SERMON DELIVERED BY BISHOP CLEMENS AUGUST COUNT OF GALEN ON JULY 13, 1941
AT THE CHURCH OF ST. LAMBERT, MUENSTER
My dear Catholics of St. Lambert:
Today I had intended to speak my personal episcopal message from the pulpit of the town and market church concerning the events of the past week, and especially to express my very deep sympathy to my former congregation. The devastation and losses have been particularly great in certain parts of the parish of St. Lambert's, though also in other parts of the town. I hope that some of the distress will be alleviated by the efforts of the municipal and state authorities and also by your brotherly love and the results of today's collections for the Charitable Fund and the Parish charity.
I had made up my mind to speak a few words about the purpose of these visitations, how God tries by this means to call us back to Himself. God wants to call Munster to him. How truly our forefathers were at home with God and in God's holy Church! How entirely their lives were borne up by faith in God, led by the fear and the love of God, public life as well as family and society life! Has it been thus in our own days? God wants to fetch Munster home to Himself!
I had meant to speak to you on these lines today but I must leave that aside now, for I find it necessary to speak here publicly for another matter, a terrible occurrence which overtook us yesterday at the end of this week of horror.
The whole of Munster is still beneath the shadow of the terrible devastation which the outside enemy and opponent in war has caused us during the past week, and yesterday, on July 12, 1941, the secret Police took possession of the two settlements of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Order in our town, Haus Sentmaring on the Weselerstrasse, and the Ignatiushaus in the Konigstrasse, drove the inmates out of their property, forced the priests and brothers immediately on the same day to leave not only our town, but also the provinces of Westphalia and Rhineland. And the same hard fate was yesterday imposed also on the Sisters in the Steinfurtherstrasse. Their house too was confiscated and they must leave Westphalia and Munster by 6 this evening. The houses and properties of the Order with inventory were taken over for the "Gauleitung" of Northern Westphalia.
So now the storming of the monasteries, which has already raged long in the Ostmark, in South Germany, in the newly acquired territories, in the Warthegau, in Luxemburg, in Lorraine and in other parts of the country, has broken out here in Westphalia. We must expect such alarming items of news to pile up in the next few days, when one monastery after another is confiscated by the Gestapo, when its inmates, our brothers and sisters, children of our families, faithful German citizens, are thrown into the streets like worthless rascals, chased from the country like criminals, and at that time when all the trembles before new night attacks which kill us all, which can make every one of us homeless refugees; then innocent, highly respected men and women beloved by many are driven out of their modest possessions, and German citizens, fellow townsmen in Munster, are turned into homeless refugees.
Why? I was told: for state-political reasons! No further reasons were given. Not one inhabitant of these monasteries has been accused of any offense, or brought before law or condemned. And if any one were guilty, then let him be brought before the law. But should the innocent also be punished?
I ask you, before those whose eyes the Jesuit brothers and the sisters of the Immaculate have for years led their quiet lives devoted only to the honour of God and the welfare of their fellow human beings: who thinks these men and women guilty of any punishable offense? Who dares to bring an accusation against them? Let him who dares, prove it. Not even the Gestapo has brought such an accusation, let alone a court of justice. I bear witness here publicly as Bishop to whom is entrusted the supervision of the Orders, that I have the greatest respect for the quiet, unassuming Missionary Sisters of Wilkinhege who are today being driven out. They were founded by my very honored episcopal friend and fellow countryman the Bishop Amandus Bahlmann, who started the Order mainly for the Mission in Brazil, in which he, earning the gratitude of Germans in Brazil, worked untiringly up to the time of his death three years ago.
I bear witness as a German man and as bishop that I have the greatest respect and admiration for the Jesuit Order which I have known from my earliest youth and for 50 years from close observation; that I shall be bound to the Society of Jesus, my teachers and friends, in love and gratitude until my last breath, and that I have an even greater admiration for them now in this moment when Christ's prophecy to His disciples is again being fulfilled: "As they have persecuted me, so they will persecute you also. If you were of this world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of this world, but I have chosen you from the world, [sic] therefore the world hates you."
So I greet you with deep love from this place in the name of all faithful Catholics of the town of Munster and the Bishopric of Munster, as those chosen by Christ and hated by the world, as you go out into undeserved banishment.
May God reward them for all the good they have done for us! May God not punish us and our town for the unjust treatment and banishment which has been meted out to his disciples. May almighty God bring back our beloved brothers and sisters.
My dear diocesans! Because of the terrible visitations which have come upon us through enemy attacks, I meant to be silent in public over other recent measures taken by the Gestapo, which call for my public protest. But if the Gestapo takes no consideration for the events which make hundreds of our fellow citizens homeless, if just at this time they continue to throw innocent citizens into the streets and drive them from the country, then I can no longer hesitate to utter my just protest and earnest warning.
Often in recent times we have had the experience that Gestapo robbed innocent and highly respected Germans of their freedom without any sentence, drove them out of their homes and interned them somewhere. Within the last few weeks two of my closest advisors, members of the Chapter of our Cathedral, were suddenly fetched from their homes, taken away from Munster and banished to far away places where they were told to stay permanently. I have had no answer whatsoever to my protests to the Minister of State. But this much could be established by means of telephone inquiries from the Gestapo: there is no suspicion or accusation of any punishable act on the part of either of the members of the Cathedral Chapter. They have been punished by banishment without any guilt on their part, without any accusation or the possibility to defend themselves.
Christians, listen carefully! It has been officially confirmed to us that no accusation of any punishable act is made against the members of the Chapter, Vorwerk and Echelmeyer.. They have done nothing punishable, and yet they are punished with banishment.
And why? Because I have done something which did not please the Government. At the four appointments to the Cathedral Chapter in the last two years the Government informed me in three instances that the nominations were not acceptable. Because according to the Prussian Concordat of 1929 intervention on the part of the Government is specifically excluded, I completed the nominations in two out of the four cases. If it is thought that I have acted against the law, let me be brought before the law. I am certain that no independent German Court will be able to condemn me for my actions in filling the vacancies.
Is it for this reason that not a court of justice but the Gestapo, whose activities in Germany are unfortunately not subject to any legal examination, have been used? Every German citizen is entirely unprotected and defenceless in face of the physical superiority of the Gestapo- entirely defenceless and unprotected. That is a thing that my fellow Germans have discovered in recent years, as for instance our beloved teacher of religion, Friedrichs, who is held captive without trial and without sentence. Thus the two gentlemen of the Chapter who are in exile and thus also the members of our Orders, who yesterday and today have suddenly been driven out of their property and out of town and country.
No one of us is sure, however faithful and conscientious a citizen he may be and however convinced he may be of his own innocence, that he will not one day be fetched from his home, deprived of his liberty and locked up in the cellars and concentration camps of the Gestapo.
I am quite clear about that, it may happen to me, today, any day. Because I shall then no longer be able to speak publicly, I want today to give a public warning against continuing on this path which, according to my firm conviction, will bring God's judgment on humanity and will lead to misery and destruction for our people and our country.
If I protest against these measures and punishments by the Gestapo, if I publicly demand an end to these conditions and a juridical examination or the withdrawal of these Gestapo measures, then I am only doing what the Governor General, Minister of State Dr. Frank, did when he wrote in February of this year in the publication of the Academy for German Justice-- "We want that dependable balance of internal order which will not allow the penal code to be debased to absolute authoritarianism of the power to prosecute against the accused who is already condemned from the beginning and deprived of every means of defence. The law must give the individual the legal possibility of defence, of explaining the circumstances of the deed and thereby of security against arbitrariness and injustice... otherwise it is better not to speak of a penal code, but of penal force. It is impossible to combine the idea of the Building of Justice with that of condemnation without any manner of defence... It is our task, like others, to represent authority in every form, and to give expression to the fact that we have to defend courageously the authority of justice as an important part of a lasting power." Thus wrote the Minister of State, Dr. Hans Frank.
I am fully aware that I, as bishop and as exponent and defender of divinely appointed justice and moral order, which gives to each individual those original rights and that liberty before which it is God's will that all human opposition must cease; that I, like Minister Frank, am called to defend courageously the authority of justice and to condemn the undefended condemnation of innocent people as an injustice that cries out to Heaven.
Christians! The imprisonment of many innocent people without the opportunity of defence and without a court sentence; the case of two members of the Cathedral Chapter who have been deprived of their liberty; the dissolution of the monasteries and the banishment of the innocent members of their orders, our brothers and sisters; all these things cause me today to recall publicly the old truth: "Justitia est fundeamentum regnorum", justice is the only secure foundation of every form of government.
The right to live, to be unmolested, the right to liberty is an indispensable part of every ordered community life. Certainly the State is justified in limiting this right of its citizens by way of punishment; but this authority the State only has vis-à-vis offenders against the law whose guilt can be proved by means of impartial legal proceedings. The state which oversteps this divinely willed limit and allows or causes the punishment of innocent people, undermines its own authority and every regard for its sovereignty in the minds of the citizens.
Unfortunately during the last few years we have repeatedly had to observe that more or less heavy penalties, mostly in the form of deprivation of liberty, were imposed without any crime having been proved against the victims by a regular legal procedure, and without their being given the opportunity to defend their rights or to prove their innocence.
How many Germans are languishing in police detention or concentration camps, who were ejected from their homes, who were never condemned by a public court or who, after being acquitted by a court or after serving the sentence imposed by the court, have again been taken into custody by the Gestapo and held captive. How many have been driven out of their home and out of the place where they work! I recall again the Reverend Bishop of Rottenburg, Johannes Baptista Sproll, an old man of 70 years, who recently had to celebrate his 25-years jubilee as bishop far from his diocese, because three years ago the Gestapo turned him out of his bishopric. I mention once more the two members of our Cathedral Chapter, the Reverend Gentlemen Vorwerk mad Echelmeyer. I recall our most honoured teacher of religion, Friedrichs, who is languishing in a concentration camp. I will refrain from mentioning any further names today. The name of an evangelical man, who risked his life for Germany as a German officer and submarine commander during the World War, and who has for years been deprived of his liberty, is well known to all of you, and we have the greatest regard for the bravery and religious courage of this noble German. (Pastor Niemoller is meant-remark of the copier.)
From this example you can see, my Christians, that it is not merely a Catholic concern about which I speak to you publicly today, but a Christian, yes a human and national, a religious matter.
"Justice is the foundation of States"! We observe with great sorrow today how the foundation is being shaken, how justice, how natural and Christian virtue, indispensable for the ordered existence of every human community, is not being preserved and held up unmistakably recognizable for all. Not only because of the rights of the church, not only for the right of human personality, but also for love of our nation and in deep concern for our country, we ask, we demand: "Justice"! Who would not fear for the existence of a house when he sees the foundations being undermined?
"Justice is the foundation of states"! Only when the possessors of state power bow in reverence before the royal majesty of Justice and use the sword of retribution only in the service of Justice; only then can the power of the State stand with sincerity and the chance of lasting success before the illegal use of force by those who are accidentally the stronger, before the suppression of the weaker and their debasement to unworthy servitude.
That holder of office will be able to count on an honest following and the free service of honorable men, whose measures and Judgments prove themselves in the light of unbiased opinion to be far from all arbitrariness and weighed by the incorruptible scales of Justice. Therefore the practice of condemnation and punishment without the chance of defence, without sentence, "the undefended damnation of those who are already condemned beforehand", as Minister of State Frank called it, creates a feeling of being without rights, and a mental attitude of fearfulness and servile cowardice, which in the long run must ruin the character of a nation and tear up its feeling of unity.
This is the conviction and the sorrow of all right-minded German men and women. This was openly and courageously expressed by a high official of the law in the year 1937 in the "Reichsverwaltungsblatt". He wrote: - "The greater the absolute power of an authority, the greater is the need for a guarantee of unimpeachable dealings; because errors are felt more heavily, and the danger of arbitrariness and wrong use is greater. If recourse to administrative Justice is excluded, there must in every case be a regular way for unbiased control, so that there can be no feeling of lack of rights, which in any case would be bound in the long run to harm the feeling of national unity.
This recourse to administrative Justice is excluded in the penal measures of the Gestapo. As none of us know of any means for the unbiased control of the measures taken by the Gestapo, of their limitations of liberty, their prohibitions of residence, their arrests and their imprisonment of German citizens in concentration camps, therefore in the furthest parts of the German nation a feeling of lack of rights, yes, of cowardly fear, has already taken hold, which is causing great harm to German national unity.
The obligations of my episcopal office to protect moral order, and the obligation of the oath which I took before God and the representative of the Reich Government in which I promised to prevent with all my power any harm which might threaten the German State, force me in face of the deeds of the Gestapo to pronounce this fact in a public warning.
My Christians: It may be said against me that by this frank speech I am weakening the internal Front of the German people now in this time of war. In reply I state: It is not I who am the cause of any weakening of the internal front, but those who, regardless of war, regardless of external tribulation, here in Munster at the end of a terrible week of grim enemy attacks, impose heavy punishment on innocent citizens without sentence and without the chance to defend themselves, robbing our fellow-countrymen, our brothers and sisters, of their property, throwing them into the street and hunting them from the country! They destroy the security of right, they undermine the consciousness of right, they destroy faith in the government of our State! I therefore, in the name of the upright German people, in the name of the Majesty of Justice, in the interests of peace and the unity of the internal front, raise my voice; therefore I call aloud as a German man, as an honourable citizen, as representative of the Christian religion, as a Catholic bishop:
We demand Justice!
If this call remains unheard, then the reign of Queen Justice will not be restored, then our German nation and country will go to pieces through inner putrefaction and rotting, in spite of the heroism of our soldiers and their glorious victories!
Let us pray for all who are in need, especially for the exiled members of our Religious Orders, for our town of Munster, that God may withhold further trials from us, for our German nation and country and for its Leader-
Our Father . . . . . . .
Second Sermon of Bishop Clemens von Galen, July 20th, 1941
Third Sermon of Bishop Clemens von Galen, August 3, 1941, condemning "Mercy Killing"
More on Blessed Clemens von Galen
Fr Frank’s column – Blessed Denunciation
Op-ed: We Need More Like Clemens von Galen