Those who control the writing and publication of church history as a matter of course, consign Christian pacifists to the threshold of oblivion. In twenty-one years of formal Catholic education I had never been taught a sentence about or even heard about such Christians. The sole exception to this was when snide remarks were made about Quakers’ refusal to fight for U.S. However, in every generation of Christianity such Christians have in fact existed, remembered or not. They have proclaimed in their time, often at horrendous cost, the truth of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies as taught and lived by the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels. And, when the time was precisely right and their witness was needed for salvation of each and all—Christians and non-Christians—the Lord of history raised them from the oblivion to which the masters of this world thought they had confined them forever.
Yet, I am stunned that in 70 years of being an American English speaking Christian and Catholic I never came across one word about Rev. Dr. Johannes Ude (1874-1965), a highly learned Austrian Catholic priest, theologian and sociologist, who was totally and publicly committed to the Nonviolent Jesus and His Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, before, during and after Hitler’s Germany. Twice imprisoned for His views by the Nazis, he was nominated twenty-six times for the Nobel Peace Prize by such people as Albert Schweitzer.
How is it possible in the voluminous Catholic newspapers articles, books, journal, religious education materials, and works on Catholic peace and justice that I have read, and Catholic radio and television programs, lectures and sermons to which I have listened, no mention of this priest surfaced in the first 70 years of my Catholic life? More baffling, no mention was ever made of his Catholic theological masterpiece on Gospel Nonviolence, Das Sollst Nicht Toeten(Thou Shall Not Kill) which he completed in 1944, just before being taken off to a concentration camp. How is it possible in all these intervening years no Catholic organization with publishing capabilities has been interested in translating his book into English and putting it before the English speaking Church membership and before the English speaking world in general?
But thanks to the persevering work of a solitary woman, Ingrid Leder, translating Das Sollst Nicht Toeten into English and thanks to Wipf and Stock publishers who will be releasing it later this year (2016), the English speaking Christian world will have access to this extraordinary Christian and his thoughts on Gospel Nonviolence—thoughts that are presented in the relatively unknown traditional and formal categories Catholic moral theology, which those in power in the Church say validates their claim that there can legitimately be such a moral monstrosity as a war Christians can join in. Ude specifically holds that they do no such thing.
Three Reflections From the Writings of Johannes Ude (all prior to 1944):
- 1. An irreconcilable contradiction exists between what is generally taught in the Catholic Church about self-defense, training and arming to fight, and the “ just defensive war” and Jesus’ commands of love of neighbor and enemy, as we see in the Gospels, the letters of the apostles and in the lives of the early Christians who refused to go to war. We emphasize that a true Christian has no right to self-defense, to train for war, or to serve as a soldier because all of these are a flagrant contradiction of Christ’s teaching about love.
- Did the Catholic military vicar proclaim Christ’s teachings when, according to the Grazer Volksblatt of September 6, 1936, in an address he extolled the status of soldiers as a glorious and God pleasing profession and stated: “Military leaders are committed to the principle, ‘Our hearts beat for God. Our fist beat on the enemy.’”
- Every weapon and every violent defense are contrary to the teachings of Christ, which demand that we meet the assailant with goodness and love and allow him to attack us. The weapons of Christ are solely nonviolence, all forgiving love, and forbearance, which suffer even the greatest injustice but never harm the enemy, never return evil for evil.
No wonder those with political, economic and canonical power in the U.S. institutional Church designated Priest Johannes’ book for oblivion along with its author name.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy