6 May 2018

Consensus at the Wannsee Conference

In that chilling and disgusting meeting at which the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem was organised, it is clear that many of the participants were uneasy about certain categories ... half-Jews .... those married to Jews ... Jews who had won the Iron Cross (first Class) in the Great War. But what nobody round that table said was: this whole policy is radically evil.

The presuppositions were never debated. There was a basic consensus.

And many of the elderly among us have experienced how committees much less murderous than Wannsee deliver their results if determined people with a clear agenda have imposed or inherited parameters which nobody else questions.

I am always uneasy about debates which turn upon the question of what should be the criteria for the "termination of a pregnancy".

And, moving from these life-and-death questions ... going from the Infernal to the Ridiculous ... to accounts of the discussions leading to the liturgical 'reforms' of the 1960s, what fascinates me is, again, that no-one, as far as I know, queried the assumptions. What nobody said was: we were not given a free hand; we were given, by an Ecumenical Council, a list of specific mandates to which we are required to give effect. And, however attractive the arguments for such and such a particular innovation, we have no mandate for it.

"Consensus" is, especially for the managerial elites of our culture, a warm and cuddly word. But both the word and its reality seem to me profoundly potentially dangerous. I recall a passage from C S Lewis's Hideous Strength:  
"This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world's history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter among fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men."

Ab omni malo consensu: libera nos Domine. 


Jacob said...

Father, if you haven't already seen it, I recommend "Conspiracy" starring Sir Kenneth Branagh that deals with the conference. A very good dramatic portrayal of that hideous day.

mcgod said...

In my years in Public Administration I felt those who insisted on the "consensus model" were those with a determination and skill to obscure their arguments if they had any and to ensure that responsibility for any decision could never actually be traced back to them. Those who insisted on a Committee Vote were branded as old fashioned , rigid and obstructive It was the antithesis of personal responsibility I was pleased to be old fashioned rigid and obstructive