How the Catholic Church Enabled Genocide in Croatia
The Catholic Church tells us to respect the dead yet won’t confront its own bloodstained history.
The same Catholic Church that calls human composting disrespectful funded and partook in the cultural genocide of Native Americans. This reveals that the Catholic Church does not care about respecting the dead at all. Rather, this institution cares about maintaining its influence as a religious and political organization.
Canada’s residential schools are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Catholic Church’s disregard for the dead. The Catholic Ustasha, who wanted to keep Croatia ethnically ‘pure’, forcibly converted their Orthodox victims to Catholicism and mutilated. The Ustasha also killed and Roma, Serbs, and Jews by torturing them and throwing them into mass graves alive.
Not only did the Archbishop of Zagreb, Alojzije Stepinac, condone these activities, but he endorsed them. On Easter of 1941, Stepinac called the Ustasha state a “miracle of God” and enacted “ruthless crackdowns” on Serbs, whom he considered Croatia’s greatest enemies. Unlike the Nazis, the Ustasha were allowed to flee to other countries, such as Argentina and the US, and were kept safe from deportation.
Rather than condemning the use of Catholicism to commit genocide, the Vatican “aided and abetted” the systemic elimination of various ethnicities in Croatia by the Ustasha. Even after hearing the public urging the Vatican to hold the Ustasha accountable for their actions, it failed to address these crimes against humanity and encouraged Croatian nationalists instead.
In 1942, Pope Pius XII gave an audience to the Croatian police and to Ustasha youths. Not only that, but the Vatican arranged for former Ustasha to secretly leave Croatia to evade accountability for their actions. This is why, unlike the Nazis, very few people know who the Ustasha were or what they did. Rather, these events fade into the background, giving the illusion that the Holocaust was an isolated event and that nothing like it has ever happened or could happen in the future.
To top it all off, many Catholics justify Stepinac’s actions saying that he was a crusader against communism and a martyr for his faith. Pope Benedict XVI called him a ‘living image of Christ’ while others want Stepinac to be canonized as a saint. In other words, many Catholics would rather canonize someone who remained complicit in genocide as a saint than open up to alternative death care methods.
The Ustasha are just one of many stains on the history of the Catholic Church and Catholicism as a whole, but they are one of the clearest examples of how this institution’s beliefs about the dead aren’t really about respect. After all, the Ustasha crushed their victims’ heads with hammers, dismembered them, and engaged in other sadistic acts while considering themselves champions of their faith.