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German Bishops at Fulda – Pastoral Letter by the Conference of Catholic Bishops (August 23, 1945)

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Once again, our people, even all humanity, are faced with that “either or” which was spoken of for the first time by Simeon in the temple of Jerusalem: “Behold this child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many. . . ” (Luke 2, 34). The alternative for us today is: either with Christ upwards to a better future, or without, and even against, Christ, downwards to utter collapse.

We must find our way back to a vivid belief in God in order to be granted again the postulate of all human social life: Respect. Respect alone can make possible and bearable human social life on this earth. Respect for God, the Creator and Master, respect for His Holy Will, as it is manifested to us in the holy Ten Commandments! And also respect for our fellowman! Was not this very lack of respect in the past the source of all evil and the root of all sins which we deplore and under which we have suffered? Only on the basis of respect can be built a good family life, only respect can regulate and sanctify the relations between the sexes.

There must be respect for the life that God alone can give and take away again. Man may not dispose of his life, because it is a loan of God. Suicide, no matter whether it be inoffensively termed “voluntary death” (Freitod), or called by any other name, remains a serious interference with God’s supreme rights, one of the most dreadful sins, fraught with gravest consequences if committed with full, clear consciousness.

Life must not be deliberately and consciously destroyed—even when it has risen from fraud or violence. From a purely human point of view such situations are, no doubt, among the most tragic to be faced by a woman, and great moral strength is needed to bear such suffering. All those who have to deal with such situations—relatives, perhaps her own husband or fiancé, father or mother, doctors or priests, social workers, members of women’s and girls’ societies—will assist with deepest sympathy those unfortunate persons and strive to alleviate their lot.

If necessary, institutions will have to be built with public assistance, or existing institutions will have to be enlarged where such children can find a home to be brought up in Christian charity. It can, however, never be countenanced, and nobody can grant the right to interfere with the supreme rights of God and to kill maturing life. Every physician aware of the Hippocratic oath will deem it beneath his honor as a physician to abet such activities. Difficult as they may find it, mothers will have to endeavor to remember less the wrong done to them than the innocent life maturing in them. God, in Whose eyes they are guiltless, will grant them the strength to bear their lot with Christian fortitude.

There must be respect once again for the personality of the neighbor. All of us still remember too vividly what happens to men who have been deprived of their rights, maltreated and robbed of their human dignity. The beneficent functions of a genuine society cannot unfold themselves among men as long as there is no respect for the other person, for his right to property, for his good name.


Indeed, genuine national and political life can only be built upon a vivid belief in God. This belief is the only solid foundation. Let us rebuild on this foundation in the spirit of charity, that charity which our Lord and Redeemer has taught us: “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13, 35).

We can still hear how this charity has been reviled, how it has been outlawed as unmanly, only to be replaced by power and violence. Today we have to bear the terrifying consequences of this appeal to force. At all times, charity has proved itself to be the firmest cement in the construction of any human society. We need this charity, ready and strong in sacrifice, especially today in the midst of our almost boundless misery. A grave winter lies before us. It would not become any easier by despondent resignation or by abandoning ourselves to radical currents. No, with a firm belief in God let us courageously set to work, toil faithfully and steadily, help one another in unselfish love, stand to one another in true comradeship. Let us help out one another with clothing and household articles, and assist one another in rebuilding destroyed homes. In a spirit of charity, offer to those who have become homeless the shelter of your roof and a place at your table.

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