In face of these facts, how can it be said that in Hitler's Germany a new religious war has broken out? May not the occasional measures taken against priests be only echoes of the still persisting strife between the National Socialists and those Catholics who are still true to the centre party? And when proceedings are taken against convents and members of orders, are they not only taken because currency laws have been infringed?
Some influential underlings such as Rosenberg may exist, but even if they do, they have no power of decision. The Ftihrer conveniently knows nothing of their activities, and when he does learn something, he often interferes. For example, at the beginning of March he caused Mgr. Banasch, accused of high treason in his report to the Nuncio, to be released from gaol. Any trouble with the Catholic or the • Protestant Church is regarded as regrettable, but passing, and exaggerated by anti-Nazi circles for the purpose of emphasising the religious war.
Nazis Define Christianity
Emphasis must be laid upon these efforts to reduce the conflict between Catholicism and the Third Reich to a mere series of regrettable, but nevertheless unimportant incidents.
National Socialism therefore wishes to *fine what Christianity is—so that it can always appeal to its own " positive Christianity," the Christianity that suits and serves the will of its Government. We may even get the paradox of the Nazi orator asserting that National Socialism is protecting Christianity against being misused for political, selfish purposes by representatives of the Church (the so-called " Political Catholicism ").
Christianity is thus being protected, not only from the exterior danger of Bolshevism, which burns and .closes the churches and arrests and expels the priests, but also from the interior danger of secularisation! In the Third Reich it is not simply a question of the relation of Church and State, nor of difficulties arising from Catholic activity in the new Nazi State. The question turns on the Christian claim to control public life. This claim is being contested by National Socialism. The Nazi world-concept embraces all public life, and within that concept Christianity , must also move and have its being.
A Spiritual Auxiliary Post"
The Nazi attack on Christianity is not, therefore, a direct frontal attack, but an attempt at infiltration—gradually to rob the Church of its independence and turn it into a " spiritual auxiliary post " for its propaganda. It is therefore wrong to regard the neo-pagan movements as the greatest danger to the Church. These are only skirmishing movements that divert
attention from the main army. Their purpose is to cause anxiety within the Church. It is therefore no victory for Christianity when the German Faith movement encounters difficulties with the State in the course of its propaganda (although it may be astonishing how much freedom of abuse against Christianity is allowed to small neo-pagan German Faith newspapers such as Durchbruch and Blitz). The Nazi religion and Church policy being what it is, a retreat on the neo-pagan front might even be very acceptable.
Danger of Open Persecution
National Socialism does not want open Church persecution, plain for all to see; it wants a gradual repression and dilution of Christianity. National Socialism knows too well how great the traditional power of Christianity is, and as Wagner, the Reich member for Baden, has said, " is not looking for martyrs, but for criminals." By this it is meant that priests and members of orders are not arrested and ,convicted on account of their faith—as is always being repeatecl--but because of :their hostile behaviour to the State as manifested in currency or moral offences.
In endeavouring to wean all public life from any individual faith, National Socialism, in the words of Reichminister Frick, is striving to serve the common good. It is always being emphasised that National Socialism has nothing against the beliefs of the various Churches; it only opposes these Churches' claim to control public life and so become a danger to the German people. The substance of this common German unity, its morals, its legal basis, the spirit of education must be defined by National Socialism.
Gradually, Step by Step
In the name of the common good, as defined by National Socialism, the war against Christianity goes forward in the Third Reich. The campaign is conducted as if the importance of Christianity for the common good were recognised; but this recognition only serves to screen the advance against Christianity, to obscure the true situation and bring about confusion in the Christian ranks. An open persecution of the Church would meet with definite opposition.
Another way must therefore be found to bring about the supremacy of the National Socialistic world concept in religious and moral life, in education and in all spheres contributing to the surrounding atmosphere of the people. Freedom of movement must gradually, but effectively, be withdrawn from the Church. The noose must not be drawn tight all at once, but gradually. At first, therefore, it must not k particularly noticeable. Up to the end there must be hope in Christian circles that even now escape is possible, that in spite of everything, things will not come to the very worst.
The New Faith Concurrent with this systematic course of action, which naturally takes careful account of the exigencies of the moment (as for example the opinion in foreign circles which would be disturbed by certain measures, and must be doped with an appearance of " retreat") everything is being tried inconspicuously to spread a new belief, the creed of the National Socialistic Common Good. This is not promulgated as religion, on the contrary good care is taken to avoid so doing. This means that the atmosphere -in which the people live shall be suitably conditioned until the right moment arrives openly to preach what is now being disseminated by stealth : THE OPEN SEPARATION OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH FROM ITS CLAIM TO BE THE FINAL ARBITER OF RELIGIOUS FAITH.