Some years ago when I was a student at 'red' Essex University I went to a lecture by a member of the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso). The Shining Path is the popular name for the Communist Party of Peru. He told us about the Party, and the forthcoming revolution in Peru, and informed us proudly that during a recent papal visit they had "defeated the fascist pope".
Looking back this seems almost like another lifetime although it was only 25 years ago. The great thing about Essex University at that time was its internationalism and its radicalism. There were a large number of foreign students and as a result I met people from all over the world, many of whom would have been in great danger in their own countries had they expressed the views they were able to express at Essex. We also had speakers from all over the globe. We had fierce debates about international politics. One in particular that sticks in my mind, about the IRA and a united Ireland, took place in the large lecture theatre. It was attended by about 1000 students, with people crammed on the steps, not bad in a University with just over 3000 undergraduate students! What has happened now to all that passion and energy?
Anyway I digress. I was talking about the fascist Pope, and of course I was reminded of that talk by a member of the Shining Path, by Pope Benedict's visit to the USA. The Pope, formerly known a Joseph Ratzinger, was a fascist - in fact he was a Nazi. No doubt he will claim that he was a young lad and forced to join the Hitler Youth - but did he have to? Did everybody then? I wonder.
Even if young Joseph was a reluctant fascist he has certainly made up for it by becoming a consummate reactionary and hypocrite. Witness his recent comments in the US where he tried to blame the huge US catholic priest paedophile scandal on American society, thus absolving the Catholic Church of blame. How the Americans took this insult I'm not sure. I think it is much more likely that the culture of the Catholic Church is to blame for this scandal. After all enforced chastity, sexual repression, secrecy, and hatred of homosexuality are all features of Catholicism.
And then there's the fact that the Catholic Church has a long track record of giving aid and succor to fascists. They have supported Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany and Franco in Spain. Other fascist movements around the world, including France and Ireland, have had intimate connections with the Catholic Church.
In 1939 Pope Pius XII wrote an infamous letter to Berlin:
"To the Illustrious Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer and Chancellor of the Germain Reich! Here at the beginning of our Pontificate We wish to assure you that We remain devoted to the spiritual welfare of the German people entrusted to your leadership........"
The many connections between Catholicism and fascism are well documented in Christopher Hitchen's excellent book God is Not Great. What Pope Benedict reminds us is that since 1939 not a lot has changed........