Category Archives: V for Victory!!!

V for Victory!: The Crucifix versus the Swastika

From yet another favorite blog, V for Victory at blogger:

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via V for Victory!: The Crucifix versus the Swastika.

Now that the veneration of Pope Pius XII has ignited another firestorm of Catholic bashing on the part of those who persist in believing — in the face of the Everest of evidence to the contrary — that the Church in general, and Ven. Pius XII in particular, did nothing to oppose Hitler, it seems the time is ripe for re-posting my honor roll of Catholic heroes from last spring — with some additions (it is still a very short list).
St. Maximilian Kolbe
Franciscan priest, a prisoner at Auschwitz. In July of 1941, a prisoner from his barracks escaped; as a punishment, the guards chose ten men out of the barracks to be starved to death. One of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, lamented for his wife and family; St. Maximilian approached the guards and offered his own life in place of Gajowniczek’s. The offer was accepted. After three weeks of starvation and dehydration, St. Maximilian was dispatched by an injection of carbolic acid. The man he saved was later reunited with his wife (although his sons perished in the war), and lived to see the canonization of the priest who had given his life for him.

The Martyrs of Nowogrodek
When the Nazis arrested 120 citizens of Nowogrodek, Poland on July 18, 1943, the town’s community of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth unanimously offered in prayer to take their places. In the name of their community, Sister Mary Stella, their superior, begged God that if the sacrifice of lives was needed, to take their lives in place of the imprisoned, who included their chaplain. On July 31, 1943, all but one of the sisters was arrested; the following day, they were taken out to the woods and shot, and buried in a common grave. Meanwhile, most of the other prisoners, including their chaplain, were spared.

St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

From afar, Edith Stein, who had been born and raised Jewish, discerned the fate that awaited her people at the hands of the Nazis. In 1933, she wrote: “I had heard of severe measures against Jews before. But now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on His people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine.” Six years later, in her last will and testament, the child who had been born on the Day of Atonement would offer herself up for the sake of atonement: “Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being His most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death…so that the Lord will be accepted by His people and that His Kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world.” Although her order smuggled her to the Netherlands for her safety, she desired to share the fate of her Jewish brethren. This desire was granted on August 9, 1942, when St. Theresa Benedicta and her sister Rose, also a convert to the Faith, were murdered in the gas chamber at Auschwitz.

Bl. Hilary Pawel Januszewski
Carmelite friar. When the Gestapo came to arrest some friars out of the Carmel in Cracow in December of 1940, Fr. Hilary volunteered to go in place of a sick, elderly friar. He gave himself to the care of dying prisoners at Dachau, and died of typhus in 1945 — just days before the camp was liberated.
Bl. Julia Rodzinska
A Dominican nun, Sr. Julia was interned in the Stuthoff concentration camp, where she gave herself to serving the Jewish women prisoners. She died of typhoid at the camp in 1945.
Bl. Natalia Tulasiewicz
Bl. Natalia Tulasiewicz was a teacher from Poznan, Poland. She volunteered to be deported with other women sent to do heavy slave labor in Germany in order to give them spiritual comfort. On finding out what she was up to, the Gestapo arrested and tortured her, and sent her to Ravensbruck concentration camp. On March 31, 1945 — Good Friday — Bl. Natalia used the little strength she had left to mount a stool and give the other prisoners a talk about the Passion and death of Jesus. Two days later, she was put to death in the gas chamber.
Stanislawa Leszczynska
Polish midwife, arrested by the Germans in 1943 and sent to work in Hell on earth, the “sick ward” at Auschwitz. She delivered more than 3,000 babies at Auschwitz, and made sure every one was baptized. Miraculously, despite the unspeakable conditions, she never lost a single mother or child in childbirth, though few of the babies survived the war. Despite threats on her life, she flatly refused to drown newborns, even facing down the notorious Dr. Mengele. She died in 1974, and is still venerated in Poland. Evidence is being gathered for her cause for sainthood.
Bl. Franz Jägerstätter
Austrian farmer, husband and father of four. Jägerstätter was outspokenly anti-Nazi, and was the only one in his village to vote against the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria by Germany). After being drafted in the German army and serving for a brief period, he refused to serve any further, and was arrested.  Though tormented by the fear that he was acting out of pride, and therefore condemning himself to damnation, he held firm.  He spent time in prison before finally being beheaded, saying that it was better for his children to live without a father than for them to keep their father as a Nazi collaborator.  Here are some excellent articles on the trials of this courageous martyr for the faith.

Bl. Maria Restituta Kafka

A Franciscan Sister of Charity, Bl. Maria Restituta was born in Brno in what is now the Czech Republic. A trained nurse, she went to work at the hospital in Mödling, south of Vienna after World War I, eventually becoming the head surgical nurse. Her refusal to take down crucifixes that she had hung in the hospital, plus her writings critical to the regime, led to her arrest by the Gestapo on Ash Wednesday, 1942. She was eventually sentenced to death, and was beheaded on March 30, 1943. Here is the link to Pope John Paul II’s homily on the occasion of her beatification.

Mother Ricarda Beauchamp Hambrough and Bl. Mary Elizabeth Hasselblad

When Pope Pius XII ordered the convents and cloisters of Rome to open their doors to Jewish refugees in 1943, Bl. Mary Elizabeth Hasselblad, Bridgettine abbess, and her assistant, Sr.  (later Mother) Ricarda Beauchamp Hambrough, an Englishwoman, sprang into action.  Thanks to their efforts, Casa di San Brigida, became a refuge for more than 60 Jews during the war.  Bl. Mary Elizabeth died in 1957, whereupon Mother Ricarda, who died in 1966, succeeded her as abbess.  Pope John Paul II beatified Bl. Mary Elizabeth in 1999; early last year, the Bridgettines petitioned Rome for permission to open a cause for the sainthood of Mother Ricarda, who played a leading role in this life-saving work.

Irena Sendler

During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Irena Sendler used her position as an employee of Poland’s Social Welfare Department to smuggle Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, to which her duties gave her access.  While apparently conducting health inspections, Sendler hid children in boxes, suitcases, packages, trams, ambulances, and whatever else would answer the purpose, and got them out to various refuges and hiding places.  In order to make it possible for the children to be reunited with their families after the war, she buried jars full of lists of their names.  In 1943, the Gestapo caught Sendler, put her to torture and sentenced her to death; bribed by her friends, the guards whose task was to take her to her execution abandoned her in a wood instead, unconscious and with broken arms and legs.  Officially dead, Sendler passed the war in hiding but continued her work.  After the war, she dug up the jars she had buried and tried to reunite the approximately 2,500 children she had saved with their families; however, most of the latter had perished in the death camp at Treblinka.  Sendler died in 2008 at the age of 98.

Dietrich von Hildebrand

Born in 1889 in Florence to a renowned German sculptor, Dietrich von Hildebrand was raised in a milieu in which natural gifts and virtues flourished in an absence of religion.  Gifted himself with a brilliant intellect, the young von Hildebrand decided to become a philosopher, and studied first at the University of Munich, and then the University of Göttingen.  In 1914, he and his wife accepted Baptism and entered the Catholic Church.  Von Hildebrand was an early and vocal denouncer of the budding Nazi party, and quickly earned a place of honor on their blacklist.  When Hitler tried to take over Bavaria in November of 1923 (the infamous “Beer Hall Putsch”), von Hildebrand was compelled to flee, but returned after the putsch failed.  When the Nazis came to power in 1933, von Hildebrand was compelled to abandon his property and his professorship at the University of Munich and return, penniless, to Florence, the city of his birth.  Appalled and grieved at the confusion of those — especially Catholics, and even Catholic clergy — who failed to recognize the evil of the Nazi ideology, von Hildebrand determined to continue to wage war against it; later in 1933, he moved to Vienna and, with the backing of Chancellor Dollfuss, founded a magazine devoted entirely to attacking and exposing the intellectual underpinnings of Nazism and its first cousin, Communism.  Von Hildebrand — whom the Nazis had sentenced to death in absentia – again became a refugee after the Anschluss and, after many adventures in Switzerland and France, made it to America in 1940.   The author of a large body of theological and philosophical works (Pope Pius XII called him a “20th-century doctor of the Church”), von Hildebrand died in New Rochelle, New York in 1977.

Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss of Austria

Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss called himself the youngest (43) and the shortest Chancellor in all of Europe.  A devout Catholic, he was also the only European head of state to actively and openly oppose Hitlerism in the 1930s.  In 1933, he met Dietrich von Hildebrand and agreed to provide financial backing for Hildebrand’s anti-Nazi, anti-Communist magazine.  Determined to preserve the independence of Austria, Dollfuss took stern measures in the face of  Nazi and Communist attempts to take power.  On July 25, 1934, as part of an attempted coup, Nazi assassins dressed as Austrian guards invaded the Chancery and shot Dollfuss.  Dollfuss lay dying for seven hours, during which time the Nazis refused to bring him either a doctor or a priest; he breathed his last praying for his murderers.

Msgr. Angelo Roncalli (Bl. John XXIII)
Working from Istanbul with Chaim Barlas of the Jewish Agency Rescue Committee, Msgr. Roncalli arranged for false papers, transit passes, false baptismal certificates and other documents that made it possible for thousands of Jews to escape the slaughter in Europe.

And last (though only on this list) but certainly not least…
Eugenio Pacelli (Ven. Pius XII)

Just a few of the things Pope Pius XII — whom the Nazis mocked as a “Jew-lover,” and whom Hitler plotted to kidnap — did to save the Jews before and during World War II include:

– As Cardinal Pacelli, helped to author Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Sorrow), Pope Pius XI’s anti-Nazi encyclical
– As Pope, calmly confronted Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop with a list of Nazi atrocities in Poland during a personal audience, to Ribbentrop’s deep mortification
– Ordered the opening of monastaries, convents and even cloisters to Jewish refugees
– Sheltered thousands of Jews at Castel Gandolfo
– Sheltered as many refugees in the Vatican as could make their way there, and kept the railway lines into the Vatican running so as to be able to supply for all their needs
– Came up with 100 pounds of gold to ransom the Jews of Rome, whom the Nazis threatened with deportation during the occupation, never revealing what he had to melt down to get it
– Personally intervened to halt the deportation of Jews out of Hungary, Romania and Slovakia
– Contributed unstintingly to relief efforts, even personally assisting those affected by the devastation of air strikes in Rome
– Stuck to his post in Rome, despite the dangers to himself personally; his mere presence was a hindrance to Nazi atrocities in Rome
It is worth noting that when, after the war, Israel Anton Zoller, Chief Rabbi of Rome from 1939 to 1945, converted to Catholicism, he took the baptismal name Eugenio Zolli in honor of Pope Pius XII.

No, it is not the Catholic Church that owes an apology for the Holocaust. If any apologies are owed, they are owed by people whose blind hatred of the Church makes them equally blind to the facts, and enemies of the truth.

V for Victory!: Where Do the Souls of Aborted Babies Go?

Something to ponder- from one of my favorite blogs to read.

V for Victory!: Where Do the Souls of Aborted Babies Go?.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Where Do the Souls of Aborted Babies Go?

A recent conversation turned to the character of baptism as essential to salvation, and from there, to the fate of unbaptized babies — and particularly the souls of aborted babies. A friend and fellow Dominican posited the following for consideration:

a. The Catholic Church teaches that baptism is essential to salvation.

b. Aborted babies are not baptized, and there is no desire on the part of their mothers that they be baptized.

c. The ferocity with which Satan fans the flames of abortion – with roughly a million and a half in the United States each year – suggests that the souls of aborted babies may be lost to Heaven. Otherwise, the reasoning goes, the Enemy would not be so keen for Americans to favor abortion, and for the abortion mills go on churning out so many dead babies year after year.

This gave me pause. Everyone seems to assume, unquestioningly, that babies who die in the womb — whether of natural causes or otherwise — go straight to Heaven. This is to be expected from those who do not accept the necessity of baptism for salvation, but a good many Catholics also seem to make this assumption. Surely, the necessity of baptism for salvation indicates that a mere lack of personal sin, without more, is not enough to gain Heaven; therefore, this question deserves more thought than it is given, lest we suffer an erosion of our faith, and take a position that makes the horror of abortion more comfortable for us to live with.

It is clear that aborted babies are deprived, through no fault of their own, of the opportunity for sacramental baptism. It is also true that they are not guilty of personal sin. The idea of eternal separation from God, with or without suffering, seems insupportable where personal sins and even free will are absent. After considering the matter, I personally cannot come to the conclusion that the souls of aborted babies definitely go to Heaven; however, neither am I persuaded that they are definitely excluded from Heaven. The only thing I can thus far be persuaded of is that there are good and reasonable hopes for the salvation of the unborn, but that, this side of Paradise, we cannot know for certain.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church at 1250 declares:

Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.

At 1257, the Catechism underscores the necessity of baptism:

The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. [Italics in original.]

With this last sentence, the Catechism launches into a discussion of baptism by blood (undergone by the unbaptized who die for the faith, the prototypical example of which is the Holy Innocents) and baptism by desire (available to those who desire baptism but die before their desire can be fulfilled). These are exceptions to the necessity for sacramental baptism, and suggest that, in the absence of sacramental baptism, and under certain circumstances, baptismal grace may nevertheless find some other channel in which to flow to the soul.

As for the souls of unbaptized infants, the Catechism states at 1261:

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

Without a definitive teaching on the subject of the fate of unbaptized babies, we are free to form our own opinions on it. The speculation of theologians down the ages has yielded the concept of Limbo, a state in which the unbaptized soul is deprived of the supernatural happiness of Heaven, but enjoys perfect natural happiness. The Church has, however, never defined Limbo as a doctrine to which all Catholics must adhere. I do not know whether there is really such a place or state as Limbo. I do feel sure that unbaptized babies do not suffer, being guiltless of actual sin; in fact, wherever they are, I am willing to bet that their happiness far exceeds anything we can attain on earth. I certainly hope that they find this happiness in Heaven, and the passage from the Catechism that deals with this affirms the reasonableness of such a hope. But we do not in fact know to a practical certainty what their fate is. God has not revealed this to us.

The Church clearly holds out hope for the salvation of the unbaptized who are capable of reason, the full exercise of free will, and the commission of sin. The Catechism at 847-848 teaches that God has ways of saving those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel:

This affirmation [there is no salvation outside the Church] is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.

“Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.” [Quote source omitted.]

Surely, miscarried, aborted and unbaptized babies are ignorant of the Gospel through no fault of their own. It is not clear why the outlook of those who are capable of sinning — and who in all likelihood have in fact sinned — should be more hopeful than those, such as the unborn, who are as yet without free will and therefore have on their souls no personal sins whatsoever. But just as we have a duty to go out and make disciples of all the nations, we have a solemn obligation to baptize our children. If we knew for sure that God has some way of offering salvation to unbaptized babies, we would very likely neglect to have them baptized.

There is precedence, by the way, for God allowing us to remain ignorant for our own good. When you read the Old Testament, it becomes clear that God allowed the Israelites to go on thinking for a very long time that there was really nothing to the afterlife but gray bleakness. C.S. Lewis wrote that this was to train the Israelites to love God for His own sake, rather than for what He could do for them. Similarly, since God has not given us to know for certain what happens to the souls of unbaptized infants, it is clearly more important for us to obey His command, through the Church, to have our children baptized as soon as possible, than it is for us to know where their souls would go if they weren’t baptized. When we baptize a child, we can be absolutely certain that that child has received the gift of sanctifying grace; since we know the child has sanctifying grace, if he dies before reaching the age of reason, we need not suffer the pangs of uncertainty about his eternal fate.

What of the argument that Satan would not be so keen to push abortion if the souls of aborted babies went to heaven? Nothing so delights the Enemy as depriving God, for all eternity, of a soul that He created for Himself, and that He loves as though no one else existed. But Satan likes all sorts of things that do not necessarily result in damnation for the victims: murder, rapine, wars of aggression. And for each aborted soul, there are many other souls hanging by a thread over the Abyss: the mother; the persons who encouraged her to procure the abortion; the doctors and nurses working in the clinic; everyone who cooperated materially in the deed. A rich potential harvest, from the Enemy’s point of view, in exchange for the loss of the aborted.

Are we, then, to be deprived of the consolation we might otherwise have had in this life if we knew for sure that a miscarried or aborted baby went to heaven? It appears so. But this is where the mercy of God, Who loves babies infinitely more even than their parents do, must be allowed to make up for what we lack. For the present, we may hope, but cannot know for sure, and should therefore not presume.

UPDATE: To the ladies of the Daily Strength forum: a reply.