Fulgens Corona

Tuesday, December 8, AD 2015

Encyclical Promulgated on 8 September 1953
To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.

1. The radiant crown of glory with which the most pure brow of the Virgin Mother was encircled by God, seems to Us to shine more brilliantly, as We recall to mind the day, on which, one hundred years ago, Our Predecessor of happy memory Pius IX, surrounded by a vast retinue of Cardinals and Bishops, with infallible apostolic authority defined, pronounced and solemnly sanctioned “that the doctrine, which holds that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary at the first moment of her conception was, by singular grace and privilege of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the Human race, preserved from all stains of original sin, is revealed by God, and therefore to be firmly and resolutely believed by all the faithful.” (Dogmatic bull Ineffabilis Deus, of 8 Dec. 1854.)

2. The entire Catholic world received with joy the pronouncement of the Pontiff, so long and anxiously awaited. Devotion of the faithful to the Virgin Mother of God was stirred up and increased and this naturally led to a great improvement in Christian morality. Furthermore, studies were undertaken with new enthusiasm, which gave due prominence to the dignity and sanctity of the Mother of God.

3. Moreover, it seems that the Blessed Virgin Mary herself wished to confirm by some special sign the definition, which the Vicar of her Divine Son on earth had pronounced amidst the applause of the whole Church. For indeed four years had not yet elapsed when, in a French town at the foot of the Pyrenees, the Virgin Mother, youthful and benign in appearance, clothed in a shining white garment, covered with a white mantle and girded with a hanging blue cord, showed herself to a simple and innocent girl at the grotto of Massabielle. And to this same girl, earnestly inquiring the name of her with whose vision she was favored, with eyes raised to heaven and sweetly smiling, she replied: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

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2 Responses to Fulgens Corona

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  • Sustaining the soul:
    How far these church leaders have strayed in 2015!
    45. To these unanimous prayers, pious works of penance should be added. For the effect of devotion to prayer is this: “The soul is sustained, is prepared for arduous deeds and ascends to things Divine. The effect of penance is that we control ourselves, especially our body, which is, because of original sin, most rebellious against reason and the law of the Gospel. It is clear that these two virtues are intimately connected, help one another, and combine to withdraw man, who was born for Heaven, from transitory things, and carry him close to heavenly intimacy with God” (Leo XIII, encyc. Octobri mense, 22 Sept. 1891; Acta Leonis X01, XI, p. 312).

The Pope, The Clown and The Cross

Sunday, June 16, AD 2013



(I originally posted this on September 28, 2009 and it has always been one of my favorites.  I am reposting it now since I assume many current readers of the blog have not read it, and, with the recent death of my son, Larry, it now has a special meaning for me.)




In 1957 comedian Red Skelton was on top of the world.  His weekly comedy show on CBS was doing well.  He had  curtailed the drinking which had almost derailed his career.  Not too shabby for a man who had started out as a circus and rodeo clown and who was now often called the clown prince of American comedy.  He and his wife Georgia had two beautiful kids:  Richard and Valentina Maria.  Then the worst thing in the world for any parent entered into the lives of Red and Georgia Skelton:  Richard was diagnosed with leukemia.  Unlike today, a diagnosis of leukemia in a child in 1957 was tantamount to saying that Richard was going to die soon.  Red immediately took a leave of absence from his show.  CBS was very understanding and a series of guest hosts, including a very young Johnny Carson, filled in for Skelton during the 1957-1958 season.

Red and his wife made two decisions.  First, they decided not to reveal to their son how ill he was;  if  worse came to worst they wanted him to enjoy the time he had left.  The boy’s leukemia was temporarily in remission and outwardly he appeared healthy.    When the boy saw “The Last Days of Pompeii” on TV and was fascinated by it, his mom and dad made their second decision.  They were going to take him and his sister to Europe so the boy could see Pompeii and other parts of Europe and the world, and to allow the parents to consult with foreign physicians and also to conduct a pilgrimage for their son.  The Skeltons were Protestants, indeed, Red was an active Mason, but they had chosen to educate their kids at a Catholic school and Richard was very religious, his room filled with religious pictures and statues.  Like many Christians of whatever denomination, in their hour of utmost need the Skeltons decided to seek aid of the Catholic Church.

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11 Responses to The Pope, The Clown and The Cross

Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker and Victims of Communism Day

Wednesday, May 1, AD 2013

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Joseph the Worker and Victims of Communism Day.  Pius XII instituted the feast in 1955.  In 1949 he issued the Decree Against Communism which excommunicated all Catholics collaborating with Communist organizations. 

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8 Responses to Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker and Victims of Communism Day

  • Apropos of the Santayana quote, Don, have you read Hanson’s recent article on why we read the classics? It’s amazing. It’s one of those reads that helps me crystalize stray thoughts and suspicions into a real understanding.

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  • “Apropos of the Santayana quote, Don, have you read Hanson’s recent article on why we read the classics?”

    Not yet, but I am looking forward to doing so!

  • Communism is a group of people who deny the sovereignty of the human person. Our Constitution was written for the sovereign person who constitutes our government. To have freedom, the state must recognize that it is constituted by sovereign persons who are created by God.

  • Thank you for sharing this very good read. It’s really a wonderfully written article! May the Lord bless all the workers that are always working at their best everyday. May He give them strength and good health that they may know that He is with them always.

  • Thank you Erin! My parents were both factory workers and finer people never lived. When I think of Saint Joseph the Worker I think of them.

  • Well, Catholics in the Democrat Party in the USA and the Liberal Party in Canada should be considered excommunicated.

  • Hmmnn: Materialistic, opposed to religion, enemies of God, of the true religion and of the Church of Christ. Is that why a favorite priest called it “Neo-Communism”?

Cardinal Mundelein and the Conclave of 1939

Monday, March 11, AD 2013



Thanks to the protest of Cardinal O’Connell to Pius XI after the Conclave of 1922, and the development of transoceanic air travel, all Cardinals not prevented by illness or extreme old age were able to participate in the Conclave of 1939, beginning on March 1, 1939 on the eve of World War II.  One of the American cardinals participating was George Cardinal Mundelein of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Born in 1872 on the lower east side in Manhattan, Mundelein broke the mold for most American Cardinals of his era in not being of Irish extraction,  He was only half-Irish on his mother’s side!  His father’s family was of German origin.   He spent all of his early career in the Brooklyn diocese, rising to Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn in 1909.  He was made Archbishop of the Chicago Archdiocese in late 1915.

His introduction to Chicago was turbulent in that an anarchist dosed chicken with arsenic at a banquet held in his honor.  An emergency emetic prepared by a Doctor in attendance prevented any fatalities.

The Archbishop was made a Cardinal in 1924 by Pius XI.

For his day, Mundelein was viewed as a liberal and he certainly was in his politics.  He was an enthusiastic supporter of the New Deal and he made this comment which would not be out of place in a Catholic Worker  paper today:

 The trouble with [the Church] in the past has been that we were too often allied or drawn into an alliance with the wrong side. Selfish employers of labor have flattered the Church by calling it the great conservative force, and then called upon it to act as a police force while they paid but a pittance of wage to those who work for them. I hope that day has gone by. Our place is beside the workingman.

His views on other matters reveal the limitations of political classifications when applied to Churchmen.  He was an uncompromising foe of contraception and campaigned against sexual suggestiveness in films.  On easy divorce he had this to say:  “that not war, nor famine, nor pestilence have brought so much suffering and pain to the human race, as have hasty, ill-advised marriages, unions entered into without the knowledge, the preparation, the thought even an important commercial contract merits and receives. God made marriage an indissoluble contract, Christ made it a sacrament, the world today has made it a plaything of passion, an accompaniment of sex, a scrap of paper to be torn up at the whim of the participants.”

He did not live long after his participation in the Conclave of 1939, dying of a heart attack at age 67 in October of 1939.

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3 Responses to Cardinal Mundelein and the Conclave of 1939

  • Rabbi David Dalin:
    ‘ “The Talmud, the great sixth century compendium of Jewish religious law and ethics, teaches Jews that “whosoever preserves one life, it is accounted to him by Scripture as if he had preserved a whole world.” More so than most other twentieth century leaders, Pius XII effectively fulfilled this Talmudic dictum when the fate of European Jewry was at stake. Pope Pius XII’s legacy as a “righteous gentile,” who rescued so many Jews from Hitler’s death camps cannot and should not be forgotten. Nor should the fact that the Jewish community, and so many of its leaders, praised the Pope’s efforts during and after the Holocaust, and promised never to forget. …

    very “righteous gentile,” a true friend of the Jewish people, who saved more Jewish lives than any other person, including Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler. A new authentically Jewish history of Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, emphasizing his historic role and accomplishments as a “righteous gentile,” may help to bring some long-overdue recognition to his too little known and appreciated legacy as one of the century’s great friends of the Jewish people.” ‘

    1903, 1914, 1922, and 1939 Conclave posts are good evidence for some to understand that there’s a place for the Roman Catholic Church in the world.

    It also has a wealth of ‘Quotes Suitable for Framing’, among other intangibles.

    Wonder what writing the March 2013 Conclave will inspire.

  • So delighted to see this renewed emphasis on the true record of Papa Pacelli as recorded by the faithful Jewish community. As a Catholic newspaper editor for 30 years, I never lost an opportunity to publish historic articles on his record and lived long enough to see his defence by contemporary Jewish and other researchers. Sad that BXV1 was forced to avoid a visit in Jerusalem to a site where Papa Pacelli was vilified presumably thanks to the Hochhuth libel THE DEPUTY of 1968 I am asking Pacelli to intercede that I may walk again after a fall that revealed severe damage due to arthritis and undetected fractured hip. He should be declared a saint. Santo subito. I have admired him since my childhood, was born just after WW11 broke out, the year he was elected Bishop of Rome. Earliest memory is of a photo of him visiting a bombed site in Rome and my parents having a photo of him on display.

  • Donald:

    When was the last time you ever read anything from the Catholic Worker? The Catholic Worker movement today is far removed from what it was in Cardinal Mundelein’s day.

    Yes, Pius XII was indeed a hero in more than one respect. His courageous and deft work, using his in depth understanding of German politics and culture, in saving Jewish lives was nothing short of miraculous.

    But he, not so much John XXIII, was truly the transitional pope. Despite the fact that he had zero pastoral experience and was a trained diplomat and canonist and not a philospher and theologian, his teaching in those matters was amazingly erudite.

    Pius XII clearly saw the need to update the way the faith was presented and did much toward that end. Not only did he, in the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, call for an improvement in biblical studies to deal with challenges posed by modernity. He also the first pope to open the Catholic Church up to the ecumenical movement via the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) with its 1949 letter on the Ecumenical Movement, a real gem of a document. What it is says is just as applicable today as it was over 60 years ago.

    His allocutions on matters touching sexual morality were way ahead of its time. In his Allocution to Midwives, he acknowledged the goodness of seeking sexual pleasure within the marital embrace in a manner consistent with the moral law. Judging from all the unjust crap people like Christopher West get targeted with when he says similar things, even though it is completely consistent with what JPII says in Theology of the Body, it is still a shock to many Catholic ears today. Just imagine what kind of jolt it was for a pope to say such thing in 1951.

    By the way, the 1951 allocution was not the first time the Church allowed the use of so-called NFP because the Church never forbad it in the first place. Actually Pius XI’s Casti Connubii gives an apprvoing nod twenty years earlier. In fact, the Allocution to Midwives, as well subsequent statements on this subject were a shot across the bow to ultra conservative theologians who treated these natural methods as another form of contraception. Pius was also basically tellling them to stop meddling in matters beyond their competence.

    He also, again via the Holy Office, sounded the alarm on the dangers of artificial insemination before it was on both eccesial and secular radars.

    Then there was an oft-overlooked statement in the 1950 encyclical Humani Generis that exhorts particularly Catholic thoelogians and philosphers to understand modern thought not only to expose its errors but to recognize its truthful elements.

    When takes all these things into consideration, I believe that Pius XII did more to make Vatican II possible than his successor.

    I also believe that when you consider all this in conjunction with his masterful shpherding of the Church through the darks days of WWII, saying he was the greatest pope of the 20th century is by no means a stretch. To this end it is also noteworthy to consider that Eugenio Pacelli, as Donald points out, suffered from frail health his who live. In this light, how he was able to carry the burden of the papacy for 19 years and lived to be 81 was no mean feat. It is also said by war’s end, Pius XII, who stood over six feet tall, weighed barely a buck twenty soaking wet because he subsisted on a war ration diet.

    It is also interesting to note that in his last years on the Chair of Peter, the Roman Curia suffered from much the same problems it does today. Good theologians like Yve Congar and Henri de Lubac, to name a couple, were unjustly trated by the Curia during last years of Pius XII’s pontificate.

    I hop e I live to see the day when he is canonized.

Pope Blesses 4000 American GIs

Sunday, July 15, AD 2012


The things you can find on Youtube!  Pope Pius XII blesses 4000 American soldiers after the liberation of Rome in 1944.  Here is what the Pope said:

It is a real joy for us to welcome you all here to the very own house of the Eternal Father of the Christians. You know very well you have experience now of the dangers and uncertainties of life in the midst of war. Make one thing certain, that you always keep close to God.

Pope Pius was quite popular among servicemen with huge numbers flocking to the Vatican to receive his blessing:  Catholics, Protestants and Jews.  Many soldiers wrote that it was a highlight of their service in Europe, and more than a few converted as a result.  The Pope had a special fondness for those in the military who were risking their lives, and he made himself availabe in frequent audiences for them.   Pius was grateful for the liberation of Rome, as he indicated to General Mark Clark when he first met the Pope.

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5 Responses to Pope Blesses 4000 American GIs

  • My great uncle, Tom (RIP), was there. He was a tanker with Patton in North Africa and Sicily; and, was still in the fight at the end of the war in the Po Valley on VE Day.

    These men, the”greatest generation”, were giants. I recall reading the Iliad and its numerous references to Achaian heroes that preceded Achilles, Ajax, Diomedes, etc.

  • Wow this is a very nice post, thank you. Can any one be kind enough to share their opinion as to how in the world children of such a great generation grow up to lead the cultural revolution of the 60s-70s? This has always fascinated me…

  • Prosperity and its discontents help sum it up. That, and a confusion of the attainment of college degrees and professional credentials with wisdom.

  • That generation also lived through a great depression. That it was caused by government malfeasance was not obvious, since media and general communications were still primitive. Because of this, many of that generation including my father swore that their children would never live through anything resembling it again and took what they believed to be proper measures to ensure their wishes.

    They had no idea they would actually be pushing something much worse onto their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I believe they’d have taken a different tack had there been any precscience of this at all.

  • I see, very interesting, thank you for sharing. It seems that the greatest generation stared evil straight in the face, while their offspring didn’t and that precluded their offspring from understanding their parents conservative behavior (conservative in the sense that values and morals should be conserved). For example; I’ve seen that people who go to abortion mills and witness the attacks of the spirit against God firsthand start appreciating these eternal values written into our hearts by God. I know it happened to me…

Mark Clark-Almost the First American Ambassador to the Vatican-On What’s My Line

Thursday, April 26, AD 2012

“A few days after the liberation of Rome, Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth Allied Army, paid his respects to the Pope: “I am afraid you have been disturbed by the noise of my tanks. I am sorry.” Pius XII smiled and replied: “General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like.””

The show What’s My Line makes a rather good time capsule for informal looks at major figures in mid twentieth century  American history.  On February 19, 1956 General Mark Clark, commander of the US Fifth Army in the Italian campaign during World War II, and commander of the United Nations forces in Korea from May 12, 1952 to the truce ending the conflict., appeared on the show.

It is an ironic commentary on the relative obscurity of the Italian campaign during World War II that the panelists were unable to guess his identity.  Clark was nominated by President Truman to be the first ambassador of the United States to the Vatican due to his excellent personal war time relationship with Pope Pius XII.  Opposition by Protestant groups and powerful Senator Thomas Connolly of Texas caused Truman to shelve the plan. 

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14 Responses to Mark Clark-Almost the First American Ambassador to the Vatican-On What’s My Line

  • I Knew that Truman sent the first US representative to the Holy See but not that he wanted to give him ambassadorial rank. Not bad for a 32nd degree [?] Mason who once flirted with the Klan.

  • One of Truman’s best friends was Monsignor L. Curtis Tiernan who served as chaplain in the 129th Field Artillery during World War I along with Captain Harry Truman. During World War II, Tiernan became chief of chaplains in the European Theater of Operations. Many of the men under Truman’s direct command in World War I were Irish Catholic and he got along famously with them. When it came to Catholics Truman had absolutely no prejudice.

  • General Clark, RIP, was not (I think) a Roman Catholic. it shows how rabidly anti-Catholic some were.

    One of my mother’s uncles was in the same division as Audie Murphy – they had the “record” of being (I think) 56 days in the line.

    Italy was so not well known: maybe because it was a bloody, slow meat grinder. German propaganda leaflets calculated Allied “progress” and estimated they’d reach the Po Valley by 1972.

    One assault across the Rapido River killed a regiment in 20 minutes. Darby’s Ranger battalion was destroyed in one day at Anzio. See Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle.

  • Was not Fr. John Bannon first American to the Vatican…at the personal request of President Davis in 1863?:


    I suppose there could be others I am unaware of.

  • The US had consular relations with the Holy See from the time of George Washington.

    More on Father John Bannon and his diplomatic mission linked below:


    Archbishop John Hughes, better known as Dagger John, served as Abraham Lincoln’s personal envoy to the Holy See in 1862.


  • It should be remembered that the ‘liberation’ of Rome was not a strategic priority and Clark deliberately disobeyed clear orders in order to indulge his vanity and egotism. The whole thing was a publicity stunt and one can take some satisfaction from the fact that his ‘triumph’ of 5 June 1944 was eclipsed by events in another theatre the following day. This, however, was of no comfort to the Allied troops who lost their lives as a result of his selfish and vainglorious behaviour.

    He should have been relieved of his command, but his superior, Harold Alexander, was weak-willed and overly diplomatic, and Clark was a favourite of Churchill’s. Winston’s main fault was always his poor character judgement. Among his favoured generals was another whose talent for self-publicity was greater than his military abilities. I refer of course to Bernard Law Montgomery.

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  • No dissing of the” American Eagle” John! 🙂 Basically your criticism is just, although I think it was less than clear at the time that Clark’s decision to take Rome was the mistake it turned out to be in hindsight. Here is a good overview:


    As for Montgomery, I rate him fairly highly. I think his Market-Garden plan was brilliant although the execution was wanting. I also agree with this Churchill quote about Montgomery: “Indomitable in retreat, invincible in advance, insufferable in victory.”

  • General Clark had some pretty rough going in Italy what with Salerno, Anzio, Monte Cassino.

  • True Richard. In retrospect I think the whole Italian campaign was a mistake. That deducts not an iota from the courage of the men who struggled there, but the campaign simply allowed the Axis, at minimal cost, to tie down immense Allied resources and men.

  • Don, I have to agree. I don’t think either the Americans or the British in the Second World War ever established a qualitative superiority over their German adversaries in the way the BEF did in 1917 and 1918. It was arguably different in the Far East, and I would rate Bill Slim as the most capable British general of the war.

    The British in particular seem to have lacked the offensive spirit which carried their fathers to victory in August – November 1918. And political and personal rivalries bedevilled the Allies in WW II. Eisenhower emerges with credit; I don’t think you can say the same for Monty. According to him he won the Battle of the Bulge, getting the Americans off the hook, and nearly a decade and a half after the end of the war he was unbelievably rude about Ike’s generalship on American TV when he was actually a guest of the then President.

    However, the Americans and British did agree one one point – the man you least wanted as an ally was Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle.

  • “However, the Americans and British did agree one one point – the man you least wanted as an ally was Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle.”

    You can say that again John! Speaking of wasted resources, I think the entire Free French effort was in that category.

    “rude about Ike’s generalship on American TV when he was actually a guest of the then President.”

    Monty took arrogance and bloody mindedness and made them almost an art form.

  • I think it’s ridiculous to say that the French didn’t do anything in WW2 because the French had to deal with the Nazis from the start .

  • “because the French had to deal with the Nazis from the start .”

    And they did so well.

    Snark aside my point was that the resources poured into the Free French movement under De Gaulle was a waste. The Free French were unable to prevent an initial conflict between the Vichy French and the Allied Forces during Operation Torch in 1942; likewise in Syria in 1941. All the Allies got from the money and other resources they spent on the Free French was De Gaulle’s disdain, some translators and several divisions of mixed quality. The Resistance movement in France largely existed in Free French imagination until 1944 with the looming Allied invasion. Most French did what they were told under German occupation and evinced little desire to resist. Some heroes and heroines there certainly were in the Maquis, but I think they would have been active, most of them, even without the Free French movement.

The Lion of Munster

Sunday, March 6, AD 2011

Neither praise nor threats will distance me from God.

Blessed Clemens von Galen

The Nazis hated and feared Clemens August Graf von Galen in life and no doubt they still hate and fear him, at least those now enjoying the amenities of some of the less fashionable pits of Hell.  Going into Lent, I am strongly encouraged by the story of Blessed von Galen.  I guess one could come up with a worse situation than being a Roman Catholic bishop in Nazi Germany in 1941, and confronting a merciless anti-Christian dictatorship that was diametrically opposed to the Truth of Christ, but that would certainly do for enough of a challenge for one lifetime for anyone.  (Hitler privately denounced Christianity as a Jewish superstition and looked forward after the War to “settling accounts”, as he put it, with Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular.)

Priests who spoke out against the Third Reich were being rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps.  What was a bishop to do in the face of such massive evil?  Well, for the Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen, there could be only one answer.

A German Count, von Galen was from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Westphalia.  Always a German patriot, the political views of von Galen would have made my own conservatism seem a pale shade of pink in comparison.  Prior to becoming a bishop, he was sometimes criticized for a haughty attitude and being unbending.  He was chosen Bishop of Munster in 1933 only after other candidates, no doubt recognizing what a dangerous position it would be with the Nazis now in power, had turned it down.  I am certain  it did not hurt that he was an old friend of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

Von Galen immediately demonstrated that he had not agreed to become Bishop of Munster in order to avoid danger.  He successfully led a fight against the Nazi attempt to take over Catholic schools, citing article 21 of the Concordat between the Vatican and Nazi Germany.  He then began a campaign, often using humor and ridicule, against the Aryan racial doctrines proposed by Alfred Rosenberg, chief Nazi race theorist, and a man even some high level Nazis thought was little better than a crank.  Von Galen argued that Christianity totally rejected racial differences as determining how groups should be treated, and that all men and women were children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Bishop spoke out against Nazi attacks on the “Jewish Old Testament” stating that Holy Writ was Holy Writ and that the Bible could not be altered to suit current prejudices.

In early 1937 he was summoned by Pope Pius XI to confer with him on an encyclical in German, highly unusual for an encyclical not to be written in Latin as the primary language, that the Pope was in the process of drafting.  The encyclical was the blistering Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Heart) that the Pope ordered be read out in every parish in Germany on Palm Sunday 1937.  A head long assault on almost every aspect of National Socialism, it may be read here.

The language in the encyclical was blunt, direct and no doubt benefited from von Galen’s input and his experience from the battles he was waging with the Nazis.

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13 Responses to The Lion of Munster

  • Thank you.

    Lion of Munster, pray for us timid mice.

  • Don’t you just love to read the Gospels and the inspiring lives of those who truly love the word of God and live by its message for humanity?

    These divinely ordained chapters captured God’s plan of redemption and allow us a deep insight into the spiritual life of “the people of god” and their interaction with the creator as Jesus moved among them gathering His “disciples” and establishing His “church” on earth.
    The painful history along with jubilant triumphs and hopeful anticipations of the people of the Old Testament are combined, enriched, and bought forth into the life and light of Jesus Christ in these revealing gospel narratives. These, along with the other books of the New Testament, literally gave us the building blocks for the foundation of our Christian faith. For his people the Creator’s true and loving nature along with our path to him is now clarified and openly revealed when with and by the Holy Spirit His “Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. We believe and accept Jesus as The truth, The light, and The way for man’s salvation and eternal life with our triune God.

  • ion of Munster, pray for us timid mice.

    I’ll say. Last week, at a department meeting, a co-worker (who falls into the bitter and hateful ex-Catholic category) made the ridiculous claim that there were ATM’s in Catholic churches and Catholics are required to withdraw and dump a certain amount into the collection plate. My other co-workers are mainly (non-practicing) Protestants and said “Oh, really? I didn’t know that.” I restrained myself from jumping up and shouting “That’s an idiotic lie!” I said, trying to sound as mild as possible, that I had been to many Catholic churches and had never, ever seen an ATM in one. She took great offense. “Are you saying I’m a liar?” “I am saying I have never seen what you say you have seen. Please let me know where you have seen an ATM in a Catholic church so I can notify the Archbishop. I’m positive he will be appalled by such a thing.”

    She started out by being huffy to me afterward , but I killed with kindness. The thing is, this stupid little incident bothers me greatly. It’s a burr under my saddle. And I think, good Lord, if this silly little confrontation bothers me so much, how would I fare in situations like Blessed von Galen or the martyrs faced. I fear that I am not very brave.

  • I am glad you spoke up against the lying bigot, Donna. Too many Catholics would have just sat there silently, and the laity, no less than the clergy, have a duty to defend the Church from calumnies.

    As for courage under persecution Donna, no one can truly predict how they would react. I think I would be afraid also, but I also think I would be ablaze with anger and contempt against the persecutors, and sooner or later I think that would cause me to speak out, hang the consequences.

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  • I truly admire Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen. A true hero.

  • We need to remember that courage is not fearlessness; courage is doing what we ought despite being possessed by fear. It is perfectly normal to be afraid in confrontational situations – thank God for that. If we were simply absent fear, can you imagine what chaos we’d inflict on others.

    Sadly, the socialist impulse is rising, perhaps now more than ever, slowly, gradually, almost imperceptibly, which makes it more dangerous. We all need to pray for courage, for when socialism rises the Church is attacked.

    I look forward to these posts through Lent. Thank you.

    On into the desert. . .

  • What a man to glorify God! Thanks for this blog, and thanks to the National Catholic Register for pointing it out to me.

    God, please raise up more leaders for the world in the mold of this great LION of Munster. Lion of Judah, please hear us!

  • Thank you for your comment Liseux. Men and women like Blessed von Galen are torches God in His mercy send to us to light our way in a frequently dark world.

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Sunday, August 15, AD 2010

1. The most bountiful God, who is almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon wisdom and love, tempers, in the secret purpose of his own mind, the sorrows of peoples and of individual men by means of joys that he interposes in their lives from time to time, in such a way that, under different conditions and in different ways, all things may work together unto good for those who love him.[1]

2. Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life. Thus, while the Blessed Virgin is fulfilling in the most affectionate manner her maternal duties on behalf of those redeemed by the blood of Christ, the minds and the hearts of her children are being vigorously aroused to a more assiduous consideration of her prerogatives.

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War Crimes

Tuesday, August 10, AD 2010

As the New York Times remembers Hiroshima, Richard Fernandez asks us to name the two greatest losses of civilian life in the Pacific war. (“Hint. In both cases the civilian casualties were greater than Hiroshima’s. In one case the event took place on American soil.”)

Meanwhile, Donald Sensing (Sense of Events) thinks it’s past time for Western churches to stop treating Japan as victim every Aug. 6 and 9:

I refuse on principle to pollute God’s ears with prayers dedicated only to Hiroshima Day and the dead of those cities while ignoring the tens of millions of Japanese-murdered souls who cry for remembrance, but do not get it, certainly not from the World Council of Churches and its allies who have no loathing but for their own civilization. If the prayers of the WCC’s service are to be offered, let them be uttered on Aug. 14, the day Japan announced its surrender, or on Sept. 2, the day the surrender instruments were signed aboard USS  Missouri. Let our churches no longer be accessories to Japan’s blood-soaked silence but instead be voices for the  millions of murdered victims of its bloodlust, imperialist militarism.

(HT: Bill Cork).

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97 Responses to War Crimes

  • Excellent post Christopher. Apparently Pius XII wasn’t as certain initially in his condemnation of the bombings as those members of Catholic blogdom in this country who engage in the self-flagellation ritual of spitting on the grave of Harry Truman in the annual August bomb follies. When the chief diplomat of the US mentioned an editorial of L Osservatore Romano that criticized the US for the bombings Pius responded that the editorial had not been authorized by him. I truly pray that those swift to condemn Truman never have to deal with making a decision that would kill hundreds of thousands, or likely kill millions if they do not make the decision. The cry of “consequentialism” is of course useful on Catholic blogs, and fairly useless when dealing with grim realities that constantly arise in war.

  • Sitting in Truman’s seat I may well have made the same decision. But I would not have tried to defend it before my Creator. The intrinsically evil nature of the act is not altered by either its good intentions or beneficial consequences. Some sins are simply more forgivable than others. While I’m willing to defend Truman I am unwilling to defend his decision, even though I certainly sympathize with his predicament. As wrong as his decision was, Truman is a far more morally sympathetic character than most of his vain and self-righteous critics.

  • Thanks for this post, Christopher. The last two paragraphs–yours and Michael’s–pretty well sum up where I am now.

    My sons and I visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force last month, and one of the exhibits is the original “Bockscar,” the B-29 which dropped “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. I posed my sons by a Spad XIII (the same model as flown by Eddie Rickenbacker) and by an F-86 Sabre (Korea). I refused to do the same with Bockscar. I explained to my oldest (I was trying to keep my youngest from touching every. single. aircraft. in the museum) what it was, and also said that it killed thousands of innocent people, and was dropped by a Catholic cathedral. If nothing else, I think he’ll remember that and understand the horrid complexity of war, even when the war itself is necessary.

  • It’s true that the Japanese army committed atrocities during WWII with a greater death toll than Hiroshima, but when was the last time you read an article trying to justify the Rape of Nanking?

  • I’m not sure what VDH’s point was about the Tokyo raids. Because we had done much worse, Hiroshima is not bad?

    The correct moral decision is clear enough. The fact it would be difficult to follow through on it is no real surprise. Doing the right thing is rarely easy.

    I have no desire to villify Truman for dropping the bomb; but I don’t consider him a hero either.

  • The firebombings of earlier in the war both in Europe and Japan were clearly nothing more than acts of terror deliberately calculated to demoralize civilians… and Dresden was a particularly horrific example of this barbarism (cf., http://www.rense.com/general19/flame.htm).

    “Bomber” Harris, the Brit commander behind Dresden and similar attacks, also memorialized in Britain by a statue in his honor, famously said he did “not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.”
    “the aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive…should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.”

    “It should be emphasized that the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.”

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only extensions of this immoral military doctrine. The Brits, who during Germany’s V-2 campaign suffered a small fraction of the casualities they themselves would inflict on a supine German civilian population, should have known better.

    Truman should also have known better.

  • I am not able to argue against any of the comments posted by Tom so I will not attempt it. To give the military the benefit of the doubt for their actions, many soldiers had to act on the notion “kill or be killed” – which is totally different than our plush civilian lives.

    Many soldiers did not know who they could trust and saw death because of it. Leaders tried to keep their soldiers alive. Many were battle weary from long months of fighting in extreme conditions. We take the emotinally scars of these individuals for granted.

    This was war. We were attacked. Japan would not surrender and contiuned torturing people. Truman was obligated to defend this country and our allies and wanted to bring the troups home. I am not sure that we now are qualified to make a judgement statement such as “Truman should also have known better”.

    The dropping of these bombs was a tragic event. With the determination of Imperial Japan, what would have stopped them? Should we consider additional bombing raids that would have killed more people any less evil? Would sending our soldiers into certain-death situations be less evil since many were physically and emotionally drained? Are we supposed to consider self-defense and defense of others as evil?!

  • I am not able to argue against any of the comments posted by Tom so I will not attempt it. To give the military the benefit of the doubt for their actions, many soldiers had to act on the notion “kill or be killed” – which is totally different than our plush civilian lives.

    Many soldiers did not know who they could trust and saw death because of it. Leaders tried to keep their soldiers alive. Many were battle weary from long months of fighting in extreme conditions. We take the emotional scars of these individuals for granted.

    This was war. We were attacked. Japan would not surrender and contiuned torturing people. Truman was obligated to defend this country and our allies and wanted to bring the troups home. I am not sure that we now are qualified to make a judgement statement such as “Truman should also have known better”.

    The dropping of these bombs was a tragic event. With the determination of Imperial Japan, what would have stopped them? Should we consider additional bombing raids that would have killed more people any less evil? Would sending our soldiers into certain-death situations be less evil since many were physically and emotionally drained? Are we supposed to consider self-defense and defense of others as evil?!

  • My opinion: liberal, left-wing catholics resurrect this uncharitable (“He who is without sin . . . , etc.) opinion each August in order (I think) to salve their consummate consciences for voting for abortion: because America Hiroshima is evil, don’t you know? But, it’s not evil to vote for abortion.


  • T. Shaw,

    Most, if not all of us who frequent here are adamantly opposed to abortion and I have never voted for anyone who supports the killing of the unborn (whether the candidate has a D or R after his name).

    This is not Vox Nova.

    But evil is evil, and wrong is wrong. I agree with the others that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were evils, as well as Dresden, etc. It should be no surprise that even generally good people can do evil things.

  • Of course, our national flirtation with war-crime-as-policy began with Lincoln, who unleashed Sherman on the civilian population of the South:

    Quoth Sherman,
    “The Government of the United States has in North Alabama any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war – to take their lives, their homes, their lands, their everything . . . . war is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact…. We will . . . take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper.”

    Not rebellious southern civilians alone were subject to this policy, but the Indians too:

    “It is one of those irreconcilable conflicts that will end only in one way, one or the other must be exterminated . . . . We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to the extermination, men, women and children” … “The more Indians we can kill this year, the less will have to be killed next year… They all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers.”

    There’s no ambiguity about it: deliberate targeting of non-combatants and their homes and property is flat out immoral. I hope The American Catholic continues to rank the noun above the adjective.

  • Of course, our national flirtation with war-crime-as-policy began with Lincoln, who unleashed Sherman on the civilian population of the South

    Er, no.

    That hypothesis would be news to the Iroquois, who referred to George Washington as the “burner of towns” for his dispatch of John Sullivan to root out the pro-British tribes in 1779. Sullivan performed his mission with gusto, obliterating at least 40 Iroquois villages.

    Washington was actually rather disappointed with the results, truth be told.


  • There seems to be a great deal of confusion in the use of the word “moral”. The Church quite clearly teaches that morality is a personal attribute. A nation, an institution, a group cannot sin. It has no soul, no free will.

    [Likewise, the Church did not commit the sexual. They were acts of individuals. And again the Church did not cover up the acts. Those were decisions by individual bishops].

    The question then becomes “whose was the sin?” Who should be put on trial?

    There is a great deal of the disingenuous in those who point to others as the sinners. It is just a tad too easy at a distance of 60 years. And there is a touch of discerning the mote in the eye of others.

    Should not those who so quick to condemn the bombings, to condemn the war, be willing to give up all the benefits they enjoy as a result of the war?

    It seems to me that we Americans did what amounts to acts of contrition by rebuilding Germany and Japan after the war, and ridding those countries of the brutal regimes which oppressed them.

  • I think that several of the comments here misunderstand the upshot of the original post. Is it possible to hold both that

    (1) the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and other bombings of non-combatants, both in WWII and after, is an intrinsically evil act


    (2) the agents responsible for committing those acts were in all liklihood not possessed of a desire to commit an intrinsically evil act, but by a desire to do the best thing possible in a very bad set of circumstances.

    Sometimes holier-than-thou-types seem not to understand that holding (2) does not remove the force of (1) but, if anything, testifies even more strongly to how pervasive sin is in the world: sometimes what seems to be the very best thing to an already compromised ethical agent (and who is not already compromised) is intrinsically evil.

    I take it that there exists an analogy between Truman and his desicion and the sister in charge of medical ethics at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, who ordered the D&E on the woman who appeared to be dying from priaclampsia [sic?].

  • Of course then we would have the burning of Chambersburg by the Confederates after the citizenry were unable to come up with the monetary ransom requested by the boys in gray.


    Then there is also the fact that the Confederate States decreed death for all former slaves in the Union Army and the officers who led them.

    “3. That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong to be dealt with according to the laws of said States.

    4. That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned officers of the United States when found serving in company with armed slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy.”


    Neo-Confederate apologists for the Confederacy have a lot to explain when they want to take Lincoln to task for “total war”.

  • One element I would like to raise in this thread is the alternatives to what Truman did. The opponents of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also oppose the fire bombing of Japanese cities which was the only way to destroy from the air the spread out Japanese industries. Presumably they would also have opposed an air tight blockade of the Home Islands, probably going on for years, in order to starve Japan into surrender. Of course while this was still going on Japan would have still controlled a large part of Asia and continued to kill, on average, some 300,000 civilians each and every month. An invasion of the Home Islands would have led to a mammoth death toll of civilians. During the battle of Manila in March of 45 MacArthur restricted the use of artillery and air power in order to attempt to spare civilian casualties. Some 100,000 civilians died anyway, some deliberately slain by the Japanese, but most simply dying as a result of being caught in the cross fire of two armies battling in an urban area.

    So, critics of Truman, you are in his shoes. What do you do? (I do hope that no one brings up the truly fatuous idea of inviting the Japanese military to observe a test of the bomb. The Japanese didn’t surrender after Hiroshima. A test of a bomb would have had no impact upon the Japanese government.)

  • I understand that the bombing of Dresden was immoral. It was (as far as I know) a civilian, not a military, target. But does that distinction apply to Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The Japanese civilians were doing machine work in their houses; the families were trained for combat. Granted, they weren’t uniformed, and who knows if they would have resisted or surrendered, but I don’t see how they can be classified as non-military.

  • Oh – let me add, “unless I’m wrong”. I’m no ethicist or historian.

  • Hindsight may be 20/20, but war crimes are forever.

  • Don, if I were Truman, I would not have insisted on unconditional surrender.

  • Actually Pinky Dresden was rather heavily involved in the German war effort. A good revisionist look at that bombing is linked to below:


    In regard to what an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands would have entailed the most recent study is linked below.

    “Giangreco, a longtime former editor for Military Review, synthesizes years of research in a definitive analysis of America’s motives for using atomic bombs against Japan in 1945. The nuclear bombing of Japan, he concludes, was undertaken in the context of Operation Downfall: a series of invasions of the Japanese islands American planners estimated would initially cause anywhere from a quarter-million to a million U.S. casualties, plus millions of Japanese. Giangreco presents the contexts of America’s growing war weariness and declining manpower resources. Above all, he demonstrates the Japanese militarists’ continuing belief that they could defeat the U.S. Japan had almost 13,000 planes available for suicide attacks, and plans for the defense of Kyushu, the U.S.’s initial invasion site, were elaborate and sophisticated, deploying over 900,000 men. Japanese and American documents presented here offer a chillingly clear-eyed picture of a battle of attrition so daunting that Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall considered using atomic and chemical weapons to support the operation. Faced with this conundrum, in Giangreco’s excellent examination, President Truman took what seemed the least worst option.”


  • “Don, if I were Truman, I would not have insisted on unconditional surrender.”

    What terms would you have offered Japan restrainedradical? Here are the terms Truman offered.

    Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender
    Issued, at Potsdam, July 26, 1945

    “1.We-the President of the United States, the President of the National Government of the Republic of China, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war.

    2.The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan. This military power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the Allied Nations to prosecute the war against Japan until she ceases to resist.

    3.The result of the futile and senseless German resistance to the might of the aroused free peoples of the world stands forth in awful clarity as an example to the people of Japan. The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people. The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.

    4.The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.

    5.Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.

    6.There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.

    7.Until such a new order is established and until there is convincing proof that Japan’s war-making power is destroyed, points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies shall be occupied to secure the achievement of the basic objectives we are here setting forth.

    8.The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.

    9.The Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.

    10.We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.

    11.Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to re-arm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.

    12.The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government.

    13.We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.”


  • So, critics of Truman, you are in his shoes. What do you do?

    If I were Truman my priority would have been to end the war quickly so as to prevent Soviet entry into the war (the fact that the Allies actually encouraged Soviet entry is one of the more boneheaded moves in all of diplomatic history). If ending the war quickly meant accepting something less than unconditional surrender (say, by letting the Japanese keep their Emperor), then it would have been cheap at the price.

    If you were going to use the atom bomb, I don’t see why you couldn’t have dropped it on a strictly military target (such as the troops at Kyushu). That would have achieved the same effect as Hiroshima without incinerating tens of thousands of women and children.

  • Arguing from counterfactuals is rather unhelpful in this instance. Our knowledge of what *may* have happened, given a different decision, is so slight as to provide no reason for acting. This is, by the way, why moral absolutes are important for Catholic theology. One does not have to provide an (impossible) answer to McClarey’s question–it is all just speculation at this point, anyhow–in order to determine that Truman’s act was wrong.

  • “If you were going to use the atom bomb, I don’t see why you couldn’t have dropped it on a strictly military target (such as the troops at Kyushu).”

    The Japanese located their military units in urban areas in the Home Islands.

    For example:
    “At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of considerable military significance. It contained the headquarters of the Fifth Division and Field Marshal Hata’s 2nd General Army Headquarters, which commanded the defence of all of southern Japan.”

    In regard to the Emperor, prior to Hiroshima, Japanese advocates of a negotiate piece assumed that such a peace would have to entail, at a minimum, no occupation of Japan, no dis-arming of Japan and Japan keeping some of its overseas conquests. Japanese militarists laughed at such peace advocates and assumed that Japan could stop an American invasion and cause the US, sick of war and high casualties, to withdraw from most of Asia and the Pacific. A negotiated peace is a fantasy.

  • “One does not have to provide an (impossible) answer to McClarey’s question–it is all just speculation at this point, anyhow–in order to determine that Truman’s act was wrong.”

    Wrong. Catholic moral theology has never simply thrown up its hands in regard to the real world. If Truman hadn’t dropped the bombs there would have been consequences, almost certainly terrible consequences. Condemning Truman without owning up to those consequences and accepting them, is to pretend that we live in a pacifist dream world rather than a world where the leaders of nations sometimes have to make decisions that will end up killing lots of people no matter what they do or not do. Condemning is easy, thinking through the consequences of acting or not acting is much harder and less pleasant, but must be done if moral theology is to be something more than a bat to swing in Catholic comboxes.

  • The Japanese located their military units in urban areas in the Home Islands.

    To suggest that the bomb couldn’t have been dropped on a military target in Japan without resulting in 95% civilian casualties is just silly. Dropping the bomb on the assembled forces at Kyushu would have had the same effect as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but without the massive civilian loss of life.

    In regard to the Emperor, prior to Hiroshima, Japanese advocates of a negotiate piece assumed that such a peace would have to entail, at a minimum, no occupation of Japan, no dis-arming of Japan and Japan keeping some of its overseas conquests.

    I would say these were the maximum expected demands, not the minimum. However, even if the above were what it would take to end the war without incinerating tens of thousands of women and children, I think Truman should have accepted them.

  • “I would say these were the maximum expected demands, not the minimum. However, even if the above were what it would take to end the war without incinerating tens of thousands of women and children, I think Truman should have accepted them.”

    Which of our Asian allies would you have advised to “suck it up” BA and continue to live under the Rising Sun? How do you think the American people would have reacted to the idea that the nation that brought them Pearl Harbor was going to retain some foreign conquests, not be occupied, not be disarmed and probably be ready for another go at the US in twenty years. Your suggestion might fit some fantasy world. It certainly could not have been implemented by any US President in 1945.

  • Oh, and BA, Hiroshima had 43,000 troops in it when the bomb was dropped.

  • Donald,

    You’re right, I’m sure America never would have stood for China or Korea living under oppression.

    Actually the Chinese wanted to make peace with Japan at the beginning of 1945, but didn’t out of deference to America. The idea that Truman bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki because he was concerned about the plight of the Chinese is the real fantasy.

    And as far as I can tell you have no answer as to why the bomb couldn’t be dropped on the troops at Kyushu.

  • Oh, and BA, Hiroshima had 43,000 troops in it when the bomb was dropped.

    And how many were there in Nagasaki?

  • Good way of completely avoiding the question of which of our Asian allies you would have thrown to the wolves BA. The idea that such a thing would have been entertained by the US government is a tribute to the absurdity that usually surrounds the August Follies. In regard to China making a separate peace with Japan, unless you can cite chapter and verse, I will also assume that this is a fantasy of yours. The Japanese army had actually gone on the offensive in 44 and 45 in China and controlled a huge amount of China.


    There was zero prospect that Japan was going to willingly withdraw from China absent surrender by Japan. As a matter of fact, several overseas commanders after Japan surrendered contemplated carrying on a war.

    As to your odd assumption that there were large military units in Kyushu out in the open waiting to be bombed, the military units of Japan were subject to conventional bombing like everything else in Japan. They were dispersed, with most of them located in urban centers, as was the case in Hiroshima.

  • And how many were there in Nagasaki?

    I don’t know how many strictly military folks there were, but I know the Japanese lady at Sasebo’s indoc mentioned that it was their primary Navy shipyards. (Sasebo became the largest afterwards.)

  • Presumably they would also have opposed an air tight blockade of the Home Islands, probably going on for years, in order to starve Japan into surrender.

    One thing about the blockade – it takes a lot longer (as you admit, years) and it can be reveresed, as well as regulated to allow certain subsistence amounts in (and refugees out, if you are so inclined), and the repeated opportunity to surrender, change minds, etc. With the bomb, it’s all over in an instant, and there is no going back.

  • Mitsubishi shipyards, if anyone wants to research.

  • I don’t know that a blockade would have taken years. Like Britain, Japan was and remains a net food importer, and our submarine force was annihilating their merchant marine at will. I don’t think their navy would have been able to escort sufficient convoys to keep them going for very long.

    Then again, famine and the attendant diseases can’t be flipped off like a light switch, either. I can easily see the civilian death toll from a blockade leaping into the high hundred thousands, if not more than a million, in relatively short order, even given a surrender.

    And as to subsistence blockades–well, that certainly hasn’t hurt the Kim tyrants in North Korea. That ratchets down the likelihood of surrender, I think, and ups the likelihood of continuous conventional bombardment.

  • The famine would have hit in the Spring of 1946. MacArthur only avoided the famine historically with huge shipments of food that he insisted be sent to Japan from the US. Needless to say, sending food to Japan was not popular. MacArthur in response to opposition said that he was responsible for keeping the Japanese alive and that he would resign rather than allow mass starvation on his watch. It was Mac’s finest moment in my opinion.

    I have my doubts that even mass starvation would have caused the Japanese to capitulate, absent intervention by Hirohito, something he was unwilling to do until after Nagasaki.

  • FWIW, there was a similar discussion here on Kiwiblog.co.nz a few days ago.

    Most opinions were that “The Bomb” was the right decision under the circumstances, for all the reasons above mentioned.

    This will be debated for many years to come, by those who will moralize and condemn those who had this truly terrible decision to make, in the dispassionate comfort of their safe armchairs.

    Does the end justify the means? No.
    Was this means justified? If the END was to prevent the continued destruction of human life, and in bringing the war to an abrupt end, prevent the killing of many more millions than “The Bomb” would kill, then yes, the MEANS was justified.

  • The only non-negotiable I would insisted on would have been withdrawal from occupied lands. Some disarmament would probably have been necessary too. I may also have insisted on a reparations fund.

  • Intrinsically immorlal means can never be justified by good ends/consequences. Truman was wrong. But he was still a good man trying hard to do the right thing. This is not all that different from the Sister Margaret McBride, who when confronted with the choice of directly taking a life (via a direct abortion) versus allowing that same life and that of another (the mother) to die did what most sensible and well-intentioned people would do — choose to have one person to survive rather than none. Very understandable. But still very wrong.

  • After Nagasaki, Japan agreed to all terms except removal of the emperor. It was rejected and conventional bombing continued, killing thousands more.

  • Your understanding of those events is faulty restrainedradical. Here is actually what was said on August 12 by the Allies:

    “From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms. …The ultimate form of government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people”

    The Allies heard nothing from Japan on August 13, and ordered a resumption of bombing for August 14, previously halted by Truman, the date when Hirohito, finally, eight days after Hiroshima and five days after Nagasaki, addressed Japan and ordered the capitulation:

    “Despite the best that has been done by everyone—the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people—the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

    Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

    Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

    The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.”

    American bombing was halted after Hirohito’s address. Japanese units on the Asian mainland continued fighting for several days after Hirohito’s address.

  • Donald,

    You are misunderstanding my point–which is also the point of Catholic moral theology. To say that one need not provide answers to any of your multitudinous counterfactuals in order to determine that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was evil is just to say that the intentional killing of civilians is *intrinsically* evil. To say this, however, is not to say what you appear to think it says, that I–and the Church–are throwing up our hands with respect to “the real world.” Quite the contrary, the structure of reality, as revealed by Christ and his Church, is precisely what is being respected in the confident determination that some acts are so destructive of the imago dei that they can never, under any circumstances, be permitted–come what may. The intentional killing of innocents has always been regarded as such an act, and for good reason.

    From the perspective of Christian moral theology, it would have been better for Truman–and for any who were cooperators in this act–that the Japanese were militarily victorious than that he should have committed such an act. That is the hard truth.

    Now, you may disagree with the Christ and the Church’s teaching here–many do, Christians and non-Christians alike–but let us not be deceived by a sophistry which attempts to lessen the gravity of this evil act by appeal to a set of conjectures which remain just that, conjectures. From the perspective of Catholic moral theology, it is you, and not I, who are ignoring the “real world.”

  • Don, it’s not incumbent on one who is pointing out the immorality of intentional targeting of civilians to solve the problem of “what other course was there?”

    But the “other course” here would have been to continue the conventional war and perhaps pursuing something other than unconditional surrender.

    Oh, and with regard to the confederates, Bobby Lee in his forays north expressly forbade the type of tactics Sherman expressly adopted.

    Chambersburg should not have been burned, but by 1864 the Confederates were responding to Yankee war crimes, specifically in this case, Hunter’s devestation of civilian targets in the Shenandoah.

    Such is the logic of “total war”– it tends to suck in those who would otherwise not want to practice it.

  • One other thing: from the perspective of the civitas dei, which is the perspective that all Christians are exhorted to conform themselves to, it matters very little who wins what wars, what kinds of polity we are subject to here below, etc. For the Church, there are good things and bad things that accompany *any* political regime, and it is a dangerous, and finally idolatrous, mistake to believe that the defense of any particular civitas terrena–whether it be America in the 20th century, Rome in the 5th, or some future city–is worth the commission of an intrinsically evil act, which destroys one’s participation in the civitas dei.

    None of this entails pacifism. But it does entail our willingness to call a spade a spade.

  • From the perspective of Christian moral theology, it would have been better for Truman–and for any who were cooperators in this act–that the Japanese were militarily victorious than that he should have committed such an act. That is the hard truth.

    I’m not clear that “it would have been better” scenarios along these lines are all that useful. Frankly, from a perspective of Christian moral theology, it would be better if one no had earthly responsibilities for anyone else. Paul, after all, enjoins people not to even marry (and thus take on the responsibilities of a spouse) and for spouses to be celibate (and thus not take on the responsibilities of children) because earthly responsibilies tend to turn us away from true eternal priorities. And yet, we as Catholics also recognize that it is necessary that we as a human community have marriage, have children, have rulers and law, etc. Greater earthly responsibilities invariably distract people from their eternal destinations — something which I think Dante well summarizes the thinking of the Christian tradition on in Purgatorio. And yet, there is also a sense in which it is necessary that a portion of society make the sacrifice of focusing on earthly responsibility. Why?

    One other thing: from the perspective of the civitas dei, which is the perspective that all Christians are exhorted to conform themselves to, it matters very little who wins what wars, what kinds of polity we are subject to here below, etc.

    It seems to me that this misses an obvious issue, which is that the environment in which people find themselves often affects their ability to live in accordance with the the civitas dei. Look at conflicts such as the French Revolution or the Spanish Civil War in which one side was actively invested in stamping out the Church and perverting the order of society. To be sure, such situations offer the opportunity for martyrdom, but for most they offer the opportunity for apostacy, collaboration and corruption. I’m reminded similarly of some of the pieces I’ve read about the archives which are now open in Germany of East German secret police files, where people were constantly encouraged to inform on each other and rewarded for betraying of friends and family. Surely such an environment is destructive to many souls.

    Without question each society presents its own temptations and corruptions, and if anything I lean heavily in the direction of Christians seeking the path to God in their own societies as they exist rather than embracing a revolutionary ethic of overturning the social order in order to make society “more holy”. And armed struggle has a tendency to corrupt all sides. But I can’t see that complete indifference is the right response either.

  • Darwin,

    I mean “would have been better” in the strict sense that it is always better not to commit an intrinsically evil act than to commit one. I do not mean to say, nor is it true that, marriage, law-making, etc. fall under the same category. I am assuming here a post-lapsarian condition.

    As for your second comment: fair enough. I am more Pascalian in my outlook than most, and I am well aware that certain regimes produce certain evils that are on first blush more destructive than the evils of other regimes. (I am not so certain, however, that collaboration, apostasy, etc. are not equally prevalent in the West. There are more lapsed Catholics in American than any other denomination, they say.) But would you at least acknowledge that if my position leads to a skeptical indifferentism, it is nonetheless within the bounds of orthodoxy, and in fact corresponds nearly exactly with Augustine’s own view, whereas the danger in becoming too tied up with the “justness” of a particular regime on earth leads rather quickly to unorthodoxy and idolatry: one excuses intrinsic evils committed by that regime in order to ensure its own continued existence, rather than admitting that such an act has been committed?

    I fear that I discern something of this in McClarey’s hand-waving about the behavior of the Allies–and America in particular–in WWII.

  • Like Darwin, I can’t go so far as to say that it matters little who wins wars… Certainly there are just wars, and WWII was one example. It’s the old Thomistic distinction between jus ad bellum, whether a war is just in the first place, and jus in bello, whether a war is conducted in accordance with moral principles.

    Collateral damage is inevitable in modern warfare, but where the Allies went wrong was in aping the evil done by the Axis powers, i.e., deliberately targeting civilians and non-military targets for the purpose of “demoralizing” the populace.

  • (I am being especially procrastinatory today.)


    First, I agree that yours is a perfectly viable interpretation of where the Allies went wrong in WWII. I agree with it, in fact, and, as I said, nothing in my own position commits one to pacifism.

    But I still think that it is *also* true that, at least according to Augustine and several other thinkers in the Augustinian tradition, it *still* makes little difference what regime a Christian lives under, for the reason that *every* regime is dominated by the libido dominandi, and so, from the perspective of the civitas dei, they are all equal.

    Thomas, and the Thomistic tradition more generally, has a less skeptical view. One that, I hasten to add, is perfectly legitimate. It seems to me that the Church, within the bounds of orthodoxy, allows for a range of opinion on this matter.

    I am not so much bothered by any disagreement here as I am by the hesitancy to call a spade a spade.

  • Don (Kiwi)

    You seem to contradict yourself. First, you say that the ends cannot justify the means, and then you do precisely that – you state the end of ending the war justified the means of dropping the bomb. Am I missing something?

  • “The intentional killing of innocents has always been regarded as such an act, and for good reason.”

    Actually it depends on how you define intentional. Papal armies in the Middle Ages routinely besieged cities, a normal military operation of the time. The cities would be caused to surrender usually through blockades that produced starvation, and, inevitably, disease would usually explode in the cities. If any pope ever breathed a word against sieges as a method of warfare, I am unaware of it. This is quite a bit more of a complicated area than it seems at first glance.

  • That papal armies acted or did not act in certain ways with or without the permission of popes is immaterial. Are you denying that the slaughter of innocents has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act?

  • c matt.

    Re-reading my comment, I appear to do as you say. However, in the context of what was occuring – a war costing huge casualties on both sides, a stark choice became presented. Do we continue as we are, and lose many millions of lives, or do we introduce a new stratagem, and save arguably millions of lives which would otherwise be lost? ( the other choice was, as Wj said earlier, to lie down and be conquered, which to me , would be unacceptable)
    I guess the choice was therefore, a lesser of two evils. No doubt it can be debated whether or not a less evil choice is the correct moral choice in view of the principle, that the end does not justify the means.
    Quite a connundrum, isn’t it?

  • All ends are achieved by a means.

    But the end does not (necessarily) justify the means.

    Some means are justifiable, others are not.

  • Are you denying that the slaughter of innocents has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act?

    I think you mean “are you denying that…has ALWAYS been regarded as an intrinsically evil act,” or “are you CLAIMING…has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act.”

    Perhaps a better tact might be to find out when it was first enumerated as an intrinsic evil?

    I think the situation is significantly more complicated than folks are willing to consider– even with folks that I KNOW are honestly trying to just figure it out, there’s incredible simplification.

    Does it matter that there was warning given so the population had a chance to leave?
    Does it matter that military operations were moved into civilian areas, even into family dwellings?
    Does it matter that “aiming” with bombs in that day was more an art than a science?
    Do prior tactics of the Americans matter?
    Do prior tactics of the Allies matter?
    Does our responsibility to defend the innocent that WEREN’T in those cities matter?
    What effect does the (possible) Japanese military stopping civilians from evacuating have on the morality of it?
    How much information did they have about what was going on at ground level, and how much could they reasonably be expected to have?

    (stuff like this is probably why a lot of folks think morality should be restricted to philosophy, not the real world– it’s just not as simple IRL, even if it is still black and white)

    I know full well I don’t have nearly enough information to make an informed, binding judgement on these actions that happened before my parents were born. Luckily, I don’t have to; it’s useful to try to figure out, in case a similar case comes along, but it’s also important to keep in mind that it’s not cut and dried.

  • “That papal armies acted or did not act in certain ways with or without the permission of popes is immaterial. Are you denying that the slaughter of innocents has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act?”

    I think the praxis of the Church is always of importance, especially when that praxis went on for centuries. I am denying that the Church has condemned all military operations which, by their very nature, were bound to take quite a few innocent lives.

    Let’s think this through. Hiroshima is bombed from the air, either fire bombed or nuked. Bad, intrinsically immoral. Hiroshima is taken by the US in a ground assault in the spring of 46 which, in a house to house fight against the Japanese Army, kills most of the civilian population, who are caught in the cross fire. Morally acceptable. I assume the difference is one of intention, but I find that argument weak. A military man would have to be brain dead not to realize that large scale combat in an urban area is going to kill huge numbers of civilians. If mass casualties are foreseeable in a ground assault, how does that materially differ from mass casualties caused by an air assault? The current Church stance may be an argument for pacifism, but I do not think it adequately addresses that other measures taken in military operations, presumably morally licit, may kill just as many civilians, if not more, than the measures condemned.

    I might also note that in the spiritual realm popes have been quite willing to take actions which have had adverse impacts on innocent parties. A good example would be the Interdict which prevented the dispensing of the sacraments in nations or regions. Imagine a pope saying that a dying innocent could not have the comfort of the Last Rites. However, it was done, and not infrequently, for reasons that the popes employing it deemed good and sufficient. The last use of the Interdict, in a fairly mild form, was by Saint Pius X in the early years of the last century. The idea that innocents have an all-embracing immunity is one that is popular in the Church today, but it is rather a novel one.

  • Now you are just obfuscating. For who would not agree with your following assertion? (I certainly don’t disagree with it.)

    “I am denying that the Church has condemned all military operations which, by their very nature, were bound to take quite a few innocent lives.”

    We don’t need to go through the motions of explaining how the doctrine of double effect applies in ius in bello scenarios on this blog. I’ll just take it for granted that most people reading here have a working knowledge about how unintentional though foreseen civilian casualties, for example, are a different kind of thing than INTENTIONALLY DECIMATING A CIVILIAN TARGET.

    Most ALL military operations involve the unfortunate killing of innocents, and if the Church is to have a doctrine of just war at all, which she most assuredly does, then it is basic to such a doctrine to differentiate foreseen but unintended evils from evils intentionally committed. So while, for example, the intentional slaughter of women and children has always been rightly condemned by the Church–which is not to say that she has not at times engaged in this practice against her better lights (thereby proving true what she has to say about sin)–the unfortunate killing of innocents as a result of some other strategy which does not *directly* target them is a more difficult scenario to parse. There is an entire casuitical literature on this and related topics. We all know all the moves here.

    What you are now doing, in fact, is redescribing the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as if this weren’t the intentional killing of civilians. But, on any plausible account of intentional acts (i.e. Thomas, Anscombe, Suarez, etc.), the bombing most clearly *was* an intentionally, and not merely foreseen, attack on noncombatants. Which is, as I said before, intrinsically evil.

    Either you do not understand or you do not agree with the distinction between foreseen and intended consequences–a distinction which is basic to Catholic moral theology. Which is it?

  • By the way, there is one other theological assumption in your response that I take issue with.

    1. The fact that the Church in the past–yea, even for centuries in the past–did or did not intentionally target or unjustly allow a disproportionate number of civilians to be killed in any of her wars is immaterial to the issue at hand. Why? That the Church acted one way or another in the past has, apart from her explicit teachings on doctrine and morals, no bearing on the normative status of that action. For centuries the Church abused the theology of indulgences; from this it does not follow that we, in the present, are supposed to be okay with the selling of indulgences on the grounds that the Church did it in the past. You are conflating two very different kinds of “tradition” and how they have normative bearing in Catholic theology.

    Of course, if you deny the distinction between an intended and a foreseen end, then you are a consequentialist. But if you are a consequentialist, then you have a problem with the decalogue. Do you have a problem with the decalogue?

  • I apologize for the somewhat heated and exasperated tone. If I had known that you denied the difference between an intended and foreseen end, I would have found your defense of the bombings much more intelligible–though not, I am afraid to say, any less repugnant.

  • “Either you do not understand or you do not agree with the distinction between foreseen and intended consequences–a distinction which is basic to Catholic moral theology.”

    My problem WJ is that what is considered as unforeseen in war in regard to civilian casualties is predictable as night follows day. Two corps battling each other in an urban area will produce large amounts of civilian deaths. A siege of a city will produce a large amount of civilian deaths. Foreseeability in this area seems like a very frail reed on which to make categorical distinctions. Because of the technology of the day, bombing an urban center in World War II was going to produce quite a few civilian casualties no matter what was done. My point is that if it is intrinsically evil to ever intentionally engage in the targeting of civilian populations in war, why is it not intrinsically evil to engage in actions in war which, completely predictably, will lead to civilian deaths? Hiding behind foreseeability in this area strikes me as exalting form over substance.

  • No sweat WJ. This is an area which people get passionate about. I certainly am in that category.

  • Donald, I think this response of yours points the way toward a difficult and important issue in the theology of Just War. At least we are now down to brass tacks, as it were. I am enjoying this quite a bit. You write:

    “My point is that if it is intrinsically evil to ever intentionally engage in the targeting of civilian populations in war, why is it not intrinsically evil to engage in actions in war which, completely predictably, will lead to civilian deaths?”

    The short answer to this is that the intentional targeting of a civilian is murder, and murder is always wrong. Why is it wrong? Well, even Augustine, who was not, I have to admit, terribly worried about civilian casualties, views murder as the sort of action which destroys the imago dei in the soul of the person committing it. (Indeed, murder is like any violation of the decalogue in this respect.) So the intentional targeting of a civilian is wrong not *only* because of what happens to the civilian (as you point out, the civilian may well be killed unintentionally via another strategy) but also what happens to you.

    In the second case, the military commander is intending to engage a lawful combatant, and he foresees that as a result of his action some number of civilians will die. This is not *intrinsically* evil, first, because there are some circumstances in which it is permitted; in a less tautological sense, it is not *intrinscially* evil because the ACTION in question is not murder, but some other action describable in a different way, and so the commander in question is not deprived of grace.

    Of course, it way well be the case, at least according to Just War Theory, that at some point the unintended yet foreseen civilian casualties issuing from some or other military strategy outweigh the good that is to be rationally expected to result from that strategy, and in this case the unintended yet foreseen killing of civilians is evil, though not intrinsically so. Some of Pope Benedict XVI’s skepticism as to whether any modern war can be “licit” (cf. interview with Zenit in March of 03 I believe) derives his beliefs that most contemporary wars cannot but fail to be just in their in bello execution. This is an important and complex issue, and it is not one about which I am certain.

    But can I ask a clarifying question? Do you deny the difference between an intentional and a foreseen end per se, or only the validity of this difference as it applies to actions in war?

  • As a follow up: I am not a pacifist, but it has always seemed to me that one of the strongest arguments for pacifism from a strictly theological point of view has to do with the *near impossibility* of ensuring that even the most just war from a ius ad bellum perspective will be able to be fought successfully and justly in bello. Many of your examples seem to support this view. I guess one can go one of two ways here. One can view the near impossibility of ius in bello conduct to constitute a strong argument for a practical, if not principled, pacifism, or one can argue that the Church’s understanding of ius in bello conduct has to be changed or expanded or loosened in some way.

  • “Do you deny the difference between an intentional and a foreseen end per se, or only the validity of this difference as it applies to actions in war?”

    Depends entirely on how likely a foreseeable end is. An artillery barrage is made of a grove of trees. Tragically some lumberjacks are killed. Clearly different from intentionally targeting the lumberjacks.

    A division of enemy troops are in a city filled with civilians and intermingled with the civilians. The artillery unit is told to attack the enemy and civilian deaths results. I don’t view that much differently from intentionally targeting the civilians, since their deaths are entirely predictable. Of course the artillery men didn’t want to kill the civilians, they were merely in the way of accomplishing the goal of winning the war. This area is tricky and filled with moral land mines. Whenever double effect is trotted out, I listen very carefully, but am rarely convinced by it.

  • If you hold that “of course the artillery men didn’t want to kill the civilians,” then you hold that they didn’t intentionally kill them. It seems to me that this is entirely different than the artillery unit intentionally targeting the civilians. Does it not seem so to you?

    I wonder what you make of double effect as it applies to abortion. Do you see the moral difference, that is, between surgically removing a mother’s fallopian tubes, knowing that the child inside them will die as a result of this procedure necessary for saving the mother’s life, and flooding the fallopian tubes with chemicals intended to kill the child? (There are any number of other scenarios, which all share the same structure.)

    The reason I ask is that in both cases the death of the child is entirely foreseeable.
    and directly killing

  • “It seems to me that this is entirely different than the artillery unit intentionally targeting the civilians. Does it not seem so to you?”

    Only if intention governs all. In that case why do the airmen of the Enola Gay not get a pass since they most definitely were not intending to kill civilians but rather to convince Japan to surrender? How does this differ materially from the artillery men intending to win a battle in a city, not intending to kill civilians, but knowing that civilians will be killed in large numbers by their bombardment?

    Frankly in the abortion case where the child cannot survive I see no problem with the desperate necessity of removing the fallopian tubes in order to preserve the mother’s life since the child simply cannot survive in any case. I pray for the day when technology will eliminate this sad quandry.

  • The answer to the first question is that you can’t separate intention from the object of the act. You can’t for example, burn your neighbor’s house to the ground and then say that your “intention” in doing so was to stop him from playing loud music. No, pretty clearly you intended to burn his house down with the further end in mind of ceasing his loud music. But this further end in mind does not mean that in burning his house down you acted unintentionally. So with Truman. The intention was clearly to kill large amounts of Japanese civilians with the further end of bringing the war to a speedy halt. This further end–bringing the war to a speedy halt–does not evacuate the intentional structure of the prior act. If you don’t mind a recommendation here, I suggest you read Anscombe’s classic work “Intention.” She demonstrates all this quite persuasively.

    Indeed, in the latter case, the whole point is that the removal of the fallopian tubes is a *different* act than the direct killing of the child. Which is why it is licit.

  • The intention was clearly to kill large amounts of Japanese civilians with the further end of bringing the war to a speedy halt.

    I have to disagree on the “clearly” part of that — you do NOT warn people to leave and give them time if you are trying to kill large numbers of them.

  • “The answer to the first question is that you can’t separate intention from the object of the act.”

    Ah but that is where foreseeability rears its ugly head. The artillery men bombarding the city filled with enemy troops know that large numbers of civilians will be killed. As a matter of fact Hiroshima had 43,000 Japanese troops in it. Once again, I do not think this is simple at all.

  • What is often ignored by Catholics who spill ink on this issue ignore is 1) The pertinnent Catholic moral principles involved and 2) The actual circumstances within Truman made his decision.

    With respect to the use of atomic weapons, Catholic moral theologian Father Heribert Jone defined them this way:

    The fourth condition required for positing an action that has an evil effect that there be a sufficient reason, i.e., a proportionate resulting good, to permit the evil effect. The morality of using either the atomic or hydrogen bomb as a weapon of war is therefore, not a question of principle, which remains unchangeable, but a question of fact, and the fact questioned is whether there can be a military objective so vital to an enemy, the destruction of which would be a sufficient reason to permit the death of a vast number of civilians who at most contribute only remotely and indirectly to the war effort. We think this proportion can exist 1) because today’s concept of “total war” has greatly restricted the meaning of the term “non-combatant”; 2) because in modern warfare the conscription of industry, as well as manpower, greatly extends the effort on the home front; and 3) because it is difficult to set limits to the defense action of a people whose physical and even spiritual existence is threatened by a godless tyranny. Therefore, while use of atomic weapons must be greatly restricted to the destruction of military objectives, nevertheless, it may be justified without doing violence to the principle of a twofold effect. (Moral Theology #219 pp. 143-44 1961 Edition)

    Unfortunately, all of the of Catholic moral theologians and writers who condemn the bombings demonstrate no knowledge of the circumstances involved. The most horrendous and despicable example, in my view, is the recent piece written by well-known Catholic author and senior apologist at Catholic Answers Jimmy Akin.

    The objections these people raise is that the atomic bomb drops cannot be justified because they targeted innocent civilians. To be sure, there is no moral justification for deliberately killing innocent people regardless of how noble your end purpose is. The ends do not justify the means. You cannot do evil so that good can become of it. True enough.

    However, this was not the case with atomic bombings. In WWII Japan, the meaning of the term non-combatant was not only “greatly restricted” it was completely obliterated. William Manchester, in his biography of General Douglass Mac Arthur states:

    Hirohito’s generals, grimly preparing for the invasion, had not abandoned hope of saving their homeland. Although a few strategic islands had been lost, they told each other, most of their conquests, including the Chinese heartland, were firmly in their hands, and the bulk of their army was undefeated. Even now they could scarcely believe that any foe would have the audacity to attempt landings in Japan itself. Allied troops, they boasted, would face the fiercest resistance in history. Over ten thousand kamikaze planes were readied for “Ketsu-Go,” Operation Decision. Behind the beaches, enormous connecting underground caves had been stocked with caches of food and thousands of tons of ammunition. Manning the nation’s ground defenses were 2,350,000 regular soldiers, 250,000 garrison troops, and 32,000,000 civilian militiamen, a total of 34,600,000, more than the combined armies of the United States, Great Britain, and Nazi Germany. All males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five, had been conscripted. Their weapons included ancient bronze cannon, muzzle loaded muskets, bamboo spears, and bows and arrows. Even little children had been trained to strap explosives around their waists, roll under tank treads, and blow themselves up. They were called “Sherman’s carpets.” This was the enemy the Pentagon had learned to fear and hate,a country of fanatics dedicated to hara-kiri, determined to slay as many invaders as possible as they went down fighting. [William Manchester: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 510-511)]

    The mass conscription of “all males ages fifteen and all females ages seventeen to forty-five” is practically the entire adult population. With this, the entire country of Japan became a large military base and no longer a civilian, but a military asset, and therefore, a legitimate military target.

    This idea that the bomb drops were a deliberate attack on innocents is flat out false.

    Furthermore, given the alternatives, either an invasion or blockade would have killed more Japanese, not to mention caused more than a million Amreican casualties in the case of an invasion, the most merciful thing Truman could have done was to drop the bombs. He most certainly could have justifiede it before his creator.

  • Donald,

    I have to get to bed–not a night person–so I’ll conclude by reiterating a distinction which you seem to deny (why? I can’t understand). There is a difference between the object of an intentional action and the foreseeable consequences that follow from that action. If I burn my neighbor’s house down, there will be smoke. I foresee that the act of burning my neighbor’s house down will necessarily produce smoke, and yet the production of smoke is not my intent in burning his house down. My intent is simply: to burn his house down.


    I don’t understand you. Is your claim that there were NO innocent Japanese (as you argue in the first half of your longish post) or that there were in any case LESS (innocent) Japanese killed as a result of the bomb than through other means? If the first, then I don’t see why you mention the second; if the second, then everything I’ve already written here applies to that argument. (I don’t think you’ll get many people agreeing to your first claim, though.)

  • Greg.

    Very interesting, and confirms my thoughts and understanding of the situation.

  • Wj.

    If I burn my neighbour’s house down, there will be smoke………”

    INO, applying this thinking is obfuscation of conscience.
    You know that you wish to burn down his house and you know fires create smoke. You therefore cannot claim that the creation of smoke is non-culpable, while the burnng of the house is.

  • Just because an action is or may be the lesser of two evils (dropping the atom bomb vs. all out ground invasion of Japan) doesn’t make it good or justified, or a precedent to follow in the future. The lesser of two evils is still an evil. However, this being a fallen world, sometimes a lesser evil is the best we can do. Unfortunately, what often happens is that instead of simply making the least bad choice possible and asking God’s forgiveness for any sin involved, we try to paint that choice as being entirely good.

  • WJ:

    I did not say there were no innocent Japanese. What I said was that the line between combatant and non-combatant had been erased due to the mass civilian conscription and therefore we were not TARGETING innocents.

  • “If I burn my neighbor’s house down, there will be smoke. I foresee that the act of burning my neighbor’s house down will necessarily produce smoke, and yet the production of smoke is not my intent in burning his house down. My intent is simply: to burn his house down.”

    Your example WJ illustrates precisely where the diffculty in this area lies. Intention either always determines the morality of an action or it does not. I think neither at Hiroshima nor my artillery against a city example is the goal to kill civilians, rather the killing of civilians is a necessary part of the action being undertaken to reach another goal, winning a battle or a war. The difference you would raise between them is that the bomb was directed against civilians while the artillery men only kill civilians accidently. This distinction is of cold comfort morally I think when the deaths of the civilians from the use of the artillery are completely predictable and foreseeable. If the goal is allowed to make the action moral in the case of the artillery barrage, I am uncertain why the same logic is not applicable in the case of Hiroshima.

  • Going to have to agree with Greg M. that the notion of “civilian” took a rather major beating in this situation– probably why the Gen. Conv. spent so much time hammering out who is a civie and who isn’t.

    Is someone standing by the soldier and reloading a valid target?
    Are you not allowed to fire at a foxhole that’s trying to gun you down, because you can see they’ve got a red cross worker trying to patch them up?
    Can you destroy a yard full of military ships under construction or repair?
    Can you bomb the not-formally-military staffed bomb factory?
    If it’s required for someone to be a formal military to be a military target, how do you deal with informal attacks? (getting a bit to close to modern issues, so I’ll stop there)

  • Well, despite the best efforts of bombing apologists, we’re left at the end of the day with the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated, not because of their military value (which was slight and certainly less than many other potential targets), not because the civilians there were a threat (regimes like Japan’s always threaten that their civilians will rise up against any invader… they don’t), but because our bombing policy was, as I stated before, identical to “Bomber” Harris’ vision of demoralizing CIVILIAN populations.

    Thus, all this talk of Hiroshima’s bombing being justified either because of its military use or the ridiculous notion that the little old ladies and kids were armed threats to our forces, is bunk.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were wiped out in order to terrorize the populace and thus break the will of the military to resist.

    That END was produced immediately by the MEANS of purposeful destruction of innocent lives, NOT as a by-product or collateral result of legitimate bombing. Why can’t folks here acknowledge simply what everyone, especially Truman, knew at the time– the bombings were done to terrify the Japs so completely at our ability to incinerate civilian centers that their military would capitulate?

  • I think the evidence supports Tom’s contention. And I think the application of Catholic teaching yields a rather clear cut answer. That said, his moral error notwithstanding, Truman is still a far mor sympathetic character than many of his self-righteous critics.

    A man might deliberately kill his comrade in arms if that comrade is dying and in agony. Such an act is murder and intrinsically evil. Yet, I would hardly make it my business to scold him. All sins are forgivable of course — but some certainly more than others. Truman’s act was not heroic; it was wrong; but it was certainly understandable and forgivable.

  • Tom, you’re entitled to your own view, but not your own facts, and what you’re claiming as “facts” are far from proven.

    Feel free to call me whatever you like– heaven knows I can’t stop you– but your OPINIONS of what was true are far from persuasive, and should not be stated as if they are objective reality.

    (On a side note, I’m so sick of being one of the folks who has to say “hold up a sec, we don’t actually KNOW X, or Y, and Z is totally wrong.” Even when I agree with a conclusion, or don’t disagree, it’s a bad idea to let incorrect claims stand.)

  • Foxfier:
    It is completely appropriate to bomb a bomb factory, even knowing that some civilians will likely be killed. That is because a bomb factory is a military target. An entire city is not.

  • Mike-
    Military bases are sometimes cities. (Zip code, hospital/power/stores/water, own police force, civilian families, schools, etc.)

    Military bases, since they are military bases, are military targets.

    Thus, it’s clear that entire cities CAN be a military target.

  • Fair enough I suppose, but are you seriously suggesting that H or N were military bases? If so, then no need for further discussion since we occupy different universes.

  • Mike-
    Not going to fight this, because– like I said way up above– I don’t think we have enough information to do a decent job of it.

    My rough limit is basic damage control on the BS I _know_ I’m going to have to deal with in the next five years, in the form of “X who is (or was) a Catholic said Y, so it must be true, defend it.” Generally in the middle of family reunions or parties with geek friends.

    If you can’t make your argument off of facts, why on earth are you trying to state it as fact? Just throw in an “I” here or there, maybe in conjunction with “think” or “reason” or “believe,” refer to sources for your claims and bada bing: no conflict.

    Shoot, you could even say “I don’t see how it could be justified to bomb an entire city, because cities are not military targets” and it’s no longer something I, or some poor idiot like me, will have to defend. It’s your educated belief from the facts as you know them and your understanding of Catholic teachings. (Anybody talking Catholic theology with a half-dozen highly intelligent folks who have little to no use for organized religion, let alone the Church, needs to have their head examined. No offense to the real Catholic apologists among us.)

  • Foxfier,

    It’s not exactly as if there is no considered stance on this issue by the overwhelmingly vast majority of bishops, theologians, popes, etc. over the past fifty years. The only people who pretend as though this is somehow a difficult question for the Church to address are a handful of American Catholics.

    It is much better to do as Donald does: reject the reasoning of the Church forthrightly. It is no good pretending as though there is an epistemic difficulty here where there is not one.

  • Yay, appeal to authority, and total missing of the point.

    Have fun, I’m out.

  • “reject the reasoning of the Church forthrightly.”

    Questioning is not rejection, especially in an area such as this where we are not dealing with revealed truth, but rather the application of hair splitting logic.

  • (Same way I duck out when folks start bringing out “but all these guys say that the death penalty isn’t needed anymore! So I win!”)

  • Mike.

    Check the anecdotal historical evidence of who were in occupancy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the military operations and indusctrial complexes attached to those cities.

    One could arguably conclude they were military bases.

  • I’m out after this one as well.

    Don, I didn’t mean to be inflammatory. I take it that you do reject the distinction between foreeseable consequences and intended ends *in certain instances*; but perhaps you only question their analytic efficacy. Fair enough. I think your position commits you to consequentialism (or at least some kind of proportionalism, a la McBrien, et. al.), which I don’t think you want to be committed to, but that’s a different topic. It is an important conversation to have, though.

    Foxfier, I wasn’t so much “appealing to authority” as showing that what you take to be a difficult, perplexing, epistemically vague scenario appears only to be so for a subset of American Catholics and not for the universal Church as a whole. This is an empirical claim.

  • Don the Kiwi,
    Sorry about the oddly abbreviated post above. I am well aware that both H and N contained both military operations and industrial complexes attached to the war effort. Same for Chicago and Detroit. And targeting those operations and complexes would have been morally licit, even if done quite imperfectly. But that is not what happened, and the evidence is quite clear that Truman knew exactly what he was doing. As I said earlier, I don’t really blame him — even if I can safely conclude from my comfortable perch that he were morally wrong. But I refuse to reason backwards either. Just because I’m sympathetic, actually very sympathetic, to the consequences, does not mean that the means were morally acceptable. They weren’t. Pretty much all of us do bad things for good reasons, and that does not make us bad people — just sinners.

  • Fortunately we don’t have to speculate on why Truman chose Hiroshima and Nagasaki and whether it was because the cities were military targets.

    His own press release states that the Potsdam ultimatum was issued to Japan (calling for their unconditional surrender) “to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction.” NOT the Japanese military, NOT the Japanese industrial ability, but the Japanese people themselves.

    Besides, the US had already joined in the British practice of terror bombing by helping in the destruction of Dresden and by firebombing Tokyo, a practice which indiscriminately killed thousands of civilians.

    As Doolittle’s raid early in the war demonstrated, it was entirely possible to target industry and military targets without wiping out entire cities.

    We simply adopted the Brit practice of firebombing, and ultimtely, nuclear bombing, to demoralize the civilian populaces of our enemies, not to advance a military objective.

  • Actually Tom Truman referred to the “military base of Hiroshima” when he announced the Hiroshima bombing. You can say that was incorrect, but that is how Truman looked at it.

    The firebombing of the cities of Japan wasn’t undertaken for terror purposes, but because that was the only way to take out the Japanese industries that tended to be located within residential areas. Precision bombing of Japanese industries was attempted until around March of 45 and had proven completely ineffective.

  • The Doolittle raid was a propaganda operation in 42. 15 of the 16 B-25s were lost, along with 80 airmen. The damage to Japan was completely negligible. From a morale standpoint in the US it was a success. From a military standpoint it was a disaster.

    The technology of the day made precision bombing usually a wistful dream rather than a reality.

    “In practice, the Norden (bombsight) never managed to produce accuracies remotely like those of which it was theoretically capable. The Royal Air Force were the first to use the B-17 in combat, and reported extremely poor results, eventually converting their aircraft to other duties. USAAF anti-shipping operations in the Far East were likewise generally unsuccessful, and although there were numerous claims of sinkings, the only confirmed successful action was during the Battle of the Philippines when B-17s damaged two Japanese transports, the cruiser Naka, and the destroyer Murasame, and sank one minesweeper. However these successes were the exception to the rule; actions during the Battle of Coral Sea or Battle of Midway, for instance, were entirely unsuccessful. The USAAF eventually replaced all of their anti-shipping B-17s with other aircraft, and came to use the skip bombing technique in direct low-level attacks.

    In Europe the Norden likewise demonstrated a poor real-world accuracy. Bombing was computed by assessing the proportion of hits falling within 1,000 feet (300 m) and 2,000 feet (600 m) circles about an MPI (mean point of impact). To achieve a perfect strike, a bomber group would have to unload all its bombs within the 1,000 ft circle. By the spring of 1943 some impressive results were being recorded. Over Bremen-Vegesack on 19 March, for instance, the 303d Bombardment Group dropped 76 per cent of its load within the 1,000 ft ring. Under perfect conditions only 50 percent of American bombs fell within a quarter of a mile of the target, and American flyers estimated that as many as 90 percent of bombs could miss their targets.[5][6][7] Nevertheless, many veteran B-17 and B-24 bombardiers swore by the Norden.”


  • There is an ongoing myth that the British were primarily interested in terror bombing for the heck of it since they could not bloody the Germans in any other way. This is the received wisdom after Vonnegut and Irving. But it makes very little sense for the British to lose all those highly trained men of the Bomber Command (55,000 killed) and spend all that money to build a large strategic force merely to terrorise the Germans. The bombers were the British contribution to the continental war, as they lacked the ability to insert their forces into the field in a decisive ways. A much fairer assessment is provided in this book .

  • Harry S Truman was a 33° Freemason, an enemy of the Catholic Faith, which may be why Nagasaki, the center of Japanese Catholicism, was targetted. (More Catholics were killed on August 9th, 1945 than in four centuries of brutal persecution.)

    General Tomoyuki Yamashita was executed for the atrocities committed in the Battle of Manila (the “one case [in which] the event took place on American soil” mentioned in the post), despite the fact that said atrocities were committed by troops who had disobeyed his order to withdraw from the city to avoid civilian casualties.

Under the Roman Sky

Monday, June 21, AD 2010

A new film, Under the Roman Sky, starring James Cromwell as Pius XII, details the heroic efforts of Pius XII to save the Jews of Rome from the Nazis, after Rome came under Nazi occupation subsequent to the fall of Mussolini following the Allied invasion of southern Italy in 1943.

Rabbi David G. Dalin, in his review of a Moral Reckoning, a tome by Daniel Goldhagen which sought to blame Catholicism for the Holocaust, details the efforts of the Pope to save the Jews of Rome:

Goldhagen’s centerpiece is the outrageous allegation that Pius XII “did not lift a finger to forfend the deportations of the Jews of Rome” or of other parts of Italy “by instructing his priests and nuns to give the hunted Jewish men, women and children sanctuary.”  Much of this is lifted straight from anti-Pius books like Susan Zuccotti’s Under His Very Windows–and thus Goldhagen repeats the errors of those books and adds extras, all his own, in his determined attempt to extend their thesis into over-the-top railings against the sheer existence of Catholicism.

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4 Responses to Under the Roman Sky

  • I may be wrong. I think Goldhagen’s and Zuccotti’s fictionalizations would be classified “calumny” and “detraction.”

  • I believe too much attention is paid to the books attacking Pius XII. Goldhagen has lied; Cornwall has lied. They are like weeds in the garden, impossible to eradicate completely. One can but let them be treated as Our Lord recommends we treat chaff. We have better things to do.

  • “We have better things to do.”

    Whatever the situation there are usually better things to do. However, responding to calumnies of this degree against Pius XII is an important thing to do. People will believe this rot unless Catholics respond with the truth, loudly, clearly and frequently.

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Liberation of Rome

Sunday, June 6, AD 2010

Today is the 66th anniversary of the D-Day landings.  If the D-Day landings hadn’t occurred, the big news would have been the liberation of Rome.  The above video is color footage showing the entrance of some of the American troops into Rome on June 5, 1944, and an audience they had with Pope Pius XII.

The Pope, like almost all Romans, was joyous to be free from Nazi occupation, and he made that clear when he met with General Mark Clark.

“A few days after the liberation of Rome, Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth Allied Army, paid his respects to the Pope: “I am afraid you have been disturbed by the noise of my tanks. I am sorry.” Pius XII smiled and replied: “General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like.””

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5 Responses to Liberation of Rome

  • Again, thank you for posting.

    My Uncle Thomas (RIP) received a Papal Blessing in St. Peter’s Sq. in those wartorn days. He had a picture of it.

    Uncle Tom served as a tanker with Patton in Tunisia and Sicily. He was still fighting in the Po Valley when the Nazis surrendered in May 1945.

    My Uncle John (RIP) landed in Normandy with the First Infantry Division. He lived the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan.” What a gentle, wonderful man! Only thing I ever heard him say about the war was he and his fellows were disappointed that they had to stop at the Elbe; they wanted to take Berlin for their buddies that were killed.

    “Greet them ever with grateful hearts.”

    “Lest we forget.”

  • We owe men like your Uncle John, T. Shaw, a debt that can never be paid.

  • Gad, I wish folks had exchanges like that these days….

  • Most of my male relatives of the “Greatest Generation” era were Navy men and were in the Pacific theatre during WWII, but one uncle, my dad’s brother, was Army, serving with Patton’s Third. He died of a sudden heart attack when I was in second grade, but according to my aunt all he ever said about the war was that he had walked across Europe, but what he saw really wasn’t all that scenic.

    Prayers today for the brave souls who braved the beaches at Normandy…

  • T Shaw.

    Intersting that your uncle Tom was in the same theatre of war in Italy where my dad was. Dad went over with the NZEF 2nd reinforcement, and saw action in the Rimini/Faenza area,and entered the Po Valley, but was repatriated in early 1945 with a bad back injury – not a wound, but he was in the 27 Machine Gun Battn. and damaged his back throwing around amunition cases. The NZ Battalions pressed on to Trieste and had a confrontation with Tito and his Commie bunch.

    I didn’t realise the Americans got over there to the east coast – I know they pressed north and east after the liberation of Rome, but didn’t realise they were in the Po area as well. Dad spoke of the Canadians, Poles, South Africans and Gurkhas – maybe the US troops joined up in that area after dad was sent home.

    Anyway, God bless you and your family, mate.

A Papal Audience in Autumn 1941

Sunday, May 9, AD 2010

Venerable Pius XII always believed that it was part of his duties as Pope to be accessible to virtually everyone who wished to see him.  His audiences would normally be crowded as a result.  In the autumn of 1941 he held an audience which was no different.  Italians, pilgrims of all nations, German soldiers (German soldiers flocked to see the Pope until the Nazis forbade such visits, fearing the influence the words of the Pope, in direct contradiction to the doctrines of National Socialism,  might have on the Landsers.), humanity from across the globe, all eager to see, and perhaps have a word with, the Vicar of Christ on Earth.

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6 Responses to A Papal Audience in Autumn 1941

Venerable Pope Pius XII

Saturday, December 19, AD 2009

Pope Benedict has decreed Pope Pius XII Venerable which moves the hero Pope of World War II closer to sainthood.  I deem Pope Pius XII a hero because, confronting one of the cruelest tyrants in the lamentable chronicles of human crime, he saved hundreds of thousands of potential victims.  Millions of people alive today owe their lives to the actions of Pius XII.  Jewish historian Martin Gilbert, the world’s foremost authority on Sir Winston Churchill, and one of the most highly regarded historians of the World War II era, has stated as follows:

“Gilbert replied: “Please read my new book, ‘The Righteous.’ I’ve written extensively there about the Catholic Church, some of whose leaders played a remarkable part in the rescue of Jews, many of whose priests and […] ordinary Catholics played a remarkable part.”

“The Pope himself was denounced by Dr. Goebbels” — the Nazi propaganda minister — “for having taken the side of the Jews in the Christian message, in December 1942, where he criticized racism,” Gilbert said.

He continued: “The Pope also played a part, which I describe in some detail, in the rescue of three-quarters of the Jews of Rome, at very short notice, when the SS came in and tried to round up all 5,000, at least 4,000 of whom were given shelter in the Vatican itself and other Catholic places. …

“So I hope that my book can restore, in a way, on the foundation of historical fact, the true and wonderful achievements of Catholics in helping Jews during the war.”

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12 Responses to Venerable Pope Pius XII

  • It seems to me that the story of Eugenio Pacelli and the Roman Catholic Church of his era is the major untold story of the first-half of the 20th century. So far we have been given tantalising glimpses, a few pages worth in many books. But the subject calls for a book length treatment by a historian of the calibre of Michael Burleigh or Robert Service. For some reason most of the best history books of the last 10-15 years dealing with the period of WW11 have come from British historians, I hope that one their number will take up the challenge. For my part I am going to ask for Blessed Pius’ help in a private difficulty.

  • Burleigh would be a good historian to attempt it. His Nazi Germany: A New History, is the best one volume history I have read on the Third Reich. His Earthly Powers and Sacred Causes which examines the clash of religion and politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the War on Terror displays an immense knowledge of both religious and profane history.

  • He said the same of Pope John Paul II.


  • This is wonderful news. Venerable Pius XII, ora pro nobis.

  • Great news for a great man. Pius and John Paul, two giants of a horrific century, pray for us!!

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  • The accusations against Pius XII are totally unwarrented and often a result of disonest motivations. But I also think he is not quite the hero some portray him has. One of his grest accomplishments is that he restored a papacy to a place on the world stage that had been lost since Napoleon. But that is the point. In the 30s and 40s, the papacy did not have the role or the influence it does today.

    The great heros are the leaders of Weimer period German Catholicism, particularly the Centre Party and the Catholic Trade Unions — Blessed Nikolas Gross, Jacob Kaiser, Wilhelm Marx, etc.

  • Interesting link Recorder!

  • I am very thankful that Pope Pius XII has finally been declared Venerable. He personally did more to help the Jews of World War II than any individual allied war leader,with all of their posturing and handshaking with Stalin that needed to take place. How dare anyone question the Pope’s virtues when he was so widely acclaimed by so many after the War.

The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism Because The Pope of Christian Unity (Pope Benedict XVI) Is Gathering the Scattered Flocks Left Behind by Those Who Thought They Knew Better Than The Church

Sunday, November 22, AD 2009

The Catholic Church has always had a bull’s-eye attached to it, and in truth many of us wouldn’t want it any other way, for when we are almost universally loved, as has happened a few times in the last 40 years we have become “of the world,” instead of suffering for the world.”  Lately, during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI dark forces have gathered at the gates of truth attacking the Church for a variety of long held beliefs.  These beliefs can range from the theological to the social. However, following the US Election of 2008 a tidal wave seems to have inundated the Church from the mainstream media, the political realm and even the entertainment world. The Church’s 2,000 year old teachings and beliefs have been attacked in the United States and Western Europe from elected officials, the mainstream media and well known entertainment celebrities. Some of the faithful have become discouraged and questioned me as to how the thesis of my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, could possibly be true in light of this news.

The truth of the matter is that against this troubling backdrop the Church continues to grow around the world, especially in African and Asia but even in North America, where much of the onslaught against the Church has emanated. Seminaries and Mother Houses often have no room for those pursuing a vocation and those young African and Asian men and women are often sent to the US or Europe to explore their vocation. Even in the US and pockets of Europe seminaries are experiencing a mini boom. One seminary rector told me that in the 40+ plus years of being affiliated with the Church, he has never seen a longer sustained period of top notch orthodox minded young men coming in and being ordained as he has seen in the last 10 years. Perhaps this is why the powers that be are so angry.

It seemed the US midterm Election of 2006 emboldened the cause of those militant liberals and secularists who have contempt for much of what orthodox minded Catholicism holds dear. Following the results of the Election of 2008, many pundits proclaimed the results as a sea change for America. Agnostics and atheists gleefully announced that a world where religion and especially conservative or orthodox minded Catholicism held sway was being replaced by a humanist brand of religion where age old teachings were replaced by the ideas of “enlightened” religious leaders, agnostic thinkers, and pop culture celebrities. It seemed this new brand of liberal thinker was less idealistic than their 1960s peers and displayed an anger and hostility that was a far cry from the utopian idealism displayed some 40 years ago. Yet, beneath the surface and below the radar screens of many news organizations, lies the hope of the Catholic faithful who hold on to the ideas  imparted by Christ, His Apostles, Popes, Bishops, Priests, Women Religious, Saints and holy laymen and laywomen throughout the centuries.

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6 Responses to The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism Because The Pope of Christian Unity (Pope Benedict XVI) Is Gathering the Scattered Flocks Left Behind by Those Who Thought They Knew Better Than The Church

  • I appreciate your message of hope.

    Your title is way, way too long!

  • The Church, the holy bishops and priests, the laiety, and the Holy Father certainly have Satan running scared!

  • I have been told by some evangelicals that there belief that eventually all orthodox christians will be under the care and protection of the Catholic Church. Even though there is disagreement among them. I tend to agree with there reasoning and from the signs we are seeing. I pray that the holy spirit comes to all those that need the help to come home.

  • As usual Dave, you tell like it is. Although some did not like Bishop Tobin’s public response to Patrick Kennedy, who found out quickly that his ilk will no longer be tolerated in his actions against the tenets of the Church, I belive more and more Bishops have come to the realization, that speaking out after conferring with these so called “catholics” has strenghtened the laity. Take care and God Bless.

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  • Splendid column as usual, Dave. No doubt the damage wrought by Luther will be repaired and unity restored, thanks to the secularists whose relentless assault have recently spurred the Christians to draw a line in the sand with the Manhattan Declaration to show that they will not render to Caesar what is God’s.

The Pope, The Clown and The Cross

Monday, September 28, AD 2009


In 1957 comedian Red Skelton was on top of the world.  His weekly comedy show on CBS was doing well.  He had  curtailed the drinking which had almost derailed his career.  Not too shabby for a man who had started out as a circus and rodeo clown and who was now often called the clown prince of American comedy.  He and his wife Georgia had two beautiful kids:  Richard and Valentina Maria.  Then the worst thing in the world for any parent entered into the lives of Red and Georgia Skelton:  Richard was diagnosed with leukemia.  Unlike today, a diagnosis of leukemia in a child in 1957 was tantamount to saying that Richard was going to die soon.  Red immediately took a leave of absence from his show.  CBS was very understanding and a series of guest hosts, including a very young Johnny Carson, filled in for Skelton during the 1957-1958 season.

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37 Responses to The Pope, The Clown and The Cross

  • Beautiful story, Don. Thanks for posting it.

  • Thank you John Henry. I was vaguely aware of the death of Skelton’s son, but until I began researching Skelton last week I was unaware of the connection to Pius XII. Courage and grace in the face of death always moves me, and Richard Skelton had those qualities to the full.

  • Good story. I see Red’s own father died shortly after Red was born. He must have been grounded well in his beliefs. I’m sure there are DVDs of his shows, I think I’ve seen them advertized on TV.

  • Wikipedia has interesting information, I wonder if they reference his Catholicism.

    I see it says he was a FreeMason and more on the story above,

    “As if the loss of his show was not enough, his ex-wife Georgia committed suicide in 1976, five years after their divorce and on the tenth anniversary of their son’s death years before. That was her second attempt at suicide. Georgia left a note that said, “The reason I chose this day, is so you wouldn’t feel bad twice in one year.” [8]”

    So nix to that about being grounded in Catholicism. If Red were a midwesterner from Indiana, Dean Martin was born in Steubbenville, Ohio of all places, if Ohio is considered Midwestern. Interesting to track down where some of these people hailed from.

  • An anecdote about Skelton:

    “Funny how you can go to a doctor’s offices and find magazines that are years old in the lobby. I had to go to a dentist two week ago and found a Golf magazine from the 80’s. I also found a magazine that told me the following story:

    Decades ago, a young American was flying across the mountain ranges of Europe on his way to London. Accompanying his friend, a Catholic priest, the two were scheduled to have a meeting with the Pope in England. As the priest talked, the plane suddenly rocked. Then rocked again. Something told the priest the plane was not destined to ever touch
    land again.

    The passengers, busy in their individual conversations, failed to notice, the priest observed, until a flight attendant made an announcement of impending doom. The plane was over a mountain range and losing altitude.

    As expected, panic set in.

    The priest loosened his seat belt, realizing he had but minutes to offer last rites to any who might desire them. His young friend, Richard, sat motionless, staring at the seat before him. The priest went about his duties. Then, all at once, reality hit Richard in the face and he noticed that behind his seat and to the right was a child, two children, several children. If indeed this was to be the last moments of their short lives, Richard determined, he would make sure the children never knew it.

    The young American rose to his feet and started to make faces at the kids. Horrible faces, ugly faces. Most of the youngsters laughed, but one did not. This boy, about the age of 5, became Richard’s focus. Richard stuck his tongue out. So did the boy. Richard did it again, making an awful face. The boy imitated him. As the priest delivered last rites, Richard kept the children amused. None of them knew the earth was rushing up to meet their craft in spikes of ancient stone.

    Meanwhile, the pilot had been amazed that the plane had cleared most of the rough crags that reached for the skies. One lone mountaintop was left to clear; their fate waited on its other side. By inches, the plane cleared that last mountain. What lay on the other side was a large cow pasture with soft, rolling grasses. The craft slid in on a cushion provided by Mother Nature – rough, but not the landing the pilot and most of the passengers had imagined.
    Certainly not what either the priest or Richard had expected.

    Those young children never knew how close they had approached Heaven’s gates, nor did many of them ever know the young, auburn-haired performer who kept that knowledge from them miles above the earth.

    His name was Richard but we knew him as Red Skelton.”

    I can believe the anecdote. Throughout his life Skelton’s motto appears to have been “Kids First”.


  • Great story. Thanks Donald.

  • Thanks for this story, Donald.

  • Thank you gentlemen.

  • British journalists revel in being mean.

  • I see a family resemblance in his son. Bless Them.

  • Main thing I remember about Red Skelton:
    “Good night, and God bless.”

  • wow, that was very touching.

  • Great story! Thank you.

  • i recall Richard’s passing well. Such a tragic loss. Red was never ever the same. what parent is. He was a great clown ,lover of mankind and beautiful human being. thsnks Brad. I know this story for 50 years. may both their gentle souls rest eternally in peace. bless them and you for reminding us how gentle but strng love is between parent and child.

  • Thank you gentlemen. Tom, your last sentence says it all. I think in the love between parent and child we get a tiny taste of the love God has for each of us.

  • I have deleted the comments of Crusader. They were off topic and frankly a little strange. I have also placed him on moderation for the time being. I have also deleted my response to Crusader as well as the responses of foxfier and cminor, no offense to either of them intended, especially since they are two of my favorite commenters.

  • No offense taken, Donald; I understand completely. The whole situation had me wondering if there was a full moon out.

  • Keeping the peace without harm– sounds like a good plan to me.

  • Crusader, I’ve deleted your latest comments. They were bizarre and had nothing to do with this topic. You are banned from this blog.

  • From the little I know about families, it is extremely difficult for a marriage to succeed when a child dies before their parents, especially when they’re still in adolescence.

    I am sure there are marriages that have been able to stay together, though I have yet to hear or see of one.

    Just a side note.

    On the posting…

    Wonderful story, touching and moving.

  • Tito-
    I know of one, personally, where the child was killed in a farm accident while his mother and brother were near– keeping themselves intact was not easy. I think other children being very young and how sudden the loss is might have a big effect on it.

  • From the little I know about families, it is extremely difficult for a marriage to succeed when a child dies before their parents, especially when they’re still in adolescence.

    I am sure there are marriages that have been able to stay together, though I have yet to hear or see of one.

    My parents. My dad’s parents. My mom’s parents.

    I’m very much hoping not to have to follow in their footsteps, obviously — but a lot of people do deal with it and stay together.

  • That is great to hear Darwin. I knew there were those out there that persevered. That explains a lot of the deepness of your Catholic faith now.

    I hope the same for me if I’m blessed with a family.

  • I think it’s one of those things, like extreme financial difficulties, which can break a marriage that wasn’t strong to begin with. And sadly, a lot aren’t.

  • Also my uncle and aunt, grandparents, and great-grandparents. The latter two couples lived in a different time, of course: losing a child was unfortunately more common and divorce almost unthinkable. Likely that element of unthinkability makes a difference.

  • In the 1800s, killer diseases of children filled the graveyards. One story in my family that was told by my great-grandmother was the rapid succession of death of her three, beautiful, younger sisters from diphtheria. Her mother dreamed, or had a vision, of an angel who shed three tears, and said, “Bea, Flora, and Ada.” Her three, beautiful daughters soon thereafter contracted this childhood killer disease. From that point on, no one in the family was allowed to relate any mystical experiences or dreams. One can imagine the heartbreak of so many families in this time period and speculate that their wardrobe must have consisted of many black garments. No matter how much a family suffered grief and heartbreak, divorce was a rarity. Families were much, much larger then and perhaps were better able to absorb the loss.

  • Lack of three generations that have been taught “when the going gets tough, leave”– and a lack of unilateral decision making for said divorces.

    My mom’s dad’s folks were separated– never divorced, just decided they couldn’t stand each other and lived in totally different areas of the country thereafter.

  • It’s interesting how in the earlier generations families were larger, and by secular standards “to hard” to handle, and were more prone to infant deaths yet they remained in tact and even flourished though today many families divorce after the death of a child.

    Can we say “secularization” or “modernism” has had a net negative effect on the nuclear family?

  • Oops, forgot another aspect: most folks don’t have a support structure.

    When my mom was a kid her mother lost two children, and suffered from what we’d call post-partum depression; the older boys looked after my mom, neighbors watched the boys and made sure that Granny was functioning, siblings and in-laws picked up the slack, and it was a worry that the grandparents were in another state.

    Now? It’s unusual if you have one sister and one brother, it’s unusual if your parents are near to help, hardly any neighbors would be comfortable laying down the law for someone else’s kids and the only two examples I can think of where kids stayed at a cousin’s house, there were rather dire results because of such different parenting styles. (In English: folks with stressed marriages seem to always have utter _BRATS_ and defend their every misdeed to the death.)

    Random extra thought: those earthquakes that hit China and took down several schools, killing many children, also triggered suicides in the parents of the children– suspected to be a result of the one child policy, which means that many families were absolutely gutted.

  • Foxfier,

    Excellent point!

    Especially in rural parts of the country, you would have cousins, nephews, and nieces assisting in raising newborns, infants, and children.

    This was their baby-training for when they had families of their own.

    Now, especially secularized couples, have one or no children and they look around and have no cousins or aunts and uncles as well.

  • Speaking of having a family support structure reminded me of a true story. It’s the story of Charlie.

    Charlie was a momma’s boy. He simply adored his mother. He looked up to his older brother and loved his father but his mother was everything to him.
    When Charlie as 8 yrs. old he came home from school one day only to learn that his mother had taken ill and died while he was in class. He was devastated but took solace in prayer to the Blessed Mother the only other women in his young life.
    In less then 3 years Charlie suffered another loss, that of his big brother he so much looked up to. That left just Charlie to be with his father.
    Charlie grew in the love of his father but in Charlie’s 20th year he was alone in life as his father also died. Even before his 21st birthday Charlie had lost all those he loved in life, his entire family. To make matters worse Charlie got on the wrong side of the authorities in charge. He had to go into hiding after a while and was taken in by the towns man of the cloth for safekeeping.
    Charlie also decided to pursue the religious life and soon the man that had once lost his entire family took the entire world to be his family. He went to those that could not come to him. He traveled his whole life to be with that adopted world family. But Charlie grew old and the travel tired him greatly. Charlie left this life in his old age and know one will ever remember Charlie. Yes that’s right! Charlie will not be remembered at all. At least by that name. For you see Charlie is what his name would be in English. But his given first name in his native language was Karol. Karol Wojtyla…Pope John Paul II

    The man without a family left this world with his entire world family in tears at his passing…John Paul the Great…..

  • Great comment Robert!

  • I just happened upon this story. Sincere thanks to the gentleman who posted it.
    I was blessed to meet and become friends with Red Skelton during the last 18 years of his life. As the girl in the article pointed out, Red was just as wonderful a man when out of character as when he was in character. I saw Red in all kinds of situations through the years, but his faith and quiet strength never waivered. Once, he showed me that first Crucifix given him by Pope Pius, and I’ve never forgotten it. Red’s faith and strength of character had a profound effect on my life. I miss him very much; but, as he promised me years ago, “we’ll meet up there someday.” May God rest him, truly one of the finest men I’ve ever known.

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  • I was so moved by this article. I’d like to post it on my blog, attributing it to you of course, this Christmas eve. Please let me know if I can.

    There are people who face this Christmas without someone they love very much. I believe that Red Skelton’s experience with the pope and his son’s illness affirms the power of Christian love over death and despair. Let me know.

  • Please feel free Suzanne; the more people who know about this wonderful story of faith and love in the face of death, the better.

Lenin, Stalin, and the Secret War Against the Vatican

Sunday, August 30, AD 2009

Adolph Hitler’s evil twin in terror, Joseph Stalin, once remarked “How many divisions has the Pope?”.  This was done in response to the  future saint Pope Pius XII’s[1] disapproval of his policies.

Well it wasn’t a mocking tone nor was it a sarcastic remark in reference to the Vatican.  It was a serious concern to the ‘meddling’ of the Catholic Church in thwarting Communism’s attempt at world domination.  Stalin was well aware of the tremendous moral power that the Vatican wielded and Vladimir Lenin implemented the full power of the KGB and the eastern bloc spy agencies to monitor and undermine the mission of the Catholic Church.

A new non-fiction book by John Koehler titled, Spies in the Vatican, has recently come out that documents the final twenty years of the Cold War and how it played out as the Soviet Union and their allies infiltrated the Vatican.

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4 Responses to Lenin, Stalin, and the Secret War Against the Vatican

  • The French Revolution must have been a pretty long lasting catalyst, I guess, as the Romonov’s fell more than a half or full century later, depending on how you count such things, with the intervention of minor things like Napolean and WWI, again depending on how you count it.
    And although 70 years of “athiestic terror” may have occured, subsequetly, I can’t say that it was much worse than the centuries of very theistic terror that occurred under the rule of the Romanovs.

  • Lenin, Marx, and most Socialists and Communists have read up and were inspired by headless French intellectuals from the French Revolution.

    It’s an invention called the Gutenberg Press that has been able to facilitate the knowledge of evil.

    As for the Atheistic terror, more people died under Stalin and the Soviet Union in 70 years than all the previous centuries combined under the Romanovs.

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The Scarlet and The Black

Thursday, August 13, AD 2009

Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty

Here, at 8:39, in my opinion, is one of the more profound observations on film about the Catholic Church and History.  The evil that men do make many a blood stained page of History, but the Church survives throughout History as Caesars, Emperors, Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Commissars, Fuhrers, Caudillos, Duces, General Secretaries, would be fake messiahs, etc, pass away.

The Scarlet and the Black (1983) is one of the better films dealing with the Catholic Church.  Gregory Peck is brilliant as Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican, who during World War 2, hid 4000 escaped Allied POWs and Jews from the Nazi occupiers of Rome.  Christopher Plummer gives the performance of his career as Obersturmbanfuhrer (Colonel) Herbert Kappler, the head of the Gestapo in Rome.  John Gielgud gives a stunningly good performance as Pius XII.  At one point when he confronts a Nazi delegation he merely stares at them with steely disdain until they get the hint and leave.  I imagine the actual Pius XII used a similar look of disdain when, on March 11, 1940, his response to a complaint by the Nazi  Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop that the Church was siding with the Allies, was to read to Von Ribbentrop a long list of atrocities committed by the Nazis in Poland, which had been compiled by the Church.  This is a superb film that should be seen by every Catholic.

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7 Responses to The Scarlet and The Black

  • Didn’t know about this one. I’ll have to check it out. thanks for the heads up.

  • I was introduced to this film when I was in Rome in the late 1990s by a dynamic young priest working in the Roman Curia.

    He’s since been elevated to the dignity of the episcopate, and I continue to watch this film about once a year.

    I’ve never been able to discover what happened to Kappler’s wife and children, but the post-script in the movie implies they never visited him while he was imprisoned.

  • One of my favorites!

  • This post reminded me of ne of the finest tributes to the Church’s endurance while secular powers vanish into the dust. It was written as part of the rumination of an atheist character in “The Sunrise Lands”, a sci-fi book about the death of electricity, gunpowder and the internal combustion engine. Alas, it’s not at my fingertips, but I’ll post it later. It even included a mocking swipe at Stalin’s “How many divisions does the Pope have?”

  • One of the best films out there concerning the Church.

    Very heartwarming.

  • Here it is:

    Stalin had meant mockery when he asked how many divisions the Pope had, but in the end his bewildered successors had found it didn’t matter; and men-at-arms and castles could come into the same category. At seventh and last men were ruled from within their heads by ideas as much as by clubs from without, and a careful ruler kept it in mind.

    The Church had outlasted any number of systems that looked stronger than iron at the time, and had ridden out many storms that claimed to be the wave of the future; she was wise with years, and infinitely patient, and bided her time.