From the [encyclical's] rendition of the Church's response to Nazism, you would conclude that it stood clearly and defiantly against the injustices of Hitler's Germany. The few Catholic priests who preached courageously against Nazism are noted, as if they were the rule... And the Vatican's new document persists in this straitened theological conception of the Nazi assault on decency. "The Shoah was the work of a thoroughly modern neo-pagan regime," it declares. "Its anti-Semitism had its roots outside of Christianity, and in pursuing its aims, it did not hesitate to oppose the Church and persecute her members also."[More]
Those are saddening sentences, because they represent a casuistic reading of history. The Holocaust was not merely the work of a "regime." It was the work of a totalitarianism, which is to say, it was perpetrated and abetted by whole societies, and those societies were Christian. Millions of people cannot be ostracized, persecuted, arrested, tortured, shot, deported, concentrated, gassed, and burned by a "regime." Christians were certainly persecuted by the Nazis, but the Holocaust was not a war against the Christians. The anti- Semitism of the Nazi satraps and the Nazi ideologues was certainly not Christian anti-Semitism, but it owed its rapturous reception in Germany and elsewhere to centuries and centuries of Christian anti-Semitism. All this is elementary and incontrovertible.
"But it may be asked whether the Nazi persecution of the Jews was not made easier by the anti-Jewish prejudices imbedded in some Christian minds and hearts." It may well be asked. So, then, "Did Christians give every possible assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular to the persecuted Jews?" Here is the Vatican's answer: "Many did, but others did not." These words are not saddening. They are maddening. For the very opposite was the case. Many did not, but others did.