In his May 6 column, Leonard Pitts Jr. accuses the Christian church of remaining silent about the Holocaust, the civil rights movement, AIDS and the use of torture. However, Pitts overlooked the historical facts.

Three-thousand Protestant pastors in Germany joined to form a unified Christian opposition to Hitler. One concentration camp alone, Dachau, records holding nearly 3,000 Catholic priests for their opposition to Hitler. Israeli consul Pinchas Lapide estimated that the Church rescued about 860,000 Jews from the Nazis. In 1940, Albert Einstein criticized the silence of Germany’s newspapers and universities: “Only the Church,” he said, “stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth.”

The civil rights movement was led primarily by Christian clergy, through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Both Christian groups, as well as the NAACP, were supported by the Catholic Interracial Council and the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice. The director of the Center for Non-Violence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr., said, “The church was not only the meeting place for the movement, it was also the center of the movement.”

Pitts noticed Princess Diana “touching a person with AIDS” but overlooked Pope John Paul II embracing AIDS patients at the Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco. He also missed the pope’s consistent call to love and support AIDS victims, as well as the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter Called to Compassion and Responsibility. By 2001, a U.N. General Assembly noted that “the Catholic Church is carrying out 25 percent of the total care given to HIV/AIDS victims, which makes the Church the major supporter of states in the fight against this disease.”

The Christian church has been anything but silent on the issue of torture. Pope Benedict XVI has clearly and persistently affirmed that “the prohibition against torture cannot be contravened under any circumstances.” In their publication, “Torture is a Moral Issue: A Study Guide,” the U.S. Catholic bishops say that “the use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person.” Pitts also failed to mention Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders joining with many other religious groups to form the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. 

This does not sound like a few “isolated exceptions” to me. Perhaps Pitts wanted to encourage individual Christians to speak out more boldly against injustice. If that is the case, then I would suggest that some accurate information will do much more good than a shallow attack against an entire religious group.

Michael B. Tyne, Sumner


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