Germania


Last Friday, German parliament voted in favor of same-sex “marriage” with 393 of 623 votes (out of a total of 630 delegates).  Civil unions for same-sex couples had been possible since 2001. Nevertheless, the green party, social democrats and liberals had been campaigning for “more” – with the slogan “Ehe für alle” – “marriage for all” (surely they do not mean everybody must marry? yet if they mean everybody may marry whomever they want, we have a long way still to go, as marriage of e.g. your own sister or son is not yet legal even now).

Legalization of same-sex marriage had been a declared aim of the current junior coalition partner, the social democrats, during the last election campaign already. Nevertheless, they did not really pursue this during the current legislative period – until the next election loomed. Even then, the CDU/CSU would have been able to hold out, had it not been for a fateful interview of Angela Merkel with – of all things – a women’s magazine.

When a gay member of the audience asked her about the CDU/CSU stance on gay marriage, now that all potential opposition partners have made the legalization of it a prerequisite for any future coalition, she first deplored the politization of this topic and then said:

I find it is not appropriate for marriage –  and same-sex couples live the same values of commitment, after all – I find it is not really appropriate, to approach this in a helter-skelter way. And therefore we will pay very close attention to this question, given the current situation we have in Germany,  but in a different way.

I know within the CDU – and I include myself – many people who have thought a lot about this topic, who have long said that the same values are lived there, but who nevertheless, somehow, maybe grew up with the feeling that man and woman, that simply is marriage as we know it; and the other thing is an equally valuable partnership; and of course, certainly, for those who are affiliated with a church quite a number of other issues play a role; and for this reason I want to lead this discussion into a direction where it is more a decision of conscience, rather than forcing something through by majority vote. And I would wish that in spite of the election campaign this discussion is led with great respect, and with consideration for those who have problems with such a decision.

[My translation and emphasis; a video of this part of the interview can be found here; beware: this is a site of LGBT activists…]

The social democrats promptly pounced on this (through either sincere conviction or simple stupidity) and scheduled the vote for the last day parliament sat before the election. The social democrats plus the opposition would have had the required majority entirely without the CDU, but Mrs. Merkel made it a free vote for the CDU/CSU – and lo and behold, one quarter of their delegates voted in favour, too (including the CDU delegate of my constituency).

So, at the very same day that I was claiming to an US-citizen that our lesser evil at current elections was less evil than theirs, Germany finally fully joined the club of shame.

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While I mostly ignore news (which is probably wrong), whenever current events bring me to actually follow them, it is interesting to compare headlines in German and Anglophone media. According to what I catch from the latter, everyone, apart from us, seems to be concerned about the perceived fact that we are currently naively facilitating the Muslim invasion of Europe.

Of course, the ‘refugee crisis’ is in the German headlines as well, but from a quite different angle. There are probably hosts of people who could say something more intelligent or thoughtful about this than I, but since I have been told, courteously, but repeatedly, to post something here once more, here my inchoate musings:

For one thing, the shameful German history of the first half of the 20th century has a strong influence on the debate, in different ways.

Among my grandparents, two were refugees themselves, having lived in Pomerania and Silesia until the end of the war. They and their families, though in the latter case recognized as ‘anti-fascists’ even by the occupying powers, lost all their material goods, and, having nothing left to offer on the black market, starved more than others did at the time. But the thing that really enraged me, as a child and youth, was the fact that, when they came to the area that remained Germany, they were resented and despised, because the people of that area had to give up rooms to them, because their clothes were shabby, because they came from the East, were ‘Poles’ themselves.

Even more dramatically, there is the question of those directly persecuted by the National Socialists. Of course, at some point, it became difficult or impossible to leave Germany, because of the Germans. But I have always been thinking, up to now, that all allied or neutral countries ought to have been falling over themselves, so to speak, to receive Jewish refugees. I used to think that once someone got to the US, or Britain, etc., there was a happy end – and was shocked that too often, this was not the case.

I do not know to which extent these particular points actually influences attitudes or decisions, consciously or unconsciously, but I guess that they do, at least somewhat.

Then, there is the fact that the large majority of people critical of the refugee policies (or worse) are so from the wrong reasons entirely. The refugees could consist entirely of Christian families with children, so grateful that they got into safety that, however crowded, cold, monotonous their camps, they would not consider anything less than full compliance with our society’s ‘values’: Those people would still rage against ‘foreigners’, against the fact that housing and feeding them cost us money that they would rather spend on themselves.

Of course, they are opposed by the good people. Those who remember that we, the Germans, are the very last people who are permitted to refuse anyone for their ‘strangeness’, their culture, etc. I myself probably belong to them, to a not inconsiderable extent. And we imagine, indeed, the families with little children whom we cannot leave to drown in the Mediterranean, to starve or be shot in Syria, to freeze somewhere at the EU borders. If we are Christians, we believe that among them there are our brethren in the Faith, persecuted for it, whom we give refuge, as the Holy Family found in Egypt.

We are not the people who try to burn down refugee housings. We are disconcerted, however, when even the mainstream media in Germany, in some hidden corners of the news, start to report that Christian refugees are being attacked, in many places, by their Muslim compatriots. We would be interested, by the way, to have some demographics about the refugees that come. When we do see people, in the news, on the streets, there is a curious preponderance of young men without any family. Given the cost for getting to Europe, it might make sense to send just the sturdiest person, first, in the hope to get the family to follow. It could also be very tempting for unmarried young men to use the current political situation to get to Europe, where everyone has smartphones, a big car and whatever you dream of, and where they would not let you go to in peace time.

And because people are trying to burn the places where refugees stay, and go on the street with frighteningly xenophobic paroles, no one dares to follow social workers’ suggestions that Christian and Muslim refugees be housed separately – no, in Germany, there is tolerance, no religious separation. No one dares to ask what the consequence of continued boredom, in close quarters, might be even for completely average human beings, many of them young males (for whatever reason), and if local communities, leaving those xenophobes aside, are equipped to deal with that. No one nice dares to say that in the long-run (at least after the immediate crisis has past) it might be a country’s right to decide which rate of permanent immigration it thinks is compatible with national welfare. Actually, even hypothetically writing this, a part of my mind denounces me as a crypto-fascist.

Which is to say, I guess, that Germany faces some unique challenges regarding the refugee crisis.

An eminent scholar recently brought the following quote to my attention. My more philosophical co-bloggers will be better than I am at explaining why this constitutes an example of illogic, by making opposites of two perfectly reconcilible options.

It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence. Everybody is using coffee; this must be prevented. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both his ancestors and officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied upon to endure hardships in case of another war.

Frederick the Great of Prussia (1777)

Not even in Baden-Württemberg, where the German Green party is at its most bourgeois.

Education in Germany is the business of each ‘Land’, and the Land of Baden-Württemberg, governed by a red-green coalition, is just implementing a new ‘Bildungsplan’ (Education Plan).

I was forwarded a plea to sign a petition for the revision of the Guiding Principles of this Education Plan, due to their excessive focus on sexual orientation and gender identity. Apparently, the initiator of this petition is a school teacher himself. The text of the petition uses measured speech throughout. It even supports the cause of non-discrimination of homosexuals, bisexuals, intersexuals and transgender, and is not against addressing this topic in school. It only claims that the new Guiding Principles exceed that aim, and, by making this issue part of cross-cutting principles pervading all subjects and forms, to aim at ‘pedagogical, moral and ideological re-education’ at schools. (And this is the most violent phrase in the whole petition text.)

In fact, even the Catholic Church, and the two Protestant churches, of Baden-Württemberg have voiced their complaint.

So far, so bad [or good, regarding that very last bit.]

The thing that really got me was the public reaction to the petition. Even as you click on its homepage, you are immediately notified that this petition is controversial. Reading an entirely unrelated news article about alleged ‘homophobia’ in Germany (in itself worth a post), I found that the petition was so infamous that it was mentioned even there.

redgreenscandalBy now, I was shocked and intrigued enough to actually research the disputed text of the Guiding Principles. Clicking on the relevant website of the Ministry of Culture, I found, under ‘Bildungsplan’, as a very prominent point (see picture), the response to the petition by the ministry. The claims made by the petition are ‘wrong and discriminating’. ‘The petition suggests’, it goes on, ‘that the intended guiding principles are wholly to be regarded under the aspect of sexual diversity. This is an exorbitant exaggeration, as this is merely one topic among many others. […] The suggestion that the Ministry of Culture wanted to pedagogically and morally re-educate pupils is entirely absurd. Such a claim and phrasing show the dogmatic background of the author. They are irresponsible and have nothing to do with democratical discussion anymore.’ [my emphasis, and translation]

So what is in the text? Fair enough: There are five guiding principles that are intended to guide education across forms and subjects. These are, at first sight, innocuous enough (regarding the topic under discussion):

  1. vocational orientation
  2. education for sustainable development
  3. media literacy
  4. prevention and health education
  5. consumer knowledge

There follow 28 pages listing in details all the competences that are to be imparted at the different levels. And for each and every one of the five points, apart from point four (where the topic gets two bullet points of competences for itself), all of them apparently entirely unrelated to ‘acceptance of sexual diversity’, there follows a whole paragraph (!) on what additionally needs to be taken regard of under the aspect of acceptance of sexual diversity. One topic among many others? Not quite, in my opinion.

I have to own that I have sometimes doubted, not the impact of this issue on society, but its probable consequences for professing Christians. Yet if it comes to the point that a reservedly phrased petition – not against the morality of LGBT lifestyles, not against non-discrimination of such lifestyles being taught at schools, but only against an entire educational plan being dominated by this issue – receives such a prominent and vitriolic reception throughout the mainstream press of Germany, and is denounced as no more consistent with democratic discussion by the very government that prides itself of its participatory approach: then even I concede that the darkness seems to be gathering indeed.

The causes of sadness in this fallen world are manifold.

For me, one of them, a quiet, lingering one has been, for quite a while, the introduction of a new “Gotteslob”, a new Catholic Hymn and Prayer Book, in the German-speaking dioceses, scheduled m Advent 2013.

Of cause, even the old “Gotteslob”, introduced in 1975, had its weaknesses, as well as its strengths. Towards the former, one should count the disproportionately large share of 1930s and 1970s hymns (especially those of the Thurmair couple) and the exclusion of a number of highly popular traditional Catholic hymns, e.g. “Rosenkranzkönigin”, or “Jesus, Dir leb ich, Jesus, Dir sterb ich”, towards the latter, the retention of quite a number of good old (and a few good new) Catholic hymns, as well as prayers, litanies, devotions, and catechesis.

One aspect that particularly roused my adversity towards the new “Gotteslob” was that it was to be introduced before the revision of the German translation of the order of Mass. It appears to me, based on my researches, that the German bishops’ conference has been delaying this revision for quite a while, with no end in view. And now, a new Hymn and Prayer Book, including the order of Mass, with the old text. Now the mistranslations from the Latin had never been as bad as in the old ICEL, but one really critical point, in the German as in the English version, was the pro multis. I have actually attended a number of Masses where the priests have changed “all” for “the many”, without any official directive – but the new “Gotteslob” would have the old and still valid translation, and progress would be effectively blocked.

Well, it’s no use crying over spilt milk, so I decided to buy the new “Gotteslob” nevertheless, only to find out that it was sold out until end of January. Humph. Accordingly, due to other delays, I first held the ne “Gotteslob” in my hands at Mass on 1 January (indeed one of the other few singularly German Holy Days of Obligation – just because it is a state holiday: hardly ever  a reference to the motherhood of Our Lady is made).

Given it was at Mass, I did not really have time to thoroughly check the contents. However, this is what I found: Some new ‘modern’ hymns have been added. But some new old hymns have been added as well! In the Advent and Christmas time section, I did not miss any really good hymns, nor were there too many insipid new ones. Indeed, there was the addition of the LATIN text of Adeste Fideles. What a marvel!

And guess what:I looked at the order of the Mass. It seems all the texts envisioned to be said in Latin in the New Rite are set down in proper two-column bilingual! And, believe it or not: It says “für Viele” in the Consecration.

Is the end of the world still not come, after all?

Has anything happened in the world lately? I am asking because it is not conducive to my peace of mind to listen to any German news lately.

It appears there have been some suicide attacks in Russia, and who knows what else: for two days the number one news item in German radio and television is the skiing accident of Formula One driver Michael Schumacher. No joke: one third of Monday’s and half of Tuesday’s sending time of the most serious TV news slot were devoted to the non-news (condition still critical, medical personal cannot give more information) of the state of health of Mr. Schumacher.

While I would not wish his accident on anyone, not even for skiing off-piste: can it be someone sort of lost sense of priorities somewhat?

THE CALL TO THE BARBARIANS

A BOOK was sent me the other day by a gentleman who pins his faith to what he calls the Nordic race; and who, indeed, appears to offer that race as a substitute for all religions. Crusaders believed that Jerusalem was not only the Holy City, but the centre of the whole world. Moslems bow their heads towards Mecca and Roman Catholics are notorious for being in secret communication with Rome. I presume that the Holy Place of the Nordic religion must be the North Pole. What form of religious architecture is exhibited in its icebergs, how far its vestments are modified by the white covering of Arctic animals, how the morning and evening service may be adapted to a day and a night each lasting for six months, whether their only vestment is the alb or their only service the angelus of noon, upon all these mysteries I will not speculate. But I can affirm with some confidence that the North Pole is very little troubled by heretical movements or the spread of modern doubt. Anyhow, it would seem that we know next to nothing about this social principle, except that anything is good if it is near enough to the North. And this undoubtedly explains the spiritual leadership of the Eskimo throughout history; and the part played by Spitzbergen as the spiritual arena of modern times. The only thing that puzzles me is that the Englishmen who now call themselves Nordic used to call themselves Teutonic; and very often even Germanic. I cannot think why they altered this so abruptly in the autumn of 1914. Some day, I suppose, when we have diplomatic difficulties with Norway, they will equally abruptly drop the word Nordic. They will hastily substitute some other–I would suggest Borealic. They might be called the Bores, for short.

But I only mention this book because of a passage in it which is rather typical of the tone of a good many other people when they are talking about Catholic history. The writer would substitute one race for all religions; in which he certainly differs from us, who are ready to offer one religion to all races. And even here, perhaps, the comparison is not altogether to his advantage. For anybody who likes can belong to the religion; whereas it is not very clear what is to be done with the people who do not happen to belong to the race. But even among religions he is ready to admit degrees of depravity; he will distinguish between these disgusting institutions; of course, according to their degree of latitude. It is rather unfortunate for him that many Eskimos are Catholics and that most French Protestants live in the south of France; but he proceeds on his general principle clearly enough. He points out, in his pleasant way, why it is exactly that Roman Catholicism is such a degrading superstition. And he adds (which is what interests me at the moment) that this was illustrated in the Dark Ages, which were a nightmare of misery and ignorance. He then admits handsomely that Protestantism is not quite so debased and devilish as Catholicism; and that men of the Protestant nations do exhibit rudimentary traces of the human form. But this, he says, “is not due to their Protestantism, but to their Nordic common sense.” They are more educated, more liberal, more familiar with reason and beauty, because they are what used to be called Teutonic; descended from Vikings and Gothic chiefs rather than from the Tribunes of Florence or the Troubadours of Provence. And in this curious idea I caught a glimpse of something much wider and more interesting; which is another note of the modern ignorance of the Catholic tradition. In speaking of things that people do not know, I have mostly spoken of things that are really within the ring or circle of our own knowledge; things inside the Catholic culture which they miss because they are outside it. But there are some cases in which they themselves are ignorant even of the things outside it. They themselves are ignorant, not only of the centre of civilisation which they slander, but even of the ends of the earth to which they appeal; they not only cannot find Rome on their map, but they do not even know where to look for the North Pole.

Take, for instance, that remark about the Dark Ages and the Nordic common sense. It is tenable and tolerable enough to say that the Dark Ages were a nightmare. But it is nonsense to say that the Nordic element was anything remotely resembling sense. If the Dark Ages were a nightmare, it was very largely because the Nordic nonsense made them an exceedingly Nordic nightmare. It was the period of the barbarian invasions; when piracy was on the high seas and civilisation was in the monasteries. You may not like monasteries, or the sort of civilisation that is preserved by monasteries; but it is quite certain that it was the only sort of civilisation there was. But this is simply one of the things that the Nordic gentleman does not know. He imagines that the Danish pirate was talking about Tariff Reform and Imperial Preference, with scientific statistics from Australia and Alaska, when he was rudely interrupted by a monk named Bede, who had never heard of anything but monkish fables. He supposes that a Viking or a Visigoth was firmly founded on the principles of the Primrose League and the English Speaking Union, and that everything else would have been founded on them if fanatical priests had not rushed in and proclaimed the savage cult called Christianity. He thinks that Penda of Mercia, the last heathen king, was just about to give the whole world the benefits of the British Constitution, not to mention the steam engine and the works of Rudyard Kipling, when his work was blindly ruined by unlettered ruffians with such names as Augustine and Dunstan and Anselm. And that is the little error which invalidates our Nordic friend’s importance as a serious historian; that is why we cannot throw ourselves with utter confidence and surrender into the stream of his historical enthusiasm. The difficulty consists in the annoying detail that nothing like what he is thinking about ever happened in the world at all; that the religion of race that he proposes is exactly what he himself calls the Dark Ages. It is what some scientific persons call a purely subjective idea; or in other words, a nightmare. It is very doubtful if there ever was any Nordic race. It is quite certain that there never was any Nordic common sense. The very words “common sense” are a translation from the Latin.

Now that one typical or even trivial case has a larger application. One very common form of Protestant or rationalist ignorance may be called the ignorance of what raw humanity is really like. Such men get into a small social circle, very modern and very narrow, whether it is called the Nordic race or the Rationalist Association. They have a number of ideas, some of them truisms, some of them very untrue, about liberty, about humanity, about the spread of knowledge. The point is that those ideas, whether true or untrue, are the very reverse of universal. They are not the sort of ideas that any large mass of mankind, in any age or country, may be assumed to have. They may in some cases be related to deeper realities; but most men would not even recognise them in the form in which these men present them. There is probably, for instance, a fundamental assumption of human brotherhood that is common to all humanity. But what we call humanitarianism is not common to humanity. There is a certain recognition of reality and unreality which may be called common sense. But the scientific sense of the special value of truth is not generally regarded as common sense. It is silly to pretend that priests specially persecuted a naturalist, when the truth is that all the little boys would have persecuted him in any village in the world, merely because he was a lunatic with a butterfly-net. Public opinion, taken as a whole is much more contemptuous of specialists and seekers after truth than the Church ever was. But these critics never can take public opinion as a whole. There are a great many examples of this truth; one is the case I have given, the absurd notion that a horde of heathen raiders out of the northern seas and forests, in the most ignorant epoch of history, were not likely to be at least as ignorant as anybody else. They were, of course, much more ignorant than anybody with the slightest social connection with the Catholic Church. Other examples may be found in the story of other religions. Great tracts of the globe, covered in theory by the other religions, are often covered in practice merely by certain human habits of fatalism or pessimism or some other human mood. Islam very largely stands for the fatalism. Buddhism very largely stands for the pessimism. Neither of them knows anything of either the Christian or the humanitarian sort of hope. But an even more convincing experience is to go out into the street, or into a tube or a tram, and talk to the actual cabmen, cooks and charwomen cut off from the Creed by the modern chaos. You will find that heathens are not happy, however Nordic. You will soon find that you do not need to go to Arabia for fatalism; or to the Thibetan desert for despair.

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