November 2006 Newsletter
Association of Contemporary Church Historians
(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)
John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia
This month’s offerings concentrate on new books dealing with the Catholic Church and its responses to the crises of the twentieth century and beyond.
1) Correction: I regret that there was an unintended error in the website cited for Christian Zionism in the October issue. I am told that it would be best if you were to go to the following URL:http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl/ and around the middle of the page, in the right-hand box titled “Christian-Jewish Relations”, click on “Christian Zionism”.
2) Book reviews:
a) Schleicher and Walle, Feldpostbriefen 1939-1945
b) Trippen, Josef Kardinal Frings Vol. II
c) Theriault, Conservative Revolutionaries
d) Kaufmann, Consuming Visions. Mass Culture and the Lourdes Shrine
3) Book notes: Vatican-Israel Accords
2a) Karl-Theodor Schleicher and Heinrich Walle, eds., Aus Feldpostbriefen junger Christen 1939-1945: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Katholischen-Jugend im Felde, Munich: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2005. 413 Pp. ISBN 3-315-08759-1. (This review was first printed in H-German on Wednesday, July 16th 2006, and is here reproduced by kind permission of the author.)
This book is a collection of letters from the front sent by specifically Catholic soldiers who belonged to Catholic youth groups that were persecuted by the Nazi regime since 1936 and prohibited since 1938. The editors regard the letters as a witness to the rejection of what Catholics called the Trinitarian Dogma of the Nazi regime, namely: the National Socialist Party, the Third Reich, and the German Volk. The soldiers of these letters apparently understood well the basic teaching of the Catholic resistance fighter Alfred Delp. He argued that a soldier do his duty to the fatherland which was a matter of natural inclination, but question (even resist as Delp did) demands for loyalty to the current state leadership which was a matter of historical fortuity. Implied was that while these Catholic soldiers could be patriotic, they could not identify with the criminal goals of the regime.
The research for this book was done in several archives, the findings were then discussed with various witnesses of the time and a manuscript was proposed. This manuscript was then further reviewed by ten leaders of the youth group association, witnesses, and experts. These in turn agreed that a book on this topic required an essay that discussed the development and situation of the Catholic Youth in the Third Reich. For this task, the editor Karl-Theodor Schleicher won the cooperation of the military historian Dr. Heinrich Walle who, as a student, was also a member of the Catholic Youth Group of Cologne (Bund Neudeutschland-Köln) to which the soldiers who wrote these letters from the front belonged.
Although a military commander and historian, Walle also studied Catholic theology. His explanatory introduction of the Nazi times, the Catholic situation within it, the Catholic Youth groups and their ideals, the content and quality of the letters, what could be said and what not, is exemplary. While the letters are subjective documents, they are fascinating because of their nearness to the actual experiences of an ever hardening war. Most of these soldiers who found themselves in the continual presence of death tried to reach one goal: to be ready for – the last. One wrote, “finally I reached the place where I could say: Lord, your will alone!” And he continued: “I believe in a kind of collective guilt of the Volk. And thus, by God, it is better that one upright man die than that dozens be massacred” (p.19).
Front letters were censored. Any hint of doubt of the final victory (Endsieg), or of the senselessness of war, or any critique of the NS-regime and its representatives was considered under military law to be an act of eroding the power of defence and was punishable by death. The law was known to both writers and recipients of these letters.
Nevertheless, Walle argues that these letters give an insider view of the German military. And while scholars have reached a consensus that, from the beginning, the German military was drawn into the National Socialist enslavement and elimination program, Walle argues that such a picture represents an external perspective. Since only a small sample, a mere splinter, of the thirty to forty million front letters has been analyzed, Walle argues that quantitative conclusions about the moral position of “the” German soldier of World War II is hardly possible. It would be a post-factum confirmation of Nazi-propaganda, if one were to lump together all these men as champions of National Socialism. Many a soldier at the front found himself in the tragic condition, furthermore, of having to realize that the goal of the enemy was in no sense of the imagination the liberation of Germany from National Socialism, but rather the total destruction of the fatherland. The conduct of war today, as we witness it daily through the media, would lead one to affirm Walle’s insider assessment of the war then.
The new German scholarship, whether this book, or Georg Denzler’s Widerstand ist nicht das richtige Wort (Resistance is not the right word, 2003), or Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Gerhard Paul’s edited volumeKarrieren der Gewalt (Careers of Violence, 2004) or Stefan Schmitz’s edited volume of the soldier Willy Peter Reese’s Mir selber seltsam fremd (A Stranger to Myself, 2005) or my own book, New Religions and the Nazis (2006); all these books and many others are outstanding for one characteristic: by carefully differentiating who committed what deeds, they are giving new insights into the horrors of that regime, its war, and the Holocaust.
Finally, with one exception, the choice of material is excellent. Particularly useful is the inclusion in the Appendix of a confidential letter dated 28 October 1936 from the Reich’s Youth Leadership. It makes for harrowing reading when it is understood how systematic and calculated the persecution of Catholic youths was. It shows what I found to be a general tendency in Nazi persecution, namely, learning to use the enemy’s own methods and form against them. In this case, using Catholic religious forms and rites to indoctrinate the masses with National Socialist ideas.
The choice of material that I found surprising is the archbishop of Freiburg, Dr. Conrad Grüber’s pastoral letter of 8 May 1945. From this letter it is clear that he understood the National Socialist worldview all too well: its rejection of Christianity as Jewish-religion, the Regime’s use of the Concordat as political seduction, its notion that the Volk was the measure of all things which had the consequence of destroying all normative ethics. Unfortunately, for a number of years Grüber was enthusiastic about the Nazi regime.
Karla Poewe, University of Calgary
2b) Norbert Trippen, Josef, Kardinal Frings (1887-1978), Vol. II, Sein Wirken für die Weltkirche und seine letzten Bischofsjahre. (Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, Series B: Forschungen, Vol 104) Paderborn: Schöningh, 2005.
This second half of a two-volume biography of the later Josef Cardinal Frings is, like the first, clearly a labour of love. The author, Prelate Norbert Trippen, is professor church history at Bonn University and a member of Cologne’s cathedral chapter. The emphasis of this volume, which covers the years from the early 1950s until the Cologne Archbishop’s death in 1978, is on two areas of the work of Cardinal Frings, first as the initiator of German Catholic development and programmes, and second as a leading figure at the Second Vatican Council, where he led the efforts of the German-speaking bishops. The first half of this volume is devoted to Fring’s gradual development of a large-scale foreign aid programme sponsored by the Catholic Church in post-war western Germany and funded by impressive annual drives during Advent and Lent. Initial contacts led to a close partnership with the archdiocese of Tokyo, which included considerable financial support for the Jesuit-sponsored Sophia University – donations from Cologne made it possible to open a law school at the university – and for the construction of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo. Later in the 1950s, following these first experiences, Frings coaxed his fellow bishops into creating Misereor, a programme to combat hunger and disease in the developing world, comparable to Catholic Relief Services in the U.S. Even before governments established departments for foreign assistance and economic cooperation, Frings was convinced by his vicar-general, Joseph Teusch, to insist that Misereor innovate by encouraging self-help, rather than simply offer traditional works of charity. How unusual this was, Trippen illustrates by the fact that Frings requested papal permission to begin this work abroad, not only because of its new approach to aid, but also because of concerns that perhaps diocesan and national churches should not engage in activities traditionally carried out or at least coordinated by the Holy Father.
Once the successes of Misereor became apparent, in part a consequence of Germany’s economic recovery, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America inquired whether or not the German episcopate might see fit to take on particular responsibility for supporting the Church in Latin America. Again Frings played an important role in overcoming resistance to such endeavours. Thus, in the early sixties, the German bishops established Adveniat as a special collection period for Latin America during Advent, while Misereor with its broader focus took on the form of a Lenten sacrifice.
Trippen devotes even more detail to the contributions Frings made to the Second Vatican Council. According to Trippen, one should count Frings among those who embraced John XXIII’s call for an aggiornamento and who led the bishops in breaking the resistance of those gathered around Cardinal Ottaviani who wished to obstruct the councilâs development towards an understanding of the Church both self-confident and willing to serve, rather than triumphalist and authoritarian. Interestingly, this volume is dedicated to Fring’s advisors at the Council, foremost among them Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, then professor of theology at Bonn University. This volume, published in 2005, was completed before Benedict XVI assumed his office. It throws interesting light on the directions of the young Professor Ratzinger, which clearly encouraged Frings to pursue a thoughtfully modernizing line. For those familiar with the development of Benedict XVI’s thought, however, there is little new or surprising here.
In discussing the role of Frings at the council, Trippen provides an almost day-by-day account of events, both in the plenary sessions and in the various other meetings surrounding the council. Trippen shows that Frings overcame his increasing age and blindness to carry on. In an attempt to demonstrate the importance of Frings at the council, Trippen leads the reader through the lengthy deliberative processes that produced Lumen Gentium, Gaudium Spes and other equally important documents. Here is seems the author could have selected more carefully the most relevant passages and focused more precisely on the changes to the documents that can be attributed to interventions by Frings. For those familiar with the scholarship on the council, there will be little new here; for those who seek better to understand Frings, many questions are left unanswered.
During the later stages of the council, Frings increasingly relied on Cardinal Doepfner, Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Thus it seemed natural that Doepfner would become the first chairman of the newly formed German bishopsâ conference, which replaced the centuries-old Fulda and Bavarian bishops’ conferences. Frings himself opposed the establishment of an institutionalized structure at the national level for fear that it would infringe on the necessary autonomy and on the responsibilities of individual bishops.
While Trippen provides man interesting details about the internal politics of the German hierarchy relating to charitable works and about the council, at times one misses both a broader context and especially some critical analysis. To read this volume, even more than the first half of the biography, Frings could do no wrong.
In contrast to the first volume, which addressed a broad spectrum of issues Frings faced as priest and archbishop, this volume largely ignores his primary role as Archbishop of Cologne, i.e.. as leader of his flock. Nothing is said, for example, about the integration of refugees and expellees from the East, about the arrival of guest workers in the late fifties and early sixties to work in the large factories of Cologne, or about any of the challenges German Catholics faced in the light of the economic miracle, rearmament, and Germany’s return to relative stability. In this regard, this is a frustrating work.
Still, Trippen has provided a useful account of Frings as leader of the Church in Germany, and its contribution both to the aggioramento of the wider Church and to the return of Germany as a constructive actor on the global stage.
Martin Menke, Rivier College
2c) Barbara Theriault. “Conservative Revolutionaries”: Protestant and Catholic Churches in Germany After Radical Political Change in the 1990s. New York: Berghahn Books, 2004. vii + 188 pp. Appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $50.00 (cloth), ISBN 1-57181-667-4. (This review first appeared on H-German on July 18, 2006, and is reprinted by kind permission of the author)
Good Bye, Luther!
The drama of German reunification played out primarily on the main stages of politics and the economy. The bankruptcy of the East German model in these areas resulted in little opposition to the competing FRG model. By comparison, social institutions were a mere sideshow. Yet society and culture–less malleable to the pressures of the SED state–have by the same token been more resistant to merger on West German terms. Barbara Theriault analyzes the impact of reunification on two key social institutions, the Protestant and Catholic churches, looking particularly at three areas–chaplaincy in the military, religious instruction in the schools and social welfare institutions–in which the churches’ interface with state and society created potential for political conflict. In each of these policy areas, the West German model of a highly visible, legally privileged social role for churches (Volkskirche) contrasted with the GDR model of churches largely disenfranchised in terms of social functions. Theriault’s study is based largely on interviews and secondary source material. It is the only monograph in English to deal in depth with the consequences of German reunification for churches’ role in society.
Employing a sociological framework, the author’s main purpose is to explore the “politics of institutionalization, or the discourse and deliberation attendant to the resolution of these important policy issues. Theriault analyzes metaphors used by church groups as they sought either to legitimize the “institutional transfer” of the western model to the East or alternatively reject/alter this transfer. Protestants largely used the metaphor of “church within socialism,” developed under Bishop Albrecht Schonherr following the accommodation with the regime during the 1970s (pp. 29-36); Catholics adhered to a strategy of “political abstinence” identified with Cardinal Alfred Bengsch (pp. 21-29). Although 1989 is usually viewed as the triumph of the Catholic metaphor over the Protestant one, there was in fact no “Stunde Null” after 1990. Thus, along with pragmatic considerations, these metaphors continued to hold sway. Theriault argues that these contrasting metaphors are to be explained neither by confession (Protestant vs. Catholic) nor by majority/minority status, but rather by the influence of key church leaders.
Based on these two metaphors, the author discerns two groups that remained relatively consistent in their views: those advocating adoption of the West German model (whom Theriault labels “reformers”) and those rejecting this model and arguing for the retention of positive features of the GDR model (Theriault designates members of this group “conservative revolutionaries”). The fronts in this debate do not align neatly along East-West lines, although more conservative revolutionaries are to be found in the East.
In a most interesting aspect of the work, the author employs Albert Hirschman’s typology of argumentation to organize the threads into a coherent whole and demonstrate a tactical consistency in the positions. For example, the “reformers” argue (pp. 74-76) that the state-sanctioned social role of churches in the military, education and social welfare will provide opportunities for mission in the dechristianized setting of the GDR; failure to take advantage of such opportunities will leave Protestants vulnerable to resurgent Catholic influence (“imminent danger thesis”). For their part, the “conservative revolutionaries” argue (pp. 71-73) that the West German model will endanger the proven, parish-based models of the East (“jeopardy argument”), will cost the churches hard-won credibility and leave them dependent on the state (“perversity argument”). They are bound in any case to fail in the context of a secularized society (“futility argument”).
Theriault shows that the resolution of these issues was characterized by more compromise and incrementalism than is generally assumed. To be sure, the western model regarding social welfare reigned supreme, largely for financial reasons. The churches deferred final resolution of the military chaplaincy issue until 2003, permitting a dual system in the interim. As a harbinger of broader challenges to the West German model from growing religious diversity in Germany, the issue of religious instruction in the schools produced the greatest political conflict: the proposal by the SPD government in Brandenburg to replace religious instruction with a secular course on ethics and religion was fought unsuccessfully by both churches in the courts.
Several omissions flaw this otherwise comprehensive and authoritative treatment. First, confessional differences _within_ the Protestant camp should be highlighted more. The more socially and politically active Union churches (Berlin, Church Province of Saxony) are well-represented among the “conservative revolutionaries,” but voices of the more politically deferential Lutheran Churches (Saxony, Thuringia, Mecklenburg) seem missing in this narrative. Closer to the SPD even before 1989, the Union churches were naturally more critical of the FRG model in many respects. Second, more treatment is needed of the ambivalent role of Manfred Stolpe–chief lawyer of the GDR churches yet later (as Ministerpräsident of Brandenburg) head of the state that rejected the western model of religious instruction. Finally, Thierault leaves unaddressed the major issue of church finance. The resolution of this issue foreshadowed the extension of the West German model more generally. Having lost their official status in the 1950s, many Protestant “conservative revolutionaries” came to see the normative value of a church supported by “voluntary” contributions rather than a church tax collected by the state. Early in 1990, however, the West German churches made it clear that continuation of their substantial subsidies to the weaker eastern churches depended on restoration of the church tax system in the former GDR. This step, in turn, prejudiced the outcome on the issues Theriault treats.
Thierault’s terminology may leave the reader (and the subjects themselves) somewhat confused. Extension of the West German Volkskirche model is labeled as “reform”; retention of the status quo, minority-church model of the GDR is propounded by “conservative revolutionaries.” Illustrative of ensuing verbal contortions is the statement found on p. 77: “Reformers … supported the West German status quo, thus becoming reactionaries themselves.” Perhaps “restorationist” and “voluntarist,” respectively, would have proven more apt characterizations, without doing injustice to the motives of the two groups.
In my view, however, the divide between these groups should not be overstated. Despite losing the privileges associated with the West German model and flirting with the notion of “free churches” in their dialogues with various American churches, GDR churches never relinquished their claim to speak for society as a whole, nor did they jettison the trappings of the Volkskirche. By the same token, West German churches had long been aware of the societal forces challenging religious Modelldeutschland. Theriault’s conclusion that “defenders of the East German status quo were also successful in institutionalizing some principles” (p. 141) thus comports well with the notion of greater continuity in social-cultural life than in the political-economic sphere.
. Albert O. Hirschman, The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1991)
Robert F.Goeckel, SUNY, Geneseo, New York
2d) Suzanne K.Kaufmann, Consuming Visions. Mass Culture and the Lourdes shrine. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. 2005 255 Pp. ISBN 0-8014-4248-6.
In early 1858 , Bernadette Soubirous, a peasant girl from the remote hamlet of Lourdes in the foothills of the French Pyrenees saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Within months, thousands flocked to meet the visionary or visit the site. Within ten years Lourdes had become an officially endorsed place of pilgrimage, and by the end of the century was receiving close to half a million guests a year. The anticlerical officials of the Third Republic were scandalized by what seemed to them to be an outburst of rural political reaction. Liberals and Protestants were appalled by what they saw as a revival of mediaeval superstition. Others were dismayed by the swift growth of commercial enterprises around the shrine, greedily selling religious trinkets, postcards and votive pictures, and seemingly despoiling the sacredness of Bernadetteâs vision.
Suzanne Kaufmann, however, is intrigued by this contrast and seeks to analyze the success with which these modern commercial aspects were so speedily blended into the ancient forms of piety. She is interested in how popular religiosity was promoted by the spirit of modern commercialism, which she sees as a necessary component to the development of such shrines. Lourdes is only the most obvious example, having so rapidly become the best-known and most successful of all Catholic pilgrimage sites in contemporary Europe. She analyses how the use of modern technologies served to promote religious devotion and to direct it into newer channels for mass consumption.
This whole process was always controversial. Intellectuals continually poured scorn on popular piety, while snobbish Catholics deplored the massification and trivialization of their beloved heritage. Anticlericals, especially in the medical profession, attacked Lourdesâ reputation for therapeutic cures, and sought to disparage the whole enterprise as an outdated relic of bygone fanaticism. But Kaufmann makes a convincing case that the skillful use of modern commercial practices, particularly the building of railways, new advertising techniques and the mass production of religious devotional goods, enabled a much larger proportion of the population, especially rural women, to share in an unparalleled religious experience of great value to them. At a time of considerable church instability, pilgrimages to such places as Lourdes revived French Catholic worship and satisfied real spiritual needs.
There was also a political dimension. After the Third Republic adopted an explicitly anticlerical stance, the popularity of Lourdes became for Catholics an important means of stressing the fact that religion mattered. Even hardened atheists could not deny that the whole economy of the Pyrenees region benefited greatly from Lourdes. Kaufman shows that its boosters took many lessons in self-advertisement from secular metropolitan models. Lourdes catered for mass tourism, but did so cheaply and efficiently. Its hotels, shops, diversions, tours and other attractions successfully combined a religious tone with a progressively modern emphasis. Even the poor farmer’s wife, who could only afford a couple of postcards, or the smallest replica of the grotto’s statues, could gain a feeling of belonging to a wider spiritual fraternity. There were, of course, complaints about the exploitation of naive pilgrims and the cultivation of superstitious worship of relics. Nevertheless on the whole the defects were outshone by the impressive dignity and ceremonial pageantry of the shrine’s guardians. In catering for ever-growing numbers, however, the simplicity and traditional aura of yesteryear was lost. Bernadette herself came to be transformed in to a sanctified commercial image. Had she been able to return twenty years later, she would not have recognized the place.
The shrine’s Catholic authorities were obliged to spend considerable time in thwarting unscrupulous merchants and manufacturers, but this led them to reflect on the proper balance between a capitalist market economy and Christian ethical behaviour. Accusations of clerical simony or purveying of false relics were of course nothing new. But the virulence of the debates in the late nineteenth century was in fact all part of the attempt to define the character of post-imperial France. Even the most outspoken anticlericals, such as Emile Zola, could not deny the extraordinary fervour displayed by the pilgrims who visited Lourdes every day. This blocked attempts to push religion back into a private realm, irrelevant to the main stream of national life.
In part to counter such criticisms, the authorities at Lourdes came to place ever greater emphasis on the shrineâs function as a place of healing. Its core meaning became to tend the sick and to pray for miracles of recovery. Kaufmann argues that this development also owed much to the impact of a commercializing and modernizing world. Even though the association between holy shrines and healing cures had a long history, the focus in Lourdes was not on the past but on catering for the emergence of a mass audience and clientele. Popular faith in the efficacy of Lourdes cures grew rapidly, but necessitated some regulatory controls. Physical up-to-date facilities for drinking or bathing in the sacred waters had to be built on a sufficient scale, and records had to be meticulously kept to substantiate the claims of miraculous healing. Expert doctors were employed to certify that the cures were both spontaneous and long-lasting. The imposing authority of the medical professionals now came to be as important as that of the priests. These cures were no longer seen as proof of Bernadette’s visions, but rather were advanced as part of the much wider goal of regaining the soul of France.
Mobilizing the cured, and bringing them back to Lourdes to participate in large-scale celebrations, proved to be highly popular. In 1908, for the fiftieth anniversary, over a million people came to Lourdes. Women, particularly, who had been miraculously cured of their ailments, were now feted by a marveling public It was a pre-view of the later film-star adoration, but was equally transient, a very real example of modern mass culture.
Kaufmann’s final chapter looks at the ways in which Lourdes’ claims were treated in the popular press of the later nineteenth century. Its very modern phenomenon of publishing sensational stories for the sake of selling newspapers frequently took advantage of the Lourdes patients and their cures, which only inflamed the political tensions between anticlericals and devout Catholics. It did little to bolster Lourdes’ credibility.
Yet Lourdes survived even the venomous attacks during the process of the disestablishment of the Catholic Church in 1905. Popular support actually grew, despite being denied any official recognition by the French state. Catholic devotion, then as now, continued to uphold the shrine and its mission of healing and pilgrimage. Paradoxically, as Kaufmann points out, the very success of modern publicity for a mass market produced the best-known advertisement for religious devotion in the 1943 Hollywood film The Song of Bernadette. Lourdes still has to deal with this ambivalent legacy. JSC
3) Book notes: The Vatican-Israel Accords: Political, Legal and Theological Contexts. edited by Marshall J.Breger. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 2004 Pp. xvii,392. $55.00. The following review first appeared in The Catholic Historical Review 92:2 (2006),and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.
Marshall Breger is professor of law at Columbus School of Law, The Catholic University of America. This excellent collection of essays will be a “must read” for anyone interested in the Midle East, international politics and law, or Catholic-Jewish relations. It examines the historic 1993 accords between the Holy See and the State of Israel from a variety of scholarly points of view. The authors include participants in the negotiations which led to the agreement, making it the definitive interpretation of the accords and their historical and religious implications.
Lorenzo Cremonesi outlines the stages of diplomatic negotiations that led to the accord. David-Maria A. Jaeger, O.F.M., a drafter of the text, and Leonard Hammer analyze how it changed the legal relationship of the Catholic Church and Israel. Silvio Ferrari places this accord in the context of other conventions between Church and States since the Second Vatican Council in general, while Rafael Palomino compares it specifically with the Church-State agreement in Spain.
Roland Minnerath discusses how the Catholic Church understands Concordats “from a Doctrinal and Pragmatic Perspective”. David Rosen comments on the relations between the Vatican and Israel since the signing of the accord. Moshe Hirsch analyzes the issue of proselytism under the accord and international law. Geoffrey Watson discusses its implications for a range of issues associated with pilgrimages to the Holy Land.
Giorgio Fillbeck and Ruth Lapidoth explain the understandings of freedom of religion in Catholic teaching and under Israeli law, respectively. Silvio Ferrari analyzes the Vatican’s policies and practices with regard to the Middle East during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Drew Christiansen presents the situation of the Palestinian Christians. Jack Bemporad overviews Catholic-Jewish relations since the Holocaust.
Appendices provide the texts of the agreement itself, along with its implementing “Legal Personality Agreement” and the “Basic Agreement” between the Holy See and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Richard Mathes provides personal recollections of the informal discussions that took place between representatives of the Church and the State of Israel at the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center.
Eugene Fisher, Washington, D.C., USA
With best wishes