Friday, 8 January 2010

Letters to the Editor

The Times letters page today has one or two items of interest.

1. Unrevealed pleasure
Robert Crampton (Notebook, Jan 5) only wants books he has read on his shelves. Surely the whole point of keeping books is because they represent a store of future pleasure. Some will be worth rereading, but for most there is pleasure in the unrevealed. I like having books on my shelves that I have not read, just as I like keeping bottles of wine that I have not drunk.
This letter presupposes that a book on one's bookshelves falls into one of two categories: a book I have read, or a book I have not read.

However, there is a third category that might be considered. That is the one of being a book that I have "dipped into". I usually argue, if I am pushed into using just the "read" or "not read" categories, that these books belong in the former category.
On my bookshelves, these third category books are represented by inserted bookmarks, there for future reference. I have now started using post-it notes to mark these pages - they have a better chance of remaining in place - so this particular shelf shows some books that were "read" some time ago.

2. Nazi church flags
This letter, written from first hand experience as a child in Nazi Germany, responds to earlier corresponence: in reverse order, here, here and here. The correspondence followed adverse reporting in connection with the recognition of the heroic virtues of Pope Pius XII by the Holy See.
I believe that there are two additional observations that need to be added to the discussion in these letters. The first is to recognise that, though some Catholic lay people and ministers may not have provided the example and leadership that one might have hoped, there are others who did provide such leadership. Bishop von Galen, the "lion of Munster" comes to mind, but he is not the only such Catholic cleric. His homilies were circulated secretly in Nazi Germany, and the impression that they made on Hans Scholl ("Finally a man has had the courage to speak out" - source: Inge Scholl "The White Rose: Munich 1942-43) is precisely that of recognising the leadership being given.
The second observation is to recognise the element of coercion. This might still mean that we want to say that more Catholics in Germany should have been willing to stand up and be counted, even under coercion from the Nazi authorities. But without a recognition of the climate of force and coercion we do not properly understand the events being considered. It is a very different thing to have complied under coercion in an immoral policy or practice than it is to have embraced with willing and positive complicity such policy or practice.

1 comment:

Joe said...

I have come across one source ( that suggests that the German Catholic Bishops Conference excommunicated all active members of the Nazi party in February 1931. I haven't been able to find any other source, and this one is not referenced. [Knowing something of the work of Church in History Information Centre - it is linked from the side bar to this blog - I would expect the work to have been reasonably carefully researched.]

Can anyone help on verifying this information?