Saturday, March 12, 2011

I was born Jewish

Je suis né juif.
J’ai reçu le nom
de mon grand-père paternel, Aron.
Devenu chrétien
par la foi et le baptême,
je suis demeuré juif
comme le demeuraient les Apôtres.
J’ai pour saints patrons
Aron le Grand Prêtre,
saint Jean l’Apôtre,
sainte Marie pleine de grâce.
Nommé 139e archevêque de Paris
par Sa Sainteté le pape Jean-Paul II,
j’ai été intronisé dans cette cathédrale
le 27 février 1981,
puis j’y ai exercé tout mon ministère.
Passants, priez pour moi.

† Aron Jean-Marie cardinal Lustiger
Archevêque de Paris

I was born Jewish.
I received the name
of my paternal grandfather, Aron.
Having become [a] Christian
by faith and baptism,
I have remained Jewish
as did the Apostles.
I have for patron saints
Aron the High Priest,
Saint John the Apostle,
Blessed Mary full of grace.
Named the 139th Archbishop of Paris
by His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
I was enthroned in this Cathedral
on the 27th of February 1981,
[and] from that point exercised in it all my ministry.
As [you] pass by, pray for me.

† Aron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Archbishop of Paris

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cost of discipleship

"A grim but telling footnote points out that the oft-quoted, pious 'reminiscence' of the camp doctor who 'witnessed' Bonhoeffer's execution at Flossenbürg, implying a quick and easy death following a final prayer, is now known to be untrue.  Bonhoeffer's death, like that of the seven other conspirators executed that morning in April 1945, was one of barbarically slow, repeated strangulations."

     Keith Clements, reviewing Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: martyr, thinker, man of resistance, by Ferdinand Schlingensiepen (trans. Isabel Best, London:  T & T Clark, 2010), in Theology 114, no. 2 (March/April 2011): 123 (122-123).  The footnote to which Clements refers is apparently no. 8 on p. 406 (from p. 378):  "The report by the SS doctor H. Fischer-Hüllstrung, in Zimmerman (ed.), I Knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is apparently a lie (DB-ER 927f.).  The doctor could not have seen Bonhoeffer kneeling in his cell, neither could Bonhoeffer have said a prayer before his execution and then climbed the steps to the gallows.  There were no steps.  Fischer-Hüllstrung had the job of reviving political prisoners after they had been hanged until they were almost dead, in order to prolong the agony of their dying.  According to a Danish prisoner, L. F. Mogenson, the executions of Admiral Canaris and his group were drawn out from 6 a.m. until almost noon.  Cf. Mogenson, 'Ein Zeuge aus dem KZ-Flossenbürg (A Testimony from Flossenbürg Concentration Camp)', in R. Mayer and P. Zimmerling (eds.), Dietrich Bonhoeffer Mensch hinter Mauern.  Theologie und Spiritualität in den Gefängnisjahren (Man behind walls: theology and spirituality during the years in prison), 1993, p. 107[-108]".
     My own translation of the testimony of Jørgen L. F. Mogensen, taken down on 28 May 1993 by Jørgen Glenthøj, is as follows:
     I am convinced of this, that the execution of the group [of conspirators] did not take the form of the usual brief [(kurzdauernden)] liquidation.  Those condemned to death were always killed one by one [(einzeln)].  The prisoner was taken from his cell and led to the bathroom, where he was undressed and [where] his hands were tied behind his back with a strong paper cord [(Papierschnur)].  The naked prisoner was then led to the exit in the middle of the building and then obliged to go outside into the open air in the [middle of the] structure along past the window [(an den Fenstern vorbei)] up to the uncovered place of execution, where the rope over a hook in the wall awaited [him].  The liquidations could normally, especially in the case of a neck shot [(besonders bei Genickschuß)], uncannily call to mind the killing of a beast in a slaughterhouse.  The fellow prisoners in the wing [encompassing cells] 20-40 were by [an] estimation of the time between the individual executions able to judge whether there were deviations from the norm.  I sat on the critical day in cell no. 2, which was much too far away [to permit me] to catch clearly the sounds generated by [(begleitenden)] the hangings.
     It is, however, positively certain that the executions of the members of the group [of conspirators] took, on the whole, an unusually long time:  from perhaps 6:00 in the morning until about noon.  In the years after the war, [for as long] as the Nazi atrocities retained [a measure of] newsworthiness, there circulated the report that [Admiral] Canaris was hung from a piano wire in order to prolong the strangulation [(Erdrosselung)] that, when death was near, was interrupted [so that] the condemned man [could be] brought [back] to consciousness and the strangulation [(Strangulierung)] again resumed.   The victim was thus killed many times over [(so gleich mehrmals getötet)].  The report  of the [use of] piano wire is incorrect.  That is, it was superfluous.  I saw on one of the following days an L-shaped hook whose longer arm (c. 70-75 cm) was shaped into a point, so that the arm at the end was c. 1 cm thick.  Under the weight of a normal person the hook would be so elastic that with [the] right length of rope one could make it possible for the victim to just barely [(leicht)] touch the ground with the tips of his toes.  In this way is the long duration of the hanging accounted for.  I met in the afternoon with [(traf)] one of the prison wardens, who was still obviously worked up, and who, as he showed me to the door, exclaimed:  It is only on account of these generals that we are losing the war.
     The idyllic description of Bonhoeffer’s last hour [as given] by the camp doctor [(des Lagerarztes von der Todesstunde Bonhoeffers)] is, I’m afraid, wholly without value as truth.  The gateway [(Tor)] into the prison yard was always—and especially during an execution—closed.  In the gateway was a door [(Tür)] that permitted entrance into the prison yard.  Even if the gateway had for some unknown reason [and] on precisely the day in question stood wide open, there was no barracks-like structure [(Barackengebäude)] with a view into the heart of the prison.  The doctor would further have had to have possessed the ability to peer through the doors into the cell block [(Zellenbau)] and through the doors into the bathroom in order to observe Bonhoeffer kneeling.  Incidentally, the hangman would never have allowed Bonhoeffer an interruption of the normal procedure.  As for Bonhoeffer’s alleged second [(neue)] pause for prayer before mounting the gallows, surely it suffices to note that as a matter of fact [(gar)] there was neither a gallows nor [any] flight of stairs [leading up] to it. 
     One circumstance that would have made it possible for the camp doctor to make accurate observations of Bonhoeffer’s last hour is conceivable:  if the camp doctor was—as on earlier occasions—included in the group [charged with effecting the] execution.  That would have been wholly logical in this case, since/where it was a question of [(da es um . . . ging)] a reanimation of the half-strangled [victim].  Normally the tasks of the camp doctor were more banal, e.g. to see to it that any teeth with crowns of gold were extracted from those condemned to death.  This would also account for the fact that the doctor waited ten years before coming forward with these incoherent [(verdrehten)] details.  The [whole] affair had a bright side, namely, that Bonhoeffer’s family and friends were able to infer from the letter that Bonhoeffer assumed a bearing so dignified that it impressed even a cynical camp doctor.  One can pray ardently without kneeling or folding one’s hands when the latter are bound behind one’s back.
Bruce Eldevik, of the Luther Seminary Library, informs me that Glenthøj's commentary on this is just as truncated in the 2nd (1995) edition as in the 1st (1993).  In the 2nd (1995) edition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — Mensch hinter Mauern.  Theologie und Spiritualität in den Gefängnisjahren, too, it begins in mid-sentence on p. 109.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Derrick on the irrelevance of the Christian faith

"So, by evasion and pretence, people are enabled to forget their real condition; and in view of its inherent despair, we can understand their anxiety to do so.  A Faith for which so many were once prepared to live and die (and even to kill) thus comes to seem like an irrelevance, a thing of no particular interest one way or another.  It is about our real condition:  it never set out to be about our pretend-condition."

Christopher Derrick, That strange divine sea:  reflections on being a Catholic (San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 1983), 52.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

We've only just begun

"the centuries have not exhausted the irreducible novelty of Christ.  The course of time is only beginning to manifest the singular originality of Christianity."

Jean-Marie Lustiger, "La nouveauté du Christ et la post-modernité," Documentation catholique 1999 (4 février 1990), 140, as quoted by Matthieu Rougé, in his "'La joie inouïe du Royaume qui vient': Esquisse de portrait spirituel du cardinal Lustiger," Communio: revue catholique internationale 33, no. 3 (mai-juin 2008):  72.