Pope Ratzinger feels that Nazism was an example of
atheist extremism and that the Nazi tyranny wished to
eradicate God from society.
Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live.
As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny.
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope)
I suppose he should know. Still, a certain Herr Adolf Hitler seems to have disagreed:
We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.
I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.
Adolph Hitler (Führer)
The last quote is a bit dubious—Hitler was nominally Catholic, but the Nazi party embraced a lot of Pagan and mystic influences that his Catholic forbears would probably have liked to see burned at the stake. The Christian church bears responsibility for an awful lot of anti-Semitism (not just the Catholic church, of course: Martin Luther was perhaps even worse), but while Hitler enjoyed some of their doctrines, he was hardly a mainstream Christian—unless in the narrow sense of a mainstream Positive Christian, as the Nazi religious doctrine was called. And while the Catholic Church has been pretty widely criticised for not officially opposing the Nazi regime (though many individual Catholics and Catholic congregations did), it’s at the very least not obvious that this was not out of fear rather than doctrinal approval.
Still, it’s rather astonishingly ironic:
- Hitler proclaimed himself a Catholic
- Hitler boasted of having stamped out atheism
- Hitler spoke widely of how he felt he followed in Jesus’s footsteps in fighting the Jews¹
- The Catholic Church did not officially denounce Hitler or the Nazis (and has been widely criticised for it)
- Pope Ratzinger was himself a member of the Nazi youth organisation, the Hitlerjügend, albeit this was probably pretty much compulsory
- Pope Ratzinger now claims that the Nazi tyranny was not merely atheistic, but in fact an example of atheist extremism
¹ I never claimed he made much sense.