On Wednesday, the even of St. Vitus day…the wicked women [mothers of three of the nuns] sent word to me an hour before meal time that they would come before dinner and remove their children. […] Then the women used kind words and ordered the children to leave. If, however, they would not go willingly, they would be removed by force. Then the brave knights of Christ defended themselves by word and deed as much as they could with great weeping, screaming, pleading and begging, but there was less mercy there than in hell. […]

Every mother argued with her daughter. For a while they promised them a great deal and then for a while they threatened them a great deal. The children, however, continued to weep loudly. The arguing and shouting lasted a long time. Katherina Ebner spoke very courageously and constantly supported all her words with the Holy Scripture. She found errors in all their statements and told them how much their actions ran contrary to the Holy Gospel. Afterwards outside the men said they had never heard anything like that their whole lives. She had just spoken the whole hour without interruption. Not a word was wasted. Each word was so well chosen that it carried the weight of several words. […]

Katharina Ebner said, “Here I stand and will not yield. No one shall be able to force me out. If I am removed by force, however, it shall never be by my will in eternity. I will appeal to God in heaven and to all the world on earth.” When she was speaking Held took her under his arms and began to pull and drag her away. Then I ran away with the other sisters, for I could not watch this misery. Some sisters stopped at the chapel door. They heard the quarreling, shouting and dragging away amid the great screaming and weeping of the children. Four people grabbed each one with two pulling in front and two pushing from behind. And so the dear sisters Ebner and Teztel fell over each other at the threshold. Poor sister Teztel almost had her foot severed. The wicked women stood there and blessed their daughters as they came out in accordance to all their rituals.

Frau Ebner threatened her daughter that if she did not walk before her she would push her down the stairs to the pulpit. She threatened to throw her on the floor so hard that she would bounce. When they broke into the church amid much cursing and swearing, an incredible screaming, shouting and weeping began before they tore off the old garments of our order and dressed them with worldly clothes…The poor children cried out loudly to the people and complained that they were suffering abuse and injustice and that they had been taken from the cloister by force. Clara Nutzel called out loudly, “O beautiful Mother of God, you know this is not my will.” As they rode away many hundreds of boys and other people ran after each coach. Our children screamed and wept loudly. Frau Ebner struck her little Katharina on the mouth so that it began to bleed. When each coach arrived at her father’s house, each child began to scream and weep all over again so that the people had great pity for them.

Caritas Pirckheimer: A Journal of the Reformation Years 1524-1528, transl. by Paul MacKenzie (2006)

Advertisements

As we were coming out of Lent in misery and distress, things got much worse after Easter. On the Friday of Easter Week all the priests were summoned to the city hall and forbidden to celebrate the Latin mass…All lay priests and the priests in the monasteries with the exception of those in the parishes were forbidden to hear confession and to dispense the sacraments. […]

And so we were in great fear and distress and every day we expected even more misfortune. We crouched down and bent down so much that we could hardly hold divine services or ring the bells in the choir. Whenever they heard anything from us, cursing, shouting and abuse would start up in the church. They threw stones into our choir and smashed the windows in the church and sang slanderous songs in the churchyard. They frequently threatened that if we rang for Matins one more night they would do something terrible to us.

But we risked it, trusting in the Grace of God, and not for one night did we stop ringing the bells or holding Matins.

Caritas Pirckheimer: A Journal of the Reformation Years 1524-1528, transl. by Paul MacKenzie (2006)

Then he wanted to argue for a considerable time that we should receive the Holy Sacrament in both kinds in addition to other ideas. But I would not accede to him. I said we were simple, uneducated women and would leave such things to the learned men and until there was unity in the Church we preferred to stay with the old faith [Catholicism] and not be drive off by anyone [Protestant reformers]. Then he wanted to know how I liked his preacher from St. Giles. He could get no other answer from me but that I liked one as much as the other. (48) […]

I spoke again. We are Sisters of Saint Claire and not Carthusians. Therefore we want no Carthusians [who had become Lutherans], for we would probably have to accept his order too. Then the superintendent spoke. He would guarantee that he would not remain a Carthusian or a monk and would not keep his habit. Then I answered. Then let death confess to him! Are we to confess to a faithless apostate? If he does not keep his faith with God, how is he to display faith to us?

Footnote 48: Here Caritas is making a classic “left-handed compliment.” The truth was, of course, that she did not like any of them.

Caritas Pirckheimer: A Journal of the Reformation Years 1524-1528, transl. by Paul MacKenzie (2006)

Caritas attained a reputation as one of the most learned women of her time as a result of her study of the classics, the Church Fathers, the Bible and other works that often were made available to her by her brother Willibald, an avid bibliophile and translator with whom she carried on a life-long correspondence. Her letters (often in Latin) reflect the extent to which she devoted herself to the pursuit of knowledge, while at the same time performing her many duties as abbess of St. Clare’s. […]

The City Council [of Nurnberg] planned to replace the Franciscans who had been the preachers and confessors to St. Clare’s with different preachers who were proponents of the “new doctrine” of Lutheranism. What was probably imagined as a rather simple matter of persuading the nuns to accept the new scheme turned out to be more complicated and problematical than anticipated. Caritas Pirckheimer proved to be a thorn in the side of the City Council. She did not yield to the pressure that was exerted on the convent and showed remarkable courage and determination in defending her sisters’ rights to continue to practice their faith as they felt they were entitled to, having made oaths to God alone and not to men. This was a position of independence that was, after all, not to very far removed from some of the fundamental tenets of the new Protestant faith, although it was often clothed in theological language which served to obfuscate the issues rather than highlight their similarities.

Caritas Pirckheimer: A Journal of the Reformation Years 1524-1528, transl. by Paul MacKenzie (2006)

To an extent which is still not fully appreciated, the drive for social justice in the past decade has been a metaphor, in the lives of many of those participating in it, for their own sexual liberation. It was in radical political circles that sometimes militant forms of transgressive sexual behavior were most fully accepted and even applauded. Many religious who began convinced that racial justice or war was the gravest moral problem of the age ended by placing their own vows of chastity in that central place. […] Many priests and religious, after sojourns in the fields of social concern, found suitable spouses for themselves and retired to the suburbs. It is especially ironic that countless “radical” Catholics have chosen both to support the sexual revolution and to attack the consumer society, without apparently appreciating how the former grows naturally out of the latter.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

The preference for regarding Jesus primarily as “our brother” or “my friend” has some warrant in the devotional traditions of Christianity but little warrant in the New Testament. However Jesus Christ is ultimately understood, the Scriptures clearly portray Him as an authoritative and even authoritarian figure. His preaching focused heavily on sin and the need for repentance. He seemed to attach immense importance to His own person and to Himself as the only way to the Father, and never seems to have entered into relationships of equality with anyone. He warned His followers against disobedience and never engaged in “dialogue” with people except for the pedagogical purpose of eliciting from them the responses He wanted. Nowhere did He encourage anyone to disagree with, challenge, or contradict Him. There were apparently no multiple roads to truth.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

Traditional Catholicism, through its division between lay and religious life, attempted to accommodate both the heroic and the ordinary. While many lay people led heroic lives, often anonymously, it was the religious who sought to give public witness to that possibility. Certain types of “reformers,” of whom the early Protestants are the best examples, have found this distinction invidious and have insisted that all Christians are called equally to lives of holiness. Yet, however appealing this might be in theory, in practice it led eventually to a general lowering of standards for everyone. The fact that so many religious in the postconciliar Church find their vocations troublesome is directly related to the mentality which is not even certain that a distinctively Christian form of heroism – sanctity – is desirable.

Nowhere is the intellectual and moral revolution that has swept over the Church more tellingly revealed than in the current popularity of the word pastoral, which is often simply used as a synonym for permissive. A “pastoral” solution to a problem, a “pastoral” priest or a bishop, “pastoral” needs, are now frequently the simple equivalent of endorsing whatever happens to be current practice, a refusal to lay burdens on people’s consciences.

Yet an authentic understanding of the Church’s tradition of pastoral care cannot evade the recognition that, since this care aims at setting man right with God, it cannot be simply a concession to the individual’s subjective sense of rightness.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

The therapeutic mentality has developed especially in post-Protestant America because the waning of an “ascetic” culture – a culture of authority, moral demands, and self-discipline – is its most fertile soil. It is a mentality which, virtually as a matter of principle, ceases even trying to resolve contradictions or opposing demands (the stuff of tragedy) and in effect tells people, “Live within your moral means.” Self-improvement, then, becomes the characteristic modern faith. “Prophets” arise who, unlike those who classically bore the name, preach the mechanisms of release rather than control, “liberating” people rather than placing greater responsibilities on them. […]

So complete was the intellectual victory of the therapeutic mentality that many in the Church are now unable even to conceive of renewal in any terms other than further acts of release from obligations.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

It is one of the choicer ironies of the postconciliar era that, as nuns seek to become priests, priests get married, and married people get divorced in even greater numbers. Each group regards its own “need” – for priesthood, for marriage, for sanctioned divorce – as one whose fulfillment will quiet the deep dissatisfaction which make it unhappy in its present state of life. Each thinks its salvation lies just over the horizon; none appears to reflect on whether its restlessness has roots deeper than the vocational conditions which trouble it.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

The inevitable failure of much postconciliar “reform” could have been predicted solely on the basis of the use of the world itself. Classically, in the Church, “reform” has meant a recalling of believers to a stricter and more demanding kind of discipleship. The men and women honored with the name of “reformers” in religious life preached revitalization through closer adherence to the original spirit and rules of the community, often in the face of entrenched worldliness and lay customs. Reformers like St. Teresa of Avila encountered resistance and opposition primarily from contemporaries who, being comfortable within a permissive ambience, felt threatened by the demand that they return to a stricter way of life.

Conditions fairly common in the religious life of today – the ignoring of cloister, the abandonment of the prescribed habit, secular occupations, enjoyment of worldly amusements, sexual adventures – were precisely the conditions which the great reformers of the past found intolerable, and against which they inveighed ceaselessly.”

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)