Beliefnet
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's best-selling 1997 book "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust" argued that Nazis were not solely responsible for the destruction of European Jewry--the German culture of anti-Semitism allowed regular German citizens to help the effort, Goldhagen wrote. His latest book takes the Catholic Church to task for failing to own up to its anti-Semitism and moral failures during the war, and throughout its history. In this excerpt, Goldhagen argues that the Catholic Church has done much less than other Christian churches to apologize for anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Excerpted from "A Moral Reckoning" by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen with permission of Alfred A. Knopf.

The Church has yet to own up to its extensive contributions to, and direct part in, the eliminationist persecution of the Jews. It must stop its denials, obfuscations, prevarications, and self-exculpations-to itself and its faithful, to Jews and to the world. It should finally admit, publicly, its offenses and culpability in full.

The Catholic Church and its many national churches have yet to tell the truth. They have yet to tell the truth about the nature and full extent of their contributions to the eliminationist persecution of the Jews. Among other things, this would require the kinds of concerted historical investigations, as yet unexecuted, into the internal workings of the Vatican and into the attitudes and actions of national Catholic churches and their clergy during the Nazi period that I call for in part one [of "A Moral Reckoning"]. It would also require the Church to conduct serious moral thinking, to a greater degree than it appears to have done, about the variety of offenses that it and its clergy committed.

In part two I propose a moral road map, which is not to say that it is the only possible, legitimate one. But something along its lines-an emphasis on moral agency and individual responsibility, and general and principled evaluative categories of types of offenses and types of culpability, impartially applied-is necessary so that the analytical confusion that besets moral discussions of the Holocaust does not encumber or derail the Church's needed moral self-scrutiny.

This is not to say that, coming from the Church, there would not be a greater doctrinal component to such an evaluation. Of course, there would be-and it would be welcome. Basic Catholic moral principles are worthy of emulation. I refer to them repeatedly, showing how they powerfully support the foundation and reasoning of this moral reckoning. But the Church must recognize that when confronting its offenses against Jews, the political transgressions among them by definition being a public, non-exclusively Catholic matter-Catholic doctrine and theology are neither necessary nor sufficient to draw the conclusion that a well-considered moral reckoning produces. It is precisely because the Church has been and continues to be a political institution that it is subject to the general principles that ought to govern any public institution and public actors. Catholic doctrine and theology also do not trump the principles and views of other involved peoples, especially of Jews. In the end, the Catholic Church would have to say, without equivocation and not just for one or another of its many offenses, but for all of them: mea culpa.

The Catholic Church's failure to be truthful is that much more glaring in light of the statements by many Protestant churches, which sometimes with minor changes would apply also to the Catholic Church. In 1987 the Presbyterian Church (USA) described how the church's teachings of anti-Semitism directly and indirectly led to mass murder:

"In subsequent centuries.the church misused portions of the New Testament as proof texts to justify a heightened animosity toward Jews. For many centuries, it was the church's teaching to label Jews as 'Christ-killers' and a 'deicide race.' This is known as the 'teaching of contempt.' Persecution of Jews was at times officially sanctioned, and at other times indirectly encouraged or at least tolerated. Holy Week became a time of terror for Jews.... It is painful to realize how the teaching of the church has led individuals and groups to behaviour that has tragic consequences. It is agonizing to discover that the church's 'teaching of contempt' was a major ingredient that made possible the monstrous policy of annihilation of Jews by Nazi Germany."

Seven years later in 1994 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America explained how inescapable its church's anti-Semitism was and how catastrophic were its consequences:

"In the long history of Christianity there exists no more tragic development than the treatment accorded the Jewish people on the part of Christian believers. Very few Christian communities of faith were able to escape the contagion of anti-Judaism and its modern successor, anti-Semitism. Lutherans.feel a special burden in this regard because of certain elements in the legacy of the reformer Martin Luther and the catastrophes, including the Holocaust of the twentieth century, suffered by Jews in places where the Lutheran Churches were strongly represented...

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