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Mit brennender Sorge (German for "With burning anxiety") is a Catholic Church encyclical of Pope Pius XI, published on 10 March 1937 (but bearing a date of Passion Sunday, 14 March). Written in German, not the usual Latin, it was read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches on one of the Church's busiest Sundays, (Palm Sunday). It condemned breaches of an agreement signed between the Nazi government and the Church, and included criticism of Nazi ideology and, in the interpretation of some scholars, of Nazism and Hitler.
On 20 July 1933, the Vatican signed an agreement with Germany called the Reichskonkordat, partly in an effort to stop Nazi persecution of Catholic institutions. When this escalated to include physical violence, Pope Pius XI issued the 1937 encyclical Mit brennender Sorge. Drafted by the future Pope Pius XII and read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches, it criticized Hitler, detailed Nazi crimes and condemned Nazi ideology and has been characterized by scholars as the "first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism" and "one of the greatest such condemnations ever issued by the Vatican." "The impact of the encyclical was immense" and the "infuriated" Nazis increased their persecution of Catholics and the Church by initiating a "long series" of persecution of Catholic clergy and other measures. "Five days later another encyclical, Divini Redemptoris" denounced Communism in even stronger language.
In 1934, the Holy Office commissioned two German Jesuits to prepare a report on National Socialist ideology, for the purpose of condemning it. Coming from the Holy Office, such a condemnation, binding in matters of faith and morals, and signed by the pope, would have branded National Socialism a heresy The Jesuits presented their report to the Holy Office in 1935; however, when it finally emerged two years later in the form of the papal encyclical Mit brennender Sorge, the criticisms in it had been significantly tempered. The original report of the Jesuits listed forty-seven propositions to be condemned, including nationalism, expansionism, militarism, racism, the totalitarian state, and violations of natural and divine law, such as forced sterilization . Though Nazi antisemitism was not mentioned, Godman argues that the report went far beyond merely protecting the Church, to support universal human rights "and the duty of its defense by the papacy" 
The Jesuit report was presented to the Holy Office in 1935. The temporizing pace of Vatican deliberations was such that in 1936 the Holy Office asked Dominican consultants to comment on the report by the Jesuits. The Dominicans reduced the forty-seven Jesuit propositions to twenty-five, and softened their wording. Worried about "difficulties with governments," they omitted the Jesuit condemnation of the "racial state." In addition, the new report was a condemnation of both Communism and National Socialism, effectively weakening its denunciation of the latter. Godman argues that the condemnation of both "totalitarianisms" must be seen against the background of the Spanish Civil War, in which clergy were said to be killed by the Spanish republican government, supported by the Soviets, while Italy and Germany intervened militarily in support of the anti-Communist Franco. On the plus side, the Dominican report upheld "the law of justice and love toward all races, by no means excluding the "Semitic race" . Jews were thus mentioned for the first time.
The encyclical was drafted by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber with an introduction added by Cardinal Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) dealing with the historical background of the Concordat between the Catholic Church and the Third Reich. At the time Pius XI credited the encyclical to Cardinal Pacelli. In fact, Pacelli is credited with changing the title from Mit grosser Sorge (With great concern) to the more strident Mit brennender Sorge (With burning concern).
"Mit brennender Sorge" spoke of "God-given rights" and invoked a "human nature" that went beyond national boundaries. It even stated that rejection of the Old Testament, which some leaders—religious as well as secular—advocated in Nazi Germany, was blasphemous.
Carlo Falconi asserted that the final encyclical was "not so much an amplification of Faulhaber's draft as a faithful and even literal transcription of it".
According to Frank J. Coppa, Cardinal Pacelli wrote a draft that the Pope thought was too weak and unfocused and therefore substituted a more critical analysis. Pacelli described the encyclical as "a compromise" between the Holy See's sense that it could not be silent set against "its fears and worries".
Condemnation of racism
This encyclical condemned particularly the paganism of the national-socialism ideology, the myth of race and blood, and the fallacy of their conception of God. It warned Catholics that the growing Nazi ideology, which exalted one race over all others, was incompatible with Catholic Christianity.
Martin Rhonheimer writes that whilst Mit brennender Sorge asserts “race” is a “fundamental value of the human community, "necessary and honorable”, it condemns the “exaltation of race, or the people, or the state, or a particular form of state", "above their standard value" to "an idolatrous level.”
“None but superficial minds could stumble into concepts of a national God, of a national religion; or attempt to lock within the frontiers of a single people, within the narrow limits of a single race, 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).”
According to Martin Rhonheimer it was Pacelli who added to Faulhaber's milder draft the following passage:
Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the state, or a particular form of state, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community—however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things—whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God.
Against this background to the encyclical Faulhaber suggested in an internal Church memorandum that the bishops should inform the Nazi regime “that the Church, through the application of its marriage laws, has made and continues to make, an important contribution to the state’s policy of racial purity; and is thus performing a valuable service for the regime’s population policy.” There is no evidence that the Church followed through on Faulhaber's recommendation which does not reflect official Catholic teachings.
The encyclical was written in German and not the usual Latin of official Catholic Church documents. Because of government restrictions, the nuncio in Berlin, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, had the encyclical distributed by courier. There was no pre-announcement of the encyclical, and its distribution was kept secret in an attempt to ensure the unhindered public reading of its contents in all the Catholic churches of Germany. Printers close to the church offered their services and produced an estimated 300,000 copies, which however was still insufficient. Additional copies were therefore created by hand and using typewriters. After its clandestine distribution, many congregations hid the document in their tabernacles for protection.
It was read from the pulpits of German Catholic parishes on Palm Sunday 1937.
The German newspapers did not mention the encyclical at all; the offices of every German diocese were visited the next day by the Gestapo and all extant copies were seized. Every publishing company that had printed it was closed and sealed, diocesan newspapers were all proscribed and limits imposed on the paper available for Church purposes. Catholic flags were prohibited at religious ceremonies and towns with religious names (Heiligenstadt, etc) were renamed.
Frank J. Coppa asserts that the encyclical was viewed by the Nazis as "a call to battle against the Reich" and that Hitler was furious and "vowed revenge against the Church". Hitler wrote that “I shall open such a campaign against them [the Catholic clergy] in press, radio and cinema so that they won’t know what hit them …. Let us have no martyrs among the Catholic priests, it is more practical to show they are criminals.”
Thomas Bokenkotter writes that "the Nazis were infuriated, and in retaliation closed and sealed all the presses that had printed it and took numerous vindictive measures against the Church, including staging a long series of immorality trials of the Catholic clergy."
According to John Vidmar, Nazi reprisals against the Church in Germany followed thereafter, including "staged prosecutions of monks for homosexuality, with the maximum of publicity". 170 Franciscans were arrested in Koblenz and tried for “corrupting youth” in a secret trial, with numerous allegations of priestly debauchery appearing in the Nazi controlled press, while a film produced for the Hitler Youth showed priests dancing in a brothel.
According to Eamon Duffy "The impact of the encyclical was immense, and it dispelled at once all suspicion of a Fascist Pope." However, Gerald Fogarty asserts that "in the end, the encyclical had little positive effect, and if anything only exacerbated the crisis." The American ambassador reported that it “had helped the Catholic Church in Germany very little but on the contrary has provoked the Nazi state...to continue its oblique assault upon Catholic institutions.”
Although the encyclical is widely hailed as the "the first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism", there is some debate over the extent to which the encyclical challenged the Nazi regime. Although it did not identify him by name, it contained references to 'an insane and arrogant prophet", which scholars such as Bokenkotter, Vidmar, Rhodes and McGonigle have interpreted as referring to Adolf Hitler.
Falconi opined that the offering of a "conciliatory olive branch" to Hitler if he would restore the "tranquil prosperity" of the Church deprived the document of a "noble and exemplary intransigence". His opinion is not seconded by other authors who consider this gesture to be evidence of the Church's efforts to exhaust dialogue before resorting to war.
Catholic holocaust scholar Michael Phayer concludes that the encyclical "condemned racism (but not Hitler or National Socialism, as some have erroneously asserted)". Some scholars have critized Phayer as having relied too much on German documents alone. Other Catholic scholars have regarded the encyclical as "not a heatedly combative document" as the German episcopate entertained hopes of a Modus vivendi with the Nazis. As a result the encyclical was "not directly polemical" but "diplomatically moderate", in contrast to the encyclical Non Abbiamo Bisogno dealing with Italian fascism.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "Church and state through the centuries",Sidney Z. Ehler & John B Morrall, p. 518-519, org pub 1954, reissued 1988, Biblo & Tannen, 1988, ISBN 0819601896
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Courtois, p. 29 quote "... Pope Pius XI condemned Nazism and Communism respectively in the encyclicals Mit Brennender Sorge ... and Divini redemptoris ... ."
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 McGonigle, p. 172 quote "Hitler, of course flagrantly violated the rights of Catholics and others whenever it pleased him. Catholic Action groups were attacked by Hitler's police and Catholic schools were closed. Priests were persecuted and sent to concentration camps. ... On Palm Sunday, March 21 1937, the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge was read in Catholic Churches in Germany. In effect it taught that the racial ideas of the leader (fuhrer) and totalitarianism stood in opposition to the Catholic faith. The letter let the world, and especially German Catholics, know clearly that the Church was harassed and persecuted, and that it clearly opposed the doctrines of Nazism."
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Bokenkotter, pp. 389–392, quote "And when Hitler showed increasing belligerence toward the Church, Pius met the challenge with a decisiveness that astonished the world. His encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge was the 'first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism' and 'one of the greatest such condemnations ever issued by the Vatican.' Smuggled into Germany, it was read from all the Catholic pulpits on Palm Sunday in March 1937. It denounced the Nazi "myth of blood and soil" and decried its neopaganism, its war of annihilation against the Church, and even described the Fuhrer himself as a 'mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance'. The Nazis were infuriated, and in retaliation closed and sealed all the presses that had printed it and took numerous vindictive measures against the Church, including staging a long series of immorality trials of Catholic clergy."
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Rhodes, p. 204-205 quote "Mit brennender Sorge did not prevaricate. Although it began mildly enough with an account of the broad aims of the Church, it went on to become one of the greatest condemnations of a national regime ever pronounced by the Vatican. Its vigorous language is in sharp contrast to the involved style in which encyclicals were normally written. The education question was fully and critically examined, and a long section devoted to disproving the Nazi theory of Blood and Soil (Blut und Boden) and the Nazi claim that faith in Germany was equivalent to faith in God. There were scathing references to Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century and its neo-paganism. The pressure exercised by the Nazi party on Catholic officials to betray their faith was lambasted as 'base, illegal and inhuman'. The document spoke of "a condition of spiritual oppression in Germany such as has never been seen before", of 'the open fight against the Confessional schools and the suppression of liberty of choice for those who desire a Catholic education'. 'With pressure veiled and open,' it went on, 'with intimidation, with promises of economic, professional, civil, and other advantages, the attachment of Catholics to the Faith, particularly those in government employment, is exposed to a violence as illegal as it is inhuman.' 'The calvary of the Church': 'The war of annihilation against the Catholic Faith'; 'The cult of idols'. The fulminations thundered down from the pulpits to the delighted congregations. Nor was the Fuhrer himself spared, for his 'aspirations to divinity', 'placing himself on the same level as Christ': 'a mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance' (widerliche Hochmut)."
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Vidmar, pp. 327–33l
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Coppa, p. 132-7
- ↑ Rhodes, p. 182-183 quote "His contention seemed confirmed in a speech by Staatsminister Wagner in Munich on the 31st March 1934, only nine months after the signature of the Concordat. Wagner said if the Church had not signed a concordat with Germany, the National Socialist government would have abolished the Catholic Youth organisations altogether, and placed them in the same 'anti-state' category as the Marxist groups. ... If the maintenance of Catholic education and of the Catholic Youth associations was, as we have seen often enough before, the principal aim of Papal diplomacy, then his phrase, 'the Concordat prevented greater evils' seems justified. ... "The German episcopate considered that neither the Concordats up to then negotiated with individual German States (Lander), nor the Weimar Constitution gave adequate guarantees or assurance to the faithful of respect for their convictions, rights or liberty of action. In such conditions the guarantees could not be secured except through a settlement having the solemn form of a concordat with the central government of the Reich, I would add that since it was the German government which made the proposal, the responsibility for all the regrettable consequences would have fallen on the Holy See if it had refused the proposed Concordat. Although the Church had few illusions about National Socialism, it must be recognized that the Concordat in the years that followed brought some advantages, or at least prevented worse evils. In fact, in spite of all the violations to which it was subjected, it gave German Catholics a juridical basis for their defence, a stronghold behind which to sheild themselves in their oppositions to the ever-growing campaign of religious persecution."
- ↑ Rhodes, p. 197 quote "Violence had been used against a Catholic leader as early as June 1934, in the 'Night of the Long Knives' ... by the end of 1936 physical violence was being used openly and blatantly against the Catholic Church. The real issue was not, as the Nazis contended, a struggle with 'political Catholicism', but that the regime would tolerate the Church only if it adapted its religious and moral teaching to the materialist dogma of blood and race - that is, if it ceased to be Christian."
- ↑ Shirer, p. 235 quote "On July 25, five days after the ratification of the concordat, the German government promulgated a sterilization law, which particularly offended the Catholic Church. Five days later the first steps were taken to dissolve the Catholic Youth League. During the next years, thousands of Catholic priests, nuns and lay leaders were arrested, many of them on trumped-up charges of 'immorality' or 'smuggling foreign currency'. Erich Klausener, leader of Catholic Action, was, as we have seen, murdered in the June 30, 1934, purge. Scores of Catholic publications were suppressed, and even the sanctity of the confessional was violated by Gestapo agents. By the spring of 1937, the Catholic hierarchy, in Germany, which, like most of the Protestant clergy, had tried to co-operate with the new regime, was thoroughly disillusioned.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Pham, p. 45, quote: "When Pius XI was complimented on the publication, in 1937, of his encyclical denouncing Nazism, Mit Brennender Sorge, his response was to point to his Secretary of State and say bluntly, 'The credit is his.'"
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Norman, p. 167 quote "But violations began almost at once by Nazi Party officials, and in 1937 the papacy issued a Letter to the German bishops to be read in the churches. Mit Brennender Sorge ... denounced the violations as contrary to Natural Law and to the term of the Concordat. The Letter, in fact, amounted to a condemnation of Nazi ideology: 'In political life within the state, since it confuses considerations of utility with those of right, it mistakes the basic fact than man as a person posesses God-given rights which must be preserved from all attacks aimed at denying, suppressing, or disregarding them.' The Letter also rejected absolutely the concept of a German National Church."
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Duffy, (paperback edition) p. 343 quote "In a triumphant security operation, the encyclical was smuggled into Germany, locally printed, and read from Catholic pulpits on Palm Sunday 1937. Mit Brennender Sorge ('With Burning Anxiety') denounced both specific government actions against the Church in breach of the concordat and Nazi racial theory more generally. There was a striking and deliberate emphasis on the permanent validity of the Jewish scriptures, and the Pope denounced the 'idolatrous cult' which replaced belief in the true God with a 'national religion' and the 'myth of race and blood'. He contrasted this perverted ideology with the teaching of the Church in which there was a home 'for all peoples and all nations'. The impact of the encyclical was immense, and it dispelled at once all suspicion of a Fascist Pope. While the world was still reacting, however, Pius issued five days later another encyclical, Divini Redemptoris denouncing Communism, declaring its principles 'intrinsically hostile to religion in any form whatever', detailing the attacks on the Church which had followed the establishment of Communist regimes in Russia, Mexico and Spain, and calling for the implementation of Catholic social teaching to offset both Communism and 'amoral liberalism'. The language of Divini Redemptoris was stronger than that of Mit Brennender Sorge, its condemnation of Communism even more absolute than the attack on Nazism. The difference in tone undoubtedly reflected the Pope's own loathing of Communism as the ultimate enemy. The last year of his life, however, left no one any doubt of his total repudiation of the right-wing tyrannies in Germany and, despite his instinctive sympathy with some aspects of Fascism, increasingly in Italy also. His speeches and conversations were blunt, filled with phrases like 'stupid racialism', 'barbaric Hitlerism'."
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Chadwick, Owen p. 254 quote "The encyclical was smuggled into Germany and read from the pulpits on Palm Sunday. It made the repression far worse; but it too was necessary to Christian honour."
- ↑ Godman, Peter (2004). Hitler and the Vatican: Inside the Secret Archives that Reveal the New Story of the Nazis and the Church. New York: Free Press. pp. 4, 61. ISBN 978-0-7432-4597-5.
- ↑ Peter Godman pp. 172-193
- ↑ Peter Godman p. 89.
- ↑ Peter Godman pp. 103-104, 129, 194-199
- ↑ Rychlak, Ronald. "The Selling of a Myth". http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=1439&CFID=18352006&CFTOKEN=78712739. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 Falconi 1967, p. 229
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 21.2 "The papacy, the Jews, and the Holocaust", Frank J. Coppa, p. 162-163, CUA Press, 2006, ISBN 0813214491
- ↑ Faulhaber’s original draft of this passage read: “Be vigilant that race, or the state, or other communal values, which can claim an honorable place in worldly things, are not magnified and idolized.”
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 "The Holocaust: What Was Not Said", First Thing Magazine, November 2003, retrieved 30 June 2009
- ↑ Rhodes, p. 205, quote "The true extent of the Nazi fury at this encyclical was shown by the immediate measures taken in Germany to counter further propagation of the document. Not a word of it was printed in newspapers, and the following day the Secret Police visited the diocesan offices and confiscated every copy they could lay their hands on. All the presses which had printed it were closed and sealed. The bishops' diocesan magazines (Amtsblatter) were proscribed; and paper for church pamphlets or secretarial work was severely restricted. A host of other measures, such as diminishing the State grants to theology students and needy priests (agreed in the Concordat) were introduced. And then a number of futile, vindictive measures which did little to harm the Church..."
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 Falconi, p. 230, quote "the pontifical letter still remains the first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism, and the Pope's courage astonished the world."
- ↑ Vidmar, p. 254.
- ↑ Rhodes, Anthony. Vatican in the Age of the Dictators, 1922-1945. pp. 202-210.
- ↑ Fogarty, Gerald P. (2008-08-15). "A Pope in Wartime". America. http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=11288&comments=1. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
- ↑ Rhodes, p. 205, quote "Mit brennender Sorge did not prevaricate. Although it began mildly enough with an account of the broad aims of the Church, it went on to become one of the greatest condemnations of a national regime ever pronounced by the Vatican. Its vigorous language is in sharp contrast to the involved style in which encyclicals were normally written. The education question was fully and critically examined, and a long section devoted to disproving the Nazi theory of Blood and Soil (Blut und Boden) and the Nazi claim that faith in Germany was equivalent to faith in God. There were scathing references to Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century and its neo-paganism. The pressure exercised by the Nazi party on Catholic officials to betray their faith was lambasted as 'base, illegal and inhuman'. The document spoke of 'a condition of spiritual oppression in Germany such as has never been seen before' of 'the open fight against the Confessional schools and the suppression of liberty of choice for those who desire a Catholic education'. 'With pressure veiled and open,' it went on, 'with intimidation, with promises of economic, professional, civil and other advantages, the attachment of Catholics to the Faith, particularly those in government employment, is exposed to a violence as illegal as it is inhuman.' 'The calvary of the Church': 'The war of annihilation against the Catholic Faith'; 'The cult of idols'. The fulminations thundered down from the pulpits to the delighted congregations. Nor was the Fuhrer himself spared, for his 'aspirations to divinity', 'placing himself on the same level as Christ'; 'a mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance' (widerliche Hochmut)."
- ↑ Falconi 1967 p. 230
- ↑ Phayer 2000, p. 2
- ↑ Lapomarda, Vincent. "Here We Go Again". New Oxford Review. http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=michael+phayer+church+and+the+holocaust+book+reviews&d=76646678075788&mkt=en-US&setlang=en-US&w=dc29121f,58bee7df. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
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- Mit brennender Sorge on Vatican.va (English)
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