January 2003 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter- January 2003- Vol. IX, no . 1

Dear Friends,

My warmest greetings for the New Year.


1) AHA Conference, Chicago, January 2 – 5, 2003
2) Work in progress – Mark Ruff
3) Book reviews:

a) McNally, The Lord’s Distant Vineyard
b) Moltmann-Wendel, Autobiography

4) Journal Articles
5) Archives

List of books reviewed in 2002.

1) The following sessions of interest to our list members are being given
at the AHA conference:

Friday Jan. 3rd: 9.30: Catholics confronting totalitarianism, Jacques
Kornberg (Toronto), Eric Jarvis (King’s College, U. West.Ont)
Saturday Jan. 4th.9.30: Catholics and Secularization in Mexico and
Germany, T. Hartch, (Teikyo Post U.), Mark Ruff, (Concordia U., Portland)
Saturday Jan.4th 9.30: American Protestant Missionaries in Japan 1868-1934
Saturday Jan 4th 2.30: Russian Orthodoxy at Home and Abroad in the Soviet
Sunday Jan 5th 11.00: Changing Missionary attitudes 1827-1964, Clifford
Putney (Bentley College)

2) Work in progress – Mark Ruff

Challenging Catholicism: the impact of German critics since 1945.
From 1945 to the present, the Roman Catholic church has been the subject of
vigorous public debates both in Germany and abroad. In particular, many
scholars, public intellectuals, playwrights, and even many loyal Catholics
have raised questions about the relationship between the church and the
National Socialist regime: did the church facilitate Hitler’s rise to power
and consolidation of power and was it complicit in the Nazi genocide
against the Jews? This project is an attempt to historicize these debates –
to put them into their historical context and perspective and to show how
they reflected larger changes in thought, culture and society.

These debates emerged for a brief time directly after the Second World
War, fell into silence for a period of approximately ten years, and then
reemerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This decade saw the
publication of works which attacked the role of Pius XII, examined the
decision to sign the 1933 Concordat, which defined the role and function of
the church in the National Socialist era, and above all criticized the
Church’s alleged failure to prevent the Nazi Holocaust. In 1963, for
instance, the playwright Rolf Hochhuth presented in Berlin a work for the
stage entitled, Der Stellvertreter (The Deputy), which centered around the
role of Pius XII. Even after the Second Vatican Council formally renounced
the traditional position of the church which attacked the Jews as the
killers of Christ, the attacks on the church continued.

One of the leading critics of the church was (and remains) Der Spiegel, a
leading German newsmagazine edited by Rudolf Augstein, which has printed
article after article denouncing the church for its failures during the
Third Reich (and also attacks the current positions of the church on a
regular basis.) More recently, many scholars, churchmen and intellectuals
in Germany have responded to John Cornwall’s book, Hitler’s Pope, and to
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s new work, which have added fuel to these already
vigorous fires.

In all of these debates, representatives and partisans of the church, not
surprisingly, defended, or attempted to defend the institution against the
onslaught of criticism. In the wake of the debates surrounding the
Concordat, the archdiocese of Cologne founded and funded a historical
institute, the Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, which was given the charge of
collecting, printing and interpreting collections of documents and
materials pertaining to the role of the church under National Socialism.
Those associated with this institute -historians such as Konrad Repgen (the
one, paradoxically, who first brought to light accounts of the Concordat),
Rudolf Morsey, Ludwig Esch, Heinz Hürten, Ulrich von Hehl -have written
dozens of books which attempt to paint the history of the church in a
manner different from that of their critics.

In light of these debates, I take up certain basic issues. Firstly, what
were the motives of the church’s critics? Why did they spend considerable
energy in attacking the church? What did they hope to achieve through
their attacks? Why did many critics (such as Augstein from Der Spiegel)
direct their fire disproportionately at the Catholic church, instead of at
the Protestant church, which was far more complicit in National Socialism
in Germany? Why did they attack the bystanders instead of the perpetrators?
Secondly, why did the church expend such considerable effort in the
defense of the church? Did its response take the forms of apologies or
genuine confessions of guilt? Why did church leaders not simply put
together an unambiguous statement of guilt, or even a limited statement in
the vein of the Stuttgart confession of guilt made by the Protestant church?
I would like to propose a number of hypotheses, which may or may not hold
up under further scrutiny.

1. The debates surrounding the church coincided with and indeed were a part
of a larger reexamination of the German past, with the process of
Vergangenheitsbewältigung. It was only natural, then, that the church would
be held up to scrutiny at the same time that other German institutions came
under fire. Some of the events which triggered the larger reexamination of
the past, such as the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961, would
inadvertently trigger attacks on the church, especially when Eichmann’ s
chief prosecutor suggested that the church knew of the Nazi genocide.

2. It is an irony that these debates broke out at precisely the point when
the church was itself opening itself up through aggiornamento – letting in
fresh air into a dusty edifice. But one can argue that the climate of
Vatican II certainly made these debates more possible, especially after the
death of Pius XII in the late 1950s and the ascent of John XXIII to the
papacy. John XXIII and other church leaders encouraged people to raise
questions, to question church orthodoxies – and it was only natural, then,
that many Catholics would raise the specter of the National Socialist past.
For conservative Catholics, such dialogue was equivalent to letting the
genie out the bottle.

3. It is important to remember that coming to terms with such traumatic
events requires time for processing – and a certain historical distance.
Would it have even been possible for church leaders in 1945 and 1946 – or
for German society at this time – to hold the mirror up to itself and
engage in painful soul searching – and not tear apart society even more in
the process and deepen the wounds? In the climate of the emerging Cold War,
the moral reconstruction of Germany had to be put on the back burner, at
the expense of justice. It entailed myth-making, the creation of fictions
in order to preserve social harmony, or not destroy it further. Often
times, this process of coming to terms with the past can take place only
when a new, younger generation steps to the plate. This generational
dynamic lends to the examination of the past not necessarily a greater
impartiality but, certainly, a greater distance. The debates in the 1960s
were conducted by a younger generation that was rising to challenge the
silence of their elders. As such, this process was part of the generational
conflict that characterized the 1960s.

4. While some of the accusers of the church were motivated by a genuine
moral outrage, in many cases, the motives went well beyond this. For some
Roman Catholic critics of the church, the attacks were an attempt to bring
about church reform – to realize the unfulfilled promise of Vatican II, to
bring about a democratization of the church, and to campaign against the
beatification of Pius XII. Their object was to show that the top
leadership of the church had effectively squelched any attempts to oppose
the Nazi Holocaust, had urged silence upon its members, and had signed
concordats with the enemy. If these allegations could be proved, they
would minimize the moral authority of the hierarchy and lead effectively
to a call for a democratization of the church as a whole.

5. For others, the attacks on the church were an attack on the entire
restructuring of the West German political culture and political structures
since 1945. From 1949 until the mid 1960s, German politics was governed by
representatives of the CSU (Christian Social Union) and the
interconfessional CDU (Christian Democractic Union). Although clerics did
not have the same power in the party that they had in the BVP (Bayerische
Volkspartei) or in the Zentrum, the CSU was (incorrectly) seen by some as
being controlled by the church. Attacking the church, especially for
younger radicals in the 1960s, was a way of attacking the moral edifice of
the Federal Republic and calling for greater reforms. Student leaders and
others in the so-called “New Left” could thus claim that the Federal
Republic was rotten to the core, its moral foundation tainted by its
inaction in the past. Some historians refer to the 1960s as the second
founding of the Federal Republic, seeing the 1950s under Adenauer, as a
transition era between authoritarianism and more genuine democracy.
Adenauer, according to this interpretation, can be seen as something akin
to an enlightened despot, a paternalistic dictator. As such, the debates
about the role of the church are essentially about the understanding of
democracy, about the incongruity of a party beholden to an authoritarian
institution at the helm of the Federal Republic. These debates were, thus,
about the presence of an authoritarian institution, one that in the eyes of
its critics had colluded with Nazism, in an age that was becoming rapidly
more democratic.

Mark Ruff, Concordia Universty, Portland, Oregon

3) Book reviews:

a) Vincent J.McNally, The Lord’s Distant Vineyard. A History of the Oblates
and the Catholic Community in British Columbia. Edmonton, Alberta:
University of Alberta Press, Western Canadian Publishers. 2000. xxvi and
443 pp. ISBN 0-88864-346-2

Terry Glavin and former students, Amongst God’s Own. The enduring legacy of
St. Mary’s Mission, Mission, B.C. 2002. 95 pp. ISBN 0-9686046-1-7
Vincent McNally opens with a challenging and commendable statement, which
is eminently repeatable:

“Church history provides an important means of understanding the Christian
people and their Church, since, if it is willing to use the historical
critical method, it thereby reveals where Christians have been and gives
them some important clues about where they are going. The picture it
reveals, if it is striving to be critical as well as objective, does not
always please. Shadows are part of all people and the institutions they
create. Institutional shadows can be ignored or deliberately concealed, but
the price is a heavy one. (xv-xvi)

It is part of McNally’s honest assessment to admit right away that the
story of the Oblate mission in British Columbia has shadows. Indeed, two
such shadows run as themes throughout the book – the failure to relate to
the native Indians to whom the mission was principally directed, and the
failure to halt the secularization of British Columbia society in the
formative years of the province’s growth. And yet the Oblates were to have
a significant impact which McNally has recorded with a carefully researched
and insightful account of their activities from the middle nineteenth
century to the present. This is the first such scholarly work and is
therefore very welcome, all the more since there is a notable paucity of
church history studies on British Columbia, possibly reflecting the
widespread indifference of the population towards all religion.
The Oblates came to the mainland of British Columbia in the late 1850s.
They had two ambitions: to undertake missions to the native Indian
population, and to evade the control of the local bishop. Since the latter
was based in Victoria on Vancouver Island, the Oblates established
themselves on the mainland, several miles up the Fraser River. But this was
exactly the time when the discovery of gold in the far interior of the
province brought a huge surge of gold-greedy humanity, most of them from
California, pouring into the virtually undiscovered and as yet ungoverned
territory. All of these incomers were obliged to use the Fraser River as
the only access route to the north. The resulting clashes with the natives
proved highly unfortunate, being characterized by racist attitudes of
superiority by the whites, which led to numerous outbursts of violence,
frequently lubricated by illegal liquor. The Oblates, despite sharing
similar racist views of native paganism ad backwardness, were obliged to
try and defend their prospective converts, especially in the fight against

But, as McNally rightly makes clear, the missionary strategy was itself
lacking in cultural sensitivity. The Oblates sought to bring about in their
“converts” or their children for whom schools were quickly established., a
kind of Christian-Catholic enclave, where the Indians would be led to
renounce their “savage” ways, but remain separate from the incursions of
the white settlers and miners. This was an unrealistic policy. The native
Indians turned to the church only as a means of protecting themselves from
the rapacity and harmful impact of the whites. Moreover, McNally suggests,
the missionaries may have helped to spread those European diseases, such as
smallpox, which killed off a third of the native population in the second
half of the nineteenth century. This was then interpreted as the
“destiny” of the native peoples. In contrast to the Americans’ violent
decimation, Canadians would adopt a kinder treatment and look after the
natives until “destiny” took its course. Such views continued well into the
twentieth century.

The Oblates soon found that the enormous size of British Columbia (four
times the area of Germany) and the scattered settlements of native
populations far exceeded the manpower the Order could provide. The tasks
of establishing an economically viable Mission, the attempts to learn the
indigenous language, and the needs both physical and spiritual of their
congregations, placed a tremendous strain on these priests. Furthermore,
the Oblates practised a rather rigid spiritual discipline, demanding
unswerving obedience to their superiors. This caused frequent personal
problems for which there was little opportunity of resolution. It was
often, McNally reports, a disheartening and even a depressing existence.
Nevertheless the Oblates persevered. Slowly they gained recruits from
France or Quebec or even locally, and reached out to more native bands. By
the 1870s they had successfully established a large farm on Okanagan Lake
whose flourishing orchards became nationally-known. But they were much
less successful in transforming these “poor savages” into loyal Catholic

McNally is highly critical of the Oblates’ inflated claims for
“conversions”, and of their adamant refusal to regard native spirituality
as more than “pagan superstitions”. Instead, he writes with sympathy about
the pre-contact native traditions and wisdom, and indicates that a
considerable syncretism with Christianity had taken place before the
Oblates arrived. But since the priests lacked command of any native
language, their ability to make a convincing presentation of the Catholic
faith must have been rare. For the same reasons, the native cultures
remained a closed book to most Oblate missionaries.

McNally tackles the thorny issue of the residential schools with judicious
balance, and places it in its historical context. Of course, both the
Oblates and the dominant Europeans saw these schools as a vehicle for
acculturation of the natives. But Social Darwinism prevailed. The natives
were clearly to remain at the bottom of the economic ladder. The fact that
such schools were established by the Federal Government in Ottawa and
deliberately and miserably funded led to recurrent conditions of
discrimination and injustice. However devoted most of the teachers may
have been, the resources were always too limited. But the weightier charge
of stifling paternalism and hostility to any native traditions is
undoubtedly true. So too, unfortunately, is the fact, which McNally skirts
around, that a minority of pupils suffered physical abuse. Together, by the
1960s and 1970s, these charges brought about the end of the whole
residential school system, though another forty years were to elapse before
compensation for the victims could be agreed upon.

The third section of the book deals with the Oblates’ work with “whites”
or European congregations. This describes their failure to prevent the
establishment of a strictly non-sectarian school system for the immigrants
throughout the province. As a result British Columbia became and remains
the most secularized and unchurched area in the country. The situation
was not helped by such oddities of history, as when one Oblate bishop of
Victoria was murdered while on a missionary tour of Alaska, another was
forcibly deposed by the Vatican for alleged sexual misconduct, and a third
lost his post because of land speculation. The lesson was hardly learnt,
for seventy years later his successor in Victoria gambled away $13 million
of the diocese’s resources. Admittedly these last were not Oblates, but the
story was hardly edifying. And with the increase of anglophone immigrants,
the French-speaking Oblates became more and more peripheral. Particularly
from 1914 onwards there was no groundswell for any organized religion, let
alone one led by a religious order. The Oblates’ dream of a new and
fruitful ministry in effect withered on the vine.

Writing from today’s perspective, McNally laments the cultural
insensitivity of his Oblate predecessors, which he blames as the chief
cause for their lack of success. This is no triumphalist missionary
success story. Instead McNally’s skillful researches into the vast
archival records portray these men and their activities, shadows and all.
Readers will note with approval his ability to be both critical and
objective, and will be grateful for the insightful account of how the
Catholic Church has fared in this remote corner of the Lord’s vineyard.
Terry Glavin’s account of one of the Oblates’ now dissolved residential
schools at Mission, B.C., consists of a large number of excellently chosen
photographs, as well as reminiscences by many of the former pupils, mainly
from the 1940s and 1950s. He too challenges the widely-held view that these
schools were run by depraved priests and bureaucrats, victimizing the
pupils in a process of cultural genocide. Instead we are given a
sympathetic and balanced tribute to a lost community and a collective
memory of a system no longer practised.

b) Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, Autobiography London: SCM Press 1997, 188pp

John Bowden’s elegant translation of Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel’s
autobiography makes available to English-speaking audiences this
interesting and hitherto little-known voice among German theologians.
Elisabeth is a theologian in her own right, as well as being married to
the well-known professor of Systematic Theology in Tübingen. This account
of her struggles to find her personal and professional identity provides a
valuable insight into one aspect of German theological developments over
the past half century.

Moltmann-Wendel was brought up during the Nazi era in a conservative
Protestant family, which staunchly resisted all attempts to nazify the
church’s doctrines, and supported the Confessing Church and its leading
theologians Barth and Bonhoeffer. After the war, she started to study
theology in this tradition and became the second woman theologian to
achieve a doctorate from Göttingen. Then she met Jürgen Moltman and spent
the next years largely preoccupied with house and family cares.
Increasingly, however, she was discontent with the highly traditional and
male-dominated Evangelical Church in Germany and its associated theological

In the 1970s, while on a tour of the United States, she was strongly
influenced by the early feminist writers, and saw the need to bring these
liberating ideas back to her own church. But she quickly recognized that
more was needed than merely an anti-male assertion of women’s rights. This
led her to embark on a search for a specific theology, derived from
Christian experience, which could replace, or at least challenge, the
historic and patriarchal Lutheran traditions.

This autobiography spells out her search for a Christianity which invites
women to active collaboration as autonomous persons. This meant trying to
discover the ways in which women are affected by the encounter with God. It
was not exhausted in the repudiation of masculine concepts and images, but
sought wholeness and community in life. If much of the impetus was
derived from political and liberation theology, nevertheless
Moltmann-Wendel sought to filter this through feminist ideas. Above all,
feminist theology began, not from above, but from below. It was to be
rooted in women’s genuine personal experiences, incorporating their
physical as well their intellectual perceptions.

This was, as she makes clear, an uphill struggle. “In the barren German
theological landscape, the churches were only irritated by feminist
theology and the theological faculties took no notice of it at all.”
Furthermore, there soon developed rival schools within the feminist
movement as a whole. Some abandoned Christianity or all religion; others
became pantheistic Goddess worshippers; others rejected all patriarchy,
including the Old Testament, to the point where the charge of antisemitism
was levelled. Moltmann-Wendel is at pains to point out that, in her
household and with her history, such an accusation is untenable. But
there are still divisive issues, such as lesbianism, which have as yet
remained unresolved.

Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel looks back on her long years of participation in
the search for a feminist theology with both pride and perplexity. The
current situation is certainly ambivalent. Neither church nor university
favours these endeavours. But, she concludes, ” a broad area for
experiments and action remains between resignation and hope, in which a bit
of earthiness is provided not by scholastic opinions but by the reality of
women, their differences and their expectations of feminist theology”.

4) Articles:

a) Manfred Gailus, “Overwhelmed by their own fascination with the ideas of
1933: Berlin’s Protestant social milieu in the Third Reich” in German
History. Vol. 20, no.4 (2002), 462ff. This is a most valuable English
summary of Gailus’ new book Protestantismus und Nationalsozialismus:
Studien zur Durchdringung des protestantische Sozialmilieu in Berlin,
Cologne: Bohlau Verlag 2001. This local study reinforces what has already
been demonstrated by Doris Bergen and myself that the whole Protestant
Church was swept away by nationalist passions in early 1933, and never
recovered. Only a tiny handful resisted the fascination of Nazism which
seemed to many to be a genuine attempt to revive Germany’s fortunes through
spectacular and firm leadership. This local study of the central bastion
of Prussian Protestantism shows the variety of responses throughout the
city, and provides statistical proof of the impact of Nazi infiltration,
mostly self-invited by the pastors, but encouraged by their congregations.

b) Two of our list members have contributed articles to the conference
volume, edited by John A.Moses and Christopher Pugsley, The German Empire
and Britain’s Pacific Dominions, 1871-1919, Claremont, California: Regina
Books 2000.

Julian Jenkins writes on “Idealism confronts Realpolitik: The attempts to
avert a world crisis through a Peace Movement of the Churches, 1908-1914”,
which is a preview or part of his newly-published book Christian Pacifism
confronts German Nationalism: the ecumenical movement and the cause of
peace in Germany, 1914-1933, Edwin Mellen Press 2002 (to be reviewed here
shortly). Greg Munro writes on “The War Guilt Debate and the Belgian
atrocities: the reaction of the Roman Catholic Church in Belgium and
Germany”, which examines the German army’s treatment of Belgium as an item
in the post-war indictment. Predictably most German Catholics maintained a
wholly nationalistic stance, but Munro points to the lone voices of
Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster, a noted pacifist and the Catholic editor of a
small but resolute newspaper, Fr Moenius, who attempted to challenge the
alleged myth of German innocence. In the end they were outvoted even in the
Catholic ranks, but deserve credit for their wider sympathies. Not until
the 1950s, with the onslaught by Fritz Fischer on the received versions of
the origins of the 1914 war, and on the army’s conduct in Belgium, was
Moenius vindicated. But the Roman Catholics remained divided, and a true
acknowledgment of the need for repentance and reparation is still
outstanding. Both Jenkins and Munro show that the few intellectuals
inclined to a pacifist perspective were overwhelmed by the number of their
fellow Christians who supported the militarism and imperialism of the
ruling elite.

The latest issue of Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte (Vol. 15, no 1, 2002) is
devoted to German-Polish relations, and contains the papers given at a
conference in Ustron, Silesia not far from Auschwitz. These contributions
cover the story from 1870s onwards, and describe not only the relations
between the churches and new Polish state after 1918, but also the
traumatic effect of two German invasions in 1914 and 1939, and the
disastrous genocidal policies of the Nazis. The clashes caused by
religious nationalism are described by G.Besier and G.Ringshausen for the
German Protestants and by R Zerelik for the Russian Orthodox, while two
further articles give a picture of the fate of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in
Poland up to 1989. A.Stempin gives us an insightful piece on the
controversial figure of Maximilian Kolbe, the “saint against the Jews”?
And J.von Lüpke very appropriately concludes with an essay on “The Task of
Forgiveness” – a still unfinished obligation.

5) Archives:

The latest publication of the German Historical Institute, Washington,
D.C., is The GDRin German Archives”. This provides a useful list of Church
Archives, Protestant and Catholic. Since both churches are organized on a
local basis, and the material is held by each diocese/Land Church, this
listing gives a short description of the holdings, the e-mail and web-site
addresses, and even the hours of opening!. Most useful.

Books reviewed in 2002:

(All reviews were written by the Editor unless so indicated)
Besier, G. Die Kirchen und das Dritte Reich (N.Hope) February
Brechenmacher T. and Ostry, H. Paul VI – Rom und Jerusalem (J.J.Hughes)
Callaghan, W. The Catholic Church in Spain March
Christophers, B. Positioning the Missionary. .B. Good in British Columbia
Cresswell, A. and Tow, M. Franz Hildebrandt November
Dentan, P. Impossible de se taire December
Draper, A Pastor Andre Trocme December
Dudley-Smith, T. John Stott, Vol.2 April
Feldman, E. Catholics and Jews in 20th century America (Joshua Zeitz)
Fell, M. Christianity in Iceland October
Genizi, H. Holocaust, Israel and Canadian Protestant Churches November
Gray, D. Percy Dearmer. A Parson’s Pilgrimage March
Hill,R. Lord Acton (N.Hope) October
Kent, P. The lonely Cold War of Pope Pius XII (R.Ventresca) September
Lawler, J.G. Popes and Politics: Reform, resentment and the Holocaust
(J.J.Hughes) May
Lindsay, M. Covenanted Solidarity: Karl Barth (Matthew Hockenos) June
McInerny, R. Defamation of Pope Pius XII (J.J.Hughes) October
Putney, C. Muscular Christianity October
Raum, E. Dietrich Bonhoeffer October
Sanchez, J Pius XII and the Holocaust (J.J.Hughes) May
Sundkler, B. and Steed, C. A history of the Church in Africa January
Thorne, S. Congregational Missions and Imperialism October
Van Die, M. ed. Religion and Public Life in Canada (G.Egerton) March
Wainwright, G. Lesslie Newbiggin January
Wolgast, E. Die Wahrnehmung des Dritten Reiches AprilWith very best wishes to you all,

John S.Conway