*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Jesuits for Jews?

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.

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