A new book reveals that Pope Pius XII was intimately involved in a plot to kill Hitler. His contacts with German Catholics from the days when he was Apostolic Nuncio put him in a unique position to orchestrate the overthrow of the tyrant. Today, it’s difficult to imagine a pope strategizing the downfall of a dictator. But it’s also difficult for us to imagine the terror that gripped Europe at that time. Extreme times call for extreme measures that are rarely contemplated in peace time.
The Allied Forces, of course, took far more drastic measures in their conduct of World War II. At a distance of seventy years, it’s easy for us to condemn the fire bombings of German cities and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But it did not seem wrong at that time to the many citizens in the West who thought their survival was at stake.
Once war starts, things can get out of hand. The lesson, of course, is to avoid war altogether, so that people and nations aren’t thrown into extreme situations where they feel forced to retaliate with massive destruction. On the other hand, ill-considered attempts to maintain peace at all costs only serve to guarantee that the eventual costs will be very high indeed.
There are two basic ways to prevent wars. One is the path of dialogue and negotiation, the other is to let it be known that one’s society will act forcefully and decisively to repel attacks and that one’s nation has the power to do so. The two approaches are not incompatible. President Reagan’s nuclear arms negotiations with the Soviets successfully combined both. So did President Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
One of the main lesson of the World War II era is that peaceful intentions, dialogue, and demonstrations of good will are not by themselves enough to stop a determined foe, and may even encourage aggression. Hitler interpreted compromise and appeasement as signs of weakness. But the lesson about the wages of appeasement is not the one that our current leaders have chosen to focus on. Another lesson from that era is that prejudice and discrimination can lead to genocide. In our current conflict with Islamic ideologists, the focus has been very much on the second lesson at the expense of the first. In short, our concern about the dangers of discrimination has led us to neglect the dangers of appeasement.
Many of Europe’s current problems stem from having overlearned the lesson about bigotry to the point that even rational discrimination is prohibited. It’s no coincidence that Germany has the most open of all open-door immigration policies. The German elites seem determined to prove that no trace of Nazism remains in their society. The indiscriminate admission of Muslims into Germany is their reparation for the sins of the Hitler era. Muslims are seen as the “new Jews” on whom they can lavish their tolerance and thus expunge past racism.
The trouble is, Islamism is not a race, it’s an ideology of conquest. And one of the oft-expressed goals of the ideologists is to subjugate Europe and bring it under the rule of the House of Islam.
The recent acceleration of Muslim migration into Europe combined with an increase in terror attacks has led to a shift of focus on the part of the non-elites. All of a sudden, formerly tolerant Europeans want border enforcement, razor-wire fences, and a halt to Muslim immigration. Predictably, the elites have cast the opponents of their open-doors programs as right-wingers, xenophobes and, of course, Nazis.
A similar drama is now playing out in America. Many non-elites have turned against Muslim immigration and refugee resettlement. In turn, government and media elites have branded them as neo-Nazis or, more usually, as neo-Klansmen. We hear repeatedly that if we cut down on immigration or monitor suspected mosques “we become like them” (the terrorists) or “if we do that we lose” (our values). Somehow, tolerance and non-discrimination have come to be seen as the supreme values in our society—so much so, that the value of self-defense seems negligible by comparison.
Where does the Church stand on these issues? All too often, Church leaders in Europe and the U.S. line up with the elites. They tend to echo secular platitudes about violence having nothing to do with Islam and about Muslims sharing our values. Of course, bishops aren’t confined to secular rationales. They have weightier arguments to offer that are difficult to ignore. They remind us of the scriptural duty to welcome the stranger, that the Holy Family were once refugees, and that we should trust in God and not succumb to “irrational fear.”
But spiritual arguments are sometimes difficult to separate from secular ones. Like their secular counterparts, the bishops are focused strongly on the danger of racial prejudice and, yes, a re-birth of Nazism. For example at last year’s meeting of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions (COMECE)—a conference of European bishops—the theme was “The Nationalism of Exclusion.” The bishops were concerned about the “growing phenomenon of racism and xenophobia across Europe” as evidenced by the rise of anti-immigration parties. The nationalist movements, they said, were reminiscent of the “belligerent and ultra-nationalist politics which preceded both world wars.” In other words, they view opponents of immigration as incipient Nazis. On the other hand, the bishops seemed little concerned about any of the other effects of massive immigration into Europe such as increased crime and terrorism. Ironically, Brussels, where the bishops’ conference is headquartered, and which has a heavy concentration of Muslim immigrants, is now the terror capital of Europe.
Islamism and appeasement
So, the bishops are focused on the danger that Europeans will become like the Nazis, while ignoring the greater danger that Europeans are becoming like the appeasers of the Nazis. If there are any “new Nazis” in Europe, they are not the nationalists, but the Muslims. And, as with the old Nazis, Europeans have responded to Islamic intimidation and anti-Semitism with silent acquiescence, appeasement, and even collaboration.
The appeasement looks likely to end the same way it did in 1939. It was the dithering of the appeasers and their unwillingness to take early action that gave the Nazis time to build a fearsome war machine. When the appeasing nations finally acted in self-defense, they sometimes acted in ways that many today consider uncivilized. But it should be remembered that the massive retaliatory air strikes carried out by the Allies were not due to any in-built prejudice against Germans, but to the extreme straits they found themselves in thanks to the failure of the appeasers to stand up to the Nazis in the pre-war years. Thus, in the end, appeasement led to a much greater bloodshed.
Something similar is likely to happen again in Europe—although not in exactly the same way. The Nazi forces suddenly pushed across national borders in tanks, whereas Muslim immigrants have been freely crossing borders for decades—in trains, planes, and buses. But the end result could be much the same. Having waited too long to stem the tide of Muslim immigration, and having rejected the concept of assimilation as ethnocentric, Europeans are now faced with a massive problem. It shouldn’t be surprising if they fail to react in a measured and moderate way.
It is likely that in the months ahead we will witness numerous Paris-style attacks throughout Europe. There are so many soft targets that it is nearly impossible to defend them all. Schools are likely to be especially hard hit. Remember that in 2004, thirty Muslim terrorists invaded a school in Beslan, Russia and took over one thousand students and teachers hostage. Before Russian security forces were able to retake the school, more than three hundred lay dead. Terrorist have undoubtedly already considered the possibilities. Writing for Gates of Vienna, author Matthew Bracken puts it in this way: “Imagine a dozen or even a score of Beslan-type school sieges, all happening at the same time, across that number of European cities.” “Imagine,” he continues, “simultaneous infrastructure and ‘soft target’ (people) attacks happening everywhere in between.”
Schools, hospitals, churches, synagogues, concert halls, theaters, buses, trains, subways, parks and sports stadiums: the terrorists will have hundreds of soft targets to choose from. At the same time, Muslims will present soft targets of their own. Gangs of Europeans will likely retaliate by beating up innocent Muslims in the streets, by attacking mosques, and possibly burning them down.
The Muslim ghettos and no-go-zones in Europe will also be targeted for retaliation. They are not exactly soft targets, but they are easily identifiable targets. Police are already afraid to enter them, and scouring out the terrorists would be a daunting task, possibly involving house-to-house fighting. Bracken offers this scenario:
A standard jihadist tactic is to flee from a terror attack straight back into the embrace of their co-religionists in the Sharia-zoneghettos, and hide behind their women and children. Then what will the authorities do? Go in and try to arrest them? …Wait for the next excursion with more terror bombs? Or gut the entire suspected block with shell fire?
In other words, Europe could be back to Dresden-like scenarios in short order. If and when the retaliation comes, Church leaders will undoubtedly condemn the violence. But will they take any share of the responsibility? By their constant admonitions to welcome the stranger, with only a perfunctory nod to vetting the stranger, they have been among those who have enabled the terrorist situation in Europe to build to a point where it may no longer be possible to contain it by measured methods.
Responsibility and realism
There is a responsibility to welcome the stranger, but there are other connected responsibilities. One of these is the responsibility to get your facts straight in order to properly assess a situation. I think it fair to say that many of the bishops and the Catholic organizations involved with migrant settlement haven’t done this. Instead, they seem to be relying on government assurances that all is in order. But is it? Immigration policies, like any other policies, ought to be based on realities, not wishful thinking. Current realities suggest that immigration from Muslim countries should be strictly vetted. It isn’t. Public opinion polls and studies show that a majority of Muslims worldwide hold anti-Semitic views. If one wants to prevent a new-Nazism from taking hold in Europe, this too should be taken into account. It isn’t. Carefully, cropped photos give the impression that the current wave of Muslim refugees are mostly women and children, but in reality about seventy percent of the refugees are men of military age. That’s the kind of fact that Europeans, including European bishops, can’t afford to brush away.
There is a general duty to welcome strangers, but is there a duty to welcome all strangers in all circumstances no matter who they are? What we are witnessing in Europe is the triumph of a utopian narrative over hard facts. Catholic leaders should take account of these facts even if EUtopian elites choose to ignore them.
It also seems that many bishops—not all of them, of course—haven’t come to grips with the fact that there can be too much immigration. A few simple calculations show that there are far more potential immigrants from Africa alone than Europe can possibly handle. What then? The bishops must grapple with the question of “what then?”
In addition, the bishops have been remiss in their responsibility to understand Islam. They know about its similarities to Christianity, but they don’t seem to know much about the supremacist side of Islam. They know about the fairly innocuous Five Pillars of Islam, but don’t seem to know that many Muslims consider jihad to be the sixth pillar. They remember the admonition from Nostra Aetate that Muslims and Christians should forget the “quarrels” of the past, but don’t seem to recall what those “quarrels” were about or that the “quarrels” resulted in the death and enslavement of millions of Christians.
Finally—and this is the oddest oversight of all—they have failed to take account of the facts of human nature. Although Original Sin is one of the first lessons of the Catechism, it appears to be the last thing on the minds of those bishops who encourage continued Muslim immigration into Europe. Europe’s experiment in large-scale Muslim immigration is an experiment in multiculturalism. That is, it has been overseen by committed multiculturalists who are acting on multicultural assumptions. A main pillar of multiculturalism is the assumption of Original Innocence—at least on the part of Third-Worlders. The conclusion to this assumption is that there’s no need for the “other” to adjust to European norms because his values are just as good as—if not better—than those of his hosts. In any event, there’s nothing to worry about because, according to the bien pensants, the other is free of the only original sins that are recognized by Western secularists—the sins of racism, colonialism, and capitalism.
Given these romantic assumptions about human nature, it’s no wonder that the multicultural experiment in immigration has failed. The wonder is that the European bishops have gone along with it. It’s not that mass immigration can never be successful. More clear-headed people in more clear-headed times were successful in assimilating immigrants by the millions. America’s immigration program during the late 19th and early 20th century provides a sterling example.
But that was then and this is now. What do we have now? Here are a couple of recent headlines:
• Swedish government in panic after ISIS letters give three days to convert to Islam or be decapitated.
• Hundreds of migrants in Norway had photos of executions and severed heads.
In addition to threats, the immigrant crime rate is soaring. In Sweden, for example, the incidence of rape has increased by 1,472 percent. Given the facts of human nature, it’s not surprising that native Europeans might eventually turn sour on the dangerous strangers in their midst. There have been scattered reports of anti-Muslim incidents throughout Europe. Even in once-peaceful Sweden, the pushbackagainst Muslim immigrants has begun to turn violent. Rifle sales are up, vigilante groups have formed, and refugee asylums have been set on fire. In one Swedish village, street battles have erupted between locals and Muslim immigrants, and migrant children have to be escorted to school by police. As one resident put it, “this is no longer a happy community, it’s divided and is not a pleasant place to live.”
With all their good intentions, some bishops seem to have forgotten that the peaceable kingdom has not yet made its appearance. The lion and the lamb are not ready to lie down together, and the adder still bites.
Rather than condemning bloodshed after it happens, Catholic leaders should devote more of their energy to advancing policies that will not lead to situations in which bloodshed is the almost inevitable outcome.
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