Monday, 7 November 2011

Regional Dialects, Social Justice, Rhenish Political Catholicism & Beer…these are a few of my favourite things




If there are four things in this world which interest me then it’s…

•Regional dialects and words from Scots to Afrikaans, from Low Saxon to Friesian
•The history of Rhenish Catholics and political Catholicism
•Outspoken Anti-fascism and radical social justice in the Catholic Church
•And Speciality Beers!

So writing a post about all four is indeed something special. Let’s start with word Kölsch, I had always understood Kölsch to be a popular beer brewed only in Cologne. (I assume that this was the beer which Karl Marx is speaking about when he said that the revolution would never work in Cologne, because the bosses went to the same pubs as their workers) I have only ever tried this beer once and if I’m being honest I found it a little too hoppy compared to premium pilsners like Krombacher or Veltins. However, I later learned that Kölsch was also the name given to a group related dialects. Kölsch is spoken in, and around Cologne . Interestingly, Kölsch was the dialect used by the famous Anti-Nazi Archbishop of Cologne Josef Frings. Frings was a vocal and strong opponent of the Nazis and Hitler. He was also a political Catholic who joined the CDU. However, what I find most fascinating are Frings thoughts on Social Justice, he once said that…

“We live in times where the single individual, in his need, ought to be allowed to take what he needs to preserve his life and health, if he cannot obtain it through other means, work or bidding.”

This was a reference to poor Germans looting of coal trains during especially bad winters: Amazingly, Frings also inspired a word in the Kolsch dialect which expressed this idea that it is sometimes morally acceptable to steal as a last resort if you are really desperate. Naturally then, the word which evolved from Frings concept was “Fringsen”. So in the Kolsch dialect "Fringsen" means taking food and fuel for the winter among people in Cologne.

I’m not sure how many people would still agree with “Fringsen" today? I certainly do, but it’s worth noting that Frings later added that we must always quickly try and return any unlawful gains, or repay the original owner as soon as possible. Regardless, Archbishop Frings was clearly a great man not matter what we might think about Fringsen. If only we had such bold men of clear vision and direct politics around today.
For example, compare Archbishop Frings to the current Archbishop of Canterbury and the recent debacle around St Paul ’s Cathedral. This fiasco shows how nervous and disjointed Chrstians have become around politcs. Last week seen constant procrastinating over whether or not the Church should speak out on inequality and Bankers bonuses or if the Church should instead just stay out of politics for fear of being branded a bunch of undemocractic Theocracts. In reality, the Church's teaching (for all Churches) is quite clear on the relationship between worldly politics and the role of the Church. The two cannot be split up despite what we are told. Nor should an involvement in politics ever compromise the Church's main concern for the good of souls.

Today, too many Catholics want the Church to be either Socialist or Captialist. Some others dream of a Chesterton based Distributist Utopia but until that day comes it would be helpful to revisit the core values of early European Christian Democracy and the social market/common good ideas of great Germans like Konrad Adenauer and of course Josef Frings.

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