An NCEA Message from 1937

The Catholic Church has the longest intellectual tradition of any institution in the contemporary world, the only uninterrupted tradition and the only explicit tradition … What I say is that this tradition must not be merely an ideal, but must be practiced.”

Robert Maynard Hutchins
So said Robert M. Hutchins, addressing the National Catholic Education Association’s Midwest Regional Meeting — in 1937. At the time of this address, Hutchins was president of the University of Chicago, where he had implemented wide-raging curricula reforms. He was not a Catholic, yet he could objectively praise the Catholic educational heritage and warn that Catholic schools were beginning “to imitate the worst features of secular education.”

Catholic identity” has been a longstanding issue in Catholic education in the United States. From the late 19th century, when American Catholics struggled over whether to establish independent, specifically Catholic parochial schools or to accept the equivalent of today’s charter schools (government-controlled but allowing after-hours religious instruction) — the question of how Catholic schools might realize their Catholic identity while offering a truly humane education has been a hot one.

Unfortunately, the assumption has sometimes been that a Catholic education is somehow opposed to a fully humane education. That to have one it is necessary to diminish the other.

Old St. Wendelin School,  Recovery Township, Ohio
History, however, tells a very different story. From the early medieval monastery and cathedral schools, to the universities of the high middle ages, to the Catholic colleges and universities of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the Catholic educational tradition has been explicit – faith and reason are not opponents, but friends. They do not contradict one another but complete one another. The Catholic mind does not shy away from the discoveries of human reason, nor should human reason see the Faith as a restriction on its proper functioning and freedom. Both are involved in the search for truth.  

It is this truly catholic educational philosophy that inspires and directs the Catholic Textbook Project. Our history series does not accept a diminished historical research in order to salvage a Catholic understanding of the world. Nor does it reduce the Catholic faith to an exercise of mere personal piety. Catholic identity does not spell historical amnesia. 

Accurate, scholarly, well-written and beautiful – our books are fully within the rich tradition of Catholic education that Robert Hutchins praised 77 years ago.

This Day in History

April 17, 1521
Luther Before the Diet of Worms
This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. For ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here. 

Being excommunicated, Luther was given over to the temporal power for punishment. But Luther’s prince, the Elector Frederick, had become his protector. The task of bringing Luther to justice fell, therefore, to the newly crowned German emperor, Charles V.

Emperor Charles V, 
sometime after 1515
Charles von Habsburg had become the most powerful ruler in Europe. The son of Juana, a daughter of Isabel and Fernando of Spain, Charles had become king of Spain when Fernando died in 1516. Charles, too, had inherited Flanders from his father, Prince Philip I (the “Handsome”). When Charles’s grandfather, Emperor Maximilian I von Habsburg, died in 1519, Charles was elected German emperor — even though he was not in Germany at that time. Charles V’s first journey to Germany did not occur until 1521, when he was to meet with the Imperial Diet at the city of Worms on the Rhine River.

Charles had many questions of imperial importance to address at Worms. The most important had become deciding what to do about the troublesome Augustinian monk, Martin Luther. Elector Frederick persuaded the emperor to summon Luther to Worms under a safe-conduct, for Frederick did not want Charles to condemn Luther unheard.

Martin Luther, 1520
Luther’s friends tried to dissuade him from attending the Imperial Diet. Luther, however, insisted that he had to defend himself in person before the emperor. On Luther’s journey to Worms, a crowd of university friends and a contingent of German knights accompanied him, and when he reached Worms, crowds thronged the streets to greet him as a popular hero. What the authorities intended to be the treatment of a condemned heretic had become a triumphal procession.

Luther appeared before the diet on April 17, 1521. He was unusually quiet and appeared timid; he asked for another day to consider his reply. The next day, however, Luther stood boldly before the emperor and the assembled princes. Asked to recant his errors, Luther replied, in German, “I neither can nor will recant anything, for it is neither safe nor right to act against one’s conscience.” According to an old tradition, he then added, “Hier steh ich; ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir. Amen!” (“Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”) Luther repeated his statement in Latin. Then, throwing up his arms like a victorious knight, he left the hall.

Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms, 
by Anton von Werner (1843-1915)
The next day, Charles V declared that he would not depart from the traditions of his forebears, the kings of Spain, Burgundy, and Germany who “were all faithful to the death to the Church of Rome, defending the Catholic Faith and the honor of God. A single friar who runs counter to all Christianity for a thousand years must be wrong.” The young emperor condemned Luther; but, true to his word, Charles allowed him to leave Worms in peace.

Elector Frederick the Wise,
by Albrecht Dürer, 1523
Luther left the diet on April 26, his safe-conduct good for 21 more days. On May 8, a minority of those who had attended the diet approved the Edict of Worms, which condemned Luther’s heresy and declared him an outlaw under sentence of death. Luther was to be arrested as soon as his safe-conduct expired. But the Elector Frederick intervened. By his order, a party of soldiers ambushed Luther’s party on the night of May 4. They took Luther to a castle called the Wartburg, where he went into hiding, disguised as a knight.

At the Wartburg, Luther, left to himself, underwent terrible doubts and struggles — was he alone right and the generations of Catholics wrong? He composed bitter attacks against his enemies, especially the papacy, which by then he was calling the Antichrist. Yet, in the course of the year 1522, Luther translated the whole of the New Testament into a forceful, spoken German. (He later translated the Old Testament, as well. The entire German Bible was published in 1534.) Luther’s German Bible became an important tool for carrying his reform forward among the common German people. It also became the basis for the modern German language.

Music from Luther’s Time

The film that follows depicts Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora (whom he married in 1525) performing pieces from the period in which they lived. The performance tells a story. In the first scene, Katharina von Bora and Luther enter, swathed in cloaks, reminiscent of monastic robes (she had been a nun), and they perform Arnolt Schlick’s 1512 hymn to Mary, Maria Zart. The second scene depicts Luther and Katharina’s married life, and here the music is decidedly secular in character. The third scene features a performance of Luther’s great Reformation hymn, Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott (“A Mighty Fortress is Our God”); and while the music is sacred, the painting of Mary with the Christ child and the infant John the Baptist has given way to the rather profane Cupid Complains to Venus, by Lucas Cranach the Elder. What does it all mean? We shall let you, the viewer and listener, decide.


No “Windy and Barren” History

About half the history now taught in schools and colleges is made windy and barren by the narrow notion of leaving out the theological theories… Historians seem to have completely forgotten two facts — first, that men act from ideas; and second, that it might, therefore, be as well to discover which ideas. G.K. Chesterton
Chesterton is right. So much of historiography today seeks to explain why human beings have acted as they have by appealing to materialistic causes: economics, the natural environment, greed for power, even genetics.
Do these factors influence history? Of course they do.
But do they explain the whole of history? No.
For instFile:Lucas kranakh.jpgance, the princes of Germany who propelled the Lutheran Reformation to success were indeed motivated by economic considerations (to possess Church lands) and political ambition (to wrest more power from the Holy Roman emperor) — but the Reformation cannot be explained merely by greed and power mongering. It was an idea, a theological idea, that goaded Martin Luther and inspired his followers to defy Church and state in the name of the Gospel.
Nor does the fact that greed and ambition played a part in the Catholic response to “reform” explain the zeal of its chief protagonists — men such as Pope Pius V, Charles Borromeo, and Peter Canisius. Such men contended for an idea – that of the Catholic Church, which, as they knew, St. Paul had called the “pillar and foundation of the truth.”
The Catholic faith says that man is more than a mere animal, that he acts for the sake of ideas and ideals, not simply desire. History is driven by what human beings think is the highest good — and this ultimately has to do with what they think about God. In this way, history is bound up with theological ideas.
This is the fuller history our Catholic Textbook Project history series tells. We do not leave out religion, for that would be to distort what man is and how and why he acts and has acted on the world’s stage. We are convinced that students need to learn the whole of history – and religion is a central aspect of that history.

This Day in History

April 1, 1922
Death Comes for an Emperor
This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. For ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here. 
Karl and Zita, with their son, Otto, at
their coronation as king and queen of
Hungary,  Budapest, 1916
Iwas a cold day in late October 1921 when a small airplane from Switzerland landed in western Hungary. The airplane carried Karl, the emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, and his wife, the Empress Zita. Loyal troops of the Hungarian army greeted the royal couple and swore allegiance to them. After hearing an open-air Mass, King Karl, Queen Zita, their generals and troops boarded a train that would take them to Budapest, where Karl hoped to take up once again the government of Hungary.
Karl knew this would be no easy task. This was his second journey to Hungary since the end of the war. In March 1921, he, with his loyal followers, had entered Budapest, where he met with Hungary’s regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy. But though he claimed to rule in the name of King Karl, Horthy was unwilling to give over the government to him. Karl, who had fallen sick, was forced to leave Hungary — but he promised he would return.
Thousands of Hungarians joyfully greeted the return of the king in October 1921. But though he had an army faithful to him, Karl faced tremendous difficulties. Since Horthy controlled the greater part of the army, he was very powerful. 

Karl von Habsburg-Lotharingen with an honor guard at a
train station in Hungary, October 21, 1921.
The regent also had the support of the British government, which did not want to see a Habsburg return to power anywhere in Europe. Finally, many of Karl’s military leaders — men who had sworn allegiance to him — proved unfaithful. At last Horthy’s army overran the troops faithful to Karl; and he, to avoid further bloodshed, withdrew from Budapest.
Karl and Zita were detained at Tihany Abbey in western Hungary until the Allies decided what to do with them. At Tihany, Karl received a visit from Hungary’s primate archbishop, Cardinal Czernoch. Czernoch later wrote that at Tihany he had expected to find “a broken, fearful, suffering king,” but instead, he discovered that Karl needed no comfort. “I have done my duty, as I came here to do,” he told the cardinal. “As crowned king, I not only have a right, I also have a duty. I must uphold the right and the dignity of the crown.” The king said “Our Lord and Savior had led me to try to regain the throne.”
Tomb of Blessed Karl on Madeira
On October 30, Allied authorities removed Karl and Zita from Tihany to a port on the Danube River, where they were placed on a British ship. They did not know their destination, but they would soon learn that it was Madeira, a Portuguese island in the Atlantic, 535 miles off the coast of Portugal. This would be the place of exile for the royal couple and their children. But Karl’s sojourn on Madeira was short. In March, he caught a cold that soon turned to pneumonia. On April 1, 1922, Karl, the last reigning Habsburg emperor, died, while gazing on a crucifix Zita held for him in her hands. The emperor’s last words were, “Thy will be done. Yes, yes. As you will it. Jesus!”
Karl’s title of emperor passed to his eldest son, Otto — who, as a man, later dedicated himself to work for the good of the peoples over whom his family once had ruled. Yet, though Karl and Zita’s family lost the imperial power, a greater honor awaited them. On October 3, 2004, Pope John Paul II declared Karl “blessed” — the last step before being proclaimed a saint of the Catholic Church. The Church remembers Blessed Karl on October 21, the day he and Zita were married in 1911.
An Imperial Burial
The burial ritual for those belonging to the Austrian imperial family is a trenchant reminder to the rich and powerful that they are but human and sinners. The clip below shows the burial in 2011 of Otto von Habsburg, the son of Emperor Karl and Empress Zita. Otto’s remains are brought to the crypt of the Habsburg imperial family in the Capuchin Church in Vienna. The grand chamberlain, thrice striking a cane on the church doors proclaims that “Otto von Österreich” (Otto of Austria) begs entrance. He then proceeds to read a long list of Otto’s imperial titles, only to be met with the response from the priest within: 
“We do not know him.”

Otto von Habsburg Funeral – Kapuzinerkirche [HD]

Once again the door is struck, and the priest asks, “Who is there?” But this time the chamberlain asks admission for “Doktor Otto von Habsburg” — telling of his personal accomplishments (including his stint as president of the International Paneuropean Union and a member of the European Parliament). Again, the priest says, “We do not know him.”
For the third and last time, the chamberlain strikes the door. The priest asks, “Who is there?” The chamberlain says, only, “Otto, a sinful, mortal man.”
The priest says, “So let him come within.”
Entombed in the crypt, Otto joined his mother, Zita, Emperor Franz Josef, Archduke Franz Ferdinand von Österreich-Este (whose assassination sparked the First World War), and their ancestors — all but Blessed Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen, whose body remains on the island of Madeira. To this day, the Austrian government will not allow Karl’s remains to rest in the tomb of his ancestors.
For those who have the time, here is a link to the entire Requiem Mass for Otto von Habsburg.

Otto Habsburg – Das Requiem – Stephansdom in Wien – 16.7.2011