Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Card. Biffi: Why bomb Catholic Nagasaki?

According to Sandro Magister, Cardinal Biffi questions why the Atom Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

"I had already heard about Nagasaki. I had come across it repeatedly in the 'History manual of the Catholic missions' by Giuseppe Schmidlin, three volumes published in Milan in 1929. Nagasaki had produced the first substantial Catholic community in Japan, in the sixteenth century. In Nagasaki, on February 5, 1597, thirty-six martyrs (six missionary Franciscans, three Japanese Jesuits, and twenty-seven laymen) gave their lives for Christ. They were canonized by Pius IX in 1862. When the persecution was resumed in 1637, no fewer than thirty-five thousand Christians were killed. After this, the young community lived in the catacombs, so to speak, but it was not extinguished. In 1865, Fr. Petitjean discovered this 'clandestine Church', which revealed itself to him after it had verified that he was celibate, devoted to Mary, and obedient to the pope of Rome; thus the sacramental life could be resumed as normal. In 1889, complete religious freedom was proclaimed in Japan, and everything began flourishing again. On June 15, 1891, the diocese of Nagasaki was established canonically, and in 1927 it welcomed as its pastor Bishop Hayasaka, whom Pius XI himself had consecrated as the first Japanese bishop. It is from Schmidlin that we learn that in 1929, of the 94,096 Japanese Catholics, fully 63,698 were in Nagasaki."

Having established this, cardinal Biffi concludes with a disturbing question:

"We can certainly assume that the atomic bombs were not dropped at random. So the question is inevitable: why is it that for the second slaughter, out of all the possibilities, that very city of Japan was chosen where Catholicism, apart from having its most glorious history, was also the most widespread and firmly established?"

Read the whole fascinating article about the attempt to destroy the Church and its extraordinary survival.


Cathy said...

Well, HERE is why Nagasaki was chosen:


A difficult article to read, but a good synopsis.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that it was a mistake and the pilots were looking for another target. Failed to find it and chose the largest connurbation in view.

This incident ended any possibility of a clean ending to the Second Euopean Civil War. The Americans should have threatened the Soviets with their arsenal and found an excuse to extend the Western front as Patton wanted to do.

Yalta was as much a sell out as Munich 7 years before. Nagasaki was a huge mistake as Biffi suggests. The Americans are now stuck in Europe for decades to come even after 60 years already!

The US has the World in the palm of its hand in August 1945 and blew it. It simply had no vision as to what was to happen. It had no empowering Catholic faith to take on the evil before her and I include British and French imperialism as part of that evil in addition to the Soviet empire builders.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to get into the question whether the atom bombs should have been used, only raise three questions about the issue of Nagasaki and Catholics there.

1. As the article Ma Beck links to, Nagasaki was not the primary target that day. Nagasaki was the secondary target and the only secondary target. Nagasaki was bombed only after the primary target that day was covered by clouds.

2. The Americans had been bombing Japan since April, 1942. If a purpose of bombing Nagasaki was to execute a policy of annihilating Japanese Catholics, why did the military wait nearly three and one-half years to execute that policy?

3. If there was an American military policy of annihilating Japanese Catholics, what, besides Nagasaki, are the examples of executing such a policy?

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Many thanks to Ma Beck.

I found it a very interesting article to read.

I find it very instructive to be reminded in the "History Manual of the Catholic Missions" of the terrible anti-Christian pogroms carried out by the Japanese in the seventeenth century.

They were truly barbaric by any standard.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto famously predicted that the USA would one day exact a "terrible vengeance".

I wonder why the Japanese didn't surrender unconditionally straight after Hiroshima felt the military might of the USA.

Had they done so, Nagasaki presumably would never have happened.

gemoftheocean said...

Well, lay it on Hirohito et al. No one said they couldn't surrender after the bomb on Hiroshimo was dropped. I'm always stunned at people who say "Why didn't they drop leaflets and give them a chance to surrender?" Given the mentality of TWO bombs having been dropped before the towel was thrown in should tell anyone that they had a fight-to-the-last man mentality.

Has the good Cardinal pondered that Monte Cassino was largely destroyed due to the fact that the Germans entrenched there and were an obstacle to allied progress. Of course, that wouldn't have necessarily happened either had the Italians allowed Mussolini, Mr. Buddy-Buddy with Hitler to be charge in the first place. Tragic as any individual suffering of innocents is, there's a cardinal or two that can use a reality check.

Anonymous said...

I've always found it curious that Japan, a nation which at the time was wedded to a solar religion which treated the Emperor as divine, should have two of its cities destroyed by the very forces that drive the sun.

Some of you may know the account of the community of Jesuits who were close to Ground Zero in Nagasaki, yet survived unscathed.

A divine message for the Japanese perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray,

Nagasaki in 1945 was one of the most Westernized cities in Japan -- an urban centre with one of the highest percentages of Christians in the country, a product of centuries of contact with Europe. This is why I have always found the atom-bombing of Nagasaki to be a great sign of deficient strategic thinking on the part of the Americans, albeit that Nagasaki was a secondary target which happened to be attacked because of the weather conditions on the day.

If the US had had a decent long-term plan for integrating post-war Japan fully into the Western world, it would have involved protecting and nurturing all the major Western spiritual and cultural elements and influences within Japan, especially Nagasaki. But it didn't.

I understand that Pope Benedict recently refused to meet with Condoleeza Rice because of the inability of the US to commit the US forces in Iraq to the protection of the Iraqi Christian minority.

If the US had had a decent post-war plan for the nurturing of a democratic and pro-Western Iraq, which religious minority should they have paid particular attention to?

I'm getting a sense of deja-vu.

gemoftheocean said...

Otis, please. You have an extremely warped view of US geopolitical aims at the time. God only knows by what logic you derived your weltanschauung.

#1 US pilots do not wander the skies aimlessly looking for targets for the hell of it. Particularly when carrying one of the only weapons of existence of its kind at the time.

#2 why you are hallucinating WWII was only a "civil European war" is anyone's guess. The last time I heard something that insane was when some guys in my college dorm had experimented with smoking a shopping bag full of whacky weed. Even they came out of the haze of the 70s.

#2 America's involvement in rebuilding Europe wasn't something we "had" to do -- but it was something we needed to do. Like it or not Russia was, after Stalin turned on Hitler, an ally of the west. Certainly by the time of US entry into WWII. If you think the majority of Americans were eager to stay involved in a war by attacking Russia, congratulations. You and Patton are the only ones.

Nagasaki wasn't a "mistake." It was planned, and it had the effect of getting the Japanese to throw in the towel. CHECKMATE. It you think Americans were thrilled having to fight island by bloody murderous island in the Pacific, you are seriously delusional. You nmae ONE correct statement. Yalta WAS a sellout. No thanks to the communists and fellow travelers in the US state department. That patrician social fool, FDR, never learned or would listen. Man went through his life looking like he was waiting for someone to hand him a cocktail and was the spark for the Ponzi scheme of "social security." and all other socialist claptrap.

I suppose a cynic could say the US should have left europe on its own after WWII. Fine. Whatever,. Let the Soviets take over the whole continent. I expect you'd have been really thrilled with that.

And Otis, apparently you had steeped out for a cigarette or something when the rest of us had this in class but far from having "no vision" -- the vision was to restore european western democracies and check the Soviet aggression where possible.

Gregor Kollmorgen said...

Reading about the heroic survival, fidelity and witness of the Japanese Catholics in Magister's article, one is quite saddened to read what has become of that Church at the link he gives: "JOINT CATHOLIC-BUDDHIST SERVICE FOR PEACE AT MARTYRDOM SITE", led by the Catholic Bishop, http://www.cbcj.or.jp/eng/jcn/oct2007.htm#13

Anonymous said...

There are some great posts on here. I would ask Dr Wright whether 2 days was enough for the Japanese to assess the damage to Hiroshima and make a coherent decision?

I stand by my comments that the Americans should have sorted out the Soviets before finishing off Japan.

We also need to consider the comments by President Hoover that American policy throughout the 1930s and up to 1941 was provocative towards the Japanese and Pearl Harbour was the consequence.

Physiocrat said...

berolinensis - I read the article. Can you explain what was sad about it? I must have missed something.

gemoftheocean said...

Otis, fascinating posit that the US shouldn't have "antagonized" Japan -- just because poor widdle Japan decided it would be fun to take over a large portion of China for the hell of it. I guess we should have twisted our panties and "understood" them. Get back to me once you've grasped the concept of the "rape of Nanking." Perhaps you were out sick that day from school? Pardon us all to hell and begone for having sympathy for those who apparently didn't even have a Chinaman's chance. Shocking that we didn't support the Japanese. I know it might be difficult for some Europeans to grasp why perhaps we weren't terribly open to selling raw material to Japan. The League of Nations was as ineffectual than as the UN is now about actually DOING anything except writing nasty notes and not inviting people to the annual New Year's party. Apparently you are unaware that Hoover's secretary of state Stimson declared that the US would not recognize Japan's control over "Manchukuo." I suppose you are saying we should have supported the take over? You seem unaware that the secretary of state acts at the direction of the president. If Hoover says the US was "hostile" to Japan in the early 30s (most rational people would aay "with cause") then that "hostility" was certainly supported by Hoover's own state department.

An isolationist congress, intent at the time of staying out of foreign wars were not well served in the end by that policy. Given that you can't just go down to Sears and buy a fighter or bomber plane when you need one. Rocky does not "pull a rabbit out of his hat." Despite what the cartoons say.

I seriously question your judgment and logic if you think the Americans were eager for a ground battle in the Soviet Union. Because while planes can bomb the hell out of things, in the end you have to send in ground troops. Unless you are suggesting we should have just laid nuclear waste to the soviet union and left it a parking lot. But somehow I think the liberals would he having a hissy fit. Given they hadn't attacked us personally, and given they had technically been allies, it may have been a tad inexpedient to have a hot war just then. Call it a hunch, but back in 1945, you just didn't go down to the local gun shop and buy a few hundred nuclear weapons either.

The US HAD already put the war in Europe as its top priority, even though its own self interests would have been to dislodge Japan after Pearl Harbor. YOU go tie the bell on the cat. We expended enough blood in Europe (which had the French done something other than execute a Gallic shrug when Germany remilitarized the Rhineland in 1936 - contrary to the articles of the Versailles treaty. Funny how people never seem to get the concept of "pay me now, or pay me a lot more later." Fat lot of good the Maginot line did.

As for your query whether "Two days was enough time" to figure out how bad a nuke was ... well, I've always wondered about those people who pull up to a 4 way stop sign and take 10 minutes to process the information, that in fact for miles around there is not a car to be seen. I guess that would be you and the Japanese high command.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

That's an interesting question asked by Otis. B. Inwood.

"Was two days enough for the Japanese to assess the damage at Hiroshima and make a coherent decision ?"

The answer, militarily, would be appear to be "Yes."

The result of Japanese reconnaissance of Hiroshima was reported back to the war council on 6 August, the same day as the bombing.

Within sixteen hours, details of the attack had been broadcast by Washington to the world.

The USA was already dropping leaflets on Japan, calling for an unconditional surrender.

The decision of the Japanese war council to hold out for a negotiated surrender appears to have been for political reasons.

But on 8 August, the Soviet Union invaded Manchuria, and President Truman knew there was no time to lose if a full Soviet invasion of the Japanese archipelago was to be forestalled.

Hence, on 9 August the second bomb was dropped.

Meanwhile, the USA planned to drop further bombs if necessary as soon as they were ready later in August and September.

A terrible warning was issued to
the Japanese that they could expect "a rain of ruin from the air the like of which had never been seen".

Even so, it took until 14 August for Emperor Hirohito to overide certain elements of the war council, and record his message of unconditional surrender, which was broadcast on 15 August.

So, it was six days after Nagasaki, and nine days after Hiroshima, before the Japanese surrendered unconditionally.

The Japanese attempt to establish hegemony in the Pacific and the Far East was at an end after four years of bitter fighting.

Conventional warfare had already cost the lives of far too many good men.

It had to be stopped.

To me, it remains one of the great enigmas of World War II that the Japanese took so long to accept the inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray,

One further thought on the destruction of Nagasaki. A Catholic radiologist at Nagasaki University who was suffering from lukaemia, Dr. Takashi Nagai, managed to survive the atom bomb and devoted himself to caring for the injured. He wrote the following:

"Is there not a profound relationship between the annihiliation of Nagasaki and the end of the War? Was not Nagasaki the chosen victim, the lamb without blemish, slain as a burnt offering on an altar of sacrifice, atoning for the sins of all nations during World War II?"

Anonymous said...

In my classes to gain my Asian Studies graduate degree we studied the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I did a resrach project on the bombing of Nagasaki and the impact on the Catholic community in the city. For centuries Nagasaki Catholics have endured discrimination by their own political leaders. During WWII the communtity was viewed with suspicion and faced discrimination. Along comes the atomic bombings and most of the community was wiped out by the atomic bomb. Whole orders of Japanese nuns and brothers were eliminated by the blast. Thousands of Catholics and hundreds of clergy and nuns were killed. There are a number of websites devoted to this atrocity. Of course, the deaths of any civilians and even of military personnel is a horrid thing. The destruction of Nagasaki led to the deaths of so many and could have been avoided.


Anonymous said...

This tragedy cannot be fully understood without knowing the story of Dr Takashi Nagai, the "Saint of Urakami," who is now a Servant of God and underway in the formal process of sainthood. Here is an essay on Nagai, with many links: http://cfmceroz.com/blog/2011/12/28/bells-for-nagasaki/

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