WHEN I am supreme dictator of the universe, Holocaust-denial
will still be a crime, but as part of a wider ban on all mention of
German politics between 1933 and 1945. Usage in public of the word
"Hitler" will be prohibited by law. Careers will be extinguished by
one careless word. Had these laws been in effect this week, we
would never have heard any more from Lord Carey or Professor Hans
In an interview with Kate Connolly of The Guardian,
Professor Küng compared an oath that bishops take to the Pope to
one taken to Hitler. Perhaps things are different in Germany, but
over here that seems to me to be among the things that you simply
cannot say about a German Pope.
Professor Küng is quoted as saying: "The unconditional
obedience demanded of bishops who swear their allegiance to the
Pope when they make their holy oath is almost as extreme as that of
the German generals who were forced to swear an oath of allegiance
There's no point in blaming the journalist for printing
something so juicy. Of course, the Professor is right that the
papacy is an autocratic institution. Of course, he is right that
since 1979 no one who has expressed in public doubts about
Humanae Vitae has been made a bishop.
"The Vatican made a point of crushing any form of clerical
dissent. 'The rules for choosing bishops are so rigid that as soon
as candidates emerge who, say, stand up for the pill, or for the
ordination of women, they are struck off the list.' The result was
a church of 'yes men', almost all of whom unquestioningly toed the
But no one is going to remember that. He used the H word and
touched the live wire.
Similarly, Lord Carey, at a fringe meeting at the Conservative
Party Conference to oppose gay marriage, had to drag Hitler into
"Asked about opponents of gay marriage being described as
'bigots' - on one occasion by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister
- Carey said: 'Let us remember the Jews in Nazi Germany. What
started against them was when they started to be called names.
"'And that was the first stage towards that totalitarian state.
We have to resist them. We treasure democracy. We treasure our
Christian inheritance and we want to debate this in a fair
This is so mind-boggling that there can be no question of
misquotation. It drew an excoriating riposte from one of The
Guardian's science bloggers, Martin Robbins, about what it was
like to be a gay man in a concentration camp under real Nazis. I am
not going to quote that, because the details of one execution are
The irony of it is that there have been and still are plenty of
opponents of gay marriage (among them Michael White, who wrote
The Guardian's report) who are not in the least bit
bigoted. There are plenty of proponents of gay marriage who are
violently and unreasonably opposed to Christianity and anything
else they can recognise as religion. But once you play the Hitler
card, you lose.
Besides, you can't really claim to be in favour of English
democracy and opposed to brutal and unfair invective. When Nye
Bevan called the Tories "lower than vermin", he caused a great deal
of pain and real indignation, but I don't believe anyone on the
other side suggested that the Nazis had started off by calling the
Jews names. Things were different in 1947, when memories of real
Nazis were still fresh and vivid.
Democracy gets more complicated even than that. It is quite
possible that the sense of betrayal, and of having his country
removed, which Lord Carey feels is precisely what David Cameron
wants him to feel. The calculation is purely demographic and
electoral. There may be plenty of Lib Dems and Labour types who
want to stick it to the Church of England on principle. Mr Cameron
is not one of them. But Lord Carey is operating on the far side of
a cultural divide from almost everyone under 40. They cannot see
what all the fuss is about.
They are also going to have a thoroughly miserable time,
economically. What better way for the Conservatives to show that
they are on the same side than by upsetting a lot of grouchy old
people hung up on a forgotten and now incomprehensible past?
Of course, small-c conservatives wouldn't think like that at
all. But they don't win elections nowadays, and they don't run the
Conservative Party, either. Perhaps we ought to suspend the
Reichstag, oops, I mean Parliament, if we want to save