Saturday, September 10, 2011

ADSS 8.173 Slovakian Bishops response to the Jewish Code

This is the memorandum sent by the Slovak bishops to President Tiso on 7 October 1941 outlining their concerns at the so-called "Jewish Code" that was promulgated in September of the same year.  Not surprisingly, the bishops' priority is the well-being of Catholics of Jewish descent and recent converts.  Reading the text carefully, one can discern a clear condemnation of the philosophical basis of the Code.   The bishops condemn a "materialistic racism" that denies the Judeo-Christian teaching of the fundamental equality of all humanity.  In the context of the time, it was, perhaps, the best the bishops could agree upon.  Nonetheless, it was a protest, and by comparison to other places in Europe at the time, it was better than most.

Volume and Document Number: ADSS 8.173

Reference: Rap nr 607 (AES 8423/41, orig)
Location and date: Pressburg (Bratislava) 15.10.1941
Summary statement: Memorandum of the Slovak bishops on the subject of the state race laws.
Language: Italian

In response to my previous report n 577 of 18 September 1941 (1), I hasten to send your eminence a translation of the memorandum the Slovak bishops, who met in conference in Bratislava on 7 October 1941, presented to the President of the Republic and the head of the Government, concerning the so-called “Jewish Code”.

Attachment: The Bishops of Slovakia to President Tiso.

From the happy moment of the proclamation of the independence of the Slovakian state, the Catholic bishops of Slovakia have received with great satisfaction the declarations of the highest representatives of the State, that the building of our political life will occur in the spirit of the Slovak and Christian tradition, based on natural law, in the great spirit of the Gospel according to Christian doctrine and Christian morality. With the full weight of their position and their beneficial influence the Slovak bishops and the Catholic clergy have effectively supported the work of construction of the new independent political life, even joyfully meeting the desires of the Government in matters of supreme importance for the national and religious life, for example in the new regulations for primary schools.

In the spirit of sincere cooperation, with mutual respect for the rights of both parties, and in their mutual support for the temporal and eternal happiness of the flock entrusted to them, the Catholic bishops of Slovakia wish for the future to solve all problems which directly or indirectly affect the mission and expansion of the Church, her work and concern for the good of the Faithful.

Moved by this spirit of mutual cooperation and mutual respect, the Slovakian Catholic bishops raise their voice in favour of those people, and those Catholic families who were affected by the requirements of the Ordinance Number 198/1941, the Jewish Code of 9 September 1941. We must point out that we are concerned with that regulation only from an ecclesiastical point of view, since it refers to some thousands of the Faithful, and so we fulfil our duty and the imperative of our consciences, as we raise our voice in the interest of religious, moral, social, and family life of the Faithful entrusted to us who have been effected by the provisions of the aforementioned regulation n 198/1941 Jewish Code.

The seriousness of the issue and our responsibility has led us to have the government regulation studied by experts in Catholic dogma, morals, law and sociology. Considered in the light of the principles of the doctrine of the Church, we find the following serious and dangerous faults (errors).

1. It does not escape careful observation of an examiner, that the philosophical conception (sveton├íhl’ad – Weltanschauung [World View]) from which this regulation was constructed, is the so-called ideology of racism. According to this concept of race, the fundamental factor is the physical (corporal), without excluding however, the spiritual, cultural, legal, philosophical and even religious fact. We do not intend to enumerate here all the dangerous errors, which hide in this doctrine, and which have been reported not very long ago by the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries in the letter of 15 April 1938 (2). We only wish to recall that the materialist theory of racism is in direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church, which holds the common origin of al men by a single Creator and Father, and on the essential equality of man before God pronounced especially by the Apostle to the Gentiles, on the common supernatural destiny of all men which proceeds from the universal salvific will of God’s redemptive work in Christ.

This is not to affirm that all the proclamations in the so-called “Jewish Code” lead to errors: the order quoted did not have a doctrinal (theoretical) character, but a practical one. But precisely because the materialistic point of view of racist theory is the basis of the entire regulation, its practical consequences unjustly affect innocent people whom the Church considers its members with full rights.

Being a Christian is not a privilege of one race or one nation. When a person, regardless of race, becomes a Christian, the Church, considers them a member with equal rights, the same as with all the Faithful. (Canonical references omitted)

2. The Church does not recognise racial impediments to marriage. If the State proceeds along these lines, it will intrude deeply into the exclusive right of the Church, which in accordance with Canon 1016 regulates the marriage of the baptised, while respecting the rights of the State as regards the civil effects of the marriage contract.

3. From the order it is not clear if Catholics of Jewish descent can take part in religious processions and public meetings, because Paragraph 33 prohibits Jews from participation in public meetings. If interpreted strictly, the right of these Faithful to participate in public religious acts would be limited. (Canon 1261, para 1)

4. While we appreciate the provision of Paragraph 39, which allows members of a church recognised by the State to attend at least public primary schools (elementary), at the same time, we must bear in mind the duty we have to take care of the religious education of our people. We can not be satisfied with that limitation.

It is the natural right of each individual to develop within themselves the qualities and talents they have received from God. This happens regularly in school. The Church has the right to erect schools of all kinds, and Christian-Catholics have the right to attend these schools, indeed it is also their duty. And since we have religious secondary schools, we can not find the reasons for which we should exclude these children of our own Church, many of whom have from an early age, were taught in the Christian spirit, and have never had the slightest idea, that for reasons that are completely incomprehensible to them, they must be excluded from education and the religious instruction their peers receive.

5. There is no doubt that the state authority, which must take care of the common good, also has the right to employ effective means to achieve that end. Nevertheless, it also has the duty to respect the natural and positive-divine law.

According to Catholic moral experts, the so-called “Jewish Code” affects the inherent right of individual conscience and freedom. (Canonical references omitted)

The practical consequences hidden in the above regulation are incalculably harmful for the moral and religious life. How can we continue to teach that all are equal before God as seen in the command of the Saviour, “Go and teach all peoples” (Matthew 28.19) that everyone must be baptised and join the Church? How can Catholic priests comfort the faithful of Jewish nationality in their trials? How can we proclaim without contradiction the precept of Christ: “Do unto others what you would want others to do to you”? (Matthew 7.12)

Considering all these effects and relying on the undisputed principle, that the civil legislator, in making laws, should adjust them to conform to the natural and positive divine laws, we ask that:

1. Ordinance number 198/1941 Jewish Code be modified in accordance with the principles of Catholic doctrine, and, in particular, that the civil legislator exempt all the baptised from all effects of the so-called “Jewish Code”.

2. That, here and now, Mr President, pursuant to Paragraph 225, grant to all members of the Catholic Church, who are particularly entrusted to us, full exemption from the effects of the Decree. With joy we noted that the Decree of the Interior Ministry does not force Jewish-Christians to wear the Jewish badge.

3. That because the regulation prohibits non-Jews intervening in favour of baptised Jews, at least permit the bishops and parish priests to provide the President with information about these Faithful, who, according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, fulfil their religious and civil duties in an exemplary manner.

4. That in future, in the formation of laws, the involvement of the representatives of the Church are involved, when proposed laws and regulations affect the religious life. The State should regulate like that, even when it submits to the prior judgement of interested groups who will be affected by the legislation.

(1) ADSS 8.153

(2) See  

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