Hi, guys —
- Why did Catholic priests in World War II lead mass murders of Serbs, Jews and Communists in Jasenovac, Croatia?
Why did Catholic priests in World War II lead in the mass murder of these people? }
Richard, John, and Mike replied:
Thanks for the question.
I had to consult with some colleagues of mine because I had never heard of this before.
My colleague Richard did confirm this sad and scandalous chapter in the Church's history of World War II. Nevertheless, this was not something, nor would ever be something, the Church would officially endorse.
An article on the involvement of priests and bishops in the violent Ustaše government of Croatia is available here:
Why and how this happened is a matter for historians. The Church would say this happened because people (the clergy) allowed something other than the Gospel to rule their decision making process. It is important to separate scandalous, terrible behavior among some members of the clergy in our Church, from the divine teachings which have never changed since 33 A.D.
We have had scandalous parishioners and clergy in every generation in the Church's existence. This is a testimony that, despite the scandalous behavior in our Church, the Church's official teachings have not changed because they are divinely protected. Those who claim Catholics invent teachings mistake (inventing) for (the development or clarification) of one or more teachings.
Also, the Church has never, nor will ever, endorse "forced conversions" as it goes against the very nature of man's free will to choose.
Based on what my colleagues have told me, I would answer, the reason why this happened was due to one of several reasons:
- lack of a personal spiritual life in a culture that was hostile to Christian values, and
- possibly poor seminary training at the time
On the article Richard quoted, my colleague John said,
"Wikipedia is usually a reliable secular resource. But it's not the end all be all.
For instance, if you were to research, Margaret Sanger, the founder of planned parenthood, you will notice they clean up her history quite a bit. "
Nevertheless, Richard thought it was pretty fair seeing that much of the material was from Ronald Rychlak, who has defended the Catholic Church from unjust criticisms relating to Pope Pius XII's role in the war.
I hope this answers your question.
A team answer from Richard, John, and Mike
Thank you all for the time to answer my question. But I don't understand your reason:
"lack of a personal spiritual life in a culture that was hostile to Christian values."
- Which culture are you referring to?
Prior to World War II, Croatians lived in a predominantly Christian country and they were free to attend Catholic churches.
My only point was to give a possible reason why men called to a holy life, where they should be willing to give a witness for the Christian faith to the point of martyrdom, would instead lead mass murders.
I'm no great historian but I'm guessing the culture that lead up to and during WW II was not conducive to Christian values.
Maybe that is something that I could understand but even today, Catholic officials are denying that mass murders even happened! Dr. Stjepan Razum, the head of the archives of Archdiocese of Zagreb, claims that there is no proof of mass murders, even though historians:
- have well documented the names of people murdered (at least 300,000 of them)
- excavated the grounds
- talked to witnesses, and
- published the findings.
- Why does the Church tolerate that?
- How can people attend services knowing that the Church is actively trying to cover up something very bad that happened in the past?
The Church, nor anyone with a moral brain, would ever accept this or any type of cover-up. The main purpose of the Church is for the salvation of souls.
No one is going to defend someone who denies immoral behavior, yet God created each of us with a free will.
This means we can choose to do good, holy things with our free will, or dumb, scandalous things.
How can people attend services knowing that the Church is actively trying to cover up something very bad that happened in the past?
You have to separate Judas behavior from (the sacraments and our teachings). The sacraments do not depend on the holiness of any priest or bishop and our official Teachings never change. Holiness and our Teachings work apart from scandalous behavior.
Despite our bad behavior in the past, you also have to allow the Church to change its behavior, hopefully for the good.
I don't know who the bishop is in that area, but it is the responsibility of the local bishop to ensure that the faithful can receive the sacraments and proper catechesis in the Catholic faith. I don't know all the nuances of any one particular situation, and you may not either. It's the local bishop that gets all the information from his helpers and makes the appropriate decisions.
If the faithful believe their local bishop is not providing the basics of the Catholic faith, they can always write to the Vatican to express any grave concern.
If you are interested, check out my new web site:
I hope this helps,