Lent is a grand time to confront evil, both that evil which stains our souls, and the evil external to us. Throughout the history of the Church there have been saints who risked all to bravely confront the popular evils of their time. This Lent on each Sunday we will be looking at some of those saints. We began with Saint Athanasius. Go here to read about him. Next we looked at Saint John Fisher. Go here to read about him. Last week we looked at the life of Saint Oliver Plunket. Go here to read about him. This week we turn to the Lion of Munster.
The Nazis hated and feared Clemens August Graf von Galen in life and no doubt they still hate and fear him, at least those now enjoying the amenities of some of the less fashionable pits of Hell. This Lent, I am strongly encouraged by the story of Blessed von Galen. I guess one could come up with a worse situation than being a Roman Catholic bishop in Nazi Germany in 1941, and confronting a merciless anti-Christian dictatorship that was diametrically opposed to the Truth of Christ, but that would certainly do for enough of a challenge for one lifetime for anyone. (Hitler privately denounced Christianity as a Jewish superstition and looked forward after the War to “settling accounts”, as he put it, with Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular.)
Priests who spoke out against the Third Reich were being rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps. What was a bishop to do in the face of such massive evil? Well, for the Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen, there could be only one answer.
A German Count, von Galen was from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Westphalia. Always a German patriot, the political views of von Galen would have made my own conservatism seem a pale shade of pink in comparison. Prior to becoming a bishop, he was sometimes criticized for a haughty attitude and being unbending. He was chosen Bishop of Munster in 1933 only after other candidates, no doubt recognizing what a dangerous position it would be with the Nazis now in power, had turned it down. I am certain it did not hurt that he was an old friend of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.
As Mark Shea continues his sad journey to the looney left, he has developed the habit of calling those who disagree with him Nazis or seeking to associate them with Nazis. A case in point:
Austrian Nazis to attend inauguration…at the invitation of Catholic congressmand Steve King.
God’s Name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, Mr. King.
This will be today’s thing for Catholic Trump supporters to defend instead of the unborn and the Faith.
And so it will go for four long years.
Or you could just stop defending every filthy thing Trump and his toadies do and say and get back to defending the Faith and the unborn.
Go here to read the comments. I was imagining brown shirted and lederhosen clad Austrian legions goosestepping through downtown Washington. I was crest-fallen to learn that Shea was actually referring to the Austrian Freedom Party. Founded by a Nazi in the 1950s, it is a rather conventional center-right European party. Except for their opposition to immigration, the Freedom Party would on our political spectrum be moderate Democrats, and about as much Nazis as the members of a Rotary Club in our country.
Austin Ruse in a post at Crisis tells what happens when he pointed this out to Shea:
I recently came under a blog-swarm (though not on blogs rather on Facebook), but the swarmers were mostly bloggers who I will not name except to say they fashion themselves as Über-Catholic Defenders of Francis-Destroyers of Nazis-Creators of the One True Church of Pro-Life-and-Wrath of the Old Guard.
I forget exactly how it began except with a Facebook post nitpicking something Donald Trump had done. Never Trumpers still sit in the caves of the Pacific with their field glasses trained on the enemy and whenever Trump does even the littlest thing they judge to be wrong they shout, “See, see, we told you” or “Isn’t it interesting that Trump would (fill in the blank).”
In this situation I usually prefer to ask a question and have the unhappy fellow defend the silly nitpicking. But, in this case, from out of nowhere, The Thing That Used to be Catholic Apologetics lumbered through the underbrush and grunted “So do you defend Trump meeting with Nazis?” or something to that effect.
So, here we have Trump meeting with actual goose-stepping Nazis? I had to admit I had missed that and had to inquire, “Huh? Wuh?”
“So you defend Trump meeting with Nazis?” Continue reading
A huge Nazi book burning was held in Berlin 81 years ago on May 10, 1933, the opening act of nation wide book burnings in some 34 university cities and towns organized in Germany by the German Students Association and the Nazi Party. Thousands of university students eagerly chucked into the bonfire some 25,000 volumes written by authors considered subversive by the new Nazi regime, which covered most of Western thought before the new era that the Nazis thought they were making for mankind. The young in Germany, by and large, tended to be the most enthusiastic followers of the Nazis, particularly students in institutions of higher learning. Many of them seemed to enjoy having a leader to follow blindly, no longer having the hard work of sorting truth from falsehood on their own. Ideologies that combine certainty, action, violent rhetoric, scape-goating and a charismatic leader provide an easy escape in this Vale of Tears from concerns of morality, justice and self-criticism, and that is often attractive for people of all ages, but especially for the young who usually lack the experience to readily recognize when a bill of goods is being sold to them. Continue reading
I have reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it, I have no words.
Edward R. Murrow at Buchenwald, April 15, 1945
1944 was seventy years ago, and on this blog we will have numerous posts depicting the battles fought in the wake of D-Day up through the fall of the Third Reich. As we recall this, I think it is also important to recall the type of tyranny that the Third Reich was, and why it was necessary to utterly vanquish it at a hideous cost in human lives.
When Buchenwald death camp was liberated, General Patton was so outraged that he ordered military police to go to Weimar, the nearest town, and bring 1000 German civilians back to tour the camp to see what their leaders had done. The MPs were just as outraged, and brought back 2000. Edward R. Murrow did a radio broadcast from Buchenwald on April 15, 1945 that is absolutely unforgettable. Evil can grow so strong in this world that it has to be stopped, no matter the cost. Here is the transcript of Murrow’s broadcast:
Permit me to tell you what you would have seen and heard had you had been with me on Thursday. It will not be pleasant listening. If you are at lunch, or if you have no appetite to hear what Germans have done, now is a good time to switch off the radio for I propose to tell you of Buchenwald. It is on a small hill about four miles outside Weimar, and it was one of the largest concentration camps in Germany, and it was built to last. Continue reading
The Nazis began their death march across Europe by killing mentally handicapped Germans in an euthanasia campaign that caused the Lion of Munster, Bishop Von Galen, to preach a sermon which may be read here, and in which he made this statement:
For the past several months it has been reported that, on instructions from Berlin, patients who have been suffering for a long time from apparently incurable diseases have been forcibly removed from homes and clinics. Their relatives are later informed that the patient has died, that the body has been cremated and that the ashes may be claimed. There is little doubt that these numerous cases of unexpected death in the case of the insane are not natural, but often deliberately caused, and result from the belief that it is lawful to take away life which is unworthy of being lived.
This ghastly doctrine tries to justify the murder of blameless men and would seek to give legal sanction to the forcible killing of invalids, cripples, the incurable and the incapacitated. I have discovered that the practice here in Westphalia is to compile lists of such patients who are to be removed elsewhere as ‘unproductive citizens,’ and after a period of time put to death. This very week, the first group of these patients has been sent from the clinic of Marienthal, near Münster.
Hitler and his gang of murderers were stopped at an enormous cost, but Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so often in defense of the Church that I have designated him Defender of the Faith, tells us at Midwest Conservative Journal that the ideas of Der Fuehrer are all the rage in Europe today:
Belgium is considering a significant change to its decade-old euthanasia law that would allow minors and Alzheimer’s sufferers to seek permission to die.
The proposed changes to the law were submitted to parliament Tuesday by the Socialist party and are likely to be approved by other parties, although no date has yet been put forward for a parliamentary debate.
“The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases we must find a response to,” party leader Thierry Giet said.
The draft legislation calls for “the law to be extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate.”
Belgium was the second country in the world after the Netherlands to legalise euthanasia in 2002 but it applies only to people over the age of 18.
Socialist Senator Philippe Mahoux, who helped draft the proposed changes, said there had been cases of adolescents who “had the capacity to decide” their future.
He said parliamentarians would also consider extended mercy-killing to people suffering from Alzheiner’s-type illnesses.
In my first post on Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, which may be read here, we examined the life of this remarkable German bishop who heroically stood up to the Third Reich. Today we examine the third of three sermons that he preached in 1941 which made him famous around the globe. One week after his first breathtaking sermon against the Gestapo, my examination of which may be read here, he preached on July 20, 1941 a blistering sermon against the Nazis and their war on Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, which may be read here. On August 3, 1941 at Saint Lambert’s in Munster, he preached a third sermon which, along with an overall attack on the Nazi regime, attacked an evil that, alas, unlike the Nazis, remains with us today.
My Beloved Brethren,
In today’s Gospel we read of an unusual event: Our Saviour weeps. Yes, the Son of God sheds tears. Whoever weeps must be either in physical or mental anguish. At that time Jesus was not yet in bodily pain and yet here were tears. What depth of torment He must have felt in His heart and Soul, if He, the bravest of men, was reduced to tears. Why is He weeping? He is lamenting over Jerusalem, the holy city He loved so tenderly, the capital of His race. He is weeping over her inhabitants, over His own compatriots because they cannot foresee the judgment that is to overtake them, the punishment which His divine prescience and justice have pronounced. ‘Ah, if thou too couldst understand, above all in this day that is granted thee, the ways that can bring thee peace!’ Why did the people of Jerusalem not know it? Jesus had given them the reason a short time before. ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often have I been ready to gather thy children together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings; and thou didst refuse it! I your God and your King wished it, but you would have none of Me. . . .’ This is the reason for the tears of Jesus, for the tears of God. . . . Tears for the misrule, the injustice and man’s willful refusal of Him and the resulting evils, which, in His divine omniscience, He foresees and which in His justice He must decree. . . . It is a fearful thing when man sets his will against the will of God, and it is because of this that Our Lord is lamenting over Jerusalem.
“the capital of His race.” What courage it took in Nazi Germany to remind people of the fact that Jesus was a Jew! Von Galen had always been a friend to Jews, and would hide a Jewish boy, with the help of a Protestant pastor, at an institute Von Galen controlled, from the Nazis. After his death he would be highly praised by the Munster Jewish community for the care and assistance he had shown them. Would that all Germans had acted the same way. It is a canard to say that all Germans hated Jews: even with the Nazis pumping out the vilest anti-semitism imaginable 24-7 since they took power that was not the case. However, it is fair to say that a majority of Germans were indifferent to the fate of the Jews and were unwilling to raise their voices against the Nazi persecution of the Jews. This attitude of most of the German people is well described in the film Judgment at Nuremberg where Burt Lancaster, as German judge Ernst Janning, gives riveting testimony:
Von Galen I think realized this indifference and his sermons were meant to show Germans that the evil of the Nazis was not restricted only to people they were shamefully indifferent to.
A new film, Under the Roman Sky, starring James Cromwell as Pius XII, details the heroic efforts of Pius XII to save the Jews of Rome from the Nazis, after Rome came under Nazi occupation subsequent to the fall of Mussolini following the Allied invasion of southern Italy in 1943.
Rabbi David G. Dalin, in his review of a Moral Reckoning, a tome by Daniel Goldhagen which sought to blame Catholicism for the Holocaust, details the efforts of the Pope to save the Jews of Rome:
Goldhagen’s centerpiece is the outrageous allegation that Pius XII “did not lift a finger to forfend the deportations of the Jews of Rome” or of other parts of Italy “by instructing his priests and nuns to give the hunted Jewish men, women and children sanctuary.” Much of this is lifted straight from anti-Pius books like Susan Zuccotti’s Under His Very Windows–and thus Goldhagen repeats the errors of those books and adds extras, all his own, in his determined attempt to extend their thesis into over-the-top railings against the sheer existence of Catholicism.
Hattip to commenter RL. Content advisory as to one incident of Nazi like nihilistic violence at the end. (Go here to view the video, as the embedding has been disabled since I drafted the post.)
Some people think it is in bad taste to use Nazis in a humorous fashion. I respectfully disagree. Laughing at the Nazis is one of the best ways to remember them on the ash heap of history. Too often they are given almost demonic status as avatars of evil which is precisely the wrong way to remember them. I agree with the late Werner Klemperer, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who served in the US Army during WW2. Decades after the war he would play the bumbling Colonel Klink on the television show Hogan’s Heroes. Klemperer said that he would go to his grave happy knowing that he had helped make the Nazis look ridiculous.
Of course Hitler is not amused which is rather the point. Content advisory: Hitler uses extremely rough language, but what else can we expect of Hitler?
Hitler and his followers dreamed of a thousand year reich. They believed that they were reshaping the future of all of mankind. Ending up as the butt of humor is the worst fate that any true believing Nazi could have envisioned for his movement.