History is a great teacher, sometimes in unusual and very personal ways. Here’s an example.
Reading the Reichskonkordat (“Reich concordat” with the German state) today, 85 years after its 1933 signing, sparks some interesting thoughts. Structured as a treaty to govern the relations between the Holy See and German government, the text is remarkably positive. It’s also thorough. As deals go, this was a good one. The state got a stable legal relationship with a well-organized, potentially troublesome, and internationally connected religious minority. The Church got protection for her people.
Passages - Text - Article - Church - Reich
A few problematic passages in the text do exist. Article 14.2 obliges the Church to consult the German Reich on the appointment of archbishops and coadjutors. Article 16 requires new bishops to take an oath of loyalty to the state. But details like these weren’t unknown in Europe’s historical context. The concordat’s guarantees of Church freedom to profess and practice the Catholic faith, and to pursue Catholic education and social ministries without interference, are extensive, explicit, and generous.
They were also empty. The Reich began violating the deal almost as soon as the ink on the treaty was dry. State pressure on Church life was so harsh by 1937 – just four years later — that Pius XI’s encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge (“With burning concern”) had to be smuggled into the country. It was read from all of Germany’s pulpits on Palm Sunday of that year. In it, the Holy Father condemned the Reich’s (Nazi-directed) neo-paganism, race hatred, “Aryanized” Christianity, widespread attack on human rights, and contempt for the Old Testament. In response, the state simply doubled down on its pressure.
Lesson - Devil - Proverb - Spoon - Idea
What’s the lesson here? It’s this: If you sup with the devil (so the proverb warns), you’d better bring a long spoon. It’s probably a bad idea in the first place.
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"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift