"Cardinal Stepinac quietly intervened to save Jews and Serbs, sometimes permitting Serbs to convert to Catholicism to save themselves"

[following is typical Roman Catholic attempt to make a Roman Catholic monster look 'misunderstood']

National Catholic Reporter

September 23, 1994

page 7


Many commentators on the pope's visit to Zagreb reproached him for visiting the tomb of Cardinal Alojzij Stepinac behind the high altar of the cathedral. Stepinac, it is darkly hinted, was an accomplice of the unspeakable wartime dictator Ante Pavelic and therefore somehow involved in the frightful atrocities perpetrated against Serbs. However, this view of Stepinac is largely derived from accusations made by his communist judges at his show trial in 1946 and kept alive in the Serbian folk memory. Recent research has shown that while Stepinac accepted the NDH -Nezavisna Dezava Hravtska, or Independent State of Croatia - as legitimate, it was difficult for any Croat not to, after so many years of subjection. He refused to swear the oath to the new state or the oath to Pavelic personally. Nor did he encourage the forced conversion of Serbian Orthodox believers to Catholicism. His diaries, letters and sermons show him to have been deeply disturbed by the atrocities that began soon after June 1941 when the Pavelic regime came into being.

In November 1941, for example, he wrote to Pavelic: "No one can deny that these terrible acts of violence and cruelty have been taking place." He managed to convey these views to the Vatican, which explains why Pavelic was rebuffed there. However, Stepinac's critics - mostly old communists and Serbs - say he did not denounce the killings in public until he realized that Tito's partisans were about to win the war and abolish the NDH. Yet there is evidence from 1942 that he quietly intervened to save Jews and Serbs, sometimes permitting Serbs to convert to Catholicism to save themselves from the NDH killers.

Modern historians suggest that he was put on trial less for his alleged complicity with the Ustaci regime than for his opposition to the communists after they came to power. Another theory is that Stepinac was put on trial because Tito could not lay hands on Pavelic, believing him to have been spirited away down the Vatican "ratline." The trial of Stepinac was designed to dramatize the new situation, to show who the new masters were. There was no appeal in such cases.

Cardinal Spellman told the New York Times that he feared Stepinac would be executed. In fact he was denied martyrdom and kept in prison from 1946 to 1953 and then lived under house arrest in his native village of Krasic until his death in 1960. As for his alleged nationalism, his support for an independent Croatia was based on the Atlantic Charter, which supposedly expressed allied war aims. He believed the right to self-determination applied also to small nations. 'Especially' to small nations.

One of the first acts of the Parliament in the newly independent state of Croatia in 1992 was to issue a declaration condemning "the political trial and sentence passed on Cardinal Alojzij Stepinac in 1946." He was condemned, declared the Croat Parliament, "because he had acted against the violence and crimes of the communist authorities, just as he had acted during the whirlwind and atrocities committed in World War II, to protect the persecuted, regardless of their national origin or religious denomination." Parliaments don't often write history, but in this case they got it right. -PH