Magnum Crimen


"Magnum crimen: pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj" (i.e. Major accusation: Half a century of clericalism in Croatia) is a book first published in Zagreb in 1948. The book was written by a Croatian Roman Catholic priest, Dr. Viktor Novak (1889 - 1977), who was also a professor at Belgrade and Zagreb Universities, and the member of the Yugoslav Academy Science and Arts.[1] In this book, Novak wrote about (Roman Catholic) clericalism in Croatia from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of World War II.

The Vatican Curia placed the book on their list of banned books, the "Index librorum prohibitorum", and said that Novak was an enemy of the Catholic Church.[2][3]

The bookEdit


Novak wrote that he spent more than 40 years collecting documents and books to write his book. He started collecting this material during his secondary school days, continued it as a university student, and as a member of the Austrian Institute of History in Vienna, Austria, then as a university professor in Zagreb and Belgrade. He worked on three books, of which Magnum crimen is the last, the first two parts of are the Magnum tempus[4] and the Magnum sacerdos.[5] In 1941, after the destruction and occupation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Novak was forced to destroy all material he had collected. He was in danger of being arrested and killed by the German occupying forces and their collaborators in Belgrade. He was among the first ten people arrested in Belgrade by Germans, but managed to survive and continue work on this book after liberation of Belgrade in October 1944.

Novak dedicates this book to the victims (known and unknown as well) of the clero-fascism.[6]

Observing the Roman Catholic Church activities in Yugoslavia for more than fifty years, the author concludes that this Church replaced the idea of service to God by service to the Roman Curia, i.e. service to the government of the Roman Pontificate in the role of the world leader. As a result of this idea, in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Roman Catholic Church identified the Roman Catholicism to the Croatian nationhood, which turned most of its priesthood into ardent Ustashe supporters.[7]

Chapters I - XVIIIEdit

The book describes 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 everyday lives of the common people. It has two distinct parts. The first part consists of fifteen chapters, covering the Roman Catholic clericalism from the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century in Austria-Hungary, then in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The second part, the last four chapters, covers the rise and fall of the Independent State of Croatia, and the active support of the Roman Catholic Church clergy.

The main doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was that
(a) the clergy shall be paid by the state as the state officials;
(b) the state cannot have any control over the Church;
(c) the Church has right to be fully involved in the political life of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia;
(d) the Church doctrine/religious education shall be a part of primary and secondary school curricula; and that
(e) the Roman Catholic Church curricula in the schools shall be obligatory to all pupils whose at least one parent is a Roman Catholic.[8]

To achieve these goals, the Church supported clerical political parties, confronting them to other confessions, primarily to the Serbian Orthodox Church, by publicly preaching hatred against the Orthodox population and advocating Croatian and Slovene separatism and intolerance against others.

Josip Juraj Strossmayer's ideas, of which the most important one was - serving God equals to serving people,[9] created close relations between Croats and Serbs by introducing the Old Slavonic language as the liturgy language of the Roman Catholic Church in the Balkans[10] - were aggressively suppressed by the Roman Catholic clergy in Croatia and Slovenia. The clergy put the Roman Curia in between the God and the people, demanding from the Roman Catholics ultimate obedience to the Roman Curia and unconditional love of the Roman Pope. The clergy remaining faithful to the Strossmayer was marginalized, with the most ardent supporters excommunicated by the Zagreb archbishop.

Nevertheless, Strossmayer was embraced as a great Roman Catholic bishop by the same clergy - but his teaching was distorted or not mentioned ever. The same destiny faced Franjo Rački, Ante Trumbić, and Stjepan Radić - three Croatian politicians advocating actively and fighting for the Yugoslavism - as a common denominator of togetherness and life among the Slavic people of the kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Trumbić and Radić's struggle against centralism was interpreted as the Croatian and Slovene separatism support.[11]

Novak demonstrated that even the anti-Croatian activities in the Italian Croatian and Slovene lands (as compensation for their aid in World War I) were not counteracted by the Croatian and Slovene Roman Catholic clergy in Yugoslavia. Expulsion of the Croatian and Slovene clergy from these lands and their replacement by the Italians was received with silence and accepted without resistance or protest among their Catholic brethren in Yugoslavia.

Ante Pavelić's political activities in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Ustashe terrorism, and the embracement of fascism were all supported by the Roman Catholic clergy. Pavelić's nationalism identified Roman Catholicism to the Croatdom, which was actively supported and interpreted by the clergy.[12]

The second part of this book is about the beginning of the Independent State of Croatia, the active support of the Roman Catholic clergy to this state, and their involvement and support in the extermination and/or forceful conversion of the Serbs and extermination of the Jews and the Roma people. The book is full of testimonies and documents showing the active involvements of the Catholic clergy in supporting, organizing, and executing extermination of Serbs, Jews, and Roma people of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. One of the most bizarre events described was that Roman Catholic priests in the Jasenovac concentration camp working every day on the most gruesome ways to kill the camp inmates, while they went to chapel regularly each day to pray to God.[13]

At the end of World War II, the Catholic clergy defended themselves, claiming their opposition to forceful conversion and extermination in some letters and instructions directed to the priesthood. The book notes that these letters and directions were not public and not respected or followed. In fact, an article from "Novi list"' argued that a Jew could not be save by converting to the Roman Catholicism.

Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac is portrayed in this book as an ardent Roman Catholic crusader who publicly endorsed the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia,[14] acknowledged the Ustashe as Croatian patriots,[15] defended her before the Roman Pope [16] and was responsible for the racist attitude and behavior of his clergy.[17]

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.[18]

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.[19]

The book as an academic referenceEdit

Among scholars-historians this book is accepted as a serious academic reference and as such - cited and referenced a great number of times [1],[2]. That way the book became a reference book in the libraries of many universities around the globe [3].

The earliest surveys of this book are the ones of Russian S. Troicky (as of the 1949 year - see the link) and of Swede O. Neumann.[20] Neumann stressed three things particular to this book: the role of V. Novak in spreading and defending the idea of Yugoslavism, abundance of the documentation used to support the book content, and 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 [21] is reviewed in the Istorijski glasnik [22] and the same review echoed in the Historical abstracts.[23]

A number of short notes about this book can be found - scattered in the works related to this period of history. Some are neutral [24] and some rejective and disapproving.[25][26]

The most recent, 2011 English language edition, was published in two volumes,[27][28] 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.[18] As reported by the Serbian daily Politika, the publication of the English language edition was financed by a schoolmate of Milorad Ekmečić; Ekmečić wrote the foreword to the edition.[18] 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".[18]

The book has seven full editions [4] and one abridged.[29]


  • Magnum crimen - pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj by Viktor Novak, Nakladni zavod Hrvatske, Zagreb 1948


  1. Annals of the Yugoslav Academy of Science and Arts, Zagreb 1979, pages 58 , 673-4
  2. Magnum crimen: pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj, Volume 2 by Viktor Novak, Svjetlost, 1960 page 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,...
    Translation: ... and Santo Officio placed this work on Index librorum prohibitorum, certainly regretting their incapability of not throwing the writer on stake and, that way, serving a monstrously solemn Auto da fe, Actus fidei, ...
  3. Le génocide occulté: état indépendant de Croatie, 1941-1945 by Marco Aurelio Rivelli, Published by L'AGE D'HOMME, 1998 page 18:
    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 ceuvre, Magnum Crimen, publiée à Zagreb en 1948, à l'Index librorum prohibitorum en meme temps qu'il etait excommunié
  4. published as Magnum tempus: ilirizam i katoličko sveštenstvo : ideje i ličnosti, 1830-1849 by Viktor Novak, Nova knjiga, Beograd, 1987
  5. published as Josip Juraj Štrosmajer: apostol Jugoslovenske misli by Viktor Novak, Savez sokola kraljevine Jugoslavije, Beograd, 1941
  7. Novak [1948], pages I-XV
  8. Novak [1948], pages 158-159
  9. Novak [1948], page XIV
  10. Novak [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
  11. Novak [1948], pages 143, 145, 207, 217, 239, 257, 763
  12. Novak [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.
  13. Novak [1948], pages 648-650
  14. Novak [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 ce Crkva u uskrsloj Državi Hrvatskoj moći u punoj slobodi naviještati neoborive principe vječne Istine i Pravde.
  15. Novak [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 odmentnik poginuo u borbi sa regularnim trupama jugoslovenske vojske u Crikvenici, u trenutku kada je objavljivao u tom mjestu NDH i odcjepljenje od Jugoslavije.
  16. Novak [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.
  17. Novak [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.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Radisavljević, Zoran (22 March 2012). ""Magnum crimen", ipak, putuje u svet". Politika (in Serbian). Belgrade. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  19. "Magnum Crimen Two omitted chapters from the book" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-28. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  20. Novak, Magnum Crimen. Pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj by Oscar Neumann in Journal of Central European Affairs, Vol 10. Boulder CO, 1950. pages 63-65
  21. Velika optužba (Magnum crimen) by Viktor Novak, Svjetlost Sarajevo 1960 (abridged)
  22. Istorijski glasnik, Sarajevo 1960 pages 160-165
  23. Historical abstracts, Vol. 9 by Eric H. Boehm, American Bibliographical Center, Santa Barbara, Calif 1964.
  24. Foreign Affairs Bibliography by Council on Foreign Relations, by William P. Bundy, Archibald Cary Coolidge, Council on Foreign Relations, Hamilton Fish Armstrong - vol. 57, no. 3 - page 340
  25. Neubauer, John (2004). History of the literary cultures of East-Central Europe. John Benjamin Publishing Company. p. 164. ISBN 9027234523. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  26. Harris, Robin. "On Trial Again". Catholic Culture. Trinity Communications. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  27. 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
  28. 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
  29. Novak [1960]

Other websitesEdit