Part one. Part two here. These excerpts are from two sermons delivered by Bishop von Galen on 13 July 1941, and 20 July 1941. Although he speaks them during the war and after a recent persecution of priests and religious in his diocese who were expelled from their monasteries and sent to concentration camps, his words have a special resonance and some striking parallels can be drawn with today (vaccine pass and green zone isolation camps). Von Galen was one of the theologians who significantly influenced the original German White Rose group in its actions and the content of their leaflets.
None of us is safe — and may he know that he is the most loyal and conscientious of citizens and may he be conscious of his complete innocence — he cannot be sure that he will not some day be deported from his home, deprived of his freedom and locked up in the cellars and concentration camps of the Gestapo. I am aware of the fact: This can happen also to me, today or some other day. And because then I shall not be able to speak in public any longer, I will speak publicly today, publicly I will warn against the continuance in a course which I am firmly convinced will bring down God’s judgment on men and must lead to disaster and ruin for our people and our country.
“Justitia est fundamentum regnorum” Justice is the only solid foundation of any state.
The right to life, to inviolability, to freedom is an indispensable part of any moral order of society. It is true that the state is entitled to restrict these rights as a penal measure against its citizens, but the state is only entitled to do so against those who have broken the law and whose guilt has been established in an impartial judicial process. A state which transgresses this boundary laid down by God and permits or causes innocent persons to be punished is undermining its own authority and the respect for its sovereignty in the conscience of its citizens.
Unfortunately, however, we have repeatedly seen in recent years how penalties of greater or lesser severity, usually involving terms of imprisonment, have been imposed and carried out without the victim’s guilt having been proved in a regular court of law and without giving him any opportunity of asserting his right to prove his innocence. How many Germans are now languishing in police custody or in concentration camps, how many have been driven from home, who have never been sentenced by a regular court or how numerous are those who have been freed by the court or released after serving their sentence and have then been re-arrested and held in confinement by the Gestapo! How many have been expelled from their home town and the town where they worked!
No holder of authority can expect to command the loyalty and willing service of honourable men unless his actions and penal decisions prove in an impartial judgment to be free from any element of arbitrariness and weighed on the incorruptible scales of Justice.
We shall continue to fight against the external enemy; but against the enemy within, who strikes us and torments us, we cannot fight with arms. Against him we have only one weapon: endurance — strong, tough, hard endurance.
Become hard! Remain firm! We see and experience clearly what lies behind the new doctrines which have for years been forced on us, for the sake of which religion has been banned from the schools, our organisations have been suppressed and now Catholic kindergartens are about to be abolished — there is a deep-seated hatred of Christianity, which they are determined to destroy.
What is being forged in these days between the hammer and the anvil are our young people — the new generation, which is still unformed, still capable of being shaped, still malleable. We cannot shield them from the hammer-blows of unbelief, of hostility to Christianity, of false doctrines and ethics. What is instilled into them at the meetings of those youth organisations, which we are told they joined voluntarily and with the agreement of their parents? What do they hear in the schools which the children are compelled to attend without regard to the wishes of their parents? What do they read in the new school-books? Christian parents, ask your children to show you these books, particularly the history books used in the secondary schools.
You will be appalled to see how these books, in complete disregard of historical truth, seek to fill inexperienced children with mistrust of Christianity and the Church, indeed with hatred of the Christian faith.
It is we, almost without exception, who are forged in this present time. How many people are dependent — on an occupational pension, on a state pension, on children’s allowances and so on! Who nowadays is still independent, unrestricted master in his own property or business? It may be that, particularly in time of war, strict control and guidance, even the concentration and compulsory direction of products, of production and consumption, is necessary, and who will not readily bear this out of love for his people and his country? But through this follows dependence on many persons and authorities, who not only restrict freedom of action but also bring free independence of sentiments and convictions into grave danger and temptation, as soon as, at the same time, these persons and authorities represent an ideology hostile to Christianity, which they seek to impose on those who are dependent on them.
It may be that obedience to our God and faithfulness to our conscience may cost me or any of you life, freedom or home. But: “Better to die than to sin!” May the grace of God, without which we can do nothing, grant this unshakeable firmness to you and to me and keep us in it!
You can read the full homilies by Bishop Von Galen here: http://churchinhistory.org/pages/booklets/vongalen(n).htm