...is the story of Bishop von Galen, the "Lion of Munster", German patriot, passionate opponent of the Nazis, beautified in 2005. A letter arrived for me this weekend from America via Germany asking for information about him: the people in Munster who have cards and prayer-leaflets etc about him sent it on to me to ask me to deal with it so I could send some material in English. I was at the beatification in Rome - a powerfully moving occasion, as the newly-elected German successor of St Peter came at the end of Mass to speak to the (packed) congregation about this German hero son of the Church...
If you don't know about the story, you can get the basics from this link, and there is lots more on the Internet both in English and in German, but I'm keen to write a booklet about him and get, for example, the CTS to publish it. Bishop von Galen became known for his courageous sermons against the horrible Nazi euthanasia campaign - but of equal interest are his denunciations of the history books that children were being made to use in school, which sneered at the Church and the role of Christianity in history, and his concern at the immoral messages they were getting from various official youth schemes. He urged parents to counter this by teaching the Faith at home and remaining loyal to the Church. Er...if this begins to sound familiar, then you will see why I think his life and work have a message for today.
I remember coming across the great 'Lion of Munster' in A' Level RE. Our trendy teacher presented the situation in ‘30s Germany as one of Christian complicity with the Nazi regime, especially Catholic complicity. As you might expect from such a secularist, leftie teacher, the resistance movement focused heavily on the brave witness of the (excellent) pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but very little was said about Catholic opposition, such as ‘Mit Brennender Sorge’ and the witness of German Catholics, like Bishop Galen.
Needless to say, I brought this up and, in my attempt to readdress the balance, possibly went a little too far the other way, by pointing out that the Lutherans seemed much happier to ally themselves with Nazism, in the guise of Muller and Schachleitner and other leaders of the Protestant Reich Church. In retrospect, this was probably very unfair to many good Protestants, but it was born of a very deliberate and obvious attempt on behalf of the teacher (and syllabus?) to portray the Catholics as being the close friends of Nazism which (even though I was still a high Anglican at the time) infuriated me beyond belief. The teacher presented no evidence to confirm his argument or portrayal of the situation, save for a few pictures of various prelates and one of the Papal Nuncio with Hitler (I remember noting that these were all taken in the early ‘30s). We have pictures of Nixon with Mao and the Queen with Chauchesku, but we don’t imply that these meetings were anything other than routine state business – this was just plain mischief-making! The daffy teacher also lay great importance on the fact that Hitler was baptised a Catholic and that a Catholic upbringing often leads to the creation, in later life, of a heartless monster.
All this happened in the late ‘80s; I do wonder whether much has changed, for better or for worse!
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By all means, please write the pamphlet, auntie. I was also in Rome for his beatification & have always wanted to learn more about him. Always learn something on your on blog!
And, way to go, Philip Andrews.
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