Thursday 17 August 2017

Mitt Brennender Sorge On the Church and the German Reich - Pope Pius XI

Mitt Brennender Sorge:
On the Church and the German Reich
Pope Pius XI
ISBN 9781533189479

First published on March 10th 1937, but bore the date of Sunday March 14th Passion Sunday, this Papal encyclical made waves from the time it was released.  It was smuggled into Germany to be read on that holy Sunday, and unlike most church documents which were written in Latin this one was written in German. It was read from all German pulpits on Psalm Sunday March 21st 1937. I first encountered this book while reading Married Men as Ordained Deacons by Wilhelm Schamoni, a book that was mostly drafter and revised in the concentration camps. And after the events this past week in the United States I think is timely to write the review of this booklet.

This is a very powerful piece of writing, both when it was written and for us today. One of the most powerful sections in this piece is:

"8. Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community - however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things - whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds."
It has been stated that this encyclical condemned pantheistic confusion, neopaganism, and the myth of race and blood, and also that of idolizing of the State. The encyclical also declares "that man as a person possesses rights he holds from God, and which any collectivity must protect against denial, suppression or neglect." It is worth revisiting this book and the message within.

You can read this encyclical on the Vatican website or you can purchase the book or eBook. At the time of his death a two years after publishing this encyclical Pope Pius XI was working on another encyclical , Humani generis unitas (On the Unity of the Human Race), on the Church, anti-Semitism, racism and persecution of Jews. I have only tracked down excerpts from that draft and wish I could find it in its entirety, one except that I strongly belive we need to be reminded of today is:

"131. Those who have placed race illegitimately on a pedestal have rendered mankind a disservice. For they have done nothing to advance the unity to which humanity tends and aspires. One naturally wonders if this end is faithfully pursued by many of the principal advocates of a so-called racial purity or if their aim is not rather to forge a clever slogan to move the masses to very different ends. This suspicion grows when one envisages how many subdivisions of a single race are judged and treated differently by the same men at the same time. It is further increased when it becomes clear that the struggle for racial purity ends by being uniquely the struggle against the Jews. Save for its systematic cruelty, this struggle is no different in true motives and methods from persecutions everywhere carried out against the Jews since antiquity. These persecutions have been censured by the Holy See on more than one occasion, but especially when they have worn the mantle of Christianity."
I believe that the two combined are a much needed message again in 2017. And encourage you to give this encyclical a read, especially in light of recent events and the daily news.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

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