Magnum Crimen

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Magnum Crimen
Magnum Crimen 1948.jpg
Author Viktor Novak
Country Yugoslavia
Language Croatian
Publisher Nakladni zavod Hrvatske, Zagreb
Publication date
Pages 1,119
Preceded by Magnum sacerdos

The Magnum Crimen is a book about clericalism in Croatia from the end of 19th century until the end of the Second World War. The book, whose full title is Magnum crimen – pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj (The Great Crime – a half-century of clericalism in Croatia), was written by a former Catholic priest and a professor and historian at Belgrade University, Viktor Novak (1889–1977).[1] The book was first published in Zagreb in 1948.[2]

Immediately after the book was published, the Roman Curia placed this book on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum and pronounced anathema against the author.[3][4][5][6]


Novak wrote a trilogy, of which the last part was Magnum Crimen (the first two parts were the Magnum Tempus[7] and the Magnum Sacerdos[8]). According to O. Neumann, Novak was a Croat by birth, and he has been, since 1924, active among the Serbs. "He was Chair of Croatian History, which was founded at the University of Belgrade in order to promote mutual understanding between the two kindred peoples".[9] One of the determining factors in his life was his visit to Rome before 1914 and his research in the Vatican Archives. As a medievalist, he came into close contact with problems of modern religious life, and took lively interest in relations between the Vatican and Catholic Croats.

Observing the Roman Catholic Church activities in Yugoslavia for more than fifty years, Novak concluded that this Church replaced the idea of service to God with service to the Roman curia, i.e., to the government of the Roman Pontiff in the role of its world leader. As a result of this idea, in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Roman Catholic Church identified Catholicism with Croatian nationhood,[10] which Novak argues turned most of its priesthood into ardent Ustashe supporters.[11]


First edition [1948][edit]

Viktor Novak was imprisoned in Banjica Concentration Camp in autumn of 1941. In the camp he met refugees from the Independent State of Croatia and heard of the crimes committed by Ustashe and their clerical supporters. After leaving the camp he started to write Magnum Crimen.[12]

The book describes the activities of the Roman Catholic clergy in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, including their intention and attempts to become above the state, to control the state and eventually the everyday lives of the common people.[citation needed] It has two distinct parts. The first part consists of 15 chapters, covering Catholic clericalism from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century in Austria-Hungary, then in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The second part, the last four chapters, covers the rise and fall of the 1941–45 Independent State of Croatia (NDH), and the active support of provided to it by the Catholic clergy.

According to Novak, the main doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was based on the following:[13]

  • the clergy shall be paid by the state as state officials;
  • the state cannot have any control over the Church;
  • the Church has right to be fully involved in the political life of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia;
  • the Church doctrine/religious education shall be a part of primary and secondary school curricula;
  • the Roman Catholic Church curricula in the schools shall be obligatory to all pupils whose at least one parent is a Roman Catholic.
  • the state should not allow conversion of Christians to non-Christianity nor allow any Catholic to be un-confessional (Constitutional section of the Roman Catholic Church doctrine in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as of November 1921)

Josip Juraj Strossmayer's ideas, of which the most important one was that serving God is equal to serving the people,[14] created close relations between ethnic Croats and Serbs by introducing the Old Church Slavonic language as the liturgical language of the Catholic church in the Balkans[15] and were aggressively suppressed by the Catholic clergy in Croatia and Slovenia.

Ante Pavelić's nationalism identified Catholicism with the Croat people, which was actively supported and interpreted by the clergy.[16][17]

The second part of this book focuses on the establishment of the 1941–45 Independent State of Croatia (NDH), the active support extended to the state by the Catholic clergy, and the clergy's involvement and support in the extermination and/or forceful conversion of the Orthodox Serbs as well as the extermination of the Jews and the Roma people.

Novak bases his gloomy picture of the NDH and the wartime not only on written documents which, despite strict police measures found their way to the occupied capital, but also on personal narratives by some of his fellow prisoners in the Banjica konclogor.[9]

Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac is portrayed in this book as an ardent Catholic crusader[18] who publicly endorsed the establishment of the NDH,[19] acknowledged the Ustashe as Croatian patriots,[20] defended it before the Roman Pope [21] and was responsible for the racist attitude and behaviour of his clergy.[22]

Historians L. Hory and Martin Broszat wrote that the second part of this book, about the Independent State of Croatia crimes, was based on the Yugoslav state commission whose role was to investigate the crimes of the occupying powers and their Ustashe accomplices in World War II and the Croatian Catholic Church press.[23]

English language edition [2011][edit]

This edition, except from being an English language translation of the 1948 edition, contains two new chapters - XIV. Ecclesia militants at war with the ideology of Tyrš, and XV. Libellus accusations, both omitted in the original version under the pressure of Josip Broz Tito's OZNA chief Maks Baće.[24]

Chapter XIV is about the Sokol (Falcon) Society, founded in Prague in 1862 by Jindřich Fügner and Miroslav Tyrš. The goal of the Sokol Society was to revive and enhance the national awareness and promote mental and physical health of the Czech people through sports and moral education. The idea soon gained a pan-Slavic character, and Sokol organizations were later established in Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Poland, and Russia. The Sokol movement had full support from Strossmayer, then Bishop of Đakovo. After the dissolution of Austria-Hungary and the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in 1918, and under the leadership of Lazar Car, Croatian Sokol societies were united with Serbian and Slovenian Sokol clubs into a large Sokol Alliance on 15 June 1919.

The separatism-prone Croatian clergy forced Croatian Sokols to leave the Yugoslav Sokol Alliance in 1919–20, fueling internal conflicts within the Alliance on political grounds. At the same time, high Catholic clergy established the Orlovi (Eagles) clerical organization with the aim of taking youths away from the Alliance. The Croatian Catholic Church rejected the pan-Slavic idea of bringing together Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim believers under the motto that "a brother is dear regardless of his faith". The two Catholic organizations, Orlovi (Eagles) and Katolička Akcija (Catholic Action) were a main base of this resistance to the idea of Yugoslavism, brotherhood and religious tolerance. The Catholic Church's resistance to this idea of pan-Slavism led the Polish Sokols to abstain from the international All Sokol Rally held in Prague in 1926.

Chapter XV, titled Libellus Accusations, is about a few Croatian clergymen who were followers of Strossmayer's idea (namely, that to serve people means to serve God). The most prominent among them was Frano Ivanišević, a national fighter and promoter of Old Slavonic Church language as the language of liturgy in the Croatian Catholic Church. He demonstrated that a Catholic priest serving his people would not be against his Church and faith.[25]


The earliest international surveys of the book are the ones written by Russian S. Troicky (1949) and the Swede Oscar Neumann (1950).[9] Neumann stressed three things particular to this book: the role of Novak in spreading and defending the idea of Yugoslavism, the abundance of documents used to support the book content, and the imbalance in tone, stating that "Some passages have been written by a scholar in a dignified academic gown, in other parts of the book the author assumes the role of public prosecutor." The abridged edition of this book published in 1960 in Sarajevo[26] was reviewed in the Yugoslav journal of history, Istorijski glasnik, that same year by Yugoslav historian Branko Petranović,[5] and the same review was echoed in the Historical abstracts.[6]

William Bundy gave a short survey of this book, the full text of which is: A Yugoslav historian's lengthy indictment of clericalism in Croatia over the past half-century. The latter half of the book, covering the period of "independent" Croatian state of Ante Pavelić on the basis of a wealth of material from many sources, pays particular attention to the role of Achbishop Stepinac.[27]

There is a number of authors who left short negative notes about the book. These include John R. Lampe (the book is not impartial),[28] John Neubauer (commissioned by the communist authorities)[29] or completely rejecting it, Robin Harris (as slanderous, anti-catholic).[30]

Hubert Butler used Magnum Crimen as a starting reference for his research about the Croatian Society of St. Jerome in Rome and its support to the Ustashe during the Second World War and after.[31]

The book has seven full editions,[32] and one abridged[26] where the full 1986 edition was released with a foreword by Jakov Blažević.[33]

The most recent, 2011 edition, translated into English, was published in two volumes,[34][35] and includes two chapters which had been excluded from all earlier editions of this book, which, according to Serbian historian Vasilije Krestić, were censored upon the request of two Croatian communist leaders, Vladimir Bakarić and Maks Baće.[24] As reported by the Serbian daily Politika, the publication of the English language edition was financed by a schoolmate of Milorad Ekmečić, who also wrote the foreword to the edition.[24] According to the same article, the publication of the English translation was coincided with the Croatia's lawsuit against Serbia in front of the International Court of Justice, so that "the world would be informed about Ustashe crimes against Serbs during the Second World War".[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ljetopis Jugoslavenske akademije znanosti i umjetnosti by Jugoslavenska akademija znanosti i umjetnosti, Zagreb 1979, pages 58, 673-4
  2. ^ Schmidt, Amy (1995-07-30). "Tito, Yugoslavia's demise distorted". Washington Times. p. B7. 
  3. ^ Viktor Novak:Magnum crimen: pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj, Volume 2, Svjetlost, 1960 p. 28
    ... a Santo Officio stavio djelo na Index librorum prohibitorum, zacijelo žaleći samo što pisca njegova ne može da izvede na lomaču, da i s njime upriliči jedan monstruozno svečani Auto da fe, Actus fidei, ...
  4. ^ Rivelli 1998, p. 102:
    Loin de se repentir, donc, le Vatican s'est tu. L'auteur d'un ouvrage sur ce massacre, le Dr Viktor Novak, historien yougoslave d'origine croate, a vu son œuvre, Magnum Crimen, publiée à Zagreb en 1948, à l'Index librorum prohibitorum en même temps qu'il était excommunié.
  5. ^ a b Petranović, Branko - Viktor Novak: " Velika optužba (Magnum Crimen). Pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj", Istorijski glasnik, Sarajevo 1960 br. 3-4, pages 160-165
  6. ^ a b Eric H. Boehm: Historical abstracts, Vol. 9, American Bibliographical Center, Santa Barbara, Calif 1964. page 89
  7. ^ published as Magnum tempus: ilirizam i katoličko sveštenstvo : ideje i ličnosti, 1830-1849 by Novak, Viktor; Nova knjiga, Belgrade, 1987
  8. ^ published as Josip Juraj Strossmayer: apostol Jugoslovenske misli by Novak, Viktor; Savez sokola kraljevine Jugoslavije, Belgrade, 1941
  9. ^ a b c Neumann, Oscar (1950). Novak, Magnum Crimen - pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj in Journal of Central European Affairs, Volume 10. Boulder CO: University of Colorado. pp. 63–65. 
  10. ^ Magnum Crimen [1986], page 9: Stadler je istaknuo, da će hrvatstvo moći biti spašeno jedino pod vođstvom hvatskoga episkopata. Nadbiskup Stadler održao je ovaj znameniti govor, koji je toliko puta kasnije citiran i označivan kao najmisaoniji i najdalekosežniji program, na drugoj svečanoj sjednici, i oduševio je svu prisutnu "preuzvišenu, presvijetlu i ostalu visokocijenjenu gospodu", kojoj se obraćao povišenim tonom, kad god je naglašavao vezu između hrvatstva i katolicizma
  11. ^ Magnum Crimen [1948], pages I-XV
  12. ^ Richard West: Tito and the Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia, Faber & Faber, Nov 15, 2012, Chapter 6. First Clashes with the Chetniks
  13. ^ Magnum Crimen [1948], pages 158-159
  14. ^ Magnum Crimen [1948], page XIV
  15. ^ Magnum Crimen [1948], page 257: Uvođenje starog slavenskog jezika u bogosluženje katoličkih Hrvata Strossmayer je punih pet decenija smatrao kao jedno od sredstava za zbližavanje zapadne s istočnom crkvom. Napori Strossmayera, koje je on učinio za te ideale u Rimu, Petrogradu, Beogradu i na Cetinju, ogromnih su razmjera.
  16. ^ Magnum Crimen [1948], page 9 Dr. Ivan Šarić: Mi smo Hrvati i katolici i to hoćemo da budemo. Zato se sastadosmo da pred cijelim svijetom izjavimo, od kojega nam mnogi ne daju, da se zovemo Hrvati, a drugi nam hoće da krate da smo katolici.
  17. ^ Jozo Tomasevich: War and Revolution in Yugoslavia: 1941 - 1945, Stanford University Press page 549 "In contrast, Novak lists hundreds of Catholic priests who supported and worked with Ustashas."
  18. ^ Richard West: Tito and the Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia, Faber & Faber, Nov 15, 2012 Chapter Notes
  19. ^ Magnum Crimen [1948], page 551: Stepinac in his speech (complete - on pages 150-151) on April 10, 1941. Odazovite se stoga spremno ovom mom pozivu na uzvišeni rad oko čuvanja i unapređenja NDH. Poznavajući muževe koji danas upravljaju sudbinom hrvatskoga naroda mi smo duboko uvjereni, da će naš narod naići na puno razumijevanje i pomoć. Mi vjerujemo i očekujemo, da će Crkva u uskrsloj Državi Hrvatskoj moći u punoj slobodi naviještati neoborive principe vječne Istine i Pravde.
  20. ^ Magnum Crimen [1948], page 545 Katolički list" saopćuje, da je tom prigodom nadbiskup izrazio ne samo svoja čestitanja za obnavljanje NDH, nego je istodobno izrazio i svoje žaljenje povodom smrti njegovoga brata Petra Kvaternika, koji je kao ustaški odmetnik poginuo u borbi sa regularnim trupama jugoslovenske vojske u Crikvenici, u trenutku kada je objavljivao u tom mjestu NDH i odcjepljenje od Jugoslavije.
  21. ^ Magnum Crimen [1948], page 887 U već spomenutom memorandumu papi Piju XII., nadbiskup Stepinac, zalaže se za tu monstruoznost NDH, i njen upravni aparat kao za "produženu ruku Gestapoa i Ovre", pošto smatra (18. V. 1943), da se radi "o paklenom planu uništenja katolicizma na istočnoj strani Jadrana koju pripremaju neprijatelji Crkve u tim krajevima". Da bi bio što uvjerljiviji, nadbiskup Stepinac je čitav niz ustaških zločina pripisao naprosto partizanima, a zločince svećenike nastojao da odbrani od optužbi koje su doprle do samog Vatikana.
  22. ^ Magnum Crimen [1948], page 939. Msgr. Binički in "Razbojnička pećina": Mnogi su sladokusci zamjerali Ocu Domovine (tj. Anti Starčeviću) što je poznatu pasminu (tj. Srbe) nazvao "vlaškim nakotom". Kao da Vlasi nisu ljudi, van živine, koje se kote. Tko dobro luči, dobro uči. Treba dobro razlučitu stare hrvatske Vlahe - pastire od smeća što su ga Turci sa svih strana zgrnuli u ostanke drevne kraljevine Hrvatske.
  23. ^ Ladislaus Hory, Martin Broszat: Der kroatische Ustascha-Staat 1941-1945, Walter de Gruyter, Jan 1, 1964 page 10 see here
  24. ^ a b c d Radisavljević, Zoran (22 March 2012). ""Magnum crimen", ipak, putuje u svet". Politika (in Serbian). Belgrade. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  25. ^ Magnum Crimen Two omitted chapters from the book
  26. ^ a b Velika optužba (Magnum crimen) by Viktor Novak, Svjetlost Sarajevo 1960 (abridged)
  27. ^ William P. Bundy: Foreign Affairs Bibliography by Council on Foreign Relations, Archibald Cary Coolidge, Council on Foreign Relations, Hamilton Fish Armstrong - vol. 57, no. 3 - page 340
  28. ^ Ideologies and National Identities; Lampe, John R; p. 79.
  29. ^ Neubauer, John (2004). History of the literary cultures of East-Central Europe. John Benjamin Publishing Company. p. 164. ISBN 90-272-3452-3. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  30. ^ Harris, Robin. "On Trial Again". Catholic Culture. Trinity Communications. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  31. ^ Hubert Butler: Independent Spirit: Essays, Macmillan, Jun 15, 2000 page 485
  32. ^
  33. ^ Novak, Viktor (1986). Magnum Crimen - pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj. Belgrade: Nova Knjiga. p. ix-xvi. 
  34. ^ Viktor Novak: Magnum Crimen: Half a Century of Clericalism in Croatia : Dedicated to the Known and Unknown Victims of Clericalism Volume 1, Gambit, Jagodina 2011, ISBN 9788676240487
  35. ^ Viktor Novak: Magnum Crimen: Half a Century of Clericalism in Croatia : Dedicated to the Known and Unknown Victims of Clericalism Volume 2, Gambit, Jagodina 2011, ISBN 9788676240494