PASTORAL LETTER OF MARCH 22, 1942
This document not only ranks with the famous Fulda pastoral letters of previous years, but it also points out with forthrightness and clarity how the guarantees given by Hitler in the Concordat have been systematically violated. Since this pastoral letter serves to bring the situation of the Catholic Church under the Nazi regime up to date, it is here reprinted in full,
For years a war has raged in our fatherland against Christianity and Church, and has never been conducted with such bitterness. Repeatedly the German bishops have asked the Reich Government to discontinue this fatal struggle; but, unfortunately, our appeals and endeavors were without success.
Even in wartime, when solidarity has always been a matter of course, the fight continues; nay, increases in sharpness and bitterness and lies like a tremendous incubus on the German people, of whom at the last census 95 per cent—in Bavaria even 98 per cent—have professed to be Christians.
Therefore, the German bishops have considered it their duty toward Church and people to put an end to this internal war by a public declaration and an effective order. As we know that the faithful expect their bishops to do everything to protect belief and conscience, to re-establish the peace of religion and Church and to ease their souls from severe pressure, we feel obliged to make public the most important points of our memoir (to the Reich Government).
In the Concordat of July 20, 1933, the Reich Government granted the Catholic Church state protection for the free development of its functions. Actually, these grants have not been kept. Christianity and the Catholic Church have been denied state protection and are being fought and fettered through measures and organs of party and State.
1. Promised and pledged was "the liberty of creed and worship of the Catholic religion." In truth, pressure is frequently used on those who depend on State or party positions to force them to conceal or deny their Catholic religion or to compel them to abandon the Church. Through numerous ordinances and laws open worship of the Catholic religion has been restricted to such a degree that it has disappeared almost entirely from public life. It appears as if the sign of Christ, which in the year 312 was gloriously carried from the catacombs, is to be driven back to the catacombs.
Even worship within the houses of God is frequently restricted and oppressed. Quite a number of places of worship, especially in the Ostmark, in the newly conquered territories, but also in the old Reich, have been closed by force and even used for profane purposes. Services in rented rooms have been prohibited despite urgent necessities. Purchases of lots for the construction of new churches is being rendered impossible.
From time to time religious instruction for children and juveniles has been prohibited even in church-owned premises and has been punished.
Religious care in hospitals has been most severely restricted through new laws.
2. Catholic parents and the Catholic Church have the natural and divine right to educate their children religiously according to the principles of the Christian faith and ethical law and in conformity with their own consciences. Through concordats, the influence of the Christian churches on school and education has been expressly granted.
Actually, however, the rights of parents and Church are being more and more restricted and have become ineffective. Juveniles in State youth organizations, in hostels and labor camps, often even in schools and country homes for evacuated children are being influenced in an anti-Christian manner and kept away from religious services and celebrations. In the new State institutions (such as teachers' training schools, all-political educational homes, etc.) any Christian and religious influence is absolutely impossible.
3. The Catholic Church and its priests have the right and the duty to pronounce and defend, freely and unrestricted, orally and in writing, the creeds and doctrines of the Christian religion.
The clergy, by agreement, has been granted State projection for the execution of its duties.
In reality, Catholic priests are watched constantly and suspiciously in their teaching and pastoral duties; priests, without proof of any guilt, are banned from their dioceses and homes, and even deprived of their freedom and punished for having fulfilled their priestly duties truthfully and scrupulously.
It is unbearable that clergymen are being punished with expulsion from the country or internment in a concentration camp without court procedure and any contact with the clergy, when approach to the bishopric could have resulted in the explanation of misunderstandings or the prevention of mistakes.
The holding of religious services and exercises is made almost impossible; the religious press has been destroyed almost entirely; the reprinting of religious books, even catechisms, school Bibles and diocesan prayer books is not permitted, while anti-Christian writings may be printed and distributed in mass circulation.
4. It is consented upon and granted by agreement : "Orders and religious societies are not subjected by the State to any specific restriction regarding their pastoral, educational, medical and relief work, conduct of their affairs and administration of their estates."
In fact, the Catholic orders have been expelled from schools almost entirely and are being curtailed in their other activities on an ever-increasing scale. A large part of their property and their institutions have been taken away from them and many are destined to perish because of the law prohibiting able-bodied men to work for them. Consequently, the German people will be in future without the pastoral services of the priests of the orders and without the sacrificing services of their nuns.
5. It has been promised and granted: "Within the limitations of the law, the clergy has the sole right to erect, conduct and administer the seminaries for priests as well as church refectories."
In truth, not only the Church refectories for students have been largely destroyed or taken
but even seminaries for priests have been confiscated and deprived of their clerical status. This is in conformity with the purpose of those who wish to deprive the Catholic priesthood of successors.
We emphasize that before the authorities we not only stand up for religious and clerical rights but likewise for the human rights bestowed by God on mankind. Every honest human being is interested in the respect and preservation of these rights; without them the entire Western culture mast break down.
1. Every man has the natural right for personal freedom within the boundaries designated by obedience to God, consideration of his fellow man and the common good and the just laws of the civil authorities.
We German Bishops protest against every disregard of personal freedom. We demand juridical proof of all sentences and release of all fellow citizens who have been deprived of their liberty without proof of an act punishable with imprisonment.
2. Every man has the natural right to life and the goods essential for living. The living God, the Creator of all life, is sole master over life and death.
With deep horror Christian Germans have learned that, by order of the State authorities, numerous insane persons, entrusted to asylums and institutions, were destroyed as so-called "unproductive citizens." At present a large-scale campaign is being made for the killing of incurables through a film recommended by the authorities and designed to calm the conscience through appeals to pity.
We German Bishops shall not cease to protest against the killing of innocent persons. Nobody's life is safe unless the Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," is observed.
3. Every man has the natural right to property and the use of his lawfully acquired property and to protection by the State of private property against willful interference. Nevertheless, in past years many Church possessions and especially houses of religious orders, have been taken away by force from their lawful owners and used for other purposes. Even places of worship have been confiscated and desecrated.
We Bishops, in the name of the Catholic people, from whom come the members of our orders, protest against this violation of natural property rights and demand the return of the unlawfully confiscated and in many cases sequestrated property. We protest against such willful acts for the sake of the common good and as defenders of the fundamental social order willed by God. For what happens today to Church property may tomorrow happen to any lawful property.
4. Every man has the natural rights to the protection of his honor against lie and slander.
On the front and in the homeland faithful Christians fulfill their patriotic duties like all their fellow citizens. Yet Catholic priests and laymen are suspiciously watched, secretly suspected, nay, publicly branded as traitors and national enemies, just because they stand up for the freedom of the Church and, the truth of the Catholic faith.
Catholics of the religious orders have fulfilled their duty heroically in the field, at home and in war, a fact which has been frequently acknowledged through the bestowing of war decorations. In spite of this, many have been deprived of their monastic homes.
We Bishops protest against such violations of truth and justice and demand effective, honorable protection for all citizens, including faithful Catholics and members of Catholic orders.
For months, regardless of war misery, an anti-Christian wave of propaganda, fostered by party meetings and party pamphlets, has been carried through the country with the clearly noticeable, even outspoken, aim to suffocate the vigor of the Catholic Church in German lands.
If possible, they wish to destroy Christianity in Germany during the war, before the soldiers, whose Christian faith gives them the strength for heroic battles and sacrifices, return home. The vast majority of the German people, whose deepest feelings are hurt by such attacks on Christianity, justly expect the immediate and frank rectification of the Reich Government of the unjust oppression and hated struggle against Christianity and the Church.
Dear Diocesans: We Bishops have informed you of our grave worries and ardent endeavor for inner peace in our German nation. We call upon you, with the devotion we have always shown you, to support our efforts through your prayer and your unshakable faith, and to repulse decisively and vigorously all attempts to make you waver.
We wish to prove through our attitude that we long for nothing but internal peace, and esteem nothing as highly and faithfully as our sacred creed, which we shall defend against all attacks. Decisively and firmly we refuse the suggestion that we should prove our patriotic faith through faithlessness toward Christ and our Church.
We remain eternally true to our Fatherland just because, and at any price, we remain faithful to our Saviour and our Church. God bless our country and our holy Church. God give us an honest, happy, lasting peace to the Church and the Fatherland.
The German Bishops.
The above pastoral letter is to be read in all churches during the services on Passion Sunday, March 22, 1942.
Responsible for distribution and edition: The Bishop of Wuerzburg, Matthias Ehrenfried.
On May 8, 1942, it was published in the uncensored press of the free world that Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber had again raised his voice against Nazi persecutions of the Catholic Church in an eleven-point indictment of the situation in Germany which he sent to the Holy See.
Cardinal von Faulhaber's charges, in a condensed form, were as follows:
1. That a "veritable war against Christianity" is being waged in Germany.
2. That the Church is the victim of an elaborate system of "anti-Christian espionage."
3. That moral "blackmail" is being applied to faithful Catholics in an effort to lessen their church attendance, and to the Church itself in an attempt to extort greater contributions to the Nazi party funds.
4. That intensified propaganda efforts are being made among the lower paid workers to get them to disavow the Church.
5. That the Church is being accused of being a "super-national organization" and that "loyal Germans" are asked how they can reconcile their duties to the State with those to the Church.
6. That violence is often employed in the "catechism" of a "doubtful" German who must "develop a conscience of his nationality" or "suffer the consequences."
7. That "grave measures" have been taken in primary and secondary schools to prevent religious instruction.
8. That under the pretext of lack of paper, publication of religious material has been forbidden, while on the other hand the number and size of publications attacking the Church has "increased beyond measure."
9. That young people have been forbidden to attend evening religious festivals on the ground that they "prevent their getting enough sleep," yet "attendance at party functions, which often last well past midnight, is obligatory."
10. That church organizations have been prevented from acquiring land on which to build religious structures, and that in many cases land already in possession of the Church has been sequestered without indemnification.
11. That Church property, such as bronze bells and even ritual vessels of immense real or intrinsic value have been sequestered without warning and indemnification.
The Cardinal closed with a prayer that "the Church stand together for the fight of its existence. Today it is a question of life or death for Christianity, for in its blind rage against religion the Nazi 'faith' does not or cannot distinguish between Protestantism and Catholicism."
"Indispensable prerequisites for the search for a new order are:
"1. Triumph over hate, which is today a cause of division among peoples; a renunciation therefore of the systems and practices from which hate constantly receives added nourishment.
"2. Triumph over mistrust, which bears down as a depressing weight on international law and renders impossible the realization of any sincere agreement.
"3. Triumph over the distressing principles that utility is a basis of law and right and that might makes right; a principle which makes all international relations labile.
"4. Triumph over those germs of conflict which consist in two-sided differences in the field of world economy, hence progressive action, balanced by corresponding degrees to arrive at arrangements which would give to every State the medium necessary for insuring the proper standard of living for its own citizens of every rank.
"5. Triumph over the spirit of cold egoism which, fearless in its might, easily leads to violation not only of the honor and sovereignty of States, but the righteous, wholesome and disciplined liberty of citizens as well."
In November 1941, the Vatican radio broadcast in German a letter by the Pope, which said: "If people arise and allege that they are the bearers of a new belief or a new gospel which is not Christ's gospel, and if they make the Holy Church and its Head, the Pope, the target of unheard-of attacks; if they attempt to create an artificial and unreal contradiction between loyalty to God and loyalty to the Fatherland—then the hour has come when the bishops must raise their voices because of their vows. It is the duty of the bishops to repeat without fear the apostle's words: 'We must obey God rather than men!' "
At the close of the year 1941, the Holy Father said, in his Christmas Eve broadcast to the world:
"In its place (the place of the true faith) they have fashioned Christianity to their liking a new idol which does not save, which is not opposed to the passions of carnal desires nor to the greed for gold and silver which fascinates, nor to the pride of life; a new religion without a soul or a soul without .a religion, a mask of dead Christianity without the spirit of Christ. And they have proclaimed that Christianity has failed in its mission!"
Original from UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN