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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Nazi Pope

Ratzinger/Benedict was a Nazi--that's him on the right in 1943 as a "German military anti-aircraft unit helper," as the Chicago Tribune puts it.

I could give a shit who the Pope is. I subscribe--sorry Dad--to George Carlin's theory of religion as a belief in an invisible man who controls our lives.

That having been said: Shouldn't there be some kind of rule where if you're a Nazi, you don't get to be Pope? I understand that Ratzinger was young and he was conscripted. But you know, life's not fair, and we know it wasn't your fault, but there's just this little rule we have about God's sole representative on Earth not also having been a Nazi. It's just this thing--sorry. Born outside the U.S.? Can't be president, even if you're a fantastic guy or gal. Sorry. Did a stint in Hitler Youth? Sorry, can't be Pope. I know, I know--but Cardinal's not so bad, right Ratzinger?

More seriously: The fact that Ratzinger was young and conscripted carries no weight whatsoever. One of the glorious things we heard incessantly about Pope John Paul during his interminable deathwatch was his heroism and struggle having lived under the heel of Nazis in Poland. It was heroic for a young man to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland with his moral life intact, because collaboration was safer and easier. Otherwise there's nothing heroic about it. If you fete John Paul for his survival of Nazism, you are lauding him in part for his moral courage to reject Nazism and violence in the face of a profound temptation to take the path of least resistance, and his willingness to accept the consequences of refusing to participate in Nazism for the simple fact that participating in Nazism is wrong.

You can't then turn around and apologize for Ratzinger--who is now God's chosen one--for failing to have that moral courage, even as a 14-year-old, because, well, it was hard and everybody was doing it. It's a simple choice--do I participate in evil or do I face the consequences of rejecting it? If the choice is be a Nazi or go to a labor camp, or be a Nazi or die, I'd like to think I'd have the courage to choose death. I'd certainly hope that the man elected as a moral leader for a billion people would have had that courage. He did not.

As a footnote--given the tens, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars that the networks spent on this pope-fest, don't you think one of them could have figured this out before a British paper published it over the weekend? I mean, he's long been a contender for Pope, he's a German of a certain age--Where was he during World War II? is a pretty natural question.