Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Tale of Two "War Criminals" 

Reconcile this. A few years back, Israel insisted on hunting down and bringing to justice an 80-something man named John Demjanjuk. You can read the whole story at that link, but the short version is: Russian soldier, captured by Germans in 1942, becomes POW Camp Trustee for the Germans. Flash forward; 1977, he's living in the US as a naturalized citizen with his wife and children, but proceedings begin to drag him back to Israel for trial as a war criminal. Ultimately, his sentence is overturned and, in the 90s, his US citizenship is restored -- only for him to then have new proceedings begun against him. See, in the original case, it was claimed that he was Ivan the Terrible, a prison guard who tortured, abused and killed prisoners. That turned out not to be the case. In the new case, it was alleged that he was just a prison guard in a Nazi camp. Note, however, a POW prison guard.

I bring this up because of this bit of... what to call it? Ass-kissing? Or is it another case of "It's Okay if You're a Republican?" Apparently, Israel has no problem at all with Pope Ratzo's Nazi past. Nope. None at all. They aren't going to drag him to court in Israel and try him for war crimes even though he was a willing collaborator in his role as a member of the Hitler Youth.

Here's a key quote:
Moshe Zimmerman, a professor of German history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, played down the importance of the new pope's membership in the Hitler Youth.

"He was 18 years old when the war ended, so everything that he had to do with the Nazi regime was as a very young man," he said. "I don't believe that there is any room for doubt that (the pope) of today is very different than the days he belonged in the Hitler Youth."
Emphasis added -- but what gives here? Odds are, most still-surviving ex-Nazis were pretty young at the time, seeing as how the older ones are dying out. Now, I'm not saying Zimmerman speaks for the Israeli government, but if it's okay for him to make this statement about the Pope, then why is it not okay for every other 18 year-old Nazi?

For comparison, Demjanjuk was 25 when the war ended. What is the cutoff point for "very young man?" Eighteen? Nineteen? Twenty-five? (Apparently, if you're George W. Bush, it's forty.)

My problem here is, we're getting a mixed signal, and it's all because people have some misplaced awe of the papacy and the pope. All the robes and incense give him a pass, but you can't have it both ways. Either people like Pope Ratzo and Demjanjuk are all innocent because they were just kids (or make up whatever other popeable excuse you want), or they're all guilty because they were Nazis.

In any case, after comments like these, I'll be expecting Israel to stop hunting down everyone still living who did so much as wash dishes for the Nazis. Of course, officially, they have given themselves wiggle room:
"There are good relations with him," Oded Ben-Hor, Israel's ambassador to the Vatican, told Army Radio. "Israel can certainly coexist with him. But the real test will come over the course of time."
So, apparently, if Pope Ratzo starts acting like a Nazi again, the free pass is revocable. But don't hold your breath. Ratzo's previous statements pretty much indicate that he thinks any church/religion besides Roman Catholicism is not a real church, not a real religion. I don't think he's about to elevate the Jews to some special position. Hell, it was only within the last few years that the Church finally went back and read the Gospels and said, "Oops. Guess the Jews didn't kill Jesus after all..."

But... this is just another flaming example of a sad truth in the world. For centuries, clerical garb -- rather, Catholic clerical garb, has served as sin-shielding from the world. Once upon a time, a criminal on the run could dash off to a church and get tonture -- that male-pattern baldness haircut common to monks -- and voila, he was suddenly given sanctuary and protected from paying for his crimes. In modern days, apparently, wearing the garb of a priest or bishop -- or Pope -- makes you immune from prosecution for embezzlement or child molestation.

Or being a Nazi.

Ooh. Did I just say Pope Ratzo is still a Nazi? I guess I must have misread the past five decades worth of pronouncements that say once a Nazi, always a Nazi.

True if you're a mechanic in Ohio. Not true if you're da Pope.

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