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Modern Martyrs

Recent research that has uncovered three hundred German martyrs to Nazism flies in the face of much recent historical reinterpretation, which holds the Church reacted weakly — or in some cases cooperated with Adolph Hider’s regime.

The first volume of the Martyrologium Germanicum, entitled German Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, confirms the Catholic position during the dictatorship. The research was coordinated by the auxiliary bishop of Cologne, Helmut Moll, who is a theological consultant of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The investigation, carried out over three years, produced results that surprised even those directly involved with the work. In this century alone, Germany has had seven hundred martyrs, the victims of Nazism (1933- 1945) being the largest group. Of the more than three hundred martyrs of Nazism, one hundred and twenty-three were laymen.

“The Church and Catholics did not understand immediately the negative extent of the Nazi ideology,” Bishop Moll told the Italian newspaper Avvenire. “But it was not long before they did. As soon as Fritz Michael Gerlich of Stettin, director of the newspaper Der Gerade Weg [The Straight Way], was arrested and died in Dachau in July 1934, people realized that the Hitler regime was in open conflict with the Catholic world.”

Among the list of martyrs in the first volume of the martyrology are well-known names of personalities who have already been beatified, such as Edith Stein, Canon Bernhard Lichtenberg, and Karl Leisner. Among the laity, the book names the married couple Maria and Bernhard Kreulich, who were killed in March, 1944, for criticizing the regime. Nicholas Gross, father of seven children and editor of Kettelerwache, the organ of the Association of German Catholic Workers, was killed in the Plotzensee Berlin jail in January, 1945. There were also youths, like the seventeen-year-old apprentice Heinz Udo Hallau from Bielefeld and Elfriede Goldschmidt and Walter Klingebenck, both nineteen years old and from Munich.

The next two volumes of the Martyrologium, to be published in November, will give detailed biographies of the martyrs known to date. The work has been extensive, because Nazism was confronted by a vast number of priests. There are reports of 12,000 cases of religious who were victims of persecution and maltreatment by the regime-about 36 percent of the diocesan clergy at the time.

The Martyrologium was undertaken at the express request of John Paul II who, in his apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente dated November 10, 1994, exhorted the local churches to discover their martyrs of this century.


Many Mormons are nice people and can engage in civil dialogue about our religious differences. But while browsing some Latter-Day Saints web sites, This Rock contributor Isaiah Bennett came across a whopper. He writes, “The author says his church doesn’t approve of his site probably because it’s too ‘out there’ in this era of Mormon attempts to appear to be cuddly Christians.” Here is a sample, typos intact, to give you the flavor:

“The Catholic Church Is The Whore Of The Earth.

“In The Book of Mormon and as well as in the Bible, it speaks of an unholy church that will seduce many and damn all who join it. I believe that this church is the catholic church. I choose not to capitalize this whoreful name because I do not acknowledge its existence in our Heavenly Fathers kingdom.

“We must pray for all who join that sinful church. Hopefully they will see the errors in their ways and join the true church of Christ. That abominable church has directly caused the deaths of 68-70 million people. . . . Today the vatican claims almost one billion followers. Almost lout of every 5 people have been seduced from the mouth of the devil. And it says, ‘With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication.’ If you look back in history you will see that almost every king has had political, economic or religious ties with the Vatican, starting with Constantine the Great, who was actually the first pope, and WAS NEVER BAPTISED, and presided over the first council. . . .

“The original Church of Christ was destroyed shortly after Christ’s crucifixion and was rebuilt again in these latter times. The prophet Joseph Smith was worthy enough to hear the words of god. The entire account of this is detailed in the Book of Mormon. . . . I have been asked to take down my web page. BUT i owe it to you the good christian people to expose this heresy called the kkkatholic church. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of god and that MORMONISM is an actual religion and not an unholy cult.

“If you or someone you know is a catholic please help them find the truth . . . because all i want is the truth. The LDS church doesnt approve of my web page but it is a story that needs to be told. The fight for truth goes on. I do NOT hate catholics but i teach them the truth in LOVE. I will take down my web page only when all other anti-mormon web pages have been taken down. I am the leader of internet faith and truth for 6 months now. Anyone who has IRC can easily get ahold of me . . . i love to talk about Jesus Christ. Yours in faith of the Lord, Mr. Mormon.”

Mr. Mormon doesn’t say who asked him to “take down” his web site. The Mormon powers that be certainly may not approve of his approach for ecumenical reasons. But the fact is, the Mormon Church does stand in opposition to much of what the Catholic Church teaches. No amount of ecumenical gloss will cover this reality.


In Late August, Archbishop Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Lima, Peru called on that country’s minister of health to give the Catholic Church 30 percent of the budget the ministry dedicates to birth control.

During an extensive interview with “Radio Programas del Peru,” the archbishop said that the way the budget is used is “arbitrary and biased, since 99 percent of the money goes to promote artificial birth control.”

“Mr. [Alejandro] Aguinaga [peru’s health Minister] is my friend,” the archbishop said. “But I want to remind him that the money is not his but from taxpayers, and that the Catholic Church represents a large majority of the population.”

A female journalist asked Archbishop Cipriani if the Church was not impinging on women’s right to have the information needed to control her body. “On the contrary,” he said. “Precisely what we want is women to have the whole picture and not just the one provided by the cur rent program, which sees women as people incapable of controlling their own bodies. The problem with the program is that it presupposes a total moral incapacity of Peruvians.”

He added, “With only 30 percent of the budget, we can show that Peruvians are capable of using the natural methods of family regulation, because they are not the uncontrollable animals the current birth control program assumes they are. . . .The Church can effectively use 30 percent of the birth control budget to promote natural methods. We think this is our right and will insist on it.”


The Vatican has issued new guidelines for priests who hear the confessions of married people who use contraceptives. The 223-page document, entitled “Conjugal Morality and the Sacrament of Penance,” was issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family. It is intended to help priests be more effective as confessors, specifically in relation to difficult questions involving chastity within marriage.

The Pontifical Council stresses the importance of providing proper formation for the consciences of penitents, making sure that they understand the “hard truth” of the Church’s teaching that the use of contraceptives is a grave sin. Particularly in the Western world, the Council observes, the general acceptance of contraception is so widespread that it is difficult to convince married couples of the “objective gravity” of the sin. That gravity cannot be ignored, the document says, but at the same time confessors should recognize that-because of the widespread ignorance on this question-penitents may not bear the guilt of having freely and knowingly chosen this evil.

The document draws a distinction between two different types of penitents who have used contraceptives: those who show a sincere desire to amend their behavior and those who show neither repentance nor any inclination to change. In the latter case, the document suggests, it is proper for the priest to refuse absolution.


Nineteen ninety-nine marks the 900th anniversary of the First Crusade. The Crusades have often been described as holy wars and the massacre of Jews at the time as the precursor to this century’s Holocaust. The Church has been accused of trying to eliminate opponents in the name of orthodoxy.

In order to clear the air of misconceptions and errors, historian Franco Cardini, an expert in medieval history, wrote an article entitled “Crusades — Not Religious Wars” in the Italian newspaper Avvenire. According to Cardini, “the Crusades were never ‘religious wars.’ Their purpose was not to force conversions or suppress the infidel. The excesses and violence committed in the course of the expeditions (which did occur and must not be forgotten) must be evaluated in the painful but usual context of the phenomenology of military events, though undoubtedly some theological reason always justified them.

“The Crusade was an armed pilgrimage that developed slowly over time, between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, which must be understood by being inserted in the context of the extended relations between Christianity and Islam, which have produced positive cultural and economic results. If this was not the case, how could one explain the frequent friendships, including military alliances, between Christians and Moslems, in the history of the Crusades?”

In order to confirm his thesis, Dr. Cardini referred to Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), who opposed the lay knighthood, which in the twelfth century was made up of sometimes violent and amoral persons. Bernard’s proposal was revolutionary: a “new knighthood” made up of monks who would renounce all forms of wealth and personal power and who understood that an enemy might have to be killed, if there was no other option during war, but must never be hated.

To think of the Crusade as a “holy war” against the Muslims would be an exaggeration, Cardini said. “In fact, the real interest in these expeditions, in service of Christian brethren threatened by Muslims, was the restoration of peace in the East and the early stirring of the idea of rescue for distant fellow Christians. The Crusade posited reconciliation with the adversary before departure, renouncement of disputes and vengeance, acceptance of possible martyrdom, disposition of oneself and one’s own property for the good of the community of believers, while pointing oneself to an experience in the light of which, for a certain number of months or perhaps years, one would follow Christ and the memory of the living Christ in the theater of his terrestrial existence as the height of one’s own experience.”


In August the Kansas Board of Education approved new standards for teaching science in public schools that delete references to so-called “macroevolution” — the process of change from one species to another — but include references to “microevolution,” or changes within species. The standards also mention “natural selection,” the idea that advantageous traits increase in a population over time. But the standards do not contain language recommended by science educators that called evolution by natural selection “a broad, unifying theoretical framework in biology.” The standards are general guidelines for local school boards, which may still decide to teach evolution.

Evolution is the theory that different life forms developed from common ancestors. Those opposed to it say it contradicts the biblical account of the creation of life, and they object to the idea that human life resulted from a lower life form.

Critics of the Kansas board’s action worry it took a step toward permitting schools to teach Protestant creationists’ view that the earth is only a few thousand of years old, based on the Bible’s account. Conservative board members say they only want to make sure that schools teach sound science, arguing that evolution is a flawed theory that cannot be proven.

More than a decade ago, the u.s. Supreme Court ruled that public schools cannot teach any theory of creation that holds that a divine being created the universe. Opponents of the new standards say conservatives are using their only remaining tactic: limit the teaching of evolution. Kansas is one of several states, including Arizona, Alabama, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas, and Nebraska, where school boards recently have attempted to take evolution out of state science standards or de-emphasize evolutionary concepts.

The Catholic Church allows for a range of beliefs concerning both cosmic and biological evolution. It has defined infallibly, though, that the universe was created by God from nothing (Vatican I, Canons on God the Creator of All Things 5) and teaches that, while man’s body may have developed from previous biological forms-under God’s guidance, of course-his soul was created by God (Pius XII, Humani Generis 36).


On August 31 Vatican officials announced that several new important liturgical texts, including a new edition of the Roman Missal, would be published in coming weeks.

Bishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, told reporters that the Latin editio typica — or authoritative version — Of the Roman Missal would be available before the end of the year. The third edition of the Roman Missal will be the first edition published during the pontificate of John Paul II. The first two editions, following the liturgical renewals of Vatican II, were issued under Pope Paul VI.

The Latin-language editio typica is a “point of departure” for the translations which will follow. Bishop Tamburrino said that the new Missal contains no innovations but incorporates two sorts of material: the new feasts for those who have been canonized or beatified under Pope John Paul II and the responses to liturgical directives issued since the appearance of the last edition. For example, he said, the new edition will acknowledge the possibility that women could be altar servers. The new text could also include more explicit guidelines on involvement of lay ministers in the liturgy.

The Congregation for Divine Worship is also preparing a new Latin edition of the Lectionary, or book of scriptural readings for liturgical celebrations. This will be the second authoritative edition of the Lectionary; the first appeared shortly after Vatican II. The new Lectionary, Bishop Tamburrino said, will be based on the latest revised version of the Vulgate, the original Latin text of the Bible as translated by Jerome nearly sixteen hundred years ago. The new Vulgate has been prepared with the help of the monks of the famous abbeys of Clairvaux and Solesmes. Again, the said, there would be no major changes, but “certain refinements” in the text.


That the world is overpopulated has been part of education and media dogma for more than forty years. Governments across the world made fertility reduction a priority as early as the 1960s. Now, according to United Nations statistics, for the first time sixty-one countries face the phenomenon known as “below replacement fertility,” meaning that these countries will eventually begin to shrink in population.

One of the great allies in the movement for fertility reduction has been the media. But within days of each other in August, two major stories appeared in the New York Times warning of the consequences of rapid fertility reduction. The Times reported that Japanese society is facing very serious problems because of long-term fertility reduction. WIth a fertility rate of only 1.4 children per woman, not long ago Japan became the first country to have more people over sixty-five than under fifteen. The Times called Japan “the world’s second largest economy” at the same time it is “one of the world’s least fertile and fastest aging societies.” It is expected that the aged will rise from one-sixth of the population to one-third in the next fifty years. This means that each Japanese worker will “have to increase output to make up for the growing numbers who are idle.”

A few days later the Times reported that workers will have to start retiring later and that industrial countries “will have to accept a loss of productivity, creativity, and even general economic health.”


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