PODCAzT 142: It’s Nazi Germany, it’s 1937, you are Catholic, and you are afraid. Mit brennender Sorge!

pius xiFr. John Hunwicke, at his fine blog Mutual Enrichment, reminds us all that on this liturgical day, Monday of Holy Week, in 1937

… the Gestapo raided diocesan offices and presbyteries all over Germany. The previous day, Palm Sunday, when the churches were packed, priests all over Germany had read publicly the Encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge [=With Burning Sorrow – Anxiety – Concern] of the Holy Father Pope Pius XI…. It had been smuggled into Germany in the Nuncio’s Diplomatic Bag and secretly printed …; secretly distributed by special couriers and proclaimed in every pulpit. And nobody leaked it; at least, not in time for the government to intervene. It burst upon the Fuehrer and his admirers as the most wonderful surprise. Not many people in the state apparatus will have had much sabbath rest that Sunday, as arrangements were frantically made to secure all copies for destruction.

Mit brennender Sorge is amazing.  The letter is a masterpiece of rhetoric, aimed at building the resolve and courage of the whole Church which was experiencing ever greater persecution, ever greater restriction of and violation of religious freedom in direct violation of the concordat, the treaty that the State had legally ratified with the Church. Pius describes the problems that people were enduring and seeks to harden their resolve and console them in their suffering.

His word to young people are to be prized especially in our own day.

Indeed, this letter seems as if it could be aimed at our own decade.

And since letters of this kind are lacking today, when we need them, Mit brenneder Sorge is that much more precious a gift from our forebears!

Every once in a while, I read for you old encyclicals, with the hope that they will come alive for you who have never experienced their content and, especially, their style.

They don’t write them like this anymore!

As you listen, I’ll ask you to imagine yourself in a church in Germany on Palm Sunday 1937.

The horrors of the first world war and the poverty of economic devastation are still raw. The German Riech and National Socialist party is in the ascension. People are being rounded up and disappeared. Schools are being hijacked. Young people are being indoctrinated in evil disciplines. A nationalist paganism is being blended into everything the State does as it represses any rival. Huge numbers of your neighbors are caving or are being swept up by the trends. Society is on the ede of a knife. Hitler and his thugs are driving the Catholic presence from the public square. There had been a treaty a concordat signed between the German Reich and the Church, to guarantee the Church’s freedoms, but it is being systematically and blatantly ignored.

You are afraid… for yourselves, your children, your Church, your nation.

And so, Pius XI issued his encyclical, which had material from several contributers including Eugenio Card. Pacelli, former nuncio to German and future Pope Pius XII along with German Cardinal Michael Faulhaber and von Galen.

Imaginging yourself in the church on that Sunday, listen now to Pius XI’s words, read by the priest from the pulpit of your parish church…

Finally, I share another one of Fr. Hunwicke’s observations…

At one point, I even found myself fancifully wondering if the Sovereign Pontiff had looked prophetically into the future and discerned the shadowy figures of the Obamas of our own time. You will recall that at the heart of the project of the Obamas for destroying the Catholic Church is the slick and dirty legerdemain by which Freedom of Religion is replaced by Freedom of Worship; Circeian magic or a conjurer’s substitution trick which permits to Christians whatever silly jiggery pokery we like to get up to within our church buildings just as long as we don’t try to proclaim our Holy Faith in any public forum; just as long as we don’t have the impertinence to hope that the Law of Christthe King might be expressed, or even tolerated, by the laws of men.

Evil wears a different face and speaks a different patois in every different era. The smart thing is to be able to spot it despite the disguises.

Pius XI’s Mit Brennender Sorge is a condemnation of all the Obamas of all the ages.

For more on Pius XII v. Evil – HERE

UPDATE 22 March:

Today is the feast of Bl. Clemens August Card. von Galen, the Lion of Münster!

You can read about this amazing man, who especially fought the euthanasia policies of the Nazi Reich.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for this. Eloquent and timely………

  2. Marlon says:

    I am reading Church of Spies, so this could not have come at a better time. Thank you, Father.

    [An amazing read!]

    Riebling Church of Spies


  3. Phil_NL says:

    Blessed Clemens August von Galen, pray for us!


  4. Pingback: Monday of Holy Week Seventy-Nine Years Ago – The American Catholic

  5. NBW says:

    Thank you Father Z. Very timely. You did a wonderful job on the editing, especially the music and the encyclical beginning in German. It was like time traveling to Germany in 1937!

  6. steve51b31 says:

    Years ago, I wrote a thesis on issues contributing to the Kultur Kampf some 60 years prior. The subsequent impacts, which caused harsh impacts on the Catholic community in the newly unified Germany, also lead to huge out migrations of Catholics, especially to the US.
    I wonder that such a loss of the weight of the Catholic voice in the politics of Germany, then contributed to the intransigence leading to WWI and then to the horrors of WW II .
    One can imagine the “von Galen’s” of Germany, supported by millions more voices, stopping national socialism.

    Flash forward to today, where the voices of the Church are muted and not unified with Bishops, some of whom may be more unified with the world than with Christ.

  7. jaykay says:

    steve51b31 says: “One can imagine the “von Galen’s” of Germany, supported by millions more voices, stopping national socialism.”

    They did their best, though. I recall seeing some time ago (perhaps on this site?) a map showing the distribution of votes by religious adherence in the last free elections in Germany, in 1933. It’s well known that the Nazis never actually had a majority, of course, but very interestingly it showed that the Catholic areas, Bavaria, Rhineland etc. were the most anti-Nazi.

  8. Glennonite says:

    Wow. Thank you; may these words steel us against our current times.

  9. VexillaRegis says:

    Today, the 22nd, is Clemens August von Galen’s day! You can read more about the Lion of Münster here: https://catholicsaintsguy.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/its-not-cheesy-to-like-this-blessed-from-munster/

    “Before he returned to Germany, Cardinal von Galen visited German POWs at camps in Taranto and Bari, Italy, and during his talks to prisoners, he seemed to prophecy his death. He told them, “My time is almost over, and when I’m up there, just speak to me.””

  10. jameeka says:

    Danke schön, Father Z, outstanding podcaZt of an amazing encyclical. I fear we are being boiled so slowly we won’t realize when the religious persecution is really hot.

  11. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    Greich-Polelle tends to be biased against the Church. The title of her book should reveal her sloppiness: Von Galen was elevated to Cardinal in 1946.

    Very people take seriously the idea that Pius XI, in 1928, could have mobilized all Catholics in the United States, who were a fraction of the total population, have them impose their will on the majority, and get Al Smith, a Catholic, elected president.

    Yet lots of people think the popes had the power to mobilize all German Catholics, who were only one-third of the German population, against a brutal police state and bring the Nazis too their knees.

    Some critics of the popes, both inside and outside the Church, fault them for not using methods they usually condemn: (1) placing “Mein Kampf” on the Index of forbidden books and (2) not excommunicating Catholics (even the lapsed ones) who were involved in Nazism. It should be noted the 1949 excommunication applied only to Catholics who were “freely and knowingly” supporting Communism. It didn’t apply to Catholics in Communist countries subject state coercion (and worse.)

    You often hear the question why Pius XII excommunicated Communists in 1949 but not the Nazis. Those who make this criticism never check their dates. The Bolshevik Revolution was in 1918, and the various Communist parties in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States were established within a few years.

    So … the Vatican waited 30 years to excommunicate the communists.

    I understand Prof. Rodney Stark, an agnonist, will briefly touch on the Pius XII in his forthcomig book, “Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History” (Templeton Press).

  12. Dimitri_Cavalli says:


  13. Gus Barbarigo says:

    For those whose German is rusty, an English translation of the encyclical (sorry if it’s already been linked-to):


  14. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z’s reading of Mit Brennender Sorge was outstanding. For what it’s worth, here’s a few notes.

    The Encyclical opens with a reference to St. Boniface, who of course chopped down a tree sacred to pagan Germanic tribes c. 8th century, followed (#4) by Pius’s remarks on the Church’s planting of a tree of peace. To use a baseball term Pius XI delivered at the start a little anti-pagan “chin music” to the National Socialists.

    With Jonah Goldberg’s excellent book Liberal Fascism in mind (though Goldberg may have misunderstood Rerum Novarum) there are interesting parallels between 1937 and today.

    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…

    Whoever wishes to see banished from church and school the Biblical history and the wise doctrines of the Old Testament, blasphemes the name of God, blasphemes the Almighty’s plan of salvation, and makes limited and narrow human thought the judge of God’s designs over the history of the world…

    Every true and lasting reform has ultimately sprung from the sanctity of men who were driven by the love of God and of men. Generous, ready to stand to attention to any call from God, yet confident in themselves because confident in their vocation, they grew to the size of beacons and reformers. On the other hand, any reformatory zeal, which instead of springing from personal purity, flashes out of passion, has produced unrest instead of light, destruction instead of construction, and more than once set up evils worse than those it was out to remedy.

    You will need to watch carefully, Venerable Brethren, that religious fundamental concepts be not emptied of their content and distorted to profane use.

    Thousands of voices ring into your ears a Gospel which has not been revealed by the Father of Heaven. Thousands of pens are wielded in the service of a Christianity, which is not of Christ. Press and wireless daily force on you productions hostile to the Faith and to the Church, impudently aggressive against whatever you should hold venerable and sacred.

    What We object to is the voluntary and systematic antagonism raised between national education and religious duty.

    I misplaced a note, at some point Pius XI asks us to “square our faith and conduct.”

    We are sure, the enemies of the Church, who think that their time has come, will see that their joy was premature, and that they may close the grave they had dug. The day will come when the Te Deum of liberation will succeed to the premature hymns of the enemies of Christ…

    According to one WWII book whose title eludes me, sixty thousand copies of Mit Brennender Sorge were airdropped into Germany by French and British aircraft during the Phony War of 1939-40.

    The powers and principalities of this age, advancing a hybrid and diabolical gospel of National Socialism and Communism, and their legions of “useful idiots” (Lenin’s words) would benefit from an attentive reading of this encyclical. So would the many in the news, entertainment, and “education” industries who persist in attacking Jesus Christ and His Church.

    On a separate but related note, some news outlets are abuzz the last few days about a German railway company that is planning segregated female-only train cars to reduce sexual assaults by recent migrants.

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