Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Pious and the Dead

Oh, that Catholic Church. They're at it again with Pius XII, for whom Pope Benedict has just cleared the way to beatification, and thence eventually to sainthood. They noted that this "is in no way to be read as a hostile act toward the Jewish people." Don't worry, I didn't read it that way, any more than I read Pius's inaction during the Holocaust as hostile. Indifferent, yes. Acquiescing to evil, yes. But I wouldn't say hostile.

According to the Times, a Vatican spokesman said the beatification process looks at Pius's "Christian life"  and not at the "historical impact of all his operative decisions." For "historical impact" read "the deaths of countless innocent people." And isn't the Christian life, let alone the saintly life, all about decisions?

At least no one is going to say of Pius that, hey, he was a victim too, as Benedict did when he described the Germans as being "used and abused" by the Nazis. The Church's pinnacle of vicarious victimhood was of course the canonization of Edith Stein, the converted nun who died at Auschwitz. Since many Catholics couldn't understand what all the uproar was about, let me say that I had no problem with canonizing Edith Stein. Spiritual qualities aside, she by all accounts was a remarkable woman (she was considered a more promising grad student than Martin Heidegger, which perhaps contributed to Heidegger's later support for Hitler).

No, what I object to is fast-tracking Edith Stein for sainthood by claiming that she was a martyr to the faith. That is, that she died because she was a Catholic-- and therefore the Church, too, was a victim of Hitler. I can't for the life of me see how that is true. If Stein had renounced her Catholicism, if she had spat on a crucifix and recited the Lord's Prayer backwards, would that have saved her life? Hardly. Edith Stein didn't die because she was a Catholic. She died because she was... that other thing.

The next time Jews need some moral outrage from the Church, I hope they have the good sense to be fetuses.

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