“Lion of Munster” opposed Nazi Euthanasia and Persecution of Jews

Clemens Augustus von Galen To Be Beatified

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MUNSTER, Germany, OCT. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Clemens Augustus von Galen (1878-1946), better known as the “Lion of Munster,” were recognized on Dec. 20, 2003.

Last Year the medical-theological Commission had already recognized the validity of a miracle. Now it corresponds to bishops and cardinals to endorse the cause of beatification. Once this step is taken, the Holy Father will sign the decree and decide the date of the beatification ceremony.

Clemens Augustus, Count von Galen, belonged to the noble family of Spee. His uncle, Wilhelm von Ketteler was a well-known bishop of Mainz. After completing his studies and obtaining excellent results, he was ordained a priest and on Sept. 5, 1933 appointed bishop of Munster.

During the whole Nazi period, he raised his voice in defense of the rights of the Church, the poor, the Jews, and the sick. He energetically opposed the spread of Nazi paganism.

His homilies of the summer of 1941 became famous, which brought him to the brink of being arrested and condemned to death. Von Galen protested forcefully against euthanasia, the seizure of monasteries and convents, the expulsion of religious and the persecution of Jews.

Especially effective was von Galen’s offensive against Hitler’s euthanasia program.

In a homily opposing euthanasia, von Galen said: “Never, for any reason, can a man kill an innocent if it is not in war or for legitimate defense.” “If the principle by which we can kill our non-productive brothers is affirmed and accepted, calamities and misfortunes will strike us when we are old and weak!”

The bishop of Munster added in the homily: “If we allow one of us to kill those who are non-productive, misfortune will strike the invalid who exhausted and sacrificed themselves, and lost their health and strength in the productive process.”

“If we even once accept the principle of the right to kill our non-productive brothers — even if it is limited from the start to the poor and defenseless mentally ill –, then by this principle murder becomes admissible for all non-productive beings, the incurably ill, those made invalid at work or in war, and ourselves, when we are old, weak and so not productive.”

“Arriving at this point, the life of none of us will be safe. Any commission can include us in the list of the non-productive,” von Galen alerted.

“No police, no court will investigate our murder, or punish the murderer as he deserves.”

“Who will be able to trust a doctor? He could classify his patient as non-productive and receive instructions to kill him.”

“It is impossible to imagine the abysses of moral depravity and general mistrust, even in the family realm, to which we would descend if such a horrible doctrine were tolerated, accepted, and put into practice,” von Galen concluded.

The homily was reproduced in leaflets which were dropped by Britain’s Royal Air Force over Germany.

Von Galen’s resistance to the Nazi euthanasia programs was kept up by other priests, among them the Provost of Berlin Cathedral, Bernhard Lichtenberg.

Lichtenberg was arrested, tried and condemned in October 1941. He died in 1943 on the way to Dachau. John Paul II raised him to the honor of the altar on June 23, 1996.

Von Galen’s homilies had great impact among the wounded soldiers returning from the battlefront. Many of them, in fact, thought they would be eliminated in the euthanasia program.

Despite his efforts, von Galen’s courageous opposition did not stop the horror machine. Hitler announced publicly that he had put an end to the euthanasia program on Aug. 24, 1941, but the programs to eliminate the weak, the sick and non-Aryans continued.

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