Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink, Pray For Us

Among the good people of Lübeck's "four native sons — three Catholic priests and a Lutheran pastor — who were beheaded in quick succession on Nov. 10, 1943 by the Nazi regime," pictured on the far right with his companions is the one whom, for obvious reasons, will not be beatified — Beatification of Nazi Martyrs Divides Lutherans, Catholics. From the report:
    The commingled blood of Catholic priests Johannes Prassek, Hermann Lange, Eduard Mueller and Lutheran pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink spawned an ecumenical cooperation between the city’s majority Lutherans and minority Catholics that still lasts.

    But the Vatican’s decision to beatify the three priests on June 25 — but not Stellbrink — is testing that ecumenical spirit, and has some religious leaders worried that the event could drive a wedge between the two communities.

    “People worry that the priests who are beatified will be seen as higher than Stellbrink, and that the focus will be on the three, not the four,” said the Rev. Constanze Maase, pastor of Luther Church in Luebeck.

    “We recognize that beatification is an important part of the identity of the Catholic Church. But there is a sadness, because it makes the ecumenical work more complicated,” he said.
The beatification process is different now from what it was in the Early Church, but let us remember that there are adherents of Arianism in the Roman Martyrology, i.e., Catholics venerate those who were non-Catholic during their earthy life. While the Church is not free to beatify anyone at will, as individuals, we Catholics are free to venerate those whom our consciences inform us are venerable, as I have done with the title of the post.

UPDATE: Another report, by Gunther Simmermacher, whence comes the photo that graces this post, states that "Rev. Stellbrink will be honored in a special way that day as well" — Priests to be beatified were joyful as they awaited execution by Nazis. The article mentions "conservative local politician Hans-Lothar Fauth, a Catholic, who has said that all four have long been publicly acclaimed as saints, regardless of denomination, and therefore require no official recognition."

The article also notes that "Rev. Stellbrink was the first Protestant cleric to be executed in Germany. Unlike his Catholic friends, he received no support from his church, which rehabilitated him only 50 years later, noting its 'pain and shame' at the disgraceful treatment of the heroic pastor."

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Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Indeed. Sage advice about honoring those who, though separated from the fullness of the Apostolic Faith, witness to Christ through their devotion to the Gospel and their determined opposition to evil.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

This was also a worry about the canonization of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions -- Lwanga and his companions were martyrs who were part of a purge that covered both Anglicans and Catholics. The Anglicans, of course, weren't canonized; but they were explicitly mentioned when the others were, and far from being a source of division, I have never come across a commemoration of them that did not also mention the Anglicans as martyrs.

And, as you say, there is an important distinction between liturgical commemoration and private devotion, and the latter is much less restricted. I think it's certainly true that martyrs, whatever their background, are to some extent in a class by themselves; genuinely to die for Christ is itself a kind of sanctity.

11:36 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:26 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Thanks for the reminder about St. Charles Lwanga and Companions. Quite similar indeed.

There has always been a certain "ecumenism in the trenches." We see it now with Catholics and the Russian Orthodox.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


"All four should be beatified."

I would have expected that quote to come from an ecumenical-minded Catholic, but not from a retired Lutheran pastor! But as one commenter wrote: "Luther would plotz in his grave if he knew a LUTHERAN pastor became an RCC saint." LOL!

On a related note, I often "forget" that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not Catholic--and I suspect that thousands of other Catholics can say the same. I'll bet the Catholics of Luebeck have already "forgotten" that Stellbrink wasn't Catholic, either. Which is to say, Luther is already plotzing, and we didn't even have to do anything.

3:13 AM  

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