of the speech are things I've heard countless times before today. At any rate, I'm more interested in seeing Benedict's personal response to the Holocaust than to what everyone agrees he should have said.

At least Magister could hear when something new is being said.

And here's Benedict on Representative Confession for the sins of others.

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