It's hard not to get caught up in what is called the current crisis going on in the global Anglican Communion at present if you're an American Episcopalian. But it is stories like these that remind me that it's not always so bad here in our little corner of Christendom. I first came across this article over at Kendall Harmon's site. It tells the story of slave labor used by the Catholic Church in Germany during the Nazi era. The mere fact of this is terrible in itself, much like the Episcopal Church's dubious history with slavery in the US. But the real corker is the way a German Cardinal responded to the news of this.
The Archbishop of Mainz, Cardinal Karl Lehmann said the 700-page history entitled "Forced Labour in the Catholic Church 1939-1945" found that 776 church hospitals, homes, monasteries, farms and gardens were provided with slave labour imported from Russia, Poland and the Ukraine by the Nazi regime.
“The comparatively small number of labourers, many of whom spent barely a year working in Catholic institutions, doesn't even amount to a thousandth of the estimated total of 13 million forced labourers employed throughout the Reich," Cardinal Lehmann said at a press conference broadcast on German television on April 8.
"But it remains an historical burden which will continue to challenge our church in the future. There is no collective guilt, but as Christians and as a church we are aware of the responsibility that results from the burden of the past,” the former president of the German Catholic Bishops Conference said.
Are you kidding me! "There is no collective guilt..."
The Cardinal goes on to make a half hearted non-apology...
"We shouldn't hide the fact that the memory of the Catholic church was blind for too long to the fate and the suffering of the men, women, young people and children dragged to Germany from all over Europe to be put to forced labour," Cardinal Lehmann said.
They were more than blind to it, they were culpable in it! Here is the whole article, read at your own risk
Of coarse what do I know. According to Pope Benedict, I belong not to a church, but to a ecclesial community that suffers from defects!
All of this makes me think of the words of the invitation to the confession in the old Book of Common Prayer office of Morning Prayer...
DEARLY beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us, in
sundry places, to acknowledge and confess our manifold
sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble
nor cloak them before the face of Almighty God our
heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly,
penitent, and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain
forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and
It seems to me there is often a lot of dissembling and cloaking of our actions in the church, especially when those present or past actions are against those we disagree with. I for one am glad to be in a church that is struggling with issues about basic human rights. Because that is exactly what the current crisis in Anglicanism is all about. It is not about doctrine, it is not about scripture, and it not about apostolic authority, it is about whether or not all people are created equal in the eyes of God. And I pray we never disemble or cloak that to appease someone who disagrees with us.