Issues analysis
The roar of the Lion of Münster
Helen Weir, RenewAmerica analyst
February 2, 2009

    We are standing before the ruins of inner national unity, which in these last days has been brutally destroyed. . . . Can there be national solidarity with . . . men [who commit fundamental anti-life injustices]? No! I can have nothing in common, either in thought or in feeling, with these men and all others responsible for these deeds. [1]

Thus roared Clemens August Graf von Galen, Bishop of Münster, Germany, during his thunderous series of homilies rebuking those who hold the "horrible doctrine" that "seeks to justify the murder of innocent men." [2] Dubbed the "Lion of Münster" for his resounding denunciations of Nazi paganism and its deplorable, anti-Christian aim, his remarks — though decades old now — read like commentaries on this morning's headlines.

Anyone who has bought into the recently trumped-up myth of the Catholic Church's "silence" in the face of the Holocaust ought to get their head out of Hollywood and into historical fact by taking a look at his unflinching rhetoric and heroic life story. More importantly, however, the Lion of Münster has a message for us right now.

Trusting in life-takers

There is in this country a growing cadre of "Obama Catholics" whose reasoning takes various forms. They argue that being pro-abortion isn't important in a leader, as long as he is right about other things; that although we oppose one such leader's stance on the life issues in particular, we can jump joyfully on Bandwagon Barack in general; that the new President isn't really pro-abortion, because you can't believe everything you read on the Internet; and that all of these self-contradictory pro-obamisms (as well as several others) can be intellectually endorsed at the same time.

What it comes down to is sheer willfulness, and a determination to do whatever one sees fit, while claiming the "right" to be called Catholic at the same time. As one such individual recently retorted when argued to a standstill, "Don't tell me how to vote!"

"My faithful brethren," Cardinal von Galen pre-explained to these people, "there are sacred duties of conscience from which no one can release us, and which we must fulfill even at the cost of our lives. Never, and under no circumstances, may a man, except in case of war and legitimate defense, kill an innocent person. . . . Woe to men and woe to [our] people if we transgress the sacred commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' which was given to us by God on Mount Sinai in thunder and lightning and which God, our Creator, engraved on the human conscience from the beginning of time. Woe to the German people if we not only tolerate this crime but allow it to be committed with impunity." [3]

Is not voting for a pro-abortion politician — at the very, very least — a way of "tolerating," if not facilitating, such killing? Have not the Obama Catholics assisted in "allowing [abortion] to be committed with impunity," now that their chosen representative has, in his first days in office, wiped away most of the pro-life gains of recent decades?

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, recently reproached Obama for "locking [himself] into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death." [4] Cardinal von Galen specified that the leaders we cannot support in conscience are precisely those who "try to claim divine prerogatives, and to make themselves the masters of the life and death of their fellow men." [5]

"Justitia est fundamentum regnorum: justice is the only sure basis of every state" was Cardinal von Galen's constant refrain. "The right to life, to inviolability, and to liberty is an indispensable part of every moral social order. . . . We deplore with the greatest anxiety to see today this foundation being shaken." [6] That "today" surely goes for our own time in general, and for the "moment" following the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States in particular.

Mantle of the Lion of Münster

Since the death of beloved and sorely missed John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, it has been — among other great leaders who could also be named — Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of the diocese of Denver, who has taken up the mantle of the Lion of Münster in the midst of our own anti-life darkness. With fidelity and courage — nec laudibus nec timore, as Cardinal von Galen's motto put it — he has constantly presented to the American people the entirety of the teaching of the Catholic Church, not preferring its pro-life aspects over others, but not shrinking from those aspects, either.

Archbishop Chaput has done so in a cultural context in which the fundamental right to life has been perniciously undermined and judicially trampled upon, and now stands to be violated — through the potential passage of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) — as limitlessly as ever it was in the days when Cardinal von Galen ascended each Sunday to the lectern at St. Lambert's.

In his resounding January 21, 2009, column in the Denver Catholic Register, entitled "Let Your Voice Supporting Life Be Heard" (, Archbishop Chaput calls upon us to participate in the upcoming anti-FOCA petition drive to be coordinated in Catholic parishes throughout the United States. Noting that "whether FOCA actually materializes in the coming session of Congress" is not as important as "the message we send" (emphasis in the original), he warns that "the abortion lobby could accomplish its destructive agenda quite easily by incremental legislative and executive steps that would have a much lower profile than (FOCA), but the same bloody effect."

Therefore, whether you think FOCA might present a threat or not, and whether you are a Roman Catholic or not (for, as Archbishop Chaput rightly points out, it is "Christians" who have the obligation of defending the right to life, along with all men of good will), please make sure to participate in the anti-FOCA petition drive, letting our voices be heard in Washington, D.C., as soon and as unmistakably as possible.

As Cardinal von Galen originally put it, "the request which I am publicly making today is not for something denominational or specifically Catholic, but for something which concerns all Christians; it is a request for something fundamentally human, national, and religious." [7]

I myself will be among those not only signing the petition, but also volunteering to help with this effort, in response to the call of Archbishop Chaput, and in deference to our own beloved local ordinary, Most Rev. Jerome E. Listecki of the diocese of La Crosse. I urge you to make sure your name is to be found among those sent to the new administration as a result of this effort. As Father John Corapi stated in his recent e-mail with the subject line of "News Flash from Father Corapi," "Many saints will be forged in the crucible of the coming years. Make sure you are among them." [8]

Father Corapi's words once again hark back to the roar of the Lion of Münster, who observed, "Almost all of you, without exception, are being forged at this time." He called those who stood against Nazism "masterpieces of the Divine Forge," elaborating:

    At this moment we are the not the hammer, but the anvil. Others, mainly strangers and apostates, hammer us; by violent means they wish to twist our nation, ourselves, and our youth away from our attitude towards God. We are the anvil and not the hammer, but what happens in the smithy? Ask the blacksmith and listen to what he says. Whatever is forged on the anvil receives its shape not only from the hammer but from the anvil as well. The anvil cannot and need not strike back. It need only be firm and hard. If it is sufficiently tough, firm, and hard it usually lasts longer than the hammer. However violently the hammer may strike, the anvil stands in quiet strength, and for a long time it will play its part in helping to form whatever is being forged. . . . God will stand with (the persecuted) so that they do not lose the form and bearing of Christian firmness. [9]

A word of concern

Given the overt parallels between our present situation and one of the darkest and worst chapters of human history, we must ask ourselves what "Christian firmness" consists of at this time. I say this because elsewhere in Archbishop Chaput's column — the very column in which the call to raise our voices against FOCA is included — he strikes some disconcerting notes. He repeats several identifiable clichés currently circulating about the new "administration" without analysis or condemnation.

Now, the Archbishop is far from the only one to be saying these things; and we need to remember that what is written in this one, single column needs to be taken in the context of the entire, brilliant Chaput corpus which it will be the work of generations to appreciate. Yet that is exactly what makes these few lines so very disturbing. Let us look at each of the alluded-to pro-obamisms in turn.

Archbishop Chaput writes, first off, that our 44th President "was elected on a message of national renewal, unity, and hope. These are worthy goals, and we should wholeheartedly support his administration in all these things."

We take a moment at the outset to note that the word "wholeheartedly," as used here, is nothing more than a term infelicitously chosen. What makes it unfortunate is its reference to a man whose support already borders on idolatry. Undoubtedly, the Archbishop intended no such overtone. Indeed, his follow-up column of January 28 takes to task the "political messianism" (among other things) which "poses as an answer to human suffering." [10]

In the case of the term "wholeheartedly," then, Archbishop Chaput intended no pro-obamism; he is clearly of one accord with Cardinal von Galen in affirming that "we must admit, openly and unreservedly, that we are Catholics" (emphasis added). [11] The real question before us, however, is not whether we should support the Obama administration "wholeheartedly" — but whether we can, in conscience, support it at all.

Words vs. meaning

Let us stipulate that national renewal, unity, and hope are indeed worthy goals. What needs to be considered here, however, is whether what Barack Obama intends when invoking such terminology can be deemed worthy. Obama characteristically wields lofty rhetoric very well, it is true. But as Mike Reagan recently pointed out, "The big difference between the two [great orators of recent American political history] was that my dad believed everything he said all the way to the core of his being, while Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats use speeches to mask what they really believe." [12]

Call to mind, for a moment, the way in which Rahm Emanuel tipped Team Obama's hand regarding this particular tactic. Remember his "50 jumping jacks" remarks — in which he asserted that "there can be nothing wrong with all Americans having a joint, similar experience of what we call civil defense training or civil service"? [13]

"What we call . . . civil service"?

"Civil service" is not some arcane, unfamiliar phrase, the implications of which might need to be spelled out carefully for the common man. Say "civil service" to someone, and they would most likely be able to conjure up a fairly accurate mental image of what you mean. So why does Rahm take such pains to note that he is not talking about civil service per se, but rather, about what he and other denizens of the inner Obama circle actually mean by the term?

Could Emanuel really have been saying something like this: "You (the hoi polloi, the unwashed masses) think of one thing when we tell you your grown sons will be required to do what we tell them, but we (the elite, your natural and now possibly indeposable masters) are envisioning something entirely different — something you have yet to even imagine, let alone grow fearful of and begin to oppose. We will therefore go on spoon-feeding you the pablum of this and other comfort clichés until it is — from your lowly point of view — too late; like stripped Jews herding themselves calmly into the 'shower' facilities, you will (if all goes according to plan) continue to accept our explanations at face value rather than think the unthinkable, thereby making our task that much the easier"? It's possible. Unless the American people wake up in time, we will all have to find out exactly what Team Obama "calls" civil service, won't we?

It is charitable, of course, to take people at their word, and to give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, it is one thing to be charitable, and quite another to be duped. We have an obligation to examine the rhetoric set before us, matching it up against reality rather than blithely allowing grave evil to be committed on our watch. Otherwise, why not save ourselves a lot of FOCA-related postage by acquiescing to the abortion lobby's description of an unborn child as a "blob of tissue" and the Terri Schiavos of the world as useless "vegetables" in the first place?

Evident deceit

And as for the predictable objection that calling the new administration's meaning into question constitutes being "divisive," this must have been a charge with which Cardinal von Galen was also tediously familiar, for he dismisses it in the following terms:

    My brethren, people will perhaps reproach me for weakening the home front of the German people by using such frank language during the war. To that reproach I make the following reply: it is not I who am the cause of any weakening of the home front . . . it is they who undermine any sense of justice. [14]

If by "unity," then, Barack Obama actually meant unity, we might be able to get behind him on this particular point — but he doesn't. As any impartial observer can solidly conclude already, he means race-baiting, partisan vitriol, good old-fashioned corruption, the coddling of terrorism to an unguessable end, and the systematic destruction of the fundamentum regnorum itself.

If by "hope" he actually meant hope, we could possibly cast in our lot with him — but he doesn't. The only "hope" he appears to cherish is that he himself will be elected to a second, and preferably to a third and even a fourth term, all for the advancement of the radically socialistic and anti-Christian agenda which has been his only identifiable life's work.

If by "renewal" he actually meant renewal, well and good! But he doesn't. No man with a 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood can claim that. The reason we cannot countenance the rest of Obama's rhetoric — apart from his thoroughgoing, committed, and ideologically-driven support for abortion and its satellite evils — is that this very support sucks the marrow of meaning from his high-falutin' message itself.

Unfortunate analysis

But surely, this is making a mountain out of a molehill? Didn't our Holy Father Benedict XVI himself send a congratulatory telegram to Barack on inauguration day, alluding to many of Obama's own catchphrases, and employing the most cordial of tones?

Yes, he did, and he was of course perfectly justified in doing so. But there is a big difference between holding Obama to his own Christian-sounding rhetoric, and holding us to it, in its irresponsible and unreflected-upon form. And when we speak the truth in love, we are still bound to speak it. The assertions (as found in our culture at large, and also in the balance of Archbishop Chaput's January 21 anti-FOCA column) that Barack Obama's inauguration "marks a tremendous victory for racial justice in our country," and that it shows the United States is "still a place where people can succeed on their ability," simply do not meet that standard at all.

What great "ability" has Barack Obama demonstrated, beyond the ability to trample upon the dictates of Christian conscience — his own, and other people's? This man has been propelled to the highest office in the land for one reason and one reason alone — his rabid support of abortion "rights." The fact that he is also willing to trade on the circumstance of his skin color is only a means to that end, as far as the leftist media is concerned.

An opportunist from the get-go, B. Hussein Obama launched his career in the home of a notorious domestic terrorist, then ran unopposed, after using election rules to force all other contenders out of the race. [15] With a smattering of extreme-leftist activism serving as his "private sector experience" fig leaf, he then spent a politically negligible amount of time voting "present" in Springfield, pausing to flex the state senatorial muscle he possessed only when there were vulnerable little lives to be discarded. Then, as a junior senator from Illinois (thanks to the craven Land-of-Lincoln GOP, which refused to back its own candidate running against him, Alan Keyes), Obama interrupted his assurances to the people back home that he had come to Washington, D.C., to do their work with the announcement of his candidacy for President in 2008.

With his corrupt ACORN organization behind him, floods of funding of dubious origin flowing in, no valid birth certificate in sight, and a reliably pro-abortion media machine anticipating his every public relations need, Obama managed to beat — and this is a scary thought — the Clintons at their own game. His inextricable associations with the Rezkos of the world — from which he has unapologetically and clearly benefitted — are considered, by now, old news. If this constitutes "succeeding on one's ability," what would "cynically maneuvering one's way to the top" possibly look like?

Modern holocaust

As for the replacement of George W. Bush making history, that is unquestionably the case. Exactly how many times are we going to be reminded that no member of a minority race has ever held so high of an office in America before?

But does Obama's skin color, alone, mean that his inauguration "serves as a fitting tribute to the memory of Rev. Martin Luther King and his struggle for civil rights," as Archbishop Chaput and countless other people have alleged? Dr. King's niece Alveda is among the many who do not think so. [16] After all, the core of the great activist's message was precisely that character, and not color, should be what counts.

According to Dr. King, being black or belonging to any other race should not be a barrier to participation in society at any level — but neither should it become carte blanche for such participation, trumping the true qualifications of godliness, justice, and the rest. Becoming the first actually black President, then, and signaling the end of racism in this country, could in theory prove to be two very different things. In reality, that is tragically what has just transpired.

Barack Obama, after all, espouses the political and social philosophy of Planned Parenthood, whose founder was Margaret Sanger. "We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population," this woman deplorably wrote. [17] Instead, she instructed her followers to recruit willing black people to take up the cause of the destruction of their own kind, leading them into the "shower" of abortion, contraception, and sterilization themselves.

Her racist goal has been achieved spectacularly, if posthumously: Sanger is no longer with us, but her horrific agenda still is, and her highest-profile stooges are now none other than the President and First Lady of the entire country. Which is worse — for a race to be exploited economically, claimed as "property," and mistreated inhumanly, or for that same race to be targeted to be wiped out entirely? If the Obama administration marks the end of American racism, then the Holocaust was the best thing that ever happened to the Jews.

Self-defeating behavior

And speaking of taking a hand in the accomplishment of one's own destruction, we keep hearing that the bishops stand ready to close down the entire Catholic hospital system, and possibly all of Catholic Charities as well, if Obama succeeds in institutionalizing the disrespect for Christian conscience he has displayed all along. In America today, one is no longer discriminated against for being black, but for being against abortion. Just ask us "invisible Catholics" — you know, us pro-lifers (Catholic or otherwise) who write Letters to the Editor that never get printed, send in solid resumés that are inexplicably set aside, make phone calls to the authorities that are never returned, and get screened from conservative talk shows because only liberals are allowed to disagree.

With this type of inequity already in place as a general mentality, what could happen when Obama finishes placing pro-Michael Schiavo and pro-ACLU types in his cabinet, in the Justice Department, and throughout the rest of the American governmental bureaucracy? Cardinal von Galen offers some insight into the trajectory of the perfect storm currently forming:

    Indeed, who is still independent today and the free master of his property or business? . . . hand in hand with this goes the dependence on many persons and Government departments which not only limit individual freedom of action but also bring freedom of conscience into danger and temptation if they represent an anti-Christian view of life and try to impose it on those whom they control. [18]

The American Catholic hierarchy's proposed response to this intolerable situation is tantamount to burning down one's own home in order to prevent the threat of arson. The Lion of Münster protested strenuously, from the pulpit and in correspondence with officials, against the closing of Catholic facilities under his care; he did not take the initiative in shutting them down himself! Addressing the authorities, he took the following tone:

    Not only for the sake of the rights of the Church, not only for the rights of the human personality, but also because we love our people and feel deep anxiety for our fatherland, . . . we beg, we ask — yes, we demand justice. . . . As a German, as an honourable citizen, as a representative of the Christian religion and as a Catholic bishop, I cry aloud: we demand justice! If this cry remains unheard and unheeded, if the rule of justice is not restored, (the) country will . . . perish from inner corruption and rottenness. [19]

He didn't tell his own people to fold up their tents and go home, either. Rather, he gave them the following exhortation:

    Harden yourselves and stand fast! We see clearly enough what lies behind this new doctrine which they have been forcing upon us for some time now, how they have banned religion from the schools, suppressed our societies and are now out to destroy the Catholic kindergartens; behind all this lies the abysmal hatred of Christianity, which they mean to root out . . . Harden yourselves and stand fast! [20]

Seeing through the lies

Why not, instead of playing into the hands of the secularists, take our cue from the sisters caring for Eluana Englaro, the woman they call the Italian Terri Schiavo? When the court order came down for her "artificial" nutrition and hydration to be removed, her caretakers simply went on feeding her. [21] "Oh, no; we couldn't do a thing like that," was their paraphrased reply.

Now, more than 700 Italian doctors, Catholic and non-Catholic, have signed a petition in their support, [22] reaffirming the truth that the killing of the innocent has no place in the practice of medicine, as the civilized world at the Nuremberg Trials collectively acknowledged.

Clemens August Graf von Galen, since beatified, called upon Catholics to see the through the entire web of socialistic lies, "arraigning the whole spirit and purpose behind" the National Socialism of his day. [23]

Can we do any less, in the face of the multi-faceted assault the Obama administration has already unleashed not only on the practice of Catholicism in this country, but also on the least among us, whom all men of good will are bound to protect? We will indeed enthusiastically send anti-FOCA postcards to our representatives in Washington, D.C. We will obey legitimate authority and pray ardently for those who exercise it, as the Catholic Church and its princes Cardinal von Galen and Archbishop Chaput justly instruct us to do. But as far as offering Team Obama our non-abortion-related political support "wholeheartedly" or otherwise goes, no one could express our predicament better than the Lion of Münster himself has done:

    So far as I can judge, the sense of national community with these circles is for most of us incurably destroyed, and has become impossible for any decent man! [24]


[1]  From the homily of July 20, 1941, in The Bishop of Münster and the Nazis: The Documents in the Case. Trans. and ed. Patrick Smith (London: Burns Oates, 1942), p. 25. All direct quotes from Cardinal von Galen are taken from this source.

[2]  From the homily of August 3, 1941, p. 41

[3]  From the homily of August 3, 1941, p. 45

[4]  "Vatican Official Accuses Obama of 'Arrogance,'" January 24, 2009,; linked to at

[5]  From the homily of August 3, 1941, p. 49

[6]  From the homily of July 13, 1941, pp. 15, 17

[7]  From the homily of July 13, 1941, p. 16. The "request" the Cardinal refers to is that the authorities stop imprisoning people unjustly. He makes these remarks in the context of praising the heroic Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller, who was being held at Sachsenhausen at the time.

[8]  Sent January 21, 2009, from

[9]  From the homily of July 131, 1941, pp. 28-29.

[10]  Chaput, Charles J., "Thoughts on a 'new beginning' and an old truth," Archbishop's column of January 28, 2009, in the Denver Catholic Register, posted at

[11]  From the homily of August 3, 1941, p. 50

[12]  Reagan, Michael. "Reagan Meant It, Obama Didn't," January 23, 2009,

[13]  As quoted in Unruh, Bob, "Emanuel Volunteers Americans to do 'a lot,'" November 13, 2008;

[14]  From the homily of July 13, 1941, pp. 18-19

[15]  "Obama played hardball in first Chicago campaign," May 30, 2008, CNN,

[16]  See, among other resources, her website and the "African American Outreach" page of

[17]  Sanger, Margaret. Private letter to Clarence Gamble, October 19, 1939; quoted in Drogin, Elasah. Margaret Sanger: Father of Modern Society (New Hope: CUL, 1989), p. 33

[18]  From the homily of July 20, 1941, p. 31

[19]  From the homily of July 13, 1941, p. 16-19

[20]  From the homily of July 20, 1941, pp. 27-28

[21]  "Italian Nuns Refuse to Kill Eluana Englaro," November 17, 2008,

[22]  "700 Italian Doctors ask that Eluana's life be spared," January 13, 2009,

[23]  From the footnote on p. 40 of The Bishop of Münster

[24]  From Cardinal von Galen's letter to Reichsminister Dr. Lammers, dated July 22, 1941; in The Bishop of Münster, p. 34

© Helen Weir

RenewAmerica analyst Helen Weir also writes a column for RenewAmerica.


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:31