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The Roman Catholic pope and bishops are fond of accusing others of "moral relativism", by which they mean that instead of being governed by an "absolute truth" that is the same everywhere and for all time, i.e. the morality that the Roman Catholic supposedly possesses and tries to persuade everybody else to embrace, people choose to set moral standards based on costs and benefits analysis to themselves in their own particular time and place (i.e. "situation", which is why it is also called "situational ethics").
This page is devoted to examples of monstrous " moral relativism" practiced by the Roman Catholic Church's leadership in Italy, there are links at the bottom of this page to similar practices in other major R.C. countries.
It's impossible to understand much about Italy, Roman Catholicism and/or the papacy without a good appreciation of the history of the Papal States vs Italy. The following is a brief, but quite, informative overview of that fifteen hundred year history, from the book, "God and the Fascists":
"After 475 CE, the Church of Rome gave a quarter of the entire church income to the bishop. The clergy received a quarter; the lower clergy, however, also had to depend on outside earnings. A quarter was distributed among the poor and a quarter used for maintaining church buildings." But it seemed as if the pope was consuming all four parts for himself alone for years. Gradually the ownership of massive property developed, which was termed patrimonium ecclesiae or patrimonium St. Petri. The Roman Church not only had massive possessions in Italy but also in Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Dalmatia, Africa, and even in the Middle East. After the fifth century, the bishop of Rome, whose "predecessors" had to preach the gospel barefoot and without money, had become the biggest landowner in the Roman Empire.
Then, during the reign of (Pope) Steven III in the eighth century, a religious war led to the creation of the Papal States, those grotesque monstrosities that would separate the north and the south of Italy for more than a millennium. By using the carrot of heaven and the stick of hell and presenting a letter from St. Peter himself, the pope drove the Frankish ruler Pepin, whose usurped royal dignity the church had recognized and whose predecessor it had put (imprisoned) in the monastery, to two crusades against the Lombards, who were threatening Rome. In 756 Pepin gave the conquered territories to St. Peter and his alleged successors, who thereby not only had massive estates but also had their own army at their disposal.
Now, however, the newly formed Papal States, which had arisen through two bloody wars, were given a more ideal origin. While Pepin still reigned, the so-called "donatio Constantini", the Donation of Constantine, was fabricated, which was to tie in with the legend of Sylvester. According to this legend, the terrible persecutor of Christians, Constantine(!), was healed from leprosy, converted, and baptized by Pope Sylvester I, and, as a reward, Constantine richly thanked the pope by granting him imperial titles and rights not only with the Lateran, as was actually the case, but also with the city of Rome and even "all the provinces of Italy and the Western lands:".
This notorious document, which presented the Papal States as a gift from the first Christian emperor, dated and signed personally, played a crucial role in the popes' battles with the emperors as "classic evidence." And with a view to this document, anyone who misappropriated curial property or even favored any such action in any way whatsoever was condemned by the church.
Hadrian I, who, out of fifty-five letters he wrote to Charlemagne, wrote forty-five that almost exclusively concerned the papal territories, was the first pope to refer to the forgery. In the twelfth century, it went into the Decretum Gratiani, which received the first place in the Corpus Iuris Canonici, the valid law book of the church until 1918. After the followers of Arnold of Brescia had already recognized the fraud, it was finally uncovered in 1440 by the papal secretary and humanist Laurentius Valla in a document that was published by Ulrich von Hutten in 1519. Roman Catholic historiography, however, did not admit the forgery until the nineteenth century. The Papal States, which had been considerably expanded under Innocence III at around 1200, were lost to the popes during their sojourn in Avignon (for most of the 14h century). But by the beginning of the sixteenth century under Julius II, they had achieved their greatest expansion. The pope, who also took up arms to fight in the campaigns, went to war in almost every year of his reign.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Napoleon's soldiers occupied the territory, Pius VI was taken to Valence as a prisoner, and the Papal States were divided up between France and Italy.
Although they were restored by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, they were finally absorbed into the kingdom of Italy in 1870. [ pp. 25-6 ]
Between 1797 and 1809, a struggle between Pope Pius VI (1775-1799) and Napoleon, who emerged from the French Revolution as the emperor of France, resulted in the occupation of Rome by French troops, the removal of Pope Pius VI to France - where he died in 1799 - the annexation of all of the papal states into "the Napoleonic kingdom of Italy" and proclamation by Napoleon that the pope, Pius VII (1800-1823), no longer had any form of temporal authority. When Pius VII responded by excommunicating Napoleon himself and everyone else connected with this outrage, he was immediately arrested and removed to imprisonment in France. The entire Italian peninsula was under French control from 1809 to 1813 when Napoleon was defeated at Leipzig
Then, the Papal States were returned to "the Holy See" between 1814 and 1870 :
The Papal states were returned to the Catholic Church by Catholic Austria and Pius VII returned to Rome in 1814 He and Popes Leo XII (1823-1829), Pius VIII (1829-1830) and Gregory XVI (1831-1846), and Pius IX (1846-1878) ruled over that territory for the next 65 years, except for a brief interlude when a short-lived Republic exiled Pius IX from Rome in 1848-49
Finally, in 1871, the former Papal States were permanently taken away from the popes and absorbed into the modern nation of Italy :
Pope Pius IX convened the First Vatican Council in 1869, which decreed papal infallibility. But that didn't make the pope invincible. On September 10 in 1870 Italy declared war on the Papal States. In October, Rome and the surrounding Campagna, voted for a union with the kingdom of Italy. Even the people who lived in Rome, voted against the Pope in a referendum. They wanted to be a part of the new Kingdom of Italy, with religious freedom, without a Pope as their religious head. Rome became once again, for the first time in thirteen centuries the capital city of a united Italy.
Pius IX ( 1846-1878 ) refused to accept these developments. He described himself as a prisoner in the Vatican. However the new Italian control of Rome did not wither, nor did the Catholic world come to the Pope's aid, as Pius IX had expected. In 1882, Pope Leo XIII ( 1878-1903) even considered moving the papacy to Trieste or Salzburg, two cities in Austria. However, he and his successors, popes Pius XII (1903-1914), Benedict XV (1914-1922) and Pius XII (1922-1939) continued to govern the Catholic Church from the 109 acre Vatican compound where they acted the part of victims hoping for someone to ride to their rescue, until 1929.
[ excerpted from : http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?groupid=707&HistoryID=aa68>rack=pthc#ixzz0bOdqXaKY and http://ivarfjeld.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/ousted-pope-brought-back-by-the-fascists/ ]
"The agreement signed on February 11, 1929 (the Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican), increased the standing of the Fascists phenomenally on the one hand; ... on the other hand, it provided great benefits to the Roman curia. It relinquished the restoration of the Papal States once and for all – for almost one and a half millennia the allegedly indispensable basis of their independence and freedom that had cost countless wars – and recognized the Kingdom of Italy under the dynasty of the House of Savoy with Rome as its capital, it is true, but in return, the pope received unlimited territorial and personal sovereignty over the Vatican City and, as additional compensation, the monstrous sum of one billion lire in government bonds and 750 million lire in cash."
"Mussolini had solved the Roman Question by accommodating the church all the way. The Fascist state had made possible what the protest of four popes to the liberal Italian state could not because it still needed the support of the curia. It was, as former Italian prime minister Francesco Nitti wrote, quite simply "a capitulation of the Italian government." "Because what benefits does the Italian state have?" asks Nitti in an enlightening essay. "Nothing but the recognition of the real situation that has existed since 1870. Who would ever have believed that Rome would once again be ruled by the Pope? Not even anyone in the Vatican would have believed it. I have been talking with the leading persons from the Church about the Roman question for thirty years. Nobody has ever seriously asked me for Rome or even the tiniest plot of Italian soil. But what has the Vatican now actually received?" [ p. 35 ]
"A territory, albeit a very small one, but recognition as a sovereign state. It has also received a sum whose amount is unique in the history of the Church ... the capital of a world bank:' Nitti, originally a professor of finance in Naples, then expands; "I am the only person who knows the financial position of the Church outside the Vatican. I have documents regarding their precise income and expenditure. I was Treasury Minister during the war when the income of the different funds was being checked. I was Prime Minister when the capital tax was introduced. I have no right to make documents public that are not intended for the public; but I do have the right to say that this remuneration, which is unprecedented in history, is absolutely inexplicable!"
"Apart from the political pact, the Fascists also concluded a concordat with the curia in which they also made unusual concessions. Catholicism became the state religion, church marriage equal to civil marriage, divorce impossible, and religious education compulsory at all elementary and high schools as the "foundation and crowning achievement of public education." Anti-church books, newspapers, and films were banned; criticism and insulting of Catholicism were made punishable by law. Indeed, the state committed itself to coordinating its entire legislation with canon law. Of all the concordats that Pius XI had concluded until that time (with Latvia in 1922, Bavaria in 1924, Poland in 1925, Lithuania in 1927), the concordat with Fascist Italy was the most beneficial to the curia. As Francesco Nitti wrote, it extinguished two centuries of domestic development and abolished the intellectual independence of the country." [ p. 36 ]
. . . .
"It was impossible to avoid conflict entirely between two such totalitarian institutions as the Vatican and Fascism. They started especially at the beginning of the thirties. But Pius XI, who complained bitterly about it in his encyclical "Non Abbiamo Bisogno," would not entertain condemning the party. "We have not only distanced ourselves from formal and detailed judgments, but have actually come to the conviction that compromises are possible. We have therefore favored compromises that others deemed unacceptable. It is not Our intent to condemn the party and the regime. . . . We make every effort only to condemn those things in the manifesto and actions of the party that are in opposition to Catholic teaching and practice." [ p. 40-41 ]
"And apart from that, Britain was antipapal; France, anticlerical; Russia, Bolshevist. And since in Italy itself the liberal regime seemed to be tipping toward a socialist or communist one, there was hardly any hope for a solution to the Roman Question." [ p. 27 ]
"And since the Duce had also given up Marxism in favor of an antisocialist and antiliberal position, . . . Cardinal Achille Ratti was already able to say in 1921, a year before he was elected pope: "Mussolini is making quick progress and will crush everything that gets in his way with elemental force. Mussolini is a wonderful man. Did you hear? A wonderful man! He is a new convert. He comes from the extreme left and has the driving zeal of the novice.... The future belongs to him."
"So began the cooperation between the Vatican and (Italian) Fascism. [ p. 30 ]
"As early as October 22, 1922, the Vatican called on the" Italian hierarchy not to identify with the (anti-Fascist) Catholic Party but to remain neutral, which was undoubtedly tantamount to supporting Mussolini, who assumed office on October 28, 1922."
"Nearly three months later, on January 20, 1923, the cardinal secretary of state started secret talks with him." The Vatican committed to shutting down the Partito Popolare, the Catholic Party, since they could expect a much more radical attack on liberals, democrats, and communists by the Fascists. Mussolini guaranteed their abolition and the preservation of church "rights."
"The first service the ex-socialist rendered to the Holy See was a financial one. He saved the "Banco di Roma:' to which the curia and many of its prelates had entrusted large amounts of money, from bankruptcy by stepping in with approximately 1.5 billion lire at the expense of the Italian state." [ p. 31 ]
""When Fascists were attacking and murdering members of the Catholic Party at that time, including priests such as Father Don Minzoni, the pope did not utter a syllable in protest." On the contrary, he crucially accommodated Mussolini at the same time. Because when the latter wanted to abolish parliament by means of electoral reform in early 1923, an act bitterly opposed not only by liberals and democrats but also by the founder and leader of the Catholic Party – Sicilian clergyman Don Sturzo – and 107 Catholic members, the pope ordered Don Sturzo to resign on June 9, 1923, and even pushed for the dissolution of the Catholic Party." Although it did continue to exist for a while, it was affected considerably by the removal of its leader." [ p. 32 ]
"Tellingly, the negotiations began in 1926. Because this was the year the pope finally surrendered the Catholic Party, the liberals and socialists, who had just received more than 50 percent of all votes, were banned, their newspapers suppressed, their leaders arrested, and, in general, all legal guarantees were abolished." [ p. 34 ]
With this as the historical background, it's not surprising that the Catholic Church was willing to make a deal ("concordat") with Benito Mussolini, which became the model for its deal four years later with Mussolini's partner, Adolf Hitler, As bad as these deals were, they were better - from the Vatican's point of view - than the hand that had been dealt to the church from the liberal revolutionaries of France and Italy, or what they could expect if the communists got their way in any additional Catholic countries.
Here is a summary of the most authoritative and up–to–date expression of just war doctrine as laid out in paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good. The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy, i.e.
While many of the Roman Catholic Church's best theologians have done a great job of spelling out the rules which should be used to determine when warfare is moral and when it is immoral, the church's executives, the Pope and hierarchy, have been promoting warfare throughout the centuries that doesn't even come close to meeting those standards.
Because these principles have been the "conventional wisdom" of the Roman Catholic Church ever since they were first formulated by St. Augustine, I doubt that it differs much from official teaching of the church on this crucial issue in the 1930's and 40's.
It took a huge dose of "moral relativism" for almost all of the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy of Italy to ignore their own very clear teaching regarding the morality of warfare, when it came to Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.
Mussolini's blatantly immoral war of conquest of Ethiopia (Abyssinia) is a perfect example of the way the so-called "Holy See" itself embraced moral relativism with gusto. The following are excerpts from the book "God and the Fascists"
"A further reason for war was Italy's need (mis-guided desire) to spread the blessings of the Christian Western culture. "It is Italy's mission," wrote the Viennese Catholic journal Schonere Zukunft, for instance, "to carry Christian culture and Occidental [Western] civilization to the center of the black part of the earth and thereby help the Abyssinian people achieve morality and wealth." And so they started with bombs and grenades and, as even the Catholic Germania reported, sprayed gas from the army airplanes of the "assistants and helpers of God: so that, before long, thousands of poisoned Abyssinian women and children were lying in the English military hospitals." [ p. 42 ]
IMHO, the only way to understand the R.C.church's role in the Nazi Holocaust is to view the situation much like Pius the 12th did. As the leader of a world-wide empire, Pope Pius 12's greatest concern was the threat posed by Communism and it's most powerful promoter, after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, i.e. the Soviet Union, not just to the Vatican itself, but to all of the parts of the Roman Catholic Empire, especially in Europe.That is why I really appreciate the way Karlheinz Deschner devoted so much attention to the scandalous behavior of Popes Pius the 11th and 12th, not just in Germany in the 1940s, but in Italy, Spain, and Croatia in the 1930s and 40's.