N.B. We are beginning Holy Week and I can think of nothing as penitential as a lecture on German history.
It is a very painful correspondence that I want to share with you today. It is also very personal and I am not making up a word of it. People come to me with family problems all the time. Well, your friend the Rev. Know-it-all is not immune from such difficulties. Some of my relatives are about to throw their religion overboard because of a new translation of the Missal.
Let me begin by once again saying how proud I am of my ethnic heritage. It is the vehicle through which I first heard the Gospel message. German Catholics have been heroic in the defense and practice of the faith which St. Boniface brought to us when he cut down a tree in Fritzlar, a few miles from where my family originates. The tree was sacred to Thor, and when our people saw the tree go down, they dumped Thor like a bad habit. Now of course, Boniface would be arrested for a hate crime, destruction of property and violating first amendment rights.
So I am proud not only to be ethnically German but still more proud to be a German Catholic. Germany was once a collection of tiny countries all going under the banner of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 18th century the Holy Roman Empire consisted of over 1800 separate immediate territories governed by distinct authorities. Back in 1520, when Father Martin Luther, a Saxon and a Catholic University professor (things never change much, do they?), decided he was more infallible than the pope, Europe went up for grabs. It started a century of war in which my father’s family’s town and my mother’s family’s town were burned to the ground by the Duke of Braunschweig, a northern Protestant prince. When the smoke cleared and they managed to bury the 8 million or so corpses, the north of Germany, places like Prussia, Hamburg and Braunschweig, ended up Protestant. Places in the south like Bavaria and Austria ended up Catholic. My people were a bit odd. (Are you surprised?) We are from a little grouping of towns in Oberhessen in the north that ended Catholic surrounded by, not Lutherans, but Calvinists! That means we are crabby, but still Catholic.
There really was no Germany until the 19th century when the Calvinist Dukes of Brandenburg/Prussia decided to take over the rest of the German Sates. The Prussians are what most people think of as Germans, precise, humorless, fond of a good argument or an invasion of Poland. The rest of us like beer, accordion music and wine that is sweet enough to give you diabetes. That’s why my people came here. They wanted to be Catholic. That’s why a lot of people came here, like the Irish and the Polish and the Assyrians. We have forgotten who we are and it breaks my heart that my own family has forgotten. It is a disaster to forget the faith that created our beautiful culture.
Fr. Luther started the process of forgetting by rejecting the universality of the faith that the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, represents and, by the grace of God, creates. Much of Europe is having a wonderful time forgetting the Gospel and its irritating moral demands, like permanent marriages and children. We now look forward to Islamic Republic of France, the Islamic Republic of Holland and the revived Caliphate of Cordoba (Spain). In a little while we will have the Emirate of Milwaukee and the Caliphate of New York. I imagine when that happens we, (not they, because it will be we who have given up our faith) will blow up the Statue of Liberty. It is after all the image of a goddess. One consolation; all the feminists will have to wear black birkahs. We can pretend that nuns are making a come back.
(Here’s the promised correspondence and my response:)
Subject: Re: Here's the new translation of the missal…
I can't decide if it's time to start our own church or just give up on it all together. There doesn't seem to be much reason to support the power politics that the higher clergy call church, but which is only the institutional and least important of Avery Dulles' models of the church.
And this from another relative:
It seems wordy and the words seem foreign to the 21st century. One wonders who wrote it and if this is the language that they personally use... check it out. I'd be interested in what you think....
And this is my response to my kin:
I am delighted that the ethnic heritage is still so strong in the family. I had thought we were no longer very German. How wonderful to hear talk of starting our own church. Nothing could be more quintessentially Teutonic. It's just what our ancestors' neighbor down the road apiece, Fr. Luther, did when he realized his own charisma of infallibility.
Our people left Germany because Bismarck was so antipapal. A good German owed no allegiance to a foreign prince, such as the Bishop of Rome pretends to be. Bismarck loved to draft the Catholic boys and put them in the front lines to see if the French had got the cannon range right. So they put Great Grandpa on a boat in Hanover Schmuenden at the age of sixteen to send him to Amerika where he could be Catholic and free. How delightful that a little change in vocabulary, designed to bring us more into line with other English speaking Catholics outside Amerika is about to liberate us from that foolish notion of universality and the tyrannical old Bavarian in the Vatican. Perhaps now we can all migrate back to Europe, give the land back to the Native Americans from whom we stole it and become Muslims like the rest of Europe. Allah hu Akbar.
P.S. Perhaps you've heard the saying, "There is no one so conservative as a liberal."