Catholic Church and the Nazis

Received in an email with quotes from Papal Encyclicals .net

The reference to the Catholic Church here is to the Roman Catholic Church as it existed prior to 1969. It does not refer to the Novus Ordo Church that took over at that time.

With reference to the Nazis, the 1937 Papal encyclical “Mit Brennender Sorge” is described by Wikipedia as follows:

Mit brennender Sorge (English: With Burning Anxiety) On the Church and the German Reich is an encyclical of Pope Pius XI, issued during the Nazi era on 10 March 1937 (but bearing a date of Passion Sunday, 14 March).[1] Written in German, not the usual Latin, it was smuggled into Germany for fear of censorship and was read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches on one of the Church’s busiest Sundays, Palm Sunday (March 21 that year).[2][3]

The encyclical condemned breaches of the 1933 Reichskonkordat agreement signed between the German Reich and the Holy See.[4] It condemned “pantheistic confusion”, “neopaganism”, “the so-called myth of race and blood”, and the idolizing of the State. It contained a vigorous defense of the Old Testament out of belief that it prepared the way for the New.[5]

Wikipedia, Mit brennender Sorge

The Encyclical condemns the Party for its violation of the Treaty and summarizes the ways this was done here:

Our words, every one of Our acts, has been inspired by the binding law of treaties. At the same time, anyone must acknowledge, not without surprise and reprobation, how the other contracting party emasculated the terms of the treaty, distorted their meaning, and eventually considered its more or less official violation as a normal policy. The moderation We showed in spite of all this was not inspired by motives of worldly interest, still less by unwarranted weakness, but merely by Our anxiety not to draw out the wheat with the cockle; not to pronounce open judgment, before the public was ready to see its force; not to impeach other people’s honesty, before the evidence of events should have torn the mask off the systematic hostility leveled at the Church. Even now that a campaign against the confessional schools, which are guaranteed by the concordat, and the destruction of free election, where Catholics have a right to their children’s Catholic education, afford evidence, in a matter so essential to the life of the Church, of the extreme gravity of the situation and the anxiety of every Christian conscience; even now Our responsibility for Christian souls induces Us not to overlook the last possibilities, however slight, of a return to fidelity to treaties, and to any arrangement that may be acceptable to the episcopate. We shall continue without failing, to stand before the rulers of your people as the defender of violated rights, and in obedience to Our Conscience and Our pastoral mission, whether We be successful or not, to oppose the policy which seeks, by open or secret means, to strangle rights guaranteed by a treaty.

Mit Brennender Sorge,

In paragraph 7, the Pope then condemns Pantheism and Fatalism:

7. Take care, Venerable Brethren, that above all, faith in God, the first and irreplaceable foundation of all religion, be preserved in Germany pure and unstained. The believer in God is not he who utters the name in his speech, but he for whom this sacred word stands for a true and worthy concept of the Divinity. Whoever identifies, by pantheistic confusion, God and the universe, by either lowering God to the dimensions of the world, or raising the world to the dimensions of God, is not a believer in God. Whoever follows that so-called pre-Christian Germanic conception of substituting a dark and impersonal destiny for the personal God, denies thereby the Wisdom and Providence of God who “Reacheth from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly” (Wisdom viii. 1). Neither is he a believer in God.

Mit Brennender Sorge

He then states that anyone who exalts race, State, or any other “fundamental value of the human community” to an idolatrous level, “is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.” (Mit Brennender Sorge)

Paragraph 9 gives a beautiful little “credo” against these errors: “Our God is the Personal God, supernatural, omnipotent, infinitely perfect, one in the Trinity of Persons, tri-personal in the unity of divine essence, the Creator of all existence. Lord, King and ultimate Consummator of the history of the world, who will not, and cannot, tolerate a rival God by His side.” (Mit Brennender Sorge)

The concepts of a “national God” or a “national religion” are rejected as superficial in the face of, “God, the Creator of the universe, King and Legislator of all nations before whose immensity they are “as a drop of a bucket” (Isaiah xI, 15).” (ibid., para. 11).

He then addresses the Bishops of Germany, stating: “It is part of their sacred obligations… to encounter the obstinacy and provocations of those who deny, despise and hate God, by the never-failing reparatory prayers of the Faithful…” (ibid., para. 12).

In paragraphs 14 and 15, the Pope lands a double-edged blow against the neo-pagan Nazis along with the Jews and even the reformed Novus Catholics:

Nobody, therefore, can say: “I believe in God, and that is enough religion for me,” for the Savior’s words brook no evasion: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. He that confesseth the Son hath the Father also” (1 John ii. 23). [15] In Jesus Christ, Son of God made Man, there shone the plentitude of divine revelation. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by His Son (Heb. i. 1).” (ibid.).

The Pope then condemns the Nazi party as blasphemers: “Whoever wishes to see banished from church and school the Biblical history and the wise doctrines of the Old Testament, blasphemes the name of God…” (ibid., para. 16).

Interestingly, the Pope then lays down against the Nazi party the charge which many Protestants lay against the Pope:

Should any man dare, in sacrilegious disregard of the essential differences between God and His creature, between the God-man and the children of man, to place a mortal, were he the greatest of all times, by the side of, or over, or against, Christ, he would deserve to be called prophet of nothingness, to whom the terrifying words of Scripture would be applicable: “He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at them” (Psalms ii. 3).

(ibid., para. 17)

This demonstrates both that the Pope was no friend of the Reich and that he did not consider himself to be beside, over, or against Christ, as the Protestants think.

In the next paragraph, Pius XI lays down the simple precept of sameness which devastates not only the Nazi ideology, but also the post-modern ecumenists of our time: “The Church founded by the Redeemer is one, the same for all races and all nations… Whoever tampers with that unity and that indivisibility wrenches from the Spouse of Christ one of the diadems with which God Himself crowned her;” (ibid., para. 18).

At this point, however, the Pope turns his censure towards those clergy in Germany who were justly accused of wrongdoing. The Pope recalls that the Cockle grows with the Wheat and recollects Christ’s warning against those who give scandal. With similar severity, however, the Pope condemns the blindness and injustice of those who ignore, “the overwhelming sum of authentic virtues, of spirit of sacrifice, fraternal love, heroic efforts of sanctity…” which were also manifested in Germany by the Catholic Church (ibid., para. 20).

In paragraph 21, the Pope urges his clergy to remain steadfast against, “Secret and open measures of intimidation, the threat of economic and civic disabilities, bear on the loyalty of certain classes of Catholic functionaries, a pressure which violates every human right and dignity.” (ibid.) which threatened them in Nazi Germany and are bestirring themselves similarly in our own time.

In 22, the Pope turns his attention to the concept of “national” churches. Beginning with a concise statement of the Roman Catholic Church’s authority, which “…is sealed by the promise and the guidance of the Holy Ghost and His irresistible support.” (ibid.), he warns against the formation of a national German church, stating: “The live history of other national churches with their paralysis, their domestication and subjection to worldly powers, is sufficient evidence of the sterility to which is condemned every branch that is severed from the trunk of the living Church.” (ibid.).

In 23, the Pope warns against the substitution of national / racial pride and hope for the genuine Faith which, “consists in holding as true what God has revealed and proposes through His Church to man’s acceptance. It is ‘the evidence of things that appear not’ (Heb. ii. 1). Similarly, Original Sin is, “the hereditary but impersonal fault of Adam’s descendants, who have sinned in him (Rom. v. 12). It is the loss of grace, and therefore of eternal life, together with a propensity to evil, which everybody must, with the assistance of grace, penance, resistance and moral effort, repress and conquer.” (para. 25.).

The Cross is, “the holy sign of his redemption, the emblem of moral strength and greatness.” (para. 26). “Grace”, “means all the supernatural tokens of God’s love; God’s intervention which raises man to that intimate communion of life with Himself, called by the Gospel ‘adoption of the children of God.'” (ibid., para. 28).

Having thus summarized these key points of the Faith, Piux XI rebukes those who attempt to substitute State regulation for “objective morality”. These, he says, “either do not see or refuse to see that the banishment of confessional Christianity, i.e., the clear and precise notion of Christianity, from teaching and education, from the organization of social and political life, spells spiritual spoliation and degradation.” (para. 29.).

In paragraph 30, the Pope briefly discusses the fascinating topic of the natural law and rights of man. The former, he states is, “written by the Creator’s hand on the tablet of the heart (Rom. ii. 14) and which reason, not blinded by sin or passion, can easily read.” The latter is, “the basic fact that man as a person possesses rights he holds from God, and which any collectivity must protect against denial, suppression or neglect.” These two principles he establishes as the foundation by which to judge all human laws and society.

What are the rights which this law demands? First and foremost, “The believer has an absolute right to profess his Faith and live according to its dictates.” After this, Pius XI, as always, expresses solicitude for education, but here his language is interesting in its relation to parental schooling in the home: “Parents who are earnest and conscious of their educative duties, have a primary right to the education of the children God has given them in the spirit of their Faith, and according to its prescriptions… the recent enrollment into schools organized without a semblance of freedom, is the result of unjust pressure, and is a violation of every common right.” (para. 31).

The Pope then directs his letter to the youth of Germany. He deplores the fact that voices, pens, press and wireless daily molest the Faith and preach a gospel hostile to it, and he says to them especially: “If any one should preach to you a Gospel other than the one you received on the knees of a pious mother, from the lips of a believing father, or through teaching faithful to God and His Church, ‘let him be anathema’ (Gal. i. 9).” (para. 33).

Pius XI returns to his relentless assault upon, “the voluntary and systematic antagonism raised between national education and religious duty.” (para. 34). With words which remain eerily relevant to our own nation, the Pope says:

Sing your hymns to freedom, but do not forget the freedom of the children of God…. You are often told about the human deficiencies which mar the history of the Church: why ignore the exploits which fill her history, the saints she begot, the blessing that came upon Western civilization from the union between that Church and your people? …physical education is a boon for youth. But so much time is now devoted to sporting activities, that the harmonious development of body and mind is disregarded, that duties to one’s family, and the observation of the Lord’s Day are neglected.

Mit Brennender Sorge, para. 34

He then addresses the Catholic priests of Germany, saying: “Be the guides of the faithful, the support of those who fail, the doctors of the doubting, the consolers of the afflicted, the disinterested counselors and assistants of all…. The priest’s first loving gift to his neighbors is to serve truth and refute error in any of its forms.” (para. 35 – 36). This plan of action is devoid of the blood-thirsty and revolutionary activism which some writers would have us believe has always defined the political ambition of the Roman Pontif; instead, he closes by revealing the trials of his clergy, the solicitude he has for them, and the quality of his person with the words, “To all those who have kept their promised fidelity to their Bishops on the day of their ordination; to all those who in the exercise of their priestly function are called upon to suffer persecution; to all those imprisoned in jail and concentration camps, the Father of the Christian world sends his words of gratitude and commendation.” (para. 36).

He then addresses the Religious of Germany and laments against those who have proved unworthy of their calling, yet rejoices in the merit of, “the immense majority.” (para. 37). Though some critics might at this point expect the Pope to urge the Catholic Orders of Germany to purge the land of heresy by fire and sword, he does not, and orders them instead, “to renew their zeal, their spirit of prayer, the austerity of their lives and their perfect discipline, in order to draw down God’s blessing upon their difficult work.” (para. 37).

Now the Pope lets the weight of his words fall once again upon godless public education and the right and duty of parents to educate their children. Speaking again as if writing directly to us in modern times, he says:

Religious lessons maintained for the sake of appearances, controlled by unauthorized men, within the frame of an educational system which systematically works against religion, do not justify a vote in favor of non-confessional schools…. Yet do not forget this: none can free you from the responsibility God has placed on you over your children. None of your oppressors, who pretend to relieve you of your duties can answer for you to the eternal Judge, when he will ask: “Where are those I confided to you?” May every one of you be able to answer: “Of them whom thou hast given me, I have not lost any one” (John xviii. 9).

Mit Brennender Sorge, para. 39

Finally, Pius XI closes with these powerful words:

Trusting in Him, “We cease not to pray and to beg” (Col. i. 9) for you, children of the Church, that the days of tribulation may end and that you may be found faithful in the day of judgment; for the persecutors and oppressors, that the Father of light and mercy may enlighten them as He enlightened Saul on the road of Damascus. With this prayer in Our heart and on Our lips We grant to you, as a pledge of Divine help, as a support in your difficult resolutions, as a comfort in the struggle, as a consolation in all trials, to You, Bishops and Pastors of the Faithful, priests, Religious, lay apostles of Catholic Action, to all your diocesans, and specially to the sick and the prisoners, in paternal love, Our Apostolic Benediction.

Mit Brennender Sorge, para. 40.

Something about his encyclical appears to have stirred the ire of the Nazi party. Though it is unclear whether spurred-on by the epithet of blasphemers, enemies, oppressors, or all of the above, it *is* certain that the Party’s reaction to the Encyclical was thoroughly hostile:

The large effort to produce and distribute over 300,000 copies of the letter was entirely secret, allowing priests across Germany to read the letter without interference.[12] The Gestapo raided the churches the next day to confiscate all the copies they could find, and the presses that had printed the letter were closed. According to historian Ian Kershaw, an intensification of the general anti-church struggle began around April in response to the encyclical.[13] Historian Klaus Scholder wrote: “state officials and the Party reacted with anger and disapproval.

Wikipedia, “Mit brennender Sorge”

Although their response did not include a revocation of the Concordat with Rome or a mass holocaust of Catholics, “The regime further constrained the actions of the Church and harassed monks with staged prosecutions.” (ibid.). The above notes should be sufficient to prove that so far as the public teaching of Pope Pius XI was concerned, the Nazi party and the Catholic Church were *not* on friendly terms.

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