Smoky Mountains Sunrise

Monday, March 19, 2012

With Burning Anxiety

 A concerned reaction to the HHS mandate and its effect on our religious liberty 

By Charles P. Poole, Ph.D.

Editor's note: This article first appeared at Homiletic & Pastoral Review and is reprinted by permission from the author. 
Pope Pius XI wrote to wrote to German Catholics during their "painful trials" under the Nazi regime.
On the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary time, February 5th 2012, the bishops throughout the United States wrote official letters to be read to their faithful at all the Masses of that day. These letters concerned the “alarming and serious matter” of the recent announcement by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (Dept. HHS) that all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health care coverage which includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. This is clearly a direct attack on the religious freedom guaranteed to the Catholic Church by the First Amendment.

This is reminiscent of what happened in the German Reich on Palm Sunday, 1937, when Pope Pius XI dispatched the Encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Anxiety) to be read at all of the Masses that Sunday condemning the breaches by the Nazi Government of the Reichskonkordat agreement which it had signed with the Church four years earlier. 

The Encyclical spoke of “the systematic hostility leveled at the Church” and of the necessity of “obedience to our conscience and our pastoral mission, whether We be successful or not, to oppose the policy which seeks, by open or secret means, to strangle our rights guaranteed by a treaty.” The Encyclical continued “Take care, Venerable Brethren, that above all, faith in God, the first and irreplaceable foundation of all religion, be preserved in Germany pure and unstained.” It recommended “to encounter the obstinance and provocations of those who deny, despise and hate God, by the never-failing reparatory prayers of the faithful, hourly rising like incense to the All-Highest and staying His vengeance.” Of particular significance was the following statement condemning racism:
Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the state, or a particular form of state, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community - however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things - whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinises them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned by God.
This statement condemning racism was added to the text of the Encyclical by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli who soon afterward became Pope Pius XII, and after the War was unjustly defamed as bearing some responsibly for the Holocaust.

It is clear that there are some parallels between the persecution endured by the Church under the Nazi Regime and the present “alarming and serious matter” protested by last Sunday’s Bishops’ letters. There could be more analogous threats in the future. For example, there is a possibility that the abortion of medically defective babies and the denial of some forms of medical care to the elderly might eventually become mandatory, under the law. Forced Euthanasia for certain conditions might also become compulsory.

Another parallel is that the Nazi government began their persecution with the breaching of the Reichskonkordat agreement between the regime and the Church. Our government now plans to break the solemn concordat which they have with the Church, namely the Bill of Rights, which is an agreement to grant religious freedom to all, especially to every church. A solemn agreement is a solemn agreement! The Church now asks our President exactly what it requested from the Führer of the Third Reich, namely to abide by the solemn agreement of the Bill of Rights and not to embark on the road to religious persecution.

We are not suggesting or implying that the motivations of the employees of the Dept. HHS are in any manner similar to those that motivated the policies implemented in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. These employees are certainly well-intentioned, and seeking the best for our country. Unfortunately what they plan to implement has the effect of forcing Catholics to act in a manner which violates their religious beliefs and consciences, and hence is a violation of their Civil Rights under the Constitution. This clearly constitutes a type of persecution of our religion. The plan must either be rescinded or be modified to avoid this infringement of Religious Liberties.

The Encyclical came to an end with the hopeful note “as the German people return to religion” to “again resume the task God has laid upon them.” It took the demise of Nazism to permit this to occur in post-war Germany. It is hoped that the American lawmakers will soon “resume the task God has laid upon them,” especially those who profess the Catholic faith and yet have been voting in support of the persecutors.

Note from the author:
I am a physicist and a deacon octogenarian who was approaching nine years of age in 1937 when the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge was smuggled into Nazi Germany to be read at all Palm Sunday Masses. I lived through the era when my scientific colleagues gave the world the atomic and hydrogen bombs. I lived to see the tyrannies of Imperial Japan, and the Third Reich, rise to power, be responsible for the deaths of millions, and eventually meet their fate. I lived to witness a Polish Pope John Paul II preside over the fall of atheistic European Communism. In my sunset years I am witnessing well-intentioned, but tragically misguided so-called democratic individuals, some professing my own Catholic faith, embarking on a systematic campaign of persecution of my Church. I pray that I can live long enough, perhaps, Deo volente, to the centariari level, to witness the eventual ending of the persecution!

Charles P. Poole, Jr., Ph.D. received his BA in 1950, his MS in 1952 from Fordham University, and his Ph.D. in 1958 from the University of Maryland. He was member of the faculty at the University of South Carolina from 1964 to 1994, and is presently retired. Dr. Poole has published 22 books on physics (most listed on  His areas of specialty include: condensed matter physics, superconductivity, and nanoscience.

His wife, Kathleen, died after 52 years of marriage. They had five children, 15 grandchildren, and one great granddaughter. In 1993, Charles Poole was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina. His websites include: and

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