The Reichskonkordat (“Concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich“) was the first treaty with a foreign power signed by the Nazi government. Which gives you some idea about the importance of this treaty to the Nazi regime and to Adolf Hitler personally.
This treaty was signed on July 20th, 1933 by Cardinal Secretary of State (a lawyer by training) Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII (quite incorrectly labeled by some as “Hitler’s Pope”), on behalf of then-Pope Pius XI and Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen – on behalf of President Paul von Hindenburg and the German government. It was ratified September 10, 1933 and it has been in force from that date onward.
Yes, unlike most other treaties signed by the Third Reich, the Reichskonkordat is still very much in force today. After the war the concordat was embedded in Article 123.2 of the 1949 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In 1957, the Constitutional Court of West Germany ruled that though the regime had changed, the state remained the same and therefore the Reichskonkordat would continue to be in force in Germany.
Interestingly enough, the Reichskonkordat is similar to… the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact because it also contains a very secret and very important supplement. This supplement almost openly admits that when the treaty was signed, Nazi Germany already planned to radically change the German Armed Forces, transforming a volunteer-based Reichswehr into Wehrmacht based on universal conscription.
The Vatican (i.e. Pope Pius XI) was very supportive of this intention – unlike just about any Western leader, he knew for a fact that (1) the Bolshevist Soviet Union was an existential threat to the Catholic Church and the whole Christian Civilization; and (2) Nazi Germany was the only force capable of saving both.
However, to accomplish this Divine Mission, it had to transform itself into a military superpower – which obviously required conscription-based armed forces. Consequently, Pius XI (and later Pius XII) supported any policy and any man who would oppose and fight the Soviet Union and its leader – the “Red Tamerlane” Joseph Stalin.
So it is no surprise at all that two weeks prior to Reichskonkordat on July 5th, 1933, the Holy See signed the so-called “Dollfuss Concordat” with the Republic of Austria which included the almost identical Secret Supplement.
As I have already done on numerous occasions, I will reproduce the Reichskonkordat here in full (including, obviously, the Secret Supplement). Where appropriate, I will include my comments [in square brackets]. As usual, the text of the document will be in DINMittelschrift Alternate font; my comments will be (like the main text of this book) in Brawler (both size 12).
Concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich
July 20, 1933
[Ratified 10 September 1933]
His Holiness Pope Pius XI and the President of the German Reich, moved by a common desire to consolidate and promote the friendly relations existing between the Holy See and the German Reich, wish to permanently regulate the relations between the Catholic Church and the state for the whole territory of the German Reich in a way acceptable to both parties.
They have decided to conclude a solemn agreement, which will supplement the Concordats already concluded with individual German States and will ensure for the remaining States fundamentally uniform treatment of their respective problems.
For this purpose His Holiness Pope Pius XI has appointed as his Plenipotentiary His Eminence the Most Reverend Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, his Secretary of State and the President of the German Reich has appointed as Plenipotentiary the Vice-Chancellor of the German Reich, Herr Franz von Papen, who, having exchanged their respective mandates and found them to be in good and proper form, have agreed to the following Articles:
The German Reich guarantees freedom of profession and public practice of the Catholic religion.
[Well, not exactly, but only if the Catholics refrain from statements – let alone actions – that could be perceived as hostile to the National-Socialist regime. However, this ban was imposed more than half a century earlier by the “Pulpit Law” passed during the Kulturkampf period under Bismarck]
It acknowledges the right of the Catholic Church, within the framework of the laws valid for all, to manage and regulate its own affairs independently [of the Nazi State], and, within the framework of its own competence, to issue binding laws and ordinances for its members.
[In other words, the Nazi State stays away from the affairs of the Church… as long as the Church stays away from politics]
The concordats concluded with Bavaria (1924), Prussia (1929) and Baden (1932) remain in force, and the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church recognized in these are preserved unchanged within the territories of the states concerned.
For the remaining States, the agreements reached in the present concordat come into force in their entirety. These last are also binding for the three States named above, in so far as they affect matters not regulated by the States’ concordats or in so far as they supplement the earlier settlements.
In the future concordats with the states will be concluded only with the agreement of the government of the Reich.
[Makes complete sense for a super-centralized Führerstaat that Germany was rapidly transformed into]
In order to foster good relations between the Holy See and the German Reich, an apostolic nuncio will reside in the capital of the German Reich and an ambassador of the German Reich at the Holy See.
The Holy See enjoys full freedom in its relations and correspondence with the bishops, clergy and other members of the Catholic Church in Germany. The same applies to the bishops and other diocesan officials in their dealings with the faithful in all matters belonging to their pastoral office.
Instructions, ordinances, pastoral letters, official diocesan gazettes, and other decrees concerning the spiritual direction of the faithful issued by the Church authorities within the framework of their competence may be published without hindrance and brought to the notice of the faithful in the customary form.
[In other words, stay away from politics and do whatever you want – the Nazi State will not interfere in your internal affairs in any way]
In the exercise of their clerical activities the [Catholic] clergy enjoy the protection of the state in the same way as state officials. The state will proceed, in accordance with the general provisions of civil law, against any insult to their person or to their clerical capacity, as well as against any interference with the duties of their office and, if necessary, will provide official protection.
[A critically important clause for the Church that was very concerned about Kulturkampf II – this time perpetrated by Communists, other lefties, liberals, atheists and other anti-Catholic and anti-Christian forces. And, of course, by the Protestants who viewed the original Kulturkampf as the “natural continuation of the Reformation”]
The clergy and members of religious orders are freed from any obligation to take public office and such obligations as, according to the dictates of Canon Law, are incompatible with the status of a member of the clergy or religious order respectively. This applies particularly to the office of a lay judge, juror, member of a tax committee or of a fiscal tribunal.
For the acceptance of employment or appointment as state official, or to any public corporation dependent on the state, clergymen require, the nihil obstat [“no objections”] of their diocesan ordinary [i.e. bishop], as well as of the ordinary of the place where the public corporation is situated. The nihil obstat may be withdrawn at any time for important reasons of ecclesiastical interests.
The official income of the clergy is immune from distraint [the seizure of someone’s property in order to obtain payment of money owed, especially rent] to the same extent as is the official salary of the Reich and state officials.
[Another critically important protection of the Church by the Nazi State]
The clergy cannot be required by judicial and other authorities to give information about matters which have been entrusted to them in the course of administering pastoral care, and which therefore fall under the obligation of pastoral secrecy.
[Still another vitally important clause – especially after the passage of the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act. The Nazis – let’s give them credit when the credit is due – did not break this promise. Although technically capable to do so, Gestapo never bugged the confessionals – or any place in Catholic Churches, for that matter (but did send spies to listen to public sermons, of course)]
The wearing of clerical dress or of a religious habit by lay people, or by members of the clergy or religious orders by whom this use is forbidden by a definitive and legally valid directive of the competent ecclesiastical authority and officially communicated to the state authority, is liable to the same penalty by the state as the misuse of the military uniform.
The present organization and boundaries of dioceses of the Catholic Church in the German Reich remain in force. Any creation or rearrangement of a bishopric or ecclesiastical province, or other changes in the boundaries of dioceses that seem advisable in the future, so far as they involve changes within the boundaries of a German State, remain subject to the agreement of the state governments concerned.
Rearrangements and alterations which extend beyond the boundaries of a German state require the agreement of the Reich Government, which shall be left to secure the consent of the appropriate state government.
The same applies to creations or rearrangements of Church provinces involving several German states. The foregoing conditions do not apply to changes in ecclesiastical boundaries made merely in the interests of local pastoral care.
In the case of any (territorial) re-organization within the German Reich, the Reich Government will communicate with the Holy See with a view to rearrangement of the organization and boundaries of dioceses.
Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 11, ecclesiastical offices may be freely created and changed, unless state funds are drawn upon. The involvement of the state in the creation and alteration of parishes shall be carried out according to standard procedures that are agreed to by the diocesan bishops, and for which the Reich Government will endeavor to secure the most uniform treatment possible from the state governments.
Catholic parishes, parish and diocesan societies, episcopal sees, bishoprics and chapters, religious orders and congregations, as well as institutions, foundations and property which are under the administration of Church agencies, shall retain or acquire respectively, legal competence in the civil domain according to the general provisions of civil law. They shall remain corporations under public law to the extent that they have been so far; the others may be granted similar rights within the framework of the laws valid for all.
As a matter of principle the Church retains the right to appoint freely to all Church offices and benefices without the involvement of the state or of civil groups, in so far as other provisions have not been made in previous concordats mentioned in (2).
[Another clause that secures the independence of the Church from the State]
Concerning the appointment of bishops’ sees, the regulation made for appointment of the two suffragan bishoprics [bishoprics whose bishop is under his archbishop or metropolitan] of Rottenburg and Mainz, as well as for the bishopric of Meissen, is to be duly applied to the metropolitan see of the Upper Rhine Ecclesiastical Province of Freiburg. The same holds for the two first named suffragan bishops with regard to appointments to the cathedral chapter, and for the administration of the right of patronage.
Furthermore, there is agreement on the following points:
- Catholic clerics who hold an ecclesiastical office in Germany or who exercise pastoral or educational functions must:
(a) be German citizens, [this requirement dates back to Bismarck era]
(b) have earned a secondary-school graduation certificate which permits study at an institution of higher learning, [ditto]
(c) have studied philosophy and theology for at least three years at a German state university, a German ecclesiastical college, or a papal college in Rome. [ditto]
- The bull nominating archbishops, bishops, coadjutors cum jure successionis [assistant bishop with the right of succession] or a praelatus nullius [prelate who exercises quasi-episcopal jurisdiction in a territory not comprised in any diocese] will not be issued until the name of the appointee has been submitted to the Reich governor in the relevant state, and until it has been ascertained that there are no objections of a general political nature. In the case of an agreement between Church and state, Paragraph 1, sections (a) (b) and (c) may be disregarded or set aside.
No right of the State to assert a veto is to be based on this Article.
[Well, for all practical purposes this article did give the Nazi State the veto power over the appointment of Catholic bishops that are believed to be “politically unacceptable” to the former]
Religious orders and congregations are not subject to any special restrictions on the part of the state in relation to their foundation, establishment, number and – subject to Paragraph 2 of this Article – the selection of their members, their pastoral activities in care, education, care of the sick and charitable work, the management of their own affairs and the administration of their property.
Superiors of religious orders whose headquarters are within Germany must be German citizens [another requirement that dated back to Bismarck’s Kulturkampf]. Superiors of provincials and orders whose headquarters lie outside the territory of the German Reich, have the right to visit those of their establishments that lie within Germany.
The Holy See will take pains to ensure that for conventual establishments within the German Reich the provincial organization is set up so that, as far as possible, German establishments do not fall under the jurisdiction of foreign provincial superiors.
[No wonder as the Nazis were fiercely independent and deeply suspicious of any foreign influence]
Exceptions can be permitted with the agreement of the Reich Government, especially in cases where the small number of houses makes a German province impracticable, or where special grounds exist for the retention of an historic and firmly established provincial organization.
Before bishops take possession of their dioceses they are to take an oath of loyalty either to the Reich governor of the state (Land) concerned or to the President of the Reich respectively, according to the following formula:
“Before God and on the Holy Gospels I swear and promise, as becomes a bishop, loyalty to the German Reich and to the State (Land) of . . . I swear and promise to honor the legally constituted government and to cause the clergy of my diocese to honor it. With dutiful concern for the welfare and the interests of the German state, in the performance of the ecclesiastical office entrusted to me, I will endeavor to prevent everything injurious which might threaten it.”
[This clause was, obviously, critically important to Nazi Government – or any government, for that matter. In practice it means that every Catholic bishop had to publicly and solemnly pledge that in the event of a conflict between the “interests of the Nazi state” and the Catholic teaching the bishop had to choose the interests of the Nazi state over the Catholic teachings – and of the interests of the Catholic Church.
The reality was – as usual – rarely that straightforward, but this clause clearly subjugated the Catholic leaders in Germany – and thus the Catholic Church – to the interests of the Nazi regime]
The property rights and other rights to assets of corporations under public law, of the institutions, foundations and associations of the Catholic Church are guaranteed according to requirements of the general law of the land.
No building dedicated to religious services may be destroyed for any reason whatsoever without the previous consent of the proper Church authorities.
[Another protective clause critically important to the Catholic Church]
In the case of the abrogation of state obligations to the Church, whether based on law, agreement or special charter, before working out the principles according to which the abrogation is to be carried out, in a timely manner an amicable agreement is to be effected between the Holy See and the Reich.
Legitimate traditional rights are to be considered as titles in law. An abrogation must bestow upon those entitled to abrogation proper compensation for the loss of the customary state benefits.
Catholic theological faculties in state [i.e. government-run] universities are to be maintained. Their relation to Church authorities will be governed by the relevant concordats and by their supplementary protocols with stated regulations, having due regard for the relevant Church decrees. The Reich Government will endeavor to secure for all of these Catholic faculties in Germany uniformity of treatment.
Where other agreements do not exist, the Church has the right to establish theological and philosophical colleges for the training of its clergy, which are to be wholly dependent on the Church authorities if no state subsidies are sought.
The establishment, management and administration of theological seminaries and hostels for seminarians is, within the framework of the laws valid for all, the exclusive prerogative of the Church authorities.
Catholic religious education in elementary, vocational, secondary schools and institutions of higher learning is a regular school subject, and is to be taught in accordance with the principles of the Catholic Church.
In religious education, special emphasis will be given to inculcating a patriotic, civic and social sense of duty in the spirit of the Christian faith and the moral code, just as happens in all other subjects. The curriculum and the selection of textbooks for religious education will be arranged in agreement with the Church authorities.
The opportunity will be given to the Church authorities to check, with the agreement of the school authorities, whether the pupils receive religious education in accordance with the teachings and specifications of the Church.
[Given the fact that National-Socialism was not exactly compatible with Christianity (to put it mildly), this clause was a major concession by the Nazis. How it was implemented in practice, however, was a different matter entirely]
In the appointment of Catholic religious instructors, agreement is to be reached between the bishop and the state government. Teachers who, because of their doctrine or moral behavior, are declared [by the state government, I presume] unfit to further impart religious education, are not permitted to be employed as religion teachers so long as this obstacle remains.
[This article pretty much nullified the previous one and allowed the Nazi government to maintain tight control over the content of Catholic education in secondary schools, universities, etc.]
The retention of Catholic denomination schools and the establishment of new ones is guaranteed. In all parishes where parents or guardians request it, Catholic elementary schools will be established, wherever the number of pupils, with due regard for the local conditions of school organization, appears to be sufficient for a school administered in accordance with the standards prescribed by the state.
[Another critically important clause that allowed the Church to keep – and expand – its vast network of Catholic (i.e. private) schools]
In all Catholic elementary schools only such teachers are to be employed as are members of the Catholic Church, and who guarantee to fulfil the special requirements of a Catholic school.
Within the framework of the general professional training of teachers, facilities will be created which will provide for the training of Catholic teachers, in accordance with the special requirements of Catholic denominational schools.
Religious orders and congregations are entitled to establish and conduct private schools, within the framework of the general laws and ordinances. These private schools award the same qualifications as state schools, insofar as they adhere to the regulations governing curriculum prescribed for the latter.
Members of religious orders or congregations seeking admission to teacher training and employment in elementary, secondary or post-secondary schools are to meet the general requirements applicable to all.
Until a later comprehensive regulation of the marriage laws, it is understood that, apart from cases of critical illness of an engaged person which would not permit delay, and in cases of great moral emergency, whose presence must be confirmed by the proper episcopal authority, the Church marriage blessing should precede the civil ceremony. In such cases the priest is obliged to immediately notify the Registrar’s office.
[Another important concession of the Nazi government to the Catholic Church]
For the German army pastoral care outside the realm of ordinary jurisdiction is conceded for its Catholic officers, officials and men, as well as for their families.
The administration of such pastoral care for the army is the duty of the army bishop. His Church appointment is to be made by the Holy See after contact has been made with the Reich Government in order, with its agreement, to select a suitable person.
The Church appointment of military chaplains and other military clergy will be made by the army bishop after prior consultation with the appropriate authorities of the Reich. He may appoint only such chaplains as receive permission from their diocesan bishop to undertake military pastoral work, together with a certificate of suitability. Military chaplains have the rights of parish priests with regard to the troops and other army personnel assigned to them.
Detailed regulations for the organization of pastoral work by chaplains will be supplied by an Apostolic Brief. Regulations for the legal aspects in terms of [their status as state] officials will be drawn up by the Reich Government.
[Now that was serious. Given the fact that by law the Wehrmacht soldiers, officers and generals were prohibited from joining the Nazi party and the NSDAP from any political activities in the Wehrmacht, it gave the Catholic Church enormous power over hearts, minds and souls of the military personnel
However, as (1) the overwhelming concern of the Church was to avoid the annihilation by the “Red Plague” of Bolshevism; and (2) the Third Reich being the only power capable of protecting the Church, the latter used its power over the military to support, rather than oppose, the Nazis. Hence it is no surprise that all but the tiny majority of Wehrmacht personnel were fiercely loyal to the Nazi regime and to Adolf Hitler personally]
In hospitals, prisons, and other public institutions the Church is permitted to make pastoral visits and conduct services of worship, subject to the general rules of the institutions concerned. If regular pastoral care is provided for such institutions, and if pastors must be appointed as state or other public officials, such appointments will be made with the agreement of Church authorities.
Catholic members of a non-German ethnic minority [Poles, mostly] living within the German Reich, as regards their mother tongue in Church services [sermons], religious education and Church societies, will be accorded no less favorable treatment than that accorded by law and in practice to members of German origin and speech living within the boundaries of the corresponding foreign states.
[Given the proliferation of (mostly) “fake news” about alleged persecution of German minorities in Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc. this clause practically guaranteed the persecution of these majorities in Germany]
On Sundays and official [Catholic] holy days, a prayer conforming to the liturgy will be offered at the end of the principal Mass in parish, auxiliary and conventual churches of the German Reich, for the welfare of the German Reich and (German) people.
[Making the Catholic Church a powerful tool of emotional and spiritual control over the population of Germany – and subsequently the Greater Germany]
Those Catholic organizations and societies which have exclusively charitable, cultural or religious purposes, and, as such, are placed under the Church authorities, will be protected in terms of their institutions and activities.
Those Catholic organizations which, in addition to their religious, cultural and charitable purposes, have others, such as social or professional tasks – even though they may be brought into national organizations – are to enjoy the protection of Article 31, Paragraph 1, provided they guarantee to conduct their activities outside all political parties.
[Cut and dry, plain and simple, loud and clear message: Stay the hell away out of politics – or it will be hell to pay]
It is reserved to the Reich Government and the German episcopate, in a joint agreement, to determine which organizations and associations come within the scope of this Article.
In so far as the Reich and the states take charge of sport and other youth organizations, care will be taken that it shall be possible for the members regularly to attend church on Sundays and feast days, and that they shall not be induced to do anything inconsistent with their religious and moral convictions and obligations.
[Reality turned out to be quite different. First, the Nazi government made the list of organization it deemed relevant to this article and then forced the Church to accept it.
Second, whenever the national-socialist dogmas contradicted Catholic teaching (and it happened all the time), members of the abovementioned organization were forced (coerced, actually) to follow the Nazi dogmas, no matter how they were “inconsistent with religious and moral convictions and obligations” of the individuals in question]
Due to the special situation existing in Germany, and in view of the safeguards created by the clauses of this concordat of legislation preserving the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church in the Reich and its states, the Holy See will enact regulations to exclude the clergy and members of religious orders from membership in political parties and from working on their behalf.
[Which would effectively put an end to “political Catholicism” once and for all]
All matters relating to clerical personnel or Church affairs, which have not been treated of in the foregoing Articles, will be regulated for the ecclesiastical sphere according to current Canon Law.
Should differences of opinion arise regarding the interpretation or execution of any of the Articles of this Concordat, the Holy See and the German Reich will reach a friendly solution by mutual agreement.
[In practice it meant that the German Reich would force the Church to accept whatever decision the Nazi government made on the matter in question]
This Concordat, whose German and Italian texts shall have equal binding force, shall be ratified, and the instruments of ratification shall be exchanged, as soon as possible. It will be in force from the day of such exchange.
In witness hereof, the plenipotentiaries have signed this Concordat. Signed in two original copies, in the Vatican City, July 20th, 1933.
(Signed) Eugenio, Cardinal Pacelli
(Signed) Franz von Papen
In case of a change in the present German armed forces in the sense of the introduction of universal conscription, the induction of priests and other members of the regular clergy and the orders into military service will, with the understanding of the Holy See, be arranged within the framework of approximately the following guiding ideas:
- a) Students of philosophy and theology at Church institutions who are preparing themselves for the priesthood are to be freed from military service and the preparatory drills for it, except in the case of a general mobilization.
[An implicit indication that the general mobilization – and thus the war – was more than likely in a not-so-distant future]
- b) In the case of a general mobilization clerics who are employed in the diocese administration or the military chaplaincy are freed from reporting for duty. This applies to ordinaries, members of the ordinariate, provosts of seminaries and Church residences for seminarians, professors at the seminaries, parish priests, curates, rectors, coadjucators and the clerics who provide a church with worship services on a continuing basis.
- c) The remaining clerics, insofar as they are considered suitable, are to join the armed forces of the state in order to devote themselves to pastoral care for the troops under the Church jurisdiction of the military bishops, if they are not inducted into the medical unit.
- d) The remaining clergy in sacris or members of orders, who are not yet priests are to be assigned to the medical unit. The same shall apply when possible to the candidates for the priesthood mentioned in a) who have not yet taken their final vows.
[Still another vital protection for the Church officials – this time from being conscripted into the future Wehrmacht and forced to take arms which was not compatible with their religious vows and convictions]
Now let’s take a closer look at the Reichskonkordat, do a thorough analysis and draw the key conclusions.