Pennsylvania Catholic bishop criticized for Hitler comment

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., is being criticized for saying Adolf Hitler … Continued

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., is being criticized for saying Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini would love the country’s public school system because it teaches all children one set of beliefs.

Bishop Joseph P. McFadden made the remark while advocating for school vouchers during a televised interview last week.

“In totalitarian governments, they would love our system,” McFadden said. “This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all those tried to establish: a monolith so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”

McFadden’s words sparked outrage from the area chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and a rebuke from the legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

In an email sent to The Patriot-News on Wednesday (Jan. 25), McFadden said he didn’t mean to cause offense and that he was not trying to trivialize the Holocaust.

“The reference to dictators and totalitarian governments of the 20th century, which I made in an interview on the topic of school choice, was to make a dramatic illustration of how these unchecked monolithic governments of the past used schools to curtail the primary responsibility of the parent in the education of their children,” McFadden said.

“Today many parents in our state experience the same lack of freedom in choosing an education that best suits their child as those parents oppressed by dictators of the past. I intentionally did not make reference to the Holocaust in my remarks,” he said.

ADL regional director Barry Morrison said McFadden’s remarks are offensive to people who suffered through the Holocaust or fought fascism.

“We appreciate his commitment to the education of children and the viability of Catholic schools,” Morrison said. “However, he should not be making his point at the expense of the memory of six million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust.”

Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said that while everyone makes mistakes, McFadden’s remarks were “completely inappropriate.”

Besides, public schools are diverse, not monolithic, Hoover said.

“Sure, there are standards that are set by the state, but everything is done in an open, public process and is checked by the political system,” he said. “School boards are elected, the people from the Department of Education work for the governor. So, our public school system is actually very democratic and very open.”

(Diana Fishlock writes for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa.)

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  • revchaim

    As a direct descendent of victims of the Nazis, and with relations who perished in the extermination camps, I must disagree with Bishop McFadden’s critics. First, the association the Bishop made with the Fascist dictators was with their use of propaganda, particularly on students and their intolerance of opposing viewpoints. His statement clearly has nothing whatever to do with the final solution or mass murder. Both dictators were complex characters – and it is essential to explore the subtler aspects of their drive to political control. Bishop McFadden was warning of the dangers of group think and where it may lead. As to the ACLU, have they lost their unwavering commitment to the First Amendment? Or is it “Its our First Amendment and you can’t have it”? You cannot have it both ways!

    Father Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck

  • amelia45

    A Catholic bishop is a representative of a hierarchial, monarchial Church that believes they are the only true path to God and salvation. The Church teaches one set of beliefs are the only possible beliefs. If you want to have an example of totaliarian thinking, I would think it would be the Catholic Church.

    Think about the claim by the Catholic bishops that “religious freedom” is at risk in regulations that would require health insurance plans to cover contraceptives and medically approved sterilizations. The smallest percentage I have seen for Catholics who use artificial contraceptives is 70% and most studies say it is 90%. Other studies I have read say that Catholic women actually choose sterilization as a form of permanent birth control more frequently that non-Catholic women.

    Artificial forms of contraception are medically approved and widely used – something like an overall 98% of women use some form of artificial contraceptive or sterilization in this country at some time during their child bearing years. Artificial contraception allows a family to plan when and how many children they will have for all the reasons that familes have, whether it is the health of the woman, finances, career, or personal inclination.

    Currently something like 26 to 28 states require health insurance offered in those states to include coverage of contraceptives. They do this on the advice of medical professionals who believe that access to contraceptives is important to women’s health and because contraceptives are so widely used and so important to families in planning their lives. Don’t you think it is best if medical people decide what is good medical care?

    But the Catholic Church finds artificial contraceptives to be wrong. It teaches that view point to all its’ people, an overwhelming majority of whom ignore it. Now the Church wants some government given right to be exempt from laws that require employers to include contraceptives and sterilization in health insurance. They want a power to require the tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands??), very few of whom are vowed religious, and who are both Catholic and non-Catholic, who work for Catholic hospitals, schools, universities, and other affiliated organization – they want the power to coerce obedience to a teaching of their faith that would deny access to a widely used, socially acceptable, medically recommended form of health care.

    They claim that on the basis of their “religious freedom” they have the right to deny the “conscience right” of someone else to choose artificial birth control or sterilization. We are only free as each of us is free to make choices about how we live. The regulations force no one to actually use birth control or be sterilized. It creates the opportunity for individuals to make choices.

    I would suggest that the Catholic Church’s desire to impose its religious viewpoint on others is an example of behaving like a totalitarian regime..

  • thebump

    @amelia45: Dear, you’re sadly mistaken—but more importantly, this article has nothing to do with your favorite topic.