CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS IN NAZI GERMANY, by Robert A. Krieg. Continuum.
234 pp. $24.95.
Reviewed by BRENNAN HILL, Ph.D., professor
of theology at Xavier University in
Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of Eight
Spiritual Heroes: Their Search for God,
published by St. Anthony Messenger Press.
A COMMON IMPRESSION is that
German Catholics, especially bishops
and theologians, did little to
resist Hitler and the Nazi movement
before and during World War
II. This well-researched
and highly interesting
book demonstrates otherwise.
As a matter of fact, the
Catholic hierarchy opposed
the Nazi Party in its early
days, and once the party
came into power, nearly 25
percent of the German hierarchy
were openly critical
of Hitler and his government.
The bishops from at
least seven dioceses bravely
spoke out against the abuses of National
Socialism and some of them paid a
heavy price for their opposition.
Bishop Sproll’s life was threatened
and he was banished from his diocese
of Rottenburg. Bishop Clemens August
von Galen (beatified in October 2005)
had to witness 29 of his Münster priests
and his own brother imprisoned, and
then he himself was marked for execution.
Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich
had his office trashed and his life
threatened by storm troopers.
The author has also carefully
researched theologians who opposed
Hitler. Individuals such as Engelbert
Krebs, Hans Reinhold, Dietrich von
Hildebrand, Joseph Schmidin, Max
Metzer, Jesuits Rupert Mayer and Alfred
Delp, as well as the majority of Catholic
theologians at the universities of Bonn
and Münster, openly opposed Hitler
and his brutality.
They too felt vicious retaliation from
the Nazis. Storm troopers would commonly
disrupt their classrooms and
attack their homes. Romano Guardini
and Krebs were dismissed from their
positions; Schmidin was murdered in a
concentration camp; Metzer and Delp
There were, of course, some Catholic
theologians who supported Hitler
and these too are discussed in detail.
Others, like Karl Rahner, S.J., when
their departments were shut down,
withdrew and continued
their research quietly out
of the line of fire. About
this, Rahner comments
with regret: “At that time,
we priests already had
enough to do in order to
protect our own skins. But
we should have done much
more to protect also the
skins of other people, of
non-Christians, than we in
While there were individual
heroic bishops, the hierarchy as
a body does not merit applause. Although
they opposed the Nazi Party
early on, once Hitler gained power, the
bishops’ conference failed to protest
the horrendous abuse of human rights
or the persecution of the Jews.
Krieg insightfully proposes some reasons
for such silence. He maintains
that the prevailing theology of Church
was mostly responsible. Many of the
bishops and theologians accepted the
post-Reformation ecclesiology which
viewed the Church as a “perfect society,”
an autonomous and otherworldly
institution. Here the Church assumed
a fortress-like position and focused on
preserving its spiritual mission to its
people. Matters of social justice were
not part of this mission.
A desire to preserve the institution
motivated the Vatican to make a concordat
with Hitler. This agreement prevented
the bishops as a group from
criticizing the Führer’s atrocities, even
when Catholic protesters were imprisoned
and killed. In addition, training in
blind obedience to absolute authority
had predisposed many German Catholics
to follow the commands of the
The author contrasts this view of the
Church with one which stresses a mission
to the world, a concern for social
justice, religious freedom and respect
for other religions and active involvement
by the laity. This is the ecclesiology
which ultimately came to prevail in
the Second Vatican Council. It was
apparently held by many of those bishops
and theologians who chose to
oppose the Nazi regime.
This is a valuable and insightful
study of how different theologies of
Church can affect the response of its
leaders and theologians to modern
crises. We might assume that nontheological
factors such as fear, cowardice,
denial, courage and compassion
were also behind the decisions of
the bishops and theologians during the
Nazi era and are operative today. We
are, after all, a human Church.
You can order CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS IN NAZI GERMANY from St.
OPUS DEI: An Objective Look Behind
the Myths and Reality of the Most
Controversial Force in the Catholic
Church, by John L. Allen, Jr. Doubleday.
416 pp. $24.95.
Reviewed by MARK M. WILKINS, a
teacher of religion at St. Xavier High School
in Cincinnati, Ohio.
JOHN ALLEN ADDS yet another book
to a growing list of works that mark
him as a journalist with access to the
innermost corridors of power and influence
in the Roman Catholic Church.
It seems that he has taken full advantage of living in Rome to present the
big picture of the Church. Allen’s written
essays, as well as his commentaries
on radio and television, regarding the
death of John Paul II and the election
of Benedict XVI have created a visibility
seldom achieved by any lay columnist.
Opus Dei (“the work of God”) is an
international association of Catholics
who seek personal Christian perfection.
They strive to implement Christian
ideals first in their jobs and then
in society as a whole. Founded in Spain
by St. (Father) Josemaría Escrivá in
1928, Opus Dei has become a center of
controversy and suspicion both within
and outside the Church in the 80 countries
where its 84,000 members work.
The subtitle of the book claims that
this is “an objective look behind the
myths and reality of the most controversial
force in the Catholic Church.”
This seems as thorough a research undertaking
as one could hope for. Allen
got access to individuals from many
backgrounds and many nations.
Escrivá is a polarizing figure whose
name and work can still ignite passionate
debate even after canonization.
Born in Spain in 1902, he had a series
of mystical insights over the course of
several years that led to his vision of the
universal call to holiness that is Opus
Dei. Simply put, he experienced God’s
call to redeem the world by sanctifying
your work, yourself in your work and
others through your work.
The call to join is a vocation, although
it is neither a religious order nor
a change in anyone’s status upon initiation.
Members agree to live in the
spirit of the group and support its apostolic
deeds while receiving spiritual formation.
Members can either live in
Opus Dei communities or not.
Allen manages to place most of the
controversies, particularly the connection
to General Francisco Franco, in a
broader context. Escrivá was neither
pro-Franco nor anti-Franco, but was
primarily concerned with the stability
of Spanish society after the civil war.
Allen does not try to explain away or
justify any of the founder’s human
flaws, but sets them in a fuller, more
nuanced context by presenting supporters
and critics alike. This approach
also works well for the author when he
presents his analysis of the most common
public concerns about Opus Dei.
Controversies such as the secrecy
over membership, the role of women,
the use of power, the accumulation of
wealth, the means of recruiting,
demands for obedience and
the emphasis on physical
mortification are all addressed
in a balanced and
Reading this book forced
me to change some of
my preconceptions about
Escrivá and Opus Dei. At
the same time it gave me
further evidence that Opus
Dei promotes a different
worldview than I have
about the role and responsibility
of the laity in the Church today.
In an era when the Church in Europe
is showing a dramatic decline in attendance
at Mass and reception of the
sacraments, as well as a tendency to
ignore the Christian roots of the countries
of the European Union, a group
like Opus Dei must strike the hierarchy
as a refreshing change: laypeople
more committed to serving the Church
rather than less; laypeople who see their
ordinary family and working lives as
their vocation to serve God.
It’s no wonder that there
existed a special affinity
between John Paul II and
Opus Dei. Yet some bishops
are worried about Opus
Dei’s reach and have restricted
the group’s activities
in their dioceses.
Allen writes in his conclusion
that, every time a
new form of life comes
along in the Church, it
struggles for acceptance.
This book helped me realize that Opus
Dei was another Church story that was
poorly served by the success of The Da
You can order OPUS DEI: An Objective Look Behind
the Myths and Reality of the Most
Controversial Force in the Catholic
Church from St.
PRAYER IS A PLACE: America's Religious Landscape Observed, by Phyllis
Tickle. Doubleday. 342 pp. $23.95.
Reviewed by REBECCA DOEL, summer
intern for St. Anthony Messenger Press
books and a junior journalism major at St.
Bonaventure University in Olean, New York.
THIS NEWEST BOOK among more than
two dozen by Episcopalian Phyllis
Tickle has a somewhat deceptive title.
Expecting an exploration of various
religious monuments and shrines in
the United States, I instead
embarked on a delightful
journey through the evolution
of religious books and
book publishing from 1992
to 2004, scattered with stories
from Tickle’s own spiritual
Although the title is borrowed
from a lesson learned
at the Parliament of the
World’s Religions in 1993,
the accounts of the many
chapters are loosely gathered into the
places where they occurred.
The 70-year-old Tickle takes
readers on a trip from Lucy,
Tennessee, to New York City,
Santa Rosa, California, and
Chicago, ending up back at
“The Farm in Lucy.”
In between the places, the
reader finds heartwarming
tales from Tickle’s life, interwoven
with heavier topics
like 9/11, gnosticism and
the changing beliefs and
values among various generations.
Throughout Prayer Is a Place, Tickle
introduces the reader to her dearest
friends, among them Daisy Maryles, a
kind Jewish woman and co-worker of
Tickle’s at Publishers Weekly; Eric Major,
a headstrong Roman Catholic Englishman
and now former Doubleday editor
who refers to Protestants as “Proddies”;
and Sam, a doctor who doubles as
Tickle’s loving husband. Tickle also
describes her meetings with notables
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the
As the founding editor of the religion
department at Publishers Weekly, Tickle
spent most of the ’90s observing trends
in religion for a living. She enthusiastically
poured her life into her job until a
fateful encounter with tick fever, which
changed her life. Her new routine of
taking medication to steady her heart
led to a regular observance of the Divine
Hours—and perhaps to something else
even greater: writing a three-volume
breviary called The Divine Hours.
Tickle writes, “I’d always said—and
believed—that the seven little Tickles
were what I had come to do. I have
since changed that self-perception. The
Divine Hours are what I came to do.”
Tickle writes with elegance, as in her
illustration of an experience observing
men hosing down dirty buildings at
Ground Zero: “[M]y attention was
drawn away from watching the hoses
above me and back to the people
around me. Some of them, as they perceived
what was happening above us,
began to edge quietly forward and lean,
one after another, ever so gently, into
the ashy mist, receiving it like a baptism
upon outstretched hands and
upturned faces—‘It is good to be here.’”
Tickle moves through life with an
optimism all too scarce today. It is that
optimism, along with her real-life cast
of characters, that makes Prayer Is a
Place an enchanting, worthwhile read.
You can order PRAYER IS A PLACE: America’s Religious
Landscape Observed from St. Francis Bookshop.
ADAM’S RETURN: The Five Promises
of Male Initiation, by Richard Rohr,
O.F.M. The Crossroad Publishing
Company. 205 pp. $16.95.
Reviewed by the REV. LAWRENCE M.
VENTLINE, D.Min., a priest of the Archdiocese
of Detroit on special assignment. A
psychotherapist and pastor, he has written
Securing Serenity in Troubling Times:
Living a Day at a Time (Xulon Press).
CULTURES ARE NO LONGER properly
initiating youngsters, Franciscan Father
Richard Rohr believes.
In 14 chapters, Center for Action
and Contemplation founder Richard
Rohr pulls the reader beyond the superficiality
of our time. Rohr wants men
and mentors to go into the deep within
to emerge as enlightened leaders.
Preaching beyond the grab and grip
of power, position and possession, the
author puts his recipe for a new order
into five promises of male initiation:
Life’s hard; You’re not important; Not
in control; Life’s not about you; and
You’re going to die. Tough talk for a
“soft” and superficial society!
When left untaught, these initiating
and suffering mysteries of life will
leave one projecting his or her untransformed
pain onto others and the world.
Rohr addresses the “male game within,”
as he dubs it, confessing that he
lives in a world of privilege that so
many are denied.
Getting inside men requires each
one to take hold of the pain, ache and
suffering that Rohr calls “living in the
liminal space” where one can do nothing
but stay in the suffering, endure it
and be transported by God.
I want to fix my heartache, understand
what the tsunami means, escape
my loneliness and addictive ways. It
won’t change a thing, Rohr concludes.
Jesus spent 40 days in the desert staying
in liminal space. Requiring time
and mentors, this process of initiation
works for men of today as well.
Rohr knows from experience that,
if a young man is not introduced to the
five promises (or pains) of life, he won’t
know how to handle loss, ache, alienation
and rejection. Then abuse of
power sets in. Raging with guns or bullying
others becomes his destructive
mode of operation. Mentors can mend
the male soul, Rohr assures us.
This change of which Rohr speaks
will require fathers and sons to stare
into the soul of a son’s suffering and
loneliness if males are to be equipped
with the inner resolve to confront life’s
You can order ADAM’S RETURN: The Five Promises
of Male Initiation from St. Francis Bookshop.