Blessed Aloysius Stepinac (*1898, †10 February 1960), became archbishop of Zagreb, before the start of the Second World War. During the german hegemony, Hrvatska (Croatia) cleaved from Jugoslavija and became a client state. At first, Stepinac, as a nationalist, was approving of the new state. The Ustaš were fascists, Stepinac was not. In public and in private, Aloysius Stepinac urged and worked against the hateful tenets and actions of the parties in power.
"All men and all races are children of God; all without distinction. Those who are gypsies, black, european, or aryan all have the same rights.... for this reason, the Catholic Church had always condemned, and continues to condemn, all injustice and all violence committed in the name of theories of class, race, or nationality. It is not permissible to persecute gypsies or jews because they are thought to be an inferior race."When the greater european war and the civil wars in Jugoslavija were ended, the Partisans of Tito (Josip Broz), with allied connivance, thirsted for revenge. Murders and atrocities were de rigueur. Heavy handed indoctrination and a policy of terror were programmatic.
Stepinac was primate of Hrvatska and arrested, for a short time at the end of the war. Stepinac upon release, spoke against the crimes of the new regime. For over a year, the propaganda and coercion campaign continued. Stepinac would not collaborate with communists either.
September of '46, he was again arrested and false charges were brought against him. During the show trial, he spoke on 3 October, stating his innocence and the political nature of the trial. Eight days later he was declared guilty of high treason. He was released 5 December 1951.
At the time of Stepinac's trial, my father was also confined. He was a peasant conscript. A part of the military training was political education — well it is everywhere. He could not be successfully persuaded, nor could he act successfully convinced. He was accused of being ‘a reactionary bourgeois’. Neither, reactionary nor bourgeois, was in his vocabulary. Peasants, at least not in the villages, where he had spent his life, had used those words or concepts. Before the war, the option was either: clericalist or liberal, and both were Catholic, and the villagers were all peasants. The war brought the varieties of fascists and partisans, and the partisans were controlled by the communists. The communists were known to exist, only elsewhere, before the war.
While my father was imprisoned, he heard guards and jailers speak. They all knew and said in private, that Stepinac was innocent. Stepinac was the most visible opponent of the new regime, if Tito could use him as Henry Tudor did Cranmer, then Stepinac would not have suffered. A co-öpted church would be tolerable, it would be of utility to the new socialist state. But the Catholic Church though, is not confined to political borders; opponents, of the Church, are vexed that they cannot fully control it. A national or patriotic church ‘independent’ of Rome is dependent on the state or its ruler(s). The communists knew this, the fascists knew that, caesars and kings knew that, the leaders of the French Revolution knew that, the supporters of Luther knew that, the various anti-catholic groups through US history knew that.
During my father's confinement he was tortured, his teeth were pulled and he was burned with cigarettes. He was also declared guilty, but sentenced to death. Conveniently, he was allowed to escape and eventually reached Italy. After time in Pozzuoli's refugee camp, he was allowed to immigrate to the US, where he was called DP.
I was born two months before Stepinac died. My father asked me one day, when I was of university age, what exactly did ‘bourgeois’ and ‘reactionary’ denote. He denied being the former, and was proud to confirm the latter.