Partially prompted by this other question "Were Hitler's anti-Jewish sentiments known at all to those who voted him to power in 1933?"

According to the information in above question, the antisemitism and private death squads of the Nazi party were already public knowledge.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Vol. 11, p.415 says, in the article PIUS XII, POPE as follows under the subheading "Concordat with Germany" (emphasis added):

Soon after the concordat with *Austria, whose chancellor was *Dollfuss, another was concluded (July 20) with the German Republic. The *Hitler regime had first proposed it at Easter; it was the German government that initiated the proceedings. Previously (March 24), the *Center party and the Bavarian People's party, whom German Catholics rightly considered representatives of their interests, had approved the enabling act that gave Hitler unlimited powers. Also the German bishops had declared unequivocally (March 28) that Catholics could cooperate with the new State despite obviously irreconcilable differences between the Catholic Church and *National Socialism.

(reference below)

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The bishops that unequivocally declared that Catholics could cooperate with the new State were Catholic bishops; the declaration was adopted in the Fulda Bishops' Conference (Fuldaer Bischofskonferenz) on March 28, 1933.

The Center (Zentrum) party mentioned above as having approved the enabling act was a denominational Roman Catholic party.

At the time of this declaration, the person who would later become known as Pope Pius XII was known as Cardinal Pacelli.

According to this article at skepticism.org, a result of the declaration was that

Nazi Party members are also permitted to receive the sacraments while wearing Nazi uniforms, even if they appear in large groups. This not only opens the door for the signing of a Concordat between Hitler and the Vatican, but also encourages broader collaboration between Catholics in Germany and the Nazi regime

Update: Before this declaration, the Catholic clergy had been forbidden to participate in the National Socialist movement. For example, the Bavarian Bishops' Conference issues a set of instructions to the clergy about National Socialism on 12 February, 1931. About these instructions, skepticism.org says:

Priests are henceforth forbidden from joining the Nazi Party. Moreover, Nazi flags and uniforms are prohibited during Catholic church services.

The question I wanted to ask:

Considering what was known about about National Socialism at the time, and the stance of the Catholic Church until 1933, what were their reasons for this seeming u-turn in adopting this declaration?

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    The question might be improved by being explicit on why the sequence of events surprises you. Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 5:23
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    Consider that the Church had a rather long history of persecuting Jews.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 5:25
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    Also, at the time many people viewed Hitler and the Nazism mostly as anti-Communist champions. Other viewed them as a nationalist party that would free Germany from the consequences of the Versailles Treaty and restore Germany to its glory. For others they would bring stability. For all those people, the Nazis anti-Semitism was, at best a troubling but secondary issue (if it was problematic at all; anti-Semitism was way more mainstream back then). As Dennis states, please specify which specific acts are the ones that shock you.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 8:19
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    @EikePierstorff, you refer to the "politics of the German Catholic church, which was not all that enthusiastic about Hitler". The information in my question makes rather clear that it was the German Catholic church bishops that had "unequivocally" adopted the declaration that this question is about.
    – neo
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 15:17

1 Answer 1


Considering what was known about about National Socialism at the time, and the stance of the Catholic Church until 1933, what were their reasons for this seeming u-turn in adopting this declaration?

It was the exact facts you mentioned in your question. The catholic church considered Hitler dangerous. He had proven that he would be a ruthless enemy if provoked. And now, by dismantling the German Weimar Republic, he had gained absolute power. He was more dangerous than ever before.

An enemy that is known for religious discrimination and death squads surely is an enemy you want to make peace with if you are a religious institution unable to protect your people from his power.

So in short, the concordat was a move to protect church parish and property from Hitler's now absolute and unrestrained power.

You can certainly argue over the moral dimension of this move. When is it morally justified to save yourself (Catholics) when you know others (Jews) will suffer? That's not an easy question. But that's the turning point you spoke of: the moral high ground of denouncing National Socialism vs the (rightly or wrongly) perceived need for self-preservation.

The timing was only logical. You try to save your own hide, when your enemy gets so powerful that you fear for your own safety. And again: a tyrant ruler tearing down the republic and turning it into his own pet dictatorship certainly is a good reason to be afraid.

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    Doing what is opportune, instead of doing what is right. That is the road on which people like Hitler got to power: Too many people choosing personal comfort and safety, until it was too late to speak up and resist.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 15:34

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