Lest We Forget…!

by | Mar 15, 2017 | Church, Family Life, Parenting, Questions, Society, Spirituality, Teachings

“Lest We Forget…!”

The phrase above is one we adopt and use year in year out to recall with gratitude and solemnity the countless war dead who sacrificed their lives to defend and preserve our freedoms

There’s another “war” we must not forget… the war to fight for truth, goodness, justice and above all the natural and inalienable rights of parents to educate their children according to their conscientious beliefs. Nowhere was this more fiercely and forthrightly defended than by Pope Pius XI in his famous encyclical letter to German Catholics [before the start of the Second World War] -namely Mit Brennender Sorge [With Burning Sorrow]

It will be the 80th anniversary of this momentous document on Tuesday, March 14th. I think all parents, grandparents and priests who care about marriage and the family ought to revisit this document:

Mit Brennender Sorge – Encyclical of Pope Pius XI on the Church and the German Reich

We should make it more widely known those troubling times, both in state and church, where the rights of parents were ever more ignored or diminished. Here is some historical background.

In early 1933 after reluctantly signing the concordat with Hitler, a British diplomat asked Cardinal Pacelli [later Pius XII] whether Hitler would respect the concordat.

Pacelli replied: “Absolutely not. We can only hope that he will not violate all the clauses at the same time.”

And in fact, Hitler immediately began persecuting Catholics at every turn, so much so that the Holy See sent 50 protests to the government.

Despite the official protests, the Nazi persecution increased, in education, in the press, with the imprisonment of priests. By 1936, the German episcopal conference asked for public intervention. The archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, secretly composed the first draft. Pius XI signed the definitive text of the encyclical on March 14, 1937.

Printed copies were brought to the nuncio who passed these on to the bishop of Berlin, and had them distributed by secret couriers to all the German prelates. Twelve printers reproduced the text under the noses of the Gestapo. Several bishops had copies printed in the hundreds of thousands.

Afterward, again in total secrecy, the text was distributed to every parish priest, chaplain and convent.

The language was clear and explicit: Hitler was deceiving the Germans and the international community.

The encyclical affirmed that the Nazi leader was perfidious, untrustworthy, dangerous and determined to take the place of God, not least by usurping parental rights. The Jesuit priest Fr Peter Gumpel [who was 14 at the time] states that “the reaction of Catholics was enthusiastic” while “Hitler was furious.”

It was said that, in fact, Hitler was so beside himself that for three days he did not want to see or receive anyone. The international community reacted enthusiastically. The Jewish communities were elated since the encyclical presented the strongest condemnation of racism. All the Jewish newspapers in the world showed their enthusiasm for what the Holy See had done.

Despite this, England, France and Italy came to an agreement with the Nazi regime at the Munich conference in 1938. Gumpel emphasizes that “the harshest statements against Nazism were Pacelli’s, and Hitler knew it.” So much so that Hitler considered Pacelli his No. 1 enemy and feared his moral power. Now that there is more access to the Vatican Archives of the papacy of Pius XI, hopefully, the symbolic and prophetic nature of this encyclical will receive the attention of scientific historical analysis it rightfully deserves.

Here is the key passage on parental rights and duties which Bishops and clergy would do well to remember that they will one day face judgment for failing to protect such rights!

Furthermore, one cannot read this passage as a conscientious Catholic parent and not feel that the menace of mandatory sex education from age four by the UK Government for introduction in September 2019 is something that puts our children in ‘clear and present danger’ about which we remain silent at our peril.

– Edmund

Section 39 from Encyclical: 

“We address Our special greetings to the Catholic parents. Their rights and duties as educators, conferred on them by God, are at present the stake of a campaign pregnant with consequences. The Church cannot wait to deplore the devastation of its altars, the destruction of its temples, if an education, hostile to Christ, is to profane the temple of the child’s soul consecrated by baptism, and extinguish the eternal light of the faith in Christ for the sake of counterfeit light alien to the Cross.

Then the violation of temples is nigh, and it will be every one’s duty to sever his responsibility from the opposite camp, and free his conscience from guilty cooperation with such corruption. The more the enemies attempt to disguise their designs, the more a distrustful vigilance will be needed, in the light of bitter experience. Religious lessons maintained for the sake of appearances, controlled by unauthorized men, within the frame of an educational system which systematically works against religion, do not justify a vote in favor of non-confessional schools.

We know, dear Catholic parents, that your vote was not free, for a free and secret vote would have meant the triumph of the Catholic schools. Therefore, we shall never cease frankly to represent to the responsible authorities the iniquity of the pressure brought to bear on you and the duty of respecting the freedom of education. Yet do not forget this: none can free you from the responsibility God has placed on you over your children. None of your oppressors, who pretend to relieve you of your duties can answer for you to the eternal Judge, when he will ask: “Where are those I confided to you?” May every one of you be able to answer: “Of them whom thou hast given me, I have not lost any one.” (John xviii. 9).

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Edmund Adamus

Edmund and his wife Catherine have been married for almost 18 years and have been blessed with 3 children; Patrick (who awaits them in Heaven), Paul and Beatrice. After 13 years of ministry in the Salford diocese and gaining a Master's in moral theology, he served the Archdiocese of Westminster from 2003-16 as Director for Pastoral Affairs/Marriage & Family Life. He successfully established the Annual Mass of Thanksgiving for Matrimony in Westminster cathedral as well as the Annual Theology of the Body Lecture series hosting world renowned scholars such as Michael Waldstein, Janet Smith and Christopher West. Christian Meert was also among those speakers. All his work both past and present has been through the prism of the truths of Humanae vitae. Since 2019 he has been Education Consultant to the relationships and sexuality formation project 'A Fertile Heart: Receiving & Giving Creative Love'. As freelance consultant he works as Secretary to the Commission of Inquiry into Discrimination Against Christians in the UK and has just been appointed Executive Director for the UK branch of the International Voluntary Solidarity Fund

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