Scrapbookpages Blog

May 16, 2011

What does it take to become a saint in Germany?

Deutsche Welle ran this story today, 16 May 2011:

Catholic Church beatifies Nazi-resisting priest

A priest who defied the Nazis by continuing to practice Roman Catholicism despite a ban has been beatified by the Catholic church. Georg Häfner died in a concentration camp for his resistance to the Nazi regime.

Beatification is the first step toward sainthood.  But first, the person has to be declared a martyr. I found out from this website why Georg Häfner qualifies as a martyr:

Sixty-eight years after he died of starvation and disease at Dachau, early on this “Good Shepherd Sunday” brought the beatification of the German priest Georg Haefner, whose death at the hands of the Nazis was judged to be “in odium fidei” — out of “hatred for the faith” — and, thus, has seen his designation as a martyr.

Häfner wasn’t killed at Dachau, but he did die “at the hands of the Nazis” because of the Nazi “hatred for the faith.”

According to the book entitled What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau? by Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, who was also a prisoner at Dachau, there was a total of 2,720 clergymen at Dachau, including 2,579 Catholic Priests. According to Dr. Neuhäusler, there were 447 German priests at Dachau. Of the 1,034 priests who died in the camp, 94 were German.  So Häfner was one of only 447 priests, out of a total of 20,000 German priests, who was sent to Dachau and one out of 94 that died. What did he do to be singled out for persecution by the Nazis?

According to Deutsche Welle, “Häfner was honored by the church for his resistance to Nazi rule. Despite a ban on continuing to practice his religious duties as a priest in Oberschwarzach, which is near Würzburg, Häfner carried on and was arrested by the Nazis in 1941.”

This sounds like there was a ban on all priests in Nazi Germany, which prevented them from practicing the Catholic religion, but that is not the case. According to this website, “Häfner’s reported offense was to preach against the rise of the Third Reich.” So, the truth is that he was banned from “practicing the Catholic religion” because he was preaching against the government.  The priests who didn’t preach against the government were free to practice the Catholic religion with the blessing of Hitler, who was a Catholic.

Of course, Germany is now a free country, a democracy, where everyone has the right of free speech and Catholic clergymen can say anything they want, right?  If you believe that, do a search on “Bishop Richard Williamson.”  He is due to go on trial in July for “Holocaust denial.”  He will automatically be convicted because there is no defense against a charge of “Holocaust denial.”  He will go to prison and if he dies there, he will be a martyr.  He could be the first person to become a Catholic saint for saying what he believes, in defiance of the German government.