Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

Return to index.

Newsletter- October 2001- Vol. VII, no. 10

 

 

Dear Friends,

I am sorry that this comes to you a few days late, but want to
thank all those who welcomed last month,s editorial essay on
the Joint Catholic-Jewish Commission and its regretted
demise.

Contents:
1) Quotation of the month:
2) Book reviews: a) Besier, German Church History 1934-39
b) Rauscher, Proposed Papal Encyclical 1939
3) Kirchliche Tourismus: V.Clark, Why angels fall.

1) Quotation of the month:
"Of all the roads that a historian may tread none passes
through more difficult country than that of religious history. To
a believer religious truths are eternal. The doctrine that he
preaches and accepts gives expression to their everlasting
validity. To him the historian who seeks to discover and
explain why the doctrine should have appeared at a particular
moment of time seems guilty of unwarranted determinism. But
Revealed Religion cannot escape from the bonds of time; for
the Revelation must have occurred at a particular moment . . .
It may be that man is continually refreshed by messages from
on high. It may be that there is a divine ordering of history.
But the historian himself is mortal, restricted by the limitations
of temporality, and he must have the modesty to know his
limitations. His business is to tell the story and make it, as best
he can, intelligible to humanity . . . At the same time, the
historian must attempt to add to his objective study the
qualities of interactive sympathy and imaginative perception
without which he cannot hope to comprehend the fears and
aspirations and convictions that have moved past generations.
These qualities are, maybe, gifts of the spirit, gifts which can
be experienced and felt but not explained in human terms.
Steven Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity, chap.1,
p.3-4.

2a) ed G.Besier, Zwischen "nationaler Revolution und
militärischer Aggression. Transformationen in Kirche und
Gesellschaft 1934-1939. (Schriften des Historischen Kollegs
Kolloquien 48). Munich: R.Oldenbourg Verlag, 2001 xxviii +
276pp ISBN 3-486-56543-5

Despite its cumbersome title, this book contains a
useful summary of the present research on the period of most
intense confrontation between Nazism and the German
churches, 1934-1939. These papers were given at a
Colloquium in Munich in 1998, organized by the Historisches
Kolleg and now published in one of their series. The first half
consists of essays by German scholars on various aspects of the
German Church Struggle, particularly on the Evangelical
Churches, experiences, while the second half consists of six
essays by foreign scholars dealing with the reactions to this
struggle from the vantage points of Austria, Czechoslovakia,
Sweden, France, Great Britain and North America.
Sixty years after the events is a good time for a
retrospective evaluation. Following the immediate post-war
apologias and self-justification, there came years of more
critical examinations of the various participants, motives and
actions. Now the emphasis is less on moralizing judgments
and more on context, seeing National Socialism in a wider
parameter of nationalist aggression. At the same time, the
churches, responses are examined in the context of being
caught between the contradictory pressures of political
accommodation or traditional conservatism. Overall, the
findings of these papers show how readily other factors than
the Gospel,s demands governed the response of German
churchmen.
Still relevant as a topic of discussion is whether
National Socialism should be regarded as a secular religion.
Hans Mommsen,s essay suggests that the reasons why so many
church people, both Protestant and Catholic, were attracted by
Adolf Hitler arose mainly out of their politicized illusions, and
the lack of credibility of their own doctrinal beliefs. Hence the
enormous wave of support in 1933. It was only after the
extreme radicals in the Nazi Party showed their hand that
opinion began to change. In fact, these Nazi attempts to
expunge the churches in favour of a new racial religion, along
with their proponents, dogmatical anti-clericalism, were the
prime cause of a reluctant resistance from their victims. Had
these extremists been kept in check, there can be little doubt
that the Churches, nationalist loyalties would have cemented
their support of Hitler and his Party. As it was, Hitler,s tactical
opportunism only encouraged the churchmen,s mistaken view
that "if only the Führer knew, he would restrain his fanatical
followers. But, on the other hand, despite the readiness to
manipulate religious vocabularies, and to organize vast
pseudo-religious ceremonies for propagandistic purposes, the
absence of any coherent logic or substance in Nazi ideology
does not amount to a "political religion.
By contrast, Julius Schoeps argues that no better
explanation can be found for the Nazis, campaign to
exterminate the Jews than to see this combination of political
apocalyptic and destructive will as a religion. This
"heilstheologie dimension was the product of a systematic
unity going far beyond mere propagandistic tactics, but
mobilizing the kind of antisemitic sentiments which
Goldhagen, for one, believed all Germans shared. Hitler was
both saviour and deliverer from the evil threat of international
Jewry - a sentiment to which many Christians subscribed. But
essentially, Schoeps argues, without this suprapolitical and
indeed metahistorical belief, the whole radical Nazi fanaticism
cannot be adequately explained.
For his part, Klaus-Michael Mallmann, in his
examination of the policies of the Gestapo and the Security
Service (SD) towards the churches, stresses the contradictory
attitudes of these agencies. Chaos and confusion marked what
he calls a multivoiced, frequently dissonant and inconsistent
concert, whereby the Nazi leaders failed to reach a consensus
on how to deal with the churches, and indeed "doves and
"hawks often changed sides. Hitler personally ordered
Niemöller,s imprisonment in a concentration camp, but
prevented similar action against Bishop von Galen. Such
inconsistencies, however, did not remove the overall threat. In
fact, there is evidence enough of the process of radicalization
which demonized the churches, just as it had international
Jewry and world Freemasonry. The SD became the guardian of
Nazi ideological purity, and from 1939 the RSHA took action
accordingly. This excellently researched article only confirms
the view that, if Hitler had won the war, the place of the
churches would have been drastically reduced or eliminated.
The remaining essays, while not so provocative, are
also carefully researched with helpful footnotes and
bibliographies, and together form a valuable addition to our
knowledge.
JSC

1b) ed. Anton Rauscher, Wider den Rassismus. Entwurf einer
nicht erschienenen Enzyklika (1938). Texte aus dem Nachlass
von Gustav Gundlach SJ. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh
2001. 208pp DM 39.90 paperback.

Historians have known for almost three decades about a
projected encyclical on racism prepared for Pope Pius XI but
never issued. Fragments of a draft were published on
December 15, 1972 by the Kansas City weekly, The National
Catholic Reporter. They came from the papers of the
American Jesuit John LaFarge, a pioneer for racial justice in
the United States who died in 1968. In a private audience on
June 22, 1938 Pius commissioned LaFarge to draft an
encyclical on racism. LaFarge had come to the Pope,s attention
through his book Interracial Justice (1937). No intellectual,
LaFarge felt unequal to the task. At his request the Jesuit
General Wladimir Ledochowski assigned two European Jesuits
to assist LaFarge: the German Gustav Gundlach and the
Frenchman Gustave Desbuquois. Both had worked on the
encyclical Quadragesimo anno (1930) which dealt with
questions of social justice. The three laboured in Paris
throughout the summer of 1938, completing their work in
September. Pius XI died on February 10, 1939 without
publishing the encyclical. His successor Pius XII did not revive
the project.
An article in L,Osservatore Romano for April 5, 1975
by the German Jesuit Burkhart Schneider, one of the four
Jesuits then working on the Actes et documents du Saint-Siége
relatifs a la Seconde Guerre mondiale disclosed the existence
of a draft in German, written by Gundlach. This differed from
the English and French drafts, most significantly in the
concluding section on antisemitism. In 1995 two Belgians, the
Benedictine Georges Passelecq and the Jewish sociologist
Bernard Suchecky, published L,encyclique cachée de Pie XI.
Une occasion manqée de l,église face a l,antisemitisme.
Translated into English in 1997 under the title The Hidden
Encyclical of Pius XI, this contained the full French and
English drafts from LaFarge,s papers, but not the German
version. In the work under review, the Augsburg professor
Anton Rauscher presents Gundlach,s German draft, letters
from him to LaFarge which clarify the chronology, an analysis
of this material, and a discussion of the reasons for the
non-appearance of the encyclical.
Gundlach,s text, over a hundred single-spaced typed
pages, is dense: in Rauscher,s words, "as difficult to read as
all of Gundlach,s writings. The draft emphasizes the unity of
the human race, commends patriotism, and condemns
nationalism and racism. The final paragraphs (170-183)
declare antisemitism incompatible with Christian faith. "The
Church today views with indignation and pain measures
affecting Jews which, because they violate natural law, do not
deserve the honorable name of laws. The most fundamental
claims of justice and charity are violated without hesitation or
limit. The draft concludes by reaffirming the condemnation
of antisemitism by the Holy Office on March 25, 1928.
Why was the Encyclical never published? Rauscher
argues convincingly for the simplest explanation: time ran out.
Encyclicals require lengthy scrutiny. Reconciling the
differences between the English and French drafts on the one
hand, and the German text on the other, required further time.
The editor of Civilta Cattolica, charged with evaluating the
drafts died on November 26,1938,without completing his task.
Pius XII, elected on March 2, 1939, shared his predecessor,s
abhorrence of Nazism. As Secretary of State he had drafted the
encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (1937). With the political
situation in Europe rapidly deteriorating, however, the new
Pope thought he must devote all his efforts in the spring and
summer of 1939 to averting the outbreak of war. A flaming
denunciation of Nazi racial policy would have eliminated
whatever chance still existed that his pleas for peace would be
heeded in Berlin. Had Pius XII issued the planned encyclical,
it is not difficult to imagine his present-day critics charging
that he had recklessly extinguished the last slender chance for
peace. His first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, issued on
October 20, 1939 (after the quest for peace had been lost) drew
on the draft prepared for Pius XI and contained an explicit
condemnation of Nazi racial policy.
Rauscher writes that an earlier papal denunciation of
Hitler is unlikely to have found the ready response inside or
outside Germany which the Pope,s critics assume today. In
1939 there was little willingness anywhere to assist Jews who
wished to flee Germany. At an international conference in
Evian, France in 1938, no less than thirty-two nations declined
to receive Jewish refugees.
This book shows that Gundlach was a man of unusual
clear-sightedness. Consider, for instance, his letter to LaFarge
of May 30, 1940: "The western powers did not take the dictator
[Hitler] seriously enough. Following the [first] World War their
intransigent and non-conciliatory foreign policy prepared the
way for the Nazi dictatorship in Germany. After 1933 they
strengthened Hitler through concessions and appeasement,
making it possible for him to achieve a series of foreign policy
successes. This lack of principle and clearly displayed
indifference in the face of the dictator,s thousandfold violation
of natural and divine law has now brought the western powers
a terrible revenge. Rauscher,s work, dispassionate and
meticulous in presentation, is an example of German
scholarship at its best and an important contribution to the
history of the Catholic Church,s role in events preceding the
Holocaust.
John Jay Hughes, St Louis, Missouri

2) Kirchliche Tourismus - a journey through Orthodox Europe

Victoria Clark, Why Angels Fall. A journey through Orthodox
Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo. London: Picador 2000
£7.99 460pp ISBN 0-330-48788-4

Victoria Clark is an experienced journalist, having
worked for the London Observer in eastern Europe for a
number of years. In 1998 and 1999 she decided to embark on a
voyage to examine the fortunes of Orthodoxy by seeking out
the places and times which have proved vital in making
Orthodox Europe what it is today. So she traveled from
northern Russia to Cyprus, and from Bosnia to Siberia,
skillfully seeking audiences with leading figures in the
Orthodox church world, and recording their answers to her
often pointed questions. Her only regret was her failure to
reach Mount Athos because of the monks, age-long ban on
women. But her percipient account of the "angelic ethos
emanating from the Holy Mountain more than makes up for
this lacuna.
In setting out on her pilgrimage, Clark takes up the
long-held view, lately recharged by Professor Samuel
Huntingdon, that the basic division in Europe is not between
the rival nationalisms, such as France and Germany, or the
competing ideological systems, such as Communism and
capitalism, but the centuries-old religious separation of the
western churches, both Catholic and Protestant, from Eastern
Orthodoxy. The frontier between these two runs from
Archangel in the north to Albania in the south and has
remained the focus point of turmoil and strife for a thousand
years, ever since the notorious rift between the Latin and the
Byzantine churches of 1054. As a result, western church
members know all too little about the culture of Eastern
Orthodox Europe, stretching back east from Bosnia all the way
to the Urals. The recent removal of the political and
geographical barriers imposed by the Soviet regime for so long
now reveals how differently Orthodoxy has prospered with its
own scale of values and priorities.
In many ways Orthodoxy has for centuries seen its
mission to conduct a defensive war against both the alien
culture of materialism of the west and the constant threat of the
Islamic world to the south. This embattled position can be
traced back to Orthodoxy,s reaction to the plundering rampage
of western Crusaders who sacked Constantinople in 1204, and
the equally appalling and conclusive overthrow of Byzantium
by the Ottoman Turks in 1454. But the same determination to
protect their territorial and spiritual heritage still plays a part in
the current violence between Orthodox Serbs and Bosnian
Muslims, promotes the quarrels between Uniate Catholic and
Orthodox communities in the Ukraine, turns the Chechnya war
into a religious crusade, leaves Cyprus and its capital, Nicosia,
irreparably divided for decades, and leads to a regrettable lack
of ecumenical goodwill, which not even the eirenical gestures
of Pope John Paul II have been able to overcome.
For centuries eastern Orthodoxy has been characterized
by two forces, sometimes contrasting, sometimes reinforcing
each other, the one hellish in its practical consequences, the
other heavenly in its ideal. On the one hand, there is the
religious nationalism, called Phyletism, which invests political
structures with divine authority, while providing a historical
mythology or justification of its claims. Serbia is a trenchant
example of this tendency. The Serbian Orthodox Church
backed even the outrageous ethnic-cleansing of Milosovic, and
helped to unify the people in their defiant opposition to what
they saw as the "imperialist ambitions of the westerners,
especially Americans, whose sinister plots are now believed to
be part of the continuous conspiracy against Serbia and
Orthodoxy which began so long ago. As one recent Serbian
patriarch explained: "the entire ascent of the Serbian people in
history was won only and exclusively by the sword, in a sea of
spilled blood and countless victims, which means that without
all this there is no victory, as there is no resurrection without
death.
This sense of defensive nationalism is only reinforced
by the Orthodox sense of history, which is circular rather than
linear. Nations can be defeated, but will rise again. Their
sufferings can be readily equated to those of Christ, and
bravely borne for the sake of the final recompense. The past is
never forgotten because it may recur - especially where
iniquitous foreigners are concerned. So the Catholic crusaders,
sack of Constantinople in 1204 - for which the Pope recently
apologized - can be immediately linked to the Catholic
Croatians, persecution and extermination of Orthodox Serbs in
the Second World War, or the NATO bombing of Belgrade.
All too readily, the Orthodox churches see themselves as
victims of outside forces, and turn inwards to fortify
themselves through all their sufferings, confident that
resurrection will eventually come. This pattern can be seen all
along the Orthodox frontier, where the mixed populations have
co-existed for centuries but are armed with mutually exclusive
versions of history, and always on the alert for fresh injuries to
tear the scabs off old wounds. These rivalries easily lead to
competition. In Transylvania, for example, hostility to the
neighbouring Hungarians has led to a continuing need to build
bigger and better institutions. "What you have to understand is
that there is a kind of war going on here and the weapons are
churches. But at times such sentiments can turn to an uglier
confrontation,as in the bitter struggles over the former Uniate
churches in the Ukraine.
Clark is wonderfully perceptive in her descriptions of
conditions in such haunts of Orthodoxy as the former Yugoslav
republic of Macedonia, which was once famously dismissed by
the Encyclopaedia Britannica as a political problem rather
than a geographical entity,. The home to an explosive mixture
of every race and religion in the Balkans, its fate has been to be
coveted by each of its neighbours, regularly swept by war and
too often drenched in blood. Yet here the small but fiercely
independent Orthodox church maintains that out of Macedonia
came the apostles of the Slavs, saints Cyril and Methodius, and
that its monastery on Lake Ohrid was the first Slav university,
whose holy learned lights had shone brightly enough to be seen
as far away as Kiev. Here too the revival of monastic life has
seen results in such isolated places as Veljusa, even though
there are overtones noted by Clark of xenophobic bias against
the snobbish Greeks over the border. And there are also critics
who regard sacrificing the flower of Macedonian youth to the
monasteries as a criminal waste of resources when the country
needed to concentrate all its energies on becoming
economically viable. But Orthodoxy has other values and a
different time scale.
The other characteristic of Orthodoxy is very different,
and consists of a spiritual, even mystical response to political
troubles. First propagated by the monks of Mount Athos, this
Hesychasm, after the Greek word hesychia meaning inner
silence, enjoins true believers to experience the energies of
God by seeing the Light, the splendour and glory of
everlasting happiness, the Light that transforms into light those
whom it illumines, the Light that is uncreated and unseen,
without beginning and without matter, but is the quality of
grace by which God makes himself known., It was this
Hesychast spirit which has promoted a strong revival of the
long-held mystical traditions. Monasteries have always been
the power houses of Orthodoxy, even more than of
Catholicism, and today this tradition is winning growing
numbers of converts from the west. It is part of a remarkable
revival throughout the Orthodox lands of monastic life, both
male and female. The search for sanctification, or even
identification with God, is being wonderfully successful. In
Roumania new monasteries and convents are being built - at
vast expense - to the considerable bewilderment of western
observers. In a land ruined by its former communist rulers,
where the social infrastructure needs to be completely rebuilt,
and where living standards are pitiably low, nevertheless the
monastic ideal thrives. In the heart of Transylvania, a brand
new, even dazzling showpiece of neo-mediaevalism, the
Monastery of the Birth of the Mother of God, with its red-tiled
roofs, multi-steepled church and pretty balconied buildings,
surrounded by a neat brick wall, proclaims itself as a patch of
heaven on earth. And it is not alone. The spiritual practice of
mystical inner stillness flourishes in Orthodox monasteries, as
a means of embarking on the necessary journey of inner
cleansing and contemplation - a work that men and angels have
in common.
The heartland of this tradition is to be found on Mount
Athos, the rocky peninsular protruding into the Aegean Sea in
northern Greece. Here, for centuries, monasteries have been
maintained - and women barred from entry - and missionaries
have gone forth to proclaim the sublime ideals of the mystical
life. These communities see themselves as the heirs of the
ancient desert hermits of primitive Christianity, but also as the
vanguard providing the spiritual energy for the next stage of
Orthodox history. The influence of Mount Athos reverberates
throughout the whole Orthodox world, from the tiny white
chapels dotted all over the Greek islands, to Roumania,s
painted monasteries among the orange-tinged beech forests of
Moldavia, to the fortress-like battlements on the edge of White
Sea in northern Russia, or the intimate, yet profoundly moving
icons which decorate and uplift every church. Orthodoxy is
both timeless and yet timely. Its spiritual pilgrimage is very
different from that of western Christianity. But it deserves to
be studied, and, at times, emulated.
JSC
P.S. In August, President Vladimir Putin visited the bleak
and isolated Solovetsky Monastery on the Solovki Islands in
Russia,s northern White Sea - which is described most vividly
in the above book by Victoria Clark, p.255-287. On this
occasion, Russia,s leader declared unequivocally his belief that
his country needs to seek its inspiration from its Christian
roots. "Without Christianity, without the Orthodox faith and
culture which sprang from it, Russia would hardly have existed
as a state. Today, now that we are rediscovering ourselves, it is
very important, useful and timely to return to these sources
in our search for the moral foundations of our life. (quoted
from Ecumenical News International, 22 Aug.2001)

All the best for those of you now beginning a new academic
year.

Warmest regards


John Conway
jconway@interchange.ubc.ca

Association of Contemporary Church Historians: website:
http:www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/akz/