The Lion of Münster: The Bishop Who
Roared Against the Nazis.
By Daniel Utrecht, TAN Books, 2016.
The Cardinal Müller Report: An Exclusive
Interview on the State of the Church. By Gerhard Cardinal Müller with Father Carlos
Granados, translated by Richard Goodyear, Ignatius Press, 2017.
review will cover two recent works about two prominent members of the Church
hierarchy. In The Lion of Münster:
The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis, the life and career of Bishop Clemens
August Graf von Galen, a churchman who openly spoke out about Hitler’s policies
and politics, and galvanized many members of his flock as well. The Cardinal Müller Report: An Exclusive
Interview on the State of the Church looks at a contemporary and prominent
figure in the Church, as Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, explains Church teachings and the pressing moral
and ethical issues of our time.
Lion of Münster opens with a summary of Bishop von Galen’s early life, and then
quickly moves to the Bishop’s open condemnation of various policies, ranging
from attacking Nazis who euthanized the sick and weak, to denouncing eugenicist
“From the beginning of his time as
bishop, shortly after Hitler took power, Clemens August von Galen had attacked
the Nazi racial theories. In the middle
of 1941, when Germany’s war successes were at their height, he openly
reprimanded the Gestapo for confiscating the houses of religious orders. He had denounced the secret practice of
deliberately putting sick and disabled people to death and, it seemed, had an
influence in stopping it.”
Many historians and pundits have attacked the Church for
remaining silent during WWII, but the work of recent historians has largely
contradicted that view, refining certain allegations and outright contradicting
others. Several of these works have been
addressed in recent reviews, such as Catholics
Confronting Hitler and A Man for
Others (both November, 2016), and Church
of Spies (November, 2015). In The
Lion of Münster, the bishop explains why he was open and direct about his
attacks on Hitler and all of the Nazi regime’s policies that contradicted
“The dear God placed me in a position in
which I had a duty to call black “black” and white “white”… I knew that many
suffered more, much more than I personally had to suffer, from the attacks on
truth and justice that we experienced.
They could not speak. They could
only suffer… But it was my right and my duty to speak, and I spoke… and God
gave it His blessing. And your love and
your loyalty, my dear diocesans, also kept far from me what might have been my
fate, but also might have been my greatest reward, the crown of martyrdom.”
the book, Bishop von Galen approaches his advocacy as a critical moral issue,
and notes that this was a particularly dangerous and inflammatory time. Politics and passions ran high, and making
statements could have all sorts of repercussions, but failing to speak out
would have even more dire consequences.
“For von Galen, this false theory
of the unlimited power of the state was the sources of all the inner struggles
that had kept Germany from developing a true sense of community. The correct order of self-love was not
respected, and so egoism ruled in its place.
Brother mistrusted brother; neighbor mistrusted neighbor. Each one sought to win the majority to his
side, in order to use the power of the state to defend his own interests by
attacking the rights and freedoms of the other.
Might makes right is the motto of the modern state, according to
von Galen. Why should it not be the
motto of private life as well? People
ask themselves, “If the might of the state, today the might of the majority,
really makes right, then why only this might? Why not also the might of the stronger fist,
why not the might of money, why not the might of craftiness and clever business
dealings? The destruction that is
introduced into the community by the working out of this fundamental principle
should open people’s eyes to the destructiveness of this principle itself,” von
Galen argued. But in fact, he saw
something else happening. If the state
is the creator of all rights and the all-powerful lord of all rights, then,
many concluded, their rights and freedoms would be secure only if they
themselves were the holders of state power.”
historian, one of the most fascinating aspects of the book was at the very end,
where after the manuscript was completed, Utrecht discovered another
historian’s work on the Holocaust, and Bishop von Galen was cited as having
made some comments that clash very directly with Utrecht’s heroic depiction of
the man. Utrecht did a lot more
research, and discovered that the document discovered in the other historian’s
work was a forgery, circulated during the war in an attempt to discredit
him. This appendix is incredibly
interesting, because it reveals how falsehoods can be spread through tainted
evidence, and just how much thorough research goes into confirming or debunking
The Lion of Münster is a work of history, The Cardinal Müller Report
is more like a dialogue, where questions about Church teachings, culture, and
the reasoning behind various Church decisions are addressed.
his introduction, Father Granados writes that,
“Cardinal Müller’s tone is direct and
frank. He does not shrink from
addressing the most sensitive questions.
He might sometimes make a joke and then add, in a conciliatory tone: “We
had better not include that in the interview.”
He does not at all fit the stereotype– formal, diplomatic, cold,
calculating– of a member of the Curia.
He sometimes takes his time in answering; a silence falls in which the
interviewer considers asking another question.
But it quickly becomes apparent that he is thinking. His conversation flows calmly and
firmly. He knows from the beginning
where he wants to end up. In addition to
being the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Gerhard
Ludwig Cardinal Müller is one of the most outstanding figures in theology
today. As a theologian, he is a believer
who strives to give God’s answers to men’s questions. As the Prefect of the Faith. He has a
privileged perspective on the circumstances. The horizons, and the questions
that open up before us.
But what questions do our contemporaries
have? What answer do they demand from
the believer? People today do not see
their lack of faith as a tragedy, but what does worry them profoundly is their lack
of hope, for which– making matters worse– they try to make up with substitutes
like optimism. The key question,
therefore, is one of hope. And our
contemporaries wonder whether there is hope for the “now,” they wonder whether
they can find it in Christianity– and they wonder, above all: What is the
foundation of Christian hope?”
is no straight narrative to the book.
It’s more of a question-and-answer dialogue, with a special stress on
what it means to live morally, to make the most out of one’s life in a
spiritual and ethical manner, and how to improve the world. In his opening chapter, “A Report on Hope,”
the Cardinal writes:
“Man is always striving toward the
future, imagining it, planning for it, dreaming about it… Life always holds the
promise of the new and appealing, as we hope to find something different and
great that will enable us to grow as a person.
Yet the future is the realm of the unknown, too, and it harbors threats
that awaken fear. Hope is precisely what
enables us to move toward the future, placing our trust in the buds that are
the harbingers of the plenty we long for and that, in addition, enable us to
conquer our fears.
There are spheres of human life that
engender what we can call “natural” hopes.
Consider the experience of love, which always carriers a promise of
eternity and enables the lovers to imagine a future full of new
possibilities. Or consider the child
who, just by being born, opens new horizons to his parents and society,
lengthening their perspective on the future.”
of these books have a central question at the center– what does it take to
stand up for one’s principles in the face of a hostile culture? What consequences come from ignoring one’s
moral and spiritual duties? Through
history and theology, these books pursue what it means to live out one’s faith.