I am an atheist. Keep that straight. If I sound Catholic, that's cultural. The following is an idea for an 'alternate history'.
The notion is absurd, but imagine if the 'one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church' saved the Jews of Europe? Now just imagine if Pius
XII had simply said all Catholics are required to treat Jews as brethren
of Christ, ex cathedra (papal infallibility). Not to resist,
even unto martyrdom, with all means available the expropriations,
deportations and worse would have been a mortal sin under Catholic
dogma. The Shoah could not have functioned anywhere but
Northern Europe, maybe not even there. Bastard wouldn't. Thinking
about it makes me wish I believed in hell.
No, that's altogether too absurd, so imagine if the Jesuit Order had
saved some Jews, clandestinely using the Church's assets and
infrastructure. Still a long shot. Imagine if a splinter within the
Jesuit Order did so. Not such a long shot: Liberation Theology was
exactly such a phenomena, so far as taking the Gospels as an ultimatum
to act in the face of evil. Why Jesuits? What other order could have
pulled off anything of the sort. Jesuit loyalty to Rome? Elite
soldiers tend to be too smart not to have their own ideas. Jesuitism
trends to casuistry and orthopraxis, not orthodoxy: context and deeds
speak louder than dogma and faith (a Jesuit would equivocate, 'not
louder than dogma and faith, but they inform dogma and faith'). This
is as close to the line of heresy as you can get within Catholicism, so
it is not incidental to the fact that only the Jesuit order is well
represented at Yad Vashem. Jesuits acting clandestine to Rome
and to the German State, even to their vows of loyalty to the order?
Plenty of precedent and Jesuit casuistry for that. The Church, and
within it the Jesuit Order, had the widest and most secure intelligence
structure in Europe; perhaps still do. There really wasn't another
organization in Europe that could have taken this on. Also note that
the Danish nation very nearly achieved such heroism.
The story would require a hell of a lot of research into the time, the
Order, and Augustinian and other philosophy. What I need to do is to
learn much more about the Jesuit Order, and the Jesuits involved with
the Theology of Liberation. The Order to write characters more
believably, and to find the accurate motivations for mid-century priests
of different nationalities, and also to accurately portray their
methods of communication and hierarchy, as well as the learning both
sacred and profane that would give them the determination and skills to
succeed. I'd be interested to see if any of the priests in the history
of Liberation Theology were in Occupied Europe in the Thirties and
Forties. If yes, depending on their age, I can write them in as major
or minor actors (fictionalized?) in the drama.
Don't know what I'll do for the Latin, as I nearly failed my one year of
it... They would not have used plain Latin as code, mind you, as
mid-century not a few educated Europeans could still read it. Something
more obscure like a code based on Aramaic? God help me.
The narration would start from a real Jesuit, ideally one with some
connection to the Jewish community - apostate or friendship. He'd have
to read the Gospels as a social-revolutionary document (predating
Liberation Theology, not incidentally a Jesuit movement) which it is
still slightly heretical to do. He'd have to be disgusted with Pius
XII's equivocation (it's argued he saved fewer than a million Jews in
various ways - including hiding them in Roman monasteries - but
obviously did not go far enough for the other six million).
A Jesuit could fabricate an apparition: something like Fatima. The
content would be a message from God/Mary/Jesus about saving the Jews.
To fabricate this would be a mortal sin, but what is the meaning of one
person's 'immortal soul' in the midst of hell? Also allows a starting
point for Jesuit 'ends justify the means' casuistry . The Jesuit
could also be something of a realist/modernist who sees the end of the
Catholic Church as a certainty, so why not use its remaining influence
for 'the Greater Glory of God'? He could be consistent with his own
faith, and be a believable character doing this. He could also be an
atheist himself, or struggling enough with his faith to be as good as.
Finally, why not 'Christlike', if he is not Christ himself?
So why fabricate an apparition? It's the only way I can think to
hijack Pius XII's papacy. The content of an apparition is not
considered dogmatic, thus it does not challenge the authority of the
Church, but it is considered the word of God, so must be obeyed (usual
sort of Kierkegaardian absurdity). A challenge to the Jesuit Order's
or Church's hierarchy would be summarily eliminated. A Jesuit high
enough to authorize a fabricated apparition would be above challenge,
really. Also, Catholic believers love that shit and would follow it.
The book wouldn't really be about the Holocaust, or even Judaism past
or present, so I don't think it would be offensive. It would be a
narrative vehicle for all of the things that I am interested in:
philosophy, ethics, casuistry, orthopraxis vs. orthodoxy; imagine if
someone felt forced to actualize their own self-concept.