November 1999 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter- November 1999- Vol.V, no. 11


Dear Friends,


I have recently exchanged computers, and am only just getting the hang of

this new one. So please forgive me if there are any errors in orthography or


I thought Windows 98 would be more user-friendly, but alas! However, I trust

you will find the enclosed to be of interest, especially the first book

review, in the light of the current furore over John Cornwell”s new account

of “Hitler’s Pope”, which will certainly be dealt with here shortly..


Contents: 1) Book reviews

a) F.J.Coppa ed., Controversial Concordats

b) J.Booty, An American Apostle

c) Political Catholicism in Europe

2) Report on 1999 Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte conference

3) M.A.Thesis: H.Kreutzer (Bonn)

4) Book notes


1a) Frank J.Coppa, ed., Controversial Concordats.

The Vatican’s Relations with Napoleon, Mussolini, and Hitler.

Washington,D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press.

1999 248pp

It was a good idea for a group of American Catholic historians

to put together this comparative analysis of the much-disputed Concordats

signed by the Vatican with the three dictators of recent European history.

Protestants have all along denounced such agreements as a flagrant betrayal

of the Church’s ideals, or as examples of the Papacy’s overweening political


But many Catholics are also distressed by what seem now to have been

unsavoury deals. What can be said about them in the present context? To

answer this question, the valuable and academically-sound scholarship of

these authors will be of considerable help.

The first thing to note is, of course, that in each case these Concordats

were concluded at a point before these rulers became so notorious. These

deals are controversial only because of the dictators’ subsequent policies

and crimes.

At the time they were assessed differently. Second, we have to note that

Vatican policy is based on very long-term considerations. As the world’s

oldest diplomatic entity, it is the repository of a centuries-old collective

memory (and equally centuries of secret archives). As John Zeender points

out in his introduction, the Vatican for several hundred years has adopted

the practice of seeking to fix relations with the various nation states and

their rulers through publicly-announced and supposedly legally-binding

agreements. Indeed such concordats have been the favourite instrument of

papal diplomacy since the twelfth century. In the modern era, the loss of

directly-ruled Papal territory on the Italian peninsular made the

consolidation of the Vatican’s influence and power in other lands all the

more urgent. And the awareness of how dangerously unpredictable the actions

of upstart rulers could be prompted attempts to secure the position of the

Church, even at the expense of unwelcome compromise.

William Roberts’ account of the Concordat of 1801 shows clearly enough the

mixture of political and religious factors involved. Despite the convoluted

process of negotiation, this Concordat lasted for a hundred years and became

the model for numerous other such pacts both in Europe and abroad. Napoleon

was pragmatic. Ideology was superfluous. But since morality and stability

were desirable, the Church should be recruited for these tasks. A Concordat

would serve to discredit the surviving royalist and anti-revolutionary

bishops (mostly in exile), while the Pope could be brought to discipline

those of his clergy opposed to Napoleon’s rule. The seizure of church

property could be mitigated by the state’s payment of clergy salaries.

Bishops were to be nominated by the state but confirmed and instituted by

the Pope. Interestingly nothing was said about the future of religious

orders, both male and female, which subsequently were to play so large a

role in French church life. But by the end of the century the rise of

anti-clericalism and attendant secularism in the petite bourgeoisie who

controlled the legislature of the Third Republic led finally to the breach

of 1905, despite the Vatican’s best efforts to retain the status quo.

By 1919, the loss of France, the continuing hostility of Italy, which had

gobbled up the Papal States, the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as

Catholicism’s main bulwark in central Europe, and the rising menace of

revolutionary Communism, all impelled the Papacy to seek new alignments.

Pope Pius XI, whose reign began about the same time as the rise of Mussolini

to power, was prepared to accept the inevitable loss of the Papal States and

to seek a new accommodation with Italy. Mussolini, despite his violently

anti-clerical past, was also pragmatic enough to want a settlement. The

Lateran Agreements of 1929 in fact served both sides well, until Mussolini

fell under Hitler’s spell and sought to introduce his antisemitic racial

policy in the late 1930s.The price paid was the abandonment of Catholic

political activities, but none of the Popes actually welcomed this form of

commitment. Treaties, even with dictators, were held to be safer. The

Vatican’s independence, in its mini-state of 108 acres, was hereby secured.

The papal officials finally recognized they were better off abandoning their

former territorial dreams. In return the Church gained broad concessions. As

Frank Coppa rightly notes, only the authoritarian Mussolini, by stifling

criticism, could have granted the Church such an advantageous agreement.

Pope Pius XI thought the Concordat would bring God back to Italy. Mussolini

thought he could exploit the Church in the Fascist cause. Neither

development occurred. But, in effect, the Vatican was deterred from any open

protests against the Duce’s misleadership thereafter, lest it be accused of

having made a grave error of judgment. This was in fact a most ominous

legacy. But the apparent success of the Lateran Agreements with Italy led to

the illusion that the same could be achieved with Germany.

The Reich Concordat signed with Hitler in July 1933 has given rise to even

more controversial debates, as succinctly reviewed here by Joseph Biesinger.

The tide of criticism of the Vatican for concluding such a disputable pact

continues even after sixty and more years. There is, however, a large amount

of wishful thinking in such attacks, just as there has been a large dose of

self-justifying apologetic amongst the Concordat’s defenders. The

personality of Cardinal Pacelli, the Concordat’s principal instigator, and

subsequently Pius XII, remains the focus point of high-flown controversy,

almost all of which is derived from later hindsight. Biesinger’s view is

that, at the time, the Vatican was motivated by realism. Hitler offered

unprecedented concessions, the refusal of which could have been

counter-productive. At the same time, he argues that Hitler had all along

planned to deceive the papal authorities, since his aim was nothing less

than the obliteration of the Church altogether. In which case, the Vatican’s

illusions about Nazi policy would have been even more reprehensible. But in

fact, the evidence suggests that, in 1933, Hitler’s attitude was still

ambivalent. He was still opportunistic enough to recognize the desirability

of Catholic and Vatican support. Only later, when his messianic and racist

ideology came to dominate his thinking and actions, did his stance turn

decisively against the Church. Could this have been foreseen in 1933? Could

the German Catholics have been mobilized against such a popular leader?

Could the Vatican have successfully prevailed against the Nazis’ appeal to

patriotic (and racialist) nationalism? On the other hand, Biesinger is right

that, by signing the Concordat, the bishops were restrained from overtly

challenging the Nazis’ claims and actions.

For its part, the Vatican protested vigorously but diplomatically the almost

incessant breaches of the Concordat. Both Pius XI and Pius XII failed to

recognize the dynamic nihilism of the Nazi regime. They were not alone. And

even if they had recognized the truth, it was far from clear what could have

been done. Equally sadly, the fact is that, had Hitler called off the

persecution of the churches, German Catholics would have supported him with

unshaken enthusiasm. Biesinger still thinks that some more forceful protests

would have brought results, but scepticism is allowed here. After 1939 Pius’

decision to follow a path of strict neutrality impeded any open

denunciations of the Nazi breaches of the Concordat. And after 1942

Biesinger agrees with me that “a sense of frustration, disillusionment and

failure was markedly to affect the Vatican’s efforts to assist the victims

of the war”. In 1945 only the Allied victory made the Concordat policy

appear to be a success.

In the aftermath, the Church’s successful bid to have the Concordat continue

in force – at least in West Germany – has been accompanied by serious

questioning of such politicized deals. The disadvantages are now clearly

recognized. To be sure, by negotiating with such dictators, the Church

gained in France and Italy, and after Hitler’s defeat in Germany too,a

status which it was unlikely to have won otherwise. But, as Stewart Stehlin

rightly notes in his concluding chapter, the price of making treaties with

immoral regimes which profess ideologies antithetical to the Church’s

teachings was a disastrous loss of credibility. Today the Church seeks to

rely less on treaties and accords and more on the appeal to idealism in

underlining spiritual rather than international laws. Church-State tensions

will undoubtedly continue. But lessons have been learnt, not least from

these three controversial concordats.

The texts of the Concordats are appended.


1b) John Booty, An American Apostle. The Life of Stephen Fielding Bayne,Jr.

Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International 1997. 235pp

Biographies of American bishops are a rarity. So John Booty’s life of

Stephen Bayne, Bishop of Olympia and first Executive Officer of the Anglican

Communion, is welcome. Episcopal careers are usually too predictable to

deserve commemoration. They differ little from year to year or country to

country. But Bayne served during a particularly significant period in the

life of the Anglican Communion, when it began the process of

“de-colonization” and rediscovery of a more ecumenical world-wide

fellowship. So his story is of interest to show the gains and losses of this


Bayne grew up in the Anglo-Catholic tradition of the eastern United States,

and his leadership skills were soon recognised as he advanced through the

parish ministry, college chaplaincy and wartime service in the U.S.Navy. At

the age of 39, he became the Bishop of Olympia, encompassing all of western

Washington State with his headquarters in Seattle. In the post-war and baby

boom, the Episcopal Church grew rapidly and happily. For Bayne these were

perhaps his best years.

By the end of the 1950s and following the 1958 Lambeth Conference of

Anglican bishops from around the world, there was a recognition that new

machinery was required. The Archbishop of Canterbury could no longer fulfill

the role of liaison to the now ever more numerous diocesans springing up.

Furthermore there was a need to shed the colonialist image, when Anglican

churches overseas were seen as nothing more than the ex-English at prayer.

The appointment of Bayne, a vigorous American, to be the Executive Officer

for the whole world-wide Communion, was designed to provide a new image. And

his leadership in this endeavour could be seen at the Anglican Congress held

in Canada in 1963 which adopted the forward-looking slogan “Mutual

Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ”. The objective was

to call all the 18 different Anglican churches with their 340 dioceses to a

new sense of belonging together, rather than being merely off-shoots of the

Church of England. At the same time, the paternal leadership of the

Archbishop of Canterbury was retained, and the Lambeth Episcopal Conferences

continued to be held every ten years in Britain.

This was a compromise solution which seemed to suit most Anglicans. But

Bayne felt less happy when Michael Ramsey took over as Archbishop, since he

sensed that Ramsey’s roots were still too tied to the Church of England. So

he gave up the post of Executive Officer and retreated to the USA, narrowly

failing to be elected Presiding Bishop there. As Director of the Overseas

Department and later Vice-President of the Episcopal Church, based in New

York, Bayne had the opportunity to put into practice many of the plans for

Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence, particularly in the Caribbean and

Latin America. But the programme, world-wide, ran into financial

difficulties. It still limps along, but the sense of genuine partnership was

only fitfully recognised.

Bayne was orthodoxly conservative, both theologically and politically. But

he was well aware, by the end of the 1960s, that his privileged and rich

church needed to come to terms with such critical factors as the civil

rights movement or the war in Vietnam. The tensions between the call to

social activism and the traditional pursuit of personal sanctity became

increasingly more evident. Many dioceses were reluctant to follow the

national church leadership. Ecclesiastical bureaucrats, like Bayne, were

obliged to spend long frustrating hours explaining, justifying, mediating or

simply appealing to the deaf. In 1970 he resigned in order to return to the

Anglican Seminary in New York as a “spiritual handyman”. His final years

before retirement proved as busy as ever, teaching, administering and

preaching as before. Luckily for John Booty, most of Bayne’s sermons and

much of his incidental writing was preserved, so his points of view could be

elucidated and the narrative established. It is all credibly done.

One of Bayne’s last responsibilities was to chair an episcopal committee on

the ordination of women. It was typical of his stance that he could “see no

conclusive argument against admitting qualified women . . . but I am not

eager for the day when they are admitted because of the bitterness and

hostility they will encounter”. Sadly he did not live to see the outcome,

but died in 1974 shortly after retiring.

Booty’s tribute is a well-balanced account which places Bayne in his

Anglican context and provides the evidence to show why he deserves our

respect as one of the percipient leaders of the Anglican Church in the

mid-twentieth century.


1c) eds. T.Buchanan and M.Conway, Political Catholicism in Europe 1918-1965.

Oxford: Clarendon Press 1996. 312 pp

M.Conway, Catholic Politics in Europe 1918-1945. London/New York: Routledge



Most of the essays in the first of these volumes were presented as seminar

papers to the History Faculty at Oxford, which brought together ten experts

from various western European countries. Together they make an impressive

and scholarly contribution, which should do much both to fill a gap and to

correct misapprehensions, too often deliberately indulged in by “secularist”

historians who seek to deny the validity of religious experience by simply

ignoring its part in historical developments.

Each author has the space and the expertise to develop a convincing, though

not uncritical, picture of the political beliefs and actions of Catholics in

each of the countries described. Their general contention is that political

Catholicism reached its full fruition after the First World War when the

vestiges of previous hostility in the predominantly Protestant countries

were removed, and when Catholics themselves began to articulate their own

variety of political understandings. The book concludes with the sweeping

changes, both theological and political, symbolized by the Second Vatican

Council in the mid-1960s, which saw a whole new era of divergent trends

emerging. Only western Europe is treated, because of the very different fate

of Catholics beyond the Iron Curtain after 1945.

In general, the authors seeks to combat the view that Catholic political

movements were only part of diminishing and even disappearing religious

culture, destined to be replaced by enlightened secularism. Instead they

show how Catholic religion could not be divorced from politics in twentieth

century Europe. Indeed they collectively demonstrate that, in the first half

of the century, the vitality of Catholicism, both religiously and

politically, was remarkable, and was accompanied by a mood of self-confident

optimism. This kind of Catholic witness was to be of significance both for

the reconstruction of western Europe after the Fascist and Nazi onslaughts,

and for the building of at least a partial ideological consensus behind the

“European” idea of the 1950s and beyond.

The similarities and divergence between the situations in the major

countries of Germany, Italy, France and the British Isles are here

thoroughly and successfully explored. Each essay is substantially footnoted,

though there is no overall bibliography. Together they give a valuable and

insightful picture of how Catholics met the challenges and pitfalls of the

early twentieth century in their respective national settings.

Martin Conway (no relative) is Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at Balliol

College. He has prepared a shorter and chronologically-organised account of

the same subject, obviously designed for undergraduates, but equally well

and concisely written. It has the advantage of presenting the issues and

debates clearly and adds very extensive and helpful bibliographical notes.


2) Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte Conference:

This year’s conference was held in the Bildungszentrum of the Free Churches’

Academy in Elstal on the outskirts of Berlin in September. Hosted by

Professor Gerhard Ringshausen of Luneburg, the theme was “Freikirchen

zwischen sich sakularisierender Gesellschaft und klerikalisierender

Grosskirchen seit 1945. Italien und Deutschland im Vergleich”.

We met in this pleasant locale, adjacent to the now derelict Olympic Village

where Jesse Owens and others stayed in 1936. Together with Paolo Ricca of

Rome, Gerhart Ringshausen had planned these sessions in order to compare

developments in Italy and Germany in terms of minority free churches and

their relationships both to the dominant state churches and to the postwar

forces of secularization.

Despite a recent rethinking of secularization, given all the evidence of

religious impulses in the supposedly secular twentieth century, Ringshausen

still opened the proceedings by stressing secularism’s impact on the modern

European state. Hopes for a rebirth of Christianity in Germany after 1945,

for example, hopes which seemed briefy to be realistic, came up against the

powerful pluralistic attitudes of the 1960s. Since then the major state

churches have tried to deal with social ethics and with ecumenism. But their

approach has made it difficult to sustain Karl Barth’s concepts of

revelation from God, or indeed any other claims in which questions of faith

are taken seriously. As a result the established churches have been

diminished as a major player alongside the state.

Free churches in Europe have always had to deal with this diminished role,

never enjoying the benefits of state-empowered authority. For purposes of

comparison Reg Ward described modern developments aamong Methodists in Great

Britain, noting that clericalization in the ranks of the clergy (more

trained and ordained clergy, fewer lay pastors) has led to a gap between the

agenda of church authorities and the faith and concerns of church members.

We then heard reports on Waldensians in Italy, Mennonites in Germany,

Italian Baptists and both Baptists and Methodists in Germany. Space prevents

a full description, and no more than a mention of the role of American

Southern Baptist missionaries in postwar Italy with their motorcars and

their warnings against reading European theologians. However, the general

theme of the conference seemed to be that social forces in Europe since

1945, whether purely secular like the rise of consumerism, or ecclesiastical

through the increase of religious minorities, have provided similar

challenges to both state-supported and free churches. This challenge

involves a concern for maintaining the message while also holding on to an

accepted place in a pluralist society.

These papers are due to be published in full next year in the journal,

Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte.

(Submitted by Robert P.Ericksen, Pacific Lutheran University,


3) M.A.Thesis Heike Kreutzer, Die Entstehung des Reichsministeriums fur die

kirchlichen Angelegenheiten. Rahmenbedingungen, Kompetenzen und Aufbau einer

obersten Reichsbehoerde. Leipzig 1993

One of the first-fruits of the opening of the archives of the Nazi Ministry

for Church Affairs – which had for so long been secreted away in East

Germany – was this M.A. thesis written under the direction of Prof U v. Hehl

in Leipzig. It deals with the origins and development of the Ministry, as

seen from its own files.

After an initial chapter on Church-State relations before 1933, and another

on the Nazi Party’s attitudes to the churches, Ms Kreutzer then examines the

process in 1935 which led to the Ministry’s establishment. Actually she

cannot throw any new light on this decision, but rightly surmises, as other

have done, that this was Hitler’s compromise between a radical separation of

Church and State, or a direct governmental control as had been the case

before 1918.

The thesis brings new information about the chief characters in the

Ministry, but stresses its basic weakness, due to Minister Kerrl’s impotency

in the Party and State, its lack of any organisational basis, the probable

fact that other agencies had “infiltrated” its staff, and that Kerrl himself

never had the complete loyalty of his bureaucrats.

There is a splendid bibliography, a list of archival sources, and

biographical notes of all concerned.


4) Book notes:

Richard von Weizsacker, Vier Zeiten

The memoirs of the former President of Germany, Richard von Weizsacker, have

now been excellently translated into English: From Weimar to the Wall, New

York: Broadway Books 1999.

Several chapters describe his involvement with the German Evangelical

Church, in particular with its lay movement, the biennial Kirchentage.

This project was revived by Reinhold von Thadden, after his spell in a

Russian, to be a means for national renewal and reconciliation.

Its week-long meetings have attracted and still attract huge crowds, and

provide a successful opportunity for lively discussion of major social and

political issues from the church’s perspective. In 1964 Weizsacker was

selected to succeed Thadden, and thus gained his first exposure to the range

of current national and social problems. He described the atmosphere as


“One scene from the Cologne Kirchentag in 1964 remains etched in my mind.

Though we were Protestants, this overwhelmingly Catholic city on the Rhine

welcomed us warmly. The Catholic prelate, Cardinal Josef Frings, gave us a

reception and recited from memory the verses from Galatians that became the

basis of the conference: Stand fast in liberty. It was a truly gripping,

moving ecumenical high point among churches in Germany”.

Subsequently Weizsacker served as German member on the executive committee

of the World Council of Churches, which widened his horizons still more, and

gave him a broader perspective for moral judgments. These experiences proved

valuable when he embarked on his later career as member of parliament,

governing mayor of Berlin and then President of Germany for ten years from

1984. Possibly his most significant act in that office was his speech on the

40th anniversary of the end of the war, which managed to strike a memorable

note of moral repentance and political realism, which did much to improve

the German image. The entire text, in English translation, is printed as an


“In my speech I quoted a piece of old Jewish wisdom: ‘The desire to forget

prolongs the exile, and the secret of salvation is remembrance’. We cannot

save ourselves, nor can we undo what has been done. We have lived through

unfathomable and abysmal events and taken part in them. But one thing we can

and must do: look at our past steadily, recognise its truth. We owe it to

ourselves and to future generations”.

David Dowland, Nineteenth Century Anglican Theological Training. The

Redbrick Challenge. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1997, Oxford Theological

Monographs 241pp.

A study of the lesser-known colleges founded to provide theological training

for non-graduates of the major universities, and a survey of the official –

and usually disparaging – attitudes towards the often “lower-class” men who

attended them. The author sees these colleges as pathbreakers towards the

present formation of clergy in the Church of England. An informative view

from the inside of Anglican training practices.

Patrick Aliff, Catholic Converts, British and American Intellectuals turn to

Rome. Ithaca/London: Cornell U.Press 1997 343pp.

Most of the major Catholic intellectuals over the last 200 years have been

converts. Newman has been followed by a host of distinguished writers and

thinkers, and their spiritual pilgrimages are here charted in chronological

order. Nice vignettes of numerous personalities and descriptions of their

impact on the wider church community up to the Second Vatican Council. The

attraction, Aliff believes, lay mainly in the quest for doctrinal clarity

and authority, and a deep strain of anti-utopianism.

Andrii Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine. The legacy of Andrei


Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press 1997 404 pp.

Krawchuk’s doctoral thesis is a solid piece of historical scholarship

dealing with the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the first half of this

century, when the leading figure was its long-serving Metropolitan

Sheptytsky. The author’s coverage is both political and social, and

describes the attempts of the Metropolitan, up to his death in 1944, to keep

his church afloat in the midst of terrifying political persecution and

oppression. This work complements the 1996 study by B.R.Bociurkiw, The

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Soviet State, 1939-1950.

For Germans, but not only for them, the forthcoming November 9th is a date

of particular importance. I would be interested to hear from any of you how

in fact you have commemorated the events which took place in this century,

either on or around that date itself, especially if you made any specific

reference to a possible Christian interpretation of its significance. Of

even wider significance are the commemorations of November 11th.

Now that we have abandoned the kind of religiously-flavoured national

patriotic demonstrations, what kind of ceremonies can be said to be fitting,

other than a purely secular wreath-laying. Do let me know what happens in

your area.

With best wishes,

John Conway