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Hitler's Catholicism

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Catholicism can be a matter of degree. The history of the Roman Catholic Church, as distinguished from early Christianity, Orthodox and even various heretical Christian Churches is based on the central tenet that the Bishop of Rome, aka The Pope, is the supreme authority for Christians. It can be argued that Adolf Hitler, former Chancellor of Germany, was not a Catholic. But if you use the criteria necessary to exclude Hitler from the Catholic Church on other Church members, there would be relatively few Catholics in the world.

One might argue that Hitler was a bad Catholic, or at least a nominal Catholic, and that therefore his opinions and actions should not reflect upon the Church as a whole. Certainly Hitler did not attend Mass (to my knowledge) as an adult, nor did he take orders from the Pope. His heresy was to subordinate Church to State. Yet the Pope of that era never declared Hitler to be a heretic, in particular never excommunicated him, because the Pope and Hitler were in agreement on such fundamental issues as the danger of democracy and the need to exterminate atheists.

If Hitler was not Catholic, then one could argue that Catholicism was not central to Fascism. [See my essay Catholicism and Fascism]. Unlike General Francisco Franco, Hitler did not persecute Germans simply for not being Catholic. But he did persecute almost everyone who was not a Catholic or mainstream Protestant. The German nationalist flavor of the Lutheran sect probably appealed to Hitler, but its contempt of (the Pope's) authority did not.

According to Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler was born into the Catholic faith. He dictated Mein Kampf to a Catholic priest. Someone listed him as Catholic on his death certificate.

In the United States the Catholic Church was a already a strong political force in the Fascist era, and played a particularly prominent role in the Democratic Party in the northern tier of states. The Democratic Party's presidential nominee of 1928, Al Smith, was Catholic. Therefore, then and in later U.S. historical views, linking Hitler to Catholicism was a no-fly zone.

I found a site listing some of Hitler's speeches where he promoted the Catholic religion or Christian religion generally, and I want to share the site with you:

The Christianity of Hitler revealed in his speeches and proclamations

Here are some of the passages I found most interesting. First is that one of the 25 points of the Program of the Nazi party says: "The Party, as such, stands for Positive Christianity, but does not bind itself in the matter of creed to any particular confession." The Nazi's saw themselves in a battle against atheist Marxism. By adopting Christianity they aligned themselves with other conservatives and with the majority of Germans. The party got its start in Munich, in Bavaria, a predominantly Roman Catholic former kingdom incorporated into greater Germany in 1871. But Germany as a whole was 2/3 Protestant. Any party wishing to come to power would need Protestant support.

In a speech given on April 26, 1933 [Hitler was appointed Chancellor on January 30, 1933, but was still consolidating his power at the time of this speech] Adolf said, "The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc. ... I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public function."

Then in a letter to the party faithful of July 22, 1933, Hitler wrote, "The fact that the Vatican is concluding a treaty with the new Germany means the acknowledgement of the National Socialist state by the Catholic Church ... the assertion that National Socialism is hostile to religion is a lie."

"We have not only brought thousands of priests back into the Church, but to millions of respectable people we have restored their faith in their religion and their priests," Hitler's New Year Message of January 1, 1934.

"Providence has caused me to be Catholic." Hitler said this in 1936.

Of course Hitler said many things to many audiences over the years, some of them in variance with each other.

Hitler was a complex character, and the Nazi Party was far more complex than its leader. Many Nazis were Lutherans, a few wanted to restore Germanic paganism. The party also attracted numerous materialistic predators who really had no religion.

But almost all the ideas of National Socialism come straight from the Catholic Church, not just the hatred of Jews. Hitler believed in the Leadership Principle. The Catholic Popes did not invent that, but they practiced it then and still practice it today.

Hitler's crusades against the Jews and communists are part of a broader stream of Catholic Church history. The Church did not criticize Hitler; it provided moral support. When General Franco started slaughtering non-Catholics in Spain in 1936, the Catholic Church approved and thereby gave the green light to Hitler's wars on the Jews and atheists.

Another view: Adolf Hitler's religious beliefs [Wikipedia]