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December 2003

Venerable Franz Jägerstätter

1907-1943

HARRIET MURPHY

Readers in England may already be familiar with Venerable Franz Jägerstätter. There is a Catholic Truth Society pamphlet on twentieth century martyrs with a write up on him alongside essays on St. Maximilian Kolbe, Venerable Karl Leisner and Blessed Rupert Mayer, which was first published in 1997. (He is also known to the English-speaking world through a full-length study by the American Gordon Zahn, first published in 1964, when anti-Vietnam fever was running high, which slightly colours the Pacifist interpretation.)

All four men lived and died under the Third Reich. Venerable Franz Jägerstätter is the only one who was not a priest. He was an Austrian civilian, the illegitimate child of a couple who lived in the very northern part of Upper Austria, in a village called St. Radegund right next to the border with Bavaria, and only about fifteen miles away from the Lourdes of Bavaria, the Marian shrine of Altötting. His cause is currently advancing in Austria.

His unusual act of disobedience - he refused to fight under Hitler after he was called up, because he did not believe in conscience that Hitler’s war was a just one, for which protest he was punished and sent to prison in Berlin where he was eventually beheaded - has been misrepresented. The Catholic Truth Society essay is particularly misleading.

Bruce Kent’s pacificism
Written by former priest Bruce Kent, renowned for his involvement in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament [CND], it gives the impression that the Servant of God was a proponent of pacifism. Bruce Kent admits Venerable Jägerstätter was no proponent of pacifism "in an absolute sense", but he uses copious quotations from Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris and documents from the Second Vatican Council, which not surprisingly give the impression that Venerable Franz Jägerstätter anticipated the post-1958 contempt for the Church’s ancient teaching that there is such a thing as a holy and just war. Yet this is a teaching which goes back to St. Augustine, and presupposes the idea that defensive war is embarked upon to defend Christ and his Church. This doctrine has lost its force in the post-Reformation world as it capitulates to secularization; where defence of spiritual values has given way to the Masonic goals of freedom, equality and fraternity, ‘human’ rights and ‘democratic’ rights.

This transfer of allegiance from the supernatural to the natural has infiltrated its way into many apparently Catholic organizations, ones which are now effectively working for a morally-neutral global community, rather than to glorify God and to respect His divine rights and laws.

A brief glance at the publicity and rhetoric of Oxfam and Cafod together with their questionable political and economic support of non-Catholic groups, which may be subverting military dictatorships but which are relying on violence to achieve those objectives, is proof positive of this shift. It means that the Catholicity of our originally Catholic organizations is going to diminish over time, as they come to have more and more in common with purely humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International.

Both Patricia Phillips in the pages of Christian Order and Tara Holmes in Catholic World Report [February, 2003] revealed that such organizations regularly dissent from Catholic moral teachings. Cafod, the English epsicopate’s overseas aid agency, is a militant promoter of the use of condoms to "prevent the spread of Aids", in which campaign it has proved singularly useless because chastity alone works, as is shown by the example of Nigeria. Nor is there anything pure about Amnesty International, when one considers the authority Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) wield in the international arena, and how the United Nations manipulates their purely non-juridical information to influence international opinion and to pre-judge highly politicized show trials at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Milosevic being the most recent example. Venerable Jägerstätter has unfortunately become caught up in this diabolical game.

The revised position of the post-1958 Church with which old Lefties like Bruce Kent are so sympathetic is apparent in the multiple insinuations that peace is worth having at any cost, even at the expense of Catholic principles.

In what follows we shall try to correct this impression, and shall be demonstrating that the Servant of God’s conscientious objection to serving in the army and fighting for Hitler’s causes was motivated by a profound awareness of two things: that Hitler was presenting himself as a parody of the Messiah, and that his anti-Christian/pagan rhetoric was absolutely irreconcilable with genuine Catholicism, to the extent that it deserved absolutely no support in any form from the civilian population.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the Servant of God set out to use the circumstances of his day to launch a broad-side against the ancient Catholic teaching of the rightness of the principle of holy and just wars to defend Christ and his teachings. Rhetorical questions he raises about the war on the Russian front are intended to help us focus on our real duty as Christians, to evangelise in a spiritual war to save souls. Venerable Franz Jägerstätter is, nonetheless, sceptical about the underlying motives of the Great Powers in going to war, clear in his own mind that economic and political advantage is often at stake rather than a desire to defend, protect and glorify Christianity.

In all of this it is surprising that Bruce Kent does not seem to appreciate that there can only be one reason why Holy Mother Church might continue to canonize those who resisted Hitler, the man who presented himself as a Satanic parody of the Messiah, and promised to redeem his people by means of a purge of all non-German blood. It can only be that they resisted Hitler in the name of the only true Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood has already redeemed all people without exception from the inevitability of sin, to promise them a just reward or punishment after death, making it completely unnecessary to invest hope in other promises of redemption given by secular leaders, like Hitler.

Indeed, Venerable Franz Jägerstätter’s writings show him to be a true disciple of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, always alive to the need to protect and defend His honour, and to imitate Him at all times. The acute awareness of the value of suffering and of the ultimate self-sacrifice make him Christ-like. He never doubted that in accepting the unjust punishment of being beheaded, the unjust use of the law which was acting as an instrument of terror to sustain a highly immoral State fighting a highly public war on Christ, he was not just being given the grace to save his own soul, but the grace to save many other souls. His concern is for the sanctification and salvation of souls. Thus, his own will was identical with the Will of God.

That he submitted to the tyrannical law of a militantly anti-Christian regime in humility makes him in our eyes imitate the passion and death of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who was also crucified unjustly by those who hated him, and on trumped up charges. The fact that Franz Jägerstätter’s protest did not receive the kind of recognition St. Thomas More’s enjoyed, does not deprive it of its significance.

Simple origins
Franz Jägerstätter was a simple and humble Catholic from a provincial back-water where he had not drawn attention to himself in any dramatic way, at least not until after his marriage, which by all accounts made of him a serious and more pious man than ever before. The honeymoon was spent in Rome. On his return the Servant of God became a sexton and remained one till he left the village of St. Radegund for Berlin.

His wife insists his piety was not extreme, a fact borne out by her assertion that he only visited the nearby Marian shrine of Altötting for the first time in 1941, two years before his death. He was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, revived by Pope Leo XIII, which he joined on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1940; was familiar with the first Friday Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; whilst in prison requested information on the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917; evidently knew Blessed Anna Katharina Emmerich’s writings, and knew Holy Scripture well.

All of this suggests an inauspicious start to what became a solitary crusade, since the Servant of God never participated in any intellectual/political/Catholic resistance movement. He accepted his punishment, and from his solitary cell in Berlin composed letters to his loved ones, moral tracts and reflections whose rhetoric and power is truly inspiring. Why? Because he treats his own position of non-conformism in a matter of fact way, and because he treats the historical moment - Hitler’s power over many souls throughout Europe - as a re-enactment of the drama of the Passion and Death of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, depicting the mass support for and collaboration with Hitler as a sign of the archetypal folly of middle-of-the-road Christians. These are not the subject of vitriol, far from it. They are seen in biblical terms, which often take on prophetic and apocalyptic overtones, as he expresses holy fear at those who consistently refuse to think, and hate to suffer, preferring the route to perdition because of the illusory consolation provided by conformism.

Indeed, in the piece "The Crooked Game" he quotes the passage from the Book of the Apocalypse: "Had you been hot or cold, I would have kept you near Me: but because you are only lukewarm, I will spit you out of My mouth". The support for Hitler is viewed as a betrayal of the command to follow Christ by taking up the cross, and the command to accept suffering as the just punishment of a loving God, who wishes to purge us of our sins on our pilgrimage to Heaven on earth.

The writings are, then, first and foremost, meditations on the meaning of the crucifixion. The titles are: "On the Question of Our Day: Catholic or Nazi?"; "Little Thoughts concerning our past, present and future"; "Bolshevism - or National Socialism"; "The Crooked Game"; "On Irresponsibility"; "Is there anything the individual can still do?"; "Is there still a God?"; "War or Revolution"; "On Dangerous Weapons", and finally the famous "Prison Statement" and a powerful letter to his godson Franz Huber.

Decrying Catholic capitulation
From the very beginning in Franz Jägerstätter’s writings, Hitler is not just another politician with Messianic/utopian promises that may or may not seem plausible ways of improving social, economic or political conditions in Austria and Germany. He is viewed as a severe danger, a madman, a militant nationalist whose schemes should not be given the support of the people because everything he stands for is drastically anti-Christian.

In fear and trembling the Servant of God notes how obedient, enthusiastic and supportive the people are towards Hitler, when their obedience, enthusiasm and support for the Church to which they belong had always been lukewarm. His critique is couched in epic terms when he goes on to describe the welcome given to Hitler by Austria at the time of the Anschluss in 1938 as a rewriting of the way the rabble begged the common criminal Barabbas to be released on Good Friday.

Venerable Franz Jägerstätter’s contempt for the fickleness of the masses is matched by unqualified contempt for the way the Church helped to engineer support for Hitler’s ‘peaceful’ annexation of Austria, resulting in a near overwhelming ratification by plebiscite. Symbolically then, the Church and the people chose an Anti-Christ when they should have remained true to the promises of the true Christ. He accuses the Church of abandoning Her policy of resistance to National Socialism - which had been systematic at least up until 1938 - by capitulating to National Socialist ideology and suddenly treating those who died for Hitler as heroes and saints.

Historical context: Dollfuss and Schuschnigg
One can begin by asking whether his very strong accusations are justified in objective terms. It is an old mantra that the Catholic Church in Austria collaborated with the Third Reich. We need to bear in mind the context.

In 1937 the Vatican had published Mit brennender Sorge, with which the Servant of God was familiar, which was a categorical denunciation of Hitler and National Socialism as anti-Christian. The institution of the Catholic Church had moved swiftly, therefore, to warn the world that Hitler was not deserving of any support. The works of Alfred Rosenberg, Propaganda Minister, were put on the Index. This severity was matched by an institutional position, whereby Nazis were debarred access to the sacrament of Holy Communion.

One should never forget how deeply affected Europe had been by the 1917 Revolution in Russia, because the sense that the Bolsheviks were the real enemy was paramount in everyone’s minds: Hitler used the existence of this true enemy to incite support and a united front against a common enemy, and many who supported him were first and foremost supporting his stand against communism. Which raises the question as to how the Church in Austria in 1938 was capable of the folly of ‘welcoming’ Hitler ‘peacefully’, especially since the Catholic politician Dollfuss (1892-1934) had fought so valiantly to spread the teachings of the Church throughout the country.

Dollfuss had been influenced by Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical to restore all things to Christ Instaurare in Christo and by Pope Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno which advocates ways of ending the economic struggles of the working classes. With a background in agriculture, having studied law and at one point thought of becoming a priest, he was responsible for a golden age of Catholic social reform, with legislation to protect the economically weak and underprivileged from exploitation. Dollfuss had brokered a concordat for Austria in 1933 but was later eliminated from Austrian politics because he represented a principled opposition to the politics of National Socialism. He was shot by the Nazis as they purged Austria of opposition before the Anschluss, paving the way for the peaceful entrance itself.

After Dollfuss there was Schuschnigg, whose policies were intended to intimidate the radical elements which Dollfuss had sought to quell. To those who do not accept that both Dollfuss and Schuschnigg were continuing a long tradition of successful Catholic political action in the front line, in parliamentary life, which began at least with the Jesuit Fr. Ignaz Seipel, their principled opposition to the extreme Left (Austro-Marxism) or the extreme Right (Austro-Fascism) is considered to this day to be evidence of internal totalitarianism and contempt for democracy. Why? Because in the battle against Austro-Marxism and Austro-Fascism Notstandgesetze (emergency laws) were in use which may have been draconian, and of course led to arrests of innocent people on suspicion of subversive activities, some of which seemed to have no justification.

Matters came to a head and got out of hand in civil war on the streets of Vienna in February 1934, which the historian Brook-Shepherd described as a "brief but bloody tragedy". The enemies of Catholicism and Austria were quick to exploit some of the chaos. Books were circulated abroad which gave the impression Dollfuss was the real enemy, and that Austria under his rule was a "police state". So Dollfuss has next to no apologists, apart from Schuschnigg, even though the extreme legal measures which were introduced into the country in a very turbulent period were actually intended to root out the anarchic forces within.

Under Schuschnigg the battle to resist Hitler came to an end. Otto von Habsburg, son of the last Kaiser, Venerable Kaiser Karl, had a prophetic sense of the dangers facing Austria and wrote to Schuschnigg on 17th February 1938, offering to take over as Chancellor. Schuschnigg did not respond. That Hitler was terrified that a revival of interest in the monarchy might destroy his plans is evident from the fact that he actually called his campaign of vilification of the Habsburgs "Operation Otto". On 20th April 1938 Hitler published photos of Otto for his arrest. In his last public speech Schuschnigg said on 11th March 1938: "wir weichen der Gewalt" ["we have had to capitulate to force"].

Cardinal Innitzer and Hitler
What Venerable Jägerstätter is alluding to is the conduct of Cardinal Innitzer of Vienna, who throughout this period was the man who historians believe welcomed Hitler to Austria at the Imperial Hotel in Vienna shortly after the take-over. This inaugurated an absolute fiasco in Church-State relations, from which the Church did not easily recover.

Undoubtedly as a result of a fatal misunderstanding of the brilliant propaganda machine of the National Socialists, who excelled at ways of exploiting words and deeds to legitimize their own regime in the eyes of the people, and undoubtedly as a result of internal intrigue, the official recognition which was publicized by the Church three days after the Anschluss caused a national and international sensation for the unqualified support it appeared to give the new "Reich". A covering note in which the Cardinal included the "Heil Hitler!" greeting was considered an outrageous betrayal. It seems that this was extracted by the National Socialists, on the assumption that it would guarantee peaceful coexistence, a grave and naïve failing on the Cardinal’s part.

Commentators often overlook the fact that Cardinal Innitzer was roundly condemned by the Vatican immediately thereafter, obliging him to retract his support. Cardinal Innitzer was actually summoned to Rome because of the gravity of the situation. A formal clarification of the Church’s position in respect of Hitler was drafted by Cardinal Pacelli and later published with the Cardinal’s approval, in which the Vatican makes clear that the Austrian people is to treat the new regime with scepticism, asking them to fight to ensure that the rights of God and the Church are upheld by the Concordat already in existence. To those who do not have a real interest in the Church this latter detail is usually left out of account, leaving the Church exposed as a collaborator.

One can perhaps draw the common-sense conclusion that Catholics are as weak and fragile members of the human race as others, who, in spite of warnings by the good Shepherd in Rome, were capable of being seduced by the hypnotic allure of power and authority which Hitler undoubtedly exuded. Indeed, the demonic aspects of Hitler’s personality have recently been traced back to his party’s serious addiction to the occult. So if the hierarchy and the people in Austria had not heeded the warnings of the Vatican in Mit brennender Sorge, the encyclical condemning Fascism published in 1937, and had ceased to follow the Church’s directives to deprive the Nazis of Holy Communion, the Servant of God does have a case for couching the accusations he levels against the Austrians and the Church in Austria in the biblical terms he chooses: lax Catholics are historically always fatally attracted to the route of least resistance and usually capitulate to an easy option.

Not everyone followed Cardinal Innitzer, however, which is why general denunciations of the Catholic Church are unhistorical. Indeed, bishop Gföllner of Linz, who was the Servant of God’s bishop, wrote a pastoral letter on 22nd January 1933 for his diocese, denouncing National Socialism roundly, and making a strong case for resisting the State in this case. He advocated precisely the kind of informed disobedience for which Venerable Franz Jägerstätter is famous, recognizing that whilst the State was owed allegiance if its aims were broadly consistent with Christianity, obedience should be withheld if they were not. It is always our first duty to obey God before man, according to the First Commandment.

Finally we should not overlook the pressure brought to bear on the Church by State laws. It is no use reprinting photographs of Catholic churches sporting flags with the swastika in an attempt to discredit the Church in toto, because on 15th September 1935 this became law for special occasions. Other pressure was brought to bear on the Church in similar abuses of the weapon of the law: on 20th December 1934 "das Heimtückegesetz" (Treachery Law) enabled police to arrest anybody who presumed to criticize the regime from the pulpit.

Prophetic insight
The compelling beauty of Franz Jägerstätter’s testimony stems from his purity of heart and intention. There is no doubt that after the death of Hitler and the collapse of the Third Reich the world sought to find an explanation for the whole recent chapter in German and world history: virtually every known discipline has been used to provide meaningful accounts of the rise to power of a megalomaniac, ranging from psychology, psychology of the masses, psychiatry, history, anthropology, sociology, economics, sexuality, the occult and philosophy. Of course such accounts usually communicate a sense of the epic quality of evil. Yet Venerable Jägerstätter’s protest was contemporary; it was not the product of hindsight, not the moral pose of somebody who has the benefit of all the documentary proof available to a post-1945 audience.

The protest was the message of a dream/nightmare which he had as early as 1938, a proof of his prophetic grasp of the folly of popular support for the pseudo-Messiah, Hitler.

In "On the Question of our day: Catholic or Nazi?" he recounts the following:

All of a sudden I saw a beautiful shining railroad train that circled around a mountain. Streams of children - and adults as well - rushed toward the train and could not be held back. I would rather not say how many adults did not join the ride. Then I heard a voice say to me: "This train is going to hell". Immediately it seemed as if someone took me by the hand, and the same voice said "Now we will go into purgatory". And oh! So frightful was the suffering I saw and felt, I could only have thought that I was in hell itself if the voice had not told me we were going into purgatory. Probably no more than a few seconds passed while I saw all this. Then I heard a sigh and saw a light - and all was gone…Until that night I never would have believed that the suffering in purgatory could be so great.

At first this traveling train was something of a riddle to me, but the longer our situation continues, the clearer the meaning of this train becomes for me. Today it seems to me that it is a symbol of nothing but National Socialism, which was then breaking in (or better, creeping in) upon us with all of its many different organizations.

He then goes on to enumerate all those social organizations the Nazis encouraged the people to join, fully aware of just how organized the attempt was to encourage German nationals to participate in an ideology which stresses the very particulars the Catholic faith is supposed to replace, by encouraging the people to join in "community" activities which were thinly disguised attempts to evangelise the people in the virtues of National Socialism: the stress on pure blood; on pure race; on pure nationalism; the stress on the collective of thoroughbred German nationals who were being encouraged to see their origins in a pseudo-mythical way, drawing on the occult, the fanciful and the whimsical.

Necessity of suffering and martyrdom
The Servant of God’s grasp, then, of the insinuating tactics used by the political elites, together with his clear sense that the appeal was primitive and atavistic, was motivated by a moral/spiritual conviction that the people were choosing the apostasy, shedding their Catholic faith and principles in the process. The historical moment is seen in terms of our epic journey towards three destinations: Heaven, Purgatory or Hell.

The distress at the poor leadership of the Church seems justified in context: the Church had prepared the way for moral opposition in denouncing National Socialism in principle in Mit brennender Sorge and by refusing Holy Communion to party members, but in the wake of the 1938 take-over had capitulated in general, leaving resistance to the heroic few.

Lest Venerable Jägerstätter be thought from this to be indirectly encouraging aggression towards the Church, he speaks with compassion of the force of temptation; and counsels us to pray for the weak amongst us, especially the priests and bishops, before reminding us that it is the duty of a follower of Christ to suffer; that this was what Christ was obliged to live through, and the apostles, and the great saints.

In another piece, "Little thoughts concerning our past, present and future", he returns to the central theme of the moral choice we have to make, to resist Mammon and to worship the one true God, all of which must involve a sacrifice. He points out that the early martyrs could have agreed to offer up sacrifice to false Gods for the ‘privilege’ of life, but they did not, because nothing could justify denying the Faith, and because everything was at stake, nothing less than the salvation of souls.

So the Servant of God is of and in the Church. He values martyrdom, as the Church always has. He asks powerful rhetorical questions at this level. The spontaneous support the people have been giving to Hitler proves their ability to surrender themselves completely, to the extent of sacrificing their lives for his causes. He is fully aware that it is not the idea of self-sacrifice which is being misunderstood, rather a much deeper truth is being betrayed and denied, as if Christ were not really the true Christ, as if Christ had not been the Messiah, making it necessary for someone else to come along and occupy this place in the hearts of the people.

Again this question is not bombast. Commentators show that when Hitler entered Vienna many people knelt down, as if the biblical prophecy of the thousand years of peace on earth were being realized in the person of Hitler. Hitler had already made brilliant instrumental use of this Messianic prophecy in his political speeches. Venerable Jägerstätter asks us to think about who it is who is offering true redemption and salvation? Christ offers us the consolation of the salvation of our souls through all eternity; whereas Hitler is offering us the transitory thrill of collaborating in what is a pagan religion of rebirth and renewal in the here and now. That the people could have been so easily seduced he reads in terms of the folly of man, Old Testament style.

Apocalyptic and contemporary
Venerable Jägerstätter also takes issue with the idea that Hitler deserved support because he was the legitimate defender of German culture and civilization. He takes this to be equally questionable, and in ways which are relevant in our day, considering the Western world’s reflexive response to the attacks on the World Towers in New York on 11th September 2001.

President George Bush and his allies believe that bloodshed and destruction are justified in a ‘holy war’ and a ‘crusade’ against the enemies of Western values of freedom and democracy and so on. The Servant of God asks his audience to reflect on whether Hitler could really be taken seriously as a defender of German culture and civilization, when he states that the numbers of children being aborted in the cities already exceeds those lost in the First World War, which acts he refers to as "Herod-like". The war on Christ is on-going, he implies: the truths of Holy Scripture remain pertinent for all generations, and we should see history as God does, the Lord of all human history, not from the standpoint of a mere mortal, such as Hitler. We think we are cultured and civilized, but we are not because we tolerate passively the murder of children: we are all Herods.

In this meditation he draws on the spirit of prophecy in sources outside Holy Scripture He returns to the nineteenth century German Augustinian nun from the Catholic Münsterland, Venerable Anna Katharina Emmerich, who received the stigmata, and whose cause is now quite far advanced, who was given to understand that the Church of Christ would be infiltrated by Lucifer in the last half of the twentieth century. He sees the mass support for the pagan Hitler as a terrible sign of capitulation to the world on a scale possibly not known in the West and in the history of Christendom, and in this his assessment of the historical moment makes him fully apocalyptic.

Soldiers of Christ: Total Catholic witness
The most eloquent testimony to his unique position of refusing to shed his blood for Hitler in any military campaign - he did offer to make himself available to take on purely civilian tasks - was written from prison in Brandenburg before he was beheaded. They begin:

These few words are being set down here as they come from my mind and heart. And if I must write them with my hands in chains, I find that much better than if my will were in chains. Neither prison nor chains nor sentence of death can rob a man of the Faith and his free will. God gives so much strength that it is possible to bear any suffering, a strength far stronger than all the might of the world. The power of God cannot be overcome. If people took as much trouble to warn men against the serious sins which bring eternal death, and thus keep them from such sins, as they are taking to warn me against a dishonourable death, I think Satan could count on no more than a meagre harvest in the last days. Again and again, people stress the obligations of conscience as they concern my wife and children. But I can not believe that, just because one has a wife and children, a man is free to offend God by lying (not to mention all the other things he would be called upon to do). Did not Christ Himself say: "He who loves father, mother, or children more than Me is not deserving of my love?" or "Fear not those who can kill the body but not the soul: rather fear much more those who seek to destroy body and soul in hell.

He goes on to distinguish between true and false obedience; he attacks those who have counseled him that men at the time were not in a position to draw the conclusion that Hitler’s war was an unjust one, by asking a powerful rhetorical question: are we made in God’s image, and did He endow us with the use of reason to make moral judgments or not? In other words, what is the point of accepting that we can judge morally between good and evil because God has made us in this way, if every single challenge in daily life is not a positive opportunity to apply the laws and truths of God to human reality?

The unspoken accusation is that the people are hiding behind a lie, when they claim they cannot draw firm conclusions from prima facie evidence. Why are they living a lie? Because they rejoice in the comforts of home life and conformism in general, and prefer consolations of this kind to facing up to the ultimate questions about the purpose of life on earth, which is to save souls by fighting to preserve our purity, and by resisting temptations.

He is convinced that we really are only born for one reason, for eternity, which is why life on earth at all times has to serve a higher purpose, has to express this higher purpose, has to be the Word made flesh and dwelling amongst us. This is what the Church means when She teaches us that we have to be soldiers of Christ, we have to witness to the truth in all that we say, think and do.

Holy fear and the narrow path
In making these profound statements he returns to what I believe is his unique grasp of the historical moment of National Socialism, which is the profound intuition that it was the fulfillment of the prophecy that in the end times there would be a falling away from the Faith on an unprecedented scale, this being the reality of the apostasy referred to above all by St. Paul, and the subject in allegorical form of the whole of the Book of the Apocalypse.

To offer oneself formally for service in Hitler’s army; to give oneself morally to his causes is to lie about one’s identity as a Catholic and a soldier of Christ. He thus quotes a saint as saying that even if a white lie were presented to us as efficacious, as capable of extinguishing all the flames of hell, we should still not tell it, because it is an offence against God.

The question that he is asking the people who supported Hitler with such enthusiasm, even to the point of self-sacrifice is this: where is there a true and honourable fear of God in the people? To support Hitler is to forget the first Commandment, which obliges us to love and fear God above all. This understated attack on the folly of those on the broad road to perdition is echoed in another biblical quotation, that we can only enter Heaven through the narrow gate. Mass support of a purely secular Messiah like Hitler is just proof positive that most people misuse their God-given freedom, misuse their moral will, and choose the road to perdition.

Epic struggle of ordinary life
But this is obviously also a call to arms, a call to those who could resist the compulsive thrill of conforming and the consolation of popularity, by fighting to stay on the narrow path that leads to eternal life, recognizing the spiritual battle of every day life as a dynamic war between God and Satan, Heaven and Hell. Our weapons are our faith and the power of the moral will acting in God’s name; the example of Our Blessed Lord and Our Lady; the sacraments; prayer and spiritual reading, in full confidence that God has given us the greatest weapon of all, which is still valid and powerful even when we have been deprived of our physical freedom and our emotional support, as was the Servant of God when he penned his great meditations in prison in Berlin.

The moral will is an instrument of faith of the highest order, because by using it properly we identify ourselves with the Will of God, as his children. The moral will is of no value, ultimately, unless it can be trained to conform to the Will of God, as St. Alphonsus of Liguori teaches us in his famous tract on that very subject. Franz Jägerstätter accepted his unjust punishment; saw in it the Hand of God; believed and knew that his accepting the Will of God was pleasing to God and would save his souls and many others too.

This magnificent sense of the epic nature of ordinary life and of the importance of fighting temptation is also echoed in a pastoral letter to a godson who had lost his parents. He speaks of other temptations, those of the flesh, and urges him in the same manner to be a true soldier of Christ in the face of them, for the greater glory of God. Even from prison his only desire was to encourage souls to recognize the importance of man’s primary duty: to save his soul. As Cardinal Merry del Val said in a prayer preserved in the Raccolta: "O my soul, love the Love that loves thee from eternity".

Our Lady of Fatima
Satan’s perversities always have a certain sick logic. It is all of a piece that a man who was capable of such sustained meditation, whose ascetic will was so strong, should actually be beheaded, as if Satan’s hatred of man’s spiritual, moral and mental faculties was such that his act of revenge had to be directed at the very part of the body in which the sufferings of a whole generation of German/Austrian Catholics took place.

The body of Venerable Franz Jägerstätter was deprived of the comforts of his wife and children when he was held in custody, sent to prison, put on trial and sentenced; the head of Venerable Jägerstätter was separated from the body in the ritual punishment of a beheading, the fate of countless martyrs throughout the history of the Church. But Satan has no power over souls who love God, Our Lord and Our Lady.

We can say and should say that Venerable Franz carried Our Lord’s cross for all those confused Catholics who refused to recognise the challenge posed to Catholics by Hitler; his victory is our hope; his example is a powerful warning to us today when, once again, our secular leaders presume to claim to represent a true and valid defence of truth, asking the civilian population for their support for war and bloodshed in the wake of 11th September 2001.

What truth and whose truth is being defended and upheld as the Western world capitulates to warmongering and bloodshed, when international cooperation at the level of security, policing and the secret services would have been sufficient to respond to Osaman Bin Laden’s offensive? Whose interests are being served by revenge, by the reckless shedding of blood, destruction of property, poverty, sickness, the destruction of homes and families, homeless children, orphans and widows? Can the West claim to be defending Christ in going to war, when the West has legalized the teachings of anti-Christ on an unprecedented scale? No. The West is anti-Christ. It is the view of the present writer that there is no justification for civilian support in Christian terms of this latest war. It is not a holy war, just as Venerable Franz Jägerstätter knew that Hitler’s war was not a holy war.

The war that Catholics need to be fighting today throughout the world is the war on all the lies that are permeating the global village, and the leader of this war is Our Lady of Fatima, who has promised the world, not just the Catholic Church and Catholics, an ultimate triumph, PEACE. But Her war requires submission to God and God’s command that Russia be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Vicar of Christ in union with all the bishops of the world. Only recourse to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the rosary; only the garment of grace known as the brown scapular; only love of truth can save souls, the world, and bring us peace, which is what we all want.

Franz Jägerstätter requested information on Our Lady of Fatima. There is no proof that he fully understood the promise of peace offered by Our Lady at Fatima. But in reviewing the significance of his resistance we should return with renewed vigour to the real war of the spirit as members of the Church Militant in the twenty-first century; we must follow Our Lady of Fatima.

Intercessions and notifications
The Servant of God was born on 20th May 1907, began his long pilgrimage on 17th June 1940 - when called to active service at the nearest large town, Braunau, the birth-place of Adolph Hitler - and was beheaded in Brandenburg on 9th August 1943.

He should be invoked in cases involving a conflict of conscience; in times of acute loneliness and suffering; for perseverance when we are accused unjustly; for the humility to accept unfair punishments to make reparation for the sins of mankind; for the courage to profess the Faith in public; for an increase in devotion to one’s spouse and family for the greater glory of God; for an end to the political instrumentalisation of holy saints and martyrs by the hierarchy and the Vatican; for a greater understanding of the diabolical abuse of power in modern political life; for a holy crusade against abortion; and for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary forecast at Fatima, to usher in an "era of peace".

As a suggestion for a novena we quote from his letters sent from Berlin (1943):

Even though it is true that I write these words to you with my hands in chains, that is a thousand times better than if my own will were in chains...No dungeon, no chains, not even death can separate us from the Love of God. Neither can our freedom of will be violated, nor our faith in God. God’s power cannot be vanquished. Pater. Ave. Gloria.

Notification of favours received to: The Cause for the beatification of Venerable Franz Jägerstätter, Diözese Linz, Herrenstrasse 19, A-4020 Linz, Austria.

POSTSCRIPT:
On 19th January 1995 the faculty of Theology at the University of Linz resolved to promote the cause of Venerable Franz Jägerstätter. The support is couched in ways which are open to question, and imply that the Catholic Church is capable of resorting to propaganda, in roughly the same way as our politicians do.

His cause is talked about in the context of the ‘corporate’ guilt of the Catholic Church under the Third Reich for the crimes of National Socialism. In spite of the rider that not all members of the hierarchy in Austria gave unconditional support to Hitler, the Servant of God can apparently help the Church to repair Her public image, by purging Herself of the guilt she incurred indirectly for not putting up enough resistance.

So Venerable Franz Jägerstätter is being instrumentalised for these political and heretical ends. The mea culpas of the reigning Pontiff have undoubtedly encouraged this innovation in Church history. As Catholics who believe in the seven sacraments, we should not forget that confession exists for individual souls to confess their individual sins before God the Father. No authority outside the confessional has the right or ability to provide corporate absolution for something called corporate guilt. This is completely bogus. Those responsible for promoting the Servant of God’s cause in these terms are betraying his cause by coopting his unique position as an elect member of the Mystical Body of Christ for an innovation: the idea that the Church is a human collective, an ‘institution’ in society like any other, apparently capable of sinning collectively like any other purely secular institution. These are all heresies of the first order, and they are being enacted by those who are trying to liquidate the Church.

It is all of a piece, given this general context, that the Upper Austrian branch of an international organization called Pax Christi is most active in ‘promoting’ the Servant of God. Its policies are those of CND (the absolute rejection of armament and defence), and are therefore not consistent with the ancient teaching of the Church, whereby a defensive war is a moral necessity. In addition, he is being used to influence the foreign policy of Austria, and to ensure that troops active abroad are only operating in the service of ‘peace’.

The only other important point about Pax Christi is that it acts as an instrument to advance ecumenism. Christians of all denominations participate in their gatherings. What unites them? As they believe in peace on any terms and at any cost, they all unite to deny Catholic doctrine; to overrule the teaching authority of the Catholic Church; to misrepresent the contribution of individual souls to the Hitler phenomenon; and to politicize all actions in terms of the Masonic goals of freedom, equality and fraternity, understood in a purely secular way, as rhetorical words and gestures which can unite a human community against God, Who becomes officially redundant. This rhetoric may be accompanied by peace in the sense of absence of bloodshed, but it is most definitely an outrageous war on truth.

As Venerable Franz Jägerstätter gave up his life for the Mystical Body of Christ, an action which made him Christ-like, the Pax Christi idea of group unity this side of the grave could not be a more disgraceful mockery of Christ and his true followers. A truly Christian peace requires complete submission to all the teachings of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and to the Church which he founded. We can be quite certain that the existence of the international Pax Christi movements with their Masonic goals is simply yet another sign of the apostasy.