Chastising the Church in Germany

In concluding this matter [of the conduct of the churches under Hitler's Nazi Germany ] it seems to me necessary to draw up some guidelines for German clerics and theologians in order to teach them the elements of Christianity. Naturally, that would be an enormous task, so to keep the matter in check, I will limit myself to the traditional ten points.

Point 1:  As first guideline, a sentence from [Father Alfred Delp, executed by the Nazi government in February 1945], which is to be considered as the guiding principle for everything here: "Arrogance anywhere near the Church is objectionable—and never more so when it occurs in the name of the Church, or worse, actually as part of the Church herself." [fn]

Point 2:  This is not from Delp, it is from me: By the grace of the Word man will be elevated above his nature. The word of revelation has not gone forth to give clerics and theologians the opportunity of debasing man below his nature.

Point 3:  Christ is the head of the corpus mysticum, which in- cludes all men from the beginning of the world to its end. He is not the president of a special-interest club.

Point 4:  To be a Christian does not relieve one of the duty of being a human being.

Point 5:  It would be good to read the whole of chapter 13 of the Letter to the Romans and to think it over carefully. Whoever subjects himself to this discipline will lose the desire to quote the first verse on its own [everyone should be subject to authority] and, with that, to get up to political mischief.

Point 6:  It would be good to read the fourth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother," before asserting—as can be read in the pastoral letters of the German episcopate—that it commands reverence of state authorities and obedience to their laws. Clerics and theologians, even when the Spirit blows in the direction exactly opposite to theirs, should at least not falsify the words of the texts entrusted to them.

Point 7:  This is related to the Erlangen [theological faculty opinion which employed the term: "historic-völkisch structure"]: Father of gymnastics [Friedrich Ludwig] Jahn [who developed the term "Volkstum"] is not a church father.

Point 8:  In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, verse 3, it says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit"; it does not say, "Blessed are the weak in the head."

Point 9:  Regarding the relationship between Christians and Jews, that verse of John Donne I read out to you in another lecture is to be learned by heart. I quote it once again—it cannot be quoted often enough:

Spit in my face you Jewes, and pierce my side,
Buffet, and scoffe, scourge, and crucifie mee . . .
They kill'd once an inglorious man, but I
Crucifie him daily, being more glorified.

Point 10:  And as tenth point, to learn off by heart the prophet Ezekiel, chapter 33, verses 7-9 [RSV]. I am reading it out to you. God is speaking to the prophet, to Ezekiel:

So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

Instructions for use of these guidelines: Lower clergy, copy it out daily ten times; bishops and theologians, daily a hundred times; theologians who have received a Cross of Merit from the Federal Republic, daily two hundred times, until they have got it.

FN. Alfred Delp, Im Angesicht des Todes: Geschrieben zwischen Verhaftung und Hinrichtung, 1944-1945 (Frankfurt: Verlag Josef Knecht, 1963). Translated as The Prison Meditations of Father Alfred Delp (New York: Herder and Herder, 1963). BACK TO TEXT

FN. [by fjw]. But see: recent Church pronouncement, DOMINUS IESUS footnoted at the end of the fifth part on The Church and Humanity.

CW VOL 31,
Chapter 5
Descent into the Ecclesiastical Abyss
-The Catholic Church
§ 34."Guidelines" for German Clerics and Theologians,
pp 199-201.