Monday, June 06, 2011

Compulsion to Participate in Evil

Over at Cinema Catechism, we are examining the life of Sophie Scholl, the young German woman who was part of the White Rose resistence group that tried to awaken the consciences of the German people against the Nazi regime. Her story sheds light on those good Germans who found themselves in the midst of an oppressive and evil totalitarian state. Not every German in the 1930s-40s was a twisted moral monster; many were good and decent people.

This leads us to imagine the horror if we had been forced to be involved in such evil, if, for example, we had been conscripted and compelled against our consciences to fight in the German war machine. And we should imagine ourselves in that situation because, in too many cases today, in the midst of a culture of death, people in our own country are also placed in the position of being pressured to act against their conscience, to go along with and participate in what they know to be wrong and sinful and evil.

In that light, we might reflect on a few words said by Cardinal Ratzinger at a German cemetery in Normandy on the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion by Allied Forces.

Address of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Sixtieth Anniversary of D-Day
June 6, 2004
In this hour, at the German military cemetery at La Combe near Caen, we reverently bow before the dead of the Second World War and remember the many young men from our country whose future and hope perished in the bloody battles of the war. As Germans, we must be painfully moved by the way in which their idealism and their obedience to the state were misused by an unjust regime. But this does not lessen the honor due to these young men; only God can see their consciences. And each one stands alone before God with the path he took in his life and with his dying. We know that all our dead are kept safe in the merciful kindness of God. They attempted quite simply to do their duty, often with terrible inner conflicts, doubts, and questions.

Now they look at us and speak to us: What about you?

What are you going to do to prevent young men from being driven again into such battles? What are you going to do to prevent the world from being laid waste anew by hatred and violence and falsehood?

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