“… and if a man consider the original of this great ecclesiastical dominion, he will easily perceive that the papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof: for so did the papacy start up on a sudden out of the ruins of that heathen power.”

So wrote the historian philosopher Thomas Hobbes in 1651.

Though only ‘the ghost’ of the ‘deceased’ Roman Empire, the power the Empire wielded has always been coveted by the Roman Church. When the Western Empire finally fell, the pope assumed the ancient title ‘Pontifex Maximus’ which was previously ascribed to the Emperors of Pagan Rome in their role as Chief Priests of their idolatrous religion.

Clinging tenaciously to this secular title that it perceives is its inheritance, the Papacy has long since abandoned its aspirations of achieving only the Kingdom of Heaven and has been consistently preoccupied with the revival of Roman ascendancy on earth.

The Papacy is a state. It owns land, it has diplomatic channels, a legal wing and foreign ministers. As does any other country, it engages in political dialogue, it connives, it intrigues, it manoeuvres to ensure its own survival and preservation of power.

Although undeniably political in its aims and in practice, the Church has remained ostensibly an ecclesiastical (religious) institution.

During its long and sordid history, it has succeeded in wielding the power it so desires, though with the ebb and flow of nations’ political fortunes the Church has often had to negotiate difficult terrain—European strife, Moslem invaders, ambitious emperors, the Reformation, and more recently, the paradigms of communism and democracy.

And yet, it is true to say, that each time, the beast has risen once again—clawing back its prestige and power and employing lengthy means to do so. Such was the destiny mapped out for her… she was… she is not… she yet is (Rev 17:8).

Revelation 17:1,2: “Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:[peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues]With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication…”

This verse appears to emphasise the role of the kings of the earth in their dealings with this harlot; however, it must be understood that this particular harlot is far from passive. As history reveals, she has courted and seduced the foulest of regimes, the only factor in her consideration being her personal advancement and preservation.

As has been shown in other articles in this series, the turmoil in 19th century Europe was to the church’s detriment. The temporal power she craved was stripped from her, and for fifty-nine years the Pope was a virtual prisoner in the Vatican without independent political standing. This problem became known as ‘the Roman Question’.

The Church was not the only political entity struggling for recognition and survival during this period. It was a time of great social and political upheaval throughout the European world.

Certain events had revealed a prevailing anti- Semitism in Europe, and a combined series of events finally gave rise to the fierce conflict that was World War I. Following World War I, Germany was subjected to the humiliating terms of the treaty of Versailles and forced to pay reparations to other European countries for the damage of World War I.

During this period, the Papacy was keen for a burning issue, the Roman Question, to be resolved.

It was finally resolved in 1929.

On 11 February 1929, an historic treaty was signed between the Italian Government and the Vatican re-establishing the political power and diplomatic standing of the Catholic Church, which had been lost when Italy seized the Papal territories in 1870.

Known as the ‘Lateran Treaty’ or ‘Lateran Concordat’ of 1929, newspapers at the time proclaimed that the “wound” to the Vatican had finally been “healed”.

It is somewhat fitting in view of the Church’s long dark history that no sooner had temporal power been achieved, than it formed its first political alliance with a regime that soon became the scourge of millions over the next fifteen years.

It happened on 8 July 1933, the very same year Hitler came to power in Germany. Signing the agreement was the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pacelli and Germany’s Vice Chancellor Franz Von Papen. The agreement lent badly needed international prestige to Hitler’s new government.

Joseph Rovan writes: ‘The concordat gave the Nationalist Socialist Party, which practically everybody thought of as a usurper government, if not indeed as a band of brigands, the prestige of an agreement with the most ancient of international powers. It was rather like an international certificate of respectability…’

The Nazi government promised to respect Roman Catholic rights, practices and institutions in Nazi Germany, and in return the Vatican and the German Catholic clergy would support the authoritarian and nationalist stances of the Third Reich, and ensure that all bishops swore an oath of allegiance to the Führer.

This the German Catholic Clergy did, fostering nationalism in Germany and supporting the eliminationist measures taken against Jews by the regime.

However, following the agreement of 1933, the relationship between the Papacy and the Nazi regime steadfastly declined. No sooner had the concordat been signed between the Papacy and the Nazi leaders, than the Nazis broke their promises.

Hitler’s government had never intended a lasting role for the Papacy in Germany. In fact, had Hitler’s ambitions been ultimately realized, there would have been no room for Christianity of any form in the Third Reich. This was a fact acknowledged by Martin Borman (Hitler’s close friend and fellow Nazi leader) when he publicly stated in 1941 : ‘National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable’.

As William Shirer writes: “the Nazi regime intended eventually to destroy Christianity in Germany and replace it with the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods and the new paganism of the Nazi extremists…”

In fact, during the war—a thirty point plan for a ‘Reich Church’ had been drawn up specifically stating the government’s plans to eliminate “strange and foreign Christian faiths imported into Germany in the ill-omened year 800”. Among other things the new ‘Reich Church’ was to replace the Bible with Mein Kampf and the cross was to be superseded by the only “unconquerable symbol”, the swastika.

These being the ultimate goals of the Nazi regime, it is no surprise that no more than ten days after the ratification of the concordat, the first steps were taken to dissolve the Catholic Youth League. In the following year thousands of Catholic priests, nuns and lay leaders were arrested, and at least one brutally murdered. The Nazis suppressed scores of Catholic publications, and it became clear to the Papacy and Catholic institutions in Germany, that the Concordat was being treated with contempt.

Interestingly enough, the man who in 1933 signed the concordat on behalf of the papacy, Eugenio Pacelli, had been recently appointed Vatican Secretary of State. Prior to this appointment, he had been the Vatican’s emissary to Germany from 1920 to 1930.

Pacelli’s promotion to Vatican Secretary of State was not the last promotion he received. In March 1939 Pacelli became Pope Pius XII, a position he occupied throughout World War II.

Pacelli was an anti-Semite, and one of his first actions as Pope was to suppress the publication of an ‘anti-racism’ encyclical which had been prepared by his recently deceased predecessor.

In response to the regime’s violation of the 1933 treaty, a Papal encyclical (Mit brenneder Sorge—with burning sorrow) was produced in 1937 charging the Nazi government with ‘evasion’ and ‘violation’ of the accord.

Despite the fiery nature of the Pope’s encyclical, notably implicit in the encyclical is the Church’s desire for the restoration of rapport with the regime, and notably absent was any protest against the Nazi regime’s persecution of the Jews.

Illuminating also is the fact that, at no time in the following years, even when the holocaust was well and truly underway, did the Papacy issue objections to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews. The Pope was concerned for German Catholics, but at no time for Jews despite Pius XII being personally aware of the Nazi holocaust.

It is a fact that the Catholic Church has historically been anti-Semitic. There is no doubt that this stance has been ‘justified’ by reference to the fact that ‘the Jews killed Christ’. This fact has been used to justify the most violent and virulent persecution of the Jews down through history. Even Martin Luther, a towering figure in Germanic history, the founder of Protestantism, was himself a passionate anti-Semite, in favor of extreme measures to evict Jews from Germany.

In 1939, a poll showed 93% Germans considered themselves Christian, 43% of whom considered themselves Catholic. It appears that most Germans felt that harsh treatment of Jews was compatible with their ‘Christianity’.

It is fair to say that the Church’s historical stance on Jewry helped produce an anti-Semitic mindset in Europe, which lay dormant awaiting the political will of Hitler’s Nazi regime to unleash it.

The most condemnatory aspect of the Church’s role in WWII must surely have been its willingness to corroborate with the Nazi regime. The Church was used by Hitler and discarded when no longer needed. It must be said, however, that though Hitler’s government was unfaithful to the Concordat with the Papacy of 1933, the Church had shown every sign of being more than willing to indulge the Nazi Regime. This is to its eternal shame and condemnation.

What price was the Church willing to pay for its own advancement and for power?

It was prepared to subordinate itself to an immoral dictator.

It was willing to share a bed with the most ungodly of regimes.

It was willing to stand by in detached silence as the slaughter of Europe’s Jewry continued.

It is culpable.

The Church has historically referred to the Jew as “Jesus’ torturer”.

Might it, too, receive the same designation?— given that down through the centuries it has persecuted his brethren and been made “drunk with the blood of the Saints”?

The fall of Nazi Germany came in 1945, and in 1946 an international court convened in Nuremberg sentencing eleven remaining leaders of the Reich to hang.

In 1945, Pius XII spoke out with condemnation against a regime that was no more. For many of the Reich’s victims his words came too late. Hitler had intended the Third Reich to last a thousand years. It was gone in twelve.

The harlot can look back over the centuries at her lovers who have come and gone…she alone remains. Her quest for power and a restoration of her empire continues, and from her perspective that goal will almost be realized…

And yet, like Ancient Babylon to whom she bears resemblance, her time too will come. She will join the kings of the earth who have committed fornication with her…

“Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations…

All they shall speak and say unto thee, art thou also become weak as we? art though become like unto us? (Isa 14:9,10)