Mit brennender Sorge (German: "With burning concern") On the Church and the German Reich is a Catholic Church encyclical of Pope Pius XI, published on 10 March 1937 (but bearing a date of Passion Sunday, 14 March). Written in German, not the usual Latin, it was smuggled into Germany for fear of censorship and was read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches on one of the Church's busiest Sundays, Palm Sunday (March 21 that year). It condemned breaches of the Reichskonkordat agreement signed between the German Reich and the Holy See  in 1933, criticised Nazism and its elevation of one race above others. It criticised essentially those parts of Nazism that contradicted Catholicism, and condemned pantheistic confusion, neopaganism, "the so-called myth of race and blood", and idolizing the State. It contained a vigorous defence of the Old Testament out of belief that it prepared the way for the New and contained a veiled attack on Adolf Hitler.  Explicit reference to National Socialism, Hitler or the Nazi Party, is absent. Cardinal Faulhaber, who wrote a first draft, was adamant that the encyclical should be careful in both its tone and substance and should avoid explicit reference to Nazism or the Nazi Party. 
Thus the encyclical was primarily concerned to confront the Nazis anti-Catholic propaganda: to defend the Church in the face of totalitarian dictatorship. Pacelli wrote to Cardinal Faulhaber on April 2, 1937 explaining that the encyclical was theologically and pastorally necessary “to preserve the true faith in Germany.” The encyclical also defended baptized Jews, considered still Jews by the Nazis because of racial theories that the Church could not accept. The encyclical does not discuss the Jewish people in general, however, the Nazis framed their position against the Jewish people in terms of the Germanic race and the Jewish race, i.e., racism. 
The large effort to produce and distribute over 300,000 copies of the letter was entirely secret, allowing priests across Germany to read the letter without interference. The letter brought swift and long-lasting reprisal from the Nazi regime. The Gestapo raided the churches the next day to confiscate all the copies they could find, and the presses that had printed the letter were closed. The regime then constrained the actions of the Church and harassed monks with staged prosecutions.
The encyclical was drafted by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber with an introduction added by Cardinal Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) dealing with the historical background of the concordat between the Catholic Church and the Third Reich. At the time Pius XI credited the encyclical to Cardinal Pacelli. Pacelli is credited with changing the title from Mit großer Sorge (With great concern) to the more strident Mit brennender Sorge (With burning concern). According to Paul O'Shea the carefully worded denunciation of aspects of Nazism was formulated between January 16–21, 1937, by Pius XI, secretary of state Pacelli, and German cardinals Bertram, Faulhaber and Schulte, and Bishops von Preysing and von Galen. Carlo Falconi asserted that the final encyclical was "not so much an amplification of Faulhaber's draft as a faithful and even literal transcription of it". According to Frank J. Coppa, Cardinal Pacelli wrote a draft that the Pope thought was too weak and unfocused and therefore substituted a more critical analysis. Pacelli described the encyclical as "a compromise" between the Holy See's sense that it could not be silent set against "its fears and worries".
Mit brennender Sorge spoke of "God-given rights" and invoked a "human nature" that went beyond national boundaries. It stated that rejection of the Old Testament, which some leaders—religious as well as secular—advocated in Nazi Germany, was blasphemous.
Condemnation of racism
The encyclical condemned particularly the paganism of the national-socialist ideology, the myth of race and blood, and the fallacy of their conception of God. It warned Catholics that the growing Nazi ideology, which exalted one race over all others, was incompatible with Catholic Christianity.
Martin Rhonheimer writes that whilst Mit brennender Sorge asserts "race" is a "fundamental value of the human community", "necessary and honorable", it condemns the "exaltation of race, or the people, or the state, or a particular form of state", "above their standard value" to "an idolatrous level".
"None but superficial minds could stumble into concepts of a national God, of a national religion; or attempt to lock within the frontiers of a single people, within the narrow limits of a single race, God, the Creator of the universe, King and Legislator of all nations before whose immensity they are 'as a drop of a bucket' (Isaiah 40:15)."
According to Martin Rhonheimer, it was Pacelli who added to Faulhaber's milder draft the following passage:
"Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the state, or a particular form of state, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community—however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things—whoever raises these notions above their standard value and raises them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God."
Against this background to the encyclical, Faulhaber suggested in an internal Church memorandum that the bishops should inform the Nazi regime "that the Church, through the application of its marriage laws, has made and continues to make, an important contribution to the state's policy of racial purity; and is thus performing a valuable service for the regime's population policy."
The encyclical was written in German and not the usual Latin of official Catholic Church documents. Because of government restrictions, the nuncio in Berlin, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, had the encyclical distributed by courier. There was no pre-announcement of the encyclical, and its distribution was kept secret in an attempt to ensure the unhindered public reading of its contents in all the Catholic churches of Germany. Printers close to the church offered their services and produced an estimated 300,000 copies, which was still insufficient. Additional copies were created by hand and using typewriters. After its clandestine distribution, the document was hidden by many congregations in their tabernacles for protection. It was read from the pulpits of German Catholic parishes on Palm Sunday 1937.
The (censored) German newspapers made no mention of the encyclical. The Gestapo visited the offices of every German diocese the next day and seized all the copies they could find. Every publishing company that had printed it was closed and sealed, diocesan newspapers were proscribed, and limits imposed on the paper available for Church purposes.
Frank J. Coppa asserts that the encyclical was viewed by the Nazis as "a call to battle against the Reich" and that Hitler was furious and "vowed revenge against the Church".
Thomas Bokenkotter writes that "the Nazis were infuriated, and in retaliation closed and sealed all the presses that had printed it and took numerous vindictive measures against the Church, including staging a long series of immorality trials of the Catholic clergy."
According to John Vidmar, Nazi reprisals against the Church in Germany followed thereafter, including "staged prosecutions of monks for homosexuality, with the maximum of publicity". One hundred and seventy Franciscans were arrested in Koblenz and tried for “corrupting youth” in a secret trial, with numerous allegations of priestly debauchery appearing in the Nazi-controlled press, while a film produced for the Hitler Youth showed men dressed as priests dancing in a brothel.
According to Eamon Duffy, "The impact of the encyclical was immense, and it dispelled at once all suspicion of a Fascist Pope." However, Gerald Fogarty asserts that "in the end, the encyclical had little positive effect, and if anything only exacerbated the crisis." The American ambassador reported that it “had helped the Catholic Church in Germany very little but on the contrary has provoked the Nazi state...to continue its oblique assault upon Catholic institutions.”
Although the encyclical is widely hailed as "the first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism", there is some debate over the extent to which the encyclical challenged the Nazi regime. Although it did not identify him by name, it contained references to 'an insane and arrogant prophet", which scholars such as Bokenkotter, Vidmar, Rhodes and McGonigle have interpreted as referring to Adolf Hitler.
Falconi opined that the offering of a "conciliatory olive branch" to Hitler if he would restore the "tranquility" of the Church deprived the document of a "noble and exemplary intransigence". Catholic holocaust scholar Michael Phayer concludes that the encyclical "condemned racism (but not Hitler or National Socialism, as some have erroneously asserted)". Some scholars have criticized Phayer as having relied too much on German documents alone. Other Catholic scholars have regarded the encyclical as "not a heatedly combative document" as the German episcopate, still ignorant of the real dimension of the problem, still entertained hopes of a Modus vivendi with the Nazis. As a result the encyclical was "not directly polemical" but "diplomatically moderate", in contrast to the encyclical Non Abbiamo Bisogno dealing with Italian fascism.
- "Church and state through the centuries", Sidney Z. Ehler & John B Morrall, pp. 518-519, org pub 1954, reissued 1988, Biblo & Tannen, 1988, ISBN 0-8196-0189-6
- Robert A.Ventresca - p.iv of photos, Soldier of Christ
- Courtois, p. 29: "... Pope Pius XI condemned Nazism and Communism respectively in the encyclicals Mit brennender Sorge ... and Divini redemptoris ... ."
- Paul O'Shea, A Cross too Heavy, p.156-157
- McGonigle, p. 172: "Hitler, of course flagrantly violated the rights of Catholics and others whenever it pleased him. Catholic Action groups were attacked by Hitler's police and Catholic schools were closed. Priests were persecuted and sent to concentration camps. ... On Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937, the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge was read in Catholic Churches in Germany. In effect it taught that the racial ideas of the leader (führer) and totalitarianism stood in opposition to the Catholic faith. The letter let the world, and especially German Catholics, know clearly that the Church was harassed and persecuted, and that it clearly opposed the doctrines of Nazism."
- Bokenkotter, pp. 389–392: "And when Hitler showed increasing belligerence toward the Church, Pius met the challenge with a decisiveness that astonished the world. His encyclical Mit brennender Sorge was the 'first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism' and 'one of the greatest such condemnations ever issued by the Vatican.' ... It exposed the fallacy and denounced the Nazi myth of blood and soil; it decried its neopaganism, its war of annihilation against the Church, and even described the Führer himself as a 'mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance.'"
- Rhodes, pp. 204-205: "Mit brennender Sorge did not prevaricate. Although it began mildly enough with an account of the broad aims of the Church, it went on to become one of the greatest condemnations of a national regime ever pronounced by the Vatican. Its vigorous language is in sharp contrast to the involved style in which encyclicals were normally written. The education question was fully and critically examined. A long section was devoted to disproving the Nazi theory of Blood and Soil (Blut und Boden), and the Nazi claim that faith in Germany was equivalent to faith in God. There were scathing references to Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century and its neo-paganism. The pressure exercised by the Nazi party on Catholic officials to betray their faith was lambasted as 'base, illegal and inhuman'. The document spoke of "a condition of spiritual oppression in Germany such as has never been seen before", of 'the open fight against the Confessional schools and the suppression of liberty of choice for those who desire a Catholic education'. 'With pressure veiled and open,' it went on, 'with intimidation, with promises of economic, professional, civil, and other advantages, the attachment of Catholics to the Faith, particularly those in government employment, is exposed to a violence as illegal as it is inhuman.' 'The calvary of the Church': 'The war of annihilation against the Catholic Faith'; 'The cult of idols'. The fulminations thundered down from the pulpits to the delighted congregations. Nor was the Fuhrer himself spared, for his 'aspirations to divinity', 'placing himself on the same level as Christ': 'a mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance' (widerliche Hochmut)."
- Vidmar, pp. 327–331
- Robert Ventresca, Soldier of Christ, p.118
- Martin Rhonheimer, What was not Said 
- Pham, Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession (2005), p. 45: "When Pius XI was complimented on the publication, in 1937, of his encyclical denouncing Nazism, Mit brennender Sorge, his response was to point to his Secretary of State and say bluntly, 'The credit is his.' "
- Rychlak, Ronald. "The Selling of a Myth". Retrieved 2009-09-21.
- Paul O'Shea, A Cross too Heavy, p.156
- Falconi 1967, p. 229
- The Papacy, the Jews, and the Holocaust, Frank J. Coppa, pp. 162-163, CUA Press, 2006, ISBN 0-8132-1449-1
- Faulhaber's original draft of this passage read: "Be vigilant that race, or the state, or other communal values, which can claim an honorable place in worldly things, are not magnified and idolized."
- "The Holocaust: What Was Not Said". First Things Magazine. November 2003. Retrieved 30 June 2009.
- Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p. 511 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
- Rhodes, p. 205: "The true extent of the Nazi fury at this encyclical was shown by the immediate measures taken in Germany to counter further propagation of the document. Not a word of it was printed in newspapers, and the following day the Secret Police visited the diocesan offices and confiscated every copy they could lay their hands on. All the presses which had printed it were closed and sealed. The bishops' diocesan magazines (Amtsblatter) were proscribed; and paper for church pamphlets or secretarial work was severely restricted. A host of other measures, such as diminishing the State grants to theology students and needy priests (agreed in the Concordat) were introduced. And then a number of futile, vindictive measures which did little to harm the Church..."
- Falconi, p. 230: "the pontifical letter still remains the first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism, and the Pope's courage astonished the world."
- Chadwick, Owen p. 254: "The encyclical was smuggled into Germany and read from the pulpits on Palm Sunday. It made the repression far worse; but it too was necessary to Christian honour."
- Vidmar, p. 254.
- Rhodes, Anthony. Vatican in the Age of the Dictators, 1922-1945. pp. 202–210. ISBN 0-340-02394-5.
- Duffy, (paperback edition) p. 343: "In a triumphant security operation, the encyclical was smuggled into Germany, locally printed, and read from Catholic pulpits on Palm Sunday 1937. Mit brennender Sorge ('With Burning Anxiety') denounced both specific government actions against the Church in breach of the concordat and Nazi racial theory more generally. There was a striking and deliberate emphasis on the permanent validity of the Jewish scriptures, and the Pope denounced the 'idolatrous cult' which replaced belief in the true God with a 'national religion' and the 'myth of race and blood'. He contrasted this perverted ideology with the teaching of the Church in which there was a home 'for all peoples and all nations'. The impact of the encyclical was immense, and it dispelled at once all suspicion of a Fascist Pope. While the world was still reacting, however, Pius issued five days later another encyclical, Divini Redemptoris denouncing Communism, declaring its principles 'intrinsically hostile to religion in any form whatever', detailing the attacks on the Church which had followed the establishment of Communist regimes in Russia, Mexico and Spain, and calling for the implementation of Catholic social teaching to offset both Communism and 'amoral liberalism'. The language of Divini Redemptoris was stronger than that of Mit brennender Sorge, its condemnation of Communism even more absolute than the attack on Nazism. The difference in tone undoubtedly reflected the Pope's own loathing of Communism as the ultimate enemy. The last year of his life, however, left no one any doubt of his total repudiation of the right-wing tyrannies in Germany and, despite his instinctive sympathy with some aspects of Fascism, increasingly in Italy also. His speeches and conversations were blunt, filled with phrases like 'stupid racialism', 'barbaric Hitlerism'."
- Fogarty, Gerald P. (2008-08-15). "A Pope in Wartime". America. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
- Rhodes, p. 205: "Mit brennender Sorge did not prevaricate. Although it began mildly enough with an account of the broad aims of the Church, it went on to become one of the greatest condemnations of a national regime ever pronounced by the Vatican. Its vigorous language is in sharp contrast to the involved style in which encyclicals were normally written. The education question was fully and critically examined, and a long section devoted to disproving the Nazi theory of Blood and Soil (Blut und Boden) and the Nazi claim that faith in Germany was equivalent to faith in God. There were scathing references to Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century and its neo-paganism. The pressure exercised by the Nazi party on Catholic officials to betray their faith was lambasted as 'base, illegal and inhuman'. The document spoke of 'a condition of spiritual oppression in Germany such as has never been seen before' of 'the open fight against the Confessional schools and the suppression of liberty of choice for those who desire a Catholic education'. 'With pressure veiled and open,' it went on, 'with intimidation, with promises of economic, professional, civil and other advantages, the attachment of Catholics to the Faith, particularly those in government employment, is exposed to a violence as illegal as it is inhuman.' 'The calvary of the Church': 'The war of annihilation against the Catholic Faith'; 'The cult of idols'. The fulminations thundered down from the pulpits to the delighted congregations. Nor was the Fuhrer himself spared, for his 'aspirations to divinity', 'placing himself on the same level as Christ'; 'a mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance' (widerliche Hochmut)."
- Falconi 1967 p. 230
- Phayer 2000, p. 2
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