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
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
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
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
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
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
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 . . . . . . .