virus: [TheHermit] An open letter to John Paul II

carlw (
Fri, 29 Jan 1999 04:16:25 -0600


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Pope welcomed by throngs, Clinton

He reminded Americans of the Dred Scott case, tried in St. Louis' Old Courthouse. Scott, a slave purchased in 1833 by an Army surgeon stationed near St. Louis, sued for his freedom. Living in a free state, he said, made him a free man.
In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in effect, that slaves were property and not citizens - a decision, the pope said, that declared "an entire class of human beings - people of African descent - outside the boundaries of the national community and the Constitution's protection." The pontiff hammered home a central theme of his trip to the Americas -- that abortion, assisted suicide and armed conflict, had to be rejected.

<End Quotation>

Dear John Paul II,

>From my perspective, it seems that you, William Jefferson Clinton and the
"throngs" deserve each other. You seem almost equal in hypocrisy. Perhaps
you would be less enthusiastic about casting stones if you knew that there were people out there, listening to you spouting sound bites (almost worthy of Clinton), who know a little of the Catholic church's role (and of course the role of religion in general) in advancing the cause of slavery on planet earth. Man's inhumanity to man is well documented. The Catholic Church has on many occasions participated in these vile happenings. While the United States has made many errors, some grievous, and has perpetuated and persists in perpetuating many errors and injustices, for you to draw on history to justify your church's current "moral" platform is exceeding foolish. For this exposes your church to analysis of its part in this history. And as I demonstrate below, you are not unblemished.

John Paul II, I agree with your censure of slavery. So, I think, do most other men who believe in the dignity of humankind and the value of human lives. At the same time, I would like to remind you (as I have done in the form of the post script to this letter) that your church's hands are far from bloodless; and that rocks cast at the USA, by yourself as a representative of your church, appear to bear bloody fingerprints, not easily washed away. Going further, as I show in my post script, it can be argued that slavery was introduced to the Americas by the Roman Catholic church and its protégés, and it was the religious South which clung to the old ways, including slavery, while the Northern founding fathers marched to a different drum. Having discarded religion, they discovered the value of human beings. John Adams (1735-1826), the second president of the United States (1797-1801) said in a letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785 "We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions ... shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power ... we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society."

What this has to do with abortion, assisted suicide and armed conflict, has yet to be explained. I am afraid that the story, as I have seen it reported, is less coherent than I would expect of a man who bears the responsibilities of office that you do. I believe that more learned, and possibly better debaters than I have replied to the issues you have chosen to raise. So I will comment but briefly on these three anathema's to you, and reserve the bulk of my response for your church's involvement in slavery and man's inhumanity to man. I would suggest that abortion, assisted suicide and armed conflict have and will contribute far more to human dignity than you or your church can ever hope to.

Which serves humanity more? Societies where women are refused the dignity of being able to determine what happens with their own bodies and are consequently denigrated to third-rate capacity? Or a world where women can choose what their reproductive role will be and are respected for more than their ability to act as hosts. A girl or woman spared the indignity of being forced to bear a child she does not want, and perhaps cannot afford, through a simple, almost risk free, 5 minute out-patient procedure has dignity. A woman forced to bear and raise a child, or possibly to suffer or die, at the hands of incompetent aborters, has no dignity at all. A doctor, shot down like a dog, in his own home because of the idea that superfluous tissue with the potential to destroy its host's happiness should be preserved, is the kind of indignity that campaigns against abortion, such as that run by your church, seem to lead to. Especially when picked up by less educated and civilized people than you believe yourself to be.

An old man or woman, incapacitated by creeping physical or mental decrepitude, to the point where they are as dependant as babies and have no dignity left - yet are denied the honorable death they deserve is the consequent to your second point. Is this the end that you believe people granted long-life and full years by our growing, but by no means perfect power over death deserve? I have had friends with painful and debilitating diseases choose to die naturally, and choose the time of their death, and die with dignity. It was their choice. Their right. And that was what earned our respect - and their own self-respect. I have also watched friends suffering from similar medical conditions die without dignity when denied their right to choose, by well meaning legislators or foolish moralists, who believe that their moral standards are both absolute and correct. What arrogance!

Finally, not all armed conflict is evil. If the United States and other
"Christian" countries who appear to be content to occasionally cast long
range weapons of destruction (with complete impunity) at the "evil" Saddham Hussein, would stand with courage and arms against the slaughter currently taking place in Yugoslavia, where it is the "Christians" doing the killing, then perhaps we would all be perceived as somewhat less primitive and hypocritical by history. Humankind, or at least "western" humankind, seems in the large, to have been so brainwashed that we confuse the capacity to use violence as a force for change (with no inherent moral attributes), with the use of violence as an end to itself - and so are paralyzed at times when violence is the only effective response to evil. And it is not always the
"pagans" who are evil. Think of the Moors who defended civilization from
marauding bands of Christians during the "dark ages", the one time that the Catholic church truly ruled the world. Perhaps John Adams was thinking of them when he signed the Treaty of Tripoli Treaty of Tripoli (1797) (the original language is by Joel Barlow, U.S. Consul.) "As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] ... it is declared ... that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." Was this not far nobler than this sequence: Robert I. Sherman (accredited Journalist) "Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?" George Bush (Republican President of the United States) "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

Fairfield, Iowa.

The Roman Catholic Church and Slavery. A little history.

In the following abbreviated history lesson, I have attempted to think relatively currently. On the grounds that their god has improved as his human followers have developed, I have been as fair as possible and looked only at the second half of the Roman Catholic churches existence.

I have ignored the contemporaries of the fall of the Roman Republic who laid the blame for the collapse of the Republic on the on the rise of Christianity... "Although they do not inquire into the future, and either forget or do not know the past, yet defame present times as most unusually beset, as it were, by evils because there is belief in Christ and worship of God, and increasingly less worship of idols.. ." Paulus Orosius (The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, 418 A.D.).

The Vatican has a long history of persecuting, enslaving or executing all and any who oppose her. So being thoroughly modern people, we should maybe ignore the fate of the Catharists and Albigensians in the 1100's and 1200's courtesy of Pope Innocent III, who had a perfect arsenal of anathemas, and who, when a prince ducked with a grin at the hurled anathema, set armies in motion and drenched the man's kingdom with blood (as Gregory VII had done). Innocent formulated the new principle of "persuasion" of heretics, and he laid down this grim principle: "According to civil law criminals convicted of treason are punished with death and their goods are confiscated. With how much more reason then should they who offend Jesus, Son of the Lord God, by deserting their faith, be cut off from the Christian communion and stripped of their goods." It is Canon Vacandard who gives us that quotation: a perfectly clear demand that heretics shall be put to death! It was, therefore, not "people and rulers," but the great Pope, who, when there seemed to be some doubt amongst the jurists how far the old law against heresy was still in force, demanded death. St. Bloody would not be a bad title for Innocent III, "the greatest of the Popes." His agent, the Abbott of Cîteau, coined what might be regarded as the most Catholic instruction I have ever read during the siege of Béziers. "Kill them all, God will know his own." The "Holy" church seems to have closely followed this precept through the subsequent years.

Perhaps we should ignore the Vatican's war to exterminate the Waldenses (1450-1570) leading to the death of over 900,000 of them. In the Netherlands alone, over 100,000 were massacred. Maybe we should also ignore the St. Bartholomew's Massacre (August 24, 1572, lasting for five or six days), where approximately 50,000 Huguenots were killed; after all, while in the Huguenot Wars, 200,000 were undoubtedly killed for their religious beliefs, and another 500,000 fled for their lives. Of course, these examples are not of slavery, just death and the confiscation of property.

I guess we should ignore the happenings in Bohemia on the same grounds. After all, Bohemia, was only a country with a population of about four million in the year 1600, 3.2 million of which were Protestant. Only the 800,000 Catholics were left alive by the time the Hapsburgs and Jesuits were through. The rest were dead, however, not enslaved.

The list of Catholic burnings and torture of Protestants is almost endless.

I suspect we are expected to ignore the three Inquisitions. The first, to suppress people like the Catharists, by both church and state between 1231 and 1400. Pope Innocent IV authorized the use of torture in 1251, and religious leaders were quite forward in their participation. The second was the Roman Inquisition established by Pope Paul III in 1542 to defeat Protestantism, and continued until 1572. The torture used was so notorious that even the Turks and Saracens were repulsed by what they observed to be
"Christian" barbarity. The third was "The" Inquisition. Pope Sixtus IV
issued a bull in 1578 authorizing Roman Catholic kings to establish what they called the "Tribunal of the Holy Office." By 1500, the Inquisition had extended to the New World, especially Peru and Mexico. Countless lives were snuffed out, often without cause. Catholic friars reportedly would baptize babies and children and throw them to starving dogs. All totaled, the Inquisitions claimed 68 million victims! But again, this did not include slavery, so we will not address them here.

Let us begin with that bulwark of support and source of much wealth for the Roman Catholic Church, even today, South America.

The dismal history of Papal involvement in South America begins in 1442. Pope Eugenio IV had granted church approval to Prince Henry of Portugal to begin capturing slaves among the "Moors" of Africa. This was subsequently followed by numerous papal bulls fully formalizing the slave trade as a legitimate enterprise in the Catholic world. Religion provided many avenues by which the greedy and murderous could escape critical moral evaluation of their actions. Las Casas, following the Vatican's lead, advocated the use of African slaves instead of Indians. Ostensibly motivated by concern for the Indians, the substitution of Africans was also a boon for commercial interests. Although the Indians largely escaped slavery, the increased development spurred by the use of Africans would soon harm the Indian population almost as much. The effects on the Africans of this ghastly Christian policy were a staggering death toll and a legacy of state-sanctioned brutality.

Christopher Columbus (in a letter to Dona Juana de la Torre, 1500) said, "I ought to be judged as a captain who set out from Spain to the Indies to conquer many warlike peoples of very contrary creed and customs, where by divine will, I have placed under the sovereignty of the King and Queen, Our Lords, another world, by which Spain, which was once called poor, is now the most rich."

We read in Bartolome de Las Casas's work "A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, 1542": "The reason the Christians have murdered on such a vast scale and killed anyone and everyone in their way is purely and simply greed... Their insatiable greed and overweening ambition know no bounds; the land is fertile and rich, the inhabitants simple, forbearing and submissive. The Spaniards have shown not the slightest consideration for these people, treating them (and I speak from first-hand experience, having been there from the outset) not as brute animals - indeed, I would to God they had done and had shown them the consideration they afford their animals - so much as piles of dung in the middle of the road. They have had as little concern for their souls as for their bodies, all the millions that perished having gone to their deaths with no knowledge of God and without the benefit of the Sacraments. One fact in all this is widely known and beyond dispute, for even the tyrannical murderers themselves acknowledge the truth of it: the indigenous peoples never did the Europeans any harm whatever; on the contrary, they believed them to have descended from the heavens, at least until they or their fellow citizens had tasted, at the hands of these oppressors, a diet of robbery, murder, violence, and all other manner of trials and tribulations."

Nothing confirmed the savagery of the Indians in the minds of the conquering Spaniards so much as the tales of their routine cannibalism... vide Christopher Columbus, Journal Entry for November 3, 1493 "These islands are inhabited by Canabilli, a wild, unconquered race which feeds on human flesh. I would be right to call them anthropophagi [man-eaters]. They wage unceasing wars against gentle and timid Indians to supply flesh; this is their booty and is what they hunt. They ravage, despoil, and terrorize the Indians ruthlessly."

One might have expected Christians to be less indifferent to the perils of casting the first stone. Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, the official chronicler of the Indies under Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, wrote in his
"Historia general y natural de las Indias, islas y tierra firme del Mar
Oceano", 1535 "Upon arriving there, since what they found to eat was so meager, some of these Christians, seeing themselves in extreme hunger, killed an Indian they had captured, and roasted the entrails and ate them; and they put a good part of the Indian to stew in a large pot in order to bring along something to eat in the ship's boat in which those who did this were traveling."

Much more to the point, W. Arens in "The Man-eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy." Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979 ISBN 0-19-502793-0 points out that many explorers' descriptions of cannibalism are inherently unreliable, because the Spanish royal proclamation of 1503 specifically permitted the use of cannibals - and only cannibals - for slaves. I think that if we accept his claim about this proclamation, and couple it with the (second hand accounts like Columbus' above) allegations of cannibalism, we can accept the consequences as a given "the expected scramble for the profit to be made in human bondage followed immediately." Islands once thought to be inhabited by Arawak upon closer examination turned out in reality to be overrun with hostile cannibals. Slowly but surely great areas were recognized as Carib and their enslavement legalized. Thus the operational definition of cannibalism in the sixteenth century was resistance to foreign invasion followed by being sold into slavery, which was held to be a higher status than freedom under aboriginal conditions.

Spaniards such as las Casas eventually rejected the argument that they were saving the Indians from their own brutality. Even the spectacle of the Aztec human sacrifices seemed mild in comparison to the horrors of the conquistadors. The Bahamas, where Columbus first landed, was soon stripped of its beautiful, peaceful inhabitants. Las Casas wrote that a ship could find its way to Hispaniola, the site of Spanish gold mines, merely by following a trail of dead Indians thrown from the slave ships. But the churches in Britain, Spain, Portugal and Italy were materially enriched by this trade in human lives. This trade continued until a shortage of available slave material became apparent - and the Vatican then recalled Columbus' remarks about the natives he encountered on his first voyage,
"They have no religion, and I believe that they would very readily become
Christians." Whereupon the slave trade turned its ugly attention to Africa instead.

In the meantime, in Spain, Aristotelian scholar Juan Gines de Sepulveda, writing in 1547 in "Democrates alter sive de justis belli causis apud Indios" attempted to place the impolitic moralizing of Las Casas into proper perspective for posterity: "Compare then the blessings enjoyed by Spaniards of prudence, genius, magnanimity, temperance, humanity, and religion with those of the little men [the Indians] in whom you will scarcely find even vestiges of humanity... How can we doubt that these people - so uncivilized, so barbaric, contaminated with so many impieties and obscenities - have been justly conquered...?

Life under the "God-fearing" Catholic Spaniards was not all roses and honey. According to Bartolome de Las Casas, quoting another passage from "A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, 1542" atrocities continued unabated in the Americas, even half a century after their discovery: "The pattern established at the outset has remained to this day, and the Spaniards still do nothing save tear the natives to shreds, murder them and inflict upon them untold misery, suffering and distress, tormenting, harrying and persecuting them mercilessly."

In a Christianity Today article, David Neff defends Columbus's motives for the deadly exploitation of America, claiming that, "Columbus was motivated by a love for God and a desire to finance the rescue of the Holy Land from infidel hands." The plundering of gold and the institution of slavery certainly provided sufficient funds to launch yet more religious wars, had not the parties involved become so deeply mired in defending and expanding their American holdings. Assigning purely religious motives to Columbus's exploration, Neff fittingly relates the genocide of Native American peoples to the Israelite conquest of Canaan, complete with the slaughter of innocent children and even animals. This analogy is nothing new, having been made by Martin Fernandez de Encisco, a lawyer, historian and soldier who, as a less successful associate of Balboa and Pizarro, fancied himself a latter day Joshua who would bring down Indian Jerichos.

No doubt many of those reading Neff's article are persuaded to believe that Native American culture enjoyed an unprecedented renaissance due to the beneficent offices of humanitarians like Pizarro and Cortez. The fact is that within a few generations of Columbus, Amerindians had experienced a
"demographic crash" which left the total population at only 10% of the
pre-Columbian level. While many died of disease, as shown above, in terms of cruelty, early Spaniards matched the mythical cannibals. The friendly people of the Caribbean islands were the first to experience this, being defenseless against Spanish weapons wielded with equal cruelty against children and women. The seemingly limitless thirst for blood of the Spanish was described in Brief Relation of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolom de las Casas, a Dominican friar who witnessed much of the carnage: "... suddenly one of the Spaniards drew his sword, saying that he saw the Devil before him. Then a hundred Spaniards all drew their swords and began to cut them down like sheep, killing and disemboweling men and women, children and old people, all of whom had been calmly sitting and watching the Spaniards and their horses in amazement; and in a few moments not a single one of them was alive."

Slavery in South America was a part and parcel of the Catholicization of the subcontinent. Something I have not heard the so wise leader of that so humane church referring to. Perhaps you think that this is historical. Not modern. Speaking of personal experience, enslavement of South American people is alive and well and happening today. Unfortunately, this is not often discussed. Why not? Well perhaps it is to do with high-level diplomacy and a general disparagement of Hispanic and "non-white" immigrants to the United States. For some reason, even in liberal circles, there appears to be a huge set of blinkers on the nose of the USA, a general belief that there are "too many" immigrants of these classes, and the comfortable excuse that the slavery which exists today is only "economic" persecution and not political - which somehow makes it all alright.

Thinking of the way in which the economy of Cuba has been operated and manipulated for the benefit of Fidel Castro and his cronies, thinking of the way in which he and his cohorts hold the families of Cubans sent overseas, to generate revenues for his government, as hostages reminds me of nothing so much as slavery.

For example, Cuba has sold the service of their medical profession to the South Africans. The South Africans pay the Cuban government the salaries of doctors sent from Cuba to South Africa. The doctors are provided with a miniscule living allowance. The agreement between the governments includes forced repatriation of the doctors if they speak to the media, become romantically involved with anyone or seek work or asylum outside of the parameters of the agreement.

The United States and Spanish governments, to name just two, seem to be a part of this deal as well, as they will not even discuss asylum with these poor people, claiming that their troubles are financial and not political. Yet it is certainly true that some Cuban doctors and family members (who have been permitted to join some of them after a year) have been forcibly repatriated (at night, by Cuban paramilitary staff, and assisted by South African security police) to Cuba, when Castro felt that there was a risk of them talking to the press. At least one of them is still languishing in prison in Cuba three years after his and his wife's "silent disappearance" from South Africa.

I do not recall the Pope speaking about these people or issues while in Cuba. Then again, I have not noticed the USA government saying much about this either. Yet the Pope points to slavery in the United States as one of the first subjects for discussion during his visit. Is this because he hopes to see a ground swell of ignorant peasant's flocking to his banner if he plays their song? The cheap political opportunism is worthy of Clinton. Ah, but I had forgotten that John Paul II and William Jefferson Clinton are
"friends." Does this mean that they share their ideas about populist
campaigns too?

Let me attempt to show that the tragedy of South America is not an isolated example. Let me direct your thoughts to the Roma (or Gitanos as they prefer to call themselves, commonly known in the west as Gypsies). Does Pope John Paul II remember beatifying Ceferino Jimenez Malla, also known as El Pele on May 4th, 1997. The "Blessed" Ceferino Jimenez Malla was "martyred for his faith" in August 1936 at the age of 75 when he was shot by a Spanish Republican firing squad. El Pele becomes the first Gypsy elevated to beatification in the history of the Catholic Church. Beatification is the first step required for sainthood. Maybe his staff mentioned to him a little of the inglorious involvement of the church in the abuse and enslavement of the Roma in Europe? Maybe they omitted to, or he was not listening at the time, or perhaps he has forgotten this in favor of lambasting the Americans.

Let us see. Just a few examples will suffice. In 1499 the Medina del Campo ordered Gitanos to find a trade and master, and cease traveling with other Gitanos. Punishment for failure to obey the order was 100 lashes and banishment; repeat offences were punished by the amputation of ears, sixty days in chains, and banishment. Third-time offenders become the slaves of those who captured them. Of course, as they had lost their ears, third-time offenders were not really difficult to identify.

Edward VI of Catholic England instituted a law requiring that Gypsies be seized and "branded with a 'V' on their breast, and then enslaved for two years." If escapees are caught they will be branded with an "S" and made slaves for life. This was in 1547.

In 1563, the Council of Trent in Rome affirmed that Roma could not become priests and in 1568 Pope Pius V ordered the expulsion of all Roma from the domain of the Roman Catholic Church. This would lead to all Catholic countries taking steps to rid themselves of this "human pestilence".

For example, Louis XIV reiterated his previous policy to rid the world of the Roma (called Bohemians then) in 1682. Men were sentenced to the galleys for life.

In Prague, in 1710, Joseph I issued an edict that all adult Roma men would be hanged without trial and that boys and women would be mutilated.

In 1721 the Emperor Karl VI, of the Austro-Hungarian empire, ordered the extermination of Roma throughout his domain.

In 1728 the so gentle, so god-fearing, town council of Aachen passed an ordinance condemning Roma to death. "Captured Gypsies, whether they resist or not, shall be put to death immediately. However, those seized who do not resort to counter-attack shall be granted no more than a half an hour to kneel, if they so wish, beg God almighty to forgive them their sins and to prepare themselves for death."

In December 1773, Maria Theresa, Empress of Hungary, ordered all Romani children over five to be taken from their parents. They were transported to distant villages and assigned to peasants to bring them up. In 1782, Joseph II of Hungary, son of Empress Maria Theresa, issued a 59-point edict reiterating this policy.

In 1780 the protestant English began to retract laws against the Roma, while in Catholic Europe the persecution not only continued but grew more severe. In Hungary, two hundred Roma were accused and charged with cannibalism. The Spanish continued to sentence people to death for being "Gitanos".

In 1842, the hospodar of Moldavia, Mihail Sturdza, emancipated all state slaves; however, in Wallachia and Moldavia private ownership of Romani slaves was still legally permitted, as they were not regarded as being fully human. It took the Moldavian Church until 1844 to free slaves owned by the church, while the Wallachian Church did not liberate slaves owned by it until 1847! More general emancipation of serfs in the Slobuzenja and in Romania did not occur until 1856. This lead to large-scale migrations of Roma to Western Europe and America where they suffered further persecution, although not at the hands of the Catholic church. While the Church had nothing to do with this either, Muslim Roma were given equal rights with other Muslims in the Ottoman Empire in 1874.

In 1868, Richard Liebich's introduced the phrase "lives unworthy of life" with specific reference to the Roma.

Two years later, in 1876, Cesare Lombroso published his influential work L'uomo deliquente, which contains a lengthy chapter on the genetically criminal character of the Roma.

The very Catholic Swabian parliament organized a conference in 1890 on the
"Gypsy Scum" (Das Zigeunergeschmeiß), and suggested means by which the
presence of Roma could be signalled from village to village by ringing church bells. The military was empowered to apprehend and move Roma on. This lead to formation of "the Central Office for Fighting the Gypsy Nuisance" (Nachrichtendienst in Bezug auf die Zigeuner), being established in Munich, under the direction of Alfred Dillmann, to collate reports on Roma movement throughout German lands, and a register of all Gypsies over the age of six was begun. This included obtaining photographs, fingerprints and other genealogical data, and particularly information relating to "criminality." This agency did not officially close down until 1970. A little later, in the mid twenties, Psychiatrist Karl Binding and magistrate Alfred Hoche (a Catholic) together argued for the killing of those who were
"Ballastexistenzen," i.e. whose lives are seen merely as ballast, or dead
weight, within humanity; this included the Roma. The concept of Lebensunwertesleben, or "lives unworthy (or undeserving) of life," became central to Nazi race policy in 1933, when a law incorporating this same phrase was issued by Hitler on July 14th that year.

In the equally Catholic France, the French government introduced the "carnet anthropométrique" in 1912. This document contained personal data, including photographs and fingerprints. All Roma were required to carry this and it too remained in effect until 1970.

In 1925, a conference was held on the "Gypsy question", at which the (still Catholic) Bavarians proposed a law to compulsorily settle Roma and Sinti, and to incarcerate those not regularly employed (referred to as arbeitscheu or "work shy") to work camps for up to two years, for reasons of "public security." This applied equally to settled and non-settled Roma. The next year, on July 16th, 1926, The Bavarian "Law for Combatting Gypsies, Vagabonds and Idlers" was passed. It was justified in the legislative assembly thus: "[Gypsies] are by nature opposed to all work, and find it especially difficult to tolerate any restriction of their nomadic life; nothing, therefore, hits them harder than loss of liberty, coupled with forced labor."

This still sounds like slavery to me.

The Swiss Pro Juventute Foundation was started in 1926 and, "in keeping with the theories of eugenics and progress," took children away from Roma without their consent, changed their names, and put them into foster homes. This program continued until 1973, and was not brought to light until the 1980s. Switzerland has apologized to the Roma, but still adamantly refuses to allow them access to the records which would help them locate the children taken from them.

In 1941 Sweden passed a law on sterilization. Anyone, including Roma, seen as leading "a socially undesirable life" was to be sterilised. Although the law did not explicitly say so, it suggested that Gypsies and "Tattare" (Norwegian "Wanderer") were not socially desirable and thus had to be sterilised to keep the Swedish race "clean".

>From January 1941 onwards, Roma in Germany were selected for transfer to camps for processing, which included sterilization by injection or castration. Over the next three years, these camps were established at Dachau, Dieselstrasse, Sachsenhausen, Marzahn and Vennhausen.

In 1940, Robert Ritter published a report in which he states that "we have been able to establish that more than 90% of the so-called 'native' [i.e. German-born] Gypsies are of mixed blood ... Furthermore, the results of our investigations have allowed us to characterize the Gypsies as being a people of entirely primitive ethnological origins, whose mental backwardness makes them incapable of real social adaptation ... The Gypsy question can only be solved when the main body of asocial and worthless Gypsy individuals of mixed blood is collected together in large labor camps and kept working there, and when the further breeding of this population of mixed blood is permanently stopped." At Buchenwald, 250 Romani children were used as the guinea pigs to test the Zyklon-B gas crystals. Between 1933 and 1945 up to 1,500,000 Sinti and Roma were killed in Europe by the Nazi regime and its puppet states. Determining the percentage or number of Roma who died in the Holocaust is not easy. Much of the Nazi documentation still remains to be analyzed, and many murders were not recorded, since they took place in the fields and forests where Roma were apprehended.

While the Roman Catholic Church has (sort of) apologized to the Jews for the part which the church played in the Holocaust, it would seem that there are too few remaining Gypsies for anyone to care enough to suggest that they deserve an apology too (even a half-hearted one). Of course, a proposal to teach Israeli high school students about the murder of Roma by the Nazis drew loud protests in Jerusalem during 1994, especially from Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial. Critics said that the proposed curriculum, titled "Sensitivity to Suffering in the World," would blur the uniqueness of the Holocaust. So why should the Pope spare any sleep over this.

He is even in good company in the good old USA... where it took until 1979 to create the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. There was no Roma representation on the 65-member Holocaust Memorial Council (well done Pres. Carter?). Only in 1987, seven years after its creation, was William Duna appointed to an "honorary position" as the first Rom member and it was president Clinton (in 1997) that appointed Ian Hancock as the only Romani representative on the 65-member council after Mr Hancock had received the Thorolf Rafto Prize for Human Rights on behalf of the Romani people.

As a post-script to this diversion into Rom history, it was only last year that New Jersey Governor, Christine Todd Whitman, signed into law Assembly Bill 2654, repealing that state's anti-Roma law adopted in 1917. Governor Whitman's signature effectively rescinded the last anti-Roma law on the books of any American state.

So John Paul II, the church was not alone in encouraging the enslavement of the Rom, but as I suggested in the beginning, they are far from blameless. And here we have looked at only two locations where the Vatican has a long history of involvement in slavery. Any student of naval history would be able to tell you that the majority of slavers between Africa and the Americas were owned by Catholics, primarily French, Portuguese and Spanish, while the bulk of navies attempting to prevent this trade in misery were not.

It was a poor selection of terrain and an attempt at a cheap populist shot. Not even worthy of a Clinton or Nation of Islam head, Louis Farrakhan, even if we have come to expect attacks like this in the current day and age. Not sensible of you. It does your reputation as a scholar and an intelligent and caring person no good.