Burleigh Defends the Pope

Friday, September 17, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

My second favorite living historian, Michael Burleigh, who has written stunningly original works on subjects as diverse as Nazi Germany, religion and politics in the last two centuries,  terrorism, and morality and World War II,  has taken up the cudgels against the despicable attitude of many Brits of the chattering classes regarding the visit of the Pope to the Island next to Ireland.

Under normal circumstances, one might say “welcome” rather than “receive”. But the multiple sexual scandals that have afflicted parts of the Catholic Church have created a window of opportunity for sundry chasers of limelight – including human rights militants, crusading gays, Islamist fanatics, and celebrity God-botherers – to band together to “arrest” the Pope under laws so obscure that few knew they existed. Because child abuse is involved, rather than the more widespread phenomenon of homosexual predation on young men, these manifestations will receive much media attention, especially from the BBC, to the guaranteed perplexity of a less involved general public in a nominally Protestant country. It will require some effort of mind to tune out this noise to hear what the Pope will be saying.

Read the rest of this entry »





Social Sin

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

Justice exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable. – Proverbs 13:34

Is there such a thing as a “social sin”? It is out of a respect for my friend Brendan/Darwin that I want to examine and critique his rejection of the idea of social sin, with which I partially agree, but which I believe also leaves out some crucial facts. This is not a point against Brendan/Darwin, since I don’t believe he intended his post to be a treatise on the issue. It is rather a point in his favor, since his general considerations give us the opportunity to explore the question in greater detail.

It must be said at the outset that there are obviously different things that one might mean by “social sin.” Brendan/Darwin begins his argument with the observation that there are those who become “frustrated” with the emphasis many Christians place on individual failings to the neglect of “social or political sin.” There is a significant difference, however, between social and political behavior. My intention is not to split-hairs in order to undermine a valid point (which it is), but rather to highlight the extent to which society and the body politic have become indistinguishable from one another. In my recent essay on the social effects of abortion, I make a distinction between organic and artificial social bonds; the former are those that necessarily follow from man’s social nature, while the latter are those created through politics, i.e. laws. Because we are imperfect and often malicious beings, some artificial authority will always be required for men to attain “the highest good.” But human laws are not foundational – they are supplemental to natural and divine laws, or at least they were in most places in the Western world until the 19th century.

Read the rest of this entry »


Blessed Bernard Lichtenberg and Courage

Sunday, February 14, 2010 \AM\.\Sun\.

“Our wholehearted paternal sympathy goes out to those who must pay so dearly for their loyalty to Christ and the Church; but directly the highest interests are at stake, with the alternative of spiritual loss, there is but one alternative left, that of heroism.” Pius XI from Mit Brennender Sorge

We Americans tend to be an outspoken lot.  We give voice to our opinions freely and many of us enjoy raucous debate, as can be seen on most American blog sites, including this one.  We are fortunate to live in a free society where there is no penalty for expressing ourselves.  But what if we didn’t live in a free society?  What if we lived in a vicious dictatorship where dissent is a one way trip to a concentration camp and then to an unmarked grave?  How many of us would then have the courage to speak out, especially if almost everyone else were keeping their heads down and not saying anything?  For many people throughout history this has not been a game of what if.

Born in Ohlau in the province of Silesia in Germany on December 3, 1875, Bernard Lichtenberg studied theology at the seminary in Innsbruck, Austria and was ordained a priest in 1899.  He served as a  priest in Berlin, becoming the parish priest of the Sacred Heart parish in the Berlin suburb of Charlottenburg in 1913.  Ever an energetic priest, he laid the foundations for five parishes and a monastery in Berlin.  Somehow he also found the time to be active in the Catholic Centre Party, and was for a time a member of the Berlin regional parliament after World War I.  He also carried out missionary and charitable works among the poor of Berlin.

He was made a canon of the Cathedral Chapter by the first Bishop of the newly created diocese of Berlin, Christian Schreiber, in 1931.  In 1932 he became pastor of Saint Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin.  He also attracted the ire of the Nazis by his support of the pacifist Peace League of German Catholics, and was denounced by Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels in the Nazi paper Der Angriff.

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Father Lichtenberg attempted unsuccessfully to convince Cardinal Bertram, the president of the German Bishop’s conference, to protest against the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.  In 1935 he protested to Herman Goering against the treatment of the Jews.  Goering denied everything and demanded that Lichtenberg be taken into “protective custody” for spreading lies about the German state.

In 1937 Father Lichtenberg helped to distribute clandestinely throughout Germany copies of the blistering condemnation of the Nazis by Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge.  After Kristallnacht, a Nazi led pogrom throughout Germany against the Jews, he said from the pulpit of Saint Hedwig’s:  ‘we know what happened yesterday. We do not know what tomorrow holds. However, we have experienced what happened today. Outside, the synagogue burns. That is also a house of God.’ From that time forward, Father Lichtenberg prayed publicly during evening prayers, in the heart of Nazi Germany, for the Jews and Christians of Jewish descent.

Read the rest of this entry »