1. The Roman Catholic Church ("RCC") was critical to Hitler's rise to absolute power: The Catholic parties, which had previously opposed the Nazis, threw their support behind the so-called Enabling Act, which made Hitler dictator, on the direct orders of the Vatican.
2. The RCC was essential to Mussolini's getting into power and staying there: In 1922, the Vatican ordered RCC hierarchs in Italy not to support the Catholic party, thereby ensuring Mussolini's victory; in 1923 the Vatican ordered the Catholic priest who led the Popolari Party in opposing Mussolini's bid for dictatorship to resign, thereby ensuring Mussolini's success; and in 1924, the Vatican ordered all clergy to resign from the Catholic party, thereby ensuring the survival of Mussolini's government, which had been on the verge of collapse after the assassination of Matteotti.
3. The RCC ignored the Holocaust until it became obvious that the Allies would win the war: Pius XII's record is one of turning a blind eye year after year, and the RCC's contrary claims are lies.
4. The RCC orchestrated and implemented the genocide against the Orthodox Serbs in Nazi-Catholic Croatia: The RCC and the Nazis established the independent state of Croatia, made Roman Catholicism the official religion, banned the practice of Orthodox Christianity, made harboring an Orthodox Serb a capital crime, and forcibly converted and then murdered some 750,000 Orthodox Serbs. The entire genocide was carried out not merely with the knowledge but with the enthusiastic participation of the ecclesiastical hierarchy in Croatia, and Pius XII, who was kept fully informed of the progress of the genocide by his papal legate in Croatia, said and did nothing about it.
I. The Role of the Roman Catholic Church in Hitler's Rise to Absolute Power
In 1933 elections were held for Germany's Reichstag (parliament). The two Catholic parties -- the Center Party and the smaller Bavarian People's Party -- had always opposed the Nazis. Of the 647 seats, the Nazis (and their allied Hugenberg Nationalists) won 340. But in order to give Hitler absolute power, they needed 432 seats -- two-thirds of the total.
The Catholic parties won 92 seats, which was exactly the number that the Nazis needed. So the papal nuncio in Germany -- Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pius XII, the infamous "Hitler's Pope" -- struck a deal with the Nazis. The RCC gleefully sold its integrity (at least, it would have if it had had any) for the thirty pieces of silver it got from the concordat with Hitler: The RCC agreed that every bishop would have to "swear ... loyalty to the German Reich," "swear ... to honor the legally constituted Government and to cause the clergy of [his] diocese to honor it," and "swear ... to avoid all detrimental acts which might endanger it"; the RCC agreed that every prospective bishop would be subject to Nazi vetting before nomination; and the RCC agreed that all clerics and monastics would be barred from political activity, so they could not effectively oppose Nazism on the political level. (See Concordat, Arts. 16, 14(2), and 32.)
So Pacelli, acting in his official capacity as papal nuncio, directed the 92 parliamentarians who were members of the Catholic parties to vote to give Hitler absolute power. And not one -- not so much as a single one -- of them had the moral courage to stand up and say "no". Instead, each and every one of them got up on his hind legs like a good little Catholic and voted the way that the Vatican had commanded. And that is how Hitler managed to achieve absolute power in a constitutional fashion.
Those are facts. The votes of the Catholic parties' parliamentarians were essential to Hitler's rise to absolute power, and those votes were dictated by the Vatican.
II. The Role of the Roman Catholic Church in Mussolini's Rise to Power
There are strong parallels in Mussolini's (earlier) rise to power. In 1922, the only power capable of politically blocking Mussolini's fascists was the combined weight of the Socialist Reform and Catholic parties. But just as those parties were forming a coalition to block the fascists, the Vatican ordered the Italian ecclesiastical hierarchs to remain neutral rather than support the Catholic Party. The clearly foreseeable effect of that was the collapse of the Socialist-Catholic coalition. Later that month, Mussolini's fascists took control of Italy.
In 1923, Mussolini was pushing a scheme to guarantee the fascists a two-thirds majority in all parliamentary elections. That scheme was opposed by the Catholic Popolari Party, led by a Catholic priest, Don Sturzo. The Popolari had successfully blocked the implementation of Mussolini's scheme, but the Vatican ordered Sturzo to resign from the party. That weakened the party enough that it could no longer block the fascists' scheme, and Mussolini got his electoral "reforms".
In 1924, the fascists murdered the Socialist leader Matteotti. The Socialist and Catholic parties demanded that King Victor dismiss Mussolini, and they tried again to form an effective coalition to oppose fascism. But the Vatican announced that cooperation with even the most moderate Socialists was sinful -- as opposed, of course, to cooperation with the foulest governments on the face of the planet, which was not -- and ordered all clergy to resign from the Catholic party. The hoped-for coalition collapsed, and Mussolini hung on to power.
Those are facts. The Vatican allied itself squarely with Mussolini's fascists at three crucial points, enabling him to take power in the first instance, enabling him to gain absolute power through election-rigging, and propping up his government when it was in danger of collapse.
III. The Roman Catholic Church Ignored the Holocaust
Unlike the cases of Hitler and Mussolini, in which the RCC actively assisted in the rise of fascism, its record with respect to the Holocaust is one of inaction:
(a) Francis d'Arcy Godolphin Osborne, British Minister to the Vatican, sent regular reports on fascist atrocities to Pius XII -- the very Eugenio Pacelli who had brokered the deal that gave Hitler absolute power -- from 1940 on, and Pius XII did nothing. (b) Requested to intercede to prevent the deportation of Jews from Spain and Lithuania, Pius XII did nothing.
( c) Beseeched by Ukrainian Metropolitan Andrej Septyckyj to speak out against the extermination of Jews, at a time when 200,000 Ukrainian Jews had already been murdered, Pius XII advised the Metropolitan to "bear adversity with serene patience".
(d) When the collaboratist French government instituted Jewish statutes, the Vatican declared that such statutes were in accord with Catholic teaching as long as they were administered with "charity" and "justice" -- which is as good a reflection as any of what the RCC really thinks about charity and justice.
(e) Asked by the Bishop of Berlin and the President of Poland's government-in-exile to denounce Nazi violence, Pius XII did nothing.
(f) Informed by Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (later Paul VI) that the "massacres of the Jews [had] reach[ed] frightening proportions and forms," the Vatican continued to assert that it was impossible to verify "rumors" of such crimes.
(g) Informed that 77% of Slovakian Jews had been deported to probable death, Pius XII did nothing.
(h) Informed that the Jewish population of the Warsaw Ghetto had been reduced by 400,000, Pius XII did nothing.
Only when it became clear that the Allies would win the war did Pius XII change his tune. Suddenly, the extermination of the Jews became a matter of concern -- purely political concern. The Vatican finally began to give refuge to Jews in Rome because, as Pius XII advised the German and Hungarian bishops, being on record condemning the slaughter of the Jews would be politically advantageous after the collapse of the Third Reich.
The RCC claims that Pius XII intervened to help Jews before the tide of war turned by persuading Brazil to grant 3000 visas to European Jews in 1939. That is false. Pius XII interceded with Brazil only on behalf of Jews who had converted to Catholicism. When most of those Jews reverted to Judaism, their visas were revoked, and Pius XII did nothing.
In 1999, the Vatican appointed a group of Catholic and Jewish scholars to investigate the matter, but the investigators were not given full access to the Vatican's pertinent documents. And when even the evidence selected by the RCC belied its stock defenses of Pius XII, the Vatican shut the whole investigation down.
Those are facts. The Vatican was fully informed of the Holocaust, from sources both inside and outside the RCC, and it did nothing to stop it. It did not even speak out against it until it became politically expedient to do so.
IV. The Roman Catholic Church's Genocide in Nazi-Catholic Croatia
I have saved the worst for last. The attempt to exterminate the Serbian Orthodox is one of the lesser known butcheries of the twentieth century. The independent state of Croatia, proclaimed in 1941, was entirely a creature of the Third Reich and the RCC. Catholicism was made the official religion, and practicing Orthodox Christianity was forbidden. All Orthodox were immediately banned from Zagreb, and harboring an Orthodox was declared punishable by summary execution. Orthodox serbs were rounded up in their tens of thousands, forcibly "converted" to Roman Catholicism, and shot.
The Church was up to its eyeballs in this. The Catholic primate, Archbishop (later Cardinal) Alojzije Stepinac, and other bishops became members of the Croatian parliament, which oversaw, with their enthusiastic participation, the genocide against the Orthodox. Stepinac became Supreme Military Apostolic Vicar of the Ustashi Army and vigorously urged on the slaughter. And after Ante Pavelic had to flee the country, Stepinac stepped in as head of the fascist government. The backbone of the Ustashi office corps was composed of Catholic priests and monks. Pius XII was given regular reports on the Ustashi's progress in exterminating the Orthodox by, among others, his own papal legate, who was on the scene.
This is a case of the RCC's actively participating in -- indeed, being the primary architect of -- one of the worst crimes of the fascist era. The ecclesiastical hierarchy in Croatia, almost without exception, fully supported the attempt to exterminate the Orthodox Serbs. Catholic priests and monks supervised -- and, in many instances, personally carried out -- forcible conversions followed by mass executions. The ultimate death toll is estimated at about 750,000.
Ten years after beatifying the mass murderer Junipero Serra, architect of the RCC's genocide against the native peoples of California, His Unholiness John Paul II proved his utter moral bankruptcy a second time by beatifying Stepinac. That shows the moral character of the RCC.
Those are facts. The RCC orchestrated and implemented a genocide in which it murdered some 750,000 Orthodox Serbs.
V. So What Does This Tell Us?
The RCC actively expedited the rise to power of two of the foulest criminals of modern times. The RCC turned a blind eye to the greatest crime against humanity ever committed. And the RCC orchestrated and implemented a genocide in which the RCC murdered some 750,000 innocent people. Why? Because in the great struggle among fascism, communism, and democracy, the RCC made a moral choice: It allied itself squarely with fascism.
If the Vatican had instructed the Catholic parties to oppose Hitler (which they already had been doing) rather than instructing them to vote to give Hitler absolute power, would his rise to absolute power have been prevented? We cannot know. But popular willingness to accept the outcome of a process perceived as legitimate and popular willingness to accept the outcome of a naked coup d'etat are two very different things. And we know that the Nazis thought that the RCC's support was important, because they went to a good deal of trouble to obtain it. Hence, "to honor the legally constituted Government" in the concordat -- the Nazis knew the value of the RCC's recognition of their claim to legitimacy.
In any event, if Hitler's bid for absolute power had been frustrated rather than facilitated by the RCC, some political accommodation would likely have been reached which would have given Hitler less than absolute power, at least for a time. He very likely would have taken complete control eventually, but at the very least, the RCC could have slowed the rise of Nazism. Instead, the RCC actively hastened it.
Could Mussolini's ambitions have been squelched if the RCC had opposed them rather than supporting them? Again, we cannot know. But we do know -- especially from the events of 1923, when the Catholic party was successfully thwarting Mussolini's plans until the Vatican intervened to support him -- that the RCC had the power to impede, if not prevent, his ascendance. Again, therefore, the RCC could have slowed the rise of fascism. But again, the RCC actively hastened the rise of fascism instead.
C. The Holocaust
Would papal denunciation of the Holocaust and active encouragement of all Catholics to save as many Jews as possible have mitigated the Holocaust? Again, we cannot know. But unless one contends that there was absolutely no chance that papal denunciation of the Holocaust would have had even the slightest effect -- in which case we might well ask why the RCC bothers to have a pope at all -- one must concede that the likelihood that the pope could have mitigated the Holocaust by speaking out against it and exhorting all Catholics to do their best to subvert it was greater than zero.
But instead of denouncing the single greatest crime against humanity ever committed, the RCC stood idly by while a whole people was being mercilessly butchered. (Which is hardly surprising, given that the RCC was itself busily butchering another whole people at the same time.) The RCC could have saved many lives by speaking out against the Holocaust and working to counteract and undermine it. Instead, the RCC bargained away those lives for the thirty pieces of silver it got in the Concordat (much as it traded the lives of those slaughtered by the Italian fascists in exchange for the thirty pieces of silver it got in the Lateran Treaty). We will never know how many lives the RCC could have saved but did not, but we can be confident that they number in the tens or even hundreds of thousands.
D. The Genocide Against the Orthodox Serbs
In this case, whether the RCC could have prevented, delayed, slowed, or even slightly mitigated the genocide against the Orthodox Serbs is not the issue. At the very least, the RCC could have declined to participate in that genocide. Instead, the RCC jumped right in it with both feet. The RCC fused itself with the Ustashi in Nazi-Catholic Croatia, and once the two became indistinguishable, their crimes likewise became indistinguishable. Had it not been overshadowed by the Jewish Holocaust, the genocide against the Serbian Orthodox would be one of the most notorious crimes against humanity ever committed, and the RCC fully and eagerly wallowed in it. That obviates the question whether the RCC could have mitigated that genocide: If the RCC had not committed horrendous crimes, it would not be directly guilty of horrendous crimes.
E. The Roman Catholic Church and Fascism in the Modern Era
The twentieth century's great ideological struggle was among the tyranny of fascism, the tyranny of communism, and the (at least relative) freedom of representative, rights-protective democracy. The RCC was confronted with a clear moral choice. And it fully and unhesitatingly allied itself with the ideology most compatible with its own: fascism.
VI. Has Anything Changed?
In my opinion, no. I see no evidence that the RCC's ideology is any less fascistic now than it was in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Nor do I see any evidence that the RCC is any less willing now to commit genocide than it was in the 1940s (or in the 18th century, when it committed genocide against the native peoples of California, or at any other time). It seems to be less able to do so, but that is a different matter. The power of the RCC waxes and wanes (and sometimes waxes in one place while waning in another), but one thing that the RCC has learned very well is how to bide its time.
And there is an underlying reason for that: The RCC is dogmatically committed to installing itself as the dictatorial head of worldwide tyranny. Although most Catholics, especially American Catholics, are serenely unaware of this, the RCC requires all of the faithful to oppose freedom of religion and support making the RCC the state religion everywhere, to oppose freedom of opinion and expression and support censorship, and to support making all of the world's governments subordinate to the RCC. (See Quanta Cura and Syllabus of Errors.)
And because Quanta Cura and Syllabus of Errors -- which elaborate the principle expressed centuries earlier in Unam Sanctam -- are brimming with all the indicia of papal infallibility (i.e., all the standards for an ex cathedra statement on faith and morals (which is what a papal statement must be in order to be considered infallible)), the RCC is pretty much stuck with them. It could find a way around them -- as it has changed its mind about lending money at interest and about abortion in the first trimester -- but very few people would find such intellectual and theological backflips convincing.
In the end, it seems to me, the combination of the RCC's dogmatic commitment to tyranny (as long as it is the tyrant; obviously, it opposes anti-Catholic tyrannies such as communism) and its historical willingness to use any means available -- up to and including genocide -- to further that objective makes the RCC a clear and constant danger to the liberty of every human being. Its ceasing to exist will be a great step forward in the history of humankind.