March 2002 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter- March 2002- Vol. VIII, no. 3

Dear Friends,

To my great delight but also regret, I find that there are so many
new books appearing in our field of interest that there is simply
no room to do all of them justice. Some of these, therefore, have
to be merely mentioned in Book Notes. I hope this will at least
alert those interested in these publications, so that they can
follow up accordingly

1) Book reviews: a) Religion and Public Life in Canada
b) W.Callahan, The Catholic Church in Spain
c) Donald Gray, Percy Dearmer

2) Book notes: a) Christian Hanke, Die Deutschlandpolitik der
Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland von 1945 bis 1990.
b) Emma Klein, The Battle for Auschwitz. Catholic-Jewish
relations under strain.

1a) Review of: Religion and Public Life in Canada: Historical
and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Marguerite Van Die,
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.

The status and functions of religion in Canadian public life
have become increasingly problematic in recent decades. The
expectations that Canada would follow the projections of
modernization and secularization theory and the strict
separationist jurisprudence that temporarily came to guide
American church-state relations proved to be premature, or
perhaps wrong — although the ‘old-line’ churches have recessed
to the periphery and Catholicism has nearly disappeared from
public life in the province of Quebec. Religion remains
politically problematic at nearly all levels of government across
Canada, as the expected ‘solution’ of privatization has proved
politically elusive, while religious elites protest their exclusion
from public affairs. This excellent symposium, mainly
representing papers presented to a conference on Religion and
Politics in Canada held at Queen’s University, Ontario, 13-15
May, 1999, goes a long way to bring new historical and
sociological understanding to the present dilemmas and
opportunities which confront the role of religion in Canadian
public life.
The diverse subjects addressed by the authors can be but
briefly noted. Four authors examine aspects of public religious
functions in the wake of mid-nineteenth century Canadian
disestablishment of Anglicanism: William Westfall elucidates
the ways in which Anglicanism reconstituted powerful public
functions at private sites, in university education and
imperial churches; T. W. Acheson portrays the dominant role of
evangelicals in Southern New Brunswick as they shaped
education and moral reform through the years 1839-1880; Brian
Clarke analyzes the diffuse public expressions of religion in
Protestant Toronto in the last two decades of the nineteenth
century, mainly in celebrations of religious holidays and
parades. The next section surveys contested and
ambiguous public functions of religion: J. R. Miller describes
the presently contentious issue of the role of the state and the
churches in Indian residential schools; Alvyn Austin explores the
rich legacy of scholars and diplomats generated by Canada’s
China missions; and Mark Noll compares political functions of
religion in Mexico, the United States and Canada, contrasting
the respective religious responses to civil wars and reviewing
contemporary religious sampling data. A third section addresses
the sphere claimed by religiously engaged women in the
state: Sharon Anne Cook charts the leadership of evangelical
women in the war against tobacco, 1874-1900; and Mary
Kinnear presents case studies of the religious dimension of six
women who played prominent political roles in the post-suffrage
era. Case studies of two male politicians with strong religious
commitments follow: Eleanor J. Stebner traces the early
religious evolution of Stanley Knowles who emerged as a
leader of Canada’s social democratic party, the Co-operative
Commonwealth Federation; while David Marshall analyzes the
Protestant fundamentalism, religious broadcasting and politics
of Premier Ernest C. Manning of Alberta. Three authors then
investigate central features of recent Canadian politics and
religion: David Seljak studies the influential role of the liberal
Dominican journal, Maintenant, in the attempt to fashion a new
public role for Catholicism in Quebec’s ‘quiet revolution;’ R. D.
Gidney and W. P. J. Millar assess the Christian recessional in
Ontario’s public schools since the 1950s; and Don Page
gives testimony to the emergence of a new political voice and
role by Canadian religious conservatives active in the Public
Service Christian Fellowship, which was centered in Ottawa.
Finally, three chapters are devoted to the voices of ‘religious
outsiders:’ Gerald Chultinsky presents case studies of the social
voice of leading reform rabbis in Canada; Harold Jantz surveys
the broadening domestic and international social vision of
Canadian Mennonites; and Hugh Johnston presents the
struggle of Canadian Sikhism with secular authority.
The listing of content suggests the diversity of topics
included in this book; but what evaluative generalizations can be
drawn? Reviewers of symposia perhaps eagerly look for
unevenness in quality to facilitate hammering weak
contributions and lauding the better ones. In this book,
however, such a strategy fails; the chapters never fall below very
good, and most are excellent. Three qualities contribute to the
exceptional nature of this symposium: many authors have
conducted extensive new historical research on
centrally-important topics and their chapters represent fresh,
summary findings of much larger studies; a good number
of the contributors, perhaps in part a result of the deft hand of
the editor, find theoretical guidance and unity in drawing from,
and testing, the rich sociological conceptualizations of José
Casanova’s Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1994); and finally, the authors
nearly all exhibit an empathetic engagement in studying and
re-thinking the public functions of religion in Canada.
This collective effort, along with an earlier companion
volume: Rethinking Church, State, and Modernity, David Lyons
and Marguerite Van Die, eds., (Toronto: University of Toronto
Press, 2000), will appeal widely to academics and students in
history, sociology, religious and women’s studies; it would be
salutary if politicians and lawyers also took note, as the nature of
Canadian pluralism is presently being renegotiated.
George Egerton, History Department, University of British

1b) William J.Callahan, The Catholic Church in Spain,
1875-1998. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of
America Press, 2000. 695pp ISBN 0-8132-0961-7

For centuries Protestants have been indoctrinated to
regard Spanish Catholicism, especially its Inquisition, with
dread and foreboding. The University of Toronto Professor
William Callahan,s massively researched survey of the Spanish
Catholic Church over the past 125 years is therefore welcome as
an antidote against such ingrained prejudices. He provides
English-speaking readers with an articulate and authoritative
account, which breaks new ground by giving a sympathetic
description of the many travails this Church has endured during
a traumatic period of Spanish history. His ability to describe,
throughout the length of this 690 page volume, the essence of
Spanish Catholic political attitudes is a fine example of how the
difficulties of writing church history for a foreign, and in this
case often hostile, audience should be overcome.
The dramatic and often tragic events of the Spanish Civil
War in the 1930s were clearly the crucial experience during
Callahan,s time frame. His early chapters are valuable in setting
the scene for this conflict. But, in fact, the question he has to
tackle is: to what extent was the Catholic Church a victim of
left-wing ideological fanaticism, or how far was it the author of
its own misfortunes? Like a good scholar, he knows both sides
of the issue, though his sources are almost all drawn from the
church perspective. On the one hand, the traumatic changes in
political, social and economic developments of the 1920s and
1930s brought to an end the traditional authoritarian hold on
Spanish society enjoyed by the Church for so long. But at the
same time, Callahan also points out how too often the Church
displayed a disorganized and ineffective approach to its religious
The nineteenth century had seen a long drawn out battle
between the upholders of an autocratic church and Spanish
liberalism. The conflicts between the various royalist parties led
to the increase in Catholic ultramontane sympathies, a
development which only increased the narrowing of clerical
horizons. The clergy,s attitudes were marked by an intellectual
rigidity which could easily see Spain,s liberal social structures
as a rebellion against God. On the other side, anticlericalism in a
variety of guises flourished. Political attacks designed to put an
end to clerical wealth and power were matched by popular
hostility encouraged by a guerrilla press. The whole place of the
church in society became unsettled and divisive. Although
officially the Church remained established as the nation,s sole
religion until 1932, ambiguity and conflicts persisted. But the
Catholics too were divided into various camps, with moderates
and extremists agitating against each other and politicizing every
issue. The picture painted by Callahan is one of deep national
In a situation where the Church was unwilling to admit
either a reduction in its legal privileges or any concessions in the
direction of religious toleration, conflict was inevitable. For the
early years of the twentieth century, the Church,s opponents
were driven to sharper attacks, and a heightened polarization
ensued. On the other side, the permanent political crises endured
by Spain failed to bring any moderating consensus. Social unrest
added fuel to the left-wing parties of protest. Alienation from the
Church amongst workers, especially in the Barcelona region,
reached massive proportions. And in the rural areas of the south,
where the clergy were thin on the ground, the Church faced a
pastoral crisis of staggering dimensions. Some Catholic leaders
urged the fuller application of Catholic social teachings, or
engaged in moral exhortations for reform. But others became
obsessed with the dangers of social revolution, as had happened
in the Soviet Union. This fear, already endemic in Spanish
Catholicism for many years, was only to grow during the crises
of the 1930s. Intransigent positions were thus adopted long
before the Civil War erupted. And for many Catholics, as they
contemplated the rise of new social forces, it was easy to believe
the Church was surrounded by enemies. Secularization,
destructive economic changes, dangerous political philosophies,
the fatal inheritance of Protestantism and of the revolutions
which had swept over Europe since 1789, all foreboded dark
days ahead.
Callahan,s account of the traumatic 1930s, from the
overthrow of the dictatorship, the fall of the monarchy, the
struggles of the Second Republic and the onset of the Civil War,
is a masterpiece of both narrative and analysis. He skillfully
steers between sympathy with the victims of the successive
tragedies and distancing himself above the battles. To be sure
he makes clear that the virulent and violent anticlericalism of the
street mobs, often deliberately incited for political reasons, was
ugly and vicious. The number of clergy killed in the Republican
areas of the country was horrendous: 13 bishops, 4184 diocesan
priests, 2365 male religious and 283 nuns. No less serious was
the abyss of hatred which engulfed both sides and made future
reconciliation almost impossible.
But Callahan shows that the Church leaders were also at
fault in striving to preserve all their privileges and wealth, or
even to seek a return to the golden days of the ancien regime. In
fact, the Church was often the scapegoat of Spain,s social ills.
But its prominent, impenitent position only led to greater attacks
and heightened ideological confrontations.
It is also true, as Callahan maintains, that the implacable
enmities of the Civil War and the reimposition of dictatorship
under Franco led to a polarization, both on the ground, and in the
history books which is still resounding. From a larger
perspective, the reforms of the Church,s position, introduced
and imposed by the Republic, were not much more severe than
those seen in France in 1905, and certainly less painful than the
Nazi or Stalinist persecution. But the Civil War,s antagonisms,
and the unprecedented wave of murders, prevented any
moderate policies of accommodation, let alone of reconciliation.
Catholic anger and resentment often boiled over in extreme
forms, provoked by and provoking the same intransigence from
the Church,s enemies.
The majority of Catholics readily supported Franco,s
cause. Indeed the Catholic readiness to campaign with crusading
zeal against the Republic, and to regard this regime as being
Communist-controlled, was encouraged by the Vatican,s
hostility, where the exiled Primate of Spain, Cardinal Segura,
inflamed papal fears. Yet this same Cardinal, after his return to
Spain, became equally outspoken against Franco,s attempts to
control the Church. Such developments, Callahan shows, point
to the complex relationship between the Church and Spain,s
political forces. The religious justification given to Franco,s
insurrection was, for most Catholics, an automatic response to
the anti-clericalism of the Left. But it also envisaged the kind of
reactionary re-Christianization of the nation, drawn from the
models of earlier centuries. The savagery of the Civil War
destroyed such dreams and led to widespread disillusion. Yet by
sacralizing the Nationalists, rebellion, the clergy now found
themselves obliged to defend the excesses and crimes of the
Falange Party. And after the civil war ended, the Church was left
with no other option but to endorse Franco,s dictatorship for
better or for worse. It was to be a fateful legacy for the future of
Christian witness in Spain.
Franco,s victory did not put an end to the Church,s
difficulties. In fact his regime had very different views of the
Church,s position from those of the hierarchy or the Vatican.
Most obviously, Franco sought to control both clerical
appointments and church finances, to the advantage of the state.
It took years of controversy before a compromise was reached.
Too often the Church seemed to be gagged in order to serve the
State,s interest. But it is also true that most Spanish Catholics
accepted this situation.
Callahan devotes more than two hundred pages for a
account of the post-civil war period. Despite the frequent showy
professions of loyalty between Church and State, in fact, as he
shows, this facade concealed continuing tensions. Not until the
mid-1960s when the regime began to crumble, and the Second
Vatican Council changed the Church,s agenda, did the situation
change. Authoritarian traditionalism in both Church and State
was now to be effectively challenged.
By the 1970s a new generation of younger church
leaders, who had not experienced the horrors of the Civil War,
guided the church,s path out of the ancien regime. These clerics
were more tolerant, less autocratic, more willing to welcome
pluralism and less obsessed by the Communist danger. The
fortress mentality of former “integrists was slowly dissipated.
Consequently the church was regarded as a legitimate partner in
the democratization of the country, following Franco,s death in
1976. The passions of earlier decades were deliberately
avoided, and instead Spanish Catholics came to adopt many of
the policies already in place in other European countries. In
this sense, Spain rejoined Europe, and its church history is no
longer the exceptional story of previous eras. Callahan,s ability
to covey the essence of these historic processes is much to be
praised. His skillful presentation will go far to alleviate
Protestant or other hesitations about the nature of Spanish
Catholicism today.

1c) Donald Gray, Percy Dearmer. A Parson,s Pilgrimage,
Norwich: Canterbury Press 2000 212pp.
Anglicans, especially Anglo-Catholics, owe a lot to a
now forgotten Canon of the Diocese of London, Percy Dearmer.
Today he is remembered, if at all, as the author of several
popular hymns. But a hundred years ago he championed the
cause of liturgical reform in the Church of England, seeking to
bring back colour and inspiration into its services. So a new
tribute by Donald Gray is all the more welcome in bringing to
life this warm, sensitive and artistic figure.
Percy Dearmer went to Oxford at the age of nineteen a
conservative evangelical. But he graduated in 1891 an
enthusiastic devotee of Christian Socialism. Like many young
idealists, he found the combination of Christian witness and
humanitarian service to the poor very appealing. Their leader
was a charismatic priest, Stewart Headlam, founder of the Guild
of St. Matthew. His theology was derived from F.D.Maurice, but
his inspiration came more from William Morris. Both wanted to
find a richer, kinder alternative to the selfish corporate
materialism of Victorian England. Dearmer was an early
Christian Socialists were particularly appalled by the
squalor they saw in the Victorian city slums. They sought to
relieve the sordid physical conditions there by bringing
splendour and beauty to the activities and liturgies of the
Church. But they went further. The richness of the service
through the sacrament of the altar was a means of restoring the
fullness of the Incarnation, and hence was an important spur to
promote political and social action on behalf of all members of
the community.
Percy Dearmer,s interest was not so much in Christian
Socialism,s political goals as in its artistic ambitions. He
eagerly espoused the cause of opening the Kingdom of art and
beauty to all, and fully believed that colour, ceremony and good
poetry were dear to the heart of God. It was a goal he pursued
throughout his life.
Following ordination in 1891, Dearmer served his curacy
in a slum parish in south London, where his artistic tastes and
personal shyness made life difficult. Later he moved to central
London where he had more time for his literary and political
interests. In 1899 he published his best known book, The
Parson,s Handbook, which resolutely promoted decorum,
dignity and decency in the Church,s services in order to remedy
“the lamentable confusion, lawlessness and vulgarity which are
conspicuous in the Church at the present time. Dearmer,s
contribution was to research the history of the Church of
England,s liturgies, and to urge his colleagues to follow the
Prayer Book,s rites and ceremonies as originally intended. He
sought a middle way between the extravagances of the extreme
“Ritualists, most of which were borrowed from Rome, and, on
the other side, the plain dryness of Geneva. He asked
particularly: what did priests under Queen Elisabeth say, do and
wear when in Church? His answers surprised most of his
colleagues, but made his book wildly popular with the artistic
avant garde.
The Parson’s Handbook gave practical, even humdrum
directions about the ordering of church furniture, vestments and
ceremonies, but all within the scope of the Catholicity of the
Faith as upheld in the Church of England formularies. It was so
useful that it had to be reprinted and expanded many times over.
And his researches helped to promote interest in the mediaeval
church, and even had a notable influence on church architecture.
Dearmer and his wife were both keen supporters of the Arts and
Craft movement, wanting to move away from Victorian gloom
and bring in vibrant colourful design as a more fitting
proclamation of the God of truth and beauty.
In 1901 Dearmer became Vicar of St. Mary,s, Primrose
Hill in Hampstead, a small parish where many of his
like-minded friends already lived. From the first his care was
not only to conduct the services reverently and decently, but to
emphasize the social teachings of the Church as the visible daily
expression of its worship. His quest for high standards led him
to deplore the kind of hymns being used, which were so often
deficient in poetry, depraved in sentimentality and mawkish in
music. Instead, he and his friends began to compile a
completely new collection which eventually appeared in 1906 as
The English Hymnal. He succeeded in recruiting as its musical
editor the talented young composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.
For the first time, such favourites as Bunyan,s He who would
valiant be, Christina Rosetti,s In the bleak midwinter, or
Vaughan Williams, tune Down Ampney were introduced to
Anglican congregations.
When war broke out in 1914, Dearmer needed a change,
and so volunteered to act as Chaplain to the British Hospital
Unit going out to Serbia. His wife bravely went too, as a nursing
orderly. But tragically she fell ill of enteric fever and died there.
Three months later his younger son was killed at Gallipoli.
After these shocks, he resigned from his parish and undertook
chaplaincy work for the YMCA in France. Luckily, he then fell
in love and married a young member of his congregation.
Together they went for an extended lecture tour of India and the
United States. But when they got back in early 1919, the church
hierarchy had nothing to offer him. He never got to be Dean of a
Cathedral, where his talents could have been fully deployed.
Donald Gray believes that his Christian Socialism and
unconventional life-style led his superiors to find him lacking in
ecclesiastical correctness.
It was not until 1931, when he was already 64, that
Dearmer received preferment and was made a Canon of
Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately he had little chance to make
changes in England,s national shrine, and was out of sympathy
with a highly autocratic Dean. In any case, the Great
Depression and the rise of Fascism made his kind of romantic
idealism seem irrelevant. Five years later, in 1936, he died, just
short of his seventieth birthday.
Dearmer,s legacy, Donald Gray suggests, is that he set
the sights for improving the church,s rites and ceremonies,
incorporating into its worship the highest standards of art and
beauty. Today,s church architecture and hymnody in many ways
may be seen to reflect his aims, even if at the time his struggles
seemed to be unavailing. But like Bunyan,s hero, he was not
confounded and his valour remains an inspiration to many
pilgrims following after. JSC

2) Book notes: a) C.Hanke, Die Deutschlandpolitik der E.K.i.D.
von 1945 bis 1990. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1999 This
1997 dissertation is an excellent compilation of the varying
attitudes held in the German Evangelical Church about the
relations between Church and State and also about the political
developments in the post-war period in both West and East
b) Emma Klein, The Battle for Auschwitz. Catholic-Jewish
Relations under strain. London/Portland.Or: Valentine Mitchell,
2001. 86 pp.
This is a short account of the recent controversies between Jews
and Catholics, particularly over the disposition of the Carmelite
Convent just outside the Auschwitz concentration camp, which
dragged on for too many years. As the Foreword by a Jewish
professor at Oxford states: “We read here of cardinals
pronouncing anti-Semitic statements, of Jewish sit-ins at a
convent, of Christians being accused of dejudaising the
Holocaust, of rivalries between different Jewish organizations,
of Christians feeling the need to defend the cross, of Jewish
leaders failing to consider the consequences of their public
positions, of plain ignorance, confusion, and the constant
stereotyping of others. Sad stuff, but carefully and judiciously
narrated by a British journalist.

My best wishes to you all for a blessed Lent,

John Conway