DAILY CATHOLIC   FRI-SAT-SUN   October 9-11, 1998   vol. 9, no. 198

CATHOLIC PewPOINT

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The Church's newest saint will be remembered as a martyr for all humanity!

          It is right and fitting that between the feasts of two great saints named Teresa - the Little Flower Saint Therese of Lisieux on October 1 and Saint Teresa of Avila on October 15 His Holiness John Paul II will add another Teresa to that list of great women when he canonizes Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, better known to all as Blessed Edith Stein on Sunday, October 11 in St. Peter's Square. She is, of course, the Carmelite nun who was born a Jew and died a Catholic in the horrendous death camp of Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.

          Over the last few years, especially this year there has been a good deal of dialogue as well as controversy between the Vatican and Jewish interests beginning with the Holy See's publication of the document "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah" in which the Church condemned the Holocaust again and asked forgiveness for individual actions, but not to blame the Church as a whole. The Holy Father has reiterated this numerous times from the document he authored in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council to his encyclicals and his talks on the subject. Yet the Jews still remain unconvinced, or shall we reword that to mean they don't want to be convinced because then they could not blame someone and if that were the case they, too, would have to share in the guilt of not doing enough as they accuse the Catholic Church. We all know how closely Judaism and Catholicism are linked in theology, philosophy and pscyhology - one strictly living the Old Covenant while the latter lives the New Covenant based on the principles of the Old. One thing both faiths share culture-wise is that sense of conscience which many translate in modern terms to the "guilt complex." There have been many jokes about this, but it is no joke that the guilt of the Holocaust does not lie with the Jews, nor does it lie with the Catholic Church, but must be shared by all faiths for it was not something that just happened on the scene but took years to evolve. Like a cancer it began innocently and, like the devil himself was filled with half-truths that bamboozled not just the German people but the world as well. Only when the cancer had become malignant and eaten away at the corpse of humanity did the world truly wake up to the damage done and the atrocities that were being perpetrated on both Jew and Catholic. By then it was too late. There are those that claim Pope Pius XI and his successor Pope Pius XII should have spoken out stronger. The facts are that both did speak out against Nazi aggression and persecutions of any race, but those critics fail to understand the political climate that pervaded that era when any kind of firm statement was taken by radical Third Reich members as a threat that warranted, in their mindset, retaliation. This the Church knew and realized and did everything she could do on all fronts to 1) protect her own people, specifically the hierarchy and clergy because without them who would minister to the faithful, 2) not create any more trouble that would result in millions of more deaths, and 3) seek to aid those who were persecuted whether they were Catholic, Jew, Moslem, or Protestant. In regards to the latter, can you imagine what kind of retaliation Adolf Hitler and his henchmen would have taken had they truly known the extent the Church was really active in hiding, aiding and protecting so many Jews? History documents the many Catholic heroes throughout Europe who risked life and limb to come to the aid of their fellow men. The most notable, of course, is Father Maximilian Mary Kolbe, now a deserved saint, who lived the Gospel to the fullest, even to giving his own life for another which he did by substituting himself for a young Jewish husband and father at that very same house of horrors in Auschwitz. There were countless others who no one but God really knows about who did the same, who opened their homes and took the greatest risks to help. A good example of retaliation was the strong anti-Nazi stance against deportation of Jews proclaimed by the Dutch bishops which resulted in the capture of Edith Stein. There were others such as Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli and Cardinal Alojzie Stepinac who, because of their visible positions had to walk a sensitive line for the sake of the good sheep. The latter prince of the Church went on to become the 260th successor of Peter, being elected Supreme Pontiff on March 2, 1939 - his birthday. He would guide Holy Mother Church through the most turbulent time in world history. What so many fail to forget, especially Jewish liberals, is that Pius was shepherd to all his flock worldwide. This included Japan, Italy and Germany. Despite the butcher mentality of Hitler, the Gestapo and the young goosesteppers, there were countless Catholics in Germany who did not agree with the fuhrer's policies or actions but had they spoken out, they most likely would not have lived to see the next day. They, along with most of the people in Europe, lived in constant fear day in and day out. The fact of the matter is that Pius was personally responsible for saving over 850,000 Jews from death. Nevertheless, he as well as other Jewish sympathizers had to be cautious, but, when the opportunity presented itself, most responded in kind to helping the oppressed and downtrodden. Because of the political climate that was so tenous with Hitler and Benito Mussolini of the Italian Fascist regime, for Pius to have spoken out any stronger would have been certain death for millions and millions more Catholics and Jews. The same for another who was beatified this past weekend in Zagreb, when the Pope honored Cardinal Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb who also has come under criticism by Jewish and Serbian radicals because he supposedly furthered the Croatian cause at the expense of others, even being accused of siding with the Nazi factions in Croatia. Again, satan's half truths surface to blind the heart and confuse the mind. Think about it. Had any of that been true, do you think the Church would have even considered the cause for canonization of Cardinal Stepinac? No way! No organization is more meticulous in its investigations than the Vatican and no organization works slower than the Holy See in determining the authenticity of a person's sanctity. That is the way it should be to be certain no mistake could be made. Therefore, after extensive research and thousands of hours of interviews, grilling, counter probing and scrutinizing everything under the microscope, the Pontifical Congregation for the Causes of Saints assured all that Cardinal Stepinac is worthy, the same as insuring that Edith Stein, who was beatified at Cologne by Pope John Paul II on May 1, 1987, be proclaimed a saint of the Church with no doubts or apprehensions as to her worthiness. Yet radical Jewish interests protest and contest that Edith is one of theirs, claiming she was killed solely because she was a Jew, not a Catholic. It's almost like they are jealous and don't want anyone else to suffer or be honored except those of Jewish extraction. This is the same attitude they have expressed over the cross controversy outside Auschwitz where over a million Catholics were also executed. When the Holy Father knelt and prayed there, Jews were outraged like it was his fault the Holocaust happened. Then when white crosses were planted there a few months ago in honor of their Catholic brethren, Jews protested vehemently to where the Polish government and the Church was brought into the middle of the crisis. Why do these Jewish factions think they have a monopoly on suffering, on commemorating the fallen? That is a sad commentary on what the Judao-Christian relationship should be. The Holy Father has gone out of his way to appease the Jews, to apologize for any transgressions against them not just during the Holocaust but through all of history. And yet, this weekend they'll be in Rome protesting once again because Edith Stein, a Jew through birth, chose to follow another Jew by birth and embrace the New Covenant which that same Jew established some one thousand, nine hundred and sixty-seven years ago and Who also was persecuted by radical Jewish factions - all the way to the death on the Cross. But no matter how much the Jews of Jesus' time protested, He conquered them all with love - the same kind of love exhibited by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

         That kind of love was something she nourished as the youngest of eleven kids in a very orthodox Jewish family in Breslau, Germany. She was born appropriately on the Jewish feast of the Atonement - Yom Kippur - October 12, 1891. Growing into maturity during the first World War in Germany, Edith was an avid scholar and somewhat of a feminist, espousing the cause in an atmosphere of women's repression with her doctorate in philosophy. She was no dummy, graduating with a summa cum laude. Like so many young people then and today, she went through a void of faith, forsaking her own Jewish practices for the world. Shortly after the First World War, she discovered the New Testament. This lead to her being baptized a Catholic on January 1, 1922. With her background she contributed an excellent work based on her new-found faith, "The Spirituality of Christian Women." On October 14, 1933 as the Nazi juggernaut was beginning to pick up speed, brainwashing the youth of the nation with the great Arian fallacy, Edith entered a Carmelite monastery in Cologne. It was a year later as a Novice that she took the name "Teresa Benedicta of the Cross." When the ugly Nazi facade was exposed, violence broke out. Jews and Catholic religious everywhere were rounded up like cattle. As a safety precaution, the majority of the cloistered sisters at Teresa's monastery, including Teresa, were swiftly and safely moved under the cover of darkness to a convent in Echt, Holland much as Joseph and Mary and their infant Son fled to Egypt. She would seem to have been safe in Dutch territory, but the Catholic bishops in the Netherlands issued a stern warning against Nazi aggression with a strong pastoral letter and the Nazi strongarms started raiding all Dutch convents in retaliation. Therefore, when Edith Stein was rounded up with the rest of her fellow Carmelite nuns in early August, 1942 she wasn't captured because she was a Jew but because she represented the Catholic clergy who had dared criticize these "superior Arian" aggressors. No doubt, when they discovered she was both a consecrated religious and a Jew, her fate was sealed. But Edith did not deny her Jewish heritage. Rather she upheld the nobility of her race and sympathized with her Jewish brethren. With her when she was captured was Edith's older sister Rosa who had sought asylum in the convent. Also, their older brother Paul had already been killed by Hitler's men. As it was, four members of the Stein family would be executed at Auschwitz. The nuns were herded onto a train and taken by rail through Germany to the far western border of Poland where they were shoved off and goaded into the gas chambers at Auschwitz. During beatification ceremonies eleven years ago the Holy Father exclaimed that, "In the extermination camp, she died as a daughter of Israel." But he was also quick to point out that she died a Catholic, "She had the strength, coming from the willingness to self-sacrifice inherent in the imitation of Christ." In truth, Edith Stein was not a martyr for the Jewish cause, nor for the Catholic cause alone, but rather the Church's newest saint will be remembered as a martyr for all humanity!

Michael Cain, editor