Mit Brennender Sorge

fascistMonday in Holy Week, 1937 … by Fr Hunwicke was brought to my attention by an e-mail from Dr Tighe, with the title Fr. Hunwicke “Gets Political”. I don’t see him getting political so much as rather being a little uncritical about the view put about by Roman Catholic conservatives and traditionalists that we have a choice between the euphemism of “the social kingship of Christ”, in reality the Papacy and its chosen two-bit dictators with Latino moustache, Havana cigar, snazzy uniforms, hundreds of medals and sunglasses – or the Nazi hell as reigned from 1933 until its defeat and the reconstruction of Germany.

Pius XI was the Pope of Christ the King, and one can have certain sympathies for this imagery expressed by the feast of the Epiphany and events like the Transfiguration. I do think that Christ can be seen carrying an allegorical meaning of the King, the anointed one who would lead through love and example rather than worldly power and bullying. We English treasure our Queen, who has reigned for a lot longer than I have been alive. She is a constitutional Monarch – and I think that fact makes her rule over us that much more spiritual and human through her personality.

The encyclical of Pius XI merits being read – Mit Brennender Sorge. Like Fr Hunwicke, I wish my German was better than it is, so I give it in English here. There are two fundamental themes, the evil of an ideology based on race hatred and the so-called Ubermensch – and the question of whether we are to be ruled by Hitler or Christ. A wrongly understood notion of Christ as a king has given rise to the cult-like situation in the Society of St Pius X. By reductio ad absurdam, the real Christian kind of rule would involve a ruthless dictator like Franco or Pinochet, and with rebels and protesters being arrested by the secret police, imprisoned and executed without trial.

How do we recover a more allegorical notion of this kingship? What did Christ himself say?

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

He did not affirm Pilate’s question, but nor did he deny it. He turned the meaning towards the truth of his word and teaching rather than a temporal authority in competition against that of the Roman occupation and Herod. He who preached the Beatitudes and taught that the lowly of this world would be the first in the kingdom of heaven would not behave like Franco or Pinochet. The Βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ is a concept that is totally different from the modern idea of monarchy or empire. I won’t go into the exegesis here, because others say it better than I, and there are loads of articles on the internet and books that go into the Greek words and the Hebrew from which they were translated.

This will certainly be a part of our meditation on the passion of Christ and the Paschal Mystery. The notion of “Christian totalitarianism” is pernicious and dangerous, and constantly opposed to the notion of secularism or laïcité, whether American style or French style. In theory, American secularism respects all religions when there is no trouble to public order (an atrocity or a riot for example). French laïcisme tends to affirm freedom from religion, encouraging citizens to be atheists. The document on religion freedom of Vatican II was written by an American, in an attempt to colour the post-war situation in Europe with the Pax Americana. Now, in its turn, the Pax Americana is becoming a new expression of aggressive war and crimes against peace.

Times have moved on again. Hitler and Nazism are dead. The American ideology of hegemony in the world is wearing thin, and I admire President Putin for standing up to it in the name of peace and respect of the sovereignty of countries like Syria. I believe in the notion of religious freedom, including the freedom not to believe, but this ideology needs reform and adaptation to the present world. French Jacobinism and its overflows into the five Republics also is dead, and the message of men like Hollande and Sarkozy is hollow and meaningless.

I am afraid for the future in spite of any number of exhortations not to fear, but I cannot see Christianity as having any relevance in a globalist dystopia. If there is anything political to do, it is to dismantle empires and nations, and return to a human level. I don’t know how that can be done, but the mega-society cannot continue. Christianity is made for little communities where people know each other and who are fundamentally guided by good in spite of temptations to sin. We need to drop the slogans and come up with something original and real.

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5 Responses to Mit Brennender Sorge

  1. I didn’t get that e-mail, but I did read Fr Hunwicke’s post. All seems very old hat to me. I read “Mit Brennender Sorge” when I was a Sixth Former, and we had a debate in class about whether Pius XII “did enough,” during the War, to safeguard Jews against Nazi atrocities. In fact, the Nazis and the magic number “six million” came up so often in my history classes, from the nursery to the sixth form, and obviously to the detriment of most of world history (let alone British history), that I wonder sometimes who wrote the curriculum, and in whose interest. I learned nothing at school about Magna Carta, or the first parliament of Simon de Montfort; or the Tudor revolution in government. Very little about the War of the Three Kingdoms. Nothing about the Habeas Corpus act, or the Glorious Revolution, the Bill of Rights, and so much else that I had to read in the library. No, as I recall, most “history” that we studied at school my father once described as “well, that wasn’t really ‘history’ when I was at school.” And is it really history, or just fabrication by conspirators working in the interest of Zionists?

  2. Stephen K says:

    Whatever the merits of the encyclical at the time, Father Hunwicke’s final sentence shows he can’t be taken seriously.

    • Comparing everything to Hitler and Nazism is usually a sign of very bad judgement. It is usually called Godwin’s Law (also see Reductio ad Hitlerum). I see no evidence of Obama, however much we might oppose him for political reasons, running a full-blown totalitarian regime with SS and Gestapo. He is not committing genocide or sending large numbers of “undesirables” to concentration camps and having them mass-killed. If we make comparisons of this kind, we deserve to lose all credibility.

      Nazism had its chance to revive in South America in the late 1940’s to about the mid 60’s. It never happened and Nazism is absolutely dead. Neo-Nazism is confined to hordes of unintelligent and undisciplined yobs.

  3. Timothy Graham says:

    I suspect that Fr Hunwicke is really using Mit Brennender Sorge to vent disappointment at the current pontiff, his cosiness with Obama and media types, and his seeming inability to see or condemn the use of soft totalitarianism (which can take away your job, your cabinet or teaching post etc.) for saying the wrong kind of thing in public, so that a climate of pervading disapproval is created in which stating Christian mores is taboo. This might be the start of something more overtly unpleasant, and it has seeped into mainstream churches as well.

    • This is a tendency of all institutional churches that depend on public money and prestige: ride piggyback on whatever tendency is in place to gain respect through a “humanitarian” message. So very Jesuit too. See the film The Mission and the way Cardinal Altamirano had to compromise his conscience to avoid the Jesuits being closed down by the King of Portugal blackmailing the Pope.

      This is one advantage of the separation of Church and State and secularism. Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. The Church has to get used to being poor and doing things by spiritual means. It isn’t simple, because most religious people go to the mainstream churches because they are afraid to go against the grain, or are totally indifferent to anything.

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