World War II

Fr. Leonard Feeney was appalled that the United States had detonated atomic bombs on two Japanese cities with devastating loss of civilian life. He also objected to the United States allying itself with the brutal and atheistic Soviet Union. His criticism of U.S. policy earned him the wrath of the pro-war establishment which then tried to “cancel” him. Above, an Allied reporter views the massive destruction in Hiroshima, Japan, on September 8, 1945, just a month after the bomb was dropped.

There can be little doubt that WWII fundamentally changed the United States. While America participated in WWI, the conflict was mercifully over before the country would commit more troops or have its economy and society fully mobilized for the war effort. Yet, WWI set the stage for the next cataclysm that the U.S. fully participated in, the effects of which can still be felt today.7

While there was deep and bitter disillusionment in America in the aftermath of World War I which lasted right up until the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the outcome of World War II on the national conscious was quite different. Ever since hostilities ceased in 1945, World War II has been seen as the “good war” fought by the “Greatest Generation.”

This interpretation has been widely advanced by the forces that pushed the country into the fray to begin with and, afterward, by academia, the educational establishment, the entertainment industry and nearly all of the opinion makers of American society. Anyone questioning U.S. involvement in the war or attempting to present a balanced account of the Axis powers’ own motivations or their reasons to enter the conflict is labeled an anti-Semite.

While there were many connected with the St. Benedict Center who served in the great crusade, some raised questions about the morality of U.S. involvement in the struggle, especially as it teamed up with the atheistic and Communist regime of Josef Stalin. While the alliance with the Soviet Union caused soul searching among some center members, it was America’s horrific decision to drop nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that provided a catalyst for Feeney and the center to battle for the doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

While not strictly a matter of theology, the use of nuclear weapons on civilian population centers, especially at that point in the war when the U.S. had, for all intents and purposes, defeated Japan militarily, and the fact that it gave its enemy little opportunity to surrender with a measure of dignity, was certainly a moral issue and one which struck a chord at the St. Benedict Center and with Feeney. What aroused the priest’s interest was not only his belief in the immorality of the decision, but the silence from his fellow clergy, the Catholic press and lay intellectuals.

Clarke, like Feeney and others associated with the center, was horrified when news broke about the bombing of Hiroshima:

I read about it and could not go on. I returned to the St. Benedict Center and told
them that hundreds of thousands of women, children and old men 
had been killed
or injured by something called an atom bomb which had 
been dropped on a teeming
Japanese city from an American airplane. (8)

The center released a statement which Clarke paraphrases. The center “was deeply grieved by the news of the atom bombing in the evening papers,” and its members and leaders “could not find it in [their] hearts to rejoice over the wholesale slaughter of innocent people.” (9)

Prior to the bombing, U.S. military personnel who had visited the center spoke about how they were taught that the Japanese were “subhuman.” Clarke recalls that, after these discussions, she was not entirely surprised by the bombing. Since the Japanese were considered subhuman, they were not “endowed” with natural rights and protections and, therefore, the attacks could be justified. The military men also gave “technical reasons” for the bombing of Japan.

Clarke and other St. Benedict Center members vigorously opposed all the arguments put forth and understood the ominous consequences that were to follow:

The atomic bombing of Japan, to our thinking, was un-Christian. The discussion 
which followed this announcement lasted a long time. … We reiterated our ethical
and Catholic indignation. Actually, we said, we were fearful for Western civilization. (10)

President Harry Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons on Japan had a profound impact on the St. Benedict Center as it did for many thoughtful Americans:

We were never quite the same … after the dropping of the atom bomb. It seemed
to have shocked us awake. It was almost as if we saw the life around us for the first
time. The scales fell from our eyes, and we beheld clearly as actualities many things
which we had dreaded might one day be the outcome of our exclusively
humanitarian society. (11)

All of the incessant propaganda by the Allies of defending “freedom and democracy” while ridding the world of the Axis menace and avenging their alleged “countless atrocities” was exposed as a cruel farce. The vitriol which emanated from the Allied propaganda machines set the stage for the dropping of the atomic bomb and for identifying the Japanese as subhuman.

Historian Thomas Goodrich describes the atmosphere at the time:

Simply, Japanese and German propaganda never came close to matching Allied 
propaganda in pure hate; Japanese and German propaganda never had the dripping
venom and murderous malice that American and British propaganda had then and,
for the most part, still has now. (12)

With the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. had committed a barbaric act of savagery that it had often accused its foes of doing. In this writer’s opinion, it was a clear-cut and entirely unnecessary genocide authorized by the president, an action that will truly “live in infamy,” and one which America’s former chief executive will no doubt eternally pay for.

While Clarke could not have known it at the time, the Allies had already engaged in aerial genocide with their indiscriminate bombing of Japanese and German cities. Some scholars contend that the repeated fire-bombing of Tokyo was more devastating than what took place in August of 1945. (13) Certainly, the bombing of German cities, such as Hamburg and especially the beautiful and strategically insignificant city of Dresden, were violations of nearly every Christian tenet in the conduct of warfare.

With the suppression of wartime information unfavorable to the Allies by Western governments and a press that was decidedly pro-war, Clarke and most Americans were completely unaware of the peace offers that the Third Reich had made in hopes of ending the conflict and its attempts to limit and restrict aerial bombing to military installations. (14)

It was after the war, and then only through the work of Revisionist scholars and publications, that these inconvenient facts were made known —many of which the general public still remains ignorant.

Certainly, there was a vast amount of literature on just war and the treatment of non-combatants in Catholic thought (see St. Augustine, for example) that should have invoked a response. Instead, there was mostly silence with the only outcry coming from secular Revisionist scholars, including, most prominently, Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes, the namesake of this magazine. (15)

Despite the obvious violation of Christian rules for the conduct of war, there were very few among the Catholic hierarchy or laity who condemned the act outside of the St. Benedict Center. This was a revelation to Clarke and Feeney and proved to be an ominous portent of things to come. Instead of debating the issue, the Church began to embrace the “new age, the atomic age, born out of the abandonment of a Christian principle!” (16)

Why was this the case? Was it because the nation’s Catholics had become so wedded to the American state that it would not oppose its actions whether right or wrong?

It was not, however, until Feeney came to the St. Benedict Center and began to criticize Modernism that those like Clarke saw the world from a di fferent, darker perspective:

Father Feeney had despaired of doing anything about Catholic Liberalism until he
was at the center for several years. When so much came clear to us about the state of
a world which would permit the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan … Father knew
we at last saw the problem. (17)

With like-minded people surrounding him and away from the liberalism which had infected the Jesuits and could be found in most Catholic colleges and seminaries, Feeney began his fight:

And when Father had, finally, strong and holy men and girls (become so under his
direction) who were as eager as he was to work for the truth, then he knew that
something could be done. (18)