Franz Jagerstatter

One of the stories in today’s news is about the FBI surveillance of the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It turns out that members of the Merton Center were distributing pamphlets that flatly declared that there were no WMD in Iraq. Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the ACLU discovered that these Catholic peace activists had been suspected of dangerous activities. When I was confirmed in the 1960’s, Pius Benincasa, then Archbishop of Buffalo, slapped me on the cheek, reminding me that someday I might have to suffer for my faith. Back then we all figured it would be at the hands of the godless communists. We used hear numerous stories of communist soldiers and insurgents who raped and killed Catholic missionaries. Who would have thought then that we might be subjected to that sort of thing here in this country? There was a time when Catholics died for their faith here at the hands of the KKK and other narrow minded folks. I can even remember a time when a state police officer from a southern state refused to speak to my father, my brother and I at George Washington’s tomb because we were wearing Miraculous Medals.

Recently Cardinal Mahony spoke advocating adherence to Catholic Social teaching vis a vis anticipated legislation that would make it illegal to assist aliens. Mahony’s stand is tantamount to civil disobedience. Actually if the pending legislation becomes law, Cardinal Mahony or anyone disobeying the law could face jail and a fine. We are edging ever so closely to a nation where dissent is no longer accepted or even tolerated. All of this got me to thinking about Franz Jagerstatter. He’s frequently overlooked and maybe not even well known, but he was a very courageous man who said no to serving in the Nazi war machine during World War II. He is not a saint yet, but maybe he’ll make it someday. There was no dissent tolerated in Nazi Germany. They viewed their agression a lot differently than we do today, but they used the same arguments that politicians use today. They viewed their agression as justified and they managed to find priests and other clergy who did their bidding in “blessing” this international murder and called it “just war.” Sound familiar?

May the Lord give us peace.