Let’s take a step back from the increasingly vulgar circus that is our national political process in 2016. Sordid revelations will continue to flow like fetid sewage as various political contests draw closer to Election Day.
The sideshow theatrics are a powerful distraction and tempt us to lose focus.
Once way to gain some perspective is to travel back in history and visit a country facing their own turbulent election period that would have seismic repercussions for that nation, the Church and the entire world.
Enter the Time Machine
It’s the early 1930’s and elections are being held in the Republic of Germany. A number of different political groups are competing for seats in the German Parliament or Reichstag. The Nazis were just one of a number of political parties that included Catholics, anti trade union monarchists, socialists, and communists.
For those who listened closely to the speeches and writings of the Nazi party and their candidates, and the violent actions of their brown shirted thugs, it was clear that once in power the Nazis planned to persecute, exile, and kill as many Jews as possible. In addition, their twisted theories of racial purity threatened not only the Jews, but those with mental and physical disabilities. A Nazi led government will view their non-German neighbors (especially the Poles and Slavs) as slaves to build the mythical Third Reich. It was also clear to those who closely studied their ideology, that Nazi philosophy was incompatible with and hostile to orthodox Christianity.
The Catholic Centre Party (BVP) was formed in Germany in 1871. Originally the party sought to defend Catholic interests against the predominantly Protestant policies of Otto von Bismarck. Given events in Russia and the persecution and famine directed against the Catholic population of the Ukraine in the 1920’s and 1930’s, there was understandable concern about radical left wing movements and their hatred of the private ownership of property and the Catholic Church.
Even with the continued ominous spread of atheistic communism, the Catholic Church in Germany also recognized the threat that Nazi philosophy posed to the faithful:
Into the early 1930s the German [Catholic]Centre Party, the German Catholic bishops, and the Catholic media had been mainly solid in their rejection of National Socialism. They denied Nazis the sacraments and church burials, and Catholic journalists excoriated National Socialism daily in Germany’s 400 Catholic newspapers. The hierarchy instructed priests to combat National Socialism at a local level whenever it attacked Christianity.
Tragically, the Christian faith was having a diminished influence in public life as the Nazi’s rose to power. Pressure from the anti-Christian and anti-Catholic forces of the left and right lessened the influence of the Church on individuals and in the wider culture. Church attendance dropped in post WWI Germany with materialism, hedonism and a renewed interest in pagan mysticism on the rise.
In a series of elections held in an atmosphere of increasing violence, intimidation and social unrest, Adolf Hitler became chancellor in January 1933. With Nazi paramilitary forces surrounding the Reichstag, Hitler pressured its members to support the Enabling Bill which would give him dictatorial powers. Hitler offered guarantees of the Catholic Centre Party’s continued existence and the autonomy of the Church, her educational and cultural institutions. On the 23rd March, 1933, all members of the Catholic Centre Party in the Reichstag approved the Enabling Bill giving Hitler totalitarian control of the German nation.
The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), and Germany’s vice chancellor, Franz von Papen, formally signed a concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich on July 20, 1933.  Though the intention was to protect the rights of German Catholics to practice their faith without interference of the Nazi Government, for some Catholic leaders and laity, this signaled a softening of the Churches opposition to National Socialism.
A Catholic Prophet in Exile
Dietrich von Hildebrand, a German citizen saw clearly as the Nazis and Hitler rose to power, that this movement was fueled by a diabolical evil. He understood that the Nazi ideology was a perverse and grave threat to the German people, the Catholic Church as well as any perceived enemies of the regime.
Alice Von Hildebrand writes about her husband’s anguish with Hitler’s rise to power and the signing of the Vatican Concordat:
He feared that this accord would mislead Catholics, and unfortunately he was right. His grief was boundless. He had freely chosen exile, abandoning everything that he possessed because he refused to live in a country “headed by a criminal.” He knew that the Church’s mission was to denounce evil—independently of whether the victims were Roman Catholics or Jews or anyone else. So he was shattered upon finding that at the German Bishops’ Conference in Fulda in 1933, most German bishops—betraying their God-given mission—were either slumbering (like the apostles in Gethsemane), plainly cowards, or infected by the Nazi virus. History repeats itself. In the City of God, St. Augustine laments the conduct of bishops who did not protect their sheep…
When the concordat was signed, Dietrich von Hildebrand declared that this document had less worth than the piece of paper on which it was written. He was right. Soon, as expected, it was trampled upon.
— Alice von Hildebrand – Catholic Answers
Soon millions of Jews, the mentally and physically disabled, Catholics and other Christians would go on to face abuse, torture, violence and death in Nazi concentration camps and all across war-torn Europe and Russia.
Back to the USA 2016 – A Catholic Concordat with Abortion?
After 43 years of legalized abortion, as we come to another Election Day in November, has the Catholic Church in the United States signed its own Concordat with abortion? Have we made peace with legalized abortion and accommodated to this reality?
There are many Catholic and Christian leaders that look at our upcoming elections and present the issue of abortion as one among a number of important issues such as human sexuality, religious liberty, marriage and the family, social justice for the poor, the death penalty and concern about the environment.
They see seriously flawed candidates and express misgivings about both political parties. Some claim it is morally acceptable to sit out this election or vote third party because of the inadequacy of certain candidates. Some clergy and laity claim that the one can evaluate candidates on a number of equally important issues, such as the death penalty and immigration and not just abortion, when they enter the voting booth.
But is abortion simply another issue for voters to consider on Election Day?
Given the massive numbers of deaths from the procedure, and the emotional and spiritual wounds of all who participate in the death of the unborn, abortion is the greatest evil in the history of the human family and is indeed the preeminent social justice issue of our times.
We are now a country where a publicly funded institution, Planned Parenthood rips apart later term babies in the womb, without anesthesia, and harvests their unborn baby organs and parts for sale and experimentation. We are a nation where the majority of its disabled citizens are murdered in the womb.
Making Peace with the Devil
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the founding architects of legalized abortion in the U.S. who later became pro-life, has said that he and his pro-abortion allies would never have gotten away with what they did if the clergy had been united, purposeful, and strong.
Some points to consider, not in self righteous accusation, but in humble and honest acknowledgement of our collective failure as a Church, clergy and laity, to limit and end this carnage against the unborn:
– The decision of many Bishops to avoid public conflict with pro abortion politicians is a sensitive pastoral concern. However, does the continued reception of the sacraments by radically pro-abortion politicians communicate that one can be a Catholic in good standing and support pro abortion legislation and policies? Is this in any way similar to the confusion after the concordat of the Vatican with the Nazi regime that the church had softened its opposition to National Socialism?
– While the Church clearly opposes the practice of abortion, does the concern of remaining an institution in good standing with the government and the IRS inhibit the Churches mission to end abortion? Does a fear of appearing partisan in the political process prevent us from aggressively promoting the primacy of the pro-life cause?
-Has the Church in this country signaled to the laity and clergy that abortion is here to stay; there are many pressing issues that need attention and we need to stay out of the political fray and live at peace with the current regime?
The Gathering Darkness
We are at another historical crossroads, like Germany in the early 1930’s, when our choice of local and national candidates of all parties will determine the direction of our nation and world for years to come.
Yet, even after 60 million abortions in the United States alone, we are divided as a Church, here in the U.S. and around the world about the primacy of the pro-life cause when assessing a politician or political party.
With the death of each unborn child by abortion, our vision dims, hearts are hardened as our cynical culture becomes increasingly violent, perverse and nihilistic. Our current political climate reflects the growing darkness of our times.
Those of us in the ministry of defending life and healing the wounds of abortion at Priests for Life implore the religious leaders and the citizens of this great nation to resist the temptation to be distracted by the media circus that surrounds this election period.
We can no longer accommodate and live peacefully with the evil of abortion. If there is an unspoken “concordat” with abortion – it must end.
Vote for candidates in your local, state and national elections (even those that are less than ideal and have various flaws) that will begin to reduce the destruction of unborn children with the goal of ending this national nightmare.
Let us be united in prayer and vote for those candidates that are most likely to support and advance pro life legislation, appoint judges and other personnel that will respect human life, and have a reasonable chance of winning.