Cover Image: Priests de la Resistance!

Priests de la Resistance!

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“Wherever fascism has taken root, it has met with resistance.” This fascinating and inspiring book tells the stories of those clerics, priests and other religious who were prepared to die for their faith, who dared to speak out and act, and who were willing to put their own lives on the line to save others. The book consists of a number of portraits of men and women, from wartime Athens to sixties Alabama, from Vichy France to military dictatorships around the world who demonstrated a Christian response to evil. The title is a bit misleading as they were not all priests, but they were all Christians and were determined to act as such. Although the stories told here are dark ones indeed, the book is nevertheless entertaining and enjoyable and narrated with a light touch, and it makes for some gripping and powerful reading.
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Phenomenal! Absolutely phenomenal. In a world increasingly dedicated to hate rather than love, we ought to learn from these fifteen incredible clergy who took it upon themselves to fight the hate and fascism they came face to face with. This is fierce and inspirational and will appeal to people of all religions and none; it's an original concept for a book in a world where many people merely reformulate what others have written before them so full marks for originality. But not only is it unique it is also eminently readable and for a nonfiction piece, I was astonished by how utterly mesmerised I was by every word of every story. It's funny, compassionate and a complete breath of fresh air with a style of writing that is difficult to resist.

What further surprised me was the fact of the courageous people mentioned several were actually nuns. There are people from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox backgrounds, and although the book primarily focuses on WWII and defeating the Nazis there are also many other fascinating tales from around the world. These individuals were true altruists who did this for the greater good; some of them survived and some became martyrs to the cause. I am pleased to say there were countless moments throughout when I felt I was reading something special; a bespoke read if you will and an anthology of stories that feature true heroes and heroines who are only now being recognised for their contribution and for making the world a safer place for everyone.

It's high time "love thy neighbour" became a mantra everyone lived by. If you read only one nonfiction work this year then make it this one. Many thanks to Oneworld Publications for an ARC.
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I loved the title of Revd Butler-Gallie's new book, Priests De La Resistance! In it he discusses the lives and, often, premature deaths of fifteen clergy - who actually turn out to include several nuns as well as priests - all of whom took the courageous decisions to attempt to thwart fascism. Some I already had an awareness of, such as Princess Alice who made an appearance in Les Parisiennes, but others were stories I don't think I had read before. Butler-Gallie mostly focuses on Resistance to Nazism across Second World War Europe, but finishes up across the Atlantic in Brazil and then Civil Rights era Alabama.



Each of our clergy gets a potted biography exploring their pre-ordained life and the immediate events which led or pushed them into making a stand. Several, such as Canon Kir, were larger than life characters with a lot of influence. Others, such as Jane Haining were quietly dedicated, but no less inspirational. I appreciated Butler-Gallie's sense of humour and the often irreverent way in which he describes his protagonists. I did initially feel this made the book feel a little too light for its subject matter so had gone with a three-star rating, but on thinking it over again in order to write this review, I am now of the opinion that the writing style actually benefits the eork by making it more accessible. Priests De La Resistance comes from the same tradition of religious writings as the Lives Of The Saints books I saw in childhood, but it is a long way removed from those dry worthy tomes!



In an age where fascism is making a resurgence across Europe and in America, Priests De La Resistance is a worthwhile read for sly tips on how to burst its bubble and for inspiration to stand up for what is right rather than popular. I'm not religious myself, but still found plenty to admire and to wish to emulate in Butler-Gallie's chosen figures. Priests De La Resistance would be suitable for older teenage readers - perhaps those studying the Holocaust at school - as well as adults.
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When I was young, I devoured stories of WWII heroes, and like any young (tom)boy was sure, that put in the same position, I would stand up to the Nazis and be a hero too.  Thankfully, the war was long over, and my mettle was never tested. I grew up and grew wiser, and eventually realised, that – like the overwhelming majority of people – I would probably just keep my head down. Not collaborate – just not get overtly involved.
I also realised, that you do not ‘decide’ to become a hero. Heroes do not see themselves as such, they see something that must be done because it is right to do it, something so wrong that it cannot be ignored and must be opposed, whatever the personal cost. When you have nothing to lose, bravery can be relatively ‘easy’.  It is when you have so much to lose – family, friends, status, wealth etc – but still decide that you must act, and you put the welfare of others above that of your own.
This is a book full of genuine heroes.  They are connected by their Christian faith, but – for me – it is their overwhelming humanity that enables them to reach out beyond their own lives and communities to save the lives and livelihoods of others – regardless of the race, creed or political adherence of those in danger. This is a book of unlikely alliances: the Irish Monsignor in the Vatican who worked with the detested English; the traditionally oppositional Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht and Dutch Reform pastor; communists working with priests; Black and White, Baptists, Greek Orthodox and Jews all marching together.  Some died while saving others, some lived (such as the wonderfully flamboyant Cardinal Kir) and played major roles in the aftermath.  Some were leaders of their country’s Church, some were local clergymen or nuns, with little political power. Some lived in occupied countries, some objected to what their country had become. 
The book concentrates mainly on the opposition to the Nazis (specifically against the Holocaust) – in Germany, the Vatican and the occupied territories.  The end section is on the civil rights campaigns in the USA.
One of my favourite heroes was the Archbishop of Athens, Damaskinos Papendeou. His letter to the Nazi occupiers (which was widely disseminated throughout Greece) stated: 
“In our national consciousness, all the children of Moher Greece are an inseparable unity:  they are members of the national body irrespective of religion or dogmatic differences.  Our Holy Religion does not recognize superior o inferior qualities based on race or religion, as is stated: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek’ (Gal 3.28) and thus condemns any attempt to discriminate or create racial or religious differences.”
To save many of the Jews of Greece, he instructed his clergy to issue over 27 000 fake baptismal certificates and identification cards.  He used his international contacts to smuggle food for starving Athenians through Turkey. He made his stand against the Nazis openly, and inspired many other Greeks to do the same.
In days when the media is full of stories of clerics who have done evil, or who looked aside when evil was done, it is refreshing to read about Christians who have been inspired by their faith to do amazing, heroic things – for the betterment of all humanity.  

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in heroes and/or history – whether they are religious or not.  These stories are truly inspiring.
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Priests de la Resistance! one of my favorite books I've read this year. I wanted to post a glowing review immediately, but since I read an ARC, per the publisher, I couldn't share my full review until 2 weeks or less before the release date. So I made the mistake of not writing my review in advance, and now my recollection may not be as sharp as when I first read it, so apologies. The book is still terrific. Imperfect, but so engaging and encouraging and fascinating and exciting and challengig and oh-so-timely. All the things. These stories practically speak for themselves. Read this book!
As the subtitle suggests, this book is a compendium of stories of non-conformist clergy and religious lay people who fought back against fascist oppression in the twentieth century. And as one might also guess, those stories primarily involve resisting the various iterations of the Axis powers of WWII-era Europe. However, in a pleasant surprise, two of the stories deal solely with resisting American racist oppression in the Jim Crow-era southern states and the fight for civil rights, and one other story (Bonhoeffer) ties into that struggle as well as to European fascism. The stories involve not only white male clergy members, but also women and people of Jewish and African-American descent, laypeople, and clergy, from peasants and nobility and royalty, from countries all over Europe and from the United States, often operating without knowledge of the existence of the other people featured in this book, and often without outside support, encouragement, or protection. Their stories are both encouraging and intimidating--to see what loss some must suffer in the fight against fascism and bigotry, but also to see what a difference can be made by the quiet actions of a few seemingly unimportant or powerless people in the face of evil forces.
The list of people featured in this book is extensive. No section is very long, often due to a sad dearth of English-language information available on the person in question. However, each section is long enough to illustrate the choices and sacrifices made by the person in question, and how their choices helped to shape their world for the better. They include Father Felix Kir, a larger than life French priest and politician; Abbe Pierre, a dour French priest and moutaineer; Clemens August, Bishop of Munster and Graf von Galen, controversial German clergy; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the relatively well-known German theologian and minister who briefly lived in the USA and grappled with American racism and segregation before returning to Nazi Germany; Don Pietro Pappagallo, a haplessly brave Italian priest; Bishop Gorazd of Prague, leader of the Czech clergy; St Maximillian Kolbe, Polish clergy and ham radio operator; Sister Sara Salkahazi, a spirited Slovakian nun; Cardinal De Jong, Koeno Gravemeijer, and St Edith Stein, Dutch clergy and nun; Mother Superior Alice-Elizabeth, Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, European royalty and devoted nun who was also the mother of England's Prince Philip; Archbiship Damaskino of Athens and all Greece, leader of Greek Orthodox clergy; Monseigner Hugh O'Flaherty, Irish priest living in Vatican City, known as the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican; Jane Haining, Scottish laywoman living and serving in Hungary; Pastor Fred Shuttlesworth, African American civil rights leader; and Seminarian Jonathan Daniels -- Caucasian American Episcopal clergy-in-training working in the segregated American South. Their methods of combatting fascism are as varied as their personal stories, both in methods and in visibility of their actions and choices. But they were all important, and very much worth reading about.
As mentioned, this book is not perfect. I'm not sure if it's some quirk of British writing and publishing or not, but the author has a habit of focusing on very physical, vivid descriptions of the people featured in these stories. This was uncomfortable for me as a reader several times, especially when he focused on the obesity of men like Father Kir, or the poor health, poor vision, or mental health struggles of others mentioned in this book. Perhaps this was especially because it was written in an off-hand way that seemed to be attempting to be humorous. But fat-shaming comments aren't appealing, and I didn't appreciate the distraction of comments like that from the stories of these fascinating men and women.
But overall my discomfort with Butler-Gallie's style of descriptive writing was a relatively minor quibble that could not overshadow the amazing stories of bravery in the face of unspeakable horror and danger by these men and women of faith. In a world that feels increasingly dark and dangerous, they remind us that we can stand for what is right, and that we must, regardless of the consequences. No, not every story ended happily for the person in question. But their actions made a difference in the lives of their contemporaries and in their world at large, saving innocent lives and helping to stem the tide of evil and destruction in their world. If they could do it, so can we, when we need to. And books like this remind us to be ready, that we can and we must act in the face of evil. I'm looking forward to pursuing many of the resources listed in the "Further reading" section at the end of the book, to learn more about these brave souls and their invaluable work.
I'll leave you with a parting quotation from the book: "by working out what we are prepared to die for, we might discern what it is we want to live for. None of us wants to make the choices that these men and women were forced to make, but, as the tropes get recycled and the anger swells, it may well be that this and future generations will be asked to stand in similar shoes to the figures in this book. It can only be hoped that they have the faith to act in the same way." (quote from pre-pub copy)
Thank you, #Netgalley and One World Publications, for letting me read an #advances copy of #PriestsDeLaResistance in exchange for my honest opinion.
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A well written, engrossing, fun to read and interesting book about Christian people who opposed oppressive regimes.
It's a great reading experience and it made me discovered interesting characters.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Not many books have made me both laugh and cry recently – this is one that did.

Fergus Butler-Gallie’s books are an absolute joy to read. I have urged my friends to read his last book, A Field Guide to the English Clergy. I am emphatically NOT at all religious, but if Butler-Gallie was my vicar, I would be in church every Sunday.

His latest book, Priests De La Resistance, tells fifteen mini-biographies of priests, nuns and a matron of a girls’ school, plus an epilogue that mentions a journalist killed in 1970s Brazil. They were all very brave people who resisted evil, whether it took the shape of Nazis in WWII; awful racists in the US of the 1950s & 60s; or the Brazilian government.  There have always been good people, comforting and helping their fellow countrymen in troubled times, but what makes these stories different is that most of the priests and nuns were fully paid-up members of the Awkward Squad. Butler-Gallie continues the theme from his previous book, sniffing out the odd-balls and non-conforming prelates – the characters who, in peaceful times, probably had their bishop / archbishop / pope putting their head in their hands and pleading “Why me, Lord? Why can’t I have a nice quiet life?”

I have two favourite characters in this excellent set of lively individuals. The first is Canon Félix Kir. He was definitely a loose canon (I can imagine Butler-Gallie deciding the write the book after thinking of that phrase). Between the wars, he travelled a lot on Church business and would take samples of the local Burgundy wine and cassis, proudly showing off what his region could produce. After the war, a producer of the local blanc de cassis asked Canon Kir if they could name their product after him. Hence the birth of the Kir. Butler-Gallie sums him up with “… he gave his nation decades  of political service and he gave the world over half a century of blackcurrant and white wine hangovers.[…] From saving synagogues to jailbreak coordination, all while slightly pissed, Kir was more than just a light in the darkness. He was a veritable firework…”

The second is Jane Haining. She took the job of matron at a school for poor girls in Budapest in 1932. She was on holiday back in England when Britain declared war on Germany in 1939. She immediately went back to the school. When the Synod in Scotland begged her to come home, she replied “If these girls need me in times of sunshine, how much more do they need me in these times of darkness.” Jane was arrested and transported to Auschwitz. Butler-Gallie invokes a lovely image of Jane on that terrifying train journey, comforting children separated from their parents, perhaps holding their hands in the dark. Haining was killed in Auschwitz on 17th July 1944 but her name is listed as one of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’  at the World Holocaust Memorial Centre of Yad Vashem.

#PriestsDeLaResistance #NetGalley
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When the book is looking at the lives of heroic Christians and their efforts during WWII to save those endangered by the Facists, it's outstanding. Almost all of these are Catholic priests and nuns, including canonized saints and those on the way to canonization. There is also a goodly number of Orthodox bishops and a nun, and two Protestants.

Some of these people you've heard of, most are probably unknown to you in the context of these deeds. A few died of natural causes, most were executed. It's a delightful book.

The author is on less sure ground in the last sections of the book when he looks at two men involved in the American civil rights movement and one involved in protests in Brazil. The book would have been stronger, I think, if he had instead looked foremothers, perhaps more laypeople, who out of Catholic and Christian motivations resisted the Nazis and helped the Jews. Without even trying I can think of several.
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This is an accessible, well-written selection of biographies of activist priests. The manner in which it is written is irreverent, funny and engaging. Recommended for progressive Catholics and Antifa alike.
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Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

The Golden Legend details the lives of various saints, including in many cases those of martyrs. The accuracy of the stories, in many cases, is a matter of the faith of the reader, but the theme is one of never renouncing one’s faith. Saints stories are not told that much anymore. But Revd Butler-Gallie’s book is in many ways, a modern version of those books like the Golden Legend. The main difference being is that there is factual support for each person and it is a hagiography. Though it is easy to say that in many ways the people in this book stand true for the true (and best) tenants of faith.

Butler-Gallie starts with religious opposition to the Nazis and fascism, but the ending section focuses on those who took part in the Civil Rights Movement. The focus there is on people other than Dr. King.

The book presents the people chronological and in terms of country. While the majority of the people discussed are priests or other male religious figures (hence the title), there are a few religious women as well – including a smoking nun and a member of a royal family. Many of the priests too were aided by women who are also detailed in those respected chapters. Additionally, the focus is on Europe and America, not surprising with the focus on Fascism.

Those limitations aside, the book is good. Butler-Gallie’s writing style is engaging, and he does not check his humor at the door. Don’t worry, it is in good taste, but the use of humor at times is necessary to light what might otherwise be a rather dark book (the good guys don’t always win). The writing style keeps the reader’s attention, and the book flows quite quickly. In many ways, it feels as if you are attending a lecture on the various people being given by Revd Butler-Gallie. He gives information about the lives of the various people prior to either joining the religious lives or the events that them a resister. Additionally, if there are aspects of character, such as some of the Catholic priests may not have been celibate, it is not hidden but addressed.

The digital ARC I received had few photos, and I found myself wishing there had been a bit more. However, the book does include an excellent further reading section.
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Fascinating stories of priests who fought fascism - sometimes literally. They took their faith seriously enough to trade their lives to protect the innocent and prove that love will triumph over hate - a fact that we need to remember now more than we have in some time. While some leaders of Christianity today think there is no obligation to help the needy or protect refugees, these priests remind people today that to live by Christian tenets is to stand against evil, rather than just wear the cloak of Christianity.

When Christians say our rights come from God, but also argue that non-citizens don't enjoy the same rights as citizens., they are in dire need of a reminder that true faith is demonstrated by good works - even if those good works may end in their demise..
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This book includes short biographies of men-and-women of the cloth from the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions who resisted oppressive regimes of the 20th Century.   The writing is light-hearted, with a strong streak of humour, but the message is an earnest one.  

Full review to follow closer to publication date.
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Presently it feels more than ever that those who and call upon attention to their Christianity the loudest and most aggressively are also intense devotees of policies and politicians that are intensely far cries from core tenants like “love thy neighbor.” As a result, reading through “Priests de la Resistance” honestly felt like taking a big breath of fresh air. 

Although this work about various devout figures includes several actual saints, this is no glossy hagiography. Butler-Gaille's mini-biographies are not only detailed but honest, and take care to highlight the assorted quirks, eccentricities and vulnerabilities that made them no less human than either their friends or all too numerous enemies. In turn their words and acts of resistance, captured by top-notch writing that is at times both witty and biting,  are illuminated as all the more stunningly courageous. 

Besides going above and beyond what was anticipated, “Priests de La Resistance” also provided quite the welcome surprise. Despite what the title and description can make one thing, this book proved to be more than a narrow collection of men of the collar. The fifteen figures covered here are an unexpectedly and wonderfully varied mix of women and men from the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions who believed that the sole option that their sincere faith gave them was to stand up for the oppressed and hunted in any way that they could, even if it meant the cost of their own lives. And instead of being solely limited to figures who faced the textbook-definition facist forces of WWII, Butler-Gaille takes care to cover several Americans from the Civil Rights Movement who worked against the forces of Jim Crow and racial hatred, a deliberate choice that probably is of quite particular comfort to US readers feeling dispirited in this day and age. Granted, the subjects are all members of the same Christian faith, generally speaking, but still they are a far more diverse lot that what was expected, giving a rich array of figures to draw strength from. 

To sum up what has already been made quite clear since the start of this review, Reverend Butler-Gaille has written a fantastic work that is perfect for a day and age where hate-spewing strongmen and their followers are on the rise once again. If the lapsed Catholic writing these enthusiastic lines is any indicator, people of all levels of religiosity should be able to draw inspiration from this most-admirable assortment of faith-filled fighting men and women.
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