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
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.
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
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
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,
(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
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 P.O.W.camp, 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
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
With best wishes,