The Portal July 2018 - Page 21

THE P RTAL July 2018 Page 21 Conscience before conformity “rejoice in this: the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and by the grace of God, we will have our conversation in the world” (2 Cor  1.12). Fr Simon Ellis reviews an important book W ith the referendum result in Ireland still ringing in our ears, I think conscience, if I may, should be one focus.  Can a nation lose its conscience?  Who can help us to regain it?  This work by Fr Paul Shrimpton focuses on a 21 year old biology student who studied at Munich University 75 years ago: Sophie Scholl.  How come this beautiful woman was executed by the Nazis 75 years ago? How come Sophie and her brother, Hans, would become so famous in Germany that novels, operas and plays would be written about them?  That statues would be erected to them and the University Square in Munich would be named after them?  Because of conscience. Because of conscience before conformity, the title of this excellent distillation of theology and history that we should all read this year. Sophie and a number of her student German (by Theodor Haecker) colleagues formed the ‘White Rose’ a century later, and provide the resistance movement.  They were inspiration for German students to - against all odds - attempting to do battle against Hitler? Winston speak truth to power, to publish Churchill said:  “the political pamphlets calling back the nation history of all nations has hardly to its compassionate, Christian ever produced anything greater roots.  Sophie and her companions and nobler than the opposition -  Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox which existed in Germany. These -  needed to be sustained in their people fought without any help… campaign and one of the great writers driven only by the uneasiness of they turned to was [our very own] their consciences”.      Compare Bl. John Henry Newman, whose this with Hermann Goring, who sermon, ‘Testimony of Conscience’ said, “I have no conscience, my (a meditation on 2 Corinthians conscience is Adolph Hitler”. 1.12) and so much more, provided the starting point of discussions We don’t face the same challenges and gave them encouragement to as did those students in Munich. share their views on the importance But fake news, the culture of of conscience, of the capacity to distinguish between death, populist leaders, twitter trolls, state-sponsored good and evil.  terrorism, environmental degradation threaten our very civilisation.  As we face all sorts of challenges, Sophie sent Newman’s work to her boyfriend, Fritz in St Paul’s words, we will need to “rejoice in this: the Hartnagel, fighting on the Eastern front.  He replied testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and by that Newman’s words - set amidst the carnage of the grace of God, we will have our conversation in the the battlefields - were “like drops of precious wine”.  world”  (2 Cor  1.12). Drops that would lead a number of these students to “Conscience before Conformity: convert to Catholicism.  Sophie and Hans asked to be Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose received into the Catholic Church an hour before their Resistance in Nazi Germany”  Paul Shrimpton execution. They were dissuaded by their Lutheran Gracewing, 2018,   ISBN: 978 085244 843 4 pastor on the grounds that it would upset their evangelical mother. Paul Shrimpton is a specialist in When you consider when Newman was around and first writing about conscience, who would have thought that his words would be translated into the history of education and teaches at Magdalen School, Oxford and is the author of a number of books about Newman