Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

H. A. Reinhold: Liturgical Pioneer and Anti-Fascist

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

H. A. Reinhold: Liturgical Pioneer and Anti-Fascist

Article excerpt


His was one of the classical cases of the pioneer unnoticed, the inventor whose rightful rewards are reaped by others, the humble hero who goes through life unknown, unhonored and unsung and whose place is left to history. (Msgr. George W Casey on Father H. A. Reinhold, The Pilot, February 17,1968)

The rise of Fascism was met by a variety of responses in AngloAmerican Catholic circles. A sizable number welcomed the coming to power of Mussolini. English writers such as Hilaire Belloc, Bernard Wall (editor of the Colosseum), Douglas Jerrold of the English Review, and Douglas Woodruff (editor of the London Tablet), among others, were generally supportive of Italian Fascism, because it stood as a bulwark against Bolshevism, greedy capitalism, and a corrupted parliamentarianism poisoned by the influence of money cliques. Various American Catholics also praised Mussolini for similar reasons, notably the Reverend Charles Coughlin, the radio-priest of Royal Oak, Michigan, and Patrick Scanlan, editor of the Brooklyn Tablet. Mussolini won the hearts of many Catholics by cloaking his political programs in the robes of papal corporatist teaching, especially that outlined in Pope Leo XIII's labor encyclical, Rerum Novarum.

In the United States there were very few Catholics who had immediately recognized that Mussolini was a charlatan. Perhaps the most outspoken American ground-breaking critic of Mussolini was Father James Gillis, editor of the Paulist Fathers' Catholic World. Father Gillis refused to hold his tongue, and after assuming editorship of the paper he informed his readers about Mussolini's attacks on the Italian Church. For years Gillis remained a lonely voice of Catholic outrage against Italian Fascism. When the Jesuit journal America finally published an anonymous article critical of Mussolini in March, 1939-the fact that the author chose not to reveal his name suggests the chilling environment for

Catholics critical of Fascism-Gillis remarked that for the first time he did not feel so isolated concerning his analysis of Mussolini.' Mussolini was a Nietzchean, not a Catholic, Gillis argued, and his wild rhetorical flourishes and threats of violence would bring ruin to Italy and possibly bring on another European war.

Father James Gillis, however, stood out as a very exceptional American Catholic. His was not an easy path to follow, for the thick fog of Anglo-American anti-communism made it very difficult to hold controversial and objective positions on the issue of Fascism. Father Gillis was one of America's most respected and powerful Catholic journalists; his editorship of the Catholic World was a badge of respectability and a shield of sorts against the slings and arrows of conservative Catholics.2 It was far more difficult for those on the fringe, like Dorothy Day's and Peter Maurin's Catholic Worker movement, and liberal Catholics who were involved with the fledgling liturgical movement. The latter was frequently held under suspicion by the church hierarchy, its members often regarded as "revolutionary" and "dangerous" communists, indeed "fools who do not like Benediction," as one official called them.'

Perhaps no Catholic suffered more for the courage of his convictions on such issues than the German refugee priest, Hans Anscar Reinhold (H.A.R., as he liked to refer to himself). Father Reinhold, along with Father Virgil Michel, O.S.B., founder of Orate Fratres (later Worship), was a mainspring of the American liturgical movement. In fact, besides Father Michel, who died before the results of his pioneering work were realized, H. A. Reinhold, his successor as writer of Orate Fratres"Timely Tracts," was probably America's single most influential proponent of liturgical renewal. Reinhold was a "planter of ideas," as one member of the clergy described him, whose work helped fertilize the soil for the reforms of Vatican Council II.4

After returning from the front lines of World War I as a decorated soldier of the German army, Reinhold discovered the liturgical writings of Romano Guardini. …

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