29 October 2008

Cardinal O'Brien and Godwin's Law

From BBC News, reporting Cardinal Keith O'Brien's comments on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill:

Cardinal Keith O'Brien described its implications as "grotesque" and akin to "Nazi-style experiments".

We assume from that, that the Cardinal is not a fan of the Bill, and not a fan of the Nazis. As he's the most senior member of the Catholic Church in Scotland, we can take that to be the position of the institution he represents.

This would be the Catholic Church that stuck its head in the sand regarding the Holocaust, despite warnings from the US, UK, Brazil, Uruguay and what was left of exiled governments in Belgium and Poland.

The Catholic Church that cut a deal with Mussolini that restored the Church's influence in his fascist state.

The Catholic Church which, in Spain, supported the Franquistas in the 1936-39 Civil War, along with, you guessed it, Germany and Italy.

So maybe, just maybe, if the Cardinal is going to make a stand about something, he might want to find a more secure footing than Nazi comparisons - the organisation he represents has a record that is less than pure on the matter of Nazism.

7 comments:

Ideas of Civilisation said...

Will,

Some very fair points. THis has always been a point of difficulty for the Catholic Church.

On the one hand there are many examples of members of church (clergy or otherwise) fighting against fascism. However the official position of the Church at times did not always live up to this.

My problem with the Cardinal's use of language is the extremism involved. It's perfectly acceptable to argue against the Bill but to make the case in that way is hardly constructive.

The Church understandably takes a certain line in matters such as abortion and this Bill, which it has every right to do. And it's probably the Church's most well known stance.

However I'd like if just occasionally the Cardinal or others used this same vigour to pursue matters such as poverty, and put efforts into getting into the newspapers for this.

Anonymous said...

As a general rule, in making any case:

If you lose your temper you'll probably lose the argument.

If you have to resort to mentioning Hitler or the Nazi's you've already lost the argument.

(sic)

Ted Harvey said...

When the intolerant Cardinal was asked on BBC Scotland radio if he thought that, according to his reasoning, Gordon Brown was supporting Nazi policies, he patronisingly said no, but that Gordon Brown was a good man who was poorly advised.

I believe that the intolerant Cardinal has a coterie of men in his especially created media team… is it possible that we can suppose the archbishop is indeed a good man who has been poorly advised?

Of course it was one of this coterie of men who previously hectored us on how some MSPs ‘left their consciences outside of the Scottish Parliament’ when they went in to vote. Humility is clearly even further down the list than tolerance in this peculiar institution they run.

Would have been nice if our First Minister had shown a lead on decency and tolerance in a modern Scotland by condemning the archbishop’s latest utterances. But there again he supports sectarian-based schools.

James Higham said...

That's very true- there is a lot of explaining to do.

Anonymous said...

This is ahistorical drivel.

If anything the Lateran Treaty constrained fascist influence in Italy.

Most governments in the world happily signed treaties, accords , agreements and the rest with Hitler and Mussolini. Didn't the then British PM famously wave such a thing in the air?

The Church's first objective in dealing with any temporal power is to secure freedom of worship and christian association. Well, it would be, wouldn't it?

That hardly implies approval. The Vatican would happily sign an agreement with Beijing today to secure freedom of religious practice, but only a person with little knowledge of either party would conclude that in some sense would be a Catholic endorsement of communist China.

As to the Cardinal,I think his point is that the Nazi regime liked experimenting with human life; especially disposable in that context were the mentally ill and retarded.

I do not find his language extreme, given what went before, and the easy , ready way human life is taken by some.

Will said...

Anon, the facts are these: the League of Nations chickened out of dealing with Italy. It chickened out of dealing with Germany until it had to act. And volunteers from all over fought against Franco.

The Catholic Church top brass swept the holocaust under the carpet, cut a deal with Mussolini which saw the Church secure a piggyback ride with Il Duce in terms of power and influence, and sided with the Franquistas.

And where were the attempts to deal with Comunist dictatorships? Why so keen to secure freedom-of-worship deals with the fascist ones but not the post-War Communist regimes?

And if the Church is so protective of human life, why did it not speak out against the Holocaust? Why is it set against measures which prevent the spread of HIV in Africa? And on a wider point, why was so much blood shed in the Crusades, the Reformation, and the conquest of the New World?

And why does it oppose research that could lead to lives being saved, particularly when the Bible itself encourages the healing of the sick?

It's hypocrisy, pure and simple.

Ted Harvey said...

Anon, to easily invert your original point using the actual facts – ‘Most governments in the world happily signed treaties, accords , agreements and the rest with each other to wage war on and destroy Hitler and Mussolini. Didn't the then British PM famously refuse to surrender and instead in tune with the common people lead our continued resistance to the fascists?’

In a piece of obtuse logic you assert that “The Church's first objective in dealing with any temporal power is to secure freedom of worship and christian association. Well, it would be, wouldn't it?” Well, would it? How does this square with Church’s supposed unquestionable protection and respect for human life i.e. are you saying it was OK for the Catholic Church to sign accords etc with the murderous Nazis so long as it was not ‘christian association’ or worshippers they were attacking?

You argue that the Church did not condone what the Nazis did. But far more certain is that the Catholic Church utterly failed before, during and, crucially, for long after WW2 to condemn what the Nazis and Mussolini did to the Jews and others such as the Romany folk. There’s no doubt some self-excusing, dancing about the head of a pin to be done by apologists but, taken as a whole, what the Catholic Church did came as close as you can get to condoning the Nazis by inference, by action and by dereliction of plain human decency and love for others.

You said “The Vatican would happily sign an agreement with Beijing today to secure freedom of religious practice, but only a person with little knowledge of either party would conclude that in some sense would be a Catholic endorsement of communist China.” Hmmm, so would this still hold on the basis of your earlier logic if the Chinese undertook a huge industrialised Holocaust programme against other religious peoples so long as they were not seeking christian association or worship?

If you do not find the Cardinal’s language extreme when he indites modern day British politicians elected in a liberal democracy as doing things akin to what the Nazis did, then I suggest you need to re-examine you tenets of morality and get a better appreciation of history – especially before using meaningless and silly wee made up jibs like “ahistorical drival”. And especially given the flawed understanding of history that you displayed in your opening remarks about “Most governments”.