Page 4, 28th February 1941

28th February 1941
Page 4
Page 4, 28th February 1941 — DUTCH BISHOPS' STAND

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People: Hitler, Christ
Locations: Rome


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A Courageous Defiance Of Nazism

Difficult Problems Of Church And State

INSUFFICIENT attention would appear to have been paid to the stand which is at present being made by the Dutch Hierarchy against the attempt to Nazify Holland. The Dutch Bishops, we are told from Vatican sources, have re-affirmed their condemna: tion of Liberalism, Socialism, Communism and National Socialism; they have stated that it is " gravely sinful " to be a member of the National Socialist party; and they have even decided to refuse the Last Sacraments to members of the Mussert (Dutch Quisling) organisation.

A UNIQUE ATTITUDE THIS forthright Catholic condemnation on behalf of a very large section of the people of the dominating civil power (it is scarcely possible to use the word " constituted " or " legal ") has certain features which make it almost unique in modern times. The nearest approach to it. we imagine, was the political boycott of anti-clerical Italy under Pius IX and Leo XIII, a boycott which itself was very unusual since it arose from an attack on the Pope's own dominions and affected the one country where the Pope was also a national Bishop. Communism and Socialism have,' of course, been condemned, generally in a number of Encyclicals and specifically by national Hierarchies, but Communist and Socialist regimes (where Socialism is used in the extreme sense) have been so avowedly anticlerical that they had. so to say, already condemned themselves in the eyes of Catholics. Liberalism has been condemned in various ways, but liberal regimes, being also ostensibly democratic regimes, have normally given Catholics the opportunity of waging a political fight against the majority party and so actually stimulated Catholic political action rather than prevented it. In contrast with all these the National Socialist party stands out for three reasons. First, it is a totalitarian party standing for Germany and German rule wheresoever that rule extends. Second. it is legally and nominally in relations of amity with the Church. enjoying the privileges of a very full Concordat with Rome and evoking the loyalty and co-operation of the German hierarchy. Third, it denies that it is in any way anti-clerical, expects the loyalty of the Catholic people and, to all appearances, receives it. And yet the Dutch Bishops. realising full well that nothing substantial stands between .them and the full power of this NationalSocialism. have maintained a condemnation originally pronounced in very different circumstances and insisted that all Dutch Catholics must. under pain of grievous sin, have nothing to do with the effective civil force in Holland.

A FIT SUBJECT FOR CONDEMNATION HERE, then, is an example of the sort of condemnation of the powers-that-be for which so many non-Catholics, as well as Catholics. have been waiting and hoping. Here has been effected just that gesture of defiance for lack of which the Church, according to so many. has failed to take up the position of uncompromising Christian leadership which is expected of her. Here in Holland something has been done which, we are so often told, should have been done long ago in Germany and Italy. That the philosophy and actions of National Socialism are fit to be condemned is absolutely undeniable by any good Catholic. National Socialism constitutes an explicit affirmation that the State (which is the same as itself) is the supreme religious and moral authority in Germany. Not only does it affirm this, but it puts its doctrine into practice in a hundred ways, and specifically relegates the authority of the Church to a secondary position, recognising its importance solely in so far as the Church can support the State by strengthening the moral fibre of the people and helping to maintain the general loyalty to secular authority. In particular it denies to the Church any right even of protest against the most blatant sins which the State may find it necessary to commit. In only one respect perhaps has it stopped short of completing its mockery of the Church. It does not yet appear to have asked the Church actively to defend its own acts of aggression and tyranny, though it does expect passive acquiescence. There is something to be said for those who hold that the Nazi teaching is. if anything, worse than the Bolshevik doctrine, since Nazism tries to make the Church into an instrument of its own immorality, whereas Bolshevism frankly destroys the Church. As against this view. however, there is the important point that spiritual life and the administration of the sacraments continue uninterrupted in Germany and even flourish there, thus protecting the supernatural life of the millions of common people who have little or no part in national policy and keeping alive the hope of better times in the future.

THE POLICY OF THE CONCORDAT FEW Catholics, we think, will deny that a terrible mistake was made when the original German Catholic suspicion and even condemnation of National Socialism were swamped by the policy of making a Concordat with Hitler in 1933. On that occasion Hitler won the first—and perhaps the most important—of the many diplomatic victories which prepared the way for the final bid for mastery of Europe. And this is where the Dutch Bishops find themselves in an infinitely stronger position than the German Hierarchy, which is now meeting in an atmosphere of subservience to the secular power in order to protect what they can of the interests of the vast Catholic population for whose spiritual care they are responsible. The Dutch Catholic condemnation of National Socialism is a long standing one, and until now there was never any temptation to revoke a condemnation of a movement that took no roots in the sturdy democratic soil of the Netherlands. And today that National Socialism is imposed on the country as part and parcel of a hated foreign regime. The Dutch Hierarchy is therefore able, in repeating its condemnation, to proclaim also its loyalty to its native land and its institutions. In Germany, on the contrary, and to a large extent in Austria, National Socialism was at least a native movement seeking not only to avenge the wrongs which Germany felt herself to have suffered, but also to restore internal order and discipline in a morally and economically chaotic republic. There were weighty reasons therefore for making the Concordat whose consequences have proved so disastrous. In Italy the reasons for coming to terms with Fascism were even stronger, for the only practical alternative seemed to be an anti-Christian mis-rule of much the same character as the one from which Spain suffered and against which Spain's best elements finally revolted. Moreover, it is too early still to come to any conclusion about the success or failure of the Church's policy towards Fascism. Italy's present troubles must in large measure be due to the strong weight of Catholic pressure against the growing immorality and stupidity of Mussolini and the extreme Fascist elements.

CALL FOR THE POPE AS ARBITER ALL these considerations illustrate the extreme difficulty with which both the Papacy and the national Hierarchies are faced when they are called upon to take a stand in regard to the errors of secularist Powers. The Church has. of course, never renounced its habitually disregarded claim to exercise spiritual authority over secular States. This spiritual authority can affect temporal matters when these have a moral import, that is when they are morally wrong. In fact since secular Powers are no longer even Christian the Church makes no attempt to exercise this indirect temporal authority. The queer thing, however, is that under present conditions when States are claiming a totalitarian spiritual authority for themselves, a demand is growing for what is tantamount to the exercise once again on the part of the Church of her indirect moral authority. For when public opinion in this country or America complains that the Church dots not condemn National Socialism or denounce an act of aggression on the part of Hitler or Mussolini it is really implying that the Church possesses indirect temporal authority over modern States and should use it. Indeed this suggestion goes very deep at the present time and is most significant. For long after the Middle Ages there was a general agreement among Western peoples about the common basis of domestic and international life. Evil, though committed often enough, so to speak condemned itself. It was under the influence of the growing a-moral secularism that more and more attention was paid to the problem of creating some international moral and judicial authority. But even the League of Nations could not withstand the pressure of the great pseudo-religious ideologies, and now we find a scarcely conscious but growing feeling that only the Vatican is left worthy to take a moral stand over and above the conflict; and what are in fact appeals to the Pope to resume his indirect temporal authority over States are constantly made. (It is true, of course, that the reason for this appeal differs very radically from the reasons why the Church makes her claim to such authority.) These appeals are. of course, usually made by those who wish to invoke added authority for their own condemnation of their rivals, but, though considerable suspicion is created in anti-Catholic circles in Britain and America through the danger of the Vatican heine elevated aeain into a position over and above the national sovereignty, we think that it is not impossible that a despairing world may yet agree to recognise the Pope as an international moral arbiter.

NATURE OF THE CHURCH'S CONDEMNATION THAT time. however, has not come, and the Church is still content to exercise her authority over her own children and over them alone. She does this, not in virtue of some common agreement, but in virtue of the authority given by Christ to His vicar. When the Pope or the Bishops condemn Communism or National-Socialism or Liberalism (that word being understood, of course, in a very different sense from its common political meaning in this country) they are primarily addressing Catholics and forbidding these from having anything to do with the condemned movements. And the purpose of such condemnations is not directly the elimination of these movements, but the preservation of the spiritual health of the faithful. When this is realised, it is not difficult to understand why the Church is reluctant to issue the condemnations for which public opinion sometimes calls. That public opinion is really invoking a omerent aspect of the Church's authority—and one which, by the way. that public opinion has for generations stoutly condemned. Nor indeed does that public opinion admit the grounds on which the Church herself claims that authority. The Church, on the other hand, is dealing with individuals who are necessarily the subjects of many loyalties. They are citizens, they belong to this or that country, they have to earn their livings. In an age when everything outside the Church and the domestic hearth is more or less subject to secularist and pagan influences the Catholic is in practice faced with the choice of ceasing to be a citizen or yielding in some measure to a-moral or immoral influences. So long as it is in any way possible the Church leaves her children free to live their full and manysided lives. concentrating rather on arming them spiritually against the dangers of the world. That is why it is with the extremist reluctance that she pronounces any condemnation which would overturn the basis of their lives. And that is why there is as yet no condemnation for Germans of National-Socialism, but nevertheless a condemnation of exactly the same evil by Dutch Bishops for the wholly differently situated Catholics of Holland. Meanwhile if the world wishes to see the indirect temporal authority of the Church restored to practice, it is for the world to accept satisfactory conditions under which it could be exercised.

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