Page 9, 24th June 1938

24th June 1938
Page 9
Page 9, 24th June 1938 — SALZBURG ARCHBISHOP DEFENDS AUSTRIAN HIERARCHY " Do Not Aggravate Our Difficulties"

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He bitterly complains of a section of the foreign Catholic press for criticising the successors of the Apostles, for writing without knowledge of the true situation, and for aggravating the difficulties of the Church and of Catholicism in Austria.


The action of the Bishops was based, he states, on the Christian teaching about the duty of obedience to the duly constituted civil authority, on the difference between the situation in Germany, where separation was forced on the Church in 1933, and the needs of the Austrian flock.

Referring in particular to Cardinal Innitzer's Heil Hitler greeting, he calls this the customary formula of civic loyalty.

In giving this greeting " he used a freedom it would be more gentlemanly to respect."


The Prince-Archbishop begins his article by referring to the criticism of the Austrian Hierarchy's March declaration in both the non-Catholic and Catholic foreign press. The most pointed and severe criticism was to be found in the Catholic newspapers.

" Things have been said in foreign Catholic newspapers—with a cleverness of style for which the French especially are duly famous—about the Bishops and particularly about the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna, which for their daring, surpass anything that has long been uttered on the Catholic side about the successors of the Apostles."

Criticising the French Catholic press in particular, he states that it is surprising that so much anxiety about ,theesituation of the Catholic Church in Austria should

be expressed in countries where the plight of the Church inside the country was the first consideration. In France only part of the anti-Catholic laws adopted at the beginning of this century have been repealed.

Why Now?

In the French criticism addressed to the Austrian Hierarchy it is impossible to distinguish the political from the religious motives. If one talks of responsibilities before the Christian conscience, one ought to put the question: " Where Were Those Voices?"

" Where were those voices when the monstrous injustice of Versailles and St. Germain were committed against Germany and Hungary? Why did they not make themselves heard when Clemenceau said that there were twenty million Germans too much in the world? Where did the extraordinary decrease of the birth-figure come from if not from the fact that the peace treaty deprived Austria of all the arteries of her existence?

Is it not surprising to see Catholic newspapers attacking violently the Austrian Bishops while the same papers find nothing to say about an alliance with the Soviets? Would it not be desirable that the critics of the Austrian Bishops protest with the same vigour against the sympathies of certain French circles for Soviet Spain where religion and the Church have to suffer the most cruel persecutions?

Having admitted that many papers have been more careful, agreeing that the responsibility for guiding consciences in Austria must be left to the Austrian Bishops, Mgr. Waitz goes on:

"The burden of the commentaries on the Austrian episcopate's March declaration is that it has perplexed consciences. Only in December of last year the Alf& Irian Bishops expressed their brotherly sympathy with the German episcopate in their hardships of the Catholic Church in Germany, and at the end of February, Cardinal lnnitzer ordered prayers for the peace and freedom of the Austrian Fatherland.

" These two statements are correct. But we ask this: ' Once the A nsch/uss had become a reality and Adolf Hitler had become the head of the Austrian State, were these two acts incompatible with the fact that the Austrian Bishops should acknowledge the new ruler, and should this acknowledgment, after the German commonweal had been firmly established, prevent the Catholic Church rapidly deciding on the possibilities of useful work under entirely new cOndi lions? Would the contrary not have been a grave dereliction of duty towards the Church, the people and the State?'"

Misled The Archbishop then goes on to state the teaching of Scripture and of the Church about obedience to the civil power once it hat been set up; andas he'prestimes that' his foreign eritica • understand this too. he supposes that they were ohisled by a misunderstanding about Austria's previous history.

" Most of the foreign critics are evidently misled by the assumption that in previous years there existed here a close association between religion and politics, which is not the case The assumption is absolutely untenable. The Church in Austria has under no circumstances had any direct influence on political life, and no Austrian Bishop, least of all the Cardinal of Vienna, was ever associated with any decisions of the State.

" The solidarity between religion and politics, which is so often assumed, did not exist in Austria in recent years. No doubt Catholic individuals have had political responsibilities, but they bore these according to their own lights, without the slightest pressure from the Church, the Cardinal of Vienna or any Bishops.

" Every State decision, including every Volitical reform, only came to the Bishops' knowledge after it had been duly taken. State and Church in Austria negotiated together questions that have been settled by the Concordat, particularly concerning the education of youth, but the Austrian State authorities themselves, as history will verify later, have sometimes found it convenient to shift their responsibility onto the Church."

Dangers of a Christian State

While admiring the efforts to lay the foundations of a Christian State in Austria, the Bishops had long realised the hazards of the attempt. " More than once did the Bishops themselves clearly point out the dangers inseparable from the existence of a Christian State." And he gives as an example of how far Austria still was from

itaC)ofelret profession," i o tnbaei ihnetrereidstesal: " inudailvlyi du aa lni smo obstacle I N

Christian State as to " the economic solution of unemployment."

Arguing that many had misunderstood the situation, believing that politics and religion had been confused in Austria, the Archbishop draws this conclusion:

"From all this there follows one conclusion which should throw light on the Austrian Bishops' March declaration: In Austria there was no such thing as co.nfusion between religion and politics, as so many have assumed. On the contrary, in the last four years; relations between Church and State have so developed as to create a situation totally different from that existing in Germany.

" There was no need for the Church in Austria to bring about a separation between Church and State such as was forced an the Church in Germany in 1933. She could not take such a responsibility. It was her obvious policy to avoid the division which prevailed between Church and State in Germany (as was pointed out by Gauleiter Burckel in his opening speech), and to create such relations with the State as would make for reconciliation."

Interference of Foreigners " Does anybody think," he asks, " that the interference of foreigners is calculated to make the position easier?" They did not understand the conditions in which a decision had to be taken and it was hardly their business to sit in judgment from afar.

Turning to the special cause of foreign " scandal," Cardinal Innitzer's "Heil Hitler," appended to his letter, the Archbishop says : "The greeting written by the Cardinal is in Germany the customary formula of civic loyalty; besides, the meeting at the Imperial Hotel had set their relations on a personal footing; in these circumstances, he used a freedom it would be more gentlemanly to respect."

Likewise there is a perfect answer to the Cardinal's statement on the voice of blood:

" The feeling of solidarity with the German nation, as is too often overlooked by foreign critics, is no new thing in Austria, and in recent years has grown more intense than ever. The two nations are in actual reality one in speech, blood and culture, and on this there are no two opinions even among Catholics."

The Archbishop ends with the following sentence:

"What has been said here in a Christian spirit has been said for one purpose only, to induce foreigners to abstain from aggravating the difficulties of the Church and of Catholicism in Austria."

New Prior-General of Servites

Fr. Alphonsus Benetti, an Italian, has been elected Prior-General of the Servites. Fr. Benetti was Apostolic Visitor to Scotland in 1912, and has spent many years in England.

Congratulating him on his election, the Pope referred to their common intimate relations with Cardinal Lepicier.

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