Guest post: In following the higher commands of God

Originally a comment by Tim Harris on Like shards of glass stuck in your brain.

I have just read the Croatian writer Daša Drndić’s extraordinary novel-cum-documentary, ‘Trieste’, which is about the destruction of the Italian Jews. A number of Jewish families gave their children to the Catholic Church for safe-keeping. After the defeat of Naziism & the Fascists, the Catholic Church refused to return the children to their families. Monsignor Angelo Roncall, papal nuncio to France and future Pope John XXIII was required to ensure that the Church retained supervision and guardianship over Jewish children who were baptised. Jewish children who had been baptised were on no account to be handed over to Jewish agencies with responsibility for the care of children, since these agencies could not guarantee the further Christian upbringing of these Jewish children, and could not be reunited with their families, assuming these had survived, who would not agree to continue their Christian upbringing…

This of course meant that virtually none of these Jewish children were reunited with their families. The Church used every bureaucratic obfuscation in order to prevent it.

I recommend reading pages 280-284 of ‘Trieste’ (at least – read the whole thing if you can), from which I have adapted the above.

Why? Because the Church’s first priority is ‘saving souls’. Unbaptised children’s fate after death was anomalous (though there was limbo for centuries), and the fate of children brought up in Judaism was, well… unless they were baptised and brought into the Catholic faith. Therefore the Church is permitted, in following the higher commands of God, to ignore any human law and to behave in the most dishonest and inhumane ways in order to ensure that its first priority is maintained.

The same applies to abortion, of course, so that the Church is perfectly happy that a woman should go to prison for many years for having a miscarriage or that an adolescent girl impregnated by some close relative or raped by some man should have to bear the child, as happens in El Salvador, where there is a ban on abortion in any circumstances that the Church supports. But souls are being saved! For unwanted babies or babies who will not survive outside the womb or may kill their mothers in childbirth may be christened.

This putting of ‘God’s law’ above any human law, so that the latter may be broken or twisted with impunity in the name of the former, runs through Catholicism, whose priests are really mages, able to perform the powerfully magical act, conferred by God, of turning wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ. One need only read Chesterton, whom I now loathe with a passion though I enjoyed his Father Brown stories in youth when I didn’t recognise their implications. There is a fascination in them with the immense power conferred by God on ministering priests, who are therefore quite within their rights to break mere human law. Father Brown, being God’s representative on earth, is able to act as a god, and he and Chesterton rejoice in it.

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