CONSIDERATION OF A HISTORIC PARALLEL
F. Douglas Kneibert
Are the Dark Clouds of
Persecution Beginning to Gather?
ention the words “persecution of the Catholic the time.
Church” and eyes begin to roll. What persecu- Although Germany had a long history of hostility
tion? Are churches in the West being burned, toward the Jews, the first stage of the process that led
priests being hunted down, and believers being thrown directly to Hitler’s “final solution” was centered in the
into prison? Obviously, no. But those are the wrong ques- popular culture during the waning days of the Weimar
tions. In Western democratic societies, persecution sel- Republic and the early years of the Nazi regime, which
dom bursts forth on the scene full-blown. It’s more likely assumed power in 1933. A virulent anti-Semitism found
to come in steadily escalating phases, often disguised as its voice in the media, in books, in motion pictures, and
something else — even as something good. Might we be even in children’s literature. When it came to demonizing
in the early stages of just such a progression? the Jew, Adolf Hitler had literally written the book with
To speak of persecution of a religious minority is to Mein Kampf.
be directed to Holocaust studies, which constitute the Anti-Semitism was pervasive in Germany in all out-
most exhaustive historical examination we have of how lets of the popular culture, but newspaper cartoons bear
democratic civil and religious rights can be undermined special mention. Here Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer
and lost in a remarkably short timespan. The manner in newspaper was in a class by itself, publishing over its 17-
which this process unfolded may have something to say year lifespan a vicious series of crude cartoons that carica-
to the Catholic Church today. Obviously, there are vast tured, stereotyped, and condemned Jews for any number
differences between Germany of the early 1930s and the of alleged offenses.
U.S. today. But there are also some unsettling similari- Fast-forward to contemporary America, where edito-
ties. rial cartoons ridiculing the Catholic Church have become
It hardly bears repeating that Germany in the early standard in what used to be called “family” newspapers.
20th century was heir to a rich cultural heritage that was Pat Oliphant is the most notable among several cartoon-
far removed from its barbaric origins. Or so many thought. ists whose pens fairly drip with anti-Catholic venom. No
The Constitution of the Weimar Republic, out of which other religious group approaches the enmity that is heaped
the Third Reich emerged, granted civil and religious rights upon the Catholic Church in the daily press. In fact, other
to its citizens in conformity with the European norm at religions are almost totally exempt from criticism, by the
dictates of political correctness.
Anti-Catholic movies like The DaVinci Code have
become so common that they constitute their own genre.
The same for books, especially those by Dan Brown of
F. Douglas Kneibert is a retired newspaper editor and a DaVinci fame. New York Times bestsellers The Last
1999 convert from Protestantism. He writes from Templar by Raymond Khoury and The Third Secret by
Sedalia, Missouri. Steve Berry work the same basic plot line — the uncover-
36 New Oxford Review
ing of some long-suppressed truth reveals the Catholic of their authority in that area. The bill’s stated purpose
Church to be a gigantic fraud. was “to revise the corporate governance provisions appli-
Jokes about and contempt for