The Cross and the Swastika
February 5, 2002
Communist Party seized control of Russia more than 80 years ago, it tried
to eliminate two things: Christianity and anti-Semitism. Tens of
thousands of priests and bishops were murdered, ancient churches were razed to
the ground, believers were forced to worship secretly, and atheism was taught to
children in the state schools. Though anti-Semitism was never
precisely defined like many key terms in the Soviet vocabulary
whatever it was, it became a capital crime.
In the democratic West we are seeing a
renewed conflation of Christianity and anti-Semitism. A flood of
books and articles have tried to blame anti-Semitism (still vaguely defined) on
Christian doctrine, especially Catholic doctrine. Many of the attacks focus on Pope
Pius XII, who has been called Hitlers Pope. Some actually
blame Christianity for the murder of six million Jews.
The latest and most audacious entry in the
campaign to equate Catholicism and anti-Semitism is that of Daniel Jonah
Goldhagen, author of the forthcoming book A Moral Reckoning: The Catholic
Church during the Holocaust and Today, to be published by Knopf. A long
excerpt has just appeared in The New Republic.
Goldhagen goes far beyond the now-routine
charge that Pius XII was culpably silent during the Holocaust. This
charge, by the way, falls under the heading of Virtual Truth a falsehood
repeated so often that it becomes futile to refute it. During World War II, the
New York Times praised Pius for being the only major figure in
Europe who was not silent about racial persecution: a lonely
voice crying out in the silence of a continent. Today you get the impression
that he was the only one keeping silent though heroes like
Winston Churchill, who was silent on the subject even in his postwar memoirs, are
given a pass.
But Pius XII isnt Goldhagens
ultimate target; Christianity is. He contends that the central Christian doctrine
the doctrine of the Crucifixion is anti-Semitic! After all, the
Gospels mention a Jewish role in that event. Goldhagen seems to imply, without
explanation, that this is factually false.
In Goldhagens mind, the
Cross begot the Swastika. Nazism was the updated spawn of the earliest Christian
teachings and the Holocaust was their fulfillment.
If this is true, it would seem that the
Communists were right to try to eliminate Christianity. Goldhagen never quite
says this, but it follows from what he does say. He notes that the oppression of
Jews in Russia ended when the Communists came to power; but he also resents any
suggestion that Jews played any role in Soviet Communism (thats
anti-Semitic too). You get the impression that Communism was led by
well-meaning gentiles. (One gets that impression about many things these days.)
Goldhagen uses the word anti-Semitic
so loosely that his charges cant be falsified. How can you disprove a charge
when you dont even know what it means? This too is a principle of Soviet
jurisprudence: an impossible burden of proof falls not on the prosecution, but on
If Christianity has always been anti-Semitic
at its core, as Goldhagen says, why didnt the Holocaust occur
when Europe was still Christian? And if anti-Semitism is a Christian doctrine,
why was it so fervently embraced by people who rejected or were indifferent to
all other Christian doctrines? The Church taught that fornication was immoral, but
that didnt seem to stop people from fornicating, especially after they lost
True, the Church also condemned murder,
which would seem to rule out the mass murder of Jews, but Goldhagen actually
says that this teaching was barely known! The Ten Commandments
barely known? Some Protestant bigots have charged that
Catholics are forbidden to read the Bible, but Goldhagen takes the cake for
You would think that an anti-Semitic Church
would at least censure the Jews in its creeds, its formal doctrines, its papal
encyclicals. You would expect its leaders to warn the faithful against Jewish
influence. You would certainly expect its official condemnations of Communism to
mention the Jewish role in Bolshevism, as such Catholics as Hilaire Belloc and
Father Charles Coughlin did.
But none of this happened. In fact, the Second
Vatican Council specifically repudiated the notion that all Jews bear the guilt of
the Crucifixion. Goldhagen, a virtuoso of aspersion, finds even this anti-Semitic!
Self-absorption can go no further. Goldhagen
has produced a monument of intellectual ethnocentrism and paranoid slander.