Monday, November 16, 2020

Catholicism, Fascism and Trumpism

 Newly Unsealed Vatican Archives Lay Out Evidence of Pope Pius XII's  Knowledge of the Holocaust | Smart News | Smithsonian MagazineThree isms, linked in infamy.  Yes, there really was a group called Catholics for Trump.  And various polls report that somewhere between 50 and 55% of Catholics in 2020 voted for Trump.  

I find parallels between 30% Catholic Germany in the late 30's and their transformation into fascism and our current U.S.A. drift into it quite fascinating.  Back then, recent Vatican documents made public reveal that Catholics in Germany were asking their priests and bishops if they could support the new fascism via A. Hitler they liked.  

The Catholic hierarchy adopted a policy with both fascist Italy and German of "neutrality", even related to the emerging anti-semitism within the populace and German political leadership. There was much documented anti-semitism within Church leadership as well. 

Pius XII's predecessor, Pius XI was quite liberal and had assigned J. LaFarge S.J., an American Jesuit who was editor of America magazine and and staunch advocate of opposing racism was tapped by Pius XI to write a Encyclical on opposing anti-semitism.  Encyclicals are the highest form of Papal teaching.

LaFarge delivered the document a year or so later, but Pius XI died before it could be published.  It was bitterly opposed by LaFarge's Jesuit superior and it is believed he exerted influence on its not being acted on prior to XI's  death.  

I learned some of this history through access to the locked section of the Santa Clara University library where I worked as a student.  I had access to books and documents stored there with my employment.  It began for me the process of working my way intellectually out of the Church and all religion. This included insights into the Church's long early history of anti-semitism, notoriously expressed, though not limited to the Inquisition. The Church in the modern era, starting in the 1960's began to excise anti-semitism from its teachings and culture.

Pius XI had acted to create Vatican City  as a separate Italian political entity apart from Rome as a move to distance the Church then from the emerging fascism regime in Italy.

Pius XII leveraged d his familiarity and respect for the Germans while serving in Germany in key Church ambassadorial positions with his neutrality policy when succeeding Pius XI.  Though some German and Polish Catholic clergy were oppressed by the emerging fascism government, Pius XII believed his neutrality policy would provide cover and protection for the Church in Germany and the rest of Europe as it was overtaken by Nazi leaders. The policy of genocide of Jews materialized and the holocaust began.  

It is clear that German, Polish and Italian Catholicism, with its highly authoritarian structure, had conditioned its faithful to respect authoritarian government in the political sphere.  The same seems to be true with American Catholicism, which has avoided democratization in spite of operating in the American form of democracy.  The Church's highly historically inconsistent policies regarding abortion, largely denied or understood by roughly half of American Catholic clergy and laity has clearly influenced Catholic support for Republican authoritarians for several decades.

I have studied deeply my former Church's policies on both support for authoritarian regimes around the world and its current position on abortion as I  worked my way out of the fold several decades back. One merely has to look at the relationship between the Church and both South American and Central American right wing regimes and its support of those country's wealthy elite keeping it financed to observe this truth.  Mexico, with its revolution and tamping down of the Church's influence stands as an exception.

So, American Catholic support for fascist Trumpism is completely understandable, though deeply troubling. This factual reality further convinces me that few Trump supporter minds will be changed on the destruction of American democracy from within.  Major portions of our electorate find authoritarianism quite acceptable. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

America Welcomes Authoritarianism

 John Dean and Bob Altemeyer have given us a solidly scientific look at our current political crisis using both Dean's insights  and experience in political science and  Altemeyer's study of the processes involved in successful political domination and the science of personality testing.  The latter is a field of study developed over the last 50 years or so incorporating the fields of behavioral psychology and sociology.  These are study areas not frequently found in research of politics and governance. 

The field of study of authoritarian behavior began during WWII in the U.S.A. to understand what we were facing with Germany, Italy and Japan.

Altemeyer's approach has been to classify authoritarian personalities in typologies using what he calls a RWA  (right wing authoritarian) scale. His data suggests that those classified as high RWA's total 19 % of the U.S. population.  Behavioral/attitudinal characteristics include conventional behavior, making cursory identification of these types difficult.  But probing their personalities further reveals them to be often highly religious, prejudiced, opposing equal opportunity and lacking critical thinking skills. They are often not well educated.  Their views on freedom and liberty are superficial with probing revealing that what they care about is their  own freedom and liberty, not others.

He classified a second typology of authoritarian personalities as those less inclined to be leaders and more inclined to be followers.  These types number in the 30% of the population range in the U.S.   Their following is characterized as very loyal and difficult to change allegiance.

The authors also cite the work of Jason Stanley from studies starting in the 40's and 50's.  Stanley classified his typologies as Social Dominance Orientation, SDO.  He studied elected leaders and found those with high SDO's possessing what we have experienced with Donald Trump:  A desire to dominate, achieve personal power, willingness to cheat to win with amoral, bullying and vengeful behaviors.  Basically, mean people.

Recent Monmouth studies have revealed Republican leaders having high RWA behaviors and personalities. Their studies reveal that 33% of our U.S. population will follow high RWA leaders without discretion or self awareness.  

This research suggests that success in attaining compromise with these personality types is highly challenging, if not nearly impossible.  Some have conjectured that our success in in creating allies out of defeated enemies in Germany and Japan might suggest this conclusion to be overly pessimistic.  But history seems to suggest that both of these countries, with devastated economies and infrastructures were stripped of their RWA leaders with high SDO's and shamed in the world community  Their populations had no options or other choices than to submit to our rebuilding plan.  And to submit to very aggressive public education programs to diminish their authoritarian behaviors and support for authoritarians. 

And, our own Civil War experience was quite different from this more recent historical experience with Germany and Japan.  It took only a few years of a very forgiving Union to allow the destruction of Reconstruction and the replacement of slavery with abject racism and Jim Crow policies and 100 years of segregation and oppression of the offspring of former slave populations. 

These historic examples, in my opinion, together with the emergence of authoritarian movements in the U.S. roughly every 40 or 50 years since the Civil War, do not portend well for the eradication of authoritarians in our society.  I hope fervently that I am wrong and that President Biden's outreach to heal and form a more perfect Union is successful.