A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week...
OK... maybe not so "random." I mean really, there's just one thing on the mind of Catholics today. As I am sure everyone already knows, Pope Benedict will be stepping down as Supreme Pontiff at the end of February. God bless Pope Benedict XVI as he moves on to the next phase of his journey here on earth. And may God bless the Church as she awaits the guidance of the next successor to Peter.
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So I had an interesting (and frustrating) conversation on Facebook with a friend of a friend concerning Pope Benedict's forced participation in the Nazi youth organization when he was a young man in Germany. The man with whom I discussed this matter said the following (I'll call him 'Bob' - though that is not his real name):
Bob: He is a Nazi. I am surprised how the media is running with the story, as if the Pope is the world's christian leader. The only coverage the Baptist get is about Westboro Church, as if we all act that way.
It seems that Bob is a Baptist who wishes that his church got more news coverage. Uh, well, Bob, that's not always such a great thing. Have you seen the coverage that Catholics get? Careful what you wish for. It's not as though the media is going to sugarcoat everything about the pope in the next few weeks.
Then someone else chimed in to comment on what Bob had said:
"I'm not a fan of his. I was RC and I did not embrace the direction the RC Church went in or his theological world view. He is not a Nazi, however. He was a teenager in seminary when he got drafted into the German Army. He was in the Hitler Youth as it was required of all German youth at the time. He deserted from the army and surrendered to the Allies and promptly went back to seminary. While I disagree with him on most things theological, I'd not call him a Nazi."
So then the conversation went as follows:
Me: Bob, I find it ironic that in one breath you call the pope a Nazi while at the same time complain that Baptists get unfair treatment in the media. As Mr. ____ pointed out above, the allegation that Pope Benedict is a Nazi is itself unfair and unfounded. So likewise is the idea that all Baptists are of the Westboro mindset. So let's all keep a fair mind in all of this.
Bob: Sorry, he was part of Hitler's Youth Army, not a Nazi. I had no idea there was a difference. I guess we can no longer call members of Al Qaida terrorists.
Me: In Nazi Germany young men and boys were required to join, sometimes being dragged against their will...like a military draft. He was not a willing member. He deserted (as Mr. ____ said above) and turned himself in. He had no desire to be in the Nazi organization and was not a Nazi.
Bob: No man is forced into being anything, you always have a choice. The Pope could have become a Martyr.
Me: You are correct that no man can be forced to be a Nazi...you either agree with the Party platform or you don't. They may drag you to the camp, force you to wear the uniform, and threaten your wellbeing, but they cannot force you to change your innermost beliefs. Joseph Ratzinger and those who knew him back then all say that he did NOT become a Nazi.
But you also cannot force the enemy to kill you so that you can be a martyr. That was a decision the Nazi's could have made about the young man who is now pope, but obviously Ratzinger had no control over whether the Nazi's would kill him. You are setting up a false choice. He could not choose how the Nazis would react to his resistance.
There are many Germans who escaped death in much the same way that young Joseph Ratzinger did... Are you calling them all Nazis? You need to think about what you are saying before throwing out labels like that. People may start believing that you are a Westboro Baptist. You're starting to sound like one.Well, I don't care what the Bob's of the world think (and believe me there will be plenty of Bobs on the evening news between now and February 28), I say: God bless you Pope Benedict! And thank you.