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The Catholic Historical Review 87.4 (2001) 710-712

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Wider den Rassismus. Entwurf einer nicht erschienenen Enzyklika (1938). Texte aus dem Nachlaß von Gustav Gundlach SJ

Wider den Rassismus. Entwurf einer nicht erschienenen Enzyklika (1938). Texte aus dem Nachlaß von Gustav Gundlach SJ. Edited by Anton Rauscher. (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh. 2001. Pp. 208. DM 39.90 paperback.)

On December 15, 1972, the Kansas City weekly, National Catholic Reporter, published fragments of a draft, prepared in 1938 at the request of Pope Pius XI [End Page 710] by the American Jesuit John LaFarge and others, of an encyclical condemning racism. LaFarge had come to the Pope's attention through the Jesuit's book Interracial Justice (1937). Pius XI commissioned LaFarge in a private audience on June 22, 1938, to draft an encyclical on this topic. No intellectual, LaFarge felt unequal to the task. At his request the Jesuit General Wladimir Ledóchowski assigned two European Jesuits to assist LaFarge: the German Gustav Gundlach and the Frenchman Gustave Desbuquois. Both had helped draft the encyclical Quadragesimo anno (1930). The three labored in Paris throughout the summer of 1938, completing their work in September. Pius XI died on February 10, 1939, without publishing the encyclical. His successor Pius XII did not revive the project.

LaFarge died in 1963. The material published by the NCR in 1972 was taken from drafts in French and English found among LaFarge's papers. An article in L'Osservatore Romano for April 5, 1973, by the German Jesuit Burkhart Schneider, one of the four Jesuits then working on the Actes et documents du Saint-Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, disclosed the existence of a somewhat different third draft in German, written by Gundlach. In 1995 the Belgian Benedictine Georges Passelecq and the Jewish sociologist Bernard Suchecky published L'encyclique cachée de Pie XI. Une occasion manquée de l'église face á l'antisémitisme. Translated into English in 1997 under the title The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI, this contained the full French and English drafts from LaFarge's papers, but not the German version. The Augsburg professor Anton Rauscher has now published Gundlach's German draft, letters from him to LaFarge which clarify the chronology, an analysis of this material, and a discussion of the reasons for the non-appearance of the encyclical.

Gundlach's text, over a hundred single-spaced typed pages, is dense: in Rauscher's words, "as difficult to read as all of Gundlach's writings." The draft emphasizes the unity of the human race, commends patriotism, and condemns nationalism and racism. The final paragraphs (170-183) declare anti-Semitism incompatible with Christian faith. "The Church today views with indignation and pain measures affecting Jews which, because they violate natural law, do not deserve the honorable name of laws. The most fundamental claims of justice and charity are violated without hesitation or limit." The draft concludes by reaffirming the condemnation of anti-Semitism by the Holy Office on March 25, 1928.

Why was the encyclical never published? Rauscher argues convincingly for the simplest explanation: time ran out. Encyclicals require lengthy scrutiny. There were significant differences, especially in the treatment of anti-Semitism, between the English and French drafts on the one hand, and the German text on the other. Deciding which to adopt required further time. The editor of Civiltà Cattolica, charged with evaluating the drafts, died before completing the task.

Pius XII, elected on March 2, 1939, shared his predecessor's rejection of Nazism. With the political situation in Europe rapidly deteriorating, however, [End Page 711] the new Pope devoted all his efforts in the spring and summer of 1939 to averting the outbreak of war. A flaming denunciation of Nazi racial policy would have eliminated whatever chance still existed that his pleas for peace would be heeded in Berlin. Had Pius XII issued the planned encyclical, his present-day critics might well charge him with recklessly extinguishing the last slender chance for peace.

Nor is it likely that a papal denunciation of Hitler...


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