Will the Church Practice What the Pope Preached?
HOW did Irish Catholics respond to the pope’s appeal to stop the 10 years of violence in which some 2,000 persons have been killed?
In the same way that they responded to more than 30 appeals of Pope Paul VI for peace in Ireland. They rejected it! “In all conscience,” the Catholic Irish Republican Army answered, “we believe that force is by far the only means of removing the evil of British presence in Ireland.”
Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland believe that they are being oppressed by a Protestant majority. Therefore, in rejecting the pope’s appeal, Catholics cite their Church’s doctrine that violence may be employed to achieve justice.* Do Irish Catholics find precedent in waging so-called “just war”?
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND WAR
In his speech before the United Nations, Pope John Paul II claimed: “The Catholic Church in every place on earth proclaims a message of peace, prays for peace, educates for peace.” But what do the facts of history reveal? The Catholic historian E. I. Watkin wrote:
“Painful as the admission must be, we cannot in the interest of a false edification or dishonest loyalty deny or ignore the historical fact that Bishops have consistently supported all wars waged by the government of their country. I do not know in fact of a single instance in which a national hierarchy has condemned as unjust any war . . . Whatever the official theory, in practice ‘my country always right’ has been the maxim followed in wartime by Catholic Bishops. Speaking on other occasions in the name of Christ, where belligerent nationalism is concerned they have spoken as the mouthpiece of Caesar.”—Morals and Missiles, edited by Charles S. Thompson, pp. 57, 58.
Yes, many Irish Catholics are doing what Catholics have done during past conflicts. They are fighting. “But the Church does not approve,” someone may object. “The pope urged them to ‘turn away from the paths of violence.’” But has the pope, or the local Irish Catholic hierarchy, shown that they really condemn the fighting in Ireland? Have they excommunicated Catholics who continue in their murderous activities? No, such individuals are still Catholics in good standing! Of course, the same is true of Protestant terrorists.
Similarly, during World War II the pope refused to excommunicate such Catholic leaders as Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring, or the millions of Church members in their armies. It is a well-known fact of history that the Catholic Church in Germany blessed the Nazi war effort, as is shown by the news clippings reproduced below.
Why was there almost total German Catholic support of the Nazi war effort? Catholic scholar and educator Gordon Zahn explains why, stating: “The German Catholic who looked to his religious superiors for spiritual guidance and direction regarding service in Hitler’s wars received virtually the same answers he would have received from the Nazi ruler himself.”
Yet the pope lectured the United Nations: “No more war. War never again.” Beautiful words—words adapted from the Bible! (Isa. 2:4) But how hollow sounding they are when coming from the head of a Church whose members have consistently supported their countries’ wars, with the approval and blessing of their leaders!
GRANTING OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
Pope John Paul II made an eloquent plea before the United Nations that peoples everywhere be granted “full rights under any political regime or system.” Yet has the Catholic Church adhered to the course that the pope urged for the world’s political states?
The continued persecution of many non-Catholics in Catholic-dominated lands such as Argentina answers that it has not. In fact, during the 1960’s Cardinal Arriba y Castro asserted: “We must remember that only the Catholic Church has the right to preach the gospel. Proselytism in a Catholic state is bad and must be repressed.” Cardinal Ottaviani, at the time the most powerful prelate next to Pope Paul VI, expressed essentially the same opinion. The Catholic World of March 1965 said of him:
“His idea of religious tolerance may be stated briefly in this way: although truth and error as such cannot be said to involve rights, one must hold that persons professing the truth ought to be granted rights which are denied to those who profess error. On this basis, the Catholic Church will demand, when it is sufficiently strong, that the State give it a privileged position and restrict the activities of other religious groups. If, however, the Church is itself in a minority, it will either claim the freedom guaranteed by a liberal state or will protest, in the name of the rights of man, against oppression by a regime like the Communist State.”
Again, to many listeners the pope’s words, examined in the light of the Catholic Church’s own record of oppression of others, sounded not only hollow but rather hypocritical. Yet Pope John Paul II himself may be sincere in his desire that religious freedom be granted everyone. During Vatican Council II, when he was Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Cracow, Poland, he argued that the Church could not claim religious liberty unless it conceded it to others. So time will tell if the Church will practice what the pope preached in this matter.
SHARING RICHES WITH THE POOR
Perhaps the dominant appeals of the pope during his American visit were to reject materialism and to share with the poor. A few hours after lecturing the United Nations on this matter, he told an audience of some 80,000 at New York’s Yankee Stadium: “We must find a simple way of living. For it is not right that the standard of living of the rich countries should seek to maintain itself by draining off a great part of the reserves of energy and raw materials that are meant to serve the whole of humanity.”
However, what effect do you suppose those words have when coming from a man clad in royal robes, who rides around in beautiful limousines and lives in considerable luxury? Bishop Mariano Gaviola, secretary-general of the 1970 Bishops Conference of the Philippines, gave some idea as he noted: “When the bishops [and we can add, the pope] condemn graft and corruption in the government or speak against the misuse of wealth, some people wonder whether it is not a case of the pan calling the pot black.”
The Catholic Church’s outward manifestations of wealth have concerned many Catholics. The Province of Canada, reporting the views of Augustinian monk Robert Adolfs, stated on September 2, 1967:
“Father Adolfs says bluntly that the church can survive only if it follows the example of Jesus Christ by emptying itself of all ‘princely splendor’ and taking on the humble role of a servant. . . .
“He says the Pope, and the cardinals and bishops as well, should quit wearing elaborate robes and crowns and other articles of dress that ‘are suggestive of a royal court’ rather than of a servant who washes the feet of his brethren.”
Pope John Paul II, to a limited degree, has apparently attempted to avoid the image of pomp and splendor. Like his predecessor John Paul I, he has rejected the shoulder-borne papal throne for audiences. But is that enough?
In 1971 Jose Cardinal Clements, head of Bolivia’s Catholic Church, proposed that the Church rid itself of treasures accumulated over the centuries and use the money to build homes, schools, roads and industries. “A true poverty gives the church authority and credibility,” he said.
But will the Church follow this proposal? Will it practice sharing its wealth with the poor, as the pope advised the rich nations to do? It has not been inclined to do this in the past; whether it yet will do so remains to be seen.
However, the really important question is not: Will the Church practice what the pope preached? Rather, it is: Will it practice what the Bible teaches?
GOD’S PROMISE OF SOMETHING NEW
Actually, the pope’s message to the United Nations did not offer anything new. Basically, it was the same message as that of Pope Paul VI, who said in his address to the U.N. 14 years before: “The peoples of the earth turn to the United Nations as the last hope of concord and peace; we presume to present here, with their tribute of honor and of hope, our own tribute also.”
The Catholic Church has consistently backed one form of human government or another as the solution to mankind’s problems. So it is not surprising that its leaders have endorsed the U.N. But ask yourself: Is that what Christ would have done? Do you, for example, ever read about his paying of tribute to the Roman Empire as the last hope of concord and peace?
That was not Christ’s message. Rather, the theme of his teaching was the kingdom of God, something entirely different from what humans had to offer. In the Bible, over 140 references to God’s kingdom are made by Jesus and his disciples. They knew it to be a real government with Christ, the “Prince of Peace,” as God’s appointed ruler. (Isa. 9:6) That Kingdom government, the Bible teaches, “will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms [of human origin, including the United Nations], and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44; Matt. 6:9, 10.
God’s kingdom will be a new rulership for earth. It is referred to in the Bible as a “new heavens”—a new heavenly administration. It will rule over “a new earth”—a new society of people who all adhere to God’s righteous laws. The apostle Peter wrote:
“There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his [God’s] promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Pet. 3:13.
What a fine opportunity both Pope Paul VI and John Paul II had to teach before the U.N. the Bible message about God’s incoming world government! It surely is what could be expected of one who claims to be a successor of Peter and a representative of Jesus Christ. But not a word did these men then utter about God’s promise of something new!
Clearly, the pope is no herald of true hope. He has not followed faithfully the example of Jesus Christ, who made his Father’s name and purposes known. True, John Paul II, noted for his singing, used God’s name in song, even proclaiming to a Harlem crowd in New York: “Hallelujah is our song.” But how many realize that the expression “Hallelujah” incorporates the name of God and means: “Praise ye Yah (Jehovah)”?*
Obviously the pope has not lived up to the sentiments of that Hallelujah song. He has not made known God’s name Jehovah. Nor has he followed in the steps of Jesus Christ, who said: “Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.”—Luke 4:43; John 17:6.
Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Development of Peoples,” section 31.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.
[Pictures on page 5]
[New York Post, August 27, 1940, Blue Final Edition, p. 15]
Nazi Army Praised
German Catholic Bishops Loyal
[New York Times, September 25, 1939, Late City Edition, p. 6]
GERMAN SOLDIERS RALLIED BY CHURCHES
Protestant and Catholic Exhort to Reich Victory and Just Peace
[New York Times, December 7, 1941, Late City Edition, p. 33]
‘WAR PRAYER’ FOR REICH
Catholic Bishops at Fulda Ask Blessing and Victory