By- Guenter Lewy

"Guenter Lewy left his native Germany as a boy of fifteen in 1939, emigrated to Palestine and then to the United States. He has since taught at Columbia University and Smith College, and is now Associate Professor of Government at the University of Massachusetts McGraw-Hill Book Company New York London Sydney Toronto Copyright 1964 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS No. 64-21072

Chapter 12 [final chapter]

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... showed considerable forbearance to both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The French Fascist movement, 'Action Francaise', was eventually condemned by the Vatican, but, in the words of one Catholic writer, this was done "not merely because there was ground for condemnation, but because it estimated that the degree of success possible for the movement was great enough permanently to damage the essential Catholic interests in democratic France, but not great enough to protect them in the long run."6 On July 7,1939, soon after the election of Pacelli to the Papacy, the ban was lifted.7 Pius XII, even more than his predecessor, was convinced of the usefulness of anti-Communist right-wing movements.

At the end of World War II, cognizant of the fact that the support of dictatorial, if not outright criminal regimes such as those of Mussolini and Hitler, had done much to injure the moral prestige of Catholicism, the Church began to assume a more sympathetic attitude toward democracy. Pius XII, who throughout World War II had steered a course of careful neutrality, in December 1944, when the defeat of the Axis powers was imminent, acknowledged "that a democratic form of government is considered by many today to be a natural postulate of reason itself."8 After the downfall of the Nazi regime, Pope Pius in October 1945 declared that totalitarianism cannot satisfy "the vital exigencies of any human community" since "it allows the state power to assume an undue extension" and forces "all legitimate manifestations of life--personal, local and professional--into a mechanical unity or collectivity under the stamp of nation, race or class." Short of totalitarianism, even the so-called authoritarian regimes, the Pope went on, pervert the essential nature of state power by splitting the nation into rulers and ruled, and by excluding the citizens from effective participation in forming the will of society. True democracy, on the other hand, holding the Christian faith as the principle of civil life, satisfies the requirements of a sound community, though "the same applies, or could apply, under the same conditions, also to the other legitimate forms of government [monarchy, aristocracy, etc]."9

The benevolence toward popular forms of government became even more pronounced under Pius' successor, Pope John XXIII. In his encyclical 'Pacem in Terris' [Peace on Earth] issued on April 10, 1969. Pope John, like Leo XIII seventy years earlier, reaffirmed


that even though authority comes from God, men have the right to choose their rulers. "It is thus clear that the doctrine which we have set forth is fully consonant with any truly democratic regime." The old neutrality toward the forms of government was not yet repudiated, but John XXIII did proclaim that the rule of law and the principle of constitutionalism were preferred modes of government. The separation of the state's functions into legislative, judicial and executive branches, the Pope declared, is "in keeping with the innate demands of human nature."10 Pope John's lengthy discussion of human rights, including "the right to take an active part in public affairs," also pointed toward an eventual acceptance of democracy by the Church as the form of government judged best for all who have reached a degree of political maturity.

The timing of this gradual political reorientation is significant; it shows that the Church is following rather than leading. As a perceptive Catholic sociologist has noted in connection with the social encyclicals of the modern popes, the Church respects "the majesty of facts," she ratifies the gains scored by others.

Once a liberating movement has broken certain chains, the Church will incorporate the newly gained liberties into her ethic of natural law. She will then recognize them, as previously she had recognized the validity of the chains.11

Whereas in earlier centuries monarchy was held to be the best and most natural form of government, now the rule of law and the separation of functions are viewed as consonant with the demands of human nature.

The indifference of Catholic political philosophy to the forms of government has been justified by the abuses to which all political systems are exposed and "because the political form of government as such does not actually guarantee the best realization of the common good."12 One can readily assent to this proposition. It shows the same realism, reminiscent of Aristotle, as is displayed in Pope John's statement in 'Pacem in Terris' that "it is impossible to determine, once and for all, what is the most suitable form of government, or how civil authorities can most effectively fulfil their respective functions,... great weight has to be given to the historical background and circumstances of given political communities, circumstances which will vary at different times and in different places."13 But the validity of one premise does not prove ........

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....... a conclusion. While it may be impossible to substantiate the assertion that democracy, as practiced for example in the United States or Great Britain, represents an ideal form of government to be followed by all other nations everywhere and at any time, it is certainly possible, negatively, to rule out some forms of government from consideration. The Nazi regime's policies of genocide, for example, were an integral part of National Socialist doctrine; these policies represented a logical outgrowth of a system of government refusing to recognize human equality and dignity. Quite apart from the question of what is the best mode of government, it is therefore not at all difficult to show that certain totalitarian regimes by their very nature are in open violation of the basic moral principles of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. This judgment the Church avoided making until Nazi and Fascist totalitarianism, containing and supported by large numbers of Catholics, had disappeared from the map of history.

As soon as one of these totalitarian regimes attacks the rights of the Church, the Church will protest. But until these regimes are actually overthrown, the Church will hesitate to utter the ban and she will seek an accommodation to protect her own interests as an institution. In such situations, of which the encounter with the Third Reich was a good example, the doctrine of the Church's indifference to the forms of government is highly useful. Thus the German bishops were able to assert that the Catholic religion was no more opposed to the Nazi form of government than to any other. And when the Hitler government reacted with anger to the statement of 'L'Osservatore Romano' in July 1933, that the conclusion of the Concordat between Germany and the Holy See did not entail the recognition of a specific political doctrine, the bishops were able to explain: "The assertion of 'L'Osservatore Romano' that the conclusion of the Concordat did not express assent to the National Socialist state does by no means signify a basic rejection of that state. Otherwise the Concordat would never have been concluded. It merely represents the intentional suspension of an evaluation, [a suspension] made necessary by the relations of the Holy See to all other states."14

The neutrality of the Church toward the various forms of government is thus an ideological adjunct of church diplomacy;

page 332 .................. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND NAZI GERMANY

neutrality is necessitated by the wide-flung interests of the Church. These interests demand flexibility. On the other hand, and more basically, this neutrality derives from the fact that the chief concern of the Church is with the supernatural aspects of human existence. The Church regards herself as the divinely appointed means of man's redemption; to protect her pastoral mission the Church will work with all types of government, and these acts of accommodation, in the form of a concordat or without such a formal tie, rule out ideological intransigence. Given a sufficient quid pro quo, the Church will even close an eye to the violation of the common good by such a regime, for the interests of religion are her paramount concern. Or to put it differently: since religion is "the general and supreme good" of the community" to which all else must yield, the welfare of the state is measured by the freedom enjoyed by religion.

From the standpoint of the Church, as a prominent English Catholic has observed correctly, "political and civil liberties ... are secondary and only favored in so far as they seem to give some guarantee for the higher liberties."16 It is for such reasons that Catholic dictators like Franco and Salazar, despite the oppressive character of their regimes, are considered more valuable by the Church than democratic statesmen, eager to secularize the state, no matter how much the latter may contribute to other areas of public life.

The Church, insisted Lord Acton, must be attached to a spirit making for good government: "a country entirely Protestant may have more Catholic elements in its government than one where the population is wholly Catholic."17 This enlightened point of view has never yet been shared by those guiding the destiny of the Church.

2. The Challenge of Tyranny

The attitude of the contemporary Church to the problem of resistance to tyrannical regimes is marked by the same ambivalence of doctrine and the acceptance of accomplished facts as she shows toward forms of government.

It was not always so. The medieval scholastics, led by St. Thomas Aquinas, and Catholic theologians during the time of the .........