In your country, Venerable Brethren, voices are swelling into a chorus urging people to leave the Church, and among the leaders there is more than one whose official position is intended to create the impression that this infidelity to Christ the King constitutes a signal and meritorious act of loyalty to the modern State. 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. Our wholehearted paternal sympathy goes out to those who must pay so dearly for their loyalty to Christ and the Church; but directly the highest interests are at stake, with the alternative of spiritual loss, there is but one alternative left, that of heroism. If the oppressor offers one the Judas bargain of apostasy he can only, at the cost of every worldly sacrifice, answer with Our Lord: “Begone, Satan! For it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. iv. 10). And turning to the Church, he shall say: “Thou, my mother since my infancy, the solace of my life and advocate at my death, may my tongue cleave to my palate if, yielding to worldly promises or threats, I betray the vows of my baptism.” As to those who imagine that they can reconcile exterior infidelity to one and the same Church, let them hear Our Lord’s warning: – “He that shall deny me before men shall be denied before the angels of God” (Luke xii. 9).
Pius XI, MIT BRENNENDER SORGE
Fathers Z and Hunwicke remind us why courage is never an optional virtue for Catholics:
Fr. John Hunwicke, at his fine blog Mutual Enrichment, reminds us all that on this liturgical day, Monday of Holy Week, in 1937…
… the Gestapo raided diocesan offices and presbyteries all over Germany. The previous day, Palm Sunday, when the churches were packed, priests all over Germany had read publicly the Encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge [=With Burning Sorrow – Anxiety – Concern] of the Holy Father Pope Pius XI…. It had been smuggled into Germany in the Nuncio’s Diplomatic Bag and secretly printed …; secretly distributed by special couriers and proclaimed in every pulpit. And nobody leaked it; at least, not in time for the government to intervene. It burst upon the Fuehrer and his admirers as the most wonderful surprise. Not many people in the state apparatus will have had much sabbath rest that Sunday, as arrangements were frantically made to secure all copies for destruction.
Mit brennender Sorge is amazing. The letter is a masterpiece of rhetoric, aimed at building the resolve and courage of the whole Church which was experiencing ever greater persecution, ever greater restriction of and violation of religious freedom in direct violation of the concordat, the treaty that the State had legally ratified with the Church. Pius describes the problems that people were enduring and seeks to harden their resolve and console them in their suffering.
His word to young people are to be prized especially in our own day.
Indeed, this letter seems as if it could be aimed at our own decade.
And since letters of this kind are lacking today, when we need them, Mit brenneder Sorge is that much more precious a gift from our forebears!
Every once in a while, I read for you old encyclicals, with the hope that they will come alive for you who have never experienced their content and, especially, their style.
They don’t write them like this anymore!
As you listen, I’ll ask you to imagine yourself in a church in Germany on Palm Sunday 1937.
The horrors of the first world war and the poverty of economic devastation are still raw. The German Riech and National Socialist party is in the ascension. People are being rounded up and disappeared. Schools are being hijacked. Young people are being indoctrinated in evil disciplines. A nationalist paganism is being blended into everything the State does as it represses any rival. Huge numbers of your neighbors are caving or are being swept up by the trends. Society is on the ede of a knife. Hitler and his thugs are driving the Catholic presence from the public square. There had been a treaty a concordat signed between the German Reich and the Church, to guarantee the Church’s freedoms, but it is being systematically and blatantly ignored.
You are afraid… for yourselves, your children, your Church, your nation.
And so, Pius XI issued his encyclical, which had material from several contributers including Eugenio Card. Pacelli, former nuncio to German and future Pope Pius XII along with German Cardinal Michael Faulhaber and von Galen.