Among a spate of books published in recent years that deal with the checkered history of the relations between the Christian Churches and Third Reich, Robert Krieg's latest volume deserves special mention. Lauded by Cardinal Walter Kasper for his work on German theology and culture, Krieg has crafted another well-written and researched book that especially focuses on how five notable German Catholic scholars reacted to Hitler and the Nazi program. Three of these theological scholars were initially sympathetic to National Socialism: Karl Eschweiler, Joseph Lortz, and Karl Adam; two other scholars opposed Hitler's ideology from the get-go: Romano Guardini and Engelbert Krebs. In addition to the five chapters devoted to each of these figures, Krieg includes an initial chapter that tells about the German bishops' accommodation with Hitler and a final chapter that describes three different ecclesiologies that help explain the differing responses of these Catholic intellectuals to Nazism.
Each of Krieg's chapters on the individual theologians treats the larger context that shaped each one, including a description of the seminaries and university theological faculties to which they belonged, a treatment of their bishops, and a summary of some of their key writings. Having written books on Karl Adam (1992) and Romano Guardini (1997), Krieg is well prepared to highlight their contrasting responses to Hitler. It is sobering to realize that Adam and Guardini were both progressive theologians whose translated works had a seminal impact beyond Germany.
Shortly after Hitler gained power, the German bishops lifted the ban on Catholic participation in the Nazi party and Vatican Secretary of State Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, concluded a concordat between the Roman Catholic Church and the Nazi government that guaranteed the right of Church institutions to continue their spiritual, sacramental, and educational ministries. However, to secure this guarantee, the Church agreed to abolish the Catholic Center party and avoid political activity, thus canceling any effective political opposition to Hitler.
Not all the bishops followed Cardinal Bertram's cautious institutional reserve. Though disdaining National Socialism, he did not want another Kulturkampf, so he felt that the Church should remain neutral in relation to the Third Reich; "he insisted that the priests remain publicly silent when Jews were deported to concentration camps because this did not relate to the Church's spiritual mission ."(108) In contrast, bishops Galen, Preysing, and Frings were not afraid to openly oppose Hitler on behalf of the Nazi victims.
How was it possible that the Nazi ideology could elicit Catholic support? In her war against modernity and liberal individualism with its tendency to privatize religious faith, the Church was susceptible to authoritarian, anti-democratic political movements and governments that stressed hierarchical order and discipline. The Nazi stress on organic community and authoritarian order, and most especially Hitler's fierce opposition to communism, atheism, and masonry, resonated with many of the Church's values. Furthermore, Krieg indicates that the dominant "institutional" ecclesiology of the societas perfecta, while stressing the Church's autonomy in order to carry out its supernatural mission, tended to mute opposition to what was viewed as the legitimate government in the natural order. Furthermore, Karl Adam and other Catholic Nazi sympathizers argued that German nationalism and Catholicism were not opposed. Opponents of Nazism like Engelbert Krebs rather understood the Church to be a "moral advocate" whose vocation was to witness to God's Kingdom. Krebs was forcibly retired and forbidden to preach because of his anti-Nazi stance.
Not the least influence spurring the ecclesiological renewal expressed in Vatican II's "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" which proclaims the Church's mission of service to the world was the extent of the Church's institutional failure to oppose effectively the Nazi evils. Robert Krieg cites John C. Conway: "The Catholic leaders' readiness to support the nationalist and anti-Semitic goals of the Nazi regime demonstrated how unprepared they were, institutionally or theologically, to mobilize their following in any campaign beyond the defense of the immediate interests of their own community."(170) Krieg highlights how the different conceptions of the Church's mission during the Nazi era led to different responses to Hitler. Theologians like Krebs and Guardini, in their openness to modernity with its stress on human rights and democracy, anticipated Vatican II's ecclesial renewal. Krieg could have stressed more than he does the influence of the neo-scholastic separation of the natural and supernatural orders among those theologians who made a case for the reconcilability of Hitler's program with the Chuch's mission. Gaudium et Spes repudiated this separation by teaching the unitary destiny of human being. This volume includes a chronology, extensive notes, selected bibliography on German Faculties of Theology, 1933-1945, and a combined onomastic and topical index.