March 2005 Newsletter
Association of Contemporary Church Historians
(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)
John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia
As we all pray for the recovery of Pope John Paul II, this issue is appropriately concerned with the affairs of the Catholic Church of yester year.
May you all have a happy and blessed Easter.
1) Book Reviews
a) Ruff, Catholic Youth in post-war Germany
b) Tischner, Catholic Church in East Germany
c) Harold Tittmann, Jr., Inside the Vatican
2) Journal articles a) Sack, Frank Buchman’s evangelism
3) Conference report: AHA, Seattle Jan. 2005
a) German Catholics and Spain
b) Pope Pius XII’s defenders
1) Mark E. Ruff, The Wayward Flock. Catholic Youth in postwar West Germany, 1945-1965 Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press 2005. 284 pp ISBN0-8078-2914-5
Mark Ruff, who now teaches at St Louis University in Missouri, is one of the younger North American historians currently studying the recent history of the German churches. He rightly recognizes that the time has come to move on from the well-trodden battlegrounds of the Third Reich. So his examination of German Catholicism in the postwar period is doubly significant: first, because he brings to the English-speaking readership this newly researched tranche of German Catholic church history, and second, because he departs from the traditional approach of an institutional history, usually apologetic in its perspective. Instead he adopts a critical stance towards the planning and execution of the Church’s youth work, which does not hestitate to show up the weaknesses of this often mistaken ecclesiastical strategy. His basic question is: why did the long-established institutions of the Catholic milieu, in what was to become the new state of West Germany, lose the support of so many young men and women? Why did these youth groups prove to be so wayward in their fading allegiance, after so many generations of ardent and loyal support to this particular subculture?
His answers seek to depict the effects of increased leisure, liberty and consumerism amongst young people, as well as the often heated debates among church leaders as to how best youth could be retained and retrained to uphold the kind of conservative values so successfully being exemplified in the nation’s political arena. In this way Ruff’s study of the erosion of the Catholic milieu and its changing environment adds a valuable corrective to many of the secular histories which see the 1950s as a glorious success story for conservative restorationism.
Empirically this study looks at the re-establishment and the subsequent decline of the numerous Catholic youth organizations, which rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the Nazi Third Reich. The objective was to rebuild the network of associations which had served and protected German Catholics through the long years of minority status, social ostracism and state persecution. But in the post-1945 situation, Catholics were no longer in the minority, no longer subject to repressive restrictions, and had a dominant position in the West German political arena. Despite the boastful assertion that Catholicism had triumphed over National Socialism, and the implication that its value system would now come to refashion the social and political climate, in fact there were soon to be major difficulties, particularly relating to young people and to youth work.
In the first place, the loss during the war of an entire cohort of youth leaders, lay and clerical, delivered a blow to youth work from which it never fully recovered. Then the postwar mood was far more sceptical and critical than before. Concerned Catholics were, as Ruff rightly remarks, haunted by the Church’s easy capitulation to the Nazis in 1933 and by the failure of their institutions to confront or hold in check the Nazi colossus. Furthermore, the youth themselves were deeply affected by seeing their elder brothers and sisters seduced, coerced, propagandized, recruited and finally marched to their deaths in the service of a criminally-flawed ideology. They had a strong sense of betrayal, and were resolved not to be caught again. In the ruins of so many bombed-out cities, idealism, even in a Catholic garb, found few takers. Ohne mich was their watchword.
It is not surprising therefore that the plans of the Catholic leaders to rebuild a large-scale Catholic youth organizational structure, which would help to rebuild German society with Christian values and traditions, soon ran into difficulties. Its elitism, hierarchical patterns and belief in discipline and obedience were all to be rejected by the postwar youth as unwanted reminders of the discredited past. Ruff is suitably critical of the outdated preference for uniforms, banners and marches, all signs of an authoritarian approach to youth work.
Equally unsuccessful were the attempts to revive the activities and associations for young women, based on the highly traditional models of preparing them to be helpmeets for men and mothers of the next generation. Modesty, humility and chastity were no longer the preferred values of the postwar female cohort. After their regimentation by the Nazi female leaders, after the ruinous bombing of their homes, and the often traumatic readjustments when their men returned from the war, these young women sought new horizons. As a result the Catholic Church was forced to relinquish its carefully delineated conceptions of gender, its “feminine” forms of piety, and its insistence on unfailing obedience to church authority. Instead the youth sought new freedoms in enjoying mass culture, often imported from America, in film, jazz and hit songs. These activities were individualistic, and unconnected to any larger religious or political purposes. Together with the rapid expansion of leisure activities, and a flourishing economic revival, German young people were able to have fun on their own terms as part of a new youth culture.
Religious and social conservatives naturally deplored such developments. Some wanted to go back to the good old days of a closed Catholic milieu. But the more progressive were also obliged to see that by opening up their activities to new patterns, their religious message and opportunity became diluted. Young people too often simply disregarded church teachings, and, in so doing, ultimately eroded the authority of the church altogether. Where parish clergy were left to organize youth activities, they found themselves outmoded by the professional resources of the secular world. The church could no longer provide, even in rural areas, the kind of fare to be found in cinemas, dance-halls or shopping malls. Television was to cement the demise of any number of youth groups.
Once young people began to choose for themselves, and to determine their own futures, they were no longer willing to commit to those religious activites and professions that required the greatest degree of dedication and sacrifice. The number of candidates for the priesthood sank rapidly. Monasteries and convents lacked recruits. Instead, all too often, young Catholics, like young Protestants, opted for a cafeteria style of religious belief, choosing only those elements which suited their new-found and freer lifestyles.
Ruff describes all these developments without recrimination or lamentation. His material is drawn principally from the diocesan archives of Cologne and Würzburg, the one mainly industrial, the other mainly rural. But in both the erosion of the Catholic milieu took place relentlessly. The struggles of the older generation of youth leaders to stem the tide seemed to be counter-productive, and often induced infighting which wasted far too much energy. The basic question of how such a traditional church, which for so long had been on the defensive, could adjust to the demands of the modern world, remained unresolved. It was to require the even greater upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s before German Catholicism was obliged to discard the mental attitudes of earlier years, and to seek to create new communities and forms of identity capable of meeting the challenges of a new and forceful culture of consumerism
Ruff’s elegant and well-researched narrative carries conviction. His arguments could, conceivably, have been strengthened by some references to the very similar developments in the Protestant, and even in the socialist, milieux. And, at some points in his tale, it would have been desirable to build in some personal recollections of participants, who are presumably still able to recall their wayward youth. But Ruff’s service in documenting this chapter of German Catholic history is a noteworthy contribution which merits reflection in many quarters.
b) Wolfgang Tischner, Katholische Kirche in der SBZ/DDR 1945-1951, Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, Reihe B, no 90, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag 2001 ISBN 3-506-79995-9
(This review appeared earlier on H-German, and is here reprinted by kind permission of the author)
This work is the result of Wolfgang Tischner’s 1999 dissertation completed under the direction of Ulrich von Hehl. It represents an enormous amount of research and work on the relatively unexplored position of the Catholic Church in Soviet-occupied Germany during the opening phases of the Cold War. It is divided into two major sections: one dealing with the development of the Catholic Church and its offices at the close of the World War II, and a second sectiuon addressing the build-up of Catholic instiututions in Communist-controlled East Germany. Throughout the work, Tischner agues that despite each loss of political representation, German Catholics continued to maintain and even create new institutions that permitted them to foster a “Catholic” identity and culture.
Section One offers a wealth of information regarding church personalities and the interplay among the church leaders in Germany, the occupying powers and the Vatican. The dominant figure of this time period was, of course, Cardinal Konrad von Preysing of Berlin. Surveying such regions as Thuringia, Meissen, Mecklenburg, Paderborn and Breslau, Tischner highlights the problems of restructuring and rebuilding in these war-torn areas, and emphasizes the role Preysing played in each area. By June 1945, Preysing had formulated the church’s political position regarding the Soviet occupation. He admonished the clergy to act on behalf of human rights and the freedom of conscience, and urged them to support wholeheartedly a democratic form of government (p.61). By the end of the year, despite the absence of any major confrontation with the Soviet military government, the struggles that lay ahead were clear.
Towards the end of the year, the announcement from the Vatican that Pope Pius XII had elevated Preysing to become a Cardinal was a pleasing addition to his prestige in this tumultuous time. The promotion did not, however, guarantee that Preysing would have an easy time. Tischner depicts these early post-war years as filled with internal power struggles involving Preysing’s closest advisors, Heinrich Wienken, Aloysius Muench and Wilhelm Weskam, largely over how to deal with the escalating clashes between the Catholic Church, the Soviet authorities and their East German communist satraps. At the end of this early phase, Preysing’s pronouncements set the tone for many East German Catholics (p.111). This opening section represents an astounding compilation of institutional and political history in an area long neglected by many German historians.
Section two branches away from the earlier more standard political-institutional account. In this exhaustive section, Tischner argues for the creation of what he calls a Catholic “sub-society” (Subgesellschaft). Rejecting descriptives such as “milieu”, the author devotes close to four hundred pages to explain how Catholicism not only survived the communist years but emerged alive and well after the regime’s fall in 1989. In order to prove his argument, Tischner leaves high political approaches behind, and instead examines various institutions that were protected or preserved by German Catholics with each challenge to their political rights. He examines the role of Catholic newspapers. radio programs and other publications. In addition, he analyses the humanitarian work of the Catholic social assistance organization, Caritas, and the impact of Catholic social services such as hospitals and orphanages in the GDR. So too he explores the work of kindergartens, after-school programs, extracurricular religious instruction, and the youth programs designed to combat Communist-led youth groups. All of these sections are meant to show how Catholics still managed to retain their religious identity in what had become an officially “atheist” state.
One missing element which might have strengthened his arguments would be an examination of Alltagsgeschichte. Tischner’s work is invaluable in describing the position of Catholic institutions in a Soviet-dominated government, but there is little or no coverage of the life of rank and file Catholics in the GDR.
Tischner shows convincingly that German Catholics were able to form an independent “sub-society” in the GDR by 1951. It would be very interestung to have a sequel describing the tougher years ahead when the communist regimne cemented its hold. Nevertheless, this work remains a valuable contribution to the study of Catholic institutions under hostile governments.
Beth Griech-Polelle, Bowling Green State Universityc) Harold Tittmann, Inside the Vatican of Pius XII. The memoir of a American Diplomat during World War II, New York: Image 2004. 224 pp.
(This review appeared in the November 2004 issue of First Things, and is here reprinted by kind permission of the authors. Slightly abbreviated.)
Critics of Pius XII have long claimed that the Allies were bitterly frustrated by the pontiff’s official neutrality during World War II. Among the evidence for this they cite some of the official dispatches of Harold H.Tittmann, Jr., who from 1940 to 1946 was chief assistant to Myron Taylor, Franklin Roosevelt’s personal representative to the Vatican. In works from Saul Friedlander’s 1966 Pius XII and the Third Reich to John Cornwell’s 1999 Hitler’s Pope, the occasional criticisms expressed in Tittmann’s dispatches have been quoted against Pius. Now we have the dispassionate postwar reflections of Tittmann himself, which paint a very different picture.
Although Tittmann lived until 1980, he rarely spoke about Pius XII. Instead, he quietly worked on his memoirs, which his son, Harold III, (who lived with his father in the Vatican during the German occupation of Rome) has now edited and published under the title Inside the Vatican of Pius XII. Given Tittmann’s importance in the debate about the papacy during the war, these memoirs may be the most important document to be published on Pius XII in over twenty years. And they prove to be, far from an indictment, an overwhelming defence of the Pope and the Catholic Church. . . .
There are at least half a dozen major revelations in this memoir. Perhaps the most interesting comes when Tittmann relates his discussions with Joseph Mueller, the anti-Nazi Bavarian lawyer who served as a middle-man between Pius and the German resistance. “Dr Mueller said that during the war his anti-Nazi organization in Germany had always been very insistent that the Pope should refrain from making any public statement singling out the Nazis and specifically condemning them and had recommended that the Pope’s remarks should be confined to generalities only”, Tittmann writes.
To have this testimony from a leading member of the anti-Nazi resistance means that Pius XII’s conduct during the war was not due solely to his personal instincts but also to the explicit advice of the anti-Nazi resistance.
Other revelations include the Vatican’s maintenance of “special accounts in New York banks” operated by Archbishop Spellman, as well as a “personal and secret account” for Pius XII (“about which Spellman knew nothing”), which the Pope “used exclusively for charitable purposes” during the war. Pius revealed the accounts to Tittmann in a “strictly confidential” meeting, after Roosevelt issued an executive order freezing American assets of hostile European countries. How much of this money was distributed to those persecuted by the Nazis is unknown, but Tittmann at least strengthens the testimony of Fr. Robert Leiber, Pius’ longtime aide, who told Look magazine in 1966: “The Pope sided very unequivocally with the Jews at the time. He spent his entire private fortune on their behalf”
Tittman provides, as well, new details of the Vatican’ anxiety over written documents that might expose the Pope’s anti-Nazi activities and collaboration with the Allies. “It was only rarely that records were kept by the Vatican officials of conversations the Pope had with his intimate collaborators or even with important visitors from the outside, such as ministers, ambassadors, or private individuals offering information or suggestions”, Tittmann writes. When the German occupation of Rome began on Septemeber 10, 1943, Nazi surveillance increased dramatically, and Pius’ secretary of state, Cardinal Maglione, quickly recommended that any compromising documents be destroyed. Tittmann notes: “At a meeting on September 14, the Allied diplomats decided to follow the cardinal’s advice by destroying all documents that might possibly be of use to the enemy. Osborne [British minister to the Holy See] and I had already finished our burning, and the others completed theirs without exception by September 23, when I reported to the State Department” As a result, even the many official diplomatic documents which survive the war years represent only a fraction of Pius XII’s activities. . .
Discussing the charge that Pius went easy on Nazism because of his fears of Soviet communism, Tittmann insists that the Pope “detested the Nazi ideology and everything it stood for,” and he describes in fresh detail Pius’ intervention for an extension of America’s lease-lend policy to Russia, persuading the American Catholic hierarchy to soften its stand against the Soviet Union in order to serve a greater, and more immediate, cause – the defeat of Nazi Gemany. “Thus Pius XII himself had joined the President,” Tittmann says, “in admitting that Hitlerism was an enemy of the Church more dangerous than Stalinism and that the only way to overcome the former was an Allied victory, even if this meant assistance from Soviet Russia”.
Although a strong admirer of President Roosevelt, Tittmann does not flinch from criticizing the Allies’ carpet-bombing of Italian cities and religious institutions (including the attack on Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope was sheltering thousands of refugees).
Tittmann also reveals how Roosevelt, anxious to secure American Catholic support for the lend-lease program for Russia and eager for the Pope to intervene for him with the American bishops, wrote Pius a letter claiming that “churches in Russia are open” – and asserting his putative belief that there was “a real possibility that Russia may, as a result of the present conflict, recognize freedom of religion” Obviously embarrassed by this, Tittmann quotes another State Department official who had been stationed in Moscow as saying “he could not understand how such a letter as the President’s could ever have been written in the first place in view of all the contrary information that was on file in the State Department”
Critics oftren charge Pius with refusing to speak out against the Third Reich publicly and explicitly. Besides being inaccurate – the Vatican had excoriated Nazism long before Hitler came to power – the criticism is simplistic. As Tittmann points out, soon after World War II began, Pius XII authorized Vatican Radio to specifically condemn Nazi war crimes in Poland, naming the Nazis as the perpetrators, and Catholics and Jews as their victims. “However,” writes Tittmann, “the Polish bishops hastened to notify the Vatican that after each broadcast had come over the air, the various local populations suffered Œterrible’ reprisals. The thought that there were those paying with their lives for the information publicized by Vatican Radio made the continuation of these broadcasts impossible” Pius XII had tried the route of “explicit” condemnation – and it failed.
Toward the end of 1942, when reports of Nazi atrocities were increasing, Allied diplomats asked Pius to brand the Nazis by name. Despite his concern for ongoing reprisals, which had wrought havoc the previous July in Holland, Pius agreed – on condition that he name the Soviets and condemn their war crimes as well; he reasoned that as a universal pope, he could not condemn one totalitarian regime and wholly refrain from mentioning another whose principles were strikingly similar. But when the Allies learnt that Pius XII intended to include the Soviet Union in his condemnation, they dropped their request immediately, lest Stalin become enraged.
Tittmann concedes that the Pope had the better of the argument: “It was difficult for us to argue these points effectively with the Pope and in the end we were obliged to resign ourselves to the failure of our attempts” The debate may have been unnecessary, for as Pius himself told Tittmann shortly before his 1942 Christmas address, “I have already stated in three consecutive Christmas broadcasts that antireligious, totalitarian principles are iniquitous. These are the principles of the Nazis as any child can see”
As to whether there would have been fewer victims had Pius been more outspoken, Tittmann says: “There can be no final answer. Personally, I cannot help but feel that the Holy Father chose the better part by not speaking out and thereby saved many lives. Who can say what the Nazis would have done in their ruthless furor had they been further inflamed by public denunciations coming from the Holy See? It should also be remembered that the Nazi authorities were gradually realizing that they were destined to lose the war and the psychological effect of such blighted hopes could easily have caused to react even more violently to outside pressure. To the wealth of information in the archives on similar situations garrnered by the Vatican over the centuries, and to the help of expert historians using these archives, Pope Pius XII was able to add his unusual personal knowledge of the Nazi and German character. There was much inside information available to the Pontiff from such sources. Who could have been more qualified than this Pope to decide under the circumstances?”
Tittmann’s final assessment of Pius is persuasive and, indeed, moving. “With his diplomatic background, he was inclined to see both sides of a question, and this may have given others the impression that he was sometimes timid and reluctant to make decisions, especially in foreign affairs. In reality this was not the case. He was, in fact, decisive . . . I do not for a moment overlook his great spiritual qualities. Whether near him or away from him, one was always conscious of them. To me, he was definitely a spiritual man . . .Very possibly the future will rate him a saint”
William Doino Jr. and Joseph Bottum
2) Conference Report: Catholicism and Antisemitism in the shadow of National Socialism
a) The Spanish Civil War and the “Judeo-Bolshevik Conspiracy
Beth Griech-Polelle, Bowling Green State University, Ohio
When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, the conflict was quickly presented to the world as one of Christianity against Communism. The Vatican, horrified by the anti-clerical excesses of the Republicans, took this line, while Hitler justified his support of Franco’s Nationalists as being Germany’s contribution to destroy the danger of Bolshevism. But at this very moment, the Nazis were implementing their own anticlerical, and especially anti-Catholic, measures at home. The German Catholic bishops thought they should demonstrate their national loyalties by endorsing Hitler’s stance on Spain. Such support against Bolshevism, they optimistically hoped, would result in a slackening of Nazi persecution. Beth Griech-Polelle cites the vehement anti-Communist speeches of Bishop Galen, and Cardinal Faulhaber’s meeting with Hitler in November 1936 as evidence of how the Catholic bishops provided legitimacy to the Nazi campaign against the “Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy”. She regards this as a capitulation to the Nazis’ machinations. Of course Hitler never fulfilled his side of the bargain. In 1939 Galen publicly rejoiced in Franco’s victory over Bolshevism. But only a few months later, Hitler signed a Non-Aggression Pact with the Bolshevik leaders, thus embarrassing and compromising the German Catholic leaders, and revealing their naivety.
b) Jacques Kornberg, Pope Pius XII’s defenders
Jacques Kornberg’s contribution to the continuing debate over the war-time policies of Pope Pius XII takes the form of an excellent analysis of the main – but still largely unread – documentary source, the eleven volumes of Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la deuxieme guerre mondiale, published during the 1960s and 1970s in answer to the criticisms launched by Rolf Hochhuth. Kornberg rightly points out that the documents do not support some of the more exaggerated claims put forward by Pius’ defenders with regard to the alleged rescue of Jews from the Nazis. Instead the evidence shows, he says, that the Vatican’s priorities were continually more limited to a defence of the institutional forms and the sacramental witness of the Church. But Kornberg ignores the clear theme running thoughout these volumes that Pius’ international policy was directed towards the restoration of peace. His aim was to preserve the Vatican’s impartiality so that he could act as a mediator. To be sure, this attempt was repudiated by both sides. By 1943 Pius was obliged to recognize his failure. But so long as he clung to this hope, he was inhibited from a stronger stance of protest on behalf of wider humanitarian goals, such as by denouncing the Nazis’ crimes against the Jews. Above all, these volumes demonstrate the notable and distressing diminution of the Papacy’s moral influence during the war years. As Kornberg suggests, the Church’s emphasis on the primacy of the sacraments was not a heroic or prophetic stance. But it reflected the priority of those traumatic disillusioned times. It is certainly true that more could have been done; it is not true that nothing was done.
Next month’s issue will be dedicated to the memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, murdered sixty years ago, on April 9th 1945.
With best wishes