Page 9, 7th May 1937

7th May 1937
Page 9
Page 9, 7th May 1937 — Light On The " Immorality" Trials

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Organisations: Nazi party, Catholic Church
Locations: Berlin, Moscow, Rome, the Holy See


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Light On The " Immorality" Trials

Herr Hitler's May Day Innuendoes

Vatican's Conciliatory But Firm Reply To Germany

From Our German Correspondent During the past week, Germanys attention has been turned, by Herr Hitler's speech on May Day, and by the columns of the national newspapers, to the " immorality" trials.

The official text of Hitler's speech (quoted in part below) has now reached the Vatican. The passages in which he attacked the Pope and the Encyclical have caused profound indignation, an d it is thought extremely unlikely that Baron von Neurath, the German Foreign Minister, who is on an official visit to Rome, will be received by Cardinal Pacelli.

The Vatican have delivered to the German Ambassador a reply to Herr Hitler's note of April is. There is absolute secrecy about its contents but opinion has been circulated that a firm stand has been taken against the protest concerning the Concordat.

On the same question of the Concordat's promises, Mgr. von Preysing, Bishop of Berlin, issued a pastoral letter exhorting parents to assert their rights more forcibly concerning the religious education of their children.

Speaking in Lustgarten, Berlin, on May 1, Herr Hitler began : " Bend or be broken, it must be one thing or the other. (Enormous applause.) We will not tolerate that this authority, the authority of the German people. be challenged by any other authority whatsoever."

" This applies also to all the churches. As long as they occupy themselves with religious questions, the State will not interfere. But, if they try by any means at all, either by writings, by encyclical letters, etc., to claim rights that belong to the State, we shall drive them back to their own domain —that of administering to souls." (Prolonged and enthusiastic applause.)

" They have no reason to criticise the morale of the State when they have every reason to be occupied with their own morality," Centres of Immorality Following upon Hitler's comments, come those of news commentators in the VOlkishcher Beobachter who conclude from the evidence of the " immorality " trials against priests and religious that the system of monasteries is wrong. They are centres of immorality and perversity, says the writer,

d. some kind of intervention by the Nazi State is necessary.

The same paper threatens that if Catholics continue to criticize National Socialism, extracts from those immorality trials will be

broadcast over the radio. All this is obviously a particularly infamous method of propaganda and it does much wrong to the Church, especially among the youth.

The Nazi press alleges that more than one thousand (1) priests and religious will be tried for immorality crimes and offences. That is a gigantic exaggeration. It is, of course, difficult to say without special knowledge where such offences have really been committed and where the trial is a put-up job.

In one of those trials the Bishop of Mayence refused to give evidence about a certain monastery where a scandal had happened. For anybody who knows Canon Law it is obvious that the Bishop was obliged to take that attitude whatever the facts may have been. But the Nazi press attacks the Bishop and accuses him of COMplicity.

Explanatory Anecdote Let me quote one example of Nazi propaganda exploiting the alleged " immorality" of the clergy, which in that case, as in many others, was an odious lie. The A ugsburger Nationalzeitung, which is an official daily newspaper of the Nazi party, published on December 5, 1936, an article signed by its editor-in-chief, Dr. Seewald, describing a visit in the concentration camp of Dachau. He tells of a conversation with a tall prisoner : " Why are you here?"

Answer : "Because of unnatural sexual offences."

"What are you by profession?"

Answer : " A Catholic priest." " Where have you studied?"

Answer : " In Innsbruck, in the study centre of the Jesuits."

" Where else have you been?"

Answer " In Rome. I was a liaison agent between Moscow and the Vatican."

Then Dr. Seewald goes on : " I was wholly disconcerted. But the commander of the concentration camp who had come with me nodded with his head: Yes, that is so. The man has spoken the truth.'"

Not a Priest That story was immediately reprinted by other papers and quoted in innumerable Nazi meetings. Thereupon the Klerusblatt, a bulletin of the Bavarian clergy, made inquiries and published the result: The concentration camp of Dachau had answered upon the inquiry that there was no Catholic priest in the camp. That communication was read from the pulpits in those places where Dr. Seewald's lie had been printed or told. The Augsburger Nationalzeitung called that " a systematic incitation from the pulpit against the National Socialist State."

Thereupon Dr. Seewald had so many letters of protest that he was compelled to make new inquiries. He announced that the man in question was not a priest, but that he had studied theology and then given up the ecclesiastical career. He said not a woixl about the absurd allegation of the re lations between Moscow and the Holy See, via that mysterious man whom he met in the concentration camp.

All efforts of Catholics to learn the name of that man so that further inquiries could be made were in vain.

The Dean of Eichstaett Cathedral preached a courageous sermon about this matter. The Nazis replied by banning him from the diocese. Thereupon the Bishop ordered him to remain where he was and eventually the Bishop gained his point.

Testing " Loyal Germans"

Mgr. von Preysing, Bishop of Berlin, has delivered a pastoral letter to all the congregations of Berlin on the education question. In this appeal, the Bishop reminded parents not only of their duty but also of their right, guaranteed by the Concordat, of religious education for their children.

" The moment has come to discover if the ' loyal German ' really merits the name, and if the word of a chancellor has any value.'" On Tuesday morning Cardinal Pacelli replied to Herr Hitler's note of April 15. The document was a protest against the Pope's encyclical regarding the Concordat.

Although the greatest reserve is maintained in the Vatican about the contents of the Holy See's reply, it. is understood that it takes exception to the assertions made by Herr Hitler that National Socialism in Germany had saved the Church from Bolshevism and that the Catholic Church is only a small minority in Germany.

Church's Valuable Work

The Holy See claims that the Church also saved the Reich from the dangers of Bolshevism. its members, far from being an insignificant minority, consist of one-third of the population of the Reich. Moreover they are patriotic Germans as well as good Catholics.

The letter is said to be couched in terms conciliatory but firm.

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